Blog by Dal Stanton
The eBay seller from UK gave a decent, though brief, accounting of the origins of Comoy from Saint-Claude, France, and started in the 1820s by Francois Comoy. His son, Henri, started the London extension of the Comoy name in 1879 with not much more than the tools of his trade – making pipes. He is cited by Pipedia as being the author of the appellation, “London Made”. In 1929 the company merged with the macro-concern, Oppenheimer Pipes. With this, albeit brief history, Pipedia’s describes the present summation:
Comoy’s remained a family owned company until it was finally taken over by Cadogan Investments during the early 1980’s. Cadogan have continued to manufacture Comoy pipes to the present day and, under Michael Adler, the Comoy brand is their flagship and efforts are being made to once more re-instate the well known quality of the brand.
The half-bent Bulldog I rescued from my “Help Me!” basket is marked on the left shank, “Royal” over “Falcon” (curved). The right shank is marked, “Made In London” (circled) over “England”. The eBay seller’s listing indicated there was a shape number “13” which I cannot see. The stem is stamped with the image of a falcon perched on a branch. Here are the pictures of the Royal Falcon on my worktable: A quick trip to the Pipe Phil site confirms that Royal Falcon appears to be a prominent second of Comoy’s showing an example of the interesting stem stamping of a falcon perched on a branch – much busier than most stamps.
What drew me to bid on this Bulldog was the stem. Within the Bulldog classification, is seems that most Bulldogs sport straight saddle stems, where the diamond shaped shank culminates in the saddle and the stem is then flat from the saddle to the button. Rarer still, it seems are the bent Bulldogs which most often are fitted with a saddle stem as above. Most rare, it seems is what I see now with this Comoy’s Royal Falcon – a half-bent stem that carries the characteristic diamond shaped shank into the stem and then gradually tapers out along the stem – giving the impression that the stem is much longer than perhaps it is with the bow of the diamond shaped shank/stem. The tapered diamond stem is very nice and will look nice restored with the Falcon perched on his branch! The chamber as a lite cake residue which I will remove down to the briar for a fresh start. The rim has hardened crusted lava needing attention. The front upper dome of the stummel has a nice dent along with several dents and cuts marking both sides of curved part of the stummel transitioning into the diamond shaped shank – an obvious result of the natural placement of the Bulldog on the table or counter. There are several fills that have lightened and are showing through the old clouded finish. The stem is heavily oxidized with moderate teeth chatter on the upper and lower bit. The first thing I do to restore and recommission the Royal Falcon Bulldog is to place the stem in an Oxi-Clean bath after putting petroleum jelly over the falcon stamp.With the paper towel, down to catch the carbon dust and fragments, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to ream the chamber. I use only the smallest blade in the Bulldog chamber and remove the lion-share of carbon. I follow the reaming blade using the Savinelli Pipe Knife to scrape the chamber wall and remove more carbon. Using a piece of 240 grit paper I fold it over a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber wall and finish by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%. The chamber looks good. The pictures show the progress. Turning directly to the internals of the stummel, using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I work on cleaning the stummel. I also utilize a spade dental tool to scrape the mortise walls to stir up the old tars and oils. There was a good bit of gunk, but the swabs and pipe cleaners started coming clean. Later I’ll use a salt and alcohol soak to clean further.Now, I clean the external surface of the stummel using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad and bristled tooth brush I work on the crusted rim as well as the grime on the stummel surface. Using a tooth pick I scape the grooves circling the stummel. The crust on the rim is not moving so I use a brass bristled brush which removes most of the hard lava crust, but not all. Using my pin knife, I carefully scrape the rim removing the last crusted carbon holdouts. After cleaning, I then rinse the stummel in warm tap water to rinse off the grime. The Murphy’s Soap well removed the thin finish and I’m looking a bare briar for the most part. Doing a quick inspection of the surface, there are several cuts and some fills in the briar surface. The pictures show the progress and the inspection. I use a medium grade sanding sponge to sand out the nicks and cuts. I focus especially on the ‘keel’ of the Bulldog where most thumps and bumps occurred. On some deeper cuts, I strategically use a rolled piece of 240 grit paper where more abrasion was needed. I also give the rim a ‘semi-topping’ with the firmer coarser sponge. I follow by sanding with a lite grade sanding sponge to smooth more. The inner ring of the rim has a bevel and it is darkened. Using a piece of 120 grit paper I clear out the damaged briar and reestablish a crisp inner bevel. I follow this with 240 grit paper and finish with sanding sponges. The pictures show the progress.I put the stummel aside and pluck the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath. I start by wet sanding with 600 grit paper to work on the raised oxidation but soon switch to 240 grit paper. The oxidation is stiff. I’m careful to avoid abrasion on the Falcon stem stamping. I’m hopeful that there is enough definition left in the stamping to restore it later with white acrylic paint. After using 240 grit paper, I then wet sand 600 grit paper then 0000 steel wool. The oxidation is left over the falcon stamping and I hope that Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser will help remove the oxidation without damage to the stem stamp. I think it helped, but there is still discoloration over the area but the stamping is still intact. The pictures show the progress dealing with the oxidation. Before I forget it, I now turn to the stem internals cleaning it with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%. Without too much resistance, the pipe cleaner come through clean without too much effort.Moving ahead straight away with the stem, I use micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stem. Following this I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000. Following each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite. With the last cycle, I set the stem aside to dry. The pictures show the progress. With the stem completed except for the final polishing phase and repainting the Falcon stem marking, I turn to the stummel using micromesh pads 1500 to 12000. With the first set of three, 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel, then with the following sets, 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 I dry sand. Throughout, I avoided the markings on the shank panels. The pictures show the progress. With the original color leaning toward the darker brown side, I will use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye and then lighten as I see need using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%. To prepare the stummel, I use a sharp dental probe to trace the twin grooves to remove any leftover briar dust from the sanding. Then I wipe the stummel with a cotton pad and isopropyl to clean away any dust. Placing my ‘stain board’ down on my work station I put a cork in the shank to act as a handle and then heat up the stummel with a heat gun. This expands the briar and allows for a better absorption of the dye. I use a folded over pipe cleaner to apply the dye liberally over the surface. I fire the aniline dye and the alcohol burns off immediately, setting the hue in the briar. To make sure the coverage is complete, I repeat the process above including the firing of the dye. I then set the stummel aside to rest. The pictures show the fire crusted stummel. With the stummel on the sidelines a while, I look at the falcon stem marking. Pipe Phil’s example shows a lot of lines and contours shaping the bird and his perch. I’m not sure my falcon has that much detail left after wear and sanding over the years. After a closer look, it appears that the imprinted falcons are slightly different – my falcon appears that he’s looking up more than the other. For comparison, I’ve placed the two together below. I’ll see what I can do with white acrylic paint. The first approach was to apply paint and then, before drying, to carefully wipe it away, leaving paint in the grooves. This did not work – seems like there was not enough groove to hold the paint. Next, I applied more paint and let it dry. That did not work either. I’m not sure if this is usually done in pipe restorations, but the problem is that the lines of the falcon stamping are too thin and will not hold the acrylic paint. I decide to take the point of my pocket knife and attempt to sculpt the lines that are there to deepen them. It took several iterations of sculpting, then applying paint, drying and scraping off with a toothpick, before I arrive at the best I can do at this point! The pictures show some of the process. With the falcon stem marking completed, it’s time to ‘unwrap’ the fire crusted stummel. I use Tripoli compound with a felt buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel and use the slowest speed available and rotate the wheel over the surface, without too much down pressure on the briar, but allowing the RPMs of the Dremel and the compound to do the work. I take a picture into this process. When completed with the Tripoli, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to wipe down the stummel to lighten the dark brown dye as well as to blend the dye. When satisfied (forgot to take a picture!) with the shade, next I mount a cotton cloth wheel and turn the speed up half a notch, to 1.5 and apply Blue Diamond compound in the same manner as with Tripoli. After the Blue Diamond I give the stummel a good buffing with a flannel cloth to remove the compound dust from the stummel before application of the wax. After joining stem and stummel, I then mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and apply carnauba wax to the stummel. I give the stummel 3 coats of carnauba and then finish by giving the stummel and stem a hand-buff with a micromesh cloth.I’m very pleased with the results. The Comoy’s Royal Falcon is an attractive Bent Bulldog. I like the lines of the diamond shank flowing into the tapered stem. The Royal Falcon looks good re-perched on his branch. The briar grain is rich and deep. I sell my restorations with the profits helping the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – those sexually exploited and trafficked. This Bulldog is ready to serve a new steward. If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, check out The Pipe Steward Store. Thanks for joining me!