Blog by Steve Laug
When I received this Blatter of Montreal Egg pipe I sat down and looked it over carefully to assess what would need to be done to restore it. The finish was very dirty and worn but underneath the dirt and oils there was some amazing grain. On the right side of the bowl, near the top there was a fill that had popped out and left a large divot in the briar. The size of the missing fill distracted from really seeing the beauty of the pipe. Looking at the top of the bowl I could see that the inner edge of the rim was slightly out of round and the rim had been previously topped. Both the stain and the topping were not even. The outer edge of the rim had been rounded from sanding and was no longer a clean sharp edge. Sometime ago the bowl had been reamed and a broken uneven cake left on the sides of the bowl. The airway at the bottom of the bowl had a groove carved from the opening across the bowl bottom that appeared to come from using too heavy a hand with a pipe cleaner over the years.
The stem was in good shape in terms of not having any tooth damage or chatter. The button was still quite sharp and distinct like the other Blatter pipes that I have cleaned. It was oxidized and somewhere along the way someone had sanded or buffed the stem with it removed from the pipe. The edges of the stem at the shank junction had rounded shoulders and because of that the fit against the shank was not perfect. The diameter of the shank was slightly larger than the stem due to the rounded shoulders. There would need to be some work done on that area to reduce the damage though I am not sure that it can all be removed. I find this kind of rounding of the shoulders on the stem or the shank on pipes that have been overbuffed or worked on by someone new to the refurbishing hobby.
I took the pipe apart to look at the internals of the stem and the shank. The shank has an interesting design. The mortise ends with a slight ridge and then the airway drops into a kind of sump/or chamber to capture the moisture – kind of like the Peterson system pipes. This chamber had the airway drilled toward the top end. It was filled with a lot of black sticky tar and oil. It would take a lot of scrubbing to clean that area. The mortise itself was pretty clean. The end of the tenon was almost clogged with the buildup around the end. The same was true of the slot in the end of the tenon. It was reduced in size by about half. The stem would also take some work to clean out the thick build up inside.
The next photo shows a close up of the area of the missing fill. It is quite large and will need to be repaired. I scrubbed the bowl with cotton pads and isopropyl alcohol to remove the grime and prepare the missing fill for repair. I picked out the loose particles from the area and scrubbed it down again. I filled the hole with larger particles of briar dust and then filled it with superglue. I added more briar particles to the top of the repair. I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess and smooth out the patch. The size of the patch can be seen in the next photo. The larger particles of briar dust worked differently than the fine dust I used in the past. I used a folded piece of sandpaper to bevel the inner edge of the rim to take care of the damage that had made it out of round. Beveling the rim inward took care of the damage and brought the rim back into round. I sanded the rim with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and also sanded the repaired area on the side of the bowl. Each successive grit of sanding sponge smoothed out the repair and blended it into the bowl. Once the patch was sanded smooth I scrubbed the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the rest of the finis and the remaining wax buildup on the bowl. The birdseye briar was stunning on the left side of the bowl.
I also scrubbed the top of the rim with the pads and found that the work on the rim had really cleaned up the look of the pipe from the top. I worked on the rounded shoulders of the stem. First I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper blending the flow of the shank with the stem. The key was to reduce the shoulder rounding without changing the shape of the shank. Once I had the transition as smooth as I could make it I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. The finished shank/stem transition can be seen in the next series of photos.
With the repair finished on the side of the bowl and the transition smoothed out at the stem/shank junction it was time to give it a coat of stain to blend it in with the rest of the briar. I used a dark brown stain touch up pen to work on those two points on the bowl.
I probably should have done this sooner, but I chose not to. The bowl had already been reamed but I wanted to clean up the reaming job and try to smooth it out. I used a PipNet reamer and chose a cutting head that fit the bowl tightly and removed the odds and ends of broken cake left in the bowl. I then set up the topping board to repair the round outer edges of the rim. It did not take too much topping to make that edge sharp and clean once again instead of rounded. I finished sanding the rim afterward with a medium and a fine grit sanding block to remove the scratches left behind by the 220 grit sandpaper.
I used the same dark brown stain pen to stain the rim. I applied the stain until the coverage was acceptable. I lightly buffed the bowl with White Diamond to smooth out the stained areas and blend them into the rest of the bowl.
With the externals finished on the bowl it was time to address the internals. The airway in the stem and shank and the sump in shank all were filthy. I decided to use a retort on the pipe. I set up the test tube and connector to the stem and then stuffed the bowl with a cotton ball before boiling the alcohol through the bowl and stem.
I boiled the alcohol through the bowl and shank the first time and the alcohol came out a dark brown. I took the retort off the stem and ran pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and alcohol through the shank and stem. While they were definitely cleaner there was still a lot of “sludge” present. I set up the retort and boiled another tube of alcohol through the bowl. This time the alcohol was definitely lighter but still dark. I emptied the tube and boiled a fresh tube through for the third time. While it was definitely getting lighter it was still brown. I ran a fourth tube of alcohol through the stem and shank and finally it came out clear. This was one dirty pipe. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to finish cleaning the shank and stem. I used the dental pick to clean out the edges of the slot on the button. With the internals clean I turned my attention to the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and then with the medium and fine grit sanding sponges. Using those I was able to remove the oxidation on the surface.
I switched to micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. Afterwards I buffed it with White Diamond to polish the stem and lessen the scratches. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between the 4000 and 6000 grit pads. I also gave it a final rub down with Obsidian Oil after the 12,000 grit pad.
I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond Plastic Polish and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it to a shine and then used a clean flannel buff to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have also included a photo of the repaired rim. Note the repaired fill on the right side of the bowl. The pipe is cleaned, polished, repaired and ready to smoke. I think it is a beautiful pipe in one of my favourite shapes.