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Bowl coating, re - coating and over restoration

(29 posts)
  • Started 2 years ago by oldgeezersmoker
  • Latest reply from jpmcwjr
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    Some worthwhile thoughts from Marty Pulvers are at this link

    This subject has been beat to death in so far as it relates to new pipes and pipes you own that for one reason or another develop bowl issues. However, there are several issues raised when aftermarket sellers coat or recoat the bowls of all the pipes they offer.

    I am only posting the link, not the whole thing, but it is worth reading in its entirety. There was a previous article by Marty on this subject but I missed it and if it is archived anywhere I can not find it.

    My personal experience has involved purchasing about five or six pipes from sellers who seem to routinely recoat bowls. My own practice when I bought and sold estate pipes years ago, including on eBay, was to remove excess cake, usually stopping short of going down to the bare wood. That was sufficient to determine whether or not there was a problem. In about 20 years of activity, I never once had someone I traded or sold a pipe to complain of a bowl issue. Every now and then, in cleaning up a pipe, I would discover heat stress or a soft spot that was not apparent on first inspection. I would put those pipes aside and take them to a show, and let anyone interested determine for themselves whether or not the issue was going to be a problem beyond their ability to handle.

    Things have obviously changed. It seems the highest prices on eBay at least go to the most agressive restorers. Of the pipes I have purchased from such sellers, only one has been a problem, developing a soft spot very quickly. I know how to deal with that sort of thing, and have done so. Not a huge deal for me, but for someone else?

    But the market seems to be saying that buyers want "like new" used pipes. I am not sure that is a good thing. But, there is a saying from the old days in the New York City garment district, " If the customers want green suits, turn on the green light"

    But read Marty's article and decide for yourself.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    Anonymous

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    Mike at Briar Blues added his thoughts as well.

    http://www.briarblues.com/

    ww

    Posted 2 years ago #
  3. mothernaturewilleatusallforbreakfast

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    My only issue with re-coating is when someone re-coats a bowl and then markets it as unsmoked. I think there are a lot of smoked pipes being marketed and sold as unsmoked, and this is ethically wrong. A seller should only sell a pipe as unsmoked if he or she knows 100% that it is unsmoked. I have smoked pipes that I sent in as estates to both eBay sellers and online retailers, and watched both re-market and sell the pipes as unsmoked pipes. Otherwise, it's always buyer beware with estate pipes and we all have the choice to either buy or not buy. It's hard to fault someone for trying to make a pipe look as good as he/she can when selling it. The problem is that sometimes making a pipe look good ruins a pipe by another person's standard, which is why that person should not buy from the guy shining the green light on the suits. A very good analogy by the way.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  4. ashdigger

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    It's a good read and it lead me grabbing a birth-year Dunhill. Thanks on both counts!!

    Ubi Ignis Est?
    Posted 2 years ago #
  5. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    I'm in agreement with both Marty and Mike on this one. A pipe isn't an object that sits on a shelf. It get used and possibly abused, by its owner. It may have been smoked too wet, too hot, too often, bashed, dropped, chewed on by the family dog, and run over by a truck, any of which has a deleterious affect its smoking properties or its structural integrity. Using extreme cosmetic surgery to hide these issues means that the potential buyer is made unaware of the condition of the pipe he or she is buying.

    Instead, the buyer often pays top dollar for a pretty looking bauble, not knowing that it's been kicked half to death before being rouged up. The vast majority of estate buyers wouldn't know what telltale signs to look for beneath the immediately glossy surface. This also warps collectible value in much the same way that steroid use warped athletic performance. If you think a seller is going to be honest with you about having performed an unnatural act on the pipe up for sale, you can forget about it. The only benefit is to the seller. There's no benefit to the buyer.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

    It is pointless to argue with a fanatic since a dim bulb can't be converted into a searchlight. - Jesse Silver
    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    Lots of things can be done to a pipe that wouldn't bother me to the extent of feeling like I had had the wool pulled over my eyes or feeling like I was obliged to disclose unless asked. Sweating out minor dings on the bowl, using a heat gun on Vulcanite stems, light use of an abrasive on the top as long as the original finish remains, etc. I have done each and every one of those things to pipes I have owned for years and are not for sale.

    My working assumption now, based on the five or so I have bought, is that any pipe with a recoated bowl is recoated for the same reason I would do it - to fix an issue. In most cases that has not been the case, but one out of five is enough to where I won't bid aggressively in some prominent sellers auctions.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  7. georged

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    The debate that never ends.

    There are many variables that make the right choice of action case-dependent. All bowl coating is not created equal, for example. Waterglass is a VERY different thing than some sugar or dairy-based cosmetic coating.

    Also, the quality of the work done isn't just important, it's everything. As in, if the original maker of a pipe inspects it in hand and states categorically that it was NOT worked on after it left his shop, but it actually was, then what? (Not just a philosophical question. It has happened.)

    Personally, my only objection to "restoration" is when it is done badly. Which, unfortunately, is the case most of the time. But, unless the pipe is rare, valuable, or otherwise significant, it truly doesn't matter. (Returning non-collectable tobacco access devices to service doesn't NEED "invisible quality" work. Many people---most people?---just want to smoke their pipes, not admire them with a jeweler's loupe).

    Dogs live such short lives... and spend most it waiting for us to come home
    Posted 2 years ago #
  8. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    But, unless the pipe is rare, valuable, or otherwise significant, it truly doesn't matter. (Returning non-collectable tobacco access devices to service doesn't NEED "invisible quality" work. Many people---most people?---just want to smoke their pipes, not admire them with a jeweler's loupe).

    True, but remember that Barling a couple of years ago that was well worn and then reworked, with the seller claiming that it had "somehow survived" in such immaculate condition. That was fraud.

    When you restored two of my early Barlings we had this discussion and I pointedly didn't want plastic surgery, a sentiment with which you agreed. Just enough done to return the pipes to proper working condition.

    EDIT: The point of the article isn't that cleaning up a pipe is bad, it's lying misrepresenting the actual condition as in "new" or "barely smoked" etc, when the truth is quite different.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  9. georged

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    The point of the article isn't that cleaning up a pipe is bad, it's lying misrepresenting the actual condition as in "new" or "barely smoked" etc, when the truth is quite different.

    I agree with that 100%. If I had a magic wand, that entire lot of BS'ers would wake up to find their computers didn't work, and their hands couldn't grasp pipes. They'd just slide away like watermelon seeds, forever out of reach. Then they'd have to find something outside the PipeWorld to do.

    Human behavior is a different and separate subject, though.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    I absolutely do not agree that this issue only is a concern to museum piece collectors. How is a buyer to know whether the cover up undertaken on a defective bowl was done by someone who knew what they were doing or not? Is there a difference in smoking quality after cover-up with waterglass as opposed to diary/carbon based products? What about furnace cement, which I have seen recommended. ? Who really knows?

    The practice of widespread offerings of pipes with recoated bowls is something that has changed since I got out of the hobby 15 years ago. It seems to be expected now as a matter of course, whereas back then if I had started offering pipes so treated I would have been given the 3rd degree.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  11. georged

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    I absolutely do not agree that this issue only is a concern to museum piece collectors.

    Why does discussion on the Net so often go like this?

    I did NOT say "museum piece", I said "rare, valuable, or otherwise significant". Big difference. Out of the billions of briar pipes made in the last 150 years, only a few hundred---maybe a couple thousand---are museum material.

    "Rare, valuable, or otherwise significant" describes most of the pipes the hobby cares about. While only a small percentage of those billions, it's still a very large number.

    As for "how is a buyer to know?" and etc., the answer is the same as with anything else humans deal in, from jewelry to cars to lake front property: With a skeptical eye, fine-tuned over time with personal knowledge of the subject, and by developing relationships with trustworthy people.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  12. tschiraldi

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    OP - I'm with you. I don't want a re-coated bowl. There is a pipe I really like for sale right now, but I'll pass on it because of the re-coating. Marty also mentions "Taste" as an issue. I know this only applies to the first 20-30 bowls, but I want a Castello to taste like a Castello! The same for an Ashton. It may be covering up issues. It may misrepresent how, or how much, a pipe was smoked. It certainly changes the taste. Tasting the briar is one of the first things I do with a new pipe. Yep, I lick the inside of the bowl! You'd be amazed how differently a good hunk of briar can taste from a lesser quality (not cured properly?) piece. I have commissioned a few pipes this past year and have always insisted on no bowl coatings! just my 2 cents.

    Tim

    Posted 2 years ago #
  13. georged

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    Just to be clear, since someone is bound to make assumptions based on this thread and then repeat them as "facts", I am not a dealer of estate pipes, nor have I ever been one.

    Also, I'm not on the staff of any shop, or work for anyone in the resale business. Or ever have (other than in an occasional, specimen-at-a-time way, performing unusual or difficult tasks for trusted people.)

    Also, I have never---as in not once in my life---coated a pipe's bowl with ANYTHING to enhance its resale appeal, camouflage/hide damage, or etc. The only time I will coat a bowl is to literally save the pipe from destruction, and then only if I'm satisfied the owner isn't a dealer or "flipper". An old Barling forJesse mentioned earlier in this thread is a good example.

    I do, however, REMOVE lots of coatings. A number of people have their new purchases drop shipped to me first for just that reason, in fact. (Makers are bigger fans of the practice than smokers)

    So. If curious or otherwise interested in where I stand on this subject, there you go.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    Why should a smoker take a chance on getting a pipe with a covered up defect or that might not taste right? Read the original article, some of these sellers have been coating bowls of pipes that are in fact, new! How and when did this practice become endemic?

    My use of the phrase museum piece was hyperbole, but the point stands, and it is OK by me if it is understood as referring to "Rare, valuable, or otherwise significant"

    Go back and read Marty's article and try to avoid straining at gnats. This is a really simple issue.
    No need to swallow the camel.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  15. georged

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    Go back and read Marty's article and try to avoid straining at gnats. This is a really simple issue.

    I did read it. Twice.

    As for gnats, on the Internet they all too often become pterodactyls unless "strained at" when first encountered.

    Unfortunately, the issue isn't simple at all.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    Well duh, I guess there must be a really good reason for an eBay seller to cost a bowl of a legitimately brand new Castello.

    So simple an issue.

    If the maker of a new pipe wants to coat his bowls, that is up to him. For other sellers to do this with every pipe they offer is wrong. Simple

    Posted 2 years ago #
  17. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    As for "how is a buyer to know?" and etc., the answer is the same as with anything else humans deal in, from jewelry to cars to lake front property: With a skeptical eye, fine-tuned over time with personal knowledge of the subject, and by developing relationships with trustworthy people.

    Bingo! I have a pretty good eye for spotting problems, even when a seller has gone to great lengths to cover them up. And I know which shapes are more prone to problems.

    The only time I will coat a bowl is to literally save the pipe from destruction, and then only if I'm satisfied the owner isn't a dealer or "flipper". An old Barling for Jesse mentioned earlier in this thread is a good example.

    And that pipe has smoked very well. And it smokes like a Barling should smoke.

    Every pipe eventually gets a coating from the tobacco smoked in it. I think the objection to new pipes being coated is more of a personal choice than a matter of some objective reality, except where the coating imparts its own flavors. It's the rare used estate pipe that is actually neutral. I personally don't care if a bowl is coated or not on a new pipe. After a few bowls the pipe is going to taste of the blends smoked in it.

    The objections about coating used estate pipes are very valid. A great many of these have heat damage in the base of the chamber because smokers either don't care about, or don't know how to, smoke coolly. "Smoking to the bottom of the bowl" is one of the dumbest and most destructive beliefs in the hobby. Buyers of used estate pipes should always be skeptical of claims.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  18. georged

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    Well duh, I guess there must be a really good reason for an eBay seller to cost a bowl of a legitimately brand new Castello.

    So simple an issue.

    If the maker of a new pipe wants to coat his bowls, that is up to him. For other sellers to do this with every pipe they offer is wrong. Simple

    This is getting absurd.

    NOW it's a specific instance of a particular pipe having had its bowl coated you are (apparently) referring to, not the entire subject of what MARTY was talking about.

    I smell either either argument-for-entertainment in the air, or plain old confusion. Either way, I think I'm done with the subject for now.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    Sablebrush gets it :

    "The objections about coating used estate pipes are very valid. A great many of these have heat damage in the base of the chamber because smokers either don't care about, or don't know how to, smoke coolly. "Smoking to the bottom of the bowl" is one of the dumbest and most destructive beliefs in the hobby. Buyers of used estate pipes should always be skeptical of claims."

    A claim that a pipe has a sound bowl when the seller has coated the bowl is a claim that can't be verified until long after any return period has expired. Skepticism is a good thing,an underutilized tool.

    Marty in fact raised the issue of after market sellers coating the bowls of new Castellos, not me.

    If Mike Hagley didn't think so highly of you, GeorgeD, I would think you are being intentionally obtuse for reasons that escape me. Not sure why we are sideways on this, as I don't think you have any sympathy for some of these sellers.

    I did not read Marty's article as relating to how far it is acceptable to go in restoring a Barling, a subject that is no longer of any interest whatsoever to me. That is an originality issue.

    It does seem backwards to me that sellers who routinely coat bowls of estate pipes get more than those who don't. When I was active, including in the very early days of eBay, a large % of buyers wanted some original cake left. Sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  20. sablebrush52

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    I did not read Marty's article as relating to how far it is acceptable to go in restoring a Barling, a subject that is no longer of any interest whatsoever to me. That is an originality issue.

    Just to clarify, Marty's original article wasn't about Barlings or any specific brand of pipe, per sé. Marty's article focused on the issue of restorations that are so extensive that the pipes are passed off as new or nearly new. This isn't about just bowl coating. It's about topping, refinishing, sometimes reshaping, etc, to hide the effects of age, use, and misuse so that false claims can be made about the pipe's condition.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    As I stated in my OP, I have not had the benefit of reading Marty's first article, which is apparently not archived. The article that I in fact linked to extensively discussed bowl coating in a way that caused me to focus on that issue. The practice seems to be pervasive in parts of the "market" where many of the tricks of the trade would not be economically feasible to do routinely, though I am sure many of them are applied on a case by case basis. I would suggest that this is an issue that can be considered on its own. I have simply resolved to lower what I am willing to offer on an estate pipe that comes from one of the sellers who routinely coats bowls.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  22. atwageman

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    Coating or not, many estate sellers on Ebay are flat out sodomizing pipes. In other words, reaming/drilling the bowls down to new wood essentially. Making for bowls with really thin walls in most cases. Need to really pay attention to dimensions as the the photography can be good enough to deceive the human eye. Way too many high grades are getting ruined.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  23. georged

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    Coating or not, many estate sellers on Ebay are flat out sodomizing pipes. In other words, reaming/drilling the bowls down to new wood essentially. Making for bowls with really thin walls in most cases.

    Yup.

    It's usually from entirely removing the cake from old pipes---categorically a VERY BAD IDEA---and then saying, "Oh, shit!" when they see the sunken areas and/or heat damage that MOST well-smoked older pipes have, and trying to erase it by CONTINUING to sand/scrape.

    The only question is which will happen first, the flippers and kitchen table "restorers" will learn the right way to do it, or the world's cool old pipes will disappear...

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    "It's usually from entirely removing the cake from old pipes---categorically a VERY BAD IDEA-"

    Amen. But alas, it seems to be much more the rule than the exception.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    There is a fine line between "dust / gently " sanding the interior of a tobacco chamber ( to even the cake ) and sanding back to the bare walls or trying to "mask" spider webbing. Once you go too far, you're left with very few options.

    ww

    Posted 2 years ago #
  26. sablebrush52

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    The only question is which will happen first, the flippers and kitchen table "restorers" will learn the right way to do it, or the world's cool old pipes will disappear...

    Clearly, the answer is the world's cool old pipes will disappear. Everybody wants "pretty pretty". God forbid anything should look like it has a history. Ahhhh, but underneath all of the pretty exterior there is the burnt, abused, and screwed with interior.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  27. ssjones

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    I'm a fan of the certain bowl coatings (organic in nature) on new pipes. I generally assume that a coating was applied to an estate pipe was to repair or hide damage. I either avoid that pipe or reduce my max bid significantly, if I feel like gambling.

    I can only think of one estate pipe that I purchased which was coated. The coating was wiped out with a towel and alcohol, revealing a pristine bowl. I sent a communication to the seller as to why they coated a bowl that was in great shape. They replied to "make it more visually appealing". I told them it reduced my final bid by $100. I still see this seller using a coating on all of their pipes.

    How did I miss this thread for a week???

    Al

    Posted 2 years ago #
  28. toobfreak

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    Other than how a recoated bowl might affect its value on the used market, if a pipe has some visible damage/deterioration inside the bowl, it seems to me that it is better for the pipe long term that it be repaired with water glass, pipe cement or furnace cement to protect it rather than continue to be smoked against the exposed, damaged areas, yes?

    To Master Po: Is it not being able to see that makes you tire of life?
    Master Po: No! It is being able to hear!
    Posted 2 years ago #
  29. jpmcwjr

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    Seems reasonable.

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 2 years ago #

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