Old Double Laundry Sink. Concrete? Stone?

phillyvictorianDecember 25, 2007

I've got an old sink that I'm guessing was used for laundry in the rear of my 1914 home. It's VERY heavy duty... the walls are about an inch and a half thick and made of stone (or concrete?). Can anybody tell me more about this sink? Is it worth keeping?

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I'm not sure, but it looks to be soapstone, which was a common material in the Victorian era. Google architectural salvage, and you'll most likely find something similar.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2007 at 10:27PM
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I agree....and for sure I think it's worth keeping!
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 11:46AM
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Whooh boy would I love to have it! Stone sinks are also coming back into vogue in modern kitchens. Why, because they are so indestructable.

I live in a two hundred year old home. We have springs as our water source, and when we renovated our kitchen last winter, I had a pitcher pump put back in over a laundry/utility sink. I use that utility sink on a daily basis for things like pulling up water for chickens, filling mop buckets, soaking vegetables out of the garden before canning. It's a sanitary way of removing "dirty" kitchen chores from the food preparation area. It also means one needs basins both large and deep. That sink is a beauty.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 12:05PM
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Years ago I lived in a home that was built in the early 1950's. THe house had the same sink as yours. The only thing differant about yours, is the green paint on the outside. I assume, but am not sure, but I think they were grey concrete.

It would have been almost impossible to move the concrete sink in my basement. All the houses in the 1950's subdivision had these large laundry sinks in thier basements.

NOt sure what years these type sinks were used. I would guess 1930's to at least the 1950's.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 4:47PM
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Your set tub, as they were known in my area when I was growing up, looks very nice, and the legs are gorgeous. Ours, like stringbeanie's, was concrete, but with plain legs. When I bought my house, I looked frantically in a futile attempt to find one like it, but since time was limited, I ended up with a plastic single bowl cheapy from the local big box. It's deep and ok, but I miss the strength and character of the old fashioned ones...Lucky you!!!! ---Penny G.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 6:04PM
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"Can anybody tell me more about this sink?"
Oh, the fond memories of my childhood this brings back.

Before the advent of automatic washers we had the old wringer washing machines and the laundry sink was a vital part of the laundry process. In those days the old wringer washers had casters on the legs so you could roll it to a corner for storage and roll it out on laundry day. In addition to the wringer washing machine you needed a minimum of one laundry tub. For most people that was just a #2 galvanized washing tub and some form of table or stand to put it on when needed. The more affluent amongst people had a single or double galvanized laundry tub on a caster leg base that could also be stored in a corner or rolled out on laundry day, but if you were a person of means you had a dedicated laundry room with a built in single or preferably a double concrete laundry tub such as yours.

When you had a double tub one tub was filled with hot water and used to "pre-soak" work clothes or items that were heavily soiled. You then set the washing machine in front of the sink and fill the washing machine with hot water. You would take the clothing from the pre-soak and pass it through the wringer to transfer it from the sink to the washing machine. The laundry detergent was put in the washing machine and once the clothing was transferred from the pre-soak to the washing machine you would agitate it in the washing machine for 15 minutes, at which time you rotated the wringer head from the pre-soak tub to the rinse tub. The rinse tub was filled with hot water and you added "bluing" to the rinse water. (bluing was blue cake like material that you melted in a small pot of water on the stove then poured into the laundry rinse water in the same manner as we now put the blue dye material in a toilet tank.)
The clothes were then taken one piece at a time and passed through the wringers from the washing machine to the rinse tub where they soaked in the rinse water about 10 to 15 minutes while you loaded the next load from the pre-soak tub to the washing machine.
You then passed the clothes from the rinse tub one more time, only this time they went into your laundry basket to be taken to the drying process.
In those days we all had energy efficient maintenance free dryers (a couple hundred feet of rope and a bag of clothes pins).
In the 50's the old wringer washers began to give way to the new space age technology of automatic washers and as people got the new automatic washers they no longer had need of the old washing tubs. Some were kept as utility sinks but most were simply broken up with a sledge hammer and carried out.

There was a time when a double concrete laundry sink was a sigh of affluence and in some areas there is a high demand for the old concrete laundry tubs for high end renovations of the old Victorian homes. In fact, there is a contractor in my area that specializes in Victorian renovations and whenever we run across one of the old concrete sinks to be torn out he will pay us $50 or $75 for it, plus he provides all the labor to remove it.

The only major difference today is that the original faucets will not pass code because the opening of the faucet is below the flood level rim of the sink. Code now requires the lowest point of the faucet to be a minimum of 2" higher than the flood level rim.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 11:51PM
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Wow, thanks for all of the replies. I'm still not sure if it's concrete or soapstone though. Anybody know of a test I can perform to determine the material?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 8:30AM
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It looks to be made of soap stone slabs to me. If it were concrete, I think it would be one piece.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 9:31AM
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Thanks for the memories ! I remember doing that and actually kind of enjoyed it.Usually almost all the neighbors did their washing once a week which was usually on Monday. It was a race to see if you could get your laundry on the clothesline before your neighbors. Evidently proved you were up and at em early.
What a great find.I think it is wonderful and I like it just the way it is with the "chippy" green paint. Those fancy legs. Wow ! Enjoy!!!!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 9:54AM
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In my area, they show up reconditioned & repurposed in people's yards as garden displays. Actually, they're quite attractive with mounds of annuals flowing over the sides. You'll pay a pretty penny for one also! You've got a winner there...keep it. Another vote for soapstone based on looking at your pictures & what I see in my area that I know are soapstone.

Lucky you!


    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 10:51AM
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Thanks for the memories Lazypup, you brought tears to my eyes. My mom did the laundry exactly as you stated, all through the 50s, 60s and 70s. My dad was a coal miner and he came home totally black. I don't think an electric washer would have survived all that coal dust. The clothes were out on the line before sun-up...even in the dead of winter. My dad finally bought her an electric washer sometime in the 70's, but she still liked her old wringer. In fact, the washer is still in the basement of the family home. The house I am in now was built in the early 60's and has (now had) the identical wash tub. Just about 5 months ago, as I was doing the laundry, I noticed a crack running from front to back in one of the tubs....hubby took a sledge hammer to it and put in one of those cheap plastic ones...I loved my soapstone tubs.....lasted almost 50 years!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 10:48AM
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I grew up on my Grandpa's dairy farm in N.E.Ohio and I hated Mondays. We didn't have running water at the house but we had a gravity flow water line from the spring to the milk house near the barn. On Monday, while my uncle and grandpa milked the cows my brother and I had to hitch a team of Belgian Draft horses to a wagon, then fill 10 milk cans with water at the milk house and haul them to the house so Grandma had water for the laundry.

Grandma had a huge Ohio Forge "buckeye" coal stove in the kitchen that was about 6' long and on laundry day she would put her copper "Boiler" on the stove top. The boiler was a huge oval shaped copper pot about 3' long 1.5' wide and 2' deep. When we got the milk cans of water to the house we had to pour the water into a 5gal pail, then lift and pour it into the boiler. One of us would then return to the barn to do our chores of feeding stock and cleaning the manure out, while the other one was kept at the house carrying in buckets of coal for the stove, of dipping hot water out of the boiler into a 5 gal pail, then carry it to the washing machine and laundry tubs. Keep in mind that my brother and I were 7 and 9yrs old at the time.

Although I had kinfolk who worked in coal mines, we didn't have that black coal dust to contend with, but I can assure you that when you have to hand shovel 3 to 7 tons of manure out of a barn daily, plus work in close with the livestock or work the fields with antiquated machinery that was made prior to 1900 our clothes were every bit as funky with manure, mud, dirt, dust, hay chaff or what have you. Today I hear ppl complain about laundry taking to much time..LOL. Pop a load in the machine and go do something else. In those days, laundry was an all day chore that you had to stay right on top of, but thinking back, even though the farm was constant hard labor, I don't recall ever being confronted with stress, and I can assure you, no one ever sat at my Grandmothers table and came away hungry.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 11:58AM
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If it's soapstone, it may have a maker's plaque somewhere on the sloping front, or elsewhere. I saw a similar one from the 30's that had the "alberene soapstone co." logo on it. It could be hiding under that green paint.
The sinks were also made in tin-glazed earthenware and fireclay. The edges of those are very rounded, the material thick and sometimes bumpy. Soapstone will be quite smooth.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 6:12PM
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It looks like mine. I live in a 1923 house. The sink is original. Mine is concrete with zinc lining along the top edge. I can't see if yours is soapstone or not, can't tell if it's joints that I see or not. If it is soapstone lucky you! I'll trade ya! BTW I am keeping mine unless I find a soapstone one that is! You can clean it up and get way cool vintage faucets for it. Sue

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 11:20AM
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That looks like the one that's hiding in my basement by the washer....it no longer has it's legs. I live in a 1925 house and the sink is original, not sure what it's made of. I'm hoping to be able to to have mine hooked up again and working, a previous owner disconnected the sink in favor of a washing machine so we have no utility sink.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 2:48PM
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I bought a house built in the 50's. It also has a sink like this in the basement. It is in very good condition & has a scrub board built into it. I don't have any use for it. Anyone interested can call me at 812-376-7757

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 5:26PM
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I grew up in a large house built about 1900. It had a full basement, and one of the larger rooms was the laundry room. We had a very low two burner gas "stove" for boiling the cloth diapers. We had a double soapstone sink a little larger than yours, and on the inside front slope of one tub a bumpy washboard was cut into the soapstone. The back edge of the sink was a ledge about 3 inches wide and into it was a carved out rectangle to accommodate a large bar of laundry soap. The faucets were large pipe faucets, the spigot quite long, and they were placed well above the sinks.

We lived in a large city in central Illinois, and so the basement rooms were strung with a clothesline to use in winter. Otherwise the wet clothes would freeze on the line, and then when you took them down, they would crack, and tear the clothes in doing so. We were a family of 6, and laundry did add up.

Mom had an old washing machine that had a spinning type of wringer. You filled the tub of the machine with hot water and the hose that came with it. (And you washed the white laundry first, and then later the medium and dark colors in the same wash water.) Then you turned the chute of the wringer to drain over the washing tub and placed all the washed clothes in it, locked the top of the wringer, and set it to spin the clothes and the water dripped over the chute and back into the washing machine tub, saving the soapy water for the next load of wash. In the meantime, you filled the first sink tub with water. When the clothes were as dry a you could spin them, you put all the clothes into the tub of water and sloshed them around to rinse the soap out. As you were doing this, you had already put the next load of laundry into the washing machine tub, and you were filling the 2nd sink with rinse water. Then you would put the clothes into the automatic wringer, turn the drain lip or trough over the sink, and let it wring into the dirty rinse water as it all swirled down the sink drain. Then you put the clothes into the second full sink and rinsed and wrung them one more time.

Then we took the wet laundry upstairs to the back yard where we hung it on the line. The laundry would be so wet and heavy that the line would dip with the weight of it. But you needed the line to be up high so the clothes and sheets would not drag on the ground, and they also needed to be up high to catch the drying breezes. My father had made some clothesline props for my mother, long (8 feet?) boards with a V notched in one end to slip under the line and a pointed end to kind of anchor into the yard. We had a huge container of wood clothespins to hang the clothes too. Saturday was my day to do the wash as I was home all day from school to do it. Then the ironing was done another day.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 12:25AM
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I had the exact same laundry sink in my 1923 bungalow. Exact same--same legs and all. It was not soapstone, but concrete. I'm sure that is what yours is too. It looks like someone painted the side green; someone had painted the sides of mine gray. The bowl of the sink was all stained with paint stains like yours is, but it still worked just fine as the drain sink for the washing machine. I sold the house two years ago but as far as I know it is still there. Soapstone scratches and dings fairly easily and concrete does not, so you could test it on the underside.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 6:47PM
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Because the sink looks like it has been painted, I would say it is cement. Also, if it was soapstone I believe you would know automatically. Soapstone feels like soap. Very different than the look and feel of cement. It's what talcum powder is made of. But whether it is soapstone or cement, it's a keeper.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 6:55PM
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Great design for a sink & apparently copied for a cafe I worked in in 1958 when i was a teenager. It was same shape & i thought it was because you needed to stand close as it was for scrubbing out the large pans used for the noon specials like roast beef with gravy. Roast cooked slowly on a gas burner on top of the stove.The 1st sink was for those big dirty pans & second was full of rinse water & they had a drain board beyond that. It was truckstop , motel ,gas station & cafe & was very busy place as food was great! As for me I married the bosses son!! Thanks for the memories! Oh, it was a heavy metal welded & thick like 1 shown but don't remember if it had legs.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 2:35AM
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Easy way to tell...rub the side of it where there is no paint. Soap stone is soft and smooth. Concrete is rough to the touch when you stroke it (from that period anyhoo).

I have concrete sinks, probably from the 1890's like yours. Mine are so worn there are exposed pebbles. We'll probably add them to the garden as an outdoor sink and replace the laundry sinks with something that won't scratch up the cloths :) Mine are one solid piece (two sinks like yours but not joined).

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 3:10PM
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Lazypup your people went to a lot of trouble with pre washing and soaking. We just dumped in the clothes whites first and washed away but did do the rinsing part. I loved using my MIL's when we lived with her. The only problem with that type of washing is the stiffness in the clothes especially blue jeans. LOL

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 10:47AM
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I have one just like that in my basement that I would LOVE to haul upstairs and use in the outdoor kitchen that we are building. Two questions for all of you though: 1) Will it be okay outside? I don't want to install it and then have it crack from winter freeze/thaw; I think mine is definitely concrete and does have zinc or something on the edges. We live in DC area, so normally not terrible winters (last years snowpocolypse notwithstanding). Also will be installing against back of garage with deep overhang so it will have some protection. 2) Any bright ideas on how I can manage to haul that beast out of the basement? It weighs a TON!!!! Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 11:07AM
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Anyone have any tips or a guide for repairing a old concrete sink? I have one in my basement. I was planning to jack it up and rebuild a new base out of angle iron. The problem is what to do about the drain. The drain is molded in to the concrete, but also needs repair. Options?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 4:12PM
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Well I have one too I thought it was concrete but has slick feel so I guess it's soap stone. Unless it's worth alot it is about to Become a subwoofer cabinet with 4 JBL 2241H speaker in isobaric pairs. A wooden cabinet would cost over $500.00

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 1:37AM
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My family had one just about like yours. I used to take baths in it when I was a little kid during WW2. It worked great, but since it dated back to the early 1920's, it eventually wore out along the top edges of the center divider. The soapstone or other cement-like core is covered in metal, then finished with something that was quite durable. We used to cover the sharp edges with thick foil and kept using it. My Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe lived out in the country and also had a double laundry sink, but they had a really useful gadget to go with it, a tray washing machine with a wringer that fit on top of the left side and ran an agitator inside the sink. It ran for over 35 years with little trouble!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 6:11PM
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I recently purchased a house that has one of these old double sinks in it with iron pipe plumbing thru the basement floor. Only difference is the above one has more ornate legs. I agree must be soapstone as too smooth feeling for cement. Wonder what $$ value it has? Soapstones were used often as foot warmers as they hold heat a long time.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 12:50AM
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Our old 1916 Arts and Crafts home had an Alberene Soapstone sink like this one in the basement only is was larger, had a more substantial base, and had a backsplash piece on it that went up about a foot with the faucets mounted in there. I couldn't give the thing away. An antique dealer wanted $20 to haul it out for me. It was so heavy that four men could not lift the thing to carry it out.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:55PM
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I have one too, in the basement of my grandparents 1950's home in which I now live. It is too lightweight to be concrete; it feels like metal, has chipped light greenish gray paint, a washboard, faucets, and two sinks. It stands on four metal legs. Any ideas folks?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 4:05PM
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1950's? Probably galvanized.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 4:44PM
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I have just moved the same tub into my back yard and yes it is very heavy. On the bottom of mine is the manufacture.
Nustone Product Corp. Laundry Tub, my guess this is the date
8 5 30 My parents bought their house in 1946 it was in the house and I remember it was next to the ringer washer. Nustone were made in various location. I only have one leg and it the same as the picture

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 9:24PM
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This is a soapstone double laundry Tub recovered from it's original home in Pawtucket RI. It was produced by Nu stone in 1928, it is stamped and dated on the back. There are not many left from by from the reputable manufacturer, Nu stone.

It was painted with yellow latex paint at one point....it is mostly worn off and should be easy to take off whats left.

A great find for renovation !

Location: Sandwich
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

image 0 image 1

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 7:53PM
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My first post here. I realize this is somewhat of an old thread but it seems to be discussing exactly what I have. I have an old concrete laundry tub. On the bottom it says "Maryland Nustone Corp Laundry Tray". Handwritten is "10-13-31" (our house was built in 1931).

My question is regarding cleaning the sink. I've attached a picture, but there is what seems to be soap scum and lime scale etched into the surface. It doesn't come off with just a brush and water. I'm wondering what product to use to clean it up. What about "Simple Green Lime Scale Remover" ? I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 9:16PM
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My 1915 Craftsman bungalow has a triple laundry sink in the basement. It is cement, and the legs are very utilitarian and not particularly attractive. There is an attached ledge at the back of the sinks with built-in soap dishes. Two bridge-style faucet sets are mounted on the ledge. After reading about how these sinks were used, is a triple sink somewhat unusual?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 2:03PM
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Talk about the memories! The home I grew up in had a double laundry sink, and it was a light brick red color, definitely not painted. I remember Mom doing the wringer washer thing, and I remember taking baths in it too. When we moved, it went with us and was installed in the basement laundry room. I remember my father coming home from his road construction job and using that sink to wash his face and hands.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 12:36PM
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What a wonderful walk down memory lane! Those were the days when men 'went' to work while women stayed home and worked!! ThIngs weren't easy like they are today, nothing was automatic, just about everything required effort. Seems people were a lot skinnier also, at least those that I remember. I know my Mom and Dad were both quite thin.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 12:40PM
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I have the exact same sink I think in my old 1920's home :) I was curious if you ever did anything to it or restored it in any way.

Mine is white inside and out, so I always thought it had a porcelain type coating. Anyone know if these were ever coated with porcelain?

Anyway to tell if it is actually soapstone, or cement? I'm going to plan to look around the bottom or on a few chip areas and see if I can tell.

I'd like to restore mine, even though its just used as a laundry/slot/dirty sink in the basement. Was thinking of buying a kit and refinishing it on my own with a kit like I linked below, or having a pro come in and re-coat it.

To the original poster, did you do any updating of the drains/trap/piping? From what I can tell this sink has an extra piece on the bottom that I think can be unscrewed, unsure if the piping is cast into the piece or separate. Mine doesn't leak, but if I refinish it I'd like to redo all of that as well. If you messed with it at all share your experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sink Refinishing Kit

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 3:32PM
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Not stone, not soap stone, these tubs have been formed concrete since the mid 19th century. In each region of the US there were one or two factories that cranked them out. So they have unique branding and stenciling if they have have not been painted. Here in Seattle wash the Seattle washtub company and another called the Seattle sink and basin company. If you look on the inside of the tubs, where there is no paint, you will not see seems. If they were slab bed stone, seems would be present and therefore would leak overtime. We have six in our garden as planters. I removed several dozens from homes, most were replaced in the 70's because they took up room, stain, weep from cracking and more often replaced because they take up the space for modern washer and dryers.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 1:34PM
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I have same set tub but in porcelin. The water handles are on top in the middle three holes one for hot cold and one for water supply. It's in perfect condition no chips beautiful claw feet on metal base. Anyone have any idea what its worth, or interested
in buying i'm moving have to get rid of. Live in western mass. 413- 559-1617 Scott

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 9:57AM
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Still got mine in the basement.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 10:12AM
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