Finding this old pipe comes with a tale that is just too good not to tell. I have written it up here for your reading and also to help me remember the tale.
Yesterday I paid a visit to the Vancouver Flea Market to see if I could add any more pipes to my stock of pipes to refurbish. I generally have had some good luck there picking up older pipes at a good price. There is one seller at the market that has some pipes that have always caught my eye but her prices have been unreasonable. She would not negotiate on prices at all so I generally walked away from her and bought from other sellers. However, this time I decided to play a bit of her game. I looked at the various pipes and asked her prices. She walked away so I did as well. I made a loop around the market and then came back to her. She had a twinkle in her eye when I came back and she asked, “Are you serious to buy or do you just look?” I laughed and said, “That my dear lady depends solely upon you!” Again she had that same look and she responded, “Which pipe are you wanting?” I started with the one furthest away from the one I wanted and asked her price. It was a Savinelli Autograph in very nice shape. She took it from the case and waxed eloquent about its beauty. Now I knew her price was based on how beautiful the pipe was to her. She spoke of how her father had smoked a pipe in the old country and she had prepared his tobacco for him. She got a faraway look in her eye.
That did not last long and she was back to business. “You want it?” she asked. I asked her price which was far more than I was willing to pay. So I moved her on to the other pipes in her display case. These she said were less beautiful and were priced accordingly. I carefully went over each pipe talking about how I restore them to their original beauty because I was a pipeman. I loved pipes and everything about them. I enjoyed the process of restoration. She was hooked! I finally got around to the pipe that I had had my eye one for quite a while over the past trips I have made to the market. I asked her the price. She replied that it was $49 but the other one she had shown was way better. She said I should not wait and think too long as opportunities move quickly in our world and who knew if it would be there the next time I came back.
While she spoke I checked out the pipe I wanted. It was stamped on the bottom of its triangular shank, Craft in a Germanic Script and next to that Briar. Stamped above Briar was the number 386. It had an unusual rustication patter on it, a smooth rim and smooth lines on the edges of the triangular shank, the end of the shank and around the rounded bowl bottom. The bottom of the shank was smooth as well. The stem was clean and well fit, with slight oxidation around the shank. There were deep tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem. The bowl was quite clean with a slight cake and the rim was relatively clean as well – a little tarry buildup at the back of the rim. There was no charring or burning. All of this was taken in while she waxed on about taking every opportunity to by the Savinelli.
When she paused for a breath I asked her the price on the pipe in my hands, knowing full well that there was a price tag on the underside of the stem. Without missing a beat she said, “You want that one? I will make a deal”. Ah, now I knew I could make an offer for the pipe. Too low an offer and she would be insulted but too little a variation from her price would insult her. What to do. I quickly came to a price in my mind and spoke it out, “I will pay you $40 cash right now. No tax and no more for this pipe of less beauty than the one you love so much.” She smiled and nodded her head. “We have a deal,” she said and held out her hand for the cash. I was ready and had two brand new $20’s in hand and laid them on her upturned palm. She smiled and told me to enjoy the new pipe but to not let the beautiful one pass without taking it home too.
I walked away and went to the coffee shop. I sipped a coffee while I did a bit of searching on the web regarding the Craft brand of pipes. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory it was a familiar name to me. The “o” logo on the stem looked familiar as well. I had a hunch the pipe was made by Julius Vesz, a Toronto pipemaker selling out of the York Hotel. I found a notation on the web that confirmed that the pipe was made in Toronto and sold out of a shop at the York Hotel. The address given on the site matched Vesz’ shop there. I was fairly certain that my hunch was correct. Another site stated that the Craft Briar Pipe Company’s principal was Julius Vesz. The identity of the carver was certified by the web.
I still wanted to take one further step in confirming that the pipe did indeed come from Julius Vesz. I googled his website and sent an email via the website to the webmaster. I also emailed him directly from the contact information given on the site. Here is the web address should you want to check out some of his pipes: http://www.juliusvesz.ca/
I have included our correspondence about the pipe in full below.
On Dec 29, 2013, at 6:44 PM, Steve Laug wrote:
Good evening Mr. Vesz
I came across a pipe that I believe came from your shop if my research is correct. It is stamped Craft Briar and 3B6 and has a white o on the triangular stem. I was wondering if you could confirm that it is indeed one of your pipes. I have several of yours and thoroughly enjoy them and was caught by the “o” logo on the stem and the great shape of this one. Thank you for your time.
On Dec 30, 2013 Rob Vesz wrote:
This is Rob Vesz, Julius’ son replying. I take care of my father’s email and website. Thanks for your message and kind words.
Yes, Craft is the name Julius stamped on his very early pipes. It is in fact still the name of his company, but he operates under “Julius Vesz”. That pipe would be around 50 years old. My father stopped stamping Craft around the mid 1960’s.
It would be interesting to see a photo if you don’t mind emailing one.
There is was – the web confirmation was confirmed by Rob Vesz that the pipe was indeed crafted by Julius Vesz and gave a date when the stamping on the pipes changed from Craft Briar in the mid 1960’s. I wrote back to Rob and sent the requested photos of the pipe and asked for clarification on the number stamp on the shank of the pipe. I wondered if it was not a date stamp. Below is that correspondence.
On Dec 30, 2013, at 12:37 PM, Steve Laug wrote:
Thank you for your prompt reply. I appreciate the information. I am in the process of restoring the pipe now. Soon I will write it up for the rebornpipes blog – a blog I run for refurbishing of pipes.
I have attached three photos of the pipe. It is in pretty good shape other than some deep bite marks on the stem, top and bottom near the button.
One more question – can you interpret the stamping for me? The number on it is 386 – does that give me date information?
On Dec 30, 2013 Rob Vesz wrote:
The 386 should be a style # that my father used. Will speak to him to see if he has any further thoughts on that.
Below are three more photos of the pipe showing what it looked like when I brought it home to refurbish.
I took several photos of the end of the stem to show the tooth mark damage that was present. It truly was the only thing wrong with this pipe. The first photo shows the underside of the stem but does not show the size or the depth of the bite mark at the top of the photo.
I heated the stem with a heat gun to try to lift the tooth marks. The ones on the top of the stem lifted almost to the surface and a little sanding took care of the remnants there (Photos 1 and 2 below). The ones on the underside were deeper. Two of them lifted to the surface and with sanding disappeared. The one on the left side of Photo 3 was very deep and the surface of the vulcanite was broken so that it did not lift. It left a pit in the surface of the stem. I picked it clean with a dental pick.
I wiped the sanded area of the stem down with Everclear on a cotton pad to clean the surface before using black superglue to repair the deepest bite mark and to also fix a small one to the right of it. The next two photos below show the drops of superglue on the surface of the stem. I set the stem aside for the glue to cure and went on to clean the bowl and rim.
I scrubbed the tars on the rim with saliva on a cotton pad until they were gone. The photo below shows some of the buildup still remaining that took a bit more elbow grease to remove. I also wiped down the rest of the bowl with a damp cotton pad to remove grime and dust.
I cleaned out the shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and Everclear to remove tars and oils left behind by smoking. I reinserted the stem in the shank and set the pipe down to continue to dry. There were two small marks left behind after I had sanded the top of the stem so I used the black superglue on them as well and set the pipe to rest on a dental pick while the glue on both sides of the stem dried.
Once it was dry I sanded the excess with 220 grit sandpaper, a medium grit sanding sponge and then micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. After sanding with each group of three grits I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and went on to sand with the next group of three.
When I had completed the sanding with the micromesh pads I wiped the stem down a final time with the oil and then buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond on the buffing wheel. I completed the refurbishing with repeated coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel applied to the stem and Halcyon II wax hand applied to the bowl. I buffed the bowl and stem with a clean soft flannel buff for a final shine. It is nice to have a bit of history on an old pipe. The added story of the purchase is something that adds colour to the pipe and makes it unique in my collection.
I received an email from Rob on New Years afternoon giving some more detail on the date and stamping of the pipe. I include Rob’s note in full.
Hello Steve. Happy New Year!
I spoke to my father and have some more information for you. The “386” represents two things. The “3” is the price category. At that time Julius had 1 through 6 for pricing. Your pipe would have been in the middle. The “86” represents the style. I asked my father about the style associated with that number WITHOUT showing him the photos. He was able to describe it in detail, triangular shank/stem and all. He hasn’t made an “86” in a long time. It was his own custom shape. It looks somewhat like “poker” to me. Also, some other interesting bits of trivia- typically the “3” would would have been within a circle (ie- his pipes have been known as Circle 3’s, Circle 4’s etc., and continue to be known as such based on price). Your pipe is very old. Julius only made 200-300 “Craft” stamped pipes. Those that didn’t have circle around price number are even fewer and older. For awhile he didn’t have a circular stamp and that’s where yours fits in. So, you have a real gem and rarity! It looks great in the pictures. My father doesn’t use a computer, so next time I see him I’ll be sure to show him on my iPhone or iPad. He will enjoy seeing it and be glad that it’s in the hands of someone who appreciates it!
Hope this information had been helpful.