Types of Cabinet Hardware

Where, oh, where to start when choosing cabinet hardware? What sort of hardware do I want? What is the difference between a knob and a pull? A pull and a handle? A latch and a catch? This glossary and information section of the Cliffside website will help to clear up some of the confusion and turn that difficult hardware buying experience into a pleasant and simple one.

Cabinet hardware types

Different types of cabinet hardware come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. They can, however, be broken down into several very basic categories, such as cabinet knobscabinet pulls (also otherwise called cabinet handles), and cabinet latches.

Cabinet Knobs

Knobs are the most simple and basic type of cabinet hardware to install. Generally, a knob is attached to the cabinet door or drawer front by means of a single screw. Knobs can be made in a wide variety of materials. Manufactured metal materials can include brass, especially solid brass knobs; zinc knobs, sometimes also called die cast, are also common. Stainless steel knobs, often found in the kitchen, and other metals such as bronze in our Sedona Suite of rustic cabinet hardware, are just some of the wide variety of options of metals.

An assortment of Cliffside knobs: marble, crystal, and solid brassOther materials besides metal can also be used to make knobs. Cliffside Industries, for example, has a wide variety of crystal cabinet knobs. You can read all about our crystal knob collection by visiting the link to that page or from our "About Us" page. Other natural materials include marble knobs, mined from huge quarries around the world; and natural stone knobs, which are found in rivers right here in the United States.

When designing cabinet knobs for the manufacturing process, Cliffside Industries overwhelmingly chooses solid brass cabinet knobs as our material of choice. Solid brass is proven to be one of the most durable and high-quality materials in the industry and provides the most value over the long term. In fact, finishes applied to solid brass hardware are over 200% more durable than those applied to comparable items made from zinc. "To-the-core" materials such as stainless steel and blended bronzes are also quite popular and are very effective at maintaining their finish and color over a long period of use. To read more about cabinet hardware materials, you can visit the "About Us" page and click on "Cabinet hardware materials" at the bottom of the page.

Knobs also come in a variety of styles: traditional knobs, transitional knobs, contemporary knobs, rustic knobs... the list continues on and on. Because Cliffside Industries has been designing and distributing high-quality cabinet hardware for over 25 years, many of our designs are original to us and, thus, we specialize in traditional solid brass knobs. Classic designs such as the 100 series knob are among our best sellers.

Because they come in different sizes and shapes, knobs can also be used in a variety of different applications. For example, small knobs such as the 97015 series and the 100-20 series are perfect for small applications such as pull-out bread boards and butcher blocks. Oblong-shaped knobs such as the oval 105 series and B721 series and the rectangular 149 series are excellent choices for doors with narrow moldings, or for long, thin doors. If you are looking to cover up weathering on a cabinet left by another knob, oftentimes a knob with a wide base or attached backplate, such as the 158 series or the 161 series, will be a suitable option.

Cabinet Pulls and Handles

In contrast to knobs, which have only one screw attachment, a cabinet pull or cabinet handle is attached to the cabinet door or drawer front by means of two or more screws. Because there are multiple screw holes, one of the most determinative factors in choosing handles is the center-to-center measurement; i.e., the difference from the center of one screw hole to the center of the next. Where there are two screws, this measurement often determines the overall size of the pull based on its design.

An assortment of 3-inch cc pulls in different finishes from Cliffside's displaysMany different styles and sizes of cabinet pulls are available. Cliffside Industries' signature line of solid brass hardware includes 5 styles of pulls available in 4 sizes and 10 finishes each: an astounding 200 choices without even searching hard! Pulls are usually chosen based on a common design; thus, all of Cliffside's signature cabinet handles are grouped into hardware suites. For example, Cliffside's Scroll Suite pulls, available in 3-inch, 5-inch, 8-inch, and 12-inch center-to-center sizes, each are unified by the spherical "turned" design on the center of each handle and the removable round backplates that come with each piece. The Artisan Suite handles, available in the same sizes, are denoted by their decorative "faux screw" design that appears on each handle's foot.

For larger cabinets, tall doors, and oversized drawers, there is often a question of what pull size to use. Generally, for cabinet doors, the hardware is mounted in one of several ways: mounted in the lower inner corner of the door, next to the stile or the neighboring door; mounted in the vertical center of the door's moulding or border, if one exists; or mounted in the very center of the door vertically and horizontally (less common in modern cabinet making). Less commonly, hardware can also be mounted in the horizontal center of the door at the top or bottom. If mounting the hardware in the corner of the door, the installer should simply center the hardware within the molding on the door or at an aesthetically pleasing location to the customer (there is no true "wrong" way).

Center-mounting the hardware is a bit trickier, and can often influence the size of the pull. A good rule of thumb is that, when using a single pull on a drawer, the length of the hardware should be between one-quarter and three-eighths of the width of the drawer front, with one-third being a good middle ground. Of course, there is no "wrong" size. The choice of cabinet hardware is nearly always an aesthetic decision, and a personal one – you should choose what works best for you or for your customer's preferences. So, for a real-world example, following the rule of thumb on a 24-inch drawer front, you would want to choose a pull between 6 and 9 inches in overall length. Because many pulls larger than 9 inches overall are actually designed for appliances and refrigerators, a good choice might be the B1-5 series, which measures 6.625 inches overall. However, if you are seeking a more contemporary look, you may choose to ignore the rule of thumb completely and go with a pull that stretches most of the length of the drawer, such as the T366-480-BNA, an oversized stainless steel drawer pull measuring 19.625 inches.

Also worth mentioning in this case are appliance pulls and handles. These are a specialty type of cabinet handle which are designed specifically for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and other appliances with wood-panel layovers, sometimes called panel kits. Because of their special nature, these handles are specially tested so that they can stand up over the long-term while remaining strong enough to overcome the heavy use and suction power of a refrigerator or dishwasher opening every day (count how many times your refrigerator is opened in one day and you will see the need for a well-built and strong piece of hardware).

The difference between appliance handles and cabinet pulls is usually determined by size. In addition to length, appliance pulls are traditionally much wider and thicker than cabinet pulls to give added strength. For example, the T305 series stainless steel bar pulls measure ⅜ inch in diameter. The similarly designed D85 series bar-style appliance pulls measure 1 inch in diameter – nearly three times the thickness. For more information on Cliffside's appliance pulls, visit the "About Us" page and click on "Refrigerator and appliance handles".

Cup and Bin Pulls

Cup handles are a special type of cabinet pull that are made especially for use on drawers. They are often known as 'bin pulls' because of this use, or as 'half-moon pulls' because of their semi-circular or semi-elliptical shape. What makes a cup pull special is the mounting method and the shape of the pull. Due to their unique design, bin pulls can only be opened from one direction (the open side of the pull, usually the underside), rather than from the top and the bottom like a regular handle. Traditionally, bin pulls are installed with the open end facing downward. Therefore, after installation, you pull open the drawer from beneath the pull, which may be different for some folks who are used to grabbing their handles from the top. However, the cup handle offers a unique look and feel and is a welcome change to the eye when compared to traditional pulls.

A collection of rope-styled K544 cup pulls in multiple finishes The mounting is the second element which makes many cup handles unique. Most cup pulls do not have the screw sockets where you might expect. For example, Cliffside Industries offers two clean-line, design-free cup pulls: the K4235 series, a standard half-circle shape; and the elongated K341 series, which measures nearly 50% longer. Despite the difference in overall lengths, both of these cup pulls measure 3 inches on center. This is due to the location of the mounting posts or stand-offs on the reverse of the pull: the K4235's posts are at the bottom left and right of the reverse; while the K341's are further up the rim, in the handle's upper half. The specification sheet for the cup pulls has more information. While not all bin pulls have these mounting posts, many do, and installing them can be tricky if you've never done it before. Cliffside's B602 cup pull, for example, is free of mounting posts, so the installation is similar to a regular pull: two holes, spaced three inches apart on-center, wide enough to admit the appropriate screw (in this case, an 8/32 thread). However, the other four solid brass cup pulls, including the P398 series from the Criss-Cross Suite and the Rope-designed K544 series in addition to the aforementioned, all do; thus, they must be counterbored for appropriate installation. Counterboring is the process of drilling two holes of different diameters which intersect with one another. Some counterbores are incomplete holes, which look simply like two round steps down into the drilled material. Others, like the ones needed to install a cup pull, are complete holes. The first hole, in the face of the drawer front, is drilled only wide and deep enough to admit the mounting post on the rear of the handle and does not go through to the back of the drawer face. The second hole, which can be drilled in from the rear of the drawer or again through the same initial hole (a 'double drill'), is wide enough for the screw and goes through the back of the drawer face. Some manufacturers choose to drill a single wide hole and use washers to enlarge the screw head for stability, but counterboring is more reliable and will allow the installation to hold up better over a longer term.

Oftentimes, you will see a single cup handle mounted in the center of a drawer, even a wide drawer. However, some manufacturers will mount two pulls toward the left and right sides of the drawers to add a visual contrast. The only cautionary note: you must pull both handles to open the drawer! If you pull only one of the two handles, the drawer will be open off-balance and, over time, this may damage the drawer slides or even your finely crafted cabinetry. This applies not only to cup pulls, but to standard drawer handles as well.

Cabinet Latches and Catches

Besides the fact that their names rhyme, two cabinet hardware types often confused are cabinet latches and cabinet catches. This is due in part to two reasons: oftentimes, the names for the parts of a latch also include those two words; and both latches and catches serve similar functions, in that they hold cabinet doors closed. In Cliffside's lexicon, a cupboard latch is a two-piece cabinet hardware item installed on the outside of a cabinet. On one side, there is a mechanism with a turn, lever, or other manual activating device. This operates the tongue of the latch – a small, triangular piece of metal that protrudes from one end of the casing. This side is called the "latch" by Cliffside, but is also known by names like the "connecting piece", the "male side", the "turn side", the "housing", the "lever side", and many other names. On the other side is a small metal cup or shell with an open cavity therein. This is the receiver: the tongue of the latch, when installed, goes inside of this second, smaller piece. This side is also known as the "catch", the "strike", or the "stile piece" (named after the stile between doors on which it is installed).

Several finishes of solid brass rotational cabinet latches (not catches)Cabinet latches come in many styles, from traditional and classic to decoratively ornate. They also come in a variety of operative designs. Two of the most common designs are rotational latches (sometimes called "turn" latches), and lever latches. Rotational latches have a knob on the top of the housing that is turned to operate the tongue. Some latches operate only while turning in one direction, and some, like Cliffside's SBCL series latch, are omnidirectional, meaning that they operate equally well when the knob is turned clockwise or counterclockwise. Lever latches, on the other hand, use an extension attached to the internal spring to push the tongue open. Lever latches come in two "directions". Perpendicularly-oriented latches are common among reproduction ice box hardware; traditionally, the lever is lifted vertically and the tongue operates horizontally. Parallel latches are more common among cabinets because they are easy to operate at a smaller size, but many vintage refrigerators used long-handled parallel latches, where the tongue faces the same orientation as the lever. Cliffside's IBCL series latch is an example of a parallel-function lever-style cabinet latch.

Cabinet catches, on the other hand, hold the cabinet door closed from the inside. Throughout the kitchen and bath industry, many examples of this type of catch can be seen, using a variety of clip styles, ball designs, and magnets. Cliffside's cabinet catches are magnetic in nature and require a pull strength of approximately 11 pounds to open the door. Manufactured in Europe, these pieces are of high quality and are depth-adjustable to provide for easy installation of the strike plate into the door and the magnetic catch onto the cabinet frame.

Cabinet Hinges

Without hinges, a cabinet is simply a box and a piece of wood. With hinges, however, it becomes much more: a place for dishes, a storage area for food, or a resting place for your personal accessories. Some of the factors that can determine the type of hinge you need are the type of door you have (inset cabinets, partial offset cabinets, or full overlay cabinets), the size hinge you are seeking (length of the leaf, length of the barrel, etc.), the finial type on the ends of the barrel (steeple-tip hinges, ball-tip hinges, and the like), and many more. The world of hinges is a complicated one, so we have located all of our hinge terminology and information at our cabinet hinge glossary, which you can read by visiting the "About Us" page and clicking on "glossary of hinge terminology".

Glossary of cabinet hardware terminology and specifications


Appliance pull
A handle especially designed for use on paneled refrigerators, dishwashers, freezer drawers, trash compactors, and other kitchen appliances which generate magnetic traction or a vacuum seal. These pulls are usually oversized in length and are manufactured to deliver extra material strength and durability to hold up over many uses. Also known as "appliance handles", "refrigerator handles", or "refrigerator pulls".
Backplate
A flat piece of cabinet hardware designed to accent a knob or handle; lays flat against the cabinet or drawer front and the knob or pull is typically installed using the same screws and screw holes. Backplates can be detached (purchased separately), or they can be attached as an integral part of the hardware (see also 'base').
Barrel
The joint at which the two knuckles of a hinge come together. For more information, see the hinge glossary.
Base
The measurement of the base of the hardware piece, usually a diameter
Bath hardware
Hardware accessories used for personal convenience in the bath. In addition to the traditional knobs and pulls, some examples include towel bars and towel rings, bath tissue holders, soap dishes and wire baskets, and robe hooks, among others.
Bin pull
See "cup pull"
Center-to-center
On a cabinet pull, cup pull, or appliance pull, the measurement of the distance from the center of one screw hole to the center of the next screw hole. This is most commonly seen as the measurement between two screw holes and determines the size of the pull, but handles with three screw holes or even more are also seen.
Cup pull
A handle shaped like a half-circle or semi-ellipsoid, specially designed to open drawers from beneath or above (most often the former). Cup pulls are usually installed with two screws and often have mounting posts that require a counterbore or double-drill. Also known as "bin pulls".
Diameter
When viewing a round piece of hardware head-on, the measurement across the face of the knob at its widest point
Drop
On a piece of hardware with a dangling component, such as a ring pull or a towel ring, the distance from the top of the ring or its hanging socket to the bottom of the ring
Finial
The decorative tip at the end of a hinge barrel. For more information, see our hinge glossary.
Finish
The decorative color or material that is plated onto the exterior surface of cabinet hardware, especially metal cabinet hardware. For more information on finishes, view our finish guide.
Grip height
On an installed piece of cabinet hardware, especially a pull, the distance from the installed surface (e.g., the cabinet door; the refrigerator panel) to the interior of the handle at or near the center; in common parlance, the space for the hand or fingers
Handle
See "pull"
Height
1. When viewing installed knobs, handle pulls, appliance pulls, and the like, the distance from the installed surface to the extreme top of the pull. Sometimes called "projection".
2. As regards cup pulls only, the distance from the bottom of the pull to the top of the pull when viewed head-on as installed. Sometimes called the "face" measurement.
Hinge
A movable joint or mechanism on which a door swings as it opens and closes, or that connects objects; a fixed axis around which two or more attached surfaces rotate
Knob
Traditionally, a piece of cabinet hardware used for opening doors or drawers into which only one screw is installed
Latch
An interlocking cabinet hardware unit with two sections: the connecting or "male" piece (the "latch"), which has a tongue or other protrusion; and the receiving or "female" piece (the "catch"), which has a cavity or opening to admit the tongue
Leaf
The portion of a hinge into which the screws are installed. For more information, see our hinge glossary.
Length
When viewed head-on, the longest dimension on a piece of cabinet hardware
Projection
The distance from the installed surface to the extreme top of the pull. On the Cliffside website, this dimension is noted as "height", except in reference to cup pulls.
Pull
A piece of cabinet hardware used for opening doors and drawers that attaches to the drawer box or door face by means of two or more screws. Specialty types of pulls include cup pulls and appliance pulls. Also known as "handles".
Refrigerator pull
See "appliance pull"
Thickness
On the grip area of a handle pull or appliance pull, the thickness of the pull at its widest point in that region. This may or may not be equal to "width", depending on the shape of the pull. Also known as "grip width".
Width
When viewed head-on, most often the dimension opposite length at its furthest points of extension. This can be located in the middle, at the base, or in a variety of other locations.