In the Heart of Toronto's Castlefield Design District

How to: fix wiggly doorknobs

Dated Posted: November 5th, 2009

Written By: Leila

A lot of people think that old doorknobs are wiggly by nature and to that we say not true!  When vintage knobs are installed properly they shouldn’t move around and they certainly shouldn’t pull off.  It all comes down to the set screws.  Set screws are the little screws in the side of the knob that attach the knob to the spindle, which is the bar that connects the two knobs through the door.  By following the next few steps, you too can have wiggle-free knobs.

First lesson: Know your spindles.  There are three common types of spindles, and all three have slightly different instructions.  From left to right, the most common are threaded spindles followed by drilled spindles and three-piece spindles.

3 spindle types

Threaded Spindles

If you have threaded spindles, start by loosening the set screws on one knob and twist the knob counter-clockwise until it has come off the spindle.  Pull the other knob, still attached to the spindle, out of the door.  Inspect the threads to make sure nothing looks mangled either on the spindle or inside the knob, and if anything looks rusty you can spray a little WD-40 to smooth things out.  Thread the knob back on and tighten the set screw onto the flat part of the spindle.  This is the most important part…do not tighten the set screw down onto the threads as this will damage the threads and in time your knob will be wiggling and falling off.  Repeat with other knob.  When you come to re-install your doorknobs, attach one knob first with the set screw in the right place, then insert the spindle through the door and screw on the second knob, making sure that the set screw lines up with the one on the other side so that you know it is not on the threads.  You get bonus style points if you have the set screws facing down so that they’re hidden from view.

Note: If by pulling and wiggling you can remove a knob from a threaded spindle without actually twisting it, it means that the threads of either the spindle or the knob or both are ruined, and you will likely need to replace either the spindle or the knob or both.  Bring both knobs and spindle in to us and we’ll see what we can do to help.   

Drilled Spindles

If you have drilled spindles, the set screws can only be screwed into pre-drilled holes on the spindle.  Sometimes, if the set screws have come out and been replaced with new screws that have the wrong thread, the holes in the spindles become worn and won’t hold the screw.  In this case bring us the spindle and the knobs and we can replace your spindle and set screws.  If the set screws tighten nicely but the pre-drilled holes aren’t in quite the right place, we sell little washers that can fill the gap – one or two is usually enough to keep the knobs from wiggling back and forth.

 Three-Piece Spindles

Three piece spindles are exactly that – three long pieces that are held together by a pin through one of the knobs.  This kind of spindle only requires a set screw on one knob, and because the knob can only go on one way the set screw will always be in the right place!  If you are having any troubles with door knobs being loose with this kind of spindle, loosen the set screw, push the door knob towards the door so it’s a little tighter, then re-tighten the set screw.  This set-up usually has the fewest problems, but we do have replacement three-piece spindles as well as set screws and pins if you should need them.


If you are in need of replacement pieces, set screws cost from $2 – $5, most vintage spindles are $10 and vintage knobs start at $20 (we can match most pre-1940s knobs from the Toronto area).

Related Articles

DS Advent Calendar, Day 14: Paris Clock knobs

DS Advent Calendar, Day 10: Crystal doorknobs

DS Advent Calendar, Day 5: Hardware tune-up