The re­claimer

Paul Nash of Ar­chi­tec­tural Decor shares why re­claimed door­knobs and han­dles are a great way to add an au­then­tic fin­ish­ing touch to your home

Period Living - - Contents -

Paul Nash of Ar­chi­tec­tural Decor shares ad­vice on buy­ing orig­i­nal door­knobs and han­dles

Hard­ware her­itage…

The main ben­e­fit of us­ing re­claimed door­knobs and han­dles is the sheer choice and va­ri­ety avail­able. You can buy a few dif­fer­ent styles of re­pro­duc­tion ver­sions, but the range on of­fer in the late 1800s/early 1900s was huge, with thou­sands of styles to choose from – I con­stantly say: ‘I’ve never seen those be­fore’. Then there is the qual­ity – if they’ve lasted this long in such great con­di­tion they’ll keep on go­ing. Lastly, it’s the vis­i­ble wear on orig­i­nal han­dles that gives them their unique qual­ity. Cus­tomers buy­ing re­pro­duc­tion han­dles of­ten ask if it’s pos­si­ble to have new ones with wear marks on them.

Sup­ply and de­mand...

The ma­jor­ity of our stock comes from the build­ing boom of around 1880, through to the mid-1930s. We source door­knobs and han­dles from an­tiques fairs, de­mo­li­tion com­pa­nies and spe­cial­ist sup­pli­ers; my favourites are the small devel­op­ers who’ll let you into a build­ing where every­thing is for sale, as it’s due to be stripped out or de­mol­ished. We also get a lot of calls from home­own­ers who are up­dat­ing their own doors and would like to sell their orig­i­nal han­dles.

Mea­sure­ments and mag­nets…

It may sound ob­vi­ous but al­ways check that the han­dles are ac­tu­ally pairs, not sin­gle ones that look alike. If they have threaded spin­dles and grub screws (the small head­less screws that hold the spin­dle in place), check the han­dles screw on and off the spin­dles, and the grub screws work prop­erly. The spin­dle sizes are the same as mod­ern ones and the ma­jor­ity of locks and latches are sprung. Just make sure you check the mea­sure­ments as you would a mod­ern pair. You can some­times get orig­i­nal han­dles that are plated steel, es­pe­cially from the 1900s, so it’s also worth check­ing the han­dles are ac­tu­ally made of brass. I al­ways carry a mag­net with me, just in case, as the steel ones can feel like pressed brass – I call it the mag­net of doom!

What to avoid…

Never buy han­dles that are miss­ing their threaded spin­dles, as you’ll never find match­ing re­place­ments, and mak­ing new ones isn’t easy. If they are mor­tice han­dles (where the round or square back plate is fixed to the han­dle), check that the han­dle is tight on the base, as the brass col­lars can wear re­ally thin and even­tu­ally the han­dle and back plate will sep­a­rate.

Restora­tion points…

There are so many vari­a­tions of threaded spin­dles and grub screws, es­pe­cially in the way the grub screws fit, that we of­ten think there must have been a Vic­to­rian chal­lenge to pro­duce the most com­pli­cated screw with the rarest sized thread – match­ing them up can be an im­pos­si­ble task! Polishing can also be an is­sue if they haven’t been pol­ished for a while. Brasso and a cloth won’t cut it, but luck­ily it’s not too ex­pen­sive to have them ma­chine pol­ished.

Clock­wise from left: The stages of polishing; Paul Nash in his work­shop; mid-vic­to­rian seg­mented door han­dles by Wil­liam Tonk & Sons, £250, Ar­chi­tec­tural Decor; pair of an­tique brass bee­hive door knobs, £42, UKAA; orig­i­nal Deco Bake­lite door­knobs and...

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