custom door knobs

Luxury Door Hardware is Defined by the Details

By choosing the lost wax method of casting and by casting only in silicon bronze or stainless steel we have by virtue of the casting method and type of alloy created door handles that are expensive. However, our focus on hand finished details from “chasing” the bronze castings to skillfully and slowly adding patina justifies the price tag. As a case study I have photographed the wine grotto door handles that I mentioned in a prior post.

When assembled each escutcheon plate with lever weighs 4lbs and measures 4” W x 14”H and all of it is silicon bronze not a precious material since it is not exactly rare, but certainly an expensive quality metal. Bronze is an alloy that flows well, and this makes it a perfect medium to capture the fine details and undulations of vine tendrils and leaves of this back-plate and lever. Once cast the bronze pieces need to be refined by hand to remove any debris or surplus metal that has attached to the surface and this done by using metal chisels and grinders through a process called “chasing”. After the larger imperfections have been removed the entire back-plate and lever are buffed with series of buffing tools with the grit of each becoming progressively finer until the bronze is free of abrasions and tool marks. The pieces are then ready to be immersed in a cold patina which reacts with the bronze to oxidize it and turn it black. The degree of darkness is determined by the length of time the piece is immersed and once achieved the piece is then neutralized in water to halt the chemical process.

Marked in Green Areas to be Chased Final piece after refining and with patina

Marked in Green Areas to be Chased Final piece after refining and with patina

Now the true artistry begins as we rework the piece to create highlights by buffing the surface in select areas thereby sanding through the patina to re-expose the golden bronze.

When is a wine cellar a grotto?

If this sounds like a punch line to a joke, then please do let me in on the joke.

The answer maybe “When you live in Texas”.

I had a lovely conversation this week with a resident of Texas and since we both have accents and are soft spoken I spent a good 3 minutes believing I had misunderstood when she had asked if we made hardware for wine grottoes, eventually I confessed my ignorance and my vocabulary has now grown.

Turning to Wikipedia I discovered that the word comes from the Italian “grotto” and the French word “grotte” both meaning either a natural or man-made cave or cellar not surprising given that both countries have been making wonderful wines for centuries.

Next I turned by attention to the back set of the door that was being custom made in maple with a proposed back set of 2 3/8”. The back set is the distance from the edge of the door to the center point of the back plate or escutcheon. The wider the back plate the deeper the back set will need to be. The center of the back plate is where the lever or knob will be positioned or in the case of a locking door it will also be where the cylinder face is positioned. The handle set components are centrally positioned on the back plate to give symmetry to the trim. The handle set is then positioned on the door stile and if sufficiently wide will be centered but if space is tight it may be positioned closer to the edge of the door.



Door latches and locks are made with standard back sets with 2 3/8” and 2 ¾” being common for tubular latches and 2 ½” and 2 ¾” being common for mortise locks.



The Grapevine entry lever set has a standard back plate that is 4” with the center being 2”. If the door was built with a bore hole for lever/knob at a back set of 2 3/8” then this would leave a mere 3/8” clearance from the outer edge of the back-plate to the edge of the door an area that will often be caught by the door’s stop which is why we recommend a 2 3/4” back set. For doors that have already been drilled for a 2 3/8” back set we do offer a narrower 3 3/8” back plate with a 1 11/16” center.

Modern Door Knobs Custom Made for Upscale Residence

We have just completed casting and machining 8” diameter knobs for the entry doors to an upscale Connecticut residence.

Big Knob on door 2.jpg

Although The handle design was minimalist the knobs were cast in steel and hand polished to create a subtle but beautiful contrast to the dark doors where they will be mounted in the center panel. In the picture below, we have created a mock-up of what the entry sets will look like.

Step by Step account:



Designing, pattern and mold making;

We began the process by discussing with Fletcher Development the function and style of handle and determined that there would be 2 knob sets, one that would operate and release the custom mortise lock made by Accurate Lock with second set being fixed as through bolted dummies. We chose to cast these in 316 stainless steel which is a corrosion resistant very durable alloy.

Drawing custom knob.jpg



We then created 2 wooden patterns one for the rose or escutcheon and one for the knob itself both of which were turned by hand on a manual lathe. The patterns were coated with primer to fill in the wood grain and flexible rubber molds encased in rigid plaster were made. The pattern and mold making process could have been eliminated had we opted to make quick cast stereolithographic prints for all the knob sections.

Turned pattern and rubber molds.jpg

Custom backset

Once cast, the operative set had to be machined to function with a custom mortise lock made by Accurate Lock for a door that would have a 14 7/8” backset. The backset is measured from the edge of the door to the center of the door knob. The knob was machined and fitted with a custom spindle that was designed to slot into the mortise and thereby throw and retract the latch when the knob is turned. The escutcheon plates for the knobs were machined so that connecting bolts could be attached to the exterior knob, pass through the lock body and connect to the interior knob. While the escutcheon plates could have been surface mounted this would not have provided a firm support for our 8lb knobs. As the mortise body was 7/8” thick and the door was 2 ¼” deep , surface screws, had they been used would have been insubstantial at ¾” in length. The body of the lock was customized by Accurate’ s experts to accommodate our though bolts and we bench tested it with our castings to ensure all the moving parts were aligned.

Mortise Lock by Accurate.jpg
















Bunny, Bee and Frog Door Knobs - animal door knobs

Whimsical pairings for a magician - this may sound like the title to a children’s novel but in the context of door hardware perfectly describes an order we have just completed for James Shafer’s magical solutions store opening soon in Columbus, Ohio. A full description of this enchanting enterprise can be found at;

https://www.hierophanyandhedge.com/

As befits a magician, James strayed from the path of “sameness” and instead conjured up a fun set of door handles using the animal knobs from our netsuke collection and the swirling leaf escutcheon plates from our willow collection. The results were beautiful and whimsical and could well have been illustrations for a children’s book.

 

The sets were cast in solid bronze and finished with a dark antique oil-rubbed patina. Each piece was burnished by hand to highlight the bronze tones of the raised sections making the leaf veins and wing and ear details more pronounced and creating a sense of depth through the contrasting light and dark areas.

Burnishing the wing veins to accentuate the golden bronze beneath

Burnishing the wing veins to accentuate the golden bronze beneath

 

We have mixed  and matched  our door styles for other clients and readers will recall the willow knob being used as an entry set with a medium bark back-plate in a very creative residential remodel by Los Angeles Designer Bonnie Mcintyre.

Creating a custom door knob using old world methods

We have in the past discussed the pros and cons of using 3d printing in the casting process and return to this topic to describe our most recent commission. The willow door knob was featured in the last post and coincidentally it is this piece that inspired the current work. While it is technically a door knob it’s scale is regal and it was designed to take center stage as a dramatic door statement. When first designed the piece was intended to be used as non-operative pull that would be used to open an entry door but with a separate thumb latch trim operating the door latch as is shown in the photo.

In European doors particularly in the baroque period such grand knobs often fully functioned to open and close the door and a local artisan would fabricate a mortise latch for a very deep back-set to reach the center of the door. With this in mind the second Willow knob was designed in 2 pieces with the knob being separate from the back-plate and mounted on a spindle that can be rotated to activate the door latch.

The current commission uses the same concept but the style of knob is simpler with no filigree and is designed for a less ornate setting. The Willow knob being elliptical and with many layers of filigree was carved over a period of weeks. Our commissioned knob needs to be made from design to delivery in 10 weeks and will be cast in stainless steel. As the piece is symmetrical circular and as we have a great pool of lathe artisans in Los Angeles we have found that it is faster to slab up a block of wood and have it turned on a manual lathe rather than 3d printed.



Hedgerow Custom Cabinet Pulls - a new direction

We really enjoy working with creative designers and Bonnie McIntire is one of our favorites in this select group. A couple of years ago we had the pleasure of working with Bonnie and created a hybrid entry door set that combined the willow and lizard collections to produce a Willow Bark entry knob set for a Bel Air residence. This was not an obvious combination of styles, but the result was a playful balanced pairing.

The Willow theme continued through to the kitchen where willow cabinet knobs provided the stopping point for rows of hedgerow branch pulls. While the branch pulls functioned well as pulls for opening drawers, one bank of drawers were situated in a high traffic area where there was little room to pass and to reach the upper cabinets. Unlike cabinet knobs, pulls are generally not self-contained and often the end of the pull for aesthetic balance extends beyond the mounting post and can in confined areas catch on tea towels etc.

Tree Cabinet Handles for other relatives see  plant cabinet knob and pulls

Tree Cabinet Handles for other relatives see plant cabinet knob and pulls


When we cast our pieces, we make a wax model and if the number of pieces is not daunting we can make modifications to each wax piece at this stage before the pieces are shelled and cast in bronze. In this case we shortened the top of the pull so that it ended at the mounting post and re-worked the textured indentations and shape to retain aesthetic balance. The result will be a pleasing variation of the branch pull and one that will work with the existing screw holes. If the number of pieces or the amount of labor had been greater then we would have made a new original to incorporate these changes and then created a new mold.

wax-stage-custom-cabinet-pull.jpg




We will keep you posted as we proceed to cast these pieces in bronze.

Mixing it up with Bee Door Knobs and their Lizard Friends

The nature inspired Netsuke door handle collection was not conceived as an interchangeable series, but thankfully creative interior designers have conjured up imaginative ways to use these as combination door handle sets. Case in point is a recent project where the bee door knob was paired with the lizard door knob to create a whimsical statement. The sets were specified in polished bronze to create a stunning jewel like set for a custom makeover of the master bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom privacy set used a simple push-pin latch on the honey comb side with a discreet emergency release on the bark rose side of the door (exterior).

Our door handle knob sets are connected with a square 8mm spindle that is attached to each knob with a set screw or Allen screw. As we use the same type of spindle for all our door knobs most of the knobs are interchangeable. Since other door hardware manufactures use different spindles and methods of attachment our knobs may not be suited as half sets with knobs supplied by others.

The Netsuke collection comprises 4 interchangeable animal knobs including a rabbit, frog, bee and lizard making them popular choices for children’s bedrooms. While whimsical in nature, these animal knobs are finely detailed and cast in solid bronze with each knob using a lb. of molten bronze.

As a transitional set that bridges the classical with whimsical you may want to consider the Hedgerow and Willow knob on the more public exterior side of your door with a Netsuke knob on the more private interior side.

Christmas Gift Ideas and the Need to Plan Ahead

At this time of year we often receive calls from parents trying to find the perfect gift for their child’s bedroom and so we wanted to share with you some of the choices people have made.

We are currently making a rabbit passageway set for a Santa delivery in New Hampshire. Thankfully Santa enlisted some advice from a local door and lock installer who helped with tricky issues like dealing with a very old and thin door. The installer understood that a narrow 1 1/4” thick door may be a problem for the latch mechanism as the tongue of the latch in this case was 1” but being a skilled professional he felt that with Santa’s good cheer he would be able make a hole in the door with a 1/8” to spare on either side of the latch. Phew, Santa was wise to plan ahead!

Of course there is nothing wrong in a little self-gifting but the adage always plan ahead is equally true. In this instance, as Santa was not involved, the home owner asked for our help in deciding what to order to replace her old very dilapidated kitchen and dining room door knobs. The doors did not have latches but were held shut by a roller catch or closet door ball catch at the top of the door.  The customer did not want to change the catch so we steered her towards dummy knobs that could be attached on each side of the door by screwing through the knob plate into the door, a low tech but good way of adding beautiful knobs to her kitchen and dining room doors.

 

 

Why do Door Knobs and Door Levers use similar but different latches

Deciding whether to use a decorative knob or decorative door lever is partly an aesthetic choice and partly a practical and ergonomic decision. The aesthetic part is self-explanatory and we offer all of our door handles as either round contained knobs or more expansive flowing levers.

The other deciding factor is the user’s ability to easily grip and turn a knob. A lever is by its design easier to use for those with physical challenges and this brings us to discussing the latch mechanism.

Difference between the latch mechanism for passageway  knobs and levers

The tubular latch used to operate a passageway lever has a stronger spring that serves to return the lever to a horizontal position. The latch can also only operate the passageway lever one way, so one depresses it to release the tongue of the latch but you cannot lift the lever to retract the latch. The lever can be depressed with minimal dexterity and precision making it a better candidate for ADA compliance.

By comparison, a knob latch can be turned in 2 directions clockwise and anti-clockwise to retract the latch tongue but gripping and turning the knob does place some torque on ones wrist as well as requiring dexterous fingers for gripping. The spring used to return the knob to its resting point is weaker as knobs are typically lighter in weight than their counterpart levers.

 

Making a Statement with Colorful Entry Door Handles

While oil rubbed bronze door handles are naturally beautiful and over time develop their own unique patina, designers seeking a more dramatic entry statement may want to consider powder coated steel as an option. We are fortunate in Los Angeles  to have access to highly skilled powder coating experts like Dan Regan owner of Primo-Powder. We began working with Dan when presented with the challenge of powder coating the inside of a custom Morphic pull that had been specified by Mike Hong of MHA.

The problem was two-fold:

1. How to perfectly match in powder the client’s brand color of that was sampled as a painted chip.

2. How to apply the color once developed through the front lattice of the handle while leaving the lattice and front of the piece color free.

What was surprising was that it was far more difficult to match the color than it proved to be applying it.

The client’s brand color “Toronto Blue” was available as a liquid paint by manufacturer Sherwin Williams but  not as a powder. We contacted Prismo Powder Coating who manufacture powder and who are familiar with matching colors. The problem though was that while liquid paint has a specific pigment formula or code, there is no cross reference from paint to powder so this process was done by comparing the blue paint sample with the Prismo’s archival records for the color blue. While some of the suggestions were close, out of hundreds of blues none was a perfect match so a custom blue was formulated for our project.

 

We learned a lot from this project and with help from Dan Regan gained a valuable education in how color can selectively be applied to metal using high temperature masking tape.

With this new insight designers can now add color to our Ergo Entry Door Handle and other pieces as shown in the photos above.

 

Chinese New Year 2014---Year of the Horse

photo and cardboard sculpture courtesy of Ann Wood Handmade Another Chinese new year is upon us and 2014 is the year of the horse.  The official new year begins with the arrival of the new moon on January 31, 2014 amid celebrations that include street festivals and art fairs so check your local community to see what is being offered.

In Chinese astrology a horse year is believed to bring good luck and good fortune amid a wild ride of financial fluctuations throughout the world.  Whew!  In reality, that does not seem much different than every other year but I certainly hope the good luck and good fortune hits all of us in the interior design world.

As our products enjoy a worldwide presence we are hoping that the international "financial fluctuations" are all positive.  Here is a list of spots where our custom architectural hardware pieces are currently being enjoyed:

Candy and Candy, located in London, England, chose to have many of our cabinet pulls silver plated for one of their residential clients.  Also in England, the musical group "The Prodigy" selected our Bee passageway sets from our Netzuke collection for their studios.

HOC Architecture and Interiors out of Valencia, Spain chose several of our Willow and Hedgerow sets to decorate various suites in a spanish villa.

A residential client in Switzerland enjoys our sycamore leaf pulls in her home while artist Bruna Arpea from Milan, Italy chose various insect and animal pulls for her bathroom.  We are able to enjoy her artwork as well as we have many of her pieces proudly on display in the dining room of our home.

The W hotel in Singapore, through The Rockwell Group, chose our pieces to use in the entry and other public areas of the hotel.  And we are currently working with Anna Marie Chen of Deco Locks in Panama to set up a showroom and introduce our work to Central America.

Other projects scattered in various spots around the world are in the works and when we are able, we will be excited to share that information with you.

If you would like to view any of the products mentioned above or see our entire collection of bespoke hardware please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.  And we hope that 2014, the year of the horse, brings good fortune and financial stability to all of us.