Blog by Steve Laug
When I visited my brother a few months ago one of the pipes that he had picked up for me to restore is one that I probably would never have picked up myself. In fact to me it was ugly and there was nothing redeeming about it. It looked like a giant sea slug to me and even the striations looked like the wrinkles in the slug’s body as it crawled. But I have to say that my opinion changed as I worked on this old pipe. I know that Mastercraft actually made few pipes but had the pipes jobbed by other pipe companies globally. This one was made in Italy and has all the marks of a Lorenzo pipe to me. I doubt I will ever know for sure but that is my take on it. As you look at the photos you may have your own take on it and that is totally fine – just take the time to post what you think in the comments at the end of the post.
This old pipe was pretty rough when it came to my work table. The rim was battered and the reaming that had been done did not account for the angled bowl. There gouges of briar missing on the rim edge that extended into the bowl. The cake was soft but generous. The finish was tired and worn but underneath the grime the wire striations on the briar had something about them that drew me to them. The pipe is stamped on a semi-smooth portion of the bottom of the bowl/shank (on this pipe I am not sure where each of those terms ends). It reads Mastercraft in the classic shield of the logo. Next to that is stamped COLOSSALS or COLOSSAL S with the S slightly bigger perhaps referring to the Satin Grain. Under that is it stamped Imported Briar and Italy. There are some deep gouges in the briar on that smooth portion that obviously were there when the pipe was stamped as the stamping goes through them but does not show up in the deeper areas. The stem is Lucite and it was covered with tooth chatter on the top and the bottom sides near the button as well as some deep tooth marks on both sides and on the button surface. The slot in the airway was clogged and dirty. (The first picture below is a little out of focus but it gives and idea of the shape of the pipe.) I cleaned up the reaming angles with the Savinelli Pipe Knife and was able to get the bowl clean and smooth back to briar.I decided to try to bevel the rim to remove the gouges on the right top side. I worked on it for quite a while before I gave up on that and topped the bowl. In the photo below the largest gouge is the light brown portion of the rim on the top of the photo toward the back of the bowl.I took some photos of the stem to show the damage that needed to be worked on to recondition and rework it to bring it back to new. The first photo is the top of the stem and the second the underside.I was able to sand out the tooth marks on the top side of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and also reshape the button a bit. I did the same on the underside but there was one deep tooth mark that I would need to fill.Giving up on trying to reshape the rim or repair it I topped the bowl on my topping board and took of the damaged area on the right side of the rim and the back of the left side as well. The gouges were just not something I wanted to try to fill in. I also decided that I would flatten the rim and give the inner edge a slight bevel. I would stain the rim to match the smooth portion on the underside of the pipe.I used the Dremel and sanding drum to bring the bowl back into round and then lightly beveled the inner rim edge with the sanding drum (first picture below). I cleaned up the Dremel work with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit (second picture).I cleaned the mortise and airways in the bowl and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol (I have always used 99% isopropyl).I restained the rim with a dark brown stain pen and blended in some black from a Sharpie pen. I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the grime and to blend the rim colour with the bowl.I built up the tooth mark on the underside of the stem and the deep marks on the button surface with black super glue. Once it dried I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface and sharpened the button edge with a needle file. I sanded the stem with 400-600 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I wet sanded it with 1500-3600 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 4000-12000 grit pads. I buffed it quickly with Blue Diamond and gave the stem a light coat of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfibre cloth to give it a shine. I gave the stem several more coats of carnauba wax. I lightly buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and then again with the microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. What started out as an oddball pipe to me somehow in the process of restoration took on a beauty of its own. I like the smooth rim and the contrast it gives with the wire finish on the bowl and shank. Together they work for me. I know in the box of pipes I have sitting to refurbish that Jeff has sent me some others that cause a raised eyebrow but I have to say he has an eye for seeing beauty where I would walk by it and leave the pipe to molder away.