Blog by Steve Laug
After refurbishing a lot of pipes over the years I have come to opinions about pipe brands and shaped. To my eye certain brands really get a certain shape and really nail it perfectly. To me the GBD Bulldog, shape 269 is one of those shapes. To me it is the quintessential straight shank bulldog. Others do it well but GBD absolutely gets the shape. Add to that fact that certain finishes have also grown on me over the years and one of those is the GBD Prehistoric sandblast. You combine the finish and the shape components on this pipe and I have a real beauty on the restoration table today. My brother is also becoming a die-hard GBD fan so when he saw this one he decided it was one to go after. Needless to say he got it. He took some photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up to send up to me in Vancouver. I have included those below.The finish on the pipe looks to be in excellent condition. Later close-up photos will show the grime and dust in the grooves and crevices of the sandblast but there are no chips or nicks in the briar. The bowl had remnants of tobacco in the bottom and the cake had overflowed on to the rim top. The curved bevel of the Prehistoric smooth rim was thickly tarred and caked. It was hard to tell from the photos if there were any nicks or deep scratches in the rim. I have found that the thicker the cake and tars on the rim the more likely it is that I will find the rim to be pretty pristine underneath. The stem was deeply oxidized and the GBD logo insert on the stem had been buffed to death but the fit of the stem to the shank was perfect. There was only light tooth chatter and a few scratches on the top and underside of the flat portion of the stem. The photo below gives a clear picture of the condition of the rim and the cake in the bowl.The sand blast on the heel of the bowl was deep and craggy and the contrast of browns in the stain really highlighted the layered look of the blast.The stamping on the left underside of the shank in a smooth panel is very readable and sharp. It reads GBD in the oval over Prehistoric in Germanic script. Next to that it reads London England over the shape number 269. The second photo below shows the over buffed roundel in the stem. It is still readable but is quite flattened and broadened. I will have to see if I can clean that up a bit in the process of the restoration – or at least not damage it any further.The next two photos show the top and underside of the stem. The oxidation is quite heavy and deep in the vulcanite. There is some light tooth chatter and scratches on the stem near the button and on top of the button on both sides but no deep tooth marks.My brother is getting really good at cleaning up these old timers and I have to say I am getting spoiled at getting pipes that I don’t have to ream and scrape to clean before I can start the restoration process. In this case he scrubbed the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and got rid of the grime and dust in the crevices and removed most of the buildup on the rim top. He reamed the bowl and scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. When I received it the pipe was clean and ready to restore. The briar was dry from the scrubbing and the removal of all of the oils. It appears to have lost some of the rich colour but I have learned that once I begin to work on it the life begins to come back to the briar so I was not too concerned. The oxidation had also really risen to the surface of the stem and looked ugly. I took the next four photos to show what the pipe looked like when it arrived. I took a closeup photo of the rim top to show what it looked like when I received it. He had been able to remove the buildup and caking on the rim but there was still some darkening that needed to be dealt with. I also took closeup photos of the stem to show how the pitted and oxidized surface looked before I started. This was going to be a tough stem to clean up. I decided to start with the rim top. I started polishing it by wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it off with a damp cotton pad and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. The rim began to take on its original sheen and the darkening and rim damage was removed.I gave the bowl a light rub down with olive oil and it absorbed it quickly into the dry and lifeless feeling briar. I buffed it by hand with a soft microfiber cloth and took the next set of photos to show what a little oil will do to a dry and thirsty finish. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper being very careful around the GBD roundel on the stem. I was able to remove much of the surface oxidation on the stem and I started to see the black stem peeking through.I decided to try several of the stem polishes I have around here to try to break through the oxidation. I started with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish which is a very gritty and cuts through the oxidation and helps polish the stem. I followed that with the Before & After Polishes which are also gritty but each of them the Fine and the Extra Fine are less so than the Denicare polish. While they worked well overall and cut through a lot of oxidation it took much scrubbing with cotton pads to polish it to the place the stem is in the photo below.I still needed to polish the stem further with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down after each set of three pads with Obsidian Oil. After the last set of pads I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl rim and the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to shine it further. I gave the stem and the bowl rim multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel and hand applied Conservator’s Wax to the sandblast bowl sides and shank. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad, carefully buffing around the stamping and the brass roundel on the stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. The overall appearance of the pipe is very good. In some of the close up photos the light shows me some spots along the crease of the button where the stubborn oxidation did not all come clean. Ah well. It is one of those that I think I will revisit repeatedly over the course of its life with me. Thanks for journeying with me on this troublesome oxidation removal process. Thanks for reading.