Daily Archives: December 25, 2018

Restoring a Pipe Carved by an American Living Legend – “J.M. Boswell”


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I shall be honest with you; I love vintage English made pipes! I love vintage British bikes and own a couple; I love vintage British fountain pens and have a decent collection of the same. It is something about the simplicity yet unique British craftsmanship, robustness and reliability factor of British made products that I find most appealing. However, after having worked on a number of pipes made by various pipe carvers from USA like Tracy Mincer, Custom-Bilts, Kaywoodies, John Bessai etc, I realize that American pipe carvers are artistic, technologically inventive and the pipes they made are robust, life lasting with a nice feel and heft and of very high quality. Am I gravitating towards American pipes? May be……. The next pipe on my work table is a 22 years old and completely handmade freehand full bent billiard made by an iconic pipe maker from Pennsylvania, USA. Yes, I am working on a pipe made by J M Boswell from the year 1996.

This is a large sized full bent billiard freehand pipe with a nice heft and hand feel. The shape of the pipe is unique in that the proportionate shank has a sudden taper towards the shank end and this size is carried forward on to the saddle of the stem, tapering a bit along the stem before flaring out at the stem end. Wow!!!! That was one hell of a description which has left me exhausted and brain drained!!!! The stamping on the left side of the shank was clear and readable. It read “Boswell” in script signature over “96 USA”. The pipe was made in 1996.The saddle stem bears no stampings.I was keen to know more about J M Boswell the carver, his pipe making techniques and philosophy. I searched rebornpipes.com and sure enough, Mr. Steve has worked on a Boswell before!!! As is his habit, he has thoroughly researched this carver and has included valuable information in his write up. Therefore, instead of reinventing the wheel, here is the link to this write up for detailed information; (https://rebornpipes.com/2017/07/19/refurbishing-a-boswell-2003-spiral-twist-bent-billiard/). Do give it a read.

Is there not a single brand that this gentleman has not worked on before??? Is there never going to be an opportunity for me to research and contribute one pipe make on rebornpipes??? Well, I have just started on my journey as against his decades of dedicated hard work and as Robert Frost wrote in his poem “……..and miles to go before I sleep”. The quest for excellence and contribution continues!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel surface boasts of beautiful straight grains on the right side and most of the front while the left side has lovely swirls of grain interspersed with bird’s eye. The bottom of the shank has unique hand carved rustication which taper towards the right side and extends in a thin and straight line towards the rim on the right side. Lovely bird’s eye can be seen on the top of the shank surface with straight grains on either side of the shank.  The stummel is covered in oils, tars and grime from the overflowing lava. The crevices in the rustication are filled with dirt, dust and grime. The briar is dull and lifeless and has taken on a layer of aged patina, through which one can make out the beautiful grains all round. This one should clean up nicely. This pipe has seen heavy use and the chamber has a nice thick consistent layer of cake, about the size of dime, as is recommended. The cake has been regularly reamed to maintain correct thickness. This seems to be a well cared for pipe. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained only after the cake has been removed completely and taken down to bare briar. The bowl feels robust and solid to the touch from the outside. However, the mortise does show signs of accumulated dried oils, tars and remnants of ash, greatly restricting the air flow. This issue should be a breeze to address.The rim top is covered in a thick overflow of lava from the chamber. This is the only part of the stummel which appears to be neglected. The condition of the inner edge and rim top can be commented upon only once the rim has been cleaned. However, I have a feeling from looking at the appearance, that the right side of the inner edge in 3 o’clock direction may be charred from frequent lighting. Well, we’ll see about it later. Thankfully, the outer edge is pristine and shows no signs of damage!!The vulcanite stem is without any bite marks or tooth chatter. The upper and lower lip does show one bite mark each. The stem was apparently used with a rubber bit as can be seen from the calcification marks on the stem (Come on!! One does not have to be a Sherlock Holmes for this deduction!!). The saddle stem is heavily oxidized. The tenon is covered in dried oils and tars and so is the airway. The air flow through the stem is laborious to say the least. The fit of the stem in to the mortise is very loose, which will loosen further after the mortise and tenon have been cleaned. These issues will need to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I started this project by reaming the chamber, starting with size 2 head of PipNet reamer and moving on to size 3 head. I used a 220 grit sand paper, pinched between my thumb and forefinger, to sand the inner walls of the chamber. Once I had reached the bare briar, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This removed all the residual carbon dust and also rid the chamber of all ghost smells. Using a sharp knife, I gently scraped the rim top to remove the lava overflow. I followed up the reaming by cleaning the mortise and air way using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips dipped in alcohol. The mortise and the draught hole was chock-a- block with all the dried tars, oils and gunk that I had to use my fabricated spatula and the drill bit from the Kleen Reem pipe reamer!!!! I gave a final clean with shank brushes dipped in alcohol and dried the mortise with a rolled paper napkin. The shank internals and the draught hole is now nice and clean with an open and full draw.I cleaned out the internals of the stem using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. I scraped the dried oils and tars from the tenon with the sharp edge of my fabricated dental spatula.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. Special attention was paid to scrub out all the dirt and dust from the crevices in the rustication on the bottom of the shank and right side of the bowl. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I was not happy with the way the rim top had cleaned up. There were darkened areas on the rim top, which kept drawing my attention, as well as very light, almost negligible damage to the outer edge in the form of dents. For the sake of my own satisfaction, I decided to address these blemishes. I topped the rim top on a 220 grit sand paper. I was careful to avoid excessive topping and frequently checked the progress. It was at this stage that I realized that the left inner edge has a slight char in 8 o’clock direction. And all this while I had anticipated this damage to be on the right!! So much for playing Sherlock Holmes!! I address the issues to the inner and outer edge by creating a slight bevel using a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger. It’s looking good now, I say, save for a black spot on the left side!!! 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. Though this part of restoration is the second most time consuming and laborious, the end results are also the most satisfying. The play of grains, the contrast and the smooth surface are well worth the efforts. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. I took some extra efforts to work the balm in to the hand carved rustications on the bottom of the bowl. 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. With the stummel nice and clean and attractive, I worked the stem. I sharpened the lip edges using a needle file and sand 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. By mere sanding itself, the minor tooth marks seen on both stem surfaces were addressed completely. 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 pictures of the process and final results are shown below. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my local machine which is similar to a Dremel.  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, with the dark brown hues of the stummel contrasting with the shiny black stem, looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. The beauty, size and shape of this pipe make it one of my favorites and will find a place of pride in my modest collection. If only the pipe could tell the story of its journey till date…………… Cheers!! PS: The last functional aspect which I addressed at this stage was the protection of the walls of the chamber against the possibility of a developing serious heat fissures. I mix activated charcoal and yogurt to a consistency which allows for an easy and even spread and evenly apply it on the inner walls and set it aside to dry out naturally. This coating helps in protecting the wall surface and assists in quicker formation of a cake.

Restoring a Rare “Zeus” U.S. Pat # 2.158.897


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I am really privileged to have inherited a large collection of pipes that once were actively smoked by my grandfather for nearly 40 years, from 1930s to mid of 1970s!! This eclectic collection has a large variety of pipes of various origins; British, Denmark and US makers being in larger numbers. As I am researching and restoring each pipe, I have come to realize that there are actually quite a few that are a part of pipe history!! The one that is now on my work table is one such. It’s a “ZEUS”!!

This an oddly shaped Apple with a very wide shank which extends for about an inch before it is joined by an aluminum oval tube. An oddly shaped stem, something similar to a mermaid’s tail, fits into the end of the metal tube. The stummel surface boasts of beautiful flame grains along the sides of the stummel, while cross grains adorn the top and bottom of the shank. The left hand of the shank is stamped with “U.S. PAT.” in block capital, over the patent number “2.158.897”. The uniquely shaped twin bore Cumberland stem bears three stars on top surface of the stem, one at the top over “ZEUS” and two stars below. The lower surface of the stem bears the stamp “MADE IN” over “U.S.A.”In order to research any pipe that I am working on, the first place I visit is rebornpipes.com!! There is a wealth of information that Mr. Steve has collated in one place. There is a write up on a “ZEUS” which has been restored by Mr. Steve and he has painstakingly collated all the relevant information on this model of pipe which was made by LH Stern Inc. Instead of reinventing the wheel, here is the link to the write up which all pipe enthusiasts and collector may like to read to know more on this ultra rare pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/05/10/a-unique-piece-of-pipe-history-a-zeus-system-filter-pipe/).

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
Overflow of lava is seen on the rim top and also on the stummel surface, more so at the joint where the shank and the stummel meet. Through all this dust, dirt and grime, beautiful flame grains can be seen all around on the stummel. There is not a single fill that can be seen through the grime on the stummel. Maybe after a clean, a few gremlins will show up. The aluminum shank extension is without any dents and dings, which is a surprise of course, and is securely fixed over the shank. I do not intend to disturb the geometry of the pipe by attempting to separate it from the shank. The briar is dull and lifeless and has taken on a layer of aged patina, through which one can make out the beautiful grains all round. This one should clean up nicely. There is a thick and uneven layer of cake in the chamber which makes it difficult to ascertain the condition of the walls of the chamber. From the thin rim surface, it appears that the walls on upper portion of the bowl are thin and thickens down towards the heel as the bowl flares outwards, giving it the classic Apple shape. I really pray that I do not encounter the chamber condition akin to what I had encountered while working on the “SON”!!! The thin rim top is covered with overflow of lava. The inner edge appears uneven and so does the rim top. The outer edge is covered in overflow of lava and its condition will be ascertained after the rim has been cleaned.There are two spikes on the shank end which extend in to the aluminum shank extension. These spikes and the insides of the shank extension are filled with oils, tars and grime. The mortise is clogged and restricts the flow of air. These issues will need to be addressed.The twin bore Cumberland stem is the first that I shall be working on. The twin bore stem moved toward a single airway in the thinner portion towards the end of the stem. It formed a Y. The twin bores were quite large as can be seen in the photo. The airway appeared clean and would require a routine cleaning with pipe cleaners and alcohol. There a few very light bite marks near the end of the stem. There are small bite marks on the lower and upper lip edges. It is nice, dark, and smooth. These issues should not be a major headache to address. The tenon is clean and flow of air through the airway is full and smooth. THE PROCESS
I started this project by cleaning the chamber using size 4 head of the PipNet pipe reamer as the chamber is very wide. I used a 220 grit sand paper, pinched between my thumb and forefinger, to sand the inner walls of the chamber. Once I had reached the bare briar, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This removed all the residual carbon dust and also rid the chamber of all ghost smells. I gently scrapped the rim top with a sharp knife to remove the entire lava overflow. The process had revealed a web of very thin superficial lines which looked like the beginning of heat fissures. To make sure, I ran a toothpick along the lines. If these were the beginning of heat fissures, there would be some give in the lines as the charred briar would fall out. Luckily, this was not the case here. However, to be on the safer side I shall give the inner walls of the chamber a coating of activated charcoal and yogurt.Once the chamber and the rim top were cleaned, I realized that the inner edge of the rim was uneven and the bowl was badly out of round. However, the outer edge of the rim was in pristine condition. I worked on the inner edge of the rim with a 220 grit sand paper. I realized that nicks to the inner edge were larger than anticipated and also the thin rim surface had some blackened surfaces. The uneven thickness of the rim was also an eye sore!! I addressed these issues by topping the rim on a 220 grit sand paper. This completely addressed the issues of nicks and blackened surface on the rim. Though the issue of uneven rim thickness was addressed to a great extent, the rim is slightly thinner on the right side in 4 o’clock direction. To maintain the profile of the stummel and not lose too much briar, I let it be. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. I sand the stummel surface with a used piece of 220 grit sand paper and got rid of all the overflow of lava. I was careful around the stamping on the shank, lest I sand it off completely!I cleaned the internals of the mortise, shank extension, tenon chamber and the stem air way using hard bristled/ normal pipe cleaners and q-tips dipped in alcohol. I followed up the cleaning of the internals of the pipe by external cleaning of the stummel with a hard bristled toothbrush and undiluted Murphy’s oil soap. I wanted to highlight the grains seen on 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 also sand the caramel colored aluminum extension with the micromesh pads to bring out the luster of the dark golden brown. 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. Next, I worked on the stem. I sharpened the lip edges using a needle file. I sand 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 pictures of the process and final results are shown below.To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my locally procured machine which is similar to a Dremel.  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 last functional aspect which I addressed at this stage was the protection of the walls of the chamber against the possibility of a developing serious heat fissures. I mix activated charcoal and yogurt to a consistency which allows for an easy and even spread and evenly apply it on the inner walls and set it aside to dry out naturally. This coating helps in protecting the wall surface and assists in quicker formation of a cake.The completed pipe, with the dark brown hues of the stummel complemented by golden caramel colored aluminum extension and the Cumberland stem, looks lovely, fresh and vibrant. In fact, the finished pipe looks more beautiful and unique in person than in photographs!! The rarity, beauty and shape of this pipe make me feel fortunate to have inherited such unique pieces of pipe history…………… Cheers!! PS: While discussing this pipe with my guru and mentor, Mr. Steve, he remarked that this is only the second “ZEUS” that he has come across to this day, the first being in his personal collection!! And this comes from a gentleman who is working and collecting pipes for decades!!

This pipe was worked on at different place, both by Abha and self at different points in time and pictures were clicked on different backgrounds as available to us using different phone cameras! Hence there is a variation in the background and difference in picture quality. And I am still struggling and experimenting with best background and angles for taking photographs which will accentuate the beauty of the completed pipe!

A Reborn Coventry Rusticated Bullmoose


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff picked up this Coventry pipe off eBay from Bradenton, FL. in January 2017. It is an interestingly shaped pipe and the rustication is quite unique. The rustication is dirty but in good condition. There is dust and debris in the grooves and valleys of the briar. The aluminum band is split with 1/3 remaining on the stem and 2/3 on the shank end. It is the exterior of the threaded mortise insert. The pipe had an aftermarket windcap that was absolutely filthy with debris, rust and tobacco tars and oils. There was a thick cake in the bowl that overflowed onto the windcap. The edges of the rim were in surprisingly good condition. The acrylic saddle stem was dirty and had deep tooth marks around the button on both sides and on the surface of the button as well. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up. He took some photos of the rim top and the exterior of the bowl to show how dirty it was. You can see the lava on the rim and the rust and tars on the windcap. There is also a thick cake visible in the bowl. You can also see the sticky buildup on the exterior of the bowl. He took a photo of the stamping on the smooth, flat heel of the bowl – it read Coventry over Imported Briar.The stem showed a lot of wear and tear. There were deep tooth marks on the button surface itself and deep gouges and tooth marks on the stem for about an inch in front of the button. The material is an old style acrylic and I have learned from experience that it does not have memory like vulcanite. The tooth marks are there permanently. I have also learned that the colour darkens with time and sanding repairs always lightens the yellow. Knowing that means that some decisions will need to be made regarding the repairs. Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness. He removed the windcap and cleaned it as well as the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean the dust and grime out of the valleys and grooves of the rustication. He scrubbed the rim top and it looked very good with no damage to the edges. The inside of the bowl was also in great condition. He scrubbed the internals of the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. There was a long stinger in the shank that needed to be cleaned and he did that as well. The damage on the stem was quite visible once the stem was cleaned. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition. The bowl and rim were perfect. The stem needed a lot of attention.I unscrewed the stem to get a photo of the long stinger that extends almost into the bottom of the bowl.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside at this point and turned my attention to the stem. These early Bakelite/acrylic/plastic stems are really a pain and I do not relish repairing them. I have found that when they have been repaired and polished the stem loses the rich colour around the repairs. This one had been gnawed and there were deep tooth marks on the stem and button as well as several gouges in the surface of the stem. I cleaned the surface of the stem and filled in the marks with clear super glue. I rebuilt the top of the button and the edge. Once the repair cured I recut the edge of the button and flattened out the repairs with a flat needle file. It was still a mess but the bite marks and damage were no longer present.It is at this point that the issues always arise on these stems – sanding the repair smooth. When I blended the repair into the surface of the stem the area around the repair lightens significantly. It is ugly to my eye but I am willing to let it be because it improves the integrity of the stem.I cleaned out the dust in the airway in the stem and also some of the residual tars that are hard to get out of a pipe with the metal stinger apparatus like this one. I used pipe cleaners and alcohol and worked until the cleaners came out white.Now it was time to polish out the repairs and make the most of what looked rough. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching left behind by the 220 grit sandpaper and give the briar and the acrylic a shine. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I gave it a final polish with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Then gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. When I was finished the stem looked better than it did when I started. I still need to figure out how to keep the yellow from changing but oh well it is clean and sound. The photos tell the story. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and acrylic. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 contrast of colours between the briar bowl and the yellow/gold acrylic stem really looked good in spite of the repairs. The Coventry Bullmoose looked really good and has a unique shape and finish that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 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.