Daily Archives: October 16, 2016

Space Age Technology for a Better Smoke?

Blog by Aaron Henson

There is a small antique store located along highway 195 in Eastern Washington that I have driven past many times on my way to job sites or family functions but never had the opportunity to stop. This past week I had little spare time on my way home and took the opportunity to stop in.  Sitting on a table by the door were the only two pipes in the shop: a matching pair of white billiards – one bent and one straight – both in good exterior condition.  Both pipes, and the stand they were on, came as a set and the price was such that I could not pass them up – I would have paid list price for just the stand.  I knew nothing about the name stamped on the shank– the pipe – but I thought I would take the chance…. What could go wrong?

Once home, I was able to do a more thorough review of their condition.  Both pipes were in about the same condition, the rims were covered with a heavy crust of lava and the bowls had a nice thick cake built up on the sides.  And they both had a strong smell of aromatic tobacco.  The outside of the both bowls were in very good condition considering the painted finish; no worn spots, dents or discolorations.  The straight billiard has a very small chip in the rim and had two pin-point sized flaws in the paint but the paint on the bent was flawless.aaron1 aaron2 aaron3The stems are nylon and had some tooth dents around the button.  The dents were deep but not to the point of needing filled.  Both airways were clear, but were restricted with a thick layer of tar.  Removing the stem revealed an o-ring set in a groove in the tenon.  Looking into the shank I saw no briar only plastic. aaron4Even more intrigued now, I searched for the pipe on-line and I found the following on Pipedia:

In 1963, Super-Temp Corporation began making plastic pipes with pyrolytic graphite bowl liners. They were called the pipe. In 1965, Super-Temp contracted to market their unique pipes through Venturi, Inc., the company which sold Tar Gard cigarette filters. Colors and stripes began to be offered circa 1967. About 1970, THE SMOKE pipes were added to the line – they were non-traditional shapes with a less expensive bowl liner. Venturi pipes were added around 1972 – they had no liner in the bowls at all. The pipes were out of production by 1975.

Plastic pipes?  Pyrolytic graphite bowl liners?  Granted, I missed out on the 1960’s, but I did get to live through the aftermath and I remember the cultural fascination with space-age materials as they tried to find a place in our daily lives… but I had no idea they made space-age pipes.  An ad in the December 1967 issue of Esquire, captures this fascination. aaron5I felt that I needed to do a little more research and found that the pipe has a small following of dedicated fans.  I eventually came across a web site authored by Billie W. Taylor II, PhD that is dedicated to the history and novelty of these pipes.  He has amassed what could easily be called the definitive work on the pipe: http://www.thepipe.info/sitemap.html

While there is no way I could (or would) share all the information in Dr. Taylor’s website, there are a couple of things I think worth sharing.  The first is the pipe’s unique anatomy.  The body is made of compression molded Bakelite stummel with a graphite bowl insert.  There is an insulating air gap between the bowl insert and the bowl body.aaron6Pyrolytic graphite has been manufactured since the 1950s and is used as heat shields in rockets and reactors, it being an excellent conductor of heat.  As the story goes, in 1963, a machinist at Super-Temp was machining graphite rods into cups to be used in the nuclear power industry.  Being an avid pipe smoker and seeing the cups were about the size of his pipe, he made one that fit into the bowl of his pipe.  Finding that is smoked well, he took the idea to his management and the pipe was born.

Early stems for the pipe were made of nylon while many stems made after the first year were made of Bakelite – addressing complaints that the nylon was too soft.  The tenon has an o-ring set in a groove to ensure a seal between stem and stummel.aaron7Although it was originally offered only in black, in 1967 the pipe came in nine different shapes and offered in standard red, green, blue and white.  The pre 1970’s pipes were coated with a two-part epoxy paint while those after 1970 used an acrylic paint. Additional colors and color schemes were offered throughout the life of the brand but some of the ‘unique’ colors were the result of fading of the acrylic paint.

Other than stem material, I did not have much to go on to date these two pipes.  But because both stems are nylon I will estimate that they were early runs and date to the mid-1960’s.

After what I read, I assumed that the typical briar pipe restoration techniques would apply.  I was worried about damaging the graphite liner and not sure what chemicals might do to it.  I also assumed that the bowls should not be scraped or sanded.  Since both of the pipes I had bought had nylon stems, using alcohol on them was out.  I kept researching and found a 1969 magazine ad that gave me an idea:aaron8Putting the pipes in my wife’s dishwasher was out of the question… I didn’t even ask!  Additional reading through thepipe.info website I found a cleaning guide that began with a soak in warm water with a small amount of mild dish soap.  This began to loosen the hardened tars and lava.aaron9

I used the paper stick of a cotton swab, cut at an angle, to remove much of the buildup in the corners of the mortise and the airway. The remainder of the buildup required half a dozen soaks in soapy water and a lot of cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.  I finally got the internals cleaned and in the end I didn’t use anything more abrasive than a paper towel.aaron10The shank still had the ghosts of the old tobacco.  So I went back with an alcohol soaked cotton swab and wiped down the inside of the shank again.  Surprise, surprise, it came out dirty.  Nothing seems to cut though the old tobacco oils and residue like alcohol.

I also soaked the stems in warm soapy water.  Using a small nylon bottle brush I was able to soak and scrub repeatedly until the bulk of the crud was removed.  I continued on with bristled pipe cleaners but even after the pipe cleaners came out clean I could still smell the old tobacco smell.  I could not figure out where it was coming from until I removed the o-rings.  I didn’t think about this at right away, but of course there was a lot of build-up in the grooves.aaron11To raise the tooth dents, I placed the stems in some near boiling water.  I have tried to use direct flame or a heat gun in the past but have found them to be too hot and they melt the nylon.  The hot water did raise the dents some but it also straightened the stem of the bent pipe.  Another dip in hot water and molding the stem over a large diameter dowel restored the stem’s shape.  No pictures of this…. I am afraid that both hands were busy.

To completely remove the tooth marks I needed to sand them with 220 grit paper.  I removed the deeper scratches of the 220 grit with 500 grit and 1000 grit paper.  I finished up the stems by wet sanding with 1500 – 2400 micro mesh pads.   The nylon is soft and the scratches hard to remove.  Several times I had to drop back to a courser pad to remove a stubborn scratch.  I finished polishing with the 3200 – 12000 pads and a light amount of mineral oil. aaron12 aaron13 aaron14 aaron15I took the pipes to the buffing station and used red diamond on the stems only, – I didn’t want to risk damaging the paint with even a light abrasive.  Dr. Taylor’s website suggested auto wax as a finish but I opted for the more traditional three coats of carnauba wax over all.

The end of the pipe of occurred in about 1975 with complications of corporate business plans and a lack of following.  Estimates say that approximately three million units were sold during the ten year life of the pipe. My own inexpert opinion, nothing will ever truly compete with briar for a good smoke.aaron16 This is the best pictures I got of the graphite bowl liners.aaron17 aaron18 aaron19


A Worn Royal Danish 936 Wide Oval Shank Pipe given new life

Blog by Steve Laug

When I saw the pictures of the way this pipe looked – at least the first picture I thought it was in pretty decent shape. The finish was a little worn; particularly some of the high spots on the sand blast had worn off. The smooth patches were also worn and lifeless. The back edge of the rim looked really rough – as if the pipe had been knocked about on concrete or another hard surface to remove the dottle from the bowl. It was ragged. The inner edge of the rim also looked worn and the cake in the bowl was a bit odd looking – as if it was partially removed. It seemed heavier on one side than the other. The stem looked okay in the first picture but the second hinted that all was not well with it either.danish1The close up photos reveal the issues that I hinted at above. The first shows the strangely caked bowl – heavily built up toward the left side and rear of the bowl as well as the rough back rim top and edge of the bowl. The inner edge of the rim also looks like it has taken some damage. The second photo shows the slight cap at the stem junction that to my mind spoke of a tarry and caked mortise that kept the stem from seating properly. The finish also shows some wear in the photos. The pipe is stamped Royal Danish and Made in Denmark. The shape number is 936 which is a Stanwell shape.danish2The next two photos show the issues with the stem. There were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem that went from quite deep to very shallow. The button top and bottom were worn down and had deep tooth marks. There was also a heavy build up of oxidation on the stem. The stem logo on the top is very faint. It made me wonder if I would be able to feel it with my finger once it arrived in Canada.danish3I am so glad my brother does the heavy work on cleaning out these pipes. I have reamed and cleaned out the shanks of a lot of pipes and I can’t say that I miss it. I still get to do my share of cleanups on pipes that I find but these that he sends me come ready for the restoration process. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and was able to remove the wax and tars on bowl and rim. He reamed the bowl back to bare briar and scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem. When it arrived the stain was quite washed out and the stem was really oxidized. The damaged rim top was very visible and it was in rough shape.danish4 danish5I took some close up photos of the rim and the stem when it arrived here. The roughness of the rim top and inner edge are seen in the first photo. The tooth marks and wear on the stem top and underside in the second and third photos. My brother had cleaned out the mortise so the stem fit tightly against the shank so my guess mentioned above about a dirty mortise appears to have been correct. The crown logo on the top of the stem could hardly be felt by touch.danish6 danish7I started sanding the stem then decided to run a few pipe cleaners and alcohol through the airway in the stem and shank as well as in the mortise. They were quite clean and did not take too much work to remove the little bit of debris that was still left.danish8I sanded the rim lightly to take away the roughness but still leave the finish looking like the sand blasted portion of the rim that had not been damaged. I stained the bowl with a dark brown stain mixed 50/50 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied the stain and flamed it and repeated the process until the coverage was what I was looking for. I wanted the dark stain in the deep grain of blast to show through the brown top stain.danish9I hand buffed the bowl with a microfibre cloth to raise a shine and to give an even look to the finish. The photos below show the pipe at this point in the process.danish10In the second photo below the rim surface is visible. There will need to be some contrast applied to the finish to make it blend in and not look merely “less damaged”.danish11To address the contrast issue on the rim mentioned above I used a black Sharpie Pen to provide some darkening in the crevices of the pitted surface. I used a dark brown stain pen to give the top coat over the black stain.danish12I sanded the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the roughened inner edge. In retrospect I probably should have done this before staining the bowl but I did not so I put it in the order I did the work. In the second photo below you can see how the contrast stain worked on the rim top.danish13When I finished sanding I stained the inner edge of the rim with the dark brown stain pen and added some streaks of black Sharpie pen to give it some contrast. I buffed the rim lightly Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and with a microfibre cloth. The photos below show the pipe bowl after buffing. Notice the change to the rim after the sanding, staining and buffing.danish14 danish15I set the bowl aside and worked on the issues with the stem. I sanded the area around the button on both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and scrubbed the deeper tooth marks with cotton swabs and alcohol. Once they were clean I filled the deeper marks and built up the button surface with black super glue.danish16I sanded the repairs once they had cured with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them into the surface of the stem. I reshaped the top of the button on both sides of the stem with the sandpaper.danish17The edge of the button on the underside of the stem was still rough so I used a needle file to shape and sharpen the straight edge.danish18I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the stem down with Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and a paper towel to further remove the oxidation on the stem. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish both Fine and Extra Fine with paper towels. The stem was beginning to shine.danish19 danish20I sanded the stem once again with the micromesh sanding pads using 1500-12000 grit pads. Each successive grit of sanding pad added more shine and depth to the shine. The more I polished the stem the more the crown logo disappeared.danish21I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I rubbed the bowl down with Conservator’s Wax by hand. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The pipe is clean and looks new. The restoration brought it back to life. Thanks for looking.danish22 danish23 danish24 danish25

Comoy’s Grand Slam 30D Restoration

By Al Jones

Update: Thanks to Sam’s comments below, we did confirm that the shape number is indeed a 30D. And, I found this shape chart page showing the shape 30. Thanks Sam!


This is the second pipe sent to me by a PipesMagazine.com forum friend. Grand Slam pipes are fairly common and originally came with a complicated stinger with leather washers. Most of the stingers were discarded and was missing on this one as well.

The pipe had a mildly oxidized stem, with some teeth indentions and a heavy tar build-up on the bowl top. I cleaned the bowl top with a cloth and some mild Oxy-Clean solution. As I removed the cake with my Castleford reamer, I unfortunately discovered that at some point, a previous owner had reamed it with a knife or other. The bowl was slightly out of round. I massaged that back as close as possible to round with some 320 grit paper. The bowl was then soaked with sea salt and alcohol. The stem was soaked in a mild Oxy-Clean solution, with a dab of grease on the 3 piece “C” logo.

The pipe as it was received. The stem was also very loose, to be dealt with later.





The briar was buffed with White Diamond and then several coats of Carnuba wax. I used a lighter flame to raise several of the dents on the stem. I used a tapered pin punch inserted into the tenon and then warmed with a flame to slightly enlarge the outer dimension. You can only slightly increase the tenon diameter in this way, but it was enough in this case. Typically smoking the pipe will tighten it even further. The stem was then mounted and the oxidation removed with 800, 1000 and 1500 grit paper. I then used 8000 grade micromesh before buffing with White Diamond and Meguiars Plastic Polish.

Below is the finished pipe. If anyone knows details about the 50D shape number, please add a comment.