Leather-clad pipes were popular between the end of the Second World War and the late 1970s/early 1980s. First marketed in the 1940s by Longchamp in France as a way to utilize less-than-perfect briar bowls, customers, especially Allied soldiers stationed in France, quickly embraced leather-clad pipes, prompting other firms to hop on the trend.
The pipe on the table today is an interesting example, probably dating form the early 1980s, based on the condition of the black suede leather wrapping. It would be a Pot shape if the bowl wasn’t squeezed into an oval. Very little of the briar is visible, with only a thin slice of rim showing above the leather but covered with a crust of carbon lava. The vulcanite stem was oxidized a yucky yellow-brown, partially obscuring the white Viking ship logo on its left flank. It also had tooth chatter showing on both sides of the bit near the button.
I twisted the stem out of the shank and immediately noticed a strip of what looked like paper wrapped around about half the circumference of the tenon. My guess is that this was a DIY attempt at tightening the stem fit, but I’m not quite sure what the previous owner was up to. I found no difference in the stem fit, good or bad, after picking off the paper and remounting the stem in the shank.
There was a respectable but not excessive layer of cake in the tobacco chamber which I removed with sandpaper wrapped around a thin dowel. I got lucky here – the dowel was an almost perfect match to the curve at the ends of the oval chamber.
I used a bit of 1000-grit wet sandpaper to remove the carbon crust from the rim surface. Doing so also lightened the finish, so I used one of my touchup markers to blend the rim colour into the surrounding briar. Once it was clean, the rim revealed some nice cross-grain.
There was really nothing to do to the suede wrap other than removing the collected lint so I moved on to the stummel’s internals, scrubbing the shank and airway with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol. It didn’t take much work to get things clean.
Moving on to the stem, I removed the oxidation by wet-sanding the vulcanite with sandpaper in 400 through 2000-grit, working carefully around the logo to avoid damaging the only manufacturer’s stamp on the pipe. The end result looks good overall, but the finished pics below reveal a bit of oxidation not visible to the naked eye hiding in the hull of the Viking ship.
after west-sanding, I took the stem to the buffing wheel for a run of both Red Tripoli and White Diamond compound to erase the light sanding scratches and bring up the shine. I also lightly buffed the exposed briar rim, being careful not to get compound on the suede wrapper. I finished up by applying a few light coats of Carnauba to both stem and rim.
The refreshed pipe is now much more attractive than the rather unloved looking piece I started with. The black suede is clean and in excellent condition, and the red-brown briar rim shines gently on top. The original stem is clean and fresh and fits snugly in the shank mortise.
The unique flat oval shape of the stummel should make this pipe easy to carry in a jacket pocket, while the more or less standard proportions of the rest of the pipe avoid having this leather-clad feel like a toy, unlike many other “pocket pipes”.
If you’d like to add this Leather Clad Oval Pot to your rack and rotation, or perhaps to a lucky pipe smoker’s stocking this Holiday season, it is available on the Pipe Inventory page now.
Thanks for joining me for this quick estate pipe cleanup. Until next time, Happy Piping!
Here’s the finished pipe.