Daily Archives: June 8, 2013

Restemming and Reclaiming an Old, Unsmoked Rex Bulldog

This is the second of the old unsmoked pipe bowls I picked up on EBay. It is one that I can find absolutely no information on anywhere. Some have thought it was a Barclay Rex but I can find nothing that would link it to that shop in NYC. It is stamped Rex in cursive script on the right side of the shank and also stamped Rex over Sterling on the band. It has the look and feel of an older English-made pipe. But I am not sure. The seller said it was from the late 1800’s but all attempts to contact them on the source of that information have remained unanswered. So it remains a bit of a mystery to me. It is one though that I will continue to hunt down until I can come up with something. This shape is what is called in some of the older catalogues a Bulldog. I personally am not sure what to call it. It has the shape of a bulldog on the bowl and the double ring separating the bottom of the bowl from the cap. The shank however, is oval. It has a factory installed band on it that is also stamped Rex. The script on the shank is in gold leaf. The bowl is very clean. There was a small crack in the shank on the shank at about one o’clock looking toward the bowl. This may have been the reason for the band or the band may have been decorative. There was no stem with this pipe so I was not sure of the length of the stem to make for it. The drilling is very interesting. It is drilled like some of the calabash bowls or bowls that were screwed onto Bakelite shank and bases in the late 1800s. It is directly in the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a small hollow chamber under the hole. The airway meets it directly underneath. I have not seen this drilling on briar pipes of newer eras. The bowl is smooth inside and almost polished. The briar is quite nice and sports mixed grains from cross grain to birdseye to flame around the bowl. The double cut rings are clean and are not clogged with wax or dirt. There appears to be a thin coat of shellac on the outside of the bowl to give it a shine as it shines with or without the application of wax. The silver band is interestingly shaped as well. It is somewhat conical – wider toward the bowl side and narrower on the stem side. There is also a stepped down lip on both sides of the band. Where it is on the bowl is stepped down to a small ring around the shank. On the stem side it is also stepped down. This would make fitting a stem to the shank a challenge. It was not too badly oxidized so it would clean up very easily. The first series of five photos are those taken by the Ebay seller and give a good idea of the look and condition of the pipe. The one thing not clear to me was the size of the pipe. I took a chance on it as the apparent age and the assumed age stated by the seller made the likelihood of it being smaller was very high. When it arrived it was indeed quite small. The bowl and shank are roughly 3 inches long without the stem. The height of the bowl is 1 5/8 inches. The inside diameter of the bowl is ¾ inches and the outside diameter is 1 ¼ inches.






Once I started working on it the first decision that needed to be made was on the type and length of the stem to be used. I fitted several oval stems to the bowl – a standard length billiard type stem, a thicker and a thinner oval Canadian stem and a Lovat style saddle stem. The longer stem did not work well with the longer shank on the pipe. The thicker Canadian stem also made the stem look quite chunky and large as did the saddle stem of the Lovat. The stem I settled on was the thinner Canadian oval. Even this one would require considerable thinning to make for a proper fit against the bevel of the band. The first photo below shows the two Canadian taper style oval stems. I chose the bottom stem in the photo.


I used the PIMO tenon turning tool to turn the tenon so that it would fit in the shank. The next three photos show the initial fit of the stem. You will note in the photos the gap where the bevel of the band lies. I had to make a decision to either leave the gap or work on the stem size so that it fit against the bevel and thus was slightly thinner than the shank prior to the band.




I decided to thin the stem to fit against the bevel. I used the Dremel with a sanding drum to bring it close to the finished size. I then sanded it with medium grit emery paper to smooth out the scratches and grooves from the Dremel. Once I had most of the scratches removed I sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to further shape the stem and remove excess material. The next series of three photos show the fit of the stem after it was sanded with the sanding sponge (pink square in the photos).




At this point in the process I had to take it back and sand off some more material with 340 grit sandpaper. It still was too thick to fit well. I also had to finesse the fit against the band with needle files as in some places it was not quite straight. When I had it fitting well I moved on to sanding with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad (the next two photos). I also did a small repair on the crack in the top of the shank. I pried it open slightly and dripped some clear super glue into the crack. It did not go all the way through into the shank which was interesting. It seemed to be a surface crack. The repair worked well. I polished that portion of the shank with the 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad as well to remove the slight excess of glue left behind (third photo below).




After the repair I continued sanding and polishing the stem with 1800-12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next four photos highlight the sanding/polishing process. Notice the slight hip on the stem at the band edge. In the photos this appears to be more drastic than it is in actual life. The fit is more of a pinched look.





The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I buffed it with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I really like the stem and fit against this long shanked “Bulldog” bowl. The pipe glows with an age and patina that calls out to be smoked. This is yet another who will soon fulfill the purpose for which it was made.