Blog by Steve Laug
I was gifted a beautiful rusticated Terminus apple from Anthony Cook. At least it has the potential to be a beautiful pipe to my eye. I have kept an eye out one of these old system pipes for a long time. They are like an early reverse calabash design. From my reading and observation it is both similar and different from the Keyser Hygienic pipes that I have written about before on the blog. It is similar in that it has an aluminum condensing contraption in the mortise of the shank with a centre tube that extends about ¼ inch beyond the end of the shank and rests in a larger tube in the military mount stem. This is the similarity – tubes, condensing contraption and the military mount stem. The dissimilarity is that at the end of the mortise where the flat base of the condensing unit sits there are two airway entries toward the top on either side of the centre tube. In the bowl there are also two airways at the bottom of the bowl. I found an online photo of the apparatus in the mortise and also how the stem and shank fit together. The Terminus I have is older than the one in the photo but the design is the same. Terminus was a St. Claude, Francepipe maker. This is one of the early models, dating from the beginning of the 20thCentury.The patent was for an inner tube in the shank with two draw holes either side and a smaller inner tube in the stem, thus keeping “gunk” to a minimum.A straight apple with cow horn saddle bit.5.25 inches (13.5cms) long. Bowl height 1.75 inches (4.5cms). Looking up the name on Pipephil Logo and Stampings website I found the following information. On the screen capture from the site above you will note the phrase patented anti gunk system by Jean Masson. I clicked on that and was taken to the following information. There are several differences that I can see between this diagram (pictured below) and the pipe I have in hand. The first difference is that the back end of the condensing chamber is flat and does not have an extension or well on the bottom side of the chamber. The entire chamber extends the length of the mortise up to the two airways. The second difference is that the condensing chamber actually continues in the stem and there is a larger draw tube that the smaller tube in the mortise rests in. The third difference is that the stem is military mount and fits into the mortise around the smaller tube in the mortise. The tube seems to extend as far up the airway in the stem as I can see with a flash light.Otherwise the diagram gives an approximate idea of how the system fits together. Anthony sent me several pictures of the Terminus Pipe he was sending to give me a feel for what was coming. Overall it looked to be very workable. There was nothing in the pictures that gave me pause in terms of what it would take to clean it up. It appeared that the finish was basically gone – or it may have been a natural finish it was hard to tell. The horn stem looked interesting. It looked to be quite large and the taper on it was unique to the horn stems that I have worked on and kept in my collection. The tars on the rim did not seem to hide damage to the inner or outer edge of the bowl. The twin draught holes in the bottom of the bowl seemed to be hidden in the cake on the sides of the bowl. The condensation chamber in the mortise had a thick build-up of tars and oils that would be a challenge to get out.
When the package arrived I quickly unwrapped it and took out the pipe. I really like the look and feel of it. It was comfortable in the hand and showed a lot of potential under the worn finish and dirt. It is stamped on a smooth rectangle on the left side of the shank with Serie No. 8349 in an arch over Terminus over Pipe. Under that it is stamped Brevete S.G.D.G. in a reverse arch. On the right side of the shank is a matching rectangle that is stamped 3036 over GP.The first four photos below show the pipe as it appeared to me fresh out of the box. The finish was slightly worn but underneath the tight rusticated pattern (almost a blast) was some beautiful ring grain that shone through the rustication. The bowl appeared to be unstained natural briar and would clean up very nicely. The stem was horn and had some tooth chatter on the top and bottom sides and also a deep tooth mark on both. The colour of the horn varied from a cream colour to a dark brown and seemed to move in waves that ran the length of the stem. When polished this stem would be beautiful.
I decided to address the chatter and bite marks on the stem first. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth chatter and the wear around the button. I also wanted the surface of the stem smooth before I repaired the bite marks. I sanded the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the surface then wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used a drop of clear super glue to fill the holes on the top and bottom. And set it aside for ½ hour for the glue to cure.
When the glue had cured I sanded the two patches with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. The two photos below show the patches after sanding and before I worked over the stem with the medium and fine grit sanding sponge.
I cleaned out the shank, condensing chamber in the shank and stem and the airway in the stem and two airways in the end of the shank using alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I did not use the retort on this one as I am not clear on how the boiling alcohol would affect the horn stem. It took a lot of soaking and scrubbing before the aluminum chamber in the mortise and the chamber in the stem were clean and shiny once more I reamed the pipe back to bare wood and the used a dental pick to clean out the debris from the twin airways in the bottom of the bowl. I scrubbed the surface of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush and then rinsed it off with running water. I dried it off then wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to further clean the dirt and wax from the bowl surface. I scrubbed the aluminum shank band with silver polish and then lightly sanded it with the 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad.
I worked on the tars and oils on the rim with saliva on a cotton pad and then used acetone on a cotton pad and was able to remove all of the build up. The grain really stood out on the rim and was a nice contrast to the rusticated pattern of the bowl. With the mortise and airways cleaned out I decided to use the cotton ball and alcohol treatment on the bowl to remove the heavy aromatic tobacco smell that still hung onto the pipe. I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls and used and ear syringe to fill it with isopropyl alcohol. I let it sit all day while I was at work. When I returned in the evening the oils had wicked out of the briar into the cotton. Once I removed the cotton and the bowl dried out the smell was gone and the bowl was fresh. I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the horn down with Obsidian Oil in between the sanding and while the oil was drying continued to sand with the pads. I find that the oil gives the micromesh the kind of bite on the horn stem that really raises the shine and removes the scratches and marks left behind from age.
After polishing with the micromesh I buffed the stem with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax to protect it. I decided to rub down the bowl with some olive oil on a paper towel. I rubbed over the surface of the bowl so that oil went down into the grooves and soaked in. Once the oil had penetrated the briar I wiped it off with a soft cotton cloth and hand buffed it with a shoe brush. This morning I gently buffed the pipe and stem a final time and gave it a light coat of carnauba wax. I finished by buffing it with a soft flannel buff to give it a shine and make the horn material glow. To me there is nothing more beautiful on these old pipes that the warm luminescence of polished horn. In this case the variations in colours from cream to dark brown and everything in between gave the stem an almost three dimensional look. The oil enlivened the old briar without muting the ring grain that shone through the rustication. To me this old pipe just glows with deep inner warmth that will make it a pleasure to smoke. I am looking forward to the interesting smoke that the twin airway in the bowl and the condensing chamber in the pipe and stem will provide. The draught on the pipe is quite open so it should smoke well. My guess is that it will deliver a cool smoke. The horn stem provides a unique feel in the teeth and mouth that nothing quite rivals. The finished pipe is shown below.
The final photos give a close up view of the parts of the pipe beginning with the cleaned and polished rim and walking you through the condensation chamber and a photo of how the two tubes intersect when the stem is in place.