Daily Archives: September 21, 2014

Holy Grail Upgrade – GBD 9438 Virgin

Blog by Al Jones

The GBD 9438 in Virgin grade was near the top of my “Holy Grail” list. two years ago, I found and restored one with a Perspex stem (that article is in the archives here). I prefer a Vulcanite stem and finally won an Ebay auction for a suitable example. My collecting strategy is that once a pipe from my list is acquired, to keep an eye out for a pipe in better condition. The pipe arrived in very good condition, with a few bumps in the briar and an oxidized stem. This restoration required two repairs I had not yet completed.

The pipe as received, show a lot of potential.


GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Before (1)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Before (2)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Before (3)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Before (6)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Before (5)

The tenon had a “bullet” shaped head, which is similar to another GBD in my collection, a Virgin 28D with a “Hand Cut” stamp on the stem. Unfortunately the stem on the 9438 does not have this stamp. The draft hole in the tenon was curiously very small, not like any GBD I had ever encountered. The opening was so small, a pipe cleaner could barely pass through. Testing the draft, there was no way that this would smoke well. It appeared as if something was in the standard hole. I explored carefully with a drill bit and discovered that the material was made of wood. It appeared that someone had inserted a wooden plug into the tenon and then drilled it. Fortunately, the wood piece came out easily and the pipe now passes a stem straight into the bowl. Here you can see the plug. I have no idea why someone would think that this was a good idea and I can’t imagine the pipe smoked well.

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Draft Hole

And the tenon with the plug removed.

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (9)

There were two creases in the otherwise unmarked briar. I thought they would come out with some steam. Using a heated kitchen knife and a piece of wet cloth, folded over four times, the creases came out nicely. Here you can see the before and after pictures. The steam lightens the briar somewhat, but buffed and waxed it comes right back.


GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Dents (1)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Dents (3)

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_Dents (2)

The bowl had only a very light cake, I’m guessing the pipe was put aside before much use. I soaked the bowl in some sea salt and alcohol. The stem was also soaked in a mild solution of Oxyclean with a dab of grease on the brass rondell. I buffed the bowl lightly with White Diamond and then several coats of Carnuba wax, carefully working away from the stamped nomenclature, which was in very good condition.

The stem had a very heavy coat of oxidation. I started with 800 grit wet paper, than worked up to 1000, 1500 and 2000. I then used the 8000 and 12000 grades of Micromesh. The stem was then buffed lightly with White Diamond rouge. Here is the pipe after using the 800 grit paper.

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_800 Stem

The few teeth scratches came out but the stem had an odd kink and not the standard graceful curve. I inserted a cleaner into the stem and warmed the vulcanite with heat from the flame of a propane torch. There is probably a less risky way to heat the vulcanite, but that is what I had in my shop. The stem was slowly moved back into it’s original position. I was tempted to let well enough alone, but I think the pipe looks much better with the correct stem bend.

GBD_9438_Virgin_Vul_800 Stem (1)

Below is the finished pipe. I’m very pleased with this Virgin 9438.  The wood is flawless and or a GBD, it has decent grain.


GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (2)

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (8)

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (3)

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (4)

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (5)

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (6)

GBD_9438_Vul_Finished (7)