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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