New life for a Striking Edward’s Handmade Algerian Briar

The next pipe on the worktable is an Edward’s Sculpted Briar Handmade which I acquired while on a pipe-picking mission at a local antique mall here in the Denver area.  The Brass Armadillo is a pickers paradise and I enjoy trolling through the isles of ‘locked’ glass display cases where the good stuff is kept.  I’m always dialed in to pipe picking and on this trip in September of 2020, I found a diamond in the wild.The price was good, and it made its way to being posted on the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ online collection.  It was there that pipe man, Stacy, a pastor in Pennsylvania, commissioned it as a special gift for his son, Levi.  When Stacy first reached out to me about commissioning some pipes as gifts, he qualified his inquiry with the disclaimer that he was a pipe newbie.  He had thought about taking up a pipe for some time but in the churches where he had served it might be frowned upon.  However, during the COVID shutdown he decided to give it a go and started collecting some budget friendly pipes.  I not only appreciate the fact that Stacy is a pastor, but also that he is a committed family man.  He and his super-mom wife have 9 kids of which 3 are biological children and 6 adopted!

In my communications with Stacy, the first pipe he wanted to commission for his son, Levi, who was married last August ’21 and he and his wife were now expecting their first child this September.  Stacy also said that the gift pipe would be to celebrate the fact that Levi and his expecting wife just bought a house.   He said, ‘a pipe would be a great new-dad/new-house gift.’  I’m under the gun now to get this gift pipe restored and sent to Stacy before this baby comes into the world!  Stacy also said that he appreciated that the pipes he would acquire would benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria as well.  Here are pictures of the Edward’s Algerian Briar Calabash Stacy commissioned for Levi. The left side of the shank is stamped, ‘ALGERIAN BRIAR’.  The right side is stamped with ‘Edward’s’ in traditional cursive.On the underside of the shank is stamped ‘Er 1’ [over] ‘HAND MADE’.I have worked on Edward’s pipes in the past and have enjoyed what I discovered in the research.  Pipedia has a helpful article describing Edward’s:

Edward’s pipes were originally produced in Saint-Claude, France when France actually was a world-class pipe maker with longstanding business & political connections to Colonial Algeria that allowed them to obtain the finest briar.

During the tumultuous 1960’s, Edward’s created a business model to offer the finest briar available in both Classic and Freehand shapes – all at a fair price. They bought the company & equipment and cornered the market on the finest, choice Algerian Briar just before the supply vanished in political turmoil of Algeria’s independence. Edward’s packed up both machinery and briar-treasure to America, safely caching the essentials to create a new pipe-making dynasty. This was a coup, for the 70’s and 80’s were grim years for pipe smokers as quality briar all but disappeared.

Edward’s Design Philosophy is hard to pin down, think of their style as the “American Charatan” with unique & clever twists all their own. Today, they fashion pipes in several locations across the USA. All of Edward’s pipes are Algerian Briar – a fact very few pipe companies can claim, and all are oil-cured utilizing natural finishes – no strange concoctions are used to interfere in your tastebud’s dance with the briar. Algerian, Calabrian, Sardinian, Corsican – take your pick, but Algerian Briar is generally considered the finest smoking briar ever used. When combined with oil-curing, Algerian takes on a magical quality that even Alfred Dunhill recognized as far back as 1918 as the choice for both his Bruyere and Shell.

The Pipedia article points out the high quality of the Algerian briar and oil-curing used in the manufacturing of Edward’s pipes.  The Edward’s Handmade on the worktable fits the bill with the stamp indicating the use of this quality Algerian briar.

From the last time I worked on an Edward’s pipe, I remember that Edward’s had the serendipitous practice of stamping strange characters on their pipes.  In that former pipe I discovered a mushroom.  The Pipedia article has examples of the small decorative objects stamped into the briar.  Here are some of these:I have scoured the surface of the Hand Made on the worktable with a magnifying glass looking for one of these objects, but so far, no success.  BUT, I have looked very closely at what appears to be, ‘Er  1’ which is stamped on the underside of the shank, thinking that perhaps I wasn’t looking at it correctly.  Here it is again – not sure I see a secret character.Looking next to Pipephil.eu, more information is provided to piece together the Edward’s story.  The Edward’s panel adds more current information.  The Edward’s operation was based in Tampa, Florida, and continued to produce Algerian briar pipes at least until 2010.  The blurb describes the focus on the importation of the briar from France in the late 50s/early 60s.  It doesn’t mention the information from Pipedia that Edward’s pipes originated in Saint Claude, and the operation moved to the US during this period.In my earlier research I learned that there was still an Edward’s operational in Tampa.  A quick search turned up that Edward’s was a shop called Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco.  Their Facebook page described Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco as being a Tampa landmark since 1960.  The Edward’s logo on the FB page struck a chord in my mind – I had seen this before.I remembered then that there was also an Edward’s here in the Denver area (See: LINK), which was recommended to me by fellow pipe man, Todd Platek.  I had the privilege of visiting this Denver area Edward’s recently, and it was well worth the visit – good selections of blends, tins, and the classic ambiance one would expect with several leather chairs to sit, enjoy a bowl, and get to know others doing the same.

Edward’s no longer produces pipes today.  I found a thread describing a visit to the Tampa based Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco at Pipesmagazine.com.  The posting was in 2020 and described the tobaccos available at the tobacconist.  My interest increased when the thread discussion bent toward pipes made by Edward’s when ‘mso490’ asked this question:  Was Edwards part of the Frank company that made pipes? Was there an Edwards pipe, or maybe that was just a house pipe made by someone else? Seems like there used to be a pipe making activity in Tampa.

‘Gamzultovah’ responded: You are correct, MSO. They still had one or two of the Edward’s pipes hanging around, but they no longer produce pipes. Another interesting fact is that McCranie’s used to be an Edward’s franchise back in the day.

The thread concludes with a few other contributors talking about the quality of their Edward’s pipes:

Papamique: Edwards pipes were all made of oil cured Algerian briar. Mine are wonderful smokers.

Pappymac: I have two of the Edwards Algerian Briar pipes I found in a junk shop three years ago. I’ve never been disappointed when smoking them.

Mso489:  I believe Edwards made Benton pipes that were house pipes for Iwan Ries decades ago. I bought three of them — a billiard, a Canadian, and a bent-billiard/almost Oom-Paul, all of the mentioned oil cured Algerian briar, all of which have aged extremely well and look almost new.

Edward’s pipes are no longer being produced by Edward’s.  Sometime after 2010 it appears that production ceased or other manufacturers were contracted to make Edward’s pipes, and Edward’s itself became more exclusively a tobacconist and not a pipe producer.  One thing that comes through very clearly through the research – the Algerian briar and oil curing used to produce Edward’s pipes historically, is seen as a superior briar from the descriptions and testimonies.  The oil treatment of the Algerian briar seems to have produced a quality smoking pipe.

The Pipedia Edward’s article has several very nice examples of Handmades which appear to be top-shelf pipes.  Here are a few (all courtesy Doug Valitchka).With a renewed appreciation for the Edward’s story, I take a closer look at the Edward’s Handmade that Stacy commissioned on the worktable.  The grain is absolutely superb.  The striking vertical grain splays into flames as it reaches toward the broad rim or plateau.  The positioning of the pipe’s design to a block of Algerian briar was spot on.  It strikes me that the flame grain may have inspired the sculpting chiseled into the briar landscape.  When I first looked at them, I thought that they might be mountains.  However, they strike me now as flames rising.  The sculpting on the plateau is especially suggestive of a flame trail like the side exhaust pipes of an old model beefed up muscle car…perhaps 😊.The briar surface needs cleaning and there are many small scratches that have developed through normal wear.The plateau has mild lava build up and grunge in the sculpted flames.The 2 1/8-inch-deep chamber has a thin layer of cake build up which is the proper amount, but it will be cleaned to give fresh briar a start.The brown marbled acrylic stem is very attractive.  It is dirty and has mild tooth chatter and minor scratches.  The stem should clean up very nicely.To begin the clean-up of this Edward’s Handmade, I first start with the acrylic stem.  Using pipe cleaners moistened with isopropyl 99%, the airway is cleaned. One pipe cleaner was all that was needed.Next, the stem is taken to the sink to wash it with warm water and liquid dish washing soap.  There is basic grime and accumulated dust on the acrylic surface and clearing this away helps me to see more clearly the issues on the bit.  There is some tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit most of which should sand out.  However, there is one, compression on the upper side that needs to be addressed.  I’ve marked it with the arrows.  The other chatter on the bit and button lip should sand out.The lower bit has 2 small compressions that would take quite a bit of sanding to erase.  I will patch these as well.Patching these compressions is done using regular clear CA glue.  First, the bit is cleaned with alcohol using a cotton pad.  Then, a spot-drop of glue is applied over each compression.  An accelerator is applied to quicken the curing process.  To make sure that the patches are fully cured, I put the stem aside for a time.Turning now to the stummel, the first step is to clear the chamber of the light layer of carbon cake.  Due to the sharp conical angle of the chamber as it tapers toward the floor, my regular reaming kit, Pipnet, will not work.I turn to my vintage Kleen Reem Pipe Tool by the W. J. Young Co.  I found this reaming tool at a flea market some years ago in Kentucky.  It has a very narrow posture and expands gradually as the adjustment knob on the end is turned.After the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool continues to scrape the chamber wall and it reaches down very nicely into the hard to get to floor of this Handmade.Next, the chamber is sanded with 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to remove the last vestiges of carbon.After all is done, the chamber is wiped with a cotton pad and after an inspection of the chamber wall, I detect no heating problems with cracks or fissures.With the chamber cleaned, next the external briar is cleaned using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad as a scrubber.  The picture below shows the grime coming off on the cotton pad.  A bristled toothbrush helps to scrub the crevasses of the sculpting and the brass brush helps to remove the grime from the plateau.Next, the stummel is taken to the sink and using warm water and anti-oil liquid dish washing soap, the internals are scrubbed with shank brushes.  Following this the stummel is thoroughly rinsed and brought back to the worktable.To continue the cleaning process on the internals, pipe cleaners and cotton buds moistened with isopropyl 99% are used to clean.  It doesn’t happen often, but only after a few pipe cleaners and cotton buds emerging unsoiled, I determine the internals to be clean.  A very nice surprise.With the basic cleaning completed, I take a closer look at the condition of the stummel.  The cleaning did a great job removing the grime.  I see only a very small stain area on the plateau which should be addressed with light sanding.The cleaning also revealed some fills hidden in the sculpting. They are solid so there’s no need to excavate and refill them.This picture shows the cleaned grain landscape which will come out very nicely with light sanding.  There are tiny scratches here and there that sanding will erase.To lightly sand the stummel, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is used starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 grade pads.  During the micromesh process, I enjoy watching the grain emerge and become sharper. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mark Hoover’s product, ‘Before & After Restoration Balm’ will do with this grain.  The Balm does a great job bringing out the hues of the grain.  After placing Balm on some fingers, the Balm is worked into the briar and also into the sculpted patches.  After a thorough application, the stummel is set aside for 10 minutes allowing the Balm to do its work.After 10 minutes, microfiber cloths are used to wipe/buff the excess Balm.  The results are great – the deep oil finish is rich.  I like what I see.As the briar darkens through the process, the fills in the sculpted flame patches stand out and need to be blended.To do this, several dye sticks are tested in a very minute way to determine which looks the best.  The cherry dye stick is determined to be the best after looking at all the results.  The match isn’t perfect, but the sculpted contrasts mask well the doctoring.The stummel is put aside and focus is shifted again to the stem.  The CA glue patches on the acrylic stem have fully cured and the next step is to file down the patch mounds with a squared needle file.  The goal is to file down the mounds flush with the acrylic surface without causing collateral damage on the acrylic surface around the patch.  The first picture is the upper bit.The lower bit patches have been filed down and an example of collateral damage can be seen in the cut below the patch – a wandering file edge….With the patch mounds filed down, the next step is to sand the bit, upper and lower, with 240 grade sanding paper to remove the file marks, smooth the patches further and to erase the other tooth chatter on the bit and button – upper and lower.The sanding is expanded to the entire stem by wet sanding with 600 grade paper and this is followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool. During this phase of sanding/polishing, I closely inspect the bit area for small pits or compressions that were masked by the heavier sanding which produces a lot of acrylic dust.  I did need to go back a few times to 240 paper to spot sand a few missed areas.Next, 9 micromesh pads are used to continue the fine sanding/polishing starting with wet sanding with pads 1500, 1800 to 2400 grade.  Following this dry sanding continues with pads 3200, 3600 to 4000 and 6000, 8000, and 12000 grade pads.  Between each set of 3 pads, a light application of Obsidian oil is placed on the stem to condition.  Sanding the fancy stem with its bulged bands and fins was no quick proposition.  The results though are worth it.  The marble fire of the acrylic came alive through the micromesh process. Now, the home stretch.  The acrylic stem and stummel are rejoined and with a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted on the rotary tool with the speed set at 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the pipe.After the application of Blue Diamond, a felt cloth is used to wipe/buff the pieces to clear the compound dust in preparation for the wax.  Not shown is the use of a toothpick to trace and scrape any residue compound from the crevasses of the sculpted fire patches.With the speed remaining the same, another cotton cloth wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and carnauba wax is applied over the entire pipe.  When the wax has been applied, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.The ‘flame’ theme of this Edward’s Handmade is spot on.  The first thing one is drawn to glancing at this pipe is the long, vertical, flame grain.  It wraps around the bowl, and spans from the heel reaching to the plateau.  The sculpted patches also bring to mind flames.  The fancy acrylic stem’s marbled browns are also on fire complementing the rest of the presentation in a striking manner.  The Algerian briar brought to the US from France has been showcased perfectly in this Edward’s Handmade. Stacy commissioned this Handmade as a gift for his son, Levi.  As the commissioner, he has the first opportunity to claim the Edward’s from The Pipe Steward Store, benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Starting with a ‘before & after’ to see how far we’ve come.  Thanks for joining me!

Please pray for Ukraine.

 

One thought on “New life for a Striking Edward’s Handmade Algerian Briar

  1. Pingback: New life for a Striking Edward’s Handmade Algerian Briar – Urban Fishing Pole Lifestyle

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