Blog by Steve Laug
Yesterday I got a call from a local lady who had been directed to me by our local pipe shop. She had found a pipe at an antique store when her family was traveling and decided it was time to load a pipe and try it out. When she was at the shop she picked up some tobaccos to sample once the pipe was cleaned up. We made arrangements for her to stop by and show me the pipe and I would be able to tell her what I saw. She arrived and took a small bag out of her pocket and removed a hard shell case. She opened it and took out the small pipe that is shown in the photos below. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank and read MARKA in bubble style type. On the right side it was stamped St. Claude – France [over] the number 246 (shape number). The bowl had a thick cake and an overflow of thick lava on the inwardly beveled rim top and edges. The finish was very dirty and appeared to be coated with a thick varnish coat that was bubbled or peeling on the underside of the shank. The thin saddle stem was oxidized, calcified and had light tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem ahead of the button. The stem screwed on to a threaded metal tenon that was set in the shank of the pipe. The small pipe is a nice looking delicate Dublin that should clean up very well. I took photos of the pipe before I started my clean up work. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick overflow of lava on the beveled rim top. It really is a mess and hard to know what it looks like under the lava. I also took photos of the stem to show the condition it was in when she dropped it off. I took photos of the stamping on the shank sides. It is clear and readable as noted above.I unscrewed the stem from the tenon and took a photo of the bowl and stem to show the delicate proportions of the pipe. Note the metal threaded tenon on the shank end.I did some work on the background for this pipe. I checked on PipePhil and Pipedia and did not find any information on the Marka brand. I checked several other French brands to see if there was a sublisting for the Marka brand. There was nothing there. I also did a search on Google for the brand but found nothing listed. I also checked the book “Who Made That Pipe” and there was nothing listed there. I wrote to Kenneth Lieblich to see if he was familiar with the brand or had any information on it. While I waited I did some work on the shape number 246. Interestingly it is a three digit number that fits neatly into the list of Comoy’s and Chacom shape numbers. That particular number is not listed, however the number before that – 245- is listed as is the number after it. Kenneth wrote me back that he wondered if the shape number pointed to Chacom. So independently we both came to the same conclusion that the brand was connected to Chacom. I don’t know if we will ever know for certain but that is where it stands at this point.
Now it was time to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet reamer with the smallest cutting head. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I finished the bowl work by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a small piece of briar. Once finished I wiped out the inside. The bowl walls looked very good with no heat damage or checking. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and rim with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I scrubbed the pipe with the brush to remove the grime and the tars on the rimtop. I rinsed the bowl with warm water to remove the soap and the grime. It began to look better. There was some burn damage on the outer edge of the rim toward the back of the bowl. It was not deep damage and would probably be easily removed. I wiped down the bowl and rim with acetone on cotton pads to remove some of the darkening and the remnants of the varnish. It worked well and you can see the debris on the cotton pads. It looked much better. Now it was time to address the damage on the rim top and the inner bevel of the chamber. I topped the pipe on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I removed the damage and the top looked significantly smoother. The beveled inner edge of the bowl still had some burn damage and darkening on the front and the back of the bowl. I used a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and a wooden ball to work on the bevel. I put the sandpaper on the ball and turned the bowl rim on the paper to remove damaged areas on the top. The rim top looked better but you can see the damage on the inner front and back of the bowl edge. I used an Oak Stain Pen to match the sanded rim top to the rest of the bowl. It certainly looks better at this point.Now it was time to clean out the inside of the shank and stem. I used isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the tars and oils. The shank was clogged near the entry to the bowl. I used an unfolded paper clip to poke through the airway and then worked pipe cleaners through the airway until the draught in the pipe was open and clean. I cleaned the airway in the stem at the same time using the same supplies. Once finished it smelled clean and fresh. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The pipe took on a shine as I moved through the sanding pads. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes, then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out on the briar. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished the polishing with Before & After Polishes – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final rub down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This St. Claude-France Marka 246 Dublin with a vulcanite saddle stem has some beautiful grain. The rich brown stain makes the grain come alive with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Marka 246 Dublin really is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is .56 ounces/16 grams. This pipe will soon be back in the hands of the pipewoman who brought it to me to restore. I think she will enjoy smoking this petite little French Pipe. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!