Daily Archives: April 2, 2017

Refreshing a New Old Stock (NOS) Mastercraft De Luxe Chubby Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

My brother found this pipe on one of his pipe hunts not long ago. It is a beautiful unsmoked, new old stock (NOS) chubby billiard. The briar is in great shape. The rim, the pristine bowl and the finish on the pipe all spoke of new pipe. I did a bit of reading on the brand to see if I could possibly date this pipe. I copied a section from Pipedia. It gives a flow of the history of the brand. Here is the link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft in it the text comes from a posting made by “Ted” on the Grabow Collectors Forum. He was the former Exec VP of Grabow/Mastercraft.

It doesn’t appear that Mastercraft was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow. Ted writes:

“First a confession. From 1974 till 1984 I had several positions with Mastercraft including Executive Vice President. I also worked for Grabow from 66 till 74 and from 84 till I retired in 91. In 91, with retirement, I was President and COO for the corporation that was called “Sparta Industries”. I have seen both sides of the “fence”, and even though I never left the “employ” of Grabow, My loyalties for 10 years were with M/C.”

“United States Tobacco(UST)(Skoal and Copenhagen) bought Grabow in 69′ from the Lavietes family. In 74′ they bought M/C from Bernard Hochstein and moved it into the EXACT facility Grabow occupied. I was named “operations manager” and we were in the basement of a 4 story building in Sparta, NC.”

“M/C was STRICTLY an importer of pipes and pipe related merchandise. In 74′ when M/C moved from NYC to NC the inventory of finished goods was stored in a facility in Winston Salem, NC. Lentz Moving and Storage. Stacked 10 feet high the inventory covered 180,000 square feet….FINISHED. In my time at Grabow I had never seen that much finished stock, and the shapes, manufacturers,finishes. Heaven for a pipe smoker…..Damn right. You would have had to slap me really hard to get the grin off my face.”

“I’ll just list a few Manufacturers/names of the inventory. England:Parker/Hardcastle(Dunhill), Orlik…France: Jeantet…Jima…Cherrywoods. Italy: GIGI pipe…Radica….Rossi…Federico Rovera….Emilio Rovera….Santambrogio. Brebbia. Meerschaums from Austria: Strambach. Lighters from Japan….Pouches and accessories from Hong Kong…and the Israeli pipes from Mr. Hochstein’s sons. Trust me…This is only a small sample of the things M/C had, and bought into inventory.”

With that bit of history I know that the pipe was made prior to the buyout by Grabow in 1974. That makes the pipe at least 43 years old at this time. This one is French made probably by Jeantet. The stamping reads on the left: Mastercraft in the normal shield over De Luxe. The shield hangs from a branch like a sign. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Corsican Briar over France. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the unsmoked condition of it when I received it. The briar is quite beautiful though there are a few fills on the top and right side of the shank that are expertly blended into the finish. I also took a photo of the internals of the mortise and airway to show the raw briar that shines there.The stem showed signs of wear from sitting for the long years in a display case of cabinet. There were scratches, nicks and marks in the rubber that are shown in the photos below. There was a gummy substance from a label on the underside of the stem.The polished aluminum stinger apparatus in the tenon was unmarked and a shine of a new pipe.The finish on the pipe has a shiny topcoat of varnish. I took some photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The next two photos show what that looked like.I worked on the stem to polish out the scratches and nicks in the surface. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to polish out all of the nicks and scratches without resorting to more invasive methods. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to further polish out the scratches. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine back to the surface. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great piece of pipe history and one that will be available on the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to beat the traffic and add it to your collection just send me an email and it can be yours. Thanks for looking.


Restemming and Reconditioning a Brigham Voyageur 165

Blog by Steve Laug

The eighth pipe from the lot of pipes that a pipesmoker dropped by for repair is a Brigham Voyageur. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the Brigham name over Voyageur which is the model. The shape number is 165. It was rusticated in the classic Brigham style with a smooth rim, ring around the rim and the shank end and a smooth spot on the shank for the stamping. The pipe was dirty with dust and grime in the crevices of the finish on the bowl. The rim had a tarry buildup which had flowed from the cake in the bowl. The internals were very dirty with a lot of tar and grime. The overall condition of the bowl was good under the grime. The following photos show the pipe’s condition before I began to clean and restore it. I took a close up photo of the rim top and the bowl to show the condition of the cake and the overflow on to the rim top. I also took a photo of the stamping on the smooth left side of the shank. The pipe was a two dot Brigham. In talking with the owner he was not interested in preserving the Brigham system. He was only interested in having a pipe that he could fire up and enjoy. I would need to decide how I was going to fix this one but it was going to be another challenge for me.The stem was in rough shape. It had a split on the top side that ran from the edge of the button almost an inch up the stem toward the bowl. On the underside it had deep tooth marks and two cracks that ran through the button into the airway in the slot. The slot was compressed from the bit marks. There was a lot of oxidation on the surface and some calcification. The Brigham nylon tenon told me that the pipe is a newer one rather than those with the aluminum tenon. It was designed to hold the Brigham Hard Maple Filter tube that is specially designed for them. This one was clogged with tars. The end of the nylon tube was splitting and flared. It was ruined. The photos below show the damaged areas on the stem.I put the stem aside for a while and started on the bowl. I reamed the cake with a PipNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to scrape the cake back to bare briar. I rolled a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and wrapped it around my index finger to sand the walls of the bowl. The cake was so sticky and crumbling that I wanted a hard, clean surface so that the owner could build a new cake to protect the bowl.I scraped out the shank with a dental spatula to scrape away the hardened tars that were on the walls of the mortise and airway to the bowl. I scrubbed the surface with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the shank and mortise was clean.To remove the hard buildup on the rim top and some of the damage to the front outer edge of the bowl I lightly topped it on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the burn marks and damage on the inner edge of the rim. I finished by sanding the rim with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the rim and remove the scratches.I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush to clean out the crevices and grooves of the rustication. Once it was clean I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust on the finish to prepare it for a new coat of stain. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.Once the stain dried I wiped it down with a cotton pad and alcohol to make it more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through on the smooth portions and the ridges of the rustication. I lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it a light coat of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfiber cloth. The buffed and restored bowl is shown in the photos that follow. The time between this picture and the next cannot be captured in photos as there were two days of work and time that went into trying various methods of repairing the original stem for the pipe. I cleaned out the split in the stem and roughened the surface with a file. I cleaned out the cracks on the button, the split on the top side and the tooth marks on the underside of the stem. It took a bunch of sanding and picking. I filled in the gaps with black super glue and charcoal powder to strengthen the repairs. I filed them smooth and sanded them to restore the finish. All was going well until I tried to slide a pipe cleaner into the airway. I pushed it through the airway and into the button only to have the repaired button fall off. The cracks gave way and the chunk fell free of the stem. No repairs would ever hold on this stem. It was finished. One day I may cut it off and use the shorter version for a different pipe but it is not worth a repair any longer.

That decision having been made for me I went through my stem can in search of a replacement. I knew the owner was fine with a non-Brigham stem so that was the way I was going to proceed. I found a stem that had the same dimensions as the original stem. It was a straight stem that I would need to clean up and bend the stem to match the original but it would look good on this old pipe.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the oxidation and remove the light tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem. I turned the tenon down with a Dremel and sanding drum and fine-tuned it with a file to reduce the tenon to fit the shank of the pipe. I heated the stem with a heat gun until I was able to bend it to match the original stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I still had to work on the tenon to remove the file marks but the stem was beginning to shine. I polished the tenon with micromesh sanding pads to remove the majority of the file marks on the vulcanite. I buffed the tenon and then the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to remove the final scratches on the stem. I gave the stem and the smooth portions of the briar several coats of carnauba wax on the wheel and then buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed the bowl and stem with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I think that the owner will really like the looks of his restored and restemmed Brigham. It looks really good to my eye. Thanks for looking.

Repairing and Restoring a Walnut Folk Art Russian Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I started cleaning up and repairing this Russian Folk Art Walnut pipe before taking photos of it. It was truly a mess. The shank had been cracked off at an angle behind the copper band and had been repaired by gluing the two pieces together without a lot of care to align the parts. As it was the crack was quite wide open all the way around the shank and had been sealed together with epoxy. I heated it to see if I could take it apart and align the parts and the glue definitely softened. I could rebreak it without further damaging the shank parts so I settled for heating it enough to realign the two parts. I realigned the parts and cooled the shank so the glue hardened. I filled in the deep crevices in the shank with briar dust and clear super glue putty. It hardened and bound the parts together. There was no movement in the shank at all at this point in the process. The photos below show the pipe with the stem in place. The repairs to the shank with the putty mix looked pretty decent in the photos. The rest of the pipe was a mess. The rim was thickly caked with over flow from the thick bowl cake. The finish on the bowl was dirty and sticky. The copper band on the shank was covered with a thick buildup of hardened “gunk” that would not come off with a simple wash. The airway in the shank was dirty and almost closed off. The mortise was also clogged. The tenon on the stem had a rubberized cement buildup around the angles at the stem. The stem itself was horn and had tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. The rounded button had an orific entrance into the stem. It was so plugged that I could not push a pipe cleaner through it. I took some close up photos of the repaired shank to show the flow of the two parts and how the realignment had worked. They also show the super glue/briar dust putty filling the crack that went all the way around the shank. There was some glue from the previous glue job that ran up the shank toward the bowl and actually ran around the copper band edge. The third photo shows the rim and the cake in the bowl. There was damage to the front edge of the bowl from someone knocking it out against a hard surface. I took photos of the stem to show the damage at the button end on both sides. The horn surface was worn and the shine was gone.I sanded the roughness of the repaired area on the shank with 180 grit sandpaper. I wanted to smooth out the surface of the repair so that it matched the shank. I continued to sand it further with 220 grit sandpaper. I smoothed out the repair and the shank began to look like it would have originally. You can see the coating on the copper band. It is like someone painted the surface with a glue coat or with varnish. That coat would need to be removed so that the patina of copper would shine through. The front of the bowl had a brass and copper insert in the wood. It was a mix of thorns and vines that was nailed to the front of the bowl. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife until the walls were bare and all of the cake was gone.I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the hard cake and the damage to the front of the bowl. It was a light topping that did not remove much of the rim top but it left it clean, smooth and even.I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the finish and the grime that was built up on it. Once it was clean the grain of the walnut shone through the stain on the wood. The next photos show the clean bowl and shank with the repaired area shown clearly in the photos. I used a sharp knife to flare the aluminum insert in the shank. I topped the shank end with the topping board to smooth out the face of the shank. I sanded the bowl, shank and copper band with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. The pads removed the material that was built up on the copper band and gave it a shine. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and the mortise with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until the airway was clean.I stained the bowl and shank with a dark brown aniline stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage.I took the following photos of the bowl once it had dried. The dark brown was a little dark to my liking so I would have to wipe it down to make it a little more transparent. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad and then buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. The photos below show the colour of the bowl once I had finished with the buffing. I was really happy with the colour and the coverage of the stain on the repaired area. The stem was fairly clogged with tars and oils. It took a lot of work to clean out the gunk in the stem. Pipe cleaners were really hard to push through the buildup so I picked at it with a piece of wire bent to the angle of the stem. I finally was able to break through so the pipe cleaners and alcohol finally did their job on the stem. I also cleaned off the rubber buildup on the tenon next to the stem with a sharp knife and used the alcohol to scrub that area as well.I polished the horn 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 of pads I gave it a last coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl and stem a final time with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is looking far better than it did when it arrived. I think the owner will be happy about this piece of his own pipe history being brought back to life. It joins the others that are finished of the nine he sent me. Only two more pipes to go and I will be down with this lot. Thanks for looking.