Blog by Steve Laug
I have already introduced this set of pipes for you in Part 1 of this blog. It is an old cased set of three pipes. Two of them were stamped JBV in an oval and one was stamped M&T Best Briar & Bands. The set was missing the third JBV pipe which I would bet was a smooth meerschaum bent billiard bowl and a second stem. The second stem in the case was for the M&T pipe and was smaller in diameter than the stem for the JBV pipes. As I mentioned in Part 1 the silver was dirty and the bowls caked on all of the pipes but there was something about them that really attracted me. Here is the link to the first part of the blog – the restoration of the most damaged of the JBV pipes: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/22/restoring-a-cased-set-of-pipes-2-jbv-and-1-mt-bent-military-mount-billiards-part-1/.
I am including a photo of the opened case showing the pipes and the stamping on the inside of the lid. It reads J.B. Vinche over “Au Nabab” over Bruxelles as far as I can interpret the blurred stamping on the felt lining. You can also see that the case has spots for what looks like a tamper tool and possibly a cigarette holder that are also missing.The next pipe that I chose to work on is the one on center of the case in the photo above. It is stamped M&T on the right side of the shank and Best Briar & Bands on the left side of the shank. The silver ferrule is also stamped BBB in three vertical boxes and the M&T is in an oval with pointed ends over three hallmarks that are hard to read. The pipe is in rough shape, but I am not sure I want to call it that after my experience with the first JBV splitting when I cleaned it. The finish on this one is also shot; there is silver polish on the shank ahead of the ferrule. The rim top is in the best condition of the three pipes and there are no deep nicks on the shank top or underside. There is a thick cake in the bowl and the rim top has some light dents. The inner edge is slightly out of round and there is a crack in the back of the bowl extending from the rim halfway down the bowl side. Like the rest of the pipes in this set the pipe is very dirty. Throughout the process of the restoration of the three pipes I have been hunting for information on the brand. I looked and found nothing searching for the M&T brand assuming that the pipe was also Belgian made. Today however I looked more broadly for M&T pipes and found one on Ebay that being sold. It tied the M&T stamping to a company called Müllenbach & Thewald.
Armed with this new information I looked on Pipedia and found a writeup on Müllenbach & Thewald (M&T). Here is the link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCllenbach_%26_Thewald
I quote from that article in full. The company Müllenbach & Thewald was established in 1830 by Jakob Müllenbach (* 19/10/1800, † 29/03/1876) and Wilhelm Thewald (* 31/05/1807, † 11/06/1888) in Höhr (later named Höhr-Grenzhausen) in the Westerwald area. Having married two sisters, Maria Magdalena and Catharina Friesehahn, the brothers in law joined forces to start a business dedicated to manufacture and trade clay pipes and other pottery goods the Westerwald has been famous for throughout centuries.
After 1848 M&T, as the pipes were stamped later, began manufacturing pipes from different Germany homed woods and as early as 1860 the fabrication of briar pipes started. Previously completely turned by hand, machine fabrication was taken up in 1864. Shortly after the turn of the century a workshop in nearby Vallendar specialising in briar pipes was opened. M&T didn’t make it to the top ranks in German pipe industry but was acknowledgded as a well reputated brand even though.
On 05/01/1945 Höhr was vastly destroyed by a bombing raid including the buildings of the company’s administration and the pipe workshop among other things. But as soon as 01/05/1945 the re-construction began and on 15/01/1947 the pipe factory re-started it’s production. The new and bigger facilities in Höhr-Grenzhausen led to the closure of the older briar workshop in Vallendar. At the end of 1949 47 persons were busy in Müller & Thewald’s pipe production department, where still pipes from other woods than briar were made. As old pictures from the middle of the 1950’s show the share of women workers amounted to more than 35%.
Around 1970 M&T got into serious trouble. Especially M&T’s mainstay, the budget pipe segment, was swamped with pipes from Italy and France, who could produce cheap pipes even cheaper than German brands for they possessed the desired raw material briar in their own countries and in addition wages were substantially lower there. As well the bulk of M&T’s models was fairly old-fashioned and therefore even the better lines of the fabrication couldn’t compete with those of Oldenkott and VAUEN anymore on the most important German market.
So Müllenbach & Thewald ceased pipe production after more than 140 years in 1972. Norbert Gerharz, the last foreman of the workshop, continued as a pipemaker on his own. Müllenbach & Thewald company today is one of Germany’s biggest firms in clay mining.
Given the new information on the brand I was able to decipher the hallmarks on the silver band. The first mark on the left appears to be a crown, the middle one is 933 and the one on the right has a year letter – perhaps a J. From what I can find online using a German Hallmarks Website to try to read the hallmarks (http://www.925-1000.com/Fgerman_marks_a1884_7.html) and a Dutch Museum Catalogue (http://pipemuseum.nl/index.php?hm=4&dbm=1&dc1=1&datering_start=1875&datering_eind=1925&q=1&wmod=lijst&sortby=datering_kruis&startnum=240&id=23843) it appears the pipe was made between 1900-1920.
Now I knew what I was working on. Quite a journey from thinking was a BBB originally to recognizing that was wrong and thinking it was Belgian Made like the JB Vinche brand to finally identifying it as a German made pipe. It also helped to potentially identify a time period for the JBV pipes in the case as well. The make, shape and case all fit the time period.
I had reamed the bowl on the M&T pipe when I did the other pipes in this case. I wrote about it in Part 1 of this blog. I used a PipNet pipe reamer, starting with the first cutting head and working my way up to the second. I took the cake back to bare briar to check out the interior of the bowl. I followed up by cleaning it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife and finally sanding the bowl with 180 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. I took the pipe out of the case and took photos of its condition before I started working on it. I put the original stem in the shank to give an idea of the overall look of things. I really like the shape of all three of the pipes in this case. The M&T pipe was more delicate than the JBV pipe with a smaller diameter mortise and stem. It was a nice piece of briar other than the crack in the back side of the bowl. The flow and bend of the briar and the layout of the grain is nicely done. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the extent of the damage. The rim top is dented and nicked and there is damage on the inner and outer edge of the rim. There is a small crack on the bowl rim on the back right side extending half way down the side of the bowl. I also took photos of the stem to show its condition. It was dirty and oxidized. There was some chatter on the top and underside near the button but there was no serious damage. I took a photo of the back of the bowl to show the crack that was there that would need to be addressed.I also took close up photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank and ferrule. It is clear but not clear enough to read the hallmarks on the silver.I started the process of refurbishing this old German made pipe by lightly topping the rim to remove the damage to the inner and outer edge.Once I had the bowl topped I drilled small microdrill holes along the ends of the crack as under light it went all the way down to the shank bowl junction. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol and filled in the crack and the pilot holes with super glue and briar dust. When the repair had cured I sanded the repair on the rim top, down inside the bowl for about a ¼ inch and down the back side of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I blended the surface of the repair into the rest of the rim top and bowl. I sanded the outer edge of the bowl and the surface of the bowl itself with 220 grit sandpaper. There were many nicks and scratches in the finish as well as the areas that I had repaired. The bowl is beginning to look good at this point. I sanded the rest of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper and wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth. When sanding, I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank so as not to damage that area. I took some photos of the bowl at this point in the process. Things were looking very good. I rubbed the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil and worked it into the briar. I find that a little oil at this point makes the nicks and scratches stand out clearly on the finish and show me what still needs to be sanded. I cleaned out the inside of the mortise and shank as well as the airway into the bowl and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. The airway was open on this one so pipe cleaners worked to quickly clean it up. The mortise on this pipe did not have a Peterson’s style sump but was still quite dirty. It took a lot of work to clean it out. The stem on the other hand was quite clean on the inside.I polished the ferrule with Hagerty’s Silver Polish to remove the tarnish on the silver. I rubbed it on with a cotton pad and polished it with the same pad.I polished the briar 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 cloth after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The grain was really beginning to stand out nicely. I decided to leave this one with the original stain and not darken or change it. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. It cleans, enlivens and protects the briar. In this case I also found that it blended the stain well on the surface of the briar. I reapplied the gold to the stamping on both sides of the shank using Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I applied it in the stamping using the tip of a sanding stick. I let the stamping sit for a few minutes then buffed off the excess product with a cotton pad. When I buffed the bowl the excess gold would be removed around the stamping. Once it cured it would come off easily. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. This was the original JBV stem and was made out vulcanite. I sanded out the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button with 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 the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to wipe away the sanding dust and bring some life to the vulcanite. With the stem and bowl completed, the third and final installment of this blog – Part 3, is also complete. It is time to reconnect things and take some final photos. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the entire pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The repaired crack on the back side of the bowl and the rim top looked pretty good. The repairs blend in nicely with the original colour of the briar. The repairs are visible up close but they look natural. Thanks for walking with me as I continue on the threesome. With this one the three pipes that came in the case are finished. They presented some interesting challenges in terms of the repairs on each of them. They were interesting to work on and all are in smoking condition. Thanks for reading.