Blog by Paresh Deshpande
I had read about Etsy.com in various piper communities that I have subscribed to and on various blogs. My curiosity was thus stoked and I visited the site. True enough, I came across a lot of 40 pipes from an estate pipe seller. We struck a deal and about six months ago, this lot reached at my door step. Abha, my wife, though not very enthusiastic about the condition of a few pipes that were in the lot, was supportive enough to have chronicled each pipe and taken pictures of the entire lot. This lot did contain a few pipes that were worth adding to my personal collection and few that are, prima facie, not even worth attempting a restoration. However, on such pipes, I shall take a call as and when I get them on my work table (I hate discarding pipes in any condition!!). The pipe currently on my work table, from this lot, is humongous Cherry wood pipe with a thick removable cherry wood shank extension. This pipe is marked with a yellow arrow in the picture below and readers will also get a general idea about the size of this pipe.This sitter pipe has an intact bark all around the stummel and shank extension. The smooth bottom surface is at an angle which helps in weight distribution, making it a perfect sitter. The rim top, like the foot, is smooth. I wouldn’t exactly classify this pipe as beautiful, but it is definitely rugged looking with its own charm. Here are the pictures of the pipe as it sits on my work table. The pipe is stamped on the foot of the stummel as “REAL CHERRY” over “FOREIGN”, all in capital letters. The stampings are crisp and easily readable. However, there is no COM stamp anywhere on the pipe that would help me in establishing the provenance of this pipe. The vulcanite stem is devoid of any stampings.With no COM stamp, I am stonewalled in my quest to accurately ascertain the maker/ carver and in dating this pipe. I visited Reborn pipes, pipedia.org and pipephil.eu and from the write ups, pictures and information posted on these sites, my calculated guess is that this pipe would have been made in the ROPP factory for a retailer outside. From the perfectly round slot, I presume this to be a very early period, though, I am not very sure.
Any clarification/ confirmed inputs on this pipe are requested from all the learned readers of this write up!!
Initial Visual Inspection
The chamber has a thin and even layer of dry and hard cake with little overflow of lava on to the smooth rim top surface. The outward sloping rim top surface is stained a nice bright orange and is covered in places with overflowing oils and tars, but there are no signs of charring to the inner rim edge. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be checked and ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to the bare wood. The stain on the rim top surface should contrast beautifully with the rest of the dark colored bark of the stummel.The stummel has cherry bark all around which is covered in dust and grime. The bark is, however, intact. The Old bark has aged well and is beautiful in its patchy and scaly texture and color. There are signs of the beginnings of the process of exfoliation at the front of the stummel. The open area under the air hole at the bottom of the bowl and which houses the thick shank, shows minor accumulation of dried oils and crud. The flat bottom of the stummel, like the rim top surface, is stained bright orange. The long and thick cherry wood shank is tapered at both ends with a threaded stem end. The push fit tapered shank end that seats in to the stummel is uneven and covered in dust and grime. The cherry wood bark on the shank is intact and undamaged. The fit of the shank in to the stummel is snug and remains firmly attached. The thick rimmed full bent vulcanite saddle stem is lightly oxidized and is peppered with deep tooth chatter/ indentations on lower surface of the stem. The perfectly rounded slot of the stem has a number of cracks radiating outwards from the slot. The button edges on either surface have worn down slightly and will need to be sharpened. The wide chambered and threaded shank end of the stem shows accumulated dried dust and dirt. The seating of the stem over the the threaded shank is not flush and an irritating gap is clearly visible. It is likely that the issue will be addressed once the stem has been cleaned. The Process
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe with reaming the chamber with a Castleford reamer tool, using the size four head of the tool. Using my fabricated knife; I further took the cake down to the bare wood. With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, revealing smooth and solid chamber walls. I further wiped the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with isopropyl alcohol to completely remove the sanding dust. Next, I cleaned up the interior of the shank and open area under the air hole in the bottom of the bowl with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I was surprised at how little dirt, tar and oil had built up there. The shank internals cleaned up nicely with a smooth and full draw.I scrubbed the external surface of the bowl and shank with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I deliberately cleaned the smooth rim top to clean the entire lava overflow from the surface. The stummel and shank cleaned up nicely. I set them aside to dry out naturally. Staying with the stummel restoration, I polished the rim top surface and foot of the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. Both the surfaces look amazing with a deep shine. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the cherry wood stummel and shank to enliven and protect it. I rubbed this balm deep in to the patchy/ scaly surfaces of the stummel, smooth rim top, foot and shank with my fingers and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the wood now has a nice vibrant appearance with the dark brown hues of the bark contrasting with the deep orange stain of the rim top and foot. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Unfortunately, I completely missed out on taking pictures of this process and the results. I set the stummel aside.
Getting down to the stem repairs, I began with cleaning the stem air way and the threaded wide chamber. I painted both surfaces of the stem with the flame of a lighter to raise the tooth indentations to the surface. This also helps in loosening minor oxidation from the stem surface. I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper to even out the raised tooth chatter and the tooth indentations to a degree and also to remove the loosened oxidation. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and Murphy’s oil soap to further remove the oxidation. Most of the tooth chatter has been addressed by heating the damaged stem portion with the flame of a lighter; the minor tooth chatter visible on the lower surface in the bite zone should be completely eliminated during further sanding by sandpaper. At this stage in stem repairs, I now had a clear idea as to the extent of the repairs required by the stem. I tightly wound a scotch tape around the thin end of a tapered pipe cleaner and inserted it through the rounded slot. This prevents the fill from pouring down in to the slot and blocking the stem air way. I filled the cracks radiating outwards from the round slot 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 flat needle file I sanded the fills to match with rest of the button end. With the same file, I sharpened the button edge on both the upper and lower surface. I fine tuned the blending of the fill with the rest of the surface using a 220 grit sand paper and also sanded down the entire stem to remove the stubborn residual oxidation. I further sand the stem with 600 and 800 grit sand paper and wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I further smooth the fill and polished the entire stem with a 0000 grade steel wool. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. There was an issue of gap in the seating of the stem over the threaded shank end. I had hoped that after cleaning the stem internals this issue would be resolved. However, this did not happen. There was no other way, that I could think of to address this issue, but mask it (The Purist, though, may not agree with me on this thought process)!! I decided to mask this gap with a brass ring at the stem end of the shank. I selected a ring that was a tad smaller in diameter than the shank end. With a 220 grit sand paper, I carefully sand the very stem end of the shank, checking frequently for the seating of the ring. Once I had achieved the desired seating, I aligned the shank, ring and the stem. The assembled parts matched perfectly with no gap between the shank and stem and looked really nice. I glued the ring in to place with CA superglue and set it aside. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem at the end of the micromesh pads polishing cycle. I rubbed “Before & After Extra Fine” polish that has been developed by my friend, Mark Hoover, in to the stem surface. This removes minor oxidation and scratches from the surface. I completed the polishing regime 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 deepen the shine further. The finished pipe is shown below. P.S. – This is in no way a beautiful pipe, but a rugged and rustic looking with such a solid construction that it is capable of lasting for ages!! It has its own charm and the addition of the shiny brass ring at the stem end of the shank has given it some bling, breaking the monotony of cherry wood and how!!
Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs on the write up and any information on this pipe. Cheers…