Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the worktable is an incredibly detailed carved figural head that has a lot of character in the well carved features that Jeff picked up from an auction in the Midwest of the US. It has a tapered horn stem that has a threaded tenon that screw into the shank. The finish is smooth under the carved head and the shank and heel of the bowl. There appears to be some nice grain around the bowl. The curves of the shank and stem give the pipe a sense of true dignity. The pipe is stained with various hues of brown. The pipe is stamped with HWB in an oval followed by Modele Depose on the left side of the shank. There is no other stamping on the bowl or shank of the pipe. The pipe is far from being a collectible decorative piece and was obviously an earlier pipeman’s favourite smoker. The finish was very dirty and tired looking with a lot of grime and oils ground into the sides of the bowl. There was a thick cake in the bowl overflowing with tars onto the rim top. There is also some darkening on the inner edge of the rim top. There was repaired damage on the bill of the hat and there were also burn marks on the back corners of the heel of the bowl. The tapered horn stem is heavily damaged with a crack in the left side near the shank junction and both the top and underside of the first inch of stem is well chewed with a bite through on the top side. The button is worn down and the sharp edge all but flattened. Because of the uniqueness of this particular pipe Jeff took a lot of photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff took photos around the bowl from various angles to show the well done carving on this pipe. You can see in the first photo below the repair that had been done to the right side of the bill of the hat somewhere in the pipe’s journey. It was well done and solid. Look at the details in the carving. The fancy hat band on the hat with the triple lines on the front/back/sides that are carried over the rim top are an example. Note the cross medal on the front of the collar. Note the features of the hair on the head and the moustache. It is a well carved piece of briar. Jeff captured the condition of the rim top. It is hard to see but the triple lines on the outer edges continue across the rim of the bowl. You can see the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the rim top. It was a well-loved and oft smoked pipe.Jeff also took a photo of the heel of the bowl. The briar is quite beautiful as you can see. The base or heel is spade shaped and flows from the shoulders of the bust above. The base is not flat but it can be balanced as a sitter. Quite a beauty. You can also see the flaw in the briar toward the front of the bowl. He also took photos of the stamping on the shank. It includes an HWB in an oval followed by the words Modele Depose. I have been unable thus far to find out any information on the HWB brand but I did a quick search of the translation of Modele Depose. I included that below
Modèle Déposé noun, masculine it translates as registered design and less commonly as registered pattern.
This is the first clue that leads me to think that the pipe is French made. As I examine the pipe and get input there will be more clues.The next photos reveal the well-used condition of the horn stem. It was very dry and had a crack at the shank/stem junction as seen in the first photo. The second photo shows a long view of the stem and you can see the striations of the horn on the underside. The final two photos below show the chewed end of the stem just ahead of the button. On the top side of the stem there is a hole all the way through to the airway below. There is quite a bit of damage to the stem that will need to be addressed. For his final photos of the pipe before cleaning Jeff unscrewed the stem from the shank and took pictures. The photos show the condition of mortise and tenon. It actually looks to be in excellent condition.Before turning to my restoration of the pipe I decided to see if I could figure out who the figure depicted. Both Jeff and I wondered if it was not General Charles de Gaulle. I posted a query for help on the Facebook group – Tobacco Pipe Restorers and received a lot of responses. The options included General De Gaulle of France, Philippe Pétain (the Lion of Verdun) France, Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre of France, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, Otto von Bismarck of Germany and even a suggestion that it was a Victorian Baseball player. I thank each of those who responded as each one took me closer to a solution.
Here is what I have learned so far:
- The figure is probably French and definitely military.
- The figure is from the period of or directly after World War I.
- The figure was a hero of some sort, a key figure that was commemorated by the carving.
That is what I know so far. That is progress. During the night I received a response from Aaron Comsia on Facebook Tobacco Pipe Restorers Group that noted the medal around the neck of the figure. He included the following photo of French medal matching the one on the figure’s neck. I have included that below.The medal was another clue further confirming a French connection of both the figure and the pipe. The stamping pointed to France and the Medal on the neck of the figure pointed to France. Now I knew that I could eliminate the German figures and the Baseball player. That left me with four options – General de Gaulle, General Philippe Pétain, Marshal Ferdinand Foch and finally Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre. I decided to find photos of these figures (some I picked up on the web and others were shared by those from the group who put the person forth in response to my question). I will work through them in order and narrow the field further.
General Charles de Gaulle was the choice of three of four of the responders to my question for who people thought the figure represented. I found a younger and an older photo of General de Gaulle. Comparing these photos to the carved figural above I note some dissimilarities that take de Gaulle off the list. These include a longer narrower face, a smaller and thinner moustache and the large prominent nose. The carved figure had a rounder, fuller face and a thick moustache and a smaller nose. The hat is also different in these two photos and in others that I scanned on the web. I am as certain as I can be that the figure is not General Charles de Gaulle.
The second choice that came up more than once was General Philippe Pétain. He had been acknowledged as having saved the French Army in 1917 at Verdun. His exploits there earned the moniker ‘Lion of Verdun’. He was a prominent figure in French political and military history. During World War II he became part of the Viche Government (working with the Nazi’s in France). For many this would have made him a collaborator. Here are two photos of Pétain that I found online.Comparing these photos to the carved figural above I thought for some time that I had found the right historical character to match the pipe. Looking at the photo the hat is the same as the carved head. The nose and moustache are close for sure but there is some dissimilarity as well when I studied the face. The eyes on the photos are much closer set with the nose than on the figure. The jawline is also different in that the carved figure seems to have a more round chin and the upper jaw seem to extend over the lower much more than in the photos. Given those features and his connection to the Vichy Government I think I can rule out General Philippe Pétain personage of the carving. To be honest this was a hard one to let go of for me.
The third choice that came up several times was Marshal Ferdinand Foch. Marshal Foch was a noted French commander during World War I. One respondent on the group, Taeve Schaer commented that many carvers in St.Claude, France (they call themselves the cradle of pipemaking) did these pipes. Many of the carvings were of Marshal Foch. Several responders included the photo of Foch on the right. I found the second one and included them both here.Comparing these photos to the carved figural above I thought for some time that this was a good possibility. Taeve Schaer’s comment about many carved figural pipes of Marshal Foch were made in St. Claude. Looking at the photo the hat is the same as the hat on the carved head. The nose and moustache are close for sure but there is some dissimilarity as well when I studied the face. The drooping brows and eyes on the photos are different than those on the figure. The jawline is also different in that the carved figure seems to have a more round chin and the upper jaw seem to extend over the lower much more than in the photos. The cleft in the chin is also notably missing in the carving. The moustache is longer and more ragged than the cropped one on the carved figure. Given those features I think I can rule out Marshal Ferdinand Foch as the personage of the carving. This was easier to let go of than Pétain.
The fourth choice that came to me was that the figure was Marshal Joseph Joffre. Chris van Hilst suggested Joffre and included a photo of another carved figural pipe of Joffre from 1917. Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre (12 January 1852 – 3 January 1931), was a French general who served as Commander-in-Chief of French forces on the Western Front from the start of World War I until the end of 1916. He is best known for regrouping the retreating allied armies to defeat the Germans at the strategically decisive First Battle of the Marne in September 1914.
I used the photo of the figural of Joffre and picture that I found online. I have included them both below. You can see the similarity between that figural and Joffre for sure. But did it match the figural that I was working on? I have included a frontal view of the figural I am working on below these two photos. What do you think?From my perspective the facial features match this choice the best. The jawline, the nose, the moustache, the set of the eyes and the hat as well as the medal on the chest of the figural and the picture of Joffre all point to the similarities between Joffre and the pipe that I have. I am convinced that the pipe is indeed Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre. I am sure some of you will not be convinced but that is my logic.
I did some more reading about Joffre on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Joffre). It included the previous information I included above but also the following:
…His political position waned after unsuccessful offensives in 1915, the German attack on Verdun in 1916, and the disappointing results of the Anglo-French offensive on the Somme in 1916. At the end of 1916 he was promoted to Marshal of France, the first such promotion under the Third Republic, and moved to an advisory role, from which he quickly resigned. Later in the war he led an important mission to the United States. His popularity led to his nickname Papa Joffre.
It makes good sense to me that a pipe carver in St. Claude with HWB would so beautifully capture the features of Papa Joffre. Now it was time to do my part of the restoration of this pipe. Jeff had done his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall reamer. He cleaned out the internals of the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He carefully scrubbed the grime and oils off the surface of the briar with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. He rinsed it with warm water and dried it off with a soft towel. He set it aside to air dry before putting it back together. When he brought it to Oregon on a recent trip we made pre-COVID-19 I was stunned at how well it had cleaned up. I have wanted to work on it for a while now but somehow had mislaid it. I found it recently and brought it to the worktable. Here is what it looked like before I started. I took close-up photos of the bowl and rim top and stem to show how much better they looked. You can see the lines from the front, back and sides of the hat carried across the rim top. The briar is clean and quite beautiful to me. The issues with the pipe really involved the stem more than anything else. There was the split in the left side at the shank and the bit through and gnawing on the top and underside of the stem. The stem was really a mess and had been well used. That is where the lion’s share of my work would come.I took photos of the sides and front of the bowl to show the fine details of the carving now that it is cleaned up. The repair to the right front of the bill of the hat is also visible. It really is a well carved figural. I only wish I could find information on the initials HWB on the shank side. I took another photo of the stamping on the left shank side in hopes that it may register with a reader of the blog. I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts.Now it was time to start the restoration. I wanted to minimize the flaw on the right cheek. It appear to be damaged. I filled in with CA glue to lessen it slightly and feathered the edges with a corner of sandpaper. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out and reduce the damage on the burned rear corners of the base. I touched up the repaired areas on the face, the heel edges and the bill of the hat with a mixture of Cherry, Maple and Mahogany stain pens. The three pens blended together to match the surround areas of the briar. I was happy with the look of the repairs.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush and q-tip to work it into the nooks and crannies of the carving. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for ten minutes and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the carved bowl at this point in the restoration process. It almost looks oily at this point but that will soak into the briar as it sits while I work on the stem. I set the bowl aside at this point and moved on to address the issues with the stem. I cleaned out the crack on the left side of the stem and the chewed area on the underside of the stem and gave them both the first fill coat of clear CA glue. These were the straightforward repairs to the stem. I have found that clear super glue stabilizes the horn in damaged areas and binds split in the stem very well.The damage on the topside of the stem required more work. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and slid it into the airway in the stem. It plugged the bite through area on the top of the stem and would keep the glue from closing the airway. I put drops of super glue on the stem surface and after the first layer I removed the pipe cleaner. The bite through was sealed. I continued to layer on the glue repairs until the surface of the stem was even with the surrounding sound horn areas. I sprayed the area with an accelerator – and promptly was reminded why I did not do that normally! The glue dried WHITE… and it was ugly. I am not sure what the accelerator adds but what normally dries clear went white… now I had one more issue to address. I sanded the crack repair on the shank end of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and was able to blend it in quite well. I filled in the very end of the crack with more glue. To remove as much of the whitening as I could I scraped the top file with a dental pick. I stained it with a maple stain pen and applied another coat of CA glue over the top of it. I added another layer of glue to the underside at the same time. The repair was looking better. You have to remember that the repair will always show at some level but to me darker is better than WHITE.Once the repair cured I used a needle file to redefine the sharp edge of the button and to flatten out the repair and begin to blend it into the surface of the stem. Ahhh… even though there is still a long way to go I feel like I am making some progress.I sanded out the repaired areas of the stem to blend them into the surrounding areas with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the repairs with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The repair to the crack on the left topside of the stem looks very good and has blended in very well. The areas around the button look much better and with polishing will look even better. Progress is evident now.The stem was now ready to be polished. I use micromesh sanding pads to polish out the scratches in the horn. I find that wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil enlivens and enriches the horn and a beautiful shine begins to appear that really bursts forth with the last set of sanding pads. I polished it further with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Pipe Polish. I rub the Fine and Extra Fine polishes into the stem surface with my fingertips. I let it sit for a few moments and the buff the each polish off with a soft cotton cloth. I find that these polishes actually take the shine to another level. I finished my work on the stem by rubbing it down with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil as it protects and enlivens the horn even more. I am pretty happy with the stem. It is highly functional and though far from what it was originally it looks really good to my eye. This has been an incredibly fun pipe to restore. The reading and history lessons learned in the process were great. The interactions with the various people on the Facebook Pipe Restorers Group were invaluable and enjoyable as well. It really was like having folks in my shop while I restored the pipe and I could ask questions. Thank you all!
Now I was at one of the best parts of restoration for me – putting it all back together again and seeing how the pipe looks. I put the stem on the shank and carefully buffed the pipe with a lightly loaded buffing wheel of Blue Diamond polish. I wanted to be careful to not fill in the fine details with the polish but I wanted to get the benefit of a buff. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe really has come alive and the figure is so well done that I have found myself just stopping and studying the handiwork of the unknown HWB carver. The dimensions of the pipe are probably helpful to give perspective now. The length from the tip of the hat bill to the end of the button is 6 ½ inches, the height from the top of the hat to the edge of the French medal 2 ½ inches. The outside diameter of the bowl is 1 ¾ inches long by 1 ½ inches wide. The diameter of the chamber is ¾ of an inch. The photos below of the finished pipe tell the finished story. Papa Joffre will not be leaving me anytime soon. Way too much enjoyment in just observing it and turning it over in my hands! I am looking forward to loading and enjoying a bowl. If you have read through the entirety of this blog I want to thank you for your time.