Sprucing up a Sparingly Used “Rolex” Vest Pipe

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The third pipe that I worked on simultaneously is a small folding “Rolex” vest or pocket pipe which I had purchased on eBay. I generally avoid making purchases on eBay as I am not sure as to what I shall land up with. I know there are all kinds of checks and balances on the site to prevent fraudulent transactions and various guarantees protecting the buyer, but still the fear of unknown prevents me from making purchases. However, in this case, I found the pipe interesting with the asking price to my liking and the seller had advertised it as rarely used and from the pictures, it appeared so. I decided to add it to my collection and made the purchase.

A long wait of 43 days followed and finally the pipe was received by my wife as I was away at my duty station. She immediately gave me a call to confirm receipt and sent me pictures of the pipe. She confirmed that the received pipe was indeed in excellent condition and would not require much work. This coming from her allayed all my fears about the overall transaction. A few months later, I went on some well earned leave and on return bought it with me to restore.

This round and flattened pipe has vertical thinly wired rustications running from the heel of pipe to the rim. The right side of the surface has a smooth surface in the center which bears the only stamping seen on this pipe. It is stamped as “ROLEX” over “BRUYERE” over “ITALY”. The bottom of the smooth surface has a stamp picturing a gnome. There is no other stamp on the stummel or the stem.I searched the internet for some information on this pipe and also on dating this pipe. I visited Pipedia and learnt that Rolex vest pipes were made by Brebbia of Italy. However, I hit a jackpot when I visited rebornpipes which really has a wealth of information on nearly every pipe ever made and served on a platter!!! It is here that I became aware that it is the picture of a gnome that adorns this pipe and that the gnome was the logo Brebbia used to put on its pipes from 1953 to 1956 (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/08/24/an-interesting-brebbia-silver-as1-square-shank-brandy/). Thus, is it possible to assume that this Rolex vest pipe was made between the years 1953 to 1956?????

As is commonly seen on rusticated or sandblasted pipes, the crevices in these will be filled with dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and storage. This Rolex vest pipe is no exception to this observation. The tight vertical rustications are filled with dust. The fact that the vertical rustications are dirty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to a very dark reddish brown stain on the smooth patch on the stummel which bears all the stampings seen on this pipe. The briar is looking nice and a little TLC will further enhance its appeal.The bowl is oval and pinched at either end along the length of the pipe. The chamber is filled with a thin layer of cake which should make for an easy clean. However, the shape of the bowl and chamber will prevent the use of a regular pipe reamer. I would not be able to even sand it with a sand paper pinched between my fingers. Improvisations will have to be made to remove the cake build up. The short mortise is relatively clean and air flow is open and free. The rim top has the same thin wired rustications and is filled with dirt and dust. The inner and outer edge of the rim is in pristine condition with no dings or dents. The full bent vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears greenish brown in color!!!! There are two major bite marks on the lower surface of the stem. The upper surface has a little debris stuck near the bottom of the lip. These issues should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both side is crisp and without any damage. The quality of vulcanite is good.THE PROCESS
As I had written in my write-up on John Bessai, I had learnt the use of Hydrogen Peroxide and hot water solution to raise the stem oxidation to the surface. Since I had decided to use this method, I had immersed stem of this pipe along with the stems of the John Bessai and Mini WoodArt pipes to make maximum use of the solution. Before I immersed this stem in the solution, I flamed both the surfaces of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter. This helped in raising the deep bite marks on the lower side of the stem to the surface. The result of this flaming was so fantastic, that there were little or no traces of any tooth indentation on the lower and upper surface. This was followed by immersing the stem in to hydrogen peroxide solution. Within 20 minutes the stem color changed to greenish brown, a sign indicating that the oxidation has been pulled to the surface.I used a 180 grit sand paper to sand out the raised oxidation and rubbed a little Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface. I wiped the stem again and worked on it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Between each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with extra Virgin Olive Oil and also gave it a final rubdown after the 12000 grit pad. I set the stem aside to dry while I worked on the bowl. I cleaned the stem airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I removed the cake from the chamber by scraping it with my smaller sized fabricated knife. I found the chamber to be solid and without any heat fissures or cracks. To finish the chamber, I wound a piece of 150 grit sand on a thin but dry bamboo twig (which are abundant in the jungles in this part of my country) attached with a rubber band, and used it to sand the inner walls. 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, ready for taking on a fresh layering of carbon cake!! This was followed by cleaning the short mortise with qtips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated all the traces of old smells from previous usage.

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 through all the vertical rustications, cleaning them thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. I started work on the stummel which has dried by now. 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 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 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. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up.

2 thoughts on “Sprucing up a Sparingly Used “Rolex” Vest Pipe

  1. Pingback: New Life for an Italian Made Folding Pocket Pipe | rebornpipes

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