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.

pasta-214867_640

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.

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