Blog by Steve Laug
When I was working on the previous C.A. Sander of Swansea straight bulldog that I restored (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/12/13/an-interesting-welsh-pipe-find-a-c-a-sanders-sandhurst-bent-bulldog/) I was looking for information on the brand. In my search on the internet I came upon this small bulldog bowl on eBay. I had found that there were at least two different names stamped on these pipes – both the ones I found were sandblast finishes. The earlier one was stamped Sandhurst and this one is stamped Oxford. Other than that the stamping on both is the same – the name then CA Sander over Swansea. I wrote the seller to see if he had any information on the brand and he replied that he did not. I put a bid on the pipe and ended up winning it. It arrived here on Tuesday this week. I have included the photos that the seller had posted on eBay below. It appeared to be in very good shape even though it did not have a stem.
When the pipe arrived it was in excellent shape. The seller’s photos were absolutely correct. The bowl had a light cake in it and the rim was dirty with lava overflow and carbon. The shank was dirty and the finish had dust in the crevices of the blast. The stamping was exactly the same as the Sandhurst I restored other than the Oxford name that was present. I took the next series of photos to show the pipe on arrival before I started working on it.
I went through my can of stems to find one that would work on this bowl. Diamond shanks are notoriously hard to match a stem to as each side and angle is very individual and hardly ever align with used or estate stems. I would have to find one that had a close fit and modify it to match the angles. With that in mind I found several stems that could have worked. In looking at the tapered stems I pulled all seemed too long to go with the petite size of this bowl. None quite aligned at the shank and modifying them was not an option as one or more of the sides did not have enough material to modify. I had several saddle stems that had the same issues. Then in the bottom of my can I remembered that I had a Lucite saddle stem that might very well work. I took it out and measured the sides of the diamond. I have to tell you I was very surprised – this stem was almost a perfect fit. I would need to shorten the tenon slightly and take a little material off to get a snug fit. Only the bottom right side was a little larger than the shank. Everything else matched. The stem is a pearlised cream coloured Lucite that actually would go well with the colour of the bowl once I had it cleaned up. I used the PIMO tenon turning tool to reduce the diameter of the tenon to get a close match and finished the fit by hand sanding. I shortened the length of the tenon with a Dremel and sanding drum to the same length as the mortise. In doing so I removed the damaged end of the tenon and the rounded right side. Once I had the work done I put the stem in place in the shank and took the photos below. You can see the great fit that the stem had in terms of the width of the sides of the diamond. I was fortunate in terms of the amount of work that would need to be done to fine tune this one. It would take very little work to make a good fit.
I took a photo of the end of the shank and the end of the stem and put them side by side for comparison sake to show how close the two diamonds came to matching each other. This is a very rare occurrence in my experience. I sanded the bottom right side with 220 grit sandpaper to adjust the fit on that side. I needed to remove enough material to align the bottom of the diamond with the bottom of the diamond on the shank. All others point on the diamond aligned perfectly but this one. It did not take too much sanding before I had the alignment and the fit against the side of the shank perfect. I reamed the cake in the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took it back to bare briar. I scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush on the sides and bottom of the bowl and shank and with a brass tire brush on the rim.
I put the stem on the bowl, put a cotton ball in the bowl and then set up the retort to clean out the internals of the pipe. I boiled alcohol through the pipe and after two tubes of alcohol the airways were clean. The retort also removed some of the staining in the stem airway. I removed the retort and scrubbed the internals of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to remove the remaining alcohol and grime in the shank. In the end the shank and airway were clean and the pipe smelled fresh. I cleaned the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol and also pipe cleaners dipped in Bar Keepers Friend powder to scrub out the tar stains in the airway. It took a lot of scrubbing but I got the majority of the stains out. I did not want to darken the stain on the bowl but wanted to highlight the contrasts in the finish. The combination of dark brown and medium brown on the high spots worked well for me. To keep that and add life to the bowl I wiped it down with a light coat of olive oil and rubbed it into the blast pattern. I took the following photos with the stem in place on the bowl. The pipe is taking shape.
The stains at the button were stubborn and hard to remove. I found that there was a small lip where the slot in the button met the airway in the stem and it collected tars and oils. The pipe cleaners and scrubbing did not touch that as it did not reach into the small crevice there. I used a needle file to flatten out the lip at the junction. With that gone I was able to remove more of the stain from the stem. All that remain was a small spot on the top and the bottom that I could not get out no matter how hard I worked it. I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads to polish and remove the scratching. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. As I sanded the stem with each successive micromesh pad it left a richer luster in the pearlised stem.
I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel (lightly on the sandblast bowl as I did not want to flatten the blast) and gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I hand waxed the bowl with Halcyon II wax and then buffed the bowl and stem with a shoe brush and a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a petite bulldog – only 5 inches long from bowl to button and 1 3/8 inches tall from rim to point on the bowl bottom. The drilling on the bowl is 5/8 inches. I like the contrast that the Lucite stem gives with the blast on the bowl. The colours work well for me. The stem length works on this bowl and the overall effect is a balanced small sandblast pipe that looks great. At least it does to me! Thanks for looking.