Daily Archives: August 3, 2019

New Life for a BBB Tortoise Canted Square Shank Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

It was time to work on one of the pipes that Jeff and I purchased from a guy in Pennsylvania. The next pipe on my worktable comes from that collection. This one is a canted Dublin with a long square shank and a saddle stem. The rim topped is worn and dirty but it appears that the shape follows the grain of the block of briar very well. It is stamped on the left side of the shank BBB in a diamond over Tortoise and on the right side it is stamped London, England and the shape number 719. The stem has a BBB Diamond medallion on the topside of the saddle. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the rim top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like because of the lava and cake. From the photos there seemed to be some damage to the inner edge at the front of the bowl but I could not be sure. Other than being dirty the finish appeared to be in good condition. The stem was pearlized white. There was some light tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button. I have included 3 photos that the seller sent to me to give an idea of what Jeff and I saw when we were deciding to purchase the pipe. We had the pipe lot shipped to Jeff in the US so he could do the cleanup on them for me. He took photos of the pipe before he started working on it so I could see what he was dealing with. I am including those now. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava. The cake is thick and hard and the lava overflow is a thick band around the bowl. The bowl is a real mess. This must have been a great smoking pipe. There appears to be a damaged spot on the front bevel of the inner edge.The next photo shows the side and bottom of the bowl to give a clear picture of the beauty of the mixed grain around the bowl of the pipe. Under the grime some great grain peeks through.Jeff took photos of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The brand and the shape number are very readable. He also took a photo of the BBB Diamond Medallion on the stem top. The pearlized, tortoise stem looked dirty and there were some light bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem.The BBB Tortoise was a line of BBB pipes that came with a pearlized stem that almost looked like it was made of abalone. It was acrylic of some sort but has the softness of vulcanite. It is remarkable material.

I turned to address the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe for me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime off the finish and the heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and was able to remove much of the oxidation. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a clean pipe and I knew what I had to work with. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition. Jeff was able to clean up the incredibly thick cake and lava overflow that was shown in the rim and bowl photos above. He was also able to get rid of the grime and grit in the surface of the briar. There was a deep burn gouge on the front edge of the rim. There was some darkening around the inner bevel of the bowl. The outer edge and the rim top looked very good. The stem was much cleaner than before. There was some staining just ahead of the button. The tenon was a replacement – a black Delrin tenon. The clear white pearlized stem shows the black of the tenon through the back edge of the saddle on both the top and bottom side.I took a close up of the dark spot in the back end of the saddle. It is not a hole or a drill through. It is really the black of the Delrin replacement tenon reflecting through the translucent pearlized stem material. I have to say it is ugly but it not damaging and in no way effects the smoke.I decided to address the bowl first. I worked on both the rim damage and try to minimise the burn damage on the front inner bevel of the rim. I worked on the inner edge of the rim first using a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper smooth out the damage, bevel the inner edge and bring the bowl back as close as possible to round.Once I beveled the inner edge of the rim to bring it back to round, I decided to continue my ongoing experiment with a new product from Mark Hoover of Before & After Products. This one is a product he labels briar cleaner and it has the capacity of absorbing grime and dirt from the surface of briar. I rubbed the bowl down with some of his Briar Cleaner to see how it would work in this setting. In speaking to Mark he noted that the product is completely safe to use. The main product is even FDA approved edible. I rubbed it onto the bowl and rim top with my finger tips and worked it into the grime and grit on the bowl. I let it sit on the pipe for about 5 minutes before I rubbed it off with a microfibre cloth. I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the residue. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the surface on the bowl looked when I was finished. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. It also helps to blend the newly stained areas in to the surrounding briar. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingers to get it into the briar. After it sat for a little while I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. It is a beautiful bowl. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem at this point in the process. I sanded the light tooth chatter on the stem with folded pieces of 220. The marks came off very easily. I rolled a piece and sanded the back edge of the saddle on both sides where the dark mark was. I took photos of the stem from various angles to give a clear picture. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to enliven and protect the stem material. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the pearlized, white stem even after the micromesh regimen. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.  I put the stem back on the pipe and took the pipe to the buffer. I worked it over with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up really well and even the newly beveled rim top looked good. I was happy with the results of the reworking of the rim. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The unique canted Dublin shape is a beauty and unlike any of the BBB Tortoise pipes that I have restored. It is a very stunning looking pipe with the mixed grain and the pearlized, white stem. The polished stem looks really good with the browns of the briar. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is another pipe that I will be putting it on the rebornpipes online store shortly, if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this beauty!

Restoring a Dr. Grabow “Commodore” #39

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

After we bid our farewells to my Guru and Mentor, Steve Laug and his brother, Jeff, (Dal had left a couple of days earlier) I felt a void. All of a sudden there was nothing to look forward to, no pipe talks, no planned activities, nobody to share a smoke with and above all, their mere presence was being missed by Abha, my wife and both daughters, not to mention me too! It was my youngest daughter, Pavni, who suggested that we restore a pipe!! What a suggestion that was! Our spirits immediately soared and I pulled out my “MUMBAI BONANZA” pipe box to select one pipe.

The one that caught our collective attention was a pick axe shaped pipe that we had come to associate with Kriswill as I have inherited a few. However, this had a “Spade” stamped on its stem in white. It was a Dr. Grabow.

For those readers who have missed out on my previous work, I was fortunate enough to have heeded the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot.     This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of  Charatan’s Belvedere, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul!!! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The eleventh pipe that we decided to work on from this find is a pickaxe shaped pipe and is indicated in red colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the right side of the shank as “COMMODORE” in block letter over “DR. GRABOW” again in block letter. The shape code “# 39” is also stamped on the right side towards the shank end and away in the middle of the two lines. The left side of the shank is devoid of any stamping, which is slightly unusual as most of carvers and makers prefer to stamp their pipes on the left. The stem bears the famous “Ace of Spades” logo in white, embedded on the left side of the stem. Now coming to the research of this brand and line/ model in specific, I referred to pipedia.org and as expected there is an extensive research on this pipe and even has a separate page on the dating of Dr. Grabow pipes, starting from the Linkman era to later pipe lines and numbers which makes for an interesting read and is highly recommended. This research has been done by Russell McKay, and is from his website DrGrabow-pipe-info.com. Here is the link to the page on pipedia.org:


I found what I was looking for in the list of most “newer” Dr. Grabow pipe names and is reproduced below;

COMMODORE (c1964) — First appears in a magazine ad for $7.95 as early as 1964. Like the Sculptura, later models were sandblasted in a “big” blast circa 1967-69 (See “Sculptura” for details.)

From the above information, it is evident that the pipe currently on my work table is from the period 1967-69, even though the line was first introduced in 1964 since the stummel is beautifully sandblasted. With this input on the vintage of this pipe, I move ahead with the restoration of this 50 plus years old pipe!

I usually start my initial visual inspection by going over the chamber first. However, in this particular pipe, I was so drawn by the beautiful sandblast on the stummel that I decided to change the order and start with the stummel.

The stummel boasts one of the most beautiful sandblast patterns with the front of the bowl having circular blasted pattern and from the outer most part of this blast ring, the sandblast that radiates from the front of the stummel and moving around to the sides and back of the stummel with the cross grains and the straight grains forming an intricate crisscross patterns. It is a visual treat to say the least and difficult to explain in mere words! The following two pictures of the cleaned stummel will give the readers an idea of the sandblast patterns on the stummel.The sandblasted stummel is covered in dirt and grime of 50 plus years of its existence. This should clean up nicely. The stummel surface is solid with no damage to the external surface. The dark browns of the raised sandblast contrast beautifully with the black stain of rest of the stummel. A thick layer of cake can be seen in the chamber. The sandblasted rim top surface is covered in thick overflow of lava, dirt, dust and grime. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely (thankfully readers cannot see or hear me muttering silent prayers!!). The inner rim condition appears to be in good condition with no burn/ charred surfaces. Even the outer rim edge appears to be in a decent condition. Only once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned that I can be sure of my initial appreciation. In spite of the thick cake, the chamber odor is, surprisingly, not strong and should be addressed once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The shank end has a metal band around the center and this metal band extends inside the shank with threads, over which the threaded stem stinger is seated in to the mortise. Thankfully, the band and threads are all intact. The mortise is blocked with dried gunk, adversely affecting the airflow. The metal band is dull and dirty in appearance.The stem is an “Adjustomatic” type (a patent for stem to shank threading system, later Patent #2461905 which was filed on 25th January 1946 by David P. Lavietes). This patent allows the stem to be turned in the shank for a perfect alignment without having to detach the two. The stem is attached to the shank by a threaded “tool” stinger (again patented by the brand way back in 1924 and upgraded over the years) and the stem can be turned over this stinger for alignment of the shank and stem. Unfortunately, the previous owner had this stinger cut ahead of the threaded portion so that the attachment of the stem to the shank is not affected at all. The vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and has calcification deposits towards the button end. There are a few deep tooth marks on the lower and upper stem surface. The button edges also have bite marks. The stinger opening and the horizontal slot shows accumulated oils and tars. The threaded portion of what remains of the stinger is covered in dried dust, dirt and grime. The alignment of the stem and shank skewed with the stem being overturned to the right.THE PROCESS
I started the restoration with cleaning of the stummel as I was keen to know the condition of the walls of the chamber. With size 1 head of a Castleford pipe reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. I was happy to note that the walls of the chamber are in pristine condition without any heat fissures or pits. The inner and outer edge of the rim are intact and without any burn or char marks. Next I decided to address the stem. I cleaned the internals of the stem using hard and normal bristled pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. The stem airway and the open ended stinger were filthy as can be made out from the number of pipe cleaners that were used up in the cleaning process. I cleaned the complete stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove the calcification from the button end and thereafter flamed the stem surface with the flame of a lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface. I scrubbed and cleaned the portion of the stinger that remained. I liberally applied petroleum jelly to the stinger to protect it and dropped the stem in to the “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution which Jeff had lugged all the way from Idaho, USA for me. This solution, which has been developed by Mark Hoover, has reduced my time in working on removing stem oxidation by ¼ and should form a part of the list of ‘must have’ items for restoring a pipe.While the stem was soaking in the “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution, I cleaned out the internals of the shank and mortise. Using my fabricated tool, I scraped out all the dried oils, tars and gunk that had accumulated in the shank airway and mortise. The amount of crud that was scrapped out leaves no surprise why air flow through it was restricted. I finished the cleaning by running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I also wiped the metal band and the threads with cotton buds and alcohol. With this cleaning, all old smells in the pipe are history. The pipe now smells clean and fresh.With the internals of the stummel now clean, I cleaned the external surface using a hard bristled toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I diligently scrubbed the crevices formed by the sandblast to remove all the dust and dirt that was embedded in between. With a soft bristled brass wired brush, I gently removed the overflowing lava from the rim top surface and rinsed it under running tap water. I wiped the stummel dry with an absorbent soft cotton cloth. I am very pleased with the way the stummel has cleaned up. The sandblast looks absolutely gorgeous. Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips, work it deep in to the sandblasts and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful sandblast patterns on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. With this, I keep the stummel aside and turn my attention to the stem repairs. While I was working on the stummel, Abha, my wife had in the meanwhile fished out the stem from the ‘Before and After Deoxidizer’ solution after a soak of about 6 hours. She rinsed it under running tap water to remove all the sticky solution that remained on the surface. She also let the water run through the stem airway and blew through it to dislodge the solution that remained inside and followed it up with a thorough cleaning with Mr. Magiclean sponge and 0000 grade steel wool. She finished her part in cleaning of the stem with a vigorous rubbing with a microfiber cloth. This removed nearly all of the oxidation from the stem surface, however, the deep tooth indentations at the button edge and in the bite zone still needed to be addressed. And as is her habit, she did not take any pictures of this process.

I began my part of stem repairs by sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of what little oxidation remained while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged areas, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces, and button edges and set it aside for curing over night. I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button. Once the fills had cured sufficiently, using a flat head needle file, I reshaped the button and roughly matched the fills with the rest of the stem surface. I followed it up by further sanding the stem with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers to achieve a perfect blending of the fills with the stem surface and a crisp button edge on either side of the stem. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 12000 girt pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite. The only issue that remains unaddressed at this stage is the issue of overturned stem. Being an adjustomatic stem, I fixed the stem in to the shank and tried to turn the stem to match the shank applying just adequate pressure. However, the stem would not budge. Not wanting to create further complications like broken stinger or wearing down of the threads, I unscrewed the stem from the shank. With the flame of a lighter, I heated the aluminum stinger to a point where the stem was just about able to rotate on the stinger. I reattached the stem to the shank while the stinger was still warm, and turned it till the alignment was perfect as I desired and set it aside to cool down. Actually the reasoning behind heating the stinger is that the gunk which accumulates on the stinger and further percolates inside is loosened, thus freeing the stem.

To complete the restoration, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and is now ready for its long second innings with me. I only wish it could share with me its life story of the past 50 plus years while I enjoy smoking my favorite Virginia blend in it!! P.S. I have to admit to the readers of this blog that I had completed this project in the month of May 2019 but I kept procrastinating on the write up. To be honest, I find doing the write up on any project more tedious and difficult than working on the project itself and Steve will bear with me on this fact. And the fact that English is not my first language further makes it all the more challenging. There are nine more pending write ups which I shall be tackling before I undertake any new restoration, God!! I don’t want to scare myself!! I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through and any inputs or advice is always welcome.