Blog by Steve Laug
A few weeks ago my family took my wife down to the US from Vancouver for her birthday. After a huge breakfast celebration the ladies went shopping and I hit a few favourite antique shops. I found a nice handful of old pipes. One of the lot was sandblast Lorenzo Canadian. It had a nice looking blast and I could see underneath the high gloss, grit and ruined rim what looked like a great pipe. It was in pretty rough shape. The bowl had a thick cake of sweet smelling aromatic tobacco. It was soft and crumbly but it was thick. There was a significant lava flow of tars over the rim to the point it was hard to see what the rim looked like. The back right outside edge of the rim was worn away, rough and rounded. The finish looked as if it had been coated in urethane as a sealer. It almost looked as if that had been done after the grime and build up on the bowl. It was a mess. There was a nickel band on the shank that was stamped Lorenzo across the top face. The underside of the shank was smooth and stamped Lorenzo in script over AMELLO-ORO (at least that is what it looks like as the blast goes across the stamping. There is also the shape number 348 below the stamp ITALY. The stem was oxidized and dirty but seemed to have a cursive L mid stem on the top side. I picked it up for $12 US. The photo below shows the five pipes I picked up that day. The Lorenzo is in the oval at the top of the photo.I took the next series of photos to show the condition of the pipe when I brought it to the work table. It has clean lines but is in sad shape. Can you see the beauty under the grime on this one? I took a close-up photo of the rim to give you a clear picture of the state of the bow and the rim when I started working on it. It needed a lot of work on the bowl and rim before it would be usable again. The second photo below shows the stamping on the pipe. You can see where the sandblast covered portions of the stamping.I started by reaming the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I used the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to one that had the same diameter as the bowl. I finished cleaning up the inside of the bowl with a Savinelli Pipe Knife. The rim was not only heavily covered with lava but also was worn down on the back right side of the outer edge.I topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board and took off the damage to the rim as much as possible without changing the profile of the pipe.I wiped the bowl down acetone to try to break down the urethane top coat that had been applied. It the bowl had not been sandblasted it would have been easy to sand off the top coat. In this case it was going to be a combination of things that I would have to use to break through the coating and remove it.While the acetone removed a lot of the coating I decided to let the bowl soak overnight in an alcohol bath. My experience was that what the acetone softened the alcohol bath loosened.In the morning I took the bowl out of the bath and dried it off. The coating was definitely much less shiny and in many places was gone altogether. I used a brass bristle wire brush to scrub the surface and get into the crevices and grooves in the blast. I wiped it down afterwards with acetone on cotton pads. I repeated the process until the finish coat was gone and I was left with the stain on the briar.With the finish removed it was time to rusticate the topped rim to match the finish on the bowl more closely. I used an assortment of burrs with the Dremel to make a random pattern on the rim top. I wanted the grooves and cuts to be at different depths and in different styles to approximate the look of the sandblast on the bowl and shank. The photos below show the progression of the rustication and each burr that was used. I used the brass bristle wire brush to knock off any loose pieces of briar and to further rusticate the rim surface. The finished rustication is shown in the photo below.I used a black Sharpie pen to colour in the grooves and crevices in the rim and to add some depth to the finish. I stained over the top of it with a medium brown stain pen for contrast.With the rim finished I restained the entire bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned by 50% with isopropyl alcohol. I applied it with a cotton swab and then flamed it to set it in the grain of the pipe.I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to further thin it down and make it more translucent. I wanted the dark stain in the grooves and crevices of the blast to show through the top coat of stain and approximate the colouring I had done on the rim surface.I scrubbed the interior of the airway and mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to begin the cleanup. The condition of this pipe and the heavy aromatic tobacco that had been smoked in it demanded a more drastic measure. I used the drill bit that is part of the KleenReem reamer to clean out the airway from the mortise to the shank. A huge amount of thick tars and grit came out on the bit. It took quite a bit of push to get the bit through the buildup in the airway. It was virtually clogged. I twisted the bit in until the airway was clean and then used the retort on the pipe. I set up the retort and boiled three tubes of alcohol through the shank before I was able to get one tube that was clean. I wanted to see how the stain on the bowl and rim looked at this point so I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I polished the metal band on the shank with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the oxidation on the surface and give it a shine. I liked the look of the finish and knew that with a little more effort I would be able to finish the pipe and have it look far better. I dropped the stem in Oxyclean before I went to work and in the evening when I came home took it out of the bath. The oxidation had softened and risen to the surface. I used a coarse towel to scrub it off. The majority of it came off leaving the stem almost clean. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining oxidation on the stem and ran some pipe cleaners through the airway to clean it out. I was careful as I sanded around the cursive L on the stem face so as not to damage it. I went on to wet sand the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I gave the stem a coat of Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it another coat of oil and finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry.At this point in the polishing of the stem I paused to address the faded logo on the top of the stem. I used a small #4 artist’s brush and some white acrylic paint to fill in the cursive L logo. The white paint made the logo stand out and added a finishing touch to the stem.I finished sanding the stem with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to let the oil soak in and dry.I buffed the pipe – lightly on the bowl and shank, normally on the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the stem with a clean buffing pad. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush between each coat. I lightly buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad and then hand buffed the whole pipe with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has definitely come a long way from the mess I started with but the “good bones” I saw when I picked it up at the antique shop proved to be truly present. The pipe is restored and ready for a long life. Thanks for looking.