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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.