Tag Archives: bowl topping

One from the Bizarre and Unsuccessful: An LHS LiteAPipe Patent Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

This pipe is one that never seems to have made a real impact on the market. I have never seen another one and I really like LH Stern or LHS pipes. I have had quite a few cross my work table over the years. It is an oddity to my mind. It is an apple shaped pipe with a contraption on the bottom that is a part of the bowl. My brother sent me a link to the eBay sale and it was one that I wanted to have for the collection. I have nothing like it and I wanted to see if I could figure out how the contraption on the bottom worked. The seller included some photos of the condition of the pipe. The finish had a thick varnish coat that was peeling and the seller seemed to wipe it down with furniture polish or wax to make it shine. The metal contraption on the bottom was dirty and the knurled handle on the front was intriguing and the bullet shaped cap on the back of the bowl was also interesting. The pipe is five inches long and very light weight. The rim top was pretty beat up from knocking it out on a hard surface. The nicks and chips in the surface while not deep were numerous and made the surface rough. There was a thick cake in the bowl and the lava had run over the bowl onto the rim top. The bowl had a flat panel on each side that had the finish worn off around the edges. The stamping on the pipe was very clean and strangely it was opposite of most other pipes that I have seen. The name is stamped on the right side and the patent information is on the left. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Pat Apl’d For and on the right side it is stamped with the LHS Diamond and under that LiteAPipe. I did some searching on the US Patent website and could find no information on the brand or the design. I also searched for the series name and found nothing either. The pipe was a mystery. I could not wait to get a hold of it and take it apart and see what I could figure out.While I waited for the pipe I broadened my search for self lighting pipes to see if I could find anything with a search that wide. I found three patents for the same kind of concept – two from the 1940s and one from the 1920s. They have the same basic idea of combining a lighting mechanism within the pipe itself to lessen the tools that the pipeman needs to carry. While there are similarities none of them are really close to the design of this old pipe. I think though that these links help establish a time period.

Here are the links and the patent drawing photos:

https://www.google.com/patents/US2532820https://www.google.com/patents/US2595534https://www.google.si/patents/US1938874The first picture below shows the end cap removed and the knurled cap pulled out as well. There is what appears to be a spongy end sticking out of the back of the contraption. The knurled end seems like it has a flint or some such end sticking out of the end of the tube. The side plate looks rough and could be a striker. The concept seems pretty straightforward – a single unit that contains the fluid, flint, wick and the striker on the base of a briar pipe. The pipe man simple fills the reservoir wool with lighter fluid. He sticks the striker/wick in the unit at the bottom of the bowl and when he wants to light his pipe he pulls out the striker/wick. He strikes it on the coarse bar on the right side of the unit.My brother took some photos of the pipe when it arrived in Idaho. You can see the flaking and speckled finish of the varnish on the pipe. The aluminum is oxidized and dirty. The stem is oxidized. Later photos will show that it is missing a large chunk on either the top or the underside of the stem at the button. The next photo shows the contraption on the bottom of the bowl and how it is fitted into a slot on the bottom.The next two photos show the pipe from the front end. You can see the striker/flint on the end of the knurled tube. The second photo shows the rim top.The next two photos show the condition of the stem. It had a lot of tooth chatter and was missing a large chunk next to the button. The seller had turned it to the underside of the pipe so it was less visible.My brother did his usual stellar job of cleaning up the pipe before he sent it to me. He reamed and cleaned out the airway in the stem and the shank and mortise. He scrubbed the externals with Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed it with warm water. The crackling varnish coat and the furniture polish the seller had used rinsed off with the scrubbing. He was able to get the bowl cleaned and most of the lava on the rim was gone leaving behind the beat-up rim top. The following photo shows the rim top and the damage there.I wiped down the finish with acetone on cotton pads to remove the remaining damaged finish. The pads came off with a red colour stain. The grain stood out on the bowl and it was a beautifully grained pipe. I debated for a bit about topping the bowl but because it was so rough I decided to lightly top it and remove the damaged areas on the rim. I did not take off much briar but worked to smooth out the rim top.I took apart the contraption on the bottom of the bowl. I unscrewed the bullet cap from the back end of the pipe and pulled out the striker unit. Once those were removed the insert slid free of the bowl bottom. The striker end had a wick that surrounded the flint post in the middle. Under the end cap there was a felt tube that was pushed into the tube and the end cap. I believe the felt was wet with lighter fluid and then the put back together. The right side bar looked to be a striker bar that the end was struck against to get a spark and flame. The burning wick then would be held above the tobacco and the flame pulled into the bowl.I went through my stem can and found almost a twin stem to the original. The taper is virtually the same. There were no tooth marks and only light oxidation and a few nicks in the vulcanite that needed attention.  I fine-tuned the fit of the tenon in the mortise and the new stem was ready to go. I put in place on the stripped down bowl and took some photos to get a good look at what the finished pipe would be like. I am happy with the flow of the shank and stem and the look of this short nosewarmer. I sanded the rim with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and then polished it with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I tested the stain pens I had and the medium brown stain pen was a perfect match to the colour of the stain on the rest of the pipe. I touched up the stain on the bowl sides and the shank. After all of the touch up work I took the photo below to show the match of the rim to the bowl.I touched up the stain on the bowl sides and shank and gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax to have a look at the grain. It is a beautiful pipe. The combination birdseye and flame grain makes a great looking combination. The rich reddish brown stain makes the grain stand out. I also polished the aluminum on the insert and the bullet cap on the lighter contraption. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a last coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to take out all of the scratches on the stem and to polish it. The plastic polish works really well with vulcanite stems. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. It is one that I will keep in my collection of tobaciana because of its uniqueness. If any of you know any information about it please send a message in the comments below.

 

 

 

Banding and Restoring a Radford Ravel Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

I am working on the second pipe I chose to work on in the lot of nine pipes I am restoring for the pipe smoker who dropped by a box of pipes that badly needed attention. This one was stamped Radford Ravel and had a mixed finish of smooth top and sandblasted shank and bottom part of the bowl. It is a Rhodesian and the cap is smooth and the rest is sandblast. It was finished in a dark brown stain. The finish was very dirty and there were quite a few sandpits and nicks in the smooth portion of the bowl cap. The shank was crack on the lower right side and extended from the shank end up the shank about a ¼ inch. The stem was a replacement and had a brass washer on the tenon and glued against the shank. When the new stem was made the maker put a space on the tenon to add colour to the stem. I figure that the new stem is what cracked the shank. When I received the pipe the stem did not fit tightly. There were tooth marks, tooth chatter and a lot of oxidation on the stem. There was also a bead of glue around the washer on the tenon.

There was something about the brand on the pipe that rang a bell for me. I have a tin of their Sunday’s Fantasy Tobacco in my cellar and I wondered if they might have made pipes as well.

I did a bit of digging and found the picture on the left that showed some of the tobaccos made by the company and also a great figurine with the name Thomas Radford mild premium pipe tobacco on the base. On Pipedia I found that Radford’s Private Label Pipes were crafted by Chacom for the Pöschl Tabak GmbH & Co. in Germany. This information was from “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks”, by José Manuel Lopes. The pipes were mass produced with ebonite and acrylic stems and were introduced by Butz-Choquin, Chacom, and Nording. On the stem there is generally an embossed logo that was a stylized R. The pipes were made to use 9mm filters and are moderately priced and very attractive. The following three links were the sources I used for this information.

https://pipedia.org/wiki/Radford%27s

http://www.poeschl-tobacco.com/en/products/

http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-r1.html

I also looked on another website and got a little more information on the brand. The Radford’s pipe appears in 6 models in 3 variations 1x time a year in autumn. The so called Radford’s Depot contains a minimum of 1 dozen pipes of the actual running collection. Connected to the depot is a listing of the depot holder in Radford’s News.

This particular brand RADFORD’S SERIE RAVEL was a series of 6 elegant models within Radford’s Collection. They are made from good briar wood, sandblast, black/brown with a polished head’s border in dark-red shade. Very nice rich-in-contrast ring at the shaft’s finish. Mouthpiece from Acryl for 9 mm filter. http://cigar.supersmokers.biz/radfords/

With all of this information I now knew that the pipe was originally made for a 9mm filter. The mortise was drilled deep in the shank to contain the 9mm filter. The replacement stem was a regular push stem without a filter tenon. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. The finish was in really rough shape. You can see the glue and sticky material on the stem near the shank band. I took a photo of the inside of the shank to show the thick tars that had built up on the walls of the shank. The space in the mortise between the end of the tenon and the extra depth for the end of the original filters was filled with tar and oils. It was thick and sticky.I took a close up photo of the bowl to show the thick cake that lined the walls of the tapered bowl. The photo also shows the damage to the front of the bowl where the pipe had been tapped out against a hard surface. The second photo below shows the crack on the right underside of the shank. It appeared to me from the smooth area and the look of the stain that someone had tried to glue the crack and do a repair but it was not done well.The next two photos show the damage to the stem. The calcium build up on the button end of the stem, the oxidation and glue that is globbed on the stem to hold the washer in place on the tenon and the deep tooth marks on both sides near the button show in the photos.I scrubbed down the surface of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the damaged finish and the grime and oils in the grooves and crevices of the sandblast. I wanted the surface clean so that I could drill a hole to stop the crack before binding it together with glue and a nickel band on the shank. I drilled two pin holes at the end of the shank with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. The first one was slightly short of the end of the crack so I had to drill a second one.I heated the band to make the fit easier on the shank. I painted the shank end with some slow drying super glue and pressed the band in place against the topping board.I scrubbed the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove that last of the dust. I took pictures of the bowl with the new bling addition. I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer to take back the cake to the bare walls of the bowl. I finished the reaming using a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape the inside of the bowl smooth. I rolled some 180 grit sandpaper around the end of my finger and sanded the walls of the bowl smooth.To remove the damage to the top of the bowl and to clean up the rough front edge of the bowl cap I lightly topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper.With the bowl exterior cleaned and the damaged rim top repaired I worked on the inside of the mortise and the airway from the mortise end into the bowl. I used the drill bit that is in the handle of the KleenReem pipe reamer to ream out the airway into the bowl. I turned the bit into the bowl using the knurled end to press it through. I cleaned off the drill bit and used the dental spatula to scrape the walls of the mortise all the way to the end where the airway entered the bowl. The amount of grit and oils that came out with the scraping was phenomenal.I wiped the bowl cap down with alcohol and filled in the sandpits around the outer walls of the cap with clear super glue.I cleaned out the shank and mortise once again with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until I had removed all of the loose debris left in the shank.I sanded the repaired patches on the cap with 220 grit sandpaper until the repairs were blended into the surface of the briar. I used a black Sharpie Pen to darken the spots and then wiped the bowl and cap down with alcohol to blend in the black. I scraped the area around the washer and the tenon with a sharp knife and funneled the end of the tenon to facilitate better airflow in the stem. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, alcohol and cotton swabs.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the stem surface and wiped the tooth marks down with alcohol. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and set the stem aside to let the glue cure.I stuffed a cotton ball into the bowl and rolled a cotton pad into the shank. I set the pipe in an ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol and let it sit during the day. I left it sitting all day while I worked on the slot in the stem. At the end of the day the cotton had yellowed the cotton and the alcohol had pulled out tar and oil from the bowl walls.I used needle files to open up the slot in the button. I used a flat, flattened oval and regular oval file to open the slot. I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded out the inside of the newly opened slot. After sanding it the slot was open enough to easily take a pipe cleaner. By this time the alcohol/cotton ball soak in the bowl was finished. I pulled the cotton balls out of the bowl and the pad out of the shank and threw them away. I cleaned out the shank and airway once again with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once it was clean I stained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain cut 50/50 with alcohol. I flamed the stain to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I was looking for.I rubbed bowl down with olive oil on a cloth and hand buffed the bowl with a rough cotton cloth. I took some photos of the new look of this old Radford Ravel pipe. The bowl is starting to look really good and shows some promise. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and raise a shine on the vulcanite. I removed the brass washer on the stem and polished it with sandpaper. I reglued it onto the tenon with super glue. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. There were still scratches and also some oxidation. I repeated the sanding with those pads and then moved on to dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with the oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Red Tripoli to try to remove the remaining oxidation and then buffed the entire pipe and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I polished the metal band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has come a long way from the way it looked when I received it to work on. I really like the looks and the shape of the pipe. I have now finished two of pipes that the pipe smoker dropped off for me to restore before he left on holiday. I look forward to seeing what he thinks of his pipes.

A Very Tired, Very Dirty Stanwell Bent Volcano with a cracked bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes when I take in pipes for repair and restoration I am pretty stunned by the condition. This one obviously was an old favourite of the pipesmoker who brought it to me with 8 others in need of some TLC. I sat with him in my living room and went over the repair list of what needed to be done to bring it back to life. It had been restemmed before and the stem was good and heavy so it did not need to be replaced. There were tooth marks near the button on both sides of the stem. It had some deep oxidation that needed attention. Sometime in its life it had been buffed to the point that the stamping was all but gone on the underside of the shank. With a lens I could read Stanwell over Made in Denmark but all but one number of the shape number (1) was buffed away. The finish was sticky to touch from all the waxes and oils on the bowl. The sand blast was pretty worn away and now was shallow. The angled, tapered bowl had a thick cake and it had been reamed into almost an hour-glass shape. The rim top had an overflow of the tars on it and the blast was smooth. There was some damage on the front of the bowl from knocking the pipe out on something hard. There was a small crack on the left side of the bowl from the rim down about a 1/8 of an inch that would need to be repaired. From memory I knew that the bowl was drilled to follow the angle of the exterior of the bowl.When I turned the bowl over the bottom side was covered with cracks. There were four cracks of various sizes that did not go into the interior but rather sat on the surface of heel. They were all different in terms of depth and tended to follow the blast and cut across the ring grain. They were filled with grime and wax. The bottom of the bowl was a real mess.I took a close up photo of the rim to show the damage that had been done to it by reaming it with a knife rather than with a reamer. The cake was sticky and soft and what appeared to be an hourglass shape actually was not it followed the angled bowl walls. I was concerned that the inside of the bowl would also have cracks once the cake was removed. I recommended that we remove entire cake to assess the interior of the bowl. I also took a close up photo of the heel of the bowl to show the cracks.The stem was a replacement that was thick and well made. The fit against the shank was not too bad and there was little gap between the two parts. The stem was oxidized and there was come calcium build up on the first inch on both sides. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.The shank end shows how thick the buildup was inside of the shank. The tars and oils overflow the shank and show up on the end and walls. There were also two small holes drilled to the left and right of the mortise.I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer using the largest cutting head. Notice the angle of the cutting head as it shows the angle of the drilling of the bowl. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall reaming knife.  I sanded the bowl with 180 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The third photo below shows the bowl after it has been sanded. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and the finish. The grime and oils came off the walls of the bowl and bowl sides and bottom to prepare the bowl for the repairs to the cracks. I drilled each end of all of the cracks with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. There were about 9 holes in the bottom of the bowl and two on the left side at the end of the shank.I put clear super glue into the cracks and pressed it down with a dental pick. I pressed briar dust into the glue and then put more dust in the glue and then more glue on top of the repair to seal it.I used a dental burr on the Dremel to rusticated the repaired areas on the bottom of the bowl and side to match them to the sand blast finish. I knocked off the rough areas of the rustication with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it into the surrounding finish. The photos show the progress of this process. With the exterior cracks repaired and sealed I turned to work on the internals. The airway in the shank and the mortise was absolutely a mess. I used the drill bit from the KleenReem pipe reamer to clean out the airway into the bowl from the mortise. It was almost closed off with the tars and oils. I turned the bit into the airway until it was smooth. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the inside of the mortise. The scraped tars and oils can be seen in the photos below.There were two small drilled holes in the end of the shank on both sides of the mortise. I filled them in with super glue and briar dust. I cleaned out the inside the mortise and shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean.The bowl smelled strongly of old tobacco and there were oils in the briar walls. I wanted to remove that smell as much as possible. I stuffed two cotton balls into the bowl, set it in the ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill it with alcohol. I left it standing overnight while it pulled the oils out of the briar bowl. In the morning the cotton was stained a yellow brown.I recleaned the mortise and airways after it had soaked using alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.I stained the repaired areas on the bowl with a dark brown stain. I used a black Sharpie Pen to fill in some of the grooves in the briar and then restained it. I flamed it with a lighter to set the stain.I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise a shine on the bowl. The photos below show the repaired areas and the blending into the surrounding briar. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I cleaned out the slot with a dental pick and pulled a lot of built up tars from there. I used a sharp knife to bevel the end of the tenon to open the air flow to the slot. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation and to also remove the tooth chatter and some of the tooth marks. Some of them were too deep and they would need to be repaired later. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the buildup in the airway. The slot was very narrow and it was hard to push pipe cleaners through the airway. I decided to open up the slot with needle files to facilitate easier cleaning with pipe cleaners. I did not want to change the shape of the slot, but merely wanted to make it wider and tapered smoothly into the airway. I used both large and small round, oval and flattened oval files to shape the slot. Once I had it large enough for a pipe cleaner to pass through easily I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded the inside of the slot. I sanded the stem around the button with 220 grit sandpaper and filled in the remaining tooth marks with black super glue. I set the stem aside to dry overnight. In the morning I sanded the stem with more 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and blend them into the surface of the stem. I also reshaped the button and smoothed out the repairs I had made there. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil on a cloth to have a better look at where things were at. I noticed a small bubble in the patch on the underside of the stem once I had cleaned it so I put another drop of black superglue on it to fill it in. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set of pads I set the stem aside and let the oil dry. I mixed up a batch of pipe mud – water and cigar ash – and applied it to the inside of the bowl to provide protection to the bare walls while a new cake is formed. When it dried I put the stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. Blue Diamond is a plastic polish that comes in a block. I load the buffing pad with it and polish the stem and the bowl. I use a light touch on the bowl so that I don’t load up the grooves and crevices with the polish. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine to the finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The repairs on the bottom of the bowl blended in very well and those on the stem did also. This is the first of nine pipes that I am repairing for a guy who dropped them off at the house. It is ready for more years of service. Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

Breathing Life into a Preben Holm Zodiac Taurus 12 with an under-slung shank


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the years, since I took up the pipe I have been drawn to pipes made by Preben Holm. He was a Danish pipe maker who made freehand pipes under his own label and under the label, Ben Wade for the US market. He shapes the pipes to follow the grain and flow with it. He made both smooth and sandblast pipes that have a variety of shapes and sizes in the freehand style. He also made smaller classic pipes that always were interesting. There seems to be a certain look about them always gets my attention. I rarely buy them unless it stands out to me and calls me. The first good pipe I purchased is a good example of this. It was a stunning, (at least to my novice eyes) Preben Holm, Ben Wade, sandblast freehand. The pipe shop owner helped me choose it from his estate pipes. I went into the shop near where I worked at that time in Vista, California. He handed it to me, and to me it was a very clean estate pipe. I was in the market for something other than my Medico billiard, which was the only pipe I had at that time. I still smoke the pipe and enjoy it. It is close to 50 years old and it is still going strong.I have since added two more Preben Holm pipes to my rack but they are classic shapes with a twist. Both pipes are what I call a “Dublinish” shape and long shanks and a freehand style mouthpiece. They have rounded edges on the square shank and the rim top. There is no raw plateau on either pipe. The finishes show the same care as all of Preben’s pipes that I have seen or worked on. It has a rich multi-hued brown and dark brown finish that makes the grain really stand out. I traded for both of these in lieu of payment for some restoration work I did for a fellow in Northern British Columbia.To my thinking, Preben Holm was a wizard with shapes and finishes. The sandblast on my freehand maximizes the grain while the plateau on the rim and shank end add another dimension to the look. On the two newer trade pipes I have, the rich brown finish has almost a matte look that I really like. The way in which they are stained also give a deep multi-dimensional look to the grain that is stunning. I keep an eye out for his pipes and regularly cruise eBay looking for shapes that catch my eye.

All of that is background to why I was interested when my brother sent me photos of a pipe he had found on eBay listed as a Zodiac. He wanted to know what I thought of it and if I knew who made it. There was something about the look of the pipe grabbed my attention and I encouraged him to bid on it. There were no takers for the pipe so he soon had it in hand. The shape and the design made me think that it might be a Preben Holm made pipe but I was not sure. The underslung shank, the shape of the stem and the look of the finish under the grime led me that conclusion.
I was flying to Idaho for a visit so I knew that I would see it when I arrived and that would help me affirm my conclusions. In the meantime, I did some research on the brand on the web and found a link to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac) that confirmed that Zodiac pipes were a brand made by Preben Holm. From research on the web I found that the Zodiac line had pipes made that were stamped with different Zodiac names. I found pipes stamped Libra, Taurus and Gemini. I am sure that there were others in the line either made or in design. What was interesting is that the entry did not have much information about the brand other than that the pipe was stamped Copenhagen, Denmark. However, to me the fascinating thing was that there were two photos of the pipe included that were a match to the pipe I am working on.

The next series of photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Idaho. The finish was dirty and worn but there were no serious issues. There was no top coat of varnish or shellac on top of the finish so that was a plus. (I find that some eBay sellers feel it necessary to make the pipes that they sell shiny before they sell them.)My brother took close up photos of the bowl sides and bottom to show the overall condition of the briar and the finish before he began his clean up job. In the photo of the bottom of the bowl you can see what looks like a crescent shaped flaw toward the front of the bowl. I have circled it in red for identification. It had not been filled but was left open and had collected grit and dirt. The next photo shows the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is sharp and reads Zodiac Taurus over Copenhagen Denmark with the shape number 12 underneath.The rim had some tars and lava overflow from the cake in the bowl. There was a light cake that looked like it was a bit crumbly. The inner edge of the rim showed nicks and damage from having been reamed with a knife. The stem was oxidized and had tooth dents and tooth chatter. The fit against the left side of the shank was slightly damaged. The button was dented and worn down on both the top and bottom sides and the slot was filled with debris.My brother did his usual great clean up job on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. He scrubbed the internals of the mortise and airways in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they were clean. He scrubbed the surface of the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and was able to remove all of the grime and grit on the surface. I took some photos of the pipe when it arrived. He had been able to remove a lot of the buildup on the rim top. There was still some darkening to the rim top. You can see the damage to the inside edge of the rim. The outer edge also had some damage from what appeared to have been an habitual knocking out dottle on hard surfaces. The bowl was pretty clean but there appeared to be some hardened cake on the bottom of the bowl around the airway. I topped the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage on both edges of the rim. I topped off enough of the rim to leave the top flat and smooth and minimized the damage on both the inside and outside edges.Once the bowl was topped I used a folded piece of sandpaper to bevel the inner edge of the rim. I wanted to bevel it to smooth out the nicks and cuts on the inner edge of the bowl. I sanded out the inside of the bowl with a piece of 180 grit sandpaper on a piece of dowel to smooth out the bits of cake that remained in the bowl. The pictures below show the process and the resultant bowl top and rim edges. The sides of the bowl are also cleaner. I sanded the rim top with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches in the briar. I sanded the bowl surface with the sanding block to remove as many scratches as possible. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust. I cleaned out the pit on the bottom of the bowl with alcohol and cotton swabs. Once it was clean I pressed in some briar dust and then dribbled super glue into the repaired area. I added more dust to even out the surface and let it dry. I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to flatten out the repaired area and blend it into the rest of the surface of the briar.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol a final time and cleaned out the interior of the shank to remove the dust that had collected from sanding the bowl and repair. I gave the bowl a light coat of olive oil so that I could see the scratches when I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiped it down with a cloth dampened with olive oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down between the second and third set of three micromesh sanding pads. I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfiber cloth. I took some photos of the bowl at this point in the process and then set it aside while I worked on the stem. The oxidation was brought to the surface of the stem by the cleaning it with a soft scrub cleanser. I started cleaning the oxidation off with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and warm water. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the surface oxidation. I reshaped the button with needle files and the sandpaper. I sanded out the tooth marks and dents in the surface of the stem. The first two photos show the condition of the stem when I started.The next photo shows it after the initial sanding and scrub with the Magic Eraser. You can still see spots on the black vulcanite but it is pretty clean.  I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway and worked it around the button to clean out any remaining debris. It was pretty clean. (I was on a roll and forgot to take photos of it right after sanding it with the 220 grit sandpaper and reshaping the button.)I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-15000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the final pad gave it a last coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed the stem with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem several more coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth and took the following photos of the pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful example of Preben’s workmanship. The finish may have originally been a light brown stain but I am pretty sure that it was a natural/virgin finish using no stain. This may be one that joins the other ones in my collection of Preben Holm pipes. Thanks for journeying with me in the restoration process.

A Desirable REJECT London Made


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I came across this classic half bent billiard while I was trolling through 100s of offerings on eBay’s auction block, I paused. The first thing that claimed my attention was its size. If there was ever a ‘meat lovers sized’ pipe, to use the American burger sound bite, this would be it. The UK seller simply described it as a ‘superb large bowl’. When the pipe arrived, I measured it and it is: length 6 5/16 inches, height 2 3/8 inches, chamber diameter 7/8 inches, chamber depth 1 13/16 inches, and the full stummel width is 1 3/4 inches – 68 grams for those who weigh pipes. A fist-full of stummel! Here is the eBay picture of the Billiard.The other interesting thing about the eBay offering was its marking.  The left shank side reads “REJECT” over “LONDONMADE”.  The only lead I found for this “REJECT” stamping was in ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ by Herb Wilzak and Tom Colwell, which provided only one reference to “Reject” as belonging to the W. H. Carrington Co. started in 1891 by William Henry Carrington in Manchester, England.  This came from the brief Pipedia article which also states that after a century of operation it went out of business.  I found more information in a Pipes Magazine Forum thread  but the source of the information was not cited.

WH Carrington as an entity dates back at least to the late 1880s. It continued to exist for about a century, with liquidation notices appearing in the London Gazette in 1987. Whether or not the business remained in the family that whole time is another matter; I doubt it, but have no evidence one way or the other.

Most threads I read commenting on WHC pipes were about earlier turn of the century pipes with hallmarks – a much earlier vintage.  I came up empty finding information that would confirm that the Reject before me is indeed a WHC pipe except for Wilczak and Colwell’s reference.  With a very nice looking Reject on my work table now, I take additional pictures to fill in the gaps. The question that begs asking is what is ‘Reject’ about this pipe?  Overall, it’s in good shape.  The chamber has very mild cake build up, and the stummel surface shows some small fills and usual dents of wear.  The stem has been cleaned, it seems, very little chatter or oxidation.  I only detect two issues as I look at the Reject London Made.  First, the finish on the stummel is shiny and acrylic-like, which, to me, hides the natural briar.  It is cloudy and I’ll remove it and work on the broad landscape of this stummel real estate to bring out the briar.  I like this challenge!  The other issue is the stem – it is under-clocked and a bit catawampus.  I will heat the vulcanite and restore a good bend in alignment with the pipe.  The reason this pipe was stamped ‘Reject’ coming out of the factory is a mystery to me unless it was destined to be a higher end pipe and the briar had too many imperfections…. Only conjecture and I would appreciate anyone’s input on this.

I begin by plopping the stem in an Oxy-Clean bath even though the oxidation seems very light.  While the stem is in the bath, I use the Savinelli pipe knife to clean up the chamber walls which takes little time.  I follow by sanding the chamber wall with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To clean the carbon dust residue, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The pictures show the progress. I like working on a clean pipe so I work on the internals using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  With very little effort the mortise and draft are clean.Moving to the external stummel surface, I use Murphy’s Soap undiluted with cotton pads and a bristled tooth brush to clean the grime off.  The Murphy’s Soap does a good job removing the old shiny finish.Looking closely at the surface, the dent I saw earlier I want to remove using the iron approach, that I have yet to try, but this dent looks like a good candidate.  I’ve read several other restorations where this method was used.  Using a heated clothes iron, I use a wet wash cloth and lay it over the dent area and then I apply the iron to that point.  The concept is based upon the water content of wood being heated and absorbing the water and expanding the dented area – wood is a sponge-like material when wet.  I apply the iron several times and gradually I see the severity of the dent lessening with each heat application.  I can still see the dent but it should be more easily removed using a sanding sponge. Using a medium and light grade sanding sponge I work on the stummel to remove the minor wear nicks and dents on the surface. I like a softer edge on the inner rim lip so I introduce a gentle bevel both to give it a softer look and to remove some scorched areas. I think an inner bevel adds a bit of class as well.  I first use a coarser 120 grit paper to cut the bevel then I follow with 240 grit and 600 grit paper to smooth and blend the bevel.  The pictures show the progress. I now turn to the micromesh pad cycles.  Using pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  Throughout the sanding, I’m careful to avoid the Reject markings. The grain is looking good.  The pictures show the progress. I put the stummel aside and fish the stem out of the Oxy-Clean bath.  Very little oxidation has surfaced.  I use 600 grit paper and wet sand the stem followed by sand buffing the stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.Before I proceed further with the internal cleaning of the stem and the external polishing, I want to correct the bend of the stem.  With great difficulty, I am able finally to pass a smooth pipe cleaner through the stem.  The pipe cleaner helps to maintain the airway integrity while I heat and re-bend the stem. Using the heat gun to heat the stem, I turn the stem to apply the heat evenly over the stem to soften the vulcanite making it pliable.  I then straighten both the stem clock-wise to correct the under-clocking.  While still pliable I re-establish the bend over a block of wood and set the new shape under cool tap water.  The first time around, the button was still not ‘clocked’ to my satisfaction.  I reheated and made the additional adjustment and again, set the shape under cool tap water.  I reattach stem and stummel to eyeball things and the newly aligned stem bend and clocked button look good.  I take pictures to chronicle the progress with the stem. I now clean the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The stem is clean but I find that even though I’ve re-bent the stem the pipe cleaners will not move through the bend of the stem.  I decide to open the slot area with a round pointed needle file moving it back and forth in the slot.  After this, I take a drill bit, smaller than the slot opening, and insert it into the airway rotating it against the edges of the airway hoping to expand the internal airway area as it enters the slot.  This seems to help yet the bend is still tight on the pipe cleaners, but they are passing through.  The stem is clean.  The pictures show the progress. Time to bring out the micromesh pads to finish the stem.  With pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  With each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite, and I love to see the pop of the vulcanite as it moves through the micromesh cycles!  I put the stem aside to dry.  The pictures show the progress. Turning back to the stummel, I decide to apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the Reject London Made to emulate the darker hues of the original finish.  Since it is an aniline dye, I can lighten the finish to taste by wiping the stained stummel with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl.  The large stummel has a lot of briar real estate to show off with a smattering of different grains – pleasing to the eye and a handful of stummel to boot!  I just acquired Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye and I decide to experiment.  I will add a touch of it to the dark brown to create the blend.  The first snag I run into is that this is the largest stummel I’ve worked on and my usual corks that I use to prop the stummel on the candle stick during the staining process were too small.  I rummaged through our cork supply and found only one large enough.  I warm the stummel to expand the briar enabling the dye to absorb better into the grain.  I apply the dye liberally over the surface with a pipe cleaner folded over.  Then I fire the wet dye and the alcohol content burns off setting the stain.  I repeat the process again to assure total coverage and set the stummel aside to rest.   After several hours, I ‘unwrap’ the fired stummel using the Dremel mounted with a felt buffing wheel.  With the Dremel at its slowest speed, I move methodically over the stummel applying Tripoli compound to remove the crusted fired surface.  I don’t apply too much downward pressure on the briar but I allow the RPMs and the compound to do the work for me.  After completed, I use cotton pads wetted with alcohol to wipe down the stummel to lighten the stained finish and to blend the dye.  After this, I mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and apply Blue Diamond compound and methodically work the wheel over the entire surface.  After completed, I again wipe the stummel with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I follow this by doing another quick tour over the stummel with the Blue Diamond.  The use of black dye with the dark brown has the effect of darkening the grain which I’m liking as I see the grain surfacing through the compound cycles.   The pictures show the progress.To remove the compound dust, I hand buff the stummel with a flannel cloth.  After mounting the Dremel with a cotton cloth wheel and increasing the speed to 2, one notch over the slowest, I apply several coats of carnauba wax to the stummel and reattached stem.  I follow this with a rigorous hand buffing with a micromesh cloth.  When I experimented by adding black dye to the dark brown I didn’t anticipate the unique hue that would result.  The briar grain veins seem to have latched on to the black and the lighter grains came out with a golden/copper kettle blend that is striking – very interesting and attractive.  If this REJECT – LONDON MADE is a product of the W. H. Carrington Co., I cannot say why it received this factory stamp.  For those who like huge pipes that fill the hand, this big boy, bent billiard fits the bill and needs a new steward!  All the profits of pipes I sell help the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with that helps women and children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  If you’re interested in this REJECT, hop over to my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

Comoy’s Royal Falcon Bent Bulldog


Blog by Dal Stanton

The eBay seller from UK gave a decent, though brief, accounting of the origins of Comoy from Saint-Claude, France, and started in the 1820s by Francois Comoy.  His son, Henri, started the London extension of the Comoy name in 1879 with not much more than the tools of his trade – making pipes.  He is cited by Pipedia as being the author of the appellation, “London Made”.  In 1929 the company merged with the macro-concern, Oppenheimer Pipes.  With this, albeit brief history, Pipedia’s describes the present summation:

Comoy’s remained a family owned company until it was finally taken over by Cadogan Investments during the early 1980’s. Cadogan have continued to manufacture Comoy pipes to the present day and, under Michael Adler, the Comoy brand is their flagship and efforts are being made to once more re-instate the well known quality of the brand.

The half-bent Bulldog I rescued from my “Help Me!” basket is marked on the left shank, “Royal” over “Falcon” (curved).  The right shank is marked, “Made In London” (circled) over “England”.  The eBay seller’s listing indicated there was a shape number “13” which I cannot see.  The stem is stamped with the image of a falcon perched on a branch.  Here are the pictures of the Royal Falcon on my worktable: A quick trip to the Pipe Phil site confirms that Royal Falcon appears to be a prominent second of Comoy’s showing an example of the interesting stem stamping of a falcon perched on a branch – much busier than most stamps.

What drew me to bid on this Bulldog was the stem.  Within the Bulldog classification, is seems that most Bulldogs sport straight saddle stems, where the diamond shaped shank culminates in the saddle and the stem is then flat from the saddle to the button.  Rarer still, it seems are the bent Bulldogs which most often are fitted with a saddle stem as above.  Most rare, it seems is what I see now with this Comoy’s Royal Falcon – a half-bent stem that carries the characteristic diamond shaped shank into the stem and then gradually tapers out along the stem – giving the impression that the stem is much longer than perhaps it is with the bow of the diamond shaped shank/stem.  The tapered diamond stem is very nice and will look nice restored with the Falcon perched on his branch!  The chamber as a lite cake residue which I will remove down to the briar for a fresh start.  The rim has hardened crusted lava needing attention.  The front upper dome of the stummel has a nice dent along with several dents and cuts marking both sides of curved part of the stummel transitioning into the diamond shaped shank – an obvious result of the natural placement of the Bulldog on the table or counter.  There are several fills that have lightened and are showing through the old clouded finish.  The stem is heavily oxidized with moderate teeth chatter on the upper and lower bit.  The first thing I do to restore and recommission the Royal Falcon Bulldog is to place the stem in an Oxi-Clean bath after putting petroleum jelly over the falcon stamp.With the paper towel, down to catch the carbon dust and fragments, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to ream the chamber.  I use only the smallest blade in the Bulldog chamber and remove the lion-share of carbon.  I follow the reaming blade using the Savinelli Pipe Knife to scrape the chamber wall and remove more carbon. Using a piece of 240 grit paper I fold it over a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber wall and finish by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber looks good.  The pictures show the progress. Turning directly to the internals of the stummel, using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I work on cleaning the stummel.  I also utilize a spade dental tool to scrape the mortise walls to stir up the old tars and oils.  There was a good bit of gunk, but the swabs and pipe cleaners started coming clean.  Later I’ll use a salt and alcohol soak to clean further.Now, I clean the external surface of the stummel using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad and bristled tooth brush I work on the crusted rim as well as the grime on the stummel surface.  Using a tooth pick I scape the grooves circling the stummel. The crust on the rim is not moving so I use a brass bristled brush which removes most of the hard lava crust, but not all.  Using my pin knife, I carefully scrape the rim removing the last crusted carbon holdouts.  After cleaning, I then rinse the stummel in warm tap water to rinse off the grime.  The Murphy’s Soap well removed the thin finish and I’m looking a bare briar for the most part.  Doing a quick inspection of the surface, there are several cuts and some fills in the briar surface.  The pictures show the progress and the inspection. I use a medium grade sanding sponge to sand out the nicks and cuts.  I focus especially on the ‘keel’ of the Bulldog where most thumps and bumps occurred.  On some deeper cuts, I strategically use a rolled piece of 240 grit paper where more abrasion was needed. I also give the rim a ‘semi-topping’ with the firmer coarser sponge.  I follow by sanding with a lite grade sanding sponge to smooth more.  The inner ring of the rim has a bevel and it is darkened.  Using a piece of 120 grit paper I clear out the damaged briar and reestablish a crisp inner bevel.  I follow this with 240 grit paper and finish with sanding sponges.  The pictures show the progress.I put the stummel aside and pluck the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath.  I start by wet sanding with 600 grit paper to work on the raised oxidation but soon switch to 240 grit paper.  The oxidation is stiff.  I’m careful to avoid abrasion on the Falcon stem stamping.  I’m hopeful that there is enough definition left in the stamping to restore it later with white acrylic paint.  After using 240 grit paper, I then wet sand 600 grit paper then 0000 steel wool.  The oxidation is left over the falcon stamping and I hope that Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser will help remove the oxidation without damage to the stem stamp.  I think it helped, but there is still discoloration over the area but the stamping is still intact.  The pictures show the progress dealing with the oxidation. Before I forget it, I now turn to the stem internals cleaning it with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Without too much resistance, the pipe cleaner come through clean without too much effort.Moving ahead straight away with the stem, I use micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stem.  Following this I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000.  Following each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  With the last cycle, I set the stem aside to dry.  The pictures show the progress. With the stem completed except for the final polishing phase and repainting the Falcon stem marking, I turn to the stummel using micromesh pads 1500 to 12000.  With the first set of three, 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel, then with the following sets, 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 I dry sand.  Throughout, I avoided the markings on the shank panels. The pictures show the progress. With the original color leaning toward the darker brown side, I will use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye and then lighten as I see need using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.   To prepare the stummel, I use a sharp dental probe to trace the twin grooves to remove any leftover briar dust from the sanding.  Then I wipe the stummel with a cotton pad and isopropyl to clean away any dust. Placing my ‘stain board’ down on my work station I put a cork in the shank to act as a handle and then heat up the stummel with a heat gun.  This expands the briar and allows for a better absorption of the dye.  I use a folded over pipe cleaner to apply the dye liberally over the surface.  I fire the aniline dye and the alcohol burns off immediately, setting the hue in the briar.  To make sure the coverage is complete, I repeat the process above including the firing of the dye.  I then set the stummel aside to rest.  The pictures show the fire crusted stummel. With the stummel on the sidelines a while, I look at the falcon stem marking.  Pipe Phil’s example shows a lot of lines and contours shaping the bird and his perch.  I’m not sure my falcon has that much detail left after wear and sanding over the years.  After a closer look, it appears that the imprinted falcons are slightly different – my falcon appears that he’s looking up more than the other.  For comparison, I’ve placed the two together below.  I’ll see what I can do with white acrylic paint. The first approach was to apply paint and then, before drying, to carefully wipe it away, leaving paint in the grooves.  This did not work – seems like there was not enough groove to hold the paint.  Next, I applied more paint and let it dry. That did not work either.  I’m not sure if this is usually done in pipe restorations, but the problem is that the lines of the falcon stamping are too thin and will not hold the acrylic paint.  I decide to take the point of my pocket knife and attempt to sculpt the lines that are there to deepen them.  It took several iterations of sculpting, then applying paint, drying and scraping off with a toothpick, before I arrive at the best I can do at this point!  The pictures show some of the process. With the falcon stem marking completed, it’s time to ‘unwrap’ the fire crusted stummel.  I use Tripoli compound with a felt buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel and use the slowest speed available and rotate the wheel over the surface, without too much down pressure on the briar, but allowing the RPMs of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  I take a picture into this process.  When completed with the Tripoli, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to wipe down the stummel to lighten the dark brown dye as well as to blend the dye.  When satisfied (forgot to take a picture!) with the shade, next I mount a cotton cloth wheel and turn the speed up half a notch, to 1.5 and apply Blue Diamond compound in the same manner as with Tripoli.  After the Blue Diamond I give the stummel a good buffing with a flannel cloth to remove the compound dust from the stummel before application of the wax.  After joining stem and stummel, I then mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and apply carnauba wax to the stummel.  I give the stummel 3 coats of carnauba and then finish by giving the stummel and stem a hand-buff with a micromesh cloth.I’m very pleased with the results.  The Comoy’s Royal Falcon is an attractive Bent Bulldog.  I like the lines of the diamond shank flowing into the tapered stem.  The Royal Falcon looks good re-perched on his branch.  The briar grain is rich and deep.  I sell my restorations with the profits helping the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – those sexually exploited and trafficked.  This Bulldog is ready to serve a new steward.  If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, check out The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!

Challenges of a Bakelite Stem Rebuild – A Meerschaum Carved Vineyard


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I first saw the Meer before me on the eBay auction block, I was first attracted by the patina showing on the combination smooth and sculpted surfaces.  The base of the billiard bowl showcases two opposing sculpted frescoes, one with the vineyard in expectation of fruit, and the other with the fulfillment – a rack of grapes appearing from behind the grapevine leaves.  Hope and fulfillment are always pleasing themes for reflection as one smokes a bowl of his (or her!) favorite blend.  The patina of the aging meerschaum is concentrated at the base of the stummel, encompassing the frescoes and then gradually thinning and lightening toward the rim and toward the shank.  The other characteristic that drew my attention was the color and taper of the Bakelite stem completing the bent billiard flow.  It just looked good to me.  I have no idea of a carver as there are no markings on the Meer, and the only information from the seller was that its origins were in Europe – it was a gift to the original owner by his sister who lived in Belgium in the 1970s.  Taking it from the ‘Help Me!’ basket, I place it on my work table here in Sofia, Bulgaria, and record the Meer’s condition when it came to me. The characteristics and make-up of meerschaum are not widely understood – I know because I was among those who looked at the white coral-like material and wondered what exactly it was!  The word ‘meerschaum’ has German origins, literally meaning ‘sea foam’.  This brief description from Meerschaum.com is helpful:

Meerschaum is a very rare mineral, a kind of hard white clay. Light and porous structure of the pipe keeps the smoke cool and soft. The pipe itself is a natural filter which absorbs the nicotine. Because of this peculiarity, meerschaum pipes slowly change their colors to different tones of gold and dark brown. This adds an esthetic enjoyment to its great smoking pleasure. The longer a pipe is smoked the more valuable it becomes due to the color change. Today many old and rare meerschaums have found a permanent place in museums and private collections.

Meers are popular because they require no breaking in, no cake, and no resting between smokes. Many consider Meers to be a cooler and dryer smoking experience.  The one main issue with Meers is that they don’t like to be dropped on hard floors – that is never a good thing!  Most Meerschaum is mined in Turkey and for the curious who want to know what exactly the material is, one last excerpt from Altinok Meerschaum’s facts page:

The geologist knows the light, porous Meerschaum as hydrous magnesium silicate. The pipe smoker knows it as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke. The mineral itself is the fossilized shells of tiny sea creatures that fell to the ocean floor over 50 million years ago, there to be covered and compressed over the ages by layer upon layer of silt. Profound movements in the earth’s crust raised the creamy white stone of Meerschaum above sea level. There men eventually discovered it and created an incomparable pipe from it. The first record of Meerschaum as a pipe dates from around 1723.

The stummel on the Meer before me has a lot of grime and dirt with nicks showing his age and that he has been well used.  The challenge with Meer is always how to clean and restore but not to remove the patina, which for a Meerschaum, is the honorific equivalent of the respect owed to those blessed with gray hair and long life in the Bible.  The rim has thick lava and the bowl has moderate cake which will need to be removed with care – cake is not needed on a Meer!  The more daunting questions focus on the stem.  The obvious challenge is the large chip on the end of the stem which also has removed almost half of the button.  I could prepare for this repair by ordering and having someone bring from the US to Bulgaria Behlen’s Medium Yellow Furniture Powders to form a putty patch.  I will attempt to repair the stem with the help of others – we’ll see!  The other challenge that I was not able to discern from the eBay pictures, was the push tenon.  The mortise was threaded for a screw in tenon but the tenon I see connected to the stem has no threads and only engages the mortise as the mortise narrows after the threads.  You can see how much of the tenon is engaged by the coloration (last picture above) – only about half.  When I test the engaged tenon, there is a bit of a wiggle to the stem and it isn’t solidly seated as one would expect.  While the stem, when connected to the shank is usable, it isn’t ideal.  I’ll give some thought to this challenge and perhaps seek counsel.

Leaving the question about the approach for the tenon, I decide to start on the clean-up of the stummel.  I first clean the rim by using cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% – I just want to see how much of the lava and stain will come off.  Not much did.  I then decide to use a medium grade sanding sponge and lightly top the rim – not aiming to take off the meerschaum but to break through the crusty stuff and remove the burnt areas.  That did the trick.  Pictures show the progress. I can now see the inner edge of the chamber wall and using both a pin knife and the Savinelli Pipe Knife carefully I ream the bowl and remove the cake.  I follow this by using 240 grit paper and sand the walls to remove more of the carbon. I wasn’t satisfied with the 240 grit so I rolled up some coarser 120 grit wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and that did the trick. Much nicer.  I complete the reaming with cleaning the bowl with a cotton wipe wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The fire chamber looks good.  To remove the blackening on the inner ring of the rim, I give it a very gentle bevel with 240 grit sanding paper rolled.  The pictures show the progress. With the bowl reamed I clean the mortise internals.  Using pipe cleaners and Q-tips, dipped in isopropyl 95%, I discover quickly that I’m not able to get a pipe cleaner through the mortise through the draught hole.  I twist, turn and angle – it feels like there’s an obstruction.  I blow through the mortise and find that air is moving through without pressure build up.  Finally, the pipe cleaner moved through.  Looking more closely in the mortise with a directed light I see in the throat of the mortise just beyond the end of the threading appears to be a plastic tubing.  I manage to take a picture of it.  I’m not sure if this is part of the internal system or something broken off and lodged. Yet, this plastic tube is what the tenon is engaging.  With great difficulty, I can probe the area what appears to be beyond the tubing and find the airway which seems to be a sharp turn up from the angle of the mortise’s drilling as the pipe cleaner emerges from the plastic tubing.  This doesn’t seem right.  I’ll research more to see what the tubing is.  The mortise is clean, so I move to the cleaning the externals of the bowl.To clean the external surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad as well as scrubbing the sculpted lines of the vineyard frescoes.  The amount of grime on the surface becomes apparent as from the before and after pictures.  The pictures show the progress. I then sanded the bowl with micromesh pads not to remove every scratch, which is a sign of character and age, but to restore the shine of a vital meerschaum surface.  I wet sanded the surface using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanded using micromesh pads 3200 to 4000.  I was not aggressive but careful not to damage the patina.  I like the result.Regarding the stem and tenon questions I referenced above, I sent a note off to Steve and about the push-pull tenon system and what to do with this Meer.  In the end, I decide to order a new replacement system.  I sent a note and measurements off to Tim at http://www.jhlowe.com/ and am waiting for his recommendations.  Since I live in Bulgaria, ordering parts from the States is no small thing as I have it sent to someone coming and they carry it for me.  Saves a bit on postage. With the tenon situation on hold and on order, I turn to the technical part of this restoration that I’ve been anticipating for some time.  Repairing the Bakelite stem or per Steve, possibly a similar material called Amberoid, has been a subject of my research.  The stems most often associated with Meerschaums are the attractive, rich honey yellow color.  The challenge in a repair is matching the yellow color and glass-like texture of the Bakelite or Amberoid.   When I researched this question, I came across Reborn Pipes contributor, Joyal Taylor’s (aka holymolar) 3-part series on patching amber colored stems in 2014.  Starting at the first essay, Stem Patch Using Amber Super Glue, Part 1, I benefited from Joyal demonstrating not only what did work well, but what didn’t.  Also of benefit were the comments many others contributed at the end of the blogs.  So, thanks to Joyal’s trial and error approach, I’m able to jump to a solution in Essay 3 that worked best for him.  I hope I can emulate his success!  Before beginning on the repair, I want the stem internals to be clean.  Taking pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl, I go to work on the stem.  The resistance was a bit more than I expected.  The cavity behind the screw-in tenon was gummed up good and I expended several Q-tips and a sharp and spade dental tools helped scrape the cavity walls to break up the gunk.  There is some dark staining on the internal airway but the pipe cleaners are now coming out clean.In essay 3, Joyal employed the use of Medium Yellow Behlen Furniture Powder (pictured below) which I found on eBay at this LINK.  Previously, he had employed amber colored superglue which came out too clear – lacking the opaque quality needed for a good match.  In the second essay, he tried to employ a mixture of Fiebing’s yellow and orange leather dyes and thick superglue.  He found that the chemistry of the dyes caused the superglue to setup instantly.  Also in essay 2 he mixed StewMac 2-part clear epoxy with Fiebing’s yellow and orange dyes, which mixed well, but the results were less than satisfactory – for both the hue and the texture.  The final essay he tried the powder approach using Behlen Medium Yellow with extra thick superglue and the results were the best.  Below I picture the match-up between the colors of the powder and the stem.  Not bad.  Joyal’s final assessment was helpful for the stem I’m looking at now:

This time I tried Behlen’s yellow powder w/ StewMac’s thick clear superglue.  This is the best so far. Good color and opaque. Some of the powder didn’t mix in but it all polished smoothly. I had to leave the patch thick at the edge because every time I tried to sand it – smooth it [next] to the acrylic, I would remove more of the original color from the acrylic and have to add more patch material. Oh well, this may be as good as I can do, for now.

The last observation is helpful because it lets me know that the basic solidity of the patch could be ‘softer’ relatively speaking, than the stem material so that he was removing more collateral stem material than he wanted.  So, off we go!  I begin the patch on the Meer’s Bakelite stem by taking another close-up focusing on the patch areas.  The patch has two parts.  First, the side of the stem chipped off parallel with the right-side stem edge until it enters the button area.  At this point the break encompasses the entire corner – stem and button.  It appears to me the break was caused by dropping the Meer on a hard surface and the impact point was the end of the stem.  The second part of the patch is to rebuild the button.  To do this, I’ll apply a ‘surplus’ amount of the patch putty not only to the damaged, missing part, but over the entire button.  This will allow me to shape a new button with adequate edges.  To mix with the Behlen powder I have a newly acquired bottle of BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA glue.  I’ll start the mixture aiming at a 50/50 ratio and eyeball things.  I want to mix it well so that the powder is fully dissolved.  I’m also not sure how much time I have before the new CA glue starts setting.  I first take 240 grit sanding paper and rough up the entire patch area to increase the bonding potential between the Bakelite and patch putty.  Now, I construct a ‘slot mold’ for the button.  The slot area is shaped like a concave canoe that the button edges encompass.  I need to keep putty out of this area and form a mold of sorts for the putty.  The results of this mold would remind one of the Wolverine in X-Men.  As menacing as it appears, the center toothpick anchors the mold in the airhole and the ‘wing-picks’ are wedging the edges. The folded index card forming the mold I cover with smooth tape so it won’t adhere to the putty.  Prep done, I pour some Behlen powder in a plastic egg crate to double as a mixing trough.  With tools and toothpicks at hand to serve as putty trowels, I add BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA to the powder and begin mixing.  Well, if this were a science experiment it would remind me of my first chemistry set in 5th grade.  Every 10-year-old with a new chemistry set sees the formula included for a ‘skunk bomb’ and tries it as his first experiment.  I was no exception.  After adding the glue to the powder and mixing, the mixture began to smoke and harden very quickly.  After running the smoking egg crate to the bathroom and adding water to the mix, the smoke stopped and I return to the work table and record my science experiment with a picture capturing the toothpick forever encased in the hardened yellow putty.  The pictures show the progression. Now fully in step with Jowal’s methodology of ‘Trial and Error’ progress, I ask the question, what happened?   I’m not sure, but my guess is that I started with too much powder and adding the glue to it was not sufficient to keep it in liquid form.  My guess is that the rapid hardening created the reactions (chemical energy!), which created the smoke, leading to my emergency procedures.  This time I will approach the process like I do with a charcoal and super glue mix – put both powder and glue on an index card together and mix more gradually and see what happens.  Well, I’ve proven that the methodology is not the culprit.  Again, smoke was produced from the mixture on the index card while I started applying the putty to the stem.  At this point, I’m thinking that the new glue I’m using might be the problem.  I’ll try again with a glue I’ve used in the past.  Thankfully, I could remove the hardened putty that did make it to the stem, by carefully scraping with my thumb nail.  The bright side of this is that the color match with the stem looks great!  Lesson 2 learned – what not to do.  Pictures show the progression of lesson 2. While contemplating the next step, an email came in from Tim at J. H. Lowe in Ohio, and as expected, his note is very helpful:

The regular push-pull set is what you need. Are there threads inside the mortise? There are two sizes of these sets but the larger one is only used when the threads are very worn out and the oversize mortise part has to be fitted in the shank to fix this kind of worn out repair sleeve. I sell these by the each for $3 and by the dz. for a discounted price. You’ll need to change out the stem peg and the sleeve in the Meers pipe repair.

I responded by ordering 3 of each size so I’ll have some on hand for future projects.  So, in a couple weeks, the new push-pull system order will arrive with a friend coming to visit Bulgaria.  By that time, the rest of the Meerschaum Carved Vineyard should be ready and waiting with a quick finish to the restoration.

For the third go – I repeat roughing the patch area with 240 grit sanding paper to remove putty residue from Lesson 2.  Then, after replacing Wolverine, I change glues using Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA glue and mix the same way that I did in Lesson 2, placing a puddle of glue alongside the Behlen Medium Yellow powder and gradually mix by drawing the powder into the glue until (hopefully) the mixture reaches a molasses like consistency.  If it doesn’t ‘smoke’ this time, we’ll know the problem of Lessons 1 & 2. Unfortunately, the ‘smoking’ is repeated and the putty hardened very quickly.  My conclusion to the problem, and the pictures below show the progression of my solution.  The problem is that I’m adding too much Behlen powder to the mix or not enough glue.  I’m estimating that instead of a 50/50 mixture, I need an 80/20 ratio of glue to powder.  I’m not sure of the chemistry involved, but the smoke produced happens when the mixture hardens.  I had more time gradually to build up the patch with the greater glue ratio.  Of course, the question remains, will the lesser powder content change the color match or texture?  We’ll see.  The pictures show the several cycles of building the patch around the button area.  I had only so much time before the hardening would happen and I would make another small batch.  The last picture shows the successfully removed Wolverine mold and the success of guarding the slot area from the putty.  The proof of this yellow pudding will be in the filing, sanding and shaping of the Behlen powder and superglue putty patch.  I use needle files and 240 sanding paper to do the initial shaping.  Starting from the slot side – the end of the stem, I like to create a baseline by re-establishing end by removing the excess.  After removing excess putty on the end, I find the original button.  Since the left side of the button needs to be totally rebuilt, as it was broken off, I use the remaining right side of the button and slot shape to help me form the left side of the slot so it will match. With the baseline established, using the flat edge needle file, I begin to contour the general proportions of the button – lower then upper.  The pictures show the gradual progress. With the general contours of the button established, I then score a line with the flat needle file to mark the upper button lip edge.  With this edge established, I then file down the score line to establish the lip.  I turn the file vertically and use the short edge as a saw and set the edge deeper.  I like to have that edge established so that I can then begin to remove methodically the excess patch putty more accurately to the left of the lip on the second picture below.  After removing as much of the excess putty as possible with the flat needle file, to avoid collateral filing into the Bakelite, I then use 240 grit paper to smooth the surface and remove the putty.  The upper bit looks good so far!  The pictures show the progress. I flip the stem over and repeat same process starting with defining the bit and creating a lip to guide the excess putty removal.  While I work, I’m keeping an eye on the right side (lower in the picture below) of the stem where the major stem rebuild was.  I recall Joyal’s observations of having to keep the patch high because during the smoothing and blending process sanding on the edge of the patch was taking too much of the stem material in the process.  He then described having to refill with more patch the ‘border’ between patch and stem.  The pictures show the progress on the lower bit area. The next two pictures show the completion of the filing and use of 240 grit sanding paper.  I then use 600 grit paper to smooth and blend more and finish with briskly rubbing with 0000 steel wool.  At this stage of the stem repair, I look at the patch areas (3rd picture) and the use of Behlen Furniture Powder Medium Yellow and Special ‘T’ CA glue is strong.  Building up the chip area and missing button portion wasn’t easy but it looks good.  The color is good though it has a speckled quality to it created by small air pockets in the patch which were exposed during the sanding. This I have found is normal.  To fill the pockets, I apply a dab of Hot Stuff CA glue on the stem patch and then ‘paint’ it over the patch using a toothpick.  I do the same with the button lips – upper and lower.  I repeat sanding with 600 grit and then steel wool (I forgot to take pictures of filling the air pockets!).  The pictures show the progress. With the repairs to the stem completed, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  Following this, I dry sand the stem using pads 3200 to 4000 and then, 6000 to 12000.  The Bakelite (or Amberoid, I’ll have to figure out how to tell the difference) stem gradually shines up nicely with each successive micromesh cycle.  The pictures show the progress.I follow the micromesh cycles with applying Blue Diamond compound to the stem with the cotton cloth Dremel wheel set to the slowest speed.  I then mount the carnauba cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and give the stem 3 coats of carnauba wax.  I follow the carnauba with a hand-buff using a microfiber cloth. Wow!  I like it. The Bakelite or Amberoid has the appearance of glass – the patch has no textural differences with the original stem.  The last two pictures are flipped to show what I’m seeing after the buff. Stem completed for now – the new push-pull tenon system should be in transit. With the stem completed and on hold for the tenon, I look to complete the stummel of this Meer Carved Vineyard.  With of the unique characteristics of Meerschaum pipes, they’re like wine – they get better with age!  For Meerschaums, their value increases with use as the oils in the tobacco interact with the unique composition of the Meerschaum the bowl will change color gradually, darkening to the golden, honey brown which is its patina.  The Carved Vineyard displays this growing patina and to enhance this natural coloring process, treating the stummel with bees’ wax is the long-used practice of choice.  This is my first application of bee’s wax to a Meer and Charles Lemon’s, of Dad’s Pipes, descriptive posts have been helpful as I’ve done my research (See: Quick Clean-up of a Tulip Meerschaum Sitter).  One thing very much available in Bulgaria is bees’ wax, which I found in a local outdoor market at the honey kiosk.  My price was 3BGN for 100gr (Translation: $1.63 for 1/5 pounds).  I don’t know if it’s a deal or a steal.   After I unwrap the package, I break off some chunks of the bee’s wax and put them in a small mason jar, which I’ll be able to keep unused wax for the next Meer treatment.  Using my hot air gun, I melt the wax in the mason jar.  After melting the wax, I hold the Meer over the hot gun to warm up to better absorb the wax.  Blame it on Bulgarian winters, but when I finish warming the Meer, the wax has already cooled down and congealing!  So, a more rapid wax melting follows, and a re-warming of the Meer stummel.  I used a Q-tip cotton swab to paint the bowl with the melted bee’s wax.  I was careful to paint the sculpted vineyard lines – getting the wax in the nooks and crannies.  I put the stummel aside to cool.  Since this was my first time to apply the bee’s wax treatment to a Meer, I was a little surprised how thick the congealed wax was on the stummel after it cooled.  It could be that the Meer wasn’t hot enough and the wax was cooling too quickly.  Either way, the Meer received a treatment!  After cooled, I try buffing with a towel to remove the thicker waxy residue, and I discover that it’s not too easy.  I’m thinking that the wax is too thick and it congealed to fast (3rd picture below). I improvise and I think the improvisation benefited this Meer.  Using a Q-tip as a brush, I start passing the thick-layered bees’ wax stummel over the air gun – like passing over a lit candle, it liquefies the wax on the portion impacted by the heat.  As the wax liquefies, I paint it into the surface – working it in well and removing the excess with the Q-tip. This time applying wax around the Meerschaum seems to absorb the wax instead of being smothered by it. It didn’t take long and the application of bees’ wax is complete (4th picture below)!  Then, before the stummel cooled down, while yet warm, I buff the stummel with a towel and then with a microfiber cloth and WOW.  I’m a believer.  The shine and deepening of the patina is evident!  The pictures tell the story. With the Meerschaum’s stem and stummel complete – almost – I set both aside waiting for the arrival of the push-pull tenon from the US.  I’m beginning to wonder whether this Meer Carved Vineyard should go to The Pipe Steward store, or remain in my collection – often I have that problem 🙂 !

A few weeks later the push-pull tenons arrive via a friend who was willing to carry them to Bulgaria.  I open the package sent by Tim West at J.H. Lowe in Columbus, Ohio, and have my first look at what a new push-pull system looks like.  I unscrew the old tenon and easily screw the new one in place.  The mortise sleeve’s threads worked perfectly as well.  The problem though, is that it will not screw all the way in.  Previously, I identified a tubing of sorts deeper in the mortise which was the only thing the old tenon was locking into – though poorly.  My first inclination was to cut the new mortise tenon sleeve so that being shortened it would fit in the limited space.  It was then that I started questioning whether what I was looking at was part of the design or that it was in fact, the left-over remains of the bottom end of the old mortise sleeve which had broken off.  After looking closely at the inner tubing, I can see fragments of the old break.  Ok!  Now I understand that I need to exorcise this vagabond mortise sleeve. I first try wedging a small flat head screw driver in the tubing to ‘unscrew’ it by turning it counter-clockwise.  I was hoping that it might be loose, but will not budge.  So, using appropriately size drill bits and wood screws, gradually I clear out the obstructing portion by shaving off the material of the old sleeve which I think might be acrylic. I am careful to keep the bits and screws straight so they do not nick the Meer threads.  This was not an easy or fast process, but eventually I was satisfied to remove most of the old sleeve – leaving only a very thin ‘skin’ over the threaded area deeper in the mortise, which may indeed help in keeping the mortise cleaner.  After this, I screw the new insert into the mortise and trim and sand the protruding ‘head’ of the sleeve to improve the fit and alignment of the mortise and stem.  I also sand down the tenon diameter to improve its fit into the sleeve.  I’m pleased with the results.  The pictures show the replacement of the push-pull tenon system.  I’m pleased with the stem rebuild that has blended very well with the Bakelite stem and has put this Meerschaum back in service for a new steward. The patina of the Meerschaum Carved Vineyard has a very healthy start and will only season more with good, aromatic tobaccos.  I also like the blending of smooth and carved Meerschaum – a very stylish pipe.  If you would like to adopt this Meerschaum Carved Vineyard, look at the Pipe Store in my new blog site at ThePipeSteward.com.  The profits of my pipe sales go to help women and children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked through the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with here in Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!