Tag Archives: Butz Choquin Pipes

A True Test – A Cracked Acrylic Ferrule and Shank Break to Restore a Rusticated Butz-Choquin Costaud 1597


Blog by Dal Stanton

This Butz-Choquin Costaud came to me from the auction block in January of 2017 as one in a Lot of 13 pipes from a seller in Nevada.  Several of these pipes have already found their way to new stewards who found them in online ‘Help Me!’ baskets in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection.  It was in the ‘Dreamers’ section that Craig spied the BC Costaud 1597 and reached out to me about commissioning the BC.  The BC Costaud is at the 12 o’clock position in the picture below.

I was interested to find out from Craig later that he lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I also met a young woman at Covenant College atop Lookout Mountain, who in time, became my wife – I married up!  Few in the US haven’t seen signs, bird houses and barn sides with the famous, ‘See Rock City’ or ‘Ruby Falls’ both of which are located on Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga.  I was interested to hear that Craig was also an automotive engineer at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and along with enjoying pipes he races cars on the weekends!  I appreciate Craig’s patience and the pipe he commissioned is now on the worktable.  Here are some pictures of the attractive Butz-Choquin Costaud:   The nomenclature is stamped on the underside shank panel.  The chiseled cursive, ‘Butz-Choquin’ is stamped over ‘Costaud’.  Below this is stamped a very ghosted, ‘ST. CLAUDE-FRANCE’.  A quick look in Google Translate renders ‘Costaud’ as ‘Strong’ in English.  I liked the other adjectival renderings offered: beefy, hefty, husky, and strapping.  The pipe’s deep, rustic, carved style fits this name.If one does a quick search of the BC Costaud line, one discovers quickly that this line was offered by the French pipe maker in many different shapes and each with the very distinctive carved rustication and the same acrylic shank cap.  Here are a few examples from the search results.  The shape number is listed in a picture of BC pipes in the Pipedia Butz-Choquin article.  The 1597 is an attractive, stout square shanked paneled Billiard with a saddle stem friction mounted.  The only difference in the general 1597 shape with the Costaud is that the Costaud’s stem is a friction mounted fishtail.Looking at the condition of the BC Costaud, the obvious elephant in the room is the cracked acrylic ferrule or shank cap.  The crack appears to be a trauma that opened on the left side of the cap and followed the bottom of the ‘BC’ stamping perfectly.  My guess is that the break was caused by the stem hanging on something and the force on the acrylic snapped it.  It is only on the left side and I want to keep it that way!Craig commissioned a striking pipe.  The cracked acrylic ferrule gets the attention quickly and overshadows other issues.  The chamber needs to be cleaned of the cake buildup and the rusticated rim has blackened lava overflow that needs cleaning.  The rusticated stummel is eye catching but needs cleaning in the deep crooks and crevasses of the briar surface.  The fishtail stem has light oxidation and tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit. To begin the restoration of this Butz-Choquin Costaud, I start with the fishtail stem.  The airway is cleaned using a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99%.To begin working on the light oxidation in the vulcanite stem, 0000 grade steel wool scrubs the surface with Soft Scrub.  I do this in preparation of putting the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer.Next, after rinsing the stem with water, the Fishtail is put in the Deoxidizer with other pipes in the queue.  The stem is left in the Deoxidizer for several hours.After the stem has soaked for some time, a stiff wire helps to fish out the Fishtail stem and drain the excess Deoxidizer.  I also squeegee the fluid off the stem using my fingers.A pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99% is run through the airway to push out the fluid and to clean.  I cotton pad wetted with alcohol is used to wipe off the raised oxidation from the stem surface.Finally, to help condition the vulcanite, paraffin oil, a mineral oil, is applied to the vulcanite rubber stem.  The stem is then put to the side to absorb the oil.Before going through the process of cleaning the stummel, I decide to move forward with repairing the acrylic ferrule.  I’m doing this first because what often is the case is that during the cleaning process, which uses water, the briar wood in the mortise expands.  I don’t know for certain if this would be the case with the shank during the cleaning process, but I would rather repair the shank cap now than risk a more difficult fix because of a changed environment.  The cap has separated or moved down the shank.  The result is that there is a large gap between the external shank edge and the acrylic shank cap. The first thing needed is to remove the shank cap from the shank.  I need to be careful because I don’t want to put too much pressure on the acrylic as I’m trying to remove it.  I don’t know if old glue used when the cap was originally seated may be hindering an easy removal.  My first attempts to pull and then hand-twist the cap off were unsuccessful.  It feels like it’s glued – no movement at all.  The next thing I try is to wedge first a flat dental spoon into the gap and gingerly try to pry loose the acrylic cap.  Next, the sharp edge of a pocketknife was wedged into the gap to apply gentle even pressure to break the cap loose.  This was not easy avoiding damage to the briar shank and further carnage to the shank cap!As I puzzle and pull and puzzle more, another mystery is birthed.  With the gap between the briar and acrylic, my assumption is that the cap has partially become unseated – perhaps someone was trying to remove it and that caused the acrylic to break?  I would guess that there would also be a gap internally – between the acrylic and the beginning of the briar mortise.  To test my assumption on a second gap, a sharp dental probe is inserted into the mortise and the internal surface is scraped with the point I am expecting to detect another gap indicating that the ferrule had shifted down.  I find no internal gap.  The surface between briar and acrylic is smooth.  This is important because I had been thinking, if I’m unable safely to remove the shank cap then I could try to reseat the shank cap by pressing it back into place on the shank and doing my best to close the gap from the acrylic break.  Yet, if there is no internal gap, there’s no room for any movement of the shank cap to be reseated flush with the shank.  It’s hard to believe a BC pipe left the Saint Claude workshop with a gap that large between the cap and the briar shank….  Three ideas begin to float in my mind  regarding removal of the ferrule.  First, to put the stummel in the freezer.  This is a general method of unsticking things that are stuck.  When the material cools, it contracts and often loosens stuck things.  The second idea, if the freezer method doesn’t help, is to drip some acetone in the gap and the crack.  If the shank cap is stuck because of being glued, acetone can help break down the glue.  This might help, but I’m doubtful.  The third idea is that the acrylic could be heated with a hot air gun and made more pliable – like vulcanite.  This might avoid another break.

First, into the freezer and we’ll see what happens.  Well, the next morning arrived and I was hopeful that the shank cap would break free after cooling and contracting.  To keep the cap stable, I wrap it in a felt cloth and put it in the vice with a gentle snugness.  With the stummel extended, I very gingerly apply a twisting pressure on the shank with hope that the acrylic cap will break free.  Much to my chagrin, the cap did not break free but instead the wood shank insert broke off.  Oh my….  I look at the following pictures of the carnage as one is often drawn to look at a car crash on the interstate…. What to do?  After recovering from the initial nauseated feeling, my first thoughts were to drill out the wood inside the now freed shank cap, to repair the acrylic crack and then figure out the next step.  It did not take long after these initial thoughts to realize I needed to reach out to Steve with pictures to get his feedback and direction – the Sage of rebornpipes!  I recall writing a few years ago in the ‘Helps for Newbies’ section of The Pipe Steward website, that mistakes often are the best way to learn and recording mistakes or mishaps in the writeups helps others and expands one’s abilities in the pipe restoration world.  I have not tackled anything like this before, so the opportunities are there to learn!  Recording the troubleshooting thought processes I believe, are helpful to learn as well.  Here is my initial email to Steve with the above pictures outlining the challenges as I saw it:

Hey Steve,

Ran into a bit of a snag and need your advice.  This pipe came to me with the cracked acrylic shank cap.  My attempts to remove it from the shank obviously failed with me breaking off the briar portion inserted into the cap.  Now I’m looking at cleaning out the wood glued in the cap and setting an insert into the shank that will form the new ‘post’ for the cap.  This is something I’ve not done before and reaching out to you and Charles was the first step.  Of course, I need to clean the wood out of the cap and close and repair the cap.  To connect –  I have the acrylic or Delrin(?) push/pull tenons on hand, but that doesn’t seem like the right configuration.  I know that you and Charles have used Delrin – but I’m not sure what this process is.  Another thought is to take an old stem and flatten the shank facing and counter sink holes in the briar to seat a new mount of sorts for the cap….  Any thoughts to steer me in the right direction – an old write up?  Thanks!

Dal

Steve’s response came quickly:

Not sure what Charles would do but my process is simple.

  1. DO NOT Clean out the wood from the shank extension.
  2. I would take one of your tenons and shape it with your dremel to provide a tube or you can use stainless.
  3. Once you have that glue it in the shank end and let it set.
  4. Give the extending end a coat of glue (epoxy probably is best.)
  5. Put glue on the cracked ends and clamp it together and let it cure
  6. Fill in the split in the extension with super glue. Once it is filled in smooth out the shank extension and reshape it

    Steve

My response and further questions to hone in on a path forward:

Thanks, Steve.  So, you would NOT remove the wood in the shank cap to try to close the acrylic crack gap?  Also, there’s a gap between the extension and the shank before I broke it.  You would leave that??  Essentially, you would not have tried removing the cap to do these repairs.  I’m not sure how the cap would have come off cleanly having been glued on.  Fill the acrylic crack and leave the gap?

Dal

I appreciate Steve’s experience which provides an important component in dealing with the myriad of problems and possibilities that are ‘part and parcel’ of pipe restoration: improvisation.  With more information and thought, Steve was able to help me bring into focus the options:

Dal…. one thought since you mentioned the gap is to flatten out the broken piece on the shank and extension to smooth out the fit to the shank.

If you want to try to bind the crack in the shank extension since it is already off you could drill out the wood and try gluing and clamping the cracked shank extension.

On the Danish ones with the joint is typically done with a threaded tenon in the shank and the piece can be wiggled free and unscrewed… This did not allow for that.

As something completely different you could take a nice piece of smooth hardwood (walnut) and make a similar piece drill and anchor it to the shank as noted before. That would look really good and be your own touch.

My thought processes continue – I had already contemplated flattening the shank facing to remove that gap as Steve suggests.  The last option that Steve put forward of fashioning a piece of walnut or another hardwood and seating it into the shank would probably be the classiest repair but I’m not sure my tools are precision enough to drill out the shank to create the counter sink space for the hardwood ‘plug’.  Steve also mentioned removing the wood from the cap and repairing the acrylic gap, which was my first inclination.  This approach would also necessitate then, fashioning a wood plug to then seat the friction mounted Fishtail stem.

The bottom line is that I cannot suffer leaving the acrylic break there and not try to repair it! – especially since this was the primary reason for trying to remove the cap in the first place.  With Steve’s input, the course that I will follow is to fashion a hardwood joint.  Whether I simply drill a counter-sink hole in the shank or attempt the Danish method of threading the joint, I will continue to consider.   I do have a tap & die set that I’ve never used, and this would be a great opportunity perhaps!  The question between these two approaches – counter-sink hole along or threaded – has to do with how much wiggle room there will be when cementing the joint in the shank making sure the cap seats flush against the shank facing and not again, leave gaps.  Whichever way I end up proceeding, the first step is to drill out the briar wood that remains in the cap.

To remove the briar remains from the shank cap, I begin the process with drill bits.  Using a bit just larger than will freely pass through the airway, I hand turn the bit to ream out the wood a little at a time.  I then graduate to two larger bits, hand turning and expanding the bite each time and removing a little more briar.I also used different burrs mounted on the rotary tool to fine tune the clearing.  The following picture is after quite a bit of time of gradually removing the briar without further damaging the shank cap.  You can see just a small amount of wood left against the acrylic lip marking the beginning of the mortise where the stem is seated.These next pictures show all the tools used for the mini-project and the finished job.  Success with the first phase. Next, the crack in the acrylic needs to be glued.  The acrylic shank cap is placed in a small desk vice cradled by two cotton pads to protect the acrylic. The vice will provide constant pressure to allow the CA glue to cure fully through the night.The cap is situated lower in the grips.  I do this so that the press of the vice will focus on the top of the cap to close the gap and not put pressure on the entire cap.I  use Loctite Precision Pen semi-gel CA glue to lay a line down the crack to avoid too much excess on the acrylic.  Then a toothpick is used to push down and spread the CA glue on the crack edge to get maximum coverage and hopefully, effect.The vice is then gently closed to close the gap.  I’m careful not to put too much pressure on the cap with the vice – I don’t want it to crack again!  The day has come to an end and the lights go out allowing the glue to fully cure through the night. The next morning, I am anxious to release the vice and hopefully, the acrylic cap won’t snap open!  As hoped, the cap repair is successful – yes! Next, 240 sanding paper is used to surgically remove the excess glue from the acrylic surface.  My caution is to do hopefully little damage to the ‘BC’ cap stamp removing the glue.  After beginning to remove the excess patch material sanding with 240 paper, I noticed a separation in the crack.  It seems that the extended time the acrylic cap was cracked, the acrylic was memorizing the expanded orientation.  The excess glue over the crack was serving as reinforcement for the patch and when removed, the patch faltered.I may need to transition from CA glue to using an epoxy.  While the patch is still half-way holding, the thought came to mind about possibly relieving the expanded memorized orientation by heating the acrylic.  The cap is positioned in the vice with the crack away from the hot air gun.  The opposite side of the crack needs to relax.  With the vice gently closed on the crack side, the opposite side is heated.  If the theory is correct, as the tight side of the cap heats, the acrylic becomes more supple and relax and hopefully will un-memorize the broken condition – like a splint.  After heating for some minutes, the cap cools.Amazingly, this works like a charm!  The gap has closed, and the expansion torque has been released.  I wish I had thought of this before applying the patch.  Now, I may need to redo the patch but the complication with that is cleaning away the old patch material.  I’ll continue sanding with 240 to remove the excess and see how it looks.I continue to remove the old patch material with 240 grade paper trying to salvage as much of the BC stamping as possible – though I know that it will not remain unscathed.  The good news now is that with the torque issue resolved, when the cap is mounted on a newly fashioned briar plug later, there should be no stress on the acrylic.  The cap will simply go over the plug like a glove and glued in place.  The mounting and the glue on the inside will again reinforce the patch.  So, the crack repair doesn’t necessarily need to be uber strong but becomes more of a cosmetic issue – in theory!The sanding with 240 paper is complete and I continue sanding over the patch with 600 grade paper and then 0000 grade steel wool.Next, the entire acrylic ferrule is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads – from 1500 to 12000.Putting the cap aside for now, I use a sanding drum mounted on the rotary tool to remove the excess briar protruding out of the shank after the break. Even though it’s a bit anti-climactic, before continuing with the shank repair, I want to clean the stummel first.  After the shank cap is remounted, the last thing I’ll want to do is backtrack and start cleaning!  The chamber has carbon cake build up and to give the briar a fresh start, the chamber is reamed with the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  After taking a fresh picture of the chamber, reaming starts with the smallest of the blade heads and then the next larger one.  After this, the chamber walls are scraped with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and then sanded with 240 sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for leverage. After wiping the bowl, and inspection of the chamber reveals healthy briar.Next, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used to scrub the rusticated stummel and rim surface.  The rim has some lava flow and the distinctively carved BC Costaud stummel will undoubtedly have grime and dirt in the cracks and crevasses. A bristled toothbrush is used to get in the nooks and crannies and a brass bristled brush also assists with cleaning the rim. The stummel then goes to the sink where shank brushes continue the cleaning in the mortise with warm to hot water using anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap.  After the stummel is thoroughly rinsed the results of the cleaning are examined.The rim cleaned to a degree.  There remains dark charring on the internal rim edge.The briar seems parched throughout the rusticated surface.  With this much carving, it’s difficult to tell if the finish has disappeared for the most part.  It does look a bit ragged.  The third picture below of the nomenclature on the underside of the stummel seems to indicate this is true with the splotchiness.  Before contemplating adding dye to the mix, I decide to apply Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel to see how the dry briar responds.  The Balm does amazing things to smooth briar and the rough surface on the Costaud bowl may perk up nicely.  To apply the Balm, I put Balm on my finger and work it into the crevasses.  I think this pipe has won the award for the most Balm needed to do the job!  After the Balm is thoroughly applied, I allow the stummel to sit for a time to allow the Balm to do its thing (pictured below).  When I have this ‘liquid gold’ (Mark’s price isn’t cheap 😊), none is wasted.  I grab a blasted billiard off my own pipe rack and work the excess Balm in.  There seems to be a smile on the Billiard’s face!After 15 minutes or so, the stummel is buffed with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm.  It takes a bit of work, but the bowl looks better; and for now, I will think about adding any additional coloring.  I move on. Earlier, the Fishtail stem went through a Before & After Deoxidizer soak.  The stem looks good with no apparent residual oxidation.  The upper and lower bit have tooth chatter, and the vulcanite surface is rough.  To address the chatter, I use a Bic lighter and paint the bit with the flame to heat and expand the rubber compound.  As the vulcanite heats, it also expands reclaiming its original disposition or at least in part.   The before and after pictures show the results.  This stem responded well which means that sanding will now be less. Next, the entire stem is sanded with 240 grade paper with a special focus on removing any residual roughness on the bit from tooth chatter.The 240 sanding is followed by wet sanding with 600 grade sanding paper and then 0000 grade steel wool is applied.Next, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is used starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following the wet sanding is dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil between each set of 3 pads to further condition the stem and to guard the vulcanite from developing oxidation. While restoring the stem, I’ve had more time to consider the next steps in the shank cap repair.  Since this is my maiden voyage doing this kind of repair, the brain has been ticking through the process one step at a time weighing the logical sequential steps. To get a frame of reference, I measure the width of the former joint or ‘plug’ and the corresponding internal width of the shank cap with the result of 7/16 inches or 11mm.  The standard airway is 3/16 inches, and this airway corresponds.The depth of the internal cavity of the shank cap where the joint plug would be seated is 9/16 inches or 15mm.  If this length were to be generally doubled to the depth of the countersink hole to be drilled into the shank, the total length of the joint would be about 1 1/8 inch or 30mm.In Steve’s earlier email, he suggested using walnut as the joint material or a hardwood of some sort.  I do not have walnut on hand, but I do have another hardwood – cherry.  The cherry wood is a flat piece serving as a shelf end on my worktable!  It used to be an extender of a cherry wood table that became my worktable!I cut a piece off the end of the piece which should give me enough ‘meat on the bone’ for a small margin of error in drilling the airway through the center.  I set the block of cherry in the table vice, and eyeball the drill hoping for the best!The exit hole is about 1/16 inch off center, but I think there’s enough margin to make this work.With the airway drilling ‘good enough’ for now, with enough excess cherry to make it work, the next step is to sand off the corners of the block to form the rough cylinder that will more easily mount on the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  To do this I use a sanding drum on the rotary tool.The following pictures show the corner-by-corner progression of rounding the block. This should do!  Progress! The closest thing in my tool chest to a lathe is the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool I acquired from Vermont Freehand.  I have only used the tool to fashion vulcanite tenons mainly for fashioning Churchwarden stems for repurposed bowls.  I’m hopeful that I can make the PIMO work for this application on cherry wood.  The challenge will be holding the wood firmly and having to do a flip-flop in order to cut both ends.  The reach of the carbide cutting arm is only 5/8 of an inch which means the joint for the Costaud will need to be reversed and cut from both sides to do the job.  The length of the joint now will mean that as I cut, a ‘donut’ of uncut wood will be left in the middle.  My thinking is that as I cut both sides to establish the drilled airway as the center axis point, then I can shorten the joint a bit to be able to remove the ‘donut’.  The key, as in most everything about pipe restoration, is patience in the shaping process.  The picture shows the flip-flop issue – the short reach of the cutting arm.The carbide cutter arm is adjusted to barely contact the cherry wood and tightened.  The target diameter is about 7/16 inches or 11mm – the diameter of the acrylic shank caps interior.After a few cuts and flip-flops, the anticipated donut is forming.I discovered that using a pair of pliers to hold the end of the joint work better than with my hand.After several more flip-flop cuts the donut is fully formed and the airway now is the center axis point. The ‘meat on the bone’ cherry wood, has equalized the slightly off centered airway drilling.  You can see in the picture below that the donut is almost flat/flush on the bottom side, but the top side is fat.  The cutting from the PIMO Tool stayed true to the center axis point and removed the uneven wood (or meat on the bones!) around it.As I mentioned above, at some point I would shorten the joint so that the donut could be removed.  That time is now.  30mm or 1 1/8 inches is about the target length of the needed joint (sorry for going back and forth between the metric and the standard systems! After living in Europe over 25 years the metric is more usable and precise to me!). With the mark made and after mounting the cutting blade onto the rotary tool, the excess is removed.  A few more cuts with the PIMO Tool and the donut is removed and now I am working with a uniform dimension.Flip-flop cuts continue until I’m down close to the width of 11mm.  I cut a test cut and measure.  The measurement is right at 11mm. I finish the cut after measuring and the fit is perfect in the shank cap.  It has a slight amount of wiggle room which is what I want to not put outward pressure on the repaired acrylic and to allow a little fudge factor when it is permanently attached later.The next step is to expand the joint airway to match the airway diameter of the Costaud.  That diameter measures 3/16 inches. I hand turn the drilling by gripping the drill bit end in the vice and turning the joint plug.  I start with a drill bit slightly larger than the current hole and turn.  It takes a bit of time to hand turn the drilling.  I carefully used pliers when the drill bit was advanced in the hole and became difficult to turn. It took 3 drill bits to arrive at the 3/16 inches.  Using metric drill bits too gave a half-step between sizes that made it a little easier between steps. The length of the joint is long now.  I’ll deal with that later after drilling the counter sink hole in the shank.  I’m nervous about this next step.  The diameter of the joint is a bit less than the diameter of the original looking at the shank, but I’m ok with this.  The picture below shows the narrowness of the outer shank structure.  I’ll stay a little bit more on the safe side as I drill a counter-sink hole.Starting with a drill bit that is a bit larger than the airway, the end of the bit is clamped in the vice and the stummel is rotated.  I hand turn the stummel allowing the bit to follow the airway’s path of least resistance.  The depth I’m aiming for is about 1/2 inch and I mark off drill bit with tape.  The most difficult part is starting the drill bit making sure it’s as straight as possible and avoiding wobbles.  Once the bit starts tracking down the airway it becomes easier.  Ten drill bits later, I reach a comfortable diameter as the counter-sink hole moves closer to the outer shank edge.  I haven’t cracked the shank yet and I want to keep it that way!  The hole is a bit small, but I transition to sanding the joint for custom fit. To sand down the shank side of the joint, a coarse 120 grade paper is used.  The paper is pinched around the joint and rotated.  This keeps the joint in round. In time the joint begins to make its way into the shank and finally about 1/2 inch is inserted.  Success!  The pipe cleaner confirms continuity through the airway. What a relief.The next step is to sand down the stem side of the joint so that the acrylic shank cap fits over the joint and is flush with the shank.  With the joint seated a half-inch in the shank, the picture shows the excess length – about 1/16 inch.A sanding drum is used to do this.  After mounting the sanding drum on the rotary tool, the end of the joint is gradually sanded down to a good length. The progress is checked along the way to make sure too much isn’t removed. The pictures show the alignment of the joint airway.  As I’m looking at the airway, I begin to think about how the military mount fishtail stem will fit into the shank cap.I size up the stem’s tenon with the now repaired shank cap opening and another puzzle unfolds but another puzzle is possibly solved.  The tenon simply does not fit.  Nor did it ever fit this shank cap.  The opening of the cap is 1/4 inch wide.  The tenon is 1/16 inch larger. I don’t believe the stem is the original BC Costaud stem but apparently a replacement stem that’s a good match, but had been previously used.  A quick look at the internet shows that this replacement stem looks BC authentic by comparing with other Costauds (LINK).  This is good news indeed.  The puzzle that is possibly solved now is the cause of the acrylic cap’s break – the original stem was lost, and the replacement stem was forced into the shank cap mortise without proper sizing and there just wasn’t enough room to accommodate the oversized tenon and the acrylic gave way.  After this possible scenario played out fully in my cerebral cinema the question that came to mind was, ‘Why didn’t I catch this earlier?’  The answer followed – when the acrylic crack was wide open, of course it fit!  After fixing the crack and closing the gap, my assumption of the stem fit was grandfathered in.   But looking back at earlier pictures, the stem was not fitting – the tenon was not fully engaged seated in the mortise.  This I HAD assumed, too.  This earlier picture shows that the tenon was simply hanging out on the entry lip of the acrylic cap, not seated in the briar mortise inside the cap.The pathway forward is to glue the joint in the shank making sure that it lines up with the acrylic cap.  After this the acrylic cap is permanently attached.  The mortise needs to be drilled out to be flush with the cap opening and deep enough to receive the tenon.  The tenon of the stem then needs to be custom resized to be able to friction mount the mortise so that the tenon facing is flush with the shank cap opening.

In seating the joint in the shank, it’s important that there’s a bit of play in the fitting so that the joint can be adjusted after the glue is applied.  To increase the hold of the CA glue, I use a burr to cut some channels in the joint. Thick CA glue is then applied around the base of the joint and then inserted into the shank counter-sink hole.  I use thick glue because thin CA glue is absorbed while thick spreads. I want the glue to spread fully around the joint.  While the glue is still pliable, the cap is mounted onto the joint to guide the orientation for the joint so that the airway is centered, and the shank cap is flush with the shank facing. I let the stummel sit for several hours to allow the joint’s position to become permanent as the CA glue fully cures. With the glue fully cured, seating the joint into the shank, the next step is to attach the acrylic cap.  Again, the joint is scored several times with the burr to increase the gripping of the CA glue.Thick CA glue is then applied around the joint and the shank cap is mounted onto the joint and while the glue is still pliable, I make sure the cap is lined up with the shank. Thankfully, the airway is centered in as well! To complete the structural issues, the replacement fishtail stem’s tenon needs to be properly sized to navigate safely the mortise.  To do this, the tenon diameter is decreased and the mortise is expanded to accommodate the resized tenon.  I use a coarse 120 grade sanding paper to sand down the tenon.  I do this by pinching the paper around the tenon and rotating the stem.The mortise is also expanded to match the diameter of the acrylic shank cap’s diameter.  A burr is carefully used to expand the mortise. To deepen the briar mortise – gradually, a drill bit is hand turned.The process was a dance between sanding the tenon to shape it and drill and smooth the mortise – testing a lot!  The goal is to seat the tenon so that the tenon facing is almost flush with the acrylic ferrule.  This picture shows a large gap between the tenon facing and the acrylic.After a lot of slow work, the tenon is seated without placing too much stress on the repaired acrylic shank cap.  The structural repair to the BC Costaud is done – I move on!What remains is now the cosmetic restoration – I am not finished yet!  The charred inner ring of the chamber needs to be cleaned. To do this, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the upper chamber edge. Looking again at the condition of the rusticated surface of the bowl, after applying the Before & After Restoration Balm earlier, I had hoped that that would be sufficient.  Looking now at the briar’s condition, it is apparent the finish is gone in places giving a light dried look.  The nomenclature panel on the underside shows an uneven splotched finish. The decision comes easily to apply a dye to refresh the stummel hue.  After wrapping the acrylic shank cap with painter’s tape, Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye is used.  To begin, the stummel is heated to help to absorb the dye.With the deep rusticated surface, I do not fire the aniline dye as I would with a smooth briar pipe because it would be difficult to remove the resulting crusted shell and the Red Tripoli compound used to remove the crust.  Instead, the stummel is simply painted with the dye using a pipe cleaner.  After the dye is thoroughly applied to the rough, crevassed surface, I let the stummel to rest through the night to set the dye.The next morning, a cotton pad wetted with alcohol and used to wipe down the newly dyed stummel to remove excess dye and to blend.   A microfiber cloth in then used to hand buff the stummel rigorously to remove additional excess dye.Next, with a clean felt wheel mounted on the rotary set at about 40% full power, the rustication is further buffed and cleaned of fresh dye.  The reason for all this buffing is to prevent dye from leaching after it’s put into service.  It’s difficult not to have some dye on the hand when the stummel is fired up the first time, but these steps help to minimize this leaching. Next, to create an attractive contrasting in the rusticated surface, the 1500 grade micromesh pad is employed to sand the peaks of the rusticated peaks.  This creates a reddish fleck contrasting that I like in a rusticated surface.Again, the surface is buffed up with the felt buffing wheel.One last effort to avoid dye leaching.  To emulate a bowl in service, the stummel is heated with the hot air gun and again buffed with the microfiber cloth to remove the leached dye.The home stretch – Using a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool set at 49% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stem, acrylic ferrule, and smooth briar shank underside.  Compound is not applied to the rusticated surface because it would clog the wood crevasses and be a bear to clean.  A felt cloth is used to wipe off the compound dust where applied.  Not pictured, after applying the Blue Diamond compound, another cotton cloth wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and carnauba wax is applied to the pipe.  The wax is very lightly applied to the rusticated surface with the speed of the rotary tool a bit faster – at about 60 full power.  I do this to create more heat which helps the wax to dissolve and not get stuck in the crevasses.  Using the rotary tool buffing wheel helps as well as the bowl is rotated around to allow the wheel to go with the valleys and contours. Wow!  This was perhaps the most involved restoration that I’ve done to date.  There were a lot of moving parts, processes and structural issues to resolve to put this pipe back into service.  I’m pleased with the results and the opportunity to learn some new techniques.  The rusticated surface of the Butz-Choquin Costaud is now the focus of this handsome, stout pipe – as it should be.  The rustic feel of the bowl looks great with the bright contrasting of the acrylic ferrule. The slightly bent stem adds a gentle class to the overall bold appearance of a gentlmen’s pipe. As the commissioner, Craig will have the first opportunity to acquire the Costaud from The Pipe Steward Store which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A Mobile Restoration at 10,804 Feet in the Colorado Mountains: A Butz-Choquin Régate, St. Claude 1275 Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

For those in the metric world, I am 3,293 meters above sea level here in skiing heaven, Keystone, Colorado.  One of the wonderful things about being based in Golden, Colorado, is that the Rocky Mountains are literally in our back yard!  With two of my children and their families along with us (that would total 5 grandchildren to dote on!), we’ve enjoyed God’s creation looking at mountain peaks, hiking through pristine countryside and enjoying family – the frosting on the cake.  I packed my mobile work desk, and The Pipe Steward is on the road again!

What does a ‘mobile’ restoration unit look like?  I have a smaller DeWalt TSTAK tool chest that opens on the top with an organizer section and a larger open compartment below.  I’ve ordered a deeper DeWalt TSTAK that will stack with the one I have and hold the taller bottles and baskets that are now in a plastic tub.  I take a few pictures to show my DeWalt mobile system.This Butz-Choquin now on the worktable is the last of 3 pipes that Skeet commissioned from The “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection.  His first two commissions were truly in the spirit of the Pipe Dreamers mandate – to see in a pipe its potential even when it is in its unrestored rough state.  Here are pictures of the first 2 pipes, a French Jeantet Superior Chimney and an a venerable Kaywoodie Flame Grain Pear – both turned out exceedingly well.

The final pipe is another product of St. Claude, France.  I acquired this Butz Choquin Régate from the ‘Lot of 66’ – the very first larger lot of pipes added to my online collection a few years ago benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Here are a few pictures to get a closer look.The nomenclature on the left of the shank is stamped in the chiseled diagonal cursive ‘Butz-Choquin’ [over] Régate.  The right side of the shank is stamped, but very thin, ST. CLAUDE-FRANCE [over] 1275, the shape number pointing to a BC Billiard. The stylish slightly bent stem has no ‘BC’ stamping that I can see.  The stem doesn’t appear to be a replacement stem so the expected ‘BC’ stamping on the side of the stem appears to have disappeared into historical oblivion.To provide a brief overview of the Butz-Choquin name, Pipephil.eu’s information is helpful.

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  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, already owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.

Pipedia’s Butz-Choquin article includes some BC catalog pages which unfortunately, have no dating included.  The BC Régate line is described in the catalog page below. A quick trip to Google Translate confirms that the English word is, ‘regatta’ which is essentially a boat race, usually including yachts.  The text description of the Régate below is: “The veining of the Briar is shown to particular advantage (BC Silver)”.  With the sales pitch emphasizing the beauty of the grain, I’m hopeful that the Régate on the worktable will live up to this expectation!Looking now at the BC Régate slightly bent Billiard on the table, the chamber is thick with carbon buildup.  This will be removed to allow fresh briar to emerge. The internally beveled rim has some lava flow and nicks and scratches around the rim edge.  Taking a survey of the bowl, it’s been through a bit of wear and tear with nicks, dents, and scratches.  The bowl is darkened with dirt and grime built up for some time.  There is nice looking grain beneath it all which will look nice.  The rim pictured above shows a patch of  dents and scratches.  A large dent is nestled amid several scratches on the lower left side of the bowl. There are 2 large pits that have been filled on the back side of the bowl. The lateral grain on the aft of the bowl looks good.  The heel shows scratches and scrapes but nice-looking bird’s-eye grain providing a promising backdrop. The stem has heavy oxidation and calcium buildup especially on the upper side. The bit has significant tooth chatter on the upper and lower sides. To begin the restoration of the Butz-Choquin Régate Billiard, the slightly bent tapered stem’s airway is cleaned with pipe cleaners wetted with 99% isopropyl.To get a jump on the deep oxidation in vulcanite stem and to work on the tooth chatter, 0000 steel wool is used with Soft Scrub cleanser.  Before starting with the steel wool, I take one more look at the side of the stem to confirm that there is no BC stem stamping.  Again, I see nothing even with a magnifying glass.  The stem scrubbing commences. After scrubbing with Soft Scrub and steel wool, the stem is rinsed with water.  The stem is then added to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with the other pipes commissioned by Skeet which have been completed.After soaking in the Deoxidizer overnight, the stem is hooked using a stiff wire and the Deoxidizer fluid is drained.  I assist the draining by squeegeeing the fluid with my fingers.The airway is cleaned of the Deoxidizer using pipe cleaners and alcohol.  A cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99% is also used to scrub the stem removing raised oxidation.  To help condition the stem, paraffin oil is applied to the vulcanite and set aside.With the stem on the sideline, I turn to the stummel.  To begin its restoration, the chamber is cleared of the thick carbon cake using the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I take a fresh picture to mark the starting point.  The cake is thicker on the upper part of the chamber and opens as you go down.I use two smaller blade heads of the Pipnet Reaming Kit and transition after this to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber walls.  The clearing of carbon is completed with sanding the chamber wall using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to provide some pressure. After wiping the chamber with a cotton cloth to remove carbon dust, the chamber wall is inspected revealing healthy briar.With the carbon cake cleared from the chamber, the next step is to clean the externals of the stummel starting with the rim.  I take a few pictures of the stummel surface before beginning the cleaning to compare.Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad, the stummel is scrubbed. With the lava flow on the rim, I also employ a brass wired brush to scrub the rim. Brass brushes generally do not hurt the briar surface but help in the cleaning. The stummel is then taken to the sink to clean further.  Unfortunately, I discover that I had forgotten shank brushes which are usually used to scrub the internal mortise and airway.  Instead, with warmish to hot water using liquid anti-oil dishwashing soap, cotton buds are employed to clean the internal mortise and airway.  After scrubbing and rinsing the stummel thoroughly, it is brought back to the worktable.Continuing with the internal cleaning, only one cotton bud and pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99%, were needed to finish cleaning this phase.  I move on!With the internals clean, I take some pictures to survey the condition of the stummel surface after the external cleaning.  The rim cleaned up nicely, though the wear and tear is still evident.The finish on the BC Régate was removed with the cleaning.  The raw briar surface shows a lot of very minuscule scratching on the front and heel of the stummel. On the aft of the stummel are two fills that I noticed earlier.  The fills have shrunk revealing gaps between the briar and filler material. The patches will need to be restored using briar putty – a mixture using briar dust and CA glue.  The old filler material is removed using a sharp dental probe.Since the two pits are small, I decide not to make the putty, but something much like it.  After cleaning the area with alcohol, CA glue is spot dropped into the pits and then sprinkled with briar dust.  A toothpick is used to mix the CA glue and briar dust so that the patch is blended. After the patches are cured, a flat needle file is used to file the excess patch material down to the briar surface.  The file stays on top of the patch so as to not impact the surrounding briar.After filing, 240 sanding paper and then 600 paper are used to further clean the excess patch material.  The patches will blend well as the sanding and polishing process continues.With the pits on the stummel refilled with fresh patch material, I turn next to the rim.  The rim has seen better days. The inner rim bevel remains darkened from charring.  The edge of the rim is skinned and worn down.Overall, the rim needs refreshing.  To do this the chopping board is used as a topping board.  I take a final ‘before’ picture to track the topping progress.The general rule of thumb is to take off only as much briar as needed to freshen the rim.  With 240 grade paper on the topping board, the stummel is inverted and rotated several times over the paper.The first look after the initial rotation shows the progress.  The rotation continues several more times and a second look.  Almost there.Finally, the rim is good to go.  I’ve reached the stopping point with the more abrasive 240 grade paper.Next, 600 paper replaces the 240 grade paper and the stummel is rotated several more times.  I’m satisfied with the progress of this phase of the rim refreshing.Next, the internal rim bevel needs refreshing as well.  This will sharpen the rim definition as well as remove the darkened, stained briar.  A few pictures show the old bevel.  In these pictures, I can still see some roughness on the outer rim edge.  I’m not concerned about this because additional sanding to clean the entire stummel will remove the rough briar on the edge of the rim. Using a hard surface against the back of the sandpaper to provide a firm cut and not a rounding effect, 240 paper is used followed by 600 grade.  This removes the darkened briar as well as provide the rim with fresh, distinct lines.Moving next to sanding the entire stummel to remove the plethora of small cuts, scratches, and dents, I first use a coarse sanding sponge on rough spots on the heel and near the rim, on the upper bowl.  I follow this with medium grade and light grade sanding sponges. I’m careful to avoid the Butz-Choquin nomenclature during the sanding.Next, continuing with sanding, the full regimen of micromesh pads is used.  This transitions from sanding to polishing starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The grain emerges nicely during the micromesh polishing phase.  One more step with the stummel before transitioning to finishing the stem.  I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel by placing some on my finger and then working it in to the briar surface.  This product by Mark Hoover does a great job coaxing out the subtle hues in the briar.  After working the Balm in thoroughly, I put the stummel aside for about 20 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.After the time is complete, a microfiber cloth is used to wipe off the excess Balm.  Then, another microfiber cloth is used to buff up the stummel and fully removing the excess Restoration Balm.  As usual, the Balm does a good job bringing out the hues of the briar.  I like it.Turning now to the stem, fresh pictures are taken looking at the upper- and lower-bit area.  There is tooth chatter and some small tooth compressions.  The initial application of steel wool to break up oxidation was also helpful in removing some of the roughness on the bit.  To address the remaining tooth chatter, the heating method is used initially to reduce further the chatter to enable sanding to address the remaining roughness.  Using a Bic lighter, the flame paints the upper and lower bit.  The heat expands the vulcanite enabling it to reclaim its original condition, or closer to it.  The before and after pictures show the comparison.  The method did help, especially on the lower bit. Next, the entire stem is sanded with 240 grade paper.  I first reunite the BC stem and stummel with a sanding disk between them to guard against sanding the end of the stem creating a shouldering effect.Next, the stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool. Continuing the sanding/polishing process, next the full regimen of micromesh pads is applied.  Starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads Obsidian Oil is applied.  Obsidian Oil is used to further condition the vulcanite stem and to guard against oxidation. After trying to reunite the stem and stummel, as often happens, after the cleaning the briar in the mortise has expanded somewhat and the tenon/mortise fit it too tight.  It’s dangerous to force the tenon into the mortise because a cracked shank can be the result. To remedy the tightness, a piece of 240 paper is wrapped around the tenon and pinched to tighten it around the tenon.  I then, while holding the pinched paper stationary around the tenon, rotate the stem to create the abrasiveness to sand down the tenon.  I rotate several times and try the fit in the shank.  Eventually, the fit is snug, but not too tight.Now the home stretch.  With the stem and stummel reunited, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is then applied to the entire pipe.  Blue Diamond compound is the last stage in using an abrasive for the sanding/polishing of the pipe.  After completing application of the Blue Diamond, a felt cloth is used to buff the pipe to remove the excess compound that collects on the surface.  I want to make sure compound dust is removed before applying wax.After mounting another cotton cloth wheel to the rotary tool maintaining the same speed, carnauba wax is applied to the pipe.  After completing the application of wax, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine and to disperse excess wax from the surface.This Butz-Choquin Régate of Saint Claude, France, turned out very well.  The grain is expressive and reminds one of tiger fur on the front and back of the bowl.  Bird’s eye outcroppings also can be seen.  The Billiard shape is a workhorse among pipes and this Billiard cradles nicely in the palm and will serve a new steward well.  The slightly bent stem adds a touch of class.  This is the final of 3 pipes that Skeet commissioned benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  As the commissioner, Skeet will have the first opportunity to claim the BC from The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me! ono

 

A Christmas Vacation Pipe from Nashville: A Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus St. Claude France 1397 Tabac St Michel Paris


Blog by Dal Stanton

Continuing our Christmas Vacation trip in our 20’ R-pod travel trailer, we are now in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting my daughter, son-in-law and 6 1/2-month-old grandson!  The New Year has come and the first pipe on my ‘mobile worktable’ here in Nashville is special.  It is special not only because it’s a gargantuan Billiard which my rather large, 6-foot, 3 inch, son-in-law commissioned to fit his gargantuan hand, but It is also special because it was donated, along with 15 other very nice pipes, to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.

The benefactor of the 16 pipes, who asked to remain anonymous, is a retired educator in the KC area who wrote to me with an offer to give the pipes to benefit the work in Bulgaria that my wife and I helped to found over a decade ago – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  This was the letter that I received:

Greetings, Dal, from the middle of the USA where it is cold, foggy, and wintery. 

By way of introduction, I am XXX XXX. We have communicated a handful of times via one of the pipe groups on Facebook. Your posts have allowed me to read about your restoration work in support of the Daughters of Bulgaria. I find your pipe restoration work fascinating and your true mission inspiring. 

If you are interested, I have approximately 15 briar pipes, from different makers, I would like to anonymously donate to your work. Most are in good condition but would likely need a clean and polish. Since most would fall short of needing a full restoration, I don’t know for sure whether you would be interested. If you are, I would be happy to send them to you. If pictures would help you decide, I would be glad to take said pictures and send them your way. 

 Warm regards

We exchanged emails and he sent pictures of the pipes.  Several weeks later after the 16 pipes arrived in Bulgaria, I wrote an email with the subject line, “Christmas in August!” and sent this picture of the 16 pipes unwrapped and displayed.   Nice pipes – not a throw-away in the lot!  I decided not to place these pipes in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! online collection for a time.  The ‘Dreamers’ collection is for pipe men and women to commission pipes to be restored.   I am thankful to this generous pipe man for his gift and support of the Daughters of Bulgaria.  With the New Year here, I’ll be adding these pipes to ‘Dreamers’ section soon!

Last September, after our transition from Bulgaria to living in Golden, Colorado, my daughter and son-in-law, Niko, were visiting us in Golden from their home in Nashville.  Niko is a pipe man and has commissioned pipes from the ‘old man’ before and he was in the hunt again for a new pipe looking through boxes of The Pipe Steward inventory.  This time he had a specific aim – a larger pipe that he could cradle in his larger than normal hands!  Niko is 6 foot, 3 inches, and during college was a pitcher on the baseball team.  He aspired toward playing in the Majors but when an injury came his way, these dreams were put aside.  Niko and I have shared bowls together many times and what I’ve noticed was that Niko’s hands were so large that he would ‘pinch’ the bowl on the end of his fingers rather than cradle the bowl.  With Niko’s request for a larger pipe, the ’16 Pipes for the Daughters’ came to mind recalling the HUGE Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus (in picture above, top row center).  I pulled out the box and it didn’t take long for Niko to decide to commission the BC.    He also commissioned a Danish Royal Guard Pickaxe, next on the worktable.  With the BC now on the table, some pictures give a closer look. The nomenclature on this pipe is interesting.  On the left shank flank is stamped the traditional mark, ‘Butz-Choquin’ [in cursive offset slightly to the left and slightly at a diagonal, over] Cocarde [over, slightly to the left] GEANTE [over] PLUS. The stem stamping is Butz-Choquin’s recognizable chiseled, ‘BC’.  On the right side of the shank is stamped ST. CLAUDE [ARCHED over] FRANCE [over] 1397 the shape number.  In the second photo below, seen more clearly, is the interesting addition of a pipe shop in Paris. Stamped below the shape number is, TABAC ST. MICHEL [over] PARIS. The history of the Butz-Choquin name is concisely put on Pipephil.eu and its helpful to me for the refresher.

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  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, already owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.

I could not find anything specific in Pipedia about the ‘Cocarde’ line, but a simple search on the internet will show many different shapes available in the Cocarde line from Butz-Choquin.  I did find a shapes chart pictured in the Butz-Choquin Pipedia article that included the 1397 Geante Plus.  Unfortunately, there is no reference to the date of the catalogue.  A quick look at Google Translate gave a translation of the Geante Plus as ‘Giant More’ – which is no surprise.  The photo below sets the Geante Plus apart with the 1397 shape number as unique to this designation.  The Giant Billiard seems to be the unique bearer of this designation.

What’s of interest as well is that this pipe is uniquely stamped with the name, Tabac St. Michel in Paris.  I do a quick search on the internet to discover that it is a tobacco shop still in operation in Paris at 22 Rue Saint-André des Arts.  The picture below is taken from this LINK giving the address and operational hours.  There is no link to a website but looking closely at the front display window, there appears to be pipe related products available.  I can find no more information about this establishment.  Apparently, Butz-Choquin produced some pipes for the Tabac Saint Michel with the shop name stamped on the pipe.  With my curiosity piqued, I send a note to the benefactor pipe man regarding the origin of this pipe – if he had acquired this pipe at the Tabac Saint Michel on a trip to Paris.  We’ll see if he can add some information of interest.

Looking now more closely at the BC Cocarde Geante Plus Billiard on my table, the dimensions of this Giant are, Length: 6 1/8 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 7/8 inches, Chamber depth: 1 3/4 inches with a weight of 2.9 ounces – almost a hefty 3 ounces! The chamber looks well maintained with a very thin cake.  The rim has minor darkening on the aft quadrant from lighting practices.  Besides general cleaning of the ample briar real estate of the stummel, I detect pitting of some fills which need attention.  I take a few pictures to show these. The stem shows no oxidation but tooth chatter and some button biting.  This will be addressed as well.  To begin the refreshing of this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus, the chamber is cleaned.  With another picture showing the starting place of the chamber, it appears to be a well maintained with a dime’s width thickness. I use all 4 blade heads of the Pipnet Reaming Kit to begin the cleaning of the mild carbon cake.  Following the reaming, the wall is scraped using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and then sanded with 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad, the chamber is inspected revealing healthy briar – no heating problems. Transitioning from the chamber to the external briar surface, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad, the stummel is scrubbed.  A brass wired brush is used to concentrate more on the backside of the rim where it was darkened from lighting from that side. Brass brushes are friendlier to the briar and not as abrasive but helps with the cleaning.The stummel is then transitioned to the sink using warm water and anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap, the internals of the mortise are scrubbed using shank brushes.  The brass wired brush is used again on the rim area.After the cleaning, I look at the stummel.  The finish has generally disappeared over the stummel.  The rim has cleaned up well but as expected, the finish on the aft rim quadrant where most of the scrubbing was needed is lighter.To finalize the internal cleaning, cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% are used.  It only takes a couple buds and pipe cleaners to do the job.  I move on!With the cleaning supplies on the table, the airway cleaning of the stem is quickly dispatched with a couple pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99%.With the general cleaning done, I turn now to the stummel.  Another survey of the bowl and shank show the deterioration of the patches that are now pitted. In the third picture you can also see a few patches of the old finish that have not surrendered during the cleaning process. To prepare to refill and patch the pits, I use a sharp dental probe to dig out the old fill material in each pit.  Next, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99% to clean the patch areas.  The cleaning with the alcohol is expanded to scrub the whole stummel to remove the last vestiges of the old finish.  This works well.I mix briar dust and thick CA glue to create a briar putty to fill the pits.  After covering the plastic disk with scotch tape to help with clean up, I place some briar dust and CA on the mixing palette.  Using a toothpick, I gradually draw briar dust into the glue and mix it as I go.  When the putty reaches a thickness of molasses, I use the toothpick to trowel a bit of briar putty onto the pits.  To keep the patches in place, I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process of the CA. Starting with the patch on the heel, the flat needle file is used first to file the patch mound down to the briar surface.  A tightly rolled piece of 240 paper follows the file to smooth and blend further.  Then, to conclude this phase, 600 grade paper is used to blend further. The same process is used on the patch on the side of the bowl – file, sanding with 240 and 600. Again, the same process with the patch on the shank. The rim has charred briar around the lower rim lip on the chamber side.  This is primarily on the back of the rim.  To refresh the rim, I sand the inner bevel with 240 paper following this with 600 paper.  This removes the darkened stain on the briar.  It looks much better.To encourage blending of the patches as well as to further clean the rim and bowl surface of small nicks and scratches, I employ sanding sponges.  Sanding sponges are not as invasive as sanding papers and I use them to prepare for micromesh pad sanding.  Starting first with a coarser grade, the rim is ‘topped’ along with sanding the entire stummel – careful to avoid the BC nomenclature on the shank.  Following the coarser grade, medium and then a light grade sponges are used and complete this sanding phase.   Switching now to micromesh pads, I start by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The grain starts emerging very nicely during the micromesh cycles.  It’s looking great. Next, to tease out more of the natural hues of the briar, Mark Hoover’s product, ‘Before & After Restoration Balm’ (www.Lbepen.com) is applied to the briar surface.  To do this, a bit of the Balm is applied to my finger and I work the Balm thoroughly into the surface.  The Balm starts off with a cream-like texture and gradually thickens as it’s applied.  I then put the stummel aside for about 20 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.When the 20 minutes are completed, I wipe the excess Balm with a microfiber cloth and then buff up the surface.  I like Mark Hoover’s Balm.  It does a great job with the subtleties of the briar hues.Before turning to the stem, I continue the internal cleaning and refreshing of the internals of the stummel by doing a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This process draws the oils and tars out of the internal briar and freshens the pipe for the new steward.  Kosher salt is used as it doesn’t have an aftertaste like iodized salt.  A wick is formed by pulling and twisting a cotton ball.  The cotton wick helps to draw the oils out. The wick is guided down the mortise into the airway using a stiff piece of hanger wire.Isopropyl 99% is then put in the bowl using a large eye dropper until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, the alcohol is absorbed and then is topped off once more. I then put the pipe aside and allow the soak to do its thing through the night. Turning now to the stem, I take a few pictures to show the bit tooth chatter and button damage.  The heating method is used initially to address the tooth chatter.  Using a Bic lighter, the bit – upper and lower – is painted with flames to heat the vulcanite and to cause the rubber compound to expand.  As it expands, it reclaims to a degree its original condition.  I place the before and after pictures together for comparison.  The procedure did help to minimize the chatter as the pictures show. Next, I begin the stem restoration by refreshing the button with a flat needle file.  After I started filing, I decided to stop filing and to apply a patch to the button lip.  As I was filing the edge of the lip to redefine it, I decided that the tooth compressions on the lip were too severe and needed to be addressed and the lip built up some before filing.I use black CA glue to spot drop on the lip of the button to build it up.  I do this on the upper and lower button.  An accelerator is also used on the CA not only to quicken the curing time but also to hold the CA glue in place. After the button patches are thoroughly cured, the flat needle file is again used to define and shape the upper and lower button lip.  I’m careful to establish the lip edge on both upper and lower so that the lip is not worn down through sanding.With the button again well defined, 240 paper is used to sand the bit – upper and lower to remove filing scratches and the residual tooth chatter.  The paper is also applied to the button lips to even out and shape after application of the black CA glue.Next, the entire stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper and this is followed with 0000 grade steel wool.Following the steel wool, the stem is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads beginning by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Then, this is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to condition and guard against oxidation.  The finished stem has a nice pop to it and the tooth chatter and button repairs look good. The stummel has gone through the night allowing a kosher salt and alcohol soak to continue the cleaning of the internals.  This morning the salt and wick show a bit of soiling, but not much.  After clearing the expended salt in the waste, the chamber is wiped with a paper towel and I blow through the mortise to make sure all the salt crystals are removed. The follow up cleaning with a pipe cleaner and cotton bud confirm that the internals are clean and refreshed.To get a look at the progress, the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus stem and stummel are reunited.  What I discover when I try to insert the tenon into the mortise is that it will not fit.  What often happens through the cleaning process is that the mortise will expand minutely, and the fit is too tight for comfort.  I never force stems into shanks.  I’ve learned the hard way that this is the way to add a cracked shank repair to the list.To remedy this is not difficult.  A piece of 240 grade paper is wrapped around the tenon and while pinching it against the tenon with my fingers, the stem is rotated to create the necessary abrasion to decrease the tenon diameter by a bit.  I pinch and rotate the tenon with 240 paper a few times trying the fit after each session.  When it finally starts to insert more easily, I graduate the paper to 600 to smooth the tenon.This worked well.  The stummel and stem are reunited, and the fit is snug but not tight. The BC is looking good.Before starting with the compound process, the BC stem stamp needs refreshing.  The stamping indent is strong and distinct and touching it up with white acrylic paint should not be a problem.After shaking the paint bottle, a bit of paint is applied over the stamping and spread with a toothpick.I then use a cotton pad to daub the wet paint.  This does two things.  The daubing spreads the paint over the lettering and thins the paint.  The daubing also dries the paint quickly.I then use the side of a toothpick to rub over the stamping removing excess dried paint.To finish the job, a pointed cotton bud enables me to clean the lettering more closely.  Finally, I briskly rub a cotton pad over the stamping to shine up the vulcanite and sharpen the stamping.  It looks great!Now on the home stretch.  The rotary tool is mounted with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is then applied to the entire pipe. This finely abrasive compound helps to remove very fine blemishes on the briar surface.  After methodically covering the pipe, I use a felt cloth to wipe the pipe removing leftover compound dust in preparation for application of the wax.After changing the cotton cloth buffing wheel, speed remaining the same, carnauba wax is applied to stem and stummel. To complete the recommissioning of the BC, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine more and to remove any excess wax remaining on the surface.When I began working on this pipe, it already was an attractive pipe not with any major issues.  Repairing the stummel pits with new patches and erasing the tooth chatter damage from the bit and button were the main issues.  The briar on this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus covers a lot of real estate with horizontal grain moving along the length of the stummel.  The bird’s eye grain populates the front and aft of the bowl showing the cross-cut perspective of the lateral grain.  This BC giant will cradle nicely in Niko’s hand and filled with his favorite blend will provide years of service and fellowship.  Niko has already claimed the BC from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Unlike most of the pipes I restore that are sent to their new stewards by post, this one is hand delivered from my mobile worktable in Nashville and I’m able to share an inaugural bowl with the new steward!  With L. J. Peretti Black Virginia in our bowls and 14 year Glenfiddich in our glasses, the fellowship is good.  Thanks for joining me!

 

New Life for a Butz-Choquin Virginia 1027 Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from a group of pipes that we purchased from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. It is a beautiful grained Bent Bulldog pipe with a saddle vulcanite bent stem. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Butz-Choquin [over] Virginia. On the right side of the shank it reads St. Claude [over] France [over] the shape number 1027. The stain highlights the nice grain around the bowl. The finish had a lot of grime ground into it. The bowl was moderately caked and there was a light lava coat on the top and the inner edge of the rim. The edges looked to be in excellent condition. The stem was oxidized and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There was a stamped white BC on the left side of the saddle stem. The pipe showed promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the condition of the rim top and beveled inner edges. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation, calcification and chatter and tooth marks. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like.        He took photos of the stamping on the shank and the stem. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable.    Now it was time to work on the pipe. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe and bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.   The rim top and inner edge of the rim looked very good. The stem surface looked very good with some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.    I took a photo of the stamping on the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.    I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is a taper stem. The BC logo stamp on the stem is faded so it will need to be touched up. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth between each sanding pad.  As I polished the bowl the fills around the cap and left side became visible. They were tiny but they were present. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The fills while still present blended into the surrounding briar better after the balm.  I “painted” the stem surface with the flame of a lighter and was able to lift all of the tooth marks in the surface and return it to a smooth finish. This was truly a best case scenario!   I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. I touched up the stamping on the stem with Paper Mate Liquid Paper. I rubbed it into the stamp with a tooth pick and then scraped it off.  This Butz-Choquin Virginia 1027 Bent Bulldog  with saddle vulcanite taper stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The stamped BC logo on the left side of the stem looks very good. The beautiful grain that shines through the polished finish is stunning. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad which real brings the shine out with the wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished BC Virginia Bulldog fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 39gr/1.38oz. I will be adding it to the French Pipe Makers section of the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Fresh Life for a Butz-Choquin Camargue Bent Rhodesian Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from a fellow in Taylor, Michigan, USA.  The pipe is classic looking Butz-Choquin that has a marbleized acrylic shank extension.  The pipe is stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left side of the shank it reads Butz-Choquin [over] Camargue and on the right side it reads St. Claude [arched over] France [over] the shape number 1021. The stain is a mix of browns that contrasts well with the marble like shank extension. The finish was very dirty with grime ground into the finish making it hard to see beyond that to the grain underneath. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it had overflowed with lava onto the rim top and edges. It was hard to know at this point the condition of the rim edges. The stem in the photos came from a different pipe that Jeff and I purchased from the same seller. It was a Caminetto pipe stem with the mustache on the top of the saddle. The Caminetto had the stem from this pipe so they would need to be switched. The original stem had no stamping or identifying marks on it. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it. I include those below. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the condition of both. It was thick and hard cake but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the condition of both sides.    Jeff took a photo of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. It has thick grime on the surface and ground into the finish.  There were also a few visible fills around bowl. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the shank sides to capture it. It is very clear and readable.  Dal Stanton had written a blog on his restoration of a Carmargue pipe for rebornpipes in the past (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/12/04/rejuvenating-a-fancy-french-butz-choquin-camargue-1683-prince/) I turned to that now for a quick review of the history of the line. I quote:

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

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, already 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 https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/france/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=189826Dal had also done some research on the name Camargue that I have included below. For me this kind of information adds colour to the restoration that I am working on.

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camargue).

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…This pipe was a real mess like many of the pipes we work on. I was curious to see what it would look like when I unpacked it. I was surprised at how good it looked. Jeff reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish on the bowl looked really good when I got it. The rim top looked much better and the inner and outer edges were looking good. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer bath to remove the oxidation. I swapped the stems between the Caminetto and the BC to get the correct stems with the pipes. This stem looked very good. There was no tooth chatter or damage on either side. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it.  I took photos of the condition of the rim top and stem before I started working. The rim top looks better than before and other than some slight darkening there is no other damage. The bowl is spotless. The newly found stem is in great condition and should polish well.    I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. The shank extension was loose so I removed it and the stem and took the following photo to give a sense of the pipe as a whole.  I decided to start my work on this pipe by regluing the shank extension to the end of the shank. I cleaned out the shank with alcohol on a cotton swab, then coated the tenon on the shank extension with all-purpose glue and then turned it into the shank. I aligned the angles and wiped off the excess glue and set it aside to cure. I worked over the beveled rim edge and top with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening on the rear and right front of the bowl.   I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded the bowl with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. The briar really took on a shine by the final pads.    I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain and the separate finishes really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for 10-15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The bowl really looks good at this point. I set it aside and worked on the stem.   I set aside the bowl and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine.    Once again I am the part of the restoration that I always look forward to – the moment when all the pieces are put back together. I put the pipe back together and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a heavier touch with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the combination of rustication and smooth finishes. The black vulcanite stem stands out as a shiny black contrast to the colours of the bowl. This medium brown stained Butz-Choquin Camargue Bent Rhodesian Sitter must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it. Have a look at it in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inch. The weight of the pipe is 42grams/1.48oz.  This is one that will go on the French Pipemakers section of the rebornpipes online store shortly. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

Breathing Life into a Weary, Stubby Butz-Choquin Maitre Pipier De Luxe


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the worktable is a stubby, canted Butz-Choquin Volcano. It has a vulcanite tapered stem with a BC logo on the left side of the taper. The finish is smooth with some nice grain around the bowl. The bowl has a mix of various grains on the sides and on the rim top and heel of the bowl. This pipe not only looks comfortable but it amazingly comfortable in hand. The pipe is stained with black and various hues of brown. It truly is a beautiful finish. The pipe is stamped Butz-Choquin over Maitre Pipier over De Luxe on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped Fait Main (Hand Made) over St. Claude France. The finish was very dirty and tired looking with a lot of grime and oils ground into the sides of the bowl. It appears that the pipe had a varnish or shellac coat that is damaged. There was a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing onto the rim top. There is also some darkening on the inner edge of the rim. The tapered vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and it appears that the last pipe man used a Softee Bit. The stem looked good. It is dirty with light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show their general condition. It is hard to see the condition of the bubbling and peeling finish on the rim top because of the lava and grime but it is present. There is cake in the bowl and some darkening around the rim edges and some lava on the top of the rim. Jeff took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give an idea of the smooth finish and the grain shining through the grime. I cannot wait to see what it looks like once it is cleaned and polished. He took several photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank to capture it for me. It is clear and readable. It reads as noted above. He also included a photo of the acrylic encased BC inlay on the left side of the stem.The vulcanite stem is a bit of a mess! It is oxidized and there is calcification build up all over the stem from the button forward. There are also light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem. The button appears to be in good condition. The photos below show the condition of the stem. Before I started working on my part of the restoration I quickly turned to the previous blog I had done on the Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/04/09/breathing-life-into-a-weary-but-graceful-butz-choquin-maitre-pipier-de-luxe/). I had done some research on the Maitre Pipier line to see what I could learn. I quote from that blog below:

I turned first to PipePhil’s site to get a quick overview of the brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). There found the following information. I am also including a screen capture of the pertinent section from the site.

Pipes of the “Maitre Pipier” series were crafted by Paul Lanier until he retired and after him by Alain Albuisson. The model illustrated is remarkable for its “swan neck” shank.

The one pictured in the screen capture is an Extra but the shape is very similar to the one I have that is stamped De Luxe. The same swan neck shank is a part of its beauty.I turned then to Pipedia and did not find anything pertinent to this series of pipes. If you would like to learn more about the brand here is the link (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin).

Now I had a pretty good idea the carvers of the Maitre Pipier Series. I am not sure of the date this pipe was made but I did know who made it – either Paul Lanier or Alain Albuisson. With that information I moved forward to do my part of the restoration work on the pipe itself and see what I had to do with it. The bowl looked unbelievably good in light of where it started. The rim top was the roughest looking portion but it was just odd and flaky not damaged. What remained was some very nicely grained briar. The stem looked much better with just a few tooth marks on each side of the stem just ahead of the button. Jeff had done his normal thorough clean up – reaming, scrubbing, soaking and the result was evident in the pipe when I unpacked it. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. The squat shape and finish on this pipe looks great. I took some photos of the rim top and stem. The rim top shows the damage I spoke of above. The bubbling and peeling was gone but there was a very mottled looking surface on the rim top. The bowl looked very good. The inner edge shows some damage on the back right side and a bit on the left side. The close up photos of the stem shows that is it very clean.I took pictures of the stamping on the shank. It is very clear and readable. Jeff’s clean up work left it unfazed and if anything more readable now that the peeling varnish coat was gone.I started my restoration work on the pipe by addressing the damage to the inner edges of the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge and bring the bowl back to round. It did not take too much work. The issues with the rim top itself would be taken care of when I polished the bowl with micromesh pads.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The grain really began to stand out and the finish took on a shine by the last sanding pad. The photos tell the story! I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about ten minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I laid the bowl aside and turned to deal with the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter on the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem and started polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the stem with some Denicare Mouthpiece polish – a red gritty paste that feels a lot like the texture of red Tripoli. It works well to polish out some of the scratches. I find that it does a great job preparing the stem for polishing with micromesh sanding pads.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. Putting this pipe back together was very rewarding. The change in condition and appearance of the rim top alone was remarkable. The removal of the damaged peeling coat brought the briar back to life. I love seeing the grain just pop at this point. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank during the process. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is quite beautiful and is a stubby volcano/sitter pipe. The finish on the bowl combines various stains to give it depth. It is very well done. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Butz-Choquin seems to have a lot of creatively shaped designs that leave me respecting the creativity. This interesting pipe is no exception and it is a great looking pipe in great condition. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

New Life for a Second Generation Butz-Choquin A Metz Origine


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on my worktable brings back a lot of fond memories for me. The first is walking through the restoration of Paresh’s Grandfather’s A Metz Origine. Paresh and I had chatted on Facetime many times during this particular restoration (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/17/a-challenging-restoration-of-vintage-era-first-choquin-a-metz/). Paresh had determined that this pipe was very old. I quote:

From all the input that I have gathered, the flat bottom bowl, the stamping, the sterling silver adornments, the bone shank extension and horn stem, I can safely place this piece as being one of the first A Metz pipes from the 1858 era!  (Photo from Paresh)That was the first memory of the Origine. The second one is also is one I cherish. On my trip to India last year to visit Paresh and Abha and their daughters Mudra and Pavni I had the privilege of not only seeing this pipe up close but of also being the first one to smoke it since the restoration. What a privilege to be able to smoke Paresh’s Granfather’s pipe. It was so light weight and an amazing smoke. It was cool and dry to the end of the bowl. I cannot thank Paresh enough for letting me fire up this old timer. Dal wrote about this in a great blog about the trip called West meets East in India (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/30/west-meets-east-in-india-to-restore-a-grandsons-treasure-an-1846-bbb/). I quote Dal as he so ably described this experience:

As we had planned, in celebration of the completion of the restoration together we smoked 3 unbelievable vintage pipes with albatross shank extensions and horn stems – all from the 1800s.  Oh my…. We each thoughtfully packed our bowls with our choice of blends and lit up and, well….  What a treat for Paresh to share the treasure trove of pipes left to him by his grandfather.  Jeff did the honor of commemorating this event with pictures. (Photo from Dal)For me smoking that older BC A Metz Origine was a delight. I was able to enjoy a great English tobacco in this historic pipe. So when this pipe showed up in one of Jeff’s auctions we went for it and picked it up. While the 1858 Origine had an albatross wing bone for the shank extension the new one had a shorter acrylic look alike. The shape of the bowl is the same but the 1858 version’s horn stem was replaced by an acrylic stem that was nowhere near as elegant as the first.The pipe was in overall good condition. The silver (polished nickel) that caps the shank and the faux “bone” extension was tarnished but in good condition. The stem was amazingly clean with just some tooth chatter on both sides near the stem. The finish was dull and lifeless and a little dirty from sitting around. There is a cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava on the rim top toward the back. There also appears to be some burn/charring damage on the inner edge in the same area. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Butz-Choquin over A Metz over Origine. On the right side of the shank it is stamped St. Claude France over the number 2. Jeff took the previous and the following photos before he started his cleanup work on the pipe.Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim top from various angles to capture the condition of the bowl and rim top edges. You can see the darkening around the inner edge of the rim and the damage at the back of the bowl. You can also see the cake in the bowl and the lava overflow onto the back of the rim top. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show condition of the briar. You can see the birdseye grain on sides of the bowl. And the cross grain on the heel, front and back of the bowl. The stamping is very clear on both sides of the pipe. The next two photos confirm what I wrote about the stamping above.The next photo of the stem to shows the general condition of the stem. The flow of the shank extension with a silver cap each side is well done. The angle of the stem is very similar to the shape of the original 1858 horn stem. Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button. I turned to Pipephil (www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html) to get a bit of background on the second or the modern version of the Origine pipe. I have included a screen capture of the pertinent section below.Now it was time to look at it up close and personal. Jeff had great job in cleaning up this Origine. He had reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He took the cake back to bare briar so we could check the walls for damage and also see the extent of the burn damage on the back of the inner edge of the rim. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime on the bowl and rim and was able to remove much of the grime and dirt. He cleaned out the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean. The rim top looked much better when you compare it with where it started. The damaged area is very clear now and the extent of the damage was clear. He cleaned the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the exterior and cleaned out the airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I took some photos of the pipe as I saw it. To show how clean the rim top and stem really was I took a close-up photo of the rim and stem. The bowl was clean and cake free. The rim top is quite clean and the damage to the back inner edge of the bowl is clear. The pinkish/bone coloured acrylic stem looks very good. The surface and the button edge look really good. There are no issues that are there to address. The tarnished silver ends on the shank ends have a rich shine to it now as well.I removed the stem from the bowl and took photos of the parts. The shank extension came apart at the shank end but not at the stem. It was glued to the stem and unmovable. The pipe looks pretty amazing – kind of a shorter version of the 1858 Origine.I decided to address the burned area on the inner edge and top of the rim first. I started by lightly topping the bowl to clean up the top edge. Once it was smooth I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the inner edge a bevel to minimize the damage at the back of the bowl. I decided to polish the rim top and the bowl next. I polished them with  the micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to remove the sanding scratches on the rim top and blend it into the bowl. I wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. When I finished the bowl and rim top looked significantly better. I touched up the stain on the rim top Oak stain pen. The match to the rest of the bowl was very good. Once I buffed it the colour would be a perfect match. The repaired rim top looked very good and the burn damage was gone.I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingers to get it into the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes to let it do its magic. I buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. It is a beautiful bowl. The bowl was finished so I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. Since it was quite clean I decided to polish the stem and shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I put the bowl and stem back together again and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I used a soft touch on the extension and stem but work the bowl over with a regular touch to the wheel. I buffed the pipe with carnauba wax and a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I finished buffing with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The grain patterns came alive with the buffing and wax and looked great to me. It has a great feel in the hand and if it is at like the first generation 1858 Origine should smoke very well. The finished Butz-Choquin Origine 2 pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 8 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. This modern replica of the original A Metz turned out very well. It should be a great pipe. It is one that I am not sure what to do with at the moment. It brings back the memories spoken of at the beginning of the blog and I need to sort that out a bit before making a decision. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

Breathing Life into a Weary But Graceful Butz-Choquin Maitre Pipier De Luxe


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the worktable is a gracefully shaped pipe made by Butz-Choquin. It is a vulcanite tapered stem with a BC logo on the left side of the taper. The finish is smooth with some nice grain around the bowl. The bowl has straight and flame grain on the sides with mixed grain on the rim top and heel of the bowl. The curves of the shank and bowl give the bowl a sense of grace. The stem carries out the theme. The pipe is stained with black and various hues of brown. It truly is a beautiful finish. The pipe is stamped Butz-Choquin over Maitre Pipier over De Luxe on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped Fait Main (Hand Made) over St. Claude France. The finish was very dirty and tired looking with a lot of grime and oils ground into the sides of the bowl. The finish is peeling and bubbling on the rim top and on the back of the bowl. It appears that the pipe had a varnish or shellac coat that is damaged. There was a thick cake in the bowl and some darkening on the inner edge of the rim top. The tapered vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and had calcification over much carries on the twist of the shank. The stem looked good. It is dirty with light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show their general condition. You can see the bubbling and peeling finish on the rim top. There is cake in the bowl and some darkening around the rim edges and some tars on the rim edge as well. Jeff took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give an idea of the smooth finish and the grain shining through the grime. I cannot wait to see what it looks like once it is cleaned and polished.He took several photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank to capture it for me. It is clear and readable. It reads as noted above. He also included a photo of the acrylic encased BC inlay on the left side of the stem.The vulcanite stem is a bit of a mess! It is oxidized and there is calcification and a rust coloured build up all over the stem from the button forward. There are also light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem. The button appears to be in good condition. The photos below show the condition of the stem. Before I started working on my part of the restoration I decided to do some research on the Maitre Pipier line to see what I could learn. I turned first to PipePhil’s site to get a quick overview of the brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). There found the following information. I am also including a screen capture of the pertinent section from the site.

Pipes of the “Maitre Pipier” series were crafted by Paul Lanier until he retired and after him by Alain Albuisson. The model illustrated is remarkable for its “swan neck” shank.

The one pictured in the screen capture is an Extra but the shape is very similar to the one I have that is stamped De Luxe. The same swan neck shank is a part of its beauty.I turned then to Pipedia and did not find anything pertinent to this series of pipes. If you would like to learn more about the brand here is the link (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin).

Now I had a pretty good idea the carvers of the Maitre Pipier Series. I am not sure of the date this pipe was made but I did know who made it. With that information I moved forward to do my part of the restoration work on the pipe itself and see what I had to do with it. The bowl looked unbelievably good in light of where it started. All of the flaking and peeling finish was gone. What remained was some very nicely grained briar. The stem looked much better with just a few tooth marks on each side of the stem just ahead of the button. Jeff had done his normal thorough clean up – reaming, scrubbing, soaking and the result was evident in the pipe when I unpacked it. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. The shape and finish on this pipe is very unique. I took some photos of the rim top and stem. The rim top and bowl looked very good. He was able to clean up the on the top and back side as well as the cake in the bowl. The bowl, rim top and inner edges of the bowl look very good at this point. The close up photos of the stem shows that is it very clean.I took pictures of the stamping on the shank. It is very clear and readable. Jeff’s clean up work left it unfazed and if anything more readable now that the peeling varnish coat was gone.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point. You can clearly see the condition, size and shape of the pipe. It is interesting to note the black metal tube in the end of the tenon. When the stem is in place it extends to the bend in the shank. It is removable but I will leave it in place.I started my restoration work on the pipe by addressing two sand pits or nicks in the finish that were like white spots on the briar. One was on the left side mid bowl and the other was on the right side lower near the shank/bowl junction. I filled them in with a spot of clear CA glue. Once the glue cured I sanded them smooth with a corner of 220 grit sandpaper and 1500 grit micromesh. I did not want to damage the finish but just smooth out the glue. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The grain really began to stand out and the finish took on a shine by the last sanding pad. The photos tell the story!I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about ten minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I laid the bowl aside and turned to deal with the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter on the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem and started polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the stem with some Denicare Mouthpiece polish – a red gritty paste that feels a lot like the texture of red Tripoli. It works well to polish out some of the scratches. I find that it does a great job preparing the stem for polishing with micromesh sanding pads.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I wiped the stem down with a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to protect the rubber and slow down oxidation.

Putting this pipe back together was very rewarding. The change in condition and appearance was remarkable. The removal of the shiny, peeling coat brought the briar back to life. I love seeing the grain just pop at this point. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank during the process. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is quite beautiful and is a graceful, swan-necked French pipe. The finish on the bowl combines various stains to give it depth. It is very well done. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Butz-Choquin seems to have a lot of creatively shaped designs that leave me respecting the creativity. This interesting pipe is no exception and it is a great looking pipe in great condition. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

 

Crème de la Crème – There are just some pipes that leave you speechless


Blog by Steve Laug

This is one of those pipes that have to be seen to truly appreciate the craftsmanship that went into it. In my title for this blog I called Crème de la crème which in French literally means ‘cream of the cream’. It is an idiom meaning “the best of the best”, “superlative”, or “the very best”. You may not like the shape; I have to admit I did not when I first saw it. My speechlessness at first was over how odd and ugly the pipe was at first glance. It is not one that I would naturally gravitate to that is for sure. However, you cannot deny the sheer craftsmanship that went into this pipe as you turn it in your hands and look at all the various angles and asymmetrical twists in the bowl and stem. It is quite singularly stunning and certainly a pipe that I did not expect to see or work on. The pipe is stamped Butz Choquin over Cybele 3 on the heel of the bowl and underside of the shank.

How to describe this pipe? That is certainly a hard this to capture the craftsmanship with words. But I will try! The left side of the pipe is sandblast and literally the blast covers roughly the left half of the bowl. The rim top is smooth as is the right side of the pipe. The shank which flow directly out of the combined finishes is a mosaic of inlaid hard woods of varying colours and grains. The only pattern to them is really a lack of pattern. Looking down the pipe from the stem to the front of the bowl you can see that the shank takes a decided twist to the left and flattens out on the right. It ends at the shank end in an oval shape.  The stem is acrylic and also carries the twist even farther. It has a silver BC and inlaid star on the top of the stem. When sight down the stem from the button you will see that it is actually tipped very slightly to the left though appears to be aligned with the rim top. Jeff took photos of the pipe from a variety of angles to capture what I have tried to describe. He took a photo of the inlay work on the shank showing it from the right side. Some of you probably can name the various woods that are included in the shank but I cannot. I am fairly certain that there is a briar core and these are like a shank extension over that. They appear a bit rough in the photo and marred but all of that will be remedied in the restoration.Jeff took a photo of each side of the bowl to give an idea of the sheer contrast in terms of finish and also colour. The first shows the left side the second shows the right side. You can see the nicks in the finish on the right side as well as some potential fills.I realize as I get to this point in the blog that I have yet to describe the condition of the pipe. Okay let me do that now. I have been so caught up in trying to describe the craftsmanship and uniqueness of the design that I honestly forgot! To be honest the pipe is filthy! The sandblast portion has dust and debris in the finish. The rest of the bowl is dirty. The wood inlays are scratched, dented and the finish that protected them is worn off. The rim top has some marks and scratches in the surface. The inner edge of the bowl has some darkening and some tars and lava. The inside of the bowl appears a little odd to me. There is a cake in the bowl but what is shown in the two photos below looks like some bowl coating on the top portion that is peeling away with cake on top of it. That is strange. The stem is also dirty with tooth marks and chatter around the button on both sides.Jeff took some photos of the front of the bowl the grain on the smooth portion is really nice cross grain. The line running between the sandblast and the smooth portion is flowing and almost alive looking. It is rough because of the merging of the two finishes. Jeff took two photos of the stamping on heel and shank. The first photo shows the stamping clearly and the joint between the briar and the inlaid woods. The inlaid words are shown more clearly in the second photo. The woods are dull and lifeless looking up close. They are also rough to the touch. The stamping on the stem appears to be white but it is actually silver and is a inlaid into the acrylic. The stem is dirty and there is light tooth chatter and marks on both sides. There is also some scratching in the acrylic that is visible in the photos.I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what he had to say about this particular line of Butz Choquin pipes (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). He gives me a quick summary of the history of the brand. He also says that “the Cybele model has always the same shape with a shank extension of reconstructed exotic woods”.At this point I did some research on the name Cybele. I googled the name and found a link to smokingpipes.com that was written by Eric Squires describing the name of the pipe what he thought of the pipe he was looking at. (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/france/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=189504). I quote:

Cybele’s role in her native Anatolian remains an unknown. Most of what we know of her comes through the ancient Greeks worshiping her as an exotic deity, or the Romans’ later adoption of her as the Magna Mater. But what’s with this pipe? Given just how exotic its shaping is, and the sweeping nature of it, I would think it was inspired by the wilder rites that came to be associated with the goddess of enigmatic origins. Definitely this is one of the stranger designs I’ve seen by B.C., but that said it does still sit well.

I also googled the goddess Cybele to get a bit broader picture of what she was about in the Greek pantheon (https://www.theoi.com/Phrygios/Kybele.html).

KYBELE (Cybele) was the ancient Phrygian Mother of the Gods, a primal nature goddess worshipped with orgiastic rites in the mountains of central and western Anatolia. The Greeks identified her with their own mother of the gods–the Titaness Rhea.

Interesting information by it really did not help me understand why Butz Choquin had named their pipe Cybele. But I think I will leave that for now and move on to the restoration work on the pipe. Jeff had done his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed the internals of both the shank and he stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. He cleaned the stem with Soft Scrub and let the pipe dry thoroughly before putting it back together and sending it to me. I took some photos of the pipe when I unpacked the box. I took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the difference the cleaning had made. There are a few nicks in the surface of the rim top but the edges look very good. The stem also looks much better. There are a few light tooth marks in the surface of the stem on the top and underside near the button.The stamping looked very clear and the scratching on the wood inlay section looked better. I took the stem off the bowl and took some pictures. I decided to polish out the scratches in the smooth parts of the bowl and the wood inlaid shank first so I used micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad to get a sense of progress.