Breathing Life into an 80s era Canadian Brigham 109 Apple

Blog by Steve Laug

Along with the Malaga apple that Alex brought me to work on he also brought an older 80s Brigham rusticated apple for me to work on for him. Brigham pipe used to be made in their entirety in Canada and sported an airplane grade aluminum shank extension that held their patented Rock Maple Distillator system ( I quote in part from their website about the Distillator.

The Brigham distillator system, developed in the 1930s, was created in response to a common complaint of pipe smokers – tongue bite. Eliminating this burning sensation created by the tars and acids of the burning tobacco (especially in wet and aromatic blends) became a consuming passion of ours. We found the perfect taste-neutral and effective material in natural, untreated Rock Maple…

By design, the Brigham system extends into the stem, providing an extra inch of wood through which the smoke passes. Consider that in most other pipes, smoke spends half of its time passing along a plastic or rubber channel which can add negative flavour to the smoke while providing no benefit of its own.

This combination of reduced exposure to plastic and rubber, drastic reduction in tongue bite, elimination of gurgle and flow-back as well as the ease of use has made Brigham Canada’s pipe of choice for generations.

This pipe is stamped 109 on the smooth bottom of the heel and on the shank it reads Brigham over Canada. Talking with Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes who is my go to guy for all things Brigham I was able to determine that a pipe stamped Brigham over Canada was made in the 1980s era (thanks Charles). The round shank flows into a vulcanite tapered stem that is oxidized and has light tooth marks and chatter near the button. The stem is spotted and speckled from sitting in a display case or on a pipe rack somewhere. The rusticated finish on the briar is dirty but even under the grime there is something quite beautiful about the pipe. There is grime and tars on the surface of the bowl and shank. The bowl had a thick cake some thick lava overflowed onto the rim top. 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 Brigham Apple was in pretty good condition considering its age and use. The photo shows the cake in the bowl and the thick buildup of lava on the rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl in the first photo below. The stem was dirty, oxidized, almost mottled looking. There was some very light tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took the stem off the shank and took photos of the aluminum Distillator system. The first photo shows it with the Rock Maple filter tube in place. The second shows the tube removed. I was surprised at how clean the tube was compared to what I saw with the bowl. I generally throw away the old Distillator tubes and replace them with a new one once the pipe is clean.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It was very sharp and readable even if the photo was not. This is the photo that I sent to Charles to help identify the date on this pipe.I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris that still remained in the bowl. 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 U-shaped 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. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat on the back top side of the rim. I used a pen knife blade the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava. I used a Scotch-Brite sponge pad to scrub off the remaining lava on the top of the bowl and wiped it down with a bit of saliva on a cotton pad. I quickly ran a worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper across the surface of the stem to check for tooth marks that would need work and was pleased that there were none (more sanding would need to be done when I turned my attention to the stem). 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 dirtier than I expected in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the rusticated finish of the bowl and shank as well as the smooth surface of 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 to polish the bowl. 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 turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the light tooth chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and worked on the spotted oxidation on the surface. 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.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 found my box of Brigham Rock Maple Distillators and took a clean one from the box to replace the one that came in the pipe when I received it from Alex. The beauty of these is that they can easily be rinsed out with alcohol or warm water to remove the tars and oils and reused.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 Brigham rusticated finish on this little apple is quite beautiful and it has an amazing tactile feel as it heats up during smoking. The contrast of swirling grain looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Brigham Apple is the second of three pipes that I am working on for Alex. Once I am finished with the last one the lot will go back to him to enjoy. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Alex, I am looking forward to your thoughts on this one! Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

4 thoughts on “Breathing Life into an 80s era Canadian Brigham 109 Apple

  1. Todd L. Platek

    Steve, Makes plenty of sense. I’m such a newbie that I have to ask lots of questions of the Masters. Thanks for your patience and guidance, Sensei.

  2. Todd L. Platek

    Steve, thanks for this. Am curious as to why you chose not to put stem in an oxyclean solution but instead sanded and used Denicare.

    1. rebornpipes Post author

      LOL! Todd. I have a few tins of pipe polishes laying around gathering dust and have decided to use them up. I always like the coarseness of the Denicare polish and find that it works pretty well after my initial sanding of the surface oxidation… Hope that makes sense…


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