Monthly Archives: December 2012

Refurbishing a Pipe by Lee Bull Moose Scoop

Blog by Steve Laug

This weekend I took my wife down for a visit to Bellingham, Washington – just about 40 minutes or so from Vancouver, BC. One of our past times when we are visiting another city is to check out the antique shops and antique malls. We have a circuit of them that we visit whenever we go to Bellingham. She looks for things for the house and I look for pipe and tobacciana. This weekend was great in that I found 6 pipes and three old pouches of tobacco. The first pipe on the work table is one that intrigued me and grabbed my attention. It has a nice rustication (??) that looks almost like a sand blast. The carver left a smooth rim and a small ring around the top edge of the pipe. There is also a smooth band at the end of the shank and also two patches that are smooth that bear the stamping on the pipe. The shape is a Bull Moose, I believer. It is also very similar to a Weber Scoop that I have except for the prominent prow on the front of the bowl. It is stamped on the left side of the shank PIPE BY Lee (Lee is in Script) over LIMITED EDITION. On the other side of the shank it is stamped AN AUTHENTIC over IMPORTED BRIAR. The stem bears the brass stars that grace the stems of Lee pipes. This one has three stars.

When I found it in the shop the stem had some oxidation and some minor tooth marks on the underside of the stem near the button. The stem had a metal stinger that was black with tars and oils and was also overturned slightly. The bowl was dirty with dirt and grime wedged into the finish of the rustication. The rim had a thick coat of tars and buildup and the bowl was heavily caked and wreaked of aromatics. When I found it there was also a threesome of tobaccos in their original packages tied in a sealed plastic bag – Skandinavic Mildly Aromatic, Sir Walter Raleigh Aromatic and a leather pouch of something that smells aromatic as well. The pipe smelled just like these tobaccos. The first series of four photos show the pipe as I found it.


I unscrewed the stem from the shank and dropped the bowl into my alcohol bath. It is a jar of isopropyl alcohol that I have reused and filtered repeatedly to remove the grit from the bath. The remaining alcohol has a dark brown colour and actually does a great job in not only removing the grime and old finish but gives the old bowls a light patina as well.


While the bowl soaked I worked on the stem. I cleaned it with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol to get the tars and oils out of the stem. The style of stinger restricts the airway enough that I could not get the pipe cleaner all the way through. It took quite a few cleaners until they came out clean. The stinger I cleaned with alcohol and then 0000 steel wool until it was clean. I began sanding it with the medium grit sandpaper on the sponge back to remove the oxidation and the roughness of the stem. It was very rough and almost pitted. It is hard to capture that with the photos. The first three photos below show the sanding pad and the stem after that initial sanding.


From there I filled a glass with warm water and used a micromesh1500 grit sanding pad to wet sand the stem. This took the majority of the scratch marks out of the surface and took care of the roughness of the stem. It would take a lot of sanding to bring the surface to a glossy smooth finish.


At this point I took the bowl out of the bath. It had been sitting in the bath for about an hour and I figured it was time to pull it. I scrubbed it with a soft bristle tooth brush to remove the softened grit and grime in the rustication. The next two photos show the bowl after I removed it from the bath and dried it off with the cloth that it is resting on. The grit is pretty well gone and the rim tar is softened but still present. The third photo below shows the rim after I had used some fine grit sandpaper to begin removing the tars on the rim. I continued to sand it until they were all gone. Since I planned on restaining the pipe anyway it was not an issue.


I still was not happy with the grime in the crevices of the rustication. I had removed much of it but there was still quite a bit present and I decided to scrub it with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush until the surface was clean. Again I was not worrying about removing any finish as I planned on redoing that anyway so I gave it a heavy scrub and then rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I repeated the scrub until the bowl was clean and the rustication free of grime.


The next four photos show the pipe bowl after I had scrubbed it with the oil soap and rinsed it the final time. I dried it off with some microfiber rags that I have here for that purpose. It removed the water from the briar and left a good clean surface that was ready for a coat of stain. In the photos you can also see the stem after it has been sanded with micromesh sanding pads up to 2400 grit. All of the sanding on the stem to this point was done with water and wet sanded. The rim is clean and ready for the stain. The bowl is clean and you can actually see the rustication really well.


At this point in the refurbishing process I decided to correct the over turned stem. I set up my heat gun and then took the pipe apart. The second and third photos show the process of heating the stinger. The heat softens the glue in the stem and once it is soft I turn it back on the shank until I can turn it all the way around and align the stem properly. Once it was aligned I dipped it in cold water to set the glue again. The fourth and fifth pictures in the sequence below show the newly aligned stem.


The next series of photos show the staining process of the bowl. I decided to thin the Dark Brown aniline stain to a light brown wash. I use an old tobacco tin and fill it with 2/3 alcohol and 1/3 stain. I mix it well and then use a dauber to stain the pipe. I repeated the staining until it was the brown colour I was looking for. I flamed the stain between coats. The colour I was aiming for was a wash coat that allowed the grain to show through on the smooth portions of the pipe and also made a good contrast between those parts and the rustication.


Once I had the stain the colour I wanted I took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond. The next two photos show the pipe bowl after the buffing. The contrast came out nicely and the grain is very visible on the smooth portions.


After buffing I took it back to the work table and gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax. I rubbed it on by hand and then buffed it with a soft bristle shoe shine brush. For some reason the photos came out with some strange looking browns to the finish. The final colour is the reddish brown tone that is visible in the first photo below.


Once the bowl was stained, waxed and buffed I put it aside and went back to work on the stem. I finished wet sanding the stem with the micromesh sanding pads 1500, 1800 and 2400 and then gave the stem a coating of Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0. I applied it with my finger and then rubbed it with a cotton pad. The first photo below shows the coating of the polish. The second and third photos show the stem after the polishing with Maguiar’s.


At that point I shifted to 3200, 3600 and 4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next two photos show the change in the stem polish after this next set of three sanding pads.


I then coated the stem with Obsidian Oil as pictured in the next two photos. When it was dry I wiped the stem down and finished sanding with the last three micromesh sanding pads – 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit. The difference in the finish after the last three pads is quite remarkable.


Once the stem was polished I gave it a coat of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad. Here is the finished pipe. The pipe in person has a glossy stem. I got a new camera so I am still learning all the tricks of it. The thing really picks up the dust particles on the pics. Ah well. I will get it down eventually!


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 39,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Had Some Time on My Hands Today So I Reworked One of My Own

Probably a year or more ago, I picked up this pipe on EBay. It is stamped CAVEMAN over Singleton on the bottom of the bowl and shank. To me these old timers are ugly and never really look done. But they are smoked the way they are and often come with a good cake and a tooth marked stem. The stem bears an S in a circle as a logo. I keep an eye open for these pipes and try to snag them as they come up. I have found that they are easily finished and make a nice small group 2 sized smokers. The stems are usually a good fit and the briar is not too bad. I have reworked three of these Cavemen and all have become favourite smokers. When they arrive they are generally well smoked and thus already broken in so that part of my job is finished. All I have to do is to decide what shape I want the finished pipe to have and then reshape it meet my desires.

The first set of pictures below show the state of the pipe when it arrived in the post. I reamed the bowl and cleaned the shank and stem inside to make it a bit cleaner for me to work with. I generally sand the sides of the bowl and the top before I begin to get a feel for the grain on the pipe. Once it is sanded then I wet the briar with water to get a good look. From there I sketch a shape on the block and get my Dremel out with the sanding drum.


The next series of photos show the pipe after I have removed a large portion of the briar. I decided to play around with a wedge shape on this one initially. I had seen one on one of the pipe sites I frequent and wanted to give it a go. I knew that if I did not like it I could easily change the shape and try something new. But you can see the basic shape in the photos. The stem I flattened on the top and the bottom to fit the flatness of the wedge. I left the edges of the stem rounded and planned to do the same with the bowl.


The next series of photos show the pipe after I have sanded it and readied it to be stained. The wood is smooth and the stem is polished smooth. I sanded it with medium grit Emery cloth and then 280 and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the sanding marks from the Dremel. Once it was smooth with those papers I moved on to sand it with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and water. There was definitely a bit of grain present but it was fairly light so I would need to do a bit of contrast staining to get the grain to lift and be visible.


I decided to use some black aniline stain to make the grain patterns more visible. I stained it with the black, flamed it and restained it and flamed it again. I then took it to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli to remove the excess stain and make the contrast visible. I had to sand the pipe a second time as well to remove more of the stain. I used the 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to do this. Once it was sanded I buffed it a second time with White Diamond to give it a shine. I gave it a top coat of medium brown stain diluted by 75% with Isopropyl alcohol. I wanted the brown to be basically a wash coat. I applied it with a dauber, flamed it, reapplied it and flamed it again. Then I buffed it with White Diamond. The series of photos below show the finished look of the newly carved and stained Caveman. It was a marked improvement in my opinion.


However, over the months though I smoked it quite a bit somehow the shape just did not do anything for me. I found that unless I intentionally took it out of the cupboard to smoke that I would never reach for it naturally. So today it was quiet around the house, I still have some time off until after New Years. The wife and daughters were doing banking and errands. I was home listening to the radio and cleaning my study. I finished that and decided I wanted to work on a pipe – either to refurbish one from my box or something else. I went to my cupboard and my eye fell on the little wedge shaped pipe. The time had come for me work it over and see what I could do with it. I got out my Dremel with the sanding drum and went to work on the pipe. I removed the sides of the wedge and squared the shank and the stem. I decided to make a tapered stem that continued the taper right up the shank to the bowl. It did not take too much time with the Dremel to get the shape close to what I was aiming for in my mind. The picture below shows the basic shape after the work with the Dremel. It still needed a lot of sanding to bring it to the final shape but you can see where I was heading with it.


The next series of pictures shows the pipe after I have sanded it with some medium grit Emery cloth. I sanded it until the shape was clean and smooth and the flow of the taper was at the angle I wanted to have when I was done. As I sanded the bowl I came upon the small flaw in the briar that is visible on the bottom edge of the bowl in the first photo below. Once I had the bowl sanded to the shape and curve I wanted I scraped out the flaw and opened it with a dental pick and then filled with briar dust and super glue. I figured that since I had a lot of sanding and smoothing to do that the time for the fill was this point.


The next four photos show the pipe after I have sanded both the stem and the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and water. I then used the Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0 and rubbed it on and polished the stem. I wiped it off and then buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond. I took it back to the work table and sanded it with the remaining 3200-12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The photos below show the pipe after the sanding.


I decided to stain the pipe with a medium brown aniline stain. I daubed the stain on, flamed it and then restained the bowl and shank a second time. I flamed it a second time and then took it to the buffer to remove any of the excess stain and give it a polish. I used Tripoli with a light touch and removed the stain. It was still pretty dark so I wiped the bowl down with an Isopropyl alcohol dampened cloth to lighten the finish and make the grain more visible. The next four photos show the pipe after the alcohol wipe.


After the wiped down I took it back to the buffer and used White Diamond. The White Diamond polished the pipe and gave it the rich brownish red appearance that is visible in the next series of photos. The feel in the hand and the mouth are much better with this newly revised shape. The richness of the colour is appealing to my eye. It seems that when I carve a pipe I keep going back to it to revise the shape and stain. This one has come a long ways from the original Caveman pipe that was pictured in the first photos above. Whether it is done or not I am never sure… in fact as I look at the enlarged photos I still see a few areas that may need some more work as some of the scratches that are not visible in the light of the shop show up really well in the flash. Ah well. That is the joy of having the tools and a bit of time on my hands this holiday season.


Restemming a Custombilt Look Alike

This morning I decided to restem an old Custombilt look alike pot that I had in my box of pipes for repair. I am getting down to only twenty or so pipes left so it is the pipes I have left until the end. Some of these I left because they had no charm to me and others because I just was not ready to work on them. This old no name pot was one of the ones that held no charm for me. The rim was pretty covered with grit and grime. The finish was not in too bad a shape. There was a small crack in the shank which would need to be banded and then the matter of matching a stem to the pipe hung in the air. This morning I went through my can of pipe stems and found an old cast off taper stem that was the right diameter to match the shank. The tenon would need to be sanded to fit the mortise. I set it aside and reamed the pipe and cleaned the shank before fitting the stem. I opened the crack in the shank a bit with some pressure from a dental pick and dripped some super glue into the crack and held it tight until it set. I then heated a nickel band and pressure fit it to the shank. I sanded the tenon by hand with 240 grit sandpaper until the fit was snug.

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Once the stem was a good snug fit I went to work on the bowl. I cleaned the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush. I wanted to remove as much of the grim from the rim as possible and clean up the rustication on the rim surface without damaging the finish. I repeated the process by applying the soap, scrubbing and wiping it off with a cloth.


When the rim was clean I wiped down the outside of the bowl with the Oil soap as well and removed the grime that remained on the surface. I then wiped the entire bowl down with some acetone on a cotton pad to even out the stain colouring. Once it was dry I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the pipe and stem with Tripoli and White Diamond.

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I sanded the stem with a sponge backed medium grit sandpaper. I find that this allows me to get into the crevices on the button and to follow the shape and taper of the stem well. At this point the two photos below show the stem after the buffing and sanding. I spent a bit of time working on some tooth marks along the edge of the button on both the top and the bottom of the stem. You can see the work that has been done near the button in the photos below.

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I worked on the stem with the micromesh sanding pads using the 1500, 1800 and the 2400 grit with water to sand out the scratches and the remaining oxidation. At the conclusion of this process the stem was a nice matte black and the oxidation was basically history as can be seen in the photos below.

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At this point in my stem rejuvenating process I rub the stem down with Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0 a fine scratch and blemish remover intended for cleaning and polishing plastic headlight lenses. I rub it on by hand and then scrub it off with a cotton pad until the stem is clean. When I finish with the polish I move on to the next grits of micromesh 3200-12,000 grit and sand until the finish is a polished black with a depth to it. I dry sand with these grits of micromesh. Between the 4000 and 6000 grit pads I took it to the buffer and gave it a buff with White Diamond. I found that the oxidation at the shank end of the stem was still present after the buffing and would require some more work with the earlier grits of micromesh. I buffed that end with some Tripoli and then decided to try the Bic Lighter method to address the remaining oxidation. Once that was finished I sanded the stem with the higher grits of micromesh 4000-12,000 and then coated the stem with Obsidian Oil. I buffed the stem with White Diamond and then reinserted it in the pipe and gave the entire pipe a final buffing with multiple coats of carnauba wax. Here is the finished pipe.

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Charatan After Hours

Blog by Al Jones

I found this large, Charatan After Hours Bent Billiard at Wingenroths shop in Lebanon, PA.  The owner, Mel, is a fine gentleman and if you are in the area, his shop shouldn’t be missed. I always find something interesting in his estate dresser or downstairs on his work bench.

Charatan_After_Hours Bent Billiard - BEFORE (5)     Charatan_After_Hours Bent Billiard - BEFORE

The After Hours line was a clever move by Charatan to use a strummel that had some sort of flaw.  The flawed area was cut off and an acrylic piece was screwed to the shortened shank.  Early pipes had horn extensions and later acrylic was used.  This pipe uses an acrylic piece.  The wood for After Hours is reported to be of a “Selected” quality grain.  At the time, I had another After Hours pipe, a straight billiard.  I enjoy bent pipes much more than straights and this one looked worthy of restoration.  The “After Hours” stamp was still legible as was the CP on the double-comfort stem while badly oxidized was free of any bite marks.  The stem on my first After Hours pipe was one of the most comfortable as the rubber is quite soft and pliable.  I bet is that it is difficult to find one free of tooth indention’s.    This large billiard looked similar to a Charatan shape 44, a favorite of mine.

The bowl was in decent shape and showed the florid “L” of a Lane era pipe.  Unfortunately the bowl has some strange striation like marks on the bowl and it has a very rough texture.  It’s as of someone made an attempt to rusticate the bowl.  The bowl was so large I thought it would have plenty of wood to sand smooth and restain.

Charatan_After_Hours Bent Billiard - BEFORE (3)

Charatan_After_Hours Bent Billiard - BEFORE (4)

I started sanding the bowl with 320 grit paper than moved up thru the grades to 1500.  The striation marks came off, but unfortunately so did the “L”.  But, the bowl looked great with a smooth finish.

This was my first attempt to restain a pipe and I was a little apprehensive in lighting the stain.  I decided to wrap masking tape around the acrylic extension to protect it.   I chose medium brown Fieblings stain which I thought was lightened significantly.  Later, I learned it was still too dark.  Unfortunately I had used too much stain and when it was lit to set the stain, I was horrified to find the masking tape also caught on fire!  I snuffed that out quickly and was relived to find no damage was done too the extension.  A valuable lesson was learned there.  The bowl was darker than I had desired, but I decided to let well enough alone.

While working on the bowl, I had soaked the stem in a mild solution of Oxyclean. I put a dab of grease on the CP stamp to protect it.  I used 1500 and then 2000 grit wet paper to remove the heavy layer of oxidation.  Getting the oxidation out of a stepped double-comfort bit is always an added challenge.  I then used the final three grades of micromesh (6000>8000>12000) to finish the stem. It was then buffed lightly by machine and pad with white diamond and a plastic polish.

Charatan_AF_Bent_Billiard_AFTER (1)

I had intended to resell this pipe, but after smoking it a few times, it earned a permanent spot on my rack.  The Double-Comfort stem didn’t disappoint.  A few months ago, after chatting reading about some of Steve’s stain jobs, I decided to lighten the stain with an alcohol wipe and then rebuff.  That worked well and I’m pleased with the present finish.   The pipe smokes very well with a nice, open draft and easily passes a cleaner.  My only issue with this pipe is that it is so large, it doesn’t easily fit into my racks.

Charatan_AF_Bent_Billiard_AFTER (2) Charatan_AF_Bent_Billiard_AFTER (3) Charatan_AF_Bent_Billiard_Gallery 2

Redeeming a Disaster – A Repair with a Happy Ending

On Christmas Eve I decided to start working on a little acorn shaped pipe bowl that I have had here for quite awhile. It sat in my repair box in wait for the right moment for me to take it to the work table. It needed a stem and the shank was set up for a metal screw in tenon. I did not have any metal threaded tenons that fit the shank well or I could have made a stem for the pipe and inserted the threaded tenon. The time was right and I wanted to try something a bit different on this one. It did not matter if it worked or not really as it was truly a disposable pipe. With that freedom in mind I decided to fit the bowl with a push tenon stem. To make that work involved removing the metal insert from the shank. I reamed the bowl and cleaned out the shank to get it ready for removing the insert. I tried to twist if out as I figured that it was screwed into the shank. No such luck. It was tight and I could not remove it after using heat or putting it into the freezer to cause it to contract and loosen. I made a decision at that moment that did not end well – at least in the short term.

I set up my cordless drill with a bit that would open up the shank. My thinking was that if I could not removed the insert I would drill it open and smooth so that it would take a regular push tenon with no problem. I started with a drill bit virtually the same size as the airway and then planned on moving up to larger drill bits as the work progressed. The initial drilling worked well and the threads were smoothed out. So far so good! I was pretty excited to watch the airway smoothing out and opening up. Then I changed the drill bit for the next size up and drilled it a second time. I progressed slowly holding the bowl in my hand as I drilled the shank. I have done this before and did expect any problems. You know the thinking right – it worked well in the past so I could expect it to work the same this time around. So with full confidence I worked away. Then disaster struck. A few moments after starting to drill with the slightly larger bit the shank literally shattered in my hand. I was left holding four pieces of broken briar in my hand. The bottom half of the shank remained intact but the upper half was in three pieces. The metal insert remained unmovable in the bottom portion of the shank.

I was a bit stunned and almost binned the broken briar. What had at first appeared to be a good idea was reduced to something that I was ready to throw away and write off as a learning experience. However, I stopped and looked at the pieces for awhile. I thought about cutting the shank off and adding a shank extension to do one of Piet’s Hot Rods. I weighed the pros and cons of that and still was not certain whether I wanted to go to that trouble for this pipe. I took the pieces and puzzled them together to see what the damage looked like when it was put back together. I examined it closely and could see that the break was at least very clean and the surface was not chipped or damaged. I used a dental pick to remove the metal insert from the shank. I decided to get out the super glue and put the pieces back together for a look. With all the pieces in place the pipe looked okay. I sanded off the excess glue from the shank and used some acetone to clean off the stain that was on the shank and bowl. It looked like there was some promise. I decided to strengthen the bond with a nickel band. I heated a nickel band with my heat gun and carefully pressure fit the band on the shank. The repaired pipe was going to be workable.


I sanded the bowl and the shank and wiped it down repeatedly with acetone. The idea was to remove all of the remaining lacquer finish and even out the stain. I wanted to get the bowl back to bare wood as much as possible before restaining. Once I had it clean I sanded it again with a fine grit sponge backed sanding pad. I continued to sand it with the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to prepare it for staining.

I had an old saddle stem that would fit the shank dimensions in my box of scavenged stems. I turned the tenon to fit the newly cleaned shank and did the initial sanding to remove the oxidation on the stem. I used the same sponge back sanding pad I used on the bowl as it allows good access to the saddle areas of the stem. The photos below show the newly fit stem. I have quite a bit more work to do on the stem and bowl to bring the pipe to a finished condition but the promise is definitely there. In the second and third top view photo below you can see the repaired shank. I am pretty confident that it will be pretty well hidden by the staining.


Before restaining the bowl I decided to work on the stem and get it polished and smooth. I used the 1500 and 1800 micromesh pads to do the sanding and polishing before using the Maguiar’s polishing compound. I have started to use it after the first two or three micromesh sanding grits. I rub it on by hand and then scrub it with a soft cotton pads before wiping it off. I repeat this polishing process with the compound two times before proceeding to working through the remaining micromesh grits. I sanded the stem with 2400 and 3200 grit and took it to the buffer and used Tripoli to buff away the scratches and the oxidation that remained at this point in the process. I also buffed the bowl with the Tripoli. Once back to the work table I used 3600 and 4000 grit before giving the stem a rub down with Obsidian Oil. The four pictures below show the pipe as it looks at this point. The bowl is ready to stain and the stem is getting close to the finished look. There is still some oxidation around the saddle area that will need some more work.


I decided to use an oxblood coloured aniline stain on the pipe to try to minimize the visibility of the repair to the shank. I used a cotton swab to apply the stain, flamed it and then buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth before taking it to the buffer and buffing it with White Diamond. After buffing I waxed it with several coats of carnauba wax to give it a shine.


I also finished the polish on the stem using White Diamond on the buffer before finishing with the remaining three grits of micromesh pads – 6000, 8000 and 12,000. I gave it a final buff with White Diamond and then rubbed it down with some Obsidian Oil. I finished the stem with several coats of carnauba wax. The four photos below show the finished pipe. The repair to the stem is visible if you look closely but the redemption of this broken pipe is complete and it is ready to smoke.


An Old Manhattan Billiard with a Bakelite Stem

I picked up this old timer a while ago now and did a quick clean on it and put it away. Today I decided to take it out and finish it. The first tree pictures below are photos that were with the EBay auction. I liked the look of the pipe in those photos and decided to bid on it. From the EBay photos it appeared to be in pretty good shape. It appeared to be dirty and in need of a good cleaning. The stem was red Bakelite and the shank extension appeared to be yellow Bakelite. The rim looked dirty and tarred but pretty sound.


When it arrived it was in worse shape than the pictures showed. The rim was rough around the outer edge. The inner edge was also rough and out of round. The bowl was caked with a broken and chipped cake. The stem was over turned and had some significant bite marks in it on the top surface near the button. On the underside of the stem there was what appeared to be a repair to a bit through. It looked like an epoxy patch. The fill on the patch was overdone and the edge of the button was virtually gone. The top side bite marks were deeper than I expected and would need some work to raise them.


I reamed the bowl and cleaned the shank and bowl with pipe cleaners and Isopropyl alcohol. Once the pipe cleaners came out clean I was happy with it. The stem also needed a thorough cleaning. The tenon was a screw tenon and appeared to be metal as it was corroded and a little rusty. The previous owner or maybe the seller had put a paper washer on the stem before turning the stem on tightly. I think this was the solution to the overturned stem. I scraped the washer off of the shank and the stem and cleaned up the tenon with steel wool and alcohol. Once it was clean I worked on the button area on the underside of the stem. The epoxy repair was thick so I sanded it down and then recut the button edge with my flat needle file. I recut the top edge as well to clean it up and give it a new sharpness. I sanded the patch and the tooth marks until they were smooth and then used micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to sand the surface smooth. I also used the Maguiar’s scratch polish to polish out the scratches. Once that was finished I took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond. To readjust the overturned tenon I heated the tenon and then turned it until it aligned. I also turned and turned it back until I had a good solid fit on the shank. Once the stem was aligned I gave it a coating of Obsidian Oil and set it aside for a little while and worked on the bowl rim.

The rim took a bit of work as there were quite a few deep marks in the surface of the rim and also a rough edge on the outside of the bowl all the way around. I steamed the dents to the surface and then topped the bowl on a flat board until the edge was smooth once again. I worked the inner edge of the bowl with sandpaper to minimize the out of round shape of the bowl and make it at least appear to be more round again. I then sanded the bowl rim with progressively higher grit sandpaper end with 400 and 600 grit wet dry. I finished sanding with micromesh sanding pads using all grits from 1500-12,000. There is one small fill that is visible on the top right edge of the rim that is the only fill I find in the pipe. I restained the pipe with an oxblood aniline stain and carefully applied it with a cotton swab as I did not want the stain to mark the shank extension. I did not flame it this time around as I did not want to risk any melting of the extension with the fire. Once it was dry I put the stem on and took it to the buffer to buff with White Diamond. I finished by buffing the entire pipe with carnauba wax until it shone. The finished pipe is pictured below.

I am not familiar with the Manhattan brand but am pretty sure that it is a US made pipe. It is older as it has the Bakelite stem with an orific button. Manhattan Pipe Company made pipes in the US and I would assume made this one. It is stamped only on the left side of the shank with the words MANHATTAN over DeLuxe (in script) over the word BAKELITE. The case has a tag in it that also reads MANHATTAN over French Briar over Bakelite in a shield style logo.


A View from the End of Stem

I don’t’ know about you, but sometimes when I have too much time on my hands my head can begin to reflect on things that I had not thought of before that moment. That happened recently and I can tell you that up to that moment the topic of this post is one that I had not given much thought before that time. I mean really – the shape of the end of the stems or the button. Yet the other day (I am on holidays right now for another week before the grind of a new year of work begins) I was at my desk in the study and I looked over to my pipe cabinet. To give you a bit of the geography of my study might help visualize the moment. My study is in the basement of my old Victorian Cottage. On the west wall just under the stairs is my desk. Behind me on the east wall are books. To the south are also books and to the North on both sides are books. But at the north end of the room is a pipe cabinet that houses my pipes and tampers. The picture below gives a bit of an idea of what I am speaking about.


As I looked across the pipes in my collection I was struck by something I had not paid attention to before. Now understand that I often pick up my pipes either to smoke them or fondle them – if you are a pipe smoker you know what I mean. The thing that I saw was that among the pipes of my collection there were two distinct shapes to the end of the stems. For lack of a more definitive description I have chosen the descriptors convex and concave (curved out and curved in respectively as pictured below). Both types of stems are in my pipe collection – both the pipes I have refurbished to sell or give away and those that retain a more permanent position in my cupboard. The division seems to be equal betweeb both types of button curvature. Now mind you, there are variations on the theme. Some of the older, late 1800’s and early 1900’s orific button stems have a very pronounced convex shape. Think of the convex shape of a Peterson system type stem and you understand the concept of convex stems. Some of my Dunhill’s fishtail stems have a very pronounced concave button – almost an open “(“ shape. These are on the extreme ends of the spectrum but the rest of the pipes I have also fall into those two categories with different degrees of flattening to the curves.


As I looked at them I wondered about the difference. Is the difference merely one of preference of the maker as they are machined? Is it the preference of the craftsman as he decides on the overall look of his finished piece? In other words is it a matter of aesthetics? What difference does the shape of the button make? Is it a comfort issue or is there something mechanical that led to the shape? I don’t think that I will ever know for sure but it is probably safe to assume that many of you either don’t care or have not thought about it. But here are my thoughts as I processed the difference.

The older pipes in my collection – those from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – all seem to have convex stems like the one on the right. They have either a soft convex curve or a more pronounced curve. One thought that comes to my mind as I study them is that most have an orific (or round) opening in the button. In fact I don’t think it is a far stretch to say that all the pipes that have an orific opening have a convex shape. I don’t have any orific openings on pipes that have concave buttons. The logic of that seems to make sense. If the opening in the button is a round hole as opposed to a slot, it is pretty natural that it would be at the centre of the convex curve. To test this idea I looked at the newer pipe stems that I had that are convex and I found that as the orific opening disappeared and a more oval or football shaped slot takes the place the convex shape begins to flatten and in some cases becomes concave. Thus the survey of the pipes in my cupboard leads me to believe that the shape of the end of the button, at least at first, may be a function of the shape of the opening at the end of the button.

As I smoke each of them I have no particular opinion as to which is more comfortable in the mouth. This seems to be a more complex topic than just button shape. Both types of buttons can be very comfortable and deliver a great smoke or a lousy one. I wonder too if it is not something of an era issue. It seems that today the orific slot on the button has gone by the way of the dinosaur. The only manufacturer that I see still using a modified form of the style is Peterson. I do not know of any current pipemakers that use that style of button. The two shapes of button now seem much more a thing of form versus function.

Those are just a few of my thoughts from the end of the stem this morning. What are your thoughts? Some may think that this reflection is a waste of time but think it has a practical implication for the refurbisher. I fit quite a few replacement stems on older and newer stummels that I have. One of my goals is to make the stem as much as possible like the one that would have been on the pipe when it left the workshop or factory. I research the stem shapes on a particular brand and seek to match the shape of the button, the tenon and the slope of the stem to the original. For example when I restemmed several early 1900’s era BBB pipes that I in my collection I researched the BBB catalogues and did web searches to see what the stems looked like from the tenon to the button. I sought to duplicate what I found as much as I could. I know that to some this will seem like an unnecessary step in the process. Can’t you just put a new stem on the pipe and smoke it? Certainly I can do that but on these old gentlemen I aim to bring them back to their former glory even in terms of the stem style and shapes. Call it a quirk if you like, but it has become an integral part of the hobby of refurbishing to me.

Anyway enough on the topic. I am curious to read your thoughts. Post a reply and weigh in on the end of the stem. Post some examples if you have them in your collection.

A Chairleg Style Stem on a Clubhouse Apple by GBD

Blog by Steve Laug

I was giving EBay my usual morning once over and came across this pipe. What interested me about it was that I have a pipe very similar to it but stamped Penthouse rather than Clubhouse. A bit of research showed that both were made by GBD and were a part of their chairleg stem pipes. Looking at them in comparison to other GBD chairleg pipes that I have I can see that these may have been a seconds line of their pipes (though I am not certain of that). The ball on the chairleg of both the Penthouse and the Clubhouse is not consistently the same size around the edges. It also had some finishing scratches that never were sanded out. I liked the look of this one from the photos so I went for it and won the auction. It is stamped Clubhouse over Made in England on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped London England over 335. The pictures below were the ones posted by the seller. The pipe looked to be in excellent shape. The grain is quite nice. It looked like one that would not take a lot of work to get it in shape.


When the pipe arrived here in Canada the bowl was in great shape. The bowl only needed a light ream and clean. The shank was clean and the stem was clean inside. This would be an easy cleanup in terms of the briar. The stem was another story altogether. It was far more oxidized than the EBay pictures showed. The next four pictures show what the pipe looked like when I took it out of the box. These chairleg stems are a pain to clean up and get the oxidation out of all of the grooves. I knew that this one would prove to be a challenge.



I lightly reamed the bowl and wiped it down with a soft cloth and oil soap. It cleaned up nicely. I coated it with some carnauba wax and then put it aside. I dropped the stem in a soak of Oxyclean to soften the oxidation. I would need all the help I could muster to get the oxidation off of this one. Once I took it out of the soak the stem needed to be sanded. I used medium grit sandpaper on a foam pad to allow me to get into the grooves and the sharp edges. Once I had the initial sanding down I wiped the stem down with a soft cotton cloth dampened with alcohol. I then continued the sanding process with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I finished with the pads and then scrubbed the stem with Maguiar’s Scratch polish. I gave it several repeated rub downs with the scratch polish and then progressed through the remaining micromesh pads from 3200-12,000 grits. The finished stem is pictured in the four pictures below. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it sit. After it dried you can see the areas that still need to be worked over on the stem.


The stem top and bottom are clean and fresh. The underside of the chairleg portion of the stem is quite clean and free of oxidation. The sides and the top of the chairleg portion still need more work. I then sanded these once again with the sponge backed medium grit sandpaper. I worked through the grits of micromesh from 1500-12,000 again. I coated the stem with another coat of Obsidian Oil. Once it dried I rubbed it down and then buffed it with White Diamond. It was significantly better so I took it back to the work table and scrubbed it down with Maguiar’s another time. Each time I do this I can see how much oxidation come off by the brown on the cotton scrubbing pad. This time the pad was relatively white when I finished the polishing. I gave the whole pipe a buff with White Diamond for a final time and then coated it with several coats of carnauba wax. Here is the finished pipe.


GBD 9438 Prehistoric Restoration

I love the GBD 9438 shape and have this model in several finished.  This Prehistoric finish pipe was found on Ebay.  I thought this was going to be a simple buff and clean, but the pipes took a little more effort due to a self-inflicted stem issue, or an issue that was hidden by the oxidation.

Some “Before” shots of the pipe:

GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Before GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Before (3) GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Before (2)

I cleaned the bowl with my new retort, which worked well and really scoured the bowl.  This was the first time I’ve used a retort.  I cleaned the tars off the bowl rim which revealed a nicely polished rim edge that I love on Prehistoric grade GBD’s.  The rest of the bowl was buffed lightly with tripoli, white diamond and then several coats of carnuba wax.

While I worked in the bowl, the stem was soaked in a mild Oxy-clean solution (the brass GBD rondell was covered with some grease).  I removed the outer layer of oxidation with 1500 and then 2000 grit paper.  There were several light tooth indention’s on the top of the stem and they popped out nicely with some heat.  The nicks/cuts on the middle of the stem (handling?)took some effort with 800 grit paper but came out as well.  After the 2000 grit paper, I used 8000 and then 12000 grades of micromesh.  The stem was then polished on the buffer with white diamond and then plastic polish.

GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Finished (1)

When I went to photograph what I thought was the finished pipe, I was disappointed to see a crack on the underside of the stem, near and through the button.  I’m not sure if the heat used to remove the teeth marks or retort caused this issue but I’m 99% sure it wasn’t there when I started. To fix that, I greased a cleaner, inserting into the stem.  I then dribbled some superglue down into the crack.  When it was dry, I sanded it smooth with 800 then 1500 and 2000 grade paper, then the micromesh and buffing wheel.  The crack looks and feels solid now and I don’t think it will cause me any issues.



GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Finished (6)

GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Finished (4)

Crack Repair (with some hair/fuzz…):

GBD_9438_Prehistoric_Finished (5)