Refurbishing an Edwards Unique – I have no idea what to call the shape

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is a really uniquely shaped Edwards. It is even hard to describe what the shape is – a snail, a tooth, a blowfish with legs??? I have no idea what to call it. I reread one of the blogs I wrote on an Edwards I restored and there is a very appropriate quote there describing this pipe ( I quote:

…The available shapes that the pipes came out it spoke of a very fluid design philosophy. Pipedia says that “Edward’s Design Philosophy is hard to pin down, think of their style as the “American Charatan” with unique & clever twists all their own.”

Jeff picked Edwards in an auction in Oklahoma. It caught his eye and as he watched the auction he decided it was meant to be ours. Neither of us has ever seen one like this. The finish was very dull and seemed to have remnants of shellac on the surface in spots. The smooth sides, front, back, heel and rim top work well with the unique rustication on the shank bottom and top. There is a vulcanite shank extension on the end of the shank. The shape is flat on both sides of the bowl and rounded on the top, front and back. The bottom has four feet on it. The stamping on the left side of the shank reads Edward’s in script. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Algerian Briar. On the heel of the bowl it is stamped EF1 over Handmade. The bowl was lightly smoked with no cake. There was no lava overflow and the rim edges were in great condition. The stem and shank extension were lightly oxidized. There was light tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. 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 minimal cake in the bowl and the clean rim top. It looked like a pipe that had hardly been used. It must have been sitting in someone’s cupboard for a long time to accumulate the dust and debris in the bowl and in the rusticated portions. Jeff took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish on the pipe. The shellac coat appears to have gone cloudy on the surface of the briar. The photos show mixed grain on the sides, heel and rim of the pipe. Under the cloudiness of the finish it was a nice looking bowl. The shape pretty well follows the flow of the grain. Jeff took two close-up photos of the rustication on the shank top and bottom. It is almost like scales it is very well done and interesting looking. It is very tactile.He took some photos of the stamping on the shank. The stamping was readable and clear. On the left side you can see Edward’ stamped in a smooth band. On the right side it is stamped Algerian Briar.  On the heel of the bowl is stamped EF1 and Handmade.  I wonder if EF1 is a designation for Edwards Freehand pipes. There is also a smooth band of briar between the vulcanite shank extension and the shank.  He also included a photo of the rustication on the bottom of the shank to show its uniqueness. 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 curve of the full stem. The final photo shows the fancy turning of the chair-leg style stem. Jeff took a photo of the stem removed from the shank to show the shank extension and tenon of the pipe. You can see the dust and debris in the turns of the stem and shank in the photo.Across the board they were all Algerian Briar and all were unstained waxed or oiled briar. I remember reading that actually oil curing was a feature of their pipes. I did a quick look on Pipedia (’s) and found that I was correct. I quote:

Edward’s pipes were originally produced in St. Claude France when France actually was a world-class pipe maker with longstanding business & political connections to Colonial Algeria that allowed them to obtain the finest briar.

During the tumultuous 1960’s, Edward’s created a business model to offer the finest briar available in both Classic and Freehand shapes – all at a fair price. They bought the company & equipment and cornered the market on the finest, choice Algerian Briar just before the supply vanished in political turmoil of Algeria’s independence. Edward’s packed up both machinery and briar-treasure to America, safely caching the essentials to create a new pipe-making dynasty. This was a coup, for the 70’s and 80’s were grim years for pipe smokers as quality briar all but disappeared.

All of Edward’s pipes are Algerian Briar – a fact very few pipe companies can claim, and all are oil-cured utilizing natural finishes – no strange concoctions are used to interfere in your tastebud’s dance with the briar. Algerian, Calabrian, Sardinian, Corsican – take your pick, but Algerian Briar is generally considered the finest smoking briar ever used. When combined with oil-curing, Algerian takes on a magical quality that even Alfred Dunhill recognized as far back as 1918 as the choice for both his Bruyere and Shell.

With that information on the brand in hand I turned to the pipe. Jeff had done 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 wiped down the surface with acetone to remove the shellac coat. 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. You can see that it has a few small nicks but otherwise the rim top looks flawless. The stem looked good just some light tooth chatter and marks near the button. Overall the pipe is a beautiful looking piece. I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It read as noted above. It is very clear and readable.Because the pipe was in such good condition there was little rehabilitative work to do on the bowl or rim. I started my work immediately by polishing 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 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 carefully 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 uniquely shaped Edward’s Freehand looks like along with the polished fancy vulcanite stem. This is nice 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: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. It is another beautiful pipe and one that will be staying with me in my collection. I have worked on a lot of Edward’s pipes over the years but I have never seen one shaped like this one.Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.           

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