Evaluating Estate Pipes in the Wild

Discussion in 'Need Pipe Smoking Advice? Ask an Old Fart!' started by AlabammyComet, Jul 16, 2012.

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  1. AlabammyComet

    AlabammyComet Member

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    First of all, let me say how glad I am to have found this forum. I've learned a lot just by using the search function. Thank you all for the knowledge & experience you share here.

    On to my question...

    My wife & I love prowling antique malls & thrift stores. Now that I've contracted the PIPE MADNESS, I'm going to be on the look out for good, affordable estate pipes during these adventures.

    I'm concerned, however, that I won't be able to tell a good find from a clunker that's un-smokeable or beyond my abilities to clean/restore.

    Can anyone offer any simple tips that could help me evaluate such pipes in the wild with my limited knowlege? What are some good signs? What are some deal breakers?

    Thanks!
     
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  2. BurghBriar

    BurghBriar Member

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    Some basics:

    A briar pipe can almost always be cleaned up, so dirt and cake aren't necessarily bad. Also a vulcanite stem can look like hell because of oxidation and be pale brown or almost green, but you can bring them back easily, there's lots of how-to videos out there. Look closely for cracks in the bowl and signs of abuse -- chips, deep teethmarks or burnout can't generally be fixed, though you can always get a replacement stem if it looks like a chew toy. Check for any markings or logos to see if they sound familiar (reading the forum will give you a working vocabulary). Examine the grain and finish for consistency or wear. Bringing along a pipe cleaner and seeing if it will go through the stem to the bowl can give you a pretty good idea of the consistency of the drilling: a pipe's drawhole should be at the bottom center of the bowl, ideally.

    Keep your budget low to begin with. Lot of antique/vintage/junk stores have a pipe or two laying around, if you like it and it's cheap, the worse thing is that it turns out to be a tuition payment and you can practice refurbishing skills. The best thing is that you stumble across a great pipe! If something really grabs you, it's always worth bargaining a little, but don't insult the proprietor: if they've marked it at $25, ask if they can do $15 or $20, not $2. Finally, always ask if there are more pipes, I've been in antique shops where there turns out to be a box of them in the back.

    Good luck and Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware).
     
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  3. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator

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    Figure there is about 1 remarkable Dunhill find per 5000 spent Medicos and Dr. Grabows; great finds in the wild are uncommon but they do happen. Buy a few wasted losers for $5 on ebay and practice cleaning them up so you'll know what you can and cannot do with nasty looking finds.

    Inspect wild finds carefully for cracks, fills and any sign of burnout; try to get a handle on logos, pipe brands and their relative values.

    I've looked for nice pipes at flea markets and antique stores for years and never came up with more than a cool old "Birdie" cob. Then I read about some rookie finds a box full of famous brands at a garage sale for $25. It's tough out there in the wild. Have a ball.
     
  4. Kiowapipe

    Kiowapipe Active Member

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    Good advice so far. Also, just watching eBay and hanging around here will get you served with knowledge relatively quickly.
     
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  5. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator

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    Yes - knowledge.

    Sam at finepipes.com writes micro-encyclopedic historical/descriptive copy. Read his tremendous sales copy and become wise.
     
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  6. SmokeyJoe

    SmokeyJoe Active Member

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    A small flashlite and a pocket magnifier or loupe will help you ID the pipemaker and spot cracks and chips.
    Like Mr Moo, I've been actively hunting at antique shops, thrift stores, garage and estate sales. I've found 100's of gnarly Grabows and other low-enders, and one, one, decent pipe, a Peterson, for 5 bucks, that will take hours of work to be presentable. Of course, I do come across all kinds of cool things to buy that I really don't need, so I do enjoy the venture. Part of my dis-advantage is geographical, in that here in SoCal, the prevailing hysterical anti-smoking sentiment mean there's just not a lot of stuff here to find. Several thrift stores here have told me that they routinely destroy all tobacco related products that they receive.:doh:
     
  7. Professor

    Professor Active Member

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    +1 that ^
     
  8. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator

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    The hysteria goes beyond anti-smoking, by the way. Why, a citizen can barely club a SF harbor seal without raising eyebrows. :D
     
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  9. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator

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    LOVE that espression, by thee way.
     
  10. SmokeyJoe

    SmokeyJoe Active Member

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    Too True. The sea lions have taken over a portion of a SF marina, sinking some docks with their weight. And the stench....
    http://www.cosmotourist.com/photo/d/m/819533/t/san-francisco/sea-lions-at-pier-39/
    (some think it's a cute tourist attraction, while others, ahem, have a different opinion)
     
  11. Waino

    Waino Active Member

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    I would look condition. These all looked mostly awful when they came. I would have thrown them somewhere. So thought the sellers. Price varied between 5$ - 50$ a piece. But Mr Johansson cleans and polishes them properly. He can spend a full working day to 1-3 pipes. He uses drill, different kinds of paper, salt, vodka and wax.

    Result is astonishing and price gets higher. This can give some perspective about age and condition/price. And there is always "air" in price.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/57789865@N02/
     
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  12. Raffxr7

    Raffxr7 Active Member

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    Watch out for brylon pipes, they are made from glue & briar sawdust. Not worth fixing, they smoke like crap (runs hot, heavier, no benefits like a real briar pipe has) I was bit last weekend by a brylon, I couldn't tell what it was at first and it had the usual beat up pipe characteristics. WAY too much cake, a crack in the bowl from it trying to be pushed off from the cake building... and a wobbly stem that was taped. After I gave it a soak in alcohol to loosen the cake, it came apart on me when I pulled it out. End result? it's sitting in it's own private drawer, in case I ever decide to put it back together as a display stand pipe... I wouldn't even fix it and give it away, it may make a potential pipe smoker run the other way :( I have no idea how to spot one of these without removing the paint (it shouldn't be stained, it has no grain pattern-be cautious with no name/etc painted pipes.. all I can say)
     
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