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October 31, 2018 3 min read

Realize the Benefits and Uses of Full Mortise Locks

Full Mortise Locks offer the most concealed appearance. Use on drawers and doors. Installation requires, a pocket to be cut in wood, to house lock mechanism. Once installed, all that is visible is a simple, brass rectangular plate, known as the selvedge. Full Mortise Locks are often desired for its minimalist appearance.


Understanding Full Mortise Locks for furniture and cabinets

Drawer Locks

When using half mortise locks on drawers consider position of keyhole, as it is often off center. When engaged, lock-bolt shoots up into case above drawer. A strike is rarely used.

Door Locks

Our full mortise locks work both right-hand and left-hand cabinet doors. Please note: some full mortise locks are not available in both left and right options. When looking for door locks be sure lock is handed according to your needs.

Doors hinged right - bolt shoots left.

Doors hinged left - bolt shoots right.

Desk Locks

The most used full mortise locks for desks are the popular roll top desk locks. These applications require a trap-door strike with the lock. 


Measuring Full Mortise Locks

  • Measure your lock before looking for a replacement.
  • Please view diagram right, to determine relevant measurements.
  • Backset measurement, distance from edge of lock to pin in keyhole, is the most important measurement, it must match precisely.
  • Once the backset measurement is determined you can look at your various options.
  • Cabinet work may be necessary if potential substitutes have different lock-body or lock-plate measurements. 

When replacing locks:

Keyhole location measurement is critical.Replacement lock-keyhole-location must match location of keyhole in furniture.

To measure: easiest to measure old lock, if you have it:

  • Lock Keyhole Location: distance between selvedge-edge - where bolt shoots through, to lock pin. This measurement is known as the backset.
  • Furniture Keyhole Cutout Location: distance between furniture-edge to estimated location of lock pin in furniture keyhole.


    Determine desired location of lock

    • Adjust position to allow for location of keyhole as it is often off center in lock
    • Lock should be positioned in middle of wood thickness, providing a wood edge around selvedge
    • Mark location of lock-selvedge on door or drawer edge
    • Hold lock-selvedge, at desired location, on wood thickness and trace outline
    • Inspect outline for accuracy , straighten lines where necessary
    • Mortise Selvedge


    • Trace lock-body outline into selvedge-mortise at correct position
    • Cut lock-body-mortise
    • Mortise can be slightly off as selvedge will conceal lock-body once installed.
    • Check lock with mortise, lock should sit in mortise with selvedge flush with wood surface
    • Strikes are rarely use with reproduction full mortise locks. Traditionally a simple mortise was cut in the wood to accept the lock bolt.

    Keyhole Placement

    • Measure distance from top of lock-plate to center of key pin
    • Measure distance from side of lock-plate to center of key pin
    • With these two measurements locate keyhole on furniture front, make sure key pin is aligned with keyhole location
    • Drill small pilot hole at key pin location, hold lock in position and check to make sure hole lines up with key pin
    • Drill hole larger to accommodate key barrel

    Mount Lock

    • Mount lock in a mortised- pocket in wood thickness/edge
    • Selvedge edge should be level with top of drawer or edge of door
    • Attach with wood screws
    • For a finished appearance: mount an  escutcheon/keyhole plate, on furniture front.