Historic Restoration and Reproduction

New Yale University College  

Rensler Hall Chandelier


Steven Handelman Studios had the privilege of manufacturing over 500 new decorative light fixtures for the new
Yale University Colleges.  The goal was to duplicate the look of the original fixtures on campus from the 1920’s, and preform to the standards of the 21st Century.   

All of the lighting was made to specifications supplied by Robert A.M. Stern architects.  Handelman Studios was chosen from a list of International candidates to complete this prestigious job


At Steven Handelman Studios we are Experts at Historical Restoration, Reproduction and Repair of all types of Lighting fixtures

The Original Craftsman style lantern( on right) was reproduced in 3 different sizes and 2 new mounting configurations for a home in Berkely, Ca. Each part, although welded together, also has a rivet to create an authentic appearance and match the original.


Over the 38 years of manufacturing hand-made light fixtures Steven Handelman Studios is the expert at Historical Reproduction, Repair and Restoration.  We have handled hundreds of older fixtures in need of repair, manufactured new sizes of old fixtures and created reproductions of Historical Lighting. 

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. 

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. 

 Highly skilled craftsman were required to be inventive and resourceful  to manufacture products with just a few hand tools.  The innovation, skill and lack of machine assistance to create finished products was directly responsible for the overall appearance of every item made. Of course, only the best examples of that era have survived.   Our Historic Reproduction task is to reproduce the best examples of the best craftsmen of their day.

We have also re-purposed historic fixtures. In the photo we changed a pier mount fixture to a Pendant for 20th Century Fox Studios

The original methods of manufacturing determined the overall look and feel of each product.  This is especially true in Historic Lighting. 

Shown are the original and reproduction for Historic Lanterns for 20th Century Fox Studios

Back in the day…. the iron material was heated in the forge and then hammered into shape.  This gave each piece a unique and distinctive appearance.

Today, dimensional mild steel comes  in a large variety of shapes and sizes and has taken the place of “wrought iron”. 

The next important manufacturing difference is how individual parts are assembled in each product.  Prior to Welding Machines, separate parts were either joined together by heating them in the forge and then hammering the heated parts together or pinning the parts together using rivets, screws and banding. These joining techniques became a large part of the overall design.   Today, welding machines do the work of joining parts eliminating the need and therefore the design created by the old joining methods.




The challenge is to create convincing Historic Reproductions in a way that balances the finished products and the realities of the current code requirements, budgets, production time and skilled workers required.

 

 

The sconce on the right has a flat canopy and exposed wires. The sconce on the left has a raised canopy and the wires are inclosed within the iron structure.Ansonia 4 candle sconce, Chica sconce 
All electric products are now extremely regulated.  Modern codes have been established to provide the public with safe and reliable products.   These requirements often have changed the appearance of the finished product.  A good example of this is the “canopy” and wiring requirements of modern light fixtures.  The “canopy” or the backplate that attaches the fixture to the wall at the electrical outlet used to be just a flat plate. (see pictures at right).  Now requirements on commercial jobs and public buildings require all electrical connections to be made inside a metal, or plastic J-box. This has resulted in changing the look of the canopies on most commercial lighting.  Both of the sconces at the right have an authentic appearance, although the one on the right with the original canopy style is more true to the 1920’s period in which it was designed.

Many of the advances in technology, new material and  machines have improved our lives and made the products we use safer and more useful.


The modern manufacturing methods have changed our lives in many ways.  We now now have more choices and easier ways to purchase a huge variety of products from all over the world than ever before. However, there is still a demand for products that elevate our human experience.  The emotion that is connected to “hand made ” goods is the result of the makers presence in each piece.  This is accomplished by making products in a way that conveys the human interaction with the production process.  Machines just can’t compete with humans when emotion is an important  part of the finished product.  We have all heard the expression, “They don’t make like that anymore.” believe this is what that expression is referring to.

 

In addition to creating reproduction fixtures, we often create new sizes and shapes of the new lanterns to accommodate new locations on the Historic site.
At Steven Handelman Studios,   We are continually experimenting with new techniques to make our products look authentic within the confines of todays requirements.  We still use many of the methods that have not changed in the last 100 years.  Our shop has very few machines and employees skilled workers who take great pride in their work.

I often hear from customers who we have our fixtures in their Historic homes.  They will tell me stories of how guests when viewing  their homes  were convinced that all the fixtures were originals and are surprised to hear they were new.  This is always a great compliment as both the authenticity of the design and craftsmanship have have passed the most important inspection of all.