Converting a Brigham Voyageur 109 into a Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last pipe I am working on from the fellow here in Vancouver that he dropped off. There were 8 pipes in the lot – I have all eight of them now. This one is a Brigham bowl without the stem or other parts. The pipe is an apple shaped bowl that is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Brigham over Voyageur over 109 Italy in a smooth panel on the rusticated bowl. The shank end had nicks and chips but was in fair condition. There was no stem with the bowl. The stem would have had the lighter weight nylon system tenon since the pipe is one of the Italian made Brighams. It was another one of his pipe finds on a recent pipe hunt in Vancouver. The rusticated finish had almost a scale like rustication pattern with flecks of paint in the finish. The rim top was damaged and was darkened toward the back of the bowl. The finish was very dirty and there was a thick cake in the bowl.  When we had first spoken about this pipe we had talked about replacing the stem with a Brigham stem. I talked with Charles Lemon and he sent me a stem blank and an aluminum system shank for the Brigham. When it arrived I talked with the Vancouver fellow about that and together we came to the conclusion that a churchwarden stem might look good on it. I ordered some from JH Lowe and found that they only have one diameter size stem. I ordered it and when it arrived it was significantly smaller in diameter than the shank. I had an interesting copper ferrule that I thought might work to provide a different look to the pipe and provide a way of using the smaller diameter churchwarden stem. I slipped the ferrule on the shank and put the stem partially in place in the mortise and took the following photos to send to the fellow to see what he thought. He liked it so I moved forward.I slipped the ferrule off the shank and took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is very clear and readable. I sanded the outside of the shank to provide a smooth seat for the ferrule. I cleaned out the inside of the shank with a dental spatula to remove the heavy tar buildup on the shank walls. I heated the metal ferrule with a heat gun and pressed it onto the shank against a solid board.I heated the copper ferrule over a heat gun and pressed the ferrule onto the shank end. I repeated the process until it was set on the shank as far as I wanted it to be. To remove the paint flecks on the rusticated finish on the bowl I scrubbed it with a brass bristle wire brush and used a dental pick to remove the flecks. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust and debris from the finish. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Piper Reamer using the first two cutting heads to remove the majority of the cake. I cleaned up the remnants on the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I used a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand down the walls on the bowl. I cleaned out the airway in both the bowl and stem with alcohol (99% isopropyl), pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they were clean on the inside. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the finish on the small bowl. The briar was coming alive so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I also polished the smooth portions of the rustication with the micromesh pads at the same time. I wiped the rim top down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and took the photos that follow. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I turned the tenon down on the churchwarden stem with a PIMO tenon turning tool. I took it down to about the diameter it needed to be for the shank. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to round down the edges of the stem above the tenon and also the casting marks on the stem. I wanted to make the stem more like a military mount stem.  I heated the vulcanite with a votive candle until it was flexible and put a slight bend in it that fit the look I was going for with the pipe.  I sanded the Dremel marks out of the tapered end of the stem and shaped the tenon some more with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on the casting marks on the stem sides and around the button. I worked over the end of the stem to smooth out the area around the slot.I polished the 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 sanding pad. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch to keep the polishing compound from filling in the grooves in the rustication. I carefully avoided the stamping on the left side of the shank. I gave both the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the last of his pipes that I have to work on. This has been a fun bunch of pipes to work on. Thanks for looking. 

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