Blog by Steve Laug
Over the years I have seen photos of the strangely shaped pipes with the long almost tortuously bent stems but I had never seen one close up. Then my brother sent me photos of one that he had picked up for me to restore. It was stamped Screwball on the left side of the shank and 6044 over Italy on the right side. It had a tarnished silver coloured band on the shank that covered what appeared to be a cracked shank. The finish had been sanded free of the area that was banded but the rest of the bowl was still covered with a shiny plastic coat finish that seemed impermeable. The stem was intact which was interesting as many of the ones I have seen were either twisted or bent or broken. The bowl was a unique shape as well. At a side glance it was a combination of a prince and pot but there was a ring around the top of the rim that divided the rim into two enclosed circles. It is a large pipe – 11 inches long, 1 ¼ tall, 1 ¾ inches diameter and a ¾ inch chamber diameter.The stem was oxidized and slightly brown. The silver band was tarnished but the pipe still had a glossy shine in the photos he sent me.The rim showed darkening and some lava over flow on the top of the bowl. There was a light cake in the bowl. The ring around the top was filled with grit and grime. My brother took some close up photos of the pipe. The first of these shows the rim top and the cake and overflow on the rim. The second shows the stamping. The name of the pipe as it appears in the photo is SCREW. Underneath the band is the second half of the name BALL.The next two photos show the stamping on the shank and the imprint of Sterling Silver on the band. They also show the grain peeking out of the shiny topcoat on the underside of the bowl.Here are a couple more shots of the bowl – you can see that the shiny coat has some scrapes in the surface and the almost painted on look that makes me wonder if it is not a later coat of varathane.When my brother received the pipe the band was loose so he slid it off the shank and revealed not only the complete stamping on the pipe but a large cracked area that had been repaired. The cracked area looks like a large chunk of briar had broken free. It had been glued in place and then a band slid over the repair. The glue had dried and long since let the band fall loose. My brother did the clean up and took off the rim burn on the top and scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and the interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I received the oxidation on the stem was on the surface and the pipe was ready to restore. I have to be honest with you all it was not a restoration that I was looking forward to. The long and curved stem just spelled trouble to me. Trying to run pipe cleaners through it and also polishing and cleaning the oxidation seemed a daunting task. But finally I brought it to the table. Here are some photos of the pipe before I started. I took the pipe apart and took photos of the parts. With the band removed you can see where the repair person had sanded the shank and done the crack repair before banding the shank. Trying to scrub off the shiny topcoat with acetone was next to useless. The only place it came off was in the area that had already been sanded. I lightly sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the surface of the shiny coat. Once that was done I was able to scrub it off with acetone quite easily. In the next photos you can see the repaired crack. It was quite large. I took photos of the repaired crack to show the extent of it. The band fortunately covered the entire cracked area so it provided stability to the glued crack. Unfortunately it also covered up half of the stamping on the left side of the shank.I used some Weldbond white all-purpose glue to glue the band in place on the shank. I applied it with the tip of the bottle and spread it around with my finger tip to get good coverage. I pressed the band in place on the shank.While the band repair was drying I worked on the stem. I broke up the oxidation on the surface by wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth. I scrubbed the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and was able to remove more of the oxidation. This was a labour intensive effort and took a lot of scrubbing with the solution and paper towels. When there was no more brown coming off the stem I scrubbed it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further address the oxidation. You can see from the above photos that much of the oxidation had been removed but under a bright light such as the camera flash the oxidation still showed. At this point I had a decision to make – either scrub the stem with more of the deoxidizer or use my tried and true method of micromesh sanding pads. I chose to use the pads. I wet sanded it again with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set and another coat of oil I set the stem aside to dry. While the stem dried I sanded the bowl with the micromesh sanding pads to polish the briar. I had decided not to stain the bowl but leave it natural with a light oil finish and a good buffing. I cleaned off the tarnish on the band with a jeweler’s cloth and polished it to a shine. With the bowl and stem both hand polished I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I was able to raise more of a shine with the buffing on both the bowl and stem. Buffing the stem was a real interesting challenge – lots of twisting and turning to get the entire stem buffed. At one point I removed it from the bowl to make it easier to maneuver on the wheel. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax to protect it and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I finished by hand buffing it with a microfibre cloth. It turned out pretty decent considering where it started. I don’t know if I would call it a chinrester or a shoulder rester as it is a big pipe. I do know that the original design to make it easier on the teeth of the pipeman may not apply here. In the original design the stem rested against the chin of the smoker. In this design unless the smoker has a jutting jaw there is no way that it can rest against the chin. Anyway, the finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for looking.