Blog by Steve Laug
My brother Jeff has an eye for unique pipes. He seems to find more of them than I ever picked up on my own. The next pipe on my work table is classic example of one of his finds. It is a beautiful Bulldog with nice grain around the bowl and when the top cap is in place it looks like it was not drilled. It is stamped Motorist on the left shank in script and Patent on the right shank. On the underside of the right shank it is stamped Italy. I can find no information on the make of the brand but it is possible that it was made in Italy for either Wally Frank or Mastercraft, both had a broad reach of makers that they imported. I am not sure it will ever become clear who made the pipe but it is an interesting piece of pipe history that is well worth restoring. There was a cake in the bowl and lava on top of the bowl once the cap was removed. The inside of the cap was also dirty. The threads on both the cap and the bowl were not damaged. The next set of photos came from the seller’s EBay listing.It has always puzzled me why sellers do not align the stem before they take photos. Often a crooked stem can be a problem but this one appears to have been misaligned. We will know more once it arrives.The finish on the pipe looks to be in pretty good shape underneath the grime and paint specks on the surface.On the top of the rim there were two drilled holes that went through from the rim (first photo below) to the bottom front edge of the bowl (second photo below). I believe they were drilled to draw air into the bowl and help the tobacco burn. The first photo shows the cake in the bowl and the buildup on the rim top. It is a dirty pipe.On the front underside of the bowl you can see the other end of the holes in the rim. They go straight down from the rim and out the front bottom edge. They run between the outer and inner bowl for the airflow into the bowl. I wonder if in some strange way they also cool the bowl.The threaded cap is much the same shape as the cap above the twin rings on a regular bulldog pipe. The cap has threads on the inside that match the threads on the bowl itself. The briar is a pretty piece. There is a small fill on the front edge that blends in very well. The inside of the cap has some tars and carbon on the top portion but there is no burning to the briar.The bowl is stamped Motorist on the left side as shown in the first photo below. The second photo shows the stamping Patent on the right side of the shank.The stem was oxidized and there were some deeper tooth marks and chatter on the underside near the button and chatter on the top side near the button. The edge of the button was worn on the top side.When the pipe arrived in Idaho my brother took some better photos of it to show the finish and the condition of the pipe. You can see the paint flecks on the briar and the general grime that is even in the stamping on the shank sides.His photo of the rim top and the cake in the bowl is clear and shows that the cake is quite thick. The lava overflow on the rim top is also thick and continues onto the shelf that the cap rests on when it is screwed in place.The first two photos below show the sides of the bowl and also show the drilled air holes in the bowl sides on the left and right. The third photo below shows the underside of the bowl and both air holes. The grain on the briar is really nice and follows the flow of the bowl. Jeff took close up photos of the rim top and the inside of the cap to show the carbon buildup on those two areas.The next three photos show the stamping on the pipe as noted above. Notice the debris that is ground into the grooves of the stamping.He took photos to show the condition of the stem. The chatter on the top side was not as bad as I had expected but the marks on the underside were very deep and had sharp edges.Jeff did his usual thorough clean up and when I received the pipe there was little for me to work on in terms of cleaning. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. He scrubbed the surface of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed it with warm water. He soaked the stem in OxiClean to soften the oxidation and bring it to the surface. All that remained was for me to breathe some life into it through the restoration process. I took the following photos to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived in Vancouver. The oxidation on the stem was now on the surface, thanks to the OxiClean soak. The tooth marks were also very clear so now it would not take much to repair them and restore the stem to its original black lustre.The lovely grain on the bowl cap and the bowl are well laid out. There are some small sandpits on the cap that do not detract from the beauty. The twin air holes in the bottom front of the bowl are aligned well and are a distinctive feature of the pipe.When I removed the cap from the top of the bowl I could see how well my brother had cleaned up the inside of the bowl, the rim top and the inside of the cap.I wiped the stem down with Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to remove some of the oxidation and though it did not work well it did clean up the area around the tooth marks. I “painted” the bite marks with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise them as much as possible. Many of the surface bite marks lifted, but the deeper ones I filled in with Black Super Glue. I sprayed it with an accelerator to dry it and allow me to work on it more quickly. Once it had dried I was ready to clean up the stem and smooth out the repair. I ran a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl alcohol through the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem and worked on the slot with a dental pick. It did not take too much work to leave both the bowl and the stem clean.I scrubbed the stem surface with Brebbia Stem Polish and a cotton pad to remove more of the oxidation. While it removed a lot more of the oxidation there was still some in the curves of the saddle stem that needed more work. I worked those over with 220 grit sandpaper to get more of the oxidation off the stem.I polished the curved portion of the saddle on the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the oxidation further. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads. As I cleaned up the underside of the stem at the saddle there was a small piece of metal embedded in the rubber which pointed to a wartime manufacture date for the pipe (WW2). I have read that they used rubber from old tires to make stems in that era. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it sit to dry.I polished it more with 3200-4000 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. There was still some oxidation in the curves on the transition between the saddle and the blade of the stem.I buffed the saddle area with red Tripoli and Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove the last of the oxidation and to polish it. I polished it further with 6000-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I finally had conquered the oxidation and the stem shone.I buffed the finished pipe with Blue Diamond once more to polish the pipe and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine on the pipe. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. It is not only an interesting piece of pipe history it is also a beautifully made pipe. The contrast between the rich reddish, brown stain and the black of the vulcanite stem work really well together. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration process.