Category Archives: Pipe Related Essays

Short and not so short essays on pipes and tobacciana

The Case of the Murdered Dunhill

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. — From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

NOTE: I owe the singular logic and chronicle of this story to the author of a French blog upon which I had the good fortune and immense pleasure of discovering, quite by chance, in the course of a search for other, more mundane instruction on Dunhill pipes.  The credit for the blog, almost hidden at the bottom of the page, attributes the work to “pipephil,” whose nationality and working name being identical to that of a certain devoted and well-known researcher of pipes and their histories, I can only surmise is one and the same.  This story is based on an unequal blending of fact and fiction and might better be approached as the latter.   Acknowledgement to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) is likewise in order, and, if prevailing opinion of this willing suspension of disbelief warrants, apologies.  Names have been changed to protect the real and imagined

(Being a reprint from the personal blogs of JAMES BOSWELL)


At the age of twenty-six, early in the year of 1989, I was considered an old man to be commencing studies as an undergraduate at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and was branded non-traditional, a distinction which stirs not a grain of animosity in my mind.  The principal difference between the average teenager fresh from the crucible of high school and myself, during my first semester of courses prescribed for those desiring to specialize in journalism, was my already appreciable experience in the workforce I sought to continue.  I had under my belt a solid grounding in the old school style of newspaper writing, owing to an early tossing into the cesspool when I was a mere fifteen-year-old.  Already I was squared away in the requisite determined and, when necessary, obdurate nature to survive the initial condescending underestimation of my ability to recognize obfuscation when I heard it.  These traits were of invaluable help in eliciting a modicum of legitimate answers from the police officers, politicians and other authorities who became the salt and pepper on the main fare of official reports that fed my regular police and city hall beats.

Quartered at first in one of the better dormitories and accustomed to taking my meals at the campus cafeteria, an establishment that over-favored a form of creamed chipped beef on toast that exemplified the military term for that menu item which I will for the sake of good form abbreviate as S.O.S., I straight away took up the tobacco pipe.  As well as soothing my nerves and allowing an air of contemplation conducive to my studies, the pipe expelled the unfortunate after taste of the gruel the school called food.  Pipes were also a family tradition on the paternal side, and so I embraced them with alacrity.  Smoking, of course, was prohibited in the dormitories, but I dismissed the absurdity as did all but a poignant minority of the other inhabitants.

Finding disagreeable the cramped suite of rooms that allowed no privacy and which I shared with three adolescent males who were more interested in beer kegs, parties and all of the other inclinations wholly natural to youngsters, I reached the inevitable conclusion that I must secure a more mature roommate off-campus.  The very same night, while strolling the university grounds taking the long course to the student union building, where I had planned to brush up on the Associated Press Style Book tucked under an arm, and puffing contentedly on the single pipe I then owned, I heard my name called from nearby.

“Boswell!  James Boswell!”

Glancing in the direction of the greeting, I found the young man smiling and waving at me vaguely familiar, but only a name came to mind.

“Beall!” I said, relieved to have no need to fumble with that social awkwardness.

Trapped, I found myself engaged in small talk.

“Wherever have you been hiding?” Beall asked.  “I haven’t seen you in dog’s years!”

Not caring for the suggestion that I in any way skulk and thinking that dogs tend to age with rather unfortunate rapidity, I was off-put before I could answer but endeavored to be civil.

“Off fighting the good fight, Beall,” I said.  “Just at the moment I’m considering how to move out of my dormitory but can’t afford a place of my own on my income.”
Where I met Beall and why the devil I let slip my need for a proper roommate eluded me, and I would have kicked myself had that colloquial expression been possible.  With all the delicacy I can muster, I found young Beall to be a nice enough fellow but rather insipid and a bit too friendly.  I braced in anticipation of his putting himself forward as a candidate, and indeed, having among other faults a distressing clutching habit, he seized me by an arm.

“Why, I have just the person for you!  I’ve known him forever, and he’s absolutely perfect!”

Not caring a bit for the sound of any of that and being dubious of Beall’s judgment, my aversion to conspicuous rudeness prevented me from declaring so.  By my own fault, therefore, Beall, still clutching my arm, compelled both of us at once in a straight line toward the north edge of the campus, obviously the direction of the friend’s place of residence.  I managed with some dexterity to dislodge my arm from his grip and counted myself fortunate beyond words that the mysterious dwelling was within easy walking distance.  My subsequent introduction to the man who, though five years my junior, was gifted with the most singular and brilliant deductive powers I have ever encountered, can only be attributed to fate.

When at last we found ourselves on the step and the door to the apartment opened, I had the first dreaded look at my proposed new roommate.  The appearance of Mr. Sherrinford Cavish was altogether the opposite of my preconceived image.  Standing three inches taller than six feet in height, Cavish towered over Beall, whom I had spent most of our walk struggling to devise a means of escaping, and had several inches on me.  His stature had none of the typical lankiness associated with very tall men and was instead complemented by a husky but fit build.  He wore an expensive powder blue dress shirt with the top two buttons undone, medium brown wool slacks appropriate for the season that appeared to be tailored, leather loafers with tassels and no jewelry whatsoever, not even a watch.  His longish brown, wavy and un-brushed hair, wild, for lack of a better word, was the oddest feature I noted.  The old, blackened clay pipe between his lips seemed a natural extension of his mouth and the highest testament thus far of his suitability as a fellow lodger. Then, ignoring poor Beall beside me altogether, his sharp blue and acute eyes narrowed and took in the whole of me with a glance.  I admit I was more than a little disconcerted by the scrutiny I thought rude.  His greeting astounded me.

“Have you been a reporter for any publications I may have read?”

The ensuing dumfounded silence prompted the otherwise meek and silent Beall, who still stood to my side, to remark, “Yes, he’s always like that.”

“Ah!  But you’re here about the room for rent, no doubt eager to quit the dreary conditions of the dormitories,” Cavish said before I answered, astounding me once again.

The man who introduced himself to me by his full first and last name the moment I stepped inside his apartment pursed his lips in a peculiar grin I have come to know well.  One corner of his mouth rose a tad and the other fell.  Initially viewing the practice as a sort of conceited smirk, I soon came to recognize it as an outward sign of the constant processing of simultaneous and unfathomable amounts of complex mental data related to the unparalleled fields of study of which Cavish can only be described as an expert.  Well into that first night, I learned of a comparative few of these, but our mutual fondness for pipes and shared interest in matters of crime were enough for me.  That grin of his meant that Cavish was in good spirits, working out the various enigmas he undertakes to solve for his own odd pleasure and at the request of others.  He calls them cases, but to me they are worse than giant white table puzzles.  Cavish invariably examines each piece with pure logic and science as his only tools.  On my word, I do believe he relishes scrambling the parts of the puzzles his clients – again, as he calls them – believe they have put together.  To Cavish, each piece of the puzzle must be probed from both sides and every angle regardless of how closely it may seem to fit.

“Excuse me,” I said, no longer able to contain my curiosity, “but how did you know I was a reporter?”

Cavish looked me in the eye.  “Elementary,” he said.  “Even without the well-thumbed AP guide under your arm the conclusion is inescapable.  Your red-striped Oxford with its frayed button collar doesn’t go with the ruffled tan corduroy blazer and dark brown elbow patches, as well as the mismatched light blue cord pants.  And that ancient polyester tie is enough to give an epileptic a fit.  Who but a reporter dresses in that style?  Then there are the light smudges of news print on your fingers and the cuffs of your shirt sleeves, not to mention the small note pad and flowy pen in your front coat pocket, icing on the cake, as it were.”

However accurate the conclusions Cavish reached, I still wondered if his lack of tact might be distasteful after all but resisted the urge to do an about-face and march out.

“Very well, then, what about the fact that I live in a dormitory?”

“Good God, man!” he said with alarming drama.  “Only a new student living in the dorms, regardless of age, would eat all of his meals in the cafeteria.”  Reading my face like a newspaper headline, he interrupted the protest I was about to make.  “My exhaustive research of every restaurant menu in Cruces tells me that none of them serves creamed chipped beef such as that which caused the spot on your tie.  I’m happy to say the dish is unique to that venue.”

In this disturbingly fascinating manner was I introduced to the deductive skills of Mr. Sherrinford Cavish.

“Interesting pipe,” Cavish said as he saw me to the door, speaking of the bulldog of which I was rather proud.  “An Italian no-name, I see.  Well, we’ll have to do something about that.”

The following morning, ignoring my petty misgivings as to my new roommate, I fled the dormitory.  I confess with some remorse that I left my affable yet erstwhile fellow cellmates understandably dazed and confused, not to mention sad in a manner that was touching, to see me depart.


Dunhill pipe courtesy These Pipes Like No Others

Sooner than later, I learned of the flipside of the unusual grin I noted.  When Cavish was without a case, he fell into periods of deep broodings and profound depressions that lasted until some new mystery he deemed worthy of his time presented itself.  At the low point of one of these bouts of sheer, unbearable boredom, a piece of mail arrived that Cavish was too despondent to consider.  I took the liberty of cutting open the end for him and found a single small photograph of a smoking pipe in utter ruin, accompanied by a letter imploring Cavish to investigate the matter and some pages printed from a website.

Reading the letter to my lackluster friend did not even make him stir.  Knowing the somewhat perverse delight Cavish takes in the most dreadful horrors this world has to offer, and also taking into consideration his deep love of smoking pipes, I concluded the only hope of rousing him from the lethargic stupor in which he was trapped might be the sight of the desecrated pipe.  I tossed the photograph and printout on his chest that might have been that of a corpse.  As I turned away, I heard Cavish sit up on the couch.  Turning back to face him the next instant, I saw him hunched over his laptop on the coffee table cluttered with many documents only he was permitted to touch.  Moving so that I could watch over his shoulder, I noticed he had pulled up the website from which the printout was made so that he could read the entire text in its original French, which he spoke fluently in addition to Latin, German, Dutch, Italian and Iranian, to name those I have identified.

“The game is afoot!” Cavish said with refreshed vigor.  I shook my head and sighed with no small amount of relief as he stood and began pacing in excitement.  I, on the other hand, needed a break and decided I deserved one for the part I played in reviving him.  Retiring to the comfort of my armchair, I took up an elegant new briar wood prince possessing the tightest vertical grain that I found at my local shop and filled it with a handy Balkan blend.  Already, I had a fine beginning of a collection thanks to a certain compulsion to acquire more and more that I blamed on the bad influence Cavish had on me.  Indeed, the compulsion verged on a disorder.


The masthead of the site, Cavish translated, read “These Pipes Like No Others.”  Succumbing to an uncontrollable urge, I wagered the Dunhill displayed in the blog and photograph just arrived in the mail was clearly well smoked and previously lightly enjoyed. *  I shall savor for the rest of my life the rare flash of utter incredulity on my friend’s face that dissolved back into his typical working countenance of gravest contemplation when he deduced I had to be joking.

“She is extraordinary,” Cavish said, almost in a whisper.  I took a moment to realize he was speaking of the pipe.  “The outer simplicity obscures an inner complexity.”

“No doubt,” I said for the sake of good manners.

Still pacing about the room, Cavish recited the entire text of the blog from memory after his single reading of it online.  In the interest of brevity, I will paraphrase the key points of interest in the blogger’s quite stylish and eloquent narrative detailing his theories relating to the cause of the Dunhill’s destruction.  The general theme as stated in the second sentence was that, whatever act of brutality indeed brought about the end of the pipe’s days of usefulness to anyone, the once noble but now wretched thing was murdered.  Counting myself an aficionado of tobacco pipes, I appreciated the writer’s dramatic use of personification.

When the gruesome remains were discovered, two immediate types of suspects were considered, the more likely being a lone assassin acting on his own insane motives, and the other a terrorist group.  The latter theory raised the possibility of a political link, perhaps the Front de Lutte Anti-Tabac (F.L.A.T.), in English the Fight Against Tobacco Front.  Whoever ended the pipe’s life, the blogger concluded, chose Dunhill rather than any other brand for the general regard of the old British house as perhaps the world’s most iconic maker.  The impact of the act of extreme violence would therefore engender outrage and consternation among pipe enjoyers everywhere.

“It is quite a two-pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for thirty minutes,” Cavish said in characteristically blunt form.  Even with what I knew of his machine-like reasoning ability, I was impressed with the time in which he expected to solve the mystery.


I can only conjecture that Cavish chose a striking natural finish Dunhill Canadian as his own way of paying respect to the victim.  In silence, as requested, and as unobtrusively as possible, I watched while he loaded the pipe with Dunhill White Spot, an English blend not available in this country that he somehow managed to acquire, no doubt through one of his many private sources.  He lay back in the chair, stretching his legs out before him and crossing his ankles as was his habit when formulating his inscrutable conclusions.  After savoring the one fill, he repeated the process.  When the last of the smoke trailed off, I glanced at the clock and observed the prescribed half-hour had passed to the minute.  My friend sat bolt upright and, his eyes glinting through narrow slits, stood.  I waited with greater than average anticipation for him to begin.

“The deplorable annihilation of this ill-fated Dunhill billiard was not an act of murder, as conjectured by the blogger with eloquence that was nevertheless the product of typical human emotion,” Cavish said in an even tone that belied the passion I alone knew him well enough to detect from the deliberate choice of such strong terms.

“That much I myself concluded,” I replied.

“Indeed, as you well know, the inherent inanimateness of the briar wood forming the chief constituent of the whole, by definition, precludes the possibility of homicide.”

“Indeed,” I muttered for lack of anything more substantial to contribute.

“Nor was this the work of any terrorist organization, the blogger’s brio, however excessive, notwithstanding.”

“Oh?  How so?”

“Contrary to popular misconception, terrorists are not as secretive as they would have us believe,” Cavish stated in the form of a thesis.  “Why else would they invariably claim credit for their foul and pusillanimous deeds sparked by a sense of impotence?”  Knowing the last part was only rhetorical punctuation, I waited for him to continue.  “No such communication has been attempted.”

“I see,” I said.  “But wait, Cavish.  There is one thing I still cannot comprehend.”

“Only one?” he asked, again not expecting a direct response but with the annoying twist of his mouth that so infuriated me at times.

“Yes, for the moment at least, only one,” I said in a pointless attempt to defend my honor that was not lost on the great detective.

“Pray tell, my dear Boswell, let’s hear the singular point of your confusion.”

Once more, I knew enough of the man to recognize a note of reconciliation, however feeble I thought it.  “What about the Frenchman’s keen observation that in order to burn briar, how did he put it, ‘extraordinary temperatures are needed which cannot be reached in the combustion of even a dry tobacco’?”

“Aha!” Cavish exclaimed, triumphant.  “There you have it!  Once again, you see, yet you do not observe.  Any careless smoker can burn a pipe made of any material, briar by no means excluded, even to the point of creating a hole through the bowl.  One sees such uncouth damages all the time.  Just ask anyone who restores smoking pipes for a living.”

Cavish continued before I could register a protest.

“The operative word is burn, which is altogether different than incinerate, the latter being the choice our French blogger doubtless meant.  Based on my study of the incineration points of thousands of wood types, I can tell you with authority that briar can only be reduced to ashes, that being the definition of incinerate, at temperatures sometimes exceeding 1,292 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Good lord!”

“Quite so,” Cavish went on.  “As you will recollect from the photograph, the Dunhill, though burned more severely than any other specimen I have ever seen, which is no trivial claim, and to the point where evenly spaced horizontal cracks encircle the bowl through to the chamber, the pipe is nowhere near disincorporation into a pile of ashes.”

“Amazing, Cavish!  Simply amazing!  But what does it all mean?”

“It means, my obtuse friend, that the theory of some person or persons unknown filling the Dunhill with a fuel or other accelerant, intent on exploding or vaporizing the pipe, is erroneous.”

Bringing to bear the full powers of my brain to determine possible explanations, all I achieved was a pulsating headache.

“I surrender, Cavish!  How on Earth was the Dunhill destroyed, and by whom?”

Cavish has described himself as a high-functioning sociopath, a self-diagnosis with which I would not have argued until that moment.  The years I have known him, it was the first time he displayed what I would call a normal sign of humanity, the instance being a profound sense of grief manifested in his entire physical demeanor.  I was almost overwhelmed by a foreboding of some cataclysmic doom.  When he did speak at last, he sounded tired, but his usual veil of absolute self-control, dispassion and supreme objectivity was again in place.

“Never indulge in the delusion that the whole of mankind is not, in its most base state of consciousness, a species unequaled for its most natural instincts of callous cruelty and neglect for the welfare of others,” he said, pausing as though in emphasis of his perceived status of being separate from the rest of the world.  I wanted to disagree but held my tongue, letting Cavish expand on his point.  Whether he was aware of the repeated use of personal pronouns usually reserved for beings endowed with life, I could not say.  “Have no doubt, Boswell, she was tortured for some years.  Indeed, her neglect would be criminal were she, to employ a deliberate contradiction in terms, more that a work of art.  I agree with our French friend, the blogger, that the Dunhill was desecrated, and should like to believe his assertion that the act was premeditated.”

Unable to bear the ensuing silence longer, I prompted him.  “But?”

“Premeditation, my dear Boswell, implies a certain amount of forethought.  The atrocities committed against the once beautiful and vibrant example of skilled craftsmanship, created with the sole purpose of providing pleasure to a man, demonstrate the wanton kind of thoughtless, careless disregard for all but the self.”

“Really, Cavish, I think you’re being too harsh,” I interjected.

“In that case, Boswell, why did you acquire so many new pipes of which you could scarcely keep track?  I seem to recall your frequent agitation lest one of them end up falling to the floor, from wherever you happened to set it down, and breaking.  You even went to some expense to commission your carpenter friend to fashion an exceedingly large, elaborate cabinet made more of glass than wood, and filled with separate beveled holders so that you could display even more pipes than you already own.  Whatever possessed you to go to this trouble?”

My blood beginning to boil, I replied in hardly contained anger, “Because I care for them!  And besides, I got the idea for the cabinet from your own!”

“Quite so!” Cavish said with such pleasure he even let slip the rarest of smiles.  I must say that took the wind out of me, and I felt quite the fool.  My good friend had tricked me again.

“Point taken,” I conceded with a sheepish grin.  “But when are you going to reveal the identity of the scoundrel who so monstrously destroyed the excellent Dunhill?”

Cavish turned and resumed his former languid position in the armchair.  I stood there awaiting his solution to the puzzle while he loaded his pipe once more and leaned back, puffing away with a peculiar air of satisfaction.

“The culprit, Boswell, was no monster or group of terrorists.  The person who snuffed out the life of the Dunhill billiard was a common pipe smoker, one who considers these delightful instruments of divine contemplation to be as disposable as a Bic lighter.”

I was flabbergasted.  “Then you have no idea who did it?”

“Thankfully, no, or else I would have to track him down wherever he might live, if indeed he still does, and give him some lessons.  But I can say for certain that the unknown perpetrator of this loathsome deed prefers cigars to pipes.”

“How can you possibly deduce that?”

“Elementary,” Cavish said.  “He used a cigar torch to light his pipe.”

I took a seat in my chair across from him, sighed and filled my well-tended pipe, thinking the end of this mystery a bit disappointing, but pleased the case was closed.

“She is still a beautiful pipe,” Cavish said in a quiet tone.  “She shall always be the woman to me.”


I will leave my changing of name to the deductive powers of any readers who may be devotees of the great consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes.  The simplest way to sum up my little homage to the genius of the character and writing of the many Holmes adventures is to quote a funnier Holmesian anecdote, by Thomas Cathcart, another great author, who is still alive at 78.

Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip.  In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge.  “Watson,” he says, “look up in the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions of stars, Holmes,” says Watson.

“And what do you conclude from that, Watson?”

Watson thinks for a moment.  “Well,” he says, “astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.  Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.  Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.  Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.  Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant.  Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?”

“Watson, you idiot!  Someone has stolen our tent!”

* I owe the wry comments of two friends on the Smokers Forums UK, where I posted the graphic photograph of the horribly abused Dunhill, a note of gratitude for the inspiration of these words.



Broken Pipe Blues

Blog by Joe Gibson (PappyJoe)

I have followed PappyJoe on Twitter ever since our paths crossed on the Country Squire Radio show. We have fired tweets back and forth and not long ago he sent an invite to his blog PappyJoe’s World – Pipe Smoking and other thoughts.  Since then I have frequented the blog and read quite a number of his posts. During my lunch hour at work today I decided to visit again. I read three really interesting posts that I thought would be great to share on rebornpipes. I wrote PappyJoe and asked permission to post these blogs here. This is the first of them. Well worth the time to read. Thanks PappyJoe and welcome to rebornpipes. Without further words from me here is his blog (

This is a cautionary tale about buying “estate” meerschaums at antique/collectible/junk shops…

As mentioned in an earlier post, we like to walk around antique/collectible/junk shops, malls and flea markets.  I also said most of those pipes are overpriced. I’ve seen briar pipe so dirty you would have trouble fitting a toothpick into the bowl and priced upwards of $75. Look carefully and instead of something like a Dunhill or Charatan, you will find a Dr. Grabow or Medico you could have bought just a few years ago at a drugstore. Get real lucky though and you can find a nice briar with 50 or 60 years of age on it that is still worth cleaning and sanitizing. Just inspect them carefully. I once examined a nice looking Charatan that you could run a pipe cleaner though – the bowl that is. It had burned through the bottom.

My Sultan Saxophone meerschaum. The crack is along the base of the turban

The worst offenders seem to be vendors selling meerschaum pipes. I’ve seen figural meerschaum pipes with broken stems and bowls priced at $400. I looked at CAO Sherlock Holmes pipe priced at $350 because it was “signed.” Unfortunately it was signed in big block letters along one side  by someone using a rotary tool. You could still see the tool marks. I passed on both of those.

I do have a Sultan saxophone meerschaum I paid $10 for at a flea market. It has a 3-part stem (one acrylic and two sections of meerschaum) and was unsmoked. I examined it carefully before buying and didn’t see any cracks. But as I smoked it the first time and it got hot, two long cracks at the base of the bowl appeared. I quickly applied super glue to it and it’s been sitting on my shelf since then. It looks nice sitting on display as a $10 piece of art. It is also my first cautionary tale about buying pipes at these shops.

Floral meerschaum in case was only $20

And it brings me to my second cautionary tale. This past weekend we made an overnight swing through southwest Mississippi. At one stop I found an unnamed, never smoked, Meerschaum in its hard case for $20. After carefully examining it with a magnifying glass, I took the stem off and inspected the stummel end. I felt I gave it a thorough examination and other than a musty, moldy, almost mothball smell in the bowl, it looked in great condition. Until I started the cleaning process when I got home.

I removed the stem by gently turning and pulling it with no problem. Next, I inserted a clean and dry pipe cleaner through the airway and then filled the bowl with baking soda to see if that would get rid of the smell and let it set.  A few hours later, I dumped the baking soda and removed the pipe cleaner. Wiped out the bowl with a tissue and then dipped the pipe cleaner in water and ran it through the airway.

The invisible crack appears...

The first crack, before attempted repair

That’s when a crack at the very end of the stummel, where the nylon screw went appeared. Don’t you hate it when that happens? I have five rescued meerschaum pipes. I have cleaned each of them this way. This is only the first one to crack when cleaning. I sat there and watched as the crack around the stummel expanded and a half inch piece fell off.

I hate it when that happens. My first thought was to throw it in the trash.  My second thought was it may be salvageable. The broken part was only part of the threaded stummel so if I glued it back together it might not affect the smoking capability of the pipe. That’s what I was hoping for, anyway.

It wasn’t what I got. After letting it sit for 24 hours, I loaded the bowl and lit it carefully. About five minutes into the smoke, as the tobacco started burning good, I heard a crackle which I first attributed to maybe the tobacco not being dry enough. Then I look at the right side of the pipe and saw another thin, almost imperceptible crack extending from the stummel along one side of the bowl. Then I heard another crackle and saw the crack had expanded around the bowl and up the left side.

The crack expanded around the front of the bowl

Lesson learned? Not really

Nothing can save this pipe, so I gentle pried the tobacco out of it to prevent more damage. It now sits on top of one of my pipe shelves with the Sultan which is also never smoked. Either the pipe had not been cared for properly or the block was flawed when carved. It only takes a drop or two on a hard surface for a meerschaum to crack.

Won’t stop me from rescuing more pipes in the future.

(© J. Gibson Creative Services 2018)

Determining the Cost of Rescue Pipes

Blog by Joe Gibson (PappyJoe)

I have followed PappyJoe on Twitter ever since our paths crossed on the Country Squire Radio show. We have fired tweets back and forth and not long ago he sent an invite to his blog PappyJoe’s World – Pipe Smoking and other thoughts. Since then I have frequented the blog and read quite a number of his posts. During my lunch hour at work today I decided to visit again. I read three really interesting posts that I thought would be great to share on rebornpipes. I wrote PappyJoe and asked permission to post these blogs here. This is the first of them. Well worth the time to read. Thanks PappyJoe and welcome to rebornpipes. Without further words from me here is the second of his blogs (

Two pipes I rescued from an antique/collectible shop. The Kaywoodie Stembiter was first on the market in the 1950s.

Here’s the question. When shopping at antique/collectible/flea market/junk shops, how much is too much to pay for a pipe?  Of course, the final answer is, “It depends on how much the buyer is willing to spend.”  But other than that, how do you determine if the pipe you’re looking at is a good value?

I look at different factors when I find a pipe in one of these shops. First, if it says “Made in China” I don’t buy it. Period. Second is the brand name because there are some pipes I don’t personally collect – Dr. Grabow, Medico, Yello Bole and most Kaywoodie. (In an effort to be honest, I do have four Kaywoodies, 1 Yello Bole Spartan (It was my grandfathers.) and a Linkman Hollycourt Special made before the name changed to Dr. Grabow.) Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with these pipes and many pipe smokers collect them. With some exceptions, I don’t.

I also don’t normally collect pipes to sit on display. I own five pipe designated as display pipes. Two are Meerschaums which displayed cracks after the bowl got hot. One is a gourd Calabash with a cracked Meerschaum bowl. The last display Meerschaum I bought specifically because of the intricate carving and the size. Two Bavarian Hunter style briar pipes round out my “display only” pipes. Eventually I may clean and smoke them as well.

A Bavarian style pipe

For the most part, I look for pipes European made pipes like Savinelli, Jobey, Chacom, Peterson, etc. My personal holy grail would be to find a Dunhill that I could afford to buy and restore. While I have had luck finding a few Savinelli’s and other Italian made pipes, the rest have eluded my efforts. So far.

The next thing I look for is the condition of the pipe bowl and stem. I only buy pipes that are in such a condition that I can either clean and restore it myself or it would be worth the cost to send it to a professional. Having the work done by professional pipe restorers can range from very reasonable to the cost of a new pipe. Whether it’s worth it or not, is again, a personal choice.

Here are some things I consider when hunting for a rescue pipe as I call them.

Who Made It.

Lighthouse Pipe by Akdolu. The top of the lighthouse comes off.                                                  Total weight: 5.92 ounces (168 grams)

As I mentioned above, I don’t necessarily collect every pipe I see. I like looking for higher quality names. One exception is Kaywoodies. I learned the difference between 2, 3 and 4-digit Kaywoodies. If I find one with 2 or 4 digits, I generally will look at it more closely. If it’s a 3-digit pipe, it was made after 1972 or so and I am less interested. This generally doesn’t apply to Meerschaum because most I find are not signed.

What Condition Is It In?

Obviously, I check for cracks and burnouts. After that I look at whether the smoker took care of the pipe or abused it. The amount of cake in the bowl is one indicator I look at. For example, I passed on several pipes recently because I couldn’t fit my little finger into the bowl. The cake in each of them was thick and old. In two pipes, the cake was separating from the wall in spots. These pipes included a Dunhill, a Savinelli, a Jobey, a Butz-Choquin and a Wally Frank. They also had other condition problems.

I also look at the stem condition. If I can’t remove the stem of the pipe from the stummel I will usually pass on the pipe. The stems on three of pipes I mentioned above were stuck so bad I couldn’t remove them. I did remove the stem from the Savinelli but there was about a 1/4-inch gap between the stem and the ferrule. It just wouldn’t go in all the way.

The stems on these pipes were all heavily oxidized and severally chewed on, also. The Dunhill, for example, looked like a weathered orange ball used as a chew toy for a large dog. The deep tooth marks extended for almost an inch down the stem. Again, it was a matter of my personal choice, to not buy any of these pipes because I felt the stems were not repairable.

Does it Smell Bad?

In addition to the amount of cake in the bowl, I smell the pipe. If it smells like tobacco, I consider buying it. If it smells like mothballs, mold, ammonia or anything else, I pass. This is especially important when it comes to Meerschaum pipes. I have come to learn that if an unsmoked Meerschaum in one of these shops smells like acetone or chemicals, then it’s been broken and glued back together.

How Much Is The Cost?

Savinelli Giubileo d’Oro. I paid $3 for at an Antique Street Fair

A lot of shops I visit are not one-owner businesses but consist of numerous vendors. That makes haggling over the price of an item difficult because the person at the register must track down the vendor and discuss offers over the phone. Sometimes it’s worthwhile, other times it’s not worth the effort. Here’s where personal choice comes into play, again. I look at a pipe, estimate what it would cost to restore (time, effort & money) and add that to the asking price. Then I consider the cost of a similar pipe either new or from a reputable estate pipe vendor.

(© J. Gibson Creative, April 2018)






Antique? Vintage? Estate? Or, Just Junk No One Wanted?

Blog by Joe Gibson (PappyJoe)

I have followed PappyJoe on Twitter ever since our paths crossed on the Country Squire Radio show. We have fired tweets back and forth and not long ago he sent an invite to his blog PappyJoe’s World – Pipe Smoking and other thoughts  Since then I have frequented the blog and read quite a number of his posts. During my lunch hour at work today I decided to visit again. I read three really interesting posts that I thought would be great to share on rebornpipes. I wrote PappyJoe and asked permission to post these blogs here. This is the first of them. Well worth the time to read. Thanks PappyJoe and welcome to rebornpipes. Without further words from me here is his blog (

I’m one of those pipe smokers who loves shopping for “estate” pipes. The wife and I enjoy walking around so called antique/collectible shops, malls, flea markets and street fairs. I like being able to pick up the various pipes I find and try to identify the maker and age. I have probably 25 rescued pipes I’ve bought from these shops. (I call them my rescued pipes because while they are definitely not antique, I have cleaned, sanitized and polished them into smoking condition.) But to be clear, none of these are “antiques.”

If it’s not 100 years old, it’s not an antique. And, not all of these shops are really antique shops.

Savinelli Giubileo de Oro

To be clear, I looked up the definition of antique. To be considered a true antique, the accepted rule is the item has to be at least 100 years old. Anything between 40 and 99 years old is vintage. Old items actually bought at an estate sale, are estate. Anything you find in a shop that is less than 20 years old is probably just a piece of junk someone threw out. In other words, it takes more than being old to be an antique.

Mostly these are shops which throw the name “Antique” around like a used hamburger wrapper. Some are collectible shops. Others are vintage shops. Some may even contain a few items that are bordering on being real antiques. In my opinion, real antique shops are as clean and organized as a good jewelry or furniture store. The individuals working in it are neatly and professionally dressed. And, it is one store. That is an antique store on the upper end of the scale.

You will know you are not in good antique stores when you walk in the door. If you see a sign that says, “Over 100 different vendors,” it’s not an antique store. When you walk in and smell the dust and mildew, and vendors look like they’ve been cleaning out their attic, chances are it’s a flea market.  If you walk down the aisle and each booth looks like someone just dumped out a bunch of garbage bags, it’s not an antique store.

My opinion is that these places are flea markets and the vendors spend way too much time watching American Pickers to get their prices. They all operate under the premise that if it’s old and the price it about 10 times what its worth, someone will call it an antique and buy it.

I’m not saying these places should be avoided. I’m just saying don’t go into them with the expectation that you are going to find something along the lines of a Dunhill for $20.

Finding good pipe deals…

Sure, you may find some real antiques like broken clay pipes from the civil war era, but for the most part everything found in these shops are more likely from the 1930s to 1990s.  Mostly I have found were Dr. Grabow, Medicos, Kaywoodie, Yellow Boles and unnamed briar basket pipes. But, I have also found Savinelli, WDC’s, and a variety of Italian maker pipes like Mauro Armellini. I have seen a number of “Made in London” or “Made in England” basket pipes. I even have found Edward’s Algerian Briar pipes.

Mauro Armellini Cavalier in an Elephant Pipe Holder

Some of my finds have been at really good price points. Who wouldn’t want to buy a Savinelli Guibileo de Oro for $3.00 or a Savinelli Nonpareil 9604 for $10? I also have a Mauro Armellini Cavalier I found for $25. If you do your research and learn how to identify them, you may even find more desirable Kaywoodie or Dr. Grabow.

Educating yourself is key. I have missed out on a couple of briars that I didn’t recognize the markings on. Mainly those “Made in London” or, “Made in England” pipes I mentioned earlier. They definitely weren’t Dunhill’s, but I later learned they were good, collectible pipes. They are out there; you just have to learn to recognize what you are looking at.

Let me say something about estate pipes. In my opinion, an estate pipe is one found in the collection of a pipe smoker whose last bowl has been extinguished. The family will pick over the collection and maybe choose a few as keepsakes. The majority of the remaining pipes will be sold to antique shops specializing in estate sales or to reputable pipe shops or pipe dealers. Many of these pipes will be cleaned and sanitized before they are sold.

(© J. Gibson Creative Services 2017)


There and Back Again – to Bulgaria

Blog by Dal Stanton

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sward have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on the meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known
Bilbo Baggins

These words, ascribed to Bilbo, penned by J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit, captured Bilbo’s thoughts as he came over the rise and his eyes again canvassed his beloved, Shire – home again. I borrow the sentiments he so well expressed after my wife and I returned to Bulgaria, our home, after about six months traveling in the US.  We visited sponsors of our work in Bulgaria, and renewed ties with family and friends – AND not to go unmentioned, we also celebrated the addition of two beautiful granddaughters during this 6-month sprint!  Now, I’m anxious to return to the Pipe Steward work table and to dive back into a hobby I love – collecting, restoring and recommissioning pipes to worthy stewards.  And adding frosting to this cake – these pipes are sold to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited in Bulgaria and Europe.

Sometime ago, Steve asked me to post a bit of our US adventures and I’m finally getting to it!  From September to February we traveled practically every weekend visiting sponsors and holidays to visit family in Denver, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis and Port St. Lucie, FL, from home base in Palmetto, GA.  We flew mostly but did some road trips along the way.  Of course, pipe hunts were plotted using Google maps to locate and explore flea markets, second hand stores, and antique shops – choosing to travel off the grid and interstates when we could.  I love the hunt!  I found some nice pipes through these safaris as well as from eBay auctions.  Another source was from people who donated pipes from family pass downs and from personal collections to help support the Daughters of Bulgaria.  All totaled, if I counted accurately(!), 105 pipes were added to my ‘Help Me!’ baskets in queue to be restored and recommissioned to benefit the Daughters!  A couple of those pipes will be added to my own personal collection, but not many!

The first major acquisition was a Lot of 66 from eBay – the largest lot I’ve ever tackled!  One tries to examine the pictures provided by the seller to assess the possibilities – looking for treasures lurking here and there among all the shapes and nomenclature, and I believe I did well.  Some of the highlights of the Lot of 66 include a Gourd Calabash sculpted with a Meer bowl, Comoy’s Made in London England P510 – D billiard, Peterson’s System Standard K&P Republic 312, GBD Flame 1344 Made in France poker, Kaywoodie Super Grain 08 Dublin, Comoy’s Sunrise Volcano – H 16, Savinelli 4015 Dublin, Sculpted Imported Briar calabash, M.G.M. Rock Italy Briar 19 12 – 25 freehand, GBD International London Made London England 549 rustified rim bent bulldog, Butz Choquin Regate St. Claude France 1693 bulldog, Imperial Churchwarden Algerian Briar France, Butz Choquin Regate St.Claude France 1275 Slightly bent billiard, Kiko 343 Made in Tanganyika Meer lined, Peterson System Standard Republic 392, Abbott London Made 715 pocket pipe, Jarl Chieftan 15119 Made in Denmark billiard, Jarl 1545 Made in Denmark Dublin, Savinelli Capri Root Briar Italy 8004 rustified Canadian, Ben Wade Hand Model LONDON MADE, Savinelli Punto Oro 510ks Italy bulldog rustification, Peterson’s “Kildare” Made in the Republic of Ireland 83.  There were a few clay pipes in the Lot which I was interested in seeing.  Unfortunately, the seller didn’t do a very good job packing and these were broken!  Here’s a bird’s eye view of the Lot of 66 I saw on eBay and now in Bulgaria (the pictures aren’t great but gives an idea what I had to work with): Another special acquisition was from Dan in Butler, PA.  He and his wife knew about our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria and my restorations serve to advance it.  During our visit to Butler to speak at their church, they welcomed us into their home and Dan donated this lot of 4 pipes which belonged to his father who had passed away. He told me a bit about his father, his recollections of his dad’s pipe smoking and I’ll look forward to restoring these pipes to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.  I will also try to tell the story of this former steward. Not all treasures were pipes.  On a road trip taking us through Somerset, KY, we landed upon a flea market in full swing that gave a unique picture of middle America not often seen on the interstate!  After poking through 100s of tables, I came upon a Kleen Reem Pipe Tool in its original box – with mini-pipe cleaners to boot.  I didn’t have one, so I negotiated a win/win price with the crusty, bearded, table keeper and now it is added to my arsenal here in Bulgaria.  One more reaming tool acquisition was to find an older, vintage Swiss Made Pipnet Reaming tool off eBay.  Patience paid off and one came up on the auction block.  This solid heavy-duty rubber version will replace an acrylic Pipnet version – which was susceptible to breaking. Another highlight during the time in the US was reconnecting with friends.  Dave Shain, was one such friend.  Dave and I worked in Ukraine together when we were both a bit younger.  Over the years, we went in different ways but we found each other again on The Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society group on Facebook.  We discovered that both of us had been found by pipes!  Dave’s endeavors go far, far beyond mine as he has been recognized for his work by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club and has a cool, ‘Master of Pipes’ award hanging on his shop wall and a magazine cover and article to boot!  Dave and I shared a bowl together and reminisced about the past, present and future, around a hot wood stove in his ‘Man Shed’. He gave me a tour of his workshop – a far, far cry from my desktop operation on the 10th floor of a formerly Communist apartment block!  He also donated some promising pipes for my work with the Daughters of Bulgaria.  I left with an aging tin of October 2015, Escudo Navy De Luxe which came to Bulgaria with me.  Thanks, Dave!  It was a pleasure reconnecting with an old friend. Through all of our travels and with more eBay acquisitions after the Lot of 66, more standout pipes caught my attention (from top to bottom below):  Knute of Denmark freestyle (this may make my collection!), Savinelli Autograph 5 bamboo shank rusticated (a great acquisition – needs work but great potential), Stanwell Hand Made 56 Canadian, Pipstar Standard 06 026 Dublin sitter, Comoy’s MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND 4097 H bent bulldog, La Strada Staccato 187 Italy sculpted billiard, Italian Import Italy custom shape, Comoy’s Moorgate 102 Italy bent billiard, and a Savinelli Dry System 3621 (shown) and a Savinelli Dry System 362 (not shown below). Another group of standouts are: Brigham 103 Can. Pat. 372982 rusticated billiard, Lorenzo Savona #750 Made in Italy rusticated chimney, Sasieni The Kensington 236B Canadian Made In England, Longchamp France leather wrapped billiard, Royal Danish 995R 995 R squat tomato, Lorenzo Matera Pipe Studio 807 Italy special shape (the hourglass shape was interesting), a cool Native American Hand Carved Indian Head CHIEF Italy that I couldn’t pass up!, Whitehall Gulf Stream Imported Briar rustified Dublin, a very sweet Comoy’s Pebble Grain Made in London England 605 bent poker, and a Kiko 543 Made in Tanganyika leather wrapped saddle stem billiard.I’ve seen some autograph pipes, but I didn’t know that vanity pipes existed, especially one marked with my namesake, ‘Stanton’.  He’s not too flashy, but obviously a workhorse billiard with some nice grain peeking out.  When I saw him on the eBay auction block, I did a double-take and decided then that he was coming home to Bulgaria.  Curiosity piqued, I did a quick look up in Wilczak & Colwell’s, ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ and came up with a very clear designation: “UNKNOWN”.  He’ll clean up nicely.The last bit of sharing to conclude this, ‘There and Back Again’ blog is not about pipes but tobacco.  For Christmas, in Detroit’s suburb of Dearborn, my daughter-in-law gifted me some popular selections from Boston’s Perretti Tobacconist, the second oldest tobacconist in the US where they still create blends as you wait – free testing too (so I’ve read)! She was in Boston on a business trip and thankfully (!) did some Christmas shopping for the men in her life!  Not pictured below is one of L.J. Peretti’s more popular, signature blends which I like a bunch, Park Street. This shop is on my bucket list of places to visit one day when I make it back to Boston.  The blends are very nice and pleasurable, and I’ve enjoyed sitting on my 10th floor Man Cave balcony here in Sofia, sipping on a bowl and thinking about family and how blessed I am for it.  Thanks Maureen!Now, which pipe is first on the work table?  Hopefully, soon, I’ll let you know!  Check out The Pipe Steward when you have a chance!  Thanks for joining me and my musings. It’s good to be back home!  (Below, enjoying Park Street with my good friend – Savinelli Goliath)

The Minklings of Budapest

Blog by Laci Németh

Greetings pipe smokers of the world! 🙂 This post is coming to you from Europe. Budapest, Hungary. I am one of the many silent readers of this blog. I am a pipe smoker myself for arround 15 years now. This post has mentioned me. In October I gathered a group of pipe smokers to form a regular pipe smoking fellowship, and Steve asked me to share about it. So here we go.

Why a smoking fellowship?

Yes I know, pipe smoking is an “indivudual sport”, but it does bring an interesting experience when “simple” people share time, thoughts, hearts together. My first encounter with this experience was on a mountain overlooking the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was visiting a friend who was on a mission there and choose pipe smoking as a way to go deeper with those who are opened to him.

Two Americans, few Bosnians, me as a Hungarian, a bottle of whisky, our pipes, and an open fire.  It started with them chanting this quote almost as a prayer:

“I have some friends, some honest friends, and honest friends are few; My pipe of briar, my open fire, a book that’s not too new.” — Robert W. Service

Wood was burning. Pipes smoked. Books opened to read poems. One Bosnian fellow shared his own poem that he has wrote since the last time he attended. And I was just sitting there…breathing in every second, every emotion, every heartbeat. A wonderful, life changing memory from 2006.img_1015

I asked them where did the idea came from?

They said: Inklings. (few of them were big C.S. Lewis and Tolkien fans)

Later I found out that one of them was influenced by the Wheaton version of this group: Whinklings.

11 years later. In Budapest I got to gather several pipe smokers arround an open fire. We have called ourselves: Minklings (M stands for Hungarian in our language, and the first four words also mean “us”. So its a play with the words.) 🙂img_1016

Yes, I am aware that we are nothing to compare ourselves to these giants of world literature. We are counselors, buisiness people, church pastors, programmers, etc. But we have many things in common. Among which the pipe smoking might be the least important.

I was very much surprised that almost each person had a poem (or poems) written before. They shared it. It was unique time. One of us has brought his own home
brewed beer. Some played a song.

We got to know each other through what we brought to the table.

in my point of view, we are all unique, worthy and special. we all have talents, gifts, capabilities that can be treasures to others. But we have many things in common. Among which the pipe smoking might be the least important.

I was very much surprised that almost each person had a poem (or poems) written before. They shared it. It was unique time. One of us has brought his own home brewed beer. Some played a song.  We got to know each other through what we brought to the table.  Every human being is a treasure.

If you want to discover it, all you need to do is organize a meeting for people you know that are pipe smokers. Announce a subject, for example: Bring a poem, a song, or something that describes you, that introduces you. Have an open fire. And let the magic happened. You will not regret it.

We are now meeting (only) every three months in organized way. But several of us have posted times when “we ran” into each other for a smoke wherever we met in the country.


ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS: Aren’t all pipe reamers basically the same?

Blog by Steve Laug

This is another blog written in the Answers to Questions series. I have often been asked via email, messenger or phone call for a recommendation for a pipe reaming tool. I have answered that question so many times it is almost a script now. I basically use two different reamers on the pipes I work on. The first is a Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the second is the PipNet Pipe Reaming set. I thought it was time to post this as a blog on rebornpipes and use it as a comparison between the original tools and others that I call “pretenders”.

Over the years of my refurbishing experience I have used and worn out many pipe reamers. I have tried older and newer pipe reamers that have all promised to be the best and last one that I will have to purchase. Needless to say, I have a collection of various reamers other than I like looking at the creativity that sent out such a variety into a limited world of pipe smokers who actually ream their pipes. I rarely use many of them but they are fun to look at. One thing I have learned that even with the reamers I use, that not all pipe reamers are the same even if they look the same. I want to take this opportunity to compare two different reamers – the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the PipNet Pipe Reamers what I call the originals with the ones I call lesser copies. I will also be looking at the PipNet pipe reaming set in the two iterations that I am familiar with – the clear amber version and the opaque tan version. Understand that I have used all of these reamers so I am not coming from a place of prejudice but rather from an assessment of durability and functionality.

1. Kleen Reem and Senior Pipe Reamers.

I remember that when I first saw these two reamers for sale on eBay I thought they were the same. I had never seen either of them up close so I had no way of truly knowing. Since then I have had both of them in my refurbishing arsenal. I have used them both and I have no problem saying that the Kleen Reem tool is by far a superior product. The first photo below shows the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the second photo shows the Senior Pipe Reamer. Looking at the two pictures above I want to do a bit of comparison. The adjustable cutting head on the Kleen Reem tool is made of thicker hardened steel and no matter how often I have pushed the blades against hardened carbon on the inside of a bowl they have not grown dull. The blades in the closed position are very close together allowing you to ream the bottom of a bowl. The profile of the blades is different – the senior reamers blades look more flat and angled, while the Kleen Reem blades have a flowing curved shape. The cylinder between the blades that expands and contracts them differs in shape. The Kleen Reem cylinder is more bullet shaped with a pointed end and the Senior is flatter and more cylindrical. I think this explains why the Senior reamer cannot be closed as tightly for use in a smaller bowl. The drill bit/ that is in the handle of the reamer looks the same but it is not. It is more substantial and solid in the Kleen Reem tool than the one in the Senior reamer. The drill bit has a hole in the end of it that you can wrap up the grooves of the bit, dip in Alcohol or liquor and scrub out the inside of the shank. Kleen Reem’s come with a bunch of the short pipe cleaners inside a little ring that holds them. The weight of the Kleen Reem tool is substantially heavier than the Senior reamer.

I have learned from using the tool that the Kleen Reem mechanics never seems to stick no matter how dirty the tool I have used. I have three or four of these in different cases and all of them seem impervious to dirt and carbon. I have bought all of them on eBay in a variety of conditions and with cleaning all work well. They keep on going no matter what they are put through. Their durability can also be seen in that they have lasted through the years and the originals are still sold on eBay.

You can see my preference in the above is for the Kleen Reem tool. It seems that they were first made by the B.A.C. Needham Company and later by the W.J. Young Co. in Peabody, Massachusetts. Each Kleen Reem pipe reamer came in a variety of packaging styles. The original BAC Needham’s came in a cardboard case (this is the first one that I purchased over 20 years ago). The earliest versions sat in a soft green bedding and still had “Pat. Pend.” stamped on the cap for the drill bit. I have other ones that have a red bedding.

2. Pipnet and Castleford Reamers.

Pat Russell did a great comparison review of these two reamers in an earlier blog on rebornpipes. I am including the link if you want to read it fully. I will summarize some of the major differences that I have found between two very similar looking reamers.I first bought a PipNet Pipe Reamer on eBay almost 20 years ago. It came in a plastic box imprinted with the PipNet stamp and information. It had an instruction sheet on the inside of the cover. It was made of an opaque tan coloured high density plastic that is very strong. I have used it heavily over the past years, reaming literally hundreds of pipes and it is still in great condition. The thick carbon steel blades have held their edge and work as well as they did when I received it. The hard plastic T-handle and four detachable cutting heads have not cracked or broken. The heads still fit well in the handle, snug and tight with no rattle or looseness.

Not long after that I was gifted a Castleford Reamer. It came in a cardboard box with a clear plastic insert in the lid. The T-handle and cutting heads were black plastic and on first glance, they appeared to be the same as the PipNet set. However, it did not take long to learn firsthand the difference in the two sets. I used the Castleford on a thickly caked bowl that the PipNet easily handled and the blades had a hard time cutting into the cake. The handle felt flimsy in comparison to the PipNet and as I turned it, using the smallest cutting head the square end of the cutting head snapped off. I figured it was a fluke. I put the next head in the handle and turned it. This time the T-handle itself snapped, rendering the set useless. To have both the handle and a cutting head snap was no accident. I compared the two T-handles and could see that the Castleford was significantly thinner than the PipNet handle. The square slot that held the heads had thin walls. The plastic itself seemed lighter weight and more brittle than the PipNet. Looking at the material it seemed be less dense on the Castleford.

I went on to compare the square end of the bits on both. The Castleford was cast different from the PipNet. It seemed to be thinner even at the joint of the square with the blades. I compared the cutting blades and found that the steel on the blades of the Castleford were not as thick, beveled or hard as the ones on the PipNet. I knew that the PipeNet blades were carbon steel but the blades on the Castleford did not seem to be made of the same steel.

3. Pipnet clear amber and PipNet opaque tan Reamers.

For comparison sake I thought I would end this blog on my favourite reamers with a comparison of the PipNet reamer that is opaque tan with the clear amber one made by the same company. This may seem unnecessary but I have found that even these two sets are different.

The carbon steel blades are the same and cut the carbon cake very well. They both hold the sharp edge very well and do not wear. The difference lies in the durability of the plastic T-handle and cutting head. The opaque plastic seems to be harder than the clear amber plastic. I used the amber plastic (which is a newer reamer) reamer for several weeks. I began to feel it flex as I turned it in the bowl. After a few uses it started to show cracks in the plastic T-handle around the connection with the cutting head. The heads began to fit more loosely in the handle than when I started. I continued to use it for the entire two weeks.

The last time I used it, the connector on the handle cracked and a chunk of the plastic fell off. I switched to the opaque T-handle and kept working and in short time the cutting head also broke off. It was very clear that it was not as durable even when using it in the same manner as the opaque one. The remaining cutting heads fit in the opaque T-handle so they remain usable but I am quite disappointed in the quality of the newer amber plastic version. I will always continue to hunt for and use the opaque (older reamer) one. I have bought several and given them away to others as gifts. I need to find a backup set for myself as well.With that, I conclude my answer to the question regarding the pipe reamers I use and the comparison of the real and the pretenders in my opinion. Over the years, I always reach for these two reamers without giving the choice much thought. I just unthinkingly choose these two. However, it seems that I reach for the PipNet reamer first. It is my go to reamer. I start with the smallest cutting head and work my way up to the largest one that will fit in the bowl. The Kleen Reem is always the second choice for most pipes. Sometimes for a deeper, tapered and narrow bowl, I will start with the Kleen Reem. Both occupy a drawer right next to my worktable.

With the last comparison, I end this Answers to Questions blog. I hope that it has given you some insight into why I chose the tools that I use. You should know, if you are a frequent reader of rebornpipes, that there is always a rationale to my choices. They generally come from much experimenting with a variety of reamers with many discards that go either into my collection of reamers or into the dustbin. I hope that it has been helpful for you in selecting the reamer that you will purchase. Thank you for taking time to read this blog. Cheers.