Daily Archives: April 7, 2013

Reworking and Reshaping an Old French Briar (CPF?) Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

This old timer was one of the pipe bowls that I picked up in that EBay lot that had others with the French Briar stamping. The others had the same stamping but also had been stamped CPF on the shank or on the end cap. This one was missing the end cap so it remains a bit of a mystery as to its maker. It was also stemless. From the photos below you can see that at one point in its life it also had a rim cap that was also missing. What was left was the line around the top of the bowl and a darkened rim where the silver cap had covered it. The end of the shank was in pretty good shape but the likelihood of finding another end cap that fit or in making one was pretty low for me. The four photos below show the general state of the pipe when it came to my desk top. The finish was gone. There were several visible fills that stood out. It was one that I had to give a little thought about how I was going to tackle it. I knew that I would have to modify the shank and rework the bowl. I would also have to redrill the mortise way and fit a stem for the newly formed pipe. Ah well… let’s begin the work.



After many failed attempts over the years to get a good straight cut on the shank and end up with a smooth and even mortise I finally figured out a way with my limited tools to accomplish that. I slip a nickel band on the shank to the place that I want to cut it off. I use the band as a guide for my hacksaw to follow. So far this method has worked for me and left me with some nice evenly cut shanks. The next three photos show the process from start to finish.


After cutting off the shank I sanded the area where the new band would be fitted. I used my Dremel with a sanding drum to begin the process of cutting back the shank to receive the band and finished by hand sanding it with medium grit emery cloth. I set up my heat gun on it end stand, slipped the band in place and set the heat on low to warm the band so that I could press it into place. The next two photos show that process.

With the band in place I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to clean off the grit and the remnants of the finish on the pipe. After I had cleaned the bowl I topped the rim with a medium and fine grit sanding pad to remove the damage to the rim edges. The next four photos show that process. During that time I also used superglue and briar dust to fill the obvious sand pits on the bowl (at the back of the bowl near the shank and on the underside). I sanded them once they were dry and was able to blend them into the bowl quite well. In the first photo below you can see the first large sand pit clearly. It was quite long and fortunately flowed with the grain so that it was easy to blend in with the briar dust and superglue. The one on the bowl bottom was a bit more difficult to blend in. In either case both are now smooth surfaces that the finish sanding would blend in as much as possible.



I sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the damage caused by the rim cap and to remove the darkened line around the top of the bowl. The next series of three photos show how the bowl is shaping up after initial sanding. The wood is stamped French Briar but as I work it I am wondering. It is very hard, dense wood with interesting grain. It is very light weight and the feel of the sanding dust and the wood itself calls this into question for me. Maybe it is only a question of age on the pipe as it is probably from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.


I inserted the stem and took it to the buffer to see what it looked like at this point after buffing. I buffed it with Tripoli. The next four photos show the pipe after buffing. There was a natural reddish colour to the wood that came out more and more as I sanded it.



After buffing the pipe I reamed it with my PipNet reamer to clean out the crumbling and broken cake that was on the surface of the bowl (Photo 1). I sanded it some more and then wiped it down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad and prepared tit for restaining (Photos 2 & 3).


I receive regular tweets from Grant Batson, pipemaker. In one of the latest he wrote of experimenting with Danish Oil in finish the bowl of a pipe. I have several cans of that around from my refinishing furniture days so I decided to use some medium walnut coloured Danish Oil on this bowl. The next four photos show the stained pipe. I had yet to buff it or polish it at this point in the process. I just rubbed on the Danish Oil and then rubbed it off.



I set the pipe aside for the evening so that the finish had a chance to dry well. This morning I worked on the stem and the bowl with the micromesh sanding pads. I used all grits that I have available from 1500 – 12,000 grit to sand both the bowl and the stem. The next series of six photos shows the progressively developing shine on both the stem and the bowl.





After finishing with the micromesh sanding pads I took it to my buffer and buffed it with White Diamond. I find that this buffing with a light touch really sets the shine to a glossy finish. The next four photos show the pipe after buffing. I still had to put on the wax but the shine is very evident.



The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad. I am pleased with the way it turned out. The pipe is ready for smoking and should provide service for many years to come.