Old Wood – New Pipe
I was very fortunate the other day. I found someone selling some very old pipes. Nothing new in that you might say, there are a thousand of them on Ebay every day. And you would be right. The difference here is, that these pipes are unsmoked. Which makes them new. From 1920 odd. How about that? Talk about air dried briar. These pipes are nearly ninety years old. And I still haven’t gotten round to filling them up and smoking their first charge of tobacco in that long and pristine life. They were found in an attic in Germany after the death of a tobacconist. They have been in that family for a long time. I assume, it was a family business.
Both pipes have a French feel about them. I believe they were made in St. Claude, the home and birthplace of briar pipes. One is marked “Racine Bruyere Extra”. There was a pipemaker, Olivier Racine. This could be one from his workshop. I have a hard time with this though, as racine is also French for root. But I like to think it is a Racine, with a capital “R”. The second is not stamped in any way with a name. Merely “Bruyere Garantie”, which is absolutely French and supports my St. Claude theory. The pipe makers of St. Claude were a humble lot. Everyone was in on the business. The entire village population was involved in one way or another. No need for a carvers name, as just the town’s name was enough. At that time, the “Bruyere Garantie” stamp was its own passport and absolute credential.
The larger “Racine” pipe is fitted with an aluminium inner tube, much like the Dunhill pipes of the same name. Inner Tube. This was designed as a channelling device for the smoke, allowing any tar or other goo to collect in the shank. One has to boil these inner tubes occasionally to free them from carbon and tar build up. Both pipes have horn stems and, what I believe to be, bone tenons. There are no marks or damage on either pipe. The airways on both pipes are wide open. The engineering is a little naive but very good. Solid handiwork all the way through. Both pipes are decorated with low grade silver rings which have taken on a copperish hue after the long years in the attic. I will not be trying to polish these rings to a silver shine. They appear almost golden to the naked eye. Please note, I have not needed to polish these two at all. They are as new.
I may part with one of them at a later date. I am not sure yet. I believe that I will definitely keep the Racine. It is large and heavy enough to be interesting and I will probably end up loving the old thing to death. Horn between the teeth is a new feeling altogether and cannot be compared easily to vulcanite or acrylic stems. I absolutely adore the old buttons on the stems. Large enough to be comfortable but without being so large as to make me salivate uncontrollably. The old pipe makers obviously knew their stuff.
Enough said, I will leave you with the pictures. Enjoy them as much as I do.
Now then, where do I find some ninety year old tobacco…?