Life for an American Made Pipe – An Algerian Briar Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of our estate purchases. Between us we pick up quite a few pipes for restoration. I try to work them into the restoration queue so that I can keep them moving. We picked up over 120 Bertram pipes and some additional brands from an estate that a fellow on the east coast of the US was selling. This next one is from that estate – a beautifully grained pot shaped pipe with a tapered vulcanite stem. The pipe is stamped on the left side and read Algerian Briar. The finish had a lot of grime ground into the smooth finish on the bowl and some darkening around the sides of the bowl. The bowl was thickly caked with a light overflowing lava coat on the top of the rim. The edges looked to be in good condition. The stem was dirty and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were not markings or a logo on the taper stem. It had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work.   He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the overflow of lava on the rim top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean.    Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There is some stunning grain under the grime.     He took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable.I turned to a previous blog written about Algerian Briar pipes in this pipe lot that I am working (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/31/restoring-an-algerian-briar-lovat-from-the-bertram-collection/). I am quoting the research I have done there.

On the previous blog on the Algerian Briar – the Lumberman, I mentioned that Jeff and I have been working through the collection of Bertram pipes. Many of the other pipes in the lot are also from pipe shops in Washington, D.C. There are A. Garfinkel pipes, Ansell Pipes, National Pipes along with the Bertrams. Also included in the lot are pipes that have no other stamping than “ALGERIAN BRIAR”. This is the second of those pipes and while there is no way to be sure about the shop that these pipes came from I think it is safe to make a few conjectures. This pipe is stamped in a way very similar to the A. Garfinkel pipes that I am working on. Some of them have the stamp Algerian Briar along with the shop name. The lettering on the stamp is the same on both pipes. This one does not have FRANCE stamp on the underside of the stem. I thought I would I quote some of the information I included in the blog on the A. Garfinkel pipe once again (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/28/new-life-for-an-a-garfinkel-washington-d-c-large-billiard/).  In the fourth paragraph below I have highlighted in Dark Blue the pertinent section that links this Algerian Briar pipe to the A. Garfinkel shop.

Before I started my part of the restoration I did a bit of research to see what I could learn about the brand. I turned first to the Pipephil website and did not find any information on the brand. That surprised me a bit but such is the hunt for information. I turned next to the Pipedia website and was more successful. Here is the link to the article – https://pipedia.org/wiki/Garfinkel. I quote in full below.

Garfinkel Inc. was a celebrated Washington, D.C. importer and retailer of pipes, tobaccos and cigars. The founder was Arnold Garfinkel (1903-1988). Arnold was originally from Germany, and the family had already been in the tobacco trade for two generations before he was born; his father sold tobacco to Kaiser Wilhelm in Berlin. Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, Arnold soon settled in the District of Columbia; in 1940 he established his first tobacco shop there, although it closed a few years later during the Second World War.

It wasn’t until July of 1960 that Arnold established A. Garfinkel. Originally located at 720 14th Street, N.W., in April of 1980 the shop advertised its move to 1585 Eye Street, N.W. The new location of was a block from Lafayette Square and not much further from the White House. In 1972, author Hugh Sidey wrote in Newsweek that while interviewing then President Richard M. Nixon he spotted some pipes and a tin of Garfinkel tobacco on Nixon’s desk.

Among aficionados the shop remains well known to this day for the imported tobacco blends sold under its own name; these were manufactured by Robert McConnell and Sobranie. In addition custom blending was done for customers both domestic and foreign, with Arnold sometimes using recipes he had brought with him from Europe. A. Garfinkel carried pipes under its own name as well; these too were apparently manufactured elsewhere. Pipes were stamped A. Garfinkel, Wash D.C.; some are marked Algerian Briar and others simply Imported Briar. Many appear to be Made in France. Finally, A. Garfinkel was renowned for its selection of cigars.

In 1940 Arnold married Esther Kolker. One of their four children, Larry, was managing A. Garfinkel by May of 1980 and eventually took over sole responsibility for running the shop. Notwithstanding Arnold remained active at A. Garfinkel throughout his life, with son Larry noting that “He had a great personality and a great smile…and a very good head for business.”

A victim of declining demand reflecting both increased pressures on smokers and changing tastes, A. Garfinkel shut its doors in the summer of 1992.

Given that information I think the link can be made to the A. Garfinkel pipe shop in DC. I think that there is also a tenuous tie to the Bertram shop in DC as well as all of the pipes in this lot are very similar in terms of finish and style. I suppose we will never really know for sure but I think it a pretty good surmise.

Since Jeff follows the same pattern of work in his cleanup we do not include photos but rather just a simple summary. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. The rim top and the edges of the bowl were in good condition. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work. The rim top cleaned up really well with the light lava coat removed. The inner and outer edge of the rim looked good. The stem surface looked very good with a few light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.   I took photos of the stamping on the shank. The Algerian Briar stamp is on the left side of the shank and is clear and readable.   I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is tapered and narrow.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. I polished the bowl and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth.  I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.     The stem was in such good condition that I decided to just polish the vulcanite stem 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 Algerian Briar Pot with a vulcanite stem that probably came from A. Garfinkel is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. 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 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 Algerian Briar Pot 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 ¼ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

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