Blog by Steve Laug
My brother Jeff picked up four pipes in classic shapes at an auction in Nampa, Idaho. All four pipes are stamped JR Handmade. Beside the Bulldog there were two Canadians and an Apple. All were stamped the same on the left side of the shank JR over Handmade and on the right side Algerian Briar. I have been researching the brand on the web. I came across a potential pipemaker with the JR initials on Pipedia named J. Rinaldi but from what I can see he did not make classic shaped pipes. He pipes are very well made and have more of a freehand/freeform shape with shank adornments so it makes me wonder if these are his. I enlarged each photo on the Pipedia article but I was unable to see the stamping on his pipes for comparison sake. This leaves me with a lot of questions about the brand. The foursome came from the Boise, Idaho area like the House of Robertson pipes that I worked on last year. Those came from a pipe shop in Boise, Idaho and I wonder if it is not possible that the JR Handmade brand was also a pipe shop brand from a small shop in that area. Perhaps I will never know… if any of you readers have any idea about the brand your help would be greatly appreciated.The above photo shows the foursome after Jeff had cleaned them. But before he cleaned each of them he took photos of the pipes as they came to him. I have included the photos of the Bulldog before cleanup. The JR Handmade straight Bulldog with a vulcanite stem is next on the table. The pipe is very well made and follows the classic shape of the straight bulldog perfectly. The bowl was stained with a dark brown/black and a medium brown stain over it. The pipe has twin rings around the cap on the bowl. It is a well-shaped pipe that captures the mixture of swirling grain around the bowl sides and shank. The top of the bowl had some damage on the top and inner edge. The bowl had a very thick cake and cobwebs in the bowl. There was an overflow of lava onto the rim top. The stamping on the left side of the diamond shank read JR over HAND MADE. The stamping on the right side read Algerian Briar. The black vulcanite stem had tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. There was some damage to the top and bottom edges of the button. It was also oxidized and had some calcification on the top and underside near the button. Jeff took two close-up photos of the bowl and rim with different lighting to capture the condition of the pipe pre-cleanup work. The rim top had a thick lava overflow. There appeared to be some rim damage on the inner edge at different points around the bowl but it was hard to know for certain with the lava coat. The pipe is dirty with thick cake and cobwebs in the bowl. He also took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl and shank to show the various grains on the bowl and shank. The photos also show the rich colour of the stain that make the grain just pop. The finish is very dirty but this is another beautiful pipe.Jeff took a photo to capture the stamping on the top left side of the diamond shank. The photo shows stamping JR over HAND MADE on the left shank and ALGERIAN BRIAR on the right shank. The next two photos show the stem surface. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There is also some wear on the sharp edge of the button.Over the past years Jeff and I have developed pattern of working on the pipes that has become habit to both Jeff and I. I include it here so you have a sense of that pattern. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove the lava build up on the rim top and you could see the damage to the flat surface of the rim and the inner edge on the right side and toward the front of the bowl. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. Jeff was able to remove all of the tar and oils but you can now see the damage to the inner edge of the bowl. The vulcanite stem had tooth chatter and some tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near and on the button surface. I decided to address the damage to the rim top first. I topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board to remove the damage to the flat surface of the rim top and also to try to minimize the damage to the inner edge of the rim.I worked over the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage. I gave it a slight bevel to hide the damage on the inner edge of the rim. The photos tell the story. The damage to the rim top is gone and the inner edge looks far better with the light bevel. The damage to the front edge is quite hidden.I polished the rim top, the edge and exterior of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim off after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The damage on the rim is pretty much invisible after polishing and the rim top really looked good. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The reworked rim top looks really good and matches the colour of the rest of the pipe. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. There were some tooth marks on the top and underside at the button that needed to be addressed. I also needed to do some work on the surface of the button on both sides. I filled the damaged areas in and build up the surface with clear super glue and set the stem aside until the repairs cured.I sanded both sides smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and 400 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth chatter and the repair into the surface of the stem. As I sanded and reshaped the button and stem surface the repaired areas and the tooth chatter disappeared.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish and wiped it down with a last coat of Obsidian Oil. The more I work on the JR Hand Made pipes from the Nampa, Idaho auction the more I wonder if there is some connection to the House of Robertson Pipe Shop in Boise, Idaho. This is the nicest one of the four JR Hand Made pipes that I have to restore. It does not have any fills in the briar and the stain job was done to highlight the swirling grain. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. 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 contrasting grain really began to stand out; it seemed to take on life with the buffing. The rich contrasting brown colour works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe has a rich look that is quite catching. Have a look at it with the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be putting this newly finished JR Hand Made Bulldog on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over the first of the foursome from JR Hand Made pipes.