Locking The Butler’s Desk

This post continues a series in which I’m building a butler’s desk of American black walnut. In the previous post I had detailed the butler’s desk, finishing outside surfaces and chamfering edges.  I’m on the home stretch with a few items left to complete.  My next task; installing a full mortise lock.

The first detail which a user will encounter when operating the desk is the lock.   Unlocking the desk would be the first tell tale as to the quality of my work (gasp!).  I feel the perceived quality of a mortise lock is found in its operation.  A smoothly working lock makes for an immediate sense of quality.  After prolonged searching, I found an English lock making company called A&E Squire Ltd.  A&E Squire makes a full mortise cabinet lock.  In America, White Chapel Ltd retails their locks, I purchased with fingers crossed that the lock would be as I had hoped.

I had but one small issue, the only finish available on the site was plain brass.  No matter, I decided to use a gun bluing finish to have the lock’s color compliment the stainless hardware I had otherwise used.  To create an even finish my first task was to sand the brass hardware to 600 grit.  I affixed the latch to a block of wood in order to allow even pressure to be applied.

sanding lock catch

Placing the sandpaper on a granite plate, then working the latch and the lock face until I produced and even finish.


The next step was to file the inside edges, I use an auger file as I like the shape and fineness of the file.

file work lock catch

Finally I’m able to apply the solution and create a finish.

gun blue lock catch

Now I can proceed with the installation, as one of my fellow web forum members mentioned; this is the last chance to ruin all of my previous work.  With that sentiment in mind I am proceeding carefully.

One thing quite curious about most mortise locks; the key hole is often offset from center.  If you line up the lock to center the selvedge on the door stile then the keyhole will be off center on the door.


After marking my location, I set my kebiki gauge to the width of the lock body and to the appropriate depth.


With my markout now completed I can begin mortising.  I’m cutting this mortise with an auger bit, followed by paring to my lines.  I want to take precaution and avoid damaging the delicate sides of this mortise.


After paring the mortise sides to fit the lock, I slip the lock into place and now I can markout the selvedge, which I do with a knife.

marking out selvedge

With the marks now in place I can careful mortise for the selvedge.  This photo is of the work in progress, I’m slowly paring away waste to flatten the landing.

finished lock mortise

With the selvedge mortise cleaned up I can drill for the keyhole, first carefully marking it’s location, then applying a backer to minimize the chance of chipout.


I use a bradpoint bit to create the initial hole.

drilling for keyhole

Then follow with a chamfer bit.  I make the chamfer now as opposed to doing so after the bottom of the keyhole is cutout to ensure that the hole will chamfer cleanly.

chamfering hole

The chamfered hole:

chamfered hole

Next I cut the keyhole bottom, this makes the iconic keyhole shape.   I mark my lines with a knife and proceed to chisel out the waste.  I use a backer board to prevent spelching.  After making the cutout, I chamfer the edges to match the chamfer on the hole.

finished key hole

Finally I’m able to install the lock and test it for function, then complete the installation by installing the screws, first running steel screws in, then brass.

pilot screw


lock installed into door

With the door back on the cabinet I can transfer marks to my case.  I do so first with tape.

installed lock - marking for catch

Then remove the doors and drawers and turn the cabinet upside down, complete the mark out and mortise for the latch.  After completing that I install the latch and cutout the mortise which will receive the lock bolt.

marking out catch

The completed mortises.

mortised catch

Finally, an installed latch.

installed lock catch

I reassembled the cabinet, stood the cabinet upright, and tested the mortise lock for smooth operation.

lock key

installed lock

I hope you have enjoyed following along with this installation.

Finished keyhole

Thank you for reading, please comment below.

Adventures in Making Hardware


  1. Pingback: The Butler’s Desk – Gets Detailed! | Brian Holcombe Woodworker

  2. Pingback: The Butler's Desk - Gets Detailed! - Brian Holcombe Woodworker

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