Daily Archives: March 16, 2019

Restoring a Danish Handmade Kriswill Chief 50 Oom Paul


Blog by Steve Laug

This Kriswill is yet another one from a local pipe shop. It came from the estate of an older gentleman whose wife returned his pipes to the shop for restoration and resale. This one is a smooth finished Kriswill Full Bent/Oom Paul. The briar is a combination of mixed grain around the bowl. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Kriswill over Chief over Handmade in Denmark. On the underside near the shank stem junction it has the shape number 50. On the left side of the saddle stem is the Kriswill Snowflake logo. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the rim top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like because of the lava and cake. The stem was lightly oxidized and had come calcification where a pipe Softee bit had been. There was some tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button.This was included in the pipes that I sent off to my brother for cleaning. This is probably the 24/25 pipe that I have brought to the work table from the lot of about 50 to rework. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate his willingness to clean and ream the pipes for me. It allows me to move through the repairs much more quickly. When he received the pipe he took a series of photos of it to show its condition. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava on the rim top.He took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl to give a clear picture of the beauty of the grain on this old pipe. Under the grime there is some great grain peeking through. Jeff took a photo of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime.The stem looked dirty and oxidized with the calcification left behind by a pipe Softee bit. The edges of the button had bite marks and there was some tooth damage to the surface of the stem next to the button on both sides.I have worked on quite a few Kriswill pipes over the years and have always enjoyed the shapes and the craftsmanship on each of them. This one is no different. It is well made and well-shaped. I reviewed the information I had on Kriswill and have included some of that here.Kriswill was one of the large pipe manufacturers in Denmark during the 1960s and 1970s, and closed around 20 years ago. Their catalog cover read “By Appointment to the Royal Danish Court, KRISWILL, Kriswork Briar Trading, Briar Pipes Hand Made in Denmark.” After the Danish Kriswill enterprise ended, pipes were made in Norway and in France under the Kriswill label. In the 1970s Kriswill was bought by Lillehammer, and in the 1980s the pipes were made for a while at the Catalan factory, Iberica de Pipas  (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:Kriswill_Factory.jpg).

Jeff cleaned up the pipe for me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime in the rustication and the heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. When it came back to Vancouver it a cleaner and better looking pipe. I took photos of it before I started the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition. Jeff was able to clean up the grime and darkening on the rim top. The inner edge of the bowl looked pretty good. The stem had light tooth chatter and some deeper tooth marks on both sides near the button. I took a photo of the stamping on the shank and the Kriswill Snowflake Logo on the left side of the saddle stem.I worked over the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged portions of the inside edge of the rim. It did not take a lot of sanding to smooth out the damaged areas.I polished the rim top and the rest of the bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The photos tell the story. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar on the bowl and rim. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and worked it into the briar. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a horsehair shoe brush to polish it. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I repaired the tooth marks with clear super glue. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. Once the glue cured I cleaned up the edge of the button and the repaired areas with folded pieces of 220 and 400 grit sandpaper until the repairs were blended into surface of the stem. 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 a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the vulcanite. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. The pipe has been sitting in the queue since late in 2017 so the stem was loose in the shank. I know from experience that once the pipe is smoked it will be good and snug. To take care of the interim period I gave the tenon a light coat of clear nail polish. Once it dries the stem will fit snugly in the mortise.I put the stem back on the pipe and worked it over with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Though the briar has some fills on the left side of the bowl it is nonetheless a beautiful piece of briar. The shape is a Danish version of a classic Oom Paul pipe and with the restoration has been brought back to life. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inch. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes online store shortly, if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting Kriswill Chief 50 Oom Paul.

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Restoring an Interesting Piece of American Pipe History – Pat Vottis’ Contribution to the Ongoing Quest for a Cool Smoke


Blog Steve Laug

Every so often my brother and I come across very unique pipes that are worth restoring just for the thing that makes them particularly notable. Each pipe that falls into this category has its own uniqueness that sets them apart as different. These unique pipes come to us from a large variety of different sources and the one I am working on now came to me from a reader of rebornpipes.  Christine contacted me to see if I would be interested in purchasing her Grandfather’s pipes and restoring them. She was particularly interested in seeing what I could do with a Vottis pipe that he had. She sent me photos of the lot and we struck a deal. Over the years I have worked on several Vottis pipes coming from different sources. But this Vottis pipe from Albany, New York is not like anything I have ever seen before. I am including some photos to show the system. There is an air hole (not big) on each side of the shank near the bowl (Photos 1 and 2). These run parallel to the airway and come out on either side of the mortise (Photo 3). The stem is drilled with the same two small channels that run the length and out the button on either side of the slot (Photos 4 and 5). The red arrows in each photo point to the airways that I am referring to throughout the blog. The basic airflow diagram is illustrated by the red lines on the photo below. The thinner lines on either side reflect the airflow running parallel to the airway in the shank and mortise. The shank airway is shown by the thicker red line and runs to the bottom of the bowl from the slot in the button. I am convinced that the mechanics were designed to pull cool air into the tubes alongside the shank to cool the smoke in the chamber and cool it all the way to the end of the button. If I plug the slot in the button I can pull air out of the twin tubes and it is a steady stream. Once the pipe is restored I will load a bowl and try it out to test my hypothesis. I will soon know how it works. It is definitely a unique design and one that is in the camp of the proverbial eternal hunt for a cooler smoke. With that information have a look at the restoration of this Vottis design pipe.With the mechanics clearly spelled out in the above diagrams and explanations it is time to do a bit of research on the brand and see if there is any mention of this cooling system design. I looked at the various sites that I usually go to (pipedia and pipephil) and there was nothing about this kind of pipe on either site. So I dug a bit more deeply. I read the obituaries of Pat (Pasquale) Vottis and S. Vottis in the Albany newspapers and the online Funeral Home sites. Lots of references were made to their shop in Albany and Schenectady, New York but nothing on the unique designs they may have done with pipes. It did add colour to my understanding of the carvers of the pipes – both were local philanthropists and involved in their local Catholic parishes. Both were well loved by the community.

I went on to look further and found more info on the brand on the brothers of the briar site (http://www.brothersofbriar.com/t5244-information-on-s-m-vottis-pipes). The site gave two links that sadly are no longer active. I am including them in case they ever come back on line. I quote as follows:

I think that the information you are looking for is in the following link: http://www.jbriarpipes.com/blog/2014/12/10/the-rise-and-fall-of-a-historic-local-landmark-paying-homage-to-the-vottis-pipe-shop found on the J Briar Pipes site.  Pat (Pasquale) Vottis and his brother S. (Salvatore) Vottis had a pipe shop in Schenectady NY.  The article referenced contains information about the Vottis Pipe Shop.  A second link found on the page directs you to an Albany Times-Union article (archived) (http://alb.merlinone.net/mweb/wmsql.wm.request?oneimage&imageid=5580379) that contains more info.  Happy reading!  I enjoyed finding these articles and reading them.  I have lived within 50 miles of Albany NY most of my life and never knew about Vottis pipes.

I also followed a link to a thread on pipes.org that was very interesting. It is written by Pat Vottis’ grandson and is interesting to read. Here is the link to the quote. (http://pipes.org/forums/messages/23/46034.html?1171913269) It is also tied back to a thread on pipes.org that I cannot access. I include that link as well should some of you be able to access the information. This post references Harold Vance Post #4 username hbvance and Jose Manuel Lopes Post #91 in the Archive of 2005 Sept 20 with a Subject Title of Vottis Pipes (http://pipes.org/forums/discus~discus/discus~discus/discus/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=23&post=45187#POST451 87).

Jose, I am not quite sure where you obtained your information regarding Pat Vottis but it is incorrect and I would like to share a bit of good information for the audience.

Pasquale (Pat) Vottis is my grandfather. He did not die as you have posted on the web in 2005. He actually died this morning at 99 yrs 9 months of age on Feb 18, 2007. He had a passion for the customers and the business.

My grandfather opened his first pipe shop in Albany, NY on South Pearl St. It was in the Bank Building (which took up a whole city block) at the corner of State Street and South Pearl. We also opened a second shop in Albany which was in the Empire State Plaza on the Concourse level. This was to serve all of the State Workers so they could do business at lunch time and not be strapped for time while trying to get down to the South Pearl shop. We still have the Vottis Pipe Shop Sign and the Vottis Pipe Shop Clock that was a landmark for the customers.

Harold Vance’s pipes may very well came from a pipeshop in Santa Monica. We mailed pipes all over the world. My grandfather’s sister actually lived in Santa Monica for many years. We also had a very large tobacco mail order business in which I mixed 1000s of pounds of tobacco and mailed them all around the world as well. We closed the pipe shops in the early 90s due to the numerous break-ins late at night. The locals would throw rocks through the store front windows to steal the hand carved pipes and the meerschaums.

My grandfather hand carved many, many pipes himself. He usually carved the big blocks. My grandfather, my uncle, and my father repaired pipes for everyone even if they had not bought a pipe at our shops. We had a metal lathe in the basement as well as a stove. They machined the tenon portion of the stem with a carbide cutter to match the stem of the bowl for a perfect fit every time. To match the stem or the fit of the customer, we custom bent the stems of the pipes to their satisfaction.

I recall boxes of briar blocks that were rough turned and my uncle, my father, and my grandfather would also hand finish these too. We had a lot of fun in the stores too. Mixing different formulas of tobaccos to see how the public would respond. We had numerous successful formulas. Our approach was to make all natural formulas with no sugars added, no sugar sprays, or flavorings added.

The most popular formula was created by grandfather and was called Black Watch. Some of the other blends were North Woods, Vottis’s Own, Vottis Club, Boulevard 76, No#9. These blends were comprised of barley, yellow Cavendish, black Cavendish, Turkish, Latakia, and others of which I do not recall. Ironically, for the namesake, my grandfather has died at a Nursing Home named North Woods just like one of his tobacco blends called North Woods.

Finally, I also found a PDF of a brochure that Pat Vottis put together for his Albany Pipe Shop. I am including it as it is an interesting read.

When the pipe arrived at Jeff’s in Idaho he took photos of it before he started his clean up. It is one of my favourite shapes – a squat Rhodesian with a thick shank and saddle stem. The briar was dirty but had some amazing grain on the bowl. The stamping on the left side of the shank is clear and readable – Vottis in script. The rim top had some lava overflowing the bowl particularly on the back side. The edges looked very good – both inner and outer. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and hard. The double rings around the bowl below the rim cap were in good condition other than the usual collection of debris and dust. The stem was clean but had some light oxidation and tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button. The button surface also had some tooth damage. Jeff’s photos are below (The above photos of the airways also are from Jeff). Jeff took some photos of the rim top to show the lava overflow and the cake in the bowl. The two photos are from slightly different angles and have different exposures but clearly show the condition. The inner edge of the bowl looks good but I will know more once it is cleaned and reamed. There appears to be some damage on the rear right of the bowl but again it is not clear until the bowl has been reamed and cleaned.Jeff also took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl and shank to give an idea of the beautiful grain on this pipe. The photos of the stem show the deep tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button as well as the damage to the button edge and surface. You can also see the scratching and oxidation in the photos.When Christine wrote me about the pipes and the deal was struck I asked her if she would like to put together a brief tribute to her Grandfather to include in these blogs. She was happy to write it and send it to me. I include her tribute now go give a glimpse in to the life of the pipeman who held this pipe in trust before it came to me.

My grandfather, Paul Richter, first came to the United States from Germany in the mid 1920’s with his younger brother, Walter.  Paul was born in 1899 in Leipzig, Germany. He had a degree in engineering and was looking for a better life to start a family.  Paul and Walter were hired to work at a machine shop in Flushing, NY. They then heard about a town in upstate NY called Schenectady and decided it was worth a trip to check it out. They stayed at a boarding house next to the railroad station and were eaten up by bed bugs.  Despite this experience, my grandfather decided that Schenectady was a good place to live and start his career with the General Electric Company (GE).

In 1928 he returned to Germany and brought his new wife from Leipzig to Flushing via boat and shortly after they moved to Schenectady. Paul worked hard and earned his way up the ladder to a management position; eventually managing 400 people at the GE main plant in downtown Schenectady. With his wife, Ella, they raised 2 sons, Ralph and Peter who both ended up with lifelong careers at GE.  Schenectady was a thriving and exciting city during this time with much to keep a family happy. One of the things that Paul enjoyed was quality tobacco smoked in a finely crafted pipe.  He found one of his favorite pipes at the Vottis Pipe Shop on Erie Blvd in downtown Schenectady. After Paul passed away in 1979, his son Peter (my father) kept all of his Dad’s old pipes among other sentimental memorabilia.  The pipes were packed away in a box until 2018, when I opened the box and smelled that wonderful pipe aroma that I recall from many years ago. The aroma brings back fond memories of time spent with my family!

Thanks for giving Paul’s Vottis pipe another life! — Christine

Thanks for writing this Christine. It helps to set the stage for this restoration and give colour to the story. I was excited to work on this interesting old pipe. In fact so much so that I forgot to take pics of it before I started working on it. I filled in the tooth marks on both sides of the stem and rebuilt the edge of the button at the same time.At that point I remembered I had not taken photos so I put the stem back on the shank and took some photos of the bowl and stem to show the magnificent cleanup job Jeff had done with the pipe and to show the areas that I would need to work on. I took some photos of the rim top to show the area at the back that had been covered in lava. It was now clean but had some darkening and would need a bit of polishing to remove the darkening. I also took photos of the stem surfaces to show the repaired areas to highlight the tooth damage that had been present.I took photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The left side read Vottis in script looking like it was almost engraved. The right side read Genuine Algerian Briar.I cleaned up the darkening on the rim top and the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I worked it over the surface and around the edge to smooth out the damages and also to remove the darkening. Over all the sandpaper did the trick. The edge and top still show some damage but polishing it should remove the remaining damages.I polished the bowl and rim cap with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and check my progress. The photos tell the story. Once I was finished polishing the bowl and rim, I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar 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 took photos of the pipe at this point to show how good the pipe was beginning to look. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the grain really stood out on the smooth rim. The finish looks very good and the birdseye grain on the bottom and the cap of the bowl and flame grain on the sides stand out in all their beauty. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. The repairs to the button area had cured so I used a needle file to clean up the edge of the button and flatten the repairs on the surface of the stem. I also reshaped the button surface. I blended in the repairs and removed the scratching from the file with 220 and 440 grit sandpaper. The repairs and shape of the button looked really good at this point. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I buffed the stem with red Tripoli and brought it back to the work table and finished polishing it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by giving it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and setting it aside to dry. Since I had finished both the bowl and stem I put them back together and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. 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 birdseye grain on the rim cap and the beautiful straight/flame grain around the sides of the bowl and shank came alive on the buffing wheel. The rich brown stain works well with polished black saddle vulcanite stem. The finish looks amazing and it is smooth and light weight in the hand. Judging from the condition of the pipe when we got it, I am sure that it will be an amazing smoker. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. Thanks Christine for sending this pipe to me from your Grandfather Paul Ricther. It is a beauty and a pipe that I intend to hold onto (at least for now). I have never seen another like it and I am anxious to fire up a bowl and try it out.

A Unique Piece of Pipe History – A Beautiful WDC Calabash with Bling


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is an old timer that Jeff picked up somewhere in his journeys whether online in his pipe hunting is antique shops. This one an interesting older WDC Calabash with a brass shank cap and a rim top cap. The stem is Bakelite with an amber colour. It is stamped on the left side of the shank WDC in a triangle (William DeMuth & Company). It is a Calabash shaped pipe decorated with a brass rim top and cap as well as a brass ferrule. Both have a pattern of filigree and hearts. These older WDC and CPF Calabashes were decorative and had a real flourish that makes them readily identifiable. The finish is smooth and is in good condition despite the years. The brass rim top has some dings in it and there was some lava buildup on various spots. The inner edge of the brass cap was turned down into the inner edge of the bowl. It was dirty with lava and there was a thick cake in the bowl. The brass was tarnished but looked easy to clean up. The pipe was dusty but the finish looked like it was rich and would clean up well. The stem is an amber coloured Bakelite with a threaded tenon in the shank and the stem. The stem has tooth marks and chatter on both sides 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 show the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The spots of lava overflowing on the rim top made me thick that some of the lava had been scraped off by the seller.  There was a thick cake in the bowl that would need to be reamed out. There was dust and debris in the curls and curves of the brass cap.He also took a photo of the right side and underside of the bowl and shank to show the amazing birdseye and swirling grain around the bowl. The classic WDC stain looked pretty good under the grime.Jeff took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the setting between the brass ferrule and the bowl. The WDC triangle logo stamping is legible and very readable.The next photos show the rim cap and ferrule and highlight the heart and filigree patterns in the brass. You can also see the oxidation on the brass in the photos.The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. They also show the deep oxidation on the stem. The third photo below shows the threaded bone tenon. Jeff did a thorough clean up job on the pipe so that  when it arrived here in Vancouver it looked amazingly good for a pipe that is at least a hundred years old. Jeff carefully 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. He was able to remove all of the lava build up on the beveled rim top of the pipe. The brass rim top and ferrule looked very good. The birdseye and cross grain was beautiful and the pipe looked very good. There were tooth marks and chatter visible on both sides of the stem at the button. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work. I took close up photos of the bowl, rim and stem surfaces to capture the condition of the pipe after Jeff had done his cleanup. The rim top was clean and the brass inner edge was in excellent condition. The stem was quite clean with some tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the flow of the grain on the shank and bowl side. It is a beautiful piece of briar.The bowl and rim top looked really good after Jeff’s clean up work. I decided to go straight to polishing the bowl. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the grain really stood out on the smooth rim. The finish looks very good with the grain popping through the brown stain on the bowl and the brass on the rim top and shank end. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks on both sides with clear super glue. It takes a while  to cure so I set it aside and worked on another pipe while it hardened.Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and smooth out the repairs on the surface of the stem. I sanded it with 220 and 400 grit sand paper to smooth out the repairs and blend them into the surface of the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by giving it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and setting it aside to dry. Since I had finished both the bowl and stem I put them back together and carefully polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. The combination of metal, Bakelite and briar makes this a very touch process. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I carefully 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 brass rim cap and shank end and the beautiful grain of the briar on the bowl came alive on the buffing wheel. The rich brown stain works well with polished amber coloured Bakelite stem. The finish looks amazing and it is smooth and light weight in the hand. Judging from the condition when we got it, I am sure that this will be another amazing smoker. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 7/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This beauty will be going into my collection of old WDC and CPF. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this beautiful old time WDC Calabash pipe.