Daily Archives: April 18, 2014

Restoring an old Harlequin Pipe and Trying to Unravel the Mystery of its Origin


When I saw this old pipe on eBay something about it caught my eye. I could see that it was structurally sound. There were no cracks or significant problems with the bowl or shank. The rim was dirty and the bowl very caked but there did not appear to be any damage to the surface of the rim. The outer edge had been tapped out a few times and showed some minor denting around the bowl. There were some gouges/scratches on the left side of the bowl. It looked as if a sharp instrument had scored the briar. There were some dark stains on the briar that easily could have been burn marks but did not appear to be so from the photos. These stains were on the underside of the shank near the junction of the shank and stem on the left side, on the lower right side of the right side and on the lower left side of the front of the bowl. It looked like stains in the grain rather than burns in the photos so I took a chance on it. The stem looked like it was grey/silver Lucite in the photos and that also intrigued me. The tobacco juices had stained the airway dark. Other than that the stem appeared to be undamaged and would be a pretty easy clean up.
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The stamping on the shank was the mystery to me. I had never heard of Harlequin pipes and this one was clearly stamped Harlequin in block letters over Made in England. I wanted to see what I could find out about the brand so I went to my usual sources of information. I checked in “Who made that Pipe” by Wilczak and Colwell and “Pipes Artisans and Trademarks by Lopes to see if either of them identified the maker. Both books had nothing listed for the brand. I went on the British Trademark site and read through many of the listings for Harlequin and found that the name was used by many companies for things from wallpaper to graphics design. There were lines of greeting cards, children’s toys and clothing all bearing that name. I found nothing listed that hinted that the pipes were a registered name. I posted on several online forums that I frequent to see if anyone had any ideas. Several folks on the forums recalled that Gallaher’s Tobacco Limited in Ireland had made a tobacco for years called Harlequin. I did some research to see if they had made pipes.
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As I dug through various sites on the hunt for information I received some responses on the forums. One person responded that several English tobacco brands also sold pipes – St. Bruno for one did that. Another respondent on Smokers Forums, Chris (flatticus) posted a couple of links to Gallaher’s that confirmed that they had not only made tobacco products but had made pipes or had them made. He included this information:

Ok, so Gallaher’s made at least some pipes into the early 70’s. And according to this link: http://books.google.com/books?id=LAO…20pipe&f=false

They made a Balkan Sobranie pipe. Or at least intended to enough to register the trademark, and along with the trademark for the tobacco itself. Certainly adds a bit of credence to the idea of a tobacco and pipe sharing the same brand name and stamp.

I have included the information cited above from the link to Google books – the Kenya Gazette and have posted it below. In correspondence from E.G. Bunyassi, Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks he clearly states under the heading of Balkan Sobranie that Gallaher’s Limited, a company organized under the laws of the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had made cigarettes, pipe tobacco and pipes.
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I asked on the forum whether anyone knew whether the company made pipes. Chris (flatticus) responded again with the following information:

Interesting question, I don’t honestly know, but Gallaher’s used that trademark for like 70 years, and they were a big, big company. Actually from Northern Ireland, and had the biggest tobacco factory in the world in 1896 in Belfast, didn’t completely disappear until they were bought out by Japan Tobacco in 2007, but before that had a distribution conglomerate with RJ Reynolds for their cigarettes and were pretty gigantic. But they didn’t let the Harlequin mark until at least after 1963, when they last registered it. If I had to guess, they probably let it die after 1969 when American Brands, who I think owns Lucky Strike and similar brands, bought them out. They let the mark expire in 1980, but I see no record of anyone else buying it, and apparently it’s still available.

So, blindly guessing, I’d be surprised if anyone had the guts to use the same mark in a same or similar industry other than Gallaher’s. At least not in Ireland or the Commonwealth. But, that said, I can’t find a record or advertisement suggesting they ever made a pipe. However, I did find this thread, containing a quote from Gallaher himself talking about making pipes as a possible future avenue to address the “aging” nature of pipe smokers. http://christianpipesmokers.net/modu…wtopic&t=24081

Perhaps this was part of the “pipe renaissance” project he was talking about, made to get new pipe smokers interested. I checked harlequin ads, there a few vintage ones out there in images, but none of them referenced a pipe, just the tobacco. But the idea of a free pipe with tobacco, or at least a cheap or, as he put it, “disposable” pipe does seem to fit nicely with his intention there. Any way you slice it, though, it’s a nice bit of mystery to ponder. One of my favorite things about estate pipes, hands down.

In another link there was information on the Gallaher Company. I copied that information and have posted it below. It makes an interesting read in terms of history of this old brand. I have one chunk of Gallaher’s Irish Roll Cake here that is a good strong smoke. I also have some of their other tobaccos in my cellar but sadly it is no more. I think the likelihood is that the Harlequin pipe was made by them and matched the Harlequin Tobacco blend they sold.
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Once the pipe arrived I unpacked it and took it to the work table to begin the clean up. I was surprised that the stem was not grey but in real life almost a light green with heavy black tars in the airway. There were also some tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem that would need to be repaired. The fit of the stem to the shank was snug and smooth. The bowl was badly caked and the rim covered with thick tar. The bowl had some deep gouges that had appeared in the photos on eBay but they were not as deep as I expected. The grain was far better than I expected. Underneath the dark marks, which appear to be ink stains rather than burn marks was some beautiful cross grain and birdseye as well as mixed grain. It would look beautiful when it was cleaned up and refinished. There were several spots on the briar that had large sticky spots of a glue-like substance.
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I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake. It was surprisingly soft and crumbly. I took it back to a very thin cake to form the base for a new cake.
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I set up a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the build up on the rim. It was hard and no matter how hard I scrubbed it, it would not come off. The outer edges of the rim were also damaged from knocking out the bowl after smoking. The light topping would smooth out the edge damage and minimize the effect without changing the look of the bowl.
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I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the ink and sticky build up on the finish. I also decided to remove the finish so I scrubbed it until the majority of the finish was gone.
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I cleaned the stem with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I was able to scrub out the airway and the slot in the button removing the stains. I also scrubbed the end of the tenon to clean out the staining there. I scrubbed the mortise with alcohol and cotton swabs as well until they came out clean. The internals were cleaned and smelled fresh rather than smelling like old aromatic tobacco.

Once it was clean, I tried to steam out the gouges in the bowl but they would not lift. I could have sanded them out but that would have changed the profile of the bowl so I opted on repairing them with super glue and briar dust.
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I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper and then followed that by sanding with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to blend the surface of the fill with the rest of the surrounding bowl. After sanding the fills I sanded the entire bowl with the medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the rest of the finish on the bowl. I carefully worked around the stamping so as not to damage it.
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I used clear superglue to repair the deep tooth marks on the top and bottom sides of the stem near the button. The bottom repair can be seen in the photo below. I later sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and the sanding sponges to blend it into the stem surface.
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I decided to use the contrast stain process I have been working on to highlight the grain on this beautiful pipe. I gave it an under coat of black aniline stain. I used a Delrin tenon for a handle in the shank to be able to turn the bowl while I was staining. I applied the stain, flamed it, applied it and flamed it again until the coverage was even.
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When the stain had dried I sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the surface stain while leaving the grain highlighted with the black. I wiped it down repeatedly with isopropyl alcohol on cotton pads to check and see what the grain was looking like after sanding. This process took far longer than the staining and initial preparation. I sanded and washed, sanded and washed the bowl and shank until the grain stood out against the briar.
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I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit to further remove the black stain that was stubbornly sticking in the angles of the bowl and shank. I then gave the bowl a top coat of oxblood stain. My thinking was that the contrast between the black in the grain and the red in the other portions of the briar would make the grain stand out.
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When the oxblood stain dried I dry sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove some more of the dark stain and make the grain stand out even more. I rubbed the bowl down with olive oil and used it as a medium for the sanding. It worked well to remove the darker areas of the bowl near the shank and along the top edge and rim.
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After sanding I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond to polish the briar and the Lucite stem. I had previously sanded the stem repairs with the sanding sponges to remove the bump of the glue and blend it into the surface. I followed that with sanding the stem with all grits of micromesh from 1500-12000. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and polish it. I finished by buffing the pipe with a clean soft flannel buffing pad. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is cleaned, stained and ready to smoke. I am really pleased with the finished look of the pipe. The yellow mother of pearl looking stem works well with the contrast stain on the bowl.
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A Journey from a Sad Apple to a Handsome Prince


In my antique mall grab bag there was an antique apple shaped pipe with an ornate end cap. It was a mix of brass and silver and had a fascinating look – at least to me. I liked it from the get go. The problem was the damage to the bowl was extensive. It truly was a mess with chunks of briar missing and cracks and crevices on the rim as well as in the upper portion of the bowl. So I looked through some of the bowls I have here to see if I had one that the end cap would fit but none were to be found. Lots of reshaping and changes would have had to be done to make any of the bowls I had work so I revisited the damaged bowl and did a few measurements on it to if I could remove the damage and still have anything left that was worth the work.
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After measuring the bowl I figured that I could convert it from an apple/brandy shape to a prince shape. If you look at most prince shapes you can easily imagine how it would have looked as an apple or a ball shaped pipe. It is not hard to see the prince as a cut down apple. I also looked through my stems and found an older military push stem that would give it a princely look. The end of the stem would need to be turned down slightly to fit in the metal end cap of the shank.
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I decided to start with a conservative approach to the reduction of the height of the bowl and the removal of the damaged briar first. I have learned that it is easy to remove briar but next to impossible to put it back once it has been removed. I set up the topping board and began to turn the bowl into the 220 grit sandpaper to work back the rim. After about ten minutes of work I could see that it would take me all night to hand sand it back to the height I wanted to work with. There had to be a better way to get it close and then finish the topping with the sandpaper and board.
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I decided to use a Dremel to remove most of the damaged briar, carefully working to keep it as close to flat as possible – a trick with a Dremel and a sanding drum but it worked fairly well. I took back all of the damage on ¾ of the bowl rim and left a slight amount on the front ¼. The rim would be thick and I would be able to rework the inner edge to bring it back to round with folded sandpaper.
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I took the bowl back to my worktable and used the topping board to flatten out the rim. The flattened rim is pictured in the photos below. I also used a rasp to trim down the taper of the bit so that it would fit in the metal end cap. The rest of the fine tuning of the stem would be done by hand with sandpaper and small files.
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I sanded the stem taper so that the fit was snug in the shank of the metal end cap and shank. The build on this old pipe was interesting. When I first got it I was able to remove the end cap. The shank had been cut quite short and then flattened so that a stem would sit in the end cap and be pressed against the end of the shank. I worked on the stem to achieve that result so that the stem sat flush against the end of the shank. With the stem fit correctly it was time to do some work on the bowl.
I decided to use some briar dust and super glue to repair some of the deep cuts in the briar. I cleaned out the cuts in the surface of the rim as well as the surface cracks that remained with a dental pick. I wiped down the surface with isopropyl alcohol and scored the areas that would be repaired so that the fill would bond well with the briar. I packed in briar dust with the dental pick and then dripped the super glue into place. I always overfill my patches so that when dry they are not sunken.
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When the patches dried I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper and a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to bring the surface of the patch to the same height and shape as the surrounding briar. This process is kind of like sculpting and once it was done I reshaped the outer edge of the bowl and did some work on the inner edge as well. The photos below show the look of the pipe at this point in the process. The handsome prince is beginning to emerge from the ashes of the old bowl.
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I decided to use a two step staining process to better blend in the fills and repairs to the bowl. They would still be visible but not stand out as the first thing that was noticed when looking at the bowl. I used a black under stain first. I heated the briar with a heat gun to warm it and open out the “pores” in the wood to take the stain well. I applied it heavily, flamed and repeated the process until I had good coverage on the bowl. Once it was dry I sanded the bowl to remove the majority of black stain. It remained in the grain and I left it a bit heavy around the top edge of the bowl and rim. I wanted it to have a shadow like look in those areas.
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I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the final bit of black and the sanding dust that was left behind from my work. I gave it several coats of oxblood stain as a topcoat. My thinking was that the deep red of the oxblood stain would set off the black under stain and provide an interesting contrast look to the finish.
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I buffed the bowl and stem with Red Tripoli and White Diamond to see where things stood in terms of the colour and coverage on the bowl. I took it back to the worktable and sanded it with micromesh pads to smooth out the finish on the bowl. I still needed to do some more work on the rim and the stem at this point but the finish on the bowl was getting to the place where it was looking good.
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I sanded the stem with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratches and smooth out the transition from the part of the stem that sat in the end cap and the remainder of the stem. I followed that by sanding with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil once I had finished the sanding.
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The polish on the stem needed a bit more work to remove some of the scratches that still remained but I left that for the moment and decided to give the stem a slight bend. I set up a heat gun and heated the vulcanite until it was pliable. I bent it over a rolling pin that I use for doing this. I find that I get a more even bend when I use the pin as the base for bending.
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I took it back to the worktable to examine the repair on the front of the bowl more closely and to also do more work on the interior edge of the rim. It was significantly out of round, particularly around the area of the patch I had applied.
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I used a half round wood rasp and folded 220 grit sandpaper to rework the inner edge of the rim. While doing so I also decided to top the bowl some more. I worked on the edge until it was getting more round, restained it to see what it looked like and decided I needed to top the bowl even more to remove more of the damage to the surface of the rim.
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After topping it even more, I sanded it with a fine grit sanding block and then restained the rim yet again. At this point the bowl was looking far better. There was still a slight divot out of the edge of the rim on the front of the bowl. I wanted to rework that area some more before I was finished with the pipe.
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I sanded and shaped the inner edge of the rim some more with folded sandpaper, repaired the fill with a bit of superglue and briar dust, sanded some more to get it to the place shown below. All that remained was to sand the top of the rim and inner edge with micromesh pads to clean up the overall appearance and the bowl was ready to go.
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I sanded the inner edge of the rim with some 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and then carefully dry sanded the top of the rim with micromesh sanding pads 1500-2400 grit. I gave the inside of the bowl a light coat of pipe mud to protect the bowl. I hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush to give it a shine and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to finish. The completed pipe is shown below in the last series of photos.
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The old sad apple had disappeared and was replaced with a handsome prince that still had some life in it. The little prince will now grace my pipe rack and will one day be given in trust to the next pipeman who will carry on enjoying this piece of history.

A Profitable Day – at least for a Pipe Refurbisher who is a Scavenger


Friday I was traveling with my daughter and I talked her into stopping at an Antique Mall that has been a good source of estate pipes for me in the past. We pulled in and it was cold and windy when we got out of the car. We hurried into the shop to get warm again. I was so intent on the hunt that I did not even bother to stop at the lunch counter in the corner of the mall to grab a coffee. I was a man on a mission. I quickly went down the first rows of stalls and found absolutely nothing other than the overpriced tobacco tin from yesteryear. On about the third row of stalls one of the staff asked if she could help me at about the same time I came upon one of the displays where I had found pipes in the past. I looked inside the case as she spoke and then asked her to open the case for me. Inside was a rack of pipes – the usual fare and nothing initially that caught my interest. Then the last pipe in the rack called out to me.

It was an old tan rusticated opera pipe. I took it from the rack and looked it over, turning it over in my hands I saw that the stamping was faint and hard to read. In the light of the shop all I could see was Made in London England and the faint stamping toward the front of the bowl that read “____________ Imperial” in script. I had no idea of the maker but decided this one was going home with me. The price was about $20 but it would clean up nicely. The staff asked if I collected old pipes and what I did with them. I explained to her that it was a hobby – I both smoked them and repaired them. I asked if she had any others that might interest me.

She nodded and said she thought she had something toward the back of the shop. I always take those words with a grain of salt until I actually see what she has. I have gotten excited only to have the hopes dashed when I find a chewed up bunch of old basket pipes. But in this case she came back with a Ziplock bag stapled shut but full of pipe parts – bowls, stems, bands, cigar holders. A cursory look told me that there were at least 12-15 pipe bowls in the bag. The stems, bands and all were a bonus. It also looked like none of the stems fit the bowls in the bag so it was truly a grab bag. The price tag was a healthy $45 which is more than I usually like to pay for pipe parts but I decided to add that to the lot.

The staff took the bag and the opera pipe to the front of the store and I continued on the hunt through the rest of the shop. I purposefully wandered down several other aisles and found Chinese made knock off pipes covered in a thick lacquer, chewed up Dr. Grabows and other pipe racks and interesting pieces of tobacciana but nothing caught my eye until the end of one aisle about mid store. There was a glass display case with a batch of pipes that looked interesting. There on top of the display case, outside of the locked case was a little bulldog. I picked it up and turned it over in my hands. It was a GBD bulldog. The stem was in good shape. The bowl was okay with a slight blackening on one side. Upon examination it appeared to be a stain rather than a burn mark or an impending burnout. The stamping said that it was a New Standard. The price tag said the seller wanted $18 for it so I held on to it and went to get the staff person to open the case. Nothing else in the case caught my attention so I thanked her, she took the pipe and I moved on through the shop.

I finished my examination of the bottom floor and went upstairs to see if anything else could be found there. Sadly my luck had ended and there was nothing else that warranted more than a cursory look through the glass of the locked case. I came down the back stairway and looked a couple of other pipes in a case near the front of the shop. I had the clerk at the register open one of the cases for me and had a look at a couple of the pipes there and an old tin of Edgeworth that looked promising. It turned out to be empty so I went and found my daughter and we cashed out with our purchases.

When I got to our room at the place we were staying I took the bag out, opened it and emptied it on the table. I like to examine each piece I find and write down a quick inventory of what was there. In this case I looked over each pipe under the light of the overhead lamp. I wish I had brought along my jewelers loop to be able to look at the stampings with a magnifier but I had not. So as I picked through the parts I wrote down what was in the $45 grab bag. The list below gives my field inventory of the pipes.
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1. CPF calabash that needs a stem and meer cup. The silver band was loose but bore the CPF stamp in the silver. The threaded tenon was bone and it was loose enough to unscrew. This one would clean up nicely once I ordered a meerschaum cup from Tim West.

2. Medico sand blast apple with a chewed stem. This stem was nylon and had a metal tenon. There were bite throughs on both the top and the bottom of the stem.

3. Older silver shank apple that really interested me. The shank end cap was ornate and a combination of silver and brass coloured bands. It was ornate and led me to believe that it had some age on it. There was no stem in the bag that fit. The end cap was loose. The bowl was in rough shape with major chunks of briar missing on the rim and some cracks in the top part of the bowl.

4. Old Pal French made Canadian that had the wrong stem jammed in the shank. The stem was as long as the whole pipe. The shank had been cracked by the wrong stem so it would need to be banded and a Canadian stem fit on the shank.

5. Planter opera with a silver band. It had hallmarks that I would have to look at when I got home. The band was loose and there was no stem on the pipe but it had some good-looking grain on the bowl and would clean up nicely.

6. Bent billiard with faint stamping in two lines. The initial letters of the first line were BAR over a second line that was stamped Imported Briar. I would need a loop to read the rest of the first line of stamping. This old bowl also needed a new stem and would take time to bring back to life. It had an aluminum insert in the shank and took a threaded tenon.

7. Imported briar bulldog with a metal tenon inserted into the shank. It came with a very thin and misfit stem so it would need a new stem. There was nothing remarkable about this pipe but it would clean up nicely.

8. Acorn shaped bowl that needed a stem. Again there was nothing remarkable about the pipe.

9. Medico prince/Rhodesian that was a good-looking piece of briar. It needed a stem and I was pretty sure that I had one that would fit the bill at home. It even had the M in the circle Medico logo stamped on the stem.

10. Royalton Smoke Control apple shaped pipe that had a patent number and some interesting grain. It had an aluminum apparatus in the shank that was patented. There was no stem on this one and it would be interesting to research what the original stem would have looked like. This one would be a good pipe mystery to search out.

11. Bentley Dublin that needed a stem. It had an aluminum insert and would take a metal threaded tenon on the stem. The finish was gone and the briar was clean. It looked like it potentially had some interesting grain on the bowl.

12. Willard Dublin with a metal band that was original. It needed a stem but would take a push stem as opposed to a threaded tenon. The finish on this one was not too bad and it would clean up nicely.

13. Weber _________ Junior in a bull moose shape that was intriguing. It was a chubby shanked bowl that had some amazing mixed grain. It would need a stem but would clean up nicely. There were some surface cracks in the flat surface of the rim that did not go to deep.

14. Maple bowl with a peg at the bottom that would sit into the shank of the original pipe. I had a walnut barrel pipe that my daughter had found at an antique shop in Vancouver and gifted me. It did not have a bowl but this one might just work on that piece. I would have to check it out when I got home.

15. MacArthur corn cob that needs a stem and shank to make it complete. I believe these are available to order from Missouri Meerschaum and it can be repaired to new condition. It was unsmoked and very clean.

16. Handful of stems with a variety of stampings – none of which matched the bowls in the lot. There was a silver band with hallmarks that did not come off of the bowls either. It was in good shape and would join my other bands. There was a tiny bowl made of maple with a shank and stem sitting loose in the bag. Finally there were two cigar holders – one looked old and appeared to be made of Bakelite while the other was newer and clearly plastic.

After looking over the inventory of the bag of pipe parts I was pretty happy with the $45 cost of the grab bag. There were a lot of bowls that would clean up nicely and the stems, bands and sundry parts would certainly go into my parts bins and be incorporated in future pipe repairs. I separated the gourd calabash from the lot and bagged it separately as well as the stems and other parts. I put the bowls back in the bag and then put the bags of stems and parts in as well. I could not wait to get home and begin to work on them. These would be fun to restore and held a lot of lessons that could be learned from their restoration.