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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.