Sometimes new tools are as exciting as a new pipe to work on


Blog by Steve Laug

Okay, that may be overstating the case but needless to say for this pipe restorer/refurbisher new tools that I can add at different times that make my life easier and give me a chance at matching a finish or a rustication always are met with excitement. I am on the prowl for tools and methods of restoration like I am on the prowl for pipes. My newest addition came a little late for the two Savinelli pipe rims that I rusticated but they will be used soon. I have a few others that I need to work on and these will see some use. I picked up a cased assortment of burrs at a tool liquidator near my house. Just look at all the tip shapes and lengths. Can you imagine the kind of patterns that can be cut with them from the various angles I use – vertical, horizontal and diagonal? I can’t wait to see what I can do with these. Until then they go in my kit for rusticating rims and bowls with my Dremel. Had to share them with folks who might be interested. My wife and kids think it is one more step in my downward slippage into dotage. Thanks for looking and even taking a moment to let me think that it matters!Burrs

If it’s good enough for Bing then it’s good enough for me – Mastercraft Standard Oom Paul


Blog by Steve Laug

MCOver the years I have cleaned up quite a few Mastercraft pipes. My brother picked one up on Ebay for me recently. It looked like a good one when he sent me the photos of the pipe. I could not wait for it to arrive and I could begin to work on it. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote a bit about the history of the brand (http://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/). In that article I made the connection of the brand to Bing Crosby. I posted this old advertisement for the pipes with the old crooner himself.

The connection between the pipe in this advert and the Oom Paul I received from my brother. They both bear the same stamping. The both had the shield on the left side of the shank and then bore the same stamping. The Oom Paul was stamped Mastercraft over Standard in the shield. On the right side of the shank it was stamped I continued through the Google list for Mastercraft and one of the next listing was in Pipedia. http://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft

It doesn’t appear that Mastercraft was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow. As an importer of finished pipes M/C worked with many of the world’s foremost pipe makers and had in inventory finished product from the likes of… England: Hardcastle and Orlik. France: Ropp, Jeantet, Jean LaCroix. Italy: Lorenzo, Gasparini, Federico Rovera, Emilio Rovera, GIGI Pipe, Brebbia, Santambrogio, Fratelli Rossi. Israel: Shalom and Alpha. Plus all the tools, pouches and lighters from Hong Kong and Japan. The list of suppliers is enormous.

I had also found some older RTDA Almanac pages on Chris’ Pipe Pages site. http://pipepages.com/index.html. The first one of these shows the Mastercraft Standard. It sold for $3.50 and was a midrange pipe value as shown on the list below.The first of these shows the address of the Mastercraft Pipe Company in New York which was where they were prior to moving to North Carolina. I clipped this image from the 1949 RTDA Almanac. It is an early catalogue listing, since the brand was created in 1941.MCa My guess, judging from the previous advertisement and the 1949 RTDA Almanac clipping above, is that the pipe I have is from the period between the beginning of the company and the publication of this catalogue (1941-1949). After that period in the 50’s and 60’s the names of the pipes changed and I was not able to find the Mastercraft Standard in later catalogues.

MC1The photo to the left and the next two photos that follow are the ones my brother sent to me before I received the pipe. They give a good idea of the condition of the pipe when I received it. The pipe had a natural finish, no stain on the briar. Over the years the briar takes on a richer colour. This one had taken on a reddish tint. The stamping on the left side still showed the gold stamping in some of the grooves. There were specks of white paint on the bowl, shank and stem. There was also some darkening on the sides at the shank junction with the bowl from oils and soiling from the previous pipe man’s hands. The rim was thickly tarred with lava overflow. The bowl had a thin cake on the top 2/3 and the bottom 1/3 was still fresh briar showing raw briar. The pipe obviously had not been smoked to the heel. The stem was quality rubber and did not show signs of metal fragments in the mix that seem to appear in many of the war year pipes. There was little oxidation but there were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. There was tooth chatter on both sides. The stem did not fit tight against the end of the shank.MC2

MC3 When the pipe arrived I put it in my refurbishing box and would eventually get to it. Today I took it out of the box to work on it. I removed the stem and was a bit surprised to see the interesting and unusual stinger apparatus in the end of the tenon. It had a flat blade that ended in a point. It was almost a spear point. It sat down in the sump of the shank. It ended at a spiral cylindrical piece with a slot in the last half of the cylinder. It fit into tenon by pressure and was easily twisted free.MC4

MC5 I scrubbed the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and soil in the briar and the white flecks of paint on the bowl and shank. I scrubbed the rim with the acetone as well to try to remove the lava overflow that was present. I used a pen knife and scraped at the lava between wipes of acetone and was able to remove the buildup without damaging the finish on the rim. I did not need to top the bowl!MC6

MC7 The acetone removed the grime from the briar and all of previous coats of wax that had given it a dull finish.MC8

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MC10 Once I had cleaned the finish of the bowl and shank with the acetone I washed it down with alcohol and dried it off. I used some antique gold Rub ‘n Buff to restore the stamping to its previous look.MC11

MC12 I hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush and a little Conservator’s Wax to protect it during the rest of the clean up. Though I probably should have done the next step before the work on the stamping I did not do so. But such is the way things go. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the third cutting head to take back the cake to bare briar. Since the bottom 1/3 of the bowl was uncaked I wanted the transition between the sides of the bowl from top to bottom to be smooth.MC13

MC14 I scrubbed the stinger with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the grime. I also scrubbed it with a brass tire brush.MC15 I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaner, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I was surprised to find that the tenon was lined with an aluminum tube. The stinger pressed against the sides of the tube when it was inserted. I think it was also an attempt to strengthen the tenon.MC16 I scrubbed out the mortise, sump and airway on the bowl with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until they came out clean.MC17 I sanded the tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them as they were not too deep.MC18

Mc19 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil, then left it to dry.MC20

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MC22 I rubbed down the bowl with a light coat of olive oil and then buffed it with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I gave it a final buff with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It should provide many years of service to the next pipe man whose rack it graces. It will likely outlive both that pipe man and me and be passed on it trust to the next person who will enjoy it companionship for the years that they have it in trust. These old pipes always outlive the pipe man who keeps them company if they are well cared for (and even sometimes when they are not!).MC23

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I love these old timers – this one is a GC Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

When I found this old bulldog on EBay I was drawn to it and immediately put in a bid. I won it as no one else saw the charm in this one. It was a hard to see the stamping in the photos and many of the photos the seller included were out of focus which even made it harder to figure out the state of the pipe. The seller identified the pipe as a GC Bulldog. The seller’s photos that I have chosen below show the condition of the pipe. The finish is dirty and there are definitely dings and nicks in the briar. The bead around the cap of the bowl is a nice touch and it too is worn. The stem is oversized and is larger in diameter than the bowl so it makes one wonder if it is original. The threaded bone tenon in the stem fits perfectly in the shank with the alignment matching. The angles of the shank and the stem match. The vulcanite stem is just slightly larger than the shank on the left side of the pipe but works on the right side. The button is rounded and has an orific opening that shows that it is the proper age for this pipe. All that I saw was enough for me.G1

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G3 When the pipe arrived my assessment from the photos was correct. The stem was a good fit but it was larger than the shank on the left side. The bone tenon was in excellent shape with no wear and tear on it. It was stained with the tobacco juices of the long smoking. The shank was dirty and the airway in the stem was dirty. The airway in the bowl was clogged so no air would go through it no matter how hard I blew on the shank. The rim had serious damage on the right side front. There was a chunk of briar missing from the inner edge of the bowl and there was a scar running part way down below that. The rim had a divot at that point and also on the front itself that looked to have been caused by overzealous lighting from the exact same point every time the pipe was smoked. The bowl had been reamed and looked clean and smooth other than the damage on the right top side. The finish was dark and dirty. The stem had tooth marks on the underside near the button and tooth chatter on the top side. The next four photos show the pipe when I brought it to the work table.G4

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G6 The next photo is a close-up of the rim to show the damage. I decided to top the bowl so I used the topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to remove the top surface damage to the rim edge. When I had topped as much as I could without changing the profile of the bowl it was time to decide how to address the damage. I set that aside for a bit and worked on the fit of the stem.G7

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G9 I sanded the stem sides with 220 grit sandpaper to bring it to the same height and dimensions as the shank. It took work on the left sides and some adjustments to the right side. I also needed to work over the points of the diamond to make the alignment straight and flowing. I sanded the tooth marks and tooth chatter at the same time and was able to remove it.G10

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G13 I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the damaged and dirty finish that remained on the bowl. With these old finishes the grime and some of the clouded top coat disappears and the grain begins to poke through as the bowl is scrubbed.G14

G15 I worked on the internals of the mortise, airway and the airway in the stem. Since the airway in the mortise was plugged I used a round dental pick to push through the grime that plugged the airway. I reamed out the airway with the pick and then scrubbed it with pipe cleaners and a shank brush until it was clean. I scrubbed out the mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean and smelled fresh. I swabbed out the inside of the bowl with cotton swabs and alcohol. I used pipe cleaners and alcohol in the stem airway and cleaned the threads on the bone tenon with cotton swabs.G16

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G18 With the interior of the bowl clean I lightly sanded the inner edge of the bowl in the damaged area. I put some small drops of super glue on the rim and inner edge and used a dental spatula to press briar dust into the glue.G19

G20 I retopped the bowl to smooth out the repair and sanded the inside with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the curve of the inner edge.G21

G22 I sanded the top and rim edge with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper and then with 1500 grit micromesh in preparation for staining. I stained the areas where I had sanded the shank to match the stem and the rim with a dark brown stain pen.G23

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G25 I hand buffed the stained areas and the rim and took the following photos.G26

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G29 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil. I set the stem aside until the oil dried.G30

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G32 I gave the bowl and stem several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed the pipe and stem with a shoe brush and a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. There are still some dents and dings on the sides of the shank and bowl that I chose to leave there. Some of them are the very faint stampings that remain on the right and left topside of the diamond shank. Some of them are beauty marks that came with the long life and hard travel of this little pipe. I chose to leave them as they were and imagine the stories that go along with them. Thanks for looking.G33

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My Process for Re-Rusticating a Rim


Blog by Steve Laug

I recently wrote a blog on how I put a rusticated finish on a rim of a Savinelli Capri 121 pot. I thought it might be helpful to pull out the process of that rustication because the process is the same I used on this one as well as others that I have done. It is the simplest way I know to approximate the look/feel of a previously rusticated rim. It works on rims that have been topped as well as on damage or worn rims. The process is identical and you as the refurbisher make the decision how deep and how rustic you want the finish to look.

Process: For this example I will begin with a bowl rim that had been topped. The bowl happened to have been a rusticated Capri. Somewhere in its life someone had topped it. The job was well done but I wanted to bring it back to the original state.

1. I set out the Dremel and the various burrs that I use for the rustication. Two of them are standard Dremel burrs. Three of them are dental burrs that I got from a friend of mine.Capri14

2. I always start with a cylindrical burr. It is a cylinder with diagonal lines cut into the tip. The burr can be used straight on, on the side or diagonally. I used it on the diagonal to begin the process. I used it to scroll on the surface. I made swirls across surface of the topped rim. I always avoid the edges of the bowl – both inner and outer edge – with this first burr. The photo below shows the rim after these first cuts.Capri15

3. I changed burrs for the ball shaped burr. I used it deepen the grooves and trails and to move to the inner and outer edges of the rim. I roughened the surface and tried to randomize the rustication look. There are still smooth spots at this point but the finish is beginning to look as rough as the bowl sides.Capri16

4. I changed the burr again for a cone burr with a “pineapple like” cross hatch pattern. I worked over the surface of the rim randomizing the divots that I did with the ball burr and also cutting grooves and cross hatch patterns in the briar.Capri17

5. I changed the burr again for another cone burr – this one with a spiral pattern. I used it diagonally across the surface of the rim cutting grooves, connecting patterns. All of the switching and changing of burrs was to rusticate and randomize the pattern on the surface of the briar. I was working to get a pattern similar (yet different – almost a reverse of the bowl rustication) to the bowl.Capri18

6. I changed the burr again this time for a spiral that spun the opposite direction from the previous one. I worked over the rim using the burr straight on, diagonally and in places almost horizontally. At this point the rustication pattern shown below is getting close to the point where I will finish.Capri19

7. I put the cylindrical burr back in the Dremel and worked it diagonally between the low spots on the rim to connect the dots so to speak. I also roughened the inner and outer edge of the rim. Capri20

8. I used a medium brown stain pen to stain the high spots on the rustication.Capri21

9. I used a Sharpie Black permanent marker to stain the low spots on the rim surface and provide some contrast to the rim. The variation in colour would eventually match the stain on the bowl and give depth to the rustication.Capri22

10. I used a brass bristle tire brush to brush the surface of the rustication and knock off high points and loose briar. It also gives the surface a feathering look that smooths the rustication to match more closely that on the bowl sides.Capri23

11. I used the black Sharpie again to touch up the scratches left behind to add more depth.Capri24

12. I stained the rim with a dark brown stain pen thus adding the third stain colour to the rim surface. At this point I still was not quite happy with the look of the rim. The colour was right and the rustication was fine but there was something missing. On the bowl sides it was almost as if the maker had used a wire brush on a drill or wheel to cut fine lines in the surface of the briar over the rustication.Capri25

13. I would need to improvise as I did not have a stiff wire wheel or brush to use. I did have a serrated edge letter opener that would cut patterns across the surface easily enough and if I went at it from a variety of directions I could possibly achieve the look I was going for. So I used the letter opener and went to town to cut a stressed look to the briar on the rim. I followed that by lightly brushing it with the tire brush. Capri26

14. I repeated the stain process noted above using the three colours of stain in the same pattern to get the desired effect.Capri27

15. I gave the rim several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush. The finished rim is shown below. It has the look that I was aiming for when I started the process noted above. I have used this process on many pipes and it generally follows the same pattern. The difference lies in the depth and tightness of the pattern and the burrs that I choose to use to approximate the bowl rustication.Capri37

Conclusion: If you vary the burrs or introduce other burrs you can get a completely different pattern in the briar. I have used just the ball burr in the past to create a different look. The cylindrical burr creates a very tight pattern. The cross-hatched or pineapple burr can be used to create a light a deep cross hatched pattern. All of the burrs cut different patterns according the angle against the wood. You can use the burr vertically, horizontally or diagonally and create a wide variety patterns. Give it a try and see what you can create. Really the options and looks are as varied as you want to make them.

 

Putting the Rusticated Rim back on a Savinelli Capri 121 Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

One of the gift pipes received from a friend when I repaired his pipe was a beautiful little Savinelli Capri 121 Pot. I love the finish on the Capris. There is something about the rusticated finish that adds a tactile dimension to the pipe that I thoroughly appreciate. This pipe was no exception. The finish on the bowl was in excellent condition though at some point in its life it had been topped. The typical rustication on the rim surface had been sanded smooth and the rim had been stained with a reddish brown stain. The internals of the pipe were very clean. The bowl had been reamed and the airway in the mortise was spotless. The stamping on the bottom of the shank was sharp and legible – it reads Savinelli Capri over Root Briar and the Savinelli shield and next to that the shape #121 over Italy.

The stem had seen better days but it was still repairable. It was oxidized and the gold stamping was faint on top of the saddle. There were tooth marks on the top and the bottom of the stem. The ones on top had been repaired and filled with a white looking epoxy. It was hard and smooth but it was white and it looked really bad with the brown oxidation on the stem. These would need to be removed and repaired when I worked on the stem. The tooth marks on the underside of the stem were not as deep and could easily be remedied by sanding the stem. The inside of the stem was also very clean. I took the following photos when I brought the pipe to the work table.Capri1

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Capri4 I took some close-up photos of the rim and the stem to show the condition of both. The topping job on the rim actually was very well done. The refinish on it was impeccable – no scratches or grooves, just a clean smooth surface. The stem shows the story I mentioned above. The top side view shows the repairs and the underside view shows the dents.Capri5

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Capri7 Taking care of the dents on the underside of the stem was an easy matter. They were not too deep so I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and they disappeared.Capri8 The top of the stem was another matter. I wanted to remove the white repairs. I sanded the stem until they were four distinct repairs. Then I used the dental pick to pick away at the white epoxy repair until it was pitted and gave me a new divot to work with. I used some black super glue to refill the divots and cover the white that had been present before.Capri9

Capri10 I sprayed the glue with an accelerator and then sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the stem. In the next photo you can see that the white no longer was visible. The trick would be to keep it that way!Capri11

Capri12 Now it was time to address the rim. I was not sure about rusticating it because it actually looked quite fine the way it was. I went online and found a photo of a Capri that was the same shape and the rim was rusticated. I liked the look of the rim blending into the finish of the bowl. The decision was made. Now I had to work to get a similar look.Capri13 took out my Dremel and my assortment of burrs. I was pretty certain that I would use them all in the process of rusticating the rim with a deep and pebbled look.Capri14 I started with a simple cylindrical burr to carve some random swirls across the rim. I did this lightly at first and then deepened them. At this point I kept to the middle of the rim as I had ideas about rusticating the edges a little differently.Capri15 I followed that by using the ball burr to deepen the swirls and work on the inner and outer edges of the rim. At this point the surface was beginning to look good. But too me it was not rustic enough for the Capri finish on the bowl – it was too tame looking.Capri16 I used cone burr next with a cross hatch pattern to randomize the pattern even more and deepen the grooves in the surface and edges.Capri17 I next moved onto another cone burr with a spiral pattern and continued to work on the rim pattern. It was getting close to the point I was aiming for.Capri18 I used the last cone burr that had a swirl pattern in the opposite direction and went over the rim again to further accent the roughness.Capri19 I used the cylindrical burr to cut some of the lines between the divots and edges of the bowl and make it more craggy looking.Capri20 At this point in the process I was finished with the burrs and I put a coat of medium brown stain on the high points in the rustication using a stain pen. I followed that up with using a black Sharpie pen to fill in the divots and low spots on the rustication.Capri21

Capri22 I scrubbed the newly stained rim with a brass bristle brush to knock off some of the high spots and get a more burnished look like the bowl sides. I still was not happy with the stain so I used the sharpie again to darken the low spots and grooves. I then restained the rim with the dark brown stain pen. The colour was very close to the sides of the bowl.Capri23

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Capri25 I could have probably stopped there but I did not. I studied the photo of the rim above and noted that there were some striations or cuts in the surface of the rim that connected all the rustication and gave it a distressed look. I have a serrated edge letter opener here that I thought might work to give me more of that look. I cut the surface from every direction with the edge of the letter opener and carved and hacked it to distress it. I used the brass brush once again and then recut the rim with the opener.Capri26 I restained the rim with the black Sharpie and the dark brown pen. And then gave it a light buff on the wheel with Blue Diamond. I say light because if I had pressed any harder the polishing material would have gone into the grooves and made a mess. The rim looked good to me. The finish was done and all that remained was to wax it with some Conservator’s Wax.Capri27 I gave the bowl and rim several coats of Conservator’s Wax (works like Halcyon II on rusticated finishes) and buffed it with a shoe brush to polish and give a shine. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to begin the polishing process. It was tricky around the stamp on the shank so I had to work carefully with the pad to get as much of the oxidation as possible.Capri28

Capri29 I buffed the stem with White Diamond to further polish it and then sanded it with 4000 grit wet dry sandpaper to really work on the oxidation at the shank. It is a finicky part of the process because of the weak stamping. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then progressed to 3200-4000 grit micromesh pads. Another coat of oil preceded the final sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave the stem a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.Capri30

Capri31 I buffed the pipe with a shoe brush and then with a microfibre cloth. I gave it several more coats of the Conservator’s Wax and polished it to a shine. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and gave it several coats of carnauba to protect it and then buffed the stem with a clean buff to raise the shine. I hand buffed the entirety one final time with a shoe brush and then took the finished photos below. This was a fun project. You can see that the white stem repairs have disappeared and the rustication on the rim fits the overall look of the pipe far better than the smooth finish that was there before. Thanks for looking. Capri32

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Mission Impossible: Operation Long Shot


Blog by Charles Lemon and Steve Laug

Charles posted this on his Dadspipes blog this morning and I reblogged it here on rebornpipes. I was thinking about it this evening and thought it was worth saving in total on both blogs so not only have I reblogged it but I also have put it here in the archives of this blog. That way it is easily accessible on both blogs. This was a fun project for both of us to do. We spoke this afternoon and already are working on another collaboration… Keep an eye out for it on both blogs.

The door opened and a man walked into the bar, pausing briefly in the doorway to allow his eyes to adapt to the dim light inside. The place was what optimists would euphemistically call a dive. The establishment was empty except for a few drunks and a large, bored-looking man behind the counter wiping glasses with a rag that was presumably once white but was now an indeterminate shade of grey.

The man walked through the room, turned in at a doorway marked “Gents” and scanned the room – two stalls, a urinal and a grimy sink – before spotting what he sought. Moving across the room, he fed a handful of coins into a coin-operated machine advertising cheap cologne. There was a rattle and then a small rectangular device dropped into a waiting hand. The man pushed his thumb against a small pad on the otherwise blank rectangle. A laser washed briefly up and down the pad and then a voice was heard.

“Good morning, Agent. You have been selected to join a small, two-man strike force for a delicate and potentially disastrous assignment. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…..”


A while back, Steve Laug of Reborn Pipes and I had a conversation about the limits of pipe restorations. Was a pipe ever truly beyond repair? We responded in the negative, and decided to put our theory to the test with this mission, code-named Operation Long Shot. We wanted a pipe that was so far gone that most people would immediately write it off as firewood or worse, the sort of thing barely recognizable as a pipe.

We selected as our test subject this Brigham 3-Dot Prince. As you can see in the photos below, it was in terrible condition when I came across it in a jumble of estate pipes I picked up about six months ago. I had been holding onto it with some vague notion of using it for spare parts.

The pipe was filthy, crusted with dirt and debris. The old finish was long gone, and the nomenclature was almost entirely worn away. Wiping the shank with a bit of water, however, revealed the thin, flowing script of the early Brigham logo stamped over “Can Pat 372982”. That stamp places the production date of this old warrior in the 1938-1955 range.

The pipe stem carried the three brass dots of Brigham’s mid-grade 300 series, but was deeply oxidized a gruesome yellow/green colour. It had been brutally chopped off at the bit and a crude button cut into the raw end. To add insult to injury, the bowl had suffered a burnout through the bottom, which had been “repaired” as delicately as the stem with a large clod of epoxy which spread over most of the bottom bowl surface. The interior of the bowl was in no better shape – the epoxy fill had been roughly wiped around the chamber floor, and the draft hole had been worn or burnt open to about double its original diameter. All in, this pipe was a train wreck, though evidently much prized by its previous owner who had refused to give up on it.

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Mission Log: Agent Lemon. Phase I – Cleanup and Salvage

This restoration would be a great challenge, but Steve and I were up for it. We agreed to tag-team the job: I would clean up the stummel and salvage what I could from the hacked up stem, and then mail the briar across the country to Steve in Vancouver, BC. He would plug the burnout and tidy up the stummel and then send the pipe home to me in Kitchener, ON for re-stemming and the final fit and finish.

Wanting to get the pipe off to Steve as quickly as possible, I got going on the reaming and cleaning work. I used my Castleford reamer to remove as much carbon from the bowl as I could. I reamed very carefully, expecting the bowl to crumble in my hands, but the old girl held together. I think most of what came out was actually more dirt than cake, but at least the chamber walls looked ok except for the enlarged draft hole. I scrubbed the exterior of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft toothbrush, and then dropped the briar into an isopropyl alcohol bath to soak overnight.

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While the stummel soaked, I had a good look at the stem. I have another Prince shape in my Brigham collection, and a quick comparison showed that the stem for this old pipe was missing about an inch of length. I decided that I would need to work up a new stem to replace the old one. A vulcanite stem would be relatively easy to get hold of, but an aluminum Brigham tenon was quite another matter. As the tenon on the junk stem was still in good shape (or would be after a good cleaning), I decided to salvage it to implant in the replacement stem. I heated the tenon and the end of the stem over a lighter flame until the vulcanite softened, then gently twisted the aluminum tenon out of the stem. One of the brass dots decided to come with it, demonstrating how Brigham used the first brass pin to help hold the tenon/filter holder in the stem.

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The next morning, I pulled the stummel out of the alcohol bath and scrubbed it down with an old towel. This is when I ran into the first bit of luck on this project – the alcohol soak had softened the wide but thin patch of epoxy spread across the bottom of the bowl. I quickly grabbed a dental pick and scraped as much of the old adhesive from the briar as I could. I managed to remove most of the softened epoxy, revealing a central core of harder fill about 5/8″ in diameter. This then, was the original burnout.

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I drilled out the core epoxy and used a tapered reamer to trip the opening to an even circle with fresh briar all around. This would be the hole Steve would need to plug.

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My first stage of the mission was complete, so I packed the stummel securely and entrusted it to Canada Post for shipment to Steve in Vancouver.

Mission Log: Agent Laug. Phase II – Bowl Repair & Refinish

Charles Lemon of DadsPipes and I decided to collaborate on a refurbish that captured some of the essence of our conversation that we shared on our blogs regarding restoration. This old Brigham had major issues with the stem and the bowl. Charles tackled the stem and did the cleanup work on the bowl and then sent the stummel to me to work on. When it arrived I took it out of the small box and had a look at what he had sent to me. He had cleaned out the bowl which had been plugged with JB Weld and opened up the burn out in the bottom of the bowl. He drilled out the plug and when I got it the bowl had pretty much most of the bottom missing. I cut the side out of an old briar bowl I cannibalized for parts and shaped it for the plug. It was thick enough and big enough for me to cut the plug. I cut it and shaped it with a Dremel and sanding drum. The next two photos below shows the plug after the initial shaping. It is still too large in diameter and also needs to be flattened on the inside.

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I continued to shape and fine tune the plug until it fit into the hole in the bottom of the bowl. I flattened the inside surface to match the angles of the bowl bottom. The next two photos show that the plug is just about ready to press into place. Just a little more material needs to be sanded off the edges before it is a fit.

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I sanded the edges with the Dremel and sanding drum until I had a good fit and then pressed it into the bottom of the bowl. I sanded the outer surface of the plug with the Dremel and sanding drum until it was flush with the surface of the bowl. I used a black sharpie to draw a cross on the bottom of the bowl so that I could align the plug once I put the glue on and pressed it into place. I then coated the edges of the plug with slow drying super glue and pressed it into the hole in the bowl. The next two photos show how the plug looked in place from the outside and the inside of the bowl.

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I used a dental pick to clean out the edges of the plug and bowl on the outside and then filled them with super glue and briar dust to take care of the chips and damage to the bowl bottom. Once it dried I sanded the bottom of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to blend in the plug.

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The next two photos show the state of the bowl repair at this point in the process. The plug has been set in the bowl and the crevices around the plug have been filled and repaired. The inside of the bowl is smooth and the plug sits nicely in place.

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At this point in the process others may use JB Weld or Pipe Mud to finish up the bottom but I have found that a thin coat of Plaster of Paris gives a little bit of added protection to the bowl and also levels out the bowl bottom. In this case the bowl had a low spot in front of the entrance to the airway. I mixed a batch of Plaster, put a pipe cleaner in the airway and put it in the bottom of the bowl to level it out.

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When the Plaster dried I applied a coat of pipe mud to the bowl bottom and sides, filling in some of the crevices in the bowl sides and smoothing out the surface. I used a dental spatula to press the pipe mud in place on the bowl sides and a pipe nail to press it into the bottom of the bowl.

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I set the bowl aside at this point to cure for two days and then worked on the rustication of the bowl. I used a dental burr to follow the pattern on the bowl sides and deepen them. I cut a similar pattern on the bottom of the bowl with the burr. I used the burr to clean up the rustication on the shank as well – carefully avoiding the area where the faint Brigham stamping remained.

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I used a black Sharpie permanent marker to stain the grooves in the bowl. I wanted a dark under tone to the bowl after I stained it. I like the way the stain looks with this underneath in the grooves.

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I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it.

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I wiped it down with alcohol on cotton pads to give it some more transparency and create the contrast with the black in the grooves of the rustication. I sanded the rim with a 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pad to smooth it out and to add to the contrast of the smooth rim.

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I hand rubbed in several coats of Conservators Wax and then buffed the bowl with a shoe brush.

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I mixed up a bowl coating of charcoal powder and sour cream and painted it on the inside walls of the bowl to give it further protection. When the bowl coating dried, it was time to pack the stummel back up for its return trip to Ontario.

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Mission Log: Agent Lemon. Phase III – Stem Work

Recreating a Patent Era Brigham stem requires only a few items – a vulcanite stem of appropriate length and sufficient diameter to hold a Brigham rock maple filter, an aluminum Brigham tenon/filter holder, a few drill bits and some epoxy.

I found a suitable stem in my box of stems, using a Brigham Prince pipe from my collection as a reference. I used a hacksaw to remove the vulcanite tenon, and then clamped the stem into a simple drilling jig in my drill press. The stem must be perfectly aligned in the press or you risk drilling through the side of the stem instead of down the airway. The goal is to enlarge the airway to make room for the filter, and then drill out a mortise in the face of the stem to accept the aluminum tenon/filter holder. A quick test fit verified my drilling, so I glued the original tenon into the new stem with a bit of JB Weld and let the assembly cure.

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When the repaired stummel arrived from Vancouver, I could fit the replacement stem. As I was working with the original tenon, it wasn’t a great surprise when the stem fit nicely into the shank. A little bit of filing and sanding to remove the stem’s molding marks and reduce the diameter to match the shank, and I was ready to install the Brigham dots.

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The dots are made by inserting 1/16″ brass rod into holes drilled in the side of the stem. The first pin is located approximately 5/16″ from the end of the stem at the centre line, and the other pins in the 2, 3, and 4-dot patterns are built off the first dot. As this was a 300-level pipe, I’d be installing three pins in a triangle pattern. The first pin is the bottom left dot of the triangle.

I marked out the pinning pattern with a Sharpie and then drilled the holes, being careful not to drill through into the stem’s airway. Short segments of brass rod were then glued into the holes with clear CA glue. When the glue had cured, I used a combination of files and sandpapers to bring the dots flush with the surface of the stem. A final polishing with micromesh pads to remove any remaining scratches prepped the stem for buffing. Just before doing so, I gave the stem a 1/8th bend by holding it over the heat gun until pliable and shaping it over a round form. A dip in cool water set the bend in place.

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Mission Log: Impossible Accomplished

The restored pipe sits on the desk in front of me. I hardly recognize it as being even remotely related to the broken-down shell of a pipe Steve and I started with only a few short weeks ago. Shipping the patient back and forth took a lot of time, but the results of this cross-country collaboration speak for themselves. This Patent Era Brigham 313 looks ready for another 60 years of smoking pleasure. Steve did a truly magnificent job on the stummel, and the new stem looks like it’s been there all along. I think we both learned something new during this restoration, and we proved our theory (in grand fashion) as we did it – every pipe, no matter the condition, can be restored to useful service with the right combination of skill and will.

I hope this project inspires other pipe refurbishers to take a second look at that written-off pipe you’ve held onto for some reason. I’m willing to bet there’s still a great smoke hiding in that old briar somewhere. It’s up to you to find it.

Here’s the finished pipe.

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Mission Impossible: Operation Long Shot


This is an old Brigham that Charles and I did together and it was almost Mission Impossible. Wanted to post on both blogs.

DadsPipes

The door opened and a man walked into the bar, pausing briefly in the doorway to allow his eyes to adapt to the dim light inside. The place was what optimists would euphemistically call a dive. The establishment was empty except for a few drunks and a large, bored-looking man behind the counter wiping glasses with a rag that was presumably once white but was now an indeterminate shade of grey.

The man walked through the room, turned in at a doorway marked “Gents” and scanned the room – two stalls, a urinal and a grimy sink – before spotting what he sought. Moving across the room, he fed a handful of coins into a coin-operated machine advertising cheap cologne. There was a rattle and then a small rectangular device dropped into a waiting hand. The man pushed his thumb against a small pad on the otherwise blank rectangle. A laser washed briefly…

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