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.