Advantages of solid brass cabinet hardware

Walk into your local hardware store in search of knobs and pulls. What will you find?

Oh, how many knobs and pulls will you see at your local hardware store?
Oh, how many knobs and pulls will you see at your local hardware store?
So many different selections!
So many different selections!

Very likely, you’re going to see a variety of different styles and sizes of cabinet hardware: knobs, pulls, cup handles, and so on. Look at the brands that are sold in your local hardware store. Oftentimes, those brands are selling a huge range of products but they never tell you where it comes from or what it’s made of. Well, we’ll tell you. Most cabinet hardware is made from zinc or aluminum. Why? Because these materials are inexpensive and easy to form into different shapes. Makes sense, right?

But what happens when you touch that inexpensive material day after day after day? When you create or remodel a kitchen and put in all that time and energy to get the perfect look that you want, you want that look to last! Zinc and aluminum cabinet hardware are not going to hold up over years of use. Eventually, you’ll have to replace them.

This is why Cliffside chooses not to stock zinc or aluminum cabinet hardware. Sure, we have special-order products in these materials, but our standard product lines are made from high quality solid materials, like forged bronze, stainless steel, and most importantly, solid brass cabinet hardware. Why should you choose solid brass hardware, you ask? There are a wide range of advantages.

The benefits of solid brass hardware

Solid brass cabinet hardware is more durable

First, and possibly most importantly, solid brass cabinet hardware is among the most durable in the industry. Whether you’re choosing knobs and pulls for your kitchen, bath, dining room, furniture, or other applications, solid brass hardware is a proven winner.

In our industry, we know that kitchen and bath cabinets can be exposed to harsh conditions. You use water in your kitchen and bath every day, so that has to be considered when testing the durability of hardware. To protect the underlying core material, and also to create different colors and looks, cabinet hardware is often lacquered or plated. This is how you achieve different finishes, such as polished nickel or antique copper.

Just because it's "solid brass" doesn't mean it always looks like brass!
Just because it’s “solid brass” doesn’t mean it always looks like brass!

Here’s a hard fact: when you apply a finish to solid brass material, that finish is up to 300% more durable than when you apply it to zinc. Think about that – if you buy the exact same knob made in zinc and in solid brass, the zinc one will last only about one-quarter to one-third as long as the brass one! Longevity is a huge benefit when you’re choosing the type of cabinet hardware you want.

Brass hardware is more consistent

Next, when you order product made from brass, you’re going to be getting a more consistent base material. This helps the finishes adhere better and makes the hardware last longer.

Now, this isn’t ALWAYS the case. A lot has to do with the manufacturing method. A plated casting, for example, is not going to hold up as well over time as a plated forging.

Wait, what?

The manufacturing of brass hardware

OK, so casting is a manufacturing process in which metal is heated up (I mean, really heated up) until it’s a liquid. For a material like zinc or aluminum, this is not really a huge deal, because they have lower melting points: around 790 degrees Fahrenheit for zinc and 1220 degrees Fahrenheit for aluminum. For brass, though, that takes an awful lot more time and heat – brass doesn’t melt until around 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how much copper and zinc is in that specific type of brass.

After the metal gets hot enough, it’s poured into a mold or die that’s shaped like the inverse of what you’re trying to make. So, if you wanted to make a square, you’d have a square-shaped hole carved out of a block of steel (the die). This creates the process we know as “die casting”. Oftentimes, you’ll hear cabinet hardware referred to as “die cast”, but this is actually talking about the manufacturing process and not the material.

The problem with casting is due to the fact that the metal is liquid when it’s poured into the mold. Liquids can get bubbles in them. As soon as you get that metal off of the heat, it starts to cool. And if it cools with a bubble in it, then that bubble could be in your casting – in this case, an air bubble inside your knob or pull. If those bubbles are close to the surface, after some use (or even during the finishing process), the bubbles can break, causing pits in the surface of the item.

Look at the pits and dents in these brass castings!
Look at the pits and dents in these brass castings!

So, how do we avoid bubbles? Don’t work with liquids.

Instead, most solid brass hardware is made using one of two methods: machine turning and drop forging. Both of these processes start with a brass rod. For turning, the rod is fed into a lathe and spun to carve out a shape. This is most often seen with round knobs. For forging, it’s a little more complicated. The rod has to be heated up, so it goes through a kiln or furnace to raise the temperature to about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, it’s hot enough to re-shape, but not so hot that it’s melting down into liquid.

The hot brass rod is fed into a die, but the molds used to make forged products are a little different: there are two halves. One half of the die drops down (hence the name) onto the hot brass and pushes it into the other half of the die, creating a shape.

So why is all that important?

The brass rods that are used to create the hardware are extruded; that is, they’re forced through a hole in another type of die to make a cylindrical shape, just like pasta. If you look at the outside of a piece of pasta, close up, you’ll see that it has a grain from being pushed through the die.

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Well, brass is the same way. When it’s extruded, it develops a very fine grain pattern: not just on the surface, but all the way down to the core of the metal. Because we work with solid rods, rather than melting down scraps that don’t have a uniform grain, the forged knob or pull is going to be stronger than the same piece of hardware that’s cast.

Solid brass hardware is more beautiful

Another advantage of solid brass cabinet hardware is the beauty that results from choosing a strong and durable product with a consistent base material. Because Cliffside’s solid brass hardware is turned and forged, the base material is not only stronger, but smoother. This ensures a consistent application of finish, and the choice of brass material ensures that those finishes will last longer.

Brass is anti-microbial

One of the biggest advantages of brass hardware is that it’s easy to care for. If it gets dirty, just wipe it clean with a wet cloth. No soap or cleansers allowed or necessary: since brass is made mostly of copper, it’s naturally anti-microbial and will kill germs. Just wipe off any general kitchen dirt and grime with a soft, damp cloth and the hardware will take care of the rest.

Brass cabinet hardware is versatile

Because brass can be transformed into such a wide variety of shapes, you can find a use for solid brass cabinet hardware in nearly any room of your home. One of the great benefits of brass cabinet hardware is just this simple fact: it goes anywhere! Whether you want cup pulls for your kitchen drawers, handles and knobs for your bathroom vanity, latches for your living room furniture, or appliance pulls for your refrigerator or freezer, solid brass cabinet hardware has it all.

Solid brass cabinet hardware, finished in black, is a beautiful enhancement throughout this kitchen.
Solid brass cabinet hardware, finished in black, is a beautiful enhancement throughout this kitchen.

It’s also a cost-effective purchase to get brass hardware instead of a lower quality material. On average, you’re going to pay about 30% to 40% more for a piece of solid brass hardware versus zinc hardware – but brass hardware is up to 300% more durable than zinc! When you purchase quality, you can be assured that is what you will get.

Cliffside knows quality. This is why we’ve always been the solid brass hardware experts. Whether it’s hinges or handles, latches or knobs, pulls of any shape or size… Cliffside Industries has the brass hardware you’re looking for. So shop today, and see what it means to buy the best hardware in the industry.

10 myths and misconceptions about cabinet hardware

Cabinet hardware is an integral part of your kitchen. It contributes to the functionality of this space that you use every day. Yet many people are misinformed about what these simple knobs and pulls can do for them. Here, we’ll examine some of the common misconceptions that you might find among a hardware buyer who’s building a new kitchen or remodeling an existing one.

1. “Kitchen cabinet hardware” isn’t just for the kitchen.

This is a FACT.

Just because an item is listed on a site that says, or features, “kitchen cabinet hardware” doesn’t mean that you can’t use it in other places. A whole host of cabinet hardware is usable in any type of location. Now, granted, some hardware types are less durable than others; for example, brass hardware will hold up better in the long term than zinc or aluminum. But, in general, if you want to use cabinet hardware on a furniture piece in your living room or office, or on a vanity in your bathroom, you should have no problems with it.

2. It doesn’t matter what kind of cabinet hardware I buy.

This is some MYTH and some FACT.

If you’re talking about aesthetics, it all comes down to personal preference (more on that later). If you’re talking about material or the underlying quality of the product, of course that matters. You get what you pay for, and cabinet hardware is no exception. That’s why Cliffside Industries’ cabinet hardware is designed to be the highest quality.

3. I can put any hardware finish I want on my cabinetry.

This is a FACT.

While the type of cabinetry you pick and the style of your kitchen can have an impact on your ultimate hardware selection, it’s truly your choice. That’s why Cliffside’s hardware line is so great. We have cabinet hardware suites for a reason: so that you can mix and match to get your own unique look and style.

4. I can only put contemporary hardware on a contemporary kitchen.

This is a MYTH.

The mixing of traditional style with contemporary elements is called transitional design. It’s been popular for several years, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t always have some place. Sure, there will always be those who want that specific “up-to-the-minute” white or gray kitchen design, or who want a feeling of the old days and will turn back to cherry cabinets and polished brass hardware. But you can make the choice and put whatever hardware you like on the doors and drawers that you choose.

5. The style of the cabinet door determines what type of hardware I can use.

This is a FACT… to some extent.

One of the most important elements of cabinet hardware are the hinges. Without hinges, you have a wood box and some slabs. With them, you have cabinets with doors attached. Your cabinet hinges are determined by the type of door that you have: inset, overlay, etc. Additionally, there are some types of functional hardware, like cabinet latches and magnetic catches, that are designed to work with specific door types. But when it comes down to purely decorative hardware, like a knob or a pull, the sky is the limit.

6. I have to use all knobs or all pulls in my kitchen.

This is a MYTH.

It’s extremely common to see designers and customers mixing knobs and pulls in a kitchen. This is exactly why Cliffside’s cabinet hardware suites include both knobs and pulls. Cup pulls and latches make a great accent to set off a drawer or cabinet as well.

7. I’m stuck with the cabinet hardware I have on my kitchen.

This is totally a MYTH.

Generally, you can find cabinet hardware out there to replace almost any hardware you have. There aren’t a lot of “types” of hardware: several different types of pulls (cup pulls, handles, ring pulls, drop and bail pulls, flush pulls), knobs, latches… and that’s about all. So if you have something that you don’t like or is going out of date, swing around the Web and take a look for some replacements.

8. The difference between a knob and a pull is the number of holes.

This is… COMPLICATED.

It used to be that you could easily tell the difference between a knob and a pull. Knobs were round, or some other blocky solid shape. They had one hole, took one screw, and it was really easy to replace them. Pulls, on the other hand, had two holes, and the only way to change those out was to find another pull with the same measurement on-center. What’s that, you ask? The measurement on-center (sometimes called center-to-center or abbreviated CC) is a fancy way of saying the distance between the screw holes, measured from the center of one to the center of the other.

Nowadays, though, things have gotten a bit more complex. Pulls still have two holes… sometimes. Sometimes they can have three. Sometimes they can even have more, as many companies now make what are sometimes called multi-center pulls, or modular pulls. They are usually longer pulls that have a base with multiple different drill centers on the back. For example, one pull may have a 3″ CC drilling near the inside of the feet, and a 3.5″ CC drilling further out. Cliffside even carries a pull that has 5 different CC sizes in one item!

Even more complicated, knobs now can also have multiple screw holes as well. On some items, it’s really important that the knob doesn’t rotate out of position. Cliffside has some knobs that use a steel brad in the back to prevent rotation. More recently, however, some manufacturers have resorted to a double-screw solution. Sometimes you’ll see tiny CC measurements like 16mm (which is around 5/8″) or 32mm (about 1 1/4″). That doesn’t make these pieces any less of a “knob”; it just makes them… different.

9. Home improvement stores are the best place to shop for cabinet hardware.

This is unequivocally a MYTH.

A big box home improvement store is exactly that: a big box, filled with big boxes. No employee of a box home improvement store is going to know the specific ins and outs of cabinet hardware. “Is cabinet hardware really that complicated?” you might ask. If it wasn’t, would we be writing this post? Box store employees have their heads full of lawn and garden supplies, appliances, and lumber. Without a doubt, you are going to get better service on cabinet hardware by going to a qualified designer or kitchen dealer, or by calling the company directly.

10. There’s a difference between box store hardware and other brands.

This is most definitely a FACT.

Most of the hardware you’ll find at box stores is packaged for bulk sale. This means you might be able to get the right amount of knobs or pulls… or you might not. If you have to buy a blister pack with 10 knobs, and you need 32… you have 8 extra knobs that you can’t use. Waste of money! If you need pulls with a 5 inch center-to-center, or if you need pulls for one of those appliances the box stores love to advertise, you’ll never find it at those places. All the hardware from the box stores is designed to sell in volume, but with high-volume mass production comes a higher risk that you’ll buy something that’s defective. Whether that’s a short-term defect that will show up in a week or a long-term defect that will come out 2 years after you’ve finished your kitchen – I don’t know. Can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that if you want quality cabinet hardware from a brand you can trust, you should check out other companies. And if you’re on the search for hardware right now, Cliffside Industries is a great place to start.

The China factor in the hardware factory

For many years now, a wide variety of products sold in the U.S. have been manufactured in Asian countries, especially, and perhaps most voluminously, China. The “Asian Tigers” – small but developed economic powers such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea – were slowly pushed out of their games of innovation and affordable mass production by the sheer size of the labor force in mainland China. With industrial and factory hubs crowding the coastal regions of Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Fujian, as well as the city of Shanghai, the People’s Republic has had a growing influence over global commerce due to the volume of products its economy can produce. Its factories churn out products manufactured from a huge range of materials, from durable goods like metals and plastics, to high-tech electronics, to porcelain and glassware. Meanwhile, its repositories of raw materials to lubricate the gears of their economy of production have swelled to so great a size that China has cornered the market on many commodities to such a point that it can, and does, control the price of goods at a whim.

China at a glance

China is a big country: the third-largest in the world by area, about 4.5% larger than the United States; and the planet’s largest by population. As of 2013, it had the world’s second largest GDP and ranked as a consensus second-place finisher in purchasing power parity. Suffice it to say: as a global player in industry and manufacturing, China has both the size and the funds to be a major power, and with a stockpile of commodities closely at hand, it has the clout to wield that power.

How the labor market affects Chinese manufacturing abilities

One thing China has a hard time controlling, however, is its labor. In 2003, according to the Chinese government, the number of its migrant laborers exceeded 98 million (source: International Journal of Social Welfare), representing more than 7.5% of its total population at that time (around 1.28 billion people). The total share of migrant workers ballooned to 158 million laborers by 2011 (source: Reuters), and as of June 2013, “migrants [made] up about one third of the total urban population” in China (source: China Labour Bulletin). However, as more jobs become available in different industries throughout China, migrant workers from the central and western parts of the country find themselves staying closer to home, rather than venturing to a factory center like Guangzhou or an export nexus such as Shenzhen. Others desire newer, more modern jobs, rather than factory work, like assembling devices, manufacturing shoes, or casting metals (source: CNN). The Chinese government concurs, preferring to shift the focus of economic production within the country out of low-cost manufacturing, which also causes extreme pollution, and into service-based industry (source: Bloomberg). In order to incent workers to continue returning to jobs that are often low-paying, dirty, or even dangerous, factories – and in turn, their ownership – are forced to offer bonuses or higher wages for those workers, and to recruit agents who will locate additional workers to man the assembly lines (source: The New York Times).

In early 2011, China set in motion a five-year economic plan, its twelfth; one of its goals is to ensure a two-fold rise in the average Chinese wage by the end of those five years (2015) by mandating a mean 15% pay increase to workers each year (source: China Daily). In Shenzhen, the minimum wage has increased from “635 renminbi a month in 2005 [about $100] to 1,500 renminbi [about $240]” as of March 2012 (Times) – a gain of 136%. The wages are alluring, even for those migrant workers who choose to stay closer to home. However, their decision to stay at home and find new industries or new sources of income has created an “acute” labor shortage “in many Chinese industrial zones” (Times). So although the wages have increased, there are less employees working at the increased wage, resulting in higher overhead costs per man-hour. This has led many factories in China to re-think their operating strategies: what will they make? What services will they cease to offer? What products can be subcontracted to another company, or to a cottage industry, still doing this type of work?

U.S. imports from China since the Great Recession

Labor rates in China made it a popular destination for outsourced American jobs. Indeed, as manufacturing jobs declined in the United States, exports from China rose quickly; data from the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) show that for the 20-year period from 1986 through 2005, imports from the People’s Republic to the United States grew at double-digit rates, year-over-year, in every year except one (2001). During that period, U.S. imports from China increased at an average rate of over 22% per year. The United States grew increasingly dependent on the types of products that China could offer in volume, and concurrently, on the costs of labor used to keep the prices of those products down. As a comparison, in 1986, the United States imported approximately $4.7 billion of merchandise from China. By 2005, that number had grown to $243.5 billion (USCB); even when adjusted for inflation (4.7 billion 1986 dollars were worth about $8.4 billion in 2005), this equates to a 2807% increase in Chinese imports in just 20 years.

Since that time, however, the rate of increase has slowed. Many more buyers in the United States are interested in specifically “buying American”, or, more generally, avoiding the purchase of products made in China. A contributing factor to be considered is a rash of recalls of defective product from China in 2007 and 2008. Although about 40% of imported consumer goods in the U.S. came from China as of 2009, “the [Consumer Products Safety Commission] named Chinese makers in 69 percent of all recalls, of both imported and domestically produced goods” in 2007 (source: McClatchy Newspapers). Thus, in 2007, the rate of import slowed to less than 12%, and, with the exception of a leap up in 2010 (the Great Recession caused a 12.3% drop in 2009, after which imports returned almost immediately to pre-recession levels), Chinese imports have continued to slow, growing less than 10% Y/Y in 2011, less than 7% the following year, and a mere 3.5% in 2013. If the first four months of 2014 are any indication of what to expect for the remainder of the current year, Chinese imports may actually shrink substantially; through April, the total dollars project to be behind 2013 by approximately 7% (USCB).

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Effect of rising Chinese labor costs within the kitchen & bath industry

Due to increasing labor costs, Chinese manufacturers, who previously kept prices as low as possible to retain their customers and keep their migrant workforce employed, have now begun to pass on the burden of higher costs to their American buyers, as well as to other markets around the world (sources: Wall Street Journal, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and CNBC). To be sure, labor costs make up a large part of the purchasing price of any goods, whether they come from Asia, Europe, or the United States. However, labor never accounts for 100% of the price of a product. By definition, the price of any goods should include the costs of manufacturing: running the machinery necessary to create a product; the costs of labor, including payroll and benefits; and overhead and operating expenses such as utilities and building maintenance. Chinese manufacturers, though, have seen an average 15% cost of labor increase and wrongly concluded that they must raise their end prices 15%—an across-the-board increase on 100% of the price, rather than a proportional increase based on the true cost of labor.

Because of these trends, it has caused many companies in the kitchen and bath industry, especially hardware companies like Cliffside Industries, to seek out alternatives for manufacturing their products. In the garment industry, it’s not uncommon to see jobs outsourced from China to lower-cost labor areas like Bangladesh and Cambodia. The latter is also a common landing place for metals manufacturing, along with Vietnam. For those manufacturers who prefer to keep their production in Asia, receiving shipments from Phnom Penh or Haiphong may seem nearly identical to receiving them from Shenzhen or Hong Kong. Yet, there is always a cost. “No other country can replicate the massive scale of China,” says the Wall Street Journal.

One other effect of the rising labor costs is that, as consumers continue to demand affordable goods from Chinese sources, manufacturers find other ways to cut costs as labor prices increase. This almost inevitably means a decrease in quality. It becomes less profitable for companies in China to do business the right way, because they can do a job that appears similar on the surface but, in the end, is much lower quality. What the manufacturers don’t realize—and perhaps it doesn’t bother them, because it’s not their reputation that suffers—is that this damages their customers and, in turn, has the net effect of reducing their amount of business.

The search for a new home for Cliffside

All of the above issues have hit home for Cliffside in the past few years. First, we’ve received a 15% price increase from our Chinese manufacturer based on the 15% labor rate increase. We never passed that true price increase on to our customers, choosing instead to absorb the lion’s share of it in order to maintain our business. Next, we’ve seen the quality of incoming product from China suffer, which has led to more hardware being rejected, both by our in-house QC teams and by our customers. Finally, we have indeed seen a demand for a decrease in Chinese imports; more and more regularly, consumers, dealers, and manufacturers alike are now specifically requesting products that are not necessarily “made in America”, but hardware that is not manufactured in the People’s Republic.

Cliffside is happy to report that we are making that happen.

Our attempts to locate new manufacturing

In late 2012, our manufacturers in China informed us that they would no longer manufacture products made from brass. They intended to cease production immediately and gave us no advance warning. For those of you who have done business with Cliffside over the long term, you know that we have always prided ourselves on carrying top-quality solid brass cabinet hardware. This has always been our hallmark. We negotiated vehemently with the supplier, demanding that they provide us with more notice. The manufacturer agreed to extend production through the end of 2013. However, in doing so, they moved the manufacturing of our product, without informing us, to subcontractors who did not understand the quality of hardware with which we, and our customers, have been familiar for the last 27 years. They also began to require much larger minimum order quantities, ranging from 400% to 1000% higher than our prior MOQs or even greater in some cases, and discontinues a wide range of our items without notice.

Meanwhile, Cliffside undertook a massive, worldwide search for new manufacturing. We explored other sources for product in Asia, but we found the minimum order quantities to be similar with all manufacturers. We also came to understand that, no matter where we went in Asia, we would not be able to achieve the same quality, because all manufacturers in China are beset by the same problems. Moving our manufacturing to Vietnam or Cambodia was never a strong consideration; although many of our competitors have done the same, they generally manufacture their products from zinc. Although zinc requires a much higher MOQ for a lower monetary investment, it also doesn’t provide the same quality as our standard brass hardware; because it is cast from a hot liquid, it has a tendency to form bubbles which can affect the quality of the finished piece.

Next, we began to investigate the possibility of making our cabinet hardware here in the U.S. Suffice it to say, there are very few companies left in this country who “do the whole job” when it comes to making brass cabinet hardware. There are a lot of steps involved. First, there are two types of manufacturing: turning knobs and pulls from brass rods; and forging knobs, pulls, and latches from hot brass using molds.

How it’s made

When a knob is turned, it comes off the lathe close to complete. The shape is as expected and doesn’t change much before it reaches your cabinetry. Pulls are generally the same; however, turned pulls have to be bent into the traditional “D” shape before they can be installed. Most of these items appear round (e.g., the 100 knob, the 161 knob, the SP-3 pull).

When an item is forged, a rod of hot brass is pushed into a mold (sometimes referred to as a “die” or “tooling”) to form the desired shape. This allows for the creation of more complex shapes, but requires the manufacturing of a tool that is the “inverse” of the shape required. Each mold itself is two pieces; a top and a bottom. High-pressure drop forges are used to press the top piece onto the brass rod, which is forced into the bottom piece and forms the requisite shape. These molds can be expensive, ranging into the thousands of dollars for each new style of brass hardware. Zinc casting molds are even more expensive; they can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Next, any hardware (knobs, pulls, cup pulls, or latches) has to be machined to accept a screw (or two); without this job, there’s no way to attach your hardware to a cabinet. After machining, the hardware has to be polished to a shine so it’s ready to accept the finishing process.

Brass finishes can vary greatly; there are many different ways to color (and discolor) metal. Finishing is hard, and it requires a lot of specialized equipment. In China, many finishes are simply lacquered on through simple processes without regard for the base metal. Unfortunately, without taking the time to make sure it’s done right and with high quality, the Chinese finishes have a tendency to look different than they actually should and can vary greatly from lot to lot. The finishing process is one of the main reasons why we decided not to continue having our product manufactured in China.

Finally, after all of the manufacturing and finishing, there’s another quality control step, and then the product has to be packaged and labeled. Cliffside takes extra time and care to have products packaged especially well. This ensures that the hardware arrives to your doorstep in good condition. Proper labeling also helps to make sure that you get the product you ordered.

Why we are not manufacturing in the United States

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of processes involved in manufacturing hardware. There are very few companies in the United States who do all of these jobs and do them well. There are many companies who claim their product is made in the United States; however, much of it is actually imported raw from other countries (mostly China) and then finished in the U.S. Is there a difference between finishes made in China and finishes made in the U.S.? Absolutely. The problem is that the cost of the raw material to manufacture the hardware continues to rise. As prices continued to rise, it became increasingly clear to us that China’s prices for fully manufactured hardware would soon be equivalent to, or greater than, our prices from alternative manufacturing sources. These alternative sources promised, and have always delivered, higher quality for the prices they commanded, and we felt that the increased quality was well worth the higher price.

Next, we investigated the possibility of doing the same as our competitors: importing raw hardware from China and then finishing it locally. However, the cost of doing so was nearly the same as our end solution, when all of the costs of logistics were tallied. We did locate very few sources in the United States who could manufacture our products from start to finish; however, due to the cost, it was prohibitively expensive for us to move all manufacturing to the States.

We also attempted to utilize resources with companies here in the U.S. who have their own factories overseas. We explored the possibility of working in a private factory in China, and also using manufacturing in Eastern Europe. Working in China, regardless of the factory, presents the same challenges as listed above, and product coming from Eastern Europe is an unknown quantity to us; we don’t know the quality, the lead time, or what the end result would be.

Finally, we considered changing our product line over to zinc and having it manufactured here in the U.S. However, the upfront cost in investment in tooling alone would have made the prices prohibitively high. Besides, our customers have known Cliffside Industries for years as a supplier of premium-grade solid brass cabinet hardware. It’s part of our mission statement to continue supplying traditional solid brass hinges, knobs, and pulls, and that is what we decided to do. Most of our competition sells zinc—why be like the rest when you can be the best?

Our solution to the China factor

After an exhaustive search of all manufacturing sources, Cliffside Industries is happy to announce that we are returning to our roots. When Cliffside was founded in 1987, our early products were sourced from Europe. After a few years, in order to keep pace with the rest of our industry on pricing, we had no choice but to make the transition to China. Now, after over 20 years in Asian markets, we are returning to European manufacturing.

Those of you who purchase our solid brass cabinet hinges know that they are of impeccable quality. Europeans are fine craftsmen with exacting attention to detail and a reputation for impeccable high-tolerance manufacturing. We’ve also been impressed with the quality of our hinge finishes that come from Europe. The reason for this is because of a difference in the finishing process: our European manufacturers use acid-dipping and electroplating to achieve their fine finishes.

Thus, we are announcing that, beginning this summer, brass hardware products arriving in our warehouse will begin to transition from Chinese manufacturing to European manufacturing. The transition will not be immediate. Because of the restrictions and limitations put on us by our former Chinese manufacturer, we have inventory in the warehouse on many items that still needs to be sold down. Eventually, however, all of our solid brass hardware items will come from one source: our high-quality European manufacturers.

We know that you will be pleased with the improvements we’ve made in our finishes. We hope that this will allow us to reduce lead times and improve our logistics by getting all of our products in from one source. Consolidating shipments will be a great time-saver for us as we continue to import our hardware. This change-over will also allow us to offer exciting new products and new finishes available as special orders. We are thrilled to be able to make this change and give our customers what they want.

For more information on our new hardware programs and product introductions, stay tuned to our blog to see new hardware suites as they become available! Cliffside Industries wants you to know that we truly appreciate your business, and we want to continue serving you as the industry’s premier top-quality cabinet hardware supplier.

How is brass cabinet hardware made?

There are a variety of different techniques used in making different sorts of brass cabinet hardware. Some of the possible manufacturing methods include turning, casting, forging, and extrusion, among others. Here, we’ll discuss the types of manufacturing used to make different types of Cliffside cabinet hardware.

Turned cabinet hardware

The 161 series is only one example of a turned cabinet knob.
The 161 series is only one example of a turned cabinet knob.

Because of the economy of manufacturing cabinet knobs directly from a brass rod, turning is the process most commonly used to make round pieces of cabinet hardware. A lathe is used to turn down a round brass rod using a specified shape. This is possible for a wide variety of round cabinet hardware shapes. An example of a turned brass knob is Cliffside’s 100 series. All of the parts of this knob are round and are manufactured using a lathe. Often, the manufacturer can use a multi-spindle lathe, a high-speed, high-volume machine which can turn off multiple knobs simultaneously or in quick succession from a series of brass rods, rather than using a single piece. Some other Cliffside knobs which are turned include the 158, 161, 110, and 100-20 series. Some pulls can also be turned or machined; an example is Cliffside’s SP series, which are turned from a brass rod and then bent into their D shape. Stainless steel pulls like the T305 series are also often machined, since they are simply bars that are milled on the ends with screw-machine holes added to accept the legs.

Advantages of turning over other methods

When a knob or pull is turned, the brass material is fully solid and has already been extruded (more on the extrusion process later), so it is the strongest it can be. This ensures that you are getting a solid, high-quality piece of cabinet hardware that is made to exacting specifications. Machining on a lathe also allows for tight tolerances.

Forged cabinet hardware

The IBCL cabinet latch is made up of several small forgings assembled into one piece.
The IBCL cabinet latch is made up of several small forgings assembled into one piece.

Drop forging is a standard process by which hot metal is inserted into a two-piece mold. The upper portion of the mold, or “tool”, presses down onto the hot metal, forcing it into the lower portion of the mold and creating a single piece. Forging is an expensive process but creates very strong pieces, as the hot metal’s “grain” is aligned to follow the stress lines of the finished product. Forging also allows for tight tolerances. Cliffside has many cabinet hardware pieces which are forged, with tools and dies ranging from small to large in size. Most of our cabinet hardware pulls, such as the B1 series and the B622 series in all four sizes, are made from forged brass, as well as all 5 designs of our solid brass cup pulls. Each SBCL and IBCL cabinet latch we sell is an assembly made up of a variety of small forged parts. Cliffside’s Sedona bronze cabinet hardware is also forged.

The advantages of forging

Due to the strength created by aligning the metal grain, forged metals are among some of the strongest in the world. However, the disadvantages to forging are the wear and tear that manufacturing processes can have on the tool used to make the metal piece.

Extruded cabinet hardware

The BH2A cabinet hinges are extruded from hot brass.
The BH2A cabinet hinges are extruded from hot brass.

The extrusion process, during which hot metal is forced through a die to form a shape, is most often seen in the manufacture of brass rods, as mentioned above. However, extrusion can be done in a wide variety of shapes; take a look at pasta, much of which is extruded into all sorts of shapes and sizes. Most knobs and pulls don’t have a chance at being extruded, because there are more efficient ways of making them. However, Cliffside’s cabinet hinges are perfect candidates for extrusion. When the hot brass is forced through a die, the metal is sheared off to very tight tolerances, resulting in a very high quality and strong cabinet hinge. Inset and offset, mortise and non-mortise: all Cliffside cabinet hinges are made using this method, which is why Cliffside offers the strongest brass cabinet hinges in the kitchen and bath industry.

Why extrusion is important

The quality and durability of extruded brass simply can’t compare to stamped hinges, which are punched out of a sheet of rolled brass. When brass is rolled, the grain is stretched. Conversely, when a brass rod or other brass shape is extruded, it aligns the grain, creating strength. Cliffside’s hinges are the perfect example of why extruded brass is the best choice for inset and offset cabinet hinges.

Other manufacturing methods

A wide variety of other manufacturing methods can be used to make cabinet hardware. One example is stamping, as mentioned above, where hardware is punched out from a rolled, flattened sheet of brass material. Punching through the brass can weaken it and create stress points, which is why Cliffside doesn’t offer any products that are “punched” or stamped in this manner. Another popular method is “casting”, where metal is heated to a liquid state and poured into a mold. There are several different kinds of casting, such as investment casting, sand casting, and permanent mold casting. Since Cliffside’s hardware is mostly brass, it’s rare to see a cast product in our line, and when you do, it will probably be made from zinc. Zinc melts at a much lower temperature than brass and can be formed into a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Casting molds are also much more expensive than forging molds, and although they have a longer life, the volume of manufacturing required to pay for the tool becomes high compared to the cost of the material. Also, as with any liquid material, it’s possible for bubbles to form in liquid metal, and if not removed, these bubbles can show up later and wreck the casting.

All in all, Cliffside Industries is proud to carry hardware manufactured to high tolerances and the best of quality to ensure that you are receiving exactly what you seek: a collection of high quality brass cabinet hardware. Check out our website for more information on the hardware lines we carry!

Designing by mood using colors

Cliffside’s internet dealer Gate to Garage has established a great infographic detailing how you can create a specific mood in a room by choosing specific colors. Cliffside’s hardware lends itself really well to many of these moods, working well with bold, neutral, and warm color palettes. With our great selection of hardware finishes to choose from, how can you go wrong designing any space with Cliffside hardware?

Pick a Mood for the Room Infographic
Infographic by Gate to Garage

An award-winning distributor of traditional solid brass hinges, knobs and pulls respected industry-wide for our customer service. Family owned and operated since 1987.