Monthly Archives: February 2016

Breathing New Life into an old Mastercraft Standard Cavalier


Blog by Steve Laug

I have always wondered what it would be like to work on a Cavalier shaped pipe. There was something intriguing about working on a long shank with an end cap and a bowl carved coming out of the side of the shank. The look of the pipe and the dapper appearance may well have contributed to the name of the shape. It is made to hang from the mouth of the pipe smoker and be clenched as he is doing other things. This one is another of the pipes that came to me from my brother Jeff.Cavalier1

Cavalier2 It is a great example of the shape. It is a rusticated Cavalier that has brown and dark contrasting colours over a worm trail like rustication. The end cap is a hard rubber and has a bone tenon connecting it to internal threads in the bottom of the shank. The stem is also a good quality rubber as it is not even oxidized. There are tooth marks on the bottom and the top of the stem near the button left behind by the clencher that smoked it. Cavalier3 The rim of this one is in great shape no damage. The amazing thing was that there was unsmoked tobacco in the bottom of the bowl. There was also a thick cake on the walls of the bowl. It did not extend to the bottom of the bowl but ended shortly above the entrance of the airway at the bottom of the bowl.Cavalier4

Cavalier5 The pipe came in its own satin bag which is why the pipe was in such good shape. The finish was dirty and dusty in the grooves but that was the extent of the issues with it. This would be an easy clean up. I took it apart and took the photo below of the parts of the pipe.Cavalier6 It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the words Mastercraft over Standard over Imported Briar. All words are in upper case on the shank. It appears that the stamping was to be done in a smooth oval on the shank but it missed the oval by about a ¼ inch and sits over the rustication on the shank.Cavalier7 I scrubbed the bowl and the threads on the end cap with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I rinsed off the pipe with running water and dried it off. The cleaned finish looked very good. I would not need to do much with the finish on this pipe.Cavalier8 I removed the tobacco remnants from the bowl and then reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I took the cake back to bare briar.Cavalier9

Cavalier10 I cleaned off the threads on the end cap – it was a bone tenon – with a brass bristle wire brush. One it was clean I put a coat of Vaseline on the tenons and screwed it back in place.Cavalier11 Before I put the end cap in place I cleaned out the inside of the shank from end to end with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. Once it was clean I put the end cap in place. I also cleaned out the airway in the stem at the same time.Cavalier12

Cavalier13 The deep gouges in the top and bottom sides of the stem needed to be cleaned up. There was a lot of tooth chatter around the deep gouges so I sanded out the tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper. The sanding work left two gouges on the underside and one on the top side of the stem that would need some work.Cavalier14

Cavalier15 I cleaned out the divots with alcohol and dried it off. I filled them in with black super glue until there was bubble over the surface. I let the glue cure.Cavalier16

Cavalier17 While the stem patch cured I worked on the end cap. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final rub down of the oil. I let it dry.Cavalier18

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Cavalier20 When the end cap was dry I rubbed down the bowl with a light coat of olive oil to bring some life back to the dry briar. At this point the pipe is beginning to look really good. The contrast stain of the black and the dark brown gives depth to the rusticated finish of the bowl.Cavalier21

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Cavalier24 Once the glue dried on the stem I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and clean it up. I flattened the repair on the blade of the stem as well.Cavalier25 I sanded the repaired areas on the stem and the newly made file marks with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked until the repair was blended into the surface of the blade. The repair on the top stood out more at this point in the process. That would change as I worked on it longer.Cavalier26

Cavalier27 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and 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 with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil. I let the oil dry before taking the pipe to the buffer.Cavalier28

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Cavalier30 I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and lightly buffed the bowl. Care had to be exercised to not get build-up in the rustication. It takes a very light touch to keep that from happening. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I used Conservator’s Wax on the bowl and hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to add some depth to the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful pipe and I love the feel of it in my hand. It was an enjoyable restoration. Thanks for looking.Cavalier31

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Cleaning up a Mysterious Pot Shaped Pipes stamped only M-2


Blog by Steve Laug

The seller of this pipe identified it as a Malaga made pipe but in all of my searching on the web I was unable to find verification for that. There was nothing to suggest that it was made by Malaga Pipes. The only stamping that the pipe bore was M-2. I just finished restoring a Malaga Pipe and wrote about it in a previous blog https://rebornpipes.com/2016/02/27/a-beautiful-malaga-lovat-came-my-way/. In the comments that were posted in response to this blog there was an exchange of comments between me and John Lawitzke. In them he gave a lot of information on the brand. I figured John might well be able to solve my mystery pipe. I wrote a comment in that blog and asked him about the M-2 stamping. He wrote back with the following information.

Yes, M-2 is a Malaga second. Malaga seconds were marked either M-2 or MALAGA SECOND. Some Malaga seconds, you look at and really wonder why they are a second. A single fill or bad pit was enough to make it a second. Some seconds are really seconds. I have one Malaga second with a severely misdrilled airway. It was drilled half way at a bad angle and then re-drilled at the correct angle.

I have included the photos included by the Ebay seller. They give a pretty clear picture of the condition of the pipe and show the stamping on the side of the shank. Some pretty nice grain shown through the grime that covered the bowl. The M-2 stamping is also clearly visible in the photos.Mal1

Mal2 You can see the rim damage in the photo below. The inner edge is out of round. It looks like the pipe has been reamed with a knife somewhere along the journey of its life.Mal3

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Mal5 Given the state of the pipe in the photos I could not wait to get it in hand and give it a closer examination. When it arrived, I put is in the refurbishing waiting box and it sat for a few weeks. This morning I took it out of the box and gave it a closer look. The pipe was in decent shape though dirty. The grain shown through the grime but it was pretty muted. There was a thicker cake than I had imagined and the lava on the rim thickly covered the inner edge hiding damage that certainly lay beneath. There were several nicks or gouges on the right side of the bowl – almost a road rash that can happen from dropping the pipe on concrete. There was also what appeared to be a spot on the right side of the bowl where a sticker had been left and left behind its imprint in the finish. The overall finish was worn to the point of not being visible. In my earlier post I found that Malaga rarely stained their pipes so this one wore the patina of age under the grime. The stem was oxidized and the button had a few tooth marks on the top and bottom. The next four photos show the pipe before I started working on it this morning.Mal6

Mal7 The next photo shows a close-up of the rim to highlight the damage and the thickness of the cake in the bowl. The second photo gives a close-up of the M-2 stamping.Mal8

Mal9 I reamed the bowl with the largest cutting head on the PipNet reamer. I wanted to get a clean bowl so that I could work on the damaged inner rim edge.Mal10

Mal11 To prepare for my beveling work on the inner edge of the rim I topped the bowl on the topping board to remove the damage to the rim top. Once I had done that I found the only fill on the entire bowl that I can find. It was on the rim top at the left rear. It is right on the outer edge of the rim.Mal12 I worked on beveling the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. My goal was to work on that edge until the bowl appeared to be round once more. I think it worked pretty well from the photos below.Mal13

Mal14 I scrubbed the bowl and the end of the shank with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and the wax on the bowl. From what I read Malaga did not stain their bowls but oil cured them. I wanted to get this one back to natural with the patina of age still in place.Mal15

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Mal18 The stem was very tight in the shank and with a little scrubbing with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs I could see why. There were a lot of tars and oils lining the walls of the mortise. I also cleaned out the stem and found that it was nowhere near as dirty as the shank.Mal19

Mal20 With all of the internals cleaned it was time to begin working on the oxidized stem. This particular style of stem is a hard clean up. The beveled edges on the blade from the saddle to the button on the right and left, upper and lower are hard to clean up without rounding them. I worked the stem over with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and the build-up around the button.Mal21 These stems take more time than others so once I had the oxidation beat, I decided to work some more on the bowl. I wanted to address the road rash on the right side of the bowl. I cleaned out the area with alcohol and then filled the many sharp edged nicks and gouges with clear super glue.Mal22

Mal23 From the photo above you can see how many of these there were on this side of the bowl. Once the glue dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper.Mal24 The sanding removed some of the darkening on the bowl and I liked the way the grain showed through the sanded areas. I sanded the entire bowl with 1500 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wanted to smooth out the repaired area and blend it in and also remove more of the darkening on the rest of the bowl. A benefit of sanding the bowl was being able to really see the beautiful grain and contrast on this pipe.mal25

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Mal31 I sanded the bowl with 1800-3200 grit micromesh sanding pads. I then gave it a rub down with olive oil and hand buffed it.Mal32

Mal33 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it another coat of oil and then finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry.Mal34

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Mal36 I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and then with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Not a bad looking pipe for a Malaga second. Thanks for looking.Mal37

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A Pleasure Restoring a Pipelane Ltd Execute Chubby Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother sent me the link and photos of a pipe he was bidding for on Ebay. It was stamped Pipelane, Ltd. over Executive on the left side of the shank. On the underside of the shank it was stamped Imported Briar. I had never heard of the brand but I liked the look of the pipe. It looked to be in pretty good shape. The rim was dirty and the inner edge was scorched and burned at the back and the front right side. There was a band on the shank that appeared to be silver and it was oxidized. The stem seemed to have a light oxidation but was very clean.Pipelane5 I looked for information about the brand online and found that some of the pipes with this brand name were actually made by Savinelli and bore the typical Savinelli shape numbers. A friend on Vancouver Island sent me a message on Facebook about a pipe he had with the same stamping. His pipe is called the Director. It bears the 604KS stamp and is a classic Savinelli Oom Paul. He sent me the photos below. It appears that the shop had pipe makers in Europe make pipes for them and stamp them with their shop name. Thus the shop brand pipes were made by others, which was not an uncommon practice in those days. (Unfortunately the one I have does not bear any identifying shape numbers so the maker remains a mystery.)Pipelane1a I also found out that Pipelane Ltd. was created in 1961 and had tobacco stores in around the Seattle area. I looked up the stores and found two listed – one in Seattle and one in Bellevue. I called the phone numbers listed and the Seattle was unavailable –no matter when I called the number. I left a message so perhaps they will return my call. The Bellevue number was disconnected and no longer in service. The listing for the Seattle store shows that it is located at 3410 Arapahoe Pl. W. and their phone number was (206) 285-3510. I will continue to check and see if I can get a hold of anyone at that number but I am wondering if the company still exists.

The pictures below were the ones that caught my brother’s eye on the seller’s listing. It is a chunky pipe with a great rustication and a natural finish. The rim is smooth and there is a smooth band around the top of the bowl separated from the rustication by a single ring.Pipelane1

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Pipelane4 When the box arrived I took this pipe out to have a closer look. I could see the things that had attracted my brother to the pipe. I liked the look and feel of it. The finish was actually quite clean – not much grime or oils in the natural finish. The vertical grain of the pipe shone through the rustication and gave the colour of the pipe some variation. The rim was a little more burned than I had thought from the photos. The damage to the inner edge of the rim actually had broken through the briar and not just discoloured it. The band was stamped Sterling on the left side of the pipe. The oxidation would come off. There were some dimples in the silver as it seems to have been tapped to match the rustication on the inner edge of the band. The stem was in excellent shape other than the previously noted oxidation. The chunky shank and stem gave the pipe substance.Pipelane6

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Pipelane9 I took a close up photo of the rim to show the damage at the front right and rear of the inner edge of the rim. The burn is quite deep in both places.Pipelane10 The double stepped down tenon with the rounded end is unusual. I don’t recall seeing one cut like this before. Perhaps this is a clue to the origin of this pipe. Anyone else seen one like this before?Pipelane11 I scrubbed the briar with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and then rinsed it under running water.Pipelane12 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and used the second and third cutting head to take the uneven cake back to briar. I wanted the bowl clean so I could assess the damage to the inner rim edge and then address it.Pipelane13

Pipelane14 I worked on the inner edge of the rim cleaning up the burn marks and beveling the rest of the rim to match the angles of the burn marks. The darkening to the rim would not disappear but at least I could give it a cleaner and more elegant look. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to increase the angle of the bevel.Pipelane15 I sanded the bevel and the rim with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-4000 grit to remove the scratches and to polish the rim. It looked far better when I finished. You will see photos of the results at the end of the blog. I polished the sterling silver band with a jeweler’s cloth and removed the tarnish. Pipelane16 I cleaned out the mortise and airway into the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.Pipelane17 I sanded the surface of the stem to loosen the oxidation and remove the surface coat. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners and the steps on the tenon with alcohol and cotton swabs.Pipelane18

Pipelane19 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and the remaining oxidation. I gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit micromesh pads and gave it another coat of the oil. I finished sanding with the last group of pads – 6000-12000 grit. I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.Pipelane20

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Pipelane22 I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl a coat of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. I finished by lightly buffing the bowl and stem with a clean buff to raise the shine and then finished with a microfibre cloth hand buff. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beauty. Once again if any of you are familiar with this Seattle Pipe Shop be sure to let us know. Thanks for looking.Pipelane23

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A Beautiful Malaga Lovat Came My Way


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff found this Malaga pipe on Ebay recently and bought it. He sent it up to Vancouver for me to work on. It was the next one that I chose to clean up. I needed a bit of a break after the work on the Ardor Urano Fantasy that I just finished. As I went through my bin of pipes to refurbish the grain on this one called out to me. It was in decent shape so it would not take a lot to bring it back to life. The finish was dirty and had some stickiness to the sides of the bowl and shank. The stem would not seat all the way in the shank and was very hard to turn. The bowl had a thin cake and the rim had some slight lava on the surface. It appeared to have some dents in it as well but after it was cleaned I would be better able to tell. The stamping on it is simply Malaga on the left side of the shank. I have written about Malaga pipes and their maker, George Khoubesser on a previous blog post https://rebornpipes.com/2013/02/09/george-khoubesser-and-malaga-pipes/

In the Malaga catalogue that I have on the blog this shape is called a Saddle Club and is shape number 128. There is no shape number on this pipe.662px-Malaga4

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Malaga2 The stem had some light oxidation and some calcium buildup at the button. There was some tooth chatter on the top and bottom sides of the stem. The button was interesting to me. It was rounded toward the slot on both the top and the bottom sides like an older style orific button. It had a slot rather than a single hole in the end of the button. It was not worn and there were no dents or marks in the button.Malaga3

Malaga4 I carefully removed the stem from the shank as I did not want to either split the shank or damage the tenon. Once I had it out of the shank I cleaned the mortise and airway with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I also cleaned the airway on the stem.Malaga5

Malaga6 With the mortise clean I was able to easily twist the stem into the shank. I scrubbed the surface of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the stickiness and general grime on the surface of the pipe and then rinsed it under running water. I dried it off for the photos below.Malaga7

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Malaga10 I reamed the pipe with the PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar.Malaga11 With the bowl reamed I worked on the rim of the pipe. I scrubbed it with cotton pads and the oil soap and then used a 1500 grit micromesh pad to remove the buildup. I wet sanded the rim with the micromesh pad until the surface was clean and smooth. The photo below shows the rim after cleaning. The small dings are virtually invisible and the crowned rim looks really good.Malaga12 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the light oxidation. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil afterwards and set it aside.Malaga13 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding 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 sanding the stem with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of oil. I set it aside to dry.Malaga14

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Malaga16 I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond and then gave bowl and several coats of carnauba wax. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The crowned rim and the grain on this old pipe are stunning. It is a solid piece of briar with no fills or flaws. The bowl is quite large for a Lovat – length is 5 ½ inches, height is 2 inches, and the diameter of bowl is 7/8 inches. The anonymous pipemaker who made it for Malaga chose a stunning piece of briar and laid the pipe out so well that is showcases the grain. All I can tell you is it looks even more stunning in person than it does in the photos. Thanks for looking.Malaga17

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With a Little Work I have a DR Ardor Urano Fantasy Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

When I found this pipe on Ebay I wanted it. It actually does not happen too much anymore as it is becoming rarer that I want a pipe for myself. Generally I purchase pipes to repair that can teach me something or that I can repair and sell to someone I know is looking for a particular pipe. My brother will show me pipes that he finds and I look at them in terms of saleability or marketing. Rarely do I see one that I go “I want that one”. When I saw this one I wanted it. I don’t know what it is about the pipe but the combination of the blue Lucite stem and end cap, the flow and bend of the stem, the rusticated finish of the bowl and my favourite shape captured my imagination. Not even the chunk missing out of the right hand side rear top of the bowl deterred me from sending him a message to place a bid on it for me. That missing chunk would provide me with a challenge that I could imagine fixing. The pictures below came from the seller and gave a pretty accurate picture of the condition of the pipe.Ardor1

Ardor2 The bowl had a thick cake that filled the bottom half of the bowl and closed it off. The top half of the bowl had an uneven thick cake and looked like the pipe man who had the pipe before had continued to smoke it even after the chunk came out of the bow side. It would be hard to know what the condition of the inner edge of the rim without removing the cake. The rim had a tarry buildup and overflow of lava. The stem had a lot of tooth marks and wear on the top and bottom surfaces and also on the top and bottom sides of the button. The stem was oxidized and dull. The finish was actually in quite decent shape and was pretty clean other than the rim. The stamping on the bowl was very clear. It was stamped in a column on the smooth underside of the shank DR in script over Ardor over Urano over Italy over Fatta A Mano over Fantasy. The stamping was clear and distinct.Ardor3

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Ardor5 When I got home from work I was excited to find that the package from my brother arrived while I was away. I had been looking forward to working on this one. When I removed it from the bubble wrap packaging that my brother had used there were no surprises. Things were pretty much as they had been described by the seller and shown in the photos. The stem had quite a few tooth marks and the sharp edge of the button was worn on both sides. The thin button would be comfortable but it needed to be cleaned up.Ardor6 Cleaning up the bowl and rim was going to be an interesting challenge. I wondered what I would find behind the thick cake. To have a chunk of briar break free like it had on this pipe made me wonder what was under the cake. I expected to find a fairly thin wall on the back of the pipe and around the broken area. I also wanted to see if there were any cracks running away from the broken area or if the break was clean.Ardor7 The interior of the shank looked pretty clean. The band on the end of the stem was oxidized and I wondered if it was brass or silver.Ardor8 I decided to start working on the bowl almost immediately. I needed to clean it up and see what I was dealing with. I reamed it using all four of the cutting heads on the PipNet pipe reamer. With the cake removed I could see the extent of damage to the rear wall of the bowl. The area on the left of the broken spot was thin and scored by what looked like a knife blade when it had been reamed before I got it. The top of the rim disappeared at the back of the bowl to the left of the break. The bowl was significantly out of round at the front as well.Ardor9

Ardor10 In preparation for the bowl repair I sanded the inside of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper. I topped the bowl on the topping board to square up the rim. I cleaned out the edges of the break with a dental pick and then washed it with alcohol and cotton swabs.Ardor11

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Ardor13 I cut a piece of briar from an old broken bowl that I keep around for this purpose. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to shape the piece of briar to fit in the broken notch. It was still too tall for a good fit but you can see it in place in the next photo.Ardor13 I held it place and used the Dremel and sanding drum to shorten the plug to the same height as the bowl rim. It was too thick for the shape of the bowl so I sanded it with the Dremel to reduce the thickness.Ardor15

Ardor16 I held it place and used the Dremel and sanding drum to shorten the plug to the same height as the bowl rim. It was too thick for the shape of the bowl so I sanded it with the Dremel to reduce the thickness.Ardor17

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Ardor20 I sanded the inside of the bowl with the Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the inside edge of the repair.Ardor21 At this point in the process I set the bowl aside for a bit and worked on the stem. I cleaned the band on the stem with silver polish and the tarnish and brass look disappeared and underneath was a beautiful silver band with an oval 925 stamp.Ardor22 I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. It did not take too long before it was clean.Ardor23 I cleaned out the mortise and airway in the shank with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I also used the drill bit from the KleenReem pipe reamer and cleared out the airway to the bowl. Once I ran the drill bit through the shank I cleaned it again with the pipe cleaners and alcohol. The finished pipe smelled clean.Ardor24

Ardor25 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. I used a needle file to reshape the edge of the button and redefine the curve of the button from the end. I cleaned up the slot. I finished sanding the stem with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and then buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel.Ardor26

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Ardor28 With the stem finished I turned my attention to the rim and the thin inner wall of the bowl at the back of the pipe. I used clear super glue and briar dust to build up the inner edge of the rim. My thinking at this point was that this would be my base coat. From here I would build it up until I was satisfied with the thickness.Ardor29 Once the glue dried I sanded it and took a picture of the rim to this point.Ardor30 I used a Dremel with several different burrs to rusticate the patch on the outside of the bowl. I was aiming to match the cuts and random pattern of the rustication on the rest of the bowl. It took several cylindrical burrs, pointed burrs and a ball burr to get the pattern I wanted. The photo below shows the finished rustication. I needed to clean it up and then stain it.Ardor31 The next two photos show the clean up and the staining process. I used a black Sharpie permanent marker to fill in the deeper grooves in my rustication and then went over the whole thing with a dark brown stain pen. I finished by touching it up with a medium brown stain pen.Ardor32

Ardor33 I waxed the bowl with Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. The next photo shows the bowl at this point in the process. All that remains is to work on the rim and the inner edge.Ardor34 At this point I have not done any work on the rim. I still need to clean up the rim top and the smooth edge on the outside of the bowl but it is getting there.Ardor35 I built up the inner edge with some JB Weld. I used a dental spatula to lay the mixture on the inner wall of the bowl. Once it is dry JB Weld is impermeable and does not disperse chemicals. My intention is to use this and then finish with a coat of pipe mud and a finish coat of bowl coating.Ardor36 I lightly topped the bowl once the JB Weld dried and gave the inner edge of the rim a light bevel. The bowl is slightly out of round but it far better than it was.Ardor37 I gave the bowl a hand buff with a shoe brush and a light rub down with olive oil. Once the oil was absorbed into the finish I hand buffed the bowl once more with the shoe brush. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The outside of the bowl looks excellent. The damage on the rim and the inner bowl wall made it very difficult to bring the bowl back to round. By and large considering where I started I am happy with the finished product. I am going to let the repair cure for another 24 hours before giving it a coat of pipe mud and then a bowl coating.Ardor38

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Ardor41 I took a few close-up photos of the repaired area so you can have a closer look at the repair. The first photo below is the right side. The repair is toward the back of the right side. The second photo shows the left side for comparison sake. The third photo is a top view of the rim repair. The final photos show the bowl with the stem out. Thanks for looking.Ardor42

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***ADDENDUM – I just finished a morning cigar and mixed a batch of pipe mud. I coated the inside of the bowl with a thick layer of pipe mud. It is now drying. Here is a photo.Ardor47

A Piece of Art Deco – Greenwich House Thoro-Kleen


Blog by Steve Laug

For some crazy reason I have always liked odd pipes – pipes that pushed the envelope in the search for a cool dry smoke. Together they are alike a museum display of odd and inventive contraptions. When my brother sent me this metal pipe it certainly fit the category of the unusual. The design and shape to me bring back memories of watching the Jetsons on Saturday morning cartoons. The metallic spaceship like pipe encourages those connections for me. It has a streamlined metal shank with an end cap on one end and a stem on the other. It flows. The bowl is a finned affair with a briar insert. I think the idea was to make an indestructible easy to clean pipe. The fact that many remain on the market speaks to the indestructibility of the pipe but as for easy to clean well to me the jury is still out.Green1 Evidently the pipe originally came with two bowls – a choice of looks. The first like the one shown in the advertisement about was metal finned affair with a briar insert. The second was a briar bowl of various shapes. Both bowls were held to the shank with a hollowed out screw that served as the airway from the bottom of the bowl to the shank. The stem and end cap come off for ease of cleaning. The body of the pipe can be hexagonal, square (Thoro-Kleen only seen in this shape) or circular in cross section. The unmarked version tends to be regarded as the COMET, all the others being stamped with a name. The Smoking Metal website shows variations on the brand. Follow the link and you can see photos and information. http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=99

According to Pipedia the Greenwich House Thoro-Kleen was a metal pipe system from the same family as the Roybrooke, Comet, and Original Gridiron pipes, and parts from all are believed to be interchangeable. The pipes were sold by the Greenwich House Corporation, located in 1947 at 939-M 8th Avenue, N.Y. 19, N.Y… The pipe set sold for $2.50 in 1947. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Thoro-Kleen

From all of this I learned that the probable year of the pipe’s manufacture was 1947. It was a pretty sweet little pipe that definitely wore its age well. I did a bit more research as I wanted to find out what the packaging and the additional bowl looked like as the one I had, came only with the attached bowl. I found some photos that show the original packaging and have included them below.Green2

Green3 I also found a picture of the pipe taken apart showing all of the pieces. This was an important picture for me as it helped to understand how to take apart the bowl and the end cap. The one I was working on was so dirty and caked that I could not see the screw in the bottom of the bowl and the end cap was stuck. I was not sure if it was pressure fit like a Kirsten or threaded. This answered those questions for me. Once I took mine apart I found that it did not have a paper filter but rather a metal stinger.Green4 I took the following photos of the pipe to record the condition it was in when I started. Part of the fun for me is to work on a pipe and then compare the finished pipe to where it was when I started the process. The aluminum bowl and base were oxidized and dull. The stamping on the side of the shank was readable but lightly stamped in the middle portion. It read Thoro-Kleen in flowing script over Greenwich House.Green5 The end cap had a slot that fit a standard 25 cents piece that could be used to open it. In this case it was stuck and I could not turn it. The stem was oxidized and had many tooth dents on the top and bottom sides. The bowl was badly caked to the point that no air could get from the bowl to the base. I was unable to see the bottom of the bowl and know what held it to the base. The briar bowl insert was damaged and had burn marks toward the bowl front.Green6

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Green9 I took some close up photos of the bowl and stem to show the condition they were in when I began the restoration.Green10

Green11 In order to take the pipe apart I reamed the cake enough to be able to get to the screw in the bottom of the bowl. The funny thing is that while I was turning the handle on the PipNet pipe reamer the bowl twisted free of the base and I was able to take it apart. At this point the pipe looked like the photo below. I was not able to remove the end cap as it was still stuck.Green13 I finished reaming the bowl with the PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar.Green14

Green15 I heated the end of the pipe with the flame from the lighter to loosen and soften the tars that held the threads tightly in place. After several failed attempts to turn it and then reheating it I was able to turn if free of the base with a pair of padded pliers. You can see from the photos below the thick dark substance that filled the end cap and the base.Green16

Green17 I used a dental pick to begin to pick out the sludge on the inside of the cap and the base. You can see from the photo the amount of dried hard material that came out and this was only the beginning.Green18 The inside of the base was lined with hardened material. I plugged the tube with cotton pads and ran alcohol through the base to begin to soften the material. It took a lot of work to loosen it and the cotton pads came out darkened.Green19 I lightly topped the bowl to remove the damaged area and the burned area.Green20

Green21 I removed the stinger from the stem and cleaned the airway with fluffy and bristle pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and minimize the tooth marks.Green22 I used thick folded bristle pipe cleaners to run through the base to remove the grime and oils that were left behind once I had scraped it clean.Green23 With the first level of cleaning done on the pipe I laid out the parts and took a picture. I also took a photo of the stamping on the shank now that I had cleaned it up enough for it to show more clearly.Green24

Green25 I scrubbed the fins and grooves on the bowl with alcohol and cotton swabs.Green26 I scrubbed out the inside of the screw, end cap, threads and the inside of the metal bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.Green27 Once the end cap was clean and the inside of the base was clean I greased the threads on the cap with Vaseline and turned it into the base.Green28 I polished all of the aluminum parts of the pipe with Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 to remove some of the scratches and oxidation.Green29 With the bowl and shank finished I put the pipe back together minus the stem. I put the briar bowl in the metal bowl and turned the screw into the base.Green30 I set the bowl and base aside and worked on the stem. I cleaned up the edge of the button on the stem with needle files to give it more of a sharp definition and remove the tooth marks.Green31 I sanded the file marks with 220 grit sandpaper and further cleaned up the stem.Green32

Green33 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished by sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of the oil and let it dry.Green34

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Green37 I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buff and then by hand with a microfibre cloth. I gave the base and bowl a coat of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I can’t help but saying at this point – “Meet George Jetson…” Thanks for looking.Green38

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This one was a labour of love – A Custombilt Bullmoose


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother sent me a pipe that is a shape I have had two previous times and always sold or gifted. It is a Bullmoose or a Scoop shape. Tracy Mincer did a great job with this shape and it is one I have never seen repeated as chunky as he did them. This one was stamped on the right side of the shank with the words Custombilt over Imported Briar.CB1 The pipe was solid but dirty. The stem would not push into the shank and the grooves and trails in the briar were dusty. The bowl had a thin, uneven cake in it and the lava overflowed slightly onto the rim leaving a thin coat of tars and oils. There were some dings and dents in the smooth parts of the pipe and the finish was worn. There were some fills in the grooves that showed through the worn finish. Overall it was in good shape. The stem had tooth chatter on the top and bottom sides with a few deeper tooth marks near the button. The photos below show what the pipe looked like when I started working on it.CB2CB3CB4CB5 I took a few close-up photos of the bowl rim, front and back views and the stem to show what I had to deal with in the restoration of this one.CB6CB7CB8CB9CB10 The stamping gave me a bit of information on the date of the pipe. The one word Custombilt stamping rather than the Custom-Bilt stamping would help to pin down the date a bit. I decided to pause a few moments and do a bit of reading to help narrow down the date. I looked on one of my go to resources – Pipedia.org. I also have Bill Unger’s book but it is packed away at the moment and this article on pipedia quotes extensively from the book. Here is the link to the article: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt

Under the heading, Custom-Bilt History is the following information.

“The book (Bill Unger’s Book, my comment) opens up with an intriguing statement that unfortunately is never fully followed up: Before beginning this history, I need to emphasize an important fact and to ask the reader to keep it firmly. Spelling-Custom-Bilt, Custombilt, and other variations-is extremely important to the various aspects of the following discussions. It was not, however, important to many people in the company’s early days. [Emphasis mine] {Page 9}.”

“Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff… In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. (my emphasis). There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.”

“In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.”

From this information I am pretty sure my pipe is made after the change in 1946 and before Tracy Mincer lost the name in the early 1950s. It has the characteristic Mincer like rustication patterns and shape. It could very well be from the Rich era of the brand.

I went to work cleaning up this old timer. I scrubbed the bowl with a toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I was able to clean out the rustication and the grooves with this method. I rinsed the bowl under warm water to remove the soap and the grime. The first picture shows the soap on the bowl and the second through the fifth picture that follows show the cleaned and dried bowl. You can see the putty fills in the grooves. Fortunately all of them were in the grooves and not in the smooth portion of the bowl.CB11 cb12 cb13 CB14 CB15I scrubbed out the airway in the shank, mortise and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. I thought about using the retort but chose not to on this pipe as it smells sweet and clean.CB16 CB17To clean up the scratches and lava on the rim of the bowl I used a medium grit sanding sponge and “topped” the bowl on it. I find that this sponge removes the grime and leaves the rim intact with no briar removed. I worked it on the sponge until it was clean and then used a cotton swab and alcohol to clean up what remained.CB18 CB19I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and deeper tooth marks as well as the small gouges and oxidation on the vulcanite.CB20 CB21With the internals of the shank and mortise cleaned I was able to put the stem back in place. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and took the cake back to briar.CB22 CB23I used a Black Sharpie Permanent Marker to stain the rustication patterns on the bowl and shank. Once I finished with that I wiped the bowl down with alcohol to soften the black and prepare the surface for the contrast stain.CB24 CB25 CB26 CB27 CB28 CB29 cB30I warmed the briar with a blow dryer and then stained it with Feibings Dark Brown that I had thinned with alcohol 1:1. I applied the stain and then flamed it with a lighter to set it. I repeated the process until I got good coverage.CB31 CB32 CB33 CB34I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the wheel to give it a shine and even out the stain coat. The next photos show the bowl at this point in the process. The contrast of the dark in the grooves with the brown really gives the briar a bit of pop.CB35 CB36 CB37 CB38I was careful with buffing around the stamping as I did not want to damage the pristine stamping on this pipe.CB39With the bowl done I turned my attention to the stem. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads until the majority of the scratches left behind by the sandpaper were gone. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit micromesh pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished by sanding it with the 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and giving it a final coat of oil. I set it aside to dry while I worked on another pipe.CB40 CB41 CB42I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond to raise the shine and then gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and then buffed both the bowl and stem with a clean flannel buff. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I love the finished look of this old timer and the feel of the hefty bowl in the hand. In my opinion it turned out to be a beautiful pipe. Thanks for looking.CB43 CB44 CB45 CB46 CB47 cb48