Old House Journal
From Wash Bowl to Sink
Given the right preparation, patience, and light pressure, the diamond-saw blade made a clean cut on both sides of my new vessel sink. — G.B.
Finding an antique, decorated sink basin, in perfect condition, at an affordable price, is almost impossible. So I decided to create one myself. Vintage bone china and earthenware wash bowls are available from plenty of sources online. From a dealer in Belgium, I ordered a beautiful basin with a teal-on-white transferware pattern. To create a center hole just the right size for a drain fitting, I would need to use a drill fitted with a hole saw. I was terrified that I would break the bowl, so I practiced on a $19 bowl that had arrived with a few cracks. After some trial and error, I was ready to work on my prize transferware bowl.
Step 1 To find the center of the basin, place at least two strings across the bowl, one from top to bottom and one from side to side.
Step 2 Find the exact center of the bowl using a plumb bob and pencil. Use a protractor to mark a circle that’s the same dimensions as the drain opening you need to create. My opening was 1¾", so I used a Bosch 1¾" diamond hole-saw bit with teeth.
Step 3 Cut a template the same size as the circle from a thin piece of balsa (1/8" thick), then lay it over the center mark and secure it with duct tape.
Step 4 Pour a few ounces of water on it before drilling to keep the blade from overheating and cracking the bowl. As you drill, don’t apply much pressure and do rock the blade around.
Step 5 The drill cuts through cleanly with no cracks. Step 6 The new drain and stopper fit perfectly.
I wanted to keep the original tub and furnish the rest of the room with antiques and vintage pieces. Oddly, the freestanding plumbing for the tub was in the middle of the room—draining away from the low side of the bath. So I was able to flip it end for end, which fixed the potential drainage problem and also allowed more room for a sink in a vanity cabinet.
The bathroom is right at the top of the stairs, visible from the entry, so I wanted the view from below to be of something beautiful. I found an antique, Eastlakestyle washstand that needed work, for $45. (I’m always rescuing antiques from craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.) To bring the washstand to the right height, I added legs, then refinished the piece in a slightly darker color to match other Eastlake pieces I’ve collected. It fit perfectly in the rearranged space. The washstand had no