Monthly Archives: November 2018

Father Tom – Contrasting Visits on the Road to Recovery

This story may seem fanciful to some of you but it is pretty close to what I experienced in my own journey. Enjoy the read — Steve

Blog by Steve Laug

Father Tom woke up very early the morning after the surgery, still groggy from the anesthesia but almost able to hold his thoughts together. He was on his back in the hospital bed with tubes attached all around his body. He had tubes hooked to the back of his hands. He had both a catheter and a drain tube running out of him mid-body. His legs had automatic compression stockings that inflated and deflated keeping the blood moving through his feet and legs. He lifted the blanket to check out the surgery. He was surprised at how black and blue he was from the bottom of his rib cage to his knee caps. He was sore but not in a lot of pain thanks to the drip concoction that was flowing into his veins. He was clearly not going anywhere soon.

He looked around his room to take in his surroundings. It was a nice looking room with space for another bed next to his but empty at the moment. He noticed his urologist quietly sitting in the corner on the guest chair. When the doctor saw him he nodded and said good morning to Father Tom. They chatted for a short time about many things. The doctor came over and checked the bandages, the wounds and the bags. He repeated what Tom had heard in recovery room that the surgery went well and he was fairly certain that he had gotten all the cancer as it had not spread out of the prostate. Tom told him of the shock at seeing how black and blue he was and the doctor chuckled and said that he was sorry that he had forgotten to warn Tom about that. He finished his exam and told Tom to have as good a day as he could. He had two more surgeries scheduled for the day. With that he was gone and Tom was alone.

Tom snoozed for a little while and woke when the nurse came to change his bandages and empty the bags. She said things were looking good and told him breakfast was on its way. She also said that physio would have him up walking after breakfast. They wanted to get him moving again she said. He agreed; he was never very good at sitting still and was ready to get going. As she left, the breakfast cart came in and put his tray on the table. He lifted the cover on the plate to see what kind of mystery was underneath. He ate his breakfast and quietly reflected on what was ahead for him. He knew it would be a while before he could enjoy his pipe and his normal morning ritual. So today sans pipe he said his prayers and sipped his coffee.As he finished, the physio therapist came in for a visit and told him it was time to get up and walk. Tom said he was game.

He tried to sit up and the physio stopped him and raised the head of the bed up to make it easier. He helped Tom drop his legs over the edge of the bed. He unplugged the massage stockings on his legs and put on his slippers.Together they stood up. Tom held onto his IV pole and they put his catheter bag and drain bag on hooks on the pole. All was ready for him to start the walkabout. Everything in him pulled as he shuffled his feet along hanging onto the cart. It hurt but that did not stop him. The physio told him to start slow and just do a short walk to the nurses’ station but Tom was up and wanted to keep going. He did a lap and a half around the floor. As he moved into the second lap he felt tired so he peeled off the track and went back to his room. The physio suggested he sit in the chair for a while before getting back in bed. He was compliant and took a seat with a wink.

As the physio left the room his first visitor arrived. It was Anna, and it was so good to see a familiar face. He chuckled as he said he could not quite stand to greet her but offered her is hand instead.She took his hand and gave him a peck on the cheek. She moved a chair from the next bed to sit with him. They talked quietly for quite a while about his experience.Together they reflected on a similar scene to this when William (her late husband) was in the hospital during his last days. It was a mixture of funny and sad memories that both of them had, one that brought both tears and laughter as they remembered the conversations from that day.

They paused in their conversation for a few moments and sat quietly. Anna remembered that she had brought him something. She said,“I almost forgot…I thought I would bring you something a little different from the flowers that are often brought! Hope you don’t mind but I got something a little different for you!” She reached into her purse and retrieved what looked like a tin of tobacco.

“This is a tin of one of William’s favourite tobaccos that I came across when you were in surgery. It is a tin of Dunhill’s Baby’s Bottom. I remember when he and I visited the Dunhill shop in London and he bought a sleeve of this tobacco. I was very surprised to find this one lurking in the back of a cupboard in his study. I immediately thought of you when I found it and knew that it was the perfect hospital gift Tom.”

Father Tom reached out and took her gift in his hands. “Oh, Anna this is amazing. I have not had any of this since I smoked  a few bowls with William in his study a few years ago now. I still remember our conversation that day as we two old curmudgeons enjoyed some good talk and good tobacco. I miss those days and conversations with William.”

They sat in silence, each with their memories and savoured those special days. Each of them was lost in thought – walking through private spaces that had intersected over the years. As they sat the nurse came in to help Tom get back in bed. She asked Anna to step out for a moment and pulled the curtain around the bed and carefully helped Tom back to the bed. It was uncomfortable and there was some pain but he was soon resituated and the curtain was drawn back. Anna re-entered the room and stood by Tom’s bedside.  They bade their farewells and Anna said she would check on him again. She left and Tom was once more by himself.

His mind wandered a bit and he was felt tired. He dozed off and woke as lunch was put on the table next to his bed. As he ate his lunch he picked up his well-worn copy of The Book of Pipes & Tobacco,by Carl Ehwa and read. He figured that since he could not enjoy a bowl of tobacco he could at least reread one of his favourite books on the subject. He had brought the book along to fill in the quiet hours of the day and the night if he could not sleep. He was lost in thought, reading and moving his lunch around the plate when his next guest arrived.

He heard someone clearing his throat and looked toward the doorway to see who was there. Perhaps you can imagine his surprise when he saw his friend Bill from Stanley Park standing in the doorway. They had first met by accident on one of Tom’s walkabouts in the park. Tom had been sitting on a bench looking out on the water when a fellow had come out of the trees behind him. He sat with Tom and they had enjoyed several bowls of tobacco and some great conversation. Tom had given him what remained of his tin of tobacco. They had since met many times to chat and enjoy a pipe together.

“Hi Bill, come on in. I had no idea that you knew I was here. How did you find out? Never mind it doesn’t matter. Grab a chair. It is really good to see you. I only wish I could pull out a pipe and join you fora bowl but sadly they won’t let that happen and this is one time I am going to follow the rules!” Bill chuckled at that remembering the first time they met and smoked “against all the rules” sitting on bench by the sea wall in Stanley Park.

“Never known you as one to follow the rules Tom, but I guess this is a hospital so I will take a rain check on a pipe. Once you are out of here though we have to do that. Until then tell me how it is going. Did they get the cancer? You going to be okay?”

Tom told Bill what the Doctor had said and answered quite a few more of his questions. The physio came in to get Tom for his after lunch walk and Tom thought that she would ask Bill to leave but she did not.Instead she invited Bill to walk with him. She helped Tom stand and he held onto the IV pole. She guided him out to the hallway and asked Bill to keep an eye on him. They made quite a pair walking the hallway. Father Tom with one hospital gown tied shut at the back and another one facing the front shuffling along with his pole and Bill in his layered homeless garb shuffling along with him.

As they walked they were engaged in what appeared to be a serious conversation. If you could have overheard you would have been surprised (or maybe you would not be). They spoke of their pipes and favourite tobaccos and some of the great blends they had shared together. Bill told Tom of a surprise cache of tinned tobacco he had found on one of his recent dumpster dives. They laughed and shuffled around the hallway doing three laps. As they finished the third lap Bill helped Tom back to his room and got him situated in his chair.

“I have not done that in a long time Tom. When I was a corpsman in the army I used to do this kind of thing in the field hospital.But I don’t think I ever had a tobacco talk like we did while I was doing it back then. It is good to see you. I will check in on you once you get home if you don’t mind… Oh and speaking of my cache find I brought something for you.”

Bill did a quick glance around the room to check if anyone was watching then slid a hand into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a sealed tin of tobacco for Tom. He held it up and Tom could see that it was a tin of Dunhill Elizabethan Mixture – the old Murray version no less. Tom registered both surprise and delight at this treat.

“Bill do you remember this was the tobacco you and I shared the first time we met in the park? I had a tin of it that I shared with you. It is really good stuff. I can’t believe you found the same blend in your cache. Thank you so much my friend. When I am out of here we will crack the tin together to celebrate.”

Bill nodded and said he remembered and that was why he chose this particular can to share with Tom. They chatted a few more minutes and the Bill said he needed to get moving before it got dark. They bid each other farewell and Bill shuffled out the door. Tom sat for a while just looking at the tin that Bill had brought him. He did not ever remember Bill talking about being a corpsman before, that was news. He was feeling pretty thankful for the visit with Bill and the great time they had. It must have been a first at UBC Hospital to have an old Anglican priest and a homeless vet shuffling the hall together chatting about pipes and tobacco. He laughed out loud when he thought of what they must have looked like. He put the tin on the chair next to him and leaned his head against the wall and fell asleep.

He woke to a nurse tapping his shoulder. She was saying something and as he awoke he caught the last words…”you should be in your bed.” He nodded his agreement and she helped him into his bed. She situated the IV pole and checked his bandages and bags. She emptied the bags and made sure he was comfortable. He looked at the clock and noted that he had been asleep for quite a while. It was already 5pm. He knew dinner would be coming soon so he reached for the table and pulled it across his lap. He pushed the button to raise the bed to a sitting position and picked up his book again.He was thoroughly engrossed in it when the orderly brought his dinner. He found he was hungry so he worked his way through the meal and sipped the tea that had come with the dinner. He was wishing he had an after dinner scotch but that would have to wait too! Only another day or two and he would be able to go home. He was glad it was July because it meant that he could sit on his porch at home and enjoy the life in the neighbourhood walking by.

The early evening went by slowly and he read and snoozed. Around 7:30pm there was a tap on his door and it opened to a couple of the guys from the pipe shop. They obviously were not familiar with hospitals and looked uncomfortably awkward. Tom put them at ease with his humour and soon they had both pulled up chairs to his bed and were animatedly chatting with him. The range of topics was similar to what it was like at the shop. They talked politics – local and national, current events and even theology since he was a priest.

Finally, they talked about new pipes that they had both purchased and even pulled them out of their pockets and passed them to him for his assessment. The first one was a Ser Jacopo Picta Picasso in a natural finish with shining silver fitments. It was a real beauty. The grain and look of the pipe was stunning. Tom really liked the feel of it in his hand. The second pipe was a Castello Sea Rock finish bent billiard and it also felt really good in his hand. It made Tom miss his own pipes! But he gave each one a good look and commended the gents on their choices. They both had picked some good pipes. They nodded and one of them stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out two tins of tobacco.

“The guys at the shop figured that it did not seem right to give you flowers – we thought we would save those for your funeral. So we picked up a couple of tins of tobacco for you. These are both McClellands – a tin of Virginia #24 and one of Christmas Cheer from 2010. We figured that with your penchant for Virginia tobacs these would be good additions. And since McClelland is no longer around these will be at a premium one day. The shop gave us a discount since it was going to you. What do you think of them?”

Tom just shook his head in disbelief. They were right these were far better than flowers. He laughed and thanked them.

“Gents, this is amazing. I have been looking for some McClellands tins and when I was at the shop they did not have any. Where did you find them? I bet one of the clerks had hidden them in the back… wow.Thank you guys this is far better than flowers.”

The nurse came in and told them that visiting hours were over in a few minutes. They made some small talk and wished him well. They said they were looking forward to seeing at the shop soon. With that they bowed out and he was left looking at the two additional tins. He could not believe it. Day number two in the hospital and four of his visitors had brought him tobacco. They really knew him well. He laid the tobacco on the night stand next to the bed and closed his eyes.

The nurse came after a bit and prepared him for sleep. She checked the bags and dressings and checked the drip on the IV. When she was finished she helped him brush his teeth, rinse his mouth and turned down the lights. As he lay there he wondered what the next day would bring. He knew the urologist would be in to check on him first thing in the morning. He also expected a few more visitors but really did not think any would bring him gifts of tobacco. He could feel himself starting to drift off and it was not long before he fell asleep.

He slept intermittently through the night with nurses checking his blood pressure, bags and IV. He watched the early sunrise and saw his urologist sitting in the corner again. They nodded to each other.After a bit the doctor came over and checked things out. They chatted until the doctor had to leave to go to surgery. He lay quietly until the nurse came in and gave him a sponge bath and changed his dressings. She gave him a new set of gowns – one for the front and one for the back. She helped him get up so he could get a walk in before breakfast and he did 6 laps around the hallway this time. He definitely felt better than he had the day before. When he got back to his room he decided to sit in the chair for his breakfast. Today was much better – eggs, toast and a piece of ham… things were looking up. He was hungry so it did not take too long to finish the breakfast. He sipped his coffee longingly wishing for a cup from his local shop. He had one more day left and he would go home. He was looking forward to that!

There was a knock on the door and the priest who was filling in for him was there for a visit. He was a young guy but he had the foresight to grab a real coffee from the neighbourhood coffee shop for Tom. He handed Tom the hot Americano Misto and took a seat by the chair. They talked about how Tom was doing and the work of the parish while he was away. It was a good visit. The priest ended the visit with a well prayed prayer for Tom’s recovery. They shook hands and the young man was on his way. Tom thought that the young man would do well. He liked him a lot and was glad that he was filling in for him.

He snoozed a bit and woke to find Mrs. Conti standing over him covering him with a light blanket. He surprised her when he said good morning. He laughed at her as she jumped in surprise. She sat next to him and gave him the rundown on things at home and in the parish. She liked the young priest and thought he was working out well. She carried on a steady monologue as she did at home so he just quietly nodded as she spoke. When she had finished her talk she tucked the blanket in once more and told him she would see him at home the next day. And with that she was gone… but before a minute had passed she was back. She had forgotten to give him some of his favourite ginger snap cookies so she took them out of her purse and put them on the bed table and was gone… again. Tom just laughed. He loved Mrs. Conti and could not wait to have some of her baking.

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully. Lunch came and went and he was up for his afternoon walkabout on the circuit around the hallway. As he came around the second time he could see the Bishop knock on the door of his room and let himself in. He decided to continue his walk and see how long it took for the Bishop to come out and find him. He made two more rounds before he saw the Bishop stick his head out of the door.

“Oh there you are Tom. I just stopped by to check on you and see how you are doing. Don’t want to interrupt the therapy walk but do you have a minute we could talk?”

Tom nodded a yes and the Bishop went back in the room. The nurse saw it and laughed. She helped Tom back to the room and he found the Bishop sitting in his chair. The nurse moved the second chair over and helped Tom sit down and get situated.

“Well Tom, you seem like you are doing okay. How long do you have to be here? What kind of time are they talking about for recovery?Any extra therapy or radiation happening?”

Tom noted that he did not pause between his questions long enough for an answer and chose to answer the first question about his leaving the hospital and the second about the time off that he would need.

“I get released tomorrow and they are saying the catheter and bag will be with me for about six weeks. During that time I am to rest and let things heal. Afterwards there will be some therapy that I need to go through so I am guessing I will be out for at least 2 ½ to 3 months. Time will tell.”

The Bishop nodded and said he would pass that on to the council at the parish. He wished Tom well and said a short prayer before making his exit. Tom could not help but laugh when the Bishop left. It was such a different visit from Bill’s visit yesterday. There was no camaraderie, no real connection. It was just perfunctory duty and rather odd. He would need to take some time to think about what he was going to do once he was finished with the recovery time.

Tom ate a quiet dinner with no further visits and fell asleep early. The last thoughts that were in his mind were celebratory. In the morning he would be released and head back home. He intended to ask the urologist or the nurse when he could start smoking his pipe again. He was looking forward to getting back into as much of his rhythm as the recovery and the catheter and bag would let him.

He was awake off and on through the night and when morning came he saw his urologist sitting in the corner. When the urologist saw he was awake he came and after the morning pleasantries checked out the wound and the dressings. He looked at the drain and told Tom that would be unhooked shortly. He gave Tom a rundown of what to expect at home and how to manage the wound dressing and showering. The drip bags were already less in number than previously. The doctor told him to come in to the office for a follow up visit early the next week.Tom asked about his pipe and was relieved when the doctor told him to give it one more day and then he could resume his pipesmoking. He chuckled as he told Tom good bye and wished him a speedy recovery.

The orderly came in with his breakfast and while he ate the nurse unhooked the IV bags that remained. As soon as he finished breakfast they unhooked the drain and changed his dressings. They removed the massage socks on his feet and legs and helped him get dressed. He had brought a pair of gym shorts and tee-shirt for the trip home. They weren’t very dignified but at least they were comfortable. He rubbed his hand through his beard and slowly stood up. It was the first time walking without the IV pole. He decided to take a walk around the hallway before he ventured out of the hospital. As he was doing his second round he saw Mrs. Conti and Anna coming out of the elevator. He had no idea that they were going to pick him up and take him home.

He walked back to his room with them and packed his things in a small backpack that he had brought with him. The book went in as did the tins of tobacco. He stuffed in the clothes he had worn to the hospital.He bagged his shoes and decided to walk out in his slippers. Anna picked up the bag and Mrs. Conti picked up the cards and the pile of prescriptions that he needed to pick up on the way home. The three of them walked to the elevator and just before they got on the nurse ran to them with a wheelchair stating that it was hospital policy to wheel patients to their cars. Tom had already learned that arguing with this particular nurse was futile so he sat down in the chair and she pushed him onto the elevator.

While he and Mrs. Conti sat in the lobby with the nurse, Anna went to get her car. When she arrived they pushed Tom out to the car and helped him get into the seat – not as easy as he expected. The nurse said her farewell and the car drove away. His life post cancer surgery had begun and it would not be wrong to say that he had no idea what that meant. Life would certainly have a different rhythm he would learn a new way of life. Ah well – A Day at a Time.

Reviving a Custom-Bilt Rusticated Panel

Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this Custom-Bilt Panel in the Lot of 66 which I won on the eBay auction block some time ago.  The Lot of 66 has been good to me as it has produced many good, collectible pipes.  Stephen,from Bowling Green, Kentucky, saw the Custom-Bilt in my For ‘Pipe Dreamers’Only! collection on the website and sent me an email asking to commission the Custom-Bilt as well as a very nice Comoy’s Made in London, England Bent Bulldog. In the email Stephen wrote,

I actually have a Tinderbox pipe (by Comoys) on that shape, although at some point it has had a new stem put on. It’s a terrific smoker. And I have several Custom-Bilts from various eras, and love the pipes. Looking forward to seeing the finished pipes down the road!  I enjoy getting to know the pipe men and women who love pipes and I’m happy that this Custom-Bilt Panel, that snagged Stephen’s attention, will also benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Here are a few of the pictures that got Stephen’s attention in Pipe Dreamers. The nomenclature is on the lower smooth panel.  On the underside of the shank is cursive ‘Custom-Bilt’ with the hyphen separation.  On the underside of the bowl is stamped ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’.  After looking at the pipe on the work table, I also found a ‘O’ stamped on the upper right side of the shank, bordering the stem.  I’m not sure what this is if anything – an anomaly or the rustication tool gone awry!  On a hunch, I look back at and I see what I missed the first time I looked.  The circle in the picture above is a marking listed as having appeared on some Custom-Bilt pipes.  It does not indicate which period or production lines each marking indicates. The information from about the multiple transitions in ownership of the American pipe name, Custom-Bilt was to the point:

Chunky bowls with rough carving or gouges.

Tracy Mincer stopped making Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The trademark was successively bought by Leonard Rodgers (1953), Consolidated Cigars (1968) and Wally Frank Co. (early 1970s). The later began to produce again his version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975 at Weber pipe factory (NJ). In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently (2010), the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain which is part of Altadis.

It is generally admitted (but not proved) pipes stamped “Custom – Bilt” (with the hyphen) are from the Mincer era. The name might have changed from Custom-Bilt to Custombilt (without the hyphen) in 1946.

If this information is accurate regarding the inclusion or exclusion of a hyphen indicating the period of manufacturing, the Custom-Bilt in front of me could be from the Mincer period and if so, could be dated from 1946 or earlier.  This is helpful information regarding the dating.

The pipe itself seems to be in solid condition.  The characteristic rustified, roughed-up surface of this Custom-Bilt pipe is darkened from grime and needs a thorough cleaning.  The chamber looks good with a thin cake build up.  The rim is in good shape but is darkened from scorching over the years.  The stem has mild oxidation and light tooth chatter and a compression on the lower bit, next to the button. I notice too, that the stem fitting may be a bit loose.  We’ll see how that shapes up after cleaning.  Overall, no major challenges are detected. 

I begin what should be a straight forward restoration of this Custom-Bilt Panel by cleaning the stem’s airway using a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I then add the stem to a Before & After Deoxidizer soak, along with other pipes and stems in queue.  After several hours soaking, I remove the stem and allow the Deoxidizer to drain and then wipe off the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with alcohol.  I follow this with a cotton pad wetted with light paraffin oil that helps condition the vulcanite.I then turn to the stummel and use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to clean the light cake in the chamber.  The chamber is not deep but wide and I use 3 of the 4 blades heads available.  I then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool and scrape the chamber walls further. Finally, I sand the chamber by wrapping a Sharpie Pen with 240 grit paper.  To clean the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  After inspection, the chamber shows now signs of heat damage.  The pictures show the progress. Now turning to the external surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to scrub the rustified surface.  To get into all the nooks and crevices I also use a bristled tooth brush.  I also use the brass wire brush to work on the rim scorching.  The pictures show the progress. With the externals clean, I turn to the internals of the stummel using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Long shank brushes also prove to be helpful.  I scrape the mortise wall with a dental spatula to remove old oil and tar buildup.  Using a drill bit about the same size as the airway, I hand turn the bit and this also removes more buildup on the airway wall.  The pictures show the tools of cleaning. With my day ending, I continue cleaning the Custom-Bilt by giving it a kosher salt and alcohol soak through the night to work on the tars and oils absorbed into the briar.  I first stretch and twist a cotton ball to act as a ‘wick’ inserted down the mortise and airway.  This ‘wick’ draws the tars and oils from the mortise.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt, which doesn’t leave an aftertaste, and I give the bowl a shake to disperse the salt.  After placing the stummel in an egg cart to stabilize, using a large eyedropper I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After few minutes I top off the alcohol which has absorbed into the pipe.  I put the pipe aside and turn off the lights. Rising with the sun, I go to the worktable and the salt and alcohol soak has done the work as hoped.  Both the salt and the wick are discolored with the extraction of the tars and oils.  I dump the expended salt in the waste can and wipe the chamber with paper towel to remove the salt.  I also run a shank brush through the mortise and airway followed by blowing through to clear salt crystals.  To make sure the cleaning is thorough, I dip a cotton bud and pipe cleaner in isopropyl 95% and run them through the mortise again and I’m satisfied all is clean.Looking again at the stummel, I’m not satisfied with rim – still darkened and scorched looking.  To protect and maintain the Custom-Bilt rim’s rustication I don’t want to sand.  I decide to return again to the brass wire brush, without any cleaner solvent and leaving the surface dry, I brush the rim rotating the brush around the rim so that my movement is parallel with the rustication cuts.  This dislodges more carbon stuck in the ridges.  I think it did do the trick.  Pictures show the before and after. Before putting the stummel aside to work on the stem, I apply a coat of light paraffin oil to the rustified stummel surface to hydrate the wood. The oil is thin enough to seep into the crannies of the classic Custom-Bilt rustication using a cotton pad. After thoroughly applied, I put the stummel aside to absorb and dry.I now look at the stem again.  It has minor issues on the lower bit (second picture) with a bite compression on the button and on the bit.  There is also a small bite compression on the edge (third picture). To address these, I first use the heating technique using a Bic lighter and painting the compression areas.  The flame heats the vulcanite, a rubber compound, expanding it and causing the compression to lessen or minimize.  The heating method helps in this case leaving the compressions to be easily sanded out. Using a flat needle file, I file the button area refining the button upper and lower lips.  I follow by erasing the file scratches by using 240 grade paper on upper and lower bit.Following the 240, I erase the 240 scratches by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper followed by buffing the stem with 0000 steel wool.I move directly to the micromesh process by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three, I apply Obsidian oil which the vulcanite drinks in, revitalizing the stem. With the stem waiting in the wings, I turn again to the Custom-Bilt stummel and take another look.  What’s bothering me I realize is the black ring on the inner lip of the rim.  It continues to carry the charred look to the rim.  Without bothering or diminishing the rustication on the rim, I decide to create an internal bevel to remove the darkened wood thus helping to lighten the rim and make it look sharper.  I first use 240 grade paper tightly rolled to remove the heavy charring then follow with 600 grade paper to sharpen the bevel.  I like the rim presentation much better now.  The pictures show the adjustment. I’ve been learning through my research that the hallmark of the Custom-Bilt ‘look’ is rough and big.  This Custom-Bilt isn’t a large pipe, but he is rough with the classic Custom-Bilt rustication that is a consistent technique used in the C-B manufacturing.  I found it interesting that ‘smooths’ are the rarer and more collectible Custom-Bilts according to the Pipedia article.  Yet, the C-B rough look has a certain appeal.  To me, what causes a rustication motif to look classier is when the patches of smooth briar across its landscape are shined and buffed up in nice contrast.  To me also, every peak of a rustication ridge or ‘mountain top’ is smooth briar, not just the underside nomenclature panel and the shank panels.  To shine the peaks and panels, I take the top two thirds of the micromesh pads (3200 to 12000) and dry sand the entire stummel.  The first 3 pictures mark the stummel before using micromesh pads.  I pad sanding ‘lights up’ the rustication patterns and nuances a bit more softness to the rough look. Next, I use Before & After Restoration Balm to condition the rusticated bowl.  The challenge will be to work the Balm into the nooks and crannies and make sure it is absorbed.  I put Balm on my fingers and work the Balm in the rough briar.  After its covered well, I let it sit for a few minutes then begin wiping and buffing using a microfiber cloth.  Wow!  The Balm does a great job enriching the briar.  It looks great. Next, I reunite stem and stummel and mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% full power and I apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  With the 1-inch buffing wheel on the Dremel, I’m able to navigate through the cuts, crannies and gullies of the rustication flow pretty well.  This minimizes the concern for the compound to ‘gunk up’ in the rustication.  After completing the application of Blue Diamond compound and buffing the stummel with a felt cloth to remove compound dust, I do detect some ‘gunking’ in some of the crannies.  Using a stiff plastic brush, I brush the stummel to dislodge the compound.  To make sure the stummel is clean and ready for wax, I use a small felt buffing wheel to work into the nooks and crannies of the rustication – this does a great job and further buffs up the briar.  Nice.Again, I mount the Dremel with another cloth buffing wheel, increase the speed to about 50% full power. This is a little more RPM than normal for waxing.  I want to generate a little more heat than normal with the additional RPM to be sure the wax liquifies well into the briar.  This will assure an even application and avoid (I hope!) the wax from gunking up in the crannies.  I apply carnauba wax to the stummel with a light touch.  To avoid wax getting lodged in the rustication, I apply wax sparingly and rotate the Dremel buffing wheel to navigate through the crevices.  I apply several coats of carnauba to stem and stummel and follow by giving the stummel both a good buffing with a microfiber cloth and a brushing with a horse hair shoe brush on the stummel.

This probable 1940s/50s Custom-Bilt Panel came out much nicer than I was expecting. I’m drawn to the mountain-like landscape of the stummel. Cleaning and hydrating the briar along with bringing the rustication through a polishing regimen resulted in transforming an interesting pipe with rustication into an eye catching classy piece of sculpted briar – that just happens to be a Custom-Bilt, thank you.  One additional small change that made a big difference in the final look was the internal rim bevel.  The residual darkened rim from former scorching was helped immensely not only by the rigorous cleaning, but also cutting a simple internal bevel.  In the finished pipe (as shown in the first picture below), that bevel’s high polish now sets off well the rusticated rim – to me, a very classy addition for this Custom-Bilt Panel.  Stephen commissioned the Custom-Bilt Panel to add to his collection of C-Bs and will have the first opportunity to acquire it in the Pipe Steward Store.  The best part is what follows – that this C-B benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!


The Challenge Continues… Restoring a Vintage Era GBD

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

As I had remarked earlier in my write up on the late 1850s era FIRST CHOQUIN, A METZ (,I could not contain my curiosity to open the third, and the last, box of my inherited pipes. In addition to the regular collection of Barlings, Charatans,Comoys and other assorted collection, I came across two pipes which caught my fancy!!!!!

The pipe on the left bears a football stamp that reads “CHOQUIN” over “A METZ” and the one on the right side simply reads “GBD”  (there are other stampings on the silver ferrule, details of which will be highlighted when it comes up for restoration). Both of these pipes looked vintage and unique enough that I immediately Facetimed with Mr. Steve of rebornpipes. His admission that he is willing for a trade off with me for these two pipes was an indication enough for me to know and understand their uniqueness!!! Thus these two pipes moved to the top of my unorganized and chaotic list of restoration. 

Having now restored the CHOQUIN and experienced the challenges that these vintage pipes pose, I was faced with a dilemma of whether I should consider restoring the GBD or take a break and restore another unique and interesting pipe. Mr. Steve suggested the latter and hence I decided to undertake the restoration of the GBD amidst my hectic schedule.  

This GBD is a long and large pipe with a fairly large and deep smooth briar bowl and a steeply raking shank, the end of which is adorned by a sterling silver ferrule.The horn stem is connected with the shank by a long and hollow Albatross wing bone extension having sterling silver end caps at either end, most probably to strengthen it. The stem attaches itself to the wing bone extension by screw-in type tenon which is attached to this extension. The bowl is stamped on the left side of the shank as “GBD” in an oval encirclement and is the only stamping seen on the stummel. The Sterling silver ferrule at the shank end bears the oval stamp of “GBD” over “M R C LTD”,all in separate squares, over a rhombus which in all likelihood, enclosed the faded number “925” for Sterling silver. For its age, the stamping is crisp and clear.

The large bowl shows beautiful, densely packed birdseye grain on the right side and extending to the front of the bowl,while a combination of tightly packed straight and cross grain adorns the left side and back of the bowl. The shank on the bottom surface appears to be divided into two exact halves, the right side with closely packed birdseye while the left side has tight straight grains. These grains on either side of the shank extend neatly in a straight line to the front of the bowl dividing the grains in symmetrical equal halves.

I searched Pipedia for information on this brand and this model in particular. Even though I could neither find any pictures or mention of this particular pipe that I was working on, I did find some important snippets of information which helped me making an intelligent guess as to the vintage of the pipe. I have reproduced the information that I had gleaned from Pipedia:


In 1850 three gentlemen got together in Paristo establish a firm dedicated to the fabrication of Meerschaum pipes – a courageous step in politically restless times. Ganneval probably came from the area of Saint-Claude where he had learned making wooden pipes. Bondier’s family obviously came from Paris and had immigrated in 1789 to Geneva. He himself had worked as a wood turner in the clay and china pipe industry in and around Saint-Claude making stem extensions etc. Donninger was an Austrian or Swiss and had worked in Vienna, the world’s center of the Meerschaum pipe. They agreed on the acronym GBD selecting the initials of their surnames.

There is a very simple explanation for GBD’s program to turn more”British”: GBD became a British company soon after the turn of the century! In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & London.

The business relation to GBD in Paris began as early as 1870. Being the most important customer in the English speaking world, Oppenheimer & Co. were designated as sole distributor for Great Britain, the USA and Canada in 1897.Especially Adolphe Oppenheimer had a burning interest in the pipe business, and Louis’ son James Adler shared that. He should play the most important role in the amicable merger of GBD. A. Marechal, Ruchon and Cie. in Paris was now Marechal, Ruchon & Co. Ltd. (see Marechal Ruchon & Cie. page) – a British firm with four directors: Adolphe Oppenheimer and James Adler had their seat in the head office in London while Auguste Marechal and Ferdinand Ruchon went on leading the GBD factory in the Rue des Balkan in Paris, which was considerably extended and modernised. Ruchon acted as CEO.

Marechal Ruchon & Cie. was a company owned by Auguste Marechal and Ferdinand Ruchon (“& Cie” is the french equivalent of “& Co”) which owned the GBD brand from the end of the 19th century until 1902 when they sold Marechal, Ruchon & Cie. to Oppenheimer Pipe,which in turn changed the name of the company to Marechal, Ruchon & Co., Ltd. Upon the creation of Cadogan, however, the brand was no more, remembered only in the name of the GBD Marcee pipes made until just after the Second World War.

Cadogan Investments Limited is a subsidiary of A. Oppenheimer& Co. Limited. It was formed by Oppenheimer Pipe in 1920 as a holding company for its many recent acquisitions, including BBB,Loewe & Co.,two pipe factories in St. Claude and others. It continued to acquire pipe brands and makers for decades, adding GBD and others to their marquee.

It is from the last two paragraphs above, that I can judge that this pipe was made somewhere between 1902 and 1920!!!!!!


The large, deep chamber shows a decent amount of cake build up with overflow of tars and tobacco oils on the surface of the rim top. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained once the cake has been reamed back to the bare briar. The inner and outer edges of the rim show a few odd minute dings. Once I have scraped the lava overflow from the rim top, I shall decide on the method to tackle them and may even decide to let them be. I do not envisage any major surprises inside the chamber as the bowl feels solid to the touch from outside.Air flow is laborious and constricted through the shank and will improve once the internals are cleaned.

The surface of the stummel is covered in oils and tars from the overflowing lava and is sticky to the touch. There are a few dings to the surface of the stummel, more particularly near heel of the bowl and bottom surface of the shank. Should I address them by sanding, I am not sure, as I fear losing the patina during the abrasive process of sanding with sandpaper.

While I was handling the stummel, I realized that the sterling silver ferrule at the shank end had come loose. I removed the ferrule and what was revealed turned my stomach inside out. The glue was hard and dry and the briar had totally dried out and the shank end opening was uneven. I could even make out one small crack running down from the lip of the shank opening. Talk about challenges!!!! This will have to be addressed without fail.

The Albatross wing bone extension is dirty and covered in dirt and grime. There are two superficial cracks on either side near the shank end. I        know these cracks are superficial as the bone surface around it is solid and without any give. These cracks will have to be addressed. The sterling silver end cap towards the tenon end has a flared out rim which is uneven. This causes the bone stem to sit unevenly on the rim. Air flow through the shank extension is clean and full.

The horn stem shows some minor tooth chatter on both the top and underside, but more prominently on the top surface. This should be taken care of by sanding with a 220 or higher grade sand paper. All in all, the stem appears to be pretty solid. The edge of the lip on both upper and lower surface is slightly damaged and will need to be sharpened. Air flow through the stem is open and full.

The sterling silver ferrule and bone shank end caps are deeply oxidized and show the patina normal for its age. Once they are cleaned and shining they will add a class to this pipe.


I started the process of restoration by reaming the chamber with size two of the PipNet reamer head and progressing through to size three. I followed up the reaming with scraping the remnants of the cake from the walls of the chamber and the rim top surface with my fabricated knife.Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%. I gently scraped the rim top surface with a sharp knife. Removing all the cake from the chamber and rim top revealed that firstly, the rim was well rounded with no charring and only a minor chip and secondly, as I had anticipated,there was no damage to the inner walls of the chamber.

With 220 grit sand paper, I cleaned the internal and the external surfaces of the shank end opening, which until now was covered by the sterling silver ferrule, to remove all the carbon build-up, oils, tars,grime, dried briar wood and the dried glue. This process results in even more dried briar crumbling off, leaving behind a gaping hole. This needed to be restored as the damage is to that portion which supports the Albatross wing bone extension where it sits in to the shank. I conferred with Mr. Steve and it was decided to reconstruct the damaged portion by layering the gap with superglue and briar dust as the glue hardened immediately on coming in contact with the briar dust.

Before beginning the reconstruction of the broken shank end, I cleaned the internals of the shank, using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips, shank brushes, all generously dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The pipe cleaners would not pass through the mortise airway and the draught hole and so had to resort to more invasive methods. I straightened a paper clip and curving it, probed the insides of the mortise and the airway. After some efforts, I was able to dislodge the block. I scraped the inner walls of the mortise with a fabricated dental spatula. I gave a final cleaning with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol till the pipe cleaners came out, well, clean!!!  The heap of pipe cleaners and q-tips that are seen in these pictures are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I must have gone through an entire packet of 50 of both types of pipe cleaners, in addition to the q-tips and brush cleaning!!!!!

I, thereafter, began the process of reconstructing the broken portion of the shank end. I folded a pipe cleaner to fit snugly in to the opening of the shank end. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I smeared the pipe cleaner with Vaseline jelly and inserted it in to the opening.I applied first layer of superglue and pressed a little briar dust over it and let it set for a few minutes. This is followed by another layering and continued this process till I was satisfied with the reconstruction. I set the stummel aside overnight for the reconstruction to cure.

As the shank end reconstruction was curing, I initiated the repair and clean up of the Albatross wing bone extension and the horn bone stem. I cleaned the internals of the wing bone extension and the horn stem with bristled and normal pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol.Once the internals were clean, I cleaned the external surface of the extension with cotton swabs dipped in Acetone and finely applied superglue over the superficial crack. This was done primarily to stabilize, strengthen and prevent further spreading of the superficial crack and obviate any chances of air escaping from these cracks in future. I set the wing bone extension to cure overnight along with the shank end repair.

As I had remarked during my initial visual inspection, I felt that the tooth chatter on the lower and upper surface of the horn bone stem should be taken care with sanding it down with a 220 grit sandpaper. How wrong was I! After sanding the upper and lower surfaces of the horn stem, I realized that the tooth chatter was deeper than I had anticipated and would have to be addressed with a fill of clear superglue. And so I filled these tooth chatters with superglue and the stem too joined the ranks of the shank end repair and wing bone extension on the rack for curing overnight.

The next evening, after a hectic and tiring day in office, I decided to work on the shank end reconstruction. I filed the external repaired area with a flat head needle file and carefully matched the profile of the fill with that of the surrounding area so as not to adversely affect the fit of the ferrule at a later stage. I frequently checked the progress by fitting the ferrule over the shank end. I achieved a perfect profile match by sanding the shank end with a used 150 grit sand paper. Once the external profile was matched, I worked on the internal adjustment of the reconstruction to match the seating of the wing bone extension in to the mortise using a round needle file. I frequently checked the seating of the extension in to the mortise and making necessary adjustments by filing till I was able to achieve a perfect fit. To be honest, it was not as easy as it appears while reading it.The amount of time and concentration required cannot be described in words.

Staying on the stummel restoration, I cleaned the external surface of the stummel and the rim top surface with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and a hard bristled toothbrush and rinsed it under running tap water, taking care that water does not enter the chamber and the mortise. I dried the stummel using paper towels and soft, absorbent cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The beautiful grain really stands out at this stage with the symmetrical division of grains on the lower surface of the shank, more distinct and clear. It is easily one of the best grained pipes that I have in my collection. Somehow, I was not satisfied with the way the rim top surface had cleaned up and I again sought the advice of my mentor, Mr. Steve, and received his reply, in his peculiar style, as “I would”, that’s all he had remarked!!!!!!

And so my initial plan for not topping the rim top was shelved and I decided to carefully top the rim surface. This would also help to address the one single chip on the rim’s top surface and also to remove traces of lava overflow. I topped the rim surface with 220 grit sand paper.Though it is recommended to have a wooden board with the 220 grit sand paper firmly fixed over it, I just keep the sand paper on a flat table top, holding it firmly with my left hand and rotating the stummel rim top over it with my right hand. I have come to realize that this set up gives me lot more freedom of movement, better control and convenience of storage. The single chip was addressed to a great extent, but was still an eye sore. Using a folded 150 grits and paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I created a very light bevel to mask the chip. Though the bevel is not easily discernible, it helped address the issue of the chipped rim inner edge.

I followed it up 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. I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. It was at this stage that DISASTER struck!!!!! The stummel slipped from hands and crashed to the ground, shattering the reconstructed shank end and sustain a big ding to the heel of the stummel. Oh my!!! What agony it would be to reconstruct,re-profile the exterior and readjust the seating of the extension in to the mortise. But at this stage of restoration, I was left with no recourse but to reconstruct.

 This time around, I slightly tweaked the process. I wound a cotton rag around the complete stummel, less area to be repaired, so that the glue and briar dust does not spill over rest of the stummel and create more work for me. I completely sanded the earlier reconstructed portion and applied a layer of superglue and let it cure for a few minutes. Once the glue had hardened, I applied second layer of super glue and pressed some briar dust over it. I repeated this process of layering till I had achieved a matching top surface. I applied a final layer of superglue over the complete reconstruction and set it aside to cure overnight.

The next evening, I worked on the wing bone extension and the horn stem. I sanded the fills on the shank extension and the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I sharpened the edges on the lip with the help of a flat head needle file and a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. When the fills were matched with rest of the surface, I progressed to micromesh polishing, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the shank extension and the stem with a moist cloth after every pad and rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil on the surface after every three pads. The Albatross wing bone extension and the horn stem is nice, smooth and clean. The wing bone extension has retained its natural coloration and there is nothing one can do anything about it. I finished the restoration of the wing bone extension by polishing the sterling silver end caps with cigar ash. At this stage, the entire assembly of the extension and screw-in type of bone stem looks beautiful, smooth, shiny and classic. I call it a day and decide to work on the stummel the next evening.

I start work on the stummel by filing the external surface with a flat head needle file and go through the entire process described earlier to match the exterior and internal surface with the sterling silver ferrule and seating of the Albatross wing bone extension respectively. I was extra careful this time around while working the stummel. You may find it amusing, but I sat on my double bed while I worked on the stummel!!!! Such a fright this incident had caused.

Then there was the issue of a dent near the heel in the stummel surface. Mr. Steve suggested adopting the steaming method to address this dent. Though theoretically I was well conversed with this method, I had never attempted it before and now to attempt it on a pipe of such vintage, beauty and value, had me in doubts. Added to this, I did not have any electric iron in my room as all the laundry, including ironing, is done by the washer man (I do enjoy certain privileges that come at my seniority in my organization). But seeing no other way out, I decided to give it a go. I improvised a bit and heated my trusted fabricated knife on a candle flame, soaked a thick Turkish hand towel and placed it on the dent. When I felt that the knife was sufficiently hot (well, I got it nicely hot!!!), placed it over the hand towel and over the dent. When there was a nice sizzling sound and a thick whiff of steam, I immediately removed the knife away from the surface and with a thumping heart, removed the hand towel to inspect the results, and boy was I pleased!!! The dent was reduced to nothing with the briar expanding nicely to lift the dent due to the steam, but it did leave behind a stark discoloration around the area. After a brief discussion with Mr. Steve and exchange of pictures, he suggested to rub some ‘Before and After’ balm in to the affected area to see if this would help in addressing the issue. Fortunately, it did!!!!Since I had attempted this steaming method for the first time, I was too preoccupied and missed out on taking pictures, my sincere apology to all those who were looking forward to these pictures.

To match the repaired surface with the rest of the stummel, I went through the complete micromesh polish cycle again.

At the end of 12000 grit pad, I rubbed a little quantity of ‘Before and After’ restoration balm in to the stummel with my fingers and set it aside for 10-15 minutes while I polished the sterling silver ferrule. The transformation in the briar is amazing to say the least!!!!! I buffed the stummel with a soft cotton cloth. I finish this stage of restoration by re-attaching the nicely polished and shining sterling silver ferrule over the shank end using super glue.

To finish the restoration, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about 40% full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  Afterwards, I wiped/buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel to the polishing machine,maintaining 40% speed and applied several coats of carnauba wax.

I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up. Your comments are of utmost importance to me for improving my skills in restoration process as well as writing about it. Cheers!!!

PS. During the journey of restoring this beauty, my Guru and mentor, Mr. Steve was always around with his words of wisdom and encouragement to egg me on towards completing this project. It felt like he was holding my hand and helping me take my first baby steps around towards completing this restoration. Thank you once again, Mr. Steve.

Comoy’s 237 Grand Slam Restoration

By Al Jones

This pipe was a couple of firsts for me. I’ve restored a number of Comoy’s bulldog shapes, but this is the first shape 237 that I’ve encountered. I’ve also had several “Grand Slam” pipes, but this was the first one that still had the patented filter apparatus.

The Grand Slam was introduced in 1933, and was in the Comoy’s catalog until the 1970’s. This one has the COM stamp of the latter years, from 1946-1981. Below is a catalog page for Grand Slam pipes from 1936.

The pipe appeared to have been heavily smoked, with a thick cake. Surprisingly, the stem had zero teeth marks and only a heavy layer of oxidation. The bowl had numerous dings and dents that would need to be removed. Below is the pipe as it was received.

After removing the stem, I discovered the original stinger apparatus which still included two leather washers. This pipe is stamped *7 and replacement washers were available in that size. The stinger was stuck fast in the tenon. I soaked it in a shot glass of alcohol, but that wasn’t enough to get it unscrewed. I was able to run some alcohol bristle cleaners down through the stem and that did finally allow the stinger to be unscrewed. Once the stinger was removed, the stem was soaked in a mild Oxy-Clean solution, with a dab of grease over the drilled C stem logo.

The build-up on the top of the bowl was removed with a worn piece of scotch-brite. I steamed out most of the dents around the bowl with an electric iron and a wet cloth. The bowl was then polished with White Diamond rouge and several coats of carnuba wax.

The stem was mounted and the initial layer of oxidation removed with 400 grit wet paper, followed by 800, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 grades. Next up was micromesh sheets in 8,000 and 12,000 grades. The stem was then buffed with White Diamond followed by Meguiars Plastic Polish.

Below is the finished pipe.



Restoring a Strangely Shaped Hilson Dromedary with an Oval Shank

Blog by  Steve Laug

My friend Alex stops by now and then with pipes that he has found on his pipe hunts in the city. Generally he has some very interesting pipes he picks up on these hunts. The other night when he came by he brought along a strange one made by Hilson after they had moved to Holland. It is called a Dromedary.    I suppose it was named after the Arabian one-humped camel that was a light and swift breed trained for riding or racing. When I was in Jaipur, India I saw Dromedary camels pulling carts and wagons in the streets of the fabric district (see the photo to the left). The single hump clearly distinguishes them from the other 2 humped camel.

This Hilson was obviously named after that work animal from the East. The single hump on the shank while at first glance is ugly nonetheless fits nicely as a thumb rest for either right or left handed pipe smokers. I cannot find a timeline for the duration of the brand but I have seen them on EBay and other sale sites so I am assuming there are enough of them out there to still be in existence. It is the first one that I have had in hand and the first one that I have worked on. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work on it. They show the general condition of the pipe.

The finish on the bowl is very dirty and grimy but you can see some interesting cross grain left side of the bowl working down to the underside of the shank. The back of the bowl show some of the same grain and on the sides there is a mix of birdseye and swirled grain. On the right side there is a small fill that has come loose from the briar leaving behind a divot. The rim top is very dirty with a thick coat of lava overflowing from the bowl. It also shows some damage on the inner edge – it looks to have been reamed with a knife and the gouges show even under the grime. There is a burn mark on the back ride side of the rim and going down the back of the bowl about a ¼ inch. The bowl has a thick cake that is uneven all around the bowl. The stamping on the shank is readable and the area around it is very dark. The stem is oxidized and dirty. There is a slight H mark on the top side near the shank stem junction but it is pretty shallow in the vulcanite.

The next closeup photos of the bowl and stem truly show the condition of the pipe before I started.You can see the lava build up and damage to the rim top as well as the cake in the bowl. The bowl had a fairly thick cake overflowing onto the rim. The stem was very oxidized and spotty with tooth chatter and marks on both the top and underside of the stem near the button. There is a faint Hilson H logo stamped on the top of the oval stem. I do not know if it is deep enough to salvage.

The pipe has some nice cross grain that is shown in the first photo of the left side of the bowl. The right side is a mix of grains – swirled, flame and cross grain. The top and underside of the bowl and shank show some interesting, almost undulating grain patterns. This is particularly visible on the top view moving up and over the hump. It is a great piece of briar that shows a lot of promise.

The pipe is stamped on the underside of the oval shank. It reads Hilson over Dromedary over Made in Holland. At the shank/stem junction it has the shape number stamp 712.The photo below shows that the stamping is readable. (The second photo shows the stamping after I had removed the dark stain and polished it carefully with the 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads.)

It has been awhile since I worked on a Hilson so I did a quick review of the history of the brand. This always adds some value to my mind when I work on a pipe. I remembered at some point Hilson had been sold to Gubbels who made the Big Ben pipe. At that time, it moved from being a Belgian made pipe to being made in the Netherlands/Holland. I turned to Pipedia and read the entry on Hilson there( to Pipephil’s site to read what he had for information ( have combined and summarized the pertinent information from the two sites.

In 1846 a German named Jean Knödgen started to produce clay pipe in Belgium. In the late 19th century Jean Hillen who married into the Knödgen family took over the company and changed the firm in order to manufacture briar pipes. Jean Hillen had 2 sons: Jos Hillen was responsible for sales and Albert Hillen was responsible for the production.After WWII Albert founded the HILSON brand (Hillen and Son) and exported his pipes all over the world.

…In the 1960’s and still throughout the 1970’s the brand Hilson of Broers Hillen B.V. (Hillen Bros. Co.) was quite successful in many European countries. They produced large numbers of machine made pipes covering the whole range of shapes and finishes. The pipes were well respected for good quality and craftsmenship at very moderate prices.

…in 1980 Hillen faced major financial problems. After having gone bankrupt, the Belgian brand from Bree (Limburg) wastaken over by the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. The owner, Elbert Gubbels used the favour of the hour and bought the company…The Hillen plant in Bree was closed down shortly after and ever since then Hilson pipes are manufactured in Roermond, NL.

Given that the plant in Bree, Belgium closed around 1980 after Gubbels had purchased the company, I knew that the pipe I was working on had been made after that time.The Made in Holland stamp on the underside of the shank gave that information.I am not sure that I can get any closer in terms of a date for the pipe.

I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned up after the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife (no photo, sorry!). I wrapped 220 sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the inside of the bowl.

I topped the bowl on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board. I scrubbed the finish with a cotton pad and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grit and grime. I scrubbed the rim top at the same time to remove the sanding dust. I rinsed the bowl under running water and dried it off. The grain really is quite beautiful at this point in the process. There are some repairs that need to be done on the right side of the bowl but the bowl shows a lot of promise.

I sanded the burn mark on the back side of the bowl and filled in the damaged fill on the right side with a mix of super glue and briar dust. When the glue dried I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the area into the rest of the briar surface. I apologize because I was on a roll so I forgot to take photos of the repairs. I wiped down the bowl with an alcohol dampened cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and smooth out the finish. The grain is looking really good. The burn mark, though still visible is better. The repaired area is also far better.

I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads –wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads.I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad after each grit of micromesh was finished. The bowl is beginning to take on a real shine and the grain is becoming more prominent.

With the bowl polished it was time to address the lighter rim top and the repairs to the burn and the fill on the rear and right side respectively (result of sanding). I used an Oak Stain Pen to touch up the areas and darken them to match the rest of the bowl. Once the stain dried the match was really good and the pipe looked better.

I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar 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 pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like. The grain is quite beautiful and the colour of the briar is perfect to highlight it. I am happy with the look of the pipe.

I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. It was pretty rough looking and would take some work. I sanded the surface carefully with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter, marks and oxidation. While I worked on it I noticed I had not cleaned the inside of the stem and went back and looked at the shank and bowl… my goodness I totally forgot to even touch that part after reaming the bowl. I brought the stem sanding to a halt and turned back to cleaning up the internals. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank as well as the mortise with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It was really a mess. I picked out the crud in the corners of the stem with a dental pick. Here are some photos of the cleanup. I feel better about the pipe now! Whew I can’t believe I missed that… been a hard week.

I returned to sand the stem some more. I was able to remove all of the chatter and all but one of the deep tooth marks on the underside of the stem. I heated it a little to raise it then filled it in with some clear super glue and set it aside to cure.

When the repair had cured I used a needle file to flatten the repaired area. I smoothed out and blend it into the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper.

I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then polished it with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish.

I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before& After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to furtherprotect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it afinal rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry. 

With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond. 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. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This Hilson Dromedary 712 will soon going back to Alex. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. I am looking forward to seeing what Alex thinks of this one. I will be calling him soon to come and pick up the pair. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this old dromedary.

The Filthiest Pipe I’ve Ever Seen

Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

You can’t judge a book by its binding.
— From the journal American Speech, 1944

The Dr. Grabow easy bent smooth billiard I came by in a foolish case of mistaken identity on eBay looked normal enough on the outside, other than an apparent crack that wasn’t visible in any of the seller’s few photos.  The zigzag flaw extended from the top front of the bowl almost halfway down, which of course was not a good sign in a pipe when the intent was to sell it – and I definitely did not want to keep it for my own collection.  The dubious pipe came as part of a lot with two others of its ilk; an old Karl Erik box; two very nice choice sleeves – one that was also for a Karl Erik and the other for a Butz-Choquin – and two Revelation Smoking Mixture tins of indeterminate age.  Venturing a guess, I’d say they’re no newer than the pipes.

My haul, minus the Dr. G, Yello-Bole and MedicoMy impression from the poor photos provided online was that one of the pipes must have been a Butz-Choquin.  You see, the only descriptions of the pipes given in the listing were that they were “vintage,” and you guessed it, I fell for the deliberate obfuscation, and Buy Now to boot.  As the only measure of self-defense I can muster, at least I only paid about $10, with shipping included.  They turned out to be this Dr. Grabow and two Yello-Boles, one a Spartan.  The Spartan did clean up purty compared to how it was.The Dr. G. is six inches long but otherwise very small.  The height is 1.5” and the inner bowl diameter is ⅝” x 1”  As a rule, unless the particular pipe is very old or has some other special attribute, I shy away from this name and Medicos and the like, although I’ve found almost anything will sell to someone who is a fan of a given brand.  In fact, just last week at my monthly pipe meeting I sold the Spartan with a stem logo of a yellow Y in a circle to a friend who happens to be my best customer.

The friend has accumulated some great pipes from me – such as a late 1930s Kaywoodie Super Grain and a Ropp last month – and an amazing collection of antiques including a few KB&B beauties, but he admits to having a weakness for vintage Yello-Boles.  I estimated the Spartan dated to the 1960s, and my friend somehow traced it on his cell phone to 1966.  That’s what I call a Yello-Bole devotee.

At any rate, the Dr. G. billiard remained quarantined in a box for more than a year with others that are so tragic I’m sure I’ll end up using them as examples of pipes never to buy.  In short, only when it was the last pipe I had to work on did I gather the gumption to go for it.

But as I already noted, all outward appearances showed nothing I couldn’t handle without too much effort, including the odd zigzag on the bowl.  The inside turned out to be a different matter altogether, one for the books as far as I’m concerned.


I wanted to get the pipe in a basic clean order before tackling the crack.  Starting with the light rim char and cake in the chamber, I used super fine “0000” steel wool on the rim to begin and a pen knife around the walls of the chamber that was too small to insert a reamer – meaning the one size I have.  Then I sanded the rim with 1000-grit paper and the chamber using a pinkie and 150- and 220-grit papers. I cleaned off the old blackness from the shank opening with the same steel wool and wiped down the entire stummel with purified water on a paper towel.Now the crack I mentioned is apparent.  Knowing it wouldn’t get rid of the crack, I sanded the outside of the wood with 1000-grit paper to remove the other small but pervasive blemishes. With the pipe more or less spiffed up, I could see the crack was hairline, so to speak, not penetrating the bowl in any visible way.  That was a relief as I knew I could make it go away altogether with sanding.  I tried 150-grit paper, and that looked like the end of the ostensible crack.  I followed up with 320-, 400-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.A full micro mesh progression left the briar looking absolutely fabulous, or abfab, as British interior designers like to gush about wood.  To be serious, though, which I often try not to be, knowing it drives some readers nuts but keeps me sane, the micro mesh step – if I had to choose just one from all of the routine tasks in a pipe restoration – is my favorite.  Seeing the resilience of wood, or briar anyway, that allows it to bounce back from ruin is to me what sunshine was to John Denver.  Well, not exactly, but you get the idea. The front shot above, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t show how pale most of that side was even after micro meshing.  Suffice it to say, a spot stain was necessary with Lincoln brown leather dye.  I took a little more joy in staining and flaming it. Looks like everything is going great, doesn’t it?  That’s rhetorical.  Only after thinking I was almost finished did I commence the part that turned into a singular horror the like of which I never before experienced.  Without exaggerating at all, I admit I was sure I had found a pipe that could not be cleared of all impurities, no way, no how.  I’m sure this sounds like more of my melodramatic foolery, but for once I am being as serious as I get.  I suspect I may have some kind of world record, if people registered such statistics, but no doubt Steve, if perhaps no one else, has a worse story or stories to tell.  I’d love to hear them!

To wit, I found myself at the point of having to deal with the inside of the billiard.  Nothing prepared me for the almost human resistance and downright orneriness I encountered, not to mention the smoking implement’s physical manifestation of the common human psychological condition of filthiness.

The pictures that follow, showing the pre-cleaning, retort and aftermath of all that, with nine pipe cleaners, a nylon bristle cleaner, two cotton plugs and a wasted (in the colloquial sense) candle, don’t approximate the work and time already expended on cleaning and sanitizing the inner passageways of the pipe.  I included the Tupperware with spent alcohol as a clue to how much I boiled through the guts of the thing, with the wholly unsatisfying and unacceptable final Pyrex tube as dark as every other, but it still isn’t sufficient to understand my frustration, so I’ll tell you.  I had already used up 13 tubes of alcohol, getting nowhere.I knew I could use any number of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol on the shank and it would do no good.  And so I started again, with a fresh retort (and candle and two more cotton plugs).  After nine more tubes boiled through the pipe – that’s a total of 22 – I at last achieved a clear enough result that didn’t get darker after three trips through the bowels of the Grabow.I don’t know, maybe this isn’t so unusual.  Or maybe I need a better retort system, as I’ve been looking forward to buying, something like the first one below, probably self-made by my friend Chuck Richards, or even the other I found online.

Hand-held laboratory-style retort system made by tbus6906, eBay, and an actual lab setup from best collection999 at eBay

And now for the stem, starting as it appeared when I got it and after the various phases of smoothing and buffing. And here is the finished pipe, the stem machine buffed with red and white Tripoli and the stummel with White Diamond and Carnauba. That’s a Medico filter in the stem, BTW, because it’s all I have and it fits!  Besides, whoever buys the Grabow will probably toss it.

This was an unusual restore for me for a couple of reasons. One, I set out thinking the big deal was going to be fixing a bad crack, and two, the real problem ended up being hidden within.  My previous record for the number of Pyrex tubes of alcohol I had to run through a pipe was nine, for a pipe I haven’t blogged yet.  I thought that was bad until I was faced with the harsh reality of this dainty little Grabow!  It’s the right size for most women (no sexism intended but I’ll probably get flack for that), but only a man could have smoked a pipe for possibly 40 years without ever really cleaning it.  Maybe that will get me off the hook with any female smokers who read this.

Oh, yes, a note about Revelation Pipe Mixture.  Never having heard of it and suspecting it’s out of production, I found I was correct about the latter part.  It was blended by House of Windsor, which still makes about 20 mixes, mostly aromatics, in the U.S.  Revelation was a coarse-cut (based on the photo I found, despite the description as ribbon cut) American blend of bright flake and red flake Virginias, cube cut burley, Kentucky, latakia, perique and “citrus/misc.”  It seems to have been somewhat popular given a 3.1 out of 4 rating at  Legend says this was Albert Einstein’s go-to mix, so it couldn’t be all that bad.  It seems a reincarnation of this tobacco is being made in bulk form and true ribbon cut, from the same ingredients.  The link to the source is below for anyone interested.  Revelation was made by Philip Morris Co. Ltd. Inc. and distributed by Continental Tobacco Co.  I guess the tins are pretty old because companies aren’t named like that anymore.


Rescue of a Stately Stanwell Henley Special, Made in Denmark, Oval Shank Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

I have been looking forward to this project ever since I landed three Stanwell Henley Special pipes on the eBay block from a seller in Maryland.  The seller provided helpful information that only helped urged me to place a bid:

This auction is for three vintage Stanwell, Henley Line estate pipes from the 1950’s-60’s era. All are in good pre-owned condition. The stems are primarily free from teeth marks. The stems do have some fading. All of the stems fit snug and the wooden bowls are free from outstanding blemishes. As seen from top to bottom, the first pipe reads Henley Special #57, the second and third read Henley Special without any numbers seen. All of the pipes read Made in Denmark.

Since I started collecting and restoring pipes, I’ve grown in my appreciation for Danish made pipes.  They tend to be stout, well made pipes.  The stems are also interesting – the ‘pinched saddle’ fish tail is unique.  When I saw the 3 Henley Specials, I was attracted to the line-up but had never heard of ‘Henley’.  When I read the sellers description I was sold – I was especially drawn to the ‘Chimney’ on the top of the group below, sporting a pinched saddle fishtail stem.  The Stanwell Henley on my workbench now is the classic Oval Shank Billiard in the center.  Along with a Comoy’s Moorgate, Jim saw the Henley Special in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection and commissioned him.  He saw what I also see in these classic Danish pipes.  As with frosting on the cake, this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  The pictures show what I saw on eBay. Unfortunately, I cannot find much online regarding the Henley line.  Pipedia’s article on Stanwell pipes simply places the Henley Special line in the list of Stanwell second brands. provided more information with a Henley much like the slightly bent, Chimney above with the characteristic bulging midsection, but with a blasted finish.  It also show a ‘H’ stem stamp.  If the Henley on my worktable had one, it is now long gone.The only information I found that gave any reference to dating is spurious at best. I found the following picture on Google images but the link to is now a dead end.  “Who made this pipe?”  I would have loved to read the thread that discussed the dating of the discontinued Stanwell second, Henley Special.  The picture puts a question mark in the late 50s.  Looking at all the 3 Henley Specials I acquired, the look and feel of them lends toward this dating, but…. This picture and the eBay seller’s description placing the pipes in the 50s or 60s are anecdotal, but seem to me to be accurate.  Oh, for the return of the now defunct, Chris’ Pages website, to look through the old catalogs! One very interesting find was a Stanwell Henley Special for sale in the listings of in restored state – very nice.  It gives me an idea of what might be under the older, tired finish of all three Henleys in my collection.Taking a closer look at the Henley Special Oval Shank Billiard on my worktable, I take these pictures for a closer look. The nomenclature is found on the upper side of the oval shank.  A very thin, worn ‘Henley’ (in cursive script) [over] offset ‘SPECIAL’.  On the underside is the COM, ‘MADE IN DENMARK’. As with the other two Stanwell Henley pipes I acquired at the same time, the finish is extremely dark from years of grime and oil build up.  The uniformity of the darkened state of the pipes lends to a common period of manufacturing, which I’m guessing to be in the 1950s or 60s.  Even though I know it’s not an exact science, the feel of the pipes seems older.  I need first to clean the briar surface before I can see what is going on with the briar – the condition or even the look of the grain.  The oval saddle stem has oxidation, tooth chatter and dents which need attention.  The cake in the chamber is thick and will be removed to give the briar a fresh start.  The rim has significant lava flow and I detect a divot on the internal lip of the rim which needs attention.

To begin the restoration of this vintage Stanwell Henley Special Oval Shank Billiard, I run a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% through the airway to clean it up.  I then add the oval saddle stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes and stems in the queue.  I leave it in the soak for several hours and fish it out, letting the Deoxidizer drain off the stem.  I then wipe the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with alcohol.  I follow the alcohol by wiping the stem with a pad wetted with light paraffin oil. Turning now to the bowl, I begin by reaming the chamber.  There is heavy cake in the chamber tightens as it descends in the chamber.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I start with the smallest of the 4 available blade heads.  After putting some paper towel on the table, I go to work.  I use 3 blade heads of the 4 and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool. With the Fitsall tool I continue scraping the chamber wall and fine-tuning the reaming and reaching to the difficult angles.  Then, wrapping 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber removing more carbon and revealing fresh briar.  To complete the chamber cleanup, I wipe it with a cotton pad and alcohol to clear the carbon dust.  With the carbon cake cleared, an inspection of the chamber reveals no problems with cracks or heat fissures. The pictures show the progress. Turning now to the external surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on cotton pads.  I’m anxious to see what the Murphy’s Soap does on this very dark, aged briar surface. As I use the cotton pad, I very quickly begin to see what beauty was waiting underneath.  I called my wife to take some pictures as I scrubbed the ancient layer of oils and tars that have cocooned the briar underneath.  I also use a bristled tooth brush and a brass wire brush on the rim.  My, oh my!  I’ve never seen a pipe clean up to such a pristine condition.  I rinse the bowl with tap water and literally marvel at what is in my hand.  The rim is still darkened a bit from lava flow, but the flame grain that dominates the bowl’s external surface is striking.  I take two pictures after the cleaning to mark the progress.  As I look at the stummel, I decide to hydrate the briar using light paraffin oil (mineral oil) which also gives me a sneak peek at a finished stummel.  The before and after pictures tell the story. Turning now to the internals of the stummel, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the mortise and airway. I also utilize long shank brushes to save on pipe cleaners.  To loosen up the tars and oils, I employ a dental spatula to scrape the mortise wall and reach into the airway.  A drill bit effectively excavates crud out of the airway. To do this, I use a bit the size of the airway and hand turn the bit so that it proceeds down the airway.  The bit grabs the buildup and removes it.  After some time excavating and scraping, pipe cleaners and cotton buds start coming out clean.  The pictures show the tools and the progress.I continue the internal cleaning with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  After twisting and stretching a cotton ball to form a wick, I stuff it down the mortise/airway to draw the oils and tars.  Following this, I fill the bowl with kosher salt (kosher salt has no residual after-taste as does iodized salt) and set it in an egg crate.  Using a large eye dropper, the bowl fills with isopropyl 95% until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, and I top off the alcohol and set the stummel aside for the night. The next morning, the soak did the work.  I toss the expended salt in the waste and wipe the bowl with paper towel to remove the salt.  I also use a shank brush in the chamber and down the mortise to remove any remaining salt.  Finally, I blow through the mortise.  To make sure all is clean, I finish by wetting a pipe cleaner and cotton bud with isopropyl 95% and running them through the mortise.  I declare the stummel to be cleaned. With the pipe cleaned, I look again at the stummel surface which almost appears to have been protected by the layer cocooning it.  My task will be to preserve the patina of the briar’s finish by not introducing sanding that will be too invasive and remove the aged surface.  I sent a note off to Steve of rebornpipes, just to make sure my plan received his concurrence before moving further with the Henley.  My plan is to first repair the divot on the inside of the rim lip, shown at the 2 o’clock position on the first picture below.  I could introduce an internal bevel to mask the divot, but I would rather salvage the rim real estate with this vintage pipe.  I make a patch of briar dust and thick CA glue and mix a small amount of putty with it.  After wiping the area with alcohol to clean it, I mix the CA glue and briar dust until it reaches the viscosity of molasses and apply the putty to the divot using a toothpick.  It takes very little.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure. With the patch curing, I look at the stem and take some close ups of the bit area.  The chatter is light with some bites.  I begin by using the flame method to raise the indentations in the vulcanite.  With a Bic lighter, I paint the button area.  The physics of vulcanite – a compound rubber, expands when heated.  The heating causes the bites and chatter to lessen in the intensity.  As I heat, it does lessen but is not fully removed.  I next use 240 grit paper and sand out the chatter and dents remaining.  I also use the flat needle file to redefine the button lips – upper and lower.  The pictures show the progress. Following the 240 paper and filing, I use 600 grade paper and wet sand the entire stem.  I follow this using 0000 steel wool to sand/buff the stem.  The pictures show the progress.Next, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress of restoring that glossy pop.  I like it! With the stem drying, I look again to the stummel.  The briar dust patch is cured, and time to be file and sand the patch mound.  I use both a flat and a half-rounded needle file to gently and patiently file the patch mound on the top of the rim and on the inside lip.  I’m careful not to impact the surrounding rim briar.  After some time filing, I use a piece of 240 tightly rolled to finish the sanding, bringing the patch flush with the briar on the top and inside.  I chronicle the progress. Next, I gently clean the whole rim surface by lightly sanding it starting with micromesh pad 1500 and completing with pad 3600.  The rim looks good.To preserve the patina in the old finish, I’m willing to allow some scratches and dents to pass as badges of this Stanwell Henley’s past walk in life.  I did want to try raising some in an area where I identified a concentration of these.  I take a picture to show a closeup of the area.  I then take my wife’s iron (she always raises her eyebrows when I ask for permission and my response to her question regarding what use HER iron will be to the art of pipe restoration! 😊) and wet a rag with tap water and place the rag over the briar area to be addressed.  After the iron is heated, I place the iron over the rag which heats both water and wood creating a steaming effect on the dents and scratches.  The effect of the heating and moisture causes the briar to absorb the moisture and expand, helping to close the wounds.  This technique helped, but there remain some badges of the past for the Henley Special! Following this heating technique, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the entire briar surface working it in well.  I apply some to my fingers and massage the Balm into the briar.  The Balm begins with the texture of a light oil but thickens into a heavy wax as it is worked into the briar.  After the Balm absorbs for a few minutes I wipe it off the stummel surface with a microfiber cloth.  As I wipe, the Balm-treated surface loosens, and it becomes more of a buffing.  I like what the Before & After Restoration Balm does to bring out and enrich the briar. The water spot (above) disappeared as the Balm did its job.At this point, I rejoin the stummel and stem and often I find that the cleaning process has loosened the connection.  To remedy this, I choose a drill bit that is the next size larger than the bit easily fitting down the airway of the mortise. I heat the vulcanite of the tenon by painting it with a lit Bic lighter.  As the vulcanite heats, it becomes supple allowing me to work the drill bit into the tenon thus expanding the tenon’s diameter microscopically and securing a tighter fit for the tenon in the mortise.  The expansion worked so well, that I needed to loosen the tenon a bit using 470 and 600 grade papers and then 0000 steel wool.  The fit now is good. With the tenon now fitting the mortise snugly, I mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel, set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond to the entire pipe.  With this compound being the only abrasive, I’m applying to the bowl, I spend extra time working the compound over the briar.  The compound doesn’t remove the ‘badges’ I’ve left behind, but it buffs out the very fine lines in the briar surface creating that natural briar shine.   When I add wax to this natural shine, it’s like frosting on a cake!  After applying the Blue Diamond is complete, I hand buff the entire pipe with a felt cloth to remove the excess compound dust left behind before applying carnauba.I now mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, maintaining the same speed, and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  I finish the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a micromesh cloth which raises the gloss even more.

Oh my!  When Jim commissioned this Stanwell Henley from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection, could he have possibly seen what was hidden in this stately Oval Shank Billiard, Made in Denmark?  The grain and patina are beautiful.  I called the pipe, ‘stately’.  It’s remarkable, how so much beauty is hidden underneath the surface appearance and neglect of years.  Yet, as the vertical, flame grain cascades upwardly to the rim, if one looks closely at the rim, revealed there are the small bird’s eye grains formed by the cut cross-sections of the vertical grain.  I’m pleased with the small, seemingly insignificant internal lip patch to the rim – it blends well and joins the ensemble without notice.  With the bowl’s striking grain revealed, the oval shank now compliments well as it flows to the saddle stem.  I fear I’m waxing too much at this point!  Jim has the first opportunity to acquire this 1950s or 60’s Stanwell Henley Special from The Pipe Steward Store and this benefits the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Lest we forget, I begin with a ‘before’ picture for the striking contrast. Thanks for joining me!