Blog by Steve Laug
My most recent box of pipes that came from my brother had this Yello-Bole Churchwarden in it for restoration. It is a long pipe – 12 inches from bowl to button. The next seven photos were the ones provided by the eBay seller. They don’t really show the grain in the pipe or the peeling shellac coat on the bowl but they give a clear picture of the shape and carriage of the pipe. It really is a beauty in terms of overall appearance. It is graceful with a gentle bend to the stem ending in a button that is not flared from the end of the stem but is straight-edged with a small slot in the end. The stem also had the inset yellow circle on the top of the stem.The third and fourth photos provided in the seller’s photos show the damage to the finish and the build up and damage to the rim. You can also see some of the peeling of the finish and the way that it obscures the grain of the briar. The rim is dirty in the photo below and at first glance it looks like the bowl may have been meerschaum lined. I was pretty sure that this was not the case but would know better once it arrived in Vancouver. It appears that the bowl had a light cake but was not in bad shape. It would not take too much to ream the bowl. The stem was lightly oxidized and had tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button.The stamping on the shank is very clear. The shape number on the right side of the shank is 2094 and the brand stamp on the left KBB in a cloverleaf next to Yello-Bole over Honey Cured Briar.My brother scrubbed the externals of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and was able to loosen some of the flaking varnish or shellac. He reamed the light cake back to the yellow bowl coating. He cleaned out the shank and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. The next two close-up photos of the bowl sides shows what the finish looked like once he had done his work. You can see the interesting grain showing through the damaged finish. I took photos of the pipe when I received it in Vancouver. You can see the condition of the finish in the photos. In the cleaning process oxidation came to the surface of the stem. The internals of the pipe are interesting. The first photo below shows the yellow bowl coating that still remained in the bowl. This one was certainly lightly smoked to be in this condition. The second photo shows the standard Yello-Bole stinger apparatus that is screwed into the tenon.There was light tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem but the button was in excellent shape with minimal tooth marks or bites.I removed the remaining varnish/shellac coat with acetone (fingernail polish remover) on cotton pads. It also removed some of the stain and brought the grain to the surface of the bowl. I liked the look of the pipe once the varnish was removed. The stamping looked even clearer once the top coat had been removed. In the first photo below there is a line under the number that looks like a crack or a fill. It is not but rather it is debris left behind by the cotton pad and acetone wash.I ran pipe cleaners, cottons swabs and alcohol through the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem remove any remaining oils. The red colour on the cotton swabs is actually some of the red stain that was inside of the shank. I was able to remove all of stain from the shank and mortise.I unscrewed the stinger from the tenon and cleaned it with 0000 steel wool. I am not sure whether I will put it in or not. I may do so and let the new owner decided whether to keep it in place or remove it.I lightly sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and bite marks. I sanded it with 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads then tried a new product that I picked up from Mark Hoover of La Belle Epoque Vintage & Modern Fountain Pens. I follow Mark on Facebook and have been reading about his restorations and cleanup or estate pipes. He developed a product for pens that deoxidizes and polishes vulcanite. He also uses it on vulcanite stem with great results. I have seen his before and after pictures of pipes that he has restored so I thought I would order some and try it out. The photo below shows what came with the kit.
Mark wrote on his site that the product was specifically designed for hard rubber and celluloid but that it does work well on other types of plastics. He also sells the same product relabeled for pipe stems. The line is called Before and After. He states on the website that “All of our polishes are made using the highest quality products. These products are designed to not only recondition your pen (or in this case stem) but also to provide a layer of protection. All of the products used in these polishes are none-toxic and environmentally friendly.”
“There are two different polishes. Fine and Extra Fine. We recommend both as some pens will show more wear then others. Often one will work on a pen using the Fine polish and finish with the Extra Fine. The polishes are sold in 2 oz jars. The cost is 12.00 per jar. The number of pens one can restore will of course vary depending on the wear that each pen shows. I have restored from 75-150 pens per jar.”
Here is the link to his site with the prices for the product: http://www.lbepen.com/apps/webstore/products/category/1185536?page=1. The product can be ordered onsite. It is shipped in a well wrapped package and I had no issues with it coming across the border through the post office.The Deoxidizer is a thick gel that I rubbed onto the stem with a cotton pad. I let it sit for a short time before rubbing it off with another pad. It removed the oxidation quite nicely. I repeated the process until the stem was once again black. After using the Deoxidizer I polished the stem with the Fine and the Extra Fine Pipe Polish. It quickly shined up the vulcanite. Both of the stem polishes are quite thick and sticky. The fine is grittier than the extra fine. It took some time to rub each of them onto the stem surface and then polish it with a soft cotton pad. The second photo below shows the stem after using the Extra Fine Polish.I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffer and then gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I left the stinger out of the tenon for these photos but it is easily screwed into place. The grain shines through beautifully with the oxblood coloured stain. The polished stem is smooth and shiny with a lot less effort than other products I have used. Thanks for looking.