I was asked in a comment on the previous post where I acquired the brass plates and handles to match the one original surviving escutcheon and the witness marks from the original handles on the dressing table to be sold at Sotheby’s in January, 2022. It jogged my memory that I had not written a post about the handles as I had intended when working on the series about the restoration of the dressing table. This then is Part 5.
Dave Mitchell started a business reproducing 18th century furniture and building hardware in 1982 and we must have heard about him a few years after that. He is still in business today in Wilmington, Delaware as D. C. Mitchell LLC. It was difficult at the time for furniture restorers to find furniture hardware – either originals or high quality reproductions – to replace missing originals, especially elaborate and rare designs. A number of restorers in the area began to work with Dave, who we found could produce custom work of high quality.
We would make a pattern from a one-eighth inch thick piece of plexiglass that matched an original plate or a witness mark on a drawer front. We increased the size of our pattern by a couple of percent to take the brass shrinking as it cooled into account. The pattern was mailed to Dave who made sand castings of the pattern so the backs of the reproduction plates would have the sand-cast appearance just as the originals. He then milled the plates to the thickness that was needed and hand-filed the edges. When we got the new plates back from Dave they looked just like a new original might the day it was made. We would then distress the new plates to match the wear patterns of the surviving originals if there were any or decide the extent of the wear we believed the brass on a certain object should have if all the originals were missing.
I always ordered a few extra plates when I worked with Dave. In the case of the dressing table I asked him to send me one just as it came off the milling machine before he filled and polished the plates.
You can get some idea of how much work was involved after the plates came out of the sand mould. These were NOT inexpensive handles but there was nothing that could compare to them aside from finding a set of original brass that exactly matched witness marks on your object.
Dave also cast the posts and handles for the four pulls I needed for the dressing table and filed the edges of the plates, which in this case was complicated by the elaborate piercings. It’s a striking pattern I haven’t seen on another American object.