Category Archives: Pipe and Tobacco Historical Documents

Wally Frank Pipe Pump Kit – Vintage Pipe Cleaning Kit, Wally Frank, NYC

Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff is really good at finding tobacciana items that are intriguing and this is certainly one of them. He sent me a link to this item on eBay to see what I thought. Of course I was hooked and said let’s go for it. He contacted the seller and made an offer and today he informed me that we now own the item. The seller described the item and included the photos that follow in his ad. “Here we have a nice vintage Wally Frank pump pipe cleaner. Still in nice condition, though the box is in distressed condition.  Please check out the photos. The little cup that the dirty water goes into is missing but almost any kind of cup or the sink would work and there is no cleaner liquid in bottle. The empty bottle of pipe elixir and the cover of the box are cool in and of themselves.  Would be a nice one to add to your collection.  This kit was originally sold through Wally Frank Ltd’s mail order department or in either of its two New York City stores.”

The cover of the box shows an illustration of the pump with a pipe in place in the pump mechanism. It says that the pump kit cleans, sweetens and deodorizes the pipe. The box says Wally Frank Pipe Pump Kit is for real pipe hygiene. It puts the OK in Pipe SmOKing. Along with that description is the address for the Mail Order Department along with the stores in New York City. The box is a little frayed and worn around the edges and missing one end on the box top.The inside of the lid reads: DIRECTIONS For Real Pipe Hygiene. It gives the directions on how to use the Pipe Pump.

  1. Remove all tobacco from the bowl of the pipe.
  2. Place bowl of pipe directly over pump intake and using the thumb screw tighten down until bowl is firm and airtight.
  3. Pour enough cleaning fluid into glass container to cover the tip of the pipe stem.
  4. Placing stem of pipe in fluid, pump until you feel sure that the pipe is sufficiently cleansed. (If the fluid should become very dirty, repeat operations 3 and 4.)
  5. Then remove pipe from glass container and continue pumping air for a few second to dry out the bowl and stem of the pipe. THE PIPE NOW WILL BE SWEET AND ODORLESS ENABLING YOU TO ENJOY PIPE SMOKING AT ITS BEST.
  6. Pump can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the hexagon nut at the end of the plunger.

Reorder Wally Frank Pipe Elixir when present supply is exhausted from Wally Frank, Ltd., 150 Nassau St. New York 7, N.Y. 4oz. Bottle 49 cents Postpaid. Use only the Wally Frank Pipe Elixir for Best Results. Do Not Use Elixir on Meerschaum Pipes.The seller included pictures of the inside of the box. It included the pump unit and the Elixir bottle. It was missing the glass jar that the stem sat inHe also included pictures of the pump unit and also the empty bottle of pipe Elixir. The bottle reads: Wally Frank Pipe Elixir for cleaning and sweetening briar pipes. The only fluid that gives perfect results with the Wally Frank Pipe Pump. For use in briar pipes only. The address follows.I did a bit of hunting on Google and found pictures of another Pipe Pump Kit. It was complete so I had an idea of what the missing bottle looked like in my boxed set. I am looking forward to getting the Pipe Pump package from my brother so I can try it out. The concept looks like it would work. I am wondering if I could pump isopropyl alcohol through the stem, shank and bowl and clean it out. It almost seems like it could do a similar job to a retort. When I get it I will work over a few pipes with it and see what I can find out about it. Thanks for looking. When I find stuff like this I love sharing it with folks who might possibly be interested in it as well. Thanks for reading.


What is the unique material that forms a Gutta Percha Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

A friend on Facebook contacted me about an older Cavalier pipe I worked on recently with a suggestion that it might be made out of Gutta Percha rather than Bakelite as I suggested in the restoration blog. It was a pipe with a stem and base unit made out of a dark hard material and a pressure fit wooden bowl. The stem and end cap were all a single unit. Nothing, other than the bowl was removable. When I first picked it up to work on it, I assumed it was vulcanite and soaked it in a deoxidizer bath. The colour was constant. I took it out, dried it off and tried sanding what I thought was oxidation from the base. Nothing happened other than adding many scratches to the material. The more I worked with the material the more I realized that it was not vulcanite but was something else. From my experience cleaning up many older pipes, I assumed that it was Bakelite. But even then I was not sure about my assessment. When I received the message about it potentially being Gutta Percha I had to go and look at what that was. I had no memory of that material (or so I thought). After reading as much about the material as I could find, I think he is correct – Gutta Percha it is. Here is a link to the blog on the restoration of the pipe. I am including some of the material I read for your reference. Certainly, I am not the only person who knows next to nothing about Gutta Percha. My friends suggestion left me flummoxed as to what that was. I went through the old memory bank to see if I could recall anything about the material. Surprisingly one memory came back. The only Gutta Percha I recall was the hard core in older golf balls. As a kid, I remember taking balls apart getting to the hard core but I cannot recall what the material looked like. I do remember it being hard and that it bounced. I remember my Dad (or someone) saying that it was Gutta Percha. That was the extent of my memory. But I don’t recall ever hearing about the material being used on pipes and I still really had no idea what it was.

That led me to do some research on the web to see what I could find out about the material. (Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without Google. I don’t know how I survived college and graduate school without it.) The first link I found and turned to was on Wikipedia ( I quote large portions of that article below to set the base for understanding the material’s composition and origin.

Scientifically classified in 1843, it was found to be a useful natural thermoplastic. In 1851, 30,000 long cwt (1,500,000 kg) of gutta-percha was imported into Britain.

During the second half of the 19th century, gutta-percha was used for myriad domestic and industrial purposes, and it became a household word (emphasis mine). In particular, it was needed as insulation for underwater telegraph cables, which, according to author John Tully, led to unsustainable harvesting and a collapse of the supply.

According to Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd’s Endodontology: “Even long before Gutta-percha was introduced into the western world, it was used in a less processed form by the natives of the Malaysian archipelago for making knife handles, walking sticks and other purposes. The first European to discover this material was John Tradescant, who collected it in the Far East in 1656. He named this material “Mazer wood”. Dr. William Montgomerie, a medical officer in Indian service, introduced gutta-percha into practical use in the West. He was the first to appreciate the potential of this material in medicine, and he was awarded the gold medal by the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1843.”

…In the mid-19th century, gutta-percha was also used to make furniture, notably by the Gutta-Percha Company (established in 1847). Several of these ornate, revival-style pieces were shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. When hot it could be moulded into furniture, decorations or utensils (emphasis mine).

It was also used to make “mourning” jewelry, because it was dark in color and could be easily molded into beads or other shapes (emphasis mine). Pistol hand grips and rifle shoulder pads were also made from gutta-percha, since it was hard and durable, though it fell into disuse when plastics such as Bakelite became available (emphasis mine). Gutta-percha found use in canes and walking sticks, as well.

The material was adopted for other applications. The “guttie” golf ball (which had a solid gutta-percha core) revolutionized the game. Gutta-percha remained an industrial staple well into the 20th Century, when it was gradually replaced with superior (generally synthetic) materials, though a similar and cheaper natural material called balatá is often used in gutta-percha’s place. The two materials are almost identical, and balatá is often called gutta-balatá.

It seems that I have unwittingly worked on several pipes made of this material over the years and had no clue what they were made of. I figured that they were all made of some form of Bakelite, which is actually a far newer product than Gutta Percha. One of those pipes that stands out to me was a tiny salesman’s pipe that was a carved figural pipe. Even though it was very small, the features and hair on the head were well defined. The close up photos below show the stamping on the pipe. The first photo shows the stamp on the left side of the shank reading Bob’er. The second photo shows the stamping on the left side of the neck and chin of the figure reading Reg. US.Pat.Off. The final photo shows the stamping on the right side neck and chin reading Des.Pat. 71062. When I researched the number online, I was unable to find any pertinent information on the patent. Following the close up photos, I have included photos of the pipe from a variety of angles. Perhaps some of you who are reading this can give me some information.I decided to search for other examples of pipes made of Gutta Percha. I found a surprising number of shapes and sizes that were available during that time. I have included some of them below to give a general idea of what they were like and the wide variety of shapes manufactured. I am sure that many of you can add other examples to this blog.

The first of these is a photo of revolver pipes – a Gutta Percha base and stem unit with a wooden/briar bowl. The examples in this photo show the variety of even this pipe shape.The second photo shows another figural. It is far more detailed and refined than the Bob’er that I included above. The bowl is wooden/briar cup insert. It is taken from an auction site.The third is a decorative Eagle claw with a wooden/briar bowl. The hatch marks on it are very similar to that on the Bob’er.The fourth is a risqué, decorative woman’s leg pipe. The bowl is briar/wood that fits into the Gutta Percha leg. The top of the base is a garter that holds the stocking on the leg that is below. The base ends with a shoe that forms the mouthpiece for the pipe.The final two examples are also from an auction house. I am including them here because of their uniqueness and the details of each pipe. The first is a detailed rifle stamped Defender with a wooden/briar bowl. The second is a footballer (American style) grabbing onto a ball as he slides on the ground.The fact that Gutta Percha could be molded and cast easily, made many variations possible for pipe makers. You can see from the photos I picked from the net, that the detail and shaping can be very meticulous. The only limitations seem to be the talent of the mold or pattern maker. I am amazed at the variations that artisans came up with for the pipe bases in the mid-19th century. The variety of the pipes also extends to the size of the pipe. I have held miniature cast face pipes and I have seen larger pipes similar to the Cavalier pictured at the beginning of this blog. I raise my pipe to the pipemen and makers who put these pipes on the market. I enjoy both the process of smoking them and looking at them again and again. Thanks for humoring this pipeman in reading this blog. Cheers.

Restoring a J. Rettke Patent Pipe from Washington, Missouri

Blog by Steve Laug

This strange looking pipe came from Josh (misterzippo), a reader of the blog earlier this year. He sent me an email and photos some pipes that he thought I might want. As usual when you have incurable PAD there is always something that catches my eye. We fired some emails back and forth about the pipes and it did not take long to make a deal. I bought a Malaga Bulldog, a pair of Wally Frank Sandblast Filter pipes, a little Jost’s and this bizarre looking Rettke. There were a couple of things about the Rettke that fascinated me in terms of the history. The stamping of Washington, MO. made me think of Missouri Meerschaum Corn cob pipes which are also from there. I wondered about a connection. The stem is identical to a Medico/Grabow style stem and was made for a Medico paper filter. That also made me wonder if there was a connection to Medico. I will need to do a bit of research to see if I can unearth the connections. I have an unstamped Rettke and find it a fascinating piece of pipe history so I decided to pick up on from Josh. He sent along a photo of the underside of the bowl and shank to show the stamping on the pipe so I would know it was a true Rettke unlike my other pipe. I asked him for photos of the pipes that he had in hand so I could make a decision on which one that I was interested in. He sent along the photo below showing the four pipes that he had available for sale. I wanted something different from the unmarked one that I have which is rusticated. It is a lot like the third pipe in the photo below so I wanted a smooth Rettke. I looked over the pipes and asked him to choose one of the top two smooth pipes in the photo below and include with the other pipes I purchased from him. He chose well and when it got here I was thrilled with his chose. The one he sent was the first pipe in the photo. It has some really nice grain on it.From the photos I could see that the pipe was dirty but that is never really a problem. The tape measure in the photo shows that the Rettke is about 5 inches long with a taper stem. When the pipe arrived in Idaho, my brother took photos of it so that we would know the condition of the pipe before he started working on it. The finish on the briar looked good underneath the grime of the years. There was a cake in the bowl and a buildup of lava on the top of the rim. It was not possible to see what it looked like under the cake so after cleaning we would know if there was rim damage. The stem was made out of nylon and it had a lot of tooth marks and scratches in the surface and they were deep. It was going to take some work to fill them in and sand them out. Polishing the nylon stem is not a pleasant exercise. It takes a lot of work to get it smoothed out and blended together. The metal spacer was an integral part of the stem. It was rough was in good shape with light oxidation and some tooth marks on both sides near the button.Jeff took a close up photo of the rim and bowl and you can see the general condition of the pipe from that photo. This must have been someone’s favorite pipe and it must have smoked very well to have this kind of cake and tar build up. I was looking forward to seeing what was underneath all of that debris on the rim and in the bowl.The next two photos show the stamping on the bottom of the bowl. They are fascinating in that they not only identify the maker but they tell about his method of stamping the pipe. The second photo shows the date stamp and you can see that the patent date is on a bar and the bar was pressed into the briar leaving a faint imprint behind the date stamp. The stamping reads J. Rettke over Washington, MO. and next to that it reads Pat. June 12, 1962.There is some pretty grain on the piece of briar underneath the detritus of time. I was looking forward to making that shine.The next photos show the pipe from various close-up angles so that you can see the damage to the stem and the junction to the shank and stem. Jeff removed the stem from the shank and unscrewed the knurled silver coloured cap below the stem and took photos. It looked to me that the pipe was missing a stinger apparatus that attached to the knurled cap. The last two photos that Jeff included show the top and underside of the stem at the button. There were quite a few tooth marks and lots of chatter on both sides of the stem. When I saw that it was a bit of a pain because cleaning up these nylon style stems is difficult and time consuming.Jeff did his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. I am coming to expect nothing less when he sends me pipes that have gone through his cleaning process. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer, scraped the bowl and the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clear off the lava build up. He cleaned out the internals in the airway in the shank and the condensation chamber with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He cleaned out the metal tenon and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the briar and the stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove all of the grime on the briar and the stem. He rinsed the parts under running water and dried it with a soft cloth. He soaked the stem in OxyClean to clean off the grime on the surface. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it looked different than it did in the above photos. The rim top and bowl looked really good. The damage was minimal and very visible. The condition of the stem was much as I had expected. Before I started my restoration work on the pipe I decided to do a little research on the brand. I first turned to Pipedia where I found a short entry. I include that here as it confirmed that I was missing the 2 3/8 inch corkscrew device. I quote it in full with the link to Pipedia.

J. Rettke, Washington MO, PAT. June 12 1962. The silver colored thumbscrew below the stem unscrews and is a 2⅜” corkscrew like device. The company is now gone having been purchased by Missouri Meerschaum. This odd looking pipe is made of briar and has a lower chamber with a metal condenser and an upper chamber that contains a filter. The smoke leaves the bowl thru the lower chamber then into the upper and out the stem. It smokes dry and cool. It has a large bowl.

The pipe was not included in my other usual sources so I dug a bit further to see if I could find more information on the brand and the maker. I wanted to know the links to Missouri Meerschaum or Dr. Grabow/Medico. I found an article in the Washington Citizen Newspaper from Washington, Missouri dated December 13, 1964. Here is the link. I included a photo of the news clipping below as well as a transcript of the article that I did using a magnifying glass. I also copied the photos for ease of reference. I have included them in the article transcript with the captions

Julius Rettke Makes and Sells 3,000 Briar Pipes in Two Years

Julius Rettke spent 43 years making pipes. Two years ago he retired. What happened?

“I just couldn’t sit still. I had to do something.”

He went back to making pipes. He calls it a hobby and that’s what it is for him. He could sell his patent and there is no doubt that it could be made into a lucrative business. But Julius is interested in it only as a hobby. He is 74 years old.

He doesn’t advertise his pipes but has made and sold about 3,000 of them in the past two years. Each sells for $4.00. He has been told he could sell them for $8 to $12.

“I would rather sell them for $4. You know there are a lot of people that can’t pay more than that for a pipe.”

Hasn’t Promoted Pipes

His advertising has been only by word of mouth. He does burn his name and Washington, Mo., on the pipes. Most of his pipes have been sold in this immediate area, but he has had orders from all over the country. Many people give them as gifts. Several companies with chain retail outlets would like to handle his pipes.

Julius made his first pipe about nine years ago. It was made of pecan wood. He gave it to James L. Miller of The Missourian-Citizen to try out. The newspaper publisher at that time was a steady pipe smoker. He liked the pipe.

“That made me feel like others would be interested,” he said. But he was too busy with his job as a machinist at Missouri Meerschaum, where he spent 43 years helping to make corn cob pipes. After he retired he made several pipes out of cherry wood. But he soon found most pipe smokers preferred a briar pipe. Carl Otto, his former-boss, supplied him with briar roots and he made his first briar pipe.

“I took the first pipes to the Bryan boys (Harvey and Tom) and they like them. Before long people asked me to make pipes for them. That’s how I got started.

Does Work in His Basement

The work is done in Mr. Rettke’s basement of his home at Third and Market streets. He doesn’t work at it every day only when he feels like it. He likes to fish and that comes before his pipes in the summer.

What is the reason for the rather wide acceptance of his pipe?

“They claim it is a dry smoking pipe with no nicotine. It has protection against nicotine,”

Mr. Rettke received his patent on his pipe in 1962. What makes his pipe different from others on the market is the path the smoke takes from the bowl, and the passage of smoke through a twisted piece of aluminum, or a “whirler.” The smoke also travels through a standard filter in a standard hard-rubber stem. The “whirler” has a rubber tip that shows on the outside of the pipe under the stem. The “whirler” also can be used as a pipe cleaning tool. It pulls out easily for cleaning purposes.

Mr. Rettke: makes only one style of pipe. He buys his briar roots from a New York importing company. The briar roots are grown chiefly in Mediterranean countries. Most of the briar now conies from Greece and is several hundred years old. The briar itself is a shrub-like plant. The briar burl is cut into specific sizes and shapes and it is in an almost square form when Mr. Rettke receives it.

The manufacturing process in Mr. Rettke’s basement is illustrated in the accompanying photos.

No Production Schedule!

When he works at it, he can make about 10 or 12 pipes a day, he has no production schedule to meet! Things tend to get a little hurried around Christmas time since many people buy pipes for gifts.

When he received his patent, Mr. Rettke gave one of it to John Fowler, who is a career man in the Air Force, and to Wilson Schroeder of Washington, his two sons-in-law. Mr. Rettke’s son, Arthur Rettke lives in Clover Station. He is a carpenter and does some farming.

Mr. Rettke was born and raised in Warren County near Martinsville. He spent some time as a carpenter before going to work for Missouri Meerschaum.

Mr. Rettke was never a heavy smoker and never did smoke a pipe. He did smoke cigars for a period, but he gave that up long ago.

“It’s just a hobby with me. I never expected it to be anything else, but somebody should take it over after I’m gone,” he confided.

To me this is a fascinating article. It answered at least some of my questions. Julius Rettke had indeed worked for Missouri Meerschaum as a bowl turner in their factory. On his retirement he started making the pipes. He only made one style of pipe and never varied from the basic shape. He purchased briar from a company in New York. I wonder if he did not purchase it from S.M. Frank along with the premade Medico style stems and filters. I suppose I won’t ever know but it does fit the general information above.

Now better armed with information I turned my attention to the restoration of the pipe. I took it apart and took a photo. I was missing the “twirler” as Julius called the spiral condenser that sat in the condensation chamber below the bowl. Everything else looked good. He had chosen a beautiful piece of briar and laid out the pipe to fit the grain pattern really well. This would be a pretty looking pipe once it was polished.The nicks and scratches on the rim top and edges were deep enough that a light topping was warranted. I topped it on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board. I did not have to top it too much as continuous checking showed me when the surface of the rim was smooth.The stem was a mess so I decided to clean it and do some repairs to all the damaged spots with black super glue. It would take time for the glue to harden, so I applied it and gave it a quick shot of accelerator. The accelerator dried and turned to a white powder on the rest of the stem as seen in the photos below. I set the stem aside to dry and called it a night. I have to tell you; my strong dislike of nylon pipe stems is even more confirmed. They are hard to repair as dents are virtually permanent. Patching with black or clear super glue works but leaves shiny spots that are hard to blend into the rest of the material. Polishing to get a shine needs to be done by hand as a buffer, even with a light touch, melts the material and sends you back to the beginning. They are a pain. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbing it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad – not so much to give shine as to give more bite to the micromesh. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads and repeated the oil after each pad. The stem is slowly but surely getting a shine. (The shiny spots in the photos are not dents but super glue repairs.) I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a wet cloth to wipe off the sanding dust after each pad. The further I went with the micromesh the deeper the shine became. This is really a pretty piece of briar. I dry sanded with 3200-12000 and once more wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth. I took apart the other unstamped Rettke style pipe and removed the “whirler” from that one. I inserted it in the knurled cap that sat under the stem and took the following photo.I worked on the stem for several hours. I was able to smooth out the damaged areas but they show up in the pictures. They look like black dents or dips in the stem surface but they are actually the super glue repairs. The nylon is very hard to polish for me. Buffing on the machine is next to impossible without melting it. I polished it with polishing compound by hand and I gave the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to give it some life. Once that was finished I called it done. I buffed the bowl with multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I put the stem back on the bowl and gave it a final hand buff. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautifully grained piece of briar and is lightweight and interesting to look at. Thanks for journeying with me through the history and the restoration.

Rediscovering my old Nimrod Lighter

Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I was scrolling through the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society on Facebook on a lunch break and came across a post on Nimrod Pipe Lighters. The poster included a lot of sales brochures and booklets that showed how to use and care for the lighter. The first poster caught my eye because the gold coloured Nimrod in the ad was identical to the one that I have in my pipe cabinet. The post made me want to read further and copy the link and the pictures and leaflets that were posted. Here is the ad that caught my eye.When I got home from work I took my lighter out of the pipe cabinet and took a good long look at it. It is a lighter that I had not used for a long time. It is one I have not even spent time with for quite a while. It really is a nice accessory and one that is pleasing to the eye. While I looked at it I tried to remember how it ended up in my hands. I think it may have been a gift to me from a pipe man name Daryl in Washington. Over the years we sent each other tobacco and pipes. I did a few repairs for him and visited him in his home. We shared some bowls and stories together. The more I think about it the more am certain that it came from him. One day out of the blue he sent the lighter. He said that he had several and thought of me and sent it my way. It is a nice pipe accessory and make a great addition to my pipe lighters. It is gold/polished brass in colour with a brown vinyl lizard skin covering on the bottom half of the lighter. I took some photos of the lighter from various angles and sides to capture the uniqueness of the Nimrod.  The top of the lighter has a slotted screw that when unscrewed hold the flint. On the right or left side there is a striker wheel that when spun with the thumb against the flint produced a spark that ignited the wick in the other end of the barrel. The wick sat in a reservoir of lighter fluid so it ignited when the flame caught it. On the underside of the lighter the stamping is faint but in a bright light it reads NIMROD ® PIPELITER Made in the USA.There was great photo of the lighter with the flame captured. It is the same lighter I have and the look is the same.Going through the various sales brochures and inserts I could see that the one I had was labeled as a Nimrod Executive NO. 900E. It was described as having a gold anodized finish and vinyl lizard grip. I have circled it in red below.Mine is a top of the line lighter. There was also another model that I have had and passed on to others called a Sportsman. The person who posted on Facebook also included a display of this line of Nimrod lighter. I love the advertising on the card – America’s Favorite Pipeliter. At $4.95 and an unconditional guarantee with never a charge for repairs it was a great deal.The patent on the pipe was filed on May 17, 1946 by A.F. Ward Jr. and the patent was granted on December 9, 1947. The patent number is 2,432,265.Included in the post were two instructional brochures on the Use, Care and Feeding of Your Nimrod. I expect that these were in the boxes the lighters came in originally. When I received my lighter it did not include the instructions. However, the lighter was pretty self-explanatory. Now that I have read over these pamphlets and instructions I am even more interested than ever to refill the lighter fluid and start to use the lighter again. I love reading these old pieces of tobacciana that take me back to an earlier simpler time. Enjoy reading these documents.

The Eskisehir Meerschaum Booklet

Blog by Steve Laug

I was clearing up some documents on my hard drive earlier today and came across this booklet written by the Republic of Turkey, Governorship of Eskisehir, Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism. It is a beautifully written booklet about the mining, carving and use of meerschaum throughout history. I thought I would share it with you all. While it is brief, it is succinct and well-illustrated. It is worth sitting down and giving it a read.

One of those Antique Mall finds that makes you catch your breath

Blog by Steve Laug

This past weekend my wife and I took some much needed R&R and checked into a nice hotel about an hour and a half from home. We needed a break, as both of our work schedules have been heavy and my travel schedule has been quite demanding. It was great to be together and spend the weekend without a ringing phone and the ever-present work demands. We had plans for Saturday morning until about noon. However, we were absolutely free on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. We used the afternoon to visit one of our favourite spots. It has great restaurants, brewpubs and many different kinds of shops. One shop that we always check out is an antique mall. Irene always seems to find something there and so do I. She was happy to have found an older hard cover cookbook to replace one she had given away. I could not believe what I found. It was in the last row of the stalls in the mall, in almost the last booth. I looked in a cupboard thinking I might find something. There in the middle of the cupboard there was an old style tin of Capstan Medium Strength Navy Cut tobacco.

The label covered the lower part of the tin and goes about half way up the tin. The tin itself was oxidized and discoloured but did not appear to be punctured or compromised. The label on the front side of the tin reads; Medium Strength “Capstan” Navy Cut over W.D. & H.O. Wills, Bristol & London. You can see the layout of the label in the photo to the left. I could not believe what I was seeing. This looked like an old timer. I have handle a lot of old empty tobacco tins in my hunt for that full tin hidden among the tobacciana memorabilia. Many have looked like they had something in them. Some were empty or at best half full of old dried and rattling tobacco that was beyond its life. The difference was that this tin had a hand written tag from the seller that said that it was unopened. It was hard to tell through the glass of the cupboard what the seller meant by unopened. I purchased a “sealed” tin of older Balkan Sobranie that was open under the metal top cap once I opened it at home. The tobacco had dried out. Even rehydrating it did not bring the true depth of flavour of the tobaccos. So I was dubious about this “unopened tin”. I was hopeful that it was; and if so then the price of $25 was not a lot to pay for aged Virginia tobacco.

With a bit of “optimistic pessimism” I went to find the clerk to open the cupboard for me so I could check out the tin. I am one of those “got to have it in hand and check it out” kind of guys. I wanted to give it a light shake to see if it rattles. When the clerk opened the cupboard and handed me the tin I lightly shook it. Instead of a rattle, there was a thud as the contents moved from top to bottom. I looked at the sides and bottom of the tin and it appeared undamaged. I pried of the top and underneath the top of the tin was intact! I did not let the clerk see my enthusiasm at this point I just wanted to pay for the tin and take it to the car to check it out more thoroughly. I paid the $25 plus the extraneous taxes here in British Columbia and she wrapped the tin in newspaper and handed me the bag.

When I got to the car, I took it out of the wrapping and checked it out more carefully. The tin had a slight bulge on both the top and the bottom. It was sealed tight and there appeared to be no rusted areas or punctures in the tin surface. I was excited. I took photos of the top and the bottom of the tin. The photo to the left shows the top of the cap. The second photo shows the cap removed and the sealed tin. The third photo shows the bottom of the tin.

The embossed lettering on the top of the can reads, “To open the tin remove lid and press “V-Cut” until the point is directly downwards. Replace lid, press slightly and turn.” This gives simple and clear instructions on how to open the can. In essence the can has its own built-in can opener on the cap. The lettering on the underside of the can reads, “NAAFI Stores for HM Forces” in a circle around the outside with a CM in the centre.

The last tin photo below shows the back of the tin and label. The label on the back of the tin had same light and dark blue colour scheme as on the front of the tin. It reads Grand Diploma of Honour over a series of coins/medallions that span the top of the label. In a small banner centered under the medallions, it read Antwerp 1885. Under the top banner, there was a rectangular box with a star and the word Trade Mark in a square on either side of the rest of the label. In the remainder of the rectangle, it read Cut Cake Tobacco manufactured from specially selected Leaf. Being perfectly air tight and easily opened, this tin is the best package for preserving Tobacco in fine condition in all climates. At the bottom of the label it read, Capstan (Navy Cut) is supplied in the following grades and strengths: Mild – Yellow Label, Medium Strength – Blue Label, Full Strength – Chocolate Label.

I had no idea what NAAFI Stores was when I read the bottom of the tin. I understood the CM probably stood for Capstan Medium.

I also understood the HM Forces to mean Her Majesty’s Forces. This gave me a starting point to try to date the tin. I looked first on Wikipedia to learn about the NAAFI stamp. Here it the link:,_Army_and_Air_Force_Institutes#NAAFI_is_Born  In reading that I learned quite a bit. I quote that in part below.

After the First World War the Expeditionary Force Canteens (EFC) and the Navy and Army Canteen Board (NACB) did not return to the gratitude of the Nation. This was because EFC had made a large amount of profit from the sales of goods to the troops and opinion was divided as to what should be done with the money.

In March 1920 Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War, set up a committee to advise on the kind of organisation which would be needed for the Armed Forces in the future. The findings were unanimous; there should be one organisation to serve all three Services, it should be permanent and it should be able to rapidly expand or contract at times of war or peace. The Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes was therefore established on 6 December 1920 and started trading as NAAFI in 1921

As a not for profit organisation, with no shareholders to reward, NAAFI was asked to run the catering and recreational establishments needed by the armed forces. It had to make a profit for the good of the NAAFI customers – the men and women of the British Armed Forces- and so in addition it undertook to sell goods to servicemen and their families over and above those that were initially provided by the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). The servicemen would benefit directly by getting cash rebates and discounts on purchases and indirectly through surpluses given back as a whole from each year’s trading.

For the first time the troops overseas were able to buy the same things in the canteen abroad as they could at home. NAAFI first saw overseas service in Ireland in 1922. Six years later NAAFI would have a presence in Bermuda, Ceylon, Germany, Gibraltar, Iraq, China, Jamaica, Malta, and the Middle East.

The NAAFI’s greatest contribution was during the Second World War. The Chairman & CEO during the war years was Sir Lancelot Royle and by April 1944 the NAAFI ran 7,000 canteens and had 96,000 personnel (expanded from fewer than 600 canteens and 4,000 personnel in 1939). It also controlled ENSA, the forces entertainment organisation. In the 1940 Battle of France alone, the EFI had nearly 3,000 personnel and 230 canteens.

From this I learned that NAAFI was formed by a committee set up by Churchill post WWI. The acronym NAAFI meant Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes and was formed in December of 1920 and began trading in 1921. It operated as a catering and recreation non-profit to sell goods to servicemen and their families. It was a discount store for servicemen. Its greatest contribution was during WWII growing from a small organization to a large one by 1944. This gave me a bit of a clue regarding the age of this can. Is it possible that this tin of tobacco remained unopened that long? Could it truly be from the time period of 1921-1945 with the close of WWII? I am not sure but that would date tin to the 1940’s. Is that true? Is that the correct period for this type of tin? I don’t really know. Perhaps some of you may be able to pin down the dates on this tin.

I close with an advertisement from the time period that I found while researching dates for this tin of tobacco. I love the language and the promises that are given in advertising from this time period. Things just seemed so much simpler in many ways – notice I said simpler, not better. Thanks for reading this blog.


It captured my attention: a beautiful Rinaldo Titania Lithos YY Author

Blog by Steve Laug

I don’t know if you have had this happen to you. But you probably have if you have been a pipe man for long. Today on my lunch hour I was browsing the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society (GPSS) on Facebook. I was honestly just taking a break from a morning of phone calls and meetings. I just wanted to have a quiet time. I shut the door of my office and quietly ate lunch and browsed through the feeds on GPSS. Then it happened. I saw a pipe that Neal Yarm was selling. Now Neal is selling a bunch of unsmoked pipes – Castellos, Ardors, Rinaldos and others. But this one – a Rinaldo Tatiana Lithos YY Author grabbed my attention. I have never had a Rinaldo on my work table or in my collection. But I liked the way this one looked. I clicked on the photos and enlarged them so I could look the pipe over. I went through every photo he included – they weren’t enough for me, I wanted more. But ultimately I had to admit no amount of photos would change the reality. I wanted this pipe; it ticked off all the boxes for me. It was unsmoked and came with the original pipe sock and box. What more could I ask for. I sent Neal a private message, he sent me the invoice, I paid the bill and the deal was done. Now I await it arrival.I know next to nothing about Rinaldo Pipes so I took some time to remedy that during the rest of my lunch hour. I googled the brand to see what I could find. The first thing I read was a quote from one of my favourite author’s on pipes and pipe brands – José Manuel Lopes. In his book, Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, he writes that Rinaldo is the Italian brand of the Sicillian artisan brothers Elio & Guido Rinaldo, who left for the continent at an early age and settled in Pesaro. At 15, Elio started working for Mastro de Paja, with Guido joining him shortly after, in 1974. Now I had some basic information. It was Italian (which I already knew) and it was made by two brothers in Pesaro.

I continued through the google listings and found a link to They sell new Rinaldo pipes and often in their introductory remarks to a pipe or a brand there is a lot of helpful information. In this case there is some repetition to the information from Lopes but also some expansion. I quote their entry from their online store in full.

Rinaldo pipes are made by two brothers, Elio and Guido Rinaldo in Pesaro, Italy. Elio began making pipes when he was only fifteen, and his younger brother, who worked with precious metals for jewelry, began making pipes when he was sixteen. There are few families of pipes being made these days, and these two gentlemen work in perfect harmony in their shop. They initially worked for a large pipemaking company, but branched off to work for themselves in 1987 when they started Rinaldo pipes. Because of his jewelry background, Guido is responsible for making all of their silver bands and accents on-site. They use acrylic stems and finish their pipes either smooth, sandblasted, or rusticated. Working together, the brothers produce around 1,500 pipes annually. read the next google entry which was Pipedia I read briefly there and saw that it cited Steve Monjure’s website – Monjure International. I followed the link to that site and read further I looked through his interesting information on the Rinaldo brand and its history. He gave more detailed information on the brand that added to my knowledge base. I quote his introductory comments first and then the section on history.

The Rinaldo brand began in 1987. It produces 1500 pipes a year — mainly classic shapes, but with a more rustic design than the majority of similar Italian brands — and has its main markets in Italy, Germany, and the US. It uses briar from Liguria, and Lucite stems. The pipes are stamped: RINALDO. Grading: from one to four Y and Fiammata. Symbol: stylized Greek letters ρ and ι

From the history of the brand section I quote:

Elio and Guido Rinaldo began their work with briar in 1974 at the very young ages of 16 and 14 respectively. At this time they were employed by a well known pipe factory. In the beginning they were involved with the design, modeling and finishing. After years of study, hard work, and hands on experience, Elio and Guido mastered their art. This knowledge combined with their sensitivity allowed them to answer the burning desire they had to express themselves in their own way. Their dream to create a pipe with their own mark became a reality.

In 1987, the two brothers founded “Rinaldo Pipes” with the intention of creating fine handmade (fatta a mano) pipes with highly personalized lines fitted with silver and gold treatments that distinguish their exquisite pipes from the vast panorama of pipes. Their production is very limited since Elio and Guido are the sole ones to make the Rinaldo pipe. This has been their wish from the very first day the factory was started. Because of this loyalty to solely crafting their pipes, the smoker is guaranteed that each phase of the work is being maintained by skilled and expert hands. Each Rinaldo pipe is made from the very best Mediterranean briar and Elio and Guido select each briar block for its compact texture and regular veining. The acrylic mouthpieces are perfectly balanced and studied for optimal dental grip. This attention to detail results in a mouthpiece that has a pleasant and “easy hold” and is truly a “work of art”.

The Rinaldo pipe is currently offered in the following finishes: Lithos(Rustic) – Sahara(Sandblast) – Triade(Smooth). The Rinaldo pipes are divided into three lines: Briar Line(All Briar) – Silver Line(Silver Ornaments) – Gold Line(Gold Ornaments). There are five grade levels: Y, YY, YYY, YYYY, and Fiammata(Straight Grain). All Shapes are available in the regular size bowl and the “Titania” which is a bowl of greater dimensions.

The pipe I had purchased is stamped on the underside of the shank Titania over Lithos YY, Hand Made in Italy, Rinaldo. From the above information I learned that the pipe was Rusticated (which I could see from the photos), it was graded YY (which is the second grade), and it was a Titania (which is a larger bowl). I also learned that the LITHOS hand made pipes came in three inishes – Rustic Tan, Brown or Black.The article went on to describe the detail and care that goes into each pipe that the brothers craft. Here is how the website describes it:

Each Rinaldo pipe is offered for the pleasure of beholding its classical and liberal forms. Elio and Guido Rinaldo’s passion for crafting the finest pipes available is evident in each piece. Elio and Guido Rinaldo are currently producing approximately 1,500 pipes per year. When it comes to hand-made (fatta a mano) Italian pipes, two brothers in Italy, Elio and Guido Rinaldo are raising eyebrows around the world and are proving that high quality doesn’t always come at a high cost. In 1987 they started the business that bears their name although they actually started making pipes back in 1974 when they were only in their teens. They use the finest Mediterranean briar and their pieces not only are expertly designed and easy to hold, but they use fine balanced acrylic mouthpieces to insure a pleasant grip and ease on the teeth. Although some pipe manufacturers employ a body of carvers to create their designs, the two Rinaldo brothers are the sole carvers of their company. They create pipes in three different finishes (smooth, sandblast, and rusticated), several different sizes, and line their pipes with briar, silver, and gold ornaments.

The Monjure International Website includes an article on Rinaldo pipes in Pipes & Tobacco Magazine. Here is a link to that article; it is well worth a read if you are interested in reading about the brothers and their pipes.

Now that I had educated myself regarding the brand I was even more excited for the arrival of my new pipe. I could not wait to have it in hand and examine it up close. I wanted to look over all the hand made details and care that had gone into its design. I don’t often buy a new pipe; my tendency is to buy estates (as those of you who read rebornpipes have already figured out). They are already broken in and after a bit of cleaning can pick up where the last pipe man laid them down. But in this case I have to tell you, I am looking forward to giving this one a go and breaking it in myself. Once more thanks for sharing my excitement on this one. It is good to know that others are inflicted with the same “disease” and enjoy pipes along with me… I know that my wife and daughters only word for this is, “Another pipe? Do you really need that?” And to those comments I nod a yes, make no excuses and share my excitement with each of you. Cheers!