My brother Jeff found an assortment of House of Robertson pipes at an auction in Wilder, Idaho which is an area in the greater Boise, Idaho area. He picked them up for us to restore. I had forgotten that I had mentioned the brand in passing in a blog on Leonard’s Pipe Shop in Portland, Oregon. Here is the link to that blog where I mention it as one of the brands that Leonard’s sold: https://rebornpipes.com/2013/06/06/leonards-pipe-shop-portland-oregon/. It is a fascinating brand that really I had never had the privilege of seeing first hand. He cleaned them all up and on a recent trip to Idaho, I picked them up and brought them back to Canada. I took pictures of the lot of them to show the wide variety of pipes that they made in terms of both size and style. The craftsmanship is very good with the fit of the stem and shank well done and the finish both rusticated and smooth exemplary. Jeff picked up three more of the brand in Pocatello, Idaho so I will be working on more of these pipes in the future. They all have the name House of Robertson roughly hand etched on the side or underside of the shank with an engraving tool. I did a bit of hunting for information about the brand and found a link on Pipedia that gave me the only information I could find on the brand. I include that in total as it is interesting to read.
“House of Robertson” was in business for many years, but alas, closed their doors in 1999. They were located in Boise, Idaho. They are noted for making rather large and interesting pipes. Thayne Robertson was a Master Mason, AF & AM, and started the shop about 1947 and his son Jon started working there in 1970 when he finished college, along with Thayne’s daughter. Thayne and his son started making the big pipes at that time, and made them together until 1987 when Thayne passed away. Jon kept the store and his sister moved on to other things. The House of Robertson appears to have closed around 1999.https://pipedia.org/wiki/Robertson
The third of the six pipes I chose to work on was rusticated Hawkbill shaped pipe. It is NOS (new old stock) and is unsmoked. It is engraved with the House of Robertson signature on a smooth panel on the right side of the shank. The rusticated finish on the pipe had a smooth band around the rim and the rim top was smooth. There were also smooth bands on the left, front and right sides of the pipe moving up from a smooth circle on the bottom of the bowl. The pipe was in excellent condition other than being dusty from time. The deep grooves in the rustication were very dusty. I have circled the pipe in red in the above group photos. It is an interesting pipe. The bowl is clean and unsmoked briar. The drilling on the pipe is different to me – it looks like the airway came out below the bottom of the bowl. It is still very smokable but the look is quite unique. The stem was lightly oxidized but clean. The fit of the stem to the shank was good. The vulcanite appeared to have been a pre-formed stem that was shaped to fit this pipe. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started the cleanup.The next close-up photos show the finish on the top and the underside of the bowl. The first two photos show clean bowl and the rim top. The grain on the top of the bowl and the inner and outer edge of the rim looks really good. The finish on the rim top was in great condition. The next two photos show the sides and underside of the pipe. The next photo shows the etched name on the right side of shank on a smooth panel of briar. It reads House of Robertson.The tapered stem was oxidized and pitted from the oxidation. It was otherwise very clean and unsmoked.This unsmoked pipe was an easy cleanup for Jeff. After all of the heavily caked and dirty pipes he has cleaned it was a nice break to clean off the dust and oxidation from a pipe that had been sitting in storage for a long time. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the dust in the rustication on the bowl and shank as well as the smooth portions. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. Once the dust and debris were removed the finish actually looked to be in excellent condition. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the NOS condition of the pipe. The stem was clean but pitted and oxidized.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the nooks and crannies of the rusticated finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, worked it into the finish with a horsehair shoe brush. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a horsehair shoe brush to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The birdseye grain stands out on the two sides bands and the cross grain stands out on the rim top, the smooth base and the front band.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation on both sides of the tapered stem.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish –using both the Fine and Extra Fine Polishes. I gave it a rubdown with Obsidian Oil one last time and set it aside to dry.I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to lightly polish the stem. I buffed the bowl with a light touch so as not to get any of the buffing compounds in the grooves of the rustication. I buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and gave 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 medium brown stains on the rusticated Hawkbill shaped bowl with a smooth bands and rim works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. The polishing and the reworking of the stem material left this a beautiful and interesting looking pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inches. This one will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly if you want to add it to your collection. Even with an under drilled airway it should still smoke very well. It will be priced accordingly for seconds pipe. Why not take this opportunity to add a House of Robertson pipe to your rack. Thanks for looking.
As I have mentioned before my brother Jeff has really gotten good at finding Gourd Calabash pipes when he is pipe hunting. He picked up this batch recently. I posted about the large calabash in the middle of the right hand column recently and it is available on the rebornpipes store. It is by far the largest of the five calabash pipes that he found. The second one I am working on is the pipe at the bottom right of the photo. It is another unique looking Calabash to me in that it is a nicely shaped gourd with a briar shank extension on the end of the gourd. It bears the Jobey brass oval logo on the side of the briar extension. The third of the calabash pipes that I worked on was a second Jobey calabash. It is the one on the bottom left of the photo below. As I mentioned before, when I first looked these Jobey calabashes I wondered if any of them had the Jobey system tenon that I have come to expect on Jobey pipes. However, this was not the case on any of the three Jobey Gourd Calabashes in the bunch. All of them have the mortise drilled in the briar extension and is made for a push stem. Once again, I had never seen Jobey Gourd Calabashes before learned that they were probably made by Wally Frank. Here is the link to the first of the pipes I worked on – the one circled in red in the photos below: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/09/restoring-a-full-bent-jobey-gourd-calabash-with-a-briar-shank-extension/. Here is the link to the second of the three circled in blue: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/28/restoring-the-second-of-three-jobey-gourd-calabashes-with-a-briar-shank-extension/. Today I am working on the third of the Jobey Calabash pipes and the fourth of the lot. It is the pipe on the top left of the photo below.
Once again Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he did his cleanup work on it. The photos below show it in the condition he found it in on one of his hunts. The gourd was dull looking and generally dirty. It had spots of sticky label material on the sides of the bowl. The briar shank extension was also dull and lifeless looking and there was a gummy substance in the brass logo on the shank extension. The meerschaum bowl on this pipe was light weight and appeared to be block meerschaum. There was a thick cake in the bowl and the rim had a coat of lava that went almost all the way around the inner edge of the chamber onto the rim top. The chair leg style stem was oxidized and dirty. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem at the button.The next photo shows the condition of the meerschaum cup. The cup of the meer was had some lava overflow from the bowl on the inner edge and top. There is also darkening around the inner edge of the bowl and cake in the bowl.The next two pictures show the condition of the underside of the bowl and the tars and oils on the walls of the gourd. The underside of the meerschaum cup was dirty but in good condition. The cork gasket on the inside edges of the gourd was in good condition but dried out. It needed some grease to liven it up.The briar shank extension was dirty and there was debris around the outside of the oval and in the letters stamped in the brass.The stem had light oxidation and tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. It also had the same price tag glue on the top and underside of the stem.Jeff did a thorough cleanup on the meerschaum bowl, the inside of the gourd and the stem. He carefully scraped the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the meerschaum cup and the gourd with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the oils and dust ground into the gourd. He was able to remove all of the lava and overflow from the top of the meerschaum bowl and left it looking very clean. Once he had removed the lava on the rim top and inner edge they were cleaner than I expected. The scratches in the meerschaum were quite shallow and would be easy to polish out. He cleaned internals of the stem with alcohol. When it arrived I took some photos of it to show how it looked before I did the restoration. He did a great job of cleaning up the rim top including the tars and lava. The bowl is clean and smooth with all cake removed. The photo below shows the condition of the bowl and rim at this point. The inner edge of the bowl is clean but there is some wear and damage to the edge. The stem had cleaned up nicely with relatively little oxidation. The tooth marks on the top and underside along with the chatter were still present.I took the bowl off the gourd to have a look at the inside of the pipe. The gourd was very clean. The cork gasket was dry but that could be remedied easily enough. The mottled appearance carried through to the inside of the meerschaum bowl and can be seen in the photos.I used my fingers to rub the gourd and briar extension down with Before & After Restoration Balm to bring life to both and to remove any residual dust or dirt in the surface of the calabash. I wiped it off with a cotton cloth and buffed it with a shoe brush. The next few photos show the gourd at this point in the process.I used some Vaseline petroleum jelly to lubricate the cork gasket and soften it. I have done this for years and I really like the effect of the jelly on the cork. I used 1500 grit micromesh sanded off the spots along the surface of the meerschaum cup where it sat against the cork and the top of the gourd to ensure a smooth fit.I checked the pliability of the cork gasket, rubbed a little more Vaseline into it and put the bowl back on the gourd. The fit of the cup against the gasket was snug but not hard to insert. It was perfect. The pipe was beginning to look finished. The shine on the gourd and the rim looked good. The briar extension had its own shine as well.I took the cup off the gourd and polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I buffed the cup with a microfiber cloth to polish it.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button. The rest of the stem was in decent condition. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil at this point and let it sit for a little while.I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove any residual bath and also the sanding dust from the work on the stem surface and tooth chatter.I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each sanding pad. After using the 12000 grit pad I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to give a deep and rich shine. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish using both the fine and the extra fine product. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.Normally at this point I put the stem back on the bowl and take the pipe to the buffing wheel to work it over. This time I took the parts to the buffing wheel. I gently buffed the meerschaum cup and rim with Blue Diamond to lightly polish the meer. I carefully buffed the gourd base and briar shank extension with Blue Diamond being cautious about the pressure I put on the gourd. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I took the pipe back to the work table and gave the gourd multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I gave the stem several coats carnauba wax. I buffed the parts of the 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 dimensions of the pipe are, Length: 9 inches, Height: 3 ½ inches, Diameter of the cup: 2 ½ inches, Diameter of the chamber: 7/8 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for looking.