SHS Blog » Historic Lighting Restoration & Reproduction

Historic Lighting Restoration & Reproduction

Over the past 38 years of manufacturing hand-made light fixtures, Steven Handelman Studios has become an expert at Historical Reproduction and Restoration. This division of our business is as difficult as it is important.  We feel privileged to be part of the Restoration effort in America.  Our architectural history should be cherished and protected.

It is important to understand the history of Manufacturing Methods to explain the challenges and special skills required to reproduce Historically correct products in the 21st. century.

The methods of manufacturing Historic Fixtures and Wrought Iron have changed quite a bit over the last 100 years.  New advances in technology, new tools, machines and materials have eclipsed the original manufacturing methods

Prior to WWII the cost relationship of labor and materials was different than it is today.  The cost of materials was then more expensive in the manufacturing process than the labor cost. Often times the craftsman who was making the item would weigh the material associated with the product to come up with a price for the finished product. The value of a product was often determined by how long it would last and be serviceable.  Most all products would be repaired, rather than replaced if they were damaged or failed to work properly. As a result of this practice, brand names such as Frigidaire and Kleenex became generic to the product category. You may have asked for a Kleenex rather than a tissue to wipe your nose, or clean your glasses.

This in no longer true.  We have continually created machines to take the place of labor and special skills.  These new inventions have lowered the cost and increased the volume and choices of every product imaginable.  Today, we rarely repair a product.  The cost of repair, if you could find a qualified repair shop is now usually more than the replacement cost of products.

We now have more choices, lower costs, and much more convenience in purchasing and access to products world wide than ever before. This disposability and planned obsolescence of all products is now part of our lives and in many cases we accept it. However, there are still customers who wish to purchase products that are designed and made to high quality standards, using the methods of times past.  A large category of these customers are involved in Historic Restoration which preserves our Historic Architectural gems for future generations.

The goal of Historic Restoration is, of course, to create a product that looks like the original.  The original production methods in many case are a vital part of the design.  Making something that is the same size, shape and material is only part of the process.  The additional requirements of making the new fixtures conform to modern building codes, work in difficult environments, and fit within a budget are also part of the challenge.  At Steven Handelman Studios we have the experience to handle these difficult requirements.

Last year we had the privilege of manufacturing all the decorative lighting for a new Yale University College.  All of the lighting was made to specifications supplied by Robert AM Stern architects.  The goal was to make the fixtures look the same as the original fixtures on campus from the 1920’s, and preform to the standards of 2016.  In addition, there were some very large and heavy chandeliers that needed to be engineered to enable them to be shipped and installed on the job on very high ceilings.

We have worked on Historic Jobs all across the U.S. Including Public Buildings, Churches, Colleges, Libraries, Theaters and Homes.

Handelman Studios was able to compete this very large job to the specs supplied and satisfaction on the customer, on time and on budget.

Examples show the originals and reproductions side by side. New sizes of Historic Lanterns

Lanterns for 20th Century Fox Studios in L.A.

New size for a Historic home.  The new size was created to accommodate a new addition to the 19th Century Home.

These Craftsman lanterns were duplicated for a home in Berkely, Ca.  The level of detail was very important to the final reproduction lanterns.

This is part of a larger job for a Historic Public Building in Boston, Ma.