This beautiful GOC President freehand pipe is one of a handful of non-Danish pipes I received in my recent estate lot purchase, hailing instead from St. Claude, France. It was an eye-catcher right out of the box with its gracefully flowing shape and horn shank extension. I wondered at first whether this might be a French attempt at a Bo Nordh Ramses shape , but Gros-Grenier-Ostorero & Cie, GOC’s parent company, closed its doors in 1981 while Nordh debuted the Ramses shape in 2002/03. Though the long, stretched out GOC is similar in style to the Ramses, an internal examination showed that this pipe is more closely related to a Peterson System pipe with a deep well extending down the shank beyond the bottom of the bowl.
The pipe arrived in quite good used condition. It had the look of a favourite pipe that had been handled gently and in well-controlled situations, perhaps while sitting in a favourite armchair. There was a thin layer of tars on the flat rim, with a small scorched area at about the 7 o’clock position. An uneven but relatively thin layer of cake lined the bowl. The stem was lightly oxidized and had some mineral buildup at the bit, and a few light tooth marks.
The pipe is stamped “GOC” in an oval over “President” in block letters on the left shank, and “Saint Claude” in block letters on the right shank. There is no shape number but the rear of the shank is stamped with a “Made in France” oval COM (Country of Manufacture) stamp just below the horn shank extension. The COM mark is crisp and well struck, though the other stamps are slightly marred by over-buffing. The stem is also stamped “GOC” on the left side near the tenon. This stamp escaped the buffer and is still nice and crisp.
I used my Castleford reamer to clear the old cake from the tobacco chamber. The cake near the bottom of the bowl proved quite dense and took some effort to remove but eventually the bowl was clean. The chamber was in great shape, although the draft hole was slightly above the chamber floor.
Before getting into the internal cleaning, I gave the outside of the stummel a scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap and an old toothbrush. This removed any old oils, dirt and wax that had built up on the briar over time and also softened the rim tars, which came off with encouragement from a bit of 0000 steel wool. With the briar clean, the full extent of the scorch mark is visible.
I set up a sheet of 220-grit sandpaper on my desktop and gently topped the rim to remove the damaged briar. I worked slowly and checked my progress often to make sure I didn’t remove more briar than necessary. You can see in the pic below that I had to hang the long shank over the edge of the desk in order to get the rim flat on the sandpaper. I kept the sandpaper well away from the edge of the desk to avoid accidentally sanding a divot in the shank.
The topping removed most of the damaged briar, and a small bevel on the inside edge of the rim took care of the rest. The topping uncovered two tiny, pinhead-sized flaws in the briar. I’d come back to those later.
I moved on to cleaning the internals of the stummel. I had expected to have to spend a fair bit of time and effort to clean old tars and accumulated gunk from the well. Unfortunately the retort was not a practical option for this pipe (the pipe holds more alcohol than the retort), so I cleaned it up the old-school way, with lots of pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.
In a way, I found the repetitive and rather mindless task of dipping a cleaner or swab in alcohol, scrubbing it around inside the stummel and wiping it out with a dry swab oddly restful, almost like a meditation of sorts. I kind of just turned off my brain and let my hands do the work until the cleaners came out the same colour as they went into the pipe.
If you look carefully at the above picture, you can see that the pipe cleaner on top is really very clean. The well of this system pipe, however, held more dark secrets which revealed themselves during the salt and alcohol treatment. The purpose of the salt and alcohol is to reach below the surface of the briar and pull the deep-seated contaminants out of the wood and into the salt. This gets the pipe really clean and also removes odours. No one likes lighting up an estate pipe only to be assaulted by the ghosts of tobaccos past.
While I normally use cotton balls in the shank to catch dissolved tars, for this pipe I packed the shank with pipe cleaners pushed all the way to the bottom of the well. This series of pictures shows the stummel at the beginning of the treatment and after sitting for 24 hours. Just look how much more tar and muck was pulled from the wood. Yum!
While the stummel was enjoying its deep cleaning, I worked on the stem, starting with a few pipe cleaners and alcohol to clear out the airway. I moved on to a scrub with Meguiar’s Scratch-X to remove the light oxidation from the Vulcanite stem. As many of you know, I regularly employ an Oxyclean soak to lift oxidation from estate stems, but the oxidation was so light here that the Scratch-X was all that was required to return the stem to a dark, lustrous black.
The cleaning revealed two tooth dents in the bit, one on the top and one on the bottom. I was able to raise both dents with heat, washing the flame from a lighter over the area to re-expand the compressed spots.
I then smoothed out the remaining tooth chatter with various grits of sandpaper and sanding sponges, and sharpened up the edge of the button with a flat needle file.
I moved back to the stummel at this point and drop-filled the pinholes in the briar with clear CA glue. When it had cured, I sanded the excess glue away. I gave the entire stummel a very light sanding with an extra-fine sanding sponge to erase the sanding marks from the fills, then wiped the entire stummel with mineral oil. The oil really livens up the wood and makes the grain pop, especially on virgin finishes like this pipe. I let the oil soak in for about 20 minutes before rubbing off the excess with an old towel.
Then it was time to buff and wax! The intricate shape of the stummel made this pipe a challenge to buff on the wheel, but patience and a light touch paid off. After a run of White Diamond compound and several coats of Carnauba wax, this GOC President is once again looking its Executive best, ready to grace the desk of any CEO on the planet.
The natural finish of the briar shows off the beauty of the wood grain and the horn shank extension gives the stummel a further touch of class. The freehand shape is very tactile – it’s hard to resist running your fingers along its graceful curves – and the long, full bend balances the pipe perfectly in the mouth. Weighing in at a mere 2 oz/58g, this will be a very comfortable pipe to hang from the jaw while smoking. If that sounds good to you, watch for this GOC President to appear in the DadsPipe Store soon.
Here’s the finished pipe. Thanks for looking and until next time, Happy Piping.