Each year we trudge the seemingly endless aisles of international hardware shows in search of new product and each year it seems to be more difficult to find unique pieces. But the world produces a near-infinite variety of cabinet hardware and there is always something that can inspire, or at least add to the aesthetic or structural value of projects. Squirreled away among the 180 pages of this catalog there are 680 products that are new to us and, we hope, new to you.
Casting off our normal cloak of modesty for a moment, we would draw your particular attention to the finely cast steel handles on page 179. These have all been reproduced from the Lee Valley antique hardware collection, but surpass the originals in the quality of detail. A hollow claim you say? Not at all.
The originals were made by traditional methods of sand casting. Although we draw from the originals to make ours, we first refine the details on the chosen models and then make master metal molds to cast near-perfect wax replicas. These replicas have stems applied (sprues in casting parlance) that allow them to be assembled into casting trees, a central trunk with as many as 50 or 100 pieces branching off from it. This wax master is then dipped in a clay-like slurry to coat it, the coating dried until set and the process repeated until a strong shell is formed over the entire wax structure. This shell is heated (to recover the wax) then baked in a kiln to harden it, much like a piece of pottery. This hollow ceramic tree is then held upside down and has molten steel poured into the trunk, which in turn fills all the branches.
This is the famous lost-wax casting process believed to have been developed in Egypt. At least, that is where the Greeks learned the process in about 600 BC and brought it back to popularize it in their empire. It has been used ever since for, among other things, the finest bronze sculptures and for much fine metal jewellery.
In a world that often changes more rapidly than we can cope, it is a pleasant surprise to see a traditional product still made by a process over 2500 years old.
Leonard G. Lee
P.S. Also new to this catalog is the section on project plans and supplies. We transferred this section from our main woodworking catalog to make room for more tools.