Blog by Steve Laug
I have always been fascinated with miniature copies of larger items. When my daughters were younger we used to buy them brass miniature stoves and household items that were surprisingly real. All of them had working parts and were small copies of the larger counterparts. I found out that Salesmen’s samples were similar to these items I bought my daughters. They were a common item in the early 20th century. Salesmen needed a smaller version of their product to show off to retailers, and retailers in turn needed a way to demonstrate the features of larger items, which might need to be ordered from the manufacturer, to their customers. Many salesmen’s samples were highly detailed, with additional marketing copy pointing out important features of the product. http://www.collectorsweekly.com/advertising/salesmans-samples I have cleaned up a few tiny salesmen’s pipes over the years that were working models of larger pipes. They have all been smokeable.
Today I worked on one that came in my brother’s box of pipes. It is stamped KBB in a cloverleaf and next to that Yello-Bole over Imported Briar. The stem is vulcanite and the pipe bowl is briar. It had been smoked and there was a light cake in the bowl.None of the reamers that my brother had would fit the tiny bowl of the pipe. My little finger is still too big to fit into the bowl. The bowl had a light cake in it and the rim was damaged both with tars and with dents from tapping the pipe out. The stem was lightly oxidized and there were tooth marks and chatter on the top and the bottom sides near the button. The finish on the bowl sides was peeling and flaky. The pipe was tiny but well used. I took the next four photos to show what the pipe looked like when I started to work on it. I put the pipe next to the seashell that I have been using for all my photos to give an idea of its diminutive size. I reamed the bowl with the Savinelli Pipe Knife but forgot to take photos of it before and after. When I took the stem off the pipe it had the standard Yello-Bole shovel like stinger. It was pressure fit in the tenon. The tenon on this tiny pipe was metal which was different from previous Yello-Bole Salesmen’s pipes I have refurbished.I carefully removed the stinger from the tenon with a pair of pliers. While the pipe was apart I cleaned out the shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.I cleaned the spoon shaped stinger with a brass bristle wire brush, cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. Once it was clean and the stem was clean I pushed it back in place in the shank.I took off the peeling varnish coat on the bowl with acetone and cotton pads. It did not take a lot of scrubbing to take off all of the finish. The acetone took off the varnish coat and some of the opaque stain on the bowl. Once it was gone I could see some nice grain showing through. The cotton pads give an idea of how small this pipe is. I sanded the bowl with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to even out the finish and smooth out some of the dings and dents on the briar. There was a dark spot on the bottom of the shank where it joined the bowl that appeared to be a burned area. I sanded it and was able to remove most of it. Each successive grit of micromesh sanding pad brought more shine to the surface of the briar. By the end of the progression, the 12000 grit pad the bowl had a shine to it that looked really good and showed off the nice grain on the bowl. I sanded out the tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and then wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. I set the stem aside to dry after sanding it with the 12000 grit pad. I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. The polish made the bowl and the stem shine. I was careful around the stamping so as not to damage it. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. To give an idea of the size of the pipe I took the photos with a Canadian dime or 10 cent piece next to it. The Canadian dime is the same size as the American dime. Thanks for looking.