Forged (Wink) Chest Hardware

If you have blacksmith taste but a Hillman Fastener budget, here’s a tip on how to make your hardware look better.

I’m working on the lid of a six-board chest for a customer today and started tweaking the hinges, which I plan to install tomorrow. These hinges are made in India and sold by Van Dyke’s Restorers for $5.50 each.

That’s the good news. The bad news is they are covered in a thick coat of black oxide. It’s so thick and loose that it will smear all over your bare wood. So my first step was to remove the oxide.

You can remove this stuff (usually) using hydrochloric acid – or you can bead-blast it or sand-blast the stuff off. I don’t have that courage or equipment. So I scrape the stuff off with a carbide Skraper and then scrub it with a gray abrasive pad and some WD-40.

About 10 minutes of scraping and rubbing shows off some of the hardware’s welds and filing, which is better looking at the black powder, which isn’t fooling anyone that it’s “patina.”

One of the chapters I’m working on for “The Furniture of Necessity” is on hardware – not only how to use fluids (safely) to alter off-the-rack hardware, but how to enhance hardware even more by filing it. After I strip the zinc off a Home Depot hinge and add some decorative filework, it’s not 100 percent butt-ugly.

Maybe 50 percent. After a couple beers.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Design Book. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Forged (Wink) Chest Hardware

  1. Thomas Priest says:

    With the right hammer and about 10 minutes of swinging you can make them look even better, gives a little more natural finish.

    • Jeremy says:

      Yes but I’m guessing it helps to be a blacksmith to know the right place to hit it with a hammer to make it look right. Reminds me of the series of PWW articles from a while back (Dunbar?) about making artificial patina believable. Perhaps something similar for store bought hardware is what you have in mind, (consulting with any number of the great smiths you know)

    • John Switzer says:

      Beating a peice off metal to death with a hammer is not forging. Hammer marks left from forging should have had a purpose in the manufacture of the peice. Having said that I do think it is OK to bevel the edges of a peice or to just take the factory finish off the work. But never the gratuitous beating the crap out of a peice of metal with a ball pien hammer and calling it forged, yuck.

      Really I think the effect Chis has achieved is very good. The only thing I might add is to heat it up in the oven and apply paste wax (outside, it should smoke lightly) this is a nice traditional finish that really brings a peice to life.

      • Thomas Priest says:

        Yeah I know what forging is, I’ve worked at one for the last 12 years. I know way meant to make it look like a true forged piece of steel. More of a distressed look to a five dollar hinge which really shouldn’t take that much hammering. I’m sorry if I was misunderstood, I didn’t think he was going to try and make it look like a piece of Damascus. I like the look Chris achieved, it was just a different perspective and something I’ve done before.

      • Thomas Priest says:

        I forgot to add, I love your work and personally would in a heartbeat use one of your pieces on something and know a hammer on cold metal would never compare. Props to Black Bear!

  2. Patrick says:

    Beer-goggles for hardware. Who’d a thunk.

  3. bbrown1 says:

    Can you give a few details on how you file and otherwise ‘distress’ the hardware?


  4. I was going to make the same observation as Thomas, but when I’ve done smiting, I spend another 5 minutes with a propane torch and heat blue them. It lasts much better tab any chemical patina that I’ve ever seen.

  5. John Minster says:

    I’m confused, how are you mounting these on a six board chest? The bend looks like it would need at least a 2 inch thick board or a lip.

  6. mike siemsen says:

    I’ve been using 2″ cotterpins from the hardware store. At 11 cents each I have 44 cents in the hardware, a quick blast with the torch and a bit of black wax and we are good to go.

  7. Eric says:

    them hinges is up to 10.99…

  8. Mark Gilsdorf says:

    Let me start by saying that I know you are a big promoter of blacksmiths around the country and their work. That’s why I was a little dismayed to see this post. I just can’t see how cheaply (and poorly) mass-produced hardware honors or complements all of the hours of hand work that goes into producing your woodwork. Yes, hand-forged ironwork is more expensive than store bought hinges. For the same reason a chest or chair made by hand costs more than a piece you’d find at Walmart.
    Believe me I understand the financial pressures of craftspeople, and yes, some folks won’t be able to afford hand-wrought hardware. I’m not trying to be a jerk. But this seems like a situation where one could justify spending a little extra money for something that bears the irregularities of an individual’s hand.

    • lostartpress says:


      When I make something for myself, I try to use the best hardware I can find. When I work with customers, I have to work within their budgets and give them the best that they can afford. This situation is the latter.

Comments are closed.