Daily Archives: November 17, 2018

A Challenging Restoration of Vintage Era First Choquin “A Metz”

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had been on a short leave to my home town last month and that is where this happened!!!!! Even though there are still a number of pipes from the two of the three inherited boxes of pipes waiting their turn for restoration, curiosity got the better of me and I could not resist the temptations of opening the third box. What happened thereafter is that I had to unpack all the pipes earmarked to accompany me to my work place for restoration in my free time which in turn invited the wrath of my wife who had helped in packing in the first place, and repack the newly selected pipes from the third box!!!!!! In addition to the regular collection of Barling’s, Charatan’s, Comoy’s and other assorted collection, I came across two pipes which caught my fancy!!!!!The pipe on the left bears a football stamp that reads “CHOQUIN” over “A METZ” and the one on the right side simply reads “GBD”  (there are other stampings on the silver ferrule, details of which will be highlighted when it comes up for restoration). Both these pipes looked vintage and unique enough that I immediately Facetimed with Mr. Steve of rebornpipes. His admission that he is willing for a trade with me for these two pipes was an indication enough for me to know and understand their uniqueness!!! Thus these two pipes moved to the top of my unorganized and chaotic list of restoration.

The pipe first on my work table is the CHOQUIN. It is a huge pipe with a humongous acorn shaped smooth briar bowl with a steeply raking shank, the end of which is adorned by a fixed sterling silver ornamented ferrule. This similarly designed sterling silver also masks the tenon of the horn stem.The shank and the horn stem are connected by a push-fit type bone extension. The huge acorn bowl shows beautiful, large and loosely packed birdseye grain on the right side while mixed grain adorns the left side. The stummel on the front, back and the shank displays densely packed straight grains. The only stamping that is seen on this pipe is the football stamp on the left side of the shank and reads “CHOQUIN” over “A METZ”. For its age, the stamping is crisp and clear.This time around, before commencing the restoration process, I posted the pictures of this pipe on the Tobacco Pipe Restorers group on Facebook as my next project. In addition to input from my mentor, Mr. Steve, I collected a lot of valuable information from all the knowledgeable stalwarts. From all the input that I have gathered, the flat bottom bowl, the stamping, the sterling silver adornments, the bone shank extension and horn stem, I can safely place this piece as being one of the first A Metz pipes from the 1858 era!!!!!

Well, even before I could start my initial visual inspection, I faced the first of the many numerous hurdles that I had to overcome during the restoration of this pipe. The shank extension and the stem would not budge even a millimeter to separate from the shank and the bone extension respectively. I remembered Mr. Steve referring to the technique of freezing the stuck parts in the freezer for a couple of hours for easy separation. I followed his advice and had to put the complete pipe in the freezer for a couple of hours as it could not be dismantled. True enough, the horn stem separated from the shank extension with the application of a little force, but the extension would not budge from the shank!!!! So I went back to Mr. Steve to tap in to his wealth of knowledge and experience. He suggested that I should apply the method of “Hot and Cold” shock treatment in which you gently and carefully heat the stuck part using a heat gun and then get it back in to the freezer. This process may need to be repeated a number of times before the parts separate. Well, I did exactly that, albeit heating with a hair dryer as I did not have a heat gun, and after 3/4 attempts, the extension finally separated from the shank!!!!The first thing that I noticed was that the shank extension and the mortise were completely filled with oils, tars and grime. The shank extension was filled to an extent that a pipe cleaner would not pass through!!!! How very much typical of my Old Man!!!!!!! Through all this muck, just a swipe of the bone extension with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol revealed no apparent damage to the shank extension. Cleaning this would need to be a very careful, meticulous, time consuming and a tedious process given the delicate structure of such a vintage bone. Likewise, the tenon also was filled with oils and grime. Air flow through the stem was laborious to say the least!!! Both the upper and lower surface of the horn stem shows significant damage. The lower surface is peppered with 3-4 worm holes with one significantly larger than the other. Thankfully, it had not migrated through the upper surface!!!! The tenon is completely and permanently encased in the sterling silver ornament. The condition of the stummel was an equally horrendous story. Firstly, the rim top is heavily covered in overflowing lava. The overflow is so heavy that it has accumulated over the rim surface in blobs of dried tar and tobacco oil which can be seen in the subsequent pictures. This overflow had not restricted itself to accumulation on the rim top, but has spilled on to the stummel surface covering the stummel in sticky grime which has attracted more dirt and dust giving the stummel a dull and lackluster appearance. The overflowing lava has even accumulated in the junction where the shank and bowl are joined.  Some dents and dings are seen on the surface through the overflow and I do not envisage any major issue like the ones I faced while working on an Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor that I had I restored. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely grains can be seen on the sides and the shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The chamber is no different story!!! There is a thick build up of cake in the chamber. The inner edge of the rim is covered under the thick cake and as such, its condition can be commented upon only after the cake has been scrapped. The outer edge of the rim, however, shows significant damage in the form of dents, dings and deep scratches to the front in 12 o’clock direction. The cause for this damage is….. Oh, forget it, let’s not even go there!!!! The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained only after the chamber has been completely reamed devoid of any cake, but I do not foresee any major damages here as the stummel feels solid to the touch and this huge solid piece of briar can sustain some serious damage. You have to feel the stummel in your hand to understand what I am trying to write. It is one heavy and handful of a pipe!!!!The sterling silver ferrule and tenon ornament was black as is typically seen in heavily oxidized silver. However through all this discoloration, delicate, intricate decorative design can be appreciated. This is another pointer towards the vintage of this pipe.THE PROCESS
I started the process of restoration by polishing the sterling silver ornaments at the shank end and tenon with pipe ash as suggested by Mr. Steve. This was followed by reaming the chamber with size two of the PipNet reamer head and progressing through to size four. Yes Sirs, there is no typo error!!! It is indeed PipNet and not a Kleen Reem reamer as you have gotten used to reading in my write ups !!!!!! Mr. Steve has sent me a set along with some beautiful pipes that I had got from him. I followed up the reaming with scrapping the remnants of the cake from the walls, flat bottom of the chamber and the rim top surface with my fabricated knife (Oh, how I long for a Sav Fitsall reaming knife!!! Hope you are reading this Steve Sir). The cake was so hard, that I invariably ended up scratching the flat bottom surface while scraping. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%. I gently scrapped the rim top surface with a sharp knife. Removing all the cake from the chamber and rim top revealed that firstly, the rim was out of round and secondly was a web of fissures along the internal walls. There was one crack, which showed prominently after a cleanup with Murphy’s oil soap, bothered me and can be seen in the pictures below which has been highlighted by a red circle. I shared these images with Mr. Steve and Mr. Dal Stanton for their opinion as to the extent of damage and further repairs. They too expressed fears that the crack may have migrated through the stummel. Mr. Steve suggested picking the crack on the top of the rim using a toothpick and filling it with CA superglue. I decided that I would address this issue later after further investigations. I cleaned the internals of the shank, shank extension and the stem using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips, shank brushes, all generously dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I had never used such drastic measures like initially cleaning the bone shank extension by carefully inserting a round needle file for creating an opening through which pipe cleaners could pass through for subsequent cleaning. The heap of pipe cleaners and q-tips that are seen in these pictures are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I must have gone through an entire packet of 50 of both types of pipe cleaners, in addition to the q-tips and brush cleaning!!!!! To further deep clean and refresh the internals, I used cotton and alcohol soaks. Using a cotton ball to create a wick, I inserted it through the mortise and into the airway. I then stuffed the bowl with tightly packed cotton balls and placed it in bowl filled with rice grains to provide stability. Similarly I made a tight cotton wick and inserted it through the bone shank extension to further remove all the oils, tars and smells. With a large eye dropper, I then filled the bowl and the bone shank extension with isopropyl 99% until it surfaced over the cotton. I refilled the alcohol in a few minutes after it was absorbed into the cotton balls. I put the stummel and the bone shank extension aside for several hours to soak. After some time, the cotton and the wick were soiled. I discarded the expended cotton and wiped the bowl and the bone shank extension with paper towel. To make sure all was clean, I used a cotton bud and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 99% and they came out clean. I cleaned the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and Scotch- Brite pad and rinsed the stummel under running tap water. This cleaning helps in bringing to the fore any other damage which could be hidden under all the dirt and grime. Fortunately, there were no major dents, dings or gouges to the stummel. There were a few minor ones which I think would be addressed when I would sand the stummel surface and subsequent micromesh polish. I dried the bowl with a paper towel and soft cotton cloth. Initially I had decided that I would not be topping the rim top and maintain its original profile. However, in order to ascertain if the crack had migrated through the stummel, I decided to top the rim surface. This would also help to address the numerous dents, dings and scratches on the rim’s top surface and also to remove traces of lava overflow. I topped the rim surface on a 220 grit sand paper. Though it is recommended to have a wooden board with the 220 grit sand paper firmly fixed over it, I just keep the sand paper on a flat table top, holding it firmly with my left hand and rotating the stummel rim top over it with my right hand. I have come to realize that this set up gives me lot more freedom of movement, better control and convenience of storage. Fortunately, it was revealed that the supposed crack was superficial and had not migrated through. Staying with the rim, the next issue that I addressed was the inner rim edge. With a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and fore finger, I created a light bevel on the inner edge. This addressed the issue of uneven and out of round inner edge. The damage to the outer edge was addressed to a great extent when I had topped the rim top surface. Whatever little dents and nicks that remained on the outer edge were very minor, though visible, and I decided to let them be.I sand the stummel surface with a 220, 320, 600 and 1000 grit sand paper, in that order, to remove the minor scratches and marks on the rim and stummel surface. I frequently wiped the sanded surface with a moist cloth to remove the briar dust and also to check the progress of my work. Once I was satisfied with the match, I followed it up by micromesh polishing pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads. Again, I wiped the bowl with a moist cotton cloth after each pad. I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. I was disappointed when after all my efforts up to this stage; there were some very minute chips that were visible in pictures. But overall, at this stage of restoration, the entire bowl, rim top surface and shank is looking fresh and clean. Even though some of the dents and chips could not be completely addressed and are visible only on very close visual scrutiny, in my view, they lend this pipe a battle scarred warrior like a character. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” with my fingers deep in to the stummel surface. What this balm does is it revitalizes the briar wood and breathes a new life in to the briar. It’s amazing to see the transformation as the balm works its magic on the briar wood. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Turning my attention to the horn stem, I cleaned the stem surface, including the worm holes, with q-tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove all the dirt and dust before the fill. I filled the worm hole on the bottom and top surface with clear CA superglue and set it aside to cure.  Once the superglue had cured, I sanded the fills with a flat head needle file. To further match the fills with the surface of the stem, I sanded it with 220, 320, 600 and 1000 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. A few minutes later, I polished the stem and also the bone shank extension with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to both after every three pads. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny while the extension though smooth and shiny, still had the golden brownish hues of the tobacco oils and tars. I was wondering as to next course of action, Mr. David Goostree, an experienced member from The Tobacco Pipe Restorer group on FB, provided valuable information that the bone is similar to a Meer and absorbs oils from the tobacco and colours just like a meerschaum. Another issue taken care of!!! To finish the restoration, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about 40% full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  Afterwards, I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel to the polishing machine, maintaining 40% speed and applied several coats of carnauba wax.  I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. In my excitement mixed with apprehension in using the polishing and waxes for the first time, I completely missed out on taking any pictures. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up. Your comments are of utmost importance to me for improving my skills in restoration process as well as writing about it. Cheers!!!!!

PS: – During this journey of restoring this beauty, I had, on occasions felt low and demoralized as issues kept cropping up like the supposed crack to the stummel, the shank extension not supposedly cleaning up as I had incorrectly anticipated and the 2/3 occasions when the my polishing machine slipped on the surface and caused very minor scratches on the stummel. However, my Guru and mentor, Mr. Steve was always around with his words of wisdom and encouragement to egg me on towards completing this project. Thank you once again, Mr. Steve. I would like to thank all the esteemed members of “The Tobacco Pipe Restorer” group on FB for their interest and valuable inputs, which made this project interesting.

Restoring a Brand I had never heard of before – A Peter Piper 525 Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

Alex dropped by the other night to drop off a pipe off and to pick up one I was working on for him. He also brought this little billiard with him for me to work on. It is stamped Peter Piper over London Made on the left side of the shank and on the right it is stamped Made in England over the shape number 525. It is a brand I had not heard of and it was an interesting little pipe. It is a reddish coloured billiard. There are some scars and nicks on the surface that are part of the pipe’s story. The finish was worn and there were sticky marks on the shank and sides of the bowl that could have come from a sales label. The rim top had marks on it that looked like it had been tapped out on a hard surface and damaged the briar. The stem had a dental bit made for a pipe smoker with dentures. It had a tall lip on the topside of the stem that could be held behind the top denture. On the underside were two grooves cast in the surface that could be held with the bottom teeth. It gives the pipe a unique look. I took some photos of the pipe at this point to show its condition before I started the cleanup. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to give a clearer picture of the condition of the pipe. The photo of the rim top show the nicks and damage clearly as well as damage to the inner and outer edge of the rim. The stem is very oxidized but there are no tooth marks or chatter on the surface.I wanted to try to figure out where the pipe had come from and who had made it. It was a stamping I was not familiar with. The London Made stamp on the left side and the Made in England stamp on the right side seemed to point to an English pipe making company. I have seen some anomalies in the past where pipes stamped this way were actually made in France. I was curious to see what was behind this pipe.

I turned first to Pipedia.org to see if there was any information on the site about the brand. I check under pipes Made in England and found nothing there. I entered the Peter Piper name in the search box on the site and it took me to the list of French Pipe Makers. Sure enough on the list there was the Peter Piper name. I clicked on that name to see what I could find and it gave me the following information.

The Peter Piper trademark was first applied to a pipe in 1925, and granted on June 1, 1926 to Cadogan France Limited, whose offices were in London. Despite this, the pipe was made at the Marechal Ruchon factory in St. Claude, France. And, despite this, as the pipe was often stamped with London nomenclature. An excellent example of how blurred international borders became where Oppenheimer and Cadogan were involved. For more information see GBD. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Piper

I followed the link to the “for more information see GBD” statement at the end. I quote that below in part.

Other brands of this time were marketed with even larger independence. The Dr. Plumb’s had been developed by the Parisian sales manager J.B. Rubinovich in 1925 when GBD France needed “a cheap line of pipes” especially for the Canadian market. In fact, the new brand was nicknamed for Mr. Rubinovich’s secretary Leslie W. Plumb, whose most important business was “to doctor figure” the ledgers. Dr. Plumb’s made their way not only in Canada. – The Peter Piper, as well as the Dr. Plumb’s produced in Saint-Claude, is another great example that stampings like “London made” or “London England” are not always totally trustworthy also on older pipes! Not only today numberless brands are made in Saint Claude and stamped with whatever the buyer wants to be stamped… https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD

I turned to the Pipephil website to see if there was any further information on the brand and found the follow confirmatory information:

… the pipes were stamped “London England” in a straight line, even if they were sometimes crafted in France. http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-gbd.html

Now I knew what I was dealing with. Interestingly it was a French Made pipe stamped London Made and Made in England. It was made by GBD France for the Canadian Market to be sold alongside of the Dr. Plumb brand. I love the bit of intrigue that is mentioned above – that the Dr. Plumb brand was named after a secretary, Leslie Plumb whose job was to doctor the ledgers. These pipes made their way to Canada as well as other countries. It is also great proof that the stamping may not always tell the full story.

Armed with this information I started the process of restoration. I topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a board. I worked the top in a circular motion on the sandpaper to remove the damaged surface and the edges of the bowl. I was so engaged in this restoration that I forgot to take a picture of the rim top after topping. I moved quickly into polishing the rim with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad. Once I had polished it through the 4000 grit pad I stopped and stained the top with a Maple stain pen to match the rest of the finish. The rim top matched well but still needed to be buffed and polished to blend the stain into the finish of the bowl.I polished the exterior of the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. After the polishing I could see the dents and scratches in the bowl sides and bottom. It was time to apply a little steam and see what I could do to raise them. Unlike those who have steam irons that they abscond from their wives to steam their pipes I use a knife and wet cloth. I heat the knife over the flame of a burner on our gas stove until it is hot. I put the wet cloth over the dents and apply the hot knife to the cloth. I repeat the process until the dents have been raised. In this case it worked pretty well. I was able to get the majority of them out of the briar. The photos tell the story. With the externals cleaned I needed to clean the internals. I had forgotten to do the cleaning until now. The pipe looked pretty clean… in fact I kind of wondered if it had been smoked very much. I cleaned the mortise and shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I cleaned the airway in the stem at the same time (you will notice that the stem is quite black at this point. I had already sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper as noted below).I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl and rim looked like. I am happy with the stain match on the rim top. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation. I worked on the angles of the dental bit and the grooves on the underside of the stem until I had removed oxidation.I polished it with the micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and rubber. 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. The original patina on the bowl came alive with the buffing and worked well with the polished black vulcanite stem. 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 work together like other GBD pipes. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. I have one other pipe to finish restoring for this fellow before it will go back to him. I look forward to seeing what he thinks of it.