Daily Archives: May 7, 2017

Restoring an Unstamped Rhodesian Handmade


Blog by Steve Laug

When I saw this pipe that my brother picked up I was captivated by the grain. The unknown maker had done an amazing job of laying the shape out with the grain. The sides of the bowl and shank have stunning flame grain radiating from the point at the heel of the bowl. The heel and the cap on the bowl, as well as the top and the pointed bottom edge of the shank have beautiful birdseye grain. He sent me the following pictures to whet my appetite for this pipe. I like the Rhodesian shape and I like the combination of nice grain, a sterling silver band and a black vulcanite stem. This one had them all. The only oddities to me were the shape of the shank – it was an egg shape, pointed at the bottom and the freehand style panel stem. The bowl had a thick cake in it and it was scratched at about 11 o’clock in the photo below. It looked as if it could have been cracked but it was not once he had reamed it free of the cake. The finish was dirty and there was some darkening/burn marks on the back side of the cap. It appeared to me that it was originally a virgin finish but I would know more once I had it in Vancouver and had cleaned up the finish.The next two photos show the grain on the sides of the bowl and the bottom. There is birdseye toward the left side of the bottom of the bowl curving up to meet the grain on the sides.Underneath the oxidation and tarnish on the band it was stamped Sterling Silver in an arch. The stamping was centred on the top side of the shank.The stem was heavily oxidized and had tooth chatter on both sides near the button. On the underside of the button there were deep tooth marks and one of them was on the button. The chair leg style stem would be a challenge to clean up.My brother did his usual comprehensive clean up on the pipe. He was able to remove all of the cake in the bowl and on the rim. He cleaned up the dirty finish on the bowl and cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem. The stem was more oxidized from his cleanup but the oxidation was on the surface so it would be a bit simpler to work on. The next four photos show what the pipe looked like when I brought it to the work table. There was some rim damage on the back side of the bowl. You can see it in the photo below. There was some burn damage as well as some bad nicks in the burned area. The outer edge had been flattened at that point and would need to be reworked. I took close up photos of both sides of the stem to highlight the tooth marks and chatter on them. There were three sandpits on the bottom of the bowl. The first was on the right side and was the largest of the three. The second and third were on the opposite side and were mere pin prick flaws. I filled in the holes with clear super glue. When it dried I sanded it with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to blend it into the surrounding briar.I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damaged rim and ready the back side for a repair. I was pretty sure that if I topped it most of the damage would be remedied and the burn mark would disappear. Fortunately it was not deep in the briar so the sanding took care of it. Once I had it smooth I sanded it with the medium and fine grit sanding sponge.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove any remaining oils and dirt on the on surface of the briar. The next set of four photos show the cleaned surface of the briar. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. The photos below tell the story of the polishing and interestingly the ring grain in the briar begins to show through by the polishing with the three final pads. I rubbed the polished briar down with a light coat of olive oil to highlight the grain and make it stand out. A little olive oil brings new life to the dry briar. This pipe truly  has some stunning grain as is evident in the following photos. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the stem along with the oxidation with 220 grit sandpaper. The photo below shows the stem after the sanding. I rebuilt the dent in the button with black super glue. Once it was dry I sanded it to match the rest of the button.The stem had a very interesting tenon. It was short and it had what looked like threads on it. I decided to leave these in place rather than change the original shape of the tenon. I worked over the stem itself. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil repeatedly during the sanding. The photo below shows the stem after being sanded with the first three pads. There is still evidence of oxidation in the rubber so it will take a lot more sanding and polishing before it is black again. I buffed it after this with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel and was able to remove more of it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads (the second and third photos below) and again rubbed it down repeatedly with Obsidian Oil. Once it was finished I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond a final time and worked to remove any remaining oxidation on the stem. The Blue Diamond is a plastic polish and it really brings a shine to the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I finished buffing by hand to deepen the shine. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth and removed the remaining tarnish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I wish I knew who the unknown maker was. He or she did a great job making this pipe. The shape, the layout with the grain and the craftsmanship make this a pipe that will outlive me that is for certain. It is truly a beautiful pipe. Thanks for walking with me through the process of the restoration.

Restoring a York Super London Made Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

In a recent box of pipes that my brother Jeff sent to me from Idaho there was an interesting little pipe. It came in its own black leather case with a gold felt lining. There was a logo on the inside that read Guaranteed London Made. The case was in excellent condition. The pipe inside was really good looking and from the stem shape and orific button it was clear that it had some age on it. It was stamped on the left side of the shank with the words YORK over SUPER and on the right side of the shank with the words LONDON MADE. For a pipe of this age I was surprised that the finish was still in pretty decent condition. The only real issue of consequence was a spot on the right side where there was a large fill that was falling out. The bowl had a thin cake around the top half of the bowl while the lower part of the bowl appeared to be unsmoked. It had not even darkened from smoking it. There was some minor rim damage on the outer edge toward the bowl front where the pipe had been knocked out against something hard. There were some nicks on the front edge and there were some dents in the rim but they were not too bad. The rest of the finish was dirty and dull but would clean up nicely. The stem had tooth marks and chatter at the button on both the top and bottom sides of the stem and it was oxidized. The vulcanite was older and was a good quality rubber. The button was an older orific style with a single hole in the end. I liked the overall look of the pipe.The next series of photos show the large fill toward the front on the lower right side of the bowl. It was a pink putty fill and it was crumbling revealing the flaw in the briar. The third photo captures the crumbling area of the fill. It would need to be picked out and refilled. The next two photos show the stamping on both sides of the shank. It was sharp and readable and did not show signs of over buffing.My brother took two photos of the stem to show its condition. The photos show the oxidation on the stem and the nature of the tooth marks near the button. The quality of rubber used in this old timer can be seen in the lack of oxidation.I have restored on other older York pipe and from my research I found that it was probably made by KB&B. The London Made stamp on the cover of the case and on the pipe led me to consider several other options but the stamping itself matches exactly the style used by KB&B. From what I could find they also had London Made pipes like this. I would love to find the back story on this brand but at this point this is all I could find. Do any of you have any more information on the brand? Post it here for all of us to learn from. Thank you ahead of time for your help.

My brother did his usual stellar cleanup of the pipe. He scrubbed the surface with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed the buildup of wax and oils on the exterior of the bowl. He reamed the bowl and cleaned out the mortise and airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I ran a pipe cleaner through the pipe it came out clean. The chamber and mortise area showed that this pipe had not been heavily smoked. The stem was clean on the inside and needed no more work on my part. The light tooth marks and chatter would be fairly simple to remove. When it arrived at my work table I took the following photos of the pipe both in and out of the case. The shape is one of my favourites and the diminutive size make it a pipe that probably traveled well in a pocket. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and stem to show the condition of the pipe before I started the restoration process. The large pink putty fill was really ugly on the bottom right side of the bowl. It was cracked and chipped, but even if it were not I would still pick it out and start over. The grain on the pipe is quite nice but this eyesore of a fill makes it disappear from view. I picked the fill out completely with a dental pick. I wiped down the surface of the bowl around the area that needed to be repaired with alcohol on a cotton pad. I packed in some briar dust and put some drops of clear super glue on top. I added more briar dust and super glue until the surface bulged slightly above the bowl surface.When the repair dried I sanded the area with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the surface of the fill into the surrounding briar. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratch marks. I refilled the small air bubbles that had showed up in the surface of the bowl with some more super glue and then sanded them again. Once the surface was smooth I wiped down the bowl with alcohol to remove the finish before restaining the pipe. I use alcohol as it does not react to the super glue repair like acetone does. Acetone actually dissolves the super glue and compromises the repaired area. At this point I could have left the rim alone and not worried about the nicks and dings. They do not show up well in the photos but they were very visible in person. I could also feel them when I ran a finger over the rim. To put it mildly, they bugged me. I lightly topped the bowl to remove the damage and minimize the damage to the front edge. I sanded the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches. I was happier with the rim top now that I had finished it.I stained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it to set it in the grain of the briar. I have found that when a pipe has been previously stained with a oxblood colour that it will come out in the final colour of the dark brown stain and give the pipe a rich patina that is really close to the original colour.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent and help the grain show. You will notice in the second photo that the filled area is still showing. I needed to do a little more work on that to get it to blend in more. I used a black Sharpie pen and touched up the spots on the fill that looked lighter than the bowl. I hand buffed the pipe to give it some lustre and touched up the area of the fill with some more dark brown stain. I set the bowl aside to dry and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter and tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I repeatedly rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and after the final sanding pad gave it a last coat of the oil and let it dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I find that Blue Diamond gives lustre to the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. Don’t skip this step in the process. Many folks do not buff with a clean pad after the waxing and miss out on giving the pipe a rich shine by missing this. I hand buff my pipes afterward with a microfibre cloth as I find that it deepens the shine and evens out the finished look on the briar and rubber. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The elegant shape of the older bent billiards is quite captivating. These smaller, compact ones have a definitive look all their own. Thanks for looking.