This is a Kaywoodie Author Style Briar Pipe. It has a very slight overturn (about a 1/25th of an in) Some bite marks at the tip of the stem, but is in very good condition, see the pictures.
Stand not included
Nomanclature Reads: Kaywoodie Standard-Imported Briar/ S66
Length - 5&5/8in
Bowl Height - 1&9/16in
Bowl outside Diameter - 1&1/16th at rim - 1&3/4in at middle of the bowl
Bowl inside Diameter - 3/4in
Stem Length (Including Tenon) - 3&3/4in
Stem Type - Vulconite/Diamond Saddle Bent - Kaywoodie Logo/Screw in Type
Feel free to ask any questions - Thanks for stopping by! - All purchases mailed with a USPS tracking/confirmation # - Always combined shipping when multiple items are purchased, If your going to bid on another item and its a couple days away and you want to wait for combined shipping please let me know - Thanks
~~There are articles below, enjoy them, more will be added from time to time!~~
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THE DUNHILL PIPE:
A COMPARISON OF
THEN AND NOW
We are pleased to introduce R.D. "David" Field as a new Associate Editor. David was recommended by Ben Rapaport who sent us the following article which Mr. Field had written last year. David is employed by the city of Philadelphia as a social worker. He is regarded as an expert on Dunhill Pipes and is also knowledgeable on Castellos and other brands. At forty-one· years old, David has been a pipe smoker for many years and has dealt extensively in pre-smoked collectibles. he has had articles printed abroad and should be welcome to the staff of PIPE SMOKER.
As a pipe collector, a pipe hobbyist, and as a Dunhill principal pipe dealer, I hear comments over and over again about the comparative merits of the older pipes versus the newer models. Most discussion centers on the quality of the briar and the sweetness of the smoke. I hear comments such as "I love my old Dunhill pipes, but these new ones ... I don't know."
People I consider to be very knowledgeable on the subject of 20th Century briar swear that, by far, the sweetest smoke comes from those Dunhill pipes bearing a patent number (pre-1955); they will not even smoke those made after 1968, believed to be of substandard quality.
The used pipe trade has followed the same trend - patent number Dunhills are commanding a higher price than those made from 1955-1968, and a still higher price than those made after 1968.
Due to the mystique surrounding the older Dunhill pipe, there is, indeed, a need to explore any factual basis behind the "myth". This, reader, is the purpose of this article.
Let's look at a bit of history behind the Dunhill pipe - from its inception to present day production. Alfred Dunhill was a rather inventive fellow, having taken a harness making concern into the automobile age by turning it to the manufacturer of auto accessories, and then operating as a "patent consultant". When he opened a tobacconist shop in 1907, he knew nothing beyond the ordinary of pipes, tobacco, and the art of blending. His curious mind prompted him to listen to his customers' wants and then to try different methods to satisfy those wants. By early 1910, Dunhill was ready to offer his own make of pipe as an alternative to those coming from France that were highly varnished and so clogged the pores of the briar. These first pipes were of two distinct internal designs: one followed the French design that is the standard non-filter design of today; the other, the "Absorbal" pipe, used a circular cellulose filter that was pushed into the hollowed-out body of the pipe shank. It is interesting to note here that these first Dunhill pipes and all Dunhill pipes made through 1919 had French-turned bowls that were then finished in London by the Dunhill firm.
In 1912, Dunhill invented and patented the "inner tube", an aluminum insert designed to keep the pipe "innards" clean; in 1915, the "white spot" appeared to help the customer know which side of the hand-cut vulcanite stem should be uppermost; 1917 saw the introduction of the first Dunhill sandblast - the "Shell".
In producing the "Shell", Dunhill used only Algerian briar, then in great abundance, because it had a softer character than the Italian briar used in the smooth "Bruyere" finish. This soft character, in combination with the heat derived from Dunhill's unique oil curing process, led to an unusually deep and craggy sandblasted pipe. In the early years of production, Dunhill would not even stamp shape numbers on his "shell" pipes, since the shape of identically turned bowls varied so after curing and sandblasting.
Dunhill's "root briar" was introduced in 1930 (by this time, Alfred Dunhill was two years into retirement and his brother Herbert had charge of the business) and the light brown finish proved highly popular in America, less so in Europe. Next, some twenty three years later, came the "Tanshell" a sandblasted Sardinian briar with a tan or brown finish. It took twenty-six more years before another finish - the "Cumberland" - appeared. The Cumberland is also sandblasted, has a dark brown finish, a smooth beveled top, and a bi-color vulcanite stem (this same stem first appeared in 1930 on the root briar).
As I mentioned previously, no Dunhill pipe was completely fashioned in England until 1920 when a bowl-turning section was opened in the London factory. Before this time "turned" but unfinished pipe bowls were imported from France and then finished, oil-cured and, in the case of "Shells", sandblasted in London.
The briar situation must be investigated in order to compare the new Dunhill pipe with the old there have been changes. Originally, Italian briar had been used for the "Bruyere" and "Root", Algerian for the "Shell", and Sardinian for the "Tanshell". The age of the briar used, averaged between 60 and 100 years. In the 1960's, the briar situation changed drastically. The Algerian supply slowed to a trickle, and the Italian government declared that its briar could only be used by pipe makers within its borders. To that time, Dunhill had a virtual monopoly on briar supply; now it had to search for new sources and could no longer reserve one type of briar for one pipe finish.
This change was readily apparent in the "Shell" finish. Deprived of Algerian briar, Dunhill had to use Grecian briar, a harder variety, and so the "shell" pipe now received a more shallow sandblast. As well, the wood was less aged between 50 and 80 years. Additionally, the briar burls were smaller and had more flaws, so there were less perfect bowls being turned, and - more waste! Conversely, the new briar was harder, lighter, and had much better grain than the old. Dunhill was never known for beautiful grain patterns in its smooth-finished pipes, but those produced today are outstanding when compared with those of twenty years ago.
In the manufacture of a quality pipe, much attention is paid to making and fitting the stem, or mouthpiece. Injection-molding methods are not used here; instead, each mouthpiece is hand-cut from sheet or rod vulcanite; the tenon is hand-cut and hand shaped to the correct circumference; and the mouthpiece is then hand-fitted to the pipe. The original Dunhill mouthpiece had quite a thick lip that I personally find quite uncomfortable. The "comfy" mouthpiece, with a thinner and wider lip, was developed in the 1920's, and the "F/T" (fishtail) mouthpiece was designed in the 1930's. In 1976, faced with rising labor costs, the firm used a mouthpiece-cutting machine. The machined mouthpieces had a very thick lip (much like the pre "comfy" lip); complaints poured in and the machine was scrapped. Present-day mouthpieces have a lip thickness somewhere between the "comfy" and the "F/T".
I have visited the Dunhill pipe factory three times in the past two years and on each visit, I have had the opportunity not only to view every facet of pipe production, but also to converse with those in charge of production. During my visit in December 1980, I had a long conversation with David Webb, factory manager. Mr. Webb has been with Dunhill for the past five years, has been factory manager since late 1979, and is very knowledgeable. I had brought my personal collection of thirteen unsmoked Dunhills dating from 19201927 - nine Bruyeres and four Shells and three 1920 vintage "Shells" that I smoke. As Mr. Webb looked them over, he laughed: "If these Shell Briars came out of production today, half of them would land in the reject bin."
Stunned, I asked: "Why?"
"In the case of the billiard, that's a very deep sandblast in spots, taking away about half the wall thickness; and the shank is out of line. The mouthpiece on the smaller billiard is much too thick where it meets the shank and would have to be cut down. The Prince is totally off-shape on one side of the bowl."
I protested, stating that these were the very reasons for their great character.
"Yes, they do add character. And, to my mind, they are beautiful pipes. We can make them like this but ..." and he went on to explain that because Dunhill sells to a worldwide market, the firm tends to get pushed and pulled in different directions at the same time. On the Continent and in the Far East, there is no demand for deeply-shelled pipes; furthermore, these will often be returned to the factory as "not of Dunhill quality".
An associate of David Webb, Bill Taylor, told me of the time he was working in quality control at the factory. Richard Dunhill came by and picked up one of the "Shells" Bill rejected.
"Why is this in the reject bin?"
"Because the sandblast is too deep and uneven."
"This pipe has character. Send it to America. Americans know good pipes!"
The Dunhill pipe has always been synonymous with the word quality in pipe making. Much of this value judgment, I feel, has to do with the firm's unique "oil curing" process invented by Alfred Dunhill. This process, in my estimation, does three things - it makes the tobacco taste unusually "nutty"; it has a very low rate of bowl "burn-out" compared with other makes; and, it helps the pipe to smoke well even after many years. This process is still very closely guarded by the firm and is not normally shown to visitors. I was shown the process because I brought a copy of the original patent with me and specifically raised the issue.
In order to discern quality in a pipe, one has to look at only a few things (of course much of the real judgment is in the smoking): the turned and bored bowl; the shank bore; the tenon/ferrule connection; the lip of the mouthpiece; the look and feel of the finish. Dunhill, I submit, has as high a standard of quality as it has ever had. This does not mean that every Dunhill released for sale, today, is a perfect pipe, for some are not! What it does mean is that the percentage of imperfect Dunhills is no greater today than, say, 1924. I have discovered two imperfect pipes in my 1920-1927 collection.
According to David Webb, the Dunhill pipe did have a problem in the mid-1970's, not so much with quality as with the outward signs of quality. Those in charge of policy at the time decided that the "Shell" must be totally black and shiny - a blue-black stain was used, eliminating any reddish highlights. At the same time, the "Bruyere" finish was lightened from its original plum color. These two changes have dampened the pipe's reputation and may be the cause for some criticism I have heard; but, even with these pipes, the underlying quality is still there. Since that time, of course, there has been a return to the original "Bruyere" finish, and the new "Deep Shell" has reached our shores in limited quantity.
In comparing the Dunhill pipe of yesterday with that of today, what stands out is the continual evolvement of the pipe:
· The original mouthpiece has changed to "comfy" to "FAT", to machine-made, and then to present-day standard - gaining and losing lip thickness with each change.
· The briar has changed - age and the custom of reserving one type of briar for one finish have given way to gains in hardness, lightness, and better grain pattern.
· The sandblasted "Shell" has changed - losing a very deep blast and gaining uniformity; then, regaining its deep, if more uniform blast.
With these changes, the Dunhill standard of excellence has not diminished, at least in my practiced eye. Today's Dunhill pipe is not worse than yesterday's; it is not better than yesterday's; it is . . . different than yesterday's!
EDITOR'S NOTE: After discussing this article with David Field, we learned that there will be a sequel which will discuss in detail, the identification of Dunhill pipes. This will include an analysis of the nomenclature which enables the knowledgeable collector to know Dunhills. This article will appear in a future edition of PIPE SMOKER.
Alfred Dunhill began to manufacture briar smoking pipes in 1910; the famous white spot first appeared on top of the hand-cut vulcanite mouthpiece in 1915 in order that the customer should know which part faced upwards. At about this same time a one year guarantee against defects was offered on the bowl of each pipe, and to insure against far older Dunhill pipes being replaced under this guarantee a simple dating code, showing the year of manufacture, was devised and stamped onto each pipe bowl. This code is still in use today.
Over the ensuing years great interest has arisen over the "mystique" of the Dunhill pipe in general and the dating code in particular. Pipe collectors, especially in America, pride themselves on having acquired Dunhill pipes in prime condition which were made in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's. Some collectors strive to acquire only those Dunhill pipes made between 1920 (when Dunhill stopped buying bowls turned in France in favor of those turned in London at the newly opened Dunhill bowl-turning facility) and 1928 (the year of Alfred Dunhill's retirement). Consequently, much confusion has arisen over the dating code because it has not been standardized over the years, and seemingly minor differences in the code can mean a difference of years, even decades, in the manufacture of the pipe.
Adding to this is the fact that the firm has used a great many special stampings depending on what part of the world to which their pipes were destined, and that sometimes these stampings or codes were used for only three or four months duration.
Leading to even greater confusion is that many pipes were simply stamped incorrectly; at times one part or another of the code is not to be found on a given pipe.
Taking all this into account it should not be surprising that the original and complete dating code list, in possession of the firm's archivist at 30 Duke Street, is some twenty eight pages long. And even if this list was made available it would be of little use to any but the most expert because it can only be used in conjunction with the most precise knowledge of the Dunhill pipe as it has changed in appearance over the years.
But enough of the complications in dating Dunhill pipes. What follows is a "general guide" as to dating; with it the reader should be able to date the majority of Dunhill pipes with which he/she comes into contact.
Types of finish:
1) Bruyere -introduced in 1910; signified by an "A" (meaning' best quality) on the side of the shank through 1975. "Inner Tube" stamped on shank through 1934.
2) Root - introduced in 1930; signified by an "R" stamped on the shank through 1975.
3) Shell - introduced in 1917.
4) Tanshell -introduced in 1953.
5) Redbark -introduced in 1973.
6) Cumberland -introduced in 1980.
H.W.- "hand, worked". A hand-carved (as opposed to machine-carved) pipe of classic design. "H.W." stamped on shank. Not made after 1930's.
D. R. "dead root". Denotes Dunhill straight grain pipes. The bruyere finish was used on these pipes through 1929; root finish was used thereafter. "D.R." stamped on shank.
O.D. "own design". Denotes a pipe designed by the customer and carved to order. "O.D." stamped on shank. Not made after late 1920's or early 1930's. In 1950 a special series of "ODA" pipes was begun and continued through 1975. These were not carved to order.
Collector - denotes hand-turned bowls (as opposed to machine-turned) made from plateau briar. Introduced in 1978.
Dating of Bruyere and Root finishes - 1925 onwards
1925 DUNHILL MADE IN ENGLAND
LONDON on one side "INNER TUBE"
NOTE: For the years 1925 through 1941 the suffix number (denoting the year of manufacture) is sometimes after the patent number and sometimes after the word ENGLAND.
1926-34 As above but with annual change of suffix number 6(1926) 7(1927) 8(1928) 9(1929) 0(1930) 11(1931) 12(1932) 13(1933) 14(1934)
NOTE: For the years 1925-34 other patent numbers were sometimes used in place of 116989/17. Some examples are: 5861/12 (English); 1343253/20 (U.S.)
1935-41 MADE IN ENGLAND 15 16 17 18 19 0 1
1942-50 MADE IN ENGLAND 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
PAT. NO. 417574/34
NOTE: From this time onward the suffix number is always after the word ENGLAND.
1951 As above but with the suffix1 after the word ENGLAND; in addition a group number e.g. 4 R or 3 A is introduced for the first time.1952 As above but with the suffix2 after the word ENGLAND. Also, instead of DUNHILL/LONDON the finish of the pipe is stamped under the word Dunhill e.g. DUNHILL/ROOT BRIAR
1953-54 As above but with 3 or 4 as suffix according to the year made.
1955-60 From 1955 the patent number is no longer shown
on the pipe. Examples for this period read:
1961-70 Same as above but with the line under the suffix number omitted. In addition from 1965-70 the size of the suffix number is the same as the D in ENGLAND.
4 R DUNHILL 4 A DUNHILL
ROOT BRIAR BRUYERE
on one side, and on the other
ENGLAND 5 6 7 8 9 0 according to the year.
NOTE: During this period the line under the suffix number was sometimes not stamped, but the suffix number itself is always smaller than the D in ENGLAND.
1971-75 As above but with a double suffix number (sometimes underlined).
ENGLAND 11 12 13 14 15
1976 - 77 During this period the group number and finish code were dropped and the old shape numbers were dropped in favor of a new system. Shape numbers during this period had either 3, 4, or 5 digits.
ENGLAND 16 17 according to the year
1978-82 In 1978 shape numbers all became five digit. Also the double digit suffix number (sometimes underlined) again became smaller than the D in ENGLAND.
ENGLAND 18 19 20 21 22 according to the year
Dating of Shell, Tanshell, Redbark, and Cumberland finishes-1925 onwards:1925 DUNHILL'S "SHELL" MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. NOS. 119708/17 & 116989/175
NOTE: As with the smooth finishes during the period 1925 through 1941 the suffix number is sometimes after the patent number and sometimes after the word ENGLAND.
1926-34 As above but with annual change of suffix number 6 (1926) 7 (1927) 8 (1928) 9 (1929) 0 (1930) 11 (1931) 12 (1932) 13 (1933) 14 (1934)
NOTE: For the years 1925-34 other patent numbers were sometimes used in place of 119708/17 & 116989/17. Some examples are: 5861/12 (English); 1341418/20 (U.S.); 1130806/15 (U.S.); 1343253/20 U.S.); 1861910/32 (U.S. - used only for Vernon Dunhill fitment pipe).
1935-41 DUNHILL SHELL MADE IN ENGLAND
PAT. N0.417574 15 16 17 18 19 0 1
1942-50 DUNHILL SHELL MADE IN ENGLAND 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
PAT. NO. 417574/34
NOTE: From this time onward the suffix number is always after the word ENGLAND.
1951 As above but with the suffix1 after the word ENGLAND; in addition a group number e.g. 2 S; 4 S is introduced for the first time.
1952 DUNHILL MADE IN ENGLAND2 group number
SHELL BRIAR PAT. NO. 417574/34
1953-54 The Tanshell finish is introduced in 1953. As above but with the suffix3 or 4 after the word ENGLAND.
1955-60 From 1955 the patent number is no longer shown on the pipe.
ENGLAND 5 6 7 8 9 0 (according to the year).
NOTE: During this period the line under the suffix number was sometimes not stamped, but the suffix number itself is always smaller than the D in ENGLAND.
1961-70 As above, but with the line under the suffix number omitted. From 1965-70 the size of the suffix number is the same as the D in ENGLAND.
ENGLAND 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
1971-75 As above, but with a double digit suffix number (sometimes underlined). The Redbark is introduced in 1973.
ENGLAND 11 12 13 14 15
1976-77 During this period the group number and finish code were dropped and the old shape numbers were dropped in favor of a new system. Shape numbers during this period had either 3, 4, or 5 digits.
MADE IN ENGLAND 16 17
1978-82 In 1978 shape numbers all became five digit. Also the double digit suffix number (sometimes underlined) again became smaller than the D in ENGLAND. The Cumberland finish is introduced in 1980.
MADE IN ENGLAND 18 19 20 21 22
THE ART OF THE SANDBLAST
Another in an infrequent series of articles concerning
THE BRIAR PIPE
R. D. Field
Main Entry: 1sand·blast
: a stream of sand projected by compressed air (as for engraving, cutting, or cleaning glass or stone)
Main Entry: 2sandblast
Function: transitive verb
: to affect or treat with or as if with a sandblast
- sand·blast·er noun
So there it is- sandblasting was meant for engraving stuff or cleaning stuff. If machinery got so dirty, so gunky that it couldn’t be cleaned in any other way it was sandblasted clean. Building façades too. After years of road grime, exhaust fumes, dust turned a building façade black it could look like original after being shot with tiny particles.
So how was this applied to wood, specifically wood smoking pipes? Who thought of it? And why?
I think we’ve got to look at Alfred Dunhill. This gent was really one hell of an inventor- and marketer. He seemed to constantly try to produce stuff that no one else had thought of, and he certainly had successes. I’m sure he had a lot of failures too, but they’re buried somewhere. And even some of his successes might have really been failures, but no one knew so at the time.
When Dunhill ran an accessories and harness leather shop for coaches, wagons and motor cars he invented a “windshield” pipe- that is a pipe where the bowl was higher in front than in back. The idea was to stop the wind from blowing sparks about from the lighted pipe. I’m sure the pipe worked in a completely open vehicle, but they didn’t have wind-tunnel testing in those days- you know, like on TV where you can see the air as it moves around a car. So I’m betting that it didn’t work all that well once those open cars were made with windshields. I’m only talking from personal experience here, but when I ride in my open car or my H-D police bike (which has a windshield) I get the same effect- the air goes up over the windshield and over the front of me- and curves around to hit me from behind. I’m betting that if I had a lighted pipe in my mouth sparks would fly, but from back to front rather than front to back.
What possessed Dunhill to try an engraving and cleaning treatment on wood? I’d love to know- to follow his thought process. An old story goes that some briar was left by the heating boiler for a time and when Dunhill saw it he found that some of the grain had "shrunk" leaving a “relief” pattern on the wood. I don’t buy that story for a second, except that it makes for good marketing. And even if it was true why wouldn’t pipe bowls be left next to little heaters so the grain could be brought into relief. No- that won’t do. I can understand that he didn’t want to say: “I use a powerful industrial process noted for taking crud off metal.” Far better to romance the process as “…a combination of heat and sand”. From nature… sort of like being lulled to sleep by the surf as you lie on a sunny beach.
No matter that the process was industrial- it worked. It left the pipe bowl in beautiful, hard-grained relief. Or is it soft-grained relief? I’ve had arguments with folks- down and out kicking and screaming arguments about what part of the wood is actually left in relief. Dunhill maintained it to be the hard grain- but this may be marketing (who wants to think that they are left with the soft part of the wood to use as a chamber for fire). I think it’s the hard grain because- well, because it’s harder. My opponents swear it’s the soft grain but I don’t remember the reasons they gave- although they were convincing at the time.
As far as I am aware Dunhill was the first to sandblast briar smoking pipes. And I deduced that they (the Dunhill pipe factory at Notting Hill Gate) didn’t really know what the heck they were doing at first. If you look at the old Dunhill catalogs you’ll see page after page of pipe shapes in bruyere (smooth finish) each with its assigned model number or letter i.e. 59 (billiard), 137 (dublin) etc. When you come to the sandblasted (shell) pipes there are no model numbers (or letters)- only “example III” or “example X”. Why? The photos show shapes that look like traditional shapes, but they are so misshapen, so out-of-round that they were not assigned the traditional model designations. Neat, eh? I mean I love this type of pipe. It’s got character. But it doesn’t have real symmetry, and I guess this worried some of the boys who put the pipes on sale. They didn’t want to chance customers coming back to them saying things like “my Shell #59 doesn’t look at all like my Bruyere #59 and I want an exchange”.
In the meantime the geezers who did the sandblasting became more adept at what they were doing; as a result bowls were less misshapen and more identifiable . Lest we forget- these were craftsmen, not folks pulled in off the street and put in front of a machine. They had pride in their work and were eager to deliver what the market desired. So I suppose that if folks really desired radically misshapen bowls they would have delivered such. That they didn’t shows other forces at work.
Even in the early 20’s Dunhill was known all over the world. How? Through clever marketing. I tell you the guy was at least as good a marketer as he was an inventor, and here’s a prime example. During the 1st World War Dunhill would give away many many pipes, but only to officers in the British military. He would also post pipes on approval to this same group. Most readers of this article being American would probably ponder something like “well, that’s nice- but hardly relevant”. Wrong! In Great Britain during the 1st World War (and for some time after I believe) all officers came from the aristocracy. They didn’t have to earn commissions but were given them as birthright. So here we have Dunhill handing out his pipes (and his cigarettes) to the folks that will have money to spend once the war comes to an end. And the 1st World War being in fact a world war here we have these rich officers in places like France, Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Turkey, Canada, etc. showing off their fine new Dunhill pipes and establishing the name far and wide.
So now we see that Dunhill is known for its pipes, among other things, over most of the civilized world by the early 1920’s. What Dunhill has to do, and does, is to gauge which of its markets like what products, and how each of these products should be made for each individual market. What they found I speculate is that most if not all their markets liked sandblasted pipes with bowls that were not badly out-of-round. I deduced this by having spoken, over the years, to pipe distributors, pipe retailers, and pipe customers all over the world. After many such discussions in shops and offices all over Europe, and parts of Japan and Korea it appears to me that only we Americans , and really only we American Serious Dunhill Collectors prefer what were the early examples of the Dunhill Shell pipe.
Enough of Dunhill- after proper homage is paid. Alfred Dunhill (as far as I am aware) was the first to sandblast pipes, did one hell of a marketing job promoting the process (did you know that early Dunhill Shell pipes cost more than their counterpart Bruyere pipes?), and (in my opinion) made the best sandblasted pipe in the world for a rather long period.
Why sandblast a pipe in the first place? There are several reasons, any one of which could be the predominate one depending on the time period in question. There may be a sand spot or small flaw in the bowl and the manufacturer decides it is more economical in terms of time to sandblast instead of re-working the pipe; there may be a discoloration which precludes even staining; there may be an excess of weight which sandblasting can remove. A common misconception is that a sandblasted pipe is a flawed pipe. Up through 1930 almost all smooth pipes were stained burgundy or a dark walnut. These stains can mask most sand spots and the smaller flaws which look like part of the grain pattern. Since most smooth pipes of that era had a mixed or cross grain pattern it was virtually impossible to find a sand spot without stripping the pipe of its stain. I suggest that if we had only burgundy or dark walnut stained smooth pipes today we would indeed have many more smooth pipes. But tastes change and so the naturally stained pipe came into being. Even these at the start had a natural stain of the darker variety than that being used today, but it still proved much harder to conceal sand spots or small flaws- hence the dramatic increase in sandblasting. Today many makers use only the lightest of natural stains; these have a tendency to highlight any flaw or spot at all, no matter how tiny. So, I put forth, it is not that briar quality has decreased but that our standards have changed as to what is acceptable in a smooth pipe.
There are many sizes of sandblasting machines, but they all do the job in one of two ways. Many of the smaller ones use vacuum as pressure- that is a vacuum is created in one part of the unit and this vacuum is used to force the particles through a nozzle onto the article to be worked. Others, both small and large, use a compressor to build up pressure which is released as the nozzle trigger is pressed. The vacuum type doesn’t produce much pressure- one atmosphere to be exact, while the pressure type can be adjusted to any pressure the compressor can generate and the rest of the equipment can handle. A good analogy is that of espresso machines which operate in some ways like a sandblaster. Here again there are two types- vacuum and pressure. The vacuum type, operating at one atmosphere, delivers a thin, black espresso with no crema, no essential volatile coffee oils. The pressure type can force hot water through the coffee grounds at 12- 15 atmospheres, delivering the essentials that are not possible with the vacuum machine.
I’ve had some first-hand experience with both types of machines as I was with Bill Ashton-Taylor when he investigated and then made a purchase many years ago. We found ourselves in a huge building looking at machine after machine- some so large that I could fit inside. When the gent heard why Bill wanted such a machine he scratched his head, said “wood! Never heard of anyone sandblasting wood before” and directed us to a small vacuum pressure machine. “This’ll do” he opined. Well, it didn’t; not by a long shot. We went from machine to machine till we found one that was right. Not only right, but big. So big that I had to stand on a stool to see inside. And that doesn’t include the compressor which is both large and loud. Bill had to construct a small outbuilding of brick outside his unit in order to house and sound-deaden the thing.
A divergence here- to explain a bit more about the various types of sandblasting equipment as I know it. The machine described above uses a fixed nozzle mounted above the spot where the operator has his gloved hands. In this type of machine the operator uses a foot treadle to start and stop the stream of particles coming from the nozzle while he manipulates the pipe bowl with both hands. I have seen (and used) another type of machine where the pipe bowl is manipulated with one hand while the other hand holds a pistol which, when the trigger is pressed, releases the particles. A third type I have seen is more automated. Many pipe bowls are placed in a wire barrel or rotunda. A fixed nozzle sprays the barrel with particles for several hours as the bowls are turning. Because the bowls are always turning and nudging one another, and because the pressure is not so great as the bowls are being bombarded over a great amount of time the resulting sandblast has a different appearance than that using the manual approach. You will notice that the edges of some brands of sandblasted pipes are more smooth, more round, not as sharply defined; this is the major differentiating factor.
The machine itself is just one aspect of sandblasting. Another is the material used in the process. There are an almost endless number of materials that can be used- from actual sand (silicon silicate I believe) to glass beads, to tiny ball bearings, to walnut shells. The wrong material creates the wrong look, or perhaps no look at all- so some pipe makers have experimented until they found what they considered the right material. And what may be right for one maker may not be right for another, as sandblasting is really an art. It’s creating a pattern or picture on a piece of wood. Some can create masterpiece after masterpiece, while others just slide by.
Another aspect may be the type of briar used. I say may be because I have no definitive proof one way or the other. It used to be up through the early 60’s that there were many magnificent deeply blasted cross grain sandblasts- stuff that would really take my breath away. Briar sawmills at that time were not paying particular attention to grain as they were cutting blocks, with the result being that most pieces were of mixed or cross grain. But since the Italians (and to a lesser extent the Danes) have become a definitive force in pipe making all the sawmills seem to cut solely for straight grain. This shows up in sandblasted pieces as ring grain which to me is not at all as interesting as the varying patterns of cross grain pieces. The lack of depth in most sandblasts may be the world markets at work, it may be the type of briar used, or it may be that many makers are not familiar with the art of the deeply sandblasted pipe.
A fourth aspect which may come into play is curing. Various makers have various methods- air drying, kiln drying, oil curing, microwaving, steaming, soaking, the list goes on. Certain makers with whom I’ve spoken feel deeply that their method of curing absolutely enhances the sandblasting process while others have told me that they’ve experimented with various methods and could find no difference. I can only state here that not all makers excel at all processes; Van Gogh does not paint like Rembrandt nor visa versa.
The final aspect in the art of the sandblast is true artistry. This is very difficult to put into words although I do have firsthand experience here- being allowed to play about with sandblasting both in England and Italy. The sandblast finish is by far my favorite, and I wanted to learn everything I could about how it is achieved. That I learned more of what shouldn’t be done than what should is perhaps a foregone conclusion. Almost anyone can sandblast a pipe; almost no one can produce a magnificent sandblast finish. To produce such an extraordinary article requires the correct touch using the correct machine operating at the correct pressure using the correct particles to sandblast the correct briar which has undergone the correct curing. And what is correct? It differs from maker to maker. You are the final judge as to who are the artists and who is pedestrian in the art of the sandblast.
May 15th, 2009
Dr. Chuck’s May 1 seminar for the CPCC 2009 show
by Chuck Gray
Hello, I am Chuck Gray of Dr. Chuck’s Tobacco Pipe Restoration and Repair Service. I have been involved in pipe repair since starting with Clarence Mickles in the middle 1970’s. I worked with Clarence for about seven years. Some of you may remember him. I have had my own shop since then, working part time for friends and acquaintances. In 2003 I expanded my services to include the restoration and repair of antique and collectable pipes to fellow hobbyists.
This seminar is intended to present some tips in basic pipe repairs and remedies, that can be done at home, with a few hand tools and common materials. This discussion is targeted to people who don’t have a shop full of machinery, but want to keep their collections clean and well maintained.
I wish to cover basic pipe cleaning, the use of a retort, vulcanite oxidation removal, briar dent reduction/removal, tooth mark reduction/removal, buffing, polishing, and waxing of briar pipes.
I will also give an overview of; nomenclature cleaning, logo cleaning, stem bending, re-staining briar, tenon tightening, stem fitting, use of sandpaper and files, and draft and slot opening.
I must warn you that this comes with a strong caveat, I bear no responsibility for any accidents you may have in the improper use of these techniques. Please practice any of these techniques on junk pipes many times before you try them on your valuable collection. There is no substitute for practice. The experience you gain from practice will reduce the possibility of error or mistakes, that may take a professional to fix.
One last bit of advice before we begin. With any tool you use, be it sand paper, saw, drill, file, or powered machine, pick the right tool for the job, never force it, and let the tool do the work.
We will start with interior cleaning since we all know that a clean pipe smokes better than a dirty one.
When I clean a pipe I start with the airways. I pass a dry pipe cleaner through the stem, the shank, and on into the bowl to check the draft for obstructions. I use a dull probe to check the mortise for build-up. A round toothpick would work as well. My tool is a metal pick with a rounded point so it won’t scratch what it touches.
For clearing the shank draft I suggest that you have a full set of drill bits and a bit chuck (I use an extra drill chuck or tap handle). I carefully try to pass a 1/8th inch (3mm) drill bit from the shank to the bowl. Do not force it or you may scar the briar. Be sure to not let the drill tip pass into the wall of the tobacco chamber. If that drill size passes, try the next size up being careful to cut only the build-up tar and char. Repeat as needed. I do not recommend putting a drill bit into the mortise. Use a dull probe or wood toothpicks.
Next I assess the need to ream the bowl cake. The suggested thickness for a cake is a dime to a nickel’s thickness, depending on the size of the bowl. Using an adjustable reaming tool you may wish to ream the cake. Never ream to the wood as the carbon protects the wood from burning during smoking. Sometimes the bottom of the bowl is not easily reamed with the adjustable reamer. I often trim the lower portion of the cake with a three cornered tool. This can be made from a three cornered file with the tip rounded and the file teeth ground off. The corners of the file should not be sharp. Clear the airway again with a pipe cleaner and a puff of air through the pipe.
If a pipe has tar build-up, smokes foul, or I wish to sanitize the pipe, I will use the retort to dissolve and remove the tar thus sweetening the pipe. I do not use commercial pipe sweeteners, as I hate the taste, and they rarely have enough alcohol content to dissolve the tar. I use potable wood grain alcohol (Everclear is one brand) it is 190 proof or 95% alcohol by volume. You may use any good booze you like (vodka is Ok), but be advised that drinking alcohol is cut with water and water will not dissolve tar effectively. I never use isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol since they are not potable. I will not put anything in my, or my customer’s pipes, that I would not want in my mouth. Do not get alcohol on the exterior of a pipe as it may remove some stain.
If the pipe is not in need of sweetening I will simply use alcohol on pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to rinse the airways and the tobacco chamber. When the cleaners come out beige that is good enough.
Cleaning Briar Pipes Using a Retort System
When using the retort some warnings and precautions are needed.
Wear eye protection, old clothes or a shop smock, and gloves. I use nitrile/latex gloves. Protect all surrounding surfaces, and the pipe exterior. Alcohol can remove stain from your pipe and harm table tops. You will also be using heat to boil the alcohol. Alcohol is flammable and serious burns could result from accidents. Have a ready place to dispose of the spent alcohol and any pipe cleaners/swabs/cloths used.
Benefits: removes tar; nicotine; off tastes; sanitizes pipe and stem.
Components: retort; connector; alcohol; heat source; funnel/syringe; clothes; cotton balls; pipe cleaners; Q-tips; disposal can, table protection.
Steps: Clear airways of the pipe.
Fill the retort bulb with alcohol about 6.5cc or 65ml. More for big pipes, less for small pipes. Avoid overflow.
Affix a connector to pipe. Put cloth over bowl top or cotton ball in chamber. Hold the pipe bowl higher than the retort bulb.
Heat the alcohol. Boiling will force the alcohol into pipe bowl. Allow the to bulb cool, the resulting vacuum will suck mix back into retort bulb. Raising the bowl will get most fluid from the bowl. Repeat 10 times with the same fluid.
Notice the black gunk that is sucked out into the bulb
(Click for larger image)
|Heating the alcohol in the retort bulb
(Click for larger image)
|Dump the Gunk|
Disassemble pipe and dispose of sludge.
Immediately dry any drips from stummel and stem exterior.
Clean the stem draft, tenon, and slot.
Clean the mortise.
Clean the shank draft.
Air dry the disassembled pipe for 8 to 24 hours before smoking.
For my heavily used pipes, ones I smoke three times a week, I usually clean them with the retort once a year. The pipes I use once a week get retort cleaning every other year. My less used pipes get a cleaning without the use of the retort.
Cleaning the Top of the Pipe
To clean the top of a smooth pipe use saliva on a clean rag and rub.
If your pipe has a rusticated top, use saliva to soften the char by letting it soak in for a few minutes then rub with a cloth. Repeating as needed. For stubborn or deep char you may need to dislodge the softened char with a rounded metal tool or round toothpicks. Followed by a light brushing with a fine wire brush.
Buffing the Stem
For buffing your smooth pipe stummels and stems have a bench vice with rubber jaw covers. Carefully tighten the vice on your pipe avoiding crushing pressure. You only want to securely hold the pipe while buffing. To buff, use cotton strips cut from clean old t-shirt cuffs, neck, and bottom area. Rub the appropriate buffing compound on the cotton strips and using speed not pressure strop the cloth across the surface. It is best to use masking tape to protect the areas you do not want to buff (lip, logos, nomenclature). Do not mix compounds on one cotton strip. Use different compounds on separate strips, it helps to label the strips to avoid contamination. Yes, this is slower than a powered buffing wheel, but the results can be the same.
For textured pipe stummels, clean dry brushes work best. Stiff horse hair or pig bristle brushes are excellent. For heavy debris cleaning use a fine wire brush sparingly. For the final waxing use one stiff brush rubbed with wax, do not use this brush for other purposes.
To buff around stamped painted stem logos masking with tape is necessary. Carefully cut a mask for the logo and affix it to the stem. Try not to buff over the masked logo, but around the mask. To clean oxidation in the area around the logo use white auto buffing compound on a cotton rag. Rubbing as close to the masking as possible without disturbing it. You will leave some oxidation, but that is far superior to buffing off the logo.
Whiten the Logo on the Stem
After you have cleaned up the stem as much as possible, remove the masking from the logo and examine it to see if some whitening is required. To whiten the logo clean it first with a small amount of alcohol on a clean cotton rag. Be careful to not rub hard as some white can be removed. Fill the logo indentation with a small amount of Liquid Paper and allow to dry. With a small amount of white auto buffing compound on a cotton rag carefully rub off the excess Liquid paper. This will help remove more of the left over oxidation also. If you go too far with the rubbing just repeat the process of cleaning with a bit of alcohol, apply more Liquid Paper and rub again with auto buffing compound.
To gain better relief on the stummel nomenclature brushing with a dry brush may remove imbedded grease, oil, or wax. For some nomenclature you may need to use alcohol on a brush. Be advised that you may remove some stain from the area. Re-staining is not as difficult as it may at first seem.
Staining the Stummel
To spot-stain the stummel use aniline dyes, commonly available at shoe repair stores. I use Fiebings leather dyes, they are premixed and come in many colors. Buy more shades of stains than you need as you will want to work from the lightest color and move to a darker color if needed. If you start too dark the dye is difficult to make lighter after it is applied. As I mentioned previously, it is always best to practice on a junk pipe before you apply stain to a valuable pipe. Wear gloves and cover anything you want to protect. This dye is flammable and will be difficult to remove from anything you get it on. First clean the area you want to dye with a small amount of alcohol on a cotton cloth. Allow the area to dry. While that is drying, open the dye bottle and remove the foil from the bottle top. Replace the plastic cap and shake the bottle well to coat the inside of the cap with dye. Wrap another clean dry cotton rag over your gloved index finger. Open the bottle and touch your wrapped index finger to the stain on the inside of the cap. Apply as little dye to the area you want stained as possible. After the stain has dried rub it with a clean rag and see if you want to apply more stain, or a darker color. When you are satisfied with the color rub the stained area with a clean rag, then wax the area.
Removing Teeth Marks
For reducing or removing stem tooth damage you may be able to raise indentations with heat. Using a small fine flame, with an adjustable butane lighter, heat the stem at the point of the indentation. Be careful not to scorch the vulcanite. Hold the flame one and a half inches below the spot for about eight seconds. Repeat a couple of times and, if it is a compression mark, it may release a bit.
If it does not release completely you may have to use abrasive techniques to get better results. Look at the stem slot, face on, to see if the stem is thick enough to allow for the removal of vulcanite. If you feel the stem has some excess thickness you may proceed. Use masking tape to cover the lip of the stem with two or three wrappings, allowing the excess tape to continue off the lip face. This will keep you from damaging the lip and provide you with a guide for sanding. For slight imperfections fine sand paper (220 grit, no coarser) can be used in alignment with the stem lip. That is to say, lay the straight edge of the sandpaper in the area immediately following the lip (I call this area the "bite"). Work the paper parallel to the masked lip. Do not press hard, if you let the sandpaper bend into the bite and move it you will produce less cutting action and get a smoother result. Drawing the paper towards the stem’s tenon, as you move it side to side, you will effect more area if needed. Do not overwork with 220 paper, you can’t put back what you have removed. Instead change to 400 grit paper and work out the scratches from the 220. Follow with 600 grit paper for a finer surface texture. Next, using a "super fine" finger nail salon buffing board (from the cosmetic department of a local store) buff the surface until no scratches are seen. You can now put the stem in your bench vice (with the rubber jaw guards) and strop buff the stem to a shine.
If you are really bold you can begin your tooth damage job with a "Single Cut Mill Bastard File" (not a double cut). Be careful, these tools really remove material. To avoid creating deep surface scratches use almost no downward pressure on the file, let the tool do all the work. Work the tool ninety degrees to the orientation of the stem. Buy a new file and keep it clean, do not use it for any other purpose.
Stem Bending for vulcanite or acrylic is done with heat. Use a small controllable flame. I use a heat gun for big jobs and a alcohol fuel lamp for small stems. Warning, you can burn or scorch vulcanite and acrylic. You can use a butane lighter if you have one that stays lit without holding it. Use as small a flame as possible heating the area of the stem you wish to bend. Rotate the stem (preferably mounted in the pipe) over the flame at a distance of about two inches for a butane lighter or about four inches for a lamp (five inches for a heat gun).
With either heat source count off thirty seconds and test the softness of the stem. Repeat until the stem bends with slight pressure. After you are satisfied with the bend, quench the stem in cold, not iced, water for the same time it took to soften it. Note: Do not do this with amber stems.
For stem straightening dipping the part of the stem you wish to straighten in boiling water for a minute may suffice. If you use a lamp, lighter, or heat gun use the precautions mentioned previously.
Tightening loose tenons are similarly done with heat, however pinpoint accuracy with the flame is crucial. First clean out the mortise and the tenon with alcohol and pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. Often tenon problems are caused by tar build-up in the mortise or on the tenon. Test the fit after cleaning and before preceding. I only use a lighter for this step. Access the area of the tenon that is loose. Heat only the area to be expanded . Protect the barrel of the stem with masking tape. Again rotate the stem over the flame at a distance of two inches. Due to the small diameter of most tenons count to ten, not thirty, seconds and test the tenon’s softness by pressing the end of the tenon on a hard flat surface. Be sure to press down at a perfect ninety degree angle so as to not bend the tenon. Proper compression will expand only the heated area. Always test the tenon after each compression in the pipe mortise. Repeat as needed.
Tenon reducing can be done by buffing the tenon. But first clean out the mortise as previously mentioned. Often tenon tightness is caused by debris build-up in the mortise or on the tenon. Test the tenon in the mortise before continuing. Put the stem in a vise (with rubber jaw protectors) to hold it and strop the tenon with a cloth that has a coarse buffing compound on it. Be sure to work all around the tenon circumference equally otherwise you may oval it. Clean the buffing compound off the tenon periodically, and test the fit.
Briar dent reduction/removal can be accomplished with steam heat. Do not do this near nomenclature, stamping can also raise from this technique. I use an electric iron used in the furniture repair trade. You can achieve similar results with a regular steam iron. This will not work on scratches, only on areas where the briar has been compressed. Set the iron on "Cotton", have no water in it and set it on "Dry". Allow the iron to heat. When the iron is ready a small bead of water will "dance" and evaporate from the iron’s face. Dampen, do not soak, a clean cotton rag with water (t-shirt cloth is great). Double the damp rag and place it over the dent in such a manner that you can place the steam iron’s flat tip face exactly on the dented area. Allow the iron’s point to create steam on the dent. Do not press hard, the steam does the work. Repeat as needed.
Slot opening (widening) can be done with a home made tool. Sorry, we don’t have the time here to discuss why some people want to open up their stem slots. Most slots are two to three millimeters in height. A cutting tool can be made from coping saw blades. Without bending the blade, cut one in three equal parts. Use only the two end pieces, the middle section can be discarded. Tap out the pins from the two ends. Place the two ends side by side and with metal tape, wrap the base of the blades together. Or, if you can solder, solder them together. The two saw blades, side by side, are less than two millimeters thick. Mount the blades in an adjustable tool handle. Grind off or file the back side of the blades (the side without the teeth) down to a two millimeter "point" that flares out to the original blade back surface at about one half inch to three quarters of an inch. This tool should allow you to get deep into the stem draft hole for your widening. You may wish to make another slot tool that is three blades thick.
With the stem lip held at ninety degrees to a flat surface the tool can be used to widen the size of the draft hole to the slot. Envision a stretched "V" within the stem. With small hobby files you can clean up any rough spots. Folded bits of fine sand paper will smooth your slot work further.
If you wish to attempt to open your shank to bowl draft do it in steps. One drill size up at a time. Buy drill stops, or mark your drill with masking tape, and carefully measure the distance you need to go to avoid drilling across the bottom of your bowl. Don’t force the drill in the shank.
When buffing with powered wheels slower is better. High speed means a loss of control and you may produce a wavy surface. Do not mix compounds on your wheels, mark them and use them for one compound only. For a big 9" wheel 1725 rpm is good. I use a variable drive on my wax wheel for greater control. Do not use a one speed Dremil type tool spinning at 13000 rpm, get a variable speed and start slow. Most powered hand drills are Ok, but I would still advise using a variable speed drill. Use masking tape to protect areas you do not wish to effect. Be sure to use the right angle of attack with the wheel, this is crucial for stem lips.
The history of S. M. Frank & Co. spans nearly a century and half of pipe making, supporting its claim as the "oldest pipe house in America." S. M. Frank, as it exists today, is a combination of some of the biggest names in pipe making from the early part of the 20th. century. The pipe names Kaywoodie, Yello-Bole, Reiss-Premier, DeMuth, Medico, Heritage and Frank are familiar to generations of pipe smokers.
Early History of Kaywoodie and Yello-Bole
Kaywoodie was the name a pipe offered by Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Company (KBB), first appearing in February of 1919. The Dinwoodie pipe, also by KBB, appeared in November of 1919. Sometime before 1924, the Dinwoodie had been discontinued and the Kaywoodie name was beginning to be used on an extensive line of pipes that ultimately would be the name of the company. The origin of the name Kaywoodie is a combination of the K from Kaufman and wood, as in briar. Not much is known of the original KBB company other than it was started in 1851 by the German born Kaufman brothers when they opened a small pipe shop in the Bowery section of New York City. In the back room of this shop, they made their first pipes. From this meager beginning, the Kaywoodie name and organization was to emerge.
When one of the men from the New York office got "gold fever", he carried a large supply of pipes with him to California that he sold along the way. This early "national distribution" did much to build the reputation of KBB. By the late 1800's, branches of KBB were opened in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis with family and friends acting as agents. The trademarks, for the inlaid cloverleaf and the cloverleaf with the KBB initials inside, were issued in 1881. KBB's pipes became more popular and were in constant demand by the end of the century. Orders were streaming back east and KBB needed to move to larger manufacturing facilities. By 1915 the move was made to larger facilities in the old Union Hill section of Union City, New Jersey. The salesroom offices were located at 33 East 17th. Street, New York. When the Kaywoodie pipe was first introduced by KBB it came with a hand cut rubber mouthpiece fitted with an aluminum Inbore Tube. This device was to "assure a clean, cool smoke." Other KBB pipes such as Ambassador, Heatherby and Melrose also had the Inbore tube. The early Drinkless Kaywoodies from 1924 through 1931 had push bit stems. In 1931, after three years of research, the new Drinkless Kaywoodies with the synchro-stem, (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece) were introduced. The drinkless attachment was advertised as cooling the smoke from 850 degrees in the bowl to 82 degrees when it entered the mouth. By the mid 1930's, all Kaywoodie's came with the screw mounted Drinkless attachment. (Export Kaywoodies, available briefly from 1950-1955, had push bit stems and were available in all the same shapes and finishes as the drinkless versions.)
Again, demand for KBB pipes and especially Kaywoodie prompted another move for both the manufacturing facilities and the corporate offices. In 1930 the corporate office moved into the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue in New York. By 1935, the manufacturing operations moved from Union City to 6400 Broadway in West New York, New Jersey which, at the time, was touted as the largest pipe making facility in the world. At the height of production, there were 500 employees producing up to 10,000 pipes per day.
The corporate offices were relocated in 1936 to the International Building, Rockefeller Center, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York. The invitation to visit the new office reads, "Kaywoodie is now on display at the world's most famous address - Rockefeller Center. Here Kaywoodie takes its place among the leaders of industry and commerce." The move to Rockefeller Center coincided with The Kaywoodie Company's emergence as a subsidiary of KBB. All of the pipes manufactured by KBB including the Yello-Bole line were also on display here. By 1938 Kaywoodie had opened an office in London to meet worldwide demand. Kaywoodie of London was jointly owned with another famous pipemaker, Comoy's of London.
The Yello-Bole line was introduced in 1932 and was an outlet for lower grade briar not used in Kaywoodie production. Yello-Bole's were manufactured by Penacook, New Hampshire subsidiary, The New England Briar Pipe Company. Advertising from the 1940's, pictures the Yello-Bole "Honey Girl" and urges the pipe smoker to smoke the pipe with "a little honey in every bowl." Honey was an ingredient of the material used to line the inside of the bowl. It was said to provide a faster, sweeter break-in of the pipe.
Reiss-Premier Pipe Co. was also a pipe making concern that was part of the Kaywoodie organization. Pipes made by this company had the pipes name stamped inside an elongated diamond on the shank of the pipe. KBB, Kaywoodie and Reiss-Premier were all located in the West New York manufacturing plant. Rudolph Hirsch, the first president of The Kaywoodie Company from 1936 until at least 1950, was also president of Kaufman Brother's & Bondy when Kaywoodie was formed and was a vice president of Reiss-Premier.
During World War II, getting briar imported into this country was not easy. Italian and French briar couldn't be had until very late in the war. Kaywoodie was able to import 1400 5-gross bags of briar (about 1,000,000 blocks) out of North Africa in 1943 after the German army was defeated there. Early in 1941, Kaywoodie embarked on a project of domestically grown briar wood, called Mission Briar or manzanita. This wood is botanically the same as Mediterranean briar. The Pacific Briarwood Company, a KBB subsidiary, began harvesting the burl type wood growing on the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. However, the smoking characteristics were not quite as good and the project was abandoned after the war. After the war, pipe production returned to new heights with many new pipe smokers coming out of the armed services.
Early History of S. M. Frank & Co.
In the year 1900 Sam Frank Sr. started his own business, selling pipes and other tobacco items. His original office was located at 20 W. 17th Street, NYC. He was also closely associated with the sales staff of Wm. DeMuth & Co., selling their line of pipes. It was at this time that Mr. Frank first met Ferdinand Feuerbach and formed what would be a lifelong friendship. Mr. Feuerbach started working for the DeMuth company in 1897 and by 1903 had become the production manager. In 1919, when Mr. Frank needed an experienced pipe man to run his pipe factory, located at 168 Southern Blvd., in the Bronx, he persuaded his old friend Ferdinand to join him. Mr. Feuerbach is credited with developing DeMuth's popular Royal DeMuth and Hesson Guard Milano pipelines. In 1922, when S. M. Frank purchased the Manhattan Briar Pipe Co. the company incorporated. In 1933, the paper Medico filter was introduced along with the Medico brand line of pipes. The Medico filter is the "original" and most absorbent paper filter on the market that is recognized by pipe smokers world-wide. Filtered pipe smoking, a debatable issue among pipe smokers, reduces tars and nicotine in the smoke stream to make a "safer" smoke.
In early 1937, the City of New York notified S. M. Frank of their intent to take by eminent domain, part of the land on which the companies pipe factory was located. This was being done to widen two of the adjacent streets. As a result of this, S. M. Frank entered into negotiations to purchase the Wm. DeMuth & Co.'s pipe factory in the Richmond Hill section of Queens. It was agreed upon that DeMuth would become a subsidiary of S. M. Frank and all pipe production of the two companies would be moved to DeMuth factory. New Corporate offices were located at 133 Fifth Avenue, NYC.
In October 1943, Sam Frank Sr.'s passing marked a change of leadership of the company. Herbert Schloss, longtime friend and fellow salesman was named President, Ferdinand Feuerbach was Vice President and Treasurer, Charles Dietsch (Sam Frank's nephew) was Vice President of Sales. William Feuerbach Sr., who joined the company in 1937, was named Assistant Treasurer. Sam Frank Jr. joined the company in 1948, after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during the war. He worked in factory operations until 1950 when he was transferred to sales, covering various territories.
Kaywoodie, Yello-Bole bought by S. M. Frank
In March of 1955, S. M. Frank & Co., Inc., headquarter at 133 Fifth Avenue, New York, with manufacturing facilities located in the Richmond Hill section of Queens in New York City, completed the purchase of The Kaywoodie Company, Kaufman Brothers & Bondy, Reiss-Premier Corp. and The New England Briar Pipe Co. There are a few years prior to this that things are a little fuzzy. It is thought that aforementioned companies were purchased by another company in 1952. The name of this company is not known by us. This interim owner was not a pipemaker and after only 3 years was looking for a buyer. When this unknown company bought Kaywoodie in 1952, the Rockefeller Center corporate office was closed and moved to the West New York plant. Sam Frank Jr. was put in charge of Manufacturing and Purchasing of the newly acquired West New York facility. (Later in 1964, he would be elected President and Chief Executive of S. M. Frank. In 1968 he assumed and was later elected Chairman of the Board, replacing Herbert Schloss, who passed away in January of '68 after 60 years of employment with S. M. Frank.)
In 1956, S. M. Frank purchased the New Jersey Briar Pipe Co., a pipemaker that produced mainly closeout and promotional pipes as well as private label. This company continued as a subsidiary until December 31, 1972.
In 1957, S. M. Frank formed Medico Pipes (Canada) Ltd, to distribute Medico products in Canada. Offices were located in Toronto. In December of 1971, the subsidiary was renamed KYM Pipes (Canada) Ltd. and continued distributing all three lines there until it was sold to Brigham Pipes, Ltd. in 1985. Sometime in the early 1960's, another subsidiary was set up in Livorno, Italy called KYM (Europe) Srl. This location still operates today and acts as a warehouse and distribution facility of Medico products in Europe, Africa, and the Mid-East.
From the time of S. M. Frank's purchase in 1955 until 1972, Kaywoodie and Yello-Bole were run as a separate companies, as divisions of the parent. The Kaywoodie Company was re-named Kaywoodie Pipes, Inc. Through this period, Kaywoodie and Yello-Bole had its own officers, sales force and maintained the production facilities in West New York. In the early 1960's the corporate offices were re-located to S. M. Frank's office at 18 East 54th Street, New York, NY. Medico and DeMuth pipes continued to be made at the Richmond Hill plant. Through the 1960's, demand for S. M. Frank pipes exceeded the available supply. One of the reasons for this was the first two Surgeon General's reports on cigarette smoking and the health dangers. This report also said that if you wanted to smoke, smoke a pipe instead. By the late 1960's, S. M. Frank was looking for larger facilities to house the manufacturing and office space. In 1968, Kaywoodie's sales office moved again, to 745 5th Avenue. This office was only open a few years until the search for a new building was completed.
In May of 1960, S. M. Frank started a subsidiary company called Heritage Pipes. The Heritage pipes were an upscale line of push bit pipes meant to compliment the Kaywoodie line. Although not hugely successful, Heritage produced some fine pipes that are still in the collections of many pipe smokers. This company was dissolved on December 31, 1971.
In 1966, S. M. Frank developed a synthetic material called Brylon as a cheaper alternative to briar. The material, a high temperature resin mixed with wood flour, was cheaper than briar, more resistant to cracking, chipping, charring and burnouts. However to some there are some drawbacks, heavier in the mouth, hotter when smoked quickly, and also simply put, "wasn't briar." Millions of these pipes have been sold in the 3 decades since and continue to be part of the Yello-Bole and Medico lines. Two Brylon lines in Kaywoodie, Marmont and Impulse, were briefly tried and abandoned in the late 80's.
The Wm. DeMuth Company, met its official end as a subsidiary company in 1972. DeMuth's mainstay pipe, the Wellington continued to be offered in the S. M. Frank catalog until 1976. In the mid-80's, the Wellington made a brief return as a direct to the consumer offer. The Kaywoodie office in London was sold by S. M. Frank in the early 1970's along with the trademark for Kaywoodie in England to Comoy's of London (Cadogan), pipe makers since 1825. Comoy's and The Kaywoodie Co. (US) were 50/50 owners of Kaywoodie (London). Today, Comoy's continues to produce several different styles of London made Kaywoodies.
In 1972, S. M. Frank constructed a new building to serve as production facility and corporate offices on Horse Block Road, Yapank, Long Island. (Around this time Kaywoodie and S. M. Frank's other pipe brands started appearing in catalogs together.) The new building housed molding equipment for mouthpieces, filter making equipment, briar block inventory and the beginning operations of pipe making; frazing, first selection of the wood's grade, roughing (first sand papering) and second selection. Because pipe making requires a skill that takes years to learn, the finishing operations, from mounting the mouthpiece to the stummel to completion, continued to be done by the workers at the Richmond Hill plant. At this time the production facility in West New York was closed and moved to Richmond Hill.
The thought was that skilled pipe craftsmen would be trained at Yapank and the finishing operations would gradually be shifted there. Through the 70's the demand for pipes started to fall and as a result, the Yapank plant was closed in 1977 with S. M. Frank temporarily moving all operations back to the Richmond Hill plant.
In 1980, S. M. Frank & Co. moved to its present location in Peekskill, NY, a small city 50 miles north of New York City on the east shore of the Hudson River. With the closure of the Richmond Hill plant in the early 80's, pipes were produced by several Italian pipe makers. The quality of these pipes were not up to our standards and soon this arrangement ceased in favor of a domestic pipemaker, an ex-employee who had started his own pipe business. In 1992, S. M. Frank purchased their domestic supplier to maintain better control of quality and production. All briar Kaywoodie, Yello-Bole, and Medico pipes, as well as private label pipes, are produced at our manufacturing facility in Tampa, Florida. All of S. M. Frank's Brylon pipes are manufactured in Peekskill.
In September of 1997, S. M. Frank released the "Gold Series" of Kaywoodie pipes, marking the first new release in over a decade. This new series is 8 different finishes with push bit type mouthpieces, without the "drinkless screw attachment" or other metal condensers. The pipes are made of larger, extra quality briar with rubber or lucite mouthpieces. With this addition to the line, Kaywoodie pipes are available in 18 different finishes with about 12 twelve different shapes per finish. Medico is made in 13 finishes, 6 Brylon and 7 briar. Yello-Bole is made in 9 finishes, 5 Brylon and 4 briar.
Any way to repair holes in a stem?
OK...from Jim Beard we have...
|If you have a vulcanite mouthpiece damaged beyond repair, you can rub it against sandpaper until you have a pile of material maybe three or four times as big as the hole you need to patch. Then mix the vulcanite material with epoxy glue. |
Run a pipe cleaner through the mouthpiece to keep the smoke channel open, preferably a thick fat pipe cleaner if one will fit. Then fill in the hole and leave enough extra material that shrinkage will not be a problem. Move the pipe cleaner back and forth a few times to smooth out the interior in the vicinity of the patch and then remove it.
Allow the patched mouthpiece to sit for a day or two and then sand off excess material from the outside. Start with maybe 150 grit for rapid removal of material, then 300 or 400 grit for slow removal, and then go to at least 600 grit to burnish. Depending on the mouthpiece, you might wish to go as high as 2400 grit for an expensive mouthpiece that you wish to gleam brightly.
If the smoke channel is closed or partially closed, despite use of the pipe cleaner, use a drill bit of suitable size, by hand, to reopen it, or get abrasive cord and try that.
The above can be done. But I personally would give thought to simply replacing the mouthpiece with a murder bit, to prevent future problems. The ¨murder bit¨ has dual smoke channels, with a thicker section of hard rubber between them. You bite down on the hard rubber, that will withstand the teeth, and the smoke channels suffer less damage.
Most pipe repairmen keep murder bits in stock, though they may have a different name for them. Twin-bore, dual channel, etc.
The mouthpiece is conventional in general shape, but a little thicker near the bit end. The smoke channel through the tenon is a single channel, in conventional style, but then it branches into a V, with one side of the V running to each side of the bit. Between these two branches, there is hard rubber that is a little thicker than normal for a mouthpiece.
When you bit down, your teeth crunch on the thicker hard rubber down the middle, and the smoke channel areas vulnerable to bite-through suffer little or no damage (depending on configuration of your teeth and how you bite down).
On new pipes, these may be advertised as ¨twin-bore¨ mouthpieces, and the hard rubber in the middle may be a little less thick than in mouthpieces commonly available for replacements.
by Alan Schwartz
photos by Joseph Comick / Shooting Star
Because PipeSmoke has promoted the idea editorially that you don't have to spend a month's rent to buy a decent pipe, we decided to visit one of the largest producers in the world of so-called "service pipes," those everyday companions to the pipesmoker, which provide pleasure without being a pain in the pocket. We would like to reassure our readers at the outset that we are not saying that high-ticket items aren't worth the price: they are, because of the rarity of fine, flawless grain, and exquisite finishing. Lets just say by analogy that Timex and Casio are not Omega and Rolex, but they all tell time. Everyday stuff isn't special, but it can still be good. Service pipes have their place in the grand scheme of things.
If you aren't paying attention to the passing scene, the town of Sparta is over soon after the road gets there: a few filling stations, and Sparta is gone. But those in the pipe business know that this is the home of Sparta Industries, a company that produces over a million tobacco pipes a year. That's the largest production of any one single place in the world, including Saint Claude, France, where the output is equal, but derives from the combined output of a dozen factories, large and small. Sparta was recently taken over by Lane Limited (an industry giant who distributes such brands as Dunhill, Stanwell, and Captain Black, to name but a few), and after regrouping, it's lean, mean, and ready to launch its new product lines. Dr. Grabow is their mass-market "bread and butter" line; a product intended for drug, convenience, and discount stores, and even for some smoke shops. Alpha is for the smoke shops that want to sell a good quality "entry-level" pipe for newcomers, or for the inveterate pipe smoker who wants a daily-use pipe of good quality at a moderate price. With the chief architects of the new Sparta Industries products, managing director Max Haynes, and Joe Rowe and Frank Blews of Lane Limited, we visited the factory to preview the products and see what the reconfigurations would bring to the consumer. We were both surprised and pleased with what we found. Surprised, because the quality of product is very high for a mass-production factory. Remarkably, despite some interesting and innovative machinery, a lot of handwork goes into making Sparta's pipes. Also, their enormous storehouse of briar is impressive. According to Max Haynes, Sparta is the world's largest single purchaser of briar, with a minimal one-year supply on hand at all times.
We were pleased by our visit because the tour convinced us that these pipes represent a top choice and value for the money - a consistent service pipe that no one need be reluctant to sell or smoke. Alpha is the higher-end version of Dr. Grabow, with better grain and clearer finishes. Most of the shapes are classic, but there's a limited array of "free-hand" styles, with some real beauties any pipesmoker could use with pride.
The Sparta factory is a vertical operation incorporating every phase of pipe manufacture, from briar block (ebauchon) to finished product. First, the bowls are cut individually on hand-operated fraising machines run by a dozen or so operators, using a preset die to guide the cutting. Then the shank of the bowl is hand-cut as well, again with a steel die to predetermine the outcome. The rough edges are trimmed and then the bowls are roughly sanded.
At this point, the first grading occurs the best bowls are set aside to become Alpha pipes instead of Dr. Grabows. The grading determines not only the final brand name but the price within that line, because the size of the bowl will also be a factor, in addition to the presence of minute surface flaws and more or less desirable graining.
The next step in the process is drilling the air hole through the shank to the bottom of the bowl, again by hand. The end of the shank is then mortised to make a fitting for the mouthpiece tenon. According to the grade, a mouthpiece is now fitted. The least expensive Grabows get a plastic one, and the better grades and all Alphas get vulcanite or Lucite. Again, these are fitted one at a time. Dr. G's pipes use a wider tenon to accommodate the replaceable filters that are a standard feature of that pipe, while those bowls destined for the Alpha line get a conventional non-filter mouthpiece. Some pipes in both lines are equipped with a screw-fitted tenon that matches up with a fitting set into the mortised shank. A clever patented device called "Adjustomatic" allows the user to turn the entire screw-fitted stem (mouthpiece) around 360 degrees to align the mouthpiece and bowl, a refinement not available on similar pipes made by competitors.
Before the final finishing, the pipes are "pre-smoked," a process the company has long advertised, and it's not malarkey. A contraption worthy of cartoonist Rube Goldberg performs the task. A horizontally mounted wheel about eight feet in diameter has fittings on its hp to hold pipes by their stems. An operator fits the pipe on the slowly rotating wheel so that the ends of the stems slip into a slot that connects to a vacuum. A quarter of the way around, the pipes rotate past a narrow hopper that drops a finely cut natural tobacco into the bowl, which is then lit by a gas jet directed down into the bowl as the vacuum is automatically turned on. By the time the pipe comes round full circle the tobacco in the bowl has been smoked down to the bottom, leaving an initial "carbon cake" on the inside of the bowl. The smoked pipes are released automatically into a catch basket as the operator sets up unsmoked pipes to replace them.
"You know," says Frank Blews, an ardent pipesmoker and one of Lane's top managers, "many pipe factories just coat the inner bowl with some carbonized 'gunk' or merely stain the inside black. But we really do this to every pipe, and it works. They taste good from the 'get-go.’” The wood's quality is as good as it gets, although, understandably, mostly not specimen grain. All of the briar is aged naturally at a constant temperature and humidity in burlap sacks, without heat-forcing.
And the pre-smoking process does take the "edge" off the pipe's first smoke. We sampled some finished pipes from the bin and the pipes tasted as good as any that we've smoked. We also noticed that the Dr. G filter seemed to do wonders for a high-humectant, deeply flavored tobacco such as Lane's own Captain Black. The filter levels out the flavoring, actually mellowing the taste, making it smoother on the tongue. It also caught a lot of moisture and left the pipe cleaner and drier down to the bottom of the bowl. With a filter replacement after each smoke, this pipe will make the full-aromatic smoker happier with his favorite tobacco for a long time.
Most of the specimens we observed during our visit have a well-defined grain. The least attractive will become low-end Dr. Grabows with finishes that are rusticated or deeply stained and highly varnished. These will appear in drug and outlet stores on display boards or in see-through "gift boxes." Not intended for the specialty shop, these certainly make many smokers very happy, judging by the brisk sales.
Better-looking examples get lighter stains to highlight the grain and a variety of finishes are available, ranging from a deep mahogany brown, to an orange-maple tone, to a light "natural" color. Surface flaws are so skillfully filled in as to be virtually undetectable and all models are available with either matte or highly buffed finishes. These pipes will also be sold by the, mass-market outlets, but to a more selective buyer, willing to pay more for a larger piece with clearly marked grain. Priced in a recommended retail range of $12.95 to $21.95, these are certainly attractive buys. The "Golden Duke," with a screw-in stem has a walnut satin finish, while the "Royalton," with a Lucite stem, has a regular push fit. The "Regal," with a vulcanite screw fitting, omits the disposable filter and substitutes an aluminum filter that can be removed for cleaning, or dispensed with.
While Dr. Grabow will continue to be available in about 120 different shapes and sizes and a dozen or so finishes, the presentation of the Alpha pipe, Sparta's premium line, has been completely restructured. Instead of the freehand style that characterized previous Alpha production under the former U.S. Tobacco management, there are now a total of 18 shapes; 14 classics and four specials. Finishes are also limited to four; three smooth and one sandblast. Sigma is a light orange-brown, Kappa is a matte medium brown, Beta is a dark reddish brown, and Epsilon is a black sandblast with reddish highlights. And they all look good, especially as "service" pipes or, as some of the old-timers say, "a good smoking pipe that you can take to work, slip in your pocket, leave in the car, in fact, take anywhere with pride." These pipes will give as good a smoke as any, but won't win prizes from connoisseurs who are willing to pay 10 times the price or more for perfectly grained, impeccably finished, flawless specimens of pipernaking art.
"You want that kind of perfection," Blews says, "you buy Dunhill, Stanwell, Aldo Velani, or other top-of-the-line brands. You've got plenty of those, I'm sure, and so have I, over 3,000 of them. But, these [Alphas] are damned good smokers and a helluva lot easier on your cash flow."
We test drive two randomly selected Alpha pipes, and they are very good, especially with the more natural tobaccos. There are no filters in the Alpha line to attenuate the flavor. I comment on the dry, clean taste and Frank, a very direct man who doesn't mince words says, "It's a simple equation to teach to a customer: good pipe, good tobacco, and good technique equals a good smoke."
Joe Rowe, sales director at parent company Lane Ltd., is hoping to reposition Alpha to compete with European imports in the $60 to $75 range, by pricing Alpha from $30 to $45. "We will continue to be a low-cost producer through mass production, in volume to substantiate the price, for a general market, and give the consumers value for what they are prepared to pay," says Rowe.
It's not what the manufacturer would like to charge, Rowe explains, because then you can just make up numbers and hope that the customer will either accept that he is getting value for money, even if he's not. Or you can advertise the hell out of a product and convince the buyer that life is not worthwhile without your product, whatever the price. "We don't want to do that with Alpha," Joe continues. "Alpha is quality at reasonable cost, and we think value, irrespective of cost, helps the industry."
We can't help but agree. If Alpha can attract the new generation of recreational smoker to the pleasures of the pipe without scaring them away with high prices, then more power to Sparta Industries and Lane Ltd. for their market smarts.
A history of Comoy’s and a guide towards dating the Pipes
The Comoy's Focus Group at the Chicago Pipe and tobacciana Fair was a great success and over 30 people attended with some great pipes. Thank you to all who supported it.
This history page is continually updated as new information is found
I have for many years been collecting pipes made by Comoy’s and have found them all beautifully made and excellent smokers. I quickly realised that there was very little information on the make generally and often the information published was inaccurate. Unlike Dunhills, Comoy's did not stamp their pipes with a date code and therefore I will never be able to produce the type of information that John Loring has been able to do with Dunhills. I hope however that the information that I have gathered will be of interest and use to both old and new collectors of these beautifully made pipes. As a collector and smoker of both Dunhills and Comoy's, I am convinced that Comoy's are just as well made, smoke every bit as well and only lack the cache of the name.
Although there is still a lot more research needed, this will no doubt surface as more Comoy’s are added to the collection or are viewed. I now have well over 150 examples of pipes made by Comoy’s in my collection, of which 29 have hallmarked silver bands. These together with other dated examples I have seen together with original catalogues have enabled me to considerable flesh out some of the previously published facts.
I have also been fortunate to have had several long discussions with Jacques Cole who was at St Claude from 1948 to 1957 and was factory manager at Comoy’s from 1958 until 1963. Jacques is now retired but is still active in the pipe world being Grand Chancellor of the “Academie International de la Pipe.” I am most grateful to Jacques for allowing me to quote from an article he wrote about Comoy’s which was part of a series on The Pipe Makers (1850-1994). I am also fortunate to have a history of the company written by Louis Comoy in the 1950’s and believe that the history given as an introduction is as definitive as possible.
This is the earliest Comoy that I have seen. The silver band is hallmarked for 1902 and the H.C does not have the normal cartouche. The pipe has no markings other than London over Made.
5 1/4 inches long 1 1/2 inches high
Francois Comoy and his brothers started making pipes (probably clays, boxwood and beech) in 1825 in the small monastic town of Saint- Claude in eastern France. Claude and his son Louis discovered that briar had vastly superior qualities and from 1848 made pipes only in this wood. In 1879 Francois’s son Henri who was born in 1850 moved to London with a small bag of tools, but a great deal of experience. Henri set up a small factory in Seven Dials which is today known as Cambridge Circus. He was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the briar pipe trade in London and is credited with being the author of the appellation “London Made.” He was helped at first by some of his brothers and around 1891 was joined by his two nephews, Louis and Charles Chapuis. Louis took the name of his adoptive parents.. By 1895 the business had outgrown the Seven Sisters site and a new factory was built in Newcastle Place, Clerkenwell. By 1905 markets were being sought in America and the extra business required a new factory to be built in 1913 at 72 Rosebury Avenue.In 1914 the partners Henri Comoy and his nephews Louis and Charles incorporated the business as H.Comoy & Co. Ltd. Before the 1914/18 war Henri was also joined by his sons, Adrien and Paul who were born after his nephews arrived in London. In 1921 Sam Zinberg was appointed Director of Sales for the USA and the House of Comoy was established. Henri Comoy died in 1924 at the age of 74 leaving the company in the hands of Louis and Charles.
In 1929 the company was invited to join Cadogan Investments Ltd. This was known as “The Merger” which consisted of the Civic Company and Oppenheimer Pipes with their associated companies. This merger was formed in order to create co-operation between the various companies.
In 1937 a new, model and splendidly-equipped factory was opened in Pentonville Road to accommodate additional staff of several hundred. The next generation had joined the firm by the time the Second World War broke out. Louis Chapuis Senior joined in 1938 and Pierre Comoy in 1947 after service in the Royal Armoured Corps.
The Second World War was a difficult period for the company, because the whole of industry in Great Britain was turned over to the production of armaments and the war effort, consequently the manufacture of pipes ceased except for a small workshop. After the war ended in 1945 it was an uphill struggle for all British companies to once again get established and it was not until 1950 and the opening of a new purpose built factory in Aldershot that production nearly met demand.
The main manufacturing companies in the merger known as Cadogan Investments Ltd were Civic, Comoy’s and Marechal Ruchon & Co Ltd and in the early 1960’s manufacture came under one management, but the marketing departments continued working independently for a number of years. My 1965 catalogue makes the following statement “And now, we the Comoys of the fourth generation, together with those of the fifth, Pierre Comoy and Louis Chapuis, continue to follow the course set by our forefathers, who would be gratified to see our latest ultra modern plant in Aldershot Hampshire.” Comoy’s remained a family owned company until it was finally taken over by Cadogan Investments during the early 1980’s. Cadogan have continued to manufacture Comoy pipes to the present day and under Michael Adler the Comoy brand is their flagship and efforts are being made to once more re-instate the well known quality of the brand.
The collector of Comoy pipes is really only interested in those pipes made before Comoy was finally taken over by Cadogan in the early 1980’s and I have therefore concentrated on that period. I have also, for the purpose of this article only briefly mentioned some of the other brands made by Comoy’s such as Cecil, Every Man, Town Hall, Guildhall etc, where they can contribute some evidence to help in dating.
Some indication of the period in which the pipe was made can be learnt from the name or grade stamped on the pipe, however the names are not reliable guides to dating unless associated with other factors. It is obvious that Comoy’s often reintroduced the same name at various dates, presumably as a marketing exercise or at the request of their wholesalers.
The Names or Grades.
There is insufficient knowledge at the moment to be sure exactly which of the names used in the 20’s and 30’s were intended as “Grades” as apposed to just names for a slightly different finish or market. I have a beautiful cased pair of small dark “plum pudding coloured” pipes with the name “Par Excellence” from the early 1920’s. The name is stamped below the arched Comoy’s. The name is shown in the same way in the cartouche in the lid of the case. Both the pipes and the case are also stamped Altson of Melbourne & Perth. It may be that the name “Par Excellence” was reserved for the Australian market or indeed just for Altson. An interesting feature of these pipes is that the three piece inlaid “C” is on top of the stem rather than the side. I have not seen this on any other pipe. (Addendum. I have now acquired from my friend Dennis Moore another Par Excellence which dates to the early 1930's and therefore we know that it was indeed a Grade.)
In the 1909 catalogue, it states “we are the manufacturers of the following well known brands: - Comoy’s Prima London Made, Comoys London Made, H.C. London Made, Yomac London Made, Standard London Made.”
The order in which I have illustrated the pipes is not neccessarily chronological because there was considerable overlapping of the introduction and discontinuation of the grades. It is also clear that Comoy's added extra definitions to the grades such as Supreme or Straight Grain if the pipe warranted it.
This was the top grade introduced in the early 1900’s. Jaques Cole kindly let me copy his beautifully illustrated catalogue dated 1909 which is almost certainly the first one produced by Comoy. It illustrates 96 pipes all with silver bands dated 1909. Apparently pipes were seldom graded during the 1914/18 war because the production effort was quantity rather than quality for the troops at the front.
H.C in cartouche with London hallmarks.
Stamped London Made.
5 1/4 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
Note that the Comoy's does not have a tail.
I have two Old Bruyeres dated 1921 and a 1931 sales leaflet that states. “Out of every gross of Bruyere pipe bowls made, only 4 are good enough to be called Comoy’s Old Bruyere. At this time therefore it was definitely a high grade. By 1943 it had been downgraded, as it was listed at $7.50, the same price as the Grand Slam and Tradition. At this time the Blue Riband was $35 as was the Meerschaum lined. The Royal was $12 and the Virgin Briar $10. The Old Bruyere was no longer listed in 1965
1921/22 Old Bruyere
9ct Gold band with London Hallmark.
Made in London (Rugby Ball shape).
5 3/4 inches long 1 7/8 inches tall. (Dunhill Group 4)
I have a Virgin Briar dated 1925. On the evidence of the pipes in my collection, these were definitely very fine quality however in the 1931 sales leaflet; the “Virgin Briar” was obviously the main grade below the “Old Bruyere” which was obviously the higher grade. In a 1936 advertisement the “Virgin” was priced at $6. I also have a “Virgin Briar Supreme,” but do not know whether this was a grade in its own right. The Virgin Briar was no longer listed in 1965.
Late 1920's Virgin Briar.
"London Made" (Curved)
Very small 3 Piece C
5 1/4 inches long 2 1/4 inches high.
This grade was introduced in 1925 to mark 100 years of pipe making and continued in production until the 1970,s. In 1965 it was priced at $20
Made in London over England.(Football Shape)
5 1/2 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
Introduced in 1933 with the patented (Patent Number 2001612) metal filter system and still in production until the 1970’s. The early Grand Slams had an inlaid bar on the top of the stem that was composed of two white inserts with a pale blue insert between them. Later this was replaced by the 3 piece inlaid C . I believe this occured around WW2. The “Grand Slam” was priced at $5 in 1936 and $20 in 1965.
Additional stamps on the Grand Slam
In addition to Patent being stamped underneath Grand Slam, the early pipes from the 1930's also had Pat Pending on the underside. Grand Slam pipes also have a * followed by a number on the underside this indicates the size of the filter. I have a shape 309 with *1, a shape 163 with *7 and a shape 64 with *6. Jerry Heifferon emailed me to say his shape 24 had *2. Recently Jerry has seen an Apple Shape 159 with *9. And more recently Regis McCafferty has acquired a shape 441 with *4
Note. I have now acquired some original packets of spare filters and it apparant that the number refers to the size of the leather washer that fits on the end of the aluminium stringer.
1930's Grand Slam Patent
Shape 309 Comoy's equivalent of the Dunhill ES.
Made in England (Football shape)
6 1/2 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
I have one cased pipe stamped with this grade which has the arched Comoy’s and therefore dates to the 1930’s. It was made for “John’s Pipe Shop of Los Angeles” I also have a 1930’s Deluxe which is stamped “Straight Grain. Another in my collection is stamped “Supreme Patent”. ”The same grade is also featured in the 1965 catalogue as a walnut model for $22.50 and also sandblasted model at $20 with silver military mounts.
1930's Deluxe Supreme Patent
Made in England (Football shape)
6 inches long 1 3/4 inches tall.
The Royal has always been a high grade Comoy, and pre WW II it was the highest standard grade after the Prima was dropped and before the Blue Riband was introduced. Priced at $7.50 in 1936.
1930's Royal Comoy's
Made in England (F/B)
Pat Pending stamped across the under surface of the stem.
5 3/4 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
These two pipes are the earlist examples I have seen stamped Straight Grain. The one on the left is a hallmarked silver banded 1916 Prima Straight Grain and the one on the right is an early 1920's De Luxe Straight Grain. These both have as straight a grain as any "Specimen Straight Grain" I have seen. They are extremely rare.
This name was a very clever marketing ploy by Comoy’s and it was given to celebrate the record crossing of the Atlantic by the great ocean liners of the Cunard Line. It is my belief that the name was first used by Comoy’s in 1936 to celebrate the crossing by the Queen Mary in 4 days 27 minutes. It was priced at $35 in 1943 and the same price in 1965. Certainly it was a rare pipe and Jacques Cole tells me that they always had great difficulty in meeting the demand for this brand. A catalogue from just after the war states “Of every thousand pipe bowls that are made in the Comoy’s workshops, forty or perhaps fifty will be picked out worthy to bear the Comoy name.” It goes on to say that of these only three or four will be given the name “Blue Riband”. The Blue Riband was the first pipe where the grain was carefully selected, given a dark stain to acentuate it and then finished with an orange top coat. The result was startling and although others tried to copy it, no-one could equal its appearance until recently.
1950's Blue Riband
Made in London England (Football Shape)
5 3/4 inches long 2 inches high.
This was introduced as the second grade to the Blue Riband in 1947 to meet the American demand for a lighter finish. It was priced in 1943 at $25 and in 1965 at $25 then in 1979 at $95
1950's London Pride Extraordinaire.
Made in London England (F/B shape)
7 1/2 inches long 1 7/8 inches high.
This pipe illustrates how Comoy's designated their pipes as Extraordinaire if they are of exceptional length.
Specimen Straight Grain
I am not sure when this grade was first produced, but it probably appeared just before the Second World War. This certainly was the top grade from its introduction. It is described in my 1965 catalogue as “The rarest and finest of all Comoy pipes. It is so unusual to find a completely perfect straight grain that shapes and quantities are strictly limited” It was priced at $50 in 1943 and 1965. Jacques Cole recalls that in the 1950’s there was a very large bent which was reckoned to be about the” perfect” Straight Grain. It was not for sale but used as an exhibition piece and valued then at £500
Specimen Straight Grain
Made in London (Football shape) over England
Note the Comoy's without serifs
6 1/2 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
Selected Straight Grain
These were in effect a “Specimen Straight Grain” second, which exhibited some small flaw or sand pit. They were listed in the 1965 catalogue at $15 or $17.50 in Extraordinaire size.
Selected Straight Grain
Made in London (Football shape)over England.
Note the Comoy's with no serifs.
5 1/2 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
This designation was given to any pipe that was out of the ordinary in size, shape or grain. The E/O was introduced in the 1920’s and “Extraordinaires” can be found with no other designation or also stamped for instance “Blue Riband” or “London Pride”. The 1936 advertisement lists the “Extraordinaire” at $13 to $23 and the 1965 catalogue also lists a “Specimen Straight Grain Extraordinaire” at $60. I have one example, but cannot imagine many of these were made! There seem to be two distinct sized pipes that were called “Extraordinaire”.
• The very large or Magnum sized variety are unique and were given shape numbers in the 800 series - my 1939 panel example is 803 and is 9 inches long with a bowl 2 3/8” high and 1 ¾” wide. I understand that BBB, Comoy and Dunhill made these Magnum sized pipes in the 1920’s and 30’s and that Dunhill purchased the bowls for their Magnums from BBB when they started producing them in 1921.
• Other Extraordinaires are somewhat larger than a Dunhill LBS, for instance 6 ½” long with a bowl height of 2” and 1 ½” wide. These are given normal shape numbers and are illustrated in the 1965 catalogue.
The designation Extraordinaire was also given to unusual shaped pipes, for instance the pipes that were made for Brasenose College Oxford through the 1920's and 30's. See the one illustrated in my collection.
Unusually this pipe has no stampings other than Comoy's Extraordinaire, so it is hard to put a date on it, but my guess is the 1930's because of the small sized C.
About 6 1/2 inches long and the bowl height is about 2 inches.
The “Extraordinaire was reintroduced in 1979 as the “Extraordinaire 1” which was priced at $100 in the 1979 catalogue, which was in a light natural finish and the “Extraordinaire 11” a light two tone walnut finish. These were about the size of a standard Extraordinaire and not as large as the 800 series.
As mentioned above, the 800 series are “Magnum” sized but I also have one pipe that is stamped Magnum with the shape number 802 and is the same shape and size as my Extraordinaire 802. It dates from the 1960’s and Comoy’s may have used this name as a marketing exercise to supersede the 800 series. The name Magnum was re-introduced by Cadogan in the 1990’s but these were not magnum sized.
Late 1960's Magnum
Shown with a Dunhill Group 4 for comparison.
Made in London England (F/B)
Three piece C
7 7/8 inches long 2 1/4 inches high
I am not sure when Comoy’s first produced the sandblast finish, but have one dating from the late 1920’s. I also have an Extraordinaire 802 which is “Rusticated” as apposed to Sandblasted, but believe this to be a very rare finish.
Sandblasted pipes normally have "Sandblast" stamped below the Comoy's and this is slightly longer than Comoy's and may have serifs. There are exceptions to this as I have several Extraordinaires that do not have "Sandblast" stamped.
1930's Sandblast Extraordinaire
Made in England (F/B)
2 1/2 inch high bowl
Meerschaum lined pipes were produced from the 1930’s onwards and perhaps earlier. I have a large ODA sized Virgin Briar from the 1930’s. My 1959 example has a hallmarked 22ct gold band and straighter grain than any “Specimen Straight Grain”. They were priced at $10 in 1936 and $15 in 1943. M is stamped after the shape number.
Virgin Briar Meerschum
Shape No. 127
This is a very large ODA sized pre 1930 Virgin Briar.
6 1/2 in long 2 in high 1 3/8 in wide
It would seem that the name Specimen was given to hand carved pipes. These were always different and therefore unique. Horace (Ory) Jameson who was the well known carver for GBD, was known to have also carved several pipes for Comoy's and the Specimens may have been his masterpieces. Because of their individuality they always comand high prices.
Comoy's Specimen Carved Head
This is a very rare Comoy's carved head of wonderful quality. I have yet to see another! Probably carved just before WW2
An unusual pipe for Comoy's with wonderful straight grain configuration under a light sandblast. Bought by the original owner through Churchill's Ltd in the 1960's
I have a GBD Unique Straight Grain carved by Ory Jameson that is almost identical.
I have only seen one example stamped with this designation, but believe there would probably have been others. I feel sure that it would have been reserved for pipes of exceptional quality or rarity.
This is a quite outstanding pipe and was almost certainly carved by Horace (Ory) Jameson the famous carver who did most of his work for GBD but also produced pipes for Comoy’s in the early 1960’s.
This was probably made to commemorate the 1948 Olympics which were held in England in that year.
Other named shapes.
There were of course many other names used by Comoy's in the pre Cadogan era, over 400 names are recorded in "Who Made That Pipe" by Herb Wiczak & Tom Colwell. Most of these were given to pipes made for other companies or various seconds lines. In these cases they were not also stamped Comoy's. I have concentrated on, and only list those that I believe were grades or a special production.
A summary to help date a Comoy’s pipe.
Unlike Dunhill who stamped a different number for each year of manufacture on all their pipes, we are not so fortunate with Comoy. Dating the Comoy pipe therefore is far more difficult, however there are certain changes of nomenclature that occurred over the long history that assist in arriving at approximate time scales. These changes include: -
The way that the Comoy name was stamped on the left side of the pipe.
The way that the “Country of origin” stamps appeared.
The introduction of and different ways that the inlaid C was formed on the stem.
The name of the pipe and when these names were introduced and or discontinued.
It should also be remembered that as the stamps used for stamping pipes get worn, new ones would have been ordered and used alongside the old ones and there could therefore be overlapping of a different style.
In England from the end of the 13th Century it was required by law to mark silver with an assay mark or “Touch”. In 1478 the date letter was introduced which leads to the three marks we see today. First a lion passant to indicate that it is silver, followed by a mark to show which assay area, for instance a leopards head for London and finally a letter for the year. I have in my collection nineteen pipes with hallmarked silver bands which provide a reasonably accurate date for that particular pipe and therefore a guide for when other nomenclature was used. I use the words “reasonably accurate” because there is always the possibility that the silver bands may have been ordered in by the factory in batches and therefore could have been used up over several months and be a year out of date by the time they were applied to the pipe.
Jacques Cole kindly let me copy his beautifully illustrated catalogue dated 1909 which is almost certainly the first one produced by Comoy. It illustrates 96 different styles of pipes all with silver bands dated 1909. All except 2 are Prima’s and have the long tail, on the “Comoy’s” stamp. The other 2 do not have a tail and are just stamped London Made. I will list below just some of the dated pipes in my collection to illustrate the different nomenclature to be found.
1900 to about 1919. Normally the Comoy’s name will be found in a joined flowing script canted forward, with a long tail running backwards from under the “S” to below the “C”. There are however 2 pipes in the 1909 catalogue where Comoy’s does not have a tail at all.
This pipe is dated 1915 and has an amber bit with screw tenon and the long tail.
I also have examples between 1913 to 1919 where the Comoy’s name, is still in the same joined flowing script canted forward, but with a short tail running forwards from the bottom of the “Y” to under the “S”
This is a 1914 Prima Bulldog of large size. Equivalent to an LBS Dunhill. 5 7/8 inches long 2 inches high. London Made.
From about 1917 to the end of the 1930’s the slightly fancy “Comoy’s” can be found stamped in a curve, in upper case script with serifs, apostrophe before the “S” and the “C” larger than the other letters. Pipes can also be found with the name stamped across the top of the stem as apposed to along the side.
During the 1940’s not many pipes were made, but just after WW11, in 1945 or slightly later the “Comoy’s” stamp was changed from the curve to a straight line.
From the 1950’s, the Comoy’s stamp can be found in three variants.
1. A simple block letter style without serifs but with the C larger than the other letters and the apostrophe before the “s”.
2. A return to the slightly more fancy block letters with serifs and the apostrophe. My 1959/60 gold banded example falls into this category.
3. A simple block letter style without serifs and without the apostrophe and with the “C” the same size as the rest of the letters. I don’t think that this stamp was used for very long.
“London Made” (Straight Line)
Comoy’s were the first London pipe maker to use this phrase and it is the earliest stamp to be used. It can be found from 1902 or perhaps earlier and into the 1920’s . I have not yet seen it on any pipe after 1916. It can also appear as London over Made as below.
London hallmark for 1904.
H.C in a cartouche.
5 inches long 1 3/4 inches high
"London Made" (Curved)
This would seem to be the next stamp to be used. London is in a curve and Made is underneath curving the other way. It would seem to be used from the mid 1920's until about 1930
Old Bruyere (Unsmoked)
Comoys arched with serifs and the C larger. over In. over Old Bruyere arched upwards. (R/B)
5 1/2 inches long 1 1/2 inches high
“Made in England” (In Oval)
This is stamped in a circle with “Made” at the top, “in” in the middle and “England” forming the bottom of the circle. I call this the rugby ball shape or (R/B) for short. I have seen this stamp on a Cecil dated as early as 1919, the Old Bruyere illustrated below and then on pipes from the 1930’s
1921/22 Old Bruyere
H.C in a cartouche. London hallmark.
Comoys arched over In over Old Bruyere arched upwards. (R/B)
The C is larger than the other letters and has serifs.
6 1/4 inches long 1 1/8 inch high.
"Made in England" (In Circle)
This stamp is basically the same, but it forms a circle and I call it the football shape or F/B for short. I believe it appears early in the 1930's and continues up until World War 2.
Bowl 2 1/4 inches high.
“Made in London England”
This is again stamped in a circle with “Made” at the top, “In” in the middle and “London” at the bottom with “England in a straight line beneath the F/B. I believe this stamp was first used in the export drive in the early 1950’s and I have not seen any pre WW11 Comoy’s stamped in this way.
1950's Blue Riband
Made in London England (F/B shape)
5 1/2 inches long 1 3/4 inches high.
“C” was first inlaid in the side of the mouthpiece around 1919. This was a complex inlay needing three drillings. First a round white inlay was inserted, then the centre of the white was drilled out and a smaller round black inlay was inserted. Finally another drilling was made to remove the open part of the “C” and an even smaller black inlay was inserted. This inlaid “C” known as the “three piece C” was continued until the Cadogan era in the 1980’s, however the “C” in the 1920’s and early 30’s is much thinner and more delicate than the one used post war.
Cadogan first changed the “C” to a single drilling with an inlay that had the “C” in the centre and more recently it has become a laser imprint.
I have a cased pair of early 1920’s “Par Excellence” where the “C” is on top of the mouthpiece.
Pipe Shape Numbering
Comoy's pipes were given shape numbers in the 1909 catalogue and also names for each shape, but it would seem that these numbers were NOT stamped on the pipes until sometime in the 1920's. The earliest hallmarked pipe that I have with a shape number is 1925. The shape numbers are all 3 digits until after the Cadogan acquisition of Comoy's when some shapes were introduced with 4 digit numbers. The first catalogue that I have showing these is 1979 with the Designer range. No shapes were mentioned in the 1975 catalogue and I do not have catalogues for 1976, 77 or 78, so they may have been introduced earlier. On pre Cadogan pipes additional letters can be found after the three numbers:
M on Meerschaum lined pipes.
P on Panel shaped bowls. ( This may not always be the case as I have now seen a photograph of a non panel Shape 309 with a P)
C on some shapes with curved bits. This does not seem to be universal for all curved bits and it would appear to be mainly on Princes and Bulldogs.
F believed to indicate a "Fishtail" bit.
At the Chicago show in 2007 I acquired an early 1930's Virgin Briar with the shape number 206F and it has a fishtail bit exactly like the Dunhill F/T that was not introduced until 1950.
Every Comoy from the pre Cadogan era was finished to the very highest standard. Jacques Cole confirms that among other factors contributing to this quality was that every mouth piece was hand scraped to achieve the notable slim bit and that mouth pieces had to be an exact fit no matter which way around they were placed in the bowl. Perhaps this was a dig at Dunhill who placed a white dot on the top of the mouthpiece to show which way up it should be! All details had to be right and quality control was paramount and this ensured that Comoy's were amongst the very best London pipe makers.
There is no doubt that the finish on all Comoy’s pipes was excellent, however one of the factors that make the Comoy pipe so attractive and collectable is the stained finish that highlights the grain figuring. This was introduced with the Blue Riband so successfully and also in the Guildhall series. This accentuation of the grain has more recently been copied by the Danish pipe makers to great effect.
Updated with illustrations January 2007
Updated February 2008
Further information has been gratefully received from :
Jerry Heifferon, Jesper Klith, Regis McCafferty, Bob Herbert and other collectors.
Jacques Cole – The Pipe Makers (1850 – 1994)
Richard Hacker – Rare Smoke and The Ultimate Pipebook
Greg Pease – Article on the internet.
Comoy’s – Various Catalogues, sales leaflets and old letters.
This history appeared as an article in the December 2006 issue of "The Pipe Collector", the newsletter of the North American Society of Pipe Collectors. Since then I have added further to my knowledge and been able to correct and add to it. I have also been able to illustrate it with photographs. I am hopeful that readers will be able to supply me with further information or indeed correct any information that I have got wrong. It will therefore be permanantly "Under Construction"
Not handy with tools, yet want to restore an old pipe? Rich Esserman wrote an excellent article that may be just the thing:
Try this at Home
By Rich Esserman, this article was originally published in The Pipe Collector, the North American Society of Pipe Collectors newsletter (NASPC), and re-published here by permission. It's a great organization--consider joining.
Our fearless Secretary, Bill Unger, sent me an email regarding part of my missive in the Ephemeris on cleaning up an old Parker Magnum I got from eBay. I thought I would expand on this a bit. A favorite actor of mine is Clint Eastwood, and I love many of his Dirty Harry cop movies. One of my favorite lines is "a man's got to know his limitations." I have the ability to solve complex financial problems and issues but change a light bulb...where is that darn instruction manual?
I am not handy with hands, to say the least. I have met many craftsmen who are naturals--pipe makers and collectors alike--who can use buffing wheels, sandpaper and a heat gun and can take a beat-up pipe and turn it into something beautiful. I can't. I probably would wreck the pipe. So I have had to modify traditional methods. Unfortunately, most of my techniques take more time so that it would not be feasible for a repairman to use many of them. One nice side effect of my techniques is that rarely do I change the original characteristics of the pipe. From my viewpoint as a collector, this is important.
Many of the techniques that I have adopted are based upon advice from many friends, including the late Clarence Mickles, "brother" Chuck Rio, Sam Barnett and Mike Reschke, to name a few. I am not suggesting that these techniques are the best or whatever, but they do work, and anybody can use them. Plus, the materials I use are common products that are easily purchased. I also hope that folks will write in other tips so I can learn something new.
Materials Needed :Tom's of Maine Toothpaste--regular (TOMR) and with baking soda (TOBS), baking soda, waterless hand-cleaner such as GOOP, whitening toothpaste (WT), paper matches, clear plastic cups, carnuba wax paste, unscented soap, orange Fantastic spray, masking tape, Q-tips, brushes (small sizes), olive oil, paper towels, cloth, cloth impregnated with "briarpipewipe" (BPWC), Everclear or unflavored vodka, an Exacto knife, tiny drill bits used for model railroad construction, and orange shellac.
Vulcanite stems. Note: all cleaning is done with the stem in the pipe.
Minor cleaning. No matter how careful you are with your vulcanite stems, over time they will discolor or become less shiny. What I want to do is remove the layer of sulfur that has accumulated. So I take a dap of my trusty TOMR and place it on a Q-tip. I rub against the stem in a circular motion until I see the Q-tip begin to get green or brown. I keep doing this until I hear a squeaky sound and/or the Q-Tip picks up no color. Then I apply WT to a Q-tip and rub again in a circular motion until I can see my reflection in the stem. Apply as many times as needed. If there is any excess toothpaste left on the stem, apply a very, very tiny bit of GOOP to the Q-tip and lightly apply to the stem. Wipe any excess off with a paper towel. Then polish up with a BPWC.
Major Cleaning With Tooth Indentations. I really do want to obtain my old pipes with brown or green stems--if it means that the stem has never been buffed. I recently saw an example of a fine old pipe whose stem had been "made shiny." The lip was completely rounded (no sharp edges), the stem had been thinned down and felt very slippery in the mouth, and the over lines of the stem were changed--but it was shiny! This really was a shame.
Let's say the stem of your pipe is dark green or brown and has teeth marks near and on the lip. If the stem has a removable logo like a CP, P (Parker), etc., cut out a tiny bit of masking tape to put over the logo. The first thing I do is get a clear plastic cup and make up my cleaning paste. First I put in a little GOOP, TOMR, TOBS, baking soda, and some Fantastic cleaner and begin stirring. If it is a bit too thick, I put in some more GOOP; if it is really runny, then I put in more TOMR. I apply the mixture to the stem and let it set for a minute or two. Then, using a rough paper towel, I rub off the paste in a circular motion. I should see brown and some green crap (a technical term) on the paper towel. I repeat this until the brown is gone as well as most of the green. After these wipe-downs, I should be able to see some black stem peaking through. Plus, when I put the stem in my mouth, there should be almost no taste.
Let's assume for the moment that there are bite mark indentations in the stem. I contrast this with a gash. Bite marks are such that the vulcanite has been pushed in; a gash is where someone has literally removed the vulcanite by gnawing and biting. I now mix up a different paste consisting of the above ingredients but much thicker, with TOMR constituting say 75% at least. I light a paper match, moving it over or actually lightly touching the bite-mark area for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. I may apply again so that the vulcanite is slightly warm. Then I apply the paste in a circular motion. What I am trying for here is to bring up the tooth-marks while smoothing out the area. The silica in TOMR acts like an extremely fine sandpaper.
I do this as many times as needed. As I am doing this, I am putting the stem in my mouth. I want the stem and lip to feel smooth going in and out of my mouth with no rough edges. For me, I am interested in having the stem smooth but not necessarily perfect. If given a choice, I would rather keep as much of the original bit material as possible rather than sanding the surface down and having a completely flat surface.
At this point, the stem should be turning black but not necessarily shinny. Now you can apply the whitening toothpaste (WT) via the Q-tip. Apply in the same manner as above. Apply as many times as necessary. Using this method, I have been able to get a mirror-like shine on my stems. My whole goal is to remove sulfur and retain as much bit material as possible without changing the original lines.
Lucite Stems. Getting bite marks out of Lucite (Plexiglas) stems with paper matches is very hard. However, I have found that applying TOMR in a circular motion to rough marks will smooth them out, leaving no jagged edges, and make it comfortable in the mouth.
Getting Rid of the Taste of Previous Owner's Tobacco. If you have bought a used pipe, then you have encountered the situation where the previous owner's tobacco interfered with the smoking quality of the pipes. Most of the time, it is the case where aromatics permeate cake. When folks smoke a Latakia mixture or a Virginia, the underlying taste of the aromatic comes through and spoils the smoke. There have been treatments, like the salt or using wine and other alcohol, baking the pipe with charcoal, and so on, but there is a much more simple method.
I have used the following simple method with great success. First, when I get a used pipe, I examine the cake to determine if the cake is a "hard" or "soft" cake. Hard cake is like cement, while soft cake flakes off somewhat easily. To remove the cake, I use the same procedure but am much more careful with the hard cake.
First, I apply either Everclear or unflavored vodka with a Q-tip to the cake. I let it sink in and begin to dissolve. I prefer to use an Exacto knife rather than a reaming tool because I can control what I remove from the cake. I lightly work around the bowl and carve off the cake. If I have to start scraping too hard, I apply more vodka and let it dissolve.
My goal is not to take the cake completely off (i.e., have the wood showing) but to leave on a little of the cake. I also am unconcerned if the cake is completely smooth. In fact, I want the cake to be a little uneven because it will allow for quicker cake development with my tobacco when I smoke it. After the cake is at the thickness I want, I take a dry paper towel and cram it into the bowl. I twist the towel to remove any loose cake.
Then I lay out some dry baking soda on a paper towel. I wet a Q-tip and roll it around in the baking soda. Then I simply scrub the interior of the bowl. Initially, the Q-tip may come out dark. After that, I cram in a wet paper towel, followed by a dry one, twisting it into the bowl. I repeat this procedure as many times as needed. It takes only minutes but is effective.
For the shank, after taking out the stem, I take a bristly pipe cleaner that has been dipped in alcohol and run it through the shank. I use as many as necessary to remove any gunk. Then I use either a wet miniature bristle brush or a regular wet pipe cleaner and roll it in the baking soda. I use this in the shank. Afterwards I use a wet and then a dry regular pipe cleaner to swab out the shank.
Stem does not come off the pipe. Occasionally, you get a pipe where the stem does not come out--basically the stem is frozen. Or the stem really creaks when you begin turning it. The first thing to do is put the pipe in the refrigerator or freezer. (I prefer the refrigerator because it causes less change to the exterior of the stem). After 15 to 30 minutes, begin turning the stem clockwise. GO SLOWLY while turning! You may need to put the pipe in the refrigerator many times. If you turn too quickly, the shank may crack. The record for taking a stem off is over 6 hours, and there needed to be two guys; one to hold the bowl! So remember that patience here is a virtue.
Putting the stem back on. Now that the stem is off, how do you get the stem back on? My preferred method is to carve off a few pieces of unscented soap and then rub a Q-tip in it. Apply the Q-tip to the tenon and/or mortise, covering them completely with a light coating. Insert the stem and twist clockwise.
Shank and stem do not fit flush. Sometimes after you have cleaned up a pipe, the shank and stem do not fit flush, and you can see a gap between the two. Oftentimes this is because the tar build-up in the tenon needs to be cleaned out. I apply vodka on a bristly pipe cleaner and swab out the tar. Occasionally, if the tar is really hard, I take a drill bit and insert in the still damp area (from the vodka) and lightly hand twist. BE CAREFUL NOT REMOVE ANY WOOD. I cram a dry paper towel into the area and twist to remove any excess.
Stem is too loose in the shank. If a pipe has not been smoked for a while, sometimes the stem will be loose in the shank. Oftentimes just smoking the pipe will do the trick, and the stem will tighten up. I may also apply water to the mortise before smoking, and this seems to help the process. If the stem is still too loose, you can heat up the tenon and push straight down. This may widen the tenon. Great care must be taken to push straight down; otherwise you will make the tenon crooked.
Pipe cleaner will not go through the lip area. Tar may build up in the lip area, preventing a pipe cleaner from going through. If this happens, I take a miniature drill bit, insert as far as it goes and hand-turn clockwise. After twisting for a bit, generally the blockage begins to loosen up. Then you insert a bristly pipe cleaner to remove any excess. You may have to do this several times to remove all the tar.
Pipe cleaner will not go through the middle of the stem in a bent pipe. This is a very tricky situation. With a rubber stem ONLY, I may take a pipe cleaner with some vodka and try to dissolve any buildup first. Then I take a very thin paper clip and insert it carefully in the stem. I move the paperclip in and out very carefully. Generally this works, but you must be very careful. First, you do not want to have the paper clip break off in the stem, and, second, you do not want to damage the air hole. That is why I do not sharpen the end of the paperclip
Dull shine on rough-finished (carved and sandblasted) pipes. After smoking a rough-finished pipe for a while, sometimes the entire finish becomes dull or one side of the pipe becomes dull, while the other side is still shiny. Applying carnauba wax or briar pipe wipe does not work. What does work is applying orange shellac. Shellac is a natural substance. It allows the briar to breath and is used by many pipe makers to maintain the shiny surface. Of interest is that one very well-known American told me that, when he first started to make pipes, he could never get his pipe to stay shiny--until he used shellac.
Some folks just apply shellac, but what I do is to mix olive oil and shellac (they mix like oil and vinegar) in a cup, apply lightly with a brush, and sponge off any excess. After the mixture has set, I then take a soft toothbrush and lightly brush over the surface for a final polish.
Dirty smooth pipe. Some smooth pipes have a sticky feeling and/or the grain is a bit obscured. Many times the surface of the pipes is simply dirty. A good washing using unperfumed soap and water with a cotton cloth will oftentimes do the trick. You can then either apply carnauba paste or just use briar pipe wipe to get the pipe shining like new. Clarence used to use a cloth impregnated with silicone. I had been told silicone clogged up the pores of the briar, but I used the cloth on a couple of pipes with no ill effects. I also once tried a carnauba/silicone liquid "paste" that produced a very lovely long-lasting shine. I found no ill effects save on one pipe, where I felt the smoking quality had been diminished, so I stopped using this mixture.
Dents on a smooth pipe. A dent in a pipe is where the briar has been pushed in. This happens when the briar is soft. When a dent occurs, no briar is lost. There is just compression of the wood. This is not the case when the briar gets scraped, scratched or dinged. In this case, there is actually a loss of wood.
To bring a dent back, heat up a screwdriver over a burner on your stove. You want to let the screwdriver lay for no longer than 2 minutes so that it is hot but not super hot. Then completely soak a cloth with water so that it is dripping wet. Fold the cloth over several times and lay over the dent. Then apply the screwdriver over the cloth. You should hear a sizzle and see steam rising. Apply the screwdriver for about 2 minutes and check the area. Apply as many times a necessary.
IMPORTANT. If the dent is near the nomenclature (stamping), be very careful. The steam treatment can greatly weaken the nomenclature and effectively remove it, as it does with the dent. I suggest applying masking tape over the stamping to protect it. However, if the dent is too close, most of the time I just live with the dent rather than taking a chance on ruining the nomenclature.
There are some issues with this procedure. First, the steaming may cause the color of the finish to fade. Some folks things believe you may need to re-stain the pipe. Instead, what I have found to be very effective is to apply olive oil a few times to the effected area. Then I will apply carnauba wax or briar wipe to the area to see if the briar can be polished to a gloss.
Sometimes I need to apply orange shellac to the area with a cloth or small paintbrush. I will wipe down the shellac before it completely dries. This part is a bit tricky, and it may take several applications before I get the finish I like. If things aren't working out, I use vodka or Everclear to remove the shellac finish and start over.
The above procedure also works on Matt-finished smooth pipes that were not meant to be a matt finish. (Ironically, John Tolle and I always remark that we have never seen a GBD Unique Matt finish that is actually matt--they are always polished.) Some pipes do not hold a shine using this method no matter what you do.
Tar on the top of the pipe. When I see a "dirty" top, I want to first find out if the wood is burned/charred or if the area is covered in cake. If I am at a show, I take the oil from my forehead and spread over top. Then I take a tissue and try to get a shine. If the wood is burned, then there will be little or no shine; with tar, the area will brighten up a bit. There is nothing you can do with burned wood except have someone sand it down and refinish it.
Assume the top is covered with tar. I get vodka or Everclear and spread it on the top. I want the tar to become a bit gooey. Separately, I then mix up a combination of goop, Tom's of Maine toothpaste and Orange Fantastic (it should be a bit watery). On carved pieces, I will use a soft bristle toothbrush with the GOOP combination and begin scrubbing on the gooey tar. I will then see where I stand by wiping it off with a rough paper towel. I do this until all the tar is gone (this may take some time, so be patient.) Then I wipe down with olive oil to ensure that the color is back. Use shellac or just carnauba to shine up as necessary.
Smooth pipes are a bit more delicate. I use the same applications as above--vodka or Everclear and the GOOP combination--but I "scrub" down with a Q-tip and a cotton cloth. If the tar is super thick, I might start off with a toothbrush but quickly go to a Q-tip. (Note: a toothbrush could cause indentations in the wood, and then you would have to stea m those out). I never use an exacto knife to scrap off tar because wood may come off with the tar. Then I wipe down with olive oil to ensure that the color is back. Use shellac or just carnauba to shine up as necessary. On a badly tarred smooth pipe this process could be very time consuming, but it is well worth it. Remember that the top could turn out darker than the rest of the pipe due to plain coloring from smoking.
These are but a few of the techniques that I have found to be successful for the less-than-skilled individual. I welcome comments and suggestions.
By Rich Esserman, this article was originally published in The Pipe Collector, the North American Society of Pipe Collectors newsletter (NASPC) and re-published here by permission. It's a great organization--consider joining.
After a pipe has been smoked for a long time its cake may become so thick that it significantly reduces the capacity of the bowl. In very extreme cases, an overly thick cake may actually crack the bowl due to differential expansion. Ideally, the cake should not exceed one-sixteenth of an inch (about 1.5 mm) or so. When the cake exceeds this thickness, it should be carefully reamed. Some pipe tools have a blunt-pointed (to prevent gouging of the bowl bottom) knife blade for this purpose. While these will work, it is very easy to trim the cake unevenly or even inadvertently dig into bare wood. Numerous adjustable, multibladed reamers are available commercially, and these will do a much neater job. A favored tool for this task--suggested by pipe maker extraordinaire JT Cooke--is nothing more than a series of short wooden dowels of varying diameters that are wrapped with fine grit emery cloth or sandpaper. Whatever device you choose to use, work slowly and carefully so as not to damage your pipe. The idea is to gradually shave the cake down to the proper thickness, not scrape it out in chunks. If you have more than the usual number of thumbs, you might want to take the pipe to your tobacconist, who will usually perform this task for a nominal fee.
What can I do when my pipe "turns sour"?
A pipe, properly cared for, will probably outlast its owner. Occasionally, however, a pipe may begin to taste bitter or "sour." Sometimes this is caused by not allowing the pipe sufficient time to "rest" between smokes; other times, no cause can be determined with certainty. In any event, such a pipe can usually be rejuvenated by applying the "Professor's Pipe-Sweetening Treatment," publicized by Dennis Congos.
First, find some salt (non-iodized is preferred, but not essential), some alcohol (preferably "Everclear," or some other form of near-pure, non-denatured ethanol), and a place to rest your pipe in a semi-upright position. Insert a pipe cleaner into the stem of the pipe so that it extends into the shank. Fill the bowl to the rim with salt and drip or carefully pour alcohol into the bowl until the salt is just saturated. Try not to get any alcohol on the pipe's exterior, as this may damage the finish; any spills should be wiped up immediately. Leave the pipe alone for a day or two. After this time the salt will have turned brown from the absorption of "tars" from the bowl. Thoroughly clean all salt from the bowl and set the pipe aside overnight to dry completely. Your pipe will now be revitalized, and all traces of bitterness should be gone.
WARNING: Many people swear by this process, but the procedure is not risk-free. Some people have had pipes crack after this treatment, particularly when they allowed the salt and alcohol mixture to enter the pipe's shank and/or when they left the mixture in the pipe for several days. Any pipe with significant monetary or sentimental value should be sent to a professional pipe repair person.
You might also want to give the stem draft-hole a thorough cleaning by periodically cleaning it with a scrubbing bristle pipecleaner dipped in alcohol or a "pipe sweetener".
G.L. Pease also offers a more effective method:
"I reamed the pipe almost back to bare wood, pre-heated my electric oven to 220°F, and turned it off. After removing the pipe's stem, I filled the bowl with activated charcoal pellets purchased from the local aquarium supply shop. Placing the pipe on a soft towel in the oven, I left it to sit while the oven cooled - about an hour... No perceptible difference was detected.
A couple of conversations with Trever Talbert, friend, pipesmith extraordinaire, and constant experimenter with briar, provided an important piece of information; briar heats very slowly. He explained that it could take several hours for a piece of briar's temperature gradient to reach equilibrium with the ambient temperature. Clearly, my pipe's short stint in the Sauna was insufficient to do the job.
I reheated the oven, this time setting the thermostat to 180°F, knowing from my tests that the temperature in my empty oven would vary between about 180°F and a bit over 200°F, well below the temperature at which the briar would scorch. Stemless and empty, I placed the bowl on its towel in the oven, on the upper rack, far away from the source of radiant heat, where it would be left to sit for three hours.
After removing the now hot pipe, I filled the bowl with the activated charcoal, and placed it back in the oven for an additional three hours. When the pipe was finally removed, and emptied of the charcoal, there was absolutely no trace of its prior scent ... After allowing the pipe to cool overnight, the stem was refitted, the bowl filled with a favored blend, delicate enough to allow any vestigial flavors from the pipe to come through clearly. I sat down to experience the fruits of my labors. Success! Only at the very bottom of the bowl was a slight hint of the previous aroma, and this disappeared completely after a couple of smokes."
Vulcanite stems can oxidize, turning a disgusting brownish green color. This is one case where "an ounce of prevention" definitely pays off. Avoid exposing vulcanite stems to direct sunlight whenever possible, and wipe off your stems after each use. When oxidation does begin to form, it can often be removed with a mild abrasive, such as baking soda or toothpaste. If the oxidation is too severe for this treatment, jeweler's rouge or an automobile rubbing compound will often do the trick. For truly stubborn stems more drastic measures may be required. An overnight soak in household bleach will turn your stems black again, but you should be careful to cover any stem logos with a blob of petroleum jelly to protect them prior to soaking, and you should be prepared to apply some elbow grease to polish the stem surface, which will be roughened by this treatment.
Professionals (and "serious amateurs") remove oxidation with a buffing wheel loaded with Tripoli or some similar abrasive and then apply carnuba wax to protect the stem and bring out a high shine. If you wish to use a buffing rig, consult with someone experienced in such matters. It's all too easy to burn a stem on a buffing wheel running at excessively high speed or, for that matter, to catapult a briar into your face.
Care for meerschaum pipes
First, and most importantly, don't drop it. Meerschaum is fragile, and it is very unlikely that your pipe will survive a dive to the kitchen floor. Second, do not allow a cake to build in the bowl (firmly swabbing out all the ash residue with a bent pipe cleaner after each smoke should do the trick). If your pipe does start to build a cake, then ream it out very carefully. Third, if your pipe has a screw-in shank fitting (as most meerschaums do), twist the stem clockwise while removing it; twisting counter-clockwise could unscrew the fitting, and doing so repeatedly can strip the shank threads. Finally, meerschaum is a very absorbent, inorganic material, and does not require the same "rest period" that briars do. Still, I would at least allow the pipe to cool and dry completely before loading up and smoking it again.
Many meerschaum aficionados claim that to ensure proper "coloring" of the bowl you should never hold the bowl with your bare hands while smoking. This may be true, but I would much rather have a meerschaum with an unevenly colored bowl than to have to go through the hassle of holding my pipe by the stem or (horrors!) wearing kid gloves to smoke.
Should I store my pipe with a cleaner in the stem?
There are three schools of thought on this issue:
1) Those who do not leave a pipe cleaner in their pipe between smokes. These people believe that doing so prevent their pipe from drying quickly and or properly.
2) Those who do leave a pipe cleaner in their pipe between smokes. These people believe that doing so assists in the absorption of nasty stuff.
3) Those who compromise by leaving a pipe cleaner in their pipe for a short period (usually overnight), then removing it to allow the pipe to dry completely.
Personally, I belong to group #1 a about half the time. The rest of the time I'm a #3, unless I forget to remove the pipe cleaner, in which case I'm an accidental #2. Bottom line: It really doesn't matter. Whatever works for you is fine.
Breaking In a New Pipe
See a great article by Fred Hanna called :
The Mysteries of the Break-in Process By Fred Hanna
There is quite a bit of hidden mystery involved in the outwardly familiar phenomenon of breaking in a pipe. The traditional wisdom says that developing a cake is the primary process through which a pipe eventually attains that nutty, rich, sweet flavor that we all have come to love.
I have come to the conclusion that attributing this great flavor to merely developing a cake is rather like saying that a car reaches great speeds solely because of a great number of cubic inches in the engine. Of course, cubes are an important aspect of what contributes to speed, but this is hardly the entirety of the story. There is also the influence of weight, cams, turbo charging, type of fuel, the exhaust system, aerodynamics, and so forth. If all one has is a big engine in a huge, heavy frame, the car can actually be quite tame. On the other hand, a lot of horsepower can be generated from a relatively small engine, without much in the way of cubic inches. Similarly, the cake in the tobacco chamber of a pipe is but one of a variety of factors. I have put a fine cake on pipes that still never really broke in no matter what I did and never quite achieved that aforementioned great taste. It is clear that there is more to this story.
Before we address the mysteries, however, let us give the importance of cake its due. Cake builds up in the tobacco chamber, as we know, and mostly consists of carbon residue from the burning tobacco. We also know that carbon can absorb hundreds of times its own weight in other substances. The net result in a pipe is that much of the impurities in the tobacco smoke is absorbed or filtered by the cake, which "mellows" the smoke delivered to the tongue, especially if the bottom of the pipe has some cake. However, because of the capacity for absorption, relatively little cake is actually needed for a great-smoking pipe. I believe that we need far less than the traditional thickness of a dime. Thus, only a bit of cake is generally good for break-in purposes.
However, the traditional explanation of break-in stops right around this point. I have been collecting notes on breaking in a pipe for quite a few months now and would like to mention a few observations and speculations. For example, on the topic of cake, I have owned pipes that smoked well from the first bowl, with no bowl coating, but do not improve to any noticeable extent as a cake developed. Curiously, several years ago I bought a Charatan Selected from a guy who loved to ream pipes. He took the cake in that poor pipe down to bare walls, but you would never have known it by smoking it. It tasted sweet and nutty with no cake whatsoever. That was when I began to question how much the cake actually has to do with flavor and taste.
There are some other phenomena that got me to questioning the traditional wisdom. Some pipes smoke great from the first bowl and without any carbon coating in the bowl from the pipemaker whatsoever. And they then continue to get better and better. Contrast this with the fact that other pipes can smoke quite poorly--bitter and harsh--at first but then end up surpassing in smoking quality some pipes that smoked great from the beginning. An example of this is a Castello Collection Fiammata I currently own, as well as a L'Anatra Fiammata. I have had other pipes in which the first bowl was quite good and then the quality of the smoke degraded over the next four or five bowls and only then proceeded to improve. Why is this? What is going on here? I don't have the entire answer, but I would like to share with you a few thoughts on this matter. For the remainder of this discussion, let us assume that all the pipes discussed here are well made and their briar well cured so that we can focus on particular variables relative to the break-in process.
As for curing the briar, the traditional wisdom tells us that sap in a briar block is a bad thing, and there is no doubt that too much of it can clog a pipe and make it heat up and smoke wet. However, I have long wondered if saps may not be as horrible as many of us have come to believe. Breaking in a pipe may well involve heating--cooking if you will--the remaining saps in that briar as well as the wood itself. Wood is vegetal material, of course, but we tend to easily overlook this. Wood will slightly undergo subtle changes in its structure as it absorbs and endures heat from the burning leaf. Heat is one of the most powerful catalysts known to chemistry, and this "cooking effect" may be what is primarily responsible for that highly sought after sweet and nutty flavor to the smoke. Remember that the great taste of Vermont maple syrup (which is actually tree sap) only manifests after it is cooked for a long time and converted into that wonderful liquid. It is quite nasty before the cooking. Similarly, smoking tobacco certainly cooks the sap remaining in the briar after curing, and it cooks the wood itself as well. Just as the taste of a carrot or a clove of garlic changes after cooking or roasting, the taste of briar can change as it cooks or roasts during the smoking process. It can become sweeter and more mellow, and this translates as "breaking in."
I like the taste of briar, and I do not get excited over a pipe brand that seeks to remove all taste of the wood. If I wanted to remove all taste imparted from the smoking instrument itself, I would favor meerschaum. This line of inquiry makes me inclined to wonder if it is possible to "overcure" a pipe, that is, to remove so much of the flavor of the wood that the briar is left with no flavor at all. Some may believe more curing is better because it allows only the flavor of the tobacco to come through. But for me, I LIKE the taste of that briar, especially in those instances when it adds that sweet, mellow, nuttiness.
Unfortunately, not all chunks of briar add that sweet and nutty flavor after being fully broken in. It is a matter of degrees, and, once again, we come down to the variables in the briar itself, apart from brand. Many great grained pieces of briar do not have this flavor, while other plain pieces do, and this is one of the great mysteries of pipe smoking. I recently spoke at length with Rainer Barbi on this subject. He and I both agreed that the soil and climate in which the heath tree grew have a major role to play in how that briar tastes, as I have written previously. There are so many possible variations of climate and soil content that we still have much to learn as to which combination produces the best-tasting briar. However, Rainer and I both agreed that it is not a matter of geographical origin. In other words, whether the briar is from Greece, Corsica, or Italy is not an issue on the factor of taste. Each of those regions contains within its borders many microclimates and soil variations. And, of course, even though the briar is from the best environment, it must be well cured, and, as a pipe, it must be well made, or it will not produce a satisfying smoke, as we all know. And just for the record, I would not dream of using honey to break in a pipe.
There are quite a few variables involved in the break-in process that I have not addressed. I would like to hear the views of other pipe lovers on the various aspects of this fascinating part of our hobby.
This article was originally published in The Pipe Collector, the North American Society of Pipe Collectors newsletter (NASPC) and is used by permission. It's a great organization--consider becoming a member.
Airflow issues are not exactly a repair, per se, but could perhaps be contributing to a pipe that is simply not smoking up to its potential. Rick Newcomb suggests that pipes with an open air flow smoke better. It is controversial, but bears exploration, as many pipe smokers are now sold on this concept. With it working for so many, it might just work for you and that problem pipe. Ken Campbell wrote an interesting article for The Pipe Collector called:
Airflow: The Key to Smoking Pleasure, by Ken Campbell
This article first appeared in The Pipe Collector, the official newsletter of The National Association of Pipe Collectors (NASPC) and is used here by permission. It's a great group, consider joining.
[I don’t know how controversial the following article might be, but I do know that Ken Campbell has worked long and hard on it, and I’m pleased to publish it. Of course, it would most interesting if our many pipe-maker members would respond with their thoughts on this issue. We encourage their responses, as well as those from experienced pipe smokers.--Ed]
Since high school days, I smoked a pipe off and on until 1986, when I took it up full time. I always enjoyed smoking a pipe despite a number of problems I encountered. The two most recurrent consisted in managing to smoke more matches than tobacco and occasional bouts with tongue-bite. Many were the remedies that other men offered me: filling the pipe more carefully, smoking slower, not allowing the pipe to get too hot, etc. These suggestions were all helpful but never solved the basic problems of how to keep a pipe lit and how to prevent varying degrees of discomfort from afflicting my tongue.
My first clue came from an article I read in Pipes & Tobacco in the Winter/1996/97 edition, early in 1997. The article was entitled “Nature’s Designs” by Dayton H. Matlick and was about Lars Ivarsson, his pipe making and some of his philosophy and knowledge about smoking. I quote Messrs. Matlick and Ivarsson from this article: “Unrestricted airflow through the entire channel is essential for an easy-smoking pipe....’Once you pick the shape and size of pipe you like, test the airflow,’ says Lars Ivarsson. ‘Draw in through the empty pipe at normal smoking force. There should be no sound or, at most, a deep, hollow sound. This means the airflow is not restricted, an essential element of a good-smoking pipe. If you have any whistling sounds,... meaning restricted airflow, you will probably have trouble keeping it lit and it will probably smoke wet. According to Lars, ‘You’re getting turbulence in the airstream when you exceed a certain speed. The sound of that turbulence indicates that the smoke will get separated. Smoke is actually microdrops of moisture containing hot air and aroma. When air passes quickly through a restricted passageway, turbulence moves the heavy particles, including the moisture, to the perimeter, like separating cream from milk. This can be caused by too small a diameter or sharp corners in the smoke passage [which is] an extremely important issue....[T]he physics of the boring of your pipe will definitely have an impact on the taste of the pipe and your smoking pleasure. For all of his pipes, Lars uses a four millimeter [Ed. about 5/32 nd of an inch] channel from one end of the pipe to the other. This may vary with the pipe maker, but the sound test will still hold true.”
The portion of the article I have just quoted caught my attention and interest, particularly with regard to keeping the pipe lit for longer periods of time, as well as to the taste of the tobacco and enjoyment of smoking. I noticed that certain of my pipes did tend to stay lit longer than others, particularly some of my Dunhill ODAs and LBs that were dated back in the early sixties. Unfortunately, those pipes comprised a very small segment of my collection. I did note that the air holes through the briar were somewhat larger in those pipes than most of my other ones; but I had no way of measuring the airflow through the stems. I also noticed that these Dunhills not only stayed lit longer but, when I smoked them back to back, produced substantially less tongue-bite. The taste of the tobacco seemed more pronounced, and I enjoyed it more.
I attributed these observations to the claims advanced by Dunhill for years to the effect that their pipes were made of the best briar that had been aged for many years and fitted with the best vulcanite mouthpieces. Thus I had not fully accepted the airflow theory.
Later in 1997, in its Fall edition, Pipes & Tobaccos printed an article by Rick Newcombe entitled “Easy Draw.” In that article, P&T stated: “The problem with most pipes today is that they are not drilled properly for the perfect smoking experience. Richard Newcombe’s theory of smoke hole geometry may help you modify your pipe from an average to a superb smoke.” I was all eyes and ears, and I devoured the article.
Rick Newcombe stated: “When you have a pipe drilled as I have described [opening the mouthpiece and smokehole to 5/32nds], you will be amazed at how easily it smokes and how easy it is to keep lit. There is no better feeling than being able to enjoy a pipe, put it down for a minute or two, and then pick it back up and puff gently as the tobacco is still smoldering.”
Rick went on to say that he questioned Jess Chonovitsch and Lars Ivarsson, two of the pipe makers he considers the best in the world, as to why they fail to open up the pipes they sell as he likes them and, as it turns out, as they do themselves. The explanation given was that hollowing out the vulcanite weakens it to the point that careless or inexperienced smokers may run the risk of biting through the bit and attributing this to inferior quality. Do they object to the buyer having his pipe opened by an experienced pipe man? Not in the least, since they do so for their own pipes themselves.
Further on in the article, Rick brings up Jim Benjamin, who has been his mentor on the subject of pipes and tobacco. Jim has been opening his own pipes for 50 years, having adopted the practice back in the late forties. He maintains that the open pipe produces a cooler smoke. The unrestricted airflow prevents tongue-bite, which he says is contracted from “tugging and tugging on a pipe with an inadequate draw, much like sucking molasses through a straw.”
At the time this article was written, Rick and Jim were employing both 5/32nds and 11/64th of an inch air-holes, depending on the size of the pipe. Since then, they have experimented with even wider holes and now seem to favor a diameter up to 3/16th of an inch, depending on the size and shape of the pipe. However, 5/32nd of an inch is still considered a minimum.
Intrigued, I contacted Jim Benjamin to discuss the matter of air-flow more thoroughly. Since then I have spoken at great length with both Rick and Jim, whom, despite my long experience, I consider my smoking mentors and special friends. The first pipes I sent Jim to open were the Dunhills I spoke about previously. But when I got them back and smoked them, the comparison was dramatic. I called Jim and asked him what he had done to improve even those pipes so markedly. He said he’d opened the bits as well as the shanks to keep the airflow perfectly even throughout the entire bore. That made a world of difference. Recall that I had recognized that the air hold in these fine pipes was wider than normal, but the air hole in the bit was still somewhat restricted. Most importantly, then what Jim had done was widen the air hole throughout the entire pipe, creating a completely unrestricted and even draw.
Since Jim has opened all my pipes, I have never enjoyed pipe smoking so much. My tongue-bite problem evaporated. My pipes remained lit for much longer periods of time, producing a cooler bowl, just warm to the touch, and thereby a cooler and more flavorful smoke.
Having your pipes properly opened, however, is not in itself a panacea for deriving the greatest smoking pleasure. Of course you must keep your pipes as clean as possible, not only from the standpoint of taste but, just as importantly, to keep the entire bore free from obstructions and narrowing due to tar deposits. Filling the pipe carefully to ensure a smooth and easy draw and smoking it slowly to keep it from becoming overheated are also requisites for an excellent smoke. Furthermore, lighting your pipe carefully and evenly and a judicious use of your tamper are also most important. But make no mistake about it: the perfectly even flow of sufficient oxygen through the entire bore is the foundation of a great-smoking pipe. With the easy draw throughout the opened air hole, the pipe can be smoked cooler with less effort, because it will stay lit without the necessity for heavy puffing.
As the old saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the taste.” If you don’t believe me, try it.
A surprising thing is the heated controversy that seems to swirl around the topic of airflow like smoke in a room with too many open windows. Hard to blow perfect smoke rings in an atmosphere like that and hard to fathom the real objections that are advanced against modifications to airflow.
Let’s look at the principal objectors’ arguments against the open air hole. At the end of Rick Newcombe’s article, Chuck Stanion, P&T’s editor, noted some of them. First, Ed Burac says the theory is too simple. In my experience, unequivocally, the theory works.
Now Chuck comes to a more serious objector, Jim Cooke. I have spoken to Jim myself. He maintains that the larger air hole causes the pipe to burn hotter--so hot in fact that it will burn out. I asked him for documentation on this point, and he said his own experience was all he had to go on. He gave me an example. Apparently a customer came to him with a number of old Barlings he had purchased that had been opened in the mortise but whose bits had not been worked on. He asked Jim what he could do to restore his pipes to their original condition, as they smoked very wet and very poorly. Jim said there was nothing that could be done. The hole in the bore could not be reduced.
I mentioned that one of the keys to the success of the process was filing the inside of the bit to the right size, so that every inch from bowl to the lip contains the same volume, preventing airflow distortion. Jim admitted that this was correct. But then he threw back that the pipe smokes too hot and will burn out.
Jim was making a pipe for me at the time, and I asked him to drill the air hole 5/32nds. He refused, saying he would not put his name on a pipe drilled that wide. I countered with the fact that he normally employs an air hole only 1/64th narrower. He said that was a big difference.
My answer is that Jim Benjamin has been opening his own pipes for 50 years, and, to date, none have burned out! I have been at this for five years, too short a time to really tell, but so far I have not had a burnout. Presently, I have a 3/16th air hole in the pipe Jim Cooke made for me. He would not recognize the pipe, as I made a number of modifications to its appearance and capacity. But if he smoked it blind, I would guaranty he would acclaim it as one of the best smoking pipes he had ever tried.
I also spoke to Bill Taylor about airflow. He was not particularly partisan either way. He says he uses 5/32nd as a standard for his Ashton pipes.
One other chap, Richard Esserman, has voiced objections to the open-bore practice. What he has said is indeed most didactic. He avers that if anyone thinks he might modify a pipe he is about to purchase, he should not purchase it. This might be the stance of a collector of fine objets d’art. Naturally, one would never attempt to change or “improve” a feature of one of Rembrandt’s subjects. I can even see the possibility of that principle being invoked if one owned a famous museum piece of intricately carved meerschaum. But carrying it to an oversized smoking pipe??? Well, to each his own.
I should like to pint out that the amount of work involved in “opening” a briar pipe is substantial. Opening the shank on a straight pipe is no problem and might take but a minute or two. But far more time consuming is the work to be done on the vulcanite mouthpiece to insure a consistent air hole throughout. In my opinion, that is the most critically important part of the process. Generally it takes me the better part of two hours. However, I would not advise anyone with little or no wood-crafting experience to attempt the job himself. Many a slip between bowl and lip, and a bad slip could ruin a fine pipe irreparably. For this reason, I would strongly recommend sending the pipe you want opened to Jim Benjamin at 12199 Avenida Consentido San Diego, CA. 92128-3248; 858-674-4900.
Jim not only has great expertise in opening pipes, but the pipes he returns look and smoke brand new, and for just $15 plus shipping?. They will bring back memories of how the pipe tasted after you broke it in and how it looked when you picked it out. He also has developed a secret process for restoring the original clean shiny appearance of the vulcanite mouthpiece. Yellowed or otherwise stained bits produce a bitter, unclean taste, and Jim’s restored bits have none of that. Even more remarkable is that the mouthpiece stays in its pristine condition over time. Pipes I have sent to Jim several years ago have completely resisted the normal oxidation process.
In a recent article in the Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris, Dr. Mark Beale mentions that he is in the process of changing the original vulcanite bit of an S. Bang pipe for an acrylic bit! Rick Newcombe tells me that S. Bang uses the best-quality vulcanite in the world, very soft to the touch, that produces a wonderful feeling when smoking it. I would heartily recommend that Dr. Beale send the pipe and original mouthpiece to Jim Benjamin before he radically changes the smoking quality of his pipe. Certainly he can’t lose anything by trying and if the bit oxidizes, he can always go the Lucite route. But I know that it won’t oxidize and that he will be far happier with the bit once Jim has processed it.
In conclusion, master pipe maker Lar Ivarsson uses a 4 mm (5/32nd) channel from one end of the pipe to the other. The airflow must be consistent throughout the entire channel.
Once you have had one of your pipes correctly opened, filled it properly, and completed lighting it, you will realize that all your pains were an inconsequential price to pay for one of the greatest smokes you have ever had. Try this with one of your worst-smoking pipes. The result will make a believer out of you!
I think Rick Newcombe sums it up in a remarkable statement he made to me recently: “ I’d rather smoke a no-name pipe that has been opened than an S. Bang that has not been opened. But of course, my first choice would be an S. Bang pipe opened the way that I like.”
Fixing a loose stem
Even if you're careful to never remove the stem from a hot pipe, you may occasionally be faced with a loose stem. Often this problem will fix itself with time, but if the stem is so loose that it is in danger of falling out, then something must be done. The safest bet is to take the pipe to a tobacconist or send it to a repairperson. These people will have a great deal of practice performing this task, and they will do it for a very modest fee. It is remarkably easy for an amateur to crack a shank while attempting this repair, as many of us can sadly attest.
Nevertheless, if you are determined to do this yourself, you must first determine what sort of stem you have. If the stem is lucite, the easiest fix is to apply a very thin layer of clear nail polish to the tenon, allow this to dry *completely*, and then carefully sand the tenon to fit. A vulcanite stem, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated, as you will need to heat the tenon and expand it in some way. There are a number of variations to this procedure, but the most common one is described below.
First, remove the stem from the pipe and insert a pipe cleaner into the stem so that it just reaches the end of the tenon (this is to ensure that you don't collapse the air hole). Next, carefully heat the tenon over a match for about five seconds (the intent is to soften the vulcanite, not melt it). Then gently press the end of the tenon against a flat surface, keeping the tenon as perpendicular to the surface as possible, taking care not bend the tenon to one side or the other. After the stem has cooled, test fit it. If the stem is still too loose, repeat this procedure. If it is now too tight, then see "What should I do with a stem that's too tight?" below. NOTE: It is *very* easy to ruin a perfectly good pipe with this technique, and I feel I should reiterate my earlier statement that this job is best undertaken by a "professional."
A variation on the above that has less chance of bending or ruining the tenon is the following: Insert a tapered mandrel into the tenon. Apply heat to the mandrel (an alcohol flame is recommended). As the heat from the mandrel transfers to the tenon and softens it, move the mandrel further into the tenon. Repeat as necessary to get the desired expansion. Remove the mandrel and place tenon in cold water to set. Note that PIMOmakes a 'Stem Tightening Kit' that uses this principle.
A less radical (and *much* safer) procedure that has been recommended to me by several people is to simply rub the stem's tenon against a block of beeswax until the tenon is well coated. Once this is complete, reinsert the stem. I am told that the joint will tighten after a smoke or two.
Another less radical approach to try if the beeswax method doesn't work, is to simply heat the tenon and then allow it to cool. Very often the tenon will have expanded just enough to make a decent fit. Rather than an open flame, I suggest carefully using a heat gun, or a handheld hairdryer on high heat aimed at the tenon.
Fixing a stem that's too tight
If the stem is still inserted in the pipe and is so difficult to remove that you fear your pipe may be damaged, then place the pipe in the freezer for several minutes. This works the vast majority of the time; however, if the stem still proves too difficult to remove, smoke the pipe, allow it to cool, and try to remove the stem again. If neither of these techniques work, then send the pipe to a reputable repairperson.
If you do manage to remove the stem, place some sort of dry lubricant, such as graphite (from a soft pencil) or wax, on the tenon and attempt to reinsert the stem. If this does not provide satisfactory results, you will need to remove a small amount of material from the tenon. Wrap some very fine (400 grit or so) sandpaper or some "O" or finer grade steel wool around the tenon and twist the stem gently. Work very slowly and carefully, and check the fit frequently until it is satisfactory.
Because everyone appreciates a beautiful woman.
"Pipe Babes" is not meant in a derogatory way. It is a compliment to any woman to be called a "babe". In our observations, even women check out other women. Did you ever notice that men's magazines usually have a beautiful woman on the cover? Did you ever notice that women's magazines also usually have a beautiful woman on the cover? Of course, the men are looking because ... uh ... we're men! The women are looking because they are making comparisons, sizing up the competition, and getting ideas for themselves.
We hope you enjoy these lovely ladies smoking pipes.
Carmen Elegantly Smokes a Churchwarden Pipe
Carmen is the epitome of cuteness. You just have to love her big brown eyes, cute dimples, and luxuriously long dark brown hair.
And she can clench a churchwarden pipe! Wow!
Check out our amazingly beautiful Carmen as she enjoys smoking her Stanwell Hans Christian Andersen Churchwarden Pipe.
Cynthia Smokes a Nanna Ivarsson Pipe in Leather w/AK-47
Cynthia looks bad-ass smoking a Nanna Ivarsson pipe in her leather jacket, jeans & boots, and no one is getting near that pipe while she's packing an AK-47 assault rifle. The pipe was on loan from well-known collector and author of the book, "In Search of Pipe Dreams", Rick Newcombe. Rick tells us about the pipe; "This was the 24th pipe Nanna Ivarsson made in 1995, when she was working alongside her famous grandfather, Sixten Ivarsson, in his workshop in downtown Copenhagen. The shape was originally created by Lars Ivarsson, Nanna's father, in the 1980s. I saw the pipe in the workshop in rough form and said that it looked like a golf ball on a tee, and I ordered it on the spot. I waited many months before receiving the finished pipe, and it was worth the wait."
Chelsea Smokes a Stanwell Featherweight Sandblasted (244)
Chelsea is nice and relaxed in her jeans and sweater as she enjoys lounging on the couch smoking her Stanwell pipe. The pipe was acquired from SmokingPipes.com where they described it as; "Essentially the archetypal Danish horn shape writ small, the "244" possesses a graceful minimalism of form, and is additionally rather easier in the hand than most smaller pipes (particularly in keeping the rim above your thumb and fingers). The black sandblasted finish compliments it perfectly."
This was a fun shoot where we captured some new poses and angles that are quite attractive. Great job Chelsea!
Violet is a Blonde Blue-Eyed Babe that is Literally and Figuratively Smoking!
Violet is looking stunning and provocative, attired in her short red dress, wide leather belt and lacetop stockings. She is smoking a Lorenzette Black Matte Pipe No. 62 with Silver Ring. Be careful to not touch your computer screen while looking at this photo shoot as you might burn your fingers.
Carmen Enjoys a Summertime Smoke of Mac Baren 7 Seas Gold
Carmen is enjoying a mid-Summer's day smoking a flavorful bowl of 7 Seas Gold from Mac Baren. It is a golden blend of Burley and Virginia tobaccos. 7 Seas Gold is a soft and exceptionally mellow smoke with a delightful aromatic taste.
Carmen's pipe is a Kaywoodie G20 Lightweight No. 4757-3R. Being fashion-conscious, you will notice that her nail polish perfectly matches the color of her pipe.
This photo shoot is sponsored by the Mac Baren Tobacco Company and 7 Seas Gold Tobacco.
Ashley Sports a Polka-Dot Dress, Stanwell Pipe, and Mac Baren 7 Seas Tobacco
Ashley is a raven-haired hottie with big brown eyes and pouting lips that just love to pull on her Stanwell Han Christian Andersen VI Sandblasted pipe while smoking Mac Baren's 7 Seas Regular Blend.
7 Seas Regular Blend contains Black Cavendish and Golden Burleys. It is a soft and exceptionally mellow smoke with a delightful, aromatic taste.
Cynthia is a Classy Lady Smoking a Bo Nordh Horn
Cynthia is smoking a black sandblasted horn made by Bo Nordh in 1993. The pipe was loaned to us for the shoot by Rick Newcombe, (pipe collector and author of In Search of Pipe Dreams). Rick tells us; "This was the first Bo Nordh pipe I bought. It is elegant and beautiful. I paid $1,000 for it new, and today could sell it used for something like eight or 10 times that amount. I would never sell it. I bought the pipe from Peter Heinrichs at his store in Cologne, Germany after seeing a photo in the Pipe Smoker's Ephemeris of Bo smoking one, sitting in his wheelchair outside his farmhouse in Sweden."
Chelsea Smoking in Shades of Red, Black & Grey
Here's a great outdoor shoot with some great colors from the red brick wall combining and contrasting with Chelsea's auburn hair. The ebony Peterson pipe nicely matches Chelsea's black top and grey skirt, and then we bring more red into the picture with Chelsea's high heel shoes. Chelsea looks glamorous smoking her Peterson Killarney Ebony (999) Fishtail.
Violet, a Beautiful Blonde Lady, Elegantly Smokes 7 Seas Regular
Violet is a stunning blonde, blue-eyed babe that likes to smoke Mac Baren's 7 Seas Regular Blend pipe tobacco. 7 Seas Regular Blend contains Black Cavendish and Golden Burleys. It is a soft and exceptionally mellow smoke with a delightful, aromatic taste. Violet is smoking a classic billiard-shaped BBB Minerva No. 0667.
Ashley is "The Lady in Red" Smoking 7 Seas Gold
Diamonds are a girl's best friend, but Gold ... specifically 7 Seas Gold is a lady's favorite tobacco. Ashley, our latest "Pipe Babe" is enjoying 7 Seas Gold from Mac Baren. It is a golden blend of Burley and Virginia tobaccos. 7 Seas Gold is a soft and exceptionally mellow smoke with a delightful aromatic taste.
Ashley's pipe is a Lorenzette Black Matte Pipe No. 62 with Silver Ring.
Cynthia Needs to See You in Her Office to Discuss Pipe Smoking
There is just something about a beautiful woman dressed in office attire with glasses and her hair up. If you're "hot for teacher", think librarians are sexy, and feel the best part about working in an office is the ladies apparel, then you'll love this photo shoot. Cynthia, our newest "Pipe Babe" is smoking a Rad Davis Sandblasted Rhodesian Pipe provided by Quality Briar.
Country Girl Smoking a Corn Cob Pipe
Here's Chelsea hanging out at the farm enjoying a beautiful Summer day in the country. She is aptly decked out in her plaid shirt, denim skirt, and cowgirl boots. The Missouri Meerschaum "Mizzou" Corn Cob Pipe completes the picture of a perfect sunny day in the country relaxing with a pipe.
The Lady Smokes a Churchwarden
A Churchwarden Pipe has an elegance about it that perfectly fits the style of lady. Here is our resident elegant lady, Chelsea, smoking her Churchwarden, which is coincidentally named "Lady".
Chelsea Smokes a Full Bent Apple Meerschaum Pipe
Here's Chelsea relaxing at the local smoking lounge with her Full Bent Apple Meerschaum Pipe
Spring Has Sprung in Pipe Babe Land
Spring is in the air and it's time to smoke a pipe. Even though it was the first day of Spring yesterday, you can see that it was still a little cold out. Enjoy these photos of Kat as she smokes a pipe in her new Spring dress.
Devil With a Blue Dress On Smoking a Pipe
Tanya is a "Black-Haired Beauty with Big Dark Eyes" indulging in the succulent sweet taste of her pipe tobacco.
Melanie Warms Up with Her Pipe
Brrr ... it's been freezing outside lately. Here's Melanie warming up from the cold enjoying a pipe and relaxing.
Raven-Haired Beauty Elena Relaxes with Her Pipe
Elena is thoroughly enjoying smoking her pipe with rich large plumes of delicious premium pipe tobacco. Light up a pipe and join her for a smoke.
Alena Smokes a Pot
Alena took time out from her studies to relax smoking a "pot" shaped tobacco pipe.
Valerie Smokes a Pipe
Valerie is looking cool in her jeans and leather jacket while she smokes her Butz Choquin Pipe.
Pipe Smoking Blonde Babe
Alana is lounging in her red dress enjoying smoking her pipe.
Woman in Red Smoking a Pipe
Tanya is the Woman in Red smoking her long-stemmed pot briar pipe. Light up a pipe and join us. Let's enjoy the pleasant taste and aroma of premium pipe tobacco while enjoying the company of Tanya smoking her pipe.
Pipe Smoking with Melanie
We add another photo shoot to our pipe smoking women with the return of Melanie, our first pipe smoking woman to appear on the site.
Blonde Babe Kathy Smokes Her Pipe
Kathy is a tall blonde with long legs relaxing in her chair smoking a pipe.
Pipe Girl Valerie
Valerie invites you to join her as she enjoys relaxing at the end of a hard day at the office by smoking her pipe.
Tanya Smokes Her Pipe
Tanya is enjoying smoking her briar pipe while letting the smoke waft into the air to fill the room with the sweet smell of tobacco.
Girl Smoking a Pipe - Kelly
Kelly is a girl that likes to smoke a pipe. Here she is smoking a Butz Choquin Pipe. She is the latest addition to our photo galleries of girls smoking pipes.
145: shape #
This stamping only lastened one year: 1935
• Value (Estate): unknown
DRR: Dead Root, Root Briar
Year suffix 16: 1920+16
According to its Patent #, this DR Root Briar has a inverted Vernon fitting.
• Value (Estate): 365,30 US $ • 252,40 €
Dunhill's "DR" stampings
60/3: shape #
Patent N° 417574
• Value (Estate): 224.50 US $ • 158,50 €
335: shape #
R : Root Briar
U.S. PATENT 1343253/20ENGLAND19 : 1920+19
Weight: 30 grams
• Value (Estate): 350.00 US $ • 262,80 €
No shape #
PROV. PAT N° 12505
PAT. N° 417574
Suffix 19 : 1920+19
The wind cap can be swiveled to the bottom of the bowl. This device corresponds to the atypical 12505 patent number.
• Value (Estate): 765.00 US $ • 622,40 €
DUNHILL over LONDON
A : Bruyere
351: shape #
PATENT N° 197365ENGLAND0: 1940+0
Value (Estate):128.50 US$ • 82,50 €
PATENT ROOT BRIAR
R: Root Briar finish
PAT. N° 417574Suffix 0 : 1940+0
• Value (Estate): 306.00 US $ • 231.50 €
483: shape # ('DON')
ENGLAND0 : 1940+0
U.S. PATENT 1341418/20
• Value (Estate): 500.00 US $ • 395,80 €
PATENT (without date code)
R: Root Briar (after 1931)
No year suffix # *
PAT N° 1343253/20
34 : Shape
* The Dunhill stamp inventory log shows receipt of this patent stamps whithout any date code in 1927 and 1941. Since this pipe is a ROOT BRIAR and given its patent number, it cannot be a 1927 pipe.
• Value (Estate): 172.50 US $ • 110,55 €
39: shape #
R: Root Briar
ENGLAND2 : 1922, 1942 or 1952
PAT N° 417574/3 (1942-1954)
Value (Estate): 242.50 US$ • 155.70 €
(4): Bowl size R: shape
ENGLAND0 : 1930, 1940 or 1950
PATENT N° 417574/34 - ?
Value (Estate): 112,00 US$ • 73,30 €
DR: Dead Root +R: Root Briar
LBS: Letter shape codePAT. N° 417574/34ENGLAND0: 1950+0
It seems that this pipe is stamped with a "B" grade and simultaneously with an "R" holding for a Root Briar finish.
The DR letter grading was initiated in 1949.
The ROOT BRIAR stamping under DUNHILL was introduced in the 1950s and the "R" on the DR pipes with this finish will be discontinued then.
Consequently, this pipe illustrates one of the first attempts to grade a Root Briar DR.
The small square (left to the L of LONDON) was probably a help for the retailer to take a decision about the price.
• Value (Estate): 1,650.00 US $ • 1.295,34 €
841: shape #
F/T: Fish Tail
No date code
PATENT N° 417574/34
Original amber stem
Despite the lack of the year suffix this pipe can be dated:
- The ODA 800 series were introduced in 1950.
- The patent 417574/34 stamping ran until 1951
- The DUNHILL SHELL stamping was replaced by DUNHILL SHELL BRIAR in 1951.
• Value (Estate): 1,038.00 US $ • 770,50 €
Three year suffixes:
ENGLAND0 2 3 : 1950+0
(0 suffix very week)
PAT.N° 417574/34F/T: Fish Tail stem lip
This pipe (Skate shape) was crafted in 1950: LONDON is under DUNHILL and the first year suffix is 0. It took more than two years to sell.
• Value (Estate): 360.55 US $ • 253,80 €
ROOT SHELL (Prototype)
DUNHILL over ROOT SHELL
113: Shape #
2 (encircled): Bowl size
PAT N° 417574/34
ENGLAND1 : 1950+1
"C" stands for "Complementary"
This pipe is not stamped with a " T " , as on the regular "TANSHELL" production. It was an attempt to produce a natural sandblasted pipe and its name (Root Shell) was transient. Dunhill finally arrived at "TANSHELL" name later in 1952.
• Value (Unsmoked): 1525.00 US $ • 992,30 €
PATENT TANSHELL "LC"
LC: Letters shape code
Year suffix: 3
The LC mythical shape, characterized by a "swan's neck" shank, generally was crafted in a SHELL or sometimes BRUYERE finish. This TANSHELL finish is extremely rare.
• Value (Estate): 2,375.00 US $ • 1 616,00 €
K: Letters shape code
4: Bowl size R : Root Briar
ENGLAND4 : 1924, 1944 or 1954
PAT N° 417574/34 (1942-1954)
Root Briar > 1931
According to its year suffix and its patent N° this pipe could be from 1944 or 1954. But the group numbers (here 4) were inroduced in 1951. Thus 1954 remains the only possibility.
models & grades:Lane Era
Charatan's make freehand straight grains
Summa Cun Laude
Free hand Relief
Charatan's make "Apprenticeship" standard shape grades
Relief Grain (tan)
Relief Grain (dark)
||charatan's shape name
||1/2 bent billiard|
||heavy shank pot|
||1/16 bent long shank dublin|
||1/4 bent stack|
||pointed heel 1/4 bent apple|
||round rim calabash|
||barrel bowl poker|
||diamond shank 1/4 bent pot|
||dianmond shank billiard|
||Extra large billiard
||1/4 bent Rhodesian|
||1/2 bent billiard|
||heavy shank billiard|
Since 1812, Englands oldest pipe maker has established a fine reputation for creating fine briar and African Meerschaum pipes. In the early stage of the Barling Company, Benjamin Barling started fitting silver mounts to his hand carved meerschaum pipes. Over time these pipes began to garner much recognition, as it did in 1851, when the Barling African Meerschaums received several awards at the London Great Exhibition. Using Algerian briar and air-curing the pipes for years, Barling was able to create exceptional pipes on par with the Dunhills of the day. By the turn of the century and right up until the company was sold in 1960, pipe smokers all over the world sought out the name "B. Barling & Sons", knowing they were purchasing one of the best smoking pipes the world had ever known.
Beginning in 1960, after numerous location and quality changes, the Barling Company entered a transitional stage. It was sold to what is now referred to as the transition company circa 1961 and the company implemented numerous label and naming changes. These changes were often very complicated and unnecessary. However, shortly thereafter, the company now referred to as The New Barling company was more concise in its numbering and branding of pipes and more assertive in bringing back the old quality and standards from the pre-transitional period. For instance, right after the sale of the company, the first thing that was done was that a numbering system was put in place that made a lot more sense. Four digit-numbering systems were implemented so that from the number alone one could ascertain many of the characteristics of the pipe. The first digit represented size, while the next three are shape number. So for example, 3374, 4374, and 5374 were all the same shape, while the first digit indicated three different sizes. Size started at "2" and went up to "6" followed by King. This loosely followed the old M, L, EL, EXEL, EXEXEL, G sizing system from the original Barling Company.
In addition, the post-transition company switched over to a "Barling London England" script for the shank nomenclature (instead of the block "BARLING'S arched over the word "MAKE".) However, you will occasionally see pieces that are stamped with a shape number like 6409 with the arched BARLING'S MAKE. For a little while, the 1960s transition company used a very small BARLING'S MAKE stamp from before the war to complement their new shape numbers. Many times they used the old pre-war briar blocks as well.
These pipes continue to be an exceptional value for the money. They generally contain Barling written in a cross shape on the stem and the numbering system still remains intact. The briar continues to be top notch and the African Meerschaum holds its own against Turkish meerschaums.
Regarding African Meerschaum:
There has been some speculation recently of an end to the African Meerschaum line of Barling and this information will be continually revised. This is, we believe, attributed to the inconsistent quantities of African block available. The quality has not changed, but the amount available from year to year varies widely. Traditionally, African Block Meerschaum comes from Tanzania and surrounding countries. Given the political instability of late in that part of Africa, it is not surprising that problems procuring the African Meerschaum exist. However, there has not been, to our knowledge, any official statement made to this effect. These suppositions are being made by us based on the evidence available and should not be construed as absolutely accurate. We will update here as we know more about the current state of African Meerschaum pipe production by Barling and other makers (Peterson, for example, has discontinued their line of African Meerschaum pipes). If you are interested and have further information on the matter, we would be delighted to hear from you. We do not fully understand the African Meerschaum situation, but this is as much as we can surmise at this point.
Regardless of the ultimate fate of the Barling African Meerschaum line, we encourage you to give these superb pipes a try they possess many of the benefits of Turkish Meerschaum, but are far less delicate and serve as a superb travel pipe that can both survive a trip and be smoked more frequently than a briar.
Barling continues to make superb pipes to this day, both from briar and African Block Meerschaum. Given their reasonable price, delightful traditional styling and the incredible history of the brand, Barling pipes would make a superb addition to any collection.
A few pipe manufacturers have made the conscious decision to search out and purchase the best briar available and to invest whatever time is necessary to provide the highest quality. Among the most famous of these high-grade makers is S. Bang of Copenhagen.
Svend Bang, the founder and namesake of S. Bang pipes, made his entry to the world of pipes and tobacco trade in 1941 managing to get a job at a small importer and wholesaler of tobacco. A real bad time to get started: Europe was at war and Denmark occupied by the German Wehrmacht. The supply of tobacco was extremely poor. If contemporary witnesses are to be believed, the Danes packed their pipes - increasingly made off homeland woods - with everything BUT tobacco. But evidently this wholesaler must have known a way to bring some tobacco leaves to the little kingdom for Svend Bang learnt so much about tobacco that he was employed by W.Ø. Larsen after the war.
Working for this old and well-reputed tobacconist in central Copenhagen he learnt even more about tobacco and tobacco-blending. Furthermore Ole Larsen, the proprietor, made him responsible for starting a new workshop for pipes situated in connection to the shop. Svend Bang managed to do this with flying colours and W.Ø. Larsen pipes became a bedrock of the Danish freehand fame!
No wonder - like many other businessmen Svend Bang, meanwhile a highly respected expert, wanted to have a business of his own. The opportunity occurred when he got the Danish distribution agency for Astley's tobaccos and in 1968 Svend Bang's pipe-shop was opened! It soon became a meeting-place for those citizens of Copenhagen interested in pipes and tobacco and the sale of the Astley tobaccos was great. Copying Larsen's conception he furnished a pipe workshop behind the salesrooms. At first only repairs were offered but Bang wanted more: pipes to bear his name!
Going for this goal Bang began to hire pipemakers. (He himself made several attempts to make pipes, but his talents evidently did lie in business and not in pipe carving! More later.)
The very first was Peter Rafn, whose career at Svend Bang's however lasted for hardly six months. He was followed by Ivan Holst Nielsen, Jan Windelov and Ph. Vigen. Also mentioned but not confirmed are Ib Olson, M. Thorhauer and others more. Like Rafn most of them came from Erik Nørding, stayed for strikingly short periods only and went off again. Does this indicate that it wasn't really easy to be on good terms with the boss?
The first to come and stay was Per Hansen. Born in 1948 and educated as an electrician, he had started making pipes in his leisure times for Hans Hartmann before he worked short-term - appr. two months - for Preben Holm when S. Bang lured him away in 1970. At PH's manufacture he met and made friends with Ulf Noltensmeier.
Ulf Noltensmeier, also born in 1948 and a native German, began making pipes during his military service. He went to Denmark shortly after and was hired by Preben Holm in 1970, too. Evidently, Noltensmeier and Holm were not on good terms. When he asked him if they could do something about the noise in the workshop Holm, basically a lad of 23 at the time, said NO, if you don't like it, you can leave. So he did to work for Anne Julie subsequently for 15 months before he followed Svend Bang's call in 1971. Now the Bang crew was complete and the success story of the S. Bang Pipes really began!
The beginning wasn't free of conflicts and turbulences, for initially not all conceivabilities of Hansen and Noltensmeier concured thoroughly with Bang's. The latter was deeply impressed with the enormous success of Preben Holm, who managed a real pipe factory with more than 40 people at this time and produced high-value pipes in huge numbers. Svend Bang wasn't unwilling to see his business developing into this direction. Also detail questions had to be clarified. For instance, Bang found hand-cut mouthpieces too costly and time- consuming - His young pipemakers however were set on meticulous, complete handwork in every aspect and using the very best materials exclusively. Bang finally let convince himself by the success of the absolute quality Hansen and Noltensmeier produced. Fortunately, one would like to add.
The overwhelming worldwide success of these high-grade pipes soon exceeded the capabilities. By the end of 1975 the workshop bursted at the seams. So, in 1976 Bang's Pibemageri resettled in Struenseegade 9 in Copenhagen's northern area where it is yet today.
Time for an interlude - the Löfberg Pipes!
As insinuated above, Svend Bang himself never was nor became a good pipemaker. However that did not prevent that he occasionally tried it. Ca. around 1976/77 he got really serious about it. It’s conceivable that Hansen and Noltensmeier lended their boss a helping hand in his efforts to create pipes but as well they seriously dissuaded to offer these pipes as original S. Bang Pipes due to the minor quality.
Svend Bang wasn’t to be discouraged so easily and approached his German distributor Otto & Kopp with a suitcase full of sample pipes he presented to Bernd Kopp, at that time managing director. These pipes had been named Löfberg - the girl’s name of Bang’s wife. Well, Mr. Kopp was not convinced either - particularly of the pipes’ quality – and clearly stated his opinion that Bang would not do a favor neither to himself nor to the original Bang pipes offering them. - Thereupon Svend Bang went off empty-handed and deeply insulted - simply leaving behind the Löfberg pipes in Mr. Kopp’s bureau…
Almost forgotten the Löfberg pipes gathered dust in the warehouse of Otto & Kopp for approximately 28 years. Until Oliver Kopp showed them in 2005 to Volker Bier, engaged tobacconist, inspired pipemaker and founder of the Lohmar Pipe Show, who was in search of something special to offer to his customers. When Bier presented these pipes to the public, some well-known "pipe experts" felt called to cast doubt on the authenticity of these pipes at the top of their voices. The “arguments” and “evidences“ these gents cited are hardly to surpass for their absurdity. Obviously they found the idea intolerable, that there might be pipes that had remained unknown to them. Therewith not enough - Volker Bier had to fend off vilest personal defamation. Thankfully he was saved by Oliver Kopp and Hansen & Noltensmeier who confirmed the origin of the pipes and their authenticity: Löfberg pipes are real Bang pipes – made by Svend Bang in person!
After the grim end of his pipemaking efforts Svend Bang took up other meritorious activities. He was a very active member of The Nordic Smokers' Guild and became one of founders and following editors of the magazine Piber & Tobak started in 1978. He was also heavily involved in the arrangements of the first national competitions in pipe- smoking in Denmark.
Svend Bang retired in 1984. Evidently he felt a great deal of pride in the product that he initiated throughout his career and retirement and until his death in 1993.
Once Hansen and Noltensmeier took over the company (in 1984) they knew it was best to retain the S. Bang name - the two carvers always shared the same philosophy about that. Noltensmeier and Hansen were determined to maintain top quality at the expense of increased numbers. The only change they made concerns the stamping on the pipes changing from the English version "COPENHAGEN" to the Danish "KOBENHAVN".
Still, they are two separate carvers, with their own styles and preferences. Each makes his own pipes - there is no "assembly line" construction at S. Bang. They bounce ideas off of each other, of course, and admit that when problems arise in a pipe, it is nice to have a partner to discuss them with.
Though they carve pipes as individuals, there are similarities in their work. All Bang pipes are made with black, hand-cut vulcanite stems.
The same engineering is used by both carvers as well. The shape and size of the tobacco chambers vary according to size and design of the pipe, but each carver follows the same design guidelines for choosing the proper chamber dimensions. The smoke channel is always engineered for optimum performance.
Bang pipes are noted for the high definition and fine contrast in the grain. They undergo a double staining process to achieve that effect. The technique makes the grain leap from the bowl of the pipe, making well-grained wood become extra ordinary. The same coloring, however, will produce different results in different pieces of briar, making each pipe truly individual.
Per Hansen is the designated sandblasting artist for the team. He personally takes those pieces that are to be sandblasted to Stanwell, and is permitted to use the sandblasting equipment himself. That is the only S. Bang process, though, that is not executed by the individual carver of each pipe. Everything else, including the famous S. Bang silverwork, is done in the shop by each of the carvers on his own pipes.
According to the system introduced by Svend Bang in 1970 most European-bound pipes are stamped with letters to designate the grade in the following ascending order:
Black blast, Tan blast, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C and, very rarely, you might find a D.
Bang pipes for the U.S. market are stamped with year and number codes and the personal stamp of the carver. The number is not a grading stamp - it just indicates which pipe it is. For example, 9736 with the stamp PH would indicate that it was the 36th pipe made by Per Hansen in the year 1997. There are no grade stamps on U.S. pipes - all S. Bangs are high grade.
The S. Bang workshop is almost invisible in the bustling city of Copenhagen. A more elaborate storefront is not required, because S. Bang pipes are not sold in Denmark.
J T COOKE
Written by: David M.
I can’t emphasize enough how lucky we in the pipe community are, to have someone like Jim Cooke with us. This is a pipe maker who easily spends on average up to 40 hours on a single pipe. Yet he still charges only $800 for his work. He is not interested in making the most money possible, although he could easily charge up to twice as much for his pieces. No, this is a man who is mainly interested in the pursuit and exploration of how he can make the ‘Mother Nature’ within the block of briar, shine and show itself as beautifully and magnificently as possible. He has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to finding the best possible route to take that will produce the best possible sandblast. He has experimented countless times with different types of equipment and different types of blasting materials and while he is doing 5 different stages of sandblasting on each pipe he makes today, he still admits that he is not even close to finding the best answer or approach to blasting. This is fantastic news for us pipe smokers, because this man’s drive to show us the briar in what he considers the most beautiful form of expression, Sandblasting, has consumed him utterly & completely. He is not stopping and he continues to push himself and his body to great lengths and at great physical cost. You will learn a lot about the man and most importantly his craft. He rightfully does not go into great detail about the process involved in his work. He still however provides an enormous insight into the detailed and laborious process that he undertakes with each block of briar. Pipe carvers will likely perk up a bit right now as they will soon get access to some of the secrets behind his blasts, however after they read the depths that this man goes to in search of the ‘perfect blast’, rest assured, 99% of them will happily let Jim Cooke search for these answers all on his own. It is simply too much for the average man to pursue such deep answers on one subject. Jim is positively and absolutely, in a class all his own, when it comes to sandblasting. He is on a mad search and he will never, ever, settle down. He has no equal. He is the one and only Jim Cooke, supreme master of sandblasting.
David M: Where did you grow up?
Jim Cooke: In Vermont. Spent my whole life there. My sister and I live in the house that my Mom & Dad built by themselves in 1954. He worked on it for most of his life. I was a small fry at that time and I wet the bricks for him for the chimney and fireplaces.
DM: How was life growing up for you? Any major events happen that helped define who you are today?
JC: I suppose about the only thing that really stuck is that I was a sick little kid. This was back in the 50’s. I fought strep for quite a few years and this is back before they had really dialed in penicillin as far as using it every day. I spent a lot of with very high fevers. I think that fueled my imagination. Ever since then, I kind of knew from age 6 on, I knew that I was lucky to be alive. I could have just as easily gone the other way. At some point I had a certain appreciation for trying to enjoy every day because I never knew if it was going to be my last. It is kind of weird to be 6 years old and to realize that you could just as easily be dead. I think that gave me a certain amount of license to experiment and live life and pursue what I wanted to pursue because nobody is guaranteed tomorrow.
DM: Your sister Kit, can you tell us about your relationship with her?
JC: She is a retired College History Professor. We always got along and have been a pretty good team. When I got divorced 15 years ago, at that same time, she needed a change where she was living and my Mom had to move out and so Kit and I have been here for 10-12 years now. We are a great brother sister team and we have stuff in common but we stay out of each other’s way.
Jim, together with his sister Kit, holding a small (and functional) Brass Cannon
DM: You used to mark your pipes JT&D. Can you explain that please?
JC: That’s my ex-wife Deb. When I was doing a lot of production work for other American labels, she did a lot of the sanding back then we were a team and so the pipes were marked with both our initials.
DM: Do you guys still keep in touch?
JC: I see her and my daughter every two weeks.
DM: How old is your daughter?
JC: She is 28 now. I don’t know how that happened. Turn around and they are all grown up. I love my kids; we have a lot in common.
DM: What do the kids do?
JC: My son is a master technician at the local Volvo dealership. Volvo has brought him to Sweden twice to visit the factory so I guess he must be pretty darn good at what he does. My daughter is between jobs, not a surprise in this economy.
DM: What do the kids think of your pipe making?
JC: Well, they understand it and appreciate the ins and outs of it. They are not interested in pursuing it themselves. I do think they have enjoyed what success I have had.
DM: How did you discover your talent for making pipes?
JC: It was back in the early 70’s, I was working in Television as an Art Director and I decided that I wanted to stop smoking cigarettes and start smoking a pipe. And my ex bought me one of those carve it yourself kits. After I made the first one I knew that I finally found something that I was totally captivated with, with the block of briar. Worked on my own for a year or two and then got connected with Jorg and Elliott in Stowe Vermont, and you actually might know one of the other guys who worked there, Brad Pohlmann.
Old Friends All Smiles Jim Cooke and Brad Pohlmann
DM: Did you have any fears when you first started carving?
JC: Yes, when I went to the briar workshop I took a drastic cut in pay to be able to do that. At that point it was a job, one that I enjoyed, I had no idea that it was going to turn into what it did.
DM: What major influences did you have in pipe making?
JC: Back then in the 70’s, this is pre-internet days by a long shot. So information was really few and far between. Really the only thing I knew about pipe making was what I was learning at the briar workshop. There were virtually no American carvers, Paul Perri and a few guys in New York doing stuff. But there was no great communication, no pictures floating around.
DM: Was there any moment that shook and impacted you in some way?
JC: The briar workshop was planning to move to Florida. There was no way that my wife and I at that time were going to move. So I knew I was going to have to go out on my own. I made a few pipes for some different labels to tide me over but the major thing at that time was actually the pipe mailer done by Barry Levin. He was in large part responsible for getting people connected with other pipe collectors through his mailer. It had all these pages and pages of color photographs of pipes. At that point, he needed someone to do the restoration work on them and they needed someone to work on them. That was a real great education. Up until the time he died, I think I counted up that close to 20,000 pipes came through my shop. That really upped the game. I finally got to some of the great pipes that had been made over the last 100 years. I got to see what worked and what didn’t. That is when I really fell in love with the blasting process. That tickled my fancy.
Brown & Black Shell Canadians with repro Amber Stem
DM: Can you talk about Barry Levin?
JC: He had an absolute love for pipes. He was not a craftsmen but he loved everything about pipes. He also had a unique ability to find collections. He would go to New York to look at a collection and he would come back and say he found 3 collections. He would come to my shop with shopping bags, full of pipes. I really enjoyed Barry. Aside from working on the pipes, I did spend time with him as a friend. He had a great sense of humor, wonderful curiosity and he could be quite stubborn. I am really sorry that he was not around to see what the hobby became. When he passed, it was one of the few times in my life when I can honestly say that I got my heart broken. To this day I still do miss him.
DM: What events lead up to your idea to maximize the sandblast?
JC: I was still working for other labels at the same time that I was working with Barry. And he decided that he would like to put out a reasonably priced American made pipe and he wanted it to be primarily sandblast. He went to Europe to see what he could have made and after we talked about it, he decided to give me a shot. That is where I started. I gotta tell you, my first exposure to sandblasting was not only eye opening but totally humiliating.
DM: How was it those first few times sandblasting?
JC: This was pre-internet, zero information out there, late 80’s. The first experiment I did use sand and I tell ya, no matter what I did, I could not have any more grain showing than what the surface of an orange looks like. It was humiliating but at the same time it really lit a fire in me to find out what the hell was going on. The only people that I really saw doing something with sandblasts was John Taylor of Ashton pipes. Everybody else treated the sandblast as a bastard child. It was a second pipe. Has fills in it, put it in a basket and it’s a second string. For me, that just seemed so off the wall. Particularly looking at some of the Dunhill’s from the 20’s and 30’s, they were just these magnificent sculpted pieces of moonscape. I couldn’t get anything even remotely close to it. So I went the other direction. Sand does not work and I will find something that will cut this darn wood. So I tried something called Aluminum Oxide, which is great for removing rust from car frames. I got that set-up and I started blasting on this piece of briar and it was somewhat a king to holding a blow torch in front of an ice cream cone. It just evaporated in front of me in about 2 minutes. I could see no grain and literally, this block of briar just disappeared in my hands. I would have turned the blaster off sooner if my jaw was not hanging so far down. I was left with a shank and a stem and no pipe. This just sent me into overdrive. And I am still experimenting and still trying to figure it out.
Blackshell, Tanshell Diamond Shank and Brownshell Lovats with repro Amber Stems
DM: Upon the successful moments, whenever they finally came, did you see the open road in front of you?
JC: No, it never was an ‘a-ha’ moment. It was incremental progress and to this day, that is still what it is. I am doing a lot of trial and error. Trying to take from one pipe to the next pipe and applying it. Literally, the stuff I was doing 4-5 years ago, about the only piece of equipment I still have is the compressor. Everything else has changed. Updating equipment, re-designing equipment, re-manufacturing stuff, it is a constantly changing environment for me because I am always learning and always, absolutely always, picking up new ideas and taking them along for the ride. I have changed what I put through the pressure tanks, the nozzles, all of it is in a continuous state of flux. I learned a long time ago that everything I assume to know is wrong and be willing to learn and be open to the idea that I sure don’t know everything. The only thing I know is that I don’t know much.
DM: Is there any new innovation you are currently working on?
JC: The blind obvious is a good phrase. One thing I started working on last year and am still trying to develop is about the interior of the nozzle that I used to blast. I wont go into much detail about it but I learned that the interior shape of the nozzles really does have a huge impact, at least from my point of view under the magnifying glass, it has a huge impact on how the blasting media comes out and impacts the wood. I am spending a lot of time, trying to develop that.
DM: Your clearly a tinkerer with the medium you are using, have you thought of any other applications to the various equipment modifications you have made and continue to make?
JC: When I am finally too down worn out to work anymore, like the day before I croak, I will work on some other projects. Aside from the pipe stuff, I have 4 or 5 other projects that I would eventually like to pursue as hopefully patentable ideas. There are only so many hours in day though and I am having too much fun with briar right now. I need to get hooked up with an accomplished electrical engineer that night be willing to work on a project or two on some kind of shared profit basis. There are some markets out there that I do wonder, why is there no particular product out there like this?
1/8 Bents with repro Amber Stem
DM: What does the average Jim Cooke pipe go through before it gets into a customers hands?
JC: It depends on what I am trying to do with the piece. I haven’t made a smooth in maybe 2 years. It really does depend on what I am trying to do. If I am making a smaller group 4 piece, there is a whole different wood selection process that I go through. That scales everything down. Generally on a smaller piece I am trying to get tighter rings which means A) the pipe doesn’t get blasted into oblivion and B) you can actually see that the pipe has a good number of rings on it. Bigger pieces I am a little freer to choose what I am doing and as far as what country of origin, male or female block etc… right now they are taking about 20 hours to make on the smallest pipe. This past April, I worked on a Magnum, and in total I spent 5 long days on the pipe.
DM: Do you still do 3 stages with your sandblasting?
JC: Right now, as of this week, it is up to 5. That can be depending on the block of wood and what I am trying to do with it. The block dictates everything. I am along for the ride and pedaling for all I am worth not to screw the thing up. I am up to a 5-stage process and although I would like to get it to 4, but that is impossible with what I am trying to do. All of this goes back to the work I am doing with the interior of the nozzles. So right now its 5 stages. I got to be nuts. I have resigned myself to the fact that at least I am lucky enough to have one thing in life that I am good at. To balance that out though, there are a whole lot of things in life that I am clueless about.
Today's Cooke pipe goes through 5 different stages of Sandblasting
DM: When I asked the late Rainer Barbi if the block of briar’s age or origin is important, he generally said no. What are your thoughts on this discussion?
JC: You have to understand that since I am doing blasting, for me it does make a difference. I can tell you right off the bat that with the orange peel experiment, I was attempting to blast Grecian briar and I am sorry folks, that stuff, it makes beautiful smooth pipes, but if you want to go blast a piece of wood, go some place else. Because it has no real variation between the hard and soft areas. I stay as far from Grecian wood as I can. As far as the aging, I use Moroccan wood, and now I have started using some Italian wood. They are different and the Italian wood has to be treated a little differently. I like to get wood that is dry or semi-dry. I have my own curing process.
DM: Can you talk about that a bit?
JC: I will make an analogy. I know guys like to age their briar. Some say for 2 or 3 years. I learned in my experiments with Barry that there is a lot of stuff in briar, even the best briar, there is still some junk in there. Supposed you got a brand new pair of socks and you go run the Boston Marathon. And they are smelly and stinky and soaking wet. They are still stinky gooky socks. So what I learned is that after I turn the pipes on the lathe, I put a dummy stem on them and I run them through a curing process, remove what residual tar and oils and sap is still in the wood, I leach that stuff out and then I dry the wood. Most cutters do an admirable job, because it’s a competitive industry like anything else, they do a great job of cleaning the wood as best they can. But they are cleaning 50 or 100 blocks at a time. And there is no way they can get all the stuff out. Plus, they are trying to get some stuff out of a big hunk of wood. I am trying to get the sap out of the turned pipe so it is a smaller process. The difference in a pre-cured block of wood and a post-cured block of wood is that I can drop the weight between the two between 6 and 9%. When I started actually weighing and charting the whole thing, I knew I was getting stuff out but it blew my mind that there was so much stuff in even the best block of wood. And it’s important because you want the block to be able to breathe. If you have a dry block that still has sap in it and over the years, the sap polymerizes. Once that happens, there is no way to get rid of it and it sets up like epoxy in the pores. The pipe will be heavy, not particularly absorbent.
DM: How does that impact the taste?
JC: It will make the pipe smoke wetter. Also the pipe will be heavier, which means a less comfortable smoke. One of the benefits of going through the curing process, I flatten the taste of the wood. When you smoke, you don’t want to taste the briar but rather the tobacco. So the curing process I do, is a great leveler of the playing field as far as I am concerned. It gives every pipe that comes out of my shop a chance to be an even smoke once we say go!.
Five Stage Cooke Billiard
DM: Are there any other woods that you have experimented with?
JC: [Laughs] Yes. My father was a biology teacher and he gave me a lot of botanical information on briar. So I filtered down through that and being up here in Vermont, since at that point Deb and I were living in the woods and I asked him if there is anything out here that kind of does the same thing. He pointed me in a certain direction and I did find something and I proceeded to get my pick, shovel and ax and started chopping and cutting away. Eventually I did find something. Its not as tight but it grows in the same way. I have made some pipes out of it. I have even brought some of those pipes to shows and smoked it and nobody has caught on that it was not a piece of briar.
DM: Other than the grain, for all intensive purposes it passes muster?
JC: It does pass muster. It is a little more fragile. You have to build up cake in it more quickly or else you will burn it out but I kind of knew that going in and I knew it wasn’t as dense. Structurally though, it does the same thing as briar.
DM: We now have Morta being actively used and now Paolo Becker is making inroads using Strawberry wood. Thoughts?
JC: I haven’t turned any yet. But looking at it yes, it is a no brainer, it will work fine. You have to be careful that you don’t burn the stuff out but structurally, it is the same deal. Nature has a wonderful way of giving alternatives. I wouldn’t be surprised if there may be something else growing that would work, that is in the same family. There is a lot of room for experimentation out there and we should be doing that as much as we can.
Five Stage Smokey Cooke Cavalier
DM: Experimentation in a craft as old as ours, it is almost a requirement. How do we encourage more of it?
JC: Good question. I think in this craft, especially Americans, where we don’t have as much of a pipe making tradition over here, not as much of an apprenticeship system as other places, guys here feel a little less restrained in what they are doing. Experimentation can be both good and bad. I have seen some wonderful stuff and also some stuff that only a mother could love.
DM: Are there any carvers out there that you are really good friends with?
JC: I don’t really talk to anybody except myself and that fool in the mirror. I like Paul Bonacquisti. He’s a good guy, he makes some nice stuff. I wish he had more time to spend on his own stuff. Michael Parks is doing some real interesting stuff. I think he and others in that vain are the future of the hobby. I am very impressed with what he is doing. As far as experimentation, he can do the classic shapes and do some of the wild stuff on the other extreme. Really anybody that is able to find a way making a living doing this and doing it full time and making it their lifes work. I don’t however really spend much time talking to other pipe makers.
DM: Have you seen any Russian carvers work?
JC: Yes I have. They are a society coming into its own. They are definitely going to have some exciting stuff coming out of there. I hope that at some point the influences change a little bit and some of the traditional shapes come to the forefront. I have to laugh at myself, since I shouldn’t really be talking about traditional stuff. I am spending my time just trying to get the angles right on making the perfect damn billiard. Or still trying to make a decent Canadian. The Canadians just drive me nuts some times. I still really hope that we get back to more traditional shapes. It’s a lot easier to make an elephants nose than it is to make a good billiard. If your carving something and it doesn’t work, you can lop the bad part off and now it’s a hippo’s tail. I don’t mean to denigrate that type of sculpting but there is a lot of wiggle room there where guys are less interested in making a really fine smoking pipe than they are in making a really nice sculpture.
DM: Any advice for new carvers?
JC: I realize there is a huge influence the other way right now. Some of the Danes have a huge tradition all their own. They can make these beautiful, well designed just kick butt pieces. It’s very popular. And it becomes a hot button or flavor of the month. When I talk to young guys that ask my opinion. If you get a chance to find somebody who has a really good collections of Dunhill’s and Barling’s. Before you go off the deep end of the earth. Go and study the damn things and find out why these brands were successful. What’s the ratio between tobacco chamber size and wall thickness. How do they figure out the balance on these things? So that is what I encourage young guys to do. Understand the foundation first, before you go and try to build a palace. If you can go off and make a killer blowfish, by all means, go and do it. But understand the foundations first.
Squat Bulldog with repro Amber Stem & Blackshell Squat Bulldog
DM: Can you talk about your stems?
JC: When I first got into the business, we found some gorgeous cased meerschaums and obviously only a part of the stems were left or none at all. It was a crying shame. I remember as a little boy that my dad took a rattlesnake skull and he cast it in some Lucite. And he had all these problems with bubbles and what not but I still thought it was a unique material. So I started working with that stuff and boy did I ever piss away a lot of money to try and come up with a material in a way to salvage these old meerschaums. That’s kind of where that developed. Once I figured out what the formula was, first it was obviously the re-production amber but after that I quickly started tooling with different colors and different weights of colors and how I could get the colors to bounce off each other and work. And even now, I am still experimenting with stuff, there are two or three things that I am working on. It’s a never-ending process for me to learn more and improve my craft.
DM: Within your stems, there is a strong psychedelic quality, can you talk about that?
JC: [Laughs] Caught Me! I was a child of the 60’s and between ’68 and ’72 I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design and it was hippie dippy time. So yah, you bet, we tried everything back then. And even now, n
DM: In the first year of making pipes, how much did you sell your first pipes for?
JC: The first pipes were portrait pipes. It was Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Watson set, Abe Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein sets. Back then I was getting about $400 for them. Beyond those portrait pipes though, which took about 100 hours to make, if I was making a normal piece, I would get $75.
DM: Today, your blasts sell for $800. What did you think about when you heard that one of your pipes sold for over $4,000 on eBay?
JC: I wasn’t aware of it. But a friend of mine started tracking this stuff. That pipe, I sold off my table to we all know who, for $800. And we watched that thing go through the roof. The long and short of it is that this friend of mine who was tracking it, is making a website for me. It will now give me an outlet for special order pieces that get returned. If someone can get $4,000 for my work. I wish I got a slice of the action. But hey, he bought it and he can do with it what he wants. Hey some people use a blowtorch on my pipes and proceed to fry the thing so you know, I can’t control what happens to my pipes afterwards. It did wake me up to the fact that there was a huge secondary market for my work.
Five Stage Natural Cooke Bent Bulldog
DM: Regarding your prices, are you trying to hold firm at $800?
JC: Yes I am. I realize that it’s a lot of money. I really can’t afford my own stuff. Economically I can’t do it. I consider myself average income. So I am trying to keep it at $800. Sometimes it works out for me, sometimes it doesn’t. Because the amount of time and the amount of energy and the physical wear and tear to produce one of these things, by the time I finish the pipe and they spend $800, I hope they know that they are getting their moneys worth. This thing did not just fly off the workbench. I think I will be able to do it. If Mother Nature comes around and says hey, 5 blasting steps ain’t gonna cut it anymore, I will say oh man, you gotta be kidding me. And if she says I have to do 6 or 7 and spend a whole extra day working on this critter, if that happens I will have to make some adjustments. But I am trying to hold firm because that is a pile of money to spend on a pipe.
DM: What is the most dramatic change in the pipe community for you since you started?
JC: The internet, without a doubt. Both as a positive and a negative. Like anything else. Its great for information but it also has produced some instant experts and guys that can talk a pretty good pipe but really what comes out of their work bench, really isn’t the same as what comes out of their mouth. Its made information and the sale of stuff different. It’s made the hobby global. That’s why I am getting a website. I will never work on my own website. I am dyslexic and the keyboard is not my thing.
DM: What retailers do you work with?
JC: With Neatpipes I have a separate deal. Since he is on the ground in Italy, he is essentially hand collecting briar for me. I give him certain specifications and he goes and hunts them down. Saves me from traveling. He gets some pipes and I get some wood. Other than that, nobody else. Hopefully once we get the website up and running, it will cure a lot of the secondary market.
NeatPipes.com, the only retailer that officially carries Jim Cooke pipes
DM: What’s your backlog for orders at right now?
JC: 3-4 years.
DM: Any other reasons for launching your own website?
JC: Yes, since I started tracking this, I found out that 29% of the pieces I make for people are returned to me. It’s either not the right group size, or the color is off or not quite what they wanted, a bigger tobacco chamber needed, my wife wanted to know what the package was, you name it whatever the reason could be, I have heard it. So that meant that I had to sit on a 1/3rd of my income until I made it to a show. Now with the website, I will sell those pipes directly to other collectors.
DM: How do you feel about the market demands compared to what your artistic desires want to do?
JC: Let’s put it this way, within the framework of classic shapes, there is a whole lot of exploration out there. I really enjoy working within those confines because it forces me to really focus and look at exactly what I am doing and how can this be refined and how can I take something that was made in a factory in England 75 years ago. What was the original design, what were the original specs that they tried to do yet couldn’t, perhaps because of equipment limitations. So there are other things out there that I’m picking away at. So on the website I will be able to work on some of these, I would say, more unique aspects within the classic field. You know there are a lot of panels out there, shank work and various things that can get a new twist on an old theme. I have notebooks full of drawings, just not enough hours in the day.
DM: What inspires you when you are blasting? Who or what idea are you looking up to?
JC: Mother Nature, I am following the dotted line and trying my best not to screw it up. I don’t have any preconceived notion of what the blast is supposed to look like. I am doing my best to expose what Mother Nature has gloriously laid out. The better I do my job, the better the pipe looks. I don’t have to look for inspiration. The work is already done. Believe me, when you spend 10 hours a day looking at briar through a magnifying glass, it is obvious that I am never going to capture all the beauty that Mother Nature has put into the wood. I don’t care how hard I work.
DM: Any thoughts on the pioneers, from 80+ years ago in the Dunhill factory in England?
JC: Looking at those pieces from that time under a magnifying glass, it is obvious to me that they really enjoyed it. I hope I am not assuming too much. They knew precisely what they were doing and they were working their butts off. For however long they had a piece in the booth, whatever the time constraints were, they were doing their best. And I would give my eye to hop in a time machine and go back 100 years and get just an hour and talk with them and look at what they were doing and thank them. Thank you very much, you changed my life, how about that. I don’t know who had the bright idea, they go unaccredited, I suppose they would give that to Alfred Dunhill but somebody had the idea. They stuck with it and god bless them for it. If their first experiments were anything like mine, my god, it must have been difficult. I am forever thankful that they stuck with it though. Barry Levin came through with one bag of about 50 shells and my face got permanently contorted with what I was seeing. And I didn’t understand why nobody was doing this these days. I could not believe that this beautiful tradition was being ignored, other than John Ashton. The shell was still the bastard child.
Jim Cooke, Five Stage Blasted Pipes
DM: We are so thankful that you are reinventing the way we look at sandblasts.
JC: I am glad to have played at least a part in it because it is obvious, in my point of view, because that is really where the beauty of a pipe is. I look at a smooth pipe as a beautiful women with her clothes on and a shell is a beautiful women with her clothes off. Thus to pine the term ‘woody’!
DM: Switching gears for a second Jim, how is the health of your hands and arms doing?
JC: I am holding my own. I have adapted, let’s put it that way. I am on daily medication for it and it is something that I have just resigned to. Get up, do the meds and go to work. You know I am not in a wheel chair. I can still do this.
DM: The love for pipe making is stronger than the pain you feel?
JC: Yah, you get used to it. It’s like anything else, it’s been going on a long time now. I am very glad that the pipe community got me the operations. Certainly if that had not happened, I would not be working now. I keep it at bay. It’s a mental game. It’s a good exercise in detachment. Knowing that it hurts like a bitch but I am just turning on the off switch.
DM: Can you recount your worst injury in the pipe studio?
JC: Good thing you were not around this winter. I wont go into it but I still got the scars. The other one you are talking about well, if you have seen a block turning in a lathe and if you’ve seen a hunk of briar after it’s been worked over there, you know its got some raggedy edges on it. I had a block come out of the lathe and it was entirely my fault. It came out and it got me in the jaw and split me from chin to lip. Just left a little bit of the lip in tact. Didn’t take out any teeth. I went to the hospital and it wasn’t the first nor last time they’ve seen me. They stitched me back up and I came home, had a cup of coffee and coffee came out of the front of my face, yes my mouth was closed. I had holes in my face. I put a picture of myself and put it up on the lathe, just to remind me. That lesson has absolutely in fact saved my life. Just after I moved here I got a much bigger lathe. You could turn truck axles on this thing. And it had a new type of attachment system that I had never used before. I thought I had that thing locked down and that chuck came off the lathe, weighing at least 20 lbs and it took off and bounced off the steel panel on the back of the lathe and pretty much cleared a path with whatever was in its way. Had I been standing there, I would have looked like Will E Coyote. I have cut myself up just about every way that a guy can and unfortunately I still do find either new ways to cut myself or I repeat mistakes. I really do try and avoid it but accidents do happen.
Blackshell LB Billiard, Xtra Large Natural Bent Billiard with repro Amber Stem and Brownshell Calabash with repro Amber Stem
DM: What do OGF and OKF stand for?
JC: OGF was the original and it stands for Old Gnarly Fuckers. I had a conservative old school pipe maker ask me and he was shocked to find out what I put on my pipes. It was Bob Noble, Brad McCluskey and I think it was after one of the Columbus shows and we were talking about the old Dunhill Shell’s and we got to chuckling about and we said they were old gnarly fuckers. The heritage that I am inheriting is important but it is also important to have fun. So the OKF is a less commonly known spelling and that essentially identifies the block of wood as coming from Morocco. OGF identifies the wood as coming from Italy.
DM: So you only work with either Italian or Moroccan briar?
JC: Yes. Right now, I do have some other stuff running around but I mostly use that stuff.
DM: Who is Bob Noble to you?
JC: He is a friend. He has a rich history in the hobby and he has been at it for a real long time. We both have a strong connection to the classic shapes. We can talk about a billiard for hours. He is a very fine wood craftsmen and he does some extraordinary stuff. We can talk about wood, stains and he is a cantankerous old devil.
DM: It seems like he doesn’t take any shit from people.
JC: Yah and I know that can rub people the wrong way and I know I can rub people the wrong way. That’s fine. You cant please everyone all of the time. I enjoy him because he doesn’t take shit. Quite frankly, the make population of America is taking an enormous amount of shit and they cold take some lessons from that gnarly old fucker.
DM: Have you seen Bruce Weaver’s sandblasts?
JC: Yes I have. It’s nice when someone sees the magic in the three-dimensional quality in a piece of briar. The fact that he does something different, with his own distinctive style, it will be easy for others to identify it. His approach is different, particularly, whatever he is doing for his final stage. He is asking himself probably a lot of the same questions that I am asking myself. He understands what he is attempting to do and he knows the limitations but you can see his enjoyment in the work?
DM: Are you still making smooth pipes Jim?
JC: I do have customers who once in a while ask me to make a smooth. I will do it. I haven’t forgotten how to make a smooth pipe. It just seems that there is a proliferation of smooth pipes out there. Frankly though, the briar that I want to use and the wood I have been collection and it is not the same stuff that I would be seeking if I were to make a smooth pipe. Those aren’t the kind of blocks I am looking for. I do run across some amazing blocks of straight grain and I tell you, I would much rather turn it into a beautiful blast than a smooth pipe. Any day of the week. No problem blasting a killer straight grain block, no problem at all.
DM: Do you feel like you have reached the pinnacle of your goals?
JC: Not even close. Mother Nature is way ahead of me. I have a lot to learn. I feel like I have scratched the surface. I feel like I have a decent foundation but I have so much more to learn. I have yet to make the perfect pipe. The list of things I would like to do is quite a bit longer than what I will be able to do in this lifetime.
Jim Cooke with Pipes
DM: Your really pushing yourself hard Jim.
JC: Well, what’s the sense of waking up in the morning if you don’t? Then pipe making would become a job and I don’t want a job. You know, it never has been a job. It’s a passion. I could have stayed as an Art Director and moved up the line in TV and probably made 10x what I am making now and looking at retirement, sitting on a beach making a sweater out of belly button lint. But I don’t want to do that. There is no challenge in that. It’s not about money and it’s not about having an easy life. It’s about having something that is continually fun, always challenging and something that I just barely got a hold of with my fingertips. It feels like I have a tiger by the tail and doing my best not to screw it up.
DM: How do you relax these days?
JC: I collapse into a lumpy heap after working in the shop. I am exhausted. The only thing I really do is ride the bike. When there is no ice on the road I ride the Buell. I still laugh to myself inside the crash helmet whenever I get out.
Jim Cooke on his bike, the Buell
DM: How does somebody order a pipe from you?
JC: Basically, they should write me a postcard and I put it on my list. The card stays in a file and I go through one postcard at a time. Then I send them a letter, we get together on the phone and we try and hash out what we want to do.
DM: Can they ask for special modifications like a thinner stem?
JC: Yes, within reason, I still will make damn sure that whatever they order is engineering wise smart. I will not make something that is off the wall. I have learned that one of the problems with doing special orders, some guy may want something that is different and when they get it, it’s not what they wanted. Then I have 40 hours of work into an unsaleable piece that nobody else wants. So it’s gotta be a well-balanced and well-engineered piece that will smoke fine. I am not interested in doing style exercises. Guys make hot rods all the time, I am not interested in making a trailer queen. I want to make something that the guy wants to reach for when he is looking at his rack.
DM: Do you make very light pipes, under 2oz or 50 grams?
JC: Yes, what I have to be careful of though, is that when you start blasting away on those, you can end up with a very fragile piece, depending n what the block of wood does. At that point, wood selection becomes absolutely crucial. It will certainly at that point be a female block, which tends to have much tighter ring. It will probably be a Moroccan piece because that stuff is a little bit harder and tighter than an Italian piece of wood. I work with quite a number of guys who have dental work and weight requirements are important. With my own false teeth now I am a better judge. I try to work with my customers within reasonable constraints.
DM: You smoke cigarettes right? Still smoke a pipe?
JC: I roll my own and then at the end of the day, I smoke a pipe. Either one of my Dunhills or my Barlings.
DM: How old are you Jim?
DM: It doesn’t seem like you will ever stop making pipes.
JC: I don’t think so. Not unless they will be made illegal. Well, no, then I would have to go underground. I certainly hope that someday my sister looks around says, you know, I haven’t seem Jim in a couple of days. Then she goes downstairs and sees me keeled over on the workbench. That would be just fine.
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If you would like to order a pipe from Jim Cooke, send him a post-card with information on what you would like him to make.
Send the post-card to:
514 Appletree Point Road, Burlington Vermont, 05408
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