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.