I read a post by dmcmtk on Pipe Smokers Unlimited Forum regarding a pipe he picked up that was a Barclay Rex with a white spot on the stem. He had written to the store and received a response that the pipe was made for them by Dunhill. I had no idea that Dunhill had made pipes for the NY shop so I began to hunt down some of these pipes looking for the tell-tale white dot on the stem. I found some on Ebay under the Barclay Rex shop store there and one stood out to me and seemed to call my name. The write-up on the ad read:
“This is a HGP Stubby Briar Root estate pipe that has been carefully restored on-site.The stem is in excellent condition and has very little visible wear; there are a few nicks on the bowl. This pipe was made by hand for Barclay Rex and likely dates to before 1960. The letters HGP actually stand for the craftsman’s initials.”
The story and the shape intrigued me and it had the white spot on the stem. I was hooked. It had a buy it now price so I went for it. I contacted the store and paid the bill and the pipe was mine. I was not too concerned about the condition as I would work on it anyway. The ad said that it had been carefully restored on-site so I would see what that meant when it arrived. The photos below were on Ebay and give a good idea of why the shape caught my attention. I wrote to Barclay-Rex to find out a little background information on this pipe and the stamping it showed in the pictures. I received this email response:
This was made by a pipe maker who worked for Barclay Rex for a time in the mid-20th century. His initials were HGP and he would stamp his pipes as such. We are unsure why the maker decided to place a white dot on his stem, but we have come across one or two more of his with the same combination. Unfortunately, his full name has been forgotten with time.
When the pipe arrived it was in good shape. The stamping indeed was HGP over Briar Root on the left side of the shank and The Duke on the bottom of the shank. Part of the shank and bottom of the bowl was flattened so that it was a sitter. I took it apart to examine it more closely. It was anything but cleaned and restored. The stem was rough – there was oxidation next to the band that went quite deep. There was a gouge on the right side of the stem that was quite deep. The top and the bottom of the stem from the taper to the button had obviously been modified to make a more pronounced taper. The file marks were still evident in the vulcanite. The width of the button end of the stem had also been modified and was narrower than originally designed as the sides of the stem also showed file marks. The button itself had a orific opening but someone had modified it into a poorly shaped slot. The stem had deep tooth marks on the surface of top and bottom near the button. There was a bite through on the top side next to the button. The angle of the taper was very abrupt and sharp with distinct cut marks. The tenon was fit for a filter by the appearance of it and the inside was very tarry. A filter would not have fit with all of the buildup in the stem. The bowl was another story. It was out of round with burn marks on the inner edge that needed some work. It had been reamed so that was not an issue. Then inside of the shank was filthy. The tars and oils were thick against the end of the mortise.
I decided to work on the stem first. I wanted to address the taper of the stem and cleanup the file marks and gouge in the top portion. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches and reshape the taper. This took quite a bit of sanding to reshape the angles and edges of the stem. There was a slight hip on both sides of the stem that needed to be sanded out to get a smooth flow to the lines of the sides. The next series of photos show the progress in reshaping and repairing the stem. I worked on the taper first to remove the sharp angles of the sides and top of the taper and work on a flow to the profile of the stem. I sanded the gouge on the top right side of the stem until it disappeared and also worked on the transition from the flattened top and bottom of the taper and the round end next to the shank. The wet spot on the first photo next to the button highlights the spot where the small hole in the top of the taper was. At this point the taper is smooth and the transition is beginning to look right. The profile shot below shows the work that has been done. I continued to sand and smooth out the taper to give it a look similar to a Peterson tapered stem. The first photo shows the taper after all of the shaping. I rubbed some Vaseline on a pipe cleaner and inserted it in the orific slot in the button so that I could patch the hole in the top side of the stem. The second photo below shows the size and placement of the hole. I used black super glue for the repair and sprayed it with the accelerator to harden it more quickly. I found that the accelerator allows me to sand more quickly but curing actually takes longer. I sanded it with sanding sticks to smooth it out and then build it up several more times to give more thickness to the stem at the button. I reshaped the sharp inner edge of the button with a needle file. After sanding with the sticks I sanded the patched area with 220 grit sandpaper and then with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to smooth out the scratches and blend in the superglue patch with the rest of the stem surface. I finished sanding the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-3200 grit pads and dry sanding with 3600-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each three grit sequence of pads and let it sit until absorbed before continuing with the next set of three pads. When I finished sanding with the last three grits of micromesh I rubbed it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and when dry put the back on the pipe and gave it a buff with White Diamond. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. I decided to top the bowl to even out the rim as most of the inner rim damage did not go too deeply into the bowl. Topping it would smooth out the rim and allow me to correct the damage that made it out of round. I set up the topping board with the 220 grit sandpaper and sanded the top until the rim was smooth and the burn damage was minimized. I sanded the inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to further mask the damage to the inner rim. I sanded the topped bowl with medium and fine grit sanding sponges and then with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I cleaned out the sanding dust from the bowl with a damp cloth and wiped down the top of the bowl with an alcohol wipe to prepare it for restaining. I decided against restaining the whole bowl and to just stain the rim. Thanks to Greg I have a set of staining pens that make this kind of thing quite easy. I started with the lightest stain pen and then used the medium stain pen to match the colour of the bowl. I buffed it with White Diamond and then gave the bowl and rim a quick buff with carnauba wax. After the buffing I sanded the band with the micromesh sanding pads and then polished it with a polishing cloth. The finished bowl is shown in the photos below. The next photo shows what I did next, though in retrospective I probably should have done this first, I did not. I cleaned out the inside of the shank with isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the tarry buildup in the mortise and airway of the pipe. Once I finished cleaning out the inside of the pipe I gave it a quick buff with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax, buffing with a soft flannel buff between coats. The finished pipe is shown below. The restoration and refurbishment are complete and now it can be honestly said that it has been “restored”. The amount of work it took to bring this pipe back to a finished look was far more than I expected when I bid on it. I honestly was surprised at how dirty and unfinished it was when it arrived. Now I have a pipe that I can be proud of and enjoy smoking. The look and feel in the hand is exactly what I like and I look forward to firing up the first bowl in it very soon.