Blog by Steve Laug
This blog is about the restoration of the second pipe from the lot of seven that a reader sent to me that had belonged to his uncle. He said that the pipes were in good condition in terms of the bowls (though in looking at them they were in need of a good cleaning). The finishes were in decent shape – just dirty. He said that the stems all had issues and he was right with that. Some were worn with tooth marks on the stem on both the top and underside at the button. Some had been chewed off. All were oxidized to varying degrees. He sent me the following photos of the pipes for me to have a look at and we talked back and forth via email. About a week ago or so they arrived here in Canada. He had done an amazing job packing the lot. Each one was packaged in its own baggy with the stem separated for shipping. They were nicely wrapped in bubble wrap and boxed with the return mailing address inside! Very nicely done package. I opened the box and unpacked each pipe. I went over them carefully to assess what was needed in terms of repair. I chose to work on “The Doodler” Bullmoose shaped pipe which is the sixth pipe down from the top of the first photo and on the second pipe in from the right side of the second photo. It is an interesting pipe. The Doodler was originally designed by Tracy Mincer of Custom-Bilt fame as a very cool smoking pipe. It combined the thick rustic shape of the Custom-Bilt with some unusual features. The rim has a series of vertical holes drilled down the sides of the bowl and around the rim top there is a groove. These both work together to provide a very cool smoke. Add to that the thick briar bowl and you have the promise of a cool smoking pipe.
I am including a piece of information from Pipedia about the Doodler. What I found confirms the information that I remembered. I quote in full. “After his loss of the Custom-Bilt name in 1953, Tracy Mincer’s next production pipe was The Doodler. The pipe was turned for Mincer by the National Briar Pipe Co. beginning in the early 1950’s, and that company eventually purchased the pipe design in approximately 1960. After that time Mincer’s former partner Claude Stewart began making a line of pipes called the Holeysmoke which were largely identical to the Doodler pipes, and National Briar continued to produce the Doodler. The pipe’s design centers around a series of vertically drilled holes in a ring around the combustion chamber, meant to provide airflow and a cooler smoke.” https://pipedia.org/wiki/The_Doodler
I checked the other site I turn to – Pipephil’s Pipes, Logos and Stampings to see if any additional information could be learned on the brand. It confirms the information I already had and gives some solid dates for the pipe. I quote: Tracy Mincer who founded the Custom-Bilt brand is the inventor of the famous Doodler pipe. All the pipes of this brand have vertical air shafts around the bowl crossed by horizontal rings cut into the bowl. These characteristics are supposed to increase the cooling area of the briar. After Mincer’s death in 1964 his company was sold to National Briar Pipe Co. which continued to make The Doodler until the early 1980s. During the same time Claude Stuart who worked with Mincer continued on his side to produce pipes of this type under his Holeysmoke label. http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-t4.html#thedoodler
The bowl had a light cake in it. The rim top had an overflow of lava on the inner ring of the top that had overflowed from the bowl. The left side of the shank was stamped “The Doodler” in Germanic script and often folks read it as “The Boodler”. Underneath that it is stamped Imported Briar. The rustication on the bowl was quite dirty and there was dust and debris in the deep grooves and the ring around the top of the bowl. The stem had light tooth marks and tooth chatter on the both the top and underside near the button. The stem surface was oxidized. I took the following photos before I started to clean up the pipe. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the lava build up and the light cake in the bowl. The previous pipeman kept the pipe relatively clean in terms of the cake. It appeared that the bowl had been reamed not too long ago. There were some remnants of the cake in the bowl. I took some close up photos of the stem to show the condition of both sides.This was the second of the four pipes that I chose to work on first and put the stems in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer. I pushed them under the solution and left them to soak overnight.While the stems were all soaking I turned my attention to the bowl. I scrubbed the grooves and rustication on the surface of the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime that sat on the surface. I scrubbed the surface with a tooth brush and rinsed it off with running water. I dried the bowl and shank off with a soft cotton towel. I took photos of the cleaned Doodler bowl. It actually looked really good. The rim top still needed work but it looked better. I cleaned up the inside of the bowl to remove the remaining bits of cake on the walls and the bottom of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand off the remaining thick lava on the rim top and the damaged areas as well. I worked on it to smooth out the surface and then polished it with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I cleaned up the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of sandpaper and removed the damaged areas there as well.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips to deep clean the finish, enliven and protect the wood. I used a cotton swab to work the balm into the grooves in the rustication, the ring below the bowl top and into all the drilled holes on the rim top and down the sides of the bowl. I let it sit for a few minutes and then buffed it with a cotton cloth. The wood came alive and the grain had begun to show through at this point and there was a rich shine to the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and called it a night. The bowl was ready other than touching up the cleaning of the shank. In the morning I removed the stem from the Before & After Stem Deoxidizer and wiped it off with a paper towel to remove the remaining oxidation and bath. I cleaned out the airway with pipe cleaners and alcohol until it was clean. I cleaned out the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs at the same time to remove any debris that remained inside. The stem was clean and there was still some oxidation on the surface with some scratching, tooth chatter and marks. It was ready to be sanded and polished. I sanded the stem to remove the scratching and tooth chatter. I heated the stem with a Bic lighter to lift the light tooth marks. The heat smoothed out the surface enough that I was able to sand out the rest of the remnants of the marks.I worked over the stem with micromesh sanding pads. 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 let it dry. Once it had dried, I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish Fine and Extra Fine. I rubbed it down with final coat Obsidian Oil and took the following pictures. I put the stem back on the bowl and took the pipe to the buffing wheel to work it over. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish them. I gave the bowl and 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 briar has a shine and a rich glow to it and the vulcanite stem came out quite nice with a deep shine. The pipe came out really well. Now I have five more of the uncle’s pipes to finish up and then these will be heading back to the US. Thanks for looking.