Restoring A Medico Double-Dri Bakelite Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

In the ongoing adventure of discovery of the quest for the drier smoking pipe I keep finding new ones that intrigue me. This latest addition that my brother Jeff picked up is unique even if it was not part of that adventure of discovery. It is stamped Medico over Double-Dri and it is unusual to say the least. The base of the pipe I believe is made of Bakelite. The bowl is painted briar or at least looks to be. The bowl is friction fit into the base and is held in place by a cork or composition ring around the edges of the base. The bottom of the bowl is a hard clay or ceramic material. The bowl is U shaped and has three holes in the bottom of the bowl that angle outward toward the edge of the external bottom of the bowl that fits in the base. The bottom of the base has a raise metal pillar that sits in an indentation on the bottom of the bowl once it is in place. Double-dri3

This directs the airflow into the rounded bottom of the base and the airway on the back of the pipe. There is a Medico paper filter that sits in the shank of the pipe and the tenon of the stem to further dry out the smoke. Thus there are two traps for moisture so that the smoke that is drawn into the mouth of the smoker is Double Dry. The stem on the one I have is made of a multi-coloured white/grey and has a raised interlocking DD logo. The white/grey nylon looks quite nice with the dark of the base and the white of the bowl.

The pipes seemed to come in a variety of colours and bowl configurations and materials from meerschaum to briar and painted briar. The bases also came in a variety of colours as did the stems. I found the next photo on the web that gives some idea of the wide variety of choices in this 50’s era pipe. Double-Dri1Charles Lemon at Dadspipes wrote about one he did a refurb on and it got my attention so I have had an eye out for one. Here is his write up http://dadspipes.com/2015/10/30/1041/ He wrote that the “Double-Dri was Medico’s foray into the field of removable and interchangeable bowls, though where the Falcon pipe used aluminum for its shank, the Double-Dri used another 1950’s Space Age material, Nylon, for both shank and stem. Press-fit bowls were available in briar or the more expensive meerschaum.”Double-dri2

There was not much information on the brand. The PipePhil site just had the brand and a few photos of two different pipe configurations. The Smoking Metal site gave the name and a picture of the pipe put together and taken apart. There was nothing that I could find that spelled out what Charles spoke of in terms of the base and stem being nylon. It appeared to me that he was right about the stem on the one I had. It was nylon. The base however was exactly like earlier Bakelite pipes that I have in my collection. I know there is a way to check that but the look and feel certainly makes me think I am right in that assessment.

Like Charles I also found a few advertisements in 1950s era magazines that sold the pipe. I could not resist using the one to the left.It is a Medico advertisement in the March 1955 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine. The language of the advert makes for great reading. It says that it is the Best Looking Pipe and the Best Smoking Pipe. It smokes 35 degrees cooler. The Double-Dry system is shown in the line drawing as made up of three parts – Condensation, Radiation and Filtration. If you buy the press on this pipe you will wonder why it is not still being sold 60+ years later. (I would love to get a hold of a copy of the folder that is mentioned at the bottom of the advertisement if any of you have one around.)

When the pipe arrived I brought it to the worktable I took a few photos to show what the condition was when I started the clean up. It was in decent shape. The bowl was caked and the holes in the bottom of the bowl were clogged. I could not see how the airflow worked with the bowl and base from looking inside the bowl. The bowl had some nicks and damage on the top edge and had a thick coating of tars. The bowl exterior was also dirty and there were some black marks on the sides of the bowl. The base was dirty and caked with hardened tars and oils. The inside of the shank and airway were black and the airway into the base was reduced in size. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and the bottom sides near the button and the contrasting grey and white of the stem material were dull. The double DD on the stem looked to be in excellent shape.Double-dri4 Double-dri5 Double-dri6 Double-dri7I took a close up photo of the rim to show the damage that would need to be dealt with. I also did a close up photo of the bottom of the base to show the inset up into the bowl base.Double-dri8 Double-dri9

I took two photos of the base and the bowl – one looking at it from the top down and the other with the bottom side of the bowl showing.Double-dri10 Double-dri11

I removed the stem from the pipe and the old paper Medico Filter was present.Double-dri12

I cleaned out the inside of the base with cotton swabs and alcohol and cleaned out the airways in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.Double-dri13 Double-dri14

The bowl had a rounded bottom so I used a PipNet reamer and reamed the bowl to remove the cake and enable me to see the airways in the bottom of the bowl.Double-dri15 Double-dri16

I used a paper clip to break through the airways from the underside of the bowl.Double-dri17I scrubbed the bowl exterior and rim with cotton pads and alcohol. I was able to remove most of the grime from the bowl and a fair bit of the lava from the rim. I could see that the rim was actually unpainted briar.Double-dri18 Double-dri19 Double-dri20 Double-dri21I sanded the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to remove some of the pieces of tar and oil that were stuck to the surface of the bowl. I also sanded the base with the micromesh to give it a shine.Double-dri22 Double-dri23I lightly topped the bowl to clean up the outer edge of and the top of the rim. I sanded the inner edge of the rim to smooth that out as well. I followed up on it by sanding it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads.Double-dri24I sanded the tooth chatter and marks out of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and the shine came back to the stem. The contrast of grey and white really began to stand out.Double-dri25 Double-dri26 Double-dri27I gave the nylon stem several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed the stem with a microfibre cloth. I put the pipe back together piece by piece including a new Medico paper filter in the stem.Double-dri28 Double-dri29 Double-dri30I gave the entire pipe another coat of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed the pipe to a shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Other than the damage on the curve of the bowl the pipe looks very good. Thanks for looking.Double-dri31 Double-dri32 Double-dri33 Double-dri34 Double-dri35

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