Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table was purchased on EBay on 12/20/22 from a fellow in Abita Springs, Louisiana, USA. When Jeff received the pipe he took photos of it to capture what it looked like when he removed it from the box. The pipe was dirty but underneath all of the grime it seemed like it has a great carving around the bowl and shank. The rim top and edges of the bowl had some wear and tear but was redeemable. There was a thin cake in the bowl and a light overflow on the top and edges. The fit of the stem to the shank was off and the diameter of both was slightly different. It had an odd stem set up with what looked like a shank extension with the stem glued into it. The angle of the shank was not straight to the stem was custom fitted against the shank in terms of angles. The tenon fit well in the mortise. There were tooth marks on both sides of the stem ahead of the button and on the button surface itself. Jeff took the following photos of the pipe to show its condition when he received it. He took photos of the rim and bowl to give a sense of what he was dealing with. He also took photos of the stem surfaces to show the condition of the stem when it arrived. The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show beautiful carving around the bowl and shank sides. The brown stain adds depth finish on the pipe. Even under the grime it is a unique piece. He also took photos of the etched name on the left side of shank. It reads House of Robertson.The pipe has the name House of Robertson roughly hand-etched on the left side of the shank with an engraving tool. I am including the information that I found when I received my first of the House of Robertson Pipes. I found a link on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Robertson) that gave me the only information I could find on the brand. I include that in total as it is interesting to read.
“House of Robertson” was in business for many years, but alas, closed their doors in 1999. They were located in Boise, Idaho. They are noted for making rather large and interesting pipes. Thayne Robertson was a Master Mason, AF & AM, and started the shop about 1947 and his son Jon started working there in 1970 when he finished college, along with Thayne’s daughter. Thayne and his son started making the big pipes at that time, and made them together until 1987 when Thayne passed away. Jon kept the store and his sister moved on to other things. The House of Robertson appears to have closed around 1999.
Jeff had thoroughly cleaned up the pipe. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime and calcification. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. The pipe looked very good when it arrived here in Vancouver. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show how clean the bowl and the rim top were. You can also see the damage on the rim top and inner edges of the bowl. I took photos of the stem surface to show the condition and tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. You can also see how the stem and shank to not fit well together in terms of diameter.I took a photo of the clear and readable stamping on the left side of the shank. I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts. It is another unique piece. I decided to start my work on the pipe by addressing the fit of the stem to the shank. With the stem in place on the shank I sanded the shank and stem fit to have a smooth transition. It took a lot of work to get it very smooth. Fortunately, the shank end was smooth so I did not have to damage the rustication on the shank. Once I finished sanding the transition was smooth and the fit was right. I then used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the inner edge and give it a slight bevel inward. Doing that hid the damage on the inner edge of the bowl and blended it into the surface.Now it was time to polish the smooth portions of the bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad to remove the grit. The bowl began to take on a rich shine. It is a beauty. I gave the bowl a light coat of Restoration Balm and sanded the smooth portions further. The pipe took on some charm and the grain shone through. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the nooks and crannies of the carvings to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and worked it into the finish with a horsehair shoe brush. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the shape of the saddle and the tooth marked areas with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. I put the House of Robertson Rusticated Horn back together and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to lightly polish the stem. I buffed the bowl with a light touch so as not to get any of the buffing compounds in the grooves of the rustication. I buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished HOR Rusticated Horn is shown in the photos below. The medium brown stains on the well grained briar worked well with the black of the vulcanite stem. The polishing and the reworking of the stem material left this a beautiful and interesting looking pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside Diameter: 1 ¼ inches, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ inches. The weight of the pipe is 2.36 ounces/68 grams. This would be a great addition to the collection of a House of Robertson aficionado. Thanks for looking.