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.