Daily Archives: July 11, 2018

Refurbishing an Ardor Mercurio Fantasy 2006 Bulldog

Blog by Steve Laug

Last week I finished up some pipes for a guy here in Vancouver and when he came to pick them up he brought some more for me to work on for him. I finished up some of the ones on the worktable so I decided it was time to work on these. The first of them is the following Ardor Bulldog. It really is a beautiful pipe. The shape, the grain the colouration, the silver/grey acrylic shank end, the silver trim band on the stem and the silver/grey stem all make this a uniquely beautiful pipe. I have worked on one other Ardor that I added to my collection. I wrote about that restoration on the blog a few years back. While it was a rusticated Urano this one is a Mecurio. Here is the link – https://rebornpipes.com/2016/02/26/with-just-a-little-work-i-now-have-a-dr-ardor-urano-fantasy-apple/ The bowl had an uneven cake and there was some darkening on the rim top. The inside of the shank was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The silver on the stem was tarnished and dull looking. The Lucite stem had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. There was also a tooth mark in the top of the button on the left side. I took photos of the bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it. I took a photo of the stamping to show what it looked like. The underside of the stem is stamped as follows – Dorelio over Rovera. Under that it is stamped Ardor over Mercurio. Under that it is stamped Italy then Fantasy. Under that is stamped Fatta A Mano and the year 2006.I did a quick review of the history of the brand by turning to Pipedia. The link there was an article that came from Italian Pipemakers.com. Here is the link – https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ardor. I quote part of the article that gives a quick view of the brands

Ardor Courtesy of italianpipemakers.com

In 1974 Dorelio Rovera, with his father Angelo, established the Ardor Pipe, name which comes from the “AR” (Angelo Rovera) and “DOR” (Dorelio Rovera), changing a medium quality level production into a completely handcrafted product, with a very high level of design and finishing.

[Editor’s Note: Angelo Rovera is the son of Francesco Rovera, who along with his brothers comprised Sociedade Rovera, a pipe company they founded in 1911.]

Dorelio personally chooses the briar which is left seasoning for at least 4 to 5 years before it is worked. It is stocked in particular baskets which leave the wood always visible and airy. The pieces chosen to become a pipe are cut with a circular saw to identify the model. Then each piece is rough hewn by hand with special files, definitely “dangerous” but very efficacious to give the shape to the wood.

Like most artisans, Ardor couples a classical style and a very original style with definite but free and fanciful lines, to offer and meet the largest number of requests, from the simple to the most complex. Ardor is a pipe company which is always looking for innovations, indispensable to collectors, but trying to offer a very high level product in the smoking aspect and performance of the briar, always dried and light for a higher comfort of the smoker.

With Damiano, Dorelio’s son, Ardor introduced the coloured methacrylate (acrylic) stems, really appreciated in the international markets. Damiano has been able to condition the Ardor style with new shapes and with a new mouthpieces style, having a modern point of view. His target is to keep up the interest of new generations, surely more variable in a shorter period.

The Ardor Urano Fantasy that I have was marked AR which told me it was made by Angelo while this pipe was made by his son, Dorelio. The coloured, interestingly shaped stems are obviously the additions of Damiano. The stems he does add a definite flair to the pipe that is unique.

I started my clean up on this pipe by cleaning out the airway in the stem and shank, the mortise and shank interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It did not take as much as I expected to remove all the tars and oils in the shank and mortise. The stem had some darkening in the airway and in the slot in the stem. I used pipe cleaners to clean out the debris that had collected in the edges of the slot and the darkening in the airway.I evened up the cake on the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to where there was a thin layer all around the bowl.I rubbed Before & After Restoration Balm into the smooth finish on the bowl and shank. The balm cleans the surface and enlivens and protects the briar. I worked it into the lines and the finish. I let it sit for a while and then buffed it off with a soft cloth and polished it. I took photos of the bowl at this point to give an idea of what it looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem. Once the repair on the top side of the stem button had cured I shaped it with some folded 220 grit sandpaper and sanded out the tooth chatter and marks on both sides.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches in the acrylic. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave both the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have seven more pipes to finish for him – three come from his personal rotation while four of them are some finds he made while pipe hunting. This is going to be a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.


Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes #11 – Restoring a Beautiful Custom Carved Malaga Freehand

Blog by Steve Laug

With this blog I worked on another of the Malaga pipes from Kathy’s Dad’s estate. This is the eleventh of the pipes from collection. 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 – Malagas and others. I have never seen this many “Malagas” together in one place in all of my years of pipe restoring and refurbishing. 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. (Here is a link to some history of the Malaga Brand if you are interested: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. There are also links there to a catalogue and the maker George Khoubesser.)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 collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. 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…. I may well be alone in this, but when I know about the person it is almost as if he is with me while I work on his pipes. In this case Kathy sent us not only information but also a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”.

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 eleventh of the pipes that I chose to work on is a nice looking Freehand with beautiful grain all around the bowl – straight, flame and birdseye. The top of the bowl is very rustic looking plateau briar that is filled with nooks and crannies. The end of the shank has one small spot of plateau that is almost a token piece. The plateau top was almost filled in with a heavy lava build up flowing from 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 underside of the shank and was clear and read “Malaga” over Custom Carved. The brown, swirled, 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 this was another pipe 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 pipe looked good. He took photos of the shank end to show what it looked like before cleanup.Jeff also took a photo to capture the stamping on the underside of the shank. 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 another one that 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, plateau 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 Lucite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the thin profile it cast. 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 thin profile acrylic/Lucite stem had tooth chatter and some bite marks on the top and a deeper more prevalent tooth mark among the chatter on the underside of the stem just ahead of the button.The underside of the shank was stamped with “Malaga” over Custom Carved. I took a photo of the shank to show the stamping. I am not sure how far up the hierarchy of Malaga pipes this one comes. It is a beautiful piece of briar.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the plateau on the rim and the smooth portions to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the plateau on the rim top and the shank end with my fingertips and the help of a horsehair shoe brush. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the top and more chatter and a deeper tooth mark on the underside of the acrylic stem at the button. I cleaned off the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the deep tooth mark with clear super glue. Once it cured, I sanded both sides smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth chatter and the repair 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 polish out the 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. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. This is the eleventh 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 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches wide and 2 inches long, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Malaga from George’s estate. More will follow in a variety of shapes and sizes. 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.