Working on an antique door or making a new antique? Colonial period doors were a bit different and the door hardware they used was as well. The typical door hinges were made from iron in three very different configurations-strap hinges, H&HL hinges, and butt hinges.
The most dramatic early American door hinges are and were strap hinges. Traditionally made with a separate driven pintle to mount on the face of the jamb-the straps have open barrels which simply drop over the pin. Pintle strap hinges are the strongest door hinge there are and are frequently made for the largest barn doors weighing hundreds of pounds. Horton Brasses makes them in three stock widths, 1-1/2”, 2”, and 2-1/2” in various lengths. We have also developed some alternative pintles that aren’t 100% period correct but work better and install much easier. Our jamb mounted pintles are stronger than drive pintles and mortise into your door jamb like half of a butt hinge. Screw in pintles and surface mounted pintles are handy for light duty applications and unique applications like shutters. We also make butt plate mounted strap hinges that are one piece and can be surface or jamb mounted.
How long should your straps be? Traditionally strap hinges were made a minimum of 2/3 the width of the door-so a standard 3-0 door should take a 24” hinge. Colonial blacksmiths made long skinny strap hinges to help distribute the weight of the door while using the least amount of iron they could. They did this because raw materials, like iron and brass, were not allowed to be imported under English rule. Only finished goods, manufactured in England, could be legally imported into any British colony. Colonial smiths were constantly melting down old iron and reforging the metal into the pieces they actually needed. After independence, American’s moved westward and raw materials became far more available, so antique iron you find in the newer parts of American tended to be wider, heavier, and shorter.
H and HL hinges are surface mounted hinges, though they can also be jamb mounted, and were typically used for interior doors in a colonial home. They were simple and functional, and since the doors were generally smaller and thinner, they did not need to be as strong as pintle hinges. You will find that many colonial homes use straps on exterior doors and H&HL hinges throughout the interior.
Iron butt hinges were used in colonial American as well-although they were not as common as either strap hinges or HL hinges. Butt hinges really came into use in the mid 1800’s as more advanced casting processed made them economical. Our iron butt hinges are NOT cast. They are forged. Those old cast hinges from the 1800’s, while economical at the time, were very brittle. They tended to break. Our forged hinges will match the look and can be made to match the old mortises exactly-but they will not break. Forged iron is much stronger than cast iron-particularly cast iron from that time period.