Blog by Steve Laug
After a month hiatus from pipe refurbishing I am finally getting back into the swing of things. I decided to do some more work on the batch of pipes I picked up from the local tobacco shop. They had come from the estate of an old time pipe man whose widow had given them back to the store to dispose of. The shop owner had given me the task of cleaning up and restoring the lot and putting them up for sale. I had cleaned up four of the old Peterson’s and also an older GBD Marquis before I went away on my work trip. The next pipe that I turned my attention to was a lovely petite Group 2 Dunhill Bruyere ¼ bent Dublin. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with a five digit shape number – 21143 and next to that it reads Dunhill over Bruyere. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Made in England with the number 17 after the D in England which I believe dates the pipe as being made in 1977. The bowl has a cake and there is a lot of overflow of the lava onto the rim top. The finish is in decent shape though dirty. The stem is a fishtail with oxidation and the signs that the previous owner had used a rubber Softee bit. Even so there are still tooth marks on both the top and underside of the stem near the button. I took some close up photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. You can see the shape number clearly on the left side. It reads 21143. I have learned that reading the numbers gives a lot of information. From past experience with four digit numbers I know that the first number tells me the size of the bowl – a Group 2. The second number tells me the style of the original stem which in this case is 1 referring to a tapered stem. The third and fourth numbers reference the shape number of the pipe which is number 14 and on the Dunhill charts is a Bent Dublin. The only number I am not clear about it the final digit 3. That will take some more work to see if I can narrow down what it refers to. The rest of the stamping is pretty straightforward on the left and right side of the shank.Since I had not seen the five digit shape stamping before I first turned to Pipephil’s site to see if there was help there. I have used his Dunhill information and found it a great help in deciphering the stamping in the past. However in this case his site did not give any information on the last digit of the five digit stamping. It gave me the information that I already knew – which was the interpretation of the stamping on the pipe. It was made in 1977 and was a Group 2 sized pipe with a taper stem in the 14 Shape which was a bent Dublin. It did not give me the information on the final number in the shape group – the 3. He left that number blank in his interpretation of the stamping on the pipe.
For that I had to do some more searching. I decided to go for a straightforward approach to my problem and typed in the following in the Google search box: “What does the fifth digit in a five digit Dunhill shape stamp mean?” The search engine came up with a conversation online on just this topic. It referenced me to the alt.smokers.pipes site on Google groups. That conversation held the clues I was looking for. I have copied the portion by RC Hamlin in answer to a question from another member regarding the five digit stamping on his pipe. Here is the link: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.smokers.pipes/Fk-8EWxZXCs . I quote the response from RC Hamlin in full.
John, your pipe is a 1977 Vintage – for modern Dunhill’s, dating them is very easy, just start with 1960 and add the dating digit(s). 1967=7, 1977=17, 1987=27, 1997=37. Do not get hung up on underlines, dots, big/small digits etc. for modern Dunhill’s, just use 1960 as a base and add the dating number to it – simple.
That information confirmed what I already knew and gave a simple formula that I thought would be helpful to others seeking to date a Dunhill pipe. He went on in the following paragraphs to give an answer regarding the five digit shape number.
As far as the 5 digit pipe number (48063) you have a group 4 or “medium” Dunhill. I have a whole briefcase full of Dunhill material from the Dunhill archives, factory, Lane, etc. One of these days I’ll retire and write that online book I’ve been trying to do for years. The most interesting item I have is an actual “stamp” guide from the factory that “signed in” each stamp that Dunhill received from 1922 to 1980 (ish) – a LOT of stamps were used, not always as picture perfect as a written “guide” would have to believe. Very few people outside of Dunhill have seen this stamp guide, some authorized, some have seen my copy and used it without fully studying it, either way….Dunhill’s are not “perfect” in their nomenclature.
The 5 digit shape number was introduced around 1975 to “improve” the original 2 & 3 digit (letters and/or numbers) Dunhill shapes. It worked so well that it was discontinued around 1978 in favor of the current 4 digit shape numbers which are really very simple. The modern shape numbers give the size (1st digit), stem type (2nd digit, 1=taper, 2=saddle) and shape number (last 2 digits). Example: a Billiard is shape #03 so a 4103 would be a group 4, taper bit billiard. Change that to 5203 and you have a group 5, saddle bit billiard. ODA’s use their original 8xx shape numbers and you will see things like HT (hand turned) with no shape number but usually a circled group number (5), etc.
While the information was good and let me know that the pipe was from that time period from 1975-1978 when Dunhill used five digit shape numbers it still does not tell me what the fifth digit meant on the pipe on my worktable. I did a bit more searching and the only thing I turned up was that the fifth digit could have been some kind of stock number from Dunhill. That seems odd, but I am not sure we will ever know what the last digit of the five digit stamps means. Do any of you have a further lead on the meaning? Let us know.
Time to get back to the refurbishing of this 1977 Dunhill Bruyere. I took some close up photos of the rim and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when I started my work on it. You can see the extent of the thick cake on the rim and in the bowl and also the wear and tear to the surface of the stem and the button. I started the restoration by reaming the bowl. I decided to work on the crumbling cake with the Savinelli Fitsall Reaming Knife and took the cake back to bare wood. I used a small sharp pen knife to carefully scrape the lava off of the rim top. I scrubbed the rim with saliva on cotton pads until I removed all of the hardened cake. I sanded the rim top with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to take off the residual tars that remained. I finished by sanding the top of the rim with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-4000 grit. I cleaned out the slot in the button with a dental pick to remove the clogged buildup on both sides of the slot narrowing the airway considerably. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the calcification and to minimize the dents. I heated the dents by “painting” them with the flame of a lighter and was able to raise them. I sanded the repaired dents and blended them in with the sandpaper. I reshaped the top edges of the button on both sides. I scrubbed out the mortise and the airways in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the swabs and cleaners came out white.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 between each set of three pads with Obsidian Oil. I was able to remove all of the scratching and the oxidation on the stem. I reconnected the stem and the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the entire pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and by hand with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It looks far better than when I started cleaning and refurbishing it. It should give the next pipe man who takes on its care a long life of good smokes. Thanks for looking.