Daily Archives: November 16, 2014

Restoring a 1935 Dunhill Shell – Andrew Selking

Blog by Andrew Selking

This is my second Dunhill Shell, but like everything it has been a learning experience. I saw this orphan about to expire on eBay without a single bid. As they say, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I knew that it was a desirable patent-era Shell and from the markings it was made in 1935. I should have taken the time to look at a Dunhill shape chart, this pipe had been seriously topped. The good news is, I didn’t pay too much for it and it’s a handy little pipe, 4 15/16 inches long and .7 of an ounce! No wonder the stem didn’t have any tooth marks.

So here’s what the pipe looked like before the restoration.Dun1


Dun3 The one thing that I really like about the Dunhill Shell pipes is the finish. The combination of deep reddish brown and darker brown/black is very pleasing to look at. That is why I treat rough finish pipes (rusticated, blast, fine line) differently than smooth finish pipes. I took a tip from Steve and use Murphy’s Oil Soap, which is made from vegetable oils and specifically formulated for wood. I took a small amount of the soap and applied it directly with a toothbrush.Dun4

Dun5 As you can see the Murphy’s Oil Soap did remove some of the finish, but not nearly as much as the alcohol bath would have. The soap also removed the decades of accumulated grime. If you don’t take care to clean the outside of the pipe no amount of wax will make it shine.Dun6

Dun7 My next step was to start the stem soaking in Oxyclean and soak the bowl with denatured alcohol. I packed the bowl with cotton balls, plugged the shank with some rolled up paper towel, and used an eye dropper to soak the cotton.Dun8 After the cake loosened up, I reamed the bowl. This bowl is huge, I used my two largest reaming heads to clean it out.Instead of doing the retort multiple times, I used q-tips dipped in denatured alcohol followed by pipe cleaners. (I don’t technically use pipe cleaners. I use “fuzzy sticks”. That’s the innocuous name given to pipe cleaners used for crafts.) To maximize each cleaner, I used scissors to cut the dirty section off. As you can see I ended up with a decent size pile of q-tips and fuzzy sticks.Dun12 Next I turned my attention to the stem. I did the retort first, then used pipe cleaners to finish the job. Fortunately since the stem is so short, it didn’t take long to clean. You will notice that I packed some paper towel into the end of the stem. Occasionally when you use the retort, the alcohol will boil over and spray everywhere. That does not endear you or your eccentric hobbies to your significant other, especially when the resulting mess makes the wall look like a Jackson Pollock painting.Dun13


Dun15 I usually take extra time on stems as nice as this one. Instead of using 400 grit wet/dry I started out with 1000 grit wet/dry and water. It takes longer, but the last thing I want to do is change the profile of the stem or damage any of the details by using a lower grit sand paper. After the 1000 grit I used 1500-2400 grit micro mesh pads with water.Dun16 While the stem dried, I began the staining/waxing process. In an attempt to replicate the Dunhill finish, I used the brown shoe polish followed by a thin layer of black shoe polish. The heat gun helps melt the wax so that it gets into all of the crevices and the brush brings out a nice shine.Dun17


Dun19 Here is what the bowl looked like after the application of the second coat of wax and buffing with the brush.Dun20



Dun23 Since shoe polish is a soft wax, I protect all of my rough finish pips with Halcyon II wax. I applied the wax with my finger tip (a little goes a long way) and let it dry for about 10 minutes. After the wax dried, I buffed it out with a soft cloth and applied a second coat. (The pipe cleaner is so I can hang the bowl up to dry.)Dun24 Finally I finished sanding the stem, using a progression of micro mesh pads from 3200-12000 grit followed by a quick spin on the buffing wheel with some carnauba wax.Dun25 Here is the finished pipe.Dun26






Converting an Old Briar Bowl to fit a Kirsten

Blog by Steve Laug

After I finished fitting the old Maplewood bowl for my son-in-law’s Kirsten I took another bowl from my pipe parts box. This was another old bowl with the airway drilled on the bottom of the bowl and having a nipple fitting. This bowl came from part of an old hookah type set up. I had picked it up in the same bag of parts as the maple bowl. It had a rubber fitting that the bowl sat in and a glass pipette that extended from the bottom of the fitting. I removed the bowl from the rubber and then stripped it with acetone on a cotton pad and wiped it down until the finish was gone. I sanded the surface of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remnants of the finish.Kir1 There were also fills in the bowl on two sides. Some of them had shrunken and needed to be refilled. I sanded the surface to clean up around the fills. I filled them with super glue and briar dust and sanded them flush against the surface of the bowl.Kir2

Kir3 The underside of the bowl also had several fills. The nipple actually was not part of the briar bowl but was made out of maple. It was inserted in the bottom of the bowl. I wiped it clean to show the connections. I also topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface.Kir4


Kir6 I used a hacksaw to cut the nipple off the bottom of the bowl. Once I had the wood portion of the nipple cut all the way through it came off the bowl. In the middle was a brass tube that ran the length of the nipple and went into the bottom of the bowl where it was flared against the inside bottom. I used a small hammer to drive the tube into the bowl.Kir7

Kir8 When I had removed the tube I sanded the bottom of the bowl to smooth out the surface. Once it was clean I could see that the maple was inset into the bottom of the bowl. It is distinguishable in that it is white in the photos below. On one side of the white maple insert were two flaws in the briar that had originally been filled. One of the fills fell out of the bowl bottom when I drove out the metal tube.Kir9 I drilled the airway in the bottom of the bowl larger with a drill bit the same size as the metal bottom cap that is part of the Kirsten bowl system. The cap would sit in the hole and a drilled screw would be inserted into the cap from inside the bowl. When I drilled out the hole the maple insert came out of the bottom. It left an inset area on the bottom that would be removed when I sanded the bottom of the bowl for the cap to sit flush against the bottom.Kir10 I used super glue and briar dust to repair the two flaws in the bottom of the bowl. I dripped the glue into the holes and then pushed super glue into the flaws with a dental pick.Kir11 I sanded the bottom of the bowl with a Dremel and sanding drum to shape the bottom edges of the bowl to fit on the Kirsten shank. I sanded the bottom edges of the bowl at a sharper angle to give it a more defined shape.Kir12

Kir13 I used the Dremel and sanding drum to deepen the bottom of the bowl and give the internal screw a flat surface to seat against. I also used a PipNet reamer with the largest cutting head to flatten out the bottom of the bowl and smooth out the surface. Once it was smooth I inserted the screw into the bowl bottom and threaded it onto the bottom cap. Once I had the cap inserted and tightened with a Philips screwdriver I screwed it onto the Kirsten shank. The next four photos show the newly shaped cauldron bowl on the Kirsten.Kir14



Kir17 I took the cap and screw off the bowl and wiped it down a final time before staining it with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied the stain and then flamed it to set it in the briar. I restained and reflamed it until the coverage was even.Kir18


Kir20 I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli and White Diamond to polish the stain and give it a shine. In doing so the fills were highlighted. I used a permanent marker to cover the fills and then gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff. I put the cap and screw in place and tightened it down. The photos below show the finished bowl.Kir21





Kir26 I buffed the bowl with several new coats of carnauba wax and polished it to a shine with a soft flannel buffing pad. The finished cauldron bowl is shown in place on the pipe below. It looks really good on the Kirsten stem. It provides a second bowl for one of my other Kirsten pipes. I like the overall look of the piece and it is great to have a repurposed bowl to use. I look forward to loading it up and giving it an inaugural smoke.Kir27