Blog by Steve Laug
If you read the previous blog on the Bari Special Handcut pipe you have also read that for the past month or more I have been carrying on an online conversation with a Colonel in the Indian Military about his own pipe refurbishing and repair work. In the process of talking through a variety of the processes of pipe restoration he asked if I would be willing to work on a few of his pipes that had chipped or broken stems. We decided to look into what it would take to ship them to Canada from India. It seemed like a pretty daunting task but nonetheless he has some pipes in transit to me in Vancouver. In the meantime he wrote and said he had picked up a Bari and a Savinelli Alligator pipe and had the EBay seller send them directly to me in Canada so I could refurbish them for him and add them to the box of other pipes I would be sending back to him. I agreed and this week the pipes arrived.
Once I finished the Bari I worked the Savinelli Alligator apple shaped pipe. I have never been attracted to the alligator finish as it just did not work for me. This one however had some very nice looking grain underneath the rustication and in the smooth portions of the finish. The finish was dirty with dirt, grime and oils in the finish and rim edge. It looks good underneath that grime. The bowl has been reamed but a bit poorly. There is some scraping to the inner edge that has affected the roundness of the bowl on the left side and rear edges of the bowl. It is a filter pipe made for the Savinelli triangular Balsa filter that fits in the stem and extends partially into the shank. These are one of the better filters but should be either flushed out with alcohol or replaced often. The seller put a new filter in place in the stem. The stem fit well in the shank but looking down the shank it is dirty and covered with oils and tar. The stem is oxidized (though not as bad as the Bari was). It had some small tooth marks and chatter on the stem near the button. The stem logo is very faint and may not show up well once the stem is cleaned up. I took photos of the pipe to record the condition it was in when it arrived here in Vancouver. It gives me a benchmark to measure the finished pipe against as well. I took a close up photo of the rim top and bowl. The bowl had a thick cake in it all the way down to the heel. The rim top has some light lava overflow but it is not too bad. There is damage on the left side and back inner edge of the bowl that can be seen in the first photo below. The stamping on the underside of the pipe is quite readable through the grime. It reads Alligator and next to that is the Savinelli S Shield logo followed by the shape number 207 over Italy. Next to that it reads Savinelli Product. There is a brass separator on the stem that adds a touch of class to the shank/stem union.I took photos of the stem condition as well. You can see it is oxidized but not in bad condition. The light tooth marks on both sides are barely visible in the photos below. There is a very faint alligator stamp on the left side of the stem in an oval. It is faint enough that I am concerned that there is not enough depth to recolour it but time will tell.I dropped the badly oxidized stem in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to soak away the oxidation. In this case the oxidation was quite thick and the stamping on the left side was so shallow that I did not want to do a lot of sanding. The deoxidizer could do its work. I put the lid on the airtight container and left the stem to soak overnight.I turned my attention to the bowl and the cleanup that was awaiting me there. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the second cutting head to work away the heavy cake. I worked at it very slowly so as to keep the blade from creating further damage to the roundness of the bowl. I cleaned up the remaining cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife taking it to almost bare briar and smoothing things out. I used a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper to work on the inner edge and the damage to the top of the rim on the left and back edge of the bowl and down into the bowl about an inch. With the bowl reamed it was time to clean out the internals of the bowl and shank. I used 99% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the accumulated tars and grime in the shank and airway. I folded the used pipe cleaners and swabbed out the walls of the bowl with them. I scraped out the walls of the mortise using a small pen knife blade to remove the buildup on the walls and give the interior a clean smell and feel.I wiped the exterior of the bowl with a damp cloth and then scrubbed it with the Before & After Restoration Balm. I was sure that it would work well on the alligator pattern and the dirty condition of the finish on this pipe. I worked it into the grooves of the rustication with my fingers, rubbing it deep into the grooves. I used a shoe brush to further work it into the finish. I touched up the repaired rim top and edges with a dark brown stain pen and blended the colour into the rest of the stain on the bowl. I buffed the bowl with a shoe brush to further blend the stain on the rim. At this point the rim was looking far better. I buffed the bowl on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond using a light touch. The photos below show the bowl after the buffing. It is really starting to look good at this point. Once the stem is done I will buff it a bit more and give it several coats of wax but for now it is finished and I am calling it a night. I took the stem out of the bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and wiped it down with a paper towel to remove the excess deoxidizer. I ran pipe cleaners and alcohol through the airway to clean out the buildup inside. The stem was very clean and the oxidation was gone. The tooth marks in the surface of the stem on both sides near the button were even less visible.I used some European God Rub’n Buff to touch up the very faint logo on the left side of the stem. It helped a bit but it is pretty shallow so I am not sure it will last too long.I sanded the pipe lightly around the button to remove the tooth marks using 220 grit sandpaper. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each one. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. At this point I was not happy with the remaining oxidation that showed up under the flash of the camera so I went back to the drawing board and reworked it with the sanding pads. Once I finished reworking the oxidation, I put the stem back on the bowl and took the pipe to the buffing wheel to work it over. I gently buffed the rusticated bowl with Blue Diamond to polish the briar. I buffed the stem at the same time to raise the gloss on the vulcanite carefully working around the faint stamping on the stem. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats 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. I am hoping that the fellow I am restoring it for enjoys the second of his “new pipes”. For now he will have to enjoy it by looking at the photos but soon it will wing its way back to India. Thanks for looking.