Daily Archives: January 5, 2019

Restoring the 13th Pipe from Bob Kerr’s Estate – A Dunhill Tanshell FE F/T Prince


Blog by Steve Laug

In my ongoing work on Bob Kerr’s Estate I feel like I am finally 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 12 more to go. I went through the box of Dunhills shown above and chose the 13th sandblast pipe to work on – it is another Group 4 but this time a Tanshell Prince. It is stamped on the underside of the bowl heel and the shank with the following information. The letters FE F/T which make this a Prince shape with a Fantail stem are followed by Dunhill over Tanshell. Next to that it is stamped Made in England 7 – which dates it as being made in 1968. That is followed by a Circle 4T – Group 4 size Tan Shell. The round shank flows into a tapered fishtail 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 Tanshell finish is dirty but nonetheless there is something quite beautiful about the pipe. There is grime and tars filling in much of the craggy finish. The bowl had a thick cake and some lava overflowed on the rim top. There appears to be a little damage on the front inner edge of the rim but after cleaning I will know more. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Tanshell Prince was in decent shape all things considered. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and the lava on the rim top was also very present. 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.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the bowl and shank. It was very weak but still readable under bright light with a lens.I removed the stem and was surprised to find that a repairman had replaced an obviously broken tenon with a white nylon/Teflon tenon. It fit perfectly but was a surprise nonetheless.I am sure if you have read the restoration work on the previous 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 12 other pipes from Bob’s estate I had a pretty well knew how he used and viewed his pipes. I am coming to the end of the Shell and Tanshell pipes (1 more Shell Briar billiard to go). I had learned to tell which pipes 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. This particular pipe was tired but the cake and lava on the rim should have been more. With the stem off and seeing that it was a repair pipe I could understand why. This one would have been an earlier repair than the billiard I just finished.With that in mind I turned to work on the 13th 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.With the bowl reamed and rim top cleaned I scrubbed the sandblast finish. This is pretty much my process in cleaning either sandblast or rusticated finishes. I scrubbed it with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the grooves and canyons of the blast. I worked over the tarry lava overflow on the rim with the tooth brush and a brass brush. I rinsed the pipe under running water to remove the grime. I dried it off with a soft towel. The pictures below show the finish after scrubbing and rinsing. I 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 scraped out the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula 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 Tanshell 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. I cleaned up the Teflon/Delrin white tenon as much as possible without changing the diameter.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, the nickel band 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 Tanshell briar bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Tanshell FE F/T Prince will soon be heading to India to be enjoyed by the next pipeman who has taken on the trust of Bob’s pipes. It really has that classic Dunhill Prince shape that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ¼ inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 13th Dunhill and the 2nd Tanshell 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.

Advertisements

Restoring a Savinelli Autograph 3 Rhodesian/Dublin Long Shank


Blog by Steve Laug

It is the fourth 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 taking another break from the Bob Kerr estates since I have already finished 12 of them. They are piled in boxes around my basement shop and need to look at something different from the Dunhills of his estate. Though this picture is not from today the posture is the same, 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 figured out from the title I am working on another pipe from Italy. This one is a Savinelli Autograph 3 (the top pipe down in the photo below). It reads Savinelli over Autograph on the left side of the shank. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with the Achille Savinelli Autograph and Italy. The underside shank is sandblasted while the rest of the pipe is smooth. The Lucite stem also is stamped with the autograph. 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 two Mastro de Paja that I have worked on already, two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the first of the Autographs next as it was not a shape I had seen before in my restoration work.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. Like his other pipes this first Savinelli Autograph 3 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 a photo of the side and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like.The acrylic/Lucite stem was in excellent condition. It was made for the Savinelli Balsa filter system or for their 9mm filter. 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 was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that this stem is also a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter or for a Savinelli Balsa Filter system. Though to be honest I don’t think the Florida fellow ever used a filter. I found photos of the system online and have included them here. If you choose not to use a filter there is an adapter that can be purchased to fill in the tenon in place of the filter. 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. There are burn marks along the inner edge and some darkening on the top of the rim.  The stem will take very little to polish out the tooth chatter on both sides and give it a deep shine. The left side of the tapered Lucite stem also bears the Achilles Savinelli autograph stamped into the stem.I took some photos of the stamping on the right and left sides of the shank. The stamping is very clear and readable.I turned first to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-savinelli1.html) to get a brief overview of the Autograph line. There I found out that the Autographs were hand made and unique. The Autograph Grading system is ascending: 3, 4, … 8, 0, 00, 000.

I turned then to Pipedia to get a more background on the Autograph line. I had the outline I needed from pipephil for the pipe but wanted more (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Savinelli). I quote in part from the article on that site.

While Savinelli’s serially produced pipes account for around 98% of annual production, the marque also creates a number of artisanal, handmade pieces as well. The Autographs, the Creativity line, and the Mr. A. line are all the result of Savinelli’s unique handmade process, with the Autographs reflecting the larger Freehand aesthetic, the Creativity line delving into more complex hand carving, and the Mr. A. line sidestepping the standard shape chart for remarkable and unusual pipes.

All of the briar for Savinelli’s Autographs and other freehand pipes is sourced specifically for those pieces. While the majority of the marque’s serial production is made from extra grade ebauchon blocks, Savinelli keeps a separate supply of Extra Extra plateau blocks for Freehands. This variety of briar is much larger, and of a higher quality, which explains why so many Autographs and Savinelli handmades are naturally larger designs.

These handmade pieces are shaped much like traditional Danish Freehands: they are shaped first and drilled second. Using this method, Savinelli’s team of artisans is able to showcase their own creativity, as it maximizes flexibility and facilitates a more grain-centric approach to shaping. The resulting Freehand designs are at once both a departure from the marque’s classical standard shapes, yet very much still “Savinelli” in their nature—i.e. proportioned so that the bowl is the visual focus when viewed from the profile, juxtaposed by the comparatively trim lines of the shank and stem. To provide a little more insight into the differences between Savinelli’s standard production and freehand lines, Luisa Bozzetti comments:

“When we choose to make Freehand pipes we must stop production on the standard shapes. The process for Freehands is much more involved and takes much more time. Finding the best people from the production line and pulling them to make Freehands is challenging since it’s not an assembly line, but rather a one or two man operation.

 After the rough shaping of the stummel, we must get together and brainstorm which style of stem will be paired before the pipe can be finished since we do not use pre-shaped stems. All accents and stems for the Freehands are cut from rod here in the factory. A lot of care goes into the few pieces lucky enough to make the cut; to end up with a certain number of Autographs, for instance, means that many, many more will be made, and only the few will be selected.”

The quality control process for Savinelli handmades is even more rigorous than that employed in the standard lineup. Many blocks are started and later discarded because of pits or defects. While Savinelli’s briar sourcing is a constant process, working with some of Italy’s top cutters to ensure only the finest and most suitable blocks make their way to the factory, it’s impossible to source plateau briar that’s completely free from flaws. That’s just nature. Savinelli creates the standard for quality by working through the rough (a very high-quality rough, mind you) to find that shining diamond with the potential to become a Savinelli handmade.

It looks like the Autograph 3 I am working is pretty high in the hierarchy of the line. Typically the autographs I have worked on in the past have a unique twist to the vulcanite stem while this one was Lucite. The also did not have the signature autograph on the shank like this one does. It is nice straight grain all around the bowl sides with birdseye on the top of the cap and rim. The bottom of the shank is sandblasted and looks very good in that location.

Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the damage to the rim top and inner edge. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and 1500 grit micromesh to smooth out the damage and blend it into the rest of the briar. 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 touched up the stamping on the stem side using a white out pen. I let it dry and buffed it off with a micromesh sanding pad. The photos tell the story. The stamping is still visible with some places that are quite weak. 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 dark and medium browns of the briar with the polished black Lucite Savinelli Balsa Filter system stem is quite stunning. The mix of straight grain and flame grain around the bowl and shank combined with the birdseye on the rim is quite remarkable. This is truly a beautiful long shank Rhodesian/Dublin pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 1/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. I have restored quite a few Autographs over the years and this estate is a rare beauty. I will be putting it 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.