Friday, June 22, 2012

Clearly Vintage Clarion Farmhouse Drainboard Kitchen Sink

The farmhouse drainboard kitchen sink was a fixture (no pun intended) of kitchens from the early 1900's up until the start of World War II.  The Sign of the Crab cast iron Clarion farmhouse drainboard kitchen sink is a great example of a modern reproduction that authentically replicates its antique inspiration.  Today, we compare the Clarion farmhouse drainboard kitchen sink to antique kitchen sinks from the turn of the 20th century so you can judge for yourself.

Exhibit A: Cast Iron

Indoor plumbing was introduced in the 1870's.  Some of the first plumbed kitchen sinks to take advantage of this advancement were cast iron kitchen sinks.  The Sign of the Crab Clarion farmhouse drainboard kitchen sink is constructed of cast iron just as the original kitchen sinks.  The thickness of the iron ranges from about 1/4" along the back of the Clarion kitchen sink to about 1/2" to 3/4" thick through the rest of the sink.  A cast iron kitchen sink is very heavy and the cast iron Clarion drainboard kitchen sink is no exception.  The Clarion cast iron sink is so heavy, in fact, that Sign of the Crab recommends a minimum of 5 people for installation.

Exhibit B: White Porcelain Enamel

The first cast iron sinks were raw cast iron.  They may have been painted but cast iron presented two problems for early kitchens.  First, cast iron is difficult to clean and second, cast iron will rust when exposed to moisture.  Fortunately, porcelain had become more economical by the early 1900's and the interior of cast iron clawfoot tubs and sinks were coated with a porcelain enamel after that time.  The porcelain enamel helped preserve the cast iron sink.  The porcelain glaze also made cast iron sinks easier to clean which eased hygiene concerns in the wake of measles, small pox, cholera, and other epidemics of the previous couple centuries.  The porcelain enamel (and kitchens in general) was almost always white.  This was again largely in response to sanitary concerns of the time.  White made dirt and grime easier to see.  Like cast iron kitchen sinks from the turn of the 20th century, the Clarion cast iron farmhouse drainboard kitchen sink has a durable white porcelain enamel coating.

Sign of the Crab Clarion Farmhouse Drainboard Kitchen Sink

Exhibit C: Shape

First generation cast iron kitchen sinks included a shallow single bowl with a tall integrated backsplash.  Later, a second bowl for rinsing dishes was available on some kitchen sinks but the single bowl sink was most common.  After a dish was washed, it was placed on an adjacent drainboard.  The drainboard featured grooves to channel water back into the bowl while dishes dry. These early cast iron kitchen sinks initially stood on two to four legs, were wall mounted, or rested on cabinets.

Like vintage cast iron kitchen sinks, the Sign of the Crab Clarion cast iron farmhouse kitchen sink has a single bowl.  At about 9-1/2" deep, the Clarion sink’s bowl is deeper than most antique kitchen sinks; which is a welcome improvement if you've ever tried to wash dishes in the 4"-6" deep bowl found on many antique kitchen sinks.  The Clarion cast iron farmhouse kitchen sink has a drainboard on both sides of the bowl.  The integrated backsplash is 12" tall.  The Clarion farmhouse kitchen sink is available with two adjustable height legs or without legs so it can be wall mounted or placed on custom cabinetry.

Exhibit D:  Plumbing

Up until the 1930's, kitchen sink faucets were usually wall mounted.  Antique cast iron kitchen sinks had two holes in the backsplash for installing a faucet.  Separate hot and cold taps were used in kitchen sinks initially but around the turn of the century wall mounted kitchen sink faucets with mixing valves were becoming commonplace.  Early kitchen faucets did not offer sprayers.  A rubber hose attached to the spout was the only sprayer available for antique cast iron kitchen sinks.  The plumbing below vintage kitchen sinks was always exposed to allow for air circulation.  Health concerns were again at play.  Moisture was thought to harbor germs and diseases.  Proper air circulation provided by exposing plumbing under the sink prevented dampness and reduced the health risk.

The Clarion cast iron farmhouse kitchen sink has two 8" center faucet holes in the backsplash to support installation of a wall mounted kitchen sink faucet.  Although we no longer have the same concerns about contaminated water, the area below the Clarion kitchen sink is open to expose plumbing just as it would have been in vintage drainboard kitchen sinks.


By the roaring 20's, tiled-in kitchen sinks started replacing large drainboard kitchen sinks.  Although the porcelain-enameled cast iron kitchen sink on legs was still being produced up until the start of World War II, demand was dwindling and eventually these sinks disappeared from the market.  For many years, the only place to find one of these sinks was a salvage yard.  Fortunately, Sign of the Crab brought back the farmhouse drainboard kitchen sink a few years ago and it continues to be a favorite today. Even if the Clarion sink isn't the right fit for your kitchen, we are sure that you'll agree that the sink is a perfect homage to the original cast iron drainboard kitchen sink.

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