Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Pipe Hunt – Rule #4: Buy estate pipes that challenge your refurbishing abilities


When I formulated Rule #4 it was a natural outcome of my pipe refurbishing self-training. I purchased according to what I wanted to learn until I had learned it. For me this method of buying old pipes provided the class time/workshop time where I could practice some of the tips I was reading about and learning from others in the online community. I have never been particularly shy about asking “how” and “why” questions. Ask my daughters and they will tell that one of my nicknames is “Why”. Buying pipes according to what I wanted to learn in refurbishing quickly became a habit that I really did not take time to think about until I was ready to move on to something new. I often picked pipes that I really was not interested in keeping in my collection but because they had problems that would be teaching/practicing opportunities for me. This has been the case each step along the learning curve for me. In the rest of this article I will trace out my journey in refurbishing through the kinds of pipe I bought. Through this monologue on the journey you will see my process and the method to my madness.

When I began my refurbishing education in earnest my earliest purchases were pipes that were dirty and caked but did not have any issues requiring technical skills. I was looking for very straightforward cleanup jobs. The bowls just needed to be reamed and cleaned and the stems cleaned and deoxidized. They were not chewed on or beat up on the edges of the rim. They were not charred or badly damaged. They had merely been smoked and used. I bought that kind of pipe and worked on them until I was ready to move from learning how to cleanup minimal external and internal issues. I wanted to learn how to clean a pipe from the inside out. I bought reamers – actually I have over twenty different kinds now residing in my work kit. I tried them all until I found the ones that worked best for me. I read about processes of cleaning shanks and bowls. I bought a retort and learned how to use it. I practiced with salt and alcohol treatments. Everything I did was done with a single purpose in mind – to learn how to clean a pipe. Once I felt comfortable in the process of cleaning out a pipe it was time for me move on and learn other aspects of the craft.

The second skill I wanted to learn was to refinish a pipe bowl. This influenced the type of pipes that I hunted for and purchased. I looked for ones that still had intact stems with little damage but bowls that needed to be refinished. I bought sandblasted bowls, rusticated bowls, smooth bowls all types and shapes. I wanted to learn how to remove the finish from a pipe and then to prepare it for restaining. This involved different methods for cleaning each kind of finish.I learned to top a bowl and remove damage to the inner and outer edge of the rim. I learned to steam out the dents in the bowl and to remove or minimize dings and scratches. I learned to sand smooth bowls and rims with varying grades of sandpaper and micromesh sanding pads. Each step in sanding taught me to be pickier regarding the scratches and sanding marks I left behind. Once you have a pipe almost finished and have to start over and resand you quickly learn to work at the preparation more carefully. I spoke with several pipe makers to learn the art of staining and where to get the aniline stains. I learned (and I am still learning) the techniques of staining and practiced them on many pipes. I worked on various colours and blends of colours. I worked on understains and overstains. I worked on learning how to do contrast stains. I worked on buffing the bowls and sanding them after staining. It was a great learning curve, one fueled by the kinds of pipes I bought.

The next step in my refurbishing course came from the previous one. After staining old pipes and still being bothered by the fills that were eyesores to me I decided to learn how to replace the old pink wood putty fills. I tried a variety of methods all learned on bowls I picked up at garage sales, antique malls, junque stores and thrift shops. The idea was to remove the fill and replace it with something that would take the stain. I tried putties and filler sticks and still was not happy. I tried wood glue and briar dust mixed with a bit of stain and was a bit happier. But I found that the wood glue dried shiny and still stood out on the bowl. I moved on to try superglue and briar dust and am very pleased with how it works. It is a dark colour in contrast to the lighter/pinker colour of the putty but it is solid and hard when it dries and does darken with the stain. I began to look for pipes with fills to remove and practice on in the stores. I found many pipes that I practiced on and then passed on to the racks of new pipe smokers. The pipes I worked on had begun to look better and better but I still had much to learn. Everything up to this point was pretty simple and cosmetic. The real challenges were just around the corner for me.

It was time for me to learn stem repairs with a greater degree of technicality. I say repairs and not restemmingbecause as yet I had not tackled that aspect of refurbishing. With that objective firmly in mind I was on the hunt for and purchased pipes with tooth marks, bite throughs on the stems, cracks and broken pieces. I wanted to learn how to make patches on the stems and also to recut and shape a new button on the stem. I shortened the stems. I cut buttons with files and sanding blocks. I learned to shape slots in the button with needle files. I called repair people and pipe makers to make sure I got the right tools. I bought and discarded many in the process of building the right kit. I worked with epoxy patches mixed with vulcanite dust. I worked with patches using pieces of vulcanite and epoxy. I worked with superglue and finally settled on black superglue for patching holes and bite through areas. In the process I learned to use heat from a hot water bath, a heat gun and then even a lighter to raise bite marks in the stem and to reduce tooth chatter. I learned a variety of methods to remove oxidation. All of this was part of the process of learning to refurbish stems.

When I felt more competent in the stem repairs I wanted to learn how to fit new stems to the bowls. I went on to purchasing bowls that were missing stems and learned how to turn the tenons on precast stems and to shape the stems with a Dremel and files. I bought precast stems from Pipe Makers Emporium and also bought lots of used stems on Ebay and scavenged them from broken pipes. The learning included fitting tenons, shaping stems, adjusting the taper, making saddle stems, reducing the diameter at the shank, countersinking the shank to make for a tight fit, shaping the button and opening the slot in the end. Lots of experimenting took place in learning to use the PIMO tenon turning tool which meant that some tenons were too small and others too large. All were part of the process of learning to use the tool, its limitations and methods of working around those limitations.I also learned how to shape a stem from a piece of rod stock. Each step was part of the education for me in stem repair and shaping. You can see with this method in mind I bought many bowls that later I ended up giving away and/or selling very cheaply. They ended up being good pipes for starters.

I always keep an eye out for pipes that push the limits of my restoration abilities to see if I can learn new tricks and tools. For me the purchasing of estate pipes is for my ongoing education. I am always looking for better methods and learning new methods and acquiring new skills and tools. The above paragraphs spell out my learning journey. A few more years down the road I will add new skills and thus new paragraphs to the learning journey. The long and short of Rule #4 is to buy for the purpose of learning.

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Repairing Deep Tooth Marks and Bite Throughs on Vulcanite Stems – AJ Verstraten


Blog by AJ Verstraten

It is with pleasure that I post AJ’s second post on rebornpipes. AJ is known to the online community as Bananabox-Ninja.

Greetings, today a small post about the use of black super glue on a few pipes I had previously cleaned and refurbished; before I found Rebornpipes. This did give me a small problem as I did not extensively take pictures of the process as I had no reason to share the process at that moment and as such I am missing a few ‘before’ pictures.

The pipes I revisited for this project were:
– 11 Wahl Filtro
– Lorenzo Elba
– Machiavelli Como
– BBB Medina
– Spitfire by Lorenzo Riviera
All of them had bite marks on the mouthpiece and the Riviera had even been bitten clean through.

Lorenzo is a good Italian brand that is quite popular in Germany. The BBB Medina is an old English made pipe that has a good reputation here in the Dutchlands. The Wahl and the Machiavelli pipes are a mystery to me. I can find some eBay listings for them but I cannot pinpoint their true origin.

First up the pictures I did have of the before process.

BBB Medina
001 BBB Before

Lorenzo Elba
002 Lorenzo before

11 Wahl
003 11 Wahl Filtro before

As these pipes had already been waxed I first removed the wax layer using my motor, water and grinding wheel. This only took a few moments, after which I used a cotton swab and some alcohol to really clean the surface of the mouthpiece.
004 Wax removed

The following steps I repeated a few times as I found I was a little impatient in the drying process, I advise to let the glue set for a night just to be sure it is dry to the core.

Using a piece of cardboard dipped in Vaseline (sorry no pictures) I closed the hole in the Riviera mouthpiece and with cotton swabs and toothpicks applied the glue to the bite marks on all the other mouthpieces.
005 Glue applied

When the glue had dried I used 600 and 1000 grit sanding paper wrapped around a model file to sand off the excess glue and smooth the mouthpiece.
006 Top and bottom after sanding

I checked the smoothness using my mouth and tongue and although in all cases it felt smooth I noticed that in taking the pictures of the finished product the glue spots are visible. This bothered me, like when I sand a round shoulder or edge on the stem. A casual observer will not notice this, but I know it is there and it will bother me. However I decided against re-sanding them in the hopes of getting them perfect. Because in the end it is my lips and tongue that are handling the mouthpiece the most, not my eyes 

To finalize this short post here are the finished mouthpieces, pipes and the tools I used for this project.

11 Wahl Filtro
007 11 Wahl Filtro

008 11 Wahl Filtro

Lorenzo Elba
009 Elba mouthpice finished

010 Lorenzo Elba

Machiavelli Como
011 MAchiavelli Como finished mouthpiece

012 Machiavelli Como

BBB Medina
013 BBB Mouthpiece finished

014 BBB Medina

Spitfire by Lorenzo Riviera
015 Spitfire by Lorenzo Riviera Mouthpiece

016 Spitfire by Lorenzo Riviera

Tools used during this project
017 Tools used

Restoring an Old Amphora X-tra 509 Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last of the lot I found while on a recent trip in Northern Alberta, Canada. It is stamped Amphora X-tra 509 on the left side of the shank and on the right side it is stamped Genuine Briar over Made in Holland. The stem has an AA in a circle stamped on it (not a stamping for Amphora pipes I was familiar with). The pipe was in good shape. The rim was dirty and had a slight bit of build up on the surface. The bowl had a thin cake that was crumbly. The outside of the bowl was soiled and had some white paint on the surface. The stem was dirty and very slightly oxidized. There were no teeth marks on it so it was just dirty. The insides were also dirty. The inside of the shank and the stem were caked with a tarry buildup. There was an inner tube inserted in the tenon that extended into the shank almost as far as the airway at the bottom of the bowl.
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I used a PipNet reamer and started with the smallest cutting head and took back the cake. I followed that with the next size of cutting head and took the cake back to the bare wood in the bowl. The bottom of the bowl had some gouges in it and looked like someone had done a reaming with a knife.
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I removed the stem and dropped the bowl into an alcohol bath to soak overnight.
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I mixed a batch of Oxyclean and put the stem together with others I was working on into the bath of Oxy clean to soak at the same time.
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In the morning I took out the bowl and dried it off with a soft cloth. The finish was clean and the surface of the bowl free of the paint and grime that was present when I placed them in the bath. I took the stems out of the bath of Oxyclean and dried them off as well. The oxidation on the stem was softened and the stem was dark (it is the top stem in the second photo below).
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I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to clean off the remaining finish. In the photo above of the bowl it appeared to have a fill on the bowl side. As I scrubbed it the surface cleaned up and the area was not a fill. The piece of briar has some great birdseye grain and a some cross grain on the front right side and the top of the bowl and shank. I also cleaned out the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners and Everclear. I scrubbed the rim to remove the tars and buildup.
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I wanted to highlight the grain on this one so I decided to stain it using some Cherry Danish Oil which is Linseed oil and stain. I rubbed on the stain, rubbed it off and rubbed it on a second time. I set it aside to dry. Once it was dry I buffed it with White Diamond.
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While it was drying I used micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to work on the stem. I worked around the double AA on the stem logo. It is faint but still visible. Once I had finished sanding I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry. When it was dry I rubbed it with a soft cloth to buff it by hand.
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I polished the aluminum inner tube with 0000 steel wool to remove all grime that was remaining on the aluminum. I gave it a coat of wax and polished it off with a clean soft cloth.
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I buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and then with a soft flannel buff to give it a shine. The final photos below show the finished pipe.
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Dorset “Genuine Briar” Rhodesian


By Al Jones (aka “Upshallfan”)

I found this unknown to me pipe on Ebay. It looked to be in decent condition and it is a shape that I love (tapered stem Rhodesian). The pipe had a dark red finish, with a few fills but they were covered up nicely. The stem fitment was excellent and also in overall very good condition. I was hoping that this would be a relatively easy restoration.

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I reamed the light cake from the bowl and soaked it for several hours with isopropyl alcohol and sea salt. The bowl only required a light buff with white diamond to bring back the shine, after which I applied several coats of carnuba wax. The bowl had some scuff marks but they came out nicely. The beading around the bowl was in excellent condition.

The stem was badly oxidized, but in great shape. I soaked it in a mild oxyclean solution, then used first 800 then 1500 and 2000 grit wet sandpaper to remove the oxidation. After which I sanded it with 8000 and 12000 grade micromesh paper. The stem was inserted back onto the bowl for work around the shank end and I was careful not to damage the “D” stem stamp. I then buffed the stem with white diamond and red rouge, followed by a buff using automotive plastic polish. The stem came back quite nicely. Here is the stem before moving to the buffing wheel.

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Overall, I was very pleased with the finish of the pipe. It was delivered to the new owner this weekend, and they were also pleased with the appearance and how it smoked.

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When I saw it I thought it was a Sasieni one dot billiard


I came across this little billiard in an antique shop last weekend and when I saw the blue dot on the stem and saw the classic English shape of the bowl I truly thought I had found an elusive Sasieni one dot pipe. Lots of things about it seemed to signal that is what I had. The stamping was hard to see under the grime but there were i’s and an e. I was hopeful and I guess also wishful in my thinking. The pipe was dirty as can be seen below. The stem had obviously been damaged and cut off by the previous owner and a new button filed into the stem. The bowl was badly caked and the rim was damaged with dents and chips. I took the picture below while I was relaxing in a pub near the shop and looking over the finds of the afternoon.
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When I got home I took it to the basement and wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove some of the grime. Once the outside was wiped down I tried to read the stamping with a magnifying lens. I could not make out the stamping – it was too faint. There was no stamping on the right side of the shank. On the underside it appeared that there had been stamping but it was no longer visible. The next three photos give a good idea of what the pipe looked like before I did a cleanup on the bowl and stem.
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I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took it back to bare wood. I picked at the inside of the bowl to check out the solidity of the walls and to check for potential burns. Everything looked and felt like it was solid so I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak over night.
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The next day I took it out of the bath and dried it off. The bath had removed the old finish for the most part. I finished by once again wiping it down with acetone on a cotton pad. After soaking part of the stamping had become visible. I was disappointed that it appeared that the pipe was not a Sasieni. The stamping that showed up after it was dry read Genuine Briar, which seemed to point to an American made pipe post WW2. I believe it is post war as that is when it became necessary to identify genuine imported briar in contrast to the Manzanita and other alternatives used by American manufacturers during the war years due to a shortage in briar. The briar was a nice piece – birdseye on one side, nice grain on other parts of the pipe and a clean shape to the bowl. I knew it would clean up nicely.
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I topped the bowl using my normal method of anchoring a piece of sandpaper on a flat board and twisting the top of the bowl into the sandpaper until the top is smooth. I started with 220 grit sandpaper and then used a medium and fine grit sanding block to smooth out the rim.
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When I had finished topping the bowl I wiped it down with acetone and a soft cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and the grime from the topping process.
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The stem had a poorly cut button on the end and the button as well as the taper on the stem needed to be reworked. I used a rasp and file to shape the taper on the stem and to take out the pinched look of the angle to the 90 degree cut on the button. The button was also not straight and not squarely cut so I also straightened out the flat edge of the button while I worked with the rasp and files. The next three photos show only the initial work on the stem and not the finished work. I removed quite a bit of the material and smooth out the slope of the taper so that it flowed evenly into the button on both the top and the bottom of the stem.
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I sanded the newly shaped stem with 220 grit sandpaper and a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left by the rasp and files. Once I had the basic shape in place I decided to restain the bowl. I warmed the briar and then gave it several coats of a dark brown aniline stain thinned 1:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I flamed it between each coats to set the stain. The rim took extra coats to match the colour of the rest of the bowl.
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I buffed the newly stained bowl lightly with White Diamond and then gave it a coat of a light cherry coloured Danish Oil. Once dry I buffed it by hand and then also gave it a light buff with White Diamond to polish it.
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I then removed the stem and worked on the slot in the button. When the end of the stem had been cut off some of the flair of the original airway remained leaving the end of the button with a small rectangular opening. I used needle files to open the flair and widen the slot into more of an oval that extended the width and height of the button end.
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Once I had the slot opened the way I like it I sanded the inner edges with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth it out. I also did some more shaping with files to the taper of the stems. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper until I had the slope well-defined from the tenon back to the button. I also shaped the externals of the button to clean up the angle at the point the button and stem taper met. I also sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind and to also remove the oxidation at the stem shank junction.
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When I had the scratches removed as far as possible with the sanding sponge I went on to sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit sanding pads and the dry sanded with the remaining grits.
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I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it into the surface of the vulcanite. I took it to the buffer and buffed the stem with White Diamond. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and polished the pipe with a clean flannel buff to bring up the shine. The finished pipe is pictured below. I still wish I knew what the stamping says in full. That blue dot certainly is a symbol of some unknown to me brand of pipe. The mystery remains but in the mean time I have a great little billiard to enjoy.
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Pleasure From Your Parker – How to get the most from your Parker pipe


This booklet was originally posted on Pipe Smoker Unlimited by philofumo (Troy) http://pipesmokerunlimited.com/showthread.php?3616-1949-Parker-Patent-Super-Briar-Bark-from-Alan . I am always on the lookout for old tobacciana items like this; so when I saw it I thought it was an interesting piece of pipe and tobacco history that I would like to post here on rebornpipes. I always enjoy reading these old factory booklets that came with new pipes. They give a flavour of times past that I find both fascinating and enjoyable.
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Parker end

A Hardcastle Billiard – All is not as it appears on the surface


Blog by Steve Laug

You can’t imagine the disappointment that I experienced when I began to ream this old Hardcastles Jack O’ London billiard; unless of course you have had the same experience or one like it. On the outside it looked like a pipe that would clean up very nicely. The stem was in excellent shape other than the normal oxidation. It did not have any tooth marks in the stem. The finish was in pretty good shape with no dents or divots in the briar. The bowl was caked with a heavy coat of carbon all the way to the bottom. The inner edge of the bowl was slightly out of round but repairable. The top of the rim was not too bad under the light buildup of tars and lava. A light sanding would bring it back to smooth. The outer edge was not dented or damaged. Yes, it was a great find from all appearances.

But that was not to be the case with this old pipe. Things were not as they appeared on the surface. When I begin refurbishing a pipe I always begin with a light reaming. In a pipe like this I start with the smallest reaming head on the PipNet reamer and work my way up to the proper size to take back the cake to the thinness of a dime or back to bare wood. I put the smallest cutting head in the handle and inserted it in the bowl. No problem. The head cut back the cake without any effort. Once it was trimmed to the bottom of the bowl I used the nest larger cutting head on the handle. I put it in the bowl and slowly turned reamer. As I did I heard and felt a small crack. I stopped turning the reamer and a chunk of briar dropped free of the bowl. You can’t imagine the surprise… and frustration at having that happen. I have never had a bowl do that when I am reaming and all things considered it should not have done it this time if all things were the same as usual.

But they were not the same. I examined the bowl with the chunk out on the table and also examined the chunk. The depth of the char on that portion of the bowl went half way through in most spots and in some was just under the surface of the outside of the bowl. In the first top view photo below you can see how far the reamer went down in the bowl and the cracks on the top of the rim – looking at it like a clock face the cracks are at half past and quarter of on the circle of the bowl. The second photo below is a side view of the cracked portion of the bowl wall with the piece of briar inserted for the photo.
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For the next two photos I lifted the chunk out of the side of the bowl to show the extent of the damage to the briar. In the first photo below I show the angle right side of the cracked area. Note how deeply the char had gone into the side of the bowl. The depth of the burned area grows as you move down the bowl to the point at the bottom of the cracked area. At the bottom of the photo you can see that it is charred at least half way through. For the second photo below I turned the bowl to show the other side of the cracked area. At the bottom point just before the crack goes straight upward on the left side of the area, the depth of the burn is just below the surface of the briar. This area was due for a burnout in a very short time. From these photos you can see the amount of damage that occurred in this old pipe. Too me it was smoked hard and not properly cared for in break in period. In examining the rest of the bowl it is clear that the damage goes all the way around the bowl. I used a dental pick to poke at the inside walls of the remaining bowl and found that they were also soft and charred to a similar depth.
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This bowl was as good as history. But the bowl is also a great demonstration of why I ream an old estate back to the bare wood and then examine it for burned or charred areas. I explore the bowl surface with a pick to see what I am dealing with before I finish the rest of the refurbishing.

I have also included two photos that show the piece of briar that broke free from the pipe bowl. These also show the extent of the damage to this old bowl. In the first photo you can see that the burn/char is all the way through the piece on that side. The second photo shows the other side of the piece and shows that on that side of the briar the burn is not as deep as the other side.
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I took a final photo showing a top down view of the bowl with the broken piece of briar removed. Examine it closely and you can see the depth of the burn into the inner surface of the briar.
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While this pipe is lost and not redeemable all is not a waste. I will part out everything that is usable and it will find purpose in other pipes that will cross the work table. Nothing will be wasted. The stem will be scavenged for use on another pipe. The shank will be cut off and used for something. Only the bowl itself will be assigned to the fire. Nothing is totally wasted and the old pipe also served an educational purpose. The photos of the burned and broken briar show the extent of damage into the interior of the walls of this old pipe. It was one that had been smoked hard and abused.