Tag Archives: Kirsten system pipes

Restoring a Kirsten Companion K System Pipe from Bob Kerr’s Estate

Blog by Steve Laug

The second of the Kirsten pipes I have chosen to work on from Bob Kerr’s Estate is a Companion polished aluminum coloured Barrel system pipe with a saddle stem. It is the second of Bob’s Kirsten pipes and also the last one I have to work on from the estate. (Bob’s photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in most of the restorations of the estate to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blogs (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/).

When I think of Kirsten pipes this is the shape that is a typical Kirsten. On the left side of the shank it is stamped with Companion in script. On the underside of the polished aluminum barrel it is stamped Made in U.S.A. followed by K. It is a straight pipe with large Dublin bowl. Metal base is dented and worn. The pipe has gaskets. Stem is oxidized, tooth marks, chatter near the button. Button is damaged. There is a cake in the bowl and lava overflow on the rim. The ridged valve has some damage from what looks like marks left behind by pliers. The pipe is very dirty.  Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup. The exterior of the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit ground in from years of use and sitting. The rim top was covered with a coat of thick lava that overflowed the bowl. There was also some darkening and lava on the rim top. The bowl itself had a thick cake with flecks of tobacco stuck in the cake on the sides.  It also appeared that there was some mold on the cake in the bowl.Jeff took a photo of the side and the heel of the bowl to give a better feel for the condition of the bowl. You can see the interesting grain on the bowl side and front.The next photos show the stamping on the sides of the barrel shank and it is very readable. It reads as noted above. The stem was dirty and extremely oxidized, calcified and had tooth marks on both sides ahead of the button. It was not nearly as chewed the other pipes in Bob’s estate.  Jeff took apart the pipe and took photos of the parts of the part. It was incredibly dirty with tars and oils on the internals of the pipe.Before doing cleanup work on the pipe I decided to do some research on the pipe. I have a catalogue for Kirsten pipes in my files and found this pipe in the catalogue. It is shown in the photo below. The K stamp identifies it as a Companion pipe.

There is also some great history on the brand on Pipedia that is well worth a read. It gives clear information on the development of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kirsten_Pipe_Company).

I am really glad that Jeff helped me work through this estate of over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate. I would in no way be this close to finishing the estate without his help. Jeff cleaned the pipes with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. He had reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the remaining cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff took the pipe apart and cleaned the barrel, the adjustable valve and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what cleaned bowl and rim top looked like. The rim top and edges of the bowl looked very good. The screw in the bottom of the bowl looks very good with no damage to the slots. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the light tooth marks and the remaining oxidation on the stem.I took the pipe apart and took photos of the parts of the pipe to give a picture of what it looked like. Now, on to my part of the restoration of this Kirsten RX pipe. The rim top was in rough condition and looked as if it had been beat against a hard surface. I decided to begin my work by topping the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the briar down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bark on the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I rubbed the valve on the metal base with some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. I have found that it keeps the valve from sticking in the base end. I screwed the bowl on the top of the metal barrel. This part of the restoration is finished and the pipe is looking really good at this point in the process. All that remains is the stem and push rod that goes in the end of the base. I set the bowl and metal barrel aside and turned my attention to the stem. There were some deep tooth marks near the edge of the button on both sides. I filled them in with clear super glue.I sanded out the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and chatter. I started to polish it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the vulcanite 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. This Kirsten Companion Made in USA K pipe from Bob Kerr’s estate turned out to be another great looking pipe. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and works well with the polished vulcanite saddle stem. I put the pipe back together and carefully buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. It will be going on the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email.  This is the last of Bob’s Estate pipes that I am working on. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Kirsten Generation 1, 1.5, 2, 3

Blog by Dave Whitney and Steve Laug

I wrote Dave Whitney for permission to use his material in this post. He wrote back granting that permission and asked that I credit it as coming from OLD BRIAR by Dave Whitney. Thanks Dave for allowing this information to be posted here. What follows is taken from correspondence with Dave that later became the article in his book.

Over the years I have had several Kirsten pipes of different ages and different composition. I have always found it difficult to tell the difference between the various pipes in terms of their age. I have ordered replacement parts from Kirsten in Seattle and I have also cannibalized older ones that I have here that are not useable. From these I have traded and bought others. One of the early ones I had stumped me in terms of the markings and stampings on the barrel and the bowl. I wrote to a fellow on one of the online pipe forums (I now know that it was Dave Whitney as I have since found an article by him on Kirsten pipes that I have read and have written to him. I kept the information he gave me and finally got around to editing it and putting it on the blog.) My questions to him revolved around how to tell age of Kirsten I had in my hands.

He replied with the below information. I found it very helpful and have not found other places to get this info so I thought I would post it here for all to use. (Since writing this I have found that Dave has developed the material in his book Old Briar – it should be consulted for more information).

“Kirsten’s are fun to try and figure out, especially when trying to buy then on eBay. Years ago, when I first started, I finally got a hold of a fellow who “Restored” Kirsten’s for quite a long time. He taught me about the Generation system, and it immediately made life easier. I could ask the seller to take the pipe apart and tell me about the O-rings. I could even call the company and refer to the Generation parts I wanted, and at that time they knew exactly what I was asking for…the last time I called was three years ago, so who knows now. This is all from memory……”

All Kirsten pipes are made up of five basic components – mouthpiece, radiator body or barrel, valve, bowl and bowl screw (a sixth component, the bowl ring, is found in many Kirstens. They were originally designed in 1936 by Professor Frederick Kirsten – the man who invented Boeing’s first wind tunnel – after he has been advised by his physician to stop smoking. Kirsten was looking for a way to trap the tars and moisture from tobacco and the Kirsten pipe was his solution.


Generation 1 – 1936-1958
The wooden bowl on this generation connects directly to the metal barrel and there is no metal cup spacer. It is a pretty flush fit that goes flat against the barrel. On the underside of the metal barrel it is stamped with one or more of the following “Pat. Appl. For” (1936-38) and “Pats. & Pats. Pending” (1938-1958) over “Made in USA” – S” (or applicable size – S, M, L). There are no O-rings on the bit or metal shank insert. They came in the following models:


Companion First edition in rough finish.

S Standard 1st generation with full-length cooling fins

M Medium

L Large

A Aristocrat Extra large 1st generation

Generation 1.5 – transitional period – mid to late 50’s
This was an experimental stage. Kirsten realized that the bit and insert were prone to seizure as the condensate dried. This model always has O-rings on the metal insert, and later models can have O-rings on both. Same markings, as I remember it. There is no metal cup spacer under the bowl. This generation has O rings either on the valve or mouthpiece but no O rings on the other end. This transitional period is stamped “Pat. Pending” and “Pats. & Pats. Pending” some with “Made in U.S.A.  It seems like the company was using surplus parts to combine into this series of pipes. They came in the following models:


K Companion

M Medium

L Large

They came in a polished finish and later white Heritage finish. There were a few other Transition Models:

Thrifty – a nice early model with black offset valve that works in reverse. There is an O ring on valve but none on the stem

No Letter/No Name – This one is an unmarked short pipe with a different valve and O ring. There is not an O ring on stem

Generation 2 – 1958-1985
Markings on underside of metal shank “Made in USA XL” (or app. size) and “Pat. & Pats. Pending”. The presence of O rings on both the valve and the mouthpiece and the metal cup spacer under bowl are the biggest thing that separates the Generation 1 from the Generation 2 pipes. These O rings help provide a tighter seal when the stem and apparatus are inserted into the radiator stem. Instead of “O” rings, the machining of the Generation 1 pipes was so precise the fit was exact. This generation came in the following models:

K Companion

G Gem

S Sportsman

SX Sportsman Brass

M Mariner

MB Mariner Black

L Lancer


A Aladdin

V Vagabond

CX Cavalier Brass

T Tyrolean

Full bents

W Westerner

B Beau Geste

P Premier

F Firesider

Generation 3 – 1985 to the present                                                                         

All current models stamped “Made in U.S.A.” and all have O rings on both the valve and stem. They come in the following models:


JX Jewel Brass

M Mariner

L Lancer


RX Regent Brass

H Horizon

Full bents

EX Esquire Brass

DX Designer Brass

FOOTNOTE ON VARIATIONS IN LETTER DESIGNATIONS:  Generally speaking, the X added to a model letter like “S” stands for brass tone finish, i.e., “SX.” There is one exception to this: In the 1960s Kirsten made a brass tone model with an “Eternalum” finish that gave the brass tone an antiqued look. They were marked with a “X” designation following the model letter. The B added to a model letter like “M” stands for black finish, i.e., “MB.”

He ended his answer to the questions with this great note: “Now the fun part….this is how they came from the factory. What people did to them after they got them is what makes it an inexact science. Parts for the different sizes are not interchangeable, except for the bowls. I have a Gen 1 – M and -S…nothing interchanges but the bowls. If you get a Gen 1 that has been badly abused, you can end up losing either the bit or metal insert, or both, no matter what you do or how long you try.”

References used:

Whitney, Dave (2009) Old Briar – Pipe smoking on a budget. pipesbywhitney