Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Review – Ozark Mountain Briars, Craftsman Series, Straight Egg


Blog by Steve Laug

I am fairly certain that many of you have not heard of either Ozark Mountain Briars or of the carver, David Johnson. I have had two of David’s pipes in my collection since 2007 and have found that both of them are well made and aesthetically beautiful. The first one I purchased was a rusticated ball or apple shape. The second is this straight egg shaped smooth that I am reviewing today. Both were reasonably price and promptly delivered. I am not sure if David is still making pipes, I hope so. I see his pipes appearing on EBay periodically so if you have the opportunity to get one I don’t think you will be disappointed.

He carved this pipe as one of his higher lines, the Craftsman series, in 2007 and I picked it up at a discounted price because of some very small sand pits on the bottom of the shank. When it arrived in the mail I opened the package and took out the suede leather pipe glove that the pipe was placed in for protection and storage. I was amazed at its beauty. As I held it in my hand I could not believe how light it was. The 1.32 ounces / 37.4 grams make it light enough to be a comfortable clencher. The length of the pipe is 5.45 inches / 138.4 mm. The chamber diameter is .80 inches / 20.3 mm and the chamber depth is 1.50 inches / 38.1 mm. It is comfortable to hold in the hand.

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The pipe has a smooth finish and is stained with a 3-step process to bring out the grain. The bowl is egg shaped but slightly canted forward with elements of a Belge shape. The grain is decent on the pipe. I am not sure which stain David used first but the understains are darker and serve to make the grain stand out. The overstain is almost a yellow. The combination gives a dimensionality to the finish that is fascinating. The trim bead on the end of the shank is made of Marblewood and adds a nice finishing touch. The unique grain and shape of the bead is distinctive and feels great in the hand when held during a smoke.

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The stem is a hand cut Ebionite half saddle or half taper depending on your point of view! The top half is saddle and the bottom is tapered. The saddle portion is well done. It is soft cut on the saddle and then tapers back to the button. The saddle is rounded and has a very gentle cut to it. On the underside the stem blade tapers gradually back to the button where it flares to the same width as the flare on saddle. It is just the right thickness at the portion that rides in the mouth – not too thick or too thin. It is made of quality material as it has not oxidized in the years I have had it. The tenon is an integral part of the stem and is chamfered inward to form a dished end that is well-polished. The button is the size and shape that I really like – thin at the edges with a very slight rise to the centre top and bottom, forming an eye shaped end view. The lip on the button is very not to thick and fits well behind the teeth for a comfortable feel. The slot in the end of the button is also funneled and flattened to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. David also rounded the ends of the slot giving it a finished look. The attention to detail shows the love of his craft that is transmitted into each of his pipes. It is a comfortable and well executed pipe. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.

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I have two Ozark Mountain Briar pipes and both are identical in terms of internal mechanics. David has well-crafted airflow dynamics in his pipes. The draught is clean and easy with no whistling or tightness. It has an easy draw that makes smoking it a pleasure. The bowl chamber is drilled to slightly over 3/4 of an inch with a .80 inch diameter. The tobacco chamber was coated with what David calls a Pre Carbed coating. It was neutral in taste and did not distract from the tobacco that was smoked. The cake built up on the bowl very easily. The draught hole is centered slightly above the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight funnel leading into the shank and stem. The fit of the stem to the shank is excellent – smooth and tight with no light showing at the joint. The tenon fits well in the mortise and sits deep in the mortise against the bottom. The airway is in the centre of the mortise and aligns with the airway in the tenon. The edges of the tenon have been polished and rounded and the airhole countersunk so that it meets the airway in the mortise. Looking at the airways with a flashlight it is clear to see that they are smooth and polished with no rough edges. The interior of the pipe is smooth and polished from the button to the bottom of the bowl.

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I broke this pipe in with some aged McClellands 5100. It is a dedicated Virginia pipe and always delivers a good tasting smoke. I have found that David’s other pipe also is a Virginia machine. It also smokes cool and dry and deliver good flavor with the Virginias that I choose to smoke in it.

Repairing and Repositioning a Sterling Silver Band on a Peterson Deluxe


I received this older Peterson Deluxe 11S to refurbish for a project that I am involved in and in the process of going over the pipe noting the things that needed to be repaired. I got to the shank end and noted the 1/8 inch gap between the chamfered edge of the band and the end of the shank (Photo 1). From the marks on the shank it was obvious that the band had been removed and glued with the gap. It then had been chamfered inward toward the shank to give it a dish effect and allowing the stem on the Deluxe to sit closer to the shank. It was not too badly done though it obviously had been modified and there were some dents in the surface of the edge.

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I decided to return it to its original position on the shank. I cleaned off the band with silver cleaner and cleaned out the shank (Photo 2). I wanted the surface to be smooth so that when I heated it I could press it into place on the shank. To return it to that place would be a two-step process, if I was to do it without damaging the surface of the band. The first step in the repair was to bring the band back to a position where the gap was gone. The second step would be to press down on the chamfered edge and flatten it into place.

Photo 2 Side view of the chamfered top of the band

Photo 2 Side view of the chamfered top of the band

I heated the band with my heat gun to warm the glue and also the band (Photos 3 – 4). The heat would loosen the glue and allow me to adjust the band on the shank so that the stamping was in place and I could easily press it into place. For this first stage in the process I was only interested in getting the gap between the band and the top of the shank closed (Photos 5 – 6).

Photo 3 Heating the band

Photo 3 Heating the band

Photo 4 Heating the band

Photo 4 Heating the band

Photo 5 Pressing the band into place

Photo 5 Pressing the band into place

Photo 6 Closer view of the chamfered band pressed into the shank

Photo 6 Closer view of the chamferred band pressed into the shank

To flatten the chamfered surface of the band would take a slightly different approach. I reheated the end of the shank band with my heat gun. I used the lower heat setting as I was holding the bowl with the shank down over the heat and did not want to get burned. I heated it for as long as I could hold it in place and then took it to the work table. Once there I pressed it down onto a metal plate that I use for pressure fitting bands on shanks. I repeated this process until I had pressed the band flat and removed the chamfering (Photos 7 – 8).

After it was pressed flat I used the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to repolish the silver end cap. I pressed it downward into the pad and twisted it and also ran it across the pad to remove the scratches from the metal plate. With that finished the end is flush against the shank and there are just three small dents that I was unable to remove. The band is in place as it was when it left Peterson’s Factory (Photo 9).

Photo 7 Heating the band to flatten the chamfering

Photo 7 Heating the band to flatten the chamferring

Photo 8 Pressing the face of the band onto a flat metal plate

Photo 8 Pressing the face of the band onto a flat metal plate

Photo 9 The face of the band after flattening

Photo 9 The face of the band after flattening

To finish the band after sanding it, I wiped the entire band down with a jeweler’s cloth and polished it until it shined like new (Photos 10 – 12). The band was back in its correct place and ready for the stem once it was repaired.

Photo 10 Sanding the flattened surface with micromesh sanding pads

Photo 10 Sanding the flattened surface with micromesh sanding pads

Photo 11 After sanding

Photo 11 After sanding

Photo 12 After polishing

Photo 12 After polishing

Crafting a Briar Calabash Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

After reading Sid Stavros’ blog, http://pipe-smoke.blogspot.ca/ describing his process of converting older briars into meerschaum calabash pipes I decided on this rainy Saturday it was time for me to work on one. I had an old briar pipe bowl here that was a strangely shaped briar pot shaped sitter with a bit of a Rhodesian like top. It was in rough shape and was stemless so I restemmed it a while back. It has a pretty rough band on it so I am still undecided what to do with that. I also had a meerschaum bowl from an EBay group I picked up. It was without a gourd bowl so I just cleaned up the bowl and decided to set it aside until such a time I knew what I wanted to do with it. So on this rainy Vancouver Saturday afternoon I took the pipe bowl out and the meerschaum bowl out and put them side by side. I did some measurements in terms of the depth of both and the diameter of the inside of the briar and the outside of the meer cup to see if it would even be feasible. The measurements said it would work. So taking a deep breath I got out my Dremel and set up the parts for the “new” re-envisioned pipe.

The first two photos show the meerschaum cup when I received it and after I had finished cleaning and polishing it. The third and fourth photos show the briar pipe that I chose to be the calabash for this cup. For the fourth photo I placed the cup on top of the bowl to give an idea of what I was aiming for.

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I used the Dremel with a sanding drum on it to open the bowl of the briar. I had to open the bowl quite a bit in order for the meer cup to fit in the bowl. I also had to top the bowl considerably to allow the bowl to sit properly. I sanded the inside of the bowl until the cup fit snuggly. I also had to reshape the bowl in order for a proper seat for the cup. Once I had the bowl opening fit to size with the Dremel I sanded it with 340 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inside walls of the bowl. I had sanded carefully with the sanding drum to maintain the roundness of the bowl. I did not want the cup to sit to one side or toward the front or back. I wanted it centered in the bowl. This took some careful and slow sanding with the sanding drum.

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I sanded the bottom of the cup to flatten it rather than leave it in a point. This would also buy me some depth in the bowl and allow me to shorten the height of the bowl. I used the sanding drum to remove ¼ inch of the height of the bowl. I proceeded slowly to keep the top as flat as possible. Once I had removed the amount I wanted I topped it on with my normal topping procedure – sandpaper anchored on a flat board. I used the Dremel to remove a bit more of the height and then topped it a second time.

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With the topping I also had to open the bowl a bit wider. I used the Dremel to open the bowl and resanded the inside. I measured the height of the cup and the depth of the bowl and determined I could take it down until there was a ¼ inch of briar between the top ring and the rim. I sanded it to meet that measurement with the Dremel and then topped it again to even out the rim surface. I sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge. The cup fit nicely in the bowl. The angled crown of the Rhodesian style top actually looks good with the flat edge of the bottom of the cup.

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I still had room at the bottom of the bowl so I took some more of the briar off of the top of the bowl to bring the flat bottom edge of the meer bowl closer to the rings on the briar. I used the Dremel to remove the briar and then topped it on the board. I also opened the bowl a bit more as each time I remove from the top of the briar I had to open the diameter of the bowl to accommodate the change. The next series of photos show the pipe as it stands at the moment.

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Once the bowl of the briar was clean and smooth I pressed the meerschaum cup into the briar. It was a perfect pressure fit. In talking with Sid via email, he suggested that I add rubber gasket between the meerschaum and the briar to separate the two materials. I removed it from the bowl and cut a rubber gasket from a piece of large/thick rubber band that I bought for the purpose. I glued it to the meerschaum bowl and set it aside to dry.

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I measured the new diameter of the meerschaum bowl with the gasket and used my Dremel with a sanding drum to sand the briar bowl to match that new diameter. I sanded with the Dremel, checked the fit, sanded some more and check until I had removed enough of the diameter of the briar to make a good snug fit.

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Once the bowl fit well, I took the pipe back to my work table and sanded the inside of the bowl to smooth out the ridges left by the sanding drum. I wiped down the inside of the bowl with Everclear to remove the sanding dust from and make sure the fit of the gasket against the briar was smooth and unimpaired.

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A part of the gasket came loose from the work so I reglued it and once it was dry pressed it into the briar bowl. The next five photos show the fitted meerschaum bowl in place in the briar cup. The pipe is now ready to smoke. The draught is good and open. The newly fit stem works well with the combination. I polished the briar and the meerschaum bowl and loaded a bowl and fired it up. It is a great smoking machine delivering a cool and dry smoke with a clean tobacco taste.

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Still a little work to do polish the meerschaum bowl but the idea is clear in the photos. I will polish it with micromesh sanding pads and then use beeswax to wax the bowl for enhancing the colouration of the bowl.

ADDENDUM:
The look of this one still bugged me and I was not happy with the bowl fit. I also did not like the rubber gasket I formed as it did not really give a snug fit. A friend gave me a sheet of thin cork so I cut a piece of cork to use as a gasket. To accommodate the cork and still give the bowl a fit I needed to remove more of the briar in the bowl of the pipe. I used a Dremel with the sanding drum and took the bowl down enough to accommodate the cork and the pressed in meerschaum bowl. I glued the band of cork around the inner edge of the briar bowl and when it had dried I pressed the bowl into place. Here are a few photos of the renovation.

The cork gasket glued into the bowl with carpenters white glue

The cork gasket glued into the bowl with carpenters white glue

The gasket in place with the glue drying

The gasket in place with the glue drying

The gasket it dry and the bowl is ready to press in place

The gasket it dry and the bowl is ready to press in place

The bowl is in place and the pipe is much more fit looking to me!

The bowl is in place and the pipe is much more fit looking to me!

What’s Inside The Cupboard?


This beautiful oak cabinet sits on top of my pipe cupboard in my office at home. This cupboard came to me as a gift when I was the president of the Vancouver Pipe Club from a member down on Whidbey Island, Washington. It came as a bit of a surprise and one that was very welcome. It is well made with brass knobs for handles and inset brass hinges on the inside of the doors. The joints are well done and the nails have been hidden well behind putty in a subtle way to make them less visible. The back of the cabinet is also finished and smooth. It is fastened to the back with nails or staples and the holes are filled and the back stained to match the rest of the cupboard. The detail done even on the back side of the cupboard speaks to the fine craftsmanship of the piece. The top of the cupboard is set off with a crown moulding that makes it look far older than it is. The paneled doors also give it an air of antiquity with the decorative beaded moulding around the inside panel. The flat base extends beyond the width and length of the cupboard making a very stable base for the piece. It is designed to be either a free standing piece or to be hung on the wall. Inevitably when people visit me in my office they ask about the cupboard and what might be in it. The closed doors seem to hide something that must be important. Some folks ask right away what it contains while others glance at it throughout the visit and then either in the midst of things or at the end as they are about to leave. It seems that they just have to know. I love the fact that the design is unique enough and secretive enough that it calls forth questions.

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Once the doors are opened the quality workmanship continues to be evident. The way the craftsman organized the inside is pretty simple. It is designed to hold 24 pipes facing bowl out toward the front and has two drawers at the bottom for holding other accessories or in my case some of my pocket pipes. The slotted bar at the top third of the first half and the top third of the second half of the cabinet is made up of twelve U shaped cuts in each one that hold stems easily without them turning or being damaged. The U’s are sanded smooth and given a coat of Varathane or varnish so they are well done. The two bases below the slots are also scooped out with a router and sanded smooth for the bottom of the bowl to sit in without damage. The U cut and the scooped base hold the pipes securely. The top base and the bottom one are set into grooves that have been cut into the side walls. The case is very stable and has no side to side play. The drawers are designed to slide easily into the slots cut and polished for them. In my case I use the top shelf for six of my Dunhill pipes (left side of the top) with two others laid behind them, three of my John Calich pipe and one Ashton, one Steve Weiner and a Tinsky Dublin. The second shelf houses the rest of my Tinsky’s. All but one of them has been smoked. The unsmoked pipe in the picture came at a time when I was drawn to smaller bowls. It is being reserved for a time that may not be true!

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Once I succumb to the curiosity of my visitors and open the doors on the cupboard all of the ones who are pipemen love looking at the pipes and the workmanship of the cupboard. The non-pipesmoking guests just shake their heads, unable to figure me out. I don’t say anything that would enable them to figure it out. I just reach for a pipe and polish it while they stand looking at me and the cupboard with what appears to be a growing incredulity. One day when I get my shop set up I want to use this cupboard as a pattern and make a few more for my other pipes. I love the way the doors protect the pipe stems from oxidizing in the light and keep the pipes looking pristine. The bottom drawers are a great place to stow away folding pocket pipes that I do not use very often and other pipe paraphernalia that I seem to continue to accumulate.

A New Pipe Born from a Pre-drilled Block


I purchased a pre-drilled block of briar with a Lucite stem from Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist in Edmonton a few weeks ago. I sorted through the box of blocks they had at the shop and chose this one. It showed some interesting birdseye grain on the sides and some straight grain on the front and back. I also like the angle of the stem on it and figured it might be an interesting project to work on between some of the refurbs that I have going all the time. I put it on my desk in my basement office next to the computer keyboard and looked at pretty much daily trying to figure out a shape that would fit the grain and the angles of the block. I used pencil and scribbled a lot of them on the block, erasing and reshaping the image repeatedly until I finally saw a shape that I kind of liked and figured I could carve it easily enough.

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I used a blunt pencil and sketched the rough idea on the block. I have carved enough to know that what the original sketch looked like may be far removed from the finished pipe. As the excess briar was removed there would likely be flaws that would change the shape of the finished pipe until it became quite different from the original concept in my mind. Also I have learned that the height of the bowl can also dramatically change as I carve into the block. But at least I had an idea and was ready to begin the carving. The next series of five photos show the block after I removed the surface material to get a look at the grain. After sketching the drawing on the block I took it into the back yard and began to remove briar from the block with my Dremel and a large sanding drum.

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The next four photos show the block after the initial work with the sanding drum. I removed all of the square edges and the excess height of the block and began the rough shaping of the new pipe concept. The grain is actually going to be quite nice as far as I can see at this point. There were also some flaws showing up in the block on the left side near the shank bowl junction and also on the bottom edge of the left side of the bowl. These are visible in the first photo and look like a line across the bottom edge. At this point I brought the block inside and took the photos below before taking it back out to work on rounding out the edges of the bowl and shank.

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I took it back outside and used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove the edges and begin to round out the bowl shape. At this point I was not aiming for smoothness only rough shape. The next three photos show the bowl after this shaping was completed. You will note that the inside edge of the shank bowl junction is quite rough. I took a lot of briar off at this point to lengthen the shank and to clean up that junction. A lot more work would have to be done but the shape was beginning to show more clearly. The flaw at the bottom of the left side of the bowl and shank was actually becoming bigger and are visible in the first picture as a darkened line at the bottom of the bowl and shank. I apologize for the lack of clarity in these photos but it was late evening at this point and I did a poor job of focusing.

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From this point in the process I used files and wood rasps to remove more of the briar and to refine the shape of the bowl. I also decided to cut the stem into a saddle bit as I thought that look would go well with the shape I was working on. The pipe was becoming a modified egg shape. Where it would go from here would be worked out with the files and the work at removing the flaws in the briar as much as possible. The next four photos show the shaping of the saddle stem with the wrasp and files.

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Once I had the rough shape on the stem I used the files and rasp on the bowl of the pipe. I filed away the briar to further round out the shape of the bowl and shank. The flaw in the shank and bowl bottom on the left was still an issue that would take a lot more work to see if I could remedy it or work around it. The next five photos show the rounding of the bowl after working it over with the files and rasp.

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After using the files I sanded the bowl with coarse grit emery paper to further shape the bowl, shank and stem. I worked on the shank to round it out and match the diameter of the stem. The next four photos show how far the shape has come to this point. The flaw is also very visible in the first and the fourth photos below. It is very deep at some points and on the surface in others. It does not go into the interior of the bowl or shank so there will be a lot more sanding to see if I can rid the block of the flaws. To me this is always one of the surprises that lie within a block of briar. They never become visible until a lot of work has been done in shaping. At this point I was wondering if I would need to rusticate the bowl or possibly figure out another option or shape to deal with the flaw.

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I continued sanding the bowl with the emery paper and then switched to a coarse grit sanding sponge. At this point I was not worried about scratches that would come later. I only wanted to remove more of the briar. I also heated the stem with my heat gun and bent it to shape. I still needed to clean up the junction of the shank and bowl. It needed a little less slope in my opinion. The next three photos show where things were at this point in the process. The pipe is beginning to take shape. I have also removed quite a bit of the briar around the flaws on the bottom edge. The change can be seen in the first photo below.

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I used the files and rasp to remove more of the slope on the back side of the bowl and make the angle more in tune with the front slope of the bowl. Once I had removed what I wanted I used my sanding sponge and the emery paper to remove the marks of the files. With removing more of the slope I also decided to define the curve of the back side of the bowl along the shank and make the angle there more obvious and distinct. I used the Dremel with the sanding drum to shape this portion of the bowl on both sides. The beauty of this decision is that it removed a fair piece of the flaw in the shank and bowl. The next three photos show the shape after I worked on defining the angles more clearly. The question in my mind at this point was whether I would be able to make the stem as thin as I would like due to the deeply set tenon in the stem. Nonetheless the finished shape of the pipe emerging from the briar.

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The next series of three photos show the bowl after I had sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper. I gave it a quick coat of medium brown aniline stain and flamed it. I buffed it with White Diamond to see where things stood at this point. The grain was very clear on the sides – some nice birdseye on the right side of the bowl, cross grain on the front and back of the bowl and on the top and bottom of the shank. The left side of the bowl was mixed grain toward the bottom and the flaws were glaring. The top half of the left side was covered in birdseye. The top of the rim was cross grain that matched the top of the shank. The stem was bothering me at this point so after taking the photos below I fit a vulcanite stem to the shank. I like the flow and the thinness of the stem. I made the decision to keep the vulcanite stem and put aside the Lucite one.

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With the new stem in place I sanded the shank and stem to match cleanly. I also continued to sand the bowl and shank with 220 grit and 340 grit sandpaper. I also used a fine grit sanding sponge on the bowl. Once the visible scratches were gone I took it outside into natural light to inspect for further scratches. I took it back to the work table and wet sanded it with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh sanding pads. I continued sanding the bowl and shank with 2400-12,000 grit micromesh until the bowl was smooth. I examined it under a bright light and reworked the places where there were still minute scratches. Once that was done I decided to stain the bowl.

I wanted to try something different with the staining process this time around so I first gave it a coat of black aniline stain and flamed it. Once it was dry I sanded and buffed the bowl with Tripoli to remove the stain from the surface. My purpose was to highlight the grain in the briar and make it more visible. The black was to be the first undercoat of stain that I would use on this pipe. The next three photos show the black stain after much of it has been removed. The grain is very visible in the photos. The birdseye and cross grain really stand out. After these photos I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad wet in Everclear to remove more of the surface stain and prepare the surface for the next coat of stain.

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The second coat of stain that I used was an oxblood stain. I applied it with a bent pipe cleaner, flamed it. Once it was dry I polished it by hand with a terry cloth to even out the finish and make sure it would be ready for the next coat of stain (photos 1 and 2 below). I took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond and then gave it a coat of Dark Brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with Isopropyl alcohol. I flamed the stain and then buffed it again with White Diamond. Photos 3 and 4 show the pipe after that work. The grain is really standing out now and I am pleased with the finished colour of the pipe. It is a rich reddish brown in colour and will deepen once I have waxed it and polished it. The beauty of this combination of stains is that it really served well to blend in the flaws in the briar on the bottom left side. They are still there but are less glaring.

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With the staining finished it was time to do more work on the stem. I sanded out the scratches that remain with 340 grit sandpaper and then a fine grit sanding sponge. I worked on the angles of the saddle with the sandpaper and sponge to clean up the cut marks in the vulcanite. I continued wet sanding the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then polished it with Scratch X plastic polish to remove the remaining scratches. The next series of nine photos shows the bowl finish after 4 coats of carnauba wax and a buff with a soft flannel buffing pad. The finish is actually quite amazing and the grain made this work keeping smooth even with the visible flaws in the briar. The stain masks the flaws and blends them into the black of the grain well and though they are present they are not glaring. The stem still needs more work at the point of these photos but it is beginning to take on a shine.

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The final four photos show the finished pipe. I continued to wet sand the stem with the 1500-1800 grit micromesh sanding pads until the scratches and rough areas were clean and black. I then dry sanded with the remaining grits of micromesh from 2400-12,000 to polish the stem and give it a mirror like finish. Once that was finished I waxed the pipe and stem several more times with carnauba wax. All that remains is for the pipe to be christened with its first bowl!

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A Unique Piece of Pipe Design History – Doodlers by Tracy Mincer


Blog by Steve Laug

The Doodler pipe designed and made by Tracey Mincer of Custombilt/Custom Bilt fame has always intrigued me. It may be the oddity of the design that first caught my attention. The rusticated bowl with one, two or three grooves around the circumference of the bowl and then holes drilled vertically connecting the rim to the bottom of the last ring just had my attention. I went on the prowl looking for them, both on EBay and on my treasure hunts through antique malls and thrift shops. When I had seen the drawings and photos in Bill Unger’s book on Custombilt pipes I wanted at least one. If you are a pipeman you know how that works it seems that one is never enough.

I looked for quite a while before finding the first pair of Doodlers. They are pictured below (the second and third pipes from the left). Honestly, I think that the only reason I got them was that the seller miss identified them as Boodlers and they were missing their stems. The first one on the left in the picture below is a complete pipe with stem that I picked up at an antique shop in Washington State in the US. The last one pictured below is stamped Holeysmoke.It came to me via EBay as well and did not have a stem either. Everything about it said it was a Doodler so I bought it and added it to the group. I liked the longer shank on it and the solidity of the pipe. I did a bit of research and found that the Holeysmoke pipes were made by Claude Stuart who worked with Tracy Mincer. After the Mincers sold The Doodler to National Briar Pipe Co. in 1960, Claude Stuart continued to make replicas of The Doodler using the Holeysmoke brand name http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-h3.html

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I restemmed the two “Boodlers” (Doodler) and also the Holeysmoke. The Doodlers needed to be banded as well as they both had significant cracks in their shanks. I repaired the cracks with superglue and then pressure fit nickel bands on the shank. The restemming was quite simple. I used some stem blanks, turned the tenons and shaped the stem to fit the size of the shank. They are very light weight and all are pot shaped. The Holeysmoke is a long shanked pot. Some might call it a lovat but the shape of the bowl says pot to me. The Doodlers all have two lines cut around the circumference of the bowl. The Holeysmoke has three lines. I have seen up to four lines around the bowl on pipes on EBay and also billiard shaped pipes. I have not seen other shapes.

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The crazy design, intended to make the pipe smoke cool, seems to work well as all smoke cool and dry. I notice though that several have cracks in the rings and in the rims. The vertical drilling seems to weaken the integrity of the pipe along the drilled holes and also along the cut bands in the bowl – just a note on the thinness of the walls outside the drilling. Even though this may be true, the fact is that they have still lasted until they came to me so the durability is not bad. I am glad to have a few in my collection as they are a unique piece of pipe memorabilia.

Two of My Older Blatter and Blatter Pipes of Montreal


Blog by Steve Laug

I have always been an advocate of collecting Canadian pipes and have a good representation of many of the carvers in my collection. John Calich, Micheal Parks, Stephen Downie, are a few of those that are in cupboard along side of the two older Blatter and Blatter pipes. Their website http://www.blatterpipes.com/history.htm gives a detailed history of the brand. They do some beautiful work and offer some great smoking blends from their shop on 375 President Kennedy Avenue, Montreal, Quebec. They are a pleasure to do business with and well worth a visit should you find yourself in Montreal.

The first is a bent billiard with a chairleg style stem. It has one red dot on the stem and is partially rusticated. It is a sitter and balances nicely on the flat bottom of the bowl. It comes from an earlier time in the history of the company. I am not sure of the dates on it but I believe it comes from the time of the father of the present owner of the company. It is a good smoking pipe. Well made and comfortable in the hand and mouth. As can be seen in the pictures of it below it is in need of some TLC on my part. The stem shows both oxidation and tooth chatter. These need to be cleaned up. The rim and bowl are in good shape. It has a good solid cake in it and has been used to smoke only Virginias.

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The second pipe is an older Lovat. I purchased this off EBay after looking at some bad photos that were out of focus. The seller had written that it was gently used and in excellent shape. The only photos of the pipe did not show the bowl at all so I trusted his description. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it was a mess. Maybe even describing it as a mess is understatement. The bowl was a mess and had been reamed out by the seller. The shank and stem were filthy but the worst part of the sale was that the bowl was burned out. It had a huge divot in the back side of the bowl the size of my thumb and it was plain carbonized wood. There was a hole the size of a pencil through the wall of the pipe to the outside of the bowl. I immediately sent an email to the seller who was willing to refund part of my purchase price (1/3 if my memory is correct) and asked that I send the pipe back to him. I promptly refused both offers and fumed for a few days. Then my wife suggested I give a call to Blatter and Blatter and see if they would do a repair on the pipe. I was not even sure it was salvageable but it was worth a call.

I called and talked with Robert Blatter who asked about the colour of the dot on the stem and the stamping. He was pretty certain that the pipe was old and made by his grandfather. I cannot remember the dates at this time but it was at least three generations back as the shop was currently managed by him and his sons were working with him. He was keen to see the pipe as it was a piece of his family history. I packed it up and sent it off to him with little hope of a repair. The weeks went by and one day I went to the mail box for the mail and a surprise awaited me. There was a package from Blatter and Blatter. I carried it home and cut the tape to open the box. Inside was a nice note from Robert assuring me that the pipe was indeed an old one made by his grandfather. He also went on to describe the repairs that had been made on the pipe. He had cut out the burned out area of the pipe. At this time, some 15 years or more ago, I had no idea that such a thing could be done. He had then fit a briar plug into the burned out area. He matched the rustication to the rest of the pipe perfectly and restained it the original colour. From the outside of the bowl the repair was invisible. It was extremely well done. On the inside of the bowl the repair was also not visible. He had fit the plug with precision and then coated the inside of the bowl with a bowl coating. He said the repair was a pleasure for him to do as it was a piece of family history. The bill was minimal for the work that was done.

The old pipe was ready to be smoked and he suggested a break in rhythm for it. I followed his detailed plan to the letter. Today, fifteen or more years later the pipe still is going strong with no sign of the burnout returning or the patch showing up on the outside or inside of the bowl. I smoke primarily English blends in this pipe as it delivers a full flavoured smoke. It is a pleasure to smoke and enjoyable even more knowing a bit of the history of the pipe. The fact that it was carved by Grandfather Blatter and repaired by his Grandson Robert gives it quite a bit of character in my mind. It is a pipe that will inevitably outlive me and continue to serve pipemen for years to come.

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A Review – Frank Axmacher Sandblasted Volcano Variation


Blog by Steve Laug

Axmacher4 Frank Axmacher is one of the rising stars of German pipe making. A stonemason and sculptor by trade, Frank began making pipes under the watchful eye of Bertram Safferling. Later, he was able to further hone his skills while working with such pipe luminaries as Rainer Barbi and Tom Eltang. Using only the finest briar and handcut stems, Frank carves elegant sculptural pieces with flawless craftsmanship.
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All Axmacher pipes are stamped with his stylized logo and a custom grading and dating system. The first letters in the grading system (ascending from F to A) indicate the objective qualities of the pipe (grain, flaws, finish, etc.). The second letter indicates Frank’s own personal subjective judgements about the pipe (again rising from F to A). The last two digits refer to the year the pipe was created. (Picture and opening information came from the Iwan Ries website http://www.iwanries.com/frank-axmacher-C1472.cfm )

The pipe I purchased from a friend on Smokers Forums is a beautiful sandblasted pipe. Describing the shape is an interesting process. I would have to say it is somewhere between a brandy and a volcano shaped variation. In other ways it reminds me of a Danish style bulldog. The stamping on this pipe does not match the description of the stamping explained above. Rather it is stamped F.AXMACHER in an arch at the top and GERMANY in an arch at the bottom. In the centre it is stamped 03B. The description above leads me to believe that it was made in 03 and that it is either a B grade or it is B for blasted. Not sure which at this point. The vitals are as follows: length 6 inches, height 1 ½ inches, bore of the bowl 5/8 inches, outer diameter at the widest point 2 inches and depth of the chamber 1 ½ inches.

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In this review I want to look at the pipe from a more technical side and walk through its construction, feel and delivery of the smoke to me. The pipe came in a leather pipe sock that is stamped with a sketch of the pipe inside on the leather (a nice touch). The leather pipe sock came with a leather draw string and a nice chunk of briar on the end. When the pipe arrived in the mail I was excited to see and hold one of Frank’s pipes. I had read reviews and scrolled through many pictures of his work but had never held one in hand. In taking this out of the sock I have to say that it is more than I expected from the photos that I had seen before I bought it. The shape was unique and I liked it immediately. The blast was beautiful and the stain perfect. The weight of the pipe is light, I can only wish I had a scale because it is lighter in weight than I expected in a pipe of this size.

Looking at the externals of the pipe. Frank seems to have used several stains to give an undercoat that shows through the contrasting top coat. Depending on the light and angle of the pipe the colour highlights look different. They are a variety of browns and blacks that come through with the light and the angles. The crevices and valleys in the blast are a dark brown in some lights and black in others. The sandblast is gorgeous. There is both a ring grain and vertical lines in the blast. The ring blast is stunning and the vertical lines run at an angle through the blast like wind driven rain. The bottom of the bowl is blasted birdseye grain. The centres of the eye are dark in colour and the ridges surrounding the eye are brown. It is a unique and well done blast that is quite unique among my sandblasted pipes. There is a small band of smooth around the shank where it meets the stem and continuing around the shank of the pipe. On the bottom of the shank there is a smooth patch where the circular stamping is applied. The shank is oval flowing at a slight angle upward from the bottom of the bowl. The flatness of the bowl bottom and shank allow the pipe to sit upright on a flat surface. The hand cut ebonite stem is very well done and comfortable in the mouth. There is a small saddle that sits tightly against the shank that quickly tapers into a thin blade. The taper of the blade is subtle and sporting a 1/8 bent to the stem. It has a thin oval shaped button that is sharply cut and catches well on the back of my teeth. The slot in the button is oval shaped and there is a smooth V slot that facilitates the movement of smoke across the mouth. The polish and smoothness of the finish is like glass. The overall appearance of the pipe and stem is beautiful and it fits my hand very well. The tactile feel of the blast is great whether the pipe is lit or unlit.

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Moving from the externals of the pipe to the internal mechanics. The workmanship on this pipe is well done. The angle of the drilling is done in such a way that the bowl is of a uniform thickness throughout. The bowl bottom is relatively the same thickness as the walls of the pipe. The bowl is drilled at the same angle as the exterior of the pipe. The draught hole is precisely where it should be – centred at the back side bottom of the bowl. As the pipe came to me pre-smoked I cannot speak to whether Frank uses a bowl coating. Holding the bowl to the light revealed a clean and smooth airway with no impediments. The drilling in the mortise is clean and smooth. The only area that is bothersome to me is that the angle of the drilling made it necessary to leave quite a deep divot in the bottom of the mortise that makes the wall at the bottom of the mortise very thin for the first ¼ inch. As the tenon goes straight into the mortise this should not be problematic. It is however a potential problem area. The tenon appears to be an inset Delrin piece. It is chambered or funneled to aid in airflow into the stem airway. The inside of the stem is very smooth. There is no roughness or constriction where the Delrin tenon ends and the stem material begins. This transition is smooth. The airway flattens out like a squeezed drinking straw so that the diameter does not change but is flattened and opened.

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I have been smoking this pipe repeatedly since it arrived and it smokes very well. The bowl was already broken in and there was a thin cake already forming in the bowl. The pipe smokes dry and clean with no moisture build up or gurgle during the smoke. The ash and any remnants of tobacco in the bottom of the bowl are dry and easily dumped out at the end of the smoke. The draught on this pipe is very smooth – no whistling sound and no sense of having to suck or work to get the air to move through – it is effortless as it should be. It has been and will continue to be a pleasure to smoke, exactly what I look for in a pipe that keeps its place in my rotation.
I would highly recommend that you have a look at the pipes Frank crafts. They are available through several online retails such as Iwan Ries, Scandia Pipes, Al Pascia and others. Frank’s work shows him to be a fine craftsman. I believe this is one of his earlier pipes. His newer pipes are amazingly beautiful. The shapes and designs are unique to him and give the impression of pieces of art. They are beautiful to look at and explore. Have a look at the beautiful work that he does. Frank’s own website provides links to many of these online pipe sellers. http://www.axmacher-pipes.com/

An Amphora Extra Saddle Billiard Reborn


This one is the third of the three I bought at an antique mall in Edmonton, Alberta on a recent trip. It is stamped on the bottom of the shank as follows:
AMPHORA
X-tra 726-649
GENUINE BRIAR
Made in Holland

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It has a deep craggy blast that attracted me to the pipe in the first place. The briar was dirty and the finish was gone. The remaining stain was very spotty and dirty. The grime of many dirty hands had ground into the blast leaving dark spots all around the bowl and shank. The state of the finish can be seen in the photo below. The bowl was dirty and had a slight cake with dottle still in the bowl. The rim had some darkening from the lighter and there was lava on the surface hiding most of the blast. The beauty was that the bowl did not have any damage from tapping it out or burning on the edges. It would clean up very nicely. The stem was slightly oxidized and had a calcified buildup in several spots. It also had a few faint tooth marks about a ¼ inch back from the button. The button itself had several dents in it as well. The slot in the button was too tight to even take a thin pipe cleaner. The inside of the shank was thick with a tarry buildup and the stem was clogged with buildup as well. I am pretty sure the stem had never been cleaned out as a pipe cleaner would not pass through the slot.

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I removed the stem from the bowl and dipped the bowl in an alcohol bath and scrubbed it with a brass tire brush to remove the grit and grime in the blast. I then dropped it into the bath to soak overnight. In the morning I removed it from the bath and gave it another quick scrub with the tire brush. I flamed the alcohol in the bowl to dry it before I cleaned it. This is a simple process of lighting the alcohol on fire with a lighter. It burns blue and burns fast. No harm is done to the briar. I then cleaned the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners to remove as much of the tars and oils as I could before I used the retort to give it a final cleaning.

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I decided to open up the button with needle files before I used the retort on the pipe. I was unable to run a pipe cleaner through the stem so I wanted to be able to remove some of the grit before I hooked up the retort. I used three different needle files to open the slot. The next four photos show the opening of the slot from start to finish. When I was done a pipe cleaner went through very easily and I was able to remove much of the tars and oils from the stem.

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To finish the reformed slot I used some folded medium grit emery paper and then 340 grit sandpaper to smooth out the new edges and give it a finished look. I also sanded the surface of the button to remove the scratches from the files. Once that was done put the stem back on the pipe and ran a few more pipe cleaners dipped in Everclear through to clean out the airway. The next two photos show the pipe at this stage in the cleanup.

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With the slot opened and the interior surface cleaned it was time to set up the retort. I placed a cotton boll in the bowl to keep the boiling alcohol from coming out the top of the bowl. I slid the rubber surgical tubing over the end of the stem and slid it on about ½ an inch. I want a good tight seal at this point because as the alcohol boils it can bubble out the sides of the stem and give a good burn while you are holding the stem. I put about 1 inch of 99% isopropyl in the test tube and put the rubber stopper in place in the mouth of the tube. I lit a small tea light and held the bottom of the test tube over the flame. The alcohol has a low boiling point so it does not take long for it to boil and the gaseous alcohol migrates up the surgical tubing and into the stem, shank and bowl. It is great to feel the shank warm up as the alcohol moves into the shank. I remove it from the flame after several minutes and let it cool off. As the alcohol cools it runs back into the test tube and cools. The next series of three photos show the heating and boiling process.

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As it cools the alcohol migrates back into the tube. It is generally a very dark amber colour – like nice amber ale! In the first photo below show the tube removed from the flame and the alcohol beginning to refill the tube. The flame is actually behind the stopper not under it – lest anyone wonder about that. I blew out the candle at this point and continued to let the alcohol cool and drain. I then poured out the dirty alcohol, rinsed the tube with warm water, dried it out and refilled it. I reattached the apparatus and used the retort a second and third time until the alcohol came out as clean as when I started using it.

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Once the insides were clean I used a soft bristle tooth brush and some isopropyl to scrub down the exterior of the bowl to prepare it for restaining. The next four photos show the scrubbed and prepared bowl.

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I chose to restain the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied the stain heavily to the pipe with a folded pipe cleaner to make sure I got it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblasted surface. Once it was covered I flamed it with a lighter to set the stain. I gave it a second coat of stain and flamed it a second time. Once it was dry I buffed it with a shoe brush to get a soft shine on it. The next series of four photos show the restained bowl after the buffing with the show brush. I find that the bristles on the shoe brush work really well to buff sand blasted and rusticated pipes. I used to use my buffer and keep a light touch on the wheel because I did not want to soften the ridges of the blast. I have since resorted to using the shoe shine brush instead.

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I hand applied some Halcyon II wax to the bowl and shank and buffed it a second time with the shoe brush to give it a shine. The next series of six photos show the bowl and shank during and after the shine with Halcyon II and the shoe brush buffing.

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After finishing the bowl it was time to work on the stem. I sanded the blade area where the tooth marks were to cause them to stand out a bit more clearly. I used a fine grit sanding sponge first. I then heated the slight tooth dents with a Bic lighter to lift them. I find that this works very well for light dents in vulcanite. I do not leave the flame in one place but move it quickly across the surface of the dent and it literally lifts with the heat. I then wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and followed that by dry sanding with 3200 and 3600 grit micromesh pads. The next series of eight photos gives you a look at the progress of the sanding.

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At this point in the process I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it into the vulcanite. I wanted to see where the remaining oxidation was so that I could do some more work on those areas.

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I continued sanding the stem with 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next three photos show the progress of the shine on the stem. There was still some deep seated oxidation on the stem. I used a Bic lighter and went over the surface of the stem to burn off the oxidation. I wiped it down with a soft cloth and repeat the process until the stem was a shiny black and the oxidation was gone.

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The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I gave the stem a final rub down with Obsidian Oil and I buffed the stem on my buffing wheel (attached to the bowl) using White Diamond. I did not buff the bowl. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with soft flannel buffs. I also rebuffed the bowl by hand with the shoe brush. The pipe smells fresh and clean. It is ready to smoke.

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Its a Tamper, No its a Pen – No Actually it is a Pipe Pen Tamper – Robert Hudspeth & Steve Laug


This article originally appeared in Pipesmoker Unleashed EMagazine http://www.pipesmokerunleashed.com/magazine/may2012.html Since that time I have edited it and also added my own reflections on the Pen Tamper that I also purchased from Eric Archer. My additions to Bob’s original article are inserted in italics so that it is clear what was in the original article.

Eric Archer of CEA Pipes came up with a winner when he designed and crafted a new item, the Pipe Pen Tamper. It combines two of the tools that I use all the time into a single handy and beautiful piece – it combines both a pen and a tamper in a hand turned barrel. He calls them Pipe Pen Tampers. They are custom made out of briar, vulcanite and brass. I think if these were readily available they would be instant sellers in any pipe shop where pipemen gather to enjoy a bowl and the fellowship of the briar. They are available for special order on the PSU Storefront ( http://www.pipesmokerunleashed.com/forum/forum.php ). Click on the link and it will take you to The Pipesmokers Unleashed Website. Once there you can click on the online store on the left side of the home page. You can contact Eric through his listings or through the contact information is available in the members list or through a private message (PM).

When Eric posted his first edition Pipe Pen Tamper on one of the threads on Pipe Smoker Unleashed (PSU) internet forums “wow!” was all that I could say. I immediately knew that I had to have one. The problem was that I was not alone; it seemed that many of the other members also wanted them. Soon there was a list of folks waiting for their unique and custom Pipe Pen Tamper. I decided that I wanted mine to be a bit different from the others that Eric had made before so he used vulcanite as a band at the middle and in the lower portion of the barrel as pictured in the pictures below to make that happen.

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I too had to have one so I contacted Eric and asked him to make one for me that was slightly varied from the one that Bob pictures below. I have attached pictures of my pen tamper below for comparison. Mine also has a smooth upper portion on the barrel with a metal band separating the upper portion from the lower portion of the barrel. The silver/metal band matches the tip of the pen. The lower portion of the barrel has a slightly different rustication pattern and the smooth band at the top and bottom of the rustication sets it off nicely. The bottom of the lower portion is vulcanite against which the silver tip of the pen stands out nicely.

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It is constructed of a stunning piece of briar. There are no visible flaws in the briar and the craftsmanship is excellent. The vulcanite is used in a band on the top portion of the pen barrel and also on the lower end of the barrel. The tip is a silver metal that looks very good with the briar and vulcanite. He mounted a flattened and polished brass tamper head on the top of the upper barrel. The lower part of the briar pen barrel has been nicely rusticated with an interesting rustication pattern leaving a band of smooth briar between the rustication and the vulcanite and between the upper band and briar as well. The rustication is stained with a darker stain than the smooth parts. It works to highlight that part of the piece. The upper portion of the barrel is sanded and polished to smooth finish; then it was stained to accentuate the natural grain of the briar. The two distinct styles of working the briar combined with the vulcanite and the brass at the top make this Pen Tamper a functional piece of pipeman’s art. It seems almost too nice to use but I won’t let that stop me!

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Mine is also constructed from a nice piece of briar. As in Bob’s tamper, there are no visible flaws in the briar. Eric’s craftsmanship is consistently excellent. The tip is a silver metal that rests agaisnt a wide vulcanite band. For the tamper portion he mounted a flattened and polished brass head on the top of the upper barrel. The upper portion is stained with a reddish brown/medium brown stain while the rustication is stained with a darker stain. The combination looks well designed. Bob was very correct in calling Eric’s Pen Tampers functional pieces of pipeman’s art. And like Bob, once I had it in my hands it seemed too nice to use. But I have continued to use it since I received mine.

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The PenTamp feels great in the hand. In Eric’s design the centre point of the pen is squeezed to make it fit nicely between the fingers when tamping. The rounded flair on the lower barrel makes it fit well between the fingers and thumb when writing. The rustication gives the barrel a grip so that it does not roll in the fingers when writing. It is a stable writing instrument as well as a well-built tamper. It is surprisingly much lighter in weight than it appears; both tampers tip the scale at .635 ounces or 18 grams. They both have a length of 5 1/8th inches or 13.0175 centimeters which is the standard length of most pens. The PenTamp works great as both a tamper and a pen and obviously we both are already using both ways. As a pen it writes with a fine line and flows smoothly. As a tamper it fits most bowls and is weighted enough to lightly tamp a bowl as you smoke it. We cannot recommend Eric’s workmanship highly enough. Contact Eric Archer through PSU to order one of your own.

I received an email from a friend and reader of this blog after posting this and he sent me pictures of a special pentamper Eric made for him as well. It is designed specifically for those with arthritis in their hands and fingers. This is a great piece of work. Dallas says that it is comfortable in his hands and easily gripped. Thanks Dallas for the additions. I had totally forgotten that you had this one.
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