Ironmongery Understanding The Basics – Brackets

We use items of ironmongery numerous times a day in our busy lifestyles, often without realizing their presence. They play an important role in our day-to-day lives and often their presence only becomes apparent when a problem arises.

The average person usually does not require an in-depth knowledge of ironmongery and hardware products, although wherever possible it is useful to understand the basics.

In this article we aim to briefly describe what a bracket is, how it works and what makes a good bracket.

What is a bracket?

A bracket is a device of simple rigid structure, one arm of which is fixed to a vertical surface, the other projecting horizontally to support a shelf or a handrail or other weight. For example a shelf bracket supports a shelf and a handrail bracket supports a handrail.

How does a bracket work?

A bracket transfers the load acting downwards upon a horizontal plane to a supporting structure in the vertical plane. (An example is the weight of a horizontal shelf being transferred to a vertical wall).

A bracket is a weight-bearing structural unit with two sides (or arms) that form a right angle.

One side, the horizontal accepts the load from the horizontal surface (i.e. shelf) that it is supporting. The other is vertical and transfers the load to the vertical surface to which it is fixed (i.e. wall).

The position where the horizontal and vertical arms meet (the vertex) needs to be strong and should be able to accept and transfer the load that it supports.

Larger brackets may have a third diagonal supporting brace that reduces load on the arms by transferring a proportion of the load from the horizontal arm to the vertical arm.

What makes a good bracket?

A good bracket will have the following properties:

The horizontal arm should be large and strong enough to accept the load and transfer it to the vertex or point at which the sides of the angle intersect.

The vertex should be strong and free of any imperfections, as it is this point that bears the maximum load.

The vertical arm should align properly with the vertical surface to which it is fixed to transfer the load correctly.

For heavy loads it is preferable to use a bracket with a third diagonal arm that will share and transfer a proportion of the load.

The vertical arm will have pre-drilled holes to enable fixing using screws. In some cases the horizontal arm will also have pre-drilled holes for securing the load it supports.

The correct size screws should always be used, making sure that the screw head sits flush within the arm.

Brackets are available in a multitude of finishes for both indoor and outdoor use in a range of contemporary and traditional designs.

While aesthetics are important when selecting a bracket careful consideration should also be given to its function, ensuring that the bracket is both large and strong enough for the purpose required.

An adequately strong, good looking, properly fitted shelf bracket or a handrail bracket is a great style statement for interiors and exteriors.

By: Stuart Ross

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Stuart has worked in the ironmongery trade for 28 years. He served his apprenticeship in building and carpentry, in the West Midlands (UK), working in building and construction for 15 years. You can get more information on a wide range of ironmongery products at