For the past 15 years or so my family and Vintage Tub & Bath have been active sponsors of The Collings Foundation B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress. These aircraft formed the backbone of the US strategic bombing effort during the Second World War. Over 18,200 B-24s and 12,700 B-17s were built in the 1930’s and 40’s. Today, less than 15 B-17’s and only 1 B-24 are fully restored and in flying condition. The Collings Foundation bombers are arguably the best examples of these aircraft in existence. These aircraft now tour the country as a tribute to the veterans that flew them in combat.
I hope everyone has had (or is still having) a great holiday season. I had a wonderful Christmas. My 2 year-old nephew was thrilled by the whole Santa thing, my son was in from out of town, my wife was cooking up a culinary storm, and my staff even got me the Rolling Stones Rock n' Roll Circus for Christmas (a great concert if you have never seen it - highly recommended). The Stones rule.
OK, back to the Googleshank Redemption. Let me start off by thanking everyone who took the time to write me personally or post on the blog. I appreciate your thoughts and comments.
In case you were wondering how Google would react to all of this, let me assure you that Vintage Tub and Bath is still listed in the Google index. Whew!
Seriously, Matt Cutts and I have been corresponding and things are looking much better. Thank you Matt - I sincerely appreciate your help.
A note to our regular readers – this post does not deal with plumbing or discount offers - it is about online advertising.
One of my favorite movies is the Shawshank Redemption. In this film, a man is falsely convicted of a crime he did not commit and is forced to live in the nightmare of prison until he finally escapes.
The tag line for the film is: “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”
Until recently, I too was held prisoner - trapped in a pit of search engine marketing despair. My requests for help ignored by the very company I had spent hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars with. I was bewildered as I watched our rankings drop while sites that obviously violated the Google guidelines rose and remained in place. My faith in the algorithm was broken. I was ankle deep in the Google Goo (so to speak).
Despite all of this, I never gave up hope. All I needed was a push in the right direction - an avenue to express my frustration and finally come to terms with it. Blogger was my way out. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek and with malice towards none, here is the story of the Googleshank Redemption:
Hello. My name is Allan. I’ve been Googleshanked.
Despite my efforts, despite my feeling of being in the right, despite a sense I've been wronged, I'm powerless to correct what troubles me at Google. There is no appeal. My prison term will not end. I am Googleshanked.
The story begins about 18 months ago when I discovered some pages spamming Google to rank well on our corporate name. It appeared to me that these pages (which we have nothing to do with) violated Google's webmaster guidelines.
So, I reported the sites to Google using their spam reporting tool. I thought that the pages would disappear in a month or so. Nope - the pages remained indexed and ranked well.
I then asked my Google AdWords rep to assist me. My rep informed me that it would be impossible for him to violate the “Church and State” separation of the Google natural results from the paid advertising. I told him that I was not asking for special treatment – just asking that these pages be held to Google’s published standards. Besides, isn’t investigating poor search results in the best interest of the natural results regardless if the reporting entity is a corporation? He politely replied he would look into it. The pages remained indexed
I then turned to the generally useless - but somewhat emotionally satisfying - tactic of explaining the situation to the Google AdWords booth staff at Search Engine Strategies shows. In all fairness I believe the AdWords reps felt my pain but they were powerless to assist me. “Church and State” again. Not surprisingly, the pages remained indexed.
During this time, I happened to get introduced to several Google employees that were higher up in the corporate food chain. At last, I could talk to someone who can make things happen. Again, I got the “Church and State” explanation (is this beginning to sound like an introductory civics class?). Multiple promises to look into the matter later, the pages remained (you guessed it) indexed.
I have heard that insanity is defined as repeating an action but expecting a different result. If that is the case, I had gone mad.
Issue 2: Remember when Google launched the Florida update? Our site, like many others, dropped in the natural rakings – replaced (in general) by sites that seemed to violate their guidelines or had little to do with a given search query. I showed a couple of examples of this to a Google engineer (and no, it wasn't the famed Google engineer Matt Cutts) at the Chicago SES conference.
At that moment I thought that there were three possible responses I could get:
1) I would be given a medal (and perhaps a Google Lava Lamp) for showing how the update was actually harming the quality of their search results. 2) I would get a respectful hearing and he would take down our information so they could analyze the problem and make improvements. 3) I would be ignored.
Response #1 did not seem very likely and I wasn’t holding out hope for the lamp. Response #2 was proper but my past experiences did not really inspire confidence. Response #3 is where I put my money.
There was, however, a fourth possibility that I hadn’t even counted upon. I was told, quite sincerely, that the Google algorithm "was well tested and that they had high confidence in it.” I had expected this under the “I would be ignored” option. The twist here is when he added “that Google was properly removing the spammers” from the results. As I began to wonder how a company that sold clawfoot tubs could be a bad result for the term “clawfoot tub” I noticed that he had an unmistakable smirk on his face. It dawned on me that he had just insulted me to my face.
Now I don’t want to discuss the whole White Hat / Black Hat thing. According to Google maybe I was a spammer – maybe I wasn’t. I am leaning towards the latter because our rankings came back a month later without us changing our pages. One might suspect they reworked their algorithm because of the tidal wave of complaints they received. But one can never be sure. What I am sure of is this: it was not very nice to take delight in insulting a customer to his face. In all fairness, the engineer was getting hit from all sides that day. Still, I don't think it was right.
He then looked at me with a blank “matter-of-fact” stare and asked if he could help me any further. To this day, I still wonder how the term “help” applied in this situation.
I just gave up.
Hello. My name is Allan. I’ve been Googleshanked.
So, where is the redemption? Where did hope triumph over fear? My Googleshank Redemption came in the form of a discussion I had with Danny Sullivan last Wednesday evening (over an excellent carnivorian meal at Fogo De Chao, BTW). He assured me that I was not alone and that it wasn’t my fault. He eased my troubled mind by reminding me of the power of blogging. “Perhaps Google will read your blog and remove the pages. If not, no matter. Life will go on. The sun will rise. Children will play. Clawfoot tubs will be sold. Life is good. Have some more prime rib.”
So here we are. The blog post is written. I used to be bothered that Google seems so unconcerned with the advertisers that financially fuel their company. No longer. They can run their company any way they want. They are successful and they have a great search engine. Maybe they just can not focus on customer relations and build the best search engine in the world at the same time. I just don't know.
All I know is that as long as AdWords functions well, I will continue to advertise on Google. I now figure that in order to have made this omelet we call search marketing perhaps a few of our eggs had to be broken along the way. So be it.
I have spoken my mind and will not bother with this anymore. In so doing I have achieved my very own Googleshank Redemption.
Alfred Anderson, the last known participant of the famous "Christmas Truce" of the First World War, passed away quietly in his sleep on November 21st, 2005. The unoffical Christmas Truce - which started when British troopers started singing along with caroling German soldiers and ended in a friendly football match between the enemies in no-mans land - has become a symbol of the end of the era when ground combatants met each other with a measure of respect.
I thought it was worth noting this truce because it shows that even in the darkest and bleakest moments, people can still find the strength to find the joy in life.
Alfred Anderson - shown below visiting a recreation of a WW1 trench - was a member of the legendary Black Watch Regement. He was 109 years old.
Wake the kids and call the neighbors - one on our fine Vintage Tub & Bath clawfoot tubs is going to appear on the September 20th broadcast of the Price is Right! I won't spoil the surge of excitement you must certainly be experiencing at the moment by telling you if the contestant won the claw foot bathtub set or not - you'll have to find out on your own.
So you have a small bathroom and regular size bathroom sinks just don’t fit. Fear not, humble reader, Vintage Tub & Bath to the rescue with a bevy of great corner bathroom sinks that fit almost any size bathroom.
If you know of a corner or pedestal sink that we don't carry, feel free to call us toll-free at 877-796-4134 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can custom order any product not found on our site.
Preparation is the key to a good-looking claw foot tub exterior finish. There are four ways to prepare the exterior surface for refinishing and painting.
Using a wire brush to remove the paint will usually only wear your arm out and provide you a mediocre surface for your primer coat. Obviously, we don’t recommend using a wire brush.
An electric sander is a decent option depending on how many layers of paint you are dealing with. Remember, you will be creating a lot of dust when sanding so a well-ventilated area, dust mask, and safety glasses are required. You really should think safety - the paint you are taking off will likely contain lead, as most old paints had lead in them. Start with a coarse to a medium grade of sandpaper and, when you get to the cast iron layer, work your way down to a fine grit.
Chemical Paint Removers
Chemical paint removers are another option. If standard paint removers don’t work well, you can go to an auto parts store and ask for a stronger Aircraft Stripper. Chemical strippers are convenient, but exercise care when using them – they usually have strong chemical odors and harmful fumes. If you use chemicals, make certain to follow the safety precautions.
Sandblasting is the most thorough way of removing paint. If you decide to have your tub sandblasted, make certain to tape off the edges of the roll rim, drain hole(s) and any faucet holes with a strong duct tape. This will help prevent damage to the porcelain during the sandblasting process. Again, you really need to think safety here if you decide to do the sandblasting on your own. Remember, you will be blasting chips of paint from the surface of the tub with a sand frit, and you don’t want to get that stuff in your eyes. Once you clean the surface, you need to get a primer coat down as soon as possible. This is particularly true with a sandblasted tub. Exposed cast iron can begin to show signs of surface rust within hours of exposure. When choosing paints, find a primer that adheres well to metal and a top coat that stands up well to moisture. When it doubt, look up the paint manufacturer online or ask the staff at the paint desk at your local hardware store.
One last thing: I would always recommend having the claw foot tub feet sandblasted. They have so much detail that it's difficult to clean out, and the results are almost always worth the extra effort to find a sandblaster. Again, make certain to get a primer coat on them as soon as possible to prevent rust from starting.
What can I say? When you gotta go, you gotta go. But that doesn't mean you have to accept just any bathroom. Especially when you have The Bathroom Diaries to help guide you to just the place. Aside from offering user reviews of thousands of restrooms worldwide, they also offer a gallery of the best bathrooms on earth. Their absolute best is the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson, Missouri. According to The Bathroom Diaries: "The women’s room has a fountain, wainscoting, stained glass appointments and an Empire tin ceiling. Live orchids lay nestled at every granite and onyx pedestal sink. The fixtures are carved from black Italian marble and gold. Voluminous chandeliers soar overhead. The air is fragrant with 80,000 fresh violets (used per month). But in this glut of material luxury, simple needs are remembered--a rocking chair is placed at the changing nook. The gents facility is equally gorgeous yet manly with black lion head sinks, black leather chairs, and a marble fireplace. The burled walnut mirror was built in 1868. Men can bond over the hand-carved mahogany billiard table." Now that's a bathroom!
One question we're asked quite frequently is, do we discount or wholesale our clawfoot tubs? The answer is sort of. Let’s start by explaining the difference between a retail, discount and wholesale clawfoot tub. A retail clawfoot tub is a tub selling at our normal selling price. Remember that our normal price is usually the best on the web. We have a solid best price guarantee!
A discounted clawfoot tub is a standard tub with one of the following conditions:
If we're overstocked in a specific model. We'll discount that claw foot tub when we want to reduce our standing inventory.
We have a display or floor model. Every now and then we sell off our display and photography models to change out our showroom.
Tubs with very minor blemishes, also known as a near perfect clawfoot tubs. These tubs have very minor blemishes and we discount the tub price accordingly. Just to be clear, we scrap any clawfoot tubs we receive that have more than a slight blemish or are not sanitary. We'd rather trash a questionable tub than have it fail on you years from now.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “day” as: 1. The period of light between dawn and nightfall; the interval from sunrise to sunset. 2a. The 24-hour period during which the earth completes one rotation on its axis.
It further defines “pass” as: “A permit, ticket, or authorization to come and go at will.”
Thus, one could logically surmise that a “day pass” for a given service would, in fact, be a pass good for:
1) a 24-hour period. 2) the time period from the moment you purchased it until midnight. 3) the time period from the moment you purchased it until the service you purchased it for closes at the end of the service day. 4) Service between dawn and nightfall.
Not so for the Washington D.C. Metro service. A day pass for them starts at 9:30 am (presumably to discourage riders during peak times). I am fine with that but I would have liked to know that before I purchased my “day pass” at 8:45am. No notice about hours appeared at the automated kiosk where I purchased the ticket. Of course, when I went to use it moments later, the turnstile would not let me through. When I went to the station agent to ask why the pass did not work, he merely smiled and pointed to a small notice posted right below his speaker:
“Day Passes valid after 9:30 am”
OK – I can live with that. How about a refund so I can purchase the correct ticket? No deal. How about an exchange? Nope. The agent (still smiling) informs me that day passes are the only tickets where you can not get a refund or exchange. I find out today that this contradicts their website which states: “Passes may be exchanged only before the pass period begins”. Of course, I was not on the D.C. Metro website when I was speaking to the station agent. When I pressed my case, the agent continued to smile and shrugged.
Knowing that I have just wasted $7 and that it will take more than $7 worth of effort to get my money back, I go back to the kiosk and try to determine how much fare I need to get from one station to the next (D.C. charges based on a zone / rate system – not a single fare like most other subway systems use). The result: my two brief subway rides for the day cost me a total of about $9.
What gets me is that the D.C. Metro has enough people complaining about a service that they take the time to make a sign explaining the problem. Of course, the sign is posted so you see it after you purchase the ticket - not before. Here’s a brainwave – why not post the sign at the location where you purchase the ticket (as opposed to 50 feet away)? That might avoid some trouble. Or how about fixing the problem by offering refunds or allowing riders to use the ticket at all times. Arghhhhh. Rant over.
After finishing our bathroom renovation, Deb and I were looking for artwork to hang on the newly painted walls. This got me thinking that I really do have some really neat original art in my house. My wife, a lettering artist and artist-in-residence in our local school district, knows a whole bunch of talented artisits and we have accumulated their work over the years. So, this post is all about art for art's sake – no bathrooms, clawfoot tubs, or plumbing at all.
We begin with Deb - after all it is her house as well! She has done a bunch of commission work, but her best work is when she works just for the fun of it. The picture of this piece:
does it no justice. The hand-done lettering and tree were cut out and placed over her hand-made paste-paper. The end result is just a brilliant explosion of color.
This picture of a bird was taken by our friend George Boudman:
George gave up a job at a book press to become an art teacher. This picture was taken with a digital camera but, much more interestingly, was printed with a Giclee printer on canvas. The hat trick was that the printing process added the appearance of brush strokes giving the finished work a hand-painted look. Cool!
Tim Weaver is a professional artist and has been doing great water colors for darn near ever. I always love how his paintings capture light. Last year, he kindly gave us this painting of an Italian villa we once stayed at:
(Please forgive the weird angles of these images – I had to take them just above or below eye-level so the camera flash would not blur the photos.)
Speaking of professional artists, Pamela Gladding (a commercial artist with a major company) gave us a pair of hat boxes which now adorn two of our bookcases:
Unfortunately, they are no longer commercially available. We also have a host of plates, napkins, and even a rug that has her artwork printed on it.
Finally, we end with a large canvas given to us as an anniversary gift by our friend Catherine Hodgkiss. We met Catherine in a youth hostel in Italy about six years ago and quickly became friends. This was one of her first large canvases – it is a Tuscan landscape painted with an experimental “water-drip” technique.
This piece is huge (4' to a side) and, again, this picture of her work does not show off her subtle use of color.
So there you have it - a little art for art's sake. Hope you enjoyed it!
During my latest bathroom “upgrade” my wife and I decided to install one of the curved shower rods we sell here at Vintage Tub & Bath. Installation is usually quite simple – remove old shower rod, if necessary, patch and paint area where the old rod was screwed into wall, and install new curved rod. Simple. However, what do you do if, as in our case, your walls are curved themselves?
The Set Up
First I had to remove the old shower rod and patch the mounting holes left in the wall. The original rod cut into the bath tile so I had to replace the damaged tile, as well. After I sanded the patch and replaced the tile, I got to work on the curved shower rod. Curved shower rods generally don’t mount where the old shower rod used to be. Rather, you drill the mounting holes three or so inches back, towards the shower wall, from the original straight rod mounting holes. The change of mounting location keeps the curved shower rod from extending too far into the bathroom, as well as tucking the ends of the shower curtain in, reducing the amount of water spray on your walls and floor.
Mount the curved rod to my curved wall and ceiling.
First, I placed a set of washers behind the mounting bracket to level the unit. Then I secured these washers with the lower mounting bracket screw:
Next, I filled in the unsightly gap created by the washers with spackling paste, and taped off the chrome mounting bracket in preparation for priming and painting:
Next came the priming and painting.
Not too shabby if I say so myself. Now I shower in style!
In the spirit of sharing that which I find interesting, I thought I would turn my readers on to a little road trip Deb and I took a few weeks ago to Eagles Mere, PA – a tiny little resort town in north-east PA littered with fantastic old Victorian homes, little shops, and great outdoor activities.
While there I saw this classic car parked outside of an attractive garage:
Anyway, the purpose of this trip was two fold: to visit a friend who opened an art gallery and do some hiking at World’s End State Park. The friend, Rich Mills, has a reputation for crafting excellent wooden picture frames:
I am not quite certain what spark ultimately caused the flame (although I suspect it was his girlfriend Crystal), but Rich exploded in a frenzy of activity last year and opened his own art gallery:
What a job he and Crystal did. The Eagles Mere Gallery of Art has been a hit and Rich is already planning to expand the business. Now, I am not the biggest art gallery fan in the world. I either like a work of art or, more often than not, don’t. In this case, I really liked it. Rich and Crystal have a good eye when it comes to what artists they will put into their gallery and keep the crap to a minimum. So if you need a pottery / painting / sculpture fix, contact Rich at the Gallery (570.458.6756). He is very friendly and knowledgeable about what Eagles Mere has to offer.
Although technically not actually at the end of the world (or if it was we missed it), Worlds End State Park is nestled in the canyon created by the Loyalsock Creek. After an hour of moderate hiking through some nice forested trails,
we got to the Canyon Vista and were rewarded with this stunning view:
Hawks were flying in the distance and you could spot fishermen in the creek below. Although Worlds End is a small park – it only has about 20 miles of trails - it is actually surrounded on three sides by the Wyoming State Forest which makes it seem a lot bigger.
All in all, Eagles Mere and Worlds End were well worth the trip. Allan and Deb give it “Two Thumbs Up”!
Tomorrow: Installing a curved shower rod in a curved bathroom.
I thought I would share an e-mail I just got from Chad in Oregon. He asks a series of questions that come up quite a bit
I could really use some advice, as all the inquiries I’ve made by telephone to (your online competitors) have been met with folks that apparently don't know the products that they sell very well. I have a couple of basic questions. I've got an original clawfoot tub in my 1911 home that I've been estimated $750 - $950 to restore (i.e. sandblast and re-plate the feet, sand & coat & paint the exterior, and of course new interior) by reputable dealers in my area of Portland, OR. For a few hundred dollars more I could just buy a new tub from you folks or ??? What am I missing here. Other than the fact that I can know my tub is original, wouldn't the benefit of having a baked on porcelain-enamel finish over an acrylic enamel (car paint?) be worth it? Do the new tubs in this price range look cheaper than original? And also, what about other high dollar manufacturers? How are their products superior? When asked this question, most have answered that they are American made, as this tells me something tangible about their quality. Or they say the name costs a lot. In my experience, Brooks Brothers suits are better made than Sears suits, Sony is better than Suny, and Honda is better than Hyundai, and someone can explain to me why. To this point no one can tell me why on cast-iron tubs. If I've got to spend $2,500 to $3,500 on a tub, for superior quality, I'll just have mine refinished. If the cheaper ones are just as "good" I'll buy new. Please help a.s.a.p." My reply: Chad, You bring up a lot of good concerns and questions. Let me try to answer what I think is the main issue: Should you refinish your old tub or buy a new one? Simple answer: Unless your particular vintage clawfoot tub has some sentimental or historic value or the original porcelain is in excellent condition, I would purchase a new tub without question. Why? Well to start, the cost difference between a refinished tub and a brand new tub isn't that great anymore. Your estimate of $750-$950 is in the same price range ($995) as one of our new Classic Roll Rim Tubs, and we include delivery.
Secondly, durability is an issue. In my experience, there's no refinished surface that is anywhere near as durable as an original porcelain enamel surface.
Obviously, paint is not as wear-resistant as glass. The commercial reality of this fact can be seen in that refinished surfaces generally don't have a warranty that extends beyond years after the original refinishing date. Our Randolph Morris clawfoot tubs, on the other hand, come with a lifetime limited warranty.
Thirdly, the issue of construction quality. A host of factors come into play when you talk about clawfoot tub quality, including materials, manufacturing processes, acceptable tolerances, etc. Furthermore, different manufacturers built millions of clawfoot tubs between roughly 1890 and 1940 and their quality varied quite a bit. I can't talk to the issue of whether an antique tub is built better than a modern tub simply because there are too many variables to make a general statement. Our real expertise is in defining affordable, higher standards for the manufacture of new claw foot tubs. I can, therefore, address your question as to quality of our tubs versus any other modern brand of tubs. To start, your comments highlight the fact that many consumers believe the more expensive an item is, the better quality it must be. This isn't always the case, especially in the clawfoot tub market. The fact of the matter is, there aren't a lot of clawfoot tub manufacturers. Of those who do make clawfoot tubs, not all of them are as single-mindedly focused on quality like we are. Here are a few examples of how we focus on quality.
Vintage Tub & Bath clawfoot brand tub feet are made from brass because, when properly prepared, brass holds a plated finish much better than the cheaper cast iron feet.
Our clawfoot tub feet are installed and checked for fit and finish at the factory. We don't send a set of feet to you in a separate box and hope they fit well.
Because we install the feet at the factory, we can check the tub and make certain it's level, as well. This eliminates the wobble issue, which is common in other clawfoot tubs.
The extremely high-quality porcelain we use has excellent acid/alkali resistance, which creates an outstanding finish and brilliant color quality.
Why do we do it? Because we think it's better to build the tub right the first time than to have to deal with the problems that poor-quality workmanship creates later on. So how do we keep the price so low? Simple. Vintage Tub & Bath is the only retailer we know of who manufactures, as well as retails clawfoot tubs directly to the public. This is a huge advantage in that we eliminate the middleman and all costs they add to the final price of a tub. Furthermore, we can spread the fixed costs of running a business over the large quantity of tubs we sell - again reducing the price per tub. This is how we build a high-quality clawfoot tub and cost-efficiently deliver it to you. I can say with great confidence that Vintage Tub & Bath clawfoot tubs are built to some of the highest standards in the industry, and are still available to the public at a very reasonable price. The superiority of our manufacturing processes, the expensive, high-quality materials used, and our meticulous quality-assurance procedures combine to give our customers the best tub prices and product currently available. If we didn't completely believe in our products, we wouldn't put our name on them and offer a lifetime limited warranty. Take a look at our clawfoot tubs and if you have any questions, give our customer service department a call toll-free at 844-502-0885 ext.1 or email us at email@example.com. They're very knowledgeable and would be happy to talk to you. I hope I answered your questions, Allan
I'm like the child who repeatedly burns his hand on a hot stove. I know it will hurt, yet I do it anyway. Every time I finish a home renovation project I swear I'll never do it again. Fast forward one year and you'll find me with a hammer, paint brush, or drill in hand working on yet another project.
I have no one to blame but myself for my masochistic behavior. This summers month-long project was redoing our tiny bathroom. We needed to get rid of the old pseudo-country look. We repainted the room with different colors to make it look brighter and bigger. We replaced horrible peg racks with real towel rods and robe hooks. I, befitting my role as General Manager at an internet plumbing store, replaced the 25 year-old sink faucet all by myself! Actually, it was pretty simple with the right tools and only took about 30 minutes. I also installed a new curved shower rod and, as I will detail in my next post, I absolutely love it! Deb, my wife, did a great job with the painting, as well as about 300 other details that needed to be taken care of. One item of note was refinishing the medicine cabinet doors. We had planned on repainting them but once I sanded the doors down, the wood looked good enough to stain. We stained and varnished them to a dark brown finish. We think those doors offer a nice contrasting color. We need to either paint or cover the cast iron radiator. There are also a few bits of touch-up painting that need to be done. Overall, however, I believe we're pretty much finished with this project. How it took four weeks I will never know. I do know that I will never, ever get involved with another renovation project as long as I live...or until we need to paint the bedroom in the fall.
Dear faithful readers, sorry for not posting for so long - been up to my eyeballs in work.
Today I want to show you some pictures of a recently discovered architectural treasure located right here in somewhat-sunny Hazleton, PA. Several years ago, a local landmark restaurant - "Ernie's Steakhouse" - went out of business. The building sat abandoned and untouched until a few weeks ago when construction teams started working on the building for a new owner. When they ripped off Ernie’s amazingly ugly faux-western façade, they revealed the stunning original structure you see below:
Apparently the building was built by a local tile works and they decorated their entrance with pink flamingos and two horses leaning against a sphere. The tile is really neat to see in person. Unfortunately, one of the workers I spoke with told me that the new owners were going to turn the building into a nightclub and were planning to cover this tile with a modern look. Hazleton just loves to wipe out any trace of the classic buildings we once had. We just don’t get it. What a shame.
I had a few possible topics for today's post, but a phrase I just saw caught my eye. "Peace, Love and Chocolate" appears at the bottom of an e-mail order confirmation I received from John D. at Vosges Haut Chocolates. I've been meaning to spread the word about these guys and so I shall in my own little way.
I discovered Vosges while walking through a shopping mall in Chicago. I was looking for Christmas gifts for my wife and noticed a good shopping omen - a long line of women crowded around a tiny store. As I got closer, my confidence grew - it was a chocolate store. After I fought my way inside, I knew I had a winner. The chocolates were stunning and unusually good. The flavor combinations aren't super-sweet like most American chocolates - rather the culinary alchemists at Vosges blend exotic ingredients from all over the world, such as wasabi, ancho chili powder, and Indian curry to get their unbelievable flavors. These are chocolates to be savored, not inhaled.
There are a lot of expensive chocolates out there, but few are really worth it. Vosges is without question, worth the cost. Vintage Tub and I both use Vosges as a gift of choice when making an impression matters. Another bonus is their customer service is top-flight. I've ordered about six times and have always been treated with professionalism and courtesy. John D., if I recall correctly, had no problem sending chocolates all over the place when I ordered last week and then changing the address on one of the orders this morning. When it comes to chocolate, these guys rule.
“Peace, Love and Chocolate” – we could all use a lot more of all three.
I love Legos. They are, without a doubt, one of the greatest toys ever designed. When I was a kid, the only toy I wanted to play with were Legos. Now, as an adult, I have to leave my childhood toys behind in a 50-gallon drum in my basement - yes, I have a lot of Legos. This isn't the case for Jonathan Eric Hunter. Mr. Hunter is an official Lego Master Model Builder who built this clawfoot tub:
I've been on a bender for the past few days attempting to find really interesting home-improvement blogs. I'm trying to make the authors of these blogs an offer they can't refuse. I'll swap them free stuff in exchange for their honest comments on our products and services. I figured I might as well ask those who are good at expressing themselves to talk about our stuff. I'm also in the middle of renovating my bathroom and my misery needs company. Anyway, in my searching, I found House Made and just stopped cold. Merideth and Beth are renovating their 1922 Spanish bungalow in Oakland, CA and they're sharing their adventures with the world. The site looks great and the writing is top-rate. The ode to their new gate is indicative of their tongue-in-cheek style. I also love their clever use of Flickr. Their latest post shows why folks with no taste should be prohibited from changing the exteriors of their homes. Vinyl siding on a stucco bungalow is an architectural crime of the first-order. Oh, my eyes!
There are a lot of home improvement sites and blogs on the web. Most are pretty bland. There are, however, a few sites that stand above the rest. These blogs offer real insight and solid advice. Best of all, the posts are well written. 1) House In Progress
Tag Line: “We call it home IMPROVEMENT because it can’t get any worse.” Notes: 1,300 people a day check out the latest progress on Aaron and Jeannie’s 1914 Chicago Bungalow. I really like the attention to detail in their posts. For example, their January 2004 post about pressure balance systems does a nice job of clearly explaining how these systems work and what they did to overcome an actual installation problem. They're almost finished with their master bathroom and I'm hoping they post the finished images soon. 2) Our Fixer-Upper Tag Line: “Because we asked for it.” Notes: Teague and Mindy are renovating their New York 1890’s Italianate home. Teague is an interior designer and Mindy is a web designer. Like most good blogs, the posts are informative and interesting. The thing that got me was the photo gallery showing different neat buildings in their town. It's obvious they really love their home. It seems like, to them, this isn’t a task that has to get done, although, I am fairly certain it must feel like that on certain days. Rather, it must be a labor of love they're willing to share with everyone. 3) That Old House Tag Line: “Sure, the kitchen is small, and the floors are kind of slanted, but that can be fixed, right? Right?” Notes: Nola, a freelance writer, and editor, is just starting the restoration of her New Orleans home. Having discovered that “actually doing construction projects on Saturday morning was a whole lot harder than watching them on TV”, Nola hung up her tool belt and has taken on the role of General Contractor. Her blog, therefore, focuses on both the actual construction as well as managing contractors. I will end this post with a John F. Kennedy quote that Nola used in her very first post. This says it all for me: "All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, not in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin." - JFK, Inaugural Address, 1960
One of the more interesting questions we're asked is “After I install one of your clawfoot tubs and faucet sets, will my bathroom pass a plumbing code inspection?” The simple, yet unfortunate answer is: definitely maybe. Let me explain what I mean by starting with a little plumbing code history and theory. As you may have guessed, building and plumbing codes exist to provide minimum standards of health and safety for the public. The problem is there isn't a uniform plumbing code for the US. Every state, county, city, and town has the right to define and enforce their plumbing codes as they see fit. Needless to say, this lack of a uniform plumbing code causes a great deal of confusion and frustration. In 1994, several major model code organizations joined together to form the International Code Council (ICC). The goal of the ICC was to draft a set of universal building and plumbing codes. After years of research and discussion, the ICC published the first full edition of the I-Codes in 2000. The ICC’s efforts were, in large part, successful and have been adopted in 48 US states as well as the District of Columbia. Pennsylvania, for example, adopted the ICC’s I-Code as the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code in July of 2004. That does not mean, however, that the US has a strictly enforced, uniform plumbing code. Remember, individual states and other political units (towns, counties, etc.) can modify the I-Codes before making those standards and practices law. Now, let’s take a quick look at the concepts behind the codes. When it comes to bathtubs, the ICC concerns itself with proper tub and fixture installation, as well as minimizing the risk of backflow. Backflow, or more accurately as backsiphonage, is created by a difference in water pressures which causes water to flow back into the distribution pipes of a potable water supply. To prevent the potable water supply system from being contaminated, the supply lines or fittings are required to be installed in a manner that will prevent backflow. How can backflow actually occur? Imagine you were bathing with the spout of your faucet under the flood level or rim of the tub and there was a break in the water main or some other circumstance that caused your water pressure to drop quickly. It's possible the suction caused by this loss of pressure could draw your bathwater back into the faucet, through your supply lines and into the public water supply. So, how does all this apply to installing your clawfoot tub and faucets? As a general rule, you'll almost always pass an inspection if either the spout of your faucet is above the roll rim of the clawfoot tub or you've installed a backflow prevention device in accordance with the manufacturers’ installation instructions. Installing these devices is a fairly easy and inexpensive task if you do it during the initial bathtub installation. On the other hand, you'll almost certainly not pass an inspection if your spout is below the flood level rim of the tub. The gray area occurs when you have a spout below the flood level rim, but above the overflow and you don't have any backflow prevention device. The International Plumbing Code would prohibit that application. Many inspectors and enforcement agencies, however, would pass that faucet and tub combination based on the fact the spout is above the overflow hole. Examples: The Strom Plumbing Gooseneck Faucet shown below is an example of a faucet that would not require a backflow prevention device. The spout is above the flood level rim of the tub.
Strom Plumbing Gooseneck Faucet
However, if you add a handshower to the Gooseneck faucet you need to make certain the handshower unit has a vacuum breaker because the handshower could get into the bathwater.
An example of a gray area would be the installation of an English Telephone Faucet. According to the ICC, you only need to install backflow prevention devices to the hot and cold supply lines; the handshower would not need a separate backflow prevention device. Some enforcement agencies, on the other hand, wouldn't insist on backflow prevention devices in your supply lines. Instead, they might only require you add a vacuum breaker to the handshower because the faucet spout is above the overflow.
Our advice is to always install backflow prevention devices when the spout is located below the rim of the tub. Some devices are small and decorative so they can be installed right at the faucet. Others are designed for installation directly on your supply lines. Remember - although backflow prevention devices don't necessarily need to be exposed, they must be accessible so they can be maintained and inspected. If you have a specific question about your installation, consult with a qualified plumber or call your local code enforcement office for guidance. I would like to thank Lynne Simnick, Senior Technical Staff, ICC for taking the time to explain the ICC codes, as well as proofreading this post for technical accuracy. I also want to thank Master Plumber George Yenchko of Hazleton Plumbing and Heating Co. and the Hazleton Code Enforcement Office for their comments on the Pennsylvania plumbing codes and regulations.
Having spent this weekend renovating my bathroom, I have been reacquainted with the joys of allergies. The 10-minute sneezing fit I had at our local major home-improvement center after pulling out a very dusty box from a floor-level shelf reminded me that dust is not my friend. This morning, as I lay awake in the pre-dawn hours sniffling, I remembered my friend Cade at Achoo! Allergy offered my faithful readers a 10% discount on most of the items in his rather extensive store. Achoo offers everything from air purifiers tovacuum cleaner accessories. Check out their Learning Center, which includes a lot of great information on products and allergens. Let's unite and strike a blow against pollen, cat dander, and home-improvement store dust! Use the coupon code "VTB09AA30" to get 10% off at Achoo! Allergy. The coupon code expires September 30, 2005, and is not valid on Miele and Tempur-Pedic products.
I want to give a big Vintage Tub and Bath shout-out to the ReStore Home Improvement Center. ReStore is a non-profit store that sells quality home improvement materials to the public at low prices in a convenient retail setting. ReStore gets its inventory of used, salvaged and surplus materials from the building industry, homeowners, contractors, manufacturers, retailers and municipal collection centers. Their goal is to recycle unwanted building materials, provide job training, and offer great deals to the general public. I think it is a great idea and I wanted to let my faithful readers know about them. ReStore is located in Springfield, Massachusetts. There are other, similar stores all over the country – a partial list appears here. Go get ‘em ReStore!
Good morning faithful readers! We're going to start the week off on a lighter note. Here, for your consideration, is the "bathroom as shrine" as interpreted by Dave Nalle. The staff at the Daily Tubber will not hold it against Dave that the room is not, technically speaking, a bathroom (as it lacks the all-important bathtub ). We understand Dave had limited space to work with and, as Dave himself puts it: "since I built it primarily for my use, I'm not about to call it (a Powder Room). I knew it was going to end up being my personal bathroom as soon as the project started, because I could tell how eager my wife was to have the enormous master bathroom mostly to herself as her endless array of bottles and tubes of strange chemicals immediately began to creep over and surround what had been my sink."
Forced out of his own master bath, Dave had to take drastic action and build another bathroom. We feel your pain, brother - tell us more.
"Since it was going to be my bathroom I wanted it to look like a place I would enjoy, more like a library than a mere bathroom. With a house full of young girls I also wanted it to be a somewhat masculine, adult-friendly spot." Dave accomplished his goal by finishing "the entire interior in wood, with green painted dolly madison wainscoting, natural birch panels on the walls and white painted birch on the ceiling, with the floor in rust-colored saltillo tile."
To cap it all off, Dave added a magnificent wood door with stained glass.
Hats off to Dave Nalle for boldly building a masculine bathroom retreat!
To read more about this project, click on the "Bathroom as Shrine" title above.
Another blog search engine I came across is named - ready for this - the Blog Search Engine! They have a both a Google-style search box and a Yahoo-style directory to search for and browse the universe of blogging. Happy hunting.
In my quest to learn more about blogging, I came across the Kmax Blog Directory. Man, do they have the information - blog listings, how-to articles, rankings, etc. Neat site if you want to dive into blogging.
In Clawfoot Tub Buying Guide Part 1, I discussed the differences between champagne and whirlpool clawfoot tubs. Today, we'll discuss clawfoot tub construction, as well as basic cleaning and maintenance. Clawfoot tubs are generally categorized as either porcelain-over-cast-iron or acrylic. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to limit my comments to the acrylic tubs because they're the only type of tubs currently being built as whirlpool or champagne clawfoot tubs. As you may suspect, not all acrylic tubs are equal. There are three general categories of acrylic tubs. 1. Fiberglass Clawfoot Tubs: These clawfoot tubs can still be found, even though they're not as popular as they once were. Better quality acrylic tubs have forced fiberglass clawfoot tubs into near extinction. In my opinion, fiberglass is a fine material for built-in tubs and showers, but not for clawfoot tubs because it flexes too much and they generally have very rough exteriors. Hollow Double Wall Acrylic: These tubs are built using two smooth acrylic sheets separated by a few spacers or braces. Although they are very light, I dislike them because they have way too much flex and don't retain heat very well. Solid Double Wall Acrylic: In my opinion, this is the best combination for your money. The interior and exterior acrylic sheets are molded onto a solid composite material. Unfortunately, not many manufacturers use this construction technique. One that does, American Bath Factory, describes their patented Acrastone process as the result of “vacuum forming two ¼” sheets of high-quality cast acrylic and laminating them together with a patented crushed stone/resin compound.” The cast acrylic sheet has a second layer of ABS behind it in order to give their tubs improved thickness, strength, and weight. At Vintage Tub and Bath, we offer a full line of American Bath Factory tubs. Maintaining an acrylic tub is fairly easy. American Bath Factory recommends using mild soap, a sponge, and warm water. Since the acrylic surface is non-porous, soap stains and dirt cannot adhere to it, making cleaning a snap. Use a polishing compound to buff and clean out any tough stains. Never use abrasive cleaning products or cleansers with an acetone base. These products can scratch the surface and produce hairline cracks. Whirlpool and massage tubs: American Bath Factory champagne massage tubs are self-cleaning. Remember, the air pipes in a champagne massage tub are not connected to the drain. Therefore, water trapped in the air pipes has to be blown out by the blower. The tub motor is set to turn itself back on 15 minutes after each use for 20 minutes. This self-purge feature will ensure the air pipes are always dry & clean, and ready for your next bath. Whirlpool tubs, on the other hand, require a bit more effort. Fill your Caspian Whirlpool tub several inches above the jet level and add a small scoop of Cascade dish detergent. Run the tub for 20 minutes. Drain. Refill with warm water and run for 5 more minutes. Drain. It is just that easy!
Remember the 1948 Cary Grant movie Mr. Blanding's Builds His Dream House? The story revolved around, rather obviously, the comic trials and tribulations of building a new home. Fast forward to 2005, add the internet and presto - you have the Irving Blog! This blog gives you the blow by blow account of how the Coult's are remodeling their 1909 home. It is well written and is worth a look if you are into home remodeling projects. Build Dream House
Among the more interesting clawfoot tubs we offer are the champagne and whirlpool tubs. They are designed to combine the traditional look of a clawfoot tub with the modern luxury of hydro-massage. I thought it would be useful to explain the difference between these two clawfoot tub styles. The champagne massage system pumps hot air into the bath water through scores of tiny holes in the floor of the clawfoot tub. This air forms thousands of tiny bubbles that are meant to gently massage the entire body as they float upward.
Typically these tubs come with electronic control panels which allow you adjust the intensity and speed of the air flow to your liking. Better quality tubs (like the American Bath Factory tubs we offer) have built-in auto purge systems that dry the internal piping after every use. This helps keep that part of your bath clean and sanitary.
A true whirlpool tub, on the other hand, contains a limited number of jets that focus a very powerful stream of water to specific areas of the body. The jets are more powerful in a whirlpool tub because the water - not just air as is the case with a Champagne bath - circulates through the internal piping of the tub. So which tub do you choose? If you are looking for a gentle to moderate whole-body massage, then take a look at the Champagne clawfoot tubs. If you want a more targeted, moderate-to-strong hydro-massage experience, then sit yourself in a whirlpool tub. Champagne massage tubs are truer reproductions of the classic clawfoot tub. The Caspian, on the other hand, has a slightly more modern, ergonomically designed look. In part 2, I will discuss the differences in whirlpool tub construction and tips on how to clean and maintain your champagne or whirlpool tub.
Last week, on Monday the 20th to be exact, engineer Jack Kilby passed away at the age of 81 after a brief battle with cancer. The mass media, with the notable exception of ABC News, was too busy feeding us the usual mind-numbing “Soylent Green”-ish mixture of Hollywood celebrity trite, criminal tragedy, and political non-issues to really make note of it. Who can blame them? We would not have paid much attention anyway – we were preoccupied Googling Jessica Simpson (#1 search last week) and Paris Hilton (#5).
Let’s face it - Kilby’s death was just not as newsworthy as Tom Cruise’s third engagement or Oprah’s inability to purchase a hand bag. No, during his life he didn’t do enough to merit that kind of attention or respect. After all, he only invented the microchip (1958) and handheld calculator (1966) – two literally tiny accomplishments that led to the creation of a trillion-dollar computer industry, guaranteed US dominance in global business for decades, made personal computing possible, revolutionized communications, and extended the length and quality of your life in every conceivable way.
Not that we could learn anything from his life in any event. Why make a big deal about the value of hard work? Why mention that he invented the microchip while the rest of the engineers at his company were on summer vacation? Or, why emphasize the humility he showed when, after learning that he won the Nobel Prize, he celebrated by making a cup of coffee? Why indeed?
Fortunately, there are a number of sites that chronicle Kilby’s life and accomplishments . I will finish by saying a simple, but heartfelt, “Thank You” to Mr. Kilby. His invention made my life, and the lives of the people I love, a lot better in too many ways to count. For that I am truly grateful.
Let's start off by introducing Fay Sciarra: artist, mother and professional-grade tubber. One of the items she likes to paint is, of course, the claw foot bathtub she has in her studio. The tub is not a prop, mind you, but a fully-functioning part of the studio. She likes to contemplate her work while taking a good long soak with a glass of chardonnay. Obviously, she has perfected the art of multitasking.
The Claw Foot Bathtub as a Double Bass
Meet Jeff Warmouth , a Massachusetts-based media artist who built this fully functional claw foot bathtub double bass guitar:
The construction details, in his words: “The neck is bolted through the drainpipe hole in such a way that the tub itself is not damaged. All of the wooden elements are handmade, using methods based on the construction of an actual bass. The string scale is about 125% the length of a standard 3/4 upright bass. The strings themselves are made from different gauges of “weed whacker” string, and are tuned with guitar tuners, the only standard music hardware used on this sculpture.”
The Claw Foot Bathtub as Flower Planter
Finally, I found a nice image of a claw foot bathtub in one of the more common “non-standard” uses – as a flower planter. Benicia Living , “an informal magazine about Benicia”, California, has this (and a host of other pretty neat slice-of-life photographs) on their site.
OK kids, enough for now. Next week: Whirlpool clawfoot tubs (construction, how to buy, maintenance, etc.), perhaps another promotional offer or two from some other retailers, and anything else that I find interesting. Have a great weekend.
Your Honor, if it may please the court – Vintage Tub & Bath would like to offer into evidence four examples of the mischief that occurs when you mix claw foot bathtubs with people who have too much time on their hands. I will limit this post to photos that show the all-purpose claw foot bathtub in its transportation role. Exhibit A: The claw foot bathtub as a kayak.
This still photograph shows a man using a claw foot bathtub as an improvised kayak on Oregon’s Rogue River. How they actually got the tub to stay afloat while running a set of rapids is beyond me, but they did. Amazing. Exhibit B: The claw foot bathtub as motorcycle
The fine folks at carreview.com have a nice image of two adventurous souls driving a claw foot bathtub chopper. We are not certain if this an actual motorcycle or just an oversized go-cart. In any event, you gotta love those custom painted flames! Exhibit C: The claw foot bathtub as an automobile
This is the best example of the marriage between the internal combustion engine and claw foot bathtub I can find. The photo says it all – wow! Show Busters Stars and Cars built this over-the-top wonder. They also build cars for Hollywood movies. Tomorrow: the claw foot bathtub as a musical instrument, meditation device, and garden sculpture.