Blog by Dal Stanton
Burgas, Bulgaria, is a coastal city on the Black Sea where my wife and I as often as we can, go to find some rest and relaxation on the beach, especially during the summer months. When we’re not enjoying the surf and sand, one of my favorite activities is to go pipe picking, of course! I found the Lindbergh 324 Poker on one of these expeditions in 2017 on the main walking streets in Burgas – an antique shop I’ve visited before did not let me down on this visit!
I found the treasure trove in a copper pot waiting for me on a stack of books. I carefully and methodically sifted through the pipes in the brass pot and culled 5 nice candidates who were calling my name! They were a Butz Choquin Supermate 1596 Paneled Billiard – St Claude-France, a Rusticated Harvey Meerschaum Lined Dublin (LONDON/PARIS/NEW YORK), a Lincoln London Made Real Sandblasted Billiard, and an Old Bruyere Billiard with an interesting P-Lip saddle stem and the Lindbergh Select 324 Poker.
I was drawn to both the Lincoln and the Harvey because they had the “RESEARCH ME!” aura about them in addition to being cool looking pipes. The BC Panel had gain that said, “Let me loose!” Yes, I believe pipes speak if we have ears to hear and my ears were fine-tuned having spent time on the beach clearing the senses! After negotiations were completed, the Burgas 5 were wrapped and bagged and came home with me to Sofia.
As with most of my acquisitions that benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, they are pictured, recorded, catalogued and put into the online For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection waiting for a steward to hear them calling from the virtual ‘Help Me!’ baskets.
Tina was visiting us in Bulgaria with a group of other ladies from Birmingham, Alabama, USA, and with most of our visitors, they heard of my ‘interesting’ hobby of collecting and restoring vintage pipes. Tina was intrigued and asked to see my work table and some pipes – she had the growing idea of commissioning some pipes FOR THE DAUGHTERS to gift special men in her life – husband, sons, colleagues…. This was my kind of visit! She started going through the troves of pipes that I have in the inventory for the Daughters and it was fun watching her settle on certain pipes that ‘matched’ the man she had in mind and in the end, she commissioned 4 pipes to be restored and one Churchwarden project which I will fashion from a repurposed bowl. I gave her estimates for the pipes she had chosen, and she solemnly agreed to a vow of PATIENCE. I’m thankful for her patience which is finally bearing fruit on my work table! I chose the Lindbergh Select Poker with a shape number of 324 to work on first. I love the iconic Poker shape and the story associated with the utilitarian purpose of the Poker’s flat bottom, that easily finds a casual place on the card table next to the adult beverage while its hopeful steward looks expectantly at the cards dealt. This Poker has a large swatch of briar real estate and an attractive canted volcano-like descent that results in a larger card table base or heel. The 3/4 bent shank/stem gives the entire pipe a casual, reach for me feel. Here are pictures of the Lindbergh Select 324 now on my work table: The stamping on the left flank of the shank is ‘LINDBERGH’ [over] ‘SELECT’. The right flank is stamped with what I’m assuming is the Poker’s shape number, 324. There are no other identifying marks that I can see.To learn more about Lindbergh Select, I look to Pipedia with no nibbles. My copy of Herb Wilczak and Tom Colwell’s, ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ also came up empty. Turning next to Pipephil.eu I found more. The examples of Lindbergh I found there were of various markings without a strong sense of a positive hit. The note that was included in this name that gave a COM of France was that they were most likely crafted by more than one maker, which makes sense looking at the different markings and especially the stem stampings and different stem lettering. Seemingly no continuity in the markings.This was a helpful bit of information which pushes my thinking a bit broader than a single manufacturer of the Lindbergh name. Next I do a Google search and found another Lindbergh SELECT that was for sale on an auction block (LINK) and found an interesting similarity – the sharply beveled internal rim. Unfortunately, the pictures they provided did not show the nomenclature but did show a shape number – 601 for the oval shank Billiard. My search took me next to a discussion thread about a Lindbergh pipe on PipesMagazine.com that brought me as close to understanding the origins of this pipe as I’m going to get for now. The thread started with sablebrush52 who purchased a Meerlined Panel with the markings Lindbergh with the addition of ‘New York – Paris’ in the nomenclature. The thread described the historical attachment the French have with the famous and controversial aviator Charles Lindbergh, whose historic jaunt across the Atlantic in the prop plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, captured the imaginations and hearts of the French at that time. This national embrace of Charles Lindbergh would explain how pipes were produced from different French sources with the Lindbergh name – more of a historical commemoration of this event. The nomenclature of the pipe under discussion in the thread is pictured here:I’m including one well-known contributor’s statement as a summary of this history and fascination with Charles Lindbergh. From mso489:
Lindberg was one of the early American mega-celebrities, which both immortalized his life and damaged it in various ways, the later kidnapping of his child and his relationship with the rise of the Nazi regime with their interest in aeronautics. So this pipe reflects that tender moment in history where his mere name sent out sparks of admiration. It’s appropriately a handsome example of industrial design. Lindberg was a farsighted designer of aircraft which is why he succeeded first with his flight. His plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, was a masterpiece of prioritization, economy, and spareness; he gave up a front windshield substituted with a periscope to make room for yet another fuel tank — but that’s an easy example. The whole plane was conceptualized that way. Then there was the whole problem of staying awake to fly the plane, which he managed to do.
Looking more closely at the Lindbergh Select on my work table, the chamber has light cake and some lava flow on the rim and shows some scorching on the right forward quadrant. The large Poker stummel has several fills that will need to be cleaned out and refilled on the stummel side and the heel. The upper right side of the bowl has a dent which might be able to be drawn out through heating. The saddle stem has oxidation. The bit has very little tooth chatter at all. I discover that scotch tape was wrapped around the tenon in order to tighten the fit. When I remove the tape, the result is a very loose fitting tenon – rattling around in the mortise! It’s very possible that this stem is a replacement, but it should fit nicely. The balance of the Poker is perfect – it sits quite nicely. I start the restoration of this Lindbergh Select Poker by first cleaning the internal airway of the stem with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% and then placing it in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue – most commissioned by Tina! After some hours, I fish out the Lindbergh bent Saddle Stem and allow the B&A Deoxidizer to drain off. I also run another pipe cleaner through the airway to force the Deoxidizer out and then wipe the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%. Much oxidation is removed.After finishing the removal of oxidation, I begin to revitalize the vulcanite stem by applying a coat of paraffin oil (a mineral oil) and I put the stem aside to soak in the oil and dry.Turning now to the Poker stummel, using 3 of the 4 blade heads available in the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I ream the chamber. I follow by employing the Savinelli Fitsall tool to fine tune by scraping the chamber walls further. Finally, I use a Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 grade paper and sand the chamber removing the residue carbon and revealing fresher briar. I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to remove the remaining carbon dust. After inspection of the chamber, all looks great! There are no evidences of heating problems. Next, I clean the external real estate of the Poker’s briar using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad. I keep my eye on the old fills to see how they react. I also utilize a brass bristled brush to work on the darkened scorched area on the rim. I also carefully scrape the rim with the sharp edge of a Buck pocket knife.The results of the cleaning are good, but the rim still shows the burn trail of the lighting practice of the former steward – pulling the flame over the rim instead of over the tobacco and pulling the flame downwardly.As I suspected would be the case, the old fill material softened, and I easily remove it from the side and heel of the stummel using a sharp dental probe.Before moving further with the external repairs, I clean the internals of the stummel by using pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%. The internals turn out to be nasty and I do much excavating using a dental spatula – scraping the mortise walls of tars, old oils and much gunk. I also use a shank brush to clean the airway. Finally, the crud starts giving away and cotton buds start emerging a much lighter hue. I call the job done for now, to return later for a kosher salt and alcohol soak to draw more tars and oils from the internal cavity as well as to freshen the stummel.To continue the work on the stummel surface, I start from the top down. First, to address the deep scorching on the rim, I use the topping board with 240 grade paper on it to top the stummel. Thankfully, this stummel as a good bit of real estate but I still am very stingy in giving up the briar. I take a picture to mark the start and then a few pictures showing the progression as I rotate the inverted stummel over the 240 grade paper. I come to a place that is the tension between complete removal of the dark area and having given up enough top briar in the effort. I stop and switch out the paper to 600 grade paper and give the stummel a few more rotations to smooth out the scratches of the 240 paper. The rim lines are refreshed, but a darkened area remains at this point.To now sharpen the bevel and clean the rim further, I use 240 grade paper tightly rolled and sand the internal bevel. I follow this with 600 grade paper (which I forgot to picture!) and then, one final rotation on the topping board with 600 grade paper to sharpen the rim lines once more. I like it. The rim looks great.With the rim repair advanced to this point, I now work on refilling the pits on the side and the heel of the stummel that were left after removing the old fill.I mix briar dust and thick CA glue to form a putty that I use to fill the pits. After putting a small amount of briar dust on an index card, I then place some CA glue next to it. Using a toothpick, I gradually mix briar dust into the CA glue until it thickens to the consistency of molasses. I then apply the putty to the pits using a tooth pick. When filled, I put the stummel aside for the putty to cure.After the briar dust patches have set up sufficiently, I now work on the two dents on the upper part of the Poker. I take a couple pictures to capture the larger and the smaller dents from different angles.The heating method can work very well to expand the compressed wood by using heat to hydrate the wood and causing it to expand. I’m thankful that my wife allows use of her iron to do the job. I go to the ironing board for this activity. I wet a cotton cloth handkerchief and place the wet cloth over the dents then I apply the hot iron over the dented area. It steams a lot as the moisture in the cloth rapidly evaporates and steam is forced toward the wood surface.After doing this steaming procedure a few times, I take another picture. You can still see the outline of the injury, but compared to where it was, by touch it is much less pronounced and should easily sand out.With the briar putty patches now fully cured after several hours, I use a flat needle file to begin working the patch mounds down to the briar surface. From the needle file I transition to 240 grade paper and remove the remainder of the excess briar patch material bringing the fill flush with the briar surface.Next, I again bring out the topping board with 240 grade paper. This time, though, I’m topping the heel of the stummel which has taken the brunt of the wear and tear. It is interesting to see the progression of the ‘topping’ of the heel which is not flat. The first picture marks the starting point followed by a progression of rotations on the topping board. I switch the topping paper to 600 grade paper and take the heel a few more rotations to smooth the heel surface after the 240 grade paper. The grain on the heel looks good.Now moving to the stummel proper, I return to the dents that I used the steaming method to expand and minimize the dents. To fully remove these injuries, I lightly sand the area with 240 grade paper and follow with 600 grade paper to smooth further. The steaming method helped and now the dents have been erased.With all the patches and blemishes addressed, I use a progression of sanding sponges from coarse, medium to light to sand the entire stummel removing the nicks and scratches. I lightly address the surface around the Lindbergh Select nomenclature and shape number. I’m at a junction point for the stummel – moving on to the micromesh pad regimen. I also have a stem that is waiting in the wings for attention. I reunite the stem and Lindbergh Select Poker to get a look at the progress. I love the shape of this Poker as its heel expands outwardly to form a stable platform to sit. With the reunification of the stem and stummel, I’m reminded again of the very loose-fitting junction of the tenon’s seating in the mortise. During the cleaning of the stem, I discovered that the stem fitting had been tightened by wrapping scotch tape around the tenon. The picture below shows the extent of the looseness. To rectify this by expanding the tenon, I use a drill bit one size larger than what will fit comfortably into the airway. To introduce the larger drill bit end into the tenon’s airway to begin expanding it, I first heat the end of the tenon with a Bic lighter to soften the vulcanite. When the heated vulcanite becomes supple, I begin to gently insert the drill bit into the airway. The larger bit expands the airway which pushes the tenon’s diameter outwardly. As the bit begins to enter less supple, cooler vulcanite while I’m inserting it, the bit is straightened by this, so I don’t have to worry about the tenon during the supple stage to be angled improperly.After the first try, I refit the stem into the shank and it is tighter, but it needs a little more tightening for a snugger fit. I repeat the process and heat more of the tenon and then insert more of the bit into the expanding airway. Before taking the bit out of the airway, I set the vulcanite with cool water from the tap so that the expansion holds. The second procedure works like a charm with a good snug junction. I’m pleased.I decide to move forward with the finishing of the stummel’s briar surface with the micromesh regimen. I plan to apply a dye to the Poker, but we’ll see how things develop. I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I love this part of teasing out the grain of this large Poker stummel. I’m amazed at how the grain darkened and deepened during the micromesh process. Before this, I was thinking that I would need to stain the stummel to mask the patches on the briar surface. After looking at the natural grain, the patches look like natural knots in the briar. I decide at this point to go with the natural briar hue. Before applying Before & After Restoration to the briar surface, I eyeball once more the junction between stem and stummel. I’m not satisfied with the seating of the stem in the shank. I can see a gap on the lower side of the shank/stem junction. The top of the junction is riding high preventing a clean meeting on the lower side. To address this, I fold a piece of 240 grade paper in half and insert it between the upper shank/stem junction and sand between the two. This eventually lowers the top side helping the lower junction to seat better. I’m not totally pleased with the junction at the end, but I’ve learned when to stop striving for perfection! With the stem and shank junction fitting much better, I put the stem aside again and apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the Poker surface. I place some of the Balm on my finger and work it in to the briar surface. After about 10 minutes I wipe off the excess and buff up the surface with a microfiber cloth. The grain hues deepen and the natural briar finish is very nice.Turning now to the stem, the tooth marks on the bit are very minor.Using 240 grit paper, I sand out the minor issues on the bit very quickly.I then wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper and then follow by applying 0000 grade steel wool. In addition, I scrub the surface with Magic Eraser to finish the cleaning. With my day ending, I have two projects that I’ll leave to work through the night. I apply paraffin oil to the stem to further rejuvenate it.I also give the stummel internals a further cleaning and freshening with a kosher salt and alcohol soak. I create a mortise ‘wick’ by pulling and twisting a cotton ball and then insert it down the mortise with the help of a stiff straight wire. I then sit the Poker in its natural state on the table and fill the bowl with salt. I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt. After a few minutes the alcohol has been absorbed and I top the bowl with more alcohol and turn out the lights. The next morning, the soak had furthered the cleaning – there was minor discoloration in the salt and wick. I tossed the salt in the waste and cleaned out the stummel with a paper towel and blowing through the mortise to be sure to remove all the expended salt. To be on the safe side, I expend a few more pipe cleaners and cotton buds to clean up residue after the soak. All was clean! Moving on. Now back to the stem. I now apply the full regimen of micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 to the stem. I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. After the wet sanding I move out to the satellite work desk on my 10th floor ‘Man Cave’ balcony where spring is trying to show itself. A shot of me enjoying the change of weather and the view that I have of Sofia’s Vitosha Mountain nursing a bowl of Land BCA with my smooth Meer and teasing out more patina!
Next, I reunite stem and stummel and after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, I adjust the speed to about 40% of full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire Lindbergh Select Poker. Following the compound, I wipe/buff using a felt cloth to clean the pipe of compound dust. I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to applying carnauba wax. Leaving the Dremel and 40% power, I apply several coats of wax and finish by hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.
The Lindbergh Select 324 Poker fits and exceeds the expectations of this classic shape. The grain is displayed over the large briar landscape and the broad heel is an added benefit. The vertical flame grain terminates in the rim revealing distinctive bird’s eye grain – very nice. The 3/4 bent saddle stem also adds to the overall balanced feel of the iconic Poker. The Lindbergh Select’s specific manufacturer will remain a mystery, but the French origin seems secure. Tina commissioned this pipe along with 4 others from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection to give as gifts to special men in her life. She will have the first opportunity to acquire the Lindbergh Select in The Pipe Steward Store. This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Thanks for joining me!