Daily Archives: November 9, 2013

The Pipe Hunt – Rule # 5: Never pass up pipe parts when you see them


Year ago now, I was visiting a lawn mower repairman who worked out of a shop in his back yard. I have a 30+ year old Snapper gas powered mower that works great and have had parts and gears that have broken or seized up. Joe always is able to get things back in tip top shape. It always starts with one pull of the cord. On one of my first visits to Joe he looked at what I needed and took me into his workshop. He reached up to a shelf that held many small bins and took down one that had several of the parts that I needed. He selected the one he wanted and within short order fixed my lawn mower. I asked him about the part bins and he said that he scavenges parts from where ever he can. He buys broken mowers and strips them down and buys parts whenever he can. He stock piles old parts – some of them are no longer are made so his bins are truly a treasure trove. Over the years I continue to go back to Joe and he keeps my old lawn mower running like a watch. He never has to go and buy parts because his bins hold much.

You might ask what that has to do with pipes and pipe refurbishing. Well in a very personal way it set the course of my pipe repair work. I have never forgotten Joe’s example with lawn mower parts. Since I don’t fix lawn mowers or motors I collect a totally different set of parts. I love refurbishing old pipes so I have started my own bins of pipe parts. I am looking forward to the day when I can set up a small shop of my own the yard where I can have the parts readily accessible when I am working on things. Until that time I collect the parts and store the bins in cupboards and drawers in the basement and laundry room. I have several bins of stems – old stock unused, scavenged used stems from broken pipes, new stem blanks in a variety of shapes and sizes. I buy stem blanks from Ebay and from Pipe Makers Emporium and new and used old stems where ever I find them. Currently I have them divided into a tin of round stems and a tin of different shaped stems. I also have bags of tenons, tins of stingers, a shelf of broken briar pieces and a box of bands of different sizes and shapes. I collect as many pipe parts as I can find from as many places as I find them.
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If you were to follow me around on the hunt, you would see that I don’t just look for pipes that I can refurbish or collect. I also keep an eye out for pipes that can be cannibalized for parts. I find them in the pipe lots I buy on EBay (like the pictures below) – these often have extra stems, bands, broken pipes and parts that can be recycled and put to use again. (The photos below come from random EBay ads that are of the type that I usually bid on. There are a lot of redeemable parts in the lots below. I include them to give an idea of the things I look for.)
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I email online estate pipe sellers and ask if they have old stock used stems that they want to sell. I literally look everywhere I can think of in the process of the hunt. I have stems and parts shipped from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, England, the US and Canada. I also scavenge for them. I pick up pipe parts at flea markets, antique shops, and thrift and rummage shops. Sometimes they are attached to beat up old pipes that are worthless and other times they are sitting in an old cigar box or tobacco tin. I bring them home and the stems and the old briar are kept for repurposing in my repairs.

When I find them in a shop of any kind I make an offer to the seller for the lot and have had success in picking up the parts at a good price. Both the seller and I are happy with the deal. But important to the process is to not just look for parts – any pipe can supply parts for you. I have bought chewed stems for the sole purpose of rescuing the logo from the stem. I have heated and removed metal tenons from stems, removed threaded parts from the tenons of broken pipes to use as replacements, removed stingers and labeled them for use in pipes that I come across that had stingers that were either broken or missing. I have also removed inserted logos from the shanks of broken pipes for reuse. I have also cut down broken stems, shortened them to fit and cut new buttons for them. I also pick up pipe bowls that can be cleaned up and restemmed. I have found some amazing old pipes that have been great smokers when repaired with a new stem. I rarely skip over bowls because I find that there are many uses for them. Worst case scenario – I have sold packages of bowls and stems for others to practice on.

There truly is no end to the parts you can strip off old pipes and very little that truly needs to be thrown away. I have found that most parts can be repurposed and used on other pipes in my repair work. Thus I always keep an eye on the minutiae of the pipes I am looking at – seeing them for the whole but also seeing the individual parts that can be reused. I never pass up buying parts and search regularly for them.

I am thankful to my lawn mower repairman Joe for giving me the vision to craft Rule #5. It has served me well and will be a part of the hunt for as long as I am hunting.

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Restoring a Bryson Metal Pipe with Two Bowls


I picked up this metal pipe with two bowls in an eBay lot recently. The shank shape and the two bowls intrigued me. I had no idea who had made the pipe but I bid on it because of some other items in the lot.
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I decided to do a bit of research on the metal pipe on the great Smoking Metal website. It is a gift to the pipe smoking community looking for information on particular metal pipes that they come across or may have in their collection. The web address is: http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=57
This is what I found out about the metal pipe pictured above: (credit given to the site above)

“This pipe was made by the Briarwood Corporation, Palo Alto, California; the BRYSON has number D120275 under the Bryson name on the pipe stem. There is a crosshead screw to attach the briar bowl to the stem. The end cap attaches to the mouthpiece by means of a rod through the length of the pipe, in which the air hole is close to the mouth piece. The stem is of polished duraluminum and hexagonal in cross-section.

The bowls are unusual in that they are not briar turned on a lathe, but briar wood, ground to a powder and compressed under very high pressure (no glue, heat or plastics are used, just pressure. It is claimed this produces a perfect bowl of aged briar every time with increased porosity. The varnished finish on the smooth bowl however is often very badly crazed.

Two bowls, one smooth and one rusticated, were supplied with the new pipe. The bowl retaining screw is ‘locked’ onto the bowl by a gasket and metal collar, enabling rapid replacement of the bowls without the need of a screwdriver. The corn cob bowl, in centre image, is another version, not sure if this was manufactured by Bryson, or a home workshop job.

The set here shown was available for $3.50 new, but in what year? Below that are pictures of adverts seen from 1946 magazine. The last photograph was of a possible derivative on eBay in 2003, although US patent D122042 seems to be this pipe, invented by Max Bressler, Chicago Ill 1940.

There are also other derivatives without the Bryson name stamped in the metal and variations on the shape and grooving of the stem. The pipe pictured with Pat Pend under the Bryson name has no grooves forward of the bowl and the front end cap is a larger thread than the other models, including my version with no name. 30 April 1940 US patent # D120275 Inventor Charles Rothman, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, assignor Briarwood Corp, also of Cleveland Ohio at that time.”
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When the pipe arrived it was in pretty rough shape. The aluminum was oxidized on the barrel and the bowls were both very dirty and filled with cobwebs and built up grit. The rusticated bowl had not been smoked very much so it was clean on the inside underneath the dust and webs. There was no cake or tars. The smooth bowl was the exact opposite. The bowl was caked and the top of the rim was tarred and dented. In examining it I notice that the grain on the smooth one was peeling and fading in places – it was a decal and not truly grain. I could also see the composite make up of the pipe bowl as described above. This was strange looking material – similar to my Medico Brylon but also a lot like particle board that is used in building. This was going to be a fun piece to clean up and restore. The metal barrel was unstamped but the lines on the barrel match the photos above perfectly.

I was able to take it apart, which sounds normal but I have found that on these metal pipes that are in this condition the end cap and bowl are often welded together with tars that make breaking it free and taking it apart virtually impossible. The four photos below show the state of the parts once the pipe was disassembled. The bowl each had a screw in the bottom of the bowl with a hole in the center and a cap on the bottom of the bowl that was inset. The bowls thus could be quickly interchanged. The apparatus on the inside consisted of an end cap, a long pin that was threaded on both ends – into the cap and into the tenon on the stem, a nylon stem and in this case a paper filter slid over the pin. The pin was not hollow but acted as the connection that held the stem in place in the aluminum barrel. The end cap was inserted on one end with the pin extended the length of the barrel and the stem screwed onto the pin and tightening against the barrel. Without the end cap and pin in place the stem did not stay in place.

The inside of the barrel had a dark lacquer of tobacco juices that had hardened on the walls. The pin and inside the cap and tenon the same dark amber lacquer was hardened. This was going to be a challenge to clean up. The pressed briar bowls would also not be easy to clean as I was afraid of using alcohol on them for fear of decompressing the material with moisture.
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I took apart the smooth bowl in order to ream and clean it. The next two photos show the parts of the bowl. You can see the hollow screw, the insert cap and a small washer. From all appearances the washer was an addition to the set up done by the previous owner. I appeared to me that the bowl had been over tightened and the cap pressed to deeply into the bowl for a tight fit. The washer took up the excess space and allowed the bowl to be tightened. In the second photo the top edge of the rim can be seen with the dents and damage visible.
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I cleaned the screw and the washers with Everclear and cotton swabs to remove the lacquer buildup. I reamed the bowl with the largest cutting head of the PipNet reamer set as the bowl is quite large. In the first photo below the damaged finish is also visible. Once I had reamed the bowl I topped it with my usual method – a piece of sandpaper on a flat board. I twisted the bowl surface against the sandpaper until the damage was removed. Once done the composite nature of the bowl material was very visible.
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Cleaning out the barrel and all of the metal internals was labour intensive. It took many pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and Everclear to get the pipe barrel clean. I used cotton bolls that I twisted into plugs, dipped in Everclear and rammed through the barrel – just like cleaning a rifle. In the photos below you can see some of the plugs and swabs that were used. Once I had scrubbed the surfaces clean inside the barrel I worked on the pin, tenon and end cap. I used 0000 steel wool to clean the aluminum surface and brighten it.
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The nylon stem had a deep tooth mark on the top and on the underside of the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the tooth chatter and the calcification on the stem. I wiped it clean with Everclear to remove the sanding dust, cleaned the inside with Everclear and picked out the debris in the tooth dents. Once they were clean and dry I patched the dents with a drop of clear superglue. Because the colour of the stem is more of a grey black the black superglue did not match. The clear superglue was transparent and when dried and sanded was invisible.
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I set the stem aside to let the superglue spot patches to cure before I sanded them smooth. While it was drying I restained the bowls with a dark brown aniline stain applied with a cotton swab. I applied it and flamed it to set it. I was not sure the stain would take on the smooth bowl as it seemed to have a varnish coat on the surface and the grain pattern was a decal. Once it was dry I would give it a light buff and see if it took.
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I set the bowls aside and worked on the superglue patches on the stem. I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and then followed that by sanding with a medium grit sanding sponge. The next series of four photos show the process of blending in the repair.
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Once I had blended the patch into the surface of the stem it was time to sand it with the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit. I decided to sand both the stem and the aluminum barrel at the same time. I wet sanded with the 1500—2400 grit pads to minimize the scratching on both and then dry sanded with the remaining grits. By the end of the process the patch was invisible and both the stem and the barrel shone.
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Once I had finished with the micromesh sanding pads I reassembled the internals, stem and the barrel. I gave it a light buff with White Diamond. A light touch is necessary in order not to turn the buffing pads black with the metal as it is polished. I took it back to the work table and hand applied wax and hand buffed it with a soft towel. The next two photos show the finished barrel and stem.
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When the bowls had dried I buffed them with White Diamond as well. The rusticated bowl worked well and the shine came up on it with no problem. The smooth bowl was another story altogether. As I buffed it the finish came off in pieces. The varnish coat lifted and along with it the decal. The grain coat disappeared. I then gave it a clean buff with red Tripoli to remove the coat in its entirety. I hand sanded the bowl with the medium grit sanding sponge. Once the surface was clean I wiped it down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad. I then used a permanent black marker to draw grain lines on the surface of the bowl. These looked horrible after I had applied them but with some sanding with micromesh sanding pads and the sanding sponge I was able to lighten them and they began to look more natural. I then restained the bowl with some linseed oil and cherry stain. The photo below shows the finished surface of both bowls.
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When the bowls had dried I tried screwing each bowl to the barrel to make sure they fit well. I coated the rusticated bowl with Halcyon II wax and gave it a light buff with a clean flannel buffing pad. The smooth bowl I coated with carnauba wax and lightly buffed with the flannel buff as well. The finished pipe is pictured below with each of the bowls in place. I am pleased with how it turned out. In evaluating the amount of work to keep it clean, I am not sure I will ever smoke this one. It may well end up in the display cupboard as part of my oddities collection.
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