Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe I have chosen to work on was purchased from an antique dealer on 02/23/18 in Naples, Florida, USA. I have worked on a lot of Hardcastle’s over the years but most of them have been Jack’ O London and other lower end ones. This is a Sandblast Billiard that is quite nice. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads SPECIAL QUALITY [over] BY HARDCASTLE. That is followed by the stamping Made in London [over] England. The stamping is clear and readable and there is no shape number evident. The taper stem also bears the Hardcastle’s “H” logo on the left side. The bowl had a thick cake and there was a lava overflow on the rim top filling in the sandblast. The inner edge of the rim was damaged and slightly out of round. The stem is oxidized, calcified and has tooth marks and chatter on both sides at the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up. Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top. The bowl had a thick cake that overflowed in lava on the inner edge and rim top of the bowl. I am hoping that the thick lava coat protected things underneath it from damage to the edges and top. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter, scratching, calcification and oxidation on the stem surface and wear on the edges of the button. Jeff took a photo of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the briar. You can see the beautiful shape and the deep sandblast on the bowl even through the dirt and debris of many years.Jeff took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. You can see that it is clear and readable as noted above. I turned first to Pipephil’s site (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-hardcastle.html) and found a pipe with the same stamping as the one that I am working on. There was no extra information in the side bars but it was good to see the same stamping.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 (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Hardcastle).
Hardcastle was founded in 1908 by Edmund Hardcastle and built itself a good reputation among the numerous British mid-graders. In 1935 Dunhill started to build a factory next door to Hardcastle in Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17. The family owned Hardcastle Pipes Limited sold 49% of its equity to Dunhill In 1936.
Along with closing down its pipe factory in Notting Hill in 1946 Dunhill bought the remaining shares, turning Hardcastle into a 100% Dunhill subsidiary. As members of the Hardcastle family continued as executives in the company’s management Hardcastle retained a certain independence.
This ended in 1967. Dunhill merged Hardcastle with Parker (100% Dunhill as well). The new Parker Hardcastle Limited also absorbed the former Masta Patent Pipe Company. Hardcastle’s Forest Road plant was immediately given up and the production of Hardcastle pipes was shifted to Parker’s nearby St. Andrews Road factory – now consequently called Parker-Hardcastle factory.
In fact this put a definite end to Hardcastle as an own-standing pipe brand, and none other than Edwin Hardcastle, the last of the family executives, spoke frankly and loudly of Hardcastle pipes being degenerated to an inferior Dunhill second.
Today Hardcastle pipes use funneled down bowls that are not deemed suitable to bear the Dunhill or even the Parker name (as well as obtaining briar from other sources).
- 1903: Edmund Hardcastle establishes the brand
- 1936: Family sells 49% of the Hardcastle Pipes Limited shares to Dunhill
- 1946: Dunhill buys the remaining shares, but the family continues to manage the company
- 1967: Dunhill merges Hardcastle with Parker. The new Parker-Hardcastle Limited company absorbs the Masta Patent Pipe Company also.
- After 1967 it is speculated that Hardcastle became the brand for “Parker Seconds”
John Loring states in “The Dunhill Briar Pipe – ‘the patent years and after'” that in the absence of sales receipts, or other items of provenance, Hardcastles cannot be accurately dated. Loring further states that he knows of no way to distinguish the briar source when looking at Hardcastle, Parker, or Parker-Hardcastle pipes. We should not expect to find any actual Dunhill production in these lines, and while one might be there, it is doubtful we will ever be able to determine it…
With the information from Pipedia I knew that I was working on a Family Period Pipe and one that was stamped Special Quality. It appears that it can be dated between 1903-1946 when the company was sold in full to Dunhill. 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 damage to the inner edge of the bowl and some colour loss to the outer edge. Jeff soaked the stem in bath of Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. He worked it over with Soft Scrub All Purpose Cleaner to remove any remnants of oxidation. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver and I finally started my work on it 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 out of round on the back right side. The outer rim showed some colour loss during the clean up. I took close up photos of the stem to show the condition of the surface and button. There was some remaining oxidation near the shank and the tooth marks and chatter were evident near the button on both sides.I took a picture of the stamping on the shank sides and it was all clear and readable as noted above. I took the pipe apart and took a photo of the pipe with the stem. It is a good looking pipe and very unique. The stinger apparatus is damaged and fell out when I removed the stem.I started my work on the pipe by addressing the damage on the inner edges of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work over the inner edge to bring it back into round and clean up the damage. I restained the outer and inner edge with a Walnut stain pen to match the surrounding briar.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush 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 all of them. The rest would polish out with micromesh pads. I used some white acrylic fingernail polish to touch up the white stamped “H” on the left side of the stem. I rubbed it into the stamp with a tooth pick. I scraped off the excess and buffed it with a cotton pad and a 1500 grit micromesh pad. There was still oxidation that was quite deep and the stem was dull. I scrubbed it with Soft Scrub Cleanser on a cotton pad and was able to remove the remaining oxidation. It looked much better at this point. 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 Special Quality By Hardcastle’s Billiard back together and buffed it on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel and then 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 a nice looking sandblast highlighted by the combination of walnut and mahogany stains. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is 1.34 ounces /38 grams. This Special Quality By Hardcastle’s Billiard was a great find. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store in the British Pipe Makers section 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.