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 A New “Antique” Toilet
Building a classic from the ground up.

  One of Bathroom Machineries’ best-selling items for nearly 30 years has been reconditioned vintage toilets from the early part of the 20th century.
    The pleasing rounded shape and rolled detail lines are extremely popular with restoration and antique plumbing enthusiasts. The basic washdown design of the toilet bowl has remained largely unchanged for over 90 years;  one of the charms of these older bowls is they flush as well or even better than new toilets
    There are drawbacks however: These old toilets don’t always fit on modern plumbing without special consideration and were designed to flush using 5 to 7 gallons of water per flush. Anyone subject to a building inspection where low-flow fixtures are required would be forced to make another choice, even if it meant installing an inappropriately modern fixture in a historic building. These problems notwithstanding, sales remained brisk.

Classic 1910-syle toilets by Pacific, Douglas, and Maddox, like this one have gotten hard to find in good condition!

   Not long ago, supplies of old bowls started getting scarce. In years past, our warehouse was literally overflowing with classic washdown bowls and matching tanks.
   At the turn of the current century we found ourselves returning from our buying forays with fewer and fewer tanks and bowls. Time and 20 years of water company rebate programs were working together to wipe out a little piece of plumbing history.
   As supply dwindled, we found ourselves scrambling to find 1st quality bowls. We had to resort to raising prices to cover the increasing amount of time we were spending repairing and refinishing less-than-perfect porcelain.

The Solution:
The thought of making our own reproduction toilet occurred to us many times over the years but finding a factory or artisan to make the inital mold proved difficult. Some companies quoted us prices had a LOT of zeros on them! We kept looking. Eventually we found a factory in Taiwan that could not only make the molds for a reasonable price. but could turn out top quality zero-defect sanitary ware.

The Design Work Begins:
    The first step in designing our toilet involved a lot of brainstorming. The toilet we wanted to make had to look exactly like an original yet fit on modern plumbing and meet modern low water consumption requirements.
   We selected selected a rare original 1910 12” rough-in Douglas bowl and an appropriate tank and shipped them off to Taiwan to have an initial prototype made.

The initial prototype was if anything, a little TOO exact a copy of the original. Several features from the original bowl such as recessed seat bolt holes and a narrow bolt cap ledge found their way in to the initial design.  Since our goal was to create a toilet that combined the best of both old and new, we began specifying the needed improvements.

Water testing: As we made cosmetic and structural improvements, we were also water testing each and every prototype.  All the hours of design, all the rare toilets sent overseas, all our years of experience ended up combining to produce a toilet that not only looked great, but flushed ......uh...well.  Poorly.
    Being a bunch of detail-oriented perfectionists we were seriously dismayed at the performance of the early prototypes. 
    Part of the ASME testing also involved running a closet auger through the bowl 100 times without damaging the bowl.  No matter how hard we tried, we could NOT get a closet auger through the bowl without difficulty.

Toilet Cam: Knowing something wasn’t right, we hired a plumber with a fiber optic camera designed for inspecting sewer lines to peek inside our prototype.  The “toilet cam” revealed some definitely rough looking stalactites of porcelain in the water pathway.

Toilet Cam: Photos revealed a less-than-smooth water path. Dark spots are rust marks from our test closet auger.

Five Prototypes and a lot of toilets sawed in half later, (we soon gave up on the fiber optics in favor of simply sawing open the waterway with a diamond saw), we were getting frustrated. Though the toilets flushed better, they still weren’t up to our standards.

Ironing out the Bugs: A series of emails and correspondence capped by a trip to the factory in Taiwan by our company CEO finally solved the problem. Points that didn’t

 translate well in email or on the telephone were easily resolved in person. A few minor adjustments in the way the bowl was assembled and glazed inside resulted in a bowl that flushed EXACTLY the way we’d hoped without having to resort to tank cups or pressure flush mechanisms.

Not done yet: The 6th and final prototype was hauled back from Taiwan by our CEO in his luggage. After passing water, flush, and auger testing with flying colors, the order was given for the factory to begin production.
    The tank, lid, and bowl however are only 3 of the 45 parts involved in building a working toilet. A dozen fasteners, a handfull of washers, a flush tube, fill and flush valves, a flush lever, not to mention packaging needed to be procured, produced, and ready for the arrival of the porcelain parts.

Being the picky sorts that we are, we selected all of the parts for the toilet with OUR name on it with care.  These aren’t
“off-the-rack” hardware store parts; Only the highest quality solid brass hardware is used, the only plastic parts used are on the Fluidmaster fill valves which we chose for their phenomenal reliability.  When given the choice of using a better but more expensive part, we didn’t compromise, we selected the better part.  We even included premium solid-brass floor bolts with stainless steel nuts and a premium wax floor gasket in the package.  For ease of service however, all parts are standard and may be replaced with readily available plumbing repair parts.

Now we’re done: The toilets are assembled and water tested in our Murphys California workshops. The result is one of the finest (we think so anyway!) low tank toilets made anywhere.
   At last people have the option of installing a code-legal and historically appropriate toilet in their older home or authentic bath remodel. We’ll keep selling restored antique original toilets too;  rest assured that the same quality and attention to detail we’ve learned restoring the “real” thing has been carried over into the making of this authentic copy.

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