Cleaning up and restoring a Shadow Box on the Process of Manufacture of a Briar Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

My friend who is moving offered me this interesting old shadow box. It is entitled PROCESS OF MANUFACTURE and shows the movement of a block of briar to bowl with a mouthpiece. It was in pretty rough shape with the felt board with briar on it loose in the frame with the nails loose in the back. There was some kind of logo or label missing at the top of the shadow box and there appeared to also be a pipe missing from the flow of manufacture. Each item was labeled. From left to right by row the labels read as follows:

Row 1 – Briar Block, Prepared Briar

Row 2 – Turning of Bowl, Turning of Stem, Shaping of Bowl

Row 3 – Polished by Hand, Fitted Rough Mouthpiece, Finished Mouthpiece (third piece is missing).

Row 4 – Ready for smoking (wrong pipe in the clamp there).

I was looking forward to cleaning it up and repairing it to hang above my desk once I moved back into my basement office. The photo below shows what it looked like when I received it.I used a small hammer to reattach the nails that were sticking out on the back of the frame. It tightened both the backing and the corners of the piece. Each block had a screw through the backing into it holding it in place. I took the pipe out of the bracket at the bottom of the shadow box and sure enough there was a threaded hole in the back of it. That told me that it was the missing piece in the last spot in the third row in shadow box. I used some wood glue and a tooth pick to anchor the blocks to the back board. I set it aside to cure. The photo below shows the newly glued in place blocks. I talked to my friend about the missing pipe and he said he remembered that the display was originally a Butz-Choquin display. The missing sticker/logo at the top would have been a Butz-Choquin logo. He also believed that the finished pipe was in a box that he had dropped off for me to clean up. I went through the box and sure enough, in a Stanwell pipe sock was an unsmoked Butz-Choquin Billiard that was a perfect match to the size and shape of the block. I put it in place in the clamp at the bottom of the frame and it looked complete. I also knew that I was dealing with a Butz-Choquin display so I would need to print a BC logo for the top area of the box. I did a quick Google search and found exactly what I wanted. I cut it out with scissors and used a glue stick to attach it to the felt back board. I took a photo of the shadow box at this point in the process to show how it looked. We are in the process of having my basement office restored after flooding. My daughter and I chose the gray charcoal paint for the walls with a white ceiling and white trim and doors. There will be an oak desk and oak bookcases coming back in place. I chose a spot over my desk for this shadow box and hung it on the wall. It was the very first picture I have hung since the painting and restoration work. The finished shadow box looks amazing on the wall and the contrast with the paint is perfect. The piece will hang above my work desk that I also use for working on pipes. It is a silent witness to the process of birthing a pipe from a block of briar. It also links my restoration work of rebornpipes to the ongoing life of a briar. Thanks for taking time to read this.

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