Blog by Steve Laug
I picked up this old 1912 BBB Poker on EBay not long ago. It is stamped BBB in a diamond on the shank and on the underside England. The silver is hallmarked Birmingham 1912. It is a smaller group 1 or 2 sized pipe. In the pictures the military stick bit looked like it belonged. It looked like it was shipped that way from the factory. The grime on the silver and on the shank as well as the oxidation on the stem made it appear to be that style of pipe. When it arrived with the other 5 pipes that I bought with it I examined it a bit more closely. In the picture below you can see the roughness of the stem. It is definitely poorly cut. The closer I looked the more I realized that it was a poor replication of an older stem. A BBB pipe of this age came with a different style of military stem and it had an orifice button rather than a slot like this one. The stick bit was not original as it was a slotted bit and was not finished smoothly. There were lots of file marks on both sides of the stem. When I removed the stem I was even more certain that it was a poor copy. The one thing I was still thinking was that it was definitely spigot or military bit pipe.
Then I began to work on the shank and the band. Someone had darkened the end of the shank to make it look almost black like the tarnished silver band. Once I cleaned the silver and cleaned the shank I could see that it was not a silver end cap at all but a very typical BBB silver band. In the picture below you can clearly see the end of the shank showing as it sits inside the silver band. I used a 1500 micromesh pad to clean off the end of the shank and return it to wood. When I re-stained the pipe I would also re-stain the shank end to match. It was clear that I would need to do a bit of research on what kind of stem was originally on this poker style pipe if I was to restore it to its original glory.
I have a copy of the BBB Catalogue reprint from Gary Shrier so I got it out and went to work researching the look of the missing original stem. It became clear rather quickly that the pipe shape I had originally came with a taper stem with an orific button. In the catalogue is the exact shape in the exact size. I could not believe it. I laid the bowl on the page and then traced out the shape and size of the stem. A part of my hobby refurbishing is collecting old stems. I buy them wherever and whenever I find them and stockpile them in an old coffee can in my office. I went and got the can and emptied it on my desk to sort through what I had. I have yet to organize them by size so it is a matter of dumping the can out and digging through them. Well, I found one in my can of stems that had the right orifice button and the correct taper so I turned the tenon and fit the stem to the pipe. I used my Dremel to remove excess diameter from the stem so that it was the same diameter as the shank and band.
I also had to clean up the bowl of the pipe as the top was pretty beat up and the inside rim had been chipped and cut as if it had been carelessly reamed with a knife. I steamed the dents from the rim and carefully did a minor topping on the bowl to bring the top back to smooth and the inner and outer rim to smooth. I also chamfered or beveled the inner rim to bring it back into round. There were also dents on both sides of the bowl so I steamed those out as well. I use a wet cloth and a hot butter knife (heated over a flame) to raise the dents. I finished the work on the pipe by re-staining the top to match the bowl then buffed it and gave it a final polishing with White Diamond and then several coats of carnauba wax.
Here are pictures of the finished pipe. Other than being in colour it is a perfect match to the one in the catalogue.
Edit – 24 Feb. 2013 – I just came across an old BBB poker on eBay that is similar to the one above. I did some research on the stem on the one above and restemmed it. The one in the eBay photos is a newer version of the same pipe number. I have attached two photos below for sake of comparison.