They caught my eye in our first inspection of the house - those big old rim locks hiding under layers of paint. I counted seven locks, two in the front doors and five in internal doors. One of the external locks was of the cast iron "box" type and the others were of the rounded, slimline design with pressed casings and late additions of reproduction timber knobs. Painted-over hardware is one of my pet-peeves so a restoration project was inevitable.
One of the internal locks, before and
after restoration
My research has yielded very little information on the history of lock manufacturing and imports to Australia. In colonial and federation days most door and window hardware was shipped from the UK or US although there are examples of locally made "Carpenter" style rim locks. Innovation was rampant and there are thousands of international patents from the period and probably hundreds of manufacturers with their own brands and designs. One of our locks has a maker's mark with the words "Challenge Lock, Warranted" but a web search draws a blank for any contemporary reference. Another is marked "The Reliance Patent" but the patent number doesn't score any hits in the US, Australian or British patent databases. I can find hardly any information at all on these great pieces of vintage hardware. Considering how widely these locks were used, and the vibrant market for period window and door fittings, this is a bit surprising.                                                
The front door rim lock after restoration
Having restored three of the locks I now have the procedure down to a pat and will fix up the last pieces over the coming months. Thanks to the fabulous Authentic Lighting and Hardware shop on Windsor Road in Brisbane I also have a collection of matching brass handles to replace all the reproduction timber knobs. The restored locks look great and truly bring out the age and beauty of the doors - I can't wait to have them all finished. Details on my home-cooked (quite literally) procedure are provided in the above video.
If you have a period house but the original rim locks are missing you can always source vintage pieces or reproductions, just search your local salvage shop or ebay. Second hand locks are quite commonplace but the keeps can be hard to come by. You can also get a key cut for your salvaged lock at a specialist locksmith to complete the installation. Best of luck, and if you can shed any more light on the history of these great pieces of antique hardware please let me know.
Brisbane Courier 1912, the Steamer 
Shropshire delivers another shipment  of
locks for further distribution
by hardware merchant R.J Wilson, Q
ueen St


  1. Wow! I am moving to an old 1930s house soon which has original doors with similar handles/locks, but they too have fallen prey to layer upon layer of thick paint. I can't wait to use your technique to restore them back to their original beauty! I've no idea what they look like underneath! Luckily I can start decorating the main bedroom from tomorrow so might just bring the lock & handle away to have a go on :) thanks for the video, hope it's as easy as it looks! :)

    Kelly x

  2. Good luck Kelly - let us know how you get on!


  3. We've bought a pair of old doors and the lock is a "Challenge Warranted Lock" without a key.
    The lock is without a key and we'd like to get a key that can lock. What should we do? Thanks :)

  4. Hi Steve - search for lock smiths that specialize in cutting antique keys (Brisbane Locksmiths in Stafford, for example)