Over the years D. Lawless Hardware has been asked probably thousands of times to help locate missing pieces of hardware. Many people are at their wits' end trying to find an original piece of hardware that really makes the piece and they don't want to replace them for good reason. 95%+ of the time we don't carry the hardware, but I have grown to enjoy the hunt and helping people out. Over the years we've developed several strategies that are by no means full proof, but will dramatically increase your odds. I hope this guide helps a lot of people out there by pointing them in the right direction. I'll move from the easy best bets to the strategies of a desperate person with nothing left to lose.
1. Markings on the Hardware
Examine the hardware for any and all markings. Many times the product number will be on the back side which will often solve your problem immediately. Even if you can find small apparently meaningless markings they may be very helpful when entering them into a search engine.
Any and all markings can be used to find what you need. Brand and product number are most common. Here is an example from our reproduction French provincial pulls. We hunted around and found an old original mold to use so that we would have a perfectly historical look. Well, the mold has a LOT of information on the back!
Here's the front...
Flip it over and voila! Right off we see the country of origin, a possible brand name, a possible product number, and another marking that is hard to make out but you never know what will lead to you finding the piece!
Mix and match the markings on the back of the piece with the keywords you have determined based on finish, style, length, etc.
2. Contact the Furniture Manufacturer
If there are no markings on the hardware then your next step should be to examine any branding or markings on the piece of furniture the hardware came off of. Oftentimes hardware was specifically designed for a piece of furniture and was never available anywhere but on the piece of furniture. You can also use this information to use Bing or Google to find the piece. For example, you have an unidentified piece of hardware, but it is from a (insert your brand) dresser. Searching the brand of furniture along with terms like "replacement hardware" or "bail pull" will often yield good results. Remember to mix up your keywords an be as specific as possible. Include finishing if necessary, size, etc.
3. Use Image Search
The strategies above can be enhanced by using the image search function of most search engines. I prefer Bing as I think it has the best image results. Once you have the keywords, it is then hard to wade through a ton of text results. But if you go to image search, you can scroll and scroll and scroll and hopefully SEE your piece. I have come up with some finds for people using image search over the years that have absolutely astounded them.
Once you have seen your piece you can click through to the image detail page where hopefully a lot more information awaits you. For example you can see the site the image is hosted on. Often times this is the seller, other times it is just a Pinterest image or from someone else's page who had posted up that piece. However, you can always click through in hopes of getting further information. If it's gone when you click through, contact the person that originally posted it.
This is all a lot of work, but it just depends on how desperate you are, haha! I have seen people make some miraculous finds by scrolling and scrolling for 15 to 30 minutes using different search sites and keywords. Also, this often leads to finding something VERY CLOSE to what you have, which is better than nothing in many cases.
If you need help knowing exactly what finish you have then our Hardware Finish Guide explains with photos all of the top finishes.
4. Try Posting on Hardware Exchange Sites or Furniture Restoration Hubs
The two best hardware exchange locations I'm aware of at the time are The Hardware Exchange and the D. Lawless Hardware Friends groups on Facebook. Post a photo and hope the group can help you out. The community of refurbishers and furniture artists is a very helpful group of people and I have seen many times someone find a super rare piece of hardware in a group like this and then the person mails it to them for cheap as well! Another good place to try posting might be Got Good Bones as they have a strong collection of knowledgeable people. Really amazing what the power of numbers can do. The Hardware Exchange has 14,000 members last I saw and our own group has 3,500+!
Other large forums:
Julie McDowell's Furniture Group
5. Ebay & Etsy
Both are filled with all sorts of vintage or simply used hardware. Not much to say here, but it is important to search these sites individually as they each have a different internal search algorithm and will display different results than Bing, Google, or any of the independent search engines. These are good places to re-try the strategies above by searching any numbers and markings. In my experience, Ebay and Etsy sellers are far more likely to include these markings in their hardware descriptions which drastically increases the odds of finding a match.
Additional Tips to be added over time. Fee free to submit your tips!
- Make sure and measure the centers of your pull in both inches and millimeters. Searching with one or the other yields different results and some pulls are specifically marketed in millimeters.
Best of luck!