Monthly Archives: July 2013

Banding and Restemming a Weber Blackthorne 485

I just finished refurbishing the last of the EBay lot, the second pipe down in the centre column of the photo below. It is stamped Blackthorne over Weber in an oval and Imported Briar 485 on the underside of the shank. The Weber was probably the easiest pipe of the lot to restem and clean up. The bowl was lightly caked and the rim had a light buildup of tars on it. The blast is quite nice on the bowl and when I first saw it thought it might be a GBD Prehistoric. The rim is crowned upward from the bowl and also sandblasted. The bowl is stained with a dark brown and black contrast stain which leaves much of the black stain in the crevices of the bowl and the brown on the higher portions. The shank had some darkening from the end toward the bowl for about a ½ inch – like it had had a band on it at one point. There were no cracks in the shank so the band must have been cosmetic in function. The shank was thick and gave the pipe a chubby look. I am not sure whether to call the shape a chubby billiard or a pot. The inside of the shank was not terribly dirty would take little to clean up the pipe and ready it for a smoke.



I searched through my box of stem and found one of a suitable diameter to fit the pipe. I had the perfect match but it was a bent so I heated it with the heat gun and straightened it out. I used the PIMO tenon turning tool to clean up the tenon and make it straight. In the picture below the tenon appears to have a slight conical shape to it. After turning it the tenon was a cylinder that fit well in the shank.


I took out a nickel band that would fit the shank and then used the Dremel to smooth out the portion of the shank that would have the band. I find that a band seats much better when the surface that it is pressed onto is smooth rather than blasted or rusticated. I slipped the band lightly on the end of the shank and heated it with the heat gun to expand the metal and make the band simpler to fit on the shank. I pressed it into place on a metal plate that I use for a flat surface to press bands.






With the band in place on the shank the tenon needed a slight adjustment with sandpaper to fit well against the shank.



I reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and took the cake down to the briar. I scrubbed the top of the bowl with a cotton pad and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the buildup of tars. I gently wiped down the exterior of the bowl with the Oil Soap as well to remove the grime in the grooves and crevices of the finish.





I polished the bowl with Halcyon II wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. I cleaned out the shank and the bowl with pipe cleaners and Everclear and put the stem in place for the photo below. Once finished this will be a handsome pipe. I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to polish and remove any scratches left by the heating and straightening. I took the pipe to the buffer afterwards and buffed the stem with White Diamond and Blue polish to give it a shine.





I polished the nickel band with a silver tarnish polishing cloth and then waxed the stem with several coats of carnauba wax. I touched up the areas of the rim and the rim outer edge with a black permanent marker to cover some of the scratches in the finish of the bowl in those places. I buffed the pipe lightly on the buffer with White Diamond and gave the stem another coat of wax. The finished pipe is pictured below.





An Engagement Pipe (GBD 548 Seventy-Six)

My family had a pretty big life event here last week. My daughter came home from New Orleans for a week of vacation, with the boyfriend of two years in tow again. He had called us a few weeks prior to ask permission to marry her, the first of our daughters to get engaged. This young man is quite a gentleman, as you might have guessed (who knew guys still ask for permission?). He and I share a number of interests, including pipes. I enjoyed my week with him and we were able to spend some time in the shop where I shared with him some estate pipe restoration techniques. He left here with a few briars that he cleaned. I miss him and her already.

As they were getting ready to depart, I found this GBD Seventy-Six, shape 548, on Ebay. I later learned it was sold by our own Bob Landry. The pipe had some issues and I was a bit skeptical that a good outcome could result. I’m a fan of the Seventy-Six line and I liked the tall bulldog shape. The bowl top had some chips on it but the tall bowl looked like there was plenty of briar there to top it just a bit. The stem was in great shape, just oxidized and I rationalized that if it didn’t work out, at least I had a brass rondell for the parts box. The big concern was the two burn marks on the briar (photographed and described well by Bob). I knew it would require a restain. Here is the pipe as it was received.


GBD_584_76-Before (1)

GBD_584_76-Before (2)

GBD_584_76-Before (3)

GBD_584_76-Before (4)

I reamed the bowl and found it to be in great shape. I used a sheet of 800 grit paper on my flat work bench to top the bowl and work past the damaged area. That fix came out great and the tall bowl definitely lent itself to that repair. Next up, I soaked the bowl in alcohol to remove the stain. This really exposed the burned areas. I tried to sand past them, but that was not possible and I was afraid of putting a flat spot on the bowl, particularly on that right side. This work exposed some other nicks on the bottom of the bowl. I was able to buff/sand out most of those.

GBD_548_76_Work (4)

GBD_548_76_Work (3)


GBD_548_76_Work (2)

The GBD Seventy-Six line used a two stain process that I really like, much like Comoys used. I stained the bowl black but must have put it on too heavy, as I had a hard time getting the black off. The plan was to sand off the black, leaving it to highlight the grain and then apply a very light brown stain. I mulled over just leaving it black, but that didn’t set well with me either. I was a bit frustrated at this point and almost bagged the whole project and save the stem for a future project. I left it on the bench for the better part of a week, working on other projects. I decided to soak off the black stain and left it in an alcohol bath for several days. That finally did the trick and afterwards, I sanded the briar smooth with some 2000 grit paper and then 8000 grit micromesh.

GBD_548_76_Work (5)

GBD_548_76_Work (6)

GBD_548_76_Work (9)

GBD_548_76_Work (8)

GBD_548_76_Work (7)

I then applied a very light brown stain using Feiblings Medium Brown heavily diluted with alcohol (20:1 ratio or so?) The combination of the black and brown stain finally hid the burn marks rather well and I was pleased with the outcome. The bowl was then polished with White Diamond and then several coats of carnuba wax was applied.

With the bowl completed, I turned my attention to the stem, which didn’t require nearly as much work. Using a piece of plastic, cut into a round shape I inserted it as a shield between the stem and the briar for the sanding work. I sanded the stem with 800, 1500 and 2000 grit paper, all wet. I then moved to 8000 and 12000 grit micromesh sheets. The stem was then buffed with White Diamond and an automotive plastic polish.

This shows the plastic shield.

GBD_584_76_Work (10)

As I was finishing the pipe and thinking about my daughters marriage, it struck me that there were some similarities in this pipe project and a successful marriage. Like a marriage, at times things don’t always go the way you anticipated and being patient with your spouse or a project always pays off. I sent the pipe off to my future son-in-law with a note welcoming him to our family. I hoped when smoking the pipe, he would remember the week he spent here and his proposal to my daughter.

GBD_584_76-Finished (4)

GBD_584_76-Finished (3)

GBD_584_76-Finished (2)

GBD_584_76-Finished (1)


Restemming a Bruyere Krone Billiard

I am just about finished restemming the lot of pipe bowls I picked up on EBay. This is one of the last two pipes that I have left in the lot below. It is the fourth pipe down in the left column. It has an interesting rustication pattern that reminds of one that is done on Saseini pipes. It is striated around the bowl and then tapers up from the bottom to a striated pattern around the shank. It has a flat bottom on the shank that is smooth and stamped Bruyere in a crown with a large R in the centre of the band on the crown. Underneath the crown is an unfurled banner that is stamped K R O N E. I have no idea of who the maker is or when and where it was made. The stamping is faint so I may be missing a few letters but I think this is an accurate rendering of what is stamped. The finish was pretty dirty with grime in the grooves on the bowl and shank. The rim was caked with a tarry buildup and the grooving on the rim was not visible. There were also place on the finish where the stain was missing and the briar underneath exposed. The inside of the bowl had dust and cob webs and a pretty large cake buildup that would need to be removed. The bowl came without a stem and fitting one would take flattening of the stem on the underside to match the shank.



I went through my box of estate stems and found one that was a good fit to the shank. Once the cleanup of the stem was done and a flattening of the underside of the stem the pipe would look like it came with that stem. The stem had a calcified buildup around the button and some tooth marks as well. The oxidation was not too bad but was present.






The clean angles of the button against the stem were gone so I recut them with needle files to clean up the edge. I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and progressing to the one that was the diameter of the bowl without the cake. Once it was cleaned out I scrubbed down the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush to remove the grime. I scrubbed the buildup on the rim with a soft bristle brass tire brush to remove the tars. Once I had scrubbed it I rinsed it with warm water to remove the soap and dried it off with a cotton towel. I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad and prepared it to be stained. After heating it with a heat gun I stained it with a dark brown aniline stain. I used a permanent black marker to touch up the raw briar areas where it was scratched or damaged. I reapplied the stain and flamed it. The newly stained pipe is shown in photos 2 and 3 below.




I sanded the stem with medium grit emery paper to remove the calcification around the button and also heated the tooth marks with a Bic lighter to lift them as much as possible. I “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame to burn off the sulfur of the oxidation that I had loosened by sanding. I repaired the tooth marks on both sides of the stem with black superglue and set it aside to dry overnight.


The next morning I cleaned out the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and Everclear. I sanded the stem and the superglue patch with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium grit sanding sponge to clean up the scratches in the finish. I put it back on the bowl to get an idea of the overall look of the pipe and see if the diameters of the stem fit the shank. I needed to flatten the bottom of the stem some more to match the bottom of the shank and also removed some more of the material on the diameter of both sides to bring it into line with the shank. Once the stem was well fitted I moved on to sanding with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit.








I buffed the stem with White Diamond and a Blue polish. I gave the bowl a light buff with White Diamond to bring up the shine. I gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax and buffed it by hand with a shoe brush. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba and buffed it on the buffer with a clean flannel buff. I think the pipe came out well. Does anyone know anything about the brand?





Making a New Stem for a Peterson’s Kildare XL999

The Peterson’s Kildare is the second pipe down in the left column in the photo below. The second and third photos are of the pipe bowl apart from the lot. The externals were in pretty decent shape but the rim has a heavy buildup of tars and the cake in the bowl is quite thick and hard. To give an idea of the thickness of the cake I was unable to put my little finger in the bowl. The shank was quite large – the tenon is ½ inch in diameter for a snug fit in a clean tenon. The shank itself is 7/8 inches in diameter. It is a large mortise and airway. The pipe is stamped Peterson’s “Kildare” on the left side of the shank and Made in the Republic of Ireland XL999 on the right side of the shank. The finish is quite clean. The top will need to be topped to remove the buildup and dents. I also will need to chamfer the inner edge of the rim to repair the damage that is present on the surface of the rim.




I reamed the pipe with a PipNet Reamer beginning with the smallest cutting head on the T handle and working up to the diameter of the bowl. I carefully ream the cake so as not to damage the bowl roundness or the inner edge of the rim any more than it already is. I emptied the carbon out of the bowl repeatedly until it was clean and empty. I reamed the cake back to bare wood to begin to rebuild on a clean surface. I scoured the bowl and shank with Everclear and cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.



Once the inside was clean I decided to gently top the bowl. I used a medium grit sanding sponge flat on the table top and worked the rim against that to remove the buildup of tars. The first photo shows the set up and the second the result of the topping. Very little briar was removed from the rim, mostly tars. The finish however also was removed so the rim would need to be restained. The third photo shows how I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to bevel/chamfer the inner rim to repair the damage that had been done to the rim.




I sent out several emails and private messages to folks on the online forums to see if I could find a Peterson stem with these dimensions. I received many answers and several possible stems that could work for this pipe. Thanks to those who sent them. For the most part they were either too long or the diameter of the stem was not large enough to fit the shank. Chuck (desertpipe on SF) sent me several that would work. I also have a piece of brindle rod coming that Todd (Sasquatch on SF) was willing to cut for me. So in the end I will have two different stems for the pipe. While awaiting the arrival of the Cumberland stock I decided to turn the tenon on a vulcanite stem blank from Chuck. I turned it with a PIMO tenon tool and fit it to the bowl. The end fit was a ½ tenon for the mortise so I did not need to remove much of the existing vulcanite on the cast stem to make it fit well. To fit the stem on the tool I drilled the airway so that it slid easily over the pin on the tool but did not have too much play. I held the stem and ran the drill over the tenon for a first pass (second photo below) I adjusted the cutting tip and spun it several more times until the fit in the mortise was close. I used the Dremel with a sanding drum to take off more of the material and fine tune the fit (third photo below). I spun it one last time to clean up the face of the stem where it sat against the shank. I want that surface to be smooth and seamless in its fit.




After fitting the tenon to the mortise I used the Dremel with a sanding drum to remove the excess vulcanite on the diameter of the stem. I carefully sand with the Dremel and bring the stem as close to the diameter of the shank as possible without nicking the briar. I also sand down the sides of the stem to remove the casting overrun on the stem and button. The idea is to get as close as possible to the stem diameter and then sand the rest of the fit by hand with medium grit emery cloth and 220 grit sandpaper.




I took the pipe back to my work table and removed the stem and sanded it until the fit was perfect and the marks left by the Dremel were gone. The hand sanding is probably the longest part of the process of fitting a new stem. I sanded it repeatedly with emery paper and 220 grit sandpaper until it was smooth enough to move to the next step in the process. At this point I am not looking for a smooth and perfect fit but one that is getting close. I then heat the stem with my heat gun in order to bend the stem to fit the flow of the pipe. I heated it until it was pliable and then bent it over the rolling pin and cardboard tube that I use for getting the curve of the stem smooth and correct.




I took the pipe back to my table and showed it to my sidekick and helper, Spence for his approval. He gave it a sniff and looked it over. It passed his inspection so I continued to sand and shape the shank/stem union. Lots of pieces of sandpaper and emery paper later the stem is getting closer and closer to a good fit.




The button was very tight and I was not able to push a pipe cleaner through the slot so I opened the slot with needle files and reshaped it into an oval that was open and flared back to the airway in the stem.


I sanded the stem with a medium grit sanding sponge and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper. Each step of sanding brought both the fit and finish closer to the look I was aiming for with the finished stem.




I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the finish and prepare the bowl for a new coat of stain. I have found that if I do not remove the stain then it is very hard to match the rim to the colour of the bowl. With the finish gone the staining is very simple.



I thinned the stain, a dark brown aniline stain, with isopropyl alcohol – 1 part stain to two parts alcohol. I had picked a stain that matched the previous colour of the bowl and also matched another 999 Peterson that I have here. I heated the surface of the bowl with my heat gun to warm the briar and open the pores in the wood. Once it was warmed I applied the stain with a cotton swab and repeated until I had good coverage over the entire surface. I flamed the stain, repeated the application and flamed it a second time. Once it was dry I took it to the buffer and gave it a light buff with White Diamond to even out the stain coverage and remove the excess on the surface of the briar. I wiped down the inside of the bowl where the stain ran in with a cotton swab dipped in Everclear.







With the bowl finished and ready to buff it was time to finish the work on the stem. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit. Each successive grit brought more of a shine to the stem and removed the scratches left behind by previous sanding.




I worked on the slot with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the surface of the inside. I also shaped it with the sandpaper until I had the look I wanted. The oval slot now easily took a pipe cleaner no matter how fluffy.


After much sanding and fitting, the vulcanite stem is finished. The pipe is smokeable while I wait for the Cumberland/brindle rod stock to come from Todd. I like the look and feel of the pipe as it is very close in size and design to the GBD 9438 with a tapered stem. The finished pipe is pictured below after buffing with multiple coats of carnauba wax and with a clean flannel buff.





Reborn Huckster Pipe – Is It a GBD 9438?

When I hear the word Huckster I think of an aggressive salesperson or a promoter, a snake oil salesman or someone not to be trusted. The definition from the dictionary is one who uses aggressive, showy, and sometimes devious methods to promote or sell a product. The stamping on this pipe is HUCKSTER on the left side of the shank. On the right side of the shank it is stamped LONDON ENGLAND. The pipe is clearly either made by GBD or by someone doing an amazing copy of the GBD 9438 shape. The shape is perfect in comparison with my GBDs of this shape number. I have been researching on the internet to see if I can find out who the pipe was made by/for and develop some background on it but so far I have found nothing.


The five pictures below were included in the EBay sale by the seller of the pipe. While they are out of focus they gave me a clear enough picture to place the bid. I was one of a few bidders on this one so I picked it up for a very good price in comparison to that of GBD 9438s. When it arrived I was happy to see that the seller’s photos actually were poor in comparison to the pipe that I held in my hand. The grain is extremely nice – the left side and the bottom of the shank and bowl have some beautiful birdseye grain. The right side has great flame grain. The front of the bowl has a bald spot with a well hidden fill in the grain (In the photos it is just above the lighter spot on the front of the bowl. There were a few dents that would need to be steamed out of the finish but the stain and finish was impeccable. The rim was unblemished with no burn marks. There were a few small sand pits in the bowl above the double rings. The bowl had a slight cake in the bottom half but the shank is clean and spotless with some raw briar that has not been stained with smoking. If it weren’t for the slight cake in the bottom of the bowl it would appear to be unsmoked. The stem was badly oxidized and did have one slight tooth dent on the underside near the button. I think that the seller must have cleaned up the pipe before selling as there were also scratches from sanding on the stem – top and bottom sides.





When it arrived I took the next four photos to show what the pipe looked like before I worked on it. My description above formulated by and large from the photos online was accurate though in fact the pipe was very clean.





The bowl did not require any work other than a quick cleaning of the shank – more by habit than necessity. The stem on the other hand required a lot of work. I sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to break up the oxidation. I also used the flame of a Bic lighter to paint the surface of the stem. The flame from the lighter also raised the slight tooth indent next to the button. This combination of methods removed a large portion of the oxidation as can be seen in the next four photos below.





I then sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit sanding pads. I wet the pad by dipping it in a bowl of water and then sand the stem with it. Once I had wet sanded with those grits of micromesh I followed by dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit micromesh pads. The next series of five photos show the progress of the sanding. I took it to the buffer after the wet sanding and buffed it with Tripoli to get an idea of where I stood with the oxidation. I also ran the flame over the hard to get angles on the saddle and against the button to further remove hard to get oxidation.






After I was finished sanding with the final grit of micromesh I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and once it was dry buffed it with White Diamond. I then buffed a final time with a blue plastic polishing bar. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft, clean flannel buff to raise the shine on the bowl and stem. The next four photos show the finished pipe.





Here are a few more shots with a different background




Big Ben Freehand: Re-Stemmed and Reborn

Blog by Greg Wolford

This stummel was gifted to me by a friend from Louisiana. We met via one of the pipe smokers forums probably near a year ago and he recently sent me two stemless pipes, this one and one I have yet to get to, to restore. These are interesting pieces, in my opinion, because of their history, a little of which I will share with you before I get into the “meat and potatoes” of the work.

RJ, my friend, inherited a large quantity of pipes, near 100 if memory serves me. They were given to him by an aunt, I think it was, after her father passed away. Her father was Major in the US Army and served overseas in World War 2 (again, some of these details may be a tad off but they are close enough for our purposes). He was an avid pipe smoker and acquired many of his pipes while deployed overseas.

The Major’s wife was involved in a serious car accident many years ago. Her injuries were serious, leaving her with diminished mental, and to a lesser extent, physical capabilities. THe Major, as they affectionately called the man, took care of her himself after this accident. Sadly, the Major began to develop Alzheimer’s with dementia in his latter years, though he continued to care for his beloved wife; they were separated from their daughter, who gave the pipes to RJ, by miles, geographically.

The Major called his daughter the day after Valentine’s Day, 2005, and told her, quite confusedly, that her mother had gone missing. After much questioning, she called the police, local to her parents, and they dispatched a unit to the couple’s home. Shortening the story some, the Major had, in a state of mental confusion brought on by his disease, killed his wife. He was never found competent to stand trial for the killing of his wife 50-years. As far as I understand it, he was in a mental hospital for the rest of his life. A tragic story to be sure but an interesting one to go along with these unique pipes!

When the stummel arrived it was dull and dirty and, as I said, without a stem. The bottom of the pipe is stamped “Big-Ben” over “Handmade” and the stamping is pretty good overall. Doing a quick search on, it seems that the Big-Ben brand is a brand of the Elbert Gubbels & Sons -Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. Here are a few photos of it before I began any work.

IMG_6726 IMG_6727 IMG_6728 IMG_6729

I actually began this restoration with the stem, finding the pipe a new one that is. I had planned on using an acrylic stem but changed my mind for a couple of reasons: I was turning my first tenon with my brand new Pipe Makers Emporium tenon turner and know that acrylic is more finicky than vulcanite and I thought, after looking at it, that the rubber stem would look better on this stummel.

The PME tenon tool is, by all accounts, essentially the same tool as the one offered by PIMO. I chose the PME tool because it was about $10 cheaper and they happened to have a couple of acrylic stems I liked on clearance for cheap. I plan on writing about my thoughts on the tool in a separate article.

I choose a pre-formed Italian ebonite freehand-style stem for this stummel. To my eye it looked like it would be something very close to what the pipe would have originally had. I took my time turning the tenon down to fit since it was the first time I had done this and I didn’t have another stem like this one to use if I fouled up. After I got the tenon very close with the tool I hand sanded the tenon to get to the final fit; I know from reading Steve’s articles that it is easy to over-turn a tenon and you can’t put the material back on once it is gone! Here is a photo of the stem placed in the stummel after getting it fit:


I decided to not bend the stem until after I had sanded and polished it. In retrospect, I probably should have bent it before I did all the sanding; there are some very small “marks” on the stem where the bend is now that I had not anticipated. Next time I will bend after the initial sanding is done I think,

I began the sanding with 220 grit sandpaper to take out the casting/molding lines on the sides. I forgot to photograph the stem before I had started to sand it. This shows it early on and beside a smaller ebionite stem from the same lot to try to give you an idea of what the lines looked like from the start:


I sanded out the marks with 220 then 320 grit paper. The stem had some, but not many, small sots on it that made me decide to go head and use the 320 wet/dry paper on the entire stem. I progressed to 400 grit wet/dry and then micro mesh 1800 through 12000 (I also used the plastic polish several times between grits to make sure I wasn’t missing any scratches). Here is a progressive photo along the way from rough through 12000 grit micro mesh.


The stem didn’t fit flush at the top and bottom due to the angle of the shank so I had to do a considerable amount of file work to get it almost completely flush to the shank on the top and bottom. At this point I stopped working on the stem and turned my attention to the stummel.

I wiped the pipe down with an alcohol soaked cotton pad. There was little wax left on the pipe and the wipe down removed what remained as well as some surface dirt. While the pipe was wet with the alcohol I could see there was a nice grain hiding under there, one that I hoped to bring out with a contrast stain. But first it would need an alcohol bath. So, I soaked the stummel a couple of in an alcohol bath. When I removed it I realized that the rim had a lot of build up on it; the rim, I thought, was stained black but that was just dirt, grime, and tar, and it was actually not stained black. I then scrubbed the rim with a brass bristle brush lightly to loosen the grime, with not a lot of success so I put the pipe back in the alcohol bath and left it overnight. The next afternoon I removed it from the bath and wiped it down then took it over another container of alcohol that I use for cleaning and dipped in my wire brush and started to scrub gently again. This time I saw much more removal of grime; the extra time in the alcohol has paid off in really softening the buildup. I switched to a toothbrush and scrubbed out all the remaining grime. I found that there were some rim char under there that the gunk had hidden. Below is a photo of before and after the 12-plus hour soak and scrubbing.


The charring made me decide that the rim would need to be stained black now. The large shank end was stained black so this would match and look good I was sure. But there was also a fairly large burn on the back, left side of the bowl that would have to be addressed. There were two fairly large fills near the burn but I didn’t plan on removing and/or refilling them; I planned on leaving them and seeing how they covered with the contrast stain. I had recently read a post suggesting that fills should be done with carbon dust, not briar dust, and super glue. The idea was that the pipe would darken over time with use and the black fills would blend in more naturally. I don’t know if that is a fact but I thought on this pipe I would stain the existing fills black and see how it ended up looking. Here are a few photos:

IMG_6766 IMG_6770

It was at this point that I decided to clean and ream the pipe. Knowing this pipe had more or less been in retirement for almost a decade, I expected it probably would be fairly dirty; I was right. The alcohol bath had softened the cake some, I suspect, and it was fairly thick and not very even so reaming was definitely in order. I used a Castleford reamer to do the job, using the second largest bit to ream the bowl; the two smaller sizes didn’t touch the cake in this large bowl. After reaming I began to clean the shank, which was terribly gunked up. I used the drill bit-tool on my Kleen-Reem to open up the shank, both with and without pipe cleaners on it. After many pipe cleaners, both on the drill bit and doubled over off of the bit, I finally decided that I needed to do an alcohol and cotton ball treatment; this is the same as a salt and alcohol treatment only you use cotton balls instead of salt. I put two large cotton balls in the bowl and, using an old medicine syringe, I filled the bowl with 91% isopropyl alcohol. Then I took the syringe and filled the shank; since this pipe is a sitter with such a large shank this idea worked very well and was quite easy to do. I topped off the bowl with a bit more alcohol and left it till morning. This is what the cotton balls looked like when I came back the next day:

IMG_6764 IMG_6765

The photos don’t really show how much tar leached out into them; they were really quite brown. The shank was much cleaner now as I went back to it, only taking less than a dozen pipe cleaners to get it clean now.

Back to the burn on the bowl, I started out with some course emery boards to remove some of the charred area. I had three different grits, from a package I bought at the local dollar store, and I worked through all three grits on it. The burn mark was reduced in size a fair amount but would need more, which I planned on doing with sandpaper. I thought the emery boards would be a good way to keep the more coarse sanding confined to a smaller area and it seemed to work fairly well.


From here I went to 220 grit paper and got out the biggest part of the burn, feathering out the sanding a little, too. I then went to 320 wet/dry paper and sanded the entire pipe, except for the bottom; I didn’t want to sand any where the nomenclature was if I could keep from it. I then moved up to 400 wet/dry paper, wiping ever so often with an alcohol pad to see how the pipe looked, making sure it was smooth and scratch free. After I got the pipe to where I thought it would be good I took it to the buffer and buffed it with black compound; I find that this buffing highlights any small scratches or dents that may have been missed during the sanding. Here is what the pipe looked like at this point:


I saw one small scratch I had missed so I took the 400 grit paper to it and got that one out, along with lightening the burn mark a bit more. Now it was time to bend the stem.

I heated the stem with my heat gun on low until it was pliable, after putting a pipe cleaner in the stem to keep from closing off the airway accidentally. I had set up my maul as my bending guide on my table. I heated and bent it and eyeballed it; it wasn’t quite what I wanted. So, I heated it again and bent it a little more and looked it over carefully; now it was more to my liking:

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I used Fiebing’s USMC Black leather dye to the rim and shank end, since I knew these would need deeper penetration of color since they would remain black. I applied the stain, flamed it in and then repeated. I then heated up the stummel, setting the stem aside, to start the contrast staining. I got the stummel nice and warm, wearing leather gloves to protect my hand. I then applied the dye to the entire pipe, flamed and repeated. Next I hand buffed the pipe with an old cotton t-shirt leaving it at this point:


After the pipe had cooled for 10-15 minutes and was no longer warm I began to sand off the black; I wanted to remove the majority of the black but leave it in the grain areas as much as possible. I also wanted to try to blend in the burn as much as possible. I sanded and wiped it clean with a dry cotton pad until I thought I was getting close to where I wanted it to be; I didn’t want to use an alcohol pad until I had to in order to not lift any stain that I wanted left on the pipe. I think I sanded it over about three times before I wiped it with an alcohol pad. As the dust came off the alcohol wet pipe began to look more like what my mind’s eye had thought it would:

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Now I applied a brown stain that I had mixed up earlier for another project; to be honest, I don’t recall what color I used or what I diluted it to. I applied the stain, flamed and repeated. After buffing it off with the old t-shirt I realized it was too dark for what I had wanted so I took an alcohol pad to it and removed some stain. But it was still too dark so back to the 400 grit I went. I sanded it over, wiped with an alcohol pad, and repeated until I was happy with the color; I think it took about four cycles to get it where I left it. I then buffed it off with the t-shirt one last time before heading to the buffer.

I buffed the stummel with Tripoli and then the stummel and stem, separately due to the way this pipe is made, with white diamond. Both parts then got several coats of carnauba wax, buffed on a clean soft wheel and finally hand buffed with my flannel gloves; I don’t know the flannel glove-buff is needed but it seems it adds a little “something” though it may only be in my head. But since it only takes a few extra minutes, and gets any stray threads of the pipe that the wheel may have left, I almost always finish this way.

I am really happy with how this old pipe came out. The new stem was a success, both in fitting it and in the look, and I really like how the contrast staining came out. The rim looks much better now stained black with dye not tar. The fills didn’t hold the stain as well as I’d hoped but are much less noticeable now. And the and burn mark is almost invisible, which really pleases me. The only thing that I am not happy about, really confused about more than unhappy, is that the stem has loosened from the tight fit it had the day I turned it. I don’t know if the humidity (it had been extremely humid here the last two weeks), the alcohol soak, the extended time of separation for stem and stummel or what caused that. Hopefully a few days seated together and/or some use will remedy that. If not, I’ll likely heat and gently expand the tenon a tad to get the fit better. At any rate, here is the final result:

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Restoration – The Guildhall 284

By Al Jones

I am an admirer of the Rhodesian shape and the Comoy’s Shape 284, a compact Rhodesian, is one of my favorites. Unfortunately that shape doesn’t show up that often and when it does there is strong competition. I found this “The Guidall” shape 284 on Ebay but it was not in great shape, so I took a chance on it. “The Guildhall London Pipe” is a Comoy’s second line with a distinctive three-metal bar stem logo.

As you can see from these photos, the stem was heavily oxidized but it didn’t appear to have any tooth marks. The bowl top was a little misshapen and it had a very heavy cake build-up. Mike, the “Streets of London” social group administrator on the tells me that The Guidall used pre-made stems. This one had a large stinger. I’m not a fan of stingers, so I warmed the metal end of the stinger and pulled it out.

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I reamed the bowl starting with my smallest Castleford bit and gradually worked up to the full bowl size. There was some damage at the bottom of the bowl that I will have to repair with some “pipe mud” (cigar ash & water). I soaked the bowl overnight with some sea salt and alcohol to remove the tars and residue. The stem was soaked in a mild Oxyclean and water solution. The metal stem logo looked pretty durable, so I didn’t do anything to protect it.

After the bowl soak was completed, I polished the briar on my buffer with some Tripoli and then White Diamond rouge. The briar was in remarkably good condition, considering the way the rest of the pipe was treated over its life. I didn’t detect any fills or other imperfections. You can see the burned out area on the bottom of the bowl, but when I filled it with pipe mud, it wasn’t as deep as it appeared.

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The stem took quite a bit of work to remove the heavy layer of oxidation, which was also in the draft hole. I started with 800 wet grit paper, then progressed to 1500 and 200 grits. I then moved to the micro-mesh paper, with 8000 and finally 12000 grit papers used. The stem was then buffed on the machine with White Diamond rouge. I always use an automotive plastic polish as a final prep. The end of the stem where it meets the briar still has a little oxidation but I was reluctant to sand further for fear of rounding the stem. I may go back and retouch this area. I mixed up some cigar ash I save with just a few drops of water to make a paste called “pipe mud”. I used the spoon on a Czech tool to ladle in the mixture and a small button head bolt to tamp it into shape.

The premade stem feels all right in my mouth, but I have to wait until the pipe mud dries to smoke it. I need a compact pipe for travel use and carry in my one-pipe bag and I’m hoping this one can fit that requirement.

Here is the finished pipe.

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