Daily Archives: December 10, 2014

The Resurrection of an old KBB Yello-Bole Premier Panel

Blog by Steve Laug

In a recent trade with Andrew Selking I received an older KBB Yello Bole Paneled billiard. When I removed it from the box there was something about the older KBB Panel that grabbed my attention. It was stamped on the left side of the shank with the familiar KBB logo and the Yello-Bole next to it. Underneath that it bore the stamp Reg. US Pat. Off. Directly below that was stamped Premier over Cured with Real Honey. The pipe had been repaired at some time in its ragged existence with what appeared to be a homemade repair job. The tenon had broken somewhere along the line and a previous owner had drilled out the stem and used a piece of stainless steel tubing to make a new tenon. The metal tenon was stuck in the shank of the pipe and the stem just sat loosely on it. The fit of the stem to the shank was off with the stem sitting high and to the right. The previous owner had tried to compensate for the off centered stem by sanding flat spots on the stem sides and bottom that broke the smooth lines of the square shank and stem. There were two small hairline cracks on the shank – top right and bottom left that would need to be repaired once the tenon was removed. The bowl was out of round with damage to the inner edge of the rim and a tarry build-up on the surface. The outer edge rim crown of the bowl was also compromised and would need some work. The stem was not too badly oxidized but it had tooth marks on the top and bottom near the button.YB1


YB3 Background Information
I wrote about the history of the KBB stamped Yello-Bole Pipes. The following link will give you the details: https://rebornpipes.com/2014/07/21/renewing-an-old-kbb-yello-bole-honey-cured-briar-billiard/
Yello-Bole pipes are one of my favorite older US brands doing the research would be enjoyable. As with other early brands made in the states I have found that older is better. A KBB in a cloverleaf stamp will date them back to the ’30’s. I have found through my reading that the 4 digit shape numbers are older than 2 digit ones. The pipes with the logo on top of the stem are older than ones that have them on the side. That is just some of the information that I found with a cursory read through the forums and a variety of websites.

The SM Frank website http://www.smfrankcoinc.com/home/?page_id=2 gives a wealth of historical information on Kaywoodies, Yello-Boles and the merger between KBB and SM Frank and later Demuth. It was a great read and I would encourage others to give the website a read. I also wanted to find some help in dating my old Yello-Bole Pipes and I came across this link to the Kaywoodie Forum: http://kaywoodie.myfreeforum.org/archive/dating-yello-bole-pipes__o_t__t_86.html . I am including some of the information I found there as it gives the only information that I found in my hunt to this point.
“…there isn’t a lot of dating information for Yello-Bole pipes but here is what I have learned so far.

– If it has the KBB stamped in the clover leaf it was made 1955 or earlier as they stopped the stamping after being acquired by S.M. Frank.
– From 1933-1936 they were stamped Honey Cured Briar.
– Pipes stems stamped with the propeller logo they were made in the 30s or 40s no propellers were used after the 40s.
– Yello-Bole also used a 4 digit code stamped on the pipe in the 30s.
– If the pipe had the Yello-Bole circle stamped on the shank it was made in the 30s this stopped after 1939.
– If the pipe was stamped BRUYERE rather than briar it was made in the 30s.”
Given the above information I discovered that the pipe I was working on was made sometime between 1930 and 1940. Thus it was an early Yello-Bole from the 1930s or 40s.

Restoration Process

I took the stem off the bowl and tried to remove the inserted metal tenon. It was firmly stuck in place and I could not move it even with pliers. I put the bowl in the freezer overnight hoping that the cold would contract the metal and briar differently (as is the case with the varied material and density). In the morning I took it out of the freezer and was able to turn the tenon out of the shank with pliers. Once it was removed it was clear to see that it had not been glued in the shank but merely stuck with the tars and oils of the tobacco in the shank.YB4 I found a threaded Delrin tenon in my box of tenon parts and it was a workable replacement for the metal tenon. I tapped the drilled out hole in the stem and screwed the threaded tenon into the hole. It was a perfect fit. I removed it once again and put some glue on the threads and screwed it into place and let the glue set. The diameter of the tenon would need to be adjusted as it was too big for the mortise. This was actually ideal in that I would be able to adjust the fit against the shank on the sides and the top. The bottom of the shank would take work to make a smooth transition.YB5





YB10 I sanded the tenon with a Dremel and sanding drum to remove the excess Delrin. I hand sanded it with 180 grit and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out and fine tune the fit. I spread the hairline cracks with a dental pick and dripped superglue along the cracks and pressed them together until the glue set.YB11 The stem fit in the shank nicely. The photos below show the damage that had been done to the stem in the previous repair. It is especially visible in the photos of the pipe from the side and the bottom. The stem had been modified to the misfit of the previous tenon so work would need to be done to realign the fit against the end of the shank.YB12





YB17 I sanded the bottom, top and right side of the shank until the transition between the briar and the vulcanite was smooth. The left side was touchier in that I did not want to damage the stamping. I sanded this area while covering the stamping. The trick was to smooth out the transition without making a drastic dip in the briar – it just needed to be re-tapered until it flowed naturally into the stem. Sanding the top of the stem also took care as it had the insert of the white propeller. Too much sanding on the top would damage and compromise the insert. The photos below show the newly sanded and tapered shank/stem. I sanded with 220 grit sandpaper, medium and fine grit sanding sponges and a fine grit sanding block. I sanded the rim and curves of the rim with the same sandpapers. I folded a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and worked on the out of round bowl to clean it up as much as possible.YB18



YB21 I wiped the bowl and shank down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the finish from the bowl.YB22



YB25 I cleaned out the bowl and shank with isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I cleaned out the stem as well at the same time. I sanded the bite marks on the top and bottom of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the damage and remove the tooth chatter. There were still some tooth marks that needed to be repaired.YB26




YB30 I scrubbed the areas around the bite marks with alcohol to clean the sanding dust and grit from around them. I then used black superglue to fill the bite marks and sprayed it with and activator/accelerator to harden it.YB31



YB34 When it dried I sanded the filled areas with 220 grit sandpaper to level them out with the surface of the stem. I sanded the stem with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge and a fine grit sanding block to further blend the patches into the stem surface. In the next two photos the patches are blended into the stem but the blackness of the super glue and the blackness of the unpolished stem do not match so they show up as spots on the stem.YB35

YB36 I stained the bowl and shank with a medium brown aniline stain thinned 50/50 with isopropyl alcohol. I wanted a medium brown wash to highlight the grain and show contrast in the finish. The wash provided just what I was looking for.YB37




YB41 I sanded the stem further with fine grit sanding blocks and also sanded the flat areas on the transition between the shank and stem to work towards a more seamless look. The next photos show the smooth transition and the smooth stem. The patches are fading more into the vulcanite of the stem as well at this point in the process.YB42

YB43 I moved on to sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed down the stem between each set of three pads with Obsidian Oil and then continued sanding. I have found that sanding the stem while the oil is freshly applied allows the grit on the pads to cut into the finish and raise a shine.YB44


YB46The next two photos show the finished stem. After the final sanding I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and let it soak in before polishing it with the buffer. I gave it several coats of carnauba wax. The patches on the stem by this point are fully blended into the vulcanite and cannot be identified.YB47

YB48 The next photo shows the reworked inner edge of the rim to show my repairs on the out of round bowl. I sanded until it was as close to round as I could get it by hand. I bevelled the inner edge of the bowl with the sandpaper to make the transition smooth.YB49 The finished pipe is shown below. Thanks to Andrew for sending me this challenge. I really enjoyed bringing this old timer back to life. It will occupy a special spot in my older American pipe maker collection and join my other KBB Yello-Boles as favourites that I enjoy smoking. I buffed it with White Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and finished by buffing it with a soft flannel buffing pad to raise the shine. All that remains is to sit back and enjoy a bowl of an aged Virginia tobacco and read a good story!YB50




In Retort to Claims of Unclean Restored Pipes – Robert M. Boughton

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author

“A thick skin is a gift from God.” —Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967), first Chancellor of West Germany

During the course of my serious restorations, and by that I mean the short period of time since I created an online store with the primary goal of selling estate pipes I repair, direct feedback from my local customers has been 100% positive. That, of course, is always gratifying, and I did appreciate it.But those who have read my previous blogs know I am not in the business to be gratified by elliptical, kind words of others. The real motivation is my love of all things tobacco-related and in particular returning a well-used or even battered pipe to its original beauty, or as close as I can come.But being somewhat more thick-skinned than most folks (if everyone grew up in my dysfunctional household, the whole world would have my hide), I always prefer the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God. That last phrase might better be read, God help me.

In the last couple of months, you see, word has reached me of an alleged problem with the cleanliness of pipes I sold. Now, don’t get me wrong. I only use the word alleged because, having as thick of a head as my dermis and consequent confidence in my work with pipes or on any other subject for that matter, until proven wrong, my impulse was to resist the claim. The problem was that I was not hearing any complaints from customers. Such forthright criticisms might have been disappointing, but being constructive would have been treated as any direct reports: with the professionalism I apply to the daily conduct of my business.

The most unpleasant part of this experience, which as I mentioned went on (and on and on) for a couple of months, was that the feedback I kept getting was not from any friends or fellow pipe club members to whom I sold pipes, but instead from my good friend and mentor, Chuck Richards, who, to my great surprise and initial sadness, was the only person my customers, without exception, seemed to trust with such vital information.

Thus I received the first “word” that I needed to be more careful cleaning my pipes. I can tell you, my pipes almost cleaned themselves when that was all Chuck could say before he was distracted and had to tend to something, giving me just enough time to become more than a tad miffed. Being familiar with Chuck’s occasional terseness, I knew he was only passing on the information and had my interests at heart. Still, my breath grew short, and the heat rose under my collar. Soon enough, I got more details, including the first name of the customer, which I didn’t recognize, and then a description of the pipe – a Londoner black rusticated bent bulldog – that I connected right away to a different first name because I had bent a rule by accepting his check. I realized he went by his second name.Robert1 Yes, I recalled the pipe and its delighted new owner, when he bought it, with clarity. The nice, rough little black bulldog was one of the few I took from my private collection, having enjoyed it for a while and then allowed it to fall back into a corner, unused and not of particular interest to my personal tastes. Could I have forgotten to clean it? The possibility existed, and although I wanted to remember following my usual routine of cleaning and sanitizing the pipe, I had no blog on which to fall back and check since it was in good condition when I decided to sell it for my growing business and dwindling selection.

Therefore, I explained this scenario to Chuck, and, having the address of the nice older gentleman who had purchased it, went to my bank for a cashier’s cheque in full refund and put it in the mail with a letter of sincere apology. I wrote that I also wished for him to keep the pipe and offered a 20% discount on his next purchase should he choose to give me a second chance. I even asked Chuck, who lived in the same neighborhood and was friends with the man, to tell him not to return the refund, as I knew where he banked and would only deposit it myself.

And so I thought the issue settled – but no. Word of my well-restored pipes with unclean shanks kept coming in, via Chuck. I think it is understandable that my mood simmered until, in time, the situation boiled over. When at last, one afternoon at the tobacconist’s, I grew so heated that I broke out in a sweat, I regret to admit I snapped at Chuck, the only person with the nerve to tell me to my face that a problem indeed appeared to exist. Of course, Chuck was only going by the words of others, but enough instances of the same complaint from a sufficient number of witnesses would convince almost anyone.

“I’m just telling you what I’ve been hearing, and not from one or two people but a good number now,” he said, and the grin, which had never left his face during my account of how many bristly cleaners soaked in Everclear I average per pipe until they come out clean, broke into his full gale force smile. I have always been, was then and suspect I ever will be defenseless against that wonderful expression of delighted amusement. It was, indeed, the best retort to my argument he could have made.
Robert2And that is how Chuck came to explain to me the relative inefficacy of bristles versus the boiled alcohol retort method that he had demonstrated to our pipe group a couple of years ago before I would have even thought of taking notes.

But enough of all that. This blog also concerns the restoration of a Kaywoodie Signet Bent Billiard, including a validation of the retort method by Chuck on the pipe I had thought was finished. I will describe and illustrate that process when the time arrives.

I started this restoration under the impression that it would be just a typical exercise on a better than average estate pipe I bought, with the rim and chamber seeming to be the greatest challenges, except that the other problems (some minor scratches that disappeared with 1500-grade micromesh and deeper blemishes I fixed with high-grit sandpaper) were far fewer than usual.Robert3




Robert7 I bought a new Castleford five-piece reamer set (with a T-handle and four attachable reamers ranging from 17-23mm) to see if it might be up to filling the boots of my old Senior Reamer, which fell in action during a restoration I blogged not long ago. Choosing the 17mm reamer, I went to work at a slower than usual pace to test the tool that was new to me, and seeing it worked quite well, I finished its part on the chamber.

Then I switched to 220-grit paper and sanded the inner wood to a smoothness relative to the mess it was in when I began, tamped out most of the remaining carbon, blew through the shank to clear some of the rest and rubbed a couple of small cotton squares soaked in Everclear around the chamber to pick up all but particles of the remainder. To the touch of a finger that I ran around the walls, the surface was still rough but could be finished later.

The rim burn came off with super fine steel wool, and scratches and pits uncovered from beneath the blackness were easy to deal with using 400-grit paper followed by 600, then micro-meshing using new 1500, 2400 and 3200 pads.Robert8 After finishing the chamber with 500-grit paper, dumping most of the carbon as I went, I blew through the shank to clear more and soaked a couple of thin squares of cotton cloth in Everclear to scrub the chamber. Only a small amount of residue remained, and to the touch of my finger the sides of the chamber felt silky and polished.

That was when I commenced what was my old way of cleaning the pipe. One after another, I dipped first one end of a bristly cleaner in Everclear and ran it through the shank, then the other end. After more than a dozen cleaners lay filthy in a pile and two more came out white, I repeated the process with the stem, except that it only seemed to require two or three cleaners.

To mix things up, compared to my usual routine, I followed my impulse to finish the stem and be done with it. I started with 600-grade micromesh on both sides just below the bit, and switched to 800, 1000, 1800, 2400 and 3200 micromesh. I buffed it on the wheel with red Tripoli and White Diamond.Robert9 I sanded small areas of the bowl with 400-grit paper to remove the deeper scratches, dings and pits.Robert10

Robert11 To remove the marks of sanding from the wood, I used super fine steel wool followed by my normal progression from 1500-3200 micromesh. I followed the same micromesh procedure on the entire bowl and shank.Robert12

Robert13 Finishing the wood with a buff of white and red Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba, here is what I handed over to Chuck.Robert14




Robert18 The time, at last, has arrived for Chuck’s brilliant demonstration and invaluable contribution to the restoration of this Kaywoodie Signet Bent Billiard, and my further education in pipe restoring, shown step-by-step in the following nine photos: 1) Chuck has prepared the pipe by filling the chamber with a piece of a paper towel, having no cotton available. He has also connected the retort’s Pyrex test tube, almost filled with 190-proof Everclear, and plugged with a stopper. The stopper leads to a copper tube which in turn attaches to a rubber passage that is connected to the pipe’s stem. 2)Chuck begins to heat the alcohol in the test tube at the base. 3) The alcohol begins to boil. 4) As the alcohol soon reaches full boil, Chuck tilts the test tube slightly to allow the hot liquid to bubble through the retort apparatus and into the pipe stem, and from there all the way to the chamber. The paper towel begins its rapid transformation from white to nasty brown. 5) When the test tube is empty, Chuck tilts the pipe back enough for the remaining, filthy alcohol to drain back into the test tube. 6) The lighter product of a second run with fresh Everclear. 7) After wiping dry the chamber, this is the residue. 8) Chuck snakes the other end of the piece of paper towel into the shank and twists it.
9) The residue from that.Robert19




Robert22 And I take a close look inside the chamber of the Kaywoodie that is clean all the way to the bottom.Robert23 CONCLUSION
Although my skin is tough, like a fault on the mail of a dragon of legend, my weak spot was pierced. The wound was neither superficial nor deep but still stings a bit, being inflicted as it was by so many of my friends’ and associates’ lack of trust to confide in me. Had my experiences selling restored estate pipes until now been a scientific experiment, an analysis of the data would support the conclusion that friends are unwilling to express their findings of any serious flaws to the one person who could prevent the same mistakes from being repeated.

This reluctance, of course, is created by the risk of hurting the feelings of the friend whose sensibilities the paying customers would rather spare. Such a reaction by the person on the receiving end of the message is indeed real but necessary for a demonstration of true friendship. An unfortunate fact is that too few people understand how criticism is a two-sided razor, one cutting for the positive and the other for the negative. My mind has always been open to constructive, helpful criticism while it shuts like a steel trap against anything senseless and cruel.

Now, thanks to the good but misguided intentions of some of my friends, I am compelled by dual senses of honor and good business to contact everyone who has purchased a pipe from me, in person or online, with a carefully written explanation of the error and an offer of a free correction, postage included. But also thanks to these friends, and in particular my good friend and mentor, Chuck, I now have a backlog of “completed” restores on which I can practice retorting.

So far, they’re coming along well, with some new restores thrown in.