I participated in a Canadian Box Pass where tobaccos and pipes are mailed across Canada between pipemen and women from sea to sea. It is a fun experience in which you are given a chance to try tobaccos that you might never otherwise try to also trade for pipes that catch your eye. This particular box pass was very well-organized and I received a compact box of tobaccos and a variety of tobaccos. They had been divided in to three broad categories – Latakias, Virginias/Virginia Perique/Burley and Aromatics. There were also several tins of tobacco to try or to trade. The idea was you could take one if you put something of equal value back in the box. There were three pipes as well – a Comoy’s Apple (Cadogan era), a Trypsis partially rusticated pot and a Bewlay billiard that had been restemmed to give it the look of a cutty. There was also some carnauba wax that was there for the taking.
I sampled many of the Latakia blends and many of the Virginia and Virginia/Perique blends. It was an enjoyable experience over the past weekend. There was one of the pipes that I also kept coming back to over and over again during the weekend – the small Bewlay billiard/cutty. There was something about it that drew my attention. It was clean but the finish was shot and the stem was definitely a replacement. The bend in it seems to have been added with the new stem. The finish was a sandblast that was well-worn from either handling or over buffing. The stamping on the bottom of the shank reads Bewlay in script over Sandblast over London England. It is worn and growing faint. There was probably a shape number at the end of the shank but it had been sanded away with the sandblast when it was restemmed previously.
The first photo below show some light splotches on the side of the bowl. These seem to have been fills that were put in before the blasting and finish were done. They were definitely putty. The shank had been sanded down and the first half-inch next to the stem was sanded smooth. There was also a slight taper to the shank were the sanding had taken down the diameter of the shank at the end. The rim was darkened and had some carbon build up on it. The stem was in rough shape in that it had some deep tooth dents on the underside. When I took it out of the shank I was even more convinced that it was a replacement in that it had a thick-walled aluminum tenon. It was similar to the tenons on Medico pipes with horizontal split in the tenon so that it can be adjusted. The difference was in the thickness of the material.
Before I packed up the box yesterday I decided to take the little Bewlay and give it a new home. The first thing I did last evening was fit a new stem on the pipe. I wanted to have a vulcanite stem and tenon. I had a stem in my can of stems that took very little to fit the tenon to the shank. The diameter of the stem was wider than the shank so that would take some work but that was not an issue. I was undecided if I would replace the bent stem with another bent one or restore it to its original billiard status.
I worked on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to bring the diameter of the shank and the bowl to a match. I wanted to be careful to not remove any more of the briar from the already slightly tapered shank. Once the sanding was close I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath for a soak to remove the remaining finish on the bowl and the grime and grit from the sandblast rings.
I continued to sand and shape the stem. I liked the wider blade at the button as I thought it looked like it fit better with the pipe. I left the tenon a little longer so it sat against the end of the mortise when it was inserted.
After the bowl had soaked for an hour I took it out and scrubbed the blast with a soft bristle brass tire brush. I find that the bristles do not scratch the briar but that they work well to remove build up in the grooves of the blast. I also wanted to brush the areas of the putty fills to highlight the grain pattern in those areas rather than leave a light looking smooth patch. I used a dental pick to clean out the deeper grooves of the blast in the fill areas. I cleaned out the shank with cotton swabs and alcohol and also the stem internals. I finished sanding the stem to make the transition between stem and shank smooth. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge after sanding with the 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the top of the rim very carefully to remove the tarry build up and also smooth the outer edge. At this point I am beginning to really like the straight stem on the pipe. It lends a dignity to the bowl that was lacking with the bent stem in my opinion. It looked to me the way it must have looked when it left the factory. After all the clean up I wiped it down a final time with isopropyl alcohol to prepare the bowl for staining.
I stained the bowl with a light brown stain to give it a tan blast look but it did not work on the areas of the putty fills. They still showed through the finish as light streaks in the briar. I then decided to restain it with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied the stain, flamed it, stained and flamed it again to make sure that the coverage was even. In the photos below the stain almost looks black but it is not – it is a dark brown.
The colour was too dark to my liking so I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove some of the heavy dark stain and give the bowl more transparency. I wiped it down repeatedly until I got it the colour I wanted with some contrast between the high and low points in the blast.
I sanded the stem with the medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratches from the work on the diameter. Once I had them removed I use micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it soak into the stem.
Afterward I took some photos of the pipe at this stage of restoration to get a good look at the straight stem. I find that I can tell more with a photo than I can holding it in hand when I am trying to decide on the finished look. I wanted to decide whether to leave it straight or to bend it like the one I took off the pipe. For me looking at it on the monitor, enlarged gives me a feel for the overal appearance of the pipe. I cannot tell you how many times, after looking at the photos, that I have taken the pipe back to the table for more shaping and work.
I liked the look of the straight stem so I left it. I buffed the stem with White Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and preserve it. I gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax and then lightly buffed the stem and bowl with a soft flannel buff to bring up the shine. The finished pipe is pictured below. It came out very well in my opinion. As I look at it I wonder who the maker was. Bewlay had others make their pipes – to my mind this one had the look of a nice little Orlik Sandblast, but who knows for sure. What do you think? Who made this pipe?