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Fanfare for the Everyman Pretender

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

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Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
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Website Roadrunner Restored Pipes
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Photos © the Author except as noted

From their inception, Kapp & Peterson’s goal was to make a good smoking pipe that the ordinary, common working man could afford and we believe they have, very admirably, lived up to this.
— From A Peterson Dating Guide: A Rule of Thumb, by Mike Leverette


The restoration this blog recounts has nothing to do with Peterson’s pipes.  Still, the litany of near fabled proportions in pipe lore, that Charles Peterson and the Brothers Kapp, Friedrich and Heinrich, experienced a mutual epiphany of good will toward all, even the less fortunate commoners, still rings forth in perfect, ever-flowing three-part harmony.  The more probable truth, after all – that the good men of K&P had a capital brainstorm in the form of a simple but revolutionary merchandising notion to market early designs of Peterson’s System pipes starting sometime in the last quarter of the 19th century – lacks a certain universal, perpetual attraction, as it were.

Now, I should at least attempt mitigation of the foregoing critique I ’am sure will be perceived by some as an unwarranted attack on one of the last bastions of master pipe craftsmanship, as some readers may misinterpret the kind of remarks I’m prone to make after I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking a matter through.  No kind of disrespect on my part for Peterson of Dublin could be farther from the truth.  One fellow on the Smokers Forums UK who had never met me other than a few cursory cyber comments back and forth once made me the butt of a snarky but harmless jab after I posted a brief description of my restoration of a nice though common System Pipe that I decided to offer for sale given the number of finer samples in my collection.  So far, I’ve bought about 33 Petes I kept, not counting those I passed on to others with the gleam of love in their eyes I know so well.  As I recall the unhappy SF member’s words in typed reply, they were: “Wonders never cease!  I didn’t think I’d live to see the day you would say you could have enough Petersons!”  The member in question warmed up quite a bit after I began flooding his posts with compliments, and they were even genuine.

The real mystery of this blog is the single mark of nomenclature on the entire pipe, even counting the original black Vulcanite/Ebonite bit of the style called “fancy,” but which proved to be broken beyond my time and patience if not ability to repair.  Even the relative ease of the kind of work needed by the likes of Steve to mend a gap in the upper lip of the mouthpiece as gaping as that shown below requires, as our host notes in the blog cited under Sources, much practice.  Also – and this is an important factor, not an excuse – I intend to sell the pipe, not keep it for the shop, and at times have different standards for the two choices.See the date and time stamps?  I worked on the infernal bit from then until a couple of weeks ago before settling on the better part of valor.  As can be seen from the stummel, the pipe is called, with somewhat disingenuous simplicity and similarity to the well-known The Everyman London Pipe by Comoy’s of London (with all of that and more stamping packed onto even the sandblasted versions of the latter).  From the beginning, when I acquired the bedraggled waif in an estate lot at least two years ago and sat on it until late September last year, I had one of those uneasy feelings in my stomach at the mere idea of committing myself in print to the conclusion that it was in fact somehow part of the Comoy’s brood.

Before I snapped my habitual first seven shots of the pipe as it presented in O.R.  with more worthy candidates ahead of it in triage, I began my online search that only further clogged the veritable obstruction in my intestines.  Having made some genuinely heroic efforts on real Everyman and Guildhall London Pipes in my limited time learning this wonderful tradecraft, in the combined senses of the words as well as the more clandestine meaning of the singular, I knew just what to expect from Pipephil and Pipedia but visited both once again anyway.  Variations on this theme continued off and on during the interim period until a few days ago when I took the

Google approach of “I’m feeling lucky” and again entered the terms “Everyman Pipes.”  I swear I typed the same simplest of many search terms I had tried for two years, but this time, in one of those inexplicable flashes of serendipity, the top listing was for P&K Everyman Pipes at JR Cigar!

Growing breathless, I clicked on the link and saw, more or less, my pipe in two other shapes but with the same distinctive fancy bits and rugged vertical striations around the bowls, and both were straight.  One was a billiard, the other a pot, and both, marked down $10, were still, to me, listed at an outrageous $31.95.  Despite all that, I was quite pleased with myself to read the blurb at the top of the page:

“A true example of eye-catching yet economical handcrafted tobacco pipes, the P&K Everyman selection by the famed Comoy’s of London promises a premium pipe-smoking experience at prices that can’t be beat.”

 I scanned further down the search result page, spotting a listing for the same pipe brand at Santa Clara Cigar, possessed of a remarkable resemblance to JR but with the Comoy’s blurb, ahem, omitted.  Nevertheless, at the fourth of five shapes down, there was my pipe, the P&K Straight Rustic #9, a Dublin.  Better later than never, the idea of looking up P&K Everyman pipe images occurred to me and at the top I saw the following, being the perfect factory image of my pipe.

OK, then.  As supremely pleased with myself as I was at this morsel of intel, even if some faiths that consider pride a sin could be right, I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Nitwit Party, whose followers believe everything they read on the Internet or hear on TV is the truth.  There are many reasons for my worldview, not the least of which being my years as a newspaper journalist and photographer, as opposed to a photojournalist.  I sold my first news article when I was 15, and when I was 17 became credentialed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office as an official police and justice beat reporter for a community paper.  My publisher, editor and I tried the year before, and although there was no real age clause at the time (1978), the powers-that-were in the L.A.S.O. were too – well – pig-headed to relent until I gave everyone in the issuing bureau a major headache re-applying on the first of every month.

I try, no joke, not to pester Steve with questions to which I can find or – OMG! – figure out on my own using the brain that was between my ears at birth and, operating best on the right side of it, form a working plan to press on.  One of my best qualities is the willingness to admit at once when I am wrong, which in fact is a very good thing because I have had much more experience with that than, say, repairing bits with outlandish holes gnawed through them by people with Intermittent Explosive Disorder or tardive dyskinesia.  And no, I’m not making fun of people with disabilities, in particular schizophrenics, who seem to have been drawn to me all of my life, other than most of those in my family for some reason.  It’s sort of Cole Seer’s dramatic need in The Sixth Sense, having to be like a shrink to dead people. At any rate, Steve is one of the busiest, most productive persons I know, traveling the world almost non-stop, it seems at times,  doing good works while never letting on that his constant other full-time “job” writing and publishing mostly his own pipe restoration adventures and posting those of other contributors online.  All of this last part is by way of a drum roll of sorts.

You see, had I not called and left a brief message on Steve’s phone before emailing him more than the full details, as par for the course, I never would have received back the following concise words of wisdom as to the possibilities of who really made the Everyman Rustic Dublin on which I’m so very close now to describing all of the work I did!  Yes, I am!  Steve’s reply, in pertinent part, read:

I got your message when I got home late last evening and then read the email this morning.  I have not heard of the P&K brand and Everyman pipe does not at all look English to me. I am wondering if it could  possibly be from one of two original makers.

1. Alpha pipes Israel made for the cigar shop – the finish, style of the bowl and the stem make it look very much like many Alpha Israel pipes ) pre-Grabow ownership.

2. Lorenzo pipes Italy as they made many basket pipes for different shops.

That is as much as I would hazard to guess.

If I’ve ever needed Steve’s direction in research for a restore, this was it!  There is no way I would have reached those conclusions with such apparent ease and speed, in fact not ever, no how, no way, because I just don’t have his experience.  I mean, if there were a way I could get him to donate me a spare kidney or maybe his spleen so I could, like, grow all of his knowledge, why, I’d lie down on the table and do it in a heartbeat.  For now I guess I just need to get busy buying up and devouring and going back to again and again all of the great reference books out there, such as Who Made That Pipe?  The bottom line here is that Steve’s tip came back so fast my head spun like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist, not to overdo the whole movie thing.

All I had to do was figure out how to look up the Lorenzo and Alpha possibilities, which I knew I could manage, and I did a few minutes after reading Steve’s email.  The funniest place the Lorenzo idea led me was to some images of my own restoration of a gigantic Spitfire by Lorenzo Mille I restored and blogged just before Hallowe’en 2014.  The money card turned out to be with the pre-DrG Alphas made in Israel.  I found the following oddly familiar-appearing Burl Briar Freehand Pipes on eBay, complete with the same fancy bits curved just so.

Case closed.


The bit aside, the only real problem with the pipe, and it was a real problem to be sure, was the rim.  Char and even the worst blistering from a close call with full-blown combustion, which so far I’ve had the opportunity to witness only with homemade corncobs, have often occasioned rise to heated anger but never cold feet.  (I – tender my apologies for all three puns.)  My mother for many years rose in the nursing world and enriched my vocabulary with terms the likes of crispy critter, with all of their brio, and sometimes spread cat cadavers across the dining room table, both extenders in place, on a single large thermo scientific wrap-around cover.  Thus I looked at the “easy” heat damage and the acute and problematic jagged rim edge and unequal width of the bowl’s peak with a logical, methodical approach that began to form.

I expect to blog my restores with the methods fresh in my mind.  There are even some of the jobs I hold special from the past few years that I’m sure I’ll never forget a single detail.  Not to suggest this was common or insignificant, but after nine months I can’t remember the specifics of how I accomplished the result of the first shot below.  The chamber had to be reamed, and when I do that I always follow up with 150-, 220- and 320-grit paper, so that’s a given.  I’m guessing I started with micro mesh on the rim just for the sake of trying and found it ineffective.  Then I would have turned to sandpaper and chosen 220 with the same rationale as the micro mesh but opted for 180 with the usual progression up to 400 before starting in on micro mesh and stopping when I realized I would have to solve the other obvious problems with more drastic steps.  Here are the results I just described, and after the drastic measure of a file.Healing the wounds of a procedure I consider radical enough that I have only used it less than the number of fingers I have on a hand (or, rather, considering the thumb is not technically a finger, the same number), in fact is not all that difficult in most cases, and seeing the result of the steps is always a great pleasure.  I used 180-, 220-, 320- and 400-grit paper, and then 1500-12000 micromesh on the rim.Then, I began the rest of the outer stummel.  Starting with super fine “0000” steel wool to lighten the color of the wood and easily get between the grooves, I switched to the full micro mesh.It was time for the retort.  As always, I was glad I did it, because this little stummel was filthy!  I have done as many as six retorts on a single pipe, and this one “only” needed three, all of them clearer.  I had no bit to connect to the shank and therefore had to stretch the rubber connector over the opening.  I show only the first round below.  I also followed the final retort with three cleaners dipped in alcohol alternated with three dry, all of which came out clean.Applying alcohol-based leather stain and flaming it is always fun, and I used Fiebings Medium Brown on all but the rim to leave a definite two-tone.  When it cooled, I wiped away the char and a little extra darkness with 8000 micro mesh. I hand-rubbed a sparing amount of Halcyon II Wax into the wood and crevices of the rusticated pipe for which it is made, not to be frugal but because a little goes a long way.  In most cases, I let it dry or set or whatever as much as it can, in general 20 minutes or so but sometimes a considerable time longer, and wiped the excess off with a soft cotton rag while rubbing more into the pores of the wood.  Other times, I let the setting process go on for a considerable time longer, but not often.  I was then almost finished with the long project and was more than prepared to accomplish the final main task,  filled with joy to tackle (thinking of football) the key part of the  experience: fitting one of two fancy Lucite stems, an orange and a yellow, that arrived in the mail – eight months after I finished the stummel.  In case anyone wondered at my persnickety comments regarding the amount of time I spent on a certain bit of work trying to repair a part of the original Everyman that I will now leave unnamed, in my own way, that’s why.

I went with the golden bit to the right.  As a point of interest, the popular online site where I bought a total of three bits in one order listed these two as gold, but the system is a touch odd, to me at least, and also the viewing system for the product you in fact get wasn’t working that day for all items, including the yellow bit.  But I can use it, and it was inexpensive!  Having none of the finer and more expensive equipment for tenon cutting, I hand-sanded the shank insert end down to where it had a nice, tentative fit for the time being.  That task took another day.  Making use /of another of Steve’s blogs, on bending stems, I chose the oven method because it had worked so well on several occasions in the past with Vulcanite.  BTW, I doubt the Lucite was the problem.  I always take a look in the mirror before pointing a finger lest I see three others pointed right back at me.  I say, go figure!  After that mishap, I switched to the boiling water method that worked better but I’m sure was spoiled by already having baked the bit. I repeated the boiling method and achieved the desired bend.  Halcyon II was is meant to be used in place of regular buffing wheel waxes and compounds, but I wanted a slightly brighter finish, and so I ended with spins of Red Tripoli and carnauba.


Even regardless of its look, and by that I mean nothing rude, the likelihood of this pipe being of British make – lacking any indication of such origin, whether the city or country of manufacture, a line name, or the often top secret coded markings of which our friends across the Pond are so fond – is so paltry as to end any further debate lacking official admissible documentary evidence.  WikiLeaks might suffice, in particular if the disseminator were to flee his country or be arrested or renditioned or still more conclusively, become the subject of cover page stories of the world’s tabloid toilet wipes.  On the other hand, and here I am not being facetious, if my already stated conclusion that the simple but honorable Everyman is a blast from the past of the pre-Dr. Grabow Alpha days of Israel, made by the Shalom Pipe Factory, and I am in fact wrong, I would as always appreciate input from any authorities or scholars among us.










A Review of “Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur,” and the Original Text

Review by Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
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“Look at almost any painting.  Three-quarters of the can vas is covered by the background.  Tradition is the background of our life.  Take away the background, and you have spoilt the painting.”
— Charles Rattray (1880-1964), quoted in “Up in Smoke,” article by Russell Kirk, Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 9, 1956A FOREWORD FOR MODERN TOBACCO CONNOISSEURS

Charles Rattray

Had I not chanced upon one of Gregory L. Pease’s always informative and entertaining essays in a browser search for better information about Charles Rattray, the late great Scottish tobacco blender, than the scads of teasing, contradictory bits and pieces that clutter the so-called Information Superhighway, I might never have learned about the “Disquisition.”  I was working on a review of Rattray’s Jocks Mixture, determined to dig up some real dirt about the blend and the methods of the man whose name was on the tall orange tin.  Just when I thought I had wasted almost an hour making frequent refinements to the search terms, up popped Mr. Pease’s listing at the top of the page, with the wholly irrelevant seeming title “Those Pesky Non-Polar Molecules.”  Doubtful but intrigued, I scanned the URL’s blurb that ended with the incomplete sentence, “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition….”  Stifling some very ugly words even though I would have been the only human to hear them, but with the presence of mind to consider the sensibilities of my cat, Tiger Lily, I jabbed the blue link.

Speed reading the piece, the gist of which was fine and dandy but all about the different ways to preserve tobacco and maybe even improve its taste, blah-blah-blah, I came across the sentence I was gasping to find.  As I read, I stopped breathing altogether.  Here are the only words in the entire essay, which I saved to my Favorites because I gathered enough to know I would enjoy the real subject more at a later date (as I did), that began my quest anew: “In fact, Charles Rattray, in his ‘Disquisition for the Pipe Smoker,’ wrote that the last bowl from his tins would be the best.”

And so, typing the given title for another search, I saw there were 1,950 entries, the top three being other links to the same article by Mr. Pease, followed by everything from pipe smoking in Middle Earth to a disquisition on the evils of using tobacco.  Well, I can tell you, I had just about had it.  But being relentless, I added “rattray” before the same title, and although the possibilities were a touch fewer at 1,139, well down the first page I felt a glimmer of hope in the description of a site called “Welcome to the Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage, and Cellaring FAQ!”  Maybe the exclamation point stopped me enough to spy, among various sentence fragments separated by more damned ellipsis marks, one with Rattray’s in bold and another being “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Clicking on this link to verify that Mr. Rattray was indeed the author of said Disquisition, I had to exercise a level of patience that is atypical to my normal threshold, and forced myself to venture 47 pages – or halfway down my scroll bar – into the bowels of the collection of documents, on the subject with the exclamatory heading noted above, before I came across yet another Mr. Pease quote, this one referring to Rattray’s “Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  Why, in the name of all that’s holy, I beseeched myself, had I not just Googled that whole term in the first place?  At any rate, there is a purpose to all of this verbiage.

Mindful of not being the only tobacco pipe aficionado to have read the famous and extraordinary discourse by Mr. Rattray, founder of the famed House of Rattray, I am certain of the high probability that still many more like-minded pipe folks out there remain oblivious to its existence.   The sole reasons for such a detailed description of the blocks I encountered while hunting for a bona fide version of the work are to demonstrate the sometimes arduous task of locating the exact document one knows exists somewhere, even with search terms one would have every right to believe are sufficient, and to make the fruit of this personal crusade available with fewer trials to others who also seek accurate details of Mr. Rattray’s lifework, including his own published wisdom.  The Disquisition that follows my foreword is essential reading toward that end.  The clear opinions in this opening commentary are my own.

Steve Laug is, as am I, an acknowledged enthusiast of the habitual conditions called Pipe Acquisition Disorder (P.A.D.), Tobacco Acquisition Disorder (T.A.D.) and Pipe Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder (PTAD) – which I propose henceforth be referenced in combined form as Pipe, Tobacco and Tobacciana Acquisition Disorder, or PTTAD for those of us who are self-diagnosed or in denial.  As such (with an emphasis on PTAD, under which category I suppose the Disquisition falls), Steve published the same copy in 2012, calling the booklet a catalog and adding only a brief opening comment recommending it to readers.  The full name of the 30-page tract is somewhat misleading given the use of the prepositional phrase “on Tobacco Blending” followed by the subtitle “A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.”  The two parts combined suggest far more particulars of the contents of the Rattray’s mixtures, meaning the nine available when the Disquisition was written, than the blender’s seminal publication reveals.  Even so, the work remains a fascinating insight into the personality and philosophy of its author as much from its disclosures as its omissions.  Some of these show apparent deliberation while others tend perhaps toward the subconscious.  By the way, as of today, more than 40 Rattray’s blends have been released.

My frustration locating an online copy of the great work, even after the attempts already described and one more that pulled up a boggling number of references in tobacco discussions, articles and commentaries, turned out to be the result of my own failure, which I concede in advance was a bit stupid, to add the single word “online” after the second part of the Disquisition’s name.  In frustration, and with my tail between my legs, I dispatched a message to Mr. Pease, an eminent blender of fine pipe tobaccos in his own right, soliciting his aid.   His quick and thoughtful response led to the copy included here in its entirety, and by example to links of many others.  A quick but excited first reading set my mind abuzz with perceptions garnered from the primary source of this review that for the most part I did not find echoed anywhere else in my research.

Unlike some facsimiles, the PDF to which I was guided includes curious handwritten notes on the title page and one other.  Having exhausted every means of deciphering the words, which I considered might or might not be in English, and even consulting online Scottish alphabet and cursive handwriting sources, I made an unconditional surrender as to the words on the title page.  Regarding those on page 22, I ventured a guess that I thought was grasping.  In the end of this particular pursuit, I reached out for Steve’s almost encyclopedic opinion.  Two mornings ago, just in time to begin the final revisions to this review (or so I thought), I was rewarded with his agreement, in the latter of two responses via email, that the second note seems to be “write re shipping.”  But Steve’s initial response, appearing in my inbox below the other and concerning the title page, astounded me.  He interpreted it as a name, “Sh q. Jensen.”  Smiling and nodding in silence, almost laughing out loud, I revisited the title page and could only concur – with one suggested amendment: building upon Steve’s astute conclusion, the notion that Sh might be an abbreviation taken from some book owners’ proprietary need to write or in other more OCD examples stamp words to the effect of “From the library of (insert name),” I reasoned that Sh could be an abbreviation for “shelf,” as in “From the shelf of Q. Jensen.”  With a final search for words and acronyms involving the two letters in question, I confirmed the wild guess at the fifth Web link in my list of sources.

Nevertheless, the original year of the Disquisition’s distribution remains a mystery, but be assured I will not give up trying to find a definitive determination.  For now, I can report with certainty that the booklet was issued much later than I had believed, considering the extended quote on page 2, replete with the type of romantic nostalgia popular to many Scots of great and lesser renown, and most often encountered in the bawdy singing heard in pubs of that proud and sentimental country that forms roughly the northern half of Great Britain.  Attributed to a certain gentleman whose prose leaves no doubt he was a Scotsman with literary aspirations, by the name of B.A. Forbes, the essay, titled “Snuff – and the ‘Forty-Five’,” appeared in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts in August 1936.  For the edification of anyone familiar with or interested in this magazine, it was published under that name in London from 1854-1956 as the continuation of its predecessor, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (1832-1853, published in Edinburgh).

For a glimpse at Rattray’s nationalistic pride and his personality in general, and tobacco blending philosophy in particular, the primary source of which I have already hinted, of course, is Rattray’s Booklet on Tobacco Blending: A Disquisition for the Connoisseur.  Again, there are frequent mentions of “Rattray’s Disquisition” or just “the Disquisition,” the latter reminiscent of rare classical music masterpieces, for example Johan Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major for strings, with its alternating melancholy and somewhat more upbeat parts, being referred to as “the Canon”; J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ, called “the Fugue,” and Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor for strings and organ, a work of a profound  sense of impending doom that builds into an almost harrowing conclusion, known as “the Adagio.”

The Disquisition is divided into eight parts: an informal preface; the foreword proper; a synopsis of the five elements of creating what the master blender and author called the House of Rattray’s “adherence to the true unhurried craftsmanship, the secret of our success;” six blends specifically identified as Scottish Mixtures, showing their domestic prices; “Cabinet,” or sampler pack choices with their prices; three All-Virginian Mixtures giving the same pricing; Export Prices for the pipe tobaccos, and, described last but with effusive pomp, Rattray’s Hand Made Cigarette (the Golden Leaf of Old Virginia), the reason “why we have one cigarette and one only,” again with domestic and Export Prices depending on the quantity ordered.  All prices are stated in shillings and pence.  For example, the lowest domestic price per ¼ lb. tin of Red Rapparee and Black Mallory is shown as 9/2, or nine shillings two pence.

Every pipester, as Mr. Pease sometimes calls us, whether he coined the term or not, should give the Disquisition thorough consideration.  If the reader is as inquisitive as I am, he (and I use the pronoun in the formal writing sense, not to exclude the many women among us) will find himself more and more engrossed, compelled to keep turning the pages, as it were.  In fact, I, for one, hope someday to own a genuine, ink and paper original printed edition of the prideful, almost swaggering presentation.  Moving forward from the weathered but elegant title page, take in every detail and nuance that combine to create a portrait of Charles Rattray, the man, the Scot and the tobacco blender.

Read every word of the text, as all of them were chosen by the author with the skill of a master craftsman, the cunning and wile of a politician avoiding the real answers to questions, the reluctance of the true chef to reveal too many secrets of his recipes – and, last but above all else, the fierce pride of the Scotsman who created the invaluable legacy of the now almost forgotten traditions of quality tobacco blending.

Study every image of antique statuettes and jars, each of them a special illustration of the centuries old history, traditions and values of the tobacconist’s trade, and singled out by the hands of the founder of the House of Rattray from his family’s vast, treasured collection.

Don’t miss a single quote related to the enjoyment of pipes and tobaccos, selected by Mr. Rattray with the same attention to history and tradition that is the theme of his Disquisition, which further illustrate the purpose behind his vocation and business, and when combined with the images of priceless tobacciana are especially telling of his sentiments.    Beginning with the longest from B.A. Forbes found at the end of the preface, the quotes, all derived from sources subject to the British Crown, continue in small bars heading each page of the following Foreword and the synopsis of the four fundamental preparatory acts, with the fifth being the final choices of which leafs and their quantities to choose for a given blend, and provide an enhanced understanding of the Rattray story.

That story and a large part of Mr. Rattray’s pride began with the Clan Rattray.  According to legend, the Clan dates to the early11th century, when Malcolm II, born c. 954, King of Scots from 1005 until his death in 1034,  granted one of the first men of the Rattray surname –which at the time was an ancient variation –the position of Laird of Rattray.  The royal appointment as laird, or landed proprietor, gave the early Rattray immediate authority over the occupants of Perthshire, now the County of Perth, and also made him accountable to the king for payment of certain incomes in that period’s equivalent of taxes.  It was true then as it is now: every promotion comes with a price.  For more details of the legend of Clan Rattray’s origin, based on the accounts passed down through the family for more or less a millennium, there is as always a link in my sources.

When Mr. Rattray died in 1964, his son, Charles Rattray, Jr., inherited the Scottish tobacco throne.  At some unclear point in the 1970s (or, in the alternative provided by less reliable sources, the 1960s), Robert McConnell Tobaccos of London assumed responsibility for some of the Rattray’s blends.  Which specific blends is unclear, depending on the source consulted.  Some say all of the Rattray’s English blends were assigned to McConnell; others posit the vague notion that “blends intended for export to the U.S.,” which category begs interpretation as either specific blend names made for sale in the U.S. alone, or those that were available here.  Either way, the latter idea seems, perhaps only to me, laughable considering the lack of any handy evidence supporting a theory that any product made by Rattray’s was excluded for sale in the rest of the world or not available to U.S. importers.  The tenuous claims I have mentioned are intended for the reader’s own conclusion or, I hope, to inspire debate, and in no way alter the fact that both McConnell and Kohlhase Kopp became involved in the evolution of the House of Rattray after the founder’s death, with the latter at whatever date assuming current ownership.  I always desire and appreciate input readers may have concerning these or any other statements I make in my various contributions to this forum.

The complete transition of Rattray’s ownership is also subject to debate.  Kohlhasse Kopp & Co. of Germany was formed in 1979, not long before the universal dating of the House of Rattray’s closure in 1980.  The question remains, however, whether McConnell ever had complete control of Rattray’s production until 1990, when the best sources I can find assert Kohlhasse Kopp’s acquisition.  There is no doubt, at least, that Rattray’s pipe tobaccos are now manufactured in Denmark.

I will leave the final point of contention in the worldwide community of tobacco pipe smokers, relative to the overall quality of Rattray’s products after Mr. Rattray’s death, to the many members of that clan.

Antique Fairweather & Sons tobacco tin, courtesy of the Internet

If there is such a thing as predestination, Charles Rattray is the perfect example.  The man who can reasonably be credited with perfecting if not creating a style of tobacco known today as the Scottish mixture was born in Dundee – where he began learning the skills and knowledge that led to his long reign as the premier blender in Scotland – at Fairweather & Sons.  Some of his early blends while in the employ of Fairweather were deemed suitable for sale at that establishment.

House of Rattray, found on Pipedia

The details of Rattray’s ascension to the throne vary in the sources cited at the end, but my account of his rise is based on the most reliable of these.  He remained in Dundee until 1903, when, at only 23, he set out for the capitol city of Perth and worked at the Brown Tobacco Shop on High Street 158, which he purchased eight years later and renamed as the House of Rattray. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.



Identifying, Categorizing and Refurbishing a Masta Diplomat

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
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Photos © the Author except as noted

“Who are you?” [Inigo Montoya screamed to the man in black.]
“No one of import.  Another lover of the blade.”
“I must know!”
“Get used to disappointment.”

— William Goldman (b. 1931), U.S. novelist, playwright, screenwriter, in The Princess Bride, Ch. 5, 1973

Having a firm belief that no one and nothing in this world exists without importance and consequence, although whether for good or bad is debatable, I have developed a certain passion for inquiring of those I think might have the answers I seek.  When on frequent occasions that approach fails, I research.  By no means do I always find conclusive documentation, but I’m with Inigo Montoya in the great story of the power of true love referenced above, rejecting the worldview of growing accustomed to disappointment.  When successful, I tend to be thorough; when I strike out, it’s more like crashing and burning.

By way of an example of a success story, I found myself unable to make out any nomenclature on the pipe this blog concerns other than Made in London above England, and below that what looked like 140.  I went on a hunch that it might be a Comoy’s and consulted a meticulous list of that maker’s shape numbers.  They skipped from 133 to 158.  At this early, eyes-on exam stage of the refurbish, I was not even convinced the first digit of the shape was a 1 – it might have been a mere scratch – and so I looked for just 40.  Both that and 41 were missing.  Thus, for the sake of pure curiosity, I made my way all the way up through the 800s and discovered that Comoy’s has a 340 and a 440, both straight and with an M denoting Medium (the former a billiard and the latter a Rhodesian, FYI).

Nowhere near the point of declaring defeat, I took what some Internet search engines refer to as the “I’m Feeling Lucky” approach and Googled “tobacco pipe 140 shape number.”  I should have been in Vegas with the hit I got that was luckier than my wildest dreams, for at the top of the list on the first page was “Images of tobacco pipe 140 shape number.”  The third of these in the preview window was the spitting image of my pipe, albeit a sandblasted version.masta1 Armed with a brand name, I looked first in Pipephil, where I read of Masta being a British pipe brand founded in about 1900 that was “integrated to Parker-Hardcast[le] Ltd in 1967.” Pipephil, as it turned out, had a shape chart that was not savable. That’s why I tracked down this copy elsewhere, showing shape 140, a Diplomat, relegated to the end under “Other Shapes.”masta2 Here is a 1938 bill of sale from the Masta Patent Pipe Co. Ltd. to Las Vieilles Bruyères de Corse. (Old Briars of Corsica).masta3 Once again I found discordant information on a brand, and this time differing views of its quality. Moving to Pipedia provided the fullest overall account of Masta’s lineage, with the same approximate information as Pipephil, but noted the complete full name as the Masta Patent Pipe Company Ltd. Pipedia goes still further in pointing out that the brand seems to be out of production, and since Dunhill owns Parker/Hardcastle, it is therefore a big part of the picture. Claiming, without source citation, that as part of Parker/Hardcastle, Masta was produced “primarily for the Scandinavian market,” the Pipedia entry concludes with an unfortunate appraisal that “Masta was at the end rarely the equal of a Parker.”

This last rather snarky comment, which paints Masta as inferior rather than superior to Parker (but leaves Hardcastle unmentioned), is also vague and raises several issues. One, when indeed did the manufacture of Masta pipes end? Two, in what way or ways was the brand somehow less than the implied superlative qualities of a Parker? Three, given Dunhill’s standards during the period of time in question, which I acknowledge is uncertain but clear enough, why would that great pipe maker assign an insignificant brand to Parker/Hardcastle, much less make such a careless purchase in the first place? Four, for argument’s sake (and I am not making this argument), let me throw in the key question: if Pipedia is right, could an antipathy of the two proud old British pipe houses toward the perceived interloper, Masta, have affected a decline in the quality of the new kid on the block? The last part is thrown in as something to chew on, that’s all.

I propose the following answers to these basic questions.
1. The end of the line for Masta remains undetermined, but the probable answer is sometime in the early to mid-1970s.
2. In no way whatsoever are Masta pipes either inferior or superior to Parker. Both brands are often sandblasted to hide blemishes or stained dark enough that any irregular grain is obscured. There are, of course, gorgeous exceptions in both brands.
3. Dunhill’s acquisition of Masta was anything but uncalculated. The reasons Dunhill purchased Masta were premeditated to cash in on the market for well-made pipes that could be offered at lower prices, and to eliminate one more of the many competitors of the day.
4. Addressing the possibility that an overblown and unwarranted competitive drive could have existed, with Parker and Hardcastle gunning to discredit and eliminate the hapless Masta, all I can do is resurrect the great line from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in”: You bet your sweet bippy it could have. But to be fair, there is a lack of strong support for this theory.
masta4masta5 An account of the – ahem – sticky history between Dunhill and Hardcastle comes from the trustworthy source of Iwan Ries and Co. Ltd., tobacconists since 1857. Founded in 1908, Hardcastle made for itself a solid reputation “among the numerous British mid-graders.” [Emphasis added on the final word.] Then, in 1935, Dunhill made a somewhat bold challenge to Hardcastle, throwing down the glove as it were, by commencing construction of a new factory smack next-door. Within a year, the Hardcastle family had sold 49% of the interest in its business to Dunhill.

In 1946, Dunhill delivered the final blow to Hardcastle, buying its remaining shares and consuming it altogether into a mere Dunhill subsidiary. Members of the Hardcastle clan were allowed to continue serving on its board and retain a semblance of independence that came to an end in 1967 when – you guessed it – Hardcastle was put to the final indignity of being merged with the likes of Dunhill’s Parker Pipe Co. created in 1923. On top of everything else, being forced to tolerate close-quarters with a riff-raff commoner such as the Masta Patent Pipe Co. Ltd. must have been the harrowing final straw for both Parker and Hardcastle.

Now we come to another authority concerning Masta: a British seller of estate pipes called Reborn Briar (no relation to this forum). Call me biased if you like, but this site being situated in the same country of manufacture of all four of the related brands mentioned, I suspect it might have an upper hand as far as insights are concerned.

According to Reborn Briar, Dunhill acquired Masta in 1960 as one of its own seconds, seven years before the Parker/Hardcastle additions and reassignment of the Masta name. A splendid-looking Masta Patent Pipe Co. natural tall billiard sitter that was sold by Reborn Briar for GB£40 (a tad more than US$51 at today’s exchange rate) can be seen at the first source link below. An obvious smooth version of the sandblast pictured above, the pipe has beautiful birds-eye grain and a sleek but sturdy look to it, by every angle shown ready to provide a cool, pleasant tobacco enjoying experience. I would, in fact, be happy to add the pipe to my own collection at that price.

Last but not least is the telling information about Dunhill’s low view of Parker pipes that is related with chilling, blunt eloquence by Cup o‘ Joes. To begin, consider Dunhill’s word for the pre-worked stummels it passed on to Parker as “its failings,” rather than the standard term seconds, for stummels deemed less than ideal for use with its own name under the quintessential English pipe maker’s exacting standards of excellence. In fact, during the early relationship between Dunhill and Parker, many of the unfinished pipes it dumped on Parker bore a large X over the Dunhill stamp. Even “Damaged Price” with the actual revised amount was made a permanent imprint in the wood. What’s more, not just a minor flaw or two separated a pipe destined to be a Parker instead of a Dunhill. The crude shapes passed off to Parker would have been rejected altogether after the initial turning process because of significant flaws. Perhaps most telling of the Dunhill-Parker unhappy connection is a lack of any documentation that Dunhill ever marketed or advertised Parkers in its catalogs or stores. For more details on this no-doubt stressed liaison, see the last source link below.

Nuff said about that.

masta6masta7masta8masta9 The first order of business was scooping out old tobacco that had the unusual appearance of being better suited for cigarettes.masta10 I ran a few Everclear-soaked cleaners through the shank and bit before giving most of the stummel a nice, long soak in alcohol, careful to an almost neurotic state not to leave the shank submerged. I will never forget the GBD Prestige debacle in which I obliterated the last remaining revenant-like nomenclature, and was determined to avoid the same mistake. I made periodic turns of the bowl in the Everclear to keep the stripping of old finish even. I have heard that using strong alcohol to clean Lucite air holes can lead to severe damage to the polymethyl methacrylate plastic (the same as Perspex). Perhaps that is so, but in my experience a quick job of it is safe and effective. No harm was done to this bit in its refurbish.masta11masta12 After about an hour and a half, I removed the stummel from the alcohol, worked one regular pipe cleaner (not bristled and not extra fluffy) through the shank and another through the bit, to dry the inside of the plastic and ensure no damage; stuffed a small soft cotton gun cleaner cloth into the chamber and scrubbed that area dryer while doing the same to the outer part of the wood. I took off the remaining stain with 320-grit paper.masta13masta14 The bit, while a good match for the easy bent Diplomat shape of the original Vulcanite one that came engraved with an M on the pipe, was not an even fit to the shank. Note the gap. Holding the bit and the opening of the shank side by side up to a light, I saw the problem was in the bit that was uneven on the right side of the second picture below (the left in the photo). I admit I still have trouble with the counter-intuitive nature of thinking my way through how to adjust this kind of misalignment, but I used 150-grit paper in slow, patient steps until it fit.masta15masta16masta17 Then I reamed the chamber and sanded it with 150-, 220- and 500-grit paper.masta18 Micro meshing the stummel all the way from 1500-12000, the briar took on a nice, darker shine.masta19masta20masta21 After applying Fiebing’s medium brown boot conditioner and flaming the alcohol out of it, I progressed from 3600-12000 micromesh before achieving the lightness I wanted with superfine “0000” steel wool.masta22masta23masta24masta25masta26 The tenon was undersized, making the bit spin, and so I added a small layer of Black Super Glue. After it dried, I retorted the pipe – again violating established practice by boiling the Everclear through the Lucite bit and into the chamber, but also again with complete success.masta27 Very gentle turning of the steel wool around the tenon took it from an over-tight fit to just right, twisting onto the bit with ease. When the retort was finished, I once more ran a cleaner through the bit’s air hole to assure it stayed in shape, and both ends of two more in the shank until they came out clean.

Thinking the bit was done, upon closer examination I noticed very fine scratches. I decided to see if an OxiClean soak would work those out, and indeed it did. I completed the project by running the bit on the clean electric buffer and the stummel using brown Tripoli and carnauba, alternated on the “clean” buffer, which, by the way, I do in fact clean on a regular basis.masta28masta29masta30masta31
Masta pipes, before and during their affiliation with Dunhill/Parker/Harcastle, were well-crafted instruments for enjoying tobacco and, in many cases, beautiful pieces of work. Whatever the reason for its eventual demise, the Masta Patent Pipe Co. Ltd. name should be remembered, and the examples of its creations available for purchase today are more than worthy of consideration by pipers in general and collectors in particular. Or maybe vice-versa.



Annals of Pipe Crimes: The 42-Minute Meerschaum Job

Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
http://www.roadrunnerpipes21.biz (under construction)

Photos © the Author except as noted

Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.
— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright and poet, in Romeo and Juliet, Act. 2, Sc. 3

Let me begin by apologizing in advance for the end results of this over-fast cleaning job I insisted on undertaking, at no charge, for a schizophrenic friend.  Now, having admitted I was a party to the injustice perpetrated against a certain meerschaum pipe with potential for a far more beautiful future, I must beg mitigating circumstances that in this case call for an affirmative defense, which shall be made apparent.

My friend, Fred (not his real name), who can by no means be described as an aficionado of pipes, on several occasions remarked that his father used to collect them.  I noted the past tense in my mind while keeping my mouth shut, as my own father often urged me to do.  A couple of months ago I sold Fred a Guildhall London Pipe straight pot (a Comoy’s second) for $10.  He was so excited by my box of restored pipes, the way a kid looks through a store window at a shiny toy he wants, that I could not help myself.  I also happened to need gas or I might have had to walk home.  But the deal was not all about money; I had a nice no-name that would have left my challenged friend, and almost anyone else, just as happy.

Still, to my perception, the Guildhall suited him better, and when he asked for my advice I replied in good faith.  I put considerable work into making that vintage pipe shine again.  Looking back at the two-year-old blog, I see where I now could remove the tooth chatter altogether.  Still, compared to the horror with which I started, the straight pot was like new.meera meerbAnd so, the stories I started hearing from my guileless friend were disturbing.  You see, the anti-psychotic cocktail some head-shrinker prescribed to Fred caused permanent tics and muscle spasms, as well as other occasional unpleasant side effects.

That easy observation explained, at least to me, Fred’s blunt disclosure one day that he bit off the mouthpiece.  Despite my sincere offer to seek out a replacement for the bitten bit, Fred declined with vehemence, insisting that it worked just fine even though he had some trouble keeping it between his lips.  With that mental image, I confess to having some difficulty keeping a straight face.  Somehow I managed to sit back and return his wide-eyed gaze with a clinical stare any psychoanalyst would envy (irony intended).

Then, not long after the bite reflex account, Fred blurted to me that he had lost the remainder of the bit.  It had just disappeared while he was vacuuming and was nowhere to be found.  He said he looked everywhere for the gnawed scrap of Vulcanite – my description, not his – and that it had vanished without a trace.  When I asked if he checked the vacuum bag, the look on his face was unnerving, but my considerable first-hand experience dealing with schizophrenics, some in my own family, served me well once more.  Fred’s eyes narrowed, perhaps seeking to discern if I were as crazy as he or only joking.  My relief when he at last grinned, his entire expression returning to its normal manic happy face, was intense.  He never answered my question.

And so I pressed on, bent on sparking a connection between two or more of his synapses, by asking if he remembered where he was when he last saw the pipe whole, meaning more or less.

“It was right there,” he said as his arm pointed off into thin air, having an apparent vision of the place he meant that I was sure I would never share.  But he continued, thank God.  Part of me needed to know.  This, no doubt, is where the offhand claim that insanity is contagious comes from.  “It was right there, on the shelf, where I always put it.  I remember I took the stem out and put both parts there on the shelf, in case one of them fell or something, they wouldn’t both get broke.”

I had to give a genuine nod of my head to that logic.  My senses returning, I assured Fred the bit had to be there, somewhere, that it didn’t get up and walk out the door.  He gave me a good smile at that.   I advised Fred to keep looking everywhere the bit could not possibly be.  I even tried to explain the famous Sherlock Holmes maxim from “The Sign of Four” and suggested a few possibilities, including the refrigerator and freezer.  When that look started to reappear, I changed the subject, as I will do again now.

The long and short of it is that Fred’s dad did have an impressive collection of pipes, until he passed away at an advanced age of non-tobacco-related reasons.  At that point, the collection was distributed according to the man’s final wishes.  Fred’s share included three and a half very nice pieces: an uncommon rustic Dublin Everyman stummel, being another Comoy’s second related to Fred’s Guildhall; a Thompson cherry wood, both the shape and material, from the Elbert Gubbels stable; an easy bent Author, stamped on the bottom of the shank Made in London above England, and after at least an hour of scrutiny through my jeweler’s magnifier lenses, the shape number 140; and the amazing meerschaum to which this account will soon come.  [I was sure the unknown #140 was another Comoy’s until I sniffed it out online, listed as a Masta Author.  Masta was an English maker founded about 1900 that was bought by Parker-Hardcastle in 1967.]

And now I will explain the slight problem.  Fred was happy to let me take the Everyman stummel, Thompson and Masta the night he showed them to me, with my promise to pay him an amount upon which we agreed.  He was, however, obdurate, as only someone with schizophrenia can be, in his apparent lack of trust in my able care to take the meerschaum pipe home with me where I could give it the attention it so needed.  His mind was set like the steel trap my own used to be.  He was in earnest, would not equivocate or retreat a single inch, to paraphrase the American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.  If only I could have explained that quote to Fred, I might have made him understand the extreme hard place he put me in.

Fred, to make it clear, did not care if I left the pipe in the filthy, scratched condition it was in.  It was the single gift from his beloved father that he had – with very good taste and judgment – chosen to keep for his own, and he was not about to let it out of his sight.  As a result, my only option was to perform a half-assed crash job on the meerschaum, with its ample smoothness, spare but intricate carving and lovely patina, right there at the club (not for pipe smokers but also not against them) where we sat beside each other.  And he had a bus to catch in a little more than an hour.  I fixed that by offering him a ride home.

Here is the elegant meerschaum as I first saw it.meer1 meer2 meer3 meer4 meer5 meer6 meer7RESTORATION
Note the grime, extensive scratches, rim burn, dirty chamber with tobacco of an unknown vintage still inside, and of course the bit that was in utter ruin.  I even had an almost identical replacement that I could use for it, but not without refitting.  And then there was the fresh coat of beeswax I would have liked to add for the perfect completion of the proper repair.  But as Fred would have none of that, and time was of the essence as he had important business to conduct – watching TV back in his tiny studio apartment – before I might never see the pipe again, I was lucky to have a box with my primary implements of restoration with me in the trunk of my Ford SDX.

I began with the vigorous applications of purified water on the stummel, using small cotton gun cleaning squares to remove layers of ancient dirt, and then resorted to a very small amount of diluted Everclear.  The second photo below shows the need for the alcohol.meer8meer9Superfine “0000” steel wool on the rim did much but not enough there.  A progression of 150-, 180- and 320-grit sandpaper cleared out the excess char in the chamber and made it smooth.meer10Again, with cotton balls soaked in more purified water, I scoured the outer stummel, and used pipe cleaners and freshener to clear out as much of the crud and filth inside the shank.meer11Other than spot buffing with the “0000” again, that was all I could do for the meerschaum.  I took the awful bit in hand and used the full wet micro mesh treatment on it from 1500-12000.meer12 meer13 meer14I coated the bit with a dab of Halcyon II wax, let it sit, and worked it in with a thick cotton cloth.  As for the weird obelisk-like piece of meerschaum marked Hirsch, I doubted at the time that it was part of the pipe but knew it could be a crazy lid of some sort.  Steve supported my hunch of the likelihood that it was not part of the pipe.  He surmised it might have been used with cork around it as a fancy wine bottle stopper or to plug something else.  I buy that!  But I took the last two shots before I received Steve’s sage input, and by then, the pipe was forever out of my control.

I found the actual Kirsch brand records online with last-minute research.  The Trademark was first recorded on January 1, 1907 and is now owned by Newell Window Furnishings Inc., a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid Inc.  The business suppliers fine home design goods using an assortment of exotic materials, including meerschaum.

For better or worse, here is the result.  I based the time spent on this rush-job at 42 minutes from the date and time stamps on photo number 8, showing the beginning of the cleaning with purified water at 18:07, to photo number 14, with the bit finished at 18:49.

meer15 meer16 meer17 meer18 meer19 meer20 meer21 meer22CONCLUSION
The last time I saw Fred was when I dropped him off at his apartment, the precious meerschaum wrapped in a piece of terry cloth and stowed in a box tucked with great protection in the crook of an arm.  Earlier that night, he was rushing about the club, sweating, his blood pressure elevated even to the average observer, anxious and agitated, and seeming to have some trouble swallowing.  All of these are signs of serious adverse effects to anti-psychotics.  I have not seen him since then and am, for good reason, somewhat worried.

Every time Fred speaks of his father, it is with a sadness that is far greater than that which he feels for the man’s passing.  As the former long-time caregiver to another friend, who was also my roommate for a month short of 15 years, I saw the tension that the mental illness of a family member causes.  Families, in particular the parents, will alienate one of their own who is infirm in a physical or mental way.  Like other, so-called lower forms of animals, they push from the nest those who are born with any weakness, for many reasons: fear, shame, powerlessness to correct the problem, to name a few, but more than anything else, an unbearable sense of guilt.

But the true bearer of these feelings is the blameless victim of whatever handicap befell him.  The worst part of this age-old denial of the basic humanity of those who are sick, however their diseases may be manifested, is the belief that is instilled in them from birth that they are somehow bad for reasons they do not understand, guilty in ways they are unable to comprehend, and more or less worthless.  As in Fred’s case, they try to hide the self-loathing that consumes them with “inappropriate” outbursts such as laughing or trying to joke in an attempt to alleviate the unhappiness they sense in those who are dearest to them.

All of this is the cause of the true sadness I sense in Fred.  I’m sure he never had a chance to make peace with his father; to say goodbye, even to visit him in the hospital or the home in which he was raised.

Instead of these memories, I try to recall the utter joy on Fred’s face when I had snapped the final shots of the improved meerschaum and handed it to him by the less-than-perfect bit.  I told him he should try to avoid handling the porous meerschaum with his bare hands, grasping instead the bit where it pushed into the shank with a firm fit, or using a handkerchief maybe on the bottom of the bowl.

Fred nodded his head up and down in wondrous agreement, taking in little of what I said, I’m sure.  His eyes were wide open with the appreciation all humans have for works of art.


Spotlight: Ladies Pipes, Part 6/7, an Albertson Baby Bent Brandy

Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
Photos © the Author except as noted

Pipe: a primary masculine symbol with authoritarian overtones but also indicative of reliability and contentment.
— The Dictionary of Visual Language, 1980, by Philip Thompson and Peter Davenport

Never before or since has a definition been more right in both parts yet presupposed in the one as that stated above.  Nobody who enjoys and defends the pleasures derived from placing tobaccos into instruments known as pipes, igniting the leafy concoctions and drawing the resulting flavorful smoke into the mouth to taste, contemplate and above all savor, in most cases without inhaling, would deny the latter point.  But the former – which should be noted uses the strict adjective primary, meaning before all else in importance, rather than the more lenient adverb primarily, or for the most part – affirms the societal perception that no normal woman should want to partake of the same practice.  After all, why on God’s green earth would any decent _________ (insert little lady, gal, chick, babe, bird, girl, lass or whatever term comes to mind and makes most women grit their teeth) want to trespass on what might be the last bastion of manly domination on the planet?

The source of the definition – printed once in hardback and then again, in 1983, in softcover, both times by British publishers – is an excellent collection of iconic symbols assembled with scientific soundness.  Its authors called it “The Dictionary of Graphic Clichés,” a far more apt title than that which they were compelled to choose by the original publisher, under the false notion that the book should have a more agreeable name.  This decision may very well be the reason the astute study has been out of print for 33 years.  Nevertheless, used hardbacks still start at $469 and paperbacks at $96 on Amazon, suggesting a work of genuine and lasting significance.  But the likelihood of many takers at those prices is more doubtful than that the book would still be generating far more royalties if it continued to be available in general circulation at a reasonable cost to the average consumer.

The truth is thalbert1at many more women than may ever be known are as devoted to pipes and the blissful indulgence of those wonderful devices’ every facet: the astonishing variety of makers, shapes, styles, materials and sizes; the like availability of diverse tobaccos for every taste, and tobacciana.  Women are just as prone as men to the same acquisition compulsion in these categories.  Female artisans craft pipes, for their own use or sale.  The owner of my favorite local tobacconist is a woman.  Clubs and other associations exclusive to females devoted to the overall shared and altogether personal experience of pipes can be found in every corner of the world.

Indeed, searching online for this last aspect of pipe equality yields the greatest proof of the ubiquitous presence of female connoisseurs, who seem to avoid the male-dominated and likewise -biased haunts of the mainstream pipe establishment, and for good reason.   Only one woman is a member of my pipe club.  I know of but a single woman on the membership roster of the Smokers Forums UK, although old-timers recall in a vague way a past when there were “some more.”   And Jeff Knoll of the North American Society of Pipe Collectors reported, as I recall, that of the 1000+ members of the NASPC, only 10 are not men.  That’s about one percent, a woeful ratio.

I embarked upon my seven-part series of blogs last May 4.  My specific intentions were two-fold: to reveal and give recognition to the far greater number of women pipe smokers than is acknowledged by most of those who are, and no one disputes in all probability will remain, in the majority, and to promote acceptance of the formidable minority.  My more general desires were to foster an exploration and discussion of the contributions women make to the relaxing activity/hobby; to open a dialog between the segregated camps.  A side story that crossed my perhaps naïve mind was the idea of discovering possible differences in approach to pipes between their male and female devotees that might be of interest to all involved in the activity that is, after all, a love affair of sorts.  With one installment after this left before the series is complete, I believe I have gone still further than I expected but hope to wrap up some loose pieces before the end, whether most of my readers, or lack thereof, like it or not.

The sixth installment will show the refurbishing of a small Albertson easy bent sandblasted brandy from Belgium.  Hard information on the Albertson line is difficult to come by to an inordinate degree.  Through an incredible stroke of good fortune, I happened upon a font of factual information on the pipe’s real origin.  First I had to navigate past Pipephil and Pipedia, whose sketchy claims proved to have little substance and were parroted throughout the cyber world.

Pipephil describes Albertson as a brand “made at Hilson’s Factory,” then in the Hilson description refers readers to Albertson as a second.  About Hilson, Pipephil’s entry is muddled but notes its genesis was in 1846, when a German pipe crafter named Jean Knödgen started producing clay pipes in the town of Bree, Belgium.  As it turns out, that limited intel is about all that is accurate.  Jean Hillen, Knödgen’s son-in-law, bought and ran the business until his two sons took over.   After World War II, when briar was scarce, Albert Hillen, the brother in charge of production, created Hilson (a combination of Hillen and son).  Although I anticipate the exact time period in which Albertson pipes were made, from the one person who would know beyond a doubt, I do not expect it to arrive any time soon.  I suspected its name also was formed from a combination, of Albert and son, and later confirmed the guess.  With the Hilson brand, Hillen became independent of other countries, taking full control of pipe production.

Here’s the scoop, based upon the singular knowledge and much appreciated contribution of Arno van Goor, a Dutch pipe smoker and historian.**  The patriarch of the family-run pipe giant known today as E. Gubbels B.V., Johannes Henricus Gubbels, began in 1870 with a modest mercantile business in Roermond, a town in the southeastern area of the Netherlands.  Gubbels’ first products were diverse and included umbrellas, walking canes, toys and smoking accessories.  Knödgen was one of Gubbels’ suppliers of the last category.

Johannes Gubbels died in 1911, and his second wife carried on the business until 1924, when their two children, Antonia and Elbert, established A&H Gubbels, a wholesale trader specializing in pipe accessories.  After World War II, as the sole owner of the family business and because of the scarcity of supplies as well as the impossibility of importing them, Elbert did as Hillen had before him, going independent in every respect.

With the informal name EGRO (for Elbert Gubbels Roermond), Gubbels had no brand name.  Then, in 1956, when Gubbels bought De Rijk & Zonen of Amsterdam – a small company that was floundering – Gubbels not only acquired a brand but more machines than the two he had and more employees than the three.  But the most significant changes were his decision to convert from a wholesale to an export business with a very popular brand of pipes at the time, known as Big Ben.  The Big Ben pipes had been made in England and sold by De Rijk, and Gubbels began producing them as his own brand.  The result was an exponential increase of sales in Europe, the USA and Canada.

At the same time, Hillen’s Hilson brand faced severe financial problems despite its high reputation and value as far as the cost to consumers was concerned. When Gubbels bought Hilson, he was able to move into a bigger factory. To the Hilson and Big Ben lines was added a very small nose-burner called the Pipo, designed by one of Elbert’s two sons named Alfons who was then in charge of production. The Pipo, although an unknown style of pipe at the time, was highly successful and sold worldwide. By 1972, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands bestowed upon Gubbels the honored title “Royal,” and the house of Gubbels became Elbert Gubbels en Zonen – Koninklijke Fabriek van Tabakspijpen (Elbert Gubbels and Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory).

After increasing its production and sales at a steady rate through the 1970s, the demand for the “luxury items” fell, and so did Gubbels’ Royal Dutch Pipe Factory (RDPF) as investors backed out.  One of the biggest misconceptions online and elsewhere is that Gubbels and the RDPF were separate entities.  On March 3, 2012, De Limburger daily newspaper in Maastricht, Netherlands reported the bankruptcy of that name, and the “news” that the last pipe-maker in the Netherlands was out of business echoed on pipesmagazine.com, and thence round the world.

It seems the rumors of the death of the venerable pipe-maker were greatly exaggerated.  Yes, the Gubbels-RDPF name was gone, but the family persevered with capital of its own, reducing the company staff from 28 to 20 employees.  Today, and not just according to the masthead of the History page of its own website, “E. Gubbels B.V. in the Netherlands, established in 1870, is a globally acclaimed and leading manufacturer of fully hand-made briar-root tobacco pipes.”

RESTORATIONalbert3 albert4 albert5 albert6 albert7The little brandy could have been touched up and cleaned much faster if I had felt like leaving well enough alone.  Of course, I did not.  A close look at the photos above shows two minor scrapes, one on the middle front of the bowl and the other near the bottom, that cut to the wood and gave me an idea.  The refurbish therefore began with a long soak, about five hours, in Everclear.  I have some black sandblast and rustic pipes that I love the way they are, but for the most part, in restoring at least, I prefer to end up with some of the natural rusty color of the briar showing, but not because of dings and whatnot.albert8When the initial stripping was finished, I was not surprised to see much of the black stain still holding tight.  I rubbed off the alcohol and some more of the blackness with some small cotton gun cleaner squares and swabbed the chamber with more, then went at the surface of the stummel with 150- and 220-grit sandpaper.  While I was at it, I ran an alcohol-soaked cleaner through the bit, which shows how well-used was the dainty pipe.  Even after that, a second Everclear soak was in order.albert9 albert10 albert11 albert12Repeating the aftermath of the previous alcohol strip, except for using super fine “0000” steel wool instead of paper, I eliminated more of the old black stain.  The next pictures don’t show the focused work I did on the crevices.albert13 albert14 albert15A few choice turns of the Senior Reamer in the chamber followed by 220-grit paper made the retort easy after the two soaks in Everclear, the more serious paper work in the chamber and several regular cleaners as well as the wire brush type through the shank.albert16albert17To re-stain the stummel, I used Lincoln Marine Cordovan, or dark maroon, alcohol-based boot conditioner.  You know I flicked my Bic to flame out the alcohol.  Afterward I buffed the residual char off with a micro mesh pad of some high number and used the steel wool to take off the excess stain to the point where I was happy. albert18 albert19 albert20 albert21While the Halcyon II wax soaked in, I considered the bit with its peculiar stinger that seemed to be designed for extra use as a tobacco pick. The peculiarity is the same as those in Dunhill pipes – it is an inner tube. This was often used in pipes by Gubbels. The tube extended into the bottom of the bowl the longer side sat in the bowl bottom and the angled shorter side faced upward. I went over the bit with wet micro mesh from 1500-12000.albert22 albert23 albert24Using red and White Tripoli and White Diamond on the bit with the electric buffer and just the clean buffer on the wood, the Albertson brandy was finished.albert25 albert26 albert27 albert28Photos taken on the front case at Stag Tobacconist

Anyone who doubts the high standing of the Gubbels name, consider this.  Some left-over Big Ben Barbados natural bent Dublin pipes with exquisite grain, crowned for the occasion with special metal rim fittings, were the 2015 Year Pipes of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF, for Pijprokers Forum, the Dutch translation of something that should be obvious).  Dhr. van Goor, the fortuitous source of all of my factual information concerning Gubbels and a member of PRF, wrote in the second blog below: “Just over 60 pipes were available and when forum-members could order them they all were gone in no time!  To be perfectly honest, I did not apply for one.   I simply did not like the shape, but came to regret it later.”albert2And for some of the ladies, there are these Big Ben Pipes, averaging 5” long and very stylish.albert29On the other hand, if you prefer something of still smaller proportions, there is the Albertson brandy described above, which is the smallest conventional tobacco pipe I have ever owned.  It measures 4¼” long; the bowl is 1½” high; the rim is 1” across, and the chamber diameter is ¾” x 1⅞”.  In other words, perfect for the female pipe aficionado who prefers a petite and light yet elegant pipe.  And it’s for sale on my new webstore noted above!


Letting Go of a 1954 Dunhill Patent Sandblast Canadian

Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
http://www.roadrunnerpipes21.biz (under construction)
Photos © the Author except as noted

Two years ago, I became the sudden, very fortunate and most of all surprised owner of four Dunhill pipes.  Two – a natural Bruyere billiard #4103 and a sandblasted Shell Briar billiard #114 – were made in years not yet determined, although I suspect 1977 and 1965 respectively.  The other two are a 1976 smooth Root Briar #433 and the 1954 sandblast Shell Briar Patent Canadian that is the cause of my mixed sorrow and pleasure in blogging its refurbish.  You see, the four splendid examples of briar’s best use were gifted to me by a good friend who was ordered by his cardiologist to stop enjoying his beloved pipes, the only reason he gave them to me, and now I am forced to offer one for sale.  Of course, the logical choice happens to be the jewel of my eye.

Larry L., as I will call him, was my patron in two senses of the word: for his generosity, and his status as the first person to buy a pipe on my original online store, and then another.  He was a regular member of my local pipe club for a short time when he was 90 years old, which, based on the date of the bounteous gift makes him 92 now.  Now he is the club’s only Emeritus Member.  I’ve stayed in touch with Larry, by email and phone and several times in person, and although his physical and mental faculties are fit, he lacks the zest for life he had while savoring his large collection by himself and I’m sure more so in the company of his fellow pipe peers, where he was the fastest draw I’ve ever heard with raunchy and off-color jokes.

I have to question the wisdom of his young, well-meaning doctor who forced Larry to quit the hobby and activity he loved more than anything but his wife.  And so to refurbish the pipe for sale after the cursory cleaning I performed when it was gifted to me was not an easy decision.  When times are rough, the cost can be dear.  At least I know I will get a decent price for the sacrificial and beautiful piece of craftsmanship or sleep better keeping it.  My only happiness is the opportunity to share the details of the ’54 Canadian with readers.

When I first took a careful look at the pipe to date it, I thought the sandblasted Canadian was much older based on one of the many erroneous dating methods published online.  Then, a few months ago as I began to advertise the pipe for sale on various forums, I made a better estimate but was still off by three years.  On that occasion I had not understood parts of the dating flowchart on Pipephil.  Returning to the same chart four days ago, with clarification of what Pipephil meant by “Dunhill aligned with Shell” in the nomenclature, I took a third stab at dating the sandblast Shell Briar, starting with Patent No. 417574, on Google’s Patent Search service.  Google Patents almost always finds the desired invention, but again I came up with nothing.

The nomenclature on the pipe reads, in capital blocks, EC on the far left of the smooth sitter bottom; Dunhill above Shell Briar; Made in England and a small 4 with a line under it above Patent No. 417574/34, and then to the far right, a circled 4 with an S.  I have since learned, or come to believe from the veracity of certain sources, that EC is Dunhill’s way of indicating the pipe is a 5½″ Canadian; Shell is the type of finish characterized by deep, rugged sandblasting and a black stain, and the circled 4 with an S is a combination bowl size (running from 1-6) and group code, seeming to indicate in this case a Shell.  I also was informed that 1954 was the last year of the Patent nomenclature and the same year Shell was replaced with Shell Briar.

Somewhat late, to be sure, I came to the conclusion the Patent might be British.  I found the Espace.net link for the European Patent Office shown in the sources below, and had no trouble locating the Patent No. GB417574, granted October 8, 1934.  From this research, it wasn’t difficult to understand the /34 represents the year the proprietary rights were granted to Dunhill for the special tube system within the bit and shank and extending to the mortise hole, and not the year of manufacture.  Steve was good enough to explain something, the answer to which I suspected, when he clarified that “aligned with,” in respect to the words Dunhill and Shell, means beside and not above and below.   As it turned out, therefore, mine was not aligned.  This is central to dating the Dunhill.

Therefore, following the flowchart shown at the first source link below, I answered yes to the pipe having a suffix and Patent Number and then clicked on Narrow Down Your Dating.  The next page said at the top, “Your Dunhill pipe has been crafted between 1921 and 1954.”  Again I followed the yes line under “The Patent Number is 417574/34,” then (and here is the key to whether the pipe was made c. 1940 or c. 1950) no to “Dunhill stamping over London or Dunhill stamping aligned with Shell.”  This led down to Dunhill suffixes 2-4, and mine being the little 4 with a line under it, the chart led to the bottom line: 1950 + suffix, making the year of manufacture 1954.  I tell you, this has to be the most clandestine dating system I have encountered, reminiscent of the sort of codes and tradecraft of MI6, or what Le Carré called by a more apt name, the Circus.  But I found my year of manufacture at last.

A couple of days ago, double-checking my course through the flowchart, I came across a blog by Steve, called “Reflecting on My Dunhill Collection,” from two years ago.  My conclusion was vindicated by the following photos of his “ultimate pleasure” from one batch of pipes he received, a 1954 Dunhill Canadian identical to mine.dunhill1Having emailed Steve the updated result from the flowchart, I read his response within seconds after copying and pasting the photos of his pipe above: “That is my birth year pipe…what does it look like?”  I referred him to his own blog and inserted the two pics of the twins above, adding that they are identical except for a lighter shade I gave mine.

Here is a copy of GB417574. dunhill2 dunhill3 dunhill4The Patent is fascinating on several levels, some of which will be described later.  Of particular importance to this blog is its detailed description of the system in which an improved, removable metal tube “is inserted into the bore…to form a conduit along which the smoke will pass.”  A revised, spring ring to hold the tube in place with better effect than earlier Patents is added to supplement an improvement that was part of another Patent, GB116989, requested along with this one but granted the next year.

The version in the 1954 Canadian has two tubes and rings, one pair in the shank and leading to the mortise and the other within the mouthpiece and the rest of the bit.  These innovations are not only clever but quite durable and effective, and the tubes can be seen with close scrutiny within the openings of the push tenon and shank.  The most amazing aspect of the invention is the tiny size of its pieces that somehow fit the slim bit and shank of the Canadian.

The pipe was in great condition when I received the gift.dunhill5 dunhill6 dunhill7 dunhill8 dunhill9To start the restore, I went at the rim with 220-grit sandpaper because of some dings that were too deep for micro mesh or even very fine paper.  Even so, more work was needed later, as will be shown.  Then I reamed the chamber and sanded it smooth with 180- and 320-grit paper and wiped the exterior using a soft cotton gun cleaner cloth with a little purified water.dunhill10 dunhill11I figured I might as well knock off the bit, which was in good shape but needed some quick work with the only viable micromesh kit I had at the time.  This was only last June, but my old set of usual pads was decimated and not yet replaced.dunhill12 dunhill13Retorting the pipe, I decided to take off a little of the darker color to show more of the natural rust hue of the briar, using super fine 0000 steel wool.dunhill14I re-stained the rim with Fiebing’s Medium Brown alcohol-based boot conditioner, flamed it with a Bic and micro meshed off the thin coat of char with 800 and 12000.dunhill15The touch-ups above were made June 7.  I revisited the Canadian after transferring all of the photos so far, as well as seven more of the “finished” pipe, from my DSLR memory stick to the computer.  Next is the left side view as it appeared two months to the day later.dunhill16I should have kept the original top view from when I thought the work was complete in July.  As I did not, you’ll just have to take my word that the rim work was, I must confess, sloppy.  And so, here is the rim after sanding again, with 180- and 320-grit papers, micro meshing all the way, staining with the medium brown and flaming it again, and micro meshing off the thin band of light char with 4000, 8000 and 12000 micro mesh once more.dunhill17 dunhill18The true finishing touches were adding a thick coat of Halcyon II wax, setting the stummel aside for a half-hour and buffing on the clean electric wheel as much of the wax as possible into the wood while removing the excess.dunhill19 dunhill20 dunhill21 dunhill22The Patent, again, is an engaging document.  In fact I consider the text worth reading despite its detailed description that is styled in universal Patent-ese.  Somehow this Patent, among the millions of sterile, lackluster examples that tend to put most unaccustomed readers to sleep, shines with refined elegance one would expect only from the British.  The just-more-than-one-page of text as well as the drawings have a secure place in pipe history.  And then there are the little touches to enjoy   For example, easy to miss, with the eyes scanning and expecting to read “shown,” is the repetition of the antiquated (chief. Brit., as the staid but thorough Oxford English Dictionary might add) “shewn.”  Still more overlookable is the typical economy of language displayed in the first paragraph, referring to “We, Alfred Dunhill Limited, a British Company, of 137-143, High Street, Notting Hill Gate, London, W. 11, and Vernon Dunhill, a British Subject, of the same address….”  At last, seen only by the greatest of Anglophiles, is the printer’s credit that states:

“Redhill: Printed for His Majesty’s Stationery Office, by Love and Malcomson, Ltd. – 1934.”

Redhill is a U.K. town next to Surrey, south of London.  Love and Malcomson Ltd. was a British printer and later book publisher established in 1901 and lasting until 1983, when it was dissolved.  The reference to His Majesty at the time of printing was King George V (r. 1910-1936).  Easy to forget are the other His Majesties during Love and Malcomson’s illustrious time: prior to George V, King Edward VII (r. 1901-1910); King Edward VIII (r. 1936), until he became the only monarch in British history to abdicate – for the woman he loved – and King George VI (r. 1936-1952) of “The King’s Speech” fame.

And then, of course, there is Queen Elizabeth II (r. 1952-present), to whom Love and Malcomson was a loyal British Company for the first 31 years of her monarchy that has so far lasted 64 years, the longest of any British sovereign.

I’ll finish up with a fascinating tidbit about Dunhill history, what Saturday Night Live might have called a “Deep Thought by Jack Handy.”  I never even considered the origin of the now famous White Dot atop Dunhill pipe stems.  Then one day my research took me to a Pipedia page with a time line.  Among the long list of dreary, bygone dates and facts, I came across this single, novel and somewhat sad bit of intelligence: in 1915, five years after the company formed, Alfred and his advisors came to the bright idea that their customers should be given some help whilst reattaching the bit, like, I suppose, after removing it to clean.  I can’t with honesty know what they were thinking.  But anyway, that conundrum gave birth to the now revered single White Dot – so that Dunhill buyers everywhere might know which side of the stem goes on top!  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find this reasoning behind the White Dot somehow discouraging, disappointing and downright depressing.  I mean, did Alfred Dunhill Limited, the mighty British Company, get so many complaints about which side was up to conclude its loyal fans must be stupid?  And were they maybe really that dense?  The whole thing is just too much for me.  My deepest thoughts on the meaning of the mysterious single White Dot have been dashed forever.  I think I need to take a nap now, as the melancholy Jack Handy would do. dunhill23



Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by a Mastersen

Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
http://www.roadrunnerpipes21.biz (under construction)
Photos © the Author except as noted

I’m wild again, beguiled again
a simpering, whimpering child again
bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.
I couldn’t sleep and wouldn’t sleep
when love came and told me, I shouldn’t sleep
bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.
— “Bewitched (Bothered and Bewildered,” 1940), lyrics by Lorenz Hart (1895-1943), music by Richard Rodgers (1902-1979), a great American musical team

Since the song “Bewitched” was introduced by Vivienne Segal in the 1940 Broadway musical “Pal Joey,” there have been many covers. Written for a woman, quite a few have made it “their” song, from Ella Fitzgerald to Lady Gaga. Men have taken their shots, also, from Frank Sinatra to Rod Stewart. But when I was a teenager, I had the enduring privilege of seeing Lena Horne at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and she did it, as the Chairman of the Board would say, her way. She sang some parts like a choir mistress in Heaven and spoke others in the husky asides of a barfly, keeping the audience enthralled and on the befuddling edge of tears and laughter. And so to hear the song in my mind is to relive the gruff silkiness of the lady’s inimitable voice.

My mother has always been a devotee of Freudian psychology. Being more agnostic regarding the Austrian neurologist who pioneered psychotherapy, my father tended toward dismissing all of the man’s work despite the lasting innovations. Therefore, in general, I began to take my mother’s view of the matter, until I was older and found a balance between my parents that they, alas, did not.

Now, bear with me, there’s a point coming. My dad told me one day that the songs people whistle or hum, without even thinking about it, reveal their subconscious moods. He was in the frequent habit of popping out such tidbits of knowledge, and for that I am forever grateful. I realized I had stopped listening to anything else he said maybe a half-hour earlier, having dissociated deep into myself, as far away from my dad as I could get. In fact, at least on a conscious level, I forgot my dad was there until he made the casual comment, and I stopped humming. I had to stop everything, including the gardening and general cleanup work we were doing on the patio, to figure out what was the tune, and I still remember now: “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by the late great Harry Chapin.

That’s right, I was humming about a father and son who never take the time to sit down together and have serious talks. I was not aware I even knew the story of the lyrics that well, but liked the tune. My dad and I had both heard it countless times, no doubt, as the spring afternoon I’m describing was in 1978, when I was 16, and the song came out in 1974 and won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Performance. Snatches of the words came to me: “I’m gonna be like you, Dad, you know I’m gonna be like you,” and “But we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then,” and “He’d grown up just like me, my boy was just like me.” The smirk on my dad’s face, with its annoying and condescending twist of the lips, said everything. He knew he had figured me out at last, although not his own contribution, and he was right, so I grinned, my own expression of false pride I learned from my father. I could see it stung my dad, and I’m now sad to say I was happy.

Thinking back on that encounter with my dad, as I began to find my own twisted path in the world, I consider it odd that he so berated basic Freudian theory of deep subconscious conflicts influencing our conscious actions. After all, humming a Harry Chapin tune that summed up my subconscious feelings at the time seems to me nothing less than proof of a simple variation on what we still refer to as a Freudian slip. Had my conscious mind picked the song, it would have been “”Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” by Bob Dylan.

As I began work on this ornery, perplexing pipe 16 days ago, and continuing through to its completion, I found that I was humming the refrain from “Bewitched.” Sometimes I even broke out into the repetition of words that came back to me. And so I understood I was making a musical Freudian slip of sorts. The Mastersen freehand had many flaws to overcome, and I was indeed bewitched, bothered and bewildered at the challenge of removing them. I had also come to love the pipe without ever having tried it and, like the story of “Bewitched,” despite its presenting difficulties.mas1 mas2 mas3 mas4So blackened and grungy was its bowl, so almost thorough the filling of the chamber with cake, so worn and grimy the shank, and so ruined the once typical Danish freehand plateau style rim as well as the reparable-but-not-worth-the-work bit, I did not even know what brand of pipe I had.

That is, until a happy coincidence that occurred at the monthly Moose Lodge meeting of my pipe club on the third Thursday of last month, August 18. One of my fellow pipers, Daryl (for whom I cleaned up an antique KB&B Redmanol socket pipe not long ago), showed me a beautiful Mastersen of which I snapped a photo with my Nikon. Due to the increasing instability of that camera, which is cheaper to replace than repair, the photo is nowhere to be found. At any rate, I handed my dingy and as yet unknown pipe to Daryl, who said, “Ah, another Mastersen!”

That was how I learned what I had. I ask you, what are the odds? Bestowed with a vision of the potential for a real beauty if restored with the necessary attention and care, I experienced a sudden sense of urgency to fast-track my Mastersen. I still did not even know how it was spelled, thinking it was the same as Bat Masterson, the famous TV dandy, gambler and lawman played by Gene Barry, who preferred his wits and cane to his gun for four seasons from 1958-1961. The same error by other pipe collectors and sellers accounts for the reason more examples can be found online using the spelling of Bat’s last name.

I did, however, pick up a few pieces of information along the way about Mastersen pipes. According to pipephil.com, and suggesting the brand is still in production, “Mastersen is [emphasis added] a brand of the former Shalom Pipe Co. [of Israel] which was later bought by Mastercraft.” Mastercraft, in turn, was taken over by Lane Ltd. A contributor to the Dr. Grabow Collector’s Forum (DGCF) noted the Shalom connection but added that Mastersen pipes were manufactured from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s as redemptions for Brown and Williamson’s Sir Walter Raleigh tobaccos. In this case, I suspect Pipephil was correct but meant to make clear that Mastersen was made by Shalom only, and the DGCF man had it right about the time period and redemption points.

Here are two shots of Mastersens I found online, the first with nice vertical grain, and the second showing the plateau rim type natural to the brand’s freehand pipes. Neither is anywhere near the quality of the specimen Daryl is so lucky to own, with its exquisite, perfect, vertical grain and strawberry blonde shade.mas5RESTORATION
Daryl’s beautiful example of what a Mastersen freehand could look like served as a wondrous counter-spell to the initial bewitchment that froze my thoughts of starting the job. Still, I was bothered by the apparent lack of any plateau remaining on the rim and the resulting need to do something about that dilemma. And of course the stem bewildered me more than a bit. (Ha-ha.)

Setting the bit aside for the time being, I began my assault on the stummel by soaking it in Everclear and then giving the still-caked chamber a 40-minute preliminary reaming, as that single good, long one proved insufficient to mend the old ways of the small space. The next pictures show before, during and after. mas6 mas7 mas8I continued the corrective measures with both my Senior Reamer and a new “one size fits all” type I found online. The little thing was so inexpensive I couldn’t help getting one to see if it worked. I have to say it has its uses, which are limited, but this chamber of horrors was one of them. I suppose the best way to describe the only function I’ve found for the less powerful reamer is by comparison to micro meshing after sanding. The small reamer has a certain precision that smooths away some of the rough edges left by its Senior counterpart. Maybe for those of you who have seen real combat on the battlefield, it would be like sending in the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the devastating work of Marines.

The reaming complete, I turned to sandpaper, first on the rim and chamber with 150-grit, then working up the fine line to 180, 220 and 320.mas9I used the same progression of paper, minus the 150-grit, on the bowl and shank. That was enough for the first night.mas10 mas11 mas12The next day, Saturday, I slept late, meaning 9 or so in the morning, for the only time my cerebral RAM can access. I arose in an excellent mood made better by starting my first giant mug of strong, rich French Market coffee mellowed with chicory. Since I was in such a clear, positive frame of mind, I savored the moment more by turning to the bit that was wrecked by the havoc of some poor soul who must have suffered from a sort of waking temporomandibular joint disorder, even though there is no such malady since the real thing occurs while one sleeps. It’s called everyday teeth grinding when one is cognizant, and if a pipe smoker is that angry he ought to give up the best known form of relief from stress altogether. I ran a couple of cleaners through the air hole, first a dry run and then soaked with Everclear, and used the last of my supply of OxiClean to give the bit a bath. And now I’m gonna show you some 8×10 color glossies of that ordeal. You see, I was still of the mind that I might take the time to salvage the heinous wound to the mouthpiece of this bit.mas13 mas14 mas15 mas16By this time I already knew I was going to find a replacement somewhere, but once I start something I have to see it through. Therefore, I used more of the fine steel wool and then micro meshed from 1500-12000, just for the sake of it. Be all you can be (for now), mighty bit!mas17 mas18I did find a replacement in a bag from my recent move to better digs that I’ll show you later, because I’m sick of the entire idea of bits for now and it’s out of order, and I did keep the original for some unknown pipe I will restore for my own use rather than to sell to a trusting and hapless buyer.

Grabbing the steel wool again, I put it to better use on the stummel, with gentle rubbing.mas19 mas20 mas21Lo! How a simple micro mesh progression from 1500-12000 will change the hue of briar!mas22 mas23 mas24Three days almost to the hour after I began this project, there was no more putting off the inevitable: doing something to make the rim rough rather than the usual desired velvety smooth. Part of me that had no trouble adapting to the rule “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” one of my dad’s many maxims, hated the notion of touching a rim that was “perfect” the way it was.

In the end, I knew that a smooth rim on a Danish freehand style pipe was anything but perfect, and I considered my options, which seemed to me to number three. 1) I could rusticate the circular top, but the Mastersen freehand is not a rustic pipe. 2) I could reshape the top and try to roughen it up, but I’ve never done that before, to be honest. 3) I could leave it flat but give it some sort of texture.

The last choice seemed the best way to go, and that’s what I did. Starting out with a couple of level but tentative strokes of a wood file, I succeeded in making the following beginning, which I later gave more depth. mas25I came across a surprising number of other Mastersen freehand restorations, and two of them recounted the same obliteration of the rim and chamber stuffed with carbon char. The common rim problem suggests to me a straight, shallow plateau that lends itself to being burned away by the average pipe enjoyer. I don’t know what to make of the mystery of the overflowing chambers. The two reviews of these pipes’ level of smoking quality are very high, one coming from a regular participant in an online pipe forum and the other from my friend Daryl. Given my run on inexplicable coincidences, maybe both Mastersens were smoked close to death by the same perp.

But on with the restore I must go. The beautiful briar needed a light stain, and I didn’t want to overdo that part of the task. The only problem was that I wanted the bowl to be a tad darker than the shank, and the darker stain I had was very dark, Lincoln Marine Cordovan (deep maroon) alcohol-based leather conditioner. Taking a wild chance, I used that on the bowl and rim and Fiebing’s Brown on the shank. I was surer than the first people to test the A-Bomb were with the risk they took that I could remove enough of the excess darkness from the bowl without scratching it. The scheme still must sound plain crazy. Anyway, after flaming out the alcohol with a Bic, I set it aside for 10 minutes. mas26 mas27The father of my best friend in high school used to wake up or snap out of a reverie, stretch, yawn and say, “Well, hell!” Those are the words that came to my very conscious mind as I chose 500-grit paper to begin eliminating the ash-like residue and over-darkness from the stain. mas29I applied Halcyon II wax and let it sit for 20 minutes before rubbing the stummel with the same soft cotton cloth shown above.mas30The next photos don’t quite show the subtle difference, but it is there, as I think the final shots will reveal. I was almost done, I thought. All that was left with the stummel was to make the color still lighter. Using the finest third of my micro mesh pads, I gave it a strong buff with 4000, 8000 and 12000, and even then resorted once more to the super fine steel wool. My rim work is clear here.mas31 mas32The stummel finished, I looked for the bit and remembered I had not yet built up the tenon that was too narrow to fit the Mastersen shank. With other more pressing business to tend, I did not begin that stage for another two days. When the other matters were caught up for the time being, I considered the discolored replacement bit and gave it an OxiClean bath with a scoopful from a new tub of the powdered detergent and bleach and removed the resulting crud that was leeched out of the Vulcanite/Ebonite with 320- and 220-grit paper. I also buffed with the full range of micro mesh. As a point of interest, did you know if you Google Ebonite, almost all of the links are to bowling balls? It seems that is now the primary material for the balls used by serious participants in that sport, as it can be given color. mas33 mas34I started the process of building up the tenon with Black Super Glue. This part took several more days. After the first layer, I added fine scrapings of Vulcanite from an old bit thrashed beyond hope of repair.mas35 mas36 mas37 mas38At last the two pieces of the puzzle fit together, and I connected them.mas39 mas40 mas41 mas42 mas43 mas44 mas45 mas46CONCLUSION
Although the grain does not have the same uniform, vertical tightness and the color is not as light as I hoped to achieve, I can say without hesitation the task was worth every bit of bewitchment, bother and bewilderment I encountered. But this seems like the perfect way to celebrate Labor Day, although this was a labor of love, not work.

But in all honesty I should add that Daryl’s recent fine acquisitions are beginning to get on my nerves.