Recently my friend Brian 500s and I got into a bidding war on eBay. We didn’t know we were bidding against each other, and when the smoke cleared, Brian had won. As we talk to each other frequently about Petes we’ve seen or acquired, it wasn’t long before the Long Pastime 445 came up. After laughing about bidding against each other (we usually tell the other guy if we’re bidding on something), Brian agreed to let me not only photograph his pipe, but trusted me enough to clean it up for a glamor shot in the future Peterson book. That’s a friend.
Brian’s Kapruf 445
As for the Long Pastime, K&P’s history as the world’s longest continuously operating pipe maker means that when it comes to their shape catalog they can usually say (as far as classic English-derived shapes go), “been there, done that.” In fact, as all good Pete Geeks know, K&P’s bowl designs go back very near to the beginning of briar-pipe making itself. And if that’s not far enough for you, Charles Peterson, who was in Dublin by 1875 working for Frederick Kapp, was there at the beginning of briar pipe-making history, trained as a wood-turner and experiencing the transition from meers and clays to briar first-hand.
The Long Pastime and its sibling the 448 in the 1937 catalog
It should be no surprise, then, that when the pipe that is known today as a “Bing” came along in the 1930s, K&P was on the scene with their version—the 445 “Long Pastime,” which made its debut in the 1937 Black & Silver catalog. It derives its name—for you Millennials—from the great singer, actor and comedian Bing Crosby, who was seen and photographed smoking long, small billiards so frequently that about a decade or so ago his name has become permanently associated with the shape.
Shank stamps on the Kapruf 445
The Long Pastime is seen in the 1937, 1947 and 1955 ephemera. The 400 group includes a number of “Long Billiards” alongside it, including the almost identical 445 in the 1937 catalog, the 440, 450, and 453 in the 1947 shape chart and the 450 and 455 in the 1955 Dublin & London catalog. What differentiates the Long Pastime from the “Longs” is that while they all stretch to 6 inches, the LS hits 7 (hope you’re reading this, Linwood).
445 Long Pastime in 1955 D&L Catalog
So what makes it possible—in case you’re wondering—for Bing Crosby to clench his really long-shank billiard? Short answer: its extra-small bowl and pencil-thin shank. Here’s the data for Brian’s cleaned-up pipe prefaced with a photo comparison of a recent X105 from the Deluxe Classics release:
445 Measurements & Other Details
Length: 180 mm / 7.1 in
Weight: .85 oz / 24 gr
Bowl Height: 1.57 in / 40 mm
Chamber Depth: 1.34 in / 34 mm
Chamber Diameter: .71 in / 18 mm
Outside Diameter: 1.11 in / 28.2 mm
Stem: Vulcanite P-Lip
K&P Shape Name: Long Pastime
K&P Bowl Number: 445
Era: Early Republic (c. 1955)
Bing Crosby with a Merchant Service long billiard
Fascination with the shape has been widespread in the hobby for several years now, beginning as one might suppose in various homages by artisan makers like Scottie Piersel, who has made a specialty of long, pencil-think shanks.
For a long time now (as long ago as 1997, according to Sykes Wilford, and maybe even further back) Savinelli has been making their own homage, “Bing’s Favorite,” a 7 inch, 34 gram version with a 19.3 x 41.4 mm chamber bowl, thin brass-colored ring and slightly-bent acrylic mouthpiece.
Bing’s Favorite (6mm), from Savinelli
I always wonder why, when pipe smokers become fascinated with a vintage shape, more pipe makers don’t pick up on it and go for an accurate reproduction. The Savenilli, for instance, takes more than a few liberties. At least Piersel’s pipe shows she knows what the original looked like. But interest in the Bing shape has continued to grow and it finally reached such a level that a year or two ago a small concern went into business specializing in the shape. They took the name of Crosby’s favorite version, the one made by the English company Merchant Service. The new Merchant Service makes two versions, a “Standard” smaller pipe which they say “adheres more closely” to Bing’s original MS pipe, and and one for those who want some Bing but with a bigger bowl, the “Special.” They seem to be really well-made and are quite affordable.
The new Merchant Service Bings: Standard (top) and Special (bottom)
My friend Eugene Umberger (Doctor of Pipes and author of Tobacco and Its Use) is a big Crosby fan and first alerted me to the new Merchant Service pipes. He has both an original and one of the new pipes, and writes: “Generally, I almost always want a relatively lengthy smoke when I pick up a pipe, so I am much happier with the new Merchant Service Special than I would be with the more authentic Standard, but I won’t rule out buying one if I spot it at a show! I encourage you, don’t wait and snap one up when the opportunity next arises.”
NOTES ON THE RESTORATION
This is for those DIYers who are familiar with the basics of restoration, some of them far beyond my skill set (ahem, John) and others about where I am . . . .
The Stem. I’m still on a learning curve with the Before & After goop, but I’ve definitely converted. I did this stem in a batch, as recommended by the maker, and learned this time that I really need to buff it off vigorously with a clean cotton cloth. I also found out the following day that I’d forgotten to push pipe cleaners through the airways. Not a big deal, but I should’ve done it the same day. After clearing the airways with several cleaners, I followed with isopropyl-soaked cleaners.
I’ll keep using B&A, because a 25-45 minute dunk in the stuff brings out any oxidized stem black. This is a vast improvement over bleach or Micromesh pads alone. The former often creates as many problems as it solves (raising bubbles on the vulcanite, etc.) and the latter will create a smooth finish but not remove the deeper brown / gray oxidation seen under good light (Ott, for example). In essence, B&A adds an extra step to the whole process. And you get to pay for the privilege, of course. But I don’t see any other safe alternative for those who want an obsidian, gloss factory-like finish. I’ve noticed that Steve Laug at RebornPipes, for example, will sometimes skip the Micromesh pads, using the B&A followed by the B&A two-step polish rubbed in by hand. This creates a beautiful matte black matte, but it’s not the factory sheen I like.
Stem after B&A
The stem seen above is after the B&A. Apart from the dental chatter, what I want you to notice is the rough surface of the vulcanite on the stem area. This, I think, is caused by years of oxidation. B&A is not designed to cope with this, but do see how well it has removed the oxidation. (If you can add insight here, please do so in the comments.) For the dental chatter at the button, I passed a soft flame over both sides to raise what could be raised. This was mild enough that I could go straight to the Micromesh 1500 without sanding out divots using coarser grades of sandpaper. In the following two photos of the restored pipe, you can see that the stem it came out looking “factory” after the Micromesh routine followed by rouge and then white compound on the Foredom buffer and a bit of Obsidian oil. I was pleased.
Although Brian isn’t planning on smoking the pipe, I did clean out the airway a bit. By doing so I discovered some internal engineering. The opening at the tenon end of the mouthpiece isn’t 5mm by a long-shot, but surprise! the graduation occurs in the shank of the briar. It opens up fairly quickly, allowing two pipe cleaners to pass through without much effort. Ah, the P-Lip graduated bore. The stem is also immaculately shaped, its contours on the bottom like those of the bottom of the briar shank, allowing the pipe to sit. There is a noticeable fanning out of the stem as it approaches the P-Lip button:
The briar didn’t appear as if it had ever been cleaned and had with a thick, lightly aromatic cake. The rim was cleaned using my SPC-derived method, placing it on a cotton pad on which I had pumped a ring of hand sanitizer, then scrubbing off the loose wet tar with a cotton pad.
The bowl was dirty enough that I wiped it with an isopropyl-soaked pad a few times, then used a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap full strength to give it a scrub, resorting to #0000 steel wool dipped in Murphy’s and lightly scrubbing it all over. Afterwards all that was needed was Halcyon II wax, rubbed in with the fingers, followed by buffing with a camel-hair nail brush (which gets into the crevices and brings up a shine while pulling out wax stuck in them). Then a few light coats of carnauba on the Foredom buffer.
With so many pipemen turning to smaller chambers these days, I wonder whether there might be a place for such a wonderful, interesting shape as the 445 to return to the K&P catalog. Aside from its aesthetic charms and tie-in with current interest in the shape, an additional reason for its return lies in the cooler smoke provided by the longer wood. I have argued this point with many pipe smokers, but for me, at least, that extra wood and length seems to consistently translate into a better-tasting, cooler smoke. I’ll bet that’s why Bing Crosby liked it as well. As I said earlier, the button-end of the stem widens out in a fan before hitting the P-Lip button, which will make for an easy clenching experience at just 28 grams. Making such a long-shank billiard with a larger chamber would also be fun, of course, but if it were much larger it would have to be cradled to prevent some serious dental abrasions. Still, I think I could handle that. What about you?
Thanks to Brian 500s for the loan of this pipe
and the opportunity to photograph and restore it.
Savinelli & Scottie Piersel photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com