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.