One of the few truths in woodworking is this: The hardware you choose is as important as the boards you select, the joinery you use and the finish you apply.
Cheap, mismatched or poorly scaled hardware will ruin a piece – like using ramen pallet wood for a highboy.
At the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, one of the museum’s largest public collections is its ironwork display. This fantastic ferrite section contains everything from hinges and locks to gates and signposts. I spent as much time looking at the museum’s ironwork as I did at its furniture. The beauty of these handmade articles was enough to convince me that I need to make friends with a blacksmith.
Take a gander at this unremarkable and thoroughly mongrelized cupboard. The piece dates from the 14th century and was said to belong to the last Abbot of Whalley. During its lifetime, it has been scraped of its original finish. Shortened. New back. New shelves. And an extra foot added to the middle.
Despite all this, the piece is impressive because of the hardware. Forget about the inconvenient design of the cupboard (only the two center panels open), or the split wood, or that the top that is made from the gnarliest piece of wood I’ve ever seen in a museum. The hardware is awesome, and it makes this forgettable piece into something worth preserving.
Now if I could just find the item number for this hardware in the Lee Valley catalog….
— Christopher Schwarz