Tag Archives: National Pipes

A National Washington, D.C. Straight Rhodesian from the Bertram Collection


Blog by Steve Laug

Give the previous blogs a read to have an idea about the Bertram Collection that I am working on these days. I can’t adequately describe how overwhelmed I am when I look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. Jeff is doing the major cleanup on the lot as that would be more than I could handle by myself in moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes the next one I chose is a National Washington, D.C. straight Rhodesian to be the next pipe that I would work on. It has some amazing straight grain around the bowl and shank. The bowl had cake in the chamber that was no problem. The rim top had some darkening and lava overflow on the back side. The inner edge of the bowl looked like it might have some burn damage and the outer edge of the bowl appeared to be in good condition but we would know more once the bowl had been reamed and cleaned. The exterior of the briar looked lifeless and was dusty with the grime of years of storage. The stem had some oxidation, tooth chatter and marks near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his cleanup work on it. Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. It was hard to see what the inner and outer edge looked like with the cake and lava. Jeff took a picture of the bowl side and the heel to show the marvelous grain on the bowl. It really is quite stunning and very dirty!The next photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank. The left side is stamped with National over Washington, D.C. The stamping on the shank is very readable.The next two photos show the condition of the stem surfaces. The stem was oxidized and had some calcification on the surface as well as tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I have already done the work on one of the National pipes in the Bertram lot so I turned to that to have another look at the history of the brand (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/21/doing-some-cosmetic-work-on-a-national-pipes-rhodesian/). I quote in full from that blog.

Before I started my restoration work I wanted to refresh my memory about the brand. I remembered from previous National Pipes that I had worked on that there was a tie to the Bertram Pipe Company in Washington, D.C. I also knew that it was a very different company than the National Briar Pipe Company of Jersey City, New Jersey but that is where all the trails let in terms of Pipedia and Pipephil’s site. I turned back to a previous blog that I had written on the brand when I restored a pipe with the same stampings to review the history and connection of the brand to Bertram. https://rebornpipes.com/tag/national-washington-d-c-pipes/. I knew that the fact that there were several of these included with the large lot of Bertram pipes that Jeff and I purchased was not accidental. Here is the link to that previous blog. I quote in part:

I had a gut feeling that the pipe had some connection to Bertram Pipe Company of Washington DC but only the vaguest memory of that connection. I could not remember where I picked that up but just had the memory. I did some searching on the Internet and found a National Briar Pipe Company of Jersey City, New Jersey with no clear ties to Washington DC on the Pipedia site. This was the company that purchased the Doodler after Tracy Mincer died. I could see that the Jersey City pipes were stamped differently and all had line names stamped on them. On the Pipephil site I found an English version that had very different stamping on the left side of the shank as well as Made in England on the right side of the shank.

Thus I was reminded of the non-connection to the New Jersey Pipe Company. The blog went on to record some information that tied the National Washington, D.C. Company to Bertram more definitively. I quote

I…posted a question on Smokers Forum (SF) and Pipe Smokers Unlimited regarding the brand. I received several responses that gave me information. One of them on SF came from Ed Klang and provided me with some confirmation regarding my memory of the connection with Bertram. I quote him in full, “In the history of the Bertram company, after the fire at the Washington, D.C. facility and the decision was made to discontinue Bertram production a group of employees and a few investors wanted to buy the rights to the Bertram name, which was turned down and it was then proposed that they would rebrand the pipes as National, no mention was made whether anything ever came of that proposal. Supposedly this group did produce pipes for a while but the effort was finally abandoned and I have never been able to reliably confirm this. Just bits and pieces here and there.” Thanks Ed. This is the random memory that I was trying to dig up.

I also received a reply on SF from Radiobob that read as follows: “National Pipe and Tobacco was located on the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., just about a block from where I worked. I still have two Canadians that I bought there, as well as a Comoy’s Patina Apple. In my recollection, it closed down–much to my regret–in the mid to late 1980s.”

Those responses gave me the kind of details that I always find helpful in my restoration work. I will continue to do some digging on the company and see what I can find but that bit confirmed the visual tie to the Bertram Company of DC. Thank you for your help Ed and Bob.

When I received the pipe Jeff had already reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He had scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He had scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He had rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. There was still some damage on the back inner edge and some darkening to the rim top toward the back of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. You can see the damage on the inner edge of the rim at the back side and the darkening on the rim top. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The surface of the vulcanite looked very good. There were some light tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button.I also took a photo of the stamping on the left and right side of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out.I worked on the inner edge of the rim and the darkening on the backside of the top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage and remove the darkening. I polished it further with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the scratches in the briar.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. (I forgot to take photos of the bowl and rim top after I polished it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads.) I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. Once the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. This is the part of the restoration process that I really look forward to! When all the parts are finished and the pipe is clean then I put the stem and bowl back together and buff the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polish the briar and any minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there is a rich shine. This National Washington, D.C. pipe is a classic straight Rhodesian shape with a natural finish that highlights some amazing straight and flame grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Buffing the pipe made the briar come alive and the grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautifully grained National Straight Rhodesian that feels really good in the hand and sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

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Restoring a NATIONAL Washington DC Square Shank Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this little square shank billiard in a foursome I purchased on EBay. I wanted the Rhodesian in the lot and the others were really just a bonus. This one was in the group but there was no information on it in the advert. When I saw it in the listing I thought it had a bit of a look like an older Comoy’s or even an old GBD square shank. There was no stamping visible in the photos. The stem had some heavy calcification and tooth marks in the photo and what appeared to be a bite through on the topside of the stem. Once it arrived I would have a better idea of what I had purchased.Foursome9

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Foursome8 When I opened the box, of course I went for the BBB Rhodesian first and it was the first pipe I cleaned up. The apple shaped pipe at the top was a Bertram and it was my second cleanup. I pretty much ignored the little square shank billiard as the stem was a mess that I did not feel like tackling at the moment. Shortly after receiving this one I got a gift box of more pipes so this one was pushed to the bottom of the refurb box.

Finally last evening I decided to take it out of the box and examine it more closely. It had faint stamping on the left side of the shank that read NATIONAL over WASHINGTON DC. In many ways it reminded me of the stamping on the Bertram apple that is shown above. It read Bertram in script over WASHINGTON DC. There was no other stamping on the sides, top and bottom of the pipe.Nat1

Nat2 The bowl had a heavy, hard cake that had chunks missing out of it in the bowl sides. The rim was heavily caked and tarred and also had cuts in the top of the rim and dents and chips in the outer edge of the rim.Nat3

Nat4 The underside of the bowl and shank had been flattened to create a sitter. There were scratches and dents in the finish of the bowl. The bowl had evidently been finished like the Bertrams as well in that it did not have a stain coat. It had picked up a patina in the finish over the years that had some red overtones that would come out nicely once the bowl was cleaned up.Nat5 The stem was in rough shape. With a buildup of white calcification that went half way up both sides of the stem. There were also a lot of tooth marks on the top and bottom sides of the stem. The stem was upside down in the photos and did not align properly with the square shank. I turned it over and everything fit very well. The stem had a pinhole like bite through in the surface that would need to be repaired. The stem itself had a slight cant to the right when it was manufactured and that could not be changed without drastically reworking the stem. The slot in the airway was clogged to an airhole the size of a pin that allowed minimal airflow and would not take a pipe cleaner.

Topside of the stem

Topside of the stem

Underside of the stem

Underside of the stem

With the stem removed from the shank it was obvious that the shank had never been cleaned out and had a thick build up of tars and oils. The tenon was a step down version and the step itself was tarred and caked to the point that the step did not show.Nat8 I had a gut feeling that the pipe had some connection to Bertram Pipe Company of Washington DC but only the vaguest memory of that connection. I could not remember where I picked that up but just had the memory. I did some searching on the Internet and found a National Briar Pipe Company of Jersey City, New Jersey with no clear ties to Washington DC on the Pipedia site. This was the company that purchased the Doodler after Tracy Mincer died. I could see that the Jersey City pipes were stamped differently and all had line names stamped on them. On the Pipephil site I found an English version that had very different stamping on the left side of the shank as well as Made in England on the right side of the shank.

I also posted a question on Smokers Forum and Pipe Smokers Unlimited regarding the brand. I received several responses that gave me information. One of them on SF came from Ed Klang and provided me with some confirmation regarding my memory of the connection with Bertram. I quote him in full, “In the history of the Bertram company, after the fire at the Washington facility and the decision was made to discontinue Bertram production a group of employees and a few investors wanted to buy the rights to the Bertram name, which was turned down and it was then proposed that they would rebrand the pipes as National, no mention was made whether anything ever came of that proposal. Supposedly this group did produce pipes for a while but the effort was finally abandoned and I have never been able to reliably confirm this. Just bits and pieces here and there.” Thanks Ed. This is the random memory that I was trying to dig up.

I also received a reply on SF from Radiobob that read as follows: “National Pipe and Tobacco was located on the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., just about a block from where I worked. I still have two Canadians that I bought there, as well as a Comoy’s Patina Apple. In my recollection, it closed down–much to my regret–in the mid to late 1980s.”

Those responses gave me the kind of details that I always find helpful in my restoration work. I will continue to do some digging on the company and see what I can find but that bit confirmed the visual tie to the Bertram Company of DC. Thank you for your help Ed and Bob.

I started work on the pipe by removing the stem and then reaming the bowl. The cake was hard as a rock but by beginning with the smallest cutting head of my PipNet reamer and working up to the third cutting head I was able to ream the bowl back to bare briar.Nat9

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Nat11 You can see in the photo above that there were still some rough places on the side of the bowl that needed more attention. I used a pen knife/letter opener that I keep in my refurb tool kit to carefully scrape away the remnant of cake.Nat12 I started to slowly sand the top of the rim with a folded piece of sandpaper but found the damaged areas significant enough that I decided to top the bowl and reshape the top of the rim by hand afterwards.Nat13

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Nat15 I scrubbed the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime that had been rubbed into the bowl sides and shank. There were a few fills present but I figured that once I oiled the bowl these would blend into the reddish finish of the briar.Nat16

Nat17 I reshaped the rim with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the rough spots on the outer edge and to give the rim a slight bevel toward the inner rim edge. I wiped it down with acetone and cotton pads as well.Nat18 I set the bowl aside for a bit and worked on the stem. I sanded the stem surface to remove the tooth marks and the calcium buildup. I also wanted to remove the light oxidation that was underneath that and to also clean up the stem enough that I could see the extent of the damage around the bite through on the topside. The first photo below is enlarged to show the hole. It was not huge but there were small cracks radiating around the hole. There were no holes on the bottom side of the stem or tooth marks along the sides.Nat19

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Nat22 I picked the area around the small hole with a dental pick to remove any loose pieces of vulcanite that were present and then scrubbed down the area on the top of the stem with alcohol to clean it up for the repair. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and inserted it in the airway under the hole. I filled the hole with a large drop of black super glue, intentionally overfilling it in order to have the glue go into the spidering cracks around the edges. I set the stem aside for the evening and let it cure.Nat23 In the morning when the glue had cured I used a needle file to redefine the button and then sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess and feather it into the surface of the stem.Nat24

Nat25 I sanded the stem with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge and found that while the major hole was filled and solidly repaired there was a small air bubble that once sanded produced a small hole that also needed to be fixed. It was right next to the newly shaped button. I used a drop of clear super glue to repair that. It dries quickly so I could easily sand it and blend it into the stem.Nat26

Nat27 I sanded the patch and the stem with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge. The results can be seen in the photos below. The hole is gone and the stem is ready for polishing.Nat28

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Nat32 I sanded the bowl, shank and stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads.Nat33 I rubbed down the stem with Obsidian Oil and while it dried I decided to rub down the bowl with a light coat of olive oil. It serves to highlight the grain and brings out the red in the briar. The next four photos show the pipe at this point in the refurb.Nat34

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Nat37 I dry sanded the stem, bowl and shank with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads and gave the stem a final coat of the oil after the 12,000 grit pad.Nat38

Nat39 I buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond and gave them both multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a soft flannel buff to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The olive oil really highlights the red tints in the briar and shows the contrast between the birdseye and the background briar as well as the grain on the front, back, top and bottom of the shank and bowl. It truly is a beautiful pipe – the briar is well grained and the fills disappear into the red colour of the briar.Nat40

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Restemming and Reworking a Rembrandt Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

Another bowl that was sent to me was a nice bent bulldog shape that needed a stem. It was in good shape. The bowl needed to be reamed and the top of the rim lightly topped. It was stemless so I needed to make a stem for it. It was stamped on the left side of the shank Rembrandt over Imported Briar. In researching it on the web I found that the company that made the pipe was The National Briar Pipe Co. It was homed in Jersey City, New Jersey. They produced several brands that I have seen over the years: Biltmore, Forecaster, Honeybrook, King Eric, Kleenest, Mayflower, Rembrandt, Sir Sheldon, The Doodler (created and formerly produced by Tracy Mincer, †1966). Typically the original stem of Rembrandt pipes bore a logo on the left side of the stem – a capital “N” in italics. This bowl had some ding marks on the cap on the left side. There was some damage to the briar between the double rings on the cap.

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I sorted through my stem can and found a nice amberoid acrylic stem that would look great with the bulldog bowl. It needed a tenon so I used a piece of white Delrin that was a perfect fit in the hole in the stem. I scored the Delrin with a hack saw so that the glue would have a surface to stick to. I swabbed then tenon down with superglue and pressed it into the stem.
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Once the glue had set in the stem and the tenon was firmly in place I sanded the tenon down with a folded piece of sandpaper to get a snug fit. I pushed it into the shank and it fit nicely against the shank. The diamond shank was smaller than the diamond saddle on the stem so I needed to sand it down to fit the shank.
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I used 220 grit sandpaper to start the process of shaping the stem and then a sanding drum on a Dremel to bring down the sides of the diamond close to the shank dimensions. I finished the fit with sandpaper and a sanding sponge.
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I sanded the stem and the shank with sandpaper and a sanding block until the transition between them was smooth to touch. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to the wood.
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I set up my topping board and sandpaper and lightly topped the bowl to remove the nicks and cuts in the surface of the rim. I followed up on the sanding board with a sanding block laid on the board and once again turned the bowl into the sanding block to smooth out the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.
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I wiped the bowl down with acetone and cotton pads to remove the finish and make the restaining of the bowl more consistent. I have found that when I have sanded the shank and the rim it is easier to remove as much of the finish as possible before I restain the pipe.
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I sanded the stem with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then did some more work on the bowl.
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I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I stained and flamed the stain and repeated the process until the coverage on the shank and the rim matched the bowl. I hand buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to see where I stood with the finish on the bowl.
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I gave the pipe another coat of the stain and then took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond. When I had finished I buffed it with multiple coats of carnauba wax and then with a soft flannel buff to finish the shine. The completed pipe is shown in the photos below. I really like the way the stain and the striations in the stem work together. I think that this one may well stay I my own collection!
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A National Bent Apple Diamond Shank Restored


A National Bent Apple Diamond Shank Restored
It is stamped NATIONAL in italics over Washington D.C. on the bottom right side of the diamond shank.
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That portion of the shank is smooth. The remainder of the pipe has a deep, craggy sandblast that is quite nice. The stem has no logo or identifying marks other than being stamped PARA on the top right side of the saddle stem.
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The two photos above and the series of ten photos below were included in the listing on Ebay. The pipe looked to be in excellent condition. I am uncertain as to the brand of the pipe. The book, Who Made That Pipe identifies the brand as being made by Comoy’s and stamped England. However, this pipe is clearly stamped Washington D.C. The book identifies a brand that is stamped National Mazda as made by LH Stern in the US. The pipe may have been made by LH Stern or possibly it was made for a pipe shop in Washington D.C. and made by Comoy’s. There is also a company called National Briar Pipe Company in Jersey City, New Jersey that could possibly have made the pipe as well. There is something about the stamping that reminds me of the Bertram pipes that also came from Washington D.C. This pipe is a bit of a mystery but I like the diamond shank apple shape and the nice blast on the bowl.
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Whoever made the pipe, it has a great looking sandblast as can be seen in the photos below.
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The bowl was lightly caked with carbon and was quite clean in the shank and stem. It appeared to have been barely broken in.
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The stem seemed to have light tooth chatter on the top and the bottom near the button. There appeared to be light oxidation on the vulcanite.
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When the pipe arrived, I unpacked it and took it to the worktable. I removed the carefully stem out of the shank because it was very tight and was hard to turn. I was just about ready to put it in the freezer for a few moments to let the contraction and expansion loosen the stem when it turned. I was able to remove it from the shank without damaging either shank or stem. Looking at the tenon I could see a slight buildup of grime that was on the last ¼ inch and looking into the shank the same band of grit was present. Interestingly to me, the shank was dirty but there was not a lot of tar or oils built up inside. There was bare briar clearly visible in the shank other than the band of grit that had held the stem tightly in place. I cleaned out the shank with cotton swabs dipped in Everclear and the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners and the same. It did not take too much work before they both came out clean and white.
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I reamed the bowl of the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer to remove the slight cake and the tobacco debris that had built up on the walls. It was quite soft and came easily away from the wall of the pipe.
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I buffed the bowl with White Diamond and then gave it a coating of Halcyon II wax to give the surface a shine. The finish was actually in excellent shape and after hand buffing the Halcyon II the pipe bowl looked as good as new. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the stem with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the surface oxidation and the slight tooth chatter at the button. There was also some calcification around the button that I sanded off as well. After the stem was clean of oxidation and debris I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh and the dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads.
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Just after wet sanding with the 1500-2400 micromesh pads I used a white out/correction pen to whiten the stamping on the stem. I applied the white out with the tip of the pen and when it dried sanded off the excess with the 1500-2400 grit pads.
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Once the stem was polished with the final grit of micromesh I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it was absorbed I buffed the stem with White Diamond on the wheel. I gave the bowl a light buff with White Diamond as well. I finished by buffing the stem with carnauba wax, giving it several coats and then buffing the entire pipe with a soft flannel buff to raise a shine. The finished pipe is pictured in the last four photos below.
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