Monthly Archives: January 2013

Restored a Pair of Older Real Briar Bent Billiards


The last two pipes I received in the gift package from a friend on Smokers Forums were these two older rusticated bent billiards. The pipes are both stamped Real Briar in an Oval on the shank. There is no other stamping to help identify country of origin or maker. The rustication on the pipe on the left is more refined and almost like a sandblasted look and feel. The rustication on the other one is rustic and less refined. The pipe on the left has an aluminum tenon with a thin aluminum wafer built into the stem itself and has a blade like stinger attachment. The pipe on the right has a push stem with a sterling silver band. The rims on both were chamfered into the bowl and both were heavily caked with tars and resins. The bowls were in need of a ream. The shanks were dirty and tarry. The finish on both was dirty with dust and grime set into the rustication on the bowl. The aluminum and the silver band were tarnished. The stems were both oxidized and both had matching tooth dents on the top and bottom of the stem about a quarter inch from the button. The first series of four photos shows the state of the pipes when they arrived to my work table.

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I removed the stems and placed them in an Oxyclean bath and placed the bowls in an alcohol bath (99% isopropyl alcohol). I scrubbed the bowls in the bath with a soft bristle brass tire brush as seen in the pictures below. The bowls and stem soaked overnight to let the bath do its work. When I took them out the next morning I scrubbed the bowls some more with the brass brush and dried the bowls off. I also sanded the rims with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the tars and the damage to the surface of the rim. The rims were chamfered so this was done by hand with a small folded piece of sandpaper held at the angle of the chamfer. The next series of five photos show the bowls after the scrubbing and rim work.

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I finished my work in cleaning the bowls by wiping down the bowl surfaces with acetone on a soft cotton pad. With that work they were ready to be stained. I chose a dark brown aniline stain thinned with alcohol 2:1. I applied it with the dauber and then flamed it to set the stain. Stained it a second time and flamed it. Then I took it to my buffer to buff with a light touch on a White Diamond wheel. The next six photos show the developing shine that the bowls and the rims took on with the buffing. I still needed to clean the sterling silver band on the one bowl.

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At this point in my process I set the bowls aside and worked on the stems. The first two photos below show what they looked like when I took them out of the Oxyclean bath and dried them off. The oxidation was by no means gone but it had softened considerably and was easier to remove. The four photos that follow show the stem in the process of polishing it with Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0. I applied the scrub by hand and rub it into the stem surface and then wipe it and polish it with a cotton pad. I find on this kind of oxidation it works to remove the surface material that the Oxyclean raised and gives me a clean surface to work on with the micromesh sanding pads. The last two of the four photos show the stems after the polish with the cotton pads.

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At this point I reinserted the stems in the bowls and worked on the stems in the bowl with fine grit sanding sponges to remove the remaining oxidation. I then removed them from the bowl and continued sanding them.

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The next two photos show the stem after sanding with the sanding sponge and then reapplying the Maguiar’s polish. The remaining oxidation is very clear around the button and at the end of the stem near the tenon. I used the Bic lighter method and ran flame along the surface of the stem from front to back while really working over the button area and the tenon end of the stem with the flame. The idea is to move the flame fairly quickly along the surface of the stem while be careful not to burn or heat the stem too much. It burns off the oxidation and is easier to work with using the micromesh sanding pads afterwards.

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After all the preliminary cleaning of the stems and removing the oxidation I worked on the stems with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-3200 grit micromesh pads. I found that the water gives the pads a bit of bite in the sanding process. I have a small cup of water that I dip the edge of the pad in when sanding. I then finished by dry sanding with 4000-12,000 grit micromesh pads. I then polished it a last time with Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 and then coated the stem with Obsidian Oil and finally multiple coats of carnauba wax.

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The final series of six photos shows the finished pair of Real Briar Pipes. I polished the silver band with some silver polish before giving them all a quick buff with carnauba wax and a soft flannel buff for polishing. Both pipes are cleaned, polished and ready to smoke.

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Restored Golf Old Briar Billiard


This Golf Old Briar Billiard is the fourth pipe of the six that a friend from Smokers Forums sent my way. This one was the kind of challenge I enjoy. The briar was in pretty good shape under all the dirt and paint and black tarry deposits on the rim and the sides of the bowl. The pipe is stamped Golf in script over Old Briar in block type. On the underside of the shank near the stem it is also stamped with the shape number 1304. I am not sure who made the Golf brand of pipes but I saw several on Pipephil’s site with the name and different logos. It is an interesting piece and quite hefty. It is not large in terms of length or height but in terms of bulk. The finish was shot as you can see and would take some work to remove all the stains and paint flecks on the bowl. There were also some very visible fills on the bowl sides. The stem was very oxidized and had some odd oil like patterns on it that remain a mystery to me as to the cause. There was also a script G on the stem but it was merely applied to the surface rather than stamped into the stem material.

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In the photo below I wanted to show the unique stinger apparatus in the stem. It was removable but seems very tiny in proportion to the size of the pipe. It is a needle point with a slot in the top surface that the smoke is drawn through. There is not much surface area to collect the moisture so I am not altogether sure of the effectiveness of the stinger. The stem was stuck so I had to put it in the freezer for several hours before I could remove it from the shank without breaking things. Once I took it out of the freezer it was fairly easy to remove.

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I put the stem in the Oxyclean bath with the one from the figural pipe. I also put the two bowls in the alcohol bath overnight before giving them a once over. The two photos below show the pipe after I took it out of the bath to begin working on it. You can see that some of the grime was removed but the paint flecks remained as did the black stains on the bowl. These would take more work.

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I used some acetone on a cotton pad to scrub down the bowl. The next series of two photos show how well the acetone removed the finish. It made short work of the paint and dark stains on the briar. I scrubbed it until the surface was clean. You can also see the presence of the fills that I spoke of earlier.

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The rim of the bowl was rough so I decided to top it a slight amount to remove the damage and to clean up the surface. Since I was staining the pipe anyway there would be no problem in trying to match bowl and rim. I used my normal sandpaper on a board system and sanded the bowl in a clockwise motion to smooth out the surface. I first used a fine grit emery cloth and then followed that with 320 grit sandpaper. The first two photos below show that process and the effectiveness of it.

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The next series of four photos show the bowl after I wiped it down with acetone again after the topping of the rim. The cotton pads show the sanding dust and surface grit that still remained on the surface of the bowl. I wanted to give it a final wash before staining it. I decided to not remove the fills on this bowl. I wanted to see if I could blend them in with the stain coat rather than replace them with the superglue briar dust patches that I generally use.

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I chose to restain this pipe with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. It is the same stain I used on the figural pipe that I posted about earlier. The next series of four photos show the process of the staining. I had my daughter help me with the photos and she was able to capture the flaming process in the last photo in this series. The flame burns quickly and blue. It burns off the alcohol and sets the stain in the grain of the briar. I love the way that flame dances on the surface of the pipe.

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I set the bowl aside once the flame had died and worked on the stem. The next series of photos show the stem as it appeared after I removed it from the Oxyclean bath. It needed a lot of work. I had to sacrifice the painted G script as it would not survive the clean up. I used my Bic lighter technique to burn the oxidation. The process is very simple as I just move the flame over the surface of the stem never letting it stay in one place too long. I repeat the process until the surface is clean and black. I then polished the stem with the Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 scrubbed on by hand then polished off with cotton pads. I repeated that process twice and then sanded the stem with the micromesh sanding pads 1500-12,000 grit. I finished by once again applying the Maguiar’s before putting the stem back on the pipe and taking it to my buffer to buff with White Diamond.

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The next four photos show the finished pipe. It has several coats of carnauba wax applied by my buffer and buffed out to a shine with soft flannel buffing pads. The stain is a bit lighter than it appears in the photos and you can see the grain through the finish. The fills are all but invisible at a quick glance. Before I stained the fills I drew over them with a black permanent marker and then stained them. They covered very well with the marker and the dark stain.

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Restored a Carved Figural


I received this figural pipe in the lot of six that came to me from a friend on Smokers Forums. It is a tiny pipe – measuring just over 3 ½ inches in length. It is stamped only Real Briar in a band around the shank. The carving of a First Nations Leader (as we call them here in Canada) or Native American (US) is nicely done. The bowl was cake with a rough layer of cake. The finish was dirty and some of the top coat was damaged. The rustication around the bowl rim inside the head dress was almost smooth with tars. The grooves in the feathers and facial features were dirty as well. The stem was rough and badly oxidized. There were no tooth marks or chatter on the stem. The button was very tight and I could not put a pipe cleaner through it to clean it out. Pushing a cleaner in from the tenon end only let me get about ¾ of the way up the stem. The first series of four pictures show the pipe as it arrived to my work table.

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I removed the stem and put the bowl in an alcohol bath overnight and the stem in a bath of Oxyclean for the same duration. When I took the bowl out the next morning it was definitely cleaner however I needed to scrub it with a soft bristle toothbrush to remove the grime from deep in the grooves in the face and feathers. I also wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remaining finish on the bowl. I reamed the bowl with my T handle PipNet reamer to get the bowl cleaned out. I also cleaned the shank with cotton swabs and Everclear and then pipe cleaners as well. I used the drill bit on the handle of my KleenReem reamer to remove the build up from the airway between the mortise and the bowl. Once the pipe was cleaned inside and out it was ready to be stained. The next series of three photos show the pipe ready to be restained.

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I restained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I thinned down 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I used the dauber that comes with the stain. I applied it heavily, flamed it and then restained it until the coverage was the way I wanted it. The next three photos show the bowl during the staining process.

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The stem needed a lot of work to get the roughened surface smooth again and the oxidation off of it. I began by working on the slot in the button. I could not get a pipe cleaner through it so it would need to be opened with my needle files before I could really clean the inside of the airway. The next four photos show the progress of the slot reshaping and opening from start to finish. Once the slot was the right openness and took a pipe cleaner easily I sanded it out inside with a folded piece of 320 grit sandpaper to smooth out the file marks.

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Once the slot was open I cleaned out the inside of the stem with Everclear and pipe cleaners and a shank brush. It took a lot of pipe cleaners as I don’t think the stem had ever been cleaned since it was first smoked. I then sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to loosen the remaining oxidation and smooth out the rough surface. I then used a medium grit sponge backed sandpaper to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper. I used the Bic lighter technique on the stem and then sanded it with micromesh sanding pads 1500-2400 grit and then polished it with Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 applied and rubbed off with a cotton pad. I finished sanding the stem with the remaining micromesh pads from 3200-12,000 grit, buffed it with White Diamond on my buffer and then coated it with Obsidian Oil and then multiple coats of carnauba. I also gave the bowl a buff with carnauba.

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The finished pipe is pictured in its new finish in the next five photos. It is a proud figural that has interesting carving and a great feel in the hand. I am not much for figural pipes but this one has some endearing features for me. Thanks Bill for the gift and the opportunity to try my hand on this one.

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Some Observations on Briar by Country of Origin


I wrote this piece a while ago now but have since worked on many more refurbs. Many are made of briar that is unidentified in the stamping. But some of them are stamped as the lot below were. Here are some of my observations that I noted back then, today as I am reworking this piece I still find the thoughts of those days interesting and decided I would post it here on the rebornpipes blog and get feedback from all of you. Have you found any of these observations to be true or have you found other observations that you could write about? I know I am not alone in saying that I would appreciate the information and the insight that many of you could add to this discussion. Here is the piece I wrote about a year or more ago…

Yesterday and today I refurbed more than 20 pipes and all of them are made from briar that comes from different countries. The country of origin was stamped on them and that is what got me noticing. It was not something I had given much thought before today. Now I wonder about it. The observations that I note are things that were true of all the pipes that bore that country’s stamping. I am sure others may have things that could be added and some may even disagree with me but this is what I found in the process of the last two days.

The pipes that were made of Algerian briar – I found that this particular briar was hard and light weight. I hada reddish tint to it even under the stain. I know that the stain once applied is never removed totally but even as I topped the bowls the briar dust was reddish. I also picked out some fills in some of the bowls and under the putty the briar was also reddish in hue. That makes me at least question whether it is just the effect of the stain because even when the putty fills and the stain are removed the briar is still reddish coloured. When I restain the bowls a reddish hue always seems to come through regardless of whether I use a brown or black stain. One of my tricks, learned from a pipe making friend of mine is to lick the briar to see what the grain looks like. When I did that with these pipes the briar seems to have a sweetish taste to the tongue. I checked that observation by also tasting a bit of the briar dust itself and it was confirmed for me.

The pipes that were made of Spanish briar – I found that this briar has a different weight and density to it than the Algerian. It is heavier than the pipes made of that briar that I have worked on these past days. It seemed to be softer and scratched and dented more easily. I found that on this lot I had to steam out quite a few dents in the wood. I did not find any uniform colour to the stripped briar so I cannot comment on the look of the wood before staining. However, it also seemed to take stain differently as well. The stain soaked into the grainat a rate much more quickly than the other briars and the grain was highlighted differently than in the harder briars from Algeria or Italy. When I performed my taste test on this briar I found that its taste is not as sweet to the tongue. It is more subdued and flat tasting.

The pipes made of Italian briar – The pipes made of this briar were very hard and light weight. Once the finish was stripped off the briar its colour was more yellow or white. When stain is applied to the pipe it does not soak in as deeply and appears a much lighter hue. Even a cherry or oxblood coloured stain comes out lighter and the yellow softens the reddish hues. Using my taste test on this briar I found that the taste is a bit more bitter and sharp on the tongue than either of the other two briars.

These are the observations that I came to as I worked on pipes from these three countries these past two days. I don’t know if I am dreaming or if it truly different. Has anybody else noticed this as you have worked on pipes? I am only noticing because I have been working eight hours each day at these refurbs and noting differences.

In the year plus that has passed since I first wrote these observations, nothing has changed in terms of what I observed and experienced in the briar I worked on. Many of the observations have been confirmed through work on other pipes that have come across my work table. I continue to note the things that I see as I work on these old pipes. I want to one day add Israeli briar to the list and that found in other countries as well. Feel free to post your thoughts in response to this blog post. I look forward to reading what you all have to say. Thanks ahead of time for your contribution to the work.

Refurb – Jarl Ribbon Acorn


Blog by Steve Laug

This little pipe caught my eye when I was going through my box of pipes to be refurbished. It is stamped Jarl and is in what they call their Ribbon finish. It an acorn shape with what for all intents and purposes looks like a Celius style stem on it. It is light and clean.

The bowl needed a good reaming – a bit of a trick as it is a conical bowl. I used several of the PipNet bits on the T handle to ream the bowl. The finish was faded and dirty. The inside of the shank was tarry and dirty and the inside of the stem was the same. The stem was oxidized and the original owner had modified it by carving some horizontal lines (3x) on the top and bottom of the stem to make kind of a homemade dental bit. He had also used some Elmers Glue to repair the button where he cracked it trying to put a pipe cleaner through it. The glue was all over the top of the stem.

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I scrubbed the bowl with some Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush to clean out the grime and dirt from the sand blasted portions of the bowl and shank. I scrubbed the ribbon or smooth portions with a cotton pad and Oil Soap. It took a bit of scrubbing to remove the tars from the rim edge and restore the finish there to a clean colour. I ran it under a clear stream of warm water to wash away the soap and then dried it off with a microfibre cloth. Once it was dry I decided to restain it with an oxblood and black stain on the blast portion and a nice oxblood/cherry on the smooth parts. Before staining I cleaned out the shank and airway with cotton swabs/qtips and bristle pipe cleaners to remove the grime. I finished with fluffy pipe cleaners. Once clean it was ready to be stained. I first used a black aniline stain and then flamed it. I took it to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to remove the black stain from the smooth surfaces and from the high spots on the blasted portion. Then I restained it with a top coat of oxblood/cherry stain, flamed it and then buffed it with White Diamond to get a good contrast colour to the bowl.

The stem took some work. I was able to sand out the homemade cuts without compromising the thickness to much as they were fortunately not too deep. The cracked button was a challenge. I cleaned off the Elmers Glue and then scrubbed the crack clean with alcohol and a soft brush. I picked out the bits of glue that were in the crack with a dental pick. I dried the area and then repaired it with Super Glue. It came out looking like new. The stem was buffed with Tripoli and White Diamond after sanding. The entirety was given a coat of Halcyon II wax and buffed with a shoe brush.

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Some sad news came back to me regarding this beautiful little acorn pipe. When I finished working on it I gave it away to Desertpipe as a gift. He loved the look and feel of it and appreciated it for what it is. Then one day after using it the cracked portion of the button broke off entirely. He sent the pipe out to be restemmed. I am looking forward to the day it is finished and he sends me some pictures.

Yello Bole Logos From My Collection of Old Yello Bole Pipes


Over the past ten years or so now I have been picking up older Yello Bole pipes. I find that the briar is not bad – some say they are Kaywoodie’s lower line and I suppose that is probably true. The thing that attracts me to them is the stain and stem combinations, the logo inserts in both the stems and shanks. The five photos below show the variety of logos in my pipes. I have several that have what is known as the propeller inset – the first two photos show that inset. I have only seen the propeller inset in the stems and not in the briar itself. The next three photos show the circle inset. The first is a yellow coloured Bakelite or acrylic that is inset in the shank itself next to the KBB cloverleaf stamping. The last two photos show the inset brass rings that are placed in the stem material.

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The next two photos show two of my pipes with the logos visible – the first is a nice little Yello Bole apple with a yellow stem and the propeller stem logo. The stamping on this one says that it is a patent pipe and has the KBB in the cloverleaf stamped on the shank. I really like the colour combination of the stain on the briar and the yellow stem. The second pipe is another Yello Bole apple with the brass O insert on the stem. The combination of colours is once again a winner for me. This one is also stamped with the KBB in the cloverleaf.

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The final photo in the lot shows my collection of Yello Bole pipes all together. I have two of the propeller logos on the stem, two of the brass O on the stem and one with the yellow O in the shank. The last two on the right are my Yello Bole Bamboo shank pipes. They are a great looking lot of American pipe history.Image Does anybody have any idea as to the dates the various logos and stamping were used on Yello Bole Pipes? I would appreciate any information that anyone can add. Thank you.

Since posting this a few moments ago I found this web site that gives some help in dating Yello Bole Pipes http://www.otcpipes.com/ybdating.html  It looks like my pipes have some old dates. The pipes with propeller logos appear to be made in the 1930’s or 1940’s. The pipe with the yellow circle logo imprinted into the shank of the briar was made in the 1930’s. Those with the brass O seem also to have been made in the 1930’s. Looks to me that most of my Yello Boles are old timers!

A Reborn Piccadilly Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

This little bulldog came to me in a lot of six pipes given to me by a friend. Something about it caught my attention as it seemed to have a classic bulldog shape. It was in pretty rough shape. It is stamped Piccadilly over Italy. It had a thick coat of varnish over the whole bowl and shank. There were also paint flecks on the surface of the bowl and shank. The rim was tarred and black with minor dings in the wood on the outer edge. The rim was chamfered in toward the bowl and also showed some wear and tear. The bowl was pretty clean; as I am pretty sure it had been recently reamed. The stem was badly oxidized and when the pipe came to me the stem would not come out of the shank or even turn. There were no bite or tooth marks on the surface of the stem. The inside of the stem was also tarry and dirty. The first series of three photos shows the state of the pipe when it arrived.

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I put the pipe in the freezer for several hours and then I was able to remove the stuck stem. It was incredible tight and very dirty. The tars seemed to have acted like glue holding the stem in the shank. I cleaned out the stem with pipe cleaners and a shank brush and then put it in a bowl of Oxyclean to soak overnight. I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath overnight as well. The next series of five photos show the bowl and the stem the next morning after an all-night soak in the baths. You can see that the bowl is clean and incredibly shiny. The alcohol bath removed the paint flecks and the surface grime. The rim tars had softened and were ready to be removed. The varnish coat however was not even touched by the soak in isopropyl. The stem was much better than when it went in to the bath. The oxidation had softened and much of it was removed when I dried off the stem. What remained would take more work.

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I then wiped the bowl and shank down with cotton pads soaked with acetone to try to break up the varnish finish. It took many wipes to cut through the finish and also to cut through the tars on the rim. I also sanded the rim with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining tars and the slight burning around the inner edge of the rim. The next three photos show the result of the sanding on the rim and the wiping down of the bowl. The varnish was untouched – maybe softened a little but it did not give way at all to the acetone.

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More drastic measures were going to be required to remove this thick varnish coat. It was almost acting like a coat of polyurethane. I would have to sand the finish off the bowl if I was going to remove it at all. This required care as I wanted to remove the finish and not change the shape of the bowl and shank. I used a medium grit emery cloth to break through the finish coat. The next series of three photos shows the pipe after the sanding with emery cloth. I also wiped it down again with acetone at this point to clean the finish and see what remained. You can see the stubborn remainders of the topcoat.

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At this point I switched to a medium grit sanding sponge to remove more of the remaining finish. I removed the inserted stinger apparatus and put the stem back in place so that I would not change the angles on the shank where it met the stem when I sanded. It also allowed me to sand the stem and shank simultaneously and to keep the angles sharp and intact. The next three photos show the pipe after sanding with the sponge. I continued to sand until the shiny finish was gone. I then wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to clean the surface.

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I sanded the bowl and shank with 320 grit sandpaper and then 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper followed by micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit before staining the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I wanted to give the pipe a stain so I could see if the many fills that were revealed could be camouflaged with the stain coat. My guess was that they would stand out and I would need to pick them out and refill them with superglue and briar dust. I stained and flamed the pipe several times. The next series of six photos shows the results after staining. I would indeed have to rework the fills – at least the large ones.

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I used my dental pick to remove the old fill material – it seemed to be white putty that did not take the stain. The pick removed the white material easily and I wiped the bowl down with an alcohol wetted cotton pad to clean up the dust before refilling the flaw. I then took out my container of briar dust (I collect this from the bowls that I top) and used the dental pick to pack the flaw with briar dust. Once it was packed and overflowing I dribbled drops of superglue into the packed dust. It dries quickly so there is no time to work it or move it. Once I finished the first pack and drip I added more briar dust and redripped the glue. The three photos below show the new fill before I sanded it. The briar dust and glue are very hard and I always over fill the flaw and sand it back to smooth. I do not want any shrinkage in the fill so I work with the material as I spelled out above and over fill the flaw.

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Since the glue and dust fill dries very quickly, it can be immediately sanded. I used some fine grit emery cloth to smooth out the glue and followed that with some 240 and 320 grit sandpaper. The next two photos show the fill after I had sanded it smooth. The fill is now dark and hard. I have found from past experience that the dark fill is much easier to blend in with the stain than the white or pink putty fills.

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After the sanding and preparation of the other fills that I replaced I restained the bowl with the dark brown aniline stain. I flamed it and restained it several times. The bowl is seen both wet and after the flaming in the three photos below. The fill is well blended into the dark stain.

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Once the stain was dry I took the pipe to my buffer and buffed the bowl with Tripoli and White Diamond. The fills were still to visible to my liking so I used a trick I learned somewhere – I used a black permanent marker (Sharpie) and highlighted the grain on the pipe and also stroked in grain through the fills. Once it was finished I stained it one last time with the dark brown stain and then buffed it to a polish. The bowl was finished and I set it aside to work on the stem.

The stem needed quite a bit of work. I sanded it with the medium grit sanding sponge and then with 320 grit sandpaper and 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. The oxidation was still stubbornly remaining on the saddle and in the slope of the saddle to the flat bit. I used the Bic lighter and moved it over the surface of the stem to burn off the oxidation. I repeated this several times and then sanded the stem with 1500-4000 micromesh sanding pads. I also used the Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 between grits of micromesh. I also used my Bic lighter to burn more of the oxidation between the grits. Once I was finished I polished the stem with Maguiar’s and then buffed with White Diamond to polish it. I gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil followed by multiple coats of carnauba wax to the stem and bowl. The final pictures show the pipe after this work. In the last photo the area that had the fill repaired is shown to detail how well the fill blends into the finished pipe.

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