Blog by Steve Laug
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.
-Child’s Nursery Rhyme – Mother Goose
When I opened the box and saw this old pipe that my brother sent my first reaction was why? Then I started to look it over and I began to understand the attraction of it. It reminded me of the children’s rhyme, “The old woman who lived in a shoe”, that I used to recite growing up so it led me down memory lane. From what I can find the pipe is probably from the 30’s. The carving and detail of the shoe is quite well done. The lines demarcating the stitching and the worn look of a well broken in shoe add to the attraction. The carver even detailed the sole of the shoe and the bead around the boot. He carved in the laces and the tongue of the shoe. Even the fills added to the worn and well broken in boot look of the pipe.
My brother sent me some photos of the pipe to show what it looked like when it was found. He found it in an antique shop on a recent trip around the Butte and Anaconda, Montana area. He added some other nice pipes and then this one as well. The pipe is not tiny, but is a full-sized smoking pipe. The dimensions will tell the story. It is 7 inches long and the bowl is 2 inches tall. The diameter of the bowl exterior is 1 ¼ inches and the chamber is ¾ inches in diameter. The photos focus in on the details of the carving on the pipe and the placement of the fills – which even give the pipe a worn and broken in feel of a worn boot. I decided to work on the bowl first. The missing fill on the rim of the pipe that is shown in the above photo at the 10 o’clock position (left side of the photo toward the top of the bowl) was the first one I worked on. I cleaned off the rim with some isopropyl alcohol then filled in the divot with some clear super glue and briar dust. Once it dried I sanded the fill smooth to blend it in with the rest of the surface of the rim. I sanded the inside edge as well and smoothed it out.I used a Black Sharpie pen to mark out the lines used demarcate the stitching and lacing of the boot. I stained the briar with a cherry stain/Danish Oil combination. I rubbed the stain onto the briar and used a cotton swab to apply it in the grooves. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. The first photo below shows the pipe before I wiped it off.The next five photos show the pipe after I wiped it down. The cherry stain looked really good on the briar. I would need to reapply the black Sharpie to highlight the grooves and do some more highlights of brown into the worn areas of the boot. I used the black Sharpie to redefine the grooves in the stitching areas and tongue and laces once again. In the folds I applied some dark brown stain with a stain pen to add shadows. The next photos show the pipe after that. The browns add shadows to the finish and give the folds some depth. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the roughness of the old vulcanite. It was pitted and rough in texture. The initial sanding smooth out the roughness. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and the shine began to rise. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with the oil after each set of three sanding pads. After sanding with the 12000 grit pad and rubbing it down with Obsidian Oil I set it aside to dry. I used a sharper pointed Black Sharpie Pen and a red felt tip pen to highlight more of the shadows in the folds of the boot. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and .gave the pipe and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. My goal was to get the pipe looking like it was made out of old soft leather. I wanted the shadows in the folds and the stitch lines to look authentic. Hopefully the stain and the fussing with pens have achieved that. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below and personally I think the old woman’s shoe looks amazing. This was a fun project and really a diversion from the usual routine of pipe restoration. Thanks for looking. Enjoy.