Instructables
Picture of DIY Clawfoot Bathtub Couch
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Being deeply attracted to the aesthetics of the claw foot bathtub couch, but a bit shy about the thousand plus dollar price tag to buy one of these retail, I decided to build one on my own.  The process was exploratory and based largely on trial and error since there's not great documentation on how to cut cast iron or refinish a bathtub on your own.  With that in mind, this Instructable outlines the process in 34 detailed steps so that folks can get an idea of what techniques work and which ones don't should they attempt to repurpose an antique tub for modern furniture purposes themsleves.

All in all I'd say the project takes "much longer than a weekend" to complete, and is best done with the help of another person - if only just to move the several hundred pound bathtub from place to place.  However, once done, you'll have a one of a kind piece of furniture that really speaks for itself.  Having made it, instead of bought it, will really speak to your abilities as as a creator of things, and that's cool too if you're into that sort of thing.


 
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Step 1: This Idea is Not New

Picture of This Idea is Not New
Let me start by saying that this idea is not new.  First shown in 1961 in Holly Golightly's apartment in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's", it was then re-created by Jared and Jill Morrison of Ruff House Art for Phillip Morris of all folks a few years ago.  This was followed by a New York Times article covering the concept of a claw foot bath tub couch (when I first got turned on to the idea) which then prompted several bespoke retailers to try and recreate the work.  

There is currently a reproduced DIY version on a french blog, however it provides zero instruction, and takes a slightly different design approach by using an elevated seat.  There's also a retailer on Etsy called Redux Tubs out of Canada who is selling the couch from $1,100 and up.  Finally, my co-worker Carley has also wanted to build a bathtub couch for some time.

I think I am merely riding the groundswell of claw foot bathtub couch interest, as we all our - I simply have taken the time to document the process so that we may have the opportunity to make bathtub couches while hopefully learning a bit from my mistakes.  I in no way take credit for this idea.

History accurate as of publish date September, 2012.
roballoba10 months ago
AWESOME!
and WHY has this not won any awards?
mrsrobc1 year ago
Amazing!!! Thank u for all the detail instructions! Would u be willing to make one and sell it for an affordable price? I know it will defeat the idea of making it but I would really love to use it as a prop for my daughters birthday party. If your interested please let me know. Thank you. cervantesmarisol@rocketmail.com
erikdw1 year ago
Well done! Looks like a bit of work but surely with all the effort.

Good job.
hocngiap1 year ago
lovely!!!!!!!
rashoot1 year ago
Great for a home in the desert! nice cool tub sucking the heat out of your body,though.
not to comfortable for cool climates. Try laying in a cast iron tub without enough cushions covering the metal.Brr r that's cold!
Hi, great project. You might want to try using a powerfull jigsaw with a metal cutting blade, going nice and easy, on slow speed, It worked great cutting an old gas bottle to make wood burning stove.
David
whamodyne1 year ago
Foam is indeed expensive. Try a Joann's Fabrics store with a 50% coupon (from their email newsletter) , that's how I get mine these days.
some shops give scraps away for free, i guess you can make foam-flakes from them (messy!) and fill a cushion with those, then it looks a bit puffier.
noahw (author)  whamodyne1 year ago
That's a great tip - I will definitely check that out. Maybe that's the best way to take the plunge and buy a matte cutter as well? Thanks!
re. foam from couch left outside in the trash-DON'T use it! Bedbugs might exist-they are a major problem in North America now, and they get into everything!

Your instructable is really really well done. Thanks :0)
cjohnson431 year ago
Man of many talents; job well done.

I wonder if it would be more efficient to cut the porcelain out and use a plasma cutter? If you were to make another one, I would find a friend that has one. Cuts that take 20 minutes on the bandsaw only take about 25 seconds with a plasma torch.
You are totally right about this - we have a group here in town that casts iron a couple of times a year, and we use plasma cutters to trim sprues and clean up overlaps and mold defects. It is far simpler, to do than any kind of saw I can think of and like you mentioned literally lightning fast. That said, If i was going to use a saw, I think I would use a reciprocating saw instead of a circular saw and or grinder to make the cut.
chandshar1 year ago
worth the effort of a lot of hard graft
I think I might have saved the 'offcut' side and took that to the powder coaters to experiment with they may well have tryed several differant coatings free as they would be finding out what works
Nice work... you're such a crafty homemaker! :)


You left out the step that explains how to procure a hot chick to sit in it, though.
noahw (author)  supersoftdrink1 year ago
That's significantly a more complex and lengthy process then what can be covered in just one step...

Thanks for the compliment! 
So I suppose one can't just order a half dozen from a local organic grocery store or anything, huh?

Damn. Well, there go my decorating plans....





As for compliments, I don't give them out very often, but I'd consider doling them out like cheap parade candy if it'll keep you posting detailed instructables like this one that are relevant to my interests... instead of, say, guides depicting the art of making goofy fish faces in order to increase one's chances for procreation. I'm all for your new direction of more wood and less lip. ;)

Now how about making an instructable on making a decent custom chuck so one can sand and polish wood rings on a lathe after the centers have been cut (and assuming there isn't just one fixed size)? It'd be helpful if it could also securely hold bent wood rings.
noahw (author)  supersoftdrink1 year ago
I made one goofy face Instructable five years ago and it still lingers even after making over a hundred others since then! :)

Regarding your decent custom chuck request, have you thought about getting a tapered dowel, putting some silicone high friction tape around it, sliding the ring down the taper until it sticks and just spinning the dowel in a hand drill, or lathe? Seems like that would work great for the outside of the wooden ring...as for the inside surface or bent wood ring, that's a bit harder to polish...I'll stew with the question though and see if anything comes to mind. I have a new shop of my own now, and seeds for even more and better shops are being sowed. Hopefully I'll be able to deliver more Instructables relevant to you interestes.

My hiatus from Instructables seemed to coincide perfectly with your increased presence on the site. Your Instructables are awesome and I'm sorry that I haven't had a chance to talk with you sooner! I particularly like your food sculpture ones - including the cheese board and grapefruit mouse pie.

What you are doing with repurposed fabric to make sculptural items is also spot on and very good.

It's a pleasure reading your Instructables and I really appreciate the time you've taken to document your work. You sound like you are a very busy person. If there's ever anything I can do to help or support you within this community please don't hesitate to let me know. I wish you and your family all the best, and thanks again for your comments.
Nothing ever dies on the internet... and if you're using the vague terminology "goofy face," I'm sure many more of your instructables would qualify. ;)

The taper makes the ring unstable on one side, even with friction tape. Even when one is sanding carefully, the ring often wiggles loose and then flies away, sometimes breaking.

I've also tried using a rubber stopper with a bolt through the middle and a large washer on each side... the rubber stopper gets shorter and thicker as you tighten the nut on the bolt. That technique also has some... problems.


I've got a bunch more projects that I haven't posted instructables for, either due to time constraints or being unfinished. Lately I've had some problems getting some wiring to work with a vibration motor, a couple switches, and some UV LEDs. Once I sort through that mess, I'll have more soft sculptures to post (but the circuits are an integral part of it, so I'm not about to jump the gun just to post patterns for adorable but worthless felted wool stuffed animals). I probably won't post the felt lego organizer I made, because one of the corners is crooked. It's a nice solution to how LOUD legos are when you're sorting through them in a large plastic tub, though (in case you know anyone with sensory issues).


If you're interested in fabric sculpture, I'm still working on a zombie doll pattern (here are some early prototypes) http://www.flickr.com/photos/jocafa/7927660700/in/photostream The pattern itself is done (no pictures of the final shape), but I'm still working on the printable zombie illustration. I can send you the file once I finish, if you like...


but only if you enter my needle and thread contest.
sconner11 year ago
It seems a shame to sand and paint such a strong, durable and beautiful finish as porcelain enamel.
It's why they were built that way, to be timeless looking and last forever.
Isn't that why you wanted the cast iron porcelain tub in the first place?
noahw (author)  sconner11 year ago
When you buy a used tub off of Craigslist the porcelain will likely be badly damaged and stained. I'm sure it's possible to use cleaners and polishers to restore the porcelain to it's full finish, but the tub I picked up was beyond that point and needed to be completely refinished. I agree, ideally the porcelain could be restored and there'd be no need for so much sanding and painting.
DavidM451 year ago
Looks Great! .... My wife wanted me to do this with our old claw foot tub and I told her it was impossible to cut! Thanks ... I think LOL. As far as finish goes I'm with you on the boat paint, but I was thinking to rattle can the outside (dull black w/gold feet) the issue is I do want to use it outdoors. What do you think?
thanks, Noah
noahw (author)  DavidM451 year ago
If you want to use it outdoors then I'd say to maybe just use the boat paint all over You can get it in other colors. It's a really thick HQ polyurethane paint that I think would protect well. The Rustoleum paint on stuff would work well outside as well. In my mind I see you being able to build up thicker coats with a brush then with the rattle can for greater protection.

In any case, the major obstacle to outdoor use is the cushion. I need to make a good outdoor cushion with a mesh kind of fabric that still looks good. Have any ideas on making DIY outdoor cushions?
DavidM45 noahw1 year ago
ya for outside that may be the only way to get it to last more that one rainy season. Cushion: a closed cel foam def. but here in Cali with our long dry spells I just store our outdoor cushions when the rainy season begins and pull them out for parties and nice days. cheers.
It would be cool if you took the lamp stand beside the tub and mounted a hollowed out shower head with a light bulb in it.
Very cool idea!
noahw (author)  ra1nb0wtrout1 year ago
I sandblasted the brass and copper fixture that I pulled off the tub with this in mind.

It's not pictured in the Instructable, but the plan was to make a lamp out of it by installing momentary switches at the base of the faucet handles. As they screw down (tighten the faucet) it actuates the switch. Screw up (loosen the faucet) and the light turns off.

I'll get around to making this lamp and keep it next to the couch to complete the effect.
ElZorro1 year ago
You CAN erase the marker with alcohol
noahw (author)  ElZorro1 year ago
The entire surface gets sanded and painted so the excess of marker on the tub went away easily.
ElZorro noahw1 year ago
I meant it could have been erased before it got confusing. ;~)
noahw (author)  ElZorro1 year ago
Ha ha - now I understand your comment...yeah, that would have been a good idea :)
whamodyne1 year ago
Looks Awesome! On cutting out the side of the tub, I wonder how a plasma cutter would work. Would it cause the porcelain to spall badly or even not cut at all?

I've done cutting jobs that require lots and lots and lots of angle grinder work and while that works and all, I wouldn't mind finding a shortcut.
sconner11 year ago
Might it help to keep the leading/cutting edge of the wheel rotating down onto the porcelain side so as not to flake out the enamel?
Similar to the way one would avoid splintering out of end grain in wood.
sconner11 year ago
I also would go with a diamond wheel.
You can even get them that will fit your circular saw and grinder.
They're meant for tile so porcelain will be no trouble and you should get a clean unchipped edge.
poza1 year ago
that seems like a lot of trial and error. i wonder if resting the tub on its side in a make-shift larger tub (made from plastic sheeting) and fill the larger tub with colored water (food coloring, perhaps?) then prop up the tub with blocks until you get the lines right --since water is self leveling. then mark with a sharpie.
danzo321 poza1 year ago
I'd try to get a good line with use of shadow rather than dunktank.
danzo3211 year ago
You would also think through "Which painted sides will show when in place?" and not waste sanding effort on back and bottom.
noahw (author)  danzo3211 year ago
But then I wouldn't have done the project "all the way" Gotta go "all the way" with these things.
microfarm1 year ago
An absolutely amazing job of documenting and creating a beautiful upcycled product! I happen to have kept my clawfoot tub after we remodeled our bathroom last year and am seriously considering making this couch. We've had other ideas for using the tub but even thinking of moving it right now makes me ill. It seems like the only job I'd need done professionally is the cutting--we can do the rest, including sewing the cushion and decorative pillows. Are you going to make the table out of the cut away piece?
noahw (author)  microfarm1 year ago
The cut away piece is a bit of an odd shape - it's got a rounded side with a sharp edge and a straight side with a rounded lip. I ended up sending it to the scrap yard since I'm already knee deep in scrap around my shop. Repurposing it for a complimentary piece of furniture is a great idea though. Thanks!
codongolev1 year ago
this is a sweet project. it reminds me of a bathtub my children's pastor used to have in the children's ministry room that he had filled with pillows. it was super cool (especially to a bunch of little kids).
noahw (author)  codongolev1 year ago
That's a great idea! If I ever have standing proximity to a bunch of little kids I am going to set one of those up. Tub + pillows, tub + balls, tub + marsh mellows...all would be a fun day for a kid.
cre8er1 year ago
Wow! The real question is; How much did you put into it in materials and time/energy? I'm right there with you though there is substitute for the satisfaction of a masterfully completed project... Especially when it is something that a fine young woman like Kelley is inpired to read a book in.... ;p
noahw (author)  cre8er1 year ago
That's a tough estimate since I took some wrong turns that added undue time to the build. The cost is fairly doable since the tub can be procured pretty cheaply, around $150 on craigslist, sandblasting costs around $50, the paint is a variable cost depending on what type you'd like to buy and the rest is just sanding pads, brushes and composite filler.

Thanks for your comment, Noah
Ortzinator1 year ago
The page for that blade says it's for "mild steel under 1/8" thick". i.e not cast iron and certainly not 3/8" cast iron
Cast iron in the sense of the high fluidity alloy, is really easy and soft to cut - aside from slag inclusions, lumps of silicon, sand etc..

If the teeth were to cut from the underside of the tube and pull out through the enamel, then the enamel would break away as the teeth pulled up from underneath and the cast iron gave away.

Cast iron - is also one of the few materials that is self lubricating to the cutting tool and it tends to sort of crumb as it fragments under tension / shear.

The manufacturers limit of 1/8th low carbon steel in thickness, is dependant upon the teeth speed, the feed rate of the saw into the material, and a generous safety factor in terms of tooth loading etc...

A look at any manufacturers site for high speed cutting steels, drills, tungsten carbide cutters / saws for the more accurate information, - so I am sort of making this up to illustrate the point - going from ancient memory here:

The shear / tensile strength of the high fluidity (grey) cast irons is about 1/4 that of low carbon steel, the feed rate into the cutter is about 3 or so times higher than low carbon steel,  and or the surface speed of the cutter can be about 2 or 3 times higher than low carbon steels.

noahw (author)  Wroger-Wroger1 year ago
Thanks for your comment and deeper insight into the tooling properties of cast iron. It certainly felt softer then carbon steel while cutting. I had heard reports of it being more fragile - from those who were cutting old cast iron fire places and stoves to repurpose them or modify them into some other kind of heat source. I didn't find the tub to be this way at all - it cut quite nicely when the circular saw was actually working and while using the angle grinder and abrasive cutting wheels.
poza1 year ago
i wasn't aware that there were any circular saws that "cut down". i thought the "cut up" feature was a safety design, allowing the saw to "dig in" if it gets stuck, rather than kick out. besides, you would need to buy a saw that has a motor that spins the other way to get the blade to spin the other way. but you can put in a blade backwards -- definitely need to avoid doing that.
noahw (author)  poza1 year ago
You know, you are totally correct on that - I just thought about my saw's dust bag and of course it cuts up - the chips collect into the bag that way...and the teeth point that way too :) I don't know what got into me. My friend warned me about installing the blade correctly on the skilsaw and I think this comment trickled down from there. I'll update the text. Thank you for the correction.
ElZorro poza1 year ago
As a carpenter of 36 years, I can attest to this fact.
All handheld circular saws cut up through the material. Sidewinders have the blade on the opposite side, but still the same thing.

Table saws cut down through the material.

If the Skil Saw blade cut down, it would pull the saw forward.
And vice versa, if the table saw cut upward it would pull the material through.
Both BAD.


maybe not so with a metal cutting blade, you want it to cut away from the table so the blade doesn't grab into the material, but skate on it like a grinding disc
The saw turns the same direction no matter what blade you put on it or whether you install it right way or backwards.

You may be thinking of the common practice of turning a wood cutting blade backwards to cut sheet metal. With this method the teeth strike the material the wrong way, but the saw still turns the same direction.
Good point.

But when using angle grinders etc., I always set them to come out of the cut, instead of digging in.



paplo1 year ago
NICE! reposted on fcbk, really impressive and beautiful results. Thanks.
londobali1 year ago
WOW!
Fantastic piece of furniture... I WANT ONE! :)

thanks for sharing...
Dam! I just threw one of these out.
Threw? Threw?

More like dragged.....
.
Ahhh cast iron bath tubs... Veryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy heavy.

Good in a temperate climate - not so good in a cold house.
Kolobeki1 year ago
Master piece of art
Franzjr1 year ago
Asome
hherzog1 year ago
Good LORD, that was a long instructable, but wonderful! I love this piece of furniture, and if I ever find myself single again, I'll have to return to this project to furnish an apartment. LOVE it!
tesstor1 year ago
I'm moving soon so this would be GREAT to put in my room :D EXCITING AND SOOOO AMAZING thanks for the idea :D
xmarcos1 year ago
Awesome!
Kinsei011 year ago
Wow, that is really cool. I saw a clawfoot bathtub on a guy's trailer the other day too.
Awesome project and awesome detail.
Awesome.
ElZorro1 year ago
What about a diamond cuttoff wheel?
This is so great. I love it. My girlfriend tells me that I got to make one. It will go perfectly next to my lounge chair made from an old but working toilet on the other side of the snack table made of two discarded kitchen sinks placed upside down and side-by-side on the floor and bolted together. Now three people can sit down comfortably at the same time, four if a little crowded.
This is so freakin' awesome! If I had the money and a place to live, I would definitely think about how to fit this into my decor.
idea not new… still the whole thing is very creatve and very well done.
Can't help but think of the lucky woman who knows a man who can sew !!!!…
Wow, great instructable! You could add a reading light that feeds through the plumbing holes. Nice job!
danzo3211 year ago
Now you're thinking! And what if you ground the porcelain all along the path BEFORE getting out the circ saw.
imperio1 year ago
Great idea!
Did you think of making two bathtubs couch (one right and one left) ... to get a "matrimonial bed"?
Imperio
duomo.jpg
danzo3211 year ago
I can't say you are wrong, but I will say you are jumping to a conclusion, that cutting porcelain destroys saw teeth. How much are these blades? Maybe buying 3 or 4 is just part of the cost.
poza1 year ago
i wonder if a laser would be even easier...
Petar921 year ago
This is great!!! :D
Boppylop1 year ago
I dont really have any bathtubs lying around, but I think that an un-cracked bathtub from the junkyard will do just as nicely. I might actually try this.
Wow! Great instructions, you even covered the smaller steps so critical to doing this kind of a project. After looking at all the work that went into this project it is no wonder prices for these sofa-tubs are $1100 and upwards. LIked how you also included all your miscues with using the wrong kind of tools or methods at certain parts, helps us newbies who may wish to tackle this project at some point stay on track. The finished product looks excellent.
clara m1 year ago
Beautifully executed. Your instructions are so clear and thorough !!
Jayefuu1 year ago
Nice work Noah! It came out great.
Marinus841 year ago
Awesome idea, but there's a slight fail (if I may be so honest and critical), at the feet. They look way better pointing towards the corners of the tub instead of 2 pointing to the front and 2 pointing to the back.

Great use of an object outside of it's natural context!
bajablue1 year ago
Incredible project, brilliant execution.  All steps are explicitly illustrated, both verbally and visually... it's a DIYer's dream-come-true!

What became of the cutaway panel, Noah?  It would make a darling ottoman or perhaps a sofa table for this piece.
pdub771 year ago
This is fantastic!
gmjhowe1 year ago
Brilliant work Noah. The final result looks great.
agis681 year ago
really impressive awesome work!!!!.... I love it......could you please tell us a cost for the recostruction?



thanks
Katusha1 year ago
This is SO cool. Awesome job!
I worked with kitchens and bathrooms for years, I have to say this is a much more practical use of a roll top bath than actually putting them into most bathrooms, Its beautifully done as well, I love it and it looks fantastic, :)
randofo1 year ago
She should register icantbelieveshehasnousername. That would be very postmodern.
You could attach an old bronze faucet and turn it into a reading lamp. This would complete the circle ! 
You could attach an old bronze faucet and turn it into a reading lamp. This would complete the circle ! 
Attmos1 year ago
Credit or not, it's really nice looking.
evi10ne1 year ago
I cannot help but imagine a foot/back massager fitting perfectly through the holes, how awesome would that be!! Soo Cool!