Daily Archives: August 4, 2017

A Simple Refresh on a Belgian Made Hilson Bolero Oval Shank Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes it seems like I get lucky and get a pipe from my brother that needs very little work. After Jeff has reamed and cleaned it, I receive it and a simple refresh brings it back to a new looking pipe. It does not happen very often and when I look at them in the pre-clean photos it is somewhat unpredictable what lies beneath the sheer filth and ugliness. You can guess a little bit from the condition of the edges of the bowl and the stem. You can get a feel from the thickness and composition of the cake what kind of tobacco had been smoked in the bowl and the smell of the pipe usually confirms the feeling. In this case the pipe that surprised me was a Hilson Bolero oval shank Billiard. In the photos it appeared to be in far worse condition that it was once Jeff cleaned it up. The photos below show what the pipe looked like when Jeff brought it home from our virtual pipe hunt in Montana.It was definitely newer than many of the pipes we found that day. The photos tell the story of its condition but I will summarize it here. The bowl had a fairly thick cake with lava overflowing onto the rim. It had a nice sandblast finish that makes me think of Stanwell pipes that must be from the same time period. The finish appeared to be in good shape other than the dirt and grime of the years in the grooves and grain of the blast. The stem was slightly oxidized and there was tooth chatter on both the top and underside of the stem near the button. The next two close up photos of the bowl show the cake and the lava buildup on the rim top. It appeared that the inner and outer edges of the bowl were in good condition. No glaring damage to those spots showed in the pictures. The pipe has some nice grain that is highlighted by the sandblast. There are two smooth panels – one on each side of the bowl providing a nice contrast. The difference adds a visual and tactile variation on the pipe.The pipe is stamped in a smooth section on the underside of the oval shank. On the left end it reads 8 which is the shape number. That is followed by the brand name Hilson over the line name Bolero. To the right end of the shank near the shank/stem junction it reads made in Belgium. The photos below show that the stamping is very clean and readable. The sandblast cuts through portions of the stamping but does not ruin it.The stem was rough to the touch but the issue was mainly oxidation on the surfaces. There was some visible tooth chatter on the stem, but it is quite easy to address. I was very glad that it was in good condition.Before I started the refresh of the pipe, I did a quick review of the history of the brand because I like having that information in mind when I work on a pipe. I remembered at some point Hilson had been sold to Gubbels who made the Big Ben pipe. At that time, it moved from being a Belgian made pipe to being made in the Netherlands. I turned to Pipedia and read the entry on Hilson there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Hilson) and to Pipephil’s site to read what he had for information (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-h3.html). I have combined and summarized the pertinent information from the two sites.

In 1846 a German named Jean Knödgen started to produce clay pipe in Belgium. In the late 19th century Jean Hillen who married into the Knödgen family took over the company and changed the firm in order to manufacture briar pipes. Jean Hillen had 2 sons: Jos Hillen was responsible for sales and Albert Hillen was responsible for the production. After WWII Albert founded the HILSON brand (Hillen and Son) and exported his pipes all over the world.

In the 1960’s and still throughout the 1970’s the brand Hilson of Broers Hillen B.V. (Hillen Bros. Co.) was quite successful in many European countries. They produced large numbers of machine made pipes covering the whole range of shapes and finishes. The pipes were well respected for good quality and craftsmenship at very moderate prices.

…in 1980 Hillen faced major financial problems. After having gone bankrupt, the Belgian brand from Bree (Limburg) was taken over by the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. The owner, Elbert Gubbels used the favour of the hour and bought the company…The Hillen plant in Bree was closed down shortly after and ever since then Hilson pipes are manufactured in Roermond, NL.

Given that the plant in Bree, Belgium closed around 1980 after Gubbels had purchased the company, I knew that the pipe I was working on had been made prior to that time. The Made in Belgium stamp on the underside of the shank gave that information. I am not sure that I can get any closer in terms of a date for the pipe.

On this pipe, my brother’s cleanup work was the lion’s share of what needed to be done to revitalize it. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned up after the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed the finish with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grit and grime. He scrubbed the rim top and was able to loosen the debris that had built up there. He rinsed the bowl under running water and dried it off. He soaked the stem in OxiClean to raise the oxidation to the surface. He scrubbed out the airway in the bowl, shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I received the pipe I was amazed at how good it looked. The stem would need some attention but that was about it. The bowl could be waxed and buffed with little other work. Jeff had done a great job. I took photos of what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. I took a close up photo of the rim to show the condition. There was a spot on the inner edge of the back portion of the rim that looked damaged. I would need to work that spot over to ensure that it was cleaned up. I also took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping on that portion of the pipe. You can see how the stamping that I mentioned above was laid out on the shank bottom.I took photos of the stem to show its general condition as well. The stem was oxidized but there were no tooth marks on either side. It was clean other than the oxidation.I put the stem in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer solution that I spoke of in the previous blog on the Borlum pipe. I purchased the Deoxidizer from a guy on Facebook. His name is Mark Hoover and he is on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society Group on Facebook. He has a pen making site where you can email and order the deoxidizer and the polishes (http://www.lbepen.com/). This is the second time that I have used like Mark suggested. I immersed the stem in the Deoxidizer to soak. The Deoxidizer will do its work and leave the stem oxidation free. I have to admit I was a little less skeptical than I was before set the stem in the container of solution to soak overnight.I turned my attention to the bowl. I used a small piece of sandpaper and a brass bristle brush to clean off the charred build up on the back inner edge of the rim. I then rubbed the bowl down with some olive oil on a paper towel and set it aside to soak in overnight. I called it an evening and went to bed. In the morning I took the stem out of the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer soak and wiped off the excess fluid. It is quite sticky so it is a bit of work to wipe it free and dry off the stem. Once I got it dried off I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry for a few moments.Once it had dried I began the polishing of the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down after each micromesh sanding pad. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the scratches in the vulcanite and give a shine to the sandblast finish. I worked on the inner edge with the buffer and the Blue Diamond and cleaned up the damaged area to blend it in more with the rest of the rim edge. 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 it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are length: 6 inches, height: 2 inches, bowl diameter: 1 3/8 inches, chamber diameter: ¾ inches. I will be posting it on the rebornpipes store if you are interested in adding this beauty to your rack. You can email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.






Giving New Life to a KBB Yello Bole Imperial 3068C

Blog by Mike Rochford

In the last two weeks, I have been corresponding with Mike about a pipe he had. He wrote and sent photos of it and asked if I thought it was repairable. Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I rarely put a pipe in the bin to burn. We wrote back and forth as he did the work and he sent photos along the way. I asked if he would mind doing a blog on the refurb job he did. He sent me the following. Without further introduction, I will let Mike tell you about himself and then share his work with us. Welcome Mike.

First a bit about me. I am a retired FBI Special Agent of 30 years. My grandfather had a wood pattern shop in downtown Chicago. I always enjoyed woodworking projects, but never had much time for complicated projects. This project was pretty easy as long as I did not hurry each step. Patience and your guidance helped me a lot. I am now pretty confident that I can handle another project if one comes along. – Mike

My brother Tim bought me a very worn out KBB YELLO Bole Imperial 3068C pipe. He knew I loved its look. But its issues were many: gaping hole in bowl, rotting wood on ferrule, bite marks on stem, and a slight tool mark on the crowned our area of the stem below the Yellow circle.

I was prepared to throw the pipe out or just relegate it to a shelf. But I found Steve Laug on rebornpipes. He advised me step by step how to restore and make my pipe smokeable again.

First, I completely cleaned out the inside of bowl down to the briar in order to relieve pressure on the crack in the bowl. Then I used a 1/32 drill bit to drill out the bottom of the crack.  I stripped and cleaned the outside of the pipe and combined briar dust with super glue and filled in the crack on the outside of the bowl. I was surprised that the chemical reaction caused a flash fire on my first try. But I worked through that. The paste dries very fast so I had to apply it to the crack quickly, using a Popsicle stick.  I then let it set. Then I applied JBWeld for wood to the cracked area inside of the bowl. I put a pipe cleaner inside the opening to ensure no weld found its way into the airway blocking up my smoking end of the bowl. I let that dry and set it aside for the evening. Then I used 500 grit sand paper on the outside and inside of my bowl. Once I was satisfied, I applied Aniline dye stain to the outside of the bowl and painted the inside of my bowl with a charcoal powder/ sour cream paste.Next, I worked on the cracked and damaged shank end using the 1/32nd inch bit on the end of the cracks in wood and my super glue briar dust paste to fix the damaged areas. Sanding it after it set.I then used the charcoal powder and super glue paste to patch up the bite marks on my stem, using a pipe cleaner with Vaseline on it to ensure it did not super glue my stem closed. I used some 800 grit sand paper to buff the entire stem clean of oxidation and to clean off excess super glue charcoal powder once it dried. I also used the 800 grit sand paper to clean up the tool marks on my stem below the Yellow circle. I did not have any obsidian oil, so I used some sesame seed oil on my stem to slick it up. I also super glued the silver metal ferrule on the end of the shank as it was much too loose. I then resanded and repasted the inside of my pipe bowl.

I sent before and after pictures to Steve. I am very pleased and thankful to Steve Laug for guiding me through this process. My pipe is truly “Reborn!” Thanks!

Reclaiming a Hard Smoked KB&B Borlum Unbreakable Stem Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

The next restoration on my worktable was a Borlum Bent Billiard. It came to me in the lot of older pipes that my brother brought home from our virtual pipe hunt in Montana. It was in rough condition with the finish very worn and almost non-existent. The bowl had a thick cake that had overflowed the bowl onto the rim top. The previous owner had obviously loved this pipe and the condition was testimony to it being a great smoker. He also seemed to have a very utilitarian view of his pipes. This one appeared to have never been cleaned – a veritable stranger to the aid of a pipe cleaner. The outer edge of the bowl had been knocked about a lot and there was lots of damage to the edge – it was broken down and rounded all the way around. He had obviously knocked the pipe out on a fence, a rock or his boot heel when finishing a bowl. There were dings and nicks in the sides and bottom of the bowl. The stem was oxidized and had some tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. Jeff took the next photos of the pipe before he started to work on cleaning it.From an earlier Borlum pipe that I had refurbished back in 2014, I had learned a lot about the background of the manufacturer of the brand. I quote from that blog to summarize the historical background of the pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/kbb-borlum-pipes/). The italicized portions of the text come from the blog with minor edits.

I already knew that Kaufmann Brothers and Bondy was the oldest pipe company in the USA, established in 1851. The Club Logo predated Kaywoodie with the “KB&B” lettering stamped within the Club, and a multitude of KB&B lines were in production long before “Kaywoodie” first appeared in 1919. Therefore, I knew that the pipe I had was a pre-1919, pre-Kaywoodie KB&B Made BORLUM.

This particular pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank with the words BORLUM in an arc over KB&B in a cloverleaf. The cloverleaf is faintly stamped but still readable with a bright light and lens. Underneath that it is stamped ITALIAN BRIAR in a reverse arc. On the right side of the shank it is stamped UNBREAKABLE BIT. As stated above it was made before Kaywoodie became the flagship name for pipes from Kaufman Brothers & Bondy (KB&B). It was made before the Kaywoodie invention of the “Stinger” was added, and even before shank logos, model stamps and other features invented by Kaywoodie came to be standards of the pipe making industry. It comes from a time when names like Ambassador, Heatherby, Melrose, Suez, Rivoli, Cadillac and Kamello dominated the pre-Kaywoodie scene. Borlum is one of those names.

I learned while researching for that blog and rediscovered while working on this one that the Borlum pipe featured some innovations that were new for the time but commonplace to us. These included (1) a solid rubber bit (vulcanite, ebonite), (2) an aluminum inner-tube construction in the stem that stabilized and strengthened the stem explaining the stamping of “Unbreakable Bit” on the right side of the shank, (3) a standard nickel-plated band (marked KB&B) to strengthen the shank connection for the stem. (This particular pipe does not have the nickel-plated band and does not appear to have had one).The stem features the older style more rounded bit tip/orific button, and you can see the aluminum inner-tube fitting just inside the tip.

I have included several pictures that I found on the internet that show the unique stem tube in the Borlum that gives rise to the claim that it has an Unbreakable Bit. The first photo shows the bent stem, third from the left with the same metal tube showing at the button. The second photo shows the other end of the tube in the tenon in the Borlum stem. That told me that the pipe I had was made after 1851 and before 1919. I am guessing that because of the other pipes in this lot dating in the late 1890s to about 1905 this one is probably from that same era. Not too bad for a 100+ year old pipe. During the hunt for information, I also found the next photo of a Borlum display and sales card. What is particularly interesting to me is the diagram at the top of the card showing the interior of the stem in place in the shank. It also includes the claim, “Guaranteed against Breakage”. I love the advertisements and sales brochures of these old pipes. The descriptive language that promises so much and the prices the pipes sold for are a nostalgic journey to the past. Note the $1 and up price tag on the sales card.

The pipe that I am working on presently is identical to the bottom pipe on the right side of the photo. I have circled it in red. It has the identical shape, curved shank and lack of a nickel-plated band as mine. It has the hard rubber stem with an orific button. It is more rounded than the modern flat stem but it is still a comfortable feeling stem in the mouth.

Jeff took some close up photos of the pipe bowl to give an idea of the condition of the pipe before we started to work on it. The first two photos show the sides of the bowl. You can see from those photos that the bowl is in rough shape. The outer rim has a lot of damage to it and the finish is worn and tired.The next two photos show the rim top and the clean bowl. Note how beat up the edge of the rim is in both photos. The third photo below shows the heel of the bowl and all of nicks and dents in the surface of the briar. The stamping on the left side of the shank and the right side of the shank is readable in the next two photos.The next photos show the condition of the stem. It is oxidized and there is a dark line across the top of the stem that looks like a crack. Under a bright light there is no crack visible, it is merely a mark on the vulcanite.Jeff rarely varies his established process for thoroughly cleaning the pipes he sends to me. 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. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and grit on the bowl. He worked over the rim and removed the lava overflow. He scrubbed it with a tooth brush and the oil soap until he removed the buildup and clean up the damaged edges of the rim. The grain on this pipe is quite stunning. He soaked the stem in an Oxiclean bath to bring out the oxidation and scrubbed the debris from the exterior of the stem. I took photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in when it arrived in Vancouver. I took a close up of the rim to show the damaged condition of the edges. It really is a mess and will be an interesting restoration. The idea is to get it back to a smooth condition without changing the profile of the pipe.A lot of the grime and grit on the stem disappeared in the OxiClean soak. The dark line on the top left of the stem disappeared and showed that there were no cracks in the “Unbreakable Bit”. There were some tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button. The ones on the underside were definitely deeper. The last photo below shows the inner tube from the button end view.I decided to try something a little different this time around on the removal of the oxidation. Months ago I had purchased some Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer from a guy on Facebook. His name is Mark Hoover and he is on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society Group on Facebook. He has a pen making site where you can email and order the deoxidizer and the polishes (http://www.lbepen.com/). I have actually never used it according to the directions. I have sponged it on and scrubbed it off. In talking with Mark the concept was simple – put the stem in the Deoxidizer to soak. The Deoxidizer will do its work and leave the stem oxidation free. With a bit of skepticism I poured the mixture into a tray and set the stem in it to soak overnight.I worked on the bowl for a while that evening before calling it a day. I lightly topped the bowl to remove some of the damage on the top surface of the rim and leave a flat, smooth surface. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust. I carefully filled in the outer rim edge with clear super glue to build up the chipped and damaged areas. I think that this is the first time that I have worked on a pipe with this much damage and chipping all the way around the outer rim. It did not take too long for the glue to dry and when it did I sanded the outer edge of the rim smooth blending the fills into the surface of the briar and ‘sharpening’ the edge itself. The photos that follow tell the story. When I finished smoothing out the fills I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and check to make sure I had sanded the rim edge enough. If any spots are still too large and not blended they will show up glaringly when the bowl is stained. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain mixed 50/50 with isopropyl alcohol. I flamed the stain on the bowl and repeated the process until the coverage was even. I set the bowl aside for the evening. In the morning I “unwrapped” the bowl (borrowing one of Dal Stanton’s terms) to see what the stain had done. I wiped it down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent. Once I finished it was still too dark to my liking and obscured the grain too much. I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove more of the stain. After sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads I wiped it down with a bit of alcohol on a cotton pad and I was pleased with what I was seeing. I polished it some more with 3200-12000 grit pads and finished by giving it a light buff with a microfiber cloth. Now the colour was what I was aiming for – a reddish brown that highlighted the grain and muted the repairs and some of the imperfections.  I buffed the bowl on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond polish and hand buffed it with a cloth. The following photos show what the finish looked like after the buffing. I still needed to wax it but I really liked what I saw. I took the stem out of the deoxidizer bath and wiped it down with cotton pads. The bath definitely had removed much of the oxidation and wiping it down afterward it was clear to see how much had come off the brown looking stem. I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway to remove the deoxidizer from the inside of the pipe. The stem clearly looked better than when I had started. The surface was dull and there was still some stubborn oxidation on the curve. The tooth marks in the surface are very visible in the photo of the underside of the stem.I painted the tooth marks with the flame of a lighter to lift them as much as possible and filled in the remaining tooth marks with clear superglue. I chose to use the clear super glue rather than black as I have found it blends better with the hard rubber stems on these older pipes. When the repair had dried I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the area on the underside and used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button on the top and underside.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil and after the final pad gave it a last coat and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and then gave the pipe mulitple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am not a 100% happy with the stem – the flash seems to reveal some more oxidation in it but to my eye it looks fine. I will do some more polishing and buffing to get it do the rich black that my eye sees but the camera does not at this point. Ah well, the refurbisher’s work is never finished. Thanks for looking.