Refurbishing a “S & R” Chunky Rhodesian Pipe

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

One of my favorite shapes is the Rhodesian and a Rhodesian with a thick chubby shank, if at all I come across one, has to find its way in to my personal collection!!!! A while ago when surfing eBay, I came across one such pipe which the seller had simply advertised as “USED BRIAR PIPE IN EXCELLENT CONDITION”. There were a few pictures with no particular emphasis on the stampings and no description whatsoever. The only stamping that I could make out was some complicated design with the highlight being a pipe shape distinctly seen within the design. There were only a few minutes for the auction to end with just three bidders and the pipe seemed to be in great condition. Another aspect that I confirm when buying on eBay is the cost of shipping. In this case it was very reasonable. With all these positives, I could not refrain from placing my bid. A month later and the pipe had reached Abha.

She clicked a couple of pictures and sent them to me as requested, one with clear image of the stamping. She, to my complete relief, confirmed the pipe to be in excellent condition. Here are the pictures that she had sent me. There was no COM stamp to help me identify this beautiful pipe.I could not contain my curiosity to find out more about this pipe and turned to to identify this pipe. I searched the site for this pipe in their index for stampings with a pipe, but came out cropper. Next I tried to search by country with no success. Thereafter, I turned to Hours later, I could find a perfect match for the stamping under the COM “USA”. Here is the link.

I reproduce the information gleaned from the site.

Stephen and Roswitha Anderson of S&R Pipes, also known as S&R Woodcrafters, have become pipe makers renowned throughout the world as talented carvers of high-grade briar pipes. They have been featured in several trade publications and magazines such as Pipes and Tobaccos and PipeSmoker, and have several pieces on  display in museums in Europe and the United States.

They are the first American pipe carvers honored with induction into the Conferee of Pipe Makers of St. Claude, France; the very place where the carving of briar pipes became a world-wide industry. Sadly, Steve passed away in March of 2009. Roswitha is still carving S&R pipes and carrying on with the shop with help from her “guys” David, Marty, and Tony.

Steve and Roswitha began carving pipes in the 1960’s. They travelled to pipe shows and arts and crafts shows throughout the country and Europe selling their pipes and built up quite an extensive loyal customer base. Eventually, it became time to offer their pipes to the retail fraternity of pipe smokers.

Pipes & Pleasures had its grand opening in a distinct red brick house on Main Street in Columbus, Ohio in 1977. The front section of the house was converted into a traditional tobacco shop selling pipe tobacco, cigars, and pipes manufactured by well known companies such as Dunhill, Charatan, and Savinelli as well as the high-grade S&R pipes that Steve and Roswitha carved. A workshop was set up in the back section of the house.

When the cigar boom hit in the ’90’s, the shop was expanded by building a large computer controlled walk-in humidor. It’s no secret throughout the country that Pipes & Pleasures has the best maintained cigars in the Columbus area as well as the best selection of premium cigars available in the area including the much sought-after Davidoff line.

Soon after the boom began, Steve and Roswitha moved their pipe making workshop to their farm and converted that space into a large smoking lounge for their many customers. The lounge features comfortable easy chairs, a television set, a stereo, a library of books and magazines about every aspect of tobacciana, a chess table, and a couple of card tables. The lounge is populated daily with long-time loyal customers and newcomers to the enjoyment and relaxation of cigar and pipe smoking. It’s also the room where several cigar tastings and samplings are held every year by representatives from cigar companies such as Davidoff and La Flor Dominicana.

I was fortunate to own this Stephen and Roswitha Anderson carved pipe. That this pipe moved up the pile of pipes to be restored is not surprising, it is such a beautiful pipe.

The sandblasted stummel on this pipe is covered in dust and grime and appears dull and lackluster. The smooth rim top surface and the band at the shank end are also covered in dust and grime and will need to be cleaned and polished. The rich brown hues of the raised portions of the rustications contrast beautifully with the darker hues of the stummel and the sandblast patterns on the stummel are eye catching, to say the least. The stummel has a very subtle, yet discernible outward flaring cap ring which lends it its classical shape. There is a very strong sweet smell to the cake, which perhaps may vanish after the chamber has been cleaned. The chamber has a nice even cake with specks of lava overflow on the smooth rim top surface. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained once the existing cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The smooth rim top surface has numerous minor dents and dings that are an eye sore. I suspect that the inner rim edge is charred at the back side of the rim top (marked in yellow circle). The extent of the char will be ascertained once the rim top surface has been cleaned off the lava overflow. The transition of the outer edge of the rim in to the stummel is sans any damage. Accumulation of oils and tars and specks of dried ash and tobacco is seen on the walls of the mortise. Though the draught hole is open, the draw should improve further once the shank internals and the mortise is thoroughly cleaned out.The stem surface, though not heavily oxidized, is rough and uneven and the edge of the lip on the lower surface has minor tooth indentations. The button edge on the upper stem surface is intact and just needs to be sharpened a bit. The tenon end is covered in dried oils and tars which will need to be cleaned. The slot and stem air way is clean. THE PROCESS
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe by cleaning the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners with isopropyl alcohol (99.9% pure) and dunking the stem in to “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface making its further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. I usually dunk stems of 5-7 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this S & R pipe is marked in yellow arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight for the solution to do its work.While the stem was in the soak, I reamed the chamber with a Castleford reamer tool, using the second and third head. Using my fabricated knife; I further took the cake down to the bare briar. I have realized that the knife is best suited to remove the cake from the bottom of the chamber.  With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, revealing smooth chamber walls sans any damage. I further wiped the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with isopropyl alcohol to completely remove the sanding dust. The inner rim edges are, save for the minor charring, in good condition. I scraped the shank internals with a fabricated tool to remove all the crud that had accumulated along the shank walls and further cleaned it with bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I continued the cleaning of the chamber and shank internals with a salt and alcohol bath. I use cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the last year or so. I draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in to the chamber. Thereafter, I pack the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the rim inner edge. I soak the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I top it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol has drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise, fulfilling its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. The chamber now smells clean and fresh. I set the stummel to dry out naturally. While the stummel was set aside for the salt and alcohol to draw out all the deep residual oils and tars, I worked on the stems that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. I fished out all the stems and cleaned them under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. I further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stems with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stems and set them aside for the oil to be absorbed. Unfortunately, I did not click any pictures of these stems at this stage.

Once the stummel internals were cleaned, I scrubbed the external surface of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush. I deliberately cleaned the rim top surface to remove the entire lava overflow and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth.  The cleaned up rim top surface revealed very slight charring to the inner rim edges and minor dents and dings to the surface. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. Next, I decided to address the issue of damage to the rim top. I topped the rim surface on a 220 grit sand paper, frequently checking the progress being made. One of the things that I prefer to avoid is topping, as it compromises the shape to an extent while losing briar estate. But this process is a necessary evil while addressing the damage to the rim top surface and I prefer to remain minimalist with it. The rim top is now smooth and the charring on the inner edges is addressed to a great extent. I am at peace with the appearance of the rim top surface at this stage.I polished the rim top and the smooth band at the shank end with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1,500 to 12,000 grit pads. I wiped the surface with a moist cotton cloth to remove the resulting sanding dust. The rim top and the shank end band looks gorgeous and should provide a nice contrast to the dark brown hues of the stummel sandblasted surface once it is polished further. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar. I rubbed this balm deep in to the sandblasts with my fingers and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Now that the stummel refurbishing is nearly complete, save for the final wax polish, I turned my attention to the stem repairs. Though most of the oxidation was removed after I had scrubbed the stem with Scotch Brite and 0000 grade steel wool, slight traces of oxidation are still visible on the edges of the saddle at the tenon end. I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper, being especially careful around the saddle edge at the tenon end to avoid causing of the dreaded shouldering effect! I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and Murphy’s oil soap to further remove the visible oxidation. I am happy with the way this stem appears at this stage and also with the deoxidizer solution. I filled the tooth indentation in the button edge on lower stem surface with a mix of activated charcoal and CA superglue and set it aside for the fill to cure. Once the fill had cured sufficiently, with a tightly folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I sanded down the fill to match with rest of the stem surface. With the same piece of sand paper, I sharpened the button edge on the upper surface. I further sand the stem with 400, 600 and 800 grit sand paper and wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. To impart a nice deep glossy shine to the stem, I polished it with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finished the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny.To apply the finishing touches, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stem to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax to the stummel and stem and continued to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and gave the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe is shown below. P.S. – Since the completion of this restoration, I have smoked this pipe and included it in my rotation. Believe you me; this pipe smokes perfect with a nice, smooth draw right to the end. This leads me to think, is it only necessary to have Dunhill, Barling’s, Comoy’s etc, as fantastic smokers? Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about this brand and the write up. Cheers…

3 thoughts on “Refurbishing a “S & R” Chunky Rhodesian Pipe

    1. David Wilson

      Rose is still making pipes in Columbus, Ohio. She makes custom pipes and also makes pipes for Pipes and Pleasures tobacco store in east Columbus (Whitehall). Steve died several years ago. Roswetha sold the store to one of their workers and it does a great business still. I visit a couple times a year when I visit my family in central Ohio. I own seven of their pipes; three carved by Steve and four by Roswetha. I love them all. If you’re interested in one, contact Iris at Pipes and Pleasures. She’ll hook you up.


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