Daily Archives: August 30, 2014

It’s All About The Aesthetics……. Isn’t It? – Alan Chestnutt

logo This article on Alan’s blog was one in which I was particularly interested. I had recently purchased and estate pipe that was advertised as carefully restored only to find that both the externals and the internals had not been truly cleaned. It seemed that the pipe had only received a good buff and polish and that was it for the cleanup and restoration. I found it irritating to say the least that I had purchased a pipe that cost me enough that it should have been cleaned and wasn’t but that the damage to the exterior had also not been dealt with. In this article Alan speaks about the methodology used at reborn briar to clean estate pipes. It also provides a check list for the hobbyist when he wants to clean up the estate pipes discovered on a pipe hunt. Thanks Alan. The original article can be read at http://estatepipes.co.uk/pipeshop/blog/its-all-about-the-aesthetics-isnt-it.html. Also be sure to check out other articles on the blog and visit Alan’s online shop.
259-1 The aesthetics of a restored estate pipe are an important factor. How the pipe looks on the outside is where most restorers concentrate their efforts. Especially if selling your pipes on the online marketplace, you will want the pipes to look good in photographs. These pictures are what the buyer sees, and will most likely base his opinion on whether to buy the pipe or not. I get tons of emails from satisfied customers after they receive their pipes about how good they look – that they are like a brand new pipe. But these are just external aesthetics, which is the easiest part to achieve

However, to me the most important part of any estate pipe restoration lies not in the external aesthetics, but in the internal functions, cleanliness and sterilisation of the pipe. This is the point that most pipe restorers miss. You have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty to accomplish this task properly. I am amazed at the number of so called restored estate pipes that I get in from eBay that look wonderful on the outside, but have had no attention paid to the inside of the pipe – and I have to start the cleaning process from scratch.

The following is how I prepare the inside of a pipe to make it pleasurable and safe for a new smoker.
The Stem: It is amazing the number of pipes I receive that seem to have never had a pipe cleaner put through the stem. I have had pipes where the stem is completely blocked with tar. When I soak the stem in a bath to soften any outside oxidation, this also helps to start to soften any internal tars. A final bath in hot water and soap helps this process along. The inside of the stem will first be scrubbed with bristle pipe cleaners, and then the stem sill receive a hot alcohol retort. This will help to soften any remaining stubborn tar in the stem. Continual scrubbing with both bristle and normal pipe cleaners using alcohol follows until they come out clean. Particular attention is given to the sides of the slot and any filter chambers, as these are the places where most tars gather. Finally the stem airway and slot is polished internally to allow for smooth transition of the smoke. This provides both a clean and sterilised mouthpiece to the pipe.

The Bowl Chamber: All excess cake and carbon are removed. If you are restoring one of your own pipes, it is advisable to leave a thin layer of cake inside. The cake in a pipe will retain the oils of the smoked tobaccos. As I don’t know what either the previous smoker or the new smoker’s preferred tobacco is, I do not want to leave any ghosting in the pipe which is why I remove all remnants of carbon. The inside of the bowl is then hand sanded with 600 grit wet and dry paper to leave a smooth finish. Removing all the cake also lets me examine the inside of the chamber for defects.
The Airway & Draft Hole:
Thick tars accumulate in the airway of a pipe, especially if they are not cleaned regularly after every smoke. I receive a number of pipes where the airway is completely blocked and wonder how the previous smoker was able to smoke the pipe at all. Pipes in this condition require the airway to be initially hand drilled using the correct size bit to remove this solid build up, as they will not even pass a pipe cleaner. After this the shanks are scrubbed with shank brushes and bristle pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. This will never entirely remove all the residue on the first clean. The bowl is then given a hot alcohol bath using our special process. This will soften any remaining residue and the airway is again scrubbed with shank brushes and pipe cleaners until normal pipe cleaners come out clean. Finally the bowl receives a final hot alcohol retort to leech out any remaining flavours and totally sanitise the pipe leaving it clean and fresh.

The Shank: To me this is the most vital area of cleaning, yet it is the most disregarded area by the majority of restorers. The shank gathers a cake like build up, especially between the end of the airway and tip of the tenon. Given that this build up is made up from a mixture of tobacco tars and juices, ash and human saliva – it is vital that this is removed before the pipe is passed on to a new smoker! No amount of rubbing with Q-tips and alcohol will remove this hardened build up. In fact the cotton tips may come out looking clean leading the restorer to think that the area is ready for use – wrong! We use a specially adapted tool to scrape out this cake like residue. The first attempt at this will not remove all remnants. Only after the pipe bowl has been given its initial special process hot alcohol bath, will this soften the remaining residue and the shank is scraped out again. The shank can now be scrubbed out with a shank brush and Q-tips dipped in alcohol until they come out clean. Finally the stummel will be given a hot alcohol retort which will remove any remaining oils and leave the pipe clean, fresh and sanitised. The picture shows a before and after shot of a recently restored 1906 Peterson Patent pipe, displaying what a properly restored shank should look like.

At Reborn Briar, we pride ourselves on both the appearance of our restored pipes and the attention to detail of the internal mechanics. Using our special processes means that you will receive a restored pipe that will smoke as clean and fresh as a new pipe and provide you with many years of smoking pleasure ahead.

Yello-Bole Spartan – A Brylon Pipe Restemmed and Restored

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted a box of pipe bowls and stems from Jim Wagner on Smoker’s Forums. It is a great to have this box of interesting old pipes. Jim, I sure appreciate the gift box and am enjoying looking at it and choosing what to do next. The first one that caught my eye was a Yello-Bole Spartan. From reading about them the Spartan was originally a briar pipe but this one was definitely not briar. It was synthetic for sure and brown like some of the older Bakelite pipes that I have picked up over the years. I knew though from the feel of it that I was dealing with a Brylon pipe. Many folks hate them because they say the burn hotter and are heavier than briar pipes. While that may well be true I still have an older Medico I picked up 32 years ago when my first daughter was born and have smoked it a lot since that time. Several years ago I put a long Church Warden stem on it and a brass ferrule and made it into a good-looking long pipe. I have smoked it long enough that it even has developed a cake and now smokes quite well. If I am mindful to not puff hard it stays relatively cool.

Knowing that it was a Brylon pipe made me want to do a bit of digging into the history of the material. I looked on the S.M. Frank website (http://www.smfrankcoinc.com/home/?page_id=2) and found the following information:

“In 1966, S. M. Frank developed a synthetic material called Brylon as a cheaper alternative to briar. The material, a high temperature resin mixed with wood flour, was cheaper than briar, more resistant to cracking, chipping, charring and burnouts. However to some there are some drawbacks, heavier in the mouth, hotter when smoked quickly, and also simply put, “wasn’t briar.” Millions of these pipes have been sold in the 3 decades since and continue to be part of the Yello-Bole and Medico lines. Two Brylon lines in Kaywoodie, Marmont and Impulse, were briefly tried and abandoned in the late 80′s.”

I know that Brylon has a bad name among pipemen and gets a lot of disparaging comments whenever it is brought up on the pipe forums. However, pipes are still being made and sold so there must be some enduing quality. Maybe it is the indestructibility of the pipe. Perhaps we will never know what attracts folks to them. But I have one in my hand that needs work and I am loath to pass up the opportunity to learn from the process of rejuvenating this old pipe.

As usual reading the history of the material helped to give me a clearer picture of the pipe that I was working on this time. It also gave me some background on another Brylon pipe that I have in my collection. I bought that Brylon new at a 7-Eleven convenience store along with a pouch of Borkum Riff the day my oldest daughter was born. It was a delicate billiard and attracted me that early morning in 1982. I have smoked it enough that it has developed a good cake and finally smokes very cool. A few years back I restemmed it with a long Church Warden Stem and banded it with a brass ferrule to liven it up a bit. The finish was worn to I polished it. I still smoke that old Brylon and enjoy it.

However, back to the Brylon pipe at hand. This bowl was an unusual shape and one that I had not seen before. It was smoked but clean. There was the beginning of a cake in the bowl so it would soon be a cool smoker as well. It was without a stem so I found one in my stem can with a slight bend that had the same diameter as the shank and sanded the tenon by hand with 220 grit sandpaper until it was a snug fit in the shank. It looked good on the pipe but there was still something missing when I sat back and looked at the pipe. I thought maybe a bit of bling would do the trick so I went through my nickel bands and found one that was the perfect size to press on the shank and not cover the stamping on the left side.

I heated the band with a lighter and then pressed it into place on the shank. Heating the band causes it to expand and slide on to the shank while it is still hot. Once the band cools it contracts and the fit is tight unmovable. I used a sharp knife to bevel the inside edge of the mortise to accommodate the new stem solidly against the end of the shank. IMG_8222 IMG_8226 IMG_8225 IMG_8223 The stem was one that I repurposed from another pipe and it looked like it belonged on the Spartan in my opinion. The slight bend looked good with the shape of this Brylon Spartan. The stem was oxidized and dirty but did not have any tooth marks of gouges. Once I had the pipe banded I pushed the stem into place and took the photos below. IMG_8228 IMG_8231 IMG_8230 IMG_8229 I removed the stem and sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper followed by a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. For me this step always cleans up the stem and allows me to deal with subtle reshaping of the stem. In this case the reshaping was minimal but I did some work on the underside to give it more of an arc than originally was present. I sanded until the scratches and oxidation was removed from the stem. It was clean and the flow and angles were what I was looking for. Then I sanded with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three micromesh pads. Since Brylon is plastic like I decided to also sand the Brylon bowl to remove some of the scratches and smooth out one small nick in the surface of the bowl. Each successive grit of micromesh gave the finish a deeper shine and the contrasts in the Brylon surface began to stand out. IMG_8240 IMG_8243 IMG_8241 When I had finished sanding the bowl and the stem I buffed them with White Diamond and then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I polished it with a soft flannel buff to give a shine. In retrospect, I think that Brylon must be pretty indestructible and I figure I could have just thrown the pipe in the dishwasher to sanitize it. I am sure it would not have caused the least bit of damage. The finished pipe is shown below. It is cleaned, has a light cake and is ready to be fired up with an inaugural smoke. Who knows I might even like it enough to keep it around as a yard pipe. IMG_1677 IMG_1683 IMG_1682 IMG_1678