Monthly Archives: February 2013

Rejuvenating a Heibe Goldpoint Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Heibe is a German brand of pipe made by pipe maker Erich Heikaus; Bergneustadt, Germany in the 1970’s. The stamping is on the smooth bottom of the shank and it reads HEIBE over Gold Point and to the right of that stamping is stamped 88. I am guessing that is the shape number. It has an ebonite stem with a gold point in the top of it. The point swirls and gives an attractive look to the stem. The stem was oxidized and had some tooth chatter and a tooth mark on the top and underside of the stem. The stem was also loose fitting. The bowl was caked but not evenly and the cake seemed to be very soft. The rim was a bit darkened but no burn marks and the inner rim was still round. The bowl finish is rusticated with a tree bark like rustication and the stain was black. The rim and the smooth spot on the underside of the shank were stained oxblood. The finish was dirty and in spots the stain was missing and the briar was showing through – particularly on the edges of the rim and on the shank near the stem. Some of the high points on the bark rustication were also showing briar through the stain. The original stain was black. The next series of four photos shows the state of the pipe when I started working on it this morning.

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I decided to begin by scrubbing the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush that I have used for a long time to scrub deeply into the rustication patterns. Once I scrubbed it thoroughly I rinsed it off under warm water in the sink. I do not leave it under the water long, just enough to scrub off the soap and get it cleaned. I then dry it off with a soft cotton cloth and wipe out any water than got in the bowl with a cotton swab. The first picture below shows the pipe scrubbed and covered with the oil soap. The tooth brush in the photos is the one I use to scrub the bowl. The next four photos show the bowl after I have rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. You can see where removing the grime and dirt from the bowl left the spots very visible that needed to be restained. The rim also cleaned up nicely.

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After I thoroughly dried it off it was time to stain the bowl. I did a bit of research and found some estate Heibe pipes on a German estate pipe selling site. The finish on this one was normal for Heibe’s rustications and it states that it was stained black. With that information I decided to restain it with some black aniline stain. I used the dauber that came with the stain and applied it heavily to the rim and the bowl making sure that it went deeply into the crevices of the bowl and the shank. I would clean off the rim and the shank later and worry about staining them afterwards. I stained the bowl and flamed it with a Bic lighter, then restained and reflamed the bowl. The next series of three photos show the newly stained pipe.

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Once it was dry I rubbed the stain off the rim and also off the shank smooth portion with a soft cloth and then with some alcohol on a cotton pad. I also buffed the bowl with White Diamond on the buffing wheel. The smooth portion on the shank cleaned up nicely and the finish of the oxblood stained came through well. The rim (fourth photo below) did not fare as well. I wiped it down with acetone and also more isopropyl but in the end I would need to use a soft sanding sponge to remove the black from the edges of the rim.

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I set the bowl aside to let it dry thoroughly while I worked on the stem. I began by sanding out the tooth marks and the tooth chatter with 320 grit sandpaper until they no longer showed. I then used my medium grit sanding sponge to sand the entire stem and work on removing the oxidation. The first two photos below show the sanding sponge and the work that it did in removing the oxidation. The next two photos below show the stem after I wiped it down from the sanding with the sanding sponge.

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I then used some Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 and scrubbed the stem with my finger as I applied it and then rubbed it off with a cotton pad. The point was that I wanted to remove more of the scratches and also polish off some of the oxidation. The next two photos show the stem after polishing (forgive the first photo – somehow it blackened on the right edge but you can still see the polish that is happening around the logo).

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After polishing with the Maguiar’s you can see the oxidation on the stem particularly on the tenon end. It extends about an inch back toward the button and was also in the crease of the button. It was time to sand the stem with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh pads. The next three photos show the stem in process and after the sanding. I finished wet sanding and then wiped the stem down. I then dry sanded the stem with the remaining micromesh pads from 2400-12,000 grit. I used the Maguiar’s a third time to polish the stem and then buffed it with White Diamond on the buffer. Once I had finished buffing I wipe the stem down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.

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The next series of four photos show the finished stem. I reinserted it in the bowl. The tenon fit was loose so I dripped superglue on the tenon and then sanded it back until the fit was snug. I gave the bowl and stem another buff with White Diamond. I coated the stem with carnauba wax and buffed it with a flannel buff. In the first photo below you can see that the rim needed some work. The stain just did not come back after the cleaning. I sanded it with the micromesh 3200 grit pad and then it was ready to be stained. The fifth picture below shows the restaining of the rim with a cotton swab and oxblood stain. I applied the stain with a cotton swab and then flamed it. I hand buffed it with a terry cloth towel I use for hand buffing and applied carnauba wax to the rim.

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The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. The stain contrast came out very well. The black and the oxblood highlights look great. The stem shined up exceptionally well. It is a group four sized pipe and should smoke very well. It has a nice open draw. I know that some of the Heibe pipes were made for filters but this one is not fit for filters. It is just a normal push tenon. All in all it is a beautiful pipe.

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Restemming and Refinishing an Imported Briar Italian Billiard


Today I took another bowl out of my box of pipes to restem. I had previously turned the tenons with a Pimo tenon turner and fit it to the bowl and shank. I had not fit the stem when I started. The diameter of the stem was larger than the bowl. This bowl was a real mess. It is stamped Imported Briar in an arch over Italy on the smooth left shank of the pipe. It had originally had a band but that was no longer present with the bowl. The finish on the pipe was in bad shape. It was almost a yellow varnish that was chipping and peeling away. The rustication was filled with grit and grime and the colour of the bowl was an ugly yellow colour under the varnish. The bowl was still round and the reaming had already been done and it was pretty clean. The rim had some build up of tars and oils and a few dents. Looking it over I decided I would have to top it to clean it up.

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The tenon was a good tight fit. I stepped down the end of it to sit in the stepped mortise in the shank. I needed to remove a good deal of vulcanite from the saddle portion of the stem to bring it to the same diameter as the shank. I used my Dremel to do that work. The next series of four photos show the process of removing the material from the stem. I use a Dremel with a sanding drum to do the work. I run it at a medium speed that allows me to float it over the stem without digging to deeply into the vulcanite. I find that a slower speed gives a very rough finish and a faster speed is harder to control the work.

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The next series of three photos shows the finished fit of the stem. I have finished sanding it with the Dremel. The photos show that it is relatively smooth with no deep gouges or scratches in the surface of the saddle. I also used the Dremel to sand down the castings on the button and on the sides of the stem. You can also see the place on the shank where the band was previously.

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One the stem fit well against the shank I decided to top the bowl. I set up my sanding board with the piece of sandpaper I use. I hold the paper on the board (it is a fine grit emery paper). Then I place the pipe on the paper and sand it by working it clockwise against the sandpaper. The next two photos show the bowl against the paper and the finished topping of the bowl. The final photo in this threesome is one of the brass bristled tire brush that I use to clean rusticated bowls. This one was quite easy to work as I could work it along the grooves of the rustication and work it until the bowl was clean.

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After scrubbing the pipe with the brass brush and some alcohol it was ready for a new band. I sorted through my bands and found one that fit the shank well. The next three photos show the shank before banding and then after I pressure fit the band to the shank. The emery paper and the fine grit sanding sponge in the pictures was used to sand the stem and begin removing the scratches and make a good fit against the band.

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The next series of four photos show the fit of the stem against the banded shank. More work needed to be done on the stem to remove the scratches and refine the fit against the shank. Once the scratches were removed from the stem then I would work on the fit. I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish. I scrubbed it with the wire brush a second time and then wiped it with acetone again. I also sanded the bowl surface with the sanding sponge to remove the finish from the shank and the high points on the rustication.

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At this point in the restoration I decided to restain the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain mixed 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied it and flamed it, reapplied and reflamed it. I gave the rim two extra coats of the stain to match the colour of the bowl. The next series of three photos show the stained bowl. It was darker than I wanted for the end product so I decided to lighten it.

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I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to lighten the stain. I wanted to see if I could clear it off the high points while still allowing it to remain in the grooves for contrast. The next three photos show the pipe after I had wiped it down.

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When I had finished wiping it down I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the bowl with Tripoli to remove some of the dark stain. I wanted to remove it from the high surfaces of the bowl while leaving the dark stain in the grooves of the rustication. The next four photos show the pipe after I buffed it with the Tripoli. I also buffed the stem with Tripoli and White Diamond to give it a bit of polish and see what I needed to do with the sandpaper.

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I then removed the stem and wet sanded it with the micromesh sanding pads in 1500 and 1800 grits. I use fresh warm water and dip the sanding pad in the water and then sand the stem. I also used the Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 after sanding. The next photo shows the stem after sanding and polishing.

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I then dry sanded the stem with the remaining grits of micromesh 2400-12,000 and then gave it a final polish with the Maguiar’s. The photo below shows the stem after sanding with the 3600 grit sanding pad. The shine is beginning to rise on the surface of the stem. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry. The final four photos show the finished pipe. I buffed the stem with White Diamond and then polished the bowl and the stem with carnauba wax to get the shine.

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The pipe has come a long way from the stummel that was sitting in my repair box. I am happy with the finished pipe and the contrast stain. It feels great in the hand and will make a great smoking pipe for someone.

What Is The Amber Used in Pipe Stems and How Do You Bent It?


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past years I have learned about and written a variety of blog posts on bending both acrylic and vulcanite pipe stems. I have used a variety of methods to heat the stems – from using a candle, an alcohol lamp, a heat gun to placing them on a cookie sheet in the oven and bending multiple stems at  the same time. But over the years I have always wanted to know how to bend amber – or even it was possible. I had looked on line for information on bending amber and even posted on several of the forums to see if anyone had experience with it or had information on how to bend it. No answers were forthcoming.

Then one day I decided to contact Fred Bass, who is the moderator on the All Things Meerschaum Forum on Smokers Forums http://www.smokersforums.co.uk/. We have been emailing and sending pms back and forth on Smokers Forums for a long time. We have read each other’s writing and done editing work. Fred has become not only a good friend to me but also a go to source for information on all things pertaining to smoking and repairing Meers. Whenever I have questions about cleaning up or refinishing a meer, I write Fred and he has inevitably had the solution on the tip of his tongue. So I asked Fred about this topic. He sent me an email with information that he came across on amber stems while reading a reprint of a 1906 Scientific American article, entitled Meerschaum and It’s Manufacture into Pipes. In the article was a paragraph on preparing and bending amber stems for meerschaum pipes. He sent it on to me and I have had it saved on the hard drive so that one day I could post it on the blog. I have incorporated this paragraph and some of my own research into this article in order to get a deeper understanding of amber and how to work with it. It is my hope that in putting this online that others who have experience with amber stems might fill in the gaps and share their knowledge with us so that we can be more informed about this stem material.

What is Amber?

Amber is found in many parts of Europe and America, but in largest quantities along the coast of Germany. Amber is the fossilized tree resin (not sap) of now-extinct coniferous trees which grew millions of years ago. Sap is primarilycomposed of water and sugars within the heartwood which nourish the tree. Resin is a fragrant substance composed of acids and terpenes which flows just under the bark and is released to protect and seal wounds when branches are broken or pests bore into or damage bark. These resins were released from trees in response to disease and physical attack, and over millions of years have hardened into a solid substance which, unlike traditional mineralized fossils, still remains an organic substance instead of having been mineralized. For this reason, amber is classified as an ‘organic gem,’ along with pearls, coral, ivory and jet. It is not a mineral. Amber occurs as irregular masses, nodules, or drops that are transparent to translucent and have a yellow color, sometimes tinted red, orange, or brown. It may be clouded by innumerable minuscule air bubbles or contain fossilized insects or plants. It is relatively soft (2-3 on the Mohs scale), lustre resinous, and its specific gravity is 1.05-1.09 g/cm³.

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Because it is soft it can be easily scratched. By the same token it polishes easily. If dropped on a concrete or ceramic tile floor it may break, chip or shatter. A drop on a wooden or asphalt tile floor should not result in any damage. It is at least partially soluble in many chemicals – alcohols, chloroform, acetone and others. It has also been known to reduce to powder over time if exposed to ultraviolet light. There are often fossilized materials in the gum itself. I have seen ants and other insects as well as plant matter inside amber.

Colours of Amber

All amber falls within the color spectrum of yellow-orange-red with pale yellow to yellow orange being the most common, orange tinged or cognac amber being more valuable and rarer, and true cherry red amber being the rarest and thus most highly valued. There is also a buttery white to pale yellow opaque amber that occurs in the Baltic region, and there are ‘black’ ambers caused by heavy inclusion of organic materials. There are no solid colored ambers outside of this color range that occur naturally. Cherry red material is the result of formation near the surface of the Earth, with iron salts leeching into the outer crust of the amber forming a thin (1-4mm on average) layer of true red material. Rarely does this coloration continue through the piece unless it is very small. Cabochons can be cut from this material but solid red amber plugs are not physically possible.

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Amber softens at about 150° C, and melts at 250 – 350° C. It is mined extensively from tertiary glauconite sands that are from 40 million to 60 million years old. The components of amber in approximate values are: carbon (80%), hydrogen (10%), oxygen (10%), and small quantities of sulphur. It is refined by heating. The refined amber is classified into two qualities based on refined appearance: the first is transparent amber and the second is opaque or cloudy amber. I would expect that the transparent was the more sought after amber and would be prized for its clarity. Contrary to what I assumed the opaque/cloudy amber is much tougher and, therefore, more serviceable than the transparent amber. It is thus much more useable in crafting pipe stems.

Ambers Healing Properties

Throughout history, people have believed that amber has actual healing characteristics. Also today some anti-rheumatic ointments are supplemented with amber. A piece of raw amber looks like a stone, but when held gives a deep feeling of warmth. When heated, amber will emit a gentle resin scent, and it cleans the environment in which it rests. These sensations make people feel better and believe in the healing power of amber. For centuries amber was used to massage sore muscles, and in powdered form, it was mixed with honey, oil and alcohol into ointments good for almost every illness. Every European pharmacy store in the 19th century offered mystical amber mixtures. Now, of course, they are replaced by sophisticated pharmaceutical products, but many people still believe that an amber bracelet will ease rheumatic pain, and amber coral beads supposedly help in cases of thyroid illnesses. There are other healing effects described in articles dealing with natural medicine: amber helps to cure a sore throat, especially during teething in babies, and if it is kept in water or wine for 1-14 days, the liquid can be used for stomach ache, asthma and as a styptic medication. No one knows how much it truly heals, but it certainly does no harm. Anyhow, it is believed that wearing amber contributes to a purification of the human mind, body, and spirit. It is also believed to activate unconditional love in mankind, stimulate the intellect, and open the crown chakra. Amber is widely used today in traditional Oriental, Arabic and Persian medicine. Astrologically, amber is a stone of the Zodiac sign of the Twins.

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Bending and shaping Amber Stems

Once the amber was refined it was ready to be used in different products – fountain pens, pipe stems and other ornamental uses. It needed to be shaped and formed to meet the need of the artist.

For pipe stems the amber is hand tooled to the shape that is required by the Imagecarver. The planes and angles are cut and the surfaces are smoothed and prepared. The stem is drilled to receive the tenon. Then the stems are bent to the required shape. To bend the stems, they are first immersed in oil and heated until they lose much of their brittleness. Then they are held over an alcohol flame and bent as desired. The threaded tenon ends of the stem are protected while bending by an arbour screwed therein. In repairing them I have found that I can sand them quite easily with various grits of sandpaper to remove the bit marks and tooth marks. Care must be taken when using files or knives on the amber as it easily chips, it is better to scrape the amber than to cut it with a file or knife. It polishes nicely with the sandpapers and micromesh sanding pads.

Fred wrote that he found the Scientific American article interesting for both the brief discussion of amber and the knowledge that many of the connectors for these bits were bone screws during this time period.

ImageRemaining questions that I have regarding the process of bending amber

I have yet to try the method recommended so I can speak of it from an experimental point of view. I am on the prowl for some older amber stems that I can try it with before I can say unequivocally that it works. In principle I cannot see any problem with the material.

A few questions that come to mind for me in terms of the process are as follows:

  1. How hot does the oil need to be in the initial immersion and heating?
  2. How long does it take in the immersion for the amber to lose its brittleness?
  3. How can you tell if it has lost its brittleness? Does the appearance or feel change?
  4. How close to the flame do you hold the amber to heat it for bending? Will a heat gun work and how close does it need to be held?
  5. Is there a process to cool the amber once the bend is in place? If it is not cooled will it return to the original straight shape? If it is cooled to quickly will it shatter or break?
  6. What kind of arbour was used to protect the bone or metal tenons? Were they removed for the heating or were they kept in place?

If any of you have practiced bending amber I would love to hear about it. It would be great if someone could write up their experience and post it here so that the rest of us can learn from your expertise.

Web References read and used in writing this post

http://www.ambericawest.com/working.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_5057841_polish-baltic-amber.html

http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/archive/200505/msg00812.htm

http://www.knivesby.com/amber.html

https://www.onetribe.nu/workshop/amber

http://baltic_amber.tripod.com/

http://www.natural-baltic-amber.com/genuine-amber/

Dr Grabow Restoration and Stem Repair


Blog by Greg Wolford

I picked up this Dr Grabow Freehand at an antique mall about a month ago when I got the Wally Frank that is visible in the photos, too. It was scratched to heck on all the smooth briar and the stem was chewed completely through. But I went ahead and bought it for three reasons:

– I’ve  never had a freehand
– I have been wanting to restore a stem with a hole or, in this case, a lot of damage
– I got a pretty decent price
So, I picked it up.Greg1

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Greg5 I decided to deal with the bowl first, by stripping it with acetone and soaking it overnight in an alcohol bath; I also put the stem in a OxiClean soak at this time.  After removing the bowl from the alcohol bath I then used a brass bristle brush to get all the tar and gunk out of the rusticated top grooves. Then I sanded it to remove all the scratches from the smooth briar and take the old stain off the high points using 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper.Then I used some water based black leather dye on it, getting into the recesses well and wiping of the smooth portions as I went; I wanted to keep that darker contrast in the grooves. After I had it covered to my liking I dried it with the heat gun. Next I went back to 400 grit to take down the high points and smooth areas to remove the small amount of black color from the water based dye. When that looked good to my eye I polished it with 600 grit, wiped it down with 91% isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove any left over dust and dirt.  I heated it with the heat gun again to make sure the briar was good and dry. When it was nice and warm I applied Fiebing’s dark brown spirit-based leather dye, diluted 2:1 with 91% alcohol and flamed it in; I did this twice. The color was a bit too dark now so I wiped the pipe down, taking care to not soak my cotton pad too heavily or get into the recesses too much, with alcohol until it looked right to me. I then set it aside.Greg6

Greg7 When I soaked the bowl in the alcohol bath I also left the stem in a OxiClean soak overnight. I had removed and washed it well before starting on the bowl so it was ready now to work on.Greg8 I decided to shorten and reshape the stem instead of replacing it or trying to fix the gaping holes. I used a coping saw to cut off the end, saving as much of the stem as I could. The bottom hole had also cracked so it required removing quite a lot of the stem to get most of the crack out. The next step was to grease a pipe cleaner with petroleum jelly and insert it into the stem. I then dripped some Super Glue into the crack and let it set up while I worked on something else.

When I came back to it, the glue was hardened and I was ready to move on to the next step: making a new button. I began this process by scoring a line along the top and bottom of the stem where I wanted the button with a cutoff wheel on my Dremel. After I had the new button laid out, I then started to shape it with various needle files. I began shaping from the button back, forming it into shape with the rest of the stem. This took considerable time to get it even and “natural” looking. When I was satisfied I then began to shape the end of the button.Greg9

Greg10 I shaped the bit with needle files, too, again using several to get the shape right. The first step for this was getting the angle to look right on the top; this didn’t take as long as I expected. I then began to form the bottom of the bit, trying to match the shape of the top as close as I could; this took more time and effort than I’d expected.

Making a new drought hole was something new to me. And was not without its challenges either. I used my needle files, again, to start shaping the new hole, making it a bit taller as well as wider than the hole that was left in the cut off stem. I took the extra time to fan the drought hole, too, partly because I wanted to and partly to see if I could do it. This ended up being some of the most time-consuming and tedious work of the entire project: I needed to make sure I didn’t go too thin in any direction but I wanted the hole to really funnel out well. I am pleased with the results and the way it smokes and would say it was worth the extra time and effort to accomplish it.Greg11

Greg12 After all the shaping I wiped the stem well with alcohol to clean it off for a test fit – to my mouth. The test failed; the bit was too long and too steep. So back to the files I went. I filed, tested, filed, tested a few times until it felt comfortable in my mouth and looked good to me. Now time to get it shiny again.

I began with a fine/medium grit sanding sponge. It worked very well to get in and around the bit to smooth it a bit more and to take out the file marks. I then began wet sanding with grits 220/320/400. At this point I applied some Novus 2 plastic polish. The Novus line come in three grades: 3 – the most course, 2 – the second, and 1 – the final polish. I began using this product on my motorcycle windshield a few years ago and loved it. I have numbers 1 & 2 but have yet to try 3.

After using the Novus, I began with the micro mesh, wet sanding with grits 1500/1800/2400/3200/4000 (I’m not looking at the numbers but I believe that was the correct grit numbers. I applied the Novus 2 again and then polished with micro mesh 6000/8000/12000. Now it was off to the buffer with pipe and stem.

I buffed the pipe several times around with Tripoli to get the color just where I liked it. I then moved onto the white diamond for both the pipe and stem. I took a little extra time on the stem to make sure I fine tuned the button a little more, testing it every so often. After buffing the pipe and stem with white diamond I changed to a metal buffing wheel with blue rouge to polish the metal tenon on the stem; I hate a nicely polished stem that hasn’t has the metal (if there is any) not polished, too.Greg13

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Greg15 Several coats of carnauba wax was then applied to both pipe and stem. I did the final buffing with my “mushroom” on my cordless drill. I like the control I have with it and also the fact it’ll reach almost anyplace with little effort. The final touch was to polish the rustication with a soft toothbrush to make sure I didn’t have any wax residue left.Greg16 There were, and still are, some fills in the pipe but I wasn’t particularly concerned with them. Several are on the shank and it would have been “dicey” to try to fix them without ruining the nomenclature. There was one fill on the side that fell out, presumably from the softening of the putty in the alcohol bath. I missed that one until after I had already started smoking it.  If I’d seen it earlier in the process I would have fixed that one but now it’s there for the duration.Greg17 (I couldn’t get a good focused shot of the finished button.)

Reborn London Royal Apple Restemmed with a Saddle Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

I am down to about 16 pipes in my box to be refurbished and all of them need to be restemmed. Some of them are full of fills or are just pipes that for one reason or another I have avoided dealing with. But I am at the bottom of the box and need something to work on so I am left to choosing from that lot. Last evening I chose this little apple shaped pipe, fit a new stem on it and reworked the finish and the fit of the stem. It is stamped London Royal on the left side of the shank and on the right side Imported Briar. It seems to me that it is thus an American made pipe. I have done no research on it so I have no idea of the manufacturer. The first series of four photos show the pipe after I turned a tenon to fit the shank. I used a new stem blank that is a nice hard vulcanite that seems less prone to oxidize. The dust from sanding is black. You can see the shape of the bowl and the condition it was in when I started in these photos.

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The tenon was long for the shank so it would need to be taken down until it fits snugly against the bottom of the mortise. You can see from the photos the small fill on the bottom of the left side of the bowl. The stem blank would also need to be cleaned up to remove the remnants of the casting.

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In the photo above you can see that the bowl still has tobacco in it and the cake uneven and rough. The rim is dirty and caked. There is one slight burned area on the rim as well on the front right side of the inner edge of the rim.

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I shortened the tenon in order to get the snug fit in the mortise. I was then able to get the stem to fit snugly against the shank. I reamed the bowl to clean up the uneven cake. The next two photos show the stem fit and the reamed bowl. The bottom of the bowl has a groove in it that looks like it was made to fit a stinger apparatus that extended into the bottom of the bowl. I do not have that apparatus as the bowl came to me without a stem. The bottom of the bowl is still fairly thick so it should not be a problem, but it could be remedied with pipe mud should I choose to do so at a later time.

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I topped the bowl lightly to remove the tars on the rim and also to try to minimize the burned area that is visible in the photo above on the front right inner edge of the bowl. The next two photos show the topped bowl and the minimized rim char. I planned on removing the finish from the bowl of the pipe so staining the entire pipe should blend in the rim and bowl as well as hide the rim damage a bit.

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The next three photos show the stem after I have worked on the diameter of the saddle where it meets the shank and removed the rough edges of the casting of the stem. I run my Dremel at a speed that allows me to control the sanding drum as I use it to remove the excess material on the stem. In this case you can see that the excess is mainly on the top and the left side of the stem. I have found that using the Dremel with the sanding drum carefully can make the fitting of a stem short work. This particular stem blank is very high quality vulcanite as can be seen in the photos below. As I sanded the stem the sanding dust was black and the finished stem retained a very black look and colour as well. The shaping of the stem also had to take into account the changes made in the saddle as material was removed from the top of the stem and the left side. I used the sanding drum to rework the saddle area where is curves into the blade of the stem on both sides. I also had to reshape the blade to make both sides match in terms of the curves of the edges toward the button. The photos show the newly shaped and cleaned up stem. All that remains at this point is a lot of sanding and polishing before the stem is ready.

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The next series of three photos below shows the pipe after I have washed the bowl with acetone to remove the finish and then sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper. I was careful around the stamping in order to leave it in tact. I wanted to bring the bowl and the rim to the same state so that the new stain would take well and match. I also sanded the stem with a medium grit sanding sponge to smooth it out as well. I wanted the shank stem transition to be smooth and even with no high or low points in the fit. The pipe revealed some really nice looking grain on the left side of the bowl but had bald spots on other side of the bowl.

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I wiped the bowl and shank a final time with acetone and a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and prepare it for staining. The next series of three photos below show the pipe after I stained it. I used a dark brown aniline stain mixed 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I stained the pipe, flamed it with a lighter, restained it, reflamed it. I gave the rim several extra coats to make sure the pipe was evenly stained.

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After the stain was dried I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to remove excess stain. The stain coat was very even but it was still too dark to my liking so I used some isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove some of the heaviness of the stain from the pipe. The next three photos show the pipe after I had removed much stain. The cotton pad is darkened with the brown stain. The grain is becoming more visible as I worked on the finish with the isopropyl alcohol.

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I then sanded the stem some more with some fine grit emery cloth to even up the stem shank junction. The next series of four photos show the pipe after the sanding. The bowl and shank are close to the colour I was aiming for. I would need to remove a bit more colouring from them to get it so the grain shows through the finish.

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I took the pipe back to the buffer and gave it a buff with Tripoli and White Diamond. I use a light touch around the stamping on the shank and then hand buff that with a shoe shine brush to get it to shine. The next series of two photos show the finished bowl. There is still some work that needs to be done on the fit of the stem to the shank.

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The next three photos show the stem after I used the sanding sponge on it to bring the stem even with the shank. The colour of the pipe is also exactly what I wanted in this pipe. The small fill on the left side of the bowl is no longer visible without a close examination. Once the stem was at this point it was ready for sanding with the micromesh pads and polishing with Maguiar’s.

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I wet sanded the stem with 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit micromesh sanding pads wiping the stem down between changes in grit. I repeated this sequence of pads until the fine scratches were out of the stem. Where I had recut the saddle had some very fine scratches that were very hard to remove. After this sanding I used Maguiar’s hand applied and rubbed into the stem then wiped off and scrubbed with a cotton pad. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12,000 grit micromesh following the polish. I also repeated the polish with Maguiar’s. When finished I took the pipe to the buffer and gave the entirety a buff with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax to give it a shine. The final series of four photos show the finished pipe.

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Refurbished Meerlined No Name Billiard


This is one of the pipes that came in the box of pipes I received from a friend. It is a rusticated briar with a meerschaum lining. The shank extension is vulcanite. The rim of the pipe was tarry and darkened. The bowl slightly caked. The stem was badly oxidized. There is no stamping on the pipe at all, but the stem has a logo that seems to make it a Manx pipe. The stem was in good shape other than the oxidation. There were no tooth marks or tooth chatter. The button was sharp and the edges crisp.

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I cleaned out the bowl carefully with a folded paper towel and isopropyl alcohol. I was careful to not saturate or soak the meer lining of the bowl. The alcohol only wet the towel so that it could be used to wipe away the tars. I also used a soft bristled battery terminal brush to loosen the cake that had been built up and then rewiped the bowl with the towel. I used some medium grit sandpaper on the meerlining rim to remove the tars on that surface. I sanded until it was clean and then used fine grit sandpaper followed by 1500-6000 grit micromesh sanding pads. With the early grits -1500-2400 I wet sanded the rim and then dry sanded with the later grits.

I soaked the stem in an Oxyclean bath to soften the oxidation and make it easier to remove. While the stem soaked I worked on the oxidized vulcanite shank extension. I used some Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 on the extension and rubbed it in to the vulcanite and then scrub it off with a cotton pad. I also used the micromesh sanding pads 1500-12,000 grit to clean it up further. I then buffed the extension with White Diamond to polish it. I gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil and rub it into the finish.

I scrubbed the outside of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil soap and a soft bristle tooth brush. Doing so removed the deep seated grime in the rustication on the bowl. It also removed a little of the finish near the shank extension giving the pipe a nice contrasting band between the extension and the briar. I gave the bowl a light buff with White Diamond and hand buffed it to give it a polish.

I removed the stem from the Oxyclean soak and wet sanded it with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. I then polished it with Maguiar’s and wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit micromesh. I rubbed it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil. I reinserted the stem and buffed it with White Diamond and gave the stem and shank extension several coats of carnauba wax to preserve the shine.

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A Comoy’s The Guildhall London Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

This refurbishment was probably the easiest I have done in a long time. The pipe is unsmoked as far as I can tell. The shank is pristine, the stinger apparatus is unsoiled and clean, the stem inside is clean and the bowl is carbonized but unsmoked. The stem had some tooth chatter that makes me wonder if someone used it for a prop or something. The finish was in excellent shape with no nicks or dings. The bowl is flawless in terms of fills, I can find one pinhole sandpit but otherwise perfect. It is stamped on the left side of the shank The over Guildhall over London Pipe. On the right side it is stamped Made In London in a circle with the In central in the circle. Underneath the circle is stamped England. Toward the front of the shank on the right side is the shape number 159. The first series of five pictures shows the state of the pipe when I got it.ImageImageImageImageImage

I sanded out the tooth chatter with a medium grit sanding sponge. I find that these give me a lot of flex and fit well against the button and follow the curve of the stem nicely. The medium grit works well to remove tooth chatter from the stem without removing too much of the material. The next series of three photos show the stem after sanding it with the sanding sponge.

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After sanding with the medium grit sponge I used the Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 polish on the stem. As usual I applied it with a finger to rub it into the stem and then removed it with a cotton pad, polishing as I removed it. The next three photos show the stem after polishing with the plastic polish.

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I then used the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to finish the polishing of the stem. The next series of eight photos show the progressive shine that is achieved by the micromesh pads. The last of the eight photos is the 8000 grit pad. I continued sanding with the 12,000 grit pad to finish and then buffed the stem and pipe with White Diamond.

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The pipe is finished – that did not take too long – a very easy refurbishment that is for sure. The next series of four photos show the finished pipe. After buffing with White Diamond I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to bring it to a shine. Now it is ready to smoke and looking pristine.

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A Kaywoodie Handmade Brought Back to Life – Greg Wolford


Blog by Greg Wolford

Greg is one of the blog’s readers and comments often on various posts. He contacted me about writing an article for the blog. He sent me the following article. I want to thank Greg for documenting his work on this old Kaywoodie Handmade. It is great to be able to read and see what others are doing as they work on restoring old pipes to their former glory. Here is a brief biography of Greg that he has written. (I invite others who have been reading the blog to do the same. Send us pictures and documentation of the work you have done and are doing.)

In June of last year I saw a bunch of old pipes, filthy and dirty, wasting away in an antique store. Thoughts of my former hobby of working with wood flooded my brain, as did the romantic idea of bringing new life to these old relics. I purchased the whole lot of 25-30 pipes and pieces and began to research how one goes about restoring these wonderful pipes to at least enjoyable and useable condition, if not to their total and complete former glory. Much help and advice has been shared with me in this short period of time; I have learned a tremendous amount from this blog, its founder and contributors. I am honored to have the opportunity to share some of my work here and to, hopefully, repay some of the kindness shown to me when I began and as I continue to learn this restoration-side of our pipe hobby.

I picked up this old Kaywoodie last month at an antique mall. It was in poor, filthy shape when I found it but I knew her potential. The stamping is not very strong but identifies it as a Kaywoodie Handmade, which I’ve seen and owned before. But this is one of the oversize models, a style that I’ve not yet had.

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I began with an overnight alcohol soak and allowed a few hours dry time before I began working in the briar. She had a few scratches and a bit of whitish “mold” that I wanted to get rid of.

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The previous owner must have had the dreadful habit of knocking the rim of the bowl to empty the pipe on a hard surface; the front was beaten down by probably 1/8th of inch, give or take a bit, giving it a terrible “frontal slope” (visible in the photos above and below). This seemed like the best place to start working on the briar. Before starting, I put the stem in a warm OxyClean soak so it would be ready when I was. 

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It took a lot of steaming and some topping to get the bowl back to even. I alternated steaming and topping until I was happy with the shape. The only thing I was unhappy with was finding a sand pit in the new top of the rim; I filled it with briar dust and dropped a little Super Glue into it to make a fill. The fill is somewhat visible but should fade with use as patina develops (I hope). 

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For the scratches and left over “mold”, I lightly sanded with 400 grit wet dry paper. It didn’t take too long on the scratches since they weren’t deep. The carved areas where the whitish substance was took more time but came off fairly easily.  I then stained it with Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather dye, cut about 50/50 with 91% isopropyl alcohol. I applied, flamed, buffed with an old t-shirt by hand and repeated. Then I took the pipe to the buffer for a treatment with Tripoli, white diamond, and finally a few coats of carnauba wax. For the final buffing I used my cordless drill with a “mushroom” buffer attachment. I find the shape of the mushroom allows me to get into every crevice with relative ease. Lastly, I cleaned with stinger by buffing it with blue rouge several times, bringing it back up to a nice, new shine. I then set the bowl aside to work on the stem. 

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When I took stem out of its bath I rinsed it well and used a Miracle Eraser to remove some of the loosened oxidation. To my surprise I found that the bit was cracked under all the crud, something I had not dealt with before. I then took a fluffy pipe cleaner and dipped the first 1.5 inches or so into Vaseline and then inserted it into the stem.  I dripped some Super Glue into the crack and let it sit a while until it had hardened through. (This was my first time fixing a crack with super glue and was happy with the outcome and learning curve.) The stem was really deeply marked dents and scratches and took a lot of time and work. I began with some heat from a candle to raise what I could of the dents. Then I used various needle files, wet/dry sand paper in grits from 220-800, micro mesh 1500-4000, plastic polish and carnauba wax on it. I actually started over twice, at different points, to get it as nice as possible.

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Review of a John Rocheleau Acorn


I am pretty certain that many of you who will read this review are unfamiliar with John Rocheleau or his pipes. John was a Canadian pipe maker and artist who, though still living, is no longer able to carve pipes. It is a shame and a loss to the pipe smoking world as he made beautiful and great smoking pipes. I keep my eyes open for them on the estate market and have been able to pick up a second one that came from John’s own collection.

I still remember driving to Kelowna, British Columbia from Vancouver to pick up this little pipe. I had talked with carver, John Rocheleau for quite a while and wanted to purchase one of his pipes. One day it happened that I had some meetings in Kelowna (about a four hour drive from Vancouver) so I called and set up an appointment to visit with John and pick out a pipe from his finished pipes. I arrived and had a great visit with John, looking at his own collection of pipes and talking about the incredible paintings that he does. John is a great artist besides being a pipe maker. We enjoyed some good tobacco and conversation and then he brought out the pipes that he had for sale. This little acorn shape just called my name. It looked amazing and when I picked it up to look it over, I fell in love with it and did not lay it down again. The workmanship on this pipe is very nice. I have smoked it quite a bit over the years since I got it. The length of the pipe is 5 1/2 inches and the bowl height is 1 1/2 inches. The outer diameter of the bowl is 1 5/8 inches. The chamber diameter is 3/4 inches and depth is 1 1/8 inches. It sits well in the nook of the hand formed by the thumb and index finger on either hand. The stamping is on the underside of the shank. It is stamped Rocheleau in script and to the left of it is stamped A49A.  

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The pipe has a rusticated finish and the staining choice highlights the unique rustication. John has a achieved a rustication that looks and feels like a sandblast. I was able to sit in his shop that day and on one other occasion and watch as he rusticated the pipes with a Dremel and a cutting head. In this case he left a smooth area near the shank stem union and on the underside of the shank. The top of the bowl also has a smooth area that nicely integrated with his rustication. The stain has several distinguishable colours that show the number of coats used. There seems to be a medium brown understain that comes through in the smooth areas of the bowl and shank and in the high points of the rustication. Over this is a coat of dark brown. The result is a multidimensional look to the finish and stain of the pipe. The colour varies with the light that hits the bowl. The rim’s inner edge is straight into the bowl with a clean sharp edge. John highlights this crisp look with the smooth finish on the pattern of the rim. The outer edge is crown almost like a cap on a Rhodesian that comes to a sharp edge and drops evenly to the sides. The crowned top gives the pipe almost a Rhodesian look from the side.

The stem is a well-made saddle style with a bit of a Danish flare. From the shank stem union the saddle flares to the end where it slopes to the blade. It is hand turned ebonite or vulcanite. It is a softer feel in the mouth and on the teeth than acrylic. The stem blade tapers gradually back to the button where it flares to the same width as the flare on saddle. It is just the right thickness at the portion that rides in the mouth – not too thick or too thin. It is also durable and is made of quality material as it has not oxidized in the years I have had it. John used a briar inlaid circle in his stems as his logo. The tenon is an integral part of the stem and is chamfered outward to form a crowned end which is also countersunk and well-polished. The button is well shaped – thin at the edges with a very slight rise to the centre top and bottom, forming an eye shaped end view. The lip on the button is very slight but still fits well behind the teeth for a comfortable feel. The slot in the end of the button is also funneled and flattened to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. John also rounded the ends of the slot giving it a finished look. The attention to detail shows the artist’s touch that John puts into his pipes. It is a comfortable and well executed pipe. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.

I have two of John’s pipes and both are identical in terms of internal mechanics. John mastered the airflow dynamics of his pipes and the draught is clean and easy with no whistling or tightness. It has an easy draw that makes smoking it a pleasure. The bowl chamber is drilled to a 3/4 inch diameter. The bowl was clean and raw briar with no bowl coating. The cake built up on the bowl very easily. The draught hole is centered at the slightly above the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight funnel leading into the shank and stem. The fit of the stem to the shank is excellent – smooth and tight with no light showing at the joint. The tenon fits well in the mortise and seems to sit deep in the mortise against the bottom. The airway is in the centre of the mortise and aligns with the airway in the tenon. The edges of the tenon have been polished and rounded and the airhole countersunk so that it meets the airway in the mortise. Looking at the airways with a flashlight it is clear to see that they are smooth and polished with no rough edges.

I have always smoked Virginias in both of John’s pipes and they seem to handle them exceptionally well. They both smoke cool and dry and deliver good flavor with the Virginias that I choose to smoke in them.

A Quick Refurb on a BBB Straight Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

I picked this little BBB ** Bulldog up yesterday at a flea market for $16. It is stamped BBB in a diamond over ** on the left side of the shank. The other side is stamped 401 (shape number) over Made in England. The first four pictures below show what it looked like when I found it. It was hidden under a group of worn old pipes and this one and a little Comoy’s Guildhall became mine. The bowl was in pretty clean shape. The finish is clean with only a small dark spot on the shank where it must have touch a coal in an ashtray. The wood is not burned only darkened. The rim was clean but for a little tar. The bowl did not need to be reamed though it was a little out of round. The inner edge of the rim on the front right is a bit damaged from lighting the pipe repeatedly in the same spot. The double rings around the bowl were filled with wax in many spots and would need to be cleaned out for them to really show well. The stem had tooth marks on the underside and topside near the button and the tooth chatter on the oxidized stem would need some work. The BBB diamond was full of gunk and was oxidized with a greenish hue. Inside the shank and stem were dirty but would not take much to clean it up.

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I put the next picture in to show the little Comoy’s Guildhall that I picked up at the same time and give a feel for the size of the pair. Both will not need a lot of work to bring them up to being ready for a smoke.

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I used silver polish to begin with and cleaned the brass BBB logo. I wanted to see what kind of shape it was in before I began work on the stem. It turned out to be in great shape under the grime and oxidation. The BBB stamp is clean and sharp and the lines in the background are still visible. Once I had the logo cleaned I worked on the tooth chatter and tooth marks in the stem. I used 320 grit sandpaper to work out the tooth chatter and a lighter to heat up the bite marks and lift them out. I then sanded them with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the remnants of them. The next series of three photos show the stem after sanding tooth chatter and bite marks out of the stem.

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I cleaned the rim by lightly sanding it with 320 grit sandpaper and then wiping it down with saliva until the tars were removed. The photo below shows the rim after the sanding and cleaning.

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I sanded the stem with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left by the sandpaper and then polished it with Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0. The next series of three photos show the stem as I worked on it with the micromesh sanding pads 1500-12,000 grit. In this case I wet sanded with the 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit micromesh and then dry sanded with the remaining grits of micromesh.

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I gave the bowl a quick buff with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. The next four photos show the polished bowl.

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The next three photos show the stem after it has been polished with the micromesh pads up through 12,000 grit. I then used the Maguiar’s polish to finish off the polishing. The oxidation around the stem medallion and on the top sides of the saddle came off with some serious scrubbing with the polish. I also used a dental pick to clean out the two rings around the bowl cap of the bulldog.

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The next series of four photos show the finished pipe, cleaned and ready to smoke. I rubbed the stem with Obsidian Oil and then once dry gave the whole pipe several coats of carnauba wax. The dark burn mark on the shank is only surface but still shows clearly in the finished pipe  – won’t affect the way it smokes though.

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