When I first saw this old Rhodesian on Ebay I wanted it. It had the look of GBD 9242 but was chunkier than normal. I have had the 9242 on my wish list for a long time and have missed many over the years on Ebay. But this one seemed to be under the radar. It was stamped SINA on the shank and the stem and France on the underside of the shank near the stem. It looked to be in rough shape in terms of cake and finish. The stem looked oxidized and the rubber bite guard looked positively ancient. I watched the pipe for several days and there was no action so I bid a low-ball bid on it. No one else bid until the last two hours. Then there was some hot action between one other bidder and myself. I threw the top price I was willing to pay for the pipe in and sat out the auction to see what would happen. I won the pipe and only had to wait to receive it. The seller sent it out on a Friday from New Jersey in the US and it arrived in Vancouver, Canada on Tuesday. I was very surprised when I came home to find that it was already here. The photos below are from the seller. They give an accurate portrayal of the condition of the pipe. The photos showed that the condition of the pipe was rough. The cake build up on the rim was like rock. The finish was worn and had hardened pieces of tobacco stuck to the finish. The outer edge of the rim was actually still in good shape and the bowl was still round. The inner edge looked to be fine under the grime. The double ring around the bowl was in fair shape with some small chipping on the bottom edge of the ring. It was minor and would definitely clean up. The grooves of the rings were filled with grit so that they were almost the same height as the rest of the bowl surface in some places on the pipe. There were some fills on the side of the bowl and shank but they were hard to see under the grime. The shank was dirty and the stem did not fit flush against it due to the buildup. The stamping was crisp and showed white paint on both the shank and the stem. There was an ancient fossilized rubber bit guard on the end of the stem so I was hoping that it had protected the stem from damage.
I did a bit of research to find out about the maker of the SINA pipe. I looked on Pipephil’s site and was able to find out that there was indeed a connection to GBD. The connection was with the French branch of GBD. From the screen capture above you can see the two links under the photo on the left. The first connects the pipe to the Marechal Ruchon & Co. factory that made GBD pipes. They eventually sold out to the Oppenheimer group. The French brand was also connected to C.J. Verguet Freres and to Sina & Cie which were sold to Oppenheimer in 1903-1904. In 1905-1906 Oppenheimer merged the two companies. The accompanying chart gives an overview of the twisted trail of the GBD brand and its mergers and sales. The chart also comes from the Pipephil site and was the second link under the above photo. Armed with that information I knew that the pipe was made before the 1905-1906 mergers. This also fits well with the thick hard rubber stem and the shape of the button and orific opening. The thick shank also fits well with the period as the 9242 shape thinned down considerably in the later years of manufacture. I really like the shape and style of this era of pipe history so this one would be a pleasure to clean up.
I started by cutting off the fossilized rubber bit guard. Underneath the stem was in fairly decent shape. There was a tooth indentation on the top and bottom of the stem next to the button but it was very shallow. The rubber of the stem was clean underneath behind the calcified line on the stem. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the smallest cutting head first and then working up to one that fit the bowl. I find that if I use this procedure I am less likely to damage the shape of the bowl and inner rim. The tarry buildup on the rim was impervious to Murphy’s Oil Soap or even saliva and a hard scrub. It was hard as rock. I sanded it lightly to see if I could remove the tar. It looked like that was the only way this stuff would be removed. I carefully sanded the bevel of the rim to remove the tars and clean it up. I wiped it down with oil soap after each sanding to make sure I was only removing the surface. I sanded the inner edge with a folded piece of sandpaper and reached down into the bowl with the sandpaper as well. I was able to remove the tar but there was some charring and darkening at the back inner edge of the rim that remained. I sanded it smooth but it is still visible in the photo below. I scrubbed out the shank which was absolutely filthy and smelled of sweet aromatic tobacco. The bowl itself also needed to be cleaned and I found that the back inside wall of the bowl around the entrance of the airway was damaged. It was pitted and the opening was very flared so I would need to use some pipe mud to repair that and reshape the opening. I used isopropyl alcohol 99%, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to clean out the shank. I mixed a batch of pipe mud – water and cigar ash to repair the inside of the bowl. I put a pipe cleaner in the shank with the tip showing in the bottom of the bowl and rebuilt the wall around the bottom of the bowl next to the airway. I used a dental spatula that Joyal sent to me and it worked perfect for pressing the pipe mud into place and packing it into the rough wall. I was able to reshape the airway so that the wall was smooth and clean. Once it was packed and cured for a short time I removed the pipe cleaner so that the air would move freely through the bowl and shank and allow the mud to cure. I wiped down the outside of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and tobacco bits from the finish of the bowl. I also scrubbed the hard rubber stem with the oil soap to remove the grime on it. The rubber was not too badly oxidized at all once the grime was gone. I find that this old rubber does not have the same trouble with oxidation as later vulcanite stems. The rim damage is visible in the photos below. I would need to do some more sanding on the surface to smooth it out and remove as much of the damage as possible without changing the shape of the rim bevel. With the bowl cleaned I set it aside to let the pipe mud cure and turned my attention to the stem. There was a unique stinger apparatus in the end of the tenon that looked like a mushroom cap on the end. It was black with tars and the draw on the stem was quite tight. I cleaned the stinger with alcohol on cotton pads and swabs and was able to remove the tarry buildup. It took quite a bit of scrubbing but I was also able to push a pipe cleaner through the stem and out the button. I had to guide it around the mushroom cap end but I cleaned it until the metal was shiny. Once it was clean I could see that it appeared to be pressure fit into the tenon and not threaded. I was not certain so I wrapped a cotton pad around the end and carefully turned it by hand until it popped free of the end. The photo below shows the insert clearly. It had to slits on the sides that could be spread open to make a tighter fit if necessary. The end of the tenon was quite open without the stinger. The insert end of the stinger gives some idea of the diameter of the airway. With the stinger out of the way I cleaned the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol until it was clean. I buffed the stem with red Tripoli and White Diamond and then sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I gave the stem a final buff with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I decided not to stain the pipe but rather to give a rubdown with olive oil and let it dry for several days. The photo below shows the pipe after it has been drying for several days. The rich dark reddish brown colour of the briar comes out nicely and the fill areas are well blended into the finish. I used a correction pen with white out to restore the white in the stamping on the left side of the shank and also on the stem. I applied the white out and then let it dry before rubbing it off with a cloth. I gave the bowl a coat of Danish Oil to protect the finish and give it a completed look. I applied the oil with a cotton pad and set it up to dry overnight. The pipe is shown in the photos below after the oil has dried.
My old camera is slowly dying so I am adjusting to a new camera. I had my daughter help me with the following photos. I like the overall look that the new camera delivers as it is truer in terms of colour and shine of the pipe. I am still learning the ropes with all the settings though. I took two series of photos for the finished pipe. The first series of five photos I used a flat white background to see how that would turn out. The last series of four photos I used the same green background I have used in the past. The photos against the green background actually give a truer picture of the colour of the pipe. Ah well still a lot to learn with this camera. The finished pipe is cleaned and ready to fire up with its inaugural bowl. The old soldier from the early 1900’s will once again feel the warmth of the fire and tobacco and the draw of a pipe man enjoying its feel in his hand. I think this weekend will be the time to enjoy a nice bowl of aged 5100 in this pipe.