Blog by Steve Laug
Another of the pipes that my brother Jeff sent me was a horn shaped pipe that was stamped Tinderbox Made in Italy in a circle with Monza in the centre of the circle. It is stamped on the underside of the shank. The shape is quite unique. The bowl had around 10-12 fills in it that went from tiny spots to huge plugs in the briar. The finish was a heavy urethane coat that made the pipe very shiny and really highlighted the fills around the bowl and the shank.
The shank had a split in the underside of the shank that went from under the band up the shank for one inch on the bottom side. It had just turned slightly upward and if left alone would have continued to the bowl. The rim was heavily damaged and there was a thick hard cake in the bowl that hurt my hand when I pushed the various reamers that I had trying to remove it. The bowl looked like it was conical in shape but was so thick that there was very little room in the bowl for tobacco. The stem was a replacement, like many of them in the pipes my brother sent me. It was a saddle stem and was missing a huge chunk on the left side of the button and up the stem about ½ inch. The person who had made the replacement had cut an angled end on the tenon which in my opinion was careless and not necessary. The airway into the bowl from the shank was plugged and when I blew into the end of the shank I could not get any air through it.
I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the damage and the cake in the bowl. The second photo below shows the broken stem. The stem was pretty much a throw away as it is very narrow after the broken button.
I started to ream the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I started with a small cutting head and soon gave up. I used the largest head that would fit the diameter of the bowl and still found the cake too hard to cut through with the reamer. I dropped it in an alcohol bath to soak to soften the cake and to soften the urethane coat on the bowl. After it had been soaking an hour I took it out of the bath.
In my can of stems I had one with the same diameter as the shank and a tenon that would work with some adjustments. The tenon was too long so I would need to trim it back and also adjust the diameter to get a snug fit in the shank. The alcohol bath did not even make a dent in the finish. As I expected the only way to remove a urethane finish is to sand it off. I did not mind as it was covering a lot of damage to the rounded rim and the sides of the bowl. I fit the new stem in the shank and took a few photos to get an idea of the look. The stem was a little too bent to my liking so that would need adjusting but the taper worked well with the horn shape. The last photo of the underside of the shank shows a dark area. That is where the stamping is present and also the crack in the shank.
I put the stem aside and used a pen knife, a KleenReam and a PipNet reamer to work on the hard cake. It was still rock hard but I was able to chip away at it until I had removed it from the bowl. I used the drill bit from the handle of the KleenReem to open up the airway into the bowl.
I sanded the bowl some more with some medium and fine grit sanding sponges. I wanted to clean up the cracked area on the shank bottom so that I could repair it. I took the photo below to show the crack in the shank. I used a micro drill bit on my Dremel to drill a small hole at the end of the crack to stop it from spreading further up the shank.
I packed some briar dust into the hole and then dripped super glue on top of that and then more briar dust and some more glue. I ran a dental pick along the crack to open it slightly and then put some glue along the crack to the band as to preserve that as well.
I sanded the repair to smooth it out and blend it into the shank and avoided the area inside the stamping. I heated the stem with a heat gun to take a bit of the bend out of it. Once it was pliable I bent it to match the flow of the curve of the horn. I wanted it to sit with the rim and the bend in the stem flat on the table when laid down. That angle would make it sit correctly in the mouth when it was smoked.
I worked on the curve of the rim and top with sandpaper and sanding sponges to get the flow of the rolled rim even all the way around the bowl. I worked on the inner edge of the rim as well to make it flow into the bowl rather than be an abrupt edge. I sanded the bowl with medium grit sanding sponges and fine grit sanding blocks to remove the scratches from the briar and to work on the oxidation on the stem. The grain was beginning to show through. I wiped it down with a tack cloth to remove the sanding dust in preparation for staining the bowl. The bowl had a lot of fills so I decided to try a contrast stain to both hide the fills and to bring out the grain. I started with a black aniline stain and finished with a brown. I stained the bowl with the black and flamed the stain to set it in the grain. I reapplied and reflamed it until the coverage was even. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the excess black and leave it only in the grain of the briar. I wanted it to show the grain and highlight the beauty. I also wanted to mask the fills to some degree.
I hand buffed the bowl to check out the coverage of the brown and the contrast of the black and the black Sharpie marks. By and large I liked what I saw. There were some spots that needed some more work but it was looking good.
I worked the stem over with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then giving it a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and then gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.
I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff to raise the shine and then with a microfibre cloth to add depth to the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It exceeds my expectations when I began the reclamation work on it. The fills on the sides, shank and back of the bowl have all but disappeared in the blend of stains and Sharpie pen. The large ones on the bowl front look better but are still somewhat visible. Overall I am happy with the results. Thanks for looking.