Baccy Pipes

Early Van Roy Arista “Selected Briar” Ajustamatic Refurbish


I picked up this early Van Roy Arista off Ebay .

Van Roy pipes started around 1944-1945 .They were headquartered out of the Empire State building. They were the first pipe to use the Adjustamatic stem. HL&T (Dr.Grabow ) purchased the company around 1949 and used the Adjustamatic exclusively on the Dr. Grabow pipes. All Van Roy’s after that used a push stem ,so Van Roy Adjustamatics were only made for around 4- 5 years. I could not find out if  Van Roy had their own pipe manufacturing facility . Most likely they had production of the pipes made by different pipe makers like Mastercraft did.
This one i believe is a very early model made at the end of the war, because its a non imported briar pipe.They must have started production before imported brair was again available to American pipe makers. I would guess my pipe is no later than early 1946.
I wasn’t sure what kind of wood it was in the beginning ( I’m still not 100% sure). I sure do not think it is a mountain laurel pipe. I have a few of Dr.Grabow and Medico mountain laurel pipes and they are devoid of any kind of grain . All i have used painted on grain to compensate for the bland wood. It is  also different than the mission briar that Kaywoodie used during the war. I noticed that the Van Roy is a harder material than laurel Dr.Grabow used .
I did some research and found out that a pipe  called Raskassa used the same kind of wood from the looks of them. The pipes were distributed by a man named Otto Sevic. The pipes are likely made from rhododendron. D&P pipes also used rhododendron along with mountain laurel in pipe production.
I think  maybe Otto Sevic may have headed up production of the Van Roy’s prior to the re introduction of briar back to the American pipe makers . I found these pictures of a Raskassapipe and the grain and color is similar.

It seems after mountain laurel and rhododendron was not used anymore in pipe production in the United States that Mr. Sevic  disappear’s in the pipe world as i could not find any more mention of him.

Here is a interesting article i found about mountain laurel ,rhododendron , manzanita  and wild lilac being used in pipe production because of the war. Published in 1942……………….,4449019&hl=en

Wild Lilac as a wood used in pipe production is one I had not heard or read of  before finding this article.

Also this one dated Aug .10 1942 in a Pittsburgh  Post Gazette paper,4203336

On to the refurbish of the Van Roy,

I began work on the pipe with a good cleaning and oiling of the Adjustamatic stem. The pipe was actually pretty clean interior wise. I had never seen a pipe so lightly smoked, but yet so banged up on the outside. The rim, front of bowl and top of shank had many deep dings.
I gave the rim a topping  with 220 grit then moved up to 500-1000 grit. I sanded a beveled edge on the inner rim to remove some bad burn marks as well.

After the topping i rounded the outer rim slightly with 800-1200 to give it a factory look.

I mixed up some  RIT medium brown dye with a touch of red , I gave the rim a couple of light coats then sanded it off with 1200 grit to contrast the grain. Then i applied a few coats with a Q-tip til i got the desired shade i was looking for.

After the dye had dried i wiped the outside rim edge with mineral oil and sanded the stain line with 2500 grit to blend it in with the factory stain.
I then tackled the many dings on the bowl. I wrapped the bowl in a damp cloth and rolled it over a hot iron several times. I managed to steam out most of the dings and made the rest not very noticeable.
I then went over the bowl with some mineral oil and 2500 to further eliminate as many of the dings and dents as possible.
I gave the stem a good wet sanding with 500 -2500 grit and cleaned the metal tenon  and stinger with 000 steel wool.

The pipe is now ready for buff and wax .

Finished pipe.
I want to point out that this is a wide and large bowl . Almost pot like . It it just a hair under a 1 inch wide chamber.

I would also like to mention that older Van Roy’s use the Fleur De Lis symbol on them. From the pictures I’ve seen all the non imported briar have them on the shank . When production switched to imported briar they seem to have moved the Fleur De Lis symbol to the stem. So if you see one stamped on the shank, it is most likely a alternative briar pipe.
 I gave the Van Roy a carbon bowl coating. The Adjustamtic stem does not work as smooth as a Dr. Grabow version . Its has a stiff feeling even after being oiled. Dr.Grabow must have refined and upgraded the adjusto mechanism.
The pipe actually smokes pretty well , better than i thought it would. The Dr.Grabow and Medico mountain laurel’s i have are not that good .They smoke very hot and have a odd taste to me. This one though does not . The large bowl took both of these large flakes to fill it , so i had a very long first smoke in it.
I think the wide chamber ,bowl coating and Bold Kentucky being a slow , cool smoking tobacco helped the pipe to smoke as cool as it did . A good quality rhododendron “briar” might also be part of it too. I have to say I’m impressed with the performance of the Van Roy. I was expecting a more disappointing experience. Rhododendron (if that what it actually is)  to me seems a superior pipe material than the  mountain laurel.

16 thoughts on “Early Van Roy Arista “Selected Briar” Ajustamatic Refurbish

  1. Another well done restoration. Never knew Rit dye could be used on a pipe. Very interesting write up on another piece of US tobacciana history. All great stuff, Troy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Al
    I use RIT dye on all my pipe restorations , Steve did a article about it on rebornpipes some time back.


  3. Interesting pipe and a nice restore job, Troy. From the photos here, the grain seems close to a couple of the D&Ps that I have here. Possibly rhododendron? Nothing I have has that type of ring grain though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Anthony
    I could surely be rhododendron! I had forgot about the D&P pipes being made from rhododendron, i was thinking they were mountain laurel too. I’ll edit my post and point this out , Thanks again!


  5. Nice work and history, Troy. I really dig that grain. Whatever it may be. LOL Now if I can just sneak the brides iron out of the house.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on rebornpipes and commented:
    Great information from Troy on alternative woods used in pipes in the US.


  7. I have about 10 or so of mountain laurel pipes and several ML burl blocks. In my experience it has a wide variety of grain and really depends on the piece and how it is cut. I just restored a Trapwell “worlds best briar” that has a very similar grain to your pipe here. I am now looking to get a rhododendron burl from a 65 year old bush. And thanks for the info on wild Lilac I’m keen to find out more about it and see if I can’t find some…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your welcome Rick
      The Van Roy i have seems to be a harder “wood” or burl than the mountain laurels i have . I had to be very careful rerfubing those because it would not have taken much to sand and buff the stamping’s off them. Maybe you are right and the Vany Roy is from a harder burl. The mountain laurels i have are so plain and lack any grain what so ever that its hard to think they are from the same species of burl.
      Hope you find a lilac , i would be very curious to see one of those pipes. If you find one be sure and post about it on reborn.


  8. Excellent restoration. It has some nice grain for a war time non-briar. The steaming process your showcased is very clever. Seems like a much better way than the old hot knife and wet rag method.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Dave
    The iron does work better if you have multiple dings on a pipe and i also find it works faster than the knife method.


  10. Al, thanks for sharing this refurbish, and history with us. I’m not sure what wood was used in this pipe, but the one thing I am sure of is this pipe has beautiful grain. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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