Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Rocking On The Moon" with Ronnie Sando

Joe “Ronnie” SandoWho 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?

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over 400 trips between Europe and New York until competitive pressures from the airline industry caused it to be withdrawn from service in 1974.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 heartbreaking image.

SS France

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

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 UK.

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 US 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. 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:

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

Notice 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. 

British Standard Pipe Thread
Cross-Section of a 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.

You may be able to work around this by using both American faucet and supply lines with an NPT standard rough-in threaded pipe. The NPT rough-in pipe would then have to be sweated onto 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 US 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 bathtub.

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

June 25, and something that resembles a child's picture of the sun is 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 two 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 clawfoot bathtubs. The 6' and 4' tubs were relative rarities and it is worth your time to photograph them with a digital camera and email 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 Old House Web. We have more information about how to sell your vintage clawfoot bathtubs in our Antique bath Information Section.

Thanks for the question!