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.

2 thoughts on “The Challenge Continues… Restoring a Vintage Era GBD

  1. ThePipeSteward - Dal in Bulgaria

    Paresh, excellent job and write up! This project had many moving parts and you worked through each phase well. I don’t blame you for sitting in the middle of the bed after launching the stummel – it’s not a pleasant sound, briar bouncing across the floor! A very nice pipe and unique with an early vintage to boot!


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