cabinet pulls

Custom cabinet hardware and the challenge of creating steel replicas of pewter castings

We were recently commissioned to replicate cabinet handles from the 1920’s for use in other areas of a home being renovated. It was not possible to establish the base metal used for the originals without damaging the pieces and our best guess was possibly the castings were made in pewter or nickel. While the metal alloy did not impact our ability to replicate the shape of these 3 cabinet pieces it did present us with interesting patina and finish choices.

We began the project by carefully cleaning the originals so that we could get a good impression in our latex rubber mold. As the pieces were small simple shapes we were able to make a single two-part mold that would accommodate all 3. We could have made individual molds for each piece but given that we were making less than 50 pieces this would not have been cost effective. We made a simple mold and after cleaning the originals sprayed on a release agent making them easier to later extract from the latex mold.

The photo below shows the red waxes that were made from this type of mold using Westech’s V510 wax V510 that has melting range of 185° to 195°. The originals were made for different screw threads, but the replicas need to suit modern needs so were drilled and tapped for a uniform 8-32 threaded screw. Stainless steel is an excellent durable alloy but needs to be heated when applying Birchwood’s M20 dark patina. As an added measure we baked the pieces in a clear matt enamel to protect the patina and give a very subtle sheen.

 After Patina Applied and with Clear Enamel Baked On

After Patina Applied and with Clear Enamel Baked On

 In steel before finishing and in red wax

In steel before finishing and in red wax

Creating custom cabinet pulls and knobs

We have recently been commissioned by a home owner and a designer to create custom cabinet knobs and pulls for their respective bedroom and kitchen. The designer approached us with the task of creating 3 styles and sizes of cabinet knob to replace and supplement the ones in the home owners period property. In this case the existing original pieces were in excellent condition and could be used as patterns for a sectional mold that was constructed in silicone rubber.

The second commission was to create a completely new cabinet pull that would use the client’s distinctive family cattle brand as a model for the cabinet doors and drawers. The client did not have a physical piece that could directly be used to form a mold, but he did have a pdf file of the family font and from this we were able to create a 3D CAD model.

CAD File Created Using Client’s Font File

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Both projects will be poured in stainless steel using the lost wax method rather than using 3D Stereolithographic printing. As the molds for both projects are relatively simple one-part molds the upfront costs for design adaptation and mold creation were relatively low and added little to the per unit cost of the pulls. The number of units ordered was also modest ranging from 50 to 75 pieces, but it will be was enough to cover the cost of pouring a smaller crucible of steel.

First Waxes Created from New Mold Ready to be Shelled

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Orchid cabinet pulls - from wooden origins to bronze gems

As any orchid lover knows, these seductive clever plants have over time developed both their beauty and ingenuity to lure pollinators. The color and shape of each family type is used to seduce particular types of pollinators to them, be they bees, birds, moths or flies. The bright colorful orchids use their red, yellow and orange patterned flowers to attract day time pollinators while browner duller orchids use their powerful scent, not always pleasant, to attract nocturnal visitors like moths. Orchid families are further defined by their shape and this too determines the type of pollinator. The Cochiloda family for example has a narrow long lip that is easily accessed by the hummingbirds’ retractable tongue. By comparison the Cypripedium family have a flattened rim to their bulbous lips which makes a prefect landing spot for bees and insects.

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Orchids have always been one of Martin’s favorite plants and back in 1979 he sculpted an oversized 3’ sculpture with an imaginary orchid carved in cherry wood and with a realistic bee carved in ebony. More recently Martin has created a more realistic bronze orchid flower and stem as cabinet pulls. The orchid flower, while relatively small is one of our most difficult and time-consuming pieces to make. Based on the anatomy of the Phalaenopsis family the flower has 3 sepals, 2 petals, a protruding lip and a central column. To do justice to the detail and depth of the orchid, the flower is cast from 3 molds to create 3 castings, one for the sepals and petals, a second for the bulbous lip and a third for the inner column. When making a sprig of orchids a total of 7 individual castings are welded to create this 8” wide pull.

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For a more in-depth analysis of how different orchids and their pollinators have adapted to each other over time to create a mutually beneficial relationship follow the link below.

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Mushroom Cabinet Knobs and Pulls

When is a mushroom a cabinet knob and when is it a cabinet pull?  Until last week I thought the question was at best a case of semantics and at worst a case of pedantry, but I stand firmly corrected as the wrong word choice can result in oblivion. I am not alas an expert in the field of SEO but when describing our cabinet accessories my primary focus has been on the design element, in this case mushrooms, with my secondary focus being the shape of a piece, if round a knob, if vertical or horizontal, a pull.

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What had not occurred to me is that the word “mushroom” has on the internet come to mean button mushroom shape and so all manner of cabinet knobs that have no resemblance to a mushroom happily populate the image section for this search term.

Why does this bother me, have I perhaps been eating the wrong mushrooms?  Rest assured my concern has nothing to do with what I have been ingesting but has a lot to do with becoming frustrated with searches that come up short on fungi.

 

Thankfully there are some very talented and tenacious designers like Suzanne Childress  out there who know a mushroom pull/knob when they see one and who take the time to search through the maze to find the right piece for their client. My sincere thanks to Suzanne for finding our elusive pieces.

 

Spring Has Sprung the Ladybirds have arrived

We recently visited Idyllwild, a small town with impressive mountains, forests and a prolific ladybird population. On first sight my mind was confused by the sheer number of ladybirds which conservatively numbered into the thousands and which were all huddled together on rocks, tree branches and fence posts.

I have wondered about the curious name of this beetle and visiting www.wikipedia.com discovered that the name originated in Britain where the insect came to be called “Our Lady’s bird”. The beetle it seems is part of the Coccinellidae family of beetle, a name that is derived from the Latin word for scarlet which was a color often used in early paintings of Our Lady’s cloak. In the United States the name was adapted to Ladybug.

Whatever the exact origins of this beetles name it is still a colorful and beneficial addition to any garden as it preys on herbivorous aphids and so helps keep our plants free from foragers.

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We are keen fans of most insects and have been inspired to use them as cabinet pulls, turn pieces and as decorative medallions to cover dowelled joints in our furniture pieces. The cluster of bronze beetles shown here are ones that are used in our Rickshaw lounge chair and they decorate the dowel that joints the chair arm and leg. These small beetles can also be used to decorate holes when a door pull is secured with a through screw or bolts.

 

Blue Birds Make A Clean Start in 2018

We celebrated 2018 in Paso Robles with close friends and our dog Iris. The hikes, chilly air and the bird life all helped to revitalize our moods and energy and so like these Blue birds we enter 2018 with a refreshed perspective.

We have incorporated bird designs in both our animal cabinet pulls and in our jay bronze sculpture and will be adding a raven to our collections in the months ahead. While the blue birds shown here are vivid colorful creatures they do not make easy subjects for bronze castings as their markings and multiple colors are difficult to create even with hot patinas. The scale of these small birds with their thin legs is also challenging making it necessary to add an artistic mount to support the heavy body weight. 

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Ravens  by comparison have a more uniform color range and stronger legs proportionate to their body size making them perfect as free standing sculptures. We live in the Hollywood Hills and have several families of ravens that we see on a daily basis and appreciate their flying skills, antics and obvious intelligence.

 Martin has just begun his initial design for this new piece and  has decided that the piece will be close to life size at 22” from beak to tail feathers and in a pre-flight position. He is currently hoping to find someone in the Los Angeles area who has a captive raven so that he can photograph the bird from other perspectives so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

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While we do not presently offer zombie door handles or other flesh eating creatures we do have a few lizards to celebrate Halloween with and there is a definitely an audience out there that demonize these reptile.

If you are  searching for air born winged demons then look no further as we have a left and right facing bat to add a note of horror or whimsy to your cabinetry.

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Bats are left and right facing making them more ergonomic for the left handed amongst us. Their directional nature is also useful for the majority of kitchens where you have double doors or where you are looking to match the “handing” of your door. The challenges of door handing have been discussed in previous posts.

For those who associate toads with Halloween we can help you with our leaping tree frogs as cabinet pulls or with frog knobs for your interior or exterior doors.

In short we have a variety of Halloween offerings to choose from and hope the artistry of our designs as well as the medium of bronze will help your choice outlive the shortness of this macabre holiday. Enjoy.  

 

 

How to make a simple mold for lost wax casting

Over time all things age and the longevity of a mold will depend on the composition of the mold material and frequency of use. We make a variety of  molds some require metal or fiberglass reinforcement and are not ideally suited for home use but others are possible to make at home provided you are patient and dexterous.

Our frog cabinet pulls are a popular item but we still make these by using a simple gravity pour rather than injection method to create the wax replicas for our lost wax castings.

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The frog mold is a 2 part mold that is held together by simple peaks in one half of the mold and troughs in the other half mold that act as keys to tie the mold together. The troughs or holes are created using a drill bit or punch which is pushed into the modeling clay that holds the pattern in place. As this is a 2 part mold the skill comes in delicately building up the modeling clay up one half of the pattern without breaking of the small frog digits.

Once the frog is secure in modeling clay and all undercuts have been filled in we apply 3 or 4 coats of silicone rubber with a paint brush, we use Mold Max 30 by Smooth-on. After the silicon rubber is set we reinforce the mold with a more rigid plaster compound called Plasti Paste 11 by the same manufacturer.

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Next we make the second half of the mold which will have the peaks that align with the troughs. First we spray on a mold release agent onto the female mold, we use  Ease Release 200 by Mann Technologies. We then apply more of the silicon rubber to the mold which will collect in the troughs.  We repeat the process described and once we have created a rigid case in Plasti Paste we are ready to start using our mold to create waxes. The release agent allows the 2 halves of the mold to separate, we then can remove the pattern and now we have a hollow space to receive the wax.

Useful sources

https://www.smooth-on.com/

www.moldreleases.com

Colorful Door Hardware - How to Use Hot Patinas

Nature is a strong and continuous source of inspiration for our door handles and cabinet pulls so I wanted to complete this series of posts with a few pictures that illustrate this as well as providing information on how our yellow and maroon color patinas are made.

The dragonfly cabinet pull is an example of a hot chemical patina created with Sculpt Nouveau’s red and yellow dye oxide that are mixed together to create a maroon color.

To create the yellow amber tones of the butterfly we use a yellow and white dye oxide which we apply to the heated butterfly and once the desired color has been reached and after the pull has cooled down we apply small black wing markings with a  fine paint brush and a cold patina M20 product  by Birchwood Technologies.

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The process for all of our hot patina finishes is the same;

Buff the bronze pull by hand or by using a buffing wheel buffing wheel and buffing disks, progressing as needed, from medium grit to fine grit disks. The disks we use are made by Standard Abrasives and made from a tough resin reinforced nylon fiber with aluminum oxide which acts as an abrasive element. Since the nylon web is un-woven it is more flexible and so will follow the contours of the bronze.

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To remove fiber particles, dust or other surface impurities we clean the piece with an air pressure hose.

Blend the liquid oxides in a non-reactive container to achieve the desired color.

Heat the pull to about 200° and apply the dye oxide blend to the areas you want to color with a very fine paint brush.

After the casting has cooled re-buff any areas that need to be re-worked or where you want to expose the golden color of the raw bronze.

Seal with a clear wax or use tinted waxes to create to add a different hue.

Sources:

www.sculptnouveau.com

www.birchwoodtechnologies.com

www.birchwoodtechnologies.com