Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe in the queue came from a group of pipes Jeff and I purchased from a fellow in Florida who was selling out his collection as he no longer smoked a pipe. The pipe is a beautiful Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Flamme pipe. It is a flat bottom sitter with a square shank and a very uniquely shaped bowl. The entire pipe had some beautiful flame grain around the bowl and birdseye grain on bottom and top of the shank. The rim top was covered with a thick tar and lava coat that even went down the sides of the bowl. The pipe was filthy. But underneath I could see that the carver had done an amazing job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Butz Choquin over Maitre Pipier over Flame. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Fait Main over St. Claude France. The stem is vulcanite and has the inset BC circle on the left side of the saddle. It is a uniquely fit saddle stem.
Jeff took some photos of the pipe when he received them to show the general condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The pipes from this collection were all very dirty and well used. The finish was covered with a thick coat of grime and tars. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lots of lava overflowing onto the rim top. It was hard to know if the edges of the bowl were damaged or not because of the cake and lava. The stem is dirty but it was in remarkably good condition under the grime. There were light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem at the button edge. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of the pipe before clean up. Jeff took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. There was a thick coat of lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. It shows the mess this pipe was in when we received it. The thick lava overflow on the rim top made it hard to know what the inner edges of the bowl looked like. It looked like there maybe some damage on the back inner edge toward the left side making the bowl out of round. The outer edges actually appeared to be in excellent condition.He also took a series of photos of the sides of the bowl and shank to show the straight grain around the bowl. The finish has a lot of grime and thick layers of tars on the surface. It is very dirty but the grain is visible in the photo. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the left and right sides of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and legible. The left side of the saddle stem has the typical inlaid BC in acrylic. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the tooth chatter on both sides near the button. The stem is dirty and is lightly oxidized. I have worked on another Maitre Pipier not too long ago and wrote up a blog on it. It was a nice looking Calabash (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/14/a-butz-choquin-maitre-pipier-hand-made-calabash/). On that blog I included some overall information on the brand and I will repeat it here to set the stage.
Butz Choquin was a brand that I was familiar with having worked on quite a few of them over the years. I decided to check on a few sites to refresh the memory of the brand. I turned first to Pipephil and as usual the site gives a great summary (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). I quote:
The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin Site officiel Butz Choquin, pipes de Saint-Claude jura. BC pipe de bruyere luxe is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).
I also found the line of Fait Main Maitre Pipier pipes listed. The pipe I am working on is stamped the same way as the one in the screen capture below. The shape is different but the rest is the same. The capture has a small paragraph on the line that reads as follows: Pipes of the “Maitre Pipier” séries were crafted by Paul Lanier until he retired and after him by Alain Albuisson. I turned then to Pipedia to see what I could find out there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin). I quote the article in its entirety as it gives a clear history.
The pipe, from Metz to Saint-Claude. Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.
In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.
In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of . In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called “the world capital of the briar pipe,” under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.
In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.
Jeff did an amazing clean up job on the pipe. When it arrived here in Vancouver it did not look at all like the same pipe we purchased. It is a beauty. Jeff 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 rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl of the pipe. He rinsed it off under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. There was still some shiny varnish spots on the shank and bowl so he wiped it down with acetone to remove the remnants of the old finish. He was able to remove all of the lava build up on the rim top of the pipe. The rim top looked really good with no damage to the edges of the bowl or the top. The flame grain stood out on the clean pipe. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and was able to remove the oxidation. The pipe looked very good. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started my restoration of the pipe. The rim top was clean but had some darkening on the surface at the back of the bowl. There was also some burn damage to the inner edge of the rim confirming my suspicions about it being out of round. The stem was quite clean with some light tooth marks on the top and underside near the button.I started the process of the restoration by working on the bowl. I polished the briar with 2400-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the rim top down with a damp cloth after each pad. I found that with each successive grit of micromesh the grain on the bowl and shank sides stood out more and gave a shine to the pipe. I liked what I saw when I looked at it. I stained the top of the bowl to match the rest of the bowl. I used a Maple stain pen and set it aside to dry.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I worked on it to remove the burn damage and to try to bring the bowl back into round.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar and the plateau with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I buffed the rim top with a shoe brush to make sure that the nooks and crannies had the conditioner deep in them. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the darkening is gone. The finish looks very good with the rich oil finish on the bowl and rim. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out tooth chatter and light tooth marks. I polished the surface of the whole stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I continued to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Now with both parts of the pipe finished, I polished stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple 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 grain came alive with the buffing. The rich medium brown finish on the briar works well with the polished, square, black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 7/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly and can be added to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this Hand Made Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Flamme pipe.