I pulled this Medico Double-Dri pipe out of my refurb box the other day. It had been rattling around in there for a while, and I decided it was time to do something about it.
There are several well-known brands of pipes designed with removable and interchangeable bowls – the Falcon and Kirsten pipes jump to mind. The Double-Dri was Medico’s foray into the field, though where the Falcon pipe used aluminium for its shank, the Double-Dri used another 1950’s Space Age material, Nylon, for both shank and stem. Press-fit bowls were available in briar or the more expensive meerschaum. I couldn’t find much information online when I set about researching the Double-Dri pipes, though I did come across this Medico advertisement in the March 1955 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine.
This ad is clearly from the period before truth-in-advertising laws took effect. I wouldn’t bet the farm on the existence of hard evidence to back up any of these claims – “Smokes 35 degrees cooler!”. “Best Smoking Pipe!”. “No Goo! Double-Dri condenses it out.” “Throw Away the Nicotine!” “Rap is Real Music!”
Ok, that last one is mine, but you get the idea. I haven’t smoked this pipe so I can’t speak to whether it delivers a noticeably cooler smoke than a briar pipe, but after having cleaned it I do take exception to their No Goo claim! Granted, I wasn’t starting with a well-kept pipe to begin with. The pipe was greasy and grimey from bowl to bit. The nylon stem, while not oxidized, had a good case of tooth chatter, the bowl was dirty and had evidently been used as a hammer in the past, leaving large chunks out of the inner rim and dents and scratches on the outer. To top it off, there was a spider’s nest, complete with the corpse of its erstwhile resident, up inside the aluminium condenser. Lovely. On the up-side, both stem and shank still bore crisp factory stampings – intertwined D’s on the stem and “Medico” over “Double-Dri” on the left shank.
Before I get too far into the refurb story, I feel it necessary to issue a NYLON WARNING. Both shank and stem on this pipe are made from nylon, which MELTS when it comes in contact with alcohol. DO NOT USE ALCOHOL TO CLEAN THIS PIPE. Oxyclean, dish soap, vinegar and lemon juice are all viable alternatives.
OK, let’s get to it. The Double-Dri separates into three components – bowl, shank and stem. The bowl, being briar, went into an alcohol bath (kept far apart from the other pipe components) to soak off the gunk of ages. The exterior of both shank and stem were cleaned with Oxyclean and an old toothbrush. When the grease and grime were out of the way, I got my first good look at the “cup” of the shank, which receives the press-fit bowl. The walls of the cup are fitted with a cork-ish (probably composite) gasket to provide an air-tight seal against the push-fit tenon on the bottom of the bowl. The floor of the cup is fitted with a black, presumably heat-proof lining, which was pretty well scratched up, likely from previous attempts to clean the condensed goo out of the pipe after use. Whoops! Sorry, I forgot – there is “No Goo!” in this pipe….. er…. right. At any rate, it took a bit of scrubbing before I was sure I was looking at the surface of the lining, and not g-, er… let’s just call it “dirt”.
The airways of both shank and stem were scrubbed clean with pipe cleaners dipper in white vinegar until the cleaners came out the same colour they went in. Surprisingly, this took very little effort – perhaps the aluminium condenser in the shank cup did part of its advertised job after all.
I polished the outside of the shank with MicroMesh pads to bring up the shine a bit, and then re-blacked the factory stamping using a wax filler stick. The stem was sanded with 220 and 320 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter before it too got the MicroMesh treatment. I refreshed the “DD” stem logo with white filler stick.
Finally I turned my attention to the pipe bowl, pulling it out of the alcohol bath and scrubbing it dry with an old towel. The alcohol had done its job dissolving the tars and gunk left in the bowl, but had not, of course, improved the dents and dings. The big issue was the chunk missing from the inside rim of the bowl. On careful inspection, the damage didn’t extend past the rim of the bowl, so I opted to sand out the inner rim. This produced a gentle curve on the inner wall that reflected the curve of the outer wall. In the intermediate pic below you can see that the damage (at about the 1 o’clock position on the inner rim) is all but gone, and the new inner curve meets the rim evenly all the way around. With a bit of final sanding, you’d never know that it’s not the factory bowl profile.
I finished up by re-staining the bowl with a mix of Fiebing’s Dark Brown and Saddle Tan leather dyes. The bowl was a bit loose in its cup (the cork-ish gasket is a bit worn) so I flowed several layers of CA glue around the bowl’s push-fit tenon to beef it up enough to stay put. Then the entire pipe was gently buffed on the wheel with White Diamond compound before receiving several coats of Carnauba wax.
While much improved over its original condition, I can’t say it’s the “best looking pipe” as claimed in the old advert. Perhaps I might find another combination of the various nylon colours Medico used on these pipes more appealing, but I think I’ll categorize this Double-Dri as an interesting part of pipe history and make it available to a more enthusiastic collector. Here’s the finished pipe.