Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table is a large egg shaped pipe with a thick shank. It has a short tapered stem. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads A. Curtz 7. I had heard about the name in connection with Jeanie’s Smoke Shop in Salt Lake City but I had never worked on one of the pipes. The finish is smooth and has some great grain around the sides, top and bottom of the bowl and shank. It was quite dirty but still had a charm about it. The bowl was caked and there was a light lava coat on the inner edge of the thin rim. The stem was vulcanite and was a tapered. It was lightly oxidized and there were light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem. There was an interesting 2 circle logo on the topside of the taper that looked like a large white circle with an offset red circle inside of it. Jeff took some photos of the pipe to show the general condition of the pipe before he started his clean up.He took some photos of the rim top and bowl from various angles to give me a clear picture of the condition of the rim top and bowl. You can see the cake in the bowl and the darkening and lava coat. It is hard to tell if there was any damage to the edge at this point. Jeff took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish on the pipe. The photos show mixed grain on the sides, heel and rim of the pipe. Under the oils and grime it was a nice looking bowl. It is a large pipe with a shape that follows the grain. He took some photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank. The stamping was readable and uneven in quality. My guess at this point is that the “7” is a grade stamp but I will do some digging into that. He also took a photo of the inset dual circle logo on the stem top.The next two photos show the top and underside of the stem. It is dirty and has calcification on both sides at the button. There is also some tooth chatter and some light tooth marks. The third photo shows the condition of the slot while the final photo shows the curve of the full stem.To learn a bit more about the brand I turned to Pipephil to see what I could find out (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html). It turns out the pipe was made by an artisan named Arley Curtz who was from Utah. I did a screen capture of the information on the Pipephil site and include it below.I then turned to Pipedia to find out some more dedtail (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Curtz). The information was brief but helpful. I have included that article below.
Arley G. Curtz retired the director of the Bountiful Davis Art Center (Bountiful, Utah) and is now a pipe repairman and pipe maker. He was formerly the pipe repairman at Jeanie’s Smoke Shop, and has been making pipes ever since.
He makes about 70 pipes a year using Greek and Italian briar. His pipes are available at Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco Shop in Denver, CO, at the Tinderbox in Salt Lake City, on the web at The Pipe and Pint, and at Curtz Handmade Pipes and Pipe Repair in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I did a bit more searching to learn more about the repairman/pipe maker. I came across a 2018 article on a site called Utahstories (https://utahstories.com/2018/05/arley-curtz-pipe-making-and-memory-collecting/). The article included a photo of Arley Curtz that I have inserted below. I am also including a short section of the article that makes me want to meet this gentleman.
For Arley Curtz, a pipe is more than just a way to smoke tobacco. It summons up a time when pipe smoking was both acceptable and part of a gentler civility in our culture.
Curtz is a pipe maker and collector of smoking pipes. He has over 300, ranging from simple corn cobs to handmade antiques. Each one has a story. As the smoke from a pipe curls upwards, it allows Curtz a time to pause and reflect. “A pipe,” he says, “is a keeper of memories.”
Just as a pipe cannot be smoked in haste, a handmade pipe requires patience to craft. Curtz forms his pipes from briarwood, which grows in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
I only wish I had found this earlier before I met my brother in Salt Lake City and visited Jeanie’s Smoke Shop. I would have certainly made a point to visit Arley at his own shop and gotten to meet him. Until my next trip to Idaho to visit my Dad and brother I will leave this on my wish list. Now to get on with working on his pipe.
Jeff did his usual thorough job cleaning the pipe which I really appreciate because of the freedom it gives me in dealing with pipes. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and got rid of the cake. He cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife so that we could see the walls of the bowl and assess for damage. He cleaned the internals of the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and alcohol. He scrubbed the exterior with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. He rinsed the pipe under warm water. He dried it off with a cloth and then let it air dry. The stem was scrubbed with Soft Scrub and had a soak in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. One it was rinsed off, it came out looking very good. The finish on the bowl and the rim top cleaned up nicely. I took pictures of the pipe to show how it looked when I unpacked it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show how clean it was. There was some damage and darkening on the inner edge of the rim on the front of the bowl. The stem looked good just some light tooth chatter and marks near the button. Overall the pipe is a beautiful looking piece.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above. It is very clear and readable.I decided to address the damage to the inner edge of the rim. In looking it over closely I could see damages at the front right and left. There some burned areas at those points that were deeper than the darkening. The damage was right on the top edge of the rim. I decided to lightly top it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage or at least minimize it. I followed up on that with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I worked over the top and edges to smooth out the rim edge and give it the original shape. I forgot to take a photo of the rim top at this point but it will become clear in the photos of the work with micromesh pads that follow.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping down the briar after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. The briar began to shine. I restained the polished rim top with a Maple stain pen to blend it into the surround briar. I am really happy with the match and the reshaped rim top and edges.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my finger tips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product is a great addition to the restoration work. It enlivens, enriches and protects the briar while giving it a deep glow. It is a product I use on every pipe I restore. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the light tooth marks and chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and polished the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish from a tin of it I have in the drawer here. It is a gritty red paste that I rub on with my finger tips and work it into the surface of the stem and button and buff it off with a cotton pad. It gives me a bit of a head start on the polishing work.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I buffed the stem with a soft cloth to raise the shine. I gave it a final wipe down with Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to protect the stem from UV and slow down future oxidation. I don’t know what it is about finishing a restoration but I have to tell you that it is my favourite part of the process. It is the moment when everything that I have been working on comes together. I can compare it to where I started and there is always the satisfaction that it does indeed look better than when Jeff and I picked it up. As always 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 buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like along with the polished chunky vulcanite stem. This Arley Curtz pipe is a great looking pipe and I am sure that it will be comfortable in hand when smoking as it is light and well balanced for a pipe of this size. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. It is another beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store soon. You can find it in the section of Pipes by American Pipe Makers. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.