For Want Of A Hinge (Part 3)

For a number of reasons, HingeQuest needed to take a hiatus for a period of time. Upon its resumption, however, I already had a location in mind. The location in Cobourg was still out there (as Cobourg pretty much is, being 1.5 hours the other side of Toronto from our current stomping grounds). In the meantime, however, I had discovered another company specializing in the reclamation and salvage of old buildings.

Artefacts in St. Jacobs. Knowledgeable, friendly, and – even better – with what we were looking for!

Artefacts is a company in St. Jacobs, and has been specializing in architectural salvage for more than 25 years. More particularly, theIr focus runs to the residential end of things. They specialize in reclaiming, refurbishing and restoring pretty much anything that can be extracted from old houses as they are being gutted or torn down. The two principals, Chris and Scott, are extremely hands-on, and – while I have only met Chris – also very knowledgeable about what it is they have, where it came from and why it is useful.

We came looking for hardware, and got distracted along the way by kitties.

The first thing we discovered upon entering Artefacts was that they have an incredible variety of doorknobs available. Actually, that’s not true. The first thing we discovered was that they have an amazing and incredibly affectionate cat. The second thing that we discovered was the doorknobs.

Knobs? Why, yes. We have knobs! What kind of knob would you like, specifically?

Where the doorknobs at Addison’s were relatively new (probably last 20 years, but still porcelain) what Artefacts sells are the real deal. Genuine, vintage, 19th century door hardware – including cross-bars, rosettes and (if you can figure out what kind of latch set you need) latch sets. Within five minutes of walking in the front door, we had three sets of porcelain doorknobs and one very cool latch set. What is wonderful about all of the hardware is that it has been completely refurbished, and is in spectacularly good shape.

One vintage latch set, complete with working lock, key mortise and porcelain knobs in gorgeous condition.

That merely set us up for our next discovery: hinges! First up, some beautiful reproduction hinges — replicating the right period, all in the right size, and with patterns that were similar to what we were looking for. Even better, once I had refocussed on the broader array of what was one offer, is that they also had antique hinges. Best, from our point of view, is that they had the exact antique hinges that we were looking for. Refurbished. And in sufficient quantities. Well, they had four sets of them. We bought the lot.

Hinges, we have hinges! Oh yes we do. HingeQuest is officially over. And Artefacts is out of stock.

We were also finally able to answer the question of where and when these hinges had come from. As it turns out, they were in fact the original article. They are cast iron hinges, manufactured and used largely in the late 1800s, and built to surprisingly specific standards. So the stamping of the dimensions on the back was not in fact evidence of reproductions; it was illustration of the fact that, even in the 1800s, some enterprising ironmongers had their collective bits together.

Our hinges are one of two patterns that were predominantly in use in the area of western Ontario in the late 1800s. The folks at Artefacts call it the ‘3E’ pattern, because that’s roughly what it looks like. There was also a slightly more ornate pattern, with ‘leaves’ branching from the main body of the design, that was also often found in houses of the period.

Wooden brackets, normally used as an architectural detail on Italianate buildings. Just like ours.

The last discovery before we left Artefacts was that they also have roof brackets. It was common in the design of Italianate houses (of which ours is one) that under the eaves of the roof appeared ornate wooden brackets, two at a time, that joined the upper wall and the soffit. At some point in a previous renovation, the brackets on Boo Manor disappeared. Artefacts happens to sell brackets that have been recovered from similar-era houses. While not in the scope of this project (you have to stop somewhere, after all) I have a feeling we will be back in the future to check them out.

For Want Of A Hinge (Part 2)

Given my failure to find any of the hinges that we were looking for at Addison’s, the next stop in my quest was in Waterloo. The Timeless Material Company is another organization specializing in reclaiming materials from older buildings (everything from office buildings to factories to churches) and houses. Situated in a restored barn from the 1840s, they have multiple levels featuring everything from reclaimed flooring (massive amounts, at a surprisingly reasonable per-square-foot costs) to doors, windows, pews and staircases.

The Timeless Material Company in Waterloo. Salvage for sale.

We had first visited the Timeless Material Company with Gene, when we were on the lookout for a potential bathroom vanity. While they didn’t have any candidates at the time, I had filed them away for future possible uses as we proceeded with the renovations. Stock continues to evolve based upon what comes in. A sister company is involved in on-going demolition products, and what can be recovered is either refurbished or sold ‘as is’.

More types of recovered doors than you can possibly imagine. And the hardware to match (sort of).

Having visited twice, I have to say that it is surprisingly impressive what it is possible to salvage. They have the sign from the old ‘Seagram’s Museum’ (one of the first places that I shopped for alcohol in my mis-spent youth), as well as rocks (boulders, really), beams and floorboards. You can get a weathered, 20″ wide piece of lumber in surprisingly good condition (something that, once again, you won’t find at your local hardware store). Although that single piece of wood will also put a surprisingly hefty whole in your wallet. As an example, I saw single boards that were priced at $120. When someone is specifically looking for a wide board as a specific architectural feature, however, I am sure that there are more than a few people that will happily pay the price.

Gorgeous church windows. And boards of a width that you won’t find today. At prices you won’t believe.

The Timeless Material Company also sells hardware, I’m pleased to report (although a surprising amount of it remains attached to salvaged doors). Antique doorknobs, latch sets, mortise locks and the like are all available, although in less selection than Addison’s. This is also an area that they do less work in terms of refurbishment. Much of the hardware is sold ‘as is’, and a good deal of it is going to need a fair bit of sweat equity to bring up to scratch.

From awesome archways to vintage windows, and everything in between.

Sadly, though, there were no hinges of the period that I was looking for. They again had a vast area of tarnished, rusted and well-painted hinges of various eras, but ‘era’ in this context could be defined as ‘seventies’, ‘eighties’ and ‘nineties’ — all firmly in the twentieth century.

They did helpfully suggest a place in Cobourg that specializes in hardware, and is certainly somewhere that I will have to check out. But sadly, I left the Timeless Material Company empty handed, with no material and only an investment of time to show for it.

For Want Of A Hinge (Part 1)

One of the fundamental truths of renovating a very old house is that you never know what you are going to find. Normally, that means that you are going to discover things that you wish you hadn’t (and that will ultimately wind up being far more expensive than you wanted to know). In this case, however, gutting the bathroom resulted in a very pleasant surprise.

It turns out that all of the doors on the upper floor of the original house are original, and are hung on their original hinges. Said hinges have since been painted over many, many times now, of course, but they are – once numerous layers of paint are finally removed – absolutely beautiful. Keelan took the set from the bathroom door to see what he could do with them. After torching them, scrubbing them, brushing them and repainting them, they turned into something pretty spectacular.

I didn’t even know they made hinges like this. Now I need to figure out where I can buy them.

Of course a discovery like this leads to the inevitable comment, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get more of these for the doors downstairs?” So, truth be told, even the positive surprises can wind up getting expensive. The question to be asked in all of this, however, is where one needs to go in order to find such hinges. Certainly they’re not something that you’re going to find in stock in your neighbourhood Home Depot.

There was some question even then about what kind of hinges they were, and whether or not they were in fact antique. The back of the hinges were stamped ‘3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″‘, which even today is a pretty standard size in the way of hinges. The offset pattern for the screws looks pretty similar to modern hinges. And one had to ask the question of whether, back in the late 1800s, they were as organized as all that as to be making standard size hinges, and then taking the time to make impressions in the back specifying just what size they were.

And so, we had a mystery on our hands. One I took it upon myself to attempt to solve as best that I could. Given that there were four doors in the downstairs of the old house (to the basement, to the front hallway, to Dianne’s den and to a new door on my den), the objective was to find four new sets of hinges to match the ones in the rest of the house. And really, how hard could that be?

The first stop in this particular odyssey was Addison’s. For anyone who has renovated anything in Toronto, they will know that Addison’s is the one-stop go-to place for reclaimed hardware of just about any size, shape and colour. It has also been profiled in just about every issue of Toronto Life’s annual “Where To Get Good Stuff Cheap,” for those who are slightly less tuned in. Just off of Sorauren in Toronto’s west end, Addison’s started off as a plumbing company run by Jim Addison, who started off in plumbing and heating in his native Scotland more than 50 years ago.

The entryway to Addison’s. Spectacular, bewildering and awesome in equal measure.

Today, Addison’s is still in the plumbing and heating business – with a three floor warehouse full to the brim of plumbing, electrical, hardware and heating products. They salvage what can be salvaged from houses that are being gutted, renovated or torn down, and sell the results to those who are gutting, renovating or tearing down their houses. If you have a hot water radiator that needs replacing, these are the people to see – they refurbish and restore old ones, as well as selling all the hardware necessary to keep them running.

Radiators are an Addison’s specialty. If you still heat with water, you need these guys.

Addison’s also has an absolutely ridiculous number of plumbing fixtures of every shape, size, purpose, colour and condition imaginable. It is truly spectacular, and organized mostly by category – so there is a reasonable chance of finding what you are looking for, located in proximity to all of the other examples of what you are looking for.

Plumbing fixtures of every size, shape, style, era and usability.

One of the things that they did have, to my surprise and absolute delight, was porcelain door knobs. Apart from replacing the hinges in the lower doors of the house, we are also wanting to replace the door knobs, which are an eclectic mix from several periods, none of which are actually from when the house was built. Briefly distracted, I was able to assemble three full sets of door knobs (at least, I was able to assemble the knobs, if not any of the other hardware I needed). Not knowing what was required in terms of latch sets (and recognizing the bewildering array of latches actually available) I wisely (in my opinion) left that decision for another day.

Door knobs! They have door knobs! Porcelain ones, and many more besides.

After a delightful exploration of a spectacular, if bewildering, array of stuff, we left with our knobs, but sadly not with our hinges. Stock depends upon what is coming out of houses that are being gutted, and most of the hinges they had were slightly worn and tarnished versions of what you would get from your local hardware store. The search would have to continue.