Blog by Paresh Deshpande
The fourth and the last pipe that I worked on simultaneously was another pipe that I had purchased on eBay along with the Rolex vest pipe. I was attracted to its vase like shape and through all the dirt and grime some beautiful bird’s eye grains peeked and beckoned me for help. The shank end flares out and the chunky, short and broad, 1/4 bent saddle stem with a conical tenon end makes for a very interesting appearance to the overall pipe. The appearance of this beauty was beat, the rim appeared to be damaged and there were a few prominent fills which appeared like blistered wounds. But, nevertheless, it is one handsome, more like cute, looking pipe!!!!
The stummel surface boasted of beautiful swirls of grains interspersed with bird’s eye along the sides of the stummel and shank, while contrasting cross grains adorn the top and bottom of the shank extending to the back and bottom of the stummel. The left hand of the shank is stamped as “MINI” over “WOODART” over “FRANCE”. The bottom of the flared out shank end bears the model number “# 856”. The saddle top of the stem bears the logo of “W” in an oval. This stem logo was revealed later after the stem had been soaked in hydrogen peroxide solution.I could not find any information about this brand on Pipedia.com or rebornpipes or anywhere on the internet. However Pipephil.eu does make a mention of this brand and even has a picture of a pipe with similar stampings (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-w3.html#woodart), but no further information was available!
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
As I had noted earlier, this little pipe was in a sorry and battered state. There is not a single surface on the stummel which does not have either a dent or a fill or a chipped surface. The stummel is covered in oils, tars, sticky grime and dust, through which one can make out the beautiful grains all round. The overflow of lava has not only covered the area between the narrow top portion and rest of the bowl, but has spilled over to the back of the bowl and accumulated in the area where the shank meets the bowl. There are a large number of dents, dings and scratches prominently seen on the edge below the neck of the vase like stummel shape. There are a few major fills in the stummel, the most prominent ones being to the right side on the shank. These will need to be addressed. The bowl is narrow and tapers down towards the draught hole. The chamber has a thin layer of cake, but the appearance indicates that there may be issues with the walls of the chamber. The mortise is full of oils, tars and gunk and restricts air flow. The rim top is where maximum damage is seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim is peppered with dings, dents and chips, a result of striking the rim edge against a hard surface while cleaning after a smoke. The bowl is completely out of round with undefined rim edges. This will have to be taken care of without losing too much of briar estate and will be a challenge to achieve desired results. The vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!!!! The upper surface of the stem has very light tooth chatter towards the button end while the lower surface has a few deep bite marks with damage to the lip edge. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The tenon is filled with oils and tars, restricting flow of air through the airway.THE PROCESS
I started this project by flaming both the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface. I followed it by immersing the stem in to the solution of hydrogen peroxide and hot water. Within 20 minutes the stem color changed to greenish brown, a sign indicating that the oxidation has been pulled to the surface. This also revealed the stem logo of “W” encircled in an oval, on the top surface.After the oxidation was raised to the surface, I removed the stem and wiped it with paper napkins. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners through the airway to clean it. Once I was satisfied that the internals of the stem are clean, with a 180 grit paper, I sand the stem surface to get rid of the raised oxidation. I followed it by filling the deeper bite marks and lip damage with a mixture of activated charcoal and CA superglue and set it aside to cure. While the stem was curing, I worked on the stummel. The small size of the chamber dictated that I could only use my smaller sized fabricated knife to remove as much cake as possible. I further sand the chamber walls with a piece of 150 grit sand paper wound on a thin but dry bamboo twig (which are abundant in the jungles in this part of my country) attached with a rubber band. This was followed by 220 and 400 grit sand paper and now we have a smooth and even surface on the walls of the chamber. This process exposed the walls of the chamber and confirmed my initial apprehensions. The chamber walls show a number of heat fissures on both the front wall as well as above the draught hole. I shall address this issue at the end by coating the chamber wall with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. I wiped the insides of the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned the mortise using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, dental spatula and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I continued with the cleaning of the chamber by giving it a salt and alcohol treatment. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could using a straightened paper clip. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job. The next day, the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. The internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. I set the stummel aside to dry out. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. I covered the stamping on the stem with whitener using a whitener pen. The filling of charcoal and CA superglue had cured and using a needle file, I sand the filling to match the surface of the stem. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. With a sharp, thin knife I removed the entire old and loosened fills and cleaned the surface with alcohol. These are now ready to take on a fresh fill. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. However, the grime, oils and tars covering the stummel and rim surface was so stubborn that I could not get rid of it completely. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I mixed briar dust and CA superglue and filled all the major gashes while the minor ones were filled with clear CA superglue. I set the stummel aside to dry the filling.After the filling had dried out overnight, I sand the filling with a flat head needle file to match the surface of the stummel.Before sanding the entire stummel to match the fills and clean the stubborn grime, I decided to address the out of round and charred rim top by topping the rim top on a 220 grit sand paper. I was careful not to sand too much to maintain the original profile of the stummel. Topping also helped in reducing the dents and chipping to the outer edge of the rim. The rim top, after topping, looks much better.However, the inner edge profile was still uneven giving the bowl an out of round appearance. Also the outer rim edge had a few dents, chips and scratches. I addressed these issues by creating a bevel on the inner and outer edge of the rim. The results are pleasing to the eye.The issue of damaged rim was addressed to a great extent at this stage. However, the issue of addressing the large number of dent, dings and scratches prominently seen on the edge below the neck of the vase-like stummel shape still remains. I decided to reduce/ eliminate, if possible, these dents and dings by steaming them out. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still visible, these were greatly reduced when compared to before steaming.Thereafter began the arduous, painstaking and time consuming process of matching the repairs by sanding the entire stummel with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand papers. I was able to match all the repairs and dents and dings on the lower edge of the stummel by upward sanding motion while moving up from heal and downward motions while moving down from the rim top. I was satisfied with the appearance of the stummel after this sanding. I wanted to highlight the grains seen and further blend all the repairs carried out to the stummel. To achieve this aim, I sand down the stummel and rim top using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The stummel now has a deep shine with grains popping out with magnificent contrast. 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. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar). I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. 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 on to the polishing machine 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; the photographs speak for themselves. The beauty, size and shape of this pipe compel me to wonder if this pipe could once have been nestled in the hands of a lovely lady in Paris. If only the pipe could tell the story of its journey till date…Cheers!! PS: – Once I had finished with all the buffing and polishing, only one issue remained to be addressed; heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. I coated the walls of the chamber with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. Once dried, this will speed up the formation of cake and protect the chamber from a burn out.