by Robert M. Boughton
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
— Samuel Beckett
Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.
A series of unfortunate events during the past two years led me to an unaccustomed crisis of confidence. There was the COVID-19 stay at home order from the governor here, followed by the temporary suspension of my pipe sales, as I now choose to think of it. A brief time later, five thugs surrounded me outside of a convenience store on my way home from a friend’s, and a fight ensued. Although I fended off four of them, the boss punk got in multiple blows with a steel-balled sap to my head and the rest of my body before I could retreat to my car and point the gun that I should have kept on me through the window at the young man with the sap. He and his followers fled, and I drove to the university hospital ER.
Eleven hours later, the doctor told me I had suffered a coup-contrecoup concussion, and there was blood on my brain. I had passed the night in the waiting room except for the MRI and CT scans, the latter with and without contrast, and never even saw him before then. After that, unable to do the things that made me happiest – and I had always taken for granted – I gave up pipe restoring, my website, blogging and more or less everything else. The worst part was that I could not even smoke my pipes because of the exponential sharpening the nicotine added to the already crushing, blinding, paralyzing headaches the good ER doctor told me I could expect, but that there was nothing he could give me to alleviate my misery other than Gabapentin and the max dose of Ibuprofen.
I had fallen off the grid and into a hell of my own inner space. As Austin Powers said, “Crikey! I’ve lost my mojo!!” Little white tablets zap the chronic migraines I have suffered since early childhood. The only cure for the more recent variety of explosive agony was time for my traumatized brainpan to begin healing, as it continues to do. I am fortunate that my skull turned out to be as thick as my dad always said it was.
Pipes had piled up, waiting to be reborn. I saw them now and then when I pawed through the mess on a worktable for something else. As the excruciation ebbed and made clearer thinking possible, more and more I pondered what could be done with them. The best plan seemed to be giving them to someone like Steve who could make them whole again. Just the thought made me feel awful. (No offense, Steve!) Taking another look, the synapses fired in my brain and provided a memory of both of the quotes I cited at the beginning, which I heard in the pilot to Criminal Minds. There were six pipes in the eBay lot below, the other two being the Ropp in this blog and an Imported Sterling Briar that’s finished also and coming up next. Below, top to bottom: no-name, Made in London, England; no-name; King, and a stemless GBD New Standard #1451. I’m quite sure the GBD was the only reason I bought the lot.
There are more from my roommate, who is trying to cut back on his tobacco bonging (from 12000 grams per month!) and gave me some of his pipes to do with as I wish, and a few of my own that need work.
What follows is the old college try.
The cherrywood wasn’t in bad shape except for the nomenclature on the bottom, which was fuzzy from wear and tear and a rough area just below the rim that I attribute to shoddy work by Ropp. I gave the stummel an alcohol soak and the stem, which is a permanent part of the shank, an OxiClean bath. The chamber was tiny enough without the accumulated cake, so I cleaned it up with my Senior Reamer and Peterson scraper and gave the pipe a retort. By definition, a cherrywood natural is supposed to be rough, but this was a little much. I used 320, 400 and 600 paper. It needed more work, such as smoothing and staining the area under the rim with Feibing’s brown leather dye, and micro meshing the whole thing. I seem to have lost track of that part as far as pictures go.
The stem was easy, needing only 400 and 600 paper and dry and wet micro mesh.Decatur Pipe Polish is great for sandblasted, carved and natural finishes, so that’s what I did.All that was left was a spin on the wheels with red Tripoli and carnauba for the stem. The best thing about this project was that I did it – and got my mojo back! After that, I really enjoyed bringing back the clarity of the nomenclature. It went from illegible to clear enough that I had to correct the folder name in my PC to reflect the actual shape number.