Blog by Steve Laug
I have a small but growing sub-collection of Patent and Patent Applied For pipes. All of them have the same purpose – to provide a perfect smoke. All of them have a variety of internal plumbing to filter and cool a smoke. The concept was that the moisture and heat of the smoke was collected on various surfaces and contraptions in the stem or shank and a cooler smoke flows through the mouthpiece to the smoker. This is yet another of those interesting pieces that came out made a small splash and soon disappeared into the shadows of the past. This pipe is stamped KEN on the top of the hexagon shaped stem (which in this case is an opaque red plastic). There is a smooth panel on the left side of the shank that read Ken in script over PAT. APLD. On the underside of the shank it is stamped with a large upper case hollow point A. The finish on the pipe is rusticated with a tight rustication pattern that covers the bowl, rim and shank. There is a black ring at the shank end. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lava had overflowed onto the rim top filling in the rustication. The mouthpiece was oxidized and had a lot of tooth chatter and marks on both sides that showed that the stem itself was made of red acrylic. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it. He took a photo of the rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top filling in the rustication. He took some photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the underside. He also took a photo of the stamp on the topside of the stem – KEN. Jeff removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the end of the stem. The photo shows the build up of grime on the stem end and inside. The metal plumbing on the end of the shank is filthy with tars and oils. There is a cap and a tube inside of it. There is a small elastic holding the end of the cap closed. There is a rubber grommet on the shank end that holds the stem in place on the shank. The next two photos of the stem show the tooth marks and chatter on both sides in front of the button. There is also some wear on the edge of the button as well.I turned to Pipephils’ site to see if there was any information on the site that could give me the background on the brand. I knew I was dealing with an early version of the design because of the Patent Applied for stamp on the shank (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-k1.html). I did a screen capture of the section of the page.The section on Pipephil had some additional pages that gave more information on the brand. The first of these shows the system after the modification of the patent. There are now screws holding parts together rather than the pipe I was working on that was pre-patent.The other additional pages showed the Patent drawings. They were filed on December 30, 1939 and the patent granted on May 20, 1941. The last page that came up was the one below showing the pipe with a blue acrylic or Bakelite stem and a different rustication pattern.From there I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/KEN) and looked up the brand. I was surprised to find the following short description of the pipe and the maker. I quote in full below. I also included the advertisement that was in the article as well as another photo of the system.
KEN Brand Pipes are made by Prim Associates of America out of Chicago, Ill. The design is unique and somewhat complex and has a patent by Otto Turinsky. This patent was applied for in Dec. 1939 and granted in May 1941, Pat No 2,242,805. An ad in Popular Mechanics from 1946 shows the pipe costing $3.50 and shows Six Key features of the Ken Pipe along with a Money Back Guarantee! Stem is Lucite and the interior chamber contains various technical features to remove tar, moisture, burnt tongue and remove impurities. Armed with the information above I was excited to work on this system pipe that fascinated me. I turned to work on the pipe on my work table. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He worked on the rim edge lava and darkening with the soap and tooth brush. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub. He washed it off with warm water to remove the cleaner. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem to show how clean they were. The bowl top and rim are absolutely clean and there is no damage to the edges of the bowl. The stem looks clean and there are light tooth marks and heavy tooth chatter. I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. They are clean and readable and read as noted above. I took photos of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of stem, tenon and the system plumbing. They also give a clear picture of the pipe.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I took the cap off the end of the tube and took photos of the pipe to show this part of the system. It is truly quite a contraption.I set the bowl aside and worked over the tooth marks and blended them into the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. At this point it is starting to look much better. I touched up the Ken stamp on the topside of the stem with some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold and a toothpick. It was not too deeply stamped so the coverage was uneven.I polished the acrylic with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This Ken System Pipe was an interesting pipe to work on. The mix of brown stains on the rustication around the bowl sides, top and bottom made the rusticated patterns sparkle. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well with the polished red acrylic taper hexagonal stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax by hand and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Ken System pipe fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will be added to my collection of odd and unusual system pipes. It is a great addition. Thanks for your time.