Blog by Steve Laug
Not too long ago I received an email from through the rebornpipes site. I am actually getting quite a few emails each week which I find a pleasure to read and answer. They range from questions on restoration to those regarding estate pipes. This one was interesting to me in that it was about a brand of pipes that I have worked on and enjoyed in the past. I have included the initial email and subsequent ones below to give you the context of the ongoing interaction on this pipe. I thoroughly enjoyed the interchange with Mrs. C. Howard and look forward to being able to send her photos of the restored pipe.
Hello. Clearing out our shed today my husband came across a couple of old pipes, one of which is a Keyser Hygienic, which I have now read about, on your website, how you clean and refurbish them. For my husband and his crewmate in the London Ambulance Service in the 70’s, smoking a pipe was just another one of their fads (with motorbikes at that time, they rather fancied themselves, too, as facsimiles of Starsky & Hutch!) so although tooth-marked, not badly for the amount of time they were in use, I would think. My husband’s reaction to ‘turfing out’ unwanted things is to take it all to the dump, whereas mine is to locate useful ‘homes’ for items that are still serviceable and would serve a useful purpose. I see that you are on the look-out for Keyser pipes and wondered if you would like this one. It would only go to charity anyway and I would rather donate it to you – it would be no difficulty for me to post, if you wanted it. I also have a Duncan Mini Dent pipe; if you would like this also I could send it at the same time. I have washed both of them but, obviously, your attention to that aspect would be done best by you. I look forward to hearing from you. – Yours sincerely – Mrs. C. Howard
I immediately wrote her back and told her I would be delighted to receive the pipes and would gladly pay her for the postage from England to Canada. She replied:
Hello Mr Laug,
I was very pleased to hear your response and will post both pipes to you as soon as I’ve wrapped them. There will be no need for a refund of postage; I’ll be happy just to know the pipes are being re-located from my shed, ignored and unloved, to a good home where they will get both!
My husband and I loved Vancouver when we visited, particularly enjoying the trip over to Vancouver Island to see Mrs. Butchart’s Gardens and where my aunt and uncle had moved to years ago. We especially, too, liked the laid-back nature of the Canadian people.
However, I shall get these pipes posted asap and hope you enjoy the final result of your labours in refurbishing them. With best wishes – Mrs. C. Howard
Once again I replied thanking her for her kindness in gifting and sending the pipes to me. I looked forward to receiving them from her and working on them to restore them to their former glory.
Hello Mr Laug,
Just to let you know that you should be receiving the pipes in the not-too distant, since I posted them off yesterday, the 23rd. Optimistically, it won’t be too long before they arrive at your door. I hope I don’t sound like an Amazon rep, although I rather fall down on being able to provide you with parcel tracking details, et al! – Kind regards. Mrs. C. Howard
To me this kind of information is priceless and gives me the background on the pipes when I work on them. I like to picture in my mind the pipe man who smoked them. In this case the information made me wonder how many more pipes are sitting in garden sheds around the world, having been discarded when the pipesmoker decided to lay them down. Thank you Mrs. C. Howard for the foresight you had in rescuing these pipes.
When the box arrived in Vancouver I wrote Mrs. C. Howard and let her know they arrived safely. I opened her parcel and found the contents were well wrapped and had come undamaged. The Keyser Hygienic pipe that I am working on came in its original box shown below. At this point I did not have any idea of either the shape or the condition of the pipe but I had never seen a boxed version so I was excited to see what was inside.I opened the box to find a bent billiard, the original Keyser Brochure and a nice note from Mrs. C. Howard. I include her note in the photo below.I took the pipe out of the box to have a look at it. It was worn but in decent condition. The finish was faded and the grain barely visible but underneath it looked to be interesting. The rim top was coated with a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a cake. The aluminum shank end was coated with what looked like silver polish and it was on the briar as well. The stem was clean but had tooth chatter and some deeper tooth marks on the underside near the button. I took photos of it before I started my work on the pipe. I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. It was in great condition and very readable. You can also see the polish on the aluminum and in the letters of the stamp. The left side reads Keyser Hygienic over Patent. The right side reads London Made.I took close up photos of the rim/bowl and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived.The stem was tightly inserted in the stem and the polish and grime held it firmly in place. I carefully twisted the stem while holding tightly onto the aluminum ferrule. It came out with a bit of effort. I took a photo of the pipe at this point and also of the shank and stem end to show the apparatus inside and the condition of the interior of the pipe.I set the pipe aside and took photos of the brochure that was packed with the pipe in the box. The front page of the piece was interesting in both the advertising speak and the cutaway diagram of the pipe. The first photo shows the overall look of the brochure cover while the two that follow that show the details. I opened the brochure and found a great shape chart of the options available for the smoker who purchased a Keyser Hygienic pipe. I have not seen one of these before. I will try to scan the entire brochure soon and post it on the blog separately.On the backside of the brochure were instructions on the care of the pipe.It is quintessential British and reads:
Smoked by Connoisseurs.
The Care of the pipe.
The following suggestions will enable the owner of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE to obtain the best results.
In the early stages it is advisable to only half fill the bowl and smoke slowly, increasing the amount of the charge after the first few pipefuls. Never refill on top of a half smoked charge. Always allow the bowl to cool before refilling.
As a wet heel does not form in the bowl of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE it is recommended that each charge is smoked right to the bottom, allowing the bowl to carbon evenly and preventing waste of tobacco.
It is inadvisable to allow carbon to become more that 1/8 inch in thickness, as expansion of carbon when hot may result in cracking the bowl. When the carbon lining becomes too thick, reduce it, but do not remove it entirely; leave a carbon lining of about 1/16 inch.
The trap of the Keyser Hygienic Pipe should be emptied frequently; hold the pipe in a vertical position, remove vulcanite and pour out the moisture. The pipe should be cleaned regularly with ordinary pipe cleaners, and the vulcanite only should be rinsed occasionally with a non-flammable cleaning fluid and dried off with a pipe cleaner; on no account should water or steam be used.
The practice used by our forefathers of treating their clay pipes with alcohol and other liquids should not, on any account, be used on a briar pipe as it has a serious detrimental effect upon the smoking qualities and life of briar and may result in cracking the bowl.
The KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE is designed to prevent moisture, tobacco and ash being drawn into the mouth and to prevent, also, moisture entering the bowl and a wet wad of tobacco forming which is always wasted.
It is due to the patent stem – fitted exclusively to the KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE – that the whole of the tobacco can be smoked, thereby preventing waste and showing a considerable saving. The absence of moisture permits the bowl to carbon right to the bottom, ensuring a sweet, clean, wholesome smoke, free from the moisture with which pipe smoking is usually accompanied.
Each pipe is produced individually and is an outstanding example of a product upon which Engineers and Pipe Craftsman work in harmony.
MERTON PIPES (LONDON) LTD
UNIT 17, 784/792 HIGH ROAD
LONDON N17 0DA, ENGLAND
AND KEYSER MANUFACTURING CO
Scientifically designed – Made by British Craftsmen Printed in England
Over the past years I have picked up quite a few Keyser Hygienic pipes. As you can see from the above information they are made in England. I had read that the pipes were sold exclusively in South Africa. They were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. I had thought that they were made of nylon and rubber or some combination that is a proprietary form of vulcanite developed by Keyser Manufacturing Co. They are tough and take tooth wear very well but are hard to buff as the heat from a buffer can easily melt the stem surfaces.
In my previous restorations I included the photo below. It came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward (or in the case of this pipe to the left side so that the air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.After processing all of the information that came with the Keyser Hygienic Pipe I thought I would “be manly! Restore a pipe! I started by reaming the bowl with a PipNet reamer working my way through the first two cutting heads to take the cake back to bare briar. I really wanted to see the bowl walls and check them for damage. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and then wrapped 220 grit sandpaper around a dowel and sanded the walls of the bowl. The inside walls were in excellent condition. I examined the rim surface and saw burn marks on the inner and outer edges as well as some nicks and damage to the briar. I decided to lightly top the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. It did not take much to remove the damaged areas and burned edges. The second photo below shows the cleaned rim top.I wiped down the surface of the bowl to remove some of the opacity of the stain. The stain appeared to be a dark to medium brown but what wiped off was oxblood or cordovan. I would never have guessed that looking at the pipe. Underneath there were what looked like nicks on the left side of the bowl but turned out to be small fills. There was some beautiful grain on the pipe that I wanted to highlight. With the exterior and the bowl clean it was time to address the condenser chamber in the shank and stem. It took some maneuvering to get the pipe cleaners through the aluminum tubes in the shank and the stem but I was successful in removing the tars and oils that had built up in both spots. There was still a musty garden shed smell to the pipe so I kept cleaning until it was fresh. Later I would do a cotton ball and alcohol soak to further remove that smell.I rubbed down the exterior of the bowl and rim with Before & After Restoration Balm. I have been using this product for about ½ a year now and really like the way it cleans, enlivens and protects the briar. I rubbed it on with my finger tips and worked it into the finish of the briar. I set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes while I did other things and then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The state of the bowl can be seen in the photos below. After buffing off the balm I could see that the rim needed some more work but decided to address the remnants of the garden shed smell first. I filled the bowl with cotton balls, stuffing them deep in the bowl. I inserted a pipe cleaner in the tube in the shank to wick out the oils and filled the bowl with 99% isopropyl alcohol to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I used an ear syringe to fill the bowl. I know if you read the brochure from KEYSER HYGIENIC above it said not to use alcohol, but I have found over the last 20+ years of pipe cleaning that it does a great job. I set the bowl aside in an old ice-cube tray, much stained from years of abuse and let the alcohol and cotton balls do their magic.I came back to the pipe several hours later and the cotton balls had absorbed a lot of tars and oils. You can see the effect in the cotton in the picture below. The pipe cleaner had wicked out some more of the tar from the tube as well. The pipe smelled fresh and clean with the garden shed smell removed for good.I cleaned up the darkening and burn mark on the inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper. I gave the edge a slight bevel to blend in the damaged area on the rim. I like the look a slight bevel gives a bowl.I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.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. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine and buffed it with a cotton pad. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I carefully polished stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I used a very light touch so as not to damage the stem. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond as well – a bit more vigorously. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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. What remained of the original colour came alive with the buffing and works well with the polished aluminum ferrule and the polished black vulcanite stem. Altogether the pipe has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. Not sure what I am going to do with this one – probably enjoy it but keep an eye open because it well could end up on the store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Keyser Hygienic Bent Billiard Patent pipe.