A Wooden Bathtub….a brief throwback post.

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So, some of my more detail oriented readers, may have noticed this little line in my last blog :  “Also, I would really like to build a tub, and so this will act as a placeholder until I am tired of it and able to build a bathtub for the space.”  Yep, I said build a tub.

I’m not sure who originally came up with the idea, but I’m pretty sure my dad incited the insanity.  So, come with me back in time about 4 years.  I’m in the middle of renovating my entire upstairs.  It all began because of weak spots that were developing in the floor.  When I pulled up the carpet, I discovered that there was only 1 layer of subfloor, and the corners weren’t always near a joist…hence the weak areas.  So, this began the “Well, if I’m going to go this I might as well go ahead and do that” statements.  I can’t remember what my original plan was, but I ended up moving walls, creating a curved corner for one room, moving doors, and basically reworking the whole space.

The biggest issues I had to contend with was that the only access inside the house was a gorgeous but narrow spiral staircase.  The other access was a larger, strait staircase that came up outside the house and into the storeroom through a 4x5ish foot opening due to the rooflines (I never measured it, but you could get a queen sized mattress through it barely).  So, many construction decisions, creative ones, resulted as work-arounds because of those constraints.

One, was the bathtub.

Again, the details of the beginning of the idea are fuzzy.  But, I started working on plans to build a tub out of wood.  I figured I would layer stripes of wood up and around, adding some contrasting wood in towards the top for interest.  I did a lot of research as to ways and means, and heard “you can’t do that” or “it’s not possible” a lot of times.  The main reason why it’s not possible?  “Wood and water don’t mix”….but have you ever heard of boats?!  Only mine would keep water in, instead of keeping it out.

I decided on douglas fir for the bulk of the tub, and then wandered around the hardwood section of a couple lumberyards until I found a combination of other woods that I liked.  I decided on walnut and ambrosia maple.  After I got them home, however, I decided it was sad to hide so much of that beauty in the middle of the walls of the tub.  So I decided to inlay some sort of design instead.  No, I hadn’t ever done inlay either….but, if you’re going to do the impossible, why not?!


So, my dad helped me devise the plan, and we built one of the matching sinks first to test out our plan.  That was a success, so we built the bathtub in the shop, took it apart and then re-built it in the bathroom.  Why?  Because a wooden bathtub is huge and heavy, and I am not going to carry it up those stairs and through that hole.  It is about 2′ tall, 2′ wide and 7′ long.  We built it that long because we could!  We rearranged the plumbing, and swapped the sink and the tub.

sanding tub

Here I am sanding the tub.  It was quite a long process.  The top layer isn’t on yet either.

inlay layout

You can see that the top layer of ambrosia maple is now on the top.  Here, I’ve laid out the pieces that I’m going to inlay into the tub.  We pre-curled the walnut strings, and I cut the leaves out of canary wood.  Each half is a separate piece, and the grain of the wood is very effective in creating more dimension for the leaves.

inlay complete

Here, the inlay is complete and has been scraped and sanded smooth.

tubAnd here’s the finished product!  A fully functional wooden bathtub.  The sealer really brought out the color and the grain of the wood.  I also installed and sealed the surround.  The floor, we installed earlier.  It turned out to be a bit of a wood extravaganza!

You remember I mentioned sinks?  Here they are:

sink vanity

I also built the vanity and made the knobs out of stoneware.  The towel holders are also stoneware, and they are in the shape of leaves.  That was fun!  I’ve discovered that I really enjoy building furniture.  Built-ins less so, but they were still fun.


The vanity was built to somewhat hide but not obstruct the vent.

tub and linen

And this is the view you have when you walk in the door!  The tub works great, and the wood is insulating, so that it retains the heat of the water very well.  After 4 years, it looked the same when I built it as when I sold the house.

Several people were astonished that I could sell the house with the tub in it….but, if you’ve done the impossible once, why not do it again?!

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