Daily Archives: June 24, 2017

Bringing an older 1890s Era Spiral Shank Horn Stem Billiard back to Life.


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff visited an antique mall in Montana on one of his recent trips and found a lot of older pipes from the 1890s era. There were CPF, WDC and other older brand pipes with amber and horn stems. I wrote about how we used Apple Facetime so that I could be present on the hunt. It was an amazing time “in the shop” for me. The link to the blog on this hunt follows: https://rebornpipes.com/2017/04/26/a-virtual-pipe-hunt-a-new-way-to-experience-the-joy-of-a-pipe-hunt/. The first pipe that I chose to work on from the hunt was the one picture below. My brother took the following pictures of the pipe before he cleaned it up to send to me for finishing. It is a unique and interesting old pipe. The spiral shank continues through the horn stem. The finish on the bowl was worn and tired but the spiral shank and stem were undamaged. There was one deep “worm hole” in the left side of the stem in the bottom of a spiral that would need to be repaired but otherwise it was in pretty decent shape.The photos show the overall condition and look of the pipe. Whoever carved it remains a mystery as there is no stamping on the shank or bottom of the bowl. It is unmarked so it is one of those unknown pipes. The difference is that this is not a homemade pipe it has the marks of a good pipemaker and the drilling is perfect from the stem forward. The bowl was lightly caked and the rim had a tarry overflow on the top. The inside edge of the bowl was in great shape as far as I could see from the photos. The outer edge of the top had been knocked about enough that there was some damage and wear to it. The next two photos show the rim top and bowl. The finish on the outside of the bowl is worn and there are a lot of dents and dings in the surface of the wood. The photos lead me to wonder what kind of wood the pipe is made of because of the way the damaged rim looks. The next photos show the condition of the stem and the drilling in the button. The spiral continues from the shank through the stem seamlessly. The second photo shows the worm hole in the horn stem. It is deep but clean and the areas around it are undamaged. The junction of the stem and the shank is very tight and clean. The transition from wood to horn is smooth to the touch. The last photo shows the orific button on the end of the stem. It is clean, round and centered in the end of the crowned button. This older style button helps me date this pipe as early as I do above. My brother did his usual job reaming and cleaning the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it with a Savinell Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the grime in the mortise, shank and airway in the stem and shank. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and was able to remove all of the grime on the bowl sides and rim. The pipe came to me in great condition. I took a close up photo of the rim top and stem to show their condition more closely. The rim top was worn and there were some spots on the edges that had slivered. The rim would need to be topped to smooth things out and remove the damage.The stem photos show the tooth damage on the top and underside at the button and the “worm hole” in the left side near the shank.I wiped down the area around the hole in the left side of the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol and dried it off. I layered in several fills of clear super glue into the hole. As each layer dried I added more glue to the top of the hole repair. I continued until the file was slightly overfilled then sanded the areas smooth.Billiard16While waiting for each layer of glue to dry I worked on the rim top. I topped it lightly with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board to smooth out the damage to the rim. I took enough of the damage off to leave the rim top smooth to the touch.I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove all of the finish that remained on the bowl. I kept wiping it down until no more stain would come off and the bowl was clean. I could see once it was clean of the stain that the wood was not briar. I was dealing with what appeared to be walnut. It was extremely light weight and the grain was very different from what I expected once the stain was gone. I restained the pipe with dark brown aniline stain and flamed it to set the stain deep in the grain of the wood. I repeated the process until the coverage is acceptable.I put the stem back on the shank and hand buffed the stain with a soft cloth to show what the pipe looked like at this point in the process. The first photo and the last show the repair to the hole in the stem. It is smooth once again. I polished the bowl with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. Each successive grit made the walnut bowl shine more and made the stain more and more transparent. 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 pad and when I finished the last pad I gave it a final coat of oil and let it sit and dry. I turned the bone tenon on the stem into the threaded mortise on the shank. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise a shine. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. In the first photo you can see the repair on the lower portion of the horn stem. It is a slightly darkened spot but it is smooth to the touch. Do any of you recognize the style or work on this old pipe? Can you tell me any information regarding the maker or the era? Do you think I am in the ball park with a late 1890s date? What do you think? Thanks for the help ahead of time and thanks for walking with me through this restoration.

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A Brigham One Dot Dublin with a Back Story


Blog by Steve Laug

This old Brigham was the next pipe I brought to my work table. I got a message from Greg on Facebook saying he had been reading one of my posts about a box of estate pipes I had received and he was interested in adding this one to his rack. The pipe was a Brigham One Dot Dublin with a slight bend in the stem. It was an older one made before the manufacture of the pipes was moved to Italy. It has the standard aluminum tenon and filter mechanism of the Canadian made pipes. The finish is rusticated with the classic Brigham rustication on the bowl, rim top and shank. It has one smooth patch on the underside of the shank that is stamped Brigham in script over Canada. There is no shape number or other stamping on the shank.

The pipe came to me in a box of pipes that I inherited from a friend in Ontario. He was an old Anglican priest and we had shared a lot about pipes and mutual calling over the 15 years that I knew him. I repaired, restored and sold many pipes for him and have a few of his previous pipes in my current collection. He was a great guy and he is alive in my memory each time I smoke one of his pipes. When the box came I found that there were 70+ pipes in the box and his daughter included a note that said her dad wanted me to restore them pass some of them on to others. This is the first from that lot that I have restored.The finish was very worn and the outer edges of the rim showed wear and damage. The inner edge worn as well but the bowl was still in round. The rim had a thick buildup of tars and oils that filled in the grooves and ridges of the rim top. The rim had some darkening of the finish as well. The stem was oxidized and had a sticky residue left behind by a price sticker. There were no tooth marks on the stem surface on either side next to the button.The stamping on the underside of the shank was clear but slightly worn. It reads Brigham in script at an angle from left to right and block letters, CANADA underneath. Charles Lemon of Dadspipes has written a helpful blog about dating Brigham Pipes by the style of the stamping on the shank. I turned to that blog to look up information on this particular pipe and see if I could identify the time period. Here is the link; https://dadspipes.com/2016/10/03/brigham-pipes-a-closer-look-at-dots-dates-and-markings//. According to that info this pipe comes from the late Canadian Era 1980-2000. The second close up photo below shows the rim and the cake in the bowl. The end of the Brigham system can be seen poking out of the airway in the photo as well.The next photo shows the tenon and system tube. It was incredibly dirty with a lot of tar and oil on the inside. The pipe had been smoked a long time without the filter in place and there was a lot of buildup in the tube and stem. The shank was also very dirty.The next two photos show the condition of the stem. The oxidation pattern and the sticky label gum on the surface are very visible on the stem. The stem is also clear of tooth marks or chatter on the surface near the button.I reamed back the cake with a PipNet reamer and a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. I used a brass bristle brush to knock off the tarry buildup on the rim top and clean out the crevices and grooves in the rustication.I decided to clean out the interior of the mortise, shank and airway in the shank and stem before going any further with the exterior. I used alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to scrub out those areas and scrubbed until the pipe was clean. I wiped down the surface of the stem to remove the sticky gum left behind by a label on the top side of the stem.I scrubbed the surface of the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap, toothbrush and a brass bristle brush to clean out the grooves and cleaning off the dirt, oil and debris on the briar. The bowl and the rim looked significantly better once I had rinsed it off with running water. It was dry and the stain was lightened but it was clean. I decided to work on the stem first so while I did I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol. I folded a pipe cleaner and plugged the airway so that the alcohol could draw out the oils in the briar. The second photo shows the cotton after it had been sitting for four hours. When I took the cotton balls out at the 6 hour mark they were exactly as they looked at the 4 hour mark. I was a bit surprised that they were not darker. But then again my old friend smoked primarily Virginias – in fact I don’t think he ever smoked aromatics in the time I knew him.I took out a new maple wood Brigham filter for the system and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. I still need to stain the bowl but it was looking better and it smelled and looked clean.I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it to set it in the grain. The characteristic blue flame that burns the alcohol out of the stain setting it deep in the grain is a beautiful site to my eyes. I repeated the process several times until the coverage was correct.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make a bit more transparent. I wanted the contrast that had originally been on these old Brighams to show through. There was enough dark stain in the deep grooves of the finish to contrast nicely with the new stain coats I gave the pipe. I rubbed the stem down with Brebbia Pipe and Mouthpiece Polish and some Before & After Pipe Stem Polish to remove the oxidation in the vulcanite. It lifted a lot of the oxidation and what was left behind was minor.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 with Obsidian Oil after each pad and gave it a final coat of oil after the 12000 grit pad. I set the stem aside to dry. When I finished there still appeared to be a little oxidation at the tenon end of the stem. I was not sure if it was the light from the flash or reality so I took it to the buffer and buffed that area with red Tripoli and repeated the last three micromesh pad grits. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond to further polish it. I buffed the stem with carnauba wax and gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and with a microfibre cloth to deepen it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful pipe and even better in person. Thanks for looking.