If you are a lover of oversized or extra large pipes, then this post is for you! This Comoy’s Extraordinaire 800 Straight Billiard was sent to me recently along with a few other pipes for restoration. There was a short laundry list of tasks to get this pipe ready for a new steward – a layer of carbon “lava” across the wide rim, missing briar from careless dottle-knocking, a few shrunken fills and tooth chatter and a light amount of oxidation on the Vulcanite stem – but the first thing I (or anyone) notices about this pipe is its size – it’s a beast!
Measuring just over 7-1/4″ long and boasting a 2″ tall bowl and 1″ chamber bore, this pipe is, shall we say, less than subtle. The Comoy’s Extraordinaire line was reserved for oversized and/or unusual pipes, while the 800-series shape numbers indicate Magnum-sized pipes. Perfect for Paul Bunyan or perhaps as a substitute for a churchwarden for us lesser mortals?
This series of pictures shows the pipe as it looked when it first came to the worktable. Not bad, all things considered, but there was definitely room for improvement.
This close-up shot shows the Three-Piece C logo, made from three separate sizes of rod stock, on the left flank of the stem.
The stummel is marked “Comoy’s” (arched) over “Extraordinare” in block letters on the left shank. The right shank carries a round “Made in England” Country of Manufacture stamp and the shape number, “800”. If I’m interpreting the stamps correctly, this Extraordinaire 800 was likely made in the 1930s. See the Comoy’s Dating Guide for reference.
And just for fun, let’s see the pipe again, along with a standard Bic lighter for reference. Still not subtle….. 🙂
While not heavily oxidized, I popped the stem into a bath of Oxyclean and warm water to soak for a bit while I worked on the stummel. This would raise and soften the oxidation present on the stem as well as help to loosen the dirt, grease and general grime from the Vulcanite, both inside and out.
The light carbon cake from the chamber surrendered easily to some sandpaper wrapped around a (rather large) dowel. The chamber walls and floor were in very good condition underneath.
To remove the rim lava, I topped the bowl very gently on some wet 1000-grit sandpaper. I worked carefully here to avoid removing any of the briar underneath the tars.
Et voila! Carbon lava gone and instead we are treated to a view of some really nice cross-grain.
Unfortunately the dottle-knocking damage was not sorted out nearly as quickly or easily as the rim lava. These shots show the extent of the damage – two spots, one on each side of the bowl.
As much as I wanted to charge on ahead and deal with the damaged briar, I held back and completed the cleaning of the stummel. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to soften and remove the old tars lurking in the shank and airway.
It was coming to the end of the day, so I packed some cotton wool into the bowl and shank and filled the stummel with more alcohol. Left to sit overnight, the alcohol would soften the deep-seated tars and other gunk inside the pipe, which would the be absorbed by the cotton wool.
The next morning, the cotton wool had changed colour from white to a light beige. This told me that my initial cleaning was fairly thorough. Nice.
I removed the cotton wool from the stummel and set it aside to air. While I waited on that, I rescued the stem from the Oxyclean bath and scrubbed it clean with a scrap of Magic Eraser. A handful of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol sorted out the airway.
I used a flat needle file to remove the worst of the tooth chatter from the bite zone of the stem, then used sandpaper in 220 trough 2000 grits to smooth and polish the Vulcanite. As this pic shows, I worked with the stem mounted to the shank to avoid rounding over the edges of the stem face.
With the stem ready for buffing, I turned my attention back tot he stummel. I applied a mix of briar dust and thick CA glue to both dottle-knocking scars on the rim and to a small fill on the side of the bowl. It looks rather ugly at this stage, but overfilling the damaged areas is essential to getting a smooth finish.
When the glue had cured, I filed and sanded things smooth – or as smooth as a first application of filler could get me. As you can see below, the fill cured with tiny micro-bubbles within it, which left a honeycomb pattern of depressions when sanded.
I used a dark brown stain marker to darken the light spots within the filler, then applied a skim coat of plain CA glue over top to fill in the micro-bubbles and other irregularities. I went through a few repeats of the glue-and-sand process before the fills were completely smooth. Patience is a real virtue here!
When I was happy with the briar repairs, I lightly sanded the entire stummel to 2000-grit, being careful not to damage the stamps on the shank.
Then it was time to restore the original finish, beginning with a contrast stain of Feibing’s Black leather dye.
When the black dye was dry, I removed as much of it as possible, leaving the black only in the grain. A top coat of Brown leather dye then went over the first coat. When the top coat was dry, I buffed away the excess by hand with a towel, then wiped a thin coat of mineral oil over the entire pipe. Both briar and Vulcanite appreciated this, as it injected a bit of much needed moisture into this 90-year-old pipe and helped set the new stain finish.
Finally, it was time to take this Magnum-sized Pot to the buffer where it received a run on both the Red Tripoli and White Diamond wheels before I applied several light coats of Carnauba wax to add shine and protect the Vulcanite from oxidation.
The finished pipe lives up to its name – it truly is extraordinary! Surprisingly oversized, especially by the standards of the 1930s, this Comoy’s Extraordinare 800 Straight Pot is sure to find a spot in a lucky collector’s rack where its classic shape and sharp lines, Cross-grain and Birdseye will make it stand out from the crowd for many years to come.
Thanks for joining me for this estate pipe restoration. This project was a welcome change from all the stem replacements I’ve been doing lately as it gave me a chance to brush up on some techniques I haven’t used in a while. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Until next time, Happy Piping! Here’s the finished pipe.