Recommissioning a Stubborn Kaywoodie Prime Grain 205R ‘Fancy’ Bulldog

Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this Kaywoodie as a solo in an eBay auction, December of 2017, while my wife and I were on a Christmas trip from Bulgaria to be with family in the United States.   True confession – while in the US I indulged in a few eBay auctions!  They’re exciting, what can I say.  But this Bulldog got my attention. Why?  True confession #2: I’m not a Kaywoodie connoisseur, but I was drawn to the profile of this stout Bulldog bowl proudly cresting with what looked like a crown and reminded me of one of my favorite chess pieces – the Rook or Castle.  The Rook is one of the strongest pieces on the board if properly moved – usually waiting patiently through much of the combat until, strike!  Yes, this is what drew me in to look at the details of the Kaywoodie Prime Grain. The slightly bent fancy stem added class to the Rook and the hue of the pipe leaned somewhat reddish – the complete warrior pipe!  So, I bid and now this guy is on the worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, after Paul saw him on The Pipe Steward site in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and commissioned him along with the last pipe I restored, a Mastersen Freestyle, which turned out great.  Here are a few of the pictures I saw on eBay of the Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog. With the Bulldog now on my worktable, I take more pictures to get a better look at the condition of the pipe. The nomenclature is stamped on the upper left shank side with KAYWOODIE [over] PRIME GRAIN [over] IMPORTED BRIAR.  The name is marked to the right with the encircled ‘R’ indicating a registered trademark.  The upper right shank side has the ghost of a shape number remaining.  After using a magnifying glass and after several pictures I was able to make it out as, ‘205R’.According to the extremely useful Kaywoodie thread entitled 3 Digit Shape numbers submitted by ‘kwguy’ (who I suspect is the major Pipedia Kaywoodie contributor Bill Feuerbach III, because many who responded to the thread with huge thanks, directed the comments to ‘Bill’), the general dating of this Kaywoodie is pretty straight forward.  Three-digit shape numbers were introduced to Kaywoodie pipes in 1972.  According to kwguy:

Maybe a little background is in order.  In 1972, we closed the West New York factory having completed construction of our new 197,000 square foot factory in Yapank on Long Island.  The plan was to move all pipe production there, but in the interim, the Medico factory in Richmond Hill Queens would handle the final sanding and finishing of all of the Kaywoodie, Yello-Bole and Medico pipes. The thought was eventually those operations would also shift to Yapank as skilled workers could be trained to handle those operations.  (A down turn in the pipe market in the seventies doomed the new plant, but that’s another story)

Having the three lines being finished in one building, would create confusion if there were two shape numbering systems.  So a new 3 digit system was adopted.  The Medico 3 digit system was also changed at this time.  This list will have three columns of numbers.  The first will be the “new” three digit number, used on all Kaywoodie and Medico pipes from 1972-1980.  (We stopped stamping shape numbers in 1980)  The second column is the Kaywoodie two-digit number and the third column is the original Medico 3 digit number, all of which refer to the same shape.

The 205R places this Kaywoodie between 1972 and 1980 according to this information.  Also, in the article, the addition of the ‘R’ indicated a ‘wavy or rusticated rim’.  I found the 205 shape number in the list referenced and I clipped all the Bulldog numbers for comparison and interest:So, the shape number tells me that I have before me a Kaywoodie medium Bulldog with a rusticated or wavy rim and was manufactured in the Medico factory in Richmond Hill Queens between 1972 and 1980.  One additional piece of information comes from the Kaywoodie – My Free Forum, called the “Kaywoodie Master List”.  This is a great resource compiling all the different Kaywoodie lines in alphabetic order.  Through this I found that the ‘Prime Grain’ line was produced between 1958 and 1976.  This information narrows the dating further by lowering the later date – therefore, this Kaywoodie was manufactured between 1972 and 1976 – Ha!, when I graduated from high school in South Florida and the cost of gas to fill my 1968 VW Bug was about .40 US cents/gallon! – of course, this was before the Euro was thought of.  This was also a period of time when huge decisions impacted my life and, like well-placed dominos falling, would bring me to Bulgaria some 45 years later working with the Daughters of Bulgaria and restoring pipes for them!

With a better understanding of this Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog, I take a closer look at the condition.  There is almost no cake build up in the chamber.  The surface of the bowl has chips here and there – a few on the shank.  The biggest issue I see at this point for the stummel restoration is what I unlovingly refer to as the ‘candy apple’ finish that encompasses the stummel.  When you start working on a pipe this shiny, the concern is that the finish is acrylic which is a bear to remove.  I much prefer natural grain showcased without the artificial candy apple sheen that this Kaywoodie has.  The grain underneath the surface looks good.  The fancy stem is attractive but has light tooth chatter and very minor oxidation.  I take a couple of pictures to highlight the chips and the finish.I begin the reclamation of this Kaywoodie Bulldog by cleaning the airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  I then add the fancy stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other stems of pipes in the queue.  After the stem soaks for several hours, I fish the Kaywoodie stem out and allow the Deoxidizer to drain off the stem.  With a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, I wipe the stem along with the raised oxidation and the stem looks good.  I then apply paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to the stem to begin its revitalization.  The pictures show the progress.With the stem taking a respite, I turn now to the internals of the Bulldog stummel by reaming the chamber. Even thought the cake is light, I still utilize the two smaller Pipnet Reaming blade heads to do the initial cleaning.  To fine tune the removal, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool does a great job of scraping the wall and reaching down to the floor removing carbon in the hard-reached areas.  Lastly, with a piece of 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for leverage, the final step to clean the chamber is accomplished with sanding followed by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to remove the remaining carbon dust.  After an examination of the cleaned chamber, all looks good.  No heat cracking or fissures are visible.  The pictures show the progress from start to completion. Moving to cleaning the external, even though I’m pretty sure that Murphy’s Oil Soap will not make a dent on the candy apple finish itself, I use a cotton pad and work on the surface as well as the rusticated rim using a bristled tooth brush.  As I suspected, the finish is clean on top but still very much intact, but the rusticated rim cleaned up quite nicely.Before addressing the finish issue further, I complete the cleaning regimen by now working on the internals of the stummel.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%, I go to work.  With the Kaywoodie Synchro-Stem shanking fitting in place, access to the mortise to clean is a bit frustrated.  I don’t use any pipe cleaners as the space is short.  To reach through the metal stinger insert hole I utilize some sharp dental probes to scrape the mortise walls to loosen the oils and tars that have collected.  After many cotton buds, progress is made and I’m satisfied with the cleaning and it’s time to move on.Now, back to the stummel surface and the removal of the acrylic finish.  First, I try the more conservative approach using alcohol with a cotton pad to see if the finish can be removed.  The picture shows that the answer is no with isopropyl 95%.Then, switching to acetone, I again use a cotton pad and focus only on one area to see if it would make a dent.  It did not after concentration for several minutes on a single shank panel.  The next step is simply to allow the stummel to soak for several hours in acetone.  Often, it takes this much time to allow the chemicals to break down the composition of the finish.  Into the acetone soak it goes and I turn my attention to the stem.With the stummel in the cooker, I work on the stem.  The tooth chatter is addressed first with heating the vulcanite by painting the upper- and lower-bit area with a flame.  The button lips are chewed as well.  I use a Bic lighter to do the job.  As the vulcanite heats it should expand recovering to a degree the original shape of the vulcanite.  After heating, the results are not great.  The texture of the vulcanite is harder, more plastic-like than normal.  So, I resort to first refreshing the button with a flat needle file and then sanding out the chatter using 240 grit paper followed by 470 grit. Continuing the process of erasing the scratches of the coarser grade papers with finer grade, I wet sand the entire stem with 600 grit paper then complete this phase using 0000 steel wool.With a closer look at the results, I’m not satisfied with the results on the lower bit area.  I can still see cross-scratches from filing and the coarser grade sanding papers.  I know that there are differing grades of vulcanite/rubber compounds used in fashioning stems, and I’ve not really studied it.  However, in restoring pipes, stems have differing responses to the work done on them.  As I said earlier, this material is harder than usual and begrudgingly gives up his imperfections!  For the lower bit, I back up and dry sand the area using 240, 600, 470 grade papers and 0000 steel wool.  I also try something that I believe I read about on Dad’s Pipes, where Charles Lemon uses the buffing wheel and Tripoli compound – a coarser compound, to work on the removal of oxidation from the stems.  I decide to give it a try – not to remove oxidation per se, but to clear up the scratches left over and also to reach into the forward curves/valleys of the fancy stem. These pictures show more favorable results. The stummel has been soaking in the acetone bath overnight hopefully to loosen the acrylic ‘candy apple’ finish.  I fish it out and am surprised by the fact that the finish looks to be still intact!  I use a cotton pad on the surface and, oh my, this is nasty stuff.  I quickly switch to using steel wool to work on the finish.  The soaking did accomplish one thing – it softened the acrylic surface that allowed the finish to be removed with more force.  The pictures show the different stages – and it wasn’t easy! The most difficult part was removing the acrylic finish from the upper shank panels that held the nomenclature and the ghost of a shape number.  I used steel wool around the edges, but the only abrasion used over the stampings themselves was a cotton pad – this made for a long bout!The candy apple acrylic finish is finally removed after hours of soaking and elbow grease, as they say.  To rehydrate the stummel after all the chemical activity, I wipe paraffin oil on the surface and let it absorb through the night.  The final two pictures in below show this. With the stubborn acrylic finish removed, I now investigate the stummel and identify areas that need addressing. I find 2 old fills on the nomenclature panel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I test and then dig out the old fill material.  I’m thankful that I invested in a legit set of dental tools that are a huge help!  Two more small fills are cleaned out on the right bowl side and small dent just above the ghosting shape number on the upper right shank panel. I take a picture of these areas to chronicle the progress.  Next, to address these areas, I mix a batch of briar dust putty to fill the pits.  To do this I mix some briar dust and thick CA glue.  I place some briar dust on an index card and add a small puddle of thick CA glue next to it.  I then draw briar dust into the CA glue with a tooth pick mixing it as I go. I continue to draw more briar dust into the CA until the mixture thickens to about the consistency of molasses.  I then apply the putty to fill the pits and tamp down, making sure the hole is filled with a bit of excess that will be sanded down when cured.  After filling the pits, I set the stummel aside for the patches to cure. Turning now to the stem, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 I dry sand.  Between each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to help revitalize the vulcanite. With several hours having passed, the briar dust putty patches are fully cured.  I first begin removing the excess putty using a flat needle file.  I file each patch mound to near the briar surface.  Then I switch to sanding with 240 grit paper bringing the patches flush with the surface.  I finish with 600 grit paper.  The pictures show the progress.Filing.240 grit paper. 600 grit paper.With the patches completed and sanded, I now switch to the entire bowl.  I’m anxious to see what the grain does after the micromesh process cleans, blends and buffs out the grain.  I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I like this process.  The pictures show the emerging complexion of the briar landscape. The grain is now able to be seen from underneath the acrylic candy apple finish with the micromesh process also teasing out the grain picture.  I like what I see.  The bird’s eye grain is distinct, but it’s joined with a lot of movement.  When I compare the reddish hue that I originally saw on eBay (picture below) to the natural grain presentation pictured above, hands down I choose the natural grain.  A decision is made – I decide not to color the stummel but to stay with the natural briar hue.With this decided, I will apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel.  Before doing this, I use a dental probe and do a quick clean up of the twin grooves circling the bowl.  I then squeeze a bit of the Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar surface.  I set it aside for about 20 or so minutes while the Balm does its thing.  I like the B&A Restoration Balm because it deepens the rich natural tones of the briar.  I take a picture of the ‘absorbing’ phase.  I then wipe off the Balm with a clean cloth, buffing as I go. Next, using Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish, I apply each in succession to the stem.  I work each in with my fingers to further condition and polish the stem.  I wipe both polishes off with a cotton pad and then with a microfiber cloth.I rejoin stummel and stem and I’m thankful that the stem is clocked perfectly.  Usually, with time, the stem can begin to over-clock and not be true.  This stem is ready to go.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and with it set at about 40% of full power, I apply Blue Diamond to both the stummel and the fancy stem.  After applying the compound, I wipe the pipe down with a felt cloth to remove leftover compound dust.  Then, after mounting another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  With both Blue Diamond and carnauba, I also work into the rusticated rim and curves of the fancy stem – both which are looking great.

I’m very pleased with the results of the Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog.  I went with the natural grain hue rather than coloring the briar and I like the results.  The grain is very active with large, distinct bird’s eye grain populating the landscape.  I also like the horizontal grain running along part of the dome.  The fancy stem with the Kaywoodie ‘shamrock’ looks good.  Paul commissioned this Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria and since he is the commissioner, he has the first opportunity to acquire the Bulldog from The Pipe Steward Store.  Thank you for joining me!


5 thoughts on “Recommissioning a Stubborn Kaywoodie Prime Grain 205R ‘Fancy’ Bulldog

    1. ThePipeSteward - Dal in Bulgaria

      Thanks, Charles. Man, I’m not sure what the acrylic composition was, but it was a staunch opponent. The grain did come out great.

  1. Todd L. Platek

    Reading along to follow each step you took, Dal, I am amazed at the overall time and effort expended. Remarkable work and splendid outcome. (Now it’s 5:18 am here and I can return to sleep and have a ‘pipe dream.’)

    1. ThePipeSteward - Dal in Bulgaria

      Appreciate it, Todd. It does take time but it’s satisfying to see the results. Your 3 commissions moved up a notch and will be starting on them soon. Thanks for your emails, too. Serious stuff and I appreciate your expertise on it.


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