Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Discount and Wholesale Clawfoot Tubs

One question we get asked 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) and is a lot more tub for a lot less money than was available just five years ago.

A “discounted clawfoot tub”, in our world, is a standard tub with one of the following conditions:

1) We are overstocked in a specific model. We will discount that claw foot tub when we want to reduce our standing inventory.
2) We have a “display” or “floor” model. Every now and then we sell off our display and photography models to change out our showroom.
3) Tubs with VERY minor blemishes (also known as a “near perfect” clawfoot tubs - see image below). 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 (the porcelain does not fully cover all of the cast iron in the bathing area). We would rather trash a questionable tub than have it fail on you years from now.


Discount Clawfoot Tub

Browse our current stock of items on special.


Wholesale clawfoot tubs” is really a misnomer. It is more appropriate to say we are able to offer larger discounts to huge purchasers (single or multiple shipping containers at a time). A large hotel or B&B chain would be an example of a “wholesale clawfoot tub purchaser.” I mention “wholesale” only because “wholesale” is often incorrectly interchanged with “discount”. See, all clear now.

Monday, August 29, 2005

When a Day is not a Day

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.

Good Times.

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.

More Clawfoot Tub Art

It seems like the clawfoot tub never ceases to inspire the artistic mind. Another example - sent to me by Frank B. from Courtney's Candles and Creations - is this ceramic of a clawfoot tub with flowers:






Monday, August 22, 2005

Art for Art's Sake

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!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Installing a Curved Shower Rod on a Curved Wall

During my latest bathroom “upgrade” my wife and I decided to install one of the Curved Shower Rods we sell here at Vintage Tub. Installation is usually quite simple – remove old shower rod, patch and paint area where old rod was screwed into wall (if necessary) and install new curved rod. Simple. However, what do you do if - as in our case – your walls are curved themselves? Yul Brynner, as the King of Siam in "The King and I," put it best: "Tis a puzzlement!"

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.

Now, 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 dashed lines in the image below show where a straight rod would be relative to a curved rod. This 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).





The challenge now was to mount the curved rod to my curved wall / ceiling (shown finished below):





The Solution:

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 (two coats) and painting (two coats). The finished result (taa-da!):





Not too shabby if I say so myself. Now I shower in style!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Eagles Mere Gallery of Art / Worlds End State Park

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.

After Eagles Mere, Deb and I headed out to Worlds End State Park for some hiking.



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.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chad Asks: Should I Refinish My Old Clawfoot Tub or Get a New One?

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 here:

"Hi Allan,

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 is just not that great anymore. Your estimate of $750-$950 is in the same price range ($995) as one of our new 5' classic roll rim tubs (and we include delivery):





Secondly, durability is an issue. In my experience there is 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 5 years after the original refinishing date. New Vintage Tub and Bath brand clawfoot tubs, on the other hand, come with a lifetime limited warranty.

Thirdly, the issue of construction quality comes into play. A host of factors come into play when you talk about clawfoot tub quality (materials, manufacturing processes, acceptable tolerances, etc.). Furthermore, many different manufacturers built millions of clawfoot tubs between roughly 1890 and 1940 and their quality varied quite a bit. I just can not 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 that the more expensive an item is, the better quality it must be. This is just not always so, especially in the clawfoot tub market. The fact of the matter is that there are not a lot of clawfoot tub manufacturers. Of those that do make clawfoot tubs, not all of them are as single-mindedly focused on quality like we are. Examples:

-Vintage Tub brand tub feet are made from brass because, when properly prepared, brass holds a plated finish much better than the cheaper cast iron feet.
-Regardless of materials, our clawfoot tub feet are installed and checked for fit and finish at the factory. We do not send a set of feet to you in a separate box and hope that they fit well.
-Because we install the feet at the factory, we can check the tub and make certain it is level as well. This eliminates the "wobble" issue so 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 is 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 and Bath is the only retailer we know of that manufactures as well as retails clawfoot tubs directly to the public. This is a huge advantage in that we eliminate the "middlemen" and all the 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 and Bath brand 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 did not completely believe in our products, we would not put our name on them and offer a lifetime limited warranty. ‘nuff said.

Take a look at our clawfoot tubs and if you have any questions, give our customer service department a call (toll free: 877.868.1369 or 570.450.7925). They are very knowledgeable and are happy to talk to you.

I hope I answered your questions,

Allan



Bathroom Renovation: One of the Joys of Summer!

Alternate title: Our Little Journey Through Dante’s 3rd Circle of Hell.

I am like the child who repeatedly burns his hand on a hot stove: I know it will hurt, yet I do it any way. Every time I finish a home renovation project I swear that I will NEVER do it again. Fast forward one year and you will find me with hammer / paint brush / drill in hand working on yet another project (check out the hap-hap-happy look on my face):





I have no one to blame but myself for my masochistic behavior.

This summers month-long “it-will-only-take-a-week” project was redoing our tiny bathroom. We needed to get rid of the old pseudo-country look (shown below just after we started demolition, er, excuse me, renovation):





Note that the old ugly floor has been replaced (sorry you missed that) and that the medicine cabinet doors are removed. Check out that shiny blue trim as well.

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 ABSOLUTLY LOVE IT! Deb, my wife, did a great job with the painting (a task I loathe) 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. The (almost) finished result:







Yes, 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 are 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).

;-)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Stunning Tile Work

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 fa├žade, 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.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Peace, Love and Chocolate

I had a couple of 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 have 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 Wifey 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 are not super-sweet like most American chocolates - rather the culinary alchemists at Vosges blend exotic ingredients from all over the world (wasabi, ancho chili powder, Indian curry, etc.) to get their unbelievable flavors. These are chocolates to be savored, not inhaled.

There is lot of expensive chocolates out there but few really are worth it. Vosges is very definitely, without question, worth the cost. Vintage Tub and I both use Vosges as a "gift of choice" when making an impression matters. The big bonus is that their customer service staff is top-flight. I have ordered about 6 times and I 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.