Vintage in-the-door twist crank door bell restoration

I live in a 117 year old house. Sometimes it’s a challenge to heat, cool and clean. But, we have the original doors which I love. Big heavy solid wood doors with a lead glass window.


What you can’t see on this side of the door is an original brass twist crank door bell.


Who paints these things? Does it come from pure laziness or at some point was this considered an eye sore or old fashioned? Either way I am happy that it wasn’t taken out if the door. But the paint muffled the sound of the bell and it needed some maintenance.

First I very carefully began scraping off the paint. It was decades of paint and paint types so I heated it with a hair dryer and began picking… All day picking with a sharp knife. I was careful not to gouge. Once I was able to loosen the center screw that holds it to the door, I removed it. I filled a glass bowl with hot sauce. Yep, hot sauce.


I lowered the bell into the sauce and let it sit for a while. The acidic hit sauce ate away at the corosion on the outside and inside of the metal. Check every 15 minutes and use a soft toothbrush to scrub some of it off.



I used some fine steel wool to get it looking good as well. While I was cleaning this piece, I cleaned the mechanism and use a spray penetrant. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of that. It made the twist turn much easier.

The end result is fabulous. It’s stamped April 14, 1891 patented. The house was built in 1896.



It worked so well I moved on to the hardware.



Croque Madame with béchamel sauce


French cooking, not my cup of coffee. But… I heard about these monstrous piles of goodness. After you-tubing and pinteresting recipes and tutorials I settled on my version.

As far as the bread goes, you can use any type you prefer…it’s going to be covered in cheese, butter, ham and eggs anyway… It’s just there for structure. I used a big fluffy Italian loaf and I think it would have been just fine with a smaller bread even regular sandwich bread.

In regards to the cheese, the French recipe calls for gruyere…. Just the sound of that makes me feel pretentious. I don’t like pretentious either. I used a good sharp (non yellow) cheddar. It worked just fine.


1 lb of good deli ham
3/4 cup of shredded cheddar
Butter.. 1/4 cup for the roux, some more for buttering the bread
1/4 cup flour
Mustard, Grey poupon to keep it French.
1 cup milk
Eggs 1 per sandwich
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat griddle or skillet. Butter bread and toast both sides. If you prefer, toast on cookie sheet.
Lay toasted bread on cookie sheet lined with parched paper. Slather with a spicy mustard or grey poupon.

In another skillet, drizzle olive oil and place ham in to brown a little.

While the ham is browning in a heavy sauce pan, start the roux. Melt 1/4 cup butter. When sizzly, add flour and stir until pasty. Slowly add the milk and whisk until smooth but not too too thin. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and whisk until smooth. You just made béchamel!!!! Give yourself a high five .

Generously ladle the béchamel onto the bottom piece of bread, on top of the mustard but leave enough to ladle some on top. Place ham and the second piece of bread onto the mound. Ladle the béchamel onto the top of the sandwich and place under broiler. Carefully keep an eye on it. Cheese likes to burn under broilers.

In the same skillet you browned the ham, make sunny side up eggs. Remove he Croque Monsieur (this dish sans egg) from the broiler, place carefully place the egg on top. Now you have a Madame.

Voila! Deliciousness. It can classify as man food. My husband said its like a hot brown. I call it fancy French.




Please ignore the Bengals glass. They aren’t French, they are just horrible.