Thursday, February 28, 2008

Yet another Bertram


When I posted about the last Bertram stummel, I kept thinking I had a third one somewhere, and I found it. Somehow it got dropped into my "finished" box instead of my "work on" box. This one is a big bent billiard that shows some nice grain.

Plenty of cake and rim tar on this one, but the physical condition of this rim is much better than the other two. It looks like it got some paint or something on it (those white specks), so that might be a problem.

Here's a bottom shot. I took lots of pictures for practice. There's a nick on the bottom of the shank but it's nothing serious. Unfortunately, this one has the same big problem in common with the other two: the stem is a total loss. It looks like it was smoked by a beaver.

All three of these Bertrams are big pipes, and I recently found some info on Bertrams at the my-pipes.com forum. After I get a chance to study it and compare these pipes to what I find, I'll post additional info on all three if I can glean anything pertinent.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kaywoodie #13B Drinkless author


Another part of my small Kaywoodie collection, and the last pipe I ever took a picture of with my old scanner. From now on, I'll have to try and take decent photos of everything.

This one is at the lowest rung of the Kaywoodie ladder, the Drinkless. Another find from an eBay lot that I didn't smoke much at first because I wasn't used to the unusually wide bowl mouth, this has become one of my favorites and is part of my regular rotation. The stummel and stem line up perfectly and it still has its 3-hole stinger intact. I also think the author shape is just one of the sweetest pipe shapes ever created.

Since acquiring this pipe, I have been on the lookout for higher grades of Kaywoodies in the author shape, but so far, no luck.

And that just about finishes out my current collection. I'll be going through my boxes and picking out more pipes to work on, and I'll be getting some stems fitted to some stummels pretty soon. I'll also be watching eBay for promising items, ordering some new tobaccos and commenting on them. So stay tuned, and thank you to everyone who has been reading the blog.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Unbelievable

Check out this post at my-pipes.com. Really, go look. The cake is just as thick as the briar!

I got a box of estate pipes once that I assumed all belonged to the same person. Going through the pipes, I came to the conclusion that this person had smoked one pipe, and one pipe only, never cleaning it, until it became unusable. Then he tossed it in a box and started on another one. In this box of pipes there were probably about a dozen that looked pretty much like the pipe at the link above, plus one pipe that had only rudimentary cake and one pipe that was completely unsmoked. I can only assume he died not long after starting the penultimate pipe, and never lived long enough to touch the last one.

Fortunately the referenced pipe above was restored, and the "after" pictures look much better.

How to make a pipe wipe cloth

So, maybe you don't want to go to all the trouble of setting up a buffing/polishing station, maybe you don't want to buy the materials necessary to buff and wax pipes. Is there any other way you can preserve the shine of your pipes without actually buying buffing wheels and all that stuff?

Yes. You make a pipe wipe cloth.

Now, you can buy this stuff called Briar Pipe Wipe if you really want to. But chances are, you'll have to order it from somewhere unless you're lucky enough to have a local tobacconist who stocks it. And it will be relatively expensive for a small can of spray. The good news is, there's an easier to find and cheaper solution.

Go to any store that stocks regular household cleaning supplies and buy a can of Johnson & Johnson Favor dusting wax. Also get a pack of Handi-Wipes. I like to use Handi-Wipes, but I suppose any soft cloth would do.

Take out a Handi-Wipe, unfold it all the way and lay it down all spread out on a newspaper, or hang it up. If you hang it up, it would probably be a good idea to do it outside so you don't get Favor all over everything.

Once you have your wipe all spread out, thoroughly spray it with Favor. Spray until it's completely saturated and damp. Then, turn it over and do the same to the other side. Hang it up, still all the spread out and let it completely dry. You now have have a pipe wipe that will last for years.

Using a pipe wipe is only a substitute for a real buff & wax, but if you wipe down each pipe after every smoke, it will go a long way to preserve the shine and outer cleanliness of your pipes. Each time you finish a pipe, give it a wipe, including the stem, and don't forget to wipe the rim. This will really help reduce rim tar and will keep your pipes looking sharp.

In between uses, fold your pipe wipe and keep it inside a ziplock sandwich baggie to keep it clean.

I have several pipe wipes placed strategically where I usually smoke or handle pipes: my truck, my computer desk, and the bookshelf in the bedroom that serves as my pipe shelf. I never smoke in there, but hey, sometimes I like to just look at my collection, and a fresh wipe never hurts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't Tread On the Nightgaunt

This morning I decided I needed some variety for my after work pipe(s), so I grabbed the Kaywoodie lovat and a bale jar with two baggies of C&D's #531 Yale Mixture in it. Two baggies was puzzling, but I didn't think a lot about it as I took off for work.

I hit the ground at 7:25 and was finished five hours later, so I loaded up the Kaywoodie with #531 for the drive back to the office. It has been a while since I smoked that blend, and the smoky latakia was a nice change from what I've been smoking. But something was...different.

There was something else in there. Something somehow dark, slightly fermented, slightly tangy. Something that ameliorated the latakia hit with a hit from something else.

And then I remembered why there were two baggies in that jar. One of them is real Yale Mixture, which is a blend of Virginia and latakia. The other baggie--the one I had loaded my pipe from--is from my blending experiments from a while back in which I tried adding straight Perique to a couple of already existing blends to see if I could "improve" them.

I would not pretend to really improve Yale. It's a great smoke as it is, but my addition of Perique did create a whole new experience when I smoked this favorite old blend. I ended up with a mix of 7/8 Yale and 1/8 Perique. In my opinion, it's a very nice smoke. I call it Nightgaunt, and back when I was working on it I created the beginnings of a tin just for fun (and to post on my other blog). It's not finished, but you get the idea.


I still need to come up with something to fill in the bottom half. Something somewhat humorous and Lovecraftian. Why Nightgaunt? Why not? I've always thought that someone should create a series of pipe tobaccos named after things from Lovecraft.

Now, as for what I've been smoking for my drive-home pipe lately:


Another tin top that I created just for kicks and to have something to post on the blog. This was created by taking C&D's Grey Ghost and mixing it 13/16 Grey Ghost with 3/16 Perique. I settled on this ratio because I was going for something more balanced that would be more forgiving for innocent bystanders. Personally, I really like it mixed stronger than that, more like 3/8 Perique, but at that strength it has not so much a "room note" as it does a kill radius. This is one that I don't smoke inside the house, at least not when mixed that strong.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I really like Perique, and I usually have some of it on hand to add to other things just to soup them up a little. I also, on occasion, indulge in a bowl of straight Perique. Just to remind myself that I'm still alive.

Gone Smoke

I was sent a free sample of this stuff called Gone Smoke THE Smoke Smell Eliminator.
You've found it! Gone Smoke™ Eliminates Smoke Smell. It's the size of a pen! Carry with you in your pocket, purse, briefcase, diaper bag, backpack and more! Gone Smoke™ REALLY works. It removes odor from clothes and fabrics. It actually eliminates odor. No more smoke smell! No more food smells! Your clothes smell fresh and clean with no residual fragrance. Try Gone Smoke™ today! Available soon in Convenience Stores and Travel and Truck Centers.
I really hate so-called "deodorizers" that just overlay everything with some flowery smell. Chances are I'll have a worse reaction to it than the original bad smell. I'll probably have an allergic reaction and sneeze terribly. I don't even like the famous sprays like Lysol. All they do is clog up my sinuses.

Gone Smoke isn't like that. It does initially have a sort of odor, but it's a neutral, "fresh" sort of odor and isn't flowery. More importantly, it doesn't make me clog up and start sneezing. Twenty to thirty minutes after spraying, there is no odor at all that I can discern.

This stuff was originally made to eliminate cigarette odor, but I don't smoke them (never have), so I had to try it out on pipe smoke. I can almost never smell my own smoke afterwards, but I sprayed some on my shirt and then asked my kids what it smelled like about an hour later. Their answer was, "Nothing." I also sprayed down my truck's seats and carpeting and it did freshen the air considerably.

This is an unpaid blog post--except for the original free sample. When I use it up, I'll have to buy more like anyone else. If this is something you might find useful, follow the link and check it out. In my opinion, it works.

William Demuth Co. Wellington

Here's a scannergraph of the old Wellington not long after I brought it back from the brink of oblivion. It was part of an eBay lot and I immediately decided it was a keeper, because I had no other pipe like it.

The Wellington is the WDC copy of the Peterson System pipe. Here's a cutaway diagram that I snagged from Pipe & Pouch to help explain this pipe's design.

The bit, rather than connecting directly to the bowl via the shank, fits into a sort of pocket or reservoir where the air sort of swirls around as it goes into the bowl. The upper air passage goes on into the bowl, and the bottom reservoir collects moisture. This looks like another odd gimmick, but in my opinion, this one works very well. Of course, it requires additional attention when cleaning. I use a cotton swab to clean out the reservoir, and pipe cleaners as usual to clean the air passage.


Another thing about the Wellington (and other Peterson copies) is the military bit. Rather than the traditional tenon/mortise arrangement, the bit simply tapers down slightly and wedges into the shank, remaining in place from the pressure of insertion. This design makes it safe to remove the bit while the pipe is still warm--something that is not a good thing with a tenon/mortise design.

A third thing that sets the Wellington/Peterson pipes apart is the button on the bit. Go back and look at the first photo as well as the cutaway graphic and pay attention to the end of the bit. This is a bit design created by Peterson and is called the P-lip. The hole is on top of the button rather than in the very end, and is angled upward to direct smoke toward the roof of the mouth rather than straight into the tongue. Also, the curved underside of the bottom helps to prevent the tongue from touching the opening of the air passage. The upward-pointing opening is supposed to help prevent tongue-bite, and the curved "tongue shield" helps keep saliva from getting into the stem by being touched with the tongue (something that is a troublesome unconscious reflex for some pipe smokers).

Some people hate the P-lip because it feels different. I have no special preference nor objection to it, at all. To me it's just another bit. The P-lip bit does have a more rounded shape than most bits, and it does feel somewhat different, but it's nothing that anyone shouldn't be able to get used to.

This old Wellington has become one of my favorite pipes. It's size and deep bend gives it an impressive appearance and a comfortably low center of gravity. As you can see in the second photo, I have managed to wear off some of the finish since it came into my hands, and I will eventually be refinishing this one. Meanwhile, this is one of my regular truck pipes and I often smoke it on the long commute home in the afternoon. If I manage to come across any more of these pipes in my eBay adventures, I will probably keep them all--at least until I build up a good week's worth of pipes for rotation.

FYI, Kaywoodie also had a copy of the Peterson System pipe, called the Chesterfield. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to acquire one of those yet.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cleaning pipes

I'm trying to stick with a weekly cleaning of pipes. So far, so good. Today I cleaned up this past week's worth of pipes, six in all. Much easier than last week's backlog of pipes that needed reaming and so forth. There's something quite satisfying about starting the week with a shelf full of clean pipes.

No pipe smoking today, alas. I often forsake the briar on Sunday. This would have been a good afternoon to sit outside with a pipe, a book, and a glass of iced tea, but the decongestant I took this morning was making me feel sluggish and dazed so I simply rested and watched a movie.

I am still putting further thought into my next tobacco order, which will be a sampler pack of eight blends plus at least one tin of some additional tobacco (if it's still available when I order), from Cornell & Diehl.

I dug out my sample of Cornell & Diehl's Berries & Cream this past week, to give it another try. B&C is part of C&D's series of "fruit & cream" aromatics. This one was made by taking an already existing black vanilla cavendish called Green River Vanilla and adding blackberry brandy.

All indications are that this tobacco is well-loved by bystanders. It's aroma is warm, sweet and tangy. But...

Here's a little bit of information for non-pipe smokers who read this blog: a pipe tobacco is never experienced by the smoker in the same way it is by bystanders. It never tastes or smells the same.

Aromatic tobaccos are best experienced second-hand. My problem with all aromatics is that they are flat and uninteresting to the palate. Or as Peter Griffin might say, "Truthfully, I find it rather shallow and pedestrian." I would so much rather explore the infinite nuances of sweet Virginia, bold maduro, smoky latakia and dark, tangy Perique.

I am still open to having my mind changed on candy-flavored tobaccos, but I don't hold much hope that it will ever happen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

eBay score

I won an auction this morning for three pipes that appear to have been hand-carved (or hacked) by some anonymous individual rather than made by an actual pipe company. In fact, one of them is nothing but a straight ebauchon that looks like it was stained but not carved out into a pipe. So the win gives me another pre-drilled ebauchon to practice pipe-carving on. I might also try some carving on the other two, since most of the original wood still seems to be there.

The ebauchon and one of the others were never smoked. The third looks like smoking was attempted, but not much.

I'll post more info on them when they arrive.

Friday, February 22, 2008

How does the Kaywoodie drinkless system work

I got a search hit on my other blog for the phrase, "how does kaywoodie drinkless system work." I think a better question would be, "Does a Kaywoodie drinkless system work?"

click to enlarge

I'll re-visit the Kaywoodie lovat that I posted about several days ago. Okay, although it isn't visible in this photo, there is a small hole in the metal stinger just above the threads, which the air is drawn through. The ball on the end of the stinger fits into the air passage through the shank. When air is drawn, it travels around and through the holes on the ball. A lot of moisture collects on the ball from the air moving through and around it. Some moisture also collects on the arm of the stinger.

So does it work? I guess it depends on your definition of "work." The stinger certainly does trap some moisture. Anyone who has ever cleaned a Kaywoodie can tell you that. But does it somehow magically (or technologically) deliver a superior cool, dry smoke? My opinion is no. The cool, dry smoke that everyone is looking for still relies on several variable factors meshing together just right, and a metal gadget up the shank is not going automatically render them all irrelevant.

And what are these factors? Since many of the things I write here are geared toward new pipe smokers and non-pipe smokers, I'll offer my opinion on them, in no particular order.

The pipe: the quality of the briar, the shape of the pipe, the size of the pipe, the thickness of the bowl walls, the design of the air passage. All of these factors matter.

The tobacco: is it fresh and moist (maybe too moist), or older and a little dry? Is there a particular leaf in it that for some reason makes you salivate more or makes your mouth drier? Is it heavily treated with propylene glycol?

And here's one for you to wrap your head around: some pipes don't like some tobaccos. In some cases, no matter how hard you try to get your favorite pipe to smoke your favorite blend, there's always just something not right with the smoke. Sometimes you have to experiment with a pipe to find it's preferred blend. (Feel free to tell me I'm nuts on this, but it's an opinion I've formed from my own experiences).

The weather: Yes, the weather. Are you smoking outdoors? Is it windy? Is it humid or not? Is it cold or hot? Are you smoking indoors with conditioned central air?

And finally: you. Have you just eaten, or are you feeling a little hungry? Have you had enough water to drink? What are you drinking with your pipe? Are you puffing a little faster than usual due to a stressful day?

Like I said, several factors, some of them beyond your control. But the perfect smoke is only the goal to toil after, and the toil itself is still quite pleasant, indeed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kirsten

I think the most I ever paid for a pipe was for this Kirsten (click to enlarge). The above photo is a "scannergraph" from my old scanner. There was a lot of discussion going on at the time on alt.smokers.pipes, and I decided I needed to get one to see what all the fuss was about.

I don't smoke it often, but I find it very useful for a specific purpose. The aluminum barrel can't become seasoned, obviously. I like to use the Kirsten when trying out new tobaccos so I can get a more objective impression. If I use a briar pipe, the smoke will likely be biased by whatever I usually smoke in that pipe.


I couldn't get a good picture today because the barrel kept overexposing, but here's a picture of the Kirsten pipe disassembled. The cap and the bit fit snugly via rubber o-rings, and the cap has a hole that lines up on the hole in the barrel. You can twist the cap slightly to one side and seal the bowl off from the barrel so the condensed punk in there doesn't get a chance to run back into the bowl before you get a chance to clean it. To clean the barrel, you just fold up a small piece of tissue paper and ram it through with the rod on the bit.

Kirsten sells a wide variety of bowl finishes and sizes, so you can go to a larger or smaller bowl by simply screwing on a new bowl. They also sell meerschaum bowls, if that's your thing. No need to rest the Kirsten between smokes. Just wipe it out and keep going.

The Kirsten is perhaps the ultimate gimmick pipe. It is not the only pipe made with an aluminum "shank," but it is, perhaps, one of the best quality aluminum pipes you can get. The few Falcons I've seen seem quite flimsy by comparison.

I would not recommend a Kirsten for a new pipe smoker--get yourself a few decent briars first. But as I said, the Kirsten for me fills a valuable position as a "try-out pipe."

It's International Pipe Smoking Day!

Unfortunately, I didn't know about it until just now, so I wasn't able to plan anything special for it. Oh well, I have a whole year to plan something for next time.

Read all about it at the International Pipe Smoking Day website.
Today’s hectic environment almost dictates that we run on full efficiency, have total involvement in our work, our families and in every aspect of what we do to survive and achieve in a world set at high speed.• With ever-changing values it is the intent that The International Pipe-Smoking Day will allow us, the Brothers and Sisters of the Briar to step back and appreciate our rich historical value. • For pipe-smokers and pipe-smoking everywhere the day will be emblematic of our shared values, history, traditions, and aspirations.
I was able to finish work early today, and am currently enjoying a bowl of my favorite Bayou Night in my recently rejuvenated Velani Dublin, so that will have to do for this time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yello-Bole Chinrester billiard

This is the last of the four pipes that I purchased together at an estate sale in the mid-90s. This is not a fantastic pipe, but it's serviceable. I bought it mostly because at the time I had never even heard of a Chinrester, and didn't know then that it had a special name. I just bought it because it was different. Yello-Bole was the seconds line for Kaywoodie, so Yello-Bole pipes are very similar in shapes and gimmicks to Kaywoodies.


This is also a Carburetor pipe. The Carburetor was another gimmick side-line that Kaywoodie used. They put a tiny aluminum pipe in the bottom center of the bowl. It extends a few millimeters up into the bowl so cleaning out the very bottom of the bowl is a little tricky because you have to clean around it. I also recommend running a pipe cleaner through the Carburetor to keep it from gunking up. The theory was that in addition to the "hot" air that came from drawing air down through the burning tobacco, a very small amount of "cool" air was also drawn in from the bottom through the Carburetor to "cool the smoke," you know, the usual.

I don't think the Carburetor makes any difference. I will say, however, that this is by far the most comfortable straight pipe I have--and yeah, it's more comfortable than some of my bents. If I had the wherewithal to make my own stems, I would put a chinrester stem on every straight pipe I have. The drawback, of course, is that it's impossible to slide a pipe cleaner down the stem into the shank to sop up excess moisture during a smoke. But still, as far as I'm concerned the comfortability makes up for that.

Another unusual thing about this pipe is that it was made in France. The vast majority of Kaywoodies and Yello-Boles were made in the United States. So this old pipe has three things going for it that will keep it in my collection: the chinrester stem, the carburetor, and being a vintage Yello-Bole that was not made in the U.S.

These four pipes together (the Tyrolean, the Ben Wade, the Longchamps, and this one) were what originally prompted me to begin attempting to actually refurbish pipes--going above and beyond mere cleaning. I never thought I'd begin a new hobby of actually trying to salvage old and abused pipes, but it has been a lot of fun and I've learned a lot about pipes just from handling so many different brands and shapes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Longchamps Canadian

Purchased at the same time as the Ben Wade and the Tyrolean. The previous owner had quit pipe smoking to please his new bride, and this was one of his oldest pipes. It was originally purchased new in France in 1951.

Longchamps is a French pipe company that makes pipes that are covered with some sort of animal hide. This one is covered with pigskin. I've also seen some that were jacketed with horse-hide including the hair, which to me looked kind of strange.

This one took significant cleaning and a couple of salt treatments. Even now, it is not a pipe I smoke very often, but then I don't usually select straight pipes and I haven't really gotten this one re-seasoned in the last several years since I've owned it. It will remain part of my collection as an example of a leather-covered Longchamps pipe.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ben Wade Chesham bent billiard

Ben Wade was another English pipe maker that was at some point bought by Charatan. After the Charatan takeover, Ben Wade was used as a Charatan seconds line. I don't know if this Ben Wade is an original or a Charatan second, but either way, it's a great pipe.

This pipe was another that I purchased at the same estate sale where I acquired the Tyrolean. Actually, this pipe was free. I had already purchased an antique pipe rack. Very nice pipe rack, by the way. It has two six-pipe racks on top with a brass humidor in between, and two small drawers underneath. I had also selected the Tyrolean and two other pipes, so the seller told me to pick out any other pipe I wanted for free, and I took this one. All the pipes were dirty and fairly caked up, but this one really turned out well and has become one of my favorite pipes. It was one of the pipes I spent a good deal of time on this morning, because I had allowed the cake to build up so much that the bowl volume was probably cut in half. I do want to replace the stem eventually because I'm a pretty heavy biter and I've managed to bite a small hole in the top of the bit, but there's no nomenclature on the bit so I'm not going to feel bad about it.

I'm running a bowl of C&D's Bayou Night through it right now and this morning's reaming has returned it to fine smoking form.

Much better

I fired up some of C&D's Bayou Morning in the Smokemaster, and it tastes much better now. Sometimes I neglect my own pipes, I must admit. I'll have to reinstate the weekend cleaning ritual that I used to perform diligently back when I had only a half dozen pipes.

The reamer I use is the Senior Pipe Reamer like the one pictured at pipesandcigars.com. I've been thinking about getting another reaming tool such as the Pip Net Reamer which I think will work better for bottom-of-the-bowl reaming.

The Senior Reamer is really two tools in one. The top unscrews to reveal a small drill bit with a knob on top that is used to open up the air passage, and which I find to be indispensable in opening up really gunked up pipes.

I had special trouble cleaning my old Wellington today, and it required extra work with the drill to open up the air passage at the base of the bowl. This is one of my favorite pipes, and I had put it aside for a few weeks because it had become impossible to smoke. I'm looking forward to getting it back into action again. I'll talk about it more soon, when I make a post for it.

Ouch

I have blisters on my hand from reaming pipes. I had to wear a leather work glove to finish. Worked on 13 pipes this morning--not all of them requiring reaming. Some were in embarrassingly ugly shape. I didn't go so far as to bleach stems or do any buff & waxes, but I did clean off the rim cake and gave a few stems a good work-over with toothpaste.

I'll have to do this kind of more thorough cleaning every week or two so I don't have such a big job to do again.

And I missed one pipe, the little Italian billiard that I use for aromatics. I'll work on it later. I straightened up my tobacco shelf to see what I have left, and thought a little about what to order soon. I'll probably be getting some sampler collections from C&D, revisiting some old blends I like but haven't had in a while, and working on some tobacco reviews.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rainy days...

Raining tonight, and it looks like it will keep raining tomorrow, which is a blessing because we've really been needing it. We had record rainfall this past summer, which caused all the vegetation to proliferate with wild abandon. And then it stopped. About six months or more with no real rain to speak of, so all that now dead vegetation is like tinder waiting for a match.

So what does this have to do with pipe smoking?

Rainy days are good for pipe cleaning. I think I'll be running some pipe sweetener through all my regular rotation tomorrow, except for the pipes that I recently worked over anyway. And I'm going to try an experiment or two with some of the junk pipes I have that I don't have to worry about destroying.

Also I've been thinking more about tobacco. I have a bad habit of getting stuck on a certain blend for an extended period of time. I think I should start going for more variety, and rotating my tobacco choices along with my pipes.

Currently my favorite smokes are predominant in Perique and/or maduro. I am not averse to latakia blends, either, I just haven't had any in a while. So if anyone reads this who cares to make some recommendations, please leave a comment! And I am not afraid of trying very robust blends, in fact, the robuster the better. I just don't really care for anything that has had artificial flavoring added. Except maybe rum. I'm still looking for a really good rum tobacco.

Velani Octagon

The last, but not the least, of the batch of Velanis that I purchased together by mail-order several years ago. I got these back when I was still occasionally smoking a couple of aromatics, and for a while I used this one only for such tobaccos. It has long since been salt-treated to remove any candyish flavors and converted to smoking natural blends. Some glaring fills are visible beneath the finish, but it will smokes quite well and is often used for Perique blends, like most of my primary rotation.

It's called an "Octagon" because the shank is octagonal, although the corners are rounded so it isn't obvious. I don't know what to call the shape of this bowl.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A couple of more nondescript pipes

Tomorrow morning I intend to post the last Velani, and following that will go into some more interesting estate pipes that I have. I thought I'd go ahead and get these two out of the way.

This was a cheap basket pipe that I purchased at The Humidor back in the early days. It had a very heavy finish. Not just a stain. I think it was actually varnished or something. It's one of those unnamed Italian pipes, and it was easy to see why it had such a heavy finish. As most cheap pipes do, it has some quite hideous fills. This was also my first time at doing something to a pipe. I used some fine-grit sandpaper to remove the entire finish and return it to its original naked state. It helped the briar to breathe better and it does smoke better now, but it's just an ugly pipe and nothing will ever change that. I still have some very fine (2000 grit) sandpaper that I purchased for another project. I'll probably give this pipe a once-over with it to remove the wax from its last polishing and then stain it to make it more presentable.

Everyone should have at least one corncob pipe. I don't use this one often, and I have a some specific gripes about it. I don't like the way the shank extends into the bowl so that the bowl doesn't have a smooth bottom. I also don't like the cheap nylon bit they put on these, and I hate the filter pipes. The air passage is so huge that you have to use a filter or you'll suck ash. As you can see, I put a fresh filter in this one the last time I cleaned it, and that's my last filter. If I ever smoke this one again I'll have to buy more. This is the pipe I used for the Half & Half Incident. I thought about just throwing it away after that, after all it was only a cheap 'cob, but I later tried it with some real tobacco and it wasn't permanently contaminated.

Missouri Meerschaum does make some better-quality 'cobs, but unfortunately I've never seen any of the better ones at any tobacconist's around here.

A quick perusal of the Missouri Meerschaum website yields some interesting information. While the corn industry manipulated corn to produce more and more kernels with smaller and smaller cobs, the corncob pipe industry did just the opposite: engineering corn to produce larger and larger cobs suitable for smoking pipes. They also have to use vintage equipment to remove the kernels because modern equipment is designed to break apart the cobs. They own 150 acres of farmland which they use to produce corn for pipes, and they sometimes contract additional land from area farmers. The factory in Washington, Missouri operates 5 days per week, producing 5,000 pipes per day. That's a whole lotta pipes.

Velani #67 bent Dublin

Another of the group of Velanis that I purchased all at once. This one is a nice big Dublin with very thick bowl walls. I've smoked just about everything in it and it's one of my favorite pipes.

I've been sick this week, with one of those colds that goes straight for my sinuses, so I've been forsaking the briar for the past few days. Here's hoping I'm over it by the weekend. Writing up a long, thoughtful post about pipe smoking is no fun without a pipe to smoke.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Velani #69 bent acorn


Working my way through the Velanis, here's a bent with what I call an acorn-shaped bowl. As with the others, this pipe is one of the five that I purchased at the same time. One of the others, as well as the Canadian that I sold, have this same kind of transparent lucite stem. I think it looks really sharp.

I've always smoked a variety of natural blends (non-aromatic) in this pipe. It's one of my most frequently-used pipes and is part of my regular rotation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The other Bertram

Here's a photo of the other Bertram in my work box--this one a big straight Dublin. If I'm not mistaken, that's some mighty fine straight grain on that pipe. The rim has some nicks, but not nearly as bad as the other one did. I'm pretty sure I still have the stem for this one, but it's a complete loss and will have to be replaced.

Velani Fumata #75 bent billiard

Back in those early years, my collection was still quite small and I desperately needed a larger rotation. Word spread on alt.smokers.pipes that the Aldo Velani company of Italy was having some kind of "clearance" sale on pipes. I remember there being some controversy about this, but I don't remember any details. All I knew at the time was: good pipes, cheap. I ordered five pipes for about $65. One of them, a Canadian, I later sold because I was smoking it so rarely. The other four are bents of various styles and I still have them. They are all still part of my regular rotation.

The above pipe was one of the most frequently smoked. I used it so often that I wore off some of the finish. It doesn't look like that anymore. Before I use it again, I will have to perform a complete refurbishing. Also, I managed to break the tenon, so this is another pipe that I will need to send away for stem repair. I doubt that I will be able to accurately reproduce the shaded, two-tone finish, but I'm sure it will look just as well with a single color stain. Before I begin work on it, I will post a current photo so I can document my "before" and "after."

Since my favorite smokes tend to be quite robust and heavy in Perique, this pipe is used for robust Perique blends, and will remain part of my permanent collection.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"From basket estate to centerpiece"

Pipe repairmen perform many tasks for their customers, but few match the satisfaction of saving a fine old pipe that’s been so neglected that many smokers would discard it. The key is knowing the difference between abuse and neglect. While there is some crossover—some types of neglect can indeed cause damage—often a pipe is structurally fine “underneath” its rough appearance.
This is the kind of thing I aspire to, but with my limited skill and knowledge it will be a long time before I can even pretend to approach this level of professionalism.

I highly recommend reading this article by a professional pipe restorer, complete with photographs documenting the process, of restoring a badly neglected pipe to its original, like new condition.

The Wally Frank Cavalier -- From Basket Estate to Centerpiece.

Kaywoodie #90 Standard lovat

click to enlarge

Back when I was more concerned with turning a profit than with simply collecting every Kaywoodie shape I could find, I acquired a beautiful Prime Grain Kaywoodie in the same lovat shape as above. If I recall correctly, I sold it for $20, which pretty much paid for the whole lot that it came in. As time went by, I came to regret that sale, and determined that I would try to find a replacement for it. Eventually this one came up on eBay.

Oh, it was in sad shape, and I shelled out $10 for it. When I first received it I thought I had snookered myself, but with diligent cleaning, reaming, and a couple of salt treatments, it began to sparkle like the fine old pipe it is.

As hard as it is to accurately date Kaywoodie pipes, this one has proved to be especially hard for me. It is generally considered that the more holes the stinger has, the older it is, and 4-hole stingers are generally more desirable to Kaywoodie collectors than 2- or 3-hole. Going by the stinger, I would estimate this pipe to have come from the 1940s, but I'm not sure they had yet begun using the term "Standard" grain until the 1960s. So I'm just not sure.

click to enlarge

This pipe has a 4-hole stinger. You can see only two of the holes in this photo, but if I were to display a reverse shot, you would see the other two. If you enlarge it, you may also be able to discern the word "DRINKLESS" stamped on the stinger itself. This is because Kaywoodie used the term "Drinkless" as a generic term to refer to their trademark stinger design in the earlier years. Later, "Drinkless" became an actual grade (the lowest) of Kaywoodie pipes. This is the only Kaywoodie I have personally seen that has "DRINKLESS" stamped on the stinger itself.

Nomenclature on this pipe is "KAYWOODIE" over "Standard" (in script) on the left shank, with the number "90" on the right shank. 90 means Kaywoodie designated this shape as a medium Canadian. Kaywoodie regarded all shapes of the Canadian family as "Canadian" regardless of the shank and bit shapes.

Someday, if I manage to find another Prime Grain in this shape, I might consider selling this one. But until then, this one remains part of my collection and is part of my semi-regular rotation.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Blogroll

I have begun snooping around and have managed to create the beginnings of a blogroll, including only blogs that are devoted entirely to pipes, pipe smoking and related subjects.

If anyone reads this who has such a blog, please leave a comment.

The Canadian family of pipe shapes

Since I have been using some pipe terms without explaining them, especially when it comes to shapes, I thought I'd take a moment to cover the Canadian family since I've mentioned the lovat several times recently.

Let me first refer you to this page at Pipe Shapes.

All Canadian pipes have a billiard style bowl. The billiard is a relatively tall, relatively straight-sided bowl that is just as tall as the shank is long. It is a very common shape. Of course the Canadian, with its long shank, does not have a bowl that is the same height as the shank has length. That's why I say the Canadian has a "billiard style" bowl. The bowl is of normal height for a pipe that would have a normal length shank. The Canadian is generally considered to have a shank that is about twice as long as the bowl is tall.

All pipes of the Canadian family have a very long shank that takes up almost the entire length of the stem, with a very short bit. I like to think of the "stem" of a pipe as being both the shank and bit together. Not all pipesters would agree with this usage of the term, however.

There are essentially four shapes in the Canadian family, all defined by the shapes of the shank and bit.

1. Canadian: oval shank, taper bit.
2. Lumberman: oval shank, saddle bit.
3. Liverpool: round shank, taper bit.
4. Lovat: round shank, saddle bit.

Follow the link above for pictures to help explain it all. And as I often warn, not everyone agrees on these precise definitions, but they are what I go by and perhaps my explanation will help keep things straight for this blog, anyway.

I tend to favor pipes with flatter bits such as the saddle bit, because I find them easier to grip with the teeth and no hands. Taper bits tend to slip forward and cause a heavier bite to keep in place. In my experience with refurbishing pipes, taper bits have tended to show heavier tooth marking in general compared to flatter bits such as the saddle.

I will undoubtedly wander into further definitions of various pipe terms and shape descriptions in the future. I will probably deal with the ubiquitous billiard next time.

Just a note...

I will be listing some of my pipes for sale on eBay eventually, but am waiting until I get more of an "inventory" built up. I will probably buy another lot or two first. Until then I'll just list them here and bide my time.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

On tobacco

I hesitate to write about tobaccos because the experience of smoking is entirely subjective. Two people may enjoy the same blend, therefore person A says to person B, "if you like that, you will love this." But person B doesn't like it. There often seems to be no certain pattern or logic to what someone likes and doesn't like.

There will also be the problem of digression. I look at the topic I have chosen and see digressions of Shandyish proportions ahead. Digressions that will render it impossible to keep to the shortest route, but I hope that my digressions will be scenic enough for the reader to generate further interest in the subject.

So how do I approach the subject of pipe tobaccos? I can only write about what I like and what I don't like. I will not presume that any person will have the same preferences.

As I have said before, I began by smoking what I could find: namely Captain Black and Borkum Riff. The biggest problem with these "drugstore" blends is propylene glycol, or PG as it is commonly referred to by pipe smokers.

Propylene glycol is a hygroscopic compound, that is, it "attracts water molecules from the surrounding environment through either absorption or adsorption." PG keeps these drugstore tobaccos moist, but too moist, and artificially so. It makes smoking these blends a harsh, unpleasant experience, and I can only assume that the reason they have sold so regularly for so long is that too many pipe smokers just don't know any better.

I once conducted my own little experiment. I placed two paper towels flat upon the kitchen table. On one of them I spread a pipeful of Captain Black. On the other I spread a pipeful of Cornell & Diehl's Yale Mixture. I buy almost everything I smoke from C&D because 1) it is in bulk and I can buy a pound of excellent tobacco for the same amount of money that one or two 50 gram tins of something else might cost, and 2) no propylene glycol. It is for this reason that if C&D tobacco is to be stored for any amount of time, it should be vacuum-sealed as soon as possible upon receipt and 0nly an ounce or two be kept out at a time for smoking.

But now, back to the experiment. I didn't have my fairly-high-precision digital scale back then, or I could have weighed each sample. I did the next best thing. Each following day I scooped some of each up in my fingers and squeezed. In two or three days the C&D sample had become brittle and dry. The Captain Black remained moist and squishy. In a week the C&D was so brittle I could almost rub it into powder. In two weeks the Captain Black still remained moist and squishy. As we like to say around here, that just ain't right.

But in those early days it was all I knew, and it was all I had, so I smoked it. I found a tobacconist at the no-longer-extant Central Park Mall--a store called The Tobacco Bowl, and began smoking a vanilla cavendish that the proprietor called Gentleman's Delight. I'm pretty sure it was the ubiquitous Lane's 1-Q. I ordered a couple of samplers from the Blue Ridge place I have previously mentioned. Among them I remember a cherry, a vanilla, one black walnut, and an unflavored English blend which I didn't like at the time but would probably like now. I was especially fond of the one flavored with black walnut. It was called Black Ambrosia and I liked it enough to order a whole 8 oz. tin of it.

On cavendish: this term is used to refer to any tobacco that has been artificially sweetened (and usually flavored, but not always).

In 1994 I finally gained real internet access, although it was limited (5 hours per month!). By 1995 I had full, unlimited internet access with Netcom (anyone remember Netcruiser?). Soon I discovered the newsgroup alt.smokers.pipes, and I finally had a way to get information from people who really knew pipes. It was around that time that I discovered online tobacconists such as Cornell & Diehl, and a whole new world of pipe tobacco was opened to me.

However, I was still an aromatic smoker. Perhaps a word on the word "aromatic." In the loosest sense, this can describe anything that smells good (or at least, smells). But in pipe tobacco terms, an aromatic is a tobacco that has had some kind of non-tobacco flavoring added to it. If you can name a flavor, odds are that someone, somewhere has added it to tobacco. Craig Tarler of C&D has created many fine blends, and many aromatic blends that are not entirely offensive to me even now. Among his aromatics that I enjoyed were Honey Crest, a burley tobacco flavored with honey; Spice Nut, a blend flavored with various things that gave it (as the name suggests) a pleasant spicy, nutty flavor; a couple of different kinds of vanilla; several cavendish tobaccos flavored with various kinds of fruit-flavored brandy; and one called Pasha's Dream which was flavored with something that I could never identify but which I really liked. But something was still missing, and I wasn't completely satisfied with any of them. So one day I sent an email to Mr. Tarler explaining my situation and asking for a recommendation for an "English" blend of tobaccos without any aromatic flavoring. He recommended I try Yale Mixture. I did, and that was pretty much that.

There isn't much I can say about aromatic blends. They usually smell wonderful to the people around the pipe smoker. However, one thing that most non-pipe smokers don't know is that the smell and flavor of a tobacco is entirely different for the smoker than it is for the bystanders. I never really liked the flavor, or especially the after-flavor of aromatics. Cherry tobaccos will smell like cherry, vanilla will smell like vanilla. There isn't a whole lot more I can say about them.

It is my opinion that it is only with natural blends, uncontaminated by any kinds of odd flavors, can the true joy and infinite nuance of pipe smoking be found. And with that, I will call it a night and explore this topic further in future posts.

For now, I will leave you with the lyrics to an old folk song called Tobacco's But An Indian Weed.

Tobacco's but an Indian weed,
Grows green at morn, cut down at eve.
It shows our decay;
We are but clay;
Think of this, when you smoke tobacco.

The pipe that is so lily-white,
Wherein so many take delight,
Gone with a touch;
Man's life is such;
Think on this, when you smoke tobacco.

The pipe that is so foul within,
Shews how the soul is stained with sin;
It doth require
The purging fire.
Think on this, when you smoke tobacco.

The ashes that are left behind,
Do serve to put us all in mind,
That unto dust,
Return we must.
Think on this, when you smoke tobacco.

The smoke that doth so high ascend,
Shews that our life must have an end;
The vapour's gone;
Man's life is done.
Think on this, when you smoke tobacco.

Revisiting the Bertram

I did some pipe work today, cleaning up the unidentified lovat and another Kaywoodie (also a lovat). I'll post about them later. In one of my pipe boxes I discovered that I still had the stem that came with the refinished Bertram, so I thought I'd clean it up and see how the pipe looks with a stem.

The stem was badly oxidized and took a good long bleach bath, followed by diligent buffing with tripoli. After further waxing, it didn't look too bad. However, I'm not sure this is the original stem. The tenon is slightly too long and it doesn't fit flush against the shank (might need to sand the tip of the tenon off just a little). Also, I think the taper stem is a mistake on this pipe. It is a big hunk of briar and is quite heavy. The tapered bit and all that weight causes it to slide right down to the button (the bulgy part on the end of the bit). What you can't see in this photo is that there is a big hole on the bottom of the bit from bite-through. I'm even more convinced now that my previous idea of putting a saddle bit on this pipe is correct. It would be flatter and should be easier to hold in the mouth.

No matter what kind of bit goes on it, it's still going to need some hand support. It's just big. Here are some dimensions.

Outer bowl diameter: 1 5/8 inches
Inner bowl diameter: 1 inch. One full (holy cow) inch. The bowl walls are a solid quarter-inch thick.
Bowl depth: 1 1/2 inches.
The stummel alone weighs just a hair less than 2 ounces. I have a small digital scale that use to weigh various small items. I had never thought of weighing pipes before, but now that I've done it, I think I'll have to do it more often. That will be interesting. For me, anyway.

I still plan on getting a new stem for this pipe because of that big bite-through hole, but I think I might have to try it out as is tonight.

UPDATE: What a fantastic pipe! This bowl is so cavernous that I could hear echoes as I trickled the tobacco in. Definitely not a writer's pipe, unless that writer chooses this pipe to take a break from writing. But wow, what a pipe!

Smokemaster rusticated bent billiard

Here is the third pipe that I purchased from the Blue Ridge place mentioned in the previous post. They had several Smokemasters in their catalog; I've also seen a few on eBay now and then. Smokemasters come in a variety of shapes and finishes. In my regular postings of vintage pipe ads on my other blog I often talk about what I call "gimmick pipes." By which I mean pipes that have some sort of odd gimmick that's supposed to improve flavor, reduce tongue-bite, cool the smoke, etc., etc. The Smokemaster has a gimmick stem. The stem on this pipe is not original.

The stem of the Smokemaster has an special aluminum insert. The gimmick is that you take a standard-length pipe cleaner, bend it exactly in the center, and stick the ends up into the aluminum insert so that the pipe is using a pipe cleaner for a filter. Sounds good in theory, at least to a novice, but perhaps someone more experienced (such as myself, I add humbly) will tell you that this sounds like a really good moisture trap and will actually make the smoke wetter and more likely to bite.

I did smoke this pipe as it was intended until I decided that it was just a waste of good pipe cleaners, then I just smoked it without. Until one day I accidentally sat on it and broke the stem. So I had it replaced with a plain old traditional stem. The original stem was a taper; as you can see, this one is a saddle bit. I think it looks better this way.

I began smoking this pipe with aromatics many years ago, but when I dropped aromatics I gave this one the salt treatment and switched it to latakia blends. Since then I have used it for both latakia and Perique blends without any qualms. It's just a good pipe. I keep this one in my truck most of the time and it's part of my regular rotation, but it's about time to give it a good stem bleach and buff & wax, because it's starting to look a little dingy. The above scanner photo was taken a few years ago after such a cleaning.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Two more unnamed pipes


I thought I should go back to the early days and work forward from there, so here's a twofer because neither of these pipes are especially remarkable.

Back in the early days of my pipe smoking, that is, before internet access, I had no resources to help guide me. I bought what I could find. This meant I pretty much smoked nothing but various flavors of Captain Black and Borkum Riff. I still love the smell of Captain Black Whiskey, and although I'm sure it would make a nice sachet, I would never smoke it again. Anyhow, in one of those pouches was an ad for a place called Blue Ridge Pipe Company or something like that--Blue Ridge was in there somewhere, but I don't remember the exact name. So I sent for their catalog and to me, back then, it was a treasure-trove of pipe smoking supplies and paraphernalia. Over the course of a year or two I ordered tobacco, three pipes, a beautiful rosewood-bolstered pipe tool that I have since misplaced (but it's gotta be around here somewhere), and a pipe rack from them. These two pipes are from there.

Pipe #1 above is simply a small filter pipe. Like most small pipes of this nature, there is not enough mass in the bowl and it smokes hot. The interesting thing to me about this pipe is that it was described as a "pear" shape. This isn't a shape name that I've ever run into anywhere else and is worth keeping just so I have an example of the "pear."

This little bent billiard is actually a nice pipe and has some beautiful grain for such a cheap pipe. It's one of those unnamed Italian pipes. I have kept this pipe set aside for occasionally sampling aromatic blends, however, I just don't smoke aromatics at all anymore so I think I will give this one a salt treatment to try and remove the last vestiges of vanilla and then start putting some Perique blends through it.

What is the "salt treatment?" This is something I do often with estate pipes to remove the old flavors and rejuvenate it. First remove the stem and plug up the shank with a q-tip, a small piece of cotton, or a pipe cleaner. Prop up the stummel so that it will remain upright and won't fall over. Then you fill the bowl with salt. Then you carefully pour a small amount of alcohol into the bowl, just enough that the bowl is filled without any liquid slopping out on the rim. Most people prefer to use potable types of alcohol for this. I prefer to use Everclear, which in my opinion is the best pipe cleaning fluid you can get. Any kind of high-proof alcohol that doesn't have much flavor will work. Rum is another good one. So you've got it all filled and propped up, and you let it sit. How long you let it sit is up to you, but I always let it go until the salt is brown from absorbing gunk from the old cake and all the alcohol is pretty much evaporated. It usually takes a few hours. Use your pipe pick to remove the salt, then give it a regular cleaning like you always do with pipe cleaners and pipe sweetener (or more of your favorite high-proof alcohol beverage). Put it aside and let it rest for a day or two, then load it and light it.

If this doesn't work, it can be repeated but one must be careful because the salt treatment can dry out the wood. I destroyed a cheap basket pipe like this once by giving it too many treatments and it caused a bad crack in the shank.

There is an even more drastic measure that can be taken if the salt treatment doesn't work, but I will talk about it in a later post.

The third pipe that I purchased from Blue Ridge is a much better pipe, and will get it's own post (probably) tomorrow.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Unnamed Italian bent billiard sandblast

I'll see if I can keep posting one pipe per day from my "keeper" collection until I run out. After that, we'll see how things go. This particular 'blast was the only other pipe besides the Irish Second that I purchased at a store instead of online or mail-order. It was also purchased at The Humidor, and it was on the day my son was born.

I didn't start out that morning planning to buy a pipe. But after all the excitement was more or less over, my wife suggested (rather strongly) that I get out "for a few hours and get something to eat or go to the mall or something." I guess she was tired of my hanging around the hospital room and being a nuisance. So I did get something to eat, but still had plenty of time to kill. I ended up at The Humidor poring over their cheap pipe rack for a long time. I finally decided on this $15 unmarked sandblast. The only nomenclature is the word "ITALY," much like any number of other unnamed pipes.

It had a problem that I noticed during the first couple of bowls. There was a tiny pinhole in the briar which apparently went all the way through the bowl wall. I only discovered it because I noticed a tiny droplet of moisture bubbling out during the smoke. But after a few bowls worth of cake got built up, that problem vanished and has never recurred.

Anyway, unlike the time a few years before when I had bought the Irish Second, this time they offered me a free bowl of tobacco with my new pipe. So I had them load me up with some of their Balkan Texas Style (a fairly robust latakia blend) and enjoyed my new pipe on the drive back across town to the hospital.

I generally avoid Perique blends with this pipe, since I have more or less dedicated it to latakia blends. It is the only sandblast in my collection, and is one of my most frequently-used pipes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Charatan Canadian Selected

Sometimes you just get lucky. (Click to enlarge for both photos).


Found in an eBay lot of otherwise serviceable but unremarkable pipes was this bitless Charatan in the Canadian shape. I cleaned it up inside and out, but have not yet bothered to give it a buff and wax. I might give the rim a little more attention and see if I can make it sparkle.

Nomenclature on the top of the shank is "CHARATAN'S MAKE" over "LONDON, ENGLAND" and "SELECTED" just beneath that.

According to this article by Ivy Ryan, the Selected grade was second from the top, eclipsed only by the Supreme. Unfortunately this one no longer had the original bit, which may have had further nomenclature on it. Even without the bit, this is probably the most valuable pipe in my collection, and is yet another one that I am looking forward to getting fitted for a new bit.

NOTE: I first read the linked article on Charatan pipes some time ago and saved it to my computer. I don't recall where I originally saw it, but found this newer link just now. I did not know there was a Pipedia.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

SOLD: Red Dot rusticated straight billiard

THIS PIPE HAS BEEN SOLD. IT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.

I've been going through pipes that I cleaned up a long time ago but never got around to putting on eBay. Most of them are not in the best of shape, anyway. This one is the best of the bunch, so it gets its own post.

The nomenclature is "RED DOT" over "IMPORTED BRIAR" on the left shank. It's about 5 1/2 inches long, with a bowl width of a little over 3/4 inch and a bowl depth of about 1 1/2 inches.

The bowl and shank are all rusticated. The rim is not nicked. Those are part of the rusticated finish.

This is a screw-stem pipe without any kind of condenser ball. The bit is in excellent conditon and has no tooth marks. All in all, this pipe is in great shape for an estate pipe. I just wish I had more information on the maker.

This one is for sale, $5 plus shipping. Leave a comment or email me at alandp (at) blazeisp (dot) com if you're interested.

Irish Second bent billiard

This is one of the few pipes I have that I purchased in an actual brick & mortar store (The Humidor on San Pedro). The Irish Second is the brand given to the seconds line of Peterson pipes. Irish Seconds are in general very good pipes, although less expensive than Petersons.

It's too bad I didn't get a picture of this pipe when it was new, because it had a virgin finish. That is, it had a wax polish but nothing else. No stain or anything, and was as blond as the ebauchon I blogged about recently. The dark coloration of this pipe is due solely to the absorption of tobacco oils.

This was one of the first pipes I purchased, back when I was still smoking aromatics (artificially flavored tobaccos). The first few bowls were a plain vanilla burley that the Humidor sold back then. After that I was converted and gave up aromatics. Starting with the fourth or fifth bowl, this pipe was dedicated to a single blend: Yale Mixture from Cornell & Diehl. Yale is a Virginia/latakia blend and for a long time it was my favorite smoke. I still keep this pipe dedicated to latakia blends. Since Yale is still my favorite latakia, this pipe is still used to smoke almost nothing but Yale Mixture. But I will use it for any blend that is primarily Virginia and latakia.

If you are looking for an inexpensive but very good quality pipe, you can't go wrong with an Irish Second (in my opinion). But this one is a treasured part of my own collection.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Tyrolean: another kind of full bent

Another old scannergraph of my only Tyrolean pipe. The Tyrolean is named for its origin in the historical European region of Tyrol. An interesting design, and in this case, a hybrid for using two different kinds of wood.

All wooden parts of the stummel are briar. The only nomenclature on this pipe is on the left shank, which says "BRUYERE GARANTIE," French for "briar guarantee" or as we would say in English, "genuine briar." This one has a stem extension made of what I assume is cherrywood. The vulcanite (hard rubber) bit is permanently fixed to the stem extension.

The Tyrolean is usually adorned with brass furniture, in this case a picture of a stag. It is also customary for the Tyrolean to be equipped with a windcap. This pipe is only about 6 1/2 inches tall, but I've seen them much larger. As can be guessed from the odd round bit, this pipe is not meant to hang in one's mouth with teeth clamped firmly on the bit. It is meant to sit on the table in front of you at the biergarten, interspersing one's conversation with sips on the pipe and swigs of beer.

Another interesting part of this pipe's design is the air passage. As you can see, the bottom platform unscrews from the bowl for cleaning. The smoke is drawn through the hole in the center bottom of the bowl, and then through another hole just to the right of the bowl hole in this photo (hard to see, but it's there). This means the air is not drawn directly from the bowl. This swirling of the smoke around in the air pocket created by the bottom piece probably does help create a cooler smoke. This design also helps in catching moisture generated from the burning tobacco.

I took this photo from another angle to show the threads cut in the wood. The stem extension sticks into the shank and stays put from pressure alone.

I picked this pipe up, among some others, at an estate sale in the mid-1990s. It appeared to have been purchased (by its original owner) mostly for appearance and rarely smoked. In fact, when I bought it the stem showed no oxidation at all. As you can see in these photos, the bit now shows oxidation, which showed up almost immediately after I smoked it a couple of times. Because of the original lack of any oxidation, I might assume I was the first person ever to smoke it--which is unusual when it comes to estate pipes.

Oxidation is a problem with vulcanite stems, and is caused by saliva and sunlight. This pipe has never been exposed to any appreciable sunlight since I have owned it, so I might make another assumption that it is quite old and the quality of the vulcanite is not the same as with modern pipes. Oxidation can be cleaned and that bit can be made shiny and black again, but it will be a careful job because the bit is permanently fixed to the wooden extension. Removing oxidation is usually a simple job requiring the bit to be soaked in bleach for a few minutes, then rinsed with water, dried, buffed and waxed. A healthy layer of wax will help slow down further oxidation.

One other point I should make is that, once this pipe is lit and being smoked, it is important to avoid contacting the brass furniture with one's fingers, as that brass gets quite hot. The briar itself remains just as cool as any briar pipe should.

I'm sure I could sell this for enough to buy several old estate Kaywoodies, but because of its unusualness and its potential as a conversation piece, it will remain a part of my collection.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Two mystery pipes I'm working on

I didn't do much of anything today, which is typical when I have only a one-day weekend. While catching up on last night's adult swim anime, I went through my boxes and half-heartedly worked on a couple of pipes. Above is a straight Dublin shape Yello-Bole which has the "KBB inside a cloverleaf" logo of the early (and pre-) Kaywoodies. The only Yello-Boles I've heard of with this kind of logo are very old, but this pipe doesn't seem all that old. I'll have to poke around on the internet and see if I can find some information about it. The previous owner somehow managed to chew up the bit without ever smoking the bowl all the way down; the trademark Yello-Bole honey cake is still coating the heel of the bowl. It's too dark to get a sharp close-up of the logo, but I'll try again when I have good sunlight. This is one that I might try sanding and then attempting to stain the rim to match the rest of the pipe.


I spent a lot of time reaming out this lovat. It has no nomenclature on it that I can discern, so I don't know the maker. Normally, pipes in the Canadian family don't show up as "basket pipes." This is a term used by pipesters to refer to the cheap pipes that you might find jumbled into a basket at the tobacconist instead of prominently displayed on a rack like the more expensive pipes. Someone had to go to the trouble of finding and cutting a long piece of briar that was suitable for this style of pipe, so the lack of nomenclature is puzzling. That white mark and possibly the design of the stinger are the only clues, but I'm stumped. I gave this bit a quick bleach dip but obviously it still looks bad and is a long way from being finished. I also spent a lot of time cleaning the tar build-up from the rim. This pipe should look pretty good once I'm finished with it, except for some tooth marks on the bit.

S.M. Frank-era Kaywoodie straight billiard

Here is a scannergraph (a photo that I took with my old scanner) from several years ago, right after I had done some major restoration on this pipe. It is one of the more modern Kaywoodies that are made by the S.M. Frank company. This pipe, along with the Dublin in the previous post, was one of the pair of pipes that were my first Kaywoodies ever purchased.

There's nothing special about this pipe. A plain straight billiard with a heavy finish, it is reliable and has stood up well to repeated smokes with little or no rest between. But it will serve as an example of something that, when it comes to pipes, fills me with rage.

In this photo I took this morning (overcast and dark, so it's not the best but it will do), the billiard in question is at top and the apple that I posted on a few days ago is beneath. The stem of the apple shows a typical Kaywoodie "stinger," or screw fitment. Stingers are not all identical, but they should all look something like the one pictured. As you can see, the billiard has been mutilated.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to take a hacksaw to the stinger of a Kaywoodie pipe. If there is a moisture problem, the aluminum fitment makes it perfectly safe to unscrew the stem while the bowl is still warm so you can run a pipe cleaner into the shank or wipe off the stinger itself. If you want to cut it off because it makes cleaning the stem more difficult, well then, that's a personal problem you need to deal with. You still have no business castrating a Kaywoodie this way.

This pipe will also serve to show an example of the difference between Kaywoodie logos. The old logo is a white material (I don't know what it is) set into a cloverleaf-shaped indentation in the stem (or on older Kaywoodies, the shank). The modern S.M. Frank Kaywoodies simply have a cloverleaf outline on the stem which is originally marked in white. It is cheaply done and the color wears off easily, as you can see.

In spite of all its problems, this has always been a very reliable pipe for me. It can bang around in my truck all day with no problem, and handles strong Perique blends with aplomb. Since it is not an original American Kaywoodie and also since the stinger has been cut off, I would never try to sell it. It is just an everyday pipe and remains part of my collection for the examples it provides--and it smokes well, I must admit.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Kaywoodie Yacht export pipe (bent Dublin)

I was going to talk about a different pipe but I want to take some pictures of it disassembled first, and it's too dark outside now to take any photos. So I'll do this one.

This is one of a pair of Kaywoodies that were the first pipes of that maker that I ever purchased. They were both estate pipes via eBay. It is a slightly bent Dublin, which Kaywoodie called a "yacht" or sometimes "yachtsman." It is also an "export" pipe because it has a traditional push-stem instead of the trademark screw-in stem of most Kaywoodies. They were made this way for sale in Europe--for some reason someone at Kaywoodie decided that these would sell better than the screw-stem--so stems made for export were just regular push-stems.

I dropped this pipe once and the impact broke the tenon. The tenon is that narrower part of the stem that fits into the shank (actually it fits into a countersunk part of the shank called the mortise). A real pipe repairman can fix this easily, since the tenon is not integral to the stem. Just take out the broken one and stick in a new one, then fit it to the mortise. Or maybe they fit it first, I don't know. Unfortunately, sometime in the process the person who replaced this tenon managed to knock out the cloverleaf, which is why there's a cloverleaf-shaped hole in the stem but no cloverleaf. I guess he felt bad about it, because I not only received the repaired stem sans cloverleaf, but I also got a brand new "generic" stem. I'm still trying to figure out if there's any way to replace, or least "fake" replace, the cloverleaf.

I don't smoke this much because it doesn't have a lot of bowl volume. But it is my only Kaywoodie export pipe, so it's a part of my collection.

Rough cuts

Hmmm...I got this one a little out of focus but there's no detail to see, anyway. Got home from my mandatory overtime Saturday, had something to eat, and went at it with the coping saw.

I should make it very clear that not only am I not good with my hands, I have absolutely zero experience in pipe making. I'm sure that I have several generations of great-grandfathers watching me in amusement and making bets on how long it takes me to destroy it. There are carpenters and wood-workers on both sides of my family, but apparently that talent skipped a generation. Although...I did build the porch that you have been seeing bits of in my photos. Those specks of paint you see are from the kids practicing their "arts & crafts."

Anyway, I got rid of all the corners and now I have something that actually looks like it might be a pipe. That's it for the sawing. Now I go into the file phase. I'm hoping to turn this one into a poker.

The cut-off bits of briar will be saved so I have real briar to do staining experiments with.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Weber Oom Paul

When it comes to bent pipes, there are many kinds. Quarter-bent. Half-bent. I suppose there is a three-quarter-bent although I have never seen a pipe that was described as such. These terms are by no means technically specific; often a half-bent will be described as a full-bent, so who knows. But the only real full bent is the Oom Paul.


The Oom Paul is characterized by a tall, straight-walled bowl and a shank that turns up from the bowl to almost (but not quite) parallel it. It was named for Paul Kruger, and may have been originally designed for him by a custom order.

Oom Pauls by default must come from a larger-than-usual burl of briar, so as a general rule they are pretty good pipes.

The Weber pipe pictured above is the first item I ever bought via eBay, many moons ago. It began my hobby of perusing eBay for estate pipes, which then extended into simply hunting for pictures of pipes just for the sheer joy of seeing them.

The tall bowl is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that it holds more tobacco than the usual pipe, and provides a pleasantly long smoke. The disadvantage is that it becomes harder to relight as one goes further into the bowl. Another disadvantage is that the sharp bend in the air passage from bowl to shank makes it quite a challenge to clean. I use a specially bent paper clip to help guide the pipe cleaner into the right spot.

When I received this pipe it was not in the best of shape. It hadn't really been refurbished at all, and was probably the first pipe that I worked over myself to get it into better condition, both for smoking and simply for appearances.

If you want a pipe that shows some attitude, the Oom Paul is definitely for you. This one is part of my permanent collection.