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The CPF Arcadia: A Pipe Out of Time

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

Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
— Anonymous, quoted in “The Monkey’s Paw,” W.W. Jacobs, from The Lady of the Barge, 1902

Whatever inspiration led Cliff Edwards to write the lyrics to the song that became Disney’s theme, “When You Wish upon a Star” – in which one’s heart need only be in the dream for no request to be too extreme, and fate will be kind – must have been, to be gentle to all of the Mouseketeers out there, in an alternate reality to mine.  I’ve long had two rules: be careful what you ask for, lest you get it, and above all, never ask for what you deserve, because everyone has done things that should have had stiffer consequences.  I’m not being cynical.  From my experience, it’s just the way whatever Higher Power we call by various names helps us humans avoid being selfish and greedy, at least those who ask for guidance now and then if not more.

Of course, I’m not perfect, in fact, far from it.  I found myself during the past two months or so becoming more and more fixated on acquiring not just any new pipe, but one made by the Colossus Pipe Factory.  Then I began my hunt in earnest, with eBay searches and general Googling, but to no avail.  At last I got a hit with a pair of pipes titled, in a somewhat jumbled way, “Vintage Smoking Pipe Tobacco Lot of 2 Arcadia CPF London England Briar.”  From that description alone I thought maybe I was going to see something made by an Arcadia brand and a rare English CPF.  There were enough photos, however, and they were good, to determine without doubt that a big, smooth poker stamped on the right MADE IN/LONDON ENGLAND was one mixed-up part of the seller’s heading, and CPF Arcadia was the other.  The disarray of the title and the low price I paid – about $45 – told me the seller didn’t know what he had and the other bidders were not sure enough that the CPF was real to risk going higher.

Before bidding anything and after studying the pics of the alleged CPF – and I mean I really poured over every detail of them – I was certain it had to be a fake, except for the band on the shank.

From the photos that I snapped when it arrived in the mail with the poker I believe is a Ben Wade reject, the only authentic-looking parts of a CPF are the band, bone tenon and stem.  Otherwise, honestly, I could see where the basic chunk of wood could have been fashioned into a stummel long ago before some Flower Child got ahold of it and turned the bowl into a psychedelic pin cushion, but I could not imagine anyone alive more than a century ago, especially the Old World masters employed by CPF, fashioning such a monstrosity, as I saw the pipe before its comic beauty grew on me.  I even used the “m” word in an email I sent to Steve, with a link to the eBay sale, in which I more or less implored him to tell me it wasn’t real, meaning a genuine CPF.

Needless to say, I was shocked when Steve not only replied that the Arcadia was real and “very old,” an age distinction he had never before made to me, but that he had worked on a meerschaum like it a couple of years ago.  Here are some before and after shots of Steve’s meerschaum, which indeed bear a scary resemblance to my old briar.

A.F. & Co./BBB Spotted Meerschaum photos courtesy Steve Laug.

The severe chicken pox-like similarities are undeniable, and I scrutinized every word and photo of Steve’s blog in hopes of connecting the dots (I’m so sorry, that just popped out) of the definitely funky tobacco pipe specimens.  Struck by a gung-ho fit to research the abbreviation “AF&C0” in Steve’s third photo above, I interrupted my reading to find the answer before continuing and learning Steve already had done so: Adolph Frankau & Co. of England.  Steve’s work restoring the meerschaum that he also dated to 1905, thanks to great detective work tracing the unique hallmarks on the sterling silver band, was phenomenal, in particular the addition of a Bakelite stem that he not only fitted to the shank but made look as old as the original stummel.

Now, in case anyone thinks my choice of details a mere glut of disconnected trivia, I’ll make my point.  Steve took one look at the weird pipe for sale on eBay, flashed on the A.F. & Co./BBB meerschaum he gave new life and instinctively sensed a connection.  I have to say, I had doubts despite the almost genetic resemblance.  After all, there was no indication my CPF Arcadia was a Frankau import.  By the time Steve and I connected on the phone to discuss the two pipes and other matters, I had restored the Arcadia and warmed to its charms.  Although lacking any proof of the pipe’s date of manufacture such as Steve dug up for the meerschaum, certain minute observations and research led me to conclude it was created in the latter part of the 19th century.  Steve concurred.

In particular, I finally figured out that the stem was not Vulcanite but black horn, and the metal band boasted that it was “Nickel Plated.”  What kind of pipe brags about having a nickel plated band?  Nowadays, that’s the bottom of the barrel.  So I looked up nickel plating history online and learned that in 1837 the first crude electrochemical nickel plating of platinum was accomplished.  Really?  Someone thought to cover up the most precious metal with nickel?  You bet he did, and in 1869 a better process that became the industry standard for 70 years was discovered.  The purpose of nickel plating certain other metals, of course, remains nickel’s resistance to tarnishing and corrosion.  The only logical explanation for the proud “NICKEL PLATED” stamp on the band of my CPF, therefore, is that the process was still relatively new.  Given that point and the use of black horn stems being much less common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when amber and Bakelite predominated, I am satisfied the pipe was created in the waning years of the Victorian Era.

Returning to Steve and his inspired flash that the “knobby meer,” as he called it, and the CPF Arcadia are related, Steve told me he now questions whether the meerschaum is a real BBB, owing to certain unstated problems with the band.  Steve is the expert, but this time I have to disagree and urge him to stick with his instincts.  The notion of the meerschaum, knobs and all, being a bona fide BBB is no wilder than my briar, with its gaudy plastic bulbs and brass studs, being a genuine CPF, and I do not mean to suggest in a roundabout way that neither is the truth.  Granted the extremity of different materials used to make the pipes, and the necessity of alternate methods for achieving the knobby looks, and still further suspending disbelief because of the admitted implausibility of the idea, I nevertheless can’t help thinking that the connection is the actual crafter of the two pipes.  To be blunt, I think the same person made both of them.  Of course, I will never be able to prove the theory.  Well, isn’t that convenient, as the Church Lady used to say.

With a little more research, I was pleased to settle with much more certainty a question that nagged Steve in his blog of the unusual meerschaum: was there a connection between it and BBB?  As several of the sources below show, the link is clear.  Frankau, who started business in 1847, died in 1856.  At that time, his widow was persuaded to continue operation of A.F. & Co. under the control of Frankau’s very young assistant, Louis Blumfeld, who was then only 18.  Blumfeld started BBB (for Blumfeld’s Best Briar, later Britain’s Best Briar), the famous triangular symbol for which he trademarked in 1905 – again, the year Steve’s meerschaum was made – under the A.F. & Co. banner.  BBB seems to be the first pipe maker with a trademark.  And so the connection, if I haven’t made it obvious, is that A.F. & Co. owned BBB.

Arcadia, part of the modern-day Peloponnese, a peninsular region of southern Greece (capital, Tripoli), is also a reference to Greek mythology.  The mythological Arcadia was named for Arcas, a hunter who became king of the utopic wilderness and is best remembered for teaching the skills of baking bread and weaving.  In Arcadian myth, Pan, the god of shepherds, hunters and the wilds, is said to have roamed the region with dryads, nymphs and other spirits.  The name, therefore, is an odd one for this pipe, unless it’s a reference to the Calydonian Boar killed by the king’s daughter, Atlanta.

CPF had an ephemeral but brilliant run from 1851 to c. 1915, producing with the unparalleled skill of its Old World craftsmen some of the most astounding pipes, meerschaum and briar, ever created.  That’s all I need tell of CPF’s history, as Steve’s account in the sources below is the definitive authority.  Another link to a few of the CPF beauties in Steve’s Wonderland collection shows examples that are far closer to what I had in mind when I was wishing for a pipe of that great brand to find its way to me.

But that’s what can happen to someone who wishes for something.

A few close-ups show the peculiarities and problems I found.  The first, featuring the front of the bowl, makes the little, round, plastic bulbs – which I did not yet know the means of connection to the bowl – appear red instead of their actual light brown.  Scratches all over the uneven surface that is spotted with the bulbs and brass studs presented awkwardness to remove.  The second shot, of the rim and chamber, has the correct color of the bulbs and at a glance seems the hardest part of the pipe’s repair but in fact was the easiest. The third pic made me happy the band was already spinning on the shank so I could leave it out of an early alcohol soak.  The grime and stains would come off, but I knew I could not fill in the missing patches of nickel.  Then there was the stem, top and bottom, with moderate tooth damage that would typically be no hassle to eliminate if it were Vulcanite.Before I continue, take a close look at the bowl and count the bulbs and brass studs.  There are seven bulbs and four studs, and the arrangement may seem random.  But look again, and you’ll see a very odd order: on the left side, the bulbs start on the top left to right and then down to the bottom right; the studs move diagonally from the lower left to the middle.  On the right side, the opposite is true: the bulbs go from top left down to bottom left and then bottom right, and the studs are diagonal from top right to middle.  On the front, three bulbs form a diagonal, tic-tac-toe line from top right to bottom left, or vice versa if you prefer.  Finally, the back shows all four corners with bulbs.   The person who crafted this pipe had a very playful sense of order.

Thinking the Arcadia stem was Vulcanite but knowing it would do no harm anyway, I tossed it and the one from the Ben Wade reject candidate in an OxiClean bath.  The usual old dirt and tobacco residue came off both.  The first pictures after the bath show the stem not yet fully dried, and the next three dry. This was when I snapped that perhaps the stem material was not Vulcanite and Googled black horn, although if I had ever heard of such a variety of that organic material, it was dredged up from my subconscious.  I emailed Steve somewhat stupidly without photos.  He replied that horn has striations that are visible under a magnifier, so I shot him back the above photos and asked if the last showed the kind of marks he meant.  His brief response was, “Definitely horn.”  In the meantime, I had followed up with 220-grit sanding and wet and dry micro meshing from 1500-12000.While the stem had been taking a bath, I soaked the stummel in Isopropyl alcohol.  I was worried about the possible effects of the alcohol on the bulbs, but somewhat less catastrophic in the potential result than the Trinity Tests of the atom bomb south of Albuquerque nearing the end of World War II, I took a gamble.I started the next longer part by sanding the rim with 400- and 1000-grit papers, then the rest with 1000. Smoothing the chamber with 60- and 320-grit papers, I followed up with a full micro mesh of the rim and rest of the outer stummel.I thought Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather stain would be good for the stain.I performed the retort and decided to add a coat of Fiebing’s Burgundy.  I was satisfied with the color result, but in the process of flaming and micro meshing after the latter stain, a couple of the bulbs went M.I.A. Faced with the not altogether unanticipated contingency of somehow having to replace a bulb or two, as I still considered them, I had already considered using small push pins, the kind for wall maps, and had found a couple of places online that carried close to the same shade of brown in case it became necessary.  Hoping to avoid the time waiting for them to arrive by mail, however, I scoured this wannabe big city that is lacking in so many of the amenities found in the real thing.  The best I could find was the following box of 200 map pins in every color but brown (any shade of it!).  The good news was that they only cost $2.99 minus tax at a hobby store.  I concluded it would be necessary to replace all seven of the bulbs for the sake of consistency and suppose I might have opted for a conservative dark blue or even black, but as Tom Cruise’s high school character in Risky Business put it, “Sometimes you just have to say what the @#$*!”  Besides, Christmas is coming up.  The smaller brown pin below was an original I twisted out.The one prospect I didn’t even consider until I examined the holes left by the missing “bulbs” was that some antique version of map pins might have been used when the pipe was adorned in such an unconventional way by its maker.  But when the time came to remove the bulbs that were still intact, I found out they were indeed nothing more than map pins from more than a century ago.  All I had to do was snip off the longer metal ends of the new ones and Super Glue them into the slots.  I still don’t know how the brass studs are attached because I didn’t want to mess with them.  I’m curious by nature, but I have limits.  My dad always said, if it works, don’t fix it.

And so, without further ado, here is the finished CPF Arcadia. CONCLUSION
I’ve come to love this pipe out of time that should have been made in the Art Deco period, which didn’t really get rolling until 1925 and hit its peak in the 1930s art scenes of Europe and the U.S. – or even the hippie  (or psychedelic, counterculture and what-have-you) movement of the 1960s into the ’70s).  If this restoration taught me anything, it’s that sometimes wishing for something vague can lead to a happy ending.  I’ve come to love this pipe and will happily keep it if it doesn’t sell.  And it is for sale, for the right price on my site, or a good trade.



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

I didn’t do it.  Oh, wait, THAT.  Yes, I did do THAT.
— An appropriate example of cheekiness

Last November, in a rare, impulsive act of sheer gullibility, or maybe wishful thinking gone wild is a better way to put it, I made one of the oldest mistakes other people – but not I – can do: I snatched up a collection of odds and ends on eBay labeled “Lot 3 Vintage Tobacco Pipes-Tobacco Tins-& Bags-1 Box,” somehow rationalizing that they were all connected, or at least, maybe, the pipes and some of the bags and box (the three pipes matching the combined number of two sleeves and one box, although it still didn’t occur to me that one sleeve matched the box).  To compound the shame of this serious folly, I jumped on the great deal, at only $21.51 plus S&H, based on the following single blurry photo provided by the seller.

Credit omitted for obvious reasons

I mean, consider the clues my crazed mind somehow overlooked!  You can do it without my help, which I can’t bring myself to give anyway.  I won’t even claim I don’t know what I was thinking because it’s clear I wasn’t at all, in any sense of the word.  Okay, so the package came in the mail.  Well, indeed, there were three vintage pipes, a Grabow, a Yello-Bole and the poker I couldn’t then, in my bleary-eyed horror, identify; two sleeves, a Karl Erik and a Butz-Choquin; the one Karl Erik box, and the two olde-timey Revelation Smoking Mixture tins.  And so, I struggled to reason, I got exactly what I asked for!  God knows, and so do I, that I deserved it.  Still, in my defense, however lame it may be, the seller was more than a little disingenuous with his hazy portrayal of the goods and failure to point out that the Yello-Bole has a fatal crack extending a third of the way down the front of its 1.5” bowl.

[The Revelation tins, for those who haven’t heard the story, once contained a blend of red Virginia, cube cut Burley, Latakia and Perique made at the time by Philip Morris & Co. Ltd. Inc. and said to be Albert Einstein’s go-to.  The stuff looked like mulched, ancient twigs, tree and bush leaves, bark and other components one might find as groundcover in a forest as far from civilization as is still possible.  But Revelation switched from tins to soft packaging in 1957, so I attempted to console myself with the thought that the latest addition to my small tobacciana collection is at least 61 years old.  Then I realized that’s only five years older than I am.  Does that mean I’m vintage?  Needless to say, my attempt was a failure.]

Disheartened by my abject flop, I considered the options.  I could return the whole lot, pan the seller in my feedback or bite the bullet and get on with my life.  Not caring for any of these, I tossed all of it in disgust under my living room table with my stash of junk mail and old newspapers.  In the intervening months, the pile grew and hid all of the discarded items I had banished from my mind anyway, until one day about a week ago when gravity made the pile shift, and I spied the red Butz-Choquin sleeve.  So deep down had I stuffed the memory of the debacle that I didn’t recognize it, no joke.  Approaching the sleeve on hands and knees, like an archeologist digging for treasure, I liberated the sleeve from the heap and began removing layer after layer of the paper trash.

In this fashion revealing the pipes, sleeves, box and tins, and bagging the paper mountain to throw in the trash, I could not help laughing.  The poker caught my attention, and I remembered I had not established its maker but only assumed it was of the others’ ilk.  I wiped away some crud on the smooth bottom of the rustic pipe and used my magnifying glasses trying to decipher the nomenclature but was unable to do so.  Turning to the stem for a mark that might provide a clue, I saw what appeared to be three faded dots in a line from top to bottom, the middle one of them smaller than the others.  From Pipephil, I discovered the pipe was a Brigham of the 600 series, and to my surprise, from Canada.

My face flushed and misted over with sweat from a rush of blood as my mind’s eye teleported me backward in time a few years.  I’m sure Steve has forgotten all about this, having better things to store in his mind vault, but I’m cursed – or blessed – with total recall of every tasteless, fatuous or otherwise inappropriate thing I’ve ever said, for the most part well after the fact and only when something triggers a free association with the earlier mistake.

In this case, learning that Brigham is an old and respected Canadian pipe maker reminded me of an occasion several years back when I broke my usual habit of engaging my brain before my tongue, as my dear dad taught me.  Something prompted me to blurt to Steve, “Are there any Canadian pipe makers?”  I say blurt because such an ill-conceived question could not have been made in an email or else I would have researched it myself, but rather must have flown out of my mouth in a flash of cheeky, stupid impertinence during a telephone conversation.  I also remember Steve’s pause before he replied with tact, “Yes, there are a few.”

Having now made a quick, easy online inquiry into the subject, I found one good source listing 30 far North American pipe makers, including larger brands and artisans.  Brigham seems to be the biggest and best known.  Notable among the artisans is Michael Parks of Bowmanville, Ontario, whose work is astounding.  No doubt there are many more talented folks carving pipes in the vast Canadian provinces and territories, and to every one of them, I apologize for my ignorant question that now seems so long ago!

Roy Brigham must have been born with pipes in his genes.  After serving as an apprentice to an Austrian pipe repair master, Brigham opened his own shop in Toronto in 1906.  After 12 years, the venture included five other craftsmen and was already known across Canada for its excellent work.  In 1918, Brigham and his team started making the company’s first pipes, and again the reputation for high quality and value began to spread throughout the country’s 3.9 million square miles.

Brigham’s son Herb joined the business in 1935, and the two were known as Brigham & Son.  Together, they identified tongue bite, which at the time was thought to be caused by hot smoke from pipes, as the chief complaint of customers.  Determined to get to the bottom of the problem, father and son experimented and learned that the symptom was caused not by heat but mild burning from tars and acids in the smoke.  Trying various filters, they concluded bamboo and rock maple were the best materials.  Bamboo being much more difficult to obtain, they settled on rock maple, and in 1937 invented what they called the Distillator and applied for the Canadian patent, granted the following year.  That patent, №. 372,982, was for a metal insert in the mouthpiece which enclosed the non-porous rock maple insert that could be removed and cleaned several times before the effectiveness began to deteriorate.  The fourth page is a clarification made sometime after the Patent Act of 1955 cited in its text.CAN. PAT. 372982 is stamped on the smooth bottom of the poker’s shank, below the Brigham mark, but as future changes were gradual and relatively minor and finished in the late 1940s after Herb rejoined the business following service in World War II, they appear not to have been filed but were relied upon based on the protection granted to the one and only Brigham patent for the Distillator.  Therefore, a precise dating of the poker is impossible, although it looks to be made in the 1950s.  Brigham has a remarkable array of pipes varying from traditional shapes to freehands to some that are just plain unique.

Canadian courtesy Smoking Pipes

Mike Brigham, Herb’s son, joined the family business in 1978 and began expanding the product list to include tobacco and accessories.  This is likely when the company became known as Brigham Pipes Ltd. Until 1995, when the present name of Brigham Enterprises Inc., its incarnation today.

Here is the Brigham rusticated poker as I received it. The first orders of business were to soak the stummel in Everclear and ream the chamber.  After the soak, a light touch with super fine “0000” steel wool cleared the rim. I followed that with a double 150- and 180-grit sanding pad all around, the highlights of which are shown below.  The second photo was taken after sanding the chamber with 150-, 220-, 320-, 400- and 600-grit papers. Working on the rim with papers from 220-600 grit followed by micro mesh 1500-12000, it shined up pretty well.  While I was at it, I micro meshed the rest of the stummel, focusing on the rim, and the first and third photos following show the improvement. The next pics show how filthy an old, oxidized stem can be, and the aftermath of soaking in OxiClean.  I don’t know what the loose, plastic film-like stuff is in the last shot below and was worried it would become a problem. Sanding the lips and areas below them with 600-grit paper took off the roughness, and a full wet micro mesh progression followed by dry made the stems shine.  Also, the mystery film came off clean.  The last photo shows how my initial belief that the stem mark was faded dots that would require filling in was wrong.  They’re metal implants. Retorting the pipe was fast and easy since it was well prepped.Then it occurred to me I hadn’t removed the Distillator rock maple insert, which I did then.  Brigham’s use chart indicates by the darker brown color of the insert that the pipe was smoked about 20 times since the last filter was added.  I’ve ordered an 8-pack replacement box.My favorite part of most restores had arrived, in this case to buff the rustic area of the stummel with Halcyon II wax and the rim with White Diamond and carnauba.  I used red and white rouge on the stem for a change since I had used it for several special pipes I’ll be blogging ASAP. CONCLUSION
I learned quite a bit about our neighbor to the north and now have a firm grasp on the fact that Canadians indeed not only make pipes, but beautiful ones.  Nuff said about that.  But boy, am I happy I jumped on that otherwise misleading eBay lot!


An Exceptional Bjarne Hand Made Freehand

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

He could have been an ambassador for his country, but instead he became an ambassador for Danish pipes.

— Jan Anderson, author of Scandinavian Pipemakers (2012)


Jan Anderson was speaking of Bjarne Nielsen, the great Danish pipe maker, who finished his studies at the University of Copenhagen with an MBA in the early 1960s and went to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the export division.  Nielsen made his first pipes when he was 16 and gave them to friends then and later at the university, and of course he continued making pipes as a hobby.  Whether he knew it or not, he was bitten by the bug.  Call it Pipe Makers Disorder (PMD), if you like.  Bjarne was considered a likely candidate for appointment as ambassador to a foreign country, but he gave it all up to pursue his real ambition, which will come as no surprise to anyone with creative leanings was to form his own business.

Bjarne may never even have imagined turning his pastime into a career, but fate, if there is such a thing, is powerful.  The freehand pipe movement was first building speed when Bjarne was at the Ministry, and he was often asked to help find foreign buyers for the style of pipe that was more popular abroad than in Denmark, where it started.  Many older smokers, deeply rooted in the English tradition of the classic Dunhill style, considered the new direction outlandish, crazy and worst of all, ugly.  And every source Bjarne knew had orders for such pipes up the wazoo.  I’m sure he used more diplomatic words.

Then, out of the blue, again if there is such a phenomenon, Bjarne had the idea to send photos of some of his pipes to a few of those same foreign distributors.  I’m sure he put it out of his mind and wasn’t watching the pot until it started to boil over with so many positive responses he had to decide whether to stay with the Ministry or pursue his innate talent.  Not being the average man, fearful of taking such a huge risk – or, rather, being the typical young man he was, still full of dreams – Bjarne embarked on the journey that would make him a legend, meaning most of the world has never heard of him.

The hand-made Danish freehand in this blog has three lines of clear block nomenclature on the bottom of the shank, below the stem: BJARNE/HANDMADE/ IN DENMARK.  The stem also bears a mark – a lower-case b sitting in the curl of a lower-case j.

Courtesy Pipephil

This means Bjarne did not make the pipe himself, but instead delegated the job to one of three master carvers who were and are in business for themselves and did special work for him.  They are Mogens “Johs” Johansen, Jes Phillip Vigen Jertsen (Ph. Vigen) and Tonni Nielsen.  These pipes were sold by Bjarne as lower-grade pieces than those he carved and on which he ascribed his full name, in cursive script, above HANDMADE/IN DENMARK.  The pipes Bjarne carved himself also bore a grade of AX or A-J.  The man’s self-appraising standards were refined to the extreme.  They bear no mark on the stems.

Bjarne Nielsen Bulldog Grade O, photos, courtesy abel2antique on eBay

I didn’t mind that my new Bjarne, whichever of the fine craftsmen above made it, came with a box and sock as well.

RESTORATION Three long years ago, before I learned lessons beyond count and, more than anything else, that the process never ends, I wrote a blog here called “Ben Wade and the Chamber of Horrors,” in which I recounted the restoration of a huge BW poker with cake so gnarly it took me hours to repair.  As I can think of no better words to describe the terrors of uncovering layer after layer of hardened old carbon, only to reach a patch of almost perfect smoothness and then reaching spiraling new veins and lumps, I’ll give a brief quote from the BW blog.

“The ongoing task of removing all of the cake, every time I thought I achieved smoothness all around, only uncovered still more hidden holes, like microcosmic pits and craters on the moon, only black…the evil chamber walls in spots felt like the bowels of a volcano.”

But this pipe was so much worse, it took me days of concerted effort to get to the bottom of the years of iron-like cake.  I am certain that had this pipe come my way three years ago, I would have been forced to set it aside in the to-do pile.

I started with my Junior Reamer, which, due perhaps to the curve of the freehand chamber, made almost not even a dent. The coarsest sandpaper I had was a small old finger-length strip of 180-grit that has stood by me for years and is most often the roughest I need to get with a chamber’s walls.  A half-hour or so of that left my hand aching, my fingers burning and one of them torn open, as was the case to a much more serious degree with the BW chamber of horrors.  I put the chamber ordeal on pause and decided to see how awful the shank’s airway might be.  I admit my attitude sucked by then, but also that I was pleased with the relative ease of clearing the shank of grime with alcohol-dipped regular pipe cleaners.  The first one took some finagling to break on through to the other side, but only four cleaners were needed for the preliminary cleaning. I girded for another go at the chamber with the following armaments.I hoped I would not have to resort to either (and certainly not both) blades, but I was going to be prepared for anything.  As it turned out, the Dremel I used in the BW chamber of horrors case would have come in handy, but I had to borrow it and didn’t want to take the time.  The task was longer and more arduous than I can detail in photos, but here are some time lapses – during the first day.  I hope they show the bulges and veins that appeared hither and thither with each new attack.  Indeed, both the pen and utility knives were needed throughout the three-day process of perfecting the chamber. Another problem I’m sure has not gone unnoticed was the rim burn that was fairly bad, but on the plateau area of a freehand presented greater than average problems.  I did not want to use sand paper or even spot-soak the rim in alcohol, if black stain was under the char.  After debating the options available to me with my resources at hand, I opted for an approach that may seem unusual but I knew from experience would leave any black paint intact.  I submerged the entire stummel in alcohol for several minutes at most, and when I removed it I thought I had the desired result of eliminating the old stain and excess char. Scrutiny of the outer wood showed a perfect piece of briar, free of any blemishes or even a single scratch.  The only other such experience I recall after alcohol-stripping a stummel was with my previous blog about a Capitello Jonico Dublin.  I tried to tell myself the remaining blackness on the rim was natural or maybe left-over stain.

Other than the final sanding, which tore through the final layer of uneven cake, the time for micro-meshing had arrived.  Giving the stummel a final inspection, I overrode my misgivings about the dull murkiness that pervaded most of the rim, with random rays of nice red wood making it through the gloom. I remembered a Ben Wade by Preben Holm I restored and had to re-stain the rim black, and I’ve never quite been happy with it.  The whole approach to this project was to restore the freehand to a better look than it may ever have had, if I may be excused the apparent impertinence.  Still, I proceeded with the micro-mesh, which only confirmed my gut instinct. Before I return to the rim, there are a few minor wrap-ups to make.  First, look at the discoloration of the wood at the top of the front view above.  I figured Super Fine 0000 steel wool should do the trick, and it did.Then there were the stains on the tip of the Lucite tenon and inside the button of the stem.  I scraped out the difficult to reach crud from the button with a mashed end of a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol and sanded clean the open end of the tenon with my trusty 180-grit fragment of paper.The retort went well, requiring only three Pyrex test tubes of alcohol – the first that was sucked up into the cotton stuffed in the chamber, the second coming out moderately dirty, and the third, after boiling through the pipe four times, was clear.The last step I imagined before the final wheel buffing – there would be no stain – was to fill in the congruent bj etching on the stem that had not been worn away.Unfortunately, the curl of the b is completely faded away.

I just could not see proceeding with either of the courses that presented themselves, leaving the dull, scorched earth look of the rim as it was and trying to make it shine or buying more black stain and hiding the beautiful wood I was sure was hidden.  And so, I gave the rim a spot-soak in alcohol to see what lay beneath.The result was a very pale rim, but I knew that would change with another, focused full course of the micro-mesh pads.  The semi-final result as I headed for the buffers was just what I wanted.  I buffed the stummel with brown Tripoli and a heavy coat of Carnauba, and the stem with Carnauba.


This restore was one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in the few years I’ve been learning a few of the myriad techniques and resources available.  Thinking at first it would be done overnight, three days later I knew never to underestimate the opponent each new pipe presents as.  I struggled with the question of to sell or not to sell, and gave in to my P.A.D.  All I have to say is, I’m glad I did, because, as the title says, this is one extraordinary freehand.



Pipe Smokers’ Laws – Borrowed with Appreciation

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
Website Roadrunner Restored Pipes
Blog RRP
Falderal About Me
Photos © the Author except as noted

For once I have a contribution to make, which I am so grateful to have chanced upon while surfing the Web for something I no longer even remember (and said forgotten search therefore being of no consequence), that needs no opening quote or official introduction.  I have no idea what category this offering falls under but doubt the change to my typical format will be met with anything less than approval and pleasure by the majority of this forum’s readers and contributors.  My  only request – call it a suggestion, if you prefer – is that the following list, courtesy of the Ozark Pipe Smokers of Rogers, AR, USA, be given a thorough reading with all due sobriety and gravity.  And I hereby move for its formal adoption by all pipe clubs, everywhere.  Anyone wishing to second the motion may do so by commenting below.

An Everyman London Pipe Un-dinged

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author except as noted

“The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever.” — Anatole France (1844-1924), French novelist

According to several sources, including Gregory Please, the circular “Made in London England” stamp on Comoy’s lines, of which this Everyman London Pipe full bent billiard is a second, was discontinued in the early 1950s.  Therefore it seems probable that the Everyman I put in my sub-group of unrestored pipes to be fast-tracked is from the same period.  This was my second Everyman London Pipe restoration, as well as one Guildhall, which leads me to suspect and there is a collective unity of pipe enjoyers out there, however nebulous, who seek out these inexpensive but fine seconds.  I make this supposition considering the speed at which all three of the Comoy’s seconds on which I’ve worked sold: within days of completion, one of each line on my old website and the other in a local transaction.  Comoy’s began, with the manufacture of clay pipes, in St. Claude, France in 1825; the company’s first briar pipe was made in 1848, and Comoy’s of London was established in 1879.  Then there are Chapuis-Comoy, founded in 1925, and the Chacom connection, starting in 1934.  But don’t let me confuse things.

By admitting this was not a difficult job, I should note that I nevertheless decided upon an Everclear strip of the old stain to uncover the many pocks and scratches that were all over the outer surface rather than sanding the entirety of the stummel.  Otherwise – although there were a couple of adjustments that needed to be made after I took the first set of “final” photos, the task was relaxing and diversionary in between some more involved projects I’m still finishing up.  The bit was in good shape and needed minimal sanding, the rim was as clean as I’ve ever seen one, and the chamber had little char.  Still, it was one dinged up pipe.C1 C2 C3 C4
I soaked the wood in the alcohol and the bit in an OxyClean bath.  The bit came out first, but that’s not the order I’m recounting the process here.  After I removed the stummel and wiped it most of the way dry with small soft white cotton cloth pieces, I gave it a gentle sanding with 320-grit paper.  All of the dings went away, and I thought I got all of the scratches as well.  But I will return to that thought later.

C6C7 The bit came out of the bath much cleaner and ready for wet micro mesh pads from 1500-12000. I did the same with the wood, only using dry pads.C8 I sanded the chamber with 220- and 320-grit papers and retorted the pipe. Already at the re-staining point, I chose Lincoln Marine Cordovan leather treatment, which I flamed.C9 To remove the outer layer of dark, charred stain, I used 1800, 2400 and 3200 micro mesh followed by a soft touch of superfine “0000” steel wool.C10 Now, for the first “final” shot I took showing two problems: the bit where it attaches to the shank needed more sanding and micro mesh work, and through the camera’s unblinking eye there were two glaring scratches remaining on the right side of the pipe.C11 And so I broke out a little piece of 320-grit sandpaper and went at the isolated scratches on the wood, micro meshing that area again with the full range of grits. I finished it by wiping with a cotton ball. To my surprise, I didn’t even need to rebuff the wood with the white Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba I used in the first place.C12 I used 320-grit paper again on the rounded shank end of the saddle bit and the full line of micro mesh pads on that small section. I re-buffed the re-worked part of the bit.C13C14C15C16
The nomenclature was crisper than it seemed before the project, unlike a certain GBD Prestige brandy I was forced to keep – and often enjoy  — lest I forget.  Steve demonstrated the correct way to approach a Prestige of a different shape in one of his recent blogs, referenced below.


I Believe I Found an Undercover Lorenzo of Some Sort

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
http://www.roadrunnerpipes.net/ (Opening soon)
Photos © the Author

In late October of 2014, I wrote a blog here about a Lorenzo second with the name Spitfire Mille (Italian for thousand, just as Starbuck’s large drinks are designated by Venti, meaning 20 – for the number of ounces, including the ice in my With Room Raspberry Iced Americano right now).  Lorenzo, an Italian brand that has been around since 1946, makes an assortment of traditional shapes and styles but is, among my local pipe friends at least, best known for its lines of, well, enormous proportions.  Take this Spitfire, not all versions of which are so large.Lor1 Lor2 Lor3 Lor4 Lor5You can’t tell by these pictures, but although the length was near the limit of the norm at about 6”, the chamber diameter was something like 1” x 2” when I checked before adding the Spitfire to my old business website.  That’s about 6/8 (¾”) x 1” larger than usual.  Then I measured less common specifications, including the diameter of the entire rim across, bowl height and the top half of the shank leading into the bit.  Here is where the numbers became astounding: from one side of the rim to the other was a little under 2”; the height of the bowl was close to 3”, and the shank was 1” across.

If those numbers don’t sound impressive, consider three of my largest pipes, the Peterson 150th Anniversary smooth bent billiard, the Digby Six-Panel and the Soborg Danish Panel.Lor6 Lor7The Pete’s length is 7”; chamber diameter is ⅞” x 1¾”; the full rim is 1⅜”; the bowl height is 2¼”, and the shank is 1½”.  The Digby’s length is 5¾”; chamber 1” x 1¾”; rim 1½”; bowl height 2½” and square shank 1” at the halfway point.  The Soborg’s length is 7”; the chamber is ¾” x 1½”; total rim is 1¼”; bowl height is 2”, and the shank is 1”.

And so, it seems, not counting the length, the Spitfire is the overall “winner,” if size really counts.  All of this is to introduce the no-name Italian Dublin XM (by way of indicating extra monster, for lack of a better description).  This pipe without a name, perhaps the more so for that most unfortunate social status, has all the earmarks of a Lorenzo reject.  It looks like a Lorenzo; comports itself like the portlier brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and so on and on of its fertile familia, and as it was stamped with the single word “Italy” to boot, so it must be a Lorenzo by birth if not legitimacy.

RESTORATIONLor8 Lor9 Lor10 Lor11Once again the troubles the marvelous pipe faced before it could be presented to a new owner who would cherish it were greater than met the casual eye.  The rim was just a tad crusty and therefore offered itself as the place to begin.  I chose super fine 0000 steel wool to commence the task.  Most times now I have at last embraced more popular techniques such as the wet micro mesh method, but on this occasion I did it with steel wool before I performed a little sanding with 320-grit paper with the goal of ridding the fair and rounded rim of scratches attendant to burning.  There are still other means to this end.  Yet with gentle ministration, I have found the finest steel wool an excellent first step in the process in some situations.  This was one of them.Lor12At that juncture of the growing adventure, I considered the dull state of the bit and the small but numerous scratches and dings through the original stain to the excellent Mediterranean briar beneath.  Perceiving an unusual thickness to the lovely red coating, I arrived at the clear and positive efficacy of an OxiClean bath for the bit and a concurrent but somewhat longer soak of the stummel in Everclear.Lor13 Lor14I slipped the bit and stummel into their respective Tupperware containers and the sequel to the prequel of the not only continuing but never-ending adventures of the Starship Enterprise (“Into Darkness”) in the desktop PC’s DVD player to watch – once again for me – with my new roommate.  He had somehow managed never before to see the movie, and we had some time to relax and smoke our pipes.  The roommate, Darren, became convinced by someone that he could give up the doubly negative costs of cigarettes with the far lesser expenses and greater merits of a good tobacco pipe.  Of course, he will gladly pay me tomorrow, figuratively speaking, for the pipe he savors today.

Furthermore, no less, his eyes became misty and enamored at the sight of the Albertson Belgian black rustic small bent billiard that is scheduled to be the culmination of my seven part series on ladies pipes and, despite his professions to the opposite, I knew he had to have it – oh, how I know that dewy look!  Picture this: a guy who looks and dresses and has tats like a gang banger, getting misty for a tiny little pipe that, although not specifically made for ladies, certainly fits the bill!  The fantastic sci-fi epic aside, I could only imagine what Darren must have thought of the no-doubt perplexing acts I surely appeared to be perpetrating against the once whole but weathered Dublin XM.

Here is the bit following its bath and then after sanding with 220-grit paper and wet micro meshing all the way from 1500-12000.Lor15 Lor16The stummel had the thickest stain I have ever encountered other than with some Chinese pipes on which I’ve labored.  It took longer than the 2 hr. 12 min. movie, with Darren or me (he’s decided he wants to learn about this esoteric occupation) flipping the big piece of briar over in the alcohol now and then to keep it soaking evenly, for the Everclear to eat through the barrier enough to sand the stummel lightly, also with 220.  I only found one small spot where a hole was filled.  In an email later, Steve, who had expressed some doubt that the pipe was a Lorenzo reject but suggested it might be a second, wrote that Lorenzo seconds are known for fills.  To me, given the similarity of style, stain and huge proportions of the ostensible Italian no-name (the single word ITALY was stamped almost flush with the steel band, on the underside), my theory of a Lorenzo connection was cinched in my mind at least. Lor17 Lor18 Lor19 Lor20By a stroke of good luck, as I always see it, the band came off at the end of the sanding, and I was able to make the area under it match the rest.  I got on with the next step, micro meshing from 1500-12000.Lor21 Lor22 Lor23This is where the real challenge came.  Forced to strip the stummel of its original stain to get at the scratches without creating more damage using sandpaper, I wanted to re-stain the wood as close as possible to the bright reddish tone it had, knowing that was impossible with the stains I had on hand.  I opted to mix Lincoln Marine Cordovan about three-to-one with Fiebing’s Brown alcohol-based boot dyes.  When flamed with a lighter or matches, the stain is fixed to the stummel without running as the light char is micro meshed off and again later with waxes and compounds buffed on.Lor24I also knew this combination, or even using only the burgundy color, would be so dark that none of the grain would show through.  Applying the mix liberally, I used a couple of good strong wooden kitchen matches from a box of 250 I bought at Walmart for about a dollar to flame the pipe, but the result was not the usual impressive blue flash I expected.  Still, it did the trick.  I think the alcohol in my liquid stains is evaporating with age.  I told Victor Rimkus, a successful pipe crafter/engineer here, how I needed to buy a new supply as well as other colors.  He said I could mix what was left with alcohol, which sadly only struck me as obvious when I heard the idea, or, as he does, buy the powder and mix it as needed with alcohol.  I had never heard of this powder stain before but found it online at a very affordable price.  There are even some great discounts for buying the complete kit with every color made – and the variety of colors and shades is staggering.  You know I can’t pass up a good discount.Lor25The light coat of residual char came off with 2400 and 3200 micro mesh.  Super fine 0000 steel wool gradually lessened the dark combination of stains until I concluded the color mix was still a bit off.  I deliberately took the stain down a notch lighter to add another quick layer of the brown, and when it cooled after flaming again I wiped off the char as before.  The result was much better.Lor26 Lor27 Lor28Lor29I used a couple of dabs of Super Glue spread thin around the inside of the band to reattach it.  In one of the emails I exchanged with Steve regarding the chance of this pipe being a Lorenzo relative, he pointed out that in the photo of the band I attached with a plea for help in identifying the hallmarks, the band had been placed unevenly.  Trying first to determine the meaning of the marks on my own, I had found a site that was clearly not the best.  The closest I came was a reference to a pair of brothers named Edwin and John Power, known naturally as Power Brothers, who ran a tobacconist shop and seem to have made pipes in 1900.  They marked their bands with an EP in an oval which, given the site’s other shortcomings, I considered might be – but given the year, likely was not – a misnomer for the diamond on this band.  Steve identified it as an Electro-Plate band that he thought could be an after-addition.  Studying the band and the one item of nomenclature on the bottom side of the shank – the block lettered word ITALY near the opening but above the band – I was doubtful it was indeed an afterthought.

But by that time, the restoration had progressed to the point where I had already corrected the problem.

The time to retort the odd Dublin had come, but looking at the wider than wide mouthpiece of the bit, I knew that of the three rubber tubes I have, none would work.  And so, as I have done in past situations like this, I rummaged around my spare bits until I found one from a Ropp natural cherry wood that matched the tenon size – at least halfway in.  As always, I was happy I retorted the pipe thoroughly, as this one had more than usual use on it.  I had to run six alcohol soaked regular cleaners through the shank before the last came out clean.Lor30 Lor31After buffing the bit with red and white Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba, and the nice smooth reddish-brown wood with the same progression (I laid on a heavy coat of the red Tripoli to approximate the original color somewhat closer), here is the result.Lor32 Lor33 Lor34 Lor35
I have to say, this was nowhere near the most difficult restore I’ve ever done, but the research into Lorenzo, in my attempt to establish whether or not it is one of their rejects or a second of some sort, made the process one of the most exciting of my projects.  In my mind now, there is no doubt this conundrum of a pipe, is in fact a Lorenzo reject.  This conclusion is not based on an overwhelming desire to make the pipe more than it may be.  It is based on the evidence: the undeniable similarity of design between the Spitfire by Lorenzo Mille second; the identical color of each that has the appearance of being created specially by the maker, and the presence of somewhat erratic grain and even the single fill I found after stripping the original stain, given that Steve wrote of Lorenzo seconds tending to be known to present these defects.  Although, with due respect to Steve, I doubt this is a second because of the lack of any such nomenclature, the same standards would apply to outright rejects.  I did my best to make it once more the beautiful pipe it was when first created, but the grain certainly is less than perfect, and there is one place where briar shavings were mixed with some clear bonding element to fix a ding.  But now, neither of these facts detracts from the pipe’s allure and good fit in a large hand, which its new owner certainly has.

The Spitfire awaited a new home for months after I finished the restoration, and in the end was purchased by a New World gentleman, from Raymore, Missouri to be specific, who read my blog of another pipe and found the massive Lorenzo (second) on my site.  The lovely example of Italian flair and craftsmanship in this blog, on the other hand, was reserved prior to its restoration by a visitor to my pipe club’s monthly meeting.  His name is Evan, and here he is at the tobacco shop with his “new” pipe.  See how snug it is in Evan’s big mitt. Lor36When Evan, who resides in the much smaller town of Placitas about a half-hour’s drive from the relative metropolis of Albuquerque (close enough to commute to and from where he works here), talked to me alone in the big back room of the Moose Lodge where our official monthly pipe meeting is held, I asked if he had seen any of my pipes he found interesting.  I assumed he had not located one he wished to buy but also wanted to get an idea of what he looks for in a pipe, other than the Dunhill with its distinctive dot on the bit he enjoyed for the meeting.  I admit to thinking I might have something I put off restoring that I could perhaps expedite.

Evan was courteous enough to tell me the truth: none of the pipes I had displayed was big enough for his general taste.  That remark turned out to be the exact sort of intelligence I hoped to receive from my question, for I knew I had just what he was looking for, at my humble home and small business, waiting to be cleaned up.  I inquired if he had heard of Lorenzo pipes and added that I had restored and sold one but had another pipe like it that I believed was a reject by that company, although there was nothing wrong with its looks or quality.  Evan had not heard of Lorenzo but was intrigued by my description of the large pipe.

After getting a look at the photos I emailed to him showing the restored Spitfire and the no-name as it was before cleaning up, the good man replied with considerable enthusiasm.  In fact, considering the low price I offered him, he asked me to name the time and place he could pick it up!  I had the pleasure of presenting Evan with the finished Lorenzo or second or whatever it is Monday morning at the tobacconist shortly after the comfortable little shop opened at 10.  With any sale, online or in person, and in particular when the buyer has requested a pipe that was not yet restored, I always wonder if it – or, rather, I – will match the new owner’s expectations. I observed at once that Evan had pondered his reverse version of the same scenario from his reaction of unconcealed surprise.  In short, the pipe was just the kind he loves most – big enough to fit in his large hand, solid, possessed of an unusual shape and beautiful to behold.  I add the last part not to pat myself on the shoulder but due to Evan’s appraisal.  To my way of thinking, pipe restoration is very much the same as newspaper editing, with which I have had more experience than working on pipes: the flaws in the pipe or article are unimportant so long as all of the necessary information is there to put in order.  The best word to describe Evan’s reaction to his latest acquisition – which went on for close to a half-hour – is effusive.

http://www.silvercollection.it/DICTIONARYTOBACCONISTE.html Power Bros. hallmark

A Challenging Restoration of a Tsuge Second Small Billiard

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author

“You will never learn enough looking for only the good things in life; you will always be a pupil.”
― Japanese proverb
“Ay, now the plot thickens very much upon us.”
― Bayes, a playwright within the play “The Rehearsal” (1671), a satirical mockery of heroic plays, by Sir George Villiers (1628-1687), 2nd duke of Buckingham, de facto King of England during the end and the beginning of two rightful monarchs, debaucher, poet, playwright

This Esterd silver banded small billiard with a bone bit that screws onto a metal shank insert was another inexplicable find on eBay. The seller had listed it as a vintage hand-carved pipe with a silver band and horn bit, and believed it might have been made in the Philippines. The starting bid was $9.99, with nobody biting. Tempted to enter the fray based only on the elegant design – intricate, carved images of an old, Oriental-style house or palace on the left side, mountains on the front, another landscape of some sort on the right with four tiny marks that could be a language, and two reversed images on the back, maybe symbolic – I exercised control over my index finger that likes to click the Place Bid Now button on its own and opened a new window to browse to pipephil.eu.

Pipephil is good, but it doesn’t list every brand. Although Esterd is but one of thousands of names of which I have never heard, I was prepared not to find a match. Nevertheless, there it was: Esterd, Tsuge second. Here’s where the inexplicable, if not outright spooky, aspect of the find comes in. I reviewed one of the Tsuge non-aromatic lines of pipe tobaccos not long ago on the Smokers Forums UK. Tsuge Pipe Company of Japan, having ultimate control over its tobaccos, nixed milder, less flavorful versions of the blends that are made by “Drew Estate, Tsuge and Daughters & Ryan in North Carolina…[e]xclusively for Tsuge.” The operative name in the list is D&R, and it was Mark Ryan’s blend that was approved by Tsuge.

Looking into the tobacco brand, I discovered the existence of the Tsuge Pipe Company, founded in Japan in 1936 after a grueling 25-year apprenticeship in pipe crafting by Kyoichiro Tsuge. The company makes very fine, hand-crafted pipes of various designs and using different materials. Some of them are priced in what I consider the middle range ($200-$300), but many excellent examples of the craftsmanship that goes into their construction are on the end that is more affordable to most of us. Tsuge, translated to English, means box tree or boxwood, and is also the name of an old Samurai family from which the father of Kyoichiro was descended.Esterd1

Esterd2 Of course, I returned to eBay, where I had no further qualms bidding for the wonderful pipe at such a low price. At the time, two days remained for bidding, but no one else seems to have gotten past the seller’s unfortunate description of the pipe’s construction and origin with a simple Google search for the brand. As a result, I won it for $14 with S&H.

I was aware of the evil crack on the bottom of the bit, but figured I had nothing to lose at that price. I expected to list it on my site for $100 after restoring and fixing the crack that my friend and mentor, Chuck Richards, assured me could be repaired with an unusual process that would leave the bit looking like new. Instead, I made my first ever sale of a pipe before I restored it, to a friend in my pipe club who held the Esterd in his hands with an unmistakable flush of longing on his face, in particular the eyes that were fixed on the delicate beauty. Ah, how well I know that look!

Familiar with the deserved reputation of Tsuge pipes, my friend, Stephen, said he has always wanted one but never found any he could afford. He asked in a somewhat faltering voice how much I would sell it for. Teasing him, perhaps with a bit too little shame, I mentioned the anticipated list price, and watching his eyes saw I could get that much from him. But Chuck’s unparalleled generosity in offering his restored pipes at fantastic deals rubbed off on me, and I told Stephen he could have the work of art (I didn’t put it that way) for $50. He was so surprised that he looked to his wife, Ashley (of course), for approval. She just said, “You have the card, don’t you?” Stephen reached in his pocket to get it, amazing me with his clear intention to buy it right there. [Ashley, by the way, was in my first blog on Reborn Pipes, about a unique Chinese churchwarden that I found in a – ahem – head shop. When the cheap bit broke as I was savoring the great taste of my first chamber-full in it, I was not yet aware I could buy a replacement bit and instead chose a replacement for the pipe, which in fact was cheaper, anyway. But that bit broke also, leading to a friendly competition between Chuck and me, although there was little doubt his restore of one for me would be better than mine, which I gave to Ashley.]

I reminded Stephen it still needed a light cleaning and serious restoration, but he wanted to make sure it would go to him when it was ready and insisted on paying up front. And so I reached for my cell phone, which I had left at home since it is not working, and then attempted to find a way to download the PayPal Here app onto my laptop. This endeavor failed. Therefore, I went to my website editor and listed the pipe so that he could purchase it online. I encountered yet another obstacle when I found that my store, set up to accept PayPal, for some reason only allowed members to use it, unlike my previous site which permitted guests to use the service. Stephen drew the line at having to sign up for PayPal.

Therefore, the transaction was not finalized until two days later, last Saturday, after I copied and pasted the necessary HTML code into my site’s store page and got ahold of Stephen using my friendly neighbor’s cell phone. I would not have been so eager had I not needed the money to buy the key material in Chuck’s instructions to make the bit like new, not to mention less important things like food and gas. I told Stephen to let me know by email if he had any problems navigating the PayPal system to the newly-added guest mode, but before I read his reply saw that the payment had gone through on PayPal.Esterd3 In his email, Stephen told me not to rush the restore for him. I replied that my desire to start it right away was for my own eagerness to see Chuck’s promise of excellent results come true. This blog, therefore, will show the real-time steps I need to take to prepare the lovely Tsuge second to a condition worthy of handing over to its buyer.



I place an order on eBay for the uncommon special something I will need for the completion of this task I am about to begin. The much anticipated package is due to arrive, via First Class Mail, in several days if I’m lucky and literally God knows when if the USPS conducts business as usual. Therefore, I await it with all of the patience and faith I have, and open my photo files to the Esterd folder, where I find the original shots of it I took at my favorite tobacconist when it came in the mail, far faster than usual with Priority Mail 1-Day Delivery.Esterd4





Esterd9 Clearly, as shown by the presence of tobacco in the chamber in the third photo above, the Esterd was so clean upon arrival that I was forced to sample some good tobacco in it – and then, amazed by the mellowness and great flavor of the one tobacco, I had to test it with another. Both tries get the highest rating I can give any pipe.

As the bit is the only difficult part of this restore, I start with it. Chuck has already talked me through the peculiar process for fixing the bit, telling me to soak it in a solution first to clean it, inside and out. Knowing he has his own formula, I asked if the OxiClean I use would be okay. He said that would be fine but emphasized that the entire pipe had to be thoroughly clean before the bit repair could begin.Esterd10 I remove the bit from the OxiClean after a long bath, rinse and wipe it dry, run a bristly cleaner through the air hole and let it dry more.Esterd11 The next step is to use an old toothbrush on the crack. I am uncertain how to go about this, but I give it the old college try, deciding on two toothbrushes, one firmer than the other, and also to employ a very fine fingernail file from an old, unused package of every kind of device for nail care. I throw in a 12000 micromesh pad as an afterthought.Esterd12 After alternating between both brushes, trying from every direction to work the little pieces into the big crack on the bottom of the bit and where they extend to the open end, I begin to be able to see all the way through the wider part of the crack. I use the fingernail brush on the more difficult dental chatter on the lip and below it – as well as to remove as much of the nice patina that has developed considering the ultimate mystery step I will need to take to put the final touch on this project – and then clear the fine dust from the soft bone with a toothbrush again. I finish this step with the micromesh to make the entire surface ultra-smooth again. By George, the old fart was right!Esterd13 Instead of proceeding to the next of Chuck’s stated steps with the bit, I switch to the easy stummel cleaning and preparation. I wipe a miniscule amount of dirt from the outside of the briar with a couple of soft, white, cotton gun cleaner cloths and purified water. Next I use a tiny piece of superfine steel wool on the rim, which has minor scratches, and the full range of micromesh pads on the entire wooden surface. Finally, I clean the chamber with 320- and 500-grit paper and remove the excess carbon with alcohol-soaked cotton cloths.Esterd14




Esterd18 The retort of this pipe is going to be very difficult as I cannot, under and circumstances, run Everclear through the bit, as usual, and I possess no other that will connect to the unique threaded shank connector. I must do something. But what? Aha! My synapses snap, and I devise a scheme to make a try at it without a bit at all – filling the test tube with Everclear, plugging it with the rubber tube, and then placing the small open end of the tube over the metal shank connector just-so. I set everything down for a moment to get my big cotton cloth and wrap a corner of it over the rubber tube-covered shank connector. Pinching it as tightly as I can with three fingers, no matter how hard I try (and believe me I did my darndest), I can’t manipulate a fourth finger to hold the final side of the tube, under the cloth, shut. Go ahead and try it. Oh, well, I’m not about to give up now. Never surrender!

In this bizarre fashion, I flick my Bic with my free hand and light the flame of a small candle. With both hands occupied beyond their design, I hold the rounded end of the test tube above the flame, having to contort still more to balance the side of my left arm against the small table in order to stop the shaking of the Pyrex tube that keeps almost snuffing out the flame. At last I have it under full control. If anyone believes that, as George Strait sings it, I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona for sale. Honestly, I’m reminded of certain scenes from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” with Johnny Depp as the late great though drug and alcohol synergized Hunter S. Thompson, and, I am forced to admit, a memorable scene or two from the 1931 classic “Frankenstein,” with Colin Clive as the unstable doctor and of course Boris Karloff as his Monster.

My only regret is that I have but two hands to give to this effort at snapping a shot of the spectacular scene! In my fervor to record the feat, I even consider asking my good neighbor with the cell phone to come in and catch the unprecedented event with my Nikon – but it is a bit late, and he might not appreciate the request, not to mention what he should think of me if he catches sight of what I am doing in my living room.

Thus, two test tubes full of Everclear later, the rag somewhat wet with alcohol that didn’t reach its destination, the ordeal of the Retort of the Esterd is behind me, and the stummel is clean.Esterd19 Yes, there are still times in life when even I am flabbergasted by my ruthless determination to do something. I have not sold a briar pipe un-retorted since I learned my lesson on that score the hard way some time ago, and I’ll be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail if I ever will. I rest my case on this point with the above photo.

I seem to recall writing something earlier about the easy clean-up of the stummel. Perhaps I was mistaken a tad.

Now, I can sleep.


Regarding the dainty stummel, deftly crafted by loving hands unknown years ago, I see that the carved areas are all faded. I’ve been mulling over what I thought might turn into an option between re-staining or not and now know I’ll have to do the former, but what color? I dismiss Lincoln burgundy as too dark almost before the thought occurs to me, and consider lighter or darker brown. Mentally flipping a coin, I choose the darker, Lincoln Medium Brown, and apply a coat, brushing it with special attention into the tiny grooves of the carving. I flame it straight away, enjoying the puff of blue flame that envelops the stummel and dissipates, fixing the color into the wood and leaving only a light, even coat of char behind. I set it aside to cool.Esterd20 A few minutes have passed. I choose 8000 and 12000 micromesh for the gentle removal of the char and use first the lower number, then the higher. Still, the color is too dark. I take out the 3200 pad and rub the smooth surface of the stummel, which lightens nicely, and for the artwork use another small piece of superfine steel wool, first over the raised areas and then focusing with necessarily more pressure into the difficult grooves. It’s amazing how many there are in this testimonial to the mastery Japanese artists have over such detailed work.Esterd21


Esterd23 I must have put away the steel wool for the photos above, but trust me, I didn’t make the carved parts of the stummel so light without it. It is time to coat the briar with a small finger of Halcyon II wax and set it aside awhile to dry.Esterd24 When the Halcyon II has set into the smooth and carved areas of this excellent small billiard (it measures 4¾” in length with a chamber diameter of ⅝” x 1”), I buff it by hand with a clean cotton rag and set it aside, with the utmost care, where the cats will not disturb it. I will wait until later to photograph the finished pipe as a whole. I have completed the stummel and now have only the bit to restore to vibrant life.

Only the bit! Again I have reached a critical stage of this wholly strange process that hinges on the successful “removal,” or more aptly, mending and covering of the creeping cracks in the shank. I freely confess my justified fear of blowing this all-important feature of the restoration. After all, it is the only real challenge I face with the Esterd, and if I botch it, I will have to reverse the next step and try again, a prospect I do not at all relish. Ultimate failure is not possible, I know, because I will do it as many times as it takes to get it right.

I take a break. After a moment’s thought I choose, with a weird and flippant flair I do not begin to feel in my stomach, the GBD Prestige Apple, which caused so much heartache and twisting difficulty in my previous, dubious trip through the sometimes treacherous and bewitched path of pipe restoring. I decided to keep the GBD as much as a reminder of my mistakes as anything else. I savor some Gawith Bracken Flake, an intact tin of which I bought about two years ago and put in my cellar after rehydrating and trying two tins that were popped open at my occasional secondary tobacconist here, and which the young son of the owner, the heir to the family operation, had the business acumen to give to me. At my preferred tobacco shop, I like to refer to the competition as “the Tobacconist that Must Not Be Named” when it needs to be mentioned at all.

Not impressed with the first two tins that rehydrated well enough but still had something missing, like Frankenstein’s Monster reanimated, I have many times almost donated the last tin to my pipe club for the monthly raffle. Something stayed the urge, and when I at last popped the tin open and uncovered the moist, rich, dark brown Kentucky burley and Virginia flakes, the flecks of crystallized white sugar suggested it was packaged well before I bought it two years ago. This break, it appears, is a desperate attempt to chill out, as my generation calls the often difficult discipline of relaxing.

Nevertheless, the magic that is the essence of pipe enjoyment begins to pervade my body and mind as the rich flavor and pleasant wreaths of smoke envelop me. My mind drifts to the meaning of bracken. In terms of the tobacco in my GBD, it is a reference, not to the wild ferns that grow freely in some places of the world, but to the “shade of brown resembling the colour of turning brown; a warm orangey-brown.” (I like the repetition there and have looked it up in the OED to be sure.)

Okay, then. With that thought, I am heartened to return to the bit. I should get on with the next and cardinal phase of the Esterd restoration. I collect the tools I will need.Esterd25 Indeed, the plot thickens, so to say. Here is the first true step in repairing the pipe: applying regular, clear Super Glue into the large crack on the bottom of the bit and over the smaller one on the top that is just forming, as well as both of their beginnings on the open end of the bit. Although the task may sound easy, it is not. Aware of the risk of smearing the quick-drying stuff where it is not needed – beyond the lines of the cracks – and the equal need to avoid, above all, allowing the glue to seep inside the threaded opening, I did procrastinate the unavoidable step as long as I could.

And so, facing the music – another interesting phrase probably originating from the centuries old practice of disgraced officers being drummed out of their regiments – I approach my duty with the soldier’s wise combination of trepidation and exhilaration. I choose the single weapon that seems best suited for the battle, a short wooden fingernail care pick with one pointed end and the other chisel-edged. I feel somewhat as a young boy with a tiny toy quarterstaff harkening back to medieval England.

First addressing the primary targeted weakness of the bit, the long crack in its armor, using the pointed end of my pick tipped with a small squeeze of the Super Glue, I lay down a line of the sticky stuff, following as closely as I can the uneven course of the wound. Then, spinning the pick around to its dry, chisel-edged side, I poke it deftly into the widest part of the gap at the open end of the bit and scrape the excess glue from the sides of the fissure and running down into the still-sealed but breaching length to halt any future attack from that end. I survey the inner bit, focusing on the corresponding fault along the threads, and note that light no longer shows through, but it is still not sealed.

Daring not to venture inside the bit, I opt for a compromise, adding more glue to the pointed edge of the pick and capping off both short lines on the round end of its entrance. Returning to the front line, I repeat the same process as before, and in checking the interior of the bit am gratified by the apparent victory within sight. The glue has crept all the way to the inside boundary of the threads and halted, already firming up against any future onslaught by the enemy.

I turn the bit top up to coat the short, closed line of early crack formation there with a preemptive strike against further growth. The Super Glue seal is almost imperceptible in the photos below, but it is looking strong to my eyes.Esterd26 Now begins the two-day siege as I must wait and see if my blows to the enemy fortify and take hold.


The clear instructions from Chuck, my warlord, were to retreat and wait a full 48 hours after the Super Glue assault before returning to the scene of the battle. I followed his orders to the letter and briefed him on the situation earlier tonight at his HQ. He reaffirmed the last step I must take before the final death blow, the ammunition for which still has not arrived in the mail. This time, however, when I mention making the bit pure white, Chuck added, “You do the best you can.” Ignoring this modifier at the moment, I return home and with stealth take the bit in hand to gloat over the impending unconditional victory.

In final preparation for the extreme but morally justified coup de grâce I hope to deliver tomorrow, should the required reinforcement arrive by then, I clean up the battlefield, again using the very fine fingernail smoother to remove the minimal amount of Super Glue that has dried and hardened on the top and bottom of the bit, over and surrounding the sealed cracks.Esterd27

Esterd28 For the last, uncertain time, I can only await the arrival of the final weapon. War, indeed, is not Hell, but Purgatory.

THURSDAY – 4:30 p.m.

The state of the USPS being as it is, the package I have awaited, I see online by checking the Tracking Number, has arrived this day. I pick it up and make a pit stop at my tobacconist.Esterd29 The special weapon: white jeweler’s rouge, which Chuck tells me – and I confirm online, not with unbecoming doubt of my mentor’s knowledge but so that I can cite a second authority in my table of Sources below – is vital because of its lack of oils used in regular pipe waxes. Oil-based waxes will not hold to the surface of the bone, and thus, with my anxious hope, render the bit pure white again and remove any appearances of cracks. We shall soon see, together.

8:00 p.m.

Vancouver, there’s been a problem here. I have turned on my electric buffer with the so-called “clean wheel” and applied enough of the jeweler’s rouge to make it nice and white. This is not what Chuck told me to do. Aware of my barely adequate set-up, he said gently, “You will probably want to clean one of your buffers if not get a new one entirely before you put the rouge on.”

I have already admitted that is not what I did and prefer not to dwell on it. Needless to say, when I buff the bit, the jeweler’s rouge does the best it can by bringing most of the bone to an intense white shine. But despite my frantic attempts – extending to using every angle and side of the buffer, turning the small bit lengthwise and doing the same (in the process almost burning my fingers on the high-speed cloth), and even going so far as to rub the block of rouge by hand directly to the bit and then pressing it in with a cotton cloth – of course I am unable to cover the Super Glued and micro-meshed seals of the cracks completely.

This, I confess to myself, is what I deserve for trying to do something my own way. And so I am forced, almost at the point of kicking and screaming, to delay this paramount stage of my progress at least another day as I give the “clean buffer” a soak in hot water before removing it, squeezing out as much of the wetness as I can and placing it near the bottom of the single gas heater in my living room.


The buffer, amazingly enough, is clean and dry by late morning. With baited breath I return to my office/workshop proper and reattach the cloth to the machine. I plug it in again, having taken the prudent precaution of disconnecting the electrical source lest some crazy but in my experience still possible freak accident occur. I am not willing to risk losing part of a finger or worse for this or any other pipe.

Taking another of many deep breaths in this project and exhaling, I push the switch that restores life to the machine and apply the white jeweler’s rouge to the cloth spinning in a blur on the wheel. With confidence, I first pick up the little stummel to polish the silver band still more, as I noticed in the description of the polishing compound its usefulness in working on metals as well. This task ends well with a lustrous band.

Now the ultimate moment of truth has arrived. I put the elegant and fragile piece of bone to the buffer once more, aspiring for the best results but emotionally prepared for a lesser return on my attempts.

My late roommate, who possessed an unwavering confidence in the supernatural that I truly admired, would have blamed the ensuing conclusion on my incomplete conviction. I want to believe, as Mulder’s poster on “The X-Files” reads, but it is not enough. The bone bit, though strengthened by my meticulous best efforts to make it so, is indeed structurally sound again and burnished. Nevertheless, the cracks still show. The harshest analysis reveals the bit’s integrity, but the ensured durability is still betrayed by faint traces of its incorrigible flaws.Esterd30




I am disappointed, to say the least, with the less than perfect closure of this arduous restoration, but I take solace from the Japanese tradition in artwork, which they call Wabi-Sabi, to leave one flaw in any endeavor. The Buddhist author, Taro Gold, describes it as “the appreciation of the value and beauty of imperfection.” Okay, so my work shows more than one flaw. No doubt the Japanese would do better. This is not Chuck’s fault. Maybe he could make it right, also, but I am at peace.

A distant part of my brain assumes someone, surely, must have expressed the same thought I wrote at the close of Tuesday, about war not being Hell but Purgatory. I Google the words and find I am correct. Drat! Keith Staskiewicz of “Entertainment Weekly,” reviewing Kevin Powers’ Iraq War novel, “The Yellow Birds,” wrote: “Powers effectively shows how, for these soldiers, war isn’t hell. It’s purgatory.” So he didn’t capitalize hell and purgatory and put a period in between. Ah, well! All’s fair in love and war. I’ll have to read that book. Or maybe I’ll see the movie, due out this year.

http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-e4.html Esterd
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tsugepipe.co.jp%2F Tsuge Pipe Co.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-Collectible-Vintage-TSUGE-Signed-Carved-DRAGON-Tobacco-Pipe-/351638968227?hash=item51df50d7a3:g:lOIAAOSw4HVWEv6T Tsuge Dragon Gold Band Bent Billiard
https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/new/tsuge/ Tsuge Pipes
https://avaiaartisticjewelry.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/how-to-care-for-organic-bone-jewelry/ Polishing bone materials
http://www.medievalwarfare.info/weapons.htm Re: quarterstaves
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3739110/ Yellow Birds movie