Hardware for the Temple
The hardware needs and solution were much more than just needing hinges to swing open panels. The importance of the initial impression needed to be one of a complete theme. The structure that surrounds the niches with vases became what I dubbed The Temple. This temple with lintel and columns, fully carved with vines of morning gloriesrepresents a complete thought. And this thought needed to show few, if any, hints of the next layer. So, any hinges, pulls, etc. needed to be minimal.
The search for the proper hinge brought me from butt hinges to knife hinges to offset hinges right back to butt hinges. I poured through all my catalogues to find the solution to my thoughts. This entire visualization process required many sketches and scale drawings to mock-ups and models to find what would work. There were many requirements including minimalism and strength. The butt hinge is simple and straight forward and the best for this. So, that decision was “simple”.
The next obstacle was unfolding the panels so they could clear the flanking columns that project beyond the panels. This required a forward motion of three inches. So, the entire collection of paintings (three panels) needed to move forward those three inches. The only way to do this was to mount the panels on a structure that could slide in a very controlled way. It needed to be simple to operate, be solid feeling and act in a very smooth and stable motion. I went back to the sketchbook again, thinking. Scouring catalogues was not very helpful because there was nothing that either worked correctly or was visually appealing. Thoughts drifted to a rack and pinion system, ball bearings drawer slides — that type of thing. They could have worked if small enough but this mechanism needed to fit the four inch deep box structure that the paintings are mounted within.
“Temple” hardware — temple is my term for box unit holding painted panels within the carved elements
Another big factor that adds to this complexity is the geometry of all this. If we think of a drawer and its most efficient shape for proper operation, there is a proportion of width to depth that tells us how well it will work. So, an18” wide drawer would work best if it is nearly or greater in length that its width. If it is much shorter front to back, then it has a greater tendency to rack and not operate smoothly. The box that I have in this design is 18˝ wide, 20˝ high and only 4˝ deep! That is like standing a drawer on its back and sliding it forward. Rack City! I had a real physical challenge here.
So, here I have this box that the paintings are mounted to. This box must slide within another box that the columns and lintel are mounted to. First off, there is 1/16˝ clearing between the boxes all around. Second, there are four micro tracks of end grain mahogany shaped in a “V” that interact with the inner box and helps control movement side to side.Another huge hurtle is controlling this needed forward motion while avoiding a tendency to tip forward.
Temple hardware as connected to the inner painting mounting box.
The control — side to side, tipping, etc. — was controlled by the hardware and especially where the hardware was located. I settled on a design that I created that was a utilization of two common items, a large butt hinge with removable pin and a casement window mechanism. I needed something that would be a lever/handle, but also would slide within a pivot. I had to change a pivoting motion to a sliding motion.
Once I knew the possibilities I pulled out my hacksaw and chopped up the various parts. I put the lever arm on my horizontal mortising machine and milled the brass bar as if I had a milling machine. The process was perfect and fun. I kept half the hinge with the pin as the pivot and installed the arm where the hinge pin was inserted through the just milled slot. This pivoted at the outer box and the other end of the brass arm had a pivot end that attached to the inner box. Thus the action of pushing back the arms slid the inner box forward allowing the viewer to then open the painting fully.
Why not just put in handles that would slide through slots on the side you say? Well I certainly considered that, but because of the highly restricted depth to work with, cutting the 3˝ slot required for the full motion would have severely weakened the structure and compromised its stability.
The vertical location of this mechanism was very important. Too high up on the side and it would tend to tilt forward. Too low and the bottom tended to kick out. After considering the weight of this sliding box and testing, the perfect location was chosen, mostly through a trial and error process.