The Rise of Sand Casting in Decorative Hardware
Sand casting is one of the world’s oldest and most commonly practiced manufacturing methods, but for most of the 20th century, it was not widely used in decorative hardware. Modern design trends for high end, decorative hardware in the past century have favored geometric precision, refined finishes, and machined metal. Sand casting was regarded as crude and unsophisticated. In the early 2000’s, sand-cast hardware reemerged, but predominantly limited to a rustic or “Americana” aesthetic. Today, the use of sand casting is expanding into a new, modern adaptation that embraces the natural variation and “flaws” intrinsic to this process.
As the name suggests, sand—typically mixed with clay—is used to make the molds in this casting method. The texture of the mold leaves a coarse and uneven imprint in the resulting casting. The rough metal cast can then be lightly burnished by hand, tumbled or buffed until it has a high finish. The developing taste in high end hardware today is for a finish that retains the look of natural metal and reveals its origins in sand.
Since the Bauhaus movement, a dominant trend in both modern architecture and hardware has been a minimalist aesthetic that favors simple geometric shapes, eschewing ornament. These designs require great accuracy and smooth finishes, and therefore manufacturers rely on precision machine methods.
The ubiquity of modernist hardware designs created an opening for a return to the unpolished look of sand cast hardware. But as this trend emerged, most designs favored a provincial, rustic, and distinctly American look.
Today Hamilton Sinkler’s Sculpted Series, made in collaboration with the artist Mig Perkins, has produced distinctive and expressive forms for modern door handles using different models—natural, organic and sculptural—which are suited to the ancient method of sand casting and a departure from current sand-cast designs.
Perkins hand carves the free form sculptural shapes to produce handles whose “subtle curves and sculptural presence engage the eye and invite touch.” Each casting is unique, lending a bespoke finish to the hardware that also depends on hand polishing, buffing, and patinating of the handle.
Designs from this series adorn the Barney’s department store entrances in Chelsea, Manhattan as well as luxury residential projects. We expect to see unmachined, sand cast decorative hardware designs increase as the push towards a sophisticated organic aesthetic grows.