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!