Luxury Door Handles

Unique Metal Door Pulls - Influence of Medium and Luster

Our contemporary door handles, Morphic and Ergo are usually seen in a polished or satin or 2 tone finish. Each finish can give a different aesthetic to the same handle allowing the same handle to be employed in different areas to different effect.


These 2 modern collections of door handles can be cast either in bronze or in stainless steel and the appearance and mood is very different. When you add the textural layer from smooth, to satin to brushed you achieve even greater scope of use.

Consider the Ergo heroic pull as shown here.

Ergo bronze and steel.jpg

The Ergo pull shown on the left is cast 316 stainless steel while the image on the right is silicon bronze. Both were cast using the same mold and by means of the lost wax method of casting. Both metals are resistant to corrosion but the stainless steel is more easy to maintain without the need for any type of sealant. By comparison the bronze unless sealed will tend to become more yellow over time.

As the Ergo handle is extremely fluid with deep recessed areas it lends itself to a sophisticated 2 tone finish. In the detail photo shown below different facets of the handles have been polished or sand blasted to create contrast and depth.

Ergo 2 tone bronze steel .jpg

Write here…

Compare the top sand blasted section of the steel wave to the same section of the bronze version.

Ergo wave bronze and steel .jpg






Unique Metal Door Pulls - Influence of Medium and Luster

Our contemporary door handles, Morphic and Ergo are usually seen in a polished or satin or 2 tone finish. Each finish can give a different aesthetic to the same handle allowing the same handle to be employed in different areas to different effect.


These 2 modern collections of door handles can be cast either in bronze or in stainless steel and the appearance and mood is very different. When you add the textural layer from smooth, to satin to brushed you achieve even greater scope of use.

Consider the Ergo heroic pull as shown here.

Ergo bronze and steel.jpg

The Ergo pull shown on the left is cast 316 stainless steel while the image on the right is silicon bronze. Both were cast using the same mold and by means of the lost wax method of casting. Both metals are resistant to corrosion but the stainless steel is more easy to maintain without the need for any type of sealant. By comparison the bronze unless sealed will tend to become more yellow over time.

As the Ergo handle is extremely fluid with deep recessed areas it lends itself to a sophisticated 2 tone finish. In the detail photo shown below different facets of the handles have been polished or sand blasted to create contrast and depth.

Ergo 2 tone bronze steel .jpg

Write here…

Compare the top sand blasted section of the steel wave to the same section of the bronze version.

Ergo wave bronze and steel .jpg






3D Printing as useful tool in casting custom door handles

 Casting a custom door handle requires an understanding of the shrinkage that occurs in traditional lost wax casting. When casting in bronze or steel the process starts with a pattern often sculpted by hand in wood or clay but with the advent of 3D printing we are now in some cases able to produce this as a Quick Cast  stereolithographic print (SLA). While these 3D prints are useful in developing prototypes they still need to be finished by hand and are often too expensive to be used as wax substitutes since they too are burnt out and wasted in the lost wax process.

3D prints have their place as prototypes and for custom short run projects where the cost of developing a mold or tooling cannot be amortized over a large enough quantity to make the project cost effective.

Recently we considered 3D printing as a protype tool in helping to create a left and right pattern for a short run project of 4 sets of door handles. When developing a new handle set we often break the design down into component parts and where there is a directional detail this means we must make 2 patterns one for left and one for the right facing section. 3D scanning and modeling allows us to use one carved pattern to create a second mirror image model that is printed in a resin compound. While this reduces the development cost, the digital print often needs to be re-carved so that very fine details like leaf veins and scales can be sharpened by hand.

The picture below of the Hedgerow door lever shows that the branches of this piece are very directional thus requiring a left and right mold, but the canopy is generic to both levers.

Hedgerow lever left right.jpg

 

One advantage that SLA’s have over wax patterns is that they are not subject to shrinkage. In lost wax casting shrinkage occurs when the molten wax solidifies and when the bronze or steel casting is poured. There are a wide variety of waxes used in this process and their composition effects how they pour, how they solidify and how much they shrink. While a wax pattern may shrink by approximately .6% no shrinkage occurs with the print.

 

Trying to mathematically predict the exact amount by which the wax pattern and subsequent casting will shrink is difficult when developing a new piece. If the dimension of the piece is critical then we will often create a mold and wax of a smaller section so that we can exactly determine the overall shrinkage and can then re-scale the complete piece making it and the subsequent mold large enough to compensate for this shrinkage.

Bees - The Perfect Door Knob for Your Children's Bedroom

Following on with our nature theme I wanted to share a photo I took of a small swarm of bee door knobs. The bumble bee door knob is one of 4 members of the netsuke series, a collection that takes its name from the toggles that were used thorough out the centuries as compact buttons or fastener both in clothing and in luggage.

The frogs, lizards, rabbits and bees that make up this collection are often ordered as individual sets for children’s bedrooms but occasionally multiples are ordered to add a whimsical element to a commercial setting, as was the case with this swarm.

bee-door-knobs

The bee that served as a model for this piece is the black bee or carpenter bee that we see here in southern California and that we first came across when travelling in Greece. We were captivated by its intense black shiny wing casings and abdomen and by its passive bumbling behavior. The honey comb back plate is a case for artistic license as this is not a honey creating bee of the social hive variety but a solitary nectar feeding bee that loves the nectar of honey suckle, wisteria, morning glory and other flowering plants. While the bee is able to use its proboscis to suck nectar from flowers with suitable trumpet shapes, if the fit is less than perfect it will cut the flower to access the nectar, or as we have seen in our garden, take full advantage of existing tares made by the voracious feeding activity of humming birds and their deep reaching beaks.

 Carpenter bee finds wisteria a good source for nectar

Carpenter bee finds wisteria a good source for nectar

Cast in solid bronze, these pieces are wonderfulto hold and their smooth substantial weight fits nicely in one’s palm.

 

Process of making A New Grapevine Door Knob

The grapevine door knob continues to evolve.

It started out as a pencil sketch and then was “fleshed out” in a series of perspective drawings so that its scale and appearance could be assessed. Once all the angles were mapped out Martin began carving the pattern in basswood, which as any wood carver knows is an  easy to carve dense soft wood, perfect for carving fine detail and perfect for pattern making as it is a somewhat bland wood with almost no grain or color. The only real drawback to basswood comes from its lack of color which makes imperfections difficult to spot, so Martin sprays his patterns with grey primer thereby rendering them visible.

grapevine-pattern

 

Once perfected, two rubber molds are created, one for the body of the door knob and one for the stem of the knob. Each mold is made in 2 halves that can be pulled apart after the wax has been poured into the cavity of the mold. The 2 halves of the mold are keyed to each other by creating a male and female rubber junction, that way the mold will continue to align properly over a long period of use.

rubber mold

The mold is then used to create a wax facsimile of the pattern. There are a large number of waxes to choose from and their pouring temperature, cooling time, density and pliancy are all factors that play a role in deciding which will work best for a given piece. The red wax shown here is a softer more pliant wax that has a low meting temperature and works well for gravity pouring but is less suited to molds where the wax is to be injected.

 Red wax facsimile of wood pattern

Red wax facsimile of wood pattern

The next stage will be to shell the wax and eventually we will invest the shell with molten bronze, so stay tuned for the next installment.

Leaf Designs in Door Hardware

The creative process is as unique and unfathomable as the brain it resides in. When I have listened to authors and composers answering the question of where and how they get their inspiration there appears to be a myriad of sources.  The same holds true when it comes to designing door hardware  and  Martin Pierce’s designs reflect the eclectic nature of his source material ranging from oceanic shapes to tree bark and bird wings to name just a few.

As a result,  Martin always has a sketch book on hand to doodle in his designs as they occur to him but a large number of his designs also come  from a more structured and practical need either to  develop additional pieces for a popular collection or to meet a designer’s need for a specific project.

leaf-flush-door-pull

 Not all of the designs make it off the drawing board and indeed I would hazard a guess that less than 10% make the leap.  When designing a new piece there can be as many as 4 or more alternatives that materialize on paper and if the project is commissioned by a designer then alternative concepts can be useful in hammering out practical site issues or scale questions.

We keep all of these sketches as source material for future designs and this is how I came across some of the leaf designs shown here. The Willow door pull came from a need to create a flush pull and resulted in 3 designs one of which is currently in used in Willow collection.

The leaf hinge design is still in the design stage where it will remain until we have sufficient hinge designs to complement our other collections.

The Vine collection is a popular series and the new leaf and grape design shown here is already taking shape as a sculpted wooden pattern.

Grape door knob concept.jpg

Large Exterior Door Pulls

With the continued surge in construction we are seeing more demand for large exterior door pulls and ladder pulls both in the commercial and residential sectors. In the early 2000 period our large “Heroic” door handles topped out at a mere 19” for our Hedgerow and Ergo handles but by 2012 we responded to demand and revised our Ergo series to include an epic 35” tall handle. Clearly though the demand continues for even more gargantuan pieces and so we are about to launch our newest “Grand” Ergo door handle which will be 54” high with a 1 ½” diameter.

Making larger scale handles is both stylistically and technically challenging. The iconic Ergo shape began as a mere 12” cabinet door pull that was subsequently rescaled to a 35” handle. The stylistic challenge was how to keep the fluid contours of such a small piece yet make it substantial enough to work as a large exterior door pull but not so substantial that the diameter would be difficult to grip by those with disabilities.

While our soon to be launched Grand Ergo handle posed the same stylistic challenges, it also has presented us with technical casting demands. At a height of 54” and with such a curvaceous shape we decided to cast the handle in two 27” sections.  Had we tried to make a single mold the weight of it would have made it unwieldy and we would run the risk of the steel  prematurely cooling before it reached the end of the mold. To make the handle a continuous 54” length our craftsmen will then seamlessly weld the 2 sections to create on long exterior pull.

large-exterior-door-pulls

 

However, our move into this grand scale market is by no means over and we are currently working on designs for 2 projects at 6’ and 9’ so stay tuned.

Classical Door Hardware Now Trending

Lately we have been focusing on LED technology which has made it possible to introduce color changing lights into our new panel and cylindrical door handles.

With all the hype afforded LED luminaires it is easy to lose sight of the importance of classical door hardware. Lately more designers have been specifying our Willow and Grapevine styles of door hardware which are more classical in style and which take on a distinctive traditional elegance when cast in solid bronze.

classical-door-hardware

This recent trend prompted a Google search into the meaning of “classical” and I found the results enlightening. The word comes from the Latin “classicus” as in class or group and has over time become synonymous with words that include; pure, restrained, harmonious, elegant and balanced.

In England the word classical is also used to suggest rank or superiority and can be used to mean that something is “outstanding of its kind” or “exemplary” as in the phrase a “classical piece of Wedgwood China” or “a classical Victorian romance novel”

The more I searched the more I discovered the breadth of this word which can be used to indicate a significant period of an area of study, such as in classical mechanics or as in the case of classical physics, to denote theories that preceded Newton’s theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.

While I had an intuitive understanding of this adjective, the Google search has brought me full circle and made me hopeful that in the future this adjective may be used by some to describe our new LED luminaires.

When to Use a Door Knob Versus a Door Lever?

When to choose a door knob versus a door lever? When it comes to truly custom hardware where a design is being created for a specific project then the choice between a door lever and door knob is largely a question of taste and budget and less a question of function. If the door knob or lever is being created from the drawing board on-wards then some of the limitations off each can be overcome by a creative design.

Door knobs by nature are a handles that can be turned either clockwise or anti-clockwise to release the door latch. By comparison a door lever unless it is operating a multi-point lock has to be depressed to release the latch. This can be an important issue when designing for the kitchen or other wet areas and when designing for the disabled. A lever has the upper hand so to speak when your hands are wet or full of shopping as it can be depressed with ones elbow or possibly with one’s foot! Clearly for those with limited gripping strength, a door lever has clear advantages.

 The textured tree canopy is a good gripping surface

The textured tree canopy is a good gripping surface

Door levers are also directional with the lever pointing away from the latch towards the hinge and this can be an important consideration when working with a narrow stile. In this case when you grip a knob your knuckles may come too close to the door jamb especially when the door is being pulled closed .  By comparison the area of a door lever that is gripped is typically at midpoint along the lever and a safe distance from the door jamb.

 A symmetrical aesthetic inspired by Netsuke

A symmetrical aesthetic inspired by Netsuke

So why do we ever use door knobs? Well they are inherently more self- contained and less obtrusive than there lever counterparts and they arguably  make a more symmetrical  aesthetic statement. In the world of custom door hardware as knobs are not usually directional one knob pattern and mold will be needed unlike a custom door lever which frequently requires a left and right pattern and corresponding molds.

What Do We Mean by Custom Door Handles?

We decided to launch 2017 with some notes for designers who may be looking for custom door handles and hope to explain when custom work is a viable option. To begin with, for many people, the term “custom” is used to describe the production of a piece for a specific customer, in other words it is made to order for that customer and not a stocked off the shelf item. In this sense, all of our work is custom as we make every piece to order and each handle is cast, machined and finished according to the designer’s requirements. In this context while the product may be made to order, the patterns, molds and tooling jigs already exist hence the relatively short lead time of 4 to 6 weeks.

 Custom - each handle is cast, machined and finished to order

Custom - each handle is cast, machined and finished to order

 

The term custom is also used to describe a product that we already make but that needs to be adapted or modified to fit the designer’s specific site conditions. In this context, the viability of adapting an existing piece is determined on a case to case basis. The first consideration is whether the existing mold can be used to create a wax replica that can be modified to achieve the required adaptation. For example, if a designer has a narrow door stile then she made need a narrower escutcheon plate to fit the door comfortably. The grapevine lever set and our large lizard handles have both been customized in this way and the wax replicas were re-shaped by hand to remove ½” to ¾” from the base of both escutcheon plates. Clearly this takes time and not all styles lend themselves to being so adapted.

 Custom - the escutcheon plate can be made 1/2" narrower to fit a narrow door stile

Custom - the escutcheon plate can be made 1/2" narrower to fit a narrow door stile

 

If the adaptation is too great or the number of pieces too many then the next option is to develop a new pattern and mold(s). This process is inherently expensive as it involves;

Designing and often re-designing a piece.

Creating full scale drawings showing the piece from several perspectives.

Creating a 3 dimensional pattern – one for each piece, if the design calls for a right and left directional piece, then two patterns will be needed.

Creating a rigid mold which will be used to create wax replicas of the original pattern and will be used in the lost wax process to create either bronze or steel castings.

The above steps add considerable time and cost to the production of the piece but if it is a piece being ordered for multiple doors then these costs can be amortized over the cost of the project.

Trees That Inspire Door Handles

Not all trees lend themselves or rather bend themselves to work as luxury door handles so when creating a tree door handle we use considerable artistic license.  With our Hedgerow design we blended several different trees and tree parts. Which trees inspired us? I am reluctant to name any one tree in part because this iconic design reminds different designers of different trees but also because the design came from Martin’s imagination and not from studying any particular tree. So, if the handle reminds you of a California Cypress or gnarly wild oak or even of a Bunyan tree, then you are right.

luxury-door-handle

We are in the process of adding different finishes to the Hedgerow tree and as you may know from previous posts are also developing a new tree design which if all goes well will be lit with interior LED diodes, so please do follow our post for progress reports. As with the Hedgerow heroic handle, while the new design is instantly recognizable as a tree the family it belongs to is imaginary.

The canopy of the Hedgerow tree shown above flows from the trunk of the tree and it is pitched and so that the back of the canopy lies flat and flush to the front of the door. The tree handle is attached to the door by through bolts that screw from the inside of the door into the back of the canopy.

The gnarly Bunyan reminiscent roots also flow from the trunk and similarly have a flat back where another though bolt supports the hefty handle that is cast from 10lbs of solid bronze.

 Banyan tree roots inspiration for Hedgerow Pull mounting point

Banyan tree roots inspiration for Hedgerow Pull mounting point

A Textural Approach to Luxury Door Hardware

While much of what we cast is visually dramatic where possible we like to add a textural note to our Luxury door hardware. The lost wax method of casting is perfect for creating deeply textural pieces that would be almost impossible to achieve with less expensive casting methods such as sand casting. The depth of a particular detail is limited only by the pattern makers skill and by the gravity flow of the molten metal.             

The pattern is the 3 dimensional original and is the starting point for the casting. The mold is made from either a latex solution that can be brushed on or from a catalytic 2 part silicone solution that can be poured over the pattern. While both solutions take an almost perfect impression from the pattern, the latex solution will require several layers and will require a more rigid casing to support the floppy mold.

willow door handle bronze luxury

The Willow heroic door pull is a good example of the type of detail and texture that can be achieved from a silicone mold that was made from the pattern above. The pattern was carved by Martin in bass wood which is a pale and tightly grained wood and then painted with a grey primer to more clearly reveal any imperfections and to also help fill in any pores in the wood grain. The undulations in the leaf tendrils left good impressions in the mold and the result is a casting that is an almost perfect facsimile of the original but when rendered in bronze creates a stunning door handle.

 Section of the pattern with grey primer to show any imperfections and to fill the wood grain

Section of the pattern with grey primer to show any imperfections and to fill the wood grain