Monday, April 15, 2013

1830's Colonial Thumb Latch Hardware: Garage Doors or, slow life

I don't know why, but a lowly and very pedestrian blog post I did about fixing one of my doors, with photos of the thumb latch hardware, has gotten more hits than just about anything else I've written. Well, I'm guessing the reason it does is because there is very little on the web about this type of antique hardware, and particularly, no photos of it "in situ," so to speak. That post is here.

In follow-up, I am going to photograph some more of the thumb latches around the house, even though I don't think they're particularly out of the ordinary. Or perhaps I have just come to accept their existence in my everyday life quickly. Certainly, such hardware was never a part of any other house I lived in.

This post is on the garage thumb latch hardware. Ignore the fact that the door desperately needs a paint job, please. It's on the list ...

I will preface this by saying, I've got no idea when this hardware was installed. Probably when whatever the garage was before was turned into a garage. So, then, after there were such things as automobiles, perhaps? Say, 1920's. That would be my guess. Or later, very possibly. In any case, without more ado:

One of the things that prompted this post was a comment on my earlier post from someone who was installing a thumb latch on an outdoor shed and commented that it isn't lockable.

This hardware, though, is designed to take a padlock. This is a photo of the front of the right-hand door, and that ring that you see is one of the two rings the padlock goes through.

And, in close-up:

Here it is, same door, from a side angle. You can see that the handle on the inside is just a typical thumb latch, though larger than normal. And the mechanism on the outside is much, much larger than anything inside the house.

Here is a photo of the inside of the door, looking out. You can see how the wood was cut away where the latch bar is (or, actually, it is two separate pieces of wood, that overlap the two doors), which leaves a space for the latch to latch.

And, here is the inside of the other, left-hand door:

That slot to the left of the handle is where the other padlock ring/keeper is installed, again, from the inside:

And now, the keeper, from the outside:

From this angle, you can see how the keeper is slotted into the door:

And shimmed:

Perhaps not elegant, but practical and clearly standing up to the test of time.

And now a close-up of the two doors closed and latched with the padlock installed. There's nothing inside of any value, but as the latch itself doesn't always keep the door secure, the padlock also helps to keep the doors closed.

It's terribly inconvenient to open and close garage doors this way, but it goes to what I've been writing about slow gardening. Slowing down to unlock and pull each door open--and then, again, the reverse--forces me to pause, enjoy the air or the sky or wind or rain or sun or whatever, and to move at a different pace. And I like that. Slow life.


  1. So what will you do with the garage? Is it just want to reminisce?

    Garage - increase value of the home

    1. Well, once in a long while, in the winter, the little Miata convertible goes in there. We don't have very harsh winters, though, generally speaking, and people in suburban New York tend not to put their cars in garages (unlike the midwest where I grew up). So, mainly, it holds my gardening shovels and stakes and potting soil.

  2. Nice post. I am very happy found this blog.

  3. Rolling, sectional garage doors are the most common found on the market. There is also a single section door. However, some things to consider with these is that they require that the space in front of the door be clear for opening and closing not practical in areas that get a lot of ice and snow.

    1. Trolley Jacks - You're completely right. We live in northern suburban NYC, and the winters here tend to be mild. Further, the car we keep in the garage when it does snow is a little Miata, which doesn't come out in the snow, so we never face that problem of needing to clear the snow to get the garage doors open. Still, I'm a convert. At first, I was troubled by the awkwardness of these doors, but I have learned to love them, precisely for their non-modern qualities. They don't cater to me, and they make me think of the others who have lived here and used this house before me. They belong to the house, not to me. I'm just the keeper.