Blog by Steve Laug
Over the years, I have always wanted to pick up a Brial system pipe but always have been outbid on them on Ebay. I put in what I think is a fair bid and at the last minute the pipe was always sniped and I lost out. I mentioned it to Jeff one time in a conversation and he snagged one for me to work on. I was excited to get a hold of it when he sent it to me. He took some photos of the pipe to show its condition and to whet my appetite. I have included those in the first part of this blog.The pipe was in surprisingly good shape. The briar was not too bad with a few sandpits on the sides that gave it character. The finish was dirty and worn. The bowl had a thick cake and lava had flowed onto the rim top. There was also damage to the inner edge of the rim leaving the bowl slightly out of round. The damage appeared to be from reaming with a knife to cut back the cake. The alloy body was oxidized and scratched but looked quite sound. The stem was worn and dirty but very restorable.Fortunately the pipe came apart fairly easy. Sometimes these metal pipes get “welded” together with the dried tobacco juices and tobacco making them virtually impossible to take apart. The first photo below shows the shank end of the alloy tube with the mouthpiece coming out at the top. The cap is stamped Brial over Patent Pending.With a little work, my brother was able to remove this end of the tube. Inside the tube was a bent wire and wrapped around that was a lot of tissue paper that acted as a filter. It was dirty by at least it was dry. The next series of photos tell the story of the unraveling of the packing in the tube. It held a lot of tissue paper or as I later found out “toilet” paper. The next photos show bent wire that the toilet paper is wrapped around as well as the end of the tenon sitting in the end cap. It appears to be a nut that is threaded onto the tenon of the stem. The buildup of tars, oil sand dried tobacco “lacquer” is thick in the tube, on the end cap and the tenon nut. Jeff took the bowl off the alloy tube at this point and took the following photos. I appears to have a hollow screw in the bottom of the bowl that turns onto the top of the alloy tube. There is a bump on either side of the base tube to stabilize the bowl when it is in place.The next two photos show the condition of the bowl and the rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl, the lava on the rim top and the damage to the inner edge of the bowl.I remember when I first started looking at getting a Brial pipe I Googled and found a write up on the brand on the Smoking Metal Website. It was that brief description, the photos and printed advertisement that hooked me and set me on the hunt to acquire one of them. I have included that write up for you. If you wish to read it on the website here is the link – http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=70.
The BRIAL pipe is basically an alloy cylinder to which the briar bowl is screwed through the base of the bowl. The front end is permanently sealed with an alloy endpiece. The cylinder is filled with a tissue to act as an absorption media. This can be tamped in or extracted by means of the probe attached to the mouthpiece plate.
To enable the pipe to stay upright on a table, two dimples have been made in the underside of the cylinder to act as ‘feet’ as shown in the photos above (my edit).
Brials were available in natural aluminium, brass anodized finish or black as shown in photo below.
The pipe was patented and manufactured by Salimar Oden in Jefferson Historic District, Muskegon, Michigan. It is believed he continued to market them until his move to Florida in 2000.
Smoking Metal also had a copy of this advertisement sheet on their site. Personally, I love the wording and descriptions on these older advertising flyers. The way they speak of the pipes and what they deliver always gives me cause to laugh. This one is no exception. I include it below. Make sure to give it a read.I posted a note on the Facebook Metal Pipe Smokers Group asking about information on the pipe and potential patent information. One of the members, Cody Easom posted some pictures of a new old stock, unsmoked Brial with the various inserts that came with the pipe. The first photo shows the new pipe with the box and the insert. The second photo shows the insert itself. The third and fourth photos show the inside of the new pipe. Now, the goal is in front of me – to get the old pipe on my table to look like this one. My brother did an amazing job cleaning out the inside of the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. He cleaned out the inside of the tube/cooling chamber and the airway in the screw in the bottom of the bowl and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. He scoured out the inside of the chamber with steel wool, cotton swabs and alcohol until the inside shone. When I brought it to my work table I was so intrigued by the pipe that I forgot to take photos and just jumped into the refurbishing of the pipe.
I ran a cotton swab and pipe cleaner through the bowl and the stem and it came out perfectly clean. I wiped out the inside of the bowl with a cotton pad and alcohol and it also was clean. I twisted a cloth into the tube/chamber and it too was very clean.
The bowl was out of round when all of the grime and tars had been removed from the rim top and bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage on the inner rim edge. It took some careful sanding with the paper to even out the edges and bring the bowl back into round.Once I had the rim edge cleaned up I worked over the entire bowl with micromesh sanding pads to polish it. I started sanding it with the 1500-2400 grit pads and worked on the rim top and edge as well as the sides and bottom of the bowl. I continued to polish it with 3200-4000 grit pads and finished it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave the bowl a coat of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a soft cloth. I polished the exterior of the aluminum tube/chamber with micromesh sanding pads. I used worn pads that I have an excess of at present to polish the scratches in the aluminum. I polished it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with a jeweler’s polishing cloth after each set of three pads. The photos show the progress. While there are still scratches there is a deep shine to the aluminum that really glows. The stem had some tooth marks and chatter on the top and bottom sides near the button. They were not deep so I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the marks. 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. After the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl and tube with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and carefully buffed the stem. The stem appears to be nylon so I wanted to be very careful to not buff it to hard and make work for myself. I gave the entire pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is truly a unique piece of pipe history and certainly a pipe that I am going to have to try – I want to see if it delivers what it promises. Thanks for walking with me through this refurb.