Daily Archives: November 29, 2015

Repairing and Restoring a1929 Irish Free State Billiard


Blog by Aaron Henson – 11/29/15

I think the thrill of the hunt is part of what makes this hobby so enjoyable. Going into a new store or happening upon a pipe in an unlikely place, never knowing just exactly what you are going to find and always keeping a lookout for that forgotten gem.

This past summer I was on vacation with my family in Seaside, Oregon. Between Seaside and Astoria I visited 14 different antique stores and only two had any pipes at all. And of those, they were all on the pricy side; too rich for me.

Partly on a whim and partly out of desperation, I went into a second-hand store that I had passed by several times. It was more “junk” than “antique” and of course that is where I made my score although I didn’t think so at first. Three pipes: the first was a non-briar volcano with “Italy” stamped on the bottom, the second was a Medico that was in such bad shape it could only be used for parts but the third was intriguing with a silver band. I could not read the markings for all the filth on the pipe. I negotiated with guy behind the counter and walked out will all three for $15.Aaron1 It was clear that this had been a very nice pipe in its day. The wood grain that could be seen through the grime was beautiful and the Army Style push stem I thought gave the pipe a classy feel. When I got it back to the house and looked it over in better light, I noticed that the band had been rotated on the shank so the writing was upside down and in the dim light of the store I could not read it. Now I could see that it clearly said “Peterson” and “Dublin” stamped in the silver band.

A Peterson, my heart skipped a beat. I was well aware of Peterson’s long history of making quality pipes and now I had picked up an early model for 5-bucks!Aaron2

Aaron3 The bowl had a good build up of cake and a fair amount of unburned tobacco in the bottom. Some build up of tars on the rim but otherwise seemed to be in good condition. The shank had clearly been broken, however and the glue used for the repair was spread all over one side of the bowl. The stamping on the band, as stated before, were worn and not very readable. The stem was oxidized and had a hole in the top near the button. This must have been a favorite pipe of the previous owner.

When I got home from vacation, I tried to understand the symbolic hallmarks on the band. Not being familiar with Peterson marking I sent a picture to Steve Laug to ask his opinion. Steve very graciously referred me to his Peterson expert, Mark Irwin. With Mark’s help I was able to understand Peterson’s hallmarking and dated the pipe as 1929 – placing it in the Irish Free State era: 1922 – 1937. At least, that was my interpretation of the third hallmark, an “O”.Aaron4

Aaron5 I began by reaming out the cake with a Castleford reamer and took the interior back to bare wood. There were some burn marks under the tar on the rim so I elected to top the bowl with some 220 grit paper laid on the flat work bench.Aaron6 Next I heated the band with a flame and then using leather jawed pliers and carefully rotated the band back into correct alignment.Aaron7 The outside of the bowl I wiped down with a cotton pad soaked in acetone. This removed the grime and the glue. I had been worried that the glue was covering a crack in the bowl but it turned out that the person doing the shank repair had just been sloppy. The glue came away and revealed pristine briar underneath. In just the right light, I also could see a very faint IRISH FREE STATE stamped into the bottom side of the shank – Confirmation!Aaron8 The break between the bowl and the shank had been complete. I could see the seam all the way around the shank but it had been a clean break. There were no gaps, rounded edges nor missing pieces; so far, so good.

At this point I turned my attention to the stem. I put the stem to soak in a mild chlorine bath to raise the oxidation. A light sanding with some worn 400 grit paper removed the oxidation completely. I picked the loose material out of the hole, made backing plug out of toothpicks and slipped it into the airway. This would hold my patching material in place. Next I mixed up some StewMac black super glue with some activated charcoal powder and worked it into the hole with another tooth pick. I set the stem aside to cure over night.Aaron9

Aaron10 When I came back to the stem I sanded down the fill with 220 grit paper. The plug blended nicely and I proceeded to polish the stem with 1500 – 12000 micromesh pads. Cleaning the inside of the stem was quite simple, four of alcohol soaked pipe cleaners (2 bristled and 2 soft) took care of the insides and the stem was done.Aaron11 Returning to the stummel, I began to work the bowl-shank joint back and forth with ever increasing force. I caught myself holding my breath, afraid of breaking the pipe beyond repair but dismissed that thought as fear of the unknown and pushed on. Eventually the crack began to open up and the shank and bowl were separated. I was surprised to see that the original repair had included two small brads – or pins – set on either side of the air hole to strengthen the break. Since the brads were already in proper alignment I decided to reuse them in my repair.Aaron12 After some research, I settled on the J-B Kwik Weld as my epoxy of choice. Its resistant temperature is less than that of original J-B Weld (300 vs 550 degrees); however, I do not think the shank should reach 300 degrees during a smoke. But the real advantage in my minds was that the set time is only 6 minutes compared to 4-6 hours. I didn’t want to have to come up with a way to hold the two parts together for several hours and risk the parts slipping.

In order to keep the airway clear during the repair, I pushed a pipe cleaner through the airway before smearing the epoxy on the both surfaces with a tooth pick. With the clock running on the set time, I pushed to the two parts together using the old brads as alignment pins. Looking back I think it would have been better if I had only used one of the pins. The fit was tight and I was fighting against the pins to get the two parts tight together when the time ran out on the epoxy. I was left with a larger gap between the pieces than I thought was right; I had been hoping for a flush fit. Before setting the pipe aside to cure I wiped off the excess epoxy and removed the pipe cleaner.Aaron13 I let the pipe sit overnight and the next day I used a dental pick to remove some of the epoxy from the gap between the stummel and bowl. The gap was very small, less than a 1/32 of an inch on top and near flush on the bottom. When the crack was as clean as I could get it, I filled it with briar dust and placed drops of clear super glue on top to hold the dust in place. When the super glue dried I smoothed out the repair with 220 grit sand paper.Aaron14 There were some minor dents in the bowl and I decided to steam them out by wrapping the bowl with a damp terry cloth rag and going over the rag with a clothes iron set on high. If you used this method I would advise keeping your figures well clear of the iron. Speaking from personal experience, you don’t have to be very close to the iron get burned by the steam. Fortunately, I did not drop bowl!

I sanded the entire bowl with 400 – 2000 grit paper to remove all the dents and scratches but being sure to stay clear of the marking on the shank. The markings were faint but I wanted to preserve as much of them as I could.

The bowl had beautiful grain and I wanted to use a light brown stain to highlight it. I used one part Fiebing’s light brown mixed with 2 parts isopropyl alcohol applied with a cotton swab in layers until the color looked just right. I flaming each layer and wiped off the excess with a cotton pad moistened with alcohol.

The next to last step was to polish the sterling silver band. For this I tried a new technique that I had recently learned on this blog using a small amount of cigar ash and saliva. I was careful not to polish too much – or at all – around the hallmarks. The final step was a trip to the buffer for three coats of carnauba wax on the briar and stem. I hand applied a light coat of Walker Briar Works carnauba wax sealer on the silver band and I buffed the pipe with a micro fiber cloth to bring up the shine.Aaron15

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Bringing a Dr. Grabow De Luxe 9704 Bent Billiard Back to Life


Blog by Steve Laug

I just finished cleaning up the last of the pipe I picked up from the antique malls while I was in Idaho Falls. It is a little Dr. Grabow bent billiard. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Dr. Grabow over De Luxe over Imported Briar. On the right side near the stem shank union it is stamped with the shape number 9704. From what I can find on the Grabow shape charts the 04 shape is the bent billiard. This one was in rough shape. The finish was basically worn off and the bowl had spots of sticky grime on the sides and shank. There were also spots of paint on the shank and bowl. There were scratches all over the bowl. There were a lot of small fills on the right side of the bowl and the top of the shank as well as a large one on the lower part of the front of the bowl. Because of the missing finish these stood out. The top of the rim had a buildup of tars that looked flaky and hard. The bowl had a thick cake that made it impossible to see if the inside of the rim was in decent shape. I would need to ream it back to be sure. The stem was oxidized and the dirty with light tooth chatter on the underside near the button.Dr1

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Dr4 I took a close up photo of the top of the rim to show what I had to work with in cleaning up the bowl and rim.Dr5 When I took the stem off the pipe it had the usual Dr. Grabow shovel stinger apparatus. This was a little unique in that it was not inserted into the metal tenon but was an integral part of the tenon. The two were cast together which made removing it impossible. It was covered in tars and in a tobacco coloured lacquer that was rock hard.Dr6 The next two photos show the stamping on both sides of the shank. The right side shows the clear shape number stamp and the left side the Dr. Grabow stamping. The Imported Briar stamping is weak but visible.Dr7

Dr8 I reamed the bowl back to bare wood with a PipNet reamer. I started with the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to one that was the same diameter as the inside of the bowl. Once the cake was cleaned out I used a pen knife to clean up the small ridge that shows up in the second photo below.Dr9

Dr10 I used a sanding sponge to lightly top the bowl. The tars and lava on the top were hard and this was the way I chose to remove it without damaging the finish to the rim. I worked on it until the rim was clean and smooth. It would still need to be scrubbed to remove the darkening.Dr11

Dr12 I scrubbed the rim and the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the grime and oils left in the finish. I scrubbed until the rim and bowl were clean.Dr13 I scrubbed the shovel stinger with 0000 steel wool to remove the buildup on the aluminum and polish it at the same time.Dr14

Dr15 I cleaned out the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until it was spotless. I then worked on the stem. It was made a bit more difficult with the built in stinger but I was able to get it clean with a bit of effort.Dr16 With the inside clean I sanded the bowl and rim with 220 grit sandpaper and a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to clean up the finish. I was able to remove the darkening on the rim and also the dark spots on the sides of the bowl.Dr17

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Dr20 I screwed the stem back on the shank and then sanded the stem with the same sandpapers as I had sanded the bowl. I removed tooth chatter and the calcification on the first inch of the stem. I worked on the slight tooth marks on the button itself and cleaned them up. The pipe was beginning to take shape. Much more sanding would need to be done to the bowl to remove all of the scratches left behind by the sandpaper and a lot of polishing would need to be done on the stem before the pipe was finished.Dr21

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Dr24 I rubbed the bowl down with olive oil so that I could wet sand the finish and work out the scratches.Dr25

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Dr27 I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads and the olive oil until I was able to remove the scratches. I started with 1500-2400 grit pads and sanded until the scratches were minimized and then rubbed it down with olive oil once again before sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. Each successive micromesh pad brought more of a shine to the briar. The fills became smooth and blended into the briar better and began to disappear into the briar as the scratches around the edges were smoothed out.Dr28

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Dr33 I gave it a final rub down with oil and then finished sanding it with the last three grits of micromesh – 6000-12000. The bowl was smooth to the touch and had a shine to it that once was buffed and waxed would glow.Dr34

Dr35 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbing it down with Obsidian Oil. I continued to dry sand with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of the oil. I finished by sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and then gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry.Dr36

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Dr38 I buffed the pipe on the wheel with Blue Diamond polish and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel wheel to give it a shine and finished by buffing it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful old Grabow that has a lot of life left in it. Whether I keep it or pass it on to someone else it should last much longer than I will. It should continue to give companionship to whoever’s rack it graces. Thanks for looking.Dr39

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ADDENDUM: I received the following message on FaceBook from Christopher Chopin. It adds much to the information on this pipe so I add it here:

A favorite shape. Nice job as always Steve. And yes, 04 is the shape code, 97 was the finish code for deluxe. Also 92 and 98, there was more than one De Luxe, and 97 was the natural variegated finish. Dating on that if I’m not mistaken is between 1944 and 1953, at which point the spade was rotated so that the tip pointed to the bowl instead of the mouthpiece, after the company was purchased by HL&T. That is a true Linkman’s grabow, they just discontinued the Linkman’s stamp in ’44. I suspect it’ll find a place in your regular rotation.