Blog by Steve Laug
This pipe came up for sale on the Gentleman’s Pipe Smoking Society on Facebook. It was being sold by a friend of Dal’s and I liked the shape and the look of it. I honestly was thinking it was a smaller Stanwell like egg even though I knew it was not a Stanwell pipe. The pipe is stamped Bambu on the left side of the shank and on the underside it is stamped Israel which leads me to believe that it was crafted by the Shalom Pipe Factory. There is nothing online that I can find regarding the stamping or the brand but it is similar in stamping to my early Alpha Israel pipes. That is all the information that I can surmise from the pipe itself. I paid for the pipe and had it shipped to my brother instead of to Canada over a month ago and he received it really quickly. I told him to hold onto it and ship it up when he sent another box of pipes to me.
This week it arrived and I expectantly took it out of the box of other pipes. I unwrapped it from the bubble wrap to have a look at it. My brother had sent along a few photos of the pipe to show me what I was in for once it arrived so I was kind of excited to see it up close. In the next two photos he shows the overall look of the pipe. It was really quite nice. Whenever I buy an estate pipe, no matter who has done the restoration, I always add my own touches to the restoration to make it mine and to remove the things that will bug me as I use the pipe. I don’t know if you all do that but it is part of my own pathology that I have to go over every estate I get with a fine tooth comb before I even load a bowl and fire it up. This was no exception to my habit. I took the bowl and turned it over in my hands to examine it closely. As usual I noted a few issues that I knew would bug me unless I addressed them. (No criticism of the seller as I am sure many folks would have been absolutely fine with the as it was when I got it.)
- The finish on the bowl was spotty. The left side of the bowl appeared to have been stripped of its varnish or shellac coat and there were shiny spots left on the bowl side toward the top edge of the rim. The front, back and right side of the bowl still had the shiny finish coat. I knew I would need to remove the finish and smooth things out. Call me anal but that kind of thing bugs me.
- The rim still had some residual lava spots from the bowl that would need to be cleaned off and the darkening of the rim appeared to be on top of the shiny top coat. I was pretty sure that I could remove much of the issue by removing the shiny coat.
- The underside and sides of the bowl had some dents and nicks in the finish that needed to be steamed out.
- The transition between the briar, the black insert and the bamboo was rough to the touch and there was debris collected in the rough edges of the transition.
- There was a red mark in the groove of the bamboo on the top side of the shank. It stood out and it bugged me – kind of like lipstick on the collar of a good shirt.
- The bamboo also had a thick seal coat that seemed to have brush marks in the finish and I could feel them with my thumb as I ran it over the bamboo.
- The stem had a lot of pits and small tooth chatter that had been polished but was still present on both the top and the bottom sides.
- The stamped B logo on the stem was in great shape but I wanted to paint it and make it stand out a bit more on the saddle portion.
- The stem also did not sit correctly in the shank leaving a gap on the underside of the joint when it was properly aligned.
My brother included some close up photos of the bowl, the underside, the shank and the stem that highlight some of the issues I raised above. The next photos show the stamping on the left side of the shank and on the underside. It reads Bambu as noted above and Israel on the underside.In the next two close up photos of the stem you can see the tooth chatter and scratches on the vulcanite stem.The final photo shows the B stamp on the side of the saddle portion of the stem. It is in decent shape and would be easily filled in. The fit of the stem against the bamboo was a bit off as well. I would need to adjust this fit.In adding my own touches to the restoration of the pipe I decided to work through remedying each of the issues noted above individually. You can be the judge if the finished pipe is better than when I started. The first four photos show the pipe as it appeared when I unwrapped it. You can see the shiny spots on the left side of the bowl near the top and toward the bottom of the bowl. You can also see the dents in the bowl sides. The issue raised above in number 1 involved the spotty finish on the bowl. The above photos highlight that issue clearly. The left side of the bowl appeared to have been stripped of its varnish or shellac coat and there were shiny spots left on the bowl side toward the top edge of the rim. The front, back and right side of the bowl still had the shiny finish coat. I scrubbed the finish on the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the shiny topcoat. I was pretty sure it was a varnish or shellac coat and that it had been partially removed somewhere along the way. It did not take too much effort to remove it from the surface of the bowl.
I also addressed issues number 2 and 3 noted above. To take care of the second issue of the rim surface I scrubbed the rim of the bowl with the acetone on the cotton pad and the bits of lava came off along with the shiny coat. The rim was smooth to the touch and some of the darkening also was removed in the process. To take care of the dents and nicks in the finish I steamed them out with a hot knife and wet cloth to raise them. I was able to remove all of the dents and nicks leaving the bowl smooth. The next photo is a close up of the rim after the scrubbing with acetone.Next I decided to address issue number 9 noted above – the improper alignment of the stem in the shank. When it was correctly aligned in the shank it left a gap on the underside of the joint. It is visible at the bottom of the stem in the photo below.I removed the stem from the shank and faced the end of the shank on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. You can see from the second photo below where the topping at removed high spots on the end of the shank leaving the center unsanded. This was only the first step in the process of this repair.When I put the stem back in the shank it was clear that the angle of the tenon was incorrect in terms of the drilling in the bamboo. I heated the tenon with a Bic lighter to soften the vulcanite of the tenon and then pushed it back into the mortise in the bamboo. Because the tenon was pliable I was able to align the stem edge with the edge of the bamboo to remove the gap in the fit. I held the stem in place while the tenon cooled. Once finished the alignment remained and the gap was gone.Once I got the stem alignment corrected I decided to touch up the B stamp on the side of the stem to address issue number 8 noted above. I use some white acrylic paint and applied it with a fine bristle paint brush to fill in the stamping on the stem. Once the paint dried I scraped it off with a soft cloth and sanded it with a 2400 grit micromesh sanding pad.To address the issues noted in numbers 4-6 above – all dealing with the bamboo shank extension I worked specifically to deal with the varnish coat on the bamboo. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and acetone to remove the buildup and brush marks on the surface of the bamboo. I cleaned out the “lipstick” that was in the groove in the bamboo using a cotton swab and acetone. There is just one small spot left next to the spacer between the bamboo and the briar. I sanded the transition between the briar, the insert and the bamboo to smooth it out and to also clean up some of the debris that seemed to have collected at that point on the shank. With the removal of the thick varnish the bamboo began to take on its natural patina and the stress marks stood out giving an aged look. The final issue, number 7 above, to be addressed was the stem. It had some tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside that needed some attention. They were not too bad but they stood out and bugged me. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and smooth out the tooth marks. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I polished the bowl and the bamboo with micromesh sanding pads as well – all grits 1500-12000 to remove any remaining scratches or small nicks in the finish. I buffed bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to further polish the pipe and then gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to polish the wax and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The rich finish now highlights the beautiful grain on the pipe and the smooth feel in the hand satisfies my desire for that in a pipe. It is now ready to fire up a bowl of some Christmas tobacco and the distractions that irritated me when I received the pipe are taken care off and all the distractions removed. So goes the life of a pipe refurbisher – never finished and rarely satisfied with the end product – I always see more imperfections that need to be addressed. Thanks for humouring me as I took you through this journey I appreciate it!