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Ideas from Ed: Pocket Pull (Vol. 4, Issue 10)

Sometimes my articles are generated by the need to find a solution to a problem. It’s not that I know how to fix everything, but it’s fun to try. A good friend of mine asked me to take a look at the mechanism from a pocket door which would do absolutely nothing. The “grab handle” should pop out when the small button below it is depressed, allowing you to tug the door along its track. Here’s a picture of what she gave me, already removed from the door:

You can see that the first obvious problem is that it appears at one time to have been painted over. Although the main plate is reasonably clean, paint can be seen acting like “glue” and keeping (what should be) moving parts from moving. (By the way, I firmly believe that anyone who paints over beautiful old hardware like this should be drawn and quartered, but that’s another story…)

Taking the unit apart was easy, with only one screw on the side face holding the plate on. I was surprised at what was inside:

Whether the carpenter’s pencil was intended to provide some type of “graphite” lubricant to the parts or just be a curiosity to someone opening up the case is something I guess I’ll never know. However, you can also see a small piece of a squarish metal bar that must have broken off of something.

You may have read one of my early articles about using a brass wire wheel to remove paint and to buff certain metals. I removed the loose pieces from inside the case, and then went to the wire wheel to clean things up as best I could. Again, the goal at this point was to get rid of paint that was keeping things from moving. The face cleaned up nicely.

It was apparent that a stronger effort would be needed to get the button and the pull unstuck. I used a small hammer and metal punch to gently tap things free.

I went back to the wire wheel and cleaned up the inner parts and the edges of the faceplate. I had to use a small razor knife to scrape away the paint from recesses and areas less accessible to the wheel.

I then turned my attention to the small metal piece that was loose inside the case. It turned out to be an extension “arm” from the other metal piece that swivels around a post on the case face. I first tried to solder it together using silver solder, which is pretty strong. I knew, however, that given the amount of leverage the arm must issue, it would not likely hold well enough. The solder did, however, hold things temporarily in position. I worked on a small piece of glass to assure that things were straight and properly aligned.

I use a lot of JB Weld products. (I am not an endorser of any product. I merely am telling you what I like and what I use.) JB Weld is a very strong 2-part mix, like an epoxy adhesive. There are a lot of special versions, but for this job, I used JB Kwik, which sets pretty well in a very short time. I cut the head off of a small-diameter nail, and placed it spanning the joint now being “temporarily” held by the silver solder.

I mixed the JB Kwik and carefully coated the wire nail so that it would act as a brace, strengthening the door part at the repaired joint.

Once the JB Kwik hardened, I lightly sanded it smooth, being careful to avoid exposing the nail. I then assembled everything (including the small spring clip that we haven’t talked about, but which must be in place) and wiped on some high-quality lithium grease to the moving parts. Pushing the button now results in the repaired cam arm forcing the handle out of the case so that the pocket door can be pulled open.

I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!


If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here:

Ideas from Ed 2021-October_Pocket_pull
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