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Restoring a Nording “Pick Axe” Freehand Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring a 1940s-1960s Kaywoodie Bent Billiard with a 4 holed stinger, also from my grandfather’s collection. I am always fascinated by “Free Hand” pipes. I feel these freehand shapes let the creativity and imaginations of a carver run riot without the bindings of the exacting demands of a classical shapes and finish.

Over a period of time, I have collected a number of freehand pipes during my not-so-long journey in to the pipe world and have realized that these freehand pipes invariably have a nice hand fit, sitting snugly in to the hands of the smoker with a nice heft to them. The most fascinating aspect of a freehand, I feel, is the carver’s desire to highlight the grains in the briar block and shape the pipe accordingly to highlight these grains.

I was fortunate to come across four estate freehand pipes, one Soren, one Ben Wade Spiral, one Nording #4 and one Nording Pick Axe shaped pipe. I discussed with my mentor and guide, Mr. Steve Laug, and after his approval on the aspects of collectability and the price point at which they were available, I purchased them about a year back!!!! Since then, these were waiting for me to work on and now that I feel slightly more confident in doing justice to these lovely pipes, I decided to work on them. The first of these pipes that is now on my work table is the Nording Pick Axe shaped freehand.

This beautiful pipe has the classical pick-axe shape with a plateau rim top. The stummel has a smooth surface with densely flame grains extending from the mid way on right side and extending mid way on left side while the remaining surface on the stummel has beautiful rustication. The smooth portions extend to the sides such that when held in the palm, all the fingers are holding the stummel along the smooth surface and one can admire the fine delicate rustications on the back while sipping your favorite tobacco. Blissful!!!!!!!!! Similarly, the top surface of the shank is rusticated extending half way through on either side while the bottom is smooth with straight grains extending from the tip of the axe towards the end of the shank.  The only stamping, “NORDING” in block capital letters, is seen on the smooth portion of the shank. The stamping is clear, crisp and easily readable. The fancy stem has a slight bent towards the lip and helps the pipe to balance straight on a table. There is the letter “N” in block capital letter, stamped on the top surface. But it is faint and hidden under the heavy oxidation.I searched the internet for detailed information on Nording pipes and this pipe shape in particular shape. Though I did not find anything particularly about this pipe, it was interesting to read how young Mr. Nording got in to the business of pipe making. It makes for a very interesting read. We must not forget to thank one Mr. Skovbo, who had a major contribution in introducing Mr. Nording in to this business!!!!!!  I have a couple of SON pipes in my grandfather’s collection which I will restore at a later date since I now know about the historical importance of these pipes!!!!!!!!!!! Here is the link for easy reference of those interested: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Nørding 

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel is covered in dust, oils and grime giving a dull and lackluster appearance to the bowl. The rustications on the back of the stummel are, likewise, filled with dust, dirt and grime. This will need to be thoroughly cleaned. On close scrutiny, I saw some minor superficial dents and dings on the smooth surface. Will I address it or keep it as it is as a characteristic feature of this pipe’s past life? Hell yes, I will address it!!!!! I want it to be as perfect as I can make it for its next innings with me!!!!!! The chamber is clean with a very uneven and thin layer of cake. The plateau rim top is covered with overflow of lava. The inner rim edge is crisp, even and intact. The chamber is odorless and dry to the touch. The inner wall condition of the chamber will be ascertained once the chamber has been completely reamed. However, I foresee no issues at all as the bowl feels solid to the touch.The fancy stem is heavily oxidized with tooth chatter and bite marks on both surfaces and some calcification can be seen towards the lip. There is a significant damage to the lip end in the form of a bite through hole on the upper surface and some deep bite marks on both upper and lower surface of the stem. The airway in the stem is slightly blocked. These issues will have to be addressed. On close observation, the upper surface of the stem bears the stamp “N” in block capital letter. However, this stamp is very faint and covered in thick layer of oxidation. I will attempt to restore and save this stamp.The shank, mortise and the airway is relatively clean and will only need to be sanitized.THE PROCESS
The first step that I usually follow is the reaming of the bowl. However, in this project, since the only significant damage appreciated is to the stem and would be a time consuming process to repair, I started this restoration by addressing the stem first by sanding the stem surface with a 220 grit sand paper followed by 1500 grit micromesh pad. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it evens out the surface for a fresh fill during stem repairs and secondly, I have experienced that any fill in a stem repair turns distinctly brown after micromesh sanding if the oxidation from the stem surface was not removed prior to the application of the fill. Once I was through with the sanding, I wiped the stem clean with cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This was followed by flaming both the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter, concentrating more around the hole on the upper surface and the deeper bite marks on the lower surface. This helps in raising all the tooth chatter and dents to the surface.I inserted a pipe cleaner coated with Vaseline in to the stem airway before applying the fill. This helps in preventing the fill from entering and blocking the airway. I prepared a mixture of superglue and activated charcoal and applied it as evenly as possible over the hole and deep bite marks and set it aside to cure for 48 hours since the climate here is very wet and humid. While the glue was curing, I worked on the stummel, reaming out the cake with a Kleen Reem reamer, followed by a pipe reaming knife that I had fabricated. I brought the cake down to the bare briar. To further remove any traces of old cake and smooth the inner walls of the chamber, I sanded the inner wall surface with a 220 grit sand paper. As observed during initial visual inspection, I had decided to remove all the dents and dings in the stummel. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s oil soap, paying special attention to the plateau rim which was scrubbed with 000 grade steel wool to remove all the overflow of lava. Thereafter I sanded the smooth surfaces of the bowl with a 220 grit sand paper. Once all the dings and dents were evened out and the surface made smooth, this was followed by micromesh polishing pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads. Again, I wiped the bowl with a moist cotton cloth after each pad. Thankfully there were no fills in the stummel. Once I was through with the wet sanding pads, I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. I set the stummel aside to let it dry out naturally. I rubbed some “Before and After Restoration” balm deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. This balm helps in rejuvenating and protecting the briar wood. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!!! The mixed grain can now be clearly appreciated. I let the balm be absorbed by the briar for about 15-20 minutes and then polished it with a soft cotton cloth. The bowl now looks fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar. Turning my attention to the stem, using a flat head needle file I sanded out all the fills to match the surface of the stem. I further matched the fills by sanding it with a 220 grit sand paper. I had to spot fill clear superglue into small fills which were exposed during the sanding and repeat the entire process twice. To finish the stem I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol after each pad and rubbed olive oil into the stem after every three pads. The stem looks crisp, shiny and like new. Having addressed the “appearance” aspects of this beauty, I turned my attention to the “performance” aspects to ensure that this beauty smokes as well as it looks. I thoroughly cleaned the shank internals using shank brush, pipe cleaners, qtips and isopropyl alcohol. The stem airway was cleaned using regular pipe cleaners and also bristled ones dipped in alcohol. The airway is now clean and the draw is full and open.To complete the restoration, I rubbed a minute quantity of PARAGON WAX on the smooth stummel and the stem and HALCYON WAX II on the rusticated surface. After a few seconds, using muscle power and a microfiber cloth, I polished the entire pipe to a lovely shine. The finished pipe is shown below. This one shall soon find a place in my rotation. Thank you for your valuable time spent in reading this chronicle of my journey.

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Tale of Two Somerset Brothers – Part 2


BENT RHODESIAN

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had finished the work on Somerset 8 Paneled Billiard and I was very pleased with the way it turned out. I have smoked this pipe and have to concede that it was one of the better smoking pipes in my current rotation, the draw is open and full and very smooth right up to the last morsel of tobacco. This is due to the perfect alignment of the draught hole, mortise and stem tenon. Very happy with this one, I must say!!!!!!

The sibling of the first Somerset Brother, now in my hand, is the Bent Rhodesian, and my favorite shape. The upper half of the bowl has beautiful wavy circular sandblast all round which extend to the round shank, while the bottom of the bowl has densely packed birdseye which is seen in the sandblast. Overall, this is one pipe with a beautiful sandblast patterns and as I have come to expect, the quality of the finish and vulcanite stem is par excellence. Like its paneled billiard sibling, this pipe too has a smooth and flat bottom surface and bears the only stampings seen on the pipe. It is stamped on the bottom as “SOMERSET” in a mild arch over “IMPORTED BRIAR” in straight line, all in capital letters. There is no other stamp on either shank or on the stem. The stummel and shank is stained with a very dark reddish/ maroon hue. The stem is high quality vulcanite without any stampings. As conceded in my write up on the Somerset Paneled Billiard, I have been unsuccessful in unearthing information about this brand and still remain a blind spot in my quest for knowledge on pipes. I sincerely request you to share any information you may have on this pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The sandblast on this pipe is covered in dirt, dust and grime and appears dull and lackluster. The bowl is heavily caked and there is overflow of lava on to the rim. This will have to be removed in order to ascertain the condition of the chamber walls. From my experience working on the paneled billiard, I won’t be surprised to find cracks and heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. There is a very strong sweet smell to the cake, which perhaps may vanish after the chamber has been cleaned.The mortise is filled with oils and tars and appears to be clogged. There is no free flow of air through the mortise. This will have to be cleaned. There is also a slight gap in the fitting between the stem and the shank. Maybe this will be resolved after a good cleaning of the mortise. The fitting of the stem in to the shank is very loose and just drops of when turned upside down.The stem is heavily oxidized and the edge of the lip on the top surface has been bitten out of shape. There is a bite mark close to the disfigured edge of the lip. These issues will have to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I reamed the bowl with a Kleen Reem pipe tool and with a knife; I further took the cake down to the briar. I have realized that the knife is best suited to remove the cake from the bottom of the chamber. As anticipated, the chamber walls did show the beginnings of a burn out!!!! With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, presenting a clear picture of the extent of the damage. This pipe too had cracks at exactly same location as its sibling, though not as alarming. Since the pipe ash was still being collected, I cleaned the internals of this pipe with bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Since the strong sweet smell did not diminish even after the cake had been removed, I decided to give it a salt and alcohol bath. I filled the bowl and shank with kosher salt up to just below the rim top and end of the shank respectively. I filled it up with isopropyl alcohol and set it aside over night to allow it to extract all the residual oils from the chamber and the shank. Next day, the salt and alcohol had done its job. I remove the darkened salts and clean the mortise with bristled pipe cleaners. I set it aside to dry. Once the internals were cleaned, I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I set it aside to dry. I cleaned the walls of the chamber with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol (since I was simultaneously working on the repair to the chamber of the Paneled Billiard, there is inescapable repetition of the process). Once cleaned, I inserted a folded pipe cleaner into the shank and up to the draught hole to prevent it from clogging. I made putty like paste of pipe ash and water. This paste was evenly applied to the entire inner surface of the chamber with a thin bamboo frond with shaved end to form a spatula, a bigger one at that, as compared to a regular one. I set it aside to dry out. The climate here being very wet and humid, it will take a long time to dry out.

The coating dried completely after about a week and I just gently scrapped the chamber with very light hands to check the layer. Alas, the complete coating just crumbled out leaving a very dry coat of ash through which all the cracks were easily discernible.

Fortunately, I had started collecting pipe ash and mixed it with yogurt. Using the same earlier method, I applied an even coat of pipe ash, yogurt and also added two capsules of activated charcoal. I set it aside to dry out, praying that the mixture bonds well and sticks to the walls of the chamber. A few days later, the mixture had completely cured and it did not crumble. The bonding appeared to be strong and durable. With a 400 grit sand paper, I sanded the inner walls very lightly to smooth the walls. Now the internal walls are looking solid and ready for duty again!!!! Once the issue of cracked chamber wall was addressed, I turned my attention back to the exterior of the stummel. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Working the stem, with a Bic lighter, I flamed the surfaces of the stem to raise the tooth chatter and minor bite marks. To address the bite mark and repair the edge of the lip, I spot apply a drop of CA superglue and leave it over night to cure. The next evening, I shape the fill using flat head needle file and carve a crisp edge. To further blend in the fill, I sand the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I sanded it down with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I cleaned the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. Here, I realized that the issue of loose stem was yet to be addressed. This issue was addressed by heating the tenon with a Bic lighter, constantly rotating the stem, till the tenon was slightly pliable. I gently pushed a rounded needle file in to the tenon to enlarge it and set it aside to cool down. Once cooled down, I wiped it clean with a cotton cloth soaked in cold water. I tried the fit, and the stem sat in the shank snugly, making all the right kind of noises. I was very pleased with the fit.To finish the pipe, I rubbed a small quantity of HALCYON II wax which is used for rusticated/ sandblasted surfaces and set it aside for a few moments. Thereafter I polished it with a horse hair shoe brush and a soft cotton cloth. These Somerset pipe are very well made and smoke fantastic. The quality of the vulcanite is high grade and feels good to clench. The finished pipe is shown below. Since the completion of this restoration, I have smoked this pipe and included it in my rotation. Believe you me, this pipe, like its sibling, smokes perfect with a nice, smooth draw right to the end. This leads me to think, is it only necessary to have Dunhill, Barling, Comoy’s etc, as fantastic smokers? Well, my personal experience with these two Somersets, is that while the above mentioned brands are excellent pipes, the lesser known ones do need to be looked at and not discarded outright!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about this brand and the write up. Cheers…………

 

Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes – Restoring a Barontini De Luxe Brandy


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is also from George Koch’s estate. It is a Barontini De Luxe Brandy shaped pipe with a quarter bend. The pipe was one of many that came to my brother and me in several shipments of pipes from George’s daughter Kathy. When Jeff got each box the pipes were well wrapped and packed. Jeff unwrapped them and took the following photo to give an idea of the volume of the pipes that we purchased. The Barontini came in mixed in a box of pipes much like the one below.In each of the previous blogs that I have written on the restoration of George’s pipes I have told his story. To me it is important to keep the story attached to the pipes that came from his collection. Each pipe I work on I remind myself of the man and in the work give a remembrance to the pipeman who owned these pipes. Having held a large number of his pipes in my hand and having a pretty good feel for the shapes, colour and stems that he liked, I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. I am including Kathy’s brief bio of her father and a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”. Here is George’s bio written by his daughter.

Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others.

He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan.

We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all. 

He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace.  Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter

Each blog I have posted I thank Kathy for providing this beautiful tribute to her Dad. Jeff and I appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. We are also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.

The next the pipe is a nicely shaped Barontini Brandy with an acrylic stem. It has beautiful grain all around the bowl – straight, flame and birdseye that is highlighted by the rich reddish brown stain. The top of the bowl is had some burn marks and some damage. The stamping on the top side of the shank read Barontini over De Luxe. On the underside it has the shape number 702 and Italy at the shank/stem junction. The gold and brown, swirled, pearlized Lucite stem had light tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. The interior of the pipe was caked and had cobwebs. Jeff took these photos before he started the cleanup work on the pipe. Jeff took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The rim top had some light lava overflow and some darkening. There appeared to be some rim damage on the inner edge toward the front of the bowl. You can see the wear on the rim top, the cake and remnants of tobacco in the bowl. It also looks like there are some cobwebs in the bowl. The pipe is dirty but in good condition.  He also took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl and shank from the side to show the grain on this pipe. The finish is very dirty but this is a beautiful pipe. Jeff took some photos to capture the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. The first photo shows the top side of the shank with the stamping Barontini De Luxe and the second shows the shape number 702 on the underside. The third photo shows the ITALY stamping on the underside near the stem. There is also a B stamped on the acrylic stem.The next two photos show the stem surface. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There is also some wear on the sharp edge of the button.I looked up some information on the brand on the Pipephil website to get a quick overview of the history (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b2.html). I did a screen capture of the listing for the brand. The fascinating thing that I learned in this quick overview was the connection to the entire Barontini family and to other companies like Aldo Velani. It is interesting to see the breadth of the brand in the following screen capture. The  pipe I am working on it stamped like the third photo down – the Classica and the B on the stem is identical to that pipe’s stamping.Pipedia gives further history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barontini,_Ilio) under the listing for Ilio Barontini. I quote that article in full as it has the connection to the De Luxe pipe that I am working on.

Cesare Barontini, who was in charge of the Barontini company since 1955, helped his cousin Ilio Barontini to establish a pipe production of his own.

Ilio started to produce machine-made series pipes of the lower to the middle price categories. Fatly 80% of the pipes went to foreign countries, the bulk being produced for various private label brands. Some of the own lines like “de Luxe”, “Etna” or “Vesuvio” gained a certain popularity. Citation: “Next to excellent craftsmanship Ilio Barontini pipes offer a wood quality, that is almost unrivalled in this price category!”.

The pipes being around still there were some unconfirmed utterances that Ilio Barontini brand has been absorbed by Cesare Barontini or even Savinelli. Who knows?

Now I had some idea of the maker of this Barontini. It appears to be one of the machine made Barontinis in the De Luxe line. Fueled by that information it was time to get working on the pipe itself and see what I had to do with it.

Jeff had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The rim was thoroughly cleaned and the damaged areas were obvious. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The Lucite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the profile it cast. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.   I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. Jeff was able to remove all of the tar and oils but you can now see the damaged areas on the surface clearly. There are damaged spots on the front inner edge and the back inner edge. There are also some deep dents and nicks in the flat surface of the rim. The acrylic/Lucite stem had tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem just ahead of the button. There was one deeper tooth mark on the underside near the button.I decided to address the damage to the rim top first. I topped the bowl on a topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I removed the damaged surface of the rim and made it smooth once again.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim. The rim top is looking far better at this point.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim off after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The rim really shone once it was polished. Once it was polished the rim was ready to be stained. I started by using stain pens. I used a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the bowl. It was the closest I could get to matching the bowl. Once it cured it was streaked and not quite a match. The first photo below shows the rim after the stain pen.I carefully wiped the rim down with some isopropyl alcohol to smooth out the stain. Once it was smooth I restained it with some Fiebing’s aniline stain. I used a tan coloured stain and flamed it once I had stained the rim. I repeated staining and flaming until the coverage on the rim matched the bowl sides. The second photo below shows the look of the rim after this staining. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim matches well but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the top and more chatter and a deeper tooth mark on the underside of the acrylic stem at the button. I cleaned off the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the deep tooth mark with clear super glue. Once it cured, I sanded both sides smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth chatter and the repair into the surface of the stem. It did not take too much sanding to remove the marks and smooth out the stem surface. When it was sanded it was smooth and the marks were gone. I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several 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. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. This is the thirteenth pipe that I am restoring from Kathy’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward once again to hearing what Kathy thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Barontini Brandy from George’s estate. More will follow in a variety of brands, shapes and sizes. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust from her father send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

Restoring a Sasieni Fantail


Blog by Paresh Despande

This large sized Sasieni was always on my mind to work on and I wanted to work on it at leisure as I wanted to do justice to this solid large piece of briar. What intrigued me was the shape of the stem towards the bore end where it flared out to a large extent which was made more pronounced due to pinching of the stem between the saddle and button end.

The pipe has beautiful, densely packed small sized birdseye grain on the right side of the stummel while the left side has a mix of straight and birdseye grains. The front and back of the stummel has densely packed cross grains. The shank has a flat bottom in the middle making it a sitter and has cross grains running across the top and bottom surface. Right and left side of the shank shows small, beautiful and densely packed birdseye. The shank, on the left side, bears the stamp of Sasieni” over “FANTAIL” and football COM stamp of “MADE IN” over “ENGLAND” towards the bowl. At the edge of the shank where it meets the stem, it is stamped “PATD- 170067”, which has been circled in red. On the right side, it is stamped “LONDON MADE” with numeral “55” towards the bowl. The stem bears the stamp “F” on the left side of the saddle. Except for the PATD number, the stampings are crisp and clear. I wanted to gain some background information about this brand and unravel some detailed information and period it was made in, about this particular pipe that I have been working on. There are three sites I frequent for information, first being Pipedia.com, second is pipephil.eu and the third being rebornpipes.com. Over a period of time, I have realized that Mr. Steve Laug has been working on pipes for such a long time that there are hardly any brands and models that he has not worked on and so, instead of reinventing the wheel, I first visit rebornpipes to eke out necessary information I seek. Luckily for me, Mr. Steve had indeed worked on a Sasieni Fantail wire rusticated and has researched this pipe. Here is the link to the blog written by him for necessary information and is a highly recommended read, https://rebornpipes.com/2017/06/07/sasieni-fantail-wire-rusticated-patent-billiard/.

I now know that “FANTAIL” is a Sasieni second line pipe and is from the “Family Era” from the period 1946 to 1979. Mr. Steve, thank you Sir for allowing me to reproduce your work in my write up. Now, that my curiosity has been satiated, I progress to my visual inspection of the pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION

This large sized straight billiard has its stummel covered in dust, oils and grime giving it a dull and sad appearance. The front of the stummel has two chips and will need to be addressed. The chamber has a thick cake which has been evenly reamed to a nice thickness of a dime!!!!! Either my grand old man had learned to care for his pipe during later years or this one belonged to his friend!!!! The rim top is clean but shows some darkening along the entire surface. The inner and outer edges of the rim are intact. It has a faint sweet smelling cake. The mortise and shank is clogged and will require a thorough cleaning.It is the stem which has, comparatively, the most damage on this pipe. Both the surfaces have tooth chatter and a couple of deep bite marks. This needs to be addressed.

THE PROCESS

Now that I have moved out of my hometown for work, I sorely miss Abha’s help in cleaning the chamber and the stummel. I cleaned the chamber of all the cake by reaming it with a Kleen Reem pipe cleaner. With my fabricated knife, I scrap the bottom and the walls of the chamber of all the remaining cake taking it down to solid bare briar. To smooth out the surface and get rid of last remnant cake, I sand it down with a 220 grit sand paper. I cleaned the internals of the shank and mortise with pipe cleaners and cue tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol (99.9%). I use this alcohol as it evaporates rapidly and leaves no odor behind. The chamber is now clean, smooth and fresh smelling. The internal walls of the chamber are solid with no signs of burn out or heat fissures, which is definitely a big relief. I resorted to light sanding of the rim edges with 220 grit sand papers to remove the very minor dents and chips on the inner edges. The rim surface does show darkening all along. I address this issue and the issue of a dirty stummel by cleaning it with Murphy’s oil soap and a tooth brush. I rinse it under tap water and dried it with paper towels. Thereafter I sand the rim surface with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I wipe down the rim surface with a moist cloth to get rid of the sanding dust.  I address the two chips in the front of the stummel by spot filling each chip with clear CA super glue. I let it cure overnight. Next day, with flat head needle file, I sand down these fills and further match these fills with the stummel surface using 400 and 800 grit sand papers. I am satisfied with the end result. Turning my attention to the stem, I clean the surfaces of the stem with alcohol and cotton pads. I sand the stem with a 220 grit sand paper to even out the minor tooth chatter and fill the deeper tooth bite marks with CA super glue and set it aside to cure for about a day. After the glue had cured, I sanded the fills with a flat head needle file. To further match the fills with the surface of the stem, I sanded it with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I fill the “F” stamp on the stem with whitener and carefully remove the extra smear, revealing a clear and bold stamp. Once I was satisfied with the stem repair, I started work on the stummel which has dried by now. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, using a cotton cloth and brute muscle power, I gave it a final polish. I re-attach the stem with the stummel. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up. Your comments are of utmost importance to me for improving my skills in restoration process as well as writing about it. Cheers!!!!!

PS: Apologies for poor quality of pictures. I will definitely try to work on it.

Transforming a Dr. Grabow “Omega”


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the prettiest of them all?” asked this “Omega”, looking deeply into my eyes!!!!! How I wish I could have promptly replied that it was “YOU”…. but I could not get myself to say so!!!!! It was then that I decided to work on this pipe and make an attempt at its transformation.

This bent billiards has “OMEGA” stamped on the left side of the shank over “DR. GRABOW” in block capital letters while on the right side it is stamped “IMPORTED BRIAR”. A nickel ferrule adorns the end of the shank and is devoid of any stampings. An “ACE OF SPADES” on the left side breaks the monotonous black of the stem. I searched pipedia.com for information about the brand and try to place the period when this model was introduced by Dr. Grabow. The site has very detailed information about the brand and various models and is a highly recommended read. I have extracted only the relevant portions here:-

Dr. Grabow pipes are the quintessential American brand. Made with care in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this 60-year-old line of inexpensive tobacco pipes is a favorite among new pipe smokers for its consistency and good taste. The famous smoking pipe brand gets its name from the owner Dr Grabow, a general physician who lived in Chicago.

Made in America since the 1930’s, Dr. Grabow tobacco pipes were named after “the good doctor” to help polish the smudged image of smoking a pipe to newly tobacco-leery American public. The line of pipes bearing Dr. Grabow’s name have become one of the best known pipe brands in North America.

The Dr Grabow pipes first began with Louis B Linkman of the M.Linkman and Co of Chicago. The trademark “Dr Grabow” itself actually begun at about 1932 and had the US patent number 1.896,800.

The birth of the Dr Grabow smoking pipe is simple enough. It started off when Dr Grabow himself and his acquaintance Dr Linkman regularly visited the local pharmacist at Brown’s Drug Store in Lincoln Park Chicago.

Dr Linkman was on the lookout for a doctor’s name to Christian an innovative line of pipes in order to mellow out the smoking apparel’s smoggy image. He asked Dr Grabow to allow him to use his name to which he agreed and the name has stuck since then. Linkman continued to manufacture his Dr Grabow pipes until 1953. 

The earliest of these exclusive pipes were stamped both with Linkman’s and Dr Grabow. They included a propeller emblem that was white in color at the top of the mouthpiece.

In 1944 the white propeller emblem was replaced with a white spade, a move that heralded the introduction of Linkman’s new Dr Grabow pipes. All of the newer entries included most of the earlier favorites as well as “TRU-GRAIN” and “SELECT”. Later models of Dr Grabow pipes were described as Imported Briar.

I further searched pipedia.com and found detailed and comprehensive information on the various lines and models of Dr. Grabow through the years and was able to date this Omega to 1975. Here is the link; https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Grabow_Models_(Series,Line)_Names_Through_the_Years

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION

The first thing that struck me like a jolt was the reddish brown/ very dark reddish purple, OMG!!!! I cannot even describe the color of the stain on this pipe; it was that unappealing to the eye to say the least. It just surprises me as to why my grand old man even bought it, if he had indeed bought it. You just feel like turning away from it. To add to its color woes, the stummel is covered in dust and grime of storage from all these years. The stummel has Custombilt like rustication emanating from the joint where the shank and stummel meet and move away from the bottom towards the rim top. Within this rustication we have very fine thin lines. The raised portion of these rustication have the same reddish brown coloration while within these rustication, it has dark color. The shank is plain and devoid of any rustication. There appears to be some kind of coat covering the entire stummel. All said and done, this coloration has to go!!!!! How am I going to do it, I really do not know, but IT HAS TO GO!!!!!! The chamber is lightly caked and has overflow of lava on the rim top. This will have to be cleaned and sanded down if the rim top surface is damaged underneath the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge has minor dents and dings.The stem appears to be ebonite and has a plastic feel to it. The stem is a copy of the famed Peterson’s P-Lip button with the difference in the bore being dead center on the end of the button as opposed to being on the top surface. It has extensive damage to the upper and lower surface of the lip. It is peppered with tooth chatter and has one deep bite mark each on both the surfaces. This will have to be addressed.The mortise is relatively clean and air flows freely through the airway in the pipe and shank.The nickel ferrule has lost its shine and shows minor spots of corrosion. I think it will polish up nicely.THE PROCESS

I had made a promise to this pipe that I shall make it “the prettiest of them all…” (Well, actually it was like “TRY” really) and thus the first and most logical start point was to address the color of the stummel. To make this pipe attractive, I felt that I should attempt to do the following:-

(a) Highlight the rustications.

(b) Get some shine on the stummel.

(c) Attempt to reveal the grains on the smooth shank.

(d) Highlight the contrast between the raised portions of the rustication with that of within the rustication.

Having identified what needs to be done, I turned my attention to how it could be done. SWOT analysis dictated that I needed to adopt processes which did not require any stains or coatings of lacquer as I did not have any. Also since I do not have any mechanical equipment, I had to adopt simpler and manual techniques. I decided that the best and easiest course of action for me would be to get rid of the original stain.

I started by reaming the chamber with a Kleen Reem pipe reamer and fabricated knife. I removed the complete cake from the chamber. I further sanded down the walls of the chamber with a 220 grit sand paper to smooth the walls and took the cake back down to the bare briar. I gently scraped out the little overflow of lava from the rim top. I also cleaned out the mortise and the shank with cue tips and pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol.Once the chamber was cleaned, I turned my attention to the stummel and tried to get rid of the lacquer coating. I started by wet sanding with a 1500 grit micromesh pad and soon realized that it would not work. I tried sanding with 800 grit sand paper without any success. Soon I found myself sanding the stummel with 150 grit sand paper. The lacquer was very difficult to get rid off and after a considerable time, I was finally able to completely remove the lacquer coating. Believe you me, my fingers had started to hurt and sitting at the table for 3-4 hours at a stretch caused cramps in my back. But the end result was pleasing.

Then began the arduous and time consuming process of sanding the stummel with micromesh pads. I proceeded to sand the stummel with micromesh pads, going through wet sanding with 1500-2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200- 12000 grit pads. I was very pleased with the way the stummel had turned out. I decided that I liked this finish and after further cleaning and polishing, the stummel would look just beautiful. Once I was through with micromesh pads, I cleaned the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and tooth brush. I paid special attention to the deep areas of the rustication, thoroughly cleaning it with the brush. I dried the bowl with cotton cloth and paper towels.I rubbed “Before and After Restoration balm” in to the stummel with fingers deep into the rustications and let it rest for a few minutes before I buffed it with a horse hair brush. Finally, I polished the stummel with a soft cotton cloth and muscle power!!!! I also polished the nickel ferrule with a jeweler’s cloth. Luckily, the corrosion was superficial and polished up nicely. Turning my attention to the badly damaged stem, I start by cleaning it with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I flamed the stem surface with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth chatter. The deeper tooth chatter and bite marks were filled with clear CA superglue. Thereafter began the time consuming process of curing, sanding with flat head needle file, 220 grit sand paper and finally by micromesh pads. In all, I had to repeat the fill and sand procedure thrice before resorting to final polish using micromesh pads. I also cleaned out the internals of the stem with pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. To finish the pipe, I rubbed a small quantity of Halcyon wax II on to the stummel and gave it a nice polish. The pipe now does look stunning. I love the way the pipe has turned out and I can proudly reply back to this Omega “IT’S YOU!!!!!!” The finished pipe is shown below.

Farida’s Dad’s Pipes #6 – Restoring a Charatan Make Distinction


Blog by Steve Laug

I am back working on one of the pipes that came from the estate of an elderly gentleman here in Vancouver. I met with his daughter Farida a year ago and we looked at his pipes and talked about them then. Over the Christmas 2017 holiday she brought them by for me to work on, restore and then sell for her. There are 10 pipes in all – 7 Dunhills (one of them, a Shell Bulldog, has a burned out bowl), 2 Charatan Makes, and a Savinelli Autograph. I have restored all but three of them – a Dunhill Shell and the two Charatan’s Makes. His pipes are worn and dirty and for some folks they have a lot of damage and wear that reduce their value. To me each one tells a story. I only wish they could speak and talk about the travels they have had with Farida’s Dad.

The bowl was thickly caked and the cake had flowed over onto the smooth finish on the rim top forming hard lava that made the top uneven. The inner and outer edges of the rim were both damaged. On the right front of the bowl the rim had a burned area – it was not a deep burn but it had darkened. On the back of the bowl there was damage on the inner edge of the bowl and it looked like it might be slightly out of round. The stem was oxidized but otherwise in good condition. There was a thick sticky, oily substance on the surface of the stem that I could scrape with my fingernail. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides in front of the button. I took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before I started the cleanup work. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The outer edge has damage on the front right – burn damage and wear that comes from lighting a pipe repeatedly in the same spot. The inner edge at the back middle also shows damage but I won’t know until I remove the thick lava overflow on the surface. The stem had tooth chatter and some bite marks on the top and the underside of the stem just ahead of the button.I took a photo of the left side shank stamping – it is readable but faint on the left side.It has been a while since I have worked on the remaining pipes that belonged to Farida’s Dad. I thought it might be helpful to remind us all of the background story of these pipes. Here is the material that I quoted in previous blogs. I have included both the written material and the photo that Farida included of her Dad.

When I wrote the blog on the Classic Series Dunhill and thinking about its travels, Farida sent me an email with a short write up on her Dad. She remembered that I had asked her for it so that I could have a sense of the stories of her Dad’s pipes. Here is what she wrote: My dad, John Barber, loved his pipes. He was a huge fan of Dunhill and his favourite smoke was St. Bruno. No one ever complained of the smell of St. Bruno, we all loved it. I see the bowls and they’re large because he had big hands. When he was finished with his couple of puffs, he would grasp the bowl in the palm of his hand, holding the warmth as the embers faded. The rough bowled pipes were for daytime and especially if he was fixing something. The smooth bowled pipes were for an evening with a glass of brandy and a good movie. In his 20s, he was an adventurer travelling the world on ships as their radio operator. He spent a year in the Antarctic, a year in the Arctic and stopped in most ports in all the other continents. He immigrated to Canada in the mid-fifties, working on the BC Ferries earning money to pay for his education. He graduated from UBC as an engineer and spent the rest of his working life as a consultant, mostly to the mining companies. Whatever he was doing though, his pipe was always close by. 

She sent along this photo of him with his sled dogs in the Antarctic sometime in 1953-1954. It is a fascinating photo showing him with a pipe in his mouth. He is happily rough housing with his dogs. As a true pipeman the cold does not seem to bother him at all. Thank you Farida for sending the photo and the background story on your Dad for me to use on the blog. I find that it really explains a lot about their condition and gives me a sense of who Dad was. If your Dad was rarely without a pipe I can certainly tell which pipes were his favourites.As I looked over the pipes I noted that each of them had extensive rim damage and some had deeply burned gouges in the rim tops. The bowls seemed to have been reamed not too long ago because they did not show the amount of cake I would have expected. The stems were all covered with deep tooth marks and chatter and were oxidized and dirty. The internals of the mortise, the airway in the shank and stem were filled with tars and oils. These were nice looking pipes when her Dad bought them and they would be nice looking one more when I finished.

Here are the links to the previous five blogs that I wrote on the five pipes that I have finished. The first was a Dunhill Shell oval shank pot (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/04/restoring-a-1983-dunhill-shell-41009-oval-shank-pot/). The second was a Dunhill Classic Series Shell Billiard (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/08/faridas-dads-pipes-2-restoring-a-1990-lbs-classic-series-dunhill-shell-billiard/). The third pipe was a Savinelli Autograph (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/15/faridas-dads-pipes-3-restoring-a-savinelli-autograph-4/). The fourth pipe was a Dunhill Red Bark Pot that was in rough shape (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/03/10/faridas-dads-pipes-4-restoring-a-dunhill-red-bark-pot-43061/). The fifth pipe was a Dunhill Root Briar Bent Billiard https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/07/faridas-dads-pipes-5-restoring-a-dunhill-root-briar-56-bent-billiard/

Today, I went back to the remaining three pipes in the collection today and chose to work on one of the Charatans – a triangular shank Dublin. It was dirty but I was able to read the stamping. On the top left side of the triangular shank it is stamped Charatan’s Make, over London, England over Distinction. On the right side it was stamped Made By Hand in the City of London. I cannot see any shape number on the shank as it is pretty worn. The smooth finish was sticky with oils and thick grime. The bowl felt oily to touch.

To try and figure out the era of the Charatan’s pipe I was working on I turned to the pipephil website on Logos and Stampings. There is some really helpful information on each of the lines of Charatan’s Make pipes that entered the market. Here is the link to the section of the site that I turned to, http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-charatan.html. There is an alphabetical listing of the lines but unfortunately they did not list the Distinction. The site did give a short history of the brand. I quote the portion that is most pertinent.

The brand was founded in 1863 by Frederik Charatan. When his father retired in 1910, Reuben Charatan took over the family business. All the pipes were handmade until 1973. The brand name has been overtaken by Dunhill in 1978 and sold in 1988 to James B. Russell Inc.(NJ, USA). During the period 1988-2002 Charatans were crafted by Butz Choquin in St Claude (France). Dunhill re-purchased Charatan brand name in 2002 and Colin Fromm (Invicta Briars, Castleford) followed up on freehand production.

I turned to Pipedia to see if I could find more information on the brand and possibly a link to the Distinction line (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Charatan) but once again in the general article it was not listed.  It did give a little more historical information. I quote the pertinent parts and have highlighted in bold the sections that give information on this particular pipe.

In 1863 Frederick Charatan, a Russian/Jewish immigrant, opened a shop in Mansell Street, located in the borough of Tower Hamlets, London E1, where he began to carve Meerschaum pipes. These pipes got very popular soon, and thus Charatan moved to a bigger workshop in Prescot Street, just around the corner. Here he began to make briar pipes which should make the name famous the world over. Charatan was the first brand to make entirely hand-made briars from the rough block to the finished pipe including the stems. The nomenclature “Charatan’s Make” refers to this method of production and was meant to differ Charatan from other brands who “assembled” pipes from pre-drilled bowls and delivered mouthpieces.

Being the undisputed No. 1 in English pipemaking, Charatan was approached by Alfred Dunhill who was unsatisfied with the quality of the pipes he imported from France. During 1908 – 1910 Dunhill bought pipes from Charatan paying exorbitant prices to ensure he had some of the very best pipes for sale in England. In 1910 he lured away Joel Sasieni, one of Charatan’s best carvers, and opened his own small pipe workshop on 28 Duke Street. On the retirement of his father in 1910 Reuben Charatan took over the family business…

…The pre-Lane period (prior to 1955) and the Lane era pipes (1955 to until sometime between 1979 – 1984) are of primary interest the collector. The Lane era is often quoted as beginning about 1950… Charatan records are almost non-existent before Lane due to a factory fire, making it difficult to date pre-Lane pipes. Charatan used 4 basic grades prior to 1950: Supreme, Selected, Executive, and Belvedere. After 1950 Herman Lane’s influence began, and the grades started to expand. In 1955 Lane took over sole distributorship of Charatan in the US. In 1957 he introduced the Supreme S. Most of his other introductions were from the 60’s and early 70’s…

The section called Miscellaneous Notes had some interesting information.

Charatan records indicate the DC (Double Comfort) bit was introduced in the 50’s, but some report seeing them in earlier production. Still others indicate they were introduced by Lane in 1960. Regardless, the DC bit is not an accurate way to date a pipe because many Charatan’s were made with regular and saddle type bits throughout the “Lane Era”…

…The Lane Trademark serif and circled L indicates the pipe is from the “Lane Era” (approx. 1955 to 1979 -1984?), however it appears that both the English factory or Lane themselves sometimes, or perhaps even often forget to stamp the L on a pipe. The Charatan factory was known for inconsistencies, especially in stampings. Therefore, although an L on the pipe definitely defines it as a Lane Era pipe, the lack of it could simply mean the pipe missed receiving the stamp from the factory. The lack of the trademark could also mean the pipe was destined for the European market.

…Generally, when the pipe is stamped with the BLOCK letters “MADE BY HAND” it means the pipe was probably made between 1958 and 1965”

Generally, block letters “MADE BY HAND” and some of the other nomenclature in script (i.e. City of London or Extra Large next to the MADE BY HAND) means the pipe was made sometime between 1965 and the mid 1970’s. The total script nomenclature “Made by Hand in City of London” evolved over this period of time, so many pipes had variants, such as Made By Hand in block letters and City of London in script, or some other variation of the terms or stampings. The Charatan Logo (CP) on the pipe bit was changed over the years.

I found an interesting Russian site on the various lines of Charatan. Here is the link to that site – http://brbpipe.ru/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/T-shop_1-2011-12_56-69_3.pdf. I did a google translation of the section on the DISTINCTION line.

The first of two medium sized factories. Neutral flame grain under contrast stain. Sometimes, however, there is a completely fantastic, almost perfectly smooth cross cut, sometimes – inclined to the side of the smoker flame. The most important thing: in this and the next grade begins a serious predominance of freehand over cataloged shapes.

The reason for this predominance lies in the strategy of educating carvers. Both medium grades are the launch pad for those who sought the right to work with top grades. Where the freaks have become the rule. The master had to work out a sufficient number of freehands and show a personal fantasy, so that he was allowed to work with the best, selective locks. And if at this “school of life” you could make extra profits … well, you remember that in this regard, there was a little iron Hermann.

I also found a description of the Distinction on VKpipes. Here is the link to that site, https://www.vkpipes.com/pipeline/charatans-make-distinction. I quote from that site.

Distinction was one of the most successful and valued lines of Charatan’s pipes from the “first Lane era” (1961-95). These years the old good Charatan’s family manufactory turned into the brightest star of the pipe making by means of new investments, a successful management and a creative approach of the Charatan’s artisans. There’s no shape number on the pipe: it was made by one of the leading carvers at this factory regardless any catalogues…

I also found a list of the various lines of Charatan’s Make Pipes that helps to place the Distinction in the hierarchy of pipes. Here is the link to the list https://www.reddit.com/r/PipeTobacco/comments/z9knr/charatan_models_shape_information_for_the/. I will be posting it as a separate blog shortly. The Distinction line is just below the Executive line and just ahead of the After Hours line – both Charatan’s Make Freehand Straight Grains.

From all of the historical data I could work through this Charatan’s Make Distinction was one of the higher grade pipe from the mid 1970’s Lane era. I continue digging further into the dating of the pipe, but what I had found was a good start for me. If some of you would like to try your hand at dating it more accurately as to the time period it came out you might want to check out the article on Pipedia on Dating Charatans (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dating_of_Charatans). I had enough for me to start working on the pipe itself and see what lay beneath the heavy tars and oils.

I began working on the pipe by reaming the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I used two of the four cutting heads to clean out the cake. The bowl was thickly caked so I started with the smaller of the two and worked my way up to the second one which was about the same size as the bowl diameter. I cleaned up what remained in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and scraped it back to bare briar. I finished by sanding the inside of the bowl with a dowel wrapped in sandpaper. I worked on the top of the rim with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scraped the heavy buildup that was there. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the top surface of the rim and clean up the damage to the edges. I did not have to remove a lot and repeatedly checked it to make sure that I had removed enough but not too much. I wanted to take the rim top down until the burn damaged area was smooth and minimized. The second photo shows the burned and damaged areas clearly. I continued to top the bowl until I had removed the damage. I wiped down the rim top with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the sanding dust. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to break through all the grime. I rinsed the bowl under running water to remove the grime and grit. I repeated the process until I had the bowl clean. I took photos of the cleaned exterior of the bowl to show where things stood at this point in the process. I used a folded piece of 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to bevel the inner edge of the rim until I had removed most of the damage on the back inner edge.With the externals clean it was time to clean out the mortise and shank and airway into the bowl and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula and a pen knife to loosen the tars before cleaning. I worked on the bowl and stem until the insides were clean. I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove any remaining oils and grimes from my cleaning of the bowl and rim. Once the alcohol evaporated the briar was very dry but also very clean. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect the new finish. It also evened out the stain coat and gave the stain a dimensional feel. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. There was some darkening on the rim top on the right front and around the inner edge of the bowl but the briar was solid all around the bowl. The bowl looked really good at this point in the process. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter on both sides with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned the surface of the stem with alcohol on a cotton pad and filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and set the stem aside to let the repair cure.While the stem repair was curing I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls and put a folded pipe cleaner in the shank. I filled the bowl with alcohol to leech out the oils and tars in the bowl. I set the bowl in an old ice cube tray and let it sit throughout the day while I was at work. I find that cotton balls work as well as kosher salt and the folded pipe cleaner leeches tars out of the shank as well. The first photo shows the pipe when I set it up early in the morning. The second shows it after it sat all day. The cotton balls were dark brown with the oils that had wicked out of the briar. The pipe smells fresh and new now!When the repair had cured I used a needle fill to clean up the sharp edge of the button. I sanded the repairs on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the rest of the surface of the vulcanite.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to further protect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it a final rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry.  With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a more aggressive buff of Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several 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. This is the sixth of Farida’s Dad’s pipes that I am restoring from his collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Farida thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. This Charatan Distinction will soon be on the rebornpipes store if you want to add it to your rack. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another of the her Dad’s pipes. I have two more of his pipes to work on – one more Dunhill and one Charatan’s Make.

New Life for a Karl Erik Made in Denmark 5A Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table was a beautifully grained Freehand. The bowl and shank had a smooth finish with mixed grain. The top of the bowl and the end of the shank was plateau. The shape of the bowl top was oval. The walls of the bowl are scooped on the sides and front of the bowl. Toward the back of each side there is a ridge running from the top to the bottom of the bowl. The bottom of the bowl is shaped almost like a spade. The shank is quite thick and the underside is stamped toward the shank end. It reads Karl Erik over Hand Made in Denmark over 5 over A. The bowl had a dull and dirty finish. There was a thin cake in the bowl and lava overflow and grime in the plateau on both the top and the end of the shank. The stem was oxidized but the Karl Erik KE logo was in perfect condition on top. There was tooth chatter on the top side and some deep tooth marks and chatter on the underside. I took photos of the pipe before I cleaned it up. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it. The plateau rim top was dirty and cake with lava overflow. The bowl had a thin cake but looked to be solid. The finish of the bowl was dull and looked tired. The second photo shows both the plateau top and the shank end. I reread the blog that Robert M. Boughton did for us on his “Grade O” Karl Erik to refresh my memory on the brand and the grading system (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/28/a-three-card-draw-for-an-inside-straight-with-an-old-karl-erik-hand-made-grade-o-freehand/). It was enlightening and from there I went on and looked up the brand on both Pipephil’s site and Pipedia to add some details to my knowledge.

Photo courtesy of Pipedia

From the Pipephil site I got a quick overview of the history of the brand. I quote: Brand created in 1965-66 by Karl Erik Ottendahl (1942 – 2004 †). In the best years he employed up to 15 craftsmen among which Bent Nielsen (see Benner) and Peder Christian Jeppesen. Former grading (ascending): from 4 to 1, and “Ekstravagant” (entirely handmade).  http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-k1.html

From Pipedia here is a bit more detailed history of the brand.

Karl Erik Ottendahl (1942 – 2004) was born in Aalborg (Jutland), just a few miles from the very northernmost tip of Denmark. He began smoking a pipe when he was 14 and upon leaving school he started an apprenticeship…as a lithographer at the age of 16.

While working as an apprentice he began hand carving pipes as a hobby. Many were given as gifts to his more senior colleagues. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he moved to Nairobi, Kenya to work as a lithographer during the 1962 war. While in that war torn country, he was unable to procure pipes for himself. In the face of such a predicament, he chose to continue to make pipes for his own use rather than go without.

Returning to Denmark after three years he couldn’t find a well paid… job, and so he began making a few pipes on the side to boost his income choosing his prenames “Karl Erik” – logo “KE” – for his label. When he managed to find some major Copenhagen pipe stores willing to sell his pieces his reputation grew little by little and he was finally able to purchase more and better machinery and began working full time as a pipe maker. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Erik

Pipedia also included a short description of the grading system that was used. From what I can discern the numbers ascended (6-1) and the letters ascended as well.

KE’s new grading used numbers ascending from D to A. The unique “Ekstravagant” pipes C, B, A, AA to AAA. These superb pieces of remarkable quality were, almost certainly, the least expensive high- quality hand made pipes coming from Denmark today! https://pipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Erik

I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the plateau on the rim top and shank end. I scrubbed it dry to remove the buildup of grime and tars on both surface. The bristles are hard enough to remove the grime and soft enough not to scratch the surface. It is a tool I always have close at hand when working on Freehand pipes.Once the buildup was gone from the top and shank end I scrubbed the entire exterior with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the dirt on the surface of the briar and the remaining dust in the plateau. I rinsed it under running water to remove the soap and debris from the pipe. I dried it off with paper towels and twisted the paper towels into the bowl to remove the light cake that was there. The pipe was starting to look really good. The grain stood out and the contrast was nice. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping. You can read the stamp easily and the grade markings though more faint are still readable.I scrubbed out the shank – working on the mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean. I cleaned the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners as well. I always use 99% isopropyl alcohol because of the low percentage of water in it and the quick evaporation rate.With the interior and exterior of the pipe clean I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the plateau on the rim top and shank end as well as into the smooth briar on the rest of the bowl and shank. The Balm works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and the help of a horsehair shoe brush. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The briar came alive with the balm. I took the following photos to give a picture of the pipe at this point in the process. With the bowl finished at this point (other than the final buffing and waxing) I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I painted the deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the dent. It worked better than I expected and reduced the size of the bite mark significantly. (The first photo below is the stem prior to heating with the flame).The KE logo on the stem was in perfect condition so I worked around that so as not to damage it. I lightly sanded the stem down with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and cleaned out the debris from the tooth marks with a cotton swab and alcohol. Once the stem was cleaned up I filled in the tooth mark with black super glue and set the stem aside to let the glue cure. Later in the afternoon when the glue had hardened I sanded the repair smooth with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the rest of the stem surface.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to preserve and protect the rubber. After the final pad I gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. I the polished the bowl and stem on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond to remove the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and stem 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. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful Karl Erik Freehand. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.