Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the worktable is a mini churchwarden prince shaped pipe. It has a delicate look to it and is very lightweight. It is petite with a length of 6 ¾ inches, height of 1 1/8 inches, bowl diameter of 1 ½ inches and a chamber diameter of 7/8 inches. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank Imperial in script with a flourish underneath. Below the flourish it reads De Luxe. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Made in London over England with a shape number 15. The next photos of the pipe show what it looked like before my brother did his clean up work.The pipe was in rough shape. The finish was worn and crumbling. There were some small sandpits on the bottom left and right sides. The underside of the bowl had a spot of glue and the remnants of something that the pipe had been glued to. I wonder if it had not been in a display box of some sort before being liberated and sold. The bowl had a thick cake but the rim had an overflow of lava on the top and the inner edge was damaged to the point that the bowl was no longer in round. There was an inner tube extending into the bottom of the bowl. The original slant on the tube was ruined and the end of the tube was chewed and damaged. The stem was oxidized and there were deep tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. The underside tooth marks had a small hole that broke through into the airway in the stem. Jeff took some photos of the bowl and rim to show the condition of both. You can see the cake in the bowl and the lava overflow down the sides of the bowl from the surface of the rim. The fact that the bowl did not have a flat rip to but a rather rounded/thin rim top allowed the flow downward on the bowl.The next photo shows the bottom of the stummel and the thick glue/paper coat that is stuck to that part of the bowl. It appears to me that someone had the pipe stuck to some fibre board in a display case of pipe shapes. Possibly, it was a shadow box of “dad’s” or “grandpa’s” and this one was a centerpiece. Following that photo are three different pictures of the inner tube that sat in the bottom of the bowl. The end on these is usually slanted with the longer edge sitting on the bottom of the bowl and the shorter edge ending at the entrance of the airway into the bowl.The bowl has some amazing grain running up the sides of the bowl and I am sure that underneath the debris that is glued to the bottom there will be some nice bird’s eye grain. The finish was worn but the grain popping through the grime.The stamping was readable but it was faint. Care would need to be taken in the clean up so as not to damage it further.The stem had some issues – there were deep tooth marks on both sides from the button forward. On the topside there were nicks mid stem and near the shank/stem junction. The button also seemed worn and there was a possible crack on the underside mid button.I have read different bits of history on the Imperial pipes and trying to put them together is an interesting puzzle. From Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by Jose Manuel Lopés’ I found that t he Imperial Tobacco Co. (Imperial Tobacco Ltd.) was founded in 1901 through the merger of several British tobacco companies. In 1902 it went into partnership with the American Tobacco Company to found the British American Tobacco Company. This information was also cited on https://pipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Tobacco_Co.
I looked further on Pipedia under The Civic Company https://pipedia.org/wiki/Civic. This lead came from a price list/catalogue that I had found in researching information on an earlier Imperial pipe I was working on. Here is the link https://rebornpipes.com/2014/05/11/civic-company-1921-trade-list/. The Pipedia article says Civic was formed in 1921out of the Imperial Tobacco Co. (Fancy Goods Department) Ltd which was located in Fulham Palace Road Hammersmith. The article went on to give a bit more information on the The Imperial Company itself. It repeat that it was formed in 1901 but that it was formed in response to an aggressive take over raid in Britain by American Tobacco and involved the pooling of tobacco retail outlets including closely related items such as briar pipes. Here is the additional information that was not included in Lopés’ – in 1902 Imperial purchased the Salmon & Gluckstein retail empire, which included a section that finished briar pipes, originally made in France, for sale in Britain. It was this unit that became the fancy goods department within Imperial and, ultimately in 1921, the Civic Company. In 1928 Civic was a key element in the merger with other producers and retailers that formed Cadogan Investments, which still trades today.
I did some further searching on Google to try to pin down more information on the brand. I found lots of repetitive information in bits and pieces but nothing that added to what I already knew. I did find confirmation of the above information in a discussion on the pipesmagazine online pipe forum. It contained no new information but it gave the same data I had quoted above. http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/need-help-to-identify-this-pipe-1.
Jeff has established his own process of thoroughly cleaning pipes for me and he did not vary in his procedure here. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and tidied it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol and cleaned the exterior of the threaded bone tenon with a cotton swab and alcohol. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and grit on the bowl. The top took some special work because of the heavy lava overflow. He scrubbed it with a tooth brush and the oil soap until he removed the majority of the build up. There was still some minor buildup that would need to be dealt with when I worked on the out of round bowl. I took photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in when it arrived in Vancouver. The grain really was quite stunning. I took a close up photo of the rim top and bowl, to show how well he was able to remove the buildup around those areas and down the bowl sides.He had soaked the stem in OxyClean so when it arrived it was clean and the oxidation sat on the surface of the stem. The tooth marks were very evident.The damage to the inner tube was visible and it was ragged and torn. I would need to rework it to smooth things out and restore the angle.I used a Dremel and sanding drum on low speed to sand and shape the angled end of the inner tube and remove the damaged areas. I put a slot on the tube end to match other inner tubes I have on hand and fit the bottom of the bowl once the stem was in place.The next series of photos show the process of repairing the out of round bowl. I used a folded piece of 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edges of the bowl and repair the top edge. Once I sanded it smooth I wiped it down with a cotton pad and alcohol to clean off the sanding debris and darkening on the surface. There was still polishing to do but the major portion of the repair was finished. I repaired the two small sandpits on the bottom sides of the bowl with super glue and sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper once the repairs had cured.With all the repairs and reshaping on the rim and bowl finished it was time to stain the pipe. I decided to use a dark brown aniline stain that I mixed 50/50 with isopropyl alcohol to make it more transparent. It will still have the dark stain in the grains but once I wipe it down and sand it with micromesh it will be a rich brown tranparent overcoat with dark highlights. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the briar. I repeated the process until I was pleased with the coverage on the bowl and shank.Once the stain dried I wiped the pipe down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the thick topcoat and make the stain more transparent. It significantly lightens the colour at this point but the grain won’t stand out until I polish it with micromesh pads. I polished the briar, being careful around the stamping on the shank, with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each girt with alcohol and cotton pads. With the bowl finished I directed my attention to the stem. I cleaned out the damaged areas with a dental pick and sandpaper and filled them in with black super glue. The photos below show the repairs on both sides of the stem. The third photo shows the repairs further up the topside of the stem.When the glue had cured I used a file to bring the thickness of the repairs down to the surface of the stem. I used to do all this with sandpaper but figured out that the file actually sped things up a bit. I sanded the stem surface and repairs with 180 grit sandpaper after the file to smooth out the surface and remove more of the oxidation. I would need to sand it with higher grits to remove the scratching but it was at least getting better. I used a needle file to reshape the edge of the button and the top and underside surfaces of the button. I sanded the repairs smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and then polished them with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I took a photo of the stem at that point in the process and the oxidation showed up clearly in the bright light of the flash. I poured the Before & After Stem Deoxidizer into a flat container and put the stem in to soak while I worked on other pipes. I removed it from the soak after about 2 hours and polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish. It looked much better than it did when I put it in the bath. I decided to continue polishing it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and rubbed it down again with the oil after each pad. I gave it a final rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry. I polished the bowl and stem on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond to take out the last minute scratches in the briar and vulcanite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and 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 in the photos below. The pipe looks far better than it did when I started. The bowl looks round, the finish looks far better and the repairs on the stem though visible up close blend in well with the black of the vulcanite stem. The aluminum inner tube is shine and smooth with the reshaped angle of the tube looks like it must have when it left the factory. Thanks for walking with me through this refurbishing it was a fun one to work on. Cheers.