Blog by Steve Laug
I have repaired several pipes for Paresh in India over the past four months or so and not long ago he sent me a box of seven of his Grandfather’s pipes. There is an interesting assortment of older pipes that come from the time period of 1937-1950s. His Grandfather worked for the Indian Railroad for many years and was a pipeman. Paresh follows in his love of the pipe and just recently found out that his Grandfather smoked a pipe as well. The first of the pipes I am working on for him is a GBD. It is an older one that has a silver band on the shank that is stamped with a GBD oval over four individual boxes – each is worn and hard to read. It is possible that it reads MRCLtd like the one in the first photo below which would identify the pipe as a French made GBD by Marechal, Ruchon & Co. Ltd. It could also be silver hallmarks with a lion (925 silver) and anchor (Birmingham) and two unreadable marks (one of which could give a date). Underneath them AO is stamped. AO could mean Alfred Oppenheimer which would date the pipe as after the Oppenheimer bought the brand in 1902 from MR&C Ltd. This would make it an early English made GBD pipe. The shank is stamped with a GBD Oval. There are no other stampings on the shank sides or the band. There is also a GBD Oval stamped on the left side of the saddle portion of the stem.Paresh’s wife Abha cleaned the pipes before she sent them to me here in Canada and did an amazing job cleaning them up. She reamed the bowl, cleaned the rim and scrubbed the exterior of the pipe and the stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap and cleaned off the buildup on the stem. She also cleaned off the silver band. The finish on the bowl is in very good condition and the GBD oval logo on the bowl was very readable. The silver band was scratched and worn. The GBD oval on the silver was faint but readable. The four hallmarks were very worn but it is possible that the first two are a lion and anchor but not certain. The stem was lightly oxidized on the underside and there was a GBD oval on the left side of the saddle portion of the stem. Interestingly for a stem that purports to be bite proof there is a deep tooth mark on the left side of the top near the button over the left twin bore and on the underside near the button on the right side. Both are directly over the twin bore airways.
The stem is unique and one that I have not come across before. From researching on the internet a bit it appears that the twin bore stem could be an early edition of the Tuskan Series that was London Made. Underneath the movable end cap diffuser it has something like the Tuskana Insertion with the twin bore stem. In the pipe I am working on it has the insert between the twin airways but it also has a diffuser cap at the end of the button. It is an amber coloured piece that covers the end of the button. There is a slight gap between the edge of the button and the cap that functions to diffuse the smoke. The end piece can be turned vertically to reveal the twin bore stem underneath. Like I said it is quite unique and I have not been able to find any other examples of this system on the internet. If any of you have any insight or information on this particular feature on GBD pipes please let me know. Thanks.I found an advertisement on the Pipedia link above which explains the Tuskana Insert. I have included that below.I took photos of the pipe before I started to work on it. It is a beautiful pipe that has some age on it. It has some very great looking grain on the bowl and shank. The rim top is worn, damaged on the surface and also has nicks around the inner edge of the bowl. The bowl was slightly out of round and there was still a light cake on the walls.I took a close up photo of the rim top and both sides of the stem. You can see the damage to the top and inner edge of the rim top in the first photo below. The second and third photo shows the top and underside of the stem. I have circled the tooth marks on both sides of the stem with red.I always enjoy getting some background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring when I am working estate pipes from the family members. If you have followed rebornpipes for a while you have read a few of these summaries from estates like Kathy’s Dad, Barry’s Dad and Farida’s Dad. Each of them did a great job summarizing their fathers’ estates. Since the next group of seven pipes that I will be working came to from India and belonged to the Grandfather of Paresh, I asked him to write a short tribute to his Grandfather. What follows is his writeup.
Now that the first batch of my Grandfather’s pipes has reached you, I would like to share my memories of him with you, the aim being to provide you with an insight to his personality, the era in which he lived, and a brief history associated with the pipes that I have inherited from him.
My Grandfather, Ananta (named after an exotic seasonal white flower having lovely fragrance), was born in a small coastal town of Konkan region of Maharashtra, India, in 1918. These were very turbulent times when India’s freedom struggle against British rule was gathering momentum and the atmosphere was charged with “Quit India Movement”. Having completed his graduation from Bombay, he joined Railways in 1937. This also marked the beginning of his journey into the world of pipe smoking!!!!!
Having seen his potential, in 1945, he was sponsored by the Government to visit England, for gaining further experience and expertise in his profession. This was a period when India’s Independence was round the corner and efforts were being made to train Indians for various administrative appointments in future Independent India. He returned back to India after a year, in 1946 and with him came some pipes that he had purchased in England. I believe a few of his Petes, Barlings, Charatans and GBDs are from this visit.
In 1947, when the British finally left India for good, my Grandfather was gifted pipes by his British peers, subordinates and Superior Officers as a parting gift. He stayed in touch with a few of them over all these years, even visiting them in 1959-60. Some of his later era Charatans and Barlings and Pete are from this trip. He quit smoking in early 1970s (before I was even born!!!!) and his pipes were packed up. There were a number of pipes which were used as TINDER for lighting fires (CAN”T BELIEVE IT…… I have not overcome my grief of this loss till date!!!!!) due to ignorance!!!!!!
My Grandfather was a very strict disciplinarian and temperamental (I did not know this as he was neither when dealing with me as I am the youngest of all his grandchildren!!!!!! He was always the most understanding and loving person in my life). I later learned that in his office, he was not to be disturbed when his pipe was lit, as he would be in his thinking/ contemplating mode while it was just the opposite as he lit his pipe in the evening while at home, when he would be at his relaxed best!!!!.
The interesting part is that neither of us knew that we each smoked a pipe until after his demise in Jan 2018!!!! In our culture, to this day, smoking or alcohol consumption is socially never talked about (mute acceptance!!!). It was during his last rites that absent mindedly I lighted my pipe and looking into the flickering flames of his funeral pyre, remembered and recollected all the wonderful memories and talks that we had shared. No one said a word to me about my lighting up a pipe!!!!!! Immediately thereafter, I rejoined my duty station. A few days later, my wife, Abha, received a box from my Uncle with a note that said “Grandfather would have loved Paresh to have these”. This box contained a collection of his fountain pens and 8-10 of his pipes (since then as my folks are winding up his belongings, I have received 2-3 packets and a large number of pipes, some in decent condition and some in unspeakable state). Abha immediately messaged me with pictures of these pipes and pens. I had been collecting and restoring (no major repairs, though) fountain pens since long and immediately recognized some of them as highly collectibles, however, pipes were a totally different ball game! I was inexperienced with no knowledge/ information regarding various brands/ pipe makers, shapes and materials. I knew nothing about the value of these pipes, nothing about pipe restorations, nothing about caring for them; I mean zero knowledge about collecting pipes. I smoked some real cheap Chinese pipes which were readily and unfortunately, the only ones, available in India and some inexpensive pipes from eBay India!!!!! Also regular pipe cleaning, pipe rotation, pipe cleaners and such things were unknown to me.
Thus, to know more about the REAL pipes, I embarked upon the journey of exploring finer nuances of pipe brands/ makers, their history and watching “How to videos” on packing a pipe, cleaning, repairing and caring for ones pipes. I found it extremely interesting and satisfying. It was while meandering through this confusing quagmire of pipe world that I came across rebornpipes.com website and eventually established contact with you, Mr Steve, who has since been my mentor, guide and GURU, making this journey a wonderful and satisfying experience.
Sir, there is one more thing that I need to thank you for and that is when you asked me to write a brief about my grandfather and his pipes, I realized how little I knew about him, in fact, knew nothing, as I was not even aware that he was a “pipeman” as no one in my family ever spoke about it being taboo subject and since he had quit a long time before I was even born!!!! This led me to ask the elders in my family, questions on the subject and came to know the above details. I cannot thank you enough for prodding me to get to know my grandfather and his pipes a lot better. Sir, these pipes of his, with your help and guidance, will remain with me forever in mint condition……
Thanks Paresh for this great descriptive take of your Grandfather. It really gives me a sense of the pipes that you have sent me and what they meant to him. It is obvious from the variety of pipes that you sent and the overall condition that he knew how to choose good quality pipes and obviously enjoyed smoking them throughout most of his life.
I removed the stem from the shank and started my work on the bowl itself. I cleaned up the reaming in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took the slight remnant of cake back to the bare briar. I wanted to check out the condition of the interior of the bowl. The inside looked very good once it was cleaned off. There was no checking or cracking on the bowl walls. There was no sign of burn out inside.To remove the damage on the rim top and to minimize the damage to the inner edge of the rim I lightly topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I carefully removed the damage without changing the shape of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the inside edge of the bowl. I was able to remove much of the damage to the edge with the sandpaper and smooth out the bevel. I polished the rim top and bevel with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust and the scratches. I stained the rim with a Cherry stain pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl and shank.I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar to clean, enliven and protect it. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips. I worked it into the rim and shank end. I set it aside for a few minutes to let the balm work. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The briar really began to have a deep shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish from the silver and give it a shine. It worked pretty well to bring it back to life. The second photo below shows the stamping on the left side.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I cleaned the deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol and dried it off with a cotton pad. I filled in the tooth marks with clear super glue. I set it aside to cure and called it night.In the morning I sanded out the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding 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 Stem Polish both Fine and Extra Fine to remove the last of the scratches. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond. I gave them both multiple coats of carnauba wax and 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have six more of Paresh’s Grandfather’s pipes to finish and then I will pack them up and send across the sea to India where he can carry on the legacy. I know that he is looking forward to having them in hand and enjoying a bowl of his favourite tobacco in memory of his Grandfather. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked this pipe over.