Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe also came in a recent box of pipes that Jeff sent me. It is a great looking sandblast Rhodesian with a quarter bend. The bowl is a beautiful sand blasted briar. The stem is made of what appears to be acrylic. We purchased it from an auction on 06/24/22 in Manorville, New York, USA. It is a Rhodesian shaped pipe with a deep sandblast that gives a rich tactile feel in the hand. When Jeff sent me photos of the pipe before the auction and told me it was a Romford I had a memory of a connection to Bill Ashton Taylor of Ashton pipe making fame. The finish is nice but has dust and debris in the nooks and crannies of the sandblasted surface. The rim top was beveled into the bowl and there was a thick lava overflow from the thickly caked bowl. The beveled rim top and inner edge was thickly caked but it seemed like the edges were in good condition. The pipe was stamped on the underside of the shank and read ROMFORD followed by Made in [over] England. The tapered stem was made of acrylic and was in good condition with some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took the following photos before he started his cleanup work on the pipe. He took close-up photos of the bowl and rim top from various angles to capture the condition of the bowl, rim top and edges of the bowl. The cake was very thick and the bowl overflowed in thick lava on to the rim top filling in much of the sand blast. He also captured the condition of the top and underside of the stem. You can see the tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. It was a well used, dirty pipe. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the beautiful sandblast around the bowl. You can also see the smooth underside of the shank and the grime and debris of time ground into the finish. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the smooth underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. I did a Google search for Romford pipes and found a few listings on smokingpipes.com. There was one Romford pipe for sale that had a great description of the brand (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/england/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=76028). I quote:
The Romford pipe is named after the town where Bill Ashton Taylor produced his pipes. They are all made of oil-cured briar, shaped by Bill. pretty much the same as an Ashton, except the stain or grain didn’t make the grade and often a vulcanite, rather than Ashtonite, stem is used. Hard to beat the smoke for the buck.
From there I turned to Pipephil and looked up Ashton pipes (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a8.html). I have included a screen capture of the brand information there as well as the notes in the sidebar identifying the Romford as a sub-brand of Ashton pipes that was sold through McCranies Pipe Shop in Charlotte North Carolina. The McCranies Shop sold Ashton made McArris and also Romford pipes.Brand established in 1983 by Bill Ashton-Taylor (1945 – 2009†). James Craig (Jimmy) was designed by Bill himself worthy to continue Ashton pipes manufacture.
For a great history of the Ashton brand give the article on Pipedia a read as well as the Ashton Pipe Story there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ashton).
Jeff had reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank and stem 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 but there is still some darkening on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grim on the acrylic stem surface. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos this morning before I started my part of the work. That is one of the benefits of being an early bird. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. I wanted to show the cleaned bowl and rim top. The rim top and the inner and outer edges of the bowl were in excellent condition. The beveled rim top of the bowl and edges looked very good. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks on the stem surface. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank and it is readable as noted above. I removed the stem for the shank and took a photo of the bowl and stem to give a picture of what it looked like. The sandblast finish is beautiful.I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to get it into the nooks and crannies of the sand blast finish on the bowl and shank. I let it sit for 10 minutes to let it do its magic. I buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the tooth marks and chatter in the stem. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper and removed the chatter and marks against the button edge. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. The stem took on a rich glow and the marks are gone. I polished it with Before & After Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil. I put the Bill Ashton made Romford Rhodesian back together and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished out the tiny scratches remaining in the acrylic and used a light touch to polish the sandblast finish. The bowl and stem looked very good. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba with the wheel. I buffed it with a clean wheel on the buffer and hand buffed it with a soft cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe looks very good. The rugged sandblast finish highlights the grain that is below it and really is a stunning pipe. The pipe feels great in the hand. It is comfortable and light weight for its size. The finished Romford is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 2.05 ounces/ 58 grams. I am still very undecided whether to keep this pipe or part with it. This is the problem of working on so many pipes – which to keep and which to sell. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.