Daily Archives: April 21, 2014

Restoring a GBD New Standard 4/271 London Made Straight Bulldog

Blog by Steve Laug

When I was at the antique mall in Edmonton a few weeks ago I found this GBD straight bulldog. It is stamped GBD in an oval over New Standard on the left side of the shank and 4/271 London Made on the right side of the shank. The stem had the brass GBD roundel on the side of the saddle. The pipe was badly cake with a thick carbon build up. The rim had build up and was also damaged. There was darkening, whether burn or tar build up flowing down the crown of the bowl at the top all the way around the rim. The finish was worn and there was a black ink stain on the left side of the bowl down low toward the bottom. It looked like a hot spot when I first saw the pipe so I almost left it in the shop. I examined it under a bright light and could see that it was not a burn but a spot of what looked like India Ink. The stem was oxidized and there was tooth chatter on the top near the button and a tooth mark on the underside along with the chatter there. The button is different from most of my other GBD’s in that it is concave rather than convex. It is shaped like this “(“ looking at it from above.



The photo below shows the stain on the bowl. I used a flash to highlight the nature of the stain. It was not solid but rather slightly opaque so that the grain could be seen through it. I thought it was worth a try to see if I could remove the ink from the briar.
I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet reamer starting with the smallest head and working up to the next head that fit the bowl.
I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak for several hours and dropped the stem in a bath of Oxyclean.
I left the stem in the Oxyclean while I worked on the bowl. I removed it from the bath and dried it off with a piece of cloth.
I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish that remained and scrubbed the ink stain. I sanded the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to finish removing the finish and also the ink stain. I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the outer edge of the rim.
I used a piece of folded 220 grit sandpaper to work on the beveled inner edge of the rim. I wanted to repair the burn damage and take away the ridge left behind by the light topping of the bowl.
I sanded the bowl where the stain was and with sanding and scrubbing with isopropyl alcohol I was able to remove the ink stain from the briar. The photo below shows the area that had previously been stained.
I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol a final time to remove the sanding dust and grit from the twin rings on the bowl.




I cleaned out the shank of the pipe with isopropyl and cotton swabs and when it was clean I took out the stem and dried it off. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I scrubbed the stem with Mequiar’s Scratch X2.0. I rubbed it onto the stem surface with my finger and scrubbed it off with cotton pads. The photos below show the stem after one application of the polish after about 2 hours of soaking in Oxyclean.



I continued to scrub down the stem with the Meguair’s until the oxidation was gone. I sanded the areas where there was tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. I put the stem on the pipe and took the photos below. I could not believe how easily the oxidation had come off the stem. There was still more polishing to do but the overall effect of the Oxyclean and the Meguiar’s was amazing to me



Though there was still oxidation to work on I decided to stain the bowl. I used a dark brown aniline stain. I applied it, flamed it and repeated the process until the coverage was even.


I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl to thin the stain down and make it more transparent. I repeated the wash until the stain was the colour I was aiming for. Then I scrubbed the stem some more with the Meguiar’s and was able to get the rest of the oxidation of the stem.



I buffed the pipe with White Diamond – both bowl and stem being careful around the stamping so as not to damage it. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and shine. I buffed it a final time with a soft flannel buffing wheel. The finished pipe is pictured below. The colour on the green background appears redder than the pipe actually is. The wax and buffing did bring out the red highlights in the briar. It is more brown than red but the contrast is quite nice. The grain is visible through the stain. I am pleased with the finished look to the pipe. It is cleaned and restored and ready for the next chapter of the trust with me.




A New Aspect of the Hobby (at least to me) – Tobacco Stamps

A part of this hobby that never crossed my purview was the collecting of old tobacco stamps. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that others would collect them but it never did. I have seen them on the old tins I have purchased and never given them much thought other than using them to date the tins. Then several years ago in a deal with Emil of Century stamps he sent me this mint tobacco tax stamp. We had corresponded and then eventually met at the Chicago Pipe Show. He had picked up some pipe from me and we had shared some bowls of tobacco and enjoyed the fellowship of the pipe. He had introduced me to his friend Mike who also bought a few pipes – even a birth year Dunhill purchased for him by his wife for his birthday. I knew Emil had a stamp shop in Mississauga, Ontario but I figured that was for postage stamps – something that I had collected as a lad and somehow laid aside in the business of adult life.

Then one day I was looking for a humidor for cigars and Emil had one that he said he would send me. It was a beautiful inlaid box that would take my meager cigar collection to a new level. Included in that package or maybe following it a short time later was a small package containing the Tobacco Tax Stamp pictured below.
Tax Stamp
Since receiving it I have done some reading on the internet regarding tax/excise stamps and found it really interesting. I found the link below when I was trying to date a tin of tobacco that I had found in an antique shop. It seems to be a living part of the stamp collecting hobby with cross over into the pipe and tobacco hobby.


These stamps give a feeling of another era, of a time when things moved more slowly. The look of the stamp in terms of colour and type hark back to another time. It is one, that at least in terms of the pipe and tobacco, sometimes I would not have mind living through.

A Book Review – Weber’s Guide to Pipes and Pipe Smoking by Carl Weber

Blog by Steve Laug

13139507 Probably one of the first books I picked up for my pipe library was Carl Weber’s Guide. It has a price tag on it from a used bookshop that I frequented in those days that dates it to June of 2002 and I paid a princely total of $4 for it. My copy is noted on the cover and the cover pages as An Original Edition though I am not sure what that means. It originally came out in 1963 ad copy is one that was reprinted in 1967 by the Cornerstone Library, New York City. Carl Weber was the Founder of Weber Briars, Inc. a company whose pipes have passed through my collection for the past 20 years. I remember finding this book in the book shop – way back in the far left corner of the shelves in the area of collectibles and hobbies. I had read of it but not seen a copy so I snatched it up and made it mine.

The table of contents is very straightforward as to what is covered by the book and as is true of most well written books it gives an outline of the topics covered between the covers of the book.
Table of Contents:
1. What is a pipe?
2. The Briar and the Meerschaum: The King and Queen of Pipes
3. Pipe Varieties
4. Selecting Your Pipe
5. Selecting Your Tobacco
6. The Art and Science of Pipe Smoking
7. How Briar Pipes are Made
8. Pipe Accessories
9. The Pipe as a Hobby
10. Questions and Answers About Pipes

To begin this quick review I want to quote three portions from Weber’s Forward to this little handbook. The first one sets the stage for his proposition that pipe smoking is a most pleasurable pastime. He writes:

“No one really knows why men smoke. Yet long before the discovery of tobacco, smoking had become the abiding joy of many peoples. Since tobacco’s discovery, smoking has truly become one of mankind’s most pleasurable pastimes.” – page 7

The next quote I find particularly poignant in a handbook on smoking. It calls the pipeman to treat his pipe well and it will treat him well. Oh how I wish that many of the owners of the old pipes I refurbish had read these words. He writes:

“The real pipe-smoker soon learns that pipe smoking is both an art and a science. The pipe responds to its owner with exactly the same treatment that it receives from him. The man who masters the techniques of pipe smoking is repaid by a satisfying smoke, a joy which he created for himself with his own hands.” – page 8

The last quote gives the stated purpose of the book in Weber’s own words: “The sole purpose of this book is to help the smoker achieve these rare moments of serenity, which are increasingly hard to come by in the accelerating pace of the modern world.” – page 8

Weber’s Guide can be divided into four major sections – each covering several chapters. These section divisions are my own and are not found in the book. I find that they help to organize and locate material for my quick reference.

Section 1: Chapters 1-3
The first three chapters cover the topic of the pipe. Chapter 1 begins by discussing what a pipe is in terms of constituent parts and what it is used for. It gives a brief history of pipes and tobacco that is truly no different from any other pipe book I have read over the years. It is written in Weber’s inimitable style and is a very accessible quick read. In Chapter 2 compares briar and meerschaum pipes which he calls the King and Queen of pipes. He gives a brief history of the development of both. He concludes this section in Chapter 3 by giving a survey of different types not found in the two main categories already covered: calabash, corn cobs, water pipes and clay pipes. The chapter ends with a brief survey of the field of pipes and concludes with these words; “Whatever your style of smoking, chances are that somewhere you’ll find a pipe to match it.” (page 42)
Throughout each section of the text there are line drawings and sketches to illustrate the point the Weber is making in that section. They break up the text and add interest to the reader.

Section 2: Chapters 4-5
The next two chapters are about how to select a pipe (Chapter 4) and a tobacco to smoke (Chapter 5). The selection of a pipe is very individual. As Weber says, “…it must first of all, fit your personality and character.” He adds another line that has fueled much discussion. He says that the pipe should “enhance” the appearance of the pipe smoker and not detract. He gives examples of how this works in his opinion. He goes on to discuss flaws in briar with helpful insights in how to understand these natural parts of the briar. He discusses pipe shapes and gives three pages of drawing of the various shapes of pipes that is very helpful. He includes a page of stem drawings to accompany his paragraphs on the type of stem that is used. Chapter 4 concludes with a discussion of filter, the personality of the piper and the prices that pipes are selling for. The paragraphs on pipe and personality are interesting and entertaining. He suggests standing in front of a mirror and trying to match the shape of the pipe to your own shape – this idea has also engendered much derision and discussion.

Chapter 5 on Tobacco Selection is a succinct and helpful tool to a person trying a pipe for the first time as well as to the seasoned veteran needing a quick refresher. It begins with a quick botany lesson on tobacco plants before going on to discuss the types of tobacco that are smoked and their taste to the smoker. He has descriptions and information on Burley, Virginia, Cavendish, Maryland, Latakia, Perique and Turkish tobacco. He discusses and offers a diagram of the four basic cuts of tobacco – cube cut, cut plug, long cut and granulated. He ends this chapter with two paragraphs on the art of blending tobacco to suit the tastes of the smoker.

Section 3: Chapters 6-7
The third major section of the book is about the use of the pipe and the manufacture of a briar pipe. Chapter 6 covers what Weber calls the Art and Science of Pipe Smoking and is a good general introduction to our hobby. It covers packing, lighting, and smoking a pipe. It talks about breaking in a pipe, enjoying it and maintaining it. Chapter 7 gives an overview verbally on the birth of a briar pipe from burl to finished product. That is followed by a pictorial spread showing the making of a pipe illustrating what has been said in the first portion of the chapter. It concludes with paragraphs on stem making and finishing the pipe before it leaves the factory to be held in the hands of the pipe smoker.

Section 4: Chapters 8-10
The final section picks up all of the extraneous details of pipe smoking that have not been covered in the rest of the book and are necessary to proper enjoyment of the hobby of pipe smoking. Chapter 8 covers accessories – pipe cleaners, sweeteners, humidors, tobacco pouches of various styles and layouts, pipe racks, ash trays, wind caps, pipe tools and other useful gadgets that fall outside of these wider categories. Chapter 9 on the pipe as hobby cover the pipe collecting aspect of the hobby and addresses the types of pipes that are collected from high-end to oddities – the better mouse trap version of pipes. It ends with a short treatise on how to evaluate pipes that are collected.

Chapter 10 is a Question and Answer section. It covers a wide range of topics that somehow capture many of the first questions that new pipe smokers ask. It is set up in a question and answer format and covers such topics as how to tell the difference between block meerschaum and pressed meerschaum, rehydrating tobacco, sweetening a pipe, repairing broken stems, tongue bite, the meaning of stampings such as Real Briar and Imported Briar, mixing tobacco blends, shapes and their effect on coolness of a smoke, proper moisture levels in tobacco, directions for reaming a pipe and the life expectancy of a briar pipe.

I believe that Weber did an admirable job of meeting his purpose as stated in his Foreward. While the book is not an exhaustive treatment of the topic it is comprehensive. His style of writing is inviting and makes this a very accessible and readable book. Copies of it are readily available online through such sources as Amazon.com and Abebooks. A quick search of the title will give you access to a wide range of copies and prices to match your budget. It is well worth the read and is a great book to have on hand for new pipemen you introduce to our hobby.

From the back cover.
back cover

One Just for Fun – Restemming a Tall Stack Cob

In the grab bag from the antique mall was a tall corn cob bowl. It is not exactly a MacArthur style cob as it is designed with a weighted bottom portion of cob attached to the bowl. The bottom portion appears to be filled with Plaster of Paris. The drilling of the bowl went down into the bottom portion slightly. There was no shank or stem for the bowl in my box. The cob bowl itself was unsmoked and truly new stock. I have no idea how the stem came to be lost but my guess is that the glue dried out and the stem and shank became unattached and somehow separated from the bowl. I looked at it when I opened the grab bag and almost threw it away. It was definitely not my style of pipe and with a stack that tall it would take hours to smoke a bowl. But I carried it home and it sat in the box until yesterday.

Last evening I was looking at some parts that were collecting dust on my work table – a piece of briar shank that I had liberated from a destroyed bowl, a cocobolo wood stem extension with a tenon turned on each end and a long stem that was without a tenon. I took out the cob bowl and laid out the parts next to each other. I thought to myself that it might be fun to put all the pieces together and see what I could do with them.
It took very little sanding for the tenon on the cocobola extension to fit into the piece of briar. I sanded the other side of the extension and drilled out the end of the stem until the tenon fit into the stem as well.
I mixed a batch of two part epoxy and glued the tenon extension to the stem and sanded the extension to fit the diameter of the stem. This took a bit of time as the extension was square and the stem round. But once the sanding was done it fit well and the transition was smooth. Then I debated on what to do with the briar piece. I could set it in the cob bowl and have a removable stem or I could attach it to the stem and make it a permanent feature. Looking at the size and weight of the bowl it seemed to make sense to make the stem one piece. I did not want to risk having the stem split the piece of briar or have the bowl fall off and damage the briar. So I used the epoxy to glue the briar to the stem as well.
I sanded the briar with a Dremel to remove the excess material and to get it close to the same diameter as the stem extension. Once it was close I hand sanded the entire new extension with 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges to make the joints between the materials seamless. The photo below shows the stem sanded and ready to insert into the cob bowl. I really liked the way the stem and extensions had turned out. The cocobolo band looked good against the briar on one side and the black vulcanite on the other.
I drilled out the hole in the side of the cob to get a good snug fit of the shank to the bowl. I decided not to extend it as deeply into the bowl as the old shank had been but rather to extend it through the wall and then raise the bottom of the bowl with more Plaster of Paris. I glued the shank into the bowl with all purpose white glue.



I used a dental pick to push glue deep into the joint of the stem and bowl before setting it aside to dry. I wanted the joint to dry solid with no gaps in the sides for air to enter or to weaken the connection.

In the morning after the glue had dried all night I sanded the stem with a fine grit sanding sponge and then micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I also decided to stain the stem extension with some cherry Danish Oil and then sanded the extension to polish it.


The stem was slightly twisted from age and sitting too long so I set up the heat gun and heated it until it straightened. Once it was straight I carefully bent it over my buffing motor to get a slight bend in the end of the stem.

I buffed the stem carefully with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and give it a shine. I buffed the cob and stem with a soft flannel buff to finish the look and polish both bowl and stem. The finished pipe is pictured below. It was a fun experience to work with the various materials and see what I could craft with them. The joining of the shank extensions was part of my ongoing “education” in bonding materials together using the tenon to give strength to the joint. While the pipe is ungainly and huge it nonetheless has a certain charm and elegance to it. Whether I ever use it or just have it sitting in the cupboard as decoration working on it provided me with great lessons and several hours of enjoyment.