Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the worktable came from the estate of George Rex Leghorn. I received an email from his daughter Jennifer who is a little older than my 64+ years about whether I would be interested in his estate. My brother Jeff and I have been picking up a few estates here and there, so I was interested. Here is the catch – she did not want to sell them to me but to give them to me to clean up, restore and resell. The only requirement she had was that we give a portion of the sales of the pipes to a charity serving women and children. We talked about the organization I work for that deals with trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and their children and she decided that would be a great way to carry on the charitable aspect of her Dad’s character. With some great conversation back and forth she sent the pipes to Jeff and he started the cleanup process on them. Once he had finished cleaning them all he sent them to me to do my work on them.
The first pipe I chose to work on from the lot was a Comoy’s De Luxe 78 Military Bit Apple. It had some amazing grain on the bowl sides and shank. It had a Sterling Silver ferrule on the shank end that was oxidized and blackened. It had a badly oxidized stem with tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it was dirty and tired looking. It had been sitting in boxes for a lot of years and it was time to move ahead with the restoration. Jennifer took photos of the pipes she was sending. I have included the three she included from this pipe. When the box arrived from Jennifer Jeff opened it and took photos of each pipe before he started his cleanup work on them. This Comoy’s was a real beauty underneath the grime, tarnish and oxidation on the bowl and stem. The finish looked intact under the grime. The bowl had a thick cake that had hardened with time. The lava overflow on the rim could very well have protected the rim from damage. We won’t know what is under it until Jeff had cleaned it off. The silver work was tarnished but still looked classy on this old timer. The ferrule was undamaged with no dents of dings that are often found on these pipes. The stem was worn looking with a lot of deep oxidation and some tooth chatter and bite marks on both sides at the button. The overall look of the pipe made me think seriously about adding it to my own collection. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the edges of the bowl. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage.The grain around the bowl sides and heel was quite beautiful. Lots of cross grain and birdseye that would clean up very nicely. It was a beautiful pipe.Jeff took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. The left side was stamped Comoy’s De Luxe and the right side had the Comoy’s COM stamp and shape number. The COM stamp is a circle with Made and London arching around “in” in the centre. Underneath it read England. The shape number is 78. I am not overly familiar with this line of Comoy’s and will need to do some work to get an idea of both age and value in the hierarchy of the lines.He also took photos of the stamping on the ferrule and the three circle inlay of the C on the left side of the stem. The ferrule read HC in a box over STERLING LONDON. There were no hallmarks on the silver so I could not use those to help date the pipe. The C inlay looked very good and did not show damage to any of the three circles. Jeff did not take photos of the stem at this point. It is so easy to miss some photos in the processing of pipes.Jennifer consented to write a short tribute to her Dad for the blog. She is also sending along some photos and an article that her Dad wrote for Jeff and me to be able to get a feel for him. When it arrives I will post the photo with the other blogs on his pipes and will add it to this one as well. In the meantime I asked her to also send me an email with a brief tribute that I can use until then. Here is her email to me.
Steve, I want to thank you again for accepting my dad’s pipes. They were so much a part of my dad’s life that I could not simply discard them. But as his daughter, I was not about to take up smoking them either. *laughing* I think my dad would like knowing that they will bring pleasure to others. I know that I do.
I’m not sure what to say about his pipes. I always remember Daddy smoking pipes and cigars.
First a bit about my dad. Though my father, George Rex Leghorn, was American (growing up in Alaska), he managed to join the Canadian Army at the beginning of WWII, but in doing so lost his American citizenship. He was fortunate to meet a Canadian recruiting officer who told him the alphabet began with “A” and ended with “Zed” not “Zee”, and also told him to say that he was born in a specific town that had all its records destroyed in a fire. When the US joined the war my dad, and thousands of other Americans who had made the same choice*(see the link below for the article), were given the opportunity to transfer to the US military, and regain their citizenship.
After WWII, my dad, earned his degree at the University of California Berkeley and became a metallurgist. There is even a bit about him on the internet.
He loved taking the family out for a drive, and he smoked his cigars on those trips. (As a child, those were troubling times for my stomach.)
I most remember my father relaxing in his favorite chair with a science fiction book in one hand and a pipe in the other… Sir Walter Raleigh being his favorite tobacco… and the pipes themselves remind me of him in that contented way. If I interrupted his repose, he’d look up, with a smile on his face, to answer me.
It seemed he smoked his Briarwood pipes the most, though he had others. At the time, it was only the Briarwood I knew by name because of its distinctive rough shaped bowl. And it was the Anderson Free Hand Burl Briar, made in Israel, which I chose for his birthday one year, because I thought he might like that particular texture in his hand.
At least two of his pipes, he inherited from his son-in-law, Joe Marino, a retired medical laboratory researcher (my sister Lesley’s late husband)… the long stemmed Jarl (made in Denmark), and the large, white-bowled, Sherlock Holmes style pipe. I believe Joe had others that went to my dad, but Lesley was only sure about those two.
The Buescher, corncob pipe my older sister Lesley bought for Daddy while on one of her travels around the States.
A note on the spelling of my sister’s name…
My dad met my mother, Regina, during WWII and they married in Omagh, Ireland. My mother was English and in the military herself. The English spelling of Lesley is feminine, and Leslie masculine, in the UK… just the opposite of here in the United States. I guess my mom won out when it came to the spelling of the name.
I’ll send you photos of my dad soon, along with his WWII experience story.
I turned to my usual sources for information about the De Luxe line of Comoy’s and found nothing on the pipephil website. On the Pipedia site there was nothing clearly written identifying the brand but there was a page from a Comoy’s Catalogue advertising Specialty pipes from Comoy’s that included the De Luxe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:Comoy-Specialty.jpg). I have included a screen capture of the page for you to have a look.It describes the De Luxe as being available in 14 Army styles in walnut and sandblast finishes. These fine pipes have their beauty enhanced by heavy gauge sterling silver bands hand fitted by silversmiths. It is also available in Blue Riband and London Pride on special order. So it seems that it is a specialty item and a beautiful one at that. Does anyone know anything else about the line?
Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals 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. He was able to get most of the oxidation off of the silver ferrule as well. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and stem surface. I wanted to show what an amazing job Jeff did in the cleanup of the rim top and the great condition it was in under the thick lava coat. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks and chatter in front of the button on both sides.I also took some photos of the stamping on the pipe – both sides of the shank and the Sterling ferrule. You can see the three part C in the stem as well. The ferrule is loose and will need to be glued in place again. You can see in the third photo below that it is on the top of the shank instead of aligned on the left side with the stamping on the briar.I decided to repair the tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem so it could be drying while I worked on the bowl. I cleaned the tooth marks with a cotton swab and alcohol and dried it off. I filled in the deep divots with black super glue and set the stem aside so the repairs could cure.I turned my attention to the bowl. I painted some white all-purpose glue on the shank end and carefully pressed the ferrule onto the end of the shank. I turned it on the shank to align the HC Sterling London stamp on the ferrule with the Comoy’s stamp on the briar shank. I let the glue dry on the ferrule and once it had set I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The grain really began to stand out. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The grain shines through and really stands out. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the results. I used some silver polish to remove the remaining oxidation on the Sterling Silver ferrule. I rubbed it in with a cotton pad and polished it once it had dried. It took some time to polish out the scratches in the silver and give it a shine. I followed that up by polishing the ferrule with a jeweler’s polishing cloth. The photos show the shine.I set the bowl aside at this point and turned back to address the cured repairs on the stem surface. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the surface of the rubber and also to remove the oxidation that remained after Jeff’s cleanup. I polished it with 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out some of the scratching that was left behind by the earlier sanding.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I carefully worked around the Sterling Silver ferrule so I would not damage it. 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. The grain on this briar is absolutely beautiful and the shine on it makes the grain really shine. The pipe polished up really well. The wax and the contrasting stain on the bowl made the grain just pop on the briar. The polished black vulcanite seemed to truly come alive with the buffing. Comoy’s really captured this shape in a way that no one else has in my opinion. The pipe is perfect in my hand and when it warms with smoking I think it will be about perfect. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This is one that will remain in my collection. Once I figure out the value of the pipe I will make a donation on behalf of Jennifer’s Dad to the organization that I work for. It is a pipe like no other Comoy’s that I have seen before. I want to carry on the pipe trust of George Leghorn. Thank you Jennifer for trusting us with his pipes. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners, we are pipemen hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.