Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blog Tag

Tag! I'm it. Blog Tagging has hit the search engine / online retailer crowd with a vengeance. It started with an October 18th blog post by Sharon Jacobsen in which she describes collecting interesting, but little-known, facts about people she knows. The idea took off and people started a sort of blogging "chain letter" / tag-game wherein each blogger wrote 5 little known things about themselves and passing that on to five more bloggers they know. So, I got tagged by both Brian Mark (the all-knowing, all-seeing master of power tools) and Alan Rimm-Kaufman (search engine marketing guru).

So, here are the five things you most-likely did not know about me:

1) I competed five times in the One Lap of America (the direct-descendent of the original Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash - a.k.a "Cannonball Run"). The race is a 7-day marathon that runs about 6,000 miles all over the USA. I raced a brand-new (at that time) Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 and actually took home a trophy (3rd in class) on my final run in 1996.

2) I am an Outward Bound Alpine Mountaineering School graduate. 30 days in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado. I completed about 180 miles of hiking and bagged 14 peaks – many above 14,000 feet.

3) I have flown “left seat” in the last fully-restored WWII-era B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber. My family has supported the Collings Foundation from the start and I have flown over 15 times in the B-24, B-17 and once in their B-25. The highlight, however, was getting a chance to actually fly the B-24 for 20 minutes (many, many years ago). The pilot and co-pilot were right there to make certain I did not run amok. It was a blast. Rally gave me an appreciation of just how difficult those aircraft are to fly.

4)When I was a student in college, I had dinner with Supreme Court Justice Lewis Franklin Powell.

5) My favorite band is The Rolling Stones. They are, IMHO, the greatest Rock and Roll band that ever existed. Few bands ever put out records that can touch the Let it Bleed, Exile on Main Street and Some Girls albums much less do it over and over again for 40 years. Talent and longevity. ‘nuff said.

Now it is time to pass the love along. I am going to tag Lee Oden (another of the online marketing maestros), Mindy Law (a home improvement blogger), Danny Moon (one of our interns), Jeff Molander (master of the affiliate marketing world), and Bill Tanzer(Chief Strategist for Hitwise competitive research).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cybermonday Online Shopping Mall

I want to let our readers know about a genuinely great site to do your cybermonday.com. Unlike most shopping sites, all of the net revenue generated by the store goes directly to the Ray Greenly scholarship fund.



Cancer claimed Ray far too early in life. Shop.org started this scholarship to help students learn more about one of Ray's professional passions - online marketing.

Hundreds of leading online stores are listed on the site including Gap, Apple, Sears, Lands End, Target, Circuit City and, of course, Vintage Tub and Bath.

So, when you are shopping this holiday season please stop by cybermonday.com and take a look around. You won't pay any more but you will help some really great kids get an education.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Word of Mouth Marketing - The Book

Here is a quick shout-out to Andy over at the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association. He sent me a copy of his latest book Word of Mouth Marketing - How Smart Companies Get People Talking. Seth Godin writes the introduction to this well done book concering how companies get folks talking about their products. Thanks again Andy!

Monday, September 18, 2006

International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

OK - I know I have been a bit lax in posting lately. However, I just have not had much to say until I found out tomorrow was International Talk Like a Pirate Day". Don't know the lingo? No problem - the English to Pirate translater is here to help. I just had to share.

Monday, August 21, 2006

How Do I Fix Broken Clawfoot Tub Feet?

I like posting the more interesting letters we get from our customers. Today, Camille wrote us about some problems she was having with her tub feet:

WE RECENTLY HAD A MAN COME TO PUT TILE DOWN ON OUR BATHROOM FLOOR , HE HAD TO REMOVE THE CLAW FOOT TUB OUT OF THE BATHROOM IN ORDER TO COMPLETE THE TASK. IN ORDER FOR HIM TO REMOVE THE TUB OUT OF THE BATHROOM HE HAD TO TAKE TWO OF THE BACK LEGS OFF. WHEN HE FINISHED TILING OUT FLOOR AND PUT THE TUB BACK WE FOUND OUT THAT ONE OF THE LEGS WAS NOT SECURE AND THERE WAS A BIG BOOM , THE PIPES BROKE IN HALF AND WATER WAS COMING FROM THE BATHROOM, THROUGH OUR DINING ROOM CEILING IN WHICH RUINED AN ALREADY OLD BUT FUNTIONING CHANDELIER ETC. WE CALLED HIM AND HAD HIM COME BACK TO SEE WHAT WENT WRONG SO HE TRIED SOLDERING IT BACK ONTO THE BOTTOM BUT THAT DIDN’T WORK AND THE OTHER BACK LEG FELL OFF TOO. SO NOW WE HAVE TILES AND BRICKS TRYING TO KEEP THE TUB UP. WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF THERE IS A COMPANY NEAR PHILADELPHIA THAT CAN FIX THIS TYPE OF TUB. IT’S A SHAME TO HAVE TO GET RID OF IT (which is what we are thinking of doing). WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST. WE WAS TOLD BY SOMEONE THAT A TUB LIKE OURS COULD COST A FEW THOUSAND DOLLARS BECAUSE IT’S ANTIQUE (I guess) IT IS A CAST IRON. HELP! I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR RESPONSE.

My reply:

OK – here is what I would do. First, do not try to reattach broken feet to a tub. They just don’t work. Soldering the feet did not work for you. We don’t suggest welding the feet back on either as the intense heat of this processes can damage the porcelain interior of the tub. You can try to find an antique foot that matches your foot but that that might be a chore as there are over 450 different styles of antique tub feet. Next, you could try to have a foot cast to match your tub. Again, this is a bit tricky because the front legs of many tubs are a slightly different length than the rear legs so you need a rear foot to make the copy. Unfortunately, it sounds like the other rear foot was damaged as well.

I would suggest you replace all four feet with a new cradle and foot set from Strom Plumbing. We have had good luck with these feet.


Replacement Clawfoot Tub Feet from Strom Plumbing


Alternatively, you could get rid of your tub and replace it with a new one. I would not recommend this unless your current tub is in need of refinishing or you were planning on replacing it anyway. I have no idea what your tub is worth, but unless it is a truly rare piece, it will only be worth $50 - $500 depending on condition. The two broken feet in the back will drop the tub value quite a bit.

Thanks for the question,

Allan


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Clean your tub the natural way!

I just got an email from my buddy Adam who wanted to pass along a recipe for making your own bathtub cleaner. We have not tested this recipe but thought we should share it with you anyway:

Silky Scrub
1 cup baking soda into a medium-size mixing bowl
1/2 cup castile liquid soap
5-10 drops of antibacterial essential oil, such as lavender, tea tree or rosemary (optional)

1. Pour baking soda into a medium size bowl.
2. Add soap a little at a time, stirring continuously. Stop adding after your mixture has begun to resemble frosting.
3. Mix in drops of essential oil.
4. Store in an airtight jar for up to a year.

The original post appeared in Apartment Therapy - Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Rocking On The Moon" with Ronnie Sando

Who knew? The guy I know as Joe “Ronnie” Sando – A Pennsylvania State Constable who drops by to visit every once in awhile – had a former life as a 50’s rockabilly star. Here is the story: at age 16, Joe wrote the song “Rocking on the Moon” but he did not record it until he left the Army several years later. The strange thing is that although the song did not chart in the US, it found its way to the Soviet-dominated Eastern Block countries because it contained a reference to the Soviet Sputnik satellite. The song took off in the most unlikely of places (Yugoslavia, for instance) but Joe never knew about it. He continued to perform and record with various other rockabilly stars like the Jordanaires (Elvis Presley’s backup singers) for a number of years until he settled down to take care of his son who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident.

Fast forward to 2005. Joe receives a call from a guy in Europe who wants an interview the man behind the recording “Rocking on the Moon”. All of a sudden, Joe realizes that he is a minor star in Europe (the song is a popular ringtone in Norway – go figure) and one of the last performers still around from the golden age of rockabilly. As I am writing this, Joe is actually considering a tour of Europe - he has had offers. Who knew the tough-as-nails Constable I know is actually a rockabilly star in Europe and an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame?


Ronnie Sando


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Requiem for a Heavyweight - the Death of the SS France

CNN announced yesterday that one of the last great Trans-Atlantic ocean liners is sailing into the history books. The SS Blue Lady (ex-Norway, ex-France) is heading to a scrap yard at Alang in western India to be broken up. Launched as the SS France in 1960, the 1,000 foot+ ship was the pride of the French fleet. It completed over 400 trips between Europe and New York until competitive pressures from the airline industry caused it to be withdrawn from service in 1974. In 1979, the SS France was sold to the Norwegian Cruise Lines and renamed the SS Norway. The SS Norway cruised the Caribbean until 2000 when Hong-Kong Star Cruises purchased it and renamed it the SS Blue Lady. A deadly boiler explosion forced the ship from service and when it was determined that repairing the ship was too expensive, Star Cruises sold it to a scrapper.

The SS France, like the SS United States, SS Queen Mary and scores of other great liners, transported tens of millions of passengers between Europe and the US between 1910 and 1970. Some even served as troopships bringing American forces to Europe during both World Wars.

The days of leisurely traveling between continents were doomed once jet passenger travel became an affordable and rapid way to travel great distances. With the possible exception of the QM2, there are no great liners in service – only large human “container ships” called super cruise ships. The photo below comes from the Ruderhaus website and is captioned, appropriately enough, "Beauty and the Beast". It shows the SS France being towed out of port on the way to the scrap yard while the “Pride of the Americas” returns from sea trials. For ship buffs, this is a heart-breaking image.


ex-SS France is towed to the scrap yard as the Pride of the Americas returns from sea trials


The SS France in her prime (from the SS Maritime Site):


The SS France


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Reason Why American Faucets Don’t Work in the United Kingdom

Here is an interesting question from Diane C. in the U.K.

I live in England and am having a LOT of trouble finding a hand shower faucet for my old clawfooted tub. I was wondering if the threading is different for the faucets you carry from the English standard threading for piping.... I have no idea if your products will be of use to me here or not. I certainly hope so as they are fabulous!!

The unfortunate answer is that U.S. faucets will not work “out of the box” with English plumbing because our standards are different. You can, however, make a few modifications to the English rough-in to fit the American faucet. Before we discuss the workaround, let’s take a look at why they don’t work in the first place.

Simply put, American plumbing threading is tapered while British plumbing threads are non-tapered. Accoring to Wikipedia, plumbing threads are tapered in the US because this allows them to self-tap slightly when torqued and form a seal as the threads compress against each other. This means that NPT fittings are easiest to make leak free with the aid of Teflon tape or a similar thread sealant compound. This standard is known as Nominal Pipe Taper (NPT) and can be seen in cross-section below:

Cross-Section of an American Threaded Plumbing Pipe (NPT Standard)

Notice that the NPT threading is on a 60 degree angle, comes to a point at each crest and is tapered.

The standard in the United Kingdom is known as BSP (British Standard Pipe Thread). Devised in 1841, this system does not taper the threads and uses a 55 degree angle between individual threads:

Cross-Section of an British Standard Pipe Thread (BSP Standard)

This is why an NPT standard American faucet will not fit a set of British supply lines that accept BSP standard faucets.

Now, you might be able to work around this by using both an American faucet and supply lines with an NPT standard rough-in threaded pipe. The NPT rough-in pipe would then have to be sweated on to the existing British interior plumbing. I have not personally tried this, but I believe it could be done relatively easily. If you live in the UK, check with your plumber first before ordering any U.S. plumbing. I would be very interested to hear how others have approached and solved this problem.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another Request for Antique Tub Information

Dear Gentle Readers,

As you are all aware, we try to answer every email we can. When we get an interesting question, we post it. Today's question comes from Brenda M:

Good evening Allan

This is a new subject for me. My brother just requested that I do some research on his claw footed bath tub.

The bottom is marked
Made
in USA
9 Standard 5 1/2
S.W. 1912 S

June 25 and something that resembles a childs picture of the sun are also on the bottom.

Can you give us some direction on determining a value for this tub?


Brenda, you have an American Standard / Standard Sanitary 5.5' roll rim clawfoot tub that was produced on 25 June 1912. Assuming the tub porcelain is in good condition and all four feet attach properly to the tub, my guess is that it is worth $100 or so. You can find more information on how to appraise your tub and how to sell it here.




Thanks for the question.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Where can I sell my rare antique claw foot bathtub?

This weekend, Lynn S. wrote us that her "church recently purchased an old house (and) inside (there) are 2 clawfoot bathtubs - one 6ft and the other 4ft. The house is set to be torn down the middle of next month and we are looking for a buyer. Can you point me in the right direction?"

Yes, I can help.

Your tubs are worth a bit more than the run-of-the-mill 5' roll rim claw foot bathtubs. The 6' and 4' tubs were relative rarities and it is worth your time to photograph them with a digital camera and e-mail the pictures to the architectural salvage yards in your area. Ask the yards what they would offer you for the tubs. My guess is that you should get around $400 for the pair depending on their condition. You can find listings of salvage yards at SalvageWeb and at Old House Web. We have more information about how to sell your vintage claw foot bathtubs in our Antique bath Information Section.

Thanks for the question!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Diet Soda, Mentos and Toilets Don’t Mix

This all started when I saw a video of someone pouring Mentos into a 2-liter bottle of diet soda. The result was a geyser of soda about 6-8 feet into the air. Fortunately, we were scheduled to film a set of tub repair videos later that same morning. Knowing I would have a film crew, I rushed to the local supermarket and loaded up on diet soda and Mentos (lunacy generally loves to be recorded for posterity).


Greg, the ex-intern, prepares for ignition


Diet soda and Mentos – the geyser


When I returned, I decided to experiment and, lo and behold, it actually worked. About two seconds later it dawned on me to try even greater amounts of soda and 20 packs of Mentos and mix them into a toilet. The messy result is the “Public Service Video” we are providing to the general public. Enjoy.

Give it about 10 seconds to load – the video is about 90 seconds long.

Diet Soda, Mentos, and Toilet Mix Video - Quicktime format

Diet Soda, Mentos, and Toilet Mix Video - Windows Media Player format

Of course, we would love to hear your comments and suggestions for other ways to creatively abuse and/or destroy our products. Any item can be considered for elimination: clawfoot tubs , pedestal sinks , shower rods – whatever. You can also choose your preferred form of obliteration: flamethrowers, giant bulldozers, dropping from great heights, etc. Post your ideas to the blog and we will take a look at them. If we get a particularly elegant and destructive suggestion, we might even fly you to lovely Hazleton, PA to help us execute the concept. Hey, we gotta get rid of the defective items somehow. You can also think of this as the intersection of performance art and sanitary ware.

If we get 100 comments and suggestions posted to this blog, I promise you we will do something much bigger and amusing.

OK, the lawyers told me to tell you not to try this (or any of the suggestions that are sure to follow) at home. So there.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Vintage Tub and Bath Announces 2006 Community Giving Program

We are thrilled to officially announce the details of our Community Giving Program for 2006. This year we will be donating over $10,000 to support emergency responders, community programs, veterans programs and charitable organizations in the greater Hazleton, PA area. We announced the project at the Hazleton City Hall with Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta (shown below, at right, with Vintage Tub and Bath owner Norman Dick).

Norman Dick speaks with Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta

In the past, we used to donate money from time to time to the local fire companies but we decided to really start giving after we saw just how bad the need was. Some of our local volunteer firefighters respond to fires wearing fire jackets that are no longer fit for service (like the remnant I am holding below):

Allan Dick showing a worn out fire jacket still in regular use

But it does not end there – our community ambulance companies use basic life-saving equipment that is worn out, 7 of the 11 playgrounds in the city of Hazleton need major repair so our children can have a safe and fun place to play, only 3 of the 5 fire engines in Hazleton had carbon monoxide detection equipment to identify that deadly gas, our local Rails to Trails organization needed funding to conduct a chainsaw training class so their volunteers could keep the trail open, and so on and so on.

Once we realized just how urgent the need was, we felt we had to take action. We know that a strong company can only exist in a strong community. Our business thrives because we are based in an area with a deep work and volunteer ethic and we need to help maintain that spirit. Also: how, as either a business or as individuals, can we ask the volunteers and professionals who protect our property and safety to do their jobs with obsolescent or non-existent equipment? Yet every day many individuals and businesses unconsciously demand that very service.

Some businesses would argue that this is foolish spending – that it only hurts the bottom line. Did this donation “hurt” our bottom line? From a strictly monetary standpoint, yes it did. Was this donation worth it? In our estimation, yes it was – every last penny.

Fortunately, not all businesses think that community giving is foolish. Let me thank Hitwise (a leading online competitive research firm) and Rugman.com (a great source for REAL Persian carpets at fantastic prices) for their donations to the West Hazleton Fire Department. The $1,100 they donated will go a long way to helping that department modernize its equipment. Assistant Fire Chief Ward is shown below (at right) accepting the Hitwise and Rugman.com checks.

Allan Dick handing checks from Hitwise and Rugman.com to West Hazleton Asst. Fire Chief Ward

Full details of our 2006 Community Giving Program can be found here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Turn the Cute Button up to 11!

Donna R. from Beaverton, OR sent us this picture of her two grandchildren in the new Monroe clawfoot tub from American Bath Factory they just installed. As Donna put it: "it was their first bath in grandma's tub. Can you tell that they were loving every minute of it?"



We love getting pictures from our customers showing off their new bathrooms. If you have pictures and a story you want to share, feel free to send them to me at allan@vintagetub.com. We might just include them in our Customer Gallery!

Monday, March 27, 2006

It's Chainsaw Time!

As part of our 2006 Charitable Giving Program, Vintage Tub and Bath sponsored chainsaw safety training for our local Rails to Trails volunteers. Our Rails to Trails path goes through some heavily wooded areas and, occasionally, the trail gets blocked by fallen trees. Robert Skulsky, Executive Director of the Greater Hazleton Area Civic Partnership (GHACP), picks up the story:

Again THANK YOU and Vintage Tub and Bath for your generosity and concern for our area by funding this training. We had nine people trained and they will be the only ones allowed to use chain saws on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails (GHRT). The course stressed safety and that was the paramount reason that we wanted our volunteers to have it. The volunteers again showed their spirit by donating a full weekend to receive the training so they can continue to make a difference by volunteering.

The images below are from the training session. Vintage Tub and Bath appreciates the efforts of the Rails to Trails volunteers to maintain and expand our local trail! Keep up the good work!


Hazleton Rails to Trails Volunteers Receive Chainsaw Training

Hazleton Rails to Trails Volunteers Receive Chainsaw Training

Hazleton Rails to Trails Volunteers Receive Chainsaw Training



Saturday, March 25, 2006

Should I Restore and Refinish My Antique Tub and Faucets?

I received this question today:


Hi Allan,

I have a dilemma concerning my antique tubs. The first tub - the wall mounted tub from all the information I've received is an Ahrens & Ott 1913 , 5 1/2 foot "Clarion" tub. All original plumbing was in the wall - including the standing waste valve. Both of my tubs have a low bell spout tub filler. We only have bits and pieces of the original plumbing for both tubs. The other tub is 5 feet in length, not sure of the manufacturer or date, but it has a 5" flat rolled rim. As you can see it also has a standing waste valve and all the fixtures came up through the rim of the tub. Should I spend the money to refinish these and get them in working order? I've done quite a bit of research and everyone wants at least $2,000 to rebuild the faucets, not counting refinishing the tubs. Would they be considered rare or of historic value? I really love them and want to keep them with the 1900 house were are renovating since they were original, but I'm not sure about spending that much. Any help or advice you could give me would be so so appreciated!!


My reply:

I don't have any specific information about Ahrens and Ott so I can not appraise the items for you. I think the bigger questions to ask yourself are “what are these vintage items worth to me?” and “how hard will I be using them?”

Let’s consider the following:

Durability: Restored faucets and refinished clawfoot tubs require more care and thoughtful use then their new counterparts. The restored faucets will, at a minimum, need new washers over time. You will need to be careful using the faucets so you don’t break items like porcelain handles and the more fragile interior components. Of course, if you do break the faucet, you will be paying top dollar to get parts and have the item repaired. Refinished tubs are usually only warranted for 1-5 years because most refinishing materials just don’t stand up over time – especially under heavy use. You also have to be very careful when cleaning a refinished tub as harsh chemicals will destroy the finish.

Value: Things to think about here are “Are these items original to the house?” “Do these items have any inherent value?” “Do these items have any sentimental value?” Let’s say you live in a Frank Lloyd Wright home and you want the house to be as close as possible to original condition. In this case, the value of the home might make having the restoration work worthwhile. If you live in a post-war ranch, then these items will seem out of place.

Use: Will these items get heavy or light use? Will my 6 kids be using this tub or is it for a guest or master bath? The easier you will be on the items, the longer they will last and the more value you will get out of them.

Code: Before investing a lot of money in getting your antique plumbing refinished and restored, you will definitely want to check to make certain that it will meet the plumbing code in your area. Tubs with built-in spouts near the drain will almost never pass code unless some sort of backflow prevention device is installed in your supply lines. Even then, some municipalities will not pass it. Check first.

The facts in your specific case are:

  • You are restoring a 1900 home.
  • You have two tubs, a toilet, and several sinks with faucets.
  • You really love the fixtures.
  • The cost is $2,000 for the restored faucets and an additional $1,200 (my guess) for the tub refinishing.

    Let’s assume the home will be restored to its former glory and that you are trying to keep it as close to original as possible. I would do the following:

    Check the local plumbing code to see if you can use the tubs. If not, buy a tub (either a new one or a good-condition antique clawfoot tub with the original porcelain intact.). Buying a refinished tub does not make a lot of sense to me when you can buy a brand-new one with a lifetime warranty for under $1,000.

    Next, consider how you will be using the tub and fixtures. Avoid the refinishing /restoration if they are used daily (especially if kids are involved – they are murder on refinishing). Again, go with new or original porcelain with no rust or cast iron showing through the interior finish.

    Finally, determine how much you really love the fixtures. If you really, really dig them, then get ‘em done because you won’t be able to look at your finished bathroom without thinking to yourself that you should have kept the antique items.

    One last note: You could keep some of the items and sell off the lesser pieces. The toilet looks neat as well as one of the pedestal sinks. Perhaps you keep those two items and match them up with a new or original tub in one of the bathrooms.

    I hope this helps you make a decision about your antique items.




  • Monday, February 20, 2006

    Vintage Tub and Bath Now Offers Product Reviews!

    Customers of Vintage Tub and Bath can now comment on and read unbiased reviews of our products. View a typical review of our Strom Plumbing English Telephone Faucet.

    To kick off the program, we asked home renovators and bloggers Mindy and Teague (from the Our Fixer Upper blog) to write reviews for fifty of our products.


    The happy newlyweds / home renovators



    We felt that they were an excellent choice to review our new products because they are knowledgeable about plumbing and are in the process of a major home renovation. You can learn more about Mindy and Teague on their about us page.

    The deal was that they were to comment honestly about our products and that Vintage Tub could not edit or reject the reviews – we had to use exactly what they wrote.

    They really went at it - here they are ripping one of our tub crates open to inspect one of our tubs:


    Mindy and Teague open a clawfoot tub crate

    Next, they spent some time inspecting several of our tubs and crating methods.

    Reviewing a brand new claw foot bathtub


    The rest of the day they got to sit at a fairly uncomfortable desk and review faucets, sinks and clawfoot tub accessories:



    Reviewing a brand new clawfoot tub faucet

    Reviewing clawfoot tub supply lines

    Reviewing a small vessel sink



    Now you can add your comments and review the products we sell. All you need to do is log-in to our site and go to any product page to write a review.

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    A (very, very brief) History of the L. Wolff Manufacturing Co.

    Yet another loyal reader of the Daily Tubber wrote:

    Hey, I saw on your blog a bit of info on American Standard clawfoot tubs. My tub was made by Wolff Manufacturing. Do you know the years that company made tubs? Ours is a typical clawfoot tub. We can't find a date on it - any guess on the age? We figure '20s.

    According to the Chicago Historical Society, Ludwig Wolff (1836 - 1911) came to Chicago in 1854 and by 1876 he had a large plumbing supply factory under the name L. Wolff Manufacturing Co. Wolff built a large new Chicago plant in 1887; this facility soon employed about 1,000 men and produced $1.5 million worth of goods a year. As indoor plumbing became more common by the late nineteenth century, Wolff began producing a wider array of plumbing items for homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools. By 1910, the company had about 3,500 workers at two Chicago-area plants and sales and service operations in about 10 other cities. Wolff's operations shrank during the Great Depression and the company stopped operating shortly after World War II.

    The Chicago Historical Society also has a 1912 Wolff plumbing catalog online.

    One of their clawfoot tubs is shown on pages 10 and 11 of the catalog. The only other useful reference I found for Wolff Mfg. was from the Victorian Crapper site.

    I am sorry I could not get more information about the company or the approximate date for your tub. If I had to guess, I would say it was built between 1910 and 1939. I know it is not a very tight date range but it is the best I can do for now. Anyone else have any more information about the Wolff company?

    20 April 2006 UPDATE: Evan D. wrote to tell us that he found a Wolff tub "without a faucet and some rough holes cut for a replacement. So I cobbled my own freestanding unit. The tub itself was sandblasted (where we found the casting date), reglazed, outside painted, wood rim repaired and refinished, feet brass plated to match drain system."

    Here is the stunning result:


    Evan's stunning refinished Wolff claw foot bath tub


    Here is a detail shot of the Wolff name on the overflow cover:


    Close-up of the claw foot bath tub overflow cover


    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Standard Sanitary Claw Foot Tub Feet - A Question

    Kerwin from PA recently asked us an interesting question about vintage claw foot tub feet. He wrote:

    I have a 1924 clawfoot tub with legs that have two different casting numbers inside the legs. Two have "43" and two have "43L". I have inspected them carefully and can find no differences. I have put them in all different configurations around the tub and there is always an imbalance, as in opposite corners are too high and too low. The tub rocks.

    What Kerwin has are the feet from an (American) Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company (Mfg. Co.) 5’ roll rim claw foot tub. These were made by the tens of thousands during the 1920’s and 30’s and are the most common type of antique claw foot tub found today.

    The feet in fact are slightly different. The feet marked 43 should be on the drain end of the tub. The 43L feet should be on the end furthest away from the drain. The L stands for “long” and puts the tub at a slight angle in order for the water to run into the drain. A cross section of the claw foot tub foot appears below:


    Standard Sanitary Claw Foot Tub Cross Section” My Photo


    If the tub continues to wobble, you can be truly "vintage" and use the standard leveling “kit” from the United States Mint – pennies, nickels or dimes wedged under the feet. Yes, this really is the way to level the tub because the feet are not adjustable. When we used to remove claw foot tubs from old buildings we would always find coins under the feet. This is the only solution we know of for leveling old tubs.



    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Upgrading the kitchen sink : Easier than expected

    Note From Allan: Dear readers, I asked Mindy from the ourfixerupper.com blog to review the Whitehaus WH512 Large Double-Bowl Farmer Fireclay Kitchen Sink for the Daily Tubber.


    Whitehaus WH512 Large Double-Bowl Farmer Fireclay Kitchen Sink


    In the spirit of full disclosure: We offered her a substantial discount on the sink if she would provide us with truthful review (I told her to share the good, bad and the ugly). Her comments appear below exactly as she wrote them.


    About a year ago, my husband and I bought our first home - a Victorian fixer-upper. We've been renovating the kitchen for months, and we are finally getting to the fun stuff. Our countertops, sink and faucet had all seen better days. Keeping the old porcelain sink looking clean meant bleaching and scrubbing it daily. I'd been dreaming about an old-fashioned farmhouse sink since the day we moved in, so I was thrilled to finally pick one out.

    We decided on a Whitehaus double-bowl farmer sink because it incorporates the classic look we love with the convenience of two bowls. For the new countertop, we chose wood. The new faucet fixture is double-handled with a high spout and a brushed nickel finish.

    Replacing an old sink seems daunting, but it turned out to be very easy. Our sink arrived on Monday afternoon, and my husband had it installed and usable before bed that night. Beforehand, we prepped by removing the old countertop and unhooking the old sink. Both got hauled out to the junk pile where they belong. We then cut the wood countertop to the appropriate length and made sure it fit snug against the wall.

    After the sink arrived, our first step was to site the opening for the sink and fixtures. We set the sink onto the wood countertop and carefully traced around it, leaving 3 inches on the back edge for the faucet.



    Using a scroll saw, my husband cut along the lines to create the opening. Since the sink sits under the counter, it was important to keep this cut as clean as possible. We sanded the new edges down for good measure.



    After cutting out the opening, he added framing for the undermount kit used to hold the sink in place. The cupboard sides we attached the bars to weren't very sturdy, so the additional framing was mostly for peace of mind.





    Once the undermount flanges were screwed in and the bars were in place, we set the sink on top and laid the countertop over it. Then we stood back to take a long, proud look!



    Because our old sink only had one drain, we did a bit of additional plumbing work to get both drains hooked up, but all in all it was a suprisingly painless DIY project with a BIG aesthetic payoff. I wish all our projects were this easy!

    If you'd like to read more about our adventures in DIY home repair, you can visit our house blog: http://www.ourfixerupper.com


    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Questions About Lead in Clawfoot Bathtubs

    I like to share some of the more interesting questions from our customers. Recently, one of our customers wrote us: “Hello! My husband and I bought two lovely clawtubs with accessories in the summer of 2005. I am wondering if there is any LEAD in the cast iron tubs which we purchased.”





    Norman, my brother and owner of Vintage Tub and Bath, answered the question this way:

    That is a very broad question, and as such merits both a technical and practical answer.

    Technically, as lead is a naturally occurring element, I am sure that the vast majority of material present on the surface of the Earth contains at least some trace lead. Our tubs are not excluded from that group; so to specifically and technically answer the exact question, we feel that the answer must be yes.

    In practical terms, if your question was meant to ask whether or not the tubs you bought present any type of known lead-based health hazard under normal use conditions, then the answer is no (i.e., the tubs are not known to leach hazardous lead into water or emit lead particles into the air, etc.). Furthermore, Vintage Tub and Bath does not have any reason to believe that any of the materials present in your tub contain significant enough lead to present a lead-based health hazard under virtually any condition.

    You may have asked us this question because many years ago, lead and a host of other harmful things were significant constituents in paints, surface-smoothing fills, as well as the frits (ground-up glass) that were used to make the porcelain enamel coating on the inside of cast iron tubs. In fact, in the early 1900’s, pure lead was used in major American manufacturing operations to smooth the outside of some clawfoot tubs; the lead would be applied hot, then cooled and then ground down by hand by workers with little to no respiratory protection. As a result, lead-based hazards abounded with these older products for workers and consumers alike.

    The use of pure lead and significantly lead-based materials in these types of processes and products has long since been abandoned (as in decades ago), and your tubs were manufactured under modern manufacturing conditions no earlier than (2002 to 2003 in this example). As a result, we are confident that you should find your tubs to be quite safe in terms of both lead content and resultant exposure risk. I hope this answers your question.