Replacement Drawer Pulls

One area of expertise we have is replacing the drawer pulls on existing pieces of furniture. In this case, I am not talking about 18th century antiques in this case-but good quality furniture from the 20th century. There are a number of approaches you can take depending on what you’re after, and a few pieces of information about both the furniture and hardware from that era that may be helpful. So, here goes.

Mass produced furniture from the 20th century, with a few exceptions for some Mission style and Mid Century Mod stuff, doesn’t really have a lot of monetary value.

There is much more to value than money though. Sentimental value counts too! Maybe its a hand-me-down from your grandmother. Maybe it’s your childhood dresser? Who knows, the point is its valuable to you! Beyond sentimental value there is real value in making something usable again. Reduce, reuse, recycle, etc. Taking a solidly built, if mass produced, piece of furniture from the 50’s, refinishing it, and replacing some hardware takes something out of the landfill and in to your life. That seems like a good thing to me.

I am not an expert in the refinishing process, so I will leave that to others, but I do know a thing or two about replacing some or all of the hardware.

Most hardware from the 1930’s on, that was used on mass produced furniture, is brass platedpot metal. Pot metal breaks, it cannot be polished, and it is more or less disposable. Solid brass lasts forever and can be refinished more or less, forever. When replacing drawer pulls, the first thing you need to know is the boring size. The boring is the distance from the middle of one hole to the middle of the other hole. That tells you what size you need. Replacement pulls are sized by bore. Once you have determined the boring, you can start your search. Exact matches, while possible, are rare. Most people choose to do one of three things:

1.  Replace all the drawer pulls in a similar style.

2.  Replace all the pulls in a completely different style to update the look.

3.  Replace just the broken pulls with similar, but not identical, pulls.

Replacing all the drawer pulls?  Just pick something you like, that fits (if possible), and go to it. But what about replacing a couple pulls and having a mismatch? Does that work? That’s a little more complex. It does work, and it is period correct, but let’s face it, period correct for an 18th century original really doesn’t matter here. How does it look? It can look great, and it is economical. Here is an example:


Judy was kind enough to share her dresser picture with us. This is what she wrote:

“The new pulls are fabulous!  While not an ‘exact’ design match, they fit perfectly on my 20+ year old china base.  I was so fortunate to find you on the internet.  You were the only merchant that had the 3-3/4 bore required for my drawer.  The quality is excellent.  I actually wish the original pulls were so nice.”

So there you have it.

It’s not Bombay, its Bombè!

Brett from Colorado was kind enough to share his gorgeous Bombè chest with so much curve on the bottom, I think this piece has been doing squats.

The chest wears our classic H-81 Chippendale pull. If you’ve ever tackled a project like this, you can imagine the incredible work that went into making it.

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It’s all about Hand Forged Iron

 Hand forged iron grips and other hardware

Hand forged iron is incredibly desirable among those seeking a look that is both classic and beautiful. Hand forged iron is noted for its strength and durability, as well as its authenticity, but why? Before one can best appreciate the benefits of hand forged iron, one must understand the method of hand forging.

Hand Forged – The process of hand forging any material is both laborious and time consuming. The method began centuries ago in the hands of laboring professionals called blacksmiths. These blacksmiths would take a material like iron and shape it using both heat and force. Through heating the material and delivering fierce blows of varying pressures, the metal was molded into a specific shape. Hand forging is accomplished in the same way today as it was hundreds of years ago. Even though machine-made iron is easier, faster, and cheaper to produce, it does not yield the same results as hand forged iron.

Benefits of Hand Forged Iron – Even today, hand forged iron is stronger and more durable than machine-shaped iron. Since hand forged iron is less porous than iron manipulated by a machine, custom designs and shapes are easier to achieve. Since the smith can keep a watchful eye on the piece as it is molded and shaped, hand forged manipulation makes for a better designed and executed product. Even though hand forged iron is typically more expensive than machine-manipulated iron, many note that the differences are well worth the price.

At Horton Brasses, all iron hardware is hand forged. All pieces are authentic, and many display period appropriate details. Plus, our smiths are not limited by design and are always ready to produce custom made iron hardware when desired. In order to deliver authentic iron hardware to all of our customers, we continue to use the same methods used by early American blacksmiths.

So, you have broken hardware?

What now?  We get this question a lot.  You have a broken pull on an older dresser, typically something dating from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.  The first thing to understand is that the furniture you have is not an antique.  An antique is technically 100 years old, or older.  You will not be devaluing your furniture by changing the hardware, refinishing it, or putting new holes in it.  The Antiques Roadshow has really spread a lot of misinformation about refinishing furniture-unfortunately most of it is wrong.  Yes, if you have an 18th century Townshend original-you should not modify it in any way-and anything you do should be under the supervision of an experienced conservator.  But for factory made furniture from the 20th century-you will be doing a world of good to get it usable again.

How to proceed?  First you have to decide what you want done.  Do you want to refinish the whole piece and make it new again?  If so, check your local yellow pages for a furniture refinisher.  These folks will get your piece looking great again.  Is it just the hardware?  That is where we come in.

What do you want?  Do you want to update the look with completely new hardware in a new finish or style?  Or do you just want to replace the one or two broken pieces?  Either way, the first thing you need to know is the boring size.  The boring is the distance from the middle of one hole to the middle of the other hole-on the furniture itself.  Different types of hardware fit in different ways, but boring is consistent-as long as the new hardware fits the same boring, you should be all set.  The easiest way to measure the boring is to measure from the outside of one hole to the inside of the other.

Now that we have established the boring, its time to determine what fits.  At Horton Brasses, we manufacture hardware in a variety of styles and sizes.  You can use our handy dandy boring chart to see all of the hardware arranged by size.  Just click on the part number, under the size you have, to see what fits.

Sometimes you can get away with just replacing a broken part, typically the bail (handle).  We do sell parts, though we are one of a small number of companies that does.  Bails are sized by boring-not the dimensions of the bail itself.  So a 3″ bail, PRT-10, for example, will fit a piece of furniture with a 3″ boring.  You can see parts here to get an idea.  Generally, if you are replacing parts you just want to get something that fits and looks reasonably similar to the original.  What we suggest you do is place the replacement part on one pull and then move it to the bottom drawer so it is out of the way.

Lastly, we produce traditional American reproduction furniture hardware.  Much of the hardware made for post war furniture is considerably larger than the items we make.  There isn’t much we can help you with there, but if the borings on your furniture are more than 4″ we would suggest seeking out replacement hardware at Ansaldi & Sons.  Ansaldi carries a lot of hardware from that era and has larger items to fit.

Good luck.

The five best hardware companies in North America

Who makes the best hardware available in the USA?  Good question-with the advent of the internet there seems to be an endless number of suppliers of hardware for furniture and kitchen cabinetry.  If you are doing a new kitchen-all you need is one.  One reliable supplier who delivers the style you want, when you want it.  But what if you are in the trade?  You build or design cabinetry and furniture for a living.  You need hardware on a regular basis without the drama.  Horton Brasses knows a thing or two about hardware.  You need a vendor who you can count on.  So without further ado, here is the list of the 5 best hardware makers operating in the America.

1.  Ball & Ball, Exton, PA  Our original competitor-an old American company making great traditional hardware.

2.  Lee Valley Tools & Hardware  Not neccesarily a name you think of when you think of hardware, but they both make and design a wide variety of hardware.  Great hardware at great prices.

3.  Merit Metals  Known by architects everywhere for superbly cast and machined hinges.

4.  P.E. Guerin, Inc  Making great hardware in New York City since 1857!

5.  S.A. Baxter, NY, NY  The ultimate in luxury architectural and cabinet hardware.

So there you have it, 5 incredible companies.

What color should my kitchen cabinet hardware be?

This is the single most asked question we get.  The short answer is that there is no right or wrong.  Get what you like.  Would you like to know more than that?  OK, here goes.

What color are your kitchen cabinets?  If your cabinetry is going to be white we would suggest either polished nickel or dark antique.  Chances are you know what polished nickel looks like, but what the heck is dark antique?  Dark antique is what most companies call oil rubbed bronze.  We don’t like the term oil rubbed bronze, because it is not bronze.  It is brass in a very dark finish.  Here are two lovely kitchens, in white, with examples of each finish:

traditional kitchen

remodeled and updated kitchen

Photo courtest Crown Point Cabinetry, Claremont, NH.

But what if your kitchen is something else?  Stained wood, blue, green, etc?  Well, the same answer applies.  Use the hardware finish that you like.  It’s your kitchen after all.  Antique brass and satin nickel are two popular options that will give you a warm look.  For something a little more rustic, you might try hand forged iron.  And of course, polished nickel and dark antique aren’t limited to white, you can use them on any type of cabinetry.  Here are some examples of wood cabinets some more unique colors.

kitchen featuring hand forged iron hardware

Photo courtesy Faneuil Kitchen Cabinet, Hingham, MA

victorian style kitchen

Photo courtesy Crown Point Cabinetry, Claremont, NH.

So there you have it.  Several different examples and ideas.  If in doubt, order samples, return what you don’t want.  One more thing, and I think this gets missed by a lot of people.  Hardware is the only part of your cabinetry that you touch on a regular basis.  The way your hardware feels to the touch is as important as the way it looks.  Please choose good raw materials and a company that does good finishing work.

Suggestions for Restoring Antique Furniture: Hardware and Refinishing

A piece of antique furniture comes into your possessions, either through a yard sale or, perhaps, an inheritance. The wood patina and intricate, elaborate design has promise, but tarnished, dented hardware and slightly dirty, unfinished surface is in dire need of restoration. But, in order to keep up the authentic appearance, what should you consider?

Assess the antique first. Do you know the name of the craftsman? An antique could end up being a run-of-the-mill piece or one from a well-known architect or furniture maker. Knowing the difference is particularly crucial, as making too many changes can reduce the value.

Additionally, while restoration could involve creativity, aiming to reproduce the original look, as opposed to adding your own interpretation, is recommended for maintaining period integrity. The result, if you stray from period sensibilities, may be an awkward amalgamation of modern and past facets.

Refinishing makes a drastic difference, but it can also completely change the character of the furniture. Before deciding on a finish, however, clean the wood first. In general, avoid oil-based cleaners, as these can cause oxidation years down the line. For a finish, first, determine if the original is shellac, lacquer, or varnish.

Once the overall exterior is cleaned and restored, consider hardware. Unfortunately, finding true reproduction, or antique-style, hardware is a challenge. Horton Brasses, in our Cromwell, Conn. location, produces antique-style hardware that replicates the original look, down to the smallest details. As we strive for the most accurate look, period techniques used by early American craftsman and tools are employed.

While Horton Brasses has a wide selection of hardware, representing 17th through 20th century architecture, staying true to an area and style is crucial. Otherwise, selecting knobs or pulls from a different period or style creates a jarring appearance with the rest of the furniture’s design. In this case, research the furniture and architectural style beforehand in order to make an educated and accurate decision.

Video Blog

We think our hardware finishes are pretty special.  Each is unique and hand done.  Have you ever wondered how we do it?  This is our first ever video blog post and you can see how we make our antique brass finish.  The video was made in house, with original music and editing done by our very own Pablo Alvarado.  Check it out, its a little less than 4 minutes long.  Please pardon the intro and outro, this was our first time and the delivery still needs some work.




One Heat

Small stock heated in the forge cools quickly. This short video shows the shaping of an HF-19 ring grip. The cusps have been forged on each end of the stock and the screw holes punched.

The shaping of a grip is quickly done with the proper heat and tools. We start out with two batches of six grips in the fire. One batch is heating as we work on the other batch.

After the grip is formed it is reheated to pull apart the legs and again to flatten the ends. The final leveling of the grip is done cold before the grips are heated a final time and finish is applied.

Horton Brasses: Ahead Of The Small Trend!

In The News

Liberty Hardware, a major knob and pull producer, made it into the New York Times a few days ago. Short, to the point, and with a good hook, the story was most likely just a reprint of its own press release. But that’s the way the news machine works.

The gist of the piece was this: Despite being big, Liberty supports small artisans with the limited edition HomeGrown Hardware line.  Citing Etsy and the buy local movement as inspiration, Liberty’s go-small line is available, ironically, at select big box Home Depots.

I just kind of shook my head at that one knowing Horton Brasses has an ongoing history supporting skilled artisans. For Horton Brasses, it’s not a marketing gimmick. Rather, a commitment to quality, personalization, and tradition forges the relationship between small business and independent blacksmiths. (Sorry, I could not avoid the chance to make an iron smithing pun.)

If you’ve skimmed the Horton Brasses blog, surely you’ve come across Molly and George’s posts on blacksmithing.  Darryl Chernikovich is another metal worker hammering it out for Horton Brasses. He even has an Etsy shop! I doubt Orion would even think to send out a press release advertising any of this. After all, it’s not news. It’s just how Horton Brasses does business.

Horton Brasses Oval Ring Pull (OP-1) in dark antique.

Handmade. Local. Small.

For Horton Brasses, those words mean more than trying to capitalize off of the latest and hottest trends. Instead, they are synonymous with ironwork. How else can you make hand forged knobs and pulls? There really is no other way. Horton Brasses blacksmiths are real people! And they’ve been working for Horton Brasses long before it was cool to quit your day job and start a chicken farm in Brooklyn. These folks are the real McCoy and they know their craft inside and out.

It’s funny that the big guys are trying to re-brand themselves alongside the smaller fries. But you know what they say: imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

2012 Up & Coming Kitchen Trends

Be on trend and check out the complete line of handmade iron hardware by Horton Brasses artisans!  Let’s face it–people’s desire to reconnect with small businesses and receive personalized customer service is not on the wane in 2012. Know that when you buy from Horton Brasses, you are not an order number associated with an email address. They really do keep tabs on each and every order. From the manufacturing side of things all the way down to the shipping, real people are making it happen.

Looking for ring pulls similar to the ones shown in the New York Times article? Horton Brasses has the regular kind and even ovals!