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 batch 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 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 Canadian on the far right of the photo above. It is stamped on the top of the shank TOBACCOBOWL which I am assuming is a pipe shop. The underside of the shank is stamped Imported Briar which tells me that the pipe is American made. There are no identifying shape numbers of other stamps on the pipe so that is the extent of my information. Alex had picked it up eBay and was drawn to the grain and the shape which were very nice. It was purported to be clean by the seller but after his first smoke 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 outside of the bowl was oily and dirty – a thin film of oils was all over the bowl surface and had darkened the rim and the right side of the bowl. The rim top had some burn damage and some lava on the inward beveled top. It was messy. The stem, though it was said to be clean, had a lot of junk in the slot at the button. The airway entered the bowl toward the right side rather than the center and the shank was black with tars and oils. The bowl had a light cake that was oily to touch and would need to be reamed out. 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 TOBACCOBOWL stamping as noted above. The photo is slightly out of focus but it was hard to capture the stamping. On the underside it reads Imported Briar. The stamping on this pipe is readable. I started my work on the pipe by dealing with the damage to the beveled rim top. Because of the bevel I could not use a topping board so I had to work on the damage with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage and smooth out the rim top. I had to be careful not to damage the rim top and make it uneven but I wanted to get it back to bare briar so I could polish it and restain it.I polished the rim top that I had sanded and the rest of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim and bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the grime and sanding dust. Each successive grit of micromesh removed more of the darkening and started bringing the grain to the surface. The rim top looked considerably better but it was slightly lighter in colour than the rest of the briar so I stained it with an Oak coloured stain pen to match the colour of the bowl and shank.Once the stain was dry I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the rim top and the rest of 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 oil finish on the bowl and rim. I am very happy with the results. With the externals cleaned and well on the way to being finished I turned my attention to the internals. I reamed 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.With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. 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. Now 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 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 3/4 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 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 interesting TOBACCOBOWL Canadian.