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.