Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Clawfoot Whirlpool Tub – A Buying Guide (Pt. 1).

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. 
Whirlpool Tub

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.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Jack Kilby, Engineer, Passes Away at Age 81

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.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Claw Foot Bathtub Oddities - Part Duex

The Claw Foot Bathtub as Art.

Today we continue our exploration of the more innovative and unusual uses for a claw foot bathtub. The theme: the claw foot bathtub as art.

Artistic Meditation:

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.

fully-functioning studio claw foot bathtub

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 claw foot bathtub as double bass

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Claw Foot Bathtub Oddities - Part 1

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.

Kayak Clawfoot Tub

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

Motorcycle Clawfoot Tub

The fine folks at 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

Clawfoot Tub Car

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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Clawfoot Bathtub Racing for Fun and (Little) Profit!

Some “City Folks” assume that clawfoot bathtubs are just for bathing. Not so, city slickers! The clawfoot bathtub has more uses than a hyperactive boy scout with a Swiss army knife. For instance, clawfoot bathtubs can be used to water farm animals. In fact, the original modern clawfoot bathtub was most likely designed by John Kohler in the 1880’s as an improved water trough that could also be used for bathing. 

Some of the more industrious residents in our area bury the faucet end of the tub into the ground to create a grotto for the Virgin Mary. Although there are literally hundreds of uses for the ubiquitous claw foot bathtub, perhaps the most dangerous application involves placing the tub into a small, streamlined hull and adding a large outboard motor. The result, aside from an almost guaranteed trip to the hospital, is your very own bathtub racer!

How tub racing first got started is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. No, not really – I just said that to have a cool intro to the second paragraph. Sorry. Anyway, according to The Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society this form of competition started in 1967 with 200 tubers racing on a 36-mile course near Vancouver, Canada. 

Fast forward to July of 2005 and you have the city of Nanaimo hosting the 39th annual World Championship Bathtub Race. This year the race theme – get ready for this – is a salute to ever-popular 40th Anniversary of the Joint Use of the Test Ranges at CFMETR, Nanoose by the US and Canadian NAVIES. 

So, kids, if you’re just happen to be near Nanaimo from the 21st to 24th of July check out the race and raise a glass to the test range.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Wise Geek

Monday, June 20, 2005

Fireclay, Vitreous, and Porcelain China Defined

We often get the question: What is the difference between fireclay, vitreous, and porcelain china? After all, we offer fireclay kitchen sinks, vitreous china pedestal sinks, and porcelain-over-cast-iron clawfoot tubs. The answer, as far as the surface glaze, there's not much of a difference at all. All of these materials are substances formed by firing clay and other minerals at high temperature. 
Vitreous China Pedestal Sink

The best technical definitions I can find are:

  • Fireclay China: Mixture of clay and minerals, similar to vitreous china, which is molded, glazed and fired at intense temperatures.
  • Vitreous China: Mixture of clay, feldspar, and quartz which is molded, glazed and "baked" at extremely high temperatures, resulting in a material which is strong, nonporous and impervious to absorption. The term refers to both the basic fixture material and the surface glaze used in the manufacture of such plumbing fixtures as lavatories, toilets, and bidets.
  • Porcelain: A special type of clay either white or gray, to which kaolin (a white firing stiff clay) and white China stone (finely decayed granite, washed and prepared as small white blocks) is added. When fired at temperatures of 1,280 Celcius and over, the body vitrifies, i.e. it becomes completely impermeable.
Fireclay Farmhouse Sink
Of course, there are some critical differences in construction techniques. Claw foot tubs, for instance, are built by coating an iron casting with porcelain frit and firing it at a high enough temperature to fuse the frit to the iron. Pure fireclay and vitreous china construction are not used here because claw foot tubs built with these materials could not withstand the weight and stresses of normal use. Conversely, kitchen sinks and pedestal bathroom sinks are generally no longer made with porcelain over cast iron. The strength and quality of modern ceramic production eliminates the need to reinforce these items with cast iron thus making them lighter and easier to manufacture.

A technical issue that clawfoot tub purchasers should be aware of is outgassing. Defined as the "venting of volatile gases from the heated interior of solid body sinks", outgassing occurs when the cast iron hull of a claw foot tub is placed into a kiln to fuse the porcelain frit to the tub. The increase in temperature causes gases to form. If the tub is not made very carefully, these gases will leave fine pinholes in the finished surface. These holes are not only unsightly but can also expose the cast iron base to water and air which will, over time, cause the claw foot tub interior to rust.

All clawfoot tubs that have the Vintage Tub and Bath name on them use the highest quality sanitary frits commercially available and are meticulously inspected by hand for defects to ensure that your tub is the finest possible quality.

National Gallery of Australia

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Sheer Joy of The Muffuletta Sandwich

New Orleans - the most European of US cities - is the home of many unique cultural phenomena: Bourbon Street, Preservation Jazz Hall (with its patented "we-could-not-possibly-spend-less-on-building-comfort-or-maintenance" vibe), Marti Gras, and so on. However, there is one item that stands above the rest. An item so unique, so pure, and so New Orleans that I just have to bring it to your attention. What man-made object could generate such admiration and affection? The Muffuletta sandwich, of course (or, as I call it, "perfection on a bun").

Image Source: Great Sandwiches by Bill Dawes
The Muffuletta sandwich was first made at the Central Grocery (923 Decatur Street) and consists of a round loaf of crusty Italian bread, split and filled with layers of sliced Provolone cheese, Genoa salami and Cappicola ham, topped with Olive Salad.

It may not sound like much, but it rocks. One of these bad boys will feed two easily. I won't say much more except that the site I link to above has a killer recipe so you too can enjoy the Epicurean delight that is a Muffuletta sandwich (the key, of course, is the olive/salt flavor blast you get from the olive salad topping). I have been craving one of these sandwiches for the past few days because one of my friends from Louisiana (Amber, I am talking about you) brought it up in conversation and now I must find/steal/make one.

I know, I know, this is a blog about plumbing and I gotta write about sanitary ware one of these days. Next post, I promise.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why We Offer Discount Coupons

Yes, it is a bit strange that a blog about clawfoot tubs and antique plumbing also offers discount coupons from other stores. We offer these coupons to give our customers access to real savings - not the endless "free shipping" offers disguised as "special discount coupons." We have strong relationships with a number of marketing departments from other internet retailers and we talk about ways to improve business. One of those ways is to offer discount coupons from time to time. That said, I will post a discount coupon from another retailer if:
  • The retailer is not a direct competitor of ours
  • There is a real discount or benefit involved
Every coupon I post is:
  • from a company and /or person I know personally
  • Legitimate. If you try to use the discount coupon and it doesn't work, e-mail me and I will find out why it doesn't work. Obviously you should check to see if the coupon has expired. Remember, these discount coupons are generally only valid for internet purchases.
  • Free of charge to both you AND the other retailer. Vintage Tub & Bath doesn't charge other retailers to post their discount coupons. If you can save a few bucks on a purchase, the seller can advertise the offer at no cost, and we get more folks checking out our tubs then everybody wins.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The $40.50 J. L. Mott Clawfoot Tub

J. L. Mott Iron WorksVintage Tub & Bath has a lot of period plumbing brochures we used for reference when we were still selling antique tubs. One of those brochures came from J. L. Mott Iron Works - one of the finest manufacturers of sanitary ware in the US. I thought it might be interesting to show you their 5' Layton clawfoot tub from their 1914 catalog.

The tub, with a painted exterior, faucet, drain, and supply lines, sold for $40.50. Today, we sell the comparable set of tub and fixtures for $1,458. Sound expensive? 

As a point of comparison, the average house in 1914 in Morristown, NJ was $4,000. Today, a home in Morristown goes for $342,000. 

All of a sudden, the tub looks like a bargain. Gotta love inflation! Until next time. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Refinishing a Clawfoot Tub

On my Monday post, I noted that Vintage Tub and Bath no longer offers refinished claw foot tubs. It didn't make much sense to offer refinished tubs when a customer could purchase a new clawfoot tub for the cost of a less durable refinished bathtub. 

Clawfoot Tub
However, there are times when refinishing is still worth considering. For example, if you you already have a tub, have an unusual clawfoot tub, your bathtub is installed and you do not want to remove it, etc. 

If this is the case, there are a number of refinishers you can contact including PermaGlaze, Miracle Method, and Unique RefinishersFor the do-it-yourselfer, try Zap Restorer

PLEASE NOTE: I have never personally used these products and am not endorsing them. I just want to let you know that these services exist and how to contact them.

Before paying to have your tub refinished you should, of course, take the time to find out about the company. If they are refinishing the tub in place, let them know BEFORE they start that you will carefully inspect the room for over spray when the job is done. Check their references and make certain you review their work before making a final payment. Get a written copy of their warranty and find out if the main company will honor warranty claims if the local franchise goes out of business. Finally, make certain you follow their care instructions - harsh chemicals will destroy the refinishing and most likely void your warranty.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sources for Antique Tubs

Although Vintage Tub & Bath no longer sells refinished antique tubs, we can point you in the right direction. Incidentally, we stopped selling the refinished tubs because the price of a new tub has become so inexpensive and because refinished tubs just don't hold up well to daily use. 
Clawfoot Tub

However, if you just have to have a real antique tub, you can start looking at your local antique dealers. Architectural salvage yards are another great source. Check out our comprehensive salvage yard list for a yard near you. SalvageWeb is a neat site that helps homeowners and businesses search the worldwide architectural salvage market.

Hope this helps you find the antique clawfoot tub of your dreams. Remember, you can still get your faucets and fixtures at Vintage Tub & Bath.

Our first foray into blogging . . .

Well, here we go venturing into the wild unknown electronic wilderness known as blogging. I started this blog for four reasons:
  • To provide a forum to discuss various issues concerning vintage plumbing,
  • To act as a forum for my fellow members to swap and post special offers and promotions with each other,
  • To post information concerning the occasional interesting site or event worth noting,
  • and to learn more about how blogs work.

So, with that said, I will start posting in earnest in the next few days.