Changing things up – a Ropp Grand Luxe 55 Horn Stem Apple

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is one that Jeff picked up from a friend in St. Leonard, Maryland, USA back in April of 2018 so it has been sitting here for a long time. It is a nice looking apple shaped pipe with a horn stem. The stamping on the left side of the shank read Ropp in an oval with Grand Luxe underneath. On the right side of the shank the shape number 55 is stamped next to the bowl/shank junction. It was a great looking piece of briar with a mix of grain around the bowl and shank. There was a small nick on the left middle of the bowl and grime and grit ground into the finish of the bowl. There was a heavy cake in the bowl  and a heavy overflow of lava on the inwardly beveled rim top. The fit of the stem in the shank was smooth and flawless. There was the silver ROPP metal oval logo inlaid on the left side of the taper. The stem was horn and it had some wear on both sides near the button and on the button surface.  Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl. The smooth rim top showed thick coat of lava that filled in the rim top and hopefully protected the edges from damage. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter, scratching and oxidation on the stem surface and wear on the edges of the button. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. You can see the well done shape and he amazing grain around the bowl and shank. Even under the dirt and debris of the years it looked very good.The stamping is clear and readable as noted above. The honey coloured finish even looks good under the grime and the pipe really is a Grand Luxe! I turned first to Pipephil to get a quick review of the brand ( I always remember Ropp as the maker of the Cherrywood pipes that they are famous for but I forget all of the other beautiful pipes that they made. I quote:

Brand created by Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) and continued throughout 3 generations. “GBA Synergie” run by Bernard Amiel (†2008) bought back Ropp in 1988 and owned it until 1991. The company was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Chacom, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix…) in 1994.

I then turned to Pipedia as I remembered that they had some more information on the brand and some interesting old advertising ( I quote the information below and include a few flyers advertising the Grand Luxe line of pipes.

Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) had acquired a patent for a cherrywood pipe (wild cherry, lat.: Prunus avium) in 1869. In 1870 he established a workshop to manufacture such pipes in Büssingen (Bussang, Vosges mountains). Around 1893 the business moved into the former mill of Sicard (part of the community of Baume-les-Dames – Département Doubs, Upper Burgundy – from 1895 on).

The pipes were a big success in the export as well. Shortly before 1914 Ropp designated A. Frankau & Co. (BBB) in to be the exclusive distributor in the UK and it’s colonies.

Probably in 1917 a workshop in Saint-Claude in the Rue du Plan du Moulin 8 was acquired to start the fabrication of briar pipes. In 1923 a small building in the environment of Saint-Claude, serving as a workshop for polishing, was added.

Even though cherrywood pipes were the mainstay of Ropp until the company finally closed down in September 1991. The company was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Chacom, Jeantet, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix…) in 1994.

With the information I learned in the above articles I had the background on the pipe. My guess is that it is was made either just before or after WWII because of the horn stem instead of rubber. The metal tenon system makes me also think that this is the case as other pipes from the war itself went back to horn tenons. It is a neat old pipe. Now it was time to work on it.

I am really happy to have Jeff’s help on cleaning up the pipes that we pick up along the way. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals 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 looks much better and the rim top was actually very visible and it looked good. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub All Purpose Cleaner to remove the majority of the grime. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver it looked very good. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The rim top looked very good but there some darkening on the rim top surface toward the back of the bowl. I took close up photos of the stem to show the condition of the surface and button. I was really glad to see that the spots on the button surface and the stem ahead of the button was worn but did not have tooth marks or chatter. I took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the right side near the bowl. You can see that it is stamped as noted above. It is clear and readable.  I took the pipe apart and took a photo of the pipe. It is a good looking pipe and has some great grain on the bowl and shank. Note the stepped down aluminum tenon.I decided to start my restoration work on this one by polishing the top and sides of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process.     With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I looked at the worn areas on the stem and decided to sand them out with 220 grit sandpaper and start polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem 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.   It is fun to come to end of the restoration of the Ropp Grand Luxe 55 Straight Apple. It turned out to be a nice looking straight Apple. The finish came alive with the work I had done on it. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem 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 polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through and the polished horn taper stem. It really was beautiful. This older French made Ropp Straight Apple is nice looking and the pipe 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 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 34grams/1.20ounces. It is a beautiful pipe that I will soon put on the rebornpipes store in the French Pipe Makers section. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. 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 pipeman or woman.

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