Blog by Steve Laug
My brother sent me a link to this sale on eBay and I found it intriguing. In the first photo there is what appears to be the edge of a dial on the bottom of the bowl – it is peeking out at the bottom of the bowl. That was intriguing to me. I wanted to know more about the pipe but at this point I had not read the seller’s description of the pipe. I was still looking at the pictures and seeing all of the fills and rim damage on the pipe in the first three photos. It really was quite a mess. The bowl appeared to be reamed but the dings and dents added to the fills made me wonder if it was worth the effort. I still had no idea what the bottom looked like and what made this a dry bowl. Scrolling through the rest of the seller’s photos soon made that clear.
The fourth and fifth pictures remove the mystery of the knurled edge on the bottom of the bowl that showed in the first photo. You can see in that photo of the bowl bottom that the silver disk looks like it was made to be rotated. We talked and my brother bid and won the pipe (I can’t wait for the pipe to get here so I can check this out). The fifth photo shows the inside of the bowl. The top of the disk appears to be a cup intruding into the bowl bottom. It was really odd looking.
I dropped to the bottom of the eBay ad to read the seller’s description of the pipe. I wanted to get some information on the pipe. I had done some searching on Google but was unable to find any information on the brand. It is a bit mysterious. The seller writes:
“This French Briar Rhodesian Dri-bole has a 5/8″ diameter silver metal “sump”, with knurled edge, set into the bottom of the bowl. The “sump” may actually be an alloy of silver, such as coin or sterling; metal is untested, but has silver-like qualities.”
“According to advertisements, found in various 1911 magazines, this “sump” was used to hold a provided, removable “wad”. The throw away “wad” would absorb all of the nicotine and saliva as the tobacco burns. Thus the tobacco was kept dry, so that it would be fully burned.”
“This extra nice Dri-bole pipe has the same “wad” holder or “sump”, as those “silver mounted” pipes patented on Sept. 7, 1909 and shown in 1911 Saturday Evening Post and Literary Digest Magazine advertisements! That would make this pipe over 100 years old, if it is indeed the same Dri-bole pipe! There are not any “wads” with this one, but it should be a good smoker, with a nice look and make a great conversation piece!” That information was helpful on many levels. He did not however have any photos or drawings of the pipe or pictures of the advertisements. I wanted to know if the bottom “sump” as he called it was pressure fit or threaded and screwed into the briar. I wanted to know if the bottom of the bowl was damaged or if the “sump” sat as it was supposed to flush with the bottom. It was hard to tell from the photos. I wanted to know was the “wads” were that sat in the sump. From the look of the bowl bottom it appeared that the “wads” may well have been lozenges that fit in the curved cup and then sat flat in the bottom of the bowl. But what did they look like? More research would be needed to answer these questions. But at least the mystery of the knurled edge peaking from the first photo was solved. It was a single unit with a cup on the inside of the bowl. I could not wait to see this in person and “fiddle” with it.
The seller also included a photo of the stamping on the pipe and briefly spelled out what it said. The left side of shank is stamped DRI-BOLE (in crescent) and below the crescent it reads REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. The right side of the shank is stamped Imported Briar leading me to believe that is it American made. The bottom of shank is stamped “266”. He gave the dimensions of the pipe as follows: overall length: 5 ½ inches, bowl height: 1 ½ inches, diameter of the bowl: 1 5/8 inches, bore diameter: 7/8 inches, bore depth: 1 1/8 inches and the weight: 44 grams or 1.6 ounces
When the pipe arrived in Vancouver I was looking forward to working on it. My brother had done a great job cleaning the interior and stripping the shiny coat that had been applied to the pipe. It was clean and ready for me to work on. I tried to turn the knurled silver disk on the bottom of the bowl and could not move it at all. The rim looked rough and needed topping. The stem was in decent shape with some pitting and dulling to the old rubber. I was so excited that I forgot to take photos of the pipe before starting my restoration. I put the bowl in an alcohol bath to see if I could loosen the tars that held the silver disk tightly in place. I was guessing it was threaded so I was thinking that if I could soak the bowl overnight things would soften up. I took it out of the alcohol bath and heated the disk with the flame of a lighter. I used a pair of pliers to hold tightly to the edge of the disk and I was able to twist it out of the bowl. Once it popped free I could undo it by hand. The first photo below shows the inside of the silver disk. The second shows the knurled outside.To remove the damage to the rim top and edges I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper.There were some nicks around the hole in the bottom of the bowl so I sanded those smooth with sandpaper and then cleaned out the threads in the briar with a cotton swab and alcohol.I used the brass bristle brush to scrub the threads and the cup on the disk. I cleaned it afterwards with cotton swabs and alcohol.I used a cotton swab to coat the threads on the disk with Vaseline and turned it into the bottom of the bowl. I wanted to make sure that I could easily turn the disk by hand.I cleaned out the internals with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was pretty clean thanks to my brother. It did not take too many to clean it out.I sanded the bowl and stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding block. The pipe is beginning to look really good. I had to make a decision how far to sand the bowl and how many of the original dings and dents to remove without changing the “story” and character of this old timer.I heated the briar and then stained it with dark brown aniline stain cut by 50% with isopropyl alcohol. I flamed it to set the stain and repeated the process.I wiped down the stain with alcohol dampened cotton pads to make it more transparent and make the grain stand out. At this point the fills stood out and I would need to address them a bit differently.I used a black Sharpie Permanent Marker to draw some lines across the fills and blend them into the grain on the pipe. I then chose to give the bowl a second contrast staining using a Cherry Danish Oil stain. I find that the combination of the black marker and the cherry stain blends the fills better than a brown stain. The combination of the brown and the cherry stains gives depth to the finish so I like using them together.Once the cherry Danish Oil stain dried (overnight) I buffed it lightly on the wheel with Blue Diamond and then gave the bowl a coat of carnauba wax. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. You can see the small dings that I left in the bowl sides rather than change the look. I polished the silver disk with a silver polishing cloth. The next series of photos shows the bowl at this point in the process.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. The old hard rubber that was used on this stem was good quality. There was very little oxidation if any on it. The main issue was the pitting that covered the surface of the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to address the pitting and smooth out the surface and then began my normal sequence of micromesh sanding pads. Between each set of three grits (1500-2400, 3200-4000, 6000-12000) I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I gave it a final coat of the oil and let it dry before I buffed the pipe.I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to put the finishing touches on the pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for looking.