We see a lot of glass door knobs here at the Hippo Hardware. Not only in terms of style, but age as well. Glass doorknobs were produced widely for over 50 years! Although the glass part of the knob is the flash and style, a big trick to dating them is in the metal base. The subtle design choices can tell you the difference between a 1900 door knob and a 1940's doorknob. These can then tell you are sorts of useful things like "Are these original to my house?" or "are these knobs are from the same set?".
Below is a brief walk through by era:
1890's - The Originals
These were super rare and cutting edge at the time. We like to throw around the term 'mansion-ware' here for stuff like this - only owned by the very wealthy of the time (thus not a lot made). Some glass hardware already existed, notably cabinet knobs, but nothing in the way of door knobs. These knobs feature a very wide base with steps up to the glass. The knobs are frequently if not exclusively pinned (not like your girl in the 1950's but like a brass nail running through the base to attach the knob to the spindle). This has the plus side of being very secure and the downside of being very hard to remove. These knobs are most easily distinguished by their base. The glass came in hexagonal, round, and even some more unusual shapes such as egg shaped or faceted spheres.
Octagonal glass doorknob with wide, stepped base. Pin secures knob to the spindle.
1900's - The Up and Coming
Here we see glass knobs become a little more mainstream but still not much outside of the upper class. This era, again not widely produced, features the more narrow (and familiar) base like but maintains the straight shaft (meaning not threaded, as will become very common later). An easy way to note these knobs is the narrow base without threads (requiring a user to screw directly into the spindle instead of threading a screw through the base). These door knobs also came in a wide variety of glass shapes, although what we see most often are octagonal, shown here.
Octagonal glass slip on door knob
1910's - Breaking into the Mainstream
The first twist-on door knob came out right about 1915, give or take a few years. The twist on style revolutionized all door knobs at the time, glass and otherwise. Instead of needing lots of tiny washers to get your knobs the correct width apart for your door, you could just screw down your knob and tighten the set screw - Voila! Modern magic. These first glass twist-on door knobs feature the same heavy cast brass bases, but instead of a smooth square, are round and threaded inside. See below for a great example: a twist on glass egg doorknob, a fantastic carved glass octagonal doorknob, and a very unusual hollow glass knob filled with mercury. Some additional clues here are the convex style (rounded top instead of a cut face) tend to be from this era.
Carved octagonal glass knob
Mercury glass doorknob with a twist-on base
1920's - Everybody Loves Me
It was really the 1920's that saw glass door knobs in a huge percentage of homes. They became affordable and accessible and boy did those homeowners love 'em. Here we see the twist on style base with the with the heavy cast brass but the glass is generally a more standardized shape - octagonal with a cut face or fluted.
Although they weren't common, Schlage patented and produced the first integrated knobset in the mid-1920's. These were new technology at the time and took another 30 years to really catch on.
At hippo, this is generally the beginning of where our stock goes from the specialty case to the beautifully mounded bins. A lot of the really great novelty colors (green, amber, blue), such as these great black glass knobs, were produced in this era.
1920's black glass octagonal doorknob
1930's - Keep On Keeping On
Glass doorknobs continued to be wildly popular, so much so that we really see the 'budget' versions getting big. Fluted style really overtakes the octagonal in popularity in the 1930's but both are still widely used. Although we don't have an exact date on when they started, something called 'contractor grade' aka 'super cheap' becomes much more common.
Additionally, as they become more wide spread, bases tend to move from cast brass to stamped brass over iron (like these guys - a fluted glass doorknob with a stamped brass base) or sometimes even stamped steel over iron. Additionally, this is really when we see all those unusual, creative glass shapes all but disappear. There were still outliers, but they become rare. Glass knobs had become more common in less affluent homes although were generally a step up from the plain steel knobs generally seen in working class homes of the time.
1940's - The Wave Has Crested
We finally start to see a small decline in glass knobs - octagonal fading much more quickly than fluted. Although they're still widely produced, they are beginning to lose their grip. Here we also get to see the beginning of the shift of the type of doorknobs you'd find at a new hardware store - the large drill outs and integrated latch. These knobs were produced in the 1940's through the early 1950's. We also see what we affectionately think of as the 'squashed' glass knob made by Dexter - a slightly squatter version of the fluted and round glass knob.
1950's - Time to Move On
Glass doorknobs were really on their way out by this point, having completed the cycle of rare elite to mass consumption to out of style.
1960s to Now - Reproductions
That certainly doesn't mean glass knobs weren't still made. Now, instead, the focus was on reproductions or restoration. Anything with a pot metal or ZMAC base is certainly in this category (such as these fluted glass knobs). Also a set screw with anything other than a slotted head screw is another dead giveway as a production. There are also higher end reproductions with cast brass bases (such as these octagonal glass reproductions here)
Reproduction fluted glass doorknobs
Reproduction octagonal glass doorknobs
Share any tips or tricks you may have in caring for, restoring, or replacing your glass doorknobs in the comments!
We love finding new ways to use old objects that aren't in demand anymore for their original purpose. As we launch into the holiday season, here are a few fun ideas on how to decorate and celebrate.
1) Get a Key for Santa
We have a bunch of great old keys. When some inquiring minds want to know exactly how Santa will get into the house, some parents have started leaving a key for Santa (gingerly side-stepping the whole Is-Santa-a-Burgler question). We have lots in our store and even a few online to choose from (like this awesome folding key shown below as well as a 'hippo-picks' large sized skeleton key).
2) Hang a Repurposed Wreath
We have awesomely crafty customers who build beautiful wreaths out of all kinds of things. We've had customers use metal faucet handles, door plates, door knobs, assorted light fixture parts, really you name it. Here's an awesome example we found of a wreath made of old tools! (We have some of those in our basement, btw!)
3) Vintage Windows Turned into Picture Frames
Who doesn't like seeing the beautiful faces of their loved ones all in one place? Antique window picture frames are great for decorations or holiday gifts. Our Architecture department stocks a wide variety of old windows perfect for the task.
Happy Holidays everyone!
This is the first post in a series called "A Few Of My Favorite Things" attempting to instill the magic of the sound of music as an individual Hippo employee waltzes you through their favorite objects in the store right now. These items may or may not be for sale online, but they are all available for purchase.
Morgan: One of my favorite things about working here is all the cool stuff I get to see. Not only do I own an old house, but I genuinely just like all this stuff. My taste skews pre-1940's. Modern's never been much of my bag but I can really get behind some good deco, Nouveau, Eastlake Victorian, and sometimes arts and crafts when it doesn't make me feel like I'm in a dungeon.
So, to begin, I'm really into this set of door hardware.
The knobs are deeply cast and the plates are just as burly with rich nouveau style. The pattern is called "Vendome" - Mm!
Next, a lovely set of three Deco shades. The bright color feels crisp and warm while the very round, squat shape reminds me of fruit.
Summertime makes me think of outside decorating. I love using these old parts and pieces to accent or even trellis my plants. In cases where I'm worried about rust, I've scrubbed them down with WD40, sanded them, and coated them with some good old rustolium.
Then there's this beauty. This soap dish really caught my attention for the curved lines and the really heavy quality cast. The finish is also in amazing shape. I'm a big nickel fan in bathrooms.
Lastly, is this really charming mission pendant fixture. The style is clean while showing off the deep green and opalescent orange glass. The light it throws is perfect for a hallway or exterior space.
That's it for now! What are your favorite salvage finds this summer?
It's hot here at Hippo. Real hot. But does that get us down? No sir. What do we do then, to survive the heat? We strike a pose in our amazing t-shirts hats (now available online! Click here for t-shirts and here for hats)
Available online are our fantastic Hippo hats (available in tan and black) and t-shirt (available in blue, grey, and yellow). We have a wide variety of sizes and if you don't see the size/color combination you need, just give us a call or email. We have them printed in small batches and can almost always accommodate requests.
And for us, we'll be prancing on the sidewalks until it gets too hot and then we may be closing early to get ourselves cooled down.
We hope everyone gets to have a fun 4th tomorrow. We will be out celebrating tomorrow and closed for business. Happy 4th of July and here's to some bright fireworks in the city and some bright stars to those lucky enough to make it out camping.
Our newest staff member volunteered to write a blog post and chose to share what it's like to join the Hippo-verse:
I am the newest addition to Hippo Hardware, and let me be the first to admit, it’s overwhelming! The never-ending inventory of super cool is jaw dropping. I’m caught repeatedly hypnotized in the spinning dazzle of yester-year whatevers too often, to the point of literally needing to keep my head down in order to stay on task. I’ve been a member of the lighting department since the beginning of this year. A series of serendipitous events has me exploiting a more electric side. My background is scattered with fifteen years or so in the home restoration business, and while several avenues have led me to develop artistically, my foundation is firm in the world of “I’ll need to look at it, but I think we can fix it.” Seems there was a little hole in Hippo’s repertoire that was carved just for me.
If you are looking for any fix it for your home, save yourself the headache of wasted time and under experienced staff, come here first. If we don’t have what you need we will know where to point you next, if there is a direction to follow… There are strong men, at the ready, to lift and load any claw foot, light fixture, door, or mantel. There’s a revolving crew of ring master stand-ins, Steve Miller being the one and only original, all at the ready for an on the spot stand up and well thought how to DIY. Every department has a magic of it’s own with the third floor shining spot lights, chandeliers, sconces, floor-table-desk lamps, and sputniks ready to take off in a rainbow show. Come one, come all into the labyrinth of stairs and ramps.
A Brief Introduction:
Let's start with Plumbing
Now, our Lighting department:
And then there's Architecture:
Last but not least, Hardware:
So in conclusion:
A frequent question we get asked here at Hippo isn't so much a question as a look of panic and frustration. People come in holding lovely glass door knobs in their hands telling woeful tales of friends stuck in the bathroom or spouses trapped in the garage. They say their knobs are broken and they need a new set.
Octagonal and fluted (occasionally round or rarely other unusual shapes) glass door knobs are common throughout Portland as well as buildings from the 1920's - 1940's. And eventually, they fail. It's a remarkably elegant failure because the solution is fairly simple. Below we'll walk through the most common type of failure and how you can fix it rather than buy new knobs.
Step 0 (aka the problem) - Your knob spins or falls off in your hand
If your door knob just spins when you try to turn it or even 'skip's when you're turning, chances are your threads have worn out. Commonly, they either simply wear down completely
or the pressure of the steel will carve out a square shape where there should be a circle:
Before we dive in, there are other common problems that may cause your knob to spin or fall off though, so let's rule out a couple other scenarios first.
Scenario A) Your set screw is just loose. Find your set screw in the 'collar' or base of your knob, make sure it's sitting on the face of your spindle (not on a corner). To check, take out your set screw and look through the hole. If you see a corner, twist the knob a little further. Otherwise, tighten down the set screw and check to see if your knob still spins. If not, then you're already done! Victory lap!
Scenario B) Your door knob's glass has come loose from the collar. To test this, hold the collar, or base, of the knob, and see if the glass spins independently. If so, this will require some MacGuyvering with super glue (we recommend the super runny xylene based kind to really get in there and twisting the glass part around while it's wet to get all the crannies) or possibly just replacement.
Assuming neither scenario is true, let's move on to step 1:
Step 1 - Take both knobs off the spindle
This can be accomplished by unscrewing both set screws, unscrewing your knobs from the spindle.
(Tip: You won't need your set screws anymore, but if you have a whole house of the same knobs, we'd recommend keeping these little guys around because if one gets lost, they can be difficult to replace.)
When you look in your knob's collar, it will probably look torn up, flattened, and mostly square instead of mostly round. This is another good indicator that your threads have done their duty and are no longer functional.
Step 2 - Acquire a new spindle
The easiest way to do that at Hippo is to bring in your knobs. If your threads are damaged enough, you can use a spindle with no threads, and only straight tapped holes. However, most of the time it's easier to use a spindle with both thread and straight tapped holes. This way, the knob will screw on so you don't have to battle the remaining thread.
Most knobs fit on a 20 thread spindle but some do not. If you come into Hippo, we can trouble shoot with you in person. If you can't bring it in here, you can take your knob or spindle to a local hardware store and find out the thread.
We sell offer a 'spindle kit' which includes the spindle, two set screws, and 6 washers. Spindle kits can be purchased here (Note we have some updated information on spindle kits - read more about them here)
f you purchase your spindle elsewhere, make sure you also get two straight tapped screws which will screw directly into the spindle, and many small washers that you will use as needed to keep the knobs from sliding back and forth in your door.
Step 3 - Attach one knob to the end of the spindle
Screw on knob onto the spindle and keep screwing until you get as far down as possible and have the set screw hole over the hole in the spindle. It's easiest to screw it down as far as possible and then back up the nearest hole. Screw in the new set screw (through the knob, into the spindle). Your knob should feel tightly attached to the spindle.
Step 4 - Put the spindle through the door
Assuming your door, latching mechanism, and plates are still attached (if not, attach them now), put one or two washers on the spindle and slide them down to the base of the door knob. This is an estimate and will likely need to be tested and changed a few times to get it right. If, even with all six washers, the spindles are still too long for your door we suggest you cut down your spindle instead of continuing to stack washers.
These washers should nestle between the base of the knob and your door plate. Then push the spindle through your door.
Step 5 - Attach the second knob
Now, place one or two washers on the end of the spindle poking through the door. Again, use your best guess as to how many washers you will need based on the length of the spindle and the depth of your door plus plates.
Install the other door knob, following the same tactic of screwing down as far as possible and then backing up to the nearest spindle hole. From this point, you can see where your knobs will sit and if your washers are correctly placed. If you need to add or remove washers, now is a good time to do so.
Once your washers are set, screw down the second knob, screw in the set screw, and voila! Your beautiful original door knobs once again are working like champs! Victory lap!