Daily Archives: October 17, 2018

Breathing New Life into a Spanish Made Seville Brandy

Blog by Steve Laug

This is yet another pipe that I don’t remember where Jeff picked it up. It has a shape and finish that I like to work on. The cratered, almost moon surface type of finish on the shank and bowl are unique and I have only seen them on these Spanish made pipes. Other than being dirty and dusty in all of the craters on the finish the pipe was in decent condition. The rim top had a little bit of lava and darkening but nothing serious. There was a light cake in the bowl that would come out fairly easy. The stem was oxidized with light tooth chatter near the button on both sides. The pipe was stamped on the topside of the oval shank in a smooth panel. It was in great condition and I could read Seville Select over Spain. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup process to show the condition it was in when he found it. He took photos of the pipe from various angles to show the rustication pattern. It really is a unique rustication that has an easily identifiable look to it that says “Spanish” when I see one. The next photo shows the clear and readable stamping on the top of the shank.The stem photos show a lightly oxidized stem with little damage other than light tooth chatter on both the top and undersides.Jeff had scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush Murphy’s Oil soap to work into the rustication pattern and remove all of the dust and grime that had accumulated in the moon crater style rustication. The finish looked dry and tired but the rustication was in very good condition once it had been scrubbed. The rim top looked very good with some minor darkening remaining on the back inner edge of the bowl. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe came to me clean and ready to do the restoration. The cleaning had raised more oxidation on the stem. I took some photos of the pipe to show the condition at this point in the process. I took some photos of the rim top to show what it looked like when it arrived. It was almost pristine with little darkening on the beveled edge of the rim. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the oxidation. The stem had some light tooth chatter and marks on the surface near the button. I did not know much about the brand so I did a bit of research on the internet to see if I could ferret out any information. The first spot I turned was the pipephil logos and stampings website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s5.html). There I learned to my surprise that the brand was a line of Mastercraft pipes. The stamping on the shank in the photo above  looks similar to the second and third stamping photo below.I turned to the next site I generally turn to for information – Pipedia to see if there was additional information (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft).

It doesn’t appear it was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow…

United States Tobacco (UST) (Skoal and Copenhagen) bought Grabow in 69′ from the Lavietes family. In 74′ they bought M/C from Bernard Hochstein and moved it into the EXACT facility Grabow occupied. I was named “operations manager” and we were in the basement of a 4 story building in Sparta, NC…

M/C was STRICTLY an importer of pipes and pipe related merchandise. In 74′ when M/C moved from NYC to NC the inventory of finished goods was stored in a facility in Winston Salem, NC. Lentz Moving and Storage. Stacked 10 feet high the inventory covered 180,000 square feet….FINISHED…

I’ll just list a few Manufacturers/names of their inventory. England…Parker/Hardcastle (Dunhll), Orlik. France…Jeantet, Jima, Cherrywoods. Italy…GIGI pipe, Radici, Rossi, Federico Rovera, Santambrogio, Brebbia. Meerschaums from Austria….Strambach. Lighters from Japan….Pouches and accessories from Hong Kong…and the Israeli pipes from Mr. Hochstein’s sons. Trust me…This is only a small sample of the things M/C had, and bought into inventory.

Now the connection. Since M/C and Grabow shared a building, and I was an employee of Grabow we compared notes. Grabow copied a BUNCH of M/C items fully with my help and some skills I had developed…

Now the other way. Grabow to Mastercraft. M/C never really had a source of continuing supply. The foreign manufacturers would make a line for a while and then quit. Never do it again, no matter how well it sold, no matter the demands we put on em’. Grabow gave M/C a source of stability, and a nice profit for both companies. A lot of these you will not have heard of, but maybe….Seville, for M/C all smooth, for Grabow all rustic Hillcrest…. Freehand, For M/C Andersen and (a few Mastersen), for Grabow, Freehand with a DRB tampon. New finishes…New shapes, New bits…..Mastercraft showed Grabow how to use LUCITE for stems… Royalton. Again these are just examples.

I back sourced the above information to the Dr. Grabow group on Tapatalk where Ted who contributed the above information to Pipedia answered a question about the Seville Line of pipes (https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/drgrabows/is-seville-grabow-t5171.html).

Ted is the expert on this…because of the fact that Seville pipes were distributed by Mastercraft during Ted’s tenure there. Mastercraft shared the same building with Grabow in Sparta…and Ted has about a million very interesting stories and recollections from his days there.

Quoting Ted from an earlier post: “Mastercraft started importing Seville from GIGI PIPE in Varese in the late 70’s or early 80’s. The Seville became one of the most popular pipes M/C sold. They came in several versions, Regular, Filter, Convertible, and Lucite. They were so popular that Grabow started making some for M/C. This gave M/C a steady source of supply, and allowed Grabow to make some fancier shapes for their regular lines. I think Grabow was making most all of them by the mid 80’s.”

I believe the Sparta-made Sevilles would NOT say ‘Italy’ on them…as those stamped Italy would have been made by GIGI.  Ted can verify that. Ted has also confirmed that a few of the Seville shapes were added to the Hillcrest line. A couple are very close, and 2 or 3 are identical, from what I’ve seen.

I have learned from my internet excursion that the pipe was most likely made in Spain by a pipe maker there. The brand later became a sub-brand or line from the Grabow factory. It is interesting to note in all of the above there is no identification of the pipe maker in Spain and no mention of the brand being made in Spain… ah well yet another mystery of pipe repair and refurbishing.

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 rusticated 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 applied some Conservator’s Wax and worked it into the surface of the rustication with my fingertips. I worked it over with a horsehair shoebrush to further get it into the pits and buff it to a shine. I buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. I had removed the stem when I was working on other pipes and put it, along with two other stems to soak in a Before & After Deoxidizer bath. I left them in the bath for about 4 hours to soak and break through the oxidation. I took the stems out of the bath and rinsed them under running water and scrubbed them dry with a coarse piece of cloth. I took photos of the three stems before I continued my work. I broke up the residual oxidation on the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on it until all the oxidation and the light tooth chatter was removed.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 rustication came alive with the buffing and worked 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 this Spanish Made pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/16 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be adding this interesting Seville Select Spanish made pipe to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over yet another unique and interesting old pipe. I really like the look and feel of this finish.


The Resurrection Special: Part 1

A few years back there was a thread on Pipes Magazine’s repair and restoration forum about three lots of pipes a member was giving away. The first lot was a very easy “beginner” lot, the second was slightly more challenging, and the last was called The Resurrection Special and had the most challenges. No information was given about the pipes or (as far as I recall) their issues.

The first two lots were spoken for fairly quickly but the third sat there, unloved, for a little while. After looking at the post for as long as I could stand I sent a PM to the original poster and said “I’ll bite; send them my way and I’ll see what I can do”.

When the long, medium sized box arrived on my doorstep I was excited to see what I had gotten myself into. I took them straight to the kitchen table (my wife wasn’t home so I could do that lol) and cut open the box. The contents were carefully packed in newspaper which held three bubble wrapped pipes. I was like a kid on Christmas morning getting ready to open each one!

The first pipe I opened was a lovely old Tracey Mincer Bulldog -type shape. I had seen photos of and read about Mincer’s different pipes but had never held or owned one yet.

The second pipe turned out to be a Peterson System pipe, my first both of this historic marquee and type. It was hallmarked 1973 and looked every day of it. I was a little intimidated by the work this one would take.

As I unwrapped the third pipe my mind was still on the Peterson and what a great pipe I hoped it would be after a lot of work went into it. The last pipe was just over medium in size I noted as the bubble wrap was peeled away. A silver band was the first thing to catch my attention, looking at the pipe upside down when it was finally out of its protective shroud.

I rolled the pipe over to look for it’s stamping. That’s when I saw it: A White Dot in the stem! “Surely not”, I thought to myself, “this can’t be a Dunhill, can it?” The nomenclature was very worn but readable enough to see it was a Dunhill. I immediately went to get my loupe to see what year the pipe was made, if possible. Looking it over under magnification I found two things I’d not yet seen: enough stamping to date the pipe and that the silver band was a repair for a cracked shank.

The discovery of the crack slowed me down a bit. I went to get a flashlight to inspect the pipe closer. The crack seemed to be well repaired with the band; that was a good find. But looking at the bowl I realized there was a pretty big crack in it, too. So much for my bit of relief … I decided to check the year of the pipe’s manufacture and leave the repair thoughts aside for now.

After a quick internet search I came up with a link to a Dunhill dating chart on Pipephil’s site. It took only a moment or so to find the results but it took a bit longer for the results to sink in. If I was reading everything right, this pipe dated to 1968, which is my birth year! I was giddy as a schoolgirl at this moment… and nervous as a cat at the same time.

At this point I had not worked on any pipe as (potentially) valuable as these. I also hadn’t tried to undertake any repairs as extensive as these looked to be. After a lot of debate, I finally decided to put the lot away until I’d tackled a few more repairs and had more experience under my belt and tools in my arsenal. Over time as I repaired and restored more pipes I began to raise my confidence levels. Each project I completed had as the goal getting me ready for the Resurrection Special lot.

About when I felt it was time to take on these challenges life threw a few curveballs at me, personal issues that put most of my hobby time on hold. Fast-forward a few years, it’s time to get to the Resurrection Special lot.

Looking more closely at the pipe when I unpacked it again I saw that much of my past inspection was correct: the shank repair and band were tight and holding well with no “feel” when I rubbed a fingernail over it, the pipe did date to 1968 as I thought, and the bowl would need work, though not as much as I thought. The pipe was very dirty, the rim being covered in a thick layer of lava. The stem had a little oxidation and some tooth dents. The silver band was tarnished.

I began with the rim; I had no idea of it’s condition under the lava and I wanted to see what I was dealing with. I used alcohol dipped cotton swabs to begin breaking down the thick layer. Once it was softened up some I used a knife-blade wax carving tool to scrape away the gunk. The rim was damaged under the lava, as I expected it to be; it would need to be topped. I decided here that I would take off as little wood as possible when I topped the bowl since I wanted to keep the shape as true as possible. I also decided that this wouldn’t be an attempt to make the pipe perfect; it (like me) had battle the scars of it’s life and I wanted to retain that character, too.

The bowl had been reamed before I received the pipe, most likely when the issue was discovered. What I had thought was a crack actually was heat fissures; they didn’t go all the way through the bowl. The outside of the bowl did have what appeared to be burns though; more on these in a bit.

I had read how Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes had done several successful bowl repairs with JBWeld and his own bowl coating. I messaged Charles and also looked up his article on bowl coating to try it myself. The recipe is simple: coat the bowl with maple syrup, fill it with activated charcoal powder, and wait for it to dry. (Actually there are a couple more steps, like putting a pipe cleaner in the stem, so make sure you read Charles’ article if you’re interested in trying this method.)

I mixed up some JBWeld and coated the area where the fissures were, using a toothpick to push the epoxy back into the cracks, after inserting a pipe cleaner in the shank through the air hole to keep it open. I used a pipe cleaner and my finger to smooth the repair out as well as I could. Then I sprinkled some activated charcoal powder on the wet repair and set the bowl aside for the epoxy to cure until the next day.

After the repair was dry I sanded it a little smoother with 220-grit paper. Unfortunately this took out most of the carbon I had applied so the full bowl coating would have to be done. But I waited until after all the work was completed to do that. I also topped the bowl to remove most of the rim damage using 220-grit paper.

While the bowl repair was curing I worked on the stem. I started with painting the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the dents as much as possible. You can see in the photos that there were still significant dents after flaming the stem. A crack in the underside of the button also appeared after the flaming. I began filling the dents and repairing the crack/button with black CA glue at this point. The climate has been very humid here so the CA glue cured extremely slowly.

I worked on the stem in multiple sessions over a period of days to complete it due to the slow curing time. Multiple patch layers were applied and shaped with needle files, a vulcrylic file, and sandpaper until I had an acceptable repair.

The next step was to wet sand the stem with the full range of micro mesh pads. Then I used both the fine and extra-fine Before and After Stem Polish. I buffed the stem with blue compound using a 1″ cotton wheel on my Dremel at about 13k RMP. While the stem wasn’t “perfect” it was very improved, definitely something I could live with and what I thought would go well with my goal for this restoration. It was time to get back to the stummel now.

I cleaned the surface of the briar with cotton pads and alcohol, removing the grime covering its surface. I decided to see what the pipe would look like with a gentle sanding. With 400-grit wet/dry paper I began with the rim, sanding out the scratches from topping the bowl. I began to work around the bowl with the 400- grit paper and noticed the burn mark on the side of the heat fissures seemed to be lightening so I started working at that spot. In short order the burn was all but gone. Apparently it wasn’t a burn at all but some kind of stain on the briar. As I sanded the stummel I avoided the nomenclature, and effectively the entire shank. The stamping was already terribly weak and I was not going to make it worse.

Avoiding the stamping presented another challenge: Now the shank was a different color than the bowl. I didn’t want to re-stain the pipe so I applied Before and After Restoration Balm to the wood and set it aside to work its magic for a bit.

I was surprised how well the wood blended in color after I hand buffed the balm off. It was now uniformly darkened, even the topped rim.

I had an idea that had been in the back of my head for a little while that I wanted to try on this pipe. The nomenclature being so weak, I wanted to try to enhance it if I could. But I didn’t want to try to deepen the stamping or anything of that sort. What I decided to try was applying some Rub’N Buff ebony wax. This was a brand new idea (to me) and I really didn’t know if it would work or not.

I put a small amount of the ebony wax on the shank and spread it thinly over the entire shank, continuing to buff it with my thumb until the color went from opaque to translucent. I then applied a couple of coats to the rest of the pipe until I had even coverage.

I was really happy with the results. The color was even and highlighted the grain a bit. The stamping was also strengthened I think, much better than it had started out. While still not “strong” (I don’t think that can ever be restored) it was more readable.

I buffed the stummel with Tripoli and then white diamond, both using the Dremel and 1″ cotton wheels at about 13k RMP. I then put the stem back on the pipe and gave the entire pipe several coats of Carnuaba Wax, again with the Dremel and a 1″ cotton wheel at about 15k RPM. (I find the slightly faster speed does a far better job for the Carnuaba Wax.)

I’m still waiting for the bowl coating to cure so I’ve yet to christen the pipe. But I’m very happy with the results of this project. While it may not be a perfect specimen nor hold a lot of monetary value, to me it is a prize possession; my first Dunhill, and a birth-year Dunny to boot!