Tag Archives: Linkman Pipes

Working on Paresh’s Grandfather’s Linkman’s Zulu


Blog by Steve Laug

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Paresh, my friend in India reached out to me over Whatsapp to talk about a few more of his Grandfather’s pipes. He was confident in working on many of them but there were a few that he wanted me to try my hand on. His wife Abha would ream and clean them for me so I would be able to start with a relatively clean pipe. The second pipe was a Linkman Zulu with a vulcanite stem. It was in rough condition when Paresh and Abha started working on it. They reamed the thick hard cake with a KleenReem pipe reamer and clean up the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap. They also cleaned the interior with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe was in very rough condition. The sides of the bowl, the rim top had been beaten up heavily. There were gouges all over the sides and rim top of the bowl. It was a mess and it was very dirty. The stamping on the shank read Linkman’s over Dr Grabow with a silver shield next to the stem/shank junction. On the underside of the shank it was stamped De Luxe over Bruyere with a shape number 9700. On the left side of the shank it was stamped PAT. No. 1896800. The stem was oxidized but in decent condition. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition when it arrived. The tenon is the patented threaded Linkman shovel stinger apparatus. It is a single unit rather than an inserted stinger as in later models. The top of the stem has a Linkman propeller logo.I took some close up photos of the damage on the bowl to give a better idea of what I was working with on this pipe. The rim top was a real mess with nicks, chips and damage under a coat of tars. Paresh and Abha had left the cake in the bowl to me to work on because of the other damage to the pipe. The stem was in pretty decent shape with a few tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem near the button and some oxidation. The bowl was a real mess and it would be a challenge. I took photos of the stamping on the top, bottom and left side of the shank.I checked some of my usual sources to get some information on the brand and how it fit into the Linkman/Grabow hierarchy. The first link I checked was the Pipephil logos and stampings site. I include the link as follows http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-l4.html. I quote as follows.

The M. Linkman and Co. was established by Louis B. Linkman and August Fisher in 1898. The company closed down in the 1950s and the Dr Grabow branch was sold to Henry Leonard and Thomas Inc.

I then went to the Pipedia website to get some more details and information. There was also a photo of Linkman that I thought added a nice touch to the work I was going to do on this pipe. Here is the link from the site if you want to check it out in full. https://pipedia.org/wiki/M._Linkman_%26_Co.

The name is often said to stand for Mary Linkman & Company. Mary Linkman was the mother of Louis B. Linkman, originator of the Dr. Grabow pipe. This Chicago company produced meerschaums and briars both.

BACK IN 1898, two ambitious young men reached the momentous decision to go into business for themselves. They were Louis B. Linkman and August Fisher. From the time they were in knee pants they had worked for a pipe jobber in the mid-west.

Diligently saving a portion of their earnings, they accumulated a few hundred dollars, and in 1898 formed a partnership under the name of M. Linkman & Company. They opened a small shop on Lake Street, Chicago, employed two additional people, and started to manufacture pipes. {The article never mentions what the “M” stood for, or the reason for the name chosen.}

In 1890 {? — 1899, perhaps?} another young man, Anton Burger, who had also been employed by a pipe jobber in the mid-west, approached them and was taken in as a partner. M. Linkman & Company proceeded as a partnership; the business developed rapidly through the untiring efforts of these men in producing quality pipes and rendering good service to their customers.

The business continued to grow, and in 1907 M. Linkman & Company was incorporated with Louis B. Linkman as president, August Fisher, vice-president, and Anton Burger, secretary and treasurer. In 1914, Richard J. Dean, who had joined the firm in 1911 was appointed general sales manager.

The business was growing and expanding rapidly, and the executives soon realized the quarters in the Wells Street Bridge Building were inadequate, so in 1922 Linkman built a modern three-story reinforced concrete building at the corner of Fullerton Avenue and Racine, housing one of the most complete and modern pipe plants in America.

I finished by doing a Google search to find the US Patent Search site so that I could see if there was a patent document on file there for this patent number. http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm. I entered the patent number and found a patent filed by L.B. Linkman for the pipe on April 11, 1932 and granted on February 7, 1933. I include that below. I decided to clean up the bowl interior before I addressed the damage on the outside of the bowl. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working up to the second head which was the same size as the bowl. I reamed the cake back to bare briar to see if there was any internal damage to the bowl. I sanded the inside of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the bowl walls and the inner edge of the rim. I sanded the rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage and reshape the inward bevel on the rim. I wiped down the surface of the briar with alcohol on a cotton pad to clean off the grime. I filled in the damaged areas around the bowl and on the rim with briar dust and clear super glue. I sprayed it with an accelerator (that is why it appears white in the following photos). The extent of the damage is very clear in the photos below. I started to sand the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to begin to smooth out the repairs. It would take a lot of sanding to smooth out the filled areas. The patches were rock hard. The photos that follow show the progress of the sanding. I polished the sanded 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 cotton pad after each sanding pad. The briar took on a shine and the filled spots though dark were better than all of the damage present before. To help hide the repairs on the bowl I decided to stain it with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied the stain with a folded thick pipe cleaner, flamed it and repeated the process until I was pleased with the coverage on the bowl. The photos below tell the story. Once the stain had dried, I wiped the bowl down with alcohol to make it a bit more transparent without making the repairs stand out. It is a tricky balance to work out as too much transparency reveals all of the blemishes while not enough makes it opaque and lacklustre. Once I polish the pipe I will know if I did enough or too much… time will tell. I forgot to take a photo of the stem before I put it in the Before & After Deoxidizer overnight and forgot about it. Today after lunch I remembered it and took it out of the mix. I wiped off the excess and ran it under warm water to rinse off the mixture. I was unable to run water through the stem so I dried it off to have a look. It looked better but it was absolutely plugged tight. That generally means there is something like a pipe cleaner broken in the stem but I would need to take it apart to tell for sure.I tried several different ways of opening the airway. I tried to push stiff pipe cleaners through the stem from the button. By measuring the length of the pipe cleaner with the stem I could see that the blockage was in the stinger itself. I tried pushing a straightened paper clip through the blockage from both ends – the button and the airway in the stinger. Nothing worked. I heated the stinger and tried again with the paper clip and again no luck. It was time to move forward. I heated the stinger with a lighter to loosen the tars holding it in place. Since it was a 1930 era pipe I figured it would be a threaded end the stem. Sure enough, once it was heated I unscrewed from the stem.

The photo below shows the culprit – a really stinky broken off pipe cleaner jammed in the stinger. The pipe cleaner was almost the length of the stem as well so it was clear that I was merely sliding by the jam with the stinger in place. With a pipe cleaner that old and worn I was worried I would just break off more in the stinger. I heated the stinger with the lighter and then carefully wiggled the pipe cleaner free of the stinger. The second photo shows the culprit freed from the stinger. You can also see that some of the fluff on the cleaner had come off inside the stinger and left it plugged. I could still not blow air through the stinger. (I have circled the ‘fluffless’ pipe cleaner end in the second photo below.)I tried to push through the clog with the paper clip pictured above, twisting it into the threaded end but was not able to break through. That left only one option for me. I chucked a 1/16 inch drill bit in my Dremel, set the speed to 5 and slowly worked my way through the rock hard plug. It took some doing to work it through the plug but I worked it back and forth until the airway was clean and I could blow air through it. I ran pipe cleaners soaked in alcohol back and forth through the stinger and removed all of the grit and tar that had built up around the plug. It was pretty nasty stuff. But after it was said and done I had a clear and clean stinger. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. Once the stem was clean I checked it with a light for more potential problems inside. It was clear and spotless.I lightly greased the threads on the stinger and turned it back into the cleaned stem. I aligned it with the mortise in the shank. The stem was getting there. I still needed to work on some oxidation but it looked a lot better and I could blow through it easily. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. (I polished the metal stinger as well at the same time.) I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. After staining the briar and wiping it down with alcohol, I touched up the repaired areas with a Black Sharpie Pen and blended in by rubbing it. I have been using Before & After Restoration Balm after staining to further blend and clean the briar. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I carefully polished bowl with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and lightly buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The transparent dark brownish red stain worked really well with the black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. This is the second of the three of Paresh’s Grandfather’s pipes that he sent me to finish. I will set it aside and when the others are finished I will pack them up and send them back to India. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of it once he gets to load it with his favourite tobacco and carry on the pipe man’s legacy of his Grandfather. Thanks for walking through this restoration with me as I worked over this beauty. 

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Restoring a Sad, Old MLC Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This older MLC bent billiard is a turn of the 20th century pipe. The initials stand for Mary Linkman Company. The company was named for the mother of the same Linkman who eventually branded pipes under that same name and then eventually became the Dr. Grabow pipe manufacturer with which we are familiar. If you have followed this blog for a while you have come to know that I love really old pipes and this one fits the bill. It is stamped MLC in an oval with no other stamping on the shank. The ferrule is brass and has faux hallmarks on the left side. They are worn but still readable with a bright light and a lens. It is another small pipe, slightly under 4 inches long and 1 ½ inches tall. The stem is Bakelite or Redmanol and has a lot of small spidering cracks in the flat portions of the stem on both sides. Both sides of the saddle are split the entire length of the saddle. There is very little tooth chatter or and minor tooth marks on both sides near the button. Jeff took the photos that follow before started the cleanup. (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m6.html)The pipe was in really rough shape. The finish was worn and spotted with paint specks, grime and nicks in the briar. The stem was split and worn. The bone tenon looked good but the band on the shank was loose and spun around the shank. The wear and tear on the brass band and the tarnish left is a mottled mess. The bowl had been reamed somewhere in the process so the cake was not thick. The lava on the rim was light. The inner and outer edge of the bowl was undamaged. The rim close up shows the cake and the peeling lava on the surface of the bowl.Jeff took photos of the sides of the bowl and the bottom side to show the wear and tear on the finish. There were some deep gouges in the briar and a lot of paint speckles on the briar. The stamping on the left side of the shank is quite clear – MLC in an oval. It had originally been gold leaf but it was worn. The stamping on right side of the oval was lighter than the rest of the stamping.I did some digging on the net to see what I could find out about the MLC brand. I knew that it was a Linkman pipe but could not remember much about it. I turned to my go to site for quick information – Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/M._Linkman_%26_Co). The information did not add much to my understanding other than pin down the date to the late 1890s or early 1900s. Included in the article was a photo of Mary Linkman, her son Louis and August Fisher at their Chicago Office. The photo is from Mary’s obituary and is a fascinating piece of history. The scan of the photo and obituary are courtesy of August Fisher’s granddaughter.Jeff took some photos of the stem. The right side of the saddle stem was split from the end up to the transition to the blade of the stem. The right side also had a crack. It looked to me that someone had turned the bone tenon too deep into the stem and split the saddle. The flat surfaces of the top and bottom of the stem were filled with a series of small spidering cracks. The stem, like the bowl was covered with paint flecks or spray. You can see from the first photo that the band has been turned all the way around so that the worn faux hallmarks are upside down and on the wrong side. Jeff cleaned the exterior of the pipe with some Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush and rinsed it off under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth and the soap had removed the paint flecks and the deeply ground in grime on the finish. He ran pipe cleaners and alcohol through the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem to remove dust and debris that had collected there. He carefully scrubbed out the cracks and splits in the sides of the saddle stem using a tooth brush and rinsing it in water. Once the pipe was clean, he packed it up and sent it my way for the repair and restoration work. I took photos of the pipe when I unwrapped it on my worktable. It is an intriguing little pipe that caught my attention. When I unscrewed the stem the ferrule fell off in my hand. I laid out the parts of the pipe and took the following photo. It shows the nicks, dents, sandpits and flaws in the briar. The band looked as if it was never glued to the shank. The briar is clean and the inside of the ferrule had no remnants of glue. It was clean.I took some close up photos of the stem to show the cracks and splits in the saddle portion. The stem was worn and battered. The bone tenon was darkened from tobacco smoke and tars. The edges on the tenon were worn down and when the stem was on the pipe it was over turned or over clocked.  I cleaned out the cracks in the side of the saddle stem with a dental pick and a damp cotton swab until the inside of the crack was clear of debris that would cause the stem repair to be very visible. I dried the stem off with a cotton pad. I filled in the cracks on both sides of the stem with amber super glue and set the stem aside to dry.When the repair had cured I sanded it smooth to blend it into the rest of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded all of tooth chatter and marks out of the surface of the stem as well to smooth out all of the damage. I wanted it to disappear into the amber Bakelite. After I had smoothed out the repair I polished it 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 and set the stem aside to dry. (I almost forgot to add this piece of information. Just before I polished the stem I painted the threads on the tenon with clear fingernail polish to build them up so the stem would align properly when I put it in place.) The bowl needed a lot of work. I wiped the bowl down with acetone and filled in the nicks, dents, flaws and sandpits in the briar with clear super glue. I sanded the fills smooth with 220 grit sandpaper until they blended into the surface of the briar. I wiped the bowl down again with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the sanding debris. I gave the shank end a coat of white all-purpose glue and put the ferrule in place with the faux hallmarks aligned with the stamping on the shank side. I left it to dry and worked on another pipe for a while. Once the glue had set I sanded the bowl and the ferrule with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the scratches left behind from sanding with the 220 grit paper. The photos below show the bowl at this point in the process of the restoration. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it to set it in the grain. I figured that the dark brown stain would hide the repairs and give the bowl the original rich colour. I set it aside to cure while I went to work for the day.I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to remove some of the heavy coat of stain. I sanded the bowl with 2400-6000 grit micromesh sanding pads to make the finish more translucent so the grain would stand out when it was polished. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and set it aside to dry. I touched up the gold filled MLC Oval with Rub’n Buff European Gold. I applied it with a cotton swab and hand buffed the excess off with a cotton pad.I carefully buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem 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 photos of the finished pipe are shown below. It has come a long way from what it looked like when I started. It turned out to be a beautiful pipe that has served pipe men well for well over 100 years. Thanks for looking.

An interesting “The Nuvo” MLC Italian Briar hidden in a WDC Case


Blog by Steve Laug

When we saw this older case and pipe for sale on eBay we were under the assumption that the pipe in the case was an older WDC pipe. The age of the case and the pipe appeared to match in the photos posted by the eBay seller. The case was in decent shape on the left side and the right side had a ripped part missing near the stem end. The covering on the case was leather. The hinge and clasp mechanism were in good condition. The green velvet lining looked worn. The stamp on the inside the top of the case was readable but worn. It read WDC in the triangle and over Genuine Briar. mlc1The finish on the briar was worn looking and the stem looked like it was covered with white calcification over the length of the stem all the way around.mlc2 mlc3The bowl was thickly caked with a thick coat of lava overflowing onto the rim. It was so thick that it was hard to tell if the outer and the inner edges of the rim were in good condition. Underneath it may well have a lot of nicks and the bowl could easily be out of round.mlc4The seller included some close up photos of the stamp on the inside cover of the case. You can see the WDC triangle logo over Genuine Briar. They also included close up photos of the stamping on the left and right sides of the shank. It is very hard to read the lettering in the photos. It looks like the left side is stamped with something over Special Pat. On the right side what is readable is Italian Briar. The rest of the stamping was not readable in the photos.

mlc5 mlc6When the pipe arrived in Idaho my brother took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up. The finish was certainly a mess and there was a lot of grime and build up on the bowl and the shank. There also appeared to be some nice grain peering through the grime.mlc7He took some close up photos of the rim and the front of the pipe. The overflow of lava and the cake in the bowl was very thick. The outer edge of the rim was rounded and showed some damage. The frontal photo shows a dent at the front top of the bowl that goes diagonally across the bowl. I have circled it in red to show the location of the dent.mlc8He also took photos of the stamping for me. On the right side of the shank there appeared to be an oval with the letters stamped MLC in the centre. On the left side it seems to read “The Nuvo” over Special Pat.mlc9The closes up photos of the white substance on the stem surface show the condition of the stem and looks almost crystalline.mlc10I took some photos of the pipe when it arrived in Vancouver and I brought it to the work table to begin the restoration. My brother had done an amazing job cleaning up the dirty finish and the white on the stem. He had reamed the bowl clean of the thick cake. He also removed the thick lava on the rim top.mlc11 mlc12 mlc13I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition. My brother had been able to remove all of the cake and the tar. The outer edge of the rim was rounded and had dents. The inner edge was missing chunks and the bowl was out of round. The top of the rim had nicks and dents and was also in rough shape.mlc14The stem looked to be in decent condition. The high quality rubber of the stem was pitted and lightly oxidized. The style of the button added to my idea that I was dealing with an older pipe.mlc15I was able to clearly read the stamping on the pipe once I had it in hand. It read “The Nuvo” over Special Pat. on the left side of the shank. On the right side it was stamped with an MLC in an oval over Italian Briar. I was not familiar with th name on the pipe or the Oval MLC stamp. I looked my copy of “Who Made that Pipe” and found that The Nuvo was made by M. Linkman Company in 1914. The MLC logo in the oval stood for M. Linkman Company.

I looked the brand up on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/M._Linkman_%26_Co) and found that M. Linkman Company name was said to stand for Mary Linkman & Company. Mary Linkman was the mother of Louis B. Linkman, originator of the Dr. Grabow pipe. This Chicago company produced both meerschaums and briars. I also looked on the PipePhil Logos and Stampings site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-l4.html) and found that the M. Linkman and Co. was established by Louis B. Linkman and August Fisher in 1898. The company closed down in the 1950s and the Dr Grabow branch was sold to Henry Leonard and Thomas Inc. There was also a note that early Linkman’s pipes were stamped MLC in an oval.

I now knew that the pipe I had in hand was an early Linkman’s pipe rather than one made by WDC. That meant that the case and the pipe did not match.

I decided to try to clean up the inside edge of the bowl before I topped it. I wanted to remove as much of the damage to the inner rim as I could to better see how much of the rim top I would need to remove with the topping action. I used a rolled piece of 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around my finger to sand the inner edge of the bowl.mlc16When I finished sanding the edge there were still some deep gouges in the edge of the rim at the back and the front of the bowl. The bowl was also out of round and seemed to be thinner on the right side than the rest of the bowl.mlc17I topped the bowl rim on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on it until I had removed all of the damage to the rim top and also removed the damage to the outer edge of the rim and also what was on the inner edge. In the second photo you can see that much of the damage to the inner edge of the rim was removed. I still needed to bevel that edge to smooth out the damage.mlc18I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand the edge of the bowl. I worked it over until I had removed the damaged areas on the front and the back side of the rim edge. I also worked to make the bowl round once again.mlc19I sanded the rim edges and the top of the rim with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads once i had the bowl in round. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental pick to remove the hard chunks of tar that were collected on the inside walls of shank. Once I had removed all of the hardened buildup I scrubbed out the mortise and the airways in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the oils and tars were gone.mlc20I wiped down the exterior of the briar with acetone on a cotton pad to remove all of the residual dirt and grime from the topping and cleaning. I wanted the surface to be clean and oil free in preparation for the new stain coat that I would give it.mlc21 mlc22I thinned some dark brown aniline stain by 50% with isopropyl alcohol (need to put in an order for more stain). I applied it to the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner. I flamed the stain to set it and repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl and shank were an even medium brown colour.mlc23 mlc24I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure and turned my attention to working on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the light oxidation and smooth out the pitted surface of the stem. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three sanding pads. I gave it a final coat of oil after the third set of pads and set it aside to dry.mlc25 mlc26 mlc27I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I took precaution to not buff the stamping on the shank sides. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am happy with the way it turned out. The look and finish of the pipe turned out very well. Thanks for walking with me through the process.mlc28 mlc29 mlc30 mlc31 mlc32 mlc33 mlc34 mlc35