Tag Archives: Carved Briar Wood Nymph Pipe

Shades of Tolkien and Lewis – Restoring a Stunning Figural Briar “Dryad”


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the Christmas holidays I listen to the audio book of the Hobbit and the entire Chronicles of Narnia. I am not sure if that influences what I see in the next pipe or not, but to me it is what I imagined when both spoke of the Dryads, Wood Nymphs or Entwives. The carved figure coming out of the back of the bowl of this pipe perfectly captures what I imagined. The hair on both sides is entwined with leaves, vines and fruit (grapes). There is a symbol like a flower with a jewel in the centre at the top of the forehead that seems to be on a band around the head. The feminine features are well worked on the face and as you hold it looking at it you can easily imagine it watching you.

I did a bit of research on Google and found ought a fair bit about Dryads. I included this picture from Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2440813268) as well as a close up of the face of the woman in the pipe I am working on. I summarize what I learned about Dryads below: According to Greek mythology a Dryad is a tree nymph or tree spirit. The Greek word Drys signifies “oak”, and dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees, but the term has come to be used for tree nymphs in general, or human-tree hybrids in fantasy.

I found another photo of a Dryad that is stunning. She is reaching out of the tree for the person coming towards her (http://testforbloggerandgadgets.blogspot.com/2014/04/spritesdryads-spritesnymphs.html). The pipe I am working on has a shank that is like a hollow branch with the stem carved like a hand reaching out toward the smoker and grasping the blade of the stem.Jeff picked the pipe up from an auction from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. The grain on the pipe was stunning with straight and flame grain around the bowl and shank. The rim top was plateau briar and the carver had used it to form almost a leafy overhang over the face. There were chips out of the overhanging edge on the left rear of the bowl and the right side. It was visible but did not detract from the carving. The pipe was dirty and needed a lot of work to clean up in terms of grit and grime in the carving’s features and ground into the smooth bowl sides. The pipe had been smoked and there was a moderate cake and some lava on the beveled inner edge of the rim. Jeff took photos of the pipe to give a sense of the overall look and condition it was in before he worked his magic on it. He took photos of the plateau rim top and the bowl to show the condition of both. You can see the lava on the beveled inner edge at the back of the bowl. The plateau is actually quite nice and the beveled rim edge should look stunning once it is cleaned up.The unique carved hand coming off the tenon and holding the blade of the stem is really interesting. The shank end is carved like a snapped off tree branch and the hand is reaching out of it .The left hand fingers and thumb hold what looks like a crescent moon and the top of the stem flows out of that. Look closely at the carving of the stem and the shank end in the photos below. The stem is heavily oxidized and scratched and will take a lot of work to clean up in all the grooves of the hand. He took some close up photos of the stem surface on both sides. It is heavily oxidized but there are not any tooth marks or chatter.Jeff took photos of the smooth portions of the bowl sides to show the amazing grain on the pipe. It is straight/flame grain that flows up from the flattened heel of the bowl to the plateau of the rim top.Jeff took a series of photos to show the details of the carving around the backside of the bowl and the curves around the edges. You can see the floral like band on the forehead and the vine like hair framing the face. The detail of the emblems hanging on the sides of her face and hair are very similar looking to the one that is on the forehead. At first I thought they were earrings but I am not pretty certain they hang from the head band on the sides of her head. There is some stamping on the left side of the shank that is carved in by hand. There are several possibilities as to what it says but I cannot find any information on any of them. One possibility could be Chambers 70 which would be the name of the carver and the date. Another possibility is Cham Cerato but I cannot find anything like that name for a carver. Do any of you know who it could be?Jeff reamed the bowl with a Pipnet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He carefully scrubbed the bowl, plateau rim top, beveled inner edge and the carving on the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft tooth brush. He was able to remove the grime from the surface of the briar and the carving without damaging the face. He cleaned the internals of the mortise, airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol and cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. This pipe is so ornate that it took some time and care to not damage it in the process of the cleaning. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove some of the oxidation on the surface in the fingers of the carving. He soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to further remove the oxidation. While he got a good portion of it there was still some deep oxidation on the stem surface and in the grooves of the carving that I would  need to deal with. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. It looks significantly better.  I took a close up photo of the plateau rim top and beveled inner edge. The inner edge looks very good. The stem photos show the remaining oxidation on both sides.I took a photo of the stamping and show the knot like spot below the carving.I took a photo of the pipe taken apart to give a sense of proportion to the whole that is hard to see with the stem in place in the shank. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips. I worked it into the carvings with a q-tip or cotton swab. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then carefully buffed it off with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process.   Earlier in the process I had put the stem to soak in the Briarville Deoxidizer Bath while I worked on the bowl. It was time to take it out – almost 2 hours in the bath. While it definitely was not as brown as it had been the hand and wrist still showed a lot of oxidation. This was going to be a bear to work on and would take a lot of time to get it all off!I scrubbed the stem and all the grooves with Soft Scrub using cotton swabs and cotton pads. Many pads and cotton swabs later it was finally looking better. Still a lot of work to do but I feel like I am making some progress. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I am excited to finish this Mythical Dryad/Wood Nymph/Entwife Pipe. I put the pipe back together and hand buffed it with a soft cloth and clean tooth brush. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of a coat of Conservators Wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with beautiful mixed grain and carved face emerging from the back of the bowl looking at you while you hold it. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem with the hand reaching out of the branch like shank made a stunning pipe. This incredible hand carved Dryad/Wood Nymph/Entwife pipe is great looking and feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 8 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches long x 2 inches wide, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 54grams/1.90oz. It is a beautiful pipe that I will be keeping in my own collection. I am looking forward to my yearly reading of the Lord of the Rings and will enjoy a bowl of tobac as I read. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.