Blog by Steve Laug
My brother Jeff picked up a pipe that is in one of my favourite shapes – the chubby apple. I love the feel of this pipe shape in the hand. It just fits perfectly and sits right in my opinion. This one was stamped on the underside of the shank with the words OLD RIVER. There is no shape number or country of origin stamped on the pipe. The rusticated finish is very tactile and feels great in the hand. To me it has the look and shape of a sea slug. Living in Vancouver, near on the ocean I have seen a lot of sea slugs and always found something endearing in their sheer ugliness. The finish on this one reminds me of those ugly sea slugs and yet the look captures me. The stem is a solid rubber of high quality as it was only minimally oxidized and it was very hard. I took the following photos when the pipe arrived to show you its condition. The finish is unique to my mind. It is almost a combination of sandblast and rustication. The deep grooves on the pipe were dirty with dust and debris lodged in them. The high spots were quite shiny and clean. The stem had mild oxidation on the surface but nothing deep. The shape of the stem was old style with a slot in the button but highly tapered as it made its way to the button. The rim was clean with nothing more than the same dust as the sides of the bowl. There was no build up on the flat surface of the rim and the inner and outer edges were in good shape. Someone had reamed it out and it looked to have been sanded clean. They did well in terms of keeping the inner edge of the bowl round and the distance between the inner and outer wall of the rim equidistant all the way around the bowl. I searched on the internet to see if I could find any information on the brand or the maker of the pipe. I found many pictures of virtually the same pipe I had but little or no information. Finally looking at one photo of a pipe that is the obvious brother of the one I have on Smokershaven.com I found some information. I was dubious about the information as the pipe I have is certainly an older pipe and one that has an older style stem but the connection was worth checking out. Here is the link: https://www.smokershaven.com/old-river-estate-pipe-carved-chubby-bent-apple/. In the description of the pipe on the site it says that the Old River brand was made by Oliver Camphausen. Because of the uncertainty I wrote to Mr. Camphausen in Germany and asked him directly if he made that brand. His response is below.
Dear Mr. Laug,
No you’ re gone wrong. I’ m sorry but I never carved this pipe. Also never used this brand stamping my pipes.
With that answer my sole clue as to the identity of the pipe was gone. Not only do I not know any information on the maker but I am not even certain if there were other shapes made under this name. Every picture of the brand that I have seen on the web was virtually identical in shape to the one I have. There is variation of course in the bend and shape of the stem (some had a replacement stem). There is also variation in the rustication pattern as all were done individually by hand but the overall bumpy chubby look of the pipe is the same. So the mystery remains and I will just enjoy the pipe.
I took two close-up photos of the pipe. The first is a photo of the underside of the shank with the stamping. The second is of the bowl and the rim. The pipe was filthy inside the shank and airway in both the bowl and the stem. I cleaned out both with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until they were spotless and the pipe smelled sweet once again. I scrubbed down the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap, rinsed and dried it to give it a good cleaning and remove the dust and debris from the crevices. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and then buffed it by hand with a shoe brush.I sanded the stem with some 600 grit sandpaper to remove the surface oxidation and marks on the surface. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished by dry sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it sit until it was absorbed then hand buffed it. I buffed the pipe lightly with Blue Diamond and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several more coats of Conservator’s Wax and then buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad on the wheel. I gave it a final hand buff with a microfibre cloth to raise a deeper shine. The finished Sea Slug is shown in the photos below. There is just something endearing about the sheer ugliness of the slug. I like it! Thanks for looking.