Though Robert Commons took pride in his work, the Idaho carpenter never felt completely satisfied with the finished product. It wasn’t that he felt his product lacked polish; three decades of experience working on high-end homes in Sun Valley suggested he was a pro. But he began to realize his beautiful woodwork was being capped with metal hardware that lacked the right style or presence to compliment his construction. As his son, Josh — current plant manager at the family firm, Sun Valley Bronze – tells it, his father decided to solve the problem and dive right in.
“He bought a furnace and some simple mold-making tools and just went for it,” says Commons. “What were the technical hurdles? Probably too many to list. In the early days, it was casting techniques and various machining problems. Then, it was getting a big enough furnace to melt down enough metal.”
Robert Commons’ stubbornness became the fire that fueled the growth of Sun Valley Bronze in Hailey, Idaho, which now specializes in the high-end hardware (door, cabinet, sink and lighting) that he envisioned. His work ethic and quality also made an impression within the firm, and the industry: in 2012, Sun Valley won Customer Service Department of the Year from the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association, and this year, the DPHA named their Barn Door Track the Hardware Product of the Year. Constant reinvention yields consistently better results.
“Our line is always evolving,” says Commons. “We listen to the feedback from our dealers and we follow trends in the design community to create new product. We have also been known to start a few trends of our own.”
As part of that mission to constantly improve quality, Sun Valley reached out to Mac Metals, Inc. in Kearny, New Jersey. This fully integrated American brass mill produces custom brass, bronze and nickel silver extrusions.
When Commons saw the dead-on color match between his established cast alloys and the nickel silver and Redd Metal extrusions from Mac, the choice to introduce an extrusion line of hinges and supporting hardware was a no-brainer. The material’s high machinability, low tooling costs and ability to accept many different surface treatments and finishes were important assets for Sun Valley.
“Extrusions save us enough that we’re able to offer a mid-priced hinge in the same finishes and quality as our cast hinges,” says Commons. “The benefit is cost. Our cast hinges are beautiful, but they are very labor-intensive to make. There are a lot of short or shifted castings, which translates into wasted time.”
Cut into 4” or 4.5” lengths, the extrusions are fit into a custom multiple collet fixture holding 12 vertical and 6 horizontal pieces for machining on a Haas 3-axis CNC. They’re then finished; sanded, processed in a vibratory tumbler then either hand-patinated, burnished or polished in one of ten finishes. Commons also finds a lot of advantages in Mac’s different alloys: nickel silver matches the company’s white bronze products, and Rose Redd goes with silicon bronze “better than anything else we have found.”
“It’s mainly about color and presentation,” he says. “They’re also extremely pleasant to machine, which is always a plus.”
Sun Valley’s customers appreciate the attention to detail. Ann Schoonover from Adoornments Fine Architectural Hardware in Kalispell, Montana, calls Sun Valley’s products “Mercedes Benz-level” hardware, reflecting a commitment to quality with sophisticated machining and innovative designs.
“They do it all – customer service, marketing, the whole nine yards,” she says. “They’re the only bronze hardware manufacturer that inserts stainless steel posts in window fixtures, so it’s steel rotating against steel. It’s great that they thought about small details like this; you can tell they pay attention.”
Sun Valley now focuses on advertising in high-end showrooms and working with clients building million-dollar homes, further reinforcing Roberts’ intuition.
“We work directly with the architectural and interior design communities,” says his son. “Our custom work allows them to realize their visions in these amazing residencies.”
About Sun Valley Bronze:
Sun Valley Bronze offers a complete line of hand-crafted and hand-finished solid bronze door, kitchen, bath and cabinet hardware. Offices and manufacturing facilities are located in Bellevue, ID 83313 and Sun Valley can be contacted at 866-788-3631, or www.sunvalleybronze.com.
About Adoorrnments Fine Architectural Hardware:
ADOORNMENTS is a retail architectural hardware distributor located in Kalispell and Bozeman, Montana offering high quality products and superior customer service. Contact Adoornments at 406-752-6208, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Mac Metals:
Mac Metals Inc. is a “specialty brass mill” providing custom architectural metals to architects, general contractors, original equipment manufacturers, machine shops and architectural and ornamental metal fabricators that require custom extrusions made of brass, bronze and nickel silver. They can be contacted at 800-631-9510, or www.macmetals.com.