Tag Archives: Keyser Hygienic Pipes

Restoring a Keyser Hygienic Patent from a Garden Shed in England

Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I received an email from through the rebornpipes site. I am actually getting quite a few emails each week which I find a pleasure to read and answer. They range from questions on restoration to those regarding estate pipes. This one was interesting to me in that it was about a brand of pipes that I have worked on and enjoyed in the past. I have included the initial email and subsequent ones below to give you the context of the ongoing interaction on this pipe. I thoroughly enjoyed the interchange with Mrs. C. Howard and look forward to being able to send her photos of the restored pipe.

Hello. Clearing out our shed today my husband came across a couple of old pipes, one of which is a Keyser Hygienic, which I have now read about, on your website, how you clean and refurbish them. For my husband and his crewmate in the London Ambulance Service in the 70’s, smoking a pipe was just another one of their fads (with motorbikes at that time, they rather fancied themselves, too, as facsimiles of Starsky & Hutch!) so although tooth-marked, not badly for the amount of time they were in use, I would think. My husband’s reaction to ‘turfing out’ unwanted things is to take it all to the dump, whereas mine is to locate useful ‘homes’ for items that are still serviceable and would serve a useful purpose. I see that you are on the look-out for Keyser pipes and wondered if you would like this one. It would only go to charity anyway and I would rather donate it to you – it would be no difficulty for me to post, if you wanted it. I also have a Duncan Mini Dent pipe; if you would like this also I could send it at the same time. I have washed both of them but, obviously, your attention to that aspect would be done best by you. I look forward to hearing from you. – Yours sincerely – Mrs. C. Howard

I immediately wrote her back and told her I would be delighted to receive the pipes and would gladly pay her for the postage from England to Canada. She replied:

Hello Mr Laug,

I was very pleased to hear your response and will post both pipes to you as soon as I’ve wrapped them.  There will be no need for a refund of postage; I’ll be happy just to know the pipes are being re-located from my shed, ignored and unloved, to a good home where they will get both!

My husband and I loved Vancouver when we visited, particularly enjoying the trip over to Vancouver Island to see Mrs. Butchart’s Gardens and where my aunt and uncle had moved to years ago.  We especially, too, liked the laid-back nature of the Canadian people.

However, I shall get these pipes posted asap and hope you enjoy the final result of your labours in refurbishing them. With best wishes – Mrs. C. Howard

Once again I replied thanking her for her kindness in gifting and sending the pipes to me. I looked forward to receiving them from her and working on them to restore them to their former glory.

Hello Mr Laug,

Just to let you know that you should be receiving the pipes in the not-too distant, since I posted them off yesterday, the 23rd. Optimistically, it won’t be too long before they arrive at your door.  I hope I don’t sound like an Amazon rep, although I rather fall down on being able to provide you with parcel tracking details, et al! – Kind regards. Mrs. C. Howard

To me this kind of information is priceless and gives me the background on the pipes when I work on them. I like to picture in my mind the pipe man who smoked them. In this case the information made me wonder how many more pipes are sitting in garden sheds around the world, having been discarded when the pipesmoker decided to lay them down. Thank you Mrs. C. Howard for the foresight you had in rescuing these pipes.

When the box arrived in Vancouver I wrote Mrs. C. Howard and let her know they arrived safely. I opened her parcel and found the contents were well wrapped and had come undamaged. The Keyser Hygienic pipe that I am working on came in its original box shown below. At this point I did not have any idea of either the shape or the condition of the pipe but I had never seen a boxed version so I was excited to see what was inside.I opened the box to find a bent billiard, the original Keyser Brochure and a nice note from Mrs. C. Howard. I include her note in the photo below.I took the pipe out of the box to have a look at it. It was worn but in decent condition. The finish was faded and the grain barely visible but underneath it looked to be interesting. The rim top was coated with a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a cake. The aluminum shank end was coated with what looked like silver polish and it was on the briar as well. The stem was clean but had tooth chatter and some deeper tooth marks on the underside near the button. I took photos of it before I started my work on the pipe. I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. It was in great condition and very readable. You can also see the polish on the aluminum and in the letters of the stamp. The left side reads Keyser Hygienic over Patent. The right side reads London Made.I took close up photos of the rim/bowl and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived.The stem was tightly inserted in the stem and the polish and grime held it firmly in place. I carefully twisted the stem while holding tightly onto the aluminum ferrule. It came out with a bit of effort. I took a photo of the pipe at this point and also of the shank and stem end to show the apparatus inside and the condition of the interior of the pipe.I set the pipe aside and took photos of the brochure that was packed with the pipe in the box. The front page of the piece was interesting in both the advertising speak and the cutaway diagram of the pipe. The first photo shows the overall look of the brochure cover while the two that follow that show the details. I opened the brochure and found a great shape chart of the options available for the smoker who purchased a Keyser Hygienic pipe. I have not seen one of these before. I will try to scan the entire brochure soon and post it on the blog separately.On the backside of the brochure were instructions on the care of the pipe.It is quintessential British and reads:

Smoked by Connoisseurs.

The Care of the pipe.

The following suggestions will enable the owner of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE to obtain the best results.

In the early stages it is advisable to only half fill the bowl and smoke slowly, increasing the amount of the charge after the first few pipefuls. Never refill on top of a half smoked charge. Always allow the bowl to cool before refilling.

As a wet heel does not form in the bowl of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE it is recommended that each charge is smoked right to the bottom, allowing the bowl to carbon evenly and preventing waste of tobacco.

It is inadvisable to allow carbon to become more that 1/8 inch in thickness, as expansion of carbon when hot may result in cracking the bowl. When the carbon lining becomes too thick, reduce it, but do not remove it entirely; leave a carbon lining of about 1/16 inch.

The trap of the Keyser Hygienic Pipe should be emptied frequently; hold the pipe in a vertical position, remove vulcanite and pour out the moisture. The pipe should be cleaned regularly with ordinary pipe cleaners, and the vulcanite only should be rinsed occasionally with a non-flammable cleaning fluid and dried off with a pipe cleaner; on no account should water or steam be used.

The practice used by our forefathers of treating their clay pipes with alcohol and other liquids  should not, on any account, be used on a briar pipe as it has a serious detrimental effect upon the smoking qualities and life of briar and may result in cracking the bowl.

The KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE is designed to prevent moisture, tobacco and ash being drawn into the mouth and to prevent, also, moisture entering the bowl and a wet wad of tobacco forming which is always wasted.

It is due to the patent stem – fitted exclusively to the KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE – that the whole of the tobacco can be smoked, thereby preventing waste and showing a considerable saving. The absence of moisture permits the bowl to carbon right to the bottom, ensuring a sweet, clean, wholesome smoke, free from the moisture with which pipe smoking is usually accompanied.

Each pipe is produced individually and is an outstanding example of a product upon which Engineers and Pipe Craftsman work in harmony.

UNIT 17, 784/792 HIGH ROAD

Scientifically designed – Made by British Craftsmen Printed in England

Over the past years I have picked up quite a few Keyser Hygienic pipes. As you can see from the above information they are made in England. I had read that the pipes were sold exclusively in South Africa. They were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. I had thought that they were made of nylon and rubber or some combination that is a proprietary form of vulcanite developed by Keyser Manufacturing Co. They are tough and take tooth wear very well but are hard to buff as the heat from a buffer can easily melt the stem surfaces.

In my previous restorations I included the photo below. It came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward (or in the case of this pipe to the left side so that the air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.After processing all of the information that came with the Keyser Hygienic Pipe I thought I would “be manly! Restore a pipe! I started by reaming the bowl with a PipNet reamer working my way through the first two cutting heads to take the cake back to bare briar. I really wanted to see the bowl walls and check them for damage. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and then wrapped 220 grit sandpaper around a dowel and sanded the walls of the bowl. The inside walls were in excellent condition. I examined the rim surface and saw burn marks on the inner and outer edges as well as some nicks and damage to the briar. I decided to lightly top the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. It did not take much to remove the damaged areas and burned edges. The second photo below shows the cleaned rim top.I wiped down the surface of the bowl to remove some of the opacity of the stain. The stain appeared to be a dark to medium brown but what wiped off was oxblood or cordovan. I would never have guessed that looking at the pipe. Underneath there were what looked like nicks on the left side of the bowl but turned out to be small fills. There was some beautiful grain on the pipe that I wanted to highlight. With the exterior and the bowl clean it was time to address the condenser chamber in the shank and stem. It took some maneuvering to get the pipe cleaners through the aluminum tubes in the shank and the stem but I was successful in removing the tars and oils that had built up in both spots. There was still a musty garden shed smell to the pipe so I kept cleaning until it was fresh. Later I would do a cotton ball and alcohol soak to further remove that smell.I rubbed down the exterior of the bowl and rim with Before & After Restoration Balm. I have been using this product for about ½ a year now and really like the way it cleans, enlivens and protects the briar. I rubbed it on with my finger tips and worked it into the finish of the briar. I set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes while I did other things and then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The state of the bowl can be seen in the photos below. After buffing off the balm I could see that the rim needed some more work but decided to address the remnants of the garden shed smell first. I filled the bowl with cotton balls, stuffing them deep in the bowl. I inserted a pipe cleaner in the tube in the shank to wick out the oils and filled the bowl with 99% isopropyl alcohol to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I used an ear syringe to fill the bowl. I know if you read the brochure from KEYSER HYGIENIC above it said not to use alcohol, but I have found over the last 20+ years of pipe cleaning that it does a great job. I set the bowl aside in an old ice-cube tray, much stained from years of abuse and let the alcohol and cotton balls do their magic.I came back to the pipe several hours later and the cotton balls had absorbed a lot of tars and oils. You can see the effect in the cotton in the picture below. The pipe cleaner had wicked out some more of the tar from the tube as well. The pipe smelled fresh and clean with the garden shed smell removed for good.I cleaned up the darkening and burn mark on the inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper. I gave the edge a slight bevel to blend in the damaged area on the rim. I like the look a slight bevel gives a bowl.I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.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 after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine and buffed it with a cotton pad. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I carefully polished stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I used a very light touch so as not to damage the stem. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond as well – a bit more vigorously. 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. What remained of the original colour came alive with the buffing and works well with the polished aluminum ferrule and the polished black vulcanite stem. Altogether the pipe has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. Not sure what I am going to do with this one – probably enjoy it but keep an eye open because it well could end up on the store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Keyser Hygienic Bent Billiard Patent pipe.


Restoring a Unique Edition of the Keyser Hygienic System Pipe

I picked up this Keyser Hygienic on EBay because it caught my eye. I have three other Keyser Hygienic pipes and they are all very similar in terms of the system. They are briar bowls and shanks with an aluminum mortise with a tube in the centre running to the airway in the bowl. This is matched with a military mount stem with a tube with a down turn on it that fits into the airway in the mortise. The swirling smoke rolls around the inside of the mortise where the moisture in the smoke condenses on the sides of the aluminum mortise. The cooled air is drawn into the down turned tube in the stem and it delivers a cool, dry smoke. The system is fairly straightforward and simple. The genius of the design is that any stem fits any pipe of the same size. Replacement stems are easily purchased and all that is necessary is the size of the pipe and the replacement will be a ready fit.
Keyser Pipes
But this new Keyser was unique in all ways. The system design seems like a prototype of the original or maybe a step toward the ones that I have. It is composed of a short shanked briar bowl and a metal tube that has a normal vulcanite tenon. This sits in the shortened shank. Inside the tube is a second tube that extends ¾ of the way up the barrel. The inner tube is the extension of the airway in the tenon. The stem is a short pressure fit stem with a shoulder that allows it to ride on the end of the outer tube. On the end of the stem is a down turned short tube that draws air in to the mouth piece from the condensing chamber of the tube. It is a fascinating design. It is that uniqueness that caught my eye – that and the stamping/engraving on the outer tube which reads as follows:

Made By
Keyser Manufacturing Co.
Brighton England
Pat Appns Brit 34B20/47
US 6067474/48
Can 581101

The next series of seven pictures shows the pipe as it appeared in the EBay webpage. The seller did a great job describing the current state of the pipe and the areas of concern. The seller notes some of the scratches on the outer tube and the darkening of the rim. He also noted the tooth chatter and scratch marks on both the top and underside of the stem.






When the pipe arrived I unpacked it and examined it. There were indeed tooth chatter/marks on both the top and bottom of the stem. There was a cigarette burn mark on the bottom of the shank where it meets the bowl. It was not a deep burn and there was no charred wood just a dark mark. The rim itself also had some issues. While the surface was not charred there was a burned area on the front inside of the bowl and on the front outside of the bowl. It looked to be damage from a lighter used in the same place repeatedly over time. The remainder of the finish was in pretty good shape but the entire pipe would need to be stripped in order to address the burn marks on the rim and the side of the shank. The inside of the bowl and shank were very clean. The pipe had not been reamed but there was a light cake that smelled like an aromatic. The barrel was tight on the shank but I carefully was able to remove it. The vulcanite tenon on the end of the barrel was undamaged but the airway was closed in with tars. The way the tenon was attached to the barrel was interesting. The end of the barrel was bonded to a circular plug of vulcanite with the tenon an integral piece of the part. The stem was frozen in the barrel and could not be removed. The button on the stem was unmarked and the tooth marks were actually mid stem on the top and bottom sides. The vulcanite stem was oxidized and would need to be cleaned. The next four photos show the items that I have pointed out in this paragraph.



I was able to remove the barrel and tenon from the shank of the pipe by carefully twisting the barrel free of the shank. I always hold tightly to the shank with one hand right next to the shank and then twist with the other hand. I try to maintain equal pressure on all points so that the shank is not strained or cracked in the process. The next photo shows the tenon on the barrel. It is almost the same length as the shank and the airway is lined up very closely to the airway in the bottom of the bowl. I cleaned out the mortise with cotton swabs and Everclear and found that it was quite clean. I also cleaned out the barrel from both ends but was not able to get a pipe cleaner to go all the way through the pipe from button to tenon.
The next three photos show the front of the bowl and the extent of the burn marks on the front outside of the bowl and the front inside of the rim. These were two areas that would need to be worked over to minimize the burn marks on the finished pipe.


I used my PipNet reamer to ream out the soft aromatic cake in the bowl and then recleaned the shank and the inside of the bowl with pipe cleaners and Everclear to remove the carbon dust that came from the reaming process (Photo 1 below). I wiped down the outside of the bowl and shank with a cotton pad and acetone to remove the finish on the pipe (Photo 2 below).

The next series of fourteen photos show the topping of the bowl to remove the burned area on the inside of the rim and the front outside edge. The burn had rounded the outside edge and made it appear out of round when looking at it from the top. I wanted to top the bowl enough to bring the top view back into round, minimize the wood damage in both spots and clean up the sharp edge of the bowl. I used two different sanding sponges – medium grit (black coloured sponge) and a fine grit sponge (yellow coloured sponge) both pictured below to start the process. I went on to use medium grit emery paper on the hard board to further top the bowl and ended with 320 grit sandpaper on the board. I polished the finish of the topped pipe bowl with the fine grit yellow sanding sponge. I also worked on the burned area that extended down the front of the bowl with the two sanding sponges.














While I was working on the bowl I put the barrel and stem unit in the freezer to try to break loose the stuck stem. I have found that the varying contraction time of the metal and vulcanite will often loosen the stem. Once it was in the freezer for 30 minutes I could easily remove the stem and give the inside of the barrel and the stem a thorough cleaning with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in Everclear. I cleaned them until both came out clear. The next five photos show the broken down stem and the tube on the end of the stem that I was talking about above. There is one photo of the barrel but it is too dark to see the inner tube.




Once the stem and barrel was clean it was time to deal with the tooth marks and chatter on the stem itself. I sanded the top and the bottom with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the marks and the chatter. None of them were too deep. They were more of a ripple like effect on the surface of the vulcanite. I sanded them flat to the surface of the stem and then went on to sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grits. The next four photos show the progress of the shine.



After shining the stem with the micromesh I took it to the buffer and buffed the stem with White Diamond and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and finished it with a coat of carnauba wax. I put the stem back in the barrel and lined up the stem with the stamping on the side of the barrel. I gave the entire barrel and stem another coat of carnauba wax and hand buffed them. The next three photos show the assembled barrel and stem unit polished and ready to put on the bowl once it was restained and ready.


I sanded and resanded the bowl with fine grit sanding sponges and then sanded it with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-3200 grit. I wiped it down with acetone between sandings and again when I was finished to prepare it for staining. The next three photos show the prepared pipe ready for staining. The burn mark on the bottom of the shank is gone with very little sanding and no change to the shank surface itself. The one on the front of the is minimized and the one on the rim is also virtually gone. The bowl is ready for a new finish coat.


I restained the bowl with an oxblood aniline stain, flamed it and restained and reflamed it. I rubbed it down with a cotton terry cloth to smooth out the stain and then took it to the buffer. I always buff with my thumb in the bowl to ensure that the buffer does not grab the bowl from my hand and launch it against the wall. I rotate it slowly in my hand and with a light touch buff the shank. I am careful not to apply too much pressure and round the shoulders on the shank. I normally do not buff with the stem off the bowl but in this case I did not want to risk buffing off the black paint on the barrel so I chance the buffing on the bowl alone. The next three photos show the buffed bowl before polishing.


I reassembled the pipe and then hand buffed it with multiple coats of carnauba wax and polished it with a shoe brush. The stem and bowl have a great shine and the bowl has some beautiful grain on it. I look forward to smoking this one and comparing it with my other Keyser Hygienic pipes. The final four photos below show the finished pipe. I have yet to do the research on the patent information on the barrel but I am hoping to find out a bit of history on this piece.



From the photo of the bottom of the bowl and shank above you can see that the burn mark there is eliminated in its entirety. Also in the photo of the rim above and the one of the front of the bowl below you can see that the burn mark is gone and what remains is blended into the stain.

Keyser Hygienic Patent Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past year I have been picking up these Keyser Hygienic pipes on EBay. This one makes the third one I have picked up at a reasonable price. They are made in England and sold exclusively in South Africa. The word is that they were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. They seem to be made of nylon and rubber or some combination. They are tough and take tooth wear very well. Two of the three I picked up are older and both had the original stems on them. They had tooth chatter and minor dents. Steaming would not raise the dents at all. I had to deal with them with sandpaper and micromesh sanding pads.

The photo below came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward so air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.


The pipe I am working on this time is a pot shaped sand blasted pipe. The aluminum was oxidized and dull the blast was dirty and the crevices filled with dirt and grime. The stem was in pretty clean shape other than the tooth chatter near the button. The rim of the bowl was tarred and caked. The cake was uneven and tapering in the bowl – almost as if the bowl was only half filled and smoked that way the majority of the time. The upper portion of the bowl had a very thin layer of cake and the lower portion a thick uneven cake. The condenser in both the stem and the shank were filled with a dark brown tar and the airway was constricted in the shank and clogged in the stem. The photo below shows the condition of the bowl and the stem and highlight where the work would be needed to clean up the exterior of this pipe.


I reamed the bowl back to bare briar and scrubbed the blast surface with a brass tire brush to clean out the crevices. I also used a soft bristle tooth brush to finish cleaning the surface off. Once that was done I put the bowl in the alcohol bath to soak while I worked on the stem. The next two photos below show the stem after I used 240 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and slight dents. I then used micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to polish the stem and work out the scratches. I have learned the hard way that you cannot buff these stems on the buffer as a little bit of surface heat from the buffing pads melts and distorts the surface. So these stems are totally buffed and polished by hand.


The next two photos show the stem after it has been sanded up to the 3200 grit micromesh pad. The stem is beginning to get a shine and the scratches are disappearing with the sanding. From this point I went on the sand the stem through the remaining micromesh grits and when finished I gave it a coating of Obsidian Oil to penetrate the surface and give it a deep polish. Once that dried I buffed it by hand with some carnauba wax in paste form that I purchased from Walker Briar Works.ImageImage

From the next series of photos you can see that I interrupted my work on the stem to remove the bowl from the alcohol bath. I did that because I was curious to see how it was cleaning up. You will notice in these photos the brownish grey sludge in the grooves of the blast. I used the tooth brush once again to scrub the surface with Isopropyl from the alcohol bath. Once the grime was removed I washed the bowl down with clean Isopropyl and dried it off.


The next series of photos show the dried bowl. The grime is gone and the finish is now down to the stain. Even some of the top coat of stain has been removed and you can see the briar. I laid the bowl aside and finished up the stem as I described it above.


The aluminum condensing chamber on the shank and the chamber in the stem needed much work. I used cotton swabs that I flattened to clean the area inside the shank around the airway extension and the same in the stem. Once that was clean I polished the oxidized aluminum with the micromesh pads to burnish the aluminum and get the shine back.


I then restained the bowl with a dark brown stain, knowing that when I buffed it the reddish brown undercoat would shine through on the high spots and the dark would fill the crevices and give the pipe a contrast stain. The next series of three photos show the staining and the way the various grains took the stain. The right side of the bowl has a great ring blast that is fairly deep and craggy. The left side is more of a blast on birdseye. It is an interesting looking blast. The bowl rim came out clean as well and shows an interesting contrast in the light of the flash.


The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. The entirety has been given a coat of wax. I used Halcyon II on the blast to polish it without leaving the white residue in the grain of the blast when it dried. I buffed it by hand. The stem received another hand applied coat of carnauba wax and a buff by hand. The pipe pictured is clean and ready to smoke.


I have included pictures below of the other two Keyser pipes that I picked up and refurbished. The top one is an apple with really nice grain. I have been smoking this one and enjoying the dry and cool smoke that it gives. The second is a smaller prince shape that is no longer available. It had some burns on the rim that are still visible but it too smokes very well. One day will rework the rim a bit and minimize the burn marks. Till then I will smoke these Keyser’s and keep an eye for more of them.