Monthly Archives: October 2018

A Father/Son Restoration Project – Breathing Life into a Humidor Pipe Rack

Blog by Steve Laug

In the past months I have restored eight of Anthony’s father’s pipes. He had written me regarding the restoration work; “I have a few pipes (8 or so) that haven’t been smoked in 15 years. They were my dad’s. I would like to get someone to restore them”. We chatted back and forth via email and the long and short of the story is that I restored all eight of his Dad’s pipes. The photo below shows the mixture of pipes that he sent me. There were some interesting shapes and most are very dirty and have very little if any of the original finish left on the briar. All have an overflow of carbon on the rim top and all have chewed, damaged stems and buttons. Anthony remembers his Dad smoking them throughout the years he was growing up so they went from regular use to being boxed and stored. They needed a lot of TLC to bring life back to them but it was fun to work on them. When he received the pipes back in his home he contacted me about a rack that he believes his father made. While I am not sure of that (it is very much like the box humidor 6 pipe racks I have seen in the past) it certainly needed a lot of work. I don’t usually work on pipe racks but I thought this would be a worthy exception. When it arrived it had a tarnished brass plate on the top of the lid with his father’s initials engraved in it. There were water stains/damage marks on the top, front and sides of the rack. The finish was gone and the condition of the outside was very rough. The base that held the pipes also was worn and water damaged. The inside of the box had a metal base held in the box by removal cedar panels. I could slide out the sides and remove the metal base. The pictures below show what it looked like when I unpacked it and had removed the dust and debris on exterior. All totaled it was a mess. The water damage had left some deep stain marks and I had no idea if I could minimize them. I took the cedar plates out of the box, removed the metal plate from the bottom of the box. I also took out the humidor disk from the lid and took pictures of the parts and their condition. Note the rust on the metal base. The second photo below shows the box with the lining removed. I left it sitting in pieces for a week or more and an email from Anthony spurred me to do some more work on it. I cleaned all of the parts with Murphy’s Oils Soap and rinsed the box and parts down with warm water and a damp cloth. I took photos of the box at this point to show progress. I lifted the brass plate off the lid so I could polish it as well. The cleaned rack sat in this dismantled condition for several months. I just did not have time to work on it at all and to be honest I also did not have the desire. Fast forward to last week. My father was visiting and wanted to help me with some of the work I was doing on pipes. I looked at the rack and I thought why not it would be a great Father/son project. So we tackled it together and began the restoration of this rack. Dad worked on it quite a bit, sanding and working on the divots and the stains trying to remove the damage. We were having very little success. Then I remembered the oxalic acid could be used to remove water stains so I ordered some from our local pharmacist. I picked up 500 grams of the crystals and my father mixed it with water and began to scrub the exterior of the rack. He worked on the water damaged spots and scrubbed the entire rack with the acid mixture. It took repeated scrubbing but the water damage began to fade and in some places it disappeared entirely. Even where it did not all disappear it was lightened significantly and looked far better. After the acid wash, Dad sanded the entire rack down with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the grain in preparation for staining. We stained the rack with Danish Oil Cherry stain. We rubbed it into the finish and wiped it off with a cloth. We repeated the process four times to get good coverage and a smoother look to the rack. Between each coat of stain we sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge to remove and bubbles or roughness. While Dad was working on that I polished the brass monogram plate on the buffing wheel and with 6000-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I put some white glue on the underside of the plate and reinserted it in the space on the cover. It too is not flawless but it looks better.

Once we had finished the staining and polishing we put the internal cedar panels and metal base plate back in place in the box. We reinserted the humidor plate in the cover. The water stains on the front were gone, the ones in the pipe rack were greatly minimized and the rack looked better. My Dad and I had a great time working on this project together. I normally do no work on racks at all. I like working on pipes not racks! But I am glad I made this exception. It was a Father- Son project working on a Father’s Pipe Rack for his son. Now I need to pack it up and get it in the mail so Anthony has his Father’s pipe rack to hold his Father’s pipes.

Resurrecting a Tired and Worn 1937 Dr. Grabow Special 4914 Apple

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on my restoration table is an interesting older pipe that appears to be made out of walnut or some other hard wood. It was tired and worn looking with the remnants of what appeared to be an oxblood stain in the wood. The stamping was dirty and worn but readable nonetheless. On the left side the pipe is stamped Dr. Grabow over Special and on the right side it is stamped with the shape number 4914 near the shank stem junction. That is followed by Pre-Smoked over Reg. US Pat. Off. The rim top was dirty and had some tar ground into it. The bowl had a light cake in it and there was a small nick on the inner right edge of the bowl. It had a hard rubber vulcanite stem with the white Linkman style propeller inset on the top of the stem. The rubber was quite hard and did not show signs of oxidation. There were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem at the button. I took some photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup. I took some close up photos of the rim top and bowl to show its condition. The tar spots are on the surface. The nick is visible on the right side of the bowl. I also took photos of the stem to show the bite marks and wear on the stem.I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank to show the condition. Interestingly once I cleaned the shank up and removed the stain the stamping was very readable.I looked up information on the Dr. Grabow Special 4914 pipe on Pipedia to see if I could identify the time period that the pipe came from. I had a hunch that it came out during the war years due to the alternative wood that had been used in its manufacture in place of the normal briar (,Line)_Names_Through_the_Years). Here is what I found out:

SPECIAL (or Special Italian Briar) post-1937, begins with 43, 49, maybe no number at all; DOLLAR DR. GRABOW 1937 or previous, may not be marked as such, begins with 43, 44, 49 Series 43 = Natural Finish (DG), c1937. Series 44 = Dark Finish (DG), c1937. Series 49 = Walnut Finish (DG), c1937.

Thus I knew that the pipe came out post 1937. I still had not confirmed the date of the pipe other than knowing that it was made after 1937. I did some more digging on Pipedia and found the following information that also helped pin down the date (

The production of the pipes started in 1930/31. In 1937 Linkman began calling his pipes “Pre-Smoked”. An ad dating from 1946 celebrates it as “America’s Most Wanted Pipes” and the text announced that each Dr. Grabow was broken in on the Linkman’s Automatic Smoking Machine with fine Edgeworth tobacco, reducing the need for the new owner to spend time breaking in his pipe. In 1949 the official name read Dr. Grabow Pipe Company Inc. with seat at W. Fullerton Avenue 1150, Chicago 14, Illinois. (Thus the Linkman factory.) Series: Special, De Luxe, Supreme, Tru’ Grain, Select Grain.

That helped to pin down when the first Pre-Smoked Pipes came out on the market. I have included a couple of advertisements from the 1940s on the Pre-Smoked pipes. The advertisements were on Pipedia courtesy of Doug Valitchka. I found a similar pipe for sale on eBay ( It could very well be a twin of the pipe that I am working on. It is also made from an alternative wood, rather than briar.

I started my restoration on the pipe by wiping down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remnants of the oxblood finish. I took photos of the bowl after the cleanup. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining stain. I sanded the rim top to remove the stain and tars there. I worked over the inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged area on the right side. It did not take too much work to remove it. I polished the rim and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1200-2400 grit pads. The bowl began to have a rich shine.When I sanded the bowl a small red putty fill showed up on the back right side of the bowl. It was slightly pitted. I filled in the pits with clear super glue to remove the damage. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a 1200 grit micromesh pad.I polished the bowl with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to smooth out the wood. I heated it and stained it with the “red” tan aniline stain. I flamed it with a lighter and repeated the process until the finish had good coverage. I also gave the bowl a coat of Danish Oil with Cherry stain to highlight the grain. I cleaned out the internals in the stem and the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. The shank was dirty and the debris and grime that came out made fit of the stem in the shank much tighter.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the lighter tooth marks. I cleaned it up a soft cotton pad to remove the debris. I filled in the deeper tooth marks with clear super glue to repair them. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. I sanded the hardened repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite.I polished 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 pad. When I had finished polishing with the last pad, I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This small war era Dr. Grabow Pre-smoked apple is a unique alternative wood pipe. It has interesting swirled grain around the bowl and cross grain across the shank. The grain really is interesting. The rim top looks much better. The vulcanite stem is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire 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. The rich oxblood stain allows the grain to really stand out while hiding the fill in the bowl side of this little pipe and it works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 inch, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ of an inch. This little Linkman’s Grabow apple fits nicely in the hand and makes a great pocket pipe. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

Comoy’s 434 Liverpool Restoration

By Al Jones

The second Comoy’s on my bench this weekend was a little bit of a mystery. This one also didn’t require a lot of work, but the nomenclature was all but invisible. With a magnifying loupe, I think it is a three digit shape, starting with a 4. I found a shape 434, at SmokingPipes, which is a round shape Liverpool. So, I believe this pipe is also a shape 434, but the finish is undetermined (probably a tradition). The pipe has the three-piece C stem logo, so it was made before 1981. Below we see the shape example from SmokingPipes (this one a Blue Riband!)

Below is the pipe as received. There was a heavy layer of oxidation on the stem, with a few teeth indentions. A heavy layer of build-up was on the bowl-top and it had a very thick cake in the bowl. Tobacco buildup in the shank prevented the stem from being inserted flush.

I used a lighter to lift the teeth indentions on both sides of the stem. A worn scotchbrite was used to remove the build-up on the bowl top. The bowl was reamed, then soaked with alcohol and sea salt. While the bowl was soaking, the stem was soaked in a mild oxy-clean solution. I put a dab of grease on the C stem logo.

Following the soak, the shank was cleaned and stem inserted. Now that the shank was clean, the stem was able to be inserted flush and it had a nice, snug fit. I removed the oxidation with 400, 800, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 grade wet paper, followed by 8,000 micromesh. The stem was then polished with White Diamond and Meguiars plastic polish.

The bowl was buffed with White Diamond and several coats of Carnuba wax. Below is the finished pipe.

Comoy’s Golden Grain Bulldog Restoration

By Al Jones

This 409 Bulldog Golden Grain found its way to my work bench this weekend. The 409 is the most popular Comoy’s bulldog, but I’ve only worked in three versions of this shape in the past seven years. It’s not certain when the Golden Grain entered the Comoy’s line up. The COM and three-piece C stem logo were used from 1946 to the merger in 1981.

The pipe had some build-up on the bowl and the stem was heavily oxidized, but overall, it held a lot of promise for a restoration. Below is the pipe as received.

I used a piece of worn scotchbrite to remove the build-up on the bowl top. The bowl was reamed which revealed that the bowl interior was in very good condition. The bowl was soaked in alcohol and sea salt. I picked up an old Sugar dispenser for filling the bowl with salt, which worked very well (sealed with a piece of tape to keep the salt dry). While the bowl was soaking, the stem was soaked in some mild oxy-clean solution. I put a dab of grease on the C stem logo.

Following the soak, the shank was cleaned and stem inserted. I removed the oxidation with 400, 800, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 grade wet paper, followed by 8,000 micromesh. The stem was then polished with White Diamond and Meguiars plastic polish.

The bowl was buffed with White Diamond and several coats of Carnuba wax. Below is the finished pipe.



Recommissioning a Hefty Ben Wade Bent Billiard Made in London England

Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this large Ben Wade Bent Billiard on the eBay auction block a few years ago and secured it with the winning bid.  This was the first time I had acquired a Ben Wade, so my initial thought was to add it to my own collection.  I noticed that Ben Wade stamped pipes usually attracted more than usual bidding attention and so I was looking forward to restoring it and learning more about the name.  In the end, I put him in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! section on the Pipe Steward site and this is where Paresh saw it and commissioned it to add to his collection and this benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria.  The Ben Wade, without question, fits the profile of being a ‘hefty’ pipe fitting well in the hand.  Here are some of the pictures that got Paresh’s attention: I take some additional pictures on my work table in Sofia, Bulgaria, looking at the stamping.  On the left shank is ‘Ben Wade’ in cursive script over MADE IN [over] LONDON ENGLAND.  The right shank side has 79 stamped – I’m assuming a shape number. The stem also has a BEN WADE stamp. Pipedia’s article on Ben Wade is interesting and very helpful in explaining the history.  The ‘Family Era” (1860 to 1962) is described as the ‘hay day’ of the British pipe maker:

The company was founded by Benjamin Wade in 1860 in Leeds, Yorkshire, where it was located for over a century. Ben Wade started as a pipe trader, but yet in the 1860’s he established a workshop to produce briar pipes. The pipes were made in very many standard shapes – always extensively classic and “very British”. Many models tended to be of smaller dimensions. Ben Wade offered a very high standard of craftsmanship and quality without any fills. Thus, the pipes were considered to be high grade and a major competitor to other famous English brands.

Along with most pipe manufacturers, the Second World War was a difficult time for Ben Wade.  German air raids destroyed the factory in Leeds, but the Ben Wade Co., quickly rebuilt after the war.  The Pipedia article gives several examples of the Ben Wade based in Leeds nomenclature during the Family Era (courtesy of Doug Valitchka):The ’Family Era’ ended when the business was sold in 1962:

…the owner family decided to leave pipe business and sell off the firm. The family went into negotiations with Herman G. Lane, president of Lane Ltd. in New York at about the same time as the Charatan family. Lane Ltd. bought both firms in 1962. Herman G. Lane had been Charatan’s US sole distributor since 1955 and Charatan always remained his pet child. But Ben Wade was treated in another way by its new owner. The fabrication of pipes was reduced and the factory in Leeds was closed in 1965 finally.  So this was the end of Ben Wade pipes stamped “Made in Leeds, England”.

The ‘Lane Era’ is described as a time when the historic quality of Ben Wade declined to a ‘second’ with reference to the production of standard shapes:

Alas the “new” Ben Wades were quite usual series pipes, copies of well-known standard shapes. The pipes often showed hardly masqued fillings and were processed quite coarsely with hardly polished pre-moulded Ebonite stems. Therewith Ben Wade degenerated definitively to a second brand.

According to the Pipedia article, after the death of Herman G. Lane, the business was sold to Dunhill Pipes Limited in 1978 and the new owner had no need to produce ‘seconds’ coming from the acquisition.  The Ben Wade Bent Billiard on my work table comes from the ‘Lane Era’ produced between 1965 and 1978 matching the nomenclature during this period.  “Made in London England” or just “London” replaced “Leeds” with the characteristic cursive script and ‘Ben Wade’ stem stamp (again courtesy of Doug Valitchka):I had one other question regarding the name ‘Ben Wade’ – the Danish connection? In 1971, the young, Danish pipe maker, Preben Holm, came to Lane with financial difficulties and in need of a new US distributer of his pipes made in Denmark.   The new partnership put the Ben Wade name on the Freehand production coming from the Danish factory into the burgeoning US ‘Freehand’ market with a commitment to quality rather than quantity.  The market grew through the 70s until 1985, when the market for these pipes fell resulting in the downsizing of the factory in 1986 but the production of Danish Ben Wade pipes came to an end in 1989 after the death of Preben Holm.  The Pipedia article concludes by describing the status of the Ben Wade name.  Duncan Briars purchased rights to the Ben Wade name from Dunhill Pipes in 1998 and continues to produce pipes at the same factory where Dunhill pipes are made:

The bowls are carved at the world famous 32 St. Andrews Road, Walthamstowe pipe factory, in London, England. The same factory where Dunhills are made. Every pipe is drilled spot on and exhibits a good blast and all have high quality German Vulcanite mouthpieces. Every pipe is stamped “Ben Wade, Made in London, England”. The craftsmanship and smokability have always been superb.

With a greater appreciation for the Ben Wade name, I take another look at the Ben Wade Bent Billiard on my worktable.  Even though the Pipedia article gave more of a negative view of traditional shapes of Ben Wades produced in the Lane Era, the pipe I’m looking at doesn’t reflect this.  The grain is beautiful, and I see no fills on the surface.  The chamber appears to have been cleaned and the briar surface is clean as well showing normal nicks and scratches.  The stem does have some minor oxidation and tooth dents on the button.  I also detect that there is a gap between the shank and stem – I’ll see if cleaning might correct this.  I take some close ups of these issues. To begin the cleanup of the Ben Wade, I run a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% through the stem.  Then, along with other pipes in the queue, I put the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation.  After a few hours, I remove the stem and wipe off the raised oxidation using cotton pads and light paraffin oil – mineral oil.  I also run another pipe cleaner through the airway to remove Deoxidizer. Turning to the stummel, I remove the very light cake in the chamber. With the chamber so large, I jump to the largest blade head from the Pipnet Reaming kit.  I follow this by using the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool and scraping the chamber walls further.  I finish by sanding the chamber wall using 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To remove the carbon dust residue, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The pictures show the progress. One of the purposes of removing the old cake to bring the chamber down to the briar, is not only for a fresh start.  When the carbon is removed the chamber can be inspected for problems usually pertaining to heat fissures and potential burn throughs.  Inspecting the Ben Wade, I detect on the forward part of the chamber a sloping indentation that is a little to pronounced to ignore.  Using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool again, I scrape carbon out of the indentation to make sure I’m getting down to the briar.  This reveals the full extent of the abnormal burning.  I take pictures to show what I see, but the picture doesn’t do too well.  Changing the aperture, the picture is lightened, and I outline the perimeter of the indentation in the final picture below.  I need to address this budding burn through later after cleaning the stummel.  Next, I clean the external stummel surface using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad.  The stummel cleans up well but reveals a tired, lackluster, thin finish. I then clean the internals of the stummel using cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The grunge is thick, so I also employ a dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls as well as a drill bit to hand turn down the airway to excavate the old tars and oils.  To save on pipe cleaners I also utilize a long shank brush to scrub the airway.  Eventually, the tide begins to turn, and the buds and pipe cleaners are emerging less soiled.   I take a picture of the tools I use.To continue cleaning the internals, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I like to do this additional step in cleaning to further clean the tars and oils out of the internal briar and to freshen the pipe.  I use kosher salt because it doesn’t leave an aftertaste.  I stretch and twist a cotton ball to form a wick that I then insert down the mortise and airway pushing it with a straight, stiff wire.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place the stummel in an egg crate to keep it stable.  With a large eyedropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  I put the stummel aside to soak for several hours.Again, I look closely at the stem that had already soaked in the Before & After Deoxidizer and I see that there remains deeper oxidation.  Instead of going directly to sanding out the oxidation, I decide to put the stem in the OxiClean bath to let it soak overnight – to see if more oxidation would be raised.  I put a small bit of petroleum jelly over the Ben Wade stem stamping and I put the stem in the OxiClean and turned out the lights.  Another day is finished.The next morning the soak had done the job. After tossing the expended salt in the waste, I wipe the chamber with paper towel and blow through the mortise to clear any residual salt crystals. I also use a long shank brush down the mortise.  To make sure the internals are clean, I finish by using a cotton bud and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% down the mortise and airway.  They come out clean.Next, I fish the stem out of the OxiClean where it has been soaking through the night.  More oxidation has surfaced.  I begin sanding the entire stem using 240 grit paper careful to protect the Ben Wade stamping and shouldering the stem.  I focus on the bit area removing the minor tooth chatter.  Using a flat needle file, I freshen the button edges.  I follow by wet sanding with 600 grit paper and then 0000 steel wool.  The oxidation appears to be removed for the larger part except for some around the Ben Wade stamping which I won’t sand for the sake of preserving the stamp. Taking it one step further, using Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish, I rub each into the vulcanite in succession.  Putting some on my finger, I work the polishes into the vulcanite and let the stem sit for a time to absorb the polish.  The polishes are advertised not only to revitalize vulcanite but also to continue to remove the oxidation.  After each polish is absorbed, I then wipe the stem down with a cotton pad.  The pictures show the progress.Putting the stem aside for now, I work on the budding burn through in the chamber.  Previously, I dug out any remaining charring in the indentation.  To make sure the area is fully clear, I sand the area again and wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the chamber.  As far as chamber burn throughs go, this one is minimal.  It has not progressed far and the size and the thickness of the bowl means that there was never any imminent danger.  Yet, for the long-term view and use of this beautiful Ben Wade Bent Billiard, I repair the problem where it is before it grows and becomes a worse problem.  I mix a small batch of J-B Kwik Weld on an index card.  After combining the two components, ‘Steel’ and ‘Hardener’, I have about 4 minutes to apply the mixture before it starts setting. I use a flat dental spatula as a trowel and apply the J-B Weld to the indentation in the chamber.  I put the stummel aside to allow the J-B Weld to thoroughly cure. After it cures, I use a sanding drum mounted on the Dremel to sand the excess.  I follow this using the Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 grit paper to leave the chamber smooth and shaped. I’m pleased with the results and glad I went the extra mile to arrest the potential burn through.  Later, I’ll apply a coat of activated charcoal and sour cream mixture to the chamber wall to improve the aesthetics and to aid formation of a new protective cake. Before continuing, I reunite the stem and stummel to examine the shank junction.  Earlier I saw a gap between the shank and the stem.  Often, after cleaning these problems are resolved.  I find that this indeed was the case as the stem is now seated as it should be.  Pictures are before and after.With the stem now properly seating, I turn again to the stem and using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Following each set of three pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the stem.  I love the glassy pop of a micromeshed stem! Turning now to the external surface of the stummel, I take a closer look at the condition of the briar.  I identify some very small fills which are solid except for one, which is pitted.  Along with normal dents and scratches from wear, there is a small skin mark on the forward outer lip of the rim.  For the pitted fill, I dig out more of the old fill with a sharp dental probe.  Since I will put clear CA glue on the pitted fill, I color the fill with a walnut dye stick to aid in blending.  I then spot drop CA glue on the area and set the stummel aside allowing the glue to cure. After a full work day, the CA glue patch I applied this morning is fully cured.  I remove the CA glue mound starting with a flat needle file.  The key is to stay on the mound and gradually bring it down close to the briar surface.  I don’t want to impact any surrounding briar.  I follow the filing by using a tightly rolled piece of 240 grit paper to bring the glue down until it’s flush with the briar surface.  My rule of thumb is to sand until I can feel no roughness.  The patch looks good – blending well with the briar.To address the rim nicks, I decide to give the rim a very light topping.  Using a chopping board as my topping board, I place a sheet of 240 grade paper on the board.  Inverting the stummel, I rotate the stummel a few times on the board to freshen the rim lines and remove the nicks.  I follow with a few rotations on 600 grade paper.  The pictures show the progress. Next, to address the briar surface, I use in succession rough, medium and light grade sanding sponges to work out the cuts and nicks in preparation for the micromesh pads.  I find that using sanding sponges on smooth briars helps clean the surface of the old, tired finish without being greatly invasive.  The sponges also smooth and soften the rim lines after the topping.  I enjoy watching the grain begin to take center stage through the process.Next, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I forgot to take a picture of the first set of 3 pads.  The grain is coming through nicely. Rejoining stem and stummel, I mount a 1-inch cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel set at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.Before applying carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I need to touch up the Ben Wade stem stamping with the hope there’s enough tread left in the ‘Wade’ portion of the stamp to hold the paint.  Using white acrylic paint, I apply paint over the stamping and sponge off the excess while still wet and allow the paint to dry. After dry, I gently scrape the excess with the flat edge of a toothpick.  I’m less than satisfied.  I try reapplying more paint and wiping while still wet.  After working with it for some time, I’ve come to the best I can do.  The ‘Wade’ part of the stamping simply does not have enough depth left to fully hold paint.  The picture shows my less than hoped for results. One more project to finish before the final waxing.  After completing the chamber repair using J-B Weld and sanding, to aid the aesthetics and to provide a starter layer for developing a protective cake, I mix together sour cream or natural yogurt with activated charcoal to form an application to cover the walls of the chamber.  When I first heard about this mixture from Steve on rebornpipes, I was a bit doubtful then, but no longer.  I have used this application many times and after applying and drying, the result is a very sturdy layer.  After the pipe goes into service, the only caution is when cleaning out the bowl after use do not scrape the chamber with a pipe tool.  I simply use a folded bristled pipe cleaner to scrape the wall after dumping the ash.  This has worked well for me.  I place a pipe cleaner in the draft hole to keep the airway open.  Here in Bulgaria, yogurt is very plentiful, so I scoop some natural yogurt in a small bowl and add some activated charcoal powder and mix it.  After it mixes and thickens enough so it won’t be runny, I trowel the mixture into the chamber with a pipe nail tool and spread it evenly.  After it’s distributed well, I set the stummel aside for a time to allow the charcoal/yogurt mixture to cure. After the Charcoal/Yogurt coating sets, I reunite stem and stummel.  Using the Dremel, I mount another cotton cloth wheel, leaving the speed at about 40% and apply carnauba wax.  After a few coats of wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

This hefty Ben Wade Made in London England Bent Billiard turned out very well.  The horizontal grain on the huge stummel flows in a striking picture and is joined by large bird’s eye pools. The bowl rests very nicely in the palm and will provide its new steward with much enjoyment. Paresh commissioned this Ben Wade and will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!


Restoring a Collector’s Kaywoodie Massive War Club

Blog by Steve Laug

This is one big pipe that came to me in an estate that I purchased from a fellow in Arizona. When I looked over the pipes he was selling with my brother I don’t think the size of this brute really registered with us. It was just another larger Kaywoodie Bulldog. The stamping on the left side of the shank which read Collector’s Kaywoodie Imported Briar did not mean anything to me at this point in the process. It had a rugged sandblast finish that was a large and craggy as the pipe itself. It had a smooth rim top, a smooth top ring and sandblast ring between that and a second ring around the bowl. The bowl was dusty but I was amazed that it was unsmoked and showed a well grained and STAINED bowl interior. There was a spacer on the shank that separated the bowl from the stem and contained the threaded mortise insert for a Kaywoodie threaded stinger. The stem was lightly oxidized and had some water spots that had oxidized spots on the stem. There was some light tooth chatter on the button end on both sides that must have come from people “trying the pipe on”. It had the Kaywoodie Club insert on the left side of the stem. When I unscrewed the stem it had a large four hole stinger. The aluminum was dull from having been sitting. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup process to show the condition it was in when we received it. I included the moon rock finished pipe that I just finished in the photo to give a sense of the massiveness of this pipe. The moon rock is a little over 5 ½ inches long and 1 ¾ inches tall. It is an average sized pipe that is dwarfed by this monster. The Kaywoodie is truly one I would call a magnum pipe. I was unfamiliar with the Collector’s line so I did some digging and had Jeff do the same to see what we could come up with on the brand. I found it listed on the Pipephil site but the pipe shown was obviously a newer one and I found a matching pipe on eBay that showed that it had a three hole stinger. That one was dated as a 1960s era pipe which fits the stinger arrangement on the threaded tenon.

Jeff found a listing on eBay for a 10 inch long Collector Billiard that bore the same stamping as the one I have and had a four hole stinger. The seller described it as “One Very Rare Magnum and a True Kaywoodie Collectors 10 Inch Long pipe.” He went on to say that even to see a Kaywoodie Magnum Smooth Cross Cut Swirled Smooth Grained that is an Extra Large Series of the Collector’s Billard is rare. He dates the pipe to 1951-1954 which is where I would place the one that I have in my hand. This pipe is new – truly NOS that is in excellent condition and though it is large, it feels light and well balanced in the hand. The sandblast finish is very tactile and feels good but I think it would even feel more amazing with fire in the bowl. This huge magnum is 11 inches long and over 3 inches tall. It is a true Magnum Sized pipe. The craggy grained sandblast finish holds a perfectly drilled and centered airway in the bottom of the bowl. The long, large Drinkless Balled Kaywoodie 4 Hole Stinger System is flawless and the stem aligns perfectly.

I took a photo of the top of the bowl to show the condition of the rim and the unsmoked bowl. The rim top had a bit of grime from sitting unused for the past 64+ years. The photos of the stamping and Kaywoodie Club logo show the condition of the rest of the pipe. The nomenclature is crisp and readable. The Club is in good condition. The photos of the stem show the light oxidation and what I called tooth chatter from people “trying on the pipe”. I unscrewed the stem from the mortise to have a look at the stinger and tenon apparatus. I took photos of the set up to show the condition of the internals of the pipe.I started my restoration of this pipe by rubbing the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and the rim top as well as the briar shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I worked it into the sandblasted surface of the briar with a horsehair shoe brush. After it had been sitting for a little while, I buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I worked over the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the marks, scratches and oxidation – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with some Obsidian Oil. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and stubborn patches of oxidation. It also does a great job raising a shine in the hard rubber stems. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish for one that is so large. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This huge magnum from 1951-1954 is 11 inches long and over 3 inches tall. The outside diameter of the bowl is 2 inches and the chamber diameter is 1 inch. It is a true Magnum Sized pipe. The craggy grained sandblast finish holds a perfectly drilled and centered airway in the bottom of the bowl. The long, large Drinkless Balled Kaywoodie 4 Hole Stinger System is flawless and the stem aligns perfectly. The fact that the inside of the bowl has been sanded smooth and has a light stain coat is just proof of the NOS (New Old Stock) condition of this beauty. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this older Collector’s Kaywoodie. I am still undecided what I am going to do with this pipe. In all my years of pipe restoring I have never come across a Collector’s Edition pipe like this and probably never will again. That alone makes me hesitate in selling it too soon. Thanks for looking.

Love at First Sight for a Comoy’s Claridge Easy-Bent Billiard

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

— “Something,” by George Harrison, The Beatles, 1969

Mark Oberman is one of the best men I’ve ever known, a man of true faith who walks the way he talks, in a calm, quiet search for his own meaning and place in the world.  He works as a private psychologist in the community and for the local police department’s crisis intervention unit, meaning he puts his life on the line to help desperate folks avoid doing things that might harm themselves or others, but he never talks about that unless there’s a need.  I only found out not long ago, eight years after we met, when someone I know well had been a subject of what police call constant involvement for violent psychological behavior during the previous year and was upgraded to an official investigation.  Mark has helped me under far less serious scenarios, and I consider him to be a good friend.  I’ll have to tell him that sometime.

Mark signaled me, near the end of our monthly pipe club meeting last week, that he wanted a word in private.  Curious, I stepped aside with him, and noticed he appeared uncertain how to get to the point.  I could sense his mind grasping for the right words, and it made me nervous.  At last, he spoke.

“Do you do stem work?” he asked.  I have to say, it was the last thing I expected, and my face might have betrayed me, or maybe my initial silence.  “Could you clean up a few stems and pipes?”

I smiled, knowing full well he didn’t need to ask and not yet understanding where he was going.

“I could do that,” I said.

I think Mark’s hands must have been behind his back, because I was almost startled by the suddenness with which he produced three pipe sleeves that weren’t empty.  Really, he could have been a magician.  We were already whispering when his voice dropped another notch, lest someone else hear his plan.

“I have these three pipes I’d like to donate for the next raffle,” Mark continued before making an inexplicable return to his original question, still avoiding whatever was on his mind.  “Could you clean up the stems, the pipes?”

I knew he wasn’t asking whatever question was most important to him and didn’t get it, and so I responded with my same original answer that, when repeated with a slight twist of emphasis, became ambiguous.

“I could definitely do that.”

This is getting bizarre, I thought, and felt the sudden need to retrieve a Brigham sandblasted pot sitter (#118) as corroboration.  I had restored the stummel and inappropriate three-dot stem with which it came.  The stem should have had only one dot, corresponding with the 100 series of the shape, and also appeared to have been pummeled and lacerated until the top lip was weak and the bottom masticated into nothingness. A hole on the bottom gave poignant testimony to its treatment.  I handed the whole thing to Mark, who couldn’t tell where the stem hole and weak lips once were, and it was shiny black again.  [I’m still looking to trade it for a one-dot, BTW.]

Mark just looked at me, his eyes piercing.  It was as though he beamed the thought to me, and I grokked him.

“I’ll be happy to do it,” I said with a grin.  “To give something back to the club for everything it’s done.”

Mark took a deep breath and smiled in relief.  I guess there was something he didn’t know about me, also.

In that night’s raffle, for example, for three tickets at a dollar a piece, I won a nice corncob and a 100-gram bag of some leafy stuff called Spilman Mixture by the E. Hoffman Company.  Mark donated both of them and more.

And that was when I had my first sight of a smooth easy-bent billiard that grabbed my heart on the spot, even though I didn’t yet know it.  I recognized at a glance its obvious British pedigree but was still surprised by the clean, crisp Comoy’s nomenclature on either side of the shank.

Claridge, I learned when I was home with the three pipes and could examine them in good light, is sometimes listed as a Comoy’s second.  I’m not so sure.  After all, parent companies don’t tend to stamp their own names on their children’s pipes, and when they do, it’s more in the way of introducing a special line, as in Bing’s and Clark’s Favorites, each a “Savinelli Product,” but not considered a second.

The Claridge easy-bent billiard #1452 that wooed me as I worked out its small kinks with slow, gentle rubbing and left it radiant and refreshed again has the following nomenclature: on the left shank, COMOY’S above CLARIDGE; on the right, a small F (for fishtail, indicating that was the original stem type) followed by the much larger, famous round mark with MADE over the top, IN snug in the middle, LONDON completing the circle and ENGLAND straight below it, then 1452.

As a final note on the pipe and its line designation, this billiard was named for two people, a man and woman, husband and wife: William and Marianne Claridge of Mayfair, London, who owned a small hotel there in the mid-19th century.  Wishing to expand, they did so in style, buying the five adjacent properties in 1854 and, two years later, opening Claridge’s London.  In a short time, the hotel became “London’s hotel,” according to the first issue of Baedeker Guide.  Today it is still sometimes called the “annex to Buckingham Palace” because of the frequency of royal visits.

RESTORATION Other than the need for minor cleaning, I didn’t notice anything wrong with the Claridge until I took it home and examined it close-up in good light.  That’s when I spotted the small but insidious furrow starting at the top outer right edge of the rim and extending down the side of the bowl. My heart leapt at the sight of the blemish.  I considered ignoring the relative trifle.  After all, I reasoned, Mark only asked me to clean the pipes and stems!  I had made three previous attempts at repairing uneven rims, all of them very grave cases, and two with what I’d call success.  The other was the best I could do under the circumstances.  All of them involved filing to begin, and I knew I would never subject this beauty to such an invasive procedure.  While I pondered the problem I suppose is obvious I couldn’t help tackling, I put the stem in an OxiClean bath.Hoping to get rid of the dent and make the rim more uniform by sanding, I started slow, patient brushing, front to back, left to right and crosswise, using a 150-/180-grit pad.That part took about an hour, but at the end of it I was surprised and pleased with the results thus far.  The chamber needed to be cleared of carbon buildup and smoothed, so I commenced that stage with my Senior Reamer.  I thought it might help equalize the rim diameter a little more, also, and it did.Then I turned to 150-git paper before 220.  Sometimes that will be enough, but this pipe needed to progress almost all the way up from there: 320-, 400-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.  All of that done, I soaked a small piece of paper cloth in alcohol and cleaned the remaining soot and wood powder from the chamber.Seeing what looked like a single scratch on the left side of the bowl, I was afraid I might have to put some paper to it for a spot-sand, and I really wanted to do this job in as minimalist a way as possible.  After all of that gripping and turning of the beautiful piece of bird’s-eye briar in dirty hands, I washed mine in the sink and used a little purified water on a paper towel to clean the outer stummel.I can only assume that what I saw and felt as a scratch was in fact only a tiny piece of detritus transferred to the wood from my hands that had become somewhat grubbier than usual.

At this point, I started going back and forth between the stem and stummel.  Removing the stem from its bath, I rinsed it, stuck a pipe cleaner through the airhole and let it dry.  Thanks to some lessons from my friend Don Gillmore (dba Don Warren, or dwpipes) concerning how to refinish a pipe in dress black, after five years working on pipes the idea occurred to me to see if 1000-grit paper would clear away the leftover white coat of whatever residual substance remains.  And indeed it did.  If anyone can tell me what that stuff is, by the way, please do so! Then I prepped the shank with alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners and a nylon brush before retorting the pipe. Back to the stem, I did a full wet micro mesh progression with my old pads followed by a full dry run with my newer kit.  The difference can be seen even with these cell phone pics.After only about an hour and a half of concerted effort, I was ready to take the stem and stummel to the electric buffer wheels.  For the ebonite, I used red and white Tripoli, and for the briar I chose White Diamond and carnauba. CONCLUSION
As soon as I finished the Claridge, I emailed Mark the photos of the finished pipe and confessed my predicament, that I’d fallen for the lovely, graceful billiard.  The half of my mind that could reason knew Mark and therefore assured me he would accept my plea to sell me the pipe and allow me to donate one of my own to the raffle in its place.  The other half, alas, was louder, and so for the two days before Mark replied all I could do was look at and sometimes hold in my hands and covet the pretty thing.

When at last Mark replied, all he wrote was, “Absolutely it is yours.”  Of course I was more than happy and relieved, and I dashed off a reminder to him to think of a price before the 1st of November, when I would pay him.  I knew it would be a good deal but never expected his answer.

“Here is a fair price: $0.00.  I expect it at the next meeting. 😊”

Now, that’s an offer I can’t refuse.  But I’m still going to donate a pipe to next month’s raffle – and it’s going to be a good one.  I’m also going to keep my eye out for a Claridge fishtail stem with one of these logos, courtesy of Pipephil.