Blog by Steve Laug
A few weeks back I received an email from Anthony, a reader of rebornpipes asking if I would be willing to help him clean up his Dad’s pipes. He wrote; “I have a few pipes (8 or so) that haven’t been smoked in 15 years. They were my dad’s. I would like to get someone to restore them”. We chatted back and forth via email and the long and short of the story is that I have eight of his Dad’s pipes in my shop now to work on. The photo below shows the mixture of pipes that he sent me. There are some interesting shapes and most are very dirty and have very little if any of the original finish left on the briar. All have an overflow of carbon on the rim top and all have damaged stems and buttons. They will need a lot of TLC to bring life back to them but it should be fun to give it a go. I went through the pipes and assessed their condition and contacted him and got the go ahead to proceed on the lot.The second pipe I chose to work on was the homemade alternative wood one in the lower right side of the photo. I have circled in red. It could be walnut or possibly mahogany but I am not sure. It is a single unit from bowl to button with a wooden stem. The bowl is a tall stack. Whoever carved it line the bowl with metal (looks like sheet metal). It was shaped into a cone and inserted into the bowl. It goes to the bottom of the bowl. In the bowl bottom is the airway entering the airway below that comes from the shank. It is quite large and has some very interesting grain. The metal rim top has a piece missing but it looks like it was made this way. It is dented and dinged from being knocked about. The bowl has some cake and some oxidation and grime from sitting for the years. The wooden stem is heavily chewed and has some damage on both sides around the button. There are pieces of the wood missing on the top and bottom and some deep tooth marks and gouges on both sides. It will need to be reshaped and rebuilt. The mouthpiece end is also lightened and worn. Like the other pipes in this collection the finish is all but gone – it is faded and lightened from sun exposure and possibly weather. I took photos of the pipe to show its overall condition when it arrived at my work table. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and the stem to show what I was going to be dealing with on this pipe. The rim top was hammered sheet metal that formed the top edge of a metal bowl insert that went to the bottom of the bowl. It was pitted and tarnished as well as having a fair bit of tar in the pits. There was a triangular piece missing from the rim top that looks like it was made that way. It is a long the seam of the bowl liner. The wooden, integral stem was in pretty rough condition. There was a lot of chewing damage to the surface of the stem and button. There were tooth marks on both sides of the stem and button and some deep chunks out of the top and underside of the button. You can also see the damage to the wood from being wet from saliva. This old pipe had obviously been one of Anthony’s Dad’s favourites.I like working on clean pipes so I decided to clean up both the inside and outside of the bowl and shank. I reamed it with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife as the bowl is very narrow and deep. It is lined with metal all the way down so I did not want to risk damaging the metal so I used the knife to gingerly work over the interior until it was clean. I wrapped a piece of dowel with 220 grit sandpaper and sanded out the inside of the bowl to remove the remnants of cake and debris on the walls of the bowl. I repaired the deeper tooth marks on the chewed stem end and button with super glue and briar dust. I rebuilt the chewed and damaged button and opened the airway with an awl and needle file. Once I was happy with the repairs I set it aside to let the glue cure. It did not take too long as we are having a bit of a heat wave here in Vancouver.I reshaped the button edge and surface of the stem with a needle file to clean up the look and feel of the button and the stem. Once the shape was right I filled in some of the remaining spots on the button surface and the stem surface with glue.I sanded the surface of the stem and button with a folded piece of 220 sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and further reshape the stem. It was starting to look a lot better, but more sanding and shaping was required.I did a bit more shaping work with the sandpaper and then sanded the entire pipe with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. I wanted to remove some of the roughness of the wood that came with the damage. As I sanded more and more of the interesting grain became visible. This was a nice looking pipe.I used a small hammer to tap out the damage on the metal rim. You can see how clean the bowl is in the photo below.Instead of scrubbing the already water damaged pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsing it, to clean the wood with Before & After Pipe Balm. I rubbed it into the surface of the wood with my finger tips and worked it into the grain. The product did its magic and enlivened, cleaned and gave the wood a rich glow. I still had more work to do repairing some of the damaged areas but the pipe was beginning to take on the look it must have had when Anthony’s Dad either made it or bought it. The photos show what it looked like at this point. With the finish clean I could see some of the damaged areas on the bowl/shank joint and the shank itself. I wiped those areas off with alcohol on cotton pads and filled in the damaged spots with clear super glue.I smoothed out the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the bowl and shank. I repeated the process with 600 grit sandpaper to further smooth out the scratches. I polished it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I took photos of the pipe at this point to get an idea of where things stood now. I find that looking at photos highlights things that I don’t see up close. I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to see where things stood after the buffing. I took the following photos. The first four photos show the overall look of the pipe. These are followed by some close up photos of the stem at this point in the process. It is really becoming a beautiful looking pipe. I polished the pipe with the rest of the micromesh sanding pads – 3200-120000 grit pads. I wiped the pipe down with a damp cotton pad after each pad. Once I had finished the polishing with the micromesh I wiped the pipe down with a light coat of olive oil. I polished the pipe with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the pipe multiple 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 second of eight pipes that I am restoring from Anthony’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Anthony thinks once he sees the finished pipe on the blog. Once I have the remaining six pipes finished I will pack them up and send them back to him. It will give him opportunity to carrying on the trust from his Dad. The dimensions are Length: 8 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe from Anthony’s Dad’s collection. Six more will follow this restoration. Keep an eye out for them because there are some unique pipes in the lot.