Daily Archives: November 8, 2014

Restoring a Diamond Shank Bent – Andrew Selking

Blog by Andrew Selking

I have been following Andrew’s refurbishing work on Pipe Smoker Unlimited Forum for quite some time now and decided it was time to ask him if he would be willing to write some of his work up with photos for the blog. I sent him a message and he responded that he was glad to do so. I am happy to be able to present him to the readers here. He has been doing some great work in restoring pipes and has some great adaptations and innovations in terms of tools and equipment used to restore pipes. Besides he also takes amazing photos compared to me! Thanks Andrew for being willing to write for us here. So without further words from me I turn it over to Andrew.

It was a great honor when Steve asked me to write up a restoration for his blog. This pipe came in a lot of three. It’s a very chunky, diamond shank pipe marked Made in London England. It has a couple large fills near the end of the shank, one on the bottom of the bowl, and one on the rim. It also has an amazing feel in your hand and some very pretty cross grain. I decided to do this one for myself.

The first thing I do with all of my pipes is soak the bowl in isopropyl alcohol, usually for at least 24 hours. This serves multiple purpose; loosens the gunk inside the pipe (especially in the shank), makes the cake easier to remove, and usually takes of the exterior finish and softens any fills. Here is the bowl taking a bath.Sel1While the bowl marinated, I soaked the stem in a solution of hot water and Oxyclean. After sitting for several hours, I rinsed the stem under running water, this removes some of the oxidation. Next I took a pipe cleaner and used the Oxyclean solution to remove the built up tar and tobacco from inside the stem.Sel2 Sel3 I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. In the case of this pipe, the alcohol was not enough to remove all of the finish. When this happens, I use 0000 steel wool soaked in acetone. The steel wool is fine enough that it doesn’t damage the stampings on the shank, but aggressive enough to make short work of any remaining finish.Sel4Next I turned my attention to the bowl. I use a Castleford reamer (available on eBay for around $20.00) to remove the cake.Sel5I usually go down to the wood. I’ve found it’s better to use a reamer that is slightly smaller than the inside of the bowl to prevent damage to the wood.

Next I worked on the shank. I have some small brushes that I bought in the baby section at Walmart (normal people use them to clean baby bottles, but I find they work great for the shank of a pipe).Sel6 Sel7 Although the brush gets most of the gunk out, I use a retort to really clean the inside of the shank and the stem. I started using this method when I couldn’t fit the end of the rubber tube over the wide button on a pipe. The tenon was a perfect fit and the tube also fits perfectly into the shank. This saves a lot of time and pipe cleaners. After doing the retort, I run one pipe cleaner through the stem and a pipe cleaner and q-tip through the shank and it’s done.Sel8 Sel9 Sel10 Now that the inside of the pipe is clean, it’s time to start working on the outside.Sel11 For the stem, I used 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper with water. This gets the majority of the oxidation out, the wet sand paper also makes it easier to get the underside of the button. Next I used micro-mesh pads (1500-2400 grit) with water.Sel12 I wiped the stem dry and turned my attention to the bowl. I used a progression of micromesh pads, 1500-12000 grit. I also used the same progression on the stem.Sel13 Now the pipe was ready for stain. This next part might be kind of controversial (I have never seen this method anywhere else). I use shoe polish for stain. Now before you dismiss this as crazy talk, consider this. It is very simple. I apply the polish, heat it with a heat gun, and buff it out with a shoe brush. I also protect the finish with carnauba wax and have never had any issues with the polish melting or coming off in my hand.Sel14 Polish applied.Sel15 After melting with the heat gun and buffing with a shoe brush.Sel16 It is also very simple to even out the stain.Sel17Next up the heart breaker (also known as the buffing wheel). This little gem makes the difference between a really nice application of carnauba wax and an average looking pipe. It will also grab what you’re working on and fling it to the four winds and shatter the pipe you’ve just spent the last few hours working on. Hold what you’re working on with both hands, place as much padding as you can under and behind the buffer, and work on the stem and bowl separately. Sorry about the quality of the picture.Sel18 I didn’t lose the pipe to the buffer and here’s the results.Sel19 Sel20 Sel21 Sel22 Sel23 Sel24 Sel25 I anticipate that this pipe will pass on to my kids, or be part of the estate sale. I can’t wait to smoke it.

Chris Askwith “Hand Finished”

Blog by Al Jones

I have admired the work of British pipe artisan, Chris Askwith work for some time now.  He recently released a new line called “Hand Finished” pipes, at very reasonable prices.   This new line came up on a SmokersForum.uk thread and this bent Billiard caught my eye.  It had that classic British profile that I love.

I’ve had the pipe for about six weeks not and thought that I would share my observations.

Chris makes the “Hand Finished” line from a stock of old English briar. The stem material varies, and this one is vulcanite.  This was also from some old German stock that he found. The stem fitment is perfect.  The slim, fish-tail button, is sublime and just to my liking.  The shape and feel is similar my older Sasieni pipes.  The stem has a great mouth feel and Chris reports it doesn’t oxidize in use (one concern that I had).  I find the blast work and stain to be very appealing.

I was a little concerned as the pipe will not pass a cleaner. As I suspected, Chris said the strummels were pre-drilled, so he had to work within those shaping confines. I am happy to report, that after two smokes, the pipe was dry as a bone and cool. The wall thickness is also just to my preference.

Chris uses a bowl coating, but I found it to be flavor neutral and the pipe broke in almost immediately.  This is my second new pipe purchased this year with a  bowl coating.  I now consider myself a fan of bowl coatings, if they are created in this manner.

Ordering was smooth and easily completed via email. It was pleasant to have some interaction with the maker.   In email communications, Chris tells me that he is still learning to work with this supply of strummels and was appreciative of my feedback.

I’ve been smoking this pipe fairly regularly (2/3 times per week) and it is quickly becoming a favorite.  I had it with me at the recent Richmond CORPS show and several pipe club meetings.  The folks I’ve shown it to seemed impressed.  In fact, this pipe seems to end up in my bag for the various pipe club nights I attend.  The draw is open, but it is not fussy about the way it needs to be packed.   Typically, a bowl is a one match affair with no moisture, so a cleaner is not required.  The way it smokes, the shape and weight all conspire to make a pipe that really works for my needs.  This pipe has definitely whetted my appetite for a future Chris Askwith “Hand Made” pipe.

Chris_Askwith_Hand-Finished_Gallery Chris_Askwith_Hand-Finished (4) Chris_Askwith_Hand-Finished (3) Chris_Askwith_Hand-Finished (6) Chris_Askwith_Hand-Finished (5)

Rode Hard Put Away Wet – A Tired Julius Vesz shape 31 Zulu/Canted Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

When I walked by the display case in the antique mall and saw the classic Vesz finish and the O logo on the stem I knew I was looking at one of Julius’ pipes. It was in very rough shape. The stem was covered on the topside and underside from the button forward for about an inch with a lot of dents and bite marks. On the topside there was a bite through – not large, more of a pinhole sized hole. There was also a lot of calcified buildup on the stem. The stem was over bent and the flat bottom of the bowl and shank did not rest on the desk top when laid down. The stem arch kept it from happening. The button and crease had were also worn. The rest of the stem was oxidized. The bowl finish was dirty and worn with white paint spots on the bowl. The stem was very tight and hard to remove but when I did remove it the tars on the end of the tenon were thick. The inside of the stem was so filled that the airway was virtually clogged. The slot on the end of the stem was plugged but for a hole the size of a pencil lead.Vesz1 Vesz2 The rim was damaged and worn from tapping it out on hard surfaces. There were large dents and worn areas. The inner edge was blackened and on first glance looked to have burned damage. It was hard to tell for sure but it also looked to be slightly out of round due to the damage to the inside edge. The bowl was heavily caked with a concrete like carbon build up. I tried to ream it and found it too hard to cut as it stood. The inside of the shank had heavy carbon and tar buildup.Vesz3 The pipe is stamped on the flattened bottom of the shank. Toward the front of the bowl it is stamped Circle 3 which denotes the price point of the pipes. Julius stamped them 1-6 to denote the price. That is followed by the shape number – in this case 31. The final stamping is Julius Vesz over Hand Made.Vesz4 To soften the concrete like cake so that I could ream it more easily without damaging the briar I put the bowl into an alcohol bath to soak for a while. I also wanted to remove the grime from the rustication on the bowl and the soak would facilitate that.Vesz5 While the bowl soaked I worked on the stem. I cleaned the inside of the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I also sanded the calcification with 180 grit sandpaper and 220 grit sandpaper to remove the build up from the surface of the stem. The tooth marks are very evident in the photos below.Vesz6 Vesz7 I took the bowl out of the alcohol bath to ream it and found that indeed the alcohol had softened the cake enough to make reaming a very easy task. I reamed it with a PipNet reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working up to the size of the diameter of the bowl.Vesz8 I topped the bowl and removed the damaged surface of the rim. I set up a topping board and used 220 grit sandpaper to gently and carefully remove the damage. I sanded the bowl in a circular pattern on the board as I find that doing so does not leave as deep scratches in the finish. Once I had removed the damage I could see the state of the inner edge of the rim. It had some darkening but it was still solid. There were no deep burned areas that needed to be removed.Vesz9 Vesz10 Vesz11 I set up a heat gun and heated the bent stem to reduce the bend to a point where the pipe would sit up right on the flat bottom of the shank and bowl. I also heated the tooth dents to raise them as much as possible before I sanded them.Vesz12 Vesz13 Once the stem was heated and flexible I inserted it in the shank and pressed down on the bend to adjust the bend to allow the bowl to sit without falling over. The tooth marks did lift quite a bit and are visible in the last two photos of the foursome below.Vesz14 Vesz15 Vesz16 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to clean up the dents as much as possible. The surface needed to be cleaned and prepped for the work of filling the dents with black super glue. I washed down the dents with alcohol to remove the sanding dust. I filled the holes and built up the dents in the button lip with black super glue until they were overfilled, then sprayed them with the accelerator to harden the glue. I sanded the fills with 180 grit sandpaper and then with 220 grit sandpaper to begin the process of smoothing them and blending them into the surface of the vulcanite.Vesz17 Vesz18 I continued to sand with the 220 grit sandpaper to shape the crease and the button as well as the surface of the patches until they were at the same level as the surface of the stem.Vesz19 Vesz20 I sanded the stem after that with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to further blend it into the stem surface. It took a lot of sanding to blend it into the surrounding vulcanite.Vesz21 Vesz22Vesz23 Vesz24 I rubbed down the stem with Obsidian Oil to make the scratches and trouble areas very visible. I also rubbed down the bowl with olive oil and wiped it off and set it aside overnight to let the oil be absorbed into the wood. In the morning I took the following set of two photos to show the state of the pipe when I began to do the finishing work on it. Vesz25 Vesz26 I sanded the stem with fine grit sanding sponges to clean it up further and remove the deeper scratches. I then sanded it 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. I finished the stem work by buffing the stem with White Diamond on the wheel to finish the polish. I gave it several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff to raise the shine.Vesz27 Vesz28 Vesz29 Vesz30 Vesz31 The bowl had a heavy ghosting of aromatics – it was overwhelming and no matter how many times I cleaned it the smell remained. I filled the bowl with cotton balls, pressed them down and then filled the bowl with isopropyl alcohol with an ear syringe until the cotton was soaked. I set the pipe bowl in an old ice-cube tray that holds it upright and let the alcohol and cotton do their work to pull out the oils from the briar and sweeten it. I have moved more and more toward using cotton instead of coarse salt. It seems to work just as well and is less of a mess in the clean up stage.Vesz32 I let the pipe sit with the alcohol and cotton balls for about three hours. The photo below shows the oils that were drawn out of the bowl. The cotton turned a yellow-brown and was almost dry.Vesz33 I took the cotton balls out of the bowl and cleaned the shank and bowl with pipe cleaners. I put the stem back in place on the pipe and gave the pipe a hand polish with some Halcyon II Wax. I hand buffed it with a shoe brush to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. The look and feel of the pipe is far better than when I started. The repairs to the stem and button worked well and blended in nicely to the stem. The topping of the bowl removed the damaged portion and the blackening of the inner edge of the rim is merely a character trait. This is one that will stay in my collection. It smells sweet and is ready to smoke.Vesz34 Vesz35 Vesz36 Vesz37