Friday, March 25, 2016

Victorian Railway Car Basin.

Every now and again, in the process of keeping old fixtures serviceable, it is prudent to make their functions just a bit more modern. Case in point, look at my page...
The project I want to write about today though it is a bit more extreme.

A while ago I was contacted by a local man who had purchased a very old and unusual fixture. He had acquired it at Aurora Mills, an architectural salvage house in nearby Aurora Oregon. They had referred me to answer his questions about getting it installed. He contacted me and upon my request, sent me some photos.

Open tank water source in back splash holds water at room temperature with gravity flow.

Basin has no drain fitting, just an open hole.Note the tank with affixed spigot middle left.

Pull knob at bottom right rolls wooden ball into drain hole to hold water.
When ball is rolled away, drain water drops into tin funnel and from there into a vessel that is later emptied by a porter.  

New holes in back splash to accommodate new hot and cold water taps.

Rear view, tin tank not in place.The photos above were sent to me. Only the basin itself was brought to my shop. It fits to the bottom of the marble countertop with wooden stays.

 I was asked to install a drain fitting into the open drain port of the basin so that it could be connected to the drainage system of the house. The only problem is that the drain opening is smaller than what a modern drain can address. I would have to make my own drain assembly.

Here is the cast brass lower portion of a regular 1-1/4" vessel drain assembly, I started with that.  I have cut a section of vintage 1" threaded tubing that had a lock nut on it and soldered the lock nut to the modern brass flange. I had to lathe cut the internal thread of the flange to allow the nut to penetrate it evenly. The threaded tubing is a close fit into the open drain hole of the basin.
Then I needed a grid strainer to joint to the 1" threaded tubing. I decided that this large brass washer would work.

Searching for a motif to follow the client and I decided that the little five petal flowers painted onto the basin would be appropriate. I knew that the result would match a common strainer pattern circa 1910. The brass washer gave me a free center hole, I would need five evenly spaced holes around it. 

Once I had the penciled on rays, evenly spaced, I added two circles. The outside circle represents the ID of my 1" tubing. The inner circle is the center of my holes and I drilled 1/8" holes where the rays and the inner circle intersected. I walked the holes to match the 5/16" size of the original center hole by degrees, using larger bits in turns. 

I then soldered the new strainer onto the 1" tubing. I had prepared the tubing for this by cleaning the edge on the lathe. Five minutes on the buffing wheel smoothed the inner edges of the drilled holes. Then it went to the plater for a coating of polished nickel. 

The new drain assembly, ready to install.
I used a closed cell foam gasket that I cut to fit. that material would seal my drain connection without adding undue force to the vintage china surface.
Another happy ending.

 Rising to the challenge of such a unique request makes the job very special.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mid-Century Modern

Currently I, with the help of my clever and creative daughter, am preparing the graphics and text for my new advertising campaign. A local preservationist group, Restore Oregon, has offered to allow me to advertise in this year's tour guides. They will have two self guided tours this year, both are featuring homes in the Mid-Century Modern style.

I knew without hesitation that I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity be an advertising sponsor of this year's tours. For the same reasons that I love my work I am very sympathetic to Restore Oregon's drive to preserve the at risk older structures in our area. Aside from that, the timing is perfect for me because I am endeavoring at this time to forsake general plumbing repair and turn my attention exclusively toward the repair and restoration of vintage plumbing fixtures.

Collaborating on creative work requires not only the knowledge of what one desires to create but the ability to express how and why one would use the designs and language proposed. For my part, I had several ideas about what I would want to do and say. My daughter is doing a good job of keeping me grounded, helping to keep it simple, balanced, relevant, and meaningful from the layman's perspective.

The pantry faucet image is out of
my 1897 L. Wolff  Mfg. Co. catalog.

We are so pleased with the result so far that it will become the pattern for the next batch of business cards. During the first phase she and I had several preparatory talks and at last one long creative session to agree upon the main elements of the primary graphic that will go on Restore Oregon's website. She then produced nine mock-ups and we selected the best elements from the lot. After that I wrote the text for the accompanying promotion. Yet to create is the material to fill the space I have been given in the tour guides.

A good deal of research goes into the work of creating a design that will convey a message. The fact that I have been giving new life to fixtures from the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties for many years is not enough. I needed to know what the term Mid-Century Modern means, not only to me and not only to others, but what the usual range of meanings are because these things can be somewhat controversial and I am not interested in taking a stand but in communicating at large.

I was intrigued to see that the colors I am familiar with in the fixtures of the period were repeated in design and advertising. I learned not only the origin of the term Mid-Century Modern but that it and indeed most of the terms used to describe periods in design came well after the end of the period in question. I searched and read through a good deal of material, the consequence of which is a whole new appreciation of the period. I no longer see Mid-Century Modern only as it relates to my work but to furnishing, architecture, art, and even open spaces and life style.
"It feels refreshing to think about what, to me, were good and positive times."
I was born in 1950 and grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, New York. I have an old familiarity with the colors and forms we are working with on this project. Formerly when I perused my old manufacturer catalogs I would focus on the fixtures, remembering which I had worked on and who I had done the work for.

Now it seems as though my reminiscences have really come alive. I can't help but think of the bright colorful advertisements for the refreshments available at the concession building before they began to play the Tom and Jerry cartoons at our local drive-in theater. I think about what it was like inside the Cape Cod style house we lived in, the floors and counter tops, the tables and chairs. It feels refreshing to think about what, to me, were good and positive times.
RestoreOregon Mid-Century Modern Home Tour Advertisement.
The image comes from an old Standard catalog.
Perhaps the enjoyment I feel when I work on the fixtures of that period is not simply because the work is easier. I know that the styles and forms speak to me artistically but what I had not considered is that I probably associate those fixtures with pleasant memories.  

Is is easier to work on the fixtures from those decades than it is to restore fixture from near the turn of the century. The parts are easier to attain and the valves were meant to be repaired with parts that could be easily replaced.

While the porcelain on cast iron was about the same grade of product as it had always been, the vitreous china ware was much better material. You never see the crazing in it that is so common with the older stuff and because of that it seems more sanitary.

Mid-Century Modern plumbing fixtures are also plentiful. There are many to be had and many remain in their original settings. I am particularly fond of the wall hung lavatories that were set with stainless steel legs in front, what we call Leg Lavs.

 I have been able to acquire various fixtures, faucets, and sets of hardware from the period that are "New old stock". I have sets of lavatory legs, some with integral towel bars along with faucets by Crane and Standard. I'm hoping the new advertising will help me find more work on Mid-Century fixtures and help me find homes for some of the new and used stock I have to offer.