Daily Archives: August 21, 2012

Reworking a John Bessai Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked this old pipe up on EBay for a very cheap price. In fact I think the postage was more than the pipe. I had read on the forums that John Bessai carved some great smoking pipes.

Pipedia has this information http://pipedia.org/index.php?title=Bessai

John Bessai was a long time pipemaker, repairman and tobacco shop owner who operated his pipe shop at the “Old Arcade” in Cleveland, Ohio. The shop was opened in approximately 1898. It was a small 2-room shop where he hand-crafted his own pipes in the back room and could work when customers were not there. Like so many other shop made brand, John Bessai’s limited production was quickly acquired by regular customers and thus his craftsmanship remained little known outside of Ohio and the Midwest. While his name is known by pipe collectors in the Midwest, his work is seldom seen elsewhere! He died before 1969. Nevertheless, John Bessai left behind a small number of classic shaped pipes; all were made on-site. They are praised worthy of collecting and reflecting skills well beyond most American pipe makers. John Bessai’s logo “JB” appeared as one letter as the “back” of the “J” and the “back” of the “B” share a single line. The logo was stamped on the stem and on the left side of the shank. His son Herb Bessai took over the business and also continued making pipes. He closed the shop in about 1978.

I was excited to have one of his pipes and looked forward to its arrival here in Canada. When it came and I opened the package I loved the shape and the feel of the pipe, but the large fills really bugged me. I cleaned up the pipe and gave it a smoke to see if I would even keep it. It smoked incredibly well and the draw was effortless. It was comfortable and lightweight so it seemed like one that I would keep. But what to do with the fills that covered the right side and the front of the bowl puzzled me. I wanted to keep the pipe clearly a Bessai pipe. I did not want to destroy what he had carved but I wanted to do something to deal with the fills.


So I decided to rusticate it with a leather-like rustication and then give it a contrast stain on it give it an interesting look. I used my rustication tool (the pipe and nails that I have written about in another post on the blog) to cut into the finish and rusticate the surface of the bowl. Once the bowl was rusticated to the place I liked I took it to the buffer and buffed off the rough spots and made the overall surface smooth to the touch. I then stained it with a coat of black aniline stain and flamed it to set the stain. Once it was dry I took it to the buffer and removed the black stain on the high spots with a Tripoli buffing pad. I then took it back to the desk and gave it a coat of medium brown aniline stain and flamed it. I let it dry and then buffed it with White Diamond. I then buffed the whole pipe with White Diamond to polish the stem and bowl and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I used a light touch on the bowl as I did not want to fill the grooves with wax. ImageImageImageImage

Restemming a Wimbledon Bulldog

I have this old bulldog in a box to be repaired for quite a while. It is stamped Wimbledon 800 and from research appears to have been made by Briar Craft/Grabow. It needed a new stem as it came to me without one. I had this interesting old butterscotch coloured Lucite stem in my can of stem. It was a diamond shaped saddle stem that I fit to the bowl. I had to turn the tenon to get a fit on the bowl and then had to remove much of the Lucite material on the sides of the diamond shape and thin down the blade and button of the stem. I used my Dremel with a sanding drum to cut away most of the material on the angles and also flatten and thin the stem. I shaped the stem until the angles were correct and then finished the shaping of the stem with sandpaper. I used a medium grit emery cloth to start with as it seems to work really well in removing material and getting rid of the deep scratches and grooves left by the sanding drum. I then used 240 grit sandpaper followed by 400 and 600 wet dry sandpaper with water. I finished by polishing the stem with 1500-600 grit micromesh pads. I had to band the shank as it had a small crack near the top left edge. I fit the stem and then buffed the pipe lightly with White Diamond and then coated the stem with carnauba wax and the bowl with Halcyon II wax. I buffed it to a shine with a flannel buff.ImageImageImage

A Reborn Kaywoodie Relief Grain Billiard

I went to work on this old timer Sunday afternoon. I had picked it up on a recent trip to the US for a visit. It has an amazing blast that is deep and craggy. The pictures give a bit of an idea how beautiful the grain is but in hand it is an amazing tactile experience. It is very rugged yet the ridges are smooth to the touch. The bowl still had tobacco inside and a hard cake inside that was uneven. The rim of the bowl was coated with tars and oils that filled all the grooves of the blast to the point that they were smooth. They were also running down the front of the bowl along the outer lip of the rim. The stem was badly oxidized and over-turned so that it would not line up when tightened. The stem was amazingly bite free and only had a minimum of tooth chatter so it would be easy to work on. The finish was in good shape but was dirty. This one would take more work on the stem than the bowl. ImageImageImageImage

I cleaned out the old tobacco with a dental pick and then reamed the bowl until it was bare wood. The cake was too uneven to leave much behind. I then used pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean out the shank and the inside of the bowl. To scrub down the bowl I coated it with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and used a tooth brush to scrub it down. I scrubbed the rim with a brass wire tire brush. I wiped the bowl down to remove the soap and then reapplied it to the rim and continued scrubbing until the grooves of the blast were clean and visible. I also used a micromesh pad 2400 grit to polish the metal band on the shank and the face of the metal tenon. Once that was finished I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem.

I put the stem on the pipe and buffed it with Tripoli to remove the oxidation that would easily come off. Then I heated the 4 hole KW stinger with my heat gun and realigned the overturned stem. Once it cooled I took it back to the worktable to sand on the stem. I used 240 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation and bring the surface back to a matter black. I was careful around the inserted KW emblem as they are fairly thin. I then used 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to finish the initial cleaning. Once the stem is fairly smooth, no tooth chatter, no more oxidation then I use the regimen of micromesh pads to sand it to a polished look. This time I added three new grits of pad to the process. I normally have used 1500-6000. This time I added 7000, 8000 and 12000 to the mix and the shine is remarkable. I finished by buffing it quickly and lightly with White Diamond and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba and the bowl several coats of Halcyon II Wax. ImageImageImageImage