Blog by Dal Stanton
This is my first time working on a Carey Magic Inch pipe, but it has a reputation for being a uniquely American made pipe with bold claims of having secured ‘Pipedom’s’ holy grail, “The cooler and dryer smoke.” The Carey Magic Inch came to me from a good friend, Dave Shane. I worked with Dave when we were both younger men – he much younger than I(!), in Ukraine, a pipe man and restorer himself (see: https://www.thepipery.com). When I was in the US a few years ago I visited Dave and he gifted me a box of pipes that he hoped would benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls we work with here in Bulgaria who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. The Carey Magic Inch was in this trove for the Daughters. Later, after posting pictures of these pipes in my online collection, ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’, another friend of mine of many years, Steve, saw the Magic Inch Apple and commissioned it along with a French GBD Sablée Standard, a beautifully blasted bent Billiard which I have already restored (A Long-time Friend Commissions a Blasted French GBD Sablée Standard Bent Billiard). Here are original pictures of the Carey Magic Inch Apple now on the worktable. The nomenclature on the left shank flank is ‘CAREY’ [over] ‘MAGIC INCH’ [over] Pat. No. 3267941 – the governmental protective seal of the ‘Magic Inch’. When I first unpacked this pipe to take these pictures, I was intrigued by the vents and filters and how all this pipe wonder worked! The stem pictured above has the characteristic raised box ‘C’ marking its Carey provenance. When I first saw it, I pressed the box thinking that it was a button or slide that somehow adjusted the vents and potential louvers that I thought might be hiding somewhere. But it doesn’t work anything. Along with the gold shank divider ring, it decorates the stem.Pipedia’s information is scant but provides several pictures of different Magic Inch pipes:
The “Magic Inch” System has been a Carey’s tradition for over 50 years, with over 1,000,000 sold. The “Magic Inch” is an air chamber inserted between the imported briar bowl and the vented mouthpiece which allows cool outside air to enter and mix with the warm tobacco smoke inside the “Magic Inch” chamber. Tobacco tars, oils and moisture, are squeezed out of the smoke. The residue drops to the bottom of the chamber and is absorbed by the Papyrate sleeve. From its rich tradition and thousands of satisfied customers, this pipe is sure to be your smoking favorite for life.
The Pipedia article also provided the US based website for Carey pipes. I found an article there printed with permission from PipesandTobaccosMagazine.com by William Serad with William Miller, who came into possession of E. A. Carey in 1982. The article is a good resource which traces the history of the E. A. Carey company from 1948 to 2018, including patent diagrams and descriptions. The article by Serad begins with comments about the sales pitches that became a Carey gimmicky trademark – “Try my pipe for 30 days” with an offer that if you weren’t pleased with the pipe you could take a hammer to it and return it for a full refund! Serad’s article begins:
In the great American tradition of everyman briar pipes, many names come to mind: Dr. Grabow, Yello-Bole, Kaywoodie and Medico, among others. To me, the one with the most attention-getting advertising was always the E.A. Carey pipe: “Try my pipe FREE for 30 days. If you don’t like my pipe, smash it with a hammer and send me the pieces.”
That second part became, “If you don’t like it for any reason, just return it to E.A. Carey for a 100 percent refund, no questions asked.” What an offer! Plus, the pipes feature the famous Carey Magic Inch, a unique smoking system protected by U.S. Patent 3,267,941.
The article describes the birth of the Carey Magic Inch starting in 1952 when the original patent was issued (work started in 1948) for a ‘smoking device’ to Max J. Doppelt of Chicago. The original design was not successful, but through development the current patent. No. 3267941 was secured in 1966 with the design that hasn’t changed since. Instead of wholesaling the Magic Inch, Doppelt started the practice of direct mail order which continues to this day with people purchasing the pipes directly from E. A. Carey. In reading the article, I was also interested to read that not to complicate Doppelt’s life, the Magic Inch was only produced as a straight Billiard shape in those days. At that time, the pipes were made for Doppelt by Comoy’s of London. What stands out as the hallmark of this period was the over the top sales marketing that appealed to the ‘everyday man’ and the sale of the E. A. Carey Magic Inch pipe grew.
On the ‘info’ page of the E. A. Carey website, I clipped this entire section to include in this write up. My initial intrigue with all the ‘bells and whistles’ of the pipe was punctuated with the question, ‘How does this pipe work?’ Of course, the E. A. Carey sales pitch hype is rife throughout, but I believe the years of unchanged design and the fact that it still enjoys a sizable market share, provides the space for some bragging rights!The E. A. Carey Magic Inch Pat. No. 3267941 on my worktable, I’m calling a ‘refresh’ because it appears to have been smoked maybe once or a very few times. It shows only a very small darkened lighting burn spot on the rim (marked below), but essentially no residue in the chamber that I see. Looking at the stem, there are only scratches and blemishes that would result from being in a drawer or in an old collector cigar box for a time. One question that I have as a restorer is the finish on the stummel. The grain is very attractive, but the finish seems to be an acrylic which I’ve described as a ‘candy apple’ finish that hides the natural briar shine. This is common from factory mass produced pipes. I take a few pictures looking at these areas now on my worktable. Before starting the work, since I have never worked on a Carey Magic Inch before this, I wasn’t sure that I could remove the mortise insert – on the diagram above, it doesn’t provide any clues. Since its plastic, I don’t want to risk damaging the pipe. I decide to look at rebornpipes to see what Steve’s experience has been with the Magic Inch. I’m glad I looked!
From the restorations I looked at he did a few years ago, he had quite a time working on the stems of these restorations. The restorations were from the same haul Jeff Laug had secured from Montana and sent on to Steve for restoration. The first was a freehand, Carey Magic Inch Freehand Briar Pipe, that set the stage for the next Magic Inch from the same batch – Another Painful 70s Era E.A. Carey Magic Inch Apple Restored. The second title says it all. After reading the two blogs, it became evident that the material the stems are made of is a bear to sand and polish up. Also, in Steve’s restorations, he left the mortise insert intact. If that was his approach, that will be mine as well. In my E. A. Carey Magic Inch search on rebornpipes, Robert Boughton’s characteristic witty approach to blog writing was on display in his work on a Magic Inch he restored. The write up had an excellent recitation of the Carey history including patent diagrams – worth the read if you want to lean more! (Conjuring a Makeover for a Carey Magic Inch)
After reading Steve’s ‘love/hate’ relationship restoring Carey Magic Inch pipes, I can be thankful that the pipe is in good shape from the starting gate. However, my approach to the stem will require a bit more thought. I begin by cleaning the internals of the stummel. Using pipe cleaners alone wetted with isopropyl 95% I go to work. I find that there’s no work to be done – totally clean. Also, additionally using cotton buds, the stem internals are clean as well. It’s possible this pipe has never been smoked.Next, to clean the external briar surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad and scrub the briar. After cleaning, I take the stummel to the sink and rinse it with tap water. The surface was not that grimy but what I wanted to see was how the finish would react to the cleaning. The finish dulled through the cleaning which clues me to know that the finish is not an acrylic based which is good. This allows me to preserve the patina but bring out the natural briar without the chemical acrylic overcoat to fight. With the finish not in bad shape, I simply want to spruce up the natural briar shine and remove minor scratches and nicks. To do this I start with a medium grade sanding sponge and sand the stummel. I follow this with a light grade sponge. The briar of this Apple stummel is very attractive.Next, I run the stummel through the full regimen of micromesh pads. Starting with pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand. Following this I dry sand using pad 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. The progression is shown. The micromesh process reveals a very beautiful grain presentation on this Carey Magic Inch – this is not a second-rate swatch of briar. To enhance the hues of the natural briar, I utilize Mark Hoover’s, Before & After Restoration Balm (www.ibepen.com). I use this product because it teases out the subtle, deeper natural hues of the briar grain without getting in the way. Placing some of the Balm on my finger, I work it into the briar surface thoroughly. As I’ve described before, it starts as a crème-like substance out of the tube but thickens into a waxy consistency during application. After applying, I set the stummel aside allowing the Balm to do its things. The picture below is taken in the ‘absorbing’ state. After about 20 minutes, I wipe off the excess Balm with a cloth and then buff it up with a micromesh cloth.Turning now to the feisty stem, I take a few fresh pictures aiming the reflection on the stem to magnify the issues of the plastic-like material the Carey stems are made of. I begin sanding focusing only on the issues I see, not wishing to sand where not needed. I use 470 grade paper followed by dry sanding with 600 grade paper, then finishing this phase with 000 grade steel wool. This approach seems to have done an adequate job, but some very small imperfections persist – a sparkling spot on the upper side persists. After repeating the process on the ‘sparkle zone’ with 470/600/000 and seeing no improvement in this area, I decide to leave well enough alone. The picture below shows very small pits that persist.I move on to applying the full regimen of micromesh pads. My usual approach is to wet sand with the first 3 pads, 1500 to 2400, but this time around, I decide to stay on the dry side for this material only using Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads. Following the first three, I follow with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I like the results. Along with Steve’s assessment in his dealings with Carey stems, I’m not a fan. The material is stubborn and does not easily give up its blemishes. After completing the micromesh phase, I rejoin the stem and stummel and apply Blue Diamond to the pipe. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set the speed at 40% full speed and apply the compound. I pay attention to the one area on the upper stem that was not giving up a small area of speckling. I sanded it, micromeshed it, and it continues to hold on. I hope that the fine highspeed abrasion of the compound might help.Well, the speckling persists, but it is much diminished and not something to worry over. I’m very pleased with the stem. I use a felt cloth now to wipe off the excess compound that tends to cake and congregate along the edges of things. I make sure this is removed before proceeding to the waxing phase.After changing to another cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel, maintaining the same speed, I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to both stummel and stem. After the application of the wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to disperse excess wax as well as to raise the shine.
Without doubt, this Carey Magic Inch came to me in a passable condition, but now I believe its condition is better than new. One’s first impression (or at least mine) of the quintessential patented American Carey Magic Inch is its bells and whistles with the ‘Magic’ hype. Yet, without having ever tried the patented filtering system for myself, I must rely on the years that it has been in use. Yet, there is nothing hyped about the quality of the grain of this Carey Apple stummel. Wow! The grain is almost without blemish. I found no fills in it. The grain patterns are tight and dense with a varied swirl moving diagonally. The heel of the flat underside is full of nicely woven bird’s eye pattern. The Apple bowl is very happy to rest in the palm and to serve! Steve saw and commissioned this Carey Magic Inch from the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ online collection and will have the first opportunity to claim it in The Pipe Steward Store. This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Thanks for joining me!