Blog by Steve Laug
With this blog I worked on another of the pipes from Kathy’s Dad’s estate. This is the twelfth of the pipes from collection. For a reminder to myself and those of you who are reading this blog I will retell the story of the estate. Last fall I received a contact email on rebornpipes from Kathy asking if I would be interested in purchasing her late Father, George Koch’s estate pipes. He was a lover of “Malaga” pipes as well as others and she wanted to move them out as she cleaned up the estate. We emailed back and forth and I had my brother Jeff follow up with her as he also lives in the US and would make it simpler to carry out this transaction. The long and short of it is that we purchased her Dad’s pipes – Malagas and others. Included in the lot was this interesting Butz-Choquin Classic Pot shaped pipe with an inset of what looks like copper on the left side toward the rear of the bowl. The condition of all them varied from having almost pristine stems to gnawed and damaged stems that need to be replaced. These were some well used and obviously well-loved pipes. Cleaning and restoring them will be a tribute to this pipeman. Jeff took these photos of the Butz-Choquin before he cleaned it. Jeff took photos of the rim top and bowl to show the thick cake and what looked like potential damage to the inner edge of the rim at the right front and the middle at the back. He also took photos of the bowl from various angles to show the condition of the finish and the copper insert I spoke of above. The stamping on the left side of the shank clearly reads Butz-Choquin and underneath it is a bit more faint but looks to read Simour. On the right side it is stamped St. Claude over France and a shape number 1507 beneath that.The stem was in better condition than most of the others in the collection. There was light tooth chatter on both sides near the button and the sharp edge of the button had some tooth damage. As I look at it I wonder if it is not an acrylic stem. We shall see.Those of you who have followed me for a while know how much I love getting to know about the pipeman who held the pipes in trust before me. That information always gives another dimension to the restoration work. This is certainly true with this lot of pipes. I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. Once again, I am including that information with this restoration so you can know a bit about the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before they are passed on to some of you. I include part of Kathy’s correspondence with my brother as well…. I may well be alone in this, but when I know about the person it is almost as if he is with me while I work on his pipes. In this case Kathy sent us not only information but also a photo of her Dad with a pipe in his mouth.
Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others. He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan. We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all. He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace. Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter
Kathy, once again I thank you for providing this beautiful tribute to your Dad. We so appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. I am also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.
Jeff cleaned this one up before he sent it my way. He is really good at the cleanup work. He had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the bowl, plateau rim and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The lava mess on the rim was thoroughly removed without harming the finish underneath it. It revealed the burned areas on the inside edge of the rim that I was wondering about. However, without the grime the finish looked really good. The feather or leaf carvings in the briar of the bowl and shank look good and the inset of what I thought looked like copper was flat. The acrylic stem would need to be worked on but I really like the shape. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. I took some close up photos of the rim and bowl to show the damage to the rim top and edge. Jeff did a great job on the cleanup but boy did it reveal some damaged spots. I have circled the damaged areas in red in the first photo below. I have also included some photos of the stem to show the condition before I polished it.The pipe has some stunning grain and then it has this copper coloured insert in the side of the bowl (It may well be a piece of copper, I will know more once I polish it). I am still trying to figure this out. I wrote an email to Butz-Choquin to see if they can give me information on the line. We shall see. The next photo shows the inset.The next photo shows the leaf or feather carvings on the shank and the grain pattern. This is a pretty piece of briar.I had an interesting challenge ahead of me – to try to remove some of the damage to the rim edge without damaging the carved feather/leaf on the rim top. I needed to reduce the burned area on the rim top so that I could bevel the edge inward to hide the darkening in those spots. I progressed slowly on the topping board, checking every couple of rotations to make sure I was not making things worse.Once I had the burn damage removed I worked on the darkening on the top surface of the rim toward the front and at the back side of the bowl. I was able to minimize the damage on the top. I sanded those areas with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it in better. I beveled the rim inward with a folded piece of 180 and 220 grit sandpaper. I was happy with the finished look of the rim edge. A good blend of stains will blend in the edge even more.I stained the rim top with a Maple stain pen first to blend it into the rest of the bowl. I worked on the inner bevel with Cherry and Walnut stain pens to darken the edge of the rim. I feathered the stain toward the out edge of the rim top and buffed it by hand to smooth out the transitions between the pens.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the carved feather/leaf patterns around the bowl, rim and shank. I rubbed it into the smooth portions to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and the help of a horsehair shoe brush. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Here is where things are after the balm. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. As I polished the briar the inset metal began to stand out. I was pretty certain that it was a piece of copper. It really began to shine and flash on the side of the bowl. It was an interesting touch to add that kind of adornment to a pipe. I set the bowl aside at this point and turned to work on the stem. I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem at the button. I also worked on the edge of the button to reshape it at the same time.I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth.