Reclaiming a Yello-Bole “Imperial Carburator” Vest Pipe


Blog by Paresh Despande

Having worked on the four Free Hand pipes that I had purchased on eBay, it was time again to work on one of my grandfather’s pipe from my inheritance. I chose to work on the second “Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor” from his collection. The first had a cracked shank and was restored by my Guru and mentor, Mr. Steve of rebornpipes, here is the link for the write up (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/04/15/pareshs-grandfathers-pipe-2-a-yello-bole-carburetor-4522-billiard/).

This particular pipe was in a battered condition with significant damage to the inner and outer edges of the rim, a large number of chips, dents and dings to the bowl and shank, two deep gouges to the bowl and a heavily oxidized stem. I was not very sure if at all I should attempt at its restoration as I knew that to mask the repairs/ fills to the gouges and chips on the bowl and the shank, I would need to stain it with a darker stain followed by a delicate polish to make the grains pop and here I was, with neither materials nor experience to carry out staining and subsequent polishing. However, Mr. Steve encouraged me to go ahead and restore it nevertheless and keep the natural finish of the pipe and the scars of the repairs as a testimony of the pipe’s journey till date!!!! Well, it always pays to follow the advice of your mentor and I embarked upon this journey to give a fresh lease of life to this old and battered war-horse!!!

The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank as “Imperial” in fancy cursive hand over “YELLO-BOLE” in block letters while the right side of the shank bears the stamp of “MADE IN FRANCE” starting from the shank end towards the bowl and followed by the model(?) number “648” or is it “64 B”? I have this doubt since I could find a match to this shape and size during my research as per the latter stamp, but the stamp appears as former to my eyes!!!! The center bottom of the pipe has a single hole, lined by an aluminum cone, open at both ends, which protrudes into the chamber. This is followed by “carburetor” in fancy cursive small letters. The stem is devoid of any stampings or logo. Before commencing the restoration, I decided to refresh my memory about Yello-Bole pipe brand and in particular, the Carburetor model, by visiting the blog written by Mr. Steve while restoring my first Yello-Bole. The first thing that struck me as odd was the difference in stampings seen on the pipe which is on my work table!!! The pipe currently on my work table is sans the stamp of KBB in clover leaf, U.S. patent number details, Cured with real honey, stem logo of a yellow circular ring and has shape number in three digits as against four on the one restored by Mr. Steve. However, the biggest and most significant difference which has me flummoxed was the stamping “MADE IN FRANCE”!!!!!!! No amount of research and surfing the internet provided me any clue as regards the origin and dating of this piece of briar.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The first and foremost significant visual damage is seen to the rim top, inner and outer edges. It appears that the rim has been repeatedly banged against a hard surface to remove residual dottle over a prolonged period of time!!!! The damage to the rim top is in the form of dings and scratches while significant chipping and cinching is seen on the outer edge. The inner edge of the rim is out of round, apparently caused by use of a knife to remove the carbon cake. The overflow of lava from the rim top appears to be removed by scrapping the surface with a knife and in the process causing all the scratches and dings to the surface. There is a thin layer of cake on the bottom half of the chamber and appears to be a victim of over reamed chamber. The carburetor hole at the bottom of the chamber is clogged and will require to be cleaned. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained only after the chamber has been stripped completely of the existing cake layer.The second most significantly damaged part of the pipe is the stummel. It is covered in oils, dirt and grime of all these years of smoking and subsequent uncared for storage. The stummel surface is sticky to the touch, giving the stummel a dull, lifeless and lackluster appearance. It is peppered with a large number of chips, dents and dings. There are two significant gouges on the stummel; one on the left hand side towards the bottom and the second one is one the right hand side about an inch below the rim top. Overall, the stummel has sustained massive damage over the years due to both, rough usage and careless storage. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely densely packed straight grains can be seen on the sides and shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The shank too is peppered with numerous minor dents and chips on the bottom surface as well as on the right side of the shank. The mortise is clogged and the air flow is constricted and the draw is laborious. This will need to be addressed by thorough cleaning of the same. The saddle stem is heavily oxidized with bite marks on both upper and lower surface of the stem. The lip too shows bite marks and will need to be redefined. The aluminum stinger is firmly attached inside the tenon and could not be removed. It is covered in oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and it appears that it has hardened, fixing the stinger inside the tenon.THE PROCESS
I started the process of restoration by reaming the chamber with my fabricated knife as the protruding aluminum cone of the carburetor prevented use of the Kleen Reem pipe reamer. 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. It was a big relief to note that there was no issue of heat fissures or cracks seen on the surface.To address the numerous dents, dings and scratches on the rim’s top surface and also to remove traces of lava overflow, I topped the rim surface on a 220 grit sand paper. Since the damage to the rim top was significant, I had applied more pressure than usual. 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.Staying with the rim, the next issue that I addressed was the rim edges, both inner and outer. With a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and fore finger, I created a bevel on the inner edge. This addressed the issue of uneven and out of round inner edge. For addressing the outer edge, I had two options; first was to top the rim surface till the entire damaged outer rim surface was sanded out, maintaining the straight rim edge profile of the stummel. The disadvantage of this would be a significant loss of briar estate!!! The second (and easier too!!!) option was to create a bevel on the outer edge, sacrificing the original profile of the stummel. However, I envisaged that the bevel to the outer edge would add a new depth and dimension to the profile of the pipe while saving loss of briar. That decided, I created a bevel on the outer edge. Both the inner and outer edges now look much better and add a new dimension to the otherwise plain-Jane billiard shape of the bowl. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled toothbrush and rinsed the stummel under running tap water. This cleaning helps in bringing to the fore any other damage which could be hidden under all the dirt and grime. I dried the bowl with a paper towel and soft cotton cloth. With a thin, sharp and pointed knife, I cleaned out all the fills and gouges. I scrubbed the stummel surface clean with isopropyl alcohol to have a clean surface for a fresh fill. I decided to move ahead with only CA superglue for filling the chips and gouges. I spot filled these chips and gouges with superglue and set it aside for curing. Turning my attention to the stem, I flamed the surface with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth chatter and deeper bite marks to the surface as much as is possible. I followed it up with sanding the stem surface with a 220 grit sand paper to match the raised bite marks with the stem surface and also remove the oxidation before the fill. The deeper bite marks were filled with CA superglue and set aside to cure. After the fills on the stummel had completely cured, I sanded these with a flat head needle file to match them with the stummel surface. This was followed by sanding the fills and the stummel surface to achieve a match as well as remove the minor scratches and cinches on the surface. I frequently wiped the sanded surface with a moist cloth to remove the briar dust and also to check the progress of my work. Once I was satisfied with the match, 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. At this stage of restoration, the entire bowl, rim top surface and shank is now looking fresh and clean with beautiful densely packed straight grains popping out in all their glory!!!! Even though the fills are prominently visible, in my view, they lend a battle scarred warrior like character to the pipe. While I worked the stummel, the fillings in the stem had cured. I sanded the fills with a flat head needle file. To further match the fills with the surface of the stem, I sanded it with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. Now with the external restoration and cleaning of both the stummel and the stem completed, I proceeded to cleaning the internals of the stem and the shank. As I had observed during my initial visual inspection, the stinger was very firmly attached inside the tenon. To clean the stem air way, I had to separate the stinger from the tenon. I was certain that the stinger was a push-fit type and much easy to deal with. I carefully heated the stinger with the flame of a Bic lighter and wrapping a cloth on the stinger, with careful anti-clock wise rotations, dislodged the stinger from the tenon. I cleaned the internals of the shank with cue-tips, regular and bristled pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. The mortise was cleaned using a shank brush. With a fabricated dental spatula, I scrapped the walls of the mortise and further cleaned with pipe cleaners till they came out white. Similarly, I cleaned the air way in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I cleaned the stinger of all the accumulated oils and tars with paper towels after soaking the stinger in isopropyl alcohol and reattached it in the tenon. The internals are now clean and the draw is full, easy and open. I was really not surprised at how dirty were the internals of the shank and stem as can be seen from the condition of the pipe cleaners in these pictures. To finish the restoration, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Using a cotton cloth and brute muscle power, I gave it a final polish. I re-attach the stem with the stummel. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. 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!!!!!

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