A Quick Refresh for a Grabow CDL

Sometimes a product doesn’t catch on with the public until some time after it has been put to bed – movies that scrape by at the box office but sell millions of copies when released to DVD; books that sit on shelves or in boxes until someone writes a golden review; pipes that don’t do well in test markets but develop a fan base decades later.

Today’s estate pipe refurb is one of those latter cases. The Dr Grabow CDL (Cooler, Dryer, Lighter) is an interesting pipe – a briar bowl fitted to a thin metal stem that flares at the end to accept a Grabow paper filter and a soft Nylon bit. Test marketed in select American cities between 1975 and 1983, the CDL was never put into full production but pipe smokers that own one of the rare test samples seem to love their smoking characteristics.

This info, taken from the smokingmetal.co.uk site, is about the best available online:

Not totally sure where this pipe fits in. Metal stem it certainly has, but unsure if bowl is meant to be detachable
6.2 inches long and the facility to take an in line filter in the stem. The stem continues right through the bowl and enables air to be drawn through from front of bowl as well as smoke from bowl…..
Ed James tells me that CDL is for Cooler,Dryer,Lighter. He has a display card with this on, the pipe retailed at $4.95 at that time.

“A couple of other things I remember about the CDL pipe. It was produced from 1975 to 1983 in limited qualities and test marketed in several U.S. cities but apparently never mass marketed” from Dave Whitney

Found at http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=391

And this advertisement, found on Pipephil.eu, explains the inner workings of the CDL pipe in more detail. The “Magni-” prefix on all the parts certainly screams 1970s to me….

The pipe had been only lightly smoked when it came to me, so it didn’t need much cleanup. The most egregious issue was a bit of charred briar on the rim at the four o’clock position and some tooth chatter on the nylon stem.

This closeup of the bottom of the bowl shows that the factory stamps have been covered by cross-hatching. Normally I’d say this indicates a factory reject but close examination of the pipe brought no flaws to light. Given the unsuccessful test marketing, I wonder if the cross-hatching on the rim and base of the bowl might have been done after the decision to scrap the line was taken?

I was able to find a picture of the original factory stamps on Pipephil.eu. The stamps read “Dr Grabow”, arched, over “CDL” over “Imported Briar”, arched.

As I mentioned previously, the pipe had seen very little use. An exploratory pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol proved that the airway were already clean. I dug a few old tobacco scraps out of the bowl, but otherwise the pipe was clean.

The nylon stem, however, was another matter. Though clean on the inside, the exterior had patches of tooth chatter on both the top and bottom of the bit. This is virtually unavoidable with a nylon stem – the material is nice and soft in the teeth but its softness works against it for longevity. Nylon is also notoriously difficult to sand, smooth and polish for the same reason. This pic shows the stem after sanding with 220 grit through 2000 grit papers.

As you can see, the nylon stem, soft and easily scratched, doesn’t polish up like vulcanite and is nowhere near as easy to work with as acrylic. To bring up the shine as far as possible, I took the pipe to the buffer and worked the stem on both the Red Tripoli and White Diamond wheels. This improved the stem’s appearance quite a bit – the stem isn’t perfect, but given the material limitations, it is now likely as good as it can get and is far from distracting.

While I was at the wheel, I gave the briar bowl a light buffing with White Diamond compound and followed up by applying a few light coats of Carnauba wax to the entire pipe.

The finished Grabow CDL is an interesting bit of pipe history, and arguably a design that was ahead of its time – the Nording Compass series comes to mind as a very similar modern pipe. I wonder how the CDL would sell in today’s pipe market?

This example of the CDL design sports a Dublin bowl which boasts some very attractive grain and no visible fills or flaws. If I were to keep it for my own rack and rotation, I would be tempted to take the pipe back to the worktable and top the bowl lightly to remove both the cross-hatching and the scorch mark. The 360-degree vertical grain on the sides of the bowl promise a lovely field of Birdseye on the rim, but I’ll leave it as-is for now.

If you’d like to add this Dr Grabow CDL Dublin to your collection, it is available on the Pipe Inventory page now.

Thanks for joining me for this quick refurb post. Until next time, Happy Piping!

Here’s the finished pipe.