Cleaning up a London Made Charleston Banker

Blog by Steve Laug

When I saw this pipe on Ebay I decided to bid on it. I had bought from this English sell a few times in the past and he generally has some great older pipes. He had listed this one as a Criterion London Made pipe. I had looked and found that Criterion was made by Comoy’s. He described it as a 1/8th bent sandblasted prince. To me it is almost a Banker shape. The bowl is quite large and the oval shank ends with a saddle bit. It is 5 inches (12.75cms) long and the bowl height is 1.5 inches (3.75cms). He described it as lightly smoked, and in very good condition and as usual his description was perfect. He said that the markings on the bottom of shank were very faint and read Criterion over London Made. When the pipe arrived I looked at the faint stamping with a lens and a bright light and it actually reads: Charleston in script over block script LONDON MADE. I had not heard of Charleston pipes before so I did a bit of research and found the brand listed in Who Made That Pipe. It was listed as being made by Sydney Charleston Ltd. London, England. The first two photos are the ones provided by the seller on Ebay.Charleston1 When the pipe arrived I took it to the work table and took a few photos of the state of the pipe before I began to work on it. It was in pretty decent shape. The finish was dirty and the rim had dirt on it. The bowl had a cake build up. The stem was oxidized with a few small tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem near the button. The slot was virtually plugged so I could not get a pipe cleaner through it to clean the inside.Charleston2



Charleston5 I took the pipe apart and put the bowl in an alcohol bath to soften the hard cake and the stem into an Oxyclean bath to soften the oxidation on the stem. I left them to soak overnight.Charleston6 When I took the bowl out in the morning I scrubbed it with a brass bristle whitewall tire brush to clean out the grooves in the blast on the bowl and the rim. I was able to remove all of the build up and grime from the ridges and grooves.Charleston7

Charleston8 I wiped out the bowl with a cotton swab and then reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake. The bath had softened the cake so it came out very easily.Charleston9 I took the stem out of the Oxyclean bath and the oxidation had all come to the surface. It was soft and would be easier to remove.Charleston10 I used a dental pick to clean out the slot and then a pipe cleaner to make sure the edges of the Y were wide open to further clean it.Charleston11 I scrubbed down the bowl and stem with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and gave the bowl a light rub down with olive oil. I took the following photos. There was progress to be seen.Charleston12

Charleston13 The cleaning and oil seemed to make the stamping more legible. In the photo below you can see the Charleston with a curled line under it and the London Made stamping underneath the line.Charleston14 I cleaned out the bowl, shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was incredibly dirty. I would need to use the retort to really clean it.Charleston15

Charleston16 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and worked out the tooth marks on the top and underside near the button.Charleston17 I set up the retort and held the tube over the flame to boil the alcohol through the stem and bowl. I ran three test tubes of alcohol through the pipe before it came out clean. The fourth bowl came through with clear.Charleston18

Charleston19 I took the cotton ball out of the bowl, wiped out the bowl with a cotton swab and ran pipe cleaners through the stem and shank to remove any moisture and final debris. The pipe smelled fresh and clean and the interior was clear.Charleston20

Charleston21 I worked on the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and then wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil before dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it another rub down with oil and then finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final rub down of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.Charleston22

Charleston23 I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I then buffed it with a clean flannel buff and a final hand buff with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is fresh and ready to smoke. I intend to fire up a bowl today!

Thanks for looking.Charleston24




5 thoughts on “Cleaning up a London Made Charleston Banker

  1. Charles Lemon

    Another beautiful pipe, Steve. I’m going to have to put together a retort of my own. I’ve got a few right filthy estate pipes waiting for work that could benefit from boiling alcohol!

  2. Old Man in the Cave

    Very nice! It has a great shape and looks like it will be a pleasure to smoke. I’ve cleaned up a few pipes, but haven’t tried using a retort yet. I admire your work and am working my way through your archives, not only are you an excellent pipe craftsman, you write quite well too. Thanks for blogging!


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