Blog by Steve Laug
Over the years the only Brebbia pipes I have worked on have been the Iceberg Pipes. They have a beautiful rustication that just speaks to me. The rugged roughness looks like the briar came that way and I have always like the feel in the hand. However, every one of the pipes, Iceberg or otherwise have either belonged to someone else or were too big for my liking. I have never seen a pipe like the one that my brother Jeff found and sent my way. First it is a smooth briar not rusticated and second it is a brandy shape with a square shank and square saddle stem. I have not seen one like it before and I have looked around a fair bit and have not found another. In the photos of the pipe that my brother took before he began the cleanup it looked to be in good condition. The finish was a little mottled but it still looked to be decent. The bowl appeared to have a light cake so it potentially would be an easy clean up. My brother scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and removed most of the finish but the stubborn spots on the shank. The stem was lightly oxidized and had some light tooth chatter on the top and bottom near the button. The next set of four photos show the pipe when it arrived here in Canada. Once again my brother did a great job cleaning this one up. I can’t believe how much time it saves to be able to begin with finishing rather than cleaning. Thanks Jeff. I took a close up photo of the rim to show how clean it was and how the bowl was in round and the edges were not damaged.The stem was a bit of an oddity to me. I have not seen a stem with the kind of built in tube that this Brebbia sported. There is an end cap on the tenon with the tube protruding out. When the stem is in the shank the tube sits in the airway between the mortise and the bowl.To remove the stubborn finish on the shank I scrubbed the bowl and shank with acetone on cotton pads. It took a bit of elbow grease but the shank finally let loose of the finish. I took some close up photos of the stamping on the shank as they were very clear. The left side of the shank reads Brebbia over Silver over AS_. I am assuming that the AS_ was probably AS1. The right side of the shank has a gnome stamped on it. The gnome was the logo Brebbia used to put on its stems from 1953 to 1956. On the underside it is stamped Italy 798.The stem was very tight in the shank so I examined it with a light and saw that there was a thick hard coat of tars on the walls of the mortise. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula and removed the heavy coat of tars and then scrubbed it with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.I put the stem back in place and it fit snugly but the tightness was gone. I took some photos of the pipe at this point in the restoration. I removed the stem again and worked on it with micrmesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Between each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and also gave it a final rubdown after the 12000 grit pad. I set the stem aside to dry while I worked on the bowl. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned by 50% with isopropyl alcohol. I applied it to the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process until the coverage was even.I hand buffed the bowl with a microfibre cloth to polish the stain and even out the look of the finish. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I finished by hand buffing the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for looking.