Blog by Steve Laug
One of the things I really like about restoring pipes that have a known history is the opportunity to be a part of the journey of a particular pipe and carry on the trust that was left with the family member who shared the pipes with me. In this case Mark sent me the back story to his uncle’s seven pipes after I had finished the second pipe. I have done three of them now. I finished the Ropp Cherrywood De Luxe (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/17/cleaning-and-restoring-a-ropp-cherrywood-de-luxe-805/) and the Doodler (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/19/restoring-a-beautiful-the-doodler-bullmoose/) and a newer three hole stinger Kaywoodie Super Grain Billiard S-L (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/21/restoring-marks-uncles-third-pipe-a-kaywoodie-super-grain-s-l-billiard/) posted them on the blog. As I mentioned in a previous blog I often think of the pipeman who had used the pipe daily as a part of his life while working on it. Here are some pictures of the pipes. Some of Mark’s Uncle’s pipe were worn and tired looking but still had a lot of life in them. Several of the Kaywoodies had stem damage as did a small apple. The pipes were relatively clean – the bowls did not have a thick cake and the rim tops though caked with lava were decent. You can tell from the photos which pipes were his favourites. I shared the story of the pipes in the last blog on the Kaywoodie Super Grain S-L Billiard. I am including it once again with this blog for those of you who did not read it previously. If you have read it you can skip ahead to the restoration on the pipe.
You must wonder about the history of the pipes you work on, so I thought might like to know a little about my uncle and his pipes:
My Uncle John, raised in an Appalachian Mountain family (think Hatfield and McCoy), was a large man with an affable personality – although this had limits and he could be quite formidable.
During WWII he left home and enlisted in the US Army where he was assigned to Patton’s 3rd Army as an ambulance driver. After Germany surrendered, he was transported back to the US on a converted ocean liner troop ship (I believe it was the Queen Mary). Upon reaching the US, his unit was immediately sequestered on a troop train for transport to the West Coast to be shipped to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan. About half way across the country (possibly somewhere in Texas), the train stopped and the troops informed that Japan had capitulated – WWII was over.
Before the Korean War began, my uncle re-enlisted in the US Air Force. He as assigned to a Photo Mapping unit as an Aircraft Mechanic. He worked his way up to Crew Chief and served in Photo Mapping until he medically retired in the mid 60’s due to heart problems.
Being part of an Air Force family, I did not get to spend much time with my uncle while growing up. However, I was able to stay a couple of summers with him at his West Palm Beach home while in my teens. On a desk in his Florida Room sat collection of old used pipes in a walnut pipe rack / humidor combo (very similar the Decatur Industries 6 pipe Rack and humidor combination shown in the rebornpipes store). There were a couple of packages of old dried up commercial brand tobacco in the humidor – one was cherry, I think. I never saw my uncle smoke and never discussed the pipes with him, but I was intrigued by the pipe collection. They were old, dirty, and well used – some with chewed through stems. Obviously, the pipes had been smoked by a devoted pipe enthusiast. As a young boy, I loved the smell of pipe tobacco, which you could occasionally smell in public way back then. I started smoking an occasional pipe in college. When my uncle passed away a few years later, I asked for his pipe collection and have stored it away since then. The pipes are just as I received them some thirty years ago.
While I will never know for sure, I believe my uncle purchased the pipes in various PX’s and smoked them while an Air Crew Member. The PX’s would have sold common commercially available pipe brands at a good price, nothing too expensive or exotic – consistent with the pipes in my uncle’s collection. As a Photo Mapping Air Crew Member / Chief my uncle traveled the world extensively, and was stationed at many bases – including “permanent” stations in West Palm Beach, Warner Robins, and Goose Bay Labrador, to name a few. Smoking a pipe would have been a relaxing way to spend a few monotonous hours on the flight line or in the air. After his heart problems, he must have given up pipe smoking and the pipes sat unused thereafter. If the bowls look like they were recently scraped, it would have been over fifty years ago, most likely with a Case hardware store folding knife. If dirty, it is due to sitting for many years in the back room. If well used and chewed it is due to many hours of smoking enjoyment.
I’m looking forward to seeing my Uncle John’s pipes in restored condition. I know they are not “collectors” items, but they bring back priceless memories of my uncle and the times we spent together sharing “war stories”.
Your pictures and stories of the Doodler and Ropp are great, keep up the good work. Feel free to edit and use any of my uncle’s write up on your blog if you wish. – Mark
Once again that information was a part of the privilege I had of working on this pipe. I turned my attention to the fourth of Mark’s uncle’s pipes – a Savinelli Churchwarden. The pipe was stamped on the underside of the shank in a smooth portion with the words Churchwarden over Aged Briar. Next to that it reads Savinelli over Italy. Next to that at the stem/shank junction is the shape number 2002. There was a dust and grime deep in the wire rustication. The rim top was clean and the bowl was also clean. It appeared that the pipe was either unsmoked or very lightly smoked. Overall the finish was in really good condition but it was dirty and dusty. The stem was oxidized and there was light tooth chatter on both sides near the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started restoring it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the lack of cake in the bowl and the clean rim top. It appeared that the pipe may have only been smoked once or twice if at all. The inner and outer edges of the rim were in perfect condition. I also took a close up photo of the underside of the bowl and shank. It reads as I mentioned above.I took some close up photos of the stem to show the condition of both sides. The stem was oxidized and showed tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides near the button.I scrubbed the wire rustication on the bowl and rim top with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and dirt on the bowl. I rinsed it off with running water and dried the bowl and shank off with a soft cotton towel. I took photos of the cleaned bowl to show what it looked like at this point in the process. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips to deep clean the finish, enliven and protect the wood. I worked the balm into the wire rusticated grooves on the rim top and bowl sides. I let it sit for a few minutes and then buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush and a cotton cloth. The wood came alive and there was a rich shine to the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I used a small blade pen knife to scrape out the tars and oils on the inside of the mortise. Once it was removed I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once the cleaners came out remaining white the inside of the shank was clean. The one thing I noticed in both the shank and the stem was that there was black stain coming out of the mortise and airway along with the light debris from smoking.I sanded the stem to break up the oxidation the length of the stem. I wanted to remove the oxidation on the surface and ready the stem for polishing. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper.I worked over the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each one. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry. Once it had dried, I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish Fine and Extra Fine. I rubbed it down with final coat Obsidian Oil and took the following pictures. I put the stem back on the bowl and took the pipe to the buffing wheel to work it over. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish them. I was careful in buffing the wire rustication with the Blue Diamond as I did not want to get it in the grooves. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The briar really shines and the dark stain looks beautiful. The vulcanite stem came out quite nice with a deep shine. The pipe came out really well. This one is pipe four of seven. I have three more of the uncle’s pipes to finish up and then these will be heading back to the US. Thanks for looking.