Blog by Paresh Deshpande
The next pipe that caught my attention was a CHARATAN’S which was in one of the three very large boxes of pipes which I had inherited. Working on these inherited pipe is what I love the most because of the intrinsic connect I have with these pipes and the fact that once I pass away, these will be passed on to my kids as remembrance that their father had worked on restoring each of these vintage and priceless collection of pipes.
This Dublin had beautiful densely packed cross grains on the sides and also along the shank with some stunning bird’s eye grains to the front and back of the bowl. The bowl delicately flares up towards the rim top and together with the straight tapered vulcanite stem, lends this pipe a lovely Dublin shape with a charm and grace that can be seen on a well crafted pipe from this quality brand!! The overall large size of the pipe in general and the stummel in particular, lends this pipe a nice heft and fills up the palm nicely.The pipe is stamped as “CHARATAN’S MAKE” over “LONDON ENGLAND” over “DELUXE” over “SPECIAL” in block capital letters on the left side of the shank. It is also stamped with the letter “S” just forward of “SPECIAL” after letter L. The left side of the tapered stem is stamped with “CP” logo, with the lower half of the “C” embedded within the letter “P”. The stem logo is very delicate but crisp. The stampings on this pipe are crisp and easily readable. I searched Pipedia for more information about the brand and also to try and accurately date this pipe. Here is the link for the readers interested in history of Charatan’s and also in viewing a 1951 catalog (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Charatan).
“In 1863 Frederick Charatan, a Russian / Jewish immigrant, opened a shop in Mansell Street, located in the borough of Tower Hamlets, London E1, where he began to carve Meerschaum pipes.
Charatan was the first brand to make entirely hand-made briars from the rough block to the finished pipe including the stems. The nomenclature “Charatan’s make” refers to this method of production and was meant to differ Charatan from other brands who “assembled” pipes from pre-drilled bowls and delivered mouthpieces.”
Here is another link from the same page which takes the readers to an absolutely well researched page on Dating of Charatan’s (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dating_of_Charatans).
I have reproduced the relevant portions which had helped me in roughly dating this pipe.
The first step on dating a Charatan is to carefully look to some details:
- a) Shape of the mouthpiece
- b) Marking on the mouthpiece
- c) Engraving on the shank
- d) Shape and position of shank engraving/writing
This is because you can make the following conclusions:
- a) From 1863 to 1960 the mouthpieces have a normal shape, saddle or tapered. From 1961 they use the ‘Double Comfort’ style still used today. By the way there are some saddle bits (without the double comfort) used in pipes that date after 1960 but these models are always characterized by an X (in the place of the DC) engraved after the shape number on the shank. This means that if a pipe has a tapered mouthpiece instead of a double comfort one, it is definitely a pre-Lane pipe before 1960. While if a pipe has a normal saddle bit stem, it could belong to every era. Nevertheless the pipe is pre 1961 if the shape code does not include an X, and is a pipe from after 1960 if the X is engraved.
Finally any pipe with the double comfort stem is definitely after 1960.
- b) The CP logo on the stem is stamped in a different shape according the era it was used. Some differences are less obvious than others; however the glaring differences are detectable in 4 phases. The CP till the 1960 is very fine, the C penetrates the P.
From 1961 to 1977 the CP logo is more pronounced and the C penetrates the P.
I visited rebornpipes for clarification on the following issues which did not find mention on pipedia.org:
(a) The lack of shape code on this pipe.
(b) Grading/ hierarchy of this pipe in the line of Charatan’s offering. The relation between “DELUXE” and “SPECIAL” also did not find any explanation on pipedia.org.
(c) Lastly, the significance of the letter “S”!
There is a very informative article that Steve had re-blogged on Charatan’s Models & Shape Information for the Collector. Here is the link for this article; (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/08/22/charatan-models-shape-information-for-the-collector/).
I have reproduced relevant information from the above link
Charatan’s make “Apprenticeship” standard shape grades
Relief Grain (tan)
Relief Grain (dark)
From the above information, I assume that this particular piece dates from prior to 1960. The reason why I am not sure is that there is no shape code anywhere on the shank and the presence of the letter “S” without numerals 100, 200 etcetera, finds no explanation in all the eras that I read through. The stamp of “DELUXE” finds no explanation anywhere that I had searched. Well, the grey areas with respect to dating and grading this piece are too many and as always, may I request our esteemed readers to share any information that they have for the benefit of our piper community.
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The bowl is heavily caked with an equally heavy overflow of lava on to the rim top. The rim top surface has darkened considerably. The inner and outer rim edges appear to be damaged with a number of dents, dings and chipped edges, caused probably by banging the rim top against a hard surface to rid the chamber of all the dottle. The internal condition of the bowl can only be ascertained after the process of reaming is completed.The stummel and the shank are covered in grime and dust from years of use and subsequent storage, giving it a dull and a lackluster appearance. The stummel surface has taken on a nice patina which I intend to preserve. Through all the dirt and grime, beautiful bird’s eye grains peek out from the front and back of the stummel while tightly packed cross grains are seen to the sides and over the shank. A nice clean and polish will further accentuate this play of grains over the stummel surface. Air did not flow easily through the pipe and required some lung power to do so. The mortise is clogged with oils, tars and grime of all the yesteryear. This needs to be cleaned out.The stem is tapered vulcanite that is heavily oxidized. Heavy calcification can be seen on either stem surfaces in the bite zone. Apart from the calcification, both the upper and lower surfaces has a mysterious grey black patch extending for about an inch from the button edge. This, I suppose, would have to be some sort of a repair patch. Well, I shall get a closer look at it during the process of stem repairs. The horizontal slot and the tenon end are clogged with residual oils and tars and gunk, making air flow through the stem, laborious.All said and done, this pipe is in great condition given its appreciated age and the ruthless handling that it had survived at my grand old man’s hands. The large size, perfect heft, beautiful grains and the mysteriousness that surrounds its stamping, makes for an interesting project.
INITIAL CLEANING BY ABHA…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and these have now reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothened out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.
Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem. This time around she clicked a few pictures of the processes… ONCE THE PIPE IS ON MY WORK TABLE…
The cleaned up pipes presents a very clear picture of what needs to be done to restore this pipe to a pristine and smoke worthy condition. I really cannot thank Abha, my wife, enough for all the help and support that she extends me in my pursuance of this hobby. A clean pipe also helps in clearly identifying the work that would be required to restore a pipe. The pictures shows the condition of the pipe when it reached me after being cleaned. The stummel is solid without any flaws or fills. There are no dents or dings or chips to the stummel surface. The briar has taken on a nice deep colored patina which I shall endeavor to preserve. A nice polish and the beautiful grains should pop out and be on display in all their glory. The briar feels really solid and of high quality and the craftsmanship is also top notch. The smooth rim top surface is where the maximum damage is on this pipe. The outer rim edge is peppered all around with dents and dings and chipped edges. However, the damage to the outer edges in a 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock directions (both enclosed in red circles) is the most severe. The inner edge is also not spared of similar damage which is most severe in the 6 o’clock and 9 o’ clock directions. The rim top surface has considerably darkened around the inner edge; however, thankfully it is not charred. These issues will need to be attended to. The chamber has strong ghost smells. The thick chamber walls are solid without any signs of damage. The mortise and shank internals are also nice and clean now. The seating of the stem tenon into the mortise is snug and sits flush with the shank end.The oxidation on the tapered vulcanite stem has been removed, thanks to all the efforts put in by Abha. The slot, tenon end and stem internals are all clean and fresh. The large patch of grey on either surfaces of the stem is the only eyesore on this high quality vulcanite stem. If these are repair patches, then I must concede that though they are not aesthetically pleasing to the eye they are but rock solid!! I intend to sand them down to the vulcanite surface and if damaged, repair it using mix of activated charcoal and clear CA superglue which blends perfectly in to the surrounding stem surface.THE PROCESS
I start the refurbishing of this pipe with the stem repairs. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I sand down the grey patch from either surfaces of the stem. True enough, as anticipated, the bottom of the patch revealed a hole at the button edge. My guess is that it had been a through hole as a similar hole was revealed on the lower stem surface too.While I was sanding the patch, simultaneously, I worked the entire stem surface with the same piece of sand paper. I was very diligent and careful with the sanding around the stem logo. I further sand the entire stem with a 0000 grade steel wool. This helps to even out the deep scratches caused by the coarser grit sand paper. I wipe the stem with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab. This helps to clean the surface of all the dust and loosened residual oxidation from the stem surface. Once the stem surface is ice clean and dry, I insert a regular pipe cleaner coated in petroleum jelly through the slot end in to the airway. This prevents the glue from seeping into the airway and blocking it while helping in the smooth extraction of the pipe cleaner once the mix has cured. Thereafter, I mix a small quantity of activated charcoal and superglue and apply it over the holes and set the stem aside to cure. With the stem fill set aside to cure, I decide to address the issues on the stummel surface. I start by addressing the rim top surface damage. I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently till I am satisfied that the darkened surface is addressed to a great extent and the rim top surface is nice, smooth and even. The inner and outer edges are still uneven, though much better than before topping, and shall be addressed subsequently. The following pictures show the progress being made and improvements to the inner and outer rim edges. At this stage in refurbishing, I realize that the odors from the chamber are still strong and hence decide to address the issue of ghost smells by subjecting the chamber to a salt and alcohol bath. I wrap some cotton around a folded regular pipe cleaner, keeping the tip of the pipe cleaner free of wrapped cotton as this would be inserted through the draught hole in to the chamber. This would form the wick for the shank. I tightly pack the chamber with cotton balls and fill it with 99% pure isopropyl alcohol using a syringe and set it aside. By next day, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out the tars and oils from the chamber and max from the shank. With tools at my disposal, I scrap out the entire loosened gunk from the mortise and the airway leading to the draught hole. The stummel now smells fresh and is thoroughly clean. With a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I create a slight bevel on the inner and outer edges of the rim top surface. This helps to mask and address the minor dents and dings that had remained on the rim edges after topping. I am careful so as not to alter the profile of the stummel by excessive topping or creation of the bevels. I am pretty pleased with the appearance of the rim top and edges at this stage. This is followed up with the micromesh polishing cycle. I dry sand the stummel going through with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I wipe the stummel with a moist cloth after every three pads as this helps firstly, to remove the sanded dust and secondly, gives an idea of the progress being made and areas which need more attention. The stummel has taken a beautiful sheen and looks good. Discerning readers must have noted that I did not sand the stummel surface with a sand paper and have resorted to dry sanding with the micromesh pads. This is done so as to maintain the old patina which I want to preserve. I rub some “Before and After” restoration balm over the stummel surface with my fingers. This product has been developed by Mark Hoover and it helps to enrich and enliven the briar. For me it is an absolute “must have” item in my list of items for pipe restorations. I rub this balm in to the briar and set it aside for some time. The transformation is almost immediate and the stummel positively looks amazing. With the stummel nearly completed, I turn my attention back to the stem. The fill has cured nicely and with a flat head needle file, I sand the fill to achieve a rough match with the surrounding surface. To achieve a perfect match, I sand the stem with a 220 grit paper, progressively moving to 600 and 800 grit sand papers. As expected, a clean and neat looking stem stared back at me. I rub a little Extra Virgin Olive oil into the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside to be absorbed in to the vulcanite. Unfortunately, I missed out on taking pictures of this step. Suffice to say, I am very happy with the blending of the fill with the rest of the stem surface. I highlight the stem logo by filling it with a whitener pen and once it has dried, I carefully wipe out the excess with a cloth. The logo is now crisp and prominent.I finish the stem reconstruction by polishing the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I apply a small quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil to the vulcanite stem and rub some “Before and After” restoration balm before setting it aside.To apply the finishing touches to the pipe, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and 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 and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finish the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks beautiful and is ready to join my collection of the British pipes that I have inherited. The finished pipe looks robust yet elegant, the pictures speaking for themselves. P.S. First, this pipe bears some of the strangest stampings that I have come across on a Charatan’s to date. The absence of shape code, presence of both Deluxe and Special stamping and the letter S without any numeral like 100, 200 etc is truly baffling. I would be singularly thankful if any of the esteemed readers can shed some light over this aspect.
Thanks to all readers of rebornpipes who have spared a moment of their invaluable time in reading through this write up and as is always, your suggestions and advice are always welcome as this would not only help me but may also help the new pursuers of this art.