Blog by Paresh
I was fortunate enough to have heeded the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai for a pile of pipes that he had acquired. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what quality and condition of pipes I was buying from him as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of Charatan’s Make “Belvedere”, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul!!! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.
I had recently completed the refurbishing of a Peterson’s System 3 # 367 that had the “Made in England” COM stamp from my Mumbai Bonanza. Here is the link to this 19th pipe from this lot.
The 20th pipe that I decided to work on from this find is a thick walled CHARATAN’S MAKE “BELVEDERE” # 2655X Pot shaped pipe and is indicated by a gold cross.This pipe is stamped on the left of the shank towards the shank end as “CHARATAN’S MAKE” over “LONDON ENGLAND” over “BELVEDERE”, all in block capital letters. The right side of the shank surface bears the shape number “2655 X”. The high quality vulcanite saddle stem bears the trademark logo “CP” with the lower part of the C penetrating the P. All the stampings are crisp and easily readable save for the stem logo which is faint and the worn out. In my earlier restoration of my inherited CHARATAN’S pipes, I had extensively researched the dating of these old pipes and I can say with certainty that this pipe is from the period post 1960s. However, to document and establish credibility to my understanding and also to refresh my memory of the brand, I visited pipedia.org. Here is the link for the readers interested in history of Charatan’s and also in viewing a 1951 catalog;
“In 1863 Frederick Charatan, a Russian / Jewish immigrant, opened a shop in Mansell Street, located in the borough of Tower Hamlets, London E1, where he began to carve Meerschaum pipes.
Charatan was the first brand to make entirely hand-made briars from the rough block to the finished pipe including the stems. The nomenclature “Charatan’s make” refers to this method of production and was meant to differ Charatan from other brands who “assembled” pipes from pre-drilled bowls and delivered mouthpieces.
Charatan used 4 basic grades prior to 1950: Supreme, Selected, Executive, and Belvedere. After 1950 Herman Lane’s influence began, and the grades started to expand. In 1955 Lane took over sole distributorship of Charatan in the US. In 1957 he introduced the Supreme S. Most of his other introductions were from the 60’s and early 70’s…
Here is another link from the same page which takes the readers to an absolutely well researched page on Dating of Charatan’s;
I have reproduced the relevant portions which had helped me in dating this pipe.
The first step on dating a Charatan is to carefully look to some details:
a) Shape of the mouthpiece
b) Marking on the mouthpiece
c) Engraving on the shank
d) Shape and position of shank engraving/writing
This is because you can make the following conclusions:
a) From 1863 to 1960 the mouthpieces have a normal shape, saddle or tapered. From 1961 they use the ‘Double Comfort’ style still used today. By the way there are some saddle bits (without the double comfort) used in pipes that date after 1960 but these models are always characterized by an X (in the place of the DC) engraved after the shape number on the shank. This means that if a pipe has a tapered mouthpiece instead of a double comfort one, it is definitely a pre-Lane pipe before 1960. While if a pipe has a normal saddle bit stem, it could belong to every era. Nevertheless the pipe is pre 1961 if the shape code does not include an X, and is a pipe from after 1960 if the X is engraved.
Finally any pipe with the double comfort stem is definitely after 1960.
b) The CP logo on the stem is stamped in a different shape according the era it was used. Some differences are less obvious than others, however the glaring differences are detectable in 4 phases. The CP till the 1960 is very fine, the C penetrates the P.
Identification of a third era pipe (First Lane era, 1961-1965)
Pipes of this period are quite common.
1) The mouthpiece is frequently double comfort, rarely saddle without the double comfort, never tapered. If the stem is not a double comfort but a saddle one, it is characterized by the letter X on the right of the shape code (e.g. 2502X), naturally in this case the letters DC are not displayed.
2) In the CP logo, the C enters the P
3) Presence of £ on the shank (note that from 1955 all the pipe imported in the USA by Lane has it, however that stamping is not synonymous of the Lane era)
4)Presence of the letter DC just after the shape number (e.g. 2502 DC) or of the letter X only if the stem is not a double comfort one
5) Presence in some models of the stamp “MADE BY HAND” on the shank (introduced for the first time in 1958)
6) Presence of the writing “CHARATAN’S MAKE LONDON ENGLAND” on 2 lines
7) The CP logo is thicker then in previous eras
Identification of a fourth era pipe (Second Lane era, 1965-76)
Pipes belonging to this period are quite common. Their characteristics are close to the one of the previous era, the distinctive element is that the writing on the shank changes from 2 to 3 lines.
I visited Reborn Pipes for more information and there is a very informative article that Steve had re-blogged on Charatan’s Models & Shape Information for the Collector. Here is the link for this article;
I earnestly urge all the readers to go through this article on rebornpipes.
Thus I can conclusively say that the Charatan’s Make “BELVEDERE” pipe on my work table is from the First Lane Era and dates from the period 1961- 1965.
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The Charatan’s pipe that is currently on my work table has a classic Pot shape with thick walls. It has a chamber depth of about 1 inch, bowl height of about 1.4 inches, chamber inner diameter of 1 inch and overall pipe length of approximately 5.5 inches. The stummel has rich dark and medium contrasting reddish brown stains and is covered in dirt and grime through which beautiful straight grains can be seen around the sides, front, back and over the shank surface while Bird’s eye adorns the rim top and the foot of the stummel. There is a thin layer of cake in the chamber with lava overflow over the rim top surface. The inner rim edge has few dents and dings and a suspected char in 8 o’clock direction. The chamber appears out of round due to the inner rim edge damage. The vulcanite saddle stem is heavily oxidized with no damage to the bite zone on either surface. The buttons on both surfaces are in pristine condition. The following pictures will give the Readers an idea of the overall condition of the pipe as it sits on my work table. Overall, the thin layer of cake and excellent condition of the stem are pointers to the fact that the pipe seems to be well looked after. It should be an easy restoration project, unless some gremlins pop up during the process. DETAILED VISUAL INSPECTION
A thin and even layer of cake is seen in the chamber. The rim top surface is covered in overflow of lava, dirt, dust and grime. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely. The inner rim is uneven with a couple of dents (indicated with green arrows) and a suspected burn/ charred surface in 8 ‘O’ clock (marked in yellow circle). The bowl appears out of round. Only once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned that I can be sure of my initial appreciation. The outer rim edge is in sans any damage. In spite of the thin cake, the chamber odor is strong and should be addressed to some extent once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar and the shank internals have been thoroughly cleaned. The stummel feels solid to the touch and I do not foresee any major issues with the condition of the chamber walls. The pristine condition of the rim top means that no topping is necessary. A thin delicate bevel to the inner edge should be sufficient to address the damage and get the bowl in perfect round. To be honest with you, this being a Belvedere pipe and the lowest grade in the Charatan’s line up, I had expected to find a few fills and some non-descript grain on the stummel briar. However, I was surprised to note that there is not a single fill in the stummel surface and the surface boasts of some beautiful straight grains around the sides, front, back and over the shank surface while loosely packed Bird’s eye adorns the foot of the stummel. The stummel surface is covered in dirt and grime giving the stummel a dull and dirty appearance. The stummel surface shows a few dents and dings. It does have a quality which is seen on vintage pipes, but difficult to explain in words. And not to forget, this is nearly 50 plus year old pipe!! The mortise shows accumulation of old oils and tars which would need to be cleaned. The dents and dings to the stummel surface is one issue that I am not sure about dealing with since I absolutely love the old dark reddish brown color and the patina that has developed over time that needs to be preserved. A nice polish with micromesh grit pads will bring a nice shine to the stummel and highlight the grain. The vulcanite saddle stem is heavily oxidized, but otherwise in a decent condition. The bite zone on either surface shows some minor tooth indentations with a small amount of calcification at the base of the button edge. The horizontal slot and tenon opening shows accumulation of dried oils and tars. All in all, the stem presents no major damage and should be an easy clean up.THE PROCESS
I started the restoration with cleaning of the stummel as I was keen to know the condition of the walls of the chamber. With my sharp fabricated knife, I removed the cake from the chamber and thereafter, using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber. I wiped the chamber with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. Once the chamber walls were cleaned out, I was pleased to note a pristine chamber with no signs of heat fissures/ lines/ pits. With the same sharp knife, I gently scraped off the lava overflow from the rim top surface. The charred and uneven inner rim surface (encircled in red) and the dents/ dings to the rim edges (major ones indicated with blue arrows) are now clearly seen and should be easily addressed by creating a thin delicate inner edge bevel. The ghosting is still prevalent and will, in all probability, be addressed/ reduced once the shank internals are cleaned. Next, I cleaned out the internals of the shank and mortise. Using my dental tool, I scraped out all the dried oils, tars and gunk that had accumulated in the draught hole and on the walls of the mortise. The amount of crud that was scrapped out and the condition of the pipe cleaners that were used points to how dirt the shank internals were. I continued further cleaning of the mortise and the shank with shank brushes and dish washing soap. I have resorted to this process as it helps me save on to a ton of pipe cleaners as these are not available and which are very expensive for me to get here in India from US or the UK. I finished the cleaning by running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol through the mortise. I usually clean the mortise with dish soap/ shank brushes and rinsing under warm water when I clean the external stummel surface. However this time around, in order to preserve the old patina and the original stain over the stummel surface, I shall be avoiding the external cleaning of the stummel with warm water and Murphy’s Oil soap and resort to only wiping it clean with the oil soap on a cotton swab followed by a wipe with a moist soft cotton cloth. The old smells are still strong and would require more invasive methods to completely eliminate the ghosting.I continued the cleaning of the chamber and shank internals with a salt and alcohol bath. I usually use cotton balls which is an at par substitute to Kosher salt as I have realized over the years. However, this time around, I used kosher salt which had been lying around for some time now and I wanted to empty the container. I draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in to the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with kosher salt to about quarter of an inch below the inner rim edge and filled it with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the salts. I topped it up once again with isopropyl alcohol and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the salt is dark colored and the kosher salt and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise, fulfilling its intended task. I removed the salts from the chamber and the pipe cleaner with cotton balls from the shank and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk and further cleaned it by scarping the walls with a dental tool to completely remove the gunk. I blew through the draught hole to dislodge the trapped salts and wiped the bowl clean and dried the shank and bowl with paper napkins and set it aside to dry for an entire day. By next day, the pipe was nice and dry and all the smells were history. With the stummel set aside for drying, I turned to address the stem issues. I addressed the deeper oxidation by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. Once the oxidation was completely removed, I wiped the surface clean with Murphy’s oil soap on a cotton swab. I followed it up with cleaning the internals of the stem using hard and normal bristled pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. The gunk that came out with the pipe cleaners tells the sordid tale of the stem condition. To save on to the requirement of number of pipe cleaners, I have resorted to cleaning the stem internals using thin shank brushes with anti-oil dish washing soap and finally rinsing the stem with warm water to clean and freshen up the stem internals. With a pointed dental tool, I scraped out the entire dried gunk from the tenon end and the horizontal slot. I rubbed a little Extra Virgin Olive oil to hydrate the stem and kept it aside. I used a tightly folded piece of 180 grit sand paper to shape and re-define the button edge on either surface. The stem at this point in restoration is shown below. Continuing with the stem refurbishing, I followed it up by further dry sanding the stem with 320, 600, 800 and wet sanding with 1000 grit sand papers to completely rid the surface of the oxidation and bring out the shine in the vulcanite. The stem should polish up nicely. Using micromesh pads, I completed the polishing of the stem by wet sanding the stem surface with 1500 to 12000 girt pads. I gave a final rub with “Before and After Extra Fine” stem polish compound from Mark to remove fine scratches from the stem surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite. The stem polished up nicely and appears as good as when new. Next, I cleaned the external surface of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap on a cotton swab. As brought out earlier, in this project, I intended to preserve the patina and the original stain on the stummel and hence, the deviation from the usual process of scrubbing the surface with oil soap and dishing cleaning soap followed with rinsing under warm water. The external cleaning of the stummel has brought to the fore a few more scratches over the surface. I shall polish the stummel by dry sanding with micromesh pads to bring a nice shine to the stummel and highlighting the grains. Now that the rim top surface is clean and free of the entire lava overflow, the extent of the charring and dents and dings to the inner rim edge is fairly apparent. I addressed the out of round inner edge and the slight charring to the inner rim edge in 8 o’clock direction by creating a thin delicate bevel to inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. I addressed the issue of darkened rim surface by lightly sanding the rim top and polished the freshly created inner rim edge bevel with a piece of 600 grit sandpaper. I agree with the Readers who have observed that the issues of scratches/ dings/ dents to the stummel have not been addressed. However, I am ready to accept minor blemishes if I am able to preserve the old acquired patina of the briar. I am very happy at the way the chamber and rim top surface appears at this in restoration.I subjected the stummel to a complete cycle of micromesh polish, dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I paid greater attention to polish the rim top surface and the bevel created on the inner rim edge. I wiped the stummel with a moist cloth after every grit pad to remove the sanding dust left behind by the pads. This also helps in monitoring the progress being made and provides an opportunity to take early corrective action, if required. I am happy with the progress being made till now. The briar has taken on a nice deep shine with the original reddish brown of the stummel and the darker brown stains to the grains contrasting beautifully. I really like the dark reddish brown coloration and the patina that is seen over the stummel surface. Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and worked it deep in to the surface and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful straight and Bird’s eye grain patterns on full display. The contrast of the dark browns of the grain with the light reddish brown hues of the rest of the stummel adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush to further deepen the shine. To refresh the stem logo, I coat the stem logo with white correction ink and let it dry out completely while I polished the pipe with Blue Diamond. Once the ink had dried out, with a toothpick, I gently removed the excess ink from the surrounding surface. Though the logo is not very crisp, this is the best that was possible given how worn out the stamping was to start with.To put the finishing touches, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks that remain from the sanding. Next, I mount another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe with the aged patina to the briar looks amazingly beautiful and is now ready for its long second innings with me. P.S. I had attempted to preserve the aged patina which had developed over the stummel surface with passage of time. I did accept the minor dents and scratches that were seen over the stummel surface and let them be. It would a good to know your approach in this project and the methods that you resort to while maintaining the patina over the stummel surface.
Praying for the health and safety of all the readers and their loved ones in these troubled times…