A Sears & Roebuck ‘Yorkshire Standard’ Sculpted Pot Comes Back to Life

Pipe man Darren has commissioned several pipes from the ‘For “Pipe Dreamer” ONLY!’ collection benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. I appreciate Darren who appreciates vintage pipes and loves to see them restored as much as I do!  Darren is from Pennsylvania and Daniel, a fellow member of the Chester County Cigar Club – Holy Smokes had commissioned a pipe (See:  Refreshing a Beldor Studio Mini Churchwarden Paneled Apple of Saint Claude) and through Daniel, Darren became aware of The Pipe Steward.  Darren chose another interesting pipe.  Here are pictures of the Yorkshire Standard Sculpted Pot. The nomenclature on the left flank of the shank is stamped in what appears to be an old English font slightly arched upwardly, ‘Yorkshire’ [over] STANDARD [over in a reversed downward arch] ALGERIAN BRIAR.  I could find no other markings on the shank or the stem. I acquired this Yorkshire Standard Sculpted Pot in July 2018, when a friend of mine, Jon, texted from Philadelphia.  He had seen a listing of pipes on Craig’s List and wondered if I might be interested.  I was for the price which included 18 pipes and some pipe racks. Jon kept one pipe for himself, and the rest found their way to the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ collection where Darren eventually found the Yorkshire Standard whispering his name. With the Yorkshire now on the worktable, my first stop at Pipedia provides an article which surprises me with the information that the ‘Yorkshire’ brand was sold by the now defunct Sears & Roebuck Company.  Here’s the article:

Yorkshire Pipes was a brand sold exclusively through Sears Roebuck Catalogs, as seen in this 1941-42 catalog page. They were made in France of Algerian Briar, and some of the model names were Bond Street, Royal, Aristocrat, Natural and Straight Grain. They were not stained nor finished with lacquer and had a natural honey color.

Unfortunately, there was no mention of a ‘Standard’ model, but the list made no claim to be an exhaustive list.  The 1941-42 catalog page referenced in the information is great. I love to see old ads like this and glean the information that these ‘frozen in time’ pictures provide. The quality of the catalog page is not great, but the Old English script, ‘Yorkshire’ is prominently displayed.  The upper left ‘Smoke Shop’ shingle provides the sales bravado and guarantees to woo the customer to make the purchase – the higher quality pipe is $1.98!  The shingle reads: “Yorkshire pipes are guaranteed to have the quality of workmanship and smoking features found on pipes selling for much more elsewhere.”

Also, in the Pipedia were examples of a Yorkshire pipe.  The nomenclature on the left matches the pipe on the worktable except for ‘Natural’ in the center of the ‘football’ shaped logo versus ‘Standard’ on the worktable. The next stop is Pipephil.eu where there are listed two brands as Yorkshire.  One was the brand produced attributed to Sears & Roebuck and another produced by Barnaby pipe retailer.  The Yorkshire attributed to Sears & Roebuck are described as being produced by Gasparini in Italy and unnamed French manufacturers.  What is interesting to me is that these examples of Sears & Roebuck’s Yorkshires do not resemble the examples in Pipedia.  The font is different, and each stem has a different logo.  The Pipedia examples to not show stem logos nor does the Yorkshire on the worktable. The other name attributed to Yorkshire is Barnaby. The information qualifies the attribution to Barnaby because of the double diamond stem logo and the briar stem.  What is like the Pipedia examples and the Yorkshire on the worktable is the Old English script.   The differences are the straight script versus the football shape and ‘Imported Briar’ below and ‘Algerian Briar’ for the Pipedia example and the Yorkshire on the worktable. At this point in the research, I’m confused.  Tracking down the provenances of pipes is seldom an exact science but more of an artform!  What started as an apparent easy search, has become a bit more complicated.  I check out my copy of Wilzcak and Colwell’s, ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ and Yorkshire is given the Sears source and the date of 1941, the year of the Sears catalog example in Pipedia.  This reference doesn’t add to what I know, but only one source is listed. Next, I check out Reborn Pipes to see if Steve has worked on a ‘Yorkshire’ and to see what he says.  Steve had one listing of a Yorkshire (Giving a Yorkshire Natural Billiard a new look – Restain & Cumberland Stem) and here is his assessment of the provenance of the Yorkshire on his worktable:

The stamping was clear and distinct. From what I can find on the internet the Yorkshire brand is a US Made pipe that came from Barnaby Briars (smoking pipe retailer) that was located at 28 Powell St. in Brooklyn (NY). They also made pipes stamped Barnaby. The Germanic Script differentiates it from the other Yorkshire Brand that was made in Italy by Gasparini for Sears and Roebuck.

Steve’s conclusion was that his pipe was from Barnaby and not the Sears/Gasparini source primarily because of the script, which he described as ‘Germanic’.  The picture of the nomenclature of Steve’s Yorkshire is below.  It is identical with the Pipedia example and the same as the Yorkshire on my worktable including, ‘Algerian Briar’.  The only exception with my pipe is the ‘Natural’ in the center of the football instead of ‘Standard’ on my pipe. At this point I’m thinking that the information in Pipephil is not accurate.  The predominant marker it seems to me is the ‘Old English’ script (Steve described as ‘Germanic’) that sets the ‘Yorkshire’ apart as a product of the Sears store.  I decide to see if I can go to the source and identify additional ads of the Sears pipe offerings.  Pipedia provided one page from a 1941/42 Sears catalog which showed the prominent Old English script being used to promote the products.  I look on the internet to see if I can locate additional Sears Catalogues simply to confirm the script’s continued use from the 1941/42 example.

It didn’t take long for me to discover a treasure trove of Sears catalogs at https://christmas.musetechnical.com.  The listing starts with the Sears Spring Catalog starting in 1941 to the final entry of the 2017 Sears Christmas Book.  What I discover as I go to the links to each year’s catalogs is that the pipe offerings seem only to be in the Christmas catalogs helping those who are looking for the perfect gift for husband, grandpa, or dad.  There are many examples of catalogs listed – too many to list here, but I add a few here to show the progression of ads in the Sears Christmas catalogs over the years and the scripts used.  The first is like the 1941/42 Pipedia example in Christmas 1946 (https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1946-Sears-Christmas-Book/0094). Notice the ‘Yorkshire’ script prominently displayed in the center. The 50’s decade was much the same as the 40s, but jumping to the 1960 Sears Christmas Book (https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1960-Sears-Christmas-Book/0114) what I notice through the years is that the amount of selections with the Yorkshire name decreases as other pipe company names are listed.  Yorkshire is limited to a two-pipe selection and a metal pipe set.  The boxes shown below with these offerings are shown with the Old English script used over the years. The last issue carrying a Yorkshire briar pipe that I could find was the 1971 Sears Christmas Book edition (https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1971-Sears-Christmas-Book/0525).  From 1972 to 1979, the only reference to Yorkshire was to a Meerschaum lined pipe and an ‘interchangeable’ set – metal stems with Briar bowls that were made by Viking.  Also lost in the 70s is the advertising use of the ‘Yorkshire’ fancy Old English script on the advertising page.  The Old English script was only used on top of the Meer lined pipe boxes.  This later ad shows the tastes and fads of the times as well.  The Pipe’s multicolored selections are forefront with ‘The Smoke’ selections which are less traditional shapes in living colors!  Dr. Grabow pipes also compete for attention.  I enjoy looking at these ‘snapshots’ in time showing changes in culture through the decades – even the hair styles! In all the Sears catalogs I examined, there were no close-up pictures to show the football Yorkshire logo with the Old English script.  The only indication is the use of the Old English script for the advertising on the pages.  Also, a bit of a mystery left over from the research.  I found no example of a Yorkshire ‘Standard’ in any of the catalog listings.  Yet, the Old English script is consistent on a wide range of Sears ‘Yorkshire’ pipes listings throughout the 1940s, 50s, diminishing in the 60’s, and discontinuation in the 70s.  Based upon what I have seen, I’m inclined to agree with the Pipedia listing that the pipe on the worktable is a product of Sears and made by either a Gasparini Italian connection or unknown French manufacturers.  The feel of the pipe and the metal stinger system which is showcased in the 40s and 50s catalogs (see pictured below) gives me the sense that the pipe is from this period of Sears offerings.  One can only wonder who originally purchased this Yorkshire Standard Algerian Briar Sculpted Pot and to whom it was destined underneath the Christmas tree?  If he could only tell his story!

With a greater appreciation for the Sears & Roebuck Yorkshire Sculpted Pot on the worktable, I take a closer look at the issues it has.  The chamber has thick cake buildup.  This will be removed to give the briar a fresh start and to inspect the chamber for heating problems. The rim is covered with heavy lava flow. The stummel surface is covered with black grime splotches which I’m hopeful will be removed with cleaning.  The briar grain beneath the grime show promise along with the accenting ‘leaf’ sculpting. I see possibly one fill on the heel of the stummel.  I’ll keep an eye on this after the cleaning. The stem has significant oxidation and calcification at the bit from saliva but almost no tooth damage from biting.  As one would expect, the vulcanite is rough, and sanding will smooth it. To start the restoration, the stem is the focus.  The nickel stinger is reminiscent of the Sears & Roebuck’s descriptions of the special filtering and dry-smoke systems.  This advanced ‘technology’ is described in this clip below from the 1942 Sears Fall-Winter Catalog. With all metal stinger set-ups, and I think of Kaywoodie especially, they are a bear to keep clean because running a pipe cleaner through them is next to impossible. For this cleaning approach, I will try to remove the stinger by heating it with a Bic lighter.  As the metal heats, the vulcanite’s grip on the stinger should loosen. After heating a few times and wrapping the stinger with a cloth to protect it from grip marks, giving a light tug with the plyers dislodges the stinger. To clean the stinger, it is put in a small bottle of alcohol to soak. With the stinger removed, cleaning the stem is much easier.  After several pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 99% are used to scrub the airway, the cleaners emerge lighter.  A cotton bud is also used to clean the stinger cavity. To address the oxidation and calcification, coarse steel wool wetted with alcohol scrubs the stem hopefully making a dent.  This is followed with scrubbing the stem with Mr. Clean Magic Sponge. Continuing to address the residual oxidation, the stem is placed in a soak of Briarville’s ‘Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover’ for several hours. After the stem soaked for several hours in the Oxidation Remover, it is fished out and rubbed vigorously with a cotton cloth to remove the raised oxidation. Next, to help with the vulcanite’s reconditioning, paraffin oil is applied to the stem.  The stem is then put to the side to absorb the oil. Turning next to the stummel, the cleanup of the stummel begins by reaming the chamber.  A fresh picture is taken to mark the beginning of the process. The carbon cake is thick and expands toward the floor of the chamber. To ream the Pot’s chamber 3 of the 4 blade heads were used from the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I have to say, the cake was as hard as a brick.  It took some time to drill the cake barrier first with the smallest blade head.  I was concerned that I might break the blade head if I forced the tool too much, so I patiently allowed the blade to do its thing at its own pace. From reaming, the work is transferred to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool.  The tool continues to scrape the chamber walls to remove more carbon buildup. Finally, 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen sands the chamber to finish the removal of the cake residue. A picture shows the full arsenal of tools needed to remove the brick-hard cake. After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad to remove the carbon dust residue, an inspection of the chamber reveals surprisingly healthy briar.  With the thickness of the cake, I almost expected to find some serious heating problems and possible fissures, but the Algerian briar holds its own. I do find some minor veins, but these are not a concern. Next, the cleaning of the external briar commences.  A few pictures show the large black splotches that cover a large portion of the stummel.  I am hopeful that cleaning will remove the grime and reveal the briar beneath.  A few pictures show the starting point.  I lighten the pictures to be able to see the blotches better. The rim also needs cleaning. Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad, the scrubbing begins. As I scrub with the cotton pad, I’m pleased to see the black on the stummel dissolving.  The briar beneath looks great.  It’s almost like the black splotches were protecting and preserving the briar. Also used to clean was a bristled brass brush to work on the rim.  A pocketknife and the Savinelli Fitsall tool are both used to scrape the rim carefully by keeping the blades level.  I do not want to gouge the rim surface. Next, the stummel is transferred to the sink.  With hot water, shank brushes are used to scrub the internal mortise and airway.  It’s a bit tricky navigating and cleaning deeper beyond the metal shank insert and threads.  After a good bit of scrubbing, the stummel is thoroughly rinsed and brought back to the worktable.  There is a marked improvement with the cleaning. However, the rim still is carrying with it stains which need more work. The cleaning transitions to focus on the internals using pipe cleaners and cotton buds.  As the next picture shows, a good amount of tar and oil gunk was excavated from the mortise using a small dental spoon.  To the degree that the gunk can be scraped out in this manner, shortens the cleaning process with pipe cleaners and buds. A drill bit was also utilized to excavate tars and oils from the airway.  Using a bit just the size of the airway creates cutting/scraping action as the bit is pushed into the airway and pulled – while continuing to rotate. With the buds and cleaners beginning to emerge lighter, this phase of cleaning is called to a halt. To continue the internal cleaning and to refresh the internal briar for a new steward, the cotton ball and alcohol soak is used.  One cotton ball is inserted into the chamber while another is pulled and stretched to serve as a wick that is inserted into the mortise.  It serves to pull the tars and oils from the internal briar. After the cotton wick is inserted into the mortise and airway with the help of a stiff wire, a large eyedropper is used to fill the stummel with 99% isopropyl alcohol until is surfaces over the cotton. After 10 minutes or so, the alcohol is absorbed into the cotton and additional alcohol tops off the chamber.  The stummel is put aside to allow the soak to do its thing for several hours – overnight. The next morning, the soiled cotton indicates the additional cleaning that took place during the soak process. After the used cotton is tossed in the waste, another round of cleaning commences to clear the residual tars and oils.  Again, cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% are used.  More scraping continues using a dental spoon.  Finally, the buds and cleaners emerge lighter, and the job is completed! With the general cleaning completed, I take a closer look at the stummel.  The only fills that are revealed more clearly after the cleaning are inside the sculpting on the right side of the stummel.  The old fill material is a water-based material like normal wood filler you can buy.  The advantage it has is that it is a light color. The briar dust/CA glue patches that I normally use will cure darker.  The reading I did in the 1941/42 Sears catalog was that the pipes were not stained nor finished with lacquer and had a natural honey color.   Because of this information, my goal is to restore this Yorkshire Standard without using dye.  The question is, can these lighter fills be salvaged? To seek to save the older fills, I decide to scrape the surface and to clean them up some, removing some of the gapping that has developed along the edges.  I use a small dental probe to do this.  The results look better, but I will keep my eye on these.  The internal sculpted cuts are rough by design and the fills are also in a rustic setting and should work fine. The fill that I saw on the heel seems to be solid. I’ll leave it as is. The rim needs cleaning from the darkened, burnt stain that remains.  To address this, I give the stummel a very quick topping to clean the stain and to remove normal nicks on the rim’s edge. A sheet of 240 sanding paper is placed on a chopping board to serve at the topping board.  With the stummel inverted, the stummel is rotated several times over the paper. The 240 paper has done the initial cleaning of the dark briar. Switching the paper to 600 grade paper, the stummel is rotated several more times and inspected.  The rim surface looks much better, but a dark ring persists around the internal rim edge. Expressive grain emerges on the Pot’s rim top through the process. The next picture shows the internal ring that persists.  There is also some residual darkness around the outer rim edge.  This will be addressed with general sanding.  The internal ring will be addressed by cutting an internal bevel. First using 240 paper pressed to the rim using a small piece of wood, the initial bevel is cut. The bevel is then finished by using 600 grade paper.  It looks much better now.  Moving on. Next, to address the stummel’s nicks and cleaning, sanding sponges are used.  Before sanding, to protect the Yorkshire nomenclature, painters’ tape is placed over the stamping. Starting with the coarser sponge, the stummel is sanded.  This is followed by sanding with a medium grade sponge and a light grade sponge.  As hoped and expected, the sponge sanding starts to bring out the natural patina and some nice-looking briar is surfacing! After using the sanding sponges, I take another look at the old fill in the trough of the leaf sculpting.  I’m not satisfied with how it looks so the decision is made to dig the old fill material out and re-patch it.  It doesn’t take much effort from the sharp dental probe to remove it.  The crevasse that is left is deep and bends underneath the smooth part of the sculpting which would be in danger of chipping off if not patched. To do the patching, a mixture of briar dust and regular CA glue creates the ‘briar dust putty’ used. After putting scotch tape down on the mixing disk, a small mound of briar dust is placed on the palette along with a puddle of CA. Using a toothpick, the briar dust is gradually pulled into the glue as it is mixed.  This is done until the mixture begins to thicken.  The general rule is to aim for the thickness of molasses.  When this is achieved, the putty is troweled to the crevasse with the toothpick and filled.  An accelerator is used to cure the patch more rapidly. Using a flat needle file, I go to work shaping the patch.  First, the mound over the patch area is filed to bring it flush with the sculpted briar surface. A rounded needle file is used to file out the trough of the sculpting to create a curved surface, matching the surrounding sculpting.  240 paper is used to fine tune the shaping and to smooth the surface more.  The good part of this is that the sculpted trough should be rough and rustic. The patch repair is then completed with the application of 600 grade paper.  I like the results.  Even though the patch is darker, it is solid now and it should blend nicely through the sanding process. Next, the sanding of the stummel is continued using the full set of 9 micromesh pads.  Starting with pads 1500 to 2400, the stummel is wet sanded.  Following this, the stummel is dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 24000.  The painter’s tape protecting the nomenclature is removed about halfway through the sanding process so that the briar will be blended. The natural Algerian grain on the Yorkshire Standard is stellar.  At this point, to bring out the natural hues of the natural briar, Before & After Restoration Balm is used.  After placing a small amount of the Balm on the finger, the Balm is worked into the briar.  I also work it into the sculpting.  After applying the Balm thoroughly, the stummel is set aside for about 15 minutes to allow the Balm to do its thing. After the time has elapsed, a microfiber cloth is used to rub/buff off the excess Restoration Balm.  The results are as hoped.  The Balm does a good job of bringing out the natural hues of the briar. Turning now to the stem, the nickel stinger which had been removed from the stem to help with cleaning of the stem, has been soaking in alcohol to clean the metal. After taking it out, it is scrubbed with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol and with 0000 grade steel wool.  This does a good job of cleaning and shining the nickel so that it looks new. Before working on the stem sanding, the nickel stinger is reseated into the stem. To do this, the stem facing is heated with a Bic lighter to soften the vulcanite.  When the vulcanite has been heated, the base of the stinger is guided into the stem cavity and with the stinger facing down onto the worktable, I press down to move and reseat the stinger base into the stem cavity. After screwing the stem in, as expected, the stem’s orientation is off.  It is over-clocking a few degrees. To correct this, the nickel stinger is again heated with a Bic lighter.  Once heated, the grip of the vulcanite is loosened.  Again, the heated stinger is screwed in and once it tightens at the over-clocked position, gentle force is applied continuing to rotate the stem around again until the correct orientation is reached.  The newly oriented stem is put aside allowing the vulcanite to cool and to hold the new position. After correcting the orientation, a quick polishing of the nickel shank facing with 0000 steel wool looks good and pristine. Focusing now on the stem, a couple fresh pictures of the upper and lower bit shows that there is little biting damage to deal with.  There is a small amount of compressing on the button lip and on the upper bit.  The vulcanite is rough, and sanding will help to rectify this. To begin, a flat needle file is used to refresh the upper and lower button. Next, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the entire stem.  A plastic disk is used to guard against shouldering which is the rounding of the edge of the stem facing. Wet sanding the stem is next using 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool. The sanding continues with the full set of micromesh pads beginning by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads Obsidian Oil is applied to help to condition the vulcanite and to protect it from oxidation.  The stem looks great. The stem and Yorkshire stummel are reunited and Blue Diamond compound is applied to the entire pipe. After a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the rotary tool, the speed is set at about 40% full power.  The compound is applied methodically to the entire pipe to provide the final sanding and abrasive polishing. The compound leaves a lot of dust on the pipe which is removed with a felt cloth by rubbing and buffing the surface. This is done in preparation of applying wax. The final step is applying carnauba wax to the pipe.  With another cotton cloth wheel mounted dedicated to wax, the speed is left at 40%.  Carnauba wax is applied methodically to the pipe with the general rule of thumb that ‘less is more’.  Too much wax simply smears on the surface.  After applying wax, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to remove excess wax and to raise the shine. I enjoyed diving into the research of the provenance of this pipe.  There seems to be some confusion among the sources, but I am confident that this Yorkshire Standard Algerian Briar Sculpted Pot was produced by either the Italian Gasparini or other French manufacturers for the shelves of the now defunct box store, Sears and Roebuck, Co.  It represents a time now gone by when political correctness didn’t reign, and Christmas catalog pages offered a sizable selection of ‘pipeporia’ for gift buyers during that special time of the year.  This Yorkshire Standard has distinctive briar grain and corresponding bird’s eye grain complementing the leaf sculpting. The Pot has a nice rustic feel settling comfortably in the palm.  Darrin commissioned this pipe benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria and will have the first opportunity to claim him in The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!  A comparison of the ‘before & after’ helps to show how far we’ve come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “A Sears & Roebuck ‘Yorkshire Standard’ Sculpted Pot Comes Back to Life

  1. Dave

    Well done Dal!!! I wouldn’t believe it had I not seen it. The before and after pictures are proof positive. You brought this pipe back to fantastic condition….ready for another 75 years of service. Thank you for the research, and detailed description of the laborious restoration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Breathing New life into an Elegant French Algerian Briar Canadian – The Pipe Steward

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