Restoring a Beautiful Bertram Tiger Grain Bulldog 40


Blog by Steve Laug

It you have not read the previous blogs I have posted on this brand give them a read to get some background on the pipes in this lot. If you have not been hit with a box I am sure you have a hard time understanding how overwhelming it feels to look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored. It is mind boggling for sure – but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. I could not do it without Jeff’s help doing the clean up on the lot. If I had to do it all by myself it would be more than I handle moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes I get to choose what I want to work on. Doing the work this way we have already cleaned about 70 pipes and I have restored around 40 of them. We are getting there slowly but surely.

This time I chose another Bertram Bulldog to work on. It has a diamond shank and a diamond saddle vulcanite stem. It has grade 40 number stamped on the left underside of the shank. The briar has some really interesting grain – almost tiger grain. It is beautiful. The exterior of the bowl looked good. Unlike the previous Bulldog this one either has no fills or they are well place and hidden. The bowl had a thick cake in the chamber with shards of tobacco stuck to the walls. The rim top had some darkening all around the bowl and thick lava overflow on the back top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the bowl edge of the bowl looked like until the cake and lava were gone. The stem had some oxidation and tooth marks and 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 thick coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. You can see from the photos why it was hard to tell the condition of the inner edge of the rim.The picture of the bowl sides and the heel give a clear picture of the grain around the heel and the sides of the bowl. The bowl looks very good – maybe a small fill on the bottom right side of the bowl but cleaning will tell for sure. I am looking forward to seeing what is under all of the grime. The grain looks very interesting in these pictures and should look amazing when cleaned and polished.The next photos capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see the Bertram Washington, D.C. stamp on the upper left side of the diamond shank and the grade 40 stamp on the left underside of the shank.The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the calcification, oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. There are light tooth marks on the stem near the button. There is some wear on the button edge.With each of the blogs that I have written on the Bertrams that I have worked on I have included the following information. If you have read it in past blogs, you can skip over it. If you have not, I have included the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them take some time to read the background. 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. Bertram graded their pipes by 10s and sometimes with a 5 added (15, 25, 55 etc.), the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I have worked on one 120 Grade billiard. 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 learned that all of these Bertrams were made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Bulldog is the first of this squat Bulldog style that I have worked on. This pipe has a grade 40 which I think is a reflection on the beautiful grain.

Jeff is methodical in his cleaning regimen and rarely varies the process. He 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 beveled rim top and edges 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. Without the lava the rim looked very good with some darkening at the rear. The inner edge was a little rough on the back edge; otherwise it was in great condition. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with some light tooth marks and 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 clear and readable though a bit faded on the right side of the stamp. The Grade 40 stamp is deep and clear.I cleaned up the darkening on the rim and smoothed out the damage on the back inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The first photo shows the rim when I started. The second shows the clean up of the inner edge and the darkening on the rim top. The third photo shows the finished rim top. 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 the 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. The rich tiger grain really pops on this beauty! 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 polished it with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to scrub out the scratches. 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 challenges they present one at a time. This one is Bertram’s take on a classic diamond shank straight Bulldog shape. It has probably the most stunning grain of any of the Bertrams I have worked on. I would call it a tiger grain. 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. For a Bertram Grade 40 this pipe is quite stunning. I cannot find any sign of visible fills. It has a saddle stem on a diamond 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 swirling tiger grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is well shaped Bulldog. This is another Bertram that feels great in the hand sits right in the mouth. Have a look at the finished pipe in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is one that will stay with me for a while. The grain is captivating. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

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