Daily Archives: September 6, 2019

Another Calich on the Worktable – a Grade 11, 1988 Oval Shank Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

After I had finished the last of Ken Bennett’s estate Calich pipes my friend Alex sent me an email about a Calich oval shank canted Dublin that he thought would be a good match to the Calich pipes from Ken’s estate. Last week we got together for a visit and so that he could drop off some pipes for me to work on and some pipes that he wanted to trade. The Calich was one of them. This pipe had a classic Calich look to it. There was a grooved channel on the front and on the right side of the bowl – kind of a fluted look. The finish was dull and would need to be buffed to polish it. The shape of the bowl followed the beautiful grain of the briar – flame and straight grain around the bowl and some swirls and birdseye as well. The rim top was plateau and canted toward the front. The smooth bowl seemed to have medium brown stain that made the grain pop. Over time John’s pipes take on a rich patina. The bowl had a light cake in it and there was some darkening on front and back side of the plateau rim top. Otherwise the rim top and edges of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition. The stamping on the underside of the shank read G followed by CALICH over Hand Made. After that stamping there was a superscript 88 stamped (year it was carved) with a subscript 11 which was the grade number. The stem has a single metal dot in the top of the saddle. There were some light tooth marks on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the darkening and light lava on the inner edge of the rim top. The cake was thin along the edges of the bowl but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button.  I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see that just ahead of the Calich stamp over Hand Made is the letter G. After the “H” in Calich is a superscript 88 and a subscript 11.Once again I am including some information about John Calich the pipemaker as I have loved John Calich’s pipes for over 25 years now and have collected a few of them. I have restored quite a few of them and written blogs about them that can be read if you are interested in seeing the kind of pipes that John made. They are unique and beautiful. Each one of them is a work of art to me. I have written blogs on all of Ken Bennett’s Calich pipes and several others that I have in my own collection. Do a quick search on the blog if you are interested in reading about them.

John Calich, courtesy Doug Valitchka

When John was living I spoke with him several times via phone and had him make some new stems for some of his pipes that I picked up off eBay. He was a very kind gentleman and was always helpful when I spoke with him. He was always ready with encouragement and when I needed to know how to do something when I was first learning to repair pipes he was willing to help. He was one of the old guard of Canadian Pipe makers. I miss him. I am including a short piece from Pipedia on John to give details on his work and the grading of his pipes. The second paragraph below is highlighted in blue as it gives some information on the Grade 12 Apple that I am working on with the single silver dot now.

John Calich was one of Canada’s finest carvers. He died in July 2008. John was a full time pipe maker for the last 40 years. Calich pipes were mostly traditional shapes. His signature style is rustication and smooth on the same pipe along with his unique skill to stain a pipe in contrasting colors. He used only top quality Grecian and Calabrian briar. The mouthpieces are hand finished Vulcanite “A”. Each pipe was entirely made by hand. John Calich was featured in the summer 2005 issue of Pipes & Tobacco.

His pipes are graded 3E – 7E. Retail prices range from$ 145.00 to $ 500.00 Each pipe is stamped “CALICH” 3-8E, his earlier pipes were graded from 3-14, and a single, tiny silver dot is applied to the top of the stem (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Calich).

From my other blogs I was able to garner quite a bit of information on John’s grading system. As noted above the newer ones carried a 3E-7E stamp but the earlier ones were graded 3-14. The retail prices for them ranged from $145.00 to $500.00. Each of the earlier pipes was stamped “CALICH” and pipes were graded from 3-14 and had a single, tiny silver dot applied to the top of the stem. More information can be found at the Pipedia article above. All of this information told me as expected that the pipe I had was an earlier one.

Armed with the facts that I am dealing with a 1988 pipe made by one of my favourite Canadian pipe makers it was time to get back to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the cake to briar. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.   I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the grain is really beginning to pop. John once again really followed the grain on the shaping of this pipe.  I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it 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. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth chatter and marks on both sides at the button. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.     Alex’s Calich is a similar style to the pipes from Ken’s Estate that I worked on. It is a beautifully grained Canted Dublin Hand Made with an oval shank and saddle stem. It has the kind of beauty I have come to expect from John’s pipes with plateau on the rim top and the fluted front and right side of the bowl. I am excited to be on the homestretch with this. This is the part I look forward to when each pipe comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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 straight and flame grain on the sides of the bowl and birdseye and swirled grain on the front and back side of the bowl is quite stunning. The plateau on the rim top was originally natural though had been darkened over time. The polished smooth finish look really good with the black vulcanite. This Calich Hand Made was another fun pipe to bring back to life. The medium brown finish and the plateau rim top makes this Canted Dublin pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is entire estate was interesting to bring back to life.

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Restoring a Patent Era Brigham 1 Dot Dublin Ken Bennett’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

Early in August I received an email from an interesting woman on Vancouver Island regarding some pipes that she had for sale. She was looking to sell the pipes from her late husband Ken and one from her Great Grandfather. Here is her email:

I have 5 John Calich pipes that date from 1979 to 1981. One is graded 11 and the other four are graded 12. I had bought them as Christmas and birthday gifts for my late husband. He was a very light smoker for a 3 year period.

I am a wood sculptor and always admired the grain and shapes of John’s best pipes. John was a friend as well. We exhibited at many exhibitions together for over 25 years.

I am wondering if you can provide any information on how I might be able to sell them.

Thanks you for any help you might be able to provide

I wrote her back and told I was very interested in the pipes that she had for sale and asked her to send me some photos of the lot. She quickly did just that and we struck a deal. I paid her through an e-transfer and the pipes were on their way to me. They arrived quite quickly and when they did I opened the box and found she had added three more pipes – a Brigham, a Dr. Plumb and a WDC Milano.

I finished the restoration of all the pipes in the box of Calich pipes and the BBB Calabash that Pat had sent. She had included a Brigham as noted above. This Brigham Dublin one dot pipe was a classic Brigham shape and rusticated finish. The rim top was dirty and pretty beat up. There were nicks out of the outer edge of the rim around the bowl. The front outer edge was rough from knocking the pipe out again hard surfaces. The rusticated finish was in decent condition. The bowl had a cake in it and there was a lava overflow onto the rim top and darkening the finish. The inner edge of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition under the lava. The stamping on the underside of the shank was very clear and read Shape 107 on the heel of the bowl followed by Can. Pat. 372982 on the smooth panel on the shank. That was followed by Brigham. There is a long tail coming from the “m” curving under the Brigham stamp. The stem was lightly oxidized as was the single metal dot on the side of the taper. There was oxidation and light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside. The tenon was the Brigham metal system that held the hard rock maple filter. It did not look like it had ever been changed. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the damage on the front left outer edge of the bowl, the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the rim top and inner edge of the rim top. It is quite thick and darkens the natural finish of the rim top. The cake was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides, damage to the button and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see the clear stamping reading as noted above.I wrote to Pat and asked her if she would be willing to write short remembrance of her late husband and her Great Grandfather. She wrote that she would be happy to write about them both. Here are Pat’s words:

I’d like you know that Ken was an incredibly talented and creative man with a smile and blue eyes that could light up a room. His laugh was pure magic. He could think outside the box and come up with an elegant solution to any problem…

Pat sent me this reflection on her husband Ken’s life. Thanks Pat for taking time to do this. I find that it gives another dimension to the pipes that I restore to know a bit about the previous pipeman. Pat and Ken were artists (Pat still is a Sculptural Weaver) and it was this that connected them to each other and to John Calich. Here are Pat’s words.

Here is the write up for Ken. We meet in University and it was love at first sight. I consider myself blessed to have shared a life together for 37 years.

Ken graduated from Ryerson University with Bachelor of Applied Arts in Design in 1975.

Ken lived his life with joy.  Each day was a leap of faith in the creative process. His smile would light up the room and the hearts of the people he loved.

He combined the skilled hands of a master craftsman, with the problem solving mind of an engineer, and the heart and soul of an artist. He used his talents to create unique and innovative wood sculptures. Using precious hardwoods, he incorporated the techniques of multiple lamination and three dimensional contouring to create sculptural pieces that captivate the eye and entice the hand to explore.

His career was highlighted by numerous corporate commissions, awards and public recognition in Canada and abroad.

A quote from Frank Lloyd Wright sums up Ken’s approach to design.  “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be joined as one in a spiritual union.” 

A friendship with John Calich developed over years of exhibiting their work at exhibitions. How could a wood sculptor resist some of John’s finest creations…

I wrote Charles Lemon to get some background information on the pipe. Charles knows Brigham pipes like no one else I know besides he is a great guy. Here is his response

Nice find! The stamps are really nice & clear on that one.

Date-wise, this pipe was made between 1938 and 1955 while the patent for the Brigham System was in force, thus the CAN PAT #. The underlined script logo is another indication of age – that logo was phased out sometime in the early 60s.

Shapes 05, 06 & 07 are classic Straight Dublin shapes from the earliest Brigham lineup, with Shape 05 being the smallest and 07 the largest. There are also Bent Dublin shapes but they are much higher shape numbers and presumably were added to the lineup perhaps decades later.

Hope that helps! Ironically, I was looking at the shape chart just today with an eye to doing an update, so most of this was top of mind! — Charles

I summarize the dating information from Charles now: The pipe is an older one with a Canadian Patent Number. That and the underlined script logo date it between 1938 and 1955. The shape 107 refers to the largest of the classic Straight Dublin pipes in the Brigham line up.

Armed with Pat’s stories of John and her husband Ken and the information from Charles on the background of the pipe it was time to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer using the third cutting head. I took the cake back to bare briar so that I could check out the inside walls. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the remaining cake. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.       I scraped the rim top lava with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I was able to remove much of the lava. It also helped me to see the damage to the front edge better. It really was a mess.I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the damaged areas are very clear.   Once the rim top was clean I could see the extent of the damage to the surface of the rim. The damage was quite extensive and gave the rim the appearance of being out of round. There was also a downward slant to the front edge of the bowl. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked to flatten out the profile of the rim. I polished the rim surface with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the top down with alcohol on a cotton pad. I restained it to match the rest of the bowl with three different stain pens – Walnut, Maple and Mahogany. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I rubbed the bowl and rim top down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush 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. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.     I rubbed the bowl and rim down with Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the metal shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean.Before I cleaned the shank I removed the hard rock maple filter. I took a new filter out of the box and set it aside for use once I finished the clean up.I wiped down the surface of the vulcanite stem with alcohol. I filled in the deep tooth marks with clear super glue.Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to reshape and recut the edge of the button and flatten the repaired area.   I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.     This is the sixth and final pipe that I am restoring from Ken’s Estate. It is another a classic Brigham Patent era Large Dublin shaped 107. With the completion of this Brigham I am on the homestretch with Ken’s estate. This is the part I look forward to when each pipe comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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 classic Brigham rustication and smooth rim top is very nice. The smooth, refinished the rim top, polished and waxed rustication on the bowl look really good with the black vulcanite. This Brigham Patent Era Dublin was a fun and challenging pipe to bring back to life because of the damaged rim top. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This entire estate was interesting to bring back to life.