Monthly Archives: March 2019

Restoring a Native American Hand Carved from Italy – the ‘Chief of Pipes’


Blog by Dal Stanton

One of the great things about restoring pipes and making them available to pipe men and women world-wide is that I have met very interesting people as they commission pipes and I correspond with them.  Toby is a returning customer from Germany.  He previously commissioned two Churchwarden creation projects where he intended one as a gift for his friend and the other was for himself.  I had fun with the write up, “A Tale of Three Churchwardens”, where I spun a story weaving in folklore, J.R. R. Tolkien and of course, a bit of Middle Earth and Gandalf.  Two of the three Churchwardens went to Toby and after he gifted his friend with his Churchwarden, Toby sent me a selfie of him and his friend blowing inspired smoke rings, each nursing a bowl in their Churchwardens together!  I’ve learned that Toby is a great guy and loves to gift people with special gifts!  That was not the last I heard from Toby.  He desired to find another gift.  Here is his note:

Hey Dal!
Having been so happy with your work I would like to commission the bearded sailor pipe for my future brother-in-law from New Zealand and I think it will be a nice fit. He is getting married in July of next year, do you think that would be possible?
Blessings,
Toby

Unfortunately, the pipe he saw in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection had just been commissioned and I hadn’t had time to mark it as such on the website.  Toby had a good eye for an interesting pipe, which I just restored and published not long ago, A Carved Bearded Sailor – Ole Crusty – also intended as a gift! I’m glad that Toby continued to look for an alternative that would meet his desires to be a special wedding gift for his brother-in-law.  Another email came and Toby had chosen the Indian Chief as an alternative and called it the “Chief of Pipes”!  This worked for me and ‘Chief’ went into the queue with a tag reminder of the wedding coming in July.  Here are pictures of ‘Chief’ acquired from the original eBay seller now on my worktable: The pipe was advertised as having never been smoked and this was an accurate assessment.  The interesting thing about this carved Native American Chieftain pipe is that it was crafted in Italy.  I take a picture of the nomenclature located on the left side of the squat shank and the lettering is juxtaposed to wrap around the shank.  The stamping is ‘HAND CARVED’ [over] ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’ [over] ‘ITALY’.  There are no other identifying marks on the pipe that I can see.  As is the case here in Bulgaria, the native North American (in both Canada and the United States) population first called ‘Indians’ from mistaken European explorers, are seen somewhat as an exotic people.  Certainly, Hollywood’s depictions of the ‘Cowboys & Indians’ movie genre has contributed to this.  Yet, somewhere in Italy, a pipe maker and a carver (or it could be one person!) decided to craft a unique pipe with the full native American headdress which were always full of  great symbolism and meaning for those who wore them in different tribes.

I was fascinated by the information I found in this article from Wikipedia about the War Bonnet:

Muscogee war bonnet Wolfgang Sauber – Own work

War bonnets (also called warbonnets or headdresses) are feathered headgear traditionally worn by male leaders of the American Plains Indians Nations who have earned a place of great respect in their tribe. Originally they were sometimes worn into battle, but they are now primarily used for ceremonial occasions. In the Native American and First Nations communities that traditionally have these items of regalia, they are seen as items of great spiritual and political importance, only to be worn by those who have earned the right and honour through formal recognition by their people.[1][2]

The article goes on to describe the ceremonial importance of feathers:

Many Native American tribes consider the presentation of an eagle feather to be one of the highest marks of respect. An honored person must have earned their feather through selfless acts of courage and honour, or been gifted them in gratitude for their work or service to their community or Nation. Traditional deeds that bring honour can include acts of valor in battle (including contemporary military service), but also political and diplomatic gains, or acts that helped their community survive and prosper. The esteem attached to eagle feathers is traditionally so high that in many cases, such as a warrior (e.g. Dog Soldiers of the Cheyenne), only two or three honour feathers might be awarded in a person’s whole lifetime. Historically, the warrior who was the first to touch an enemy in battle and escape unscathed received an eagle feather. When enough feathers were collected, they might be incorporated into a headdress or some other form of worn regalia. Historically, headdresses were usually reserved exclusively for the tribe’s chosen political and spiritual leaders.

I believe the carving does justice to the importance of the headdress or war bonnet as it forms a spiraling movement of feathers encasing the proud image of a warrior.  What’s interesting is that this spiraling movement of feathers forms the image of a larger, dominant feather.  I take a picture to show the feather I’m seeing in the carved war bonnet.  This is very cool!My challenge, as with Old Crusty, the Bearded Sailor, is to guard the rustic roughness of the carved image but to clean it up so it becomes more expressive.  The stem is in good shape except for some minor tooth chatter and oxidation. Even though the pipe is unsmoked, the condition of the finish shows some wear and tear.  The chamber is totally pristine.  The top side or top of the headdress, encompasses the chamber and slopes toward the squat shank.  This area appears to be in good shape with only small nicks.  A beautiful showcase for the grain with this much smooth briar exposed.However, it is apparent that the top, right of the headdress, as I look at the image from the front, has sustained some damage. It appears that Chief took a head dive some time ago.  The top edges of the feathers have chipped.  I take another picture on the opposite side that has not sustained this damage to show the comparison of the healthy bridge across the top.  The question is, is this damage too minuscule to bother with and is there enough wood for a patch to cling to if I were to attempt a repair?  The damage is noticeable. Looking straight on at the image, expected nicks are evident amid the intended roughness of the carving.  The crevasses, especially to the left and right of the face, are full of dirt and grime.The large heel of the pipe which enables it to serve as a sitter, reveals 2 daunting fills that will need attention on the far left and right of the picture.  Though, like the top plateau headdress, the heel provides a large plat of briar landscape that will show off the grain.I think that ‘Chief’ serves as a great nickname for this Native North American Hand Carved of Italy. It is evident from his serious expression he is a proud man!  I begin his clean up and restoration for Toby’s future brothers-in-law’s wedding gift, by removing the stem from the stummel to clean it.  I discover that the tenon is mounted with a small, useless stinger which I promptly remove and put it in my growing stinger collection.  After running a pipe cleaner wetted from isopropyl 95% through the stem to clean the airway, I add the stem to a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue. After several hours in the B&A Deoxidizer soak, I remove Chief’s stem and run another pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% through airway to clear and clean the Deoxidizer from the airway.  I then wipe the stem with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the raised oxidation. The oxidation is thick but came off very nicely.The B&A Deoxidizer did a great job and I follow by applying paraffin oil, a mineral oil I can get here in Bulgaria, to the stem which aids the rejuvenation of the vulcanite, rubber compound.  I then set the stem aside to dry and absorb the oil.With nothing in the chamber to clean, I move directly to cleaning the external briar surface using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and cotton pads.  To clean deeply in the crevasses of the carving I also use a bristled tooth brush and a sharp dental probe to run down the length of the crevasses. The finish on the stummel is very thin and the scrubbing with Murphy’s almost totally removed the finish except for small patches here and there.  The following pictures show the cleaned stummel. As I suspected, the fills made simply of wood glue, has softened after the cleaning process and the fills have also shrunk so that the hole ridges are easily detected.  Without much thought, I use a sharp dental probe to dig out the old material. To remove the patches of left-over finish and to clean the heel where I removed the fill material, I use a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to wipe the surface. This does a good job.A moment of decision has arrived concerning repairs on the stummel surface.  There is no question regarding the holes left on the heel of the pipe.  These will be filled.  The question is how perfectionistic will I be about the feather tips on the upper right of the war bonnet?  I’ve been thinking about how I would approach the fine patching of a carving.  Filling a hole is one thing, recasting an image is quite another!  Without question, if I use briar dust putty made with mixing briar dust and CA glue, the result will be darker for both the heel fills and the feather repair – darker than the raw briar currently shows.  This possibly would mean utilizing a dye later in order to mask and blend the patching but it’s also possible that the natural briar will darken as it sanded, treated and polished and this can possibly mask the repairs enough.  Another question that I mentioned earlier was whether there was enough wood for the patch material to ‘grab’ in order to be a solid repair?Well, as I look at the mangled war bonnet and wondering if I could live with it, an idea started to formulate in my mind, and then started to take shape with my hands.  I snipped the ends of some toothpicks to create crevasse wedges that would form the boundaries around which I could apply patch material.I circled the war bonnet with masking tape that would hold the toothpick wedges in place.  I expect the tape to flex some, but the goal is to hold the wedges in place so that briar putty will not seep into the crevasses.Next, I gently insert the wedges into the crevasses and are held in place by the resistance provided by the tape.I reinforce the masking tape to keep things where then need to be!I decide to start with the heel fills and to employ an accelerator so that the patch would cure quickly, enabling me to flip the stummel and apply patch to the feather repairs. I mix briar dust with a thick CA glue until it reaches the consistency of molasses – that’s my subjective standard – not too thin so that it runs and not so thick that the CA glue hardens too quickly.  I apply the briar dust putty to the holes and then spray with an accelerator.  The putty hardens very quickly. I then flip the stummel and apply briar putty on top of the feathers in need of repair.  I make sure there is excess so that I can file and sand down to form a new flat bride across the top.  I apply the putty carefully but quickly and spray it also with an accelerator so that the putty remains in place and not seep down the crevasses.  I expect some seepage but I’m hoping to ward off a lot because that would not be fun sanding it out! After a time, I unwrap the tape and one toothpick wedge came out with the tape – didn’t put any putty on it at all!  Oh well.  I look at the area and I think it will easily sand.  The three wedges remain with the cured putty holding them in.  I’m hopeful – the plan seems to be working!Using a flat needle file and a triangular needle file that fits very nicely in the crevasses, I begin the slow process of filing over and around the toothpick wedges.  I don’t try pulling the wedges out because I’ll simply file around them until they are loosened from the grip of the putty.  I don’t pull them out risking pulling the patch material off!  The wedge on the right comes out next. As I continue to carefully file, there is now only one wedge remaining.I’m liking how the putty is strong and sturdy as I file on the top as well as in the crevasses vacated by the wedges.  The repair zone still looks pretty rough.I come to the point where I’ve filed the briar putty patch down to almost the briar surface but not quite. I use the triangular file to create a pointed notch at the top of the crevasse.  It looks good!  Time to switch to 240 grade sanding paper to fine tune the sanding.I finish sanding and shaping with 240 grade paper.  Wow! I’m very pleased with the initial results of this reconstruction project on the feathers of the war bonnet.  I will continue to fine tune the results as I go.  I wanted to restore a straight bridge across the top of the feathers to match the healthy feathers. Turning now to the heel repairs, I use a flat needle file on both patch mounds.  I file the mound down until close to the briar surface then I switch to 240 grade sanding paper to bring the patches flush with the briar surface. As sometimes is the case, the fill located to the front of the stummel has a pocket in the briar dust putty patch.  A pocket of air was trapped, and sanding revealed it.I clean out the patch pit and wipe it with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it.  I then apply clear CA glue to the pit and then spray it with an accelerator to quicken the curing process.Again, I file the patch with the flat needle file and sand with 240 grade paper and the patch is patched!Looking at the stummel, I still see what look like patches where the old finish is still hanging on.  Old finish is evident because it will look a bit shiny compared to the raw briar around it. The reason it is important to dispatch old finish in this case is that will affect the final look if old finish is still in play whether I leave it as natural briar or apply another dye.  In order to continue with a clean briar canvas, I wipe the stummel with acetone using a cotton pad.  This does the trick nicely. The shiny spots are gone. I move on. Next, I see in each of the crevasses of the carving, dark grime and surface discoloration probably from old finish collected in the gaps. Patience is the key here!  First, using a piece of 240 grade sanding paper, I fold into a knife edge and run the paper through every crevasse.  I clean the gaps as well as sand out rough edges and snags as much as I can.After finishing going through all the crevasses with the 240 grade paper, I do the same thing with 600 grade paper. The carving is still maintaining that appropriate rustic roughness, but I like the results of the sanding with the additional cleaning and smoothing. I now use sanding sponges to sand the entire stummel using first a coarse grade sponge, then medium, and finishing with a light grade sponge.  With both the coarse and medium grade sponges, I can run the edge of the sponges through the crevasses.  This is nice to further smooth these rough edges. From the sanding sponges I go straightaway to sanding the stummel with the full micromesh pad regimen.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then follow dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I take a different angled picture after each set of the pads.  The grain in being teased out and I like that. The deep tone of the natural briar is what I was looking for from the micromesh process.  With a carved pipe like this, I would much rather stay with the natural briar if the briar presentation needs no masking to hide and blend repairs.  The heel fills look almost natural and the feather war bonnet repair is invisible.  For this reason, I stay with the beautiful natural briar that has emerged on Chief and apply Before & After Restoration Balm to enrich and deepen the natural hues of the briar.  I apply the Balm after squeezing some onto my fingers and then I meticulously work the Balm into the briar.  I take special care working it into the carving – each crevasse receives individual attention sometimes with the help of toothpick to push the Balm into the gaps. It takes a bit of time.  After applying the Balm, I wait about 15 minutes for the Balm to fully absorb then I wipe the excess off with a microfiber cloth.  Again, the process is meticulous as I clear, wipe and buff each detailed crevasse.  Chief is looking good!  I take a picture of the Balm absorbing period.Next, I return to the stem that has been waiting for attention.  Before starting the sanding the stem, I test the fit of the tenon/mortise union.  As I detected earlier, it is tight.  To provide a more comfortable fit, I wrap a piece of 240 grade paper around the tenon and while pressing it with my fingers and thumb, I give the paper a few rotations around the tenon and again test the fit.  Works like a charm!  The tenon seats well, with an appropriate snug fit. Turning now to the stem, the bit is in good condition.  The upper bit looks almost pristine, the lower shows just one small dent on the button.  Since this pipe is unsmoked, the only wear and tear on the stem is from living in a drawer or perhaps in a box with special keepsakes.  The vulcanite surface also is rough. To make sure the entire stem is pristine, I mount the stem again, but I use a disc to divide the stem and stummel so that I can sand without concern for shouldering the stem’s shank facing.  I use 240 grade paper on the entire stem, followed by wet sanding with 600 grade paper.  I finish this phase by using 000 grade steel wool to buff up the shine. Now to the micromesh regimen.  I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to continue vitalizing the vulcanite. I like that new glassy, glossy pop of polished vulcanite! Now, on the homestretch.  After rejoining stem and stummel, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set the speed to about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  I take special care to work the crevasses of the Native American carving.  Afterwards, I wipe the pipe with a felt cloth to remove compound dust in preparation for applying carnauba wax.  I change to another cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, maintain the same speed and apply the wax to the pipe.  I apply a couple of coats of wax and after completing this, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to polish more and raise the shine of the stem and stummel.

I’m pleased with the results of the restoration of this Native American Hand Carved of Italy – Chief.  He’s still rough looking, which I think is appropriate, but the lines and edges have been smoothed through the detailed sanding and the Chief’s image carved on this stummel has come alive.  I really am amazed.  The large smooth heel and plateau came out beautifully with distinct grain profiles.  The repair to the feathers on the war bonnet came out well, too.  When I started, I didn’t know if the repair would work or not.  It worked!  Toby commissioned this Hand Carved Chief from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection as a wedding present for his future brother-in-law.  He will have the first opportunity to acquire this pipe in The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits our effort here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria .  Thanks for joining me!

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Restemming a London Made Pencil Shank Crosby


Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes restoring pipes can be very frustrating. This evening I was working on an estate Dunhill Tanshell Zulu and the tenon broke off in the shank. I don’t know if it was cracked but I do know that I did very little and the stem was in one hand and the bowl in the other. It is at times like that when a repair person feels like packing it in and doing something else. But that is really not optional so I turned to do something else… still pipe repair related but still something different. I have a box of pipes that my brother sent me recently and in that was a very nice looking long, pencil shank billiard bowl without a stem. I had a cracked shank but otherwise it was a pretty piece of briar and it needed some TLC – a band and a new stem. It seemed like just the thing to take my mind off the frustrating Dunhill. I wrote Jeff about it and he sent me the following photos of what it looked like before he cleaned it. It was a frustrating piece for him even in the clean up. The stem was with it but the tenon had snapped off in the shank. In removing the tenon from the shank the pencil shank had snapped. Maybe I was moving from one frustration to another! The first photos is the parts grave yard – a snapped shank, a chunk of briar, a broken tenon and a broken stem…oh my.Jeff took a couple of photos of the snapped shank and the piece of briar that had come off. At least it was a very clean break. After cleaning the pipe Jeff glued the piece of briar back on the shank and when it arrived it was tight.The bowl and rim were in awful condition. There was a thick lava coat on the rim top and a thick cake in the bowl. There was tobacco debris in the cake and the lava on the rim it was a mess. It was obviously a great smoking pipe and someone’s favourite – though it always surprises me how far some pipemen and women let their pipes go.Even the exterior of the bowl was a mess with spots of grime and tar on the outside of the bowl as can be seen in the following photos. There were nicks and dents in the bowl but beside all that it was a beautiful piece of briar.Jeff took a photo of the only stamping on the pipe – London Made was stamped on the right side of the shank.He had done a great job cleaning up the pipe. When I took it out of the box it did not look much like the pipe pictured above. The bowl had been reamed and cleaned (Jeff followed his usual regimen of reaming and cleaning). The exterior had been scrubbed and the internals were spotless. The piece of briar had been glued in place and the repair was solid. The broken stem/tenon was gone. It was a clean and beautifully grained stummel when brought it to the worktable and took the following photos. I took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration work. The rim was clean but there was some nicks and dents in the top. The inner and outer edge were in excellent condition and there was darkening toward the back side of the rim top.The shank had a crack in it but had been glued. It would need to be banded. The photo is a little blurry but I have circle the crack in red so that you can identify it.I went through my can of straight stems and found two that had possibilities as well as taking out a band that would fit the shank. I took a couple of photos of my options at this point. I decided to go with the tapered stem as I liked the look of the pipe with that stem.I decided to band the shank first. I rubbed some all-purpose white glue on the shank end and pressed band onto the shank. I cleaned off the excess glue with a damp cloth. The glue would dry and bind the pieces together and hold the band onto the shank end. Once the glue had cured I would fit a new stem. I took some photos of the newly banded shank to show the progress at this point. While the glue on the band was curing I use a needle file to reduce the diameter of the tenon. I had measured previously so I knew what I needed to remove. I sanded it with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tenon.I fit the stem to the shank and took a few photos to show what the pipe would look like with the new stem. The diameter of the stem at the shank was a little off so it would need to be sanded to reduce it to fit and there were a few tooth marks and some chatter on the stem but otherwise it was looking good. I sanded the rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage and to minimize the darkening. I polished the rim and 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 down with a damp cloth after each pad. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while 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 bowl and the rim top look very good with the beautiful grain popping around the rim and sides of the bowl. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem and button surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the stem and the button. The stem surface looks better at that point. I forgot to take photos of the process of removing the excess material on the diameter of the stem so that the fit against the band and shank looked better. Once that was done then I started the polishing of the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. With both parts of the pipe finished I put it back together. I carefully polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I carefully worked around the band so I would not get the polishing from the band get on the shank. 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 beautiful natural finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The rich finish on the briar works well with the polished nickel band and new black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is very light weight and looks quite stunning with its slender shank and stem. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going onto the rebornpipes online store soon. It is a nice one for sure and one that will fit well into someone’s collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration and restemming with me on this thin, pencil shank Crosby billiard. It should be a great smoker!

Restoring a Malaga Hand Made Freehand Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is from the batch of pipes I am cleaning up for Alex – this one is a Hand Made Malaga Freehand Sitter with plateau on the rim top and shank end. The entire pipe had been sandblasted but some beautiful straight grain around the bowl and birdseye grain on bottom showed through the blast.The pipe has a dark under coat of stain in the blast and a top coat of brown that really makes the grain shine through the blast. The carver did a great job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank. It reads “MALAGA” (over) Hand Made. The saddle stem is fancy, turned vulcanite and has no marking or stamping. This is another nice looking piece much like many of the pipes Alex is picking up. There was a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing onto the plateau rim top. The exterior of the briar was dusty with grime in the crevices of the blast. The stem is dirty and there were tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button edge and some wear on the button edge itself. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of the pipe before clean up. I took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. There was a lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. The inner and outer edges of the bowl appeared to be in excellent condition. The plateau top had a lot of grime in the crevices. The stem was in decent condition. There was some light oxidation and there was wear on the button surfaces on both sides of the stem. There were tooth marks and chatter on the underside of the stem but otherwise it was not too bad.I also took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the sandblast and the stamping on the smooth panel on the end. The stamping is readable in the photo below – MALAGA over Hand Made.For those of you who are unfamiliar with the brand, I am also including the link to a blog that I wrote that gives some of the history of the Malaga brand and the Malaga Pipe Shop in Royal Oak, Michigan in the USA. Here is the link – https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. That blog also includes links to a catalogue and the history of the pipemaker George Khoubesser. If you are interested to learn more, then I invite you to follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker.

I started the process of the restoration by cleaning out the grooves in the plateau with a brass bristle tire brush. Once I finished I scrubbed the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed the bowl under running water to wash off the soap and the grime that the tooth brush had loosened. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the remnants of cake. I sanded the inside of the walls with a dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar and the plateau with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I buffed the rim top with a shoe brush to make sure that the nooks and crannies had the conditioner deep in them. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look very good with rich contrasting stains. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils on the walls. I then scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks and dents on the both the top and underside of the stem and on the edges of the button on both sides with clear super glue. When the repairs had cured I used a needle file to flatten the repaired spots in preparation for sanding. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs the tooth marks on the surface of the button. I am happy with the stem surface once that was done. I started the polishing of the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. With both parts of the pipe finished, I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. 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 sandblast finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The rich contrasting colour finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex to add to his rack of Malaga pipes that are in his collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this uniquely carved Malaga Hand Made Freehand Sitter.

Getting Rid of a Foul Smell in a fourth pipe – a Schulte’s Canadian


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last of the foursome of pipes that I have from a box of some 25 pipes that I am working through for a friend here in Vancouver. This last of the four came to me in a sour, stinky condition. With this one I am finishing the last of them. Alex had smoked them once or twice each and found that as he smoked them each became fouler. From my experience this happens when a pipe has not been thoroughly cleaned in the process of restoration. Sometimes even if it has been cleaned, the first few smokes draw out a foul taste and in this case an odor that made me put the four pipes in a zip lock bad to keep the odor contained. They really stunk! On Sunday evening I decided to give the foursome a cotton ball and alcohol treatment to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I pushed cotton balls into the bowl and a folded pipe cleaner in the shank and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. I set the pipes aside to let the alcohol do its work overnight. I know many of you use kosher salt and alcohol and that certainly is your choice. For me however the cotton balls work just as effectively in providing a medium for the foul juices drawn out of a pipe to be deposited. They are also easier to clean up and they do not leave residual salts in the briar. In the morning I took a photo of the finished work. You can see the effectiveness of the treatment.I took the cotton out of the bowls of the pipes and wiped the bowl down with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to dry them out. The last pipe I decided to work on is the beautifully grained Canadian, the first pipe on the right in the photo above. It is stamped on the topside of the shank SCHULTE’S and on the underside of the shank it is stamped BCER. I know something about Howard Schulte who is a pipe repairman in Florida but could not remember much about the brand. It was another pipe that the seller said was clean but after several smokes Alex deemed it unsmokable. It was now up to me to figure out what was going on.

I examined the pipe when I took out the cotton balls and alcohol and I learned a few things about it that would need to be addressed. The rim top and inner and outer edges of the rim were in excellent condition and would not require a lot of work. The finish was spotty but the pipe had some beautiful grain. The biggest issue was that there was a crack on the heel of the bowl where it looked like the pipe had been dropped. Fortunately it did not go all the way into the interior of the bowl so it would be a pretty straightforward repair. The bowl was the cleanest of the lot with a very light cake inside that could easily be reamed out. The stem was lightly oxidized near the stem/shank junction but it was clean and was free of tooth marks or chatter. I wondered what the airway was like but that is an easy clean up. I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the rim top and light cake in the bowl. The rim top was in excellent condition and free of damage to the inner and outer edges. The cotton ball alcohol treatment had rid the pipe of the rank smell. The stem was in excellent condition with light oxidation near the shank end. At least it did not have tooth chatter or marks.I took a photo to capture the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. The first photo shows Schulte’s on the topside of the shank. The second photo shows the stamping on the underside and reads BCER. It is clear and readable.The pipe has some amazing grain! BUT…. Here is the real issue after the stench of the bowl and shank.There was a crack running across the heel of the bowl. It looked a lot worse than it actually was fortunately. This kind of crack generally comes when a bowl is dropped. In this case it did not go deep in the briar. Upon examination with a light there was no sign of it in the interior of the bowl. I probed the crack with a sharp pick and it did not go too deep in the briar.I needed to refresh my memory about brand so I turned to Pipephil’s site and did not find anything. On Pipedia I was more successful. The article had a series of comments from former customers that gave a sense of the shop and the pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/). I quote in part from that article.

Max Schulte – the name is sometimes misspelled “Shulte” – operated a pipe & tobacco shop in Newark and later in Maplewood, NJ. A customer remembers:

“My first pipes and tobaccos came from Max’s shop in Maplewood (I think it was on Bloomfield Avenue near Hy’s Cheesecake) back around 1965. The smell on entering either of these stores was sublime. I remember him well standing at the polishing wheel just off the counter, wearing a long workman’s apron, working on one of his characteristic classic shapes. The wall behind his tobacco counter was filled with rubber clips holding these as well as Savinellis, Sasienis, and Stanwells. I think he was actually on the front edge of the Danish trend. Max could polish a pipe in five minutes & have it come out looking new. He also blended an Oriental/Balkan blend (I think) called “Maritza” that was the finest of its kind (that I ever encountered) in those days. Max was always willing to share his extensive knowledge of pipes and tobaccos with any customer, even a young know-nothing like me, and seemed genuinely glad of the company. BTW, the going price for a half-pound of Maritza in those days was about seven dollars. It was worth every single cent.”

Now that the stink was gone once again I did not even think of cleaning the shank and airway I just immediately went to the most irritating part of this pipe – crack on the heel of the bowl. I used a microdrill to drill small pin holes at the end of each of the cracks. I did the drilling under a bright light so I could see the extent of the damage and make sure put a small hole at the end of each line of the crack. The large crack had a small crack branching of each end. I put a pin hole at the end of the main crack and one on the end of each small branching crack. I used a sharp point to trace the crack and give me some surface to fill with the repair of briar dust and super glue. The first photo shows the groove I carved. I filled in the groove and crack (along with the pin holes) with super glue then used a dental spatula to put briar dust on top of the glue and press it into the groove.Once the repair cured I sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the surround briar. The photos below show the repaired scar on the heel. I sanded it further with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to polish out the scratches. I polished the repaired heel and the rest of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I used the wet sanding on the first three pads to give me the traction to remove the scratches in the briar and the dry sanding to polish the briar. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. It was beginning to look really good. The scar on the bottom of the bowl was very obvious so I would probably need to stain the bowl to blend it into the finish but the polishing would make that clear for me. The finish was looking pretty good but I knew that I would need to do more to blend the repair into the rest of the bowl. In preparation for staining the bowl I decided to wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol to remove the uneven finish. This way when I put a stain coat on at least the undercoat will be even. I looked through my Feibing’s stains to find one that would help to hide the repair but also let the grain shine through. I have found that the tan stain brings out the reds in the briar and once polished allow the grain to shine through. I stained it with the tan stain, flamed it and repeated the process until the coverage was even. I set the pipe aside for the night to let the stain cure. In the morning I wiped it down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the heavy top coat and begin the process of unveiling the grain. I was also anxious to see how the repair scar looked on the heel of the bowl. I was pleased with how it blended in. It was not invisible but it did not stick out either. I buffed the bowl on the wheel with Blue Diamond to polish the new stain and get a feel for what the grain and the scar would look like. I was pretty happy with the results. I took it back to the worktable and worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. Once again it was at this point that I realized that I had not reamed the bowl or done any cleaning of the internals after the cotton ball and alcohol treatment. I had been so intent on cleaning up the damaged rim that I totally skipped my normal pattern of work. So I went back to ream the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I was surprised at how clean it was. There was no carbon on the walls and what I had seen as a light cake was not. I turned then to clean out the internals. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned out the mortise in the shank with cotton swabs and alcohol until the mortise walls were clean and looked bare. The pipe smelled clean and fresh.The stem on this Schulte’s was flawless. There were no tooth marks and no chatter. There was some oxidation near where the stem sat against the shank. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it one more final coat of Obsidian Oil to protect and deepen the shine. I put the stem back on the bowl and polished the pipe 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 grain came alive with the buffing. The rich brown finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex to join the other three foul pipes that I had given back to him. Thanks for walking through the restoration on this now great looking Schulte’s Canadian. The repaired crack on the heel came out well and is blended into the darker colour of the pipe. It is really a beauty. I think Alex will enjoy it and he should get a better smoke from it now as that is ultimately what is most important to me. Aesthetics is important but if it does not smoke well it fails for me.

Getting Rid of a Foul Smell in a third pipe – a Malaga Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

I have a box of some 25 pipes that I am working through for a friend here in Vancouver. The next group of four pipes that I am working on came to me in a sour, stinky condition. Alex had smoked them and found that as he smoked them each one became fouler. From my experience this happens when a pipe has not been thoroughly cleaned in the process of restoration. Sometimes even if it has been cleaned, the first few smokes draw out a foul taste and in this case an odor that made me put the four pipes in a zip lock bad to keep the odor contained. They really stunk! On Sunday evening I decided to give the foursome a cotton ball and alcohol treatment to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I pushed cotton balls into the bowl and a folded pipe cleaner in the shank and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. I set the pipes aside to let the alcohol do its work overnight. I know many of you use kosher salt and alcohol and that certainly is your choice. For me however the cotton balls work just as effectively in providing a medium for the foul juices drawn out of a pipe to be deposited. They are also easier to clean up and they do not leave residual salts in the briar. In the morning I took a photo of the finished work. You can see the effectiveness of the treatment.I took the cotton out of the bowls of the pipes and wiped the bowl down with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to dry them out. The pipe I decided to work on is the beautifully grained straight pot, the third pipe from the right in the photo above. It is stamped on the left side of the shank “MALAGA” and on the right side of the shank is stamped Imported Briar. Alex has grown to love Malaga pipes and continues to pick them up on eBay and other places on his journey. It was another pipe that the seller said was clean but after several smokes Alex deemed it unsmokable. It was now up to me to figure out what was going on. I examined the pipe when I took out the cotton balls and alcohol and I learned a few things about it that would need to be addressed. The rim top and inner and outer edges of the rim were in rough condition. It looked like the pipe had been used for a hammer. The finish was spotty with nicks and marks. The bowl had some cake inside and it too would need to be reamed out. The stem was the best of the lot. It was clean and was free of tooth marks or chatter. I wondered what the airway was like but that is an easy clean up. I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the damage to the rim top and light cake in the bowl. The rim top was in bad condition with nicks and cuts. The inner and outer edges were rough. The bowl was out of round. It needed some more work to clean it up but at least the cotton ball alcohol treatment had rid the pipe of the rank smell. The stem was in the best condition of the four pipes. It did not have tooth chatter or marks and was not oxidized.I took a photo to capture the stamping on the right and left side of the shank. The first photo shows “MALAGA” on the left side of the shank. The second photo shows the stamping on the right side it reads Imported Briar. The stamping on this pipe is readable.Now that the stink was gone I did not even think of cleaning the shank and airway I just immediately went to the most irritating part of this pipe – the beat up rim top and edges. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the rimtop and to try to minimize the damage to the inner and outer edges. The rim top looked significantly better as can be seen in the second photo below. I cleaned up the outer edge with some sandpaper and wiped it down. I filled in the deep nicks in the edge with briar dust and super glue.I sanded the edge repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the briar. I would polish out the scratches later but for now the edge was at least smooth. Once the outer edge was cleaned up I worked on the inner edge. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the edge. I gave the edge a slight bevel to take care of the rim damage and darkening that was present.I polished the rim top and the rest of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I used the wet sanding on the first three pads to give me the traction to remove the scratches in the briar and the dry sanding to polish the briar. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. At this point in the process the finish looked very uneven to me – even spotty. I decided to wipe down the bowl and shank with isopropyl alcohol to remove the uneven finish. I was able to even out the look of the finish to a point where I was happy with the look.  I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while 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 bowl and the rim top look really good and the damage is gone. I am very happy with the results. It was at this point that I realized that I had not reamed the bowl or done any cleaning of the internals after the cotton ball and alcohol treatment. I had been so intent on cleaning up the damaged rim that I totally skipped my normal pattern of work. So I went back to ream the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the inside of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to remove all remnants of the cake. When I was finished the bowl walls were smooth and clean.I cleaned out the airway in the shank and stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned out the mortise in the shank with cotton swabs and alcohol until the mortise walls were clean and looked bare. I stopped and checked out the smell of the pipe and it was clean and fresh smelling.The stem on this Malaga was flawless. There were no tooth marks and no chatter. The stem absolutely glow it was so clean so there was nothing to be done with it. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil to protect and deepen the shine but otherwise it was perfect.

I put the stem back on the bowl and polished the pipe 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 grain came alive with the buffing. The rich brown finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 9/16 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex with the other two previously foul pipes that I worked on. Thanks for walking through the restoration on this now great looking “Malaga”. It is really a beauty. I think Alex should get a better smoke from it now.

Crafting a Churchwarden for a Lord of the Ring’s Enthusiast


Blog by Dal Stanton

After restoring 3 pipes which Tina chose to gift special men in her life, the final request was to fashion a Churchwarden for her oldest son Thomas, who is a Lord of the Rings “groupie” and of course, he wants a ‘Gandalf Pipe’ to aid in blowing inspired smoke rings!  Tina’s son has been married for a few years and apparently, he and his wife have a Lord of the Rings movie binge at least once a year!

In my research on the Churchwarden shape, as the story goes, there were men back in the days when they didn’t lock churches at night, who were employed as ‘wardens’ of the church – whose responsibility was to guard the premises.  To be faithful to their charge, they were not allowed to leave the walls of the church.  That created an unusual dilemma between guarding the holy confines and the desire to enjoy one’s evening smoke.  The moral dilemma was creatively solved by a stem.  The length of the stem enabled the church wardens to tend to their evening bowls as they stood vigilantly inside the church walls while the stems extended through the windows…so the story goes (see Pipedia’s article).  Of course, everyone knows that Churchwardens were prevalent in Middle Earth as Gandalf spun up fireworks and smoke rings!

I found a bowl that I put aside quite some time ago that

Courtesy of Gonzalo Kenny https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Balrogs

I believed would serve well as a repurposed stummel to be mounted as a Churchwarden.  I know that there are strict Warden purists out there who question the validity of repurposing a bowl for use in fashioning a Churchwarden.  Yet, I appeal to Bill Burney’s description of the Churchwarden in his excellent Pipe Shapes Chart published in Pipedia where he says: “Interestingly, all the other styles of pipe are identified by the shape of their bowls, but the churchwarden is identified by its long stem.  The stem can be bent or straight, but it is always very long – 9” to 18” long.”.  There may be ‘true born’ Churchwardens and there are also those Churchwardens who are adopted into the ranks through the promotion of a discarded and forgotten stummel surviving from another lifetime where they served among other mere mortal pipes that they used to be.  For a common bowl to be remounted onto a Warden stem and to experience that metamorphosis is perhaps like when Gandalf transformed through fire in his mortal combat with Balrog – transforming from The Grey to The White….  Perhaps, only Gandalf knows for sure!  The bowl and stem I chose for this transformation are now on my table.The pre-molded Warden Stem comes from my main supplier, Tim West at http://www.jhlowe.com/bits.htm.  The stummel has ‘Real Briar’ stamped on the side of the shank, but what I like a lot is the 1/2 bent shank.  This will yield a very nice sweeping bend in the Warden stem.  The bowl’s size is not too large – perfect for a Churchwarden. Looking closely at the stummel, I see potential grain underneath the dark, marred surface.  The rim has lava flow but has an attractive inwardly slanted rim.  The chamber has light cake.  I take some pictures of the stummel in its current condition. Before I start working on fashioning the new preformed stem, I clean the stummel.  I start by reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming kit.  I only use the smallest of the blade heads and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to fine tune the scraping and cleaning.  Then I sand the chamber using a piece of 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, after wetting a cotton pad with alcohol, I wipe the chamber cleaning it from the carbon dust.  I inspect the chamber after finishing and all looks good. Next, turning to the external surface, I take a few more pictures to show the nasty layer of grime over this stummel!  I use Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted on a cotton pad and begin the scrubbing process.  I also utilize a brass wire brush to clean the rim. The results are good, but the reality is revealed by the cleaning!  The reality of the condition of the stummel is the reason it was in the box with other lonely stummels having given their all and discarded!  The finish is shot and the rim in mangled. Restoring this stummel to fashion a Churchwarden will be a noble endeavor! Next, I turn to cleaning the internals.  Using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I go to work.  The internals are nasty.  I also utilize and small dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls.  There was a lot of resistance, but the buds started lightening until I was satisfied that the largest part of the cleaning was accomplished.  I’m not too concerned at this point because I’ve already made the decision to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to totally remove all the old finish which will also take care of residual internal tars and oils. The next morning, I fish the bowl out of the acetone bath.  Some of the finish was removed during the soak, but with the use of 0 grade steel wool, I’m able to dispatch the old finish easily after the night’s soak softened the old finish.  The pictures show the raw briar that allows me to start over. With the stummel cleaning process completed, I turn now to fashioning the preformed Churchwarden stem.  I use an electronic caliper to measure the diameter of the mortise to mark the target sizing of the tenon of the preformed stem that will eventually be seated.  The mortise measurement is 7.38mm in diameter.  Using Charles Lemon’s (of Dad’sPipes) methodology, I add 50mm to this exact measurement to give me my ‘fat’ target.  The ‘fat’ target is what I will aim for when bringing the tenon down to size using the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  The ‘fat’ target is 7.88mm.  From this point, I will sand the tenon by hand which gradually and patiently custom fits the mortise. The first thing needed is to pre-drill the tenon airway with the drill bit provided by the PIMO tool.  This enlarges the airway slightly enabling the insertion of the PIMO tool guide pin.  I mount the drill bit to the hand drill and drill out the airway.Next, the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool is mounted on the hand drill and I cut a small test sizing to measure to give me the distance between the test cut and the ‘Fat’ target.  After cutting the test, I measure it with the caliper and record 8.72mm and subtract the ‘Fat’ target, 7.88mm leaving .84mm to remove using the PIMO tool. Using the Allen wrench provided with the PIMO tool, I close the gap of the cutting arm and cut again.  The measurement of the next cut after closing the gap of the carbide cutter arm took off more than I wanted – the measurement is 7.47mm – beyond the 7.88 fat target.  This is why you only to partial cuts at the beginning!I enlarge the gap of the cutter arm a small amount and cut again.  The next measurement is 7.75mm – much better, just falling under the 7.88mm fat target.With this measurement reached, I cut the entire tenon down to the 7.75mm width.  I take the cut to the stem shank facing so a nice straight edge is created, and a ‘shoulder’ is not left from the rough preformed stem.I begin the sanding process by wrapping the tenon with 240 grade paper and rotating the stem and applying pressure strategically with my finger and thumb. I smooth and shorten the tenon a little so that it looks better and doesn’t butt into a ridge that I detect in the mortise which would block the full insertion of the tenon.  I use a flat needle file to do this.The process is slow with a lot of tests and sands… But in time the tenon seats very nicely in the mortise.  Nice!With the tenon snuggly seated in the mortise, the work is far from finished!  The picture shows the offset of the stem and the lip of briar hanging over the stem.  No stem fits automatically!The preformed Warden stem also is not straight but bows to the left through the reach of the stem.  I’ll work on this when I bend the stem later.Using 240 grade paper I begin the process of sanding the junction of the stem and shank.  My goal is to have a seamless transition from shank to stem with no overhanging ridges.  The other issue I see is that both the shank and stem have high spots that need to be sanded down and blended into a uniform flow.  What I want to avoid is the bloomers or stuff-pants look – where the shank balloons out when the sanding has not tapered the flow of the shank from the stem width as it transitions into the shank. It takes time, but in time the ridges have been removed and the tapering through the shank to the bowl looks good. I continue sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper.  The precast stem is full of ridges and the casting seam down both sides – all of which needs to be sanded away and smoothed.  I also use the flat needle file to form and shape the new button.  I want to retain the curved button slot.  It looks classy! After sanding out the main issues with the new precast Warden stem, I transition to wet sanding using 600 grade paper.  With the bowl and stem united, I sand not only the stem including the shaped button, but also the junction of stem and shank to continue to smooth and blend the tapered transition.  After completing the wet sanding with 600 grade, I use 000 grade steel wool to sand in the same way.  The distance pictures with a Warden stem are always too far away to see detail, but a close-up shows some progress.With the main fabricating and sanding completed with the Churchwarden’s stem, the next step is to bend it.  The 1/2 bent shank of the stummel provides a wonderful trajectory for the bend and sweep of the stem – which emulates more directly Gandalf’s style of Warden.  My goal is to bend the stem so that the final orientation of the bit is generally on a parallel orientation with the plane of the stummel rim which is what is suggested by the ruler in the picture. I remarked earlier that the stem is also a little catawampus to the left as you look down the shaft toward the bowl.  Interestingly, I set up a renewed picture to show this looking down the shaft and my second look at this isn’t as pronounced as it appeared to me before.  The sanding and shank tapering may have mitigated this to some degree. Bending the stem is usually by trial and error to get it right, but the good thing is that the vulcanite stem is very forgiving!  To be on the safe side, though I don’t really believe it to be necessary, I put a pipe cleaner into the end of the stem to protect the airway integrity.I use the hot air gun to warm the vulcanite.  As it’s warming, I gently apply pressure to the bend as the rubber compound becomes supple.  When the stem becomes pliable enough and the bend reaches what appears to be at the right place as I eyeball it, I transfer the pipe to a chopping board where I can use the flat surface and the overhang for the bowl and button expansion at both ends, I press down to straighten the shaft orientation as I hold the bend.  This works very well. The first time around, I decide I need a bit more bend, so I reheat, bend further and then hold the stem firmly against the chopping board until the vulcanite sufficiently cools so that I don’t lose the bend.  To make sure the bend holds I run cool tap water on the stem to seal the bend.I like the results!  The bend is perfect and will present a true Gandalf experience for the new steward of the Churchwarden taking shape.Before I put the newly bent Warden aside to turn to the stummel, I apply paraffin oil to vitalize the vulcanite.Turning now to what was a ‘throwaway’ stummel, I like the grain that made an appearance after the cleaning.  It’s in there!  It just needs some TLC to restore it to the condition that allowed for more beauty to come through.  The briar surface is in surprisingly good condition. There are a few dents and nicks to be expected. There’s a more significant heel bruise where it appears the bowl was thumped on a hard surface.The rim has an attractive inwardly sloping cant which will serve to my advantage in dealing with the residual burn marks and the right side (top in the first picture) of the rim.  The outer edge of the rim is also chewed up a bit. Starting with the rim, I begin by using a coarse 120 grade paper to clean and remove the scorched wood and the dents on the edge.  I follow this with 240 grade paper sanding the canted rim surface.  I’m hopeful this will remove the blemishes but also serve to freshen the rim canted pitch and lines.  I then fine tune with 600 grade paper. The results are great.  The transformation is more than hoped for!  The rim is actually very attractive and some grain peeking out.I do the same with the heel bruise.  I dispatch the blemish quickly with 240 grade paper followed by 600 grade paper.Continuing the sanding, I now sand the entire stummel using sanding sponges.  I start with a coarse sponge, followed by a medium grade then finish with the light grade sanding sponge.  The briar grain is showing up!Following the sanding sponges, I apply the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  For a ‘throwaway stummel’ this piece of briar is looking very nice. Throughout the micromesh process, I knew I was approaching a decision point.  The natural briar came out way more than I had thought possible when I began with this stummel.  I can remain with the natural briar or apply a dye.  I decide to apply Fiebing’s Saddle Tan Pro Dye to the stummel not for the purpose of covering blemishes but to bring out the briar grain more which is still somewhat subdued as I look at it.  I assemble my desktop dying components.  After I wipe the stummel with alcohol to clean the surface, I insert two folded pipe cleaners into the shank to serve as a handle.I then heat the briar stummel with an air gun.  As the briar heats, this expands the grain enabling the grain to be more receptive to the dye when it’s applied.Using a folded pipe cleaner, I paint the bowl with the aniline based dye in sections and flame each section as I go.  I use the lit candle to combust the painted section of wet dye and it immediately combusts the alcohol in the dye leaving the pigment to set in the heated wood.  I eventually apply the Saddle Tan dye to the entire stummel and repeat the painting and flaming process again to assure full coverage.  I then put the dyed and flamed stummel on the cork to rest through the night. With the dyed bowl resting I take the Churchwarden stem through the full micromesh regimen.  I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply a healthy coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to vitalize the vulcanite.  The newly polished vulcanite pops!  I take one concluding picture instead of the usual 3 because the picture shows no detail because of the size of the stem!The next morning, I’m ready to unwrap the flamed bowl.  After mounting a felt cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed to the lowest possible to reduce the heating factor.  I then apply Tripoli compound to the bowl to remove the flamed crust to reveal the briar beneath. With the assistance of my wife, she takes a few pictures to show the initial removal of the flamed crust.  It takes me a good bit of time to slowly and methodically go through this ‘plowing’ and polishing process.  I remove dye blotches to make sure what is revealed is the minutia of the grain texture.  Not pictured is after I complete the process with the felt wheel (pictured below) I change to a cotton cloth buffing wheel and increase the speed of the Dremel to 40 % of full speed and again go over the entire stummel with Tripoli compound.  I do this first, to reach into the crook of the shank that is too tight for the felt wheel to reach.  Also, I like the further fine tuning of the Tripoli compounds polishing of the briar surface.  The grain sharpens even more providing the contrasts between the harder and softer woods of the briar.I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to blend the dyed finish.  The wipe of alcohol evens out the finish and blends it.  Wiping with alcohol will also lighten the finish if I continue to wipe, but I like the tone of the hue where it is so I only to a light wipe for blending purposes.I switch to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, keep the speed on the Dremel and 40% and apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel.  I don’t join the two because it is easier to work with each individually.  After completing the application of the compound, I wipe both stem and stummel with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust left behind.Finally, I reunite the Warden stem with the repurposed stummel and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the Churchwarden.  When finished, I give the pipe a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to bring out the shine.

Wow!  When I think of where this throwaway stummel was at the beginning of the process and what I see now, it is truly amazing. This Churchwarden’s 1/2 bent shank provides the perfect trajectory for the stem’s gentle, flowing bend to project a pipe that is truly Gandalf worthy!  The grain of the bowl is varied from a vertical flame, a knot with outwardly flowing concentric circles and some bird’s eye thrown in for good measure!  This Churchwarden is certified for Middle Earth distribution for Tina’s son, Thomas.  Tina commissioned  this Churchwarden project along with 3 other restorations (to learn more about commissioning pipes see: For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! ) and each will be boxed and heading to Birmingham, Alabama, USA, from Bulgaria.  All these pipes benefit our efforts here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thank you, Tina!, and thank you for joining me!

 

Getting Rid of a Foul Smell in a second pipe – an Ehrlich Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

I have a box of some 25 pipes that I am working through for a friend here in Vancouver. The next group of four pipes that I am working on came to me in a sour, stinky condition. Alex had smoked them and found that as he smoked them each one became fouler. From my experience this happens when a pipe has not been thoroughly cleaned in the process of restoration. Sometimes even if it has been cleaned, the first few smokes draw out a foul taste and in this case an odor that made me put the four pipes in a zip lock bad to keep the odor contained. They really stunk! On Sunday evening I decided to give the foursome a cotton ball and alcohol treatment to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I pushed cotton balls into the bowl and a folded pipe cleaner in the shank and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. I set the pipes aside to let the alcohol do its work overnight. I know many of you use kosher salt and alcohol and that certainly is your choice. For me however the cotton balls work just as effectively in providing a medium for the foul juices drawn out of a pipe to be deposited. They are also easier to clean up and they do not leave residual salts in the briar. In the morning I took a photo of the finished work. You can see the effectiveness of the treatment.I took the cotton out of the bowls of the pipes and wiped the bowl down with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to dry them out. The first pipe I decided to work on is the beautifully grained straight Dublin the second pipe from the right in the photo above. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Ehrlich over Imported Briar. The right side of the shank is stamped Boston which tells me that the pipe is Ehrlich’s Pipe Shop in Boston, Massachusetts, US. Alex had picked it up eBay and was drawn to the grain and the shape which were very nice. It was another pipe that the seller said was clean but after several smokes Alex deemed it unsmokable. It was now up to me to figure out what was going on. I examined the pipe when I took out the cotton balls and alcohol and I learned a few things about it that would need to be addressed. The exterior of the bowl was in excellent condition and had been waxed and polished. The rim top had some light dents but was otherwise clean. The bowl had the thickest cake of the foursome and would need to be reamed out. The stem looked pretty good – the E logo on the left side of the tapered stem was in good shape. There was one nick in the topside of the button but the stem looked good otherwise. I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the damage to the rim top and light and the lava on the right side. The bowl had a malformed cake that needed to be cut back. It needed some more work to clean it up but at least the cotton ball alcohol treatment had rid the pipe of the rank smell. The stem itself was an interesting mess. It had been shinned and polished but there was still some light tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside just ahead of the button.I took a photo to capture the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. The first photo shows Ehrlich over Imported Briar stamping on the left side of the shank. The second photo shows the stamping on the right side it reads Boston. The stamping on this pipe is readable. I started my work on the pipe by reaming the bowl with a PipNet reamer to get rid of the cake and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the inside of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to remove all remnants of the cake. When I was finished the bowl walls were smooth and clean. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned out the mortise in the shank with cotton swabs and alcohol until the mortise walls were clean and looked bare. At this point in the process the stink was gone.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while 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 bowl and the rim top look really good and the darkening is gone. The finish looks very good with the rich contrasting brown stain finish on the bowl and rim. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I rebuilt the button with clear super glue to fill in the deep tooth dent on the top side and the lesser dent on the underside. Once the repair cured I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and polished it with 400 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. The micromesh pads took care of the light tooth chatter and light tooth marks. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Both parts of the pipe are finished and the pipe smells clean, I polished the bowl and the stem 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 grain came alive with the buffing. The rich brown finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 5/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex with the rest of his pipes that I am working on. Thanks for walking through the restoration on this great looking Ehrlich Dublin. It is really a beauty. I think Alex should get a better smoke from it now.