Tag Archives: Stories and Essays

Paresh’s Grandfather’s Pipe #7 – Charatan’s Make De Luxe 140 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I have repaired 6 of the 7 older pipes (1937-1950s) left to Paresh by his Grandfather. I have enjoyed working on and researching them. His Grandfather was a pipeman who worked for the Indian Railroad. Paresh recently learned that his Grandfather smoked a pipe. This 7th pipe is a Charatan’s Make De Luxe 140 Billiard with a taper stem. I took photos of the pipe before I stated to work on it. The bowl was in rough shape with a series of cracks running down two spots on the bowl – one on the left side at the centre of the top and running down the bowl and connecting with another crack just right of the centre of the bowl at the back. It was a U shaped crack that went all the way through the bowl. The finish was dirty and the rim top had damage and lava on the rim top. The bowl was out of round. The outer edge of the bowl was damaged from knocking out against hard surfaces. The stem had tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. The stem had the CP stamped on the left side. The rim top had been cleaned and the bowl reamed. There was still some cake in the bowl. Abha (Paresh’s wife) had once again done a great job cleaning the finish. She had scrubbed it with Murphy’s Oil Soap and removed all of the debris and dust from the smooth finish. The cracks showed up on the outside of the bowl and also on the inside of the bowl. The inner edge of the bowl was damaged and slightly out of round. I also took a close up photos of both sides of the stem. You can see the tooth marks on both the top and underside of the stem just in front of the button. The surface of the stem is lightly oxidized.The stamping is readable. On the left side of the shank reads Charatan’ Make over London, England over De Luxe. Next to that is the shape number 140 next to the stem shank junction. There was no stamping on the right side of the shank. I looked up an article on determining dates of manufacture of Charatan Make pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dating_of_Charatans). That article helped me date this pipe with some level of certainty to the Rueben Era Charatan made between the years 1910-1960. I quote from the portion of the article that gave the identifying characteristics of that era. I quote in full.

Identification of a second era pipe (Rueben’s era, 1910-1960)

Pipes belonging to this period are rare, however is it possible to come across one. They can be distinguished from a pipe of the first era mainly because their larger size. Their characteristics are similar to the ones of the previous era.

1) Pipes can be larger, up to the dimension of a Dunhill group 5

2) The mouthpiece is tapered or saddle.

3) No double comfort

4) the CP logo is engraved so that the C enters the P

5) Absence of £ on the pipe shank (note that from 1955 all the pipe imported in the USA by Lane has it, however that stamping is not synonymous of the Lane era).

6) Absence of the letter X on the shape code engraved on the shank (for ex. 2502 and not 2502X)

7) Absence of letters DC after the shape number (for ex. 2502 and not 2505DC)

8) Absence of the engraving “MADE BY HAND” on the shank (introduced for the first time in 1958)

9) Presence of the writing “CHARATAN’S MAKE LONDON ENGLAND” on 2 lines

10) The CP logo is finer than in following eras

All ten of the items in the above list apply to the pipe in hand. From the stamping on the stem where the C enters the P to the missing L which places it as pre-1955 to the lack of a double comfort bit all help to place this pipe in this time period.

With that I reread Paresh’s biographical write up on his Grandfather once again. There Paresh stated that his Grandfather had visited England in 1946 and that later after 1947 the British left India for good. Many of the Superior Officers gave his Grandfather pipes as parting gifts. I am fairly confident that this was one of those gift pipes given to him around 1947. I am including his bio now as part of the background information on this pipe. Here is Paresh’s tribute.

Respected Sir,

Now that the first batch of my Grandfather’s pipes has reached you, I would like to share my memories of him with you, the aim being to provide you with an insight to his personality, the era in which he lived, and a brief history associated with the pipes that I have inherited from him.

My Grandfather, Ananta (named after an exotic seasonal white flower having lovely fragrance), was born in a small coastal town of Konkan region of Maharashtra, India, in 1918. These were very turbulent times when India’s freedom struggle against British rule was gathering momentum and the atmosphere was charged with “Quit India Movement”. Having completed his graduation from Bombay, he joined Railways in 1937. This also marked the beginning of his journey into the world of pipe smoking!!!!!

Having seen his potential, in 1945, he was sponsored by the Government to visit England, for gaining further experience and expertise in his profession. This was a period when India’s Independence was round the corner and efforts were being made to train Indians for various administrative appointments in future Independent India. He returned back to India after a year, in 1946 and with him came some pipes that he had purchased in England. I believe a few of his Petes, Barlings, Charatans and GBDs are from this visit.

In 1947, when the British finally left India for good, my Grandfather was gifted pipes by his British peers, subordinates and Superior Officers as a parting gift. He stayed in touch with a few of them over all these years, even visiting them in 1959-60. Some of his later era Charatans and Barlings and Petes are from this trip. He quit smoking in early 1970s (before I was even born!!!!) and his pipes were packed up. There were a number of pipes which were used as TINDER for lighting fires (CAN’T BELIEVE IT…… I have not overcome my grief of this loss till date!!!!!) due to ignorance!!!!!!

My Grandfather was a very strict disciplinarian and temperamental (I did not know this as he was neither when dealing with me as I am the youngest of all his grandchildren!!!!!! He was always the most understanding and loving person in my life). I later learned that in his office, he was not to be disturbed when his pipe was lit, as he would be in his thinking/ contemplating mode while it was just the opposite as he lit his pipe in the evening while at home, when he would be at his relaxed best!!!!.

The interesting part is that neither of us knew that we each smoked a pipe until after his demise in Jan 2018!!!! In our culture, to this day, smoking or alcohol consumption is socially never talked about (mute acceptance!!!). It was during his last rites that absent mindedly I lighted my pipe and looking into the flickering flames of his funeral pyre, remembered and recollected all the wonderful memories and talks that we had shared. No one said a word to me about my lighting up a pipe!!!!!! Immediately thereafter, I rejoined my duty station. A few days later, my wife, Abha, received a box from my Uncle with a note that said “Grandfather would have loved Paresh to have these”. This box contained a collection of his fountain pens and 8-10 of his pipes (since then as my folks are winding up his belongings, I have received 2-3 packets and a large number of pipes, some in decent condition and some in unspeakable state). Abha immediately messaged me with pictures of these pipes and pens. I had been collecting and restoring (no major repairs, though) fountain pens since long and immediately recognized some of them as highly collectibles, however, pipes were a totally different ball game! I was inexperienced with no knowledge/ information regarding various brands/ pipe makers, shapes and materials. I knew nothing about the value of these pipes, nothing about pipe restorations, nothing about caring for them; I mean zero knowledge about collecting pipes. I smoked some real cheap Chinese pipes which were readily and unfortunately, the only ones, available in India and some inexpensive pipes from eBay India!!!!! Also regular pipe cleaning, pipe rotation, pipe cleaners and such things were unknown to me.

Thus, to know more about the REAL pipes, I embarked upon the journey of exploring finer nuances of pipe brands/ makers, their history and watching “How to videos” on packing a pipe, cleaning, repairing and caring for ones pipes. I found it extremely interesting and satisfying. It was while meandering through this confusing quagmire of pipe world that I came across rebornpipes.com website and eventually established contact with you, Mr Steve, who has since been my mentor, guide and GURU, making this journey a wonderful and satisfying experience.

Sir, there is one more thing that I need to thank you for and that is when you asked me to write a brief about my grandfather and his pipes, I realized how little I knew about him, in fact, knew nothing, as I was not even aware that he was a “pipeman” as no one in my family ever spoke about it being taboo subject and since he had quit a long time before I was even born!!!! This led me to ask the elders in my family, questions on the subject and came to know the above details. I cannot thank you enough for prodding me to get to know my grandfather and his pipes a lot better. Sir, these pipes of his, with your help and guidance, will remain with me forever in mint condition…

I began work on the pipe by cleaning up the reaming of the bowl first with a PipNet pipe reamer. I began with the smallest cutting head and worked on cleaning up the inside of the bowl. While I cleaned it up the cracked section of the bowl came loose. I cleaned up the unbroken portion of the bowl and the broken chunk with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the remnants of cake left behind. I cleaned off the edges of the broken chunk of bowl and the remaining bowl with alcohol on cotton swabs. I used a slow curing clear super glue to repair the cracked chunk of briar. I painted the edges of the bowl and the chunk with the super glue and pressed the chunk in place in the bowl side. I held it in place until the glue had set and the chunk was firmly in place. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to wipe off the excess glue. I sanded the repaired cracks with 220 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the finish to blend in the repairs with the rest of the bowl. Once I had cleaned up the repairs I touched them up with clear super glue to fill in the divots in the repair. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair further after the touch ups. I took pictures of the repair at this point to show the progress.I topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper and a topping board to smooth out the finish on the top. I removed the damaged areas, removed the glue that had squeezed out from the repairs and cleaned up the rough areas on the outer edge of the rim.I polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to blend the repairs into the finish of the bowl. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cotton pad after each grit sanding pad. I mixed up a batch of JB Weld and applied it to the inside of the bowl with a paper clip and a folded pipe cleaner. I worked it into the inside of the cracks and lined the bowl walls all around the cracks until it was smooth. I set it aside to let it cure.Abha had done a great job cleaning out the internals of the mortise and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I ran a pipe cleaner through the shank to remove any of the debris that I had loosened when reaming the bowl. It was pretty clean so it did not take much as the interior was clean.I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar of the bowl and shank to clean, enliven and protect it. I worked it in with my fingertips and set it aside for a few minutes to let the balm work. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The briar really began to have a deep shine and the grain began to shine through. I took photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration.   I worked on the inside edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage to the edge of the bowl.I stained the briar with a Dark Brown aniline stain and flamed it with a Bic lighter to set the stain. I repeated the process until I had even coverage on the bowl. I wanted to leave the stain pretty opaque to blend the repaired crack into the rest of the briar. I let the Dark Brown stain dry. Once it was dried I gave the bowl a coat of Conservator’s Wax, let it dry and then buffed the bowl by hand. I repeated the wax until the pipe looked good to my eye. I set the bowl aside and began the work on the stem. There were some deep tooth marks in the surface of the stem near button. I cleaned the areas with alcohol and filled in the marks with black super glue.  When the super glue cured I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the stem. I used a needle file to sharpen the inside edge of the button.I sanded the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and blend them into the surface of the surrounding vulcanite.I cleaned out the airway on the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to clean out the tar and oils. It did not take much work to remove all of the remaining tars because Abha had done a really good job cleaning out the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad and set it aside to dry. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil to fine the polishing process. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. I left a little oxidation around the CP stamp on the stem so as not to damage it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is the final pipe from Paresh’s Grandfather’s pipes that I finished and I will get them packed up and sent across the sea to India where he can carry on the legacy. I know that he is looking forward to having them in hand and enjoying a bowl of his favourite tobacco in memory of his Grandfather. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked this pipe over.

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Do Higher Priced Pipes Smoker Better?


Blog by Joe Gibson
(© J. Gibson Creative, April 19, 2018)

The topic keeps resurfacing on pipe smoking forums. Do the higher priced, premium pipes really smoke better than less expensive pipes?

There are some pipe smoking snobs who claim the more expensive pipes do smoke better. But how does that explain the thousands of pipe smokers who collect and swear by the smoking qualities of Kaywoodies and Dr. Grabow’s for example?

My test pipes:

Pipes used in my test

I decided to test some of my pipes to see if I found a difference. My one Dunhill is a 3/4 bent billiard made in 1926, so I chose bent pipes for this test. I smoked the following for the test:  Dunhill 151 Inner Tube, Rinaldo Triade YYY 1, Stefano Santambrogio (not a full 3/4 bend, but close), Stanwell Hans Christian Anderson Smooth Dublin, a Savinelli Dry System 2622, an Italian briar with the only stamping being Christmas 1988 and a Borkum Riff pipe.

The tobacco for the test? Dunhill My Mixture 965 so there was no variance because of the tobacco blend. I measured out 2 grams for each bowl, straight from the tin without any additional drying time. I packed and smoked each bowl using the same technique.

Four of the pipes were new when I received them (One purchased, two contest prizes, one included in an on-line tobacco purchase deal).  Two pipes I rescued and the last was a gift to me.  All seven are in good smoking condition.

Part of the premise that more expensive pipes smoke better, is that the engineering and quality of workmanship makes a difference. I settled for examining the drilling of each pipe and stem as a comparison in engineering. A perfectly drilled pipe should smoke better than a poorly drilled pipe, in my opinion. To check this, I performed a “pass a pipe cleaner” test on each pipe. By “pass a pipe cleaner,” I mean I can insert a Dill’s pipe cleaner through the bit and it goes all the way into the bowl.

What makes a perfectly drilled pipe:

In my opinion, a perfectly drilled pipe has three things: 1. Draught hole dead center in the mortise, 2.  Hole and airway in the stem perfectly aligned (will pass a pipe cleaner), and, 3. Draught hole and airway the same diameter.

If the draught hole is not perfectly centered in the mortise, then the airway in the stem will not line up properly. It won’t necessarily prevent the pipe from being a decent smoker, but it won’t be a great pipe until you get it re-drilled. If the airway in the stem is larger than the draught hole, you may hit briar when inserting the pipe cleaner and must wiggle the cleaner to get it into the draft hole of the bowl. Conversely, if the draught hole is bigger than the airway, it should pass the pipe cleaner more easily.

When setting up for my test, I shined a bright LED light into the mortise of each pipe I used. Surprisingly, none of my pipes were what I would call perfectly drilled. The drilling on my Savinelli Dry System 2622 looks more like the drilling on a Cavalier. For example, the draught hole is drilled into the top of the airway and there is a space at the bottom of the mortise where moisture can collect. This is part of the engineering design of a Dry System pipe. It’s a very good smoker and I’ve never notice it gurgle.

On the other hand, the Borkum Riff bent pipe is just badly drilled. A cleaner inserted into the mortise bottoms out in briar. Shine a light in the mortise and you don’t see the draught hole. Run the cleaner along the top of the mortise and it does slide into the draught hole.  Of all the bent pipes I tested, this was the worst in my opinion.

My unscientific method of measuring the size of the airway and draught hole was equally as simple. A single pipe cleaner fits into the draught hole and the stem airway. Five of the pipes did this. The Savinelli and the Dunhill have larger bores. The Savinelli is a balsa filter pipe and the Dunhill originally came with an aluminum inner tube (hence the name, Inner Tube). I don’t use either. I can easily insert 2 pipe cleaners at one time in both pipes.

The pipe test:

I used My Mixture 965 for the test.

For the testing I loaded two grams of Dunhill My Mixture 965 in each pipe.  I weighed the tobacco on my kitchen scale.

Stanwell HCA:

Passes a pipe cleaner with some wiggling. Draft hole off center high. Avg. size airway in stem.

Good, easy draught – like sipping a fountain drink through a plastic straw. Bowl was warm but comfortable to hold. Session lasted 55 minutes with no relights. Ash and minimal tobacco bits left at the end of smoke. Good flavor from the tobacco throughout the smoke. (Acquired as a prize give-away from This Pipe Life pipe forum. MSRP listed as $250. The pipe came with both a regular stem and a churchwarden stem.)

Christmas 1988 pipe:

Does not pass a pipe cleaner. Draft hole drilled high and the airway in the stem seems smaller than Stanwell.

Decent draught, open and unrestricted (probably because of gap between the tenon and bottom of mortise. The bowl got warm but not hot. Session lasted just over 50 minutes with some dottle in the bottom. Relit once around the 41-minute mark. Good flavor from the tobacco throughout the smoke. (Used pipe found at antique/collectible shop for $15.  Probably sold by Tinderbox originally)

Stefano Santambrogio

Doesn’t pass a pipe cleaner. Even with the draught hole drilled high of center it’s very good smoker.

I have won two long smoke competitions with this pipe. My record is 1 hr. 27 minutes with this pipe. The bowl got warm but still comfortable to hold. Session lasted 67 minutes with no relights. Good flavor to the end with a minimal amount of dottle remaining. (Bought new, unsmoked off eBay for $80.)

Borkum Riff Bent

– Does not pass a pipe cleaner. Draught hole drilled into the top of the airway. Gurgles. Smoked the worst of the pipes tested. To my eye, the airway seems smaller than the rest and the draught feels more restricted, like sipping a drink through a cocktail straw. Bowl gets hot while smoking. Session lasted 43 minutes and required 3 relights. Approximately 1/8th of a bowl left at the end. Flavor didn’t seem as developed in the other pipes. (Acquired new as part of a package special from an only retailer) I find myself wondering why I still have this pipe.

Savinelli Dry System 2622

Smoked without the Savinelli Balsa Filter. Draught hole drilled into the top of the airway, probably by design.

Because of the design, the airways in the stem and the mortise are large enough to fit two pipe cleaners at the same time. However, the pipe cleaner does not go through the bit because it is a P-lip design. As I smoke it with no filter, the draught is wide open (like using a jumbo drink straw). The session lasted 49 minutes with only ash left. It seemed to produce more smoke than the rest. The bowl got warm but doesn’t get hot. From a flavor standpoint, the tobacco started tasting “ashy” just before it went out. (Used pipe found at an antique/collectible store. Paid about $20 for it.)

Dunhill “Inner Tube” 151”

Even this Dunhill is drilled a little off center.

Produced in 1926 according to the markings, this pipe originally came with an aluminum “Inner Tube.” Mine doesn’t have the tube. The airways and draught hole are big enough to fit 3 pipe cleaners into them at one time. It passes a single pipe cleaner from the lip or button into the bowl with no effort.

With the openness of the airway and draught hole the draught was like drinking through a jumbo size straw. I expected this pipe to smoke faster, but I found myself smoking slower. Flavor was good, tobacco burned evenly and required less tamping than I expected. Bowl gets warm but not as warm as some of the other pipes. Session lasted 71 minutes with no relights and just ashes left. Unlike the Savinelli Dry System, I did not get the ashy taste at the end though. (Used. A gift from a friend after he learned I didn’t have a Dunhill.)

Rinaldo Triade YYY 1

Easily passes a pipe cleaner. Instead of a perfect circle, the draught hole is elongated and reaches from the top of the mortise to the bottom.

Good, even draw like a plastic fountain straw. Bowl gets warm but not as warm as some of the other pipes. Session lasted 59 minutes without a relight. Very minimal dottle at the bottom of the bowl and good flavor throughout.  (New. Won in a long smoke competition.)

Linkman Hollycourt Special 7023 (Bonus addition)

Produced between 1938 – 1943. Threaded stinger but looks like the end of the tip of the stinger cut off. Easily passes a pipe cleaner to bowl.

After the Dunhill, this is the oldest pipe I own, so I decided to include it in the test. The bowl gets hotter at the bottom than I expected but it can still be held. Bowl is deep, and 2 grams only fills about half of it. Very open draught. Tobacco burns evenly and I noticed more flavor at the start. Where the tobacco was medium strength in previous test, it was stronger at the end of this bowl. Session lasted 50 minutes. (Used. Acquired at antique/collectible shop for $25.)

My Conclusions…

After conducting my smoking test and talking to several expert pipe carvers and restorers, I decided the answer is so subjective for a yes or no answer. What makes a pipe a quality smoker depends on the definition of a quality smoker by each pipe smoker. I have several hypotheses and a theory.

First the theory.

The reason more expensive pipes are considered to be better smokers is because more time, money and effort go into producing the pipe and the quality control is better. In other words, high-end manufacturers usually have strict quality control guidelines. If at the end of the manufacturing process, the pipe doesn’t meet those guidelines, it is either destroyed or sold as a second or basket pipe. This doesn’t mean that every high-end pipe is perfect but the chance of it being a bad smoker is less.

This also apply to Artisan pipes carved by people like Mark Tinsky, Walt Cannoy, Ryan Alden, Rad Davis, et al. Artisan pipes are more likely to be great smokers because they are going to make sure it is a perfect pipe before selling. If for some reason, the pipe has problems, they tend to stand behind their work and fix it.

Now for the hypothesis.

After the engineering, the most important part is the quality of the briar itself. I believe artisans and companies always buy the best briar blocks that they can afford. They don’t call up a dealer and send me 1,000 lbs. of whatever is on the shelf. They ask about the aging, curing and grading.

After harvesting, cutting, boiling and air drying for two years minimum, the briar is ready to sell. The longer the briar is aged, the more it’s worth.  In some cases, the blocks are aged for decades before selling. Briar dealers inspect each block and assign it a quality grade. Carvers and manufacturers make their purchases based on the length of aging and the grading. The more money they spend, the chances of better blocks increases.

Conversely, there is the old saying that “even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.” By that I mean even carvers/manufacturers on the lower end of the pay scale can and do occasionally find and produce a pipe worth more than what the end user pays.

Good smoking, low cost pipes…

Wait! What about Kaywoodie, Dr. Grabow, Wally Frank and other mass-produced pipes from the mid-20th century? My hypothesis is there weren’t as many high-end artisan carvers back then, so it was easier for them to get better grade briar. Also, despite not being “hand-made” the engineering on the pipes was very good. Large collecting communities for Kaywoodie and Dr. Grabow will attest to this.

Finally…

The book every pipe smoker should read.

While pipe smokers will continue to argue this question no matter what I say, I want to turn to one I consider an expert – Dr. Fred J. Hanna. His book, “The Perfect Smoke” published in 2012, is a collection of his essays about pipe smoking

I recommend the essays in Chapter Three of his book. “Choosing the Great Briar Pipe: Factors to Consider (Pages 91-102) discusses the 24 factors Hanna considers important for choosing a great briar pipe. These include the draught hole location and the size, the length of the tenon, the thickness of the bowl wall, etc.

The third essay in the book, “The Myth of Brand and Maker in Pipe Smoke and Tasting” (pages 111 – 124) is also very enlightening as he explains that “a great-smoking pipe is not the same as a great-tasting pipe.” (page 112) I also found his comment that, “The brand myth has the potential to harm our hobby. It can lead us to believe that only the wealthy collectors of high- and ultra-high-grade pipes can enjoy the truly sublime, superlative smoking and taste experience.” (page 124)

 

Paresh’s Grandfather’s Pipe #2 – A Yello-Bole Carburetor 4522 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I have repaired pipes for Paresh in India over the past four months and not long ago he sent me seven of his Grandfather’s pipes to restore. It is an interesting assortment of older pipes that come from the period of 1937-1950s. His Grandfather worked for the Indian Railroad many years and was a pipeman. Paresh is also a pipeman and recently found out that his Grandfather smoked a pipe as well. The second of the pipes is an older Yello-Bole Carburetor Billiard. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Carburetor over the KBB triangle logo followed by Yello-Bole over US Pat. 2082.106 over Cured with Real Honey. On the right side there is a four digit number 4522. This pipe was made between 1935 and 1936. Here is the rationale. The carburetor patent was granted in 1935, this pipe is stamped “US Pat.” Interestingly enough, it also has a patent number on the bottom of the shank that reads Reg.U.S.Pat.Off. over No. 343.331. The four digit number was used by KBB until 1936. The first two numbers indicate the finish, in this case 45 indicates a smooth finish. The second two numbers indicate the shape, in this case 22 indicates a straight billiard. The rim top is beat up and worn there is damage on the surface and also has nicks around the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The bowl still had a fairly thick cake on the walls. The carburetor tube that goes through the bottom of the bowl from outside to the inside was clogged and dirty. I took a close up photo of the rim top and both sides of the stem. You can see the damage to the top and inner edge of the rim top in the first photo below. The second and third photo shows the top and underside of the stem.The next photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank as noted above. There is also a large crack on the top left side of the shank. The next two photos show the stamping and the crack very clearly. I always enjoy getting some background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring when I am working estate pipes from the family members. If you have followed rebornpipes for a while you have read a few of these summaries from estates like Kathy’s Dad, Barry’s Dad and Farida’s Dad. Each of them did a great job summarizing their fathers’ estates. Since the next group of seven pipes that I will be working came to from India and belonged to the Grandfather of Paresh, I asked him to write a short tribute to his Grandfather. What follows is his writeup.

Respected Sir,

Now that the first batch of my Grandfather’s pipes has reached you, I would like to share my memories of him with you, the aim being to provide you with an insight to his personality, the era in which he lived, and a brief history associated with the pipes that I have inherited from him.

My Grandfather, Ananta (named after an exotic seasonal white flower having lovely fragrance), was born in a small coastal town of Konkan region of Maharashtra, India, in 1918. These were very turbulent times when India’s freedom struggle against British rule was gathering momentum and the atmosphere was charged with “Quit India Movement”. Having completed his graduation from Bombay, he joined Railways in 1937. This also marked the beginning of his journey into the world of pipe smoking!!!!!

Having seen his potential, in 1945, he was sponsored by the Government to visit England, for gaining further experience and expertise in his profession. This was a period when India’s Independence was round the corner and efforts were being made to train Indians for various administrative appointments in future Independent India. He returned back to India after a year, in 1946 and with him came some pipes that he had purchased in England. I believe a few of his Petes, Barlings, Charatans and GBDs are from this visit.

In 1947, when the British finally left India for good, my Grandfather was gifted pipes by his British peers, subordinates and Superior Officers as a parting gift. He stayed in touch with a few of them over all these years, even visiting them in 1959-60. Some of his later era Charatans and Barlings and Pete are from this trip. He quit smoking in early 1970s (before I was even born!!!!) and his pipes were packed up. There were a number of pipes which were used as TINDER for lighting fires (CAN”T BELIEVE IT…… I have not overcome my grief of this loss till date!!!!!) due to ignorance!!!!!!

My Grandfather was a very strict disciplinarian and temperamental (I did not know this as he was neither when dealing with me as I am the youngest of all his grandchildren!!!!!! He was always the most understanding and loving person in my life). I later learned that in his office, he was not to be disturbed when his pipe was lit, as he would be in his thinking/ contemplating mode while it was just the opposite as he lit his pipe in the evening while at home, when he would be at his relaxed best!!!!.

The interesting part is that neither of us knew that we each smoked a pipe until after his demise in Jan 2018!!!! In our culture, to this day, smoking or alcohol consumption is socially never talked about (mute acceptance!!!). It was during his last rites that absent mindedly I lighted my pipe and looking into the flickering flames of his funeral pyre, remembered and recollected all the wonderful memories and talks that we had shared. No one said a word to me about my lighting up a pipe!!!!!! Immediately thereafter, I rejoined my duty station. A few days later, my wife, Abha, received a box from my Uncle with a note that said “Grandfather would have loved Paresh to have these”. This box contained a collection of his fountain pens and 8-10 of his pipes (since then as my folks are winding up his belongings, I have received 2-3 packets and a large number of pipes, some in decent condition and some in unspeakable state). Abha immediately messaged me with pictures of these pipes and pens. I had been collecting and restoring (no major repairs, though) fountain pens since long and immediately recognized some of them as highly collectibles, however, pipes were a totally different ball game! I was inexperienced with no knowledge/ information regarding various brands/ pipe makers, shapes and materials. I knew nothing about the value of these pipes, nothing about pipe restorations, nothing about caring for them; I mean zero knowledge about collecting pipes. I smoked some real cheap Chinese pipes which were readily and unfortunately, the only ones, available in India and some inexpensive pipes from eBay India!!!!! Also regular pipe cleaning, pipe rotation, pipe cleaners and such things were unknown to me.

Thus, to know more about the REAL pipes, I embarked upon the journey of exploring finer nuances of pipe brands/ makers, their history and watching “How to videos” on packing a pipe, cleaning, repairing and caring for ones pipes. I found it extremely interesting and satisfying. It was while meandering through this confusing quagmire of pipe world that I came across rebornpipes.com website and eventually established contact with you, Mr Steve, who has since been my mentor, guide and GURU, making this journey a wonderful and satisfying experience.

Sir, there is one more thing that I need to thank you for and that is when you asked me to write a brief about my grandfather and his pipes, I realized how little I knew about him, in fact, knew nothing, as I was not even aware that he was a “pipeman” as no one in my family ever spoke about it being taboo subject and since he had quit a long time before I was even born!!!! This led me to ask the elders in my family, questions on the subject and came to know the above details. I cannot thank you enough for prodding me to get to know my grandfather and his pipes a lot better. Sir, these pipes of his, with your help and guidance, will remain with me forever in mint condition……

Thanks Paresh for this great descriptive take of your Grandfather. It really gives me a sense of the pipes that you have sent me and what they meant to him. It is obvious from the variety of pipes that you sent and the overall condition that he knew how to choose good quality pipes and obviously enjoyed smoking them throughout most of his life.

Paresh’s wife Abha cleaned the pipes before she sent them to me here in Canada and did an amazing job cleaning them up. She reamed the bowls, cleaned the rims and scrubbed the exterior of the pipes and the stems with Murphy’s Oil Soap and cleaned off the buildup on the stems. This particular pipe had a very hard cake in the bowl and with the tube sticking up from the bottom of the bowl she was very careful in here cleanup. There was till cake that needed to be removed. The finish on the bowl is in bad condition and was peeling and dirty. The light varnish coat was rough. The stamping on the sides and bottom of the bowl was very readable. The crack in the shank was fairly open and would need to be banded to repair it. The rim top had been beat up on hard surfaces and the outer edges were rough and rounded. The stem was lightly oxidized on both sides of the stem and had quite a bit of tooth chatter on both.

I removed the stem from the shank and started my work on the bowl itself. I wiped down the peeling finish on the bowl and shank with acetone on cotton pads. I rubbed it down until I had removed the varnish coat and the grime in the finish. I carefully cleaned up the reaming in the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer first. I started with the smallest cutting head and worked up to the second cutting head. I took the cake back to bare briar on the top ¾ of the bowl with the PipNet. I finished up the bottom ¼ with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took the cake back to the bare briar on the bottom. I was careful around the tube extending into the bowl bottom so I would not damage it. I wanted to check out the condition of the interior of the bowl. It looked very good once it was cleaned off. There was no checking or cracking on the bowl walls. There was no sign of burn out inside.  I decided to take care of the cracked shank next before I cleaned up the inside. I found a nickel band that was the right diameter for the shank. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to cut back about 1/3 of the depth of the band so that when it was fully on the shank it would not cover up the stamping on either side of the shank. I cleaned out the crack with a cotton swab and alcohol. I put some all-purpose white glue in the crack and pressed the band onto the shank. I used the sandpaper on the topping board to face the band and the end of the shank. I wanted the shank end and band to be absolutely smooth so that the fit of the stem in the shank would not change. You can see from the first photo below that the band placement does not come close to the stamping but completely cover the crack.To remove the damage to the top of the rim and minimize the damage on the inside and outside edge of the rim I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned out the carburetor tube on the bottom of the bowl with a paper clip and pushed through the tars and grime that had plugged the tubes. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and the mortise with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until the inside was clean.I polished the rim top and bevel with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust and the scratches. I stained the rim with a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl and shank.I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar to clean, enliven and protect it. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips. I worked it into the rim and shank end. I set it aside for a few minutes to let the balm work. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The briar really began to have a deep shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed.  I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem at the button with 220 grit sand paper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish both Fine and Extra Fine to remove the last of the scratches. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond. I gave them both multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have five more of Paresh’s Grandfather’s pipes to finish and then I will pack them up and send across the sea to India where he can carry on the legacy. I know that he is looking forward to having them in hand and enjoying a bowl of his favourite tobacco in memory of his Grandfather. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked this pipe over.

Father Tom – Life in Ordinary Time – Interrupted


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been working on a few Father Tom stories that address some of the inevitable issues of growing older. This is the link to the first one (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/05/19/father-tom-after-the-prayers-have-been-said/). The second one looks at a health issue that I have gone through and survived (and I am sure others of you have as well). I reflect on how the pipe ritual of loading, lighting and tamping seems to bring calm and enable perspective in an otherwise tumultuous experience. The act of slowly smoking the pipe brings quietude that makes room for clarity when processing these and other issues. Thanks for reading. — Steve

When he left the house he had enough time for a leisurely walk to his doctor’s office. He could stop along the way and grab a coffee and sip it as he walked. He could puff on his pipe and as he was pretty much oblivious to the anti-smoking folks he would be uninterrupted in his quiet. He had unconsciously put on his clerical shirt and collar this morning after breakfast but it would serve him well. Nothing was to be avoided more in Vancouver than someone walking down the street looking like a priest. It almost guaranteed that he would be left alone and could smoke his pipe without intrusion.

The path he had chosen took him through the Olympic Village and along the water front of False Creek. He ambled along deep in thought enjoying the slight breeze and the cool of the morning. He was smoking a dark Virginia flake that he had lightly rubbed out and stuffed in his pipe. He had learned that trick somewhere along the way. Once it was smoldering it was a good long smoke and the flavours shifted and changed as the fire burned through the various mixed strands of tobacco in the bowl. He slowly puffed his pipe as was his habit – he did not have to think about it any more it was just normal for him. Some people puffed to the cadence of their pace as they walked but he had learned to separate the two and just slowly savoured the tobacco as he walked.

He was not purposely dragging his heals, he just wanted to take the time to process and think through what may be ahead of him at the appointment with his doctor. The walk was perfect for processing and the pipe provided the smoke screen that gave him space to quietly work through things. Strangely enough his mind had not gone to the “what ifs” but rather he had spent some time reflecting on his life. He had to admit that it had been amazingly uneventful for an aging priest in his mid sixties. He had spent the better part of 35 years as a parish priest in a variety of locations in British Columbia, Canada and a young trainee for the priesthood before that. Even his upbringing to get him to the point of entering the priesthood had been unremarkable. He could easily say that his life had been lived in ordinary time – no real interruptions or troubles other than the occasional bumps in the road relationally or within the parish. But truly he had faithfully and dutifully walked/plodded through the years. Until now his health had also proceeded along quietly and oddly uneventful. He was thankful for that.

Despite the long walk, Father Tom arrived at the doctor’s office early. He sat on the wall in back of the office and finished up the bowl of tobacco he was smoking. He quieted the intrusive white coat shakes that were vibrating through him by letting the pipe do its magic. As he puffed slowly on his pipe he found his anxiety lessening and his heart quieting. When he finished the bowl he went in and greeted the woman at the desk and took his place on the Chesterfield in the office underneath the huge Rodin painting of the dancing women. He closed his eyes and sat quietly, unconsciously fidgeting with his pipe in his pocket. He stirred when he heard the receptionist tell him the doctor would see him now and he could go back.

As he walked down the hallway he stuck his pipe in his mouth – it was an unconscious action on his part and certainly a way of giving himself some comfort. As he walked into the office he had a vague memory that the doctor had said he would be away. The person sitting at his desk was a locum who was filling in for him. When Father Tom came into the office the doctor turned to greet him. Now the problems began…she was obviously uncomfortable. He did not know if it was the collar or the pipe hanging in his mouth or what, but she did not seem able bring herself to tell him about the tests. She fumbled around with the papers on her desk and had a hard time looking him in the eye. Finally, she commented that the results of his blood work were back and there were some concerns. That was it and she left him hanging without continuing. It was awkward to say the least. There was a silence that seemed really long to Father Tom. She sat looking down and he stood in the doorway waiting. He made his way to the chair beside the desk and sat down. Still nothing was forthcoming.

To help her get to the point he started guessing – was it the thyroid test? No. The liver and kidney specific tests? No. The blood chemistry in terms of platelets and white cells? No. Hemoglobin tests? Cholesterol? No. Diabetes? No. He went through each test that he had undergone and to each one her response was no. Finally, he got to the last of the list after all of the above elicited a negative response. He knew before he asked, by process of elimination that the answer would be yes. So he as if was the PSA test – the Prostate Specific Antigen tests which contained markers for Prostate cancer… slowly she nodded yes. No further explanation seemed to be forthcoming so he asked what it meant… she swallowed and said that the numbers had shown a significant increase. What did that mean? No answer… he had enough, he stood and said if she was done he was leaving and would wait until his regular doc came home. She said no… she wanted to schedule a biopsy and an appointment with a urologist for him before he left the office. He sat back down and looked at her… what does that mean? Is there cancer? Again no answer… this was absolutely crazy. He was stymied with what to do next so he just sat there.

She got up and left him sitting there. She did not come back so he walked out to the waiting room and the receptionist. She at least was communicative and handed him his two appointment cards. The first was for the biopsy that she had scheduled for early the next morning and the other for the urologist on Monday afternoon the following week. She assured him that the urologist was very good and a colleague of his regular doctor. She bade him goodbye as the phone rang. He sat on the edge of the Chesterfield and reloaded his pipe. He put the pipe in the pouch of tobacco and pushed it into the bowl. It took longer than usual this time around but he had done it for so long he did not have to think about it. His mind was just whirling.

One of the other patients sitting in the waiting room told him that the office was a no smoking environment. He did not even acknowledge her when she spoke, for he was too numb to care. Once the bowl was right and he tested the draw he rose to his feet and went out the door. He lit his pipe and stood in the entry way puffing on the pipe until he got a good burn going. He started walking home in a thick cloud of smoke. This time he took a straighter path home – up Arbutus to Broadway. Once he was on Broadway he walked until he got to Granville Street. At Granville he stopped a small pub and ordered a pint and sat in the sidewalk café. He had no idea what time it was as his mind was swirling. He finished his pint and relit his pipe. He made his way to 16th Avenue and walked East until he got to Main Street. He was not far from home now but he could not keep up with his own thoughts…he sat on a park bench on 16th in the park between Main and Fraser. The lack of information he had been given rattled him and his normal tendency to assume the worst was not helpful. His head was spinning and he could not quiet his fears. He quietly recited the Serenity Prayer as he sat there. Long ago he had memorized the long version of the prayer as he found that the second half gave him much hope and expressed the desire of his heart. It was that version that he recited there in the park.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

He took a deep breath and slowly let the breath out. He felt a calmness coming back over him that had deserted him since he had received the news. It was a calmness born not of denial but of trust. H repacked his pipe and slowly puffed away while his thoughts became more focused. He knew the “C” word was not final until after the biopsy and the appointment with the urologist but it felt final to him. He would need to set aside the what ifs until that time as they were unproductive now. He knew that whatever happened in the next few days, that his until now ordinary life had certainly been interrupted. All of the ordinary life experiences he had enumerated previously during the walk to the doctor, his quiet uneventful life, suddenly faded into the mist of the potential threat that reared up in front of him now. It seemed strange that only a few hours before he had found comfort in his rituals of the morning. Now that morning seemed ages ago and he had been reeling inside. Somehow the ritual of the pipe and the prayer had brought a new calm over him.

If you had been near by you would have heard him repeat “living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time…trusting…”. You would have seen an elderly priest, pipe in mouth, talking to himself, deep in thought. He sat that way for a long time, nothing moving other than the imperceptible rise and fall of his chest as he puffed on his pipe. The smoke rose around him and engulfed him in his thoughts. Then suddenly it was if he came to life, he came back to the moment, tamped his pipe, stood up and started walking the remaining blocks home. His mind was quieter than it had been all day. Really nothing had changed but him. Somehow the pipe and the prayer together had given him the space to stand apart from his problem and be quiet. He knew Mrs. Conti would have prepared dinner for him and laid it out. It would be ready for his arrival. He knew that his pipes and his books would be on the table next to his chair. He knew that he had a quiet evening ahead of him. He knew he would face the biopsy in the morning. And he knew that he was not alone as he walked through this.

He went up 16th to Fraser and then up Fraser to his block. Once there he crossed Fraser and made his way home. He opened the gate and climbed the stairs. He unlocked the front door and went inside. He put his hat on the hall tree and went into the kitchen to see what was laid out for supper. He fixed a plate and took it to his chair in the parlour. He sat down, put his pipe on the rest and quietly ate his meal. A thought went through his head and he said it out loud – no, even this is still ordinary time – just interrupted.

A VIRTUAL PIPE HUNT – A new way to experience the joy of a pipe hunt


Blog by Steve Laug

To me there is nothing quite like the thrill of a pipe hunt to get my blood running. The anticipation of finding something that I had not found or seen before is always a prologue to the actual hunt itself. When I walk through the door of the “hunting ground” there is a new anticipation – what lies in store for me in the aisles and booths of the shop. I have found that some shops/malls are organized and have all of the tobacciana in one spot in the shop but the majority are not that systematized. Something about walking through a large or small shop with a focused objective makes the pleasure even more intense. When I find pipes – be it just a few or a box full – I get a solid rush as I work my way through the box and see if anything special is hidden in the lot. I have found Dunhill’s hidden in cans of junk pipes so I always work through the lot individually. I have to tell you that there are very few times that I come home from a hunt empty handed.

On Friday evening my brother Jeff called me from Montana. He and his wife had driven there to visit her parents. Along the way they had of course stopped at several antique shops and looked for pipes. In one of the shops he struck “gold”, the shop had a motherlode of pipes. He had talked with the owner and she told him she bought a box of pipes. He bought a few of them from her and then went back to the hotel and gave me a call. He showed me the pipes he had picked up and they were old ones. He had some nice pipes. He then told me the story and an idea he had.

His idea was brilliant really and quite simple. We both have iPads and use FaceTime to chat back and forth about pipes that he is looking at. He thought, why not bring the iPad to the antique shop and take me on the pipe hunt with him. That way we could look through the many pipes that were available in the shop and it would be like I was present experiencing the discovery of each one. We made a plan and set the time for the hunt. I was looking forward to checking out the place.

The next day after lunch my iPad showed that Jeff was calling on Facetime. I answered and in a moment I was inside the antique shop with him. We walked over to the corner of the shop where the display case was. The owner opened the case and Jeff brought out a rack of pipes at a time. He brought them to the counter where the iPad was sitting. He took each pipe out of the rack and we looked at the stamping on the shank and the condition of the mouthpiece and bowl. We looked at the stem material and determined what it was made of. We guessed the age as best as we could, given the brand and the style of the bowl and stem. We went through over forty pipes that way and spent the better part of an hour and a half.

He captured two photos of the iniside of the shop that showed what we saw when we were on FaceTime. They show a display case and the area where the pipes were in the store from two different angles. He gathered the pipes together and took them to his hotel room. He spread out the pipes on the bed and took some photos of the lot. There really are some unique pipes in the lot. I can’t wait to get them in Vancouver and work them over. There were many CPF pipes in the bunch that are different from others I have worked. The first is a photo that gives a big picture of the pipes we picked out from the shop.He also took some close up photos of sections of the lot. Here are those photos. They give you an idea of some of the unique pieces we found at the shop.The next two photos is a close up of the pipes on the left toward the top of the first photo.The next two photos show closer looks at the pipes in the middle and on the right side of the first photo. You can see from the photos that there are some interesting pieces that we found. I could not believe that we picked up 30 pipes and one case. There were 11 unique CPF brand pipes, 1 Manhattan, 1 Twisted shank horn stem, 1 Borlum, 1 Superior, 1 Hilson, 2 WDC, 1 Kaywoodie All Briar, 1 Imperial, 2 Italian Briar, 1 Hooker, 1 Stanwell Majestic,  1 London Thorn Drucquer pipe, 2 Meerschaums, 1 carved bulldog, 1 Seville, 1 Frank Bakelite and a RBC empty pipe case. He sent me a list of the brands on the pipes. I have grouped together to give a sense of what was present in the lot.

  1. CPF military mount Oom Paul
  2. CPF The Remington, French Briar, (Miliatary mount)
  3. CPF French Briar with Hallmarked band and horn stem. Filigree carving around bowl
  4. CPF Pullman with Horn Stem
  5. CPF Siamese with twin horizontal stems
  6. CPF Cromwell with twin vertical stems
  7. CPF Briar Bowl Sitting on Petals- Horn Stem
  8. CPF French Briar Bulldog with Horn Stem
  9. CPF French Briar with tarnished metal band and a Horn Stem (looks like mini-Wellington)
  10. CPF French Briar Horn Shaped Pipe with metal band and Horn Stem
  11. CPF Colon French Briar with Black Meer Bowl and Amber stem
  12. Briar pipe with twisted shank going into a twisted horn stem
  13. Borlum Italian Briar (Unbreakable Bit)
  14. Hilson Bolero, Made in Belgium, #8
  15. Superior with filigree metal band around shank and bowl- red bakelite stem
  16. Manhattan with Horn Stem
  17. WDC Monitor
  18. WDC Campaign with Briar unscrewable bowl
  19. Kaywoodie AllBriar 50B (All-imported Briar)- chewed off wood stem
  20. Imperial De Luxe, Made in London England (Mini-churchwarden)
  21. Italian Briar bulldog with red dot on stem
  22. The Hooker- with screw cap next to bowl on top of shank- Patented May 17,1910- Horn Stem
  23. Stanwell Majestic 64, Made in Denmark
  24. London Thorn, Drucquer & Sons, Berkeley
  25. Carved bulldog with yellow Bakelite stem
  26. Seville Filter, Imported Briar Italy
  27. Heavily Rusticated Italian Briar with wrong stem
  28. No-name Meerschaum Bowl and shank without stem- with spikes on bowl and shank, brown to black
  29. Large Meerschaum Capped Pipe with horn stem and cherry wood shank
  30. Frank Bakelite (EP Silver)
  31. RBC Genuine French Briar , Red-lined small Black Case

When Jeff returned home, he removed the stickers and tags from the pipe and laid them out on his kitchen table. The photos below give another look at the pipes – sans price stickers and tags. I would say we had a good day pipe hunting. I have never seen that many CPF pipes in one spot and the number of pipes of that age is unique as well. I think we will have to do some more of these virtual pipe hunts because it transcends borders and space and gives the experience in real time. The only thing missing to me was the actual handling of the pipes in person. The experience was really good and I was able to feel like I was in the shop itself as we looked at each pipe and discussed the pros and cons before buying them. You might consider this kind of pipe hunt if you have a good friend who enjoys the hunt as much as you do and has an iPhone or iPad. If you happen to try it out or have already done so in the past post a comment below. Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

 

One Man’s Trash….. by John Williams (Coastie)


I have been reading about John’s work of rustication and restoration on pipe forums online for some time now. Recently he came to Pipe Smokers Unlimited and began to post some of his work there. I was taken by the beauty of his restorations and his rustication. He does great work. I decided to write him a note and ask if he would like to share some of his work with us on rebornpipes. What appears below is a piece John has written about his love of the hobby and his methodology for gathering pipes to work on. I thought that a before and after photo of one of John’s rustications would give an idea regarding the caliber of his work.

Before rustication

Before rustication

The process of rustication.

The process of rustication.

The finished pipe.

The finished pipe.

Welcome to rebornpipes, John it is a pleasure to be able to feature some of your writing and your work. Thank you for taking the time to send this to me.

Before I begin this let me tell you a little about myself, as it relates to the wonderful world of piping. After 40 years of smoking cigarettes, 20 of which were spent trying to find ways to quit smoking cigarettes, with no success, I stumbled into the wonderful world of pipe smoking. I had tried a pipe when I was in my 20’s and just didn’t find it satisfying or convenient. I decided to try it again, at the age of 58 so went to a local tobacco shop, picked up a basket pipe for $20.00, some Sir Walter Raleigh, and never picked up a cigarette again. I was smitten by the entire experience and quickly found myself lusting for more and more pipes.

After shopping on line and major on-line B&Ms I quickly realized that this new found love could get expensive, very quickly. So I turned to eBay, and starting amassing a pretty good size collection, but they were mostly oddball pipes that just caught my fancy and really were not enjoyable smokes. I started looking at higher end pipes on eBay and realized that again, this was going to get expensive. But I had this fascination with collecting pipes, and lacked the resources or desire to spend huge amounts of money. I had been cruising the net and stumbled upon Reborn Pipes and reading about Steve’s work breathing new life into old pipes. So I dove in and bought the few materials that I would need and started using my eBay acquisitions as practice material. In the process I found a new love, pipe restoration and rustification. It has been a fun journey since, and through the help of friends from forums I acquired more and more briar to work on, both mine and theirs, and just kept trying new techniques. There were highs and lows, and thankfully the lows were on my own pipes, and the highs were from seeing the reaction from pipe owners to my work on their pipes.

But alas, things took a turn. Suddenly this hobby of piping has gotten popular again, and with popularity came the inevitable increase in the cost of pipes on eBay. No more could I bid on nicely taken care of, quality briar, and win multiples to feed my new hobby, so activity on the workbench slowed down. Then one day I saw a beat up old pipe on eBay that was ugly, not taken care of, never cleaned, and appeared to have been used as a hammer or golf tee at one time. But it was cheap, no one wanted it due to the condition, and I won it for cheap, cheap. Before that day I would have never looked twice at this monstrosity. I would have immediately dismissed it, as I am sure many did.

Once I got it in the mail I applied the few skills I had learned about pipe rustification and produced a pipe that is now beautiful and serves me well, and will for years. I still buy a lot of pipes on eBay, but I now look for those pipes that appear to be structurally sound, but do not care about their cosmetic appearance. I learned to look past the ugly and envision what it could be with some work. And through this process I have continued to develop my hobby and abilities. I am always looking for new techniques, developing my own, and constantly striving to expand my abilities. And I am still managing to do it for less than I was spending on cigarettes when I was a cig smoker. That makes the wife happy, and therefore I am happy.

So what’s my point? If you are new to the world of pipes, or you wish you could expand your current collection, but just do not have the disposable income to buy those beautiful pipes that you often see, don’t fret, you can still have them. Simply lower your standards when shopping on eBay or in junktique stores. Learn to recognize those pipes that have beauty buried underneath neglect and abuse. Recognize those pipes that fall under “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. They are abundant on eBay and in junktique/antique stores, if you look. I will say however that you need to do some research. Teach yourself what is a desirable make, what is not; what is a good smoker, what may not be. Learn what to watch out for, what to avoid. I never buy pipes on eBay that only have one picture. I want to see both sides, the bowl, inside and the bottom, and the stem and tenon. Learn to recognize burn out, cracks in the shank or bowl, or other stem or briar damage that may be beyond your abilities to fix. If it is just ugly, dirty, dinged up, etc., and it catches your fancy….buy it and bring it back to beauty yourself. We are lucky enough that we have the internet and therefore a world of resources available to us as we develop our hobbies. Dive in my friend, dive in.

Join a forum, or multiple forums. There is a world of experience on those forums just waiting for your question or your plea for help. I have yet to encounter a pipe enthusiast on a forum who would not offer advice or help. There are a lot of us there whose passion is the restoration and/or rustification of pipes. Seek us out. And if you get a pipe that you feel is just beyond your ability to restore, many of us will gladly take care of it for you. I know I would, as working with briar is my passion. All you have to do is ask.

One other shopping technique that I use. I always have a pipe with me. Anytime I am talking with a stranger, outside, at a business, a yard sale, in the park, etc., I pull out the pipe and light it. More times than not it sparks a conversation, and many times you find that you are talking to a gentleman who will say “I used to smoke a pipe…..” but for one reason or another they quit. I will always follow up with “What did you do with your pipes?”, and a lot of times they will reply that they are in a box in the garage. You know where I go from there. I will just say that I have over the span of 1 year been gifted over 30 pipes from ex-pipers as a result of these conversations. Some pipes were beyond help, others were beautiful, and some just needed my attention. Ex-pipers are happy to give them to a fellow piper; you just have to let people know you smoke a pipe. It’s a brotherhood after all.

So happy hunting, happy cleaning/restoring, and happy piping. Now I am going to go hunt for old soldiers on eBay that need some attention.

The Pipe Hunt – Rule # 6: Never let them see your excitement


Growing up I remember a wrestling coach in high school giving us his wisdom regarding our opponents from a particularly tough school. “Never let them see you sweat” was his rule about setting a climate in which you could win over an opponent. For me Rule #6 is a variation on that adage. While a seller is not an opponent they are nonetheless your opposite in the purchase of a particular pipe. To put it simply Rule 6 is “Never let a seller see your excitement about what you have found”. I know this goes contrary to everything in me that wants to shout when I have found a super deal. When I turn over a pipe of a certain shape or colour, or move a pipe from underneath several others I can feel the adrenalin rise as my instinct about the pipe is met with an affirmative. It is at that moment that I hold back my exclamatory “yes” and carefully add the pipe to the lot I am carrying around the shop or have the seller carry it to the cash register to hold until I finish my hunt through the shop. I hold “yes” in and save the exulting until I am in the car or on the pipe forums!

Truthfully, this rule should probably be moved somewhere toward the top of the list of things I keep in mind when on a pipe hunt, because it has become a part of me on the hunt. I am quiet as I move through the store with the clerk as they unlock the cabinets that hold the pipes that I want to see. To help tame my enthusiasm I pick up pipes from the pipes on display that I have no intention of purchasing and “carefully” look them over and make quiet comments. Finally when I have gone through the lot I pick up the object/s of my attention and make a few general comments about the condition. Typically the clerk then carries it to the front for me and I am free to keep looking for more pipes. Though sometimes I carry the new find around the shop with me while I look at other pipes.

Even at the cash register I do not let on about my excitement over a find. I keep up the banter if I am in the mood or just quietly pay the bill and leave the shop. I have found that most sellers in shops or antique malls have no idea regarding the value of their old pipes and rather see them as stage props – hence a high price, or as dirty items that have a minimal value – hence a low price. The only time I talk about the prices is if the prices are outlandish. For instance recently I was in a Northern Alberta town here in Canada and the owner was selling a relatively new Grabow with a chewed stem for $120. I showed her on my phone what a new cost and she shrugged and said that in her town the local theatre guild and actors pay the prices she has for these items to use in their plays. Needless to say I kept my coin in my pocket and shook my head as I walked away.

I am looking for seller who sees the pipes they have as old and dirty items that they hope will sell but are not holding their breath over. I have found some great deals this way. I will give three examples from different times and years of my pipe hunting to illustrate the point. I found a nice mid 50’s Dunhill Shell billiard at a local thrift shop for $12. The sticker covered the white dot on the stem but the shape and blast caught my eye.
DunhillBilliard

I found a small group 2 sized saddle billiard Dunhill Tanshell from the 60’s for under $20 in an antique mall in the US. It was hidden in a box of old junk pipes in a far corner of the shop. It was not locked in a cupboard but rather in an old porcelain jar with the stems inserted in the jar and the bowls sticking out the top. The blast on the pipe caught my eye so I pulled it out of the jar for a better look and found that I was holding a Dunhill.
Tanshell001

More recently I came across a beautiful Comoy’s Gulidhall Liverpool for $30 in a shop in the Edmonton. It was on a shelf with other old beat up pipes and ratty pipe bags, broken pipe racks and old tins. It was toward the back of the shelf but the grain on this pipe caught my eye and it came with me the rest of the hunt in that shop.
IMG_0778

The trick to this rule is to look and when you see them either pick them up and carry them with you or if the case is locked, note the case number and get the dealer to take them out of the case for you to examine. If the dealer unlocks the case for you then they typically want to carry them to the front for you. Play it cool with this and say that you will continue walk about the shop to look and “think” about your purchase.

You might wonder about the necessity of this rule but I can tell you it is critical in working deals and ongoing future deals with sellers. They key is to know that when you walk away happy with your amazing find, that they also are more than happy to have rid themselves of what they see as an eyesore. I have watched the price change drastically when a seller picks up on my excitement about the great price on a particular pipe. They read my reaction and I have seen the prices both escalate and de-escalate based on my response. I have had them decide quickly to not sell the pipe and when I came back at a later date the price was pushed through the roof and no longer something I would buy. I have also had them immediately back peddle and raise the price while I was standing there with excuses of mismarked prices or mistaken identification. It is critical to play your cards close to your chest when working a deal on these pipes. The words of a Kenny Rogers song, the Gambler hold true here; “You have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”

I have learned the lessons of this rule the hard way. It is very difficult to contain my excitement when I find highly valuable, collectible pipe. It is hard to not get worked up with the joy of the find. But I have found that if I do not let the cat out of the bag while I am looking the seller will let go of it at a bargain price of even less than it is marked or at the very least will not jack up the price so that next time you pass through the pipes are marked double and triple the price you paid for the first one. This rule is well worth remembering and practicing as you work the hunt.

Good hunting!