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:

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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.

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Furniture Restoration

Restored DresserCompleted Restored dresser drawersRestored desk tops

Whether it’s furniture you are building yourself or old furniture you are restoring, we here at Horton Brasses love to see how your projects turn out! One of my favorite pieces that I have seen was a restoration project from Stephen Gero over at Old Village Antiques. This piece, for me, stood out for a few reasons. Not just because it was beautifully done, but because this was the very first time that I got to see our products on a finished piece.
Now at the time when Stephen first brought in the table that he was planning on restoring, I was maybe only a year in since I had started here at Horton Brasses. During that time I had the chance to work in the different departments here at the shop and see first hand, the many steps we go through when processing and filling orders. I was still fairly new with our products so I was always pretty fascinated when we would polish them up to our semi and bright finish or brush them to down to make our light antique. For me at the time, the semi bright was my favorite finish. And when I saw Stephan’s finished table and saw that he had used a semi bright finish, I got pretty excited. Chances were, that it was probably me who polished that hardware, and here they were; installed on a table.

On the restoration project, Stephen used a few of our empire knobs, H-49 for those of you interested in the exact ones, a pair of inset escutcheons (H-39), and some round cup casters (HG-75). When I first saw the table he was doing, it looked pretty worn out, and as you can see from the pictures, that it needed some major sanding. It’s amazing how much of a difference a new coat of stain and new hardware can make on your furniture. Overall the end result came out great and I myself, felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that I had a small part in his restoration project.

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.

Video Blog

Come join us for Horton Brasses second video blog post.  In this video we are going to take you into our tool room and show you the original tooling we use to make our reproduction furniture hardware.

About Chippendale Antique Furniture and Hardware

Chippendale furnitureEven the antique novice is moderately familiar with the term “Chippendale.” But while he or she may not be an expert on its origins, the untrained eye easily recognizes its ornate, florid style. Nevertheless, Chippendale pieces are often confused with Queen Anne, and early 20th century revival reproductions dilute truly authentic pieces. So, if you are restoring or looking for Chippendale furniture and hardware, what should you keep in mind?

A colonial period style in the Americas, the Chippendale aesthetic lasted from 1750 to 1780 and essentially emerged from but overlaps with Queen Anne in some regards. Queen Anne, for some background, is a transitional style, between William and Mary and Chippendale, lasting from 1720 to 1750. The elegant, refined look is considered to have introduced the cabriole leg – a Chippendale staple – and is characterized by fan and shell shapes, yoke-shaped top rails on chairs, and space-saving features. Out of these, the fan motif and yoke-shapes carried over into the Chippendale style, which can be considered more elaborate than Queen Anne.

Aside from the cabriole leg, of which there are six different variations for Chippendale furniture, a claw and ball foot, upholstery, and solid Mahogany are defining characteristics. Nevertheless, the look established by cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale encompassed a range of influences, including not only English style but also Chinese and Gothic motifs.

Because of the complex carving going into Chippendale furniture, pieces are generally made out of solid hardwood – particularly Mahogany from Cuban, Dominican, and Honduran origins, although domestic species can be found. Upholstery, as well, added brocade, velvet, and damask materials. However, within in the colonial United States, cabinet and furniture makers ranged from as far north as New England to the South, and styles and materials changed with area. In Connecticut, for instance, cherry was apparently preferred, while softer hardwoods, such as white pine, were more prevalent in other locations.

Chippendale was not exclusively a colonial American style, and furniture makers across the Atlantic created pieces with this look. What sets stateside-made furniture apart are two design qualities: a block front and a highboy, or a high chest of drawers.

Although Chippendale faded from popularity during the 19th century, it experienced a brief revival at the end of the Victorian period. Perhaps the elaborate look of both furniture styles caused a surge of interest over a century later, but as you shop around for and examine antiques, you might notice that a Chippendale revival piece has a somewhat more restrained look than its authentic 18th century counterparts – mainly, that the carving tends to have less depth.  Today’s handmade reproductions remain incredibly popular, and unlike the revival from the the 19th century, the details are as good as, if not superior, to the original pieces.

Horton Brasses offers a selection of brass Chippendale reproduction hardware — ideal for restoring such period antiques. Aside from the elaborate look, three qualities set Chippendale-style hardware apart from other antique styles: a “bat wing” back plate with an attached bail, mushroom-shaped handles, and looped handles without back plates.

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.

Object Impermanence

Did you see the October 3rd issue of The New Yorker? It includes an essay by Laura Collins on the undrar (wonder) of Ikea. House Perfect—Is the IKEA ethos comfy or creepy? is a balanced, conflicted look at the home furnishing mega-box that has revolutionized the flat packed design of how we live.

IKEA leads with a minimalist-universalist brand of style that translates across cultures, is broken down into 4 sub-sets by affordability, and almost always requires an allen wrench. The stores are mapped out in an exacting science, the designs are whittled down to include as little air as possible in the flat-boxed packaging, and there is no guarantee that your purchase will last. Strike that. It is guaranteed not to last. In fact, that is all a part of IKEA’s branding.

So when people ask if there really is a difference between this IKEA knob or pull and this cabinet hardware—at double the price—the answer is a resolute yes. The majority of cabinet hardware sold by IKEA is aluminum or zinc plated. These are soft metals. Horton Brasses casts its hardware from ultra-durable brass. Because it is made to last. Because you are not buying a throw away item. You are making an investment in something that will probably outlast your mortgage payments.

I understand that IKEA is a great choice if you move a lot or want to keep reinventing yourself. IKEA understands that too. And the IKEA designers have a lot of ingenious ideas that are totally on trend—even if transcending trend is IKEA’s goal.  Peek inside the well-designed homes of the rich in magazines like Architectural Digest or House Beautiful and surely you will spot an IKEA kitchen, IKEA bookshelves, or some other storage solutions.

Collins writes that “choosing a piece of furniture was once a serious decision, because of the expectation that it was permanent. IKEA has made interiors ephemeral.”

Without much thought, this statement evokes a strong reaction in me. The environmental issues that arise with throw-away furniture, the lowered expectation of quality that we acculturate ourselves into, and furthering the distance between the finished product and the maker of that product.

What about you? Anyone read the full article? IKEA is a serious business and cultural force worldwide. How do you feel about the ease and affordability of big business vs. the craftsmanship and craftsmanship of manufacturers like Horton Brasses and the bevy of fine woodworkers that the Horton Brasses name is associated with?

Updating The Jelly Cupboard

Whether you inherited your jelly cupboard or found it at an antique shop, this cute piece of free-standing furniture can flummox even the savviest home decorator accustomed to a kitchen of built-ins and bolted-downs. Here are some suggestions on how to update that old jelly cupboard in both style and function.

  1. Traditional jelly cupboards are outfitted with wood knobs. Switch to these pewter knobs from Horton Brasses ($9-$11) for durable new hardware with an antique look.
  2. Jam is still an option! Due to a resurgence in home canning, you may just want to have a cupboard dedicated to the food you’ve put up. Don’t have time to can? Keep the cupboard culinary by using it as a place to store cookbooks.
  3. Where to stash those re-usable shopping bags after you’ve unpacked your groceries but haven’t quite made it out to the trunk of your car? Fold them up and store in your jelly cupboard.
  4. Who says the jelly cupboard needs to go in your kitchen or dining room? Tuck it away in your craft room and use it to shelve fabric squares, spools of thread, even gift wrap!
  5. Tradition is nice, but originality is (sometimes) even nicer! Ditch the knobs and screw on some shiny new pulls to make the jelly cupboard your own (Bakes Pull from Horton Brasses $40-$195).
  6. Refinish, repaint, repair! Nothing like a new coat of paint or a new set of hinges to take the scrappiest flea market find and transform it into an antique shop beauty. Affix a white marble or zinc top to the cabinet to really make it special.
  7. Make it shine with these round knobs in polished nickel ($16.75-$21) . Available in 6 other finishes, I favor the contrast of a bright nickel finish paired with an old rustic cupboard.
  8. Store your specialized kitchen tools. A place for everything and everything in its place. Keep the cupboard full of your favorite kitchen go-to’s and avoid the searching messy drawers for those job-specific essentials.
  9. Get the kids involved setting the table by storing dinnerware in this low cupboard as opposed to shelved in hard to reach uppers.
  10. From jelly to gin! these old cupboards may get more use as “mommy’s medicine cabinet.” Fill it with your favorite booze and barware thus converting the antiquated jelly cupboard to a modern liquor cabinet.
  11. Spool knobs ($5.50) add a bit of antique quirk to the cabinet. A great detail, especially if your want to add a touch of an old aesthetic to a jelly cupboard that is new construction.
  12. Safety first! Use your jelly cupboard to store the fire extinguisher and first aid kit. Since jelly cupboards often are placed in dining or living rooms adjacent or open to the kitchen, the location is spot on for these items.
  13. Repurpose the jelly cupboard as a gardening cupboard. The perfect size for a mudroom, the taller than it is wide construction of the jelly cupboard is a space saver and also perfectly sized to hold gardening shoes, gloves, watering cans and an assortment of gardening gear.

How do you use your jelly cupboard?

How I Install Drawer Hardware

Recently I was talking projects with a couple of my woodworking buddies.  One was working on a chest of drawers & was complaining about having to measure, mark & drill each pull for every drawer.  I kind of smiled & told him I have a simple solution shortcut for that.  Below is a step by step procedure on how I install drawer pulls on all of my projects.

After I have built & finished my project I get the smallest drawer & lay out the hardware I’ve selected.

Once I’m happy with the location of the escutcheons, I measure the location from one edge of the drawer to the center of the nearest hole for the pull & then measure the distance between holes on center.  My last dimension is the diameter of the hole itself.

antique dresser drawer with chippendale pulls

Armed with that, I grab a piece from the scrap pile & cut it to the height of the drawer.  I mark the top & side locations on the board & lay out the location of both holes.  (In this case the holes are located in the middle of the escutcheon.  This works the same if it it’s off center.)   From here I chuck the correct size bit in my drill press & drill the two lines.

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Once that is complete I flip the piece over & mark the top & side.  This becomes my drilling jig for this project.  From here I take the jig & clamp it to one side of the drawer & using the same bit from the drill press I drill my two holes for the post of the pull.

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Once I’ve test fit my hardware I flip the jig over & clamp for the opposite side & drill.  Once this drawer is complete, I would do the same process on every remaining drawer.  The only measurement I need is to make sure the jig is centered (top to bottom) on the drawer.

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With all of the post pull holes drilled I chuck a ¾” forstner bit into my drill & create shallow counter sink cups on the back side of my drawer front.  This allows me to get my fingers & socket in to tighten the nut when the time comes.

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That’s it for the drilling.  Now I turn my attention to the drawer posts of the pull.  They come longer then I need them (which is better than being shorter) so I cut them to size.  Then, using my orbital sander I round the cut edges off.  This ensures the posts won’t snag on any clothes in the years to come.

solid brass posts

Once I have that complete I install the hardware & put the drawers to use.

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NOTE:  In this example I used the jig on beaded drawers.   I use this method on lipped drawers & even single pull drawers.

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Press Release

Six finishes are great. Seven are even better. Horton Brasses is again introducing something new, and this introduction is huge. It’s not as simple as a new product or size, instead we are offering an entirely new finish for every piece of brass hardware we make.

Light Antique is now a standard, stock finish! Light Antique is lighter than our regular Antique but not so bright as to look new. The beautiful gold color shines through the soft antique brown. Once again, this is a customer driven improvement. We have provided Light Antique by special request for a few years. Adding it to our extensive product list as a standard finish is a large undertaking, but a project whose time has come. In stock at all times; no minimum order; no upcharge; quantity discounts available. Check out the website: http://www.horton-brasses.com.