Restemming and Restoring a GBD Speciale Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

I decided to take a break from working on restoring the estate lot that I was given and turned my attention to one of the pipes I found on my recent trip to Southern Alberta. I have written about that pipe hunt previously. You can read about it at this link: The pipe was an older GBD billiard with a sterling silver band bearing hallmarks. They were hard to read through the oxidation. I found this pipe in a small antique shop in Nanton, Alberta. The clerk/owner lifted a cased pipe from a shelf – a nice black leather case with a dark blue lining. She opened the case and on the inside of the case top there was a GBD in an oval logo over Speciale stamped in gold. The bowl in the case also bore the same stamping. The stem was missing and the clerk told us the sad story of how someone had stolen the stem and left the pipe behind. The pipe was marked at $35 but since the stem was missing I asked her what her best price was for the pipe. She let it go for $25 and said to have fun fitting a new stem on the bowl. I added my second pipe to my hunt kit. It is shown circled in red in the photo below – the first pipe on the left side of the photo.gbdspeciale1When I started working on it I took some photos of the pipe when I started the cleanup. The finish was actually very good. The rim had a thick coat of tars and oil built up flowing out of the bowl and onto the top. The bowl had a thin cake in it. The left side of the shank was stamped GBD in an oval with Speciale below. It matched the stamping on the inside lid of the case. The silver band was oxidized but I could see the GBD logo in and oval over Speciale. The band was original. There were also some hallmarks that would have to be read once I removed the oxidation. There was no other stamping on the pipe or band. The inside of the case was undamaged but had a lot of dust and specks of debris in it.gbdspeciale2I took the bowl from the case and took photos of it before I cleaned it up.gbdspeciale3 gbdspeciale4I had a yellow Bakelite stem that would work with the pipe both in terms of age and also in terms diameter matching the shank. I would need to replace the tenon in the stem as it was too small in diameter to fit in the shank. I had a Delrin tenon that would work once I had removed the metal tenon from the stem. I used a drill bit to clean up the inside of the shank. I twisted the shank onto the drill bit by hand and cleaned it out.gbdspeciale5I heated the metal threaded tenon with a lighter and was able to unscrew it from the stem. I drilled out the mortise in the stem to fit the threaded end of the Delrin tenon. Once I had it drilled out I used a tap to thread the inside of the mortise in the stem. I painted the stem with slow drying super glue and twisted it into the stem. The stem was in decent shape other than tooth marks in the surface at the button and the edge of the button was worn.gbdspeciale6 gbdspeciale7I filled in the tooth dents with some amber super glue that I recently purchased from Stewart MacDonald. Once it had dried I used a needle file to redefine the sharp edge of the button and sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper.gbdspeciale8 gbdspeciale9I sanded the stem until the surface matched the surrounding stem area. The repairs show in the photos as slightly darker than the yellow of the stem.gbdspeciale10I scrubbed the rim with cotton pads and saliva to soften the tars and oils. I scraped it with a pen knife to remove the buildup and scrubbed it again. I was able to remove all of the rim build up without damaging the finish on the rim top.gbdspeciale11To clean off the band I scrubbed it with a tarnish remover and polish on cotton pads. I was able to clean off all of the tarnish and bring the hallmarks to light on the band. Using a small penlight and a lens I was able to clearly read them. They read as follows GBD in an oval over Speciale over the following hallmarks in shields: [anchor] [lion] [l], AO (assay office Birmingham). The AO on the front of the stamp was the Assay Office; the Anchor identifies the city as Birmingham, England; the lion passant is the symbol for 925 Sterling Silver and the “l” giving the date of the pipe. The silver shone brightly and distinctively on the shank end.gbdspeciale12 gbdspeciale13I looked on-line for the hallmarks and found a great chart. It showed the hallmarks for silver work made from 1883-1949. The date hallmark “l” on the pipe I had matched the one in the chart below for 1910. I have circled it in red. I now knew that the pipe I had was made in 1910.gbdspeciale14After the glue dried on the new tenon on the stem I pushed it in place in the shank and took the following photos. I liked the look of the pipe. The only thing that would have made it better would be to have an amber stem to use. This will do while I keep an eye out for an amber one that fits well.gbdspeciale15 gbdspeciale16I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until it was clean. The pipe cleaners and alcohol cleaned out a lot of the black darkening in the airway in the stem.gbdspeciale17I sanded the stem repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to further define the button and try to blend the repairs. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.gbdspeciale18 gbdspeciale19 gbdspeciale20 gbdspeciale21I used a black Sharpie pen to touch up the scuff marks on the surface of the case. The clasp on the side of the case is a brass GBD logo that when pressed allows access to the inside of the case.gbdspeciale22I cleaned out the inside of the case with a damp cloth and was able to remove all of the debris from the inside of the case. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel taking care to not overheat the Bakelite stem as that would cause it to melt and be disfigured. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is one that will stay with me while I look for an amber stem that fits the pipe. Thanks for looking.gbdspeciale23 gbdspeciale24 gbdspeciale25 gbdspeciale26 gbdspeciale27 gbdspeciale28 gbdspeciale29 gbdspeciale30 gbdspeciale31 gbdspeciale32 gbdspeciale33 gbdspeciale34




2 thoughts on “Restemming and Restoring a GBD Speciale Billiard

  1. upshallfan

    Wow, pre-War, amazing. That’s the one that caught my eye in your group picture. What a beauty. Its terrific that the hallmarks were so well preserved. Excellent job on the stem, it could easily pass for factory.


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