Blog by Steve Laug
Once again if you want the background on the lot of Bertram pipes that Jeff and I purchased please refer to the previous blog posts on the brand. Like I have said, words escape me in trying to adequately describe how overwhelmed I am when I look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored. It is mind boggling but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. I am glad Jeff is helping with the clean up on the lot as that would be more than I could handle by myself in moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes I chose a beautifully grained Bertram Cutty with a long shank. It has no grade number on the shank sides or bottom. It is very different from the other pipes in the lot that I have worked on so far. The grain was a mix of grains – swirls, flame, cross and birdseye. It was a round bottom pipe with a taper stem. The exterior of the bowl looked really good and there were a few small fills on this beauty. The bowl had cake in the chamber that was no problem. The rim top had some darkening and lava overflow on the back side. There appeared to be a bit of damage to the back side of the inner edge of the bowl look very good. The stem had some oxidation and tooth chatter near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his cleanup work on it. Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. There was a nick in the back side of the inner edge of the rim.Jeff took pictures of the bowl sides and the heel to show the great looking grain around the sides of the bowl.It really is quite stunning and very dirty!Jeff took a photo to capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. It shows the stamping which read Bertram over Washington, D.C. The stamping is fainter on the right side of the impression. There is no quality number designation on this pipe. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the calcification, oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. There is also some wear on the button edge. Once again, if you have read the previous Bertram blogs I have posted about the 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#
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 Cutty is slightly different from the other Bertram shapes I have worked. Without a grade stamp it is impossible to know the quality of this pipe.
By now if you have been a reader for long you have Jeff’s cleaning regimen pretty well memorized. If you know it you can skip right to the pictures. If not I will include them once more. 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. The rim and edges were in amazing condition. 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. The lava left a little darkening on the rear rim top but otherwise the bowl looked very good. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with only light tooth chatter on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping to show how it looked after the cleanup. The Bertram Washington DC is faint on the right side of the stamp but it is still readable. I could not find any quality number on the sides of the shank.I cleaned up the damaged inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.There was a large sandpit that had a loose fill on the back left side of the bowl. I picked out the dust, wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton pad. I dried it off and then filled it in with clear super glue. When the glue repair dried I sanded it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. The grain began to stand out. 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. If you have not tried some why not give it a try. I sanded out the small tooth marks and chatter next to the button on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed that by sanding the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I polished out the sanding scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 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. Jeff and I are gradually working through this 200+ lot dealing with each of the different challenges they present. This one is Bertram’s take on a classic Cutty shape. 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 one does not have a grade number but it is likely a 30-50 grade pipe judging from the grain and the small flaws and fills. It has a tapered stem at the end of a long shank. The finish really has some interesting grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is an interestingly grained Cutty. 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 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Maybe this shape speaks to you and you want to add it to your collection. Rest easy, this one will soon be on the rebornpipes store. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.