Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the worktable is another that will be for sale for the benefit of Smokers Forum online community. It is a truly beautiful piece of briar that is stamped Millville Premier on the left side of the shank and Made in London over England on the right side. I have had a few Millville pipes come across my table over the years but this is by far one of the most stunning. The grain on it is beautiful. When I got it the finish was dirty and the grain did not stand out clearly. The stem was rough and porous feeling and was oxidized. There seemed to have been a softee bit in place at one time on the stem as it had left behind the characteristic calcification on the vulcanite. There were two light tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem near the button. The fit of the stem is perfect to the shank and there is a very faint characteristic M that graces this brand of pipe. It is almost gone from over-buffing but I am hoping it will still show when I have finished cleaning up the pipe. The finish was lightened at the shank stem junction and would need to be darkened. The rim had what appeared to be a gouge across the top surface at the backside of the bowl.
I wanted to know more about the brand so I did a bit of searching on the web to see what I could find out about Millville pipes. Dennis Marshall started the brand in 1980. He had worked for Barling and Charatan for many years. His son John now makes all of the Millville pipes as Dennis is retired. Their pipes still very closely follow the artistic, freeform designs and grading of the old Charatan lines. The pipes are sold almost exclusively in Piccadilly, London in a stall in the market in front of St. James’s Church. Though you can sometimes find them online at British pipe sellers such as Bond’s of London. According to Pipedia the prices of their pipes “start at about 20 £ – hardly the price of a cheapish Stanwell. These were made from pre-turned bowls. The better pipes, entirely hand-made freehands in the old Charatan style, are made from a stock of very old briar, as John stresses. They use several grades like “Unique” or “Executive”. A “Bamboo” can make it up to 500 £.”
I took the next photo to show what appeared to be a gouge in the top of the rim. It went at an angle from the inside of the bowl across the back surface of the rim. I used some alcohol on a cotton pad to scrub down the surface of the briar. Once the grime was removed you can see the stunning grain on this beauty!
I spent some time examining the rim with a loupe to check how deep the gouge went and if I could steam it or if I would need to sand it to repair it. To my surprise I found that it was not a gouge at all but rather a fill. Somehow along the way the fill had shrunken and left the divot in the surface of the rim. I decided to top the bowl and see if I could minimize the divot. I started with a medium grit sanding sponge to see if that would do the job. I hate to use the extreme of topping the bowl with a full topping.
While it worked to some degree it did not remove the dip in the surface of the bowl. I decided to lightly top the bowl with the sandpaper on the topping board. In the next photo you can clearly see the fill in the rim. I was able to flatten the surface of the rim so that it is smooth to touch. I sanded the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the nick in the rim. Then it was time to clean out the bowl, shank and stem. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils in the pipe. It did not take a lot of scrubbing before the pipe was clean.
To smooth out the rough texture of the stem and remove the oxidation I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. For a change of pace, I turned my attention to the bowl finish. I used a stain pen to touch up the lighter areas of the finish at the stem shank junction and on the rim that I had topped. I blended two of the stain pens – the medium and the dark stain pen – to get the colour to match the bowl. I then buffed the bowl with White Diamond on the wheel to smooth out the blend. I would also need to use the micromesh sanding pads in the higher grits to bring the finish to a nice blend.
I worked on the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. This time I let the oil dry on the stem before I took it to the buffer.
I buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond and then finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I gave the stem a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to add depth to the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below.