Daily Archives: April 22, 2017

Restoring a piece of WDC Pipe History – A Meerschaum Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

When I was visiting my brother in Idaho, we called an eBay seller he had bought from before. We were looking for the Koolsmoke base and in the process of asking and buying that from her she also talked to us about other pipes that she had for sale. I love older WDC pipes so when she said she had a WDC Bulldog that was in a case that she would sell to me I was hooked. Then she said it was Meerschaum and that the case was in excellent condition. She said it was red leather-covered and stamped Genuine Meerschaum over Real Amber on the front of the case and Made in Austria on the back side of the case.  We asked her to send us some photos in an email and when she did I bought it. It was a beauty. I loved the shape, the condition the amber stem, actually just about everything about the pipe. Here are pics of the case when it arrived. I opened the case and took a photo of the WDC Triangle logo on the inside cover. The case was in excellent condition both inside and outside.I took a photo of the pipe before I removed it from the case. It looked really good sitting in the opened case. The shape is one of my favourites and the amber stem appeared to be in good shape at this point.I took the pipe out of the case and took a few photos of it to show the general condition of the pipe when I received it. I was amazed that it was in as good condition as it was.  I am guessing that was made in the late 1890’s through the early 1900’s. The bowl had begun to show some colour. There were some nicks and scratches on the sides and also on the stem itself. The rim top was tarred with overflow from the cake in the bowl. The stem was in good shape and showed tooth marks and chatter on the end of the stem on both sides near the button. It had a single hole orific style button. The stem aligned perfectly to the shank. That surprised me as most of the pipes of this era I have worked on had threaded bone tenons and either the internal threads on the shank or those on the bone tenon itself were worn and the stems were over turned. When I took it off the shank there was a small paper washer that had been carefully fitted to the shape of the stem and shank. That is why it aligned. I removed the washer and put the stem back on to find that it was indeed overturned.I scraped out the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I wanted to remove all of the cake so I carefully took it back to the meerschaum.I worked on the tarry build up on the rim with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped rim top with a damp cotton pad repeatedly during the process of sanding it. I was able to remove all of the cake on the rim. There was some darkening around the outer edge of the rim and on the left side there was a small nick in the edge.With the rim cleaned I polished the entire bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads to polish the meerschaum and remove some of the finer scratches in the surface of the meerschaum. I left the larger ones and merely smooth out around them. To me these scratches give character and are an integral part of the story of the pipe. The photos below tell the story of the process. With the externals cleaned and polished I turned to the internals. I scrubbed out the shank and mortise with cotton swabs and alcohol. I cleaned the airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I scrubbed until the internals were clean.I moved on to work on the tooth marks and chatter on the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the scratches and nicks on the sides and angles of the stem.  I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter with little trouble as none of them were deep. That is one beauty of amber as a stem material. It is hard to dent!With the marks removed I decided to address the overturned stem before I polished the stem with micromesh. I have learned a good trick to correct the overturn on these bone tenons and threaded shanks. I have never read about it anywhere but it works really well. I used a clear nail polish, which dries hard and is neutral, to coat the threads on the tenon and the inside of the shank. I carefully apply the polish to the threads and set it aside to dry. It generally takes two or more coats to build up the threads enough to correct the overturn. I painted it the first time, let it dry and turned it on to the shank. It was better but needed a second coat. I gave it a second coat, let it dry and turned it on to the shank. It was a perfect fit. The alignment was spot on.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the amber down with a damp cotton pad between each different pad to remove the dust and check on the polishing. It did not take too long before the stem began to glow again. I love the look of a polished amber stem. This particular stem had some really nice patterns in the amber. The underside near the tenon was almost a birdseye pattern. I put the stem back in place in the shank. Things lined up perfectly. I gave it another quick polish with the 12000 grit micromesh pad. I hand waxed it with Conservator’s Wax because it is a microcrystalline polish and it really works well on meerschaum and amber. I rubbed the wax into the finish and buffed the pipe by hand with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The meerschaum bowl has a rich glow to it and the amber stem looks really good. The combination is really nice with the amber and the meerschaum reflecting off of each other. I really like the looks of this old timer. It will more than likely remain in the collection with some of my other old timers. Thanks for looking.

Making Work for myself – Restoring a GDB Rainbow 347


Blog by Steve Laug

I have worked on and collected many GBD pipes over the past 20 years. I have some great resources that I use to identify the nomenclature, shape and date of the various lines that GBD issued. However, all of my sources and resources regarding GBD are from the time prior to the merger (Cadogan) or shortly thereafter. The Rainbow Line is not mentioned in any of them. I also looked on the pipephil Logos and Stampings site and Pipedia and again there is no mention of the line. In my online research, I found several people who think that it is probable that the pipe was made during the 70’s through 90’s. Several things point to this – the chunky Lucite stem, the name of the line itself and the brightly coloured stems used. One fellow on Pipes Magazine’s online forum had a great quote that caught my attention. He said, “If you’re old enough you might remember that Rainbow was a popular theme in the late 70’s to early 90’s due to Sesame Street, “The Rainbow Connection,” The Rainbow Reading Room, etc.” http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/help-with-info-on-a-gbd-pipe I think this is as close as I am going to get to a time period when the pipe was made.

The pipe I picked up on a recent trip to Idaho is a nicely shape apple that was in pretty decent shape. I figured it would be an easy clean up. But things happened along the way and I made more work for myself. It is stamped GBD in an oval over Rainbow on the left side of the shank. On the right side stamped London, England in a straight line over 347 (shape number). On the underside of the shank near the stem/shank junction it is stamped D. The faint painted GBD in an Oval on the left side of the stem also suggests a later GBD. The nomenclature is consistent with usual smooth GBD markings (GBD over Grade (left side) and London England over style number on the right side.) The photos below came from the person I purchased the pipe from and show the general condition.He provided some close up photos of the bowl and rim. He said that the pipe had been reamed and clean. However, it was not reamed and clean to my liking. The bowl had a thick cake that I will need to remove, some rim darkening and some dents in the rim. My guess was that like the bowl, the shank and mortise would need some attention. The stamping on the shank was very clear. The first photo below shows that. Next to the shank/stem junction in the first photo, there is also the remnant of the GBD oval logo that had been originally painted on the stem. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter and some shallow tooth marks in the Lucite.While I was staying with my brother, I cleaned and reamed the pipe. I used the PipeNet reamer and took it back to the walls. I would need to clean it up more once I got home but it was better than when I started. Last evening I took the pipe out of the box to finish the clean up and restoration. I took some photos of it before I started to have a benchmark. I took a close up of the bowl and rim. It was better than when I started but still needed to be cleaned up some more. The rim had some darkening that I could reduce some more as well.I used the Savinelli Fitsall Reamer to scrape the remaining thin cake from the walls of the bowl. I personally like to remove all of the cake when cleaning up a bowl. I will sand a bowl interior a bit later to smooth things out. Little did I know at this point that the decision to sand the bowl would send me on a repair detour.I scrubbed out the mortise, airway in the bowl and in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I used the dental spatula to scrape the walls of the shank and remove the hard tars that had built up there. The airway in the stem was also dirty and had some darkening at the button and in the first few inches of the stem. I cleaned it with bristle pipe cleaners and picked the debris out of the button and from around the stem down tenon with a dental pick.The stem not only had tooth chatter but also some stickiness from a price tag on the top surface. The edge of the button also had some chatter. I sanded the tooth marks out with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the button at the same time. The stem was smooth when I finished. It was dull and needed a good polishing.I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust after each pad. I was finished with the stem at this point so I set it aside to work on the bowl. I had decided to use a dark brown aniline stain thinned by 50% with alcohol to darken the grain on the pipe and hide a couple of small fills. I applied the stain, flamed it and repeated the process until the  bowl was covered evenly. I wiped the bowl down with cotton pads and alcohol to make it more transparent. I hand buffed it and took the following photos. It was still too dark to my liking. I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to make it more transparent and to see if I could make the grain pop. I sanded it with 1500-2400 and took these photos. It was getting there. I continued to sand it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it and give it a shine. The next photos tell the story. The bowl was looking better and better. It is at this point that I made a decision that would inevitably cost me. That results of that decision turned out to be a mistake that made a lot more work for me! I put the stem on and decided to work on sanding out the inside of the bowl to remove the polishing compound and remnants of cake. Stupidly, I put the stem on the pipe to enjoy the look of the combination while I worked. Wrong thing to do! Understand, I was sitting at my work table, the top of which is a meter above the floor. I was carefully sanding the bowl interior so as not to damage the nice stain on the rim. Somehow, the pipe wiggled free from my hands and fell to the floor. If you could have watched it and my face at the same time you would have seen the look of horror on my face as it dropped to the floor. That horror changed to a moment of dread as I watched it bounce and heard a snap and watched as the bowl and stem went in opposite directions. I quietly picked up the bowl and stem. The tenon had snapped off in the mortise. It was a clean break. I don’t know about you but I find Lucite is much less forgiving than vulcanite. I have had pipes with vulcanite stem hit the floor with not breakage but not so with Lucite. It seems that the tenon inevitably snaps. Well this one certainly did.I sat and looked at it for a long time just sick at the thought that a pipe I was basically finished with was in pieces on my table. I know how to replace a tenon; that is not a problem. I just did not want to have to do that on this pipe. However, my own stupidity and carelessness had successfully sent me back to work on this pipe. Ahh well… just as well call it a night. Perhaps a good night’s sleep would give me better perspective on this new problem!

I woke up early this morning and dragged my feet about going back to work on the pipe. I think I was hoping at some level that it had not actually happened. I sipped my coffee as long as possible postponing the inevitable. I talked with my eldest daughter who is in Kathmandu for work. I took the dog for a walk around the yard… but finally I made to the basement and the work table. It was not a dream the tenonless stem and the bowl was sitting waiting for me.

I used the Dremel to remove the remnants of the old tenon that were on the face of the stem. I flattened it against the topping board. I went through my assortment of threaded Delrin tenons until I found one that was slightly larger than the broken one. I needed to reduce the diameter slightly to make it work but it would do!I set up my cordless drill and put in a bit slightly larger than the airway and turned the stem onto it by hand. The first photo below shows the bits I used as I repeated the process until the hole was large enough for me to use a tap to thread it to match the tenon. The second photo below shows the last drill bit I used the piece of tape on the bit is to show me how deep I needed to go with the bit to accommodate the new tenon threads.I roughened the tenon surface so I could grip it enough to turn it into the newly drilled stem end. It was a good fit. I painted the end with some epoxy and turned it back in place and set it aside to cure and harden.Once the tenon was set firmly in place I used the Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the diameter to a close fit. I finished the fitting with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the new tenon with micromesh sanding pads. Now came the telling moment. Would the stem match up with the shank? Would the fit be tight against the shank end? Even though I have done this many times I always have the same questions. I placed the new tenon in the mortise and carefully pushed the stem against the shank end. It was a very close fit and all I would need to do was sand the left side and top a little bit to make the fit even better. I was relieved and happy. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and cleaned up the fit. I was almost back to where I was last night before the pipe dropped and the tenon broke. I have to polish the stem once again but the stem fits well. I took photos of the pipe at this point to check it out. The newly fit stem and the stain on the pipe worked well together. Now to polish it all and get it finished. I polished the bowl and stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to raise the shine.I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen that shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am pretty happy with the way it turned out – even with the detour. The stain accomplished what I hope it would in making the grain pop. The grain stands out like it never did in the pipe when I received it. Now it is visible. It is a nice looking pipe that feels good in the hand. Thanks for looking.