I have hinted at the fact that my friend Steve from Dawson Creek included two pipes in his box of pipes for me to refurbish that I had relegated to a “not worth doing” category. One of these was a Hilson Fantasia – Resin bowl and shank with a meerschaum lining and a plastic pipe stamped “the Pipe” that has a pyrolytic graphite bowl lining and a phenolic resin exterior. When I was working on the last one, the Kriswill made Danish Crown pipe I thought I would just do a clean up on these two just to be able to send a clean batch of pipes back to Steve.
I decided to begin working on the pipe labeled “the Pipe”. I have never paid attention to these pipes and have actually never had one in hand until this moment. I have avoided buying them or even being gifted one of them. I just was not interested in this combination of phenolic resin and pyrolytic graphite at all. I am generally intrigued by the unusual as those of you who follow the blog know, but this one had no draw for me. It was a bit of a mess. The bowl had a crumbling cake that was uneven. It had flowed over the rim top leaving it a mess. The outer edge of the bowl had been knocked against hard surfaces to empty the bowl leaving behind characteristic dents and chips. The right side of the bowl and the entire shank was scratched with deep scratches that carried on up the stem. The top and underside of the stem was also covered with bite marks and tooth chatter. The pipe looked pretty sad with all of the damage. I wondered if I could make it look any better and to be honest, if there was a point to doing so.
I took photos of the pipe before I started for comparison sake. Once I was finished I could look back and see if my work had made any difference at all.I wanted to get a quick education regarding the manufacture and date of this brand of pipes. My gut feel was that it was a product of the 60s and 70s. I looked up the brand on Pipedia and found that it began in 1963. There was a good summary of the history of the brand there. The Super-Temp Corporation who started making plastic pipes with pyrolytic graphite bowl liners made it. They called them “the Pipe”. In 1965, Super-Temp contracted to market their unique pipes through Venturi, Inc., the company that sold Tar Gard cigarette filters. Colors and stripes were added to the pipes that were offered circa 1967. About 1970, THE SMOKE pipes were added to the line – they were non-traditional shapes with a less expensive bowl liner. Venturi pipes were added around 1972 – they had no liner in the bowls at all. The pipes were out of production by 1975 (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Super-Temp). If you would like to read more about the brand, including a comprehensive history visit Dr. Billie W. Taylor’s site http://www.thepipe.info/. He is a collector of the Super-Temp Corporation pipes. He is a source of incredible information if you want to tap into it.
I took a close up photo of the bowl and the rim top to show the condition of both. The cake is heavy in the bowl and overflowing onto the black rim. It is hard to see because both the bowl insert and the exterior of the pipe are black. You can also see the damage on the outer edges of the bowl.The stem damage was one of the most worrisome parts of this restoration. The scratches running both the length of the stem and across the stem had left deep marks. Underneath and on top of those scratches there was a lot of small tooth marks and chatter that would need to be sanded out. The scratches extended up the top side and partly up both the right and left side of the shank. There were even scratches on the right side of the bowl. It was almost as if the pipe had road rash from being dragged across concrete or asphalt. The stem was not vulcanite so it would be hard to polish. It was going to be an interesting part of the work on this pipe. The stamping on the left side of the shank was very clear and readable. It was deeply embossed and no amount of sanding to remove the scratching would damage it. The stem was held snug in the shank by a rubber grommet that fit over the tenon. This was replaceable as the rubber wore out and air leaked by.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and carefully took the cake back to the graphite bowl insert. I left a little cake to protect the insert and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. Using the knife I scraped the bowl back to bare walls and scraped the rim top free of the buildup of lava that was there.I scraped the top of the bowl with the edges of the Savinelli Fitsall Knife to remove the lava build up. Once I had the majority of it off I polished the rim with 1500 grit micromesh sanding pads to polish both the bowl insert and the rim top. I sanded the outer edges of the bowl to smooth out the damage to the edge of the bowl.I polished the entire bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad using a damp cotton pad. I worked on the left side of the bowl and the top and left side of the shank where there were a lot of deep scratches running both vertically and horizontally on both. I polished the shank and bowl with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with the damp cotton pad. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I buffed the bowl on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish it further. The photos below tell the story.With the bowl finished for now, I turned to work on the horrendous damage to the stem. It was in rough shape as was seen in the above photos. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches. It took a lot of sanding but I was able to remove almost all of them on the top and underside of the stem. I ran a pipe cleaner through the stem to clean out any debris that might have been in the airway before continuing on the stem. I used black super glue to fill in the small tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem at the button.I sanded the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper until the repairs blended into the surface of the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. After the final 12000 grit pad I gave it a last coat of the Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.I had already spent quite a few hours working over the badly gouged and scratched stem and I was able to remove many of the scratches. I tried to lightly buff the pipe to remove more of them but the nylon stem resists buffing too much as it heats quickly and melts. I decided to call the pipe finished at this point. It was not going to get much better without many more hours of work that I am unable to give it. I buffed the bowl on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond to buff out some more of the scratches on the shank and right side. I gave the bowl a buff with a clean buffing pad. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine. I did not bother giving the stem a carnauba coat as it is plastic and the wax does not do much. I hand waxed the stem with Conservator’s Wax to polish it more. The finished pipe is far from perfect but it is better than when I started. I will box it up later this week when I finish the Hilson Fantasia I have left and then mail it back to Steve in Dawson Creek, BC. Thanks for looking.
No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right. A single experiment can prove me wrong.
— Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist and winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect, received in 1922 (don’t ask why – the answer in some ways is more complex than Relativity)
THE POWER OF PERSUASION
This is the most difficult pipe restoration blog I’ve ever written, for the things about which it is not. It is not about an antique gold-banded KB&B Blue Line Bakelite, c. 1910-1914. A friend of mine won that distinguished, classic shaped pipe from the pre-Kaywoodie era for a very low price on eBay, and I offered, for a small fee, to restore it. It is not about the still older gold band CPF Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum, c. 1898, that only lacked a bone tenon to be complete. As much as I dislike the cliché, I poured my heart and soul into that pipe since 2013 in a true labor of love to return the 19th century treasure to its original structural form. The simple act of restoration was – and remains – intended as a tribute to the man most of the readers here know as my good friend and mentor, Chuck Richards, who gave it to me.
It is not about either of these things, or the writing between the lines as it were, but some choice details are relevant. For example, the connection between the two pipes named above is their stems. The Blue Line’s is Bakelite, the world’s first synthetic plastic, which could be colored dark brownish red. The Best Make’s genuine dark red amber stem comes from wholly organic-based resins from exotic, extinct trees that were washed away by large bodies of water and fossilized into mineral form 10-100 million years ago.
The focal point of this blog is the immediate but temporary solution to a series of events that still has not been resolved. Never in my wildest apprehensions, during the last several years of taking some truly ruined pipes and making them whole again, did I conceive that something seeming to be simple could become so bloody banjacked , as the Irish might put it with good cause. At first, I intended to include the details as usual, in a single account of the finished project. And so, with a little help from a friend, I adapted my thinking, draft after draft, to write this aspect of the overall restoration into a single blog. To be brief, here is what happened.
My friend (the one who owns the Blueline, Daryl Loomis), holds the status of co-top buyer of my pipes, numbering five so far, with someone else who came and went in short order. Daryl also let me restore one of his own pipes before, a gorgeous Redmanol Socket system pipe related to this one by its maker, KB&B, and the Redmanol of its construction that was consumed by the General Bakelite Co. in 1922. Thereafter, Redmanol was classed as Bakelite despite certain superior qualities. For extensive details on Bakelite’s origins and development, see the fourth link in my Sources.
At any rate, without going into details that will be covered in my eventual blog on the full restoration of the Blueline, there was a mishap – oh, the understatement! – wherein the bone tenon was crushed. The photo below was taken after I Super Glued the bits and pieces of the shank end of the tenon, minus the powdered remains, as best I could.This catastrophe was followed close on its heels by a second calamity that left the Bakelite stem ruined, as far as I am concerned., other than for use with some unforeseeable shop pipe. There is no way I will place a stem I broke, or anyone else did for that matter, on a paid restoration, even though, for obvious reasons, I’m refunding the small fee. And so, with the immediate goal being to return the Blueline in a condition that it can be smoked as soon as possible, I am left with no alternative than using the genuine cherry red amber stem from my Best Make pending the acquisition of a Bakelite replacement. Here is the Bakelite stem after I was done with it, in the negative sense of the expression.
Top view Bakelite stem
Bottom of Bakelite stem, broken
Open end with both sides of the break shown on either side
Steve wrote an excellent blog called “What Is the Amber Used in Pipe Stems and How Do You Bend It?” in 2013, but had never tried the theoretical guidelines proposed. He still has not had occasion to attempt the unusual process. In other words, it occurred to me, I would be the guinea pig to test the theories. The prospect was not appealing given the potential for destroying my 119-year-old amber stem for the sake of “progress” in this obscure field of pipe restoration. Steve’s blog is a trove of information about amber in general and the article from Scientific American on how amber stems were once custom-crafted and bent per the specifications needed for a specific pipe. Steve raised some good questions in his fine blog that can be read at the third link below.
ABOUT BENDING AMBER
Having spent a great deal of time pouring over every word of Steve’s piece as it related to bending amber, from the viewpoint of having an immediate job to do so, I was left with still more troubling questions. The key concerns were:
Since amber stems were made and shaped for specific pipes, could they be re-bent later for replacements on other pipes? After all, bending a stem once is one thing, while bending it back is another.
If so, what might be the effect of age, which tends to make amber more brittle, on a stem?
Was my hope that the answers to the first two questions just that, wishful thinking, or put more plainly, a crock?
WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: The method I am about to describe, although it worked beyond my wildest dream, doesnot follow the better, safer steps set forth in the article upon which Steve’s blog is based. Read his blog and, if you already possess or have the means to acquire the equipment described, or the wherewithal to fashion your own versions, please do so. Also follow the other procedures described. I am taking responsibility for my own mistake(s) that made this drastic measure necessary but will not be responsible for anyone else’s misfortunes!
Having abandoned myself to the certainty that my efforts would either turn out well or the whole thing would go awry in the most hideous way, I didn’t bother re-visiting Steve’s blog when I reached the desperate state of mind necessary to go through with the “experiment.” Instead, I winged it. The following pic shows my beloved 1898 amber stem not only in the bent form in which it was hand-fashioned by some unknown but master CPF meerschaum crafter late in the century before the one preceding the current, but as I still feared would be the last time I saw it in any recognizable form.OK, here’s what I did. Pre-heating the oven, instead of the 210° or 220° F. temperature I’ve always used for regular stems, on a whim, if you will (since I was throwing everything else to the wind), I cranked it up to 335°. Steve’s blog states that the process does not even involve an oven and the softening temperature of amber is about 150° C. ((302° F.). I just now confirmed that he was, no surprise, correct.
Therefore, 335° F., or 168° C., was a little high. Placing the stem on a piece of aluminum foil, I forgot to put anything through the airway to prevent more than likely collapse until about a minute after I closed the oven door on it.
Snapping to my terrible lapse of memory, I grabbed a regular pipe cleaner and bolted to the oven, where I found the stem very hot already but the airway still intact, and inserted the cleaner through it.
I also checked after only 10 minutes more (thank God), and found the amber stem had straightened itself! Not only that, but when I touched the stem on the piece of aluminum, it had a bizarre limpness to it. My heart was racing as I removed the aluminum foil with the stem from the oven and placed it on the counter. Picking up the stem with care using both hands on either end of the cleaner, I saw the middle sag downward with gravity.
Sure for a few seconds that I would become ill and have to rush to the sink to vomit, I got a hold of myself and moved my hands to both ends of the stem, at which time I found it was so soft it reminded me of the hilarious old cartoons with Bugs Bunny or whatever Toon character flopping a broken arm about like a cooked noodle. Of course, I didn’t play with the stem, but rushed it to the aforementioned sink and ran cold water over the whole thing until it was firm again and cool.The cleaner came out with no resistance. Needless to say, I sighed in relief and wiped the sweat from my brow. The experiment was a success!
Bakelite above, amber below. I know the bone tenon is backward!
And the amber stem with the KB&B Blueline stummel that’s ready for the temporary amber substitute as soon as I have a suitable new tenon.
In my most recent, exultant email to Steve, I wrote: “As the attached pics show, I finally got the gumption to go for it, and believe it or not it was the easiest bending material I’ve ever worked with. Lucite was a dog when I re-stemmed the BW Preben Holm, but 10 minutes in the oven and the amber not only straightened itself but was like Gumby to the touch — no, like a children’s cartoon of someone with a broken arm!” I attached a couple of photos.
His immediate, doubtful reply told me I was correct in my assumption that Steve didn’t really know what would happen, either. He wrote, with apparent doubt, “Was the stem a true amber stem or is it the Bakelite one that you sent pictures of?”
I responded that the stem I baked was without doubt amber, then sent this added comment: “PS: I decided to crank the temp up to 335, also, on a hunch. It may
have been reckless, but it worked perfectly. I’m planning on writing the process up in my blog on the Blueline.”
Steve wrote back the following words a short time later, and I appreciate them very much, although I don’t know for sure that I “discovered” the process, other than my own oven method. “Thanks for experimenting, Robert. That is an incredible discovery. Do a separate write up on just the bending of amber. I think that alone will be a must read for those of us who love to restore old pipes. Thank you for being reckless.”
Until then, I didn’t understand just how risky this little exercise in stem repair was. But Steve’s power of persuasion being formidable, I took his advice for the blog.
I found the following quote, from a September 1924 Time magazine write-up on Bakelite, amusing in its revelation of the fantastic and egotistic personality of Bakelite’s founder, Leo H. Baekeland, not to mention the influence his company’s PR department must have had in its writing.
“From the time that a man brushes his teeth in the morning with a Bakelite-handled brush, until the moment when he removes his last cigarette from a Bakelite holder, extinguishes it in a Bakelite ashtray, and falls back upon a Bakelite bed, all that he touches, sees, uses, will be made of this material of a thousand purposes. Books and papers will be set up in Bakelite type. People will read Bakeliterature, Bakelitigate their cases, offer Bakeliturgies for their dead, bring young into the world in Bakelitters.”
Hubris? Indeed! But still, it’s amazing stuff. By the way, the lawyers at Bakelite know something about Bakelitigating from their 1922 Patent infringement suit against the Redmanol Chemical Products Co. and the Condensite Co.
Last, but not least, I wish to thank Steve for his blog and invaluable help throughout the ordeal of my collapsing Blueline restoration, and Troy Wilburn for his wonderful blog on another Blueline and its dating.
This Danish Crown was the last of the pipes Steve and I had discussed restoring from the box he sent my way. He had sent it to me to chip away at in my spare time. I have been working away at them a few at a time for a few months now. On the weekend I decided it was time to finish the remainder of the box. I pulled out five of the remaining seven pipes and worked on all of them (the last two are nothing spectacular but I may just clean them up anyway so I can send him the entire batch cleaned and usable). The pipe looked like a Stanwell make to me but a little research told me that it was a Kriswill, made by Kriswork Briar Trading, in Kolding (Denmark). The company started about 1955 and went bankrupt in the late 70s. They had a line of seconds (pipes with fills and flaws that were still usable) which included the Danish Crown. This pipe was stamped on the topside of the shank with the name Danish Crown over Handmade in Denmark. On the underside of the shank is the shape number 49 at the shank/stem junction. The stamping on the pipe is probably the most readable of the entire batch of pipes. I took photos before cleaning the pipe.The bowl is heavily caked and there is a thick overflow of tars and cake onto the rim top almost obscuring the inner edge of the rim. There was a large chipped area on the front right of the rim top as well as more dings and dents around the rim top. The finish on the bowl was worn and dirty. The stem has a lot of tooth marks and chatter. There was also oxidation on the stem. I took photos of the pipe before I started the restoration. I took a close up photo of the rim top and bowl. You can see from the photo how thick the cake was and the amount of lava over flow on the rim top. The damage to the rim is at the 9:00 and 11:00 o’clock position in the photo below.The stamping on the shank is very readable. In person, it is clearer than it appears in the photo below. The next two photos of the stem show oxidation on the whole stem and tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button.I put the stem in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath to soak with the other stems from Steve’s pipes. While they soaked I worked on the five bowls that went with them. The stems soaked over a period of 24 hours.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up to the third head, which was the same size as the bowl. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to bare briar. I scraped the rim with a sharp penknife to clean up the lava buildup on the rim top. I scraped it until the rim was debris free.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and shank with Murphy’s Oil Soap and scrubbed the rim top and the bevel with a tooth brush. I picked the damaged areas clean with a dental pick to remove the buildup deep in the rough spots on the rim. I rinsed the bowl under running water and continued to scrub it until it was clean.I used a rolled piece of sandpaper wrapped around my finger to sand out the inside of the bowl. The bowl walls were a little rough on this one so it was going to take some work to smooth things out. I wiped down the damage on the rim top with a cotton swab and alcohol and filled them in with briar dust and clear super glue.When the repairs had hardened I sanded the rim top and edges with 220 grit sandpaper to begin the process of blending them into the briar.With the rim top repair and the discovery of many small fills around the bowl sides and the bowl/shank junction, I decided to use a darker stain on this pipe than the other ones. I stained it with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it to set it in the grain of the briar. I repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage.When the stain had dried, I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the excess and blend the colours to a rich dark brown that allowed some of the grain to show through. Unfortunately, it also allowed the fills to show. More work needed to be done to take care of that issue.I used a dark brown stain pen and a Sharpie pen to colour over the fill areas. I used the dark brown aniline stain dauber to put over the top of the colouring I had done. I flamed the aniline stain spots with my lighter to set the stain in them. I lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I was careful when buffing around the repaired area on the top of the bowl and the fills that I had darkened. I gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I am happy with the look of the bowl at this point. The grain shows through nicely and the fills and repairs blend in pretty well.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I removed it from the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath and dried it off. I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway to remove the Deoxidizer that was on the inside of the stem. I used alcohol to clean out the airway in the stem. It came out of the bath pretty clean of oxidation. The tooth marks and chatter showed up clearly on both sides near the button.I lightly sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and filled in the deeper tooth marks with black super glue. The largest mark was on the underside of the stem.Once the glue dried I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. After the 12000 grit pad I gave it another coat of oil and set it aside to dry.I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch on the areas that were repaired. I gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is the fifth of this batch of five pipes that I have restored for Steve. It is a well-made Kriswill pipe. I think Steve will really like this last addition to his rack. Steve, if you are reading this I hope you enjoy this beauty. It will be on its way to you very soon. Thanks for looking.
This old Stanwell looking Dublin was in the box of pipes that came from my friend Steve in Dawson Creek. It is one of the batch he sent for me to chip away at in my spare time. Today was the day for that chipping away to happen. I pulled out five of the remaining seven pipes and worked on all of them today. The pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank with the shape number 330 over Danish Sovereign over Made in Denmark. The stamping on the pipe is faint. The bowl is heavily caked and there is a thick overflow of tars and cake onto the rim top almost obscuring the beveled inner edge of the rim. The finish on the bowl is worn and dirty. There is paint on the surface of the briar on the left side. The stem has a lot of tooth marks and chatter. There is also oxidation on the stem. I took photos of the pipe before I started the restoration.The next photo is a close up of the rim top. The cake was thick but the worst part was the heavy overflow onto the rim. It was impossible at this point to know the condition of the rim and edge of the bowl because of the mess covering it all.The stem was worn and had tooth dents and chatter on both sides near the button. The button itself was worn down and the edges almost indistinct from the rest of the stem surface.I put the stem in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath to soak with the other stems from Steve’s pipes. While they soaked I worked on the five bowls that went with them.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up to the second head which was the same size as the bowl. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to bare briar. I scraped the rim with a sharp pen knife to clean up the lava buildup on the rim top. I scraped it until the rim was debris free.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and shank with Murphy’s Oil Soap and scrubbed the rim top and the bevel with a tooth brush. I rinsed the bowl under running water and continued to scrub it until it was clean and the bevel was clearly defined.After removing all of the lava on the rim there was quite a bit of rim damage on top. To remove the damage on the outer rim edge I decided to lightly top the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I took a photo of the process and of the top once I had finished it.There were three sandpits or fills in the top of the bowl. I sanded the bevel on the inner edge of the rim to remove some of the burn damage. I repaired the fills with clear super glue. When the repairs dried I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the rim top. I sanded the outer edge and the beveled inner edge of the bowl some more to clean them up. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol to remove remnants of the finish and the grime on the bowl.I stained the rim top and inner bevel with a light brown stain pen to blend it into the rest of the bowl. I gave the repair areas a little heavier coat of the stain to try to blend them in better.I polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad to remove the sanding grit.I scrubbed out the airway in the shank and mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was pretty dirty. I probably should have cleaned it earlier but totally got caught up in working on the top of the rim.I decided to give the bowl several coats of Danish Oil with Cherry stain to give it a contrast coat. The cherry stain highlighted the grain on the bowl and gave the pipe a rich look.I buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and gave it a light coat of carnauba wax. The photos show the new look of the bowl. The grain pops and the bowl is ready once I get the stem finished.With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I took it out ofhte Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath and dry it off. I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway to remove the Deoxidizer that was on the inside of the stem. I used alcohol to clean out the airway in the stem.I wiped down the stem a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any film or debris on the surface of the stem that would get in the way of the repairs. I filled in the tooth marks and deeper dents with clear super glue. When the glue dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and used a needle file to clean up the sharp edge of the button. I cleaned up the file marks and blended the repairs into the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads (I opened a new package for this pipe) and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. After the 12000 grit pad I gave it another coat of oil and set it aside to dry. The last photo below has a brown tint that I cannot get rid of but in natural light the stem is shiny black.I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is the fourth of this batch of five pipes that I have restored for Steve. It is very obviously a Stanwell made pipe – everything from the shape to the look of the stem and shank says Stanwell. I think Steve will really like this latest addition to his rack. Steve, if you are reading this I hope you enjoy this beauty. It will be on its way to you very soon. Thanks for looking.
This old freehand was in the box of pipes that came from my friend Steve in Dawson Creek. It is one of the lot he sent for me to chip away at in my spare time. Today was the day for that chipping away to happen. I pulled out five of the remaining seven pipes and worked on all of them today. This one reminds me of a 70s era freehand. It is a lot like one of the old ones that I had years ago. It is stamped on the underside of the shank next to the stem shank junction with the letters CHP-X over the number 3. It is a large freehand with a chair leg style stem. The bowl is heavily caked and there is overflow of tars and cake onto the plateau of the rim top. The plateau on the top side of the shank is also filled with grime and grit. The finish on the bowl is worn and dirty. I it was originally a virgin finish or if not possibly oiled. The stem is oxidized and has light tooth chatter. From my research this pipe was made in the United States by Michael Kabik before 1973. It was named after Chuck Holiday who was a pipe maker that Kabik bought his shop from. The photos show the condition of the pipe before I began the restoration work.The cake in the bowl and the heavy coat of lava overflowing onto the plateau top of the rim are shown in the close up photo below. It is really a mess at this point.The stem was heavily oxidized and the button on the top side of the stem was worn. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button. The grooves of the chair leg stem were very oxidized.I put the stem in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath to soak with the other stems from Steve’s pipes. While they soaked I worked on the five bowls that went with them.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up to the second head which was the same size as the bowl. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to bare briar. I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the lava buildup on the rim top. I scrubbed the rim until it was debris free.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and shank with Murphy’s Oil Soap and scrubbed the plateau top on the rim and the end of the shank using a tooth brush. I rinsed the bowl under running water and continued to scrub it until it was clean and the plateau was clearly defined.I wiped the bowl and plateau down with alcohol on a cotton pad in preparation for staining the plateau. I use a black Sharpie Pen to colour in the valleys and crevices in the plateau and leave the high spots lighter. I don’t worry too much about staining them as I will buff the top and remove the stain from the high spots before I am finished.To me the briar looked lifeless and the natural colour did not do justice to the beautiful grain that was present on the bowl. I decided to stain it with a dark brown aniline stain and flame it to set it in the briar. I repeated the process until I had an even coverage around the smooth portions of the pipe bowl. I left the plateau areas untouched by the dark brown stain.After the stain had dried for about 30 minutes I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove some of the heaviness of the brown and make the colour a bit more transparent. I still need to do a lot more but this was the start of the process.I sanded the smooth portions of the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and followed that with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad after each stage of the sanding process. The photos below show the bowl beginning to come to life.To give the grain the kind of pop I wanted and to really set off the dark lines of the straight grain I decided to rub the bowl down with several coats of Danish Oil with Cherry stain. I apply the stain with a cotton pad and rubbed it down over the entire surface of the bowl including the plateau areas. I wanted the reds to penetrate into the nooks and crannies of the plateau to give the surface some flashes of colour and contrast.I buffed it on the wheel and took the following photos to show the condition of the bowl at this point in the process.I took the stem out of the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath and wiped it off with a clean paper towel. The first two photos below show the stem after the 24 hour soak. The stem was very clean and the tooth dents. a potential hairline crack and marks are shown in the photos below. These dents were deep enough that I chose to fill them with clear super glue and set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. The third and fourth photos show the repairs on both surfaces of the stem.When the repair dried I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to flatten out the glue and blend it into the surface of the vulcanite. I cleaned out the airway and slot in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. There was some Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer from the bath in the airway and debris and tars in it as well. The pipe cleaners took care of that fairly quickly. I used a needle file to recut the sharp edge of the button. During the filing and clean up I noticed what looked like a small crack in the top of the stem. I would keep an eye on it as I cleaned things up and repair it if indeed it is a crack.I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repaired areas and blend it into the surface of the stem. I reshaped the button at the same time. There still appeared to be a small crack on the top left side near the button. It was a very tiny hairline crack and was tight so I filled it in with clear super glue and sanded it smooth.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads (I opened a new package for this pipe) and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. After the 12000 grit pad I gave it another coat of oil and set it aside to dry.I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is the third of pipe that I have restored for Steve from this last batch. It is an interesting freehand with some nice grain on it. The stem repair to the hairline crack looks pretty good and should hold up well. I will be putting an extra stem in the package for Steve as well. I think he is going to love this one. Steve, if you are reading this I hope you enjoy this beauty. It will be on its way to you very soon. Thanks for looking.
I am on a bit of a roll working on pipes from my friend Steve in Dawson Creek. He sent me a batch of pipes a while back to work on, sort of chip away at when I had some time. This time the pipe on the table is a Stanwell made Royal Guard 523 that combines smooth and sandblast areas into the finish. It is stamped on the underside of the shank in a smooth portion with the words ROYAL GUARD over Made in Denmark. On the left side of the shank it is stamped with the shape number 523. The finish was dirty and worn with the brown top coat worn and faded. There are smooth areas on the bowl top around the rim and almost drips down the sides of the bowl. The bowl was thickly caked and the lava overflow on the top of the bowl was also very thick. I was a bit concerned that underneath the cake I would find burn. You can never tell – sometimes a thick cake protects the rim top and sometimes it hides a lot of rim damage. Once I got into the cleanup I would be able to tell better with this one. The stem was oxidized and there were tooth chatter and bite marks on the top and the bottom sides near the button. The RG stamp on the left side of the stem was still readable. Under the grime I could see really interesting grain peeking through. I took photos of the pipe before I started working on to record its condition.
This is the second RG that I have cleaned up and restored for Steve. If you are interested in reading about it, here is the blog post on the other one. https://rebornpipes.com/tag/royal-guard-pipes/I took a photo of the top of the bowl to show the thick cake filling the bowl and the heavy outflow of lava on the rim of the bowl. I really like the Stanwell crowned rims. The gentle roll of the rim top over the outer edge into the sides of the pipe and over the inner edge into the bowl is really nicely done. I was hoping that this one would clean up nicely. The second photo below shows the side of the shank and the RG stamp on the side of the stem.I removed the stem and put it in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath with the other stems I was working on for Steve. I would let them do their work while I worked on the bowls of the pipes. By the time I had finished the bowls the stem would be ready.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up to the third head which was the same size as the bowl. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scraped the cake back to bare briar. I used the edge of the Savinelli knife to scrape off the lava on the rim top and edge.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I scrubbed until I had cleaned out the grime from the sandblast portions of the bowl. I scrubbed the rim top repeatedly until I had removed the remaining buildup there. I rinsed it under running water. I continue to scrub it in the running water until I was happy with the way it looked.I wet sanded the rim top with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to further remove the remaining lava on the surface. Sanding it also revealed some damage to the beveled inner rim edge that would need to be taken care of before I was finished. I circled the damaged area in red in the photo below. I sanded the damaged edge and reshaped the bevel with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the smooth portions of the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and again wiped it down with a damp pad after each pad. The photos below show the progressive shine that is coming to the surface of the smooth portions of the bowl.After polishing it with the 4000 grit micromesh and looking at the picture above I saw some damaged spots on the inner edge of the rim that needed more attention. I sanded the inner bevel some more with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged spots that were revealed. When they were gone I reworked it with the 1500-4000 grit micromesh pads before moving on to the final three (6000-12000) grit pads. I lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise the shine. I buffed it lightly as I did not want to have the buffing compound build up in the sandblast finish. I gave the pipe several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad on the buffing wheel. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The photos below show the bowl at this point in the process.I took the stem out of the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer bath and wiped it off with a clean towel. The first three photos below show the stem after the 24 hour soak. The stem was very clean and the RG stamping on the left side of the saddle stem looked very good. The tooth dents and marks are shown in the photos below. These dents were deep enough that I chose to fill them with clear super glue and set the stem aside to let the repairs cure.I used a needle file to sharpen the edges of the button on the stem surface on both sides. I also filed down the repairs until they were close to the surface of the stem. Afterward, I sanded the repaired areas on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite. I also sanded the rest of the stem to remove the remaining oxidation. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil to get a clear picture of where I was at with the stem repairs at this point.The stamping on the original stem was gold in colour so I touched up the stamping on the left side of the saddle stem with Rub’n Buff European Gold and a cotton swab. I wiped off the excess material with the end of a cotton swab and a cotton pad.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to enliven the rubber and also give some bite to the micromesh pads. After sanding it with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch on the sandblast portions of the bowl and a bit heavier on the smooth parts. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is the second Stanwell made Royal Guard pipe that I have restored for Steve. It is light weight and comfortable in the hand and the mouth. I think he is going to love this one as much as he does the other one. Steve, if you are reading this I hope you enjoy this beauty. It will be on its way to you very soon. Thanks for looking.
This strange looking pipe came from Josh (misterzippo), a reader of the blog earlier this year. He sent me an email and photos some pipes that he thought I might want. As usual when you have incurable PAD there is always something that catches my eye. We fired some emails back and forth about the pipes and it did not take long to make a deal. I bought a Malaga Bulldog, a pair of Wally Frank Sandblast Filter pipes, a little Jost’s and this bizarre looking Rettke. There were a couple of things about the Rettke that fascinated me in terms of the history. The stamping of Washington, MO. made me think of Missouri Meerschaum Corn cob pipes which are also from there. I wondered about a connection. The stem is identical to a Medico/Grabow style stem and was made for a Medico paper filter. That also made me wonder if there was a connection to Medico. I will need to do a bit of research to see if I can unearth the connections. I have an unstamped Rettke and find it a fascinating piece of pipe history so I decided to pick up on from Josh. He sent along a photo of the underside of the bowl and shank to show the stamping on the pipe so I would know it was a true Rettke unlike my other pipe. I asked him for photos of the pipes that he had in hand so I could make a decision on which one that I was interested in. He sent along the photo below showing the four pipes that he had available for sale. I wanted something different from the unmarked one that I have which is rusticated. It is a lot like the third pipe in the photo below so I wanted a smooth Rettke. I looked over the pipes and asked him to choose one of the top two smooth pipes in the photo below and include with the other pipes I purchased from him. He chose well and when it got here I was thrilled with his chose. The one he sent was the first pipe in the photo. It has some really nice grain on it.From the photos I could see that the pipe was dirty but that is never really a problem. The tape measure in the photo shows that the Rettke is about 5 inches long with a taper stem. When the pipe arrived in Idaho, my brother took photos of it so that we would know the condition of the pipe before he started working on it. The finish on the briar looked good underneath the grime of the years. There was a cake in the bowl and a buildup of lava on the top of the rim. It was not possible to see what it looked like under the cake so after cleaning we would know if there was rim damage. The stem was made out of nylon and it had a lot of tooth marks and scratches in the surface and they were deep. It was going to take some work to fill them in and sand them out. Polishing the nylon stem is not a pleasant exercise. It takes a lot of work to get it smoothed out and blended together. The metal spacer was an integral part of the stem. It was rough was in good shape with light oxidation and some tooth marks on both sides near the button.Jeff took a close up photo of the rim and bowl and you can see the general condition of the pipe from that photo. This must have been someone’s favorite pipe and it must have smoked very well to have this kind of cake and tar build up. I was looking forward to seeing what was underneath all of that debris on the rim and in the bowl.The next two photos show the stamping on the bottom of the bowl. They are fascinating in that they not only identify the maker but they tell about his method of stamping the pipe. The second photo shows the date stamp and you can see that the patent date is on a bar and the bar was pressed into the briar leaving a faint imprint behind the date stamp. The stamping reads J. Rettke over Washington, MO. and next to that it reads Pat. June 12, 1962.There is some pretty grain on the piece of briar underneath the detritus of time. I was looking forward to making that shine.The next photos show the pipe from various close-up angles so that you can see the damage to the stem and the junction to the shank and stem.Jeff removed the stem from the shank and unscrewed the knurled silver coloured cap below the stem and took photos. It looked to me that the pipe was missing a stinger apparatus that attached to the knurled cap.The last two photos that Jeff included show the top and underside of the stem at the button. There were quite a few tooth marks and lots of chatter on both sides of the stem. When I saw that it was a bit of a pain because cleaning up these nylon style stems is difficult and time consuming.Jeff did his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. I am coming to expect nothing less when he sends me pipes that have gone through his cleaning process. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer, scraped the bowl and the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clear off the lava build up. He cleaned out the internals in the airway in the shank and the condensation chamber with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He cleaned out the metal tenon and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the briar and the stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove all of the grime on the briar and the stem. He rinsed the parts under running water and dried it with a soft cloth. He soaked the stem in OxyClean to clean off the grime on the surface. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it looked different than it did in the above photos. The rim top and bowl looked really good. The damage was minimal and very visible. The condition of the stem was much as I had expected.Before I started my restoration work on the pipe I decided to do a little research on the brand. I first turned to Pipedia where I found a short entry. I include that here as it confirmed that I was missing the 2 3/8 inch corkscrew device. I quote it in full with the link to Pipedia.
J. Rettke, Washington MO, PAT. June 12 1962. The silver colored thumbscrew below the stem unscrews and is a 2⅜” corkscrew like device. The company is now gone having been purchased by Missouri Meerschaum. This odd looking pipe is made of briar and has a lower chamber with a metal condenser and an upper chamber that contains a filter. The smoke leaves the bowl thru the lower chamber then into the upper and out the stem. It smokes dry and cool. It has a large bowl.https://pipedia.org/wiki/Rettke
The pipe was not included in my other usual sources so I dug a bit further to see if I could find more information on the brand and the maker. I wanted to know the links to Missouri Meerschaum or Dr. Grabow/Medico. I found an article in the Washington Citizen Newspaper from Washington, Missouri dated December 13, 1964. Here is the link. I included a photo of the news clipping below as well as a transcript of the article that I did using a magnifying glass. I also copied the photos for ease of reference. I have included them in the article transcript with the captions http://digital.shsmo.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/WashCitz/id/21937/rec/1.
Julius Rettke Makes and Sells 3,000 Briar Pipes in Two Years
Julius Rettke spent 43 years making pipes. Two years ago he retired. What happened?
“I just couldn’t sit still. I had to do something.”
He went back to making pipes. He calls it a hobby and that’s what it is for him. He could sell his patent and there is no doubt that it could be made into a lucrative business. But Julius is interested in it only as a hobby. He is 74 years old.
He doesn’t advertise his pipes but has made and sold about 3,000 of them in the past two years. Each sells for $4.00. He has been told he could sell them for $8 to $12.
“I would rather sell them for $4. You know there are a lot of people that can’t pay more than that for a pipe.”
Hasn’t Promoted Pipes
His advertising has been only by word of mouth. He does burn his name and Washington, Mo., on the pipes. Most of his pipes have been sold in this immediate area, but he has had orders from all over the country. Many people give them as gifts. Several companies with chain retail outlets would like to handle his pipes.
Julius made his first pipe about nine years ago. It was made of pecan wood. He gave it to James L. Miller of The Missourian-Citizen to try out. The newspaper publisher at that time was a steady pipe smoker. He liked the pipe.
“That made me feel like others would be interested,” he said. But he was too busy with his job as a machinist at Missouri Meerschaum, where he spent 43 years helping to make corn cob pipes. After he retired he made several pipes out of cherry wood. But he soon found most pipe smokers preferred a briar pipe. Carl Otto, his former-boss, supplied him with briar roots and he made his first briar pipe.
“I took the first pipes to the Bryan boys (Harvey and Tom) and they like them. Before long people asked me to make pipes for them. That’s how I got started.
Does Work in His Basement
The work is done in Mr. Rettke’s basement of his home at Third and Market streets. He doesn’t work at it every day only when he feels like it. He likes to fish and that comes before his pipes in the summer.
What is the reason for the rather wide acceptance of his pipe?
“They claim it is a dry smoking pipe with no nicotine. It has protection against nicotine,”
Mr. Rettke received his patent on his pipe in 1962. What makes his pipe different from others on the market is the path the smoke takes from the bowl, and the passage of smoke through a twisted piece of aluminum, or a “whirler.” The smoke also travels through a standard filter in a standard hard-rubber stem. The “whirler” has a rubber tip that shows on the outside of the pipe under the stem. The “whirler” also can be used as a pipe cleaning tool. It pulls out easily for cleaning purposes.
Mr. Rettke: makes only one style of pipe. He buys his briar roots from a New York importing company. The briar roots are grown chiefly in Mediterranean countries. Most of the briar now conies from Greece and is several hundred years old. The briar itself is a shrub-like plant. The briar burl is cut into specific sizes and shapes and it is in an almost square form when Mr. Rettke receives it.
The manufacturing process in Mr. Rettke’s basement is illustrated in the accompanying photos.
No Production Schedule!
When he works at it, he can make about 10 or 12 pipes a day, he has no production schedule to meet! Things tend to get a little hurried around Christmas time since many people buy pipes for gifts.
When he received his patent, Mr. Rettke gave one of it to John Fowler, who is a career man in the Air Force, and to Wilson Schroeder of Washington, his two sons-in-law. Mr. Rettke’s son, Arthur Rettke lives in Clover Station. He is a carpenter and does some farming.
Mr. Rettke was born and raised in Warren County near Martinsville. He spent some time as a carpenter before going to work for Missouri Meerschaum.
Mr. Rettke was never a heavy smoker and never did smoke a pipe. He did smoke cigars for a period, but he gave that up long ago.
“It’s just a hobby with me. I never expected it to be anything else, but somebody should take it over after I’m gone,” he confided.
The evolution of a pipe is shown here on a work table in Julius Rettke’s basement. The briar root is at the right and this is the way a pipe looks as it progresses through the various steps.
This is the way the briar roots look when Mr. Rettke receives them. They are different sizes but are almost square at the end where the bowl is made.
The briar blocks are squared by use of a band saw.
The bowl is shaped by use of this drill press.
A drill is used to bore holes for the stem, “whirler” and bowl. In all, four holes are bored.
The pipe is shaped on both sides by this circle saw.
The bowl is rounded to a fine finish. It is buffed after it is stained to give the pipe added luster.
For gifts, Mr. Rettke puts pipes in these plastic cases. His patent hangs on the wall in the background. Note the pipes displayed at the top.
After the pipes are stained by dipping them in a solution, they are dried in this fashion. This rack holds over 50 pipes.
Julius Rettke doesn’t smoke but he “models” one of his products.
This is the way a briar root appears before it is cut into a rough block.
The Rettke Pipe
To me this is a fascinating article. It answered at least some of my questions. Julius Rettke had indeed worked for Missouri Meerschaum as a bowl turner in their factory. On his retirement he started making the pipes. He only made one style of pipe and never varied from the basic shape. He purchased briar from a company in New York. I wonder if he did not purchase it from S.M. Frank along with the premade Medico style stems and filters. I suppose I won’t ever know but it does fit the general information above.
Now better armed with information I turned my attention to the restoration of the pipe. I took it apart and took a photo. I was missing the “twirler” as Julius called the spiral condenser that sat in the condensation chamber below the bowl. Everything else looked good. He had chosen a beautiful piece of briar and laid out the pipe to fit the grain pattern really well. This would be a pretty looking pipe once it was polished.The nicks and scratches on the rim top and edges were deep enough that a light topping was warranted. I topped it on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board. I did not have to top it too much as continuous checking showed me when the surface of the rim was smooth.The stem was a mess so I decided to clean it and do some repairs to all the damaged spots with black super glue. It would take time for the glue to harden, so I applied it and gave it a quick shot of accelerator. The accelerator dried and turned to a white powder on the rest of the stem as seen in the photos below. I set the stem aside to dry and called it a night.I have to tell you; my strong dislike of nylon pipe stems is even more confirmed. They are hard to repair as dents are virtually permanent. Patching with black or clear super glue works but leaves shiny spots that are hard to blend into the rest of the material. Polishing to get a shine needs to be done by hand as a buffer, even with a light touch, melts the material and sends you back to the beginning. They are a pain. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbing it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad – not so much to give shine as to give more bite to the micromesh. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads and repeated the oil after each pad. The stem is slowly but surely getting a shine. (The shiny spots in the photos are not dents but super glue repairs.)I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a wet cloth to wipe off the sanding dust after each pad. The further I went with the micromesh the deeper the shine became. This is really a pretty piece of briar. I dry sanded with 3200-12000 and once more wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth.I took apart the other unstamped Rettke style pipe and removed the “whirler” from that one. I inserted it in the knurled cap that sat under the stem and took the following photo.I worked on the stem for several hours. I was able to smooth out the damaged areas but they show up in the pictures. They look like black dents or dips in the stem surface but they are actually the super glue repairs. The nylon is very hard to polish for me. Buffing on the machine is next to impossible without melting it. I polished it with polishing compound by hand and I gave the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to give it some life. Once that was finished I called it done. I buffed the bowl with multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I put the stem back on the bowl and gave it a final hand buff. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautifully grained piece of briar and is lightweight and interesting to look at. Thanks for journeying with me through the history and the restoration.