Cleaning up a NOS Unsmoked C.P.F. Briar Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

Among the pipes that I brought back from my trip to Idaho was a small bag of C.P.F. pipes smoked and unsmoked. Some have horn stems, some vulcanite stems and some have Gutta- percha bases and stems. Some have hardwood bowls and some briar. There were also several that had meerschaum bowls. I went through the bag and chose the next pipe I wanted to work on. It was an unsmoked C.P.F. briar calabash with a screw in meerschaum bowl. The finish had a coat of varnish or possibly shellac over it so it had a spotty shiny look to it. The left side of the shank is stamped with gold leaf and reads C.P.F. in the oval logo. The meerschaum bowl was unsmoked but still had a lot of dust and debris inside. The vulcanite stem had the C.P.F. in an oval logo stamped on the top of the saddle. It had a few nicks in the top side but was undamaged. It was much like the stems I have worked on that are in the C.P.F. Chesterfield pipes with a faux system stem with the airway still coming out at the end of the button. It was a military style push stem. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition at the start of the process. I took a close up photo of the meerschaum rim top and bowl to show the condition of the meer insert. It was clean but dusty and grimy. The airways are at the bottom of the bowl much like a gourd calabash though in this case there are three of them. The rim top showed some soiling on the top and sides of the bowl. The photos of the vulcanite stem show its general condition. It was dull but unused so it should clean up well.The next photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is clear and readable. The stamping reads as noted above. The band is stamped with the C.P.F. in an oval logo with the faux hallmarks that are on all of the metal banded C.P.F. pipes.I unscrewed the bowl from the pipe and took photos of the briar base and the meer insert. Both look good on the inside. The threads are not too badly worn.I went back and read a previous blog that I had written on the brand to reacquaint myself. The link to the blog follows (https://rebornpipes.com/2013/04/14/some-reflection-on-the-historical-background-on-cpf-pipes/). I quote a pertinent part of the blog below:

From my reading and research it seems to me that C.P.F. brand was discontinued sometime in the 1910-1920 range. Again, turning to Bill Feuerbach I found that he notes the following, which pins down the time frame of the discontinuation of the brand more specifically, “I have a C.P.F. Chesterfield in our office display that has a nametag from way before my time that says 1900 C.P.F. Chesterfield. It looks like most other Chesterfields you’ve seen, including the military type push stem, except this stem is horn and not vulcanite. As far as I have gathered the C.P.F. brand was phased out sometime around 1915.” Interestingly, he noted that the Chesterfield name and style was later introduced in the KB&B, Kaywoodie and Yello-Bole lines. He says that the 1924 KB&B catalog shows KB&B Chesterfields…

… From my research I believe that we can definitively assert that the C.P.F. logo stands for Colossus Pipe Factory. The brand was purchased by KB&B sometime between 1884 and 1898 and that it continued until 1915. That time frame gives help in dating some of the older C.P.F. pipes you or I might find. It can be said that prior to the dual stamping it is fairly certain that the pipe is pre-1884 to 1898. After the dual stamping it can be placed post 1898 until the closure of the brand line in 1915. C.P.F. made beautiful pipes.

From that information I can tentatively date the pipe to the period prior to 1884-1898 because of the single C.P.F. stamp on the shank, ferrule and stem. At any rate it is another old pipe to remain unsmoked for this long. The story of its journey to Jeff and me this long after the date it was made is another mystery. This is another of those times that I wish an old pipe could speak and share the story of its journey. The most I can say is that it came from New York to Idaho Falls in journey that began in the 1880s and ended in 2019. Now it is has further traveled by air to Vancouver Canada as far west as it can go and remain on the same continent… What a well-traveled pipe and one that I will never really know the story about the nature of the journey. Armed with that information it was not time to work on the pipe.

I decided to begin with the bowl. I unscrewed the bowl from the briar base. I wiped down the bowl with a damp cotton pad to remove the surface dirt. I polished the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust. Each successive sanding pad brought more shine to the meerschaum. I set the meer insert aside and turned my attention to the briar. I am still experimenting with Mark Hoover’s Briar Cleaner to see what I think of it as a possible replacement for my usual Murphy’s Oil Soap scrub. I rubbed it onto the briar portion of the pipe and worked it into the grain of the briar. I wiped it off with a clean cloth. There was still a coat of grime and grit from the cleaner left behind so I rinsed it with warm water to remove that and dried it with a microfiber cloth. I am really not sure if this is any better than the Murphy’s but I am committed to working with it. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. One of the nice features of working on a NOS pipe is that the internals are very clean. I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway in the stem and shank just to remove dust. I did the same in the mortise with a cotton swab and the internals were finished.

I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with a coat of Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. The old briar was dry and it drank up the balm. I buffed the bowl with a soft cloth to raise a shine. I like how the pipe looks as this point in the process. I set this part of the bowl aside and started working on the stem. I polished 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 it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished the polishing with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. By now if you have read the rebornpipes long, you know that I love these old C.P.F. pipes. There is some serious thought that they were carved by European trained craftsman who were skilled pipemakers. These pipemakers were brought to the US by the C.P.F. Company to make pipes. Many of the shapes, bands and stems have such high quality workmanship involved that I really think there is truth to this story. This is little bent calabash is a real beauty. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel carefully avoiding the stamping on the shank. 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 contrasting grain really began to stand out; it seemed to take on life with the buffing. The rich contrasting brown colour works well with the polished vulcanite stem. The finished pipe has a rich look that is quite catching. I screwed the cleaned and polished meerschaum calabash bowl insert into the bowl and was very pleased with how it looked. Have a look at it with the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be joining my collection as it fits in the CPF niche group that I have been building. The shape and feel in the hand is perfect. Once again, I have to make a hard decision – do I leave it unsmoked or do I load it up with some aged Virginia and break it in. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I restored and reworked this old meerschaum calabash from 1884-1898. It is always a treat for me to work on a piece of pipe history especially when I have learned a bit of the story behind it.

 

1 thought on “Cleaning up a NOS Unsmoked C.P.F. Briar Calabash

  1. Al Moon

    I have the identical twin to this pipe. Only difference is the name. WDC is all over it. Makes me wonder just who made it. It’s a great little smoker.

    Reply

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