As much as we'd like people to believe that our renovations and projects go smoothly and are completed without flaws, sometimes things take far more time and are far more frustrating than either of us anticipated.

The truth is, any renovation that ends up looking "right" typically takes a considerable amount of effort, time, research, perserverence, and some luck. Sure, the right tools for the job, knowing where to shop for hardware or specialty supplies, and previous experience can help considerably. But sometimes, no matter what you have working in your favor, things just don't go the way you want or plan for it to go.

Such is the case with our "new" antique mail slot for our restored front door. If you recall, after a long search we finally purchased a slightly ornate and very cool mail slot from eBay.

When the mail slot arrived we were very excited and launched right into the installation process. I carefully measured and cut the hole in the center of one of the door's panels and felt like we were on the way. But that's when the problems started.

First, I noticed that the mail slot was actually broken. Yep, one of the hinges on the flap was partially worn away/broken off and once the flap opened to a certain point, it would come off of the hinge pin. The spring was also broken.

Then I realized that the mail slot was designed in such a way that made it nearly impossible to install without a minor but noticeable gap between the top of the mail slot and the door. In order for the flap to open, it would need to open up into the door area which would require the hole in the door to extend up above the top of the mail slot. If you can't image what I'm trying to describe, and you don't get what I'm saying from the photo below, trust me, it would have looked horrible.

End result...WE'RE SO FRUSTRATED!!!

Rather than invest even more time into a flawed aspect of the front door project, we decided to cut our losses on the mail slot we had purchased for $75 from eBay (money than we wanted to spend in the first place), and opted to begin a search for another mail slot that would fit the bill.

Any time I'm looking for some antique salvaged architectural hardware, I start my search at my usual architectural salvage Internet storefronts. There are a handful of places that I use quite often and have had quite a bit of luck with in the past. These websites frequently add items and, even when they don't have exactly what I'm looking for, offer a great starting point for research. I prefer these locations since they are authentic dealers and do not deal in reproductions.

Mowery Antiques - Mowery has a good selection with detailed photos and descriptions. I've used them for hinges and a few other things around the house. They have good prices and unique items to choose from. The mail slot we originally wanted is actually on their website, but it was sold and the status wasn't updated. Oh well.

Ed Donaldson Hardware Restorations -  Another great site, typically updated at the beginning of each month, and very well organized website. The prices are reasonable for fully restored and operational hardware. I've used this store for several hinges that have been hard to find in other locations.

Robinson's Antiques - Robinson's is more expensive than the first two I listed, but has some of the more "oddball" items that you may not find at the other stores.

Once I've exhausted those three locations, I sometimes look at the various reproduction hardware online stores for research purposes, places like House of Antique Hardware, Renovator's Supply, and Van Dykes Restorers, but my online search then typically turns to eBay for antique hardware.

Our new mail slot actually came from a seller on eBay. I started looking for a cast iron mail slot that would fit the opening that I already cut, and something that looked similar in style and age to the one we had already purchased. The mail slot I found, while not nearly as interesting of an outline as the first, maintains that Eastlake Victorian feel we enjoyed about the first one. Here's what we ended up with.

This one will actually work perfectly. The slot I already cut is exactly the correct size for this new one, and it will be able to mount on the door in nearly the same location as we had intended with the first one. Add to the situation that the spring is fully functional on this item, and we've got a good looking and fully functional mail slot that will work perfectly with our door, both in style and age. The main reason this one will work is because of the larger distance between the flap's hing and the top of the mail slot's surround. That 1/8" makes a huge difference.

We still have that "Merv the Perv" issue that Wendy covered previously. We had to come up with a solution that would obscure the view of a person outside if they push the mail slot open. We don't want them peering into our living space and up our stairwell. 

We had a couple of solutions suggested on the blog, and some from friends, but the most often suggested option was something like a large drawer pull or curved piece for the back of the door that would direct any mail down and keep prying eyes from seeing in. These were all great ideas, but I wanted something that would look like it had always been there.

While searching for our mail slot on eBay, I stumbled on a cast iron letter slot that came out of an old office building or hotel. The slot is actually a drop slot where one might have dropped their letters into a chute. I won the auction for the drop slot and when it came I held it up to the door and it looks perfect. 

By installing it "upside down" it will work exactly the way we intended it to. The ironic thing is that I never would have found this hardware item except for the fact that I was looking for a replacement mail slot. So in some ways, our very unfortunate and frustrating situation actually helped us get closer to our goal by steering us in the right direction to solve another problem.

I'll have another update a little later in the week to fill you in on the door progress. In brief, it is starting to really look good and take shape. Even though this project has not gone as smoothly as I had originally hoped, I feel like the end result will be great because we've not lost our cool while navigating the speed bumps. 

Do you do any antique hardware purchasing online? We have our favorite salvage yards in the area, but sometimes it is far easier to jump on the Internet to look for things rather than driving an hour or more for a shopping trip that may be fruitless. We're always looking for new shops online, so please share if you know of any.

Comments 5


8/15/2011 at 11:26 AM
Yes! I'm so glad you posted what online resources you use for searching for antique hardware. I'm typically an e-bay gal, but I also really enjoy ND Millwerk Salvage and Sales at
8/15/2011 at 11:35 AM
Thanks for the list of resources! I've used the "House of Antique Hardware" to get a window lock part. For some reason one (and only one) of my three front windows was missing half a sash lock. Who would take off half a lock and leave the other part on the window???

Some things just make you go "?????"

The folks are HoAH were great, took my photos and measurements and sent me the exact correct part. Other than patina, it's an excellent match.
8/16/2011 at 11:38 PM
I would think that the old mail slot could be fixed. Installing it would take some crafty routing, but it seems as though it could also be made to work. You'd end up with a thin edge at the top just to hid the hinge, and you'd need to route it deeper beyond this. A spring is fairly easy to make or find/modify. Repairing the hinge would be a b*tch but could be done with a piece of scrap brass and silver solder (not easy to do, but doable).
9/4/2011 at 12:31 PM
AHH! You bought the same mail slot that we have on our front door! For some reason, this 1880's/90's mail slot is on our 20th century door with a 1910s lockset on an 1860's house. very odd. but the upside down drop slot is a very good idea!
What a cool coincidence! She's a beauty. :-)
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