Tag Archives: Bowl – finishing

Breathing New Life into a Kriswill Handmade Count 370


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is one that has been around here for quite a while and today was its day to be cleaned up. It is a Kriswill Handmade pipe. It is a pretty pipe with a nice looking shape. The condition is a bit rough. The left side of the shank is scratched and there is a significant road rash toward the bottom of the bowl. There was a think cake in the bowl and there was a thick lava overflow on the rim top. The pipe was dirty and grimy feeling. The pipe is stamped on the left and underside of the shank and reads Kriswill Count over Handmade in Denmark on the left side and on the underside it has the shape number 370 at the shank/stem junction. The vulcanite taper stem is not too bad – there is light oxidation and tooth marks and chatter near the button on both sides. It has the Kriswill Snowflake Logo on the left side of the stem. I took photos of the pipe before I started my clean up work. I took photos of the rim top and stem to show the condition of the bowl, rim top and edges and stem. The bowl has a thin cake and a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The inner edge is dirty and caked so it is hard to know what the condition was like. I was hopeful that the edges were in good condition! The next photos show the condition of the stem. It is also clean and has light oxidation. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see that it is clear and readable. I forgot to take a photo of the shape number 370 stamp on the underside. There is also the snowflake logo on the left side of the taper stem. I took a quick photo of the damaged area on the lower left side of the bowl – the road rash!I took the stem off the shank and took a photo of the pipe.I turned to the Pipephil website to do a quick review of the brand and try to see if there was any information on the Count line (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-k3.html). I have included a screen capture of the section on the site:I quote from the side bar on the above screen capture:

Kriswill is a brand of Kriswork Briar Trading, in Kolding (Denmark) established about 1955.

Some of Kriswill pipes were designed by Sigvard Bernadotte, Swedish prince and brother to the late Queen Ingrid of Denmark. He collaborated with his Danish partner Acton Bjørn.

When the company went bankrupt in the late 1970s it was on a level with Stanwell. Dan Pipe Cigar & Company (Hafenstrasse 30 D-21481 Lauenburg/Elbe, Ge) bought the rights to use the name and it is Holmer Knudsen and/or Poul Winsløw who make the Kriswill line. Nørding, on its side, bought the plant and introduced a Kriswell line.

I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kriswill) and sure enough I found catalogue page Circa 1970, courtesy Doug Valitchka. Unfortunately it did not have the 370 shape on the page.

I also have included a large part of the history from the article.

Founded in the late 1950s, Kriswill was one of two large pipe manufacturers in Denmark during the 1960s and 1970s, on par with Stanwell as measured by number of employees, pipes produced, and quality. The Kriswill catalog cover reads “By Appointment to the Royal Danish Court, KRISWILL, Kriswork Briar Trading, Briar Pipes Hand Made in Denmark.”

Kriswell began immediately after World War II. Karl Robert Kris, an engineer for the shipping company AP Møller at the time, was in port (undoubtedly in the Mediterranean) when he encountered a shipment of briar. The briar blocks awakened his curiosity and he took some home. About this time the the shipping trade become difficult due to the war, causing Kris to consider other business opportunities. In 1947, Kris (then 47 years old) established himself as a pipe maker in his hometown of Kolding.

Kris started his pipe making operation in a house located at Haderslevvej 115 in Kolding, and was soon joined by 3-4 employees. The pipes were sold under the name Rocky and supplied the domestic market. Within 6 months the company had grown, more employees hired, and their sales expanded to markets abroad.

Due to increasing production and marketing, Karl Robert Kris decided in the mid-1950s to expand. An entirely new factory was built at Sdr. Ring road on the outskirts of Kolding. At that time the pipes were branded Kriswell. That name did not last long, however, as Stanwell believed that name was too close to theirs. The compromise was to change the name to Kriswill. Krisill soon grew to become a serious competitor to Stanwell, especially in the export markets. The Kriswill factory logo, stamped on the stem, became the stylized compass rose – as a reference to the manufacturer’s maritime background.

Kriswill pipes excelled in design and craftsmanship. Karl Robert Kris was not afraid of new designs and had a good eye on the US market, where larger and more innovative designs were increasingly popular. Craftsmanship was given top priority throughout Kriswell’s production. A local designer / architect had designed the first models. Later, the famous architects Sigvard Bernadotte (Swedish prince and brother of Queen Ingrid) and Acton Bjørn designed their own series, which were known as Bernadotte designed.

Two other series were the Golden Clipper and the Chief. The Golden Clipper pipes were smaller, lighter, more reserved, and popular in Europe. The Chief series was especially designed for the Americans, who wanted larger pipes. These pipes were light for their size, however, very different from the “Danish Free Style” pipes that other Danish makers were sending to the US market. Kriswill pipes that did not meet the requirements of the main lines were sold as “seconds” under the names Danish Crown and Navigator…

…Karl Robert Kris died in 1966. The factory was well-run, and Kris’s widow wanted the family to continue the business. Karl’s son, Jens was groomed as director and remained with the company until 1975. The 1970s were difficult times for pipe-making in Denmark, as in the rest of the world. In addition to declining demand, they struggled with runaway inflation and annual wage increases of 18-20 percent. It was challenging to maintain the level of craftsmanship without raising prices, yet customers had difficulty accepting large price increases. As a result manufacturing become less profitable. Soon Jens Kris left Kriswell and new management and staff were hired at the factory.

Shortly after Jens departed Kriswill the company failed. The Kriswill name and model series were sold to the Norwegian pipe factory Lillehammer. The machines were acquired by Erik Nørding, and the property was sold.

After a few years Lillehammer also ceased production. Kriswills were made for a while in the 1980s at the Catalan factory, Iberica de Pipas. But these pipes were far from the quality of the originals, and became Kriswills in name only.

I now knew that the Count I had on the table was made between the start of the company in 1950 and the sale of the company in the late 1970s. Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe. I started by reaming the cake back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer so I could check out the integrity of the bowl. I cleaned up the remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife. I finished by sanding the walls of the bowl with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. I scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. The shank was very dirty and appeared to not have been cleaned. The stem was much better.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and rim top with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed it off under warm running water and dried it off with a soft towel. With the bowel cleaned inside and out it was time to address the remaining lava on the rim top. I scraped it off with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall knife. I sanded off the remaining tars and cleaned up the darkening on the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I started to polish the rim top and edges with a piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. When I finished the rim top looked far better. I also sanded out the road rash on the lower left side of the bowl with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. I was able to smooth it out and blend it into the surrounding briar. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth marks and chatter on the vulcanite. I was able to lift all of them.I sanded what remained and blended them into the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. At this point it is starting to look much better.  I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.   This Kriswill Count 370 turned out to be a great looking pipe. The mix of brown stains highlights the mix of grain around the bowl sides, top and bottom. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well with the polished vulcanite taper stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Kriswill Count fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will be going on the rebornpipes shortly. If you are interested in adding this one to your collection let me know. Thanks for your time.

Renewed Life for a Comoy’s Tradition 496 Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is a Comoy’s pipe from Alex’s collection. It is a pot shaped pipe with a saddle stem. It is a Cadogan period Comoy’s and has a single inlaid C on the left side of the saddle rather than the three circle version. It is a pretty pipe with a nice looking shape. The condition is another of those pipes that is shiny and polished on the outside and very dirty on the inside. It had been reamed but the shank and mortise were filthy with tars and oils. The pipe is stamped on both sides of the shank and reads Comoy’s over Tradition on the left side and on the right it has the Made in London England COM stamp circle followed by the shape number 496 near the bowl. The vulcanite saddle stem looks good at first glance but has tooth marks on both sides at the button. It has a stamped C on the left side of the saddle. I took photos of the pipe before I started my clean up work on the pipe. I took photos of the rim top and stem to show the condition of the bowl, rim top and edges and stem. The bowl looks clean and the rim top and beveled inner edge look very good. I was hopeful that the pipe was actually as clean as it was shiny! The next photos show the condition of the stem. It is also clean and has no remaining oxidation. There are tooth marks and chatter under the shine on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. You can see that it is clear and readable on the left side and a little more blurry on the right side. There is also the inset C on the saddle stem – a new one piece inlaid C rather than the earlier version with the circles.I took the stem off the shank and took a photo of the pipe.The “C” stem logo on Comoy’s pipes was the “three-piece C” insert until the Cadogan era in the 1980s. That helped me with a potential date on this pipe – 1980s or later. Knowing that this was a newer Comoy’s pipe from the Cadogan time period did not deter me as the shape on this one fascinated me. I turned to work on the pipe on my work table. The pipe was externally quite clean and I wanted to make sure that the internals were also clean. I scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. The shank was very dirty and appeared to not have been cleaned. The stem was much better.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.  I worked over the light tooth marks and blended them into the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. At this point it is starting to look much better.  I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.   This Comoy’s Tradition 496 Pot turned out to be a great looking pipe. The mix of brown stains highlights the mix of grain around the bowl sides, top and bottom. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well with the polished vulcanite saddle stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Comoy’s Tradition fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will be going back into the box of finished pipes that I have done for Alex so he can pick them up when COVID-19 allows. Looking forward to hearing what Alex thinks of this one. Thanks for your time.

Rusticating a Bald Spot on the Briar on a Bjarne Bent Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

This is one of Alex’s pipes and one that I have admired for a while. Bjarne pipes are well made and a pleasure to smoke. This particular pipe has some amazing grain on the right side, shank and front and back. The left side has a large bald spot with no grain to speak of that pretty much covered the entirety of the left side. Alex wanted me to try to come up with some kind of rustication pattern that would highlight the character of the bowl and add to that rather than change it. I took photos of the pipe from around the sides and the top and bottom of the bowl. It is a short pipe with a full sized bowl. The shank looks long and the stem is short and stubby but very comfortable. Have a look. I did a bit of research on some of the other carvers and how they used spot rustication to give character to a bowl. I found a great looking pipe by Winslow that used the same idea as I was thinking and sent it to Alex. He was good with the concept so I was good to go. However, I am always very slow to change someone’s pipe as it is generally not possible to make it like it was before! I spent a few months really thinking about it and looking at the Winslow and looking at the Bjarne and then putting the pipe aside and doing other things. I have included the photo of the Winslow below for comparison sake so you can see where I was heading with the rustication.I finally decided to give it a go this afternoon before supper. Sometimes I mark the portion of the pipe with a line or tape to give definition to the area I want to rusticate. But today I decided just to go with the flow and chase the grain around the edges of the bald spot. I have a rustication tool that a friend of rebornpipes made for me. It has a great ball handle and a cluster of hardened nails set in the head and kept from flexing by a hose clamp. I worked over the area of the bowl with that to get the rustication started. I used a Dremel and some burrs to cut a groove around the rusticated portion of the bowl similar to the way that Winslow did. I also knocked off the high spots on the rustication with both burrs and reworked areas that were not even. I used a medium grit sanding sponge to smooth out the high spots a bit and then stained the rusticated portion with black aniline stain. I applied it and flamed it with a lighter to set is in the stain. I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli to smooth out the high spots on the surface. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I still had some more sanding and polishing the surface of the rustication but the basic form is taking shape. I used a sanding sponge to smooth out the high spots a bit more. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and rubbed some Conservator’s Wax into the rustication of the left side of the bowl. I buffed the rest of the pipe with carnauba wax and gave the pipe a clean buff. I hand buffed it with a clean cotton pad to raise the shine. The finished rustication on the pipe is shown in the photo below. It is a nice looking pipe. Thanks for your time.

 

 

Rebirthing a Schoenleber Hand Made – #4 Opera Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is another one that Alex dropped off for me to work on for him – another Schoenleber Hand Made. This one is a straight shank Opera pipe with an oval bowl and a mix of different grain around the sides and shank. Someone had given the dirty pipe a coat of varnish or shellac to give it a shine but in doing so put the coating over the grim on the rim and the bowl sides. The carver once again did a great job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Schoenleber over Hand Made. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with a number 4 which is either a shape number or size designation. The taper stem is vulcanite and has a single small coral dot on the top side. I think that this will be another nice looking piece once it is cleaned up. The bowl is thickly caked with a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The top and edges of the bowl are damaged and chipped and what was once a bevel has been almost ruined. The exterior of the briar was dirty with grime and dust. The stem has light tooth marks and chatter on both sides. It is lightly oxidized and dirty. I took photos of the pipe before my cleanup work They tell the story and give a glimpse of the promise that I see in this pipe. I took a photo of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl, the damage to the rim top and inner edge.  The stem was a very good fit to the shank. It was oxidized, calcified and had debris stuck to the surface of the vulcanite. It also shows the tooth marks on the stem and on the button surface.  I took photos of the sides of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is faint but readable in the photos below and is as noted above – on the left side it reads Schoenleber Hand Made and on the right side it is stamped with the number 4 at the shank/bowl junction. The stem has a coral dot on the top of the taper.When I worked on a Schoenleber pipe for Alex in the past I had done the research on the brand. I knew that the pipe had been made for a shop in New Jersey but went back and reread the previous blog I had written on the brand. I have included the information from Pipedia that I included before. I quote the article in full (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Schoenleber).

Louis Schoenleber lived in North Arlington N.J. and was an Austrian immigrant and skilled artisan in pipe making. His hand carved pipes were available in his shop, ‘Schoenleber’s Newark Pipe Shop’, at 26 Branford Pl., Newark NJ, thought to open in the 1920’s. Schoenleber’s carried a full line of tobaccos as well as related pipe smoking accessories. It’s thought the shop operated until the late 1960’s, and Louis Schoenleber died in 1976. It’s also fairly certain they may have sold to other brands such as Jelling, also in Newark and are very similar in design and finish.

There was also an advertising card on the site that I have included below. It speaks to my assumptions about the curing process and the finishing process on the pipe. It also connects the pipe to Schoenleber’s Newark Pipe Shop in Newark, N.J. It also has a comment on the fact that pipes were made to order.I have to tell you I am spoiled with having Jeff do all the heavy clean up work on pipes. I almost forgot that on this one and started to work on the finish. I stopped myself when I realized I was working with a dirty pipe. I reamed the pipe with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife because of the oval bowl. It is a difficult reaming because of that so it takes more time to take the cake back to bare briar.I wiped the bowl exterior down with alcohol on paper towels to remove the grime and then scrubbed the interior of the bowl shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils.I turned my attention to the deep gouges on the heel of the bowl. I filled them in with clear super glue and when that repairs cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the areas with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I dealt with the damage to the rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the damages and reshape the top and inner edge bevel. I forgot to take a photo of it after the clean up so I have included a photo from after I polished it with micromesh.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked over the rim top and edge of the bowl with the pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. I used a Maple Stain pen to touch up the area around the repair on the left side, heel and the inner edge of the rim.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem. I started the polishing of the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish – a red, gritty Tripoli like substance that is a paste. I rubbed it into the surface of the stem and polished it off with a cotton pad. I have found that is a great intermediary step before polishing with micromesh pads. I am not sure what I will use once the final tin I have is gone! I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.   With both parts of the Schoenleber Opera Pipe finished, I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The rich oil cured finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a well-proportioned, nicely grained Schoenleber Opera. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch wide x 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch wide x 1inch long. This Schoenleber Hand Made Straight Opera will be going back to Alex shortly. I cannot wait to hear what he thinks of it. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this older American Made pipe.

Repairing and Restoring a John Bessai Flat Bottom Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the worktable comes from Alex’s box of pipes. It is nicely shaped John Bessai pipe in a shape I would call a Rhodesian sitter. Looking at the photos below you might wonder what Alex wants to have done with this pipe. I have learned to not be fooled by appearance. The pipe had a top coat of shellac or varnish to give it a stellar shine – probably done by the seller. The rim top was dirty and had the shine coat on top of that. The bowl was out of round and the edges were dirty. The pipe reeked of stale tobacco which told me that the internals had not been cleaned. The airway was very tight and there was little airflow. The shank had no obstruction but the stem had a nozzle tip that was closed off but for a pin hole. The stem looked good from a distance but under the shine was tooth chatter and marks – things I don’t like on a restored pipe. On the underside of the shank was a small hairline crack. It went across the flat base about mid shank. It did not go up the sides it was like a small flaw in the briar. So you can see there was more to work on with this pipe than initially meets the eye. It was a polished dirty pipe! I took some photos of it before I started my work. I took close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show the condition. You can see the damaged areas on the inner edge of the bowl and the bits of debris in the shellac coat on the rim top. The tooth damage is hardly visible in the photos but it is on both sides next to the button edge.I took a photo of the over buffed stamping on the shank sides. The left side reads John Bessai with a JB stamped underneath. The right side has the remnants of what looks like two circles. The rest is unreadable. There is also a JB on the left topside of the stem that is very faint.I took the stem off the shank and took a photo of the pipe to show the overall look. You can also see the buildup of tars and oils on the nozzle end of the stem.I have worked on quite a few Bessai pipes over the years and back in 2014 I restemmed a bowl. I wrote a blog on the pipe and did quite an extensive amount of research on the brand (https://rebornpipes.com/2014/07/14/restemming-and-restoring-a-john-bessai-special-diamond-shank-bent-brandy/). I am including that information here for ease of reference.

HISTORY & BACKGROUND

I started out with what I had found previously and written about on the blog. I quote the following paragraph from Pipedia http://pipedia.org/index.php?title=Bessai

 John Bessai was a long time pipemaker, repairman and tobacco shop owner who operated his pipe shop at the “Old Arcade” in Cleveland, Ohio. The shop was opened in approximately 1898. It was a small 2-room shop where he hand-crafted his own pipes in the back room and could work when customers were not there. Like so many other shop made brand, John Bessai’s limited production was quickly acquired by regular customers and thus his craftsmanship remained little known outside of Ohio and the Midwest. While his name is known by pipe collectors in the Midwest, his work is seldom seen elsewhere! He died before 1969. Nevertheless, John Bessai left behind a small number of classic shaped pipes; all were made on-site. They are praised worthy of collecting and reflecting skills well beyond most American pipe makers. John Bessai’s logo “JB” appeared as one letter as the “back” of the “J” and the “back” of the “B” share a single line. The logo was stamped on the stem and on the left side of the shank. His son Herb Bessai took over the business and also continued making pipes. He closed the shop in about 1978.

I suspected that there would be more information three years later. I did some further research and came across the information found in the paragraph below on one of the pipe forums.

John Bessai was located in the Colonial Arcade at least into the late 1980s. After his death, his son Herb ran the shop. It was taken over after Herb’s retirement by a male and then name was changed to “Old Erie Pipes”. This was then located in the Erieview Plaza and when that mall closed, taken over by Cousin’s Cigars which has a store on Euclid Avenue near CSU, and a store on Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere Village.

That small quotation gave me a bit more information of the state of the store after John’s death and Herb’s retirement. But I still wanted more information. I wanted to know about the history of the brand and if there was any information on the various grades in the brand and the stamping on the pipes. I wanted to know a bit of a timeline for the brands. Finally my digging paid off. ON one of the pipe forums I came across a link that led me to a gold mine of information gathered by a man after my own heart, Andrew Hross. He has a blog called Classic Pipe Shop on Blogspot. I have included the link below for those who want more information. Andrew has done an amazing job of gathering information on the Bessai Brand so rather than rewrite the history I am quoting portions of Andrew’s work on The John Bessai Pipe Clinic. (http://classicpipeshop.blogspot.ca/2014/04/the-john-bessai-pipe-clinic-information.html)

The John Bessai Pipe Clinic, 35 Colonial Arcade, Cleveland, OH 44115 – by Andrew Hross

Owner(s): **John Bessai 1920s until his passing in 1969, **Herb Bessai ~1962-1983, **Daniel Gottschall 1984-~1993, **Purchased by Dad’s Smoke Shop / Cousin’s Smoke Shop and rolled into the Old Erie Smoke Shop about 1993. Cousin’s Cigars purchased the remaining stock of Bessai pipes near after Herb Bessai passed away in 2002.

Years of Operation: 1920s (unkown specific date at this time) – 1983. After 1983 the business was sold to Daniel Gottschall who later sold it to Cousin’s Cigar (Euclid Ave) around 1993. The name was changed to “Old Erie Tobacco Company”. They were forced to move to the Galleria when all the tenants of the Old Arcade were cleared out to make room for renovations. Their new address was The Galleria at Erieview, 1301 East 9th Street in Cleveland.

After this move the location wasn’t as busy as they had hoped and Cousin’s moved all the Old Erie Tobacco assets to their Euclid Avenue Store. The store has since moved to a St. Clair location after Cleveland State forced them out due to anti-smoking regulations on campus. Their St. Clair location offers many of John Bessai Pipe Clinic’s old tobacco blends.

Their new store opened in the Merriman Valley area in Akron, Ohio where the store manager John Coleman oversees the day to day operations. John was instrumental in helping me piece together a lot of loose ends during Bessai Pipe Clinic’s transition years.

My father visited their shop several times in the early 60s as he attended Fenn College (now Cleveland State University) as an undergrad before moving on to Ohio State University for his Masters. He’s way smarter than I am so I just go with the flow…

He mentioned meeting John at that time who quickly gave my father some pointers on smoking a pipe and how to take samples from the shop’s expansive sample jar collection. His pipes were on display in the shop although I don’t believe he had a lot of pipes on display at any given time due to production in-shop.

John’s son Herb took over the shop in the early 60s after he graduated from Cleveland State University / Fenn College (unclear) as he is listed as having played Basketball for CSU. Herb was also a helpful, informative and friendly individual. Articles exist from the Herald in 1962 where they interviewed Herb (with photograph) about the state of smoking in the new age of the early 60s. I visited the shop in the late 70s / early 80s with my father during a trip to Cleveland and couldn’t tell you much about the shop other than the guy working was very friendly. Back then it wasn’t unusual to be a kid and walk into a smoke shop with your father. Clearly I didn’t purchase anything but my father probably picked up some tobacco but I remember him looking at pipes displayed on a back wall. The shop was small but impressive.

If anyone has any pictures of the shop or old catalogs, I would love any additional information as it’s tough to come by 30+ years later!

Pipes offered by John Bessai Pipe Clinic: Most of the pipes that were offered by the John Bessai Pipe Clinic were fairly standard in shape… I would say most of the pipes Bessai offered were smooth pipes. My assessment would be 90% smooth and 10% rusticated / sandblasted…

…The story is that John crafted pipes in the back room or off site and finished them in house while the store wasn’t busy. Very little information is available on the accuracy of this statement. Some of his pipes from the late 1960s through the 1970s (John passed away in 1969) I feel were left over stock from previous turnings and sometimes showed fills or sand pits. Some of these pipes even carry Herb’s markings (see below). These pipes still smoke very well but are not as eye-appealing as other earlier pipes from the store’s career.

Stampings and rough dating of John Bessai Pipe Clinic Pipes: Which pipes did John make and which ones did Herb make/finish? All Bessai pipes carry his standard large JB stamp either on the stem or shank or both. Typically the JB on the stem is within a circle.

All pipes created by John Bessai’s hands reportedly contain the miniscule ‘jb’ stamp on the shank or body of the pipe. I have older pipes in my possession that do not contain this stamp (condenser, old stamps, etc) that were clearly shop made pipes. I feel he started using the tiny ‘jb’ stamp in the 50s to early 60s.

An interesting note about John Bessai’s stems – they always clean very nicely and aren’t prone to as much oxidation (that brownish / green color) as most dunhill and Charatan pipes tend to oxidize. His cuts to his stems were very impressive and often transitioned from diamond-shaped shanks almost architecturally. Very comfortable to smoke.

John Bessai Special Pipes:

… I have a couple Bessai Special pipes. These stand out either by large size, graining or possibly shape. Most Specials are unique pipes and are rare to find in comparison to his regular issue pipes.

John Bessai Special X pipes:

I only have one of these and it’s a beauty. This one is a larger bowl (around a group 4 dunhill) with deep colored grain and a hefty substantial shank. Special X pipes are probably the rarest of John Bessai pipes and should be sought out if possible. I’ve smoke mine roughly 4 or 5 times and it performs with the best of my pipes…

Herb Bessai Pipes:

Unfortunately none of these pipes that I’ve seen have astounded me with grain or general appearance. Having said this, these pipes smoke nicely and are a great value if you can find them. I have one that my father found at an Antique Show in the South. There’s another author shape on reborn pipe’s blog that someone refinished because of the amount of fills in the pipe. He also states it’s a wonderful smoker (Editor’s note: This is my pipe and the write up I did on the blog). These pipes are likely from the late 60s through the early 70s. I believe many pipes after this period were created en masse at a factory in the US. It is unclear what stamp was used on these later pipes…

Dating / Circa era Bessai Pipes: If the pipe carries a stamp stating Cleveland, O U.S.A. it’s considered an older production pipe (pre1960s). I’ve not seen any newer pipes with that stamp.

Bullseye stamping usually indicates an earlier pipe as that stamp seems to have been abandoned pre1960 as well.

Most of the earlier Bessai pipes have an unusual ‘stinger’ or condenser at the end of the tenon which is unique to Bessai pipes. They are either a hard plastic or created out of wood. They are typically easy to remove and could have been easily lost if misplaced. These pipes I would consider pre-1960 and possibly 1940s-early 1950s production based on their stamps and patina of the pipes.

1970s 1980s and beyond: My feeling on these pipes after John’s passing is that they purchased finished pipes from a large manufacturer and stamped them with the John Bessai or Bessai stamp (on shank and/or stem). Most of these shapes are standard among many stores from that period and offer less than spectacular grain (and sometimes fills). Stamps on these pipes are probably fairly plain and don’t have the tiny ‘jb’ stamp on the shank indicating it was produced by John Bessai.

I know that is a lot of information and if you want to you can skip ahead to read about the restoration. I started my restoration with cleaning the internals and the externals of the pipe. I cleaned out the inside of the pipe with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was a filthy pipe on the inside.I scrubbed off shellac coat with acetone on paper towel. It came off really well and left the bowl dull but removed the shine coat and let me get the grime off the briar. I decided to address the flaw in the bottom side of the shank. I have circled the area in red. Under a lens the flaw does not go up the sides of the shank but rather stops just before each edge. I scrubbed that area with acetone to clean up the shellac or varnish that was in the crack or flaw. Once it was clean I put a spot of clear super glue on the crack and worked it into the crack with a tooth pick. I let it harden/cured the sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. While it is still present it is less visible and smooth. I cleaned up the damages to the inner edge of the rim and the beveled area. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and improve the look of the edge and the top. The finished work looks a lot better.I polished the bowl, rim top and repaired shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth. The photos of the process shows the developing shine. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the even that material. The balm is absorbed by the briar and gives it real life. I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the tooth damage next to the button and up the stem. It did not take a lot of work to clean it up as most of it was not too deep. I also cleaned up the buildup on the nozzle end of the tenon.I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  With both parts of the pipe finished, I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pentagon shank Rhodesian by John Bessai polished up pretty nicely. The rich browns of the finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a well-proportioned, well-made Rhodesian that is a functional sitter. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This Bessai Rhodesian will be going back in the box of Alex’s pipes awaiting the opening of restrictions so we can enjoy a pipe and go through the lot. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this American Made pipe. 

 

Cleaning up a piece of Pipe History – a Marxman Imported Briar Rusticated Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is a piece of American Pipe History. It is a well smoked Marxman Bulldog that came with the box, pipe sock and literature that was in the original package. The previous pipeman had even kept the $5 price tag that had come with the pipe. I don’t know it I would call it a pretty pipe but it is an interestingly rusticated classic Bulldog with worm trails around the bowl and shank and large spot of smooth briar as well. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some tobacco remnants from the last bowl smoked. There was some darkening and lava around the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The rusticated areas have a lot of grime and debris ground into them but should clean up nicely. There are no visible fills around the bowl which is also a nice bonus. The finish looks good under the grime. The taper vulcanite stem is in good shape with some small tooth marks and chatter on both sides. It is lightly oxidized as well. Jeff took some great photos of the pipe, the box and sock as well as the price tag that came with the original pipe. He took it out of the box and took pictures of the pipe itself to show its general condition before he started his cleanup. Jeff took a photo of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the lava overflow all over the rim top. It is quite thick toward the back of the bowl. It is hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looks like until we remove the cake and the lava. While the bowl has a thick cake it interestingly does not go all the way to the bottom of the bowl. The last third of the bowl is raw, clean briar with no darkening. This means that the previous pipesmoker did not smoke the pipe to the bottom of any of his bowls.He took photos around the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition. You can see the grime in the finish and the worm trail rustication all over the bowl sides. He took a photo of the stamping on the left topside of the shank. You can see that it is clear and readable. It has the classic Marxman arrow logo over Imported Briar. There is no other stamping on the pipe.The next two photos show the condition of the stem. You can see that it is lightly oxidized and has some tooth chatter and marks on both sides near the button. There is also some wear on the button surfaces on both sides.I turned to the listing on Pipephil on the Marxman brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m2.html) to gain some insight. The side bar noted that the brand was created in 1934 and merged with Mastercraft in 1953. I did a screen capture of the section and have included it below.I turned next to Pipedia to gather a more detailed history of the brand and see if I could find any information on this particular pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Marxman). The brief article there was taken from Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes. I quote a portion of that article below.

Marxman (Marxman Pipe Company) was created by Robert (Bob) L. Marx in 1934, when he was 29, and after he had worked for the William Demuth Company. His pipes were not outstanding because of the quality of their wood (probably Algerian), but Bob started making unique sculpted pieces, which brought the brand fame in the World of Hollywood cinema. Actors like Zachery Scott, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, Joel McRae, and Ronald Reagan were some of the faces that appeared on the bowls. Bob knew how to innovate and took full advantage of marketing and press advertising in order to sell the brand–one of his slogans being “Relax with a Marxman”.

Bob also produced other brands, such as the “Bench Made”. The company lasted until 1953, the year in which it merged with Mastercraft, then the USA’s biggest pipe importer. Marxman Pipes Inc., was located at 27 West 24th St. New York 10, NY.

It is definitely an interesting piece of pipe history. It was also a pipe that had been sitting here since 2017 so it was high time to work on it. Armed with the brand information I turned to work on it. I opened the Marxman box and unpacked the pipe and the other things in the box. The photos below show what I found as I went through the box. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cake from the walls of the bowl. He cleaned up any remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the rim top. He worked on the rim edge lava and darkening with the soap and tooth brush. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and washed it off with warm water to remove the cleanser. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem to show how clean they were. You can the roughness on the inner edge of the rim on the backside of the bowl. The bowl and rim looks much better without the thick lava and cake. The stem looked better. There was light oxidation and the tooth chatter and marks were very visible.  I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. The stamping is clear and readable and it reads as noted above.I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of stem, tenon and profile of the pipe. I noted that there was a small stinger apparatus that is removable in the tenon.I decided to start my work on the pipe by dealing with the damaged inner edge of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damaged area bring the bowl back into round. It came out really well.I polished the bowl and base unit with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked over the rim top and edge of the bowl with the pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris.    I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the even that material. The balm is absorbed by the briar and gives it real life. I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem. I started the polishing of the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.  I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish – a red, gritty Tripoli like substance that is a paste. I rubbed it into the surface of the stem and polished it off with a cotton pad. I have found that is a great intermediary step before polishing with micromesh pads. I am not sure what I will use once the final tin I have is gone! I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  With both parts of the pipe finished, I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The old Marxman Bulldog polished up pretty nicely. The rich browns of the finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a well-proportioned, well-made Marxman Imported Briar Bulldog. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This Marxman Bulldog will be going on the rebornpipes store in the American Pipe Makers shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this older American Made pipe.

Life for a WDC Redmanol Dublin with a removable Redmanol Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is a WDC Redmanol Dublin with a Redmanol Bowl. It is a pretty pipe with a great shape. It is an interesting piece to me in that the bowl is not briar. It is almost like the Medico Brylon but way before that time. It is a man-made product that has been cast to function as a bowl for a pipe. What is fascinating is that the pipe in its entirety is Redmanol – bowl, base and stem. The pipe is very dirty with a medium cake in the bowl and some darkening and lava around the beveled inner edge of the rim. The bowl was stuck on the base when we received it. The shank is diamond shaped as is the stem. The band on the shank was loose. The band was stamped on the top left with the WDC triangle and on the opposite side it reads 14K Gold Plated. The stem is in good shape with no tooth marks or chatter. The ½ bent saddle stem has two gold dots on the left side of the saddle stem. Jeff took photos of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl, rim top and edges. The cake is quite thick and there are a few spots of grime on the edges and around the cap on the bowl.He took photos around the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition. You can see the grime in the finish and the damage on the heel. It is primarily on the right side but goes across the ridge. He took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank and the band. You can see that it is clear and readable. You can see the 14K stamp on the band and the two dots on the stem side.The next two photos show the condition of the stem. You can see that it is lightly oxidized and has some tooth chatter on the underside. Otherwise the stem is in very good condition.I turned to the article on Pipedia to see if I could find out any information on their Redmanol pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/William_Demuth_Company). Unfortunately while it gave a great summary of the history it did not give any information on the Redmanol line.

I turned to Pipephil.eu to see if there was any information about that line and there was nothing on that line there (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-w1.html).

I turned to Wikipedia for an article on Bakelite and Redmanol to remind myself of the connection between the companies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakelite).

As the sales figures also show, the Bakelite Company produced “transparent” cast resin (which did not include filler) for a small ongoing market during the 1910s and 1920s.[11]:172–174 Blocks or rods of cast resin, also known as “artificial amber”, were machined and carved to create items such as pipe stems, cigarette holders and jewelry.[11][12] However, the demand for molded plastics led the Bakelite company to concentrate on molding, rather than concentrating on cast solid resins.[11]:172–174…

…The Bakelite Corporation was formed in 1922 after patent litigation favorable to Baekeland, from a merger of three companies: Baekeland’s General Bakelite Company; the Condensite Company, founded by J.W. Aylesworth; and the Redmanol Chemical Products Company, founded by Lawrence V. Redman.[13] Under director of advertising and public relations Allan Brown, who came to Bakelite from Condensite, Bakelite was aggressively marketed as “the material of a thousand uses”.[7]:58–59[14] A filing for a trademark featuring the letter B above the mathematical symbol for infinity was made August 25, 1925, and claimed the mark was in use as of December 1, 1924. A wide variety of uses were listed in their trademark applications.[15]

I also read a brief article on Redmanol on Wikipedia and the link was clear as the companies joined in 1922 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redmanol_Chemical_Products_Company).

Redmanol Chemical Products Company was an early plastics manufacturer formed in 1913. Lawrence V. Redman was its president. In 1922, the Redmanol Company, the Condensite Company of America, and General Bakelite were consolidated into the Bakelite Corporation.[1]

It is definitely a interesting piece of pipe history. Armed with that information and a clearer picture of the original pipe and what it was made out of I turned to work on it. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cake from the walls of the bowl. He cleaned up any remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He was not able to remove the bowl from the base so a thorough cleaning of the base was not possible. He worked on the rim edge lava and darkening with the soap and tooth brush. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and washed it off with warm water to remove the cleanser. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem to show how clean they were. You can the roughness on the top edges of the rim. You can also see the twin holes in the bottom of the bowl and see that they are clogged. I was not able to blow air through the shank and bowl. The stem looks clean and the tooth chatter is fairly light. I took photos of the stamping on the shank band. It reads as noted above.    I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of stem, tenon and profile of the pipe. I noted that the tenon is metal and is threaded to match the threads in the mortise of the shank. At this point I could not remove the bowl from the base.I decided to start my work on the pipe by dealing with the bowl. I cleaned out the base as best as possible by running alcohol through the holes in the bottom of the bowl and shaking the pipe to try to flush out the grim in the base. You can see from the pipe cleaners that I removed a lot of grime that way. I put a cotton swab in the shank and filled the bowl with alcohol and let it soak for several hours. The bowl is still stuck solid. I think that it was probably glued in place by someone along the course of its life. I decided to finish cleaning out the base as much as possible and leave the bowl and base as is.I polished the bowl and base unit with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked over the rim top and edge of the bowl with the pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris.   I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the Redmanol/Bakelite with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the even that material. It is not absorbed by the material but seems to provide a good top coat that preserves the product. I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe really comes alive with the balm.  I spread some all-purpose glue on the shank end and pressed the gold plated band in place on the shank.I polished the Redmanol/Bakelite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. This beautiful WDC Redmanol Pipe turned out to be great looking pipe. The mix of reds of the Redmanol and the browns of the Redmanol bowl looks very good. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting colours work well together. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished WDC Redmanol Dublin is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 4 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will be joining other WDC Bakelite and Redmanol pipes in collection. Thanks for your time.