I Can’t Find the Item Number for That

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

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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6 Responses to I Can’t Find the Item Number for That

  1. That is impressive work, Chris. I predict that within a year there will be a blacksmith corner in your shop and that the next several Lost Art Press books will be on that topic.

  2. james says:

    Yup, hardware is a big deal to collectors, a piece that has it’s original hardware is pure joy. It’s an area that many woodworkers dont pay nearly enough attention too.

  3. André says:

    Indeed some impressive work!

    The same can be said for blacksmithing as can be for woodworking with handtools….at first it seems intimidating, but the more you practise (and read, and listen, and look, etc.) the better you get. I gave my first tries at blacksmithing and found it quite doable (but then, my grandfather and great grandfather were blacksmiths…).

    Of coarse, my pieces looked no-where close to the hardware on the cabinet (they were 12" nails for a oak haystack).

  4. Megan Fitzpatrick says:

    Let’s build a forge!

  5. Amazing hardward there. I’ve been looking for a project using hand forged hardware. It’s a little cliche but i’ve been wanting to make a coopered pirate style blanket chest. Thanks for the post.

  6. Jonathan Crone says:

    I’m willing to take a bet that the fall lee valley hardware catalog will have it…
    Never underestimate the power of the dwarves & gnomes of Veritas/Lee Valley.
    (and no I’m not insulting… those who forget their Lord of the Rings need a reminder who the metal smiths were… :-) )

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