Tag Archives: polishing an amber stem

Repairing a Damaged and Non-functional Prancing Horse Cheroot Holder


Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted this damaged Meerschaum Cheroot holder by a fellow we have purchased a lot of pipes from. We have a good rapport with each other and have exchanged a lot of emails. He wrote that he had a small Cheroot holder he wanted to gift to me that was quite unique. It had a carved horse on the top of the shank. The horse was in great condition but the amber stem was crookedly glued to the shank and had broken in half. I gave the end of each piece of the stem a thin coat of glue to hold the pieces together. I put a greased pipe cleaner in and glued the parts and let it cure. I removed the pipe cleaner and took the following photos of the Cheroot holder. It was an interesting looking piece that had some great history if it could only speak to us. The airway in the stem was clear and but the bowl was clogged with tars and the rim top had a tar coat build up on the rim top. The airway was clogged with no draught. I took a photo of the glued stem to show the fit of the parts and also the fit of the stem to the shank. The pieces fit very well together but the fit of the stem to the shank was way off. You can see the gap at the top of the second photo below. The stem was crooked on the shank. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tar build up on the rim top. It looked much cleaner. There was some colour to the rim top. It looked much better.I used a tooth pick and a pipe cleaner to clean out the airway in the inside of the bowl. When I removed the pipe cleaner the bowl came off without damage and I was able to further clean it on the inside of the bowl and the shank of the Cheroot holder. Whatever was clogging it was rock hard. Once cleaned the bowl fit tightly into the shank. It was now clean to the shank end from both directions.I did a quick Google search for small carved animal Cheroot holder with amber stems and possibly a case. I looked through the various carved holders and found a carved Fox with the same bowl insert as the one I was working on and the same style amber stem as the one I was working on and also was broken at the end (http://www.keilsantiques.com/antiques/objets-dart/antique-carved-meerschaum-fox-cheroot-holder). I saved photos of the pipe from the site both outside and inside the case. You can see the similarities between the two carvings.  Unfortunately there was no real information on the carver or age of the piece.While I was cleaning the stem the glue came loose at the stem/shank joint. Nothing broke in the amber which I was happy for but the glue let loose. I was actually very glad because I could adjust the fit of the stem to the shank. The problem was that the shank had been filled in with the super glue and was rock hard. The shank was so thin that I would not be able to drill it out so I was now faced with the facts that the pipe was not going to be usable. I flattened out the end of the stem and the shank with a topping board to make a clean junction. I reglued it with clear CA glue and held the surfaces flat against each other until the glue hardened. You can see the look and fit of the newly refit stem in the photos below. I took a photo of the carved prancing horse on the top of the cheroot holder. It is actually well carved and in good condition.I took photos of the bowl and rim top and stem. You can see the clean bowl and rim top. It looks very good. The fit of the stem is very good. The repair is visible but should lessen with polishing. It is an interesting piece and a shame that it is not usable or fixable.I sanded the repairs with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to further smooth them out and blend them into the surrounding amber. It is looking better.I polished the bowl and stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping down the stem after each pad with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. It is starting to look very good. I gave the bowl and stem a coat of Clapham’s Beeswax. I carefully put it on the bowl and the stem to protect and preserve it. I carefully polished it with a soft cloth. The last thing I wanted to do was break it again. The dimensions of the cheroot holder are Length: 3 ½ inches, Height: 1 inch,  Bowl diameter: ¾ of an inch, Chamber diameter: ½ of an inch. The weight of the piece is .49 ounces/14 grams. It is a great piece of tobacciana history and one that I will enjoy having in my collection for display. Once I have my office back in shape it will sit on top of a pipe cabinet on my desk top. Thanks for giving the blog a read. I appreciate all of you follow rebornpipes. Thank you.

Another interesting old timer – a L.G.B. Bent Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

This morning I decided to work on another of the older cased pipes that I have here. This one is a cased Bent Bulldog. It has the brass (rolled gold?) filigreed rim cap and ferrule from the late 1800s and early 1900s of many of the other ones I have worked on previously. We bought this pipe from an online auction on July 30, 2019 from Oceanside, New York, USA. The pipe had no stamping on the shank or bowl but the case had a gold L.G.B. oval logo stamped inside the cover. The leather cover on the case was in was worn and in rough condition but still solid. There was heavy wear on the edges of the case but the hinges and lock still worked very well. Don’t you want to know what is inside of this case? It really is another beauty though it has the marks of a hard journey. Well… I will get there. Jeff opened the case to show us what the pipe looked like inside. The lining of the case was far more worn and had a orange colour to it. It had L.G.B. stamped on the inside of the cover. The rolled gold (brass) cap and ferrule were ornate and filigreed. The finish on the bowl was quite dark and opaque but I am pretty certain that the bowl is made of meerschaum. The amber stem was cracked on three sides with a deep crack but it had been repaired sometime in its life from the look of it. It was a pretty pipe.It was another beautiful looking older pipe. The meerschaum is dark – almost cherry coloured and goes very well with the amber stem. The gold coloured rim cap and shank ferrule were dirty but in good condition. The cap was smooth and not dented which was quite surprising to me for an older smoked pipe. The stem was amber had a large repaired crack on the top and underside of the diamond shape. It was chipped and dirty as well. It still looked all right but definitely had the tooth marks and chatter of its previous trustee! Once again this was an old timer – a pipe from the late 1890 or early 1900s. The case has a gold stamped L.G.B. in an oval logo on the inside of the green fabric lid. The shank of the pipe bears no stamping on either side. Have a look at the photos of the case lid below.Jeff took the pipe out of the case and took photos of the pipe to show the look and the condition it was in when we received it. The bowl and the “gold” was in excellent condition. There was a cake in the bowl and the rim top had some spots of lava on it. The stem is beautiful but under the bright light of the flash appears to have a lot of crazing that is often in these old amber stems. He took close up photos of the bowl, rim and stem surfaces to show their condition. You can see the light cake in the meerschaum bowl and tars/oils on the rim top that tell the story of how the pipe was used by its previous caretaker. The bright flash of the camera shows the crazing in the amber on both sides of the stem. You can also see the tooth marks in the stem surface. He took photos of the metal tenon in the shank to show the tars and debris that had collected on the screws of the tenon. It was well used and filthy. It was anchored in the shank and the stem was threaded and screwed on to it. The end of the shank confirms that the pipe is meerschaum to me. You can also see the chips/cracks in the stem.He also captured the look of the bowl. When I first took it out of the case I thought it was briar but I don’t think it is. I am pretty sure that it is meerschaum. It actually looks quite amazing. The twin rings below the rim cap have dirt and grime in them but otherwise the bowl is in good condition.He also took some photos of the crack in the stem. The first photo shows the stem from the top left side of the diamond stem. The second one shows the left underside of the stem. You can see that it is actually missing some chips in the second photo. Someone did a repair on the stem as you can see the glue marks on the first photo. It was a solid repair but would need to be revamped and cleaned up.I turned to the internet to see if I could find information on the L.G.B. brand and was not able to find anything about it. The only thing that came up was a link on Worthpoint  for a carved figural meerschaum (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/large-meerschaum-smoking-pipe-bent-1799326507). I have included a screen capture of the pipe below.The seller described the pipe with the words below. It was the most information that I could find on the brand. I am not sure how applicable the information is but it is a possible link.

Beautifully hand carved! Length is about 7 inches. Real amber stem. Gold center ring. I have not cleaned this meerschaum. Leaving that to the new owner to do as he/she wishes. The original case has inscribed ‘Made In Austria’ and ‘L.G.B. Real Meerschaum Amber’.

Jeff had cleaned it thoroughly. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned that up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He had scrubbed the exterior of the briar with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. He cleaned out the interior of the shank and airway with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He carefully cleaned out the amber stem with clean water and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and oils in the airway and the threads of the tenon. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. The first two photos show the worn case. The third one shows the pipe in the fitted case and the L.G.B. logo stamped on the lid of the case. While worn it is clear and readable. The overall look of the pipe after cleaning shows the beauty of the meerschaum bowl. It looks amazing with the genuine amber stem. The crack in the stem is visible in the photos and it is solid and usable. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the cleaned bowl and rim cap. You can see the clean bowl and the smooth and undamaged rim cap. I also took some photos of the amber stem to show how it looked. The crazing in the surface of the stem is visible deep in the photos. The crack in the stem surface is not visible in the photos but it is very present.I took a photo of the left side of the shank. There was no stamping on either side of the shank to identify the brand. You can also see the rolled Gold Plated Ferrule on the shank end in the photo. The photo also shows a crack in the amber stem on the left side. Even in its worn condition it still is a beautiful looking piece of pipe history. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and amber stem with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar and amber. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. It is definitely looking much better and more full of life. I put the bowl in the case for awhile and turned my attention to the stem. I started the process by filling in the cracks on the sides of the stem and tooth marks on the stem surface with clear CA glue. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and followed that by polishing it with some 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It really began to take on a shine. 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 cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. When the bowl and the stem were finished this L.G.B. Bent Diamond Shank Meerschaum Bulldog looked much better. I carefully hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise and deepen the shine. It another beautiful pipe that is well over 100 years old. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is .95 ounces/28 grams. This L.G.B. Meerschaum Bent Bulldog was another great find that goes with other older pipes from various brands that I have restored in the past. This is a pipe that will hold another special place in my collection. It is also one that will likely be smoked sometime along the way. It is another pipe that has the capability of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through my restoration of this great find.

Breathing Life into a Cased Orlik Gourd Calabash with a damaged Amber Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

I have finished restoring all but this last pipe from the collection of pipes that we purchased from the older gentleman. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. You have seen many of the pipes that he had. These included Dunhill, BBB, Orlik, Barclay Rex, a cased Ben Wade, an H. Simmons all briar, Hardcastles and some Meerschaums. There were also some assorted others that I will get to in the days ahead. It was a great collection.

The last pipe I have chosen is a Gourd Calabash that is in a black case. It is stamped on the left side of the Gourd and reads Orlik. The silver band is also stamped Orlik Sterling. It has a meerschaum bowl in gourd that is dirty and has a thick cake in the bowl and a thick coat of lava on the rim top. It is pictured above in the photo I received from the old gentleman. It was filthy both inside and out. I think that the Orlik stamp on the calabash and the case made me want to try to redeem this old pipe. The stem is amber and was the problem with the pipe. It had been broken in half and repair. That repair held. There was also a repair to the amber about an inch from the button. The the ½ inch ahead of the button was also chipped and seemed to be cracked. This was another well loved pipe that obviously been a good smoker!

Jeff took some photos of the Orlik Gourd Calabash with a Meerschaum Bowl and amber stem before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an interesting pipe with a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years. The first five photos show the case, the Real Amber stamp on the case next to the clasp, the pipe in the case and the stamp/logo decal on the inside of the lid that read Orlik.    Jeff took the pipe out of the case and took photos of it to show what it looked like. If you look closely at the stem you can see the crack in the amber and the damage on the button end. You can also see the thick lava coat on the top of the meerschaum cup.Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the rim top. The rim top and inner edge are thickly covered with lava. The meerschaum has some patina developing. He took photos of the top and underside of the amber stem showing the cracks and chips on both sides. The stem is a mess that will take time to repair. Jeff also took some photos of the Sterling Silver band on the gourd and the inset tenon that is in the shank end. The tenon is dirty and the silver oxidized.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the gourd bowl the patina on the meerschaum cup. You can see the beautiful shape of the bowl and some interesting patterns in the meerschaum even through the damage, dirt and debris of many years. This Cased Orlik Gourd Calabash is an interesting looking pipe. The meerschaum bowl has developed a patina and the damaged amber stem looks very good with. Because the old gentleman that we bought the pipes from intimated that he purchased his pipes at the Manhattan Barclay-Rex store I would imagine that he may have purchased this one from them as well. I was unable to pin down any information regarding the date this pipe so it was time to move on and work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe so as not to damage it further. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He carefully scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the exterior of the meerschaum cup and rim top and lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights the patina in the meerschaum and the gold of the gourd. The chipped and cracked end of the amber stem came off while Jeff cleaned it. He wrapped it in a paper towel and shipped it to me in the bowl. He cleaned the internals of the stem with alcohol and carefully scrubbed the amber with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the amber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed that it looked so good. I took a photo of the parts of the bowl and stem. I took some photos of the bowl and meerschaum cup. The rim top looks very good after the clean up though it is spotty. I polished the smooth rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the gourd and meerschaum. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem repairs. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and slid it through the broken piece and into the larger part of the stem. I put some clear super glue (CA) on each portion of the broken stem. I pressed the portions together and let the glue cure. I slid the pipe cleaner out of the stem and filled in the cracks on the top and underside of the stem. I sanded the repairs on the top and underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs. I started to polish the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. It looks significantly better and is smooth but the repairs show! With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful Orlik Gourd Calabash with Meerschaum cup and an amber stem back together and buffed it the bowl and cup lightly on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I hand buffed the amber stem by hand. I gave the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finish on the gourd and meer is a great looking. The repaired amber stem looked very good. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 ¾ inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of this large pipe is 2.08 ounces /59 grams. This Orlik Gourd Calabash is another great find from this collection. It is much more beautiful in person than these photos can capture. This is another pipe that has the possibility of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 2/4: An Antique CPF Meerschaum Five Years Finishing



Blog by Robert M. Boughton
https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/
https://www.facebook.com/roadrunnerpipes/

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

Then I thought, boy, isn’t that just typical?  You wait and wait for something, and then when it happens, you feel sad.
— Sharon Creech, U.S. children’s writer, in Absolutely Normal Chaos (1990)

RECAP
In Part 1, I hypothesized that the discontinued manufacture or illegality of certain materials, as well as the dwindling availability and in some cases complete lack of pre-fashioned parts used in antique and other very old pipes, will lead to a serious crisis in restoring these great but often damaged old friends to their original conditions.  Without hashing over the details, which I already described in great although still incomplete specificity, I will add that I left out the obvious: none of the materials I discussed is irreplaceable in the sense that an old pipe with a broken amber stem or bone tenon can always be mended with Lucite or Delrin, for example.  To emphasize my way of thinking, which I know is shared by many other far more experienced and better practitioners of the art of pipe restoring than I, the thought of needing to resort to such practices except in the most severe cases is unthinkable, or to use a more descriptive word, an anathema to me.

At any rate, having no idea what I was getting into when I began writing the first installment, in the order in which various materials popped into my head, I soon reached a point where more and more endangered items presented.  For the sake of not breaking my train of thought any more than necessary on the one I happened to be trying to complete at the moment, I got into the habit of adding new section headings as I proceeded, as a sort of minimal outline.  The research alone led me in still newer directions, and so the sections grew in number – not to mention the research, which became so out of hand I almost lost control and never did get all of my sources in good order.  In the end, for those reading this who caught Part 1, believe it or not, I cut entire pages from the text and many of the sources that, due to the months spent composing my list of the most endangered materials either no longer applied or were redundant.  And still my sources alone took up at least two whole pages of the 24 I submitted to Steve.

Needless to say, as sad as I was to have to face the music, my little list had reached proportions prohibitive of an illustrative restoration to accompany it.  This installment will begin the phase describing the first of three projects that demonstrate the growing difficulty of restoring very old pipes to their natural beauty and even one relatively new but vintage example, despite my intentions, as if it were an antique.

INTRODUCTION
Five years ago, Chuck Richards presented the old and wounded but still spirited meerschaum to our Friday night pipe get-together.  The group of devoted Albuquerque area pipers being in its heyday at the time, the little tobacconist’s shop where we still meet in lesser numbers was filled beyond fire code capacity.  Folding chairs extended the normal smoker’s lounge all the way to the front glass counter, and still they were not enough.

I would regret to point out the business from cigar aficionados we pipe revelers cost the shop’s owner that memorable night, other than the few who were understanding or dogged enough to wend their ways through our standing-room-only mob.  But the sales in pipes and tobacco tins, and everything else that goes with them, more than made up for the loss on those evenings that are among my best memories.  Time has a way of changing all things, not just the antique meerschaum beauty Chuck passed around for all of us to ogle.

With the innate cunning and flair for dramatic understatement possessed by traveling carny operators of old, Chuck had the entire room enthralled – and yes, I was in the front row, center aisle, agog, right where he wanted me.  The panache of Chuck’s delivery was not in what he said of the pipe, however, but the way he appeared to satisfy the rest of the audience with an atypical dearth of anything better than teases, what Deep Throat called leads, at least as far as my hungry ears and eyes could discern.  Had I still been a news reporter with orders from my editor to get a good quote, I might have been out of a job.

That old reporter in me was accustomed to listening for diversions, avoidances and spins – every attempt “to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate,” as Special Agent Fox Mulder says in one of his most memorable lines from The X-Files (S4:E3).  That good habit must have kicked in to help me pick up on the mesmerizing but fugacious choreography of the show, designed only for the moment and then to be forgotten.     All I heard was “an old, now defunct pipe maker or distributor, probably in the U.S., called CPF,” “Best Make.” “still in its original case,” “with amber bit, gold band and broken bone tenon.”  But what did he omit and why?  During the intervening years, I’ve asked a few of those who were there that night about the occasion, and all of them indeed recollected some small part of the details, but little of substance, that are imprinted into my memory.

And then the act of mass hypnosis was over, the tiny space hot and stuffy, the crush of pipe enthusiasts swelling to the distant and narrow entrance somewhere in the background that was clogged with people coming and going beyond the usual capacity and hours of the shop’s operation, and which sole entry and exit, at any rate, lay beyond several treacherous eddies and straits still out of sight or reach.  I was not in my element and wanted to bail but needed to talk to Chuck.  With a distinct surreality, his bead bobbed nearby, like a life buoy in a foggy ocean.  We smiled at each other in what I felt was a meeting of the minds

I called out to him – shouted as loud as I could – as close to screaming as I ever have.  Imagine, not a vacuum such as space, but the opposite: chaotic babble and expansion.  Everything else drowned in the roiled sea foam of voices.

“Don’t you know anything more about CPF?”

We were face to face at last, but Chuck didn’t hear a word.  Neither did I, for that matter.  He even cupped a hand to an ear and gave up, communicating better with a single raised finger that he would come back.  When he did so, the crowd thinned out enough for us to hear each other.  He said, “I want you to take this home with you and do some research.  See what you can find out about CPF on your computer.”

Close your eyes if it helps and imagine the words above being cast upon you by Chuck in his always rich but then suddenly dulcet, soothing, fluid and entrancing tone

While Chuck projected these words to me, I tried my best to focus on his face, but my attention kept straying to the one-hundred-some-odd-year-old meerschaum pipe in its original tan case that looked so secure in his able custody but became more and more fragile and vulnerable as it was passed to mine. Much more was spoken between us that night before I began to understand that the dirty, damaged but reparable and, to me, priceless piece of art and history was not a loaner for research purposes as Chuck had suggested. Some blurry time later I realized he only said that so I would accept the gift from his hand. He knew I never would have touched it otherwise. About then the full truth struck me like a Mack truck with no brakes on a downslope of the Grapevine, a treacherous strip of I-5 in California with the Tejon Pass in its middle: Chuck expected me to restore it.

“But I’m not the right man for the job!” I went off like a maxed-out Jake break.

Chuck grinned at me a way only he can and then tried to calm the panic rising in me.

“When you’re ready,” I recall him saying. The rest is hazy.

As soon as I returned home that night, I began my computer research into “CPF tobacco pipes” as Chuck prescribed, and it became apparent that my friend indeed knew more than he let on. As Chuck suggested to the weekly pipe get-together almost six years ago in his circumspect description of the company, CPF was indeed a U.S. venture, in New York. I came across all sorts of conjecture as to the meaning of the three letters, with most agreeing the PF stood for Pipe Factory.

The C, on the other hand, was debated with unusual ferocity even for the very opinionated pipe world. The guesses included Consolidated, Chesterfield and Colossal, among others. There was even one complete rewrite of the truth suggested in a note at the bottom of the Pipedia link below, positing the amazing coincidence of a C.P. Fenner (one of two brothers who made cigarettes) as a viable candidate.

After hours of determined hunting, I was able to conclude with certainty that CPF stood for Colossus Pipe Factory, which enjoyed a relatively brief but glorious run from 1851-c. 1920. Steve later pinpointed the end of the road for CPF as 1915. In that short span of time, CPF, almost certainly employing the Old World skills of European immigrant crafters, made some of the most beautiful meerschaum and briar pipes available at the time. And it was a great time for pipes.

There were three absolute forms of proof that the Colossus Pipe Factory existed, and I later forwarded them to Steve: an antique bill of sale I no longer have, made out to a French company; a letter I found in a long scan of The Jeweler’s Circular issues (August 23, 1899) asking for the name of the pipe company doing business as CPF and receiving the above reply from the editors, confirming the Kaufman Brothers & Bondy connection, and an ad strengthening the tie between CPF and KB&B. Most sources agree KB&B assumed ownership of CPF in 1883. Here are the specific page from the jeweler’s magazine, another ad mentioning CPF, KB&B and Bakelite all in one, and an example of such a pipe.

For the most complete history of CPF, see Steve’s definitive piece in the link in my sources below. Steve’s hard work pulls together all of the available information on CPF along with very nice illustrations from his own vast portfolio of restorations.

1881: THE YEAR IN HISTORY
Until this very moment, as I edit my blog, I had put a conservative estimate of the Best Make’s date of manufacture as 1898. Now, revisiting the evidence, I notice that every ad or other official mention of CPF after KB&B took control mentions KB&B and its address at the time. Pinpoint dating being impossible, I now have good cause to revise the pipe’s manufacture to pre-1883, given the worn old case that makes no mention of KB&B despite the room to do so. Therefore, my new conservative estimate is 1881, making it 138 this year. As it turns out, 1881 was an interesting year, like every other year in my opinion, but I’ll just cite a few highlights.

January 1, 1881, Dr. John H. Watson was introduced to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
February 24, work began on the Panama Canal.
March 4, James A. Garfield was inaugurated as the 20th U.S. president.
March 16, the Barnum & Bailey Circus debuted.
April 28, Henry McCarty, originally of New York City, escaped from the Lincoln County Jail in Mesilla, New Mexico. Best known as Billy the Kid and widely but erroneously believed to have been born William H. Bonney, McCarty had three other aliases. I had to mention this particular historical tidbit because I live in the natural born killer’s old stomping grounds.
May 21, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
July 1, the first international telephone conversation occurred, Calais, Maine to St Stephen, New Brunswick
July 2, President Garfield was shot by a delusional speech writer who fancied himself responsible for Garfield’s victory. Being denied an ambassadorship was the last straw.
September 19, President Garfield died from an infection caused by the gunshot.
December 4, the first edition of the Los Angeles Times was published.

The Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC was not for another 22 years. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote, ratified August 18, 1920, was still 39 years from reality. The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining presidential disability and the line of succession was not ratified until February 10, 1967 – 85 years after Garfield’s vice president, Chester A. Arthur, was sworn in as the 21st U.S. president.

The year 1881 was also 19 years before the revolutionary scientific and technological century that forever and exponentially robbed people of the little daily pleasures that were perhaps our greatest inclinations, for taking time to read and write and contemplate life. And toward those goals, some Old World meerschaum carver had the idea to create a pipe with a bowl turned just enough to allow smokers to see the pages of the books, newspapers or literary magazines they enjoyed reading during moments of the day when they could escape the rat race. Few such clever pipes can be found today. The photo below shows another pipe with a design that nevertheless has an amazing similarity to my CPF Best Make and could very well be its brother.


RESTORATION
I should make one final point clear now: the reason this part of the blog is short on the actual restoration steps and includes relatively few photos is that most of the work involved – meaning everything other than reconnecting the stem – turned out not to be anywhere nearly as difficult as I had at first projected. That’s easy to say now, after having restored other meerschaums and removed an unknown number of broken tenons from shanks. Also, knowing the final key to this restore was finding a suitable bone tenon and getting it to fit snugly and securely in the shank afforded me time to, well, take my time.

All of that said, the most important factor in terms of my readiness to finish my part of this project is all of the experience I have had working out problems with other pipes during the five years this process wound up taking due to the one vital step. Most of those times, my impulse, and often my first step, were to seek the help of someone who had more experience than I. That left plenty of options. Although the friends I’ve pestered most for advice may not realize it, I began to research possible solutions steadily more often. Above all, I exercised the part of my brain that allows me, when I use it, to think my own way out of corners. That habit proved to be of particular benefit to this restoration, as I will soon explain. For the first year, I sat on the pipe, in the figurative sense, other than taking it out of the case now and then to admire its regal elegance. That time was in no way wasted or idle. I accomplished considerable online homework on various approaches to restorations of antique meerschaums. I had a fair number of successful meerschaum restorations under my belt, but I’d never even touched an antique pipe before, and they are a whole different ball of wax, so to speak. Here are the problems I anticipated:

1. The rim char was transformed by the power of time – which may heal all wounds but is more apt to cause them, and thus allow us to grow – from the more or less expected norm of bad to full crystallization around the top of the chamber.
2. The entire surface of the pipe was filthy, whether from improper handling or about a century in storage or both, but the deep, even gold of the patina indicated it had been well-loved and tended. Cleaning meerschaum should not be approached without caution as the first try can limit later options or, worse, show places where the pipe was handled with bare hands from the ghosts of ingrained skin oil and dirt, sometimes as permanent blotches..
3. The original bone tenon was broken, half jammed deep inside the draught hole and the other half in the amber stem. Removing it from both narrow, fragile holes would be problematic, to use a gross euphemism. Replacing it would be a challenge – but a pleasant one, I imagined in my determination to honor my personal pledge to restore this great pipe to its original glory.
4. The shank looked as if it would need to be re-threaded. Wonderful.
5. I have also never worked with amber but knew enough to realize it is brittle stuff, in particular the 133-year-old (at the time I took possession of the pipe) variety. There would be no thought of subjecting this precious bit to the perils of an electric buffer or even sandpaper.

That’s it. Nothing serious, just a mine field. But after long, intense consideration, I concluded the integrity of the wonderful patina must be preserved at all costs and opted for a traditional basic cleaning rather than one of the experimental processes of which I had read. That was in 2014.

Recalling the one dragon Harry Potter had to face in his quest to survive the Goblet of Fire competition, I decided to be done with one of several I saw swooping my way. I began the slow extraction of the original bone tenon broken off and entrenched by time in the stem and shank. .In this kinder, gentler age of Vulcanite/Ebonite/Lucite/ Delrin tenon removal, by and large, the material being non-organic makes it less vulnerable to easy damage. My situation presented a triad of evils with the bone tenon packed into meerschaum and amber.

In most cases, not to postpone a fight but to confront the problems in a more systematic order, I would have started elsewhere. This time I went straight for the mother dragon protecting its young. The bone tenon screw piece in the stem is difficult to see, but trust me, it’s there in the first pic. Against the odds, it was easier to extract, or I was just lucky, but it popped out in one piece. In contrast, the shank took a couple of hours of on-edge, sweaty browed finagling with alternating and bizarre tools such as a jeweler’s screwdriver, the extended end of a large paper clip and the shank reamer of a three-piece pipe tool, to name a few. Breaking away a layer at a time, eight pieces later I reached the end of the blockage. The photo of the pieces is worthless. Confronted with the need for careful removal of the char and crystallization spreading from the upper chamber onto the lion’s mane and left ear, I admit I’ve never read of super fine “0000” steel wool being appropriate for meerschaum or even wood pipes, but I’ve found that when milder approaches don’t remove all of the char (which they almost never do), in almost all cases the steel wool does the job without damage.  What’s more, it even leaves a nice polish on the regular meerschaum rims that have some real width to them, which the CPF’s does not.  Some readers have told me they like the steel wool approach also. For the chamber I started with 200-grit paper and finished with 320, which also is discouraged unless great care is taken as I did, and then gave the outside of the stummel a vigorous but only preliminary cleaning with small cotton pads soaked with purified water. For all of the dirt apparent on the cotton pads, note how much was still left.

I waited – another year and a half.  During that time I continued the grueling online search for bone tenons with the idea of finishing the work myself and asked friends at my local pipe club and internet sites for pipe enthusiasts for help, to no avail.  The intensified hunt was infused with a sense that the time was fast approaching the now or never point, and even found a site that seemed to have every size available.  However, after going back and forth with the owner several times and never hearing from him again, I began to despair.  That was in 2016.

Then, almost exactly one year ago, at the end of February last year, I thought, what the heck, why not try again?  So I posted an identical thread on Smokers Forums UK, but in a different category.  The first response included a link to Norwoods Pipe Repair in Clifton, Tennessee.  Not wanting to get my hopes up, I checked it out and found that the father and son team of Floyd and Kenneth Norwood seemed to have all the right stuff for my lion’s head pipe and a second, antique briar that needed a still rarer stem that had to be replaced with the bone tenon.  All about that in part 3.

I had to wait until early in April, after employing the skilled services of Kenneth Norwood in March to repair the briar pipe first because it belonged to a customer who wanted it back for good reason, to send the CPF via USPS Priority 2-Day delivery.  I can tell you, the Separation Anxiety I experienced was acute, not having been away from the pipe or failed to look in on it at least once a day for the previous five years and being fully aware of the ability of the Postal Service to lose packages or deliver them to the wrong person who then keeps them.  I paid to insure the package for $500, which could never replace the irrecoverable, and waited.

From the almost immediate turn-around time I had with the briar pipe, but fearing that may have been a fluke, I knew it would not be too long but was nevertheless surprised when it arrived again at my door less than a week after I mailed it.

I took a picture showing the masterful work completed by Kenneth, who had done better than re-thread the shank, but what with the wonders of the new and improved Windows 10 that have required so many full system restores of my computers that I’ve lost count, that photo and who knows how many others have gone missing.  I’m sure they’re floating around somewhere because we all know Microsoft never lets us really and truly delete anything, but heaven knows where it is.

By the way, Kenneth mentioned that he would need the stem to be straight for his work aligning it to the new tenon, and so I put the amber stem with a pipe cleaner through the air hole on a small sheet of aluminum foil in the over pre-heated to 150° F. About 15 minutes later, I removed the sheet and stem.  Amber is the easiest material to bend or straighten, I suppose because of its resinous nature that makes it heat quickly to the point where it is so malleable it will literally bend in half from its own weight if picked up by one end when removed from the oven.

Knowing this from an experiment I did almost a year and a half ago, I took hold of both ends of the cleaner and still saw the middle sag a little as I rushed the stem that straightened in the oven on its own to the tap to fix with cold water.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of speed in this process.  If you’re bending the amber, it tends to straighten out again fast, and if you’re straightening the stem, it’s easy to bend it even by a tiny degree before fixing.

With that said, the next shots  start with the pipe as it was returned to me, with the stem still straight before re-bending, and after thinking to use a toothbrush and purified water to scrub every intricate detail of the amazingly realistic lion’s head.  This was quite a job, as the hand-carved details I noted are minute and almost as breathtaking as a real life, face-to-face encounter with the real thing: the ears alert and mane flowing backward, glaring eyes almost hidden beneath big brows, huge nose with fur and whiskers on either side, and that mouth with a hungry tongue and sharp teeth!  And that’s just the face.  The lion’s mouth is wide open, by the way, as if roaring or growling, and at times I had the idea it didn’t really care for my attentions – at least not until the task was done.  I have a bit of an imagination, you see, and another result was a flash to the story of Androcles pulling the thorn from the lion’s paw.Here are two shots of the work Kenneth did.And the rest.Now, the original real, cherry red amber stem was in remarkable condition for one that was used for a couple of years with loving attention, but the fact that it is well more than a century old makes its physical integrity achieve the level of astounding.  There were no dings or pits, and the scratches, if they could be called that, were so minor some people might have let them be.

I’m a far cry from perfect and always will be, but I’m not some people.  Here it is from every angle before I did anything to freshen it up.

I gave it a wet micro mesh from 1500-12000.And I did a dry micro mesh the same way.Thinking a little more about it, I was still bent, as it were, on not putting the wonderful piece of expertly carved, polished, polymerized and  fossilized prehistoric pine tree resin – an organic material neither gem nor stone – anywhere near an electric buffer. After all, accidents can happen.  For such a catastrophe to occur to a piece of amber, even brand new, would be the end of it.  Amber’s biggest problems are its extreme softness, a 2 on the Moh’s Scale of 1-10, just a full step above talc, and its natural brittleness that begins to worsen the instant it is exposed to sunlight.  In other words, the exceptional suppleness of this antique stem makes it museum quality.  Whoever owned it kept it in a nice, safe place away from natural light, and when he died it must have stayed in its case in an attic or some other dark place.

At any rate, thinking on the idea of how to give it a little polish without the wheel, the obvious occurred to me.  I took out my little jar of Decatur’s Pipe Shield that I decided to give a try as opposed to the standard Halcyon II Wax, both of which are generally reserved for hand application to rusticated or sandblasted wooden stummels before rubbing into the wood with a soft rag.  As far as I know, it couldn’t hurt, and in fact gave the unique stem a higher sheen that at least I see in the final shots.

Finished with all of the visible cleaning, I remembered the pipe still needed sanitizing, meaning the shank, but a retort was impossible for reasons that should be obvious, yet every now and then we hear of some poor fellow – because any woman who might practice pipe cleaning or restoration would never make such a mistake – boiling alcohol through the insides of a meerschaum or even using the cold alcohol/kosher salt method and ending up heartbroken from the ruinous results.

On the other hand, a little alcohol mixed with water can go far to clean and sanitize a meerschaum shank.  Fred Bass, one of the leading meerschaum collectors and authorities, writes in an essay cited below that his traditional inside-out cleaning method for meerschaums includes careful application of straight alcohol to the dirty outer areas of the pipe  with a cotton pad or cloth  – and he suggests Everclear, which as most folks know is almost as strong as it gets at 95% grain alcohol, or 190-proof.  Residual alcohol should be tamped dry.   For the shank, he recommends a pipe cleaner or more if necessary dipped in Everclear followed by a dry cleaner.

Well, I’m sure that works since Fred (we don’t know each other, but I don’t think he’d mind the familiarity) has been restoring meerschaums for quite a while now.  But I just did not have the heart or nerve or courage or whatever you want to call it to make my first such try on my beloved CPF.  Also, I think Fred would agree that building up to the Everclear cleaning approach is always a good idea, and my initial cotton pads followed by a toothbrush, both with purified water, got all of the dirt off this beauty.  My compromise for the chamber sanitizing was to add a cap-full of Everclear to about a quarter-cup of water.

Here is the finished pipe, hand-buffed with a special heavy micro-fiber cloth. CONCLUSION
With the longest restoration job I’ve ever performed complete, I was almost said – with an emphasis on almost.  The relief and satisfaction with a job well done, if I say so myself and even though I did not do the shank work myself, were more than enough to compensate for any post-project blues.  That turns out to be the perfect word to segue to my final comments.

For anyone who noticed the damage to the CPF’s leather-covered wood case between the first and last picture in this blog, I can, with complete honesty and justification, blame it on the dog, Blu.  I kid you not.

She has admirable spirit, but a little too much of a good thing.  The problem with the pipe is that Blu will snatch, run outside and devour anything left out and unattended if it smells tasty or even different – cooked or raw food, ice cream, soda cans or bottles, coffee mugs, Vaseline, OTC meds in their bottles and, as I found out the hard way one morning, a mysterious little object that simply looked too good to pass up.

My heart stopped when I returned to the living from my bedroom and noticed the tan case that had been in the center of the coffee table missing.  I knew who stole it without a moment’s thought and almost saw red as vivid images and plans of canicide filled my mind.  You see, the CPF Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum with a gold band and cherry red amber stem c. 1881 was in the box.

Had I not found the mauled case in the back yard dirt patch where Blu so loves to play and eat her ill-gotten food stuff, and the CPF miraculously safe and intact inside it, I can’t say what I would have done to the dog.  Sweetness only goes so far.  A man’s pipes are not to be messed with.

I’m sure everyone can appreciate my immediate overwhelming relief and forgiveness of Blu despite her terrible lapse in judgment.

PREVIEW
Part 3 of this series will describe the two years it took me to return an antique KB&B Blueline Bakelite billiard c. 1911 entrusted to me for a quick cleaning and restoration, and the unfortunate reasons for the…er, delay.

Part 4, taking a lesson from this restore, will go a touch further with my full restoration of an old First Quality meerschaum billiard with a wrecked inner shank, and the replacement of its tenon and stem.

 SOURCES

http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c1.html

https://pipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_Pipe_Factory

https://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/colossus-pipe-factory-african-calabash-sterling-109-c-13648cbbb7

https://rebornpipes.com/2013/04/14/some-reflection-on-the-historical-background-on-cpf-pipes/

https://www.onthisday.com/events/date/1881

https://norwoodspiperepair.com/index.html

https://rebornpipes.com/2017/09/14/on-bending-and-straightening-amber-stone-stems/