Blog by Steve Laug
My brother Jeff picked up a pair of Aldo Velani Ultima 1 pipes in a lot he purchased on an auction. The Ultima 1 has a composite stem with briar inserts on the saddle and along the sides of the stem with Lucite forming the base of the stem. There are strips of Lucite on the top and underside and in the bite area around the button. It really is a beautiful looking pipe with a lot of class and distinction. Most Aldo Velani pipes are made in Livorno, Italy, for the USA market by Cesare Barontini. They were previously imported by Lane Limited. The name “Aldo Velani” is actually fictional and the brand was made for export (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Aldo_Velani http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a3.html). The first of the pair had definitely seen better days in its ‘not so long life’. The pipes were probably made in the 1990s. This one was filthy and there was a thick coat of scum on the outside of the briar bowl and the stem. It was sticky to touch and really a mess. The bowl had a thick cake and there was a lava overflow on the rim top. The previous owner must have thought the pipe would look better with a band so he cut a piece of aluminum conduit and made a band. It is quite thick and really scratched and edges were rough from cutting – it was a real cob job! The stem was dirty and had tooth marks on the Lucite around the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up. It really was a mess and needed new life breathed into it! He took some photos of the rim top and the side of the bowl to show how dirty it was. You can see the lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. You can also see the sticky buildup on the exterior of the bowl.He took photos of the stamping on the shank and the fit of the aluminum band. You can see how thick it is in the photos. You can see it with and without the band. The shank was discoloured and scratched by the poorly made band. It would take some work to deal with that. The sad thing is that the band was purely “cosmetic” because the shank was not cracked or damaged. The band definitely had to go for cosmetic reasons! The stem definitely showed some wear and tear as well but the structure was sound. It always amazes me how dirty folks let their pipes get. This one has food particles or something jammed against the sharp edge of the button. The AV logo was stamped on the left side of the briar portion of the saddle stem. Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl and scrubbing the internals with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good and the bowl itself looked great. There were a few nicks or sandpits on the right side and heel of the bowl. The area where the band had been was quite a bit better but still was not right but it still looked better without the band than with it.
Sometimes the cleaning and restoration work has some unexpected results that end up making more work for the restorer! In this case the issue arose when Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer. He did not leave it in too long but the time it sat in the mix made the briar inserts almost black and it swelled above the Lucite. When he took it out and rinsed it off the stem looked awful and Jeff was just sick! I took photos of the stem and bowls on both pipes to show the contrast in the stem. Originally the stem on the bent looked like the stem on the straight. The photos below show the comparison and the damage to the stem on the bent. Now the trick would be to try to restore the stem to a semblance of its original colour. I was not sure I would be able to get it back but time would tell. I decided to start my restoration on this pipe by addressing the most irritating issue facing me with this pipe! I wanted to see what I could do with the stem and the staining where the band had been. I mixed up a batch of oxalic acid – crystals and water. I made it fairly concentrated –1 teaspoon of oxalic crystals to ½ cup of water. When my Dad was here we used it to remove water stain damage to a pipe stand that I was refinishing. I figured it was worth a try. I wiped the stem down with a cotton pad dipped in the oxalic mixture. I also wiped the darkened ring around the shank where the band had been. I wiped it on repeatedly and dried it off. The first set of four photos show the immediate results of the action. I sanded the shank area (carefully avoiding damaging the stamping) and the briar portions of the stem with a worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper to further remove the darkening. I was able to remove much of the issue on the stem. I sent the following photos via Facebook Messenger to my brother to ease his mind about the stem. You can see that things are looking quite hopeful with the stem and the shank at this point. Please ignore the curmudgeonly model that is posing with the pipe!I wiped the stem and bowl down with an alcohol wetted cotton pad to remove the sanding dust. I polished the briar with 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads. I used some clear super glue to repair the deep sand pits and nicks in the briar. Once the repairs had cured I sanded them smooth with a small piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the briar and then sanded the repaired areas with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads. When I had finished the repairs were smooth (I failed to take photos of this part of the process).I stained the repaired areas, the rim top and the shank end where I had stripped the finish with the oxalic acid wash with an Oak stain pen. The colour most accurately matched the rest of the bowl. I was happy with the overall look of the bowl but the ring damage on the shank end still stood out too much to my liking. The colour on the bowl was even but still was significantly browner than the reds of the stem. I decided to rub the bowl down with several coats of Danish Oil Cherry stain. I rubbed it down and wiped it off several times until I had the colour I wanted. I set it aside to let the stain sink into the briar. The pictures below show the bowl at this point in the process. I am making progress. I was happy with the finished bowl colour and the darkening left by the poorly done band looked better than it had before. There were still remnants that were left behind and these are the war wounds from the journey this pipe took before it came to me. Here are some photos of the bowl at this point. The colour is very good and works with the stem and the grain really sings. I set the bowl aside at this point and turned my attention to the stem. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching left behind by the 220 grit sandpaper and give the briar and the Lucite a shine. The stem was looking far better than I expected or had hoped. Now came the test – would the bowl and stem look good together? I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and rubber. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 Cherry Danish Oil had really breathed life into the briar on the bowl and stem and the pipe came alive with the buffing. The contrast of colours between the briar bowl and the briar inserts on the stem really looked good with the polished black Lucite. The Aldo Velani Ultima 1 looked far better than when it enter the queue and I was able to redeem the darkened stem. The finished pipe has a unique look that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will soon be on the rebornpipes store if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for reading this while I worked on it. It was interesting and unusual piece to restore and I really enjoyed the work.