An Unbelievable Find – An Unsmoked Tiny Horn Stem WDC Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked this one up in an antique shop somewhere along his travels. He is getting as bad as me in not being able to drive by an antique mall or shop without pulling over and having a quick look. We both have very patient wives that humour us with our obsession. He found this little beauty on one of those stops. It is a small pipe – 4 inches long and 2 inches tall. The bowl diameter is 1 1/8 inches and the chamber diameter is ¾ inches. For such a petite pipe the bowl is almost standard size and would hold a full bowl of tobacco. This pipe came from the age of putting the pipe in the pocket when you went to the opera or a show. It would hardly show whatever the pocket you slipped it into.What makes this pipe remarkable to me is that it is unsmoked. There has never been a bowl of tobacco lit and smoked in this old timer. I believe it is an early 1900’s era pipe or possibly earlier. It has a horn stem that is turned which is also unusual. I typically see straight or bent tapered horn stems. I don’t remember the last fancy turned horn stem I have seen. The pipe bears the WCD triangle logo on the left shank and a matching logo on the ferrule. There are a few small fills in the bowl and some issues on the inside that I will speak about when I get to the photos of the bowl and rim. Nonetheless this is a rare find – a pipe that is probably at least 100 years old that has not been smoked. It is new old stock with an emphasis on the old. Jeff took the above photo and the ones that follow when he brought it home from the trip. The finish was a little shop dirty from years of sitting on display. The rim was clean but had some grime in the finish. The issue I referred to above can be seen in the first photo below. There was a large fissure in the right side of the bowl from the rim downward into the bowl for about ¼ inch. It was clean and there was no burn thanks to the unsmoked condition. If the pipe is going to be used for its intended purpose then this will need to be repaired. The inner edge of the bowl is also nicked around the area above the flaw. It makes the inner edge out of round. Though the pipe is new and unsmoked it is dirty with the kind of dust and grime that comes from sitting for a long time on display. The next photos show the grain with the grime and also show the tarnished ferrule and the clear stamping on the shank. The ferrule has been turned as there is a WDC triangle logo on it as well. The next four photos give a closeup picture of the shank/stem fit and the WDC triangle on the ferrule. The turned horn stem really is beautiful under the dust and debris of time. The stem has the old style button with the orific opening on the end. The button is more rounded that new buttons and the round opening at the end is very different from the newer slot opening. Jeff took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed. The threaded bone tenon looks clean and new. This is yet more proof of an unsmoked pipe.The horn stem showed damage from the shuffling around. There were small scratches and nicks in the top side and underside on the flat portion of the stem. There were also small nicks on the some of the edges of the turned area of the stem. These were normal marks of wear and tear and really nothing too big to deal with. Jeff cleaned the exterior of the pipe with some Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush and rinsed it off under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth and the grime on the finish was gone. He ran pipe cleaners and alcohol through the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem to remove dust and debris that had collected there and he packed it up and sent it my way for the touch up work. I took photos of the pipe when I unwrapped on my worktable. It is an intriguing little pipe that draws attention, that is for certain. He also turned the loose band so that it lined up properly with the stamping on the shank side. You can see from the photos that the stem is slightly underclocked and will need to be aligned. The next two photos show the damage to the bowl wall and rim edge.The stem had some small nicks that a bit of amber super glue would easily take care of.The ferrule was loose and it took nothing to have it drop off in my hands when I turned the stem out of the shank. The briar underneath looked as if it had never had glue on it. It made me wonder if the band had just been held in place originally by pressure fit and over time the wood shrunk as it dried and the band came free of the shank.To address the flaw in the briar on the right inside of the bowl I mixed some briar dust and clear super glue and filled in the flaw. As the patch dried it shrunk and I refilled it until it was even with the rest of the surround bowl walls. While the glue dried on the repair I put some white glue around the shank, aligned the ferrule and put it in place. Thus while the repair dried the band could also dry. Once the repair in the bowl dried I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. I reshaped the inner edge of the bowl with the sandpaper as well and cleaned up the nicks in the edge. I chose not to bevel the rim as it had not been beveled previously. The bone tenons can swell over the years making the fit and alignment less than perfect. I have learned a few tricks over time with over and under turned stems with bone tenons. If the stem is over turned I generally build up the threads on the bone tenon with super glue until thing align properly. If it is under turned like this stem I remove material from the tenon. I carefully sanded the threaded area to reduce the diameter slightly. I checked the fit often and once I had it finish I cleaned up the tenon and put the stem aside. I filled in the nicks on the surface of the stem and near the button with clear super glue. The amber would have dried dark on this light horn. When the repair dried I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the nicks on the turned areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and make them less obvious. I polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after sanding with each micromesh pad. After the final pad I set the stem aside to let it dry. I polished the metal ferrule with micromesh sanding pads to remove the tarnish on the metal. There was a small crack in the underside of the ferrule that I repaired when I glued it onto the shank. I finished with the 12000 grit pad and then rubbed the stem down with a jeweler’s cloth to polish the metal. The silver is a nice contrast between the brown of the bowl and the translucence of the horn.I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and worked carefully around the band. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to polish the wax and give the pipe a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The wax made the grain stand out clearly and the two fills along the front and the back right edge of the bowl running with the grain. They are visible but they do not detract from the beauty of this old unsmoked William Demuth & Company pipe. It is an interesting piece of pipe history and I can only wish it could tell the story of its journey across the United States and now into Canada. Thanks for looking.

 

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