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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.
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.
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In olden times there were two different hand-knockers one male and one female as it was considered inappropriate for the woman of the house to open the door to a man. Visitors would use the knocker according to their gender. Each knocker would make a different sound so the woman of the house would know whether or not she should open the door. These gender-based knockers have become less popular in modern times. Door knockers have been used to symbolize everything from hospitality to good luck to warding off bad spirits. With recent ironmongery technology more iconic door knockers can be made by twisting the metal into intricate designs.