Monthly Archives: September 2018

Giving New Life to a Duncan Mini Bent Foreign Made Pocket Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I received an email from through the rebornpipes site. I am actually getting quite a few emails each week which I find a pleasure to read and answer. They range from questions on restoration to those regarding estate pipes. This one was interesting to me in that it was about a two particular brands of pipes that I have worked on and enjoyed in the past. I have included the initial email and subsequent ones below to give you the context of the ongoing interaction on this pipe. I thoroughly enjoyed the interchange with Mrs. C. Howard and look forward to being able to send her photos of the restored pipe.

Hello. Clearing out our shed today my husband came across a couple of old pipes, one of which is a Keyser Hygienic, which I have now read about, on your website, how you clean and refurbish them. For my husband and his crewmate in the London Ambulance Service in the 70’s, smoking a pipe was just another one of their fads (with motorbikes at that time, they rather fancied themselves, too, as facsimiles of Starsky & Hutch!) so although tooth-marked, not badly for the amount of time they were in use, I would think. My husband’s reaction to ‘turfing out’ unwanted things is to take it all to the dump, whereas mine is to locate useful ‘homes’ for items that are still serviceable and would serve a useful purpose. I see that you are on the look-out for Keyser pipes and wondered if you would like this one. It would only go to charity anyway and I would rather donate it to you – it would be no difficulty for me to post, if you wanted it. I also have a Duncan Mini Dent pipe; if you would like this also I could send it at the same time. I have washed both of them but, obviously, your attention to that aspect would be done best by you. I look forward to hearing from you. – Yours sincerely – Mrs. C. Howard

I immediately wrote her back and told her I would be delighted to receive the pipes and would gladly pay her for the postage from England to Canada. She replied:

Hello Mr Laug,

I was very pleased to hear your response and will post both pipes to you as soon as I’ve wrapped them.  There will be no need for a refund of postage; I’ll be happy just to know the pipes are being re-located from my shed, ignored and unloved, to a good home where they will get both!

My husband and I loved Vancouver when we visited, particularly enjoying the trip over to Vancouver Island to see Mrs. Butchart’s Gardens and where my aunt and uncle had moved to years ago.  We especially, too, liked the laid-back nature of the Canadian people.

However, I shall get these pipes posted asap and hope you enjoy the final result of your labours in refurbishing them. With best wishes – Mrs. C. Howard

Once again I replied thanking her for her kindness in gifting and sending the pipes to me. I looked forward to receiving them from her and working on them to restore them to their former glory.

Hello Mr Laug,

Just to let you know that you should be receiving the pipes in the not-too distant, since I posted them off yesterday, the 23rd. Optimistically, it won’t be too long before they arrive at your door.  I hope I don’t sound like an Amazon rep, although I rather fall down on being able to provide you with parcel tracking details, et al! – Kind regards. Mrs. C. Howard

To me this kind of information is priceless and gives me the background on the pipes when I work on them. I like to picture in my mind the pipe man who smoked them. In this case the information made me wonder how many more pipes are sitting in garden sheds around the world, having been discarded when the pipesmoker decided to lay them down. Thank you Mrs. C. Howard for the foresight you had in rescuing these pipes.

When the box arrived in Vancouver I wrote Mrs. C. Howard and let her know they arrived safely. I opened her parcel and found the contents were well wrapped and had come undamaged. The second pipe that came in the box is one that I have on the table now. It is stamped on the underside of the shank. It reads Duncan over Mini Bent over Foreign Made. It is a small pocket sized pipe that was heavily coated with varnish – even on the saddle portion of the stem. It looked as if it had been dipped. It has an interesting shape that feels great in the hand. The photos below show what it looked like when it arrived. The pipe had the same garden shed aroma as the Keyser that came with it. It was kind of musty smelling. It had definitely been smoked but not much. There were some dings on the rim top but other than the varnish coat wrinkling it looked good. The bowl did not have a cake and was raw briar half way down the bowl. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on both sides near the button. The button itself also had a few tooth marks. You can see the varnish run on the saddle portion of the stem in the first photo of the stem below. I took some close up photos of the rim and stem to show the condition.The next photo shows the stamping. It appears blurry but sadly the stamping itself is blurred from repeated stamping. It reads Duncan over Mini Bent on the first two lines. The last line is the most blurry but it appears to read Foreign Made as best as I can make out. I removed the stem and was surprised at the length of the stepped down tenon – ¾ of an inch. There was a spiraled stinger in the airway that was dirty and pushed deep in the airway. I decided to address the heavy coat of varnish on the bowl first. I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads and was able to remove all of it from the surface of the briar. I removed the stinger from the tenon. It was merely stuck in the airway so it was an easy removal. I think that half of the insert end is missing so it was not tight. The airway in the tenon was drilled off-centre toward the right side leaving the wall thin.I cleaned out the mortise and the airways in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. While a bit of tars and oil came out most of the colour on the swabs came from the same stain I had removed from the exterior with the acetone. It is a reddish coloured stain that revealed that the entire bowl had been dipped in stain.I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove the rest of the finish. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad after micromesh grit. There are a few dark spots on the briar – right side mid bowl and on the underside on the right as well. I am not sure what they are but they are not removed by sanding. As I polished it the fills in the bowl became very visible. The briar had taken on a shine. The fills were very visible so I used a Cherry stain pen to touch up the fills around the bowl sides, bottom and shank. A light stroke across the fill with the pen hid the fill and I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure. The fills blended in but the dark spots remained on the left and underside. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar of the bowl with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the bowl at this point in the process. The photos show the condition of the bowl at this point in the process. The bowl was looking quite good at this point with some beautiful grain showing through. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks with 220 grit sandpaper. 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 the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished the bowl with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 grain really came alive with the buffing and works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. Together the pipe looks much better than when I began and has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be putting this little pocket pipe/nosewarmer on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this unique little pipe.

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Restoring a pair of Comoy’s Blue Riband Billiards


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a package in the mail from a reader of the blog, Scott in California, US containing two Comoy’s Blue Riband Billiards. There was a note in the box regarding what he wanted done with the pipes. He wrote:

…As you can see both stems do not seat all the way in the shank of the pipes. The pipe in two separate wrappings is in a little better shape than the other one. Both need the stems refinished, bowls reamed and cleaned, etc. Would like to keep the original patina on the outside wood if possible. Thanks again for your help and let me know if you have any questions.

After opening the wrappings in the well packed box I found the two pipes. I took pictures of both pipes to capture their condition when they arrived. The first set of photos show the one that he said was “in a little better shape”. The finish still had a shine on the bowl and shank. The rim top was in decent condition. There was a light cake in the bowl and some light lava on the rim. The stem did not seat in the shank completely and when I looked the shank was very dirty and caked with tars. The stem was oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to give a clearer picture of the condition of the pipe.I took photos of both sides of the shank to show the stamping on the pipe. The left side read COMOY’S over BLUE RIBAND with the three part C in the left side of the stem. The right side had the circular COM stamp and read MADE IN LONDON over ENGLAND followed by the shape number 291. You can see the stunning Blue Riband grain on the photos above and below. It is a beautiful pipe.The next set of photos show the second Blue Riband which was far more worn and dirty. The finish dirty and did not have the glow of the other pipe. The rim top had darkening all around the inner edge and there were some dents and marks in the top surface. The cake in the bowl on this one was thick and rock hard, narrowing about midbowl. There was some light lava on the rim. The stem did not seat in the shank completely and when I looked the shank was very dirty and caked with tars. The stem was not as oxidized as the other pipe and had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There was some calcification on the surface around the button. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to give a clearer picture of the condition of the pipe.I took photos of both sides of the shank to show the stamping on the pipe. The left side read COMOY’S over BLUE RIBAND with the three part C in the left side of the stem. The right side is a bit harder to read as the stamping is worn but it also had the circular COM stamp and read MADE IN LONDON over ENGLAND followed by the shape number 97. It is a bit smaller sized than the previous pipe but also has stunning Blue Riband grain. It is also a beautiful pipe underneath all of the grime.I reamed both bowls with a PipNet pipe reamer working through the cutting heads to take the cake back to the bare briar so I could check for damage to the interior walls of the pipe. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and finished with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls. The first pipe was definitely cleaner than the second. The cake came out easily. The second pipe had a cake that was rock hard and I had to switch between the smallest cutting head on the PipNet and the Fitsall Knife to break through the cake. I worked my way alternating between the two until the bowl was reamed and then sanded it smooth. I scraped the mortise walls of both pipes with a pen knife to remove the buildup of hardened tars and oils. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway into the bowls as well as the airway in the stems of both pipes with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the second pipe at this point… Arghh this is why I generally do one pipe at a time…. But I can tell you that the second pipe was far dirtier than the first.I took a photo of both pipes together at this point to show the clean bowls and the condition of the rim tops.I removed the stems from both of the pipes and put them in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer. I let them sit while I turned my attention to the two bowls.I worked on the rim top of the second pipe (shape 97) with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to remove the damaged areas and leave the rim top clean. There was still darkening around the inner edge but I have chosen to leave that for now. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar of both bowls with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of both at this point in the process. The first set of four photos show the more damaged bowl (shape 97) and the second set of four photos show the bowl that was in better condition (shape 291) when I started. Both bowls are looking quite good at this point. The stems had been sitting in the Before & After Deoxidizer overnight by the time I removed them from the bath. I rinsed them under running water and ran pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the airway to remove the solution from the airway. I took photos of the stems at this point.I decided to polish the top stem in the photos. It was the stem for the newer (shape 291) pipe. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside. With that stem completed I turned to the second stem (shape 97), the older, dirtier pipe. I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button on both sides of the stem. I cleaned up the file marks with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the file marks and smooth out the edge.I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside. I polished the bowls and stems with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and rubber. I gave the bowls and the stems multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipes with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed them with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. Both pipes polished up pretty nicely. The original patina on both bowls came alive with the buffing and worked well with the polished black vulcanite stems. Both pipes have a rich look. The finished pipes are shown in the photos below. The first pipe is the one that was in “better condition” when it arrived. I think it is a bit newer than the second one. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem speak well of the Blue Riband brand. The dimensions of the first pipe, shape 291 are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. The dimensions of the second pipe, shape 97 (the older one) are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pair will soon head back to California so that Scott can enjoy them.  Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this beautiful pair of Comoy’s Blue Riband pipes… now I need to find some for myself!    

 

Poor Richards 9438 Cordovan Restoration


By Al Jones

Here’s yet another variation on the GBD 9438 shape. This example is stamped “Poor Richards Cordovan”. We’ve seen another Poor Richards pipe here in the past, but that one was stamped in a different font and added Bozeman, Montana in the nomenclature. Poor Richards is indeed a shop in Montana, that while having changed hands over the years, is still in operation today. Was this a “shop pipe” made for that location? Possibly, but now lost to time and the new owners had no information or insights to offer.

This was a very good example of the 9438 shape. The stem has the “wasp waist” style and the COM is the “London, England” used by GBD prior to 1981. The finish appears to be a combination of sandblast and rusticated. This was a fairly simple restoration in that the only real work was in the oxidized stem and some mild teeth indentions. Below is the pipe as it was received.

I used a piece of worn scotchbrite on the top of the bowl, than it was reamed and soaked with sea salt and alcohol. The stem was soaked in a mild Oxy-Clean solution. The bowl interior was in excellent shape.

Following the soak the stem was mounted to remove the oxidation. The stem fitment was perfect, and I had a feeling it may have never been removed. The stem was stamped “PR”, but I didn’t try to save that stamp.  I used a lighter to lift some of the teeth indention’s. Sandpaper starting at 400 grit was used to removed oxidation, working thru 800, 1,500, 2,000 grades. This was followed by micromesh sheets in 8,000 and 12,000 grades. The stem was then buffed with White Diamond and Megiuars Plastic Polish.

I used some warm soapy water to clean the briar, then buffed it by hand with Halycon wax.

Below is the finished pipe.

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Restoring my Grandfather’s…what the…A Kaywoodie?????


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Yes!! That is what exactly my thought was, when I looked closely at the small pipe in my hand that I had selected as my next project for restoration. Those who have read my previous write ups on pipe restoration would know that I have inherited a large number of pipes from my grandfather dating between the periods from 1940s to 1970s. I had not come across a single Kaywoodie pipe in the two boxes I had opened, one box still remaining unopened!!!

I have restored two Custom-Bilt pipes from this collection to date, one from 1938-41 era (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/06/02/restoring-my-grandfathers-custom-bilt-pipe/) and second from the Wally Frank era(https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/20/restoring-a-wally-frank-era-custombilt-sitter-633/), the third Custom-Bilt billiard from 1938-41 era was sent to Mr. Steve of rebornpipes fame to sort out tenon issues and have fallen in love with Custom-Bilt pipes since thereafter!!!! I had picked this pipe assuming it to be a Custom-Bilt and it was only on close scrutiny was it reveled that this was a Kaywoodie!!!!! I deliberately rummaged through the pile again and sure enough, there was another Kaywoodie Bent Billiard with 4 holed stinger in relatively unsmoked condition. It seems my grandfather never took a liking for these Kaywoodie pipes!!!!!

This Kaywoodie Pocket Pipe, now on my work table, has similar large finger like vertical rustications with very thin horizontal lines ensconced within these large vertical rustications. These thick vertical rustications extend upwards and end short of the rim top, giving the rim top a flat smooth surface. These rustications can be seen extending all around the shank on top and bottom, save for smooth surfaces on either sides of the shank. The smooth surface on the left side of the shank bears the stamping “Handmade” over “Super Grain” in cursive hand, over “KAYWOODIE” in block capital letters. The right side of the shank bears the stamp “IMPORTED BRIAR”. All these stampings are thin, worn out but readable under bright light with a magnifying glass. The ¾ bent saddle stem bears the trade mark “Clover leaf” symbol.This pipe comes with a four-holed threaded stinger which screws into the shank. This stinger is stamped with “DRINKLESS”. There is an aluminum spacer ring separating the shank end from the stem end when threaded in. On closer observation, it can be seen that a portion of this spacer, closer to the mortise opening, extends into the mortise and is threaded which matches with the stinger threads.I took all these observation and searched pipedia.com for history of this brand, models and attempt at dating this pipe. This site has detailed information on Kaywoodie pipes, including the history of origin, about the owners of the brand and also various important links to “Collector’s Guide to Kaywoodie Pipes” and “Kaywoodie’s Logos and Markings: Clover variations since 1919”. Here is what was revealed as extracted from pipedia.com:-

Kaywoodie was the name a pipe offered by Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Company (KBB), first appearing in February of 1919. The Dinwoodie pipe, also by KBB, appeared in November of 1919. Sometime before 1924, the Dinwoodie had been discontinued and the Kaywoodie name was beginning to be used on an extensive line of pipes that ultimately would be the name of the company. The origin of the name Kaywoodie is a combination of the K from Kaufman and wood, as in briar. Not much is known of the original KBB company other than it was started in 1851 by the German born Kaufman brothers when they opened a small pipe shop in the Bowery section of New York City. In the back room of this shop, they made their first pipes. From this meager beginning, the Kaywoodie name and organization was to emerge.

When one of the men from the New York office got “gold fever”, he carried a large supply of pipes with him to California that he sold along the way. This early “national distribution” did much to build the reputation of KBB. By the late 1800’s, branches of KBB were opened in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis with family and friends acting as agents. The trademarks, for the inlaid cloverleaf and the cloverleaf with the KBB initials inside, were issued in 1881. KBB’s pipes became more popular and were in constant demand by the end of the century. Orders were streaming back east and KBB needed to move to larger manufacturing facilities. By 1915 the move was made to larger facilities in the old Union Hill section of Union City, New Jersey. The salesroom offices were located at 33 East 17th. Street, New York. When the Kaywoodie pipe was first introduced by KBB it came with a hand cut rubber mouthpiece fitted with an aluminum Inbore Tube. This device was to “assure a clean, cool smoke.” Other KBB pipes such as Ambassador, Heatherby and Melrose also had the Inbore tube. The early Drinkless Kaywoodies from 1924 through 1931 had push bit stems. In 1931, after three years of research, the new Drinkless Kaywoodies with the synchro-stem, (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece) were introduced. The drinkless attachment was advertised as cooling the smoke from 850 degrees in the bowl to 82 degrees when it entered the mouth. By the mid 1930’s, all Kaywoodie’s came with the screw mounted Drinkless attachment. (Export Kaywoodies, available briefly from 1950-1955, had push bit stems and were available in all the same shapes and finishes as the drinkless versions.)

Throughout much of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, the Kaywoodie family of pipes consisted of 11 basic grades of briar pipes; though new grades were frequently added to the line and some older grades were discontinued or downgraded. These 11 basic grades of pipes, listed in ascending order of quality, were:

  1. Drinkless
  2. Hand-made Super Grain
  3. Super Grain
  4. Relief Grain
  5. Flame Grain
  6. Silhouette
  7. Oversize Kaywoodies
  8. Meerschaum Inlaid Kaywoodies
  9. Connoisseur
  10. Ninety-fiver
  11. Centennial

Thus from the above, I can safely infer that this pipe was a higher grade Kaywoodie from the 1940s to 1960s.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The finish looked a lot like the classic Kaywoodie take on Tracy Mincer’s Custom-Bilt pipes. The carved worm trails seen on the stummel and shank is filled with dust, dirt and grime of years of smoking and thereafter years of uncared for storage. The grime and dirt is so strongly entrenched in to these carved worm trails that it appears black and solidly smooth to the touch. I could see 3-4 small dings and dents on one of the fingers of the raised portion of the stummel. This will need to be addressed. There is a decent layer of cake inside the bowl which is dry and hard to the touch. The smooth rim top is clean and devoid of any apparent damage. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained after the cake has been reamed out. The inner edge of the rim shows minor uneven surface, however, the outer edge of the rim is clean and without dents or dings. The short ¾ bent saddle stem has smooth upper and lower surfaces without any tooth chatter or bite marks. This is unlike any other pipe stem I have seen that had belonged to my grand old man. The four holed stinger is clean, however, the holes appear to be clogged. This was confirmed as air did not flow when I tried to blow through the stem. May be that has been the reason that this pipe was not as extensively used by him. The inlaid white clover leaf is clean and prominent with a tiny portion of the top of the leaf missing!! But it is so tiny chip that it is not immediately visible. The lips are worn out and may need to be reconstructed; again I am not sure about this as there is no damage as such. There is an aluminum spacer between the stem and the shank which breaks the monotony of the pipe. However, it is broken on the right side leaving an ugly gap between the shank and stem. The remaining portion of the aluminum spacer was crumbling and breaks merely to the touch. This needs to be addressed. There is a circular band of white tape or some such material at the end of the stinger where it meets the stem. This is something which is not correct and the reason for it having been placed needs to be checked. THE PROCESS
First and foremost in any restoration of pipe, I start with reaming the chamber with a Kleen Reem pipe reamer. However, in this instance, the cake was dry, tightly packed and very hard. I feared breaking the reamer and resorted to the use of my fabricated knife. After a struggle, I was able to take the cake down to the bare briar. I sanded the inner walls of the chamber with 150, 220 and 600 grit sand paper to completely remove the remaining cake and smooth out the walls. Alas, I observed some superficial gouges on the wall surface due to the use of knife. I would need to address this by coating the chamber walls with pipe mud at a later stage. I cleaned the mortise and internals of the shank with cue tips, pipe cleaners and alcohol. Since the major challenge appreciated in this restoration project was the construction of a new aluminum spacer, I decided that is where I would start!!!! To address this issue, I identified three options, as under, which were available to me:

(a) Coat the entire spacer, including the broken portion, with superglue, building it up in layers and then sanding it to flatten it on a topping board. This coat of superglue will also stabilize the remaining original spacer.

(b) Fabricate an aluminum spacer out of a regular aluminum washer and replace only the broken portion of the spacer.

(c) Replace the entire spacer with the new fabricated aluminum spacer.

I discussed these options with my mentor, Mr. Steve Laug. As is his trademark style of tutoring, his suggestion was, “I would go with the first option”!!!!! He further clarified that the spacer also enters the mortise and has threads for the “synchro-stem” (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece). Thus, I concluded that exercising the third option was best avoided if I wished to avoid ruining the pipe!!! That left me with following either first option or the second option. Any other sane student would have followed the advice of his mentor (which I had been doing up to this point!!!). However, I, for some reason, was convinced that the end result of exercising the second option would result in a better finish and thus embarked on the arduous journey of replacing only the broken portion of the original spacer with the fabricated aluminum washer.

I began the process by shaping the new aluminum washer to match the size, shape and thickness of the original spacer. I was not very meticulous about the size and thickness as the same would, in any case, have to be perfectly matched by sanding it down with needle files. The following pictures will tell the story of the entire process of constructing this spacer. However, what these pictures do not tell you is the long back breaking hours involved, the strain to which eyes were subjected, precise and controlled movements of the needle files and agony experienced whenever the needle file inadvertently scraped the crumbling original spacer, causing it to chip. When I was satisfied with the fit and finish of the new spacer, I applied an even coat of superglue over the entire surface and very painstakingly re-aligned all the broken pieces of the original spacer and also the new fabricated spacer over the coat of the superglue and set it aside to cure overnight. Next day I evenly applied another coat of superglue over the entire spacer and again set it aside to cure so as to stabilize the spacer repairs and even out the surface. Once the glue had sufficiently cured, I topped the surface on a topping board to even out the glue. To further smooth out the surface and ensure a transparent, even and smooth surface, I polished the surface with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I frequently wiped the surface with a moist cloth to remove the glue dust. I was able to maintain just sufficient thickness of the coat so as not to disturb the alignment of the stem with the shank while stabilizing and protecting the spacer. I was very satisfied with the results. Now with the spacer taken care of, I start working on the stummel. I thoroughly clean the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and a hard bristled tooth brush scrubbing the rustications clean of all the lodged dirt, dust and grime. I had seen a few dents and dings on one of the fingers of the stummel rustication and wanted to address it. I began by sanding the stummel and raised portion of the rustications with a 600 grit sand paper followed by 800 grit sand paper. I had used very light hand so as not to lose too much briar (though at the end I realized that I should have used a bit more force since at the end of the process, these dents and dings were still very much visible!!!!!!). This sanding was followed by polishing with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a moist cloth after each pad to remove all the sanding dust. As I was going through the micromesh pads, I was thinking of adding some twist to the finish and remembered that Mr. Dal Stanton, a gentleman I often turn to for some interesting pipe related conversations and advice, had refurbished a Tom Howard rusticated tomato pipe for me. He had darkened the crevices of the rustications with a dark stain pen and the contrast was eye catching, to say the least. I wanted to have a pair of pipes with this finish and decided to give this Kaywoodie the same treatment. I discussed with Mr. Dal Stanton who wholeheartedly explained the technique of achieving this finish and also gave me some very fine and pragmatic advice which I shall cherish on this journey. I stained the crevices in the rustications with a dark brown stain pen and set it aside for the stain to set in to the crevices. After the stain had set, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After” restoration balm in to stummel and set it aside for a few minutes to let the balm work its magic on the briar wood. The balm works to bring back the shine and pours life in to the briar. I buff the stummel with a horse hair shoe brush followed by a nice hand polish with a soft cotton cloth. I liked the way the stummel has finished. To address the superficial gouges in the chamber created by use of knife during reaming, I prepared a mixture of pipe ash and yogurt of putty consistency and applied a coat to the inner walls of the chamber. Once the coating had cured, I gently sand the walls with a 220 grit sand paper to a smooth and even surface. With this, the stummel is all completed. Once the stummel had been finished and set aside, I turned my attention to the stem. There was not much work on this stem since it was sparingly used with only light signs of oxidation and no bite marks or tooth chatter. I start by sanding with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to remove the sand dust and rub a small quantity of Extra Virgin olive oil and allow it to be absorbed in to the stem. The stem is now nice and shiny. The next thing to address was the blocked stem. I tried cleaning the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol, but the pipe cleaner would not go in the complete distance. There was gunk and tars which had accumulated inside the airway and in the holes too!!!! Using a straightened paper clip, I probed and cleaned all the holes on the stinger. I tried to blow through the stem, but I realized that it was still blocked. I tried pushing the paper clip through the airway and then there was this small sound of a crack!!!!!! Aargh……..the upper lip now has a chip!!!!! Undaunted by this temporary setback, I continue with the clearing of the blocked stem. Finally, I am able to dislodge the block and now the air flows freely through the stem.To address this chip, I firstly insert a regular pipe cleaner coated with Vaseline in to the air way. This prevents the charcoal and glue mix from dribbling in to the air way blocking it. I mix a small quantity of activated charcoal and CA superglue and spot apply it over the chipped surface. Once I have ensured that the complete surface is coated with the mix, I set it aside to cure overnight. The next evening, I file the filling with a needle file and match it to the surface of the stem. To further match the filling with the rest of the stem surface, I sand the fill with a 220 grit sand paper followed by micromesh polish pads. The stem is now nice and shiny again with a free flow of air through the airway. I finished this restoration by applying a small quantity of Halcyon II wax and rubbed it deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. A few minutes later, I polished it with a soft cotton cloth using muscle power. The stummel now has a nice deep shine to it and the grains on the rim top and raise portion of the rustication can be seen in its full glory. I re-attach the stem and then relies that the stem is off center to the shank!!!! My God, this one was giving me a hard time. I removed the white sticky tape that was stuck around the stinger at the stem end and tried the fit. The fit had improved but it was still off centre. Again, to address this issue, I was presented with two options of either sanding the coating of superglue over the spacer till the off center was corrected or heat the stinger till the glue fixing the stinger in the stem was loosened and turn the stinger in to the mortise till the issue was addressed. I decided to go with the second option as I feared losing the coating of superglue over the spacer and thus exposing the brittle original to further chipping. I heated the stinger with the flame of a Bic lighter so that the glue holding the stinger would loosen a bit and fitted the stem in to the mortise, tightening it till the stem and shank were perfectly aligned. I let the stinger sit in this position till it had cooled down and the glue had hardened again. Now the fit of the stem and the shank is perfectly aligned. Here are the pictures of the finished pipe and hope that this long write up has been an enjoyable read. Thank you for walking with me through this restoration as I attempt to preserve the legacy of my beloved grand old man!!!!!

 

Restoring My Grandfather’s Kaywoodie “Super Grain” Bent Billiard


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring a Kaywoodie Handmade ¾ bent Apple pocket pipe that I had found in the pile of pipes inherited from my Grandfather. The next pipe that I have selected for restoration is again a Kaywoodie, but a Bent Billiard with a 4 holed stinger, also from my grandfather’s collection. To date, these are the only two Kaywoodies that I have come across in my large inherited pipe collection.

This Kaywoodie is in immaculate condition and appears to have been smoked maybe only 3 to 4 times. This pipe has a medium sized bowl and the stummel has some beautiful mixed grains that can be seen through the dull and lifeless finish on the stummel and the shank. It fills the hand nicely and is light weight, making it comfortable to hang from the lips.

This beauty is stamped on the left side of the shank as “Super Grain” in cursive hand over “KAYWOODIE” in block capital letters and the right side of the shank bears the shape number “14”. The stem bears the inlaid Clover leaf on left side in white. All the stampings are clear, crisp and easily readable.I searched the net for information on this brand in general and this pipe in particular. The first site I always visit is Pipedia. I gathered a lot of information about the brand and some important snippets of information are reproduced below:

Kaywoodie was the name a pipe offered by Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Company (KBB), first appearing in February of 1919. The Dinwoodie pipe, also by KBB, appeared in November of 1919. Sometime before 1924, the Dinwoodie had been discontinued and the Kaywoodie name was beginning to be used on an extensive line of pipes that ultimately would be the name of the company. The origin of the name Kaywoodie is a combination of the K from Kaufman and wood, as in briar. Not much is known of the original KBB company other than it was started in 1851 by the German born Kaufman brothers when they opened a small pipe shop in the Bowery section of New York City. In the back room of this shop, they made their first pipes. From this meager beginning, the Kaywoodie name and organization was to emerge.

When one of the men from the New York office got “gold fever”, he carried a large supply of pipes with him to California that he sold along the way. This early “national distribution” did much to build the reputation of KBB. By the late 1800’s, branches of KBB were opened in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis with family and friends acting as agents. The trademarks, for the inlaid cloverleaf and the cloverleaf with the KBB initials inside, were issued in 1881. KBB’s pipes became more popular and were in constant demand by the end of the century. Orders were streaming back east and KBB needed to move to larger manufacturing facilities. By 1915 the move was made to larger facilities in the old Union Hill section of Union City, New Jersey. The salesroom offices were located at 33 East 17th. Street, New York. When the Kaywoodie pipe was first introduced by KBB it came with a hand cut rubber mouthpiece fitted with an aluminum Inbore Tube. This device was to “assure a clean, cool smoke.” Other KBB pipes such as Ambassador, Heatherby and Melrose also had the Inbore tube. The early Drinkless Kaywoodies from 1924 through 1931 had push bit stems. In 1931, after three years of research, the new Drinkless Kaywoodies with the synchro-stem, (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece) were introduced. The drinkless attachment was advertised as cooling the smoke from 850 degrees in the bowl to 82 degrees when it entered the mouth. By the mid 1930’s, all Kaywoodie’s came with the screw mounted Drinkless attachment. (Export Kaywoodies, available briefly from 1950-1955, had push bit stems and were available in all the same shapes and finishes as the drinkless versions.)

Throughout much of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, the Kaywoodie family of pipes consisted of 11 basic grades of briar pipes; though new grades were frequently added to the line and some older grades were discontinued or downgraded. These 11 basic grades of pipes, listed in ascending order of quality, were:

  1. Drinkless
  2. Hand-made Super Grain
  3. Super Grain
  4. Relief Grain
  5. Flame Grain
  6. Silhouette
  7. Oversize Kaywoodies
  8. Meerschaum Inlaid Kaywoodies
  9. Connoisseur
  10. Ninety-fiver
  11. Centennial

Thus from the above, I can safely infer that this pipe was a higher grade Kaywoodie from the 1940s to 1960s.

Armed with this information, I carried out my detailed initial visual inspection of the entire pipe. This assessment helps me in identifying the issues that are seen as well as understand likely issues that may present themselves subsequently while making a mental map of the entire restoration process.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel is clean with a dull appearance due to all these years of storage. There are a few dings and dents seen all around due to careless storage and will have to be addressed. The bowl is clean with a very thin layer of cake. The rim top is clean with no dents or chips and no overflow of lava. Both the inner and outer rim edges are crisp, even and intact. The chamber is odorless and dry to the touch.The stem is lightly oxidized with no tooth chatter or bite marks on both surfaces. The lips on both sides is crisp, however, as seen on the earlier Kaywoodie, the surface of the lip is flattened. The inlaid clover leaf stamp is intact and prominently visible. The only issue with the stem is that it is off centre and not perfectly aligned with the shank and the stummel. This will have to be addressed. The biggest relief is that unlike the other Kaywoodie Apple pocket pipe, the aluminum spacer in this pipe is completely intact. As expected, the airway is clogged and a test draw revealed that the air does not pass through the airway in the stem. This will have to be cleaned.

THE PROCESS
The first step that I usually follow is the reaming of the bowl. Since I had appreciated the cake to be thin, I started the process of reaming the chamber with my fabricated knife. I was very careful during the reaming so as not to create deep gouges in the inner walls of the chamber. Contrary to my appreciation, the amount of cake that was reamed out from the chamber was quite substantial. To smooth out the inner surface of the chamber and completely remove the last traces of remaining cake, I sanded the inner surface with a 220 grit sand paper. Once the chamber was cleaned, I decided to address the dings and dents on the stummel by sanding the bowl with a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 and 340 grit sand papers. I wiped the stummel with a moist cotton cloth after each sanding. This helps in removing all the briar dust and shows the progress of the sanding. This was followed by micromesh polishing pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads. Again, I wiped the bowl with a moist cotton cloth after each pad. As I finished sanding with 2400 grit pad, I observed three fills in the stummel which were exposed after the last wet sanding pad. These were spot filled with CA superglue and set aside to dry overnight. I sanded the cured superglue fill with a flat head needle file and further matched it with the rest of the stummel surface by sanding these fills with a 220 grit sand paper. This was again followed by sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit micromesh pads.Once I was through with the wet sanding pads, I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. I rubbed some “Before and After Restoration” balm deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. This balm helps in rejuvenating and protecting the briar wood. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!!! The mixed grain can now be clearly appreciated. I let the balm be absorbed by the briar for about 15-20 minutes and then polished it with a soft cotton cloth. The bowl now looks fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar.

Turning my attention to the stem, there were three issues which needed to be addressed; one was the oxidation, second was the flattened lips and third was the off center stinger. I started by creating a crisp edge by careful sanding the area around the edges with a flat head needle file. Once I was satisfied with the created edge, I began with sanding the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I was especially careful around the edges and the stampings. Using the crisp edge of the folded sand paper, I reshaped the buttons and sanded it to even out the surface. Thereafter, I sanded the stem with 320 and 440 grit sand paper. To finish the stem I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol after each pad and rubbed olive oil into the stem after every three pads. The stem looks crisp, shiny and like new. I addressed the issue of the stinger being off center with the shank by carefully heating the stinger with the flame of a Bic lighter. The heating done should be just enough to loosen the glue around the stinger. I inserted the threaded stinger in to the mortise and turned the threads till the stem was perfectly aligned with the shank. Thereafter, I set it aside to let the stinger cool down and the glue to harden again.Having addressed the “appearance” aspects of this beauty, I turned my attention to the “performance” aspect to ensure that this beauty smokes as well as it looks. I thoroughly cleaned the shank internals using shank brush, pipe cleaners, cue tips and isopropyl alcohol. The stem airway was cleaned using regular pipe cleaners and also bristled ones dipped in alcohol. The airway is now clean and the draw is full and open.To complete the restoration, I rubbed a minute quantity of PARAGON WAX on the stummel and the stem. After a few seconds, using muscle power and a microfiber cloth, I polished the entire pipe to a lovely shine. The finished pipe is shown below. Thank you for your valuable time spent in reading this chronicle of my journey.

Restoring a Keyser Hygienic Patent from a Garden Shed in England


Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I received an email from through the rebornpipes site. I am actually getting quite a few emails each week which I find a pleasure to read and answer. They range from questions on restoration to those regarding estate pipes. This one was interesting to me in that it was about a brand of pipes that I have worked on and enjoyed in the past. I have included the initial email and subsequent ones below to give you the context of the ongoing interaction on this pipe. I thoroughly enjoyed the interchange with Mrs. C. Howard and look forward to being able to send her photos of the restored pipe.

Hello. Clearing out our shed today my husband came across a couple of old pipes, one of which is a Keyser Hygienic, which I have now read about, on your website, how you clean and refurbish them. For my husband and his crewmate in the London Ambulance Service in the 70’s, smoking a pipe was just another one of their fads (with motorbikes at that time, they rather fancied themselves, too, as facsimiles of Starsky & Hutch!) so although tooth-marked, not badly for the amount of time they were in use, I would think. My husband’s reaction to ‘turfing out’ unwanted things is to take it all to the dump, whereas mine is to locate useful ‘homes’ for items that are still serviceable and would serve a useful purpose. I see that you are on the look-out for Keyser pipes and wondered if you would like this one. It would only go to charity anyway and I would rather donate it to you – it would be no difficulty for me to post, if you wanted it. I also have a Duncan Mini Dent pipe; if you would like this also I could send it at the same time. I have washed both of them but, obviously, your attention to that aspect would be done best by you. I look forward to hearing from you. – Yours sincerely – Mrs. C. Howard

I immediately wrote her back and told her I would be delighted to receive the pipes and would gladly pay her for the postage from England to Canada. She replied:

Hello Mr Laug,

I was very pleased to hear your response and will post both pipes to you as soon as I’ve wrapped them.  There will be no need for a refund of postage; I’ll be happy just to know the pipes are being re-located from my shed, ignored and unloved, to a good home where they will get both!

My husband and I loved Vancouver when we visited, particularly enjoying the trip over to Vancouver Island to see Mrs. Butchart’s Gardens and where my aunt and uncle had moved to years ago.  We especially, too, liked the laid-back nature of the Canadian people.

However, I shall get these pipes posted asap and hope you enjoy the final result of your labours in refurbishing them. With best wishes – Mrs. C. Howard

Once again I replied thanking her for her kindness in gifting and sending the pipes to me. I looked forward to receiving them from her and working on them to restore them to their former glory.

Hello Mr Laug,

Just to let you know that you should be receiving the pipes in the not-too distant, since I posted them off yesterday, the 23rd. Optimistically, it won’t be too long before they arrive at your door.  I hope I don’t sound like an Amazon rep, although I rather fall down on being able to provide you with parcel tracking details, et al! – Kind regards. Mrs. C. Howard

To me this kind of information is priceless and gives me the background on the pipes when I work on them. I like to picture in my mind the pipe man who smoked them. In this case the information made me wonder how many more pipes are sitting in garden sheds around the world, having been discarded when the pipesmoker decided to lay them down. Thank you Mrs. C. Howard for the foresight you had in rescuing these pipes.

When the box arrived in Vancouver I wrote Mrs. C. Howard and let her know they arrived safely. I opened her parcel and found the contents were well wrapped and had come undamaged. The Keyser Hygienic pipe that I am working on came in its original box shown below. At this point I did not have any idea of either the shape or the condition of the pipe but I had never seen a boxed version so I was excited to see what was inside.I opened the box to find a bent billiard, the original Keyser Brochure and a nice note from Mrs. C. Howard. I include her note in the photo below.I took the pipe out of the box to have a look at it. It was worn but in decent condition. The finish was faded and the grain barely visible but underneath it looked to be interesting. The rim top was coated with a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a cake. The aluminum shank end was coated with what looked like silver polish and it was on the briar as well. The stem was clean but had tooth chatter and some deeper tooth marks on the underside near the button. I took photos of it before I started my work on the pipe. I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. It was in great condition and very readable. You can also see the polish on the aluminum and in the letters of the stamp. The left side reads Keyser Hygienic over Patent. The right side reads London Made.I took close up photos of the rim/bowl and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived.The stem was tightly inserted in the stem and the polish and grime held it firmly in place. I carefully twisted the stem while holding tightly onto the aluminum ferrule. It came out with a bit of effort. I took a photo of the pipe at this point and also of the shank and stem end to show the apparatus inside and the condition of the interior of the pipe.I set the pipe aside and took photos of the brochure that was packed with the pipe in the box. The front page of the piece was interesting in both the advertising speak and the cutaway diagram of the pipe. The first photo shows the overall look of the brochure cover while the two that follow that show the details. I opened the brochure and found a great shape chart of the options available for the smoker who purchased a Keyser Hygienic pipe. I have not seen one of these before. I will try to scan the entire brochure soon and post it on the blog separately.On the backside of the brochure were instructions on the care of the pipe.It is quintessential British and reads:

Smoked by Connoisseurs.

The Care of the pipe.

The following suggestions will enable the owner of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE to obtain the best results.

In the early stages it is advisable to only half fill the bowl and smoke slowly, increasing the amount of the charge after the first few pipefuls. Never refill on top of a half smoked charge. Always allow the bowl to cool before refilling.

As a wet heel does not form in the bowl of a KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE it is recommended that each charge is smoked right to the bottom, allowing the bowl to carbon evenly and preventing waste of tobacco.

It is inadvisable to allow carbon to become more that 1/8 inch in thickness, as expansion of carbon when hot may result in cracking the bowl. When the carbon lining becomes too thick, reduce it, but do not remove it entirely; leave a carbon lining of about 1/16 inch.

The trap of the Keyser Hygienic Pipe should be emptied frequently; hold the pipe in a vertical position, remove vulcanite and pour out the moisture. The pipe should be cleaned regularly with ordinary pipe cleaners, and the vulcanite only should be rinsed occasionally with a non-flammable cleaning fluid and dried off with a pipe cleaner; on no account should water or steam be used.

The practice used by our forefathers of treating their clay pipes with alcohol and other liquids  should not, on any account, be used on a briar pipe as it has a serious detrimental effect upon the smoking qualities and life of briar and may result in cracking the bowl.

The KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE is designed to prevent moisture, tobacco and ash being drawn into the mouth and to prevent, also, moisture entering the bowl and a wet wad of tobacco forming which is always wasted.

It is due to the patent stem – fitted exclusively to the KEYSER HYGIENIC PIPE – that the whole of the tobacco can be smoked, thereby preventing waste and showing a considerable saving. The absence of moisture permits the bowl to carbon right to the bottom, ensuring a sweet, clean, wholesome smoke, free from the moisture with which pipe smoking is usually accompanied.

Each pipe is produced individually and is an outstanding example of a product upon which Engineers and Pipe Craftsman work in harmony.

MANUFACTURED BY
MERTON PIPES (LONDON) LTD
UNIT 17, 784/792 HIGH ROAD
LONDON N17 0DA, ENGLAND
AND KEYSER MANUFACTURING CO

Scientifically designed – Made by British Craftsmen Printed in England

Over the past years I have picked up quite a few Keyser Hygienic pipes. As you can see from the above information they are made in England. I had read that the pipes were sold exclusively in South Africa. They were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. I had thought that they were made of nylon and rubber or some combination that is a proprietary form of vulcanite developed by Keyser Manufacturing Co. They are tough and take tooth wear very well but are hard to buff as the heat from a buffer can easily melt the stem surfaces.

In my previous restorations I included the photo below. It came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward (or in the case of this pipe to the left side so that the air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.After processing all of the information that came with the Keyser Hygienic Pipe I thought I would “be manly! Restore a pipe! I started by reaming the bowl with a PipNet reamer working my way through the first two cutting heads to take the cake back to bare briar. I really wanted to see the bowl walls and check them for damage. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and then wrapped 220 grit sandpaper around a dowel and sanded the walls of the bowl. The inside walls were in excellent condition. I examined the rim surface and saw burn marks on the inner and outer edges as well as some nicks and damage to the briar. I decided to lightly top the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. It did not take much to remove the damaged areas and burned edges. The second photo below shows the cleaned rim top.I wiped down the surface of the bowl to remove some of the opacity of the stain. The stain appeared to be a dark to medium brown but what wiped off was oxblood or cordovan. I would never have guessed that looking at the pipe. Underneath there were what looked like nicks on the left side of the bowl but turned out to be small fills. There was some beautiful grain on the pipe that I wanted to highlight. With the exterior and the bowl clean it was time to address the condenser chamber in the shank and stem. It took some maneuvering to get the pipe cleaners through the aluminum tubes in the shank and the stem but I was successful in removing the tars and oils that had built up in both spots. There was still a musty garden shed smell to the pipe so I kept cleaning until it was fresh. Later I would do a cotton ball and alcohol soak to further remove that smell.I rubbed down the exterior of the bowl and rim with Before & After Restoration Balm. I have been using this product for about ½ a year now and really like the way it cleans, enlivens and protects the briar. I rubbed it on with my finger tips and worked it into the finish of the briar. I set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes while I did other things and then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The state of the bowl can be seen in the photos below. After buffing off the balm I could see that the rim needed some more work but decided to address the remnants of the garden shed smell first. I filled the bowl with cotton balls, stuffing them deep in the bowl. I inserted a pipe cleaner in the tube in the shank to wick out the oils and filled the bowl with 99% isopropyl alcohol to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I used an ear syringe to fill the bowl. I know if you read the brochure from KEYSER HYGIENIC above it said not to use alcohol, but I have found over the last 20+ years of pipe cleaning that it does a great job. I set the bowl aside in an old ice-cube tray, much stained from years of abuse and let the alcohol and cotton balls do their magic.I came back to the pipe several hours later and the cotton balls had absorbed a lot of tars and oils. You can see the effect in the cotton in the picture below. The pipe cleaner had wicked out some more of the tar from the tube as well. The pipe smelled fresh and clean with the garden shed smell removed for good.I cleaned up the darkening and burn mark on the inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper. I gave the edge a slight bevel to blend in the damaged area on the rim. I like the look a slight bevel gives a bowl.I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.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 after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine and buffed it with a cotton pad. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I carefully polished stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I used a very light touch so as not to damage the stem. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond as well – a bit more vigorously. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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. What remained of the original colour came alive with the buffing and works well with the polished aluminum ferrule and the polished black vulcanite stem. Altogether the pipe has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. Not sure what I am going to do with this one – probably enjoy it but keep an eye open because it well could end up on the store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Keyser Hygienic Bent Billiard Patent pipe.

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a second pipe that they wanted me to finish for them. This one was a Custom-Bilt billiard that had come to him from the estate of his Grandfather. It had a threaded tenon stem and a shank that had no threads. I have never seen a Custom-Bilt with a threaded mortise and tenon so it was a fair assumption that the stem was not original. It had been wrapped with glue and tape to make it fit in the shank and the fit was awful. Paresh wanted me to fit a new stem on the pipe for him. Abha had done a magnificent job cleaning the pipe so it was really a simple restoration for me – just fit a stem and finish the bowl. The briar was clean and lifeless so it would need some attention to breathe life into it again. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Custom-Bilt and on the underside it was stamped Imported Briar. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. You can see the remnants of wrapping and glue on the metal threaded tenon. There were tooth marks in the surface of the vulcanite stem on both the top and underside near the button. The first photo below shows the rim top and the inside of the bowl. Both were very clean and the rustication was in great condition as were the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The second photo shows the end of the shank with the glue on the inside of the mortise and the lack of threads that would be present if the tenon that was on the stem would work with this pipe.I took some photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The left side reads Custom-Bilt and the underside reads Imported Briar.I took close up photos of the stem. You can see the metal tenon on the end of the stem. There is some oxidation and there are the tooth marks on the stem top and underside.I wanted to refresh my memory on the history of the brand. I knew that his one was one of Tracy Mincer’s pipes because of the hyphenated name stamp. I looked on Pipedia and read Richard Esserman’s write up on Bill Unger’s Book. He gives a great summary of the history there. I quote a section of it below. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt(Rich Esserman))Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated: I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

Custom-Bilt pipes retailed between $5.00 and $15.00 in the 1940s. According to an ad, standard Dunhill pipes were selling for $12.00 and $13.50, Parker pipes $7.50, GBD for $6.00 and Comoy’s $7.50. Not mentioned was that special Dunhills could retail up to $100 and certain Comoy’s up to $25.

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

I set the bowl aside and decided to work on the stem. The diameter of the stem was perfect for the pipe so I needed to remove the metal threaded tenon and replace it with a Delrin tenon. I heated and scraped away all of the glue and tape on the threads of the tenon and those that bound it to the stem. I held it tight with vise grip pliers and turned the stem. It would not come out no matter how I turned or pulled on it. I decided I would have to use more drastic measures. Using the vise grip pliers as a vise I set up my cordless drill to drill out the tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and drilled it. I was hoping it would catch and pull the tenon out. First bit was a failure. I worked my way up to a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the tenon and worked on it. The extended portion of the tenon broke off and I was left with the piece in the stem. I drilled it out with a bit and the bit grabbed the piece and it all came out.Once the metal was removed from the stem I cleaned out the hole in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris. I smoothed out the threads to leave grooves in the tenon insert. Once I had it smoothed out enough I tried it in the stem. The fit was perfect. I cut deeper grooves in the tenon with a file and coated it with black super glue. I pressed it into the stem and lined it up so the fit was straight.  I set it aside to let the glue cure. While the glue cured I worked on the bowl. I scraped the glue out of the inside of the mortise using a pen knife. The glue had hardened so it took repeated scraping to get rid of it and bring the mortise back to bare wood.When the glue cured I tried the fit of the stem in the mortise. The stem fit well on the shank. I put it in place on the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips and into the rustication patterns with a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. 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 after each pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain and worm trail rustication in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be sending the pipe back with the others that belong to Paresh. I have one pipe left to finish for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt.