Blog by Steve Laug
Over the years I have cleaned up quite a few Mastercraft pipes. My brother picked one up on Ebay for me recently. It looked like a good one when he sent me the photos of the pipe. I could not wait for it to arrive and I could begin to work on it. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote a bit about the history of the brand (https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/). In that article I made the connection of the brand to Bing Crosby. I posted this old advertisement for the pipes with the old crooner himself.
The connection between the pipe in this advert and the Oom Paul I received from my brother. They both bear the same stamping. The both had the shield on the left side of the shank and then bore the same stamping. The Oom Paul was stamped Mastercraft over Standard in the shield. On the right side of the shank it was stamped I continued through the Google list for Mastercraft and one of the next listing was in Pipedia. http://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft
It doesn’t appear that Mastercraft was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow. As an importer of finished pipes M/C worked with many of the world’s foremost pipe makers and had in inventory finished product from the likes of… England: Hardcastle and Orlik. France: Ropp, Jeantet, Jean LaCroix. Italy: Lorenzo, Gasparini, Federico Rovera, Emilio Rovera, GIGI Pipe, Brebbia, Santambrogio, Fratelli Rossi. Israel: Shalom and Alpha. Plus all the tools, pouches and lighters from Hong Kong and Japan. The list of suppliers is enormous.
I had also found some older RTDA Almanac pages on Chris’ Pipe Pages site. http://pipepages.com/index.html. The first one of these shows the Mastercraft Standard. It sold for $3.50 and was a midrange pipe value as shown on the list below.The first of these shows the address of the Mastercraft Pipe Company in New York which was where they were prior to moving to North Carolina. I clipped this image from the 1949 RTDA Almanac. It is an early catalogue listing, since the brand was created in 1941. My guess, judging from the previous advertisement and the 1949 RTDA Almanac clipping above, is that the pipe I have is from the period between the beginning of the company and the publication of this catalogue (1941-1949). After that period in the 50’s and 60’s the names of the pipes changed and I was not able to find the Mastercraft Standard in later catalogues.
The photo to the left and the next two photos that follow are the ones my brother sent to me before I received the pipe. They give a good idea of the condition of the pipe when I received it. The pipe had a natural finish, no stain on the briar. Over the years the briar takes on a richer colour. This one had taken on a reddish tint. The stamping on the left side still showed the gold stamping in some of the grooves. There were specks of white paint on the bowl, shank and stem. There was also some darkening on the sides at the shank junction with the bowl from oils and soiling from the previous pipe man’s hands. The rim was thickly tarred with lava overflow. The bowl had a thin cake on the top 2/3 and the bottom 1/3 was still fresh briar showing raw briar. The pipe obviously had not been smoked to the heel. The stem was quality rubber and did not show signs of metal fragments in the mix that seem to appear in many of the war year pipes. There was little oxidation but there were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. There was tooth chatter on both sides. The stem did not fit tight against the end of the shank.
When the pipe arrived I put it in my refurbishing box and would eventually get to it. Today I took it out of the box to work on it. I removed the stem and was a bit surprised to see the interesting and unusual stinger apparatus in the end of the tenon. It had a flat blade that ended in a point. It was almost a spear point. It sat down in the sump of the shank. It ended at a spiral cylindrical piece with a slot in the last half of the cylinder. It fit into tenon by pressure and was easily twisted free.
I scrubbed the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and soil in the briar and the white flecks of paint on the bowl and shank. I scrubbed the rim with the acetone as well to try to remove the lava overflow that was present. I used a pen knife and scraped at the lava between wipes of acetone and was able to remove the buildup without damaging the finish on the rim. I did not need to top the bowl!
The acetone removed the grime from the briar and all of previous coats of wax that had given it a dull finish.
Once I had cleaned the finish of the bowl and shank with the acetone I washed it down with alcohol and dried it off. I used some antique gold Rub ‘n Buff to restore the stamping to its previous look.
I hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush and a little Conservator’s Wax to protect it during the rest of the clean up. Though I probably should have done the next step before the work on the stamping I did not do so. But such is the way things go. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the third cutting head to take back the cake to bare briar. Since the bottom 1/3 of the bowl was uncaked I wanted the transition between the sides of the bowl from top to bottom to be smooth.
I scrubbed the stinger with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the grime. I also scrubbed it with a brass tire brush. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaner, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I was surprised to find that the tenon was lined with an aluminum tube. The stinger pressed against the sides of the tube when it was inserted. I think it was also an attempt to strengthen the tenon. I scrubbed out the mortise, sump and airway on the bowl with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until they came out clean. I sanded the tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them as they were not too deep.
I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil, then left it to dry.
I rubbed down the bowl with a light coat of olive oil and then buffed it with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I gave it a final buff with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It should provide many years of service to the next pipe man whose rack it graces. It will likely outlive both that pipe man and me and be passed on it trust to the next person who will enjoy it companionship for the years that they have it in trust. These old pipes always outlive the pipe man who keeps them company if they are well cared for (and even sometimes when they are not!).