Daily Archives: October 3, 2015

Cleaning up a Briar Bird Bent Poker or Cherrywood

Blog by Steve Laug

cbe069ba4835007c4c7a330473170320 A friend of mine here in Vancouver dropped off a bag of pipe goodies for me while I was in Europe. When I got home and opened the bag there were four jars of tobacco, a Peterson ceramic three pipe stand, a two pipe travel bag, some pipe cleaners and three pipes – a pipe that I had sold him, a Briar Bird Bent Poker or Cherrywood with a blue/gold acrylic stem, a Poker with a broken tenon stuck in the shank. I decided to clean up the easy pipe – The Briar Bird Poker. I emailed the giver to express my thanks at his generosity and ask him some questions about the two pokers. He answered that the broken stem pipe was a pipe made by Brian Doren. He also told me that the Briar Bird pipe by J. Cochey was one of his early works.

At first glance it looked like it would clean up easily and I could add it to the rotation quickly. It had a rusticated finish that was too my liking, a wedding ring style band and a blue and gold stem. The bend was good in the stem and the pipe felt good in the hand. The button seemed like a good size. The slot was open and the airway clear. The inner dimension of the bowl was smaller than I normally use but it would work. The finish was dirty and the rim had some light build up in the rustication. The bowl would need to be reamed back to keep it from becoming even smaller in diameter than it was.BB1




BB5 When I removed the stem to have a look at the drilling and the fit against the shank the band fell off in my hands. It had been glued to a thin smooth band on the end of the shank and extended beyond the end of the shank. I acted as a tube that the stem sat in. Examining the stem I saw that the maker had also stepped down the end of the stem to accommodate the band as well. In essence the band sat suspended over the stem with a small fit on the shank. I cleaned up the shank end and reglued the band on the shank. Before I glued it I debated whether to properly seat it on the shank – removing some of the shank briar and seating the band further back. I decided against that. When I put the stem in place on the shank without the band, the tenon was too long to allow the stem to seat against the end of the shank. I could drill the mortise slightly deeper, shorten the tenon or just reglue and leave things alone. I obviously chose to just glue it and leave it alone.BB6 The slot in this stem was drilled beautifully and the oval opening flared back to the airway properly. The draw on the pipe was excellent.BB7 I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare walls. With the narrow bowl I would keep this pipe very clean and develop the thinnest of cakes so as not to constrict the bowl.BB8

BB9 With the bowl cleaned the rim needed some attention. There was some oil and tar built up in the rustication.BB10 I used a brass bristle white wall tire brush to clean out the rustication. Once I had it cleaned out I rubbed the bowl down with some Halcyon II wax and then buffed it with a shoe brush to raise the shine. With a rough rusticated pipe like this I don’t buff it on the buffer as I want to keep the sharp edges of the rustication as they are without smoothing them out. I scrubbed out the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until they came out clean. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and polished the band with a jeweler’s cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is ready for its inaugural bowl since coming to my rack. If you are interested in seeing some of the newer work of Briar Bird Pipes I have included a link to the website. http://www.briarbirdpipes.com








Country Squire Radio Interview: Steve Laug of rebornpipes

They entitled the episode: rebirth: a chat with Steve Laug of rebornpipes

Just before I left for work in Europe late in September I was interviewed by Country Squire Radio for their podcast. I have included a link at the end of this post so you can listen to it should you choose to do so. It was an interesting time to chat with the hosts on things related to refurbishing and life.

I have included their description and disclaimer in the two photos below:
SquireRadio interview1
SquireRadio interview2

Click on this link to listen to the interview.

Evidently there is a YouTube version of this but I cannot locate it.

Restoring a Savinelli Hercules Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

This pipe came to me as a fund raising donation for Smokers Forums. The donor wanted this and other pipes he sent cleaned up and restored then sold for the support of Smokers Forums. This pipe is a large Hercules Billiard made by Savinelli. It is stamped Hercules on the left side of the shank and on the right it read 111EX over Italy. This big pipe had some stunning grain. It would clean up very well. The finish is dull and dirty with grime but the briar is in excellent condition with no dents or flaws. There was a thick and uneven cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava on the rim was also heavy. In my experience the thick lava on the rim generally protected the rim from damage. The inner bevel on the rim and the edge was also undamaged. The stem was oxidized. The stamping on the stem shows well in the photo below but it was actually very light and faint. It would be virtually impossible to save it once it soaked and was cleaned up. It was almost like a decal applied to the stem rather than stamping.Herc1



Herc4 I reamed the bowl back to bare wood to remove the crumbling and uneven cake with a PipNet reamer. I started with the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to the diameter of the bowl.Herc5


Herc7 I worked on the buildup on the rim with 0000 steel wool. Working it around the rim I was able to remove all of the tar and lava without damaging the finish.Herc8 I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and the wax buildup. I believe these pipes had an oil finish originally and were not stained. The grime came off easily and the grain just popped!Herc9



Herc12 I cleaned out the interior of the bowl and the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out spotless. I also folded each pipe cleaner and swabbed out the inside of the bowl to remove the dust and particles left behind by the reaming.Herc13

Herc14 I gave the stem a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the oxidation. I worked carefully around the stamping to see if I could preserve it. So far so good on that point.Herc15



Herc18 I worked on the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the rest of the oxidation and to polish the stem. The first 1500 grit micromesh literally obliterated the stamping. That kind of thing bugs me but I can’t go back and change it. The decal/stamping was gone. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh 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. I finished with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave the stem a final coat of oil and let the oil dry before taking it to the buffer.Herc19


Herc21 I gave the bowl a light coat of olive oil and rubbed it in. I let it absorb over night. In the morning I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond and then gave both multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect. I buffed it with a clean flannel buffing pad to raise the shine then finished by hand buffing with a microfibre cloth. The only flaw in the process was the removal of the stamp/decal on the stem. For that I apologize. Otherwise the pipe is a stunning piece of craftsmanship. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I think this pipe will be a great smoker for whoever decides to add it to their rack.Herc22










First in Flight: Refurbishing and Restemming a Falcon #4

Blog by Anthony Cook

I had never smoked a metal pipe before, but I was curious. I liked the idea of interchangeable bowls, especially when dealing with stronger and “ghostlier” blends (I’m looking at you, Lakelands). So, when this Falcon #4 showed up on eBay I put in a low bid that luckily turned out to be the winning one. I knew from the seller’s photos that the pipe was going to need a bit of work to get it into shape, but I was still in for a few surprises.

When it arrived, I could see that the aluminum frame was in good shape. There were several small dents and scratches, but nothing that would affect the smoking qualities of the pipe. The nylon stem (or, “bit” in Falconese), however, must have really suited someone’s taste because had been chewed so badly that it was crushed and the airway was almost completely closed. The larger, pot-shaped bowl was in fair condition with some tar build-up and a few scratches on the rim, but the smaller Dublin/apple-shaped bowl was charred and almost beaten to death around the rim. Luckily, the threads on both bowls were still in good shape and they would screw tightly to the frame.

Here are a few photos of the pipe as it was when it arrived:Falcon1


Falcon3 The first order of business was to remove the stem, since there was no way that it would work in its condition. Thankfully, Al (upshallfan) offered to send me another one that was in better shape. Removing a Falcon stem is easier said than done though. They’re intended to be a permanent part of the pipe.

I turned to the forums in the hope of finding someone who had done it before and had developed a reliable removal method. I received several suggestions and tried them all with no luck. In desperation, I decided to try to heat the stem in boiling water. I knew from past experience that nylon would blister and burn all too easily when exposed to high heat, but I thought that this method might heat the stem slowly and gently enough to avoid that risk. Surprisingly, it worked like a charm! After about 20 minutes of submerging the stem in boiling water, not only was I able to remove the stem, but the aluminum smoke tube came out as well. That would make cleaning and polishing the frame much easier.Falcon4 After soaking the frame in alcohol for about 30 minutes, I cleaned out the interior. Without a doubt, this was the easiest cleanup job that I have ever done on a pipe. That’s not to say that it wasn’t dirty. This was obviously a well smoked pipe, but the grime came away easily from the nonporous aluminum. It took only three pipe cleaners (two for the airway and another folded one to scrub the cup) and an old toothbrush (for the threads) to completely clean the frame.Falcon5 The bowls were next on my to-do list. I reamed them both back to bare wood so that I could see what I was dealing with, and then I placed them in a jar of isopropyl alcohol to soften the build up on the rim and strip the finish. An hour or so later, I removed them and used a soft cloth to scrub away the remaining finish and grime.

I set up my topping surface to sand out the scratches on the rim of the larger bowl and level the uneven rim of the smaller one. I lightly topped the larger bowl first with 220-grit paper, and then with 320-grit until the scratches were gone. I started to top the smaller on the smaller one, but the condition of the rim was so bad that chunks of it began to fall out as I worked. I could see that was going to be a losing battle and decided that if I couldn’t beat ‘em, I’d join ‘em.

I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to bevel the inner rim of the smaller bowl back as far as the deepest gouge. I was only doing some rough shaping at that point to create the general depth and angle of the bevel. Then, I used 220-grit and 320-grit paper to clean things up and further refine the shape. After that, I lightly sanded the surface of both bowls with 220-grit and 320-grit paper to remove most of the scratches and dings.Falcon6 Once the heavy lifting was complete on the bowl cosmetics, I turned my attention back to the stem. The stem that Al had sent me was in much better shape than the original, but it was still badly chewed. It also wouldn’t pass a cleaner, which seems to be an issue with Falcon pipes in general. They make thinner cleaners specifically for Falcons, but I don’t like the idea of having to buy something else just to overcome a design flaw. So, I decided to try an experiment to see if I couldn’t open up the airway and remove much of the chatter all in one shot.

I had noticed earlier that the boiling water had not only loosened the original stem, but it also appeared to raise the dents to some degree. It wasn’t enough to save it, but I found it surprising all the same since I’d had no luck lifting dents in nylon with heat previously. I thought I’d try it again with the replacement stem. I rigged up a simple suspension mechanism with some string, a hex nut, and a wooden spoon, and then put the stem into a pot of boiling water. After nearly about 40 minutes of being submerged, there was some slight improvement but not enough to make much difference. So, I called an end to the experiment and decided that the method wasn’t worth the effort. I have a suspicion that there was some harm done to the stem with this method however, and I’ll talk more on that later.Falcon7 The constriction in the airway extended about ¼” behind the button. So, I decided to drill the airway out from the slot end. The airway was so tight that I had to start cutting through with a 3/64” bit and work my way up to a 3/32” bit. I tested the draw and it was good, and then I tested with a cleaner and it would pass, but it still needed a bit of force to get through the tight area. The stem wouldn’t take a larger bit, however, and I had to be satisfied with what I had. I finished up the work on the airway by cleaning up the slot and giving it a slight funnel with some sandpaper, needle files, and sanding needles.

In the photo below, you can see one of the drill bits chucked into a Dremel, but I never actually used the motor. That would likely have been a disaster. Instead, I used the Dremel to stabilize the bit while I turned the stem over it.Falcon8 The mechanics of the stem had been addressed and it was time to start working on the cosmetics. I used a course, flat needle file to score the surface of the stem, applied black CA glue to the indentations, and sanded it back with 220-grit paper once it was dry. Then, I began to rebuild the button. I wrapped clear tape around the area behind the button to create a sharp edge and applied more CA to the button to build up the surface. I used 220-grit paper to sand the CA back and start shaping the button after it had completely dried. When the shape was vaguely buttonish, I began to clean the edges and remove more chatter from the stem, first with 320-grit, and then with 400-grit paper.Falcon9 I lightly sanded the entire surface of the stem with 600-grit and 1200-grit paper to smooth it out and remove the seams and molding artifacts from the sides. Then, I polished the stem with Micro-Mesh pads 1500-grit through 12000-grit and used a drop of mineral oil to lubricate the stem between every three grits.

Remember when I mentioned something about the heat of the boiling water doing harm to the stem? This is where that comes into play. I had noticed that the stem felt different under the paper as I was sanding it. The higher the grit, the more noticeable it became. The surface felt normal to the touch, but it kind of grabbed at the sandpaper and pads and gave some resistance as they slid across, almost like it was gummy. It was unlike any nylon stem that I had ever worked with before and I believe that submerging it in boiling water changed the surface in some way. I’m just making a guess, of course, but in the end I wasn’t able to achieve the level of glossy shine that I had with previous nylon stems and I doubt that I’ll be trying the boiling method again. You can see the finished stem in the photo below.Falcon10 The stem was out of the way. So, it was time to get back to the bowls and start wrapping this pipe up. I wanted each bowl to have a slightly different color. So, I used a heat gun to heat the briar and open the grain, and then applied a 3:1 mix of isopropyl alcohol and Fiebing’s dark brown dye to the larger bowl and the same ratio with mahogany dye to the smaller bowl. After hand buffing with a soft cloth and sanding the surface of both bowls with 400-grit and 600-grit paper to remove most of the dye except for what was in the grain, I gave the larger bowl a medium brown stain and the smaller one an oxblood stain using the same ratio of stain to thinner as before. Then, I hand buffed again and sanded each bowl with 1200-grit and gave them both a light Tripoli buff. Both bowls received one final stain; buckskin for the larger one and British tan for the smaller. They were hand buffed again to remove the excess stain, and then polished with Micro-Mesh pads 3200-grit to 12000-grit.

Before reassembling the pipe, I polished the frame with Semichrome polish and buffed the stem and bowls with White Diamond compound on the buffer. I put everything back together (it went easily) and applied several coats of carnauba wax with the buffer. Finally, I applied a bowl coating to both bowls to give them some protection until they could build a little cake. You can see the completed pipe in the photos below.Falcon11



Falcon14 And here are a couple of shots of the other bowl…Falcon15 I’m still not happy with the stem on this one and I’m sure that I’ll be replacing it sometime in the future when there aren’t other pipes that need attention. For now, though, it serves its purpose well. I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical of the metal pipe concept, but this pipe smokes wonderfully and I can see many more Falcon bowls and a few more metal pipes in my future. Thanks for checking it out!