Tag Archives: Mastercraft Pipes

Reclaiming a Mastercraft “Hand Made” Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

To date, I have completed the restoration of nine pipes from my “Mumbai Bonanza” lot. In this lot, I found one pipe that was pretty battered up and in a very sorry state. It reminded me of an “Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor” from my grandfather’s collection that I had restored some time back. Here is the link to the write up that was posted on rebornpipes.com; https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/12/reclaiming-a-yello-bole-imperial-carburator-vest-pipe/

If at that point in time I felt that the Imperial was in a bad shape, holding and looking at this Mastercraft pipe in my hand was gut wrenching to say the least!!!! Believe you me readers, every time I selected a pipe from the Mumbai lot to work on, the first pipe that I would always pick was this pipe!!!!! I was in love with the shape of the pipe, the feel in my hand (which are quite large by Asian standards), the grains peeking out at me from under all that grime, the heft …I could go on singing praises about this pipe. But in spite of all these eulogizing, I always ended up returning it to the box as a future project. Why? Well, the answer lay in the condition of the pipe and the colossal investment of time required restoring it. I knew that this project would test all that I had learned till date and then some more, without the certainties of the end result!! But now I decided to complete this project, however long it may take and whatever the end results.

For those readers who have missed out on my previous work, I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of  Charatan’s Belvedere, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The tenth pipe that I decided to work on from this find is a straight pot and is indicated in yellow colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the left side of the shank in a shield as Mastercraft in sentence form over HAND MADE in block capital letter. The right side of the shank is stamped in a straight line as AGED IMPORTED BRIAR in block capital letter. If at all there was any other stamping on the right side, it has been consigned to history due to severe damage further down the shank. The stem is apparently devoid of any logo stamp as I see it now. If at all there ever was a logo, it has completely worn out/ obliterated. Now coming to the research of this brand, which is my first, I referred to rebornpipes.com and as expected, Mr. Steve has extensively researched this pipe and has even posted some interesting old catalogs and hierarchy of the pipe lines from this brand. Here is the link;

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/23/a-mastercraft-pipe-lines-hierarchy/

I surfed further and found an interesting post on restoration of a Mastercraft Executive Choice by the master restorer himself, which amongst other details, included two photos from the 1969 RTDA Almanac which show a list of various MC pipe lines. The pipe currently on my work table is the very first one in the list and was the top most in MC hierarchy of pipe lines and also the most expensive of all MC pipes retailing for $ 10!!!!! Here is the link for the essay and I urge all readers to give it a read.

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/

Thus, I can now safely conclude that this pipe is from the late 1960s, had been a top-of-the-line product for MC and retailed as the most expensive pipe in its inventory!!!! Well, after this search, I feel the additional pressure in doing complete justice to this pipe to the best of my abilities and that I will have to up my game a notch higher.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
I really do not understand where I should start from, which damaged inch of the pipe I should describe first, let alone tackle and about which I am not even thinking at this point in time!!!!! But to finish, I have to make a beginning and let me just start with the chamber and the rim.

A thick layer of cake can be seen in the chamber. The rim top surface is covered in thick overflow of lava, okay; consider that as VERY thick, which has bubbled on to the rim top and further oozed over on to the stummel surface. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely (thankfully readers cannot see or hear me muttering silent prayers!). The less I speak about the edges of the rim, the better it will be for my morale. Every millimeter of the outer edge has been damaged by striking against table end by the previous steward, however I must thank the previous steward for ensuring an even all round damage…lol. The inner rim condition does not look too promising either! I suspect a charred rim in 7 o’clock direction (when held from the stem end) and is marked in red circle. However, once the cake has been removed, I shall be certain about the extent of this charring and any other damage (praying again, in fact I haven’t stopped praying since I began and unlikely to stop till I finish!). Another issue which I have noticed is that the briar in the heel around the draught hole has formed a valley of sort (marked by yellow arrows), probably caused due to repeated and rigorous thrusting of a pipe cleaner through and beyond the draught hole over the years. Why would you clean the mortise and airway in this fashion??The most significant damage is seen to the stummel. It appears that this pipe has seen active duty and has been extensively and actively used against Viet Cong by the previous steward with great success…..LOL!! Every inch of the stummel surface is peppered with a large number of deep scratches, dents and dings. The entire left side of the stummel has prominent nicks extending from the rim top right down to the foot of the bowl. There are deep road rash marks on the right side of the shank just below the stamping, extends over to the underside and towards the shank end and further extends over to the stem for about an inch from the tenon end towards the button end (marked in pastel blue circle). The damage to the shank end and stem is so perfectly aligned that it appears that the damage was sustained while the stem was attached to the shank. In short, the stummel has sustained massive damage over the years due to both, rough usage and subsequent careless storage. It is covered in oils, dirt and grime of all these years of smoking and subsequent uncared for storage. The stummel surface is sticky to the touch, giving the stummel a dull, lifeless and lackluster appearance. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely densely packed straight grains can be seen on the sides and shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The mortise is blocked with dried gunk, adversely affecting both the airflow and the seating of the tenon in to the mortise. The stem is also an equal disaster like the stummel with road rash marks on the right towards the tenon end. There is a round patch nearer to the button which appears to be a result of melting of the vulcanite. In all probability it had come in close contact with either a burning cigarette or some sort of a flame. It seems that the previous Steward used softie bit on his pipes as heavy oxidation can be seen where the bit was used. The bite zone, including the button edges shows dental compressions on both upper and lower surfaces. The button edges will have to be reconstructed and sharpened. The stem does not sit flush with the shank end and also the stem diameter around the road rash area has scrapped off resulting in a mismatch. This stem diameter will have to be rebuilt and I expect that once the mortise has been cleaned up, seating of the stem in the mortise would improve. The horizontal slot with a round center shows accumulated oils and tars. The stem surface shows signs of heavy oxidation. THE PROCESS
As decided during my initial appreciation of the condition of the pipe, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface and follow it up with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of the oxidation while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I cleaned out the tenon and the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, to revitalize the vulcanite and to have a fair idea of the progress made, I wiped the stem with a little Extra Virgin Olive oil. When I looked at the tenon end of the stem, I realized the right portion of the stem, as seen from above, was not as round as the left and would need a fill so as to bring it flush with the shank end. However, I would have to fine tune the sanding of the fills on both shank end as well as the stem simultaneously in order to achieve a perfect flush fit. The portion that would require a fill is marked in yellow.I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces, the side and lip and set it aside for curing over night. The mix was applied along the circumference of the tenon end stem which had been scrapped. I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel cleaning. With size 3 and 4 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. The walls of the chamber show a few heat lines, nothing serious, but they are present. These heat lines and the ridges on the bottom surface of the heel will be addressed later. This was followed by gently scraping away the lava overflow from the rim top surface with my fabricated knife. I cleaned the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The suspected charring that I had appreciated early on is now confirmed. The rim has thinned out considerably above the draught hole. The inner rim edge is also uneven. I shall be addressing these issues too subsequently.

I followed the cleaning of the chamber with the cleaning up of the shank, mortise and the air way. Using hard bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, I ran a few through the mortise. This moistened the hardened grungy depositions of all the oils and tars in the mortise. Thereafter, using my fabricated dental spatula, I scraped out all the accumulated oils and tars from the shank. The following picture hints at the degree of the grunge deposition that I was dealing with. I continued the mortise cleaning regime with shank brushes dipped in alcohol. However, the pipe cleaners continued to come out dirty and soiled unabated. This would need application of some serious cleaning process using salt and alcohol treatment.I rolled some cotton in to a wick and wound it around a pipe cleaner and inserted it inside the mortise up to and through the draught hole. Next, I packed some cotton in to the chamber and topped it with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and set it aside for the time being. About twenty minutes later, I topped it again with alcohol and set it aside overnight for the alcohol to draw out all the tars and oils from the chamber walls and the cotton to trap the drawn out gunk. I must clarify here that even though it is recommended to use ‘Kosher Salt’, plain cotton and alcohol works with exactly the same effectiveness, but at nearly ¼ the cost of Kosher Salt!! So, in case someone else is paying, go ahead with using Kosher salt, otherwise cotton and alcohol works just fine! By next day evening, the alcohol and cotton had fulfilled its intended task. I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise for a final clean and it came out……well, soiled black and dirty! The gunk and grime in this pipe was stubborn, indeed. I again went through the entire regime followed earlier to clean the mortise and was surprised to find the amount of grunge that was scraped out again. The crud that was extracted and the number of pipe cleaners used after the alcohol bath, as can be seen in the photographs, bears testimony to the extent of apathy the pipe was subjected to by the previous steward. I followed up the internal cleaning with external refreshing of the stummel surface. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel and the rim top to remove the overflow of lava from these surfaces. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks clean, but the road rash, dents and dings to the stummel and rim edges/ top now stands out prominently. I followed it up with sanding the entire stummel with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This serves three purposes; firstly, it removes all the stubborn dust and grime from the surface, secondly, it evens out, to a great extent, any minor dents and dings from the surface and thirdly, it provides a smooth and clean surface for intended fills. With the road rash evened out to the extent possible, I repaired the road rash with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue. I always over fill the holes/ surfaces so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I also build up the shank end, which was damaged due to the road rash, with this mix. I set the stummel aside to cure.Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way), I attached the stem to the shank end carefully aligning the stem fill with that of the shank end fill. I sand the entire stummel surface and the stem using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper and matched the shank end with the stem fill. Once I had achieved a match, I detach the stem from the shank end. On close observation, I found that the shank end repairs had several tiny air pockets. I again filled up these air pockets with clear superglue and set it aside for curing, while I worked the stem. Using a flat head needle file, I reshaped the button and follow it up by further sanding the stem with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 girt pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface. With the stem repairs completed, I turn my attention back to the stummel repairs. The second fill to the road rash portion had cured and I sand it with a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper. However, I realized that the air pockets were still visible. I discussed this with my mentor, Mr. Steve, who suggested that I should first go through the micromesh polishing cycle and then decide if a refill is required or otherwise. With this advise, I move ahead to complete the stummel repairs. I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents and dings and also to reduce the charred rim surface. I addressed the out of round inner edge and the dents and dings to the outer rim edge by creating a bevel on both these edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. The numerous scratches, dents and dings to the stummel surface was beginning to concern me as it was a conflict between my innate desire not to lose briar through sanding and the necessity to do just that if I desired to completely rid the stummel of all these evidences of its past and thin out the walls in the process. Readers, believe you me, these damages were deeper than you normally expect. I shall take a fresh call on this issue after I am through with the micromesh polish cycle.

However, no sooner than I was through with wet sanding using 1500 to 2400 grit micromesh pads, the air pockets in the fill to the road rash stood out like sore thumb. I repeated the process of freshly filling it with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust. I set the stummel aside for the fill to cure.After the fill had cured sufficiently, I sand and match the fill with rest of the surface using a 220 grit sand paper. This was followed by polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wipe the surface with a moist cloth to remove the resulting dust. The stummel, at this stage, looks absolutely stunning with beautiful straight grain popping out from every inch. The dents, dings and scratches, though visible, are no longer an eye sore. In fact, it lends the pipe an aura of being a survivor and invincible. I decide to let the marks be! Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful straight grains on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. The only stummel issue that needs to be addressed is that of the ridges at the heel near the draught hole. The first thing I do is insert Vaseline smeared folded pipe cleaner in to the mortise right up to the draught hole and slightly beyond. This prevents the draught hole from getting clogged. I begin by wiping the heel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it. I make a mix of the two components of JB weld; hardener and steel in equal measures. The mix remains pliable for 6 minutes, which is adequate to spread it evenly and fill the worn out heel surface. I also covered the indentation formed on the front wall. Once I had achieved a satisfactory spread, I set the stummel aside for 4-6 hours for the weld to cure. The weld has hardened and I sand the fill to a nice smooth and even surface with a 180 grit sand paper. It was not an easy task as I had to do it manually with the sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. But I managed with satisfactory results. I shall be coating the inner walls of the chamber with a mix of activated charcoal and yogurt. This will not only help in faster build up of the cake but also isolates the weld from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this handsome pipe could share the secret of its past life with all of us… if only!! Cheers.

PS: After I was done with all the polishing and buffing, I gave the walls of the chamber, a nice and even coat of activated charcoal and yogurt. I am very happy that this pipe has gone to a war veteran Officer who loved the scars and the grains on this pipe, not to mention my figment of imagination that this pipe appears to have seen action against the Viet Cong and survived!! It was at his request that I did not stain this pipe to mask the fills. This fighter has indeed come a long way as can be seen from the pictures below.

 

Advertisements

Refreshing a New Old Stock (NOS) Mastercraft De Luxe Chubby Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother found this pipe on one of his pipe hunts not long ago. It is a beautiful unsmoked, new old stock (NOS) chubby billiard. The briar is in great shape. The rim, the pristine bowl and the finish on the pipe all spoke of new pipe. I did a bit of reading on the brand to see if I could possibly date this pipe. I copied a section from Pipedia. It gives a flow of the history of the brand. Here is the link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft in it the text comes from a posting made by “Ted” on the Grabow Collectors Forum. He was the former Exec VP of Grabow/Mastercraft.

It doesn’t appear that Mastercraft was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow. Ted writes:

“First a confession. From 1974 till 1984 I had several positions with Mastercraft including Executive Vice President. I also worked for Grabow from 66 till 74 and from 84 till I retired in 91. In 91, with retirement, I was President and COO for the corporation that was called “Sparta Industries”. I have seen both sides of the “fence”, and even though I never left the “employ” of Grabow, My loyalties for 10 years were with M/C.”

“United States Tobacco(UST)(Skoal and Copenhagen) bought Grabow in 69′ from the Lavietes family. In 74′ they bought M/C from Bernard Hochstein and moved it into the EXACT facility Grabow occupied. I was named “operations manager” and we were in the basement of a 4 story building in Sparta, NC.”

“M/C was STRICTLY an importer of pipes and pipe related merchandise. In 74′ when M/C moved from NYC to NC the inventory of finished goods was stored in a facility in Winston Salem, NC. Lentz Moving and Storage. Stacked 10 feet high the inventory covered 180,000 square feet….FINISHED. In my time at Grabow I had never seen that much finished stock, and the shapes, manufacturers,finishes. Heaven for a pipe smoker…..Damn right. You would have had to slap me really hard to get the grin off my face.”

“I’ll just list a few Manufacturers/names of the inventory. England:Parker/Hardcastle(Dunhill), Orlik…France: Jeantet…Jima…Cherrywoods. Italy: GIGI pipe…Radica….Rossi…Federico Rovera….Emilio Rovera….Santambrogio. Brebbia. Meerschaums from Austria: Strambach. Lighters from Japan….Pouches and accessories from Hong Kong…and the Israeli pipes from Mr. Hochstein’s sons. Trust me…This is only a small sample of the things M/C had, and bought into inventory.”

With that bit of history I know that the pipe was made prior to the buyout by Grabow in 1974. That makes the pipe at least 43 years old at this time. This one is French made probably by Jeantet. The stamping reads on the left: Mastercraft in the normal shield over De Luxe. The shield hangs from a branch like a sign. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Corsican Briar over France. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the unsmoked condition of it when I received it. The briar is quite beautiful though there are a few fills on the top and right side of the shank that are expertly blended into the finish. I also took a photo of the internals of the mortise and airway to show the raw briar that shines there.The stem showed signs of wear from sitting for the long years in a display case of cabinet. There were scratches, nicks and marks in the rubber that are shown in the photos below. There was a gummy substance from a label on the underside of the stem.The polished aluminum stinger apparatus in the tenon was unmarked and a shine of a new pipe.The finish on the pipe has a shiny topcoat of varnish. I took some photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The next two photos show what that looked like.I worked on the stem to polish out the scratches and nicks in the surface. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to polish out all of the nicks and scratches without resorting to more invasive methods. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to further polish out the scratches. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine back to the surface. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great piece of pipe history and one that will be available on the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to beat the traffic and add it to your collection just send me an email and it can be yours. Thanks for looking.

My brother has an eye for unusual pipes – A Mastercraft Sea Slug


Blog by Steve Laug

When I visited my brother a few months ago one of the pipes that he had picked up for me to restore is one that I probably would never have picked up myself. In fact to me it was ugly and there was nothing redeeming about it. It looked like a giant sea slug to me and even the striations looked like the wrinkles in the slug’s body as it crawled. But I have to say that my opinion changed as I worked on this old pipe. I know that Mastercraft actually made few pipes but had the pipes jobbed by other pipe companies globally. This one was made in Italy and has all the marks of a Lorenzo pipe to me. I doubt I will ever know for sure but that is my take on it. As you look at the photos you may have your own take on it and that is totally fine – just take the time to post what you think in the comments at the end of the post.

This old pipe was pretty rough when it came to my work table. The rim was battered and the reaming that had been done did not account for the angled bowl. There gouges of briar missing on the rim edge that extended into the bowl. The cake was soft but generous. The finish was tired and worn but underneath the grime the wire striations on the briar had something about them that drew me to them. The pipe is stamped on a semi-smooth portion of the bottom of the bowl/shank (on this pipe I am not sure where each of those terms ends). It reads Mastercraft in the classic shield of the logo. Next to that is stamped COLOSSALS or COLOSSAL S with the S slightly bigger perhaps referring to the Satin Grain. Under that is it stamped Imported Briar and Italy. There are some deep gouges in the briar on that smooth portion that obviously were there when the pipe was stamped as the stamping goes through them but does not show up in the deeper areas. The stem is Lucite and it was covered with tooth chatter on the top and the bottom sides near the button as well as some deep tooth marks on both sides and on the button surface. The slot in the airway was clogged and dirty. (The first picture below is a little out of focus but it gives and idea of the shape of the pipe.)Master1 Master2I cleaned up the reaming angles with the Savinelli Pipe Knife and was able to get the bowl clean and smooth back to briar.Master3I decided to try to bevel the rim to remove the gouges on the right top side. I worked on it for quite a while before I gave up on that and topped the bowl. In the photo below the largest gouge is the light brown portion of the rim on the top of the photo toward the back of the bowl.Master4I took some photos of the stem to show the damage that needed to be worked on to recondition and rework it to bring it back to new. The first photo is the top of the stem and the second the underside.Master5I was able to sand out the tooth marks on the top side of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and also reshape the button a bit. I did the same on the underside but there was one deep tooth mark that I would need to fill.Master6Giving up on trying to reshape the rim or repair it I topped the bowl on my topping board and took of the damaged area on the right side of the rim and the back of the left side as well. The gouges were just not something I wanted to try to fill in. I also decided that I would flatten the rim and give the inner edge a slight bevel. I would stain the rim to match the smooth portion on the underside of the pipe.Master7I used the Dremel and sanding drum to bring the bowl back into round and then lightly beveled the inner rim edge with the sanding drum (first picture below). I cleaned up the Dremel work with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit (second picture).Master8I cleaned the mortise and airways in the bowl and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol (I have always used 99% isopropyl).Master9I restained the rim with a dark brown stain pen and blended in some black from a Sharpie pen. I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the grime and to blend the rim colour with the bowl.Master10I built up the tooth mark on the underside of the stem and the deep marks on the button surface with black super glue. Once it dried I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface and sharpened the button edge with a needle file. I sanded the stem with 400-600 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I wet sanded it with 1500-3600 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 4000-12000 grit pads. I buffed it quickly with Blue Diamond and gave the stem a light coat of carnauba wax.Master11 Master12 Master13I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfibre cloth to give it a shine. I gave the stem several more coats of carnauba wax. I lightly buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and then again with the microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. What started out as an oddball pipe to me somehow in the process of restoration took on a beauty of its own. I like the smooth rim and the contrast it gives with the wire finish on the bowl and shank. Together they work for me. I know in the box of pipes I have sitting to refurbish that Jeff has sent me some others that cause a raised eyebrow but I have to say he has an eye for seeing beauty where I would walk by it and leave the pipe to molder away.Master14 Master15 Master16 Master17 Master18 Master19 Master20 Master21

Breathing New Life into an old Mastercraft Standard Cavalier


Blog by Steve Laug

I have always wondered what it would be like to work on a Cavalier shaped pipe. There was something intriguing about working on a long shank with an end cap and a bowl carved coming out of the side of the shank. The look of the pipe and the dapper appearance may well have contributed to the name of the shape. It is made to hang from the mouth of the pipe smoker and be clenched as he is doing other things. This one is another of the pipes that came to me from my brother Jeff.Cavalier1

Cavalier2 It is a great example of the shape. It is a rusticated Cavalier that has brown and dark contrasting colours over a worm trail like rustication. The end cap is a hard rubber and has a bone tenon connecting it to internal threads in the bottom of the shank. The stem is also a good quality rubber as it is not even oxidized. There are tooth marks on the bottom and the top of the stem near the button left behind by the clencher that smoked it. Cavalier3 The rim of this one is in great shape no damage. The amazing thing was that there was unsmoked tobacco in the bottom of the bowl. There was also a thick cake on the walls of the bowl. It did not extend to the bottom of the bowl but ended shortly above the entrance of the airway at the bottom of the bowl.Cavalier4

Cavalier5 The pipe came in its own satin bag which is why the pipe was in such good shape. The finish was dirty and dusty in the grooves but that was the extent of the issues with it. This would be an easy clean up. I took it apart and took the photo below of the parts of the pipe.Cavalier6 It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the words Mastercraft over Standard over Imported Briar. All words are in upper case on the shank. It appears that the stamping was to be done in a smooth oval on the shank but it missed the oval by about a ¼ inch and sits over the rustication on the shank.Cavalier7 I scrubbed the bowl and the threads on the end cap with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I rinsed off the pipe with running water and dried it off. The cleaned finish looked very good. I would not need to do much with the finish on this pipe.Cavalier8 I removed the tobacco remnants from the bowl and then reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I took the cake back to bare briar.Cavalier9

Cavalier10 I cleaned off the threads on the end cap – it was a bone tenon – with a brass bristle wire brush. One it was clean I put a coat of Vaseline on the tenons and screwed it back in place.Cavalier11 Before I put the end cap in place I cleaned out the inside of the shank from end to end with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. Once it was clean I put the end cap in place. I also cleaned out the airway in the stem at the same time.Cavalier12

Cavalier13 The deep gouges in the top and bottom sides of the stem needed to be cleaned up. There was a lot of tooth chatter around the deep gouges so I sanded out the tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper. The sanding work left two gouges on the underside and one on the top side of the stem that would need some work.Cavalier14

Cavalier15 I cleaned out the divots with alcohol and dried it off. I filled them in with black super glue until there was bubble over the surface. I let the glue cure.Cavalier16

Cavalier17 While the stem patch cured I worked on the end cap. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final rub down of the oil. I let it dry.Cavalier18

Cavalier19

Cavalier20 When the end cap was dry I rubbed down the bowl with a light coat of olive oil to bring some life back to the dry briar. At this point the pipe is beginning to look really good. The contrast stain of the black and the dark brown gives depth to the rusticated finish of the bowl.Cavalier21

Cavalier22

Cavalier23

Cavalier24 Once the glue dried on the stem I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and clean it up. I flattened the repair on the blade of the stem as well.Cavalier25 I sanded the repaired areas on the stem and the newly made file marks with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked until the repair was blended into the surface of the blade. The repair on the top stood out more at this point in the process. That would change as I worked on it longer.Cavalier26

Cavalier27 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil. I let the oil dry before taking the pipe to the buffer.Cavalier28

Cavalier29

Cavalier30 I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and lightly buffed the bowl. Care had to be exercised to not get build-up in the rustication. It takes a very light touch to keep that from happening. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I used Conservator’s Wax on the bowl and hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to add some depth to the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful pipe and I love the feel of it in my hand. It was an enjoyable restoration. Thanks for looking.Cavalier31

Cavalier32

Cavalier33

Cavalier34

Cavalier35

Cavalier36

Cavalier37

If it’s good enough for Bing then it’s good enough for me – Mastercraft Standard Oom Paul


Blog by Steve Laug

MCOver the years I have cleaned up quite a few Mastercraft pipes. My brother picked one up on Ebay for me recently. It looked like a good one when he sent me the photos of the pipe. I could not wait for it to arrive and I could begin to work on it. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote a bit about the history of the brand (https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/). In that article I made the connection of the brand to Bing Crosby. I posted this old advertisement for the pipes with the old crooner himself.

The connection between the pipe in this advert and the Oom Paul I received from my brother. They both bear the same stamping. The both had the shield on the left side of the shank and then bore the same stamping. The Oom Paul was stamped Mastercraft over Standard in the shield. On the right side of the shank it was stamped I continued through the Google list for Mastercraft and one of the next listing was in Pipedia. http://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft

It doesn’t appear that Mastercraft was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow. As an importer of finished pipes M/C worked with many of the world’s foremost pipe makers and had in inventory finished product from the likes of… England: Hardcastle and Orlik. France: Ropp, Jeantet, Jean LaCroix. Italy: Lorenzo, Gasparini, Federico Rovera, Emilio Rovera, GIGI Pipe, Brebbia, Santambrogio, Fratelli Rossi. Israel: Shalom and Alpha. Plus all the tools, pouches and lighters from Hong Kong and Japan. The list of suppliers is enormous.

I had also found some older RTDA Almanac pages on Chris’ Pipe Pages site. http://pipepages.com/index.html. The first one of these shows the Mastercraft Standard. It sold for $3.50 and was a midrange pipe value as shown on the list below.The first of these shows the address of the Mastercraft Pipe Company in New York which was where they were prior to moving to North Carolina. I clipped this image from the 1949 RTDA Almanac. It is an early catalogue listing, since the brand was created in 1941.MCa My guess, judging from the previous advertisement and the 1949 RTDA Almanac clipping above, is that the pipe I have is from the period between the beginning of the company and the publication of this catalogue (1941-1949). After that period in the 50’s and 60’s the names of the pipes changed and I was not able to find the Mastercraft Standard in later catalogues.

MC1The photo to the left and the next two photos that follow are the ones my brother sent to me before I received the pipe. They give a good idea of the condition of the pipe when I received it. The pipe had a natural finish, no stain on the briar. Over the years the briar takes on a richer colour. This one had taken on a reddish tint. The stamping on the left side still showed the gold stamping in some of the grooves. There were specks of white paint on the bowl, shank and stem. There was also some darkening on the sides at the shank junction with the bowl from oils and soiling from the previous pipe man’s hands. The rim was thickly tarred with lava overflow. The bowl had a thin cake on the top 2/3 and the bottom 1/3 was still fresh briar showing raw briar. The pipe obviously had not been smoked to the heel. The stem was quality rubber and did not show signs of metal fragments in the mix that seem to appear in many of the war year pipes. There was little oxidation but there were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. There was tooth chatter on both sides. The stem did not fit tight against the end of the shank.MC2

MC3 When the pipe arrived I put it in my refurbishing box and would eventually get to it. Today I took it out of the box to work on it. I removed the stem and was a bit surprised to see the interesting and unusual stinger apparatus in the end of the tenon. It had a flat blade that ended in a point. It was almost a spear point. It sat down in the sump of the shank. It ended at a spiral cylindrical piece with a slot in the last half of the cylinder. It fit into tenon by pressure and was easily twisted free.MC4

MC5 I scrubbed the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and soil in the briar and the white flecks of paint on the bowl and shank. I scrubbed the rim with the acetone as well to try to remove the lava overflow that was present. I used a pen knife and scraped at the lava between wipes of acetone and was able to remove the buildup without damaging the finish on the rim. I did not need to top the bowl!MC6

MC7 The acetone removed the grime from the briar and all of previous coats of wax that had given it a dull finish.MC8

MC9

MC10 Once I had cleaned the finish of the bowl and shank with the acetone I washed it down with alcohol and dried it off. I used some antique gold Rub ‘n Buff to restore the stamping to its previous look.MC11

MC12 I hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush and a little Conservator’s Wax to protect it during the rest of the clean up. Though I probably should have done the next step before the work on the stamping I did not do so. But such is the way things go. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the third cutting head to take back the cake to bare briar. Since the bottom 1/3 of the bowl was uncaked I wanted the transition between the sides of the bowl from top to bottom to be smooth.MC13

MC14 I scrubbed the stinger with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the grime. I also scrubbed it with a brass tire brush.MC15 I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaner, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I was surprised to find that the tenon was lined with an aluminum tube. The stinger pressed against the sides of the tube when it was inserted. I think it was also an attempt to strengthen the tenon.MC16 I scrubbed out the mortise, sump and airway on the bowl with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until they came out clean.MC17 I sanded the tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them as they were not too deep.MC18

Mc19 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil, then left it to dry.MC20

MC21

MC22 I rubbed down the bowl with a light coat of olive oil and then buffed it with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I gave it a final buff with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It should provide many years of service to the next pipe man whose rack it graces. It will likely outlive both that pipe man and me and be passed on it trust to the next person who will enjoy it companionship for the years that they have it in trust. These old pipes always outlive the pipe man who keeps them company if they are well cared for (and even sometimes when they are not!).MC23

Mc24

MC25

MC26

MC27

MC28

MC29

Bringing a Mastercraft Rock Briar Billiard back to life


Blog by Steve Laug

I found this old billiard for sale in an antique mall in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It was there when I visited in July and I bypassed it. It was still there this time so I made a deal with the seller and it came home with me. The bowl was dirty and had a cake and a bunch of tobacco debris and dust in the bottom. The rim had a buildup of tars and lava on the surface. The inner edge had some light damage and was slightly out of round. The finish was a rough rocklike rustication that was worn and dirty. There were white flecks and flecks of what looked like putty fills on the side of the bowl. There were several small sandpits in the bowl sides and on the bottom right side of the shank.RB1

RB2

RB3

RB4 The stamping on the bowl was on a smooth flattened panel on the bottom of the bowl and shank. It bore the stamping Rock Briar in an oval and underneath France. I found out from Who Made That Pipe that the pipe was made for Mastercraft in France. From my research it doesn’t appear that Mastercraft ever manufactured pipes but rather bought them from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow.RB5 The next photo is a close-up picture of the rim and the debris in the bowl. The rim and bowl would take some work to clean out.RB6 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and starting with the smallest cutting head worked my way up to one the same diameter as the bowl. I removed the cake and the clutter in the bottom of the bowl. I also used a pen knife to scrape out the small remnant of cake that the reamer did not take out.RB7

RB8 I scrubbed the bowl with a brass bristle whitewall tire brush to remove the buildup of grime and dust in the grooves of the rustication. Once the grime was loosened I put the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak while I went to work for the day.RB9

RB10 When I got home from work I took the bowl out of the bath and used the brass bristle brush on it once again. When I had finished brushing it I dried it off with a cotton cloth. The following photos show the bowl after the half day soak.RB11

RB12

RB13 I decided to lightly top the bowl to clean up the rim surface. I used a 220 grit topping board followed by a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge.RB14

RB15 I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand and bevel the inner rim. I wanted to minimize the inner edge damage.RB16

RB17 I scrubbed the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the dust and remnants of the finish on the bowl and shank. I scrubbed out the shank, mortise and the bowl with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and dust.RB18

RB19

RB20 I decided to do a bit of contrast on the stain. I used a black Sharpie pen to colour in the grooves and rusticated patterns on the bowl and shank. Once I finished that they would add some depth to the colour that I stained the pipe.RB21

RB22 I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I had thinned by half to give a bit of translucence to the colour on the bowl. I applied the stain and flamed the bowl to set the stain in the grain.RB23

RB24

RB25

RB26 I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the stain from the high spots on the briar. I wanted a distinct contrast in colour between those and the grooves which I had coloured black.RB27

RB28 I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli and with White Diamond to remove some more of the colour from the high spots and polish them while leaving the grooves dark and unpolished.RB29

RB30

RB31

RB32 The stem was in decent shape with some tooth chatter and minor oxidation. I like the overall look and the rustication on the bowl. The stem and shank are long and straight and work well with this pipe.RB33

RB34 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper on both sides next to the button to remove the tooth chatter. I followed that by sanding it with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge.RB35

RB36 I worked on the stem with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads, gave it another coat of oil and finished with the 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.RB37

RB38

RB39 I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown below. The unique finish intrigues me and the rustication feels great in the hand. Thanks for looking.RB40

RB41

RB42

RB43

RB44

RB45

Restemming & Working on New Staining Techniques on a Mastercraft Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe from the gift box is a Mastercraft Pot. It is stamped Mastercraft in a shield on the left side of the shank and Imported Briar over Italy on the right side. There are no shape numbers. There are a lot of fills on the bottom of the bowl and the right side of the bowl. The finish is a thick coat of what appears to be urethane – almost plastic looking. Someone had previous started refurbishing it – to bowl had been carefully reamed and the bowl topped. There was a large fill on the rim that was loose that ran from the middle of the right side of the bowl almost all the way across the rim. This pipe would be a great one to experiment with using different stains to blend the fills and highlight the grain. The urethane coat would prove a challenge to remove completely but once gone it would prove a perfect candidate for the new staining techniques I wanted to learn. The band on the shank is aluminum and is oxidized and dull. The stem is a replacement that is poorly fit. It is loose in the shank and does not fit against the shank well. The tenon is very short and almost conical in shape. I will break the work on this pipe into two parts: Part 1: Fitting a Stem and Part 2: The Staining Experiment and a Conclusion called Finishing Touches.Mas1

Mas2

Mas3

Mas4 I took a few close-up photos of the rim and the stem. These will help to give an idea of the state of affairs when I brought the pipe to the work table.Mas5

Mas6

Mas7

Mas8
Part 1: Fitting a Stem

I removed the stem and found two possible replacements in my stem can. The original replace in the one at the bottom of the photo below. The two options were a longer taper and a saddle stem. Both of them worked well with the length of the shank. They looked better than the one the pipe arrived with.Mas9 I tried the bowl with each of the stems to get an idea of the look of the pipe. I made a decision for the taper once I had seen them both in place in the shank.Mas10

Mas11 The taper stem was slightly larger in diameter than the shank so I would need to adjust the diameter. I cleaned out the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to remove the tars and oils from the shank. Because someone had already started the process on this pipe it was not a long clean. It took very few cleaners before the shank was clean.Mas12

Mas13

Mas14

Mas15 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to start and then decided it was taking too much time. I used the Dremel with a sanding drum and quickly removed the excess material.Mas16

Mas17 I brought it back to the work table and sanded it with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the marks left by the sanding drum. I needed to fine tune the fit but it was working with the bowl.Mas18

Mas19
Part 2: The Staining Experiment

To prepare the bowl for staining I needed to do the repairs and remove the old finish. I decided to re-top the bowl to remove some of the damage and smooth out the area around the fill on the right side top and edge. I wanted to bring the top down to lessen the area that the fill intruded on.Mas20 I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove the finish only to find that it did not work to cut through the finish. Before I intruded on the finish with my next measure I decided to repair the fill on the outer edge of the rim on the right side. I used briar dust and super glue to repair the fill on the side and top of the rim. Most of the fill had been smoothed out on the top but there was some of the fill missing on the edge of the rim. I cleaned and sanded the repair to blend it into the finish. When that was smoothed out I sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding sponge to break the gloss of the finish and then dropped it into the alcohol bath.Mas21 When I took it out of the bath the finish was dulled but still not broken. This top coat was a real bear to remove. I needed to do quite a bit more sanding on the coating to remove the finish.Mas22 Once the finish was gone and I was at bare wood I decided I would use a three part staining process to try to hide the fills and blend them into the briar. I wanted to try something new as well with the staining of this pipe. I wiped it down a final time with acetone to clean off the dust and any remnants of finish, scrubbing hard around the stamping on the shank. I stained it with a medium walnut stain, flamed it and buffed it.Mas23

Mas24

Mas25

Mas26 When the stain dried I gave it a light buff with a cloth and a shoe brush and then gave it the second coat of stain. This time I gave it a coat of oxblood coloured stain. I wanted to bring out the grain on the sides and front and back of the bowl and try to blend the fills more. I stained it and flamed the stain.Mas27

Mas28

Mas29

Mas30 When that stain dried I buffed the bowl with White Diamond and wiped it down with isopropyl to even out the stain coat. I hand buffed it afterwards with a soft cloth. The bowl was beginning to take on the colour I wanted from these first two coats of stain.Mas31

Mas32

Mas33

Mas34

Mas35

Mas36 Then it was time for the third coat of stain. I stained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied it and flamed it and repeated the process until I had good coverage on the pipe. The dark brown looked opaque when first applied.Mas37

Mas38

Mas39 I buffed the pipe with White Diamond on the wheel and gradually the grain began to show through the finish. The combination of stains gave the pipe precisely the colour I was wanting – a warm reddish brown with dark highlights in the grain patterns. The fills though still present, did not stick out as badly and seemed to blend into the finish.Mas40

Mas41

Mas42

Mas43
Conclusion: Finishing Touches

With the finish on the pipe completed I worked on the stem. I sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge and then with micromesh sanding pads. I also sanded the band on the shank with the micromesh pads at the same time. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and sanded the band without the stem present. You have to be careful with the pads when polishing metal as they will leave a dark stain on the briar and the vulcanite.Mas44 I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and dry sanded the stem with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I polished the band with the same and also with a silver polishing cloth. After each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with the oil. When I had finished the stem I gave it a final coat of the oil and then let it dry.Mas45

Mas46 The next photos show the finished pipe. It is a rich brown/red colour that has warmth and depth to it. The silver band and the new stem make the pipe look quite rich. I figure it is at least as nice or nicer than when it left the Mastercraft warehouse.Mas47

Mas48

Mas49

Mas50

Mas51

Mas52

Mas53