Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table is the second one that came to me from a reader of the blog in Eastern Canada. This is the pipe that he originally contacted me about repairing. It was his first pipe and it had been well loved and well smoked. Over time the metal Medico tenon had become misshapen and had damaged the inside of the mortise. This Medico shape is one I have not seen before and I am unfamiliar with the Conqueror line. The grain is quite nice. The finish has some worn spots on the sides and bottom of the bowl. The varnish is worn off in several spots and on the beveled edges of the rim. The bowl had a light cake lining the walls and the rim top had some lava on the top and wear on the edges. The stem was very loose in the shank and literally wobbled when in place. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Medico [over] Conqueror [over] Select Briar. The stamping is clear and readable on the pipe. The stem looked good and there was a Softee Bit on the stem end. Under the Softee Bit there were light tooth marks and chatter on the stem near the button on both sides and some on the surface of the button as well. I took photos of the pipe before I worked on it. I took photos of the rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava on the rim top. It appears that there may be some damage on the inner edge of the bowl. There was some wear on the sides of the bowl that would need to be worked on. The stem was in relatively good condition with light tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button underneath the Softee Bit. I am not sure what the stem is made of as it does not appear to be vulcanite.The stamping on the left side of the shank read as noted above. The photo shows that it is quite readable. I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of stem, tenon and profile of the pipe. It is a great looking pipe. I turned first to Pipephil’s site as it is always a quick source of information on this line of the Medico Brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-medico.html). I looked for the Medico Conqueror Select Briar pipe. The line was listed on Pipephil and I have included a screen capture of the section.I then turned to Pipedia to do a bit more digging on the history of the brand and to see if there was any information on the line (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Medico). I quote in part below:
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 company Cadogan and Oppenheimer Pipe
When you trace the Medico tobacco pipes history, you have to trace it back to the origins of the company that created it. The company that originated the Medico brand is the S.M. Frank & Co. This company dates back to the year 1900. In that year, a man named Sam Frank began selling pipes and related tobacco products. Eventually, the company began making its own line of pipes. With the help of an experienced pipe manufacturer, Ferdinand Feuerbach, the company produced the popular Royal DeMuth and Hesson Guard Milano tobacco pipes. The company continued to grow well into the early part of the 1930s.
By the early 1930s, there were some concerns about the tars and nicotine found in tobacco smoke. In order to mellow out the flavor of hot tobacco smoke as well as to capture the tars and nicotine, the S.M. Frank & Co. introduced the Medico pipe filter. This is an absorbent paper filter that many people still use to this day. In order to accommodate the new filter, the company developed an accompanying brand of pipes known as Medico. That line of pipes continues in production today.
The company ended up buying some of their main competition in 1955. That year the Kaywoodie brands came under the S.M. Frank Company. The Medico brand continued production through this transition without many changes. The next big change for the brand came in the late 1960s. In 1966, the company developed a synthetic material that combined the traditional briar wood with resins. It is known as Brylon. At that time, all Medico pipes were made from imported briar wood. In order to keep production costs down, the company began offering some lines with Brylon. Today, that is still true.
Today, the Medico brand of pipes is still a top selling one for the S.M Frank & Co. This line of pipes comes in thirteen different finishes with five made of briar wood and the rest from Brylon. All come with the push bit with a filter inside. The filter is easily changed out when the smoker desires. In the briar wood finishes, this line includes the Silver Crest, Premier, Bold Rebel, Kensington, and Windsor. In the Brylon, the line includes the Lancer, Apollo, Standard, Varsity, Conqueror, Medalist, Cavalier, and V.F.Q. As far as price, the briar wood pipes tend to be higher in cost that the Brylon ones.
Now it was time to work on the pipe. I was excited to remove the chipped and nicked varnish coat on the bowl and see what was underneath the overly shiny varnish coat. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometime a bit of a surprise in the unveiling of fills. I lightly sanded the bowl with a 1500 grit micromesh pad to break up the varnish topcoat. Once I had done that I wiped the bowl down with acetone and was able to remove the entire coat. The finish looked pretty good – spotty and a few small fills but overall it was going to clean up very well.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads to remove the remaining varnish and shiny coat on the bowl. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit micromesh pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. The grain really began to show. This was going to be a beautiful looking pipe. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. 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 grain came alive with the balm. I am loving the look of this bowl, the grain, the shape everything looks better to me. It certainly appears to be an upgrade in the finish quality. At this point I caught myself as I looked at the bowl. I had been so intent on removing the finish and cleaning the exterior of the bowl that I had forgotten to deal with the internals. I am glad I remembered. So a little out of the normal pattern but I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and then sanded the inside of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. Then I went back and cleaned the shank out with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. There was some thick tars on the walls on the walls of the shank. I scraped it with a pen knife before cleaning it with alcohol. The walls of the shank were quite damaged from the damaged metal tenon and were roughened and uneven.With the bowl cleaned and finished all that remained was to convert the ruined metal tenon on the pipe to a Delrin push tenon. That would also take care of the unevenness and roughness of the mortise. I cut off the tenon at the metal base plate with a hacksaw. Once I had cut off the tenon and flattened the sharp edges I cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners.The airway into the stem was already ¼ inch so it did not take much to open it a little further. I set up my cordless drill and drilled the stem end open enough to take the new threaded Delrin tenon that I had chosen for the pipe.Before I glued the new tenon in the shank I have learned that it is important to turn it down enough to properly fit in the shank. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the diameter of the new tenon to match the mortise dimensions. Once I had a snug fit I glue the new tenon in place in the stem using black super glue. Its drying time gives me a bit more wiggle room to adjust the fit to the shank and align things before the glue sets. With that done I waited for the glue to set. I took some photos of the new tenon to show the progress at this point. Still a lot of work to do but you can see the direction I am heading. The diameter of the new tenon was perfect but it was longer than the depth of the mortise. I decided to shorten the tenon length to match the depth of the mortise. I measured the depth of the mortise and then sanded the tenon length to that depth. I polished the tenon end with a soft cloth to knock off any rough edges and took the following photos of the new stem.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and marks near the button. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This Refinished and “Re-tenoned” Medico Conqueror Apple turned out to be a great looking pipe. The clean finish – sans varnish allow the grain to pop out around the bowl sides and shank and gives the pipe a more elegant look in my opinion. The finish on the pipe is now in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well to give some contrast to the polished black fancy taper stem. The pipe is really quite eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel, carefully avoiding the stamping on the shank. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Medico Conqueror Apple is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ 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 interesting pipe. Now that this pipe is finished I can put it and the Birkdale back in the box and send them back to the fellow in Eastern Canada. I am looking forward to hearing what he thinks of the reworking of his first pipe! Thanks for your time.