Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Only fifty pounds

I could bring fifty pounds and no more. I was going to be flown from Portland Oregon to Pendleton Oregon, a distance of 210 miles, to work on a vintage ribcage shower. I was returning the same day, which was not a problem. The problem was being limited to fifty pounds of tools and repair kits to work on an ornate fixture I had only seen photographs of. I wasn't even sure of the manufacturer of the shower valving.

What do I select to bring? What can I afford to leave behind? I'm accustomed to driving a ten foot cube van stocked with repair kits that range from ten years old to older than me. The same may be said about my hand tools. Hardly any of it is light and altogether it requires a one ton truck just to haul it around. Removing something from the truck in order to streamline the operation is a sure way to find yourself missing it sooner than later. One thing was certain, I wouldn't be carrying anything for myself or my comfort, Those fifty allowed pounds were reserved for tools and parts.

In February of 2017 I was contacted by the owner/operator of The Pendleton House, a bed and breakfast set up in a 1917 Italian Renaissance style home in the town of Pendleton Oregon.

There is a walk-in tile shower in the house that is equipped with a full ribcage shower arrangement. The handles were not original, the main valves were not original, and the control valves were not functioning optimally. We texted back and forth, I looked at the photos he sent and gave him my opinion of what he had and what I might be able to do to help. That was as far as it went at that time and in the course of answering emails and running my restoration business I forgot about it.

In July of 2018 he contacted me again and we had another conversation about his ribcage shower. He told me that he was prepared to pay for my airfare if I would agree to come out and spend the day doing whatever I could to solve some of the problems with the old fixture. I figured I could do something to help and if nothing else, form a strategy for the needed repairs. We agreed upon a day and he emailed my boarding pass to me.

Years ago my wife Sandy and I speculated and rather joked about the possibility of me flying off to other places to work on vintage fixtures. I still maintain one of my tenet workplace philosophies, "The diligent worker should make himself indispensable on the job." I am well accustomed to being one of only a few sources of help when it comes to preserving and restoring vintage plumbing fixtures. Now though, someone actually wanted me to get on a plain and travel to work on a fixture.

The boarding pass was for Boutique Air and I would be flying in an eight passenger turboprop out of their own small terminal at PDX.  And of course I was only allowed to bring a total of fifty pounds of carry on.
Duck your head to get into this sweetheart, stay ducked down until you sit in your seat as well. 

There was a strong possibility that I would need to reseat at least one valve so my full reseating kit and a selection of bronze faucet seats had to go with me. Unfortunately that already had me over twenty pounds. Certain parts assortments like cap gaskets and bibb washers had to be included as well as thread seal and Teflon tape. I included a decent four way screwdriver and flat jawed wrenches of various sizes. I had already supplemented my reseating kit with an assortment of seat wrenches.
I brought no pliers, nor did I bring a tape measure of flashlight.

Once I had found a box strong enough to carry my equipment the loaded box, including foam to keep kits from tossing around in the box, weighed in at forty five pounds. I used two crossed cargo straps instead of tape to be certain the box would stay closed and because the straps made good handles to lift the box by. At the terminal they weighed my box in at forty nine pounds.

Returning at the end of the day I was over weight, carrying a tip from the client, a fifth of Pendleton Whisky. How the day went is another story.
Feeling great at the end of an interesting day. 


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