A short history of Hudee Rings from the president of Vance Industries. Including: Sex sells!

1960s brochure about metal sink rim from vance industriesAfter reader Jon tipped me off the retro-fabulous products available at Vance Industries here and here and here, I was contacted by the CEO and co-owner of the company — Bill Rapp – who offered to provide some history about Hudee Rings and how they came about in the kitchen countertop industry . One of my favorite kinds of story:  Finding out — first-hand from someone who was there, right in the midst of the industry — how a unique product introduced in post-WWII America came about. Oh, and who doesn’t love a tale that throws in some sex for good measure? (We don’t get to that much here on this blog. Memorable: Naked nudie jigsaw.) Bill and I had an hour-long phone conversation – read on for this history of “sink rims” or “sink frames”, as Bill officially calls them. You’ll learn why they are called Hudee Rings!

sales materials for vance industries' metal sink rimHere are quotes, only slightly edited, taken from my conversation with Bill Rapp, president and co-owner of Vance Industries… For this first story, I did not take out very much – I wanted to capture it all:

What you call a “hudee ring” was patented in 1948 by Walter A. Selck, of the Walter Selck Co. The name ‘hudee’, as I understand it, came from the combination of the names of the two engineers who worked on the product. One of them was named Hudek, I think, I am not sure of the other. “Hudee” was the working name of the product while they worked on it.

walter selck company inventor of the hudee ringOnce the product was introduced, Walter Selck realized immediately that what he had. Understand, that in postwar America, it was the coming of the Formica top. And the big problem for using sinks and mounting them in the new tops was that underneath that laminate was plywood, then particle board.  Plastic (laminate countertops) was impervious to water, but plywood was not. It would separate when exposed to water.

1958 ad for hudee rings

I neeeeeeeeed a “Hudee Handbook”!

Going one step further back in time – before plastic countertops were introduced — countertops were made of linoleum-type materials, and used a steel edge band. And we had mostly drainboard sinks. But with the postwar advent of the dishwasher, and as a cost issue, male designers took out the drainboards.  [Bill explains he uses the word “male”, because those drainboards are still great, even if you have a dishwasher. As in: Only a man would have thought to do away with drainboard sinks/ I agree.]

[Bill further explains that at the same time, women wanted their sinks to be flush with the countertop, so that they could brush scraps right into the sink. Hence: the need for the metal sink rim.]

With great success of the sink-rim product Walter Selck could hardly keep up. So he opened up the competition and licensed his patent to other companies.

vance industries brochure for metal sink rimsVance Industries was founded in 1949 in Evanston, Illinois. and started manufacturing sink rims. Royalties were paid to Selck on everything that we produced and sold.

Between 1950 and the mid-to-late 60s, use of the sink frame was nearly universal, there no other way to do it. I started with Vance in 1972, there were about eight companies that manufactured sink frames then. At that point, Selck was not the biggest. The largest was probably the R.D. Werner Company. Go to a big box retailer and you can still see their ladders today.  As the sink frame business was shrinking  Vance bought their sink frame business. Kincaid Manufacturing was another company that made sink frames. They were subsequently bought by a plumbing group that became part of Kohler.  At that point, we picked up the sink frame business from them.

lots of sizes of metal sink framesEven then, we knew there would be a sunset to the sink rim product, as self-rimming sinks started getting more popular in the 60s. To diversify, in 1970 we started producing our “Surface Saver”, which required a sink frame to install in the countertop. Also in the 60s, we began manufacturing stainless steel sinks. By the 1970s, using sinks that required metal sink rims became the least expensive way to install a sink. It became more limited for use in manufactured housing and mobile homes, concerned about saving a couple of nickels.

Today, we are the “Galactic Leader” in metal sink frames, although we don’t rely on this business for the majority of our sales anymore. While we show a limited number of sizes on our website, we can make a sink frame any size, although we can’t change the radius of the bend.  Our sink frame manufacturing is based in Niles, Ill. It’s 1940s technology – back when we made lots of these sparks flying from welding and grinding, it was great.

vintage surface saver cutting board from vance industriesOur Surface Saver® built-in cutting boards are still an excellent solution to repairing laminate countertops damaged by hot pots and pans or from knife mars.  Rather than replacing the entire top, the damaged area can be cut out and a Surface Saver® installed. The Surface Saver® is an excellent sanitary food prep surface as well as a cutting board and trivet. The board is a tempered glass product, not porous.  These days we’re selling a few more: It’s not a dominant business for us, but certainly worth staying in it.  We were the first company to do a tempered glass food prep surface, and this ran very well for us for many years. We also had been selling metal rims for Corning’s Countersaver product. When Corning shut down their flat glass manufacturing in the 1980s, and started buying the glass from us it was a transformational moment for us.

vicki vance using sex to sell metal sink rimsIn the late 60s and early 70s and advertising being king, we launched a campaign, “You Should Meet Vicki Vance.”

vicki vance a character to help sell sink rims in the 1960s

Yes, sex to sell hudees.

vicki vance created to help sell hudee rings in the 1960sThe people who bought and used our products where plumbers and plumbing wholesalers.  We used this promotion to set up a personal relationship between Vicki and the plumber. If they bought enough they would get photo of Vicki that was personalized.

vicki vance as a cheerleader to sell metal sink frimsWe bought 1,000 8×10 wood picture frames, the sales manager’s wife would sign the photos. It became THE promotion, really pushed Vance way up on the list of preferred supplier.

Today Vance focuses on sink mounting hardware both for top mounted sinks as well as undermounted models. And, we make sink frames, which are produced exclusively in the U.S. of U.S. stainless steel.

Note, that sink frame installation is still the best way to install a sink. There are a couple of reasons why: When you put the sink frame in, you can tighten it down very tight with no damage to the sink or countertops. Also, if a countertop is not exactly level, the stainless steel rim is flexible enough to still tighten it down watertight. Installation with a sink frame is pretty easy, compared to undermounting. And the frame is stainless, it outlasts.

We discuss removing an existing hudee ring:

Don’t use a screwdriver to pull it out. Get underneath and loosen the lug bolts. Then get in with a knife… it is possible to do it.

Where to get new installation clips if you are installing a vintage hudee-ringed sink and the clips are gone?

There were certain standards, and if somebody needs a pack – we will have a clip to install it.

And, Vance *only* has 18 sizes of sink rims aka Hudee rings on its website. What if readers want to order a one in a different size?

Yes, we can do it. We have one employee who spends full time making them… He’s 65…. Nobody retires here anymore. We’re all retro.

Bill Rapp
President and CEO
Vance Industries

To steal a phrase from Kate McKinnon, I am so happy to live in a universe that includes hudee rings, Vicki Vance, sales managers’ wives who signed provocative promotional literature circa 1970 — and people like Bill Rapp who are happy to help us capture all this history. Thank you, Bill!

Peoples: Did you read the above? —> Vance Industries will make you a hudee ring in any size you need. Here’s their website: Vance Industries.

Here at Retro Renovation, we are the Galactic Leaders in chronicling hudee rings. Here are some related posts:

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Comments

  1. Ed Marcus says

    Hope someone can help ! I recently purchased about 20 Franciscan Starburst bathroom wall tiles on ebay for a bathroom renovation, however, I’m having a heck of a time matching these tiles up with ones without the design. I went to Tile World in NJ, but no luck at all. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I can find tiles that kinda match without the starburst design? I need about 800 total and I’ll co-mingle the rest, hopefully creating a cool look ! thanks Ed

  2. Kelly says

    I am remodeling a 1965 bathroom. I have a great sink and ring but the laminate top needs replacing. Where can I get a top to use with my current sink and does it have to be laminate?

  3. says

    I love the way Hudee rings look. I’ve noticed them in a lot of vintage bathrooms, and this article gave a great background. When I finally re-do our second bathroom, I’m going to use one.

  4. Joe Felice says

    Hudee rings were ubiquitous in the ’50s & ’60s. I recall battling constantly to keep the edge/lip clean, and periodically had to take a knife or razor blade to get the gunk out–crumbs, dirt, etc. from wiping down the countertops. Also, the rings I recall removing were never mounted with clips from below; they always had little flip-out tabs around the side, and I never could figure out how those were supposed to work.

    • Sabrina says

      What a hoot this article was! And pretty neat to learn the “galactic leader” of sink frames is a Chicagoland company. The name did sound familiar. Anyway, I have a “space saver” type glass cutting in our 1970s era kitchen and find it unsanitary for the same reason…it always gets gunky and I cover it with a wood cutting board.

      Hudee sinks are cool but guess I prefer glass cutting boards to be portable!

      Planning to replace it with a butcher block counter top, but don’t worry, the old one will go to the ReStore. Thanks!

  5. cheryl says

    *screams* this is awesome, much thanks to Pam and Bill rapp for bringing us such a great story! Also, I want a “surface saver”!! And just look at the selection! http://www.vanceind.com/built-insurfacesavers.aspx

    Only problem is, I suspect my 1956 house might have the original tile countertops (or at least very old tile) in perfect condition and chipping a few of those out, is not at the top of my priorities. And do I really need a surface saver if the countertops are tile? I still want one or two of those surface savers, though, they look kinda cool and handy. One by the sink and one by the cooktop. Too hilarious, anyway thanks again!

  6. cheryl says

    Also, not to be a party pooper but the phrase “sex sells”…! People say that all the time without really thinking about it… It’s not the case that “sex for everyone” is being sold — what is being marketed exclusively to men, is women’s submission.

    The more you know! 😉 Have a great day and thanks again!

    • Neil says

      Dear Cheryl,
      You’re right about the male-dominant central message. But in those days women were brainwashed into believing that their submission to men was their only option for security, comfort, self-value, and that the submission being sold was sexy for them too. So…the sex they were selling was targeted at both genders, toxic though the message was.
      By the way, as a gay man at the time, none of it made the product more appealing to me.

      • Joe Felice says

        LOL, Neil. So you were gay at the time, but not now? Must be old, like I am. It is interesting to see how the messages have changed over time. I was looking at a magazine just yesterday at the doctor’s office, and could not believe how many ads there were featuring muscular men with scruffy beards and without shirts. Brings to mind the Progressive-Insurance commercial (which I love), where the guy says “Women don’t have jobs,” and “Where’s your husband?” The looks he gets from Flo are priceless. Now, mind you, I consider most advertising today devoid of any value, and wonder what the writers learn in school. Back in the day, advertising did have some appeal. I still enjoy ads in old magazines.

  7. kelly says

    My fiance and I are retrorenovating the kitchen in our 1961 ranch. We originally were going to replace our stainless sink with a Thermocast sink we saw here. However, I have since fallen in love with a vintage aqua sink I found on CL. I have not been able to convince the fiance it is a good idea because he absolutely hates Hudee rings. He says they are too hard to clean and keep looking nice (he is a serious neatnik). Any suggestions for an alternative?

    • MJ says

      Can a serious neatnik who cleans the kitchen and a woman who is happy to let him do it someday in the future fight over who gets the vintage “stuff”?
      Had you thought of using transparent caulking? I have it in my old house. It fills the gaps in the hole cut for the AC piping.

      • Joe Felice says

        I know rings are historically accurate, and that Pam loves them, but I am not a fan. Seems like this neat freak has spent an inordinate amount of my life cleaning out from under the edges, including with knives. And I was always amazed at how-much gunk came out. When I had new counters installed in the kitchen & bath, I specified integral Wilsonart composite sinks. Now I just wisk all the food, dirt, hair, water, etc. into the sink.

        And caulk is no help. Tried that. It too gets dirty, cracks, and eventually needs to be replaced. No more rings for me.

  8. Pam says

    My great uncle Roy Hull was one of the engineers that created the hide sink rim… He was the Hu…. He also held a patent on steak knife rivets

  9. Angela says

    I’m looking to buy OVAL white sink as it shown in the picture above. Do You have an idea where to get it? Thanks a million for Your ideas !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Joe Felice says

    I know rings are historically accurate, and that Pam loves them, but I am not a fan. Seems like this neat freak has spent an inordinate amount of my life cleaning out from under the edges, including with knives. And I was always amazed at how-much gunk came out. When I had new counters installed in the kitchen & bath, I specified integral Wilsonart composite sinks. Now I just wisk all the food, dirt, hair, water, etc. into the sink. No more rings for me.

    • pam kueber says

      I hear this complaint now and again. Funny, I have had mine for about 10 years now, and we just don’t have the problem. When I prep, I don’t “sweep” anything toward the sink — I clean with a William-Sonoma sponge (fan for 20 years).

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