Daily Archives: March 21, 2013

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.

GBD_9438_Virgin-Before (10)


GBD_9438_Virgin-Before (1)

GBD_9438_Virgin-Before (2)

GBD_9438_Virgin-Before (5)

GBD_9438_Virgin-Before (6)

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.

GBD_9438_Virgin_Finished (6)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Finished (1)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Finished (2)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Finished (3)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Finished (4)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Finished (5)


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


GBD_9438_Fantasy_Gallery 3





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.

Repairing a Stem on a Dr. Grabow Grand Duke with Black Superglue

I took on this project to demonstrate how I use black superglue to repair deep bit marks/bite throughs on vulcanite stems. I had this old Grabow stummel in my box and I found a stem that looked good on the bowl. The bowl had a small hairline crack in the shank so I pressure fit a band on it for a repair. The bowl needed to be topped so I did that after banding. I restained the top to match the bowl colour. I used a dark brown aniline stain that I mixed with isopropyl alcohol until I got the match I was looking for. I stained and flamed the rim to set the stain. The stem was in pretty rough shape but I decided to use it anyway and take it on as a project. The button was almost gone from the deep bite marks. There were three bite marks on the underside of the stem near the button and on bite mark on the top of the stem. I decided to use the boiling water trick to try to raise the dents as much as possible. These were deep bite marks and the edges were rough so my guess was that they would not come up to the surface with the heat. I then sanded the surface of the stem with medium grit emery paper to remove the surface marks and dents and then smooth out the area of the deep bite marks. I work to have a semi rough surface for the superglue to bond with so I am not sanding it smooth as much as working it over to make it clean. The next three photos show the state of the stem after I had sanded it and readied for patching.


Once I had sanded the surface smooth I used my needle files to recut the sharp edge of the button and rework the flow and angles of the button. I also used the needle files to carve the surface of the stem and provide a gentle slope to the new button area. I have found that often when recutting the button and defining its shape it is easy to cut a trough and make a hump in front of the newly shaped button so I always start about half way up the stem and use the file to change the taper to flow to the edge of the button. This served the dual purpose of removing high spots on the bite marks and to help identify the actual holes that would need to be patched. The next two photos show the file work on the stem.


Once I had the slope correct and the button shaped I put the stem in the ebony block I had drilled with a mortise to allow me to sand the rest of the stem without rounding the shoulders of the stem. I wanted the stem shank junction to be smooth and well fit. I also wanted the oxidation removed from the stem before I patched it with the superglue. I did not want the oxidation to remain in the holes that I would patch or on the surface of the stem. I sanded it down and removed the oxidation. I spent extra time around the bite marks. I also picked out any loose debris in the marks with a dental pick and then wiped it down with alcohol to remove the dust and provide a clean surface for my patch work.


The next series of three photos show the patch in place. I use black superglue that I pick up from Stewart-Macdonald http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Glues,_adhesives/Stewart-MacDonald_Super_Glues.html I have found that it really works well. I drip it on the cleaned hole and make a bubble of superglue. This particular glue dries slowly so I do one side of the stem at a time. I let it dry for over an hour before turning it over and doing the same thing on the other side of the stem. Once I have made the patch I set the stem aside to dry overnight. I do not want to touch it or sand it until it has had that time to cure and become hard. I have tried sanding sooner but always end up patching the holes a second time because of my impatience.


Once the glue has cured and is hard it forms a small bubble of black on the surface of the stem. I sand the bubble flat to the surface and taper of the stem. I use a 320 grit sandpaper to accomplish this sanding. At this point in the process I am not looking for shininess or polish I am only trying to blend the patch into the surface of the stem. The next five photos show the process of sanding down the bubble and the look of the resulting patch on the stem. The tooth marks are gone and in their place is a black patch that with a bit more polishing and sanding with micromesh will blend into the stem well and give a new polished look and comfortable feel to the stem.


The underside of the stem. Notice the patch near the button after sanding with 320 grit sandpaper. The patch on the underside is larger than the one on top but it not as deep.


The bubble of black superglue on the top of the stem. The white dust on the stem is not a problem as the bubble is dry at this point and ready to sand.


The top side of the stem after the initial sanding of the bubble. It is almost smooth and needs to be wet sanded with the micromesh sanding pads.


Top side of the stem after the patch has been wet sanded with 1800 grit micromesh sanding pads.


The top side of the stem after the patch has been wet sanded with 1800 grit micromesh sanding pads. There are still scratches that remain in the stem on both the top and the bottom that more sanding will remove. The patch will also blend in better as the stem itself begins to shine.

The next series of photos show the stem as I sand it with the various grits of micromesh sanding pads. Between the 2400 and the 3200 grit sanding pad I scrubbed the stem with Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 to polish out some of the remaining scratches.


The top side of the stem after wet sanding with 1800 grit micromesh sanding pads.


The underside of the stem after wet sanding with 1800 grit micromesh pads.


The top side of the stem after wet sanding with 2400 grit micromesh pads. The patch is beginning to be harder to see on the surface of the stem.


The underside of the stem after wet sanding with 2400 grit micromesh pads.


The top side of the stem after I polished it with the Maguiar’s Scratch x2.0. The patch is blending in very well on the top side. If you did not know where it was it would be hard to see.


The underside of the stem after polishing with the Maguiar’s. The patch is also beginning to blend in very well on this side of the stem as well.


The top side of the stem after I had dry sanded it with the 3200 grit micromesh pads.


The underside of the stem after dry sanding with the 3200 grit micromesh pads.


Topside of the stem after sanding with 3600 and 4000 grit micromesh pads. The patch is virtually hidden to the camera at this point as the stem begins to shine.


Underside of the stem after sanding with 3600, 4000 grit micromesh pads.


Top side of the stem after sanding with 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit micromesh pads.


The underside of the stem after sanding with 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit micromesh.

The next series of four photos show the finished pipe after buffing with carnauba wax and a soft flannel buff to give it a shine. The pipe is restemmed, repaired and ready for it next smoke.