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The first known knockers were made out of wrought iron. These simple ornaments consisted of a thick ring and a plate which were used in the 17th and 18th centuries throughout North America and Europe. Human faces (not ghastly like Jacob Marley) an animal faces were popular designs that are still used today. The craftsmanship on some of these knockers was elaborate enough to compare to the most-polished sculpture. Basically the purpose is to save the knuckles of visitors. Although they mainly serve as decoration they are still made of brass pewter iron or stainless steel to be durable enough to withstand outdoor elements. Plus they must be heavy enough to make a sound when they are tapped against a door. Cast iron styles have been favorites for a long time for their simplicity and sturdiness. They are also good for complimenting a Western theme. Pewter is another popular material.
Choosing a knocker is typically a decision made on personal preference as-well as the design of the door itself and the exterior of the home; however you should always bear in mind the purpose of the door knocker. Along with other items of furniture for the home the main concept is allowing people outside a house to alert those inside of their presence while providing an attractive addition. The structure of the device consists of a part fixed to the door and an additional part attached by a hinge that may be lifted and used to strike a plate fitted to the door or the door itself- thus making a noise and alerting the occupants within. Although knockers can simply consist of a fitting with a metal ring more often than not they are ornate.
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It can be difficult to find a new door knocker with the same BC dimension. Especially if the original one has been there for many years. There is no standard for the BC dimension. The BC for the most part is determined by the design of the knocker. The mounting lugs used to attach the hardware are usually placed at a thicker portion of the casting. This is to give them more strength. Sometimes you have to settle for a replacement that is close. If the two BCs are within 1/4 or 3/8 inch of each other you can usually enlarge the holes in the door a bit to make the fit. If you are lucky the existing mounting hardware will cover the enlarged holes.