Blog by Steve Laug
This pipe reminds me of the Mokin Pocket Pipe that Anthony restored and wrote about in an earlier blog. When I saw it on eBay I put a bid in and actually won it. The pipe needed a lot of work. From the photo it looked as if it had a thick coat of varnish or some shiny topping. That would need to go. The finish was spotty and appeared to have some flecks of paint on the top and on the skate at the bottom of the bowl. The rim was darkened and hard to tell whether it was burned or just tarry. The bowl was slightly out of round but it also had a cake that would need to be reamed out before addressing the out of round inner wall of the rim.The stamping was clear and distinct and read Bruyere Garantie on the left side of the shank. The stem had a double circle on the left side. The stem also appeared to be horn. There were two deep cuts on the right side of the stem near the button that would need work and with those marks I was sure there were other issues. The first two photos are the ones included in the seller’s description of the pipe on eBay. I had no idea what the other side or bottom of the bowl or stem looked like or if there would be more issues that would need to be addressed.
When the pipe arrived I was both encouraged by what I saw and concerned by several other issues that had not been shown in the photos above. The encouraging thing was that there was no shiny coat of varnish or lacquer on the bowl. All that was present was a very dirty, grimy natural finish that seemed to have a reddish-brown colouring to it. The concerns involved the fills on the underside of the bowl. What had appeared to be paint flecks on the skate at the bottom turned out to be part of the fill on the bottom and a missing piece of briar. The bowl was indeed caked and the cake was crumbling and uneven. Looking at it initially I wondered if there would not be burned spots in the walls of the bowl once the cake was removed. The inner edge of the rim was also more damaged than I had expected from the seller’s photo. The cuts in the stem were dangerously close to the airway but fortunately had not broken through. The fact that the airway was unharmed was a small miracle given the depth of the cuts. The fact that they angled probably save the airway from damage. On the underside of the stem there were also large chips missing from the stem at the shank stem union. It appeared that someone had tried to pry the stem away from the shank rather than twisting it off. There was also tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. The button however was clean and sharp as was the slot in the in the end of the button. The stem had some beautiful striations of colour that I had not seen in the photos and I looked forward to seeing if I could bring them out.
I took some close up photos of the damage to the rim and the stem. The first photo below shows the damage to the inner edge of the rim and the crumbling cake in the bowl. Looking closely at the top of the photo and the bottom of the bowl you can see the cause for my concern regarding the potential burn out damage. The second and third photos below show the cuts in the stem and the missing chips. You can see how close the cut closest to the button came to the airway in that photo.
The next photo shows the stamping on the side of the shank and the logo on the stem. It is hard to see but much of the depth of the stamping on the stem is gone so restoring that with new white colouring will not be possible. When I removed the stem the tenon was inset aluminum and there was a stinger apparatus in place. It was a twisted piece that had a slot in the top for the airflow that followed the twist to the airway. It was stuck in the tenon and would need to be loosened before I could properly clean out the airway in the stem. I included some extra photos of the stem to show the cuts and chips from a different angle.
I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I started with the smallest cutting head and cleaned things up with it first. I then used the second cutting head which was pretty close to the diameter of the bowl. I cut the cake back to nothing so that I could examine the interior walls of the bowl. I was pleasantly surprised to find that once the cake was gone the interior walls of the bowl were solid and there was no burning.
I worked on the out of round bowl with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the damaged areas and bring it back to as close to round as I could get it. I then topped the bowl on my topping board to smooth out the rim and clean up the damage on the surface. I will often do this just to bring the damage on the inner edge of the rim closer to the top so that I can smooth it out further with sandpaper.
I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the grime and the remnants of the finish. There appeared to be some damage to the front of the bowl that I wanted to have a closer look at once the bowl was cleaned up. I wiped down the horn stem with cotton pads and some alcohol to clean up the surface so that I could begin the repairs. I debated on whether to use black super glue or clear super glue for the repairs to the chipped areas but decided to go with the clear hoping that once it dried the colour would come through the repair and blend it into the horn better. I layered the repair to the chipped areas on the underside and the cuts on top side of the stem. I wanted each layer to dry before I added another layer of glue.
After many layers of glue I was disappointed that glue did not cure clear but rather had a cloudy white appearance. The fills on the cut areas dried hard but looked like two white slashes. I was hoping that as I polished the stem these would blend in a bit more. The fills in the chips were a mixed bag. The smaller ones dried perfectly and blended in well. The larger divot was also white. I cleaned that area once again and added a drop of black superglue to the top of the repair to see if I could hide it better.
I sanded the bowl and stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then medium and fine grit sanding sponges to clean up the repairs and the scratches in the briar. I carefully avoided the area of the stamping and the logo so as not to harm them. I also cleaned up the stinger and was able to remove it from the tenon. It was threaded and after cleaning up the joint I was able to unscrew it and clean it and airway of the stem. I wet sanded the bowl and stem with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad. The striations of colour are beginning to show on the stem and the bowl is looking far better than when I started.
I wiped the stem down with a light wipe of alcohol to remove the sanding dust and then continued to wet sand it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. I rubbed it down again with the oil and then finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.
I buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond and Blue Diamond on the wheel. I then cave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the stem and the bowl with a microfibre cloth. The first photos below are of the polished stem. You can see the repairs from the cuts. For some reason the glue dried white – even though it is clear. I did a patch on the chip on the underside with black super glue and it does not quite match… ah the frustrations of repairs. This one is staying with me so I will not mind as the stem is now smooth and polished. The cuts and the chips are repaired and are smooth to the touch. The fit of the stem to the shank is good with no missing stem parts.
The final four photos show the finished pipe. The bowl polished up very nicely with just carnauba wax. The polished stem shows the striations that are one of my favourite parts of horn as a stem material. The deep shine is a bonus.