Aaron Henson – 7/23/16
I have not been very good at documenting my last few restorations. Once I get into a project I tend to get so focused I forget to take pictures, especially if it’s a repair that is technically challenging or that I have not done before. The most recent example of this was an unsmoked M&T bent bulldog with a horn stem. Even though it had never been used (it still had the factory purple putty bowl coating) it had a few issues to be addressed from its 40+ years of tumbling around in a drawer.When I saw the pipe in the case at the antique store the first thing that caught my eye was the horn stem and I knew I wanted it. In all honesty, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that it was horn until I got it home. A couple of passes with a 2400 micro mesh pad and a sniff test confirmed my suspicions – it’s the same smell as when you use an emery board on a finger nail. I started with a little research into the brand. The only M&T that I could find was the German pipe maker Müllenbach & Thewald. They made pipes from 1830 until the 1972. The company still exists but is solely devoted to mineral mining. You might think this strange but M&T was known originally for clay pipes. In 1860 they branched into making wood pipes. A short article on M&T can be found on Pipedia.
I began the restoration by performing triage of the issues to be addressed. The bowl was clean but had a dull finish that was marred with some dents and minor scratches. The factory bowl coating was starting to chip and a there were three small fills on the outside of the bowl that needed to be repaired. A close inspection of the shank revealed a small crack where the aluminum tenon inserted (seen in the picture below). I had assumed the narrow band was original to the pipe but perhaps it had been added to reinforce the shank? I may never know the answer to that. All in all the bowl was very good condition.The stem too was in almost “like new” condition. A few scratches but the button was well define and, of course, no tooth chatter. The aluminum tenon was a little rough around the edges but the fit to the shank was fine.
I started by applying a thin coat of mineral oil on the stem. This seemed to ‘hydrate’ the horn and give some bite to the micro mesh pads. I worked through the 1500 to 12000 pads stopping to apply oil as the horn dried out. The button was quite large and the edges sharp, a bit more than I like. But I kept it original and only slightly smoothed the corners while polishing. I smoothed up the edges of the tenon and set the stem aside.
The first order of business was the cracked shank. Using a 1/64 drill bit, I drilled a hole at the end of the crack to stop its spread then filled the crack with clear supper glue. Then I picked out the three putty fills and using a super glue and briar dust mixture, refilled the pits. Once cured I sanded the repair smooth.I steamed the dents out of the briar with a clothes iron applied to a wet cloth wrapped around the stummel – keeping away from the stampings and fingers. I sanded the entire stummel up to the 3200 micro mesh then wipe down with alcohol before I stained. In this case I tried to match the original color with several coats of different browns aniline dyes.
Before reassembling I decide to remove the factory bowl coat and leave it bare briar. Then I wiped the whole outside of the pipe with mineral oil and set it aside for twelve hours before taking to the buffer. The oil seems to hydrate the briar and brings out a nice shine when waxed. I first buff with red diamond, wipe off the residue with a soft cotton cloth then apply three coats of carnauba wax giving the pipe a little rest between each coat.