Daily Archives: August 10, 2012

Restoring a Pair of Old Yello Bole Bamboo Pipes

This refurbishment involved two old Yello Bole Bamboos and it was a pleasure. There was a time I did not like bamboo shanks on pipes. They seemed to always be clunky and cumbersome to me. However I have picked up several old ones lately – these two older Yello Boles and Kaywoodie Mandarin. They have changed my opinion of the older bamboo pipes. These old timers have a patina and a spider webbing in the bamboo that lends them age and an aura of being ancient.

The first one came to me in dire need of a thorough cleaning. The bowl was heavily caked and dirty. The finish was bubbled and spotty. The bowl literally had cob webs in it. I wiped out the cobwebs and reamed the bowl. I cleaned out the airway in the bowl and shank with many pipe cleaners and a shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scrubbed the outside of the bowl and the bamboo with Murphy’s Oil soap. I wiped off the grime. I then carefully wiped down the bowl with acetone and a cotton cloth to remove the ruined finish and clean the surface of all varnishes and stains. Once done I restained the bowl with a medium brown aniline stain and buffed the bowl and shank. I coated the bowl and the shank with several coats of carnauba wax and buffed with a flannel buff to bring out the shine.

The stem was pretty oxidized and brown. I soaked it in Oxyclean while I worked on the bowl. When I had finished the bowl I took it out of the soak and used micromesh pads to remove the oxidation. I used my normal regimen of pads from 1500-6000 grit and then put it back on the pipe and took it to the buffer to be buffed with Tripoli and White Diamond. The black of the stem came back very well. I coated the stem with Obsidian Pipe Oil and then wiped it off and buffed it with several coats of carnauba wax.


The second one is a darker bowl and a bit different shaped pipe. The one above was more of a pot shape while this one is a billiard in shape. The first had a three knuckle piece of bamboo and this one had a two knuckle piece. The bowl on this one was also in rough shape. It needed a thorough cleaning as well. I removed the grime from the outside of the bowl and scrubbed it and the shank down with Murphy’s Oil Soap as I did the previous one. The bowl was reamed and cleaned along with the shank and airway with pipe cleaners, shank brushes and isopropyl alcohol.

The finish on this one was not in as bad shape so I merely washed it down with isopropyl and then polished it with the buffer using White Diamond and then I gave it several coats of carnauba wax. The bamboo also had a darkening patina on it that I did not want to damage or change so I carefully wiped it down with the undiluted oil soap (not leaving it on the bamboo but merely wiping it down with a soft cloth). I then waxed the bamboo with several coats of wax.

The stem was also pretty oxidized and brown. I soaked it in Oxyclean while I worked on the bowl. After I had finished the bowl I took it out of the soak and used micromesh pads to remove the oxidation. I used my normal regimen of pads from 1500-6000 grit and then put it back on the pipe and took it to the buffer to be buffed with Tripoli and White Diamond. The black of the stem came back very well. I coated the stem with Obsidian Pipe Oil and then wiped it off and buffed it with several coats of carnauba wax.


Demuth’s of Lancaster, PA History

This is another older pipe booklet that I have a copy of here. I wanted to post it as well to give more data and pipe history to those of us who enjoy reading that kind of thing. Demuth’s must have been an amazing store in its day! Anybody know if it is still with us?


Astley’s Pipe Catalogue

Blog by Steve Laug

This is an older Astleys of Jermyn St. London pipe catalogue that I had around. I thought I would post it here so you all could enjoy a bit of the history of our hobby. Note the many shapes and shape names that are in the catalogue.


Reflections of an amateur refurbisher

This week after seeing George Dibos’(of Precision Pipe Repair) three part post on cutting a stem from rod stock that he shared on Smokers Forums I have to say that I am left to confess that I am truly an amateur refurbisher. I am not downplaying the work I do or the pleasure I get out of my craft but only wish to acknowledge that there are true masters of the craft. George is truly a master at what he does. His careful attention to minute details of repairing pipes makes his refurbishments some of the best in the business. He is able to replicate stems that are incredibly matched to the originals. I am in no way negating the value of doing the work ourselves but it is acknowledging those who are leading the craft and creating beautiful work. I stand in awe of him and others like him who make this work look so easy. I must say that in comparison to them I feel a lot like a bush mechanic in the company of truly gifted mechanics.

I have no trouble acknowledging the fundamental difference between the work I do and what these gifted individuals in the pipe restoration/repair community do. It is truly no different than recognizing the difference between artisans who carve pipes as a livelihood and those who do it as a spare time hobby. Both are artists in their own right. To a varying degree there is a difference in the skill level, if not by natural gifting, certainly by sheer volume of practice. The same is true with pipe refurbishment. Those who have well developed shops, days focused on the process of pipe refurbishment, and skill and gifts in using the tools that they have will certainly have more carefully honed skills than the armchair or weekend hobbyist. This in no way makes light of either one. Both are integral parts of the hobby we enjoy.

I don’t have the tools, the space nor the skill set to do the kind of work that George and others like him do. I will probably never be the kind of individual who does what they do because, bottom line, to me it is a hobby and something I do for relaxation and not a vocation. I use what I have to do what I can and invent what I need as I go along. Part of the joy of the hobby for me is not just doing the work in the best way I can, but always learning new and better ways of doing things. I am a committed lifelong learner who has a hungry mind that is never satisfied with what I know and is always looking for new ways and new information. I love the creative process of refurbishment in that I can continually be challenged to work “magic” on new pieces that come across my desk. But another important part of the joy for me is the task that I have taken on willingly and freely to pass on what I learn to others in our hobby. It is a joy to see others take what I have learned and surpass me in their skill and expertise. To learn tricks from those who have learned from me is part of why I started the reborn pipes blog. I don’t just want to share what I have learned, I also want others to pass on what they have learned and their own refinements on the processes they experiment with. That is why I invite others like Al, Chuck, Fred, Rob, Ed, Bryan and more who share the love of reclaiming old briar and giving it new life.

For me the blog is a way we all can continue to learn from one another, share common ideas and issues and seek to understand how to address them as we work on the pipes on our desks. We can write about what we do and have others try it, refine it and pass on their knowledge. Thus, we create a living “school” in which to continue to develop our craft. It is a place for those of us who are amateur refurbishers, who love to tinker, love the process and the pipe, to continue to learn from each other. Lately I have been using Skype, an online web communication tool, to meet with individuals and work on pipes together. It is quite amazing to talk and work real time with another person on a pipe that they have on their work bench. It works with video and audio so that you can literally look at the pipes you are talking about. Worst case scenario Skype has an instant messaging component that you can type communications between several who are working on pipes. In my work I have used it with groups to have virtual meetings and can see that working really well to have a shop time gathering. I have written an article on one such experience and Part 1 of it was printed in the August issue of Pipe Smoker Unleashed Magazine – http://www.pipesmokerunleashed.com/magazine/august2012.html and is on the blog as a post. The second half of the article will be in the September issue and will soon follow on the blog. Skype provides a real time tool that we can also use to consult with each other on pipe repairs before and as we do them. This is a venue for us to use that is rich with possibilities. I am aware that others use “You Tube” and make videos of their work, but I am reticent to venture into that arena. I don’t know why, as I am sure it is helpful, but it just is not something I am interested in doing. Others may want to do videos and I can easily add them to the blog or they can start their own blogs.

As I close these reflections I have to say that when I look ahead at the future of pipe restoration and refurbishment I am excited to think of all the possibilities and all that there is yet to learn from one another. I also remain in awe of the calibre of work and craftsmanship of those like George. I delight to see the product of their skills and observe so that I can learn as much as I can in the process from them. I will always have to personalize their methods to work on my smaller scale of refurbishing but that too is part of the process I enjoy. I tip my hat to the masters and know that I will probably not live long enough to even come close to that kind of workmanship. However, I take my place proudly in the company of those who tinker at refurbishing and share their love of all things pipes with one another. My plan for the near future is quite simple, I will continue in my tinkering until I am no longer able. Why? Because it gives me pleasure!