Monthly Archives: August 2012

Repairing an Over-Reamed Bowl in a GBD Collector Century

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this older GBD bent apple with a Perspex stem on EBay for a reasonable price, at least in my opinion it was reasonable. On the left side it is stamped: Collector in script over GBD in an oval over Century. On the right side it is stamped: London England over the shape number 9633. The Collector line is the middle line between the Conquest and the Colossal. These three lines were termed GBD plus sized pipes. The dimensions on this one are length: 5 ½ inches, height: 1 ¾ inches, outer diameter: 1 ¼ inches, chamber diameter: 1 inch. The bowl exterior is chunky and wide and the bowl is larger than normal sized GBD`s.

The two pictures below are the ones that were used on the listing on EBay. The stem is dirty but whole and intact. The bowl rim is badly caked and the bowl itself looks to be caked and maybe a bit over reamed but it is hard to tell. The finish on the pipe was pretty much gone as can be seen in the two photos. There were some dark marks on the bowl front and the sides were faded in colour. Nonetheless it looked like it was worth a bid in my opinion. I asked a few questions of the seller and was answered cordially but with little helpful information regarding the state of the bowl. So I would just have to see it when it arrived. ImageImage

When it came, it was both in better shape and worse shape than the photos in the listing showed. The finish was dirty and really not in too bad a shape other than worn spots. The rim was caked and dirty but was not dented and damaged. The bowl had indeed been over-reamed. In fact it looked to have the beginnings of a burnout – or at least a hot spot on the bottom of the bowl. The stem was dirty but had no bite marks and minimal tooth chatter. Looking at the bottom of the bowl I notice what appeared to be a dark spot and maybe even the beginnings of a hole. This was not a good sign. I had repaired that old Dunhill with a briar plug not long before this so I knew it could be repaired but I wanted to be sure of what I was dealing with. I took the bowl and stem apart and carefully reamed the sides of the bowl to clean out the remaining grit. The top was cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted and scrubbed with a tooth brush. I did not worry about the finish as I was going to restain and refinish it when I was done. I set the stem aside for a bit while I worked on the bowl. Once it was clean I put it in an alcohol bath to soak and remove the remaining finish and grime. ImageImageImage

I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and wiped it down to dry it off. I turned it over and the three pictures below show what I saw. From the outside the bowl looked like it was beginning to burnout. There was a darkening on the surface and what appeared to be a small crack in the briar. From the inside the over-reaming can be seen clearly. The bottom of the bowl was below the airway and the remaining briar was very thin.


I sanded the bottom of the bowl to see how deep the discolouration went into the briar and was pleasantly surprised. The photo below shows what the spot looked like after sanding. I then used a dental pick to pick at the crack in the surface and see how thin it was and how deep the crack went. The briar was still hard and did not break away with the dental pick. That was another good sign. I cleaned the surface with isopropyl alcohol and dried it off. I used some small drops of super glue to fill the crack and then sanded the surface again to smooth the patch of the glue. I did not plan on selling this pipe as it is a shape I enjoy so all of my work was for my own use at this point.  Image

The picture below shows the bowl after some more sanding and a light coat of medium brown stain. I restained the entire bowl and buffed it to see if the repair would be less obvious. You can see from the photo below that it is a bit darker and would require a few more coats of the brown stain to make it recede into the background.


I fired up a good cigar and made some pipe mud of the ash and water and began to rebuild the bottom of the bowl. I layered on several coats of the mud allowing it to dry to the touch between coats. My goal was to build up the bottom of the bowl to the bottom of the air way. The pipe mud is fairly thick but it actually worked quite well. In the photo below you can see the bottom of the bowl. I also used it to fill in some of the cracks in the cake on the sides of the bowl. I wanted to protect this pipe from further damage to the bowl.


Once that was finished and dry I restained the pipe with two more coats of the medium brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain between coats to set it. Once it was dry I buffed the bowl with Tripoli to make the grain show and lighten the stain. The next series of four photos show the finished look of the bowl. The photo showing the bottom of the bowl shows that I was able to blend in the darkened area with each successive coat of stain. It is still present but it does not pop out at you when you look at it. In the photos you will also notice a pipe cleaner inserted in the stem. I used lemon juice to soak the stain in the Perspex as well as some hand cleaner with grit in it. The stain is stubborn to remove so I left the pipe cleaner soaked in the products in the stem overnight several times in an effort to remove the stain. You can see from the photos that it is lighter than when it arrived but it is still present. (NOTE: do not use alcohol in cleaning Perspex stems as it causes the stems to craze – multitudes of tiny cracks appear throughout the material.) ImageImageImageImage

The last series of photos shows the pipe as it is today. The refurbishment on it was about 2 or more years ago. I have smoked it in my rotation and it smokes very cool. The pipe mud has held up well and is incredibly hard now. The finish has darkened a bit and taken on a patina that I like. The save on this pipe worked incredibly well. One day if the need arises I can put a briar plug in the bottom of the bowl but so far it has not been necessary. ImageImageImageImage

NightOwl PipeWorks Blueprinted Meerschaum

Blog by Steve Laug

I sent off this old lattice meerschaum to Ronni Bikacson for him to do a Blueprint Conversion. He describes the processes he uses on his web site as follows:

“This process combines two of Ronni’s processes that make this pipe a much better smoking pipe. The first is the “Blueprint” technique – this process involves opening the draft bore of a pipe for smooth smoking.  Rather than gouge out huge bores in the shank, I strive to equalize the bore diameter from bowl to bit.  This includes redrilling the shank to 3.5 or 4mm, drilling the stem to 3.5mm as far as possible and then hand finishing the bore to an open slot at the bit.  Each pipe is treated as an individual system; no “one size fits all”.  I also make special mortise sleeves that help a pipe cleaner pass all the way without stem removal.  The result is a smooth, dry smoke without having to fight a pipe cleaner afterwards.

The second is the “Bulletproof Shank Repair” – this process eliminates the need for bands on cracked or broken shanks.  All repair is performed internally with either Delrin, stainless steel, or carbon fiber sleeves. I pioneered this technique in 2003 and have continually worked to improve the efficiency and durability of this repair.

A combination of the two above techniques has resulted in the “Blueprint Conversion” for meerschaums. The old “plumbing” is removed from the shank and replaced with a new sleeve that is bored to align the different draft angles between stem and shank. The stem is Blueprinted and fitted with the appropriate tenon. The result is a world class smoke that will accept a pipe cleaner without disassembly.”

So I sent this pipe off to Ronni. The first series of three photos show the pipe as it was when I received as a gift from a friend. The stem I believe was a replacement and it did not fit well. The diameter of the stem at the shank was larger than the shank and it still had many file marks on it. The tenon was narrow and the draught on the pipe was very tight. The airway was constricted and narrow. A pipe cleaner would not fit through the stem.



The next two photos show the internals of the pipe. The first is the small tenon with a very small airway and a tight draw. The second is the mortise – which is the same size as the tenon and the airway at the end is narrow like the end of the tenon.


When I sent it to Ronni and I asked that he also make a new stem for the pipe. He crafted one out of acrylic with a white acrylic band between the black of the band next to the shank and the black of the saddle stem that he made. The contrast with the colouring meer was a nice touch. The first four photos show the marbleized black acrylic with grey and silver highlights.




This last photo shows the new internals. Ronni opened the shank and inserted a new Delrin insert and made a stainless steel tenon with a wide open draw. The pipe smokes incredibly well now with little effort. I cannot recommend Ronni highly enough for his blueprinting process for meers. It is well done and for me changed a mediocre smoker into a smoking machine!

Nu Old Lovat reworked

Blog by Steve Laug

This small lovat needed restemming and also a restain on the bowl. It was pretty clean when I took it out of the box of bowls that I have here for restemming. The finish was shot and most of the stain was worn off. The bowl was clean, just dusty. The rim was nicked and dented and would need to be topped. Here is a picture of it when I took it out of the box. I matched a stem from my can of stems to it. It is a nice little Lovat and is stamped Nu-Old over London Made on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped with its shape number – 66. The Nu Old pipes were made by Civic Pipes in London. Image

I fit the tenon to the bowl and then shaped the saddle to match the shank diameter. The stem needed a bit of work to smooth out the casting marks and the roughness of the surface. I sanded it with medium grit emery cloth to remove the marks and general roughness of the stem. Then I followed up with 240 grit sandpaper and 400 and 600 grit wet dry and water to remove all the scratches and marks. I polished it and did a final sanding with micromesh sanding pads 1500-6000 grit. I then turned my attention to the bowl. I used acetone on a cotton swab to remove the remaining finish on the pipe. This took repeated washing with the acetone to get the bowl to be clear of the original remaining finish. When I was finished with that the bowl was uniformly a light reddish hue. I topped the bowl with my sanding board and then polished the bowl with micromesh pads. Once it was finished I wiped it down with isopropyl alcohol before giving it a new stain with oxblood. I gave this one several coats of stain to give a good coverage, flaming the stain between each coat. Once it was finished I buffed it lightly with Tripoli to open up the finish and show the grain. I then polished it with White Diamond and gave the whole pipe several coats of carnauba wax which I buffed with a soft flannel buff. ImageImageImage

A Review – A Kevin Arthur Apple

Blog by Steve Laug

About a year ago now I contacted Kevin Skraboly of Kevin Arthur Pipes regarding a commission that I wanted him to make for me. My request was pretty simple in that what I wanted was an apple shaped pipe that had his rusticated finish. I did not specify colour or finish in terms of shank treatments of patterns. I also did not specify a shank extension or the wood that he would use in it. I pretty much left all of the artistry up to him to work his magic.

When the pipe arrived and I have to tell you the shape and finish were exactly what I had in mind when I commissioned it from Kevin. It was and is beautiful. The coral rustication reminds me of cut glass and the rustication of the Canadian carver Michael Parks. The rustication is very sharp and rough in the hand but a very cool finish in terms of the smoking. The bowl and the rim are almost totally rusticated with a thin band that is stained in a reddish stain that goes around the inner edge of the bowl. There is also a thin line of stained briar around the end of the shank. To complement the reddish stain on the smooth portions and the black matte stain on the rusticated bowl Kevin put on a shank extension of thin black Lucite then a nice piece of Box Elder that he stabilized. The overall flow of the bowl and shank is brilliant and the colours are beautifully matched from rim to the end of the shank. ImageImage

The stem is inset into the shank about 1/32 of an inch. The Box Elder shank extension is a tire like ring that rides on a briar shank that is cut to hold it. The Box Elder has an interesting marbled look to it that is really set off by the black of the Lucite band and the black stain on the pipe. Kevin did an excellent job on the inner mechanics of the pipe with drilling that is perfectly execute from the shank and into the bowl  – coming out exactly centre in the bottom of the bowl. The airway and the inside of the bowl were very smooth with no rough spots left by the drill bit in the bowl or shank. There was no bowl treatment or coating so just a good smooth briar.

The stem itself is hand cut out of a swirled red and black Cumberland like Lucite. It is thin and comfortable in the mouth. It has a slight bend to it that gives it a stylized look. It is a saddle stem with a bit of a step down from the ring at the saddle. Kevin did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe. The stem is nicely finished with the thin ring just behind the cylinder that provides a shift before the taper of the stem flows toward the button. It is a wide slablike stem that looks great with it striations of black that run through the red. The choice of material for the stem matches the red on the rim and the shank and the black on the bowl. The Box Elder breaks that colour flow up in an interesting way. The tenon is Delrin that has been inserted into the Lucite stem for durability and ease of use. The airway is funnelled slightly for a smooth transition from the mortise when it is in place. There is a very minimal gap between the end of the tenon and the base of the mortise. The airway is smooth even where the Delrin meets the Lucite of the stem. There is no lip or rough spot at that junction. The draught is unrestricted and open from the bowl to the tip of the stem. Draught is effortless. The fit of the stem to the tenon is very well done. The button is perfect to my liking and very comfortable in the mouth and teeth. The opening in the mouthpiece is fanned out nicely. The smoke is delivered smoothly to the mouth. ImageImage

The overall construction of this pipe is very well done. It is light in the hand and in the mouth. It is well balanced and has a great tactile feel when it is cool and as it warms up during the smoking of a bowl.

I have been smoking it for over a year now and after breaking it in with some Balkan blends that I have here it has become a good English/Balkan smoking pipe. It delivered a good smoke from the first smoke and continues to do so. It draws well; the lighting has never been a problem. It seemed to take very little time to break it in and continues to be an effortless smoke.

Thanks Kevin of Kevin Arthur Pipes for delivering a well made pipe that remains a very good smoking pipe even a year later. He continues to make interesting and well made pipes that are available on his website at  Stop by for a look, order one for yourself,  you cannot go wrong with his work.

Review of Crosby Pocket-sized Apple

Blog by Steve Laug

I received this pipe through the generosity of a good friend. I had been with him when John posted a pipe like this on his website for sale. When I went to purchase it someone had beat me to it. It turned out to have been my friend so he had John make a second one for me. When the pipes were completed he came by the house to drop my surprise gift off and to sit and smoke the two pipes together. I think of him and his generosity each time I look at this beauty.

In this review I want to look at the pipe from a more technical side and walk through its construction, feel and delivery of the smoke to me. I drew the pipe from the smooth black leather pipe sock, stamped with Crosby’s signature and USA in gold. Here is what I found.

In my hand the pipe is very light weight. I do not have a scale to weigh it in terms of grams or ounces but I can say that the weight is light. It is nicely made and roughly 4.5 inches long. The shape and weight make it easily a sitter even though it is not flattened on the bottom of the bowl or the shank. It is so light weight and balanced that, like the Morrisette I reviewed earlier, it is easy to leave in my mouth without clenching while I am driving home from work. The construction and eye to detail is very good. The finish is rusticated with a craggy tight rustication. John left a band at the end of the shank to facilitate the shank stem junction. The bottom of the shank also has a spot in which John stamped Crosby and the year of make – 09. In terms of stain and colour this is interesting. John seems to have stained it with a series of stains. It is almost matte black when viewed without a bright light. But with light there are hints of browns, reds and blacks. As I turn the pipe over in my hand the colours shift and are visible. The rim of the bowl is also rusticated with the same roughness as the bowl exterior. The rustication and finishing job on this pipe is very well done.

The stem work is nicely made. It is hand cut from acrylic but is soft in the mouth. It is a Cumberland like material in greens, yellows, olives, browns and blacks. The stem/shank joint is perfect – no gap whatsoever. It is a modified saddle stem – asymmetrical in shape. The slope on the top of the stem is at a sharper angle than that on the bottom of the stem. Both are cut with what looks like an eye for tree ring like striations in the acrylic. It is a fairly wide and flat stem that is very comfortable in the mouth. It has a nicely shaped button that is sharply cut and catches well on the back of my teeth. The slot in the button is a smooth V slot that facilitates the movement of smoke across the mouth. The colour on the end of the button is like a bulls eye – rings and rings that almost centre on the whole. The stem is polished with no scratches or file markings at all. Very clean. But the material is such that it goes very well with the matte finish of the bowl. Very nice feel in the hand.

Moving to the inside of the pipe – the mechanics of the pipe are very good. The angle of the drilling of the bowl takes advantage of maximum bowl thickness and depth. The draught hole was precisely where it should be. The bottom of the bowl is of relatively the same thickness as the walls of the pipe. Nicely laid out John!! The bowl was uncoated and very smooth. There are no rough spots where the draught hole entered the bowl. The inside of the airway in the shank and the bowl were very smooth with no extraneous roughness from the drilling. The same is true with the inside of the stem, which was also very smooth. Holding light to the bowl revealed a clean and smooth airway with no impediments. The drilling from the draught hole to the hole in the end of the shank is wide open and unimpeded. The tenon is delrin I believe and is open to draw the smoke through evenly. The opening airway in the end of the tenon is wide open and proceeds to the button in a smooth open path. There is no roughness or constriction where the delrin tenon ends and the stem material begins. This transition is smooth. The airway flattens out like a squeezed drinking straw so that the diameter does not change but is flattened and opened. The draw on this pipe is very smooth – no whistling sound and no sense of having to suck or work to get the air to move through. The draw on the pipe is effortless. From the first smoke it was a very easy pipe to smoke. Once lit it was effortless to smoke.  A pleasure to smoke, exactly what I have come to expect from the other Crosby pipe I have and what I hear others saying about his pipes.



Review of Gabrieli Quarter Bent Brandy

Blog by Steve Laug

I wrote this review several years ago now and post it here as I wrote it then. Dan still makes great pipes and they are reasonable in price. Dan is one of the makers that I have learned much from in terms of staining and stem work. He has always been available to me when I have a question or need a tool. We have spent many hours communicating across the continent via Skype and for that I am thankful. I have two of Dan’s pipes and love them both.

Yesterday (11/5) I received my Gabrieli pipe in the post from Dan. I have been waiting anxiously to have it in hand since he posted it here on the forums as a piece in progress. It is a beauty to be sure. The length of the pipe is 6 inches and the bowl height is 2 inches. The chamber diameter is 7/8 inches and depth is 1 ¾ inches. When it first arrived I thought it seemed large but it is very nice in the hand and the largeness is more in terms of appearance than reality. The overall shape is a ¼ bent brandy bowl that is quite large with an elongated shank that is pencil like. The combination works for me quite well. The stamping is also unique. On the stem and shank junction it is hand stamped Bethlehem, PA. On the left side in a smooth circle it is stamped Gabrieli arched over USA. On the shank right side is a Moravian cross with the date and grade stamp.

The finish on the outside of the pipe is rusticated in a finish not unlike the sea rock rustication on some of the Castellos I have seen or other brands that have a similar pattern of rustication. There is a deep craggy feel and look to the rustication on the bowl with a randomness to it that adds to the overall appearance. On the shank the rustication changes appearance a bit to more vertical striations and patterns. The variation between the bowl and the shank is actually very nice and they blend together well. On the rim of the pipe Dan left a bit of plateau on the right rear rim but the way it is in appearance carries through the rustication pattern from the bowl but a bit deeper. The rest of the rim is smooth with a slight edge protruding onto the bowl all the way around the pipe forming a smooth band around the outer rim that matches the smooth band at the shank stem junction.  The staining on this appears to be a blend of darker/medium brown with a red undertone that is interesting. It really goes well with the shank stem extension of Masur Birch set into the stem between a band of Cumberland and a Cumberland stem. The colour of the pipe is a beautiful match to the Cumberland stem colours. Nicely done Dan. The stem itself is a well made half saddle stem. The top of the stem is saddle shaped and the underside a gentle taper. The design along with the slight bend makes it fit very comfortably in the mouth. It also rests well enough that it can be clenched quite easily. The tenon is delrin and is funneled at the end for good mechanics. The button is exactly the way I like them – thinner on the edges with a gentle rise at the centre top and bottom. It fits well behind the teeth for a comfortable feel. The draught hole in the end of the button is also funneled to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. Comfortable and well executed. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.

The mechanics of the pipe are nicely done as well. The bowl chamber is fairly large with a slight chamfering around the inner edge of the bowl. It is coated with some kind or precarb coating that has no flavour attached to it. (Whew!) The draught hole is centered at the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight funnel as well – like a shallow Y- leading into the shank and stem. There is a very easy and open draw to the pipe. The fit of the stem to the shank is very good. Smooth and tight. The tenon sits deep in the mortise – if  not exactly the same length then impressively close! The fit of the tenon is also smooth. The drilling of the draught in the shank is straight but to accommodate the bend in the pipe it has the small u at the bottom of the mortise that is barely noticeable but present. The air pulls clearly through the pipe with no whistling at all. Using a light to shine through the various airways reveals smoothly executed airways on the inside. Very nice mechanics.

Today I gave it the inaugural smoke. I loaded a bowl of Red Ribbon (1983) and took a long walk at work. It packed very easily and lit well. The draught on the pipe was superb. The smoke was uncomplicated and effortless. It was smooth from the get go with none of the new pipe break in woes. The bowl coating is tasteless and does not change the taste of the tobacco. I am looking forward to another bowl on my drive home from work.

Thanks Dan for a well made pipe that smokes as good as it looks!

The Resurrection of a Thomas Spanu Olive Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted this old Thomas Spanu Bamboo shanked bent billiard made out of Olive wood. It was originally a beautiful pipe. The grain on the olive was very nice and the bamboo shank had a nice patina to it. The problem was that it was snapped at the shank bowl junction and the bamboo at the mouthpiece had a crack that was separating. I knew it was this way when my friend sent it to me. But I was not prepared for the mess that it truly was. What was a shame about it was that the pipe was barely smoked. The bottom of the bowl was still raw wood. I knew I had to give this a try.

I utilized the same procedure that Gan spelled out in his post here on the blog regarding the work on the Peterson. I used the same epoxy he recommended – a fast set epoxy – JB Kwik. It is extremely strong (though not as strong as regular Weld Bond), heat resistant to 500+ degrees F, impervious to moisture, and has a clamping time of only 3 minutes. I learned of this method from Gan early on when we were sharing tricks of refurbishing with each other. I mixed the two parts of the JB Kwik (epoxy/catalyst) and had plenty of working time to align the two pieces of the pipe stummel. I held them together tightly for three minutes and then released. The bond was good and though it shows because of the angles of the grain it is strong.

I then sanded bowl and the shank with 240 grit sandpaper to reduce the width of the glue. There was no way to hide the mark but I wanted to minimize it. I sanded until the line was thin and not overlapping on the surface of the olive wood. The picture below shows the bowl at that point in the process. I also used a small hacksaw to trim back the broken and cracked bamboo on the shank. I wanted to remove the entire cracked portion and then strengthen the remaining bamboo. To strengthen it I dripped superglue on the open end and then faced the new end on my sanding board to get a smooth flat surface for the stem.


After the preparation and repair was done I sanded the bowl with micromesh pads to remove all scratches and then buffed the shank and bowl with White Diamond to give it a final polish. I did some work on the stem (Lucite) to make the fit and transition more even. I sanded it and then polished it with micromesh and Tripoli and White Diamond to smooth it out.  I then gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax which I buffed with a soft flannel buffing pad. It is not beautiful and the repair shows, but the pipe smokes very well

Image! Image ImageImage

September 2, 2012 – This evening I decided to try rusticating the shank as Gan recommended in one of the comments. I used the modified Philips screwdriver that I used for rustication. Once I had it rusticated I restained it with medium brown aniline stain. I stained the shank and then the bowl as well. I wiped down the bowl with a bit of acetone to lighten the bowl colouration. Here is the finished product. It worked well Gan. Thanks for the recommendation Gan. 
I reworked the stem on the pipe this afternoon to try and get a closer match to the bamboo shank. It is better but still far from perfect. IMG_8063 IMG_8064 IMG_8065