I wrote earlier in a blog post about helping a Bill Tonge with the stamping on a Brigham pipe that he had picked up. He had told me that the stamping was 5955 on the underside of the shank. He said he had called Brigham and that they had told him that number was not on their shape charts. He had hit a dead-end. We connect on Twitter so he contacted me and asked for help. I thought I would give it a try to see what I could find out about the pipe. I Googled and read various online pipe forums where information was given. I searched for Brigham shape and numbering charts and old catalogues. Nothing helped. Then I decided to go to the Brigham site itself and go through the layers of information there and see what I could dig up. I was certain the clue to the mystery had to be there. It was just a matter of spending the time reading through the layers of information there to see what could be found.
Using this information I took the number that was given to me – 5955 stamped on the bottom of the pipe’s shank – as my starting place. The first number in the stamp denoted the series (1 to 7). Thus the pipe was a 500 series pipe. The next 2 numbers indicated the shape number which in this case was 95. I am assuming that is the shape number for the Zulu or yachtsman shape of this pipe. Summarizing what I had learned so far – I now knew what the first three digits in the stamping meant. The “595” indicated a 500 series pipe in shape #95. Reading further I found that a letter could follow the numbers in the stamp – particularly on older pipes. The letter indicated the size of the bowl. Thus the letter S = small, M = medium, ML = medium/large, L = large. I wrote the questioner and asked him to magnify the stamping on his pipe. Sure enough, the pipe was a 595S – the final stamp was the letter S, making this pipe a 500 series Zulu with a Small bowl. Mystery solved on this one.
I sent him the information and shortly later received a tweet from him that he was sending the pipe to me. He thought I would enjoy working on it and seeing what I could do with it. It arrived here in Vancouver yesterday and I opened the box Bill had sent. Inside were quite a few samples of English tobaccos that he was passing on to me, a nylon Falcon style pipe that Bill had refinished and the old Brigham Zulu. The smells were divine and I am looking forward to enjoying Bill’s generosity. But last evening I had to get started on the old pipe. I had a Brigham 5 dot stem in my stem can that I had scavenged from a friend who had a Brigham that he converted to a church warden. He did not want the saddle style stem so he gave it to me. Being the scavenger that I am I have had it in the can for about 15 years. Last night it met the pipe that it would grace.
Before I worked on the fit of the new stem I took some pictures of the pipe when it arrived. The pipe was definitely a Brigham, stamping and finish said that clearly. The stem was not a Brigham stem. It was a poorly made replacement stem. It was larger in diameter than the shank and bulged as it moved away from the shank. The finish on the stem was rough and the fit was poor. The rubber had a different feel to it than most of the vulcanite stems I have worked with. It was very thick at the bit and was not a comfortable stem to hold in the mouth. The tenon was definitely not a Brigham tenon. At first it looked to have been cut off but upon closer examination it was clear that the back part of the tenon was like a Dr. Grabow or Medico filter tenon with the slits on the sides that allowed the tenon to be widened to fit tighter in the shank. Into that tenon someone had inserted a piece of aluminum tubing that had walls that were approximately twice as thick as the aluminum used in the Brigham tenon. When I tried to fit the Brigham filter in, which should have fit nicely in even a cut off tenon, it did not fit. All of that confirmed my suspicions that the tenon was a repair replacement. The finish on the bowl was dirty and the grooves were plugged with an oily build up almost to the point that the Brigham rustication was smoothed over. The bowl was slightly out of round with some burn damage on the inner rim at the back left and right sides of the bowl. The cake in the bowl was quite heavy and smelled of good heavy latakia tobacco. It was uneven and I wanted to do some work on the inner rim and try to bring it back as close to round as I could so I would need to ream the bowl back to the wood to do that work. The stamping on the underside of the bowl is worn but legible. The Brigham stamp is identifiable as 595S and next to that is a patent number that is almost illegible but I think it reads Can. Pat. 372982 which is the same patent number as one of my older Brighams. The Brigham logo is stamped over Made in Canada and is next to the patent number. I removed the stem from the bowl, reamed it and cleaned the outer surface with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I use the soap undiluted and scour until the surface is clean and then rinse it off with running water. I keep the water out of the inside of the bowl and shank. I cleaned out the inside of the bowl and shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Once I had the majority of the tarry buildup out of the shank I found that the metal end of the hard maple filter had broken off inside the shank and was stuck against the airway. I examined the airway from the inside of the bowl and poked at it with a dental pick. I soon found that the airway was clogged at the side of the bowl with a tarry, oily buildup. I picked it free and found the airway very open and quite large. I was able to carefully turn a drill bit by hand into the shank and catch the metal of the end cap and draw it out of the shank. I then scoured the shank with alcohol until all the cleaners came out white.
I then cleaned the inside of the 5 dot stem that I had and fit it into the shank of the pipe. It fit well and actually had an interestingly look (IMHO). It was oxidized and needed work but it fit. The shank was still very tight at the end so I was not able to get the maple filter to fit in the tenon and still fit tightly against the shank. I have to do a bit more work opening the far end of the mortise to accommodate that. The next series of four photos show the 5 dot stem and give a rough idea of the look of the pipe at this point. I took the next three photos of the two stems side by side to show see the difference in diameter of the stems and the difference in shape of the two tenons. In the first photo the top stem is the replacement one and the bottom is the original Brigham made stem. The second and third photos show an end view of the two different tenons side by side. The one on the left is the replacement tenon and the one on the right is the original Brigham. Note the difference in diameter of the inner circle of the opening and the thickness of the walls of the tube in both tenons. The maple filter tube fit tightly in the replacement stem with no allowance for air to flow around the tube. It was shorter as well so the filter would not have been used with the replacement stem. To start the cleanup on the oxidized stem I decided to use the Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 scratch remover on the stem. It works quite well to remove some of the surface oxidation. I let it dry before buffing it off with a soft cloth. The deeper oxidation still remained so I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges. I followed up with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads and a final rub down at the end. Once the Obsidian Oil had dried I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and then gave the bowl a light coat of carnauba wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed in between with a soft flannel buff to polish each coat. The finished pipe is shown below. I am looking forward to firing it up with one of the good English tobaccos that Bill sent along. Thanks again Bill for the great addition to my collection.