Blog by Steve Laug
My brother Jeff sent me photos of a pipe that a fellow he knows was selling. The fellow had picked it up on one of his pipe hunting expeditions. It was an intricately carved briar pipe with a horn stem. The bowl was encircled in oak leaves with acorns both fully developed and partially developed. The shank was made up of the stem of the leaves and it was held in a hand. The underside of the shank had fingers and thumb wrapped around the stem on the leaves. There was also bark of a branch. The striations of the bark ran the length of the shank to the oak leaves and stems. The top of the rim had some darkening and a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The inside of the bowl had a thin coat of cake and some debris in the bottom of the bowl. The horn stem had tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem and some tooth chatter. On the underside there were some worm holes next to the shank/stem junction. One was fairly shallow next to the stem and the other going across the stem was quite a bit deeper. I took photos of the rim top and the stem surfaces both top and underside to show the condition of the pipe when it came to me. You can see the damage on the rim top though the bowl is still in round. There was no damage to the inner or outer edge of the rim. The buildup of lava would need to be scraped away. The stem photos show the tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button and the worm holes near the shank/stem junction.I cleaned the surface of the stem with alcohol on cotton swabs and pads to remove the grime in the holes. I dried them out and then filed them in holes with clear super glue. The small hole was quite simple to fill while the larger one across the stem was deeper and more complicated to repair. It took multiple layers of glue to fill it in until it was even with the surface of the stem. The second photo below shows the filled in holes. The glue dried and turned darker than the rest of the stem. However the surface of the stem was smooth to the touch. I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper after they had hardened to blend them into the surface of the stem. I wiped the stem down with a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust left behind on the stem surface.I lightly topped the bowl on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board to remove the damage and the lava overflow.I rubbed Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar to enliven, clean and protect it. I used cotton swabs and folded pipe cleaners to work the Balm into all of the carved grooves. I buffed it with a soft cotton cloth. I buffed it with a shoe brush to further work the Balm into the grooves and polish it. I polished the rim top with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching in the briar left behind by the sandpaper. Once it was polished I touch it up with a Cherry stain touch up pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. I buffed the rim top with a soft cotton cloth to bring a shine.I cleaned out the interior of the mortise, shank and airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It was dirty but not overly so – the pipe appeared to have been lightly smoked.I polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1200-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. Each pad brought a deeper shine to the surface of the horn. The tenon appears to be horn and it was pretty clean. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I buffed the stem with a clean cotton pad. While I was in Idaho I found a cast Elk head pipe rack made by Comoy’s of London. It is a unique one and it works very well to hold this large pipe. I screwed the stem back into the shank and buffed the bowl and shank with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. I put the pipe in the Elk pipe rack and took photos of the pipe. This large, ornately carved oak leaf briar bowl and shank is quite stunning. There a places on the underside of the shank where you could see air through the space between the base of the bowl and shank and the curve of the stems held in the hand. The rim top is smooth and clean and looks much better. The horn stem is of nice quality and after the repairs it shined up well. I hand buffed the bowl and the stem with a shoe brush to raise the shine on the briar and the polished horn stem. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a shoe brush and 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 rich colour of the horn stem. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 9 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 7/16 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 7/8 inches. This intricately carved knife will fit really nicely into my collection of antique pipes. I think that this will be a great pipe to smoke and should deliver a clean dry smoke. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.