Restoring a Bertram Oval Shank Zulu 30 from the Bertram Lot

Blog by Steve Laug

Feel free to refer to the previous blog posts on the brand if you want some background on the pipes in this lot. I have a hard time expressing how overwhelming it is to 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 could not do it without Jeff’s help. He is doing 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 get to choose what I want to work on. This time I chose an interesting oval shank Bertram Zulu. It has grade 30 number on the left side of the shank. The grain was a mix of grains – swirls, flame, cross and birdseye. It is another round bottom pipe with a taper stem. The exterior of the bowl looked really good. 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. The stem had some oxidation and tooth chatter near the button on both sides. There were two deeper tooth marks on the underside near the button. 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 were a few nicks 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. There appear to be some fills on the underside of the bowl amidst the grime and dirt.Jeff took a photo to capture the stamping on the topside of the shank. It shows the stamping which read Bertram over Washington, D.C. There is a number 30 stamped on the  top of the left side of the shank. That is the 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 are several deeper tooth marks on the underside of the stem near the button. There is some wear on the button edge.I have included this information with each of the Bertram blogs I have posted. 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 ( 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. (

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.

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 Zulu is yet another different shape from the other Bertram shapes I have restored. I have restored one other Zulu from this collection ( Like the other one this also has a 30 grade stamp that gives some idea of how Bertram identified 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. Without the lava there was a clear fill on the right topside of the rim toward the back of the bowl. I have circled it in yellow in the photo below. There was also some burn damage to the rear inner edge. I have circled the burn damage in red in the photo below. There was some nicking along the inner edge that would need to be dealt with as well. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with some tooth marks on the underside near the button and light tooth chatter on both sides.I took photos of the stamping to show how it looked after the cleanup. The Bertram Washington DC is clear and readable. The second photo shows the grade 30 stamp on the left side of the shank.I cleaned up the burn damaged inner edge and outer edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I sanded the area with the fill to smooth it out and blend it in better.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 sanded the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I followed by polishing the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish with a cotton pad. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. 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 Zulu 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 is a Grade 30 pipe with some small fills around the bowl and rim top. It has a tapered oval stem on a oval 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 well shaped oval shank Zulu. This Bertram feels great in the hand 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: 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.

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