When I was searching for an antique transom operator (see an example below), I finally found one in a secondhand shop—labeled “whatyoumightcallit.” Whether you’re looking for a replacement for something at home, or you’ve come across a strange piece in a salvage store, the hardware search is a puzzle and a treasure hunt. Given an antique piece, sometimes its function is unknown even to the seller. On the other hand, many “arcane” hardware items are being reproduced today for the restoration market. But you have to know what to call it—even that it exists—before you can order it!

Attached to the inner lid and the side of a trunk, the stay locks when extended to keep the lid open. Courtesy Van Dyke’s Restorers

Trunk stay, by Van Dyke's Restorers.

TRUNK STAY: Attached to the inner lid and the side of a trunk, the stay locks when extended to keep the lid open. This one is from Van Dyke’s Restorers.

Mortised into the edge of a pocket door, this flush plate becomes a brass pull when you push the recessed button. Courtesy Crown City Hardware

Pocket door lockset.

POCKET DOOR LOCKSET: Mortised into the edge of a pocket door, this flush plate becomes a brass pull when you push the recessed button.

This one is solid brass; it’s a wand assembly that makes it possible to open and close the high “transom window” over a door. Courtesy House of Antique Hardware

Transom operator, by House of Antique Hardware.

TRANSOM OPERATOR: This one is solid brass; it’s a wand assembly that makes it possible to open and close the high “transom window” over a door.

This item keeps a window sash open by producing tension against the outer frame when it’s mounting on the side of a sash. Courtesy Web Wilson Antique Hardware

Antique brass sash stay.

BRASS SASH STAY: This item keeps a window sash open by producing tension against the outer frame when it’s mounted on the side of a sash.

The upper and lower window sashes of a double-hung windows are locked together when you rotate the top lever. Courtesy of House of Antique Hardware

Iron sash lock by House of Antique Hardware.

IRON SASH LOCK: The upper and lower sashes of a double-hung window are locked together when you rotate the top lever.

ICEBOX LATCH & CATCH: This beautifully reproduced, solid brass latch for old fashioned refrigerator boxes can be used on old cabinets and cupboards as well as ice boxes.

Icebox latch and catch from Wilmette Hardware.

Icebox latch and catch from Wilmette Hardware.

PICTURE RAIL HOOK: A decorative hook that hangs over picture rail moulding near the top of walls. Wires attached to the wall art are looped over the hook, making the art moveable, and avoiding nail holes in the walls.

A decorative hook that hangs over picture-rail molding near the top of walls. Wires attached to the art are looped over the hook, making the art movable and avoiding nail holes in the walls. Courtesy House of Antique Hardware

Picture rail hook by House of Antique Hardware.

GUTTER BRACKET: An unusually ornate Victorian gutter bracket screws into the soffit or rafter ends to hold a copper or wooden gutter in place.

Decorative, cast-iron hooks screwed into the ceiling to safely hold a heavy chandelier. Courtesy Web Wilson Antique Hardware

Antique Victorian-era gutter bracket.

Some items are so well known and collectible, they fetch thousands of dollars. But most old pieces can be had for bargain prices. And fine reproductions are available online.

SELECTED SOURCES 
See more hardware in the Products & Services Directory.

  • Acorn Manufacturing Handsome Arts & Crafts knobs, pulls, shutter dogs, etc.
  • Ball and Ball Museum-quality hardware from Colonial to Victorian.
  • House of Antique Hardware Full reproduction line that includes window sash, casement, transom, shutter hardware, icebox hardware, bed bolts, etc.
  • Liz’s Antique Hardware lahardware.com Wide variety of vintage hardware, typical and arcane, including antique screw-in doorstops, casement fasteners.
  • Nostalgic Warehouse Steel hinges, push plates, hooks, cabinet hardware.
  • Rejuvenation Reproduction and antique hardware, including bottle openers, twist doorbells, and arcane lighting parts.
  • Van Dykes' Restorers Wide range of restoration hardware and supplies, including everything for the Hoosier cabinet or icebox, gate latches, trunk hardware, window hardware, and table slides.
  • Wilmette Hardware Traditional hardware, including casement window and screen stays, cupboard locks

Art + Craft - this week's picks