Restoring a 1965 Dunhill Shell Briar # 56 F/T 3/4 Bent Billiard

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring the fifth Dunhill from my Mumbai Bonanza find, a 1962 DUNHILL SHELL #196 F/T and now this is the sixth. I am left with only one Dunhill pipe to complete from the Mumbai Bonanza, a smooth finish LB.

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 brands and some mediocre 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 1965 Shell Briar 3/4 bent billiard, and is marked in pastel pink circle in the picture below. It is stamped on the underside of the shank with the shape number 56 followed by F/T followed by DUNHILL over Shell Briar followed by the COM stamp Made in over England 5 (underlined) which dates it as being made in 1965. 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 very slightly worn out and easily readable.In this short journey of mine in to the world of pipe refurbishing, this particular pipe has one of the deepest and beautiful sandblast patterns that I have come across. The sandblast on this pipe speaks volumes about the skills of the pipe carver. With this thought, I move ahead with the restoration of this beautiful medium sized sandblasted Dunhill bent billiard and restore it to its glory.

The chamber is clean with a decent and even thick layer of cake. 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 walls appear to be thin. Is this a case of over reaming or is it because the carver decided to compromise the wall thickness for deeper sandblast patterns?The stummel boasts of some beautiful sandblast pattern of mix of straight and cross grain all around. It is dirty with grime, oils and tars filling in much of the craggy finish. The briar looks lifeless and dull. The mortise shows minor accumulation of dried tars mixed with ash and remnants of tobacco. This will have to be cleaned and refreshed. The vulcanite stem shows a minor damage to the button end with minor chatter on the lower surface. The lip edges have a few bite marks and will have to be reshaped and made crisp. The stem is oxidized; however, the quality of vulcanite is good. The white dot on the upper surface has faded in some places but is still distinctly visible. This cannot be helped and status quo has to be accepted.There are no major issues to address here on this pipe; just a little TLC and the pipe should be good to go…nah, find a place of pride on my rack!!

I start this project by tackling the stem first. I sand the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to erase the minor tooth chatter on the lower surface, get rid of the oxidation and provide a smooth surface for the intended fill to reconstruct the button edges. I cleaned out the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. 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. 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 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 cleaning. With size 3 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. 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 followed up the internal cleaning with external. Using a soft brass wired brush I gently scraped away the thick lava coat in the blast of the rim. 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. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this old warrior could share its past life with all of us…if only!! Cheers.




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