Working on the First of Two Ropp Pipes – A Ropp Make S Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was contacted by an older gentleman about purchasing his pipe collection. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. He had Dunhill pipes, BBB pipes, a Barling’s Make “Ye Olde Wood” Fossil, Orlik pipes, Barclay Rex Pipes, a couple of Meerschaums and a whole lot of other pipes. All I could say as I looked at the pipes was what a collection it was. We negotiated a deal and I think we both walked away quite happy with the exchange.

You have seen the work we have done on the Dunhills, Hardcastles, H. Simmons all briar billiard and BBB pipes from the lot but there are still more. The above photo shows the two Ropp pipes. I am working the smaller one first – the bent billiard.

I have worked on several Ropp pipes in the past but this one was unique in many ways that will become evident in the photos below. This pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads ROPP in an oval [over] MAKE and above the oval is an upper case ‘S. The stamping is clear and readable and there is no shape number evident. There is a silver plated band on the shank that is stamped the same was as the shank. It also has an EP in a Diamond (electroplated) and an E and an R each in a circle over three hallmarks. I spent time looking up hallmarks on French sites and was not able to clearly identify them as they were blurry.

Jeff took some photos of the Ropp Make S Bent Billiard before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an interesting pipe with a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years. Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the rim top. There were also large chips or nicks on the front of the bowl on the outer edge. He took photos of the top and underside of the vulcanite stem showing the oxidation, tooth marks,chatter and wear on the stem and button. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the briar. You can see the beautiful shape and the grain on the bowl even through the dirt and debris of many years. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see that it is clear and readable as noted above.I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what I could learn about the Ropp brand and particularly the Ropp Make S line that I was working on ( I quote from the introduction to the brand on the site and include a screen capture of a poster that was on the site.

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 quote from the sidebar on the site below as it gives a good summary of information.

Brand created in 1910. The shop was situated on Maiden Lane. Three addresses now (2010): 75 Broad Street, 70 East 42nd Street, 570 Lexington Avenue. See also: André
I turned to Pipedia to try and place this pipe in the timeline of the brand and was able find some helpful information which I have included below ( I quote the information below. Ropp is well known for its Cherrywood pipes which were patented in1869. Besides that Eugene Ropp also made beautiful briar 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.

I have included three photos from the site of a pipe that was stamped exactly like the one that I am working on. It is stamped with Ropp in an oval with Make stamped below that. Like the one that I am working it also has an S above and to the right of the oval logo. The silver band is stamped the same way. The stepped down tenon on the stem is the same. With the information from Pipedia I knew that I was working on an older pipe from the Eugene Ropp Workshop. It is a great piece of briar with chunky nicely made shape. The fellow we bought them from said that he had had this pipe for a very long time. I could not set a date for certain but my guess was early 30s or 40s like some of the earlier pipes. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension 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 lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights grain of the briar. The rim top looked good with some darkening on the top and light damage to the inner edge of the bowl. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed it looked so good. Here are some photos of what I saw.   I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The inner edge of the rim was in rough condition, the outer edge was damaged on the front and the right side and the rim top had a lot of damage all around. I took close up photos of the stem to show the condition of the surface and button. I took a picture of the stamping on the side of the shank and it was clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts of the pipe. I started my work on the pipe by addressing the darkening on the rim top and the damage on the inner and outer edges of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work over the inner and outer edge to smooth out the damage and to remove the darkening on the rim top as well.Jeff sent a photo of a crack in the shank on the underside under the band. After he had cleaned it up it was hard to see clearly but it was still present. I decided to drill a small pin hole at the end of the crack. This was one of those cases where I was certain I had it pinned down and drilled a hole with a microdrill bit. Once would have been horrible but it took 4 tries to finally hit the hidden hairline crack! The two to the right of the photo hit the crack. The first was too low and the second nailed the end of it. The two on the left totally missed. Arggh…I finally got it. I filled in the small holes with CA glue and briar dust. Once the repairs cured I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and wiped it off with a damp cloth. Other than the new freckles the shank is fixed! Sheesh I feel like a real amateur! I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. It really began to take on a shine. I stained the repairs on the bottom of the shank with an oak stain pen to blend them into the finish.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank 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. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” it with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth dents in the surface of the vulcanite. I was able to lift the majority of them. I filled in the remaining marks with clear CA glue. Once the repairs cured I used a file to flatten out the repairs and recut the sharp edge of the button. I sanded them smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend them in the rest of the stem surface. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I used some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to touch up the Ropp logo on the left side of the stem. The stamp was worn so though it is better it is not perfect.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry 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 gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful Eugene Ropp Make Bent Billiard back together and buffed it on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It really is a great looking pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is 1.66 ounces /47 grams. This older Ropp Bent Billiard is another great find in this collection. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store soon. If you would like to add it to your collection let me know. This is another pipe that has the possibility of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.


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