Monthly Archives: April 2015

Using Charcoal & Cyanoacrylate glue to do a Stem Repair on a Dr. Grabow Starfire Churchwarden

Blog by Joe Mansueto -“JoeMan” (Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum)

Joe sent me the following email and an attached link for the article that follows. He has done some excellent work and I have followed it on Pipe Smokers Forums and also on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. It is a pleasure to be able to post his work here on rebornpipes. Welcome and thank you Joe.

“Steve – I’ve looked in on your blog a number of times. Thanks for posting some really good information, and featuring the work of other guys in the field. One of the things I learned here which I had not done before was the use of Plaster of Paris to mend cracked / broken meer-lined bowls. That was helpful…and I think that was one of your own posts. I’d been looking for a better solution…thanks.”

“I’m not looking to get published so much as I’m happy to help other guys with refurb processes. I learned a LOT of things from others who’ve been at it for many years more than I, and have also developed a few of my own techniques…as I’m sure most of us have! Cleaning out gunk…refitting a stem…rusticating….topping a bowl…staining…refinishing…de-oxidizing stems…repairing chips…etc…these are all things I do on a regular basis. Recently, I took my hand to making pipes, and made 2 of them during a stay-home vacation…came out pretty good! But, I see myself primarily as a refurb guy…I really enjoy making an old broken-down relic of a pipe gleam again. If I were to count, I suppose I’ve refurbished most of a thousand pipes over the last 4 years. No…I don’t have 1,000 pipes…most have gone to others by way of sale, trade or gift. I suppose I do have 200 pipes in my collection however.”

“One of the things that most refurb guys seem to struggle with most is chewed / eaten stems. Those nasty tooth indentations…or worse yet…missing chunks from the button. I’ve heard of guys using super-glue, heat, JB Weld, vulcanite dust & glue, and other mad-scientist approaches. There are many good approaches to repairing a stem. The most effective approach I’ve personally found is Cyanoacrylate and activated charcoal. Ed James (AKA Ozark Southpaw online) is just about the best talent I’ve seen in all-things pipes. He too learned from others over many years, but what an innovator this gentleman is. I visited his shop when I was on the road over 2 years ago, and I’ve learned a lot from him. One of his own experiments a few years ago was mixing CA with activated charcoal and comparing the result with other repairs. It was a great discovery, and at the time he did it and shared it on the forum, I’d not seen anyone else doing it that way. I’m not saying it’s the ‘best method’…because you know how some pipe guys can get into struggles over their method being best…but I’ve personally not seen anything more successful. Ed James has not done too many of these CA/charcoal repairs himself…but once he discovered, tested and shared it, I took it and ran with it. Do with this info as you please or nothing at all…but here is one example of the process…”

“At the time of that Starfire churchwarden refurb, I had done a couple hundred stem repairs. Since the time of that refurb, I’ve surely done a couple hundred more, and have tweaked my own process here and there. I’ve done some of these repairs on pipes for myself, but more for pipes which I’ve then sold, as well as others who bring them to me. This one served as a good example, since it was one of the worst cases that I documented. Most of those I’ve done, I’ve not documented at all.” – Joe Mansueto “JoeMan” (Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum)

Here is Joe’s blog:

Just recently got this pipe from Sam (DG forum name SamCoffeeMan – hasn’t been here in a while) along with the Grabow Unique. When I expressed interest in it…Sam said that he’d “cut off 1/2” of the stem, and file out a new button. I said…nnnooooo…leave it original and I’ll fix it.

I am sure the stem is original to the pipe. The stem is identical to the stem on my Linkman Grabow 6033, it is perfectly registered, and the wire carving is that of an ‘early’ Starfire, as you’ll see below. That said, this was surely among the last of the churchwardens to leave the Grabow factory.
Joe1 The previous owner should have had a sandwich instead of smoking this pipe…Joe2

Joe3 This can be fixed!

Bleach soak first, then an isopropyl alcohol scrub of the surgery site to assure the CA will stick best.

The form I used is 2 thicknesses of cereal box cardboard, cut to the shape of the tapered slot opening, wrapped in shiny packing tape. Since both sides of the button were nearly identically eaten, there was nothing to keep the form properly seated. So, I taped the form to a pipe cleaner and pulled it into place as tight as I could, then centered it top to bottom…if that makes sense.Joe4 CA mixed with activated charcoal, applied in multiple layers…Joe6

Joe7 Using a needle file to shape between layers…Joe7 Just about done shaping, ready for multiple-stage wet sanding…Joe8 Buffing…done.Joe9

Joe10 Some of you will know which shape number this medium billiard would be. Bowl height is nearly 1 3/4″, ID is 3/4. Overall length is 11 3/4″.Joe11 This is an older Starfire for sure. It’s got the very deep wire carving which is continuous over the entire pipe as I believe Tom pointed out about Belvedere.Joe12

Joe13 This was originally posted on The Dr. Grabows Collectors Forum. Here is the link:

A Hand Made Marvic & Purdy Billiard 15

Blog by Troy Wilburn

A short time back I was doing one of my favorite past times and that’s scanning for pipes on eBay. I spotted this Charatan and was just infatuated with it. The shape, style and blast just really drew my attention but I knew that it was beyond my budget.Blast1 So I got the idea to contact a friend of mine on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum, Gary Balestrieri Jr. Gary is a truck driver and a pipe carver who owns Marvic Pipes. I asked him if he could carve me a pipe based on that Charatan but unfinished. I suggested a narrow yellow acrylic band instead of a metal band as the only major change. To my happiness he agreed.

I then contacted another friend of mine from the forum, Carl Purdy, who does some fine sand blast work on pipes. I have posted some of his work before on here on the Jobey Lumberman I restored and he sandblasted.

With both on board to do the work for me, it was agreed that the pipe would be mailed to Carl after Gary carved it and then mailed to me and I would put the finish on it.

Well I got it in the mail last Saturday and I must say that I was giddy at such nice work they both did on this pipe for me. Gary nailed the shape and Carl did a masterful job on the blast. I’m very proud of both of them and honored to own this pipe now. I now have a pipe that to me is a 100 times better than that Charatan and it cost me half the price that pipe sold for. It was made with care by two friends and I consider that the most important aspect of his pipe.

This is what the pipe looked like when it arrived in the mail.Blast2



Blast5 I was expecting just a plain yellow band on the stem but Gary used some kind of acrylic that changes from black to yellow. It was an unexpected and nice touch.

I was just going to stain the pipe a plain jet black, but after seeing the blast I decided to see if I could do a kind of Dunhill Shell look to make it more interesting and high end looking. The first thing I did was carve a holder out of a corn dog stick – nothing but the best high end equipment on my kitchen table you know. Then I wiped it down with 91% alcohol to make sure that there were no contaminants on the briar. I also rubbed the bowl with a Scotch Brite pad to soften the sharp edges on the blast.Blast6 I then did some contrast staining on the stamping using a black sharpie as I wanted the stampings to stand out. I was also glad to see both Gary and Carl’s name stamped on the pipe. That was another very nice touch.Blast7 Then I wet sanded the smooth area with very lightly using 91% alcohol.Blast8 Then to make sure that the dye would not penetrate too deeply and turn the whole smooth area black I took mineral oil and painted it on with a Q tip.Blast9 I mixed up some black RIT dye and applied several coats to the bowl until it suited me.Blast10 I set the pipe to dry in my high tech drying rack disguised as a cardboard box.Blast11 I wiped down the bowl with mineral oil and checked over the colour. It looked good. Now it was ready for some wax.Blast12 I buffed it kind of heavy on the first coat to take some color off and to get that shell look to the briar. On a sandblasted pipe after several initial coats of wax I heat it over my stove to melt the wax into all the crevices. Then I buff it with a few more coats and repeat the process until it builds up to my liking.Blast13 Here is the pipe after a couple of hours of buffing and waxing.Blast14








Blast22 The pipe is a fantastic smoker and already after only a couple of ounces or so of tobacco smoked through it is beginning to break in. The draw is very easy and butter smooth. The pipe almost seems to smoke itself. I can only imagine how it will smoke after several more ounces are smoked through it.

Gary did perfection on the mechanics of the pipe and Carl put a world class looking blast on it. I couldn’t have asked for a better pipe. It turned out beyond my expectations. This will always be a cherished pipe to me. I have to add that the pictures just do not do it justice.

A Review – Two Pipes by Jack Howell: An Acorn and a Lovat/Nosewarmer

A Blog by Steve Laug

Jack Howell Pipes LogoI first saw Jack’s pipes on Smoker’s Forums many years ago now and had to have one of them. The shape that captured my interest was his sand blasted acorn shape. He had posted several of those and others on the forums had picked them up. I believe that it occurred in late 2007 or early 2008 because I do know that it happened in conjunction with the first Chicago Pipe Show that I attended. I spoke with Jack early in the New Year about crafting me an acorn shaped pipe. He gladly made one with a beautiful sandblast finish with contrasting stains. There was a faux ivory (at least I think it is) shank ring and faux horn extension on the stem itself. The stem was vulcanite and had an integral tenon. Jack sent me the photo below of the finished pipe. I was stunned by the beauty of the pipe and we sealed the deal. Jack would bring it with him to the Chicago Show and we would connect and finish the deal. Needless to say I could hardly wait to have the pipe in hand.Jack1 Chicago soon came and I met Jack in the lobby of the Pheasant Run Resort and we did the deal. He gave me the pipe and I paid immediately via Paypal so as not to cut into my show budget. It was one beautiful pipe. I commissioned this pipe from Jack knowing full well that it would be magnificent and he did not let me down. The pipe was everything I had hoped for and more. Its length of is 4.75 inches and the bowl height is 2.25 inches. The bowl diameter is 1.5 inches. The chamber diameter is .75 inches and depth is 1 1/8 inches. It sports a hand cut vulcanite stem with a built on extension of faux horn. The pipe is acorn shaped with a ¼ bent stem that fits well in the hand. The shank is shaped round, though larger at the mortise end than next to the bowl. It has a slight curve from the end of the shank to the bowl. It is stamped on the underside of the shank Howell over JH over 2008 in a round smooth spot. The bowl is acorn shaped with a definite point on the bottom that hangs below the shank. The rim is smooth in contrast to the sandblast finish of the bowl. It is slightly beveled inward. It has band of faux ivory at the shank end that sits against the horn when the stem is in place.Jack2The finish on the outside of the pipe is a sandblast that is visually very pleasing. It is a craggy blast that is not too deep a blast but highlights the ring grain on the sides, front and back of the bowl and on the sides of the shank. On the bottom of the bowl and shank is a beautiful sandblasted birdseye that highlights the pattern of the grain. The rim is finished smooth showing the birdseye grain in the surface. There is a very tactile feel to the sandblast on the bowl and shank that feels great as the bowl warms during a smoke.Jack3 The bowl is stained with a dark brown or black under stain that goes deep into the grooves of the blast and highlights the deeper parts of the blast and the rings and whorls on the birdseye. The higher parts of the blast are stained with a reddish coloured medium brown stain that is a perfect contrast and adds depth to the finish. In contrast to the bowl and shank Jack cut a black acrylic stem that combined with the translucent horn extension and ivory band make an elegant looking finished pipe. The blacks/dark brown stain on the sandblast also provides contrasting highlights to the total package of the pipe. Jack did a great job on the stain and finish of the pipe.Jack4 The stem itself very nicely worked. It is an vulcanite stem that is cut at slightly less of a flared angle than the shank. The faux horn band on the stem works as a shank extension. The vulcanite is made to look as if it is inserted into the horn cap but in reality is attached to it. The combination of black and horn gives the stem a formal and stately look. Jack did an amazing job shaping the stem. The short blade of the stem is thin and has a good even tapered flow from the saddle to the button. It is matched in terms of angles on the top and the bottom and on the left and right side of the stem. The design along with the slight bend makes it fit very comfortably in the mouth. It also rests well enough that it can be clenched quite easily. The tenon has been cut from the vulcanite and is integral to the stem and is the same length as the mortise. The fit is snug. The end of the tenon has been rounded and funnelled for good airflow.Jack5 The button is very thin in width but is elevated above the surface of the stem so that it gives a good edge for holding behind the teeth. It is thinner on the edges with a gentle rise at the centre top and bottom. The slot in the end of the button is inward at the same angles as the exterior of the stem to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. It is also open and rectangular with the same distance from the outer edge of the button to the inner edge of the slot all the way around.Jack6 The mechanics of the pipe are well done. The bowl chamber came without a bowl coating and the briar was smooth and had no flaws of pits. The bowl is drilled straight into the acorn shape and rather than having a rounded or U shaped bottom has a V or conical bowl. Jack did a great job with that alignment. The draught hole is centered at the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight slope from the bottom to the top of the airhole. There is a very easy and open draw to the pipe. The fit of the stem in the inset shank extension is smooth and tight. The tenon sits deep in the mortise – if not exactly the same length then impressively close! The fit of the tenon is also smooth. The drilling of the draught in the shank is centered in the end of the mortise. The tenon on the stem is drilled to match it and there is no misalignment to the two. The air pulls clearly through the pipe with no whistling at all. Using a light to shine through the various airways reveals smoothly executed airways on the inside. Very nice work on the drilling, it is extremely well executed.

I have been smoking it since I received it in 2008. I started smoking some McCranies Red Virginia Flake at the Chicago Show and have continued smoking Virginia tobacco in it. I have smoked Virginia flake and broken flake tobaccos in it and it packs easily and stays lit. Smoking it is a pleasure and is uncomplicated and effortless. I have been pleased with it from the start as it has always smoked smooth with none of the new pipe break in woes. Thanks Jack for a well-made pipe that smokes as good as it looks! I am not sure you remember making this one for me but it has become one of my favourites.

With that great experience with one of Jack’s pipes when I saw the little Howell Lovat/ Nosewarmer come up for sale on the Smokers Forum Classifieds I immediately sent a private message to the seller and added it to my rack. The first four photos below are the ones that the seller posted to advertise the pipe. It is a short pipe with a thick shank and a large bowl. The stem is stubby. The smooth finish highlights the grain and the faux ivory band is identical to the one on the Howell Acorn above.Jack7



Jack10 I paid for it and when it arrived I found that it was far more rich and beautiful than the pictures had shown. Having already been introduced to the magic of Jack’s pipes I knew that this one would also be a great smoker and it had the benefit of being well broken in by the seller. He had smoked Virginias in it so that would be an easy transition for me. I was a little suspect of the short stubby stem and would have to see how it smoked. It certainly would be a pipe to smoke while sitting and contemplating and not a clencher. Its length of is 5 inches and the bowl height is 2 inches. The bowl diameter is 1.5 inches. The chamber diameter is 7/8 inches and depth is 1 1/2 inches. It sports a hand cut acrylic stem. The pipe is a short Lovat shape with a stubby straight stem. It sits nicely in the hand. The shank is round and quite thick, almost 7/8 inches in diameter. It is stamped on the underside of the shank identically with the Acorn. It reads Howell in an arch over JH over 2008. The bowl is quite large – a full sized bowl. The rim is smooth and is slightly bevelled inward. It has band of faux ivory at the shank end that sits against the acrylic stem.Jack11 The finish of the pipe is smooth with a contrast stain that highlights straight and flame grain on the bowl and the shank. It is visually very pleasing. The grain is mixed flame and straight grain all the way around the sides of the bowl and the shank. On the top and the bottom of the bowl and shank is a beautiful tight birdseye grain pattern that has a slight flare of flame grain at the shank end and curving up the sides. The beveled rim also shows the birdseye grain. The bowl is quite thick but warms nicely when smoked and radiates a nice heat to the hand during a smoke.Jack12The bowl is stained with a dark brown or black under stain that makes the grain patterns of the straight, flame and birdseye stand out. There seems to also be rich medium brown stain that is a perfect contrast and adds depth to the finish. In contrast to the bowl and shank Jack cut a vulcanite stem that combined with the ivory band makes an elegant looking finished pipe. The blacks/dark brown stain brings out the grain and makes it stand out against the top coat. Jack did another great job on the stain and finish of the pipe.Jack13 The short stubby stem took a bit of getting used to. At first it was not very comfortable and I wondered if I would ever get used to it. It did not sit very deep in the mouth. With my teeth on the button the saddle of the stem sits against my lips. I don’t know if you can picture the way the pipe sits from my description but I hope you get the picture. This pipe was made to be held in the hand not in the mouth. The button itself is very thin in width but is elevated enough that it gives a good edge for holding behind the teeth. It is thinner on the edges with a short, quick rise at the centre top and bottom that ends abruptly at the round short saddle. The slot in the end of the button tapers inward in a V shaped funnel to meet the airway. It delivers a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. The slot is open and rectangular with the same distance from the outer edge of the button to the inner edge of the slot all the way around.Jack14 The mechanics of this pipe are also well done. The bowl chamber came to me already smoked and well broken it. The bowl is rounded or U shaped with the walls descending straight to the curved bottom of the bowl. The draught hole is centered at the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight slope from the bottom to the top of the hole. There is a very easy and open draw to the pipe. The fit of the stem in the inset shank extension is smooth and tight. The tenon sits deep in the mortise and is the same length as the mortise. The tenon fits smoothly in the mortise and tightly against the end of the shank. The drilling of the draught in the shank is centered in the end of the mortise. The tenon on the stem aligns with the airway in the end of the mortise. The air pulls clearly through the pipe with no whistling at all. Using a light to shine through the airway in the stem and the shank reveals smooth and polished airways. The drilling and alignment are spot on. Well done once again Jack.Jack15 I have been smoking it since I received it in the fall of 2008. The pipe had been broken in on straight Virginias so I have continued smoking Virginia tobacco in it. It seems to love McClelland Virginias and delivers a rich and flavourful smoke every time. I have smoked both flake and ribbon Virginias in it and it smokes both very well. I have to say that the shape and style of the stem on this one does not make smoking it as much of a pleasure as shape and style of the acorn does. It is not as comfortable and because it tends to be a pipe to smoke when sitting and reading I do not pick it up nearly as often as I do my other Howell. But the grain and the shape in the hand bring me back to it again and again when I want to just sit and relax or think.

Both of my Howell pipes equally deliver a great, flavourful smoke. I would not trade them for another pipe but will continue to enjoy them in my rotation. I think if you have not tried one of Jack’s pipes you owe yourself a gift of one of them. I can only say that if it smokes like my first acorn it will not be the last one you purchase. His website is and he responds quite quickly to email requests. Now it is time to load a bowl of some aged 5100 in the Acorn and enjoy a bowl before I call it a night.

A Review – Jan Pietenpauw Rhodesian – The 2010 PipeChat Pipe of the Year

Blog by Steve Laug

StampJan Pietenpauw pipes are made by Jean du Toit and his son in Pretoria, South Africa. In 2009 and 2010 I was regularly online at the PipeChat forum. Jean was a regular there as well. When the 2010 Pipe of Year was being discussed Jean was asked to make the pipe for the forum. He consented and I followed the process with much interest. The shape chosen was Jean’s take on a Rhodesian. He combined both smooth and sandblasted finishes on the pipe. The stem material was Cumberland and there was a shank extension that was applied like a ring to the end of the shank. Jean used Delrin tenons inserted in the Cumberland stem. When Jean posted pictures of the shape and the finished pipes I had to have one and placed my order promptly.PipeChatPOY I am fairly certain that quite a few of you have not heard of either Jan Pietenpauw Pipes or of the carver, Jean du Toit. I have now had the pipe for over five years and have been smoking it regularly. It is a good smoking pipe. I remember that when I received it I wanted another but somehow time went by and I have only one in my collection at present. It was reasonably priced and promptly delivered. If you can get one of Jean’s his pipes I don’t think you will be disappointed. His work can be seen on his website at:

When the pipe arrived in the mail from South Africa I opened the package and took out the handmade pipe glove that the pipe was placed in for protection and storage. I was amazed at its beauty. The contrasting colours, the combination of blast and smooth finish, the stepped down Cumberland stem were quite stunning. As I held it in my hand I could not believe how light it was. The length of the pipe is 5.5 inches. The chamber diameter is .75 inches the chamber depth is 1.25 inches. It is comfortable to hold in the hand and in the mouth.Jan3

Jan2 The pipe has a mixed finish. The Rhodesian top cap is smooth and the bowl and shank are sandblasted. The stain on the cap and a thin ring on the end of the shank is a light/medium brown colour and the sandblasted shank and bowl are stained with a black under stain and what appears to be a oxblood top stain.Jan4 There is a patch on the bottom of the shank that is smooth and bears the stamping – Pipe Chat over Pietenpauw over PoY2010. PipeChatPOYBottom The sandblast is not deep and craggy but highlights the ring grain around the bowl and the birdseye on the top of the shank and on the underside of the shank and the bowl. The bowl is a classic Rhodesian shape with a slightly Danish flair. The shank is slightly under-slung and hangs below the bottom of the bowl. The shank extension is a smooth, dark African wood (I cannot remember what it is). It contrasts well with the sandblast and picks up the lines of the Cumberland stem. The combination of stains and finishes gives a dimensionality to the pipe that is fascinating. The unique finish and shape of the pipe is distinctive and feels great in the hand when held during a smoke.Jan5 The stem is a hand cut Cumberland taper that has a nice flow back to the button. The stem blade tapers gradually back to the button where it flares to the same width as the flare at the shank. 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 Delrin and threaded into the stem. The end is rounded slightly and is wide open. It 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 just thick enough that it 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. Jean left the slot flat and rectangular but well finished. The attention to detail shows the love of his craft that is transmitted into this pipe. It is a comfortable and well executed pipe. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.Jan6 The internal mechanics are well-crafted with an attention given to the airflow dynamics. 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 a 3/4 of an inch diameter. The tobacco chamber was coated with a black, thin bowl coating that did not detract from the flavour of the tobacco in the initial smokes. The bowl was U-shaped and smoothly sanded on the sides and bottom. The cake built up on the bowl very easily. The draught hole is centered in 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.

Like most of my pipes I broke this one in with some aged McClellands 5100. The bowl now has a thin cake from the heel to the rim. It is still a dedicated Virginia pipe and always delivers a good tasting smoke. It smokes cool and dry and delivers good flavor with the Virginias that I choose to smoke in it.

Concerning the Rising Popularity of Churchwardens in General, a Little about Their History and the Cleanup of a Barely Smoked Savinelli Rustic Aged Briar

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author, except as noted

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”
― Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975), British historian

If ever a pipe found its way into my possession and was sheer play and no work to clean up, this black Savinelli Rustic Aged Briar Dublin Churchwarden is it. I bought the long, sleek, exquisite example of the fine Italian pipe crafter’s genuine labor as a perfect addition, not to my own collection but to the growing and diversifying line of brands and styles I sell. Based on the requests I have received for churchwardens in general, as well as my eavesdropping at the local tobacconist I favor, this classic old style appears to be experiencing a comeback in popularity.

Perhaps the shift in supply and demand – as well as the corresponding rise in average churchwarden prices, at my preferred tobacconist and online, compared to the not so distant past – are due in part to the timeless popularity of the classic fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, starting with “The Hobbit” [1937] and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy [1954-1955]. This year, in fact, marks the sixtieth anniversary of “LOTR,” and the recent releases of movie versions of both of these can only have spurred interest in the centuries-old pipe shape thanks to the churchwarden-puffing Hobbits, wizards, elves, dwarves and – yes – men. Or maybe the increase in sales and prices is just a sign of greater discernment among pipe enjoyers, and those new to the pleasure in particular, who seek the smoother, cooler satisfaction of a good tobacco’s flavor that the longer shank and bit can provide.

Whatever the cause of this apparent resurgence, I am doing my best to follow the tide by locating and restoring more of this venerable style’s many examples at affordable prices. I already went so far as to clean up a beloved but no longer often enjoyed Clark’s Favorite from my own collection. I bought the lovely pipe several years ago, restored, for about $40 (at which time a quick check online showed the same but new pipe on sale at $69) and sold it to a prospective customer who was bent on a medium-length church or nothing.Rob1 I still miss the Clark’s Favorite, which I supposed I could always replace for the new price noted above. Today, the same smooth version, with its orange-black acrylic bit, is on sale for $112 compared to the MSRP of $140.

Savinelli for one, seeming to recognize the inconvenience of carrying a long, fixed-bit church about town to enjoy on the go, now offers a nice selection of “Tandem” versions that can be enjoyed at home in their full glory and, when traveling anywhere, with a second short bit. The model shown below, the Tandem Rusticated #112, comes with two completely separate bits – the longer Vulcanite and the shorter acrylic.Rob2 This particular Tandem, by the way, is now on sale for $108 as opposed to its regular price of $130.

There are, however, still other “churchwardens” with the two bits combined as one, where the entire bit can be twisted off at the shank and the shorter part at the top, with the button, replaced in the shank. Of course, these models carry a higher price tag. Take, for example, this adjustable Cassano smooth billiard, which I bought last night at my tobacconist’s shop for $175. The full churchwarden large poker is 13” in length, and the smaller option is 8½”.Rob3


The churchwarden is one of the oldest of pipe shapes. The earliest use was in the Orient, where the bowls were likely made (for the most part to smoke opium) not only of known materials – including amber, ivory, various metals such as brass, different kinds of wood, bone and clay – but also jade and other exotic minerals. The bits (without buttons) often matched the bowls, although combinations of brass, wood, bone and/or ivory were not uncommon.

However, the clay bowl and long wooden shank without a bit was the design adopted and quickly adapted in late 18th or early 19th century Europe. So popular were the original Western World churchwardens that many Eastern European taverns kept supplies on hand for their customers’ use, and the habit of biting off the end of the wood shank for a fresh smoke developed. Until the mid- to late-1800s, clay bowls with wood shanks, open where the bit would now be found, remained the prevailing materials of construction.

As for the origin of the name churchwarden, there are three main theories, given here in reverse order of likelihood: the first, that smoking was permitted almost everywhere, including churches, in those dear lost days, and the long length and design of the pipe allowed it to rest on the pews; the second, that certain individuals, erroneously called churchwardens and trusted with guarding England’s churches in the 1800s, very much enjoyed their pipes and fancied the popular style, and the third, that real churchwardens (who by every official definition were not guards but honorary officers of local parishes or district churches entrusted with administrative and other minor duties) became known for their love of the pipe later named for them.

And contrary to popular myth created by various actors who have performed the role of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant mystery solving character, Sherlock Holmes, using fancy Gourd Calabashes or sundry churchwardens as props – which falsehood was adored and perpetuated by generations of Sherlockian fans – these are the facts: the shape or material of pipe most often cited by Holmes’ fictional chronicler, Dr. John H. Watson, was cherry wood (six references), followed by several mentions of standard-sized clay pipes and some appearances of briars. You can read the entire “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” at and locate all of them yourselves.







Rob12 To start on an honest note, I only show the few following steps needed to clean this almost-new Savinelli Rustic Dublin Churchwarden beauty for the sake of showing the pipe itself and the ease with which it was spruced up. The bit had no signs whatsoever of having been touched by any hands, much less placed in a mouth and smoked. In other words, its outside was buffed to the highest sheen, as if it came fresh from the factory in Barasso, Italy, in the Varese province. And so I began by running a long, soft cleaner dipped in alcohol once through the 7½” bit, which was all but 3” of the total length, removing the smallest amount of tobacco residue, and again for good measure.

The rim had minor blackening, not part of the stain. I removed that with a quick brush using 1800 micromesh and proceeded to the chamber. Two easy turns of a reamer followed by about 30 seconds of sanding with 200-grit paper and then 320 made the chamber as smooth as it ever was.

For the sake of thoroughness, I attached an otherwise useless small bit with a tenon that fit the shank and retorted the inner shank and chamber. To my amazement, one Pyrex test tube of boiled Everclear came back from the first passage with the lightest shade of brown, and despite about six more tries to make the alcohol darker, the barely tested briar was clean.

Then I noticed a spot on the outer edge of the shank opening that appeared to be smooth and dark red. With a small scrap of super fine steel wool, I probed the narrow strip of briar around the opening and watched it come clean. Below are before and after photos.Rob13

Rob14 I could have left the briar in the excellent shape it already was, but as chance happened, I had just received my order of a new jar of Halcyon II wax, and had to try it out. Therefore, I gave the wood a spin on the clean buffer and with one finger applied a dab of the Halcyon as far as it would spread before adding a smidge more to finish coating the bowl, shank and rim. Setting the wood on a cotton rag, I waited about 10 minutes and again took the duller-looking briar for a fast spin on the clean wheel. Whether or not these steps were necessary, here are the final results.Rob15






That is all.

(in haphazard order)’s%20Favorite

A Book Review – The Pipe by Georges Herment

Blog by Steve Laug

1433852Beyond its simple cover, this book has a subtitle that is very 19th century— “a serious yet diverting treatise on the history of the pipe and all its appurtenances, as well as a factual withal philosophical discussion of the pleasure art of selecting pipes, smoking, and caring for them.”

I picked this older copy of Herment’s book up in a thrift shop in the US on a trip to visit family and friends in the late 1990’s. It was one of the first pipe books that I found and started me on the hunt for other books to add to my tobacciana collection of books. This one was printed by Simon and Schuster in 1972. It was a reprint of the original print in 1954, 1955. It was originally sold for $2.95 and when I bought it used it cost me $4.95

Herment’s Introduction, originally written in 1954 gives a sense of what he wished to achieve in his writing of this book. It also gives a sense of the spirit in which it is to be read. I quote his Introduction in full:

“At the risk of disappointing the reader on the very threshold of this book, we feel it our duty to warn him that it has been written in the manner of a poem, by a flash of happy inspiration.” p.xi.

“As may well be the case with a poem, twenty years of meditation and brooding have scarcely been sufficient incubation to produce these few pages. In the light of these observations it will be easier to grasp what follows:” p.xi.

“Treated in a purely technical style, a subject such as ours could not have failed to rebuff the simple amateur. On the other hand the veteran or professional smoker would have considered it too superficial to satisfy his requirements, not full enough to fulfill his desires.” p.xi.TOC1

“Thanks to a complete and exhaustive knowledge of the subject, after year of experience and research, we have been able to conceive this work in its fullest scope and present it to the reader just as the spirit came to us – current calamo. Such has been our aim. Have we attained it? The reader, be he veteran or amateur, must be the judge. – G.H.” p.xi.

As I have done in previous reviews I have included a copy of the Table of Contents to the left. I always read that when I am beginning a book to understand the logic of the book. In this case Herment has given us a good view of the way he treats the topic of the pipe. He divides his book into 5 parts with each pipe covering a different aspect of the pipe. The book is also illustrated with line drawings throughout.

PART 1 starts where most of the pipe books that I have read start – with the history and manufacture of the pipe. The difference is that it does not begin with the discovery and bringing of tobacco back to Europe. It does not go into the growing or manufacture of pipe tobacco. It merely looks at the pipe itself. He includes 8 short chapters that cover the topic at hand.

Herment begins with a chapter on definitions and diagrams and explanations before going into the rest of the section. The diagrams and definitions set the playing field for a common discussion of the author with the readers. He points out key points that he will unpack in the rest of the book.

From there he works through the various materials used in making pipes. He discusses clay, porcelain, meerschaum, wood (rosewood, cherrywood), other materials such as bone and Moorish copper tubing with wooden bowls before finally discussing briar. He singles out briar for special attention because of it being the focus of the book he is writing. The author’s style of writing is refreshingly crisp and quick. He moves rapidly, yet thoroughly through the topics he has chosen to discuss.

Each short chapter in PART 1 gives not only a description of the pipe but details on how the materials are fashioned and worked to become the object that we now call a pipe. It is a concise description that gives details of construction, shaping and manufacture of pipes.

PART 2 is dedicated to the pipe and all of the necessary and tangential accessories that have been manufactured for the pipe smoker. He presents the material in seven chapters that detail the topic at hand. He looks at the briar itself and describes the different pipe shapes that have been manufactured. He includes a shape chart and names for each shape. He also looks at the drilling and shape of the bowls, the materials used for the stems and how those stems were inserted in the shank of the pipe. He gives a really well written description on the parts and function of the pipe.

The second chapter in this part is dedicated to anti-nicotine contraptions. This chapter is by far one of the most interesting as it spells out some of the creative means that were developed to minimize the nicotine from the tobacco.

The remainder of the chapters, other than the one on snuffboxes, explores the various accoutrements of pipesmoking beginning with the tobacco that is smoked in the pipe and ending with the rack to hold the pipe.

PART 3 is all about smoking and caring for a pipe. This part is composed of nine chapters that take the reader from the proper packing of a pipe, lighting it, smoking it, emptying it out, cleaning the bowl and stem (each smoke, thorough cleaning and disassembling the pipe and cleaning), seasoning the pipe and finally reaming it. Herment has some really interesting concepts in each of these sections. Some of them have long since ceased to be used but are fascinating to read about. For instance in the chapter on lighting the pipe he uses a method that I had not seen until I read it here. A piece of paper is put on top of the bowl and filled with tobacco and pressed into the bowl. The paper is twisted at the top forming a fuse and that is lit. As the paper burns the tobacco is evenly lit – or at least it is according to Herment.

Part 4 covers the issues of the Pipe and Health. In this chapter the author shows that the opinions on tobacco are evenly divided between those who see it as a health risk and those who see moderate use as inconsequential or giving stress relief. It is an interesting read to see how far our culture has departed from this kind of even presentation of the facts. He also gives anecdotal accounts of how tobacco was used for relieving constipation (enema) and to act as a vermifuge. It is a fascinating read.

Part 5 is the final part and includes some final questions and a conclusion. The final questions were not what I expected when I turned to this chapter. What the chapter covers is the longevity of the pipe – will it be with us forever. Herment says that yes. Here is the direct quote at the conclusion of his discussion:

“We have said that the pipe is eternal. Its outward shape may change, may evolve, may possibly modernize, but the principle of the bowl-mouthpiece remains forever immutable.” p.162

And another quote

“But while virgin, the pipe remains a Sleeping Beauty. It is not until the first whiff of smoke has risen from the bowl that its true life begins. So let us awaken it – and when awake may it prove to be the true Pipe of Peace, reminding us that we are all brothers.” p.162.

To me that would have been a great end to the book but the author adds a Conclusion. To me the final sentences are typical of the style that is found throughout the book. I quote it here to close this review.

“One would think less of drowning a dog than of throwing a pipe in the dustbin – but then a dead dog cannot be awakened, but there will always be found men everywhere who will awaken the pipe.” p.164.

I heartily recommend this book. I have read it many times over the years since I bought. It is amusing, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. I learn, laugh and reflect on the turns of phrase that Herment seems to have captured. He knows the pipe and when I have read his book I feel like I know him. lists copies of the book for sale as does Google books. Purchase one and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Mixing an Organic Bowl Coating for a Repaired Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I have used a homemade bowl coating on the inside of pipe bowls that have had varying degrees of damage. This bowl lining is a way of adding a layer of protection to the briar until a natural cake is formed to insulate the walls of the pipe. I remember getting the recipe for this mixture from a pipemaker friend of mine. I have since modified it slightly to make it work better for me.

The mixture has two basic components – sour cream and activated charcoal. You can also substitute plain unsweetened yoghurt for the sour cream. I know that sounds utterly disgusting to you who are reading this and you have visions of it spoiling and stinking up your pipe permanently. You must be thinking the same thing I did when I heard about the combination. I remember thinking, “Forget about worrying about ghosting your pipe from tobacco, now you are asking me to put dairy products in my pipe”. I can tell you from quite a few years of using the recipe that you do not need worry about that. The amount of the mixture that you are putting in the bowl of your pipe is negligible and when it dries/cures it creates an almost rubber bowl coating that leaves no residual taste in the bowl.

My pipe maker friend used a charcoal for aquarium filters that he bought at Walmart and then ground it with a mortar and pestle to a powder before using it. That was too much of a mess to my liking and added yet another thing to clean up after the work. So I buy activated charcoal capsules from the health food section of a local pharmacy and use those instead. Not only is it cleaner but I also find that the food grade charcoal is ground much finer than I can grind the aquarium grade. I have had a jar of capsules that I have been using for over 10 years and still have lots left for future mixtures.Jack46 I generally mix the charcoal from four capsules with two table spoons of sour cream. I have yet to get the exact amount of mix that I need per bowl but I often will coat several bowls at a time so very little goes to waste.Jack47 I open the charcoal capsules and shake out the contents on top of the sour cream. I choose a bowl that is large enough to allow me to stir the parts together easily.Jack48 I have a dentist’s spatula that I got as a gift from holymolar for the mixing tool.Jack49I stir in the charcoal until the mixture is evenly blended and no white sour cream is showing. The paste that is created is a dark grey/black in colour and is thick enough that it will stick to the walls of the pipe bowl.Jack50 I use the spatula to apply it to the walls of the bowl. I spread it on fairly thick and don’t worry about it clumping or bunching up. I am more concerned with getting the mix on the walls at this point in the process than I am in spreading it out evenly throughout the bowl.Jack51

Jack52Once it is in the bowl I use a folded pipe cleaner to spread it around evenly on the sides and bottom of the bowl. I always put a pipe cleaner in the airway to keep the mixture out of the airway at the bowl bottom. I work the paste until it is evenly spread out and the entire bowl surface is covered.Jack53

Jack54 I then set the bowl upright on a pipe rest to dry and cure. In 24 hours the surface is dry to touch. In 48 hours it is ready to smoke. I load a bowl carefully and when I am smoking it I am careful to not scratch the surface with my tamper for the first few bowls. When I tap out the dottle at the end of the smoke I am careful to not damage the bowl coating until I have run at least 6-9 bowls through it. At that point it is hardened sufficiently and the new cake has begun to form on top of the coating.Jack66 Even the finely ground charcoal powder leaves a rough surface on the side of the bowl. I have found that the rough surface is what facilitates the building of a good cake in the bowl.Jack69 I used this bowl coating for quite a few years now with no ill effect. It works well to protect the bowl of damaged pipes and give them time to build up a cake that protects the briar from burn out. If there is any residual taste (and honestly I can’t taste one) it is short lived as the tobacco is burned in the bowl. It has worked well from me and I thought I would pass it on. If it works for you that is great. If you choose to not use it that too is fine.