Blog by Steve Laug
I have been corresponding with Paresh for some time now and have repaired and restored two of his pipes and sent him others as well. We carry on conversation via WhatsApp on the internet and discuss the various pipes he is purchasing as well as ones that he has inherited from his grandfather. This little Aldo Velani was one of the first pipes that he sent me from India to work on. It took a long time to arrive. When it did it appeared as shown in the photos below. It was stamped Aldo Velani on the left side of the shank and Fumata on the underside of the right of the shank. It also had Italy stamped on the underside of the left of the shank next to the shank/stem union. I am assuming that the Fumata referred to the black paint like finish on the cap and partway down the bowl and the shank. It was flaking off and really did not look good. Paresh had reamed the bowl and cleaned the rim and in doing so did a great job removing the flaking finish on the rim. The bowl was clean as were the internals of the shank. When he was working on the acrylic stem the entire upper portion of the button broke off leaving the button top missing. I took close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition it was in when it arrived in Vancouver. You can see the rim is quite clean there are a few stubborn spots that will need to be worked on. You can also see the chipped portion missing from the button on the topside of the stem and the tooth marks in the underside of the button.The grain on the bowl was quite nice so I decided to remove the paint from the cap and the shank. I used acetone on a paper towel to work over the bowl. As you can see from the following photos the finish came off quite easily. There were some nicks and dents in the sides of the bowl and the twin rings around the cap were very dirty. I buffed the bowl once I had removed the finish to get a better idea of what I was working on and to see what the grain looked like at this point in the process. It really was a pretty little bulldog and with some sanding and polishing it would really look good. Personally I like the pipe better without the black rim cap. I sent pictures to Paresh on WhatsApp to show him the progress at this point and he also liked the new look of the bowl. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to cut off the damaged portion of the stem and give me solid material to work with to reshape and rebuild the button.I put the stem back on the bowl to have a look at what the pipe would be like now that the bowl was stripped and the stem was cut back. I sent the photos to Paresh on WhatsApp as a progress report. He liked the new look and said he could not wait to see what the stem looked like with the new button cut. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I cut the new button in the surface of the acrylic stem with a needle file. I did not worry about shaping it yet, I was more interested in getting the sharp edge defined. I matched the two sides of the button so that both sides would be equal. I sanded the surface of the stem on both sides with 220 grit sandpaper to further define the edge of the button. Once the edge was defined I built up the top and bottom surface of the button. I used clear super glue to add more definition to the button. I checked out the inside of the shank and noticed that there was a build up of hardened tars and oils on the walls of the mortise. I scraped them out with a dental spatula. I was able to remove a lot of hardened tars with the spatula. Once the inside was scraped clean I scrubbed the mortise and airway in the shank with alcohol, cotton swabs and bristle and smooth pipe cleaners until they came out clean. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with bristle pipe cleaners to remove more of the oils on the inside of the airway. Once the inside of the stem was clean I build up the newly cut button with clear super glue. It would take a lot of thin layers to get it to the point that I would be happy with it but it was starting to look like a button. When the repair had hardened I cleaned up the edges and the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I used needle files to funnel the slot in the end of the new button. The stem is definitely beginning to take shape at this point.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. When sanding Lucite it is important to wash the pads repeatedly to remove the fine sanding dust that otherwise clogs the pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth. The briar on the bowl has some nicks that are really character marks. I chose to leave them and not fill them in and sand them. To me they are parts of the story of the pipe. I decided to polish the briar and raise a shine. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove any sanding dust. The grain in the briar really began to stand out. I rubbed some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar to lift out the dust in the grain, enliven and protect the newly stripped bowl. I let it sit for a little while then buffed it off with a soft cloth. I like the way the grain stands out now. I am not going to stain the pipe as I like the way it looks at this point. I will check with Paresh and see if he wants me to darken it at all, but to me it looks grand. With the stem reshaped and polished I put it back on the pipe and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond. I used a light touch on the stem to polish out any remaining scratches. I gave the bowl 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 fifth pipe I have worked over for Paresh. Once I finish the other two pipes that he has in the queue I will pack them up and send them to India. I look forward to hearing what he thinks one he has them in hand. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as this one provided a few different challenges to the restoration craft. Cheers.