Blog by Steve Laug
I have had this next pipe sitting in a box next to my desk for several weeks now and finally decided this afternoon to work on. It is not a particularly tough restoration so I am not sure why I was dragging my heels. Maybe I just wanted a change of pace for a while. But the Labour Day weekend is almost over and I have time to work on at least one more pipe so why not this one. We purchased the pipe on an online auction from Vanceburg, Kentucky, USA. It had an interesting rich brown finish that really highlighted some nice grain around bowl. It was a nice looking Canadian and would look even better once cleaned up. There was a thick cake in bowl and lava on the rim top and the inner bevel. The finish was filthy with grit and grime ground into the surface of the briar. The pipe is stamped on the topside of the shank and read The Tinder Box [over] Vintage. On the underside it was stamped MADE IN LONDON [over] ENGLAND. The shape number 91 was at the shank/stem junction. The stem was oxidized and had light tooth marks and chatter on both sides at the button. The Tinder Box logo was stamped on the topside of the taper and was faded and only the frame was clear. On the underside of the stem it was stamped HAND arched over FINISHED. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up work. I like to have an idea of how the pipe was smoked before we got it and what the bowl and rim top looked like. Jeff always takes some photos of the bowl and rim from various angles to show what it looked like. The stem looked very good under the oxidation.He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a sense of the grain on the pipe.The next photos show the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. Jeff also captured the remnants of the Tinderbox logo stamp on the topside of the taper stem and the Hand Finished stamp on the underside. I remembered that The Tinder Box Tobacconist had several pipe companies in Europe make pipes for them so I looked them up on Pipephil’s site (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-t6.html). I found a listing with three examples shown in the screen capture below. The pipe I am working on is stamped like the second one, the Bulldog below. The only difference is the one I have is stamped Vintage instead of Old Bruyere and is a shape 91 instead of a 61. All the other identifying stamps are the same.I turned to Pipedia for more information on the potential pipe makers for the company (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Tinder_Box). I quote below.
The Tinder Box was the chain of tobacco stores started by Edward Kolpin, Sr., who carved Ed’s Hand Made pipes. The store, eventually sold to a Canadian conglomerate, eventually reached 200 retail outlets by 2007, and in the 40 years it operated on a large scale a great number of pipes were made for The Tinder Box by well respected makers. A few include the Tinder Box Unique, made by Charatan, Christmas Pipes by Ascorti, and the Tinder Box Noble and Exotica, made by Shalom Pipe Factory, Mauro Armellini did make the Verona and Napoli lines.
Ed Kolpin, Jr., opened a small tobacco, pipe, and cigar store in Santa Monica, the Tinder Box, in 1928. Later it moved to its current location in 1948 where it began serving the many Hollywood celebrities living nearby. Part of the attraction were the famous pipes handmade by Kolpin himself. In 1959 Kolpin began a tobacco-store franchise, at first locally and then by the mid-1960s there were Tinder Box stores in malls across America. The franchise business was sold in the 1970s, but Kolpin still owns and operates the original store as of 2003.
The stamping Made in London [over] England made me wonder if it was not made by Charatan as noted in the quote in red above. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
I turned my attention to the pipe itself. Jeff had done a great 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 bowl exterior with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime on the finish of the bowl and the lava from the rim top. He rinsed it under running water. One of the benefits of this scrub is that it also tends to lift some of the scratches and nicks in the surface of the briar. 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 stem with Soft Scrub to remove some of the oxidation and then soaked it in Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. When I received it the pipe looked very good other than a remnant of oxidation. I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top and the beveled inner edge of the bowl were in good condition. The stem was vulcanite and there were some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button and on the button itself. There was also some remaining oxidation.The stamping on the pipe is clear and readable as noted above. The stamping on the stem is faint but is still readable.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. I started my work on this pipe by repairing a small fill that had shrunk on the heel of the bowl. I filled it in with clear CA glue and when it had cured I polished the repair with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad.Once the repair cured I polished the briar with 1500-12000 micromesh sanding pads and wiping it down with damp cloth after each sanding pad. As I worked through the cycle of pads the shine developed with each change of pad. The pipe looks very good. I restained the repaired area on the bottom of the bowl with a combination of Maple, Cherry and a Black Sharpie Pen. Then I went back to sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes, then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out on the briar. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. There was a lot of deep oxidation remaining in the stem that needed attention. I scrubbed it with Soft Scrub and cotton pads and removed a lot of the oxidation.I polished it 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 photos below show the polished stem. I tried to touch up the stamping on the stem and it was not deep enough to hold acrylic/gold. Nothing really worked so I decided to leave it alone. There is also some remaining oxidation around the stamping on the top and underside that I reduced as much as possible without damaging the faint stamping. This The Tinder Box Vintage 91 Canadian with a vulcanite stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich browns of the stain made the grain come alive with the polishing and waxing. 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 and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Tinder Box Vintage Canadian really is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.20oz./34grams. This beauty will be going on the rebornpipes store in the English Pipe Makers section. Let me know if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!