Blog by Steve Laug
I have had this old pipe kicking around in my box for refurbishing for a long time now. I have picked it up numerous times and put it back as I just had no desire to do anything with it. That changed yesterday. I took it out and looked at it to think about what needed to be done to it. The stem was a mess – it had shattered when the guy who owned it tried to take it off. He sent me these photos of the pipe. It was green which did nothing for me and there was nothing about it that called my name. It was an Oldenkott pipe – a brand that I had worked on before but not a shape that I was interested in. The stem was broken and the pipe was a mess. After seeing the photos below, I had declined purchasing it as it really was not interesting to me. But even my declining it did not matter much – He had mailed it as part of a group of pipes that Jeff and I had purchased from him them.The pipes had been sent to Jeff and in the box was this one. Jeff opened the box and showed me this pipe and really it was in even worse shape than I imagined. The pipe came with the stem pretty well stuck in the shank and a small plastic bag with stem pieces was rubber banded to the tenon. Jeff chucked it in the freezer and the stem came off easily enough. It was a mess and it was a filter pipe! The bowl had a thick in it and a thick lava overflow on the rim top. It was hard to know the condition of the inner edge of the rim because of this. The bowl had a lot of bright green fills around the sides and heel. The stem was a disaster – broken off and shattered at the same time. It was definitely one for the garbage. He took photos of the pipe before he started working on it so I could see what he was dealing with. He took a photo of the rim top and bowl to try to capture the mess of both. The thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava are both visible. The cake was thick and hard and the lava overflow was a thick band around the bowl. One consolation is that considering the mess it was in, this must have been a great smoking pipe.The next photos show the side and bottom of the bowl and give a clear picture condition of the green stain. It was spotty and worn. The fills in the bowl were very green spots, like painters green tape and stood out like a sore thumb to me. They were just ugly and almost obscured the interesting grain around the bowl for me. Hopefully you get a feel for why I just kept putting it back in the restoration “to do” box.Jeff took photos of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The Oldenkott name is stamped on the left side of the shank. On the underside it is stamped Huber over Munchen. Jeff took photos of the stem to show the shattered condition. It really was not redeemable even by such a stalwart stem rebuilder as Paresh Deshpande! It was also a 9mm filter stem and to me that also was another strike against it. It was useless in my opinion. I knew I was dealing with a German pipe from previous ones that I had worked on. I had been told that the brand was the German equivalent of Dunhill pipes in England. This one certainly did not make a case for that assumption. I turned first to Pipephil to see if I could get a brief review (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-oldenkott.html). The site gave various lines that had been made by the factory before its closure in 1992.
I went on to Pipedia knowing that there would be some more detailed information and I was correct in that assumption (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Oldenkott). I quote in full from that article.
Very little is known about the company. According to the albums the company was founded in 1760 in Amsterdam as Hermann Oldenkott, and in 1819, a subsidiary in Ahaus (Germany). There were likely other factories as well, as in 1838 August Kersten from Rees (Germany) bought the factories from Heinric Oldenkott in Elten (Germany) and Weesp (Holland), although it is not clear whether these were part of the of the original Oldenkott company. The German company increased rapidly and became one of the largest German tobacco companies. In 1929 the factories from Hermann Oldenkott in Ahaus and Neuss (Germany) were bought by the German Oldenkott company. The German company produced pipes starting in 1932. In 1972 the German company was bought by the Dutch company Niemeijer. Tobacco production ceased in 1974 and only pipes were made afterward. In 1987 the German pipe company was bought by the Kersten family again, but closed in 1992.
The pipes were machine made and in general of mediocre quality. The most important pipes of Oldenkott were the so called “Porsche” design pipe. The bowl was turned like the motor block of a racing car and was lacquered with a silver-grey color. Today these special pipes are very rare and expensive.
In spite of the apparent quality of both Oldenkott and VAUEN pipes, they are known as good smokers.
The site also quotes from the book “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes’ –“Oldenkott is an early 20th century German brand by Henry Oldenkott. His factory in Hallen closed in April 1982, with some of the workder moving to VAUEN. Oldenkott made ipes with and without filters. It was in this company that Porsche pipes were produced.”
Armed with that information I turned to address the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe before sending it to 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 off the finish 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. He cleaned up the stem so that it did not stink and soil the other clean pipes he sent me. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a clean pipe and I knew what I had to work with. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took a close up photo of the bow and rim to capture the burn damage on the right side inner edge of the bowl. I also took photos of the shattered stem to show the extent of the damage.I took a photo of the left side and the underside of the shank to show the stamping on the pipe. It read as noted above. After the cleanup it was still readable.I decided to address the broken stem first. I went through my can of stems and found a suitable saddle stem that was roughly the same length as the broken one. It had a different saddle arrangement but to be honest I like the new one better. It was a new cast stem that I had picked up from a fellow who was selling out his father’s refurbishing supplies. I measured the diameter of the tenon on the broken stem and set the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool to crank out a tenon on the new stem that would match. I turned it carefully and once I took it off the tool and measured both were identical in diameter – BUT (and this part is very irritating to me) the new tenon though identical and in size was loose in the mortise!!!I filed out the nubs left behind from the tool and the new stem was now functional. I would need to expand the tenon to get a good snug fit but it was done. I gave the tenon a coat of clear fingernail polish to snug up the fit in the mortise. I set it aside to dry. While the stem was drying I decided to work on the damage to the inner edge of the bowl on the right side. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and removed as much of the damaged area as possible.I knew that I needed to deal with the uneven green stain coat on the bowl so that I could smooth it out. I also needed to deal with the fills in the bowl. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to evenly remove the stain. I picked out the largest fill on the right side of bowl with a dental pick. Under the bright green top coat the fill was bright white putty. Once I picked it out wiped it down with alcohol. I filled in the hole with briar dust and clear super glue to replace the fill. I put the stem on the shank and worked on the fit against the shank. I used a wood fill to reduce the diameter on the stem giving it a bit of a conical shape to match the flow of the shank. I also worked on the shank diameter because like everything else that is a bit of a deficit on this pipe the shank was not perfectly round and the stem had to be hand fit to the shank. I sanded the shank and stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out and shape the shank and stem union. I also sanded the repaired fill on the right side of the bowl to blend it into the surface. The stem was looking pretty good as was the new fill. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth to have a look at it at this point. I removed the stem and worked on polishing the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad. I decided to only use these three grits because I had decided to experiment with staining this pipe GREEN once again. (I have to tell you this was an experiment and in many ways a failed one. But I get ahead of the story!). Here is where the restoration took a horrible turn for me. I should have left well enough alone but I wanted to tryout the Kelly Green stain that I had picked up earlier for some Peterson’s St. Patrick’s Day pipes that I have not dealt with yet. I figured this would be a good place to learn about the idiosyncrasies of green stain. I heated the briar and stained and flamed the pipe to set the stain in the wood. I looked at it and just shook my head. The stain set really well. I wasn’t sure how the fills received it and was a bit worried when I saw them shining through the dark green stain. I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure. Once the stain was dry I moved to my next “normal” step which is to wipe the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent and make the grain stand out more. Here is where my next issue rose – I wiped it down with four pads and alcohol and kept repeating the wipe down and it did not become more transparent. All that happened was that the fills turned white. I touched them up with green but there was no remedy to the issue. I like the pipe better before I stained it green. Now what was I going to do to make it LESS GREEN? At this point the experiment was a failure in my opinion. The GREEN NOT ONLY SET IN THE GRAIN BUT IN THE WHOLE PIECE OF BRIAR. I have to admit that at this point it crossed my mind that I probably could have thinned the stain a lot and made a green wash but after thought is too late. I buffed the pipe with Red Tripoli to try to remove it from the briar but it really had little effect. I was getting pretty frustrated and know from experience it is time to change things up a bit before I make things worse!
So I decided to address the stem for a while instead of the bowl. I put the stem on the shank and heated it with my heat gun until it was soft. I bent it to match the angles of the bottom of the bowl and set the bend with cool water. It was a good diversion from the GREEN bowl.I took the stem off and went back to work on the bowl. I wiped it down with acetone to try to reduce the green stain and while it partially worked it still was too green to my liking. I sanded the bowl and shank with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to further reduce it. I still was not happy with the results. The green was just not to my liking. It needed to go. I restained the bowl with Tan stain and flamed and repeated the process until the coverage was good. I set it aside to cure and went to lunch with a friend. After lunch I buffed the bowl with Red Tripoli to unveil with the bowl looked like at this point. The tan stain had worked together with the Green stain to create a colour that I really liked. I buffed it with Blue Diamond to further polish it. I like the way the bowl looked at this point. I still needed to polish it and wax it but I wanted to finish the stem as well. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to polish it. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I finished polishing it 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. In looking at the photos above you can see a few nicks in the tenon. I filled them in with clear super glue to smooth them out and set the stem aside to dry. I sanded them smooth with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil and again let it dry. With the parts finished it was time to polish up this nightmarish experiment that took me far longer than it rightly should have taken. I learned a ton in terms of Green stain – such as using it as a wash instead of as it comes in the bottle. I learned that it sinks deep into all of the grain not just the softer parts. I found that it is very hard to remove once it is once it is on the briar. Learning all of that I was finally glad that it was time to finish this pipe. 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 Oldenkott turned out better than I expected and has some nice grain showing through. The finish really highlights the grain and hides the fills on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite replacement stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful grained bent Apple. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the long, experimental restoration with me as it was a learning experience for me.