Daily Archives: May 28, 2019

New Life for an A. Garfinkel Washington, D.C. Large Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Having worked on 9 of Alex’s pipes over the weekend I needed a bit of a change of pace pipe to work on. I wanted to deal with a brand that was relatively unknown to me and would let me do a bit of research to gain a better understanding. I went through my “to be restored” box to choose the next pipe and found exactly what I was looking for. The next pipe in the queue is a large, thick shanked billiard that has some marvelous grain. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank, A. GARFINKEL over Wash. D.C. The tapered vulcanite stem had no marking or stamping to help identify the pipe. This is the first A. Garfinkel pipe that I have worked on. It came to Jeff and me in a large lot of Bertram pipes that we purchased recently. There were over 200 pipes in the lot and all were of a similar age and condition.

This Garfinkel pipe was very similar in many ways to the Bertrams that Jeff and I have been working on from that collection.The bowl had a medium cake in the chamber that was no problem. The rim top had some darkening and a little bit of lava overflow on the back side. The inner and outer edge of the bowl appeared to be in good condition but we would know more once the bowl had been reamed and cleaned. The exterior of the briar looked lifeless and was dusty with the grime of years of storage. The stem had some light oxidation and tooth marks near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his clean up work on it. I have included them below and they tell the story and give a glimpse of the pipe before clean up. Jeff took a closeup photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before his work on it. You can see the cake in the bowl and some of the lava on the rim top. He took photos of the sides and the heel of the bowl to show the grain and the overall condition of the pipe. He also took a photo of right side of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is readable in the photo below and is as noted above – A. Garfinkel over Wash. D.C. The underside of the stem read France. I have seen many stems stamped France and in the past it does not necessarily mean that the pipe was made in France as much as that the stem was French made. The mystery remains and I suppose we will never know for sure.He took photos of what the stem looked like before the clean up and soak in the deoxidizer.Before I started my part of the restoration I did a bit of research to see what I could learn about the brand. I turned first to the Pipephil website and did not find any information on the brand. That surprised me a bit but such is the hunt for information. I turned next to the Pipedia website and was more successful. Here is the link to the article – https://pipedia.org/wiki/Garfinkel. I quote in full below.

Garfinkel Inc. was a celebrated Washington, D.C. importer and retailer of pipes, tobaccos and cigars. The founder was Arnold Garfinkel (1903-1988). Arnold was originally from Germany, and the family had already been in the tobacco trade for two generations before he was born; his father sold tobacco to Kaiser Wilhelm in Berlin. Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, Arnold soon settled in the District of Columbia; in 1940 he established his first tobacco shop there, although it closed a few years later during the Second World War.

It wasn’t until July of 1960 that Arnold established A. Garfinkel. Originally located at 720 14th Street, N.W., in April of 1980 the shop advertised its move to 1585 Eye Street, N.W. The new location of was a block from Lafayette Square and not much further from the White House. In 1972, author Hugh Sidey wrote in Newsweek that while interviewing then President Richard M. Nixon he spotted some pipes and a tin of Garfinkel tobacco on Nixon’s desk.

Among aficionados the shop remains well known to this day for the imported tobacco blends sold under its own name; these were manufactured by Robert McConnell and Sobranie. In addition custom blending was done for customers both domestic and foreign, with Arnold sometimes using recipes he had brought with him from Europe. A. Garfinkel carried pipes under its own name as well; these too were apparently manufactured elsewhere. Pipes were stamped A. Garfinkel, Wash D.C.; some are marked Algerian Briar and others simply Imported Briar. Many appear to be Made in France. Finally, A. Garfinkel was renowned for its selection of cigars.

In 1940 Arnold married Esther Kolker. One of their four children, Larry, was managing A. Garfinkel by May of 1980 and eventually took over sole responsibility for running the shop. Notwithstanding Arnold remained active at A. Garfinkel throughout his life, with son Larry noting that “He had a great personality and a great smile…and a very good head for business.”

A victim of declining demand reflecting both increased pressures on smokers and changing tastes, A. Garfinkel shut its doors in the summer of 1992.

I knew for certain that Garfinkel’s Pipe Shop did not make its own pipes. It is noted above that “many appear to have been Made in France. However, I have reason to believe that this pipe was made for them by Bertrams. The style of the stamping, the wording of the stamping, the shape of the pipe and the layout of the grain to the shape all signal a connection to Bertrams. I can find nothing definitive about that connection but it certainly seems likely. Perhaps some of you who are reading this blog can help with the connection. Is there one or not?

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. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava and the rim top looked flawless. The bowl was clean and there was not any cake left in the bowl. Both the inner edge and the outer edge of the rim look good. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The light tooth chatter is hard to see but I should be able to sand it out quite easily. Since Jeff had done all the cleanup work on this pipe my job was much simpler. I just needed to give the pipe the finishing touches. I polished the rim and the outside of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped the bowl and shank down after each pad with a damp cloth. The photos show how the grain really stands out after polishing. I am pretty happy with the results. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish 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. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. Once the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 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. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. This A. Garfinkel has a classic Large/thick shank Billiard shape and the natural finish really highlights some amazing grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain – straight, flame and birdseye – popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful grained Billiard. Like the other pipes in this lot that I have worked on this one fits well in the hand and sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This beautiful A. Garfinkel Billiard will soon be going on the rebornpipes store. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

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