Interior Design

Glass, Brass and Class

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Door knobs and escutcheon plates. When I moved into this house in 1985, all the interior doors still had their original hardware with the exception of the brass knobs which had been replaced during the late 1950s or early 1960s with a style that only George Jetson would have understood. Whether it was the budget or just a preference, the choice and placement of the metal and glass knobs was a puzzler. Inside all closets the escutcheon plates were stamped nickel plated brass and the knobs were glass with nickel plated workings. On the exterior side of the closets and on both sides of all the doors to all rooms, there were stamped brass escutcheon plates and brass knobs. The one exception to this setup was the bathroom, which had nickel plated escutcheon plates with glass knobs on both sides.

The inappropriate brass knobs were replaced with the correct type that I found on Rejuvenation’s website, a solid unlacquered-brass two-inch knob. Older homes had a smaller diameter knob than what is currently used now (modern-day knobs’ diameter would have been too large in proportion to my escutcheon plates). I chose the unlacquered brass intentionally, because I HATE permanent gold shiny things in my house. But in order for the knobs to have a patina that matched the existing hardware, I had to dunk them into this Brass Darkening Solution that I found at Elliott’s Hardware. After trial and error, I discovered that all it took was five to ten seconds of soaking to reach the right patina. Anything longer turned my knobs black and blue.

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Decades of oil based paint had been slopped on by lazy painters in the past. Research had told me that the most environmentally safe way to remove all this paint was to boil the hardware in a large pot for a long time (I no longer remember the recommended length of time). No way in heck was I going to boil hardware in my fancy new All-Clad cookware. And all my crummy old stuff I had either sold in my first estate sale or donated to charity. So the next best alternative was to invest in a gallon of lacquer thinner (paint thinner is not strong enough) and sacrifice my eyeballs, nostrils, and brain cells for the next three weeks. Please note that there was another reason for that large quantity of poison, but that will have to keep for a future post.

Once the hardware had been removed from the doors, I chose not to marinate the pieces in the lacquer thinner but to instead use elbow grease, paint rags dipped in the lacquer thinner, and my fingernails to hack off the paint. Lucky for me, the old escutcheon plates had an ancient lacquer finish, so that during this process the paint and some of the lacquer came off, but the plating remained unaffected. With the mortise locks, I had to do the removal in situ using additional tools, tiny screwdriver, masking tape, and q-tips. I forgot to mention the most important tool of all, eyeglasses. It also helps to roll your office chair from location to location. Relying on the old quads is not realistic.

Poison disposal. Lacquer thinner can be reused, much like what I used to do with my used turpentine after finishing with an oil painting. With turpentine, I left it in its glass jar and over a period of time the heavy oil paint would sink to the bottom, leaving me a clean and reusable solvent. With the lacquer thinner, I just poured it back into its can and stored it on a shelf in my utility closet, where it’s ready to be reused some time in the future. But if I had to dispose the old turpentine with deep oil paint sludge or the lacquer thinner, I would take it to the local Household Chemical Collection Center along with my used batteries, CFL bulbs, etc..

On the right is the ugly and inappropriate George Jetson knob, and in the middle is the new spindle that came with the new knobs.
On the right is the ugly and inappropriate George Jetson knob, and in the middle is the new spindle that came with the new knobs.

Spindles and thread count. After all the mind numbing labor, I still had to figure out a way to combine the original glass knobs on the same spindle as the new brass knobs. The original four inch spindles were 16 threads per inch. While the new ones were 20 threads per inch. After days of research on the internet looking for a spindle with one half having a 16 count and the other half having a 20 count, I gave up and asked my contractor how he would solve this problem. He ended up rethreading one half of the old spindles to the new 20 count. You can rethread a small count to a larger count but not the vice versa. Et voilà!

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