Tag Archives: using a retort

The Mystery of a Sterling Imported Briar Continues

by Robert M. Boughton


In my online quest for any information whatsoever concerning a Sterling Imported Briar pipe – brand, model or even a whisper in a smoker’s forum – I went full tilt boogie.  In the end, I added “rebornpipes” to the Google search.  If it weren’t for Steve’s blog about a Sterling Imported Briar author a while back, I would have come up empty handed.  Steve’s research was much more meticulous and imaginative.  Nevertheless, his only definite conclusion was that his pipe was a US import, but “How it came to have a British Hallmarked Silver band on the shank is shrouded in mystery and I will probably never figure out the connection.”

The briar was a little dirty and dinged, and there were some imperfections such as small fills.  Serious work was needed on the chamber and rim.  With the usual care, the stem would be fine.  A little stinger in the tenon was not special enough to keep.  For whatever reason, including the possibility that the stem was a replacement, the tenon was too big for the shank.  Despite the words sterling silver on the band and the name of the billiard, the metal was something less than sterling and would have to go – another indication that prior fiddling was done.  The band ended up being the last problem I fixed. The band slid off before the alcohol soak of the stummel.I gave the stem an OxiClean bath. Sanding with 400, 600 and 1000 paper followed by micro meshing made the stem much better.  I took the tenon diameter enough to fit all the way in the shank.Here is the stummel after the alcohol soak. I reamed and sanded the chamber with 60-grit paper. I used the same coarse paper on the rim before smoothing it with 220 and 320.I discovered a slight problem when the 14.5mm real sterling silver band I ordered arrived, due to my error, of course, not Vermont Freehand’s. I needed 15mm instead of the exact diameter of the stem opening.Careful not to ruin the crisp nomenclature, I took off 0.5mm with 60-grit and smoothed it with everything up to 400.  The exposure on the first shot below is way off.  I retorted the pipe, stained the stummel with Fiebing’s Moccasin Brown leather dye and buffed with micro mesh from 3600-12000. It was time to Super Glue the new band on.

All that was left were buffing the stem and stummel with Red Tripoli and carnauba and polishing the band with Wright’s Silver Cream. SOURCE

Kaywoodie Connoisseur 49 Large Oom Paul

Blog by Andrew Selking

It is an honor to once again write an article for Steve’s blog.  For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Andrew and a bit obsessive about Kaywoodie pipes and the entire Kaufman Brothers and Bondy’s (KB&B) family.  Until recently my favorite pipe has been a four-digit Yello Bole 2062 small Oom Paul.  I’ve had this large Oom Paul in the drawer, waiting for restoration, for over a year.  (Sorry I forgot to take a before picture).oom1I start this pipe as always by soaking the bowl in the alcohol bath.  Here is the pipe right after it came out.oom2Next I reamed the bowl.  As you may have noticed this is a rather large bowl, my reamer barely reached the bottom.  This also accounts for the reaming damage done to the rim.oom3The pipe has a replacement push stem, which initially caused me to think it was an export model, but looking at the shank you can see the groves that the stinger originally screwed into.oom4I find that the alcohol bath does a nice job of softening any protective coating or wax.  In order to remove the rest, I used 0000 steel wool and acetone.oom5Here is what the pipe looked like after removing the finish.oom6My next step was to further clean the insides of the pipe and stem using a retort.oom7The average bowl takes two cotton balls to fill it, three if it’s kind of big.  This bowl swallowed four cotton balls.  Here is a picture of them after the retort (notice how the boiling alcohol pulled the tar out of the wood).oom8As you may have noticed in previous pictures, the rim on the bowl was in rough shape; scorching, reaming damage, and deep dents.  I planned to top the rim and the end of the shank to remove some of the worst damage, but I decided to leave the dimensions as close to original as possible; so I refrained from getting crazy with the sand paper.

I used 150 grit sand paper on a piece of glass to top the rim and shank, followed by some 400 grit.  A note of caution when topping an Oom Paul, the shank and the bowl are close to each other.  Be sure not to take off wood where you don’t intend to.oom9Once the rim was to my liking I started on the bowl with the 400 grit wet/dry.  I sanded around the marking on the shank and kept the stem inserted while working on the end of the shank to prevent rounding.oom10 oom11Here is the bowl after the 400 grit.oom12After the 400 grit I turned to a progression of micro-mesh pads (1500-12,000 grit) to polish the wood.oom13I used the same progression on the stem.  I polished the stem using a rotary tool set on the lowest speed with white rouge and carnauba wax.  I used my buffing wheel (aka heartbreaker) with white rouge and carnauba wax on the bowl.  I reassembled the pipe and wiped on a couple of light coats of Halcyon II wax.  Here is the finished result.oom14 oom15 oom16 oom17 oom18Just to give some perspective on the size of this pipe, here is my four-digit yellow bowl for comparison.oom19 oom20 oom21 oom22Normally I wait to smoke a restored pipe until after taking pictures, but we were without power this morning so I loaded the bowl with some Dunhill Early Morning Pipe and commenced to smoke.  The draw is fantastic!  After about an hour I thought I must be getting close to the bottom of the bowl so I got my pipe cleaning tool and started to clean the bowl.  I had only smoked half the bowl!  This the first pipe I’ve encountered that has a basement!

I now have two Oom Paul pipes in my collection.  I imagine they will vie for my attention for a very long time.

Identifying, Categorizing and Refurbishing a Masta Diplomat

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Member, Facebook Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society
https://www.facebook.com/roadrunnerpipes/ Now Open!
Photos © the Author except as noted

“Who are you?” [Inigo Montoya screamed to the man in black.]
“No one of import.  Another lover of the blade.”
“I must know!”
“Get used to disappointment.”

— William Goldman (b. 1931), U.S. novelist, playwright, screenwriter, in The Princess Bride, Ch. 5, 1973

Having a firm belief that no one and nothing in this world exists without importance and consequence, although whether for good or bad is debatable, I have developed a certain passion for inquiring of those I think might have the answers I seek.  When on frequent occasions that approach fails, I research.  By no means do I always find conclusive documentation, but I’m with Inigo Montoya in the great story of the power of true love referenced above, rejecting the worldview of growing accustomed to disappointment.  When successful, I tend to be thorough; when I strike out, it’s more like crashing and burning.

By way of an example of a success story, I found myself unable to make out any nomenclature on the pipe this blog concerns other than Made in London above England, and below that what looked like 140.  I went on a hunch that it might be a Comoy’s and consulted a meticulous list of that maker’s shape numbers.  They skipped from 133 to 158.  At this early, eyes-on exam stage of the refurbish, I was not even convinced the first digit of the shape was a 1 – it might have been a mere scratch – and so I looked for just 40.  Both that and 41 were missing.  Thus, for the sake of pure curiosity, I made my way all the way up through the 800s and discovered that Comoy’s has a 340 and a 440, both straight and with an M denoting Medium (the former a billiard and the latter a Rhodesian, FYI).

Nowhere near the point of declaring defeat, I took what some Internet search engines refer to as the “I’m Feeling Lucky” approach and Googled “tobacco pipe 140 shape number.”  I should have been in Vegas with the hit I got that was luckier than my wildest dreams, for at the top of the list on the first page was “Images of tobacco pipe 140 shape number.”  The third of these in the preview window was the spitting image of my pipe, albeit a sandblasted version.masta1 Armed with a brand name, I looked first in Pipephil, where I read of Masta being a British pipe brand founded in about 1900 that was “integrated to Parker-Hardcast[le] Ltd in 1967.” Pipephil, as it turned out, had a shape chart that was not savable. That’s why I tracked down this copy elsewhere, showing shape 140, a Diplomat, relegated to the end under “Other Shapes.”masta2 Here is a 1938 bill of sale from the Masta Patent Pipe Co. Ltd. to Las Vieilles Bruyères de Corse. (Old Briars of Corsica).masta3 Once again I found discordant information on a brand, and this time differing views of its quality. Moving to Pipedia provided the fullest overall account of Masta’s lineage, with the same approximate information as Pipephil, but noted the complete full name as the Masta Patent Pipe Company Ltd. Pipedia goes still further in pointing out that the brand seems to be out of production, and since Dunhill owns Parker/Hardcastle, it is therefore a big part of the picture. Claiming, without source citation, that as part of Parker/Hardcastle, Masta was produced “primarily for the Scandinavian market,” the Pipedia entry concludes with an unfortunate appraisal that “Masta was at the end rarely the equal of a Parker.”

This last rather snarky comment, which paints Masta as inferior rather than superior to Parker (but leaves Hardcastle unmentioned), is also vague and raises several issues. One, when indeed did the manufacture of Masta pipes end? Two, in what way or ways was the brand somehow less than the implied superlative qualities of a Parker? Three, given Dunhill’s standards during the period of time in question, which I acknowledge is uncertain but clear enough, why would that great pipe maker assign an insignificant brand to Parker/Hardcastle, much less make such a careless purchase in the first place? Four, for argument’s sake (and I am not making this argument), let me throw in the key question: if Pipedia is right, could an antipathy of the two proud old British pipe houses toward the perceived interloper, Masta, have affected a decline in the quality of the new kid on the block? The last part is thrown in as something to chew on, that’s all.

I propose the following answers to these basic questions.
1. The end of the line for Masta remains undetermined, but the probable answer is sometime in the early to mid-1970s.
2. In no way whatsoever are Masta pipes either inferior or superior to Parker. Both brands are often sandblasted to hide blemishes or stained dark enough that any irregular grain is obscured. There are, of course, gorgeous exceptions in both brands.
3. Dunhill’s acquisition of Masta was anything but uncalculated. The reasons Dunhill purchased Masta were premeditated to cash in on the market for well-made pipes that could be offered at lower prices, and to eliminate one more of the many competitors of the day.
4. Addressing the possibility that an overblown and unwarranted competitive drive could have existed, with Parker and Hardcastle gunning to discredit and eliminate the hapless Masta, all I can do is resurrect the great line from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in”: You bet your sweet bippy it could have. But to be fair, there is a lack of strong support for this theory.
masta4masta5 An account of the – ahem – sticky history between Dunhill and Hardcastle comes from the trustworthy source of Iwan Ries and Co. Ltd., tobacconists since 1857. Founded in 1908, Hardcastle made for itself a solid reputation “among the numerous British mid-graders.” [Emphasis added on the final word.] Then, in 1935, Dunhill made a somewhat bold challenge to Hardcastle, throwing down the glove as it were, by commencing construction of a new factory smack next-door. Within a year, the Hardcastle family had sold 49% of the interest in its business to Dunhill.

In 1946, Dunhill delivered the final blow to Hardcastle, buying its remaining shares and consuming it altogether into a mere Dunhill subsidiary. Members of the Hardcastle clan were allowed to continue serving on its board and retain a semblance of independence that came to an end in 1967 when – you guessed it – Hardcastle was put to the final indignity of being merged with the likes of Dunhill’s Parker Pipe Co. created in 1923. On top of everything else, being forced to tolerate close-quarters with a riff-raff commoner such as the Masta Patent Pipe Co. Ltd. must have been the harrowing final straw for both Parker and Hardcastle.

Now we come to another authority concerning Masta: a British seller of estate pipes called Reborn Briar (no relation to this forum). Call me biased if you like, but this site being situated in the same country of manufacture of all four of the related brands mentioned, I suspect it might have an upper hand as far as insights are concerned.

According to Reborn Briar, Dunhill acquired Masta in 1960 as one of its own seconds, seven years before the Parker/Hardcastle additions and reassignment of the Masta name. A splendid-looking Masta Patent Pipe Co. natural tall billiard sitter that was sold by Reborn Briar for GB£40 (a tad more than US$51 at today’s exchange rate) can be seen at the first source link below. An obvious smooth version of the sandblast pictured above, the pipe has beautiful birds-eye grain and a sleek but sturdy look to it, by every angle shown ready to provide a cool, pleasant tobacco enjoying experience. I would, in fact, be happy to add the pipe to my own collection at that price.

Last but not least is the telling information about Dunhill’s low view of Parker pipes that is related with chilling, blunt eloquence by Cup o‘ Joes. To begin, consider Dunhill’s word for the pre-worked stummels it passed on to Parker as “its failings,” rather than the standard term seconds, for stummels deemed less than ideal for use with its own name under the quintessential English pipe maker’s exacting standards of excellence. In fact, during the early relationship between Dunhill and Parker, many of the unfinished pipes it dumped on Parker bore a large X over the Dunhill stamp. Even “Damaged Price” with the actual revised amount was made a permanent imprint in the wood. What’s more, not just a minor flaw or two separated a pipe destined to be a Parker instead of a Dunhill. The crude shapes passed off to Parker would have been rejected altogether after the initial turning process because of significant flaws. Perhaps most telling of the Dunhill-Parker unhappy connection is a lack of any documentation that Dunhill ever marketed or advertised Parkers in its catalogs or stores. For more details on this no-doubt stressed liaison, see the last source link below.

Nuff said about that.

masta6masta7masta8masta9 The first order of business was scooping out old tobacco that had the unusual appearance of being better suited for cigarettes.masta10 I ran a few Everclear-soaked cleaners through the shank and bit before giving most of the stummel a nice, long soak in alcohol, careful to an almost neurotic state not to leave the shank submerged. I will never forget the GBD Prestige debacle in which I obliterated the last remaining revenant-like nomenclature, and was determined to avoid the same mistake. I made periodic turns of the bowl in the Everclear to keep the stripping of old finish even. I have heard that using strong alcohol to clean Lucite air holes can lead to severe damage to the polymethyl methacrylate plastic (the same as Perspex). Perhaps that is so, but in my experience a quick job of it is safe and effective. No harm was done to this bit in its refurbish.masta11masta12 After about an hour and a half, I removed the stummel from the alcohol, worked one regular pipe cleaner (not bristled and not extra fluffy) through the shank and another through the bit, to dry the inside of the plastic and ensure no damage; stuffed a small soft cotton gun cleaner cloth into the chamber and scrubbed that area dryer while doing the same to the outer part of the wood. I took off the remaining stain with 320-grit paper.masta13masta14 The bit, while a good match for the easy bent Diplomat shape of the original Vulcanite one that came engraved with an M on the pipe, was not an even fit to the shank. Note the gap. Holding the bit and the opening of the shank side by side up to a light, I saw the problem was in the bit that was uneven on the right side of the second picture below (the left in the photo). I admit I still have trouble with the counter-intuitive nature of thinking my way through how to adjust this kind of misalignment, but I used 150-grit paper in slow, patient steps until it fit.masta15masta16masta17 Then I reamed the chamber and sanded it with 150-, 220- and 500-grit paper.masta18 Micro meshing the stummel all the way from 1500-12000, the briar took on a nice, darker shine.masta19masta20masta21 After applying Fiebing’s medium brown boot conditioner and flaming the alcohol out of it, I progressed from 3600-12000 micromesh before achieving the lightness I wanted with superfine “0000” steel wool.masta22masta23masta24masta25masta26 The tenon was undersized, making the bit spin, and so I added a small layer of Black Super Glue. After it dried, I retorted the pipe – again violating established practice by boiling the Everclear through the Lucite bit and into the chamber, but also again with complete success.masta27 Very gentle turning of the steel wool around the tenon took it from an over-tight fit to just right, twisting onto the bit with ease. When the retort was finished, I once more ran a cleaner through the bit’s air hole to assure it stayed in shape, and both ends of two more in the shank until they came out clean.

Thinking the bit was done, upon closer examination I noticed very fine scratches. I decided to see if an OxiClean soak would work those out, and indeed it did. I completed the project by running the bit on the clean electric buffer and the stummel using brown Tripoli and carnauba, alternated on the “clean” buffer, which, by the way, I do in fact clean on a regular basis.masta28masta29masta30masta31
Masta pipes, before and during their affiliation with Dunhill/Parker/Harcastle, were well-crafted instruments for enjoying tobacco and, in many cases, beautiful pieces of work. Whatever the reason for its eventual demise, the Masta Patent Pipe Co. Ltd. name should be remembered, and the examples of its creations available for purchase today are more than worthy of consideration by pipers in general and collectors in particular. Or maybe vice-versa.



Spotlight: Ladies Pipes, Part 3/7, a Tiny Medico Acorn

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

Two old buddies are heading off on their Annual Fishing Trip. For argument’s sake we’ll call them Kevin and Bob.
Bob notices that Kevin is being more grumpy than usual and tries to lighten things up by way of conversation.
Bob: “So Kev, last week was your birthday, happy belated.”
Kevin: (grudgingly) “Thanks.”
Bob: “Say, did, Laura, buy you that Estate Dunhill that you were constantly hinting at?”
Kevin: “Na”
Bob: “Well what did she get you instead?”
Kevin: “SUV.”
Bob: “New or used?”
Kevin: “New of course.”
Bob is extremely puzzled as Kevin is still driving the same beat-up pickup that was already old when Saddam was considered an ally.
Bob: “You know, Kev, you and I have been friends for a long time, and I’m entitled to say that you are an ungrateful sour puss. Laura buys you a New SUV instead of a second hand pipe, and that has you in a bad mood.”
Kevin: “Humph!”
Bob: “Well what kind of an SUV was it anyway?”
Kevin: “Socks, Underwear, Viagra”
— Thanks to mate on smokingpipes.com/forums. (I don’t know, but for some reason this struck me as a good gift idea for the next man who gives a lady grief for enjoying a pipe.)

Steve comments now and then on the pleasure he gets from researching a pipe’s history. I know his motivation is not to tuck away, in his mind and for his own use, the information he gathers. I can’t say for sure what drives Steve, but I suspect he, also, is a natural born reporter – which is to say collector and sharer of information – with an insatiable longing to spread his news to readers as well as to supplement or in some cases create new pipe lore available online. Steve laughed at this when I suggested the notion, but I would say his crowning achievement so far is the definitive and exhaustive research that got to the bottom (which was deep) of the complex origins and Byzantine life of Brewster pipes – a close second to his exposé on the history of the Colossus Pipe Factory (CPF).

As a former freelance news reporter/photographer and still a spot news enthusiast, not to mention aspiring literary writer and pursuer of other investigative endeavors, I have a knack of my own for probing. When I can’t find any mention whatsoever of a pipe brand, I therefore become somewhat vexed. This was the case in particular with the first two pipes I restored for this series. One was a Frasa (or maybe FRASA as an acronym) French natural bent billiard;. The other was a Clinton natural straight oval that was neither the Israeli Alpha brand type nor the U.S. variety. Forever a dogged reporter at heart and also having a serious case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, however, I intend to stay on these stories and others until I uncover the facts. The truth is out there.

As for Medico, there is much to be found online and in actual bound and printed books on pipes and the long, glorious history of their peaceful enjoyment. Indeed, the latter tools still exist, however tenuous their future. I hope and pray they survive for as long as Mankind occupies this planet, if not beyond. The history of Medico began with S.M Frank & Co.in New York in 1851, giving S.M. Frank the claim to the oldest pipe manufacturer in the U.S. By the time Frank formed Medico Pipes in 1957, it had already consumed eight other pipe makers, some still celebrated and others less remembered: the Manhattan Briar Pipe Co. in 1922; William DeMuth & Co. (WDC) in 1937; The Kaywoodie Co. (later Kaywoodie Pipes Inc.), Yello-Bole, Kaufman Brothers & Bondy (KB&B), the Reisss-Premier Corp. and the New England Briar Pipe Co. in 1955, and the New Jersey Briar Pipes Co. in 1956.

Discussions today about Medico pipes, in person or online forums, can become downright nasty, pitting vehement supporters against rabid critics. Nevertheless, older Medicos certainly possess a certain heightened quality and charm, and the brand’s lines are still made to be inexpensive and durable. As cigarsinternational.com put it, Medicos are “no-nonsense pipes made for the everyman.” That, they no doubt definitely are, at prices ranging from $15.99-$39.99. Medico has made pipes with materials including traditional briar, Brylon (an S.M. Frank synthetic invention of high temperature resin and wood flour) and even a unique bent tall billiard covered with a mysterious material described by Pipephil as either felt, synthetic fur “or a piece of wall-to-wall carpet.” Well, that settles that. To tell the truth, I would love to own one of those, if only for show-and-tell and to be able to call myself a carpet piper, despite the risk of static-electric charges and burns.Lady1SOME FEMALE SMOKERS AND PIPE MAKERS
I have put out various general calls for help in my local and online pipe communities searching for women who smoke pipes and would be willing to share some of their experiences and preferences, and my friend Liz invited me to become a Friend of her Facebook Ladies of the Briar Group. I still need to pursue that line, but at least have four blogs left to do so.

Since my second ladies pipe blog, I have re-focused my research on areas of interest I had not even considered until some other friends mentioned them. The one was revealed to me by Jennifer, the owner of Stag Tobacconist in Albuquerque where I am a very frequent fixture. The other, suggested to me by another Smoking Forums UK friend, Ed, was a fact that struck me as so obvious I was embarrassed to have overlooked the idea. Both, I believe, will prove of great interest.

Unknown to me until Jennifer’s revelation, was that Samuel Gawith Fire Dance Flake – a Virginia mix with blackberry, vanilla and brandy flavorings that was a favorite of mine back in my aromatic-heavy days but remains a blend I still enjoy on occasion – was formulated by one of the few female tobacco blenders in the U.S. The light flavorings and Best Brown Virginia used give Fire Dance a nice little bite.Lady2Of more significance is the presence of females – ye gads, what’s the world coming to? – in the business of making pipes. Ed mentioned the following names and provided a few links, worried these were not enough, and I looked up the rest to get samples of their work: Vilma Armellini, one of three daughters of the great Italian pipe maker Mauro Armellini and who regularly assisted her father in making many of his pipes and took over the business upon his death; Anne Julie; Nanna Ivarssen, and two newcomers who have been crafting fine pipes for the past several years, Sabina Santos and Scottie Piersal. Alas, I have been unable to locate a pipe made entirely by Vilma Armellini, but the first photo below shows her father’s work that likely included her help. I will, you can bet, continue looking.Lady3 Lady4 Lady5 Lady6 Lady7In light of my severe case of P.A.D., I expect to add samples of these brilliant women’s pipe crafting art to my collection as soon as possible.

Now, for the drab little Medico Real Briar acorn as I first saw it.Lady8 Lady9 Lady10 Lady11The bit looked like this close up.Lady12I put it in an OxiClean bath and the stummel in used Everclear (not to drink, but to strip prior pipes).Lady13I took the bit out after a half-hour or so and wet micro meshed it. Then I went ahead and buffed it with red and white Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba.Lady14I apologize for the gunk in the last photo. I just noticed it, but I assure you it came off with a wipe, or I wouldn’t have sold it the next day. About an hour after putting the stummel into the Everclear, I removed it and swabbed the chamber with one small soft cotton square and the outside with another.Lady15 Lady16 Lady17As usual, there was still old stain to remove, but other than uncommon situations such as removing that awful red varnish used on almost all pipes made in China , for example, I prefer not to let the wood soak too long. A little sanding with 220-grit paper in easy, even strokes, for the most part in the same direction, worked off the rest of the drab and dreary cloaking stain on the briar that had left darkness there and nothing more, as Edgar Allen Poe wrote.Lady18 Lady19 Lady20Call me anything other than Ismael, but I always get a distinct rush when the stummel is ready for micro meshing. In an average restoration of this type, with no serious, time-consuming obstacles, micro meshing most of the time is the halfway + 1 point, or the hump of the project. However, with five steps to go before completion of the pleasant task – it was better than the movie, which I had seen 10 times already – I was exactly halfway finished. The point, however obtuse, is that in my mind I was almost to the finish line. Oh, never mind! Alright, then, I proceeded to micro mesh from 1500-12000.Lady21 Lady22 Lady23Next up was re-staining the stummel, using Lincoln brown alcohol-based shoe and boot leather dressing.Lady24I also enjoy the brief puff of blue fire after holding my Bic or a good kitchen match close to the stain-wet wood, like flaming baked apples served with ice cream. Sort of. But that doesn’t make me a pyro. I prefer to think that life is like a bowl of ice cream, even if it’s served up on fire at times. Consequently, a few minutes after torching the stummel, I started with 2400 and 3200 micro mesh to remove the charred neon green coating. That broke through to dark brown, at which time I switched to super fine four-ought steel wool to take the darkness down a few notches.Lady25 Lady26 Lady27Ready for the second to last step in this somewhat off-the-norm order of events, I retorted the pipe at last.Lady28 Lady29After running a fluffy cleaner through the shank and clearing more last-minute soot from the chamber with a cotton cloth square, I buffed the stummel with white Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba, using the wheel I keep clean after each to work the compounds further into the briar and keep them from smudging.Lady30 Lady31 Lady32CONCLUSION
So far, by an eerie coincidence if there is such a thing, all three of the pipes I have restored for this ladies pipes series have sold. The Frasa (or FRASA) went to my good friend and fellow pipe club member, Ashley. The Medico Acorn of this installment was snatched up by another woman, Rita, whom I met last night when she saw me smoking a pipe and mentioned that her husband “used to enjoy his pipes all the time” (I took this rather ominous wording as either a sign that the good man is no longer with us or just not with Rita), as well as the fact that she gave up cigarettes by puffing on a pipe of her own with tobacco until she weaned herself off both, and she added that she missed the feeling of the pipe in her mouth. No comment. The third pipe, a Citation Real Briar oval, sold to an 18-year-young man who also approached me because of the fine pipe in my mouth at the time. Ashley reserved hers before it was even restored while the others fell victims to my persuasive sales technique and the fortuitous circumstance that I had my available pipes with me. Still, I didn’t push any of the ladies pipes on anyone. They were all picked out of the box by the happy buyers.
http://www.smfrankcoinc.com/home/?page_id=143 Medico pipes
http://mypipeclub.com/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=18ed18b6fd1b7cfa581ca18da56449f7&topic=805.0 Scottie Piersal

Rejuvenating a Caminetto Business Long Shank Stack

Blog by Steve Laug

I just finished working on a long shank Caminetto Stack. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Caminetto Business. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Ascorti over Radice over Cucciago over Cantu Italy. Next to it is a shield. The finish is a rustication that looks very much like the older Castello Sea Rock finish. The bowl needed a thorough reaming to clean out the remnants of the old cake. The internals of the shank will also need a thorough cleaning. The pipe has a strong English smelling ghost that would need to be exorcised by a retort treatment. If that did not kill it then it would need to be given a cotton ball and alcohol treatment to further remove the ghost. The inner and out rim edges look really good. There is a build up tars and oils in the rustication on the top of the rim that will need to be scrubbed out. The deep rustication is also harbouring a lot of dust in the crevices that will also need to be scrubbed as well. Cam1



Cam4 The stem needs some work. It is loose in the shank and I will need to see what the fit is like once the shank is cleaned. There is a deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem next to the button. It is not quite broken through the surface of the stem but it is deep. There are also marks on the topside of the stem in the same place though nowhere near as deep. The stem was almost clogged and will need to be cleared. The slot is tight and hard to get a pipe cleaner through easily. It will need to be opened to make cleaning the pipe a simpler procedure. Between the semi-clogged stem and the tight slot the draw is constricted. Once the repairs are made to the stem it will need to be polished.Cam5

Cam6 I took a close-up photo of the rim for you to see clearly the build up on the rim. There were tars and oils deep in the grooves of the rustication on the surface of the rim. There was also a thin cake on the walls of the bowl that would need to be removed to address the heavy Latakia smell that was in the pipe.Cam7 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the smallest cutting head and working up to the third head that was the same diameter as the bowl. I then scraped the inside lightly with a sharp pen knife.Cam8

Cam9 I scrubbed the inside of the shank with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and isopropyl 99% alcohol before setting up a retort to boil alcohol through the inside of the pipe. I stuffed a cotton ball in the top of the bowl and then fit the rubber end of the test tube stopper over the stem. I place the bowl in a pipe rest and held the test tube over a candle. As the alcohol heated and boiled in the test tube it circulated into the bowl and when removed from the flame the alcohol would carry the tars and oils back to the test tube. I continued to boil the alcohol and remove it from the flame until the alcohol turned amber from the inside of the pipe.Cam10



Cam13 I changed the alcohol and boiled it through the pipe again. This second time the alcohol came out clean. I kept it boiling through for about 15 minutes and then removed it from the flame. The photo below shows the relatively clean alcohol after this retort.Cam14 Once I had removed the retort I cleaned out the bowl and the shank with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. This time they came out relatively clean.Cam15 The problem was that the pipe still smelled strongly of Latakia. The ghost was stubborn and persistent. I decided to use a cotton ball and alcohol soak to see if I could draw out some more of the oils and smell. I stuff two cotton balls into the bowl and plugged the shank. I used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol and tipped it back and forth to run the alcohol through the shank. I unplugged the shank and set the bowl in an old ice cube tray over night to draw out the oils. The next three photos were taken over a 12 hour period and show what happened with the soak.Cam16


Cam18 When I removed the cotton balls and let the pipe dry out the ghost still persisted. I cleaned out the bowl and shank again, then put some white vinegar and cotton in the bowl and shank and let it sit for 3 hours. I cleaned out the shank and the ghost still remained. I was beating it but it was still present. I then filled the bowl with Kosher rock salt and then used an ear syringe to fill it with alcohol. I set it aside in the ice cube tray to let the salt do its magic.Cam19


Cam21 Once I removed the salt and alcohol and cleaned out the shank and bowl a final time the ghost is pretty well exorcised. There is a faint tobacco smell but the overpowering smell is gone.

I scrubbed the top of the rim with a brass bristle tire brush and then rescrubbed it with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I scrubbed it hard enough to remove the dust and grime from the crevices of the rusticated finish.Cam22

Cam23 I rinsed the bowl under running water to remove the soap from the finish, being careful to not get any water in the bowl. I dried it off with a cotton cloth. The photos below show the cleaned bowl. The finish was dull and had lightened slightly.Cam24


Cam26 I used a wash of brown aniline stain mixed 4 parts alcohol and one part stain to restain the bowl and shank. The next four photos show the pipe after it had been restained and buffed with Blue Diamond. I buffed it with a light touch and then rebuffed it with a shoe brush.Cam27



Cam30 With the bowl finished it was time to work on the stem. I decided to start with the narrow slot and airway on the end of the stem. I used three different needle files to open it up. I started with a flat file to widen the gap on the top and the bottom edge of the slot. I needed it open enough that I could use a flat oval file to smooth out the slot and open both the top, bottom and sides of the slot. I finished with a round file to taper the edges of the slot at an angle to the airway in the stem. While this was done to a slight degree I increased the angle and also opened up the end of the airway. I used the round file to also enter from the tenon end of the stem and smooth out what appeared to be rough transitions from the airway to the slot. I finished by sanding the inside of the slot with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and then finishing with a bristle pipe cleaner and a little scrubbing powder.Cam31



Cam34 I still needed to clean up the end of the stem when I worked on the stem surface itself but the basic shape was finished and the slot was wide enough to easily handle a pipe cleaner. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and also with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the tooth chatter on the top side of the stem and to clean up around the deep tooth mark on the surface of the stem. I picked out the debris from the tooth mark and then filled it with black super glue. I set the stem aside overnight to let the glue repair cure.Cam35

Cam36 The next morning I sanded the repaired area with 220 grit sandpaper and then the sanding sponges to remove the excess patch and to blend it into the surface of the stem.Cam37 Once the repair was smoothed out it was time to sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. Once it had dried I gave it a quick buff with White Diamond.Cam38 The tooth chatter was gone on the top of the stem and the repair on the underside blended in quite well. At this stage in the sanding it still showed but would begin to disappear into the stem with further sanding with micromesh. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-4000 grit pads and then rubbed it down again with Obsidian Oil. The first photo below shows the topside of the stem. The tooth chatter is gone. The second shows the underside of the stem. The tooth mark is repaired and the repair no longer shows. The next three grits of micromesh will make the patch disappear in the shine of the stem.Cam39

Cam40 I dry sanded with 6000-12,000 grit pads and then gave it a final buff with Blue Diamond. I rubbed in a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.Cam41

Cam42 The next two photos show the finished stem. The repair is blended into the vulcanite and it is polished and clean.Cam43

Cam44 I gave the pipe a light buff with Blue Diamond Plastic polish and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I lightly buffed the bowl with carnauba and then buffed the entire pipe with a clean flannel buff to raise the shine. Here is the finished pipe. Thanks for looking.Cam45





Cleaning Out the Shank of an Estate Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the years I have been continually looking for better ways of cleaning out the shank of an estate pipe. I have tried and discarded many methods over that time. The one certainty about the cleaning is that it takes many pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and much alcohol. There are no short cuts to cleaning the shank and airway. Nothing takes the place of slow and repetitive cleaning. Even with using a retort, a short cut on one level, the cleaning of the pipe still takes time before and after the retort has been used. I thought it might be interesting to some of you to read about the process in detail. I have written about the cleaning process – with and without the use of a retort.

With a retort

When I clean the shank with a retort I clean the inside of the stem and remove surface grime in the shank and airway. Before setting up the retort I try to remove as much of the surface grime internally as possible. I ream and clean out the bowl to remove any crumbling or breaking cake. I clean out the stem and button as well to give the pipe a relatively clean surface before I set up the retort. Some people use the retort immediately after reaming and leave out the cleaning step that I begin with. I have done it both ways but like the results of my process. The surgical tubing on the retort slides over the button on the stem and if the surface is dirty or has calcified buildup it does not seal well and the boiling alcohol will seep out around the tubing and make a mess. I clean out the inside of the stem to accelerate the cleaning in the shank. Even with pre-cleaning the pipe it often takes multiple uses of the retort to actually remove all of the tars and oils.


To prepare the pipe for the retort, I stuff a cotton boll in the bowl and do not press it down to hard into the bowl. I want it to plug the top so that the boiling alcohol does not come out the top but still allow it to circulate within the bowl and the shank. I use isopropyl alcohol in the test tube of the retort and I heat it over a tea light/small candle. The boiling point is quite low so it does not take long for alcohol to begin to boil. The stem and shank heat up as the alcohol goes through them. When it is removed from the heat the alcohol will be drawn back into the test tube and will be a dark brown. I empty out the dirty alcohol, refill the test tube and repeat the process until the alcohol come out clean. I remove the retort and run cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the stem and the shank to absorb anything that has been left behind. When the pipe dries out it smells fresh and new.




Without a retort

The process of cleaning a shank without a retort begins the same way as the above description. I ream the bowl and clean out the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I use both the bristle and the fluffy pipe cleaners and also shank brushes. The process for cleaning begins with removing the surface grit and grime. This takes many pipe cleaners before they begin to come out semi clean. Then I use the drill bit that is built into the KleenReem reamer and twist it into the shank. It scrapes the sides of the airway all the way into the bowl and removes the tarry buildup. I clean the bit off with alcohol and repeat the process several times until the bit slides through the airway with no impediment. I then wrap a cut pipe cleaner around the drill bit, dip it in alcohol and run it through the shank and airway until it comes out clean. I finish the cleaning process by scrubbing out the shank and the airway with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol and then pipe cleaners folded and unfolded.



Shank brushes

Shank brushes 3



Once the pipe cleaners and the cotton swabs come out clean I smell the pipe and shank to see if it smells clean. If not then I stuff cotton bolls in to the bowl tightly. I leave about ¼ inch of clearance from the bowl rim and then fill the bowl with alcohol using an ear syringe. I have found that this keeps the alcohol within the bowl and off the finish of the pipe. I set the pipe in an old ice cube tray that I have and leave it overnight. The alcohol leaches out the oils and tars that are in the shank and bowl. I remove the cotton and wipe out the shank and bowl and repeat the process until the cotton is clean on the next morning. Once that is done the bowl and the shank are cleaned a final time with pipe cleaners and alcohol. The pipe is now ready to be used.


An Amphora Extra Saddle Billiard Reborn

This one is the third of the three I bought at an antique mall in Edmonton, Alberta on a recent trip. It is stamped on the bottom of the shank as follows:
X-tra 726-649
Made in Holland


It has a deep craggy blast that attracted me to the pipe in the first place. The briar was dirty and the finish was gone. The remaining stain was very spotty and dirty. The grime of many dirty hands had ground into the blast leaving dark spots all around the bowl and shank. The state of the finish can be seen in the photo below. The bowl was dirty and had a slight cake with dottle still in the bowl. The rim had some darkening from the lighter and there was lava on the surface hiding most of the blast. The beauty was that the bowl did not have any damage from tapping it out or burning on the edges. It would clean up very nicely. The stem was slightly oxidized and had a calcified buildup in several spots. It also had a few faint tooth marks about a ¼ inch back from the button. The button itself had several dents in it as well. The slot in the button was too tight to even take a thin pipe cleaner. The inside of the shank was thick with a tarry buildup and the stem was clogged with buildup as well. I am pretty sure the stem had never been cleaned out as a pipe cleaner would not pass through the slot.


I removed the stem from the bowl and dipped the bowl in an alcohol bath and scrubbed it with a brass tire brush to remove the grit and grime in the blast. I then dropped it into the bath to soak overnight. In the morning I removed it from the bath and gave it another quick scrub with the tire brush. I flamed the alcohol in the bowl to dry it before I cleaned it. This is a simple process of lighting the alcohol on fire with a lighter. It burns blue and burns fast. No harm is done to the briar. I then cleaned the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners to remove as much of the tars and oils as I could before I used the retort to give it a final cleaning.



I decided to open up the button with needle files before I used the retort on the pipe. I was unable to run a pipe cleaner through the stem so I wanted to be able to remove some of the grit before I hooked up the retort. I used three different needle files to open the slot. The next four photos show the opening of the slot from start to finish. When I was done a pipe cleaner went through very easily and I was able to remove much of the tars and oils from the stem.





To finish the reformed slot I used some folded medium grit emery paper and then 340 grit sandpaper to smooth out the new edges and give it a finished look. I also sanded the surface of the button to remove the scratches from the files. Once that was done put the stem back on the pipe and ran a few more pipe cleaners dipped in Everclear through to clean out the airway. The next two photos show the pipe at this stage in the cleanup.



With the slot opened and the interior surface cleaned it was time to set up the retort. I placed a cotton boll in the bowl to keep the boiling alcohol from coming out the top of the bowl. I slid the rubber surgical tubing over the end of the stem and slid it on about ½ an inch. I want a good tight seal at this point because as the alcohol boils it can bubble out the sides of the stem and give a good burn while you are holding the stem. I put about 1 inch of 99% isopropyl in the test tube and put the rubber stopper in place in the mouth of the tube. I lit a small tea light and held the bottom of the test tube over the flame. The alcohol has a low boiling point so it does not take long for it to boil and the gaseous alcohol migrates up the surgical tubing and into the stem, shank and bowl. It is great to feel the shank warm up as the alcohol moves into the shank. I remove it from the flame after several minutes and let it cool off. As the alcohol cools it runs back into the test tube and cools. The next series of three photos show the heating and boiling process.




As it cools the alcohol migrates back into the tube. It is generally a very dark amber colour – like nice amber ale! In the first photo below show the tube removed from the flame and the alcohol beginning to refill the tube. The flame is actually behind the stopper not under it – lest anyone wonder about that. I blew out the candle at this point and continued to let the alcohol cool and drain. I then poured out the dirty alcohol, rinsed the tube with warm water, dried it out and refilled it. I reattached the apparatus and used the retort a second and third time until the alcohol came out as clean as when I started using it.



Once the insides were clean I used a soft bristle tooth brush and some isopropyl to scrub down the exterior of the bowl to prepare it for restaining. The next four photos show the scrubbed and prepared bowl.





I chose to restain the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied the stain heavily to the pipe with a folded pipe cleaner to make sure I got it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblasted surface. Once it was covered I flamed it with a lighter to set the stain. I gave it a second coat of stain and flamed it a second time. Once it was dry I buffed it with a shoe brush to get a soft shine on it. The next series of four photos show the restained bowl after the buffing with the show brush. I find that the bristles on the shoe brush work really well to buff sand blasted and rusticated pipes. I used to use my buffer and keep a light touch on the wheel because I did not want to soften the ridges of the blast. I have since resorted to using the shoe shine brush instead.





I hand applied some Halcyon II wax to the bowl and shank and buffed it a second time with the shoe brush to give it a shine. The next series of six photos show the bowl and shank during and after the shine with Halcyon II and the shoe brush buffing.







After finishing the bowl it was time to work on the stem. I sanded the blade area where the tooth marks were to cause them to stand out a bit more clearly. I used a fine grit sanding sponge first. I then heated the slight tooth dents with a Bic lighter to lift them. I find that this works very well for light dents in vulcanite. I do not leave the flame in one place but move it quickly across the surface of the dent and it literally lifts with the heat. I then wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and followed that by dry sanding with 3200 and 3600 grit micromesh pads. The next series of eight photos gives you a look at the progress of the sanding.









At this point in the process I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it into the vulcanite. I wanted to see where the remaining oxidation was so that I could do some more work on those areas.


I continued sanding the stem with 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next three photos show the progress of the shine on the stem. There was still some deep seated oxidation on the stem. I used a Bic lighter and went over the surface of the stem to burn off the oxidation. I wiped it down with a soft cloth and repeat the process until the stem was a shiny black and the oxidation was gone.




The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I gave the stem a final rub down with Obsidian Oil and I buffed the stem on my buffing wheel (attached to the bowl) using White Diamond. I did not buff the bowl. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with soft flannel buffs. I also rebuffed the bowl by hand with the shoe brush. The pipe smells fresh and clean. It is ready to smoke.