Tag Archives: Croydon Pipes

Cleaning Up a Wrecked Croydon Billiard for a Fellow Pastor in Vancouver

Blog by Steve Laug

Currently I am not taking on more work for repairs from email or online requests as I am just too busy. I still get the odd referral from the local Vancouver cigar and pipe shop that I feel obligated to repair or restore. They tend to be spread out a bit so I can fit them in among the other work that I am doing for estates. Earlier this week I received a phone call from a fellow who had been referred to me by the shop. In our conversation he said that he had some pipes that the stems were all loose on and he wanted to know if I would be able to help him. I have learned to not make any arrangements until I have the pipes in hand and have examined them. He came over Friday afternoon to let me have a look at the pipes. He handed me a bag and inside there were four or five extra stems that he had brought for my use. There were also three old and tired pipes. They were in very rough shape. Two were apple shaped pipes stamped VB and one was a Croydon billiard. The stems were indeed loose on two of the pipes and stuck on the third pipe. The bowls were clogged with a thick cake to the degree that I could not even get my little finger in them. The stems had a thick layer of calcification and some tooth marks. They needed a lot of work.

We talked about the pipes and that he had held them for a long time hoping for a repair. He had spoken with the cigar and pipe shop and they had led him to me. Now he could actually have a hope of smoking them again. In the course of the 30 minute or so conversation he asked me what I do for work. I told him I was a Presbyterian minister and was now working with an NGO dealing with the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children in 7 countries and 12 cities around the world. We talked about that a bit then he laughed and told me he was a United Church Minister who had taught in a variety of schools as well as pastored various parishes. We had a great conversation and I took the pipes and told him we would connect again once I had them finished.

I decided to start with the Croydon billiard. It was in very rough condition. The bowl was clogged with a thick hard cake and no air would pass through the shank. The finish was shot with burn marks and darkening about ½ inch down the back of the bowl. The rim top looked like it had been used for a hammer with the worst damage on the back portion of the bowl and rim top. The darkening was in the chewed up area on the back of the bowl so it would be interesting to see what I could do with that part of the pipe. The stem was oxidized with calcification extending for about an inch up the stem from the button. In the midst of the calcification were deep tooth marks that appeared to be rounded rather than sharp so I may well be able to lift them out with a lighter flame. The slot in the button was plugged with a pin hole sized airway going through it. I honestly do not know how this pipe was smoked the last time it was used. This was one of those pipes that I really dreaded working on because I just sensed that one thing would lead to another and the restoration would be almost endless. I took photos of the pipe before I started to record this anxious moment! I took some close up photos of the bowl and stem to show what I was dealing with on this pipe. You can see the density of the cake. It is not totally clear that the second half of the bowl is packed solid. The bowl also has a slant toward the rear from reaming with a knife. The rim top is the disaster mentioned above. It is very rough to touch. The stem is a mess as can be seen. There is some oxidation and a thick coat of calcification from the button forward. That too is rock hard. Both the stem and the shank are plugged with no air passing through them.I took pictures of the sides of the bowl and rim to give you an idea of the condition of the pipe. I could not believe the old fellow had said that the bowl were in “great shape”! I have no idea how he could call this “great shape”. What do you think? I took a photo o f the stamping to show the brand on the pipe. It is a little known brand with little information. This one reads Croydon on the left side of the shank and Italy on the right side. Sources I have found have hinted at it being from the Netherlands and others from Great Britain. I think the country of manufacture will remain a mystery for now. I have worked on other Croydon pipes in the past and never really been that impressed with them. They have seemed like lower end basket pipes that have a lot of putty fills in the briar and are generally finished with a varnish coat. At least with this one I could start from basically scratch. I did a bit of searching to find the maker of Croydon pipes and came across a short reference to the brand on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Croydon). There was no other information on the brand other than it was made in the Netherlands (does not help explain why this one is stamped Italy, but oh well). There was also a link to Don Bernard pipes in Amsterdam, Netherlands (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Don_Bernard_Pipes. On that link there was the name of the maker and an address for the company. It is Bernard Myburgh, Sumtrakade 1195 1019 RJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The website www.donbernardpipes.com did not work for me so I am not sure if it is still a valid company. There was also an email address listed for them (donbernard@upcmail.nl) so I sent an inquiry to them regarding the brand. The email bounced as the contact was no longer valid. At least I now have a connection to the Netherlands but it still does not help me with the Italy stamp on this pipe.

I could no longer postpone starting the work on this old pipe. Since I am a pipe refurbisher I had to get started on this beast. I began the work by reaming the bowl. I started with the smallest PipNet Reamer cutting head so as not to damage the bowl. The old fellow had chipped away enough of the carbon to smoke a little toward the end but he had done so at an angle so there was a nice concave cup in the back wall of the bowl. I had to work carefully through the cutting heads to straighten out the bowl. I used the first three cutting heads to get it reamed out. I took photos of each cutting head to chronicle that work. You can see the growing mound of carbon under the pipe in the photos. It was quite unbelievably hard. I cleaned up the edges and bottom of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the inside of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel to further smooth out the bowl. It really was one of the worst cakes that I have worked on. Once I was finished reaming it the airway was still clogged going into the bowl because of the tars and oils. I cleaned the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I opened the airway into the bowl with a sharp straightened paper clip and used the drill bit on a KleenReem tool to clean out the “crud” (hardened tars and oils). I scraped the inside of the mortise with a pen knife. I opened the slot in the button with a dental pick and pushed pipe cleaners through the debris in the stem. I scraped away the majority of the calcification with the pen knife while I was cleaning the stem. Once I had finished – many pipe cleaners and cotton swabs later the airway was unobstructed to the bowl and the pipe had begun to smell clean. With the internals clean it was time to work on the exterior of the bowl. It was unbelievably grimy and sticky. I scrubbed it with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed it under warm running water to wash away the soap and debris. I repeated the process until the exterior was as clean as I was going to get it at this point. I dried it off with a cotton cloth and took photos to show the progress. I knew that topping the bowl would only start to address the issues with the rim top and edges of this pipe. I wanted to have a flat surface to work with and to flatten the edges before addressing the damages. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and removed the damaged areas on the surface. Once I had finished the rim top was flat now I could deal with the edges of the bowl.The topping had removed much of the damage to the front and sides of the bowl. The slight damage that remained would be taken care of when I gave the rim a slight bevel. I decided to build up the damaged edge on the back of the bowl with Krazy Glue and briar dust. It would dry black but the edge would be smooth and the rim top even once I was finished. I would have to blend the transition with a dark brown stain. I layered the build up on the edge – glue then dust and repeating it until the edge was built up. The first photo below shows the repair before I shaped it with sandpaper and files. I sanded the edge and topped the bowl again to smooth out the rim top and edges. The second and third photo show where the pipe stands at this point. There are still a few spots on the outer edge of the rim but it is looking much better. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner and outer edge of the bowl. The outer edge cleaned up really well. I was quite happy with the finished look. The inner edge would take a bit more work once I had repaired the inside damage to the bowl.I sanded the exterior of the bowl and rim with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the nicks, scratches and remnants of the original finish. There was still a lot of work to do to finish the pipe as there were also some strange dark stains on the briar and a few fills that I wanted to smooth out. With initial sanding of the bowl finished it was time to address the damage to the inside of the bowl. There were some heat fissures mid bowl on the right side and the backside mid bowl had been carved out and there were fissures there as well. I mixed up a batch of JB Weld. I did not need too much as the damaged areas were very specific and I would not need to coat the whole bowl with the mixture. I blended the two parts together to a dark grey paste and used a dental spatula to apply it to the affected areas of the bowl. I have included two photos of the bowl repair to show the nature of the repair. Remember the majority of the patch will be sanded off leaving just the fissures filled in with the repair mix. I let the repair harden for about 10 minutes before moving on to sand the exterior of the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads to smooth out the finish on the bowl and prepare it for staining. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris from sanding. I used a Dremel and a sanding drum to take down the excess JB Weld in the bowl. I ground it down until the inside was smooth and the weld was in the fissures in the bowl sides. You can see the ring of weld around mid-bowl. That is where the most damage was on the bowl walls.With the scratches smoothed out and the repairs minimized a bit I decided to stain the pipe with a Dark Brown Feibings stain. The stain goes on very dark and covers a multitude of issues but when it is buffed and sanded the colour still allows the grain that is present to shine through clearly. I applied the stain and flamed it to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the bowl.In the morning one the stain had cured I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove the excess stain and make the stain coat more transparent. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp towel after each sanding pad. Each set of three pads brought the transparency to what I was aiming for and still masked the repaired areas on the bowl. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl, 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. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process. The pipe is looking much better than when I took it out of the bag. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic light to raise the tooth marks. It raised them all some but the two on the underside were too deep to come up very much. Overall the stem was looking better.I filled in the remaining tooth marks with clear Krazy Glue and let it cure. I like the clear glue on this kind of stem as it dries clear and the black of the stem shows through making for a very good blend with the existing material.I sanded the repaired areas on both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. I followed that by sanding them with a folded piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to begin the polishing.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. I wiped the stem down with Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to preserve and protect the stem. This was a challenging pipe to work on and I did the heavy work without Jeff. I put the stem back on the bowl and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish 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. The grain pops through enough to let us know it is there and my repairs to the rim and back of the bowl blend in really well. I am pleased with the look of the pipe. It really has exceeded my expectations for it when I first took it out of the bag it was in when dropped off. The contrast between the dark brown stain of the briar and the polished black vulcanite stem look very good together. The pipe feels great in my hand and I am sure that it will feel even better radiating the heat of a good smoke. It must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it from the pipeman who dropped it off. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I am looking forward to what the old clergyman thinks of his “new” pipe. I think he will enjoy it for many years to come and perhaps it will pass to the next pipeman who will hold it in trust. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.

A Possible Peterson Croydon That Could Be the Twin of another Reborn Pipe; or, Two Minds with Almost a Single Thought

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author

“There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
― Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain, 1835-1910), U.S. author and humorist, in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” [1876]

I often wonder what my life would be like today had my mother married the man she loved – a well-known Apollo Program astronaut who later even tried to convince her to leave my dad. But she chose the space research and development nerd in the Brooks Brothers suits instead of the man in the dark blue uniform – which he sometimes traded for a big, bulky, white one with a sealed helmet to protect him from the void of space – who had the Right Stuff.Rob1 By the time he called again, I was about 10, living in the well-to-do Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, and Tricky Dick had somehow just been re-elected President. Even I knew what a mistake that was. I got out of bed late one night during one of my parents’ Gatsby-like parties to answer the phone upstairs in the hallway. A hushed voice, halting in surprise, asked, “Is Kit – your mother – there?”

I told him she was at the party downstairs and said I could go and get her, but he quickly said no, asking me to have her call him and giving me his nickname. He must have thought I wouldn’t know who he was, but meeting him when I was just a toddler was something I never forgot. “Yes, sir, I’ll tell her, Colonel So-and-So [not his real name],” I replied, and can still hear him almost choke up over the long-distance phone line 43 years ago. Speechless for a moment, he at last suggested I just tell my mother in the morning, and I said, like a good little soldier on a mission, “Okay, sir. I understand.” And somehow I did.

Some events seem probable had my mother not married the man in the Brooks Brothers suits: I likely would have followed the astronaut to the Air Force Academy, and he would have been proud of me until he died some years back, unless I beat him to it in the service of my country. But the rest is blurry, except that I am still fatherless although my dad is alive and well.

Oh, and one more thing. I would not be here in beautiful Albuquerque, searching for treasures in pipe lots and one at a time and all the other right places.

Looking online last week for background information on Croydon, I found links to various sites showing versions said to be made in London and Surrey, England as well as Spain, but without photos showing the nomenclature. Then I found a site for a definite Croydon brand from a Dutch carver named Lex Brouwer. There were also several sites for other brands, including Hilson and Peterson’s, with Croydon lines. I felt safe ruling out Hilson, which is known for its meerschaum lined chambers and mostly glazed clay bowls and shanks. Imagine my surprise to find an old Reborn Pipes blog by our host himself, from three years ago (June 20, 2012), about a ruined Croydon he believed was an old Peterson and of course re-made it to look perhaps better than new! Here are, top to bottom, his Croydon before restore and mine:Rob2

Rob3 Clearly, the similarity of the two pipes, other than the identical stampings of CROYDON over BENT, is not in these two before shots. What is amazing is how alike our vision of the finished pipe should be. (No fair skipping ahead to see what I mean! Bad habit!) Maybe even scarier is the fact that Steve’s modifications were made by necessity, about which you can read at https://rebornpipes.com/2012/06/20/old-croydon-reborn-3/, while mine were just for the sake of personal preference and nothing else. I might just as well have reamed and sanded the chamber, scrubbed and retorted the insides, lightly micro-meshed the bit below the lip and given the whole thing a nice new buffing.Rob4





Rob9 But I’m just sick and tired of all the rusticated pipes that are finished with black stain! Enough is enough, I say! At least for this restoration, which I can only call that because of the initial stripping of the insidious stain, starting with 300-grit sandpaper followed by 400 and micromesh every grade from 1500-4000.Rob10





Rob15 I wanted to remove as much of the black from the crooks and crevices of the rustication as possible. Yes, my goal was to eradicate it if possible, which proved impossible with my knowledge – short of soaking only the wood in Everclear, which was problematic what with having to plug both ends of the draught hole and keeping the metal tilted up and out of the 95% alcohol. I suspect the alcohol would have eaten its way past any stoppers I might have devised anyway, and besides, I have had enough experience stripping pipes this way to have learned that less, in most cases, is better. Of course, in the case of Steve’s Croydon, he had absolutely no choice but to do a total makeover, even to the point of considering the idea of re-Christening the completed work a “Croydon-Reborn.” Reading his blog, I was touched by the apparently sincere struggle he had with the entire process he has many times since performed with ever-increasing brilliance.

At any rate, I chose the kinder, gentler approach of going over the wood again, but with super fine 0000 steel wool and focusing my tiring hand-work on the celestial but microcosmic canals and pocks. Then I did the full range of micromesh again from 1500-4000.Rob16






Rob22 As is apparent, my efforts to remove even a little more of the blackness were fruitless. I should have known better than to try, but still not refrained from using the steel wool and another thorough micromesh progression for its fine effect on smoothing the wood and making it glow.

It was time, if not overdue, for retorting, which took a surprisingly low number of Pyrex test tubes of boiled Everclear shot through the stem and shank into the chamber filled with cotton that came out with any brown, and another to boil up and drain out several more times to confirm the job was done right.

Now, for the point of all this technically unnecessary work obliterating the certainly OK original black stain. What I was looking for was something closer to the briar’s true color but dark enough to cover the grain and fill in the grooves. I decided on Lincoln Marine Cordovan (Burgundy red) boot stain, knowing that except with the lightest shades of briar, it leaves only a subtle redness. Here it is, first stained and flamed, then gently buffed with 3200 micromesh and then after being hand-coated with Halcyon II to sit a while before buffing on the clean wheel.Rob23


Rob25 Everything so far had worked out just right to do the minor clean up needed on the upper top and bottom of the bit, and including the lip, while the wax on the briar dried a little and worked into the wood. I micro-meshed the bit with 1500, 2400, 3200 and 3600 before buffing with red and white diamond, using the clean wheel and a soft cotton rag after both. Below are two shots before and one after, as both sides ended up the same.Rob26


Rob28 The last part of the job was to put the briar to the clean buffer with a light touch, re-join the two separated parts of the pipe and again wipe the whole thing with a cotton cloth.Rob29






Rob35 I caught the slight smudge on the top of the stem in the photos above after taking them and fixed the problem. Now for the final, left view photos of Steve’s finished Croydon and mine side-by-side.Rob36 CONCLUSION
This was, of course, no competition, if only because of the fact that Steve’s was done three years ago, a few months before we ever “met” online. But had they both taken place at the same time, his would, hands-down, be the winner. Being able to take a pipe in the abominable condition in which Steve found his and clean it, rusticate the bowl and shank himself and replace not only the stem but, it appears, the band using the exact types with which an original is created astounds me…and inspires me.

If I still drank, Steve, I’d have two, one for me and one for you. But I wouldn’t stop there, so I guess I’ll have to settle for a Monster!