Daily Archives: May 6, 2015

Conjuring a Makeover for a Carey Magic Inch

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
― Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), French Impressionist painter

I suspect there is some aspect of my basic personality that is incapable, to a degree, of not admiring the tenacity alone required to survive 67-years – and still going – in the admirable pursuit of providing affordable smoking pipes. Remember, this is an industry that has seen all manner of fly-by-night systems for dissipating the high heat of the all-important tobacco that has an inherent tendency to become moist and therefore brackish in the process of flowing through the basic designs of all pipes.

Notwithstanding the relative quality of pipes that evolve based on the periodic new patents from the ever-pioneering designers at E.A. Carey, which also owns the Duncan Hill Aerosphere brand, the system’s section that comprises the so-called “Magic Inch” has changed little since 1948, when the first billiard version was created and marketed. The system involves five elements: 1-2) the first two in the double-pronged tenon, the thin, hollow end of which attaches to the plastic bit and the typical part that slides into the shank; 3) the thin bit insert with six small drilled holes, two each on the top and bottom (when properly inserted) and one each on either side; 4) the newer Papyrate II sleeve (two-ply) – made of very thin, wet slices, from the roots of an aquatic plant, that are pressed together and dried – that fits snugly over the holes of the bit insert, and 5) six horizontal slits in the shank end of the bit, three on the top and three on the bottom. The photos of the bit show the used, brownish papyrate sleeve that came with the original pipe.Carey1




Carey5 Back some months when I was snatching up pipe lots online, I bought one with 10 sundry examples of the craft, including a few nice finds such as a Kaywoodie Filter Plus metal pipe from the late 1950s, a Jobey Extra, a nice glazed clay pipe and others, with this Magic Inch among them.Carey6 I put all of these in a small box “for later,” except for the beautiful unknown clay billiard that I cleaned up and added new cork in the shank with a hole drilled to fit the screw-in tenon attached to the acrylic stem, for my own collection.

By the way, not everyone knows that Carey does not only make Magic Inch pipes. Here are a few of the company’s representative standard briar pipes.Carey7 But this blog concerns the vintage Magic Inch billiard, U.S. Patent №. 3,267,941 granted in 1966, shown in the lot above three rows down on the right. A few years ago, I owned, and for a while enjoyed, another Magic Inch, and it wasn’t – well, bad. But first, I have a few comments regarding Carey’s rather imaginative advertising.

Numerical data and the manifold methods of collection, arrangement and interpretation of them for publication as fact by the complex use of statistics in almost every facet of society – including but by no means limited to governmental and other political concerns, businesses and the news media – can be misleading at best and downright manipulative at worst.

Take, for example, the E.A. Carey Smokeshop claim [http://www.eacarey.com/ pipes.html] that it has sold more than one million of its Magic Inch pipes since 1948. That sounds impressive, and suggests that Carey’s pipes are superior to others. But that total averages to 15,152 pipes (rounded up, through 2014) per year. Then again, Carey changes the number of Magic Inch pipes sold in the same period to a vague “hundreds of thousands” [http://www.eacarey .com/magicinchinfo.html]. Allowing for hundreds of thousands to be a maximum of 200,000 pipes, which quite likely is stretching it, the average drops to 3,030. Somehow, I doubt that either annual sales figure engenders any impulse among the world’s other pipe makers to compete with the folks at the venerable Carey Smokeshop online, both in the U.K. [http://www.eacarey. co.uk/] and U.S.

Now, to return to the real subject matter, the purpose of this particular blog is to show how a pipe with a singular lack of attractive qualities can be transformed into something nicer.Carey8


After removing and separating the bit and two-sided tenon, throwing away the old brown papyrate sleeve, on an impulse, I decided to give the old rusticated briar girl an Everclear soak. For some reason, this process took quite a while – say six hours. At any rate, when the old finish was stripped and the wood dried, I began a hand-buff with super fine steel wool followed by a progression of micromesh pads from 1500-3600.

I turned a reamer a few times in the chamber, followed by sanding with 200-grit and 320, and the chamber was almost good to go. Then I attached a suitable stem and retorted the shank and chamber.Carey11





Carey16 Thinking the pipe, which was dreary in the beginning, deserved something more distinctive and in keeping with its natural reddish color, I chose maroon boot stain. After the quick application and flaming, I rubbed the wood gently with 3200 micromesh.Carey17





Carey22 To clean the hollow plastic bit and tenon, I diluted – and I mean heavily – a little Everclear with a lot of water. I like to think of this as the Reverse Julia Childs Approach. The popular cook once said, “I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.” From what I recall of watching Julia in the studio kitchen on TV, I am not surprised that she seemed to have forgotten the apparent equal measures of wine expended in the food and down the hatch. Anyway, I bent a soft pipe cleaner in half and dipped it in the comparatively wimpy solution, which is like comparing wine to Moonshine, and inserted the folded end in the stem, turning it several times and finding it needed replacing. And so I repeated the action, but giving the inner bit the old in-and-out, scrubbing its sides. Only the slightest amount of grime came out on the second run, and I used the same cleaner to work through the slits on the top and bottom. I used a third, dry cleaner to finish.

The outer bit required very little work with one micromesh pad, although I forget the grade, to make it shine. Using a white china marker, I filled in the small, long-empty square with a three-sided C in the middle, forming all but one line of a second square. Thanks to a generous gift of a handful of papyrate sleeves from my good friend and mentor, Chuck Richards, I was able to complete the tenon for ultimate placement into the shank.

All that was left to do was buff the wood on the electric wheels, using white Tripoli and White Diamond, with quick runs on the clean wheel after each. At last, with a finger, I applied a thin, even coat of Halcyon II, and after letting the briar sit for 10-15 minutes, buffed it with the clean wheel.Carey23






Love ’em, hate ’em or really don’t give a hoot either way, the Carey Magic Inch has secured its place in tobacco pipe history, as well as giving many a smoker a start in the pleasures derived from fine tobaccos. And as far as I’m concerned, the Carey system works better than most far more complicated attempts.

Imagine, if you will, a special place in the Twilight Zone – an area so horrific only the most heinous attempts at pipe cooling ever make it there. Take, for example, the following specimen, a Jenkins, which, with its screw designed to hang while smoking like a broken appendage from the underbelly of the shank at a point just before the bowl, may never find its way back.Carey30

An Odd Yello Bole Imperial Nosewarmer Canadian worth saving

Blog by Steve Laug

The second pipe that Troy Wilburn sent me to restem was a short Canadian with a large bowl. It was a bit of an odd pipe – no shape number and no catalogue shape that matched it. It was almost like a Canadian that had been cut off somewhere along the way. However it was sent out from the factory like this. It is stamped on the top rolling down the left side of the shank with the older KBB in a cloverleaf. Next to that it reads Yello Bole. Underneath it reads cured with real honey and an R in a circle. Underneath that is stamped Imperial in Script with small block letters reading IMPORTED BRIAR.

It came to Troy as New Old Stock or NOS – unsmoked pipe. It had a strange tenon repair that someone had made some time in its history. The tenon had broken off in the shank and rather than remove it, the decision had been made to leave it in the shank. In the first photo below you can see the broken tenon and at the end of it is the YB stinger apparatus still sitting in the shank. There was a notch taken out of the shank on the left underside near the end of the mortise and in the mortise end. The repair that had been made was to smooth out the end of the stem and insert a stainless steel rod in the stem. The rod was the same diameter as the inside of the tenon. Effectively it was like the repair I did on Troy’s other pipe. The problem with this one was the very constricted draw due to the narrow airway constricted by the tenon. With the notch in the end of the mortise the fit of the stem against the shank was also compromised. This pipe was going to be a bear to get all of the alignments straight. The airway drilled in the stem for the metal tenon was slightly off centre and a little angular. The notch in the shank would need to be corrected or removed. The fit in the shank would need to be adjusted. You can see that this NOS pipe would take a bit of creativity to reconstruct.YB1 I began the reconstruction of a new tenon by addressing the constricted airway and broken tenon in the shank of the pipe. I used a drill bit that fit well against the end of the tenon that was stuck in the shank and slowly drilled into the broken tenon. My hope was that the drill bit would catch on the material of the tenon and I would be able to back it out of the shank. It worked on the first try. The bit stuck in the bit and I reversed the direction of the drill and the broken tenon came out on the drill bit. Once it was free I was able to shake out the stinger from the airway and the shank was clear. This unsmoked pipe now had an unconstricted airway. The first part of the repair had gone off without a hitch.YB2 The next photo shows the parts that were in the shank. The broken tenon piece and the spoon shaped stinger are to the left of the end of the shank. You can also see the short metal tenon that had been inserted in the stem end.YB3 I gripped the end of the metal tenon with needle nosed pliers and wiggled it free of the stem. It had not been glued but rather heated and inserted deep in the airway of the stem. With very little effort I was able to remove the tube from the stem. The next two photos give two different views of the tenon and the end of the stem. You can see in the second photo that the airway had been drilled open to take the metal tube tenon. It would not take much to open it slightly larger to put a repair tenon in place.YB4

YB5 With the airway opened I decided to address the notch out of the end of the shank. I did this by using super glue and briar dust to build up the shank end. The trick was to keep the glue isolated to the shank end and not let it run on the finish of the shank bottom.YB6 I carefully put a few drops of glue in the notch and then packed in briar dust with a dental pick. I repeated this process until I had built up the notch slightly higher than the flat end of the shank. I then used the topping board and carefully stood the pipe against the sandpaper and slowly worked the filled area smooth with the paper. I repeated the process until the area was evenly built up and the notch was gone. There remained a little darkening at the edge of the repair on the bottom edge of the shank end but the notch was gone. Once the stem is repaired and is in place the notch will be virtually invisible. I cleaned up any of the glue bits and briar dust in the shank with the dental pick and a sharp knife.YB7


YB9 The next three photos show the shank end from different angles to show the state of the repair at this point in the process. It still needs to be cleaned up and touched up once the stem is fit in the shank, however the notch itself is virtually gone and the stem (sans tenon) sits smoothly against the shank end.YB10


YB12I decided that rather than wait for a new tenon to arrive I would make my own. I had a very small stem that I knew would work well to fashion a tenon. I used a hacksaw to cut off a portion of the stem to use for the tenon. I purposely cut it long to give me material to work with.YB13


YB15 The cut off portion is shown in the photo below. I held the smaller portion in the tip of a pair of needle nose pliers and used the Dremel with a sanding drum to bring down the larger portion to match the smaller one. I would sand until I had a vulcanite tenon that I could insert into the stem.YB16

YB17 Here is a photo of the shop “foreman” sitting in my chair while I worked on the tenon. Spencer loves to hang out with me while I work.YB18 The thinner part of the tenon in the photo below will be the part I insert in the stem once it is drilled out. The larger part will need to be turned down to fit in the mortise.YB19

YB20 I started by using a drill bit that was slightly larger than the airway that had been opened in the stem for the metal tenon. I worked my way up to a drill bit that would open the airway and deep enough to take the new tenon and provide stability.YB21 When I had drilled the opening in the stem as large as I could, given the taper of the stem I needed to take down the diameter of the replacement tenon I had made. I used a Dremel to take off the excess material to reduce it to the same size as the stem opening. Once I got close in diameter with the Dremel I hand sanded it to fit.YB22

YB23 When the tenon end fit snugly in the stem, I squared off the end of the tenon and then superglued it in place in the stem. I coated the tenon with the glue and pressed it into place. The tenon itself would also need to be turned to fit the shank of the pipe.YB24 I used the Dremel and sanding drum to sand down the tenon and then used sand paper to get a snug fit.YB25 Once it fit well I polished it with fine grit sanding sponges and micromesh.YB26 The fit in shank was good and snug. It was at this point that the alignment issues became clear. I would need to do some work on the shank to clean up the repair and also get a good transition from the shank to the stem. The fit on the topside was slightly high and the fit on the underside was a little low. I needed to sand the shank anyway to clean up the repaired notch on the underside so to sand it a bit more was not an issue.YB28 I sanded the shank and stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the transition between the two and to give a better flow to the taper on the stem.YB28



YB31 I sanded the stem and shank with a medium and a fine grit sanding block to make the transition smooth and remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.YB32



YB35 Once the transition was smooth I sanded the briar with micromesh sanding pads from 2400-4000 grit and then used the Guardsman brand stain pens to stain the shank. I used the lightest stain pen first and finished with the medium stain pen. Once it dried I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond to raise the shine on the shank and to even out the stain.YB36

YB37 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I buffed the stem with White Diamond and Blue Diamond and then buff the shank with the same once again.YB38


YB40 I buffed the stem and the shank with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I finished by buffing it with a soft flannel buffing pad. The finished pipe is shown below.YB41



YB44 The next two photos show a close up of the fit of the stem to the shank. I am pleased with the way it turned out.YB45

YB46 The last two photos are of a regular sized Yello Bole Canadian (top pipe) and the little nose warmer (bottom pipe). I put these together to give a bit of perspective. The bowl on the nose warmer is larger and the shank is definitely shorter.YB47

YB48 Thanks Troy for the challenge on this little Canadian. It was a pleasure to work on it. Each time I work on putting a new tenon on a pipe I learn something new. This time around, between the new tenon on the billiard, the insert in the cracked shank and the new tenon on this little one I had a good week in pipe school. They will soon be on their way back to you Troy. I hope they smoke well and you enjoy them.