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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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.




Book Review: Furniture Brasses by Mark P. McGrail

Since my last post was British influenced, I figure, why change equines mid-stream.

For all you hardware and furniture nerds out there, Mark P. McGrail’s book, Furniture Brasses, A short History of English Furniture Fittings, is a great little resource.

Mark is pretty much The Man when it comes to furniture hardware. He’s been in the business almost 20 years and is the Director at Armac Martin Brassworks. Now, if you are not up on the furniture hardware industry, you probably haven’t heard of Armac Martin. But I can assure you, if you’ve ever drooled over the kitchens featured in House Beautiful Magazine, you’ve drooled over Mark’s brassy genius.

This book is a hoot! Expecting a dry read, I was pleased to come across such gems as Mark’s commentary accompanying this drawing:

Looking here at this chair you could be forgiven for thinking it has come out of some ultra modern 1970’s apartment when in fact it was designed and produced in Germany by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929.

Big British LOL there!

The dry humour persists throughout the book. Another favourite of mine:

Whilst it is widely felt that the Victorian style of furniture was ostentatious and gaudy it was at least a definite style, a positive taste appropriate to the spirit of the period. This cannot be said of early Edwardian furniture. Much of the furniture made at the outset of the twentieth century was no more than a shoddy imitation, following on from the mediaeval flavour of the Arts and Crafts Movement.


And this pic:

Don’t even think about putting non-suitable hardware on that dresser!

Blunt writing style, extensive drawings and interjections of editorial commentary make what could otherwise be a snoozer a clever little pocket guide that’s sized too large to fit into one’s pocket. Still, I like having it on my desk whilst writing about hardware. There is no index but the organization is linear in time so not a big deal.

And since my new thing (as of Thurday) is Campaign furniture, I’ll share with you the succinct writings on this style.

The Napoleonic wars created their own style of furniture which became known as Military or Campaign furniture. It was designed to make the maximum use of the storage space in the hold of a ship when transported overseas. The chests, desks, trunks and sideboards had no projections at all, even the brass handles were recessed into the wood.

I know Orion has a few of these books hanging around the office so if you just have to have one for yourself, ask him to throw one in with your order of Classic English Hardware and get that droolable look for your own kitchen.

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?

Nickel Reproduction Hardware: Traditional Design with a Modern Finish

When Life Hands You Brass, Ask For Nickel

Imagine this.

You inherit a collection of furniture. Not just any furniture. No. Queen Anne furniture. It’s lovely. It’s solid. It’s beautiful cherry wood with bright brass hardware.

18th century inspired highboy by D.R. Dimes

You look around your bedroom. The armoire is Ikea. The nightstands are Target. You feel no regret upgrading to real furniture, yet every night you wake up in a cold sweat from the same dream.

You are in your home. It is a palette of neutrals, punctuated by the cooling glint of nickel hardware doorknobs, cabinet hardware and light fixtures. In your dream you walk into your bedroom, eager to retire after an exhausting yet pleasant day in your life. And then you are blinded by a horrible light—bright yellow and smelling like mothballs. Yes, the light smells like mothballs.

And when you wake up swathed in your own terrified sweat you realize the source of that terrorizing light—the bright brass hardware on your newly inherited furniture.

But what to do? This is traditional period furniture with a distinctive decorative look.  It would be inappropriate to switch out the chased brass pulls and replace them with contemporary looking knobs.

But wait. There’s a style compromise that will surely pay respect to the form while updating the look for today’s tastes.

Horton Brasses Queen Anne Drawer Pulls are available in 5 different brass finishes as well as satin nickel and polished nickel. Update the look of your hardware while keeping in line with tradition. Stay ahead of the style curve by pairing archetypical hardware with the most popular finish of the day. The juxtaposing of classic furniture and hardware in a modern nickel finish will add an unexpected element of style to a room. And help you overcome your night terrors.

WWW&MD? (What Would William & Mary Do?)

Sure, William & Kate are all over the news—with reports about how nobody really cares about William & Kate. But what about William & Mary?  Why no mention these days of William & Mary?

One thing I am certain of is that William & Mary’s impact on style—particularly furniture—will far outlive that of William & Kate. I highly doubt that William & Kate will even have anything remotely to do with furniture, so let’s just skip over them altogether.

If William & Mary were alive today, surely they would recognize the beauty of Horton Brasses 5 brass finishes along with the 2 nickel finishes. I can almost hear William & Mary now, summoning Orion back to the 1600’s by sending a beautiful time machine, tricked out in walnut lacquered, silk upholstered ottomans. Not only would Orion have to go back in time, but he would also have to cross the Atlantic to get from Cromwell, CT to England. Once there, William & Mary would inquire about the future of their legacy. It is at that point that Orion unveils these beautiful drop pulls from the future.

A hush falls over the royal court. The king’s men are silent, wondering what their ruler will think of such oddly finished hardware. Marveling at the craftsmanship of Horton Brasses hardware, admiring the cool tones of the nickel finish, William & Mary step off their thrones, bowing before Orion. They remove their crowns, cast off their royal jewels, and award Orion their kingdom, thus saving the world of any hooplah related to the royal wedding of William & Kate approximately 350 years later.

Choose Quality, Don’t Compromise On Style

Traditional style hardware looks striking when finished in unexpected polished or satin nickel. Nickel is a finish that is here to stay. It is one of the most popular finishes in cabinets and home furnishings. At Horton Brasses, we offer our period reproduction hardware in traditional finishes as well as nickel. Don’t be afraid to try something different on your fine furniture. Nickel looks amazing on darker cabinetry such as walnut as well as rift sawn white oak.

When we say it’s a family business we really mean it.

I really considered the title to this post more than usual.  What do we call it?  Making a knob?  Machinery is safe for children?  Flouting labor laws and loving it?  Well anyway, you can see what I came up with.

Today is a snow day.  While one child has childcare for the day, my 5 year old’s daycare and school are closed.  With no alternate plan, he gets to come to work.  He has been here before, several times, but none too recently.  Today, he is fascinated by the machinery, and as I type this he is following Steve H., our shop foreman, all around the shop.  With this, Julian got a chance to assemble a Sheraton knob.

Step 1, we start with a knob front and a knob back.

2.  The knob back is placed in the die, the knob front is placed on top.  Then, the kick press (yes, there is no motor-the kick press relies on leg strength) is used to “crimp” the two pieces together.  We simply place both hands on the table and kick.

3.  You can see that the knob is already dark brass, but at this stage the color is rather gray and chalky.  Once assembled, the knob goes to Elizer in color for brushing.  Elizer brushes each and every knob in our antique brass and dark antique finishes with mineral oil.  The amount of pressure he puts on determines whether it comes out brown or black.

4.  Once we get the knob to a nice matt brown finish it, we tumble it.  We use a number of different rotary and vibratory tumblers.  Depending on the specific part they are filled with either ground up corn cob or steel shot.

This particular tumbler is a Rosemont Industries tumbler and the media, corn cob in this case, is heated to facilitate drying.  Ground corn cob is media of choice.  It acts as a sponge that absorbs all the oils used in production and finishing.  It is inexpensive, safe, and biodregadable.  Because all our cob ever touches is metal parts and mineral oil (which is food safe), we can simply throw it away when we are done.

Finally, everthing is done and we are waiting for the parts to come out and ready to ship.