What is the difference between mortise and tubular latches/locks?

What is the difference between mortise and tubular latches/locks?

Tubular latches became popular in the early 1950’s. And, as their name implies, the latch mechanism itself is tubular in shape. These latches were initially designed for residential use, but manufacturers later modified the design for commercial use (frequently referring to them as “cylindrical locks”). The vast majority of homes built in the last 60 years have tubular latches.

Example of a tubular latch:

nostalgic tubular latch

Residential mortise latches have been around for over a hundred years and are frequently seen in older homes. Many people enjoy mortise latches for their vintage style. Since they also have longevity, it’s common for homeowners to use them for decades. Most mortise latches have a passage latch operated by a door knob, and an integrated deadbolt operated by a skeleton key. Alternately, some mortise latches have a thumb-turn on the inside of the door, instead of a skeleton key, to operate the deadbolt. However, these older mortise locks do not provide adequate security for an exterior door, as they are easily picked.

Nostalgic Warehouse is one of very few door hardware companies that continues to sell new mortise locks. Although there is no standard length, size, or backset for these locks, most mortise locks have a 5 to 6-inch pocket in the door. Nostalgic’s “universal” mortise locks will fit most interior doors with legacy mortise locks, with little or no modification.

It’s important to note that a mortise latch and a tubular latch require two, very different door preparations. Tubular latches require 2 1/8” diameter cross-bores in the door, and 1” edge-bores. Mortise locks require a deep, rectangular pocket in the door.

Example of an interior mortise lock with a rectangular pocket and a skeleton key:

Nostalgic Latches Locks

Published on: June 14th, 2018

Like what you read? Need more information? Finding the appropriate hardware for historic projects can be a challenge. We've asked industry expert and Director of Product Development at Nostalgic Warehouse, Bill Metzger to help with the answers. Click here to see more.


Related Articles

Products of the Week


Pewabic Pottery

Pewabic fabricates heirloom quality architectural tiles for public and private installations, gift and commemorative tiles, vessels, gardenware, ornaments and both reproductions and adaptations of its historic designs and offers classes, workshops, lectures, internships and residency programs for studio potters and other artists.


Vintage Doors

Bring beauty and value your home with heirloom-quality REAL wood doors by Vintage Doors. Meticulously handmade by expert craftsmen in your exact size and style—to be loved and respected for generations, just like the olden days. Hand-crafted wood product line includes: screen doors, storm doors, Dutch doors, French doors, louver doors, pantry doors, interior doors, exterior doors, entrance units, three season porch enclosures, pet doors, arch top doors, round top doors, custom doors and more.


Unico System

A central heating and cooling system using "aspiration" technology to warm and cool homes evenly and quietly with flexible small ducts that weave through ceilings, walls, and even floors.