Tag Archives: Butz Choquin Pipes

Rejuvenating a Fancy French Butz Choquin Camargue 1683 Prince


Blog by Dal Stanton

The Butz Choquin Camargue came to me via an antique store in St. Louis, Missouri.  Last December, my son Josiah, who was studying there, and now currently works there, came upon this lot for sale in an antique store.  He did the right thing – he called…, rather, he texted his father in Bulgaria with pictures asking the question, ‘What do you think, Dad?’  We didn’t think too long about the purchase and split the cost for the St. Louis Lot of 26.  Why did we split?  The jumbo French Champion Church Warden in the center of the picture below was to be my Christmas gift from Josiah and so he paid that part of this very nice trove of pipes he found!  Many of the pipes of the St. Louis Lot of 26 are still available in ‘For “Pipe Dreamer” Only!’ online collection.  Pipe men and women can peruse the online ‘Help Me!’ baskets and commission an unrestored vintage pipe.  Of course, this benefits our work here with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. One pipe man, Alex, who is from our neighbor to the north, Russia, saw and commissioned the BC as well as a Harvey Rusticated Dublin, which was first in line to be restored (See: Recommissioning a Mysterious Harvey London Paris New York Meerschaum Lined Rusticated Dublin).Next, the Butz Choquin Camargue is on the worktable. I take some additional pictures. Stamped on the left shank flank is the fancy lettering, ‘Butz-Choquin’ [over] ‘Camargue’.  The acrylic shank extension houses an inlaid rondel, with ‘BC’ in silver lettering.  The right side is stamped, ‘St. Claude’(arched) [over] FRANCE [over] 1683, which I assume is the shape number.  I’ve worked on several Butz Choquin pipes which is based in the French pipe center of St. Claude.  Here is a brief overview of the BC history from Pipephil.eu:

The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin Site officiel Butz Choquin, pipes de Saint-Claude Jura. BC pipe de bruyere luxe is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).

Jean Paul Berrod managed the company from 1969 to 2002 when he retired and sold the corporate to Mr Fabien Gichon. Denis Blanc, allready owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.

The BC line, ‘Camargue’ is not an old line as a simple search on the internet turns up several examples of classic pipe shapes with the ‘Camargue’ stamp, but unique to each is the acrylic shank extension and the military mounted stem.  This example is a Dublin shape from Smokingpipes.com:I saw no other examples of what I’m calling a ‘Fancy Prince’ on my worktable – the BC shape number 1683.  The name of the line, ‘Camargue,’ I discovered is a treasured nature reserve on the southern coast of France between Montpellier and Marseille – two beautiful venues which I’ve had the opportunity to visit. A Wiki article was very helpful in describing the area that this BC line is commemorating (Pictures are from the same article):

With an area of over 930 km2 (360 sq mi), the Camargue is western Europe’s largest river delta. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.

Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. The central area around the shoreline of the Étang de Vaccarès has been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its great importance as a haven for wild birds. In 2008, it was incorporated into the larger Parc naturel régional de Camargue.

The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds and has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.[8] Its brine ponds provide one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of the most ferocious mosquitos to be found anywhere in France. Camargue horses (Camarguais) roam the extensive marshlands, along with Camargue cattle (see below).

The native flora of the Camargue have adapted to the saline conditions. Sea lavender and glasswort flourish, along with tamarisks and reeds.

Without doubt, a place my wife would love to visit!With a better understanding of the pipe on my worktable, I take a closer look at the obstacles of restoring this Fancy BC Camargue of St. Claude.  The chamber has some thick carbon cake which needs to be removed for the briar to have a fresh start.  The rim has thick lava flow which also will be addressed.  The Prince stummel surface is dirty from normal wear and the smooth briar surface has small fills that need to be checked out as well as some rough places.  The acrylic shank extension is nice and will shine up very well.  The Fish Tail Military Mount stem shows significant oxidation as well as tooth chatter and bites, especially on the lower bit.

To begin the recommissioning of the BC Camargue, I first clean the stem with a pipe cleaner wetted by isopropyl 95% and then add it to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue. After a few hours in the soak, I remove and drain the BC stem of the Deoxidizer fluid and then wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the raised oxidation, which is a lot!  I also run another pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol through the airway of the stem to clear it of B&A Deoxidizer.To begin the revitalization of the vulcanite stem, I give it a coat of paraffin oil with a cotton pad and put it aside to absorb.Turning now to the stummel, after putting paper towel down to ease the cleanup, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to begin the process of removing carbon cake from the chamber to give the briar a fresh start and to inspect the chamber wall for heating damage. I take a picture of the chamber to mark the start. I use three of the four blade heads in the Pipnet Reaming Kit – this chamber is broader than I expected.  Next, I transition to scraping the chamber using the Savinelli Fitsall tool and find that the lava flow on the rim is flaking off with the tool.  I finish by sanding the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to give leverage. After cleaning the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%, I inspect the chamber and there are no indications of heating problems. It looks great. I move on.Transitioning now to the external surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and cotton pads to clean.  After scrubbing with Murphy’s, I transition the stummel to the sink to continue scrubbing the internals using anti-oil dish washing liquid and shank brushes to scrub with warm to hot water.  After scrubbing, the bowl is rinsed thoroughly and returns to the worktable. The internal cleaning continues using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%. A small dental spatula is used to scrape tars and oils off the mortise walls.  Excavating the gunk saves a lot of time by bringing out large amounts at a time.  In time, the buds and pipe cleaners start emerging lighter and the cleaning is done for now.  Later, a kosher salt and alcohol soak will continue the internal cleaning and refreshing.With the internals cleaning completed until later, a closer look at the BC Camargue Prince stummel is next.  The grain of the bowl is very expressive – very nice bird’s eye as well, but there are also some issues.The rim cleaned up well and it sports a sharp internal bevel which needs refreshing.  Darker briar on the aft of the rim remains after the cleaning – the section where the former steward lit his favorite blend.The right side of the bowl is pitted with old fills which have lightened and stand out and have shrunk so that the surface is not smooth.One fill, somewhat larger, is on the face of the bowl – situated very nicely between the converging flows of grain which was probably the reason for the pit in the briar bole.  I’m impressed with the grain – it will spruce up very nicely.The right side of the bowl has some rough, skin marks – probably from a hard surface. The night is growing late, and I would like to do two things before turning out the lights: renew the fills in the briar surface and a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I begin the first project by using a sharp dental probe carefully to remove the old fill from the pits. What is handy about using ‘real’ dental probes is that they are not just sharp on the ends, but they also have very small spurs that allow a simple twist of the instrument to grab and pull material out of the pits.  I clean the large set of pits on the side of the bowl as well as the one on the front. Using briar dust putty to replace the old fills, I first prepare the working pallet.  I use a plastic disk that came off a cosmetics cream container belonging to my wife.  I put scotch tape down on this surface only to quicken the cleanup after making the putty.After cleaning the pitted areas of the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the area, a small pile of briar dust is placed on the taped pallet. Then a small amount of BSI Maxi-Cure Extra Thick CA glue is placed next to the mound of briar dust.Using a toothpick as a mixer and a trowel, briar dust is pulled into the CA glue and is mixed.  As the dust is pulled into the mixture, it starts thickening.  The picture below shows the mixture in the early stages – still too thin, giving me time to take the picture.  If it takes too long to apply the putty it will harden in an instant. Or, if too much briar dust is introduced into the CA glue and thickens too quickly, it will harden immediately.  This has happened to me a few times – when it hardens, the chemical reaction sends up smoke! When the putty begins to reach the viscosity of molasses, the putty is troweled onto the pits with the toothpick.  With the pits being so small and close, I cover all of them with two larger globs which when cured will be sanded down. The front pit is also filled with briar dust putty. After a quick clean up, the putty has had enough time to set up (I’ll let the patches cure through the night) and I am able to handle the stummel with no problems.  Next, I transition to the second project before lights out – a kosher salt and alcohol soak to continue the internal cleaning and refreshing.  A ‘mortise wick’ is fashioned by stretching and twisting a cotton ball. The wick helps to draw the oils out of the internal briar cavity.  Then, using a stiff wire (a piece of wire from a clothes hanger) I guide and push the wick through the mortise close to the draft hole. The bowl is then filled with kosher salt. Kosher salt is used because it doesn’t leave an aftertaste and freshens the internals for the new steward.  The stummel is placed in an egg carton for stability and to situate the stummel so that the top of the bowl and the end of the shank are roughly level.  This allows the alcohol fully to saturate the wick. Then, using a large eyedropper, isopropyl 95% is added to the chamber until alcohol fills and surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, the liquid is absorbed, and a little more alcohol is added to top it off.  The stummel is set aside to soak through the night.  Both projects completed – lights out!The next morning, the salt and wick show the signs of soiling as tars and oils are absorbed.  After dumping the expended salt in the waste and wiping the bowl with a paper towel to remove salt crystals, I also blow forcefully through the mortise to clear any remaining crystals. To make sure all is clean, a few cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% are expended to clean up any residual oils.  All looks good.The briar dust patches on the stummel surface have cured and I use a flat needle file to file each down close to the briar surface.  I stay on top of the patches with the file as much as possible to avoid collateral impact on the briar. After filing, 240 sanding paper is employed to bring the patches down to briar level. Following the 240 grade paper, dry sanding with 600 grade paper serves to smooth the patch area out more by removing the scratches of the 240 sanding. Next, the rim.  The rim is darkened from lighting practices but is not damaged.  There are also minuscule nicks on the outer rim edge. I use 240 grade paper to clean up the internal bevel of the rim.Next, the stummel visits the topping board with 240 grade paper on top. The topping will refresh the lines of the rim and help restore a crisp bevel transition.  The topping is for cosmetic purposes but will also help to remove the nicks on the edges.  I invert the stummel and give it a few rotations on the board.  Not much is needed.After the sanding paper is transitioned to 600 grade paper, I give the stummel several more rotations as well as hand sand the bevel.  The results are good.  The lines have been restored and the cross-cut briar grain is coming through nicely.From working on the rim, sanding sponges are used to address the nicks and cuts on the briar surface.  Sponge sanding is not as invasive as regular sanding paper and it will help blend the sanded patch areas.  I start with a coarse sponge, then medium and finish with a light grade sponge.  The sponges are also used on the acrylic shank extension which helps to shine it up quite nicely!After the sanding sponges, to again refresh the lines of the rim, I take the stummel back to the topping board for a few rotations on 600 grade paper.  Nice.After the topping board, a small imperfection on the rim gets my attention.  It is not major but enough for a small detour.To address the problem, I spot drop clear CA glue on the small pit.  It does not take long for the CA glue to set up and I carefully sand the excess patch with 240 grade paper.  Then another trip for the stummel to the topping board with 600 grade paper to finish the repair. On a roll, and anxious to coax the grain out on the BC Prince stummel, the full regimen of micromesh pads is used.  As with the sanding sponges, micromesh pads are used on the acrylic shank extension. Using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I’m liking what I’m seeing. Wow – I love the pop on this bowl with the acrylic extension contrasted.  To improve on what is already a good situation, to bring out the subtle hues of the grain more, Before & After Restoration Balm is applied to the stummel. Placing a small amount on my finger, the Balm is worked into the briar surface.  It starts off with a crème-like texture but then thickens as it is applied to the briar.  I set the stummel aside while the Balm does its thing.  In about 20 minutes, the excess Balm is wiped off and I also buff up the surface.  The pictures show the 20-minute absorbing period and after buffing. With stummel to the side, I now turn to the waiting stem.  The upper bit has a few minor bite marks but the lower is more significant. I first apply the heating method with the use of a Bic lighter.  With the lighter, I paint the bit with flame thus heating and expanding the rubber compound, vulcanite.  The physics involved encourages the rubber to reclaim it’s original disposition or at least lessen the damage.  After painting with the Bic lighter, the upper bit looks good and can be finished with simple sanding, but the lower bit needs additional help.  Before and after pictures show the results. I use Black Medium-Thick CA glue to repair the tooth compressions on the lower bit.  After cleaning the area with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, I spot drop the CA on the needed area and utilize an accelerator to quicken the curing process. The cured patch has collapsed which is normal.  I believe the fill is sufficiently covered.First, using the flat needle file, excess patch material is removed and the button is freshened.Following the file, I use 240 grade paper on the lower bit repair and expand the sanding to remove residual oxidation and nicks to the entire upper and lower fishtail stem surface. Following the 240 sanding, using 600 grade paper I wet sand the entire stem and follow this using 000 grade steel wool.A close up of the lower bit repair shows the results of the work.  The patch is barely visible if you know its there, but for the most part, it will be invisible.Moving straight on to the micromesh phase, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads I give the fishtail stem an application of Obsidian Oil to continue the rejuvenation of the vulcanite.  I love the pop of newly sanded vulcanite! On the home stretch – after rejoining stem and stummel and mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel setting the speed at 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the entire pipe. Compound is also applied to the acrylic shank extension and it really pops!After using a felt cloth to wipe off residual compound dust, I change the Dremel’s cotton cloth buffing wheel to one dedicated to applying carnauba wax.  Maintaining the same speed, I apply a few coats of wax to the entire pipe and finish by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.I called this Butz Choquin Camargue a ‘Fancy’ Prince shape and truly he is fancy.  Wow – the grain generally moves in a horizontal fashion around the bowl and tightens as it moves downwardly to the heel.  Large swoops of bird’s eye grain also punctuate the landscape.  Adding to the ‘Fancy’ is the acrylic shank extension with the embedded BC rondel transitioning to the gentle bend of the fishtail stem which splays outwardly.  Alex commissioned this French BC Camargue Fancy Prince of St. Claude and will have the first opportunity to claim him from The Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

Sprucing Up an Attractive Butz Choquin Supermate 1596 Panel


Blog by Dal Stanton

Without doubt, one of my favorite pastimes is go pipe picking!  My wife and I were on the Black Sea coast in the Bulgarian city of Burgas returning to an antique shop I had visited before on the main walking street very near the Black Sea coast.  I was not disappointed when I spied the copper pot full of pipes waiting for someone like me to come along.  The Butz Choquin Supermate now on my worktable was in the bunch that I pulled out to get a closer look.  To the left of the BC (pictured below) were a Oldo Billiard and Lincoln London Made with the Lindburgh Select Poker to the right.  Not pictured below that also came home with me is a Harvey Meer Lined Rusticated Dublin Rustified LONDON PARIS NEW YORK.  A very nice haul!

Jim saw the BC Supermate in the online ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ collection along with a ‘Nightmare’ Canadian that was not needing a restoration but a resurrection!  In my communications with Jim, I discovered that he was from Pennsylvania and an engineer who has several hobbies that where he works with his hands and expressed appreciation for the restorations that he had seen posted from my worktable.  It was for that reason he looked at ThePipeSteward website and found two pipes that called his name and he commissioned them.  He also expressed appreciation for our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  All the pipes commissioned by potential stewards benefit this cause. Here are pictures of this nice Paneled Butz Choquin 1596 now on my worktable.  The nomenclature on the left side of the shank is the BC fancy script ‘Butz-Choquin’ [over] ‘SUPERMATE’.  To the right, the stem is stamped with the traditional ‘BC’.  On the right shank side is the COM and shape number: ‘STCLAUDE – FRANCE’ [over] 1596.   I have heard on FB group postings that the long-time French pipe manufacturer is closing its doors.  I went to the main website of Butz Choquin and it was active, and I saw no notifications.  I’ll continue to investigate.  One of my first research projects with a French pipe, Jeantet, connected me with the history of St. Claude, France, the place that most say represent the birthplace of modern pipe manufacturing.  The BC name is among the earliest residents of St. Claude.  Pipedia provides this information about the origins of Butz Choquin:

Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.  In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.  In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of [Butz-Chochin]. In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called ‘the world capital of the briar pipe,’ under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.

In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.

I found this great picture of the Butz Choquin Supermate Panel in an ad on TobaccoPipe.com.  The box is classic, and I wish I had the pipe sock to go along!  I found the text along with the picture to be interesting as well in its description of the finish and the collectibility of this 1596 shape.The condition of the pipe on my table is a far cry from the other pipe that Jim commissioned, the Comoy’s The Lumberman!  While the chamber has moderately thick cake and the rim shows lava flow, the pipe generally is in very good shape. Cleaning and working on the stem’s tooth chatter and oxidation do not appear to offer any surprises.  To begin the sprucing of this BC Supermate, the stem is removed and cleaned with a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% and added to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other stems in the queue.After several hours of being in the soak, I take out the BC stem and clean the airway with a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% to remove the Deoxidizer.  I also wipe off the raised oxidation using cotton pads also wetted with alcohol.To revitalize the stem, paraffin oil is applied with a cotton pad.Next, I tackle the stummel cleaning.  The cake in the chamber is moderately thick.To remove the cake, I use 2 of the 4 blade heads that come in the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  Following this, using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber walls, helps to fine tune the removal of carbon cake. Finally, sanding the chamber walls with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen provides further cleaning of the chamber and I then wipe the carbon dust remaining with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.Inspection of the chamber afterwards reveals healthy briar.  I move on.The picture above shows the lava buildup on the rim.  I turn now to cleaning the external briar surface using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad. I also utilize my Winchester pocketknife carefully to scrape the rim. I take the stummel to the sink and continue the cleaning the internals with bristled shank brushes and anti-oil dish liquid soap.  After a thorough rinsing, back to the worktable to continue.  The rim cleaned off well and the stummel surface looks good. Next, targeting the internal cleaning further, pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95% are used.  Tar and oils are excavated from the mortise walls by scraping with a small dental spoon.  After much effort, the pipe cleaners and buds start lightening and I decide to save the rest of the cleaning for later by employing a kosher salt and alcohol soak.After inspecting the briar surface, I find one old fill that I dig out with a dental probe and refill using clear CA glue.  I spot drop the glue on the small pit and use an accelerator to quicken the curing time. With 240 then 600 grade papers, I sand off the excess glue.The rim is still discolored with a dark ring around the inner rim edge.  I use a piece of 240 grade paper very lightly to sand the rim as well as the dark ring.After lightly sanding, it is apparent that there was a bevel on the inside edge of the rim which I decide to fresh. Using 240 grade paper with a hard surface pressing behind helps to form the bevel. The bevel looks classy!  I like it.There are minor nicks and cuts on the stummel surface which I use sanding sponges to address.  Beginning with the coarse sponge and following with the medium and light grade sponges the nicks and cuts are cleaned up.  I like sanding sponges as they are not as invasive as sanding papers but clean up minor problems on the surface.Next, I use micromesh pads to clean and smooth the stummel.  Starting with pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I stay clear of the shank panels holding the nomenclatures.  Using Before & After Restoration Balm brings out the natural hues of the briar with a subtlety that I find attractive.  To apply it to the surface, I put some of the Balm on my fingers and work the Balm into the briar.  The consistency of the Balm starts with a cream-like texture and then thickens into a waxy substance.  After the Balm is fully worked in, I put the stummel aside to allow the Balm to do its things.  I take a picture during this stage.After 20 to 30 minutes, I remove the excess Balm with a cloth and then buff it up some with a microfiber cloth dedicated to the post-Balm buffing.  As hoped and expected, the deepening of the natural hues is very attractive – it looks great.  Moving on.The stem repairs are waiting, and I take a closer look at the tooth chatter and compressions on the upper and lower bit.The first step is to use the heating method by painting the damaged areas with the flame of a Bic lighter.  As the vulcanite heats, physics take over and the rubber expands.  The chatter and indentations hopefully will also expand to regain the original condition, or closer to it.  After using the flame, the upper bit’s tooth chatter all but disappeared.  The lower bit compressions lessened but are still evident.Addressing the remaining compressions on the lower bit, I use Starbond Black Medium-Thick CA glue to fill the indentations.  I first wipe the area with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the area.  Carefully, I spot drop glue on each compression.  I set the stem aside for the CA glue to cure.After the Black CA glue cures, I go to work removing the excess patch material using a flat needle file.  I also work on the button to refresh the lines.Following the filing, 240 grade sanding paper is employed to erase the file marks and to smooth the lower bit. Also using the file to freshen the button lip and 240 grade paper on the upper bit, tooth chatter sands out with no problems.Next, wet sanding with 600 grade paper followed by 000 grade steel wool smooths further – the upper then the lower bit pictured. I’m careful to avoid sanding the BC stem stamping on the left stem panel.  In the second picture, a close look at the shiny reflection reveals the subtle lines of the patch.  It looks great!Even though the ‘BC’ stem stamp is healthy, which is nice for a change(!), I avoid direct sanding over it.  To clean around the stamping and to remove residual oxidation, I use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge which is less abrasive than sanding paper.  It helps to darken and clean the vulcanite around the stamping.On a roll, I move forward with the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.  Starting with pads 1500 to 2400, wet sanding is employed.  Following this, using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000, I dry sand.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is used to revitalize the vulcanite stem.  The pads and Oil do the job – nice! After attempting to rejoin the stem and the stummel to apply compound, as is the case sometimes, the tenon fit is too tight.  With the cleaning process, the briar expands, and this sometimes results in the fit being too tight.  It is best not to force the fit and risk cracking the shank.  I use a half round needle file to lightly file the mortise surface – very lightly.  After another try and discovering that it is still too tight, I use 470 grade paper wrapped around the tenon and rotate the stem while the paper hugs the tenon.  After a few attempts to fit, the tenon finally seats well.With the stem and stummel rejoined, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted to the Dremel with the speed set at 40% full power.  Blue Diamond is then applied methodically to both stem and stummel.  After finishing with applying the compound, a felt cloth buffing helps to remove the residual compound dust in preparation for applying wax.Before applying the wax, one project awaits: the ‘BC’ stem stamp.  To refresh the ‘BC’ stamping on the stem I dab white acrylic paint on the lettering.  Then the excess paint is absorbed using a cotton pad.  It doesn’t take long for the paint to fully dry.  After it dries, I carefully remove the excess paint using the point of a toothpick.  I also use the flat edge of the toothpick to scrape over the top of the stamp to sharpen the lines.  It looks great! After changing the cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, maintaining the same speed, carnauba wax is applied to the entire stem.  After applying a few rounds of wax to the pipe, I follow by giving the pipe a serious buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.Earlier, the ad described this pipe shape as ‘esteemed’. This description fits well.  I have a square shank Peretti Billiard that I like a lot.  This Butz Choquin Supermate 1596’s square shank transitioning to a tapered square stem is very attractive – the lines draw the eye in for a closer look.  Added to this, the Panel shape alignment compliments the flow of the shank and stem to give an overall solid or full look.  The light hues of the briar grain also add to this ensemble.  Jim commissioned this BC Supermate and will have the first opportunity to acquire it in The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

An Unexpected Button Rebuild Recommissioning a French Butz Choquin Festival of St Claude 1305


Blog by Dal Stanton

I remember well where I found this very nice looking Butz Choquin Festival.  Living in Bulgaria, I have had the opportunity to visit our neighbor to the south several time – Greece.  We were with a group of interns who were participating in our summer training program in Sofia which included a field trip to visit the ancient city of Athens.  It is an amazing city with the Parthenon towering over the city set atop the acropolis right next to Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul made his historic stand arguing with the Greek philosophers.  Since I had seen these sites several times before, while the group of interns went hiking in that direction, I went in another toward the Ministirski area to do some pipe picking – one of my favorite pastimes!

This area has many secondhand stores and antique shops with hidden treasures that lurk in the most unexpected places – I couldn’t pass up this opportunity!  There happened to be a Flea Market in session near the ancient meat market area and it was there that I found the BC Festival now on my worktable.  I spied a cluster of pipes amidst coins, bracelets and knock-off sunglasses.  The lady vendor had some very nice pipes but the asking prices started too close to the stratosphere and my pocketbook was a bit closer to earth!  I decided to focus my attention on the French BC Festival.  The shape number is 1305 which pointed to the very shapely Bent Billiard I was focused on.  What attracted me was the very full bowl/shank transition continuing to a full stem bending toward the zenith.  It also had a very solid feel in the palm – one of those pipe whisperer moments – “Take me home!” After some serious negotiating, I think I got a good deal and the BC Festival came home with me and has been waiting for a new steward in my online collection, ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’. This is where a few months later, Michael from Kansas, wrote asking about the BC Festival.  After we communicated a bit, he commissioned the BC and he wrote this:

Sounds good! I saw this post on Facebook in the Gentlemen’s Pipe Club and was interested. I was taken by your work and wanted to know more.  I’m from the states (Kansas to be exact). Smack dab in the middle. Currently it’s 17 degrees out and a nice pipe sounds pretty tasty.  I’m looking forward to seeing this beauty restored.

I appreciated Michael’s words and I also appreciate his patience!  The Butz Choquin Festival he commissioned benefits our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  The attractive BC is now on my worktable and I take more pictures for a closer look at this Athens find: The nomenclature is stamped on the left flank of the shank and reads in fancy cursive, ‘Butz Choquin’ [over] ‘Festival’.  The right shank side is stamped with a curved ST. CLAUDE [over] FRANCE [over] 1305.  A very thin, ghosted ‘BC’ is stamped on the left side of the stem.I’ve had the opportunity to restore several pipes from the center of French pipe making, St. Claude.  As a refresher, Pipedia provides this information about the origins of Butz Choquin:

Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.  In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.  In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of [Butz-Chochin]. In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called ‘the world capital of the briar pipe,’ under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.

In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.

The condition of the Festival on my worktable is generally good.  The chamber is clean, and I will soon find out whether the cleaning of the chamber is true also of the internals.  The external briar surface appears only to need a sprucing up, but with a closer look, I find several pockets and dents over the surface.  This will require some work to fill the pockets and to try raising the dents. I take a few pictures to show these challenges. The grain is very nice and expressive – this guy will clean up nicely.  The stem shows some oxidation and the bit has distinct biting compressions on the upper and lower bit.  This will be addressed. To begin the recommissioning this commissioned Butz-Choquin Festival, I address the oxidation issues of the stem using Before & After Deoxidizer.  I clean several stems of other pipes in the queue at the same time.  To preserve the Deoxidizer solution, I first run pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the stem’s airway to clean it.  Unfortunately, when I inserted a pipe cleaner into the BC’s airway, I discover it is blocked.  By measuring the pipe cleaners’ progress, the blockage is toward the button.  I try blowing through the airway and it is rock-solid blocked.  Since, I’m in the conveyer line of cleaning, I move forward with the deoxidation process first.After soaking in the B&A Deoxidizer for several hours, I fish out the BC’s stem and wipe it down to remove raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%. I apply paraffin oil to begin rejuvenating the vulcanite stem and I set it aside to absorb.Before moving on, I need to figure out how to clear the airway of the blockage.  From the button, the blockage begins about 1/2 inch from the end of the stem.  When reaching with a pipe cleaner from the tenon side and measuring, the blockage appears to be about a 1/4 inch of blockage. I use the straightest dental probes I have and reach into the stem airway to extract the blockage.  The dental probes both have spurs on the topside of the metal points which prove useful in hooking and pulling out debris. What I start pulling out with the probes appears to be paper, of course shredded at this point.  I have no idea how paper would be lodged in the stem.  This method has some success, but soon the probes’ effectiveness is nullified by the bend in the stem. After some time of using the probe and realizing diminishing returns, I decide to straighten the stem to reduce the pressure in the bend.  I heated the stem with the hot air gun to do this.  As the vulcanite heats, I’m able to unbend the stem.  What I forgot to picture was the use of a drill bit that fit into the airway from the mortise side.  As I heat the vulcanite and as it unbent, I wedged the drill bit further into the airway.  I did this to keep the airway straight and it works well.  The downside was that the drill bit was not long enough to do the full job.With the stem straightened, I’m able to continue with some success the use of the dental probes. I use a long stiff wire to push from the tenon side, and then dig more with the dental probes from the button side.  The progress is slow.Progress was slow but unfortunately, overzealousness reaching with the dental probe cracked the button.  Ugh!  What I failed to do is to take into consideration the gradually expanding shaft of the probe that pushed outwardly on the slot and the rest is history.  Doing repairs on a pipe one is restoring is one thing.  Creating more problems for a restoration is not what we aim for!  I take a few closeups of the cracks – not a pretty picture!  I decide to continue carefully digging out the blockage.  Eventually, the paper, or whatever, is extricated and I’m able to run a pipe cleaner through.  This took a lot of time and unfortunately, friendly fire damage to the button to open the airway must now be addressed.I proceed with the stem repairs.  Before addressing the button damage – cracks and bite compressions, I re-bend the stem to restore it to the original profile.  Again, after placing a pipe cleaner through the stem to protect the airway integrity, I heat the vulcanite stem with the hot air gun, but I first focus on heating and bending the thicker section of the stem.  If I heat the whole stem at once to make one bend, the thinner part of the stem, toward the button, will accept the bend much easier and this will create a more severe end bend appearance rather than a gentle curve throughout. When the thicker portion of the stem becomes supple and willing to be shaped, I place it over a miniature cue ball #15 and gently shape the fat part of the stem.   I hold it in position over the ball for a few minutes allowing the vulcanite to cool and firm its position.  Then, holding the bend in place I take it to the sink to cool the rubber further under cool tap water.   I forgot to picture the current state of the stem’s orientation, but in the picture below you can see that the end of the stem is still shooting out straight without any bend.With the fat part of the stem’s bend solidified, I then take the stem back to the hot air gun heating the thinner section which softens much more rapidly.  When supple, I again take it to #15 and finish the bend.  My aim is to have the end of the stem’s trajectory parallel with the plane of the rim.  The finished bend looks good.  I move on.Now, I take another close look at the cracks and button biting problems.  Normally, at this point I would attempt to raise and expand the compressed vulcanite using the flame method – painting the vulcanite with the flame of a Bic lighter.  With the cracks, and a desire to salvage the stem as it is without the whole button cracking off, I also want to apply CA glue to weld the cracks together.  The question in my mind is concerning the composition of the CA glue.  If I apply CA glue now, before applying the heating method, will the composition of the CA glue be a problem if I then heat it?  If I use the flame first and then glue it, will the ‘new’ contour of the bit hinder gluing cleanly…  Or, should I forgo using the flame method?  Questions….Using regular clear CA glue, I apply a line of glue over the cracks.  I stress flex the cracked button a small amount allowing the thinner glue to seep into the cracks more efficiently.  My hope is that this will form a solid weld.After the clear CA glue cures, I go to work on the upper button repair.  I use a flat needle file to redefine the button lip and follow by sanding with 240 grade paper.  The crack is still visible at this point, but the repair appears to be solid.Flipping over to the lower bit, it has serious bite compressions and the button lip has been chewed.  I take a starting picture before using the flame technique to raise the compressed vulcanite.  I use a Bic lighter to paint the area with flame and as the vulcanite heats it expands and reclaims the original position of the stem – or at least in theory.After painting with the flame, there isn’t a substantive change in the compressions.  Using a medium thick black CA glue, I apply glue to the bit filling the compressed areas.  I also apply the glue to the button lip edge and put the stem aside for the glue to cure.With so much attention drawn to the challenges of the stem – obstruction, cracked button to repair and compressions, it’s been awhile since the stummel was in view.  Returning now to the regular rhythm of the restoration, with the stem put to the side, I now turn to cleaning the stummel.  There is no cake build up in the chamber and to clean the briar I use a piece of 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber.Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, I scrub the stummel using cotton pads.  The gunk on the rim comes off easily.  Then, taking the stummel to the sink, I rinse it with warm tap water.  Continuing the cleaning in the mortise and airway, I use shank brushes with a bit of anti-oil dish soap and scrub the internals.  After a thorough rinsing, I bring the stummel back to the worktable.I continue the internal cleaning using pipe cleaners, cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  A dental spoon assists in scraping oils and tar build-up off the sides of the mortise.  After some effort, the pipe cleaners and buds start to lighten, and I call it clean for now.  I’ll continue later with a kosher salt and alcohol soak to clean further.Looking at the external briar surface, I identified earlier a couple pits that need filling.  I use a dental probe to clean out the pits before filling. After wiping the surface with alcohol to clean, I go to work mixing briar dust and BSI Extra Thick CA Glue.  I do the mixing on an index card after covering a patch with scotch tape.  I use the tape to keep the moisture of the glue from being absorbed into the card stock. After putting a small mound of briar dust on the tape, I add a small puddle of CA glue next to it.  Using the toothpick as my stirrer and trowel, I pull small amounts of the briar dust into the puddle and stir with the toothpick as I go.  After the putty begins to thicken – about the consistency of molasses, I trowel the putty with the toothpick to fill the pits. The end of the toothpick is used to knead the putty before it begins to harden which hopefully minimizes air bubbles from being trapped.   I put the stummel aside for some hours for the putty patches to cure. The black CA glue filling the lower bit tooth compressions has cured.Using a flat needle file, I file carefully and gently remove the excess patch material and to form the button lip.After the file brings the patch material down to the stem surface, I sand using 240 grade paper to remove more patch material and to smooth.  I like the results.There are ripple marks in the vulcanite on the lower side at the bend.  These ripples developed when I re-bent the stem after clearing the airway obstruction.  I expand the sanding to smooth this area as well as the upper side of the stem. First, 240 grade paper is employed then following with 470 grade over the entire stem. Finally, I wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper.  Throughout the sanding process, I’ve avoided sanding the ‘BC’ stamping on the stem, which is already ghosting.  I follow the 600 grade paper with 0000 steel wool over the entire stem.  The repairs on the upper and lower bit are looking good.  I’m hopeful!The slot is rough.  A pointed, rounded needle file does a good job smoothing the slot edges.  Following the file, 240 grade paper finishes the edges well.The briar putty filling the pits on the stummel have cured.  Before sanding these, earlier, along with the pits, one dent was detected on the fore of the stummel.  I take another look at it before powering my wife’s iron.  Wood is porous and has sponge-like characteristics when exposed to heat and moisture.  To draw out the dent, I use the heat of the iron while pressing it on a wetted cloth against the dent – I use a cotton handkerchief, to ‘steam’ the dent.  I have been amazed how this has helped with previous restorations.  I take a close-up to show the dent with the help of the arrows.  I’ll use this picture to compare with the ‘after’ steaming picture. The procedure worked. The dent is gone as hoped!  Moving on.Next, using a flat needle file and following with 240 grade sanding paper, I go to work removing the excess briar putty on the 3 patches.  For each, I first apply the file over the patches by filing them down very close to the briar surface without slipping off the patches and causing collateral damage to the surrounding briar.  I then use 240 paper to bring the patch flush with the briar surface.  The pictures show the progress with each patch. The rim cleaned up nicely before but a residual ring of darkened briar on the internal edge of the rim from mild charring.Using 240 sanding paper, I gently sand the rim and I go with the slight internal beveling to remove the darkened briar.  I follow the 240 sanding with a quick 600 grit sanding.  The results look good.  The sanding does not impact the patina.To clean the briar surface further of minor nicks and scratching, I employ 3 sanding sponges – coarse, medium and light grade sponges.  I like using sanding sponges as they are gentler and are not as invasive as regular sanding papers.  After using each in succession, the briar surface looks good and the grain is emerging with nice bird’s eye patterns.From the sanding sponges, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is used by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The pictures show the progression. Before proceeding further with the external briar surface conditioning, the internal cleaning is continued using the kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This not only cleans the internal briar more but freshens the pipe for the new steward.  Using a cotton ball, I pull and twist the cotton to form a wick to insert into the mortise and airway.  This ‘wick’ serves to draw the oils and tars out of the internal walls.I use a stiff piece of hanger wire to help guide the wick down through the airway. After the wick is in place, I fill the bowl with kosher salt which has no after taste and place the stummel in an egg carton for stability.  Next, using a large eye dropper, the bowl is filled with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes when the alcohol has been absorbed, the bowl is topped off once more.  I put the stummel aside for several hours allowing the soak to do its thing.With the stummel on the sidelines, attention is turned to the stem to apply the full regimen of micromesh pads.  Before starting, to guard against over-zealousness in sanding, a small piece of masking tape is cut and covers the ghosted ‘BC’ stem stamping.  The Butz Choquin stamp is on its last legs and I do not wish to add to its deteriorated condition!  Next, using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem.  Following this, using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000, I dry sand.  Between each set of three pads Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem which aids in rejuvenating the vulcanite. After several hours, the kosher salt and alcohol soak resulted in soiled salt and wick.  I toss the expended salt in the waste and wipe the chamber with a paper towel as well as blow through the mortise to remove salt crystals.  To make sure the internals are clean, I run a few more cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the mortise and airway and all looks good.  Moving on.Next, with the cleaning complete, Before & After Restoration Balm is applied to the stummel by putting some on my fingers and rubbing it in to the briar surface.  I like the Balm because it brings out the subtle hues of the natural briar.  The Balm begins with a cream-like consistency and gradually thickens as it is massaged into the briar.  After applying the Balm, the stummel is set aside for about 15 or 20 minutes while the Balm is absorbed.  I take a picture during this state.  Following this, using a cloth I wipe the excess Balm away and buff the stummel with a microfiber cloth.  With the B&A Restoration process completed, I reunite Butz Choquin Festival stem and stummel and after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, setting speed at 40% of full power, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the pipe.  When I finish, using a felt cloth I buff the pipe to remove the compound dust before applying the wax.  After applying the Blue Diamond, I take a closer look at the stem repair on the button and I’m not satisfied with what I’m seeing.  The button lip where the crack was repaired is not smooth.  I use a dental probe to test the seam of the repair and the piece of the button I tried to salvage pops off.  Well, the button repair was not successful and I’m glad that I discover this before shipping it off to a new steward!  I take a picture to show the break and new challenge.My second approach to repairing this button will be to mix activated charcoal and Extra Thick CA glue to form a patch material.  I first clean the area with alcohol then form an insert made from index card stock.  I form a cone with a pipe cleaner inserted through it.  The end of the cone is covered with scotch tape and I coat it with a small amount of petroleum jelly to prevent sticking with the CA glue.  The cone inserts into the open slot with the pipe cleaner in the airway.Next, I mix activated charcoal and Extra Thick CA glue.  I first cover a piece of index card with scotch tape so that the glue is not absorbed into the card stock.  After putting a small mound of charcoal on the card, I then put a small puddle of CA glue next to the charcoal.  Using a toothpick, I pull charcoal dust into the glue and mix as I go.  To thicken the patch material, I draw more charcoal into the mixture.  When it is about the thickness of molasses, I trowel the patch material with the toothpick and apply it to the bit. I fill the slot cavity and cover the entire button lip.  I do this to provide the foundation for filing and shaping a new button.  After applying the patch material, I set the stem aside, turn out the light and leave it to cure through the night.The next morning, with a little jiggling, the card stock wedge comes out of the slot.The view toward the ‘raw’ end of the stem.Using a flat needle file, the excess is first removed from the end of the stem and then the file is used to shape the rebuilt button.  The change in the work surface reveals that I’m enjoying a sunny day on our 10th floor balcony which I call my ‘Man Cave’.  First a picture of me enjoying a bowl while I work!  After filing to shape the button and slot, I use 240 grade paper to smooth further and remove excess patch material.After the 240 paper, I use in succession, 470, 600 and 000 steel wool to work on the surface. As I sand and smooth the area, the pits emerge which is irritating! I continue to try to figure out how to minimize the air pockets that always emerge after using the CA glue and activated charcoal patch pictured below. To remedy this, I use a regular, thin CA glue to fill the pits by painting the area with a thin film of glue using a toothpick.  After applying the CA glue, I put the stem aside to cure. To remove the excess CA glue, in succession I apply 470, 600 grade papers and 000 steel wool.Next, as before, I apply to the bit area the full 9 micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 by first wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 and dry sanding from 3200 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil between each set of three.I again apply Blue Diamond compound to the button and bit.  I shine up the stinger that came with the pipe with steel wool and replace it in the tenon.  After reuniting stem and stummel and changing the buffing wheel again to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, maintaining the same speed, I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to stem and stummel.  To complete the restoration, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

This BC Festival Bent Billiard is a beautiful pipe.  The full Bent Billiard shape has a nice balance and settles well in the hand.  The grain is appealing with a serious patch of bird’s eye covering much of the bowl.  The challenges with the stem obstruction, leading to a friendly fire cracked button was not in the plan!  Yet, the repair is completed, and this French Butz Choquin Festival is ready for a new steward.  Michael will have the first opportunity to secure the BC Festival from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting our work here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

Restoring a French Made Butz Choquin Camargue 1310 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table Jeff picked up at an antique shop near his home in Idaho. It is a Butz Choquin Made in France pipe. On one side is written Butz Choquin over Camargue. On the other side St. Claude is arched over France with the shape number 1310 under that. On the horn coloured Lucite shank extension are the initials BC in a clear acrylic insert. The military bit stem is vulcanite and has a slight bend in it. It is lightly oxidized and there are deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button and wear on the button on the underside. There are also some dents on the top and underside near the bend. The smooth finish is very dirty and dusty. The rim top has a thin coat of lava near the back side. The bowl has a thick cake that flows onto the back of the bowl rim. It is hard to know if the inner edge of the rim is in good condition because of the lava and cake. The outer edge looks very good. Jeff took the following photos before he started his clean up. Jeff took a photo of the rim top and bowl. You can see the lava on the back side of the rim that obscures the condition of the rim edge. You can see the condition of the bowl as well in the photo.He took photos of the heel and the sides of the bowl to give a clear picture of the remarkable grain on this beautiful pipe.The next photo is a bit of a mystery to me… there is clearly a crack shown in the photo of the somewhere on the bowl. The problem is that it is not clear where it is on the bowl in the photo. Is it the heel or a side or…? I will have to go over the bowl with a light and a lens to hunt for it as I restore the pipe. It should be easy to repair once I find it!The next two photos capture the stamping on the left and right side of the shank. The third photo shows the BC logo on the horn coloured Lucite shank extension. The stamping on the left side reads Butz Choquin at an angle up the shank toward the shank end and underneath it is stamped Camargue. The other side is stamped with the St. Claude, France stamp and the shape number 1310. The last two before photos show the condition of the stem. You can see the tooth marks on both sides of the stem along the length of the stem. You can also see the calcification and oxidation on the stem. It is dirty but very repairable.When the pipe arrived it was my turn to do my part of the restoration work. Jeff 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 rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. There was still some darkening to the rim top toward the back of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. Both the inner edge of the rim look good. There was some damage on the front outer edge. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The light tooth chatter is hard to see but I should be able to sand it out quite easily. The tooth marks on the top and underside and the scratching and gouges will take a little more work to remove. The damage to the button top on the underside is also going to take some work.I also took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out. The Camargue stamp is quite faint. To clean up the rim top damage and minimize the roughness on the front outer edge I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I did not have to do too much topping as the damage was not too extreme.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. It was during this process that I found the crack. It is on the right side of the bowl toward the back. I have circled it in red to highlight it. Now that I had found the crack and checked that it was not deep and not on the inside of the bowl it was time to address it. I drilled the ends of the crack with a microdrill bit to stop the crack from spreading. I filled in the pin holes and the crack surface with clear super glue. I spread some briar dust on the top of the repaired areas and pressed it into the drill holes with a dental spatula. I set it aside to cure. Once the repair cured I sanded it smooth with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I started the polishing process with 400 grit sandpaper. I polished the area with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and wiped the area down with alcohol.I restained the pipe with a Tan aniline stain to blend the repaired areas into the rest of the finish. Sometimes it pays to stain the entirety of a bowl rather than fuss with trying to match an area this large into the rest of the surrounding briar. I flamed and stained and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage. I set the bowl aside to dry.I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to remove thick overcoat of stain. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the stain coat coverage. I followed that by wet sanding it with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to even out the coverage of stain across the bowl sides and over the repaired crack. I have really come to appreciate many of Mark Hoover’s Before & After Products. One of my favourites is his Restoration Balm. I worked some of the Balm into the finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let it sit for a short time and buffed it off with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the pipe take on a rich glow. I set the finished bowl aside and turned to address the issues with the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks and nicks in the stem surface and button with clear super glue. I set it aside to cure. Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to smooth out the repairs and then a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. After the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry.  I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem with multiple coats of Carnauba Wax. I buffed the bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad until there was a rich shine then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This Butz Choquin Camargue Bent Billiard with a faux horn acrylic shank extension is a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out while hiding the repaired cracks. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful bent billiard that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be putting this beauty on the rebornpipes online store soon. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

Underneath the grime was a Beautiful Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Flamme


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue came from a group of pipes Jeff and I purchased from a fellow in Florida who was selling out his collection as he no longer smoked a pipe. The pipe is a beautiful Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Flamme pipe. It is a flat bottom sitter with a square shank and a very uniquely shaped bowl. The entire pipe had some beautiful flame grain around the bowl and birdseye grain on bottom and top of the shank. The rim top was covered with a thick tar and lava coat that even went down the sides of the bowl. The pipe was filthy. But underneath I could see that the carver had done an amazing job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Butz Choquin over Maitre Pipier over Flame. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Fait Main over St. Claude France. The stem is vulcanite and has the inset BC circle on the left side of the saddle. It is a uniquely fit saddle stem.

Jeff took some photos of the pipe when he received them to show the general condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The pipes from this collection were all very dirty and well used. The finish was covered with a thick coat of grime and tars. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lots of lava overflowing onto the rim top. It was hard to know if the edges of the bowl were damaged or not because of the cake and lava. The stem is dirty but it was in remarkably good condition under the grime. There were light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem at the button edge. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of the pipe before clean up. Jeff took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. There was a thick coat of lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. It shows the mess this pipe was in when we received it. The thick lava overflow on the rim top made it hard to know what the inner edges of the bowl looked like. It looked like there maybe some damage on the back inner edge toward the left side making the bowl out of round. The outer edges actually appeared to be in excellent condition.He also took a series of photos of the sides of the bowl and shank to show the straight grain around the bowl. The finish has a lot of grime and thick layers of tars on the surface. It is very dirty but the grain is visible in the photo. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the left and right sides of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and legible. The left side of the saddle stem has the typical inlaid BC in acrylic. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the tooth chatter on both sides near the button. The stem is dirty and is lightly oxidized. I have worked on another Maitre Pipier not too long ago and wrote up a blog on it. It was a nice looking Calabash (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/14/a-butz-choquin-maitre-pipier-hand-made-calabash/). On that blog I included some overall information on the brand and I will repeat it here to set the stage.

Butz Choquin was a brand that I was familiar with having worked on quite a few of them over the years. I decided to check on a few sites to refresh the memory of the brand. I turned first to Pipephil and as usual the site gives a great summary (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). I quote:

The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin Site officiel Butz Choquin, pipes de Saint-Claude jura. BC pipe de bruyere luxe is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).

I also found the line of Fait Main Maitre Pipier pipes listed. The pipe I am working on is stamped the same way as the one in the screen capture below. The shape is different but the rest is the same. The capture has a small paragraph on the line that reads as follows: Pipes of the “Maitre Pipier” séries were crafted by Paul Lanier until he retired and after him by Alain Albuisson. I turned then to Pipedia to see what I could find out there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin). I quote the article in its entirety as it gives a clear history.

The pipe, from Metz to Saint-Claude. Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.

In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.

In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of . In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called “the world capital of the briar pipe,” under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.

In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.

Jeff did an amazing clean up job on the pipe. When it arrived here in Vancouver it did not look at all like the same pipe we purchased. It is a beauty. Jeff 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 rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl of the pipe. He rinsed it off under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. There was still some shiny varnish spots on the shank and bowl so he wiped it down with acetone to remove the remnants of the old finish. He was able to remove all of the lava build up on the rim top of the pipe. The rim top looked really good with no damage to the edges of the bowl or the top. The flame grain stood out on the clean pipe. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and was able to remove the oxidation. The pipe looked very good. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started my restoration of the pipe. The rim top was clean but had some darkening on the surface at the back of the bowl. There was also some burn damage to the inner edge of the rim confirming my suspicions about it being out of round. The stem was quite clean with some light tooth marks on the top and underside near the button.I started the process of the restoration by working on the bowl. I polished the briar with 2400-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the rim top down with a damp cloth after each pad. I found that with each successive grit of micromesh the grain on the bowl and shank sides stood out more and gave a shine to the pipe. I liked what I saw when I looked at it. I stained the top of the bowl to match the rest of the bowl. I used a Maple stain pen and set it aside to dry.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I worked on it to remove the burn damage and to try to bring the bowl back into round.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar and the plateau with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I buffed the rim top with a shoe brush to make sure that the nooks and crannies had the conditioner deep in them. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the darkening is gone. The finish looks very good with the rich oil finish on the bowl and rim. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out tooth chatter and light tooth marks. I polished the surface of the whole stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I continued to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Now with both parts of the pipe finished, I polished stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain came alive with the buffing. The rich medium brown finish on the briar works well with the polished, square, black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 7/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly and can be added to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this Hand Made Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Flamme pipe.

A Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Hand Made Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is a beautiful hand made Butz Choquin Calabash with both a rusticated and smooth finish. The cap and a patch on the left side of the bowl are rusticated while the rest is smooth. There is a horn shank extension that sets off the bowl from the black vulcanite stem. It came to my brother and me in the lot that included a pipe cabinet and 21 pipes. The finish is a rich brown with black undertones and the rustication shows black in the grooves and valley while the high spots are brown. The left side of the shank is stamped Butz Choquin ovwe Maitre Pipier and the right side is stamped Fait Main over St Claude France. It is a unique piece like many of those in this lot. It is on set out in front of the cabinet’s first shelf, the first pipe from the left in the photo below. I have circled it in red to make it easier to identify.The finish on the pipe is dirty but looks good under the grime. I look forward to seeing it cleaned. There is a thick cake in the bowl and a lava overflow onto the rustication on the rim top. Both the inner and outer edges of the rim appear to be in good condition but because of the cake and tars it is hard to know what the inner edge looks like. Jeff took photos of the pipe before cleaning it. The photos give a pretty clear picture of the shape of the pipe and its general condition when we received it.Jeff took some photos of the bowl/rim top and the sides and bottom of the bowl to give and idea of the condition and the shape. The rustication pattern on the rim top is filled in with lava on the back and left side with dust and grime the rest of the way around the bowl. The cake is very thick. The rest of the photos show the condition of the rest of the bowl. It is a beautifully finished pipe with contrast stains of blacks and medium brown. They work well with the horn shank extension and the pattern of the rustication on the rim and left side of the bowl. He also took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank. The left side was clear and readable. It read Butz Choquin over Maitre Pipier. On the right side of the shank it was stamped Fait Main over St. Claude France, though Jeff did not include that photo. There was a clear circle on the left side of the stem that generally held a BC inside the epoxy but this one is empty.The stem had some deep scratching in the surface ahead of the button and some small tooth marks next to the button. There was also wear on the sharp edge of the button.Butz Choquin was a brand that I was familiar with having worked on quite a few of them over the years. I decided to check on a few sites to refresh the memory of the brand. I turned first to Pipephil and as usual the site gives a great summary. (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). I quote:

The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin Site officiel Butz Choquin, pipes de Saint-Claude jura. BC pipe de bruyere luxe is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).

I also found the line of Fait Main Maitre Pipier pipes listed. The pipe I am working on is stamped the same way as the one in the screen capture below. The shape is different but the rest is the same. The capture has a small paragraph on the line that reads as follows: Pipes of the “Maitre Pipier” séries were crafted by Paul Lanier until he retired and after him by Alain Albuisson. I turned then to Pipedia to see what I could find out there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin). I quote the article in its entirety as it gives a clear history.

The pipe, from Metz to Saint-Claude. Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.

In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.

In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of . In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called “the world capital of the briar pipe,” under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.

In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.

Jeff 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 rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl of the pipe. He rinsed it off under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove all of the lava build up on the rim top of the pipe. The rim top looked really good with no damage to the edges of the bowl or the top. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show how clean the top came out after Jeff worked it over. The outer edge and inner edges are clean and undamaged. The stem photos show some light tooth marks and chatter on the surface on both sides.I took photos of the stamping to document what it looked like at this point in our cleanup process. You can also see some of the fills in the bowl and shank.With the rim top and bowl looking so good after Jeff’s cleanup work this pipe did not need any work on the briar. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the smooth and rusticated briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rusticated patch on the left side of the bowl and the rim top look really good. The smooth finish has a great contrasting stain and looks very good. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the tooth chatter and marks on the stem with 220 grit and 400 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface. I took a photo of the left side of the stem to show the missing BC inside the clear insert.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad.  I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This beautiful calabash with the rusticated cap and the patch on the left of the bowl was truly stunning. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the smooth parts of the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand waxed the rusticated patch and cap with Conservator’s wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrasting black and brown stain made the grain come alive with the buffing. It looked very good with the horn shank extension and the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 5/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2  inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. I will be putting this beautiful briar calabash on the rebornpipes online store soon. It may well the kind of unique pipe you have been looking for so have a look. Thanks for walking through this restoration with me.

Reshaping the stem on a Butz-Choquin Maitre-Pipier Deluxe Special


Blog by Steve Laug

A friend on Facebook reached out to me to see if I would have a look at a pipe he picked up off EBay. It was a Butz-Choquin pipe that was stamped on the left side of the shank Butz-Choquin over Maitre-Pipier over Deluxe over Special. On the right side it was stamped Fait Main over St. Claude France. It had a canted egg shape to it and a square shank. It had an orange acrylic shank extension – lots of undulating oranges. There was an inset BC logo in the shank extension. It was rounded on one end and set up for a military style bit. The bit itself was a freehand style. The pipe had been cleaned up nicely. What he wanted was to have me have a look at the rim top to see if I could remove some of the damage and at the stem to see if I could build up the button. When it arrived I took a few photos to capture the look and feel of this handmade pipe. I took a picture of the rim top to show the condition that he had asked me to deal with for him. It did have some significant darkening and the closer I looked at it I could also see that there appeared to be a groove around the bottom inside of the bowl. I also took photos of the stem to show the condition of the button. It was worn and ill-defined.I started working on the pipe by cleaning up the darkening on the rim top with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to clean off much of the darkening and leave the rim top looking much better.I cleaned up the inside of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and was able to remove what had appeared to be a groove around the bottom of the bowl. It turned out to be a cake that had been left behind when the pipe had been reamed originally. I wrapped a piece of 220 grit sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the walls of the bowl to smooth them out.I rubbed down the smooth briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the bowl. I worked it into the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let it sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim looks much better than when I started but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. I built up the surface of the button with black super glue. I layered it repeatedly until the surface was thicker. I defined the edge of the button with a needle file and sanded it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the file marks. I layered more on the surface and sanded it smooth. I took the following photos to show the progress.I worked on the button to smooth out the surfaces and shape it more finely. I used 220 grit sandpaper to do the shaping. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil after each grit pad. I gave it a final polish with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to remove the minute scratches that remained. I gave it a last coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to let it dry. I the polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. I am hoping the owner will be pleased with the redefined button on the stem and the cleaned up rim top. I think it came out beautifully. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked this interesting handmade Butz-Choquin canted egg. It will soon be heading back to its owner in New York. Thanks for looking.