Friday, August 12, 2011

Vintage Faucet Soap Opera: As The Handle Turns

The soap opera "As The World Turns" ended its 54 year run nearly one year ago. I was never a fan. Never even watched an episode. However, we recently had our own daytime drama here at Shop 4 Classics. The crisis involved two customers with differing thoughts on the direction that faucet handles should turn on antique reproduction faucet singles (or "taps" as they are frequently called). One customer purchased Elizabethan Classics antique reproduction taps and was surprised to learn that the cross handle for the cold faucet turned clockwise to open the valve. This customer expected the cold handle to turn counter-clockwise. A second customer purchased a similar Sign of the Crab antique reproduction faucet and was equally surprised to find that the cold tap's cross handle turned counter-clockwise to open the valve. The Sign of the Crab customer expected the cold handle to turn clockwise. Should the cold handle turn clockwise as it does for the Elizabethan Classics faucet or should it turn counter-clockwise as it does for the Sign of the Crab faucet? The answer is "yes" which makes this a conundrum worthy of a daytime Emmy.

Historically, single valve faucets always opened by turning the handle counter-clockwise. Shutoff valves, hose bibs, and many antique reproduction faucets still operate this way today. In this regard, Sign of the Crab faucets are historically accurate antique reproductions. Both cross handles turn counter-clockwise (same direction) for Sign of the Crab taps as they did in the original versions of these faucets.

The modern convention, however, is that the hot water handle turns counter-clockwise to open while the cold handle turns clockwise. Elizabethan Classics faucets replicate vintage faucet designs but implement the modern handle convention. The hot water handle turns counter-clockwise and the cold handle turns clockwise (opposite directions) for Elizabethan Classics taps as they do in contemporary faucets.

It should be noted that this difference only occurs with cross handles and only applies to the cold tap. Lever handles always turn in opposite directions. Hot valves always turn counter-clockwise to open. If hot handles always turn counter-clockwise and lever handles always turn in opposite directions, it then figures that cold handles on lever handled faucets always turn clockwise to open.

Perhaps the modern convention of cross handles turning in opposite directions abandoned the traditional approach for economical reasons. Perhaps it was done to make cross handled faucets consistent with lever handled faucets. The reason for the change is not as important as understanding that there is a difference. Incidentally, Sign of the Crab faucets with cross handles can be ordered or converted to turn in opposite directions if that convention is preferred.

Lacking the cliff hanger and melodramatics that soap operas systematically employ to tempt viewers to tune in tomorrow, our daytime drama finished with a conclusive happy ending. Once we explained why the handles turn as they do, the Elizabethan Classics customer was pleased that his faucet handles turned in opposite directions and the Sign of the Crab customer was thrilled that his cross handles turned in the same direction. Avoid dramatics in your next project. Visit Shop 4 Classics for great products and advice!

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