Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking for Direction in 2010

For me, the line “How would he know where we are going?” is one of the most memorable comedic lines in cinematic history. It comes from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. The question is posed by John Candy’s character, Del Griffith, after another driver frantically attempts to warn he and Neal (Steve Martin) that they are driving on the wrong side of a divided highway (e.g. south in a northbound lane). The other driver screams at the pair, “You’re going the wrong way!” Del, who like ourselves sells shower curtain rings, looks at Neal and quizzically asks, “How would he know where we are going?”

If you find yourself lost on a home remodeling project in 2010, you can look to Shop 4 Classics to steer you in the right direction. You’ll find help selecting claw foot tubs, faucets, door hardware, vent covers, and other hardware on the Help page. Links to these resources are also provided on each related product page. While we may not always know exactly where you are going with your project, the Shop 4 Classics tips and guides will steer you in the right direction.

Happy New Year from Shop 4 Classics!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Living with Living Finishes

A living finish is a finish that evolves with time and use. It most frequently refers to the patina that is applied to bronze or copper products such as sinks, heat registers, and door hardware. Patina is usually a dark, earthy color but the patina is said to be living because it can change. Some areas may darken with age while a polishing effect may occur in areas that are handled frequently. The patina may rub off to expose the natural shades of the alloy in areas that are often touched (e.g. a door knob). The variance in color adds character and makes each living finish unique.

Bronze and copper hardware with a living finish intentionally lacks a protective coating. Any item or liquid that comes into contact with a living finish can affect its color. You can preserve a living finish with a temporary protective coating. Soft non-abrasive waxes such as Johnson Paste Wax can be applied with a soft cloth to help maintain the patina. Never use abrasive detergents, rubbing compounds, or polishes as these chemicals will damage the patina and may ruin your living finish.

While waxes add a temporary protective coating, they also defeat the purpose of a living finish. The changes that occur in living finishes should be a desired effect. If a living finish appeals to you, Shop 4 Classics offers a wide selection of fixtures and home hardware in living finishes. We offer copper kitchen, bathroom, and bar sinks in oil rubbed and weathered copper patinas from Belle Foret and Brass Elegans. We offer copper door hardware from Craftsmen Hardware with an Arts & Crafts patina or bronze door hardware from Hamilton Sinkler with a dark brown patina. We offer bronze floor registers and bronze air return grilles with a variety of living oil rubbed finishes from Classic Grills and Hamilton Sinkler. And there is more. Copper and bronze hardware featuring living finishes is available for most every area of your home.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gravity Style Furnace: Old Man Parker’s Antagonist in A Christmas Story

My all-time favorite Christmas movie is not surprisingly the classic A Christmas Story. I am a big fan of the hard working and very human character of Mr. Parker, Ralphie’s “old man”. According to Ralphie, his dad “was one of the most feared furnace fighters in Northern Indiana”. The Parker’s constant clinking gravity style basement furnace actually was a key character in the movie. On more than one occasion problems with the old furnace sent Mr. Parker to the basement which he soon filled with expletives.

Although beyond enamored with his fanciful leg lamp, Mr. Parker wanted something far more practical for Christmas. His Christmas wish was for a new furnace. Unfortunately, the unwrapping of gifts Christmas morning revealed that only a can of Simonize awaited Mr. Parker. In the end, the old furnace survived to torment poor Mr. Parker for at least another year.

Although we are not in the antique furnace business, Shop 4 Classics does offer reproduction gravity style heat registers similar to the one shown billowing smoke into the Parker’s kitchen. These vintage baseboard heat registers are authentic reproductions of gravity baseboard registers that are common in old homes like the Parker’s residence. They are available in a Cathedral Style Baseboard Register and a Grid Style Baseboard Register. While the old basement furnace may be replaced for something far more reliable, the original charm can be maintained upstairs with reproduction registers. Therefore, if you have resolved to renovate your old home this coming year, consider maintaining its period look with high quality reproductions like the single damper baseboard register.

From all of us at Shop 4 Classics, may all of your Christmas wishes come true.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shop 4 Classics' Nine Year Anniversary

Friday, December 18, is's nine year anniversary. Yes, Shop 4 Classics has been serving restorers of old homes as well as builders of new vintage-inspired homes online since 2000. When we launched our website in 2000, we offered a wide selection of antique reproduction plumbing and door hardware at discount prices from a single source; Sign of the Crab. Sign of the Crab had already been in business for over 20 years and had established its reputation of offering the finest quality and selection of clawfoot tub faucets, reproduction plumbing, and vintage door hardware. Their extensive catalog was a perfect fit for our strategy to offer a broad selection of classic products that were previously only available to most old home enthusiast through mail order.

Nine years later, we still offer the complete Sign of the Crab catalog. In addition to Sign of the Crab, we now offer over 20 of the most reputable brands of antique reproduction hardware and plumbing. We have expanded our online catalog to include:

On December 18, 2000, Shop 4 Classics was hoping for its first online order. An order for eleven vintage outlet covers arrived soon thereafter. Those brass outlet covers were discontinued many years ago but Shop 4 Classics still offers the best selection and prices on products for classic homes. Nine years could not have happened without our dedicated staff, reputable manufacturers, and most importantly, thousands of great customers. Thank you. We look forward to working with you on your next project in our tenth year and beyond.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Biscuit and Black Clawfoot Tubs From Sunrise Specialty

Sunrise Specialty is one of the oldest and most respected brands of clawfoot tubs and antique reproduction plumbing. Unsurpassed quality and traditional designs have been the hallmarks of Sunrise Specialty’s products for decades. Sunrise Specialty adds more color options with its 2010 lineup of cast iron clawfoot tubs. Specifically, these new tubs are available in your choice of traditional white, black, and biscuit. Like traditional white clawfoot tubs, Sunrise Specialty’s biscuit clawfoot tubs and black clawfoot tubs have not only biscuit and black painted exteriors but also matching biscuit and black porcelain interiors. Below are examples of new Sunrise Specialty clawfoot tubs that are available in all three color options.

Five Foot Double Slipper Tub
Additonal color options are not the only feature that makes this cast iron tub unique. The elegant style and comfort of the traditionally larger double slipper tub is ingeniously maintained in the clever design of this charmingly petite clawfoot tub. As with many of Sunrise Specialty’s other cast iron tubs, this tub is offered with two distinct feet options, traditional and contemporary, in six different finishes.

Six Foot Double Slipper Tub
If your vintage bathroom design calls for a larger clawfoot tub, look no further than Sunrise Specialty’s six foot double slipper tub. This spacious and extra deep soaking cast iron tub features the desired nostalgic look of original clawfoot tubs but is available with many of today’s most popular options. This tub is offered with your choice of their ornate Victorian ball and claw feet or their much more stylized Nouveau ball and claw feet. Similar to Sunrise Specialty’s new small double slipper tub, both feet options for this tub are offered in six different finishes.

Whether biscuit, black, or white, large or small Sunrise Specialty has a cast iron clawfoot tub that will meet your design requirements and exceed your expectations.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giving Scuffs and Scratches the Boot with Kickplates

Replacing or refurbishing the front entry door to your home can be quite an investment in dollars and time. Shopping for new door hardware is typically not only a necessity but also an enjoyable exercise. Once caught up browsing the many styles of doors and entry hardware, it is easy to forget the reason why you began the process of replacing the front door in the first place. If the reason is that your front door has gotten beat up over years of constant use, you may also want to consider adding a kickplate to your new door. Relative to replacing the door, kickplates are inexpensive and easy to install. Shop 4 Classics offers solid brass kickplates from Brass Accents. Their kickplates are available in three different mounting styles:

Screw Mount
Screw mount kickplates have predrilled screw holes for mounting to any style of door. The screw holes are evenly spaced approximately 6"-8" across the top and bottom of the kickplate. Matching screws are included. Screw mounted kickplates can be removed for door painting.

Magnetic Mount
Magnetic mount kickplates are secured to the door with a magnet. The entire back surface of the kickplate is covered with a magnet to insure adhesion. A magnetic mount kickplate requires a steel door. Magnetic mount kickplates are easy to remove for door cleaning or painting.

Adhesive Mount
Adhesive mount kickplates have an adhesive backing to stick to any type of door. There are multiple strips of adhesive across the back of adhesive mount kickplates. Adhesive mount kickplates are designed to be permanently attached.

Brass Accent kickplates are also offered in a wide variety of sizes and finish options. You can find our kickplates in the Door Hardware section of our website.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Soap Baskets: Solving Clawfoot Tub Clutter

You love your clawfoot tub but wish it had more space for storage. You are not alone. The narrow rolled rim of most clawfoot bathtubs does not facilitate storage for soaps, shampoos, conditioners, Mr. Bubble, or any of the other bathing necessities that accumulate along the ledge around built-in tubs. We share your pain. Unfortunately, there is no ShamWow, one-size-fits-all, solution to this predicament but there are a few clawfoot tub accessories worth consideration.

If you've ever dropped a bar of soap in a clawfoot tub, you've experienced the Keystone Kop sensation of chasing an outlaw bar of soap around the bottom of your tub. Over-the-rim soap baskets provide a home for the bar of soap when it is not in use. Over-the-rim soap dishes have an arm that arches over the tub rim to hang the soap basket on the side of the bathtub. Larger over-the-rim soap baskets feature a separate compartment for a loofah or sponge.

There are also riser mounted versions of the soap basket for those of you fortunate enough to have a clawfoot tub shower enclosure. Riser mounted soap dishes are similar in size and design to over-the-rim soap baskets. Many Sign of the Crab riser mounted soap baskets have a split ringlet that allows them to be installed without unassembling the shower riser. Sunrise Specialty offers a riser-mounted soap basket for their shower risers that include a deep compartment for shampoo bottles in addition to the traditional soap dish.

A tub shelf, or bath caddy, is another option that provides even greater storage capacity. Tub shelves stretch from side-to-side to bridge the tub walls. They have adjustable arms to fit most clawfoot tubs. Tub shelves usually feature three side-by-side storage compartments. Cheviot Products even offers a bath caddy with a reading rack so you can expand your horizons with a little light reading from Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" while you soak in your clawfoot tub.

Related by purpose, Sign of the Crab offers replacement overflow plates with an integrated stopper keeper. The stopper keeper provides storage for the clawfoot tub drain's rubber stopper when it is not in use. The stopper keeper eliminates the clutter created by a renegade rubber stopper resting on the bottom of the tub or hanging over the tub rim.

While none of these clawfoot tub accessories provide the storage space of the ledge around a built-in bathtub, they all contribute to better clawfoot tub organization. As you organize for the holiday season and prepare for the parade of guests, consider adding a soap basket or tub shelf to your Christmas wish list.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Enduring Copper and Bronze Craftsman Style House Number Tiles

The Craftsman bungalow is unquestionably one of the most enduring styles of houses in America. The American Craftsman bungalow was first introduced in the early 1900’s and countless versions of the bungalow were built throughout the United States over the next twenty or so years. These old homes are still highly sought after by a loyal following of those that appreciate the home’s simple style. In fact, the style remains so popular that Craftsman style bungalows have recently enjoyed a revival in new home construction.

Mission Metalworks has just introduced Craftsman house number tiles. In keeping with the Craftsman style, these tiles are manufactured to last. The tiles are ¼” thick solid copper and bronze and therefore will not bend, crack or break. The tiles are sand cast, tumbled to provide a burnished appearance, and then finished by hand. They are available in darkened bronze and weathered and natural copper. They also make great holiday gifts so check them out today!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas for the Vintage Home

This weekend I will officially begin my hunt for the ideal holiday gifts for family and friends. I for one am not a big fan of the gift card. Rather, I try to find unique gifts that match the specific interests or special needs of the receiver. For those shopping for someone that is really into their home, Shop 4 Classics offers a variety of products from the John Wright Company that make thoughtful holiday gifts.

On those cold winter nights, nothing is more comforting than the sight and sounds of a natural wood burning fireplace. However, a drawback to wood burning fireplaces is that they tend to remove moisture from the air as they heat the home. A charming way to return moisture to the air is with a stovetop steamer. Fill your home with the fragrances of the season by including holiday scented potpourri to the steamer’s water.

Speaking of wood burning fireplaces, the hearth is often transformed into the centerpiece of the holiday decorated home. During this time, the cardboard box containing matches is either tucked away out of sight or becomes an unwanted feature of your holiday décor. John Wright Company’s selection of cast iron match stick holders provides a decorative way to keep matches conveniently close at hand.

Large multicourse meals are a hallmark of the holiday season. Ham, turkey, casseroles of every sort and pies await in the kitchen and dining room as guests find their place at the table. At no other time of the year is the simple trivet more valued. The classic designs, high gloss porcelain coating and durable cast iron construction of John Wright’s trivets make them a useful gift for many years to come.

At least in the Midwest, dragging indoors the mud and salt from the bottom and sides of one’s shoes is a common problem during the winter months. Additional guest traffic and your desire to keep your home presentable keeps you busy cleaning the floors when you would rather be enjoying the season. Placing a novelty shoe brush on your front porch is a charming way to clean shoes prior to entering your spotless holiday home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spout Clout: Choosing a Clawfoot Tub Faucet

There is a veritable cornucopia of things to consider when choosing a clawfoot tub faucet. We’ve discussed plumbing code, finish, mounting location, valves, and a few other factors in this space already. There are other clawfoot tub faucet selection criterion that we will likely address in the future but today, Black Friday, this space is all about spouts.

Just as there are many clawfoot tub faucet criterion to consider, there are many clawfoot tub faucet spout variations to consider. The most common clawfoot tub faucet spouts are summarized below.

Clawfoot tub faucets with a gooseneck spout feature a spout that is shaped like a goose’s neck. The outlet on the gooseneck spout is usually above the clawfoot tub rim; making this spout a code-friendly choice.

The spout on many British telephone faucets is often compared to an elephant’s trunk. It is a long curved spout with a wide mouth. The term “British telephone”, by the way, refers to the way the handheld shower rests in the cradle above the faucet body; resembling the way the receiver rests in the cradle of an old telephone. The elephant trunk spout makes no contribution to the British telephone faucet moniker.

Clawfoot tub faucets with a nozzle spout have a short ripped nipple extending below the faucet body. Old-timers have been known to push a rubber hose on the nozzle to create a makeshift shower.

Finally, there are clawfoot tub faucets with a large spout that resembles brass horn instrument that you might imagine a portly young man blowing into in a Thanksgiving Day parade marching band.

It is a common misconception that the larger the spout, the greater the flow rate. It is not the spout but instead the valves that determine how fast the faucet will fill your tub. We can’t say that size doesn’t matter however. The size of the spout does impact its appeal. A small clawfoot tub faucet with an inconspicuous spout will be more balanced with a small clawfoot tub while a large clawfoot tub faucet with a prominent spout will be more proportional to a larger bathtub.

In some cases, it may be desirable to match the clawfoot tub faucet’s spout with the sink faucet’s spout. Plan your faucet selections to coordinate the faucet spouts just as you might with handles and finish.

Other than its impact on code compliance, the spout’s influence on your clawfoot tub selection is largely a matter of preference. You could fill a horn of plenty with the number of spout variations but choose a clawfoot tub faucet with a spout that best suits your style and personal requirements.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Choices in Faucet Finishes

Brass has long been the metal of choice for faucet construction. Early brass faucets were not plated and or coated with a protective finish. As a result, these unprotected brass faucets required a lot of effort in the way of cleaning and frequent polishing in order to maintain a shiny finish. Because nickel was far less susceptible to tarnishing, nickel became the preferred finish from the late 1800’s until the 1930’s. Chrome plating was introduced in the 1930’s and soon chrome plated faucets became the finish of choice. With the introduction of protective coatings, brass became popular once more. Today’s sophisticated coatings are much more scratch and corrosion resistant insuring a lasting polished brass appearance. For decades chrome and brass were essentially the consumers’ two options when choosing plumbing. Today, however, choice in finish is one of the major considerations when selecting a faucet. In addition to chrome and brass, manufacturers now typically offer their faucets in polished nickel as well as satin nickel. Polished nickel appears much as it did at the turn of the century and is generally considered to have a warmer appearance than that of chrome. Satin nickel is a nickel finish that has been brushed to create a softer and less lustrous finish. No discussion of modern finish options would be complete without discussing the popularity and options of the oil rubbed finish. Although the tone varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, oil rubbed bronze faucets are typically flat black in appearance. Some manufacturers offer bronze finished faucets that are more brown than black. Therefore, care should be taken when pairing faucets, plumbing, or bath accessories from different manufacturers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Decorative Vent Covers: Shaking off the Cold in Style!

Kansas City’s weather reminded me that winter is fast approaching. Temperatures dipped into the 30’s and cold rain persisted throughout the weekend. I appreciate the changing seasons in the Midwest and even enjoy the first couple of months of winter. Outrageous heating bills withstanding, I find it incredibly comforting to come out of the cold to a warm home. Hearing the furnace kick-on got me reminiscing of memories of my childhood huddling over a heat register thawing myself after spending hours sledding down what then seemed to be a monstrous hill in our backyard. I recall that old heat register was far from decorative. In fact, the gray steel register looked like it was designed to appear as a piece of the furnace in the basement rather than hardware that would be in plain sight at the front entry of our house.

Amazingly, these same steel heat register are still the standard builders' grade vent covers installed in homes built today. Shop 4 Classics, however, offers a wide range of highly decorative vent covers. These cast iron, brass and bronze vent covers can be used throughout the house or selectively in high visibility locations depending on your budget. Below is an overview of the various types of decorative vent covers available at Shop 4 Classics.

Classic Grills Bronze Vent Covers
Classic Grills manufactures cast bronze air return grills and heat registers in many styles including: Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Victorian and traditional. Classic Grills also has unique grape vine and tropical bamboo themed vent covers. Most of their bronze grills are offered in light brown, dark brown and antique burnished brown. They also offer grills in white bronze with a satin finish.

Hamilton Sinkler Bronze and Brass Vent Covers
Hamilton Sinkler also offers bronze air return and heat registers. Their bronze grills feature a rich brown patina and are available in a very popular scroll design as well as contemporary styles. Their Strathmore vent covers are constructed of solid brass and are available in polished brass, antique brass, satin nickel and black finishes.

Brass Elegans Brass and Bronze Vent Covers
Brass Elegans’ Victorian and contemporary solid brass air return grills and heat registers are available in a variety of finishes including polished brass, antique brass, pewter and dark bronze. These same vent covers are also available in solid bronze with a dark brown patina finish.

Reggio Register Cast Iron, Aluminum and Brass Vent Covers
With sizes ranging from small toe-kick grills to very large floor grates, Reggio Register’s vent covers are available in probably the widest range of sizes on the market. Although Reggio Register is best known for its popular Victorian style vent cover, they also offer a contemporary grid style vent covers as well as high velocity circular vent covers.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clawfoot Tub Shower Diverter Fervor

A diverter is a valve that has a single inlet and two outlets. Rather than open and close like most valves, a diverter valve alters the flow of water from one outlet to the other outlet. In terms of the clawfoot tub faucet, the diverter switches between the tub filler and a shower. The shower may be a stationary overhead showerhead or it may be a handheld shower. A second diverter, known as a handheld shower diverter, can be added to the clawfoot tub shower to provide the option of tub filler, stationary showerhead, and handshower.

One of our most frequently received questions is, "how do I add a shower to my clawfoot tub faucet?" Unfortunately, if the faucet does not have a shower diverter, it will not support a shower. If the faucet does have a shower diverter, the diverter’s likely function is to choose between spout and handheld shower. Sign of the Crab also offers faucets with a shower diverter that can be capped off so the customer can build the shower as their budget permits. However, even these faucets have a shower diverter (third) handle which makes the diverter easy to recognize.

If your faucet has a shower diverter, it will support a shower. If the faucet has a handshower but you want to convert it to a stationary shower, you will need to remove the handshower bracket from the faucet. A shower riser will be attached in its place. As I previously indicated, adding an overhead shower to a clawfoot tub faucet does not necessarily eliminate the option of a handheld shower. You simply need a second diverter. The first diverter switches between the tub filler and the shower. The second handheld shower diverter then switches between the stationary shower and the handheld shower.

Shower diverter and handheld shower diverter connections are not dictated by an industry standard. The presence of a shower diverter valve makes it likely that the clawfoot tub faucet will support a shower but the parts required to complete the conversion will depend on the clawfoot tub faucet. Check with Shop 4 Classics for help identifying the correct parts to complete the conversion from clawfoot tub faucet to clawfoot tub shower.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Add Old World Charm of Belle Foret Faucets and Sinks to Your Kitchen

Is adding a classic sense of style at a reasonable price a requirement for your kitchen remodel? If so, consider some of the latest products from Belle Foret. Belle Foret faucets and sinks feature Country French inspired panache and are offered at prices where superior style meets the modest budget. Shop 4 Classics now offers Belle Foret’s latest offering of kitchen faucets and sinks.

Belle Foret faucets' timeless appearance captures the charm of old world craftsmanship while their construction includes today’s highest quality materials and component parts. For example, the control of the water flow is done by replaceable, yet durable, cartridges or arrangement of seals that allow water flow when the holes or ports are lined up in the proper configuration.

Belle Foret’s new apron front sinks blend style with the functionality and durability required for today’s working kitchen. They are constructed of Fireclay, which is denser and much heavier than vitreous china. Furthermore, pairing their sinks with your kitchen’s décor and appliances is made easier as most of their fireclay sinks are now offered in bisque as well as standard white.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Toilet Day: The Toilet's Time To Shine

National Toilet Day takes place on November 10. In honor of this momentous occasion, we at the Shop 4 Classics Old House Blog bring you some toilet fun facts to ponder on your next visit to the restroom.

Other terms for the toilet include commode, water closet, the john, the throne, the can, the loo (British), the latrine (military), the potty (juvenile), and the head (nautical).

Sir John Harrington is credited with inventing the flushing toilet and is the inspiration for the term "the john".

Despite popular belief, Sir Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet. Furthermore, Sir Thomas Crapper was never knighted and, therefore, is not officially a Sir. While researching this piece, I tried to speak with a Crapper about their undeserved family legacy but could not find one in the local white pages. Perhaps the Crappers prefer to remain unlisted.

A recent survey by the appliance company Amana found that only 7% of consumers say they can not live without a bathroom. The other 93% are severely constipated.

I once gave a padded toilet seat to one of my best friends as a wedding gift. It was a joke inspired by how he spent much of his bachelor party. The padded toilet seat is now a family heirloom that has traveled with the family and, to my knowledge, still serves my friend today--although we do not discuss this frequently.

The average person spends 3 years of their life sitting on the toilet. Makes you wish you had a padded toilet seat.

Toilets in boats were originally placed at the front of the boat; which was called the head. Hence, the source of the term "the head".

One of the most memorable scenes in "Christmas Vacation" involves the toilet in Cousin Eddy's RV. It It happens. It happened on a rented houseboat on a weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks to some friends and me. The incident was blamed on "bad carrots" by literally a boatload of engineers.

National Toilet Day is November 10. World Toilet Day is November 19. Apparently, the toilet is an invention so significant that it deserves two opportunities to celebrate.

While these anecdotes are presented in fun, the flushing toilet is a serious contribution to indoor plumbing. If your toilet isn't looking so sharp, consider replacing it with one of the many two piece toilets offered by Shop 4 Classics. We offer many styles with either round or elongated bowls. For a classic bath, consider a pull chain toilet from Elizabethan Classics or a pillbox toilet from Sunrise Specialty. For more modest changes, treat your toilet to a new toilet tank lever or toilet paper holder from Sign of the Crab.

Have a wonderful National Toilet Day from your friends at Shop 4 Classics!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New York State of Mind

In honor of the World Series Champion New York Yankees, we feature the Nostalgic Warehouse New York doorplate series in this space today. Much like the New York Yankees, The New York doorplate design is a classic that has been popular for over a century. Befitting of its namesake, the New York doorplate sets are sophisticated, understated, and unpretentious. Okay, so maybe that isn't exactly New York's reputation but the Yankees and the New York doorplate sets do have one more thing in common. They are both winners! And if you are not a New York fan, Shop 4 Classics offers many, many other door hardware options to choose from.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Vintage Themed Cabinet Hardware from the John Wright Company

If you are looking for an easy fall fix-up project, consider dressing up your kitchen cabinets with stylish knobs from the John Wright Company. In addition to highly traditional designs, the John Wright Company’s collection of cabinet knobs also includes knobs with ornate designs, eye-catching hexagon shaped knobs, and very rustic odd shaped knobs. All knobs are constructed of solid cast iron and are available in unique finishes like vintage iron, aged copper and oxidized brass. Pair a distinctive John Wright designed knob with any one of their numerous finishes to arrive at a fresh look that compliments your kitchen cabinets and décor.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Final Lesson in the Fine Art of Bronze Hardware

Well, class is over and my bronze sculpture is complete. This past Sunday, I sandblasted my sculpture to clean and open the bronze up for the application of our patinas. Patinas are chemicals that react with the surface of bronze by changing its color. This process is similar to what naturally occurs when bronze is exposed to elements over much longer periods of time.

We could choose from black, brown, and green patinas. The patinas were applied in what is referred to as a hot process, which means that the bronze was torch heated before the patinas were brushed on. A cold patina process, patina applied on unheated metal, is typically used on decorative hardware like most of Shop 4 Classics bronze vent covers. I found the hot patina process cumbersome because I had to maneuver a gas fed torch in one hand and a patina brush in the other. After the patina was applied, I scrubbed my character's arms, legs, and head to once again expose the true bronze. Similarly, true bronze hardware has what is called a “living finish” because the color of the bronze changes as it is exposed to the elements. When bronze hardware is rubbed, the patina will wear exposing the typically golden yellow bronze. Patina will rub off of frequently used bronze cabinet knobs and bronze door knobs showing the true color of bronze. For most, this wearing off of the patina is appreciated as it adds character to the knob.

Classic Grills provides a good example of how patinas can be applied to produce different looks to the same product. Classic Grills offers the same bronze vent cover grilles in black and brown patinas. Visit our Finish Tips for more information of hardware finishes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Today’s Acrylic Clawfoot Tubs Go Toe-to-Toe With Traditional Cast Iron Clawfoot Tubs

Acrylic clawfoot tubs are offered in all the same styles and finish as their cast iron counterparts. Weight remains the main difference between the two types. I guess you could say that acrylic bathtubs could be considered featherweights compared to the heavyweight cast iron tub. However, today’s durable acrylic tubs are not chumps and can go round for round with their cast iron counterparts.

Round 1: Style
Acrylic tubs are offered in all the popular vintage styles of tubs including slipper, double ended, and pedestal. However, acrylic tubs are typically only offered in sizes five feet longer or greater, whereas, cast iron tubs are offered in smaller sizes. More manufacturers produce cast iron tubs. As a result, there is generally a wider selection of cast iron tubs available. Further, since each manufacturer offers their own style and selection of finishes of tub feet, more feet options are available for cast iron tubs. Finally, some manufacturers provide custom painting options for their cast iron tubs.

Round 2: Plumbing Options
Acrylic clawfoot tubs use the same clawfoot faucets and clawfoot shower sets as similar cast iron tubs. Likewise, tub drains and supply lines will also fit acrylic and cast iron tubs alike. Typically, people want to match the finish of their tub’s plumbing with its feet. Most faucet finishes are very similar between manufacturers. However, oil rubbed bronze and other specialty finishes may vary among manufacturers. Therefore, we recommend pairing the manufacturer’s plumbing with their tubs if you have concerns about matching finishes.

Round 3: Weight
Traditional clawfoot cast iron tubs can weigh over 80 lbs per foot in length and nearly twice as much when filled with water. Therefore, the weight of cast iron tubs may be a concern, especially for second story installations. Acrylic tubs typically weigh a third as much as similarly sized cast iron tubs making them a stylish alternative where tub weight becomes a concern.

Round 4: Bathing Experience
Cast iron tubs are very heavy and therefore provide a reassuring feeling for the bather when entering and exiting. The surface of acrylic tubs warms up quickly to the temperature of the bath’s water. Cast iron, on the other hand, retains the temperature of the room longer than an acrylic tub. Therefore, acrylic tubs maybe preferred in baths that are difficult to keep warm during winter months.

Round 5: Durability
The porcelain interiors of cast iron tubs are abrasion, stain, and wear resistance. The interiors of acrylic tubs are chip resistant but can be scratched and will break down if strong chemical cleaners (especially acetates) are used to clean it. Cast iron tub are capable of being refinished extending their lifespan much further than what should be expected from acrylic tubs.

Round 6: Ease of Installation
Installation of both acrylic and cast iron tubs is similar. However, due to their lighter weight, it is much easier to move an acrylic tub.

Round 7: Price
The price of acrylic tubs is often very comparable to similarly styled and sized cast iron tubs. Since Shop 4 Classics provides free shipping on both types of tubs, the cost of shipping is not relevant when purchasing your tub from Shop 4 Classics.

Since acrylic tubs are offered in all of the same styles and within the same price ranges as cast iron clawfoot tubs, the process of choosing between an acrylic and a cast iron clawfoot tub often ends with a technical decision. Visit Shop 4 Classics Clawfoot Tub Buying Guide for more information on selecting the right tub for your home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stair Hardware: Giving Stairs a Lift

When I was a youth, my childhood friend, Darrel, had an elevator in his home. His home wasn't big or extravagant but Darrel's forward-thinking father installed an elevator in their "modern" two-story home. Some might say that Darrel's father was ahead of his time but I think his father was just plain wrong. Elevators are no more common in homes today than they were in the 70's. On the other hand, the staircase continues to thrive. Stairs are still used to traverse stories in the 21st century.

In some homes, especially Victorian era homes, staircases can be quite grand and are a featured architectural centerpiece. Stair hardware is designed to enhance stairways; both functionally and decoratively. Stair rail brackets with intricate designs and pleasing finishes not only support the stair rail but complement other architectural elements such as door hardware, light fixtures, and vent covers.

Despite improved carpet installation techniques, stair carpet rods that were initially designed to hold stair carpet runners in place still offer purpose today. Besides their decorative contribution to staircases, stair rods conceal carpet tack impressions and creases where the tread and riser meet. Stair rods hide dirt that gathers in the seam and stair rod brackets allow the rods to be removed to periodically clean the seam hidden behind them. Stair rods, stair rod brackets, and stair bracket finials are offered in a variety of elaborate designs and colorful finishes to fit contemporary as well as period homes.

Elevators didn't have the impact on modern homes that Darrel's dad expected. We continue to build multi-story homes with stairs, not elevators. Stair hardware still has purpose. Give your stairs a lift with fanciful stair carpet rods and complementary stair rail brackets from Shop 4 Classics.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lessons in the Fine Art of Bronze Hardware

I just completed my third week of a class in casting bronze offered by a local community college. The class provides the basics of the lost wax casting technique, which is commonly used in the creation of bronze sculptures. It is an involved process that consists of first preparing a wax replica of the item that you wish to create in bronze. A ceramic mold is then made of the wax replica. Next, Melted bronze is poured into the ceramic mold. Finally, the ceramic mold is chipped away revealing the bronze casting. This process creates a very detailed three dimensional casting but it is also complicated. And, as a few unfortunate students found out, it is a process that can easily go terribly wrong. I was fortunate to have successfully made it through the entire process without serious problems. The result is my sculpture of an old man waving.

I learned a lot from the class. I also have a better appreciation for why all of the bronze hardware found on our website is created using the much simpler and repeatable sand casting method. The bronze heat registers from Hamilton Sinkler and Classic Grilles are all produced using sand casting. Although not to the degree of lost wax casting, wonderful details can be created using sand casting. Hamilton Sinkler’s lion head door knocker and Victorian knob offer excellent examples of fine details that are achievable through sand casting.

Next week is the final week of the class. We will be finishing off our pieces by sand blasting and applying a patina to them. Look for an update in one of these postings next week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The John Wright Company: Home Hardware Generations in the Making

If the manufacturer is nearly 130 years old, should their products still be called antique reproductions? Founded in 1880 as the Wrightsville Hardware Company, the John Wright Company is America’s oldest continuously operating manufacturer of cast iron products. Interior and exterior cast iron reproduction door and window hardware, cabinet hinges and knobs, shutter hardware, garage door hardware, and a large assortment of specialty items. Many products are cast from their own foundry and then meticulously crafted to meet the high standards that have been established over four generations of this family owned business. Below are a couple of feature products of the John Wright Company.

Today’s mass produced shelf brackets typically feature a plain and highly utilitarian appearance. While this maybe fine if your shelves are to hang in your garage, their appearance makes them a poor design choice for hanging shelves in the living spaces of your home. John Wright’s selection of cast iron shelf brackets offers a decorative and very sturdy alternative.

From its founding through the Victorian era, America embraced the design trends coming out of Europe. From fashionable dress to door hardware, designs during these times were ornate with apparent equal attention to form and function. This balance of form and function can be seen in the decorative garland motif of John Wright’s reproduction European mail slot.

Toilet Paper Holder Savoir Faire

Shop 4 Classics is proudly approaching our tenth year of operation. Many things have changed in the past nine years but many have stayed the same. I can recall from the early days, an online directory that proclaimed that Shop 4 Classics offered the largest selection of toilet paper holders on the Internet. Unfortunately, many of the toilet paper holders that we once offered have been discontinued. We are no longer #1 or even #2 in toilet paper holders, however, our current selection of toilet paper holders is not to be poo-pooed. Not to toot our own horn but we're certain you'll find the perfect toilet paper holder for your project at Shop 4 Classics! Potty humor. What would you expect from a nine year old?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kickin’ the Tires on Clawfoot Tub Drains

Purchasing a clawfoot tub drain is an afterthought for many customers. The overlooked clawfoot tub drain takes a backseat to the more glamorous clawfoot bathtub and clawfoot tub faucet. Today, the clawfoot tub drain climbs into the driver’s seat for some well deserved attention.

Plumber’s will often refer to the clawfoot tub drain as a waste and overflow. The waste connects to the drain hole in the low point of the tub so the tub can be emptied. The overflow is drilled through the wall of the tub above the drain hole usually a few inches from the tub rim. The overflow prevents water from spilling over the rim of the tub if it is over filled. Depending on the type of tub, the waste and overflow holes may be at one end of the tub or may be in the middle of the tub. Traditional clawfoot tubs and slipper tubs have waste and overflow holes at the end of the tub while dual bathtubs and double-ended slipper tubs have waste and overflow holes in the middle of the bathtub.

Clawfoot tub drains have extended tubes that your plumber will cut to adjust the drain to fit your tub. The modern standard for tub drain connections is 1 ½”. Most clawfoot tub drains use 1 ½” diameter tubes. Sign of the Crab drains use 1 3/8” diameter tubing, replicating the original size of clawfoot tub drains. A reducing washer is included to connect Sign of the Crab drains to a modern 1 ½” rough-in. With the exception of tower drains, clawfoot tub drains are approximately centered with the tub rim. Unlike drains for built-in tubs, clawfoot tub drains are exposed and, therefore, the waste and overflow tubes are finished to match the faucet.

Despite the common utilitarian purpose of the clawfoot tub drain, manufacturers do offer clawfoot tub drain options. The only difference between the first three drains that I’ll describe is the type of stopper employed by the drain. The last drain is the Cadillac of clawfoot tub drains. To describe something as the Cadillac of options now seems antiquated but yet appropriate in this space. I digress.
  • The most traditional clawfoot tub drain is also the most popular. It features a rubber stopper at the end of a chain. The chain is anchored to the overflow strainer. Shop 4 Classics even offers replacement overflow strainer plates with an integrated stopper keeper for a clawfoot tub drain with a chain and stopper. The advantage of the chain and stopper is that the stopper can be pulled out of the drain without reaching back into the bathwater. It is also typically the most economical option.

  • A lift & turn clawfoot tub drain has a stopper that twists up to open the drain or down to seal the drain. The lift & turn drain eliminates the disorderly rubber stopper at the end of a chain.

  • Toe tap clawfoot tub drains have a stopper that pops up and down with the touch of a toe. Like the lift & turn drain, the toe tap drain eliminates the chain and rubber stopper.

  • If you’re looking for a drain to make a statement, the tower drain is for you. It is called a tower drain because of the tall overflow tube. At the top of the towering overflow tube is a pull up knob. The knob opens the drain stopper much like a pop-up knob on a widespread lavatory faucet. Tower drains are popular for tubs that are in the center of the room because the drain will be more noticeable. They can also provide stability for bracing a freestanding clawfoot tub faucet. The Sign of the Crab tower drain can be used with antique clawfoot tubs that do not have an overflow hole because the overflow is integrated into the tower.
Perhaps the clawfoot tub drain is an afterthought for many customers because it is usually hidden by the clawfoot tub. Or, perhaps it is ignored because of its utilitarian nature. Today, however, the clawfoot tub drain has its moment in the pole position. Regardless of your clawfoot tub drain choice, you’ll find yourself in the winners circle when you select a clawfoot tub drain from Shop 4 Classics.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Faucets and Tubs From Cheviot Products

Shop 4 Classics is excited to introduce the latest lavatory faucets, vintage style tub fillers, and clawfoot tubs from Cheviot Products. For over twenty years, Cheviot has been offering reproduction plumbing that exhibits the highest standard of hand crafted excellence and careful attention to the finest detail. Here is a selection of some of the new Cheviot products that you can find on our website:

Cheviot expands its already extensive collection of cast iron tubs with the addition of the Carlton double ended clawfoot tub. This large soaking tub is offered with or without tub rim faucet holes and custom painting is available. Cheviot’s noted craftsmanship can be clearly seen in the exquisite details found on the tub’s ornate lion paw feet.

Cheviot also now offers a series of thermostatic tub faucets and showers. This new series includes tub rim clawfoot faucets and wall mounted clawfoot tub faucets that included hand held shower attachments. The modern thermostatic water temperature control feature is also incorporated in a new exposed riser pipe shower that is rich in old world character.

In contrast, simplicity and a petite size best describe the new Thames single lever lavatory faucet. This charming little addition is offered in chrome and brushed nickel as well as Cheviot’s unique antique bronze option which is a burgundy-brown finish.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kramer vs. Low-Flow Showerheads

This weekend, the cast of Seinfeld reunited for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I didn’t see the show but news of the reunion brought to mind a favorite Seinfeld episode. In this favorite episode, Jerry’s and Kramer’s apartment building went green. The building’s super replaced the showerheads with modern low-flow shower heads and comedy ensued.

When this episode aired in 1996, water conservation was just beginning to gain momentum. The government had already mandated that new showerhead flow rates could not exceed 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), tested at 60 pounds per square inch (psi). Older showerheads often provided more than double the new standard. The US government did not require existing showerheads to be replaced but it did require all new showerheads to conform to the new standard.

Initially, the low-flow showerheads shocked many, as it did Jerry and Kramer in the showerhead episode of Seinfeld. Never one to go with the flow (no pun intended), Kramer even went so far as to purchase a non-compliant showerhead on the black market.

Today, most of us are accustomed to the 2.5 gpm flow rate and accept it as normal. Despite the 2.5 gpm showerhead conformity, there are many different types of showerheads available from Shop 4 Classics. You can contribute to the green movement with a 2.5 gpm showerhead and still express your individuality.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So Much Of Architectural Hardware Is Greek To Me

Most agree that the modern era of architectural hardware design began following World War I with the introduction of what is now referred to as the Art Deco period. Unlike the Art Deco period, which drew inspiration from modern and at times futuristic themes; much of prior architectural themes can be traced back to ancient times. American hardware design of the 1800's and early 1900's reflected styles that were popular in Europe. In turn, much of what was popular in Europe were borrowed themes popular in ancient Greece.

Ribbon & Reed Design
As its name implies, ribbon and reed themed hardware features a design of reeds bound together by ribbons. The design was popular in France in the late 1700's but its origin can be traced to its appearance in the Greek ruins of the great city of Pompeii. The ribbon and reed design can be found on door stops produced by IDH hardware and reproduction door hardware by Brass Accents.

Greek Key Design
The Greek Key design is possibly the most recognizable architectural element borrowed from ancient Greece. Consisting of interlocking waves of right angles, the Greek key motif can be found on everything from the facades of commercial and governmental buildings to home furnishings. The Greek key pattern can be found on stair rod brackets and carpet holders from Brass Elegans.

Egg & Dart Design

The egg and dart pattern consist of series of egg shaped forms with darts, arrows, or similar shapes wedged in between. Variations of this ancient pattern can be found in the design of wood and stone moldings. Reproduction door plate sets from Nostalgic Warehouse and switchplate covers from Brass Elegans also feature the egg and dart pattern.

Fleur De Lis Design
The Fleur De Lis, which translates to “flower of the lily”, has for centuries served as a symbol of the French monarchy. Today the Fleur De Lis remains a common decorative element. The Fleur De Lis symbol can be found on a number of products offered by Shop 4 Classics. The symbol appears within the bowl of a copper sink and on tapestry holders from Brass Elegans. And, if you look real close, you will notice the Fleur De Lis on the backplate of the L' Enfant doorplate set by Brass Accents.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bridge Faucets: Bridging The Gap

For those familiar with bridge faucets, their name might seem self explanatory. But for those less acquainted with this pioneering lavatory faucet, a bridge faucet is a faucet that has an elevated bridge connecting the hot handle and cold handle to a single central spout. While the bridge is the inspiration for the name, it is the single spout that initially made the bridge faucet popular.

In the early days of indoor plumbing, lavatory faucets consisted of two separate hot and cold basin taps. You could get hot water or you could get cold water but if you needed warm water, you had to cup your hands between the two taps or fill the sink bowl. The innovative bridge faucet solved the warm water dilemma. The bridge faucet could deliver both hot and cold water to a single spout where it was mixed to provide warm water.

Like basin taps, bridge faucets only require two faucet holes; one for the hot valve and one for the cold valve. Naturally, antique bathroom sinks had just two faucet holes. If the sink had a third hole, it was likely intended for a chain stay. The chain stay would anchor the lavatory drain’s rubber stopper to the sink.

The bridge faucet is also notable for its fixed centers. In simple terms, “centers” measures the distance between the hot handle and the cold handle. Basin taps could be placed at variable centers because there was no link between the taps. However, bridge faucets have a rigid bridge that limits their application to sinks that match the spread between their handles. Bridge faucets typically have 4", 8", or 12" centers.

Mixing faucets evolved from bridge faucets to modern widespread faucets. Like a bridge faucet, widespread faucets have a single spout. Rather than an elevated rigid bridge that limits the application of the faucet, widespread faucets have flexible hoses that join the valves to the spout below the sink’s surface. The flexible hoses provide adjustable centers, although 8” centers are still most common for lavatory sinks. However, the absence of the bridge required a third faucet hole in the sink to accommodate the spout.

Despite the fact that contemporary sinks have three faucet holes and that bridge faucets only occupy two of them, bridge faucets are still popular today. A sink hole cover is used to cover the middle hole in modern sinks. To recreate a period bath, a chain stay and drain with rubber stopper is another option that can be used with a bridge faucet and new sink.

While the bridge may be its most distinguishing feature and the impetus for its name, the bridge faucet did more for indoor plumbing than for which it receives credit. In retrospect, the bridge faucet could just as appropriately be named for bridging the gap between the separate basin taps of the Victorian period to the widespread lavatory faucets of today.