Blog by Steve Laug
I am finishing the work that began with an email from Anthony, a reader of rebornpipes asking if I would be willing to help him clean up his Dad’s pipes. He wrote; “I have a few pipes (8 or so) that haven’t been smoked in 15 years. They were my dad’s. I would like to get someone to restore them”. We chatted back and forth via email and the long and short of the story is that I have eight of his Dad’s pipes in my shop now to work on. The photo below shows the mixture of pipes that he sent me. There are some interesting shapes and most are very dirty and have very little if any of the original finish left on the briar. All have an overflow of carbon on the rim top and all have chewed, damaged stems and buttons. Anthony remembers his Dad smoking them throughout the years he was growing up so they went from regular use to being boxed and stored. They will need a lot of TLC to bring life back to them but it should be fun to give it a go. I went through the pipes and assessed their condition and contacted him and got the go ahead to proceed on the lot.I have completed the restoration of seven of the pipes. The last pipe I am working on is a floral shaped freehand with a rounded top and a flush fit tapered, bite proof stem. It the third pipe down on the left hand column in the above photo. I have circled it in red. It is another tall freehand with a 1/4 bent stem. It has some pretty grain with carved floral patterns on the front and right side of the bowl. The bottom of the bowl is flat making the pipe a sitter. The stem that is on it is a twin bore/bite proof stem that is chewed with deep tooth marks on both the top and bottom of the stem and button. This may well be the original stem on this pipe. But in any case the fact that most of these pipes have a replacement twin bore bite proof stem tells me a lot about Anthony’s Dad’s habitual gnawing on his pipes. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank with the script signature Andre over 1981. The bowl had about a half a bowl of dottle and tobacco in the bottom and a thick cake, and some lava overflow on the rim top. The finish was gone and very washed out looking. Even the dirt and grime were anemic. I took photos of the pipe to show its overall condition when it arrived at my work table. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and the stem to show what I was going to be dealing with on this pipe. The rim top was in rough condition – mold filled in the grooves and valleys of the plateau. There was also some lava overflowing from the bowl that had filled in the grooves. The plateau on the shank end was worse than the rim top (if possible). The finish worn off and there was water staining all around the shank end.After I cleaned the pipe up a bit, I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It reads Andre over 1981.The stem was in rough condition as you can see from the photos below. The “bite proof” stem evidently was not bite proof. Anthony’s Dad had gnawed on it and left behind deep tooth marks on the stem and button. It would take some work but I would save this stem.I looked up the brand on the pipephil website index and found it listed. Here is the link – http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a6.html. I have included a photo from the site that shows a stamp on the left side of the shank that is like the one I am working on. The only difference is the year – this is a 1985 while I am working on a 1981. The site says that André Mermet was a French craftsman who immigrated to the USA. He (and after him his son) produced pipes for Barclay Rex or Wilke pipeshops.
I looked on Pipedia https://pipedia.org/wiki/American_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_A_-_B and found that though there was no listing with information, there was the brand name in the list of US pipe companies and makers. It stated: North American brand, possibly associated with Andre’s Pipe Gallery.
I wondered if this was not the shop that Anthony’s Mom had referred to in her email to him that I quoted in previous blogs on these pipes. She had written about a shop called “Andre’s,” around 1969 or ’70. She said it was a unique shop, originally located in Los Gatos, or Campbell, California she thought. She said that it later moved to the Alameda area in San Jose. Anthony’s Dad also bought his favorite tobacco blends there so it makes sense to me that he may have also purchased this signature pipe from them. Perhaps Anthony will let us know when he reads this.
One last time I want to include the tribute Anthony wrote about his Dad and his pipe smoking. Here is what Anthony sent: When my dad died 6 years ago, my mom asked if I wanted my dad’s old pipes. He was a long time pipe smoker, ever since I was a kid I can remember him sitting on the couch smoking his pipe inside. He worked at IBM and used to smoke his pipe in his office before they changed the laws in California. So you can imagine he had quite the collection over the years.
I took his pipes and put them in storage for a few years, I myself recently quit smoking cigarettes and decided to take up pipe smoking as it was easier on the wallet. I asked in /r/pipetobacco if anyone could recommend a pipe restoration service and someone told me about rebornpipes.com. I was hesitant but after looking at the blog I knew it would be a good place to send my dad’s pipes.
My dad loved smoking his pipes, sitting out by the pool in the sun taking a nap or in the garage wood working. The house was my mom’s area and the garage was my dad’s area. I spent hours sitting out in the garage as a kid watching the niners or a’s and giants on tv while doing woodworking projects. I hope to do the same with my kids these days.
I’m not sure if my dad smoked other tobacco but I remember Captain Black was the kind he smoked regularly. He had tins of it in the garage, full and empty and would turn the old tin jars into storage for odds and ends, like screws or washers or miscellaneous stuff.
I remember when I played little league my dad would sit in the stands and smoke his pipes. One of my teammates asked “What is that smell?” and I ashamedly said “Oh that’s my dad’s pipe…I’ll go tell him to put it out” and my teammate said “No man, it smells good!”. It’s funny how the little conversations over the years you remember.
Another time when I was in 3rd grade or so we learned how smoking was bad for you (this was back in the 80s). I remember I asked my teacher if smoking a pipe was bad for you too….and she hesitated and said “Not as bad as cigarettes, since you don’t inhale it”. After that I was no longer worried about my dad smoking.
Knowing my mom I have no idea how my dad pulled this off but he managed to smoke his pipe in the house. I guess she liked the smell of it. Recently when I was waiting for my girls to get out of school I was sitting on a side street smoking my pipe and someone walked by and thanked me for bringing the pipe back. He said his dad used to smoke a pipe and he loved the smell. As did mine. The only difference is my daughters complain constantly about the smell of my car, but that is mostly because I smoke cigars too.
Anyway, grab some fine tobacco, light up a bowl and sit back and relax. I don’t have a pool like my dad did but you can catch me working on my laptop sitting in my driveway smoking a nice pipe, especially one of these restored pipes from reborn pipes….I can’t wait to smoke them.
Thanks Anthony, I appreciate how your tribute gives a sense of who your Dad was and how he enjoyed his pipes. I think it is somehow appropriate that the 8th and final pipe is from Andre’s shop. I decided to start with the stem. I “painted” the deep tooth marks with a Bic lighter to raise the dents. It helped but these dents were deep and had sharp edges. I filled in the remaining dents with black super glue. It would take several applications of the glue to thoroughly fill in and repair the dents. I set the stem aside to let the repair cure and worked on the bowl.I set the stem aside and worked on the bowl. I used a dental pick to remove the dottle and unsmoked tobacco that filled the lower half of the bowl. I reamed it back to bare briar using a PipNet pipe reamer to remove as much of the cake as I could. I finished with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife and then sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around my index finger. The rim top had a thick coat of lava and many nicks and dents in the surface and along the outer rounded edge. I sanded it with a fold piece of 150 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the damage and smooth out the nicks and dents.I wiped down the bowl and rim with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remnants of stain in the bend of the shank/bowl junction and the grime ground into the finish. I was careful around the carved leaves or flower petals around the bowl and the stamping on the shank. Both seemed to have a darker stain in the grooves and I wanted to leave that undamaged. I sanded the smooth surfaces of the bowl, rim and shank with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches on the briar. I cleaned out the internals in the mortise, shank and airway with bristle and smooth pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was pretty dirty but it did not take a lot of time to clean it up.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the nooks and crannies of the carvings on the front and right side of the bowl and into the grain of the smooth portions of the briar. I worked it deeper into the grooves with a horsehair shoe brush. The balm works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I really like the way it brings life to the briar. When I wipe it off with a soft cloth it not only adds a shine but takes away the grime that is in the finish. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish briar and further work in the Restoration Balm. The pipe is looking good. I smoothed out the repairs with a needle file and 150 and 220 grit sandpaper. I reshaped the button and repaired the straight edge. I sanded the light oxidation off the surface of the stem at the same time.I polished the 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 sanding pad. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to finish removing the light scratches that remained. I gave stem another coat of the oil after that and set it aside to let the oil dry. I put the pipe back together and polished the bowl and stem with multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is final pipe of the eight pipes that I restored from Anthony’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Anthony thinks once he sees the finished pipe on the blog. This week I will pack them up and send them back to him so that he will have the opportunity to carry on the trust from his Dad. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this final pipe from Anthony’s Dad’s collection.