Chris Schwarz's Blog

Campaign Furniture Hardware from Horton Brasses

Horton's corner guard and strap

Horton's corner guard and strap

I’ve made the following statement at least a dozen times in strategy meetings, classrooms and beer halls: Someone should review furniture hardware.

After all, if the hardware stinks, I think the furniture piece as a whole is diminished.

I obsess about hardware, and I have a huge bin of it in my shop, mostly pieces that I bought to examine: knobs galore, hinges, escutcheons, pulls and catches. And whenever I go to flea markets, I’m always on the lookout for the scrap metal guy who sells old hardware from torn-down houses and ruined furniture. That stuff can be (not literally) gold.

For the last couple months I’ve been on a hunt for good hardware for campaign furniture. I’ve ordered a lot of pieces from suppliers to find what I want, and I’m still looking. What I’m trying to find probably doesn’t exist because it was made before I was born.

My grandfather's hardware

My grandfather's hardware

My grandfather built several campaign pieces for his Connecticut home, and I inherited a bag of assorted campaign brasses – five edge straps, two corner guards and two ring pulls. It is gorgeous stuff – all cast brass and heavy. That’s what I’m looking for as I build my campaign chest with a secretary insert.

One of the first places I looked was Horton Brasses. I love Horton and have been shopping there since 1996. Nobody is faster or nicer. And their hardware is excellent. (Disclaimer: I’ve never taken anything for free from Horton. I always buy my hardware from them.)

This week I received the box of samples I purchased from Horton, including a chest lift, edge straps and corner guards. It’s a mixed bag.

The edge straps and corner guards are fairly thin brass (.065”). That’s not a deal-killer for me; it actually is less material for me to remove to mortise the hardware in place.

What I’m not wild about are the dimensions of the hardware. Both are intended to be used in material that is at least a full 1” thick. While that’s certainly do-able, not all campaign pieces were in 1”-thick stock. Try 7/8” or 13/16”. And a lot of woodworkers today will use 3/4”-thick stock.

The 6” chest lift, however, is a total winner. It’s heavy and looks ready to head to India on the back of an elephant. Plus Horton supplies slotted screws – no Phillips or Robertsons. So I think I’ve found the winning chest lift.

The search continues for straps and corner guards.

Later this week: More on hardware and details on campaign chest joinery.

— Christopher Schwarz

20 thoughts on “Campaign Furniture Hardware from Horton Brasses

  1. hobomonk

    I have a set of campaign-style hardware that I reclaimed from an unrestorable piece of modern campaign furniture. The hardware is very wabi sabi, but I’m saving it for a project.

    Have you considered tansu hardware?
    It’s the Japanese equivalent, usually blackened iron, of western campaign hardware.

    Here’s a book that I recommend for your campaign furniture journey:
    British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas, 1740-1914 by Nicholas A. Brawer

    If you can’t find a copy, then contact me privately and I’ll drop a copy off at F+W, or mail it to you.

  2. GunnyGene

    Chris, I’ve also done business with Horton. Great company!

    But thought I’d mention a place you might want to check out for antique hardware. It’s a private residence/farm just outside Monroe, Wa. I used to have contact info, but if you ask around the antique shops in town for the “Knob Lady” they’ll be glad to give you directions. It’s been 8 years or so since I was there, but I’m sure she is still selling her huge – and I mean HUGE – collection of antique tools, hardware and much, much, more.

  3. JWatriss

    Horton’s Good stuff. Whitechapel is, too.

    To add to the list, I can say that Ball and Ball in PA is also very good. They do very good repro’s of the old stuff, and they are also set up to do lost wax casting to reproduce any existing hardware that you wish you could find more of.

    Bear in mind: you get what you pay for.

  4. Northhaugh75

    I have been collecting materials/hardware for a couple of years to build a “safari bar”. Whitechapel Ltd has had everything I’ve needed (straps, corners, pulls, handles). And while expensive, it is very high quality. I am also glad to see the above post by Mr. Henderson.

  5. Orion Henderson

    Hi All,

    I own Horton Brasses. To Chris I would like to say that we often customize that hardware to fit the project. Bigger, smaller, T shapes, three sided L shapes, what have you. We will also countersunk the holes and provide color matched brass flat head screws to go with. This will look much nicer on campaign furniture IMHO. I am happy to exchange what you have for some custom made parts that are a better fit.

    We have a blacksmith/metalsmith in Ohio who plasma cuts that line for us, then we do all the finishing in our Connecticut factory. Because of that we have a lot flexibility when it comes to cost effective customization.

    1. Gary Smyth

      Where were you (and your employees) five years ago? I made every effort to have someone at Horton talk to me about lifting handles, drawer braces, corner caps, heavy hinges in the style of British campaign. Nary a peep. Not a lot of help or effort either as I recall. I couldn’t even get a recommendation for a alternative source. No mantion of custom which would have been attractive to me. Like tansu, campaign uses a lot of hardware; without it it’s not correct. I guess you have to be a name and publish to get your attention. How disappointing.

    2. Bapakleo

      Mr. Henderson, given the increasing interest in campaign furniture brass fixtures, sparked further by Chris Schwartz’s recent book on the subject, may I suggest a collaboration with you and Chris to make this brass available in your catalog? 1. Chris would spend far less time getting exactly what he wants than searching for possibilities. 2. You would get expert assistance designing a variety of fixtures. 3. The rest of us would not have to plan months in advance for custom pieces (when we’d rather be working wood). 4. Though I believe stock items would be profitable, you will not need to actually make pieces until there is an order. 5. And, for those of us who are handicapped attempting to visualize something that does not yet exist, we could buy from the catalog or use that as a starting point to develop requests for custom castings. I’m not a famous fixture maker or woodworker/writer, but for this simple country boy it seems a very easy win-win solution. Regards, Leo Orenstein.

  6. John Cashman

    I recommend taking Lie Nielsen bronze planes and cutting the sides and bottoms to get the straps. The corners are already square, and you’d have some nice thick bronze. This would be really high end hardware.

  7. Derek Cohen

    Hi Chris

    Have you tried the following?

    http://www.marshall-brass.com/

    http://www.martin.co.uk/orderOnline_ProductList.aspx?ProductCode=1861

    http://www.whitechapel-ltd.com/category/c4ff.html

    It was suggested to me, during my recent build, that the ring-pull type were “not furniture handles; they are used on posh yachts on lockers and deck hatches etc”. Heh.

    Overall, I was very disappointed with the hardware available. Philip Marcou specialised in campaign furniture prior to building planes. He mentioned to me that his hardware came from Italy, which he hoarded for years as it stopped being produced. I found that most on-line stores offer the same Indian-made cast brass hardware. This is beltsanded to a finish, and then lacquered. It is not inspiring! In the end – limited by the potential high cost of importing brass – I settled for the best I could find of this type locally, and then fettled each piece to shape and finish. http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Furniture/FittingHandles.html

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  8. metalworkingdude

    Edge straps and corner guards could be fabricated pretty easily using silicon bronze flat bar and angle stock. It TIG welds really nicely and polishes easily. It’s available from a number of online metal suppliers.

    This way you can get nice, crisp hardware in any size and thickness. Any local welding shop should be able to job easily enough.

    Another option would be gas welding or even hard soldering the parts.

    1. Graham Hughes

      While not necessarily endorsing the idea of TIG welding for people who don’t really know how to weld, the idea of “find a local metalworker and job it out” isn’t a bad idea. I would be tempted to get a blacksmith as it strikes me as sort of blacksmith work, but a real metalworker would probably use a brake or something. There should be some in your area; I’ve found smiths in mine and this area is not exactly a hotbed for that sort of thing.

      1. metalworkingdude

        Hard soldering is pretty approachable. You only need about 1,000 to 1,200 degrees and you can get there with a propane torch. If you have a tight fit at the joint the seam is pretty much invisible, especially if it’s polished.

        Or…you could have the parts cast. There are a number of “art foundries” in my area that can investment cast parts using carved wax originals. Or they can pull rubber molds from original parts and make waxes from that, then investment cast the parts.

        Or…if you know someone who is handy with wood they could make a simple match board pattern and you could have the parts sand cast.

        I totally agree that the right hardware is critical.

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