Tag Archives: fitting a stem

Rejuvenating a Ben Wade Hand Model London Made Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

This Ben Wade came to me a couple of years back when I landed, from the eBay auction block, what I have called the Lot of 66. It continues to yield nice collectable pipes. The finish on this Ben Wade is a rustic looking blasted finish which is eye catching with the detail and bowl shaping. It caught Todd’s eye in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and is the last of 3 that he has commissioned. Here are pictures of the Ben Wade Hand Model now on my worktable: I’ve discovered through the reading I’ve done about the name ‘Ben Wade’ that it has an up and down history. The Pipedia article is helpful in simplifying the history in four helpful ‘eras’ which I’ve summarized from the Pipedia:

The Family era (1860 to 1962) – the heydays of the English name when the pipes were stamped Made in Leeds, England.

Charatan / Lane second (1962 to 1988) – When Herman G. Lane purchased the name, the transition from a higher quality pipe during the long Family Era transitioned exclusively to the fabrication of machine-made pipes. Lane moved the production from the Leeds factory (closed in 1965) to Charatan’s Prescott Street factory. Ben Wade became essentially lower quality series pipes produced in standard shapes. The pipes during this period were stamped, “Made in London, England” or dropping the “London” and stamped with “England” alone. After Lane died, in 1978 his heirs sold the Charatan and Ben Wade names to Dunhill, which left the production of Charatan/Ben wade at the Prescott Street factor. In 1988 production came to an end for Ben Wade when the Charatan’s Prescott Street factory closed.

Ben Wade turns Danish (1971-1989) – During this era Preben Holm, from Denmark, was in financial difficulties and Herman Lane and he went into partnership producing the Handmade and fancy pipes. These pipes were marked “Ben Wade Made in Denmark”. These pipes gained great popularity, especially as the were marketed in the US. After Lane’s death, Preben Holm, not the businessman, was in financial difficulties and reduced his workforce and production, but at his death in 1989, production of the Danish Preben Holm pipes came to an end.

Resurrection – (1998 to present) – Duncan Briars bought the Ben Wade name from Dunhill in 1998 and production of Ben Wade pipes restarted at the Walthamstow plant, sharing the same space where Dunhill pipes are produced and reportedly benefiting from the same quality of production. During this present era, the stamping on the pipes is: “Ben Wade, Made in London, England”The reason I went through this summary of Ben Wade’s morphing history is because in nothing I’ve read about Ben Wade (and I’m sure there’s more out there), I found no reference to a Ben Wade Hand Model with the COM, London Made. The stamping on the pipe before me is ‘Ben Wade’ [over] HAND MODEL [over] LONDON MADE. The saddle stem has the Ben Wade stamped on the upper side of the stem saddle. My first glance at the blasted finish made me wonder whether this Ben Wade came out during the ‘mystery’ Resurrection period in the Pipedia article. Here is the full text that made me wonder:

As said before Preben Holm’s death marked the third end of Ben Wade and for long years there were no Ben Wade pipes in the shops anymore. But then, all of a sudden they were back in the USA some years ago! Who made these pipes? A concrete manufacturer was not known at first.

The rumors spreading were considerable. Especially because these Ben Wades – originally all blasted and in deep black color – featured so perfect straight and / or ring-grain that they were almost suspicious in view of the prices. The supposition that “Mother Nature” had been given a leg up by means of rustication combined with subsequent blasting was evident as different sources confirmed.

Steve on rebornpipes refers to pipes as having a ‘blasticated’ finish. The process is blasting a rusticated pipe making it appear naturally blasted but the more perfect lines make it seem better than ‘mother nature’ as the Pipedia described. As I look at this Ben Wade, I wonder if it’s from that time period and the grain looks so good, is it blastication? I sent Steve the picture below and his verdict was not blastication, but a really nice looking blasted finish. Yet, I’m stumped by the COM marking. Here’s a close-up of the stummel, very nice natural 3-D blasted grain and not blastication. I sent out pictures of some pictures and the nomenclature to various pipe Facebook groups and the responses I did get, though they were anecdotal, pointed to an earlier period. Paul, from Pipe Smoker of America FB Group, said that he believed it was a Pre-78 and made in Charatan factory. He also said that these were some of his best smokers are London BWs. It sounds good to me!

As I look at the condition of this Ben Wade, the surface needs cleaning to see what the finish will do. The finish is dark and tired as I look at it. The chamber shows light cake buildup and the rim is darkened with some lava flow. The stem will need to be cleaned of the oxidation and the button is chewed some with bite compressions on both the upper and lower bit.

With a better knowledge of the Ben Wade Hand Model Billiard on my worktable, I begin by cleaning the stem airway with pipe cleaners wetted with alcohol and then add it to a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue. After several hours, I fish out the Ben Wade’s stem and wipe it down with cotton pads wet with alcohol to remove the raised oxidation. The Deoxidizer did a great job.To begin to rejuvenate the stem, I apply a coat of paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to the vulcanite and then put it aside.Next, I go to work on the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming Kit. After putting paper towel down, I ream using 3 of the 4 blade heads available. I follow by fine-tuning with the Savinelli Fitsall tool and finish by sanding the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen giving the briar a fresh start. I then wipe the chamber with a cotton pad and alcohol ridding it of leftover carbon dust. After inspecting the chamber, I see no heating or burning problems. I move on! The internals of the mortise and airway are next on the cleaning regimen. Using cotton buds and a few pipe cleaners, things clean up quickly. I also use a dental spatula and scrape the mortise wall and remove very little tars and oils. It’s nice when a stummel isn’t horrendously grungy! Moving on.Moving now to the external blasted finish, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad to scrub. I’m wondering how strong the finish is – it appears a bit thin and the cleaning will reveal the answer. I also use a bristled tooth brush as well as a brass wire brush on the rim. After scrubbing, I take it to the sink and rinse the stummel with cool tap water without allowing water in the internals! The verdict is that the finish is worn and the scrubbing on the rim has left bare briar. With the day closing, I want to give the internals a further cleaning using kosher salt and alcohol as a soak. I create a wick from a cotton ball by pulling and twisting it. The wick serves to draw the tars and oils out. I then insert the wick down the mortise and airway with the help of a stiff wire. I then fill the bowl with kosher salt (which leaves no aftertaste) and after placing the stummel in an egg carton to keep it stable; I put isopropyl 95% into the chamber until it fills. I wait a few minutes and top off the alcohol once more. I turn out the light allowing the stummel to soak through the night. The next morning, I discover that the soak has not unearthed too much additional tars and oils from the internals of the pipe. This was confirmed after I followed with a few cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. Cleaned!Turning my attention now to the Ben Wade stem, the Before & After Deoxidizer did a great job excising the oxidation from the vulcanite rubber compound. Now I focus on the bit and button repair which have some significant bite compressions. I take a closer look with a couple of pictures to mark the start of the repair. I start by painting the bit area with a Bic lighter to heat and expand the vulcanite. After doing this for some time I take comparison pictures to show the unsatisfactory progress. Comparing first:

Upper bit, before and after:Lower bit, before and after:The heating process made little progress. I now mix activated charcoal with CA glue to form a patch material and apply it to the tooth compressions and to the button lips – I’ll need to reshape the button. I first clean the stem area with isopropyl 95%. I then gradually mix thick CA glue with activated charcoal on an index card. I aim for a thickness of molasses so it’s thick enough to stay in place not run but will allow some manipulation once applied. On the first mixing, I mixed too much activated charcoal with the CA glue and got one of the chemical reactions where the mixture hardens instantly giving off an acrid smoke!! This has happened before. I need to apply the mixture before it thickens too much. The next mixtures work well. After applying patch material to both upper and lower I set the stem aside to allow the patch to cure. I turn my attention now to the Ben Wade Hand Model stummel. I like the rustic look of this stummel. What I also like about it is that there is a curving or narrowing in the shaping of the bowl about 2/3s up as it moves toward the rim. With the rough finish, rough is good and the surface reminds me of tree bark! With the stummel being dry and with a light blotchy look in the valleys of the blasted areas, I decide to add some paraffin oil to the briar to hydrate it. Doing this also allows me to get a sneak preview of what the briar will look like somewhat finished, I apply paraffin oil to the surface with a cotton pad. This moisturizes the briar and I like what I’m seeing. The only thing I’m not liking is that the scorched place on the back side of the rim is still evident even with the help of a darkened blend. The pictures show what I’m seeing. I decide to go back to an elbow grease methodology and focus cleaning on the rim with a brass wire brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. This time Murphy’s has its way. I did do a lot of scrubbing and the rim surface shows the skinned lighter area on the rim where the cleaning was, but the scorched area was removed.To darken the rim to blend with the rest of the bowl, I use a cherry dye stick which matches pretty well and I color the rim as well as the edge of the rim – external and internal. This looks good and will blend in more as I polish.Next, to clean up the lower shank panel, I very quickly and lightly, run the area through the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 – dry sanding with each. I wasn’t worried about the nomenclature because it is deep and solid, and I sanded very lightly with the pads. This gently cleaned the smooth briar of minor nicks and scratches.I like the look of the finish and decide that it looks good just as it is. In order to deepen and enrich the natural grain, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm. I like this product that can be found at http://www.lbepen.com. I apply some of the Balm to my fingers and thoroughly work it into the briar surface – into the nooks and crannies of the richly blasted briar. After applying, I let the stummel sit for a few minutes – 10 or so, and then I wipe the stummel with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm and to buff it up a bit. I take a picture during the ‘absorbing’ period.The patches on bit and button of the stem are now cured after several hours. I begin to remove the excess patch material on the upper bit using a flat needle file. I’m careful to establish the new inner lip of the button. As I filed to shape the new button lip, I discover a crevasse hidden below which is too severe simply to remove. There are other pockets on the button that don’t look too promising. It is normal in my experience, that its necessary to apply additional patch material to fill pockets and gaps that appear during filing and sanding.To address patching the button problems, this time I use a black CA glue to fill the crevasse and pockets and I apply an accelerator to quicken the curing process. Again, filing and shaping the upper button lip and this time better results are realized.I follow filing by sanding with 240 grit paper (which I forgot to add as a prop to this picture!) to erase the marks left by filing. As with the filing of the button, the finer 240 paper reveal a cluster of pockets in the center bit area in the patch. Again, I spot drop black CA glue to fill the pockets, apply an accelerator and file the excess then sand the bit area with 240 grit paper. The upper bit and button area look good. The same process is repeated on the lower bit and button. It too, looks good. With the bit repairs completed and with the repaired button shaped, I continue by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper. I’m careful to work around the BEN WADE stem stamp on the saddle. After wet sanding with 600 grit, I apply 0000 steel wool to stem. Finally, I wet scrub the stem with Magic Eraser. I’m satisfied with the progress. I move forward with the micromesh pad regimen wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I follow each set of 3 pads with an application of Obsidian Oil which further rejuvenates the vulcanite. I like that vulcanite pop! The stem looks great. I try to reunite the stem and the stummel and as is the case sometimes, after cleaning the mortise, the briar inside can expand causing the fit with the tenon to become too tight. I do not want to force the stem and risk a cracked shank, so I gently ream the mortise with a half-rounded needle file. Then I gently sand the tenon by wrapping 600 grit paper around the tenon.This works and I am able then to reunite the stem with the stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% full power.  I apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  I run the wheel along the grain of the blasting to bring out the contrasts of rough briar as well as to buff it up into a shine.  After completing the Blue Diamond, before applying wax, I freshen the Ben Wade white stem stamp.  I clean the area with alcohol and then I dab a bit of white acrylic paint over the stamping.  I then use a cotton pad to tamp the wet paint which draws off the excess paint and helps the paint to dry sooner. Then using a toothpick, I gently scrape off the excess paint leaving a refreshed BEN WADE stamp.  It looks nice and crisp.I then mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel and apply carnauba wax to the stummel.  I increase the speed of the Dremel from my usual 40% up to about 50 to 60% full power.  I do this to create more heat with the friction of the wheel to encourage the wax to dissolve in the craggy blasted briar surface.  Waxing a rough surface can cause the wax to collect and not to absorb into the surface.  The added heat encourages this and as I look at the waxing action, it looks like it’s having the desired effect.  Nice!  After finishing the waxing process, I then give the stem and stummel a rigorous and substantial hand buffing to remove any excess wax and to raise the shine.

The blasted grain on this Ben Wade Hand Model is distinctive.  It looked so good I thought that it might be the blastification process, but it is the real deal.  The shaping of the bowl also adds to the rustic effect with it tightening near the top and then flaring out.  The blasted briar displays many hues of grain – very eye pleasing.  This is the third of three pipes that Todd commissioned, and he will have the first opportunity to acquire this Ben Wade Hand Model from The Pipe Steward Store.  These pipes benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria working among women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you for joining me!


A Hard Ridden “Malaga” Billiard Made New

Blog by Steve Laug

I have mentioned several times in the blogs I have done on the Malaga pipes that I have restored for Alex that he is now collecting them in a focused manner. He has found some beautiful pieces that come from the Malaga Pipe Shop in Royal Oak, Michigan in the USA. The more I work on the brand the more I am impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship and beauty of the pipes that came from the shop. I have written an earlier blog to give a little history of the Malaga Brand if you are interested: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. That blog also includes links to a catalogue and the history of the pipemaker George Khoubesser). Follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker. If the pipes Alex has found have been beautiful, this one was not! It was a bleached and varnished mess. The stem did not fit in the shank and the feel of the pipe when I ran my fingers over it was ridged and bubbled. It was a strange feeling pipe. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with “MALAGA” and on the heel of the bowl with a 0. I have not seen the 0 stamp before so I am unclear of the meaning. All I know is that this pipe was going to be a hard one to make beautiful again. Here are some photos of it before I started. The varnish coat had protected the bowl from scratches and dents but it was rough feeling with its ridges – almost like it had been painted on with a brush. The rim top was dirty with some darkening around the surface and the inner edges of the bowl. The outer edge was clean. The bowl had a thick cake. The finish had some dark stains along the left side of the shank around the Malaga stamping. There were also some stains on the underside of the shank. It really was an odd pipe in many ways. The stem was quite oxidized and there were deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. The button surface was also marked. The stem did not seat in the shank. That led me to believe that the shank was lined with tars and oils.The stamping was hard to capture because of the painted on varnish but is clear and readable. It is stamped “MALAGA” on the left side. The 0 on the heel of the bowl is very clear.The varnish coat was so hard and impervious I decided to throw the bowl into an alcohol bath to soak overnight. I did not think it would work but thought it was worth a try. I closed up the container and called it a night.In the morning I removed the bowl from the bath. It had not done any damage to the thick coat of varnish or whatever… it was a hopeless endeavour so I decided to wait and deal with it later. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using three of the four cutting heads. I took the cake back to bare briar. I followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to scrape away the remnants of cake and clean up the walls of the bowl. I finished the reaming with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper and sanded the walls of the bowl. To remove the damage to the rim and the varnish coat I used a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and worked the rim against the surface of the board in a circular motion to remove the damage. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and to remove the darkening present there. I decided to go back to stripping off the painted coat on the bowl. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to break the shiny surface of the topping. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad and sanded more and repeated the process until the finish was gone. With the varnish/plastic coat removed I polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads.  Wet sanded with 1500-24000 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pipes. I wiped the briar down after each pad with a damp cotton pad to remove the sanding dust. The colour of the briar was uneven and the area around the stamping had some dark streaks that I could not remove. I worked on them with a corner of micromesh but I was thinking I would need to stain the bowl to take care of the issues. Before I went that far I decided to rub the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm. I rubbed it into the briar and buffed it to see what showed up. I like the grain but I wanted to go for a darker brown to cover the stains on the shank. I was not happy with the overall look yet but decided to clean out the shank and the mortise. I scraped the mortise walls with a dental spatula to loosen the build up in the shank. I used cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove the tars and oils that had built up in the  shank and kept the stem from seating against the shank end.  With the inside and outside clean it was time to stain the bowl. I heated the briar and then applied some Fiebing’s Light Brown stain to the briar. I flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the bowl.I let the stain cure for several hours and worked on another pipe. Once the stain had set I wiped it down with isopropyl alcohol on cotton pads to remove the excess and make the stain more transparent. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I worked some Restoration Balm into the newly stained surface of the briar and it came alive. The following photos show the new look of the pipe. I buffed the pipe on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond polish. It removed a little more of the darker stain and the grain really began to shine through more clearly. I set the bowl aside and addressed the issues with the stem. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove as much of the oxidation as I could. I wiped down the surface of the stem with a damp cloth and cleaned out the tooth marks with cotton swabs. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and laid the stem aside to let the repairs cure. I turned to work on another pipe while the repair cured.Once the repairs had hardened and cured I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and smooth out the repair on the stem. I sanded the stem repairs with 220 and 400 grit sand paper to blend the repair into the surface of the stem. It took a lot of sanding to smooth it out but the finished product looked a lot better than when I started. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then cleaned the airway in the airway with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I was quite surprised by the lack of debris and grime in the airway.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. When I had finished it I wiped it down a final time and set it aside to dry. This Malaga Billiard came alive with the buffing. I polished the bowl and the 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The various styles of grain shining through the finish on the bowl. The rich contrasting brown colour works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inch. I will be putting this I have a few more of Alex’s pipes to finish then this one will be heading back to him. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of the new look Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this Malaga.


Removing an annoying whistle from a Handmade Canadian by Bill Lator

Blog by Steve Laug

A fellow Vancouver Pipeman named Alex has been keeping me busy with working on the pipes he is picking up. He is selling quite a few of his pipes on the rebornpipes store right now so that he can change the direction of his collection. He is currently picking up a lot of interesting American and English made pipes. One of those is this Canadian that is engraved on the underside of the shank and reads as follows: Handmade Canadian by Bill Lator. It is a nice piece but has some unique features that are visible in the photos that follow. It had a Sterling Silver decorative band (no cracks or damage to the shank). The shank ahead of the band has a definite curve to it… to me it made the pipe interesting. There was also a cant to the bowl with the backside of the bowl more angled. The rim top has some damage that has been cleaned up and the backside of the rim is thinner than the rest of the bowl. The bowl is clean and quite pristine. The stem did not fit well in the shank and had a definite whistle when you drew air through it. I took some close-up photos of the rim to show the condition of the rim top and the inner and outer edge of the bowl. The rim top had some dents and damage to it and the inner edge was thinner at the back of the bowl. The outer edge had a few nicks and dents in it. The stem was in excellent condition though the fit of the stem to the band was off in that the stem circumference was bigger than that of the inside of the band keeping the stem from seating properly in the shank. The silver band is engraved Sterling Silver on the underside.The engraving on the underside of the shank is shown in the photo below. It is also engraved on the left side of the shank with the name of the individual for whom the pipe had been made. It is worn but I can make out “Made For” and under that is the name Keith R. Westerberg (?) at least that is what it looks like. It is faintly etched but the first part is more readable than the last name.When Alex dropped it off I asked him to do a bit of research on the brand and see what he could find out about the pipemaker and the brand. He said he would and over the next couple of days sent me several emails with information that he had found out about the pipe.

The first email was the description given of the pipe on the SATX Pipes site – the company he purchased it from. They gave a pretty detailed description of the pipe and the stamping on the pipe. He included a photo of the pipe along with the description.

This is a very rare hand made Canadian by Bill Lator. In addition, it bears the customer’s name on it that it was commissioned for. Bill Lator was a pipe maker from Indiana who operated two small pipe shops with his family.

This particular Lator is in fine shape. Stem is shiny black and free from any chatter. Beautiful grain and color is offset by a sterling silver band. This is a non-filtered pipe. Pipe has been sanitized, polished and waxed, and comes ready to smoke. Pipe Dimensions: Length Overall: 6 1/8″ Height Overall: 1 3/4″ Width Overall: 1 1/4″ Chamber Width: 7/8″ Chamber Depth: 1 5/8″ Weight: 1.1 ozAlex added a personal note with the description and reflected that though the description says…it bears a customer’s name, but I didn’t notice that. All I saw was “Handmade Canadian by Bill Lator”.

Alex also sent along picture of a Magazine cover showing …Bing with a BL Canadian on the cover of a magazine.He also included an excerpt from a local newspaper article about the Lators from 1976:

Pipemaking is a family affair for the Bill Lator family. The family owns and operates “The Pipemaker,” 109 N. Broad. Father Bill, Sr. and all three sons, Paul, 28, Bill, Jr., 20 and Kurt, 14 have taken up the rare trade of pipemaking. According to Lator, there are only about 20 pipemakers in the United States. “And three of them are in Griffith,” he quipped. Lator said his pipe making started as a hobby, “a way to relax after a busy day as an executive.” Lator also began doing extensive research into pipe making going through a number of west coast libraries and learning everything he could. About a year ago, his friends started suggesting he open a pipe shop and after more urging by his son Paul, Lator moved to Griffith. The fame of his handmade briar pipes combined with the skills of his wife, Hellen, in blending pipe tobacco made the shop an instant success. Lator said his oldest son turns out artistic pipes, “he is the artist in the family-Son, Bill is the “perfectionist.” His creations have a machined perfection according to his father, “which appeals to certain customers.” The youngest, Kurt, is still an apprentice, learning the trade of pipemaking with the discards and making tampers. Mrs. Lator has gained a reputation as a master tobacco blender.

Alex sent a follow-up email and included a paragraph from Bill Lator’s obituary: “Bill was very artistic and in 1973 found he could make beautiful smoking pipes carved of briar. In 1975 he along with his 2 sons, Paul and Bill, opened The Pipemaker Pipe and Tobacco shop in Griffith, Indiana. He loved that shop and all the customers. He made a very successful business that lasted 13 years. In 1986 he decided it was time for him to retire…”

From this I know that the pipe came from Bill Lator’s Griffith, Indiana Shop – the Pipemaker Pipe and Tobacco Shop. It had been made between 1975 and 1986 when Bill retired.

Now it was time to address three specific issues that I saw with the pipe.

  1. There was a distinct whistle when you drew on the pipe to pull air from the bowl to the button.
  2. The stem did not seat well in the shank and there was a gap in between the end of the shank and the stem when it was in place.
  3. The bowl was slightly out of round and the back wall was thinner than the rest of the bowl.

I decided to deal with the whistle in the airway first. I took the stem off and drew air through the shank. It was a clean and open draw with no whistle. With that test I knew that the problem was not in the shank. I turned to the stem and blew air through the tenon and out the slot. The whistle was loud and distinct. I shined a light through the tenon so see if there were any obstructions on the walls of the airway. That is often the cause of the noise. There can be debris left behind by the drilling of the airway. I could not see anything from the tenon end. I shined the light in the slot end and there I found the issue. The slot was deep and T shaped rather than Y shaped. This made the air whistle as it was drawn into the slot. I used a flat and a round needle file to reshape the airway in the slot to a Y shape. In my experience this shape makes the transition of the air from the bowl to the mouth a straight smooth flow with no interruptions.I cleaned up the slot with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the edges of and leave it free of debris.

With the airway in the stem cleaned up and the whistling taken care of I turn ed to deal with the fit of the tenon in the shank. I used a sharp pen knife to carve a bevel in the shank face. The initial beveling was rough but when I tried the stem in the shank the fit was snug and there was no gap between the shank face and the face of the stem. I sanded the bevel with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out. The second photo shows  the first sanding of the bevel. The third photo shows the final sanding of the bevel smoothing out rough edges. The final photo shows the finished bevel. I stained it to match the rest of the pipe using a Maple stain pen. The second issue was solved.Now it was time to address the third issue – the damage to the rim top and the bowl edges. After measuring the slop of the walls of the bowl on the front, the sides and back I could see that the thinness was primarily an issue with the top of the bowl. To deal with that I decided to lightly top the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I removed the damage to the top of the rim and in doing so was able to reduce the thinness on the backside of the rim. I did not need to take much off of the rim top to effect this change and I was happy with the results. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The rim top looked much better than when I started the process. I restained the rim top and edges with a Maple stain pen. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish the pipe and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with soft microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The photos of the finished pipe are shown below. It is finish and the whistle is gone, the stem fits better against the shank and the rim top looks significantly better. I look forward to hearing what Alex thinks of his Lator pipe now… it is a beauty.


The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 2/4: An Antique CPF Meerschaum Five Years Finishing


Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

Then I thought, boy, isn’t that just typical?  You wait and wait for something, and then when it happens, you feel sad.
— Sharon Creech, U.S. children’s writer, in Absolutely Normal Chaos (1990)

In Part 1, I hypothesized that the discontinued manufacture or illegality of certain materials, as well as the dwindling availability and in some cases complete lack of pre-fashioned parts used in antique and other very old pipes, will lead to a serious crisis in restoring these great but often damaged old friends to their original conditions.  Without hashing over the details, which I already described in great although still incomplete specificity, I will add that I left out the obvious: none of the materials I discussed is irreplaceable in the sense that an old pipe with a broken amber stem or bone tenon can always be mended with Lucite or Delrin, for example.  To emphasize my way of thinking, which I know is shared by many other far more experienced and better practitioners of the art of pipe restoring than I, the thought of needing to resort to such practices except in the most severe cases is unthinkable, or to use a more descriptive word, an anathema to me.

At any rate, having no idea what I was getting into when I began writing the first installment, in the order in which various materials popped into my head, I soon reached a point where more and more endangered items presented.  For the sake of not breaking my train of thought any more than necessary on the one I happened to be trying to complete at the moment, I got into the habit of adding new section headings as I proceeded, as a sort of minimal outline.  The research alone led me in still newer directions, and so the sections grew in number – not to mention the research, which became so out of hand I almost lost control and never did get all of my sources in good order.  In the end, for those reading this who caught Part 1, believe it or not, I cut entire pages from the text and many of the sources that, due to the months spent composing my list of the most endangered materials either no longer applied or were redundant.  And still my sources alone took up at least two whole pages of the 24 I submitted to Steve.

Needless to say, as sad as I was to have to face the music, my little list had reached proportions prohibitive of an illustrative restoration to accompany it.  This installment will begin the phase describing the first of three projects that demonstrate the growing difficulty of restoring very old pipes to their natural beauty and even one relatively new but vintage example, despite my intentions, as if it were an antique.

Five years ago, Chuck Richards presented the old and wounded but still spirited meerschaum to our Friday night pipe get-together.  The group of devoted Albuquerque area pipers being in its heyday at the time, the little tobacconist’s shop where we still meet in lesser numbers was filled beyond fire code capacity.  Folding chairs extended the normal smoker’s lounge all the way to the front glass counter, and still they were not enough.

I would regret to point out the business from cigar aficionados we pipe revelers cost the shop’s owner that memorable night, other than the few who were understanding or dogged enough to wend their ways through our standing-room-only mob.  But the sales in pipes and tobacco tins, and everything else that goes with them, more than made up for the loss on those evenings that are among my best memories.  Time has a way of changing all things, not just the antique meerschaum beauty Chuck passed around for all of us to ogle.

With the innate cunning and flair for dramatic understatement possessed by traveling carny operators of old, Chuck had the entire room enthralled – and yes, I was in the front row, center aisle, agog, right where he wanted me.  The panache of Chuck’s delivery was not in what he said of the pipe, however, but the way he appeared to satisfy the rest of the audience with an atypical dearth of anything better than teases, what Deep Throat called leads, at least as far as my hungry ears and eyes could discern.  Had I still been a news reporter with orders from my editor to get a good quote, I might have been out of a job.

That old reporter in me was accustomed to listening for diversions, avoidances and spins – every attempt “to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate,” as Special Agent Fox Mulder says in one of his most memorable lines from The X-Files (S4:E3).  That good habit must have kicked in to help me pick up on the mesmerizing but fugacious choreography of the show, designed only for the moment and then to be forgotten.     All I heard was “an old, now defunct pipe maker or distributor, probably in the U.S., called CPF,” “Best Make.” “still in its original case,” “with amber bit, gold band and broken bone tenon.”  But what did he omit and why?  During the intervening years, I’ve asked a few of those who were there that night about the occasion, and all of them indeed recollected some small part of the details, but little of substance, that are imprinted into my memory.

And then the act of mass hypnosis was over, the tiny space hot and stuffy, the crush of pipe enthusiasts swelling to the distant and narrow entrance somewhere in the background that was clogged with people coming and going beyond the usual capacity and hours of the shop’s operation, and which sole entry and exit, at any rate, lay beyond several treacherous eddies and straits still out of sight or reach.  I was not in my element and wanted to bail but needed to talk to Chuck.  With a distinct surreality, his bead bobbed nearby, like a life buoy in a foggy ocean.  We smiled at each other in what I felt was a meeting of the minds

I called out to him – shouted as loud as I could – as close to screaming as I ever have.  Imagine, not a vacuum such as space, but the opposite: chaotic babble and expansion.  Everything else drowned in the roiled sea foam of voices.

“Don’t you know anything more about CPF?”

We were face to face at last, but Chuck didn’t hear a word.  Neither did I, for that matter.  He even cupped a hand to an ear and gave up, communicating better with a single raised finger that he would come back.  When he did so, the crowd thinned out enough for us to hear each other.  He said, “I want you to take this home with you and do some research.  See what you can find out about CPF on your computer.”

Close your eyes if it helps and imagine the words above being cast upon you by Chuck in his always rich but then suddenly dulcet, soothing, fluid and entrancing tone

While Chuck projected these words to me, I tried my best to focus on his face, but my attention kept straying to the one-hundred-some-odd-year-old meerschaum pipe in its original tan case that looked so secure in his able custody but became more and more fragile and vulnerable as it was passed to mine. Much more was spoken between us that night before I began to understand that the dirty, damaged but reparable and, to me, priceless piece of art and history was not a loaner for research purposes as Chuck had suggested. Some blurry time later I realized he only said that so I would accept the gift from his hand. He knew I never would have touched it otherwise. About then the full truth struck me like a Mack truck with no brakes on a downslope of the Grapevine, a treacherous strip of I-5 in California with the Tejon Pass in its middle: Chuck expected me to restore it.

“But I’m not the right man for the job!” I went off like a maxed-out Jake break.

Chuck grinned at me a way only he can and then tried to calm the panic rising in me.

“When you’re ready,” I recall him saying. The rest is hazy.

As soon as I returned home that night, I began my computer research into “CPF tobacco pipes” as Chuck prescribed, and it became apparent that my friend indeed knew more than he let on. As Chuck suggested to the weekly pipe get-together almost six years ago in his circumspect description of the company, CPF was indeed a U.S. venture, in New York. I came across all sorts of conjecture as to the meaning of the three letters, with most agreeing the PF stood for Pipe Factory.

The C, on the other hand, was debated with unusual ferocity even for the very opinionated pipe world. The guesses included Consolidated, Chesterfield and Colossal, among others. There was even one complete rewrite of the truth suggested in a note at the bottom of the Pipedia link below, positing the amazing coincidence of a C.P. Fenner (one of two brothers who made cigarettes) as a viable candidate.

After hours of determined hunting, I was able to conclude with certainty that CPF stood for Colossus Pipe Factory, which enjoyed a relatively brief but glorious run from 1851-c. 1920. Steve later pinpointed the end of the road for CPF as 1915. In that short span of time, CPF, almost certainly employing the Old World skills of European immigrant crafters, made some of the most beautiful meerschaum and briar pipes available at the time. And it was a great time for pipes.

There were three absolute forms of proof that the Colossus Pipe Factory existed, and I later forwarded them to Steve: an antique bill of sale I no longer have, made out to a French company; a letter I found in a long scan of The Jeweler’s Circular issues (August 23, 1899) asking for the name of the pipe company doing business as CPF and receiving the above reply from the editors, confirming the Kaufman Brothers & Bondy connection, and an ad strengthening the tie between CPF and KB&B. Most sources agree KB&B assumed ownership of CPF in 1883. Here are the specific page from the jeweler’s magazine, another ad mentioning CPF, KB&B and Bakelite all in one, and an example of such a pipe.

For the most complete history of CPF, see Steve’s definitive piece in the link in my sources below. Steve’s hard work pulls together all of the available information on CPF along with very nice illustrations from his own vast portfolio of restorations.

Until this very moment, as I edit my blog, I had put a conservative estimate of the Best Make’s date of manufacture as 1898. Now, revisiting the evidence, I notice that every ad or other official mention of CPF after KB&B took control mentions KB&B and its address at the time. Pinpoint dating being impossible, I now have good cause to revise the pipe’s manufacture to pre-1883, given the worn old case that makes no mention of KB&B despite the room to do so. Therefore, my new conservative estimate is 1881, making it 138 this year. As it turns out, 1881 was an interesting year, like every other year in my opinion, but I’ll just cite a few highlights.

January 1, 1881, Dr. John H. Watson was introduced to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
February 24, work began on the Panama Canal.
March 4, James A. Garfield was inaugurated as the 20th U.S. president.
March 16, the Barnum & Bailey Circus debuted.
April 28, Henry McCarty, originally of New York City, escaped from the Lincoln County Jail in Mesilla, New Mexico. Best known as Billy the Kid and widely but erroneously believed to have been born William H. Bonney, McCarty had three other aliases. I had to mention this particular historical tidbit because I live in the natural born killer’s old stomping grounds.
May 21, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
July 1, the first international telephone conversation occurred, Calais, Maine to St Stephen, New Brunswick
July 2, President Garfield was shot by a delusional speech writer who fancied himself responsible for Garfield’s victory. Being denied an ambassadorship was the last straw.
September 19, President Garfield died from an infection caused by the gunshot.
December 4, the first edition of the Los Angeles Times was published.

The Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC was not for another 22 years. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote, ratified August 18, 1920, was still 39 years from reality. The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining presidential disability and the line of succession was not ratified until February 10, 1967 – 85 years after Garfield’s vice president, Chester A. Arthur, was sworn in as the 21st U.S. president.

The year 1881 was also 19 years before the revolutionary scientific and technological century that forever and exponentially robbed people of the little daily pleasures that were perhaps our greatest inclinations, for taking time to read and write and contemplate life. And toward those goals, some Old World meerschaum carver had the idea to create a pipe with a bowl turned just enough to allow smokers to see the pages of the books, newspapers or literary magazines they enjoyed reading during moments of the day when they could escape the rat race. Few such clever pipes can be found today. The photo below shows another pipe with a design that nevertheless has an amazing similarity to my CPF Best Make and could very well be its brother.

I should make one final point clear now: the reason this part of the blog is short on the actual restoration steps and includes relatively few photos is that most of the work involved – meaning everything other than reconnecting the stem – turned out not to be anywhere nearly as difficult as I had at first projected. That’s easy to say now, after having restored other meerschaums and removed an unknown number of broken tenons from shanks. Also, knowing the final key to this restore was finding a suitable bone tenon and getting it to fit snugly and securely in the shank afforded me time to, well, take my time.

All of that said, the most important factor in terms of my readiness to finish my part of this project is all of the experience I have had working out problems with other pipes during the five years this process wound up taking due to the one vital step. Most of those times, my impulse, and often my first step, were to seek the help of someone who had more experience than I. That left plenty of options. Although the friends I’ve pestered most for advice may not realize it, I began to research possible solutions steadily more often. Above all, I exercised the part of my brain that allows me, when I use it, to think my own way out of corners. That habit proved to be of particular benefit to this restoration, as I will soon explain. For the first year, I sat on the pipe, in the figurative sense, other than taking it out of the case now and then to admire its regal elegance. That time was in no way wasted or idle. I accomplished considerable online homework on various approaches to restorations of antique meerschaums. I had a fair number of successful meerschaum restorations under my belt, but I’d never even touched an antique pipe before, and they are a whole different ball of wax, so to speak. Here are the problems I anticipated:

1. The rim char was transformed by the power of time – which may heal all wounds but is more apt to cause them, and thus allow us to grow – from the more or less expected norm of bad to full crystallization around the top of the chamber.
2. The entire surface of the pipe was filthy, whether from improper handling or about a century in storage or both, but the deep, even gold of the patina indicated it had been well-loved and tended. Cleaning meerschaum should not be approached without caution as the first try can limit later options or, worse, show places where the pipe was handled with bare hands from the ghosts of ingrained skin oil and dirt, sometimes as permanent blotches..
3. The original bone tenon was broken, half jammed deep inside the draught hole and the other half in the amber stem. Removing it from both narrow, fragile holes would be problematic, to use a gross euphemism. Replacing it would be a challenge – but a pleasant one, I imagined in my determination to honor my personal pledge to restore this great pipe to its original glory.
4. The shank looked as if it would need to be re-threaded. Wonderful.
5. I have also never worked with amber but knew enough to realize it is brittle stuff, in particular the 133-year-old (at the time I took possession of the pipe) variety. There would be no thought of subjecting this precious bit to the perils of an electric buffer or even sandpaper.

That’s it. Nothing serious, just a mine field. But after long, intense consideration, I concluded the integrity of the wonderful patina must be preserved at all costs and opted for a traditional basic cleaning rather than one of the experimental processes of which I had read. That was in 2014.

Recalling the one dragon Harry Potter had to face in his quest to survive the Goblet of Fire competition, I decided to be done with one of several I saw swooping my way. I began the slow extraction of the original bone tenon broken off and entrenched by time in the stem and shank. .In this kinder, gentler age of Vulcanite/Ebonite/Lucite/ Delrin tenon removal, by and large, the material being non-organic makes it less vulnerable to easy damage. My situation presented a triad of evils with the bone tenon packed into meerschaum and amber.

In most cases, not to postpone a fight but to confront the problems in a more systematic order, I would have started elsewhere. This time I went straight for the mother dragon protecting its young. The bone tenon screw piece in the stem is difficult to see, but trust me, it’s there in the first pic. Against the odds, it was easier to extract, or I was just lucky, but it popped out in one piece. In contrast, the shank took a couple of hours of on-edge, sweaty browed finagling with alternating and bizarre tools such as a jeweler’s screwdriver, the extended end of a large paper clip and the shank reamer of a three-piece pipe tool, to name a few. Breaking away a layer at a time, eight pieces later I reached the end of the blockage. The photo of the pieces is worthless. Confronted with the need for careful removal of the char and crystallization spreading from the upper chamber onto the lion’s mane and left ear, I admit I’ve never read of super fine “0000” steel wool being appropriate for meerschaum or even wood pipes, but I’ve found that when milder approaches don’t remove all of the char (which they almost never do), in almost all cases the steel wool does the job without damage.  What’s more, it even leaves a nice polish on the regular meerschaum rims that have some real width to them, which the CPF’s does not.  Some readers have told me they like the steel wool approach also. For the chamber I started with 200-grit paper and finished with 320, which also is discouraged unless great care is taken as I did, and then gave the outside of the stummel a vigorous but only preliminary cleaning with small cotton pads soaked with purified water. For all of the dirt apparent on the cotton pads, note how much was still left.

I waited – another year and a half.  During that time I continued the grueling online search for bone tenons with the idea of finishing the work myself and asked friends at my local pipe club and internet sites for pipe enthusiasts for help, to no avail.  The intensified hunt was infused with a sense that the time was fast approaching the now or never point, and even found a site that seemed to have every size available.  However, after going back and forth with the owner several times and never hearing from him again, I began to despair.  That was in 2016.

Then, almost exactly one year ago, at the end of February last year, I thought, what the heck, why not try again?  So I posted an identical thread on Smokers Forums UK, but in a different category.  The first response included a link to Norwoods Pipe Repair in Clifton, Tennessee.  Not wanting to get my hopes up, I checked it out and found that the father and son team of Floyd and Kenneth Norwood seemed to have all the right stuff for my lion’s head pipe and a second, antique briar that needed a still rarer stem that had to be replaced with the bone tenon.  All about that in part 3.

I had to wait until early in April, after employing the skilled services of Kenneth Norwood in March to repair the briar pipe first because it belonged to a customer who wanted it back for good reason, to send the CPF via USPS Priority 2-Day delivery.  I can tell you, the Separation Anxiety I experienced was acute, not having been away from the pipe or failed to look in on it at least once a day for the previous five years and being fully aware of the ability of the Postal Service to lose packages or deliver them to the wrong person who then keeps them.  I paid to insure the package for $500, which could never replace the irrecoverable, and waited.

From the almost immediate turn-around time I had with the briar pipe, but fearing that may have been a fluke, I knew it would not be too long but was nevertheless surprised when it arrived again at my door less than a week after I mailed it.

I took a picture showing the masterful work completed by Kenneth, who had done better than re-thread the shank, but what with the wonders of the new and improved Windows 10 that have required so many full system restores of my computers that I’ve lost count, that photo and who knows how many others have gone missing.  I’m sure they’re floating around somewhere because we all know Microsoft never lets us really and truly delete anything, but heaven knows where it is.

By the way, Kenneth mentioned that he would need the stem to be straight for his work aligning it to the new tenon, and so I put the amber stem with a pipe cleaner through the air hole on a small sheet of aluminum foil in the over pre-heated to 150° F. About 15 minutes later, I removed the sheet and stem.  Amber is the easiest material to bend or straighten, I suppose because of its resinous nature that makes it heat quickly to the point where it is so malleable it will literally bend in half from its own weight if picked up by one end when removed from the oven.

Knowing this from an experiment I did almost a year and a half ago, I took hold of both ends of the cleaner and still saw the middle sag a little as I rushed the stem that straightened in the oven on its own to the tap to fix with cold water.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of speed in this process.  If you’re bending the amber, it tends to straighten out again fast, and if you’re straightening the stem, it’s easy to bend it even by a tiny degree before fixing.

With that said, the next shots  start with the pipe as it was returned to me, with the stem still straight before re-bending, and after thinking to use a toothbrush and purified water to scrub every intricate detail of the amazingly realistic lion’s head.  This was quite a job, as the hand-carved details I noted are minute and almost as breathtaking as a real life, face-to-face encounter with the real thing: the ears alert and mane flowing backward, glaring eyes almost hidden beneath big brows, huge nose with fur and whiskers on either side, and that mouth with a hungry tongue and sharp teeth!  And that’s just the face.  The lion’s mouth is wide open, by the way, as if roaring or growling, and at times I had the idea it didn’t really care for my attentions – at least not until the task was done.  I have a bit of an imagination, you see, and another result was a flash to the story of Androcles pulling the thorn from the lion’s paw.Here are two shots of the work Kenneth did.And the rest.Now, the original real, cherry red amber stem was in remarkable condition for one that was used for a couple of years with loving attention, but the fact that it is well more than a century old makes its physical integrity achieve the level of astounding.  There were no dings or pits, and the scratches, if they could be called that, were so minor some people might have let them be.

I’m a far cry from perfect and always will be, but I’m not some people.  Here it is from every angle before I did anything to freshen it up.

I gave it a wet micro mesh from 1500-12000.And I did a dry micro mesh the same way.Thinking a little more about it, I was still bent, as it were, on not putting the wonderful piece of expertly carved, polished, polymerized and  fossilized prehistoric pine tree resin – an organic material neither gem nor stone – anywhere near an electric buffer. After all, accidents can happen.  For such a catastrophe to occur to a piece of amber, even brand new, would be the end of it.  Amber’s biggest problems are its extreme softness, a 2 on the Moh’s Scale of 1-10, just a full step above talc, and its natural brittleness that begins to worsen the instant it is exposed to sunlight.  In other words, the exceptional suppleness of this antique stem makes it museum quality.  Whoever owned it kept it in a nice, safe place away from natural light, and when he died it must have stayed in its case in an attic or some other dark place.

At any rate, thinking on the idea of how to give it a little polish without the wheel, the obvious occurred to me.  I took out my little jar of Decatur’s Pipe Shield that I decided to give a try as opposed to the standard Halcyon II Wax, both of which are generally reserved for hand application to rusticated or sandblasted wooden stummels before rubbing into the wood with a soft rag.  As far as I know, it couldn’t hurt, and in fact gave the unique stem a higher sheen that at least I see in the final shots.

Finished with all of the visible cleaning, I remembered the pipe still needed sanitizing, meaning the shank, but a retort was impossible for reasons that should be obvious, yet every now and then we hear of some poor fellow – because any woman who might practice pipe cleaning or restoration would never make such a mistake – boiling alcohol through the insides of a meerschaum or even using the cold alcohol/kosher salt method and ending up heartbroken from the ruinous results.

On the other hand, a little alcohol mixed with water can go far to clean and sanitize a meerschaum shank.  Fred Bass, one of the leading meerschaum collectors and authorities, writes in an essay cited below that his traditional inside-out cleaning method for meerschaums includes careful application of straight alcohol to the dirty outer areas of the pipe  with a cotton pad or cloth  – and he suggests Everclear, which as most folks know is almost as strong as it gets at 95% grain alcohol, or 190-proof.  Residual alcohol should be tamped dry.   For the shank, he recommends a pipe cleaner or more if necessary dipped in Everclear followed by a dry cleaner.

Well, I’m sure that works since Fred (we don’t know each other, but I don’t think he’d mind the familiarity) has been restoring meerschaums for quite a while now.  But I just did not have the heart or nerve or courage or whatever you want to call it to make my first such try on my beloved CPF.  Also, I think Fred would agree that building up to the Everclear cleaning approach is always a good idea, and my initial cotton pads followed by a toothbrush, both with purified water, got all of the dirt off this beauty.  My compromise for the chamber sanitizing was to add a cap-full of Everclear to about a quarter-cup of water.

Here is the finished pipe, hand-buffed with a special heavy micro-fiber cloth. CONCLUSION
With the longest restoration job I’ve ever performed complete, I was almost said – with an emphasis on almost.  The relief and satisfaction with a job well done, if I say so myself and even though I did not do the shank work myself, were more than enough to compensate for any post-project blues.  That turns out to be the perfect word to segue to my final comments.

For anyone who noticed the damage to the CPF’s leather-covered wood case between the first and last picture in this blog, I can, with complete honesty and justification, blame it on the dog, Blu.  I kid you not.

She has admirable spirit, but a little too much of a good thing.  The problem with the pipe is that Blu will snatch, run outside and devour anything left out and unattended if it smells tasty or even different – cooked or raw food, ice cream, soda cans or bottles, coffee mugs, Vaseline, OTC meds in their bottles and, as I found out the hard way one morning, a mysterious little object that simply looked too good to pass up.

My heart stopped when I returned to the living from my bedroom and noticed the tan case that had been in the center of the coffee table missing.  I knew who stole it without a moment’s thought and almost saw red as vivid images and plans of canicide filled my mind.  You see, the CPF Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum with a gold band and cherry red amber stem c. 1881 was in the box.

Had I not found the mauled case in the back yard dirt patch where Blu so loves to play and eat her ill-gotten food stuff, and the CPF miraculously safe and intact inside it, I can’t say what I would have done to the dog.  Sweetness only goes so far.  A man’s pipes are not to be messed with.

I’m sure everyone can appreciate my immediate overwhelming relief and forgiveness of Blu despite her terrible lapse in judgment.

Part 3 of this series will describe the two years it took me to return an antique KB&B Blueline Bakelite billiard c. 1911 entrusted to me for a quick cleaning and restoration, and the unfortunate reasons for the…er, delay.

Part 4, taking a lesson from this restore, will go a touch further with my full restoration of an old First Quality meerschaum billiard with a wrecked inner shank, and the replacement of its tenon and stem.












Restemming and Rebirthing a Landry 2013 Bent Ball

Blog by Steve Laug

Last evening I had a fellow drop by the house with three pipes for repair. Two of them were not worth repairing – broken shanks and Chinese knockoff pipes. Neither was made of briar and one had the beginning of a large burn out on the back of the bowl. I discouraged the fellow from fixing either of those two as the cost of repair would be more than he paid when he purchased them. However the third one was interesting to me. It was a bent ball bowl without a stem. It was a real mess. He had broken the stem in half and lost it. The shank had also been broken but he was a bit of a wood worker and had clamped and glued it. He had done a decent job and the repair was solid. The bowl had a cake that was thick and soft – made from the heavily case aromatic that he smoked. The airway in the shank was clogged with tars and oils and I could not even blow through it. The rusticated finish was rugged and sharp with a smooth rim and shank band. The bowl and rim were very dirty and the briar looked lifeless. The shank flared at the stem/shank junction.

When I examined the pipe while he was there I found that it had a makers stamp on an oval smooth patch on the underside of the shank. It was clearly stamped LANDRY arched at the top of the oval. The year it was made, 2013 was in the middle of the oval and the letters U.I.O.G.D were arched at the bottom of the oval. When I asked the owner of the pipe what those letters were he said that I was some Latin phrase. When I examined it with a loupe I found that there were periods between the letters and that probably I was dealing with an acronym of some kind. I went with his notion of it being Latin, Googled the acronym and found that it stood for the five words making up the Benedictine motto: Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Dei (translated from Latin it means: So that in all things God may be glorified). That made sense as he had been given the pipe by a Benedictine Priest a while ago when he had first started smoking a pipe and he had broken it after smoking it quite heavily.

I took photos of the bowl before I started to work on it. You can see the repair on the shank. The rustication is very dirty and the rim top is coated with an overflow of lava from the bowl. The entire pipe reeked of a sweet cherry aromatic. The shank was heavily gummed up and I could not blow air through the shank into the bowl. It was clogged. The bowl also appeared to be drilled at an angle and from a quick glance seemed to be drilled crooked. The pipe was a mess! I took a photo of the oval and the stamping on the shank. You can also see the glue repair on the shank. It was a solid repair but a bit sloppy.There were some gaps in the glue around the circumference of the shank so I used a wire brush to clean up excess glue from the repair. I wanted to remove all of the excess glue so that it would look cleaner once I finished. I then filled in the gaps in the repair with clear super glue and filled in those areas with briar dust to build up the area ahead of the smooth band at the shank end.Restemming this old bowl would be a bit tricky. The shank actually flared to a smooth hip at the end where the stem sat. It was wider in diameter than the rusticated shank just below it. It was obvious from the way the shank end and mortise were made that it required a flush fit stem and not a freehand style stem. I would need to find a stem that had a wide enough diameter for me to work with and give the pipe the kind of look that it must have had originally. I went through my can of old stems and found one that was going to work. The tenon was almost perfect. I sanded it lightly with the sanding drum on the Dremel and cleaned it up with a file and the fit was just right. I would need to reduce the diameter of the stem slightly to match the shank but I think it was going to work for me. I took photos of the fit of the “new” stem to show you what I saw. Bear with me for the moment. It was quite ugly and my brother said it looked like a muffin top of a tight belt (or something like that). But I thought it had potential… time will tell. I trimmed the excess diameter of the stem with a sanding drum on my Dremel. I worked on it until the diameter was very close to the right size. I brought it back to the work table and sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches from the Dremel. I took photos of the stem and shank at this point. I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil to clean off the dust and get a sense of how it was looking. I sanded the band around the shank a bit too as it had some glue on it from the repair that had been done. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I decided it was time to set the stem aside for a bit and work on the bowl. I took a photo of the bowl and rim to show what it looked like when I started. The bowl is thickly caked and there was damage to the inner edge of the rim. The lava overflow was quite thick on the rim top as well. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer. You can see the angle of the bowl from the way that the reamer is sitting in the second photo below. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife and then sanded the walls of the bowl with sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. With the bowl reamed I turned my attention to the dirty exterior of the bowl. I scrubbed it with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I worked over the rim top with the tooth brush and a piece of sandpaper to remove the tars and lava there. I rinsed it off with running water to remove the soap and debris in the finish. Now it was time to address the thick tars and oils in the shank and open the airway into the bowl. I worked on the mortise and the airway in the shank with a paper clip, pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. Once I had opened the airway I scrubbed it until it was clean. I also cleaned out the airway in the new stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. It was not nearly as dirty as the shank.I polished the rim top and the smooth shank end with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the polished areas with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The rim and shank end began to really look good. I decided to stain the bowl and shank with some Medium Walnut Danish Oil. It has the translucence I wanted to let the natural colour of the briar shine through while allowing me to hide the repairs to the shank. I applied the stain with a cotton pad and daubed it deep into the grooves of the rustication. I kept applying it until the coverage was good. I waxed the bowl with several coats of  Conservator’s Wax and buffed it out with a horsehair shoe brush. The bowl and rim looked really good. I really liked the look of the bowl at this point in the process. The shine and the finish looked very good. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the new stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and the scratch marks from fitting the stem. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust and get a feel for the scratching. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I applied it with my finger and rubbed it in and then off with a cotton pad. I find that it is gritty enough to remove the residual oxidation after sanding (besides I have about three tins of the stuff to get through so I use it on each pipe).I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I bent the stem with a heat gun to get it to follow the lines of the top of the bowl so that it can hang in the mouth with the bowl top straight. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I put it back on the shank and buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine on the bowl. The heavy rustication works well with the stain I chose to use on it and the combination looks really good with the polished vulcanite stem. The flared shank end and the thick stem work well together to my mind to create an interesting pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Its dimensions are – Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. I will give it another coat of Conservator’s Wax and then call the fellow who dropped it off for repair. I am hoping he likes the look of his pipe. Thanks for reading this blog.

On the table – a Clipper High Class Briar Bent Churchwarden

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past several years my brother Jeff has picked up some very interesting Churchwarden pipes. They have varied from classic shapes to Freehands. They have been anywhere from 7 to 10 inches long and have had straight, ¼, ½ and almost full bent stems. Each box he sends has at least one of these pipes – at least it seems so. In one of the recent boxes there was a beautiful little half bent Churchwarden. I have been keeping an eye out for one that I thought Paresh would like and this seemed like it was the one. When I showed it Paresh during one of our Whatsapp calls he fell in love with it and I added it to his box.

When Jeff received the pipe it was in pretty decent condition – dirty but really not too bad. The finish was dusty and dirty with grime worked into the lovely grain of the briar. The bowl had a moderate cake in it but the rim top was free of lava. The inner edge of the bowl was in great condition other than what appeared to be a small burned area toward to the front. That would not be clear until it was reamed. The rim top had some nicks and scratches as did the outer edge of the bowl. The left side of the shank was stamped Clipper over High Class Briar over IBERPIPSA. On the right side of the shank it had a square box with a pipe and puff of smoke as a logo. The underside at the stem/shank union it had the shape number 512. The stem did not seat in the shank due to the buildup of tars and oils. At the shank the stem had two vertical dots on the topside. The stem had some deep tooth marks on both sides at the button. It was oxidized but in decent condition. Jeff took these pictures of the pipe to show its condition before he started his cleanup work. He took close up photos of the rim top and the side and bottom of the bowl to show the condition of the briar and the bowl. You can see the cake in the bowl and the slight burn mark toward the front of the inner edge of the rim. You can also see the small nicks around the outer edge of the bowl. The finish is pretty but quite dirty. He took a photo of the stamping on the left, right and underside of the shank as well as the two vertical dots on the stem. The photos of the stem show the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem near the button and the wear on the button itself.I did some research on the brand and found many different pipes that bore this stamping. They also seemed to have the name Swensson stamped on the shank as well. This link shows the same stamping with the addition of the Swensson name (https://en.todocoleccion.net/collectable-smoking-pipes/pipa-swensson-iberpipsa-car07~x111057347). Here is a second link that shows the box that the brand came in as well as a leaflet (https://en.todocoleccion.net/collectable-smoking-pipes/pipa-clipper-5740-iberpipsa~x33567017). I have included that photo for the information that it includes. There were other references to the brand with lots of photos of pipes in a variety of classic shapes. However there was nothing on either Pipedia or Pipephil that I could find. All of the examples of pipes bearing this brand that I saw were well made and showed beautiful grain.Armed with little bit of information that I could find it was time to start working on this pipe. Jeff had cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good other than the small burned inner edge at the front of the bowl. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The pipe had some beautiful grain all around the bowl and the cut of the briar maximized that. The stem was in great condition other than the oxidation and tooth marks on both sides near the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. The two different photos show the damage at the front inner edge of the rim from different angles. The stem was in good shape other than the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took some photos of the stampings around the shank to give a picture of what they looked like after the cleanup. I worked on the damage to the front of  inner edge first. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the burned area and bevel the inner edge slightly to minimize the damage there. I polished the rim edges – both inner and outer with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I worked on the nicked edges on the outside of the bowl to smooth them out. I polished the entire bowl avoiding the stamping with the pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. You can see the progress in the photos below.  I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the smooth finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I decided to address the oxidation and the tooth marks on both sides of the stem ahead of the button. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and was able to remove them all. I sanded the stem surface with the 220 grit sandpaper and removed the majority of the oxidation. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end.I polished the stem, button and blade with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish the briar and the vulcanite. 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The pipe turned out very well and shows the grain shining through. The contrast of the various grains – birdseye, flame and straight swirling around the bowl and shank looked good with the polished, long black vulcanite. This Churchwarden will soon be joining the other pipes I have boxed up for Paresh. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 10 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I am looking forward to hearing what Paresh thinks of the pipe now. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. Addendum: I posted on Facebook Tobacco Pipe Restorers Group and asked questions about the brand. I received this response from Sam Vior, a member there:      Iberpipsa: Iberica de Pipas, SA it was founded late 1980’s and made several lines: Swenson, Everest, Clipper, Brio, Coral, Commodore. In Spain.

That led me to a page on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Iberica_de_Pipas). I quote from that article in full.

“Founded in 1919, Iberica de Pipas is a company dedicated to the manufacture of pipes and gift items in wood. More than eighty years of presence in the market guarantee our products. Our accumulated experience has strengthened and allowed us to both continue making improvements and maintain the professional standards which our name inspires throughout the years.

In our effort to maintain client satisfaction, we offer an increased variety of quality products ranging from smoking to gift and home articles at an excellent price-quality relationship. Thanks to our professional standards and transparency, we can also manufacture any personally designed specialty items that our clients so desire. Contact us, we are eager to discuss how we can fulfil your needs.”

Brands (afak):

Restoring a Kaywoodie Meerschaum Dublin

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Another surprise pick from my grandfather’s collection is this pipe which I have selected to work on. John Bessai in Rhodesian shape, which I had recently restored, was also a surprise pick in his collection since he had never been to USA, let alone Cleveland, Ohio and this is where most of the Bessai pipes were sold. Well, this pipe now on my work table is a Kaywoodie made from block meerschaum!! I was aware that KBB made briar pipes with meerschaum insert, but block meerschaum pipes, that I was not aware of.

The meerschaum on my work table is a classic Dublin with a stout meerschaum shank and a vulcanite stem. The stummel is sans any stampings and the only way it can be identified as being a Kaywoodie is the trademark cloverleaf insert on the stem and the four holed stinger tenon. However, the cloverleaf insert in this stem differed from the other Kaywoodie stems that I have previously worked on in that here the stem is marked with a “black cloverleaf inside a white dot” as against the white cloverleaf in other Kaywoodie pipes.I searched the internet for more information on Meerschaum line of Kaywoodie pipes. I visited the website, brothersofbriar.com and came across this valuable piece of information from one member, kwguy, who probably, from his comment, appears to have worked for KBB. I have extracted below, the relevant portion of the thread.

“Kaywoodie Block Meerschaums were made from 1938 to the mid 1960’s. The meerschaum pipe business by Kaywoodie was revitalized when Paul Fischer was hired and emigrated from Austria to run the meerschaum pipe department. Kaywoodie meerschaums were available in earlier years but not as prominently as when Paul Fischer came on board. He left in 1960 to make meerschaums under his own name. We continued to make them for several years after he left until we could no longer import meerschaum from Turkey”. (http://www.brothersofbriar.com/t21079-kaywoodie-block-meerschaum)

Another piece of information was available on pipedia.com which I have reproduced below.

Examine Logo, Stampings and Fitment. The pre-WWII Kaywoodies had elongated white cloverleaf logos and large screw-in fitments (with the possible exception of the pre-1925 and “export” Kaywoodies, which had no fitments). Some of the pre-1936 Kaywoodies were stamped (on the shank) with a cloverleaf around KBB. Sometime between 1936 and 1947, the better pipes were marked with a black cloverleaf inside a white dot. However, because many of the pipes in the 1968-69 catalog still show this type of logo, the black-in-white logo merely indicates a “post 1936” vintage.

Based on the information gleaned from the above sources, it is safely concluded that the Kaywoodie meerschaum pipe presently on my work table is from the period between 1936 to late 1960s.

The stummel has developed a nice coloration on the surface, darker on the lower half of the stummel and darkest on the shank. The entire stummel is covered in minor nicks and scratches with slightly deeper ones seen on the front and behind the bowl. There is a patch, similar to what would be seen on a briar when exposed to water, on the front of the bowl. Since this would be my first inherited meerschaum pipe restoration, I shall tread very carefully in addressing these issues. There is thick build up of cake in the chamber with a thicker layer at the bottom half of the chamber. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained only after the cake has been removed completely. No apparent cracks or damage to the stummel surface is seen from the outside, save for a few scratches and nicks/ dents. The rim top has darkened due to thick overflow of lava. There are a large number of dings and chips to the rim top which are visible through the lava overflow. This will be a challenge to address. The inner and outer edge shows minor chips, the result of striking the edges against a hard surface to remove dottle. The shank end of the pipe has an aluminum threaded spacer ring which extends in to the mortise, separating the shank end from the stem end when threaded in. This spacer ring is in pristine condition. The mortise is blocked due to accumulated dried oils, tars and remnants of ash, greatly restricting the air flow.The vulcanite stem has deep tooth indentations and minor tooth chatter on upper and lower surfaces as well on both the button edges. The stem shows minimal signs of oxidation which really is surprising. The air flow through the stems is laborious to say the least. The four holed metal stinger tenon is covered in dried oils and tars with a blocked breather hole near the threads. The alignment of the stem logo and stummel is off center when the stem is fully threaded in to the mortise with a slight overturn. These issues will need to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I started this project by reaming the chamber with size 1 followed by size 2 head of PipNet reamer. With my smaller fabricated knife, I scraped out all the carbon from difficult to reach areas. I used a 220 grit sand paper, pinched between my thumb and forefinger, to sand the inner walls of the chamber of the pipe. Once I had reached the bare walls, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This removed all the residual carbon dust and also rid the chamber of all ghost smells. The walls of the chamber are nice and solid with no signs of heat fissures or cracks. Using a sharp knife, I gently scraped out the overflow of lava from the rim top. The dents and chips on the rim surface are now clearly visible.I followed up the reaming by cleaning the stummel surface. I sand the stummel with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper followed by 600 and 800 grit papers. This was done with utmost care and diligence as I did not want to sand away a lot of meerschaum material from the surface and also wanted to preserve the nice golden hued color taken on by the meer from being smoked. A few deeper chips and gouges were left unaddressed as it would have led to loss of lot of meerschaum material. Also these dents and dings appear like a soldier’s battle scars and worn with pride!! Similarly, I worked the rim top and addressed the dents and scratches from the surface. The chipped inner and outer edge was leveled by creating a slight bevel on either edge with 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned the mortise and air way of the pipe using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips dipped in alcohol. The mortise and the draught hole were given a final clean with shank brushes dipped in alcohol. I dried the mortise with a rolled paper napkin. The shank internals and the draught hole are now nice and clean with an open and full draw.I polished the top of the bowl and rim edges with micromesh sanding pads to remove all of the tar and lava that was on the surface. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth to remove the dust that was left behind by the sanding. While I was working on the bowl top I also worked over the sides and bottom of the bowl to polish them as well. I wanted to minimize the scratching but not necessarily remove them all. I cleaned out the internals of the stem using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. The deep bite marks on the stem were flamed using a Bic lighter. However, this did not work. From my experience, I have learnt that getting rid of the oxidation from and around the surface to be filled helps in subsequent better blending of the fill with the stem surface. With a folded piece of used 150 grit sand paper, I sand the area that is required to be filled. I cleaned the sanded portion of the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol and spot filled the damaged area with a mixture of activated charcoal and clear superglue. I set the stem aside for the fill to cure. Once the fill had cured, I sand the fills to match the surrounding stem surface with a flat head needle file. I sharpened the lip edges using a needle file and sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 800 and 1000 grit sand paper to achieve an exact match. This also helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper as well as eliminated the oxidation seen on the stem. I was so engrossed and preoccupied with the task at hand that I missed out on taking pictures of this process.

To bring a deep shine to the stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. It was at this stage that I addressed the issue of overturned four holed stinger by heating it with the flame of a Bic lighter. This loosens the glue and I under-turn the stinger. I let the stinger cool down and re-harden the glue. I re-heated the stinger and fitted the stem in to the mortise, tightening it till the stem and shank were perfectly aligned. I let the stinger sit in this position till it had cooled down and the glue had hardened again. Now the fit of the stem and the shank is perfectly aligned. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my local machine which is similar to a Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to each of the three pipes. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax over the stummel and the stem. I finished the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe, with the shining white and golden hued meerschaum stummel, contrasting with the shiny black stem, looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. Thanks for the read…………..Cheers!!