Monthly Archives: March 2017

Another L. J. Peretti of Boston – Square Shanked Rhodesian


Blog by Dal Stanton

When Jon put the L. J. Peretti out on the table I was excited.  I was in Oslo, Norway, where I met up with two colleagues who work in Ukraine – we were there watching a world class biathlon event and we had a great time.  Jon knew that I was restoring pipes for the Daughters of Bulgaria and had a couple pipes that he was no longer smoking.  He picked the Peretti up off eBay some time ago and he passed it on to me to restore for a new steward – a task I was more than willing to take on!  I grew a bit attached to the Boston-based Tobacconist L. J. Peretti Co., when I restored my first Peretti which my son had gifted me for Christmas.  It was a challenge as I salvaged the original Peretti stamp on the surviving squared saddle stem half and added the other half by cannibalizing another stem and accomplishing a stem splice.  For a look at this project look here:  Peretti Square Shanked Billiard.  I brought the ‘new’ L. J. Peretti home to Bulgaria and the first picture below shows the two Perettis – a remarkable resemblance in the sharp squared shanked style.In the interest of full disclosure, when I first saw the ‘new’ Peretti in Oslo, I really wasn’t sure what the shape classification would be.  The first indicator I cued on was the double groove – Bulldog?  Then, the classic Bulldog usually has a diamond shank/stem.  Rhodesian?  The squared shank didn’t fit.  Ok, a Billiard or Apple with a cool grooved ring going with the squared shank, which I think is very attractive.  My questions gave way to an email to Steve for his input and his response came very quickly.  His call is a squared shank Rhodesian.  My response, “Sweet!”  That works for me.  When I did my original research on the Peretti name I discovered the genesis of a significant story of Americana pipe history with the establishment of the L. J. Peretti Company of Boston in 1870, the second oldest tobacco shop in the US, second only to Iwan Ries & Co. of Chicago established in 1857 (See: Link).  It started in 1870, Libero Joseph Peretti arrived in Boston from Lugano, Switzerland, putting in motion the historical axis that exists today in an iconic tobacconist shop that continues to serve patrons by hand-blending tobaccos from around the world to taste.  One can take his empty bowl to the shop in Boston at 2 1/2 Park Square and test different blends under the watchful assistance of L. J. Peretti staff – total ‘old school’ and I like it! With an appreciation for the L. J. Perretti Squared Shank Rhodesian on my work table, I take more pictures to fill in the gaps. The left side of the shank is stamped “STRAIGHT GRAIN” and, interestingly, the right side is “L.J. Peretti”.  As is true of my other Peretti, usually the name is stamped on the left side.  This Peretti’s pedigree is on the right side of the shank.  The squared, tapered stem has the classic “P” stamped and in good shape. The chamber shows significant cake and will need to be cleaned down to the briar.  The rim has some significant damage on the right side and significant lava flow.  I will need to clean bowl and rim to see what might be lurking beneath.  The Rhodesian upper dome has cuts – one noticeably dissects the twin grooves.  There’s a good bit of grime in the grooves and at least one lightened fill on the heel – with the flat heel this Rhodesian is also a sitter – a nice feature for the table!  I also detect some dents on the squared shank corners – this old boy has taken a bit of bruising along the way.  The stem shows no oxidation but the button shows some biting and tooth dents – both upper and lower button lips have clench marks.  ‘Straight Grain’ is stamped on the shank and the grain has some striking features that will be visible once the grime is cleaned and things shined up a bit.

I work on the stummel first.  Taking the Pipnet Reaming Kit I use the two smallest of the four blades available to me and ream the chamber, removing the carbon cake build up to the briar. I then fine tune the ream by using the Savinelli pipe knife which enables me to remove residual cake in more difficult angles.  To clean the chamber further, I take a piece of 240 grit sanding paper and wrap it around a Sharpie Pen and sand the surface of the chamber then clean the left-over carbon dust with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber walls appear to be in good condition.  The pictures show the progress. I now use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads, a bristled tooth brush and a brass wired brush to clean the stummel surface, scrub the rim and clean the grime out of the twin grooves.  As I’m cleaning, it becomes evident that the left front of the upper dome is scorched from what appears to be the aftermath of using a lighter flame over the side of the rim to light the tobacco.  I do not use a lighter for this reason – it is difficult to angle the flame without bringing damage to the surface briar.  I use matches and bring the flame directly over the chamber and draw the flame directly to the tobacco.  I’ll need to send Jon a note about this!!!  After scrubbing with all available tools, I rinse the stummel with tap water without introducing water into the internals.  With the rim now clean, the extent of the damage is revealed.  The final picture in the set below, on the lower part of the picture shows this damage. Since my day is ending, I decide to hydrate the stummel surface with a light application of olive oil.  I also decide to use a kosher salt and alcohol soak to work on the internals overnight.  I twist a cotton ball and stuff it down the mortise to act as a wick to draw the oils and tars out.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt and hold my palm over the top and give it a shake to displace the salt.  Using an eyedropper, I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% and leave the stummel in an egg crate for stability and turn off the lights.  The pictures show the progress.The next morning the salt, as expected had discolored somewhat and the cotton served as a wick drawing oils and gunk out of the stummel internals.  I follow with a barrage of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to finish the cleaning job.  The pictures show the progress.I now face the most daunting part of the restoration of this L. J. Peretti Squared Shank Rhodesian.  I take more pictures for a closer look at the problems.  The burn and scorching damage on the rim and upper dome of the stummel are significant.  The rim at the 11:30 position is cratered severely and it appears that the rim burned and the charred part chipped off after becoming brittle.  From this area, down on the left side to the 7:00 position there is damage but not as severe.  My concern is whether there is healthy briar beneath what I’m seeing or has the wood charred more deeply?  If so, a lot of briar will need to be removed to repair the rim via topping, but this could impact the Rhodesian proportional balance between the upper and lower parts of the bowl – divided by the twin grooves.  This repair reminds me of a rim rebuild I did with a ‘Throw-Away Pipe’ that had little rim left.  With a desire to salvage as much of the rim as possible, I will very lightly top the pipe but only to gain the ‘high ground’ of the rim and then fill the craters and divots in the rim with a briar dust and superglue putty.  I want to ‘build-up’ the rim instead of losing it on the topping board and creating a squat-top, disproportionate Rhodesian.  The pictures show the damage and the challenges. It will be difficult to top the rim evenly with the soft spots created by the charred briar.  With the chopping block covered with 240 grit sanding paper, I very lightly begin to rotate the inverted stummel.  I take pictures to mark the gradual process.  When I arrive at the maximum topping progress, most of the rim has found it’s ‘high ground’ leaving the remainder of the damaged areas more visible.  This allows me to strategically apply patches on the rim.  I notice that there is additional carbon on the inside lip of the chamber so I take out the Peretti Pipe Knife once more and scrape the additional carbon exposed by the topping.  The pictures show the progress of the rim repair. The focus for the briar dust – superglue patch will be the 11:00 area (see above).  The remainder of the damage on the inner rim will be addressed by creating an inner rim bevel.  To prepare the area for the patch I clean it with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Using Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA Instant Glue, I mix it with the briar dust until it reaches a viscosity like molasses.  Using a toothpick as a trowel, I apply the putty excessively over the area with the plan of sanding it down.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure.  I’ll give it a full 12 hours. The next day, the patch has cured well.  I begin sanding down the excess briar dust patch by using a half-rounded needle file to contour the inner chamber part of the patch.  My goal is to reestablish a round rim by blending the patch with the curvature of the inner rim.  After this I smooth and blend the area further with 240 grit paper.  When satisfied, I turn to the top of the rim using a flat needle file to bring the bump of the patch gently down to the briar rim surface.  The surrounding wood is softer and I avoid collateral filing as much as possible.  I follow to further smooth and blend the whole patch with 240 grit paper.  The pictures show the shaping progress. With the primary patch shaping complete, I want to introduce a bevel to the inner rim lip to remove damage as well as blend the entire rim contour – seeking a round rim.  I believe a bevel always ‘up-classes’ a pipe, too!  I use a coarser 120 grit paper to cut the bevel –  careful to remember the patch area is harder and it is easy to dig in to the surrounding softer briar.  After the 120 grit paper, I smooth and blend further with 240 paper. I complete the rim repair by returning to the topping board with a light topping first with 240 paper followed by 600 grit paper.  This ties things together.  The first picture shows the completed patch shaping to mark the progress of the bevel.  I think things are looking good at this point with the rim repair. Unfortunately, upon closer scrutiny, I discover that my topping inadvertently leaned toward the front of the stummel. This is very evident when comparing the twin grooves to the rim pitch (first picture below).  We do not have a parallel alignment which should be the case.  When I looked back at the pictures above showing the incremental topping process, this is confirmed when the front stummel part of the rim was sanding and the shank side less so.  The result I see is the Rhodesian’s dome lop-sided and that just won’t do.  Even though I’ll give up briar real estate, I take the topping board and hang the stummel over the edge of the 240 paper.  I work only the shank-side of the rim which needs to be lowered and leveled with the front side.  Gradually, I find greater alignment with rim and grooves, though there is still a bit of pitch but not as pronounced. It will work.  I reinstate the bevel and I’m satisfied with the progress.  The pictures show the progress. I put the stummel aside and turn to the stem.  I use 240 grit paper to smooth out the tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit and sand the upper and lower button lips.  By removing the superficial indentations in the vulcanite, I am then able to identify what needs to be filled.  After wiping clean the area, I use Starbond Black Medium KE-150 CA glue to drop fill tooth dents in both the upper and lower button lip as well as the upper bit area.  After application of glue, I spray an accelerator on the cosmetic fills.  I do not use accelerator when the strength of the glue is the issue as the use of an accelerator tends to weaken bonds – from my reading.  I follow with a flat needle file to freshen the button lines and then sanding with 240 grit paper to smooth out the file marks and fills and to blend. I then move to sanding the whole stem.  With some great input from Al Jones in a recent restoration regarding safe-guarding the crisp lines and edges of stems, I mount the stem to the stummel with a plastic disk I fabricated between the two.  This keeps the sanding from creating shoulders over the edge of the vulcanite.  I also wrap the 240, then 600 grit paper around a clothespin half to create a flat sanding surface to guard the sharp edges of the squared shank square and not rounding them.  After completing the sanding, careful to guard the Peretti ‘P’ stem stamp, I buff the stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.Turning to the internals of the stem, I use pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the airway.  I notice that the pipe cleaners have difficulty passing through the slot so I widen it a bit using a rounded needle file against the upper and lower slot opening.  That did the trick.  Pipe cleaners move freely and now, cleanly.  Pictures show the progress.With the stem repairs completed and the internals cleaned, I’m ready to commence the micromesh pad cycle on the LJ Peretti’s squared shank.  Using pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  With each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem which revitalizes the vulcanite.  The pictures show the amazing vulcanite ‘pop’ emerging. I put the stem aside to dry.With the stummel showing scorching damage on the upper dome extending downwardly over the grooves, I take another picture for a closer look.  I use a medium grade sanding sponge to address the damaged area.  I need to remove the charcoaled wood and get down to healthy briar beneath the surface.  To aim for uniformity throughout the stummel, I use the sanding sponge on the entire surface, careful to guard the nomenclature on both sides of the shank.  I follow the medium grade sponge with the light grade sanding sponge to finish addressing the charred wood and minor cuts and pits on the stummel surface.  It looks good.  The shank stamping, STRAIGHTGRAIN, is starting to show itself as the grain shows through the once scorched dome area.Taking micromesh pads, I now wet sand the stummel using pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000.  Wow.  I cannot believe the grain making an appearance on this L. J. Peretti Rhodesian.  The pictures show what I watch emerge through each micromesh pad cycle. To get a big picture look at the Peretti, I reunite the stummel and stem.  As with my last Peretti restored, I like the squared shank’s flow from stummel as it tapers out through the stem.  This Rhodesian’s stem tapers whereas my other Peretti Billiard has a squared saddle stem.  Both, very nice variations of the same concept – a classy shank style. Because of the beauty of the grain I’m seeing, I’m tempted to stop at this point, and finish up with carnauba – I like the natural briar that much.  The only issue is that I would like to apply a darker brown shade of dye to better blend the patch and repair of the rim which stands out as is.  The pictures show the story.In preparation for the staining phase, I use a sharp dental probe and run it through the grooves to dislodge any briar dust from the sanding process.  There is a good bit of compressed residue coming loose.  I follow by wiping down the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the surface.  On the stummel heel, I detect one lightened fill.  I darken it with a stain stick to encourage blending.  I also touch up the patch fill on the rim to help blending and masking the patch after dye is applied.  Pictures show the preparation steps. To stain, I use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye mixed with isopropyl 95% at 50/50.  I use a large dropper to do the mixing in a shot glass.  With the mixture ready, I heat the stummel using the air gun expanding the briar making a better receptor for the dye.  When heated, I use a doubled-over pipe cleaner to apply the dye to the stummel surface.  I apply the dye liberally seeking to achieve 100% coverage.  When completed, I fire the wet dye which immediately ignites the alcohol in the dye, setting the hue in the grain.  I repeat the above application of dye and flaming after a few minutes.  I put the stummel aside to rest for several hours before removing the fired dye crust.  The pictures show the set-up and the progress.  With the stummel resting, I restore the Peretti’s classic stem ‘P’ with white acrylic paint.  Restoring the stem stamping for me is special, along with guarding the nomenclature – and is why I went through a stem-splice with my first Peretti restore – to save the surviving saddle stem piece with the old, warn ‘P’ stamp.   I apply white acrylic paint to the ‘P’ in a large gob over the area to allow the paint to fully saturate the ‘P’ imprint.  I allow it to dry fully.  Later, when dried (it doesn’t take long), I use the edge of a toothpick and gently scrape the area removing the excess but leaving the paint in the stamp imprint.  Using the side of the toothpick has worked for me as it is a harder surface, yet soft as it’s wood.  The flat area of the toothpick passes over the stamp and does not disturb the paint.  I’m pleased with the results.The next morning, the stummel is waiting to be unwrapped of the flamed crust.  Using the Dremel high speed rotary tool, my tool of choice given the tight quarters of my work table on the 10th floor of a former Communist block apartment building, I mount a felt buffing wheel set at the slowest speed, and use Tripoli compound to apply the gentle abrasion to begin the final buffing stages.  I first purge the wheel of old compound running it against the metal adjustment wrench, then with new compound on the wheel, I apply it to the surface.  I do not use much downward pressure but allow the speed of the wheel’s RPMs and the compound to do the work.  I methodically move over the stummel surface in areas with the sheen of the overhead lamp providing the ‘headlights’ letting me know to spread the compound or apply more to the wheel.  I take a picture to show the felt wheel application of Tripoli compound – I had to stage it because I don’t have enough hands to take a picture and hold stummel and Dremel!  After completing the Tripoli cycle, I lightly wiped the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%, not wanting to lighten the hue but to blend certain areas on the heel and shank.  I avoid wiping down the bowl area – it looks good.  Dark enough to mask repairs but on the lighter side to show the striking straight grain definitions.Following the Tripoli compound, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to Blue Diamond compound.  With the Dremel remaining at its slowest speed I apply the lesser abrasion of Blue Diamond compound to buff the surface preparing it for the carnauba wax application.  I reunite the squared tapered stem to the stummel and apply Blue Diamond compound to both.  I know this borders on eccentricity, but as I was finishing the Blue Diamond cycle, I notice that the rim patch done earlier was showing a ridge around the patch, and not flush with the rim.  A bit late in the game to notice this, but it won’t do.  Very strategically, I roll a piece of 600 sanding paper and address the ridging.  I follow with the full set of 12 micromesh pads folded and strategically addressing the area.  Finally, I apply a dark brown stain stick and lightly wipe a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to blend the area.  Finally, I run the Blue Diamond wheel over the rim and I’m back to where I started.  The patch is visible, but now without the ridges that draw attention to the repair.  Now, the rim is smooth to the touch.  Much better.  Before and after pictures follow this small detour! With detours behind, I hand buff the stem and stummel with a flannel cloth to remove compound dust from the surface before applying carnauba wax.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and increase the speed of the RPMs to 2, a bit faster than the slowest speed, and I apply carnauba wax to both the stummel surface as well as to the mounted stem.  After 3 cycles of applying carnauba wax, I hand buff the pipe with a micromesh cloth to bring out the depth of the grain further.

I appreciate Jon giving me this L. J. Perretti while we were in Oslo.  I’m happy to recommission this very attractive Square Shanked Rhodesian – the grain is exceptional and I like the square shank style of both Peretti’s I’ve restored.  The squared shank, not a common Rhodesian configuration, allows this Rhodesian to function like a ‘table sitter’ as well while one plays their card or board games.  If you are interested in adopting the L. J. Peretti Square Shanked Rhodesian, take a look at my blogsite, The Pipe Steward.  As always, all the profits of the sales from my restorations go to help the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

 

Resurrection for a Hand Made Pipa Croci Bent that was dropped


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe up for repairs and restoration (from nine from the fellow who brought them for repair) is a Hand Made Pipa Croci. It is stamped on the left side and continuing to the underside of the shank with the words Pipa Croci (long-tailed P) over fatta a mano over Mantova, Italia and dal 1983. On the right side is stamped PC in a circle with a tail over A3 (shape number for a bent billiard). Next to that is stamped *True*. Fatta a mano means Hand Made. It would have been a great looking pipe when purchased. I am pretty sure that it is the nicest one that he left for me to work on and the one with the most issues. Somewhere along the way he dropped the pipe on concrete and the tenon snapped. If that had been all then that was a simple fix. It was not all! The bowl cracked two places on the bottom, not deep cracks but cracks nonetheless. There was a crack on the left side mid bowl that ran from close to the bottom up to a ½ inch below the rim and a small one on the top of the rim on the left toward the front of the bowl. I took a close up photo of the rim and bowl to show the condition. The cake is thick and the rim has a lava overflow from the bowl and some damage on the outer edge near the front.The next two photos, though a little out of focus show the crack in the bowl bottom circled in red. I will continue to show them in the photos as I clean up the bowl.The Lucite/acrylic stem was rough. There were tooth marks on both the top and underside of the stem in front of the button and a deep bit mark on the top of the button. The broken tenon would need to be replaced and there were some nicks in the sides of the stem close to the button end.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. There would still need to be more work done to smooth things out but the bowl was clean and I could see that the cracks did not go all the way through to the inside walls.I topped the bowl to remove the rim damage, particularly that on the outer edge. I also wanted to expose the crack on the rim top and see how bad it was. This pipe really took a beating when it was dropped – fissures all over the place in the briar. I have circled the crack on the bottom to show the largest one. There is a small one next to it that is hard to see in this picture though it will show in later pictures.I scrubbed the bowl down with acetone to remove the finish and reveal more clearly the cracks on the bowl. I have circled them in the next set of photos and drawn arrows to the points of origin that will need to be drilled. The number of cracks is amazing to me – all from a drop on concrete. This briar is quite stunning with some birdseye and cross grain. I drilled with a microdrill bit in the Dremel at each terminus of the cracks. Some of them had spidered a bit so they took multiple holes. I clean out the cracks with a dental pick and wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad. I filled in the holes with briar dust and clear super glue. I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the rest of the bowl. I sanded them with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to polish the scratches away. I set the bowl aside for a while and worked on the stem. I flattened out the broken tenon on the face of the stem with a Dremel and sanding drum. Once it was smooth I used a drill bit about the same size as the airway in the stem to start the process of opening the airway to take the new tenon. I put the drill bit in a stationary drill and turned the stem on to the bit by hand. I increased the size of the bit incrementally so as not to split the stem and to keep things aligned. I put a tape on the bit that marked the depth of the threaded tenon. Once the airway was opened to the diameter of the tenon I used a tap to thread the inside walls of the newly drilled opening. I turned the stem onto the tap carefully to keep it straight and aligned.The next two photos show the newly tapped stem and the new tenon that was going to be turned into the stem. The tenon was slightly larger than the mortise so I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take it down to the right size. I dabbed some slow drying glue on the threads of the new tenon and turned it into the stem until it sat tight against the face of the stem. With that done the stem repair was complete. There were some nicks and scratches in the stem around the junction area with the shank that needed to be sanded and cleaned up. I used some 220 grit sandpaper to do that. The stem was ready for the fit and all that remained was to push it into the mortise and check it out once the glue set.I put the stem in place in the mortise to check the alignment and was happy with the overall results. As normal there were some slight adjustments that needed to make to the stem and shank but nothing radical so I was happy with the fit. Now all I had to do was finish the fit and repair the stem. I noticed in the photos below that there was some roughness to the inside of the bowl so I would also need to sand that smooth. I wrapped a piece of 220 sandpaper around my finger and sanded the inside walls of the bowl until I had smoothed them out.I cleaned out the airway in the stem and the bowl as well as the mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they were all clean. I also scrubbed the darkened end of the shank to remove the stain that was there.I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 50/50 with alcohol and flamed it to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was even around the bowl.  I wanted it to be dark enough to blend the repairs into the sides and bottom of the bowl and hide the drill holes and cracks. I set the bowl aside to let the stain dry overnight and called it a day.In the morning I started the polishing process on the bowl. I sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh and a small amount of olive oil to help the grit cut into the briar. I wiped it down afterwards and inserted the stem to see what was happening. The alignment of the stem was slightly off to the left in the photos so it appears not to fit. However, the fit is actually quite good. I still need to polish and clean up the stem. I continued polishing the bowl with the micromesh pads using 3200-12000 grit pads to really add to the shine of the briar. Each successive grit of micromesh raised the shine more on the briar. The grain really pops on this one… I turned back to the stem. I adjusted the fit with 220 grit sandpaper until the transition was smooth. When the fit was correct I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each grit of pad to clean off the sanding debris and gave it a final wiped down after the 12000 grit pad. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove any remaining scratches or marks and raise a shine. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The cracks are all sealed and since they do not go all the way through into the interior of the bowl I think that they will hold up well. The pipe has a lot of life in it still and I know that the owner will be glad to get it back in far better nick than it was when he left it here. Thanks for journeying with me on this resurrection.

 

 

Recorking a German Porcelain Tyrolean or Wine Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

The fourth pipe I chose to work on from the lot the fellow dropped by on his way out of town for his holidays was a family heirloom. He said it was his grandfather’s pipe and then his father’s pipe afterwards. It now was in his keeping. Somewhere along the way the bowl had been cracked but was held together by the brass rim cap. The domed wind cap was also missing. The pictorial scene on the front of the bowl was in perfect shape with no scratches. The bowl was held in place by a wrap of masking tape where there had originally been cork. The remnants of the old cork plug were still stuck to the sides of that portion of the lower cup. The stem was Cherrywood but his father had wrapped it with a leather lace because he liked the way it looked. The end portion of the stem was horn and had tooth marks on the top and bottom next to the chewed on button. The stem was held in the lower cup by a wrapping of thick tape that was wrapped around the end of the Cherrywood in place of the cork. There was a bit of original gold around the bowl portion of the cup. The bottom of the cup portion had some scratches and the porcelain parts of the pipe were dirty and sticky.This traditional German porcelain pipe has been variously called a porcelain wine pipe, Tyrolean pipe, Black Forest pipe, alpine folk pipe, and several other variations on those themes. There are two glazed porcelain sections – a wind-capped bowl (the wind cap was missing on this one) and what I’ve heard call the “chamber-pot” section, or “wine bowl”. I’ve heard and read that sometimes a little wine was put in the chamber pot bottom cup to both flavor and gentle the smoke. The two porcelain sections are fired with a white glaze with a pair of deer at a stream under the glaze.

I took some close up photos of the bowl front, the top and the bottom of the bowl to show the condition. The fired painted deer on the front is in excellent condition. The top of the rim is brass and the hinged wind cap is missing. The bottom of the bowl shows some wear and a rough spot in the porcelain. You can also see the wrap of masking tape around the foot of the bowl to keep it in place in the bottom cup/chamber pot. The end of the stem was wrapped in masking tape as well. This was done in place of the cork that would have originally been present to hold the stem in the bottom chamber pot. You can also see the wrapped leather lace that was glued to the Cherrywood portion of the stem.I unwrapped the tape from the end of the stem in preparation for fitting a new cork on the stem end. I wiped down the cherrywood with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the glue and tape residue from the wood. The piece of wine cork that is shown in the photo is the one I planned on using to recork the stem and the bowl end.I cut the wine cork in half with a sharp knife. I set up a cordless drill and turned the cork onto the bit by hand. I started by drilling a hole in the centre of the cork with a small bit to get started. I worked my way up to a drill bit that was the same size as the small end of the stem. J cleaned out the hole with a sharp knife to make it more smooth and round. I used a file to smooth out the hole in the centre of the cork and then shaped it with a Dremel and sanding drum. I continued to sand the cork with the Dremel and sanding drum to take it down until it fit in the chamber pot. The next photos tell the story. I drilled a hole in the centre of the other half of the cork and continued until the hole was the same diameter as the nipple at the end of the bowl. I took down the diameter of the second cork to match that of the part of the chamber pot that held the bowl in place. I sanded it with the Dremel and sanding drum until it fit snuggly in the pot. I could see from looking at the inside of the pot that there was originally a cork gasket glued in place at that point. The pictures tell the story. I scraped the walls of the part that held the bowl with a sharp pen knife and removed the remnants of cork I cleaned out the walls where the cork insert would go and where the stem would go using alcohol and cotton swabs. I sanded the inside with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel to clean it out. I scrubbed the top of each side with a scrubbing pad and some soft scrub to remove the grime that was built up there. I rubbed the outside of the cork with some Vaseline to soften and lubricate the cork and pressed it into the hole. I put a bead of white glue around the top edge of the cork and set it aside to dry. Once it had dried I used a file to smooth out the hole in the cork. I put Vaseline on the cork on the stem portion and on the end of the bowl and put the pipe back together. The photos below show how things fit together. I could see from the photos that I needed sand off a little more of the cork on the stem to get it seated correctly. The horn stem had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There were some tooth marks on the edges of the button on both sides. I sanded the marks out with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them. I polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it another coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I scrubbed off the porcelain with Soft Scrub to remove the stickiness and grime. I unscrewed the horn stem from the Cherrywood portion and cleaned out the threads and the airway in both the stem and the shank portion. I put some Vaseline on the horn threads and put the stem back in place. I hand buffed the porcelain bowl and chamber pot with a soft microfibre cloth and gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax to protect it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is ready for the fellow to pick up. Only five more of his pipes to work on before I give him a call to come pick them up. Thanks for looking.

Resurrecting a Butz Choquin Commander 1028 Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the third pipe that I a working on for the pipe smoker who stopped by my house last week and dropped off his pipes for repair. This one is a Butz Choquin Rhodesian. It is stamped Butz Choquin over Commander on the left side of the shank and under that it is stamped Filtre Extra. On the right side, the shape number 1028 is stamped. It was another one that had a replacement stem that is a tight fit in the shank. The owner was pretty sure that the replacement stem is what cracked the shank in two places and that certainly could be true. The stem was oxidized and had tooth marks on both sides just in front of the button. The briar is in rough shape. The rim had a coating of lava that overflow from the bowl and had a lot of nicks and dings from where the pipe had been knocked against a hard surface to remove the dottle. The bowl had a thick crumbly cake that was uneven. There were burn marks around the outer edges of the rim. The double ring had been nicked and some of the band around the top of the bowl was broken. The shank had two cracks on it – one on the right side that extended half way along the shank and one on the top left that was about a ¼ inch long. The finish was gone and the stamping had been over buffed somewhere along the way so it was hard to read. I took a close up photo of the rim and bowl to show the damage and overflow onto the rim. The nicks and roughness are visible in the bowl. It appears that the bowl had been over reamed somewhere along the way and there was a gap between the bottom of the bowl and the entrance of the airway into the bowl. The second photo below shows the crack in the shank on the right side. It was quite long and rough to touch.The next photos show the condition of the replacement stem. You can see the oxidation and tooth marks on both sides and on the button top itself.I took some close up photos of the cracked shank. I circled both cracked areas in red. (I apologize for the blurry second photo. I should have checked the pic before I move on but did not. The crack is still visible.)I drilled a small hole with a microdrill bit at the terminus of both cracks to stop the crack from expanding further. (Again they are circle in red in the photos below.)I pressed briar dust into the cracks and put super glue on top of the dust to fill in the crack and the drilled hole. I sanded the fills until they were blended into the shank.I put the band onto the end of the shank and heated it with a heat gun to expand it. Once it was hot, I pressed it down against a board that I use for this purpose. Make sure to hold the shank straight up and down to keep the band moving up the shank evenly.Once the band was in place on the shank and the end was even with the end of the shank I let is cool. As the band cooled, the cracks were held tightly together and from the end of the shank were visible only if you knew where to look. I took photos of the newly banded shank to show the look of the pipe with the band. I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the rim damage and burn marks.I reamed the bowl with the PipeNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall Reamer to take the cake back to the bare walls. I sanded the bowl with sandpaper to smooth it out. I scrubbed the rim and airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. There was still work to do but it was getting there. I sanded the oxidation and build up on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove it and the tooth marks. Those that could not be sanded out I filled with black super glue.I cleaned out the grooves around the bowl with a thin blade and wiped it down with alcohol. I sanded the rim cap and the ring to smooth out the damage and give me a clear picture of what I needed to do to repair these areas. The two photos below show the damaged areas.I filled in the missing spots on the ring with super glue and briar dust. I used a sharp knife to clean out the rings from the excess glue and fill. I used a piece of sandpaper to sand the edges on the centre ring. I was able to fill in the majority of the damage though there were still some spots on the ring that showed damage.As I cleaned and sanded the rim cap with micromesh sanding  pads I noticed one more small crack on the left side of the bowl from the edge of the rim down the side of the bowl. It was not all the way through the bowl into the inside of the bowl but it was there. I used a microdrill bit on the Dremel to drill small holes at the end of the top edge and also on the hook of the bottom edge of the crack. I filled in the holes and the crack with super glue and briar dust. I sanded the spots once the glue had dried. I smoothed out the repair to blend it into the rest of the briar.I stained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the briar. The stain blended the repairs on the shank and the bowl with the rest of the briar. They are still visible if you know where to look but really look like small black spots in the briar.I hand buffed the bowl with a microfibre cloth and took the following photos to show the state of things at this point in the process. I am pretty happy with the finish at this point. I opened the slot in the button with needle files – both a flat oval and thicker oval to make it easier to pass a pipe cleaner through to the bowl. Once it was clearly opened I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the file marks in the slot.I turned my attention to the surface of the stem. The oxidation was deep and it took some work to get it out. I worked on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the surface oxidation. It removed much of the oxidation but there was still work to be done. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. The photo below shows that there was still some oxidation to work on. I buffed it with red Tripoli to further remove the oxidation. I was happy with it once it was buffed. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. The second photo shows the stem after that buffing. The oxidation was finally conquered. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with the last three grits of micromesh – 6000-12000 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I set it aside to let the oil dry.I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the last of the scratches. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax with the wax wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The third pipe is finished for the pipe smoker who dropped them by for me to restore. This one had a few challenges but I think they were met and the pipe looks better than when I began. Thanks for looking.

An Old Sealed Package of Eight Brothers Long Cut Tobacco


Blog Steve Laug

I was visiting my brother in Idaho and we went pipe hunting to see what we could find in the various antique shops and malls near by his home. One of the places we went was closing and they had some junk pipes for sale, a boxed set of bowls for a Koolsmoke metal pipe and a few tobacco tins that they were trying to sell out before the shop closed forever. Everything was 50% off so I was hooked to do a bit of looking at things I don’t normally buy. I picked up the Koolsmoke pipe bowls, an old tobacco tin the read Allen & Ginter’s Genuine Louisiana Perique, Made in Richmond, Virginia on the top and sides and a cellophane sealed pouch of Eight Brothers Long Cut Tobacco. I have seen the brand advertised before and I have seen it sold back in my early years or so I thought! I have no idea what it is or what tobacco is in the pouch. I don’t know if it was a Virginia, Burley or even a Latakia. I can’t seem to find any information on the contents of the tobacco. I decided to do a bit of research and see what I could find out about the brand.

I started my search on Google with the name “Eight Brothers Long Cut Tobacco”. I found lots of empty tins for sale and thought that was a dead end. But it was not! I started to notice that the tins had different company names printed on them. Some were marked Swisher International Inc., others were marked Schmitt Brothers Tobacco Works, Penn Tobacco Company, Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company, Helme Tobacco Company, General Cigar & Tobacco Company and also Culbro Co. I had no idea of the historical line of the brand and where it started. I did not know which company came first and which came next, etc. I just new that the package I found read General Cigar & Tobacco Co. a Division of Culbro Corporation. So my work was cut out for me.

Here is what I found. (Throughout this blog I will use pictures I found on the web for this tobacco. The tins show the various iterations of the tobacco through various manufacturers.)

On the US Trademark website (http://www.trademarkia.com/eight-brothers-71539750.html) I found out that the brand was first owned by Swisher International, Inc. (Helme Tobacco Company). Here is what I read on the site: On Friday, October 31, 1947, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for EIGHT BROTHERS by Swisher International, Inc., JACKSONVILLE 32206. The USPTO has given the EIGHT BROTHERS trademark serial number of 71539750. The current federal status of this trademark filing is EXPIRED. The correspondent listed for EIGHT BROTHERS is JUDITH D. COHEN of KANE, DALSIMER, SULLIVAN, KURUCZ, LEVY,, EISELE AND RICHARD, 711 THIRD AVENUE, 20TH FLOOR NEW YORK, N. Y. 10017 . The EIGHT BROTHERS trademark is filed in the category of Rubber Products . The description provided to the USPTO for EIGHT BROTHERS is SMOKING AND CHEWING TOBACCO.

It seems that the blend was sold to Schmitt Brothers Tobacco Works. This was an independent tobacco manufacturer, which was later bought by the Penn Tobacco Company of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Tins were printed Penn Tobacco Company during that time frame. In the photo below it reads Penn Tobacco Company and underneath it reads Successors to Schmitt Brothers Tobacco Works.I also found one that was printed Bloch Brothers Tobacco. From what I could find out on the web Bloch Brothers purchased the brand from Penn Tobacco Company and moved it to Wheeling, West Virginia. The tin below bears the name of Bloch Brothers and underneath reads Successors to Penn Tobacco Co.In 1969 Bloch Brothers/Penn Tobacco Co was sold to the General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which became a division of Culbro in 1978. The tin below is printed with the name General Cigar & Tobacco Co. I did some reading on the Culbro Company. Here is a link to the their website and specifically to the section on their history. http://www.culbro.com/about-us/our-history.html

Quoting from their site:

The Cullman family has a long history in all parts of the cigar industry. In 1961, Edgar Cullman, Sr., son of a tobacco grower and grandson of a tobacco merchant, entered the business of cigar manufacturing with the purchase of General Cigar, then a large maker of mass market cigars in the US. Under Edgar’s leadership, General Cigar entered the premium cigar industry and over time became the largest manufacturer and marketer of premium cigars in the US. Its leading brands include Macanudo, Partagas, Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey.

The cigar business was the core of General Cigar, but in the 1970s and 1980s, as cigars were experiencing declining consumption, the company diversified its holdings and changed its name to Culbro Corporation. During those years, it acquired, managed and sold a large number of businesses including Ex-Lax, a laxative maker, Bachman Foods, a snack food company, The Eli Witt Company, a wholesale distributor, Centaur Communications, a publishing company, CMS Gilbreth Packaging Systems, a manufacturer of packaging and labeling systems, and Bermas Plastics, a plastic cigar tip manufacturer. Culbro Corporation also formed a real estate development corporation which, when combined with Imperial Nurseries, ultimately became Griffin Land & Nurseries, Inc. and invested in HF, which subsequently became Doral Financial Corporation. Both of these companies were public spin-offs.

In 1997, when interest in cigars had resumed, Culbro once again took General Cigar public and split off the other businesses. A few years later, public markets lost interest in cigars, and General Cigar went private with the assistance of Swedish Match, a multiline tobacco business. Five years later Swedish Match acquired the whole business.

Culbro, LLC was formed in 2005 to bring the financial and operating experience of acquiring and managing businesses to bear in the private equity industry.

The label on my package is printed with the General Cigar & Tobacco Co. of Wheeling, West Virgina label. I know then that tobacco was manufactured between the dates noted above 1961-1969. 1969 was the date when Bloch Brothers Tobacco Co./Penn Tobacco Co. sold the brand to General Cigar & Tobacco. The other article note is that in 1961 Edgar Cullman, Sr. of Culbro Co. purchased General Cigar and tobacco. I believe that the package I have was made sometime during the 1960s (1961-1969).

A cellophane sealed Yellow Eight Brothers Tobacco package. Black print reads “Eight/Brothers/Mild Smoke/8 Brothers” over a circle that reads “ Mild Smoke on the top of the circle and “Pleasant Chew” on the underside. I the centre is an 8 over the word BROTHERS. Underneath the circle it reads “Long Cut Tobacco”. Both front and back are the same. On one side it reads “General Cigar & Tobacco Co.” with the following address: Wheeling, West Virginia. Underneath it has a CULBRO logo and reads “A Division of Culbro Corporation. On the other side it reads  “Union Made” and has a bar code.Now I have a decision in front of me – do I open the pouch and fire up a bowl or do I leave it as a historical pouch from 50+ years ago. What do you think?

A friend on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Group on FaceBook posted the following link for more information. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/549 What follows is an interesting addition to the above information.

“Jesse Bloch was president of the company from 1937 to 1947. During his tenure, the company expanded by acquiring the Pollack Crown stogie and the Penn Tobacco Company. Jesse’s son, Thomas, continued as head of the company, adding the firm of Christian Peper Tobacco Company and its line of pipe tobacco products to the mixtures being made in Wheeling. Bloch Brothers was sold in 1969 to the General Cigar and Tobacco Company, which became a division of Culbro in 1978. The company was acquired by the Helme Tobacco Company in 1983 and now uses the name Swisher International. Mail Pouch, described by tobacco chewers as drier and not as sweet as some other chewing tobaccos, remains a popular product.”

 

 

One from the Bizarre and Unsuccessful: An LHS LiteAPipe Patent Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

This pipe is one that never seems to have made a real impact on the market. I have never seen another one and I really like LH Stern or LHS pipes. I have had quite a few cross my work table over the years. It is an oddity to my mind. It is an apple shaped pipe with a contraption on the bottom that is a part of the bowl. My brother sent me a link to the eBay sale and it was one that I wanted to have for the collection. I have nothing like it and I wanted to see if I could figure out how the contraption on the bottom worked. The seller included some photos of the condition of the pipe. The finish had a thick varnish coat that was peeling and the seller seemed to wipe it down with furniture polish or wax to make it shine. The metal contraption on the bottom was dirty and the knurled handle on the front was intriguing and the bullet shaped cap on the back of the bowl was also interesting. The pipe is five inches long and very light weight. The rim top was pretty beat up from knocking it out on a hard surface. The nicks and chips in the surface while not deep were numerous and made the surface rough. There was a thick cake in the bowl and the lava had run over the bowl onto the rim top. The bowl had a flat panel on each side that had the finish worn off around the edges. The stamping on the pipe was very clean and strangely it was opposite of most other pipes that I have seen. The name is stamped on the right side and the patent information is on the left. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Pat Apl’d For and on the right side it is stamped with the LHS Diamond and under that LiteAPipe. I did some searching on the US Patent website and could find no information on the brand or the design. I also searched for the series name and found nothing either. The pipe was a mystery. I could not wait to get a hold of it and take it apart and see what I could figure out.While I waited for the pipe I broadened my search for self lighting pipes to see if I could find anything with a search that wide. I found three patents for the same kind of concept – two from the 1940s and one from the 1920s. They have the same basic idea of combining a lighting mechanism within the pipe itself to lessen the tools that the pipeman needs to carry. While there are similarities none of them are really close to the design of this old pipe. I think though that these links help establish a time period.

Here are the links and the patent drawing photos:

https://www.google.com/patents/US2532820https://www.google.com/patents/US2595534https://www.google.si/patents/US1938874The first picture below shows the end cap removed and the knurled cap pulled out as well. There is what appears to be a spongy end sticking out of the back of the contraption. The knurled end seems like it has a flint or some such end sticking out of the end of the tube. The side plate looks rough and could be a striker. The concept seems pretty straightforward – a single unit that contains the fluid, flint, wick and the striker on the base of a briar pipe. The pipe man simple fills the reservoir wool with lighter fluid. He sticks the striker/wick in the unit at the bottom of the bowl and when he wants to light his pipe he pulls out the striker/wick. He strikes it on the coarse bar on the right side of the unit.My brother took some photos of the pipe when it arrived in Idaho. You can see the flaking and speckled finish of the varnish on the pipe. The aluminum is oxidized and dirty. The stem is oxidized. Later photos will show that it is missing a large chunk on either the top or the underside of the stem at the button. The next photo shows the contraption on the bottom of the bowl and how it is fitted into a slot on the bottom.The next two photos show the pipe from the front end. You can see the striker/flint on the end of the knurled tube. The second photo shows the rim top.The next two photos show the condition of the stem. It had a lot of tooth chatter and was missing a large chunk next to the button. The seller had turned it to the underside of the pipe so it was less visible.My brother did his usual stellar job of cleaning up the pipe before he sent it to me. He reamed and cleaned out the airway in the stem and the shank and mortise. He scrubbed the externals with Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed it with warm water. The crackling varnish coat and the furniture polish the seller had used rinsed off with the scrubbing. He was able to get the bowl cleaned and most of the lava on the rim was gone leaving behind the beat-up rim top. The following photo shows the rim top and the damage there.I wiped down the finish with acetone on cotton pads to remove the remaining damaged finish. The pads came off with a red colour stain. The grain stood out on the bowl and it was a beautifully grained pipe. I debated for a bit about topping the bowl but because it was so rough I decided to lightly top it and remove the damaged areas on the rim. I did not take off much briar but worked to smooth out the rim top.I took apart the contraption on the bottom of the bowl. I unscrewed the bullet cap from the back end of the pipe and pulled out the striker unit. Once those were removed the insert slid free of the bowl bottom. The striker end had a wick that surrounded the flint post in the middle. Under the end cap there was a felt tube that was pushed into the tube and the end cap. I believe the felt was wet with lighter fluid and then the put back together. The right side bar looked to be a striker bar that the end was struck against to get a spark and flame. The burning wick then would be held above the tobacco and the flame pulled into the bowl.I went through my stem can and found almost a twin stem to the original. The taper is virtually the same. There were no tooth marks and only light oxidation and a few nicks in the vulcanite that needed attention.  I fine-tuned the fit of the tenon in the mortise and the new stem was ready to go. I put in place on the stripped down bowl and took some photos to get a good look at what the finished pipe would be like. I am happy with the flow of the shank and stem and the look of this short nosewarmer. I sanded the rim with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and then polished it with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I tested the stain pens I had and the medium brown stain pen was a perfect match to the colour of the stain on the rest of the pipe. I touched up the stain on the bowl sides and the shank. After all of the touch up work I took the photo below to show the match of the rim to the bowl.I touched up the stain on the bowl sides and shank and gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax to have a look at the grain. It is a beautiful pipe. The combination birdseye and flame grain makes a great looking combination. The rich reddish brown stain makes the grain stand out. I also polished the aluminum on the insert and the bullet cap on the lighter contraption. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a last coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to take out all of the scratches on the stem and to polish it. The plastic polish works really well with vulcanite stems. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. It is one that I will keep in my collection of tobaciana because of its uniqueness. If any of you know any information about it please send a message in the comments below.

 

 

 

Banding and Restoring a Radford Ravel Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

I am working on the second pipe I chose to work on in the lot of nine pipes I am restoring for the pipe smoker who dropped by a box of pipes that badly needed attention. This one was stamped Radford Ravel and had a mixed finish of smooth top and sandblasted shank and bottom part of the bowl. It is a Rhodesian and the cap is smooth and the rest is sandblast. It was finished in a dark brown stain. The finish was very dirty and there were quite a few sandpits and nicks in the smooth portion of the bowl cap. The shank was crack on the lower right side and extended from the shank end up the shank about a ¼ inch. The stem was a replacement and had a brass washer on the tenon and glued against the shank. When the new stem was made the maker put a space on the tenon to add colour to the stem. I figure that the new stem is what cracked the shank. When I received the pipe the stem did not fit tightly. There were tooth marks, tooth chatter and a lot of oxidation on the stem. There was also a bead of glue around the washer on the tenon.

There was something about the brand on the pipe that rang a bell for me. I have a tin of their Sunday’s Fantasy Tobacco in my cellar and I wondered if they might have made pipes as well.

I did a bit of digging and found the picture on the left that showed some of the tobaccos made by the company and also a great figurine with the name Thomas Radford mild premium pipe tobacco on the base. On Pipedia I found that Radford’s Private Label Pipes were crafted by Chacom for the Pöschl Tabak GmbH & Co. in Germany. This information was from “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks”, by José Manuel Lopes. The pipes were mass produced with ebonite and acrylic stems and were introduced by Butz-Choquin, Chacom, and Nording. On the stem there is generally an embossed logo that was a stylized R. The pipes were made to use 9mm filters and are moderately priced and very attractive. The following three links were the sources I used for this information.

https://pipedia.org/wiki/Radford%27s

http://www.poeschl-tobacco.com/en/products/

http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-r1.html

I also looked on another website and got a little more information on the brand. The Radford’s pipe appears in 6 models in 3 variations 1x time a year in autumn. The so called Radford’s Depot contains a minimum of 1 dozen pipes of the actual running collection. Connected to the depot is a listing of the depot holder in Radford’s News.

This particular brand RADFORD’S SERIE RAVEL was a series of 6 elegant models within Radford’s Collection. They are made from good briar wood, sandblast, black/brown with a polished head’s border in dark-red shade. Very nice rich-in-contrast ring at the shaft’s finish. Mouthpiece from Acryl for 9 mm filter. http://cigar.supersmokers.biz/radfords/

With all of this information I now knew that the pipe was originally made for a 9mm filter. The mortise was drilled deep in the shank to contain the 9mm filter. The replacement stem was a regular push stem without a filter tenon. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. The finish was in really rough shape. You can see the glue and sticky material on the stem near the shank band. I took a photo of the inside of the shank to show the thick tars that had built up on the walls of the shank. The space in the mortise between the end of the tenon and the extra depth for the end of the original filters was filled with tar and oils. It was thick and sticky.I took a close up photo of the bowl to show the thick cake that lined the walls of the tapered bowl. The photo also shows the damage to the front of the bowl where the pipe had been tapped out against a hard surface. The second photo below shows the crack on the right underside of the shank. It appeared to me from the smooth area and the look of the stain that someone had tried to glue the crack and do a repair but it was not done well.The next two photos show the damage to the stem. The calcium build up on the button end of the stem, the oxidation and glue that is globbed on the stem to hold the washer in place on the tenon and the deep tooth marks on both sides near the button show in the photos.I scrubbed down the surface of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the damaged finish and the grime and oils in the grooves and crevices of the sandblast. I wanted the surface clean so that I could drill a hole to stop the crack before binding it together with glue and a nickel band on the shank. I drilled two pin holes at the end of the shank with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. The first one was slightly short of the end of the crack so I had to drill a second one.I heated the band to make the fit easier on the shank. I painted the shank end with some slow drying super glue and pressed the band in place against the topping board.I scrubbed the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove that last of the dust. I took pictures of the bowl with the new bling addition. I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer to take back the cake to the bare walls of the bowl. I finished the reaming using a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape the inside of the bowl smooth. I rolled some 180 grit sandpaper around the end of my finger and sanded the walls of the bowl smooth.To remove the damage to the top of the bowl and to clean up the rough front edge of the bowl cap I lightly topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper.With the bowl exterior cleaned and the damaged rim top repaired I worked on the inside of the mortise and the airway from the mortise end into the bowl. I used the drill bit that is in the handle of the KleenReem pipe reamer to ream out the airway into the bowl. I turned the bit into the bowl using the knurled end to press it through. I cleaned off the drill bit and used the dental spatula to scrape the walls of the mortise all the way to the end where the airway entered the bowl. The amount of grit and oils that came out with the scraping was phenomenal.I wiped the bowl cap down with alcohol and filled in the sandpits around the outer walls of the cap with clear super glue.I cleaned out the shank and mortise once again with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until I had removed all of the loose debris left in the shank.I sanded the repaired patches on the cap with 220 grit sandpaper until the repairs were blended into the surface of the briar. I used a black Sharpie Pen to darken the spots and then wiped the bowl and cap down with alcohol to blend in the black. I scraped the area around the washer and the tenon with a sharp knife and funneled the end of the tenon to facilitate better airflow in the stem. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, alcohol and cotton swabs.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the stem surface and wiped the tooth marks down with alcohol. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and set the stem aside to let the glue cure.I stuffed a cotton ball into the bowl and rolled a cotton pad into the shank. I set the pipe in an ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol and let it sit during the day. I left it sitting all day while I worked on the slot in the stem. At the end of the day the cotton had yellowed the cotton and the alcohol had pulled out tar and oil from the bowl walls.I used needle files to open up the slot in the button. I used a flat, flattened oval and regular oval file to open the slot. I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded out the inside of the newly opened slot. After sanding it the slot was open enough to easily take a pipe cleaner. By this time the alcohol/cotton ball soak in the bowl was finished. I pulled the cotton balls out of the bowl and the pad out of the shank and threw them away. I cleaned out the shank and airway once again with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once it was clean I stained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain cut 50/50 with alcohol. I flamed the stain to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I was looking for.I rubbed bowl down with olive oil on a cloth and hand buffed the bowl with a rough cotton cloth. I took some photos of the new look of this old Radford Ravel pipe. The bowl is starting to look really good and shows some promise. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and raise a shine on the vulcanite. I removed the brass washer on the stem and polished it with sandpaper. I reglued it onto the tenon with super glue. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. There were still scratches and also some oxidation. I repeated the sanding with those pads and then moved on to dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with the oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Red Tripoli to try to remove the remaining oxidation and then buffed the entire pipe and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I polished the metal band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has come a long way from the way it looked when I received it to work on. I really like the looks and the shape of the pipe. I have now finished two of pipes that the pipe smoker dropped off for me to restore before he left on holiday. I look forward to seeing what he thinks of his pipes.

A Very Tired, Very Dirty Stanwell Bent Volcano with a cracked bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes when I take in pipes for repair and restoration I am pretty stunned by the condition. This one obviously was an old favourite of the pipesmoker who brought it to me with 8 others in need of some TLC. I sat with him in my living room and went over the repair list of what needed to be done to bring it back to life. It had been restemmed before and the stem was good and heavy so it did not need to be replaced. There were tooth marks near the button on both sides of the stem. It had some deep oxidation that needed attention. Sometime in its life it had been buffed to the point that the stamping was all but gone on the underside of the shank. With a lens I could read Stanwell over Made in Denmark but all but one number of the shape number (1) was buffed away. The finish was sticky to touch from all the waxes and oils on the bowl. The sand blast was pretty worn away and now was shallow. The angled, tapered bowl had a thick cake and it had been reamed into almost an hour-glass shape. The rim top had an overflow of the tars on it and the blast was smooth. There was some damage on the front of the bowl from knocking the pipe out on something hard. There was a small crack on the left side of the bowl from the rim down about a 1/8 of an inch that would need to be repaired. From memory I knew that the bowl was drilled to follow the angle of the exterior of the bowl.When I turned the bowl over the bottom side was covered with cracks. There were four cracks of various sizes that did not go into the interior but rather sat on the surface of heel. They were all different in terms of depth and tended to follow the blast and cut across the ring grain. They were filled with grime and wax. The bottom of the bowl was a real mess.I took a close up photo of the rim to show the damage that had been done to it by reaming it with a knife rather than with a reamer. The cake was sticky and soft and what appeared to be an hourglass shape actually was not it followed the angled bowl walls. I was concerned that the inside of the bowl would also have cracks once the cake was removed. I recommended that we remove entire cake to assess the interior of the bowl. I also took a close up photo of the heel of the bowl to show the cracks.The stem was a replacement that was thick and well made. The fit against the shank was not too bad and there was little gap between the two parts. The stem was oxidized and there was come calcium build up on the first inch on both sides. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.The shank end shows how thick the buildup was inside of the shank. The tars and oils overflow the shank and show up on the end and walls. There were also two small holes drilled to the left and right of the mortise.I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer using the largest cutting head. Notice the angle of the cutting head as it shows the angle of the drilling of the bowl. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall reaming knife.  I sanded the bowl with 180 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The third photo below shows the bowl after it has been sanded. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and the finish. The grime and oils came off the walls of the bowl and bowl sides and bottom to prepare the bowl for the repairs to the cracks. I drilled each end of all of the cracks with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. There were about 9 holes in the bottom of the bowl and two on the left side at the end of the shank.I put clear super glue into the cracks and pressed it down with a dental pick. I pressed briar dust into the glue and then put more dust in the glue and then more glue on top of the repair to seal it.I used a dental burr on the Dremel to rusticated the repaired areas on the bottom of the bowl and side to match them to the sand blast finish. I knocked off the rough areas of the rustication with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it into the surrounding finish. The photos show the progress of this process. With the exterior cracks repaired and sealed I turned to work on the internals. The airway in the shank and the mortise was absolutely a mess. I used the drill bit from the KleenReem pipe reamer to clean out the airway into the bowl from the mortise. It was almost closed off with the tars and oils. I turned the bit into the airway until it was smooth. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the inside of the mortise. The scraped tars and oils can be seen in the photos below.There were two small drilled holes in the end of the shank on both sides of the mortise. I filled them in with super glue and briar dust. I cleaned out the inside the mortise and shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean.The bowl smelled strongly of old tobacco and there were oils in the briar walls. I wanted to remove that smell as much as possible. I stuffed two cotton balls into the bowl, set it in the ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill it with alcohol. I left it standing overnight while it pulled the oils out of the briar bowl. In the morning the cotton was stained a yellow brown.I recleaned the mortise and airways after it had soaked using alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.I stained the repaired areas on the bowl with a dark brown stain. I used a black Sharpie Pen to fill in some of the grooves in the briar and then restained it. I flamed it with a lighter to set the stain.I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise a shine on the bowl. The photos below show the repaired areas and the blending into the surrounding briar. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I cleaned out the slot with a dental pick and pulled a lot of built up tars from there. I used a sharp knife to bevel the end of the tenon to open the air flow to the slot. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation and to also remove the tooth chatter and some of the tooth marks. Some of them were too deep and they would need to be repaired later. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the buildup in the airway. The slot was very narrow and it was hard to push pipe cleaners through the airway. I decided to open up the slot with needle files to facilitate easier cleaning with pipe cleaners. I did not want to change the shape of the slot, but merely wanted to make it wider and tapered smoothly into the airway. I used both large and small round, oval and flattened oval files to shape the slot. Once I had it large enough for a pipe cleaner to pass through easily I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded the inside of the slot. I sanded the stem around the button with 220 grit sandpaper and filled in the remaining tooth marks with black super glue. I set the stem aside to dry overnight. In the morning I sanded the stem with more 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and blend them into the surface of the stem. I also reshaped the button and smoothed out the repairs I had made there. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil on a cloth to have a better look at where things were at. I noticed a small bubble in the patch on the underside of the stem once I had cleaned it so I put another drop of black superglue on it to fill it in. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set of pads I set the stem aside and let the oil dry. I mixed up a batch of pipe mud – water and cigar ash – and applied it to the inside of the bowl to provide protection to the bare walls while a new cake is formed. When it dried I put the stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. Blue Diamond is a plastic polish that comes in a block. I load the buffing pad with it and polish the stem and the bowl. I use a light touch on the bowl so that I don’t load up the grooves and crevices with the polish. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine to the finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The repairs on the bottom of the bowl blended in very well and those on the stem did also. This is the first of nine pipes that I am repairing for a guy who dropped them off at the house. It is ready for more years of service. Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

Breathing Life into a Preben Holm Zodiac Taurus 12 with an under-slung shank


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the years, since I took up the pipe I have been drawn to pipes made by Preben Holm. He was a Danish pipe maker who made freehand pipes under his own label and under the label, Ben Wade for the US market. He shapes the pipes to follow the grain and flow with it. He made both smooth and sandblast pipes that have a variety of shapes and sizes in the freehand style. He also made smaller classic pipes that always were interesting. There seems to be a certain look about them always gets my attention. I rarely buy them unless it stands out to me and calls me. The first good pipe I purchased is a good example of this. It was a stunning, (at least to my novice eyes) Preben Holm, Ben Wade, sandblast freehand. The pipe shop owner helped me choose it from his estate pipes. I went into the shop near where I worked at that time in Vista, California. He handed it to me, and to me it was a very clean estate pipe. I was in the market for something other than my Medico billiard, which was the only pipe I had at that time. I still smoke the pipe and enjoy it. It is close to 50 years old and it is still going strong.I have since added two more Preben Holm pipes to my rack but they are classic shapes with a twist. Both pipes are what I call a “Dublinish” shape and long shanks and a freehand style mouthpiece. They have rounded edges on the square shank and the rim top. There is no raw plateau on either pipe. The finishes show the same care as all of Preben’s pipes that I have seen or worked on. It has a rich multi-hued brown and dark brown finish that makes the grain really stand out. I traded for both of these in lieu of payment for some restoration work I did for a fellow in Northern British Columbia.To my thinking, Preben Holm was a wizard with shapes and finishes. The sandblast on my freehand maximizes the grain while the plateau on the rim and shank end add another dimension to the look. On the two newer trade pipes I have, the rich brown finish has almost a matte look that I really like. The way in which they are stained also give a deep multi-dimensional look to the grain that is stunning. I keep an eye out for his pipes and regularly cruise eBay looking for shapes that catch my eye.

All of that is background to why I was interested when my brother sent me photos of a pipe he had found on eBay listed as a Zodiac. He wanted to know what I thought of it and if I knew who made it. There was something about the look of the pipe grabbed my attention and I encouraged him to bid on it. There were no takers for the pipe so he soon had it in hand. The shape and the design made me think that it might be a Preben Holm made pipe but I was not sure. The underslung shank, the shape of the stem and the look of the finish under the grime led me that conclusion.
I was flying to Idaho for a visit so I knew that I would see it when I arrived and that would help me affirm my conclusions. In the meantime, I did some research on the brand on the web and found a link to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac) that confirmed that Zodiac pipes were a brand made by Preben Holm. From research on the web I found that the Zodiac line had pipes made that were stamped with different Zodiac names. I found pipes stamped Libra, Taurus and Gemini. I am sure that there were others in the line either made or in design. What was interesting is that the entry did not have much information about the brand other than that the pipe was stamped Copenhagen, Denmark. However, to me the fascinating thing was that there were two photos of the pipe included that were a match to the pipe I am working on.

The next series of photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Idaho. The finish was dirty and worn but there were no serious issues. There was no top coat of varnish or shellac on top of the finish so that was a plus. (I find that some eBay sellers feel it necessary to make the pipes that they sell shiny before they sell them.)My brother took close up photos of the bowl sides and bottom to show the overall condition of the briar and the finish before he began his clean up job. In the photo of the bottom of the bowl you can see what looks like a crescent shaped flaw toward the front of the bowl. I have circled it in red for identification. It had not been filled but was left open and had collected grit and dirt. The next photo shows the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is sharp and reads Zodiac Taurus over Copenhagen Denmark with the shape number 12 underneath.The rim had some tars and lava overflow from the cake in the bowl. There was a light cake that looked like it was a bit crumbly. The inner edge of the rim showed nicks and damage from having been reamed with a knife. The stem was oxidized and had tooth dents and tooth chatter. The fit against the left side of the shank was slightly damaged. The button was dented and worn down on both the top and bottom sides and the slot was filled with debris.My brother did his usual great clean up job on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. He scrubbed the internals of the mortise and airways in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they were clean. He scrubbed the surface of the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and was able to remove all of the grime and grit on the surface. I took some photos of the pipe when it arrived. He had been able to remove a lot of the buildup on the rim top. There was still some darkening to the rim top. You can see the damage to the inside edge of the rim. The outer edge also had some damage from what appeared to have been an habitual knocking out dottle on hard surfaces. The bowl was pretty clean but there appeared to be some hardened cake on the bottom of the bowl around the airway. I topped the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage on both edges of the rim. I topped off enough of the rim to leave the top flat and smooth and minimized the damage on both the inside and outside edges.Once the bowl was topped I used a folded piece of sandpaper to bevel the inner edge of the rim. I wanted to bevel it to smooth out the nicks and cuts on the inner edge of the bowl. I sanded out the inside of the bowl with a piece of 180 grit sandpaper on a piece of dowel to smooth out the bits of cake that remained in the bowl. The pictures below show the process and the resultant bowl top and rim edges. The sides of the bowl are also cleaner. I sanded the rim top with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches in the briar. I sanded the bowl surface with the sanding block to remove as many scratches as possible. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust. I cleaned out the pit on the bottom of the bowl with alcohol and cotton swabs. Once it was clean I pressed in some briar dust and then dribbled super glue into the repaired area. I added more dust to even out the surface and let it dry. I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to flatten out the repaired area and blend it into the rest of the surface of the briar.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol a final time and cleaned out the interior of the shank to remove the dust that had collected from sanding the bowl and repair. I gave the bowl a light coat of olive oil so that I could see the scratches when I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiped it down with a cloth dampened with olive oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down between the second and third set of three micromesh sanding pads. I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfiber cloth. I took some photos of the bowl at this point in the process and then set it aside while I worked on the stem. The oxidation was brought to the surface of the stem by the cleaning it with a soft scrub cleanser. I started cleaning the oxidation off with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and warm water. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the surface oxidation. I reshaped the button with needle files and the sandpaper. I sanded out the tooth marks and dents in the surface of the stem. The first two photos show the condition of the stem when I started.The next photo shows it after the initial sanding and scrub with the Magic Eraser. You can still see spots on the black vulcanite but it is pretty clean.  I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway and worked it around the button to clean out any remaining debris. It was pretty clean. (I was on a roll and forgot to take photos of it right after sanding it with the 220 grit sandpaper and reshaping the button.)I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-15000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the final pad gave it a last coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed the stem with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem several more coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth and took the following photos of the pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful example of Preben’s workmanship. The finish may have originally been a light brown stain but I am pretty sure that it was a natural/virgin finish using no stain. This may be one that joins the other ones in my collection of Preben Holm pipes. Thanks for journeying with me in the restoration process.

A Review of “Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur,” and the Original Text


Review by Robert M. Boughton

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Photos © the Author except as noted

“Look at almost any painting.  Three-quarters of the can vas is covered by the background.  Tradition is the background of our life.  Take away the background, and you have spoilt the painting.”
— Charles Rattray (1880-1964), quoted in “Up in Smoke,” article by Russell Kirk, Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 9, 1956A FOREWORD FOR MODERN TOBACCO CONNOISSEURS

Charles Rattray

Had I not chanced upon one of Gregory L. Pease’s always informative and entertaining essays in a browser search for better information about Charles Rattray, the late great Scottish tobacco blender, than the scads of teasing, contradictory bits and pieces that clutter the so-called Information Superhighway, I might never have learned about the “Disquisition.”  I was working on a review of Rattray’s Jocks Mixture, determined to dig up some real dirt about the blend and the methods of the man whose name was on the tall orange tin.  Just when I thought I had wasted almost an hour making frequent refinements to the search terms, up popped Mr. Pease’s listing at the top of the page, with the wholly irrelevant seeming title “Those Pesky Non-Polar Molecules.”  Doubtful but intrigued, I scanned the URL’s blurb that ended with the incomplete sentence, “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition….”  Stifling some very ugly words even though I would have been the only human to hear them, but with the presence of mind to consider the sensibilities of my cat, Tiger Lily, I jabbed the blue link.

Speed reading the piece, the gist of which was fine and dandy but all about the different ways to preserve tobacco and maybe even improve its taste, blah-blah-blah, I came across the sentence I was gasping to find.  As I read, I stopped breathing altogether.  Here are the only words in the entire essay, which I saved to my Favorites because I gathered enough to know I would enjoy the real subject more at a later date (as I did), that began my quest anew: “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition for the Pipe Smoker,’ wrote that the last bowl from his tins would be the best.”

And so, typing the given title for another search, I saw there were 1,950 entries, the top three being other links to the same article by Mr. Pease, followed by everything from pipe smoking in Middle Earth to a disquisition on the evils of using tobacco.  Well, I can tell you, I had just about had it.  But being relentless, I added “rattray” before the same title, and although the possibilities were a touch fewer at 1,139, well down the first page I felt a glimmer of hope in the description of a site called “Welcome to the Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage, and Cellaring FAQ!”  Maybe the exclamation point stopped me enough to spy, among various sentence fragments separated by more damned ellipsis marks, one with Rattray’s in bold and another being “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Clicking on this link to verify that Mr. Rattray was indeed the author of said Disquisition, I had to exercise a level of patience that is atypical to my normal threshold, and forced myself to venture 47 pages – or halfway down my scroll bar – into the bowels of the collection of documents, on the subject with the exclamatory heading noted above, before I came across yet another Mr. Pease quote, this one referring to Rattray’s “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Why, in the name of all that’s holy, I beseeched myself, had I not just Googled that whole term in the first place?  At any rate, there is a purpose to all of this verbiage.

Mindful of not being the only tobacco pipe aficionado to have read the famous and extraordinary discourse by Mr. Rattray, founder of the famed House of Rattray, I am certain of the high probability that still many more like-minded pipe folks out there remain oblivious to its existence.   The sole reasons for such a detailed description of the blocks I encountered while hunting for a bona fide version of the work are to demonstrate the sometimes arduous task of locating the exact document one knows exists somewhere, even with search terms one would have every right to believe are sufficient, and to make the fruit of this personal crusade available with fewer trials to others who also seek accurate details of Mr. Rattray’s lifework, including his own published wisdom.  The Disquisition that follows my foreword is essential reading toward that end.  The clear opinions in this opening commentary are my own.

Steve Laug is, as am I, an acknowledged enthusiast of the habitual conditions called Pipe Acquisition Disorder (P.A.D.), Tobacco Acquisition Disorder (T.A.D.) and Pipe Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder (PTAD) – which I propose henceforth be referenced in combined form as Pipe, Tobacco and Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder, or PTTAD for those of us who are self-diagnosed or in denial.  As such (with an emphasis on PTAD, under which category I suppose the Disquisition falls), Steve published the same copy in 2012, calling the booklet a catalog and adding only a brief opening comment recommending it to readers.  The full name of the 30-page tract is somewhat misleading given the use of the prepositional phrase “on Tobacco Blending” followed by the subtitle “A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  The two parts combined suggest far more particulars of the contents of the Rattray’s mixtures, meaning the nine available when the Disquisition was written, than the blender’s seminal publication reveals.  Even so, the work remains a fascinating insight into the personality and philosophy of its author as much from its disclosures as its omissions.  Some of these show apparent deliberation while others tend perhaps toward the subconscious.  By the way, as of today, more than 40 Rattray’s blends have been released.

My frustration locating an online copy of the great work, even after the attempts already described and one more that pulled up a boggling number of references in tobacco discussions, articles and commentaries, turned out to be the result of my own failure, which I concede in advance was a bit stupid, to add the single word “online” after the second part of the Disquisition’s name.  In frustration, and with my tail between my legs, I dispatched a message to Mr. Pease, an eminent blender of fine pipe tobaccos in his own right, soliciting his aid.   His quick and thoughtful response led to the copy included here in its entirety, and by example to links of many others.  A quick but excited first reading set my mind abuzz with perceptions garnered from the primary source of this review that for the most part I did not find echoed anywhere else in my research.

Unlike some facsimiles, the PDF to which I was guided includes curious handwritten notes on the title page and one other.  Having exhausted every means of deciphering the words, which I considered might or might not be in English, and even consulting online Scottish alphabet and cursive handwriting sources, I made an unconditional surrender as to the words on the title page.  Regarding those on page 22, I ventured a guess that I thought was grasping.  In the end of this particular pursuit, I reached out for Steve’s almost encyclopedic opinion.  Two mornings ago, just in time to begin the final revisions to this review (or so I thought), I was rewarded with his agreement, in the latter of two responses via email, that the second note seems to be “write re shipping.”  But Steve’s initial response, appearing in my inbox below the other and concerning the title page, astounded me.  He interpreted it as a name, “Sh q. Jensen.”  Smiling and nodding in silence, almost laughing out loud, I revisited the title page and could only concur – with one suggested amendment: building upon Steve’s astute conclusion, the notion that Sh might be an abbreviation taken from some book owners’ proprietary need to write or in other more OCD examples stamp words to the effect of “From the library of (insert name),” I reasoned that Sh could be an abbreviation for “shelf,” as in “From the shelf of Q. Jensen.”  With a final search for words and acronyms involving the two letters in question, I confirmed the wild guess at the fifth Web link in my list of sources.

Nevertheless, the original year of the Disquisition’s distribution remains a mystery, but be assured I will not give up trying to find a definitive determination.  For now, I can report with certainty that the booklet was issued much later than I had believed, considering the extended quote on page 2, replete with the type of romantic nostalgia popular to many Scots of great and lesser renown, and most often encountered in the bawdy singing heard in pubs of that proud and sentimental country that forms roughly the northern half of Great Britain.  Attributed to a certain gentleman whose prose leaves no doubt he was a Scotsman with literary aspirations, by the name of B.A. Forbes, the essay, titled “Snuff – and the ‘Forty-Five’,” appeared in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts in August 1936.  For the edification of anyone familiar with or interested in this magazine, it was published under that name in London from 1854-1956 as the continuation of its predecessor, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (1832-1853, published in Edinburgh).

For a glimpse at Rattray’s nationalistic pride and his personality in general, and tobacco blending philosophy in particular, the primary source of which I have already hinted, of course, is Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.  Again, there are frequent mentions of “Rattray’s Disquisition” or just “the Disquisition,” the latter reminiscent of rare classical music masterpieces, for example Johan Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major for strings, with its alternating melancholy and somewhat more upbeat parts, being referred to as “the Canon”; J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ, called “the Fugue,” and Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor for strings and organ, a work of a profound  sense of impending doom that builds into an almost harrowing conclusion, known as “the Adagio.”

The Disquisition is divided into eight parts: an informal preface; the foreword proper; a synopsis of the five elements of creating what the master blender and author called the House of Rattray’s “adherence to the true unhurried craftsmanship, the secret of our success;” six blends specifically identified as Scottish Mixtures, showing their domestic prices; “Cabinet,” or sampler pack choices with their prices; three All-Virginian Mixtures giving the same pricing; Export Prices for the pipe tobaccos, and, described last but with effusive pomp, Rattray’s Hand Made Cigarette (the Golden Leaf of Old Virginia), the reason “why we have one cigarette and one only,” again with domestic and Export Prices depending on the quantity ordered.  All prices are stated in shillings and pence.  For example, the lowest domestic price per ¼ lb. tin of Red Rapparee and Black Mallory is shown as 9/2, or nine shillings two pence.

Every pipester, as Mr. Pease sometimes calls us, whether he coined the term or not, should give the Disquisition thorough consideration.  If the reader is as inquisitive as I am, he (and I use the pronoun in the formal writing sense, not to exclude the many women among us) will find himself more and more engrossed, compelled to keep turning the pages, as it were.  In fact, I, for one, hope someday to own a genuine, ink and paper original printed edition of the prideful, almost swaggering presentation.  Moving forward from the weathered but elegant title page, take in every detail and nuance that combine to create a portrait of Charles Rattray, the man, the Scot and the tobacco blender.

Read every word of the text, as all of them were chosen by the author with the skill of a master craftsman, the cunning and wile of a politician avoiding the real answers to questions, the reluctance of the true chef to reveal too many secrets of his recipes – and, last but above all else, the fierce pride of the Scotsman who created the invaluable legacy of the now almost forgotten traditions of quality tobacco blending.

Study every image of antique statuettes and jars, each of them a special illustration of the centuries old history, traditions and values of the tobacconist’s trade, and singled out by the hands of the founder of the House of Rattray from his family’s vast, treasured collection.

Don’t miss a single quote related to the enjoyment of pipes and tobaccos, selected by Mr. Rattray with the same attention to history and tradition that is the theme of his Disquisition, which further illustrate the purpose behind his vocation and business, and when combined with the images of priceless tobacciana are especially telling of his sentiments.    Beginning with the longest from B.A. Forbes found at the end of the preface, the quotes, all derived from sources subject to the British Crown, continue in small bars heading each page of the following Foreword and the synopsis of the four fundamental preparatory acts, with the fifth being the final choices of which leafs and their quantities to choose for a given blend, and provide an enhanced understanding of the Rattray story.

That story and a large part of Mr. Rattray’s pride began with the Clan Rattray.  According to legend, the Clan dates to the early11th century, when Malcolm II, born c. 954, King of Scots from 1005 until his death in 1034,  granted one of the first men of the Rattray surname –which at the time was an ancient variation –the position of Laird of Rattray.  The royal appointment as laird, or landed proprietor, gave the early Rattray immediate authority over the occupants of Perthshire, now the County of Perth, and also made him accountable to the king for payment of certain incomes in that period’s equivalent of taxes.  It was true then as it is now: every promotion comes with a price.  For more details of the legend of Clan Rattray’s origin, based on the accounts passed down through the family for more or less a millennium, there is as always a link in my sources.

When Mr. Rattray died in 1964, his son, Charles Rattray, Jr., inherited the Scottish tobacco throne.  At some unclear point in the 1970s (or, in the alternative provided by less reliable sources, the 1960s), Robert McConnell Tobaccos of London assumed responsibility for some of the Rattray’s blends.  Which specific blends is unclear, depending on the source consulted.  Some say all of the Rattray’s English blends were assigned to McConnell; others posit the vague notion that “blends intended for export to the U.S.,” which category begs interpretation as either specific blend names made for sale in the U.S. alone, or those that were available here.  Either way, the latter idea seems, perhaps only to me, laughable considering the lack of any handy evidence supporting a theory that any product made by Rattray’s was excluded for sale in the rest of the world or not available to U.S. importers.  The tenuous claims I have mentioned are intended for the reader’s own conclusion or, I hope, to inspire debate, and in no way alter the fact that both McConnell and Kohlhase Kopp became involved in the evolution of the House of Rattray after the founder’s death, with the latter at whatever date assuming current ownership.  I always desire and appreciate input readers may have concerning these or any other statements I make in my various contributions to this forum.

The complete transition of Rattray’s ownership is also subject to debate.  Kohlhasse Kopp & Co. of Germany was formed in 1979, not long before the universal dating of the House of Rattray’s closure in 1980.  The question remains, however, whether McConnell ever had complete control of Rattray’s production until 1990, when the best sources I can find assert Kohlhasse Kopp’s acquisition.  There is no doubt, at least, that Rattray’s pipe tobaccos are now manufactured in Denmark.

I will leave the final point of contention in the worldwide community of tobacco pipe smokers, relative to the overall quality of Rattray’s products after Mr. Rattray’s death, to the many members of that clan.

Antique Fairweather & Sons tobacco tin, courtesy of the Internet

If there is such a thing as predestination, Charles Rattray is the perfect example.  The man who can reasonably be credited with perfecting if not creating a style of tobacco known today as the Scottish mixture was born in Dundee – where he began learning the skills and knowledge that led to his long reign as the premier blender in Scotland – at Fairweather & Sons.  Some of his early blends while in the employ of Fairweather were deemed suitable for sale at that establishment.

House of Rattray, found on Pipedia

The details of Rattray’s ascension to the throne vary in the sources cited at the end, but my account of his rise is based on the most reliable of these.  He remained in Dundee until 1903, when, at only 23, he set out for the capitol city of Perth and worked at the Brown Tobacco Shop on High Street 158, which he purchased eight years later and renamed as the House of Rattray. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

SOURCES

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1956/12/09/page/24/article/up-in-smoke#text
http://glpease.com/BriarAndLeaf/?p=28
https://rebornpipes.com/tag/rattrays-tobacco/
http://www.glpease.com/about.html
https://www.allacronyms.com/SH/Construction
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Rattray’s
https://www.lincolnwatchclinic.co.uk/rattray-s-tobacco
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2008/11/astleys-no-99-full-latakia-mixture.html
http://www.loringpage.com/attpipes/tobdatepaper.html
http://www.tobaccopipes.com/blog/rattrays-past-present-and-future/
http://kohlhase-kopp.com/ceemes/tabak/rattray-s/?ref_pfeifentabak
http://www.clanrattray.com/about-the-clan.aspx
http://de.kompass.com/et/c/kohlhase-kopp-co-gmbh-co-kg-tabakwaren-import-und-grosshandel/de187782/
http://www.fumeursdepipe.net/telecha/rattraysbooklet.pdf