Twice a year there is a large antiques and collectibles show in my area. I love digging through the stalls at events like this, and though I’ve noticed a decided turn away from actual antiques towards “upcycled” or “gentrified old stuff” at this particular show, I still managed to come away with a few interesting pipes from this Fall’s gathering.
Among the goodies was this cased pair of pipes. The case is marked “Special” over Barling’s” over “London Make”, and indeed one of the pipes (top) is a Family Era Barling 1372. The other (bottom) is a Peterson Kapmeer 24S.
The Barling pipe came with a heavily damaged stem, which will be the subject of another blog post. Today we’ll deal with the Kapmeer.
First, a bit of history. Peterson’s Kapmeer line was produced between 1968 and 1981 and differed from other meerschaum-lined briar pipes by the use of a meerschaum tube, open at both ends, instead of a complete bowl liner. The theory here was that a briar chamber floor would hold up better under actual use than a fragile meerschaum liner. I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the design but sales must have been satisfactory for Peterson to keep the line going for 13 years.
With a bit more research I found I could narrow down the dating on this Pete a bit more. From 1968 to 1971 the Kapmeer line used standard stems with push tenons. From 1972 to 1981, Peterson used something called a “Unifit” stem system, a three-part setup consisting of a shank liner, a connector (tenon) and a stem. This Kapmeer 24S is fitted with a standard stem, so it was made in the earlier period between 1968 and 1971.
Here are pics of the pipe as it looked when I brought it to the worktable. The pipe was dirty overall, with a fairly thick crust of lava and carbon cake slipping up and over the rim of the bowl. It was difficult to say where the meerschaum liner ended and the cake began. The stem also had issues – it was heavily oxidized to a yellow-brown colour, and a good sized chunk of Vulcanite was missing from the upper button, exposing most of the airway slot to daylight.
The stem is stamped with the Peterson “P”, while the left shank is marked “PETERSON’S” over “KAPMEER”. The right shank is stamped “MADE IN THE” over “REPUBLIC” over “OF IRELAND” followed by a shape number, “24S”. I couldn’t find any information on the shape code, but the pipe is, for Peterson, a smaller, almost pencil shanked Straight Billiard. The “S” indicates a Saddle stem.
I started cleanup operations by reaming the old cake from the chamber, working carefully with reamer and sandpaper to remove the cake without damaging the meerschaum liner. These pics show the state of the rim and chamber after reaming.
To smooth out the multitude of small dents and dings on the rim and tidy up the briar-to-meer- junction, I topped the bowl lightly on some 320-grit sandpaper, again taking care not to remove more material than was necessary. The pipe was already starting to look much better!
I dropped the stem into a bath of Oxyclean and warm water to raise and soften the oxidation while I continued to work on the stummel. I was a bit surprised how clean the internals were, given the amount of old cake I had removed from the chamber. It only took a few pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to clear out the remnants.
While cleaning the stummel I found a couple of old fills that needed some attention.
I mixed up some filler material using briar dust and thick CA glue and dropped it into each divot. When the CA was fully cured, I filed and sanded the patches flush to the surrounding briar.
When I was happy with the fills, I wet-sanded the entire stummel using 400, 800, 1000 and 2000 grit papers, carefully avoiding the stamps which were in great shape.
To refresh the finish and blend the sanded areas with the old, I stained the briar first with a coat of Fiebing’s Black leather dye. When the dye had dried, I removed most of the black using a damp Magic Eraser, leaving the colour only in the softer grain. I use water-based dyes, so this process is easier than if I used alcohol-based versions.
A diluted wash coat of Fiebing’s Saddle Tan dye went on over the black to bring out the reds and browns in the natural briar, and a wipe of mineral oil helped finish things off while injecting some moisture into the wood.
I let the oil sit on the briar for a few minutes before buffing away the excess with a towel. At this point the stummel was ready to go to the buffer for final polishing, so I set it aside to rest and rescued the stem from its Oxyclean soak.
The Oxy had done its job softening the oxidation, which came away easily with some 0000 steel wool and Magic Eraser. Here it is after being scrubbed clean. I ran a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol through the airway to remove any stubborn tar or debris, but as you can see, it was very clean inside.
Now it was time to sort out the damaged button. this pic is a bit blurry but shows the extent of the area to be repaired. Essentially the centre of the upper button had been bitten away along with most of the “roof” over the V-shaped slot at the end of the airway.
Regular readers will have seen this particular technique many times on DadsPipes, but for those just joining in the fun, this repair centres on the curious fact that CA glue does not stick to tape. I’m using regular Scotch tape here, but any brand will do equally well.
The first step is to create a form for the slot at the end of the stem. I cut a wedge of cardboard to fit edge to edge inside the slot, and covered it with tape. I added enough tape to beef up the cardboard so that the wedge completely filled the slot.
With the wedge pushed securely into the end of the stem, I applied a roughly 50/50 mixture of thick CA glue and activated charcoal powder to the damaged area, deliberately over-filling the missing Vulcanite. I let this cure completely overnight before wiggling the wedge out and revealing the new slot. The patch is messy looking but the edges of the slot are nice and crisp.
I added some more patch mix to the upper and lower buttons to give me enough material to work with when carving the new buttons. While that cured, I filled in the “P” logo with some white correction fluid (aka Liquid Paper to us old guys). When it was dry I scrubbed away the excess with 0000 steel wool, revealing the refreshed logo. Not bad at all!
Getting back to the button repair, I used several files to cut in the rough shape of the new button then refined the shape with sandpaper.
This closeup shot of the upper button illustrates a perennial issue with this repair technique – CA glue cures due to a chemical reaction which unfortunately also causes tiny bubbles to form in the process. The lighter spots on the button below are pits left behind where I have sanded through these micro-bubbles.
Thankfully, the solution is easy though it does require patience. A skim coat of thin CA glue will fill the tiny depressions and give a solid surface after sanding. It’s not unusual to have to repeat the process several times to achieve a perfectly smooth repair.
When I was happy with the state of the button, I sanded and polished the stem to 2000-grit, then applied a light wipe of mineral oil to refresh the Vulcanite.
I let the oil sit on the stem for a few minutes before buffing way the excess with a towel. When the stem no longer felt oily, I reunited stem and stummel and took the pipe to the buffer. I gave the entire pipe a run on the Tripoli wheel to remove any stray sanding scratches then moved to the White Diamond wheel to bring up the shine. A few light coats of Carnauba wax finished off this restoration and gave the pipe a high gloss shine.
This nearly 50 year old Peterson Kapmeer is transformed after its time on the bench, having gone from manky old relic to sharp vintage smoker in the span of just a few days. It is ready to find a new piper for whom it will perform admirably, I have no doubt. For now, though not strictly speaking a boxed set of pipes, I’m going to set this Kapmeer aside until I’ve finished working on the Barling 1372 with which it has shared a case for many years.
Thanks for joining me for this restoration adventure. Here’s the finished pipe.
Until next time, Happy Piping!