Blog by Steve Laug
I can see what attracted Jeff to this pipe right away because it also grabs my attention. It has a rugged looking rustication that is somewhere between an aged piece of leather and a gnarled tree stump. There is something very charming about the appearance of the pipe that is for certain. The briar by and large appears to be in decent shape. The stamping on the shank reads MAYFAIR over 1005 with Italy stamped next to the stem shank junction. First thought was it may be a Sasieni or Charatan but I do not think it is. There is something almost Lorenzo like in terms of the look of the carving and the shape. The way the stamping is done and the Italy stamp makes me think that it is a basket pipe made for a pipe shop called the Mayfair Shop. In my I found that there is a shop in Edmonton, Alberta Canada called Mayfair Smoke & Gift Shop. There is also an area on London called Mayfair that at one time housed many pipe and tobacco shops. My own feeling is that the pipe probably came from the shop in Edmonton – the Italy stamp on the shank makes me think that rather than and English shop. The next close up photos show more of the carving on the bowl close up and the condition of the rim and cake in the bowl. In the first photo below there is a small chip out of the rim edge that shows up but should be easy to hide in the rustication. The rim top is quite dirty with the overflow of cake from the bowl. It is hard to see under the thick cake on it but there are curved strokes around the rim top that go clockwise. They include larger deeper strokes and fine hairlike strokes that are also in the grooves of the rustication on the bowl sides.The next photo shows the stamping on a smooth portion on the bottom of the shank. Does anyone know who made the Mayfair brand of pipe that was stamped like this?Other than being deeply oxidized the stem was in decent shape. There were not any tooth marks or deep tooth chatter on the stem surfaces. There was a cursive stylized T on the left side of the saddle portion of the stem.My brother cleaned up the pipe and sent it my way in Vancouver. As usual he did a thorough job of reaming and cleaning the inside of the shank, mortise and airway in the stem. They were spotless. I took the next four photos to show what the pipe looked like when it arrived.His cleanup of the rim revealed the curved clockwise strokes around the top surface.I took a close up picture of the rim top and if you look into the bowl a serious issue that would need further exploring.Even after the cleanup the stem looked in decent shape.I used a dental pick to probe the serious spidering cracks and crevices on the inside of the bowl. These were far worse than the recent ones that I addressed in the bowl of The Tobacconist Inc. Rhodesian recently using pipe mud (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/12/22/a-reclamation-project-the-tobacconist-inc-made-in-england-rhodesian/). These were deep and intricately burned gouges in the surface of the bowl. I used the Savinelli Fitsall Knife to scrape out as much damage on the walls as possible and without gouging out more and further damaging the surface. The next series of photos show the bowl as I turned it around examining the damage. I have to tell you at this point I was seriously considering throwing the pipe into the discard box and not bothering working any further on it. The stem could be salvaged and parts of the briar may be salvageable for repairs. It really was a desperate looking situation. It appeared to be a bowl on the very edge of being burned out all around – one of the worst messes on the inside of a bowl I had seen. But… and this is where I took a chance. I really like the rustication pattern on the briar and the shape also grabbed me so I decided to try a remedy that Charles Lemon of Dadspipes has used far more than me. I thought it might just work on this old bowl and provide a possible redemption to ongoing service.
I picked at the wood with a dental pick to remove any loose chips or chunks of briar to get the wood back to as solid a base as possible. I cleaned out the interior of the bowl with a cotton swab and alcohol until I removed all of the dust and debris from the cracks.I wanted a clean surface to work with. I set the bowl aside to dry and went to the hardware liquidation store down the street. I picked up some JB Weld (or rather a brand called Steel Weld which was made by JB Weld). I mixed the base and the hardener on a patch of paper with a wire until I had it well blended. Using a dental spatula I pressed the mixture into all of the cracks on the inside of the bowl. I slathered on (technical term) the coat of the mixture until all the inside walls of the bowl were smoothly covered. I dampened a cotton pad with alcohol and wiped off the JB Weld that had gotten on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. I did not want it to harden as then it would be impossible to remove from the strokes on the surface. I set the bowl aside to let the bowl repair harden. Once it was cured overnight I would sand the surface clean leaving the repair only in the cracks themselves.
Being impatient by nature and by choice, I wanted to keep working on the pipe. I know that I have many more to work on but I wanted to see what the exterior of this old timer looked like once it was restained. So when the internal repair had hardened to touch (about an hour later) I decided to stain the briar. I used a Dark Brown aniline stain and applied it to the briar with a folded pipe cleaner. I flamed the stain to set it in the grooves and grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I wanted. With the stain coat done I took two photos to show the rim and interior of the bowl to show how the repairs looked before I sanded them down. The JB Weld still needed to cure but you can see how the walls looked at this point.I wanted to protect the bowl from the dust and the debris that would fly when I sanded out the bowl so I gave it a first coat of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed it with a shoe brush. I set the bowl aside until the afternoon to let the repair cure and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation on the surface and smooth out the pitting.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. After each set of three pads I gave the stem a rub down with Obsidian Oil. After the final rub down I set the stem aside to dry until I had finished the bowl. When I came back to the bowl in the afternoon I took some photos of the interior before I sanded it to show what the dried JB Weld looked like. The surface is rough to the touch and hard. The cracks however are completely filled in.I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove much of the excess fill/repair material. I set the Dremel at the lowest speed and slowly worked it over the inside of the bowl walls. I was able to remove much of the overage that way but I could not get all of the material off. My goal was to leave the JB Weld only in the crevices and cracks in the walls and not on the walls themselves. I wrapped a piece of 220 grit sandpaper around a wine cork, roughened the end to give some leverage on it and sanded the inside of the bowl. This further took back the JB Weld. I finished sanding the inside with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around my index finger. When I was finished the cracks were filled and the bowl was smooth to touch. I wiped down the inside walls of the bowl with cotton swabs and clean water and the shank with pipe cleaners and clean water to remove all of the sanding dust and debris left behind by my work in the bowl. The next photos show the repairs on the walls of the bowl. The bowl is solid and feels undamaged. My next step in the repair is to coat the walls with a mixture of sour cream and charcoal powder – a bowl coating. This will further protect the walls and provide insulation until a cake can be formed.I walked down to the local supermarket and purchase a small package of sour cream. I put a spoonful of sour cream into a small bowl and broke open the last of my activated charcoal capsules into it. I mixed it with a spoon until the mixture was a dark grey colour and well blended.I know at this point many of you are thinking “sour cream in a pipe”. But that is exactly what I used. I mixed it well and put it on the walls of the pipe with a dental spatula and spread it evenly across the walls with a folded pipe cleaner. I had inserted a pipe cleaner in the shank to keep the airway clear of the bowl coating. I can assure you after many years of using this mixture – one by the way that is used by many pipe makers – that the mixture dries and has no residual smell or tasted. It is absolutely neutral. It provides a good insulator for the bowl while cake is formed. In this case it also covers the lines of JB Weld in the cracks of the bowl interior so it serves a dual purpose. I put the bowl aside to let the bowl coating cure and harden. I let it sit overnight to cure. I knew that once it had hardened it would be completely neutral in smell and taste. This morning the bowl coating had dried to a solid black colour with a little grit from the charcoal. The sour cream smell was gone and the bowl was smooth and black to the bottom. This morning I gave the bowl several more coats of Conservator’s Wax, buffed it with a shoe brush and finished by buffing it with a clean buffing pad to bring a shine to the smooth and rusticated portions of the bowl. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond Polish on the buffing wheel and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the whole pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine and give the pipe a sense of warmth that this last step gives it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It may seem like a lot of work to redeem this old pipe but the look of the finished pipe says it all to me. This one will be a pleasure to fire up and hold. The tactile nature of the rustication is complex and interesting to hold and study. Would you have done this work on one you have on the table? The only way that you will be able to answer that question is when you lay eyes on one that grabs a hold of your attention. Until then you may wonder at my madness. Thanks for walking with me through this exercise.