Common terms found throughout our website relating to architectural hardware, lighting, plumbing, and salvaged materials.


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Acanthus:  The acanthus is one of the most common plant forms to make foliage ornament and decoration. Both Acanthus mollis and the still more deeply cut Acanthus spinosus have been claimed as the main model, and particular examples of the motif may be closer in form to one or the other species; the leaves of both are in any case rather variable in form. The motif is found in decoration in nearly every medium.

Adam Style: A Neo-classical architectural style based on the work of Robert Adam (1728-1792) and his brothers. The style was predominant in England in the late 18th century. Characteristics include clarity of form, use of color, subtle detailing, and unified schemes of interior design. The style adapted Neo-Gothic Egyptian, and Etruscan motifs.

Alpaca Silver: Nickel silver, also known as German silver, Argentan, new silver, nickel brass, albata, alpacca, or electrum, is a copper alloy with nickel and often zinc. The usual formulation is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Nickel silver is named for its silvery appearance, but it contains no elemental silver unless plated. The name "German silver" refers to its development by 19th-century German metalworkers in imitation of the Chinese alloy known as paktong (cupronickel) All modern, commercially important nickel silvers (such as those standardized under ASTM B122) contain significant amounts of zinc, and are sometimes considered a subset of brass.

Anaglyph:  An embellishment chased or carved in low relief.

Armature: Structural ironwork in the form of framing or bars used to reinforce slender columns or to consolidate canopies or hanging members.

Art Deco: A decorative style stimulated by the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrieles Modernes of 1925, widely used in the architecture of the 1930’s, including skyscraper designs such as the Chrysler Building in New York, characterized by sharp angular or zigzag surface forms and ornaments. Also referred to as Style Moderne.

Art Nouveau: A style of decoration in architecture and applied art developed principally in France and Belgium toward the end of the 19th century characterized by organic and dynamic forms, curving design, and whiplash lines.

Arts and Crafts: English movement in applied art and indirectly in architecture during during the second half of the 19th century emphasizing the importance of craftsmanship and high standards of design for everyday objects.

Astragal:  a narrow half-round molding or a projecting strip on the edge of a folding door. An astragal is commonly used to seal between a pair of doors. The astragal closes the clearance gap. The vertical member (molding) attaches to a stile on one of a pair of doors (either sliding or swinging) against which the other door strikes, or closes. 

Back plate: The escutcheon plate that a door knob is seated in on a door. It is usually larger than a rosette. Back plates come in many different sizes and shapes, and range from plain to highly ornate.

Backset:  On a door, this is the measurement from the edge of the lock rail to the center of the door knob hole. On a lock or latch this is the distance from the front of the face plate to the center of the door knob hub or round part of key hole.

Bobesche:  The cup shaped disk that is placed over the socket of a candle holder to catch the drippings of a candle. On electric fixtures the disk is purely ornamental and sometimes used to suspend beads or crystal prisms.

Boot Size:  The hole or vent size in the floor, ceiling or wall which the mounting flange of a grate or register is inserted into.

Bore:  The hole drilled through the thickness of a door to allow a lock or latch to be installed. Modern doors if pre-drilled have a 2 1/8” hole

Bowl Fixture:  A ceiling mounted fixture consisting of a large, single bowl-type shade suspended from the canopy by 3 or 4 chains or rods.

Brass: Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties. It is used for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance; for applications where low friction is required such as locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs, for plumbing and electrical applications.

Bronze:  Bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin, resulting in a more reddish tone than brass. Bronze does not necessarily contain tin, and a variety of alloys of copper, including alloys with arsenic, phosphorus, aluminum, manganese, and silicon, are commonly termed "bronze". The term is applied to a variety of brasses and the distinction is largely historical, both terms having a common antecedent in the term latten.

Brass Tarnishing Solution:  A solution of acidic chemicals such as (selenic acid) which will oxidize unlacquered brass to a darker antiqued look resembling aged or tarnished brass.

Canopy: The part of a light fixture that mounts to the ceiling or wall and covers the junction box to which the fixture is wired. 

Capital: The tapered and often ornamental top to a column.

Carpet Hold:  A piece of metal hardware which is used to hold the ends of a carpet runner against the rise of the top and bottom stairs.

Carpet Rod:  A rod mounted with a bracket on each end to hold down a carpet runner at the bottom of each step of a staircase. Carpet rods are either tubular or solid, often brass, and are used now primarily to add decoration to a staircase.

Carpet Runner:  A carpet that “runs” up a staircase and is usually nailed or stapled to the steps.

Cartouche: An ornamental tablet often inscribed or decorated and framed with elaborate scroll-like carving. A motif that is often used in architectural details such as plaster, woodwork, lighting fixtures, hardware, and stained glass.

Casement Adjuster or Stay:  A hinged or pivoting rod attached to the base of a casement (side-hinged) window and the horizontal sill, allowing the window to be held open at various angles

Casement Window:  A window that is hinged at the side and opens outward.

Casting:  Process where molten brass, iron or other metals are poured and formed in molds often made of sand or wax.

Caster:  A fixed or offset pivoting wheel, made of wood, metal, porcelain, or plastic that is attached to the leg of a piece of furniture, allowing it to be rolled.

Chandelier:  A hanging ceiling fixture that has multiple arms or often made of crystal, glass, brass, or bronze.

Collar:  The raised portion of a door knob escutcheon in which the door knob seats.

Collonade:  A number of columns arranged in order at intervals supporting an entablature or overhang.

Collonette: A small decorative column.

Column:  A long slender usually vertical structural member such as a pillar, post, or strut.

Corbel:  A decorative or weight-bearing bracket that projects from a wall and supports a shelf, roof or eave overhang.

Cornice:  A horizontal molded projection that crowns or completes a building or wall.

Cremone Bolt:  A surface mounted door or window bolt operated by a knob or lever which locks into the door frame at the top and the bottom and spans the door surface.

Cresting: Ornamental ironwork that is installed along a horizontal roofline.

Cylinder Lock:  A cylinder lock is a lock constructed with a cylinder that a locksmith can easily unscrew to facilitate rekeying.  The cylinder may contain any of a variety of locking mechanisms, including the pin tumbler lock, the wafer tumbler lock and the disc tumbler lock.


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