Restoring a Longchamp France Leather Clad Opera Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen to work on was an interesting Longchamp Leather Clad Opera Pipe. It came to me from a friend, Lee who wanted me to have a look at it and clean it up. He wrote me the following email.

Steve,

I’m reaching out because I’ve recently procured a set of Longchamp pipes, and am interested to get your input on how to remove the ‘stinger’ in one of the pipes, in addition to sending the other pipe for you to restore (it’s in overall decent shape, but I love the work you did on the ‘oval’ bowl, and would like my pipe to be similarly treated). So… do you have any guidance on stinger removal, and can you provide information on your lead-time and address to which I ship the pipe I’d like restored?

Merci! –  Lee

I wrote Lee and asked him to send me some photos of the pipe and give a description of the issues that he saw with the pipe. I wanted to know if there were any issues that he could see. I have included the three photos that he sent and the description of what he saw needed to be done.

Hey, Steve – per request, photos below – first, the pipe I’d like you to tune up (3 photos) Note, there’s a small crack at the bottom of the mortise – couldn’t get good resolution of it – if you can ’save’ it, great (I know that part is deeply problematic) – otherwise, cleaning up the stem, cleansing the chamber, removing the stinger, and conditioning the leather would be great – let me know. — Lee

I wrote him back and told him to send me the pipe. Lee sent the pipe and I received it on Thursday. It arrived in a Longchamp France Leather Covered Set Box. The box was made for two. I think that he probably has the other pipe but the one in the box was the Opera that he wanted me to deal with. I took photos of the case and the pipe in the case when I opened it up. I have included them below. It is a nice looking leather case with white satin lining on the lid and a grey felt base. The oval bowled pipe had a thin cake in the bowl and a light coat of lava on the rim top. The shank was tarry and oily with black grime. The leather had a few scuff marks on the sides. It was stamped on the leather on the left side of the shank. The stamping was readable. It read Longchamp [over] France. The vulcanite taper stem had a race horse and jockey stamped on the left side.  The stitching on the leather was in excellent condition but the leather itself was a bit lifeless. The stem was quite clean with no oxidation or calcification. There were light tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside on and near the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started cleanup work. They tell the story of the pipe that I was going to work on. I took a photo of the rim top to show the interior the oval bowl and cake in the bowl and the darkening on the inner edge. The stem is clean other than having tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button.   I removed the stem from the shank to have a look at the shank to see the crack that Lee had spoken of and found that there were actually two cracks – one on the top and one on the underside of the mortise. I have circled them in red in the photo below.  I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It read as noted above. The stamping is clear and readable.I took the pipe apart and took a photo of the pipe. It is an interesting looking pipe. Lee had removed the stinger from the tenon and it was threaded as I had suggested.I cleaned the leather with KIWI Leather No Buff Cream Polish. It is a product that revives and nourishes the leather. The product is applied with the sponge applicator that is integrated under the cap. The leather looked very good at this point. I scraped the oval bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the cake in the bowl. Once I had it cleaned out I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad to remove the dust and debris from the reaming. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth. The rim top looks very good after the polishing. I was able to remove all of the debris on the inner edge as well as on the rim top. I rubbed the rim top down with Before & After Restoration Balm and buffed it off after about 10 minutes. It works to enliven and protect the briar. I cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once I removed the debris the pipe smelled clean.  Repairing the cracked shank on a leather clad pipe is a real challenge. Fortunately the leather is very tight around the shank end. I applied some clear super glue to the cracks on the inside of the shank – both the top and bottom of the mortise. I let the glue seep into the cracks and sealed it with a top coat of glue. I smoothed it out with the tooth pick to leave the inside of the shank smooth.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the leather with my fingertips. While it was made to clean, enliven and protect briar I have also used it effectively on both briar and meerschaum. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process.    I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to working on the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine.     I touched up the horse and jockey stamp on the left side of the taper stem with Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I rubbed it on with a tooth pick and worked it into the stamp. I buffed it out with a cotton pad. The finished racing horse came out looking very good.I have never really liked leather clad pipes but there is something about this oval bowled Opera pipe is a great looking pipe. This LONGCHAMP FRANCE OPERA Pipe is very nice looking and it is ready to head back to Lee. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the refreshed leather looks like with the polished briar rim top. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem is a beautiful touch. The pipe LONGCHAMP OPERA feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 wide x 1 ½ inches long, Chamber diameter: ½ inch wide x ¾ of an inch long. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be heading back to Lee later this week. I think he will enjoy adding this beauty to his collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.

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