Blog by Steve Laug
When I was in Idaho my brother showed me the pipes he had picked up in auctions and from antique shops. He had found three meerschaum pipes and two briars. One of the briar pipes that he picked up in an auction was a Royal Windsor Imported Briar Prince. It was included as part of a sculpture that he bought that he really liked. It was an old man with a cap, glasses and a pipe. The old boy in the sculpture looks lost without his pipe in the photo below. It is finished now and it will go out in the mail tomorrow so he should have it back very soon.
My daughter took the following photo of the sculpture with the pipe. In her photo the table top looks like a sweater.
The pipe itself is a clean and quite beautiful little pipe with a rusticated finish and some smooth parts similar to the Stanwell Vario line. In looking at it when I was visiting it was obvious the pipe had been restemmed at some point along the way and the stem shank union was poorly executed. There was a bulge to the stem at that point and it also was not round. The right side and bottom of the stem diameter were wider than the shank of the pipe. The taper of the stem on the underside did not work with the flow of the shank. He wanted to keep it for the sculpture but the fit of the stem bugged me enough that I offered to bring it home and reshape the stem for a better fit. It was also badly oxidized so that would also need to be cleaned up. The bowl itself was quite clean and virtually unsmoked. The first photos below were taken after I had started cleaning up the stem. I began reworking the stem without taking photos and caught myself before I had gone too far.
I put a plastic washer on the tenon to protect the shoulders of the stem from rounding while I worked on the shape of the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to shape and fit the stem to the shank. To me the taper on the underside of the stem did not flow into the shank correctly. I sanded it and removed a lot of material and changed the taper to flow better. I checked the fit often by removing the washer and looking at the stem in place.
I refined the shape some more and then sanded the entire stem to remove the surface oxidation. I finished this part of the process by sanding the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind by the 220 grit paper. With the shape and fit greatly improved (at least to my eye ;)) I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. Another coat of Oil was rubbed into the stem and then I sanded it with the final 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.
I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and then Blue Diamond on the wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and shine. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff and then with a microfibre cloth by hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below.