Daily Archives: July 8, 2018

Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes #10 – New Life for an A.J. Sher Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

With this blog I am stepping back to work on the tenth of the pipes from Kathy’s Dad’s pipes. For a reminder to myself and those of you who are reading this blog I will retell the story of the estate. Last fall I received a contact email on rebornpipes from Kathy asking if I would be interested in purchasing her late Father, George Koch’s estate pipes. He was a lover of “Malaga” pipes as well as others and she wanted to move them out as she cleaned up the estate. We emailed back and forth and I had my brother Jeff follow up with her as he also lives in the US and would make it simpler to carry out this transaction. The long and short of it is that we purchased her Dad’s pipes. There are some beautiful pipes in that lot. The condition of all them varied from having almost pristine to gnawed and damaged stems that will need to be replaced. These were some well used and obviously well-loved pipes. Cleaning and restoring them will be a tribute to this pipeman.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know how much I love getting to know about the pipeman who held the pipes in trust before me. That information always gives another dimension to the restoration work. This is certainly true with this lot of pipes. I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his assortment at the Malaga shop in Michigan. I may well be alone in this, but when I know about the person it is almost as if he is with me work on his pipes. In this case Kathy sent us not only information but also a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”. Once again, I am including that information so you can know a bit about the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before they are passed on to some of you. I include part of Kathy’s correspondence with my brother as well…

Jeff…Here is a little about my dad, George P. Koch…I am sending a picture of him with a pipe also in a separate email.

Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others. He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan. We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all.  He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace.  Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter

Kathy, once again I thank you for providing this beautiful tribute to your Dad. We will appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. I am also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.

The tenth of the pipes that I chose to work on is a nice looking Freehand with a mix of sandblast and smooth patches on the sides of the bowl. The top of the bowl and the end of the shank have a faux rustication that makes it look like plateau. The Lucite stem had lots of tooth chatter and a few tooth marks on both sides near the button. Some great grain peeks through the grime around the bowl. The warm combination of dark and medium brown stain on the bowl appeared to be good condition under the dust and tars of time.

The mixture of sandblast and smooth on the bowl sides and the faux plateau on the rim top of this pipe was covered with dust and grime. The blast and rustication on the rim top was all but filled in with an overflow of lava from the thick cake in the bowl. It appeared that underneath the rim top was in good condition and the inner and outer edge of the bowl was in good condition. The stamping was on the left side of the shank and was clear and read A.J. Sher on a smooth panel. The pearlized Lucite stem had tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. The interior of the pipe was dirty. I could see that George thoroughly enjoyed this pipe along with the others as is evidenced by the wear that all of them show. Jeff took these photos before he started the cleanup work on the pipe. Jeff took close up photos of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before he started to work his magic on it. The exterior of the bowl and shank were dirty. You can see the lava on the rim top, the thick cake and remnants of tobacco in the bowl. The second rim top photo shows the thick cake and debris in the bowl. It is dirty but in otherwise good condition. He also took photos of the sides of the bowl and shank from different angles to show the condition of the design of the bowl. The combination of smooth panels and sandblast look good. He took photos of the stamping and the shank end to show what it looked like before cleanup.The next two photos show the stem surface. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. On the second photo below there appears to be a tooth mark/hole deep in the surface of the acrylic. I am hoping that it is not all the way the surface of the stem.Jeff cleaned this one up before he sent it my way. After having cleaned quite a few pipes lately it was nice to work on one he had cleaned for me. He is really good at the cleanup work. He had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. 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, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the bowl, rim and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The lava mess on the rim was thoroughly removed without harming the finish underneath it. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The stem would need to be worked on. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.   I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The top was in excellent condition and Jeff was able to remove all of the lava and oils. He had scrubbed the bowl with a tooth brush and oil soap and it looked really good. The acrylic/Lucite stem had tooth chatter and some bite marks on the top and the underside of the stem just ahead of the button. I was glad to see that there was no bite through on the underside of the stem. What had appeared as a hole in the above photos of the stem seemed to have cleaned off and all that was present was a large tooth mark.The left side of the shank was simply stamped with a signature line that read A.J. Sher. I took a photo of the shank to show the nature of the stamping. I cannot find any information on the brand on any of my usual information sites so I am asking you all to help with that. Any of you know the brand?I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the sandblast finish and smooth portions to clean, enliven and protect the new finish. I worked it into the rim top and the shank end. Both had the appearance of plateau but I think they were carved to look like it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. There were some tooth marks on the top and underside of the acrylic stem at the button. Since there was not a hole in the stem it was a pretty easy clean up. I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. It did not take too much sanding to remove the marks and smooth out the stem surface. When it was sanded it was smooth and the marks were gone.I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I the polished stem and lightly polished the bowl with Blue Diamond to remove any remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe 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, it was a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more pipes by A.J. Sher. This is the tenth pipe that I am restoring from Kathy’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward once again to hearing what Kathy thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 7/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pretty Freehand. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust from her father send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking. 

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One of those once in a life time finds – a Long Shank Figural Meerschaum


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff always comes up with some amazing finds. I am not sure how he does it, but there is never a box of pipes that I get from him that does not have a surprising find in it. In this case we had talked about a meerschaum pipe that he was interested in picking up. I can’t remember where he had seen it but his sights were set on it. He had sent me some photos that he had received from the seller to give me an idea of what I would be dealing with when the pipe arrived. Here are the photos that he sent me. They are grainy and really don’t give an idea of the size and proportions of the pipe. They do however show the issues clearly. The shank was joined in two spots with nylon/Teflon threaded tenons and those had snapped off inside the shank. It also showed that the pipe had been smoked and the rim top was dark. There was some nice patina developing on the shank and bowl. I did not have a clue what the carving on the front of the pipe looked like.The next two photos show some close up views of the damaged areas. The first partially shows the damage of the first broken tenon on two parts of the shank. What it does not show is where the rest of the broken tenon is. I am pretty sure that it is in the other half of the shank. My guess is that somewhere along the way someone tried to take the pipe apart and snapped the tenon.The second photo shows the broken tenon at the bowl shank joint. This one is a bit more disconcerting because not only are parts of the tenon broken off in each side of the shank and bowl but it appears that someone tried to glue the two parts together. I would not know for sure until I had it in hand but that was my guess at this point. We talked about it and Jeff made the deal. Soon I would see the pipe in person.At this point your guess is as good as mine in terms of what the pipe looked like, what face was carved on the front and what the size and proportion were going to be. I had no idea what to expect but Jeff told me that he would send it home with my daughters when they returned from a visit for my Dad’s 90th birthday. Sure enough, he talked them into bringing a few pipes and a rack with them in their luggage. They got home around 11:30pm but that did not stop them from unpacking their bags to show me what they had brought home with them. In my second daughters luggage there was a long trombone shaped case – the case alone is 13 inches long and 4 inches wide at the widest point. It is three inches tall on the thickest portion of the case. It is covered with a black vinyl like many meerschaum cases are these days. I could see that the pipe inside must be a big one. I knew it was the one we had spoken of above but I had no idea what I was in for once I opened the case. Here are some photos of the case and what I saw when I opened it.I put the pipe away because I did not want to be tempted to work on it until I had finished some repairs that I was doing for a guy here in Vancouver. Yesterday I finished the last of his repairs and last evening I took the pipe out to have a look. The end of the shank at the bowl had a piece of the nylon tenon broken off inside of it. I used an easy out and turned it into the tenon until it grabbed then unthreaded the tenon from the shank. One done, and not too difficult.I used the easy out section that held the stem as well. It was also relatively painless. I turned it into the tenon until it grabbed then unthreaded the tenon from the shank piece. Two done, with no breakage and without making things worse!The third section was another story. It worried me because it was the piece that had been glued to the bowl end of the short shank. It had glue on the meerschaum surface that turned out to be rubber cement. I scraped it off and tried to turn that tenon out with an easy out. No success. It was glued in solid in the shank. I took out my cordless drill and fit it with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and carefully drilled it into the tenon. You have to be careful because one wrong move and the bit could damage the shank piece. Nerve wracking for sure! I was able to drill it carefully and when the bit grabbed I reversed the drill and unthreaded the glued piece from the shank. Success! All of the broken tenon pieces were removed. I could now see what else I had to do on this one.I started by checking out the connections between each section of the shank pieces. It did not take long to realize that the shank portions were made up of shorter spool like sections. I took the spools apart and took a photo of all the pieces. It was an interesting looking pipe. This is also the first look you are all getting of the figural. I think it is called a Courtier. It is a bearded gent with a cap and feather. It is well carved and very detailed.I decided before calling it a night to put the pipe back together again using the pieces of broken tenon that I had to reconnect the parts. I wanted to have some idea of the finished look of the pipe and what the length would be once it was all put back together. It is a long pipe. I measured it once I had it put together and from the tip of the beard to the end of the stem was 17 ½ inches. I truly had no idea this was what it would be when I first saw it in those first photos above. I took a couple of photos to show you what I saw. It is a gorgeous pipe with well done, intricate carvings. Now that all the parts were working I would need to clean them each. But that is it for the night. I packed the pipe back in the case and headed to bed. The first thing I did in the morning was to take some photos of the figural carving. I wanted to have a look before I started the cleanup and have found that taking photos gives me a good idea of what I need to work on with each pipe. Here is what I saw. It was a beautifully carved, ornate piece. There was some patina developing on the shank and the bowl, particularly around the bottom portion and the sharper edges of the carving. The rim top had a bit of lava buildup that would need to be removed along with the cake. Overall this portion of the pipe was in excellent condition. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and removed all of the cake. I wanted the walls clean and uncaked. I followed that by sanding the inside of the bowl with a dowel wrapped with sandpaper. I wiped down the inside of the bowl with a damp paper towel to remove the dust and sanding debris. I tried to blow air through the shank and bowl and was surprised that it was clogged and nothing flowed. I unscrewed the shank piece from the bowl and blew through that. It was clear so I knew that the clog was in the bowl portion for sure. I tried to push a pipe cleaner through the airway and met a hard clog. So to open the clog I pushed a piece of stiff wire through the airway and worked it around to clear out the clog. I checked to make sure there was airflow and then cleaned out the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the airway was clean and there was unrestricted airflow between the bowl and shank. Part one of the airway cleanup was finished and I was ready to work on the rim top.I sanded the lava on the top of the bowl with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad and wiped it down with a damp cotton pad. It did not take too much work to get the rim top clean. I cleaned out the grooves in the cap with a damp cotton swab to leave the top surface clean.I polished the meerschaum top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped down the top of the rim with a damp cotton pad after each sanding pad. The following photos show the progress. I cleaned up the shank section that was connected to the bowl. I scraped away the rubber cement on the surface of the shank end and cleaned out the interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I beveled both ends of the nylon connector to help with the airflow. Once it was clean I attached the first spool to the bowl portion.It was time to move on to the cleaning of each of the spools that made up the first section of the shank. I unscrewed the parts so that I could better work on them. It is easier to clean up the nylon connectors and the inside of the spool when they are apart. I used a pen knife to lightly bevel and open up the end of each of the connectors to improve the airflow. I cleaned out the airways in each section with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they were clean. I checked the airflow on each section and then put it back together. Now the bowl and the first section of the shank were clean.  I put the spools back together and took a photo of the first section of the shank.I moved on to the cleaning of each of the spools that made up the second section of the shank. I unscrewed the parts so that I could better work on them. It is easier to clean up the nylon connectors and the inside of the spool when they are apart. I used a pen knife to lightly bevel and open up the end of each of the connectors to improve the airflow. I cleaned out the airways in each section with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they were clean. I checked the airflow on each section and then put it back together. Now the bowl and the first and second section of the shank were clean. I cleaned airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I used a penknife to bevel the end of the push tenon. I sanded the exterior of the nylon push tenon to remove the buildup and stain that was on the white tenon end. The photo is a bit out of focus but you can see how dirty the airway was inside from the pipe cleaners under the stem.I wiped down the exterior of the stem and found another surprise. There was a hole in the top of the stem next to the button. In examining the hole I found that I was not dealing with a bite mark but with a misdrilled stem. The airway in the button was too high and that left the Lucite material too thin at that point. I took photos of the top and bottom of the stem and of the end view and include them now. The hole is the dark spot on the top side next to the button.I put some Vaseline on the end of a pipe cleaner and inserted it in the airway below the hole in the stem surface. I filled it in with clear super glue. I build up the top of the button and filled in the over-drilled airway in the button at the same time.Once the repaired area cured I shaped the button edge on both the top and the underside with a needle file. I blended the repair into the surface of the stem with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper. 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 it down with a damp cotton pad after each grit. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a shoe brush and finished polishing it with a soft microfiber cloth. Finally the pipe is clean and finished. I polished all of the parts individually with the cloth and took photos of the pipe before I put it together. This is one that I think I will hang on to for my own collection. I have ordered some new nylon connectors to replace the broken ones that I am using to hold it together at the moment. I took photos of the pipe as a whole and then broke it down and put it in the case and took photos of that to close this chapter of the story. Thanks for walking with me through this restoration.