Q&A / 

Cabinet Hardware

I'd hate to have to think how much cabinet hardware I've installed over the years. The primary location of most cabinet hardware is found in the kitchen, and I've installed more than my fair share of kitchen cabinets over the years. As you might expect, I've seen some amazingly gorgeous cabinet door hardware while doing some of these jobs.

Cabinet hardware knobs and cabinet hardware pulls can really make a kitchen or bathroom sizzle. You wouldn't think these common hardware items would do much for the large surface area of a cabinet door or drawer, but the best analogy I can give is makeup on a woman's face. Certain highlights, blush or just the right amount of eyeliner or eye shadow can pull your eyes to parts of a woman's face. These slight and subtle accents can completely transform what you see. The same is true for the small knobs, pulls and backplates you see on the large doors and drawers of cabinets.

You need to be very careful, though, when you go to install a cabinet hardware knob. I'll never forget ruining  an expensive cabinet early in my career as a carpenter. I thought it would be a brilliant idea to drill the hole for the knob starting on the backside of the door. My thought was that if the drill bit slipped, it would scar the inside of the cabinet.

I was ill prepared for the blowout splinter and chip that happened when the drill bit blasted through the front of the cabinet door. The base of the knob was not large enough to cover the imperfection, and I had to purchase a replacement door.  Years later, I discovered this was not necessary. I could have hired a furniture-repair wizard to come with his alcohol lamp and hard sticks of lacquer to make an invisible repair in minutes.

When you start to install cabinet door hardware, you need a few simple tools. You can buy a plastic marking template that allows to you locate, with great precision, the location of the hole for the door knobs or pulls. You can also purchase affordable brad-point drill bits that have a tiny point on the end of the drill bit. This point prevents the drill bit from drifting as you start the hole. It's best to use a variable-speed drill that allows you to drill slowly so you have maximum control.

If you desire the look of antique cabinet hardware, be aware that in many cities and towns there are specialty hardware stores. I'm not talking about a hardware store that sells nails, furnace filters and chicken wire. I'm talking about a business similar to Norwood Hardware in Cincinnati, OH. This is a place that has hundreds, no - thousands, of unique and magical pieces of cabinet hardware. Often these shops have a special area or product lines of authentic reproduction antique hardware. I have some of this exact hardware in my existing home, and plan to put it throughout my new home that I'm currently planning.

Bronze cabinet hardware as well as brass cabinet hardware seem to be timeless favorites. Not only are my wife and I attracted to these, but in all the years I was a builder, I would also venture to say that well over 80 percent of the cabinet hardware I installed was either polished brass, antique brass or a type of bronze. The comments that I heard from my customers was this hardware had a timeless look and feel and projected a sense of warmth in the room.

In some instances the hardware I would install was so beautiful, I would actually stop and stare at it after tightening the final screw. When you visit a real hardware store, not a home-center aisle that has hardware in giant bins, you'll see what I mean.

Be careful if you're attracted to discount cabinet hardware. It's often discounted for a reason. The overall quality may not be there. In the cases of hinges, they may be poorly engineered. The machining and finishing of knobs and pulls may be substandard. The hardware may be plated steel. If you want solid brass or bronze cabinet hardware, always take a small magnet with you when you shop. Test the metal to see if it's magnetic. If the knob sticks to your magnet, you know you're touching a plated item.

Some designers will often offer advice to make sure the hardware in a room matches other metals. For example, if you have a stainless-steel sink with a brushed-nickel faucet, you may be told that you need nickel cabinet hardware. While this may look great, you can mix and match metals in the same room, and the look can be stunning. We have antique bronze cabinet hardware in our current kitchen, yet we have a stainless-steel sink with nickel sink and pot-filler faucets.

Be sure to pay attention to cabinet drawer hardware. Make sure the actual knob or pull is comfortable to use. While form and style are very important, be sure the hardware doesn't become a hardship. Cabinet hardware for aging individuals is often pulls instead of knobs, as knobs can be challenging for older folks to grab. Imagine pulling out a heavy drawer using a tiny knob and you can see why it's easier to grab a looped D-shaped cabinet door or drawer pull.

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