Blog by Steve Laug
Knowing my predilection for strange and different pipes my brother keeps an eye open for that kind of thing in all of his meanderings about the Northwest and through the pages of eBay. One he came across really captured me. It was in a box that read Drake Double Guard Pipe on the lid. The box was in decent shape, dirty but unshaken. On the end of the box it read Drake Pipe Co. over Merchandise Mart over Chicago, Ill. It was a brand that I knew nothing about. I have never seen a pipe like this before or since he found this one. It has a Bakelite base and shank that has a threaded metal end cap. The cap was stuck in place. The pipe had a briar bowl with a drilled centre screw. The stem is amberlike Bakelite – harder than plastic and older. There were some tooth marks on both sides of the stem next to the button. There are some crazing marks around the sides of the stem. There is a polished silver ring on the end of the stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he did his initial clean up. The exterior of the pipe was very dirty. There was dirt and grime in all of the grooves in the Bakelite base. The stem was also very dirty and the inside of the airway was lined with tars and oils. The briar was very dirty and oily feeling. It was a tired old pipe.The grimy bowl can be seen in the photo below. There was a fairly thick cake in the bowl and the lava had overflowed onto the bowl top and over the sides. There were some nicks on the outer edge of the bowl while the inside edge was quite clean and undamaged.Jeff took the photo below to show the wear and tear on the pipe. It shows the end cap that is stuck in the end of the base. The bowl had a lot of junk filling in between the bowl and the base. There was a lot of stuff in the grooves of the Bakelite base.The next two photos show the stem condition. There was some crazing in the material of the stem. There were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem surface.When Jeff removed the stem there was an interesting condenser that was an integral part of the Bakelite base. It was a metal cap and was connected to a centre post. It was thickly clogged with tars and oils and the cap was overflowing over the edges of the cap.Once Jeff sent me the pictures I was hooked. I was looking forward to getting it and working on it. While I waited I did a bit of research on the brand. The printing on the end of the box that read Drake Pipe Co. over Merchandise Mart over Chicago, Ill. may have held a clue for me. I looked on the smoking metal website which is my normal go to site for these pipes and was unable to find anything about the brand. I did a general Google search on the brand and found nothing. I then focused the search on Merchandise Mart, Chicago, Ill. and found a bit of information that gave me a little help in my quest. The first was a postcard for the Merchandise Mart, in Chicago, Ill. It was a huge building that housed many floors of merchandise. There were household products, clothing for men, women and children, restaurants and specialty shops. There was also a tobacco shop in the Mart called Bernard Tobacco Shop. I found a listing of tobacco shops in Chicago in 1959 and it included this shop. It is long gone today but at least in 1959 it was there. (https://books.google.ca/books?id=xR4EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA42&lpg=PA42&dq=Bernard+Tobacco+Shop+Chicago&source=bl&ots=AddsXvGdl8&sig=YVdTT5dpfwtnIiene6nUXBBpgNs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2ua7p4v_XAhVJ52MKHSHQDDIQ6AEIkQEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Bernard%20Tobacco%20Shop%20Chicago&f=false).
There were also photos of a metal token for the shop that was good for Trade. I have included these two photos below. On the one side it reads Bernard Tobacco Shop Merchandise Mart. On the other side it reads Good for 5₵ in trade.Jeff cleaned it up as best he could. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took it back to bare briar. The screw in the bottom of the bowl was stripped and also stuck. He was able to clean off the rim removing all of the tars and lava. He was able to remove the stem but not the end cap from the Bakelite base. Thus the internals of the pipe base were very dirty. He cleaned out the stem internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and was able to remove all of the grime there. When it arrived I opened the box and found clipped tobacco labels that the previous pipeman must have smoked in this pipe. There was Stratford Smoking Mixture, Mapleton Smoking Mixture, Shannon Irish Smoking Mixture and Blue Heaven Triple Bokay Smoking Mixture. The only blend I had heard of was the Mapleton, all the rest were new ones to me.I worked on the pipe for several months. I soaked the bowl and screw with alcohol and cleaned around the screw with cotton swabs and acetone trying to let it penetrate the threads. It did not work. I used penetrating oil to try to loosen the stem but again it did not work. The stripped slot in the screw made it impossible to simply unscrew the bowl. I finally used a bit on the drill that was for removing tripped screws and I was able to get the screw out of the bowl. It is badly damaged and will take work to make it reusable but it is free. I wrapped the jaws on a pair of pliers with tape and carefully removed the end cap from the end of the base. I took photos of the pipe after I had taken it apart. I cleaned out the threads in the end cap and the base where the bowl was held in place. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners and worked on it until the interior was clean. I cleaned the condenser cap with pipe cleaners and alcohol until all of the grime was gone. I could blow air through the base with no interference. It took time to clean it all out but once it was clean it was fresh and it was ready to smoke again.I rubbed the threads on the end cap down with Vaseline and threaded it into the shank end. I polished the aluminum cap with micromesh sanding pads.I rubbed the Bakelite base down with Before & After Restoration Balm to give life back to the base. I scrubbed it down using cotton swabs and pads. I buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and warm water. I sanded out the scratches and tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem material with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I gave it a final coat of oil after the last pad. The stem material seemed to absorb the Obsidian Oil and it worked well. The polished stem looked really good. The tooth marks and chatter were gone and the amber look of the stem was really good. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to clean and enliven the briar. The product pulls grit and grime out of the briar and brought life back to the wood. I polished it with a soft cloth to clean off the grime that the balm brought up. I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the scratches. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I put the stem back on the base and gave it several coats of Conservator’s Wax to protect and give it a shine. I did not want to risk buffing the stem as the material appeared to be quite soft and would easily melt and damage with the heat of the buffing wheel. I hand buffed the base and stem with a shoe brush and a microfiber cloth. The finished base and stem look really good at this point in the process. It was time to put the bowl back in place on the base. I put the bowl on the base and turned the screw into it to hold it tightly in place. I gave the bowl and stem a final coat of Conservator’s Wax. I hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to polish it and raise a shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It looks better than it did in the beginning. It is the first Drake Double Guard Pipe that I have ever seen and worked on. It is well made and combines a beautiful piece of briar with Bakelite and amber acrylic/Bakelite for the stem material. The finished pipe looks really good with all the parts in place and polished. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inches. Do any of you have any more background information or history on the brand or on the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Illinois? Send me a message, email or leave a response on the blog. Thanks for looking.