Breathing Life into a Medico Crest Artisan Freehand from Bob Kerr’s Estate

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen from Bob Kerr’s Estate is a Medico Artisan Freehand. (Bob’s 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. Check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blogs that include the biographical notes about Bob (

The Medico Artisan Freehand has a smooth finish and a smooth rim top. It has carved indentations around the bowl sides. It was stamped on the underside of the heel. It read Medico Crest Artisan Imported Briar. The finish was dirty with dust and grime ground into the bowl sides. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lava overflow on the rim top. The vulcanite stem was oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter near the button on both sides. It appears that the tenon is drilled to accommodate a Medico paper filter. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup. The exterior of the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit ground in 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 briar around the bowl.     The next photo show the stamping on the underside of the shank and it is very readable. It reads as noted above. The second photo shows the stamped Medico M shield logo on the top of the stem.The stem was dirty and oxidized with light tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside of the stem at the button. This one at least did not have the chew marks that were a norm on Bob’s pipes.   Before doing cleanup work on the pipe I decided to do some research on the pipe. I have worked on and smoked Medico pipes in the past but I have never worked on a Medico Crest Artisan in the past. I decided to look on the normal sites to see what I could find out about this line. I looked first on the Pipephil website and found some information on the Medico Crest line with a similar logo as this pipe but nothing on the Crest Artisan line. I did a screen capture of the pertinent information on the logo itself ( The crest is similar but it has an M in the center and seems to have been gold. I turned to Pipedia to see what further information was available on that site and if there was anything specifically on the Artisan line ( I quote:

Medico was created in 1933, and is still produced by S.M. Frank. The brand is famous for its pipe filters, which were launched in the same year. Since 1966, some models have been made in Brylon, a synthetic material, and others in briar. The brand was also sold by the English

Symbol: M inside a shield, although early pipes, like the example bellow, had a + sign, like a Medic would have on their sleeve.

The article included photos of A Medico Crest Artisan, made in Italy, courtesy Doug Valitchka. The carving around the bowl is identical. This one is stamped ITALY while the one I am working on is not stamped with that identification.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 the stem surface. I wanted to show what cleaned bowl and rim top looked like. The rim top shows some damage 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 photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank and it is clear and readable. It is stamped as noted above.  I removed the stem for the shank and took a photo of the bowl and stem to give a picture of what it looked like. The remaining oxidation is very visible.Now, on to my part of the restoration of this Medico Crest Artisan Freehand. I decided to clean up the damaged rim top and inner edge of the bowl. I gently topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the inside of the bowl edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Once I was finished the rim top looked a lot better. I polished the top of the bowl and the entirety 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 restained the rim top with a blend of Cherry, Maple and Oak Stain Pens to blend it into the colour of the rest of the briar. Once it had dried I would polish it and give it several coats of Before & After Restoration Balm.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar 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 used some Antique Gold Rub’n Buff to recolour the logo on the stem top. I rubbed it into the logo with a pipe cleaner and buffed it off with a soft towel. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth dents in the top and underside of the stem at the button. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. There was still some oxidation around the logo and on the stem surface. 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 used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  I left a little oxidation around the stamp so as not to damage it more.    This Medico Crest Artisan Freehand pipe from Bob Kerr’s estate turned out to be a great looking pipe. The mixed stain brown finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and works well with the polished vulcanite saddle 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 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 Medico Crest Artisan Freehand 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: 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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