By Al Jones
This Century finish GBD came via a seller in Portugal. The pipe looked to be in great shape, with only an oxidized stem and some bowl top build-up. The pipe from the pre-Cadogan era, with the brass rondell and straight-line “London, England” stamp (COM = Country of Manufacture mark). The Century finish is said to have been introduced in 1950 and described as:
“A golden finish created to celebrate over a century of manufacturing the
finest briar pipes.”
GBD started making meerschaum pipes in 1850, so I suppose that introduction date makes sense. This is one of many times that I wish there was a definitive book on GBD pipes.
Below is the pipe as it was received. I’ve never had the 5031 shape before. It is quite graceful and comparable to the Dunhill 120, on a slightly smaller scale. The pipe weighs only 31 grams
Curiously, this one had a push-in stinger apparatus. I’ve worked on over 100 GBD’s, including several Century pipes, but this is the first time that I’ve encountered a stinger. Dating GBD’s is only a broad stroke and the only sure bet is that this one was made before the merger in 1981. But, the stinger makes me think it might be closer in age to 1950 than 1981. In the later years, stingers fell out of favor with pipe smokers. The stinger pulled right out. Not all full bent GBD’s will pass a cleaner, but this one does.
I used a cloth and distilled water to remove the bowl-top build-up. I finished with 2000 grit wet paper and then 8000 grade micromesh. This leaves the stain intact and the beveled-bowl top polished up nicely. The bowl was reamed and I found the interior in excellent shape. It was then soaked with sea salt and alcohol. While this was happening, the stem was soaked in a mild Oxy-Clean solution.
The stem was mounted and I removed the first layer of oxidation with 800 grit wet paper, followed by 1000 and 2000 grades. Next was 8,000 and 12,000 grade micromesh sheets. The stem was then buffed with White Diamond and Meguiars Plastic polish. The vulcanite on this one has a very high grade feel and is comparable to the few GBD’s that I have stamped “Hand Cut”.
As you can see in the “Before” photo’s, the stem had a slight gap on the top position. I warmed the tenon slightly with a heat gun and using a metal pin punch inserted into the tenon, I adjusted it slightly, then put the tenon in cold water to set the position. That worked nicely and the finished stem fitment was excellent
The bowl was polished with White Diamond and several coats of Carnuba wax. The nomenclature was in great shape, so I was careful to only hand-polish those areas.
Below is the finished pipe. I reluctantly posted this one for sale and a friend of mine grabbed it. I have to deliver it to him quickly, before I regret my decision!