Despite the technical advances of the last two centuries, E.R. Butler & Co. feels that some steps in the manufacture of decorative hardware should remain the exclusive domain of the human hand. Almost the entire process could be performed by machine, each piece an exact replica of the last, but the final product would lack the character that only a human can impart, that indescribable but potent quality that separates a machined piece from one that has fallen under the eye of a skilled artisan. It is a quality that makes each piece of E.R. Butler & Co.'s hardware truly unique, not only from that of other companies, but from every other piece in its collection.

Hand work is particularly crucial during manufacturing's final stages. Rough shapes can be formed with traditional casting and machining methods, but the final details that distinguish one style from the next are hand tooled and chased by men and women who give each individual piece their undivided attention.

The next step is one of the hallmarks of E.R. Butler & Co.'s line of decorative hardware and one of the trade's most artistic aspects: the finishing and patination of metal. Aside from the shape and design of any given piece, the other quality that will make it distinctive is its surface texture and color. All metals oxidize, or acquire their own natural patina or coloring upon exposure to air. Brass and bronze, both alloys of copper, are said to tarnish, as is silver. In the case of brass and bronze, this patina can be visually appealing and increase its value, whereas with silver it is usually frowned upon since it obscures the luster and glow that makes that metal desirable in the first place.

Depending on the chemicals they come in contact with, metals will acquire patinas of widely varying colors. Patina can be produced deliberately in this way by treating the metal with specific combinations of chemical compounds. This idea of patination, or introducing color deliberately, is most familiar in sculpture, where it has been practiced for thousands of years to impart a chosen color to a piece as part of its overall design. Some sculptors, such as Auguste Rodin, allowed only one trusted atelier of patineurs to patinate their works. Others, like Rodin's American student Paul Wayland Bartlett, were as celebrated for the patinas they invented as they were for their sculpture, and they guarded their formulas and processes, most of which were developed only through their own experimentation and desire to produce a specific effect on a piece.

The patineurs of E.R. Butler & Co. have carried this art over to the realm of decorative hardware and applied it to our nine standard base metals: brass, bronze, copper, nickel, silver, iron, steel, aluminum and zinc. These metals can be polished and left to acquire their own natural patina over time, or their appearance can be embellished with additional coatings of copper, nickel, silver or gold to blend with an overall design scheme. Gold, silver and bronze can be antiqued, nickel can be satined to appear grainy and matte, naturally yellow brass can be brought to a deep black or mottled brown. A host of hand hammering and chasing techniques are also available to add faceting and texture to any of our twenty-four standard patinas. Of course, we maintain the ability to replicate any existing patina or to develop custom finishes at a client's request.

–Dan Lane