Blog by Steve Laug
I was gifted this beautifully grained Grabow Viscount Shape 39 in a box of pipes that needed to be reconditioned and repaired. It was a shape that I had seen pictures of but I had never seen one in person. Holding it in hand led me to have a few questions regarding it. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Viscount over Dr. Grabow and on the right side 39 near the shank and then Imported Briar over Adjustomatic over Pat.2461905. I posted the questions and some photos of the pipe on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum as I have found the folks there to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable about all things Grabow.
Here are the questions:
1. Any idea on the dates of this one.
2. The rim top has ridges but I am not sure if they are scratches or original. They are in no particular pattern and the rest of the bowl is smooth. Did this shape have a rusticated rim?
3. Did it have the Grabow scoop stinger as it is missing in this one?
4. The Grabow spade on the stem is raised above the surface. Was this normal? I have not seen it before.
I concluded my questions with a short comment on the pipe. The briar is amazing – birdseye on the sides and cross grain on the front and back of the bowl.
The pipe needed some work as can be seen from the above questions. The stem was rough. It was oxidized and had been scraped clean with a knife or other tool and left ridges and scratches all over the stem. It gave it a striped look. The rim had a hatched rustic pattern on it and had probably fallen prey to the same knife wielding owner. The finish was actually quite good underneath the dirt and sticky spots that may have come from price tags on the bowl or labels. I was surprised that it did not have any lacquer or varnish coat over the briar. It was just stained briar and would be quite easy to clean up.
It was not long before I got a reply from Ted over on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. He answered all of the questions that I had regarding this particular pipe and did them in reverse order. Here is his reply.
Yes, The grain is great. A fine example.
4) Spade on the stem has raised over time. It was flush when it left the factory. Even if it comes out (unlikely) it is a relatively easy fix. Joe and Ed have bunches of spades that they picked up off the factory floor.
3) It had the scoop (72B) cleaner. Unfortunately I don’t have any left. Someone will get you one.
2) Rim scratches weren’t there when it left the factory. Someone cleaned the top a little too vigorously.
1) This is fun…… The Continentals started in 1959/60 and their heyday was 1964-1966. Almost none were produced after 1967 because the sales just weren’t there. Shape stamped with a vulcanite stem makes me believe it was made in 66/67. I can’t speculate as to when it was sold… just made.
Here are some close up photos of the rim and the grain on this beautiful little pipe.
I did a light reaming of the bowl with a sharp pen knife being careful to keep it vertical and not damage the inner edge of the rim. I scrubbed the bowl, shank and stem airway with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. These metal mortise inserts collect a lot of “gunk” behind them and it takes some work to remove all of the debris and oils from the shank. I scrubbed down the exterior of the briar with isopropyl alcohol to remove the sticky areas and also the general grime that was built up on the bowl and shank.
I lightly sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and also a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to loosen the oxidation. Then I dropped it in a bath of warm Oxy Clean to soften and bring the oxidation to the surface.
While the stem soaked I worked on the scratches and hatch work on the rim surface. It was not only dirty but it looked like someone had scraped off the tars with a knife and left a rough hatch pattern all over the surface of the rim. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches and smooth it out once again. I then sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to reduce the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.
I sanded the rim down with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol once more to remove the dust and sanding grit.
Troy mentioned that these older Continentals were not stained but general just had a light oil coat on the natural briar. It appeared that this was true on this old pipe but the patina that had developed over the years since 1966-67 had darkened the briar. I used a medium brown stain pen to touch up the rim as it matched the patina exactly. I took the stem out of the bath and dried it off with a coarse cotton cloth. The oxidation was greatly reduced and the stem was ready to work on.
I put a plastic washer between the stem and the shank and sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and the sanding sponges to remove the hard to get oxidation at that point. I took the stem off again and finished sanding with the sandpaper and sanding sponges. Then it was time to work on the polish of the stem. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and repeated the oil. I finished with 6000-12000 grit pads, gave the stem a final coat of oil and when it dried buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel.
I gave the entire pipe a light buff with Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff to raise the shine. I took it back to the work table and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to bring out a deeper shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It turned out to be a beautiful piece of briar and a unique looking pipe. The old briar is rich with colour and warmth.
I want to thank the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum and Ted of that Forum for their help on this pipe. I also want to thank Troy for the catalogue pages and for sending me the spoon stinger to insert to completely finish the restoration of the Continental. Thanks for looking.