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Pay close attention to what the door knocker is made of. Some manufacturers get away with making low quality zinc or pot metal castings look good for a short time using plating techniques. The problem with these is the good looks do not last. Soon the plating is chipping and pealing away and corrosion is taking over. What type of mounting is needed? Most door knockers employ either through the door mounting or surface mounting. Through the door mounting involves drilling holes through the door. The mounting hardware passes through these holes and attaches to the door knocker on the outside. On the inside decorative nuts are used to secure the door knocker to the door. Surface mounting uses screws to attach the door knocker to the door.
The finish should match the rest of the hardware. Door knockers not only come in many finishes they are available in many types of metal. The most stable metal and probably the most common is brass. Brass is easy to machine and cast into shapes. It polishes into a bright gold like finish or satins easily and is easy to maintain. Brass also electroplates readily. This allows it to be nickel or copper plated to simulate pewter and bronze finishes. Because brass is non ferrous it will not rust. It will tarnish though for this reason a good lacquer finish is needed or your purchase will look terrible in a very short time.
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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.