Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bertram billiard


I should add that the other side that I didn't take a picture of had a worse scratch than that.

And now...

At first I was worried that the stain I used was too dark. It made this stately stummel look like a dark blob. But the buff & wax turned it into a real jewel. I just need to sandpaper the inside of the bowl to make the cake smooth. I'm looking forward to getting a stem on this one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dover slant poker

In keeping with the cherrywood thread of the past few days, here is a "cherrywood" that is not a cherrywood. Click for a slightly larger version and you can see the nomenclature.

The classic poker is carved with bottom and top parallel to each other and a straight-sided, round (or tubular) bowl. Here's a little graphic from Pipe Shapes.
The story is that the poker takes it name because poker players could put their pipe down and it would sit on its own while they handled their cards. Pokers may have either a long shank and a short bit, or like most pipes it could have a short shank and a long bit. It doesn't matter. The thing that defines a poker are the parallel, flat top and bottom and the round, straight-sided bowl. It should be able to sit.

The example above was carved in the classic cherrywood shape, although it is made of briar. To prevent confusion, it may also be referred to as a slant poker, which is what I prefer to call it.

This pipe is a Dover, which if I recall correctly is a seconds line of Whitehall, and was made in England. "Seconds," in pipe terms, means that the manufacturer for some reason didn't deem it quite worthy of their main brand name, so they marketed it under a different name. Seconds are normally less expensive and of lesser quality than the main line, however, this doesn't mean they are necessarily inferior pipes. For example, Irish Seconds made by Peterson are very good quality for a seconds line.

This pipe turned up in a lot I purchased several years ago and I immediately decided it was a keeper. It is the only pipe I have from the poker family. It may look a little dingy in this photo, but that's because it has been a while since I gave it a good buff & polish. I did give the stem a quick toothpaste buff to make it more presentable for this photo. It does have one nick on the rim which I have never bothered with because I have never felt the urge to sell it. It is a no-frills, no-nonsense pipe that smokes good and looks good and it is one of my favorite pipes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ropp Cherrywood

After yesterday's post on the Westminster cherrywood, I though it would be a good idea to post a more typical example.

The Ropp company of France is well-known in the pipe-smoking world for the production of cherrywood pipes. I think they produce (or produced) nothing else. This example from my collection is more typical of the cherrywood, however, it is not the classic cherrywood shape.

I don't have a picture of a classic cherrywood, but this little gif snagged from Pipe Shapes should suffice. The limb of a cherry tree is cut straight across one end and diagonally on the other. The flat end is hollowed out to form the bowl, while the diagonal end is polished and forms a flat bottom so that most cherrywoods--if their balance is right--are also sitters. This shape may also be referred to as a slant poker. The example from my collection was cut with both ends roughly parallel to each other, and the bottom polished but left rounded so that it is not a sitter.

Here is a picture of my pipe disassembled. You can see the threads cut into the wood of the shank. The shank is also cherrywood, but obviously cut from a smaller limb. The threads of both the bowl and the shank have been reinforced with aluminum to help prevent damage. The stem is made from typical vulcanite.

Since one purpose of the cherrywood design is to preserve the rugged, woody appearance, the bark is left on both the bowl and shank. The nomenclature is typically stamped into the polished smooth bottom of the bowl.

The shape depicted in the small black and white gif above is, as I said, the classic cherrywood shape. In fact, pipes of this shape may be referred to as "cherrywood shape" regardless of the materials they are made of. Although briar is by far the most popular wood for pipe-making, there are other woods that are suitable. Cherrywood is probably the second most common.

This pipe was one of two Ropps that were in a lot I bought several years ago. The other one I refurbished and sold. It was of the classic cherrywood shape and I elected to keep this one because it was different. The buyer of the other pipe was a collector of Ropps, and offered to buy both, but I kept this one so I would have at least one example in my collection.

My only complaint about this pipe is that the bowl volume is very small. It smokes just as well as any pipe should, but the tiny interior bowl can provide only a 15 to 20 minute smoke, tops. So I don't use it very often.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A couple of "in progress" pipes

Only stummels, actually, since neither one has a stem. The lighting outside is not ideal right now, but these are just some in progress pictures, so what the hey.

This is a Bertram, and according to the nomenclature on the shank (other side), it was made in Washington, D.C. I scored a few Bertrams in a lot some time ago, and they all had two things in common: they are big, and they are battered. Someone didn't take very good care of them.

The only real damage to the briar of this one was on the rim. It had some serious nicks and scratches. As you can see, I already made a start by sanding off the damage. I had to shave a millimeter or two to get it nice and flat. It's a little uneven, though, and will require more careful sanding with continuously finer grits before I can call it done. Then I'll be stripping the original finish off and sanding around the bowl with fine grit to erase the last few scratches and make it all nice and smooth and even. The shank has no nicks or scratches and will not be sanded because I want to preserve the nomenclature. And finally, I'll try re-staining it. This will be a new adventure for me; I haven't done it before. I have all the stuff I need to do it, I just need to do it.

This pipe impressed me with its size and the sheer mass of briar that makes up this stummel (actually, all of the Bertrams impressed me this way). The bowl walls are quite thick and I have no doubt it will be a good smoker if I don't destroy it. When I'm satisfied that I've done all the damage I can do, I'll have it fitted for a new stem. It didn't have a stem with it when I got it, and I'm not quite ready to attempt stem replacement myself. When I picture this finished pipe in my imagination, I see it with a saddle bit stem, so that's what I'll be going for. I plan on smoking this one myself for a while, and making a final decision on whether to try and sell it or not later.

This unusual-looking pipe is a House of Westminster cherrywood made in Switzerland. It not only looks unusual, it is unusual. Most cherrywoods have two wooden parts; the bowl is carved separate from the shank. The bowl and shank will have threads drawn in the wood so they can screw together, or sometimes they are carved so that the shank just sticks into the bowl. This one is unusual because they managed to find a knobby elbow of a cherry tree limb that they could carve into a single piece pipe.

This one had no damage to the wood. It had heavy tar build-up on the rim which cleaned off very nicely, leaving a rim almost as slick and clean as the bottom. The stem that came with it was very odd and disproportionate from the stummel. I have a suspicion it was not the original stem. It was very short and turned this rugged-looking pipe into a nose-warmer. I would not have wanted to smoke it like that. Also, the stem it came with was badly chewed. It looked like someone had tried to beat a snake to death with it. Fortunately, there was no nomenclature on the stem, so I didn't lose anything by discarding it. I picture this one with a long tapered stem. Not churchwarden long, but maybe a little longer than usual.

I'll be keeping this one, if only for the simple rarity of having a one-piece cherrywood pipe.

And then we had pipe number two

In that first pouch of Captain Black that I bought (previously mentioned), or one of the first, anyway, there was a coupon for a meerschaum pipe. I certainly was going to need more pipes, and it didn't cost much, so I sent the coupon and the cash in and soon received the pipe pictured above.

It's a good pipe. Most meerschaums are. A little flowery, but nothing too ornate. The problem with this pipe is the stem. Follow the curve of that stem and what do you notice? The bit end is still going up. It should be slightly more horizontal. This makes this pipe a little awkward for me. The weight of the bowl makes it feel like someone is trying to lever your teeth apart.

That doesn't mean I don't use it, I just don't use it much. In the early days, I used it often, and it has a voluminous bowl that provides a long afternoon's smoke.

The stem is also made of plastic that is too soft, in my opinion, and is a little too "chewy."

Well, I can fix the bend now I think of it. I have tweaked the bend of stems before. It's not easy, but it's possible. I think someday I'll probably just have it fitted for a nice black acrylic stem and then it will be much easier to smoke.

To change the bend of a stem--and this goes only for the softer plastics or vulcanite (hard rubber), not for the hard acrylic stems--you first run a pipe cleaner all the way through it. This will preserve the air passage. Then you put it in boiling water for a few minutes until it gets good and hot. You fish it out with a pair of tongs and then, with your hands protected by gloves, oven mitts or hotpads, you grasp it firmly and carefully bend it slightly. Yes, I have done this before and sometimes it took two or three tries before I got it right. The stem will tend to straighten out while it's being heated. I suppose if you had one of those hot sand things that optometrists use to bend spectacle arms, that would work too. But I just used boiling water. After it cools, remove the pipe cleaner.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

This is where it all started...

It was cold, I remember that. I was in tech school, so it was in either 1991 or 1992, in January or February. On the other end of the strip mall from the school there was a Walgreens. We often walked down there during breaks to fortify ourselves with junk food and Mountain Dew to keep from going to sleep in classes that ran until 11:00 at night.

And yes, they had a shelf of cheap Dr. Grabow pipes.

Ever since I had been a little boy smelling the sweet scent of an old farmer's rum-flavored pipe tobacco, I had wanted to--someday--smoke a pipe. It looked good. It smelled good. There was an unassuming, quiet dignity about it. So one night I purchased the pipe shown above and a pouch of Captain Black Whiskey.

Oh, the junk I put through that poor pipe. Several varieties of Captain Black, Borkum Riff, and who knows what other brands that I've forgotten by now. This was before internet access became widespread, and I had no one to go to for information about pipes and pipe smoking. I was a rank newbie with no mentor in sight, and everything I learned, I learned through bitter trial and glorious error. It was my only pipe for several weeks, and it didn't get nearly enough rest between loads of gunky drugstore aromatics. It's a wonder I didn't throw it in the trash and never think about it again. But I persevered. The entire process of smoking this cheap pipe still greatly appealed to me, and I knew instinctively that the experience should have been even better.

A simple straight apple filter pipe, there is nothing great about it. It is a thin-walled, poor quality pipe with a heavy finish that smokes hot no matter what goes in it. As soon as I had built up a rotation of four or five pipes, it became semi-retired and seldom-smoked. Within a year or so of its purchase, I cleaned it up very well, polished it, put it on the rack, and never smoked it again.

It is a worthless pipe. I wouldn't be able to give it away on eBay. I now have probably a good 30 pipes that are better than this one. But still it stays on the rack, because it was my first, and one should never lose track of one's roots.

Kaywoodie #67 Prime Grain Long Shank straight billiard

Several years ago I got lucky and scored a lot of five 1960s-era Kaywoodies that were all in excellent condition, except for one that had a huge fill on the shank. If I had acquired the same lot now, I would have put them all on the rack and not considered reselling. But back then I was more interested in getting funds into my Paypal account (if I recall correctly, I was saving up to buy some Makarov accessories from I sold the other four, but this one looked so nice I couldn't bring myself to auction it right away. Finally I put it up with a starting bid of $20. No one took it. A few months later I tried again with a start of $15. Still, nobody wanted it. Your loss, folks, because it won't be offered again.

This one is most likely from the late 1960s, and it looks like it was never smoked at all. I still haven't smoked it because it looks so pristine, and who am I to soil a 40-year-old pipe? Just kidding. I'll smoke it eventually, but I'm in no hurry. I'll be taking extra care of this one because it just looks so good. By the way, I uploaded a picture that's a little higher-res than usual, so click to enlarge and glory in all that slick briar.

With a shank longer than the usual, but not long enough to fall into the Canadian family, Kaywoodie understandably called this one the Long Shank. The shape number 62 designates it as a small billiard. The bowl still cants well right of center, so it likely has not been used at all. The Prime Grain is toward the upper end of the Kaywoodie system, although not as high as the Flame Grain, so a better-than-the-average-quality burl went into the making of this pipe. This pipe certainly merits a place in the permanent collection. Maybe someday I'll smoke it, or maybe I'll just save it for the next generation--or both.

Kaywoodie #H7 Hi-Bowl

Produced during the 1960s, this is the Kaywoodie Hi-Bowl designated #H7. There were six different shapes in the Hi-Bowl line. I have not been able to find pictures of any of them. No vintage ads, no descriptions, nothing. This is the only one I have ever seen.

This is one of the few pipes that I bought via eBay as a single. Most of what I get are in lots of several; I may keep one or two that appeal to me and resell the rest. But I thought this pipe looked so ungainly, so awkward, that I bought it for the same reason Charlie Brown bought that little Christmas tree. That was back before I considered myself a collector, and I wasn't looking for Kaywoodies intentionally.

This pipe required extensive work before it was presentable, much less smokeable. The briar is in fine shape, however, the stem has one hole in the bit from bite-through. It's a small hole on the underside and is invisible in this photo, and as far as I can tell it doesn't affect the smokeability.

I don't smoke this pipe often. The combination of that tall bowl and a long, straight stem makes it very fore-heavy and I prefer bent pipes with a lower center of gravity. But since I do like to collect Kaywoodies, this one definitely gets a place in my permanent collection.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kaywoodie #42 Super Grain straight apple

As I was going through my "work-on" box I rediscovered this old Kaywoodie and knew I had to clean it up.

Exact dating of Kaywoodies can be a problem, but based on the logo and the stinger configuration this one runs somewhere in the 1940s to 1960s range, and is in pretty good shape for a fifty-year-old pipe. The bowl cants very slightly left of center, so it has some some wear but is not out of balance by any means. Although I am most fond of bent pipes, this simple straight apple is a classic design. The rim has some minor charring, but that is about to be expected for a well-used pipe of this age. The shape number 42 means that this one is a medium apple.

This one smokes quite well and the apple shape is very comfortable in the hand. I might have to forsake my usual bents for this one to get re-seasoned with something I like.

The Super Grain grade is midway in the order of Kaywoodie pipes, and this one will have a place in my permanent collection.

SOLD: TED'S 357 prince


This one has been sitting in my "work-on" box since I took a break from refurbishing a few years ago. I always thought that when I started again, this would be the first pipe I would work on because it was in such good shape and should be easy to clean up. And it was.


Left -- "TED'S" on the shank, "T" on the stem.
Right -- "LONDON ENGLAND" over "357" on the shank.


Overall length -- about 6 inches.
Bowl opening -- about 7/8 inch.
Bowl depth -- about 1 1/4 inches.

Light scuffing on the bit, light char on back rim, some fills.

I haven't been able to find out anything about Ted's pipes. It's possible that the Ted might just be the name of the shop where the pipe was originally sold. The 357, which appears to be a shape number, makes me think Ted might be the pipe maker.

I sampled this pipe with Cornell & Diehl's Bayou Morning, a light Virginia/Perique blend. I usually favor heavier flavors but I'm using this one to help prevent seasoning and biasing the pipe toward a particular flavor. It smokes just as cool and smooth as any pipe should and the elegant prince shape really appeals to me. I have no other prince in my collection, but I'm clearing out room and mostly focusing on collecting Kaywoodies, so this one is up for sale or trade.

This pipe will be throughly re-cleaned and sanitized before being sold. It will be ready to smoke when you receive it. More pictures at higher resolution are available upon request.

Five dollars (plus a couple for shipping) and it's yours. Or if you have a Kaywoodie that's in decent shape, furnish me with pictures and some info and I'll consider trading. Leave a comment or email me at alandp (at) blazeisp (dot) com. Pipe tool not included.


I have set up this blog to document my adventures in smoking, collecting, refurbishing and selling pipes. When I want to go on a pipe ramble, I might do it here instead of my main blog. Or I might do it on both. This blog will focus primarily on displaying my permanent collection as well as pipes that I am willing to sell or trade.

My collection contains no rare or extremely valuable pipes. I "specialize" in inexpensive pipes because that's what I can afford. So if this might interest you, I'm glad to have you aboard.