Blog by Steve Laug
It seemed to have been a time for taking a look at unique pipes. Before I left for my work trip to Nepal and India I received another email from a reader of the blog in Australia regarding an old 1906 pipe that had purchased. I am including a series of emails here at the beginning of this blog for the information that he included.
Steve, I saw (only photos) of an antique pipe – briar bulldog from 1906, with sterling silver mount and amber stem. It looked in good condition – bowl needed reaming and cleaning. I have asked for more photos of the amber stem. Would you be able to restore the pipe for me if I do go ahead with the purchase.
Best Regards, Ray
I wrote him back and in the course of our conversation via email I decided to take on this unique restoration if indeed he purchased it. He immediately sent several more emails about the pipe giving me more information and convincing me even more of the need to take on this project.
Hi Steve, Thanks for offering to make an exception and to help out with the restoration. I will send photos of the pipe if I decide to go ahead with the purchase. I have really enjoyed reading your (and the other guests’) articles on pipe restoration.
There is a sense of wonderment seeing these black/darkened objects with caked bowls reveal their lovely grain and colour – like old paintings restored to their original colours…
If we do go ahead, please understand I am in NO HURRY for this job to get done – you will be doing me a HUGE favour. I’ll keep you posted.
Best Regards, Ray
After that email a few weeks went by and I received another email from Ray letting me know that he purchased the pipe and had received it. He included some photos of the pipe.
Hi Steve, I received the pipe today – Here are some photos. It seems in pretty decent shape – bowl needs reaming and rim needs cleaning. There are a few minor issues with the bowl and shank. The amber stem has some chatter and a rather small area next to the silver mount needing a “fill”. The case is in better shape than I thought from the photos I saw, and my contacts should be able to advise me on how to restore it.
I don’t want a “new” look – it is over 100 years old, and I’m happy for it to reflect its age. I will be posting the pipe to you in the next few days. Please ask if you have any queries or need more photos… My thanks, in advance,
The pipe arrived in Vancouver just a few days before I left for my trip. I looked it over and wrote to Ray about what I thought I needed to do. He responded that he was looking forward to seeing what I could do with it.
I have included the pictures Ray sent me below. For me they only added to the temptation to do the restoration on this old timer. Even though I have a huge backlog of pipes this one was very intriguing to me. There was something interesting and even compelling about this old pipe. The age and condition interested me as did the brand. I am unfamiliar with the maker of the pipe but it spoke to me. The case was leather and though in somewhat rough condition it had protected the pipe well. The inside lining on the top of the case read “Sterling Silver” over “Vienna Make”. There was no other makers name or markings on the case to help with the identification. Ray included close up photos of the bowl and rim top. It showed clearly that the bowl had a thick cake with a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The amber stem was in decent condition though there were some deep tooth marks in the surface ahead of the button on both the top and underside.Ray also included the following photos of the bowl from various angles. The first shows the front of the bowl with a deep nick in briar. The second photo shows a small nick in the briar just ahead of the silver shank cap. The third photo shows a deep nick on the left side of the heel of the bowl. The fourth photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank and band. The week I returned from Nepal and India I decided to start working on this old pipe. I figure it is a good week to start on this 1906 and also the 1919 AGE pipe. The bowl had some deep nicks and dings in the finish that Roy had photographed clearly. The exterior of the pipe was dirty with grime and grit rubbed into the surface of the finish as well as in the twin rings around the bowl cap. The silver band was tarnished and dirty but the stamping and hallmarks were quite readable. The rim top was thickly lava coated. The inner edge of the bowl looked very good. The stamping on the left side of the shank was readable. It read J.W. in a Diamond. The silver band was also stamped and read AJC. There were also hallmarks under the AJC stamp as shown in the photo above. The stem sat well in the shank. The stem had some tooth marks in front of the button on both sides as Roy had shown in the photos. The silver cap on the end of the stem was tarnished by otherwise clean. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim as well as the stem to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and the lava on top and inner edge. The oxidation on the silver band and the tooth damage to the stem and button edges on both sides of the stem. I also took a photo of the shank and the band to show the stampings in the silver. I took a photo of the stem removed from the shank to show the condition of the metal tenon. The pipe has a very unique metal mortise lining and tenon that are part of the silver shank and stem cap. The mortise and tenon were both very dirty but the alignment was fine.I received another email from Ray in Australia – seems that we were both doing research on the brand to try and figure out the purveyance. Here is his email and the information that he included regarding the brand.
Steve, I’ve been trying to research the origin of the pipe. The case has “Vienna Made” – does this refer to the case or the pipe? There are 2 marks on the shank. “AJC” on the silver mount very likely is the mark of Alfred Walter Cheshire of Birmingham. He registered his mark in 1893/4, so the date ties in. “JW” on the shank – I can’t find a pipemaker with those initials either in Vienna, Austria, Birmingham or the UK.
However, there is a pipe mounter JF Walter of Birmingham working from 1890’s – could “JW” refer to him, or am I barking up the wrong tree?
I marvel (all the time) at the historical information you manage to uncover on the pipes/pipemakers/pipe merchants you restore. Perhaps you may have access to further archival information on the possible maker of this pipe.
With Ray’s work behind me, I checked my usual sources on I found absolutely no information on the AGE brand. There was no info on the Pipedia website or on the Pipephil site on the brand. I also checked on Who Made That Pipe by Wilczak and Colwell. There was no information there on the brand either. So my usual sources came up with nothing. Now I needed to confirm the information that Ray had found.
I turned first to a website on English silver marks. I was specifically looking for information on the A.J.C. stamp on the silver to help identify the silversmith. I did a screen capture of the section on the A.J.C. stamp matching the one on the silver band on the pipe in question. Here is the link to the website: http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilvermarksXA2.html. It identifies the AJC as Alfred James Chesire rather than Alfred Walter Chesire as noted by Ray. There is also an address for the silversmith in Birmingham, England.As Ray noted above, there was no pipe maker in Birmingham with the JW in a diamond as a mark. The shank mark did not tell me much. However, his find on JF Walter a Birmingham pipemounter is certainly a good possibility.
Now it was time to try to figure out the date of the pipe from the hallmarks on the band. I examined them with a lens and found the following information. The first hallmark was an Anchor in a shield signifying that the silversmithing was in Birmingham, England. The second hallmark was a lion passant in a shield. The emblem connects the pipe to London as well as other British assay offices. It also identifies the band as being silver. The third hallmark was the leter”g” in a shield that would give the date of the pipe.
I knew now that the pipe was London Made with a silver hallmark identifying a London silversmith identified by the A.J.C. stamp noted above as Alfred James Cheshire. The only thing left to fully learn about the pipe from the stamp was the date to be determined from the “g” stamp.
I turned to a website that I regularly use to identify the dates on English made hallmarks. The link is: http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilverhallmarksBIR.html.The screen capture of the chart below shows the dates and letter marks from 1900-1917.
Ray had correctly identified the date of the pipe as being made in 1906 confirmed by the chart on the left. I always love when the pieces all come together and I can arrive at both a manufacturer and a date for the pipe.
Armed with this information I turned to work on the pipe. I started by cleaning up the silver with silver polish to remove the tarnish from the shank end. I rubbed the material on the shank ferrule/band and polished it with a cotton pad to remove both the tarnish and polish the silver. I reamed out the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the first two cutting heads to remove the cake. I wanted to see the inside of the bowl to check on damage to the internals of the chamber. I cleaned up the remnants of cake and scraped the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall knife and then sanded the bowl insides with sandpaper on a dowel. Afterwards I examined the bowl and could see that the walls were solid and that inner edge of the bowl was in excellent condition. I cleaned the internals of the pipe and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the debris inside the metal mortise insert. I scraped the mortise walls with a dental spatula to remove the tars that had hardened on the walls. To deal with the darkened and damaged rim top I polished it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper and polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with 1500-12000 grit pads as suggested by Paresh on my recent trip to Pune, India. I have to say that is working very well. I wanted to polish out the scratches so that I could work on matching the stain on the rest of the pipe and finish that portion of the restoration. I cleaned out the damaged areas on the front of the bowl cap and on the left underside of the shank. I filled in the areas with a drop of clear superglue. When the repairs had cured I used a needle file to smooth out the repaired areas. I worked on them until they were smoothed out and close to the surface of the surrounding briar. I followed that by sanding the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and blend them into the briar. I used a reddish, brown (Cherry) and black stain pen to blend a stain to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. I rubbed it into the surface of the repaired areas on the front of the bowl cap and on the left underside of the shank. I blended the stains with an alcohol dampened cotton pad. I was able to get a perfect match to the bowl colour.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm, working it into the grain of the briar. The balm enlivens, refreshes and protects the briar. In this case it brought life back into the old piece of briar. While some of the dents and scratches were gone others remained. I left the remaining dents in the briar as ongoing testimony to the journey of this pipe. I only wish that it could tell its story. I let the balm sit on the briar and then buffed it out with a soft cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I started the clean up work on the stem by polishing the silver end cap on the amber stem with a silver polish and tarnish remover. It did not take too much scrubbing to remove the tarnish and give the cap a shine. The stem had deep tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. I filled them in with clear superglue and set the stem aside to cure. Once the repairs cured I used a needle file to redefine the button edge and also smooth out the repairs to the dent. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sand paper and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the sanding marks in the amber. I polished the amber stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I have been trying wet sanding with all of the pads after discussions with Paresh while we were in Pune, India. It does seem to give the stem a good shine and reduce the scratching. I finished the polishing with Before & After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine polishes. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing wheel to raise the shine. I polished the band with a jeweler’s cloth once more, then hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This 113 year old JW Amber Stemmed Bulldog is a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out while hiding the repaired areas-+. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful straight Bulldog that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pipe will be going back to Ray in Australia next week. I am excited to hear what he thinks of this beauty. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.