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How Estate Pipes Changed the Collecting World  

Blog by Robert M. Boughton, P.I.

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors


O hell! what have we here?
A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll!  I’ll read the writing.
‘All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll’d:
Fare you well; your suit is cold –

Cold indeed, and labor lost.’

— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7, 1596 (original editions)

An English historian of pipes in general and Alfred Dunhill  Ltd. of London in particular, the late John C. Loring, dated the beginning of estate pipe collecting to 1976.  That was the year Dunhill acquired Lane Ltd., which included Charatan pipes.  It also marked the first noticeable blip, on the pipe world radar, of avid collectors in the U.S. starting to seek older, used English pipes that were rarer and could be repaired for reborn enjoyment.  The birth of estate pipe collecting, with its attendant lust for uncommon and valuable specimens, created a market that was susceptible to fraud on a new, sophisticated level.

Thus arrived on the scene the simultaneous phenomena of collectors who recognized the potential value of estate pipes and the intrepid craft folks who filled the need for independent, skilled workers, or pipe restorers, as they came to call themselves, to repair and clean all of the old pipes being snatched up in more and more amazing numbers.  Of course there were also the scam artists and other opportunistic ne’er-do-wells, that ubiquitous element of every business enterprise, who found in the appetite for used but “collectible” pipes an abundance of buyers ignorant of the knowledge needed to distinguish the legitimate from the fakes.

Limited at first to pipes from England due to their perceived superiority to those from other countries, in time the used pipe craze spread to estates from around the world.  The trend saw its heyday in the first decade, continuing into the mid second, of the new millennium.

Aristotle is often cited as the first person to expound the notion that nature abhors a vacuum, when in fact he was a plenist, or a believer that there can be no occurrence of a vacuum in nature.  His basic reasoning was that space is filled with bodies, even if most of them are molecular, and therefore can have no empty area.  The great Greek philosopher and polymath was so contemptuous of the idea of a natural vacuum that he made a deliberate joke, in Physics, Book IV, Part 8: “But even if we consider it on its own merits the so-called vacuum will be found to be really vacuous.”  LOL!  Modern physics recognizes that nature indeed cannot tolerate a vacuum – but only so far as to force whatever happens to be nearby any such anomaly to be sucked in to fill it the same instant.  In that sense, old Aristotle was half right, considering that an empty space appearing in nature must be filled in less than a nanosecond.  At any rate, pipe restorers, qualified or otherwise, as well as forgers, filled the new figurative vacuum made by the Great Estate Pipe Rush.

The blooming of the estate pipe collecting hobby mushroomed into a full-blown industry that epitomized certain aspects of capitalism as contemplated in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published 200 years earlier just two months before the Declaration of Independence.  There was then and remains the principle of supply and demand with its buyers, sellers and middlemen.  The prices were set only by the depths of the pockets of the buyers and their much shallower knowledge of what constituted a rare Dunhill.

Loring, whose research into the darkest hour of estate pipe history identified the birth of used pipe collecting, died October 7, 2009 in Chicago.  In a memorial on PipesMagazine.com, Kevin Godbee wrote that Loring possessed “an encyclopedic knowledge of Dunhill Pipes and other tobacciana.”  In “The 1980s Fake Dunhill,” first published in the Winter-Spring 2005 issue of The Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris, Loring wrote of how, while Dunhill acquired Lane and Charatan:

“…on the other side of the Atlantic a strange new hobby was developing, ‘used briar pipe collecting,’ with Dunhill pipes the crown jewels of those pioneer American collections.  Soon there were pipe shows, mail order lists, evenings on the telephone in ‘hot pursuit’ and even excursions to England to salvage previously smoked pipes from the dustbins.  Hundreds, even thousands of dollars were paid for used, quickly renamed ‘Estate’ Dunhills with premium prices being paid for the largest and oldest.”

Courtesy Loring’s Dunhill Collection, Pipedia

Note that Loring splits the popularity of estate pipes in two parts, large and old, but emphasizes the bigger ones by nature of the definite if understated order of the above reference, which lumps both together as rare.  Even if Loring were not a good enough writer for the placement of his modifiers to be significant, he goes on to explain the special nature of “oversized” pipes.  “Magnums were viewed as ‘one of a kind’ rarities that could be counted on one hand, maybe two at best,” Loring wrote.  The ODA shown here from Loring’s personal collection that sold at auction after his death, with its exquisite bird’s-eye, is a fine example of a magnum.

With the Lane-Charatan takeover, some of the pipe makers from the two manufacturers consumed by Dunhill lost their jobs.  During the early 1980s, as the factories of the three companies were consolidated into one, many more layoffs were made.  The market for estate Dunhills in the U.S. continued to escalate.  A few unemployed and bitter pipe makers in England, able and willing to abscond with tools of all kinds – including those used for shaping, finishing and stamping nomenclature on the completed products, as well as stummels abandoned for flaws or left unfinished and  even raw briar blocks – did so.

“And at work’s-end,” Loring wrote, “employed and unemployed still met at the pub to dwell on the injustice of it all.”  These conditions – angry, jobless pipe carvers on one side of the Atlantic and wealthy collectors on the other – created what Loring called “our own perfect storm.”

Dunhills have never been easy to date much less make it through the rest of the Byzantine nomenclature.  Even Loring admits the task can be impossible for anyone, no matter how knowledgeable of Dunhill markings.  Then there’s the fact that back in the day, meaning the 1980s, early Dunhill catalogs were not as available as they later became, which was never on par with Sears or LL Bean.  And of course, the World Wide Web was not up and running until the following decade, although the ARPA net allowed computers to connect to each other with a virtual “handshake” and transmit batches of data using Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) machine language.  In other words, identifying a fake pipe, in particular one made by a disgruntled former Dunhill carver using real Dunhill wood and tools but changing or fabricating certain nomenclature to make them appear almost priceless, was beyond the means of most serious collectors of the day.

As it happened, one of those very leading collectors, an American whose name is remembered by some old-timers of our society who refuse to utter or record it in print, highlighted the top British pipe show of 1984 with his collection of 30 stunning examples.  Loring recorded that they included “four near magnum sized Shells bearing extremely rare or previously unknown shape numbers; three smooth finished “LC” shapes, two Roots and a Bruyere, one bearing a previously unknown shape number; three extremely rare un-smoked ODAs , a Bruyere and a Shell 844 and an 824 Shell; a number of sought after ODA shapes in a variety of finishes, many unsmoked; and two awesome supposedly pre-WWII Canadians both upwards of 9 inches long with 5¾ inch shanks, a Bruyere with a small, 1¾ inch tall bowl and a Shell with a magnum sized, 2¾ inch tall bowl.”

Most of the infamous 1984 “Dunhills,” courtesy J. Loring

To cut to the chase, most of these pipes, if not all of them, were bogus in that they were not made by Dunhill but rather were tweaked as far as the nomenclature was concerned or cobbled together using spare parts, as it were, however skillful or “authentic” the cobbling.

The suspicions of some collectors were piqued by the too good to be true aspects of the fabulous forgeries.  Consider Loring’s repeated references to “extremely rare or previously unknown shape numbers” and “unsmoked” pipes.  Had avarice not gotten the better of the collectors who fell victim to the scam, “Thousands upon thousands of dollars and pipes” would not have been exchanged during the infamous incident that took place over a period of only two or three days.

It is important to remember about the 1980s fake Dunhills that of the 50-75 total pipes involved in the overall debacle on both sides of the Pond in which, by Loring’s estimation, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid for technically bogus pipes, “in almost all cases,” they were excellent in terms of craftsmanship and were “akin to top quality 1980s English Dunhill alternatives such as Ashton or Upshall.”  The photo below from Loring’s collection shows two supposed World War II-era pipes, both magnums about eight inches long and each a beautiful Dunhill pipe – if only each had been manufactured in the Dunhill factory and not stamped with outrageous nomenclature.  The shape codes HB and HP have come to be known as existing only on fakes.

“In short,” Loring cautions with classic, subdued British humor and style, “if on the way to writing a two thousand dollar check you find that the shape stamped on the pipe you are fondling doesn’t comport to catalog examples or is otherwise unknown, stay your pen for further examination.”

Another way to identify pipe forgeries is the nomenclature, no matter how subtle the discrepancy may seem.  Loring’s most basic rules of thumb in spotting a fake are to be discerning of every detail and to trust your instincts.  The following examples are brilliant.  The problem with the two pipes in the one photo is harder to spot, and I took the liberty of editing the very bluish original from the web page so that it appears closer to natural pipe brown.  The issue in this picture is not the HLP on the top and the HB on the bottom (well, those are no-nos, to be sure), but the uneven stamp marks, as the un-removable type suggests.  Otherwise the two lines of markings are perfect for WWII-era pipes and indicate that the stamp used may have been “lifted” from Dunhill.  The egregious error in the other pic should be apparent to anyone who is at all familiar with Dunhill.  Take a look and see if you can spot the sign of serious trouble that should set off bells and whistles in the shot of the lone stamp.All done?  Everything considered, the only glaring annoyance is the word SHELL on a smooth finish pipe.  Loring identified three examples including the one above that appear to have been marked with a real Dunhill pre-1937 stamp “in the hands of an illiterate.”  ROFL.

The absence of the World Wide Web at the time of the 1980s Dunhill fiasco explains in some small part how experts were misled by imitations.  So how has the Web made things worse for everyone else in the intervening 30-plus years?

I will begin this section with the bottom line: Internet fraud, intentional or otherwise – and whether or not it will ever become a crime that can be prosecuted in a viable, systemic manner, much less eradicated – is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  The solution, therefore, would seem to fall in educating consumers as to the dangers that exist on a very real and frequent basis.

By way of an example of fake pipes that can be found on the internet, the cautionary tale of an alleged Dunhill “Bijou” 401 pot, Patent Number 417574/34, will illustrate how the Dunhill scandal still haunts us and also provide a smooth transition into the modern phase of pipe forgeries.  I came across this one, offered on consignment for just under $1,000, on a very respected and reputable online site a while back.  The seller alleged the pipe dated to the 1920s or ’30s, as I recall.  I’m sure if the gentleman reads this he won’t mind that I omitted his credit for the following photos.  From a distance, even without the White Spot that appears to be on the top of the stem in closer shots, the pipe looks OK, at least. But something struck me as – well – just plain off with the first look, and in particular the name, Bijou, which rang a bell, although not yet any whistles.  I had to save the pics provided to my computer to view them in large enough format for air raid sirens to go off.  Everything was wrong with this so-called little jewel, from downright cheesy and double stamping to the runny stain job and, as Loring warned, an off-round, somewhat fuzzy White Spot.Furthermore, although in some rare instances the given patent number could have traced as far back as the 1920s, without a DUNHILL over LONDON stamp, the raised 4 after ENGLAND signifies the pipe would have been made in 1964, had Dunhill been involved at all in the manufacture of this knockoff.  (See Pipephil in Sources below.)

At last I remembered where I had heard of Bijou in relation to Dunhill.  It was Alfred Dunhill’s invention of the first handheld thumb-flick lighter in the late 1920s, which he called the Bijou.  I could find no strong evidence of any Dunhill Bijou pipe ever being made.  The letters GT in the photo below are the original owner’s monogram.

1928 Bijou-A 9-ct. gold lighter, courtesy Worthpoint

I emailed my concerns to the address listed for the site and to my surprise heard back immediately from the owner that he was looking into the matter.  Within 24 hours, experts confirmed that Dunhill never made a Bijou line, and the pipe indeed was a forgery.  It was removed from the website, and the pipe’s owner was notified of its true nature.The owner of the Bijou provided ample photos of the pipe for its proper identification, and there is no reason to suspect he intended to pass it off as a genuine Dunhill with any disingenuousness.  Here is another, lighter, shinier version of the same pipe, this one called a Dunhill 401 Root Briar Patent Number 417574/34 pot, found on eBay, with only the one picture and nothing but a distant angle on the White Spot to assume its authenticity.  This and the Bijou are the only 401 shapes I can find.Now, indulge me with a final Dunhill photo showing two pipes.  Both are supposed to be very rare #848 ODA magnums, but only one is the real thing.  The other appears to date back to the 1980s scandal, demonstrating how that scourge is not yet behind us.  Can you tell which is which?  Dunhill experts will have no trouble, but if you found the fake on eBay as the knowing buyer in this case did, would you?  The answer is here,* but I recommend the first Youtube video in the Sources for the full story.

Courtesy Pipehub, YoutubeBen Rapaport, a respected U.S. antiquities historian and columnist, wrote a comprehensive article about the history of pipe counterfeiting, called “The Age of Steal,” for Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine online.  Rapaport prefaced his detailed reporting of fraudulent activities in the pipe world with a note that they may not be “classified as theft in the literal sense [but] are, in my opinion, theft in the figurative sense.”

With the beginning of eBay’s real success as an online auction site in the mid-1990s, Rapaport claimed, “there suddenly appeared a pixel-and-byte tsunami, or maybe a torrent, of instant tobacco treasures for sale.”

The fraudulent cyber pipe business is now out of control, running the gamut from established old name brands, antique or otherwise, to contemporary makers and even artisan carvers.  The vast majority of pipes I’ve bought on eBay over the years have been more or less just what they were represented to be, with only two exceptions, one of which was supposed to be a KB&B Rocky Briar salesman sample.  Salesman samples were miniature, scale versions of regular sized pipes carried by – you guessed it, salesmen – in the early 20th century to show prospective buyers an idea of what they would get.  By nature of the time period in which they were used, salesman samples are now antiques or near the mark.  When I opened the package that arrived in the mail and removed the pipe, even taking into consideration its tininess, I found a corruption of pipe making that seemed to be crafted of balsa.Examining the little monstrosity, I was at once alarmed by its color, which I call Chinese red, and the tacky (as in sticky and uneven) looking coat of stain, or whatever was used to cover the cheap, ultra-light wood I later concluded was something along the lines of paulawney.  A closer look revealed just plain sloppy nomenclature, regardless of age, in particular an uneven Reg. US Pat. No. 298978.  Since there were two each of the numbers 8 and 9, I examined them, and they didn’t match, as shown in the following photo which is compared to one of Steve Laug’s that shows a real, crisp Rocky Briar imprint.As if there were any doubt as to the pipe’s fraudulence, it lacks the shape number on the right side of the shank.The other fake pipe was a CPF Globe Mount, a recent eBay purchase.  The wood is also very light and soft, but more substantial than the KB&B Rocky Briar.  Based on the light color of the shank opening and scratches, and the reddish tinge of the sanded chamber, I suspect it’s Chinese red cedar.  The stem, an obvious mismatch, is plastic. Each of these pipes cost the same or less than return postage would be, and so I kept them.  But it’s important to be sure that returns of online estate pipe purchases are guaranteed by the seller, especially if it’s a substantial investment.  Both of the above pipes were so protected, if I wanted to punish the sellers at my expense!

Capitello was founded in Italy by Enzo Galluzzo, the former official carver for Caminetto who had worked at Castello and Ascorti.  Although the business lasted only from c. 1982-1991, Galluzzo produced some of the most astounding, creative pipes in a short but brilliant run.  I have an interesting story about some shameful Capitello counterfeits I discovered on eBay and did my best to have removed.  To understand why the fakes were so preposterous, it is important to see a few real Capitello pipes.  Following are, in order, a wax drip Gotico from Pipephil, a rustic Gotico courtesy of a reputable eBay seller, an Airecchio from Haddock’s Pipes and a Jonico from my own collection.

Now, have a gander at the best of the counterfeits.The very small, bland billiard is supposed to be new and unsmoked, a rarity, but note the absence of the genuine stem mark, and the use of all caps in the name Capitello, among other problems that a simple check of Pipephil would illuminate for anyone not familiar with the brand.There are more, hideous black “dress” style pipes that Capitello never made, with the same ridiculous nomenclature, but here is the worst offender, something that doesn’t even pretend to have Capitello nomenclature.  Capitello also never used metal bands, even good ones.In light of the brazen fraud, I gave the seller, who was registered in the UK, a friendly chance to retract the offers.  When he replied with a rude note, a friend and I reported him to eBay, and I went so far as to file an online criminal complaint with Scotland Yard.  I never heard how that turned out, but I hope they at least rattled his cage.  I learned that the seller has a terrible reputation and is named in the second Youtube video in my Sources.  I recommend it as an excellent guide to spotting big name forgeries.

To end this section, I’ll show a couple of fake artisan pipes, both by Tom Eltang, the respected Danish carver.  I don’t have more than one photo each of the pipes or details of what is wrong with them, but they demonstrate how careful we need to be when buying anything online.* The top, chestnut-colored pipe is the fake.  Real Dunhill ODA pipes had lighter Root or Bruyere finishes.

To be sure, the great majority of online sellers, eBay or elsewhere, are not frauds.  The biggest abuse now is the outrageous over-pricing, mostly for Medicos and Dr. Grabows, which sellers seem to regard as the Holy Grail.  I remember the good old days when I had multiple lots of nine-12 pipes coming in the mail all the time, and all of them had good pipes as well as some little treasures in them.  While it was only natural that sellers would catch on, they seem to have over-reacted to the point where they are now paying their sources so much for garbage, more or less, that they are willing to go without selling their pipes at all unless they recoup their investments that were idiotic in the first place.  Not being collectors or restorers themselves, for the most part, they don’t understand what goes into repairing and sanitizing pipes for a business and being able to make a living, or even a reasonable extra income.

This blog is supposed to be more about the dangers of buying fake high-end pipes that are expensive as opposed to some lower-priced examples I showed by way of illustrating how far forgers will go to defraud collectors for a buck, so to speak.  The big names in pipe forgeries, other than Dunhill, include Radice, Sasieni, Peterson, Comoy’s and on and on.  Check out the second Youtube video in the Sources for an excellent guide on that subject.  For purposes of a summary, I’ve made some notes on how to avoid the snares these scoundrels will set.

  • Don’t be an easy mark. Take advantage of the wealth of information available online and at your local tobacconist!
  • Watch out for rare/unsmoked Not many collectors buy pipes to put them on the shelf and not enjoy them.
  • Scrutinize the nomenclature, and compare it to online sites like Pipephil.com. This means everything about the stampings on the pipe: the positioning, size, crispness and shape number.
  • Look at the finish. Is it the same style and color as examples of the real thing you find elsewhere online, e.g., smooth/rustic and light or dark brown?  Is the stain even and not tacky or runny?
  • Be sure the seller has an excellent history of top feedback.
  • Be sure there are plenty of pictures showing every angle and all of the nomenclature clearly. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more if you need them, and if he doesn’t provide them, don’t bid on the pipe!
  • Be absolutely sure returns are accepted.
  • Are there many bidders already? If not, why?

Concerning newer estate pipes that are still in production and not rare, always check at sites such as Smokingpipes.com to see if you can find one that’s identical or similar but brand-new for the same price or less.

There is much resistance in the pipe world to the idea of counterfeits.  I believe I have presented, in this relatively outline form, enough evidence to dispel the notion that they don’t exist.  Books could be written on the subject.

In recent years, I have noticed a marked decrease in estate pipe sales by those who buy and restore them for resale, not just my own but those of friends.  The unfortunate fact is that the few crooks – or in some cases simple fools – who take advantage of buyers’ ignorance give the estate pipe business a bad name.  In most cases, great deals for used pipes that are hard to come by and have been restored to excellent condition – and sanitized for immediate use – can be found, if you only look for them.


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The Wreck of an Unknown Turned Lion’s Head Meer

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors

There’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee, it says, ‘Fool me once [long pause, forgetting where he’s going; laughter from the audience; continues, trying to recover] shame on — shame on you.  [More laughter] Fool me, you can’t get fooled again!”

— George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, September 17, 2002, before an audience of schoolchildren, parents and teachers in Nashville

The vicarious embarrassment experienced by rational Americans who were alive and old enough to witness the poignant catalog of Bushisms (and it was longer than any forgiving person would care to remember) was at once painful and hilarious to behold, providing a sort of release valve for the intense pressures of events that were still fresh, burning sores on our collective psyche.  The list needs no new punditry.  It’s all been said, after all, but I would like to make one note of commiseration relevant to the above quote and this blog.  I was going to begin my account of this restoration with the words the president no doubt meant to use in his speech: “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”*  Then I flashed on the great gaff from the turn of the millennium and decided to go with it, as the president’s graceful attempt to regain his oratory footing, reminiscent of a cornered badger, mirrors my own feelings after helping my roommate to choose a lion’s head meerschaum online.

You see, my roommate, Howard, is computer and cyber illiterate.  I mean no disrespect, it’s just a fact.  He’s the first to admit it, to everyone with whom he has business contact, going so far as denying having an email address until I signal him to tell the truth because it makes everything so much easier.  I’m the one who has to figure out and fix his problems, and I don’t mind that either.  In the interest of equal disclosure, I have my own deficiencies, including, it seems, not taking into consideration the one veritable litmus test of a problematic pipe and advocating its purchase anyway.  When my searches found eBay didn’t have anything the day I looked for a lion’s head meerschaum Howard would like, there were several choices from Etsy sellers.  All of them looked nice, but one stood out.  The title was “Genuine Meerschaum Warrantied Antique 19th Century Lion Head Pipe,” and the photo looked more or less like the following, which I took after it arrived.Two key points may already be obvious: that I indicated there was only one picture of the pipe, and, considering again that I took the shot above, my roommate bought it anyway.  The only explanation I can offer is the distracting pleasure and surprise I felt at Howard’s unusual excitement from the prospect of making his first pipe purchase that was a) online, b) from someone other than me and c) meerschaum.  Then there was his repeated instruction to me to order the pipe.  As I’m sure you can imagine, when Howard received his awaited package in the mail, soon after I placed the order, and discovered certain – well, for now I’ll just call them short-fallings – I was quick to point a finger of blame.  After all, the Etsy seller was culpable for the rather shabby way that the “short-fallings” were, no doubt on purpose, concealed and not mentioned anywhere in the description.

Still, I have to accept the blame not only because I should know by now never to order a pipe based on one photo, all the more so with someone else’s money, but I also made a close enough inspection of the single picture to question whether the pipe might be constructed of wood.  Ornate pipes, after all, were not limited to meerschaum.  I have a briar CPF tiger’s head medium churchwarden made from a very dark form of briar, and something about the shiny, deep, complete uniformity of the lion’s brown color was wrong.  I just didn’t yet get what it is, a subject to which I will return in a moment.  The most striking oddity was the clean and smooth chamber, which was the exact same brown as the outside of the stummel.  I mentioned to Howard the possibility the pipe was wood, but we agreed the overall quality appeared good enough that it didn’t matter.  Final examination of the lone photo revealed the perfect fit of the pipe in the case and the fading words “Genuine Meerschaum Warrantied” on the lining.  I take those words as a legal stipulation to the quality of the pipe’s main material rather than the name of an importer, although clever scammers abounded in the good old days as they do now.  But to me, the best, rarest detail is what appears to be the apparent original, hand-written price tag for $2.95 on a tiny scrap of paper preserved within the narrow curve of the case where the shank meets the stem.In hindsight, the lack of any grain, at least along the smooth shank, should have been the only sign needed that the lion’s head isn’t wood, but at last month’s meeting of my pipe club, one of two of my well-known pipe maker friends suggested the extreme, shellac- or varnish-like shininess made the stummel appear to be cast resin of some sort while the other said it resembled a precise kind of synthetic plastic the name of which I forget.  They both pointed out the obvious, that I could determine if the pipe was meerschaum by making a small test cut somewhere safe.  In most cases, no such location exists, but I chose the top stem end of the shank since it needed to be banded, which is a magnanimous way of describing the situation upon which I’m about to expand.  With my pen knife, I made a small scrape that revealed bright white meerschaum.  So that was the end of that unpleasant but necessary question to resolve.

Now, returning to the subject of what this pipe, which indeed is meerschaum, represents, and what my mind could not grasp because I had never seen an example of the phenomenon before.  It is a perfect example of the practice called “aging” meerschaum pipes by artificial means, a contradiction in terms of the vilest type.  I will never forget reading on one leading if self-styled meerschaum “ager’s” website of his special and so-called safe method of transferring a good, healthy, normal meerschaum pipe into one that, in his mind if no knowledgeable person’s, appears to have been colored to its fullest “antique” condition.  The rationale, to paraphrase with complete accuracy, was that all serious meerschaum collectors prize the rich colors that are produced over time by smoking meerschaum pipes, so why wait?  Well, there’s the rub!  Every serious collector I’ve ever known or heard from online cherishes above all else the slow, personal process of coloring the pipe that starts out bright white and turns yellow, gold, brown and, after many years of much use, a deep burgundy color.  The meerschaum ager fellow must have gotten his hands on the pipe that is now Howard’s.  That is the only explanation I can imagine why I thought of wood and my two well-known pipe-maker friends saw cast resin or synthetic plastic.  [NOTE THAT I DO NOT INCLUDE IN MY DISTASTE THE USE OF COLORING BOWLS, WHICH HAVE BEEN AROUND SINCE AT LEAST 1892, ALTHOUGH I HAVEN’T TRIED ONE YET, TO HELP MAKE THE PROCESS EVEN.  SEE THE LAST LINK IN SOURCES BELOW.]

For a description of a very old method of faking the color of antique pipes, see the chart at the end of the second link in Sources.

The opening shots of the meerschaum as it looked upon arrival will show both the slick attempt by its seller to hide the grave visible problems, not to mention the internal damage, and the actual outer calamities inflicted upon the still lovely pipe.  The list of damages I tallied with a quick look-see at the lion’s head  involved:

  • The broken red amber stem and bone tenon, with the stem face roughened by whatever accident caused the damage
  • A perfect, seamless break on the bottom of the shank extending from the opening most of the way to the draught hole and somehow stayed in place until the pipe was fully removed from its case
  • An old break in the bottom of the bowl that looked to be well-patched
  • Assorted white spots on the lion’s head where the meerschaum showed from chips
  • An adamant blockage of the draught hole from an unknown source I suspected was 100+ years of solidified bone tenon bits, tar, saliva and other nasty detritus (all of it hidden and absent from the seller’s description)

To determine that the stem is amber rather than Bakelite, or Redmanol, I used the simple two-step method described at the link in the Sources below: the material is warm to the touch and is luminescent when held under a black light.

That the pipe in this blog is antique is certain.  My belief that it dates to the late 19th century because of the intricacy of the carving and my personal observation that animals such as lions were on their way out by the turn of the 20th century, as well as the stem material being amber, is just that.

I will end this intro with the admission that, despite my stated certainty I could repair all of the problems with the pipe, Howard was the one of us who really believed it.

* The first known written record read, “When a man deceives me once, says the Italian proverb, it is his fault; when twice, it is mine.”  George Home, 1786, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, quoted in Breig, James, “Out, Damn’d Proverbs,” Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Winter 2002-2003. https://www.history.org/foundation/journal/winter02-03/proverbs.cfm.

RESTORATION I snapped the last shot above, showing the broken shank, after wheedling out the antique bone tenon.

To remove the extreme blockage in the vicinity of the draught hole, I tried an old trick of straightening a paper clip, then bending an end and working it into the entrance of the draught hole at the bottom of the chamber.  Alternating that approach with assaults from the other side (meaning through the shank) using various very thin metal objects, I realized I was getting nowhere.  And so I began this phase in earnest by diluting about one part isopropyl alcohol with five parts purified water and pouring the solution into the pipe chamber with the shank plugged. I let it soak a couple of hours and turned to my bizarre set of tools.  Some of the tools and other devices I employed for the extraction were a thin screw driver, the shank-clearing part of a three-piece pipe tool, the paper clip again and, taking a cue from Laurence Olivier’s evil Nazi dentist in The Marathon Man, some wicked-looking implements that could pass at a glance for dental tools.  In fact, as many of you will recognize, they are for carving, although the broken bits of bullheaded bone resembled rotted teeth.   However, the final push in the process was another alcohol-water soak of the chamber, but overnight that time.  After that, the metal shank part of the pipe tool pushed on through to the other side, dislodging one small chunk of dark old bone.  A good, strong blow through the shank with my fingers covering the rim sent the last five scraps blasting free with a whistle.

“This shank is clear,” I said to Howard, doing my best Zelda Rubinstein.  Howard, sitting across the living room table from me, smiled at the joke, but really, it was one of the most rewarding moments of my pipe cleaning life.  Here are the pieces from the stem, shank and, much later but included now as a sort of class photo, the remains I had to use way more force than I ever imagined possible on a meerschaum to dislodge from their long-held stronghold in the draught hole.  The extraction took about a week, but until it was accomplished – if I could pull it off without shattering the meerschaum into perhaps a thousand fragments – I wasn’t about to pend any more time on restoring this sorely abused work of art.I had come to the green light for reattaching the broken piece of the shank.  Pouring a small amount of shaved wood onto a business card, I added a few drops of Gorilla Super Glue and, using the spoon of my pipe tool to mix the two as fast as possible before they set, applied a thin layer to the exposed white meerschaum on the shank and returned the separated piece to its place with a firm push.  Somehow I didn’t get a pic of this step, but it looked just as natural as it did when it arrived held together by the forces of nature.  I stained the bottom of the lion’s mane black as it had been.  A lucky guess of moccasin brown for the shank and various white spots on the rest of the stummel was right on.  I flamed those areas with a Bic.The char buffed off without problem using 4000-12000 micro mesh pads.  I decided to carpe diem, and used super fine “0000” steel wool to remove the respiratory inhibiting coat of shellac or varnish or whatever was used to make the natural beauty of the meerschaum abnormally shiny everywhere except for the lion’s proud face and the underside.  I experienced an intense wave of relief.

One good thing about this pipe is that the threads of the stem and shank remained intact throughout more than a century of outrages perpetrated against the other limbs and sinews of its intricate feline features.  From an assortment of new bone tenons I have, and which seem well-named for this feral example of pipe carving, I chose one that screwed into the shank just right but needed to be glued into the stem.  For chemical reasons of which I have no understanding but do possess some practical experience with briar and meerschaum, sinking a loose tenon into a shank is best accomplished with an Epoxy/wood shavings mixture.  The one drawback to this method is the necessary full setting period of at least two days and sometimes more, depending on the gap in the shank.  On the other hand, sinking a tenon that is barely loose into a stem works fine with a Super Glue/shavings mix and of course dries far faster – so fast, in fact, that the difficulty with that path is mixing, applying and inserting the tenon into the stem before the mix dries.  Isn’t it just God’s honest truth that everything comes with a test?

My next task was to sink a crisp new bone tenon into the well-preserved amber stem that was a close enough fit to feel the grooves of the tenon and stem trying to connect.  I did so with the Super Glue/shavings mix.  For anyone who has never done anything like this before, I ran a pipe cleaner through the stem and tenon before stirring together the ingredients and applying the mix to the tenon, then inserting into the stem, again, all as fast as possible to avoid drying before the whole process was done. As soon as the tenon was in place, I wiggled the cleaner back and forth a little to assure it wasn’t sticky with glue and pulled it out.  This can take a little practice.  At least it did in my case, which was another benefit of using the Epoxy/shaving mix that takes longer to solidify.As I noted, the stem was in great shape for any pipe that has been used even for a short time, much less more than a century ago before moving it around, hiding it away in attics, storage spaces or wherever and of course taking it out of its case now and then to show off to friends without having a clue about its value to collectors.  As a result, I only needed to sand with 400- to 1000-grit paper before micro meshing from 1500-12000.  I finished the stem by buffing on the electric wheels with Red Tripoli and Carnauba wax.The last part of the official job was to fit a sterling silver band, per Howard’s specification, to support the crack.  What the photo of that particular damage doesn’t show is the length, which extended in a half-oval- about three-quarters of an inch.  That’s an impossible chunk to cover with anything but a home- or custom-made band.  Maybe if I had the skill of some I would have cut off the violated space and replaced it with a fancy ferrule, but as I’ve written in the past, shoulda-coulda-woulda.  I’ll save that procedure for another operation sometime in the future.

For the time being, I satisfied myself by measuring the shank and finding that between the stem opening and the far end of the crack it tapered from 15-15.5mm in diameter.  Vermont Freehand had sterling bands at half-millimeter intervals.  I decided 16mm would be too big and the exact fit of 15.5mm would require an adjustment to the shank.   Based on a gold band I ordered from the same source not long ago for another meerschaum repair, I also had reason to suspect the automatic length would be a quarter-inch.  Therefore, I ordered the 15.5mm band (as well as a tenon turning tool for my new drill press) and emailed Steve Norse, owner of VF, that I’d like a half-inch or even longer band if possible.  He came through with a half-incher that covered two-thirds of the crack, and if I could give him a BBB rating, it would be AAA.   When the band arrived, as predicted, I had to take a little meerschaum off the shank opening end using a 180-grit pad.After gluing the band onto the shank, which was still a very tight fit, I sanded the outer edge of the band with a 220-grit pad to even it as much as possible without off-setting the stem fit.  Someday I’ll develop my eyes to spot the alignment problem before I Super Glue a new band onto the shank so I can even the shank instead! Instead of crying over spilt milk, I touched up the uncovered sanded area with more moccasin brown stain, flamed and micro meshed.  The last third of the wicked crack is visible in the shot below.I would have been finished, except that Howard decided he wanted the dull black and scuffed pipe case cleaned up – meaning stained.  Being perhaps a bit old fashioned, my initial silent reaction was opposed to the idea of altering the natural aged look of the case.  After a moment’s thought, however, I realized not only that the pipe and its case didn’t belong to me, but that I could indeed make the case look much better than it did.  Besides, I had never restored a case before.  Here it was before.And here’s the case after staining with black leather dye and flaming with a Bic.That’s it, other than the finished pipe. And finally, the case is closed – buffed with Carnauba.  The sides where it clasps shut are flaking, so I didn’t stain them brown.CONCLUSION
I have faults like everyone, but honesty isn’t one of them.  If anything, my openness has been to my detriment.  That said, as I admitted my responsibility for Howard’s purchase of this challenged but nevertheless wonderful pipe that is a series of contradictions – complex and straight-forward, delicate but powerful, strengthened by its injuries, beautiful in part from its rough-weathered time in our world – I also admit my restoration has flaws.  At least I am confident I returned some pride to the old lion as another winter approaches and made him of use and value again.  Howard loves the venerable example of old world carving skill because of its quality and freshness of taste but also its longness of tooth and attendant need for care.  He wouldn’t object in the least if it were made of wood, even a kind other than briar.  All Howard knows is that it looks good, feels rugged and fits right in his hand and even makes his tobacco taste better.

What more could anyone want?







Light in April

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past”
— William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun, 1951

As another loose and humble homage – some of which have been received well, others less so – I offer this tribute to the great American author and Southerner William Faulkner (1897-1962).  Perhaps as an inducement to those who may at least entertain the notion of reading on from beginning to end, I also tender a reward: one fine African meerschaum bent billiard of unknown make to the first person who identifies the names of a few of Faulkner’s magnificent literary works contained within this story blog as simple text.  Anyone willing to take the challenge, if such it may be called, need only reply at the end with the titles uncovered.MONDAY, APRIL 15
Perched on a whitewashed planter flecked with dirt and displaying dead flowers, the man smoked a pipe that was carved when his great-grandfather was young, thinking about the never-ending drudge of life but knowing he was not awake enough to keep the idea going.  The camouflaged cinderblock showpiece for the all but disintegrated yarrow, yellow marigold and other forgotten floral detritus, almost as common to the area as weeds and sagebrush and the five local seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter and wind – was prominent between the fractured cement driveway and stylish stone garden that had a proprietary name few locals knew other than perhaps a few grizzled flyboy retirees who flocked to this high desert town to spend their final years and paychecks. Still, the house he rented would always be the mansion to his way of thinking.

He heard the first of many coffee pots, percolating on the stove, that would goad him through the spring day, telling himself out loud how each of them would make him a little more sociable as the warm April sunlight he regarded as somehow less special that the light in August came and went in the course of the day.  The gurgle and flush of the old thing made him crankier, thinking the piñon nuts mixed with the dark ground beans would never taste as good as he thought he remembered before the whole enchilada started breaking bad.  He said, “I hope a cupful will give me a minimum of contentment.”

His parents gave him a name, but he liked to be called Bert, which was a half-baked sort of diminishment of his official designation inscribed on a certificate somewhere, but he was alright with that, thinking, names don’t amount to a hill of pinto beans, and since this one was given to me I can toss it in the river if I want..

Having gotten along in years to the condition where he remembered being a boy like it was yesterday but was hogtied to dredge up a word he wanted or where he saw someone the day before, Bert would tell himself he was no hoary, broken-down wraith of the sad, amusing sort of flags in the dust he saw ambling down bedraggled, pot-holed, sage brush-strewn roads in the hamlet where he lived.  Feeling shackled to call the place home by the antiquated convention of the vague class known as society, all Bert could think was, “That’s Tamalewood, huh.”  The town was no sanctuary to him, if it ever was.  The problem was recollecting the particulars of the fancies that flashed inside his mercurial stream of consciousness that was not as sharp as Hatch chile like it used to be.  He was long since at peace in that respect.

When he was a boy he grabbed hold of the early-onset codger in him as though it were something dear he might lose, knowing in later life he was not as old as most of that breed of character, thinking maybe I’m a curmudgeon but hoping better and pushing the notion out of his head as he would flick mosquitoes from his arm with the nail of a calloused finger.

Trying to piece together how he came to be in frequent contact with a fellow pipe restorer by the name of Benjamin Loveless of Tennessee, Bert’s first thought was how the name evoked a character from some might-have-been Dickens novel – an attorney maybe, or someone else with a good education anyway.  Then, jarring back to reality, he recalled the first encounter was an email from this Loveless in early February, asking for information on Colossus Pipe Factory pipes.  Little more than a week later, he sent a photograph of a rare peculiar wooden pipe in the style named after those who kept watch over churches in years long past, with the head of a tiger cocked to the left.  Seized by a powerful lust from that first gander at the fine old smoker, even if it was a bit what he called froufrou, he had but two words for his chance of ever affording whatever Loveless wanted for it, “Eeee!” followed by “Oraley!” and resented the tease.  If he really wanted to burn that bridge he would have told Loveless to bounce.

Bert knew a thing or two about CPF pipes and wanted that one in the worst way, and being a codger if not a curmudgeon he never counted on Loveless’ proffered hospitable and charitable ways.  In fact he still did not altogether trust the hope sparked inside his chest by the offer Loveless made him.   One way or another, the two men cut a deal on trust that Bert would come through with a reasonable monthly installment until the debt was paid.  The whole while, Bert thought it sounded too good to be true, like ordering from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, based on no more than his pledge.  In all truthfulness, they both knew the end price fixed upon was a good deal higher than anything the regular market would support, but that’s the nature of the pipe hunger beast.for you.  Bert had heard tell of four others he could have bought for the price of the one, if he had the cash on hand that is, but to his eyes they were all Walgreens quality by comparison.  Bert knew, Some day as I lay dying, God willing not before I’ve had time to enjoy it, I’ll never forget the favor Loveless cut me!  The amazing pipe arrived by express mail two days later and was in Bert’s own disbelieving hands.

Bert heard tell later from a source of unassailable integrity that Briarville Pipe Repair LLC, thinking of its motto, “Pipe Repair as Close as Your Mailbox” ™, replaced the horn extension with a shiny black bit fixed in place.  Having assisted Briarville in finding the answer to an intriguing old pipe question before, he decided to telephone the business and determine what if any work the excellent operation indeed performed.  The restorer was relieved he did so, as the answers the owner sent back prove why fact-checking is imperative for all types of writing, whether investigative journalism or much simpler pipe restoration blogging.   Indeed, Bert had more than the one questions wanting answers.

    1. Did Briarville provide a replacement extension and bit, and if so, what model was used to choose the very appropriate look? Briarville did not replace anything but instead repaired a single crack in the extension.
    2. What materials formed the extension and bit? Knowing the query might sound somewhat daft given the obvious horn appearance of the extension, he had never worked with the alternative accessory and wanted to be sure it was what it appeared to be.  Also, the bit looked to be something he thought was not invented until after 1915 when CPF closed shop.  The answer was that the extension in fact was horn as it seemed and Bert’s original source suspected, and the bit was Vulcanite as he had guessed.  And so, researching the date Vulcanite was patented, he found US3633A by Charles Goodyear dated June 6, 1844, shown below.  That was excellent news, suggesting the two combined parts were original.
    3. From what type of wood was the stummel carved? The reply to that was briar, but with all due respect to Briarville, Bert had serious doubts about that for several reasons: the extreme darkness of the wood that lightened very little after an extensive soak in alcohol, the somewhat tiger-like grain, and the unique taste of the wood that melded quite well with the tobacco.  Some of the photos that follow will demonstrate Bert’s point, but in the end he emailed photos to his artisan pipe maker friend Don Gillmore in hope of settling the issue.  Don is known for his use of alternative woods such as walnut, maple and pecan, and still others more exotic including bog wood (a.k.a. morta, ebony wood, black wood and abonos wood), and trusted if anyone he know could identify the genus, it was he   From the darkness of the wood, Bert suggested cherry.  Don shot that down, noting the grain and lack of iridescence were not present.  He noted “the color is within the range of walnut,” but as it turned out he was only going by Bert’s conviction it wasn’t briar.  When Bert responded that it was heavy and dense, Don’s final conclusion was “probably briar.”  And so Bert saw no choice but to join the consensus, however contrary the necessity.
    4. What time frame would the pipe’s manufacture date be? The guess was early 20th century. That may very well be the case, Bert knew, and there was no way to pinpoint it, but in this case stuck to his guns and argued his pipe’s creation to be in the late 1800s, with cause having nothing to do with a desire to make it older than it was.  Since 2013, when Bert first heard of CPF, he was confident to a point just short of calling himself an expert that he had researched the brand and its pipes – wood and meerschaum – as thoroughly as anyone.  He never before set eyes on any ornate wooden CPF like the tiger’s head.  More to the point, when Kaufman Brothers & Bondy bought CPF in 1883, the shift from ornate to more traditional models began and continued until the company’s end, and by the time 1900 was rung in by turn-of-the-century revelers, ornate wood pipes were all but phased out.  Nevertheless, when it comes to arguing the potential difference in age from 119 to 136 years, Bert said again out loud he was not going to quibble.  He hated that species of know-it-all more than anything.  His “newest” pipe was an antique with more than enough years to spare, whatever its date of creation.

To give a better perspective of the actual size of the CPF shown in Loveless’ beautiful photo that isn’t apparrent below (even with the lovely Peterson dwarfed by it), the length was 10 1/2”, the bowl height 2” and the chamber diameter a unique ⅞” x 2”.  Bert chose unique because of the peculiar straight evenness of the depth, which accommodated far more tobacco than his favorite Ben Wade by Preben Holm Danish freehand that sported a 1” x 2” tapered chamber.  The second photo shows the same tobacco needed to fill both the CPF and the PH, left to right.  Despite the trick of the angle, both lids were identical in size, but the left held about five good pinches, and the right three. The tiger’s head needed no cleaning and was unblemished by any apparent damage to the horn extension.  Bert, of course, following his nature, tried it out and enjoyed it so much he made it the only pipe he smoked for a couple of days.  Then, to his horror, he observed the sudden appearance of two cracks in the horn that could only be described as honking.  To make it clear right off, he was not blaming anyone for the weirdness of the manifestation.  He suspected it was due to the extreme age of the horn and long disuse, and may very well require ongoing attention. For the edification of those whose personal values (which are formed by family, social and peer forces as by clay with all of the potential for works of art or bricks or quagmires of mud and possess the same qualities of steady hardening into solids that can nevertheless be shattered) deny them the sublime enjoyment of reading the dry legalese of patents, the second paragraph describes Goodyear’s idea of “combining sulphur and white lead with the india rubber” and heating in such a way that the result is both heat- and cold-resistant, thereby making Vulcanite less apt to soften and crack, although Vulcanite is never mentioned by name.

Illustrated next is the rest of the phenomenal pipe when Bert decided to fix the cracks and re-do the stain, only to satisfy his own quirky druthers. The only real CPF expert Bert knew told him the hallmarks on the brass-coated nickel band were meaningless for dating or other helpful purposes, but they looked impressive.

Commencing his journey to salvation, Bert gave the stummel, extension and bit a quick wipe with a paper towel and purified water, then reamed and sanded the chamber with 220- and 320-grit papers and pre-cleaned the inner shank and air hole with cleaners dipped in Everclear he would have found refreshing for his own consumption in earlier years. He then bathed the extension/bit in an OxiClean solution as though it were a hot natural spring water cure ordered by a physician and got the retort out of the way with his newer laboratory grade kit, which, fueled with Isopropyl alcohol, makes an impressive and mighty flame that should be respected but does boil the Everclear through the rounded Pyrex tube with great speed and efficiency.Concluding there was no time like the present to tackle the only repair needed, Bert confronted the crack with the determination of David against Goliath but an approach that required two applications of Super Glue rather than a sling and stones, the initial one clamping the cracks shut long enough to dry afterward and the other just filling in remaining gaps again before sanding and buffing smooth. In his work of fine-tuning, Bert did not record the multiple buffing steps.  As for the stummel, he had set his mind on as much of a two tone as he could achieve to give the stunning, intricate carving of the tiger’s head a more lifelike color and leave the smooth area darker but still showing a hint of the grain.  After a long Everclear soak, he let it dry and used super fine “0000” steel wool to lighten the color. The remainder of the trek was a blur, and again he failed in his usual obsessive observance of details.  The almost final steps were micro meshing from 1500-12000 and staining the smooth area with Lincoln Brown Leather Dye and the carved part with something a little different: Fiebing’s British Tan.So close to the end and almost delirious, Bert went over the top in obsessiveness making the regal, proud, all-but-lifelike head light enough to suit his exacting taste, using steel wool again and even light sanding with a double-sided 220-320-grit pad.  In almost all cases of waxing carved surfaces of pipes, Bert employed a white, hand-applied concoction, but not this time.  He buffed the carved part on the electric wheel with carnauba alone and the smooth with red Tripoli and carnauba.  In a moment of blinding revelation, the sound and the fury of the experience came together in an epiphany that left him dazed. AFTERWORD
Bert remained one of the unvanquished, believing that so long as the past is remembered and preserved, it never goes away.


The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 4/4: Fixing a Meerschaum Shank Everyone Thought Was Beyond Repair

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

 To him that will, ways are not wanting.
— George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentusm or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c. (posthumous, 1651). 

Part 1 hypothesized that the discontinuation, illegality and dwindling or total unavailability of vital materials, used in antique and other very old pipes, will lead to a serious crisis in restoring these heirlooms and otherwise prized implements of contemplation to their original conditions.  My main theme was the need for those of us in the business – having considerable, moderate or little experience under our belts – to learn how to overcome these difficulties that will become more acute all too soon.  In hindsight, I should have emphasized better the need for those who now have the know-how to use their own perhaps self-discovered and unique (read proprietary) heroic measures to cooperate in sharing them with the rest of us.

Part 2 described the first of three such repairs I have completed, its example being a Colossus Pipe Factory (CPF) Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum with a gold band and genuine cherry red amber stem that needed reconnecting with a new bone screw tenon.  Five years after I began searching for the one part, I was compelled to send the otherwise restored CPF to a specialized repair service that may have been the only place capable at the time to affect the rehabilitation – for lack of a proper bone tenon or anyone to whom I could turn for instruction on how to repair damage to the inner shank.  Now I know the necessary work was relatively minor.

Part 3, taking the form of a fable, told of the misadventures of the Restorer during his two-year quest to cleanse of all evils a Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Blueline Bakelite dated by its owner to 1911 and entrusted to the Restorer’s care for a simple cleaning and restoring.  The ensuing calamities must be read to be believed.

I became involved with this small old meerschaum smooth bent billiard by the most unusual circumstances of any restoration I’ve made so far.  My pipe club meetings take place the third Thursday of every month in a back room of the local Moose Club Lodge, where the Ladies of the Moose are gracious enough to cook a special dinner for us at a low price that just covers their expenses, not counting the tips we’re more than happy to contribute.

Before dinner was served at the December meeting, one of the ladies, Sherry, happened to buy two of my pipes.  One was the best I had, a beautiful Ben Wade by Preben Holm Danish freehand, and the other a vintage Dr. Grabow easy bent natural billiard.  Sherry didn’t know much about pipes but liked those two, which I let her have at the 15% club discount minus the usual $8.00 shipping fee.  She mentioned finding at a yard sale a little pipe, in a leather case, she described as very dirty but white underneath with a broken stem.  She thought it might be antique.  I told her it was probably meerschaum, explained what that meant, and  encouraged her to bring it with her the night of the next meeting so we could all have a look and see what might be done.

Before dinner was served at the January meeting, Sherry handed me the little brown case.  There’s something mysterious about such objects, teasing the beholder to approach and open them and reveal the secrets hidden within.  Nothing we’ve been taught by fables, folklore and outright superstition entreating us not to meddle with common-looking doodads, unless we’re prepared to face the unknown but likely negative consequences, is powerful enough to stay our hands.  “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” which was not added until 1704 to the original Arabic tales from the 8th-14th centuries, comes to mind.  The tale of the powers of the Magic Lamp, during more than three hundred years of oral and other popular re-telling, has been altered from its actual story in which all ends well to a warning to be careful what we wish lest we get what we ask for.  But in this event, the contents pf the brown case appeared benign. The top felt lining of the open box identified the meerschaum billiard as a First Quality, but whether that was an old brand name or the importer I have not been able to determine.  Sherry’s main concern, of course, was if her $8 yard sale find could be fixed so she could smoke it.  Seeing the severe damage to the inner shank, my hopes were not high.  I observed the stem that was with the meerschaum was too short and also smaller in diameter than the shank and suspected its use as a replacement of the original may have caused or worsened the harm. Still, with wishful thinking, I thought the gutted, ragged shank of the little pipe (only 5” long) might be mended with Plaster of Paris or some sort of putty.  I was sitting next to Don Gillmore, the artisan pipe maker whose business is called DW Pipes, and he nixed those ideas.  Any new stem and tenon, Don said, would not support the billiard’s weight with the sort of shank repair I proposed.  We passed it around the table, and that was the general opinion.  For such a small pipe, it was rather heavy, and at least part of me had to go along with everyone else’s verdict.

Sherry also wondered how old the First Quality pipe was.  The group conclusion was that it dated to between the turn of the 20th century and the 1930s.  Everyone agreed the stem was Bakelite, but in a later experiment that ended with shocking results I proved that was erroneous.  More about that later.

And so I had to tell Sherry, choosing my words with special care, that her pipe was very old but there was nothing we could do to attach a new stem.  Still I thought there might be some way to accomplish the feat.  I kept that to myself, however, instead offering to clean up the pipe and make it look nice, at least, at no charge.  I could see the well-masked disappointment on her face and had to bite my tongue to hold back my seemingly irrational hope so as not to risk another let-down.  For the meantime, Sherry let me take the pipe for cleaning.

George Herbert’s proverb, later reiterated as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is the prefect prelude to this blog.  Everyone else present at the January meeting of my local pipe club reached the same conclusion, that the restoration was impossible given the severe damage and known methods of repair I proposed that were intended for small jobs of meerschaum patchwork,  I even consulted our host, Steve, in a short exchange of emails in which I suggested more and more creative (meaning desperate) approaches   I should have accepted the wholly sensible belief that the smooth little billiard was past fixing when I received Steve’s emphatic consensus that any such approach would not support the inherent torque between the stem and shank.  In fact, for a moment I did give up hope   

I’m afraid my mind was already ensnared by what my dad always called a steel trap, however, and I had to find a means of escape even if it required sending the pipe to miracle workers such as the folks at Norwoods Pipe Repair, who had bailed me out several times already.  I was growing tired of such surrender, but with that end in mind, I sent Norwood the younger photos clarifying the damage and text adding every possible material of the main parts to be used, in the preferred order.  As always with that fine business, I had a positive response the same night.  Assured the job could be done, I prepared a realistic estimate of the amount Sherry would pay, with parts, labor, shipping there and back and the 11% tax included, and forwarded the good news to Sherry.

But you see, another aspect of Herbert’s collection I like is the comparison of the modern sense of the word outlandish in the book’s subtitle being “freakishly or grotesquely strange or odd” compared to the now archaic meaning, from the Old English utlendisc, as foreign or not native.  I also appreciate the translation of the main title, from Latin, referring to careful darts.

Remembering the antique CPF turned lion’s head meerschaum pipe I sent to Norwoods to have the original amber stem reattached with a new bone screw tenon, I took a closer look at the shank as it appeared before and after the wonderful work that was accomplished.  An outlandish notion in both senses of the word began to form in my mind.Notwithstanding my good faith communication with Norwoods, I knew I could accomplish the task myself.  Because of the way the CPF’s previous shank threading was filled with some permanent solution, sinking the new bone tenon within it, all I needed was a practicable guess as to the solidifying substances used.

Thinking it might present somewhat of a difficulty to Don, I drove to his house and showed him the CPF.  After examining the shank for a few seconds, Don suggested epoxy mixed with powdered wood.  He half-filled a plastic 35mm film tube with the latter – more than I’d need for far more meerschaum repairs than I could make in quite a while – and said the epoxy was up to me.  Of more importance to me was his change of opinion regarding my ability to accomplish the task.

I cut in half my previous estimate of Sherry’s cost to fix her meerschaum pipe and sent her a new email asking if I could proceed with the work, guaranteeing the price.  It was the only time I’ve bid on a job, and my goal being less to make money than to demonstrate how this kind of meerschaum repair could be performed by almost any restorer (not to downplay my experience more than is appropriate), I decided to undercut the competition with assertive style.  Her reply was that if I was confident I could do the work, get on with it.

With the pipe already cleaned by then, I had reluctantly concluded an amber bit was not viable at the time because of general unavailability of any color without sending the pipe to someone else to do the work.  I only had to acquire a Bakelite stem of an appropriate length and color (as close as possible to the orange of the poor replacement shown above, based on Sherry’s wish) and a selection of bone tenons and Teflon push-pull sets from which to choose when I decided the type I would use.

JH Lowe turned out to be the single supply store I found with all of the above but sold the push-pull sets in 12-packs.  I would only need one, and thinking I’d save on my expenses, I ordered a three-pack from Royal Meerschaum.Also, the JH Lowe bit page did not mention available colors, and the closest length was 3”, the standard.  For the pipe to fit its case as it had when first made, the bit needed to be 2½”.  On a tip from a friend, I called Tim West of JH Lowe and asked if he had any orange or even yellow Bakelite bits of the right length that were pre-bent.  Every source I had found, online and friends, stressed that Bakelite could not be bent.

CORRECTION TO PART 1: In the first blog of this series, I noted that hand-crafted old pipes, including the stems, were made to the exact and often eccentric specifications of the maker, and therefore one of the problems “for purposes of restoring old stems made of Bakelite…[is that] any necessary replacement can be reworked in only one way: fitting an over-sized stem of an otherwise suitable candidate to a shank by serious sanding or other such methods.  Any other alteration, such as bending or threading, is strictly impossible.”  When Tim repeated that Bakelite bits were pre-fashioned for individual pipes, I told him I was aware of that obstacle and it was, indeed, the cause of my greatest difficulty – finding one already bent.  Without a bent Bakelite stem, I added, I could not complete the project at hand.  With a little reluctance, Tim then insisted that although it is “tricky at low temperatures, Bakelite can be bent.”  He assured me he has succeeded in bending Bakelite “a little but not much.”    

Just to be on the safe side, I ordered a 3” straight bit that was dark reddish brown, a 2½” “orange or yellow” bit Tim was sure he had in a back room, whether or not it was bent, and a 12-pack of assorted bone tenons.  Both bits were pre-drilled for the “push” side of the set.  Given Tim’s qualification of the bending process being chancy at low temperatures, I reasoned, if need be I would crank the oven up a little at a time and see if the world’s first synthetic plastic became more malleable.  But Tim came through with all of it, including a 2½” easy bent yellow bit, leaving my experiment for a later date – but not too far in the future, perhaps even as a follow-up to these four blogs. By the way, Tim is experiencing technical difficulties with his website navigation menu.  As a workaround solution, he has made sure that browser searches for JH Lowe pull up direct links to each of his pages.  He apologized for the temporary inconvenience.

The basic cleaning of Sherry’s pipe was finished the morning of January 18, the day after she left it with me for that reason.  I started with a simple wipe down using a small part of a paper towel and purified water and was amazed by the difference. Meerschaum rims tend to be easier to rid of char than wooden ones, and this was no exception, despite the awful looking burns, using super fine “0000” steel wool.  Exercising great care, I used a reamer to begin clearing the crusty chamber of built up cake, followed by 150-, 320-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.  I also applied the three finest-grit papers to the shank opening to make it smooth.I finished cleaning the outer stummel with a soft tooth brush dipped in purified water.Now, here’s where I had to start making the big decisions, the first of which was to use a modern push-pull set instead of a bone screw tenon for which the pipe was made.  I wanted to use the bone tenon, but that was my ego trying to get the better of me.  The most important factors were the integrity of the bit to shank connection and the pipe’s ultimate lasting use to its owner.  The next two photos show how the push-pull set is designed to be installed and the perfect fit of the push half in the bit.The reality of the situation, however, was that the correct insertion, or receiving, side of the Teflon set was the same diameter as the shank.  In other words, there was no way whatsoever that the right way would work.  Again, I wanted to go with a bone tenon that would have been good for my own use, but that would have meant more work and less strength for the pipe in terms of the higher risk of the actual owner breaking the fragile bone.

Since the latter was all that mattered, I used the easiest and safest improvisation of reversing the order of the push-pull set.  Even this required widening the mortise, and the only tools available to me for the procedure – one each slotted and Phillips head screw driver and a small but sharp pen knife – could best be described as inadvisable.  I proceeded with a mix of confidence and willingness to pay the price of a similar, name brand and definitely antique replacement complete with its own case that I took the precaution of making sure was available to Buy Now on eBay.

Starting with the pen knife, I whittled away the roughest area of the mortise, then inserted the slotted screwdriver with minimal force and very slowly turned the head until there was no resistance.  That left the mortise round and the thickness of the meerschaum even but a tad too small for the short end of the push side to fit snugly.  The Phillips head was wide enough to slide into the mortise with the same minimal force as before, and a couple of slow turns made the hole perfect.  The one good aspect of using the Phillips head was that it roughened the inner wall as the instructions for the upcoming epoxy and powdered wood application suggested.I had to pay Don one more visit to have the bit opening widened to accommodate the push-pull part usually inserted in the shank.  With his big power drill press that could be set to stop at the exact depth required, the task took Don only a few minutes.  I also picked up a band I wanted to put on the pipe, not for repairing a crack but for cosmetic and further support purposes.  Although I wanted to use a sterling band, the only type Don had on hand that fit was a 12½mm nickel one.Back at my own modest home workshop that night, using a file, I scuffed the parts of each push-pull half to be inserted in the bit and shank, as shown below with the shank side.  Then I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise and draught hole of the stummel and another through the bit’s airway to prevent excess epoxy and shaved wood mix from seeping and setting inside either.  Sliding the Teflon parts over each cleaner so they were just above the connection points, I mixed a small amount of epoxy and powdered wood and applied the mix to the upper halves of the scuffed areas one at a time and pushed each into place when it was ready, knowing the adhesive concoction would spread out over the whole connectors.  The initial bonding took 60 seconds, during which time I moved both cleaners back and forth a fraction to assure they didn’t stick. Nine minutes later, the epoxy mix fully set, I removed the two cleaners that came out with no resistance.  The hardened, even fill of the adhesive solution is clear in the last photo.  I gave the push tenon inside the shank a good tug to test the bonding, and it didn’t budge.  Poking the re-cleaned thin metal shank clearer of my three-piece tool into the opening of the stem’s push-pull half, I angled it to grip the inner side and tugged, again without any movement of the part.

The longest, most difficult labor of the entire restoration still awaited me: matching the 15½mm bit opening to the 12½mm shank.  Most people think of 3mm as a small measurement, but any pipe restorer knows it’s a massive discrepancy. All of this adjustment required 150-grit paper and hours – over a period of days – of patience not to eliminate a fraction of a millimeter too much of the Bakelite after so much effort.  Here it is close to the end of the first stage, before sanding down the left shank to get rid of the chip and make the two halves of the pipe flush. Also still remaining was much of the tapered bulge, especially on the top, but I slowly worked it down before adding the band with a few tiny dabs of Super Glue.  Adding the band showed the sides of the shank that still needed to be evened out, which I did with 220-grit paper and super fine steel wool. After that, there was still one problem I had to address.  The mouthpiece was so wide that the leather case would not snap shut.  That meant an assault on both sides of the mouthpiece with 150-grit paper.  Fortunately, Bakelite, like acrylic, is more forgiving than Vulcanite/Ebonite as far as scratches go, and it was nice and smooth after a full course of micro mesh.  I also buffed the bit with carnauba on my electric wheel. Case closed, so to say.CONCLUSION
Not forgetting the mishap with the short, undersized bit that was used by a previous restorer, I determined it was not Bakelite.  After speaking with Tim at JH Lowe and before I received the needed parts that included a stem of the correct length and already bent, I decided to prepare for the possibility of needing to bend it.  And so I pre-heated the oven to 250° F and placed the old bit inside on a piece of aluminum foil.  Not even 10 minutes later, in the living room, my eyes were watering, and I noticed smoke and a noxious odor.  Rushing to the oven and opening the door, I beheld what can only be described as vampire remains after exposure to sunlight.  Really, nothing was left but a small outline of black soot.  Even the tenon that we all believed to be bone had vanished.  Recovering from the shocking sight, I realized the bit had been the cheapest variety of plastic.

To be sure, Norwoods, with its two generations of experience, would have returned a pipe finished with a perfectly shaped bit, not to mention one made of orange amber and connected with a bone screw tenon in keeping with the ideal of completing such restorations with all of the original materials.  As far as my substitution of a Teflon push-pull tenon set goes, I stand by my decision that was based on the owner’s need for enduring enjoyment of her First Quality meerschaum pipe.  Concerning the slight bulge that remains in the bit, I’ll just say I did the best I could in the time allowed, by hand using paper without even the benefit of an electric sanding wheel.

Still, I will follow up with Sherry and offer to give the bit the finishing touches it could use.  But this restoration was a success in that I learned how to repair a mangled meerschaum shank on my own and now share the experience so that other restorers will have the same ability.  That, after all, was the highest goal of this series.


The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 3/4: Sir Daryl and the Golden Blueline Bakelite

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

Once upon a time there was a man who was about to go on a long journey, and right before his departure he asked his three daughters what he should bring back to them. The oldest wanted pearls, the second, diamonds, but the third said, ‛Dear Father, I’d like to have a singing, springing lark.’ — The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, from “The Singing, Springing Lark,” in Children’s and Household Tales (1815)

Part 1 hypothesized that the discontinuation, illegality and dwindling or total unavailability of vital materials, used in antique and other very old pipes, will lead to a serious crisis in restoring these heirlooms and otherwise prized implements of contemplation to their original conditions.  My main theme was the need for those of us in the business – having considerable, moderate or little experience under our belts – to learn how to overcome these difficulties that will become more acute all too soon.  In hindsight, I should have emphasized better the need for those who now have the know-how to use their own perhaps self-discovered and unique (read proprietary) heroic measures  to cooperate in sharing them with the rest of us, as Part 4 will demonstrate without the help I would have preferred but with other expert assistance that is very much appreciated.

Part 2 described the first of three such repairs I have completed, its example being a Colossus Pipe Factory (CPF) Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum with a gold band and genuine cherry red amber stem that needed reconnecting with a new bone screw tenon.  Five years after I began searching for the one part, I was compelled to send the otherwise restored CPF to a specialized repair service that may have been the only place capable at the time to affect the rehabilitation, for lack of a proper bone screw tenon or anyone to whom I could turn for instruction on how to repair the damage to the inner shank.  Now I know the necessary work was relatively minor.  Having determined the approximate technique used to repair my CPF, I will share the knowledge with anyone who cares to read the next and final installment, in which I mend a more damaged meerschaum shank and re-stem the pipe.

Once upon a time, in the sixteenth year of the third millennium, there lived a young man who dwelt in the center of a place of medium size.  When it was founded by Spaniards three centuries earlier the sage brush- and tumbleweed-blown burg was a dukedom known as Alburquerque, with two r’s, named in honor of a now long-forgotten duke of the proud nation that settled it.  But long before our tale began, the name was shortened, probably because of common misspelling, to Albuquerque, with only one r.

At the time the events of this account began to unfold, more than half of the almost one million souls who called the Land of Enchantment home tried to get along in its fast-growing and biggest metropolis, but perhaps lacked faith in the higher powers.  Gun-related deaths and evils in general were far above average compared to the other 49 quasi-independent lands of the constitutional federal republic they composed.  This was before Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Panama were granted the same status, although they did not ask for it, and despite the attempts of Texas, Hawaii and California to rule themselves   Most of the people still believed they were part of a true democracy, which of course does not exist.

The young man, whom we will call Sir Daryl, had a high-tech job that his life in general and education and training in particular had prepared him to perform with the greatest skill.  He also enjoyed his work, as much as any man likes the chronic rising from bed day in and day out and spending long hours away from home and friends, so that was a good thing.

But Sir Daryl’s real love in life was going on quests for beautiful and rare tobacco pipes that were bestowed with magical powers.  Sir Daryl’s keen eyes and a preternatural knack for recognizing the magic when he saw it aided him in his never-ending search.  Even when he traveled for business purposes, without fail he seemed able to sniff out the rare and hidden examples of the craft that awaited him   All of the precious shapes and styles he discovered in this fashion were his for the taking at prices so low he could not bring himself to turn them down.  Sometimes Sir Daryl wondered at his aura of luck in locating the treasures but did not spend much time fretting over his ostensible good fortune.  As his tastes grew more refined, which such appetites always arouse, Sir Daryl turned to antiques.

Unaware that his friends were beginning to notice the signs of a peculiar spell that was known to afflict many pipe collectors of his period, before counter-spells were found to eliminate the problem, Sir Daryl became obsessed with the thrill of the chase and ultimate liberation of these fine prizes from their previous, unworthy guardians.  And they were much admired by all who beheld them

One of Sir Daryl’s most splendid finds was crafted by the renowned house of Kaufman Brothers & Bondy and given the enticing name Blueline Bakelite, the creation of which he was able, with his considerable fact finding skills, to pinpoint to the second year of the second decade of the twentieth century.

Alas!  Sir Daryl so wanted to savor the gold-banded billiard beauty that he took it with him to his weekly informal pipe get-together early one Friday evening, still in the box in which it arrived with the day’s mail.  He settled back in the cushioned chair that had his name on it and prepared a bowl with an excellent Virginia Perique concocted with miraculous properties that made his body seem weightless and his mind travel to far-off places, not all of which he had ever seen outside of these visions.

With the slowest possible deliberation, Sir Daryl struck a wooden match and kindled the top layer of the divine amalgam in expectation of an ethereal treat, Almost immediately, his typical serene and content composure twisted into a spasm of intense revulsion apparent to his friends all about the low, round table where everyone had set out tins and other glorious, colorful containers with concoctions from around the globe that group custom made free for the trying.  Sir Daryl began to retch and reached for a tissue paper to spat out the evil spell that began its sorcery in his mouth and thence to wind an insidious path into his throat.  With the greatest of luck that was his hallmark, Sir Daryl cast out the vile spirit.

Being a naturally kind, trusting soul, the only mistake Sir Daryl made was in believing the minion who sold him the pipe with the false claim that it had been cleansed of all evil.  As Sir Daryl’s breath returned with the color in his face, one of his peers, who sat closest to him in another deep cushioned chair to his right, happened to be gifted with the power of perception.  Suspecting the foul truth of the matter, the wise aficionado asked if dottle was the problem.

Still unable to speak in a clear voice, Sir Daryl handed his newest prize to the other man, one of several Restorers present round the small table, and sipped from a bottle of mineral water, the better to wash away the diminishing remnants of old leaf and other substances too frightful to mention in this story conceived for young, impressionable children.

The Restorer scrutinized the various parts of the instrument and offered his services to Sir Daryl, for a modest fee, of course, and a deal was struck.  The trustworthy Restorer said with his natural sense of fidelity that he would return the treasured and still un-tested Blueline Bakelite the next day.  Little did he then know of the otherworldly obstacles that would befall him, beginning later that very night.

Enchantment, as a point of interest and special significance, concerns the subjection to or bewitchment by magical influences.  Some enchantments are made for good – and others not.

Thank you, Omniscient Narrator, for that lovely, florid introduction, and for providing the most charming and flattering title you could come up with for my chapter in some other hero’s tale.  I don’t mean to be rude, but I must set a couple of facts straight, if only for the sake of dispelling that whole fidelity thing you pinned on me.

For one thing, I didn’t “offer” my services, it was more like begging Sir Daryl to grant me the honor of taking his beautiful but badly marred and filthy 1911 billiard – yes, that’s the year our Narrator meant to say in his own rather prosaic, ho-hum way –home with me.  I asked whether he wanted the final stain to adhere to the original dark brown or be lighter and was not surprised when he opted for the former. Anyone with eyes will see the KB&B was messed up outside from the shots of it I snapped as soon as I was home, which I’ll dig up some place and show in a minute.  As far as its innards go, I know more than I really needed to about that because I just had to see what Sir Daryl’s little fit was all about and later tried it in private with some of the cherriest aromatic there is.  The consequence indeed was every bit as nasty as my friend Sir Daryl let on!

Daryl in the chair with his name on it

And enough with your Sir Daryl nonsense.  He’s just a man like I am, and his name is Daryl Loomis.  Even if I didn’t know him for going on five years now, I should know his real name because he’s bought about nine pipes from me, and that’s by far the record for one person.  I suppose, based on what you said about his taste in pipes and all, this must mean I sell some pretty good ones, although I admit I never let an antique go to Daryl or anyone else.

One last thing: if I had known what was going to happen in the middle of the night, I never would have accepted the $25 Daryl paid me in advance.  Come to think of it, I would not have taken the unique pipe at all.  Then again, maybe if I had the power to see back and forth and all over Time like a certain Narrator, I suppose I would have just avoided the whole mess in the first place.  I’ve always hated trippy thoughts like that.  At any rate, at least then you wouldn’t have this grand fable to tell, would you, big guy?  And forget about any singing, springing larks popping up!  Quite the opposite is in store, in fact.  I’ll bet the old codger of a Narrator ends up claiming he knew that all along and only meant it as foreshadowing.

Anyway, I found the shots I snapped, and here are the first of them. When held to the light, as I did and will prove in good time, the Bakelite stem is remarkable in its similarity to genuine cherry red amber.  That is a seeming contradiction in terms, I’m aware, as the word amber, from the Latin and Greek origins, means orange. However, the actual stem material is a synthesis of phenol and formaldehyde resins made in a process of intense heat and pressure known as thermosetting.  The first synthetic plastic, Bakelite provided a cheaper alternative, when amber was the rage, that was difficult to differentiate from the real thing with the naked eye and was therefore popular in the manufacture of pipes during the early 20th century.

Other than the need for a serious cleaning and retorting of the inner pipe, Daryl’s Blueline Bakelite had inexplicable dark black blotches on the left middle and right rear sides of the bowl.  I never determined the cause of the stains, as I ended up having no better option to choose as the source of the marks, but there were two I ruled out: scorching with long-inflicted match or lighter flames and burnouts.  Scorches would have come out much easier than these deep flaws, and burnouts never would have cleared up.  There was also the telltale damage to the chamber that was not present.  By the way, the restoration process will be shown in a time lapse style rather than my usual frame by frame style.

The following photos were taken after a preliminary Everclear soak, during which the band came off.  I followed that with a light sanding using 600-grit paper. I reattached the band with Super Glue.  A whole lot of sanding later, starting with 150-grit paper and working back up to 800, succeeded in eliminating the blotch on the left shank, but a specter remained on the right.  A terrible slope, lacking a better word, on the right side of the rim is also apparent now for the first time in the photos I took after the scar on the left was eliminated with considerable work.  But that would have to wait to be righted. I know this was cockeyed thinking, but I wanted to see if staining would cover the spot on the right of the bowl rather than continuing to abrade the wood.  I used Lincoln Brown aniline stain, flamed it with a Bic and micro meshed to the correct shade.  Obviously, the attempt failed.I had worked on the pipe from roughly 8 p.m. the previous night, after returning from my pipe get together, and it was sometime around 4 a.m. Saturday.  True enough, I could have used a break for sleep, but I don’t blame the unthinkable calamity that happened next on my own fatigue.  Although I accept full responsibility for what followed by the simple fact that the rare and precious pipe was in my custody, and would even be happy to blame myself for some error, that was not the cause of the awful event that occurred without warning.

As I had done many times, with the same great care and patience, I unscrewed the stem from the bone tenon.  There was no resistance, no mis-threading, nothing whatsoever wrong – until the sickening sound and feel of bone that was, one second, solid, and the next, several disjointed pieces that didn’t even fit together and more or less pulp left in the shank and stem.  And the infernal softness of the sound it made when it shattered, not a snap, crackle or even a pop, but as closely as I can describe it, like the effortless breaking between a pinkie and a ring finger of the softest piece of chalk.  There I was, exhausted as I readily admit, with the bone tenon broken and crushed in my hands, the remnants scattered on the floor in bits and fine powder. Almost three years after the pipe restoration went all the way south (and I’m sure everyone knows the figurative distance and final destination I’m suggesting), I still remember most how the unimaginable tragedy lacked any definitive sound.  I know now that the bone material had passed its life expectancy long before and might have failed at any moment.  In hindsight, I am grateful it happened to me rather than Daryl.

Here is the ghastly reality my numb mind had not even processed yet as I saved the horror for the record, by pure dazed habit, after frantically trying to graft the three tangible splinters of the tenon together with Super Glue.  Note the Frankensteinian product of my mad attempt at surgery on the tenon and the perfect evenness of the fault line leading to a total impaction of the stem hole.I tried my best to sleep and, late in the morning when I got up, considered the remains, my hope to find I had dreamed the whole fiasco obliterated with less noise than the plan-changing event a few hours before.  I decided to put the stem aside for the time being.  Why tempt further catastrophe when such things have a way of finding us, like the only two certainties in life of which Christopher Bullock seems to be the first person to warn us, in his 1716 farce, The Cobler of Preston.

Instead, I turned to the mangled rim and working with a double-sided 150/180-grit sanding pad painstakingly returned it to full health. When I was finished with the rim, it was looking good.  I even managed to give it a slight inward slant before reaming and sanding the chamber smooth.Other than the missing tenon, everything was beginning to look up again.  Outside was warm and sunny, bare wisps of clouds here and there in the blue sky.  When the other incomprehensible disaster struck, I felt like a lightning rod on an old barn swaying and creaking in the storm of the century.

This time, no ifs ands or buts, it was my fault despite the inherent danger of meddling with Bakelite or any other synthetic plastic.  I had no trouble with some dental tools I somehow got my hands on, wheedling out a chunk of packed bone here and another there from the shank, and the mother lode popped out nice and easy   Then it was the stem’s turn, and it was ornery.  I just started to make a decent dent on the harder bone inside the tiny stem hole when I just plain blew it.  I heard it that time, the crack amplified by my ears the way a bolt from Zeus struck the railroad tracks a few yards from me as I walked home from work in Granby, Colorado just before my 21st birthday.  I was watching the storm coming closer and saw nature’s electricity hit the rails.  That flash up in the Rockies made me jump a foot in the air, but the explosive soundwave a heartbeat later sent me flying across U.S. Hwy. 40, forget about the non-stop two-way traffic between the Berthoud and Rabbit Ears Passes..

Once again, in the frenzy of emotions over my double-destruction debacle starting with the bone tenon and then the stem, I hastened to glue the two pieces of the stem together before taking pictures.  The first was while the glue was still setting, the second after I micro meshed off the excess glue and to show the great color as well as how closely the small piece fit into the big, and the third just for the sake of showing the end view.Regardless of my initial frazzled audacity to think I might be able to right this wrong, my sense of morality is intact enough that I know I would have rejected the notion of passing off the fatally flawed stem as undamaged no matter how seamless the result may have been, but I was still relieved to have any temptation removed.

The star-crossed shadow that came to lurk around every corner began to seem a curse.  Since the day I restored my first pipe, until then the thought of giving up the whole endeavor for good never occurred to me.  At that lowest point of all my work reclaiming old and worn estate pipes, to crib from Steve’s site motto, I came a breath away from scattering all of it with my arms and hands to the walls about me or wherever else they might crash and shatter – the remains of the KB&B, dozens of other pipes awaiting my attention and every tool I had acquired, all of which I didn’t yet know was soon to be stolen from me anyway.  But that’s a different story I’ll tell when I’m ready.  This was in the spring of 2016, when my life in general was, to me, dangerously pointless.  I considered selling what I could and scraping together everything I had to find Daryl a suitable replacement.  That was really all I cared about, but it was enough.

I am well aware that some readers of my blogs view my style of writing as feigned or, a little worse, contrived.  My unorthodox approach to blogging pipe restorations doesn’t help, and my habit of falling into literary mimicry now and then may annoy many of the more experienced contributors to this forum.  That’s just not how I approach any writing project, which happens to be with the same imagination and enthusiasm I try to put into the actual pipe work.  I needed a year from the completion of this particular trial merely to face the unpleasant truths of the experience and find the words to describe it, however fanciful they may strike some folks.

But I did finish the job, although it took two years and the unwavering patience of my friend Daryl to be done with it.  In that respect, the Narrator’s appellation of Sir Daryl is well warranted.   Now I can finally let everyone know something that’s been on my mind for too long: anyone who doesn’t buy the bald self-analysis of my strengths and weaknesses I just finished sharing once and for all can believes what he will and sod off.  I’m not going away, and this is for the rest of you, who hopefully know who you are and that I appreciate the encouragement.

With more time to work on the pipe afforded to me by the unhappy but, for Daryl, fortunate destruction of the tenon if not the stem while both were my responsibility to replace, I was able to eradicate the mark on the right side of the bowl.  The next shots show the re-staining and micro meshing to the correct original dark shade of brown.  Thanks to the intrinsic problems with Windows 10, the key shot of the right side was lost, and I only have one showing the final result after eliminating the remaining scratches from the excessive but necessary sanding used to make the black marks disappear, which I accomplished with every sanding and smoothing resource at my disposal. Desperate to get Daryl’s pipe back to him, I was willing to offer as a temporary solution my real cherry red amber stem from the CPF Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum I restored in Part 2.  Preparing for that possibility, I straightened the amber by heating it in the oven.  The second pic shows the original Bakelite stem above the straightened amber stem, in which I had placed a bone tenon I happened to have on hand but that didn’t fit.  The length of the amber stem is a little longer, but I expected it would at least mollify Daryl.All of the events and work occurred during a relatively short period of time in 2016.  Not until two more years passed did I find Norwoods Pipe Repair, and Kenneth Norwood assured me he could replace the bone tenon and even the same color of Bakelite stem.  At last I can show the parts he returned with the pipe I sent him.  The replacement, as it turned out, was also a little longer than the original, but I was confident Daryl would be more than pleased.Only two years after taking on the task of cleaning and restoring the KB&B that had such wonderful potential, all I had to do was retort the pipe.  I did so immediately, and as the replacement parts arrived, believe it or not, the same day as our monthly pipe meeting, I was able to return the gorgeous completed pipe to its owner that night. THE END OF THE LONG JOURNEY
Thus ends our tale of the long and arduous task of the unlucky but persistent Restorer…who almost never faltered in his pursuit of Right versus Wrong.

And everyone lived, happily ever after.

The fourth and final Book in this series will tell the tale of the first venture by the heroic Restorer, since thus he clearly needs to be described, into the small and secretive world of meerschaum repairers in his quest to be of service to a Good Lady.  Anyone who has ever had dealings with this lonely coven will understand how they covet and guard above all else the alchemies they devise as theirs and theirs alone.  But our hero will reveal, for the whole world to know at long last, the wondrous knowledge he has uncovered with the aid of unanticipated paladins – in particular an Artisan of high renown who dwells in the same town as the Restorer.SOURCES

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

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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












The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 1/4

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

“I bet ya three-to-one I beat this.”
— John Joseph “The Teflon Don” Gotti, Jr. (1940-2002), Mafia boss, to law enforcement officers the night he was arrested for five murders, racketeering, loan sharking, tax evasion and related charges leading to his conviction

“The Teflon is gone. The don is covered with Velcro….”
— James Fox, FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the New York field office, upon Gotti’s conviction on all counts and sentence to life without parole

While the denouement of the golden age of pipe restoration I anticipate here is only of importance to those who undertake the artful practice and the collectors they serve, and represents nothing as dramatic as the life of John Gotti or his vicious crimes from the age of 12 until he was convicted at 51, the problems I will describe are real and present  The dangers relate to pipes made of wood, meerschaum, synthetic plastic and even metal, in particular antiques and many that are pushing the limits of vintage.  The simple facts are that certain parts used in the construction of some old pipes are no longer manufactured nor can they be, and still more materials needed to restore them and others to original condition are not being pre-fashioned.

This dearth of components that once were ready-made or easier to come by restricts their availability to a rarefied number of true artists in the repair business possessing the essential skills to create vital pieces to the specifications of given projects.  Such craftsmen, already very difficult to track down, are in fact dying out.  The ability of most common and even some great restorers to complete their work as most would prefer – to the pipe’s authentic state – is therefore in grave peril.  This is the sad reality

The supplies I have identified so far with careful thought, but by no means having reached a comprehensive list, are Bakelite, including Redmanol;:amber and amberoid; ivory, notwithstanding its illegality in the U.S. and most other countries, or in the alternative imitation ivory; bone and horn tenon screws; replacement bowls and other components of metal and other pipes;  real corncob Aristocob inserts, made just for that infamous aluminum pipe, and the most surprising member on the endangered species list, the push-pull Teflon stem fittings used with most meerschaum pipes, especially newer ones.

I spoke on the telephone to Floyd Norwood, the patriarch of a two-generation family pipe repair business.  He is retired but continues taking a hand in the operation as his son now runs the shop.  Prepared for the immediate negative response, I wanted to know if I could buy an assortment of bone screw tenons from them, but his next words shook me and started the cogitation that led to this blog.  I had left his name out of this because the conversation wasn’t a formal interview, but it will become obvious later in the series.

“Nobody makes these things anymore,” the old gentleman began.  “These things” encompassed the various parts we had discussed, not only bone tenons but real amber and the Bakelite family of stem materials.  Mr. Norwood’s voice was tired, sad and a bit disgusted.

“Tell me about it!” I replied in the heat of commiseration I immediately understood could not begin to match his own sorrow after a lifetime career seeing the dissipation of the tools he employed in his labor of love.  “It took me two years to track you down, and then only in a recent, second, desperate plea for help did one friend on the Smokers Forums UK think to recommend you.”  I dropped the name of the friend, who will remain anonymous.

A few others on SF responded with vague attempts to help that I appreciated, but none could recall the name of the person who did such specialty work for them in the distant past.  Only when I posted in the thread that the problem was solved by the link provided in the first response did several other members chime in that they had also used Norwoods Pipe Repair at times and gave the man with whom I had the honor of chatting, or in more recent experiences his son, Kenneth, their highest recommendation for quality of service, speed and price.  I amended my previous comment to include the total of four glowing referrals, but it did little to cheer up the aging expert whose specialized skills I have now enjoyed for three pipes.

“The kids these days doing the repairs, and even the older restorers, just aren’t interested or able to do the work involved,” the worn out and still somewhat irked master continued, “and I mean for a single job much less volume production for sale to people like you.”

I took no offense from the last phrase.  He was correct, after all.

Leo H. Baekeland (1863-1944), a Belgian-American chemist, invented Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, in 1907.  He named it after himself.  I will save most of the ruthless and covetous tactics Baekeland undertook, in order to seize control of many much smaller companies that made similar but superior synthetic plastics, for another blog that is in the works.  Here’s all you need to know for now.

Bakelite was patented for its revolutionary innovation that employed thermosetting, a process of controlling intense heating and pressure, of phenol and formaldehyde resins sometimes combined with lesser amounts of wood or asbestos fibers that resulted in soft or liquid material. In that form, Bakelite could be molded into any shape before final curing rendered it irreversible.  Baekeland called his machine that performed the entire operation – what else? – the “Bakelizer.”  Bakelite was particularly useful because of its electrical nonconductivity and heat resistant qualities that made it ideal for diverse products including electrical casings, firearms and tobacco pipes and stems, to name only a few.

The two particular small, independent chemical research and production laboratories to which I alluded a moment ago – the Redmanol Chemical Products Co. of America in Chicago formed in 1913 by Lawrence V. Redman, after whom his creation was self-styled; and the Condensite Co., started in 1910 and headed by A.J. Aylsworth, over which Redmanol had acquired a controlling interest – developed synthetic plastics that were stronger and capable of being colored in more varieties than Bakelite.  Original Bakelite, whatever the color, still looked like plastic, while deep red, translucent Redmanol was so close to amber of the same color that it often requires an expert to differentiate the two.

Bakelite cigar holder, left; real amber compared to Redmanol, right

The greater strength and coloring qualities of Redmanol and Condensite were the results of different chemical catalysts used employing the same basic heat and pressure process innovated by Baekeland.  But Redmanol employed the action of formin on carbolic acid, while Condensite utilized the effect of chlorine on naphthalene.  Furthermore, Baekeland’s machine, the Bakelizer, was only one means of achieving the intense heat and pressure necessary for the reactions of the two ingredients he chose.  Aylsworth devised a means of heating the chlorine and naphthalene without pressure, a process Redman adopted.  The three processes, therefore, rendered each substantially different.  In 1922, however, a U.S. Federal Court judge in New York interpreted the tortuous patent laws in favor of Bakelite – which, by the way, not wanting to force its two greatest competitors to defend themselves sued not the manufacturers but their distributors – destroyed and  merged the prized competitors into its growing family in the newly and litigiously formed Bakelite Corporation.  Since then, Redmanol and Condensite products have been lumped together under the single name Bakelite.

The Bakelite patent can be read below.

The Problems
The most obvious difficulty is that Bakelite, at least for tobacco pipe products, has not been manufactured since 1939, when Bakelite Corp. was acquired by Union Carbide and Carbon Corp. (Union Carbide Corp. since 1957).  As was already noted, the curing process for Bakelite rendered it “irreversible.”  Bakelite products were custom made for whatever use was needed.  In other words, for purposes of restoring old stems made of Bakelite, which, again, includes Redmanol, any necessary replacement can be reworked in only one way: fitting an over-sized stem of an otherwise suitable candidate to a shank by serious sanding or other such methods.  Any other alteration, such as bending or threading, is strictly impossible compared to Vulcanite, acrylic and even amber.  By way of illustrations, imagine trying to find substitute parts for these beauties.

Socket pipe with meerschaum bowl, Redmanol shank and stem and bone tenon screw

KB&B gold band socket pipe with irreplaceable threaded Redmanol stem and bottom and custom-made screw-in briar bowl

Amber is an organic material (neither gem nor stone despite common descriptions) formed by the polymerization of prehistoric pine tree resin into hard, fossilized pieces that often have inclusions, meaning trapped insects or plants.  More than half of the known inclusions found have been flies.  Its colors include yellow and orange, the most common, as well as red, green, blue and brown, and these colors range in translucence to almost opaque.  Found in the greatest quantities throughout Europe, amber is more common in the northern Baltic countries and Russia, but is also present in other places all over the planet.  Amberoid refers to pieces of amber and sometimes other resins compressed by intense heat and pressure. Most of it is used for jewelry, primarily in small bits and pieces.

Polished Baltic amber courtesy Minerals.net

The Problems
Amber is on the soft and fragile side (2-3 on the Mohs scale of 1-10, with talc being 1 and diamond 10), and it begins to decay the instant it is exposed to sunlight.  By human reckoning the process is very slow, but amber’s natural brittleness increases considerably within a human lifetime.  That means that its use as a material for pipe stems in the late 19th and early 20th centuries leaves examples that are now more prone to chipping and breaking, neither of which damage can be repaired with a purist method if at all.

Also, even for anyone alive today who is capable of fashioning an amber stem, the cost is prohibitive, and the process very difficult   Because amber does not actually melt, as in the sense of turning to liquid, but rather reaches the temperature where it would at about 570° F. and beyond that decomposes, there may be nobody around now inclined to try anyway, as Floyd Norwood suggested..

As a result, we are left with a more and more limited supply of random styles and lengths that can be found only at places such as eBay, where the sellers don’t know or care enough about pipe restoration to publish the measurements and, in my experience, are clueless when asked to provide such information.  In other words, they can be found in random lots the measurements of which can only be guessed.  The increasingly absurd prices of these lots make buying them a serious gamble with poor odds of winning.

Amberoid is a still bigger problem.  For those willing to destroy various jewelry and other ornaments made of amberoid, the bits and pieces acquired would be useless.  The only amberoid stems I can find available to buy are already on pipes, such as this Andreas Bauer meerschaum billiard courtesy of SmokingPipes.com.IVORY, REAL AND IMITATION
Ivory in its purest form is the dense material forming the teeth and tusks of large mammals including elephants that are still present in our world, their distant relatives mastodons that have been extinct since the end of the Pleistocene epoch 10,000-11,000 years ago and woolly mammoths (another ancestor of elephants that were alive during the earliest time of humans but died off completely 4,000 years ago).

Other, less valued forms of ivory are found in walruses, narwhals, hippopotami, rhinoceroses, warthogs and sperm whales, but also in a variety of smaller species such as elks.  For most of human history, ivory has been prized for its artistic uses, from classical statues to piano keys.  The fact that ivory, in particular its oldest and finest variety, can be carved into any form made it valuable for beautiful works of art, including ornate tobacco pipes.

Japanese carved ivory tusk courtesy invaluable.com

1890 Tiffany ivory-silver pipe courtesy tobaccopipehistory.blogspot.com

Tsuge ivory billiard courtesy Brothers of Briar

There are several alternatives to ivory.  Celluloid; believe it or not; invented in France in 1865, is the oldest.  Best known for its later use as an early, highly flammable film for motion pictures; celluloid – not Bakelite – is touted on some sites as the first “successful” synthetic plastic and was used for products that were not limited to the following.

Celluloid chip and dice courtesy antiquegamblingchips.com

Billiard balls courtesy sciencehistory.org

Celluloid ivory sample sheets courtesy Rothko & Price

A second, more workable imitation ivory is vegetable ivory, found in the nuts of varieties of tropical South American palms.  The white cores of these nuts are fashionable into all kinds of shapes that harden and can be polished like real ivory, and best of all, they can be drilled for stem making purposes.  The nut below looks tiny but is in fact about the size of a large honeydew melon.  It even has a fine grain pattern that can be differentiated from that of real ivory.

Vegetable ivory nut from Micronesia courtesy palomar.edu

There is a third, still better, resin-based variety of imitation ivory for pipe makers and restorers capable of tooling a stem from scratch.  Although hesitant to promote a single business when there may be others using the same brand, I can’t find any, and the brand factor is vital because of the similarity of others that nevertheless possess serious basic differences.  These characteristics include the use of polyester in those that are inferior for pipe use, leaving them weaker, less glossy when buffed and all-in-all not so close to the real thing that there might be a problem trying to transport an object made of this stuff through airport customs.  To get around to the reluctant business plug, whatever the brand name is, it’s available at Vermont Freehand

The rods sold at that online business are offered in different diameters, the same as those used for traditional materials such as Ebonite.  Vermont Freehand describes it as the finest available.  It varies in price according to two grades, 1 and 2 where 1 is the better, and the diameter desired, from $3.60-$100.  For example, the minimum 12mm diameter rod of Grade 2 is $3.60 compared to a 14mm rod of Grade 1, which is $7.20.  The largest diameter of Grade 2 is 1.4” square at $28.80, and a 1.6” x 2.6” rectangle of Grade 1 is $100.  Again, note the grains.

Imitation ivory stem rods courtesy Vermont Freehand

The Problems
In this case, the “problems” for the most part are really solutions to a greater crisis.  Evolving international laws aimed at saving African and Asian elephant populations, devastated to the verge of extinction by poaching and unregulated exportation of tusks that are harvested for their great value, at the expense of elephant lives, have had unexpected and negative effects on the animals they are intended to protect.  Uncooperative countries that I will not name here in the interest of avoiding geo-political argument and controversy have allowed poachers to capitalize on the increased value of ivory that resulted from the various embargo attempts.

Tougher and more restrictive bans are already being enforced to degrees that seem to have stabilized at least some elephant herds in Africa and Asia, and still more effective laws are being considered, notably in the United States and the European Union.  The present laws, targeting buyers and sellers of ivory as well as art dealers and collectors, are expected to curb poaching still more.

Certain aspects of the laws have been met with resistance from art and personal rights advocates.  The issues have to do with the age of the artworks, the years they were acquired and the sources, all of which create complexities for enforcement, to put it in the simplest terms that are anything but simple.

In 2016, the Obama Administration initiated a blanket ban on the importation of elephant ivory and almost all sales of ivory throughout the country.  The very few exceptions include antiques that can be proven through a professional appraisal or a bill of sale to be at least 100 years old.  Many ivory pipes fit that category.  However, President Trump, undermining the Obama ban, directed the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider importation permits for sport-hunted elephant trophies from select African countries “on a case by case basis.”  In other words, Trump has cleared the way for his rich cronies to bring elephant heads with their tusks intact home from safaris.  This kind of favoritism, which was never announced publicly by the Trump Administration but rather via a Fish and Wildlife Service memo issued March 1, 2018, can’t possibly surprise anyone given Trump’s record since he assumed office.

Concerning imitation ivory of any kind, it is of more use to master artisans who can create a stem by hand or machine, again, rather than average or even skilled restorers.  However, this resin-based imitation ivory sold by Vermont Freehand might be fashionable into small pieces suitable for filling chips and other damages to real ivory pipes – but only with serious practice based on what I’ve learned of its physical makeup.

The good news is that bone and horn screw tenons, which can be made from the calcified skeletal remains of animals such as cows and deer, are not in short supply.  To be sure, there are other sources, but J.H. Lowe, for example, offers “a multitude of styles and sizes” in assorted 12-packs for $28.90 – and you know what you’re getting compared to online auction sites that tend to be clueless as to the importance of the various elements of importance in measuring the correct size.  Another plus when ordering screw tenons from an actual pipe supply store is that they are new.  Here is a motley collection of bone screw tenons said to be antiques courtesy of Worthpoint.
Without impugning the integrity of the seller of those screw tenons, if they are antiques, they represent a pristine collection of unused specimens.  I’ll take this opportunity to emphasize that, although I am committed to using only the original materials for antique and extreme vintage pipe restorations, that devotion does not require any replacement parts to be as old as the pipe I’m refurbishing.  A brand new screw tenon or anything else, so long as it’s the same substance as the one with which the pipe came, is fine with me, and I’m planning on stocking up on assorted sizes, styles and shapes of everything I can find in new condition.  Still, I have a small collection of antique and vintage tenons, stems, bands, an endcap and one shank extension, upon which I look forward to expanding.  No doubt the day will come for each to find its wizened old pipe mate, and I anticipate the matches, at the risk of sounding daft, with somewhat of a sense of excitement.  Call me old-fashioned or sentimental or a codger or what you will, but there it is.

The two on the left are Redmanol.

The Problems
I realize I’ve overstepped the subject of bone tenon screws a bit in this section, for reasons of expansion on the greater subject, but now to address the problems with those parts.  Again, I stated that the bone tenons are in no immediate danger of extinction.  I should have qualified that assertion by noting in most cases.  Consider the photo of my antique bone screws above.  I have no doubt that various suppliers of newly made old-style supplies such as these screws indeed have considerable varieties on hand, but the fact remains, many were custom made as long as a century or more in the past.  As the venerable Mr. Norwood pointed out, nobody is stepping up to produce such oddities as bone screws to order.  Of course, artisans able to do so can and will be found – but the task won’t be easy, as Part 2 of my series will show.

Then there are several other problems, I’ll call them: one, fitting a bone screw requires matching it to the stem and shank.  In most cases, the measurements for each are different, not to mention the style of the tenon screw.  Just whipping out the calipers and determining the approximate diameters of the two ends and the optimum length of the whole may not be enough.  Two, bone is inherently soft and brittle, and therefore breaks with the least provocation.  If you’re lucky, the original broken tenon will be available, but if so, it’s likely to be in bits and pieces, some powdered.  It follows that matching can be problematic.  Three – and this isn’t being persnickety – adding to all of the above obstacles is the likelihood, not possibility, that re-threading the stem and/or shank into which each end of the bone tenon screws will be necessary.  To be blunt, not everyone is up to any or all of these tasks.

To sum up, the more than potential need for someone specializing in bone tenon repair will become mandatory.

Arguably the most fascinating coincidence in the history of pipe making was the introduction in a single year of two brands of an altogether new kind of system pipe.  The year was 1936, and the inventors were Frederick K. Kirsten, a German-born emigrant to the U.S., and Kenly C. Bugg, a native of Indiana.  Both of them were engineers and prolific inventors with great numbers of diverse patents, and each chose aluminum for the frame, because of its light weight and rapid heat dispersion, as well as screw-on briar bowls.  Otherwise, their designs were quite different   Kirsten’s pipes are more box-like while Bugg’s are sleeker and more cylindrical.

1930s Kirsten courtesy Pinterest and “very old” Falcon courtesy Smoking Metal

The basic systems – the details of which I will omit – differ, also, but suffice it to say, Kirsten’s was more complex while Bugg’s was simpler, using a moisture trap beneath the bowl.

Which man committed his plans to paper and created a prototype is moot.  Kirsten had the presence of mind to begin manufacture and sale of his pipes the same year, applied for the patent in 1937 and received his grant with US Patent No. D112, 701 on December 27, 1938.  Bugg, on the other hand, sat on his invention, not selling his first pipes until 1940 and receiving US Patent No. 142,280 on August 21, 1945.  Kirsten, therefore, is generally credited with the invention of the metal system pipe despite the uncertainty of the exact date of the metal system pipe’s conception and in whose mind it occurred,

I have included the Patents for both for your enjoyment should you wish to read them (the Kirsten first followed by the Bugg).
The transition of production of the great American original Falcon pipes to Great Britain began in 1961, when production started there.  In 1968, U.S. production of Falcon pipes was transferred altogether to Falcon Pipes Ltd. (also known as Falcon House Group) in Great Britain, which still later became the Merton and Falcon Co.  The Falcon Pipe Group now runs the operation, as far as I can tell.  Despite the convoluted name changes, Falcon pipes have maintained their quality since Kenly Bugg made the first one.  By the way, to clarify a variation that began to annoy me, there is no second e in Kenly, despite frequent errors.  See patent signature of inventor.

Everything so far in the category of metal pipes has been to explain the genesis of an explosion in brands and systems of metal pipes with bowls made of wood, meerschaum and the sundry Bakelite materials, to name some.  The exact number of Falcon pipes sold worldwide to date is difficult to pin down, but two numbers stand out: by 1954, six million of them had been sold in the U.S. alone, and starting seven years later, from between 1961 and 1974, 16 million more were sold by the oft-switching producers in England to pipers around the world, excluding the U.S.   This leads us on a nice, ordered path to…

The Problems
Rest easily, Kirstens and Falcons are in no danger of running out of replacement bowls and even other parts as both companies remain in business and don’t appear to have plans to stop.  Replacements or new screw-in bowls are available directly from Kirsten Pipes or the Falcon Pipe Group’s distributors, such as the Arango Cigar Co. in the U.S.  This is not to mention the numerous artisans who make bowls that fit either or both, including Don Warren Pipes for Kirsten bowls and DGE Handmade Pipes and Manly Things (I didn’t make up the name, so don’t shoot the messenger) for Falcon and/or Dr. Grabow Viking bowls, which are interchangeable.

That reassurance made, the rest will be brief and simple in its awfulness.  I’m not about to go through the entire A-Z Index at Smoking Metal’s UK website to locate, count and determine all of the brands – known and unidentified – of metal system pipes identified and catalogued so far by Tony Pringle.  Like a French gentleman whose first name is Richard but is known to countless pipe smokers as Pipephil (who retired a few years ago), Tony works alone and in his spare time, making his accomplishment a monumental feat even with the sparse contributions of readers.

All I need to point out is that many – no, more likely the vast majority – of the metal pipes listed and shown at Smoking Metal were manufactured without even a moment’s thought about compatibility with others of their kind.  In blatant terms, this means they can’t be replaced without making one from scratch.  And who is going to do that?

I’d say that works as the one and only necessary dilemma with this category of scarcity.

The Aristocob was invented by Joseph W. Zarikta and assigned to the Al-Cobb Corporation (later Aristocob, Inc.) of Grand Haven, Michigan with U.S. Patent No. 3,292,639, granted just in time for Christmas 1966. Here is what the new-in-plastic case product looked like, complete with the aluminum frame, plastic stem and two cob inserts, courtesy Smoking Metal.  (Filter possibly not included.)

The Problems
Missouri Meerschaum took over manufacturing the Aristocob and its inserts in the mid-1970s.  The best known maker of cob pipes discontinued the Aristocob at some point but continued manufacturing the inserts until 1983, when the endeavor became unprofitable.

While it is true that original Aristocob corncob inserts can still be found online, at one of the last sources in the astounding list at the end, for example, when they’re all gone, that will be the end of the real thing.  The substitution of a custom-carved briar insert at the expense of the original cob is perhaps better for its durability in the lone case of the Aristocob.  As far as I know, they are fashioned only by Steven LaVoice Jr. of Owl Pipes.  I happen to know Steven’s work to be excellent after being compelled to use one of his traditional wood substitutes when I restored an Aristocob three years ago, about a year after Steven started business in Western Massachusetts.

Briar insert from Owl Pipes, with a nice keychain included

Some cold-hearted pipers, hearing of the rising shortage of original corncob inserts for the Aristocob, may bid them good riddance or scoff, “So what!”  I’ll answer that hypothetical question   Those who continue to enjoy durable cob pipes know and appreciate the difference in taste afforded by the intended Aristocob insert.  Any purists are left with one of these singular “art deco” smoking metal creations that’s rendered useless for them.  Others can still buy a briar insert directly from Steven if the owner wishes to be rid of the short-lasting cob originals that I’m told become quite nasty the closer to their expiration they get, and thus avoid the intermediary restorer altogether.  Steven makes different styles of inserts, one of which has the rough exterior reminiscent of real cob.  (Being a bit obsessive-compulsive, I polished the one shown above, which sold to a happy old-timer.)  And the cost of a briar insert, which is five times greater than the $5 I paid at a garage sale for the worn old Aristocob I restored, can be a one-time expense.

The critical fact remains, though, that nobody seems to be stepping up to make quality (non-flammable) cob inserts with a coating to harden them, and therefore, when Steven is no longer around “to do the work” with briar, remaining Aristocobs will be tossed in the trash or placed with nostalgia as heartless shells on shelves.

Now, here’s the most bizarre item on the list, and I hope it sparks English Parliamentary style chaos of furious, frenzied, fibrillating debate – but no fighting, please.  I know that may be shameful of me, and I don’t care, because of the single and singular fact I will assert when I get to the proper Problems section.  For now, a push-pull fitting is formed of two small pieces of polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) or a generic variation.  Teflon is a polymer, or chemical compound of high molecular weight, discovered in 1938 by a new-hire at DuPont with a chemistry doctorate.  Teflon, the specific combination of gases and other substances that formed by chance when the lucky chemist heated a canister a certain way by mishap, happens to be extremely resistant to solvents, acids, bases and heat, and hence corrosion and melting, and is therefore perfect for the most part to join a meerschaum pipe shank to its stem.  Of course, it has other uses and fascinating properties anyone so inclined can read about near the end of my sources.  At its simplest, Teflon is a very fancy synthetic plastic.

The two parts are paired with one piece that screws into the shank opening and another into the stem.  A push-pull fitting, in other words, acts as a special tenon on one side that screws or pushes into the other.  Most of the time by far, the tenon part is installed in the opening of the stem and fits the shank part, but I’ve seen the process done in reverse, probably because that’s the way some restorer could make the two match up without drilling either the stem or shank opening.  The use of push-pull fittings was a great innovation to protect the fragile meerschaum and also do away with bone and horn tenons that are just as easy to break

Here are two shots, one of a trio of “standard” push-pull fittings of slight difference in size, courtesy Royal Meerschaum, that costs $3.99 for the three-pack.  The other is a screw-in stem for one of my pipes.  Standard just means they can be pushed or twisted together rather than screwed and are also the general sizes for newer meerschaum pipes.Note my Paktas billiard above with only the stem fitting that screws into the bare meerschaum shank.  I’m always very careful unscrewing it!

The Problems
The single problem with these push-pull fittings is that they’re not hard to find in all of the typical sizes that are pretty much standardized today, but that means bupkis.  The artisans who crafted meerschaum pipes in the old days – before push-pull fittings became popular in the 1970s – did everything themselves, including drilling the shank and stem however they pleased at the moment and depending on the size of the pipe.  Ay, there’s the rub.

In this day and age where everything from furniture to motor vehicles is composed entirely or at the least more than half with cheap and readily available plastic, “real” or synthetic (think imitation Naugahyde), there’s no excuse for a lack of push-pull sets designed in enough sizes to accommodate older pipes.  But there it is.  Oh, they’re no doubt out there some place, but where?  Norwoods Pipes and Walker Pipe Repair, again by way of examples, offer push-pull fittings, but (and no offense is intended to either of these fine pipe repair providers) if they have different sizes, they’re limited.

I sent the following very large lattice meerschaum stummel with no stem and a hole in the shank to Norwoods, which can provide almost any original replacement part, only to learn that the new Lucite stem was no problem, but a push-pull set that big was unavailable.  A bone tenon screw was used instead for the same price, and that pipe with its new tenon and stem arrived in the mail soon after.  In this case, I am quite pleased with the result, since I kept it for my own use and didn’t have to worry about any prospective buyer breaking the bone tenon and blaming me.  That restoration will be the subject of the final part of this series.

For now, I can continue to cobble together limited replacements of the various parts integral to the proper restoration of old pipes, and for those tasks requiring the dwindling repair services that exist, I can turn to them.  I also know of a few artisans with the know-how to tool these small yet vital implements of restoration.  Still, I have no doubt that within my lifetime the need “to do the work” myself will come.  I can only hope practice will be enough…and I had better get to it.


https://books.google.com/books?id=oYZGAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=redmanol+chemical+products+founder&source=bl&ots=juthNFh-rW&sig=b9qO8plogjv6fj_u2TBjkdpIfCM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-gNj4h9nNAhUM9YMKHXKjBwMQ6AEINDAE#v=onepage&q=redmanol%20chemical%20products%20founder&f=false, Phenolic Resins Technology Handbook, by NPCS Board of Consultants and Engineers, 2017, excerpted by permission
https://books.google.com/books?id=nTs8AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA144&lpg=PA144&dq=redmanol+bakelite+infringement+judgment&source=bl&ots=TCel6fmccJ&sig=ehZijKCRrQSs- RnL6xiDbVA5aKM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi39veundvNAhUT32MKHbeiCJwQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=redmanol%20bakelite%20infringement%20judgment&f=false Factory and Industrial Management, Vol. LXIV, No. 3, August 1922, excerpted by permission (p.144)
https://books.google.com/books?id=11FHAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA816&dq=in+search+of+the+man+made+amber+redmanol&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwis5OvgmNvNAhVk0oMKHYveA6sQ6AEIIzAB#v=onepage&q=in%20search%20of%20the%20man%20made%20amber%20redmanol&f=false Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, excerpted by permission (p. 818)
https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/pljan99.htm https://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-BONE-tenons-88-PIECES-Lot-of-Assorted-Sizes-Victorian-Vintage-pipe-/202297224337
http://www.jhlowe.com/misc-items.htm https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kirsten_Pipe_Company

The Filthiest Pipe I’ve Ever Seen

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

You can’t judge a book by its binding.
— From the journal American Speech, 1944

The Dr. Grabow easy bent smooth billiard I came by in a foolish case of mistaken identity on eBay looked normal enough on the outside, other than an apparent crack that wasn’t visible in any of the seller’s few photos.  The zigzag flaw extended from the top front of the bowl almost halfway down, which of course was not a good sign in a pipe when the intent was to sell it – and I definitely did not want to keep it for my own collection.  The dubious pipe came as part of a lot with two others of its ilk; an old Karl Erik box; two very nice choice sleeves – one that was also for a Karl Erik and the other for a Butz-Choquin – and two Revelation Smoking Mixture tins of indeterminate age.  Venturing a guess, I’d say they’re no newer than the pipes.

My haul, minus the Dr. G, Yello-Bole and MedicoMy impression from the poor photos provided online was that one of the pipes must have been a Butz-Choquin.  You see, the only descriptions of the pipes given in the listing were that they were “vintage,” and you guessed it, I fell for the deliberate obfuscation, and Buy Now to boot.  As the only measure of self-defense I can muster, at least I only paid about $10, with shipping included.  They turned out to be this Dr. Grabow and two Yello-Boles, one a Spartan.  The Spartan did clean up purty compared to how it was.The Dr. G. is six inches long but otherwise very small.  The height is 1.5” and the inner bowl diameter is ⅝” x 1”  As a rule, unless the particular pipe is very old or has some other special attribute, I shy away from this name and Medicos and the like, although I’ve found almost anything will sell to someone who is a fan of a given brand.  In fact, just last week at my monthly pipe meeting I sold the Spartan with a stem logo of a yellow Y in a circle to a friend who happens to be my best customer.

The friend has accumulated some great pipes from me – such as a late 1930s Kaywoodie Super Grain and a Ropp last month – and an amazing collection of antiques including a few KB&B beauties, but he admits to having a weakness for vintage Yello-Boles.  I estimated the Spartan dated to the 1960s, and my friend somehow traced it on his cell phone to 1966.  That’s what I call a Yello-Bole devotee.

At any rate, the Dr. G. billiard remained quarantined in a box for more than a year with others that are so tragic I’m sure I’ll end up using them as examples of pipes never to buy.  In short, only when it was the last pipe I had to work on did I gather the gumption to go for it.

But as I already noted, all outward appearances showed nothing I couldn’t handle without too much effort, including the odd zigzag on the bowl.  The inside turned out to be a different matter altogether, one for the books as far as I’m concerned.


I wanted to get the pipe in a basic clean order before tackling the crack.  Starting with the light rim char and cake in the chamber, I used super fine “0000” steel wool on the rim to begin and a pen knife around the walls of the chamber that was too small to insert a reamer – meaning the one size I have.  Then I sanded the rim with 1000-grit paper and the chamber using a pinkie and 150- and 220-grit papers. I cleaned off the old blackness from the shank opening with the same steel wool and wiped down the entire stummel with purified water on a paper towel.Now the crack I mentioned is apparent.  Knowing it wouldn’t get rid of the crack, I sanded the outside of the wood with 1000-grit paper to remove the other small but pervasive blemishes. With the pipe more or less spiffed up, I could see the crack was hairline, so to speak, not penetrating the bowl in any visible way.  That was a relief as I knew I could make it go away altogether with sanding.  I tried 150-grit paper, and that looked like the end of the ostensible crack.  I followed up with 320-, 400-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.A full micro mesh progression left the briar looking absolutely fabulous, or abfab, as British interior designers like to gush about wood.  To be serious, though, which I often try not to be, knowing it drives some readers nuts but keeps me sane, the micro mesh step – if I had to choose just one from all of the routine tasks in a pipe restoration – is my favorite.  Seeing the resilience of wood, or briar anyway, that allows it to bounce back from ruin is to me what sunshine was to John Denver.  Well, not exactly, but you get the idea. The front shot above, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t show how pale most of that side was even after micro meshing.  Suffice it to say, a spot stain was necessary with Lincoln brown leather dye.  I took a little more joy in staining and flaming it. Looks like everything is going great, doesn’t it?  That’s rhetorical.  Only after thinking I was almost finished did I commence the part that turned into a singular horror the like of which I never before experienced.  Without exaggerating at all, I admit I was sure I had found a pipe that could not be cleared of all impurities, no way, no how.  I’m sure this sounds like more of my melodramatic foolery, but for once I am being as serious as I get.  I suspect I may have some kind of world record, if people registered such statistics, but no doubt Steve, if perhaps no one else, has a worse story or stories to tell.  I’d love to hear them!

To wit, I found myself at the point of having to deal with the inside of the billiard.  Nothing prepared me for the almost human resistance and downright orneriness I encountered, not to mention the smoking implement’s physical manifestation of the common human psychological condition of filthiness.

The pictures that follow, showing the pre-cleaning, retort and aftermath of all that, with nine pipe cleaners, a nylon bristle cleaner, two cotton plugs and a wasted (in the colloquial sense) candle, don’t approximate the work and time already expended on cleaning and sanitizing the inner passageways of the pipe.  I included the Tupperware with spent alcohol as a clue to how much I boiled through the guts of the thing, with the wholly unsatisfying and unacceptable final Pyrex tube as dark as every other, but it still isn’t sufficient to understand my frustration, so I’ll tell you.  I had already used up 13 tubes of alcohol, getting nowhere.I knew I could use any number of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol on the shank and it would do no good.  And so I started again, with a fresh retort (and candle and two more cotton plugs).  After nine more tubes boiled through the pipe – that’s a total of 22 – I at last achieved a clear enough result that didn’t get darker after three trips through the bowels of the Grabow.I don’t know, maybe this isn’t so unusual.  Or maybe I need a better retort system, as I’ve been looking forward to buying, something like the first one below, probably self-made by my friend Chuck Richards, or even the other I found online.

Hand-held laboratory-style retort system made by tbus6906, eBay, and an actual lab setup from best collection999 at eBay

And now for the stem, starting as it appeared when I got it and after the various phases of smoothing and buffing. And here is the finished pipe, the stem machine buffed with red and white Tripoli and the stummel with White Diamond and Carnauba. That’s a Medico filter in the stem, BTW, because it’s all I have and it fits!  Besides, whoever buys the Grabow will probably toss it.

This was an unusual restore for me for a couple of reasons. One, I set out thinking the big deal was going to be fixing a bad crack, and two, the real problem ended up being hidden within.  My previous record for the number of Pyrex tubes of alcohol I had to run through a pipe was nine, for a pipe I haven’t blogged yet.  I thought that was bad until I was faced with the harsh reality of this dainty little Grabow!  It’s the right size for most women (no sexism intended but I’ll probably get flack for that), but only a man could have smoked a pipe for possibly 40 years without ever really cleaning it.  Maybe that will get me off the hook with any female smokers who read this.

Oh, yes, a note about Revelation Pipe Mixture.  Never having heard of it and suspecting it’s out of production, I found I was correct about the latter part.  It was blended by House of Windsor, which still makes about 20 mixes, mostly aromatics, in the U.S.  Revelation was a coarse-cut (based on the photo I found, despite the description as ribbon cut) American blend of bright flake and red flake Virginias, cube cut burley, Kentucky, latakia, perique and “citrus/misc.”  It seems to have been somewhat popular given a 3.1 out of 4 rating at TobaccoReviews.com.  Legend says this was Albert Einstein’s go-to mix, so it couldn’t be all that bad.  It seems a reincarnation of this tobacco is being made in bulk form and true ribbon cut, from the same ingredients.  The link to the source is below for anyone interested.  Revelation was made by Philip Morris Co. Ltd. Inc. and distributed by Continental Tobacco Co.  I guess the tins are pretty old because companies aren’t named like that anymore.


About a Super Grain Kaywoodie Medium Dublin #08 Almost as Old as My Dad

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited


my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height 
— e.e. cummings, “my father moved through dooms of love,” from 50 Poems, 1940

I was going to start with the dedication and for once leave out the opening quote.  Then the last stanza of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” came to me.  I even had it typed in a few seconds.  Upon reflection, however, the idea of Thomas’ great, impassioned cry to his father, there on the sad height, seemed a little too close to my own feelings and therefore by definition selfish.  Any notion of beginning with words from Thomas, albeit brilliant and stirring, was belayed by the sudden and vivid recollection of my dad and me having a rare pleasant conversation.  The Cold War was raging hotter than ever at the time, and that was more or less what our normal interactions resembled

Out of nowhere, it seemed, the pleasant remembrance filled my mind, from lifetimes ago when I was 16 or so and reading books almost every spare moment I had.  I used books back then the way I later turned to alcohol more than I already had, to escape reality, except the books were good for me.  I could see the two of us, my dad and me, standing in the entryway to the house, golden-orange beams of late afternoon sunlight filtering through the windows.  My knapsack was stuffed, as tight as an overfilled laundry machine, with schoolbooks and other implements of learning, while cradled in my arms were about five diverse and serious reads I had bought for my own pleasure.  As my tastes were then and remain now rather eclectic, but with several main themes at the time, there was probably one each classic, sci-fi, fantasy, quirky crime fiction like Elmore Leonard’s Mr. Majestyk or anything having to do with spies by The Master, John le Carré, and of course someone’s, anyone’s, biography.

My dad made a point of coming out of his room and stopping me to talk, the subject of which I’m sure now didn’t make any difference to him.  He saw the load of new books I was holding and asked what I was reading those days.  I just handed them to him so that he could see for himself.  He was impressed, but what he said really struck me in a good way, as I had been thinking more or less the same thing.  He asked if I read any poetry.

All that came to mind back then were two poems, starkly different in style, that now seem to me interesting examples of poetry to compare and contrast.  But worry not, I won’t try it here!  They were Thomas’ perhaps best-remembered work that, years later, I compared to my dad in an essay I wrote for the English Comp AP course I took at NMSU in Las Cruces, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Tears, Idle Tears.”  While the former was and remains a favorite example of the artform I consider the highest to which any writer can aspire, I used to make my friends laugh with my lachrymose recitations of the latter.  I didn’t even consider the obvious, that my memorization of both and occasional sensitive spoken interpretations of Thomas’ masterpiece yet crass and venomous performances of Tennyson’s work of equal value were reflections of the mirror I gazed into every time I spoke his beautiful, insightful words in immature lampoonery.

My dad is the person who turned me on to e.e. cummings, and to him I now owe the fact I remembered the lines from the opening quote.  In fact I owe so much more to the man, parts of it good and others not so.  But all things considered, I turned out okay.  Now I miss him more than ever and feel his irrecoverable absence like a horrible sting.

At any rate, this blog is about a Kaywoodie Super Grain Dublin #08 that is almost as old as my dad was.  The left shank nomenclature approximates its age to the 1930s with the placement of SUPER GRAIN above KAYWOODIE, and the right shank imprints of IMPORTED BRIAR and 08 narrow the timeline to 1935-1938.  Every part of this beautiful pipe is original, including the stem and patented Drinkless stinger with the word etched into it.  If this pipe was around in 1936, its price would have been $5.  But more than the absence of the usual four-digit shape number connected with Kaywoodie pipes from this period, I’m having trouble imagining my dad no bigger than a boy of five.

RESTORATION This Super Grain was in amazing condition for a pipe well into its 80s!  The only problems presenting were normal rim char, well-maintained cake buildup and the almost mandatory, for Kaywoodies, mis-clocked stem.  Something told me that might more or less fix itself before the project was complete.I dunked the stem in an OxiClean bath and planned on letting it stay there longer than usual, given that the old Vulcanite was almost solid yellow-green, whatever that color is called.  I also had errands to run.  When I returned home a couple of hours later, I removed the stem from the nasty, dark bathwater, ran a pipe cleaner through the airhole, rinsed and scrubbed it with my thumbs and fingers and dried it off.  A little piece of 320-grit paper made it solid black again.  [I restored this pipe not long ago, but as I noted in my last blog, I had not yet learned how effective going straight to 1000-grit paper can be.  That’s where I’ll start from now on.  This time I lucked out.]I continued work on the stem and started on the rim burn with a soft green Brillo pad that brought out a soft shine on the stem, which may very well be the first one I’ve come across with no scratches that needed removing, much less tooth chatter or even a chink in the lip, top or bottom.  For the rim, the Brillo was a beginning.Finishing the stem with 400-, 600- and 1000-grit papers followed by a full run of micro mesh from 1500-12000, I turned to a piece of super fine “0000” steel wool for the remainder of black on the rim.Again, not being aware of how great a job 1000-grit paper does, I continued work on the rim with 320-grit.  Everything worked out in the end, but really, I had no idea how much extra work I’ve been doing!  In fact, I understand now how bad was the habit into which I had fallen.Smoothing the rim with 400- to 1000-grit papers, and in the process returning the grain to normal since I didn’t use the least abrasive grade in the first place, I finished that stage in anticipation of a spot stain there after micro meshing.  In the meantime, I reamed the chamber and sanded with 150- and 220-grit papers.  That was supposed to be just the start, but the mature and venerable Dublin was so loved and respected by its previous (and, I think, only other) owner that the chamber wall was baby smooth to the touch.I had forgotten the wonderful quality of briar and other woods to reacquire their original hue after being sanded down to a lighter shade and then worked back up with finer and finer grades of paper.  Therefore I was surprised but happy to see the lovely, mottled, somewhat leopard-like spots and blotches on the rim, and the natural shiny dark brown color that matched the whole surface, with the following full micro mesh of the stummel.  The thought occurred to me that when the pipe was first crafted, no stain might have been applied.The only thing left to do was retort the pipe.  This step further revealed that whoever was the guardian of this magnificent specimen of pipehood was also good enough to enjoy it quite often.  Four test tubes full of alcohol had to be boiled through the inner passageways from the lip of the stem to the top of the chamber before it was almost clear.Don’t take this as bragging because I know I had nothing to do with the skill and care that went into the very vintage Kaywoodie’s genesis – all I did was make it show again – but the color and shine of the wood were perfect as-is at that point and, as far as I could see, needed no further help.  And so, I didn’t even buff it on the wheel for the first time in my experience with pipes.  But to return the stem to the same sheen, I buffed it on the electric wheel with White and Red Tripoli. Oh, and I just remembered the other two aspects of the pipe I noted earlier but almost forgot to address, because, as with some other aspects of the restoration, I forgot to snap a shot of one and deleted the other considering its apparent superfluousness.  The stinger that was misaligned at first indeed did correct itself, with a small nudge, or firm but careful twist, rather, from me. And then there was my mention of the almost incredible fact that the Drinkless stem, with its four-holed ball at the end to be inserted into the shank – which ball, by the way, resembles an antique naval mine with its detonator legs removed, or is it just me? – was etched with the word DRINKLESS.   The shot above, enhanced by photo editing software with which I am at last becoming more adept, illustrates both the screwed-up (pun intended) aspect of the stinger and the etching.  Worth mentioning, to me at least, are Pipephil’s details that include such tidbits as these: the original Drinkless patent (No. 213598) had a push-in design that was used from 1924-1931; the updated version with the same patent number became the longer screw-in and is stated as being used from 1929 until as recently as the 1960s, and in 1932 the SynchroStem patent was granted in favor of the Drinkless.  The newer Drinkless stingers also had the words “REG. NO. 213598 etched under the Drinkless designation, although I didn’t look closely enough or take a good enough photo to show it.But – and here is where all the confusion reaches its zenith – Kaywoodie decided to move toward a three-hole stinger at an “indeterminate date.”

Ah, the joys of dating a pipe!  The Super Grain in this blog, however, is a definite match for the period 1935-1938.  I’m beginning to think pipes, like some people, should only be enjoyed, never dated. 😊

My dad was an avid pipe smoker until my mother, sister and two step-sisters put an end to that.  I say they did it, but the sad truth I still regret to this day is that I let them drag me into the brouhaha: the incessant reminding him, every time he sat down to relax and light up, of what the ninth U.S. Surgeon General, a well-meaning and for the most part dead-on man by the name of Luther L. Terry, MD, had reported two years after I was born, to wit, that smoking tobacco tends to have “an adverse impact…[on] health worldwide,” and the steady buildup to more snide comments such as the amount of time every use of tobacco deprived people of life (not counting the comments about second-hand smoke).  By the end, the unwarranted and downright cruel attacks on my dad by all of us had escalated to all-out war.  In the end, my dad surrendered and vowed to stop smoking his impressive collection of the beautiful briar works of art and implements of deep contemplation.

In my defense, this was all going down around 1968, when I was a mere lad of six.  But I can still picture the vast assortment of mostly smooth, easy bent billiards he favored, though there were some that were sandblasted also, and even more interesting, longer, straight ones I now understand were Canadians or others of that family.  In my mind I can see them now with such clarity that, given the experience I have had in some of the intervening years, I am positive they were all created by the greatest English makers of those times and these.

In other words, my dad was not keen on American brands the likes of Kaywoodie.  But he was a man whose tastes changed, like most of us, and I suspect that had we left him alone to his peaceful enjoyment of his pipes, his collection would have evolved.  If only we had not badgered him into submission, if only he had stood his ground and just said no, if only we had not grown apart – I might very well have given him this pipe for his last birthday.  And I’m sure he would have lived just as long as the 85 years he lasted before dementia and other non-smoking-related problems took him.

In a letter, Dylan Thomas described his approach to writing this way: “I make one image—though ‘make’ is not the right word; I let, perhaps, an image be ‘made’ emotionally in me and then apply to it what intellectual & critical forces I possess—let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make, of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict.”

That’s my dad, to a tee.  Still, I love him and miss him more now than I did the long years he decided not to communicate with me anymore.  So now, as still another great poet wrote, I sound my barbaric yawp.

He wasn’t big on crying, so I’m going to have to stop here.


Love at First Sight for a Comoy’s Claridge Easy-Bent Billiard

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

— “Something,” by George Harrison, The Beatles, 1969

Mark Oberman is one of the best men I’ve ever known, a man of true faith who walks the way he talks, in a calm, quiet search for his own meaning and place in the world.  He works as a private psychologist in the community and for the local police department’s crisis intervention unit, meaning he puts his life on the line to help desperate folks avoid doing things that might harm themselves or others, but he never talks about that unless there’s a need.  I only found out not long ago, eight years after we met, when someone I know well had been a subject of what police call constant involvement for violent psychological behavior during the previous year and was upgraded to an official investigation.  Mark has helped me under far less serious scenarios, and I consider him to be a good friend.  I’ll have to tell him that sometime.

Mark signaled me, near the end of our monthly pipe club meeting last week, that he wanted a word in private.  Curious, I stepped aside with him, and noticed he appeared uncertain how to get to the point.  I could sense his mind grasping for the right words, and it made me nervous.  At last, he spoke.

“Do you do stem work?” he asked.  I have to say, it was the last thing I expected, and my face might have betrayed me, or maybe my initial silence.  “Could you clean up a few stems and pipes?”

I smiled, knowing full well he didn’t need to ask and not yet understanding where he was going.

“I could do that,” I said.

I think Mark’s hands must have been behind his back, because I was almost startled by the suddenness with which he produced three pipe sleeves that weren’t empty.  Really, he could have been a magician.  We were already whispering when his voice dropped another notch, lest someone else hear his plan.

“I have these three pipes I’d like to donate for the next raffle,” Mark continued before making an inexplicable return to his original question, still avoiding whatever was on his mind.  “Could you clean up the stems, the pipes?”

I knew he wasn’t asking whatever question was most important to him and didn’t get it, and so I responded with my same original answer that, when repeated with a slight twist of emphasis, became ambiguous.

“I could definitely do that.”

This is getting bizarre, I thought, and felt the sudden need to retrieve a Brigham sandblasted pot sitter (#118) as corroboration.  I had restored the stummel and inappropriate three-dot stem with which it came.  The stem should have had only one dot, corresponding with the 100 series of the shape, and also appeared to have been pummeled and lacerated until the top lip was weak and the bottom masticated into nothingness. A hole on the bottom gave poignant testimony to its treatment.  I handed the whole thing to Mark, who couldn’t tell where the stem hole and weak lips once were, and it was shiny black again.  [I’m still looking to trade it for a one-dot, BTW.]

Mark just looked at me, his eyes piercing.  It was as though he beamed the thought to me, and I grokked him.

“I’ll be happy to do it,” I said with a grin.  “To give something back to the club for everything it’s done.”

Mark took a deep breath and smiled in relief.  I guess there was something he didn’t know about me, also.

In that night’s raffle, for example, for three tickets at a dollar a piece, I won a nice corncob and a 100-gram bag of some leafy stuff called Spilman Mixture by the E. Hoffman Company.  Mark donated both of them and more.

And that was when I had my first sight of a smooth easy-bent billiard that grabbed my heart on the spot, even though I didn’t yet know it.  I recognized at a glance its obvious British pedigree but was still surprised by the clean, crisp Comoy’s nomenclature on either side of the shank.

Claridge, I learned when I was home with the three pipes and could examine them in good light, is sometimes listed as a Comoy’s second.  I’m not so sure.  After all, parent companies don’t tend to stamp their own names on their children’s pipes, and when they do, it’s more in the way of introducing a special line, as in Bing’s and Clark’s Favorites, each a “Savinelli Product,” but not considered a second.

The Claridge easy-bent billiard #1452 that wooed me as I worked out its small kinks with slow, gentle rubbing and left it radiant and refreshed again has the following nomenclature: on the left shank, COMOY’S above CLARIDGE; on the right, a small F (for fishtail, indicating that was the original stem type) followed by the much larger, famous round mark with MADE over the top, IN snug in the middle, LONDON completing the circle and ENGLAND straight below it, then 1452.

As a final note on the pipe and its line designation, this billiard was named for two people, a man and woman, husband and wife: William and Marianne Claridge of Mayfair, London, who owned a small hotel there in the mid-19th century.  Wishing to expand, they did so in style, buying the five adjacent properties in 1854 and, two years later, opening Claridge’s London.  In a short time, the hotel became “London’s hotel,” according to the first issue of Baedeker Guide.  Today it is still sometimes called the “annex to Buckingham Palace” because of the frequency of royal visits.

RESTORATION Other than the need for minor cleaning, I didn’t notice anything wrong with the Claridge until I took it home and examined it close-up in good light.  That’s when I spotted the small but insidious furrow starting at the top outer right edge of the rim and extending down the side of the bowl. My heart leapt at the sight of the blemish.  I considered ignoring the relative trifle.  After all, I reasoned, Mark only asked me to clean the pipes and stems!  I had made three previous attempts at repairing uneven rims, all of them very grave cases, and two with what I’d call success.  The other was the best I could do under the circumstances.  All of them involved filing to begin, and I knew I would never subject this beauty to such an invasive procedure.  While I pondered the problem I suppose is obvious I couldn’t help tackling, I put the stem in an OxiClean bath.Hoping to get rid of the dent and make the rim more uniform by sanding, I started slow, patient brushing, front to back, left to right and crosswise, using a 150-/180-grit pad.That part took about an hour, but at the end of it I was surprised and pleased with the results thus far.  The chamber needed to be cleared of carbon buildup and smoothed, so I commenced that stage with my Senior Reamer.  I thought it might help equalize the rim diameter a little more, also, and it did.Then I turned to 150-git paper before 220.  Sometimes that will be enough, but this pipe needed to progress almost all the way up from there: 320-, 400-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.  All of that done, I soaked a small piece of paper cloth in alcohol and cleaned the remaining soot and wood powder from the chamber.Seeing what looked like a single scratch on the left side of the bowl, I was afraid I might have to put some paper to it for a spot-sand, and I really wanted to do this job in as minimalist a way as possible.  After all of that gripping and turning of the beautiful piece of bird’s-eye briar in dirty hands, I washed mine in the sink and used a little purified water on a paper towel to clean the outer stummel.I can only assume that what I saw and felt as a scratch was in fact only a tiny piece of detritus transferred to the wood from my hands that had become somewhat grubbier than usual.

At this point, I started going back and forth between the stem and stummel.  Removing the stem from its bath, I rinsed it, stuck a pipe cleaner through the airhole and let it dry.  Thanks to some lessons from my friend Don Gillmore (dba Don Warren, or dwpipes) concerning how to refinish a pipe in dress black, after five years working on pipes the idea occurred to me to see if 1000-grit paper would clear away the leftover white coat of whatever residual substance remains.  And indeed it did.  If anyone can tell me what that stuff is, by the way, please do so! Then I prepped the shank with alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners and a nylon brush before retorting the pipe. Back to the stem, I did a full wet micro mesh progression with my old pads followed by a full dry run with my newer kit.  The difference can be seen even with these cell phone pics.After only about an hour and a half of concerted effort, I was ready to take the stem and stummel to the electric buffer wheels.  For the ebonite, I used red and white Tripoli, and for the briar I chose White Diamond and carnauba. CONCLUSION
As soon as I finished the Claridge, I emailed Mark the photos of the finished pipe and confessed my predicament, that I’d fallen for the lovely, graceful billiard.  The half of my mind that could reason knew Mark and therefore assured me he would accept my plea to sell me the pipe and allow me to donate one of my own to the raffle in its place.  The other half, alas, was louder, and so for the two days before Mark replied all I could do was look at and sometimes hold in my hands and covet the pretty thing.

When at last Mark replied, all he wrote was, “Absolutely it is yours.”  Of course I was more than happy and relieved, and I dashed off a reminder to him to think of a price before the 1st of November, when I would pay him.  I knew it would be a good deal but never expected his answer.

“Here is a fair price: $0.00.  I expect it at the next meeting. 😊”

Now, that’s an offer I can’t refuse.  But I’m still going to donate a pipe to next month’s raffle – and it’s going to be a good one.  I’m also going to keep my eye out for a Claridge fishtail stem with one of these logos, courtesy of Pipephil.