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250 years of {hardware} historical past. Pieces from Ball & Ball, Craftsman Hardware Company, Horton Brasses and Londonderry Brasses.

A concise chronicle of furnishings {hardware} kinds that will help you construct it higher.

One query I’m usually requested is, “What hardware should I use?” And the reply is normally, “It depends.”

What did you construct? Are you refinishing or restoring? Is your work an unique or a copy?

Whether you’re seeking to follow custom or break from it, I imagine it’s useful to grasp the historical past behind the {hardware} – the place it’s been and the place it began – when deciding on knobs and pulls in your items.

To present a bit extra perception, I’d wish to stroll by means of the primary historic durations of American furnishings brasses. To hold issues temporary, I gained’t get into {hardware} from different elements of the world (French and German {hardware} will be fairly good, although). I assume I may discover Shaker {hardware}, however I simply don’t discover wooden knobs that thrilling.

William & Mary

William & Mary drop pulls. Delicate chased rosettes with drops mounted on cotter pins. Dutch drop by Ball & Ball, teardrop by Londonderry Brass

In 1660, England’s King Charles II had simply come out of exile to reclaim his throne. (I ought to notice that American furnishings brasses, with the exception of the Craftsman type, originated in England.)

This interval is called “The Restoration,” and we all know furnishings and {hardware} from this period as William & Mary type (they took the reign(s) in 1689). The type, at the least in phrases of {hardware}, was produced from about 1660 to the early 1700s, and was largely made of brass, with some occasional solid silver items.

William & Mary {hardware} and furnishings had been usually fairly ornate, with options comparable to Dutch drops or teardrops paired with rosettes in a spread of patterns, from solid florals to hand-chased diamonds to the extra subdued spherical rosettes. Drops had been mostly fixed with cotter pins, though some items had been mounted with posts and fingers to create cabinet turns.

Queen Anne

Queen Anne pulls. A pierced pull from Ball & Ball.

In the years to comply with, the {hardware} world noticed manufacturing strategies advance, leading to shapes of better element – a mode generally known as Queen Anne. The Queen Anne period ran from the late 1600s to about 1750. This was additionally the primary time the now-iconic cabriole leg was used on furnishings items.

Hardware of the period was delicately solid with ornamental designs comparable to piercings or chasings on the face. The chasing patterns had been small, ornamental stampings, virtually all the time floral, and utilized with a hammer. Drawer pulls had been usually fixed with both a put up and nut or cotter pin. A brief and stubby threaded screw was solid right into a knob’s again – we confer with this as a breadboard screw, although technically it’s a hanger bolt.


As we transfer into the Chippendale interval, some of you may argue for a spread of particular dates. That’s comprehensible (there’s actually some discrepancy), however right here I outline the period as 1754 to about 1790 and notice that the time durations overlap.

Thomas Chippendale was a person of many abilities, most notably design, furnishings making and writing. His ebook “The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Directory” outlined the period of furnishings and its metalwork, offering the definition we nonetheless use immediately.

Various pulls. Chippendale in a excessive polish, an oval-shaped Hepplewhite and a typical floral Victorian, all from Horton Brasses.

Chippendale brasses are extremely ornamental brass plates, usually referred to as bat wing brasses, with delicate bails and posts. It is necessary to understand that on this time interval, the steel itself was extraordinarily costly – a far better manufacturing price than labor. Larger pulls had been usually formal and mostly discovered on costly items of furnishings. Brasses had been all the time hand-polished, as they higher mirrored gentle that method. In the times earlier than electrical energy, night lighting was at a premium, so brasses of all kinds served each kind and performance.

George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton adopted in Chippendale’s footsteps. Hepplewhite’s ebook “The Cabinet Maker and Upholster’s Guide” (revealed posthumously in 1788) popularized a brand new, lighter design type with delicate inlay and curvilinear types.

Just a few years later, Sheraton revealed a four-volume ebook referred to as “The Cabinet Maker’s and Upholster’s Drawing Book.” The publications had been extensively influential, and we have now come to know the furnishings and related {hardware} as Hepplewhite, or Federal, type.

The tail finish of the 1700s and begin of the 1800s noticed growth of new metal-working know-how. Tool and die makers of the time had been enamored with the superb element they might now put into steel, ensuing within the arrival of stamping as a metal-working approach. Toolmakers began producing lovely stamped plates and knobs to go well with the furnishings impressed by Sheraton and Hepplewhite.

American device and die makers tended towards themes celebrating patriotism (eagles and flags had been common), or imagery comparable to flowers and wheat that represented the New World’s bounty.

It’s my opinion that this type of {hardware} was the best ever produced.


Authentic Craftsman type. Heavy steel with hammered surfaces comprised of strong copper and with a patinated end. (Craftsman Hardware Company, Marceline, Mo.)

Throughout the 1800s, each Chippendale and Federal kinds skilled revivals, and because the West was settled, a lot of the furnishings and {hardware} produced was utilitarian in nature. The subsequent new interval, nonetheless, was the Victorian period.

The motto for the Victorian interval may have been “anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.” Victorian {hardware} was extremely ornamental, with elaborate, flashy patterns stamped into very skinny metalwork. This was the primary period of mass-produced {hardware}, as 1000’s of these items had been stamped, fitted to production-line furnishings and shipped in every single place. A draw back of mass manufacturing, of course, is the too-common drop in high quality – quite a bit of junk acquired made presently – however some items had been fairly spectacular. The Eastlake type particularly held up very nicely.

Craftsman, Arts & Crafts & Mission

What we now know as Craftsman, Arts & Crafts and Mission kinds all started as rejections of Victorian extra.

Out went the gorgeous floral patterns and mass-produced items. Designers comparable to Gustav Stickley, Charles and Henry Greene and William Morris created new, unique designs that shared little (save joinery) with the previous.

Patterns had been usually comprised of heavy brass, copper and bronze, then hammered and patinated to a really darkish end. At the time, the thought was to let the work present however, paradoxically, this can be the primary time interval the place the brasses had been patinated to artificially create a brand new look.

So how does this all relate to you, the furnishings maker? Knowing what got here earlier than will help information your decisions. This applies to joinery, end and, of course, {hardware}. You can adhere to or break from custom – both path can result in success, however your work will all the time be higher in the event you first study your historical past.  

Product Recommendations

Here are some provides and instruments we discover important in our on a regular basis work across the store. We might obtain a fee from gross sales referred by our hyperlinks; nonetheless, we have now fastidiously chosen these merchandise for his or her usefulness and high quality.

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