Blog by Steve Laug
Late in the summer of 2017 I received an email on rebornpipes blog from Barry in Portland, Oregon. He wanted to know if I would be interested in purchasing his father’s pipes. He wrote that his Dad was a gracious, dignified and dedicated father, businessman and community leader for many years in Fresno, California where he was raised. He acquired his pipes when he gave up smoking cigarettes in the 1960s. There wasn’t an ounce of pretense in the man and he smoked his pipes for pleasure and as a pass-time while reading, enjoying company or watching sports on TV. Barry and I corresponded back and forth and concluded our deal. I became the proud owner of his Dad’s pipes. The inventory of the pipes he would be sending included some real beauties – Comoy’s, Parkers, Dunhills and some no name brands. They were beautiful and I could not wait to see them. I had him send them to Jeff where he would clean them up before I received them. Jeff took some photos of the lot as he opened the box. Each pipe was individually wrapped with bubble wrap and taped to protect them. There were 25 bubble wrapped packages and a lot of pipe accessories included – pipe racks, reamers, scrapers and Comoy’s filters and washers. There were pipe pouches and a wooden cigar box that held all of the accessories and reamers. There was a boxed KleenReem pipe reamer that was virtually unused. Jeff unwrapped the pipes and took pictures of the estate showing both the pipes and the accessories. Barry had labeled each pipe with a sticky note. It was an amazing addition to my pipe and tool collection. The next pipe I chose to work on from the collection was a Comoy’s London Pride, the second of four Comoy’s pipes. This pipe had the original stem and was in good condition. It was stamped on the left side of the shank Comoy’s over London Pride over Extraordinaire. On the right side of the shank it had the Comoy’s COM stamp Made in London in a circle over England and next to that the shape number 127/2. I was unfamiliar with the / shape number designation so I looked it up on a Comoy’s Shape Number Chart. They called the shape a Billiard, but something is not quite right with that designation in my mind. On the chart is it also marked as an XL. There is no 127/2 designation so I wonder if it is not a second shape under the 127 classification – if that is true then I would call this one a long shanked billiard or a Liverpool. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Comoy%27s_Shape_Number_Chart)
I could not remember where the London Pride fit in the ranks of Comoy’s pipe lines. I Googled the line and found a pipe on rebornpipes that I had previously worked on. In the blog I had written that Comoy’s had introduced the London Pride as the second grade to the Blue Riband around the same time to meet the American demand for a lighter finish. It was priced in 1943 at $25 and in 1965 at $25, then in 1979 at $95. It was described as having a natural amber coloring and tending to be Birdseye/Cross-Grained pattern pipes. At the time this pipe was made it was the next-to-top-of-the-line. The original stem had a three-piece “C” logo as did the one that I was working on.
I also wanted to have some idea of the date on this old pipe so I did a bit of digging on Pipedia. I found a helpful dating guide there. I found that the Comoy’s London Pride stamp on the shank dated it to the 1950s. At that time there were four variants to the stamping.
- A simple block-letter style without serifs but with the C larger than the other letters and the apostrophe before the “S”.
- A return to the slightly more fancy block letters with serifs and the apostrophe. (It seems that some grades carried different stamps, or at least that the stamping changed in different years for some grades.)
- A simple block-letter style without serifs and without the apostrophe and with the “C” the same size as the rest of the letters. This stamp was probably not used very long.
- A simple block-letter style without serifs but with the apostrophe before the “S” and with the “C” the same size as the rest of the letters.
Variant number 1 fits the style of stamping on this pipe. It is stamped with capital letters, block style without serifs and having an apostrophe between the Y and the S of Comoy’s. The C of Comoy’s was larger than the other letters. That helped me identify the pipe as coming from the 1950s.
The COM stamp (Country of Manufacture) is like the one in the picture to the left. The picture shows exactly what is stamped on the shank of this pipe. It is stamped in a circle with “MADE” at the top, “IN” in the middle, and “LONDON” at the bottom, with “ENGLAND” in a straight line beneath. According to the Pipedia article it can be assumed that this stamp was first used in the export drive in the early 1950s. Here is the link to the article: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Comoy%27s_Dating_Guide
Here are some links that I have used in identifying and dating this pipe. https://rebornpipes.com/2014/01/06/refinishing-and-reworking-the-rim-on-a-comoys-london-pride/; https://pipedia.org/wiki/A_History_Of_Comoy%27s_and_A_Guide_Toward_Dating_the_Pipes;http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-comoy.html
The finish on the pipe was dirty and filled with the detritus of years of use followed by sitting unused. The bowl was thickly caked and had an overflow of lava on the rim top. Even through the grime and grit you can still see the amazing birdseye on the sides and cross grain on the front and back of the bowl and the top and underside of the shank. The stem was well made and fit the shank perfectly. It was lightly oxidized and had tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem at the button. The surface edges of the button also had tooth marks that were present. The stem also bore the original Comoy’s three part “C” logo on the stem. The stem also had some calcification around the button as well that made me think that perhaps the stem had once sported a softee bit. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up. The photos tell the story better than my words can. He took some close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake and the condition. He also took photos to show the grain on the side, front and underside of the bowl. There was a fairly large nick in the side of the bowl shown in the last photo. He also photographed the stamping on both sides of the shank to show what it read and the condition of the stamping. The left side is stamped Comoy’s over London Pride over Extraordinaire. The Extraordinaire stamp was used on large pipes. On the right side it is stamped with the Comoy’s Com stamp Made in London in a circle over England. Next to that is the shape number 127/2. The original stem has the three part Comoy’s C insert on the left side. The stem was oxidized as mentioned above and had tooth chatter and marks. Jeff took photos of both sides of the stem to capture their condition before he cleaned the pipe.Jeff did his usual great job on cleaning this pipe, leaving it pristine and without damage to the finish. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the remnants with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. 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 grime of the smooth finish on the bowl and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. Once the dust and debris were removed the finish looked very good. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. I took some close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as both sides of the stem to show their condition. The bowl was very clean and the rim top looked good other thank some light nicks and darkening. He had been able to remove the lava from the finish. The inner edge was in excellent condition and the roughness of the outer edge in the early pictures above actually blended into the sandblast finish of the bowl. The stem is lightly oxidized as can be seen in the photos and has small tooth marks near the button on both sides and on top and the bottom of the button.I removed the stem and was surprised by the unique tenon with almost a nipple on the end of it. It is an integral part of the tenon. The inside airway on the tenon and stem have an inner tube that is inset in the stem and tenon to give strength to both.I started with the stem on this one. The next series of photos show the restoration process on the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks with the flame of a Bic lighter and was able raise most of them even with the surface of the stem. I used some clear super glue to fill in the tooth marks on the top and underside of the button surface and on the stem just ahead of the button that did not rise with the heat. Once the glue dried I sanded out the tooth chatter and the tooth marks next to the button on both sides and the repair on the top of the button with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish, both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I worked on the darkened rim, inner edge bevel and the small marks and nicks on it with micromesh sanding pads. I lightly sanded it first with 220 grit sandpaper and followed it up with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad to check on the progress. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar on the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect it. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth 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 grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed. I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the stem. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and 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 rich brown stain allows the grain to really stand out on this little pipe and it works well with the rich black of the polished vulcanite stem. This Comoy’s London Pride Liverpool is a beautiful looking pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inches. This 1950s era Comoy’s is another one that will fit well in any pipeman’s collection and add a touch of real class. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.