Daily Archives: January 16, 2019

Refreshing a Mastersen Burl Briar Made in France Freehand


Blog by Dal Stanton

My first restoration project of the new year is on my work table!  After visiting family in the US for the holidays, and putting in some overdue ‘Grandpa time’, I’m glad to be back to Sofia, Bulgaria, in our 10th floor flat of a formerly Communist Block apartment building.  I acquired the Mastersen Freehand before me in the Lot of 66 some time ago – an acquisition off eBay that has produced many newly commissioned pipes for stewards around the globe.  And what’s great about this is not only that these pipes were placed in the hands of stewards but that each pipe has benefited the work we do here in Bulgaria with the foundation, Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I’m thankful for those pipe men and women who have commissioned the restoration of these pipes from the For ‘’Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection on the ThePipeSteward website.  This is where Paul debated over 4 pipes and in the end commissioned two pipes, this Mastersen Freehand and a very nice Kaywoodie Prime Grain Imported Briar ‘Fancy’ Bulldog, which will be next in the queue.  Now on my worktable, this is what got Paul’s attention. The nomenclature situated on the underside of the shank is worn and thin.  The stamp is MASTERSEN [over] BURL BRIAR [over] MADE IN FRANCE.  Pipedia’s information about Mastersen shows that it was a name originally belonging to the Shalom Pipe Co. of Israel.  The Pipedia article goes on to say, “Shalom was taken over by Robert L. Marx of New York City, later Sparta, NC, then of Mastercraft.”  Mastersen is mentioned also in the Pipedia description of Mastercraft, which was cited from a very interesting 2008 thread devoted to Dr. Grabow pipes from Tapatalk.com – the specific thread was named, Mastercraft Pipes, Grabow Parallel Universe.  The main contributor was Ted, who from 1974 till 1984 had several positions with Mastercraft including Executive Vice President.  Ted’s reminiscences were fun to read, but my main interest was to understand better what happened with the name Mastersen.  Mastersen’s original stamping with the Shalom Pipe Co., would be marked with Israel as the Country of Manufacturing (COM).  Yet, the Mastersen on my table shows a French COM.  Ted’s reflections on those years with the relationship of Mastercraft, the subsequent owner of the Mastersen name, gave some clues.  This short statement was helpful describing Mastercraft’s acquisition of pipes for sale:

It doesn’t appear it was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English…. Freehand, For M/C Andersen and (a few Mastersen) ….

My guess based upon this scant information is that the original Shalom Mastersen Freehand style was later manufactured in France under Mastercraft ownership (1970s to 1980s?).  The style of the pipe before me is consistent with Pipephil’s example of the Mastersen Freehand produced in Israel.An interesting characteristic of this Freehand is it size.  For a Freehand it could be described as diminutive.  The length is 5 inches, height: 2 inches at the crest, plateau width: 1 1/2 inches, chamber width: 1 inch and chamber depth: 1 1/2 inches (at the middle of the slanted plateau).  I found this description of a similar Mastersen with an Israel COM described for sale on SmokingPipes.com.  Christophor Huff’s description nailed the Mastersen on my worktable as well regarding it size yet plenty of room for tobacco:The condition of the Mastersen on my worktable is good but needs the normal cleaning.  The plateau has minor darkening and the chamber has a very light cake.  I detect one small divot on the right side of the shank that needs attention.  Minor tooth chatter is evident on the bit and some oxidation in the stem.  Perhaps the most noticeable issue is the fancy stem fit – it is quite loose.  The tenon will need to be expanded to make the army style pressure fit snugger.

To begin the restoration of the Mastersen, I run some pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the fancy bent stem to clean the airway and then place it in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer.  It joins a few other pipes and their stems that are in queue for restoration.  After several hours soaking, I fish out the Mastersen’s stem and drain the Deoxidizer fluid.  I then wipe off the stem removing much oxidation using a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  I also run pipe cleaners through the airway to remove Deoxidizer from the internals.  After wiping with alcohol, I then apply paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to condition the vulcanite and set the stem aside.  The Before & After did a good job with the oxidation. The pictures show the progress. Turning now to the Freehand bowl, I begin the cleaning process my reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I use the two smaller blade heads of four and then quickly remove the remaining carbon using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool.  I sand the chamber wrapping 240 grit paper around a Sharpie pen and then wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clear out the remaining carbon dust.  The chamber looks good except that I detect a pit near the top of the chamber – just below the plateau.  I take a couple pictures to get a close look.  My thoughts are that this blemish in the briar is too high to be impacted in a large way by the fire in the chamber.  Just to be on the safe side of things, I will fill it, but will CA do the job, or do I need to apply a touch of the heat resistant J-B Weld putty since it is in the chamber?  I’ll give some thought to this and I decide to send a note to Steve with all his rebornpipes experience to get his input.  The pictures show the progress. From the chamber, I now clean the externals using undiluted Murphy’s Soap.  I scrub with cotton pads on the smooth briar and utilize a bristled tooth brush to clean the plateau – getting into the crevices. The cleaning reveals a very nice piece of briar.  The dimple on the bowl’s left side is attractive as it is in relief to the smooth briar.  Three pictures before and two after the cleaning showing the lightening of the surface. Now to the internals using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It did not take too much, and buds and pipe cleaners were coming out clean.Turning now to the stem, the Before & After Deoxidation soak did a good job.  The upper bit has some bite compressions and chatter on both upper and lower.  The button lip has some biting as well.  I start passively by using the heating method to expand the vulcanite compressions.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the upper- and lower-bit areas.  As the vulcanite heats, physics takes over – it expands and naturally reclaims its original shaping – or at least partially.  This method works well, and I follow easily with sanding out the remaining tooth damage using 240 and then 470 grit papers.  I took before and after pictures and I’ll let you be the judge how effective the heating method often is.

Upper, before and after: I follow the bit sanding by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grit paper followed by 0000 steel wool.Giving the stem a respite, I look again to the pits that need repair on the stummel.  A very small pit on the right side of the stummel and the larger pit on the upper area of the chamber – just under the edge of the plateau.  After getting a note back from Steve with his input, I will use briar dust and CA glue putty to fill the pits in both places.  With the upper chamber fill, I will follow this later by applying a coat of activated charcoal and sour cream mix to the entire chamber.  This will protect the fill as well as encourage the growth of a new protective cake.  I take a few pictures to get a close-up of each pit and then I mix a batch of briar dust and CA glue.  I mix it gradually until the mixture reaches a thickness or viscosity like molasses.  I then use a tooth pick as a trowel and apply the filler to the pits.  For the upper chamber pit, I give the area an extra tamping to assure that the cavity is filled.  I put the stummel aside for the night, allowing the briar dust putty to fully cure.  The pictures show the process. The next morning, before the demands of the day come, I return to the stummel with the briar dust patches fully cured.  I use a flat needle file and begin removing the excess filler on the smaller patch.  I use the file until nearly to the briar surface then I switch to sanding with a piece of 240 grit paper bringing the patch down flush with the briar surface.  I do the same with the larger fill in the upper chamber, except using a half-rounded needle file I’m able to sand with the contour of the chamber.  I then finish the upper chamber sanding by using 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie pen.  I like the results. With the stummel repair completed, I turn to the revitalization of the fancy stem by wet sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem between each set of three pads to enrich the vulcanite.  I love the pop of that freshly sanded vulcanite – it looks great! Now we’re close to the homestretch.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel.  Following this I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I enjoy watching the grain surfacing through the micromesh process. I had written Steve before to get his input regarding the chamber pit repair.  The other question I asked was regarding darkening the plateau or leaving it natural and allowing the natural forces of burning tobacco and lava to color the rim surface? His advice was good and something I try to do when restoring pipes that have nomenclature and historical markers.  It is good to restore pipes according to the original intent when the pipe was manufactured.  Most of the examples of Mastersen pipes I have seen online predate the acquisition of the Shalom Pipe Co., by Mastercraft which were manufactured in Israel.  I’ve seen both natural and darkened plateaus – here are a few examples I found.It is difficult to tell by looking at the original picture I took of the plateau before starting the restoration to know what the original was – yet, if I had to guess, originally the inner part of the plateau was darkened some, but not fully.  That is, much natural briar was exposed.  The second picture is the current status of the plateau during this restoration process. Well, decision time has come and gone.  Using a black Sharpie Pen I introduce highlights to the plateau by coloring the crevices.  I start conservatively to get a feel for how it’s looking.  I begin with a fine point Sharpie to draw down the narrow crevices then I use a larger one to stroke the larger areas. After applying what looks like an adequate amount of black, I then fan wipe the rim surface with a cotton pad with only a hint of alcohol.  This has the effect of blending and soften the black hues over the contours of the landscape.Finally, I start with about a mid-range grit micromesh pad, 3600, and I proceed to sand the plateau.  I move from 3600 to the finest grit pad, 12000.  This serves to further blend and to uncover the ridges of the briar.  This gives the look more contrast which I like – the black and the brown briar.  Overall, I think it looks good.Before moving on, I need to take care of the stem fit that I noticed earlier was too loose.  I retry the fit and it remains too loose for comfort.  To remedy this, I find a drill bit that is just the next size larger than what will fit in the airway.  Using a Bic lighter, I fan a flame around the end of the tenon to heat the vulcanite to make it pliable.  My first attempt to push the smooth end of the bit into the hole was not successful – it was still too tight.  I then use a pointed Dremel sculpting bit to help open the hole a bit so that the larger drill bit could be inserted into the airway.  I heated the tenon again and press the pointed Dremel tool into the hole to expand it slightly – which is enough.  I heat the tenon again and when it becomes supple I gradually and gently insert the bit in the airway as far as it will go without great effort.  Leaving the bit in the tenon, I again reheat the tenon as well as the metal of the bit to help the internal movement.  Again, when the vulcanite softens, I push the bit in a little further into the airway.  With this movement of the bit, the tenon is gradually expanding to close the gap making the fit with the shank snugger.  With the last heating and movement of the tenon, without withdrawing the bit, I run the tenon under cool tap water to set the vulcanite to assure that it will remain expanded.  I then heat only the metal of the bit to loosen the vulcanite’s grip on it and withdraw it with the help of pliers.  I try the stem fit again and success!  A very nice, comfortable, snug fit with the tenon inserted into the shank.Next, before moving to the Dremel polishing and waxing phases, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the Freehand stummel that is looking very nice.  I like this Restoration Balm because it subtly brings out deeper, richer tones of the natural briar presentation.  I squirt a little of the Balm on my finger and then simply work it into the briar grain.  It starts as a thinner texture and then thickens as the Balm works into the surface.  I apply the Balm on the rim as well.  After letting it set for several minutes to absorb the Balm, I wipe/buff the excess Balm with a microfiber cloth.  I like it. The pictures I take, I’m not sure are able to pick up on the subtle deepening that I perceive with the naked eye.  The pictures are before, during Balm absorbing and then after buffed off. Next, I reunite stem and stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed to about 40%.  I then apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe. To remove compound dust from the surface, I buff the pipe with a flannel rag.  I then mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, remaining at the same speed, and apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe – stummel and stem.  Completing this, I give the pipe a good hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.  Yet, one more task and this Mastersen Burl Briar Freehand will be completed.  To protect the upper chamber patch and to introduce a starter for the development of a cake to protect the briar surface, I mix a batch of sour cream, or in this case, natural yogurt, and activated charcoal to spread on the chamber walls.  I don’t mix too much sour cream, so the mixture isn’t too liquid and runny.  I insert a pipe cleaner through the draft hole to keep the airway open.  After spreading the mixture over the chamber with a flat dental spatula, I set it aside allowing the charcoal/yogurt mixture to cure and harden.  With this chamber surface, the new steward should not scrape the chamber after use, but use a doubled over pipe cleaner to ‘rub’ the chamber walls to remove ash and remains until a cake develops.   The pictures show this final task.Wow!  This Mastersen Burl Briar Freehand – Made in France is a keeper!  I’m pleased with the presentation of the plateau and the blending of the natural and darkened briar hues.  The flame grain is beautiful as it encompasses the conical Freehand stummel.  As a smaller Freehand, it is light enough to function easily as a ‘hands free’ pipe which is nice – but please use a rubber bite guard! This Mastersen caught Paul’s eye and since he commissioned it, he has the first opportunity to acquire the Mastersen Freehand from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

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Pipe #19 from Bob Kerr’s Estate – The Guildhall London Pipe 214 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The fourth pipe, #19 of Bob Kerr’s Estate is part of my continuing desire to change things up a bit with my restoration of the pipes in the estate. This pipe is a well-made “The Guildhall London Pipe” bent billiard. I think this one was one of Bob’s favourite shop pipes. It is the perfect shape to have hanging out of your mouth while your hands are busy with something else – like wood carving. It was one of the dirtiest pipes I have worked on from the estate but underneath the grime and the lava on the rim there was something redeeming about it. I will be going back to Bob’s Dunhill collection eventually. I wanted to continue the change and nice bent Comoy’s Made Guildhall pipe fit the bill for me. It is stamped with The Guildhall over London Pipe on the left side of the shank. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with the familiar Comoy’s COM stamp Made in London in a circle over England. The shape number is at the bowl shank union and reads 214. The stem is a tapered bent with the three silver bars on the right side. These are often on The Guildhall pipes and the Everyman pipes. The grain looks good under the dirt and shape on this one is well done. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup on it. I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a quick summary of the brand. The photo of the stamping on the pipe and the three bars on the stem came from that site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-g6.html#guildhall). It confirmed what I already knew regarding the Comoy’s connection on the brand. The shape number on the pipe in the photo above is different from the one on my table but the placement of the stamp is the same.

I turned to Pipedia to gather some background on the pipe and to see if I could possibly arrive at a date for its crafting (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Comoy’s). The site states clearly that The Guildhall London Pipe was a seconds line made by Comoy’s. The picture below comes from the site and gives a good sense of what this pipe looked like when it left the factory as well as linking it to the Comoy’s brand.I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. It appeared to me that the Guildhall London Pipe was actually in pretty good condition underneath all of the grime and lava. The photo shows the cake in the bowl and the thick buildup of lava on the back side of the rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl in the first photo below. The stem was dirty and oxidized with tooth mark and chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button. There is also calcification up the stem about an inch.I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank so you can see what it looked like when I examined it. It is clearer and more readable on the left side than the right but with a light the stamping is visible.With the identification of the pipe as a Comoy’s made second I was not going to get any help dating it. My guess is that it came from the same era as the rest of Bob’s pipes – sometime  in the 60s or 70s.. I thought it would be good to read about Bob again just to keep his memory alive as you read about his pipes.

I asked his son in law, Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter wrote the following tribute to her Dad and it really goes well with the belief of rebornpipes that we carry on the trust of the pipe man who first bought the pipe we hold in our hands as we use it and when it is new we hold it in trust for the next person who will enjoy the beauty and functionality of the pipe.

Brian and his wife included the great photo of Bob with a pipe in his mouth. Thank you Bob for the great collection of pipes you provided for me to work on and get out to other pipemen and women who can enjoy them And thank you Brian and your wife for not only this fitting tribute but also for entrusting us with the pipes. Here is his daughter’s tribute to her Dad.

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 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 deal with slight damage to the inner edges of the bowl. 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. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to take off a stubborn spot on the left side of the rim top toward the front.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Each successive pad brought more shine to the rim top. I wiped the rim down with a damp cotton pad after each sanding pad. The shine develops through the polishing. I scrubbed the bowl and rim with some undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton pads. I rinsed it under running water to remove the grime and soap. The bowl looked significantly different when I had finished scrubbing it. The rim pretty well matched the rest of the pipe after scrubbing. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and shank as well as the 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 cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and found that the bowl had a Peterson style sump that was absolutely filthy with tars and oils. I cleaned the airway into the bowl and the one in the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. 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 put the bowl and stem back together. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl 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 smooth finish on this ¾ Bent The Guildhall London Pipe 214 is very nice and I can only find a few very small fills in the surface of the briar. They blend in very well. It is quite beautiful and it has some amazing grain around the bowl – a mix of cross grain, birdseye and flame. The contrast of swirling grain looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Guildhall will soon be joining the other pipes that are heading off to India to join Paresh’s rotation. 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 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 19th pipe from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the Bob’s estate. There are a lot more pipes to work on from the Estate so keep an eye on the blog to see forthcoming restorations. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.