Breathing new life into a Unique PHM System Pipe with a Horn Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother first sent me the picture below of this old pipe to see what I thought of it. There was something intriguing about it from my first look. I looked at the eBay ad and all of the pictures included and told him we should go for it. I don’t recall ever seeing a pip this shape with the horn stem and the matching horn button on the bottom of the bowl. It certainly looked like it was a nice piece of briar underneath the grime of age. The horn stem looked to be in good shape overall with no splits or cracks. The horn button on the bottom of the bowl also appeared to be in good shape. The briar had no burns or serious damage to the rim or the edges of the bowl. The band was in decent shape with no dents of dings. The chunky look of the stem and the shank attracted me to the pipe. The striations of colour on the stem showed promise of looking great once buffed and polished. He bid on it and won.hornaWhen Jeff received the pipe he took the following photos before he started cleaning it up. You can see some of the issues that I will need to address in the cleanup and restoration. The overall condition of the pipe is fine. The briar was very dirty and the rim and bowl had a thick, dark and oily cake that overflowed onto the top of the bowl. If you look closely at the photos of the entire pipe you will also see some damage to the horn stem. There are tooth marks on the top and underside near the button and there are some divots out of the left side of the stem.horn1He took some close up photos of the rim and bowl. You can see the cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava on the rim top. It is hard to tell if there is damage to the inner edge of the rim at this point due to the buildup but there could be. There is some wear on the outer edges at the front of the bowl.horn2The close up photos of the stem shows the tooth marks and the divots out of the left side. Both of these will need to be addressed in the restoration.horn3The brass coloured band has a small diamond shaped stamp on it that is aligned on the right side. It has some kind of stamping inside the diamond but even with a light and a magnifier I am unable to read it.horn4The PHM stamp in the oval on the left side of the shank is the only stamping on the pipe. I have hunted high and low for information on the brand and can find nothing. The shape and design of the pipe and stem make me think it is quite old and probably British made but I cannot be certain. Can any of you help identify the maker for me?horn5It is hard to see in the photos but the airway in the bowl is at the bottom of the bowl. The horn cap on the bottom of the bowl is removable and it was hollowed into a bowl to catch the moisture from the burning tobacco. The airway into the shank is in the area where the cap screws into the bowl. The area acts as a bit of a cooling chamber for the smoke that is drawn into the airway allowing the moisture to collect in the horn bowl before wending its way into the airway in the shank of the pipe.horn6 horn8 horn9When my brother unscrewed the cap the chamber inside was extremely dirty with tars and oils. The buildup was quite thick on both the inside of the hollowed out cap and the inside of the chamber/trap it screwed into.horn7He removed the stem from the shank and took photos of the shank end. The brass band turned out to be more of a ferrule that wrapped the shank end. The drilling on the airway in the mortise was at a steep angle into the shank so you can see a small divot at the bottom edge of the shank. The tenon/stinger was bone and was shaped like a nipple that sat against the entrance of the airway in the bottom of the mortise.horn10My brother scrubbed the externals of the bowl, reamed and cleaned out the internals. He said that the insides would take more work once I got it as they were very dirty. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived in Vancouver and I brought it to the work table.horn11 horn12He had cleaned up the stem inside and out and the tooth marks and divots were ready to repair.horn13He had been able to remove all of the cake in the bowl and it revealed the airway at the bottom of the bowl. He also cleaned the rim of the entire lava overflow. It would need to be lightly topped to remove the damage to the inner edge of the rim. He had scrubbed the reservoir under the horn plug on the bottom of the bowl but it would need a lot more work to rid it of all of the thick oils and tars accumulated there.horn14I took a photo of the dismantled pipe to give an idea of the components and the size of the pipe. It is not a big pipe but the bowl is large for the overall size.horn15I wiped down the tooth marks and divots on the side of the stem with a cotton pad dampened with alcohol to remove any remaining debris. I filled them in with clear super glue – slightly overfilling them to ensure that once the glue cured there would be enough for a smooth finish once sanded.horn16While the stem glue cured I worked on cleaning out the reservoir/trap at the bottom of the bowl and inside of the cap. I used cotton swabs and alcohol to clean the area out and it took a lot of finicky cleaning to get all of the nooks and crannies clean. I also cleaned out the airway from the trap into the shank with bristle and regular pipe cleaners.horn17I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged rim surface but not to change the overall shape or flow of the bowl. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads -1500-4000 grit to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper on the topping board.horn18 horn19I cleaned out the mortise and airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean and the pipe smelled fresh.horn20I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with acetone to remove any grit and dirt that I had transferred during the interior cleanup.horn21I used European Gold Rub’n Buff to restore the stamping on the shank. I applied it with a cotton swab and let it sit for a moment before rubbing off the excess with a clean swab. The restored stamping can be seen in the second photo below. The bottom edge of the stamp was not as deep as the rest of the stamp so I was not sure if that area would retain the gold.horn22By this time the glue repairs on the stem had cured. I sanded them smooth with the surface of the stem using 220 grit sandpaper. For some reason the clear glue brings out a white spot in each repaired area – it may be a reaction of the horn to the glue. I will minimize those as I polish the stem but they will remain.horn23I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rub horn stems down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads to give life to the horn. I gave it a final coat of oil after sanding with the 12000 grit pad. I set the stem aside to dry.horn24 horn25 horn26I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush. I would also buff it on the buffer but I wanted to see where things were at this point. Were there any areas on the bowl sides or top that I needed to do more work on to ensure that it would have a smooth finish.horn27 horn28I worked a little more on the horn cap on the bottom of the bowl and on a few of the nicks on the sides of the bowl using 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. Once I was satisfied with the look and feel of the pipe I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the wheel being careful around the stamping. I buffed the stem with the polish as well to raise a shine and further blend in the repairs. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed them with a clean buffing pad. I finished by hand buffing the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. You will note that I did not stain the bowl at all. The rich patina is merely the wax working with the natural colour of the briar. This pipe is an oddity and a beauty. It was well worth the effort in my opinion. Thanks for walking with me through this process.horn29 horn30 horn31 horn32 horn33 horn34 horn35 horn36

 

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