Hardware History Tutorial





The following is an attempt to describe the various times periods as they relate to furniture design and manufacture as well as the hardware used on furniture.  The reason for this is to help you better understand our hardware and the appropriate time period that it fits.

Furniture Brasses

Pendant drop brasses came into use the last half of the 17th century followed by Chased brass plates with loop handles. Chippendale made popular the so called "willow" brasses and after these came the oval plates of Hepplewhite and Sheraton. Many of the earlier brasses were cast, some with flat surfaces others with raised design. Handles of early brasses were held in place by narrow strips of brass or iron thrust through a drilled hole in the drawer and clinched inside. These were called "cotter pin" brasses or "snipes."

Prior to the Revolution, most of the brasses used on furniture made in this country came from England.

"Brasses on old furniture should be of the same period as the antique. It is better to make use of good reproductions than to use a later style, although old." (An Encyclopedia of Antiques, by Harold Lewis Bond. Copyright 1937)

Brass in general

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and sometime contains tin. Brass is ductile and capable of being hammered or rolled into thin leaves. Brass is also very good for castings.

Hand Chasing

Hand chasing is almost a lost art. Done here at Ball and Ball by W. Whitman Ball using antique sets of chasing chisels. It is the Art of creating a complete design by repeated hammer strikes on chisels of various shapes and sizes. Chasing, unlike engraving, does not remove metal but marks it. Three dimensional chasing is called Repose.

Furniture Makers

Thomas Sheraton-1751-1806

English cabinet maker. Furniture is exquisite in shape, form, color and decorations. He used inlays of rare woods and veneers. He used satinwood extensively and championed the straight line in furniture making. During the last decade of the 18th century and early years of the 19th century, Sheraton's influence dominated the style of furniture making in both England and America

Eli Terry-1772-1852

American clockmaker of Plymouth, Connecticut. His first clock was a long-case with wooden works made by hand as were all of his early 1792 clocks. In 1797, he was granted a patent for an improvement on clocks. He specialized on 30 hour self clocks. The early ones all had wooden works. These are very popular clocks today in both antique and reproduction styles.

Duncan Phyfe  1768-1854

New York cabinetmaker who may, very appropriately, be called the American Sheraton. He was a Scotchman by birth and came to America in 1784. At that time, his name was spelled Fife. He excelled in carved ornamentation and was an active cabinet maker from 1795 to 1825 producing many fine pieces.

George Hepplewhite    ?--1786

English cabinet maker. Very little know of his early life. His work was lighter and more graceful than that of Thomas Chippendale. Hepplewhite is credited with the design of the sideboard (along with  his contemporary, Thomas Shearer) which displaced the table and separate pedestals then in use. He was partial to curved lines, using them wherever possible. Sheraton, who followed him, preferred straight lines.

Thomas Chippendale   1709 (?) - 1779

Believed to be the most famous of English born cabinet makers. He worked in mahogany and relied on carving for his decorative effects. Created and made many most wonderful and prized pieces.

Jacobean Period   1603-1688

Influenced by Flemish and Dutch. Stout, clumsy, severe lines. Mostly oak. Bun and Ball Feet.

William and Mary Period   1688-1702

Important period. Use of Brass mounts began in this period. Walnut was the favorite wood, although Oak and other wood was used. Burl and Crotch walnut veneer used for decorative fronts. Kneehole desks, secretary or Book Case desk made appearance, as did low boys and spoon back chairs. Great influence by Dutch, French and Spanish. Simple forms. Comfort and grace of proportion was more important than carving.

Queen Anne Period  1702-1714

Walnut wood, shell carving, graceful, comfortable chairs, cabriole legs,drop leaf tables with a swinging leg, stretchers on chairs, tables and other furniture pieces. Solid-splat backs on chairs, scroll tops on secretaries and cupboards, Claw and Ball feet. Very Graceful, pleasing and comfortable furniture.

Sheraton Period and Hepplewhite Period.  These periods overlap. Sometimes difficult to tell the styles apart. It is conceded by some that Sheraton was the greater man. His early furniture is distinguished by elegance, graceful ornamentation and fine construction. Sheraton eliminated curves and worked straight lines. Hepplewhite used graceful curves and concaves. Shield back chairs, oval backs or heart shaped, fluting, spade feet. There was a wide use of veneer and inlay. The Prince of Wales, Feathers, the honeysuckle and the Husk were his favorites. Hepplewhite also used the plain, elongated urn as a motif.

Chippedale Style Period   1745-1770

About 1770, the Thomas Chippendale influence was felt in America. Cabriole legs, claw and ball feet, ladder back chairs, fret work on Chinese-style furniture, open work Brasses.


Copyright 2002 - Ball and Ball
Last modified: Tuesday, 12-Nov-2002 20:23