Blog by Steve Laug
For a guy who has never really liked Ropp Cherrywood pipes I have had a lot of them over the years. I have had full bents, half bents, billiards but never one quite like this one. Jeff picked this pipe up at an antique store in Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA. It is kind of a 1/8 bent billiard with a smooth shank and a smooth oval shaped panel on the front and rear of the bowl. The right and left side, top and bottom of the bowl were left with the bark in place. You can see the knot holes in the bowl where branches were snipped off. The bark around the bowl sides is in decent condition as is the bottom of the bowl. The rim top has some damage on the inner edge of the rim on both the front and the back. There was a cake in the top half of the bowl and the bottom half was pristine and still not blackened. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Ropp in an oval [over] Supreme [over] Made in France. On the left side it bears the shape number 9. The stem is vulcanite with the silver Ropp oval on the left side of the saddle. It is oxidized and has light tooth chatter and marks on both sides near the button. Jeff took these photos before he started his clean up work. Jeff took photos of the rim edges and top to show the damage that was there. It would take a bit of work to smooth out the edge and clean it up but it was not to bad. He took photos of the stem surface as well to show the condition as noted above. Jeff took photos of the bowl sides, heel and front of the bowl and the shank to give a sense of the condition of the bark around the sides of the pipe. It is a unique one. You can see where the branches had been lopped off on both sides. He took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the inset Ropp oval logo on the left side of the stem. Both are readable and clear as noted above.I turned to Pipephil (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-ropp.html) to get a bit more background on the brand before I did my work on the pipe. No matter how many I have worked on I seem to forget the history of the cherrywood pipes. 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 have also included a screen capture of a Cherry wood pipe. The one I am working on is significantly different that this but it has he bark left on the pipe as noted below.I turned to Pipedia for a bit more detailed history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ropp). I quote below.
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.
There was also a photo of the Ropp Supreme pipe that was remarkably like the one that I was working on. I have included that photo as well as the photo of the stamping below.Reminded about the background on the Ropp Family and their Cherrywood pipe it was now time to turn to the pipe itself and do my part of the work. As usual Jeff had done a thorough cleanup on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He scrubbed the exterior of the stem with Soft Scrub and a cotton pad. Once finished he soaked the stem in Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. Other than the damaged rim top the pipe looked good. I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top and the inner edge of the bowl had some damage and darkening on the front and the back of the bowl. The vulcanite saddle stem had light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button.The stamping on the side of the shank is clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a nice looking billiard with a slight bend in great condition. I started working on the pipe by addressing the damage to the rim edges and top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I gave it a very slight bevel to smooth out the edges and give it a clean look.I polished the bark and clean cherrywood with micromesh sanding pads, dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiping it down with an damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank both (smooth and bark covered) with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about 10 minutes then buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I “painted” the stem surface with the flame of a lighter to lift the tooth marks. I worked very well. I used a small file to sharpen the edge of the button and remove the light chatter on the edge. I sanded out the remnants of tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. The photo below shows the polished stem. This nice Cherrywood finished ROPP Supreme Made in France 9 Billiard with a black vulcanite saddle stem is a great looking pipe. The rugged bark finish on the sides highlights the grain on the cherrywood bowl front and back side and shank. The black saddle stem works really well with the pipe as a whole. The wood is clean and really came alive. The rich medium brown of the wood gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished ROPP Supreme Cherrywood is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches wide by 1 ¾ inches long, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 2.29 ounces/65 grams Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!