Blog by Steve Laug
Paresh, my friend in India reached out to me over Whatsapp to talk about a few more of his Grandfather’s pipes. He was confident in working on many of them but there were a few that he wanted me to try my hand on. His wife Abha would ream and clean them for me so I would be able to start with a relatively clean pipe. The first of these was a beautiful older WDC Bulldog with an amber coloured Bakelite stem. It was in rough condition when Paresh and Abha started working on it. They reamed the thick hard cake with a KleenReem pipe reamer and clean up the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap. They also cleaned the interior with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The rim top had a thick over flow of lava that hid the briar that Paresh topped to smooth out. There was some darkening to the rim top and down the sides of the bowl cap. The briar was very dirty. There was a gold stamped WDC triangle on the left side of the shank and a brass decorative band that was loose. The stem was a mess. There was a large chunk of the Bakelite missing on the underside and deep tooth marks on the top and underside near and on the surface of the button. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition when it arrived.You can see the work that Paresh and Abha had done to the rim top to clean it up and remove the damage. He had also worked over the inner edge of the bowl to smooth out the damage to the edge. You can also see the extensive damage to the stem in these photos.I took some close up photos of the bowl and stem to give a better idea of what I was working with on this pipe. The rim top was clean but there was darkening down the edges of the cap for about a quarter of an inch. The stem was a mess. Paresh had tried to repair the damage and tooth marks with some clear super glue that he picked up in India. He found that it was inferior and did not harden quickly. Once it did the repair tended to fall out. It was very frustrating. He was able to patch the tooth marks on the stem but not the missing chunk at the stem/shank union.The bowl was the easiest part of the restoration on this old pipe so I started there. I worked on the darkening along the top edge of the cap and was able to remove it with micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500-2400 grit pads to remove the damage and then polished it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cotton pad after each pad to check out the progress. I polished the rim top at the same time. The photos tell the story. With the rim darkening removed and the rim and cap polished it was time to touch up the stain to blend it into the rest of the bowl. I used a Mahogany stain pen and stained the cap and the rim top. The match was a little darker than I wanted and not as transparent either. I wetted a cotton pad with alcohol and wiped down the cap to blend the stain and make it more transparent. This did the trick and I was happy with the finished colour. The photos show the process. I slipped the loose brass shank cap/band off the shank and used a tooth pick to put some all-purpose glue around the shank end. I pressed the band in place on the shank and wiped off the excess glue that squeezed out with a damp cotton pad.The briar was clean but dried out and in need of some deep cleaning. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a needle file to clean up the edges of the button on both sides. I also used the file to smooth out the repairs that Paresh had made to the tooth marks on the surface of the stem. He had done a good job and now it was time to blend them into the surface of the stem.I sanded the file marks out of the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper and blended the repairs into the surface of the stem. I filled in the missing chunk of Bakelite with multiple layers of amber super glue. I could have used clear glue but I had the amber around and it is a thicker product so it used it. I use layers so that the repair does not get to thick. It makes the drying time shorter and I think it gives a better bond.I laid the stem aside and went to bed. I touched up the final layer of glue in the morning and went to work. The stem had the entire day to cure. When I returned in the evening I sanded the repaired area with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the entire stem surface to make the flow of the taper correct. I would need to add some more glue to the patch but progress was being made. Slowly but surely I was conquering this repair.I touched up the glue repairs and wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I took the next two photos to send on Whatsapp to Paresh and Abha. The stem is looking really good. There is still a lot of polishing to do but it is getting there.I polished the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches and polish the Bakelite.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I carefully polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond (using a soft touch) to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I gave the stem several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a soft cloth. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The transparent medium brownish red stain worked really well with the golden/amber Bakelite stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 4 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. This is the first of three of Paresh’s Grandfather’s pipes that he sent me to finish. I will set it aside and when the others are finished I will pack them up and send them back to India. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of it once he gets to load it with his favourite tobacco and carry on the pipe man’s legacy of his Grandfather. Thanks for walking through this restoration with me as I worked over this beauty.