Hinges are at least as important an item in cabinet brass-work as any of the foregoing, and some space must be devoted to a few of the chief varieties.
Butt hinges are those for which there is most employment, as they are constantly met with, and they are probably more used than all the others put together. When it is said that they are the hinges ordinarily used for doors, even those who do not know them under the name of butts, will recognise them as the common plain hinge with long narrow plates, which can be fixed to edges of wood. They are, of course, made in a number of sizes, and for furniture purposes are almost invariably of brass. For superior work they are to be had with the fronts, i.e., the sides of the plates which are visible when a door is open, and the backs of the knuckles polished and lacquered. These, however, are not often seen, unless on things of the finest quality, as an ordinary well-finished brass butt is usually considered sufficient. The wire or pin connecting the two plates, as is well known, generally stops short at the ends, but in an ornamental kind known as knob or tipped butts, they are finished with a small brass knob or tip which relieves the crudeness of the plain hinge.
When fitting these, and indeed all other hinges, some care is necessary that the work should be done properly, otherwise the door or lid cannot hang properly or open and shut without unduly straining them. It seems almost unnecessary to say that one hinge is seldom used alone, at least two being required in almost every door, etc. This being so, it is essential that the pins should be in the same straight line. Were they to slope in different directions, or one to project further than the other, the slightest consideration will show that the door could not move easily and freely as it ought to. The novice, now knowing what is requisite, will have little difficulty in working to the following hints. It may be supposed that a door has to be hung; for those who can manage this can easily fit the hinge under different circumstances. A very slight acquaintance with furniture will show that a door may either cover the edges of the carcase ends or be within them, and, according to the arrangement, the hinges must either be sunk in the edges of the door or of the ends. The custom is not invariable, but, as a rule, when a door is within the ends, the hinges are sunk in it. When the door is outside the carcase, the hinges instead of being let into the back of it are let in the edges of the carcase ends. It may help the novice to remember which is the best plan, by reminding him that the hinges should be sunk in the edges and not on the flat surfaces. If a well-fitting door is wanted, the hinges should be sunk so far that they are, when closed, just flush with the wood, in other words, that the door can lie close even when the hinge is in place. The space cut away near the knuckle should be exact, but it is customary to cut away slightly deeper towards the other, or the inner edge of the plates when the door is closed, in order to allow for any slight projection of the screw-heads.
To mark out the width for the space to be cut, set the gauge to half the width of the open hinge, and scribe from the front of the door. By this means the hinge pin will be where it should be in ordinary circumstances, viz., just outside the surface of the frame.
Usually it will be found easier to fit the hinge to the door first, instead of the reverse; but, of course, if the latter plan should ever be the more convenient there is no reason why it should not be adopted.
When the hinges are fastened to the door, hold this as nearly as possible in its place and partly open, the free hinge plate being also open. Now just bore one nail hole, using one of those in the hinge as a guide, and then screw up. This will to some extent serve as a support while the bottom hinge is being treated in the same way. If the door hangs all right, and opens and shuts easily, the other screws can be driven in, but in case it does not, try again with one screw in each hinge. By making only one hole till it has been ascertained that the door hangs correctly the wood is left intact for the others in case any alteration is necessary. When arranging the position of the door it is a good plan to put a piece of glass paper, knife-cut veneer, or something equally thin under it. This prevents it fitting too tightly against the bottom, and may save some trouble afterwards.
Whenever appearance is of consequence brass screws should be used to fasten hinges on with. Attention to these little details wonderfully enhances the appearance of good furniture, and a careful cabinet-maker pays as much regard to them as to the more important structural work.
Back flap or table hinges are squarer in shape than butts, and are used to connect wide surfaces such as the flaps of tables. To the cabinet-maker they are next in importance to butts. As they are often not visible when fixed they are largely made of iron as well as of brass.
Card-table hinges are of two kinds. In one the hinge is let into the top of the table, and in the other, the older form, into the edges. They are so constructed that they lie flush with the wood in which they are sunk, the two plates being connected by a small one instead of with a pin. These hinges are used for counter tops and all similar purposes where the knuckle of the back flap would be objectionable.
Desk or bagatelle hinges may be compared to back flaps, as they open in the same way, but have long plates and short pins.
Screen hinges are made with double action, that is, they allow the folds of a screen to be moved in either direction. On account of their cost they are seldom used except on folding screens of the highest class.
Centre hinges were more used formerly than now. They are let into the top and bottom edges of doors, one plate being sunk in the corresponding part of the carcase.
Piano hinges may be regarded as very long butts, one of the plates being continuous, and the other in short lengths. They are used by cabinet-makers for a variety of purposes, such as fixing davenport lids, or anywhere, except doors, when it is considered that one long hinge will be an improvement on two or more short butts. They are necessarily somewhat expensive, so that they are rarely seen on common furniture.
Hinge plates of a decorative character are sometimes used, though they are not much in favour. They may either be part of the hinge, in which case the ornamental plate is fastened outside, or, as is more usual, they are separate, and are screwed on outside close to the knuckle of an ordinary butt. They sometimes look well, but the way in which they are employed is rather too artificial to be altogether in harmony with the spirit of the best modern furniture.
Escutcheon plates for fitting over keyholes, or rather on the wood surrounding keyholes, are frequently used in place of the ordinary thread escutcheon, which is merely a rim of brass shaped like a keyhole and forced into the wood.
Brass handles are made in an almost endless variety of patterns, and there is no doubt that by a judicious selection the appearance of almost any article of furniture is considerably improved by using them in place of wooden or other knobs. They should be fastened on with brass screws, most of them being prepared only for those with rounded heads. Being mostly made in Birmingham, the professional cabinet-maker will find it considerably to his advantage to be in communication with a cabinet brass-founder or factor there, as it is rare to find a retail dealer, except, perhaps, in the neighbourhoods largely frequented by London cabinet-makers, who keeps much of a selection. In connexion with these remarks, it may be said, common, low-priced brass-work, whether in the form of hinges, locks, castors, or the thousand and one odds and ends of handles, hooks, etc, is never advisable. Good brass-work frequently redeems an otherwise poor piece of furniture, while the appearance of many a well-made article is, in the eyes of those competent to judge, utterly spoilt by the use of common light brass-work. A satisfactory handle for a large sideboard cannot be got for a few pence, nor can the cheapest castors be expected to bear much weight. Using inferior brass-work on good furniture is very much akin to 'spoiling the ship for the sake of a penn'orth of tar.'
It has, of course, been impossible to do more than touch on some of the more commonly used brass-work, and the novice must by no means consider that the list has been exhausted. Enough, however, has probably been said to enable those who wish to do so to extend their inquiries, and they will find that there is hardly an article of metal work required in furniture which is not readily procurable from a Birmingham cabinet-factor.
I am aware that in obtaining things from this source the amateur must necessarily be at a slight disadvantage when compared with the professional cabinet-maker, as the founders and factors as a rule do not care for retail orders, their business being confined to supplying dealers and cabinet-makers. In large towns there are generally shops where cabinet brass-work is sold, and through these the amateur will have little difficulty in obtaining what he requires, though he must be prepared to find many dealers who are not so competent as the special factors to give advice as to what will be the best to use in unusual circumstances.