Salvaging a Kaywoodie All Briar Rhodesian 50B with a Serious Issue


Blog by Steve Laug

I have reworked a lot of stems over the years – from cutting them back in my early days and reshaping a button on the gnawed and damaged end to rebuilding a chewed button with charcoal and super glue. I have fit stem blanks on shanks to replace damaged and what were at that time in my assessment, irreparable stems. Today I am more conservative and lean towards rebuilding the stem as best as I can. That being said there are even challenges to that work. The pipe on my worktable now is a challenge to my current bent. It is an All Briar Rhodesian. I have only refurbished one other All Briar pipe in the past – a beautiful LHS Purex Bullmoose. It was in excellent condition other than being dirty and worn. I had heard nightmare tales of gnawed and chewed all briar stems and what a pain they are to work on. However, until this pipe came to my attention in a recent pipe hunt with Jeff I had never seen such a badly gnawed briar stem up close. Jeff took photos of the pipe’s condition before he cleaned it up. I have included those photos in the first part of this blog.I have read a lot of information in the past on other Kaywoodie pipes I have worked on and spent time on the Kaywoodie Collectors Forum to help educated myself on the various lines and historical periods of Kaywoodie production. On Pipedia.org there is a helpful summary of the history of the brand that has been condensed in one place. It is called the Collectors Guide to Kaywoodie Pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Collector%27s_Guide_to_Kaywoodie_Pipes). I found the All Briar line of pipes included in the section of the Guide for 1955. I quote here the pertinent sections with the references to the All Briar pipe underlined and highlighted in bold.

The line-up of pipes in the 1955 catalog (Table 3 below) was more extensive than in previous years. The catalog presented an expanded line of meerschaum pipes and introduced a 4-pipe set of Matched Grain Pipes, as well as several pipes with “special features”. The number of shapes available… was not substantially different from the number offered in the 1947 catalog…

The Twin-Bowl Kaywoodies were available in an all-meerschaum model (two removable inner bowls of meerschaum) and a meerschaum and Flame Grain model (outer bowl of flame grain briar and removable inner bowl of meerschaum). Other meerschaum pipes presented in the 1955 catalog included the Gourd Calabash; the Coral (“dimpled”) Meerschaum; the All Briar (briar bit) and Flame Grain pipes with inlaid meerschaum bowls; and the “Doctor’s” pipe…Included in the guide was a helpful list of pipe grades and prices. I have included the list below and noted the pipe I am working on by highlighting it in bold print and underlining the reference. It is in this list that I found confirmation that Kaywoodie made an All Briar with a meerschaum bowl insert and an All Briar without the meerschaum insert. The All Briar I am working on is not meerschaum lined. It is fascinating for me to see that the addition of a meerschaum bowl was only $2.50 in 1955.

Table 3. 1955 Kaywoodie Pipe Grades and Prices

    Meerschaum Character Pipes: $100.00

    Block: 15.00-50 (According to size)

    Meerschaum Twin Bowl: $35.00

    Meerschaum/Flame Grain Twin Bowl: $25.00

    Sandblasted “Doctor’s” Pipe: $25.00

    Centennial: $25.00

    Coral Meerschaum: $20.00-25 (According to size)

    Gourd Calabash: $15.00-25 (According to size)

    Ninety-Fiver: $20.00

    Oversize: $10.00-25(According to style and finish)

    Connoisseur: $15.00

    All Briar w/Meerschaum Inlaid Bowl: $12.50

    Flame Grain (Meerschaum Inlaid) $12.50

    Export Pipes: $5.00-15 (According to grade)

    All Briar (Briar Bit): $10.00

    Flame Grain: $10.00

    Fit Rite: $10.00

    Silhouette: $10.00

    Carburetor: $7.50

    Relief Grain: $7.50

    Chesterfield: $5.00-15 (According to grade)

    Chinrester: $5.00-10 (According to grade)

    Stembiter: $5.00-10 (According to grade)

    Streamliner: $4.00-10 (According to grade)

    Super Grain: $5.00

    Carved Super Grain: $5.00

    White Briar: $5.00

    Standard: $4.00

    Filter Plus: $4.00

    Drinkless pup: $3.50

    Drinkless Tuckaway: $3.50

    Drinkless In-Between: $3.50

    Two-Pipe Companion Setsb: $10.00-25 (According to grade)

    Matched Grain Set (4-Pipes): $50.00

    Matched Grain Set (7-Pipes): $125.00

Further reading on Pipedia under the general listing for Kaywoodie Pipes provided me with a magazine advertisement that included the All Briar pipes. It is a great Father’s Day Ad and the bottom items in the ad show the All Briar line. I have included both the link and a copy of the ad for your reading pleasure (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kaywoodie).Jeff sent me some close up photos of the pipe so I could see what it looked like when he started his clean up. The bowl had a thick cake that had overflowed onto the rim top with a thick coat of lava. The two photos below give two different views to show the condition of the both. You can see the flaking lava on the rim and the hard cake in the bowl. This pipe had been smoked hard and was obviously someone’s favourite.The finish on the bowl and shank was worn. There was a thick varnish coat that was peeling on the bowl sides and bottom that would take some work to remove.The stamping on both sides of the shake is faint but readable in the next photos. The pipe is stamped ALL BRIAR over Kaywoodie on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped All Imported Briar over 50B (the shape number) and underneath that the letter C.The all briar stem has an inlaid black cloverleaf in a white circle on the left side. It is in decent shape and should polish out nicely.When it comes to the stem it is a serious issue. Making a new vulcanite stem for the pipe would certainly be an option but to me that would cause the pipe to lose its charm and detract from it being an All Briar pipe. I would need to do something different to bring it back to life or salvage it. It appeared to me that I had only one serious option on this pipe but I would make the final decision once it arrived.The stem had a screw in/threaded tenon with a four hole stinger. The stinger was stamped Drinkless as shown in the photo below. On Pipedia in the Kaywoodie article, there was a great advertisement for the Drinkless style of stinger so I have included that here as well. I decided to look on my other go to site – PipePhil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-kaywoodie-1.html) to see what added information I might garner from his site. Under the Kaywoodie All Briar listing it said that the pipe had a twin-bore stem, meaning that instead of a slot in the button there were twin holes that formed a Y with the airway in the stem itself. The pipes were made between 1952 – 1955. It included a series of pictures of a typical briar Kaywoodie stem that showed a vertical hole near the button that was an innovation that they called Stembiter to prevent a stem biter from gnawing through the stem. Evidently, the pipe I am working on had that kind of set up on the mouthpiece as nothing is left of that portion of the stem. The Stembiter innovation came out in the early 1950s as well so now I had confirmation of the period when the pipe was made. I have included an advertisement for the Stembiter innovation following the photo below. I know that at present I will not be able to reproduce this feature on the stem when I rework it. Jeff continued using his established process of thoroughly cleaning the pipes he sends to me. He did not vary in his procedure just because of the briar stem on this one. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and touched it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol and cleaned the exterior of the threaded tenon and four hole stinger with cotton swabs and alcohol. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and grit on the bowl. Sadly it did not even touch the thick varnish coat on the bowl. He worked over the rim and removed the heavy lava overflow. He scrubbed it with a tooth brush and the oil soap until he removed the buildup. His cleaning of the top cut through the varnish coat on that part of the bowl. He cleaned up the gnawed end of the stem so that at least it would be clean when I began my work on it. I took photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in when it arrived in Vancouver. Jeff cleaned up the rim really well – the tars and buildup were gone and fortunately so was much of the varnish coat. There were just a few shiny spots on the rim that would need to go. The bowl had been reamed back to bare briar.The stem while clean was an absolute disaster. It had been gnawed back through the stembite protection and the entire end of the stem was missing. I am guess that there was probably about 3/8 to ½ inch of the stem missing and the button was totally missing.I started the restructuring work on the stem with a Dremel and a sanding drum. I took the damaged areas back until I had some solid briar to work with. I did not want to remove too much of the stem material. The twin airways in the stem were very close to the surface in the stem at this point so I would need to do something a little different from the standard recutting a new button on the existing material.I started the rebuilding the end of the stem with clear super glue. I wanted to fill in the small divots in the surface of the stem on both sides and make the stem smooth and the end crisp. I built up the area where the new button would be with clear super glue first to stabilize the gnawed stem and begin with a solid edge. I put briar dust on top of the super glue and layered the dust and the glue until I had a workable portion on the stem surface. I needed enough of the new material to be able to reshape a button. In the second set of photos you can see the button area beginning to take shape. I used a needle file to recut the edge of the button and square it off with the surface of the stem. I wanted a sharp delineation from the button surface to the stem surface. I also reshaped the button surface as well with the files. The new button is beginning to be visible at this point.I filled in the air bubbles on top and underside surface of the button with clear super glue to make it smooth. I sanded the areas in front of the button on both sides of the stem with 220 grit super glue to blend it into the rest of the stem surface.I used a needle file to open the twin bore airways and smooth them out. I began to polish the stem and button with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding the button and stem area with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad to see what the progress looked like. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and then stained the stem with a Medium Brown Stain pen. I finished polishing the stem with 6000-12000 grit pads and wiped it down after each grit pad to keep the work surface clean. While the button is definitely darker than the stem body at this point it is still looking pretty good in my opinion and it feels good in the mouth. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the varnish finish. It was spotty and peeling in places so it had to go. Once I had the finish removed I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove any of the finish that remained. Then I used the same regimen to polish the bowl as I had used on the briar stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit micromesh and wiped it down after each pad. Each grit pad brought more of the grain to light. There is a great mix of birdseye and cross grain on the bowl and shank. It is a beauty. I decided to not stain the bowl. The medium brown I put on the stem made the stem and bowl match so I was pleased with that. I put the stem in place on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond to polish out any remaining scratches from my sanding and polishing. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it from damage and to preserve the briar. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to polish the briar. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The repair and rebuilt button, though darker than the briar, works well and the pipe is fully functional again. The small amount of length I had to remove does not visibly change the overall look of the pipe. Thanks for walking with me through this restoration. It was one with challenges but it was a fun one to work on.

 

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