Shop-Made Hardware

Make classy custom pulls, hinges, and knobs yourself using a few basic tools.

Did you know that you can make unique, eye-popping hardware using basic skills, a few simple tools, and common materials available at hardware stores? It just takes some imagination (we’ll get you started in that department) and a little elbow grease. Here’s what you need to know.

Mission possible: How to make a craftsman-style pull

You can make the classic beauty shown below with just the materials shown beside it. You’ll need 116 "-thick brass in 14 " and 112 " widths, a 1" inside-diameter brass harness ring, #8-32x2" brass roundhead screw, #8-32 hex nut, and #18x12 " brass escutcheon pin. 

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With just a few basic tools you can make custom hardware like this craftsman-style pull.

Many hardware stores carry all of these supplies, although you may have to go to a hobby store to find the brass plate. For a dealer near you, call the manufacturer, K&S Engineering, at 773/586-8503, ksmetals.com.

To make this pull, first cut a 112 "x314 " backplate from a piece of 116 "-thick brass. (We used a tablesaw outfittedwith a blade designed for nonferrous metals. A hacksaw, bandsaw, or scrollsaw with 3/0 jewelers blade also would work.) Straighten and smooth the edges with a flat file.

Apply one of the patterns, located on the link below, of this article to the plate using a spray adhesive. Strike each of the hole centerpoints with a metal punch as shown in photo below. Drill holes of the sizes noted on the pattern.

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Punch the centerpoint of each hole location before drilling.

Secure the backplate in a vise mounted to a solid workbench, and use a square file to shape the square holes as shown in photo below. (We used a 532 " square file to smooth hole. Squaring all 14 holes took us about 30 minutes, so find a comfortable sitting position. 

Brass B.jpg
Use a small square file to shape each of the square holes.

If you would like a hammered surface like the one on our pull, use a permanent pen to mark the approximate location of the strap that holds the ring (see photo below). Strike the entire surface, except for the marked area, with a ball peen hammer (we had good success with a 12-oz. model). Then, strike all along the edges to give them a scalloped look. In place of an anvil, we secured a heavy piece of angle iron in our woodworker’s vise.

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Hammer all of the backplate surface except where the ring strap will be soldered in place.

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Brass bends easily once you apply some heat to it.

To shape the ring strap, clamp a 14 "- diameter steel rod atop a strip of 116 " brass as shown photo above. Heat the brass strip with a propane torch until it glows red, grip its far end with a pliers, and bend the strip completely over the rod. Reheat the brass if necessary, and use an angle iron and hammer to pound a sharp bend into the strap as shown in photo below. Cut off the excess length of brass strip with a hacksaw, and file the ends smooth.

 Brass E.jpg
A short length of angle iron helps you pound a crisp bend into the ring strap.

To complete the hammered look, slip the harness ring over a length of steel rod secured in a vise as shown in photo below. Peen the outside surface of the ring; then move the ring to a flat iron surface and hammer as much of its inside surface as possible.

Brass F.jpg
Hammer the outside of the ring as you rotate it on a steel rod secured in a vise.

Pry open the brass strap enough to slip the ring into place, and squeeze the strap shut with a pliers. Secure the strap in a handscrew clamp as shown in the opening photo of this article and drill a centered 532 " hole.

Attach the strap/ring assembly to the backplate with the brass screw and nut. Tighten the nut so the strap compresses completely. Secure the threaded end of the screw in a vise and apply silver solder flux to the joints between the backplate, strap, and screw head. Heat these joints with a propane torch until silver solder melts when you touch it to the brass as shown in photo below. Do not overheat the joint or apply too much solder–if you do, some solder may seep behind the backplate and lock the nut to the back of the plate.

Brass G.jpg
Touch some silver solder to the fluxed and heated joints to secure them.

Back off the nut and clamp the screw threads in a vise. (If the nut is stuck, heat it with the torch.) Remove the excess solder with a sanding disc attached to a motorized rotary tool as shown in photo below.

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An abrasive disc mounted on a motorized rotary tool helps you quickly remove excess solder.

File down the screw head until you remove its slot. Do not hammer this surface or the ring strap–doing so may break the soldered joints. For help in deciding what finish to put on the pull, see the section “Four fantastic finishes” at the end of this article.

Now that you know the tricks, here are two more pulls

You can put either of these pulls together quickly using the techniques described in the previous section. They work great on small doors and drawers, or as lifts on box lids.

The ring pull features a 58 " compression sleeve (found in plumbing departments) mounted to a 116 x78 x2" brass plate with a #8-32x2" brass machine screw. 

We made the half-circle pull with a 12 " brass washer cut in half and two #10-32x2" brass machine screws. To expand the screw slot to fit the washer we used a small flat file. 

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Care to try this whimsical seahorse pull?

We found the pattern for this seahorse in a collection of clip art–a source that can provide you, too, with all sorts of patterns. You’ll find paper clip-art patterns at book stores and art stores, and in software packages available at computer suppliers. Such artwork covers everything from animals to sports symbols to holiday ornamentation.

To make the seahorse, you’ll use many of the same techniques described on the previous two pages for the craftsman-style pull. As shown below, you will need 116 " brass plate, two #8-32x2" flat head brass machine screws, two #8-32 hex nuts, and two 38 " brass inserts (available in plumbing departments). Here are a few more handy things to keep in mind:

 Brass sea horse.jpg

• We provide two patterns on the last page so you can mount the seahorses to face each other on cabinet doors that swing in toward each other.
• Use a scrollsaw and 3/0 jewelers blade to cut the seahorse to shape. Scallop its edges in the shaded areas on the pattern using a grinding wheel in a motorized rotary tool.
• Because the heads of the screws will be ground flat, countersink their holes slightly. That will provide more contact surface for the solder between the brass plate and the screw head.
• Solder the brass insets to the back of the seahorse. As with the craftsman pull, a nut temporarily holds the screws and inserts tight to the seahorse as you solder them in place.
• File the screw heads as close to flush as possible. Then, remove the last bit of screw head with a sanding disc as shown below. Sanding the heads flush this way without gouging the plate requires some dexterity, and you may not feel comfortable doing it this way. In that case, use a motorized rotary tool and grinding stone to level the screw head.

sea horse clamp.jpg
After filing the screw heads nearly flush, you can sand them flush with a disc sander. Use a gentle touch!

These distinctly different knobs go together in no time

Your next jewelry box or similarly sized project will shine with knobs like these.


To make the teardrop knob, insert a #8-32x2" steel machine screw through a 14 " flare nut (a plumbing fitting), secure the screw tight to the flare nut with a steel hex nut and washer, and mount this assembly in a drill press as shown below. For a steady rest, secure a 12 " hexhead bolt, 8" long, to the drillpress table. Adjust the drill press for its slowest speed and shape the flange with a coarse file. Switch to a fine-cut file for the final smoothing.

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Keep a file card handy to clean away the brass as it clogs the files.

Remove the steel screw and nut and replace them with a brass screw and nut. Stand this assembly upright in a vise and pour pigmented epoxy into the flare nut. Sand the cured epoxy flush with the lip of the flare nut.

To make the round knob, drill a 532 " hole centered on the end of a 12 " copper pipe cap. Insert a #10-32x2" steel machine screw through the hole with its head inside the cap. Secure the screw with a hex nut and chuck this assembly in your drill press. Set the drill press for its lowest speed setting and cut the cap to about half of its original length by holding a hacksaw blade against the spinning cap. Smooth the cut edge with files or sandpaper.

Round knob.jpg

Remove the steel screw and nut and replace them with a #10-32x2" flat head brass machine screw and #10-32 brass knurled nut. Cut a 58 " walnut plug slightly longer than the cap and secure it inside the cap with epoxy. After the epoxy cures, cut off the plug flush with the copper cap and sand smooth.

eardrop knob.jpg

Turn plain-Jane hinges into sparkling beauties

Ordinary 114 x114 " brass hinges like the one at right cost about $2 for a pair. You can easily modify such a nondescript hinge to look like the other two shown here with just a little sawing, filing, and polishing. Use the patterns on the last page, or design some to your own liking.

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Four fantastic finishes

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The pulls above show four different ways to give your hardware a distinctive finish. The polished pulls were buffed to a high luster using a buffing wheel mounted on a bench grinder as shown below. We first charged the buffing wheel with a Tripoli compound (available in sticks from hardware stores) by holding the wax-like compound against the spinning wheel. We then buffed the entire surface. (To reach tight spots we used a buffing wheel attachment on a motorized rotary tool.) Next, we cleaned the wheel by holding a piece of scrap wood against the spinning wheel. We buffed the pull to its final luster with jewelers’ rouge compound.

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Wear light gloves and eye protection to guard you from the debris that flies off a buffing wheel.

We treated the green pull with Patina green, available at craft and art supply stores. You also can buy the same product in a formulation that leaves a blue patina.

To achieve the brushed look we sanded the surface with 400-grit wet/dry silicon carbide abrasive paper. Sand with straight back-andforth strokes in one direction only.

These pulls will scratch or tarnish if left unprotected, so we coated them with a clear finish. This finish is especially formulated for brass and copper.

You can use any clear finish over the green or blue patina, but keep in mind that the finish will darken the patina as it did on our sample above. Experiment on scrap brass before deciding to coat a patina.

How to get your hands on low-cost brass and aluminum

You can find a bounty of dirt-cheap brass and aluminum at salvage yards and shops that repair truck and car transmissions, rear differentials, and brakes. Once these parts have outlived their original purpose, their scrap value is minimal; we got most of the brake and transmission parts shown here for free by simply asking to look through scrap bins (wear some gloves).

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