Friday, September 26, 2014

Cast Iron Clean-up

I am only 5 months late with this post, but as I say to Megs… I am so busy doing these projects, I don't have time to write about them. Nothing? Yea she doesn't buy it either.

After we finally arrived back at home with our “new” tub I had to figure out where to store it until I could get to the refinishing.  The tub was a $200 Craigslist find which we traveled to Minneapolis to pick-up from the seller's half frozen backyard.
Picking up the tub from Minneapolis, story link here

 We ended up looking like Iowa hillbillies for a few weeks with an old claw foot tub sitting proudly in the middle of our yard. Megs finally got me, with the help of her visiting father, to move the tub over a few yards against the house. It now looked like it might have been intentional and less haphazard.

I have refinished lots of metal based items in the past, however nothing this big. My preferred method is to use a media blaster to strip down all the years of paint and rust to bare metal. Others online have also used a wire brush attached to a angle grinder, but I didn't feel I would be satisfied with this level of cleanliness so I started the search for a blasting operation that could accommodate a 10,000 lb tub, at least it feels that way.

A buddy at work had just such a setup that he uses to blast large vintage tractor parts, and happily granted me access for a couple beers. Done! When using an outdoor blaster vs an enclosed cabinet blaster there are a few things to remember. 1. You need to be covered in clothes head to toe because sand at high velocities is very… abrasive. 2. There is no such thing as a nice day to do it, you are going to be hot, deaf, sweat blind, and uncomfortable in the torture created blasting hood/ helmet. 3. The 60 lb bag of sand you just took 3 minutes to meticulously pour into the pressure vessel hopper runs out in 2.5 seconds.

If all of that sounds fun to you, I suggest you make large scale blasting your profession. I would have paid $1,000 to rent a enclosed blaster that it operated by human controlled robot arms… and yes they have those, I didn't just make it up. A couple hours later I was really happy with the outcome despite the pain and suffering. 

The tub was stripped down to bare cast and ready for a primer coat.

By the way, like most buddies I have, they never realize when they say yes to my requests what they are getting themselves into. I have to say thank you again Mike for helping me lift that tub from the car to the work area and then back. It was just one of many moves this tub was going to make before settling in to it final resting place. 

That night I was able to back the van up to my shop, and create an Egyptian style pyramid builders ramp that would allow me to transfer the lump of cast iron “safely” by myself. The word was out on the street that we had purchased a cast iron tub and no one was taking my calls at this point. 

One brush coat of oil based primer (The Sherwin Williams clerk recommended All Surface Enamel Oil Base Primer in white) to keep the flash rust down and then off to bed. 

Megs hemmed and hawed over the final color for weeks after 4, yes 4, one more time 4 coats of hand brushed death smell oil based paint (Sherwin Williams All Surface Enamel Oil Base in Gloss color matched to Kind Antebellum Gray). The paint process came out awesome, the color… not so much. It doesn't offend me, but it isn't great. Or a better way to say it, it isn't bad enough to get me to repaint it.

Being late May the weather was getting hot and sticky and that oil based paint was not in any hurry to dry so after 4 days of checking I finally lined up the help and set to moving the beast into location. I wasn't keen on just trying to man handle this thing up the stairs so I came up with my own version of a furniture mover. I built a frame out of 2x4s, lined them with our old living room carpet to protect the tub and attached the whole thing to my current box dolly using EMT conduit straps. I then ratchet strapped the tub to the dolly so as not to have the two separate mid move and headed towards the house with my main muscle AA. 

There was some grunting, some teasing, and a lot of sweating and then we were done. AA and I were able to get the beast located with very little damage to anything. I did end up touching up a small section of the tub that the carpet rubbed raw but all in all the prep work and planning made all the difference.

That weekend I was able to plumb in the drain and the water supple with little difficulty. This was the first time I used hard chrome plated ridged brass tube water supply lines instead of flexible and I am glad I did. They were very easy to cut, bend and install and really make the tub look nice. 

I am very happy we went through all the hassle of using an old cast iron tub. It adds the perfect amount of charm to new bathroom. I will say it has taken me a good 5 months to feel comfortable with the kids taking bath in the tub. Knowing there would be a lot of weight on the old floor we did reinforce each floor joist when we first tore out the floor but between the tub itself… ~350 - 400lbs plus 8lbs per gallon of water plus currently 70lbs of kids makes me for the first time question my building and engineering skills. I keep thinking of the movie The Money Trap where the tub come crashing through the ceiling. But alas my awesomeness prevails again and the bath I took a few weeks ago was relaxing and not a near death experience. 

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