Daily Archives: March 10, 2018

An Ornery Falcon International Bulldog

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

If you get to thinking you’re a person of some importance, try ordering someone else’s dog around.

— William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (1879-1935), U.S. stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, newspaper columnist and social humorist


I came to understand the humorous comment above before push even came to shove with this Falcon International bent bulldog.  When I stumbled upon it on eBay, the metal system pipe’s most endearing aspect – that’s sarcasm, by the way – was its color, or rather, apparent lack of any.  Although I’m sure they exist, I had never seen one dressed all in black, or so I thought.  If for no other reason, as if I needed one, I had to have this thing, maybe to see if I could restore the rather ugly example of a type of pipe known for the more common sleek, shiny aluminum stems (which include the bit, shank and system filter dish) to the original condition.  But, of course, the threaded bowl coated with a thick black varnish did create a temptation, whether subconscious or not, to discover what lay beneath, and perhaps improve upon the condition, to my own way of thinking.

Understand, I have nothing against dress pipes, also called dinner or ebony, and have owned some remarkable representatives, from a Nat Sherman #862 billiard to a Peterson Kilarney #150 bulldog.  The International I purchased just seemed a bit wrong in that company.  I suppose my growing codger inclinations might be making me a tad old-fashioned, but in my humble opinion, the only proper place for a dress pipe is among fashionable all wood varieties.  I’ve always been against discrimination, but if that’s what this is, so be it!

Created in 1936 by an American engineer named Kenley Bugg, the Falcon idea was to use a novel system design that provided for the tobacco smoke and resulting moisture to pass from an interchangeable wooden bowl that screwed onto the dish.  The Humidome., as the small aluminum area was known, trapped the dottle that would have ended up in the unfortunate smoker’s mouth, or worse yet, all the way to his stomach.  The revolutionary arrangement of the parts presented other benefits such as ease of cleaning and maintaining, not to mention that if an owner were so crass as to burn out, crack or otherwise lay waste to the bowl, instead of tossing the entire pipe, all that was needed was a less expensive replacement bowl.  Truly this must have been the dawn of the disposable age!  However, the greatest achievement of the Falcon is the potential lack of any need to give the pipes a resting period – again because of the interchangeability of the bowls.  One frame had the potential to facilitate countless pipes.

At first an oddity that some pipers embraced as such or owing to P.A.D., which must have afflicted some though likely fewer connoisseurs then as now, after World War II the situation that could have been called a fad began to turn into serious business.  More than six million of the increasing Falcon models sold during the brief nine years from 1958 to 1963 in the U.S. alone.  Current worldwide sales figures are hard to come by, but from 1958-1974, Falcon sold more than 14 million pipes outside the U.S.

In a blog I wrote in January 2016 about the restorations of two different brands of similar pipes, one a Kaywoodie and the other a Delta, I concluded that Frederick Kirsten was the original inventor of the metal system pipe.  This may be true, but the fact remains that both Kirsten and Bugg came up with independent designs the same year: 1936.  Kirsten, however, filed for his U.S. Patent № 112,701 in 1937, while Bugg’s U.S. Patent № 2,561,169 wasn’t filed until 1947.  And so, who is the father of the metal system pipe?  We may never know. Here are the problems I saw to some extent in the eBay photos, but (surprise, surprise) with much more clarity using my own eyes and, better yet, taking pics, which always seems to reveal more.

  1. The briar bowl was coarse from whatever inappropriate black substance was used to “stain” it – much like the type of result one sees when the covered surface is not smooth enough.
  2. The right side of the base where the bowl screws in appeared to have a wicked scrape at best or a crack at worst.
  3. The rim was charred and dinged, and the coating was gone.
  4. The indented circular groove of the bulldog shape had a reddish tinge I suspected was the result of wear.
  5. The chamber had been cleaned but was crude, as if it had never been smoothed and sanded.
  6. The inside of the Humidome was dirty, but not very.
  7. The round, hard rubbery seal on the bottom of the bowl was grimy, and its hole was caked with sticky old tobacco by-products.
  8. The shape I saw on the lower top side of the bit looked more like a gash than a deliberate mark, and the tenon had an unnatural, uniform rawness.
  9. The overall appearance of the pipe was that it was all metal.

A good friend once told me I’m attracted to wounded people and things, and the International had all the earmarks of a nice challenge.


Now, I really do try not to resort to alcohol stripping and/or sanding when less invasive measures will do.  Nevertheless, this called for more than the ideal.  Also, I had decided I needed to uncover the briar beneath the unholy glaze covering if only to see how bad it could be.  I soaked the bowl except for the rubbery seal in isopropyl alcohol for 10 hours, but confidence was high there would be minimal if any effect.  The last pic shows some of the crud I scraped out from around the hole.  Next, I used the 150-grit side of a sanding pad followed by 220-grit paper with somewhat better results.  The near absence of any grain at all explained why the folks at Falcon chose to obliterate it, although the use of varnish or some other glaze is never justified. Note the sparkling bits within the toxic coal black substance, which prevented the wood from expanding, or breathing to use the more apt word, when tobacco was lit.   The coal black almost debris covered the pad that has a normal maroon color.  The bowl needed another couple of hours in alcohol.  I have to say I was surprised by the improvement in the general look and color a full micro mesh progression made. Sanding the chamber with 150-, 320- and 600-grit paper worked well to render it smooth.Cleaning the Humidome with a cotton pad soaked with alcohol and a small piece of superfine 0000 steel wool was simple.I think this was the first time I worked on a pipe when the bit was dirtier than the shank.At last, my favorite part arrived – staining and flaming the wood.  Only the 8000 and 12000 micro mesh was needed to clear away the soot and improve the color.The last part was micro meshing the stem to remove scratches.  In the process, the apparent gash or crack turned out to be just a bigger scratch that almost disappeared. I gave the whole thing three coats of carnauba only. CONCLUSION

I chose to leave good enough alone concerning the remaining minor scratches on the stem.  I’ve tried to stain metal before, and it’s a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re doing.  My friend Don Gilmore, who makes beautiful pipes and accessories, is knowledgeable about Falcons in general.  He had never seen one with the rounded shank and told me at last months pipe club meting he thought it might be a Chinese knock-off.  He suggested I check Smoking Metal, and when I showed him the following pic from that site he was relieved.  So was I.

Falcon Internationals courtesy Smoking Metal

This is one unusual example of the company’s products I wanted to add to my own collection.  But I decided to offer it for sale at my online store, https://www.facebook.com/rebornpipes/ (click on Store in the left column).  I hope it finds a good home.



Farida’s Dad’s Pipes #4 – Restoring a Dunhill Red Bark Pot 43061

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.

When I wrote the blog on the 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. 

She sent along this photo of him with his sled dogs in the Antarctic sometime in 1953-1954. It is a fascinating photo showing him with a pipe in his mouth. He is happily rough housing with his dogs. As a true pipeman the cold does not seem to bother him at all.Thank you Farida for sending the photo and the background story on your Dad for me to use on the blog. I find that it really explains a lot about their condition and gives me a sense of who Dad was. 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. These were nice looking pipes when her Dad bought them and they would be nice looking one more when I finished.

I finished two of the pipes and have written a blog on each of them. The first one was the Dunhill Shell with the oval shank pot (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/04/restoring-a-1983-dunhill-shell-41009-oval-shank-pot/) and the second was the Dunhill Classic Series Shell Billiard (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/08/faridas-dads-pipes-2-restoring-a-1990-lbs-classic-series-dunhill-shell-billiard/). The third pipe I restored from the estate was a Savinelli Autograph (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/15/faridas-dads-pipes-3-restoring-a-savinelli-autograph-4/).

I went back to the Dunhills today so I chose to work on a Dunhill Red Bark 43061 pot. It was so dirty it was hard to tell what it looked like under the thick grime. The blast itself was almost filled in with thick, oily grime. I wiped the grime off the underside of the shank to be able to read the stamping. It was worn but readable. On the bottom of the bowl is the 43061 shape number. Next to that it is stamped Dunhill Red Bark over Made in England 17.  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+17= 1977. (Pipephil’s site has a helpful dating tool for Dunhill pipes that I use regularly http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/redbark1.html). The bowl was thickly caked and the cake had flowed over onto the light sandblast finish on the rim top forming a hard lava that made the top almost smooth. The inner and outer edges of the rim were damaged. On the front of the bowl the rim had been scraped and damaged and then burned. On the back edge there was the same kind of damage that was on the other Dunhill pipes in this estate. This one however was not quite as deep so it would need to be dealt with a bit differently when I got to that point. The stem was oxidized and calcified at the button end. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides in front of the button. The Dunhill white spot was intact on the top of the stem. I took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before I started the cleanup work. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The stem has tooth chatter and some deep bite marks on the top edge of the button and a deep tooth mark 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 a PipNet reamer and I had to use three of the four cutting heads to clean out the cake. The bowl thickly caked so I started with the smallest of the three and worked my way up to the third which was about the same size as the bowl diameter. I took back the cake to bare briar. I took a photo of the cleaned bowl. I scrubbed the surface of the sandblast with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean out all of the dust. I worked on the top of the rim with a brass bristle wire brush and a brass bristle polishing brush to remove the lava on the rim. I scrubbed the stem with the tooth brush as well to remove the calcification and grime. I rinsed the pipe under warm running water to remove the dirt, grime and soap. I dried off the bowl with a soft rag. The cleaned and scrubbed pipe really made the rim top damage very clear. It looked to me that I would need to top the bowl. I cleaned up the reaming of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the remaining cake that was on the walls around the airway and the lower part of the bowl.I topped the bowl to remove the damage to the top surface of the rim and clean up the damage to the edges. I did not have to remove a lot and repeatedly checked it to make sure that I had removed enough but not too much.I used a series of dental burrs on the Dremel to etch a pattern into the top of the rim to blend it into the sandblast around the bowl sides. It was not a deep sandblast so the pattern on the rim needed to be random looking and not deep. I wanted it to blend in the damaged area on the back side of the rim. The photo below shows the rusticated rim top and the three burrs that I used to create it.I restained the bowl and rim with a Mahogany stain pen. I wanted to match the colour of the Red Bark shown in the photo below. After I stained the pipe with the Mahogany and I used a red oil based stain. I rubbed it onto the finish and buffed it off with a soft cloth. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish to clean, enliven and protect the new finish. It also evened out the stain coat and gave the stain a dimensional feel. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Once again I have gotten so used to Jeff cleaning the pipes before I got them I just I realized that I had not worked on the internals of the pipe. I looked down the shank and it was filthy as was to be expected. Arghhh. Went back to clean out the shank and airway in the stem and shank. I scraped the hardened tars on the walls of the mortise with a pen knife. I cleaned the mortise and the airway in the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean. I painted the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth dents in the underside of the stem. It took a few swaths of the lighter and the dents lifted. There was only one small pin prick left next to the button that would need to be repaired.  I repaired the remaining deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem with black super glue. Once it dried I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repaired tooth marks and chatter and removing the remnants of calcification and oxidation on the stem until the oxidation was removed.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to further protect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it a final rub down with the 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. I buffed the stem with a more aggressive buff of Blue Diamond. 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 fourth of Farida’s Dad’s pipes that I am restoring from his 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 very soon. It should make a nice addition to your pipe rack if you have been looking for a reasonably priced Dunhill. When you add it to your collection you carry on the trust from her father. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this estate Autograph. More of his pipes will follow including some Charatans and more Dunhills.