Tag Archives: Removing a varnish coat

New Life for an Yves St. Claude French Connection 83 White Stemmed Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from an online auction in Ottawa, Illinois, USA. It is a nice looking smooth bent billiard with a white pearlized bent stem. It had a mix of nice grain around the bowl and shank. It has a taper variegated silver acrylic military bit stem. The shank and the stem have and inset black bar that makes aligning the stem and shank a simple proposition. The finish on the bowl is in great condition with a coat of shiny varnish over the light tan coloured stain that makes the pipe shine. The pipe has some grime on the surface of the briar. This pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Yves St. Claude [over] French Connection. On the right side of shank it has the shape number 83 followed by the Made in France circular COM stamp. There was a stylized YSC stamped on the left side of the shank. The pipe is lightly smoked with no cake in the bowl and minimal tars and oils in the stem airway. There were some very light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem near the button. The pipe is in excellent condition. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup. He took photos of the rim top to show the condition of the top and edges of the bowl. It is a beautiful lightly smoked pipe with a carbonized bowl coating. The stem had light tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the grain around the bowl and the condition of the pipe. It is a great looking pipe.   He took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. He also took photos of the YSC stamp on the left side and Hand Cut on the right side of the taper stem. I turned first to a blog I had written on the restoration of previous YSC pipe that I received (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/04/23/next-on-the-table-an-yves-st-claude-marbre-75-bulldog/).

In the previous blog that I cited above I had found several references to Yves Grenard, trained in Comoy’s England factory, purchasing the Chacom plant in St. Claude. He managed the factory and it passed on to his son afterward. I am pretty certain that this Yves St. Claude pipes was made by Chacom in France with the stamping bearing Yves name.

I turned back to Pipephil’s site to have a look at what was listed there and did a screen capture of the section (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-y.html).I turned to Pipedia and in the listing of French Brands and Maker I found a connection of the brand to Chapuis-Comoy and that the YSC brand was made primarily for Tinder Box (https://pipedia.org/wiki/French_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_U_-_Z). I followed that up by turning to the Chapuis-Comoy article from Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Chapuis-Comoy).

French factory, in St. Claude. It began with Francois Comoy who, in 1825, was making pipes in boxwood and other types, as well as in clay, for the armies of Napoleon. In 1856, the Comoy factory was the first to produce briar bowls at St. Claude. In 1870, Francois’s grandson, Henri Comoy (1850-1924) was taken prisoner in Switzerland whilst serving in the French army during the Franco-Prussian war, where he found his cousins, the Chapuis. This meeting produced the idea of an association, which only became a reality in 1922, with the creation of Chapuis-Comoy. After Henri’s death, his sons Paul and Adrien, took over the company with the support of their cousins, Emile and Louis Chapuis Sr., and in 1928 they created the Chacom brand.

In 1932, due to the economic crisis at Saint-Claude, the factory merged with La Bruyère, adopting that name, and becoming one of the biggest pipe companies in the world, with 450 workers. Louis Chapuis Jr., joined the company in 1938 and Pierre Comoy in 1947. The name Chapuis-Comoy returned in 1957 (125 workers), due to the success of the Chacom brand in France. In 1971, the London factory (see Comoy’s) became independent, and Yves Grenard, second cousin to Pierre, took over Saint-Claude, and is still running it. Between 1987 and 2001, the factory, which employed over 40 people, joined the Cuty-Fort Enterprises SA holding and, in 1994, included the Ropp brand it its catalog.

Reminded about the Chacom connection for the YSC brand it was now time to turn to the pipe itself and do my part of the work. As usual Jeff had done a thorough cleanup on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He 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 rinsed it under running water. One of the benefits of this scrub is that it also tends to lift some of the scratches and nicks in the surface of the briar. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. Other than the damaged rim top the pipe looked good.   I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top and the inner edge of the bowl were in excellent condition. The acrylic taper stem had light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button and on the button edges. The stamping on the sides of the shank is clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a nice looking bent billiard in great condition.I started working on the pipe by removing the varnish coat as it had some bubbling on the rim top. I had to remove it from the entire pipe not just the rim top to get an even coverage when I waxed it. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads, wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiping it down with an alcohol dampened pad after each sanding pad. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out.    I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.  I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. The photo below shows the polished stem. This nice smooth finished Yves St. Claude French Connection 83 with a white acrylic taper stem is a great looking pipe. The rich medium brown finish and the white stem work really well together. The briar is clean and really came alive. The rich medium brown stain gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the acrylic stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished YSC French Connection Bent Billiard is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Restoring a Butz Choquin Bistro 1575 Lovat


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from Milton, Florida, USA early in 2019. It is a nice looking Lovat with cross grain and birdseye grain and has a saddle vulcanite stem. The bowl has a rich reddish brown colour combination that highlights grain. The pipe has some grime ground into the surface of the briar. There was a thick varnish coat over the briar and it had been broken on the rim top and along each side so it would need to be removed. This pipe is stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left it reads Butz Choquin [over] Bistro. On the right it read St. Claude [over] France [over] the shape number 1575. The saddle stem has BC stamped on the left side. There is a thick cake in the bowl and a thick overflow of lava on the rim top and edges. The rim top looks good but it is hard to be certain with the lava coat. There were some tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the vulcanite stem near the button. The pipe looks to be in good condition under the grime. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake and the thick lava coat. It is hard to know what the condition of the rim top and edges is like under that thick lava. It is an incredibly dirty pipe but obviously one that was a great smoker. I will show the stem once I start my clean up. It is good condition – light tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the beautiful grain around the bowl and the condition of the pipe. You can see the grime ground into the surface of the briar. He took a photo of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. He also captured the BC stamp on the saddle stem. I turned first to Pipephil’s site to look at the Butz Choquin write up there and see if I could learn anything about the line (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-butzchoquin.html). There was a nothing listed for the Bistro pipe but there was a short history of the brand that is worth a read.

I looked up the Butz Choquin brand on Pipedia to see if I could find the Butz Choquin Bistro Line (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Butz-Choquin). There was nothing that tied directly to the line I am working on. There is a detailed history of the brand there that is a good read.

It was time to work on the pipe. As usual Jeff had done a thorough cleanup on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He 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 rinsed it under running water. One of the benefits of this scrub is that it also tends to lift some of the scratches and nicks in the surface of the briar. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. Other than the damaged rim top the pipe looked good. I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top looked very good. The rim top and the inner edge of the bowl had darkening and the varnish coat had peeled. The vulcanite saddle stem had light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button and on the button edges.    The stamping on the sides of the shank is clear and readable as noted above.   I removed the stem and the extension from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a nice Straight Grain Billiard that should clean up very well.   I reshaped the bowl edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the rim a slight bevel. I was able to remove the damage to the inner edge.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped down the bowl after each sanding pad.    I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing process with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I used Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to fill in the BC stamp on the left side of the saddle stem. I rubbed it on with a cotton swab and buffed it off with a cotton pad. While the stamp is not perfect it is very readable.   I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. The photo below shows the polished stem. This nicely grained Butz Choquin Bistro Lovat 1575 with a vulcanite saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The briar is clean and really came alive. The rich reddish, brown stains gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the vulcanite stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Butz Choquin Lovat is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Giving New Life to a Duncan Mini Bent Foreign Made Pocket Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I received an email from through the rebornpipes site. I am actually getting quite a few emails each week which I find a pleasure to read and answer. They range from questions on restoration to those regarding estate pipes. This one was interesting to me in that it was about a two particular brands of pipes that I have worked on and enjoyed in the past. I have included the initial email and subsequent ones below to give you the context of the ongoing interaction on this pipe. I thoroughly enjoyed the interchange with Mrs. C. Howard and look forward to being able to send her photos of the restored pipe.

Hello. Clearing out our shed today my husband came across a couple of old pipes, one of which is a Keyser Hygienic, which I have now read about, on your website, how you clean and refurbish them. For my husband and his crewmate in the London Ambulance Service in the 70’s, smoking a pipe was just another one of their fads (with motorbikes at that time, they rather fancied themselves, too, as facsimiles of Starsky & Hutch!) so although tooth-marked, not badly for the amount of time they were in use, I would think. My husband’s reaction to ‘turfing out’ unwanted things is to take it all to the dump, whereas mine is to locate useful ‘homes’ for items that are still serviceable and would serve a useful purpose. I see that you are on the look-out for Keyser pipes and wondered if you would like this one. It would only go to charity anyway and I would rather donate it to you – it would be no difficulty for me to post, if you wanted it. I also have a Duncan Mini Dent pipe; if you would like this also I could send it at the same time. I have washed both of them but, obviously, your attention to that aspect would be done best by you. I look forward to hearing from you. – Yours sincerely – Mrs. C. Howard

I immediately wrote her back and told her I would be delighted to receive the pipes and would gladly pay her for the postage from England to Canada. She replied:

Hello Mr Laug,

I was very pleased to hear your response and will post both pipes to you as soon as I’ve wrapped them.  There will be no need for a refund of postage; I’ll be happy just to know the pipes are being re-located from my shed, ignored and unloved, to a good home where they will get both!

My husband and I loved Vancouver when we visited, particularly enjoying the trip over to Vancouver Island to see Mrs. Butchart’s Gardens and where my aunt and uncle had moved to years ago.  We especially, too, liked the laid-back nature of the Canadian people.

However, I shall get these pipes posted asap and hope you enjoy the final result of your labours in refurbishing them. With best wishes – Mrs. C. Howard

Once again I replied thanking her for her kindness in gifting and sending the pipes to me. I looked forward to receiving them from her and working on them to restore them to their former glory.

Hello Mr Laug,

Just to let you know that you should be receiving the pipes in the not-too distant, since I posted them off yesterday, the 23rd. Optimistically, it won’t be too long before they arrive at your door.  I hope I don’t sound like an Amazon rep, although I rather fall down on being able to provide you with parcel tracking details, et al! – Kind regards. Mrs. C. Howard

To me this kind of information is priceless and gives me the background on the pipes when I work on them. I like to picture in my mind the pipe man who smoked them. In this case the information made me wonder how many more pipes are sitting in garden sheds around the world, having been discarded when the pipesmoker decided to lay them down. Thank you Mrs. C. Howard for the foresight you had in rescuing these pipes.

When the box arrived in Vancouver I wrote Mrs. C. Howard and let her know they arrived safely. I opened her parcel and found the contents were well wrapped and had come undamaged. The second pipe that came in the box is one that I have on the table now. It is stamped on the underside of the shank. It reads Duncan over Mini Bent over Foreign Made. It is a small pocket sized pipe that was heavily coated with varnish – even on the saddle portion of the stem. It looked as if it had been dipped. It has an interesting shape that feels great in the hand. The photos below show what it looked like when it arrived. The pipe had the same garden shed aroma as the Keyser that came with it. It was kind of musty smelling. It had definitely been smoked but not much. There were some dings on the rim top but other than the varnish coat wrinkling it looked good. The bowl did not have a cake and was raw briar half way down the bowl. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on both sides near the button. The button itself also had a few tooth marks. You can see the varnish run on the saddle portion of the stem in the first photo of the stem below. I took some close up photos of the rim and stem to show the condition.The next photo shows the stamping. It appears blurry but sadly the stamping itself is blurred from repeated stamping. It reads Duncan over Mini Bent on the first two lines. The last line is the most blurry but it appears to read Foreign Made as best as I can make out. I removed the stem and was surprised at the length of the stepped down tenon – ¾ of an inch. There was a spiraled stinger in the airway that was dirty and pushed deep in the airway. I decided to address the heavy coat of varnish on the bowl first. I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads and was able to remove all of it from the surface of the briar. I removed the stinger from the tenon. It was merely stuck in the airway so it was an easy removal. I think that half of the insert end is missing so it was not tight. The airway in the tenon was drilled off-centre toward the right side leaving the wall thin.I cleaned out the mortise and the airways in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. While a bit of tars and oil came out most of the colour on the swabs came from the same stain I had removed from the exterior with the acetone. It is a reddish coloured stain that revealed that the entire bowl had been dipped in stain.I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove the rest of the finish. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad after micromesh grit. There are a few dark spots on the briar – right side mid bowl and on the underside on the right as well. I am not sure what they are but they are not removed by sanding. As I polished it the fills in the bowl became very visible. The briar had taken on a shine. The fills were very visible so I used a Cherry stain pen to touch up the fills around the bowl sides, bottom and shank. A light stroke across the fill with the pen hid the fill and I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure. The fills blended in but the dark spots remained on the left and underside. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar of the bowl with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the bowl at this point in the process. The photos show the condition of the bowl at this point in the process. The bowl was looking quite good at this point with some beautiful grain showing through. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished the bowl with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain really came alive with the buffing and works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. Together the pipe looks much better than when I began and has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be putting this little pocket pipe/nosewarmer on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this unique little pipe.