Bringing Back a Ropp Cherrywood


Bog by Kenneth Lieblich

Next on the chopping block is a Ropp Cherrywood Churchwarden, commissioned by a friend. As you may know, Ropp is possibly best known for their cherrywood pipes, this is one of the more attractive cherrywoods I’ve seen in a while. The key here is that they’ve kept the design simple: a solid, handsome stummel and an elegant, lithe stem. They nailed this one. I’m glad that my friend picked this one out; he made a good choice! Of course, this pipe was made by the venerable French pipe company, Ropp. The markings on this pipe were on the underside of the bowl and read Ropp (encircled in an oval) [over] De Luxe [over] Made in France [over] 919. This number is the shape number, and it was somewhat. From Pipedia, here is a very brief history of the Ropp company:

Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830–1907) acquired a patent for the cherrywood pipe in 1869. In 1870, he established a workshop to manufacture such pipes in Bussang, in the Vosges mountains. Around 1893, his business moved into the former mill of Sicard (part of the community of Baume-les-Dames in Upper Burgundy. The pipes were a big success in export as well. Shortly before 1914, Ropp designated A. Frankau & Co. (BBB) to be the exclusive distributor in the UK and its colonies. Probably in 1917, a workshop in Saint-Claude in the rue du Plan du Moulin was acquired to start the fabrication of briar pipes. In 1923, another small building in Saint-Claude, serving as a workshop for polishing, was added. 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 in 1994. The pipe was in very nice condition. The stummel had been lightly smoked add the bowl and shank were a bit dirty, but nothing extraordinary. There was a sticky substance on the underside, possibly the remnants of a price sticker. Similarly, the stem was relatively clean – not much oxidation to speak of, and only a few tooth marks on the bit. Time to get cracking. The stem was first on my list. I wiped the outside down with Murphy’s Oil Soap on some cotton pads. I cleaned out the insides with lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol and some long pipe cleaners.I also took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame to lift the few bite marks and dents. This was quite successful in raising the damage. This technique doesn’t always work, but it did here.Fortunately, the stem was in good enough shape that it didn’t need a soak in the Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover. I simply scrubbed and scrubbed with SoftScrub on some cotton pads.  I built up the remaining marks on the stem with black cyanoacrylate adhesive and then cured it with the aid of some CA glue accelerator. I then carefully sanded the adhesive down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to meld seamlessly into the stem. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing (from 3,600 onward).Now for the stummel. It was in nice condition, with very few nicks or scratches, which was a relief!  However, I decided to ream out the bowl. I used the KleenReem to remove the built-up cake and followed that with 220-grit sandpaper taped to a dowel to eliminate as much as I could. I took the chamber down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the wall. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol. There was a bit of filth inside this stummel and it took a fair amount of cotton to get it clean. I followed that up by cleaning the insides with some dish soap and tube brushes. I used cotton rounds and some Murphy’s Oil Soap to scrub the outside of the stummel. Next, I decided to de-ghost the pipe in order to remove any lingering smells of the past. I thrust cotton balls into the bowl and the shank and saturated them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. I let the stummel sit overnight. This caused any remaining oils, tars and smells to leach out into the cotton. The bowl was nice and clean after this. Following that, I took a solid wooden sphere, wrapped a piece of 220-grit sandpaper around it, and sanded the inner side of the chamber. The circular shape and motion of the sphere gradually returned the edge to a perfect circle. This takes time and patience, but it is quite effective. As you can see, the outside of the bowl still has the original cherrywood bark and I definitely didn’t want to risk damaging it. Although I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) on the top and bottom, I used only 4,000 through 12,000 on the sides. I performed a similar operation on the shank. Finally, I applied some Before & After Restoration Balm and buffed it with a microfiber cloth. Again, to preserve the bark, I didn’t use the bench buffer on the sides of the bowl and shank, though I did apply Clapham’s Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish. However, I did buff the top and bottom with White Diamond and carnauba wax on the bench buffer. All shiny and lovely, I know that the new owner will enjoy smoking it for many years to come. I hope you enjoyed reading the story of this pipe as much I as I did restoring it. The approximate dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 11 in. (280 mm); height 1⅞ in. (48 mm); bowl diameter 1½ in. (38 mm); chamber diameter ¾ in. (19 mm). The weight of the pipe is 2 oz. (58 g). If you are interested in more of my work, please follow me here on Steve’s website or email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

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