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A Third Reincarnation for an Antique Trident System

Blog by Robert M. Boughton


Imitation is the greatest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.
— Oscar Wilde

In their definitive history of the Irish pipe maker and innovator, The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson, Mark Irwin and Gary Malmberg describe the key features of the System pipe: “An army mount, an internal reservoir to collect moisture from the smoke and the graduated bore P-Lip mouthpiece.”  (Quoted from Peterson Pipe Notes.)  The Trident homage to the Peterson System has all three.  If pipes had nine lives as the ancient Egyptians were the first to impute to cats, then the Trident already would have used up four of them, at least that I know about, counting the two prior lives and now this latest I have restored to the interesting pipe.  Its continuing worthiness of restoration shows that not all imitations are mediocre.

Another indication of the Trident’s quality is its apparent lineage, which in my first two restorations of this well smoked pipe – read abused – I only found misleads to E. Deguingand & Son and Comoy’s, both of England, and even flowery carved pear wood things from Ukraine.  Here is my Trident system pipe as I first found and restored it and again just two months later after rescuing it from the trash, where my second roommate tossed it because “it didn’t work out.”  My best efforts to stifle the flush of outrage I felt as I hastened to my feet at the appalling admission and stomped outside to the garbage bins failed somewhat, to put it in the nicest light I can bring off even at this late date.  While I attribute fatal flaws such as burnouts or through and through cracks to over enthusiastic dedication to a pipe or pipes, I hope I never become inured to the wanton disrespect some pipe smokers unleash on these fine tools in the pursuit of self-gratification. This time, after scouring cyberspace for hours, I lighted upon a Reborn Pipes blog by Dal Stanton, the Pipe Steward, about another fine Trident, a sandblasted bent billiard. Dal’s work on that pipe is remarkable for his skill in enhancing its original beauty and his tireless quest for the Trident’s provenance. An arduous course of leaps, hops and steps led Dal to the conclusion, with little doubt, that the brand was a second of the William Demuth Co. of New York, which lasted from 1835-1911 – making the Trident an antique. Here are before and afters of Dal’s Trident and an early 20th century WDC Wellington Dal compared it to, the latter courtesy of Doug Valitchka and Pipedia. Now I offer one more photo I found, showing another Wellington with the same style of band Dal’s and mine had at our introductions.  This one, from Worthpoint, ends any reservation I had regarding the Trident’s WDC connection.RESTORATION The rounded end cap with which I replaced the original brass band was functional except for three hallmarks that were placed as a charade.  I never cared for the marks, which I considered distracting, but in a misguided fit to make the previous dress version more Petersonian, I went with it.  I have read other blogs discussing the meaning of EP in an oval on certain bands and understood it to stand for Electro Plated, a process of adding a thin layer of silver to the nickel.  I found an online dictionary of silver band makers that claims the EP on the end cap stands for Edward Powers, who with his brother John began operation as the Powers Brothers tobacconist in Dublin in 1900.  The end cap indeed could be called Petersonian (more or less, whatever the true meaning of EP!).  At any rate, the end cap had to go, and I was happy it came off with the 12-hour Isopropyl soak, which removed little else.  That’s the problem with a well-done black stain and shellac coat.My 120/180-grit pad removed all remnants of the dress finish faster and far easier on my hand and arm than paper and revealed the total erosion of the one word of nomenclature. I had checked before using the pad to avoid not leaving even a ghost of the block Trident letters. I did not yet grasp how flawed the wood was with almost bottomless scratches and some pits, so I continued with more of the sanding pad followed by 220-1000-grit paper progression. This turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. There were some black blotches left on the right shank below the opening that took 60-grit paper to eliminate.  Nine micro mesh pads later, I accepted the fact that no amount of viable sanding magic would make the pits on both sides of the bowl disappear.I mixed some briar shavings with Super Glue, applied dabs (sort of) to the pits and let it dry. I had missed tiny spots of the pits on the right side the first time, so I added fine drops of Super Glue alone.The 320 paper took off the dried glue, and I followed with 400-1000 before a full micro meshing. Next came an Everclear retort.My Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather dye was evaporated from long disuse, so I fell back on the Moccasin Brown for the stain.  With a flick of my Bic, I achieved an excellent flambé effect.  After a cool-off, I got rid of the char and gave the briar a shine with micro mesh from 6000-12000.  As is apparent in the following shots, some areas were too light, although not all of the pics show just how light.  I spot stained under the rim, the difficult to reach space on the back side of the bowl in the curve of the shank and most of the right and front sides.  Okay-okay, I revise “some areas” to more or less all!  Re-flambéeing the corrected places (I know that wasn’t a word until I added it to my MS Word dictionary), and another four-pad micro mesh were easy.  I didn’t bother to memorialize with still more photos the steps that should have been unnecessary.  I think 75 will be quite sufficient.  Despite repeated staining of the small spot bordering the left side and right front views, I made it a tad better but not gone.Finding the best match for a replacement, straight-edged endcap turned out to be the most challenging aspect of this third reincarnation of the Trident, again as far as I know about. I pawed through way too many candidates from a comprehensive collection I obtained from a friend on the Facebook smokers forums a while back, and after much more time than I had anticipated, I found a match that fit snugly on the shank and needed no Super Glue. The good news is that they are all organized in four baggies now.I put off the stem because, for the first time in my pipe refurbishing life, it didn’t need any sanding – just an Oxi bath and micro mesh.I buffed the stem and stummel with Brown Tripoli and carnauba. While I am unhappy with the tiny flaw on the bowl that remains un-darkened, I am pleased with the overall results.  This Trident System, a WDC second made when Peterson’s System was still revolutionary, is a clear tribute to the folks in Dublin.  Maybe it was the giant Irish maker that put an end to Trident because of the matter of a little patent infringement technicality!  Who knows?


A Hardcastle Filter Pipe Well-Smoked

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

After some time he felt for his pipe.  It was not broken, and that was something.  Then he felt for his pouch, and there was some tobacco in it, and that was something more.  Then he felt for matches and he could not find any at all, and that shattered his hopes completely..

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

I had no idea where this pipe came from.  It seemed to appear out of thin air on the little stand that serves as a sort of waiting room for my next six appointments needing various degrees of rejuvenation.  The diminutive bent billiard – once a black dress pipe, I could tell – bore such wear and accumulated gunk that it looked more like something washed up on shore after a catastrophic oil spill.  The thought occurred to me that perhaps I should wear latex gloves for the initial inspection, which suggested the pipe was not broken, and that was something, and there were no apparent cracks or burnouts, and that was something more.  The rim of the bowl was wrecked, and that would not have been encouraging were it not for the apparition of the last five letters of an old friend’s name on the left shank.  The classy H on the stem confirmed a Hardcastle shrouded by the grime.  For a chronology of Hardcastle’s transition from its beginning in 1903 to the final stage of its evolution as a Dunhill second, follow the Pipephil link in Sources.

Only after the first two steps of the restoration did I discern that the billiard was a Filter Pipe model.  I was creating a new sub-folder in my restored Hardcastles when a warning appeared on the monitor asking if I wanted to replace the existing Filter Pipe folder with the new one.  This very pipe came to me a few years back with clear nomenclature but a rim that was more abused than most.  At the time, it was the perfect candidate for my experiments in giving pipes a dress finish.  My roommate, a Hardcastle devotee, bought it.  That explained the poor thing’s further decline.

First, the before pics of the dress version.  I never blogged it because I was not happy with the rim work.  I’ve blogged one or two of my failures as cautionary tales, but not this one.Now for the carnage my roommate dumped on me.  This may be the most tortured pipe I have ever encountered.  CAUTION: The following images may be unsuitable for children or squeamish pipe smokers.In most cases, I soak the stummel in Isopropyl alcohol, but this time I chose Everclear to strip the homemade shellac I made for the dress process and the black leather dye beneath it – although not much of either appeared to remain.  I gave the stem a bath in generic stain remover. The stem came out in great shape, but the stummel less so. I used super fine 0000 steel wool to take off the residue from the Everclear soak.  This is when I could discern Filter Pipe.A full micro meshing sharpened the nomenclature and revealed the wood’s rich brown, if erratic, grain. I would like to know just how someone would go about inflicting such damage on a rim, but I couldn’t very well ask my roommate.  In the past, I have been somewhat successful with reversing mangled rims.  In one of the prior cases, for example, I resorted to a rasp.  Here are the before, during and after shots of that pipe, a P&K Everyman.I learned the importance of sanding, filing or grinding in the right direction. To narrow a rim, I move whatever tool I use with, or in the same general direction as the rim’s wall; to widen the rim, I move the tool against the rim, from the chamber outward. Try as I did to avoid resorting to extreme measures to make the Hardcastle rim right again, the time came to use my electric grinder. My main concern with making the misshapen rim at least more even and round again by putting it to an electric sanding wheel was the potential for irreversible damage in a heartbeat. Not being one to avoid a challenge, I went for it. I dare anyone reading this not to laugh at the last photo below. Believe it or not, the wheel sander did what I needed: it made the rim almost level.  I knew I could fix that problem a little later.

The pre-retort cleaning of the stummel and stem required more regular cleaners and a brass-handled brush with wire bristles, similar to the one below, both dipped in Everclear.  At least my roommate enjoyed the pipe while beating it.  The retort needed three test tubes of alcohol to come out clear.Notwithstanding the relative roundness of the rim, I knew I had to fill the preexisting indentation in the upper corner of the inner wall as shown in the post-electric sander pic.  I did something similar once, but again, I found the solution in one of Steve’s blogs on correcting an off-round rim. I filed off briar shavings from a hopeless pipe and mixed them with Super Glue, then applied the goop to the problem area inside the chamber.  It isn’t pretty, but it worked. Several hours later, I sanded down the remaining hard mess with 60-grit paper followed by a 120/180 pad. Several more hours later, I had reached the point where I knew I could not do better and sanded and micro meshed the stummel in preparation for staining.  I used British tan on the rim and moccasin brown on the rest, then micro meshed off the char with 1500, 8000 and 12000 pads.  That’s a good combination for a subtle contrast.I buffed the stummel with Red Tripoli and carnauba and was finished. SOURCES

The English Calabash That Wanted to Be a Charatan

Blog by Robert M. Boughton


Not even once in a blue moon does a pipe with an uncommon feature – but having no nomenclature other than the county where it was made – find its way into my hands.  The two most recent examples show MADE IN over LONDON ENGLAND on the right shank and did not meet their makers’ exacting standards.  The previous was a Ben Wade celebrating the poker shape with capacious panache, but other than replacing the stem with a smaller, lighter, inappropriate one, there was no way to counter the off-center of gravity and force the poker sitter to sit.  This time it’s a Charatan that looks more akin to a beanpot to me but was called a calabash by the maker.  Had not Steve seen my “beanpot” for what it is, I might have concluded that both pipes began their lives as Ben Wades.  Although Charatan pipes do not include MADE IN, I concluded that the two words were added when the pipe was rejected, maybe to differentiate the rejected from the approved.  Here are two models of Charatan’s Make calabashes from Worthpoint.Based on the seller’s detailed description of the smooth finish calabash, at the first link below, I believe Charatan made these pipes while Dunhill owned the brand (1978-1988). The grain of my pipe is not very good and required a few fills, but I don’t see why it could not have been modified to a sandblasted or relief finish as shown above. Here is mine as I received it. Sanding with 220- and 320-grit paper cleaned it up pretty well. Using 400-, 600- and 1000-grit paper, I was able to give it a first glow. After retorting the pipe, I turned my attention to the stem, which, other than being dirty, looked much better than most. I’ve started giving stems a bath in generic viscous stain remover. So far, I haven’t tried it on a specimen with oxidation, and I doubt it will do more than remove the grime that often goes with estate pipe stems. But I will report back on that.An hour later, I took the stem out of the goop, rinsed it and ran a pipe cleaner through.  Micro meshing it made two small teeth marks stand out.What I should have done was flick my Bic on the annoying little marks, but that didn’t come to me until after I reached the point of no return with another method that’s great on real divots.  Anyway, mixing Super Glue and vulcanite shavings from an old stem that’s perfect for the task was good practice.This method for removing bite marks makes a mess. Cleaning it up took a couple of days of sanding and buffing before the final shots after one more progression of 60-1000-grit sandpaper and all nine micro mesh pads – but the practice and results were worth it.Time to stain.At this point, I would have had only the final wheel buff left.  In fact, that’s what I did.  But the pic I took of the nomenclature revealed a hairline crack just below LONDON, ENGLAND.To mitigate the potential for the crack to spread, I used a touch of Super Glue and let it sit overnight. At least the foul spot was not all the way through the shank. A 120/180 sanding pad followed by a full micro meshing took off the excess dried glue.  I re-stained the effected area with Moccasin Brown and buffed the char off with 8000-12000 micro mesh. I decided to make the rim lighter with 8000-12000 micro mesh, also.Quick wheel buffing of the stem and stummel with Red Tripoli and carnauba on the buffer wheel completed the Charatan’s Make Calabash reject. The best part of this restoration is how close I came with my sweet reject to the stain of a third Charatan’s Make Perfection Calabash I found online.And I didn’t even know it until I copied and pasted the pic from Pipehub.com.  I look forward to finding a loving home for my poor disadvantaged friend here.


Oh, Donna, I Wish I Read the Instructions First

Blog by Robert M. Boughton


I remembered glancing at a blog Steve wrote about various methods for cleaning Perspex stems, but if I ever got to the most important lesson his years of work with the less forgiving form of acrylic taught him, I forgot it: “that you are never to use alcohol on Perspex!”  I’m not going to flagellate myself for waiting to revisit the blog until it was too late for my La Rocca Donna, but cripes, I wish I had not!  There are kinder, gentler ways to clean up the type of impenetrable brown mess that only long accretion of tobacco, nicotine and saliva can wreak on the airway of a stem that was once uncorrupted in its clarity, other than the standard approach I took.  Oh, well.  Lesson learned.  At least I seem to have avoided the tiny cracks in the stem that can result from contact with alcohol, but I suspect that some of the discoloration may have been fixed into the Perspex.

RESTORATION This time, I’ll begin with the stem, to be done with the bad part – not that it didn’t turn out okay. The first thing I did was pour some Everclear – not just Isopropyl – into a dish, the quicker to soak cleaners and run them through.  In the words of a former co-worker who always kept me laughing, “In the name of all that’s sacred, what was I thinking?”  And I was so pleased by the great progress I made!I must turn to the stummel now in order to show the natural progression of my folly, although it all went fine for the briar.I reamed and scraped the chamber, then sanded with 60-grit paper and scrubbed it and the shank with more Everclear.Using 400-grit paper on the rim made it clear that, once again, my roommate’s propensity for inflicting violence on helpless, loyal pipes had ruined it, short of an ad lib sandblast effect. I did that once on a pipe that had nothing to lose and even surprised my old mentor. He had the audacity to look as if he doubted me! At any rate I liberated Donna here for someone more loving. Deciding on a smooth finish for the rim, I went down to 60-grit followed by a 120/180 pad, 220, 320, 400, 600 and 1000. Now, to add injury to insult to the stem, I boiled more Everclear through the pipe in a retort.Afterward, I found Steve’s blog and cringed as I read it.  I micro meshed the rim, stained it with Fiebing’s British Tan leather dye and buffed off the char with 3600 and 4000 micro mesh. I applied Decatur Pipe Shield.I found a close equivalent to soft scrub for the stem with some generic gloopy stain remover. It did no harm and even helped a tiny bit, and it did a remarkable job of making the outside of the Perspex sparkle with no other effort. In the end, this La Rocca turned out nicely.  But now my Donna will surely leave me. SOURCE

The Mystery of a Sterling Imported Briar Continues

by Robert M. Boughton


In my online quest for any information whatsoever concerning a Sterling Imported Briar pipe – brand, model or even a whisper in a smoker’s forum – I went full tilt boogie.  In the end, I added “rebornpipes” to the Google search.  If it weren’t for Steve’s blog about a Sterling Imported Briar author a while back, I would have come up empty handed.  Steve’s research was much more meticulous and imaginative.  Nevertheless, his only definite conclusion was that his pipe was a US import, but “How it came to have a British Hallmarked Silver band on the shank is shrouded in mystery and I will probably never figure out the connection.”

The briar was a little dirty and dinged, and there were some imperfections such as small fills.  Serious work was needed on the chamber and rim.  With the usual care, the stem would be fine.  A little stinger in the tenon was not special enough to keep.  For whatever reason, including the possibility that the stem was a replacement, the tenon was too big for the shank.  Despite the words sterling silver on the band and the name of the billiard, the metal was something less than sterling and would have to go – another indication that prior fiddling was done.  The band ended up being the last problem I fixed. The band slid off before the alcohol soak of the stummel.I gave the stem an OxiClean bath. Sanding with 400, 600 and 1000 paper followed by micro meshing made the stem much better.  I took the tenon diameter enough to fit all the way in the shank.Here is the stummel after the alcohol soak. I reamed and sanded the chamber with 60-grit paper. I used the same coarse paper on the rim before smoothing it with 220 and 320.I discovered a slight problem when the 14.5mm real sterling silver band I ordered arrived, due to my error, of course, not Vermont Freehand’s. I needed 15mm instead of the exact diameter of the stem opening.Careful not to ruin the crisp nomenclature, I took off 0.5mm with 60-grit and smoothed it with everything up to 400.  The exposure on the first shot below is way off.  I retorted the pipe, stained the stummel with Fiebing’s Moccasin Brown leather dye and buffed with micro mesh from 3600-12000. It was time to Super Glue the new band on.

All that was left were buffing the stem and stummel with Red Tripoli and carnauba and polishing the band with Wright’s Silver Cream. SOURCE

A Ropp De Luxe Cherrywood and My Mojo Reborn

by Robert M. Boughton


Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.
— Samuel Beckett

Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.
— Yoda

A series of unfortunate events during the past two years led me to an unaccustomed crisis of confidence.  There was the COVID-19 stay at home order from the governor here, followed by the temporary suspension of my pipe sales, as I now choose to think of it.  A brief time later, five thugs surrounded me outside of a convenience store on my way home from a friend’s, and a fight ensued.  Although I fended off four of them, the boss punk got in multiple blows with a steel-balled sap to my head and the rest of my body before I could retreat to my car and point the gun that I should have kept on me through the window at the young man with the sap.  He and his followers fled, and I drove to the university hospital ER.

Eleven hours later, the doctor told me I had suffered a coup-contrecoup concussion, and there was blood on my brain.  I had passed the night in the waiting room except for the MRI and CT scans, the latter with and without contrast, and never even saw him before then.  After that, unable to do the things that made me happiest – and I had always taken for granted – I gave up pipe restoring, my website, blogging and more or less everything else.  The worst part was that I could not even smoke my pipes because of the exponential sharpening the nicotine added to the already crushing, blinding, paralyzing headaches the good ER doctor told me I could expect, but that there was nothing he could give me to alleviate my misery other than Gabapentin and the max dose of Ibuprofen.

I had fallen off the grid and into a hell of my own inner space.  As Austin Powers said, “Crikey!  I’ve lost my mojo!!”  Little white tablets zap the chronic migraines I have suffered since early childhood.  The only cure for the more recent variety of explosive agony was time for my traumatized brainpan to begin healing, as it continues to do.  I am fortunate that my skull turned out to be as thick as my dad always said it was.

Pipes had piled up, waiting to be reborn.  I saw them now and then when I pawed through the mess on a worktable for something else.  As the excruciation ebbed and made clearer thinking possible, more and more I pondered what could be done with them.  The best plan seemed to be giving them to someone like Steve who could make them whole again.  Just the thought made me feel awful.  (No offense, Steve!) Taking another look, the synapses fired in my brain and provided a memory of both of the quotes I cited at the beginning, which I heard in the pilot to Criminal Minds.  There were six pipes in the eBay lot below, the other two being the Ropp in this blog and an Imported Sterling Briar that’s finished also and coming up next.  Below, top to bottom: no-name, Made in London, England; no-name; King, and a stemless GBD New Standard #1451.  I’m quite sure the GBD was the only reason I bought the lot.

There are more from my roommate, who is trying to cut back on his tobacco bonging (from 12000 grams per month!)  and gave me some of his pipes to do with as I wish, and a few of my own that need work.

What follows is the old college try.

The cherrywood wasn’t in bad shape except for the nomenclature on the bottom, which was fuzzy from wear and tear and a rough area just below the rim that I attribute to shoddy work by Ropp. I gave the stummel an alcohol soak and the stem, which is a permanent part of the shank, an OxiClean bath. The chamber was tiny enough without the accumulated cake, so I cleaned it up with my Senior Reamer and Peterson scraper and gave the pipe a retort. By definition, a cherrywood natural is supposed to be rough, but this was a little much. I used 320, 400 and 600 paper. It needed more work, such as smoothing and staining the area under the rim with Feibing’s brown leather dye, and micro meshing the whole thing.  I seem to have lost track of that part as far as pictures go.

The stem was easy, needing only 400 and 600 paper and dry and wet micro mesh.Decatur Pipe Polish is great for sandblasted, carved and natural finishes, so that’s what I did.All that was left was a spin on the wheels with red Tripoli and carnauba for the stem. The best thing about this project was that I did it – and got my mojo back!  After that, I really enjoyed bringing back the clarity of the nomenclature. It went from illegible to clear enough that I had to correct the folder name in my PC to reflect the actual shape number.


How Estate Pipes Changed the Collecting World  

Blog by Robert M. Boughton, P.I.

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors


O hell! what have we here?
A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll!  I’ll read the writing.
‘All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll’d:
Fare you well; your suit is cold –

Cold indeed, and labor lost.’

— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7, 1596 (original editions)

An English historian of pipes in general and Alfred Dunhill  Ltd. of London in particular, the late John C. Loring, dated the beginning of estate pipe collecting to 1976.  That was the year Dunhill acquired Lane Ltd., which included Charatan pipes.  It also marked the first noticeable blip, on the pipe world radar, of avid collectors in the U.S. starting to seek older, used English pipes that were rarer and could be repaired for reborn enjoyment.  The birth of estate pipe collecting, with its attendant lust for uncommon and valuable specimens, created a market that was susceptible to fraud on a new, sophisticated level.

Thus arrived on the scene the simultaneous phenomena of collectors who recognized the potential value of estate pipes and the intrepid craft folks who filled the need for independent, skilled workers, or pipe restorers, as they came to call themselves, to repair and clean all of the old pipes being snatched up in more and more amazing numbers.  Of course there were also the scam artists and other opportunistic ne’er-do-wells, that ubiquitous element of every business enterprise, who found in the appetite for used but “collectible” pipes an abundance of buyers ignorant of the knowledge needed to distinguish the legitimate from the fakes.

Limited at first to pipes from England due to their perceived superiority to those from other countries, in time the used pipe craze spread to estates from around the world.  The trend saw its heyday in the first decade, continuing into the mid second, of the new millennium.

Aristotle is often cited as the first person to expound the notion that nature abhors a vacuum, when in fact he was a plenist, or a believer that there can be no occurrence of a vacuum in nature.  His basic reasoning was that space is filled with bodies, even if most of them are molecular, and therefore can have no empty area.  The great Greek philosopher and polymath was so contemptuous of the idea of a natural vacuum that he made a deliberate joke, in Physics, Book IV, Part 8: “But even if we consider it on its own merits the so-called vacuum will be found to be really vacuous.”  LOL!  Modern physics recognizes that nature indeed cannot tolerate a vacuum – but only so far as to force whatever happens to be nearby any such anomaly to be sucked in to fill it the same instant.  In that sense, old Aristotle was half right, considering that an empty space appearing in nature must be filled in less than a nanosecond.  At any rate, pipe restorers, qualified or otherwise, as well as forgers, filled the new figurative vacuum made by the Great Estate Pipe Rush.

The blooming of the estate pipe collecting hobby mushroomed into a full-blown industry that epitomized certain aspects of capitalism as contemplated in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published 200 years earlier just two months before the Declaration of Independence.  There was then and remains the principle of supply and demand with its buyers, sellers and middlemen.  The prices were set only by the depths of the pockets of the buyers and their much shallower knowledge of what constituted a rare Dunhill.

Loring, whose research into the darkest hour of estate pipe history identified the birth of used pipe collecting, died October 7, 2009 in Chicago.  In a memorial on PipesMagazine.com, Kevin Godbee wrote that Loring possessed “an encyclopedic knowledge of Dunhill Pipes and other tobacciana.”  In “The 1980s Fake Dunhill,” first published in the Winter-Spring 2005 issue of The Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris, Loring wrote of how, while Dunhill acquired Lane and Charatan:

“…on the other side of the Atlantic a strange new hobby was developing, ‘used briar pipe collecting,’ with Dunhill pipes the crown jewels of those pioneer American collections.  Soon there were pipe shows, mail order lists, evenings on the telephone in ‘hot pursuit’ and even excursions to England to salvage previously smoked pipes from the dustbins.  Hundreds, even thousands of dollars were paid for used, quickly renamed ‘Estate’ Dunhills with premium prices being paid for the largest and oldest.”

Courtesy Loring’s Dunhill Collection, Pipedia

Note that Loring splits the popularity of estate pipes in two parts, large and old, but emphasizes the bigger ones by nature of the definite if understated order of the above reference, which lumps both together as rare.  Even if Loring were not a good enough writer for the placement of his modifiers to be significant, he goes on to explain the special nature of “oversized” pipes.  “Magnums were viewed as ‘one of a kind’ rarities that could be counted on one hand, maybe two at best,” Loring wrote.  The ODA shown here from Loring’s personal collection that sold at auction after his death, with its exquisite bird’s-eye, is a fine example of a magnum.

With the Lane-Charatan takeover, some of the pipe makers from the two manufacturers consumed by Dunhill lost their jobs.  During the early 1980s, as the factories of the three companies were consolidated into one, many more layoffs were made.  The market for estate Dunhills in the U.S. continued to escalate.  A few unemployed and bitter pipe makers in England, able and willing to abscond with tools of all kinds – including those used for shaping, finishing and stamping nomenclature on the completed products, as well as stummels abandoned for flaws or left unfinished and  even raw briar blocks – did so.

“And at work’s-end,” Loring wrote, “employed and unemployed still met at the pub to dwell on the injustice of it all.”  These conditions – angry, jobless pipe carvers on one side of the Atlantic and wealthy collectors on the other – created what Loring called “our own perfect storm.”

Dunhills have never been easy to date much less make it through the rest of the Byzantine nomenclature.  Even Loring admits the task can be impossible for anyone, no matter how knowledgeable of Dunhill markings.  Then there’s the fact that back in the day, meaning the 1980s, early Dunhill catalogs were not as available as they later became, which was never on par with Sears or LL Bean.  And of course, the World Wide Web was not up and running until the following decade, although the ARPA net allowed computers to connect to each other with a virtual “handshake” and transmit batches of data using Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) machine language.  In other words, identifying a fake pipe, in particular one made by a disgruntled former Dunhill carver using real Dunhill wood and tools but changing or fabricating certain nomenclature to make them appear almost priceless, was beyond the means of most serious collectors of the day.

As it happened, one of those very leading collectors, an American whose name is remembered by some old-timers of our society who refuse to utter or record it in print, highlighted the top British pipe show of 1984 with his collection of 30 stunning examples.  Loring recorded that they included “four near magnum sized Shells bearing extremely rare or previously unknown shape numbers; three smooth finished “LC” shapes, two Roots and a Bruyere, one bearing a previously unknown shape number; three extremely rare un-smoked ODAs , a Bruyere and a Shell 844 and an 824 Shell; a number of sought after ODA shapes in a variety of finishes, many unsmoked; and two awesome supposedly pre-WWII Canadians both upwards of 9 inches long with 5¾ inch shanks, a Bruyere with a small, 1¾ inch tall bowl and a Shell with a magnum sized, 2¾ inch tall bowl.”

Most of the infamous 1984 “Dunhills,” courtesy J. Loring

To cut to the chase, most of these pipes, if not all of them, were bogus in that they were not made by Dunhill but rather were tweaked as far as the nomenclature was concerned or cobbled together using spare parts, as it were, however skillful or “authentic” the cobbling.

The suspicions of some collectors were piqued by the too good to be true aspects of the fabulous forgeries.  Consider Loring’s repeated references to “extremely rare or previously unknown shape numbers” and “unsmoked” pipes.  Had avarice not gotten the better of the collectors who fell victim to the scam, “Thousands upon thousands of dollars and pipes” would not have been exchanged during the infamous incident that took place over a period of only two or three days.

It is important to remember about the 1980s fake Dunhills that of the 50-75 total pipes involved in the overall debacle on both sides of the Pond in which, by Loring’s estimation, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid for technically bogus pipes, “in almost all cases,” they were excellent in terms of craftsmanship and were “akin to top quality 1980s English Dunhill alternatives such as Ashton or Upshall.”  The photo below from Loring’s collection shows two supposed World War II-era pipes, both magnums about eight inches long and each a beautiful Dunhill pipe – if only each had been manufactured in the Dunhill factory and not stamped with outrageous nomenclature.  The shape codes HB and HP have come to be known as existing only on fakes.

“In short,” Loring cautions with classic, subdued British humor and style, “if on the way to writing a two thousand dollar check you find that the shape stamped on the pipe you are fondling doesn’t comport to catalog examples or is otherwise unknown, stay your pen for further examination.”

Another way to identify pipe forgeries is the nomenclature, no matter how subtle the discrepancy may seem.  Loring’s most basic rules of thumb in spotting a fake are to be discerning of every detail and to trust your instincts.  The following examples are brilliant.  The problem with the two pipes in the one photo is harder to spot, and I took the liberty of editing the very bluish original from the web page so that it appears closer to natural pipe brown.  The issue in this picture is not the HLP on the top and the HB on the bottom (well, those are no-nos, to be sure), but the uneven stamp marks, as the un-removable type suggests.  Otherwise the two lines of markings are perfect for WWII-era pipes and indicate that the stamp used may have been “lifted” from Dunhill.  The egregious error in the other pic should be apparent to anyone who is at all familiar with Dunhill.  Take a look and see if you can spot the sign of serious trouble that should set off bells and whistles in the shot of the lone stamp.All done?  Everything considered, the only glaring annoyance is the word SHELL on a smooth finish pipe.  Loring identified three examples including the one above that appear to have been marked with a real Dunhill pre-1937 stamp “in the hands of an illiterate.”  ROFL.

The absence of the World Wide Web at the time of the 1980s Dunhill fiasco explains in some small part how experts were misled by imitations.  So how has the Web made things worse for everyone else in the intervening 30-plus years?

I will begin this section with the bottom line: Internet fraud, intentional or otherwise – and whether or not it will ever become a crime that can be prosecuted in a viable, systemic manner, much less eradicated – is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  The solution, therefore, would seem to fall in educating consumers as to the dangers that exist on a very real and frequent basis.

By way of an example of fake pipes that can be found on the internet, the cautionary tale of an alleged Dunhill “Bijou” 401 pot, Patent Number 417574/34, will illustrate how the Dunhill scandal still haunts us and also provide a smooth transition into the modern phase of pipe forgeries.  I came across this one, offered on consignment for just under $1,000, on a very respected and reputable online site a while back.  The seller alleged the pipe dated to the 1920s or ’30s, as I recall.  I’m sure if the gentleman reads this he won’t mind that I omitted his credit for the following photos.  From a distance, even without the White Spot that appears to be on the top of the stem in closer shots, the pipe looks OK, at least. But something struck me as – well – just plain off with the first look, and in particular the name, Bijou, which rang a bell, although not yet any whistles.  I had to save the pics provided to my computer to view them in large enough format for air raid sirens to go off.  Everything was wrong with this so-called little jewel, from downright cheesy and double stamping to the runny stain job and, as Loring warned, an off-round, somewhat fuzzy White Spot.Furthermore, although in some rare instances the given patent number could have traced as far back as the 1920s, without a DUNHILL over LONDON stamp, the raised 4 after ENGLAND signifies the pipe would have been made in 1964, had Dunhill been involved at all in the manufacture of this knockoff.  (See Pipephil in Sources below.)

At last I remembered where I had heard of Bijou in relation to Dunhill.  It was Alfred Dunhill’s invention of the first handheld thumb-flick lighter in the late 1920s, which he called the Bijou.  I could find no strong evidence of any Dunhill Bijou pipe ever being made.  The letters GT in the photo below are the original owner’s monogram.

1928 Bijou-A 9-ct. gold lighter, courtesy Worthpoint

I emailed my concerns to the address listed for the site and to my surprise heard back immediately from the owner that he was looking into the matter.  Within 24 hours, experts confirmed that Dunhill never made a Bijou line, and the pipe indeed was a forgery.  It was removed from the website, and the pipe’s owner was notified of its true nature.The owner of the Bijou provided ample photos of the pipe for its proper identification, and there is no reason to suspect he intended to pass it off as a genuine Dunhill with any disingenuousness.  Here is another, lighter, shinier version of the same pipe, this one called a Dunhill 401 Root Briar Patent Number 417574/34 pot, found on eBay, with only the one picture and nothing but a distant angle on the White Spot to assume its authenticity.  This and the Bijou are the only 401 shapes I can find.Now, indulge me with a final Dunhill photo showing two pipes.  Both are supposed to be very rare #848 ODA magnums, but only one is the real thing.  The other appears to date back to the 1980s scandal, demonstrating how that scourge is not yet behind us.  Can you tell which is which?  Dunhill experts will have no trouble, but if you found the fake on eBay as the knowing buyer in this case did, would you?  The answer is here,* but I recommend the first Youtube video in the Sources for the full story.

Courtesy Pipehub, YoutubeBen Rapaport, a respected U.S. antiquities historian and columnist, wrote a comprehensive article about the history of pipe counterfeiting, called “The Age of Steal,” for Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine online.  Rapaport prefaced his detailed reporting of fraudulent activities in the pipe world with a note that they may not be “classified as theft in the literal sense [but] are, in my opinion, theft in the figurative sense.”

With the beginning of eBay’s real success as an online auction site in the mid-1990s, Rapaport claimed, “there suddenly appeared a pixel-and-byte tsunami, or maybe a torrent, of instant tobacco treasures for sale.”

The fraudulent cyber pipe business is now out of control, running the gamut from established old name brands, antique or otherwise, to contemporary makers and even artisan carvers.  The vast majority of pipes I’ve bought on eBay over the years have been more or less just what they were represented to be, with only two exceptions, one of which was supposed to be a KB&B Rocky Briar salesman sample.  Salesman samples were miniature, scale versions of regular sized pipes carried by – you guessed it, salesmen – in the early 20th century to show prospective buyers an idea of what they would get.  By nature of the time period in which they were used, salesman samples are now antiques or near the mark.  When I opened the package that arrived in the mail and removed the pipe, even taking into consideration its tininess, I found a corruption of pipe making that seemed to be crafted of balsa.Examining the little monstrosity, I was at once alarmed by its color, which I call Chinese red, and the tacky (as in sticky and uneven) looking coat of stain, or whatever was used to cover the cheap, ultra-light wood I later concluded was something along the lines of paulawney.  A closer look revealed just plain sloppy nomenclature, regardless of age, in particular an uneven Reg. US Pat. No. 298978.  Since there were two each of the numbers 8 and 9, I examined them, and they didn’t match, as shown in the following photo which is compared to one of Steve Laug’s that shows a real, crisp Rocky Briar imprint.As if there were any doubt as to the pipe’s fraudulence, it lacks the shape number on the right side of the shank.The other fake pipe was a CPF Globe Mount, a recent eBay purchase.  The wood is also very light and soft, but more substantial than the KB&B Rocky Briar.  Based on the light color of the shank opening and scratches, and the reddish tinge of the sanded chamber, I suspect it’s Chinese red cedar.  The stem, an obvious mismatch, is plastic. Each of these pipes cost the same or less than return postage would be, and so I kept them.  But it’s important to be sure that returns of online estate pipe purchases are guaranteed by the seller, especially if it’s a substantial investment.  Both of the above pipes were so protected, if I wanted to punish the sellers at my expense!

Capitello was founded in Italy by Enzo Galluzzo, the former official carver for Caminetto who had worked at Castello and Ascorti.  Although the business lasted only from c. 1982-1991, Galluzzo produced some of the most astounding, creative pipes in a short but brilliant run.  I have an interesting story about some shameful Capitello counterfeits I discovered on eBay and did my best to have removed.  To understand why the fakes were so preposterous, it is important to see a few real Capitello pipes.  Following are, in order, a wax drip Gotico from Pipephil, a rustic Gotico courtesy of a reputable eBay seller, an Airecchio from Haddock’s Pipes and a Jonico from my own collection.

Now, have a gander at the best of the counterfeits.The very small, bland billiard is supposed to be new and unsmoked, a rarity, but note the absence of the genuine stem mark, and the use of all caps in the name Capitello, among other problems that a simple check of Pipephil would illuminate for anyone not familiar with the brand.There are more, hideous black “dress” style pipes that Capitello never made, with the same ridiculous nomenclature, but here is the worst offender, something that doesn’t even pretend to have Capitello nomenclature.  Capitello also never used metal bands, even good ones.In light of the brazen fraud, I gave the seller, who was registered in the UK, a friendly chance to retract the offers.  When he replied with a rude note, a friend and I reported him to eBay, and I went so far as to file an online criminal complaint with Scotland Yard.  I never heard how that turned out, but I hope they at least rattled his cage.  I learned that the seller has a terrible reputation and is named in the second Youtube video in my Sources.  I recommend it as an excellent guide to spotting big name forgeries.

To end this section, I’ll show a couple of fake artisan pipes, both by Tom Eltang, the respected Danish carver.  I don’t have more than one photo each of the pipes or details of what is wrong with them, but they demonstrate how careful we need to be when buying anything online.* The top, chestnut-colored pipe is the fake.  Real Dunhill ODA pipes had lighter Root or Bruyere finishes.

To be sure, the great majority of online sellers, eBay or elsewhere, are not frauds.  The biggest abuse now is the outrageous over-pricing, mostly for Medicos and Dr. Grabows, which sellers seem to regard as the Holy Grail.  I remember the good old days when I had multiple lots of nine-12 pipes coming in the mail all the time, and all of them had good pipes as well as some little treasures in them.  While it was only natural that sellers would catch on, they seem to have over-reacted to the point where they are now paying their sources so much for garbage, more or less, that they are willing to go without selling their pipes at all unless they recoup their investments that were idiotic in the first place.  Not being collectors or restorers themselves, for the most part, they don’t understand what goes into repairing and sanitizing pipes for a business and being able to make a living, or even a reasonable extra income.

This blog is supposed to be more about the dangers of buying fake high-end pipes that are expensive as opposed to some lower-priced examples I showed by way of illustrating how far forgers will go to defraud collectors for a buck, so to speak.  The big names in pipe forgeries, other than Dunhill, include Radice, Sasieni, Peterson, Comoy’s and on and on.  Check out the second Youtube video in the Sources for an excellent guide on that subject.  For purposes of a summary, I’ve made some notes on how to avoid the snares these scoundrels will set.

  • Don’t be an easy mark. Take advantage of the wealth of information available online and at your local tobacconist!
  • Watch out for rare/unsmoked Not many collectors buy pipes to put them on the shelf and not enjoy them.
  • Scrutinize the nomenclature, and compare it to online sites like Pipephil.com. This means everything about the stampings on the pipe: the positioning, size, crispness and shape number.
  • Look at the finish. Is it the same style and color as examples of the real thing you find elsewhere online, e.g., smooth/rustic and light or dark brown?  Is the stain even and not tacky or runny?
  • Be sure the seller has an excellent history of top feedback.
  • Be sure there are plenty of pictures showing every angle and all of the nomenclature clearly. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more if you need them, and if he doesn’t provide them, don’t bid on the pipe!
  • Be absolutely sure returns are accepted.
  • Are there many bidders already? If not, why?

Concerning newer estate pipes that are still in production and not rare, always check at sites such as Smokingpipes.com to see if you can find one that’s identical or similar but brand-new for the same price or less.

There is much resistance in the pipe world to the idea of counterfeits.  I believe I have presented, in this relatively outline form, enough evidence to dispel the notion that they don’t exist.  Books could be written on the subject.

In recent years, I have noticed a marked decrease in estate pipe sales by those who buy and restore them for resale, not just my own but those of friends.  The unfortunate fact is that the few crooks – or in some cases simple fools – who take advantage of buyers’ ignorance give the estate pipe business a bad name.  In most cases, great deals for used pipes that are hard to come by and have been restored to excellent condition – and sanitized for immediate use – can be found, if you only look for them.


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The Wreck of an Unknown Turned Lion’s Head Meer

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors

There’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee, it says, ‘Fool me once [long pause, forgetting where he’s going; laughter from the audience; continues, trying to recover] shame on — shame on you.  [More laughter] Fool me, you can’t get fooled again!”

— George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, September 17, 2002, before an audience of schoolchildren, parents and teachers in Nashville

The vicarious embarrassment experienced by rational Americans who were alive and old enough to witness the poignant catalog of Bushisms (and it was longer than any forgiving person would care to remember) was at once painful and hilarious to behold, providing a sort of release valve for the intense pressures of events that were still fresh, burning sores on our collective psyche.  The list needs no new punditry.  It’s all been said, after all, but I would like to make one note of commiseration relevant to the above quote and this blog.  I was going to begin my account of this restoration with the words the president no doubt meant to use in his speech: “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”*  Then I flashed on the great gaff from the turn of the millennium and decided to go with it, as the president’s graceful attempt to regain his oratory footing, reminiscent of a cornered badger, mirrors my own feelings after helping my roommate to choose a lion’s head meerschaum online.

You see, my roommate, Howard, is computer and cyber illiterate.  I mean no disrespect, it’s just a fact.  He’s the first to admit it, to everyone with whom he has business contact, going so far as denying having an email address until I signal him to tell the truth because it makes everything so much easier.  I’m the one who has to figure out and fix his problems, and I don’t mind that either.  In the interest of equal disclosure, I have my own deficiencies, including, it seems, not taking into consideration the one veritable litmus test of a problematic pipe and advocating its purchase anyway.  When my searches found eBay didn’t have anything the day I looked for a lion’s head meerschaum Howard would like, there were several choices from Etsy sellers.  All of them looked nice, but one stood out.  The title was “Genuine Meerschaum Warrantied Antique 19th Century Lion Head Pipe,” and the photo looked more or less like the following, which I took after it arrived.Two key points may already be obvious: that I indicated there was only one picture of the pipe, and, considering again that I took the shot above, my roommate bought it anyway.  The only explanation I can offer is the distracting pleasure and surprise I felt at Howard’s unusual excitement from the prospect of making his first pipe purchase that was a) online, b) from someone other than me and c) meerschaum.  Then there was his repeated instruction to me to order the pipe.  As I’m sure you can imagine, when Howard received his awaited package in the mail, soon after I placed the order, and discovered certain – well, for now I’ll just call them short-fallings – I was quick to point a finger of blame.  After all, the Etsy seller was culpable for the rather shabby way that the “short-fallings” were, no doubt on purpose, concealed and not mentioned anywhere in the description.

Still, I have to accept the blame not only because I should know by now never to order a pipe based on one photo, all the more so with someone else’s money, but I also made a close enough inspection of the single picture to question whether the pipe might be constructed of wood.  Ornate pipes, after all, were not limited to meerschaum.  I have a briar CPF tiger’s head medium churchwarden made from a very dark form of briar, and something about the shiny, deep, complete uniformity of the lion’s brown color was wrong.  I just didn’t yet get what it is, a subject to which I will return in a moment.  The most striking oddity was the clean and smooth chamber, which was the exact same brown as the outside of the stummel.  I mentioned to Howard the possibility the pipe was wood, but we agreed the overall quality appeared good enough that it didn’t matter.  Final examination of the lone photo revealed the perfect fit of the pipe in the case and the fading words “Genuine Meerschaum Warrantied” on the lining.  I take those words as a legal stipulation to the quality of the pipe’s main material rather than the name of an importer, although clever scammers abounded in the good old days as they do now.  But to me, the best, rarest detail is what appears to be the apparent original, hand-written price tag for $2.95 on a tiny scrap of paper preserved within the narrow curve of the case where the shank meets the stem.In hindsight, the lack of any grain, at least along the smooth shank, should have been the only sign needed that the lion’s head isn’t wood, but at last month’s meeting of my pipe club, one of two of my well-known pipe maker friends suggested the extreme, shellac- or varnish-like shininess made the stummel appear to be cast resin of some sort while the other said it resembled a precise kind of synthetic plastic the name of which I forget.  They both pointed out the obvious, that I could determine if the pipe was meerschaum by making a small test cut somewhere safe.  In most cases, no such location exists, but I chose the top stem end of the shank since it needed to be banded, which is a magnanimous way of describing the situation upon which I’m about to expand.  With my pen knife, I made a small scrape that revealed bright white meerschaum.  So that was the end of that unpleasant but necessary question to resolve.

Now, returning to the subject of what this pipe, which indeed is meerschaum, represents, and what my mind could not grasp because I had never seen an example of the phenomenon before.  It is a perfect example of the practice called “aging” meerschaum pipes by artificial means, a contradiction in terms of the vilest type.  I will never forget reading on one leading if self-styled meerschaum “ager’s” website of his special and so-called safe method of transferring a good, healthy, normal meerschaum pipe into one that, in his mind if no knowledgeable person’s, appears to have been colored to its fullest “antique” condition.  The rationale, to paraphrase with complete accuracy, was that all serious meerschaum collectors prize the rich colors that are produced over time by smoking meerschaum pipes, so why wait?  Well, there’s the rub!  Every serious collector I’ve ever known or heard from online cherishes above all else the slow, personal process of coloring the pipe that starts out bright white and turns yellow, gold, brown and, after many years of much use, a deep burgundy color.  The meerschaum ager fellow must have gotten his hands on the pipe that is now Howard’s.  That is the only explanation I can imagine why I thought of wood and my two well-known pipe-maker friends saw cast resin or synthetic plastic.  [NOTE THAT I DO NOT INCLUDE IN MY DISTASTE THE USE OF COLORING BOWLS, WHICH HAVE BEEN AROUND SINCE AT LEAST 1892, ALTHOUGH I HAVEN’T TRIED ONE YET, TO HELP MAKE THE PROCESS EVEN.  SEE THE LAST LINK IN SOURCES BELOW.]

For a description of a very old method of faking the color of antique pipes, see the chart at the end of the second link in Sources.

The opening shots of the meerschaum as it looked upon arrival will show both the slick attempt by its seller to hide the grave visible problems, not to mention the internal damage, and the actual outer calamities inflicted upon the still lovely pipe.  The list of damages I tallied with a quick look-see at the lion’s head  involved:

  • The broken red amber stem and bone tenon, with the stem face roughened by whatever accident caused the damage
  • A perfect, seamless break on the bottom of the shank extending from the opening most of the way to the draught hole and somehow stayed in place until the pipe was fully removed from its case
  • An old break in the bottom of the bowl that looked to be well-patched
  • Assorted white spots on the lion’s head where the meerschaum showed from chips
  • An adamant blockage of the draught hole from an unknown source I suspected was 100+ years of solidified bone tenon bits, tar, saliva and other nasty detritus (all of it hidden and absent from the seller’s description)

To determine that the stem is amber rather than Bakelite, or Redmanol, I used the simple two-step method described at the link in the Sources below: the material is warm to the touch and is luminescent when held under a black light.

That the pipe in this blog is antique is certain.  My belief that it dates to the late 19th century because of the intricacy of the carving and my personal observation that animals such as lions were on their way out by the turn of the 20th century, as well as the stem material being amber, is just that.

I will end this intro with the admission that, despite my stated certainty I could repair all of the problems with the pipe, Howard was the one of us who really believed it.

* The first known written record read, “When a man deceives me once, says the Italian proverb, it is his fault; when twice, it is mine.”  George Home, 1786, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, quoted in Breig, James, “Out, Damn’d Proverbs,” Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Winter 2002-2003. https://www.history.org/foundation/journal/winter02-03/proverbs.cfm.

RESTORATION I snapped the last shot above, showing the broken shank, after wheedling out the antique bone tenon.

To remove the extreme blockage in the vicinity of the draught hole, I tried an old trick of straightening a paper clip, then bending an end and working it into the entrance of the draught hole at the bottom of the chamber.  Alternating that approach with assaults from the other side (meaning through the shank) using various very thin metal objects, I realized I was getting nowhere.  And so I began this phase in earnest by diluting about one part isopropyl alcohol with five parts purified water and pouring the solution into the pipe chamber with the shank plugged. I let it soak a couple of hours and turned to my bizarre set of tools.  Some of the tools and other devices I employed for the extraction were a thin screw driver, the shank-clearing part of a three-piece pipe tool, the paper clip again and, taking a cue from Laurence Olivier’s evil Nazi dentist in The Marathon Man, some wicked-looking implements that could pass at a glance for dental tools.  In fact, as many of you will recognize, they are for carving, although the broken bits of bullheaded bone resembled rotted teeth.   However, the final push in the process was another alcohol-water soak of the chamber, but overnight that time.  After that, the metal shank part of the pipe tool pushed on through to the other side, dislodging one small chunk of dark old bone.  A good, strong blow through the shank with my fingers covering the rim sent the last five scraps blasting free with a whistle.

“This shank is clear,” I said to Howard, doing my best Zelda Rubinstein.  Howard, sitting across the living room table from me, smiled at the joke, but really, it was one of the most rewarding moments of my pipe cleaning life.  Here are the pieces from the stem, shank and, much later but included now as a sort of class photo, the remains I had to use way more force than I ever imagined possible on a meerschaum to dislodge from their long-held stronghold in the draught hole.  The extraction took about a week, but until it was accomplished – if I could pull it off without shattering the meerschaum into perhaps a thousand fragments – I wasn’t about to pend any more time on restoring this sorely abused work of art.I had come to the green light for reattaching the broken piece of the shank.  Pouring a small amount of shaved wood onto a business card, I added a few drops of Gorilla Super Glue and, using the spoon of my pipe tool to mix the two as fast as possible before they set, applied a thin layer to the exposed white meerschaum on the shank and returned the separated piece to its place with a firm push.  Somehow I didn’t get a pic of this step, but it looked just as natural as it did when it arrived held together by the forces of nature.  I stained the bottom of the lion’s mane black as it had been.  A lucky guess of moccasin brown for the shank and various white spots on the rest of the stummel was right on.  I flamed those areas with a Bic.The char buffed off without problem using 4000-12000 micro mesh pads.  I decided to carpe diem, and used super fine “0000” steel wool to remove the respiratory inhibiting coat of shellac or varnish or whatever was used to make the natural beauty of the meerschaum abnormally shiny everywhere except for the lion’s proud face and the underside.  I experienced an intense wave of relief.

One good thing about this pipe is that the threads of the stem and shank remained intact throughout more than a century of outrages perpetrated against the other limbs and sinews of its intricate feline features.  From an assortment of new bone tenons I have, and which seem well-named for this feral example of pipe carving, I chose one that screwed into the shank just right but needed to be glued into the stem.  For chemical reasons of which I have no understanding but do possess some practical experience with briar and meerschaum, sinking a loose tenon into a shank is best accomplished with an Epoxy/wood shavings mixture.  The one drawback to this method is the necessary full setting period of at least two days and sometimes more, depending on the gap in the shank.  On the other hand, sinking a tenon that is barely loose into a stem works fine with a Super Glue/shavings mix and of course dries far faster – so fast, in fact, that the difficulty with that path is mixing, applying and inserting the tenon into the stem before the mix dries.  Isn’t it just God’s honest truth that everything comes with a test?

My next task was to sink a crisp new bone tenon into the well-preserved amber stem that was a close enough fit to feel the grooves of the tenon and stem trying to connect.  I did so with the Super Glue/shavings mix.  For anyone who has never done anything like this before, I ran a pipe cleaner through the stem and tenon before stirring together the ingredients and applying the mix to the tenon, then inserting into the stem, again, all as fast as possible to avoid drying before the whole process was done. As soon as the tenon was in place, I wiggled the cleaner back and forth a little to assure it wasn’t sticky with glue and pulled it out.  This can take a little practice.  At least it did in my case, which was another benefit of using the Epoxy/shaving mix that takes longer to solidify.As I noted, the stem was in great shape for any pipe that has been used even for a short time, much less more than a century ago before moving it around, hiding it away in attics, storage spaces or wherever and of course taking it out of its case now and then to show off to friends without having a clue about its value to collectors.  As a result, I only needed to sand with 400- to 1000-grit paper before micro meshing from 1500-12000.  I finished the stem by buffing on the electric wheels with Red Tripoli and Carnauba wax.The last part of the official job was to fit a sterling silver band, per Howard’s specification, to support the crack.  What the photo of that particular damage doesn’t show is the length, which extended in a half-oval- about three-quarters of an inch.  That’s an impossible chunk to cover with anything but a home- or custom-made band.  Maybe if I had the skill of some I would have cut off the violated space and replaced it with a fancy ferrule, but as I’ve written in the past, shoulda-coulda-woulda.  I’ll save that procedure for another operation sometime in the future.

For the time being, I satisfied myself by measuring the shank and finding that between the stem opening and the far end of the crack it tapered from 15-15.5mm in diameter.  Vermont Freehand had sterling bands at half-millimeter intervals.  I decided 16mm would be too big and the exact fit of 15.5mm would require an adjustment to the shank.   Based on a gold band I ordered from the same source not long ago for another meerschaum repair, I also had reason to suspect the automatic length would be a quarter-inch.  Therefore, I ordered the 15.5mm band (as well as a tenon turning tool for my new drill press) and emailed Steve Norse, owner of VF, that I’d like a half-inch or even longer band if possible.  He came through with a half-incher that covered two-thirds of the crack, and if I could give him a BBB rating, it would be AAA.   When the band arrived, as predicted, I had to take a little meerschaum off the shank opening end using a 180-grit pad.After gluing the band onto the shank, which was still a very tight fit, I sanded the outer edge of the band with a 220-grit pad to even it as much as possible without off-setting the stem fit.  Someday I’ll develop my eyes to spot the alignment problem before I Super Glue a new band onto the shank so I can even the shank instead! Instead of crying over spilt milk, I touched up the uncovered sanded area with more moccasin brown stain, flamed and micro meshed.  The last third of the wicked crack is visible in the shot below.I would have been finished, except that Howard decided he wanted the dull black and scuffed pipe case cleaned up – meaning stained.  Being perhaps a bit old fashioned, my initial silent reaction was opposed to the idea of altering the natural aged look of the case.  After a moment’s thought, however, I realized not only that the pipe and its case didn’t belong to me, but that I could indeed make the case look much better than it did.  Besides, I had never restored a case before.  Here it was before.And here’s the case after staining with black leather dye and flaming with a Bic.That’s it, other than the finished pipe. And finally, the case is closed – buffed with Carnauba.  The sides where it clasps shut are flaking, so I didn’t stain them brown.CONCLUSION
I have faults like everyone, but honesty isn’t one of them.  If anything, my openness has been to my detriment.  That said, as I admitted my responsibility for Howard’s purchase of this challenged but nevertheless wonderful pipe that is a series of contradictions – complex and straight-forward, delicate but powerful, strengthened by its injuries, beautiful in part from its rough-weathered time in our world – I also admit my restoration has flaws.  At least I am confident I returned some pride to the old lion as another winter approaches and made him of use and value again.  Howard loves the venerable example of old world carving skill because of its quality and freshness of taste but also its longness of tooth and attendant need for care.  He wouldn’t object in the least if it were made of wood, even a kind other than briar.  All Howard knows is that it looks good, feels rugged and fits right in his hand and even makes his tobacco taste better.

What more could anyone want?







Light in April

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past”
— William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun, 1951

As another loose and humble homage – some of which have been received well, others less so – I offer this tribute to the great American author and Southerner William Faulkner (1897-1962).  Perhaps as an inducement to those who may at least entertain the notion of reading on from beginning to end, I also tender a reward: one fine African meerschaum bent billiard of unknown make to the first person who identifies the names of a few of Faulkner’s magnificent literary works contained within this story blog as simple text.  Anyone willing to take the challenge, if such it may be called, need only reply at the end with the titles uncovered.MONDAY, APRIL 15
Perched on a whitewashed planter flecked with dirt and displaying dead flowers, the man smoked a pipe that was carved when his great-grandfather was young, thinking about the never-ending drudge of life but knowing he was not awake enough to keep the idea going.  The camouflaged cinderblock showpiece for the all but disintegrated yarrow, yellow marigold and other forgotten floral detritus, almost as common to the area as weeds and sagebrush and the five local seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter and wind – was prominent between the fractured cement driveway and stylish stone garden that had a proprietary name few locals knew other than perhaps a few grizzled flyboy retirees who flocked to this high desert town to spend their final years and paychecks. Still, the house he rented would always be the mansion to his way of thinking.

He heard the first of many coffee pots, percolating on the stove, that would goad him through the spring day, telling himself out loud how each of them would make him a little more sociable as the warm April sunlight he regarded as somehow less special that the light in August came and went in the course of the day.  The gurgle and flush of the old thing made him crankier, thinking the piñon nuts mixed with the dark ground beans would never taste as good as he thought he remembered before the whole enchilada started breaking bad.  He said, “I hope a cupful will give me a minimum of contentment.”

His parents gave him a name, but he liked to be called Bert, which was a half-baked sort of diminishment of his official designation inscribed on a certificate somewhere, but he was alright with that, thinking, names don’t amount to a hill of pinto beans, and since this one was given to me I can toss it in the river if I want..

Having gotten along in years to the condition where he remembered being a boy like it was yesterday but was hogtied to dredge up a word he wanted or where he saw someone the day before, Bert would tell himself he was no hoary, broken-down wraith of the sad, amusing sort of flags in the dust he saw ambling down bedraggled, pot-holed, sage brush-strewn roads in the hamlet where he lived.  Feeling shackled to call the place home by the antiquated convention of the vague class known as society, all Bert could think was, “That’s Tamalewood, huh.”  The town was no sanctuary to him, if it ever was.  The problem was recollecting the particulars of the fancies that flashed inside his mercurial stream of consciousness that was not as sharp as Hatch chile like it used to be.  He was long since at peace in that respect.

When he was a boy he grabbed hold of the early-onset codger in him as though it were something dear he might lose, knowing in later life he was not as old as most of that breed of character, thinking maybe I’m a curmudgeon but hoping better and pushing the notion out of his head as he would flick mosquitoes from his arm with the nail of a calloused finger.

Trying to piece together how he came to be in frequent contact with a fellow pipe restorer by the name of Benjamin Loveless of Tennessee, Bert’s first thought was how the name evoked a character from some might-have-been Dickens novel – an attorney maybe, or someone else with a good education anyway.  Then, jarring back to reality, he recalled the first encounter was an email from this Loveless in early February, asking for information on Colossus Pipe Factory pipes.  Little more than a week later, he sent a photograph of a rare peculiar wooden pipe in the style named after those who kept watch over churches in years long past, with the head of a tiger cocked to the left.  Seized by a powerful lust from that first gander at the fine old smoker, even if it was a bit what he called froufrou, he had but two words for his chance of ever affording whatever Loveless wanted for it, “Eeee!” followed by “Oraley!” and resented the tease.  If he really wanted to burn that bridge he would have told Loveless to bounce.

Bert knew a thing or two about CPF pipes and wanted that one in the worst way, and being a codger if not a curmudgeon he never counted on Loveless’ proffered hospitable and charitable ways.  In fact he still did not altogether trust the hope sparked inside his chest by the offer Loveless made him.   One way or another, the two men cut a deal on trust that Bert would come through with a reasonable monthly installment until the debt was paid.  The whole while, Bert thought it sounded too good to be true, like ordering from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, based on no more than his pledge.  In all truthfulness, they both knew the end price fixed upon was a good deal higher than anything the regular market would support, but that’s the nature of the pipe hunger beast.for you.  Bert had heard tell of four others he could have bought for the price of the one, if he had the cash on hand that is, but to his eyes they were all Walgreens quality by comparison.  Bert knew, Some day as I lay dying, God willing not before I’ve had time to enjoy it, I’ll never forget the favor Loveless cut me!  The amazing pipe arrived by express mail two days later and was in Bert’s own disbelieving hands.

Bert heard tell later from a source of unassailable integrity that Briarville Pipe Repair LLC, thinking of its motto, “Pipe Repair as Close as Your Mailbox” ™, replaced the horn extension with a shiny black bit fixed in place.  Having assisted Briarville in finding the answer to an intriguing old pipe question before, he decided to telephone the business and determine what if any work the excellent operation indeed performed.  The restorer was relieved he did so, as the answers the owner sent back prove why fact-checking is imperative for all types of writing, whether investigative journalism or much simpler pipe restoration blogging.   Indeed, Bert had more than the one questions wanting answers.

    1. Did Briarville provide a replacement extension and bit, and if so, what model was used to choose the very appropriate look? Briarville did not replace anything but instead repaired a single crack in the extension.
    2. What materials formed the extension and bit? Knowing the query might sound somewhat daft given the obvious horn appearance of the extension, he had never worked with the alternative accessory and wanted to be sure it was what it appeared to be.  Also, the bit looked to be something he thought was not invented until after 1915 when CPF closed shop.  The answer was that the extension in fact was horn as it seemed and Bert’s original source suspected, and the bit was Vulcanite as he had guessed.  And so, researching the date Vulcanite was patented, he found US3633A by Charles Goodyear dated June 6, 1844, shown below.  That was excellent news, suggesting the two combined parts were original.
    3. From what type of wood was the stummel carved? The reply to that was briar, but with all due respect to Briarville, Bert had serious doubts about that for several reasons: the extreme darkness of the wood that lightened very little after an extensive soak in alcohol, the somewhat tiger-like grain, and the unique taste of the wood that melded quite well with the tobacco.  Some of the photos that follow will demonstrate Bert’s point, but in the end he emailed photos to his artisan pipe maker friend Don Gillmore in hope of settling the issue.  Don is known for his use of alternative woods such as walnut, maple and pecan, and still others more exotic including bog wood (a.k.a. morta, ebony wood, black wood and abonos wood), and trusted if anyone he know could identify the genus, it was he   From the darkness of the wood, Bert suggested cherry.  Don shot that down, noting the grain and lack of iridescence were not present.  He noted “the color is within the range of walnut,” but as it turned out he was only going by Bert’s conviction it wasn’t briar.  When Bert responded that it was heavy and dense, Don’s final conclusion was “probably briar.”  And so Bert saw no choice but to join the consensus, however contrary the necessity.
    4. What time frame would the pipe’s manufacture date be? The guess was early 20th century. That may very well be the case, Bert knew, and there was no way to pinpoint it, but in this case stuck to his guns and argued his pipe’s creation to be in the late 1800s, with cause having nothing to do with a desire to make it older than it was.  Since 2013, when Bert first heard of CPF, he was confident to a point just short of calling himself an expert that he had researched the brand and its pipes – wood and meerschaum – as thoroughly as anyone.  He never before set eyes on any ornate wooden CPF like the tiger’s head.  More to the point, when Kaufman Brothers & Bondy bought CPF in 1883, the shift from ornate to more traditional models began and continued until the company’s end, and by the time 1900 was rung in by turn-of-the-century revelers, ornate wood pipes were all but phased out.  Nevertheless, when it comes to arguing the potential difference in age from 119 to 136 years, Bert said again out loud he was not going to quibble.  He hated that species of know-it-all more than anything.  His “newest” pipe was an antique with more than enough years to spare, whatever its date of creation.

To give a better perspective of the actual size of the CPF shown in Loveless’ beautiful photo that isn’t apparrent below (even with the lovely Peterson dwarfed by it), the length was 10 1/2”, the bowl height 2” and the chamber diameter a unique ⅞” x 2”.  Bert chose unique because of the peculiar straight evenness of the depth, which accommodated far more tobacco than his favorite Ben Wade by Preben Holm Danish freehand that sported a 1” x 2” tapered chamber.  The second photo shows the same tobacco needed to fill both the CPF and the PH, left to right.  Despite the trick of the angle, both lids were identical in size, but the left held about five good pinches, and the right three. The tiger’s head needed no cleaning and was unblemished by any apparent damage to the horn extension.  Bert, of course, following his nature, tried it out and enjoyed it so much he made it the only pipe he smoked for a couple of days.  Then, to his horror, he observed the sudden appearance of two cracks in the horn that could only be described as honking.  To make it clear right off, he was not blaming anyone for the weirdness of the manifestation.  He suspected it was due to the extreme age of the horn and long disuse, and may very well require ongoing attention. For the edification of those whose personal values (which are formed by family, social and peer forces as by clay with all of the potential for works of art or bricks or quagmires of mud and possess the same qualities of steady hardening into solids that can nevertheless be shattered) deny them the sublime enjoyment of reading the dry legalese of patents, the second paragraph describes Goodyear’s idea of “combining sulphur and white lead with the india rubber” and heating in such a way that the result is both heat- and cold-resistant, thereby making Vulcanite less apt to soften and crack, although Vulcanite is never mentioned by name.

Illustrated next is the rest of the phenomenal pipe when Bert decided to fix the cracks and re-do the stain, only to satisfy his own quirky druthers. The only real CPF expert Bert knew told him the hallmarks on the brass-coated nickel band were meaningless for dating or other helpful purposes, but they looked impressive.

Commencing his journey to salvation, Bert gave the stummel, extension and bit a quick wipe with a paper towel and purified water, then reamed and sanded the chamber with 220- and 320-grit papers and pre-cleaned the inner shank and air hole with cleaners dipped in Everclear he would have found refreshing for his own consumption in earlier years. He then bathed the extension/bit in an OxiClean solution as though it were a hot natural spring water cure ordered by a physician and got the retort out of the way with his newer laboratory grade kit, which, fueled with Isopropyl alcohol, makes an impressive and mighty flame that should be respected but does boil the Everclear through the rounded Pyrex tube with great speed and efficiency.Concluding there was no time like the present to tackle the only repair needed, Bert confronted the crack with the determination of David against Goliath but an approach that required two applications of Super Glue rather than a sling and stones, the initial one clamping the cracks shut long enough to dry afterward and the other just filling in remaining gaps again before sanding and buffing smooth. In his work of fine-tuning, Bert did not record the multiple buffing steps.  As for the stummel, he had set his mind on as much of a two tone as he could achieve to give the stunning, intricate carving of the tiger’s head a more lifelike color and leave the smooth area darker but still showing a hint of the grain.  After a long Everclear soak, he let it dry and used super fine “0000” steel wool to lighten the color. The remainder of the trek was a blur, and again he failed in his usual obsessive observance of details.  The almost final steps were micro meshing from 1500-12000 and staining the smooth area with Lincoln Brown Leather Dye and the carved part with something a little different: Fiebing’s British Tan.So close to the end and almost delirious, Bert went over the top in obsessiveness making the regal, proud, all-but-lifelike head light enough to suit his exacting taste, using steel wool again and even light sanding with a double-sided 220-320-grit pad.  In almost all cases of waxing carved surfaces of pipes, Bert employed a white, hand-applied concoction, but not this time.  He buffed the carved part on the electric wheel with carnauba alone and the smooth with red Tripoli and carnauba.  In a moment of blinding revelation, the sound and the fury of the experience came together in an epiphany that left him dazed. AFTERWORD
Bert remained one of the unvanquished, believing that so long as the past is remembered and preserved, it never goes away.


The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 4/4: Fixing a Meerschaum Shank Everyone Thought Was Beyond Repair

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

 To him that will, ways are not wanting.
— George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentusm or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c. (posthumous, 1651). 

Part 1 hypothesized that the discontinuation, illegality and dwindling or total unavailability of vital materials, used in antique and other very old pipes, will lead to a serious crisis in restoring these heirlooms and otherwise prized implements of contemplation to their original conditions.  My main theme was the need for those of us in the business – having considerable, moderate or little experience under our belts – to learn how to overcome these difficulties that will become more acute all too soon.  In hindsight, I should have emphasized better the need for those who now have the know-how to use their own perhaps self-discovered and unique (read proprietary) heroic measures to cooperate in sharing them with the rest of us.

Part 2 described the first of three such repairs I have completed, its example being a Colossus Pipe Factory (CPF) Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum with a gold band and genuine cherry red amber stem that needed reconnecting with a new bone screw tenon.  Five years after I began searching for the one part, I was compelled to send the otherwise restored CPF to a specialized repair service that may have been the only place capable at the time to affect the rehabilitation – for lack of a proper bone tenon or anyone to whom I could turn for instruction on how to repair damage to the inner shank.  Now I know the necessary work was relatively minor.

Part 3, taking the form of a fable, told of the misadventures of the Restorer during his two-year quest to cleanse of all evils a Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Blueline Bakelite dated by its owner to 1911 and entrusted to the Restorer’s care for a simple cleaning and restoring.  The ensuing calamities must be read to be believed.

I became involved with this small old meerschaum smooth bent billiard by the most unusual circumstances of any restoration I’ve made so far.  My pipe club meetings take place the third Thursday of every month in a back room of the local Moose Club Lodge, where the Ladies of the Moose are gracious enough to cook a special dinner for us at a low price that just covers their expenses, not counting the tips we’re more than happy to contribute.

Before dinner was served at the December meeting, one of the ladies, Sherry, happened to buy two of my pipes.  One was the best I had, a beautiful Ben Wade by Preben Holm Danish freehand, and the other a vintage Dr. Grabow easy bent natural billiard.  Sherry didn’t know much about pipes but liked those two, which I let her have at the 15% club discount minus the usual $8.00 shipping fee.  She mentioned finding at a yard sale a little pipe, in a leather case, she described as very dirty but white underneath with a broken stem.  She thought it might be antique.  I told her it was probably meerschaum, explained what that meant, and  encouraged her to bring it with her the night of the next meeting so we could all have a look and see what might be done.

Before dinner was served at the January meeting, Sherry handed me the little brown case.  There’s something mysterious about such objects, teasing the beholder to approach and open them and reveal the secrets hidden within.  Nothing we’ve been taught by fables, folklore and outright superstition entreating us not to meddle with common-looking doodads, unless we’re prepared to face the unknown but likely negative consequences, is powerful enough to stay our hands.  “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” which was not added until 1704 to the original Arabic tales from the 8th-14th centuries, comes to mind.  The tale of the powers of the Magic Lamp, during more than three hundred years of oral and other popular re-telling, has been altered from its actual story in which all ends well to a warning to be careful what we wish lest we get what we ask for.  But in this event, the contents pf the brown case appeared benign. The top felt lining of the open box identified the meerschaum billiard as a First Quality, but whether that was an old brand name or the importer I have not been able to determine.  Sherry’s main concern, of course, was if her $8 yard sale find could be fixed so she could smoke it.  Seeing the severe damage to the inner shank, my hopes were not high.  I observed the stem that was with the meerschaum was too short and also smaller in diameter than the shank and suspected its use as a replacement of the original may have caused or worsened the harm. Still, with wishful thinking, I thought the gutted, ragged shank of the little pipe (only 5” long) might be mended with Plaster of Paris or some sort of putty.  I was sitting next to Don Gillmore, the artisan pipe maker whose business is called DW Pipes, and he nixed those ideas.  Any new stem and tenon, Don said, would not support the billiard’s weight with the sort of shank repair I proposed.  We passed it around the table, and that was the general opinion.  For such a small pipe, it was rather heavy, and at least part of me had to go along with everyone else’s verdict.

Sherry also wondered how old the First Quality pipe was.  The group conclusion was that it dated to between the turn of the 20th century and the 1930s.  Everyone agreed the stem was Bakelite, but in a later experiment that ended with shocking results I proved that was erroneous.  More about that later.

And so I had to tell Sherry, choosing my words with special care, that her pipe was very old but there was nothing we could do to attach a new stem.  Still I thought there might be some way to accomplish the feat.  I kept that to myself, however, instead offering to clean up the pipe and make it look nice, at least, at no charge.  I could see the well-masked disappointment on her face and had to bite my tongue to hold back my seemingly irrational hope so as not to risk another let-down.  For the meantime, Sherry let me take the pipe for cleaning.

George Herbert’s proverb, later reiterated as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is the prefect prelude to this blog.  Everyone else present at the January meeting of my local pipe club reached the same conclusion, that the restoration was impossible given the severe damage and known methods of repair I proposed that were intended for small jobs of meerschaum patchwork,  I even consulted our host, Steve, in a short exchange of emails in which I suggested more and more creative (meaning desperate) approaches   I should have accepted the wholly sensible belief that the smooth little billiard was past fixing when I received Steve’s emphatic consensus that any such approach would not support the inherent torque between the stem and shank.  In fact, for a moment I did give up hope   

I’m afraid my mind was already ensnared by what my dad always called a steel trap, however, and I had to find a means of escape even if it required sending the pipe to miracle workers such as the folks at Norwoods Pipe Repair, who had bailed me out several times already.  I was growing tired of such surrender, but with that end in mind, I sent Norwood the younger photos clarifying the damage and text adding every possible material of the main parts to be used, in the preferred order.  As always with that fine business, I had a positive response the same night.  Assured the job could be done, I prepared a realistic estimate of the amount Sherry would pay, with parts, labor, shipping there and back and the 11% tax included, and forwarded the good news to Sherry.

But you see, another aspect of Herbert’s collection I like is the comparison of the modern sense of the word outlandish in the book’s subtitle being “freakishly or grotesquely strange or odd” compared to the now archaic meaning, from the Old English utlendisc, as foreign or not native.  I also appreciate the translation of the main title, from Latin, referring to careful darts.

Remembering the antique CPF turned lion’s head meerschaum pipe I sent to Norwoods to have the original amber stem reattached with a new bone screw tenon, I took a closer look at the shank as it appeared before and after the wonderful work that was accomplished.  An outlandish notion in both senses of the word began to form in my mind.Notwithstanding my good faith communication with Norwoods, I knew I could accomplish the task myself.  Because of the way the CPF’s previous shank threading was filled with some permanent solution, sinking the new bone tenon within it, all I needed was a practicable guess as to the solidifying substances used.

Thinking it might present somewhat of a difficulty to Don, I drove to his house and showed him the CPF.  After examining the shank for a few seconds, Don suggested epoxy mixed with powdered wood.  He half-filled a plastic 35mm film tube with the latter – more than I’d need for far more meerschaum repairs than I could make in quite a while – and said the epoxy was up to me.  Of more importance to me was his change of opinion regarding my ability to accomplish the task.

I cut in half my previous estimate of Sherry’s cost to fix her meerschaum pipe and sent her a new email asking if I could proceed with the work, guaranteeing the price.  It was the only time I’ve bid on a job, and my goal being less to make money than to demonstrate how this kind of meerschaum repair could be performed by almost any restorer (not to downplay my experience more than is appropriate), I decided to undercut the competition with assertive style.  Her reply was that if I was confident I could do the work, get on with it.

With the pipe already cleaned by then, I had reluctantly concluded an amber bit was not viable at the time because of general unavailability of any color without sending the pipe to someone else to do the work.  I only had to acquire a Bakelite stem of an appropriate length and color (as close as possible to the orange of the poor replacement shown above, based on Sherry’s wish) and a selection of bone tenons and Teflon push-pull sets from which to choose when I decided the type I would use.

JH Lowe turned out to be the single supply store I found with all of the above but sold the push-pull sets in 12-packs.  I would only need one, and thinking I’d save on my expenses, I ordered a three-pack from Royal Meerschaum.Also, the JH Lowe bit page did not mention available colors, and the closest length was 3”, the standard.  For the pipe to fit its case as it had when first made, the bit needed to be 2½”.  On a tip from a friend, I called Tim West of JH Lowe and asked if he had any orange or even yellow Bakelite bits of the right length that were pre-bent.  Every source I had found, online and friends, stressed that Bakelite could not be bent.

CORRECTION TO PART 1: In the first blog of this series, I noted that hand-crafted old pipes, including the stems, were made to the exact and often eccentric specifications of the maker, and therefore one of the problems “for purposes of restoring old stems made of Bakelite…[is that] any necessary replacement can be reworked in only one way: fitting an over-sized stem of an otherwise suitable candidate to a shank by serious sanding or other such methods.  Any other alteration, such as bending or threading, is strictly impossible.”  When Tim repeated that Bakelite bits were pre-fashioned for individual pipes, I told him I was aware of that obstacle and it was, indeed, the cause of my greatest difficulty – finding one already bent.  Without a bent Bakelite stem, I added, I could not complete the project at hand.  With a little reluctance, Tim then insisted that although it is “tricky at low temperatures, Bakelite can be bent.”  He assured me he has succeeded in bending Bakelite “a little but not much.”    

Just to be on the safe side, I ordered a 3” straight bit that was dark reddish brown, a 2½” “orange or yellow” bit Tim was sure he had in a back room, whether or not it was bent, and a 12-pack of assorted bone tenons.  Both bits were pre-drilled for the “push” side of the set.  Given Tim’s qualification of the bending process being chancy at low temperatures, I reasoned, if need be I would crank the oven up a little at a time and see if the world’s first synthetic plastic became more malleable.  But Tim came through with all of it, including a 2½” easy bent yellow bit, leaving my experiment for a later date – but not too far in the future, perhaps even as a follow-up to these four blogs. By the way, Tim is experiencing technical difficulties with his website navigation menu.  As a workaround solution, he has made sure that browser searches for JH Lowe pull up direct links to each of his pages.  He apologized for the temporary inconvenience.

The basic cleaning of Sherry’s pipe was finished the morning of January 18, the day after she left it with me for that reason.  I started with a simple wipe down using a small part of a paper towel and purified water and was amazed by the difference. Meerschaum rims tend to be easier to rid of char than wooden ones, and this was no exception, despite the awful looking burns, using super fine “0000” steel wool.  Exercising great care, I used a reamer to begin clearing the crusty chamber of built up cake, followed by 150-, 320-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.  I also applied the three finest-grit papers to the shank opening to make it smooth.I finished cleaning the outer stummel with a soft tooth brush dipped in purified water.Now, here’s where I had to start making the big decisions, the first of which was to use a modern push-pull set instead of a bone screw tenon for which the pipe was made.  I wanted to use the bone tenon, but that was my ego trying to get the better of me.  The most important factors were the integrity of the bit to shank connection and the pipe’s ultimate lasting use to its owner.  The next two photos show how the push-pull set is designed to be installed and the perfect fit of the push half in the bit.The reality of the situation, however, was that the correct insertion, or receiving, side of the Teflon set was the same diameter as the shank.  In other words, there was no way whatsoever that the right way would work.  Again, I wanted to go with a bone tenon that would have been good for my own use, but that would have meant more work and less strength for the pipe in terms of the higher risk of the actual owner breaking the fragile bone.

Since the latter was all that mattered, I used the easiest and safest improvisation of reversing the order of the push-pull set.  Even this required widening the mortise, and the only tools available to me for the procedure – one each slotted and Phillips head screw driver and a small but sharp pen knife – could best be described as inadvisable.  I proceeded with a mix of confidence and willingness to pay the price of a similar, name brand and definitely antique replacement complete with its own case that I took the precaution of making sure was available to Buy Now on eBay.

Starting with the pen knife, I whittled away the roughest area of the mortise, then inserted the slotted screwdriver with minimal force and very slowly turned the head until there was no resistance.  That left the mortise round and the thickness of the meerschaum even but a tad too small for the short end of the push side to fit snugly.  The Phillips head was wide enough to slide into the mortise with the same minimal force as before, and a couple of slow turns made the hole perfect.  The one good aspect of using the Phillips head was that it roughened the inner wall as the instructions for the upcoming epoxy and powdered wood application suggested.I had to pay Don one more visit to have the bit opening widened to accommodate the push-pull part usually inserted in the shank.  With his big power drill press that could be set to stop at the exact depth required, the task took Don only a few minutes.  I also picked up a band I wanted to put on the pipe, not for repairing a crack but for cosmetic and further support purposes.  Although I wanted to use a sterling band, the only type Don had on hand that fit was a 12½mm nickel one.Back at my own modest home workshop that night, using a file, I scuffed the parts of each push-pull half to be inserted in the bit and shank, as shown below with the shank side.  Then I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise and draught hole of the stummel and another through the bit’s airway to prevent excess epoxy and shaved wood mix from seeping and setting inside either.  Sliding the Teflon parts over each cleaner so they were just above the connection points, I mixed a small amount of epoxy and powdered wood and applied the mix to the upper halves of the scuffed areas one at a time and pushed each into place when it was ready, knowing the adhesive concoction would spread out over the whole connectors.  The initial bonding took 60 seconds, during which time I moved both cleaners back and forth a fraction to assure they didn’t stick. Nine minutes later, the epoxy mix fully set, I removed the two cleaners that came out with no resistance.  The hardened, even fill of the adhesive solution is clear in the last photo.  I gave the push tenon inside the shank a good tug to test the bonding, and it didn’t budge.  Poking the re-cleaned thin metal shank clearer of my three-piece tool into the opening of the stem’s push-pull half, I angled it to grip the inner side and tugged, again without any movement of the part.

The longest, most difficult labor of the entire restoration still awaited me: matching the 15½mm bit opening to the 12½mm shank.  Most people think of 3mm as a small measurement, but any pipe restorer knows it’s a massive discrepancy. All of this adjustment required 150-grit paper and hours – over a period of days – of patience not to eliminate a fraction of a millimeter too much of the Bakelite after so much effort.  Here it is close to the end of the first stage, before sanding down the left shank to get rid of the chip and make the two halves of the pipe flush. Also still remaining was much of the tapered bulge, especially on the top, but I slowly worked it down before adding the band with a few tiny dabs of Super Glue.  Adding the band showed the sides of the shank that still needed to be evened out, which I did with 220-grit paper and super fine steel wool. After that, there was still one problem I had to address.  The mouthpiece was so wide that the leather case would not snap shut.  That meant an assault on both sides of the mouthpiece with 150-grit paper.  Fortunately, Bakelite, like acrylic, is more forgiving than Vulcanite/Ebonite as far as scratches go, and it was nice and smooth after a full course of micro mesh.  I also buffed the bit with carnauba on my electric wheel. Case closed, so to say.CONCLUSION
Not forgetting the mishap with the short, undersized bit that was used by a previous restorer, I determined it was not Bakelite.  After speaking with Tim at JH Lowe and before I received the needed parts that included a stem of the correct length and already bent, I decided to prepare for the possibility of needing to bend it.  And so I pre-heated the oven to 250° F and placed the old bit inside on a piece of aluminum foil.  Not even 10 minutes later, in the living room, my eyes were watering, and I noticed smoke and a noxious odor.  Rushing to the oven and opening the door, I beheld what can only be described as vampire remains after exposure to sunlight.  Really, nothing was left but a small outline of black soot.  Even the tenon that we all believed to be bone had vanished.  Recovering from the shocking sight, I realized the bit had been the cheapest variety of plastic.

To be sure, Norwoods, with its two generations of experience, would have returned a pipe finished with a perfectly shaped bit, not to mention one made of orange amber and connected with a bone screw tenon in keeping with the ideal of completing such restorations with all of the original materials.  As far as my substitution of a Teflon push-pull tenon set goes, I stand by my decision that was based on the owner’s need for enduring enjoyment of her First Quality meerschaum pipe.  Concerning the slight bulge that remains in the bit, I’ll just say I did the best I could in the time allowed, by hand using paper without even the benefit of an electric sanding wheel.

Still, I will follow up with Sherry and offer to give the bit the finishing touches it could use.  But this restoration was a success in that I learned how to repair a mangled meerschaum shank on my own and now share the experience so that other restorers will have the same ability.  That, after all, was the highest goal of this series.