Daily Archives: July 12, 2015

Repairing and Restemming a York (KBB) Diamond Shank Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

When I was traveling in Idaho my brother and I took the family for a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. On the way we stopped in a little town called Victor, Idaho. There was an antique shop there in the town and I found four more old pipes. The first of these reminded me of an old WDC Diamond shank billiard that I have. This one was stamped YORK on the left side of the shank and from research it may have been made by KBB. It was in rough shape. The shank had been cracked and repaired with glue and a piece of twisted wire. The stem obviously had a broken tenon and the previous owner had carved it down to fit in the shank anyway. The bowl had a thick cake and the finish was gone. The rim was damaged on the front outer edge and there was some tar on the rim.York1



York4 On the right side of the bowl near the shank junction there was a pink putty fill that was coming out. Most of the putty had fallen out of the briar. This would need to be repaired.York5 When I got back home I took the pipe out of the bag to have a look. The silver end cap had some hallmarks but they were the faux hallmarks that I have found on older American made pipes to give them a touch of class. All four edges of the band were split. I removed the stem and looked inside the mortise and could see that a major part of the briar was missing on the right side of the shank under the cap. With little effort I removed the cap and sure enough a huge chunk was missing out of the briar. In fact the whole right side under the cap was gone. There was a small crack that had been repaired earlier. There was a small hole in the shank to stop the crack and the crack was glued and clamped with the wire. This was going to take a bit of work to bring it back from the brink of destruction. York6 I clipped the wire with a pair of wire cutters so that I could work on repairing the broken portion of the shank. This repair would take some careful and time consuming work to rebuild the missing portion of briar.York7 I reamed the bowl to clean out the thick cake. It was crumbling so I wanted it removed so that the repair of the shank would be less dirty. I use a PipNet reamer to take the cake back to the bare briar.York8

York9 The first step in rebuilding the broken area was to clean up the damaged ends of the remaining briar. Once it was clean I put clear super glue on the raw edge of the broken spot and tamped the end into some briar dust. I repeated the process until the edge was repaired as much as possible with this method.York10

York11 During the process I also picked out the broken putty fill and replaced it with briar dust and super glue.York12 I sanded the flat surface of each of the four sides of the diamond shank smooth with 220 grit sandpaper until the cap slid easily over the shank. I also faced the end of the shank on the topping board.York13

York14 The next step in the process of rebuilding the shank and the mortise was a little more difficult than the briar dust and super glue rebuild. It involved working on the internals of the shank. I glued the end cap in place with wood glue and clamped it in place to take care of small splits in the edges of the metal cap. Once that dried and set, I mixed white wood glue with briar dust to make putty. I tamped the mixture into the remaining areas of the shank with a dental pick and dental spatula until the area was filled solid looking once again. The next two photos show the rough repair on the inside of the mortise and shank. The broken area is gone! The holes are filled in and the repair is complete. Once the glue set I would have to clean up the mortise and make the walls smooth. The edges of the metal cap, looking at it from the end are damaged and I will not be able to repair them.York15

York16 While the shank repair cured I worked on the rim. There was a thick tar build up that was like rock on the back edge and the front edge of the rim had been knocked against something hard and was rough.York17 I decided to top the bowl to remove the rock hard tar and also minimize the damage to the front of the bowl. I used a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and worked the rim against the sandpaper until the damage was minimized. Once I had it smoothed out I put some briar dust and super glue on the remaining divot on the front edge of the bowl as a fill. When it dried I sanded it smooth and lightly topped the rim once more to even out the repair with the rest of the rim. (That picture will be shown shortly.)York18 The stem that came with the bowl was damaged beyond repair. It had been repeatedly been cut off by the previous owner and hacked at until it fit in the damaged tenon. It was not a stem I would use again on this pipe. I went through my can of stems and found a faux p-lip stem – the airway came out the end of the button rather than on the top. It was old enough to work on this pipe and with some modification I thought it would look just right. The problem was that it did not have a tenon. When I found it the tenon was missing and the end of the stem had been drilled out to receive a replacement tenon. I am currently out of Delrin tenons so I used a thin vulcanite stem as the sacrificial tenon. I glued the tenon on the donor stem in place in the diamond shaped stem with super glue and then cut off the stem with a hacksaw. I left a piece of vulcanite that was longer than necessary so that I could work it to a proper fit in the repaired shank.York19

York20 The next photo shows the repaired stem and tenon and the topped bowl before I put the two parts together. I used a Dremel to remove the excess material on the new tenon and shortened it to the depth of the mortise in the shank.York21 The next photo shows the repaired fill on the bowl side with another photo of the new stem.York22 Once the shank repair was dry I used a needle file to clean up the rough areas and smooth out the inside of the mortise. I gave it several more coats of glue and briar dust to buildup the areas that had shrunk as the glue dried. I continued to work it with the files and sandpaper until the fit was correct. I cleaned out the airway to the bowl and the inside of the mortise with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners in preparation for putting the new stem in place.York23 The next two photos show the newly fit stem. There was still work to do to fine tune the flow of the diamond stem sides to match the flow of the diamond shank but the look is clear at this point in the process.York24

York25 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to fine tune the fit. When I had it the way I wanted, it was time to bend the stem. I used my heat gun to do the work. In this case I quickly set it up on the dryer in our laundry room (shh don’t tell my wife I did this) and heated the stem. I bent it over an old rolling pin that I use for this purpose until the bend in the stem matched the curve of the bottom of the bowl. I set the bend by holding the stem under cool running water.York26

York27 The next two photos show the newly bent stem and give an idea of how it will look with the pipe once it is finished.York28

York29 With the easiest part of fitting a stem completed I went on to do the laborious and tedious part of sanding and more sanding to get the fit just right. To do this without rounding the edges of the stem at the shank stem junction I use a plastic washer placed between the two areas. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the transition and make the angles square (or at least as square as possible on these old pipes where every side has a different angle and width).York30 When I had the fit of the stem correct it was time to polish it. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil.York31 I needed a break from the stem work so I turned my attention to the bowl. I rubbed it down with a light coat of olive oil to highlight the grain. I took a few photos to show what it looked like at this point. It is certainly looking far different than it did when I started working on it. There is a deep richness in the red tones of the briar.York32



York35 I decided to highlight those tones with a dark brown aniline stain thinned by 50% with some isopropyl alcohol. I applied it and flamed it to set it in the grain.York36 I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to get an idea of the coverage. It was still too dark to my liking so I would need to address that.York37

York38 I wiped the bowl down with some acetone on a cotton pad to remove some of the stain and make the grain show through better.York39

York40 I buffed the bowl with White Diamond and then gave it the first of many coats of carnauba. I don’t know about you but by this point in a long refurbishment I get a bit anxious to see what I have accomplished. It always seems that it is going to go on forever so I rewarded myself by putting the stem in place and taking a few photos to see what I had achieved.York41

York42 For comparison purposes I took the next two photos of the pipe with the old stem next to the new one. You can see how badly hacked the vulcanite was from the previous owners salvage work on his broken pipe. The pipe is beginning to look like a very different pipe than when I started. That always encourages me!York43

York44 Now it was time to finish up with this long project and get the stem done. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil once again. I then dry sanded it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil and let it soak into the vulcanite.York45

York46 I buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond and then gave them both multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed them with a clean soft flannel buff to raise the shine and then hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to finish. The completed pipe is shown below. It has come a long way from the pipe I started on this morning. I had a quiet day at home and between reading and napping finished the work on this old timer. From what I can find out in my research and from Who Made That Pipe, the pipe may well be from the old KBB pipe works. Thanks for looking.York47






Peterson’s Own “Devil Anse” Shape?

Interesting tie between the Peterson “Jap” pipe and the Devil Anse – thanks Mark

peterson pipe notes


I have a deep passion for vintage pipe shapes, Kapp & Peterson’s in particular. Part of this is undoubtedly because so many original Peterson shapes are still being made. Part of it has to do with the mythic shift of time and culture which can concretely be held in one’s hands and smoked. It’s what Eric Squires calls “endurance”: “What I like, I’ve decided, is what endures, those things that keep surviving through time and wear, fashions and fads, exposure, accident, and hardship.”* I would call it rootedness, I suppose—benchmarks, touchstones, archetypes, glimpses into the really Deep Things.

Antique Collection 1904 1908
Antique Collection 2005 (Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

In any event, Peterson’s various Antique Collections have all spoken directly (if sub-vocally) to me about “endurance” or rootedness or whatever you’d like to call it, beginning with the first four back in 1996 and followed by the release of subsequent pairs in 2005, 2009 and…

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Take a Sad Pipe and Make It Better

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

“Only when you eat a lemon do you appreciate what sugar is.”
― Ukrainian proverb]

The Beatles sang the idea more perfectly, to take the same liberty with the English language as Thomas Jefferson when beginning to pen the U.S. Constitution, and I’m not looking to start a revolution or create an international incident or any other uproar by saying that all Ukrainian pipes are lemons. My personal experiences have both been with the Veresk Company in Kiev, now the capitol city of the Republic of Ukraine. Before the fall of the former Soviet Union, the Veresk Cooperative factory was the only official outlet for tobacco pipes throughout the USSR. On the other hand, the following work of briar art was created by Ukrainian pipe crafter Konstantin Shekita, who made his start at Veresk.rob1 The Cooperative made all of its pipes during the Soviet days from fruit woods including cherry, pear, peach and apricot. After the collapse of the entire Soviet empire, brought about as an unforeseen consequence of Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempt to ease economic hardship for the common Russian with perestroika (rebuilding, reorganization) and to remove the iron-clad clamp on discussion of economic and political realities employing glasnost (openness), Veresk became a company and started to use briar imported from Tuscany, Italy. Although the fruit woods are still sometimes substituted, briar is now the preferred wood. This Golden Gate billiard, which with help from my mentor, Chuck, was determined to be pear wood, was probably made before the end of the Cold War.

On occasion, I find myself having to track down information on a given odd pipe every way I can: Internet engines using multiple query terms, emailing or calling friends, posting threads on various forums – even some Deep Web methods. Having a background as a newspaper reporter, I then try to verify the first source as well as I can. By and large, however, the first place I check is Pipephil, at http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/index-en.html. If that site has nothing on a pipe I have bought and/or restored, then I know I’m in for some real work. The contributions of Pipephil as a database trove of information on pipe brands, history, dating and other useful details is, for the most part, invaluable and irrefutable.

For example, about a week ago I saw a Kaywoodie Super Grain Lovat advertised as pre-1930s. Checking Pipephil, I learned that although that dating was not quite accurate, the placing of the Super Grain stamp above Kaywoodie and a four-digit shape number – in this case 5190 – dated the pipe to between 1931 and 1938. The inclusion of Imported Briar, introduced in 1935, narrowed the pipe’s manufacture to within three years during the latter part of the Great Depression. Lucky that no one else seemed to see these details, I won the very old but pristine Lovat for $32.50 with S&H.rob2

rob3 At about the same time, seeing the Golden Gate advertised on eBay as “Wooden Smoking Estate Pipe,” I was able to make my decision to buy it based on the GG I spotted on the bit, which Pipephil, with its amazing logo-finding resources, identified with certainty as a Ukrainian brand with the unlikely name Golden Gate. I was also warned that I was liable to receive a pipe made with very alternative wood, meaning something from a fruit tree. For $10 Buy Now with no S&H, I didn’t care. P.A.D., I embrace thee! There are so many worse things on which to spend one’s money.

However, in its entry on the Golden Gate brand, Pipephil gives the translation of Veresk as briar. I have been unable to determine from which language this assertion is drawn. The Russian word for briar, шиповник, transliterates to shipovnik (ship-ŌV-nee-yik), and the Ukrainian шипшина is shypshnya (SHIP-shnee-uh). The best references to Veresk in regard to Russian I can find are a sub machine gun known to players as the SR 2M Veresk, used in a computer role playing game (RPG) called Alliance of Valiant Arms [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9BFocl97_Y], and a surname most common in Russia [http://forebears.io/surnames/veresk]. Hence I suspect Pipephil has this tidbit wrong, and Veresk is in fact derived from the last name of some Party-loyal old Comrade. I emailed Pipephil the details above and asked if perhaps Veresk is briar in another language or dialect. I’m hoping for a response.

RESTORATIONrob4 I snapped this first photo to add to my private collection, as I do all of my new and unused pipes that need no restoration, before I realized the peculiar stain probably hid something, such as a fruit wood that Pipephil identified as the most common type used by Veresk, whatever the company’s name means. Here is the Golden Gate after I stripped the old stain with an Everclear soak and then used super fine steel wool to begin the process of smoothing the assaulted pear wood’s skin, so to say.rob5


rob7 I’m no expert on woods, but this does most resemble pear to me, after comparing all of the possibilities. Any knowledgeable wood-workers who might read this, please feel free to correct me

I tried a couple of fills of favorite tobacco blends before beginning the restoration, and enjoyed them, and after the Everclear soak, I was sure the pipe needed no retort. In hindsight, it occurs to me that I should have taken a close-up of the chamber before soaking the wood in alcohol and then using my reamer and sandpaper to remove the unusual coating that came in it as the billiard arrived in the mail.

Researching that general subtopic of pipe knowledge after my instincts already led me to eradicate the harsh-feeling stuff, I was horrified and reached the conclusion that the somewhat sharp and definitely alien material used to coat the chambers of both Veresk pipes I have purchased was the so-called “waterglass.” This attractive sounding term is a euphemism for sodium metasilicate (Na2O3Si), a highly toxic chemical compound that is “[i}rritating & caustic to skin, mucous membranes. If swallowed causes vomiting & diarrhea.” Then there are the serious consequences of absorbing or ingesting this diabolical method of coating the chamber of a pipe that, when lit, cannot help delivering its sickening and potentially deadly payload directly into the hapless pipe smoker’s body, causing “[u]pper airway irritation, fever/hyperthermia [and] leukocytosis.” [http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sodium_metasilicate#section=Top. Also see its use in tobacco pipes at http://pipesmagazine.com/blog/out-of-the-ashes/bowl-coatings-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-part-ii/.%5D

On a brighter note, I observed an unevenness of the rim.rob8 With the gentlest wood file I have, I corrected that minor problem and re-sanded and micro-meshed again until it was smooth.

I proceeded to sand the wood with 320-grit paper and used micromesh from 1500-4000.rob9


rob11 Although I liked the grain on most of the Golden Gate and considered buffing without stain, I recognized the need for something darker to lessen the flaws on the front and back of the bowl. I chose Lincoln Brown boot stain and flamed it after I applied a couple of coats.rob12 This time I took off the char with 4000-grade micromesh and some extra pressure on the pad instead of going down to 3600 and risking removal of the new color in spots.rob13


rob15 You can see in the first photo above that the small metal band came off from the alcohol soak, and so I used a few dabs of Super Glue to reattach it. Seeing the surface of the wood could use some slight further attention to prepare it for buffing, I took a small piece of super fine steel wool and only ran it over the surface of the wood with the gentlest touch, as though wiping dust or hand smears from the wood.rob16 With the pear wood ready to buff, I did so with white Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba. The stem I left as it was.rob17


Altogether I think I took this sad billiard and, with a little help from a friend, as the Beatles also sang, made it better. At the very least I am now willing to offer it for sale, knowing it won’t send anyone to the hospital or perhaps even kill him.