Daily Archives: December 24, 2015

Pipe Tripping

Guest Trip by Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
http://roadrunnerpipes.biz (Coming Soon!)

‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). ‘Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings, for you now, dears? I’m sure I shan’t be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can; –but I must be kind to them,’ thought Alice, ‘or perhaps they won’t walk the way I want to go! Let me see: I’ll give them a new pair of boots every Christmas.’ — From “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Ch. 2 (1865), by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll [1832-1898], English mathematician, noted photographer, essayist, poet and novelist

Pipe1The origination of tobacco in the Americas and Australia is not as common knowledge as, say, that Columbus didn’t actually discover America, but then, there are stranger facts associated with the leafy plant’s history. Certain forms of tobacco were – and likely still are – used in the spiritual practices of various native populations to produce reactions that, by newer and more close-minded cultures, are called hallucinogenic. While there is no evidence to support the idea, and I am not suggesting a serious connection, Lewis Carroll (as the brilliant author will always be remembered) could have been under the influence of tobacco hallucinogens when he wrote the above masterpiece and its sequel.

To be fair and clear, however, Carroll’s unique composition style was the result of the Universal Impetus Theory (UIT) for all great literary innovators: having a gift as an ingenious raconteur able to choose and order his words in a precise, inimitable form, and the good fortune of living in the right time. Carroll also had an unparalleled knack for the creation and blending of words. Of course, the fact that he was a good friend of the British lexicologist Henry George Liddell, after whose daughter the timeless Carroll classic was named – and at whose insistence he committed his oral tales to paper, leading to its publication – no doubt played a part in the use of combined and nonce-words (those created for the moment, or nonsensical) and complex sentence structure by the mathematician turned writer. Coining the word galumph, for example, which means “to bound or move clumsily or noisily” (OED), Carroll blended gallop and triumphant. His works still thrill children and adults alike.

Pipe2Consider this. Without Carroll, we would not have fantastic, imaginative and endearing verbs, adjectives and nouns such as galumph as well as chortle, frabjous, mimsy, vorpal, snark and, last but not least, jabberwocky. The colloquial term snarky, for irritable or short-tempered, was adapted by Edith Nesbit, in her 1906 novel “Railway Children,” from the name of a variety of disconcerting creatures introduced to the world in Carroll’s poem, “The Hunting of the Snark.” As a hopeful point of interest, my spellchecker recognized chortle, galumph and jabberwocky, so accepted in the English lexicon they have grown. And as I added the rest to my Word dictionary, should I ever have occasion to use them again, they will appear without the annoying red, squiggly underlines. What’s more, thanks to the periodic transmission of these additions to Microsoft, where they will undergo due consideration by vorpal, slithy folk whose job it is to determine their worthiness, perhaps someday the perspiration-coated toilers over such heady decisions will make it possible for Carroll’s now-real words never to trouble other users of the magical expressions.

Now, lately I’ve been thinking about pipes and tobacco in a different frame of mind. Those who know me best seem to agree that my arguably Byzantine cognitive processes can be scary or even stupefying, if not downright dangerous, depending on the attention level of the person listening to or reading my discourses. Nevertheless, these commentaries often made off-the-cuff and on diverse topics, when joining a conversation, tend to come together with certain cogency, the suddenness of which is a bit like the epiphanic ending of a Faulkner novel.

At any rate, my musings of late, at least in my own mind, have produced some unusual notions, some of which have even made me laugh out loud. That’s LOL, for those young enough to have been raised in the Cyber Age and have forgotten what the three letters even abbreviate. These ponderings, reflections or reveries, or whatever else anyone might choose to label them, up to and including absurdities and/or deliriums, grew curiouser and curiouser the further I allowed them to metastasize within my psyche, and have now reached the point where I am compelled to share them, for better or worse.

In the beginning, as far as pipe tobacco goes, there was a peculiar plant of the genus Nicotiana, from the nightshade family, called N. tabacum. The simple fact that our revered tobacco derives from Deadly Nightshade – or belladonna , the black berries of which are frightful in their toxicity – should be enough to give pause to all of us who, with regularity, take such special pains to pack our pipes just so with the stuff, so that it might burn all the longer and thoroughly. But of course this knowledge, even if acquired by some readers who just now digested the previous sentence, will have no such effect.

Let’s start this silly exercise with an image, stemming from the relationship, however distant, of tobacco to Deadly Nightshade, and which appeals to my admittedly perverse, at times, sense of humor. Conceive, if you can, how many hapless, hungry and heedless berry-pickers perished from eating the wild belladonna back in the day when people didn’t know better than to pluck such frabjous-looking things without care and pop them into their mouths; or, if the victim of eating the fruit of the somewhat drab green and weed-like flora were spared death and merely rendered howling mad, attempt to visualize the resulting hallucinations that are so vivid the sufferer has no grasp of reality whatsoever. Whichever outcome presents, it is just because of the berries appearing so plump and pretty and sweet, and impulsive human nature.

Then the kicker: one day, someone came along and experienced the brainstorm to toss the berries aside and turn the unattractive green leafs into something that could much more safely be ingested by somehow cultivating, processing and at last chopping up into suitable pieces for placing in a crude bowl with a similar stem (perhaps in the botanical sense) for the purpose of igniting and inhaling them.Pipe3The worst part of this opening cogitation is the rare but continuing incidences of accidental poisoning from these lovely though heartless elements of nature. Take, for example, the case of a very large American (naturally). He measures 6’ 3” in height and 220 pounds in width. Wandering through the wilds of Germany late this very year, he spies the shiny, luscious appearing fruit on a plant he mistakes for elder berries. He gobbles 20-30 of them despite their semi-sweetness with bitterness from the seeds, and not feeling quite himself, promptly decides to take a nap right there in the woods. His sleep is frequently interrupted by a nagging need to urinate, which is difficult because nothing seems to want to come out except small, forced amounts of clear liquid with a strange blue tint which the tourist has just enough sense left to be unsure if it might not be a hallucination.

After giving up the nap idea, his mouth becomes dry and his throat sore. Then his vision goes blurry, and he decides it’s time to see his doctor, who happens to notice the patient’s pupils are dilated to the max and unresponsive to any safe and sane stimuli. The physician thinks it best for the man to be taken to the hospital. During the ensuing drive, the hallucinations commence. A single hedgehog appears as thousands, and deer are kangaroos. The poor fellow arrives at the hospital a mere four to five hours after scarfing down so many of the marvelous berries, and all the hospital staff can do is observe him – intensely – for several days that seem like an eternity to the man.

The situation rapidly escalates to seeming insanity filled with hideous, terrifying visions and other misperceptions of reality, like a singularly bad LSD trip, prompting a transfer to the psych unit. This is just the beginning of the trip down the rabbit hole, but at last he does begin to get better. As soon as he is able to comprehend the words, he is told how lucky he is to be so large, as anyone smaller would surely have died. Recovering even now, the man still is not his old self again.

You see, this is a true story, and not in the sense of the often misleading tags at the beginnings of movies. Heaven knows I didn’t make it up! I strongly suggest reading the full account at http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/blog2/blog281115.htm for a jolly good first-hand account of the ordeal.

The interior of the bowl of a pipe, where we cram or methodically place the tobacco, is called the chamber, yet one never seems to hear a pipe smoker refer to settling down in his easy chair to enjoy a good chamber of whatever blend has been chosen for the occasion to contemplate life. Could this habit derive from the alternate definition of chamber as a room, as in a chamber of horrors? Or might it be a subconscious aversion to a comparison of the pipe’s chamber to the part of a gun that renders the weapon armed or not? I mean, think of it! What merry piper would want to sit in a dreadful chamber or put a chambered gun in his mouth? Just food for thought, nothing more.

The bit is almost universally referred to as the stem. What in the name of all that’s holy is the problem with calling the thing by its proper name? Honestly, I want to know when and where this convention began, and who started the confusion! Yes, I want nothing less than the time, location and name of the guilty party.

Heaven help us if this ruddy awful vacillation stems (pun intended) from some sorry fellow’s fear of comparing the bit of his pipe to the past tense form of bite, all for the day when he was a wee little tyke and a dog bit him, which seminal event has bitten (past participle) his worldview forever.

Then again, maybe the dither is about Man’s eternal fear of karmic payback, in this case for the long, shameful practice of abusing others of God’s finer creations, such as horses, in place of his own back-breaking labor, by placing metal bits in the sad creatures’ mouths and then whipping them onward to finish tilling the fields we humans might just have had to work a bit harder to accomplish ourselves.

I ask, what’s the point of the evasion in the first place? After all, our worldwide band of brothers and sisters, in pursuit of the pleasures and comforts of a nice, relaxing smoke, seem to have no qualms referring to the often sharp but excellent bite of a bit of a strong mixture of a VaPer or other coarser, non-aromatic blend that can become an acquired taste and lead, at worst, to a case of Tobacco Acquisition Disorder (T.A.D.).

While that last note is fresh in the mind, I’ll leap at the opportunity to address the use of the word disorder in T.A.D. and its mates, Pipe Acquisition Disorder (P.A.D.) and Accessory Acquisition Disorder (AAD). Who on Earth dreamed up these ostensible maladies? Surely nobody accredited within the medical community! My guess is some lone pipe smoker with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a genuine and serious and hardly uncommon psychological irregularity that can easily lead to an overspending problem, started the whole thing, and others jumped on the old bandwagon and added the others. I can just see all of them waking up with cold sweats in the middle of the night who-knows-when with the realization that, once again, they’d gone and spent their entire grocery budgets along with half the rent on one of the three categories of pipe expenditures described above.

What’s more, I’ll bet each and every one of them reached for his ever-handy Merck Manual to self-diagnose himself so he could tell his local candy doctor just what pill he needed to overcome the dread “disorder.” My gosh, the measures people will take to get a new drug! Why, it’s scary even to contemplate. I thank the stars I’m not that bad off, you know I do! I mean, sure, I’ve been late with the rent or cable bundle bill, or paying for my cell phone – maybe, on rare occasions, all three – but I swear I do not have any kind of disorder! Well, other than Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not to mention chronic migraines and – oh, yes – agoraphobia. But those trifles are all under strict control, and you may take my word on that to the bank!

Last but not least is the odd practice of the average piper, who will speak in calm, even tones of smoking his pipes – with utter disregard for all of the expression’s negative connotations. After all, where there is smoke, there is fire. Picture yourself in any of Dante Allighieri’s infernal nine circles of Hell on Earth leading, with fervent thirst, for ultimate eternal salvation. Do we really want to go there? Let’s not. Dante already did the great favor of doing so for us! Just say no, as Nancy Reagan did to drugs. Instead, join me in the somewhat troublesome practice, I admit, of enjoying a pipe. I picked up this routine after reading an excellent essay last year concerning positive methods of writing and speaking of the multi-faceted pleasures associated with tobacco pipes, by a member of the North American Society of Pipe Collectors in its magazine (they insist on calling it a newsletter ), “The Pipe Collector.”

Seriously, if I can do it, you can, even if in our hearts we are thinking of Lady Mary Wroth’s 1621 controversial and groundbreaking literary work, “The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania,” and one line from it: “Those loose and wicked enjoyings which we coveted.”

This little exercise in writing is at best an essay, and at worst a work of fiction, lest anyone who failed to grasp my attempts at satire walk away from the experience with the notion that I might in any way have been serious.

I welcome, more than usual, any responses with contributions of other examples of pipe trips (or, for that matter, alternative critical thoughts), with the hope of someday compiling an Encyclopedia of Pipe Trips.

Correcting an Overturned Stem on an Unsmoked CPF Bent Bulldog

Blog by Steve Laug

Early in December I received an email from a friend in the Vancouver Pipe Club about a fellow who was trying to get a hold of me about some very old 1850’s American made pipes he had picked up. We connected and he sent me the following email:

Hi Steve! Really liked your posts and just wanted to reach out. Thanks for the note back. I purchased the 3 CPF pipes already for $120 for the set over the weekend.

• The straight has never been smoked and is in excellent shape. I did not know it was unsmoked, that was a pleasant surprise.
• The bent is in good to VG shape. Lightly used. The threads are off a little from wear. Does not line up perfectly when fully threaded in, off by about 15 degrees.
• The Meer is trashed. End has been chewed down to having holes top and bottom, and the bowl is super used. That was disappointing

I am guessing after I have looked at them that they are around 1907? It’s the Oval CPF logo with French over the logo and Briar under. I am not going to smoke the straight, it’s been clean for 100 years, I don’t want to be the guy that dirties it up. LOL. I have not tested to see if the stems are amber or not.

Any thoughts on dating or value? Should I be happy or sad for $120? Any tidbits of the history beyond what you have written is appreciated.

Thanks man, really appreciate you taking the time to reply.

All the best,


He sent the following photo of the threesome. They were beautiful to me. With the photo he had not only my attention but he had me hooked. I love the old CPF pipes and I had previously restemmed an old bent bulldog like the one in the photo sans bling. This set was amazing and I would love to see it in person.CPF1 I replied to his email and he responded offering to send me the pipe with the overturned stem for a repair and to send me the Meerschaum to “take a swing at refinishing it” as he worded it. When the pipes arrived yesterday I opened the box to have a look at the pair that he sent. I took the pair out and examined them carefully. The Meerschaum I put in my own repair box for later. The stem on it was definitely a mess. There was crazing throughout the length of the stem where someone had tried to clean the stem with alcohol. It was Bakelite and really was a wreck. The stem on the bent bulldog was much better. If that pipe has been smoked it is very lightly smoked. There is very little darkening in the bowl and none in the stem. I carefully unscrewed the stem and had a look at the bone tenon and at the threaded mortise in the shank. Both were not darkened by smoke so I am thinking that this one is also unsmoked.

I looked at the threads in the mortise and on the tenon and could see that they were worn. The stem had been screwed and unscrewed many times over its long life and the worn threads accounted for the overturn. The stem was clean but dull from not being polished. The bowl ornamentation was oxidized but had a patina that worked with its age. There would be little clean up on this old pipe. The internals were spotless other than dust. A quick clean up with a water dampened pipe cleaner took care of that. The stem would need some work with micromesh pads to bring back the shine. I would leave the patina on the brass as I liked the way it looked. The only issue that needed to be addressed was the overclocked stem and the worn threads.CPF2 I cleaned up the tenon with a cotton swab and warm water being careful to not get the bone tenon too wet. With a tenon this old it is very easy to snap it when working on it. I used a tooth brush to work on the threads and clean off any dust of debris on them. I carefully applied a few drops of clear super glue to the threads – it would build up the worn threads and also stabilize the old bone tenon. When it dried I tried it in the shank and found it took care of about half of the overturn. I took it apart and added a few more drops of the glue and let it dry.CPF3 I wiped off the brass with a jeweler’s cloth to protect and clean it slightly. I did not want to remove the patina, just give it a quick rub down with the cloth.CPF4 I sanded the Bakelite stem with micromesh sanding pads until the butterscotch colour just glowed. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads.CPF5


CPF7 I wiped down the bowl with some Briar Wipe – a no longer made pipe polish and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax by hand and hand buffed it as well. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. After Christmas I will send it off to Michael to enjoy. Thanks Michael for the Meerschaum to fiddle with and thank you for the opportunity to see and do the repair on this beautiful old piece of CPF history. I can only hope to find a set like yours one day! Enjoy this piece of history that has come into your hands. It is in your trust and certainly with care will continue its usefulness for more generations of pipe men to come. Cheers.CPF8




A Surprise when working on the Citation 812 Canadian

Blog by Steve Laug

Class1This Citation (second pipe down in the first column in the photo on the left) is a sister pipe to the Savinelli Classica 812 Canadian that I just restored. It is stamped Citation and 812 on the bottom of the shank. The sand blast is nowhere near as beautiful as the Classica but it has a charm all its own. It appears to be a combined blast and rustication – hard to explain but it is just too consistent to be a normal sand blast. It appears to have been rusticated and then blasted lightly. It has a dark brown stain as an undercoat and a light brown over the top. The high points on the finish are lighter brown and the smooth portions are also lighter brown.

The bowl had a pretty heavy cake and the lava had overflowed onto the rim. The finish was dirty but otherwise in decent shape under the grime. The rim appeared to be in good shape under the grime and there were no nicks or dings in the outer or inner edge of the rim. The stem that came with the pipe was not the original and it had been poorly fit to the shank. It was narrower than the shank and pinched at the saddle portion. It still had all of the fill marks from the person who had fit it to the shank. The underside of the button and a large chunk of the underside of the stem were missing. I would not be sad to throw away this poorly cut broken stem.

Inside the shank was pretty dirty and plugged. I could not blow air through the pipe and did not dare to try sucking on the shank. Who knows what might end up in my mouth! I would need to remedy that situation and I would need to make a stem for it. This would be a beautiful little pipe to go with the Savinelli Classica once it was finished – kind a light and a dark version of the same shape. At this point little did I know what kind of surprise lay ahead for me as I cleaned it up and restored this little pipe. The photo below shows the two pipes together.Class2 The next four photos give a clear picture of the state of the pipe – its finish, broken stem and tarred and cake rim and bowl. You can also see what I mean when I say that the finish is far to uniform for a sand blast but looks to have both a blast and a rustication. Someone help me out on this if you have any information.Citation3



Citation6I went through my can of stems and found a clear acrylic taper stem that would work perfectly with this pipe and with a little shaping would go well with the dark look of the finish.Citation7 The tenon almost fit perfectly from the start. I only needed to lightly sand it to get a snug fit against the shank. The diameter of the stem was a little bigger than the shank of the pipe all the way around but would easily be shape to fit well.Citation8



Citation11 I took a close up photo of the rim to give an idea of what I was working with on this bowl. The second photo below shows the stamping on the pipe.Citation12

Citation13 If I had known what I found out later in the refurbishing process I would never have taken the next steps in the clean up. But I was oblivious so I did them unwittingly. I used the smallest PipNet reamer cutting head to take back the cake to what I thought was bare briar. I used a small pen knife to even up the job of cutting back the cake to smooth.Citation14

Citation15 I scrubbed the outside of the bowl and the rim with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush and fine bristle brass tire brush to clean off the tars and lava that had overflowed the top of the bowl. I rinsed the pipe under warm water to remove the soap and the grime and dried it off with a cotton towel.Citation16 The cleaned finish even more clearly looks to be a manufactured look to approximate a sandblast finish. But it was a great tactile finish and once polished would look great.Citation17


Citation19 I gave the bowl a light rubdown of olive oil like I had on the Classica. It brought the colours in the briar to the front and it is going to be a beautiful pipe.Citation20


Citation22 In the photo above you can see what looks like a smooth ring around the inside of the bowl. This was my first clue that things were not necessarily as they appeared. I went back to read a post on Facebook by Geoff Carmell about a Citation pipe he had found. Sure enough the finish was the same and the ring around the inside edge of the bowl was a meerschaum lining. With the way I had man handled it – reaming and scrubbing with the brass bristle brush it is a wonder that I had not damaged the bowl. I would do some work on cleaning that edge a little more gingerly later. Now I had to fit the new stem.

I sanded the stem with a Dremel and sanding drum carefully working it down to the same diameter as the shank and fitting the flow of the curves on the oval shank. This has to be done carefully and with a steady hand or you have to repair the damaged shank or cut another stem to fit. I proceed carefully and slowly. The photos below show the rough fit of the stem after the Dremel and sanding drum work.Citation23



Citation26 I sanded the rough fit stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches and fine tune the fit to the shank. I also sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to further fine tune the fit.Citation27



Citation30 The next photos show the newly fitted stem and what the pipe will look like with the clear stem. It still needs a lot of sanding including file work on the airway and the button. It has a small airhole in the end of the button but I will need to cut and shape a slot.Citation31



Citation34 All of the internal work and the work on shaping a slot are done with my collection of needle files. It looks like a lot of files but I usually only use three different files – a round, an oval and a flat oval. I use both the larger and the smaller files in these three shapes.Citation35

Citation36 The slot is progressing from a round hole to more of an oval shape that matches the shape of the button. Still a lot of filing to do to get it finished.Citation37 I worked on the button, slot, and airway to smooth things out and open them up with the smaller files as well. When I drilled the airway to turn the tenon the drill left a ridge on the inside of the airway in the stem that is a bear to sand out. I worked on it until it was as smooth as I could get it. There is still a small line in the airway but it is smoother than it was when I started. I am going to have to get some tapered drill bits. That would have made this task a minor hiccup in the process rather than a several hour ordeal. The airway is wide open and takes a fluffy pipe cleaner with ease.Citation38


Citation40 I sanded the end of the button and slot with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches and then went through the micromesh pads to polish it. I worked the stem over with micromesh sanding pads, wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with the remaining pads 3200-12000 grit.Citation41


Citation43 With the stem done I figured I could put it off no longer. I had to work on the airway. It was seriously clogged. I could not push a paper clip through or even an ice pick. I used the drill bit on the KLEENREEM and could not get it through. I had to soak it with an alcohol wetted pipe cleaner to soften the plug and then I used a paper clip to push through the plug finally. Then I had to work through the drill bit and the pipe cleaners to get all of the gunk out. Finally I have good airflow. I cleaned out the shank with alcohol and pipe cleaners until they were clean.Citation44 I cleaned the meerschaum lining on the rim with micromesh sanding pads and patiently just sanding the meer edge and the bowl. I was able to get much of the tars off the meer and now it shows golden. There are several spots where it is stained very dark.Citation45 I buffed the bowl and rim with Blue Diamond and did the same to the stem. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and the hand waxed the bowl with Conservators Wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean flannel buff and then with a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I like the way it came out. (In the photos of the full pipe the stem came out looking opaque but it is absolutely clear as can be seen in the close up photo.)




Citation50 I took a photo of the two pipes together to show the finished product. Thanks for looking.Citation51