Monthly Archives: March 2013

CPF French Briar Bulldog Restemmed and Refurbished

This morning I decided to start working on one of the pipes that came in the lot of bowls I picked up off of EBay. I chose one of the CPF Bulldogs. It looks to be an old timer. It also looked like it had quite a different look in times past as there were signs of a band on the shank and something around the rim as well. It could well have been the gold/brass filigree that is often seen on these old timers but there is no way of telling for sure. The bowl rim was clean as if once the decoration was removed the briar underneath was raw stain. The bowl itself was also absolutely clean on the inside – taken back to bare briar. Around the inside of the rim there were several small nail holes that looked like they held the rim cap in place. These holes were also on the outside as well though they had all been patched. The shank was cracked and repaired. The repair looks to be old and may well have been under the band that had disappeared. The mortise was originally threaded but that had been drilled almost smooth. I had a stem in my box of stem that would fit with a little work. It was the right size and the angles on the diamond matched those on the stem – a rare feat to be sure. I would not have to do much sanding to bring it fit well. The finish was clean but there were lines on the bowl and the shank from the cap and band. The stamping was clear – CPF in an oval with French above and Briar below. It had a gold paint that had been applied to the stamping and it was very clean. The series of three photos below show the condition of the pipe and the new stem when I began this morning.


I asked Robert Boughton about the CPF brand stamp as he is currently refurbishing an old CPF Meerschaum and had done work on the brand. He sent me the following information:
“Chuck (Richards) assigned to me the challenge of finding out what CPF stood for and anything else I could learn… I found conclusive evidence that despite several other names associated with CPF, it indeed stands for Colossus Pipe Factory…Below are the links I sent to Chuck at the time and a few more. But again, it’s nothing Chuck didn’t already know. He also knew it would be good experience for me and that I would enjoy the task! Indeed, I was proud of my findings!”…s_Pipe_Factory Bottom of center row of newspaper clip…w=1600&bih=658 See CPF — includes briars…ing-one.10858/…pipe-287735110…oduct_id=74274

With that information in hand, thanks to Robert, I went to work on this older American bulldog to bring it back to life. I had an old nickel band that fit pretty well to the shank. It was shorter than the original band but it covered the repair in the shank. I heated it and pressure fit it to the shank. It was a bit dented and would need to be straightened once it was in place. I then worked on the stem to get it fit the shank and band connection. I used medium grit emery paper to remove some of the vulcanite to get the sides and angles of the stem to match the shank. This had to be done carefully so as not to change the angles. Each side had to have the same amount of material removed to keep the diamond angles even. The next series of four photos show the stem after it has been shaped and sanded to match the shank and the band.


I cleaned out the inside of the stem as it was very dirty. I had sanded down most of the oxidation and the calcification on the stem earlier but needed to work on that some more. I also used a dental pick to clean out the slot as it was packed tightly on both sides of a small centre hole what was left. I finished sanding with medium grit emery cloth and move on to 320 grit sandpaper to begin to work on the scratches in the stem. The next three photos show the stem after sanding with the emery paper (photo 1) and then the 320 grit sandpaper (photo 2-3).


At this point in the process I decided to bend the stem to get the flow of the pipe correct. In retrospect I could have waited until I had polished the stem to do the bend. But I was curious to see the look of the bent stem on the pipe bowl so I set up my heat gun and carried the stem to the gun. I have been using a hardwood rolling pin that my wife discarded as the curves to bend the stem over. I find that using this keeps the bend straight and also gives me the degree of curve I wanted. I adjust the curve by where I put the stem on the pin to bend it. I use low heat on my heat gun and move the stem quickly over the heat about 3 inches above the tip. It does not take long to heat it to the point it is ready to bend and then I lay it over the pin and bend it. I hold it in place until it cools enough to set the bend. The next series of three photos show my set up for bending the stem.


I then decided to work on the bowl of the pipe. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad being careful to avoid the gold stamping in the shank. I also sanded the line around the rim and the shank with 320 grit sandpaper and then with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to try to minimize the line around both points. I used a flat tip screw driver blade as a smooth surface to hammer out the dents and rough spots on the band. I also laid the shank flat on a board and used the screw driver tip to smooth the inside edge of the band and square up the corners of the diamond. The next series of six photos show that process. I finished by inserting the stem and continuing to smooth out the band.


I wiped the bowl down with another acetone wetted cotton pad to remove the sanding dust from the bowl and the rings around the bowl. I used a dental pick and retraced the rings to clean them out as well of previous wax and dirt that catches in those spots. The photo below shows the pipe bowl ready to restain.


Before staining I worked on the stem some more to smooth out the remaining scratches and bring it to a shine. I used micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to bring the stem to a glossy finish. The next twelve photos show the progress shine developing after each successive grit of micromesh sanding pad was used.


Once the stem was done I was ready to stain the pipe. I used an oxblood aniline stain to restain the pipe. I applied it with a cotton swab, flamed it, restained and flamed it a second time. The next two photos show the bowl with the oxblood stain applied just before I flamed it. Once I had flamed it I took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond.


After I buffed it with White Diamond I gave it repeated buffing with carnauba wax to protect the stem and the bowl. The next four photos show the finished pipe.


Dr. Grabow Viking Restemmed and Refurbished

Blog by Steve Laug

In my recent EBay purchase of pipe bowls there was a Dr. Grabow Viking metal base minus the stem. I have had several of the Grabow Vikings over the years and cleaned them up and sold them. I have one that is in my regular rotation and it is a great little pipe. This one came with a Dublin shaped bowl and the shank was not bent or damaged. For a long time now I have wanted to try restemming one of these metal pipes and do a write up on the process. This would be the opportunity to do both. The metal bowl base was coated inside with the tobacco lacquer that is often found in old Vikings or Falcons that have been sitting for a long time unused. The aluminum shank was oxidized and dull but would shine up well with a little elbow grease. The finish on the outside of the bowl was not damaged and would be easy to restore. There was a rough broken cake in the bowl and the rim was tarred and caked. As I inspected the bowl I noted that there was also a burned area on the inner rim at the back of the bowl. The first three photos that follow show the condition of the pipe when it arrived on my work table.


My procedure for cleaning an estate pipe is generally the same. I may vary the steps a bit but always cover the same ground in pretty much the same order. On this one I began by working on the bowl. In this case it meant removing the bowl from the pipe. The Viking has screw on bowls that are interchangeable with other Viking bowls (but not with Falcon bowls which have a different thread size and count). I reamed and cleaned the bowl of the old broken cake and picked out the buildup around the hole in the bottom of the bowl using a dental pick. I took apart the base and the inner tube. The tube slipped out easily as it is normally held in place by the stem. I cleaned the tube with pipe cleaners and Everclear and then cleaned out the entrance of the tube into the bowl base. After cleaning that I put the tube back in place. I wanted to plug the hole with it so that I could fill the base with Everclear to soften the lacquer buildup. I soaked it with Everclear and then scrubbed it with cotton swabs once it had softened. The next two photos show the process of cleaning the bowl base and tube.


I sorted through my stem box and found a precast stem for a Canadian. It was a small sized taper that would give me room to work with the diameter and the length that I needed for the right dimensions. I drilled the tenon on the stem blank so that the airway would be large enough to go over the tube at the end of the shank. I turned the tenon with my PIMO tenon turner set to the smallest setting so that I would have little left to remove for a good fit into the hole in the end of the metal shank. The fit involved the tube fitting inside the airway of the tenon and then the tenon itself fitting into the opening on the end of the shank. I used my needle files and emery paper to sand the tenon after I had turned it on the turner. I needed to take it down further for the fit so I used my Dremel with a sanding drum. The next series of seven photos show the process of fitting the stem to the metal shank.


After I had the basic fit as pictured above I decided to work on the out dimensions of the stem to get a smooth flow between the metal shank and the vulcanite stem. I used my Dremel to take down the majority of the excess material that needed to be removed. The next two photos show the stem after I had used the Dremel. It was ready to hand sand at this point in the process.


I sanded the stem with medium grit emery paper to remove the marks from the Dremel and smooth out the angle of the stem from the shank to the button. I also shortened the tenon to get a tight fit on the stem to the shank. It was just a little too long to fit the depth of the hole in the shank. The next series of five photos show the fit to the shank and the first stage of sanding to remove the scratches.

ImageImageImageImageGrabow under

I took the stem back to the Pimo tenon turner and set it a bit deeper to smooth out the portion that goes against the shank. Then I took it back for more sanding to make it fit more tightly against the shank. I moved on to sand with medium grit sanding sponges to continue to make the stem sit correctly on the shank and to remove the scratches remaining on the stem. The next seven photos show the progress on the stem. It is getting close to a good fit and the scratches are less visible. I also wiped down the bowl with acetone and sanded the top of the bowl and the inside edge of the bowl to deal with the burn mark on the back side of the rim.

Grabow1 Grabow2 Grabow3 Grabow4 Grabow5 Grabow6 Grabow7

At this point you can see some of the minor scratches on the aluminum of the shank. These will come out when I use the micromesh sanding pads after the stem is ready. The next series of two photos show the progress of smoothing out the stem with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit sanding pads. Each successive grit gave a deeper shine and polish to the stem surface.

Grabow8 Grabow9I also wet sanded with 3200 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next two photos show the change in the stem as the shine deepens.

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I went on to dry sand with 3600 – 12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next series of photos show the progress in polishing of the stem. To me the final three grits – 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit – show the most change. The next two photos are selected to show the progress. The first one below is of the stem after sanding with the 4000 grit micromesh. The second photo shows the stem after sanding with the final three grits of micromesh.

Grabow12 Grabow13Once the stem was polished I used some clear superglue to glue the stem to the shank. I also went on to stain the bowl with an oxblood stain. I applied it and then flamed it and restained and reflamed it. The next four photos show the pipe after staining and before taking it to the buffer. I also used the micromesh to polish the stem and shank.

Grabow14Grabow15 Grabow16 Grabow18

The final four photos show the finished pipe. I buffed it on the buffer with White Diamond and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed with a soft flannel buffing pad to give it a shine.

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Modifying an Old Meerschaum Bowl to Fit a Kirsten Pipe Barrel

In a lot I picked up off EBay was a nice older meerschaum pipe bowl. I think it was originally made either for the WDC base that came in the lot or for a different metal or Bakelite pipe. The threads on the pedestal base were stripped out. As I was looking at it I thought, “Why not see if I can modify it to fit the Kirsten stem and barrel that I have waiting for a bowl”. In the first photo below is the lot of bowls I picked up on EBay. The Meerschaum bowl is in the bottom right corner. The base or nipple is visible in this photo.


The next series of four photos show the bowl before I began work on it I wanted to line it up and see if it would possibly work on the Kirsten. I wanted to see if it was awkward looking or would look feasible. I took photos of the bowl and pipe from different angles to get a feel for the look of the bowl on the pipe.


I decided to try the same process I use in topping a bowl to remove the nipple or base. I set up my sandpaper on a flat board and sanded the nipple to flatten it out. It seemed like it was going to take a long time to remove it so I took it to my Dremel and quickly removed most of it and then came back to the sanding board to finish it up. The next three photos show the process of removing the meer nipple.


Now the bowl needed to be cleaned up and shaped to fit the barrel of the Kirsten. I sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the tar and finish of the bowl. Since I was going to reshape the bowl bottom I wanted to remove the old patina and dents as much as possible to make matching the bowl bottom simpler. The next three photos show the sanding of the bowl.


After sanding the bowl surface I used my Dremel to remove the material from the bottom of the bowl and to reshape the bowl to fit the Kirsten. It was a slow and repetitive process as one thing I have learned it you can always remove more material but you cannot put it back. I wanted to shape the bowl with a more rounded bottom on it and give the overall look of a brandy shape. The next three photos show the new shape of the bowl after the Dremel had done its work.


The next step in the process was to open up the hole in the bottom of the bowl in order to receive the bottom plate on the outside and the hollow screw on the inside. Kirsten bowls have a brass or vulcanite bottom plate that is inserted into the bottom of the bowl. This adapter or plate is cupped so I matched the bowl bottom to the cup on the plate. I had to drill slowly with increasingly larger drill bits until I had opened the airway enough for the plate to fit. Then I needed to open the bowl bottom enough to take the screw head. This particular bowl was a bit tapered so I needed to drill it so that the bottom was more flat on the inside so that the screw head would rest evenly on the bottom of the bowl. The outside drilling was ¼ inch when finished. The inside drilling was a ½ inch to let the screw sit evenly. The next three photos give an idea of the drilling and the end product. In the last of the three photos I placed the plate/adapter and the screw in the photo so that you can see where I was going with my drilling.


After drilling the bowl to fit the pieces I put it together to see if it all worked. The first three photos below show the bottom plate and the screw attached. I tried to photograph the bowl from a variety of angles in order to show the fit and feel of the bottom plate. The top down photo shows the placement of the screw. The other two photos show the fitted bottom plate. The last photo of the three shows the view from the bottom of the bowl with the screw centered in the bottom plate and the bowl ready to place on the shank.


At this point in my work I wanted to see how the bowl fit the barrel and stem. I wanted to determine if I needed to remove more of the meerschaum to ensure a good fit with the barrel. The next four photos give you a look at the pipe bowl fit at this point. There was still much work to do in making the fit perfect but I was getting there and the finished pipe had potential that it would look very good.


The internal screw was still not sitting flat and deep enough in the bowl to ensure a good tight fit to the barrel. I rode too high in the bowl bottom to really be able to tighten the bowl snugly against the barrel. So I took it back to the drill and inserted a larger bit in the drill and carefully drilled the internal bowl bottom to let the screw seat more deeply. This process took care as I did not want to go too deep into the bottom as that would weaken the bottom of the bowl. I went slowly and checked the seating often until it was the correct fit. The next series of two photos show how I did the drilling and the finished fit of the screw in the bowl bottom.


Once the fit of the bottom plate was correct it was time to sand the meerschaum bowl. This was a very messy proposition with the dust being similar to sanding Gyprock or drywall board after it has been taped and mudded. I had no idea that the sanding would be such a messy work. The dust was very fine and permeated everything, my hands and arms were covered with the fine white powder. Even my eye sockets were filled with the dust. I used 320 grit sandpaper to begin the process and sanded out the deeper scratches left by the Dremel and also the deeper gouges in the bowl from its previous history. I then used a medium grit sanding sponge to further remove those scratches and the finer ones left by the sandpaper. The next six photos show the sanding process and the increasingly smooth surface of the reshaped bowl.


I stopped sanding at this point and put the bowl back on the barrel to make sure that the edges and bottom of the bowl sat correctly against the top of the barrel. While it was on the barrel I sanded it further with a fine grit sanding sponge. The next three photos show the look of the bowl on the barrel after sanding. The shape and finish is beginning to appear in the process.


Once the fit and feel were correct it was time to work on the finish of the meerschaum bowl. Meer is pretty unforgiving in that it shows scratches in detail and as the bowl is smoked and heated any hidden ones suddenly will appear. I figured I would have to deal with that when it happened but in the mean time I would work to minimize that effect. I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500-12,000 grit. The eight photos below show the progressive shine that developed in the bowl after each successive grit of micromesh was used. It was fascinating to me that as I sanded and polished the bowl more of the patina seemed to come to the surface and what was almost white in the newly sanded bowl began to yellow and darken around the top and bottom edges with the polishing.


The final series of four photos show the finished bowl on the barrel and ready to use. I am very pleased with the look of this old meerschaum bowl on the newer Kirsten metal barrel. The marriage of old and new is actually quite pleasant to look at. The feel in the hand is also very nice and the bowl has a natural shine to it from sanding with the micromesh. I gave it a coat of white beeswax after the sanding and hand polished it. I will continue to give it coats of beeswax as I use it.

One thing I have learned in the process of working this meerschaum bowl to fit the barrel is that there is always a use for what appears to be a throw away bowl. I will think long and hard before I discard a pipe bowl as junk because who knows what beauty lies just beneath the surface and what a pleasant new life can be resurrected from the old pipe.


Repairing a Bite Mark on a Kirsten Stem

In one of my EBay bargain basket purchases I picked up a Kirsten Barrel and stem. It is complete minus the bowl. I have a bowl coming from a friend so it was time to do some work on the stem and barrel. The valve on the end of the stem was stuck shut so removed the stem and needle valve system from the barrel and filled the barrel with alcohol up to the top of the valve on the end. This worked through the buildup on the valve and I was able to remove it. The barrel was fairly easy to clean up with alcohol and cotton swabs. The stem valve also cleaned up nicely but the stem was another matter altogether.


On the underside of the stem was a deep bite mark. It was rough around the edges and the vulcanite was compromised. On the top side of the stem were some smaller and less deep bite marks that were more like dents. There was also a wrinkle in the topside of the stem that was strange. The first two photos below show the stem when I began to work on it.


I decided to use my heat gun and set it on the lowest setting and held the stem over the gun to lift the tooth marks as much as possible. The ones on the top side of the stem lifted very easily with the heat. The wrinkle also smoothed out easily with the heat. The bite mark on the underside lifted slightly but it was not going to come out smoothly. I then sanded it with 240 grit sandpaper to remove the remnants of the bite marks and remaining tooth chatter. The top of the stem came out very nicely and I would need to work out the scratches with higher grits of sandpaper and micromesh. The underside was another matter. I sanded out the roughness around the edges of the crater in the stem. I sanded out the remnants of tooth chatter to see what I would have to do to reclaim the stem. The next two photos show the stem after the sanding with the 240 and 320 grit sandpaper. The topside is nice, but the bottom crater remains – smaller but visible.


I sanded the stem with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the majority of the scratches pictured above. The top side I then sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. The first photo below shows the top of the stem and the bite marks and tooth chatter is gone. The stem from the top looks clean and new – ready for the bowl when it gets here. The second photo shows the underside of the stem. For the crater in the underside I cleaned out the hole with a cotton swab and alcohol. I picked away any debris that had collected in the hole with a dental pick. I then filled the hole with black superglue. I made a superglue bubble over the hole to make sure that when it dried it would be able to be full enough. I set it aside for the night. In the morning I sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper and took the bubble down to the surface of the stem. I then sanded with 400 and 600 wet dry to smooth it out more. Finally I sanded it with the 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads to get it to the point shown in the second photo below.


At this point the stem is repaired and all that remains is to do some final sanding with the higher grits of micromesh sanding pads. I worked on it with 3200 and 3600 grit micromesh and then polished it Maguiar’s. After that I sanded it with 4000-12,000 grit micromesh and then gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil. The finished stem was buffed with White Diamond and then more carnauba wax. I also hand polished the barrel with carnauba wax.



No Rounded Shoulders – Keeping Sharp Edges on a Pipe Stem

One of my pet peeves in the realm of refurbished estate pipes is rounded shoulders on the tenon end of the pipe stem where it meets the shank of a pipe. A second one that is nearly as irritating is rounded edges on the button to the point where it has lost all definition. When the pipe was finished and left the factory the transition between the shank and stem was smooth. The edge of the stem was sharp and crisp and the joint was unnoticeable to the touch. I have gotten pickier now in my choice of estates. I would rather pick up a pipe that is in rough shape and needs work than one that has rounded shoulders. Early in my refurbishing days I did not pay attention to this and was guilty of rounding the shoulders. Even in some of the pipes that I have carved in years past I rounded the shoulders through carelessly sanding the stem while it was off of the pipe. Over the years through the helpful critiques of others I have come to see the error and am now very careful in proceeding with stem refurbishing. I decided to write about the error itself and its causes in order to help others avoid this mistake. There are multiple ways to cause the rounding of shoulders and buttons. I want to write about the ones I am guilty of and how I have corrected the errors.

One of the most frequent errors is to over buff the pipe stem to bring it back to black. While the oxidation is removed and the stem shines, the edges are lost. The crisp sharp lines of the pipe are destroyed. I remember working the stems against the buffing wheel with brown and red Tripoli to get rid of the oxidation. I buffed almost indiscriminately on my quest to remove the greenish brown. The sad thing was I also rounded edges, button and sharp angles. I remember buffing stems without the pipe attached and when they were good and black, buffing them with carnauba. They sure shone but the pristine angles were forever gone.

Once the error of buffing the oxidation away and losing the shape of the pipe stem had been pointed out to me I began to search for new ways of removing the oxidation without damaging the edges of the stem and button. My quest took me to the second method that I used – to sand the stem with varying grits of sandpaper. At first glance, this method seemed better than buffing as it was easier to maintain the edges. On another level, however, it was just as bad in that it changed the shape of the stem. Again, I learned the hard way, thinking I could maintain the sharp edges; I sanded the stem while it was removed from the pipe. This stemmed from my fear of damaging the finish and shape of the shank. In doing this my track record was better and over 50% of the stems retained sharp edges. I was better in maintaining the integrity of the button and its edges with this method. But because I knew better than to damage the edges I looked for a different method that would minimize damage to the stem even more.

My third experiment in removing oxidation involved bleaching the stem.  I filled a container with bleach and placed the stem in it for a soak. I tried straight undiluted bleach and bleach diluted 50% with water. I left them in for short periods of time in both solutions. I found that it left the stem surface pitted and rough. It also affected the clean and sharp lines because the pits would also end up on the sharp edges. The only way I knew of removing the pitting and attaining a smooth finish afterward was by sanding with wet dry sand paper from 400-1200 grit. While this was more satisfactory in maintaining sharp and distinct as opposed to rounded shoulders it still was not exactly what I was looking for as it affected the finished look of the stem. Sanding the stem after bleaching still changed the overall profile. So the search went on.

My fourth experiment involved soaking the stems in an Oxyclean solution. I had heard from a variety of people that this worked well and did not leave the stem pitted and rough when it was removed from the soak. I mixed the Oxyclean according to directions – a half scoop for a quart jar of warm water. I shook the jar to dissolve the Oxyclean and then placed the stems in the solution. I experimented with the time left in the solution – anywhere from 1-12 hours. Regardless of the amount of time left in the solution I found that the Oxyclean did not remove the oxidation but did soften it significantly. I learned from my experiments that it took over an hour of soaking to soften the oxidation. The longer soak did not significantly soften the oxidation more. When the stems were removed they were almost white from the work of the solution. I wiped them down with a cotton cloth to remove the surface oxidation that was on the surface and had been softened. I scrubbed it hard with the cloth and was able to remove a lot of the oxidation. However, there was still a remnant that had to be scrubbed or sanded. It is important to note that was less sanding of the stem involved with this method.

A fifth experiment happened accidentally. A friend of mine who does refurbishing as well was using the flame from a Bic lighter to lift tooth marks from a vulcanite stem. He found that the moving flame not only lifted the tooth marks but burned the oxidation. He tried moving the flame quickly over the length of the stem and it worked quite nicely. Many have wondered about heat damage and stems straightening from the heat but miss the point that the flame does not sit anywhere on the stem too long. The concept is to let the flame lick the surface of the stem and quickly paint the stem with the flame. I have experimented with this and found that it works very well in the crease along the button and on heavily oxidized stems. I have also used it after a pipe stem has soaked in Oxyclean and it works. To me the jury is still out on the long term effects of the method but it does work and does not damage the sharp edges or the profile of the stem. The two of us have done a lot of experimenting and talking through the process and continue to learn as we do it. I know others on the blog have experimented with the method as well and have had a variety of experiences with it.

Today, through my experimenting, I arrived at the point where I have combined several of the methods from my learning process described above. I use the Oxyclean soak and the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to wet sand and dry sand the stems. I like the fact that they do not remove large amounts of material in the process of sanding the stem. Less frequently I have to use 320 grit or 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to work on heavy oxidation. That combination allows me to clean up the stem with minimal invasive action on the surface of the stem. I have added the use a plastic polish between the various grits of micromesh to further clean the stem. I do not finish the stem with the plastic polish but merely use it in the midst of the process. Finally for the tough areas I have used the Bic lighter to quickly move over areas that are hard to sand with the micromesh. With this combination of resources I am happy with the results I am getting on the stems.

But, as always I am on the lookout and thinking of new tools or items that will make my job easier in the cleanup and refurbishing process. Some of my methods or ideas come through odd associations and a passing thought. I was looking at my drill bit keeper the other evening and noticing that the larger bit slots would work well as mortises for the tenons of the stems I was working on. My newest idea is in the design stages. But it is pretty simple. I want to cut a series of 4-5 inch lengths of 1 inch to 1 and ½ inch dowel. I want the doweling to be large enough that I can hold it in my hand while working on the stem or anchor it in a vice.I plan on drilling mortises for the standard tenon sizes into the ends (a different size on each end) of the dowel to accommodate the tenons while I work on the area of the joint of the stem and the shank. At least in theory it will give me a flat edge to push the stem against and allow me to work on the area of the stem that sits against the shank. I have not had time to hunt down some doweling yet but I have been using an ebony block that I have here to the same purpose. I drilled two mortises in the block that can accommodate two different tenon sizes. I also drilled them deep enough to allow the stem to sit flush against the block. I have used it now on two stem cleanups and it works really well. The only drawback that I find is the size of the block. I think the dowel will work better as I can hold it easily in my hand while I am working on the stem.I have included a few pictures of the block that I am currently using with two different styles and sizes of stems. Both stems fit well and the fit gave me a flat edge to work against while sanding the area where the stem meets the shank and keep the shoulders unharmed. I will post a follow-up with photos of the doweling when I have made those.


Flash Tour of Gallwitz Pipe Shop – Budapest

Blog by Steve Laug

When I was preparing for my trip to Budapest I came across this great old tobacco shop. I enjoyed the video/flash presentation of the shop, its history and wares and thought I would post the link here.

Once you are on the website click on the word Belepes (If you are Hungarian, please forgive my lack of accents on the Hungarian words. I do not have the ability to add them at this point) as pictured in the screen below. That will take you to the second screen pictured below.


Or you can just click on this link and you will be taken to the screen pictured below. Once you have the screen pictured above on the website click on KEPEK UZLETUNKROL and a new screen will open with a video tour of the pipe shop. You can also click on the headings on the screen for a bit of a tour of the wares. Click on PIPAK for Pipes etc.


It is an amazing place. Having been there in person I can tell you that it met my expectations of a place filled with pipe history. Enjoy!

(You will need to have Adobe Flash installed to watch the video.)

Father Tom – A Serendipitous Encounter in Frankfurt

Father Tom heard the announcement over the intercom at Heathrow that his plane was now boarding so he hurriedly left the smoking cage and made straight for the gate for his flight to Budapest. He knew that he would change planes in Frankfurt on the way and was hoping to get the chance to pick up some pipe tobacco from the Duty Free on the layover there. He also hoped that Jack Spratt and his wife from the Vancouver/London flight would not be on the same plane.  He was weary of obnoxious passengers. He wanted to have a little quiet down time to read over his notes for the conference in Budapest. His pipe still hung unconsciously in his mouth, though the tobacco was long since burned away and the dottle disposed of in the cage. He absentmindedly touched the pipe at different points in his walk to the gate. People would glare at him as he walked along oblivious to their stares and pointed comments about not smoking. If he had noticed he would likely have had some witty repartee to give back to them.

By the time he boarded the Frankfurt bound plane he had returned the pipe to his jacket pocket without much intention, so he had no further problems. It seemed too fortunate to be true that his troublesome travel companions were not on this plane, as he was used to a bit of hassle on his flights. He settled into his seat on the aisle so that his right leg could straighten out in the aisle once they were underway. His leg always gave him problems when he sat too long so he had learned to accommodate his aches and pains. The takeoff was uneventful and his seatmates were soon sleeping. While he read through his materials for the seminar in Budapest, he reached in his pocket and stuck his pipe in his mouth and unconsciously gnawed on it. The flight attendant made it a point to remind him of the no smoking rules.  He pointed to the bowl showing that it was empty and commented that it was his soother and would keep him quiet on the flight. As an afterthought he said, “You wouldn’t want a cranky old man whinging on this leg of the trip.” With that the flight attendant laughed, shook her head and continued down the aisle.

He settled into his reading and writing, interrupted only by the food and beverage service – some type of dark bread and a strong cheese,served with a thimble sized cup of strong coffee. He missed his mug of fine coffee and grimaced as he sipped the strong, dark, lukewarm brew. He was looking forward to finally landing in Budapest. The conference was scheduled for three days so he had booked several extra days following the conference so that he could do some sightseeing and visit the local tobacconists. He had searched online for and found some pipe shops that looked interesting. As he thought about that he took the pipe from his mouth, held it in his hand and looked out the window. He wondered how soon they would be landing. He was actually looking forward to the layover in Frankfurt – another bowl would be a comfort and maybe he could pick up some stout German lager as well. Within moments of his thoughts the plane began its descent and the announcement came over the speakers that they would be landing soon and should turn of electronic devices… He chuckled and said to himself, “That wish did not take long to be granted.”

The plane landed smoothly and taxied to gate. The passengers quickly maneuvered their way off the plane. About mid-stream among the disembarking crowd was Father Tom. His pipe hung from his mouth as he clutched his briefcase in his hand. He had put his flat cap on and he was a man on a mission. Once off the plane he looked for a smoking area where he could fire up his pipe. Seeing none, he asked at the information desk where he might find one. Somehow in his bumbling German he was able to understand where he was being directed…or at least he thought he understood. So he started on his way toward the spot pointed out to him. When he arrived he realized that something had been lost in the translation as he found himself standing in another queue for Security. He was trapped in a line that could not be exited so he moved forward with the crowd. When he arrived at the desk of the Security Officer he was asked to put his bag, coat and shoes on the belt to be scanned. He did as he was told but forgot to take the pipe from his mouth. The officer pointed at the pipe so he looked down to see his pipe in his mouth and placed it in the tray as well.

When he had passed through the scanner he realized that he was still in the gate area of the airport and had actually moved to the sets of gates where his next plane would depart. He went to the information desk and asked again for the smoking area. The attendant had a blank look on her face so he pointed to his pipe and acted out smoking… she nodded. She understood and pointed him to the area. Ah… finally he had accomplished at least a part of his mission. He expected a cage like the one at Heathrow so you can imagine his surprise when he found the newly renovated smoking lounge in Frankfurt airport. It was beautiful and new. He found a comfortable seat in an unoccupied corner of the room and soon was totally oblivious to anyone else in the room, happy to have achieved his mission. He filled his bowl, lit, tamped and relit the pipe and soon he was quietly enjoying the solitude of his smoke. He became almost invisible in a cloud of sweet Virginia smoke. No one sat near him so he could get lost in his thoughts and enjoy himself thoroughly.


Suddenly his quiet repast was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He came back to the present and was prepared to give a ready retort to anyone asking him to put out his pipe; but before he could speak the chap at the other end of the hand came into focus.  It was an older gentleman wearing much the same dress as he did that came around the chair to stand in front of him. He even sported a pipe in his mouth. He was saying something and Father Tom had to quickly shake away his surprise and listen. The older gent seemed to guess Tom had not heard him, so with a twinkle in his blue eyes he repeated himself.

“Good day sir. May I join you for a bowl while I am waiting? I have been sitting in this room in the opposite corner smoking a bowl by myself when I saw you come in. I thought to myself it would be a fine thing to have a word or two with a fellow pipeman. Do you mind?” said the old gentleman.

Father Tom shook his head in amazement and said, “I apologize for my speechless surprise a moment ago. I am so used to having to defend my right to smoke my pipe that I was shocked to see a pipe in your mouth. I had no idea there was another pipe smoker in the room. Certainly, it would be great to have you join me for a bowl. What are you smoking? What kind of pipe is that you have?”

And with those questions the agenda for the layover was set. The thought of a pint of lager quickly disappeared from his mind as the good father and the old fellow exchanged names and settled into the kind of conversation pipemen the world over enter into with one another with little effort. The older gent’s name was John and he lived in Oxford, England. He was also heading to Budapest for a business meeting regarding some materials his company was exporting to Hungary. They enjoyed a great hour and a half smoking and talking about pipes they owned or had sold, ones that were on the wish list and old tobaccos that they missed. They heard the intercom announcement for their flight and headed for the plane to Budapest. On the way out the door they tapped out the dottle from their pipes into an ashtray on one of the tables. They chatted on their way to their gate and made arrangements to get together after their meetings and check out the local pipe shops. They both had done some homework and had come up with the same two shops that each of them had on his list to visit – the Pipatorium and Gallwitz Tobacconist. It was likely a curious sight to behold for the other travelers, as the two older men, each with an empty pipe in his mouth, chatting up a storm made their way down the aisle. They were like long lost brothers reunited after years of being apart.  They traded seats with another passenger so they could sit together and soon were lost in an ongoing discussion. The flight to Budapest went quickly and soon they had landed. They left the plane, picked up their luggage and parted company for their respective hotels.

John said, “See you on Wednesday when I am finished and we can spend the evening laying out the plans for our walkabout on Thursday. Who knows we may find a couple other shops to check out as well. I know that Davidoff has a shop here and there is also a Cigar shop shaped like a tube that we can check out near the Vaci Utca. Hope you enjoy your conference.”

Father Tom responded, “Talk to you soon John. I am looking forward to Wednesday evening. We can have some dinner and a bit of Hungarian wine and layout the plan. Good luck on the business meetings.”

They left the plane, nodded to each other as they made their way to meet their rides. As Father Tom waited for his ride he thought to himself, “What a serendipitous turn of events to meet another pipe smoker in Frankfort and to have each booked extra time on their trip to visit some tobacco shops. The trip was going to be a memorable one regardless of the outcome of their individual meetings”. The random events of travel had come together to their mutual favor, for a change from the typical trials both had known.

Steve Laug 03/22/13 Copyright 2013

Reworking a Dr. Grabow Riviera

Blog by Steve Laug

I am finally down to the last five pipes in my refurbishing box. I have a bunch more on their way here but I would like to finish up this lot before they arrive as they have been sitting here for a long time always getting passed over and laid aside for more favorable looking options. Last evening I decided to rework this old Dr. Grabow Riviera. It was a pleasant shape but an ugly piece of briar. I removed the stem and was amazed that it was a push stem with a well made tenon. The drilling was spot on and the internals were really well done. The draught on the pipe was excellent. The bowl was clean and the drilling in the bowl was nicely done as well with the airway perfectly centered on the back bottom edge of the bowl. The externals however left much to be desired. The first series of four pictures below show the bowl with the many fills that are on the outside of the bowl. These were not tiny fills by any means; in fact the majority of them are quite large. I had to make a decision on whether to refill them or to rusticate the pipe. Last evening I just was not in the mood to rusticate the pipe. Sometimes I just feel like working over a bowl but this was not the night for doing that. So I decided to pick out the fills and rework them with briar dust and superglue and restain the pipe. The stem was in pretty decent shape also – no bite marks or tooth chatter, very clean with a minimum of oxidation.

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The next series of four photos show the bowl after I have picked out the fills with my dental pick. I actually have a good time picking out the ugly pink putty or as in this case bright white putty. The holes that were filled were not deep but they were on the larger side. Once I picked out the putty I wiped down the bowl with acetone to clean up the mess. I always try to scrunch the cotton pad down into the hole to draw out the last of the putty dust. The worst fill to work with was the one on the back side rim. It was like a saw cut in the rim. It was quite deep and intrusive going from the outside to the inside of the bowl.


With each of the cleaned out holes I used my dental pick to tamp in briar dust. I try to tamp in the dust until the hole is packed and the dust forms a bit of a bulge on the hole. I find that once I drip in the superglue the dust settles in and the new fill is closes to the surface of the bowl. I also purposely overfill so that I can work to smooth out the fill with sandpaper and blend it into the surface of the bowl. The next three pictures show the patches on the bowl. You will notice the overflow of superglue on the surface of the bowl in the pictures below. This is fairly easily removed as it dries quickly and does not permeate the surface of the bowl.


The next series of thirteen photos show the progress of sanding the patches back to the surface of the bowl. In this case I was planning on refinishing the bowl anyway so I sanded the whole bowl back to bare briar. I began by sanding the patches with 240 grit sandpaper and then 320 grit sandpaper. Once the overfill of briar dust and glue was sanded fairly smooth I sanded itwith a medium grit sanding sponge and then a fine grit sanding sponge. I wanted to get rid of the excess fill and also to remove all the scratches in the surface of the bowl. I wet sanded the bowl after this with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh to ready it for staining. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad. The final pictures show the pipe as it is ready for restaining. You can see that the white putty fills are now dark patches on the bowl. I find that those these dark patches still show up they are easier to blend into the stain and somehow do not seem as intrusive to my eyes as the white patches.


I decided to stain the pipe with an oxblood aniline stain. I applied it with a cotton swab, flamed it, restained and reflamed it. Once it was dry I hand buffed it with a soft cotton cloth before taking it to the buffer. The next four photos show the pipe after the staining and initial hand buff.

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After staining the bowl I worked on the stem. I sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge and then worked through the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit. I wet sanded with the first three grits (1500, 1800 and 2400 grit) and then dry sanded with the remaining grits. I took it to the buffer and buffed the stem and bowl with White Diamond before applying several coats of carnauba wax and then buffing with a soft flannel buff. The next series of four photos show the finished pipe. In my opinion the fills look far better than when I first started on the pipe. They now are tolerable in my sight and I believe this will make a fine yard pipe or rotation extender for some new pipe smoker. It is cleaned and ready to smoke.

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GBD 9438 Virgin Restoration

Blog by Al Jones

If you have followed my previous posts, you’ve noticed that I am a fan of the GBD 9438 shape. There is just something about the chubby Rhodesian shape that appeals to me. All of the 9438’s in my collection are excellent smokers and feel great in the hand. For the past two years, I’ve been on the lookout for one of the highest grades in that shape, the Virgin. I found this somewhat tattered 9438 Virgin with a Perspex stem on Ebay.

The pipe showed some bruising and nicks on the bowl, but the top looked in decent shape as did the Perspex stem. Photographing details of a Perspex stem is never easy, but this seller had plenty of good photographs.

Below are the pictures posted by the seller.  You can see the handling marks on the bowl in the first shot.

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The bowl had a light cake, which I reamed close to the briar with my Castleford reamer. I soaked the bowl overnight with Everclear and sea salt. I use a champagne cork to plug the shank end and try to work a little of the salt/Everclear slurry into the shank.

The stem was in pretty good shape, but had a tooth indention on the lower side and some scratches. I tried to lift the tooth mark with some heat, but the Perspex isn’t as resilient as Vucanite. I removed the scratches with some 1500 then 2000 grit wet 3M automotive grade wet sandpaper. Next I completed the stem work with 8,000 and then 12,000 grit micromesh sheets. I buffed it lightly with some automotive plastic polish. The draft hole isn’t heavily stained, which is a fortunate find on a Perspex stem. The tooth mark is on the bottom and the clear Perspex hides it nicely. (and makes it difficult to photograph)

My biggest concern about the briar was what appeared to be handling pinprick marks in several spots, probably from banging around in a drawer/box for a few decades. Using a torch, wet cloth and a pirated kitchen knife, I was able to lift a majority of the marks. The nomenclature was light, so I carefully buffed the bowl with first White Diamond then two coats of carnuba wax. That helped even out the color and hide some of the bruising. It’s not perfect, but has a nice level of patina.

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With this addition of this Virgin, I now have five different grades of the 9438 shape.


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New Standard


I include this Seventy-Six Colossus as it is an oversized 9438 (stamped 9676) and clearly the 9438 chubby Rhodesian shape.


A Restart into the World of Pipes

After birth of my firstborn daughter, when I was 30, I picked up the pipe again for the first time in about 10 years. My first foray back into pipes was to buy a cheap Medico Brylon pipe, Medico filters, pipe cleaners and some Borkum Riff from a local 7-Eleven in Escondido, California. (Some of you may well remember the days when the local convenience store sold both pipes and pipe tobacco and had them readily displayed for convenience. Some of you may have missed those good days.) It did not take long before I began to start looking for a different pipe. I visited local Tinderbox stores and did not find one that struck my fancy. Mind you it was 1982 and I was not into the traditional shaped pipes and some of the freehand shapes just did not do it for me either. One day I happened on a little shop in Vista, California just across the street from where I was working. I stopped by on my lunch hour one day and got engaged in a great conversation with the older gentleman who was smoking a pipe was sitting behind the till. He said he was the owner of the shop and that his name was Bill. (He was probably about the age I am now, but when I was 30 everyone looked older in my mind.)

We talked during that lunch hour about the kind of tobacco I smoked and the pipes I had. I told him I had only smoked the tobaccos I had purchased through drugstores, grocery stores and convenience stores. That limited the tobacs to Sail, Borkum Riff, Velvet, Half and Half, Sir Walter Raleigh, Prince Albert and Mixture 79. He laughed and said I had not really smoked anything that he would consider worth the time. They were staple tobaccos but I needed to try something of better quality and fuller flavour. He introduced me to some of the better bulk tobaccos that he had available and gave me some sample of Virginia and Virginia and Perique blends to try. I was hooked and quickly quit buying the Borkum Riff. I also tried a nice toasted Cavendish that became my go to blend for quite a while.

I showed him my little Medico Brylon billiard and I have to give him credit, he did not mock it or laugh when he saw it. He asked me some questions about whether it burned hot or wet. He talked about caring for the pipe and keeping it clean. He showed me how to pack the pipe and tamp it. All things I had learned before but things he wanted to make sure I understood. After all of that he introduced me to the world of estate pipes. He had a display case filled with a wide range of pipes of all brands and shapes. I wish I knew then what I have learned since because I remember that the pipes he had were well maintained and restored. I went through many of them and in the course of our conversation he talked about how briar would smoke better than the Brylon I currently smoked.

He asked me a price range of pipes I might be interested in. I was not sure so I gave the price as $25-40 would work for me. After all I had spent $5.95 on the Medico. He again did not laugh or shake his head in disbelief. Rather he put about 6 different pipes on the top of the display case for me to look at in that range. He walked me through the information on each pipe and showed me the condition of them and any issues that they may have had. He said I would need at least two pipes in order to give ample time for them to rest between smokes/days. Added to the little Medico that would give me a rotation of three pipes and that was a good start. I sorted through the lot that he had put up for me to look at and chose two pipes. The first was a Ben Wade – Preben Holm freehand. It had a great blast finish and felt really good in the hand. It was broken in well but Bill had reamed the cake back to a thin coating on the bowl. The stem was buffed to a shiny polish and the pipe truly looked new to me. The plateau top was great and I loved the look of it. The second one was a little Alpha, Israeli made pipe that had a more classic look to it. I am not sure of the shape of it to this day. The stem was a simple saddle bit with a denture stem on it. That is where the name Alpha Comfit came from. This was also very clean and ready to smoke. (I have since had the stem replaced. I sent out to Lee Von Erck in Northern Michigan, USA and he did the stem for me about 15 or more years ago).


Ben Wade – Preben Holm


Alpha Comfit

Both of these pipes are still in my collection and have provided many years of fine smoking pleasure for me. They have darkened over the years and have a nice patina to them now. They are pipes that I frequently pick up in my rotation because they always deliver. The photos above show the two pipes as they are today. I should polish and buff the stems a bit to remove the tooth chatter and oxidation.