While I was on staff at Popular Woodworking Magazine, all of the editors had to read through all of the reader submissions to “Tricks of the Trade.” This was generally drudgery that was punctuated by little nuggets of brilliance.
Here’s what the drudgery looked like:
“A coffee mug makes an ideal place to store your pens and pencils in the workshop. Just don’t tell the wife that you stole her good china! Ha ha.”
“Baby food jars are excellent places to store small bits of hardware and pieces of string that are too small to save. And you can even label the lids with the contents inside. And it’s a great excuse to have more children!”
Or there were the tricks that involved using a mass spectrometer, dial calipers, rubber bands and an electron microscope – you know, the stuff around the house – to make a center-finding gauge.
So because I had to read so many of these tricks, I hesitate to post the following hint. To me it seems something I have been doing constantly since I started woodworking. It’s completely obvious. But anytime I discuss it, people look at me like I have two heads.
So here it is.
If you can’t find the hardware you want in a catalog and you can’t afford blacksmith-made stuff, buy it off eBay, at flea markets or at places that reclaim old doors and windows.
You will be shocked at the quality vintage hardware on eBay. Strap hinges, locks, knobs, you name it – some of it still wrapped in its original paper from 100 years ago.
Every antique market I’ve been to has a dude that specializes in old hardware. It’s usually doorknobs, but he always has hinges and drawer pulls.
Every decent-sized city has an architectural salvage store. These are a good source for hardware, tiles, glass, screws and even wood.
I’m not saying you’ll get a bargain. Sometimes you will win (I just bought all the brasses I need for my next campaign chest for $100 – a $600 savings!). Sometimes it will be as expensive as new stuff. But looking in these non-traditional places will greatly expand the kinds of hardware you can use on a project, though you might have to scrub some of the odd crusty bits in the kitchen sink.
So just don’t tell the wife.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other articles I’ve written about hardware on the blog here.