Tag Archives: Amphora pipes

Restoring a Beautifully Grained Amphora X-tra 725 Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

For the next pipe, I chose a unique looking pipe that we picked up back in March of 2018 from a friend in St. Leonard, Maryland, USA. It has been here for a while and I am just now getting to it. This one is an Amphora Bent Billiard. It has a really nice mix of flame and straight grain around the bowl and shank. It was stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left side it reads Amphora [over] X-tra [followed by] the shape number 725. On the right side it reads Genuine Briar [over] AMPHORA, Holland. The pipe was dirty with grime ground into the finish. The grain really shined through the grime. There was a thick cake in the bowl and a light lava overflow and darkening on the thin rim top. The inner edge of the rim looked very good. The vulcanite saddle stem was heavily oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button on both sides. There is an A in a circle inset on the left side of the saddle stem that is faded and worn looking. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up. He took photos of the bowl, rim top and stem to show the condition of the pipe. The bowl is heavily caked and you can see the light lava and darkening on the rim top around the bowl. The stem is very oxidized and there are some light tooth mark on the top and underside of the button.Jeff took photos of the sides of the bowl to show the grain on the sides. It is really quite a pretty looking piece of briar.He took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable with some faint stamping on the edges.I knew from past work that there was a connection between Amphora and the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. The Amphora – Holland stamped pointed to that for me. I turned to Pipephil’s site to remind myself of the connection (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a5.html). I have included a screen capture of the section on the site that give some photos of the stamping. The pipe I am working on is stamped like the first photo below.There was also some information in the side bar that I have included below:

A brand of Elbert Gubbels & Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory who has gone bankrupt on March 2012. See also: Big-Ben, Humbry, IRC, Roermond, Royal Dutch, Thompson and Porsche Design.

Now that I was reminded about the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory connection it was time to work on the pipe on my end.

Jeff had done a great clean up of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. He cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed internals of the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He cleaned the exterior of the pipe with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and the lava on the rim top. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the debris that had accumulated on it. The pipe looked clean and ready for the next step in the process. Here are some photos of it when I finally got around to working on it 4 years later. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and the stem surface. It looked amazingly good. The stem looks good with a little oxidation at the button end. There were also some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It was readable though faint on both sides of the shank and stem side.I removed the stem from the shank to show the components of the pipe. It is a great shape and is a beauty.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. It really began to take on a shine. I rubbed the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, renew and protect briar. I let it do its work for 15 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The pipe is really quite a beauty. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I scrubbed off the surface of the stem with Soft Scrub All Purpose Cleanser to remove the residual oxidation on the shank end of the pipe. It looked much better.I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to further blend in the sanded areas.I polished the stem on both sides using micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded the stem with the 1500-12000 grit pads, then wiped it down with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After stem polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This is another pipe I am excited to finish. It is a Amphora X-tra 725 Bent Billiard with some beautiful grain. I put the pipe back together and buffed it lightly with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the polished stem. It really was a beautiful pipe. The mix of flame and straight grain shining through the rich browns/black stain on this Amphora X-tra Bent Billiard is nice looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.48 ounces/42 grams. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Pipe From Various Makers section soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the cleanup with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of those who follow us.

Recommissioning a Bulldog: Amphora X-tra 724-644 of Amphora Holland

Blog by Dal Stanton

Last year, while in the US for several months, I landed the largest haul of pipes in my pipe collecting history – which isn’t that ancient!  It was called the Lot of 66 by the eBay seller who represented a non-profit in Texas that sold donated items to help people in need.  Just by the cursory look in the picture below I was very interested in turning these pipes around to benefit our very precious people in need, the Daughters of Bulgaria.  The world is full of broken people experiencing a plethora of painful and often, dehumanizing conditions.  Sometimes all of our efforts seem like a drop in the bucket, but I suppose if a lot of people added their ‘drops’ it might, and often does make a difference, one life at a time.  Well, I won the Lot of 66 on the eBay auction block and thanks to a very patient wife, the Lot of 66 made it back home to Bulgaria where each pipe, one pipe at a time, makes it to my worktable and is recommissioned – hopefully, better than new!   The Amphora X-tra, quarter bent Bulldog of Holland is the next pipe on my worktable.In Bulgaria, I took the Amphora Bent Bulldog out of the ‘Help Me!’ Basket when Taylor saw this pipe, along with two others that he commissioned already restored, a Savinelli Oscar and an Italian Custom Shape.  I allow pipe people to commission pipes from my ‘Help Me!’ Basket which I have listed on The Pipe Steward website in the section, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!   I’m amazed how many ‘Pipe Dreamers’ there are out there!  This Bent Bulldog is the last of three Taylor has commissioned and is destined as a gift for a friend who is to be married!  Here are the pictures. There is precious little information in my usual go-to sites on the internet about Amphora.  Pipedia’s small article said this:

Amphora pipes are made in Holland by the Jos. Gubbels organization, the same company which makes the very well known and loved Amphora Pipe Tobaccos. The pipes are produced in relatively small numbers to a high standard and not commonly found.

The Royal Dutch Pipe Factory Elbert Gubbels & Sons B.V. is the only manufacturer of briarroot tobacco pipes in the Benelux countries where pipes of high quality are made under the brands Big Ben, Hilson, Royal Dutch and Amphora. They also supply numerous smokers’ accessories of high quality.

There also was pictured an Amphora Bulldog with the same nomenclature as the one on my worktable but of the blasted variety (courtesy of Doug Valitchka):What I see in this picture above is that there is an ‘A’ stamping on the stem.  The Amphora before me now has a fading whisper of an Amphora ‘A’ stamping.  It is very weak and I’m doubtful if I can save it let alone improve it.The only additional information added by PipePhil.eu about Amphora was that it’s mother company, The Royal Dutch Pipe Factory, referenced above, went bankrupt in 2012.

The Bulldog before me has the nomenclature on the left shank, ‘AMPHORA’ over ‘X – tra 724-644’. On the right side of the shank it reads, ‘GENUINE BRIAR’ over ‘AMPHORA HOLLAND’.  The general condition of the pipe is dirty and it has a lot of nicks, bumps and dents.  The cake in the chamber is moderate.  The dome of the Bulldog is in good shape, but the double rings separating the dome and the lower bowl has some chips and dents.  There are also several small fills isolated on the left, lower side of the bowl that need a closer look.  The stem has oxidation, but the bit has little tooth chatter.  I begin the restoration of this Amphora X-tra quarter bent Bulldog by adding the stem to the Before and After Deoxidizer along with other stems in queue.   I leave the stems in the bath for several hours and then I fish the Bulldog’s stem out.I wipe the Deoxidizer off (didn’t take pictures of this!) with a cotton pad and light paraffin oil (mineral oil in Bulgaria).  The deoxidizer did a good job.  After the stem dries, I look for the ‘A’ stamping on the stem.  It remains only a phantom and I’m afraid it will disappear into oblivion.  It is impossible to see without a strong light and glare.  I’m afraid it’s a lost cause.Turning now to the stummel, I ream the chamber to remove the layer of cake to go down to fresh briar.  To do this I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I start with the smallest blade and use only 2 blades of the 4 available to me.  I then switch to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber walls to fine-tune the reaming job.  Finally, I sand the chamber removing additional carbon left over and getting down to the fresh briar.  To do this I wrap a piece of 240 sanding paper around a Sharpie Pen.  I finish by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber walls look good – I don’t see any cracks or heat fissures.  The pictures show the progress. Now, to clean the external briar surface I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad.  I also employ a tooth brush to scrub the surface around the dome rings and I use a sharp dental probe to scrape the muck out of the twin dome rings going around the circumference.  There is some light lava on the slanted rim which I scrub with a brass brush and scrape with a pin knife.  It cleans up well.  There remains darkened briar around the rim which I will need to sand.After the cleaning the stummel, I again check the fills that riddle the left side of the stummel.  I use a dental probe to test the fills.  The larger ones are soft from the moisture and I dig the fills out with the probe.  The smaller fills seem to be good, so I’ll leave them.  There’s a lot of patching to do.  To do all the stummel patching together, I look at the damaged areas of briar that have been chipped from the dome ring ridges.  I take pictures focusing on these areas to get a better look.  The first picture is the front of the stummel – a large chip is taken out of half of the center ring.  The next picture shows that there are two chips on the left side of the stummel.  I’ll patch the dome ring chips and the fills together using a putty mixture of CA glue and briar dust.  While I think about how best to approach these patches, I first clean the internals of the stummel using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It gave some resistance, but eventually the pipe cleaners and cotton buds prevail.  Later, I’ll also do a kosher salt and alcohol soak to clean more thoroughly.To patch the chips in the ring, after wiping the area with alcohol, I apply a thick CA glue and briar dust putty to damaged areas.  I mix thick CA glue and briar dust together until the putty reaches the viscosity of molasses and then I use a toothpick and a dental spatula to apply the putty. With the help of the dental spatula I make sure the troughs of the dome rings stay clear of putty – not an easy task!  With the fills, I apply putty to the holes as mounds and let the putty cure. It looks like a mess now, but I’m hoping it cleans up nicely when I sand the patches down tomorrow!  I let the patches cure overnight. Before I turn out the lights, the patches have set enough to handle.  I clean the stummel internals further with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I form a wick by twisting and pulling a cotton ball and then pushing it down the mortise and airway using a stiff straight piece of wire.  I then set the stummel in an egg crate to stabilize it and fill the bowl with kosher salt which leaves no taste.  I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until is surfaces over the salt.  I now turn out the lights.

The next morning the soak has done the job.  The salt and wick are discolored showing the further absorption of tars and oils from the internal briar.  I dump the expended salt in the waste and clean the salt using paper towel.  I then finish by wetting a pipe cleaner and cotton bud with alcohol and run them through one more time.  Internals are clean for the next steward! Now working on a clean pipe, I look at the cured patches.  I start with the front chip on the dome ring.  Using a flat needle file, I go to work on filing down the patches to the briar surface.  I’m careful to keep the file on the patch mounds and not to impact surrounding briar.  Then switching to 240 grit, I lightly feather sand the area bringing the patch to the briar surface.  To sharpen the trough and remove excess patch, I fold a piece of 240 paper and fit it in the groove of the trough and sand (first picture below).  I then use a sharp dental probe to clean the debris out of the trough.  It looks good.  I then move to the left side of the dome ring and do the same with the two chip patches.  I take pictures of the process.  Next, I go to work on the fill patches on the side of the stummel.  With these many patches, it looks like a construction zone!  I use the flat needle file to bring the patches down to the briar surface.  Then, using 240 grade paper, I continue to sand and blend the patches with the briar surface.  I move from patch to patch until they are all down to the briar surface.  Again, I chronicle the filing and the 240 grade paper patch sanding.  Now I switch to 600 grade paper focusing first on the dome ring chips – first in the front.  I sand the area and I also, like with 240 paper, fold it in half and insert the fold into the trough of the ring and sand back and forth like a hand saw.  This addresses smoothing of the sides of the troughs which form the center dome ring.  Next, I move to the left side dome ring patches and do the same. Again, I use a sharp dental probe to ‘plow out’ the troughs removing the left-over debris.  I travel the entire circumference of the dome ring troughs.  I sand the entire ‘construction zone’ of patches with 600 grade paper which erases the scratches left by the 240 grit paper and blends the patches. Looking again at the beveled rim which angles toward the chamber.  It is darkened from minor scorching and I use a rolled piece of 240 grit paper to clean it.  I follow using a rolled piece of 600 paper to smooth and erase the 240 grit scratching.  Now, looking to the stummel, it has many scratches and dents, especially on the dome – I take a few pictures to get a closer look.  The question in my mind is, do I go the path of more disruption to the briar, starting with sanding sponges or do I start more conservatively using the micromesh pads?  I decide conservatively – I can always strategically back track if I see too many dents and scratches being left behind.  For now, I start with wet sanding using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000.  Throughout, I’m careful to avoid the nomenclature on both upper, diamond shank sides.  After completing the micromesh sanding, I again take the sharp dental probe and carefully scrape out the dome rings to remove any debris that has collected – and there is some!  I move around the dome in both troughs and then follow by sweeping the rings out with a bristled tooth brush.I now need to catch the stem up with the stummel.  I take a few pictures of the upper and lower bit area and there are minor dents on it and the button has some compression.  I’ll heat the vulcanite to raise these dents which should result in easier sanding.  To start, I use a cheap Bic lighter and paint the bit and button with flame to heat and to expand the vulcanite.   This works well.  I then use 240 grit paper to sand the dents.  I use the flat needle file as well to sharpen the button – to make it crisper.  After using the 240 paper, I employ 600 grade paper to erase the scratches of the 240 paper.  Finally, I sand/buff the entire stem with 0000 steel wool. Looking back to the stummel, I have been thinking about how to proceed. From the earlier pictures, the original color motif on this Amphora X-tra Bulldog was lighter – tending toward natural briar but not quite.  With the fill patches I’ve done, I want to darken the color to mask these.  When I look at the patches again, I notice that the smaller fills that I did not deal with earlier – thinking that they were ok, had hollowed out.  Ugh.  I get the dental probe and excavate additional older fill material.  I’ve had detours before, and I’ve just started another.  With three additional holes to fill, the good news is that it is localized and shouldn’t take too long.  After cleaning the new holes, I spot drop regular CA glue into each and utilize an accelerator to quicken the process. To shorten this description, suffice it to say, I filed/sanded the patches down and I repeated the full micromesh pad process of 9 pads to complete the detour pictured next!To mask the orchard of patches on the left side of the stummel and shank, I will use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to darken the hue.  As an aniline dye, alcohol based, I can and plan to wipe the stummel down with alcohol to lighten the dye if I choose.  I will start darker and lighten if needed so that the patch of patches will be masked.  Even so, I like the look of a darker Bulldog – it has more of an ‘Olde World’ feel to it.  I transform my worktable to the stain table, bringing out the tools necessary.  I mount the Bulldog’s stummel on a cork to act as a handle.  I wipe the stummel down with alcohol to make sure it’s clean.  I then heat the stummel with a hot air gun which acts to expand the grain and making the grain more receptive of the dye.  After the stummel is heated well, I use a folded pipe cleaner to apply the dye to the stummel.  After thoroughly covered, I light or flame the wet aniline dye and the alcohol immediately flames off setting the dye in the briar.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process again by applying another coating of dye and then flaming it.   I set the stummel aside to rest for several hours. Turning to the stem, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3 pads I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite stem.  The ‘A’ stem marking that was existent before is no longer.  There was nothing left to salvage by the time it reached my worktable. Now, time to unwrap the dye-flamed stummel.  It’s been resting for several hours after applying Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye.  To unwrap the crust to reveal the grain, I mount a new felt buffing wheel on the Dremel and set it almost to the slowest speed.  I apply the coarser compound, Red Tripoli to the stummel using a methodical section by section approach – not applying too much pressure on the wheel but allowing the speed, the felt wheel and the Tripoli to do the work.  With my wife’s help, because I don’t have three hands, she took a few pictures to show the Tripoli at work unwrapping.  To finish up the Tripoli, to get to the tight places next to the shank, I changed over to a cotton cloth buffing wheel which was able to reach into the crook.  The ‘unwrapping’ is pretty amazing to see the grain emerge and to discover how the leather dye was received.After completing the Tripoli, I wet a cotton pad with alcohol and lightly wipe the stummel.  I do this not so much to lighten the dyed finish, because I like the brown hue a lot, but to blend the fresh dye on the briar surface.I then mount the cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to Blue Diamond compound and increase the Dremel to 40% full power.  I join stem and stummel and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  When finished, I wipe the pipe with a felt cloth not so much to buff but to remove the compound dust from the surface in preparation for the carnauba wax.  Changing to another cotton cloth wheel, leaving the speed the same, I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to stem and stummel.  I then give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

Oh my, he looks good!  The iconic Bulldog shape reminds one of the small, stout four-legged friend from whence this name comes.  This quarter bent Amphora X-tra 724-644 of Holland came out very well.  The dome ring repairs are invisible and the patch of patches on the lower left side of the bowl has blended well with the darker leather dye.  The briar grain is nice.  The straight grain seems to pour out over the Bulldog’s dome and is joined by bird’s eye grain bubbling like foam on a frosted mug – the dome is eye catching and pulls one’s attention to the pipe.  This Amphora X-tra is ready for a new steward!  Taylor saw the potential of this Bulldog when he commissioned it for his friend’s wedding gift (see For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only).  He will have first dibs on it when it goes into The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe along with the other 2 that Taylor commissioned and acquired benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you for joining me!

About the Winner of an Amphora Bent Billiard and More Information on the Brand

Guest Blog Addendum by Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
http://www.roadrunnerpipes21.biz (under construction)
Photos © the Author except as noted

I have only offered a free pipe to readers of my blogs on two occasions, both times as rewards for answering questions related to restorations I chronicled as homages in the styles of great writers I admire and wish I could even emulate.   The other time, Chris Chopin (Flatticus, who has made many fine contributions to this forum) came up with all 13 Ernest Hemingway titles to the Pulitzer Prize winning author’s original books I added to the text of “The Young Man and the Pipe” two years ago.  Chris therefore scored a surprise that was much better than the Thinbite I restored for that homage.

My latest homage – counting a bizarre tribute to “The Twilight Zone” TV series a little more than a year ago that didn’t include a prize – concerns an Amphora bent billiard with an unusual elliptical curve from the front of the rim continuing to the back.  The front side had such a bad gash that I had to file the inside curve to fix the damage, which as a consequence left the full original contour uneven on either side – but only a tad.  The rest of the pipe was in pretty bad shape, also, in particular the sedimentary-like layers of grime and other overuse, if not downright abuse, resulting in obscured nomenclature.

Uncovering the identity and origin of the pipe therefore required serious uncovering of the truth, or “detective” work, inspiring me to write the blog in as close to the style of the great British-American hard-boiled detective writer, Raymond Chandler, as I could manage.  At first intending to put the Amphora up for sale, I decided to offer it as a prize to the reader who could identify the most names of Chandler’s six novels and/or “certain less obvious references” specific to The Big Sleep.


The winner of the Amphora bent billiard is David J. Martin, a Reborn Pipes reader and relative newcomer to pipe restoration from Hinton, Virginia.  David aced all six titles of Raymond Chandler novels (including the best best known, to which I admit “The Big Sleeplessness” is a very rough tribute).  The titles, in the order they appeared in my blog, are:

The Little Sister, 1949
The High Window, 1942
Farewell My Lovely, 1940
The Long Goodbye, 1953
Playback, 1958
The Big Sleep, 1939

David also had the correct answers to five of the ten character names, without the benefit of knowing what he was supposed to be looking for.  They were either spelled out – one as a phonetic slang word from the 1940s that was close enough to the actual name for David to recognize it – or alluded to in various degrees of difficulty.  I did not expect anyone to crack all ten of the character name hints, and David found these:

3. “Carmen was okay, come to think of it.” – On the surface, Carmen brings to mind the music of the opera written for the most part by Georges Bizet, in which a gypsy dancer/singer seduces a naïve soldier only to abandon him for another man. She is murdered by the young soldier.  It is also an allusion to Carmen Sternwood, General Sternwood’s younger daughter in the novel, who is salacious, toys in the attic crazy and prone to considerable alcohol, drugs and sex.

5. “My biz was to fix the brodie….” – Brodie was ’40s slang for an accident or injury, and is similar enough to Joseph Brody, a petty criminal who tries to blackmail Carmen’s older sister Vivian with embarrassing photos of Carmen’s pornographic endeavors, that David noticed. Brody ends up dead, also.

8. “It’s not like I had a Geiger counter tuned to a man’s sweat….” – Harry Gwynne Geiger is the gay lover of Carol Lundgren and a purveyor of pornography, which was illegal in those days. Geiger’s attempted blackmail of the General, which led to the old man hiring Marlowe, ended with his murder early in the novel but starts the chain of events that keeps the P.I. searching for answers but coming up with more and more stiffs.

9. “I kept her wrapped up like I found her and got her safe and sound to my office on Agnes Avenue.” – Agnes Lozelle is Geiger’s front woman at his “rare bookstore” and a grifter with a big drug problem.

10. “I don’t buy a word of the stories that some fellow named Marlowe wrote any play credited to another Brit.” – A reference to Christopher Marlowe, a Shakespeare contemporary believed by some to have penned many if not all of the Bard’s plays, and a nod to our protagonist, private detective Philip Marlowe.

David’s inclusion of the last connection to the book seems to be almost reluctant, but he got it.  In his answer, he wrote, “Philip Marlowe is our detective but this is a literary reference to Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare.”  I tried to make some easy, others more difficult and one or maybe two real challenges.  The digression in the blog’s “storyline” to the theories about Christopher Marlowe’s alleged part in penning what is almost without doubt the most significant and vast contribution in the history of literature, and its placement as the last clue, were deliberate attempts at one of the second types.  I am very happy that David went with his instinct.

In hindsight, I suspect I should have included a hint that there were ten special connections to make their discoveries more possible.  But I stand by my decision not to reveal that they were clues to character names.  Well, maybe that’s being too harsh, also.

David gave seven answers in all, two of which were wrong.  However, they were very clever.  At the end of the story-blog, I paraphrased William Blake’s famous poem, “The Tyger,” which begins

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

As David noted, I might have added that part because of the fact that Chandler “also wrote [quite a bit of] poetry.”  I think the narrator’s somewhat lascivious comment about “a long, full-bodied, folksy Ukrainian tiger” and “feeling her fearful symmetry that only the Master Craftsman Himself could dare frame” was in fact a subconscious attempt at a fourth category of connections, one of a misleading variety.  Still, Chandler’s prolific poetry writing had nothing to do with the story of the novel to which I tried to pay tribute.  The observation was nevertheless an astute observation on David’s part.

I have to say the most amazing mistake David made was his almost psychic interpretation of a part I wrote and then edited because, as first written, it referred to one of Chandler’s short stories, “The Simple Art of Murder,” rather than novels.  I had written, “ It’s not like I had a Geiger counter tuned to a man’s sweat, and the simple art of murder is about as simple as common sense is common.”  Catching the mistake, I edited the sentence to end, “and murder is about as simple as common sense is common.”  The fact that David was so well attuned to Chandler’s complete works, and the reason for my altered line, astounds me.

Now, I will reveal the five undiscovered clues, in order of their appearances in the blog, and starting with the most difficult of all.

1. “At night the blood red color of the fourth planet from the sun, and the fact that it was closer to our little world than it had been in eleven years, only made the air outside seem hotter.” – The red fourth planet is suggestive of Eddie Mars, the antagonist and leader of a gambling racket who is both corrupt to the bone and the indirect cause of many of the murders in the novel.

2. “…I hadn’t seen any since the part of the year I liked best, what the locals called the monsoon season with the kind of cock-eyed, soppy buzz that got under my skin, right after the mere sound of a Christmas carol.” – Referring to Carol Lundgren, a young gay man who kills the wrong person in retaliation for the murder of Carol’s lover. Carol’s poor vocabulary also gets under Marlowe’s skin.

4. “…every one of my flannel uniforms was at Owen’s, my tailor.” – The most obvious reference to a character, Owen Taylor, the Sternwood’s chauffeur. Taylor is also one of the many killers in the story, murdering Anthony Geiger for the love of Carmen.

6. “Briar is a stern wood….” – An obvious reference to the Sternwood family in general, the patriarch of which hires Marlowe in the first place. [I WAS SURPRISED DAVID MISSED THIS ONE, CONSIDERING IT WAS IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH MENTIONING “THE BRODIE,” OR BRODY.]

7. “I’m not one to lash out unless I’m threatened to my face….” – Referring to Lash Canino, Eddie Mars’ sadistic, uncontrolled and hair-trigger hired gun who kills one person with cyanide and tries to kill Marlowe.

Given David’s extraordinary knowledge of Raymond Chandler’s varied works, and in particular that singular “wrong” answer, I can say that even in the improbable event of anyone else finding all 16 correct answers, I would still restore something special for David as a well-deserved consolation prize.  But as it stands, he gets The Big Prize, as it were, and it’s not in consolation but respect.

As I’m sure Steve would write, well done, David. (ed. Well done David – Steve)

Steve clued me to the definite comparison of the unique rim curve of the pipe I had (which later proved to be an Amphora despite some of my local friends’ shared belief that it was an Israeli Alpha) to the Dr. Grabow Westbrook.  Steve had restored a Westbrook #42 and, for lack of a better name for the design oddity, referred to it as a Westbrook.amp1 I had no problem confirming the Dr. Grabow lead with the following chart showing the ubiquitous, All-American pipe company’s 1981 line of X Series/Continental pipes.Amp2 Still unable to make out the full name on the left side of the pipe I was restoring, I turned to pipephil.com to track down the distinctive mark on the bit that resembled a sort of A in the form of a spaceship. That search ruled out Alpha and turned up two possibilities, the Douwe Egbert Company and Elbert Gubbels & Sons, both Danish makers.amp3 As it turned out, they were related, and the latter was further connected to the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory that went bankrupt in 2012. Gubbels & Sons made Amphora. That makes Amphora a Royal Dutch Pipe Factory second, or to be more precise, perhaps a Douwe Egbert “third.”

That was as far as I got until I posted a thread on the Smokers Forums UK offering the free Amphora pipe to the reader of my rebornpipes blog who came up with the best response to the stated contest rules. A friend on Smokers Forums (SF) named Ed posted this initial and most pertinent of several comments in the thread.

“Nice job on the Amphora and an enjoyable read on the restoration! As you found out there is a connection to Dr. Grabow. They made several shapes of Amphora for Douwe Egbert as the attached copy of an Amphora coupon shows. The easiest way to tell a Grabow made Amphora is the shape number–all were 800 series I believe. They also made the Douwe Egbert ‘Color’ pipes which were painted like the Grabow Color Viscount and Color Dukes. Also, if I remember correctly the ‘A’ on the stems of the Grabow made pipes were embossed, not inlaid.”amp4 In response to my query as to where he found the documentation (a single photo of the two items), Ed later added, “I got that photo from the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum… There is quite a bit of info on the Amphora pipes there. One of the members is a retired president of the company and he has posted quite a lot of info on them – as well as many other pipes made by Grabow. He’s also very knowledgeable about Mastercraft as he was VP [at] Mastercraft after it was merged with Grabow. That forum and R.J. McKay’s website are the two best sources of Grabow and related pipes info. http://drgrabow-pipe-info.com/ RJ’s site is ‘under construction’ and has been for some time but there is a ton of info especially on the Linkman Grabows.

“A lot of folks don’t realize that Grabow made pipes for several companies – tobacco companies as well as pipe companies. Ever see an Elsinor pipe made by Grabow for Edgeworth. If you see [a] Grabow that looks like an Alpha – there is a reason –and a connection. If I remember correctly they even furnished Carey at times with unfinished stummels.”

My interest in the Gubbels & Sons, founded in 1870, spiked like the average price of dot com stocks just before the collapse of that infamous period of financial history, although in a good way. Returning to Pipephil’s entry for Amphora, I noticed again the peculiar mention of pipes known as Porsche Designs and discovered that they were all conceived and manufactured in Germany by Ferdinand Porsche but apparently crafted, to the point where they were ready to be finished, by none other than E. Gubbels & Sons of the Netherlands, not Denmark as I claimed in error in my previous blog.

I have known the name Porsche for almost as long as I can remember and tried to dismiss the preposterous notion that the legendary sports car could be associated with a line of tobacco pipes by anything more substantial than a licensing agreement. My dad owned and drove two while we were still talking, a 911t from 1968, as I recall, and a 1973 914s. The second was made the year my dad turned 40 and I 11, and I now know from experience long past that men do crazy things around that age. Still, I always preferred the little red ’68 rocket.

And so, Googling Ferdinand Porsche, I was shocked to see that Herr Porsche of the cars was the same man who designed the pipes. But no,David, as good as the Amphora may be, it is no Porsche. I am sorry, but I must be honest. Gubbels, by the way, also makes the Bugatt, Hilson and Big Ben.

I did find the following charts of Dr. Grabow pipe shapes and numbers for various years and/or periods.Amp5


amp7 The information about Amphora pipes included here should – hint-hint – pique Steve’s insatiable curiosity enough to do a little more searching. I will, of course, continue to see what I can come up with to add to the data collected so far. As I see it, all I’m missing is a clear Grabow-Mastercraft-Amphora connection, which I have no doubt is to be found in the cacophony of online conversations in Ed’s fifth link below.

By the way, Ed was correct about the Amphora bit logo being embossed rather than inlaid – which accounts for the main reason I didn’t let it have an OxiClean bath. Given the frail, weathered and abused condition of the rest of the pipe, I had serious reason to doubt the etching


The Big Sleeplessness

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
http://www.roadrunnerpipes21.biz  under construction
Photos © the Author except as noted


From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class.  From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away.

— Raymond Thornton Chandler (1888-1959), British-American writer of poems, essays, literary reviews, screenplays and hard-boiled detective tales, through his great character Philip Marlowe in “The High Window,” 1942

I was wearing my powder blue boxers.  I was unkempt, dirty, unshaven and sober, and I couldn’t care less who knew any of it.  The sun was a big dark orange rooster mute with nothing left to crow about other than another shot at a life filled with danger, which reminded me I had not slept going on five days.  The freshness of the Sandia foothills was fooling no one who has blown the kind of time I have in this high desert burg, even if that steady, sandy ascent into the mountains was too formless to see yet.

The temperature during the longer shifts of light than dark grew hotter with each twenty-four-hour trudge that dragged on that miserable stretch, late July into August.  The dog days neared their end with no such luck appearing on the horizon for the solar blaze.  The sultriness outside was the kind that had nothing to do with dryness or humidity.  The oppressiveness that hung over the entire overblown town was all about the barometer.  At night the blood red color of the fourth planet from the sun, and the fact that it was closer to our little world than it had been in eleven years, only made the air outside seem hotter.

The weather fat-heads kept predicting rain but I hadn’t seen any since the part of the year I liked best, what the locals called the monsoon season with the kind of cock-eyed, soppy buzz that got under my skin, right after the mere sound of a Christmas carol.  Last I heard, a monsoon was driven by large bodies of surrounding water.  The whole forsaken state was landlocked.  While I’m on the subject of things I dislike, I might as well mention I’m not a big fan of opera – excuse me, the opera.  I’ve had to scratch under the collar through my share of these shows and would be none the poorer if I never sat through another.  Carmen was okay, come to think of it.  At least you could say that little tease got what she had coming.

The torridness was part of the reason I didn’t bother to put on one of my suits.  All of them were the same straight cut, most black or gray but a few with some color to them, like a rumor about me that was going around.  Not that any of those stories played a part in my trouble sleeping  The other excuse for not making myself more decent was that every one of my flannel uniforms was at Owen’s, my tailor, being taken in because of the weight that was sapped out of me.  I was everything the well-dressed pipe restorer who lived alone ought to be.  I was waiting on an eight thousand dollar check to clear the bank, and until that happened I wasn’t going anywhere.

The case I was working was a tough nut to crack.  Sometimes a gig was all aces, but this was bad news that made a big part of me not even want to cool down.  My biz was to fix the brodie, only in this case the charge sheet of senseless brutalities was full with counts.  I’ve never hung it up unless the pipe was done for, as in ready to stoke the fireplace or campfire.  Briar is a stern wood, though, and I had to take a shot.  In the crowd she came from, the little sister looked plenty ritzy.  Away from the crowd made her more into something any group would give a wide berth.

Some creep did a real number on this one.  She still had a swell figure and I could tell she was a dish back in the day, but that was long ago and far away, as the kid from Hoboken crooned.  In my book, a nice body is the important thing anyway.  Whatever genius plugged this dame had to be whacky or a twit.  As I saw it, the heartless S.O.B. deserved the hotsquat.  I’m not one to lash out unless I’m threatened to my face, but if I had nabbed him, he wouldn’t have known I had a beef until I put the kibosh on him.  Not that I had any idea to dog the numbskull.  It’s not like I had a Geiger counter tuned to a man’s sweat, and murder is about as simple as common sense is common.  Besides, by then he was long gone.

I picked the broad up for a five spot, but not for anything sappy, just to save her from the meat wagon.  I kept her wrapped up like I found her and got her safe and sound to my office on Agnes Avenue.  That’s also my cave, which makes it my castle.  My heater is the only insurance policy I carry.Amp1 Amp2 Amp3 Amp4 Amp5 Amp6 Amp7I’ll give you the dope, straight up.  She was worked over pretty good if that word can be used in this scenario.  Her kisser and most of the rest looked like a body that was dragged along a stretch of old road strewn with potholes and broken liquor bottles.  Maybe she took a dive from the high window, but that would have spelled farewell my lovely for this client.  Then there was the forehead that looked to have been pistol-whipped.Amp8This little gal, no big surprise, had a bad dose of amnesia.  The little bit of I.D. I found on her was all but eroded by years of grime on top of all the pushing around.  All of my local pipe gumshoes were sure they recognized her as Alpha, an Israeli, on account of a distinctive birthmark forming a curious A.  I’d known a couple of the type, and something about this A didn’t jibe.

I brought my friend Steve Laug, a fellow pipe investigator north-northwest of here in Canada, up to speed with my progress.  Laug was the best P.I. in the biz and had profiled more pipes than I had ever dreamed of in my humble philosophy, to crib from one okay yarn spinner.  I don’t buy a word of the stories that some fellow named Marlowe wrote any play credited to another Brit.  Anyway, Laug also had more skill patching up the abused and maimed than anyone else I knew.

He was the one who spotted the resemblance of my victim to one of the classic models from the Dr. Grabow stable, the 42 number.  Laug shot me the profile he did on one going by the name of Westbrook about a year before.  One mugshot in particular that Laug snapped of the Westbrook gal after he started cleaning her up showed the unmistakable genetic marker of my girl.  So they were related, but how?  That was for me to uncover.

Courtesy of S. Laug, P.I.

Courtesy of S. Laug, P.I.

No man could miss the hot curves on Laug’s Westbrook knockout compared to those of my Jane Doe, even after someone put the screws to her.  I followed Laug’s tip to another lead that took me to a real treasure trove, including a group shot of Doc Grabow’s X Series Continental Line, class of ’81.  Letting my eyes move over the lines and curves of these gorgeous creatures clued me into why the doc rated them X, if you get my drift.aMP10Oh, so many beauties in this world, and so little time.  Still not being able to put a name to my little darling was driving me bat nuts, so I gritted my teeth and went to the archives, as I like to call the place.  It’s a reputable joint run by a Frenchman known on the streets as Pipephil.  First I inquired about Alpha and was introduced to a couple of sweet numbers that showed two styles of that outfit’s A, both about as similar as Laurel and Hardy.Amp11Roaming still deeper into the organized labyrinths of Pipephil’s place, I came across an A type that was a virtual twin of my Jane Doe, belonging to a swell called Douwe Egbert, a Dane no less.  That was when I got my big break and hit the jackpot with a connection to another part of the same clan, a blue blood great Dane from the house of Elbert Gubbels & Sons of the Royal Dutch Pipe Family.  They went belly up a few years back, but not before conceiving a certain new acquaintance of mine, even if they adopted her out and didn’t give her their own name, as if it was too good for her.  All that digging paid off.  Amphora was her name, and a beautiful one at that, from the Greek for a double-handled thingy used back in ancient times to hold wines and oils and whatnot.  I looked at the facial big boned structure on Amphora and got it right off.Amp12Relieved to have put a name to my innocent friend, I started saying it out loud, over and over, as I began the tasks of cleansing, mending and restoring Amphora to health.  It was a dirty job, as some guys liked to put it in those days, but that was my specialty.  After the initial wipe with soft cotton cloth strips soaked with purified water, I made the first definite visual confirmation.  The words were legible only because I knew what I was looking for from a gander at one very crisp tattoo on the left hip of one of Pipephil’s collection.Amp13 Amp14I never could get my Amphora’s number, maybe because she was too classy to let a man of my position become so familiar.

All I can say about the next step, when I finished washing her body and went to work on that wrecked forehead, is that I was glad she was still out cold.  I had to get rough, see.  There was nothing plastic about the surgery I had to perform, but it was cosmetic, alright.  The job started out gritty and got worse, about as low as I ever go, with 80 paper followed by 150 to clear away the char alone.  I’ve seen my share of bad burns, but this was as close to a crispy critter where the victim was still alive as I hope I ever see.

The harsh part was what followed.  I had no choice but to put a file to her scalp, behind the forehead that was caved in, to fix the mess the best I could.  After that part I took a deep breath and let it out, like a tea kettle giving off steam right before it hits full boil.  I stepped back to look over my handiwork so far.  The job wasn’t perfect, but that kind of work is above my paygrade.

I did most of the mop-up of that scene of the unfolding drama with what seemed like endless paperwork.  Let’s face it, this job runs on paperwork.  Fine tuning with the full scale of micro mesh was a pleasure.Amp15Maybe I took a liberty at that point, but I could not control the impulse.  Besides, I told myself, Amphora might very well awaken from her ordeal of the long goodbye, which she was lucky to survive. and not even notice the patchwork I did.  That last part was if Lady Luck shined on me, but who was I kidding?  I don’t place my faith in luck and never met a dame, not the type I liked to be seen with in public anyway, who didn’t know the instant a single strand of hair went amiss.  The best I could hope for was that she would keep quiet about it.

To give Amphora a healthy tone more like her old self, at least as I imagined she once was, I gave her a thick coat of high fashion skin colorizer called Lincoln, a burgundy color that I knew I could lighten to a more natural auburn.  I applied some heat to fix the solution so it wouldn’t run and with a patience that was anything but natural to my usual personality used a three-stage, six-pad micro mesh conditioner process.  I finished that part with a light rub of four-ought steel wool.Amp16 Amp17 Amp18 Amp19I saved the most slender part of Amphora for the last.  There were scratches along both sides, but no evident mayhem.Amp20This called for more paperwork, forms 180, 220 and 320 to start.Amp21I followed up with form 400 and the full treatment of micro mesh conditioner.Amp22The conditioner was old, and I could see it was out of date.  I checked my mail and found the new supply was in the box.  There’s a saying in billiards that the cue is only as good as the player, but a cue that’s an inch off from warping is plain bad news.  I would never carry a heater with a barrel that’s off, or one that’s not nice and tight all over.  I don’t even care for the 1911 .45 that’s designed that way for tactical reasons.  I had a playback, you could call it, to other times in my career when I re-stocked my supplies.

Repeating the full process with the new pads, I found that even an old dog can learn a new trick, in this case to keep your heater clean and well-oiled, if you get my meaning.Amp23Amphora was waking up and starting to squawk.  My only retort was that medicine never tastes good, and I gave it to her.Amp24 Amp25She was lucky her insides were cleaner than she had been outside, and I only had to give her the one dose.

While Amphora was still coming around, I found the makeup any lady of quality won’t leave home without putting on, just the usual compounds and waxes, and buffed her up.Amp26 Amp27 Amp28 Amp29 Amp30 Amp31My insomnia and other personal stresses had made me ready to go for the big sleep, but I was over all that and was just about to take a seat on the new recliner I bought for my new digs in a more genteel part of town, and relax with a long, full-bodied, folksy Ukrainian tiger I came across at one of those new places a man can now find such pleasures.  I even sat down with the broad in my hands, feeling her fearful symmetry that only the Master Craftsman Himself could dare frame, and was about to light her fire for a quickie before taking a nice long snooze.

That was when Amphora woke up and started to yap.












An Amphora Extra Saddle Billiard Reborn

This one is the third of the three I bought at an antique mall in Edmonton, Alberta on a recent trip. It is stamped on the bottom of the shank as follows:
X-tra 726-649
Made in Holland


It has a deep craggy blast that attracted me to the pipe in the first place. The briar was dirty and the finish was gone. The remaining stain was very spotty and dirty. The grime of many dirty hands had ground into the blast leaving dark spots all around the bowl and shank. The state of the finish can be seen in the photo below. The bowl was dirty and had a slight cake with dottle still in the bowl. The rim had some darkening from the lighter and there was lava on the surface hiding most of the blast. The beauty was that the bowl did not have any damage from tapping it out or burning on the edges. It would clean up very nicely. The stem was slightly oxidized and had a calcified buildup in several spots. It also had a few faint tooth marks about a ¼ inch back from the button. The button itself had several dents in it as well. The slot in the button was too tight to even take a thin pipe cleaner. The inside of the shank was thick with a tarry buildup and the stem was clogged with buildup as well. I am pretty sure the stem had never been cleaned out as a pipe cleaner would not pass through the slot.


I removed the stem from the bowl and dipped the bowl in an alcohol bath and scrubbed it with a brass tire brush to remove the grit and grime in the blast. I then dropped it into the bath to soak overnight. In the morning I removed it from the bath and gave it another quick scrub with the tire brush. I flamed the alcohol in the bowl to dry it before I cleaned it. This is a simple process of lighting the alcohol on fire with a lighter. It burns blue and burns fast. No harm is done to the briar. I then cleaned the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners to remove as much of the tars and oils as I could before I used the retort to give it a final cleaning.



I decided to open up the button with needle files before I used the retort on the pipe. I was unable to run a pipe cleaner through the stem so I wanted to be able to remove some of the grit before I hooked up the retort. I used three different needle files to open the slot. The next four photos show the opening of the slot from start to finish. When I was done a pipe cleaner went through very easily and I was able to remove much of the tars and oils from the stem.





To finish the reformed slot I used some folded medium grit emery paper and then 340 grit sandpaper to smooth out the new edges and give it a finished look. I also sanded the surface of the button to remove the scratches from the files. Once that was done put the stem back on the pipe and ran a few more pipe cleaners dipped in Everclear through to clean out the airway. The next two photos show the pipe at this stage in the cleanup.



With the slot opened and the interior surface cleaned it was time to set up the retort. I placed a cotton boll in the bowl to keep the boiling alcohol from coming out the top of the bowl. I slid the rubber surgical tubing over the end of the stem and slid it on about ½ an inch. I want a good tight seal at this point because as the alcohol boils it can bubble out the sides of the stem and give a good burn while you are holding the stem. I put about 1 inch of 99% isopropyl in the test tube and put the rubber stopper in place in the mouth of the tube. I lit a small tea light and held the bottom of the test tube over the flame. The alcohol has a low boiling point so it does not take long for it to boil and the gaseous alcohol migrates up the surgical tubing and into the stem, shank and bowl. It is great to feel the shank warm up as the alcohol moves into the shank. I remove it from the flame after several minutes and let it cool off. As the alcohol cools it runs back into the test tube and cools. The next series of three photos show the heating and boiling process.




As it cools the alcohol migrates back into the tube. It is generally a very dark amber colour – like nice amber ale! In the first photo below show the tube removed from the flame and the alcohol beginning to refill the tube. The flame is actually behind the stopper not under it – lest anyone wonder about that. I blew out the candle at this point and continued to let the alcohol cool and drain. I then poured out the dirty alcohol, rinsed the tube with warm water, dried it out and refilled it. I reattached the apparatus and used the retort a second and third time until the alcohol came out as clean as when I started using it.



Once the insides were clean I used a soft bristle tooth brush and some isopropyl to scrub down the exterior of the bowl to prepare it for restaining. The next four photos show the scrubbed and prepared bowl.





I chose to restain the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied the stain heavily to the pipe with a folded pipe cleaner to make sure I got it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblasted surface. Once it was covered I flamed it with a lighter to set the stain. I gave it a second coat of stain and flamed it a second time. Once it was dry I buffed it with a shoe brush to get a soft shine on it. The next series of four photos show the restained bowl after the buffing with the show brush. I find that the bristles on the shoe brush work really well to buff sand blasted and rusticated pipes. I used to use my buffer and keep a light touch on the wheel because I did not want to soften the ridges of the blast. I have since resorted to using the shoe shine brush instead.





I hand applied some Halcyon II wax to the bowl and shank and buffed it a second time with the shoe brush to give it a shine. The next series of six photos show the bowl and shank during and after the shine with Halcyon II and the shoe brush buffing.







After finishing the bowl it was time to work on the stem. I sanded the blade area where the tooth marks were to cause them to stand out a bit more clearly. I used a fine grit sanding sponge first. I then heated the slight tooth dents with a Bic lighter to lift them. I find that this works very well for light dents in vulcanite. I do not leave the flame in one place but move it quickly across the surface of the dent and it literally lifts with the heat. I then wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and followed that by dry sanding with 3200 and 3600 grit micromesh pads. The next series of eight photos gives you a look at the progress of the sanding.









At this point in the process I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it into the vulcanite. I wanted to see where the remaining oxidation was so that I could do some more work on those areas.


I continued sanding the stem with 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next three photos show the progress of the shine on the stem. There was still some deep seated oxidation on the stem. I used a Bic lighter and went over the surface of the stem to burn off the oxidation. I wiped it down with a soft cloth and repeat the process until the stem was a shiny black and the oxidation was gone.




The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I gave the stem a final rub down with Obsidian Oil and I buffed the stem on my buffing wheel (attached to the bowl) using White Diamond. I did not buff the bowl. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with soft flannel buffs. I also rebuffed the bowl by hand with the shoe brush. The pipe smells fresh and clean. It is ready to smoke.