Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table came to us from a fellow in Taylor, Michigan, USA. The pipe is classic looking Butz-Choquin that has a marbleized acrylic shank extension. The pipe is stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left side of the shank it reads Butz-Choquin [over] Camargue and on the right side it reads St. Claude [arched over] France [over] the shape number 1021. The stain is a mix of browns that contrasts well with the marble like shank extension. The finish was very dirty with grime ground into the finish making it hard to see beyond that to the grain underneath. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it had overflowed with lava onto the rim top and edges. It was hard to know at this point the condition of the rim edges. The stem in the photos came from a different pipe that Jeff and I purchased from the same seller. It was a Caminetto pipe stem with the mustache on the top of the saddle. The Caminetto had the stem from this pipe so they would need to be switched. The original stem had no stamping or identifying marks on it. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it. I include those below. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the condition of both. It was thick and hard cake but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the condition of both sides. Jeff took a photo of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. It has thick grime on the surface and ground into the finish. There were also a few visible fills around bowl. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the shank sides to capture it. It is very clear and readable. Dal Stanton had written a blog on his restoration of a Carmargue pipe for rebornpipes in the past (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/12/04/rejuvenating-a-fancy-french-butz-choquin-camargue-1683-prince/) I turned to that now for a quick review of the history of the line. I quote:
I’ve worked on several Butz Choquin pipes which is based in the French pipe center of St. Claude. Here is a brief overview of the BC history from http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html
The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin Site officiel Butz Choquin, pipes de Saint-Claude Jura. BC pipe de bruyere luxe is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).
Jean Paul Berrod managed the company from 1969 to 2002 when he retired and sold the corporate to Mr Fabien Gichon. Denis Blanc, already owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.
The BC line, ‘Camargue’ is not an old line as a simple search on the internet turns up several examples of classic pipe shapes with the ‘Camargue’ stamp, but unique to each is the acrylic shank extension and the military mounted stem. This example is a Dublin shape from https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/france/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=189826Dal had also done some research on the name Camargue that I have included below. For me this kind of information adds colour to the restoration that I am working on.
…The name of the line, ‘Camargue,’ I discovered is a treasured nature reserve on the southern coast of France between Montpellier and Marseille – two beautiful venues which I’ve had the opportunity to visit. A Wiki article was very helpful in describing the area that this BC line is commemorating (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camargue).
With an area of over 930 km2 (360 sq mi), the Camargue is western Europe’s largest river delta. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.
Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. The central area around the shoreline of the Étang de Vaccarès has been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its great importance as a haven for wild birds. In 2008, it was incorporated into the larger Parc naturel régional de Camargue.
The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds and has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. Its brine ponds provide one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of the most ferocious mosquitos to be found anywhere in France. Camargue horses (Camarguais) roam the extensive marshlands, along with Camargue cattle (see below).
The native flora of the Camargue have adapted to the saline conditions. Sea lavender and glasswort flourish, along with tamarisks and reeds…This pipe was a real mess like many of the pipes we work on. I was curious to see what it would look like when I unpacked it. I was surprised at how good it looked. Jeff reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank and stem 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 on the bowl looked really good when I got it. The rim top looked much better and the inner and outer edges were looking good. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer bath to remove the oxidation. I swapped the stems between the Caminetto and the BC to get the correct stems with the pipes. This stem looked very good. There was no tooth chatter or damage on either side. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took photos of the condition of the rim top and stem before I started working. The rim top looks better than before and other than some slight darkening there is no other damage. The bowl is spotless. The newly found stem is in great condition and should polish well. I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. The shank extension was loose so I removed it and the stem and took the following photo to give a sense of the pipe as a whole. I decided to start my work on this pipe by regluing the shank extension to the end of the shank. I cleaned out the shank with alcohol on a cotton swab, then coated the tenon on the shank extension with all-purpose glue and then turned it into the shank. I aligned the angles and wiped off the excess glue and set it aside to cure. I worked over the beveled rim edge and top with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening on the rear and right front of the bowl. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded the bowl with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. The briar really took on a shine by the final pads. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain and the separate finishes really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for 10-15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The bowl really looks good at this point. I set it aside and worked on the stem. I set aside the bowl and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. Once again I am the part of the restoration that I always look forward to – the moment when all the pieces are put back together. I put the pipe back together and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a heavier touch with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the combination of rustication and smooth finishes. The black vulcanite stem stands out as a shiny black contrast to the colours of the bowl. This medium brown stained Butz-Choquin Camargue Bent Rhodesian Sitter must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it. Have a look at it in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inch. The weight of the pipe is 42grams/1.48oz. This is one that will go on the French Pipemakers section of the rebornpipes online store shortly. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.