Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe in the queue came from a group of pipes a friend here in Vancouver passed on to me to restore and sell for him. The pipe is a beautiful Butz Choquin Maitre Pipier Flamme Extra pipe. It is almost a Danish shaped horn/scoop with a triangular shank and a uniquely shaped bowl. The entire pipe had some beautiful flame grain around the bowl and birdseye grain on bottom and top of the shank. The rim top was clean other than some burn or darkening damage on the back inner edge of the bowl. I could see that the carver had done an amazing job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Butz-Choquin [over] Maitre Pipier [over] Flame [over] Extra. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Fait Main over St. Claude France. On the underside of the shank it is stamped J Berrod. The stem is vulcanite and has the inset BC circle on the left side of the uniquely fit triangular taper stem. I took photos of the rim top and edges and the stem surfaces. The rim top looked very good with some great birdseye. The inner edge had some burn damage and some darkening on the back inner edge. The stem had some oxidation, calcification and tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It read as noted above and is very clear. I removed the stem from the bowl and took a picture of the pipe to show the general look and proportion of the pipe. It is quite pretty in terms of grain and shape. The stem is definitely a fitted blank rather than a hand cut one. I have worked on another Maitre Pipier not too long ago and wrote up a blog on it. It was a nice looking Calabash (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/14/a-butz-choquin-maitre-pipier-hand-made-calabash/). On that blog I included some overall information on the brand and I will repeat it here to set the stage.
Butz-Choquin was a brand that I was familiar with having worked on quite a few of them over the years. I decided to check on a few sites to refresh the memory of the brand. I turned first to Pipephil and as usual the site gives a great summary (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). I quote:
The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin Site officiel Butz Choquin, pipes de Saint-Claude jura. BC pipe de bruyere luxe is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).
I also found the line of Fait Main Maitre Pipier pipes listed. The pipe I am working on is stamped the same way as the one in the screen capture below. The shape is different but the rest is the same. The capture has a small paragraph on the line that reads as follows: Pipes of the “Maitre Pipier” séries were crafted by Paul Lanier until he retired and after him by Alain Albuisson.I turned then to Pipedia to see what I could find out there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin). I quote the article in its entirety as it gives a clear history.
The pipe, from Metz to Saint-Claude. Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.
In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.
In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of . In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called “the world capital of the briar pipe,” under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.
In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.
I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape out the thin cake in the bowl. There was not much there but enough that it had to go. I also sanded the bowl walls with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The bowl walls were smooth when I finished the work. I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove the shiny varnish coat as it was spotty on the sides and rim top. With it removed the grain really stood out clearly. It is a great looking piece of briar. I cleaned out the shank and the airway in the mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol. It was quite a bit dirtier than I expected from just the appearance. With the cleaning the pipe smelled cleaner. I worked over the inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage and to give the edge a slight bevel to remove the burn damage. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – polishing it with 1500-12000 grit pads. By the time I was finished the briar had a great shine. The grain on the pipe is quite beautiful. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the finish with my fingers. After it sat for 15 minutes I wiped it off with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. It is a beautiful bowl. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface with the flame of a lighter to lift the tooth marks and chatter. It worked very well and I sanded out the remnants and oxidation on the top and underside with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the vulcanite. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. As usual at this point in the restoration process I am excited to be on the homestretch. I look forward to the final look when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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. The grain really pops with the wax and polish. The shiny black vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the browns of the bowl and thick shank. This Butz-Choquin Maitrie Pipier Flamme Extra Scoop was another fun pipe to work on. It is a nice piece of briar whose shape follows the flow of the briar. The pipe is comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.45 ounces/41 grams. I will be putting this pipe on the rebornpipes store in the French Pipe Makers section. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.