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.

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.

Interview With a Furnituremaker: Glen Huey

Glen Huey is known not only as an exceptional craftsman, but also a thorough teacher. Amongst woodworkers, his plans are famously meticulous, demonstrating extreme care and attention to detail. As the former editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, Glen’s experience with various hardware lines is extensive.

Here, Glen answers some questions about selecting hardware for your furniture piece, as well as how to seer clear of blunders that will surely detract from your project.

1. At what point in the design process do you begin thinking about hardware selection? What factors influence your hardware selection?

Due to the fact that most of my work is reproduction or maybe it’s better said that they are adaptations, hardware selections are generally made as I pick the piece to build. If a chest has Chippendale drawer pulls, that’s what I would use on my chest as well. If the chest has Hepplewhite ….

Where a call has to be made is if there are no exact reproduction pieces available. In that case, I select hardware that is as close a match as possible.

2. As a builder of reproduction furniture, you obviously strive to achieve historically accurate results. When choosing reproduction hardware, are you concerned with the method in which the hardware is made or are you solely focused on the final appearance of the hardware?

I look at the quality of the hardware. I’m not interested in hardware that does not display characteristics of period designs – I seldom find hardware at home center stores, but do occasionally find selections at woodworking stores. A second major consideration I have deals with availability. I know what hardware I plan to use because of the piece I am working from, but I seldom order hardware before I begin working on the piece. I am not interested in ordering from a company that takes weeks and sometimes months to produce and send my selections. This, along with the quality and shear number of products, is one of the major reasons that Horton Brass has become my go-to hardware supplier when building pieces based on period designs.

3. As a transplant to the South, I enjoyed reading your 2007 article in Popular Woodworking that accompanied the picture and plans for the Southern Sugar Chest. I love that you place the chest in its historical context, thus making the detail of the keyhole noteworthy and significant. The back-story highlights the importance of getting the hardware right for historical accuracy. Have you come across folks out there who spend large amounts of time creating beautiful works of furniture only to blow it by messing up the details of the hardware?

Thank you for your nice comments. Sugar chests and cellarets – predominately pieces found in the south – are a particular favorite of mine. Choices made while building period-designed pieces are an area that constantly amazes me. It’s not just hardware selections where some woodworkers drop the ball. It’s lumber, too. If you are to invest a substantial amount of your time building a piece of furniture that should be around for multiple generations, why would one choose to skimp on the two most important aspects of that piece. Invest in top-quality hardware and buy the best lumber you can afford, period.


4. A little more than a year ago, Dave Griessmann did a post for this blog comparing Horton Brasses hardware with the hardware you used on a gorgeous Line & Berry Chest of Drawers that appeared on the cover of Popular Woodworking’s December 2010 issue. The comparison photos showed that a similar look was attainable at almost a  $200 savings simply by using the Horton Brasses hardware. That kind of blew my mind. What did you think of the side-by-side comparison?

I had the opportunity to see the comparison up close, and I must say that upon close inspection you could see a difference. Was that difference enough to pull the trigger on the more expensive hardware? Not in my opinion. Horton’s pulls provided the same look and I achieved the same results while saving the excess for future projects.

However, I would make that call if my customer were after an exact replica of the chest. Also, because many of my projects are built for publication, I find it necessary to select quality hardware without breaking the bank to do so.

5. Do you have a formula to help you decide how much money to budget/allow for hardware? Does the scale of the project or the style of the piece inform that decision?

I will refer to my answer to question #2. I do not budget hardware – I pick the proper hardware and never worry about costs (unless it is excessive). I more interested in getting the look correct.

6. Knobs and pulls are thought of as mainly decorative while hinges are identified more for functionality. How do you identify a hinge that’s going to perform?

I’m not sure I agree that knobs and pulls are decorative or that hinges are simply functional – h-hinges function and can add to the overall look of your project. I buy hinges just as I do other hardware: match the look of the original piece, but I also make sure the hinge works with my project. And yes, I do make bad choices once in a while.

 Editors note:  In our opinion good hinges are critical to a piece of furniture or cabinetry.

7. What is the most common error you see in choosing or mounting furniture hardware?

In choosing hardware, it’s easy to get sizes wrong. It’s easy to select drawer hardware that is too large for your project – one of my faults is that I picture furniture in my mind much larger than it is when built. This is another reason that I do not order hardware until I get into the project. You can get by if your selection is a bit smaller than the original, but if a plate hangs over the edge of a drawer it is not going to work.

Mounting hardware is a science in itself. I get general placement ideas from pieces that I copy, but I find it best to place hardware onto the project to see if the look is right. The most common error I see is pulls set too far toward the middle of a chest of drawers. The trick is to set your pulls to help your eye travel toward the center then upward. Too much toward the center causes your eye to jump.

8. Horton Brasses offers customers the option of ordering custom iron forged hardware as well as custom brass casting. What was the last project you completed where you needed custom hardware?

I cannot recall a project where I had custom hardware made from scratch. I am more apt to have knobs transformed into cupboard turns, or get larger fingers made for smaller knobs used as turns.

9. Finally, what is your favorite piece of hardware from Horton Brasses?

Let me first state that I am impressed that Horton includes screws with its hardware. One thing that displeases me greatly is to search around for, or have to remember to order, the appropriate screws. As for favorite hardware, I have to say there are two pieces that I particularly like.

One I use frequently, h-hinges. The other, escutcheon pull, is something I have used on a couple chests I’ve built along the way. The hinges are very clean and crisp with beveled edges for great detail, and the knuckles are tight to eliminate slop but still operate smoothly. I like the escutcheon pulls primarily due to the fact that they are seldom seen in use. They are eye-catching.

 Editors note:  An escutcheon pull is a complete drawer pull with a keyhole in it.  Available on request.

Thank you, Glen, for giving us your time and sharing your wisdom.

Keep up with Glen Huey at his blog, Woodworker’s Edge

A Special Commission: Campaign Furniture Hardware

One thing I love about this very odd job blogging about furniture hardware is the opportunity to expand my knowledge base. I cannot tell you how many times I watched Jewel in the Crown, The English Patient and other films with a strong colonial British showing without knowing the proper term for all that striking military luggage-like furniture.

Despite a history of vast travels throughout the British Empire, the majority of Campaign furniture has settled in England and is available through reputable antique dealers such as Christopher Clarke. Additionally, reproductions also seem to be an English specialty. In the United States, retailers seem to carry only metal frame pieces vaguely inspired by these wooden works of exceptional craftsmanship.

image courtesy of Christopher Clarke

Furniture With History

Campaign furniture’s design caters to the refined taste of high ranking military officers and government officials of late 18th and early 19th century England. These men traveled the world with pomp and privilege. Campaign furniture made the comforts of home portable, with specialized compartments for equipment, maps, uniforms, etc. The pieces were well made, practical and designed to withstand the rough travels over sea and land. Chest-like desks and other pieces would sit atop metal stands to avoid the wet ground when out in the field.

Time To Bring In The Special Forces

Because of fluctuating exchange rates and the expense (and hassle) associated with shipping from abroad, bringing one of these Campaign furniture pieces over from England is not easy. Today, the majority of reproduction pieces are built in England.

In the U.S., however, campaign furniture pieces commissioned by antique dealers and high-end retailers often go to one man esteemed for his unsurpassed craftsmanship, Douglas P. Dimes of famed D.R. Dimes.

This cherry wood table is a recent example of the fine work done by, D.R. Dimes and their ability to create historically accurate reproductions down to the smallest details. One distinguishing detail of Campaign furniture is the intricate hardware, designed to embellish the piece, keeping functionality in mind. The recessed hardware design kept the metalwork from catching.

Campaign furniture’s flush mounted hardware, a unique style that later permeated other applications of colonial furniture, could not be approached as an afterthought. The flush-mounted hardware is intrinsic to actual construction of the table. Therefore, Doug turned to Horton Brasses for specially commissioned brass.

Horton Brasses had the unique ability to make the custom hardware for me and understand what it should actually look like and work.  There are any number of companies that could do the work but Orion and his people have an institutional knowledge that can only come from a multi generational family owned business.  I know what I needed but I am in the furniture business.  To have a vendor that gives me the answers as opposed to asking questions is very important.   The fact that I have a very good relationship with Orion both professionally and to a degree personally makes working with Horton Brasses both valuable and a pleasure.  I wish I had more vendors like them.

–Douglas P. Dimes

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?


The other day I was thumbing through a copy of a woodworking magazine at the newsstand and an article on installing a ball catch caught my eye.

While I was looking at the photos & reading the supporting text for them I kept coming to the conclusion that it seemed to be a bit over thought or complicated to me.

It also brought me back to an email I received awhile back from Orion where a customer wrote him to show off a jig he made to do the same thing.

The reason for Orion sending it to me was that he was a bit confused on how it exactly worked & he was wondering if I could walk him through this.

So a few days passed & one day while on my way home, while stuck in traffic, I started thinking about both of the examples (which I do realize both work) and that there had to be a simpler way.

So when I got home, I started to mock up a small cabinet & came up with a solution that requires a small jig & a clamp.  Listed below is how I went about making the jig & how to use it.


Step 1: First, I cut a block of wood to the size of ¾” x 2” x 2”.

Step 2: Using my marking gauge, I divide the top across the length & width.  I then rotate the block 90 degrees & make the side the same way.

Step 3: I then head to my drill press & drill a 7/16” diameter hole though the block, top to bottom, at the intersection of my marks.  I then rotate the block 90 degrees & repeat the procedure.

Step 4: I then cut a piece of small plywood to be 2” x 3” & glue it to the face of my block.  (I make sure that 3 of the 4 sides are flush.)

That finishes the construction of the jig.

Using this jig I can locate the hole for both parts of the ball catch: 1” in from the edge & center on my ¾” door.


To drill the hole for the ball piece, I clamp the jig to the top of my door.  Next, with a 7/16” drill bit I plow out the waste while being sure to stop at my depth mark.  (In this case I’m going high tech with painters tape!)

Then for the catch piece, I just clamp the jig to the inside top of the case while making sure the jig is pushed against the edge.  Using the same drill bit I again plow out the waste.

I then turn the case upside down & push the catch into place.

After flipping the case right side up, I then insert the ball part.  However, I was only able to push this in so far so I had to finish pushing it by giving it a few taps with my wooden mallet.

And then I simply tested the operation by opening and closing the door to see if the catch would hold.  It worked perfectly!


So you might be asking what was the reason for making the jig with two holes” (1 top to bottom & 1 side to side)?   It was so you could use it if you happen to have a profile on the case.

Instead of clamping the jig to the top of the case, you would simply rotate the jig 90 degrees & clamp it to the side of the case while still drilling up into the top for that catch.

More customer work

A common theme at Horton Brasses is customer work. That makes it a common theme here on our little blog. These pics are from John Kappel who has been a regular customer for a number of years. An active member of SAPFM I believe, he is always working on an ambitious project. In this case, the clock is made from Cherry and was made for his wife. Believe it or not, he started the project around labor day and it is already done. That may not sound fast to you-but it is. Most projects like that take a year or more. The clock face was painted by Kathi Edwards. I don’t know her but if you need a clock face painted I can probably get some information for you. Anyway, enjoy:

grandfather clock

grandfather clock close up