A Fresh Lease on Life for a 1962 Straight Billiard Dunhill Shell Briar # 196 F/T

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring the fourth Dunhill from my Mumbai Bonanza find, a 1949 DUNHILL SHELL #52 F/T WITH PATENT No. 417475/34 and decided to complete restoration of all remaining Dunhill pipes from this collection before moving on to other pipes either from this collection or from my inherited pipes. It feels good to have options to choose from for the next project.

I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a trash collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot.   This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brand pipes and some mediocre pipe brands. Overall, with seven Dunhills, a Preben Holm #1, a couple of Made in England Pete System pipes, Charatan’s, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had hit a huge jack pot!!! Hence, I like to call this find the “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The pipe that I decided to work on from this find is another Dunhill, a 1962 Shell Briar billiard, and is marked in green circle in the picture below. It is stamped on the underside of the shank with the shape number 196 followed by F/T followed by DUNHILL over Shell Briar followed by the COM stamp Made in over England 2 which dates it as being made in 1962. This is followed by Group size number 4 in a circle and letter S for Shell. Dunhill White Dot adorns the top of the vulcanite stem. The stampings are slightly worn out but clear.In this short journey of mine in to the world of pipe refurbishing, I have found that I really like the sandblast finish on these Dunhill pipes, more than the smooth ones. Pardon me if I have hurt the sentiments of some of the readers who think otherwise, but this is my personal choice. I love the smooth finished pipes from Barling, Comoy’s and other British and US (Boswell, Tim West, Lakatosh etc.) pipe carvers. With this musing, I move ahead with the restoration of this beautiful medium sized sandblasted Dunhill straight billiard.

The chamber is clean with a thin layer of cake near the top and thick at the bottom near the draught hole, an indication that its previous Steward had either quit pipe smoking early or could never smoke beyond half a bowl full. From what I can see, the chamber walls appear to be without any damage. The chamber is odorless. There is an overflow of lava on the sandblasted rim top surface. The inner and outer rim edges are undamaged.The stummel boasts of some beautiful sandblast pattern of mix of straight and cross grain all around. It is dirty with grime and tar filling in much of the craggy finish. The briar looks lifeless and dull which is nothing serious to address. The round shank of the Billiard flows into a long tapered stem which has a flare, like a fish tail, at the button end, justifying the stamp F/T. The vulcanite stem shows damage to the button end with light tooth chatter on the upper surface. The lower surface has a couple of deep tooth indentations. The lips have bite marks, distorting the lip edge and will have to be sharpened. The stem is very heavily oxidized; in fact the oxidation has bubbled on to the surface and has the stem has taken on a reddish brown coloration. However, the quality of vulcanite is good. The horizontal slot is clogged with dried oils and tars and so it is safe to assume that even the stem’s airway would require a thorough cleaning. The fit of the tenon in to the mortise (which is has an accumulation of dried oils and tars) is loose and will need to be addressed. Overall condition of this pipe indicates that this should be an easy project, but those who have traveled this route before, will bear with me that there are surprises and pitfalls lurking around every corner on this road.

I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame both the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter. The heat from the flame raises the vulcanite to the surface and takes care of the tooth chatter and bite marks that was seen earlier to a great extent. I sand the stem end with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to erase the scratches and provide a smooth surface for the intended fill. However, I soon realized that the oxidation was so deep that I needed to use a coarser grit paper and ended up using a piece of 150 girt sand paper!!! I cleaned out the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I literally had to dig out the gunk which had clogged the horizontal slot with my fabricated spatula. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. To begin the stem repairs, I smeared a folded pipe cleaner with petroleum jelly and inserted it in to the stem airway. I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged lip and set it aside for curing over night. Before moving ahead, I would like to mention here that I had applied this mix in layers, to achieve sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding while shaping the button and achieving the correct lip edge profile.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel repairs. There was practically no cake in the chamber and so I directly used a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper to sand out the traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. But, I soon realized that the layer of cake in the chamber was not thin, but quite thick and ended up using size 2 and 3 head of the PipNet reamer. I followed it up by sanding the walls with a 180 grit sand paper. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. The walls of the chamber were solid with no damage. This was followed by cleaning the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This eliminated all traces of old smells from previous usage. I used my fabricated knife to gently remove the crusted lava from the rim top surface. Continuing with the cleaning regime, using a soft brass wired brush I gently scraped away the thick lava coat in the blast of the rim top surface. With a hard bristled tooth brush and dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the sandblast finish on the stummel and the rim top. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks fresh and clean. Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful contrasting hues colors that are unique to this sandblast pipe, on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. I set the stummel aside and turned my attention to the stem repair. The fill had cured nicely and I moved ahead and began the process of filing and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 600 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rehydrate the vulcanite. The repairs have blended in very well and the stem now looks shiny black and beautiful. The internals of the stem was once again cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners to clear the airway of all the debris resulting due to the sanding. The finished stem is shown below. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further.The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. This pipe too is being added to my rack housing Dunhill pipes. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. As always, your inputs and valued suggestions are very important as they help me grow and improve my skill set in pipe refurbishing methods. PS: The stem turned out beautiful, in fact, it is one of the nicest in terms of blending in of the fills and shine. The spots that are seen near the white dot and on the lower surface in the above pictures may appear as blemishes, but they are simply reflection of some light. 

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