Barns have lots of doors - doors of different sizes, shapes and functions.  Almost all early barn doors were hung with heavy forged iron strap hinges and sturdy pintles fastened into the structure.  The farmer, barn builder and blacksmith worked together to define the strap hinges that would best serve to hang the doors securely and, where appropriate, provide a unique “look” to satisfy the owner’s tastes.  Because strap hinges are seen when the doors are closed, they are a prominent feature of the barn’s exterior.

Barn Doors fall into a few loose groups:

  • Great Doors - heavy strap hinges swing the biggest doors of the barn, those which open onto the threshing floor.  The doors and their hardware are sized and built to allow team-drawn wagons to fully enter the upper floors of the barn.
  • Dutch Doors - most common on stall doors and entrance doors on the smaller east and west ends of the barn.  Attractive, but primarily functional, the split dutch door allowed sunlight and fresh air to enter the barn and stalls while keeping the livestock safely inside.  Two pairs of heavy strap hinges and pintles, along with latches & door bolts, provided the hardware to make and keep the doors functioning as intended.
  • Passage doors - interior or exterior, simple plank doors for human entrance into the different parts of the barn and to close specific rooms within the barn.
  • Specialty doors - small and intricate hinges were sometimes fashioned (or recycled from the house) to highlight important elements within the barn.  Feed bins, tack boxes mounted to interior walls, the “parlor door” where the farmer entered the milking parlor morning and evening.  Nice places where little details are noticed with little smiles.

You see the strap hinges on the doors, but it’s the pintle that does the work.  We sell hinges and pintles as separate mating pieces.   The pintles mount to the structure – they transfer the weight of the doors to the building.  Heavy drive pintles were most common on early construction.  Today, most strap hinges are mated with heavy lag screw pintles or a leaf type pintle.  We make pintles to install strap hinges in every construction situation - board doors in board walls, doors in wooden frames, doors in stone or masonry openings.

Before you start to think about what hinges you’ll use, it’s a good idea to think about where and how the pintles will mount.  Look at our pintle offerings to see what will work most easily for you.

Great Doors

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Common configuration of great doors with
a “threshold” passage door installed. 

The big doors on the north side of the barn provided passage for wagons piled high with hay or fodder.  The great doors were a dominant element of the barn, often fitted with a “passage” door to allow the farmer to enter the threshing floor without disengaging the big doors themselves.  Many of the early great doors with their massive strap hinges were replaced with lighter doors hung from rollers on tracks (the bottom of the original doors often rotted from splashing rain and their proximity to the ground)… evidence of the earlier hardware can often be found in the massive pintles left in the hewn beams that frame the doors.

Kinda hard to see the hinges on the boat house at Washington’s Crossing, PA.  The doors are 18’ high and the hinges 5’ long.  We made the hinges in ’76.

This barn in Berks County, PA has double great doors reflecting the double threshing floor behind and the double hay mows on either side.

Great Door Passage Doors

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The passage doors built into the barn’s great doors were often a showpiece of the farm.  The big doors were prominent and the passage doors offered the option to highlight the hardware on that focal point.  Two types of passage doors are seen – a full height door, or a door that retained a significant “threshold”.  The full height door required that the bottom strap hinge for the main door either stop short of the passage door, or incorporate a hinge joint to coincide with the pivot edge of the passage door.  The “threshold” type of door used two separate smaller strap hinges and pintles to swing that door independent of the great door hinges.

  • The advantage of the full height door is that when open, carts and wheel barrows can easily pass through the door – plus you don’t have to step over the threshold.  Down side is fitting a second hinge joint in the big door hinges.  A detail that must be considered at the start of the door project.
  • The “threshold” door was the easiest approach and the most common.  Eric Sloane - my favorite American artist, author and keeper of the culture – notes that the threshold was just that…  a board restriction to keep the threshing floor grain and straw separated from outside wind and weather.  It held the threshings so was a “thresh hold”.  Sometimes the height of the threshold was such that it was tricky to navigate, but functional and easier than opening the big doors which were often secured with wood braces against winter winds.

This “threshold” passage door on the Barn at Hopewell Nat’l Historic Park sports interesting serpentine pintles.  The surface mounted pintles make this door uniques.

“The Wall of Kong”, big shop doors we built from packing crates.  This passage door allows us to roll carts in & out.  Bottom big strap hinge pivots passage door with cat door.

Dutch Doors

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Still one of the most functional and practical door arrangements, Dutch Doors were the most common on early barns.  Most exterior stall doors (typically running the length of the southern exposure) were of the dutch style and hung with strap hinges.

An interesting combination strap hinge & hasp.

Wish this were my barn – just as pretty as a picture.

Beyond being practical and picturesque, dutch doors allow you to play with the hardware for some nice visual interest.   You can modify the length of the strap hinges (usually ½ to 2/3 the width of the door, but historic examples prove about any length will work – it’s mostly a visual thing).  You can select different hinge styles and you can vary the length of the hinges on a single opening to provide further contrast and interest.

Two lengths of strap hinges, staggered with the shorter hinges in the middle.  Interesting and provides room for latches in the middle.

Again, two lengths of hinges.  Here larger hinges visually support the bottom door, smaller hinges handle the top door.

Passage Doors

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Some exterior doors were for people to enter the barn and were simple board and battens hung with strap hinges.  Interior doors to tack rooms, at the tops of many sets of stairs, serving as threshing floor ventilators, and the exterior doors of most outbuildings were also single board and batten doors. 

These doors were often fitted with latches, hooks and/or handles, but typically displayed strap hinges similar to the others on the barn, mated with pintles that most easily and securely install into the available materials.


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Any strap hinge installation begins with considering the pintles on which the hinges will hang.  The pintles attach to the structure and bear the weight of the doors & strap hinges.  It is important to select a pintle that will easily install in the available fabric of the structure and provide sufficient strength to securely hold the weight of the door.

The most common barn strap pintles in use today are the lag screw pintle and the jamb leaf pintle.  The installed lag pintle looks most like the common early drive pintle and works well with most installations into masonry construction.  The jamb leaf pintle is designed to install strap hinges into contemporary frame situations.

If you’re dealing with heavy beam construction, we can forge historically accurate drive pintle customized to your installation. 

We also offer heavy masonry female pintles to hang heavy gates and doors in stone or concrete construction.  Really big doors often require custom modifications to our standard pintles to most easily mate with your specific installation situation.  Heavy bolt-through pintles were common on early barn “great doors” – heavy pintles with a threaded shaft custom-built to mate with both the heavy strap hinges and the specific barn beams into which the pintles install.

Surface mounted pintles are used to hang a passage door into a great door or to mount a door into a board wall.  Some of the nicest examples of early blacksmith work were found on such doors.  Then as now, personal taste was the driving consideration in the selection and design of the hardware.  Now, as then, your local blacksmith here at Brandywine Forge are happy to help you design and execute a hardware solution that is functional as well as pleasing and personal.











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