Understanding Finishes

Most hardware is plated.  This means the piece is first cast in a metal such as steel then later plated with a finish.  Casting is one step, finishing is another.  The finish may then either be buffed to a smooth, polished surface or brushed with a wire wheel to make a satin finish.

When brass is used as a base metal the applied finishes adhere very well to the metal resulting in the best quality end product.  But the problem with brass is that it is both more expensive and softer than most other metals. For those reasons, brass use has sharply declined over the past 40 years since users have demanded a more durable product at the lowest possible price.  Steel has largely replaced brass in most hardware castings.

Flat products such as hinges are still available in several choices of base metals.  Brass and stainless steel are the most expensive versions but have their own obvious advantages.  But most hinges are made from steel these days as it offers the best combination of price, strength and quality of finish.

Hardware buyers typically don’t pay much attention to base metals unless an unusual situation arises.  One project may require rock bottom costs and therefore aluminum based products might be used wherever possible.  Another project may need the highest quality possible and therefore brass based products will be selected.


Most finishes come out the same, batch after batch.  But some finishes are designed to look different with every batch and even every piece.  613 Oil Rubbed Bronze is one of those finishes.

Traditionally, the 613 finish was designed to wear over time so an aged look would slowly appear.  And because the finish was applied by hand each and every piece produced would have its own unique look.  Most people loved the overall effect.

But it drove architects crazy.  They don’t like it when items vary from one to the next and complained loudly about the lack of uniformity.  In response, some manufacturers switched away from the traditional process and began using a machine applied finish.  Some even came up with finishes that would not rub off over time.

So today we have a mish mash where some 613 products use the old style finish and others come in a uniform machine applied finish.  You can’t always compare apples and apples when dealing with the 613 finish (also known as US10B).


All finishes look nice when they are new.  But over time some finishes loose that brand new look.  Smooth, polished finishes such as polished brass and polished chrome get beat up over time.  It’s the rings on people’s fingers that do the damage.

Satin finishes don’t have this problem.  They arrive beat up already.  Well, not exactly beat up but brushed with a wire brush to give them that satin look.  Scratches and dents just blend in with the background so you hardly see them at all.