Blog by Steve Laug
I decided to change things up a bit and work on another of Jennifer’s Dad’s pipes. For the next pipe from the estate of George Rex Leghorn I have chosen another long shank/stem Billiard (Crosby style) with a sandblast finish. You may not have read about this estate before, so I will retell the story. I received an email from Jennifer who is a little older than my 64+ years about whether I would be interested in her Dad’s pipes. My brother Jeff and I have been picking up a few estates here and there, so I was interested. Here is the catch – she did not want to sell them to me but to give them to me to clean up, restore and resell. The only requirement she had was that we give a portion of the sales of the pipes to a charity serving women and children. We talked about the organization I work for that deals with trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and their children and she decided that would be a great way to carry on the charitable aspect of her Dad’s character. With some great conversation back and forth she sent the pipes to Jeff and he started the cleanup process on them. Once he had finished cleaning them all he sent them to me to do my work on them.
Using a lens and a bright light I could see that the mystery long shank/stem billiard is stamped on a smooth panel on underside of the shank E—–RUM CURED ITALY. The bowl had nice grain on the sides, front, back and rim top that is visible through the sandblast finish. The finish is very dirty making it hard to see beyond that to the nice grain underneath that. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it had overflowed with lava onto the rim top. It was a dirty and tired looking old pipe. The stem was badly oxidized and there were George’s usual tooth marks and chatter on both sides just ahead of the button. The button was also damaged. It had been sitting in boxes for a lot of years and it was time to move ahead with the restoration. Jennifer took photos of the pipes she was sending. I have included the three photos of this pipe below. When the box arrived from Jennifer, Jeff opened it and took photos of each pipe before he started his cleanup work on them. This mystery long stem/shank billiard was a nicely shaped pipe and that caught our attention. This was going to be an interesting restoration. When I work on pipes that I can find little information about the mystery adds a different element to the pleasure of working on them. The shape on the mystery pipe seems to really capture the flow of the grain on the briar. The briar appeared to be in good condition underneath the grime. The finish looked intact under the grime and oils on the bowl sides from George’s hands. The bowl had a thick cake that had hardened with time. The lava overflow on the rim top was very thick but it could very well have protected the rim from damage. We won’t know what is under it until Jeff had cleaned it off. The stem was oxidized and also had some calcification on the surface. There were deep tooth marks on both sides just ahead of the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it. I include those below. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the plateau rim top and dust and grime in the shank end as well. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. The lava coat looks horrible but it points to a well-used, favourite smoking pipe. George must have enjoyed this old timer a lot judging from the condition of the pipe.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish – the grime and grit all over the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is a dirty pipe but it has a stunning grain around the bowl sides and cross grain on the front and back. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. Half of it is blurred and worn. The readable part looks like it reads Rum Cured Italy. There is a capital E on the front of the stamp but the rest is unreadable.Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the scratching, oxidation and tooth marks on the stem surface. The tooth marks are quite deep on both sides of the stem.I did as much digging as I could in Pipedia, Pipephil and Who Made That Pipe and came up empty handed. This one was truly a mystery. But even though I had no information I could start my restoration of this beautiful long billiard. But before I get on to restoring the pipe I thought I would once again include the tribute that Jennifer wrote to her Dad for the blog. She also sent some photos and an article that her Dad wrote for Jeff and me to be able to get a feel for him. I have included those below. Note in each of them that he is holding a pipe in his left hand. I asked her to also send me an email with a brief tribute to her Dad. Here is her tribute from an email to me.
Steve, I want to thank you again for accepting my dad’s pipes. They were so much a part of my dad’s life that I could not simply discard them. But as his daughter, I was not about to take up smoking them either. *laughing* I think my dad would like knowing that they will bring pleasure to others. I know that I do.
I’m not sure what to say about his pipes. I always remember Daddy smoking pipes and cigars.
First a bit about my dad. Though my father, George Rex Leghorn, was American (growing up in Alaska), he managed to join the Canadian Army at the beginning of WWII, but in doing so lost his American citizenship. He was fortunate to meet a Canadian recruiting officer who told him the alphabet began with “A” and ended with “Zed” not “Zee”, and also told him to say that he was born in a specific town that had all its records destroyed in a fire. When the US joined the war my dad, and thousands of other Americans who had made the same choice*(see the link below for the article), were given the opportunity to transfer to the US military, and regain their citizenship.
After WWII, my dad, earned his degree at the University of California Berkeley and became a metallurgist. There is even a bit about him on the internet.
He loved taking the family out for a drive, and he smoked his cigars on those trips. (As a child, those were troubling times for my stomach.)
I most remember my father relaxing in his favorite chair with a science fiction book in one hand and a pipe in the other… Sir Walter Raleigh being his favorite tobacco… and the pipes themselves remind me of him in that contented way. If I interrupted his repose, he’d look up, with a smile on his face, to answer me.
It seemed he smoked his Briarwood pipes the most, though he had others. At the time, it was only the Briarwood I knew by name because of its distinctive rough shaped bowl. And it was the Anderson Free Hand Burl Briar, made in Israel, which I chose for his birthday one year, because I thought he might like that particular texture in his hand.
At least two of his pipes, he inherited from his son-in-law, Joe Marino, a retired medical laboratory researcher (my sister Lesley’s late husband)… the long stemmed Jarl (made in Denmark), and the large, white-bowled, Sherlock Holmes style pipe. I believe Joe had others that went to my dad, but Lesley was only sure about those two.
The Buescher, corncob pipe my older sister Lesley bought for Daddy while on one of her travels around the States.
A note on the spelling of my sister’s name…
My dad met my mother, Regina, during WWII and they married in Omagh, Ireland. My mother was English and in the military herself. The English spelling of Lesley is feminine, and Leslie masculine, in the UK… just the opposite of here in the United States. I guess my mom won out when it came to the spelling of the name…
This pipe was a real mess just like the other ones in the collection. I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. Jeff reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looked really good when I got it. The rim top looked much better but had some darkening on the inner and outer edges. There was a small fill on the left side of the bowl high and toward the front. It would need to be dealt with (I circled it in red in the photo below). He had cleaned the internals and scrubbed the exterior of the stem and soaked them in Before & After Deoxidizer bath to remove the oxidation. The stem looked very good other than the deep tooth marks in the surface. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration. I took close up photos of the rim top and bowl to show the condition of the bowl and the darkening on the rim top. You can see the light damage on the front inner edge of the bowl that was covered by the thick lava coat. The stem looks much better but the tooth marks are visible in the vulcanite. The button looks very good.I took a photo of the stamping on the shanks as it looks the same even after Jeff’s cleanup work.I decided to address the damage to the top of the bowl first. I sanded the inner edge of the rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the rim a slight inward bevel. The slight bevel took care of the charring on the front inner edge and cleaned up the rest of the inner edge as well.I picked out the small fill on the bowl with a dental pick. The fill was bright white and it just stuck out too much for me. Once I had cleaned out the pit I filled it in with clear super glue and briar dust. When the fill cured I used a brass bristle wire brush to blend it into the surface of the surrounding briar. The second photo shows the area that is filled. It is virtually invisible.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. It was getting late so I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. The sharp edges of the tooth marks made it clear that heat would not lift them so I decided to repair them instead. I filled them in with black super glue and set the stem aside to dry over night. The next morning when the repair had cured, I used a needle file to redefine the sharp edge of the button and begin to flatten out the repaired areas. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the repair and blend it into the stem surface. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish and a cotton pad to remove remnants of oxidation and to further blend in the sanding. The stem was showing some promise at this point in the process. At this point in the process I wanted to see how the stem looked on the bowl. I picked up the bowl and lightly buffed it with a cloth. In doing so I noticed what looked like a hairline crack on the topside of the shank. I examined it with a lens and sure enough there was a tiny crack in the groove of a sand blast groove. It was not large and extended about 1/8 of an inch up the shank (I have inserted a red arrow to identify the crack in the shank). I went through my small brass/rose gold coloured bands thinking that if I had one it would be a perfect look on this pipe. I found the perfect band shaped to cover the shank end as well! I cleaned the shank end with a cotton pad and alcohol and put a thin coat of all-purpose glue on the shank and end. I pressed the band in place and wiped off the excess glue with a damp cloth. The photos show the process. I set the bowl aside once again to let the glue set and went back to the stem. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping it down with Briarville’s No Oxy Oil and set it aside to dry. I always look forward to this part of the restoration when all the pieces are put back together. I put the pipe back together and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping, the new band on the shank shining and the black vulcanite almost glowing. The long stemmed billiard is beautiful and feels great in my hand. It is one that could be clenched and smoked while doing other things as it is very light weight and well balanced. It must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it from Jennifer. There should be a lot of life left in this old mystery pipe. The band adds a touch of understated elegance to the long shank and stem. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 ¾ inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is one that will go on the rebornpipes online store shortly. If you want to carry on the pipe trust of George Rex Leghorn let me know. Thank you Jennifer for trusting us with his pipes. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.