All cabinet and furniture hardware is functional, as every piece performs a task. But the industry likes to separate pulls and knobs from the crowd, categorizing them separately as decorative because they have more perceived aesthetic value. Cabinetmakers may often disagree – many hidden hardware products such as slides, hinges and struts are beautifully engineered, and visually pleasing. The essential difference of course is that change in decorative hardware is driven by design trends, while advances in functional hardware are powered primarily by ergonomics and engineering.
Among the more evident movements in functional hardware of late have been gentle stops and starts, self-closing and foot-operated opening devices, top-hinged upper doors and several accommodations for other advancing technologies such as LED lighting, wireless device charging and audio-visual elements. Hidden shelf supports are also enjoying increased popularity, as are commercial elements in domestic settings such as barn door hardware and open shelving.
Panels and pockets
As might be expected, the pandemic has changed the market for functional hardware. Chip Kessler at Outwater Plastics Inds. (outwater.com) reports that his company has seen a surge in demand for its PDK clamp series. Those are small panel clamps that work with clear plastic panels to create screens and other PPE (personal protective equipment) products. Woodshops all over the country are using their CNC capabilities to ramp up production in this area. The Outwater hardware is designed to hold sheets in position either temporarily with clamps or permanently with screws, and it does so in a number of different configurations. The company is also supplying hands-free door pulls and both plastic and metal connecting clips for various clear panel thicknesses. As a sign of the times, the New Jersey showroom is open (masks are required) but the Arizona showroom is still closed as of the end of November.
Upper cabinet doors that open from the bottom (top-hinged) are becoming very popular because they allow a better view of the cabinet interior, and they’re also less intrusive in a crowded kitchen where open doors might impede traffic. Kesseböhmer USA (cleverstorage.com) recently added Freespace to its family of lifters, and the company says it’s the most compact and lightweight lifter available today. This is a hinge-free flap fitting with a sleek, compact design and serious load-bearing ability. The installation depth is less than 2-1/2”, so it can be fitted in very shallow cabinets while holding large doors.
U.S. Futuba (usfutaba.com) is a family operated hardware distributor with headquarters in Santa Ana, Calif. And among its latest catalog additions are a pair of hardware kits for flat rail bypass barn doors. The hardware for the surface mount option is steel with a powder-coated finish, and the black wheels are made from polyformaldehyde (POM). This kit can handle a pair of standard interior (1-3/8”) or exterior (1-3/4”) door panels up to 200 lbs. combined. The top mount version comes in either powder-coated or stainless steel and is designed for thinner doors from 1-3/16” to 1-3/4”, but with a higher weight capacity of 300 lbs. combined. A 4′ rail extension that is pre-drilled for a soft close mechanism is available only in a steel matte finish.
Another solution for dealing with large openings is the pocket door, and a new hardware package from Sugatsune (sugatsune.com) was designed so that all of the components could be accessed without damaging the pocket. Even the rollers can be removed without ripping into walls. The FD80H pocket door system is available with two-way soft-closing dampers for recessed or surface mounted applications. If anything should happen with the system, it has been designed so that all of the hardware components can be accessed and removed simply by taking off part of the track and removing the door. This also makes it easy to update the door. Sugatsune has also introduced new sliding door handles (item HC-3051).
Also for sliding doors, the new 116RC from Accuride (accuride.com) is a state-of-the-art, heavy-duty, linear track system. It has ADA-compliant linear motion and design, and in addition to sliding doors it will also accommodate large screens, panels, movable walls and barn doors. The track supports up to an impressive 793 lbs. and the aluminum track comes in a choice of 94.5” and 142” long. Woodshops can choose between strong stainless steel or quieter polymer ball bearing carriages.
For smaller doors, Osborne Wood Products (osbornewood.com) has introduced a bifold barn door hardware kit for cabinets. It lets cabinet shops install small barn doors in spaces that don’t allow for the traditional extended (wide) track. One side of the door remains in place while the other opens in the same fashion as the familiar closet bifold. But the hardware makes it look like a sliding barn door, and the moving end can pop off the track and allow the pair of doors to act like a regular hinged cabinet door. Ball bearing wheels glide along the track, and the kit has all the hardware needed for two folding doors (up to 100 lbs.) and it comes with various track lengths. Osborne has also introduced the Recessed V Stabilizer for solid wood panels. This is a simple device that is attached to the underside of a tabletop or counter, and it runs across the grain to minimize warping, wash-boarding, cupping or gapping over time as moisture content changes. The stabilizer bar fits into a recessed groove created by a custom router bit or CNC tool.
The Italian manufacturer Salice (salice.com/us/en) introduced a new universal hinge in 2020 that can be used with a very wide range of door materials and thicknesses. In addition to the classic cup for wooden doors, there is a plate-fixed version that is bonded to glass doors or mirrors, and a third version with a screw-fixed plate for doors made of materials that are becoming increasingly popular such as metal, ceramics, cements, quartz composites, HPL, HDF and MDF. These plates have screws that were developed specifically to obtain the highest holding strength in materials with a minimum thickness of 8 mm (5/16”). The slots on the plate also work with almost any alternative fixing method. Simply changing the position of the cup or the plate on the door lets the universal hinge work in a number of special applications and overlays, including inset doors. The hinge’s seven pivoting movements also accommodate half-inset doors, and doors with molded or mitered edges. There’s a soft closing version with integrated silicone-oil dampers and it’s even possible to convert a sprung hinge into a hinge with integrated soft-close, or vice versa. This hinge is also available with the Push self-opening system for handle-less doors. It comes in a nickel-plated or titanium finish with a complete range of hinge arm and flange cover caps that can be personalized on request. The universal hinge is compatible with all Salice mounting plates and is fully adjustable in three directions.
Projects managers requiring hinges with a high degree of durability may want to take a look at the line of institutional hinges from Grass America (grassamerica.com). They offer the perfect solution for institutional casework in schools, hospitals and commercial environments where the cabinetry needs to stand up to a considerable amount of use. The MB 8010 hinge system has all-metal construction and is designed for frameless cabinetry. It offers high load-bearing capabilities and opening angles up to 270 degrees. Another Grass innovation has been created to solve problems with interior corner doors in kitchens. The company offers several solutions here, including the Tiomos, Nexis, Nexis 21 and the 975 VZ. These PCC (pie-cut with a cup) hinges connect two folding doors in a corner cabinet and providing wide access to the interior of the cabinet. They can be combined with other space maximizing features such as the classic lazy Susan.
Properly locating functional hardware such as hinges and slides can be a challenge, and to that end in September Blum (blum.com/getintouch) released its EasyStick solution in North America. The Stanley, N.C. company’s new assembly device was engineered to complement its MiniPress P machines. It works with models from 2007 or later, and it takes the guesswork out of hole locating and drilling for Blum hardware. By entering specifications through its digital interface, stops on the device move automatically to the correct drilling positions. It’s ideal for shops that may not have a dedicated CNC machine for such specialized applications. It’s compatible with a range of Blum products and custom configurations, and these can be saved and easily accessed for future work. From setting the ruler to locating and drilling holes for front fixing brackets for Blum’s box systems, the EasyStick’s digital interface will notify users if an update is available, which can be easily loaded using a USB stick.
The Space Step from Richelieu (richelieu.com/us/en) is an interesting use of Blum hardware. It lets woodworkers create a pull-out storage unit that also helps customers reach higher than their normal physical reach. Among the suggested applications is giving children a boost so they can help with countertop chores, or letting adults reach the top shelf in a closet – and do so without the need for a portable stepladder or straddling an unsteady chair. It’s basically a kit that lets designers plan taller furniture, and also creates new additional storage space in the base area.
Shelves, closets and hinges
Woodshops with clients who want to add industrial strength shelving to a project will like an upcoming product from A&M Hardware in Mount Joy, Pa. (aandmhardware.com). Mike Bright says that his company will be adding a new adjustable bracket in that category early next year.
It will be available in either a black or white powder coated finish. The vertical arms are 15” long and there is a junction block included, so a shop can line up multiple arms for height and this allows for increased adjustability. Horizontal supports will be available in several lengths.
Rev-A-Shelf (rev-a-shelf.com) is based in Louisville, Ky. and many of its newest functional hardware is at home in closets. The company’s new closet rods have a unique notch and groove design that provides added strength and eliminates pole spinning. There’s a guard that protects the finish from scratches, and the 1-5/8” diameter poles are available in multiple finishes to match other closet accessories. They can be quickly installed in standard 32 mm pattern holes. It can be installed in front of clothes in the closet or under a fixed shelf, or perhaps behind a cabinet door.
Another one-touch pop-out from Rev-A-Shelf is the pop-out Valet Rod that holds up to 35 lbs. (perfect for heavy dry-cleaning bags). A telescoping version of the valet rod is also available. Then there’s the Elite pant rack pullout that slides out on full-extension, soft-close slides, showing off many pairs of pants at once. It has separately hinged, non-slip, steel hanger arms.
Rev-A-Shelf’s Tresco lighting division (trescolighting.com) has added SNAP panels, which are 12” x 12”, razor-thin LED light panels that can be broken down to 3” x 3” squares and connected back in any configuration, creating a perfect solution with complete light uniformity. Also new at Tresco is the FreeDim series of wireless remotes and dimmers that let a customer control kitchen accent lighting, even from another room. And Tresco’s new European inspired Alpha LED lighting, which was designed by the German engineering company Halemeier, is ideal for commercial displays, closets, drawers, shelves, and cabinet applications. It offers a multitude of features including motion detection, wireless installation and Center Spot Reduction optics that use a unique diode configuration to eliminate glare.
Emtek (emtek.com) has updated its popular heavy duty, square barrel, solid brass hinge. It’s now available in a new, thinner leaf option. While similar in style, the new Square Barrel Hinge option has a more standardized thickness of 0.125” vs the original 0.180” and features a small step on the wing near the knuckle which provides a more pronounced square hinge profile when the door is closed. The hinge barrel also features no exposed screws for an aesthetically clean look.
Häfele America Co. (hafele.com/us/en) has introduced a remarkably simple and fast way to build drawers using the company’s newest piece of functional hardware, the Ixconnect Claw (item CC 8/5/30). This single part connects wooden drawers quickly and easily without tools. The completely invisible claw connector requires some simple machining, saves time and increases shop efficiency. All that’s needed is a few standard drill holes (front: 8 mm; side: 5 mm) for the Claw to draw into the perpendicular panel material and make a nice, tight fit. Wooden drawer panels as thin as a half inch can have a reliable, invisible connection when the claw bites into the MDF panels. The company also supplies the Ixconnect Rear Panel Connector (item RPC D 5/24) that locks the bottom and rear panel in position when it snaps in place, again without tools.
The new and quite beautiful AvanTech YOU drawer system from Hettich America in Buford, Ga. (Hettich.com/en-us) is difficult to categorize as simply functional hardware because of its slim and sleek aesthetics. It offers a wealth of design options in terms of color, shape and materials. The system’s flexibility is due in part to a common drilling pattern and it also has a lot of vertical, lateral and tilt adjustment. That lets a woodshop get exactly the right reveal on drawer fronts, and the controls are all hidden inside the side panels of the drawers. Just slide the exterior casing back, release the front panel and make any necessary adjustments. The panel drops forward, which makes it very safe to work on larger, wider fronts.
A new heavy-duty system (225 lbs.) from Fulterer (fultererusa.com), the FR56, uses ball bearing slides with various functions and mounting methods. These include full extension, a gray plastic anti-tilt mechanism (item FR 5619), and an interlocking feature that lets the woodshop build stacking drawers that can be secured. This latter uses round aluminum pins that are cut to the appropriate lengths to simultaneously lock or unlock several stacked drawers.
Hardware Resources (hardwareresources.com) designs, engineers and manufactures an extensive line of products for the kitchen, bath and closet industries under four brands: Jeffrey Alexander, Elements, Task Lighting, and Hardware Resources.
The company sells only its own products, among which is the new EZ Open heavy duty (100 lbs.), soft close drawer slide (series 303-325) that can be ordered in either 3/4 or full extension versions. The zinc slide comes in 10” to 28” lengths, in 2” increments, and is soft-close.
Finally, Bainbridge Mfg. has introduced some new epoxy, adjustable drawer slide sockets (left and right versions) that make it easier for a woodworker to fasten the back end of slides to the cabinet. Measuring 7/8″ x 5/16″, they come in 8mm (item 6003) and 10mm (item 6004) pegs, so you just drill the holes and clip them in place. Packaging quantities are 25, 100 and 250.
This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue.