Blog by Steve Laug
I really like older KBB Yello-Bole pipes. The initial look of this one as it is seen in the first two photos confirms that. There is something about the grain, the briar that is used and the natural patina that comes with years of use that draw me to them. The yellow stem with the inset circle is attractive as well. The Yello-Bole spade stinger that extends into the bowl bottom does not restrict the draw. I had hopes that this one would be in decent shape when my brother sent me the photos below. He had mentioned that the rim was in rough shape and the stem had a lot of bite and tooth marks but the photos did not clearly show that to me. He did his usual stellar job in cleaning up the bowl and stem. The briar and the internals were clean when it arrived. Only then did I see the extent of the rim damage to this one. If you look carefully at the photos you can see how rough the rim top and sides are. You can also see the deep tooth marks on the yellow stem. The stamping on the pipe read KBB in the usual cloverleaf on the left side of the shank with Yello-Bole next to that. The shape number 2329 was on the right side of the shank. All stamping was faint but legible with a lens. I took the stem off the bowl and found that the stinger was stuck in the tenon. On these older Yello-Boles the stinger is often threaded rather than pressure fit. I heated the stinger with a lighter and soon I was able to unscrew it from the tenon using some needle nose pliers.I took close up photos of the rim and the tooth marks on both sides of the stem. The first photo below shows the extensive damage to the top of the rim. It looked as if the pipe had been used as a hammer. The rough spot on the front of the bowl went down quite far down the outside edge of the bowl. On the back right side of the bowl there was also a deep nick down the side of the bowl. The bowl would need to be topped but the depth of the gouges made it necessary to think of other options along with topping.The top and bottom sides of the stem next to the button were imposing. The stem had been deeply gnawed on by the previous pipe smoker. The dents were deep and extensive across both sides of the stem almost obliterating the button from view.This was one of those hard ones. The stamping is faint and the amount of work necessary to bring it back to life was questionable. But I decided I liked the look of it enough to go for it. I topped the bowl on the topping board to smooth out the top surface of the rim. This still left a lot of work to do on the gouges down the front and back sides of the bowl. I pressed briar dust into the gouges on the side and top of the bowl and put some clear super glue on top of the briar dust. I put more briar dust on top of the glue to fill in the gouges. I filled in the deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem and set it on a small wooden lid to dry. I knew that in sanding the stem after the repairs I would lose some of the rich golden colour but the stem would actually be very usable.Once the repair dry I used a needle file to recut the button and flatten the repairs to the surface of the stem.I cleaned out the airway in the stem and in the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. You can also see the lightning of the yellow stem at the repair.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. With the final rub down with oil I set the stem aside to dry. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to clean off the remnants of the finish. There was still some finish and varnish on the underside of the shank that needed to be removed. I was careful to not wash off the repairs as the acetone will dissolve the super glue patches.Interestingly the bottom of the shank is stamped Algerian Briar. There appears to be a crack or repair on the underside of the shank but it is not it is merely a large scratch that I was able to sand out.I polished the briar bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 and dry sanding it with 3200-12000. Each successive grit of micromesh pads raised the level of shine on the bowl. After polishing it with the micromesh pads I took some photos to show the state of the bowl. I touched up the stain with a medium brown stain pen on the repaired areas on the rim to blend them into the surface of the briar. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and then buffed it by hand with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I chose to leave the darkened spot on the bottom of the bowl. I sanded it and found that it was more of stain than a burn mark. The wood is solid in that spot and there is no sign of burn through inside the bowl. Thanks for looking.