I have been reading about John’s work of rustication and restoration on pipe forums online for some time now. Recently he came to Pipe Smokers Unlimited and began to post some of his work there. I was taken by the beauty of his restorations and his rustication. He does great work. I decided to write him a note and ask if he would like to share some of his work with us on rebornpipes. What appears below is a piece John has written about his love of the hobby and his methodology for gathering pipes to work on. I thought that a before and after photo of one of John’s rustications would give an idea regarding the caliber of his work.
Welcome to rebornpipes, John it is a pleasure to be able to feature some of your writing and your work. Thank you for taking the time to send this to me.
Before I begin this let me tell you a little about myself, as it relates to the wonderful world of piping. After 40 years of smoking cigarettes, 20 of which were spent trying to find ways to quit smoking cigarettes, with no success, I stumbled into the wonderful world of pipe smoking. I had tried a pipe when I was in my 20’s and just didn’t find it satisfying or convenient. I decided to try it again, at the age of 58 so went to a local tobacco shop, picked up a basket pipe for $20.00, some Sir Walter Raleigh, and never picked up a cigarette again. I was smitten by the entire experience and quickly found myself lusting for more and more pipes.
After shopping on line and major on-line B&Ms I quickly realized that this new found love could get expensive, very quickly. So I turned to eBay, and starting amassing a pretty good size collection, but they were mostly oddball pipes that just caught my fancy and really were not enjoyable smokes. I started looking at higher end pipes on eBay and realized that again, this was going to get expensive. But I had this fascination with collecting pipes, and lacked the resources or desire to spend huge amounts of money. I had been cruising the net and stumbled upon Reborn Pipes and reading about Steve’s work breathing new life into old pipes. So I dove in and bought the few materials that I would need and started using my eBay acquisitions as practice material. In the process I found a new love, pipe restoration and rustification. It has been a fun journey since, and through the help of friends from forums I acquired more and more briar to work on, both mine and theirs, and just kept trying new techniques. There were highs and lows, and thankfully the lows were on my own pipes, and the highs were from seeing the reaction from pipe owners to my work on their pipes.
But alas, things took a turn. Suddenly this hobby of piping has gotten popular again, and with popularity came the inevitable increase in the cost of pipes on eBay. No more could I bid on nicely taken care of, quality briar, and win multiples to feed my new hobby, so activity on the workbench slowed down. Then one day I saw a beat up old pipe on eBay that was ugly, not taken care of, never cleaned, and appeared to have been used as a hammer or golf tee at one time. But it was cheap, no one wanted it due to the condition, and I won it for cheap, cheap. Before that day I would have never looked twice at this monstrosity. I would have immediately dismissed it, as I am sure many did.
Once I got it in the mail I applied the few skills I had learned about pipe rustification and produced a pipe that is now beautiful and serves me well, and will for years. I still buy a lot of pipes on eBay, but I now look for those pipes that appear to be structurally sound, but do not care about their cosmetic appearance. I learned to look past the ugly and envision what it could be with some work. And through this process I have continued to develop my hobby and abilities. I am always looking for new techniques, developing my own, and constantly striving to expand my abilities. And I am still managing to do it for less than I was spending on cigarettes when I was a cig smoker. That makes the wife happy, and therefore I am happy.
So what’s my point? If you are new to the world of pipes, or you wish you could expand your current collection, but just do not have the disposable income to buy those beautiful pipes that you often see, don’t fret, you can still have them. Simply lower your standards when shopping on eBay or in junktique stores. Learn to recognize those pipes that have beauty buried underneath neglect and abuse. Recognize those pipes that fall under “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. They are abundant on eBay and in junktique/antique stores, if you look. I will say however that you need to do some research. Teach yourself what is a desirable make, what is not; what is a good smoker, what may not be. Learn what to watch out for, what to avoid. I never buy pipes on eBay that only have one picture. I want to see both sides, the bowl, inside and the bottom, and the stem and tenon. Learn to recognize burn out, cracks in the shank or bowl, or other stem or briar damage that may be beyond your abilities to fix. If it is just ugly, dirty, dinged up, etc., and it catches your fancy….buy it and bring it back to beauty yourself. We are lucky enough that we have the internet and therefore a world of resources available to us as we develop our hobbies. Dive in my friend, dive in.
Join a forum, or multiple forums. There is a world of experience on those forums just waiting for your question or your plea for help. I have yet to encounter a pipe enthusiast on a forum who would not offer advice or help. There are a lot of us there whose passion is the restoration and/or rustification of pipes. Seek us out. And if you get a pipe that you feel is just beyond your ability to restore, many of us will gladly take care of it for you. I know I would, as working with briar is my passion. All you have to do is ask.
One other shopping technique that I use. I always have a pipe with me. Anytime I am talking with a stranger, outside, at a business, a yard sale, in the park, etc., I pull out the pipe and light it. More times than not it sparks a conversation, and many times you find that you are talking to a gentleman who will say “I used to smoke a pipe…..” but for one reason or another they quit. I will always follow up with “What did you do with your pipes?”, and a lot of times they will reply that they are in a box in the garage. You know where I go from there. I will just say that I have over the span of 1 year been gifted over 30 pipes from ex-pipers as a result of these conversations. Some pipes were beyond help, others were beautiful, and some just needed my attention. Ex-pipers are happy to give them to a fellow piper; you just have to let people know you smoke a pipe. It’s a brotherhood after all.
So happy hunting, happy cleaning/restoring, and happy piping. Now I am going to go hunt for old soldiers on eBay that need some attention.