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



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


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


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



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



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


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







3 thoughts on “Bringing a Mastercraft Rock Briar Billiard back to life

  1. ReserectedPipes

    Steve, this is a nice clean up. The deep crags cleaned up very well. I actually stumbled upon this while looking for some information on the markings on the base, same as here, Rock Briar in an oval over France. You’re not just a magician with the pipe but a wealth of information as well!!


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