Recorking and Refurbishing a Ceramic German Wine Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

This is the second old German style hunters pipe that I was asked to refurbish for a fellow who dropped them by. I wrote about the first restoration – Swiss Walnut Hunters Pipe Marked Lucerne at this link: This one was ceramic and German. It was a pretty pipe. The ceramic bowl was in great shape – dirty inside but undamaged. The silver rim cap and wind cap were tarnished but not damaged. The cherry wood shank extension was in good shape but the end had shrunk and would not stay in place in the base reservoir. There was no cork in the base to keep the bowl in place. In essence the pipe was three unconnected parts held together by a piece of string. The horn stem was worn and had tooth damage.

The scene on the front of the pipe is a hunt scene. It shows two men and a dog poised in the sunlight on the edge of a dark forest. The painting on the ceramic shows the fear on the faces of the hunters and in the hesitancy of the dog at the edge. These old scenes tell a story and leave a lot of room for the pipe man to fill in the details of the story.

When the pipe arrived the bowl and the cherry wood shank were in the wrong portion of the base unit. The rubber portion and horn sections were oxidized and worn. The ceramic was dirty on the surface of the finish, though the painting on the base and the bowl were in excellent condition. The strings that held the parts together were tangled and dirty. I took photos of the pipe before I did any work on it. I photographed it from front, back and side angles to give a clear picture of how the pipe looked when I received it.I took the part apart and photographed all of the parts. The base of the cherry wood shank had been tapered and carved to give it a better fit in the base. It was still too big for the portion that it had been shoved into. The base itself had a deer painted on the surface of the ceramic. From the perspective of the deer the forest was not dark but beautiful and pastoral. The base unit is what makes up the filtering portion of the hunter or wine pipe. A small portion of wine was poured into the bulb at the bottom of the pipe and it acted as a filter for the smoke that was drawn through the airway on the bottom of the bowl and up the shank and into the mouthpiece. Generally these are very dirty with dried debris composed of dried wine and tobacco juices. This base was no exception. I scraped out the bulb with a sharp pen knife and remove the majority of the tars and build up. The photo below shows the results of that work.I filled the bulb with isopropyl alcohol and placed it upright in an old ice-cube tray to soak overnight. I hoped to soften the remaining material in the bulb and finish cleaning it in the morning. The next morning I scrubbed out the remaining grime with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and more alcohol. When I finished it was clean but stained. The inside of these bulbs is raw ceramic so it discolours easily.While the base soaked in the tray and before I called it a night I decided to prep a wine cork that I had here to use in the bowl side of the base once it was cleaned. I cut off the top portion of the cork and shortened the length to match the depth of the base. I shaped that portion of the cork with a Dremel and sanding drum. I drilled out the centre of the cork with a burr on the Dremel to the size of the bowl end that fit there. The photos below show the progress in the shaping of the cork.When I had finished cleaning out the base the next morning I tried the freshly cut cork in the end where the bowl sat. I sanded off more of the excess until it fit snuggly in the ceramic.I cut off the excess length of the cork and pressed it into place. I cleaned up the drilled opening in the cork with a burr on the Dremel. I shaped it until the opening in the cork was even. I inserted the end of the bowl in the cork and took two photos. While I worked on the stem I found that I was able to take the stem apart a bit more. I cleaned out the inside of the shank parts with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. When I worked on the cherry wood part I was surprised. I cleaned a ridge of tar out of the inside of the cherry and a filter fell out. It was a fascinating piece of work. There was a roll of parchment style paper with a cap on each end and pin through the middle. Each end cap was slotted so that the air could be drawn through the inside of the shank. I was quite surprised to find a double filter system on this pipe – the wine cup on the bottom of the base and the filter in the shank. I scrubbed the paper filter with a cotton swab and alcohol and sanded the brass end caps.I cut a slice of cork and glued it to the end of the cherry wood with clear super glue. I let it dry and then used a Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the cork and reduce the diameter around the carved end of the cherry wood shank.I cleaned out the cherry wood with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I took a photo of the parts showing the filter. I polished the horn and rubber end caps on the cherry and the fabric tube. I rubbed them down with Obsidian Oil to raise a shine.I polished the horn and rubber portions of the shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads.I put the filter in the shank and screwed the two parts together. The pipe was beginning to look very good.Now it was time to work on the tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem. I filled the tooth marks in with clear super glue and set the stem aside to dry.I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I buffed the horn stem on the buffing wheel to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. I polished the silver cap and rim cap with a jeweler’s polishing cloth and wiped down the painted scene on the porcelain. I hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a solid pipe now and it will smoke very well for its owner once he picks it up. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of his pipes once he has them in hand. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.


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