For this, the penultimate email about the Asa Hunt House renovation, we present an installment of, “You Can’t Make This Up.”
The renovation that predated ours was undertaken in 1987. It added two one-story glass rooms onto the northwest corner of the house (the shady side that presents all kinds of ice and water problems to a glass addition, duh) and also refurbished the kitchen with a design straight out of Martha Stewart (including an island with an embedded kickplate heater with a nasty attitude, double duh).
The resulting fire a year ago December left that kitchen in ashes. Hardly anything was salvageable except for some enameled pottery, cast iron, and a few other metal objects that could take the heat. We dug our whatever we could and put it all in a box, doubting whether we could ever get the heavy layer of baked-on crud off of everything.
About six months later, we pulled out the box, donned some heavy gloves, and tried a few nasty chemicals. Dawn dish detergent? (You must be kidding, try again.) Straight bleach? (Nope, no difference whatever.) How about heavy-duty brake cleaner? (Hardly a dent.)
But did I mention the stuff was covered in “baked-on crud”? Aha! That’s when we realized: Heavy Duty EZ Off Oven Cleaner! Five minutes after spraying that on, the black layer of Mordor was transformed into chocolate pudding. After a dunk in soapy water and some scrubbing, we had rescued numerous items from Berkshire Pottery (including our wedding plate from 1993, yay). As well as eleven egg-shaped golden brass cabinet knobs that had been burned clean off the wooden cabinets. They were pretty; we put them in a Ziploc bag.
Skip forward six more months, and our new cabinets are in place. We needed a combination of many knobs and pulls and handles, so we ordered a completely new (and expensive, yikes!) set from a company in California. But soon after that, our contractor Dave rebuilt our library bookshelves which include eight sets of matching cabinet doors. Hmm, we thought, we need sixteen knobs, and we’ve got eleven nice old ones…
We looked online for more of our old knobs, with no luck. Our travels brought us to a metal refinisher in Philadelphia, and we asked him about it. He directed us to S&H Hardware in north Philly, which had a ridiculous selection of kitchen hardware. We gave one of our knobs to the guy there, who took one look and said, “This is from the 80’s, they don’t make these anymore, the company that made them was called KBC and it’s out of business. Look on eBay or etsy.”
We did. No luck. We googled every combination of “KBC” and “knob” and “cabinet” and “hardware” and “brass.” (Nuthin.) Finally, looking up the history of brass manufacturers, we found the vein we were looking for. And it was this: KBC was a renowned metal parts supplier from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It started out in the automotive industry before becoming the foremost kitchen hardware company in the country. And its official name?: Keeler Brass Company. And the last owner, who sold the company to another conglomerate?: His name was Miner “Mike” Keeler. (No kidding.)
The eleven brass knobs that came out of our ashes, the eleven remaining from that 1987 renovation, literally had our name on them. Or put another way, a whole set of Keelers was in our house 13 years before we bought it!
And so the hunt is on. We’re Keelers looking for a few more Keelers.
All we need to complete this renovation are five more egg-shaped golden brass cabinet knobs.
(Wanna help? You can see one of the knobs under the Posts column of the Asa Hunt House reno-blog, https://asahunt1830farmhouse.org/2020/02/21/2-21-20-kbc/)