Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table is a an interesting pipe in many ways – shape, style and stamping. We purchased it in 2018 from an online auction in Barbourville, Kentucky, USA and we are just getting to work on it. It is a shape that is hard to define – a cross between a Poker and a Stack. The angle of the stem and the forward cant of the bowl make it quite unique. It is stamped on all three sides of the triangular shank and the stamping is clear. On the left side it reads RATOS [over] Of Sweden. On the right side it reads EHRLICH and on the underside it reads 93 followed by PRIMA [over] Design: [over] Sigvard Bernadotte. The bowl had a thick cake and lava overflow on the inner edge of the rim. It was hard to estimate the condition of the edges with the cake and lava coat but I was hoping it had been protected from damage. The outer edge appeared to be in good condition. The finish was dull and dirty but had some nice grain under the grime and the finish appeared to be in good condition. A lot would be revealed once Jeff had worked his magic on it. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had tooth chatter and tooth marks near the button on both sides. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff captured the condition of the bowl, rim top and stem with the next series of photos. You can see the work that is ahead of us in the photos. The cake is very thick and heavy. The next two photos of the stem show the top and underside of the stem. It is oxidized and calcified an you can see the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of both sides. The stem was also stamped France mid stem on the underside. Jeff took a photo of the side of the bowl and heel showing the condition of the finish and what is underneath the grime and debris of time and use. It will be interesting to see what happens as the pipe is cleaned and restored. He captured the stamping on the sides of the triangular shank. They are clear and readable. It reads as noted above. There is not a photo of the right side at this point.The stamping on the pipe made this one stand out. I decided to do a bit of work on the names that were stamped on the shank. I turned to Pipedia to see what I could find out what I could on the Ratos brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ratos). There was a short article on the brand that I have included it below.
Ratos is a Swedish classic that has been on the Swedish market for more than 40 years. Pipe smokers know Ratos as an affordable quality pipe in many different shapes. Quality are all equally high, only genuine ‘Old’ briar root may be used. Some of the pipes have meerschaum lined bowls. In 2009, all Ratos pipes are fitted with filters. Some of these pipes are distributed by the Borkum Riff tobacco brand at pipe smoking contests. Ratos pipes are today (2009) manufactured in France, in the oldest factory still operating.
I then did a bit of searching on the web for pipes designed by Sigvard Bernadotte. The path led to and article on Pipedia on a company called “Svenska Rökpipfabriken” (the Swedish Smoking Pipe Factory) (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Svenska_R%C3%B6kpipfabriken). In that article was a section on Bernadotte that I have highlighted in red in the article below.
“Svenska Rökpipfabriken” (the Swedish Smoking Pipe Factory), or just “SRF”, was founded in 1931 in Lerum by father and son Hjalmar and Gösta Eliason. It was the first briar pipe factory in Sweden and for a long time also the only one.
Gösta designed the SRF branded pipes. Large customers such as Pibe Dan in Copenhagen had their own models that SRF produced. SRF also met the demands of individual customers and made pipes one-off according to these clients’ custom designs. Sigvard Bernadotte, Prince of Sweden, has designed a number of one-off models made by SRF.
Among the largest customers in later years were the Tobacco Dealers Sanden, Broberg and Pipcenter in Gothenburg and Pibe DAN in Copenhagen. At that time, with 5 employees, SRF produced 7 200-8 400 pipes per year. In total, around a million pipes were produced.
The briar were in the beginning purchased from Algeria and Corsica but later mostly from Spain. The blocks came in 100-liter jute bags and were transported to Gothenburg by boat. During the Second World War, when briar was difficult to get by, pear tree was used as a substitute instead. The pear tree was however not as heat resistant as those produced from briar.
There were 32 different steps to making a pipe, could differ depending on model. It started at the lathe, then the milling machine and after that followed 11 steps of grind and polish. The first lathe used, which Gösta brought home from Switzerland, was hand driven. The lathes used after that were manufactured by local smiths.
Surface treatment, such as paint and surface texture, was chosen based on the quality of wood. Wood of finer quality was just polished with wax. The lesser quality of the wood, the more colour bets and surface treatment were applied. The colours used were brown, maroon or black. The most common surface treatments were:
- Hunter, polished with wax.
- Rex, a smooth polished surface where small cavities / defects in the wood are repaired with putty. The cavities were so small and the reparation were so good that they were hard to detect. (In the beginning Rex was a name for a model).
- Shell, a blasted surface made with a rotating steel brush blade.
- Rustic, a roughed surface in straight lines or in wavy patterns. The surface was treated with a special steel and was created by hand.
Before delivery, the pipes had a first smoke by a machine to give the customer a good smoking experience right away. The walls of the pipe chamber were treated with a batter of sugar, tobacco ash and tobacco. They were then stuffed with tobacco mixed with some kitchen paper and smoked by a suction machine.
Repairs were sent from near and far and also collected at stores in Gothenburg and Lerum. The repairs were registered on Monday and processed during the week to be mailed or personally delivered on Friday. In 1977, there were about 1000 repairs per month.
Svenska Rökpipfabriken closed in 1979 when Gösta and the employees retired. Some machines were sold to craftsmen, but the SRF activities were not passed on.
I have included a picture below of a pipe designed by Sigvard Bernadotte, Swedish prince and brother to the late Queen Ingrid of Denmark. It is pretty close to the one that I am working currently though it is taller.I then turned to Pipedia to do a bit of research connecting of the brand with Ehrlich in Boston (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ehrlich%27s). There was an interesting history of the company but there was nothing attaching it to the pipe in hand.
The David P. Ehrlich Company has remained solely in the hands of one family during its century of business, yet it has had several firm names and locations. David P. Ehrlich went to work in 1881 at the age of twenty for Ferdinand Abraham, who dealt in cigars and tobacco and who had begun business in 1868 at 1188 Washington Street in the South End, but in 1880 moved to the center of the city, where the firm has been ever since. David Ehrlich married the boss’s daughter. In 1916 the name became the David P. Ehrlich Company and Mr. Ehrlich devoted the rest of his life to this business. Since David’s death in 1912 it has been owned by – his nieces and nephews including Richard A. and William Ehrlich.
Ehrlich shop has since 1880 had a predilection for historic sites. 25 Court Street was close to the spot where from 1721-1726 James Franklin had, with the assistance of his brother Benjamin, published The New-England Courant. In 1908 the firm moved a few doors up Court Street to number 37, on the opposite corner of the alley that is grandiloquently named Franklin Avenue. This new locution was on the site of the one-time printing office of Edes and Gill, publishers of the Boston Gazette, in whose back room some of the “Indians” of the Boston Tea Party assumed their disguises. Soon after the end of World War II at which time the store was located at 33 Court Street a move around the corner to 207 Washington Street brought the shop diagonally across from the Old State House and onto the site occupied from 1610-1808 by the First Church of Boston. The demolition of 207 Washington Street in 1967 caused still another move to 32 Tremont Street, adjoining King’s Chapel burying Ground, which is the oldest cemetery in Boston.
The David P. Ehrlich Co. has not just occupied sites intimately associated with Boston history and institutions; it has in the past century become a Boston institution in its own right. It has specialized in fine cigars, pipes, and pipe tobacco. In addition to the retail business, the firm has long specialized in the manufacture of pipes, both from Algerian briar root and from meerschaum, a beautiful white fossilized substance, mined from the earth in Turkish Asia Minor. Meerschaum lends itself to carving, and in the nineteenth century there developed in Austria a fashion for carving pipes from it with formidably intricate decoration.
To summarize what I have found: I believe that the RATOS brand could well have been made by “Svenska Rökpipfabriken” (the Swedish Smoking Pipe Factory). It is fascinating that the sub brands and lines made by them all start with an “R” so it is not a far stretch to connect the RATOS name to them. The fact that they made a pipe designed by Sigvard Bernadotte that was virtually identical to this one also makes the connection. Ehrlich imported quite a few pipes from various makers in countries from Europe.
Now it was time to work on the pipe. The pipe has been here for a few years now so it is about time I worked on it. I took it out of the box where I had stored it and looked it over. It was amazingly clean and looked like a different pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The bowl looked very good. The rim top showed a lot of darkening but the inner bevel was in good condition. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime and soaked it in Briarville’s Stem Deoxidizer. When he took it out of the soak it came outlooking far better. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some photos of the rim top and stem. The rim top and the bowl are very clean. There was some darkening around in the inner edge. The close up photos of the stem show that is it very clean and the deep tooth marks are very visible.I took photos of the stamping around the sides of the shank. They are as noted above and are clear and readable.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe. It is an interesting pipe with some great grain around the bowl.I started by cleaning up the darkening around the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and carefully worked it around the rim edge.I polished the rim top and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the smooth briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for fifteen 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 to deal with the stem. I “painted” the stem surface with a flame of a Bic lighter to try and lift the tooth indentations. I was able to lift the majority of them. There were to larger ones that I filled in with clear CA glue. Once it cured I smooth out the repairs and recut the edge of the button with files. I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the vulcanite. Once I had smoothed them out and broken up the remaining oxidation I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave the stem a final coat of Obsidian Oil to preserve and protect it. This RATOS of Sweden (EHRLICH) 93 PRIMA Design: Sigvard Bernadotte. was another fun pipe to work on and I really was looking forward to seeing it come back together again. With the grime and debris gone from the finish and the rim top the birdseye grain is beautiful. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank during the process. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rich finish on the bowl looks really good with the black vulcanite stem. It is very well done. Give the finished RATOS 93 PRIMA a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 36grams/1.27oz. This is truly a great looking Bernadotte Design Tall Canted Stack. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.