Switch Plates – Replicating Antique Home Hardware

Appreciating history is something many homeowners are learning to do with their homes these days. If you have moved into an old home, are you going to take away it’s past? Or better yet, are you going to help it recreate its past?

From the switch plates to the banisters on the stairwell, every piece of an old house has a story to tell. If a home has been standing for hundreds of years, imagine the history it’s had and the stories it could tell, if only it could talk.

When you first move into the home, take a tally of what is intact and what needs a little work. You may want to start small, looking at the accents in the home like the switch plates and doorknobs. Are they all in good working order? If some have broken, you may be worried you’ll never be able to replace them because they are antiques, which are no longer being made. This is not necessarily true.

The first thing to do is see if you can find an antique that matches yours. This is the easier way to solve your problem. Thanks to the internet it is much easier to do this today. You could take a picture of one of your good switch plates or knobs and send them to various antique dealer websites and forums. Ask people if they can help you find a duplicate. Often you will get a pretty quick answer about whether or not you will be able to find any replacements, as well as some possible information about your items. While it may seem odd, there are people who only collect and focus their antique knowledge on doorknobs and switch plates.

If you don’t have any luck there, all is not lost. There is a way to have a reproduction made of the broken piece. It’s called the lost wax process. In this process you will give a mold maker the piece you have that is in good shape. They will create a plaster mold of the piece. This mold will have all the minute details of that piece, so when a new one is made it will be almost a clone.

Next hot wax is poured into the mold. It is not meant not fill it up, just create a skin of the walls of the mold. Once the wax is as thick as it needs to be, it is removed form the plaster frame. If the process has been done correctly, the wax piece will now look just like the original piece of hardware.

Now wax tubes are attached to the sculpture that will allow a place for air to come out and molten metal to go in when it comes time to pour the piece. Before there is any metal pouring, the wax shape with tubes is layered with a liquid silica and sand compound that after a few layers creates a shell that feels almost like ceramic around the wax sculpture.

Now the creation is put in a very hot kiln, upside down, to allow the wax to pour out.

Finally, it’s time for the metal. The molten metal is poured in, allowed to cool, and after a little buffing, there is an exact copy of the switch plates or doorknobs you were looking to replace in your home.