Daily Archives: January 1, 2017

Blatter “Select” Gift

By Al Jones

This pipe showed up in my mail the day after Christmas. It turns out that a friend in Canada, Pat Russell, knew that the shape would appeal to me. He sent it down the the U.S. along with Christmas greetings, a very nice surprise! I had read about the famous Blatter & Blatter shop in Montreal many times on the PipesMagazine forum and on several Reborn Pipes blog entries by Steve. However, until this point, I had never seen one of their pipes first hand.

The pipe was in wonderful shape and quite large at 70 grams. There was some very mild oxidation and small teeth marks on the red dot stem. The bowl top had some darkening around the rim. The stem is a chair-leg style, similar to a GBD.

The stamping is still a bit of a mystery. Steve has previously posted the history of the Blatter & Blatter shop, but not much else is written about their pipes, grades, nomenclature, etc. This one is stamped “Select” and has a signature stamp for Robert Blatter. It appears that Robert Blatter may now be retired from the shop. It also has a number and dash stamped on one panel. If anyone knows the significance of the number sequence, please let me know.

From a PipesMagazine forum entry, one member wrote this about the Select stamping:

The interest, among their creations, is their Sélect line. You can’t miss them as the pipes are stamped “Sélect”. Very fine quality briar plateaux are used to create them and, obviously, the ebonite is of much better quality.

I’m a big fan of the Canadian rock band “Rush” and my wife had given me a copy of the 40th anniversary edition of their album “2112”. I thought it was appropriate to listen to it in my workshop as I worked on my first Canadian pipe.

Here’s the pipe after touching up the bowl top and polishing the stem. Thanks for your thoughtful gift Pat!
















A Simple Cleanup – A Tobacco Taverne Bulldog

Blog by Steve Laug

I reached into the last box my brother sent and pulled out a black sandblast bulldog with a saddle stem. I was in the mood for a simple cleanup today so this one would fit the bill. The blast and finish on it was very nice. The stain was clean though there was dust and debris in the crevices of the blast. The rim was very clean and the outer and inner edges of the bowl were undamaged. There were several spots that were light nicks in the sandblast and showed raw briar through the stain. These would be easy to deal with as the sandblast finish is very forgiving. The pipe was stamped on the left underside of the shank in a smooth portion. It read Tobacco Taverne (both T’s are in Germanic Script) under that it was stamped Made in London over England in an uppercase font. The next photos are ones that my brother took before he cleaned it.bull1He took a close up photo of the rim to show what it looked like when he got it. The inner edge of the bowl had a few nicks back to bare briar but overall the edges were in great shape. There was a light cake in the bowl.bull2He also took some close up photos of the great sandblast on the bowl sides. The blast is deep and rugged with deep crevices and grooves along with the ridges. It truly is a beautiful sandblast that really shows the ring grain on the piece of briar.bull3He took a photo of the stamping on the shank and the crown logo on the left side of the saddle shank. The stamping is readable and sharp.bull4Both sides of the stem are in great shape. There was some light oxidation and some pitting from the oxidation. There was tooth chatter but no tooth marks in the vulcanite on either side.bull5My brother reamed and cleaned the pipe. He scrubbed the surface of the stem and briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and removed all of the dust and grime in the grooves and crevices. He cleaned the shank, mortise and internals of the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I took photos of the pipe when I received it in Vancouver. The first four photos of the pipe show why I thought it was going to be an easy cleanup.bull6 bull7I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition of both. The bowl is very clean and looks to be unsmoked in the bottom half of the bowl. The inner edge of the bowl shows a few nicks that will need to be touched up.bull8The stem is oxidized but the surface is quite clean. It should be a pretty easy task to polish it clean.bull9There was an odd stinger in the tenon that was easily removed. It was aluminum with four fins on the pointed end. There is a hole in the top side of the stinger that takes the air that whirls around the inside of the shank, flows up the fins and into the airway in the stem. The photo below shows the three parts of the pipe.bull10I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation on the surface of the stem. I was careful sanding around the crown logo on the shank side.bull11I ran a folded pipe cleaner and alcohol through the shank and another through the airway in the stem. Both were very clean and took very little cleaning. All that came out of the shank and stem was the dust from the sanding.bull12I used a black Sharpie Pen to touch up the chipped spots on the inner edge of the rim and shank end. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. The photos below show the finished bowl.bull13 bull14 bull15I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the last set of pads I gave it a final coat of oil and set the stem aside to dry.bull16 bull17 bull18I lightly buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad to shine it. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a well-made bulldog and the Made in London England stamp points to a pipe made by GBD. The lack of a definitive shape number makes it impossible to be 100% certain as to the origin but I am pretty sure that it is a GBD made pipe. The Tobacco Taverne stamping is from a tobacco shop but I was unable to identify the shop. There are shops near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and one it Houston, Texas that have that name and there are several others in the US that are called Tobacco Tavern. Maybe some of you who are reading this may have some information on the shop or the brand. Let us know what you know. Thanks for looking.bull19 bull20 bull21 bull22 bull23 bull24 bull25 bull26

Great Grain – a Triangle Shank Grabow Westbrook Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

Wikus asked me in a comment on the blog I wrote on the KBB Yello-Bole Churchwarden why I don’t give the pipe a coat of either varnish or shellac after I have refinished them. I wrote a response in which I said I don’t like that finish and want the pipe to be able to breathe. I have found that the varnished bowls get hot when smoked so that is another reason. But probably the biggest reason is that I really like a more matte finish instead of the high gloss that some like. I have to be honest – to me the matte finish that lets the grain pop and hides nothing behind the shine really is my preference. It does not mean I don’t like a shine but rather that I like the shine of a good wax and buff over the other options.

The pipe I worked on next is a prime example of what lies beneath the varnish coat. This one is a unique (at least to me as I have not seen one before) triangular shank billiard made by Dr. Grabow. It is stamped on the left side of the shank WESTBROOK over Dr. Grabow (the bottom edge of the lower stamp is faint as it is very close to the ridge on the angle of the side). It is stamped on the right side Imported Briar (faint stamp) over Adjustomatic in script. Underneath both lines it reads PAT.2461905. My brother picked this one up because the grain and shape caught his attention. He took the following photos before he cleaned it up.grab1 grab1aFrom the above photos you can get a general idea of the shape and condition of the pipe. It is sound and has no cracks or burns on the surface. The finish is pretty well shot – the varnish is crackled and checked looking on the sides of the bowl and shank. The overall look is cloudy and muddied by the varnish going. There is a pretty thick cake in the bowl and it overflows onto the rim top. The bowl however appears to still be in round both on the inner and outer edges as far as can be seen in the slightly out of focus third photo. The stem looks good at this point with light oxidation and some tooth chatter and marks on the topside near the button. The orange Grabow spade logo is in place on the left side of the stem. More will be revealed through his close up photos.

The first photo shows the rim condition up close. My initial observation about the edges need to be modified somewhat. The inner edge looks good but it will be better determined once the thick and uneven cake is removed from the bowl (good news is that this one must have been a good smoker to have developed this kind of cake). The outer edge looks good other than some slight damage to the front right side where there appears to be a chip and some wearing.grab2The next close up photos show the stamping and stem logo. I have recorded the condition and content of the stamping above. I include these for you to see the overall condition of them and the finish on the shank and stem.grab3The last photos he included show the condition of the stem. There is a visible line that covers the separates the first inch of the stem from the rest which looks to me that the stem had a Softee bit on it for most of its life. There is tooth chatter on both sides of the stem and on the top side (second photo below) there are visible tooth marks that need to be dealt with. This is why I think the bit protector came after the initial tooth marks or they would have been far worse. On the underside of the stem there is a small tooth mark that is quite deep. Both sides will need some work to smooth out the damage.grab4I did a US Patent search to see what I could find out about the patent number on the side of the shank. I was able to find out that the patent was filed on Jan. 25, 1946 but was not issues until February 15, 1949. I learned that the inventor of the Adjustomatic system for Grabow was D.P. Lavietes. I know nothing about him but I do know that Dr. Grabow used the mechanism in their pipes. With this information I know that the pipe was made after 1949 because the patent stamp says that the mechanism is patented not patent applied for. I have included the entire patent below for those who may be interested. I enjoy the descriptions, rationale and drawings that the inventor includes in these old patents. They are a pleasure for me to read through them. If you want you can skip over the next four photos and read about the pipe’s restoration.grab5 grab6 grab7 grab8My brother did his usual thorough cleaning of the pipe. He reamed the bowl and cleaned the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the rim and was able to remove all of the tars and oils that had built up there. He cleaned the exterior of the bowl and stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and build up in those areas. When I received the pipe in Vancouver it was clean. The only thing that he had not been able to do was remove the stinger from the threaded tenon to clean behind it. The next four photos give a clear picture of what the pipe looked like when it arrived.grab9 grab10The close up photo below shows how well the rim and bowl cleaned up. The inner rim was in pretty decent shape other than a little burn on the front edge almost in line with the chip on the outer edge.grab11The stem was in better condition than I expected as in the cleaning process a lot of the chatter seems to have been removed with the calcification.grab12I took photos of the condition of the stinger apparatus because it was looking really good. In the past when I got these they were black and looked awful. They were bad enough that if I did not like stingers before, the general grime and grit would have sealed the deal. This one however was sparkling.grab13I heated the stinger with a Bic lighter and the tars that held in the tenon released it. With the stinger removed I was able to clean out the buildup behind it in the stem. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean out that area of the stem. I cleaned out any remaining debris in the mortise at the same time.grab14I sanded the tooth marks and the rest of the stem to deal with the oxidation using a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. The tooth marks came out of the top side of the stem with no problem. There was still one small almost pin hole tooth mark on the underside that I would need to deal with and repair. I cleaned the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the mark with clear super glue. Once it dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it in with the rest of the stem surface.grab15 grab15aI buffed the stem with Red Tripoli on the buffing wheel and brought it back to the work table to polish it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. After each set of three pads I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. After the last pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.grab15b grab15cAfter polishing with the 1500-2400 grit pads I wiped down the tenon with an alcohol wet cotton pad to remove some of the darkening in the threads. In doing so I got some alcohol on the end of the stem and it brought out a bit more oxidation to the surface. This is one of those frustrations but also a good thing as I was able to then back track and sand the stem again with 1500-4000 grit pads and then buff it with some Blue Diamond on the wheel and I removed the rest of the oxidation. I then went back to polishing the stem with 6000-12000 grit pads to bring the shine to the surface.grab15dWith the stem polishing done I set it aside and turned to the bowl. I examined it and decided that the best way to deal with the crackling varnish coat was to remove it. My choice for removing varnish coats is to scrub the finish with acetone on a cotton pad until it is gone. The first wipes will leave the surface gummy and rough. You have to scrub the surface until it is smooth to touch. The next four photos show the bowl with the crackled finish.grab16 grab17It took four cotton pads and acetone to remove this crackled varnish finish. Underneath the cloudy varnish coat there was some really stunning grain.grab18 grab19Once the finish was gone and I had wiped the pipe with a paper towel with a little bit of olive oil I took photos of the pipe. There was some scratching in the briar that would need to be polished and there were some nicks that would need to be lifted if they did not polish out but the overall appearance of the pipe was stunning.grab20 grab21I worked on the bevel of the inner edge to smooth out and remove the damage on the front side. I used 180 grit and 220 grit sandpaper to bevel the rim a little to accommodate the edge damage. I polished the briar on the rim with 2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching left behind by the beveling. I polished the bowl and rim with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to raise a shine in the briar and make the grain stand out.grab22 grab23I put the stem and bowl back together again and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the wheel to further polish it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has come a long way from the worn and tired pipe that came to my brother in Idaho. The depth of the shine, the look of the grain and the flow of the pipe all work together to make this a beautiful Dr. Grabow pipe. It is one of the earliest pipes of the RJ Reynolds era. It was a fun pipe to work on and the results just multiplied as each step I took in the cleaning and polishing process brought more of the beauty of this piece of briar alive. Thanks for looking.grab24 grab25 grab26 grab27 grab28 grab29 grab30 grab31