Restoring Barry’s Dad’s Pipes #5 – a French GBD Speciale Canadian

Blog by Steve Laug

I have been including some of the back story in each of the restorations of these pipes because to me the story gives colour to the pipe as I work on it. I am including it once again. Skip over it if you want to. Late in the summer of 2017 I received an email on rebornpipes blog from Barry in Portland, Oregon. He wanted to know if I would be interested in purchasing his Dad’s pipes. I have finished three of them so far, a 1939 Dunhill Patent Shell Bulldog, a Comoy’s Grand Slam Zulu and a Comoy’s London Pride Liverpool. After I finished the second pipe Barry wrote me an email that gave me a little more information on his Dad and incidentally on himself as this pipe was one of his own. Here is what he wrote me.

Steve, — Another great restoration and writing to go with it. I appreciate these pipes more watching the work it takes to get them in good condition.

Your (mine?) floral words about my father are perhaps a little deceptive. Inside that man was a lifelong Bolshevik. Who yearned for the revolution and settled for the party of Roosevelt. His parents were born in the Russian Empire (Ukraine), his father having escaped after brief detention during the 1905 failed uprising and to avoid conscription. His father was gruff, a bit crude and all politics. Given those origins he made the best of himself, had tons of friends and would have been a great social worker.

I misled you on the origin of his pipe conversion. It seems clear based on the 1939 pipe that he smoked a pipe in college, returning to them after the 1964 Surgeon General ‘s report on the danger of cigarettes. After that he only reverted to cigarettes at moments of great stress, a death, business setback or a fight with his wife.

He gave me two pipes in college – the GBD bulldog and a “Parker”. The latter I used to smoke a few times but found I was allergic to it, fortunately. The GBD was to get girls with an MGB, a Harris Tweed sport coat with leather elbow patches and jug wine. Didn’t work. Stanford women were in revolt and saw through the pretense. I put both pipes away for nearly fifty years and now they are in your good hands. — Barry

Barry and I corresponded back and forth and concluded our deal. I became the proud owner of his Dad’s pipes. The inventory of the pipes he would be sending included some real beauties – Comoy’s, Parkers, Dunhills and some no name brands. They were beautiful and I could not wait to see them. I had him send them to Jeff where he would clean them up before I received them. Jeff took some photos of the lot as he opened the box. Each pipe was individually wrapped with bubble wrap and taped to protect them. There were 25 bubble wrapped packages and a lot of pipe accessories included – pipe racks, reamers, scrapers and Comoy’s filters and washers. There were pipe pouches and a wooden cigar box that held all of the accessories and reamers. There was a boxed KleenReem pipe reamer that was virtually unused. Jeff unwrapped the pipes and took pictures of the estate showing both the pipes and the accessories. Barry had labeled each pipe with a sticky note. It was an amazing addition to my pipe and tool collection. The next pipe I chose to work on from the collection was GBD Canadian with a cracked shank. The shank had been repaired with a piece of tape. In the photo above it is the pipe on the bottom of the three GBD pipes. I have no idea once again if this is an original stem. I do not think it is as there is no rondel on the stem top. It was stamped on the top side of the shank vertically near the shank bowl union and reads GBD in an oval over Speciale. On the underside of the shank it reads Paris over France. There is no shape number present on this pipe. I was unfamiliar with the  Speciale line and had never seen a GBD stamped in this manner. I looked it up on Pipedia to check out the various GBD Lines and found that it was not listed on the charts that I could access on the web.

This petite Canadian was interesting to me in that it was a GBD line that I had not seen before and because it had some beautiful grain on the bowl and shank. The shank had two cracks on the underside and the cracks met and a small piece of briar was loose. The classic Canadian shape has an oval shank. The finish was dirty and filled with the detritus of years of use followed by sitting unused. The bowl was thickly caked and had an overflow of lava on the rim top. The outer edges of the rim were rough from knocking the pipe against something hard. There was some burning on the top front of the rim. Even through the grime and grit the amazing birdseye on the sides and cross grain on the front and back of the bowl. The crack in the shank has been glued and taped back together with a piece of black electrical tape. The stem is a short oval shape and fits in the shank very well. It is most likely not the original stem as it does not have a brass rondel on the top side. It could certainly be a well-made replacement stem that his father had paid a great craftsman to make for the pipe as he had for several of his other pipes. It was lightly oxidized and had tooth chatter and deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up. As usual the photos tell the story better than my words can. He took some close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake and the condition. The outer edges of the rim show damage. The top of the rim had some lava build up and had scratches and nicks in the surface. He also took a photo of the underside of the bowl to show the grain. It is a really nice piece of briar and should clean up well. He also photographed the stamping on both sides of the shank to show what it read and the condition of the stamping. The topside of the shank is stamped with the GBD oval over Speciale and on the underside it is stamped Paris over France. Someone had taped the cracked shank and stem together with black electrical tape. Jeff removed the tape and took photos of the shank repair. The stem was made of hard rubber and was oxidized as mentioned above and had tooth chatter and marks. There was also some calcification on the stem surfaces. Jeff took photos of both sides of the stem to capture their condition before he cleaned the pipe.Jeff once again did his usual great job on cleaning this pipe, leaving it pristine and without damage to the finish. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the remnants with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime of the smooth finish on the bowl and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. Once the dust and debris were removed the finish looked very good.  He soaked the stem in Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to remove the light oxidation, rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and damaged areas around the outer edge of the bowl. The front edge was rounded over. The bowl was very clean and the rim top had some nicks on both the inner and outer, some scorching and general darkening. Jeff had been able to remove the lava from the finish. The inner edge was in good condition and the roughness of the outer edge was visible. The stem is lightly oxidized as can be seen in the photos and has small tooth marks near the button on both sides.I took some photos of the cracked shank to show the damage. I put the stem back in place to show how the crack opened when the stem was present.I took out the broken chip of briar and glued the edges and pressed in place in the shank. I held it in place until it dried. Once the glue had dried I took a band out of the box that would work on the shank. I pressed it into an oval. I heated it and pressed it onto the shank by pressing it against the desk pad. The photos show the process of banding the shank. I put the stem back in the shank and took photos of the pipe with the stem in place. The band actually looks really good on the pipe and works well with the briar and vulcanite. I took close up photos of the fit of the stem against the band.I started working on the stem next. The photos show the process of the stem work. I used a Bic lighter to “paint” the tooth marks on the surface of the stem to raise the dents in the vulcanite. I was able to raise them quite a bit. I sanded out the tooth chatter and the lighter tooth marks next to the button on both sides with 220 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem surface clean with a damp cloth. I dried if off and filled in the dents with clear super glue. Once the glue had cured I sanded it with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the surface of the vulcanite. I polished stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish, both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. To remove the damage on the rim I decided to top the bowl. I used 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board to remove the damage. I worked on it until the top was smooth and the damage on the outer edge of the bowl was minimized. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damages along the outer rim. I used it to also work on the inner edge of the bowl. I gave the inner edge a slight bevel like it original had before I started.I polished the rim with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad to check on the progress. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar on the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect it. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed. This GBD Speciale Canadian is a beauty. The grain on the bowl and shank is really stunning. The rim top looks much better. The nickel band works well with the briar and the black vulcanite. I am not sure the stem is original or a replacement but it is definitely older. Once again I would guess that Barry’s Dad replaced the stem somewhere along the journey of its life. I suppose we will never know. The vulcanite is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. 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 rich brown stain allows the grain to really stand out on this little pipe and it works well with the polished nickel band and the rich black of the vulcanite stem. This GBD Speciale Canadian, Paris, France is a beautiful looking pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 5/8 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 1/4 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inches. This old pipe will fit really well in someone’s collection. The richness of the grain, the band and the polished will stand out as a nice smaller Canadian. There is something about these older GBDs that add a touch of real class to a collection. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.


3 thoughts on “Restoring Barry’s Dad’s Pipes #5 – a French GBD Speciale Canadian

  1. Roland Borchers

    If memory serves me correctly the GBD Paris plant closed gates somewhere around 1954, which makes the wonderful canadian quire rare.
    I own one speciale standard Paris made and have not seen one since.
    Congrats !

  2. ThePipeSteward - Dal in Bulgaria

    Great looking pipe, Steve. The band looks good and secures the cracked shank. Thanks for a refresher on the backstory with Barry’s Ukrainian heritage. With my years working in Ukraine, I appreciate the struggles that the people have faced there.


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