Restoring an older KBB Yello-Bole Imperial Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last of the pipes I picked up when I was down in Washington State with my wife for 38th Anniversary. It is an older KBB (no ampersand between the two B’s). It had no shape numbers on the right side of the shank, but on the left side it had the KBB in the cloverleaf/club and next to it was stamped Yello-Bole over Imperial over Imported Briar. The Imperial stamping had been over-stamped with a cross hatch pattern. The bowl was in decent shape. The finish had dark soiling and oils on both sides of the bowl. There were also some dark spots on the sides of the bowl. There was a heavy coat of varnish over the bowl except for the worn spots where the oils and darkening was. The rim was heavily caked with tars and oils. The bowl was caked from the top half way down the bowl, though the yellow honey coating was still visible on the bottom half of the bowl. There were some burn marks along the outer edge and top of the rim.

Again since Yello-Bole is one of my favourite older US brands I did some more reading online to see if I could narrow down when this one was made. I have come to understand that these older Yello-Boles are great smoking pipes and underrated. I turned to one of my go to sources of information on all things KBB and Kaywoodie – the Kaywoodie forum There I found a very helpful article by Dave Whitney that helped narrow down the date. The pipe I have has the shovel drinkless mechanism, the KBB-in-a-clover logo on the left side of the shank and the yellow circle on the stem. From what I can ascertain from Dave’s information it seems to have been produced between the years of 1938-42. I am fairly certain that it did not come from the later period of 1945-50 (World War II) since it did not have the aluminum stem ring and the aluminum drinkless mechanism which came out during those years.

The photos below show the pipe as it was when I found it in the antique shop. IMG_7924 IMG_7926 IMG_7923 IMG_7927 The stem is made of nylon rather than vulcanite. It has the yellow circle inset in the top near the shank of the pipe. The button area was chewed and dented. There was a shallow dent on top of the stem and deeper ones on the underside of the stem next to the button. The button had been chewed down and had deep dents on the underside while the slot had been dented in so that it was not longer straight. IMG_7920 IMG_7922 I sanded the stem down and was able to remove the dents on the topside. The underside tooth mark was too deep to sand or even heat and raise. IMG_7929 I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the chatter further up the stem and then picked the area clean around the large dent with a dental pick. I wiped the stem down with alcohol to clean off the dust and then filled it with black super glue that I purchased from Stewmac online. I filled it the first time and sprayed it with an accelerator. Once it dried it had shrunken and left a divot in the stem surface. I refilled it with the glue and then sprayed it again with the accelerator. I set it aside overnight to cure and worked on the bowl. IMG_7928 IMG_7942 The bowl and rim were caked with an uneven cake so I reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer to take it back to the briar. The cake was soft and once I removed it from the middle portion of the bowl I could see the yellow coating on the bottom half and partway down from the rim. The only portion that was darkened was in the centre of the bowl. IMG_7930 IMG_7931 I set up my topping board to remove the hard tars on the rim and also the burn damage. Fortunately the burn damage did not go too deep but merely sat on the surface under the tar coat. IMG_7932 I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish and as much of the dark staining on the side of the bowl as possible. The dark spots were deep in the finish of briar so I was not sure I would be able to remove them. IMG_7937 IMG_7934 IMG_7936 IMG_7939 Even after wiping down the bowl repeatedly the dark stains on the sides remained, lighter though still present. The dark spots appeared to be ink stains and they too remained. I decided to let the bowl soak in an alcohol bath overnight and address it again in the morning. IMG_7941 The next morning I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and found that it had done its magic. The stains were gone and the ink stains were significantly lighter. I cleaned out the shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I kept cleaning until the pipe cleaners and swabs came out clean. IMG_7946 I stained the bowl with Fiebings Dark Brown aniline stain. I applied the stain and then flamed and repeated the process until the coverage was even. IMG_7947 IMG_7948 I wiped it down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove some of the opaque colour of the stain and to make the grain more visible. IMG_7949 IMG_7950 IMG_7951 I buffed the bowl with White Diamond. The next three photos show the bowl at this point in the process. IMG_7953 IMG_7954 IMG_7957 Once I had finished the work on the bowl to this point I decided to work on the stem. I used a coarse grit sanding stick to cut the sharp edge of the button. While it worked relatively well I could see that the hardened super glue needed something with more teeth to cut into the repair. I used a file to take off the overfill on the repair and then followed that with the sanding stick and 220 grit sandpaper. IMG_7963 IMG_7964
IMG_7965 I sanded the stem further with the 220 grit sandpaper and then with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratches in the surface. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. Between each grit of micromesh I wiped the stem down with olive oil. I have found that the olive oil allows the micromesh sanding pads to really cut into the surface of the nylon stem. I cleaned up the stinger with alcohol and cotton pads and then 0000 steel wool. IMG_7972 IMG_7979 IMG_7983 I gave the bowl a coat of walnut stain and boiled linseed oil to bring out a shine. I wanted the pipe to have a similar shine to what it originally had when it left the factory but did not want to use a varnish coat. I wiped it on the bowl with a cotton pad and then set it aside to air dry. IMG_7975 Once the finish had dried I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax and buffed to a shine with a soft flannel buff. I hand waxed the stem with Paragon Wax as I find that the nylon stems are hard to buff. Without a light touch the wheel can do irreparable damage to the nylon stem. The heat generated by the buffer will actually cause the stem to melt. The final photos below show the finished pipe cleaned, polished and ready to enter into the next years of its life. I think that this one will outlive me if properly cared for by the next pipeman after me. IMG_7986 IMG_7987 IMG_8003 IMG_8008

7 thoughts on “Restoring an older KBB Yello-Bole Imperial Dublin

  1. Greg

    Another beautiful restoration. I really like the old Yello Boles, too. I’ve got to remember that olive oil trick next time I work on a nylon stem!

  2. Dave

    Great job, Steve. The bowl, and stem look like new. This old beauty is ready for another fifty years of service.

    1. rebornpipes Post author

      Thanks Dave, these older KBB and KB&B pipes are really pretty nice pieces of briar and clean up very well. The older yello-boles with the nylon stem always give me a bit of a challenge trying to get them to shine. This one worked out well as I finally think I have the trick down and sand with micromesh and olive oil.

    2. rebornpipes Post author

      Learned that from reading an old Yello-bole/KB&B pamphlet on Chris Keene’s pipe pages. There was an old brochure that gave the suggestion to bring the shine back to the nylon rub it down with olive oil and buff by hand.


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