A Yale & Towne BEFORE, AFTER

It will not surprise anybody to learn that I am obsessed with the Cross House.

But there are…sub-obsessions, too.

This means that while I am obsessed with the house overall, I am continually overtaken with smaller obsessions.

Thus, one week I might be fixated with, ah, stained-glass windows.

Another week might be porch columns.

Or perhaps cross-hatched windows?

This week I am obsessed with hardware. And it is all Bo Sullivan‘s fault.

Anybody owning an old house will know exactly of what I speak.



Amazingly, and particularly considering all that the Cross House has been through, almost all the 1894 hardware is in situ.

There are three pairs of pockets doors, and these retain their hardware. But there is also a single very wide pocket door (between the main bedroom and sewing room). This door is missing its Yale & Towne door pulls.

I knew this, but never gave the issue much thought.

But as this week is the official Obsessed With Hardware Week, I had no choice — no choice! — but to scour the almost 9,000 square-foot house for the missing hardware.

In the vast basement is shelving supporting a lot of house bits. There is trim and porch pieces and window parts and…hardware. In this treasure trove I found a pocket door pull. Whoee!

But just one. My heart sank, for this meant that the matching pull was gone.

Poo! POO!

Quite vexed, I thought: The matching pull must be here somewhere!

And I found it! On a shelf in the butler’s pantry! Whoee! A MEHU!!!!!! (Major euphoric hardware upswing.)

The pulls though, like all the hardware in the house, looked dull and lifeless.

So I cleaned up one pull.



ba - 1

Yep, golly.




  1. kerri on March 7, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    I think it is great how you keep finding missing bits and pieces to your house. What do you do to clean up the hardware, especially when it has paint on it? I have been cooking mine in an old crockpot to get layers of paint off. Why oh why did people in the past paint door hinges?

    • Connie in Hartwood on March 8, 2016 at 7:18 am

      I do the crock pot thing, too. It’s easy and does the job … and I curse at each and every prior owner of this house who painted the hardware.

  2. Bo on March 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

    What is amazing to me about your many house stories is how many have a mythical happy ending – absolutely remarkable Ross, and so satisfying. When I go to estate sales, I usually make a beeline to the coffee cans in the basement…

    What cleaner do you put in the water in the crock pot? Among members of the Antique Doorknob Collectors of America, we use Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. It is a more benign version of TSP, won’t change the color of the metal, has a low fume quotient, and can be poured down the drain when done (once filtered of the paint goop and detritus).

    Your restorations look fantastic – just like the house itself, beauty and dignity restored. Sometimes I’ll use a little paste wax for finish protection, though I’m sure there are other tricks out there for that purpose.

    • [email protected] on March 8, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Bo, I’m going to hijack Ross’ blog for a moment to ask if you know anything about stripping composition doorknobs? They’re shellac and woodpulp (and blood!) thus nixing both strippers and the crockpot I think? Any ideas????

      • Bo on March 9, 2016 at 11:26 am

        Hi Meg. There are numerous composition-type knobs out there, but it sounds like yours are Hemacite, possibly by William H. Dibble. I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’ll check with my knob buddies to see if anyone else does.

        In the meantime, readers can learn about Hemacite knobs here:

        All of the ADCA newsletters are available and searchable at no charge on the club website. Membership is only $25/year, if the bug bites you, and we have a convention every year (this year in Boston in July).


        • Bo on March 9, 2016 at 12:52 pm

          Appears no one in the club has mastered this art either. Let me know if you figure it out. 😉

      • Stewart McLean on June 23, 2017 at 3:11 pm

        Hi Meg, For me, I have found the best way to remove paint from surfaces that chemical will damage is by using a flat scraper blade commonly used in woodworking. A scraper is a flat piece of steel which is thin and they are made in varying shapes. You hold one almost perpendicular to the surface that you are working on slightly angled toward the direction you plan to move it. You can push or pull it while applying downward pressure. If you start on the narrow side of the knob, you can chip off paint in a small place until you have exposed the surface. From then on you work from painted surface toward exposed surface. The distance that you start away from the exposed surface differs with different paints and number of layers. You have to work with it to figure out how much will come off at a time. If your knob has a metal collar as those I have seen do, a scraper might not be satisfactory on metal because it can easily scratch it. On the metal part, I apply one of the citrus based strippers and wrap it in plastic wrap so the stripper doesn’t dry out. You can do tests every hour or so to see what effect it has had. After a while you will know how long to leave the stripper on a surface for the paint to come off. Don’t dispose of the stripper left on the surface, just move it around and apply more as needed. Even the stuff that comes off can still work as long as it is wet so muck it on and save on stripper cost. On some things I leave the covered stripper on for days, but the plastic can break down. I use a thin scrap of wood like a popsicle stick as a scraper on metal. A small dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener works well as a scraper to get into cracks and details. Here is a link to an Amazon page with an inexpensive set of scrapers. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OS6124/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
        The technique that you will develop will be what works best for you. Just remember that the less that you are trying to remove at a time, the less pressure you will need to apply. I use both hands to hold the scraper so I can use small controlled moves. The right hand might be pushing hard while the left is restraining the scraper so that you don’t lose control. It is a little hard to explain. Meg, or anyone else who finds this of interest. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions. Sorry this is so long, I kept remembering other things to suggest to you. Hope it works for you.

        • [email protected] on June 23, 2017 at 8:05 pm

          Thanks for the detailed response. I have a substantial background in restoration, and sadly a scraper will only further damage these unusual doorknobs – they’re relatively soft and quite porous. At some point I’ll find the magic bullet!

          • Stewart McLean on June 24, 2017 at 9:53 pm

            Dear Meg, I thought about writing this to you directly, bypassing Ross, so others wouldn’t be bored with my request, but I realized that others may share my interest, so, Will you post photos of your possible Hemacite knobs, so I can actually see what you are referring to. I love puzzles including figuring out how to do things such as this. For example, if it was worth the time, I might put your knobs in a lathe and wet sand off the layers of paint with high grit wet or dry sandpaper using mineral spirits as a lubricant which does not dissolve shellac. With that method, you could stop the moment you saw the color of their eyes…. Sorry, lost my mind for a minute….. color of the knob. 320, 400 or higher grit paper would hardly be removing much at a time, but with a lathe at high speed, you could start with the highest grit and go down until you are comfortable with the removal rate.

  3. Liz on August 10, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    MEHU!!!! Haha! Love your unique acronyms.

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