Restoring a Ropp Standard Cherrywood Poker from Bob Kerr’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen from Bob Kerr’s Estate is a Ropp Cherrywood Poker.Apple with a slender stem. (his photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in most of the restorations of the estate to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Be sure to check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/).

This Cherrywood Poker is stamped Ropp in an oval [over] Standard [over] Made in France on the heel of the bowl. The tapered stem does not have the typical Ropp brass logo so I am not sure if it is an original. It is oxidized and has light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There is some calcification on the stem with damage to the button. The bark on the exterior of the bowl is grimy and dirty. There is a thick cake and lava overflow on the rim top. There is some damage on top & edges. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup. The bark on the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit from years of use and sitting. The rim top was covered with a coat of thick lava that overflowed the bowl. There was also some darkening on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The bowl itself had a thick cake with flecks of tobacco stuck in the cake on the sides.Jeff took photos of the sides and the heel of the bowl to give a better feel for the condition of the bark around the bowl.The next photo shows the stamping on the heel of the bowl and it is very readable. It reads as noted above. The stem was dirty and extremely oxidized. Once again the stem appeared to be a replacement as I have learned Bob was a chewer and his stems seemed to have been replaced often. This one at least fit well to the shank and did not yet have the chew marks that were a norm on Bob’s pipes.I wanted to refresh my memory on the brand so I turned for a short, quick summary to Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-ropp.html). I have included the pertinent information from that site below:

Brand created by Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) and continued throughout 3 generations. “GBA Synergie” run by Bernard Amiel (†2008) bought back Ropp in 1988 and owned it until 1991. The company was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Chacom, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix…) in 1994.

I also turned to Pipedia to see if there was any additional information that would be helpful (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ropp). I quote the portion of the article on the Cherrywood pipes.

Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) had acquired a patent for a cherrywood pipe (wild cherry, lat.: Prunus avium) in 1869. In 1870 he established a workshop to manufacture such pipes in Büssingen (Bussang, Vosges mountains). Around 1893 the business moved into the former mill of Sicard (part of the community of Baume-les-Dames – Département Doubs, Upper Burgundy – from 1895 on)… Even though cherrywood pipes were the mainstay of Ropp until the company finally closed down in September 1991. The company was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Chacom, Jeantet, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix…) in 1994.

The pipe thus was made in France sometime prior to the closure in 1991. It is made from wild cherry and was a specialty of Ropp. I have worked on quite a few over the years but I had forgotten all the dates and information. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

With over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate I took a batch of them to the states with me when I visited and left them with Jeff so he could help me out. Jeff cleaned the pipes with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. Once he finished he shipped them back to me. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed it with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what cleaned bowl and rim top looked like. The rim top shows damage and charring on the inner edge of the bowl. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the light tooth marks and the remaining oxidation on the stem surface.I took a photo of the stamping on the heel of the bowl and it is clear and readable. It is stamped as noted above. Now, on to my part of the restoration of this Ropp Standard Cherrywood. I decided to start by dealing with the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the edge and give it a slight bevel to remove the damaged area and bring the bowl back into round.I polished the top of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the briar down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bark on the bowl sides and shank as well as the smooth heel and rim top with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after the last sanding pad. The shine was perfect. This Ropp Standard Cherrywood French made pipe from Bob Kerr’s estate turned out to be a great looking pipe. The natural bark finish and the polished smooth Cherry top and heel of the bowl look very good. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and works well with the polished vulcanite taper 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 cherrywood. I gave the bowl and 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 Ropp Standard Cherrywood 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I have more to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

 

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