New Life to a Mysterious French Made C.A.V of St. Claude Canadian

I’m finally able to do something productive after having a bout with the COVID virus.  Nasty stuff. The next pipe on the worktable is the second pipe that pipe man Mike commissioned from the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ online collection benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Mike fares from the great state of Tennessee and is the founder and administrators of the FB group, Brothers by Briar. Here are pictures of the French made C.A.V of St. Claude – a handsome Canadian now on the worktable. The nomenclature is stamped on the upper side of the oval Canadian shank: BRUYERE [over] ST. CLAUDE.With the COM of St. Claude, France, the only identifier is the stem logo which is stamped with C.A.V inside an oval.  At first, I thought there were periods after each letter, but 2 periods are used as dividers between the letters.  At this point, I am not sure what significance this has.Mike’s first commissioned pipe was a mysterious French made L.M.B. Aspir which was quite the research project unearthing its provenance. The L.M.B. was acquired by me in August 2018 in what I call, the ‘French Lot of 50’, a trove of pipes coming from a seller in Paris.  The C.A.V also comes from the French Lot of 50 which has produced several treasures and has been a trove of French pipes requiring a boatload of research to figure out their origins.  I’m wondering if this C.A.V might be equally resistant to offering up its story.  My first stops at Pipedia and render no results searching ‘C.A.V’.  A look into my copy of Wilczak and Colwell’s, ‘Who Made That Pipe?’, yielded the same result.  General ‘hail Mary’ searches rendered 2 other C.A.V pipes on the auction blocks.  One listing offered no helpful information and a distant picture.  Another listing was listing a very attractive C.A.V Bulldog.  The difference with my C.A.V has the nomenclature stamped in the briar rather than the stem.  This stamping is the same oval and similarly, dots separating the letters and missing after the V which would perhaps indicate the closing of initials.  This CAV was for sale in Pipes Estate:I searched Steve’s stacks of restorations at Rebornpipes and in every forum I’m aware of and nothing is found that gives any clue to the specific origin of this St. Claude nomenclature.  In a last-ditch effort, I searched the French side of Google ( to see if it might dig more deeply into the French context.  Nothing.  Well, perhaps someone might know something that I don’t and give me a shout!  For now, the CAV on my worktable will continue too, with some mystery.

Looking at the CAV Canadian on the worktable, it is an attractive Canadian shape with some stellar looking briar.  The chamber has light carbon cake buildup.  This will be cleaned to give the briar a fresh start.  The rim has light lava flow on the aft side of the rim.The left side of the bowl has a couple small fills.What I didn’t see earlier is a large fill on the left edge of the oval shank about mid-way down.  The fill masks well the size of the blemish to the briar. I’ve marked it to show the parameters of the fill.  After cleaning the stummel, I’ll decide how to proceed with this fill.The stem has light tooth chatter, and the vulcanite is rough.To start the restoration of the CAV Canadian of St. Claude, the stem’s airway is cleaned with some pipe cleaners moistened with isopropyl 99%.To address the light oxidation in the stem, the stem is placed in a soak of Briarville’s Oxidation Remover.  The soak lasts for several hours.When the time is complete, the stem is fished out of the Oxidation Remover and hand rubbed with a cotton cloth to remove the raised oxidation.  The Briarville product does a good job.  Another pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99% is used to clear away the excess Oxidation Remover fluid from the airway.To condition the vulcanite stem, Paraffin Oil is applied and worked into the stem.  The stem is then put to the side to absorb the oil.Turning now to the cleaning of the CAV stummel, reaming the bowl is the first step.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, starting with the smallest blade head, only two of the blades are used to ream the chamber.  The Savinelli Fitsall Tool goes into action next by continuing the scraping of the chamber walls.  This is followed by sanding the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for leverage.After the bowl is wiped clean with a cotton pad, a quick inspection reveals healthy briar in the chamber.Transitioning next to the external cleaning of the stummel. Murphy’s Oil Soap is used.Undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used to scrub the briar surface with a cotton pad.  To clean the lava flow on the rim a brass brush is used to add cleaning muscle without harming the briar.  A pocketknife is also carefully employed to scrape the rim helping to remove the carbon crusting on the rim.From the worktable, the stummel is taken to the sink where hottish water along with anti-oil liquid dish washing soap is used to clean the externals and internals.  Shank brushes are used to clean the internal mortise and airway.  After a thorough rinsing the Canadian stummel is back on the worktable.Next, to continue the internal cleaning, cotton buds and pipe cleaners are used with isopropyl 99% to scrub the internals.  The cleaning did not take long.  I move on.After the thorough external cleaning, an inspection of the surface reveals a beautiful, deep briar patina and a swirl of briar grain which is stellar.  The cleaning loosened the water-based fills on the right side of the stummel.The large fill on the right shank side also was softened and deteriorated by the cleaning.  There is also a small fill just to the right.The course of action leaves little question of what is next.  A sharp dental probe is used to dig out the old fill material on the bowl as well as the larger fill on the shank.To remove the old fill, a wet cotton pad is used to continue to soften the water-based filler and as it softens, the probe is used to scrape the fill material.The key to cleaning the large blemish on the shank is to avoid causing the edge of the briar to deteriorate around the crater.  Preserving the crisp edges will help in shaping and sanding the blemish after it is patched.  The small fill to the right is also excavated.I am thankful for the fellowship of pipe men out there that work on pipes and freely offer advice and tips.  Jeffrey Howell, a follower of The Pipe Steward, left a helpful comment on my last restoration for Mike of a French made Petite Billiard (Uncovering the Origins of an Early 1900s French Aspir Fabrication L.M.B. Petite Billiard).  This restoration was a bear because the briar surface was like a moonscape of pits and old fills.  I had been experimenting with using a regular Elmer’s Wood Filler to better be able to take a dye.  This effort did not work, and I ended up cleaning all the patches and repatching with Briar Putty, a mixture of CA glue and briar dust – a solid fill but often does not blend as well cosmetically.  Thus, my experimentation with other options.  Jeff’s comment encouraged me to try another product called, ‘Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty’.  I reached out to Jeffrey via email to ask him about Durham’s.  He wrote this additional information:


I appreciate the note.  Keep in mind that the Dirham’s expands as it cures – so it would be highly inappropriate to use on a crack. I’m from Texas, but currently reside in Phoenix Arizona.

Jeff also shared with me that he favors working on latticed Meerschaums and also shared that he uses with good success a Meer repair recipe that I also have used with success, chalk and egg white.  I found Durham’s listed on Amazon and it was on my worktable in a few days to try out with the CAV St. Claude Canadian.The directions are simple – put some of the dry filler on a plate and gradually add water and mix until it reaches the appropriate thickness.  It said that this would roughly be 3 parts filler to 1 part water.Using the tin lid of the Durham Wood Filler, a small pile of the dry filler is placed on the disk.  Using a large eye dropper, a few drops of water are placed next to the filler and then mixed using the small dental spatula.  Being the first time using the product, I take it slow, but it didn’t take long for the mixture to thicken.The spatula is used to trowel the filler to the pits and then it is used to press the filler into the pit firmly. The large pit is mounded over the large area to provide enough room for sanding the side of the shank.Fine grade 600 sanding paper is used to sand off the patch mounds after the filler had thoroughly cured.With the patches sanded down flush with the briar surface, the stummel is dry sanded using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The deep rich patina of the briar comes out beautifully during the micromesh process. Switching next to the stem, the CAV stem logo is covered with painter’s tape to protect it during the sanding process.Using pads 1500 to 2400, the stem is wet sanded.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to guard against oxidation and to condition the stem. Turning back to the stummel, a number of dye sticks are used to color and mask the patches on the stummel.  The larger one was the most challenge.  The various brown tones help to give the larger patch a varied complexion which hopefully helps with the blending.  Overall, I’m pleased with the performance of the Durham’s Rock Hard Water Filler which was tested for the first time.  It will remain a valid option for a filler material alongside of Briar Putty – CA glue and briar dust.After reuniting stem and stummel, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool with the speed set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is then applied to the stem and stummel.After the application of the compound, the pipe is buffed/cleaned with a felt cloth to clear away residual compound dust left on the briar surface.  This is done in preparation for the application of wax.Before wax is applied, to freshen the C.A.V stem logo, European Gold Rub ‘n Buff is used.  The original color of the logo was a silver, but I believe that the gold will be an upgrade blending very nicely with the deep brown patina of the briar. As the label describes, a small amount of the gold paint is applied to the logo and rubbed off using a cotton pad. The results are good – I like it a lot!After another cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and set to the same speed, carnauba wax is applied to the stem and stummel.  Following the wax, a microfiber cloth is used to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.I am disappointed that the provenance of this C.A.V of St. Claude could not have been sharpened, but it will remain tucked away in mystery for a time.  The challenge of this restoration was to mask the large fill on the shank.  A close look will see the scars of the past that this handsome Canadian brings with him, but without doubt, looking at the landscape of briar of this C.A.V Canadian, the blemishes are enveloped by an expressive and amazing display of bird’s eye, fire and lateral grains.  The long lines of the Canadian shape are always a nice touch of class, and this guy settles well in the palm and promises good fellowship with his next steward.  Mike saw the potential of this French made C.A.V Canadian and as the commissioner will have the first opportunity to claim him in The Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!  We start with the ‘before’ picture so not to forget how far we’ve come.


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