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.