Breathing Life into a Peterson’s Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

My local pipe shop gave my name and number to a pipewoman here in town that had a pipe she needed cleaned up. She called me at work a few weeks ago and made an appointment for her to come by the house and have a chat about her pipe. At this point I had not seen the pipe only what she had spoken about it. The pipe was what she called a ceremonial pipe that she used in some of the ceremonies that she was involved in. She said it was a part of the meditative process that she led groups through on retreats. When she came I was not sure what to expect of either her or the pipe. She came to the door yesterday afternoon and dropped the pipe by. She was a woman about my age, blonde and blue eyed (totally not what I expected) and the pipe was a Peterson’s Churchwarden (again not what I had expected). We chatted for a bit and she left the pipe with me to clean up. I took the lid off the box this morning to work on the pipe. Here is what it looked like before I started. The pipe was dirty with the stink of ceremonial tobacco. There was a thin cake in the bowl and overflowing onto the rim top. There was some darkening to the rim top and some damage to the inner edge of the bowl. There was some gummy tar on the sides of the bowl and shank. I took photos of the rim top to show the damage and the cake in the bowl. I also took photos of both sides of the stem to show the light tooth marks and chatter.I took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It read Peterson’s Churchwarden.I reamed the bowl of the pipe with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to bare briar so that I could check the walls for damage. I sanded the walls with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel to clean up the interior walls.I scraped off the buildup on the rim top with the sharp edge of the Fitsall knife. That removed most of the damage. I would finish removing it through the rest of the process.I scraped out the mortise with a pen knife to remove the tarry build up in that area. I cleaned the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the remaining oils and tars. I scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed it off with warm water to remove the grime and the dirt that was left behind. I cleaned up the rim top and inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening and the damage to the inner edge.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the finish off with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The pipe began to take on a real shine. I rubbed the bowl and shank 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. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. The light tooth chatter and bite marks had been easily removed with a little heat from a lighter flame. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to remove the last of the scratches. I gave it a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to protect the stem and enliven the rubber. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through on the rim top and the rustication coming to life. Added to that the long polished black churchwarden stem with the stamped P was beautiful. This smooth finish Peterson’s Churchwarden is nice looking and feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 10 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I made a call to pipewoman who owns the pipe and she will pick it up this evening. I hope she enjoys the fresh pipe and gets a lot of use out of it. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.

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