Blog by Johan Viviers
I received an email not too long ago while I was traveling in India for work from Johan. He wrote of his love or pipe restoration and how he had come across rebornpipes. After replying to his email about his work I asked him to send me a few photos of what he had done. He promptly did so. I asked him to submit a blog for the site and what follows after his brief introduction is his first blog for rebornpipes. Welcome Johan. It is great to have you here.
I am Johan Viviers. I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. As a child I was surrounded by pipe smokers. All of them had a Kaiser, because a man was not a man without a Kaiser!. My one grandfather though had a rotation.
I bought my first pipe at 28 from a Belgium man who had shop in Pretoria. He sold me a Peterson and sample tobaccos at first until we discovered my preference… and then after a further twenty or so years of wandering (a bit like Parsival did), I made a home in Portugal; and a home is not a home without a pipe being smoked in it.
So, the Why and the How of getting into pipe sanitation, recovery and refurbishment… I suppose I evolved into it. Maybe there are a “few roots” to be found in my dream of opening a pipe smokers’ lounge. Then too, the rest of the “roots” may also probably be found in the creativity that is born from the curiosity and wonder that surfaces when smokes a new tobacco blend or from a new pipe.
Last summer whilst sipping a beer on the local esplanade with a fellow piper, I told him that it is time for me to plant tobacco, figure out the bit between harvesting and blending and then to explore and create a blend. All for personal consumption of course. A 78 year old friend who’s a pipe smoker too, offered some land in exchange for a share of smoking tobacco.
I then spent most of my free time reading everything I could find on tobacco. And on a day my favourite pipe broke. It happened on the same day that I discovered Dad aka Charles Lemon, which led me to rebornpipes. Well, all your stories filled me with such curiosity and excitement that I somewhat altered my priorities. As I am in the habit of recovering vintage furniture, floors in old buildings etc., it seemed that pipe refurbishing may deliver an even greater level of happiness and satisfaction.
So I set out by first buying three pipes at the local flea market and experimenting to find a “studio practise”. I had to discover for myself the materials and mechanisms of a pipe and also determine whether the natural products I work with every day is suited to briar. Well three experimental pipes later and I made my first refurbishment, the Capitol 6001. I worked on it for five days and on day six I sold it and reinvested the profit in other estates. I now own seventeen estates that are either refurbished or at various stages of recovery. And I have to confess that I do not wish to sell any of them because I am still marveling at their transformation, whether it being the sweet smell of the briar when I rendered it, or the smoothness of its surface before I finish it or its final transformation/outcome that I want to hold onto a little longer.
Even so, I will continue and grow the seventeen estates I have acquired and if I sell none of them now, I will put them to good use when I find the capital to open the Pipe Smoker’s Lounge that I am thinking of naming Maria do Purificacão: Where Ladies Without Beards Smoke Pipe.
Sand blasted and stamped Capitol over Bruyere with 6001 to the right on the underside of the bowl with no stem markings.
This Capitol according to both Savinelli and the young lady who sold me this pipe, is a 50’s production. The pipe belonged to her grandfather Fernando a property developer and it was his “thinking aid” she told me, hence the tooth chatter on the stem. He passed away ten years ago and since then this pipe remained in his desk drawer. Fernando’s home remained unoccupied for ten years, where this pipe remained until now.
Lisbon being a very humid city left it’s mark on both the bowl and stem. The stem was greenish yellow due to oxidation and the outside of the bowl was soft in places due to what I belief to be exposure to moisture in the air. There was no cake in the chamber, but the unevenness to the rim of the bowl made wonder whether Fernando may have been a “pipe knocker” like my friend Adam or whether it was the actual design by Savinelli. The tenon, however, was a snug fit regardless.
Given that this was my second attempt at an actual recovery of a smoking pipe I though long and hard as to how i will approach its recovery and given my fascination with “the story” an estate pipe arrives with, I decided to keep the uneven organic shape to the rim and even the tooth chatter on the stem.
To start I hung the bowl out in a an area that receives no direct sunlight and a natural flow of air until felt the bowl has expelled all the surface moisture it had collected. At the same time the stem was soaking in a solution of cider vinegar and coarse salt to loosen up oxidation.
I then filled the bowl with salt and alcohol and let it stand overnight as I have seen you guys do and the next morning I reamed the chamber a little and gave it a light sanding with 400 grit paper until I could detect the sweet smell of the briar. Once this was done I cleaned out the airway of the stummel with a dental tool to remove the oils and tars after which I passed 400 grit paper rolled into a tube through the airway to be certain it is clean. Once this was done I washed the bowl and chamber down with a lukewarm solution of natural Marseille soap (a method to raising the grain and open the pores of the wood when I restore furniture) and rinsed it down with clean lukewarm water. I then filled the chamber and airway with tissue paper to absorb the excess water and wiped the outside of the bowl dry before I hung it out to dry for a couple of days (again in an area that receives no direct sunlight with the temperature constant at between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius).
I then took to the stummel and sanded it wet with 500 grit paper. I finished the stem with 00000 steel wool and then cleaned the airway by passing pipe cleaners dipped in a clean solution of the Cider vinegar and coarse salt after which I also washed the stem down with a solution of lukewarm water and Marseilles soap flakes, finishing it with clean water.
To complete I prepared a prepared Carnauba Wax emulsion with 15% natural Green Umber pigment and entered the solution with a lint free cloth into the bowl, stummel and chamber and hung it out to dry. An hour after application, I passed a clean lint free cloth to remove any excess. Then I rubbed the Carnauba wax emulsion into the stem and hung it out to dry alongside the bowl.
Twenty-four hours later I hand rubbed both the bowl, chamber and stem to bring out its lustre and then I got so excited that I had to fill the pipe with Hal O’ The Wynd and smoke it. What a sweet smoke, so much so that I named this here pipe Fernanda
Later that day, Fernanda and I sat in a coffee shop savouring another bowl of Hal O’ The Wynd and I sold her to a fellow piper there and then. This sale financed a purchase of nine other estate pipes.