5 Tips for Choosing Hardware for Amish Furniture November 07 2017
The hardware you select for your furniture is not only the finishing touch to the project, but also has a significant effect on the final product. Careful selection of hardware choice is even more important with hand-made Amish furniture as the idea of simplicity and quality are the main appeal to this type. While many Amish woodworkers have expanded their options for hardware choices most tend to prefer specific styles for their Shaker or Mission furniture, and often their clients wish for the same type of look.
With tradition in mind, as well as a little modern creativity, here are the five top tips for selecting hardware for Amish furniture.
Shaker Versus Mission
Amish furniture consists of two main styles - Shaker and Mission.
Shaker style furniture is the early style of Amish design, characterized by gentle tapers, curves, and clean wood. Shaker furniture is often made of lighter wood species and is fairly plain, lacking any deep colored stains or flashy hardware. Furniture makers specializing in the Shaker style still use round wooden knobs when possible, as it is keeps in line with early techniques of using one material source for the entire project. It is only possible to use wooden pulls.
Mission furniture was adopted by the Amish after Spanish mission furniture began to be sold in early America. Mission furniture has the same minimalistic appeal of Shaker, but looks much more robust and rustic. Mission furniture typically consists of thicker material, dense wood and, most importantly, a dark finish. Another difference is that Mission furniture does use real metal hardware and sometimes glass knobs. Most Mission hardware uses squared hardware rather than curved.
If you're aiming to keep with the tradition of real Amish furniture, keep in mind these differences when hardware shopping.
Knobs, Pulls or Both
The use of knobs or pulls depends on the furniture, namely if the furniture in question has drawers, doors, and the size of these features.
Knobs are most useful for doors since basic knobs aren't designed to be under heavy strain, like they may on a drawer. Knobs may also be used on smaller drawers. Shaker furniture may also use only knobs in their designs, with dual knobs placed on larger drawers. While knobs in many modern furniture is becoming a bit dated it still looks beautiful and on par with traditional Amish furniture.
The use of pulls is more common in modern furniture and is common on Mission style Amish furniture. Pulls are typically stronger and are also more comfortable for drawer. For example, a heavy drawer will be cumbersome to open with a knob you can only grasp with two fingers whereas a pull will allow a stronger grip. It is recommended to use knobs on heavy-use drawers, though they certainly look beautiful mounted vertically on doors.
Hardware Finish Style
The hardware finish is naturally the most important part of selecting hardware appropriate for Amish furniture. The typical Amish lifestyle is one of plainness which is shown in their furniture. This means any flashiness in design is not often seen.
As mentioned, majority of hardware used in Shaker furniture is wood, which will be same wood as the piece itself for a seamless look. If keeping to tradition there will be limits on how creative you can get with wood knobs and pulls. Mission furniture can be seen with various types of hardware, ranging from dark gray-black, antiqued hardware to thick glass knobs. Generally you will want to avoid high-shine hardware or hardware with gold tones, though a deep oil rubbed look may be appropriate on some Mission furniture.
Generally you will want to choose hardware that matches the deep color of Mission furniture, but compliments rather than stands out harshly.
When selecting hardware consider where you will be placing it on the drawers and doors. Placement will have an effect on the style of hardware you want for the project.
Typically on drawers you will want to use comfortably-sized pulls, especially drawers on dressers or other wide drawers. If the drawer is 2' wide or longer you will want to consider using a pair of knobs or pulls, equally spaced. Typically you will divide the drawer into thirds, placing each knob or pull equally in the first and third sections. Also, spacing on drawers shouldn't always be right in the middle of the face.
For small drawers a middle knob or pull is attractive, but larger drawers look more visually appealing if the hardware is place slightly hiring up. This is especially true on Shaker style furniture with graduated drawers. The top small drawers may have a middle knob while the bottom largest drawers are placed higher up, the same distance between the top of the drawers on the knob as is measured on the small drawers.
Pulls or knobs on doors are best placed in the corners of the doors. This looks best and allows for easier opening.
Matching Existing Furniture
Another consideration if you are working on custom furniture for a customer is whether their existing furniture will match what you are producing. Since Amish furniture is incredibly long-lasting, chances are high that the furniture they purchase will be in their homes for the rest of their lives. While furniture may not be able to match exactly in tone you can match the hardware or adopt a similar style to blend with the rest of the room.
For example, if you are designing a buffet or sideboard that will be going into a kitchen it would be important to try and match the hardware of the piece to the existing cabinets or even to the faucet. It is never a bad idea to put in the extra mile and ask customers if they prefer a certain look of hardware considering the investment of Amish furniture. Many Amish furniture makers offer a selection of hardware choices for this reason.
Amish furniture has a history dating back to the 18th century, yet still remains one of the most sought-after styles of furniture by those that appreciate true craftsmanship. Amish furniture is renowned for quality that will last a lifetime and a style of natural simplicity that matches nearly any interior design. The hardware you choose will be the final touch on a stunning piece of furniture that you or your customer will enjoy for well over a lifetime.