Blog by Kent Mosher
Kent and I both graduated from Multnomah in Portland, Oregon though a few decades apart. We connected on Facebook in one of the pipe smokers groups. I invited Kent to write up some of his restorations for us on rebornpipes. I also asked for a brief bio to introduce him to the readers. I include the bio below and immediately following that is his first restoration on rebornpipes. Thanks Kent for the blog and a warm welcome to rebornpipes.
I have been smoking a pipe since I was 18 years old. While pipe smoking was in my family history with my Grandfather, he died before I was born and my father smoked his dad’s pipes only a few times when I was a kid. So my journey into the pipe was completely unguided and self-taught (and a secret from my parents at the time). I had no mentor or club or YouTube to teach me how.
Being a young man when I began my journey into pipe smoking, I did not have much of a pipe-buying budget to speak of. I found that I could acquire higher quality pipes for my collection by buying vintage and used pipes (I only later learned these are known as estate pipes) instead of new pipes. My first real pipe was an Ebay purchase of a Savinelli 614 Silver, which I chose based on the little knowledge I had of quality pipe makers at the time (and the oom-paul shape made it easy to hide from my parents).
After that, I just always opted for estate pipes when shopping for an addition to my collection. In fact, I didn’t purchase a new, unsmoked pipe for 13 years. But it took me a decade before I learned how to properly clean up a used pipe. Once I started cleaning up my own collection using acceptable methods (mostly learned from rebornpipes) I realized how much I enjoyed breathing new life into derelict pipes that should otherwise last several lifetimes. So I keep learning ad experimenting, some ideas succeed and some fail. I’ve ruined a few pipes beyond repair. I saved a few from the grave. I am grateful to Steve and all the contributors to Reborn Pipes blog for teaching me the way into something I now deeply enjoy.
A good briar pipe, under the care of the sort of character that pipe smokers tend to be, should outlast its owner for several generations. When you invest in a pipe, you are folding in a piece of family lineage that will connect you to generations ahead of you.
To date, my most valuable pipe is not my most expensive one. It is the one given to me by my dad, who, as a young man bought it as a gift for his dad; a man who died before I was born. I never met my grandfather, but every time I smoke his pipe, I engage with him as a third generation owner of a piece of his daily life.
This is the sort of experience I hope to offer to those who receive pipes I have worked on. To give something upon which, after many years of enjoyment, you and those after you will not be able to put a price.
Here is his restoration of a Barling’s Make.
I buy lots of estate pipes on eBay. And lots at yard sales and antique shops. Though they are much harder to find in your own local antique stores, there is something much more satisfying about finding a great pipe buried among the shelves and bins of cluttered antique dealer booths. eBay pretty much offers anything you might want to add to your collection, if you have the money to spend and want it enough. Local estate pipes have to be found and you never know what you may or may not come across.
If estate pipe shopping on eBay is like following GPS directions to predetermined coordinates. Then local estate pipe shopping is like being on safari and making an unexpected discovery of buried treasure that others have been passing by.
For this reason, there are certain kinds of pipes I hope to add to my collection that I refuse to buy online because I want them to be one of those rare finds that I actually found.
I recently marked one of these off my list; A Barling’s Make ‘Ye Olde Wood’ pre-transition model 37. While at an antique mall, I picked up a common pipe stand for $29 (I see one just like this at almost every antique mall I visit, but I won’t buy them for more than $10) and looked inside the humidor and found a real diamond of a pipe find. Rustling around in the dusty corners of old shops doesn’t always pay off. But when it does, it sure feels amazing. I was able to date this pipe, based on the stamp style and model number to the “Pre-transition” or “Family Era” between the years of 1941 and 1962. You can find the lengthy and near-scholarly article on the production history B. Barling and Sons pipes here: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barling.
This is the resource I used to date this pipe.
Two of the basic markers are these:
1. The size category of “EL” began in 1941.
2. The word “Barling’s” arched over the word “Make” as well as the 2-digit model numbers was used until 1962, after which they changed to 4-digit models numbers, marking the beginning of the “Transition Era” for the company. Since the rim of the bowl had a fair amount of buildup, I decided to clean that area up first and see what condition the rim was in under the gunk. I used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser wetted with saliva to rub away the buildup. It only took a few minutes of scrubbing to clear the rim of the junk and reveal a very beautiful top of the bowl.I was really torn about the next stage of restoration. On higher value pipes, I always try to leave a pipe as original as possible, only make changes to its form or appearance if they are not necessary to remediate damage or excessive wear. Two things happened that influenced my decision in this matter.
- Unfortunately for this pipe, the sides of the bowl were very badly scratched and dented beyond what I might otherwise call a reasonable level of “character.” These needed to be fixed to make the pipe look as good as its reputation.
- When the stem came out of the OxyClean bath, I discovered that the detergent had removed the color from the famous cross pattern “Barling’s” stamp. I switched to using OxyClean primarily because of its non-threatening effects of stamp coloring and inlays. But this was the first time I have seen OxyClean have this effect. I knew that classic white stamp had to be saved somehow. The stem was also still a bit oxidized in some areas after the bath. So, I made the decision to sand the damage out in order to fully restore the finish, including the stem stamp coloring. Before starting with any abrasives, I slowly ran all the dented areas, including the tooth chatter in the bit, over my heat gun to help lift out any impacted material in an effort to reduce the depth of everything that needed sanding. It helped a little, but still left much work to do. I started with the stem stamp. I stole some white nail polish from my wife’s bathroom drawer and used it to generously fill in the stamp, leaving extra over the top to sand down.I set the stem aside to let the nail polish to harden and got to work on the stummel. I sanded the stummel in two parts. Since the bowl had all the damage, I began wet-sanding the bowl only (leaving the shank alone) with 220 grit sandpaper. I followed that with a 320 grit wet-sand, and didn’t do any sanding of the shank until I got to 400 grit. At this 400 grit point, I attached the stem to begin sanding it as well along with the shank.Even in sanding the shank, I did not sand the nomenclature at all at this point. I carefully avoided all stamps with the courser grits, only giving a light passover of the stamp markings with 600 and 800 grit, just enough to break the gloss finish so it would take new stain. Once I reached 600 grit wet sanding, I now sanded the entire pipe and stem uniformly. I followed that with 800 grit over the entire pipe and stem, still treading very softly over the stamp markings.With all the sanding complete out to 800 grit, the stem came out almost exactly like most Barling’s of this age look present-day. They always have slightly worn centers of the stem stamp with solid color in the ends. It doesn’t look like a new stem. It looks like an old stem in really good condition. I was pretty happy with the result.
The whole pipe overall was looking really good, now scratch and dent free, sanded to 800 grit across the board (the dark areas on the stummel are just water that was on my thumb).From here, I took the whole pipe and stem together to my first polishing wheel loaded up with Brown Tripoli compound. Brown Tripoli has proven, for me, adequate to remove 800 grit scratches, and most 600 grit, when polished perpendicular to the direction of sanding. After insuring all the scratches were polished out, I was ready to stain the stummel. I went with PIMO Pipecraft’s Brown Mahogany dye, because, among the colors I had on hand, it looked closest to the original color. I flamed off two applications of the dye and left the pipe for several hours to dry. I came back after some time and polished out the new dye with brown Tripoli compound.
Then I wiped the whole pipe of any residual deposits of Tripoli compound and put it to my second polishing wheel loaded with white diamond compound to help give it a lasting gloss finish.
I hand applied two coats of Halcyon II pipe wax, let it dry a few minutes, and then buffed it out with a dry flannel wheel I have set up to turn at 55 rpm on a small drill press I modified to be solely used for slow speed buffing. The end result, I am really happy with. I hope that I have preserved this rare and great pipe in name and age. I won’t be selling this one, per the sentiments stated in my opening paragraph. I look forward to enjoying this pipe for years in my collection as one of those rare gems I discovered in the real world, away from eBay.
I’d have liked to seen the look on your face when you opened that humidor! Nice job dating the pipe and on removing the bowl issues. Acrylic model paint also works well for stamped stem logos (although I’m not sure it would be an advantage over fingernail polish). Enjoy getting to make that one your own!
Very nice billiard and fine work.
Thanks! My wife should have taken a picture of me She was there and saw how excited I was. Model paint is a great idea. I was thinking about trying the white CA glue from Stew-Mac next time. Any of you tried it? I thought it would be super resilient and hard since the black glue works so well to repair holes.
Fine work. What do you suggest I use instead of nail polish to protect the stem logos?
I used the nail polish to fill the stamp in after the color was already gone. So I wouldn’t use nail polish to protect it if the color is still present. Typically, some petroleum jelly smeared over the stem inlay or stamp will protect it during a detergent or chemical bath (if you are using bleach). But I haven’t tried petroleum with OxyClean yet because I’ve never had it do this to a stamp until now. I’m sure one of the other contributors has figured out something that works though.
The nail polish did work well for filling the lost color back in. It is very thin so it settles into the small crevasses of stamps easily and it dries hard enough to withstand a polishing wheel assuming the stamp is of adequate depth to hold the nail polish.
Welcome Kent! Very nice restoration…. that is a beauty of a pipe. I share your thoughts about hunting for pipes in antique store verses ebay. I have bought some very interesting pipes in shops that I would not have looked twice at on line. Although you find a few clinkers in the dusty corners those rare finds do make it worth while.
Thanks Aaron! That is, hands down, my favorite means of finding estate pipes. I love the hunt, especially when it leads to a good find.
Great find, well done.
Thanks David. I’ve had a few turns of particularly good luck at antique malls in my area.