Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Doorbell

This is my current doorbell. It causes me some stress. It's also plastic and ugly.

I made a quick run to Northwest Architectural Salvage this afternoon to see if they had a ceramic pull for my salvaged ceramic sconce (more on this in another post). It's a little salvage store run by a quirky older woman and her quiet son. They have a lot of old, rewired lights, that I personally think are expensive, but are nice. I don't go there a lot, but if you are looking for a bizarre missing piece to something, this is a good place to start. They carry a lot of parts - for lights, for doors, and who knows what else. Parts hidden on shelves, in bottles, in showcases, in back rooms.

So, I was standing up by the front of the store while the owner went to her back store room to find the lone little ceramic pull she had. This gave me a few minutes to browse. Always dangerous.

I spotted a little, old doorbell in a show case. It was small and covered in loads of old paint (sorry, I clearly need to read more about my camera and close-ups). Under all the paint it looked like the cover had some sort of embossed design. The inner workings appeared to be in working order. At 3"x6", it's pretty small.

It was on sale. It was $11.25. I could not pass it up.

I took my newest find home and put the cover in boiling water & baking soda for 30 minutes. After layers of old paint had fallen off, I lightly finished it with steel wool. The last layer of paint, was black and I think it was probably the original color. The cover now clearly reads "Hersh Duplex Signals." I'm guessing it pre-dates my houses...guessing early 1900s. The only markings on it, however, are the words "patent pend."

I don't have a clue about old doorbells, so I'm not even sure it will work on my house. But I figure how much could doorbells have changed over the years? It looks like there are three spots for electrical connections; one on the lower left and two on the right. Next week I may stop at my local hardware store and see what the old timer guys there know about it all. Unless someone reading has an idea......


Greg said...

Neat-o! I wonder how old it is? (I know, you already asked that). I suspect the three wires are so you can have 2 doorbell buttons (one at the front door and one at the back door?). The good thing about door bells is that they work on low voltage. You can get a little shock, but it’s just a little one. Some where there is a transformer in the house. The 110 volt goes in to the transformer and then gets transformed down to 16 or 24 volts and goes to the bell assembly.

The one hot wire from the transformer gets connected to one of the 3 screws. I would say it’s that lone one on the left. The other two screws go to the two buttons. The wire that returns from the button(s) gets connected to the neutral wire that goes back to the transformer. If you had two door bells, both of the return wires from the buttons would get connected to the single neutral wire coming from the transformer.

What you could do is take the cover off you plastic one and see where the wires hook up to it. Maybe it also has three screws. Go to the hardware store and buy two, 10-foot pieces of 18 gauge wire and some small wire nuts. Disconnect the wires from the door bell and use the wire nuts to attach them to the new 10 foot pieces of wire. You can then hook this new wire up to the “new” door bell and press the button to see what happens. Oh, and be sure to throw the breaker before disconnecting wires. It may be low voltage, but since in shocking yourself…unless you’re in to that sort of thing.

Greg said...

Oops. That was supposed to be "no sense in shocking yourself"

And if you need a better explanation, just ask.

Ranty said...

Very cool doorbell! I will definitely have to follow your progress on this project, since my own doorbell is also completely messed up and in need of replacement.

Houseblogs rock.

StuccoHouse said...

Greg - Thanks a ton for the detailed info. I've printed it out and will take it with me to the hardware store. They always are quite humored to see me, I think. I am forever am asking them for strange stuff but are never quite able to offer them a clear explanation at to what it is I'm going to do with it.

There are two house related things that really scare me. Mouse traps (and the mice that go in them) and electrical stuff. Although, through some lapse in the universe's flow I was able to connect my second phone line. This will be good for me. Of course, if you don't see a post from me for a while, look for an article in the national newspapers about the first person ever to be killed by a low voltage wiring project.

Ranty - Just a warning, my progress may be slow ;-)

derek said...

we have some crappy plastic doorbell too. Ours is one of the wireless, I think the previous owner tried to fix the doorbell, and failed miserably (I think there's a wiring fault somewhere). I'd love to find a doorbell like that, great find.

Anonymous said...

"Mouse traps (and the mice that go in them) and electrical stuff."

Straying slightly from the topic here, just to let you know that the absence of mouse traps can be far, far scarier that either of the above. Though, since you seem to have some experience with traps you might already know this.

Catless for a year or so, I hated to be mean to the oh so cute little mice, never more than two at a time, I occasionally saw scampering out of my pantry into the window, from there the wall, I imagine.

Once they became so bold as to carry on conversations while noisily munching on a box of pasta shells, the only thing I left available to them after awhile, and after the electronic repeller didn't affect them at all, I decided I had to act, even if it was with extreme cruelty.

I bought poison.

No traps. Not willing to deal with injured, dying, live critters.

Now that there has been no evidence of their presence for awhile, I have finally finished cleaning the pantry. I am shocked and embarassed at the filth they created. Not to mention creeped out.

The odor of chlorine took a week to finally leave me.

If I had known then what I know now I'd have been happy to take a bazooka to the beasties, nothing's that cute.

Go ahead. Just snarl and laugh at them as you empty your traps! All that cute is just a disguise for the devil.

The Litter Box House said...

Cool find! I'm gonna have to find something like that. Our house doesn't have a doorbell OR a metal knocker. We just hope we can hear someone knock oldfashionedly - with their hands! The exterior of our house has junky asbestos covering, so I'm not sure if there is an old doorbell hiding underneath. There certainly isn't any bell inside though. It will be interesting to see once we start working on the exterior. Next summer?

I just took a 6 hour home electrical class because I too was scared of electricity. I'm still a bit scared (which everyone should be per my instructor!) but I'm much more confident. Now I just need to get to work! I've got a few projects waiting for me. And I'm sure hooking up a cool old doorbell will be one.

Kathy said...

I just reawd your comment on Greg's site. How about a blog post (with pics) of your tiger maple in the attic? Have you thought about doing anything with it?

Re: M*#@ (I can't even type the word) They thoroughly sicken me, make me completely crazy. We've had them three times in 25 years and it was my husband's job to dispose of them. He is now unfortunately disabled and our 3rd experience with them was after he became disabled. I paid an exterminator a large sum of money for 2+ trips (3rd trip to dispose of trap was free), destroyed the dishwasher trying to remove it (they came in behind the dishwasher), had to buy a new dishwasher, had to order a new wood front panel to match kitchen cabinets & pay for panel installation, had the tiniest of holes stuffed with steel wool then had the entire area sealed with a thin wood panel and some kind of metal caulk. It probably cost more than $1,000, but I didn't have to look at them!

Sometime check out
A motel built from ONE curly redwood tree.

Tiny Oak Park Bungalow said...

Our original doorbell is in the house but one of it's two wires was cut (the one to the main door) The other wire - now get this - was wired to the phone system. Our house is VERY small and we have bells at the back and the front. When we first moved in, the entire house rang if the phone rang. They seemed to be the loudest bells in the world. Needless to say I cut the other wire and we are now bell-less. Maybe it's worth getting the house ringing again.


StuccoHouse said...

Derek - It seems wierd to me that a homeowner would go to the trouble of replacing an old doorbell chime, but I gues they do. There was a second doorbell in the store where I bought, the old onces are out there.

Anon - I had a mouse in my basement a couple of years ago & some got into the wall near my front door. Putting in new steps & going on a radical caulking campaign solved that problem. Forever. I hope. The place the really freaks me out is seeing them in my parent's log cabin....I once saw one run up the vertical log wall.

Litterbox - I've tried to sign up for a local electical class, but they keep cancelling it due to low registration.

Kathy - The tiger & curly maple is actually on the floor in my attic. It was stained to match the oak woodwork downstairs, so it took me a while to figure out it was maple. I had the floors refinished and the maple grain popped. It is very cool....I'll try to post photos of the floor one of these days.

Chris - The phone? That mad me laugh. So, when someone rang the were running for the phone. It amazes me what PO's can think up.

ryan said...

We have a doorbell exactly like that. It never worked (it just made a weak hum like something was trying to work, but not quite) until we took the cover off (which also had 20 layers of paint on it), and there was a decaying matchbook cover stuffed between the bell and the striker.

We stripped it, finished our kitchen repainting (where the bell is) and put it back up. It looks fantastic.

Our place was built in the 1920s, and I'm guessing it's original equipment.

StuccoHouse said...

Ryan - Very cool to know. I kind of thought it was from the 1920' thinking was that if it was any earlier they probaby would have had one of those non-electric turn buttons/bells. I'm still trying to figure out how to attach it to the wall. I have long screws, but I'm not sure how the plaster will handle that.

Was your's the same Hersh brand? I've been able to find zippo out about that manufacturer online.

suespez said...

I have a doorbell similar to the one you just purchased & i have it on the "to do" list to replace it with a new one.

Now, dont groan... i'm all for restoration of my house (i've got a 1926'er) but it is one of the most annoying sounds i ever heard. i jump every time it rings - and i say "ring" to be kind - it's more of a buzz/ring and LOUD.

Did you ever install it? you may want to give it a test run before trying it out. It may not be plesant (also see the other poster that mentioned that they couldnt see why someone would go through the trouble of replacing the original bell....)

Just my 2 cents....

Joe said...

I just put up my "cool doorbell" today. It sure feels good to be part of the club. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I just took the same exact doorbell apart last night and came online today trying to see how to get it to work. My house is 1928. We are the third owners, and the second owners did few repairs/changes and none attempting to use original or period fixtures, so I am pretty sure the bell is original to the house.

Low voltage or not, I think I will turn this project and the potential shock over to my brother.

Good luck

Ryan said...

Yes, it is the same Hersh brand. It looks exactly like the one in your picture. Whenever we move out of this place for good, it's one of the things we're taking with us...

Anonymous said...

I have a doorbell exactly like yours. You can use just a normal "D" 1.5v battery between two of the three wires to make it work -- just experiment to see which two of the three!

Anonymous said...

I also have the exact same doorbell from our 1928 Tudor. I stripped five layers of paint off the cover and just re-hung it in our kitchen.

Although it looks great, and certainly is in keeping with the period of our house, we almost jump out of our shoes every time someone rings!!

I have tried to dampen the bell by placing tape on it, shoving an old sock inside the housing etc, but to no avail. I just finished installing a new and bland ding-dong type bell.

I will note that correct installation will result in the front door sounding the bell, and the back door is an equally loud buzz (I imagine to discern which door is being called upon).

Cheers and enjoy the bell.


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