Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table is a Hilson Fantasia. It is a butterscotch coloured bowl and shank with swirls of black that are scattered throughout the pipe. When I saw the pictures in the eBay seller’s listing I was not sure it was worth the effort. Over the years I have seen some beautiful swirled patterns in bright yellows, puce and lime greens, reds and oranges that were quite stunning. This one fell short of those previously seen pipes in terms of colour (at least in the photos). The following photos are from the seller’s ad.The resin external bowl was in excellent shape with no cuts, marks or dents in the surface. The meerschaum insert was barely smoked. The rim had some darkening and overflow on the back edge but it was not too bad. The rest of the rim looked rough but would easily polish up and look good. The bottom half of the bowl was not darkened by tobacco burning and looked almost pristine. The fact that Hilson used block meerschaum and not pressed meerschaum for their bowls makes the quality of the lining far better and I have rarely seen a Hilson meerschaum lining cracked or broken. The stem was quite heavily oxidized and the tenon would not fit in the shank due to some residue in the mortise. The stamping “Hilson Fantasia” on the stem was a decal and it was almost worn off. With the heavy oxidation I would have to sacrifice that faint stamping to get the stem back to black. There was some light tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. The slot in the button was very small and tight. That made it hard to push a pipe cleaner through the stem from the button end. When I received the pipe from my brother I was pleasantly surprised at the colours. It was significantly brighter than the photos. The swirls of black against the amber colour looked much more appealing than I would have guessed. The bowl was stamped on the underside of the shank with the word BELGIUM and on the right side of the shank with the shape number 205. From my research on the web I found that the Hilson Fantasia, made in Belgium originally came out as a meerschaum lined pipe with an outer bowl made of a new material that they called pipenite. In 1962 it came out in what they called ivory white and in a colour they called tortoise. In 1963 they seemed to have added the option of a black pipenite bowl. From what I can find out about the material they call pipenite, it was a specially designed polyester resin. It was light weight and fairly indestructible. The block meerschaum insert was something that Hilson turned into a specialty. (I have restored some beautiful briar pipe with the Double Ecume or meerschaum liners as well.) These colourful resin pipes look like a product of the 60’s and in my research on Chris’ Pipe pages, http://pipepages.com/hilson.htm I found them in catalogues from that era. The swirled materials of the bowl gave the pipe a 60’s psychedelic look. I have included a catalogue page from a 1962 Wally Frank Catalogue that was on the pipepages site. The write up on the Hilson Fantasia is entertaining to read in terms of the sales pitch that is delivered. I have written about some of the history of the brand on a previous blog on Hilson Double Ecume pipes. If you are interested in reading about the history of the brand click on the following link: https://wordpress.com/post/rebornpipes.com/40547. In addition the following link on the Estervals Pipe House website gives a good summary of the history of the brand for those of you who want to read more: http://www.tecon-gmbh.de/info_pages.php?pages_id=70.
I took some close up photos of the rim to show the white bowl bottom and the tars and darkening on the top of the rim. The inner edge of the bowl is rough to touch as is the surface of the rim. I also took a photo of the front and the back of the bowl to show the swirls in amber base colour. There is something stunning about this pipe. The next two photos show the tooth chatter and the oxidation on the stem – top and bottom as well as the faded and worn decal that reads Hilson Fantasia.I scrubbed the surface of the rim with saliva on a cotton pad and then used the 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the surface and the inner edge of the rim.I carefully scraped the meerschaum lining of the bowl with a Savinelli Pipe Knife to remove the slight cake build up on the inside of the bowl.I scrubbed out the mortise and airway to the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I used pipe cleaners and alcohol to clean out the airway in the stem as well.I sanded the stem to remove the oxidation on the surface. It took quite a bit of sanding to get through the oxidation on the surface. Once I had it removed I scrubbed it with soft scrub cleanser to clean off the remnant. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads, gave it another coat of oil and then finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the meerschaum rim lightly with Blue Diamond on the wheel and the stem as well. I gave the stem and the rim several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to give it a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the stem and the rim. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am quite taken by the overall look of the pipe once it has been cleaned up. There is more to it than meets the eye. The light weight the swirls in the amber like resin and the patina on the rim give it a touch of class. This one will also probably be on the store for sale in the days ahead. If you are interested send me a message or leave a comment.