Daily Archives: November 12, 2015

Bringing a Mastercraft Rock Briar Billiard back to life


Blog by Steve Laug

I found this old billiard for sale in an antique mall in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It was there when I visited in July and I bypassed it. It was still there this time so I made a deal with the seller and it came home with me. The bowl was dirty and had a cake and a bunch of tobacco debris and dust in the bottom. The rim had a buildup of tars and lava on the surface. The inner edge had some light damage and was slightly out of round. The finish was a rough rocklike rustication that was worn and dirty. There were white flecks and flecks of what looked like putty fills on the side of the bowl. There were several small sandpits in the bowl sides and on the bottom right side of the shank.RB1

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RB4 The stamping on the bowl was on a smooth flattened panel on the bottom of the bowl and shank. It bore the stamping Rock Briar in an oval and underneath France. I found out from Who Made That Pipe that the pipe was made for Mastercraft in France. From my research it doesn’t appear that Mastercraft ever manufactured pipes but rather bought them from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow.RB5 The next photo is a close-up picture of the rim and the debris in the bowl. The rim and bowl would take some work to clean out.RB6 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and starting with the smallest cutting head worked my way up to one the same diameter as the bowl. I removed the cake and the clutter in the bottom of the bowl. I also used a pen knife to scrape out the small remnant of cake that the reamer did not take out.RB7

RB8 I scrubbed the bowl with a brass bristle whitewall tire brush to remove the buildup of grime and dust in the grooves of the rustication. Once the grime was loosened I put the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak while I went to work for the day.RB9

RB10 When I got home from work I took the bowl out of the bath and used the brass bristle brush on it once again. When I had finished brushing it I dried it off with a cotton cloth. The following photos show the bowl after the half day soak.RB11

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RB13 I decided to lightly top the bowl to clean up the rim surface. I used a 220 grit topping board followed by a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge.RB14

RB15 I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand and bevel the inner rim. I wanted to minimize the inner edge damage.RB16

RB17 I scrubbed the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the dust and remnants of the finish on the bowl and shank. I scrubbed out the shank, mortise and the bowl with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and dust.RB18

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RB20 I decided to do a bit of contrast on the stain. I used a black Sharpie pen to colour in the grooves and rusticated patterns on the bowl and shank. Once I finished that they would add some depth to the colour that I stained the pipe.RB21

RB22 I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I had thinned by half to give a bit of translucence to the colour on the bowl. I applied the stain and flamed the bowl to set the stain in the grain.RB23

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RB26 I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the stain from the high spots on the briar. I wanted a distinct contrast in colour between those and the grooves which I had coloured black.RB27

RB28 I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli and with White Diamond to remove some more of the colour from the high spots and polish them while leaving the grooves dark and unpolished.RB29

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RB32 The stem was in decent shape with some tooth chatter and minor oxidation. I like the overall look and the rustication on the bowl. The stem and shank are long and straight and work well with this pipe.RB33

RB34 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper on both sides next to the button to remove the tooth chatter. I followed that by sanding it with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge.RB35

RB36 I worked on the stem with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads, gave it another coat of oil and finished with the 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.RB37

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RB39 I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown below. The unique finish intrigues me and the rustication feels great in the hand. Thanks for looking.RB40

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GBD New Era Billiard Restoration


By Al Jones

This GBD is a New Era grade, shape 122. While the classic billiard shape is not in my wheel house, two details on this pipe caught my eye. First, the New Era grade is a step up the GBD food chain and less common than the New Standard pipes. The second was a stamp on the stem. Thanks to the sellers good photos, I was able to make out the “Hand Cut” stamp on the stem, which is becoming increasingly rare. Typically, I’ve only seen the “Hand Cut” stamp on Virgin or Collector grade pipes.

In their 1973 catalog, GBD describes the New Era finish as:

“The beauty of this pipe’s perfect briar is accentuated by the richness of
the ‘take-off’ dual finish.”

The pipe looked in decent shape, with some build-up on the bowl top rim and some teeth marks on the stem.

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There was only a very thin cake inside the bowl, which I reamed. The bowl was then soaked with 91% isopropyl alcohol and sea salt. I used a mild Oxy-clean solution and a worn piece of 8000 grade micromesh to remove the build-up on the bowl top. Under the build up was an unharmed, nicely grained, beveled bowl top.

The stem had some teeth marks, which I was able to raise slightly with a lighter flame. There was only had a mild layer of oxidation, which was removed starting with 800 grade wet paper, working thru 1500 and 2000 grades, then the 8000 and 12000 grade micromesh sheets. The stem was mounted and then buffed with white diamond and Meguiars Plastic Polish. One deeper tooth indention on the bottom of the stem bothered me, so I filled it with the black, Medium Stew-Mac Superglue product and accelerator (from Hobby Lobby). It was a shallow indention, and I was worried the repair might not work. Using a file and some 800 grade paper, I smoothed the glue fill and it blended in nicely with the rest of the stem.

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There were several dents in the briar that I was able to minimize. I used a wet cloth and an iron set on high, using the steam to lift the dents. The bowl was then buffed with White Diamond and several coats of Carnuba Wax. Below is the finished pipe. The original intent was to clean this one up and resell it, but the pipe has such a nice feel, I’m tempted to hang onto this one. If I ever take a shine to the straight tapered-stem billiard, I have a feeling that I would regret letting this one go.

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