Open and Shut Case

Every so often I’m asked if I’ve got any tips about getting doors to shut properly. It’s not so much the doors on later classics, most of those with concealed hinges have the hinges fixed into captive nuts with adjustment. Most of the queries are about the older type of classic, the sort with flap hinges that stick out from the door. Most of these screw into fixed positions in the door pillar, and there doesn’t seem to be any method of adjustment part from moving the lock striker plate, and moving this, of course, won’t help the door fit properly in its aperture.

The short answer is that the hinges aren’t adjustable except by brute force, but this isn’t being quite so brutal as it might seem. Indeed, it’s the method which used to be recommended by Wilmot Breeden, who made most of the locks and hinges on older British classics. I’ve reproduced an old Wilmot Breeden service diagram here which will help to sort things out provided the door itself hasn’t dropped.

Take the striker plate off and gently close the door. It will foul, or be too close at one of the points A,B,C,D or E in the diagram. If it fouled at A the top hinge has opened out, and possibly the bottom hinge has closed as well. A foul at B means the bottom hinge has opened out.

At C it means the top hinge has closed, and at D it means the bottom hinge is closed. A foul at point E means that the bottom hinge has closed and probably the top hinge opened out as well, but not enough to cause a foul at point A.

Open and Shut Case
DIAGRAM: Using this diagram to check the fit of a pressed steel door with outside hinges.

To close a hinge that has opened, close the door and put an adjustable wrench (a shifter in our lingo) over the outside of the hinge to stop it opening. Then try to open the door. There is no need to strain it, you only need moderate force, so try it several times. To open a hinge that has closed, open the door and put a small hardwood block about half an inch thick in the hinge. Then try to close the door. Once again, push lightly and keep trying it for fit.

When you have got the door to close neatly in the aperture, you may find that it’s flush at the lock but sticks out at points A and B. If it does, cover a block of wood with felt, put it in the aperture level with the lock, close the door and lean gently on points A and B. Lean very gently, a sort of gentle rocking pressure, or you might raise a bump at the lock.
Once you’ve got the door fitting properly in its aperture, you can adjust the striker plate to get it closing with a nice firm click.

Peter Wallage

Bibliography and Photographic credits
The Journal of the Morris Register, March 1992, Vol.15 No.6