Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table Jeff picked up at an antique shop near his home in Idaho. It is a Butz Choquin Made in France pipe. On one side is written Butz Choquin over Camargue. On the other side St. Claude is arched over France with the shape number 1310 under that. On the horn coloured Lucite shank extension are the initials BC in a clear acrylic insert. The military bit stem is vulcanite and has a slight bend in it. It is lightly oxidized and there are deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button and wear on the button on the underside. There are also some dents on the top and underside near the bend. The smooth finish is very dirty and dusty. The rim top has a thin coat of lava near the back side. The bowl has a thick cake that flows onto the back of the bowl rim. It is hard to know if the inner edge of the rim is in good condition because of the lava and cake. The outer edge looks very good. Jeff took the following photos before he started his clean up. Jeff took a photo of the rim top and bowl. You can see the lava on the back side of the rim that obscures the condition of the rim edge. You can see the condition of the bowl as well in the photo.He took photos of the heel and the sides of the bowl to give a clear picture of the remarkable grain on this beautiful pipe.The next photo is a bit of a mystery to me… there is clearly a crack shown in the photo of the somewhere on the bowl. The problem is that it is not clear where it is on the bowl in the photo. Is it the heel or a side or…? I will have to go over the bowl with a light and a lens to hunt for it as I restore the pipe. It should be easy to repair once I find it!The next two photos capture the stamping on the left and right side of the shank. The third photo shows the BC logo on the horn coloured Lucite shank extension. The stamping on the left side reads Butz Choquin at an angle up the shank toward the shank end and underneath it is stamped Camargue. The other side is stamped with the St. Claude, France stamp and the shape number 1310. The last two before photos show the condition of the stem. You can see the tooth marks on both sides of the stem along the length of the stem. You can also see the calcification and oxidation on the stem. It is dirty but very repairable.When the pipe arrived it was my turn to do my part of the restoration work. Jeff had 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. Both the inner edge of the rim look good. There was some damage on the front outer edge. 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 top and underside and the scratching and gouges will take a little more work to remove. The damage to the button top on the underside is also going to take some work.I also took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out. The Camargue stamp is quite faint. To clean up the rim top damage and minimize the roughness on the front outer edge I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I did not have to do too much topping as the damage was not too extreme.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. It was during this process that I found the crack. It is on the right side of the bowl toward the back. I have circled it in red to highlight it. Now that I had found the crack and checked that it was not deep and not on the inside of the bowl it was time to address it. I drilled the ends of the crack with a microdrill bit to stop the crack from spreading. I filled in the pin holes and the crack surface with clear super glue. I spread some briar dust on the top of the repaired areas and pressed it into the drill holes with a dental spatula. I set it aside to cure. Once the repair cured I sanded it smooth with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I started the polishing process with 400 grit sandpaper. I polished the area with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and wiped the area down with alcohol.I restained the pipe with a Tan aniline stain to blend the repaired areas into the rest of the finish. Sometimes it pays to stain the entirety of a bowl rather than fuss with trying to match an area this large into the rest of the surrounding briar. I flamed and stained and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage. I set the bowl aside to dry.I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to remove thick overcoat of stain. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the stain coat coverage. I followed that by wet sanding it with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to even out the coverage of stain across the bowl sides and over the repaired crack. I have really come to appreciate many of Mark Hoover’s Before & After Products. One of my favourites is his Restoration Balm. I worked some of the Balm into the finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let it sit for a short time and buffed it off with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the pipe take on a rich glow. I set the finished bowl aside and turned to address the issues with the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks and nicks in the stem surface and button with clear super glue. I set it aside to cure. Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to smooth out the repairs and then a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. After 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 – wet sanding 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 stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem with multiple coats of Carnauba Wax. I buffed the bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad until there was a rich shine then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This Butz Choquin Camargue Bent Billiard with a faux horn acrylic shank extension is a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out while hiding the repaired cracks. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful bent billiard that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be putting this beauty on the rebornpipes online store soon. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.