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Buying Door Knobs – Things you need to know

March 23, 2014

Brass Door Knobs Beehive and Bloxwich
written by Vicki Bale


Brass Door Knobs Beehive and Bloxwich

Brass Door Knobs Beehive and Bloxwich


Door knobs sound like a straightforward item to purchase, but there are some pitfalls and things you need to know and consider before buying. Read on!

What you get

Door knobs that are designed to turn are sold in pairs with a connecting spindle, normally with the screw fixings required to attach them to the face of the door.

The Latch or Lock Mechanism

For your knobs to turn they will need a lock or latch mechanism. These should be purchased separately to suit the door knobs, or you may already have these in your doors. There are two types of mechanism. Most common is a mortise lock or latch, which is set into the edge of the door. The other traditional option is a rim lock or latch, which is a surface mounted box, these are often decorative.

Rim Knobs or Mortise Knobs

If you have a mortise type latch/lock, then all our door knobs will fit.  If you have a rim latch/lock, only selected rim knobs will suit. The functionality is indicated in the product description on our website. Rim knobs require loose backplates, as normally only one backplate is used on the non rim lock side of the door. Mortise only door knobs have backplates which are fixed to the door knob part and are generally attached to the door face using fixing screws.

Setback of Latch/Lock

Door knobs require a deeper setback than door handles. The setback is the distance from the edge of the door to the centre of the hole in the latch/lock which the interconnecting spindle passes through. You must ensure you have enough space to fit 50% of the knob diameter plus finger room, when the door is closed into the rebate. Tight spacing is a problem which must be avoided (apart from damaged fingers) it is a sign of shoddy building work. If you are buying a new lock/latch this should be easy to get right. If you have existing spindle holes, you can cut a paper template of the door knob diameter, stick it on your door and check the spacing. Door handles require less setback and so it is normally not possible to replace door handles with door knobs without a change to the mechanism and all that this entails.


The spindle bar goes into the back of one door knob, through the mechanism and into the back of the other one. Spindles can vary in their design, especially for rim knobs. Modern (post metric) spindles are a standard 8mm square section bar and this is what fits through standard locks and latches. Old latches/locks may have an imperial spindle size. This can be a problem as the metric standard is very slightly larger and the spindle is too fat to fit through the hole. The simple way around this (which saves replacing all the old mechanisms) is to file around the spindle hole in the latch/lock until it fits. We often meet this problem and this is the easiest and best solution. Imperial/ metric sizing is an issue if you are buying reclaimed door knobs, as spindles and holes in the back of knobs will not fit modern metric fittings.

Sprung/Unsprung Door Knobs

Inside the latch mechanism is a spring which door knobs rely on to return them after turning. Some modern door knobs have a spring in the backplate of the knob itself, these are called sprung door knobs. Ours all rely on the spring in the latch doing the work and are unsprung. The spring in latch must therefore be heavy duty. Cheap latches from DIY sheds will not be man enough for the job unless they are labelled Heavy Duty.

Door Knob Size

In our range we have pairs of door knobs between 42 and 75mm in diameter. On a modern standard door (1980 x 760mm) a 50mm diameter knob is normally about right. Large internal and external doors can take a larger diameter, up to 75mm.  The size which is right for your door depends upon the size of the door and how much presence you want the knob to have.  We recommend making a paper template to help determine this. If you are not sure, you can purchase samples. Click this link to go to  another post “How to select the right size door knobs”

Period Style

We have styles in the range from all periods in time. You need to think about whether you are trying to keep your house in period, or perhaps you want to go for the ones you like best. If you have a Georgian property, consider Bloxwich and Octagonal styles. For Victorian, the beehive would be the most traditional. Edwardian, look to the Classic Oval and Classic round and any wooden door knobs. We also have a wonderful collection of Art Deco door furniture. You may want to consider the same door knobs throughout your house, but do not be afraid to have one style downstairs and another up. This would have been very common, as downstairs doors would often be larger and would be where visitors would see and use the door knobs.

Material and Finish

Door knobs have been made over the years in lots of different materials. The choice you have is wide, brass, nickel, chrome, wood, glass, iron etc. Your decision may be determined by the period of your property, your interior scheme or your personal preference. If you want to add colour consider glass or porcelain. If you want to go with the period, brass and porcelain were most popular in Victorian times, wooden door knobs were popular in Edwardian houses and when we hit Art Deco look to polished nickel or chrome. By far the most popular material is brass and all our brassware is sold unlacquered – the way it always was.

Door Knobs which are not required to turn

If you do not want a turning door knob and want it as a pull there are a few options. There are large door pulls for external doors which are sold singly and fixed with a bolt from the rear. For cupboard doors you can use cupboard knobs, again these are fixed with a bolt from the rear. Another option is that you can use a 1/2 pair of mortise door knobs (ones with backplates fixed to the door knobs) and just screw to the door face, discarding the spindle. This is useful if you want the same look on cupboard doors as on your main doors. There may be a little bit of play in these as they are really made to turn, with a few tricks these can normally be fixed firmly.

Please see a selection of our wood, brass, nickel, porcelain and glass knobs below. We are here at the end of the phone to discuss any problems or questions you may have and to help you make the right choice. Just call 01746 712450.

Wooden Door KnobsGlass Door KnobsBeehive Door Knobs Brass & NickelDoor Knobs in Brass and NickelArt Deco Door KnobsPorcelain Door Knobs





Leave a comment


    T C says:

    I never comment on websites and purchases but I’m just in the process of recommending you to another family member so happened to be on your website and directing them to your brilliant blog/advice. It reminded me how incredibly useful it was and Priors was definitely the “supplier of the project” for me – I took a year off work to project manage a complete refurbishment and restoration of an Edwardian townhouse six years ago and every day I am reminded how much I love the wooden beehive knobs – they add something very important in terms of atmosphere, set the tone for the style, and give us great pleasure. The service was brilliant too.

    Vicki Bale says:

    Thanks for your kind remarks. Glad to have been of assistance. Yes, door knobs really make a difference and you made an excellent choice. Enjoy!

    Didier martin says:

    I am looking for 40mm round brass door knobs

    Vicki Bale says:

    I have replied by e-mail.

    Pauline Rowe says:

    I have a lounge door with a normal handle but I need to change it to a knob handle due to the handle hitting and marking a wall can I use any knob handle and will it turn to open /shut the mortise lock

    Vicki Bale says:

    Please call me to discuss this.

    Ingrid Binning says:

    we are restoring a victorian house. The door on the under stair cupboard has a single knob which has Metal V shaped insert inside the door which turns the catch, The Handle had totally seized and we had to have it cut off. Do you supply these, or know what it is called?

    Vicki Bale says:

    Hello Ingrid
    Sorry I have only just found your comment. The best thing to do is to send an image to my e-mail address vicki@priorsrec.co.uk, but we don’t have anything that fits this description.Regards Vicki

    Patrisha OSullivan says:

    I am in California and we are building a home and need white door knobs/handles, something you cannot get here! Will a U.K. door knob/handle/latch/lock work on a U.S. door? Thank you.

    Vicki Bale says:

    Our door knobs and latches probably would not work. Our standard is an 8mm bar.

    terina worrall says:

    I have an original door lock with old bakelite handles that have broken and previously had a bakelite circular trim. The spindle itself has screw holes and the handles were affixed with grub screws through the neck of the handle. One side of the door is fine and wood, however the other attaches to the metal lock. I have been unable to find any like this and wonder if you have any brass/brass effect in stock – it is for an original outside door that has now become an internal door after an extension added. Can you help?

    Vicki Bale says:

    Hello Terina
    It sounds to me like you need rim door knobs and we have a selection which can be seen on our brass door knobs page. Look at the cottage knobs, beehive and bloxwich. There are others too and the items state clearly for rim locks. Hope this helps.

    Alan Bloom says:

    I have the porcelain knob – connecting square spindle – but the brass plated cup mounted on the face of the door is badly tarnished – fitted via plate screwed to door – and brass plate screws onto plate and has no screw holes showing
    I need replacement brass plates or a face screwed version
    Can you help?
    Regards Alan Bloom
    01253 347293

    Vicki Bale says:

    Hello Alan, I’m sorry but we don’t have brass plates on our porcelain door knobs and can’t help with this. New ones I think!

    Jade Brunet says:

    I am looking to know more about how to select a door handle. It is good to know that for knobs to turn, they will need a latch or lock mechanism. I did not know that these features could be purchased separately. Something to consider would be to have a professional install the door knobs to ensure that the task is done correctly and in a reasonable amount of time.

    Shirley says:

    I require 9 pairs of door knobs preferably the glass looking ones in clear or black or the brown colour in your photo above. Firstly please confirm if you do these with chrome and can you let me have a deal for the 9 pairs or 18 singles. I do not want a motice lock but just the knobs, which ever ways it works out better.

    Thank you

    Vicki Bale says:

    Hello Shirley
    Please can you call me on 01746712450 and I will help you.

    Mike Hill says:

    I want to replace Knobs that we have on each side of sliding doors.. The existing knobs have a screw threaded rod into which both knobs screw each side of the door. Are this type still available and what are they called?

    Vicki Bale says:

    Thank for the comment Mike. Would you mind contacting me at vicki@priorsrec.co.uk and perhaps sending an image.