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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

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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.

Step 2: Procure Clawfoot Tub

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On with the show, it's time to get a claw foot bath tub!  

Buying a new claw foot tub costs almost as much as buying the already made claw foot tub couch - no way!  That means you've got to pick up the tub used.  While there are several retailers in the bay area that stock clawfoot tubs 365 days a year like Urban Ore and Omega Salvage, they charge almost double for what you can buy the tub for off of Craigslist.

I looked on Craigslist for a few days before contacting any sellers to get a feel for the market.  It was worth the wait because I got my tub for $150 with free delivery right to my shop!  In case you don't know, that's a good price for a claw foot tub.

The condition of the bathtub really doesn't matter so long as it's not cracked.  Fixtures are optional.  Urban Ore sells individual claw feet for $30, so even if it's missing a leg or two, if it's got a good price go for it!

The one that got delivered to my shop was in fair condition - certainly not cracked and of nice proportions to make a couch out of.

Some tubs are shorter then others.  I was looking for a longer one so you could fit two people on it.

Step 3: Assess

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Assess your claw foot tub.  Keep in mind that there's always a risk of encountering lead paint when going vintage, so wear wear gloves, don't lick the tub, and use common sense.  

Ideally the interior of the tub will be finished with porcelain and wont have any funky paint on it.  If it has paint on it it will have to be removed, but we'll get to that later.  

The outside of the tub if purchased used will likely be painted.  Heavy paint chipping and rust are possible and likely.

Don't worry too much about the superficial condition, just rule out any significant damage or cracks.

Be careful when handling the tub - it's extremely heavy!

Step 4: Remove Hardware

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Remove the rusted nuts and washers that hold the claw feet onto the tub.  If any of the hardware or fixtures are rusted in place put a vise grip on it and whack it with a hammer.  You don't really care about the condition of the nuts - they'll be replaced later on.

Set the legs and any fixtures that come off the tub aside.

Step 5: Sand Blast Outside of Tub and Claw Feet

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Load the tub and claw feet into the car and take them over to a sandblaster (or use your own if you've got one).  I paid Leons Powder Coating of Oakland, CA $50 to sand blast all of the rust and chipped paint off of the tub.  It was well worth it since grinding all of that paint and rust dust off myself would take time and possibly expose me to lead paint dust.  While lead paint can be properly dealt with at home/in the shop I decided to avoid the hassle and leave it to the professionals.

Sandblast only the outside of the tub and the claw feet!  Not the inside!

Sandblasting the outside removes all of the paint and corrosion on the outside of the tub. When it's done it should like the second photo below - nice raw cast iron.

Sandblasting the porcelain on the inside will remove the shiny glaze and expose the porous interior of the ceramic coating.  This leaves a delicate bone-like finish, which although cool, is not appropriate for this application.  I did this on a test piece to find out what would happen.

*For the shrewdest of readers you'll notice that I sandblasted after making my cut.  This was a mistake, I should have done it in the order that I'm showing here in the Instructable.  In the order that I did it in, I was needlessly exposed to possibly lead paint laden dust while cutting.  I wore a respirator so it didn't matter, but given the choice to do it again, I'd sandblast first, then make my cut.

Lesson learned: sandblast before cutting and blast only the outside, not the inside porcelain coating.

Step 6: Test Cut

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My first step in attacking this beast was to make a small test cut just to prove to myself that cast iron could in fact be cut.  I've never cut cast iron before, let alone 3/8" thick cast iron, let alone compound curves in cast iron from a 100 year old bathtub!

Upon recommendation from my friend Luigi who is a metal worker I purchased a Freud ferrous cutting circular saw blade and loaded it into my worm drive skilsaw.  

Cutting cast iron with a circular saw is intense, so put on heavy work pants, closed toe shoes, a leather welding jacket, a face shield, a respirator, ear protection, eye protection and a hat or helmet to make sure that the hot metal chips don't accidentally light your hair on fire.

Fully protected, I slowly engaged the saw blade into an area of the tub I knew I was cutting away to form the couch just in case the worst happened and low and behold in cut like butter!  Inching slowly through the cast iron the saw blade sliced an 1/8" path spitting hot metal chunks everywhere and howling like a mechanical banshee.

Lesson learned: don't sweat cutting cast iron - it can be done!

Step 7: Plan Cut

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I planned the cut just like any good DIY'er would who can't draw to save their life would - I used a giant permanent marker and made crudely drawn line after line after line.  Ultimately I used a 2x4 as a straight edge and a square to make sure that at least some part of my very organic curves were aligned horizontally along the bottom straightaway and vertically along the sides.

The general cut out should allow for two people to sit in the tub.  You want to be sure to cut one side of the tub low enough so that the lip that's left doesn't dig into your legs.  Don't take too much off the sides as you'll loose your arm rest and disrupt the nice sweeping curve that hooks around where your back would normally rest in an uncut tub.  Aside from those guidelines the cut line is largely up to you.

By the time I figured out where I wanted to cut line I had so many lines drawn on the tub that I couldn't tell which ones were the good ones and which ones were the mistakes.  I used big arrows to clear things up.

Step 8: Gear Up

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As I mentioned before in the test cut step, be sure to wear full metal cutting safety gear.
  • heavy work pants
  • boots
  • gloves
  • eye protection
  • face mask
  • hair protection
  • ear protection
  • respirator
I'm not wearing my ear protection or respirator in this photo, but I quickly put them on right after photo was taken.  You want some kind of hair protection because the ferrous cutting circular saw blade tosses hot bits of metal up at your head as you're cutting and it's entirely possible that you might light your hair on fire.

No hair fire = no problem!

Step 9: Cutting Plan A

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Slowly engage the saw along your cutline and slice away - yeeehaaaw!

For about 4 inches everything was going great.  The saw was cutting like butter and I was making a big mess of metal dust everywhere.  Then, I started to have to push the circular increasingly harder to make any headway on my cut.  Then, it barely would budge at all and it stopped really eating into the cast iron.  

The saw blade dulled very quickly while cutting through the tub - much faster then normal when cutting steel.  The problem (I suspect) - the porcelain interior of the tub was just too tough and abrasive for the saw teeth on the blade - it dulled them unusually fast rendering the circular saw cut method ineffective.  Much how a ceramic sharpening stone can put a razor edge on a carbon steel knife at the proper angle, I guess it can dull an edge pretty fast when it's dragged across a sharpened edge head on thousands and thousands of times.  

If you were going to cut cast iron alone - not coated in porcelain, I think this method would actually work quite well and result in a nice smooth straight cut.

No matter, there are always alternatives - on to plan B.

Lesson learned: don't use ferrous cutting circular saw blades on metals coated in porcelain.

Step 10: Cutting Plan B

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The other method for cutting cast iron that I wanted to try was the angle grinder loaded up with a 5" abrasive cutting disc.  This is a standard tool for cutting freehand curves in metal, I was just aprehensive to use it on something as thick as a cast iron tub.  

After shedding the leather jacket and hair protection (angle grinding is tame compared to the circular saw ferrous blade setup) I slowly began tracing my cut lines with the edge of the ange grinder.  Make a shallow pass at first to lock in the path.  Then, make increasingly deeper cuts with each pass until you've "rutted out" the cut.  Once the cut is rutted out it will be easy to run the grinder through deeper and deeper until you've cut through to the other side.

The angle grinder works great to make this cut except for the following two shortcomings:
  1. The cut off wheels don't last very long.  I used around 7 wheels in making the cut. 
  2. The cut off wheel can sometimes chip off a big chunk of porcelain adjacent to the cut line (see additional photo below) - although I believe losing these chunks of porcelain is unavoidable, it can be reduced using the following technique: cut first with a masonry abrasive wheel through the porcelain until you've reached the cast iron.  Then switch to the metal cutting disc and continue the cut.  This will allow you to have much greater control while cutting through the porcelain rather than what I did - which was more like pretending that it wasn't there and treating it as steel. 
Lesson learned: use a masonry abrasive cutting wheel on the inside of the tub to first cut cleanly through the porcelain.  Then use a metal cutting disc to cut through the cast iron in order to avoid large chips.

Step 11: Keep Cutting

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Keep cutting the bath tub along your line.  Minutes and hours will pass.  Cutting discs will grind themselves to dust.  Replace the worn discs, stay focused, keep cutting and drink water.  Keep cutting!

You've got to treat it like a marathon, except, no bare feet or peeing in your pants!

If you're getting chips of porcelain flying off like in the photos below don't despair - we'll fix those later with composite filler.

Step 12: Leave Tabs

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As you work your way along the cut line on the tub be sure to leave a few short tabs of cast iron approximately 1" long intact.  I left three tabs in place along my cut line - two near the edges and one in the middle of the cut so that the panel would be held in place until I was ready to remove it.  You don't want the panel "falling out" when you're not ready for it.

Step 13: Finish Cut and Remove Panel

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Once everything but the tabs are cut through, ask a friend or two for an extra set of hands and cut the tabs with the ange grinder while they hold the panel in place so that the panel is removed in a controlled and slow manner.  Even at only 1/8" the total size of the tub the cut off piece weighs around 60 pounds - cast iron!

Step 14: Clean Up Edge with Grinding Disc

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Throw a standard grinding disc on the angle grinder and clean up any inconsistencies along the cut edge you just made.  I did my best to link all the cuts together, but occasionally there is a slight lip between sections, this step takes care of smoothing all of that out.  Exercise caution on the porcelain side of the cut and try not to make any additional chips or nicks.

Step 15: Clean Up Edge with Sanding Disc

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A second pass over the cut edge with a sanding disc loaded into the angel grinder smoothes everything out even further.

This marks the end of the "metal working" section of the Instructable and ushers in the painting section of the project.  I thought the cutting of the cast iron was the tricky challenge in this project, boy was a wrong, as it's the painting and finishing process that actually took the most time and experimentation.

Step 16: Prime Outside of Tub and Feet

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If you haven't sand blasted the outside of your bathtub yet (and I hadn't yet as mentioned in Step 5 "Sandblast Outside of Tub"), now is the time to sandblast the outside and the claw feet.  I've moved sandblasting in the Instructable to it's pre-cut location to remove any possible lead paint hazard before cutting.  But, for the record, I actually sand blasted in between this step and the previous one in real life.

Soon after sandblasting you'll want to put on a primer coat to seal out any moisture and corrosion on the cast iron.  With it being completely bare after blasting it's particularly vulnerable to rusting from any moisture.  The primer protects against this and lays down a good base for colored top coats.

I used Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer and a disposable chip brush to prime all of the sandblasted surfaces, which include the outside of the tub (excluding the lip), and the 4 feet.  The paint is thick and coats the porous tub easily.  Paint on a smooth even coat and let it dry for the manufacturers recommended time.

Step 17: Paint Outside of Tub and Feet

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Painting the outside of the bathtub is generally straight forward.  I used enamel based paints from Rustoleum and high quality brushes to get a nice bright even coat.  

I chose to paint the outside of the bathtub blue, and the claw feet yellow.  The contrasting colors make the tub really pop.  People seem to really do some nice color accenting in this step from the other tubs I've seen so come up with your own interesting combinations.

Step 18: Sand Outside of Tub and Feet

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Use a fine 220 or 400 grit sandpaper to sand in between coats.  If the paint is completely dry, it shouldn't gum up the sandpaper too much.  If your paper is getting gummy, wait longer before sanding, or if you have wet/dry sandpaper on hand, use a bit of water and attempt a wet sanding of the tub to help manage the paint dust.

Step 19: Put Final Coat of Paint on Outside of Tub

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Brush on the final coat of paint and let it dry for the recommended amount of time.  When done be sure to soak your brushes in a paint remover or brush cleaner - dry enamel can be a real pain to get out of paint brushes.

Thin even coats are the answer here, if it takes multiple coats to get the depth of coverage you'd like, do multiple coats instead of painting one on too thick.

Lesson learned: don't rush the topcoat and use multiple thin coats instead of one thick gloppy coat.

Step 20: Reinstall Hardware

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Using new nuts and flange washers (the old ones I took off were heavily rusted), reinstall the claw feet onto the bath tub.

Step 21: Clean Inside of Tub

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The outside of the claw foot bathtub couch should now be complete.  That's nice.  Time to tackle the inside.

Take the tub outside and use an abrasive cleaner and abrasive pad to clean out the inside of the bathtub.  I didn't have common household abrasive cleaners around like Comet, so I used Zep Hand Cleaner from the shop bathroom instead - it worked just fine.

After a healthy dose of scrubbing wash out the inside of the tub with a hose, it conveniently drains through the drain hole! 

Step 22: Fill Chips Inside of Tub

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It's time to deal with the porcelain chips that were created from the cut.  Pick up a two part epoxy filler like Bondo (I'm using an epoxy called Evercoat in the picture below that's a bit higher quality than bondo, but any epoxy filler will work) and follow the instructions on the can to fill the holes.

In essence we're doing "body work" on the tub just like you'd do to a car after an accident.

Mix up the epoxy in small batches and apply it to the effected parts with a putty knife.

Working up the chipped lip of the tub isn't the easiest thing to do.  Put on small amounts of filler only where the chips occur rather than building up the entire edge.  99% of the filler is going to be sanded off once it's dry so putting on less now means doing less work later.  I didn't always follow this suggestion and ended up making more work for myself.

If the interior porcelain has any other pot marks or holes, now's the time to fill those too.

Lesson Learned: Only use filler where the chips occur and resist the urge to spread on a thick coat and completely rebuild the lip of the tub.

Step 23: Sand and Prep Inside of Tub

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There are a few more steps before actually painting the inside of the tub.  With the porcelain chips and pit marks filled, it's time to sand down the epoxy filler and smooth out the inside of the tub.

I did this with a random orbital sander and lots of 120 grit sanding discs.

Remember to wear a dust mask and work outside if you can.

Sanding the inside of the tub creates a uniform surface that the interior paint will be able to adhere to.

Step 24: Tape Edges and Holes of Tub

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Before painting the inside of the tub use the highest quality painters tape you can find to cover the edge of the tub and drain holes so that your inner coat of paint doesn't splatter or drip accidentally onto your freshly painted exterior coat.

I used a roll of brown paper in certain areas that were drip prone to offer further protection.  

Mask off the outside of the tub as best as possible.  It's likely that you'll have to do some re-touching of the outside coat once the inside is painted just because it's hard to paint perfectly I certainly can't and re-touching the exterior paint job isn't hard to do.

Step 25: Choices of Interior Finishes

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Now here's what might be the most valuable part of this Instructable - a simple discussion of interior finishes for the claw foot bath tub couch.

Porcelain

Ideally in making a claw foot bath tub couch I would have liked to re-porcelain the tub.  This is of course the most expensive option and involves shipping out the tub and using a hired professional to blast down the pre-existing porcelain and refinish the tub with new porcelain using a kiln.  This process isn't available everywhere, but professionals do offer the service in some locations.  This method would create the same glossy even finish that's most likely on the fixtures in your actual bathroom.  There's no substitute for porcelain since it's basically melted and cooled glass, so any painted on finish will simply be an approximation.

That being said, we're making a couch out of a bathtub - the entire thing is an approximation!

Powder Coating

Next option up is powder coating.  Now, no one I talked to really knows how well a sprayed on layer of powder coating will adhere to sand blasted porcelain.  While I did find powdercoaters who were willing to attempt refinishing the tub, there were apprehensive and warned that the finish might crack over the sandblasted sub layer of ceramic beneath the glossy porcelain top coat of the tub.  Although I was excited to try this method because 1) it meant I could do less work and hand the finishing process over to a professional, and 2) it would result in a really nice durable finish for the tub since powder coating is heavy duty industrial finish used on steel in many wear and tear applications, I didn't go this route do to the fear of the finish cracking and, the additional cost of having a professional do it. 

DIY Tub Refinishing Kit

There are actually a few DIY epoxy based kits for people who want to refinish their tubs themselves.  Some are cheap like the Rustoleum Tub and Tile Refinish Kit and others are more expensive and involve acid etchers that must be used before you apply your top coat of paint.  All of the kits seem to have a lot of controversy swirling around them, with results varying all over the map.  It seemed like if you use the kit properly, you could in fact refinish your tub for a fraction of the cost of what a pro would charge to come and do a similar process.  Others seemed to have endless problems of cracking, dripping and dulling over time and warn against "doing it yourself" loud and clear.  Although I was curious about these kits because of their ease and simple instructions to follow, I ended up coming up with my own approach and methods.

Two Part Epoxy Primer with a High Quality Gloss Polyurethane Top Coat

Using the basic knowledge that I have of enamel paints and talking to a few experts in the field, I decided to take my own approach and use a two part epoxy primer and a high gloss polyurethane top coat from Interlux.  Interlux makes high quality paints for boats and can be found at West Marine or online.  I used the Interlux Epoxy PrimeKote as a primer.  It sands reasonably well, dries with an ultra hard and most importantly doesn't need an acid etch before being applied.  

For the final interior gloss white coat I chose the Interlux BrightSide High Gloss Polyurethane Marine Paint.  If you haven't used a high quality paint like this before you are in for a pleasant surprise.  Even though they cost 3 - 4 times as much than standard enamel paints like I used on the outside, when you need a quality finish it makes a big difference.  If I ever have to paint anything that needs to last I'm going to use marine quality paint like this.

Step 26: Paint Inside of Tub With Two Part Epoxy PrimeKote

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This stuff will kill your brain cells in no time flat so make sure you wear a respirator and ideally paint in a well ventilated area.  I didn't want the yard dust at my shop blowing into the paint so I didn't paint outside, but I had the roll up door open and all the exhaust fans going.  It would be great to have a spray booth for this step.  The fumes are intense!

Brush on an even coat of the primer making sure you don't have any large drips or runs.  Better to put it on a little thin then too thick.  That's a lesson in painting that I need to remind myself of time and time again.  This was a "lesson learned" in a previous step, I guess I didn't learn it very well...

Step 27: Sand Epoxy PrimeKote

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Armed with a wide variety of sanders I set out to sand all the surfaces on the inside of the tub.  Sand with 120 grit pads first to remove the high spots, then 220 to smooth everything out.

Wear a respirator for this step and definitely do it outside.  It will make a lot of dust.  Ideally use a sanding system that connects to a dust collector.  This can easily be done using just a shop vac and attaching it wear the dust bag on palm sander connects. 

This step takes some time, but its well worth it, since it's the only way to ensure an absolutely even and smooth surface for the top coat to be applied to.  Don't worry if you sand all the way through the epoxy top coat to the porcelain in places, the polyurethane paint is good stuff and will adhere well to either surface.

Step 28: Paint Inside of Tub

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It's finally time - the top coat!  Open up the can of Interlux Gloss White Brightside Polyurethane Paint and follow the directions for thinning it with their specialized and expensive brushing thinner and either brush it onto the inside of the tub or spray it on with an HVLP gun and line dried compressed air.

Paint on two coats of the top coat letting the paint dry for the manufacturers specified time doing a very light sanding with 400 grit paper in between coats.

The finish that results from the Interlux Brightside paint is considerably better then what I would have expected from a standard enamel paint.

The paint was more expensive and certainly harder to work with since it had to be thinned before it could be brushed out well, but in the end it yielded a finish that you'd have to look really hard at in order to notice that it wasn't porcelain - just look at that shine!

Step 29: Remove Tape and Touch-Up

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Remove all of the painters tape and check all of your edges.  If any white paint has bled through the edge of the tape (which did happen in a few spots along the edge despite my best taping efforts), go back over any drips or specks with the blue or yellow Rustoleum enamel paint and a detail brush as necessary.  

The touchups on the tub went fast and all of the blemishes that I had created through the washing, sanding, and interior painting were quickly taken care of.  It's easier to touch up the outside then the inside.  That's why I think it's best to paint the outside first, then come back to it, and only have to deal with the inside once.

Step 30: Cut Foam Cushion

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Coming down the home stretch, all that's left to do now is to cut the custom foam insert and sew a cover for it.  

I picked up 4" thick furniture foam at The Famous Foam Factory in Berkeley, CA.  Foam is expensive!  next time I'm going to cut apart a couch that's been left out on the street.  The 4' x 2' x 4" piece cost around $80!  It is nice foam though...

I tried all manner of tools to cut the foam and then finally caved and bought an electric carving knife which is the $20 tool of choice for shaping foam.  You can cut it with a standard knife but you can't really shape it.  In order to do that you need an electric tool.  The pro's use something that looks like a very tall dual blade jig-saw, but the electric carving knife gets it done for the rest of us.

Make an outline of the bottom of the tub on a big piece of butcher paper and then transfer the pattern over to the foam using a permanent marker.  Use the electric carving knife to remove small sections of foam working your way closer and closer to the contour necessary to fit inside the tub snugly.  You don't want to remove a chunk in error as you can't get it back!

I labeled the orientation of the foam in the tub since it can get a little confusing...

*The photos show the foam insert being cut before the inside of the tub was painted even in the Instructable this step comes afterward.  Gotta do something while waiting for the paint to dry, sorry to photographs depart from the written instructions in terms of timing in this small way.

Step 31: Cut Fabric for Foam Cushion

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The next three steps were performed and written by expert tailor scoochmaroo.  A thousand thank you's for her assistance in this project as upholstering the cushion would have been a significant challenge for me and I was very happy to have the help.  I picked up some fabric that I liked at A Verb for Keeping Warm, a local yarn and fabric store that just happens to have a particularly excellent patterned fabric selection and some cotton cord.

Sarah says:

You'll want enough fabric to cover the top, bottom, and sides of the cushion, plus extra if adding piping to the edge, as well as enough soft rope cording to go around the top edge of the cushion.

Since the foam for this cushion was carved to be rounded on the bottom to fit inside the tub, it made sense to cover it in two pieces rather than three.  So the top fabric was cut flat, and the bottom fabric was cut to come up around the sides and be tucked around the curves.

Lay the top side of the foam on top of the wrong side of the fabric and trace around the edge.  

Cut the fabric with 1" seam allowance all the way around.

Lay the foam face up on the wrong side of the fabric and trace around it.  

Cut the fabric with enough seam allowance to go up the sides and still have 1" left over. 

Step 32: Making the Piping for the Couch Cushion

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Measure around the top of the cushion to determine how much piping you'll need.   Cut the rope cording to 6" over this length.

Cut fabric on the bias long enough and wide to cover the cording.  I cut two strips at 2" wide and sewed them together to make a strip long enough to cover the length of cording.  The reason you need to cut the fabric on the bias is so that it will curve smoothly along the edge of the cushion.  The bias of the fabric has the most stretch to it and will eliminate folds and bumps that would occur if you cut the fabric on the straight of grain.

Lay the cording in the middle of the fabric strip, and fold the fabric over to encase the cording.  

Using a sewing machine, sew as close to the cording as possible.  This is made easier by using a zipper foot and moving the needle as far over to the left as possible.

Step 33: Upholster Couch Cushion

Sew the piping to the top layer of the fabric.  Lay piping loosely along seam line marked on the right side of the top fabric. Make sure the cording is facing the inside of the cushion and the seam allowance to the outside.  

Using a sewing machine, sew along seam line, again using a zipper foot to get as close to the inner cording as possible.

Take the fabric you've cut for the bottom of the cushion and wrap it up around the sides and pin to the top, pinning in tucks around the curves.

Mark the edge of the top of the cushion on the fabric with chalk or disappearing ink.  Be sure to mark all of the tucks as well.

Pin the top fabric to the bottom fabric with the right sides facing and piping sandwiched in between.  Pin along the lines you marked, keeping the tucks where you want them.  

Using a sewing machine, sew 2/3 of the way around this seam, leaving a large enough opening to insert the foam cushion.  Trim away all excess fabric, leaving a seam allowance of about 1/2".

Turn the cover right side out and insert the foam cushion.  Hand stitch the remaining opening closed.

Step 34: Sit Down

Picture of Sit Down
IMG_6792.jpg
Randy (randofo) and Gary (thirtytwooutside) take a well earned break from setting up for San Mateo Maker Faire 2012 by sitting on the claw foot bath tub couch.

Kelley (icantbelieveshehasnousername) lies back and reads a book on a sunny California day many months later when I finally got around to properly photo-documenting this project in it's final form.

Send me a PM or comment below if you have any questions about the tub.  It was a lot of work, but a great build.
samuelflagg2 months ago

haha this is the most clever piece a furniture I have seen in a long time!

RushNafikov3 months ago

Great instructable! I made one, too - it's a little different.

IMG_8272.jpeg
therusticoshop made it!6 months ago

I made a Bathtub turned Loveseat for my girlfriend Shannon since she's a huge Audry Hepburn (and Breakfast at Tiffany's) fan. She was so happy with hers I decided to make an Etsy page for them, The Rustico Shop.

I also made a facebook page detailing the process I went through to make it : )

Let me know if you want any advice on making one of your own!

Facebook.com/RusticoShop

— Derek

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FlorL7 months ago

Would it be easier to do this project with an acrylic tub? or do you think the dust would be more harmful, so I should still to an iron tub?

DolorezL8 months ago

How would I cut the tub?

Berksmom9 months ago

This is great! I'm about to refinish my claw foot (for bathing purposes) and am considering using the same interlux topside paint. My husband has some left over form our sailboat. Any thoughts on how the paint may hold up if it's used on the interior of the tub? Would occasional water exposure create any issues with this type of paint. Someone told me the "pressure" of the water against the tub wall creates problems with certain paints. Any thoughts? I know just enough about painting to be dangerous... Thanks for the post and any info! Great job!

noahw (author)  Berksmom9 months ago
The Interlux paint is specifically made for boats - seems like water exposure would be just fine. Go for it and report back your findings to us!
roballoba1 year ago
AWESOME!
and WHY has this not won any awards?
mrsrobc2 years 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
erikdw2 years ago
Well done! Looks like a bit of work but surely with all the effort.

Good job.
hocngiap2 years ago
lovely!!!!!!!
rashoot2 years 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!
waterboy8992 years ago
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
whamodyne2 years 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)  whamodyne2 years 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)
cjohnson432 years 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.
chandshar2 years 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)  supersoftdrink2 years 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)  supersoftdrink2 years 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.
sconner12 years 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)  sconner12 years 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.
DavidM452 years 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)  DavidM452 years 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 noahw2 years 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)  ra1nb0wtrout2 years 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.
ElZorro2 years ago
You CAN erase the marker with alcohol
noahw (author)  ElZorro2 years ago
The entire surface gets sanded and painted so the excess of marker on the tub went away easily.
ElZorro noahw2 years ago
I meant it could have been erased before it got confusing. ;~)
noahw (author)  ElZorro2 years ago
Ha ha - now I understand your comment...yeah, that would have been a good idea :)
whamodyne2 years 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.
sconner12 years 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.
sconner12 years 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.
poza2 years 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 poza2 years ago
I'd try to get a good line with use of shadow rather than dunktank.
danzo3212 years 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)  danzo3212 years ago
But then I wouldn't have done the project "all the way" Gotta go "all the way" with these things.
microfarm2 years 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)  microfarm2 years 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!
codongolev2 years 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)  codongolev2 years 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.
cre8er2 years 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)  cre8er2 years 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
Ortzinator2 years 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
noahw (author)  Wroger-Wroger2 years 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.
poza2 years 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)  poza2 years 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 poza2 years 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.
paplo2 years ago
NICE! reposted on fcbk, really impressive and beautiful results. Thanks.
londobali2 years ago
WOW!
Fantastic piece of furniture... I WANT ONE! :)

thanks for sharing...
Kolobeki2 years ago
Master piece of art
Franzjr2 years ago
Asome
hherzog2 years 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!
tesstor2 years 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
xmarcos2 years ago
Awesome!
Dam! I just threw one of these out.
Kinsei012 years 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.
ElZorro2 years ago
What about a diamond cuttoff wheel?
adel antado2 years ago
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.
vincent75202 years ago
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 !!!!…
Greenehouse2 years ago
Wow, great instructable! You could add a reading light that feeds through the plumbing holes. Nice job!
danzo3212 years ago
Now you're thinking! And what if you ground the porcelain all along the path BEFORE getting out the circ saw.
imperio2 years ago
Great idea!
Did you think of making two bathtubs couch (one right and one left) ... to get a "matrimonial bed"?
Imperio
duomo.jpg
danzo3212 years 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.
poza2 years ago
i wonder if a laser would be even easier...
Petar922 years ago
This is great!!! :D
Boppylop2 years 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 m2 years ago
Beautifully executed. Your instructions are so clear and thorough !!
Jayefuu2 years ago
Nice work Noah! It came out great.
Marinus842 years 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!
bajablue2 years 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.
pdub772 years ago
This is fantastic!
gmjhowe2 years ago
Brilliant work Noah. The final result looks great.
agis682 years ago
really impressive awesome work!!!!.... I love it......could you please tell us a cost for the recostruction?



thanks
Katusha2 years 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, :)
randofo2 years 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 ! 
Attmos2 years ago
Credit or not, it's really nice looking.
evi10ne2 years ago
I cannot help but imagine a foot/back massager fitting perfectly through the holes, how awesome would that be!! Soo Cool!