Blog by Steve Laug
I am back to a few other pipes that have been here for a while. You can see from the photos that Jeff took that it is another one that has been here for a long time. We picked it up back in 2019 – I can’t believe that it is over three years ago. It is about time I got around to working on it because it is a nice one. We purchased the pipe from an online auction on 02/10/2019 in Tidioute, Pennsylvania, USA. It had an smooth brown finish with a chunky shank and stem. The stem is older style thin taper. There was a thick cake in bowl and a heavy lava coat on the rim top and the inner edge. The finish was absolutely filthy with grit and grime ground into the surface of the briar. There is a heavy dust coat on the finish but there is some nice grain showing through. The pipe is stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left side it reads Emperor [over] Imported Briar. On the right side it reads “Limited”. On the underside it has the shape number 192. The left side of the taper stem is stamped CUSTOM FINISHED. There is a fascinating stinger apparatus in the tenon. The stem surface was oxidized and dirty. It was hard rubber so the oxidation was not a heavy. It had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up work. I like to have an idea of how the pipe was smoked before we got it and the condition of the bowl and rim top. Jeff always takes some photos of the bowl and rim from various angles to show what it looked like. He took photos of the stem to show the condition. The stem was dirty, oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter on both sides at the button. He took a photo of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a sense of the condition of the pipe when we received it. It was filthy but there was some underlying beauty to the briar. The next photos show the stamping on the sides of the shank and the stem. It is clear and readable as noted above. The Brand was unfamiliar to me so I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what he had on the Emperor Pipe Brand (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-e3.html). The site had a small one line entry in the side bar that read “a brand of Empire Pipe Co.”. I also included a screen capture of the two examples of the pipes shown there. The first is a Supreme and the second is a Standard. The one that I have is different form those and is marked “Limited”.I turned to Pipedia for more information on the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Emperor). I quote from the article below.
Empire Briar Pipe Company Inc. of New York produced Emperor pipes. Known at “The Pipe that knows no Peer” as their 1945 advertising promotes. That ad reads “The pipe that knows no Peer. For every Emperor pipe is a notable work of art, a masterpiece created in the custom tradition.” They are a subsidiary of the Continental Briar Pipe Co. Inc. 80 York Street, Brooklyn, New York. They had Three grades: Standard, De Luxe and Supreme.
There was a pipe illustrated in the article that was stamped the same as the one I am working on. While it was definitely in much better condition it was the same stamp. I have included a photo of the stamping on that pipe to show the parallels to the one I have on the table now.There were also some advertisements that had been provided by Doug Valitchka. The first is a from Look Magazine, 1945. The second one is from December of 1947. Both are fascinating examples of the kind of descriptions used to sell these pipes – Pipes that Know No Peers!.
Another piece of the puzzle for me included this description of the fascinating “cleaner” stinger that was in the tenon on the pipe. It was called a Keystone Cleaner. It reads as follows:
By twice reversing the direction of the smoke, Emperor’s exclusive Keystone cleaner gives you cooler, drier, sweeter smoking. It can be quickly and easily removed. Try it yourself. You will notice a pipe cleaner will not pass directly through it, but rather through two divergent channels, to spin the smoke clean.I knew that I was working on an American made pipe by Empire Briar Pipe Company, Inc. at 608 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York. The stem on the one I was working on was stamped CUSTOM FINISHED and had the screw in stinger pictured above. My guess is that the pipe was from the late 1940s to early 1950s judging from the shape and the material provided on Pipedia. In the last paragraph of the ad above it gives a listing of the grades beginning at Standard and moving through Deluxe, Supreme and then Limited. I was working on one of the higher grades. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
Jeff had done a great cleanup on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the bowl exterior with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime on the finish of the bowl and the lava from the rim top. He rinsed it under running water. One of the benefits of this scrub is that it also tends to lift some of the scratches and nicks in the surface of the briar. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He soaked the stem in Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. When I received it the pipe looked much better. I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top and the inner edge and outer edge of the bowl were in rough condition. The stem was hard rubber and it was lightly pitted. There was light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button and on the button surface. The stamping on the shank of the pipe is clear and readable as noted above. The stamping on the stem is deep and readable.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole.I started my work on the pipe by dealing with the rim top and edges. I used a folded piece of 220 sandpaper to smooth out the damage on the inner and outer edge of the bowl. The outer edge still shows some damage but it is minimized. I do not want to top it as it is already a short bowl and I do not want to change the profile.I polished the smooth portions of the briar with 1500-12000 micromesh sanding pads and wiping it down with damp cloth after each sanding pad. The inner edge of the rim, the band on the shank end and the band round the smooth base were all polished. As I worked through the cycle of pads the shine developed with each change of pad. The pipe looks very good. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes, then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain showed clearly. It was a beautiful piece of briar. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I heated the stinger with a lighter to loosen the gunk holding it in place. Once it was loose I removed it from the tenon and clean both the inside of the stem and the stinger itself. I cleaned the airway in both and the threads in both. Once it was clean I greased the threads with Vaseline and put it back in the tenon. I polished the stem and built in band with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. The photos below show the polished stem. This American Made Emperor “Limited” 192 Bent Billiard with a hard rubber stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich browns of the stain made the grain come alive with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. 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 to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Emperor “Limited” Bent Billiard really is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.80 ounces /51 grams. This beauty will be going on the rebornpipes store in the American Pipe Makers Section. Let me know if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!