Just when I had given up on finding a great pipe this happens – but not to me

Blog by Steve Laug

It has been a long time since I found a pipe of this caliber in a thrift shop of antique mall. It seems that the finds of earlier times are fewer and farther apart. Then something like what I am about to tell you happens – in this case happens to someone else. It creates in me a renewed passion for the hunt.

It is not too often that the pipes that others find set loose a twinge of jealousy in me but this one certainly did. It was one of my favourite shapes and he virtually stole it in terms of price. It was found by a pipeman on Vancouver Island. He found it in a local thrift/antique shop and paid $15 Canadian for it. For the Americans reading this our Canadian dollar is worth about 65 cents US. That is why I said that he stole the pipe, paying a whopping $9.75 US. He sent me a message on Facebook Messenger and asked if I would clean up the pipe for him and restore it. He sent me a photo that did not begin to tell the story of this beautiful little dog. We talked via Messenger and discussed the pipe. He sent it to me and I received it earlier this week.

It is a beautiful Shell Briar Bulldog. The bowl had a thick cake and was dirty on the outside. The finish looked undamaged by scratches and dents and merely bore a thick coat of dust and grime. The rim was in excellent shape – both inner and outer edges were undamaged. The stem was the worst part of the pipe – it was extremely oxidized and had a deep oxidation and also a very gritty feel in the hand. It almost felt like sand was stuck to the surface of the rubber. There were tooth marks on the top side of the stem and on the underside. There was a sticky spot on the top of the stem where there must have been a price tag at one point. The button and the slot were both undamaged and would clean up easily. There was an inner tube in the stem and shank of the pipe. It ran from the end of the tenon to the bottom of the bowl. These were made originally to facilitate keeping the airway clean. This one had a few oxidized spots on the surface of the aluminum and also was stained with tars and oils on the inside.

It was stamped on the flat underside of the bowl and shank as follows: On the bottom of the bowl it was stamped 148F/T which told me the shape number and the style of the stem – a fish tail. After that almost mid-shank it was stamped Dunhill Shell Briar. Next to that it was stamped Made in England7 0. From my read of the stamping the underlined 7 is added to the date 1960 which would make this pipe a 1967 pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shellbriar1.html). I am not sure of the meaning of the 0 that sits between the underlined 7 and the Circle 3 S. I do know that the circle three tells me that this pipe is a Group 3 sized pipe and the S gives the finish which in this case is a Shell.

The next set of five photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived at my work table.Dunhill1




Dunhill5 I studied the pipe for a while before proceeding with my usual clean up. I shook of the remnants of pipe envy and congratulated the finder. I began by reaming the pipe with a PipNet Reamer. The bowl, being a Group 3 size would only take the smallest cutting head of the reamer. I took the cake back as close as possible to bare wood with the reamer. I had to finish the reaming with a small pen knife and removed the ridges and remnants of cake that are visible in the second photo below.Dunhill6

Dunhill7 After I finished the reaming with the pen knife I used a brass bristle tire brush to clean up the finish on the top of the rim. I find that the soft brass bristles clean out the stubborn lava without doing damage to the blast/rustication finish on the rim. They also do not damage either the inner or outer edge of the rim.Dunhill8 I scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the detritus that had collected in the crevices of the finish. I rinsed the bowl with running water and dried it off with a towel.Dunhill9 I cleaned out the airway in the slot and stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cleaned out the inner tube the same way. I scrubbed the exterior of the inner tube with 0000 steel wool. The oxidation on the stem was deep and concentrated. It really was a mess.Dunhill10 To try to soften the oxidation and bring it to the surface I mixed a batch of OxyClean and dropped the stem in the mixture to soak overnight and worked on the bowl. I rubbed the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil and then buffed it with a shoe brush. I gave it several coats of Halcyon II wax and rebuffed with the shoe brush.Dunhill11



Dunhill14 I cleaned out the shank and the mortise with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Thanks to the inner tube it was not nearly as black and grimy as many of the older pipes that I clean up.Dunhill15 In the morning I took the stem out of the Oxyclean bath and dried it off with a coarse cotton towel. The oxidation had softened considerably and I was able to scrape a little away with a fingernail (that is a “secret” test I use to see if it ready to come out of the soak).Dunhill16


Dunhill18 I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. The oxidation was stubborn on this stem. It took a lot of work to get it out of the edges and curve of the saddle. Once I cut through the oxidation on the rough spots I moved on to sanding the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished by sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I let the oil dry.Dunhill19


Dunhill21 I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I buffed the bowl with a light touch to make sure that I did not get the buffing compound in the crevices of the blast. I buffed the stem with a little heavier touch and then gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several coats of Halcyon II wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. I rubbed the bowl and stem down with a microfibre cloth for the final shine. It is now packed and on its way home to the lucky gent who found it. I have a renewed passion to take up the hunt for more pipes. Perhaps it will be my turn to find a treasure like this. Thanks for looking.Dunhill22






12647990_10156469550400557_62413239_nI received this photo last night of the pipeman who found this Dunhill. The mail delivered the pipe to him yesterday and he loaded it up and enjoyed a smoke. I don’t often get to see this end of the story! Thanks Ryan.



7 thoughts on “Just when I had given up on finding a great pipe this happens – but not to me

  1. Holomon

    Thanks for posting this, I just picked up a Dunhill 4S Shell Briar for peanuts, but the inside of the bowl has a really uneven thick layer of cake that’s crumbled in places. I’ll follow your process above and hopefully get it back to smoke-able condition as the outside is immaculate.

  2. upshallfan

    And that explains why I can never pass up a junk or antique shop – who knows what treasure lurks in a old box or drawer? In the classic auto world, guys are always trying to find the “Cobra in a Barn”. This would be the pipe equivalent. Nice job restoring but NOT over-restoring!


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