Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on my worktable was a Comoy’s Bulldog. Personally, I think Comoy’s nailed the straight bulldog shape better than most others. It is a perfect bulldog shape and it is a pleasure to hold and smoke. The stamping on the left side of the shank reads Comoy’s over Grand Slam over Pipe. On the left underside of the shank next to the stem it is stamped X7. On the right topside it is stamped in the classic circle reading Made in London with the “in” in the centre of the circle. Underneath the circle it reads England. Further up that side of the shank is a number 5 stamped almost next to the bowl. I examined the C-inlay on the stem to see how it was made. I have learned over time and through research on these pipes that if it’s been applied in three steps, then it was made pre-1980. This one was indeed a three-step C-inlay. Thus I knew it was made earlier than 1980.
Like all of the pipes I work on, I took a moment to give the pipe a quick assessment. Before I even start the clean up and restoration I take time to look it over to make sure I see what I have to deal with on a particular pipe. The examination helps me to plan how I am going to address the issues on this particular pipe. The Comoy’s pipe was definitely in need of some TLC. The original finish on the Grand Slam Pipe line was rich and full of life. The contrast of dark stain that highlights the grain and the top coat of stain that varies from a rich red to a dark golden combine together to give a very beautiful finish. There were no major dents in the briar that needed to be addressed, though there was a small one in the shank near the stem junction on the sharp edge on the right side that could not be repaired. The briar itself was lifeless and faded looking dull and flat. There was some dirt and grime on it and particularly at the bowl shank junction. The rim had a thick coating of tars on top and some minimal damage to the inner bevel. The bowl had a light cake and seemed to have been reamed recently. It would need to be tidied up.
I cleaned up the bowl with a wipe down of alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dirt and grime and begin to soften the tars on the rim. I gave it a light sanding with 1500 grit micromesh sanding pads. Then I wiped it down once more with the alcohol and cotton pads. The buildup was just about gone. Just a little more scrubbing and the rim was finished. I lightly sanded the stem with a medium grit sanding sponge to loosen the oxidation and then dropped it in a bath of Oxyclean to soak overnight. In the photo below you can see the oxidation begin to run off the stem into the white bubbles of the Oxyclean mixture. The next morning when I took it out of the bath the mixture was yellow with the oxidation. I dried off the stem with a coarse cotton towel to remove the softened oxidation. The stem was much cleaner and black of the vulcanite was beginning to show. I put the stem on the shank and sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper followed by a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the oxidation that had come to the surface after the soak.
I cleaned out the deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem with a dental pick and then a cotton pad and alcohol. Once it was clean I used clear super glue to make a patch on the marks. I over filled the repair so that it would dry and not shrink too much requiring a second coat. I set the repaired stem aside to dry for the day while I was at work. After work I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. When the surface of the repair matched the stem material the sanding was finished. I then used a flat blade screw driver to unscrew the end of the stinger in the tenon. The cap on the end held a replaceable leather washer in place. Once the cap was off I was able to remove the washer. I then used a pair of needle nose pliers on which I have covered then ends with a thick wrapping of scotch tape. This provides a cushion when grabbing onto metal. The stingers in the Grand Slam were threaded and I heated the metal tenon until the goop holding it tight was loose. I turned it with the pliers until it was free of the tenon. With all of the parts removed from the stinger I cleaned it with a soft bristle brass tire brush to clean off the tars. I cleaned out the interior of the stinger with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I used the brass brush to also clean the threads on both ends of the stinger. When I had them cleaned I used coated the threads on the front of the stinger with a light coat of Vaseline to protect it and lubricate them when I turned the cap onto the end. I had cleaned it with some soap and warm water and then used the Vaseline to give it some life. With it all cleaned and lubricated I put it back together and set it aside while I cleaned the shank and the stem. I used the drill bit on the KleenReem pipe reamer to clean out the airway from the end of the mortise to the bottom of the bowl. It had almost closed off with the tars. The draught on the shank was very constricted. Once I had run the bit through it several time cleaning out the buildup the draught was open and unrestricted. I cleaned out the shank and airway with alcohol on cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once they came out clean the shank was finished and ready for the stem.
I cleaned out the stem with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs while I had the stinger out. I was able to remove all of the buildup in the stem and then put it all back together again. The stinger end was lubricated and then threaded back into the tenon. It sits quite deep in the tenon and has a small flange that sits against the tenon end. Here are some photos of the stinger in place in the stem.
I used a 1500 grit micromesh pad to further polish the aluminum of the stinger. I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. Between the first set of three pads and after the second set I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. When it dried I buffed the stem with White Diamond on the wheel to polish the vulcanite. I brought it back to the worktable and gave it a further coat of Obsidian Oil.
I finished dry sanding with 6000-12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the stem down a final time with Obsidian Oil and buffed it with Blue Diamond Plastic Polish on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. Between each coat of wax I buffed it with a clean, soft flannel buffing pad to raise the shine. The photos below show the finished pipe. It is cleaned, polished and ready for that next inaugural smoke.