Tag Archives: Background information on Mastercraft pipes

Reclaiming a Mastercraft “Hand Made” Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

To date, I have completed the restoration of nine pipes from my “Mumbai Bonanza” lot. In this lot, I found one pipe that was pretty battered up and in a very sorry state. It reminded me of an “Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor” from my grandfather’s collection that I had restored some time back. Here is the link to the write up that was posted on rebornpipes.com; https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/12/reclaiming-a-yello-bole-imperial-carburator-vest-pipe/

If at that point in time I felt that the Imperial was in a bad shape, holding and looking at this Mastercraft pipe in my hand was gut wrenching to say the least!!!! Believe you me readers, every time I selected a pipe from the Mumbai lot to work on, the first pipe that I would always pick was this pipe!!!!! I was in love with the shape of the pipe, the feel in my hand (which are quite large by Asian standards), the grains peeking out at me from under all that grime, the heft …I could go on singing praises about this pipe. But in spite of all these eulogizing, I always ended up returning it to the box as a future project. Why? Well, the answer lay in the condition of the pipe and the colossal investment of time required restoring it. I knew that this project would test all that I had learned till date and then some more, without the certainties of the end result!! But now I decided to complete this project, however long it may take and whatever the end results.

For those readers who have missed out on my previous work, I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of  Charatan’s Belvedere, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The tenth pipe that I decided to work on from this find is a straight pot and is indicated in yellow colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the left side of the shank in a shield as Mastercraft in sentence form over HAND MADE in block capital letter. The right side of the shank is stamped in a straight line as AGED IMPORTED BRIAR in block capital letter. If at all there was any other stamping on the right side, it has been consigned to history due to severe damage further down the shank. The stem is apparently devoid of any logo stamp as I see it now. If at all there ever was a logo, it has completely worn out/ obliterated. Now coming to the research of this brand, which is my first, I referred to rebornpipes.com and as expected, Mr. Steve has extensively researched this pipe and has even posted some interesting old catalogs and hierarchy of the pipe lines from this brand. Here is the link;

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/23/a-mastercraft-pipe-lines-hierarchy/

I surfed further and found an interesting post on restoration of a Mastercraft Executive Choice by the master restorer himself, which amongst other details, included two photos from the 1969 RTDA Almanac which show a list of various MC pipe lines. The pipe currently on my work table is the very first one in the list and was the top most in MC hierarchy of pipe lines and also the most expensive of all MC pipes retailing for $ 10!!!!! Here is the link for the essay and I urge all readers to give it a read.

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/

Thus, I can now safely conclude that this pipe is from the late 1960s, had been a top-of-the-line product for MC and retailed as the most expensive pipe in its inventory!!!! Well, after this search, I feel the additional pressure in doing complete justice to this pipe to the best of my abilities and that I will have to up my game a notch higher.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
I really do not understand where I should start from, which damaged inch of the pipe I should describe first, let alone tackle and about which I am not even thinking at this point in time!!!!! But to finish, I have to make a beginning and let me just start with the chamber and the rim.

A thick layer of cake can be seen in the chamber. The rim top surface is covered in thick overflow of lava, okay; consider that as VERY thick, which has bubbled on to the rim top and further oozed over on to the stummel surface. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely (thankfully readers cannot see or hear me muttering silent prayers!). The less I speak about the edges of the rim, the better it will be for my morale. Every millimeter of the outer edge has been damaged by striking against table end by the previous steward, however I must thank the previous steward for ensuring an even all round damage…lol. The inner rim condition does not look too promising either! I suspect a charred rim in 7 o’clock direction (when held from the stem end) and is marked in red circle. However, once the cake has been removed, I shall be certain about the extent of this charring and any other damage (praying again, in fact I haven’t stopped praying since I began and unlikely to stop till I finish!). Another issue which I have noticed is that the briar in the heel around the draught hole has formed a valley of sort (marked by yellow arrows), probably caused due to repeated and rigorous thrusting of a pipe cleaner through and beyond the draught hole over the years. Why would you clean the mortise and airway in this fashion??The most significant damage is seen to the stummel. It appears that this pipe has seen active duty and has been extensively and actively used against Viet Cong by the previous steward with great success…..LOL!! Every inch of the stummel surface is peppered with a large number of deep scratches, dents and dings. The entire left side of the stummel has prominent nicks extending from the rim top right down to the foot of the bowl. There are deep road rash marks on the right side of the shank just below the stamping, extends over to the underside and towards the shank end and further extends over to the stem for about an inch from the tenon end towards the button end (marked in pastel blue circle). The damage to the shank end and stem is so perfectly aligned that it appears that the damage was sustained while the stem was attached to the shank. In short, the stummel has sustained massive damage over the years due to both, rough usage and subsequent careless storage. It is covered in oils, dirt and grime of all these years of smoking and subsequent uncared for storage. The stummel surface is sticky to the touch, giving the stummel a dull, lifeless and lackluster appearance. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely densely packed straight grains can be seen on the sides and shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The mortise is blocked with dried gunk, adversely affecting both the airflow and the seating of the tenon in to the mortise. The stem is also an equal disaster like the stummel with road rash marks on the right towards the tenon end. There is a round patch nearer to the button which appears to be a result of melting of the vulcanite. In all probability it had come in close contact with either a burning cigarette or some sort of a flame. It seems that the previous Steward used softie bit on his pipes as heavy oxidation can be seen where the bit was used. The bite zone, including the button edges shows dental compressions on both upper and lower surfaces. The button edges will have to be reconstructed and sharpened. The stem does not sit flush with the shank end and also the stem diameter around the road rash area has scrapped off resulting in a mismatch. This stem diameter will have to be rebuilt and I expect that once the mortise has been cleaned up, seating of the stem in the mortise would improve. The horizontal slot with a round center shows accumulated oils and tars. The stem surface shows signs of heavy oxidation. THE PROCESS
As decided during my initial appreciation of the condition of the pipe, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface and follow it up with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of the oxidation while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I cleaned out the tenon and the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, to revitalize the vulcanite and to have a fair idea of the progress made, I wiped the stem with a little Extra Virgin Olive oil. When I looked at the tenon end of the stem, I realized the right portion of the stem, as seen from above, was not as round as the left and would need a fill so as to bring it flush with the shank end. However, I would have to fine tune the sanding of the fills on both shank end as well as the stem simultaneously in order to achieve a perfect flush fit. The portion that would require a fill is marked in yellow.I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces, the side and lip and set it aside for curing over night. The mix was applied along the circumference of the tenon end stem which had been scrapped. I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel cleaning. With size 3 and 4 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. The walls of the chamber show a few heat lines, nothing serious, but they are present. These heat lines and the ridges on the bottom surface of the heel will be addressed later. This was followed by gently scraping away the lava overflow from the rim top surface with my fabricated knife. I cleaned the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The suspected charring that I had appreciated early on is now confirmed. The rim has thinned out considerably above the draught hole. The inner rim edge is also uneven. I shall be addressing these issues too subsequently.

I followed the cleaning of the chamber with the cleaning up of the shank, mortise and the air way. Using hard bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, I ran a few through the mortise. This moistened the hardened grungy depositions of all the oils and tars in the mortise. Thereafter, using my fabricated dental spatula, I scraped out all the accumulated oils and tars from the shank. The following picture hints at the degree of the grunge deposition that I was dealing with. I continued the mortise cleaning regime with shank brushes dipped in alcohol. However, the pipe cleaners continued to come out dirty and soiled unabated. This would need application of some serious cleaning process using salt and alcohol treatment.I rolled some cotton in to a wick and wound it around a pipe cleaner and inserted it inside the mortise up to and through the draught hole. Next, I packed some cotton in to the chamber and topped it with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and set it aside for the time being. About twenty minutes later, I topped it again with alcohol and set it aside overnight for the alcohol to draw out all the tars and oils from the chamber walls and the cotton to trap the drawn out gunk. I must clarify here that even though it is recommended to use ‘Kosher Salt’, plain cotton and alcohol works with exactly the same effectiveness, but at nearly ¼ the cost of Kosher Salt!! So, in case someone else is paying, go ahead with using Kosher salt, otherwise cotton and alcohol works just fine! By next day evening, the alcohol and cotton had fulfilled its intended task. I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise for a final clean and it came out……well, soiled black and dirty! The gunk and grime in this pipe was stubborn, indeed. I again went through the entire regime followed earlier to clean the mortise and was surprised to find the amount of grunge that was scraped out again. The crud that was extracted and the number of pipe cleaners used after the alcohol bath, as can be seen in the photographs, bears testimony to the extent of apathy the pipe was subjected to by the previous steward. I followed up the internal cleaning with external refreshing of the stummel surface. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel and the rim top to remove the overflow of lava from these surfaces. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks clean, but the road rash, dents and dings to the stummel and rim edges/ top now stands out prominently. I followed it up with sanding the entire stummel with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This serves three purposes; firstly, it removes all the stubborn dust and grime from the surface, secondly, it evens out, to a great extent, any minor dents and dings from the surface and thirdly, it provides a smooth and clean surface for intended fills. With the road rash evened out to the extent possible, I repaired the road rash with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue. I always over fill the holes/ surfaces so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I also build up the shank end, which was damaged due to the road rash, with this mix. I set the stummel aside to cure.Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way), I attached the stem to the shank end carefully aligning the stem fill with that of the shank end fill. I sand the entire stummel surface and the stem using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper and matched the shank end with the stem fill. Once I had achieved a match, I detach the stem from the shank end. On close observation, I found that the shank end repairs had several tiny air pockets. I again filled up these air pockets with clear superglue and set it aside for curing, while I worked the stem. Using a flat head needle file, I reshaped the button and follow it up by further sanding the stem with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 girt pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface. With the stem repairs completed, I turn my attention back to the stummel repairs. The second fill to the road rash portion had cured and I sand it with a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper. However, I realized that the air pockets were still visible. I discussed this with my mentor, Mr. Steve, who suggested that I should first go through the micromesh polishing cycle and then decide if a refill is required or otherwise. With this advise, I move ahead to complete the stummel repairs. I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents and dings and also to reduce the charred rim surface. I addressed the out of round inner edge and the dents and dings to the outer rim edge by creating a bevel on both these edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. The numerous scratches, dents and dings to the stummel surface was beginning to concern me as it was a conflict between my innate desire not to lose briar through sanding and the necessity to do just that if I desired to completely rid the stummel of all these evidences of its past and thin out the walls in the process. Readers, believe you me, these damages were deeper than you normally expect. I shall take a fresh call on this issue after I am through with the micromesh polish cycle.

However, no sooner than I was through with wet sanding using 1500 to 2400 grit micromesh pads, the air pockets in the fill to the road rash stood out like sore thumb. I repeated the process of freshly filling it with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust. I set the stummel aside for the fill to cure.After the fill had cured sufficiently, I sand and match the fill with rest of the surface using a 220 grit sand paper. This was followed by polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wipe the surface with a moist cloth to remove the resulting dust. The stummel, at this stage, looks absolutely stunning with beautiful straight grain popping out from every inch. The dents, dings and scratches, though visible, are no longer an eye sore. In fact, it lends the pipe an aura of being a survivor and invincible. I decide to let the marks be! Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful straight grains on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. The only stummel issue that needs to be addressed is that of the ridges at the heel near the draught hole. The first thing I do is insert Vaseline smeared folded pipe cleaner in to the mortise right up to the draught hole and slightly beyond. This prevents the draught hole from getting clogged. I begin by wiping the heel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it. I make a mix of the two components of JB weld; hardener and steel in equal measures. The mix remains pliable for 6 minutes, which is adequate to spread it evenly and fill the worn out heel surface. I also covered the indentation formed on the front wall. Once I had achieved a satisfactory spread, I set the stummel aside for 4-6 hours for the weld to cure. The weld has hardened and I sand the fill to a nice smooth and even surface with a 180 grit sand paper. It was not an easy task as I had to do it manually with the sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. But I managed with satisfactory results. I shall be coating the inner walls of the chamber with a mix of activated charcoal and yogurt. This will not only help in faster build up of the cake but also isolates the weld from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this handsome pipe could share the secret of its past life with all of us… if only!! Cheers.

PS: After I was done with all the polishing and buffing, I gave the walls of the chamber, a nice and even coat of activated charcoal and yogurt. I am very happy that this pipe has gone to a war veteran Officer who loved the scars and the grains on this pipe, not to mention my figment of imagination that this pipe appears to have seen action against the Viet Cong and survived!! It was at his request that I did not stain this pipe to mask the fills. This fighter has indeed come a long way as can be seen from the pictures below.

 

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Every man has a right to a Mastercraft Pipe – A Mastercraft Pipe Catalogue


I recently posted a blog about cleaning up a Mastercraft De Luxe billiard and received an email from Andrew Selking telling me that he had a Mastercraft catalogue from the 1930’s and he sent it to me as an attachment. We both thought it would be great to post it here for the ongoing information of refurbishers who like to know a bit of the history of the pipes they are working on. Here is the brochure for your enjoyment. Thanks Andrew.MC 2 (4)

MC 2 (1)

MC 3 (2)

MC 3 (3)

Learned a bit of American Pipe History – Mastercraft Executive Choice Pot Restored


Blog by Steve Laug

Another pipe I picked up along with the two pairs I have written about lately is a nice little Mastercraft Pot. I am generally not taken by the pot shaped bowl but this one has a nice bevel to the rim that shows off the grain on the rim. It has some nice grain on the sides, back and front. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Mastercraft in a shield. mastercraft4bUnderneath it is stamped Executive Choice. On the right side it is stamped Imported Briar over Italy. The stem bears the MC silver oval inserted in the side of the stem on the left side.mastercraft1aThe bowl was heavily caked and the beveled rim was covered with tars and buildup. The finish was in good shape. There were no deep scratches or dents. There were several fills but they were dark and did not stand out. The bowl was shiny but worn in some places. The stem was not too badly oxidized but it was dirty and seemed to have has a rubber bit guard on it at sometime in its life as it had left a line behind on the stem. There were no tooth marks or chatter on the stem.IMG_6900IMG_6901IMG_6902IMG_6903I have cleaned up quite a few Mastercraft pipes over the years but did not really know anything about their history. I assumed that they were American made. I had heard somewhere that Bing Crosby owned stock in the company and smoked their pipes but I was not even sure of that. So I went to work digging into the background on the internet. The first thing I found was this old advertisement for the pipes with the old crooner himself.
6mh04k9nm8qo8q I continued through the Google list for Mastercraft and one of the next listing was in Pipedia. http://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft

In the article the author wrote the following: “Bing Crosby smoked Mastercraft pipes and can be seen in their magazine ads from the fifties. That isn’t a lot of info so I went looking and found a thread with posting by “Ted” — the former Exec VP of Grabow/Mastercraft http://drgrabows.myfreeforum.org/viewtopic.php?t=155&start=0

It doesn’t appear it was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow.

The following is quoted from the thread: First a confession. From 1974 till 1984 I had several positions with Mastercraft including Executive Vice President. I also worked for Grabow from 66 till 74 and from 84 till I retired in 91. In 91, with retirement, I was President and COO for the corporation that was called “Sparta Industries”. I have seen both sides of the “fence”, and even though I never left the “employ” of Grabow, my loyalties for 10 years were with M/C.

United States Tobacco(UST)(Skoal and Copenhagen) bought Grabow in 69′ from the Lavietes family. In 74′ they bought M/C from Bernard Hochstein and moved it into the EXACT facility Grabow occupied. I was named “operations manager” and we were in the basement of a 4 story building in Sparta, NC.

M/C was STRICTLY an importer of pipes and pipe related merchandise. In 74′ when M/C moved from NYC to NC the inventory of finished goods was stored in a facility in Winston Salem, NC. Lentz Moving and Storage. Stacked 10 feet high the inventory covered 180,000 square feet….FINISHED. In my time at Grabow I had never seen that much finished stock, and the shapes, manufacturers, finishes. Heaven for a pipe smoker…..Damn right. You would have had to slap me really hard to get the grin off my face.
I’ll just list a few Manufacturers/names of the inventory. England ….Parker/Hardcastle(Dunhill) …Orlick…France…Jeantet…Jima…Cherrywoods…Italy…GIGI pipe…Radica…Rossi…Federico Rovera…Emilio Rovera…Santambrogio.Brebbia..Meerschaums from Austria…. Strambach… Lighters from Japan…Pouches and accessories from Hong Kong…and the Israeli pipes from Mr. Hochstein’s sons. Trust me…this is only a small sample of the things M/C had, and bought into inventory.
Now the connection. Since M/C and Grabow shared a building, and I was an employee of Grabow we compared notes. Grabow copied a BUNCH of M/C items fully with my help and some skills I had developed.
First was Omega…A copy of a well pipe made by Federico Rovera (FERO.com)….Freehand by the Alpha/Shalom factory…Meerschaum Lined from M. Gasparini, and later GIGI PIPE. These were originally imported by M/C for Grabow and stamped Grabow, but also stamped ITALY. Later models…better finish were made in the USA. Bucko…copied from M. Gasparini… (Gasparini, to my knowledge is the only maker of leather covered pipes in the world). If you buy a leather covered pipe it was, most assuredly covered by M/G. And you thought the wood in the Grabow COLOR was bad…..oughta unwrap one of these scrappers. There is a lot more. Questions will be answered following the presentation.

Now the other way. Grabow to Mastercraft. M/C never really had a source of continuing supply. The foreign manufacturers would make a line for a while and then quit. Never do it again, no matter how well it sold, no matter the demands we put on em’. Grabow gave M/C a source of stability and a nice profit for both companies. A lot of these you will not have heard of, but maybe….Seville, for M/C all smooth, for Grabow all rustic Hillcrest…. Freehand, For M/C Andersen and (a few Mastersen), for Grabow, Freehand with a DRB tampon. New finishes… New shapes, New bits…..Mastercraft showed Grabow how to use LUCITE for stems… Royalton…Again, these are just examples.

Ted also said: Several years before UST bought Mastercraft, M/C had acquired Marxman Pipes. A wonderful kind man, Bob Marx was still working as a salesman in NYC, and I was fortunate to make a few sales calls with him. You all remember Charles Atlas? Bob Marx was about 76 and had just been awarded the (I think) Atlas Award for being the finest specimen of manhood over 70 years old in NYC, or maybe the state.

M/C had some inventory of Marxman stuff, but not a lot. I know very little about Marxman. Did they make, import, or both?

M/C was included in all the major Christmas catalogues…Sears… Spiegel… Penney… Ward… Aldens. This was from about 70′ till 80′. We usually would have a 2 pc. Massa (pressed) Meerschaum sets from Robert Strambach, A water pipe from Brebbia, a huge Well pipe (saw one on e-bay a few days ago), and various odds and ends to fill about 6 – 8 spaces.

Let me also say one more thing about the 180,000 sq. ft. That wasn’t all pipes. It included display cases for our sets, which were made in England, and took up lots of space. Regular boxes, bags, and display material were a part, and pouches and accessories took up quite a bit.

In about 78′ UST put together a “premium products” sales force. They sold, mostly to pipe shops, products that UST owned. Tobacco from a plant in Richmond, Don Tomas cigars from Honduras, House of Windsor cigars from Red Lion PA., and M/C pipes. I think the force was 11 or 12 men and this was the heyday for M/C. What we had what EVERYONE in the pipe business wanted.

After the sales force was disbanded, M/C struggled some. This is about the time that Grabow and M/C realized what an asset we were to each other. Sales stayed pretty good for a while because of the relationships Judy Weinberger (NYC sales office and VP Mastercraft) and I had developed with the pipe shop owners.

Most of the Mastercraft pipes I have seen/bought at the bid place have an Algerian Briar stamping which makes them an attractive buy in this era. They are very reasonable and everyone has been well made with a nice draw and fine centering.”

I continued to look through various links on the web and followed this link to Pipesmokers Forum. http://pipesmokersforum.com/community/threads/mastercraft-pipes.3773/
This post from the same Ted as above appeared there. In it he confirmed some of the same information as he did in the extended post on Pipedia. He wrote: “To most pipe smokers Mastercraft Pipes are small cheap pipes, signified by the oval aluminum “MC” on the shank. Absolutely nothing special.

But Mastercraft was much more. As an importer of finished pipes M/C worked with many of the world’s foremost pipe makers and had in inventory finished product from the likes of… England, Hardcastle and Orlik. France, Ropp, Jeantet, Jean LaCroix. Italy, Lorenzo, Gasparini, Federico Rovera, Emilio Rovera, GIGI Pipe, Brebbia, Santambrogio, Fratelli Rossi. Israel, Shalom and Alpha. Plus all the tools, pouches and lighters from Hong Kong and Japan. The list of suppliers is enormous, but these are the ones I can remember after 30 years, and very few of these great pipes were ever stamped Mastercraft (some from Rossi).

Please don’t discount the importance of Mastercraft in this wonderful hobby we enjoy. Mastercraft, like Grabow, made many of our fathers pipe smokers. We all carry on the tradition…Thanks…Ted”

I also found some older RTDA Almanac pages on Chris’ Pipe Pages site. http://pipepages.com/index.html The first of these shows the address of the Mastercraft Pipe Company in New York before the move and purchase that Ted mentions above. It is a listing of different brands sold by the pipe company. I clipped this image from the 1949 RTDA Almanac. It is an early catalogue listing since the brand was created in 1941.
mc The next two photos were clipped from the 1969 RTDA Almanac. I included these as they show a list of various MC pipe lines. Note the inclusion in this list of the Executive line. It is the fifth pipe in the list below and sold for $4.95. I am assuming that the Executive Choice could be a subset of this line. The one I have is Italian made and imported to the US. The time frame fits the pipe that I refurbished so it may well be a 1969 pipe. The Italian pipes were made for Mastercraft by such Italian pipe makers as: Lorenzo, Gasparini, Federico Rovera, Emilio Rovera, GIGI Pipe, Brebbia, Santambrogio, Fratelli Rossi.

mc2 mc3
Now that I had found out some of the history of the Mastercraft brand I was intrigued. I went to work on the pipe with a new interest. I find that often a bit of history of the brand fuels my clean up and restoration work. The photo below shows the cake and the tars buildup on the rim. The rim itself was beveled inward and appeared to be unharmed under the tars. The grain was quite nice on the bevel.

IMG_6904I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. For this bowl I used three of the reaming heads to take the cake back to bare briar so that I can build up a hard and even cake.
IMG_6905
I scrubbed the tar on the rim with Murphy’s Oil Soap to soften and remove it. It took a lot of scrubbing to break through the tar and hard carbon buildup. I put the oil soap on cotton pads and worked them against the bevel of the rim. After much scrubbing the rim was finally clean. The photo below shows the finished rim. I scrubbed down the rest of the bowl to remove the grime on the surface.
IMG_6906
I cleaned out the shank and the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol. I scrubbed out the stem at the same time. Once the pipe was clean inside and out I found that the finish was covered with a thick varnish coat in a rather surprising way.
IMG_6907
I decided to do a bit of touching up the rim edges and bevel with a dark brown aniline stain. It went on spotty and when I flamed and hand buffed it things did not feel or look right with the rim. I wasn’t sure what the issue was, the bowl had been quite shiny when I started but with the oil soap it had dulled slightly.
IMG_6908
I found that the finish was covered with a thick varnish coat. I did not figure that out until I did a touch up stain on the rim and took it to the buffer to polish the rim. I gave the entire bowl a buff with red Tripoli. As I buffed it the finish began to bubble and peel. I have to tell you this was very frustrating and irritating at the same time. The photo below shows the bubbling of the finish on the back side of the bowl. It appears almost white in the photo.
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I took the pipe back to the work table to remove the varnish coat. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish. Thankfully it was a varnish and not a urethane based finish. It came off quite easily with a little scrubbing of the bowl, rim and shank. The next series of four photos show the bowl after the finish was removed. I decided I liked the colour of the bowl at this point so I did not restain it once it was clean. The rim and the bowl matched so it became unnecessary.
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I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper, medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the buildup on the stem. I then went on to sand it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with the 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with the 3200-12,000 grit pads.
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I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it had dried I took it to the buffer and buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond. I was careful in the buffing on the shank as I did not want to damage the stamping. When the bowl and stem shone I gave them multiple coats of carnauba wax. I gave it a final buff with a soft flannel buffing pad. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The first photo is a close of the beveled rim. I find that feature of this pipe to be one of its most beautiful features. The final series of four photos show various views of the finished pipe. It turned out to be a beautiful pipe with interesting grain and once the varnish was removed a more natural finish. The pipe is now ready to enter the next phase of its journey in time and be smoked by me until I pass it on to whoever comes next in its life.
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