The Baldwin Hinge

The Baldwin Hinge – origin & restoration

Most of the nearly 200 front doors that I have restored have been hung for over 100 years on Baldwin hinges. This blog tells of their origin, why they are so good and how to restore them.


Antique Lion Head Door Knocker

Restoring antique door furniture

You may know that we restore Victorian front doors but you may not be aware that any door furniture on your front door can be restored as well, like this lion knocker and antique electric door bell push.

I’ve written other articles on restoring door furniture and stained glass so I won’t be going into that. Here I’m going to tell you where the Baldwin hinges, that most Victorian front doors hang on, come from.

I’ve restored old Georgian knockers, Victorian knobs and rim locks (we can even supply keys without the original) but with most restorations I also restore the things the door hangs on, buried in a hundred years of paint – the hinges. And these are very often Baldwin hinges.

You may never have seen the hinges on your door because of the paint that’s been slathered on them over a hundred years but Baldwin hinges are a thing of beauty, cast from iron with the Baldwin name proudly stamped into them.

Let’s take a trip to the midlands – The Black Country!


The Stourport Foundry Background

Located in the town of Stourport-on-Severn near Birmingham (UK) on the aptly named Foundry street – The Stourport Foundry was founded in the height of Britain’s industrial era. It is hard to know exactly when the Iron foundry was established, evidence from leaseholds point towards the late 1770’s – the middle of the Georgian era. What is known, on the other hand, is that a myriad of steel and iron products from iron gates to lamp-stands were manufactured within its walls and predominantly by hand.


The Baldwin Hinge

Restored Baldwin hinges

Certainly among one of the finer creations to come from the Iron Foundry is the Baldwin hinge, given its intricate and somewhat confusing mechanics – the hinge appears almost mystifying. Having been made in the 1880’s the hinge is naturally most used on doors fitted in the Victorian Era (1837-1901), a quick check of any vintage door you may pass through in the future could likely provide you with a view of this intricate hinge, unless it’s covered in 100 years of paint! Though appearing outwardly similar to today’s commonly used hinges, it is clear to see, upon further inspection, that the Baldwin hinge is quite the contrary.

It is completely counter-intuitive to imagine a hinge without a center pin, “How could the parts move relative to each other in that case?”, you may be left thinking. This leaves us with an intriguing puzzle with a more than satisfying answer.

The Stourport foundry, being famed and acclaimed worldwide for its wonderful hinges, by no means would have been lackluster in the creation of its star product. The demand for increase in output of hinges was huge, yet the process of making a Baldwin hinge was tedious and time consuming as we will see.

The perfected process began with the use of pig iron bars which were often delivered using the canal adjacent to the foundry. The bars were subsequently dropped in particular manner that would produce various smaller pieces of iron. These iron parts were then placed in a cupola and melted.

The Elusive Hinge Pin

Painted Balwin Hinges

From this molten iron, under extreme pressures – one side of the hinge was forged. The next step could perhaps explain the popularity of the Baldwin hinge.

Shockingly, there is a pin involved! The pin would have been reinforced and strengthened using camel hair, whale oil and many other reinforcements that led to durability and imperviousness to wear. The pin was even dipped in sand to ensure it wouldn’t stick to its surrounding iron components.

Upon being placed in the box of one side of the hinge, the other half would then be made and attached. This left the pin firmly hidden in the middle of the hinge.

Most Victorian front doors that we restore are hung using ‘Baldwin 200’ hinges, often we don’t even know they are Baldwin until we strip off the paint. It’s great to see the embossed BALDWIN brand stamped on to the steel as it is revealed with the scrape of a chisel in the workshop.

After stripping the hinges clean we wire brush them down to the steel and treat them to emphasize the mottled texture of the hinge, the Baldwin brand clear to see.


Farewell To The Stourport Foundry

Stourport Foundry Warehouse

All workers of Stourport foundry were asked to give one week’s notice in January 1956, the foundry was then completely discontinued at the end of the year. The building came to be demolished in 1967 leaving only the warehouses and the offices of the Foundry where the unique Baldwin hinge was once made.


Restoring Old Hinges

Removing paint from hinges

Stripping paint from Baldwin hinges

When restoring Victorian hinges there will probably be over a hundred years of paint on them, this needs stripping. We chisel it off to start with and the scraping doesn’t harm the cast at all but I would advise you to be careful.

You can either use a paint stripper to get the rest of the paint off, scrubbing with a wire brush, or if you have a heat gun this will melt the paint, scrub it off with a wire brush – our preferred method.

There’s a list below of tools we use.


Polishing cast iron Baldwin hinges black

Liberon Black Patenating Wax

When there is just steel left we simply rub them down with a Scotch pad and Liberon Black Patenating Wax. I bought my tin of this in 1995! You really don’t need a lot.

They look so beautiful and look great with brass or chrome door furniture.


Tools We Use For cleaning up Baldwin hinges

HEAT GUN
Dewalt Heat Gun for stripping paint

We strip the paint from the hinges with our DeWalt heat gun. As there are no plastic or heat sensitive components to the hinge you can use heat on them.

WIRE BRUSHES
Simple wire brush set

Scrubbing the paint off the hinges we use wire brushes. You don’t need anything expensive! Don’t hold the brushes under the heat gun!!!

PATINATING WAX
Liberon Black Patenating Wax

When the hinges are ready we’ll rub them with Liberon Black Patinating Wax. It protects the iron from surface rust and gives them a real nice black rustic sheen.

SCOTCH PADS

We use a small piece of Scotch Pad to rub the black patinating wax onto the hinge to protect them.

WIRE WOOL
Liberon wire wool for polishing hinges

Liberon wire wool is brilliant for removing the final bits and applying the wax. Alternative to a Scotch pad.

LINT FREE CLOTH

Rustin’s Lint Free Cloths are perfect for polishing after applying wax. They can last for ages if you treat them like a tool rather than a throwaway. We give the hinges one last dry polish with one.


alternatives to baldwin cast iron hinges

We only really get hold of Baldwin hinges when we restore a front door.

If a hinge is broken, failing to find a match on eBay I use either of these options. They’re made in Britain and have a slightly different finish. Depending on the front door we’re fitting them to, they can look better than using new hinges.


D4952 Blacksmith Beeswax Ball Bearing Hinge Balwin Alternative

D4952 – Blacksmith Beeswax Ball Bearing Hinge

This 4 inch hinge will be plenty strong enough to hold a front door and will last forever, having ball bearings.

It’s made in Wales by From The Anvil.

Get some here


D2251 Kirkpatrick Butt Hinge Baldwin Alternative

D2251 – Kirkpatrick Butt Hinge

British made by Fitzpatrick, these 4 inch hinges are just as good a quality as the Anvil ones above.

I may use these when I want a darker finish.

get some here


Using a Baldwin hinge alternative

You’ll probably have to cut the hole for the hinge a little larger and pack it with a slip of wood because the leaves are larger but thinner.

If you have any questions about our methods or tools we use, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Just don’t ask if we have any for sale, LOL!


Now, you really should read this…

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