Blog by Steve Laug
The next collection of pipes that I am working on comes from the estate of an elderly gentleman here in Vancouver. I met with his daughter Farida last summer and we looked at his pipes and talked about them then. Over the Christmas holiday she brought them by for me to work on, restore and then sell for her. There are 10 pipes in all – 7 Dunhills (one of them, a Shell Bulldog, has a burned out bowl), 2 Charatans, and a Savinelli Autograph. His pipes are worn and dirty and for some folks they have a lot of damage and wear that reduce their value. To me each one tells a story. I only wish they could speak and talk about the travels they have had with Farida’s Dad.
In the midst of restoring this Classic Series Dunhill and thinking about its travels, Farida sent me an email with a short write up on her Dad. She remembered that I had asked her for it so that I could have a sense of the stories of her Dad’s pipes. Here is what she wrote: My dad, John Barber, loved his pipes. He was a huge fan of Dunhill and his favourite smoke was St. Bruno. No one ever complained of the smell of St. Bruno, we all loved it. I see the bowls and they’re large because he had big hands. When he was finished with his couple of puffs, he would grasp the bowl in the palm of his hand, holding the warmth as the embers faded. The rough bowled pipes were for daytime and especially if he was fixing something. The smooth bowled pipes were for an evening with a glass of brandy and a good movie. In his 20s, he was an adventurer travelling the world on ships as their radio operator. He spent a year in the Antarctic, a year in the Arctic and stopped in most ports in all the other continents. He immigrated to Canada in the mid-fifties, working on the BC Ferries earning money to pay for his education. He graduated from UBC as an engineer and spent the rest of his working life as a consultant, mostly to the mining companies. Whatever he was doing though, his pipe was always close by.
Thanks Farida that explains a lot about their condition. If your Dad was rarely without a pipe I can certainly tell which pipes were his favourites. As I looked over the pipes I noted that each of them had extensive rim damage and some had deeply burned gouges in the rim tops. The bowls seemed to have been reamed not too long ago because they did not show the amount of cake I would have expected. The stems were all covered with deep tooth marks and chatter and were oxidized and dirty. The internals of the mortise, the airway in the shank and stem were filled with tars and oils. I took pictures of the Dunhill pipes in the collection. These were some nice looking pipes when her Dad bought them and they would be nice looking one more when I finished.
The second pipe that I am working on is a large Group 5 S Shell Billiard. I have circled in the above three photos in blue to identify it for you. It has a gold band that reads Dunhill Classic Series. It is good looking billiard. The Classic Series was produced by Dunhill in 199O as part of homage to their heritage and would make a great pipe for when you are out and about in the evening. When it was released it was a classic black Shell Briar in an equally classic shape, complete with a distinctive gold colored band. The pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank with the shape number LBS F/T. The first digit of the number is missing because of the sandblast, but it is a shape LBS and F/T for Fish Tail stem. Next to that it read Dunhill Shell over Made in England 30. There is a shape number after the Made in England stamping 997 (987?). Dating this pipe is a fairly easy proposition. You take the two digits following the D in England and add them to 1960. In this case it is 1960+30= 1980. (Pipephil’s site has a helpful dating tool for Dunhill pipes that I use regularly http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shell-briar1.html).
It was in pretty rough shape. The bowl was so dirty and caked with grime that it was very hard to tell what condition it was in. The finish was dull and caked with oils in all of the grooves and valleys of the sandblast. The top of the rim was rough and the inner edge was badly damaged. There were spots on the front of the rim top and at the rear that had deep burns into the briar just like the first pipe from this estate. The briar was burned to a point where I could pick it out with my fingernail. The shank was so dirty that the stem would not properly seat in the mortise. The stem was also a little rough – tooth marks on both sides near and in the button itself. The top side the button is quite thin and worn down. There is a deep tooth mark on the underside near the button and lots of chatter on both sides. It was oxidized and there was some calcification on the first inch of the stem. I took some photos of the pipe before I started to clean it up. I took close up photos of the rim top, the gold band and the stem. You can see from the photo the thick cake I the bowl overflowing lava onto the rim top. You can also see damage to the front, inner edge of the rim and the back left inner edge. There appears to be some serious gouges in those areas and also along the entire inner edge. The amount and extent of the damage will only be clear once the bowl is reamed and cleaned. The gold band on the shank says Dunhill Classic Series and it is in excellent condition. The stem has some deep bite marks on the top edge of the button and on the underside of the stem just ahead of the button. There is a lot of calcification and wear on the rest of the stem as well. I reamed the bowl with PipNet pipe reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up the third sized head. I took the cake back to bare briar. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to finish up the reaming and also to clean up the damaged areas. They turned out to be burn damage so I scraped out the damaged briar until I got to a solid base. The bowl exterior was so encrusted in grime and oils that it was hard to see the sandblast finish. All of the grooves, nooks and crannies of the Shell finish were not visible due to the coating filling them in. I scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap under warm running water to flush away the grime as the soap loosened it from the finish. I scrubbed until the finish was clean. The draw back in this case was that it removed the black Classic stain. The good news was that I could see some amazing grain in the sandblast. I knew that restaining it would not be an issue so it was good to see what was present. The damage to the rim top and inner edge is very visible in the third photo below. The heaviest damage is to the back edge of the rim top and it extends almost to the outer edge of the rim. I had several options to consider in repairing the damage. I could top the bowl and lose the rest of the nice blast on the rim top or I could repair and buildup the rim top with briar dust and super glue. To top it would require remove a lot of briar due to the depth of the damage on the back side. I decided to go with rebuilding the rim top and edges. I layered on clear super glue and briar dust with a dental spatula on both damaged areas until I had it built up even with the rest of the rim. I rebuilt the inner edge of the rim the same way keeping the super glue out of the bowl itself. You will notice in the three pictures that follow that I don’t worry too much about the dust in the bowl as I will sand it out once the repair is hardened. I scraped out the inside of the bowl with the edge of the spatula to knock off high spots along the inside edge. I sanded the bowl with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge and to sand down the walls of the bowl. I blew out the sanding dust through the shank. I also scraped the top of the rim with the edge of the spatula and knocked off high spots. The first three photos below show the repair rim top and edge. I put a dental burr in the Dremel and copied the sandblast pattern that was on the rest of the rim onto the repaired areas. I ran the Dremel at just below the 10 marker in terms of speed and carefully etched the surface of the briar. The fourth photo shows the rim top after I had used the Dremel on it. I used a brass bristle wire brush to clean up the surface of the rim and it was ready to stain. I put a cork in the bowl to hold on to and stained the entire pipe with a black aniline stain to bring it back to match the colour of the pipe in photos. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it. I repeated the process until the coverage was even all over the bowl. I set aside the bowl to let the stain dry overnight. In the morning I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the sandblast with my finger tips to deep clean the finish, enliven and protect the wood. I buffed the pipe with a horsehair shoe shine brush to get it into the grooves of the plateau. I let it sit for a few minutes and then buffed it with a cotton cloth. The pipe came alive 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. With the bowl finished (except for buffing) I set it aside and worked on the stem. The stem was dirty and had some significant damage to the top side on the button and a large deep tooth mark on the underside. I cleaned up the damaged areas with alcohol and cotton pads. Once the areas were clean I built up the damaged areas on both sides of near the button with black super glue. I rebuilt the button on both sides as well. I set the stem aside to let the glue cure. Once the super glue patch had dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface of the repairs. The topside of the button was far better than when I started. The tooth mark in the underside was filled in and smoothed out. More sanding and filling to do to cover the air bubbles but it was looking good.I decided to take a break from the sanding for a bit and cleaned out the stem and the shank. I cleaned out the airway and the slot in the stem and the mortise and airway in the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I worked them over until they were clean.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 them down after each pad with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine to take out some of the tiny scratches in the vulcanite. I finished by rubbing it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond being careful to not fill the grooves in the blast with the polishing compound. I used a regular touch on the stem to polish out any remaining scratches. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the second of six Dunhill pipes that I am restoring from Farida’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Farida thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. I will be posting it on the rebornpipes store as she wants to sell them for the estate. It should make a nice addition to a new pipeman’s rack that can carry on the trust from her father. The dimensions are; Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me it was a challenging and worthwhile pipe to work on. Cheers.