Blog by Steve Laug
Rather than repeat myself and give the blog readers grief with the repetition please refer to the previous blog posts on the Bertrams to learn about how we got this collection. Just know that we have a collection of Bertrams and a smattering of other brands, that when they were unwrapped, filled three boxes. The photo below is included to show the size of the collection we had purchased. To be honest it was a bit overwhelming to see all of the collection in boxes. We were looking at a lot of work to bring these back to life.I cannot tell you how glad I am that Jeff is working through the clean up on this lot as they are really quite dirty and there are so many! It would be a more daunting task than it already is if I had to clean and restore all of them. I am leaving it to him to choose which pipes to work on. He has chosen some interesting shaped ones to restore. Here is how we are working out the transfer from him to me. As he finishes a batch of them he boxes them up and sends them to me. I have received two boxes so far. From the first box he sent, I chose another one of the Bertrams to be the next pipe that I would work on. This pipe was another very dirty one! The smooth finish was grimy and dusty but some interesting grain shone through showing me that this was a beautiful pipe. It was a large thick shank Billiard shaped pipe with a tapered stem. There was a thick cake in the bowl and heavy lava overflowing on to the rim top. It was hard to know the condition of the edges due to the cake and lava. The stem showed some light oxidation and some chatter on the top and some tooth marks on the underside. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of the pipe. Jeff took a close-up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a thick coat of lava on the back side and darkening around the edges. The bowl had a thick cake.Jeff took pictures of he bowl sides and the heel to show the marvelous grain on the bowl. It really is quite stunning and has a natural finish. It is dirty though!Jeff took 2 photos to capture the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The first photo shows stamping on the left side which read Bertram over Washington, D.C. The stamping on this pipe is clear and readable. The second photo shows the grade number stamping on the underside toward the heel of the bowl. It read number 60 which shows the quality of the pipe. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. The tooth marks are visible on the underside next to the button. There is also some wear on the underside button edge. If you have read the previous five blogs I have posted on the Bertram pipes that I have cleaned up so far you can skip the next bit. But if you have not, then I include the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them do some research on them. I include a link to the write up on Pipedia (http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram). Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. They graded their pipes by 10s, the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I’ve never heard of or seen a 100 grade. I have several blogs that I have written on rebornpipes that give some history and background to Bertram pipes. (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/06/16/an-easy-restoration-of-a-bertram-grade-60-217-poker/).
I have included the following link to give a bit of historical information on the pipe company. It is a well written article that gives a glimpse of the heart of the company. http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2012/01/bertrams-pipe-shop-on-14th-street.html#
I am also including this photo of the shop in Washington D.C. and a post card of the shop. From this information I have learned that the shape and grade Bertram I have in front of me now was made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Billiard with a natural/lighter finish is one of the more usual shapes in terms of the Bertram pipes I have worked on. With a grade 60 stamp it is just above the mid-range mark.
Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. There was still some darkening to the rim top toward the back of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava but the rim top had some light damage and darkening on the backside of the rim. Both the inner edge and the outer edge of the rim look good. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The light tooth chatter is hard to see but I should be able to sand it out quite easily. The tooth marks on the underside will take a little more work to remove.I also took a photo of the stamping on the left side and the underside of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out. I sanded the top of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage and the darkening. I polished the top with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. The photo shows how the rim looked at this point.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish of the briar 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 Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. I used a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. Once the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. This Bertram has a classic Billiard shape and the natural finish really highlights some amazing grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain – straight, flame and birdseye – popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful grained Billiard. Like the other Bertrams I have worked on this one fits well in the hand and sits right in the mouth. 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: ¾ of an inch. Since I am traveling for a bit for the next three weeks this one will go on the store once I return. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.