How to Build a Tub-Foot Umbrella Stand
Repurpose vintage claw-foot tub supports in your house as bookends, lamp bases, and more
Claw-foot tub interiors were coated in porcelain, but the outsides and feet were usually bare metal and periodically required a fresh coat of paint, typically white, to prevent rust. Metallic gold or silver feet were also common, and I had an old silvery finish in mind on a shopping trip to Zaborski Emporium, in Kingston, New York. I needed three matching feet to mount on the base of a galvanized-tin flower bucket to turn it into an umbrella stand. To preserve the feet's painted patina, and contain any harmful lead, I just brushed on a couple of coats of clear polyurethane.
Overview on How to Build a Tub-foot Umbrella Stand
They're small, they're orphans, and they're usually quite dirty. Still, iron bathtub feet are among the star attractions at salvage yards. It's no wonder, really, with their intricate castings of lion paws with drawn claws and eagle talons gripping balls.
The feet you find today typically date to the late 1800s or early 1900s. They were used to elevate the rounded tub basins to give the vessels a furniturelike look.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a matching set of four feet, but pairs and even three of a kind are easy to come by. Expect to pay between $10 and $25 for each foot. Designs were most elaborate in the 1890s—the peak of the Victorian era, when Americans craved embellishment. These ball-and-claw feet had wide "ankles" decorated with flowers, vines, or shells that wrapped the base of the tub like shields. They were quite large—about 5 inches wide by 7 inches tall—and weighed 4 or 5 pounds each. By the early 1930s, when the popularity of claw-foot tubs began to fade, feet were often small unadorned balls supported by smooth ankles.
If you're trying to find an exact replacement for a missing or damaged foot on your old tub, you may have trouble, because each tub manufacturer had its own method for attaching the feet, typically via some sort of bracket extending from their back side. Far easier, and more fun, is to integrate orphaned feet into a creative reuse project, like this umbrella stand with a round base.