Daily Archives: January 3, 2019

Restoring the 11th Pipe from Bob Kerr’s Estate – A Dunhill Shell Briar 104 F/T Oval Shank Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

In my ongoing work on Bob Kerr’s Estate I seem to be making a dent. I am working my way through the Dunhills in his collection – the Shell and Tanshell pipes. I am cleaning them for the family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection along with the Dunhills are a good bevy of Petersons, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting.

I sorted the pipes into groups of the various brands and had a box of 25 different Dunhill pipes in different shapes, styles and sizes. I decided to work on the Dunhills first. It was a great chance to see the shape variety up close and personal. The photo below shows the box of Dunhill pipes.I am making progress on the 25 Dunhills with only 14 more to go. I went through the box of Dunhills shown above and chose the 11th sandblast pipe to work on – another Group 4 Shell Billiard with an oval shank and tapered stem. It is stamped on the underside of the bowl heel and the shank with the following information. On the heel it reads 104F/T which is the shape number followed by Dunhill over Shell Briar. That is followed by Made in England 0 which would identify it as made in 1960. Next to the stem/shank junction (under the band) is a 4S which gives the size of this Shell pipe. Stem is oxidized, tooth marks and chatter near the button, some calcification. The oval shank of this billiard flows into a tapered stem that is oxidized and has tooth marks and chatter near the button. There is some calcification on the first inch of the stem ahead of the button and there is some light damage to the top of the button. The Shell Briar finish is dirty but nonetheless is beautiful. There is grime and tars filling in much of the craggy finish. The bowl had a thick cake and lava overflowed on the rim top. The inner edge of the bowl shows some damage but the extent will not be clear until the bowl is reamed and the rim top cleaned. The shank has a nickel repair band that really cheapens the look. It is loose so I plan on examining the shank carefully to see if it is really necessary or was just added as bling. With a little work this pipe would look good once again. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and stem to show what I was dealing with. Judging from the condition this little billiard was in I think I can safely say that it was another one of Bob’s favourite pipes. The cake in the bowl is another thick one and the lava on the rim top is also very thick. You can see the cake and tobacco in the bowl. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button. The button surface was also marked with tooth chatter. I removed the loose band from the shank so I could read the stamping on the shank. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the bowl and shank. It was clear and readable.I am sure if you have read the restoration work on the previous 8 pipes you have already read what I included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them. Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words. Thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!

I have included one of Bob’s wood carvings to give you an idea of what he daughter wrote about above. You can see his artistry in the carving that is patterned after British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations people. To me this is a sea otter but perhaps a reader may enlighten us.Having already worked on 10 other pipes from Bob’s estate I had a pretty good feel for how he used and viewed his pipes. Even with the pipes so far I could tell which ones were his favoured ones and which were his work horses. I could get a sense of the ones that accompanied him into his carving shop. In many ways it was as if he was standing over my shoulder while I cleaned up his pipes. With that in mind I turned to work on the 11th of his pipes. I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris of tobacco shards that still remained. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps bring the inner edges back to round. With the bowl reamed it was time to work on the rim top and remove the thick lava coat in the blast of the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and a brass bristle tire brush to work on the rim top and remove the buildup there. It also worked to minimize the rim damage a bit.I decided to check out the shank and see if I could find a crack once the band was removed. I examined it with a lens under a bright light and sure enough there was a crack on the underside of the shank that went through the circle 4S. It was a fine hairline crack but the band served to keep it that way. I have circled the crack to show its location.I will need to reband the shank but I think I will use a much narrower band that maintains the integrity of the look and does not compromise the repair. I decided to start with that part of the restoration and see what I could do. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take the band down as much as I could and still hold onto it. Then I used 220 grit sandpaper and “topped” the band to a point where it worked to do the job it was created for but was far less intrusive. I was able to only cover the S and part of the 4 so it was a lot better than when I started. Here are some photos of the process. Photo 1 shows the original width of the band. Photo 2 shows the Dremel and sanding drum. I used the sanding drum held sideways (horizontal to the shank end) and reduced the width of the band as much as I could without damaging the end of the shank.Photo 3 shows the process of “topping” the band on the topping board with a new piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Using this method after the Dremel allowed me to remove the sharpness of the edge and also even out the edge. Photo 4 shows the width of the band from the side. I was able to reduce by just over half.I cleaned up the shank end with a little alcohol and a q-tip and then glued the band in place with white all-purpose glue. Once the glue dried and the band was solidly in place I took the photos below to give an idea of the new look of the band. I have included the first photo below to show the contrast of what the band originally looked like and what the band looks like now. I cleaned up the excess glue around the newly fit band and then worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the sandblast finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast 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 and then polished it with a horsehair shoe brush. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I polished the nickel band and edges to dress it up and give it a cleaner appearance using worn micromesh sanding pads. The photos below tell the story. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a small pen knife to break away the tarry buildup on the walls of the shank. I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. It was very dirty in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.  I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush after each coat of wax to raise the shine. The bowl looks really good at this point. The sandblast grain just shines and is showing all of the different layers of colour that make up a Dunhill Shell finish. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the majority of the marks and tooth chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation and calcification. There were still a few small tooth marks that needed work. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end. I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. 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 the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple 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 that show up in the sandblast of the Shell briar bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This 1960 Dunhill Shell 104 F/T oval shank tapered stem Billiard turned out really well and I was able to reduce the size and overall presence of the band and make it standout less at first look. Once again it really has that classic Dunhill look that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 11th Dunhill and the 10th Shell from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the estate. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.


Restoring a Handmade Estate Mastro de Paja Media 3B Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

It is the second day of the New Year 2019 and I am continuing to work on pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am continuing my break from the Bob Kerr estates that I have piled in boxes around my basement shop to work on another different pipe. I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have read in the title I am switching things up to work on an Italian pipe. It is a Mastro de Paja Fatta A Mano Chubby Shank Billiard (the third pipe down in the photo below). It reads that on the left side of the diamond shank. On the underside of the shank it is stamped Media with 3B in a circle that I am assuming is the grade stamp, there is also a P near the shank/stem union. Under that is a Sun stamp that is common the MP pipes. In the Sun stamp there is a tiny fill – the only one on the pipe. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Pesario (the city in Italy where it was made). On the underside of the saddle portion of the stem it is stamped with a Sun. There is an inset briar ring on the Lucite stem. The Mastro de Paja gold inset is on the top of the saddle stem. The pipe came to me in a lot of five pipes that I bought from a pipeman in Florida. The other pipes in the lot were the first Mastro de Paja I worked on already, two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the Mastro Billiard/Brandy next.I had the fellow in Florida send the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho for the cleanup work. He does a great job and expedites my restoration process a lot. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. This second Mastro de Paja pipe must also have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. The Florida pipeman had laid aside his pipe some 15-20 years earlier and it had been in storage. It was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the amazing grain shone through. Jeff included some photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like.The next photos try to capture the stamping around the sides of the shank. They read as I have noted above. The acrylic/Lucite stem was in excellent condition. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem 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 under the thick lava coat. There were just a few nicks and scratches to deal with. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top will take some work to take care of the damage. The stem will take very little to polish out the tooth chatter on both sides and give it a deep shine. I was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that the stem is a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter.I am including the information that I included in the previous Mastro de Paja blog.

I turned first to Pipedia to get a feel for the pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastro_de_Paja). I quote in part from the article on that site.

In 1972 Giancarlo Guidi, after having spent some time as a hobbyist in producing pipes, decided to officially found a production workshop called “Mastro de Paja”. Mastro: obviously as a master craftsman, De Paja: it derives from the name with which he was affectionately called by friends “Pajetta” because of his curly hair and translated into a dialectal expression “de Paja”.

Spadoni Giannino joins him shortly after that, at the time he was a salesman and among the products he sold there were also pipes. A professional wedding that turned out to be perfect immediately, in no time the new company “MASTRO DE PAJA di Guidi e Spadoni” immediately became one of the most respected manufacturers of pipes in Italy for the quality of production and lines that for those times were innovative, fascinating and even if coarse they immediately met the consent of enthusiasts and collectors.

Unfortunately, the professional marriage between Guidi and Spadoni, due to disagreements and different views on strategies, stopped in 1981. Guidi left the company to found a personal one. In Mastro de Paja which in the meantime became a real company with a production staff remained with Spadoni. Unfortunately, after a very short time, due to economic and financial problems that put the possibility of continuing the business at risk, Spadoni is forced to ask for help and finds it with the intervention of the Pesaro-based entrepreneur Terenzio Cecchini who, despite being burdened by his multiple industrial activities, sees in Mastro de Paja a valid expression of high craftsmanship and takes over as majority shareholder and acquires the position of director.

Soon after even Spadoni decides to leave (and create his own new company), Cecchini then puts his eyes on a very smart young man which he considered capable of giving new glaze to the Mastro de Paja which, meanwhile, inevitably presented some productive and commercial problems. That young man is called Alberto Montini and he started in his thirties his beautiful adventure in the pipes world… He was contacted by the surveyor Terenzio Cecchini at the time the only owner of the Mastro, to take care of it in every aspect, first as an employee, then as an administrator and later as a partner of Mastro de Paja and afterwards with the passing of Mr. Cecchini he became the sole owner.

Currently the Mastro produces about 2 thousand pipes a year with strictly artisan procedure, at the Mastro currently reigns a warm harmony, is a group of friends who strives to get the best. This also stems from the fact that pipes for Mastro de Paja are not to be considered as any other object to be produced and sold following cold strategies common to everyone in the business world, it’s completely different, it is necessary to love it, it is a style of being, a philosophy of life that can only be appreciated by a noble soul and not noble by title but by principles.

I read further in the article and found the following information on the stamping and the circle 3A stamp. I quote:

Mastro de Paja “ELITE COLLECTION” It is the production of pipes made entirely by hand, even they are unique but of regular production On all “Mastro de Paja” pipes you can see fire stamped all the informations for tracing the value of each creation.

 0B: Rusticated

1B: Sandblasted

CA: Castanea

2D: Half rusticated

3A: Brown and orange stain

3B: Natural

3C: Perfect grain

It looks like the 3B is pretty high in the hierarchy of the Mastro pipes, with just the 3C Perfect Grain ahead of it. It is described as having a Natural Finish. That pretty well describes the pipe I have in my hands today – it has darkened with use but the train is quite nice.

I turned to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m3.html) and added the following summary of information on the brand.

Brand founded in 1972 by Giancarlo Guidi. He left it for Ser Jacopo in 1982. Alberto Montini became the owner of the brand in 1995. Production (2010): ~ 5000 pipes / year. Seconds: Calibano, Montini

Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the fill on the bottom of the shank. It was solid and in the middle of the stamping so it would take a few tricks to make it disappear. I used a black Sharpie pen to touch up the fill area and viola it was much less visible! I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and to try to lighten the finish a bit – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad to remove the sanding dust and get a sense of the how the finish was developing. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I kept it clear of building up in the twin groove around the bowl below the bowl cap. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a microfiber 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 and worked on the stem. I wet sanded the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. 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 the Lucite. I gave the bowl and 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 the beautiful browns and orange of the briar with the polished black Lucite 9mm filter stem is quite stunning. The Mix of straight grain, flame and birdseye around the bowl and shank is quite remarkable. This is truly a beautiful pipe that is for sure. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is the second Mastro de Paja estate that I have worked on recently and it will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.