One of our best selling products is the Suffolk latch. I am often asked by my customers how to fit them, so I thought it was time for me to write a comprehensive blog covering the step by step processes required to fit the perfect latch.
The hand forged Suffolk or thumb latch makes for an ideal door closing solution when used in a traditional period style property. There are a couple of areas we need to cover first before we get into the installation process. Firstly the design of the latch enables the door to be opened from both sides, so if you want to fit them onto a cupboard door where access is only possible from one side it would be best to fit a latch set, this is in effect the back end of a Suffolk latch. Another very important point to note is that the door will only open one way due to the latch bar preventing the door from passing past the door surround, so if you are in the process of designing the layout of your doors it is important to consider what side you want the latch to be seen from and which way you want the doors to open. Another point of consideration is what type of hinge you should fit to your doors, I would always recommend fitting traditional hand forged penny or arrow end T hinges. As a rule of thumb the hinge should cover half or more of the door width, so for the average door with a width of between 26” and 32” I would always go for the 18” hinge.
Now we have that out of the way lets fit this latch.......
1. Thumb latch with bar.
2. Latch bar.
5. Slotted screws x 8
When it comes to marking out your door it is important to consider at what height you want the latch. There are two main points to consider. The latch should be at a height that is comfortable to operate, you don't want to be reaching up or bending down to open the door. If you have a row of doors on the wall it is generally good practice to have all hinges and latches at the same levels.
Once you have decided the height that you want the latch, draw a faint line in pencil 50mm in from the door edge then draw a second horizontal line intersecting the first at the point you want the thumb part of the latch to sit. Then draw a second line 30mm up from the first line, this will be the upper and lower limit of the slot you are about to create.
Creating the slot
When I install doors I always use a router because its neat fast and I have the tools to hand. If you don't have a router you can use a 10mm drill and drill a line of holes along the marked out area, then using a round rasp carefully join up the holes creating a slot.
If you are going to use the router method I would suggest cutting the slot in three equal passes and remember to clamp a piece of wood on the other side of the slot to prevent any breakout.
Fixing the handle and bar
Slotted dome head screws are notoriously hard to fit especially if you are screwing into oak, what I do is use a conventional pozi drive screw to make a start on all the holes. It is also important to use a screwdriver where the driver blade closely fits the the screw slot, if its to loose it can leave a sharp bur.
Fitting The Latch Bar
Lay the latch bar over the lever on the reverse side of the latch allowing for about a 5mm overhang from where the keep will be finally fixed. The latch bar should be horizontal to the the floor. When you are happy that it is in the correct position mark out the hole and as with the handle start the hole with a pozi drive screw then reposition the bar and fix in place with the slotted screw provided. Please note the screw should not be fully tightened, back the screw off enough to allow free movement but not too much as to make it a sloppy fit.
Fitting the staple
To be totally traditional the staple would be hammered through then the spikes showing the other side would be bent over. If you are going through a ledge or brace this will not be a problem because of the thickness of the combined material. Some people don’t like this option that is why we offer an alternative with the screw on staple.
With the lever and latch bar now firmly in place it is now time to fit the staple. Offer the staple up to the latch bar making sure it is upright then give it a firm tap with a hammer leaving two small indentations. Using a small drill 4-5mm in diameter drill two pilot holes this will help with knocking the staple into hard material such as oak and also prevent the timber from splitting.
When I fit staples I tend to cut the spikes so that they don’t quite go all the way through the door, then I drill two pilot holes that I fill with PVA glue then I hammer home. This maintains the traditional look without the unsightly knocked over spikes showing on the reverse side of the door.
And finally fitting the keep
The final part of the operation is the fitting of the keep. This is by far the most important part because what you want to achieve is that satisfying feeling when you pull the door shut and you get that reassuring clunk when the leaver falls into the keep. Because each of your doors will be slightly different and each suffolk latch is individually hand made you will notice that each door will have a different sound when opened and closed.
Close the door so that the latch bar is resting against the the door surround, then with a pencil draw a faint line on the underside of the latch bar. This line is where the inside edge of the keep should end up. Drill a small pilot hole just under the line and the correct distance in from the edge. Then carefully knock the keeper into the frame. It is important to note that there is a degree of license at this point, you can tap the keeper up, down, left and right until you have got it in exactly the right position. When you are happy just secure the keeper with one of the screws provided.
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