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After remembering the plumbing contraption first published in the December 2000 PM (and of which we still may not know the correct identity), I felt compelled to attempt to date an item I found years ago, and saved with the intention of refurbishing and reusing.

There is no question that my item is clearly a toilet tank. But until seeing it, I had not known that toilet tanks were at one time constructed of wood.

My enclosed photo shows the tank, resting on a modern bowl purely for illustrative purposes. The wood appears to be oak, and the tank is very solidly built. The tank is lined with copper sheeting and nailed at the seams.

The handle assembly, more of a "push-button" type of lever, is located on the bottom left and is intact and operable. The linkage travels through a groove in the wood under the copper lining, and uses a standard flush ball. There is a bumper-type device on the upper middle of the front of the tank that I assume kept the seat from banging into the tank.

The tank mounted to the wall; there are no holes for tank bolts. The spud assembly or flush assembly appears to accept a standard 2-inch slip joint ell. The tank was found without a lid.

Now I have repaired toilets that date back to the 1920s so I assume this is older. Any help from PM readers would be appreciated.

Charlie Hicks
Reliable Sewer & Drain Cleaning
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Editor's note: Charlie did send us a photo, but not the type we can print. His words, however, describe the picture well. Send any ideas on the tank to us at PM Letters, 3150 River Road, Suite 101, Des Plaines, IL 60018.

Fighting Skyscraper Fires

With the devastation of the World Trade Center something came to mind that was discussed during my apprenticeship days when the WTC was being built. The topic on the minds of plumbers/steamfitters at that time was how to protect life and property with adequate fire protection. We all knew no fire-fighting equipment could shoot water up that high.

High-rise buildings were always a deep concern to fire departments, as these skyscrapers are hell to protect under the best of conditions. The events of Sept. 11 only add to the challenge.

Being a member of the National Fire Protection Association, I know we do have the means to protect these structures with several options for a Class B fire. The code bodies should stop thinking bottom-line pricing and think of saving people with fire suppression systems that use foam or CO2 or a number of other ways or a combination of several types of protection.

We could, for example, use a two-pipe system -- one would be the cheaper water type and the other would use higher-temperature-rated sprinkler heads for the B type of fire such as oil, gas and other flammable liquids, which burn at a much higher temperature.

I think some good may come out of the WTC disaster by having people realize how we (professionals in the trade) have been saying all along that these structures need more protection than most code bodies want to address. Yes, it will add cost to a building design, but what price do you put on human life?

Fire suppression systems do save lives and property, and there is no valid excuse why they should not be made part of the building codes worldwide. Think about the fire suppression systems used in airport hangers, or on aircraft carriers. We have the technology why not use it? I am sure the insurance savings would more than offset the cost of human life and the replacement of these structures.

Sylvan Tieger
S.Tieger Plumbing Co.
Bronx, N.Y.

Playing My Song

I just read (reread?) Frank Blau's reprinted column in the December PM ("Why Does Our Industry Resist Flat-Rate Pricing?"). Frank is a saint. I took the medicine back in 1994, and I am a "T&M" survivor!

I applaud Frank's patience with the "majority" of the service industry still playing the old tunes -- you know how they go: "Flat Rate Is A License To Steal;" "It's So Unfair To The Poor Customer;" and the all-time favorite "I Couldn't Sleep At Night." The sad thing is that the tunes haven't changed, only the musicians.

There is always a better way, and a better way than that, and the excitement and joy of being a plumbing professional and contractor is to constantly try to improve in every way possible.

Unfortunately, there are way too many out there who hear Frank's challenging notes, and can only disagree with the sounds they hear. Some may be tone deaf, others simply don't like classical music, in much the same way I don't care for country and western. It isn't an indictment, just a different way of being who we all are.

Paul Swan
Swan Plumbing, Heating & Electrical Co. Inc.
Richfield, Ohio

Perfect Timing

I remember over a year ago when I was trying to get 8a certified with the SBA as a mechanical contractor and I was describing some of the discrimination I have endured over the past 10 years as a plumber -- and there was a feature story in PM about woman in construction ("We Need More Female Plumbers," October 2000). It was like my story was right there in print.

I attached a copy of that article with my application as some written proof to what I was saying. I did receive 8a certification, and I would love to see and hear about other women who are the plumbers, not their husbands or fathers. Thanks for a great magazine!

Lori Konecsny
Lori K. Mechanical Inc.
Southampton, N.J.