Arcane Hardware, Useful Still

Do you know the difference between a sash stay and a sash lock? Although some old-house hardware may seem esoteric in function, a lot of things are still quite useful once you know where they fit. Check out the items here—all still available!

When I was searching for an antique transom operator (see #6), 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!

Some items are so well known and collectible, they fetch thousands of dollars. (The now famous 1870 “doggie doorknob” sold for $7,725 at auction.) But most old pieces can be had for bargain prices.

Selected Sources

See more hardware in the Products & Services Directory.

  • Handsome Arts and Crafts knobs, pulls, shutter dogs, etc.
  • [Ball and Ball] Reproduction and museum-quality hardware and lighting from the 18th century through Victorian period. Includes clock finials, feet for your tea caddy, miniature hardware, a fireplace spitjack, household miscellany.
  •, Besides hard-to-find stair and transom hardware, antique and reproduction hardware of every sort, since 1916.
  • [Eugenia’s] No reproductions: lots of stock, including mechanical doorbells and bath fittings. Recent miscellany included a pulley with patina, a barn-door catch, and a round wooden elevator seat with iron bracket.
  • [House of Antique Hardware] Vintage hardware and a full reproduction line that includes window sash, casement, transom, storm, and shutter hardware, icebox hardware, bed bolts, etc.
  • [Liz’s Antique Hardware] A wide variety of vintage hardware, typical and arcane, including antique screw-in doorstops, casement fasteners.
  • Reproduction and antique hardware, including a bulldog bottle opener, twist doorbells, and arcane lighting parts.
  • A wide range of restoration hardware and supplies, including everything for the Hoosier cabinet or icebox, plus gate latches, trunk hardware, window hardware, and table slides.
  • Specializes in antique hardware, much of it unique, with a great online auction.
  • Traditional hardware, including casement window and screen stays, cupboard locks.

Art + Craft - this week's picks