Blog by Steve Laug
Alex has been an ongoing source of restoration projects for me for a few years now. I actually have a box of pipes that Alex drops by periodically and adds new pipes for work. It has been fun to see him pick up the restoration hobby himself lately. He leaves the harder ones to me to work on – whether harder in terms of issues or harder in terms of cleaning. This particular pipe is a nicely grained natural finished Canadian that is stamped 9 Mehaffey on the underside of the shank. It has been in the box in isolation in a sealed plastic bag because of the smell of the bowl. It really does reek. I took it to the work table this quiet Sunday afternoon. The finish is natural with a slight patina from age. The rim top had an inward bevel that had some darkening and burn damage to the inner edge on the front right and back of the bowl. The top of the rim was also damaged and there were some nicks around the outer edge of the bowl as well. The pipe had been reamed before Alex received it but it smells musty and a bit dank. The smell of English tobacco is permeated with a different smell that gives the pipe a stench. The stem was in good condition other than a few small tooth marks on both sides just ahead of the button. Overall the pipe was in good condition. I took some photos of the pipe as I received it. I took a close up photo of the rim top. It shows some nicks in the surface of the inward beveled top. The outer edges show nicks and damage. The inner edge has some burn marks near the right front of the bowl and on the back side. The top also has what appear to be wrinkles in the briar finish. The photos of the stem looked pretty good. There were small tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. Otherwise the stem was in very good condition.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. You can see that it is faint but reads as noted above.Though I had not worked on this brand before, Dal Stanton who has written blogs for rebornpipes had worked on one Mehaffey pipe so I turned to that blog to see what he had found previously (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/e-a-mehaffey-pipe-tobacco-shop-in-wheaton-maryland/). I followed the link on the blog and turned to Pipedia to see if there was any additional information added since Dal had been there previously (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mehaffey). There was not much information available but I quote what was there in full.
E.A. Mehaffey operated a pipe & tobacco shop in Wheaton, Maryland. He used to make pipes for many years but as legend has it, his house tobacco mixtures were much more prestigious than his pipes. Mehaffey was in business up to the 1980’s.
While this statement does not engender enthusiasm for E. A. Mehaffey’s pipe production, the Canadian with a Natural finish is a very nice piece of briar. Both sides of the bowl show a mix of grains. On the front of the bowl there is some nice birdseye and on the back some swirls of grain. This is a beautifully styled and positioned Canadian shape has a tapered vulcanite stem that fits proportionally well. Now it was time to work on Alex’s pipe. I started the work by addressing the issues with the rim top first. I figured I would be generating some sanding dust so I decided to deal with that before cleaning the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to further bevel the inner edge of the rim to remove the burn damage. I sanded the rim top and outer edge of the bowl with the same sandpaper to get rid of the damage. Once I was finished the rim and edges were smooth.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl and rim down with a damp cloth after each pad. I paused in the polishing of the externals to address the smell of the pipe. I cleaned the airway into the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the surface debris. It was pretty clean. I knew that I would need to do more to get rid of the deep smell.I decided to deep clean the bowl with a cotton ball and alcohol soak. I stuff the bowl with cotton and use an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol. I put a folded pipe cleaner in the shank to wick the oils and tars from the airway and mortise. The alcohol and cotton draws the oils and tars out of the briar. It works in the same manner as salt and alcohol but I like it better as it leaves less mess and the salt does not permeate the briar when cotton is used. I set the bowl aside for several hours while the mixture did its work.I removed the cotton balls and ran a few pipe cleaners and cotton swabs through the shank and mortise to clean up residual debris left behind by the soak. You can see what was absorbed into the cotton in the photos below. The pipe smelled fresh and clean. The mustiness and stench was gone.I picked up the polishing of the bowl again with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The polishing gave the bowl a rich shine. I rubbed it down with Before and After Restoration Balm. It is a product developed by Mark Hoover to clean, enliven and protect briar. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. You can see the results below. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the light tooth marks and chatter on the stem surface. The stem was in excellent condition other than that so it did not take a lot of work. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust. I polished it with Before and After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping the stem down with some No Oxy Oil that received from Briarville Pipe Repair to try out and get a sense of its value to me and others. Once I finished I put the stem back on the shank and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish briar and vulcanite. I gave the stem a vigorous polish being careful around the white spot. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great piece of pipe history and looks better than when I began the process. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outer Bowl Diameter: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber Diameter: ¾ of an inch. The pipe will soon be heading back to Alex so he can continue to enjoy it. I have told him that if he ever wants to part with it I get the right of first refusal. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration.