Reclaiming an EPW Bulldog – Restoring it Twice


Blog by Steve Laug

This old time long shanked bulldog was a mess when I got it. At first glance it looks pretty good. But it was not. The shank had previously been banded and that band was lost. It was a deep band and filigreed so it left marks. There were also two large cracks in the shank that extended about an inch into the length. The rim was clean but the top portion of the bulldog shape – above the double rings was also stained and filled with holes from the nails that had held the decorated rim cap in place. There were four holes – back, front and both sides. There were also deep gouges where the decorative border had cut into the briar. The stamping was faint and read EPW in an oval. There was no stem with this one either so it would need to have one made. The overall finish on the bowl was not too bad in that it was not dented or burned or damaged on the sides and undersides of the bowl.  I decided to try banding the shank and see what I could do about the cracks on the top right side of the shank and the lower left side of the shank. They would in all likelihood be an issue. I did not have a deep band so I tried with a narrower band (about ½ inch deep). I shaped a round band with a flat blade screwdriver and a hammer until it was the right shape to fit the shank. I heated the band and pressed it into place.

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The next three photos show the band in place. If you look close in the photos below you can see the crack on the top of the right side shank. The one on the left underside of the shank did not come out in the photos. You can also see the nail holes in the bowl above the double rings.

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The next series of three photos shows the fitting of a new tenon. I drilled the stem and then used a tap to thread the stem so that I could screw in the new tenon. In the photos below you can see the tap in the stem and the new threaded tenon just above the bowl at the centre of the picture. The third photo shows the hole in the stem threaded and ready for the new tenon.

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Once the stem was ready I dripped a little superglue on the tenon and screwed it into the stem. The next two photos show the tenon in place. I still needed to turn it with the Pimo tenon turner to reduce the size to fit the shank of the pipe.

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I used the tenon turner and reduce the diameter of the tenon until it was close to fitting and then hand sanded it until it fit correctly. With the cracked shank the fit was critical. I did not want the tenon too big as it would open the cracks. The two photos below show the tenon after turning. It still needed a bit more hand sanding to make a perfect fit.

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The next four photos below show the restemmed pipe. The stem fit perfectly against the band and the look was exactly what I was aiming for. The issue that remained was the two cracks that extended further than the band.

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The next three photos show the work of patching the nail holes and the cracks with briar dust and superglue. I packed in the briar dust with my dental pick until they were filled and then I dripped the superglue into the spots. Once they were dry I sanded them down to remove the excess and blend them into the surrounding bowl. I wanted them to be less visible and be able to be blended in with the stain when I got around to staining it.

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With the nail holes filled on the front and back of the bowl I was finished with the patching for now. I still was bothered by the ones on the sides of the bowl but would deal with them later. I sanded down the patches one more time with a fine grit sanding sponge and then wiped the bowl and shank down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad to remove the dust and remaining finish. The next series of eight photos shows that process as I prepared the bowl to be restained.

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I restained the pipe with an oxblood aniline stain. The next series of four photos shows the pipe after staining. The nail holes and small holes on both sides of the bowl really bothered me. The cracks, while well bonded stood out clearly and made me wonder about how well they would hold up. I laid the pipe aside for a couple days to think about some solutions to the problem. I mulled over whether I should order a deeper band for the shank or whether I should cut down the shank and make it a normal sized bulldog. I did nothing to the pipe for two days and then on the third evening I came home and went to my work table to see what I could do to deal with the damage on the old pipe.

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I decided to cut off the shank at the inside edge of the nickel band. I wanted to use the nickel band as the straight edge for the saw. I have seen too many pipes where the cut off shank was poorly cut and at an angle. So I used a hacksaw that has a perfect blade for working with briar. The teeth are fine so they do not chip the wood as they cut it. The cut when completed is clean and smooth with no chips. The next three photos show the set up for cutting and the cutting process itself. (I apologize for the second photo – it is hard to saw and take a photo!) But you can get the idea. The third photo below shows the finished cut.

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I took the two pieces back to my work table and removed the cut off piece of briar shank from the band. When they fell out they were in two pieces. I cleaned up the band and straightened out the angles to make sure it would fit the shortened shank. It was just a bit too deep and when in place would cover the W of the stamping but it would do a good job on the cracks. With the piece cut off the cracked shank had two very small cracks left that would easily be repaired by the band. I smoothed out the cut end with a piece of emery paper. In the second photo below you can see the cut off shank piece. It is cracked all the way through and in two pieces. Note also that the mortise was threaded for the older original screw tenon.

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I put the band in place on the end of the shank. It was a good tight fit but would not slide all the way in place. So I set up my heat gun and heated the band (Photo 1 below). I then pressed it into place on the shank by squarely pushing the shank and band on a metal plate (Photo 2 below). The final three photos below show the shank with the newly fitted band in place. The shank is ready to be drilled deeper to fit the tenon.

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I matched the drill bit to the mortise in the cut off piece of shank. I used a drill bit one size lower and drilled the mortise to the depth of the tenon. I then used the proper sized drill bit and drilled it a bit larger. Once I had the drilling down I sanded down the tenon with some emery cloth to make a clean tight fit and inserted the stem. Once the stem fit well I decided to rework the nail holes and holes in the sides of the top half of the bowl above the double rings. I packed in briar dust and dripped super glue in to them. The next two photos show the repaired/filled holes.

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The glue and briar dust dried quickly so I sanded them with 320 grit sandpaper to smooth them out to the surface of the briar. The next four photos show the sanded patches and also the sanded stem. I used the same sandpaper to sand off the oxidation on the stem and clean up the surface of the stem so that I could work on it with the micromesh to bring out a deep black shine. (In the background of the photos I left the piece of cut off shank for a sense of the size of the piece I removed from the length of the pipe.)

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At this point in the process I was ready to work the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove all of the scratches and bring back the deep black. The shorter stem gave the pipe a great look in my opinion. The finished length is 5 inches as opposed to 5 ½ inches but it looks more balanced to me. The loss is the long shanked look of the original bulldog. The gain is a more solid pipe with less chance for the breakage to continue and render the pipe irreparable.

The next series of photos show the progress of sanding with the micromesh pads from 1500 – 12,000 grit. The first four photos show the stem after I wet sanded with the 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit micromesh. After wet sanding I polished the stem with some Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 and then took it to the buffer and buffed the stem with Tripoli and White Diamond.

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I then dry sanded with 3200 -12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next series of seven photos show the progress of the developing shine on the stem. Once I finished with the 12,000 grit pad I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil and when dry buffed it with White Diamond for a final time. The only thing remaining was a final buff with carnauba wax.

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The final four photos below show the finished pipe. I applied several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe and stem with a soft flannel buff to give it the final shine. When I started on this pipe I would have never guessed that I would refurbish it twice, band it twice, stain it twice, work the stem twice, and on goes the list of second times on this one. But the end product speaks for itself. I like the look of the shortened shank and tight band. This one will outlast me in its service to pipemen in the days ahead.

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2 thoughts on “Reclaiming an EPW Bulldog – Restoring it Twice

  1. Greg

    That was a great call on shortening the shank; I completely agree the balance is much better. I guess this one is a re-reborn briar! LOL

    Reply

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