EBay Works so Well

eBay is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it, or so it seems. It seems such a small thing to buy a simple sliding bolt for a cabinet or the exact hinges you to hang your doors on. Then there are those now quite unique countersunk head brass screws that cost too much in a pack of five when you need 24 of them. The savvy seller of a few “new-old-stock vintage brass screws” splits the box of a ‘gross’ (144 or 12 times a dozen) into zippy bags of five to sell for £5 plus another £1 for shipping as an eBay seller. But I found a seller selling a bag of 50 for £5 and £2 shipping.

Trying a local hardware supplier on the high street is rarely if ever an option today. In times past here in the UK, I could have passed half a dozen hardware shops in the town where `i lived and even a village had one such shop. Those days are gone and the ones that remain usually sell lower-grade import tack at a price they can mark up to compete with online suppliers selling from their garage to minimise overhead. The very overpriced big box stores have very limited choices for you to pick from too although standing staring at the racks might make you think differently when in the store. Such sad demise of global supplying has maximised confusion and yet offers an only minimal solution.

It took me just a few minutes to find hinges, a sliding door bolt and the right screws for the hinges using the right terms. ‘Screws’ doesn’t work to well as a stand-alone term. Good screws were an old or vintage stock is a brand called Nettlefold here in the UK. I put in ‘New old stock brass screws 3/4″ Nettlefold” and found a full box for £12 and free delivery.

It took me longer to find the sliding bolt and I was looking for face-fixed versions because they are simpler to install but would have preferred a vintage version and even ones that were well worn if in good condition. But I came across many vintage versions that were ‘let in’ types and ones that were very nicely made from the days past. I ended up with some DORMA brand which is an old established supplier. In times past anything made outside of Britain would be marked ‘foreign’ just for clarity that the quality might be less than a made in Britain stamp. In this case, they were snazzy little bolts with nice features in that they would be barely visible when installed and had a neat little catch to them that prevented anyone from sliding a penknife in the gap to tease the bolt up to release the doors. To open the bolt you had to press the slider button in and the bolt bypassed the catch and unlocked the door. It’s a nicely made unit altogether. You do have to watch for the word ‘vintage‘ these days on eBay. Many Chinese manufacturers use the term loosely and manufacture goods to sell with vintage as the opening description in the title. I come across that all the time these days.

Hinges can be hit and miss without images, measurements and descriptions. Comparisons are shown below but what to look for can be difficult because sellers don’t know what is critical to us makers. In the following image, you can see a comparison between one maker and another. The problem is they rarely give a maker’s name because they could be made anywhere in the world. I have discussed hinges recently in another blog here but in this case, I am preparing you for the video series on making a drinks cabinet. Hardware can sometimes be problematic and eBay can be a solution.

The hinge on the right has thicker flaps, almost twice as thick as the other two. The thing to look for is the distance between the flaps. The two on the left, being made from thinner material, will need recessing much deeper whereas the hinge on the right can have the flaps recessed flush with the wood and give a perfect gap around the door when done.

The final purchases are the cabinet lock and trim. I wanted a lock that was recessed and had a more traditional key type with a keyhole and an escutcheon. To avoid recessing, you could also consider a face-fixed lock like the neat one below. I found a couple of nicely made ones, one that came in today and the other one comes in tomorrow. This one, a simple two-lever lock, needs a little refining to get rid of some of the machine marks but in brass that’s just a few rubs on abrasive paper and buffing out on a leather strop.

It’s a new-old-stock version that was never installed and I paid £11. As in the days past, the plate is stamped ‘Made in England’ so made in the days before Britain yielded to its UK title, probably somewhere in the 1960s pre-EEC (European Economic Community before EU European Union) I’d guess.

Update: Now it looks like this and it is ready for installation.

32 thoughts on “EBay Works so Well”

  1. Chris Collins

    During a recent room renovation, I wanted some straight oval headed brass screws to fix the door handle etc to replace the cross head screws fitted as standard. DIY stores in the UK don’t seem to sell such items any longer so I had to turn to the Internet!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Did you mean ‘dome’ headed screws? It is important to use the correct terms when searching online as otherwise you may miss suitable products.
      By the way, when using brass screws they are liable to break, even when suitable pilot holes are drilled, the advice I was given by an old timer over 60 years ago was to use steel screws of the same size to cut the threads before replacing with brass screws and lubricate using softened soap.

  2. Flavien Simon

    This is when I miss the most the year I spent in the United-States. I lived next to the coast in New Hamphsire and every town seemed to have its hardware shop where I could find screws and nuts and bolts in every dimension, be it steel, stainless or plain brass. This when I started in woodworking and at that time I had a canoe project, for which I liked the idea of silicon bronze screws, well not far away in Portland a marine shop had everything I need, for a good price.
    Now in France, I can’t easily find brass screws that are not just brass plated screws, I only found a few internet suppliers of silicon bronze fastenings and everything is damn expensive. Looking for standard things in standard dimensions, in a typical supply store, and you end up with a 40 euros bill for nothing or little more than a handful of screws.

    1. eBay is the largest upcycling, recycling provider of vintage and state-of-the-art components platform in the world. I have found truly fine tools without paying too much and found tools and components, wood, etc in a matter of minutes that would have taken me years to find otherwise. Just the hardware for my cabinet would have taken hours of shop visits even 25 years ago when the demise of the local hardware store would have found it impossible to stock the exact things I needed and wanted. Within an hour I had sourced all that I needed and I didn’t have to drive to get there which should not be discounted time-wise either.
      I am never too sure about mainland Europe anymore. It does present many problems. I have sent things to friends and they had to pay twice the price of the gift’s price in taxes. A book that cost me $5 in a bookstore in the USA cost €25 in import duties, etc. Apparently, you could only contest the duty if you contested it before you received it. Of course, you didn’t even know what it was until you received it.

      1. Somebody send me a gift from USA. I received a letter from the Belgian post about duties to be paid. Going on their website, I saw I could contest it. I have send copies of the mail I had received announcing the gift. The custom accepted it was not a commercial sending. Finally I received my package without extra cost. YMMV

      2. EBAY HAS BEEN GOOD PART OF INTERNET GIVING PEOPLE CHANCE TO BUY ITEMS THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HARD TO FIND LAST WEEK BOUGHT A NICE MARPLES M-44 plough plane with blades from U.K I live in United States

    2. timothy R snider

      When my wife went to a quilt store in Wellington KS, I found a hardware store that looked like it was out of the 1960s. There was all kinds of stuff everywhere from kitchen detergent to sleds and ice cream makers . The back was filled with rows of bins that held screws, washers, bolt, nuts … of every kind you could imagine.

      My wife came in, we were walking around, and the old man, probably about 85 said, “just whistle if you need anything”. I responded I can’t whistle. His reply was, I guess you’re not getting any help then. 🙂 🙂

      The man must of died in the meantime. I went back, the door was locked and windows papered over. Everything was still in place. I was tempted to find the family and ask them to open it but didn’t.

      Too bad it was real find and took me back to my childhood in rural Kansas.

    3. Peter Schussheim

      Flavian, unfortunately the days of well-stocked hardware shops in America are long gone. Replaced with junk imported from China, I get bummed out every time I buy hardware since I must resort to using the internet.

  3. I have two big box stores near me and a score of small hardware stores nearby as well. The problem is you can’t find the quantity and quality you might be looking for. You could spend hours driving from store to store and waste a lot of time and expensive gas in the process.
    Now I don’t bother and without leaving my home I can find what I’m looking for if I’m careful and read the descriptions carefully. Often I can get delivery next day at a reasonable charge but I try to plan better so I don’t need that. I also like the fact that your keeping “specialty stores” in business. I have bought items the world over and rarely have I been disappointed.

    1. Patrick Sadr

      I wish I could post a picture to go along with this reply. But on Tuesday I was lucky enough to be able to go to a church that was giving away there old original to the church, pews.

      At first glance when I got there, I immediately knew they were quarter sawn red oak, which was a nice surprise.

      They are 100+ yrs old. They slotted wood screws are quality and really nice. The nails are just as old and also of good guality.

      I spent yesterday taking the all of them apart and saved every last bit of hardware.

      Good metal hardware is hard to come by these days.

      Thank goodness for relics.

      1. Wow what a fund! I’m surprised they are not selling them though. Seems short sighted from the church as they could have raised some good revenue from them.

  4. Jack Collins

    I’m originally from Ohio and have relocated to North Carolina for health reasons. Thankfully I can still find the old fashioned hardware stores that I grew up with in Ohio.

  5. Mike Bullock

    I recently looked all over the interwebs for brass hinges in the 2.5 to 3 inch long range. I had trouble finding reasonably priced options. It may be that my notion of reasonably priced is out of alignment. I ended up settling on an option that ran $11 USD for a pack of 2 hinges. My project needed six so it all totaled to around $30 with taxes and shipping. I did try ebay but didn’t have great luck there. It’s likely I didn’t know the best words to use for my search. Ebay has been a great resource for me for many things over the years. I do find, however, that with some items there is a learning curve to get familiar with the best key words to use for searches.

  6. Great. Now the price of vintage brass screws is going to go through the roof. You are an influencer, Paul! 🙂

  7. Let’s take a minute to acknowledge the passing of David Charlesworth, a hand tool woodworking proponent like Paul. Many people have learned from him and benefited from his knowledge and experience. A THANK YOU to him for his contributions to this wonderful thing called woodworking. RIP David.

  8. My first job after leaving school 49 years ago and I remember selling nails not by a small number in a bag but by weight (half a pound and we were a recent metric conversion) and they never burst the brown paper bag. Selling nails and screws in tiny packets of 8 pieces, 25, 50 or 100 is very frustrating and I wish for the old days when I was in my late teens.

    1. Nowadays, if the average mass of a screw is memorised by the balance, the balance will indicate the number of screws in the bunch instead of the total mass of it.
      Although selling very small quantities makes h/sh expensive.

  9. I do not order online.
    I would to touch and look at an item before I buy!
    Love the hardware stores in South Africa and spend many hours merely browsing and dreaming!
    Missing that old “Made in England” products.
    From tools, clothing to cars, they were a sign of quality here in South Africa.
    Well done to the unions!

    1. You’d find it hard to find a quality hardware store here in the UK anymore and especially something that matched the choices you can get online, especially via eBay. Wouldn’t we all love the luxury of the past and then too perhaps the luxury of spending hours searching the shelves others might have, for most that is unlikely and neither is the luxury of a good hardware store in every town. That’s not likely to come back, that was a distant age long gone. And there is not much made in England unless you find vintage products or new-old-stock pieces. I think even stuff that is possibly made in England lacks what quality was available pre-World War II. Much is the shame of it.

      1. If the made in England stuff today is anything like the made in USA stuff today, it often says “made in America using global products.” Leaves a lot of room for the imagination to wonder what exactly was made here vs just assembled. 🤔

        1. Hmm! I have very little confidence either side of the pond having lived on both continents for fairly close equal decades. Disingenuity seems all the more to thrive so I trust neither when it says “Made in . . .”. That seems to mean fill in your own preference. EU seems to me to be the same too BTW.

  10. Gary Violette

    I am sooo glad to know you are doing a segment on hardware. Please be sure to make specific suggestions on hinges and what sites to purchase them from. Honestly I don’t have the search vocabulary to find a good hinge under $30 a pair of 1/2 X1 inch hinges. Help!!

  11. Mike Towndrow

    Agreed, eBay is a good source for brass slotted screws. In the UK I’ve also came across a company called Fixaball who have been pretty good too with their free delivery. Most on line sources other than eBay become even more pricey once postage is added, particularly if the order is small. In Abingdon a hardware shop called Beadles used to be the walk in place to go, but not so good since it was taken over.

  12. Sadly the ironmonger’s shop run by my great great great grandfather in Deptford is long gone. (His name was Turner so I wonder if he made turned his own ironmongery).

    At present, I have a specific need for a particular piano hinge to repair a marquetry table and could not find it on ebay so I have ordered it from Original Marquetry in Bristol.

    I have no experience of using them and their P&P was more than the cost of the hinge but I am visiting the same part of Bristol next week so I am arranging to pick it up.

  13. S Richardson

    I have a heavy gate to fit this week, monster hinges ! I dunno where I’m going to find the screws ! 1 1/4” 14 by the look of it !!

  14. Malcolm Smith

    The biggest issue with eBay is the learning curve with search terms but it can be navigated.
    A lot of the time vintage relates to the style/look rather than age.
    But more importantly I’m excited by Paul’s plan for a drinks cabinet project. I’ve been wanting to design/buil one for my father for a while but have lacked the creative spark to get going.
    Can’t wait. (Well I have, so I can. 😉 )

  15. Hi Paul,
    Just a minor comment. The Act of Union in 1707 officially created the United Kingdom of Great (larger) Britain. To Quote the Government website “The UK Parliament met for the first time in October 1707.
    The 1800 Act of Union added Ireland (later Northern Ireland after partition) to the United Kingdom to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now Northern Ireland) .

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