Monday, February 2, 2015

New tool chest for the sea 6, the lock

The other day I went for a walk in the city of Las Palmas on the Canary Islands. I didn't just wander aimlessly about, no – I was searching for an old fashioned hardware store.
I managed to find one and after waiting a couple of hours - the siesta ended, and I could try my luck if they had a chest type lock.

I did take some Spanish while I was in high school, but I have to admit that it was never my favourite subject. Therefore I never studied hard in those classes.
Despite my lack of engagement in the class all those years ago, I managed to explain in Spanish what I was looking for. It greatly helps that my older brother had texted me the Spanish words for screw (tornillo), chest (baúl) and lock (cerradura).
The clerk in the store was really helpful and I ended up with two chest locks, two escutcheons and two small packages of straight slotted screws. One box of steel screws and one box of nickel plated brass screws. The price totalled at 21Euro and 45 cent so around 30$. Compared to Danish prices it was practically a give-away.

With the bottom firmly nailed in place, I decided to try fitting the newly purchased lock.

A classic rule is that the keyhole should be in the middle of the side. Therefore the position of the lock revolves around this point. I marked the outline with a pencil and transferred those marks to the top of the chest to lay out the mortise.

Since the boards of the chest are only 15 mm thick, I wanted to put the lock as far from the font as possible. Otherwise it is really difficult to attach an escutcheon, because the nails or screws need a little bit of wood to bite in to work properly.  The position of the upper plate of the lock ended up being flush with the inside of the front board of the chest.

This in turn meant that the back wall of the mortise had to be made only 2 mm thick (5/64”). To avoid bursting through with a chisel, I clamped some scrap wood on each side of the mortise to stiffen things up a bit.

I haven’t got a mortise chisel out here, but a thin bevel edge chisel can easily be used for making a mortise as long as you go slow and don’t lever out too much waste. 
After making the central mortise, I tested if the lock could fit in, and then I simply traced the outline of the top plate of the lock. A little work with a chisel and my home made router plane took care of that job.

Before attaching the locking plate in the lid, I made recess' for the hinges on the chest itself, and made the recess' for them in the lid as well, but I didn't mount the screws yet.
I aligned the lid as it would be once the hinges were screwed in place, and then I marked the position of the locking plate.

This may seem like an odd way of doing it, but I chose that way to avoid mortising in the lid with the hinges taking some of the beating.

I placed the locking plate according to my layout marks, and basically did the same as for the lock itself, chiselled out the mortise and used the router plane to make the plate flush with the surface.

The lock showing the mechanism and the locking plate.

The lock as it looks with the chest unlocked.

Blocks clamped to the side to help stiffen things up a bit.


  1. Nice find and really good work with the lock. That looks like a tricky install for sure. Well done.


    1. Hi Gregg.
      For some strange reason I only seem to be able to find full mortise locks. But I have found a Swedish homepage that has got a half mortise lock that looks more like a normal type in the locking mechanism itself. I think I'll try to order a couple of those. They were around 15$ a piece, so that wasn't too bad.