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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.