Daily Archives: December 22, 2017

Restoring & Repairing a Damaged Stem on a Big Ben Nautic 252


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a phone call from an interesting woman who had been given my phone number by a local pipe and cigar shop. She had a couple of pipes that needed some stem repair. In our conversation it turned out that they belonged to her husband and he had a total of two pipes. Both of them needed work and she was determined to get them repaired for him. In our talking we spoke of the options – either repairing the stem or making a new stem. She spoke with him and they decided to repair them. A few days later her husband stopped by the house to show me the two pipes. We talked and he decided to work on one pipe at a time so that he would have one to smoke while I repaired the other one. The first of these was a Big Ben Nautic shape 252. It is a bent apple kind of quasi brandy shaped pipe with some really nice grain on the sides of the bowl. I took some photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in before I started my clean up.From the side view photos above the pipe looked pretty good. The finish was dirty but the pipe appeared to be in decent condition. The next photos show what the bowl and stem looked like from the top and underside views. The bowl had never been reamed and there was a thick cake that was composed of aromatic tobacco. It was soft and sticky. The lava overflow on the rim top was also sticky to touch. The smell of the pipe was a sickly sweet and sour smell of a pipe that had never seen a pipe cleaner and never had been cleaned. The stem had suffered gnawing that had broken the top edge and a bit of the stem in front of the button. It was a mess. The underside had deep bite marks and was also damaged. The poor pipe was a mess but it was obviously his favourite pipe to smoke.I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the thickness and composition of the cake and the thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The good news was that since it had never been reamed or scraped the edges of the rim looked to be in very good condition.I also took some photos of the stem damage so that you could see what I was up against. The sad thing to me was that his second pipe had exactly the same damage to the stem and the bowl looked identical as well.When I removed the stem I was not surprised to find that the mortise and the airways in the shank and stem had also never been cleaned. But even more surprising was the fact that the stem and shank were made for a 9mm filter and the pipe had been smoked sans filter to the point that the airway in both were almost closed off with the gunk (technical term for the black, oily, tarry stuff that filled the stem and shank). The next series of three photos show the clogged condition of the airways and mortise. I am amazed that the pipe man was able to load any tobacco in the bowl and draw any smoke through the pipe. I decided to rid the pipe of the smell that permeated my work space when I had the pipe on the worktable. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean out the interior of both. I used a dental spatula to scrape the walls of the shank and the filter tenon. It took a lot of pipe cleaners to remove all of the buildup but once it was clean the pipe smell better and would be easier to work on. I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer. I started reaming it with the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to the cutting head that fit the diameter of the bowl. I touched up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife.I scraped off the thick lava coat on the rim top using a pen knife. I was able to remove all of it. There was still some rim darkening but I figured that it would also come of the rim. I scrubbed the rim top with saliva and cotton pads.I polished the rim of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I started by wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads until all of the darkening and remnants of lava on the rim. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads until the rim was shining. I wiped it down with a damp cotton pad after each micromesh sanding pad to remove the grime that came free. The rim began to look almost new again. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a soft cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I sanded the top and underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the edges of the damaged area on the top side of the stem and button and on the underside where there was a deep tooth mark and lots of tooth damage. I roughened the surface of the stem to give the glue and charcoal powder something to bite into and hold.I filled in the deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem with black super glue. The damaged area was not too large so the black super glue alone would work on this part of the stem. Once the repair had dried I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and sanded out the repair to blend it into the surface of the underside of the stem.I greased a pipe fluffy pipe cleaner with Vaseline and flattened it to insert into the slot in the stem. I wanted to keep the airway open when I applied the repair material. I mixed some activated charcoal powder with black super glue to make a thick paste and applied it to the top of the stem with a dental spatula. I flattened it with the spatula and built it up heavier on the top of the button than on the flat portion of the stem. The repair dries fairly quickly to touch but I like to let it sit and cure for several days to make sure that the very centre of the patch is hardened.After the repair had cured I used a small flat bladed needle fill to recut the button and smooth out the repaired area on the stem. Once I had flattened out the repair there were some air bubbles in the patch that needed to be touched up. I filled in the air bubbles with clear super glue.When the repair had dried I used a knife blade and a round needle file to open and reshape the slot in the button.I sanded the repaired area with 200 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair and blend it into the rest of the stem. I reshaped the button with the sandpaper at the same time so that it was the same all the way across the stem and on the top and underside of it.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the repaired area in front of the button on both sides of the stem and the button surface itself with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl with a soft cloth to polish away the remaining Restoration Balm. I worked the pipe bowl over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I hand buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the stem and polished the metal stem adornment with a silver polishing cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I gave the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The medium brown stains on the apple/brandy shaped bowl works well with the rich black of the Lucite stem. The polish and the reworking of the stem material left this a beautiful and well-made pipe. Thanks for looking. I am recommending that the pipe man smoke this pipe with a softee bit in place to protect the repair. Once he has seen the repair I will install the softee bit on the stem. It should give some protection from his incessant chomping on the stem. If not the stem will face repeated repairs.

Stem Work on an Oversized Blatter Bros Make Selected Rustic Author


I am a sucker for the author shaped pipe and also Blatter and Blatter pipes. This is the perfect combination. Great work Charles.

DadsPipes

This is another of the pipes sent to me from Iqaluit for refurbishment. I don’t how the owner sources such consistently interesting Blatter estate pipes, but source them he does!

This particular Blatter is a BIG rustic Author pipe, a real fistful of briar with a large chamber and thick walls. The shank looks positively stubby in comparison to the width of the bowl, but actually retains the classic Author 1:1 shank length to bowl height dimensions. The stem is a short bent saddle, into which Blatter has carved convenient dimples to assist removal and reinsertion of the stem.

The pipe arrived in good estate condition. It would need a good general cleaning to prepare it for its new piper, but apart from a layer of lava on the inward-sloping bowl rim, the briar looked to be in great shape.

The stem was a slightly different matter. While it was…

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Restoring a Custombilt Standard 302 Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

Those of you that collect Tracy Mincer made pipes know all about the variety of stampings on the pipes that he made. They go from Custom-Bilt, Custom-bilt, Custombilt, Doodler and even those named after himself. His pipes are unique and the Custom-Bilt pipes (no matter how you spell the name) that he made are immediately recognizable. Their chunky Rhodesian or Bulldog/Bull moose shape along with the unique worm trail deep rustication and the stubby fit in the hand makes them easy to identify. When Jeff sent me photos of the next pipe that came to the worktable, I was not sure where it fit in the world of this brand. I have read Bill Unger’s opus on the brand so I had a bit of an idea but I wanted to spend time working on the pipe before I narrowed down the period. It has a more refined shape and refined application of the rustication to the bowl. It seemed more controlled and predictable than the other typical Custom-Bilt pipes I have worked on and restored. The stem also had a different feel than the others I have worked on and the amount of briar in the body of the pipe seemed less that what I expect in these pipes. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started to work on it so I could have an idea of what we had in our hands.The pipe appeared to be in decent condition. The finish was dirty but did not look like it was damaged. The bowl had a thinner cake that the others I have been working on lately. There was lava overflow on the top of the rim. I am sure there would be some darkening and possible some burn marks on the inner edge of the beveled rim top. The outer edge appeared to be undamaged. The stem was vulcanite and had a very light oxidation on the top surfaces. There was tooth chatter on both sides of the stem just ahead of the button. The edge of the button also had some tooth wear. The previous owner had put a light bend in the stem in the last 1 inch. To me it did not look right and would need to be straightened.Jeff took two close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The first shows the rim close up and the second shows it in relation to the rest of the bowl. He also included a photo of the underside of the bowl to show the carving and rustication pattern there. The pipe is stamped on the left side and reads Custombilt as one word over Standard. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with a number which I assume identifies the shape – 302.The stem had light oxidation and tooth chatter so it would be a pretty straightforward cleanup as well.I wanted to refresh my memory regarding the time periods the different Custom-Bilt pipes were made so I did a bit of research. I looked first on the Pipephil website to see what information he had on the brand. This is the link: http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html

Tracy Mincer stopped making Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The trademark was successively bought by Leonard Rodgers (1953), Consolidated Cigars (1968) and Wally Frank Co. (early 1970s). The later began to produce again his version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975 at Weber pipe factory (NJ). In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently (2010), the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain which is part of Altadis. It is generally admitted (but not proved) pipes stamped “Custom – Bilt” (with the hyphen) are from the Mincer era. The name might have changed from Custom-Bilt to Custombilt (without the hyphen) in 1946.

I also looked on the Pipedia website and found confirmation to the Pipephil information and some additional information. Here’s the link to that article: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well. In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain…

Given that information I knew that the pipe was made after 1946 when the name was changed to Custombilt. To me the lack of the characteristic shape and carving pointed to after Mincer lost the company and stopped making the brand. The shape reminds me of several Wally Frank pipes that I have had in the past so I am thinking it was made after they bought the trademark in 1974-1975. It also could be the Weber version of the brand when Hollco Rohr owned it. That is as specific as I can get in identifying the time frame for the manufacture of this pipe. I am pretty certain it is not a Tracy Mincer made pipe so that pushes it to the later 1974-75 dates.

Jeff did a thorough cleanup on the bowl and stem. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the last bit of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall reamer. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was very dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the tars and oils built up on the briar. He was able to remove all of the tars and lava on the rim top and left it looking very clean. He soaked the stem in an Oxyclean bath to raise the oxidation to the surface of the vulcanite. When it arrived I took some photos of it to show how it looked before I did the restoration. He did a great job removing the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top. The inner edge of the bowl is damaged on the back right side and the left front of the pipe. There were also some burn marks in those spots on the rim surface.The oxidation came to the surface of the stem after the soak in Oxyclean. The tooth chatter is visible on the top and underside near the button. You can also see the light damage on the edge of the button on both sides. I put it in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to soak overnight and work on the vulcanite oxidation.In the morning I removed the stem from the deoxidizer and wiped off the excess deoxidizer from the surface of the stem with a paper towel. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove any remnants of the bath from that part of the stem. The photos below show the stem after the soak and rub down. The oxidation was pretty much gone and what remained would be easily dealt with. The tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem is hard to see in the photos, but it is present.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem as well as the oxidation that remained in the angles of the saddle stem.I heated the stem with a heat gun to straighten out the bent end. I liked the straight look on the stem better than the slight tweak that last pipe man had put in it.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I sanded out the burn marks on the rim with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them and smooth out the surface. I worked on the inside edge of the rim to bring it back to round. When I was finished I polished the rim top and edge with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to polish out all of the scratches in the rim top and edges. I used a medium brown stain pen to restain the rim and inner edge of the bowl to blend it in with the rest of the bowl. The burn marks are invisible now and the polished rim top looks pristine.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the nooks and crannies of the rusticated finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a horsehair shoe brush to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I buffed the bowl with a soft cloth to polish away the remaining Restoration Balm. I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I buffed the bowl with a light touch so as not to get any of the buffing compounds in the grooves of the rustication. I buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe 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 medium brown stains on the rusticated bulldog shaped bowl works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. The polish and the reworking of the stem material left this a beautiful and well-made pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside Diameter: 2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inch. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. It will make a fine addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.