Daily Archives: August 5, 2019

Giving a Second Chance to a Throw Away Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

This morning I was looking through my boxes of pipes to restore to find what I wanted to do next. I went through several options and finally settled on a bowl that I brought back from Idaho. It was a Custombilt style bowl that we were ready to pitch in the trash because it was in rough condition. Someone had cut off the shank with a saw – a real hack job that left the shank end rough and the surface not flat. The bowl had a thick cake in it and an overflow of lava on the rim top. The inside and outside edges were dirty but it was unclear if there was damage. There was no stamping on the shank or underside. The finish was shot and there was a lot of dirt and grime in the grooves of the finish. There was also some shiny coat on the smooth portions of the bowl that made wonder if it had been varnished at some time in its life. It was an unbelievable mess. But it was enough of a challenge that I wanted to take it on. Here are some photos of the bowl when I started. I went through my cans of stems and found one that fit the mortise. I would need to work on the face of the shank itself to make it round again but it showed a lot of promise. The stem was lightly oxidized and the bend was too much but otherwise I liked the look of the saddle stem.I put the stem on the bowl and took a few photos of the pipe. To me it showed a lot of promise. It would take a bit of work to get the fit just right but the pipe had a lot of potential.I heated the stem with a heat gun to straighten out the bend. Once the vulcanite had become flexible I took the majority of the bend out so that the angle of the stem matched the angle of the top of the bowl. I took photos of it at this point in the process. I am happy with the progress. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. I reamed it back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reaming set. Once the bowl was smooth I cleaned up the reaming on the walls and scraped the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage and smooth out the surface of the rim. There was a lot of damage to the rim top and the topping took care of the damage to the rim top. I scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush under running water. I rinsed off the grime and took the following photos of the bowl. I cleaned out the internals on the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with 99% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I worked until the shank and mortise was clean and smelled new.There were still some shiny spots on the shank and smooth portions of the bowl. I wiped them down with acetone on a cotton pad. I used the Dremel and sanding drum and 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the shank. I rounded it to match the diameter of the stem and also faced the shank end on the topping board. I was moving through this restoration while I was talking with my brother and totally forgot to take photos of this part of the process. I smoothed out the sanded and reshaped shank and stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with 1500-6000 grit pads. I sanded the top of the bowl at the same time to smooth out the scratches.

Once I had finished shaping the shank I decided to continue my ongoing experiment with the Briar Cleaner on this pipe. I scrubbed it with the product from Mark Hoover of Before & After Products. He says that the briar cleaner has the capacity of absorbing grime and dirt from the surface of briar. I rubbed the bowl down with it to see how it would work in this setting. (Just a note: 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 remaining sanding grit on the bowl. I let it sit on the pipe for about 5 minutes before I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the residue. I hand dried it with a microfiber cloth. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the surface on the bowl looked when I was finished. The various surfaces of the carved briar just begged for a variety of stains to give the pipe some real dimensionality. I heated the briar and gave it the first coat of stain – a Tan Fiebings. This tan has some red tints in the dried and fired coat. I applied the stain with a dauber and then flamed it with a Bic lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I wanted. I buffed the bowl with a clean microfiber cloth and gave the bowl a light shine. All of this was preliminary for the next stain coat. I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. The buffing really brought the reds to the surface of the briar. It helped me to make the next decision regarding the contrast stain. I touched up the rim top with a Mahogany stain pen to smooth out the finish. I then stain the entire bowl with the contrast stain coat using Watco’s Danish Oil with a Cherry stain. I rubbed it on with a soft cloth and let it sit for a while before buffing it off with a soft cloth. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I also buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to polishing the stem. I worked it over with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I buffed it on the buffing wheel with Red Tripoli to further remove the oxidation on the surface. I reworked it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it apart. With both parts of the pipe finished I put the pipe back together again and I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 pretty nicely. The rich finish and the interesting grain on this briar came alive with the buffing. The finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe looks almost like it came out of the factory like this. It is a well-proportioned, nicely grained shape that I would call Bent Apple. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This throw away, cut off bowl met a stem from another place and the pipe that came out is a beauty. The condition of the bowl showed that it was a great smoker so this new edition should also be one! I am not sure who made the bowl originally but from the looks of the finish it could very well be a Custombilt. I am not sure I will ever know with certainty but it has the look. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

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Cleaning up a Striking GBD Constitution Made in London England, 1978 Calabash


Blog by Dal Stanton

This beautiful GBD came into my collection from the eBay auction block from a seller located in Cocoa, Florida, USA.  When I saw it, I decided I wanted it, thinking I would add it to my own personal collection, but in the end I added it to the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection where Lowell saw it.  Lowell became the very happy steward of a striking Poker, what I called, Refreshing a ‘Faux’ Mastro de Paja Poker in the write-up.  It was not actually a Mastro de Paja, but the Poker was absolutely striking and Lowell has expressed his appreciation for this addition to his collection on several occasions.I’ve communicated with Lowell now and again on various FaceBook pipe man groups and when he messaged me about the GBD Constitution, it didn’t surprise me that it got his attention!  He commissioned it and I’m thankful for his patience as the GBD worked its way up the queue and now is on my worktable, and it benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Here are pictures of the GBD Constitution now on my worktable which I would call a briar Calabash shape. A very short history of GBD by Jerry Hannah is in a PDF file that Rebornpipes contributor, Al Jones, shared with me.  The PDF is entitled ‘GBD Pipe Shape & Model Listings’.

The company was founded in Paris France in the 19th century by Ganeval, Boundier and Donninger who were no longer associated with the company by the turn of the century. By the time they left the GBD name was well established and thus retained. In 1903 an additional factory was built in England and ran by Oppenheimer. The Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude in 1952. Since 1981 the majority of GBD pipes come from the English factory. At about that same time GBD merged with Comoys, since then all production for both GBD and Comoy comes from a single factory.

Based upon information I’ve gleaned from communications with Al, this GBD is like others that I’ve restored that straddle the transition when the Cadogan takeover happened.  From a previous communication I had with Al discussing the GBD Americana I previously restored (See LINK), he wrote:

Typically, the stamping used on pre-Cadogan pipes is the straight line COM, “London, England” stamp (see attached) combine with the brass rondell stem logo. Cadogan era pipes (made after 1981) have the round “Made in London” (with England under) COM, as shown on your pipe.  But, they typically have stamped stem logos. I see these pipes occasionally, and my assumption is they were made after the merger, until the brass rondell inventory was exhausted.  One common denominator on these pipes is a single letter.  I have no idea as to what it may mean, but M is frequently used.

These pipes also had many more finish names, like your Americana, that were not scene before. Comoy’s started doing the same thing, adding lines and letters just after the merger. I’ll look forward to seeing the restored pipe, it looks like a good candidate.

The GBD Constitution falls into the early 80s most likely since it still carries the brass rondel on the stem, which was used pre-Cadogan, but shows the post-Cadogan rounded MADE IN LONDON over ENGLAND.  Al’s guess is that they used the brass rondels until the inventory was eventually exhausted after 1981.  As Al said, GBD had many line names after 1981 and ‘Constitution’ is one of them.  The one on my worktable doesn’t have the rogue ‘M’ but a rogue ‘L’ – I’m not sure what it signifies either.  I’m open to input on this!  I could not find the shape number 1978 in any of the random lists of GBD shape charts that I have.  Even so, I’m calling this GBD a briar Calabash.

Looking at the pipe itself, the chamber has a light cake build-up with lava covering the rim.  The briar on this stummel is beautiful and needs cleaning from usual wear.  The acrylic stem is beautiful but has been scuffed up with some with minor tooth chatter.  It also shows interesting looking sub-surface imperfections just above the GBD brass rondell.  I call them imperfections – they look like cracks or bubbles.  Perhaps sanding will address these….

I begin the cleanup of the GBD by reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I use 3 of the 4 blade heads available and then switch to using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool.  I scrape the chamber walls further and then finish the chamber cake removal by sanding using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the remaining carbon dust.  After inspection of the chamber, I see no heating problems.  I move on. Moving directly to cleaning the external surface, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad, I begin work on the stummel surface as well as the thick lava on the rim.  I also use a bristled toothbrush and a brass bristled brush on the rim.  I then take the stummel to the sink and continue to clean using anti-oil dish liquid soap with the bristled toothbrush to scrub the rim and shank brushes through the mortise and airway.  After rinsing I go back to the table and take some pictures.  The rim cleaned up beautifully. Next, to further clean the mortise, I use isopropyl 95% with cotton buds and pipe cleaners.  It doesn’t take much and the buds and pipe cleaners are coming out clean.Looking now at the rim, it has a tight, classy internal bevel that looks good.  I use both 470 and 600 grade papers to freshen it with crisper lines.  I also lightly sand the rim with both grades of paper to freshen it.  It’s in good shape and the grain will be looking good over the rim. The stummel is generally in good shape, but inspecting it closely, as expected with normal wear, there are fine scratches scattered over the surface.  I take a picture of one such scratch below to understand what I see.To address these light scratches and to clean up the surface, I like using sanding sponges which are great for cleaning the surface but not very invasive.  I use 3 sponges, from a coarser and medium grade to a light grade to sponge sand the surface.  The results are good.Working now on the acrylic stem, I had a question about the kind of acrylic this GBD stem was.  Being in the early 80s I didn’t think it was Perspex, the earlier clear acrylic that GBD utilized.  If this is the earlier Perspex, then I would not use alcohol or isopropyl 95% to clean the airway which can craze or shatter the acrylic.  After shooting a quick question to Steve, I was confirmed by him in my use of isopropyl 95% to work on this 80s vintage acrylic stem.  It didn’t take a lot of work and pipe cleaners emerged clean.The bit has very mild tooth chatter, mainly on the lower side.I use 240 grade sanding paper first to sand out the tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit.I then use 470 and 600 grade papers to smooth the acrylic bit further.  I expand the sanding by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper followed by applying 000 grade steel wool.I press forward using the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads on the acrylic stem.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then with pads 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3, as with vulcanite stems, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil.  The rich, swirling honey colored acrylic looks great, but something is bothering me. I saw this acrylic imperfection around the brass rondel previously but decided to let it go because I thought the sanding I applied would work it out.  True, the coarser 240 grade sanding paper was only applied to the bit, not to this area.  The problem with these imperfections is that it’s not clear that they are on the surface of the acrylic.  I look at the area with a magnifying glass and probe lightly with a sharp dental probe to see if I can feel a surface disturbance and I don’t.  The reality is that I could detour here and sand and be left with the same problems because they are deeper in the acrylic.  How much sanding would it take and what is sacrificed in the rounding of the stem around the GBD roundel?  Sometimes being somewhat of a perfectionist is a problem – not being able to let go of an imperfection!  The following pictures shows the source of my consternation.I decide to do a compromise detour.  I suspect that the bubbling or cracking in the acrylic is deeper than sanding can address, but I will test the impact of sanding with a light strategic sanding of this area above the rondell using 240 grade paper.  I want to see if it makes a difference.  If not, I will move on.  The first picture shows some strategic sanding with 240 grade paper.Using the spittle approach to clean the area, I can see residual imperfections.  After sanding a little more, I come to the quick decision that sanding will not fully address these imperfections.  To remove them would require more sanding than this stem can muster.I’ll spare you the pictures,  that resulted in the final picture below after again applying 600 grade paper, 000 steel wool and 9 micromesh pads 1500 to 12000 and Obsidian Oil.  The result is that the detoured sanding may have reduced the presentation of the imperfections in the acrylic, but they are not fully removed.  As with life and our imperfections, they go with us!  I move on.The GBD Constitution stummel is waiting for attention.  To further clean the briar surface and coax out the beautiful vertical flame grain, I take the stummel through the full regimen of micromesh pads.  Sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 the process begins with wet sanding.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then with pads 6000 to 12000.  The pictures show the progression – I like what I see!  There is no doubt in my mind that this GBD Constitution Calabash comes off an upper shelf.  The grain emerges through the micromesh process with no shyness! Next, to bring out the subtle natural briar hues in this already striking grain, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel.  I apply it on my fingers and work the Balm into the briar grain.  It starts off having a thinner viscosity, like cream then gradually thickens into a waxier texture as it’s worked in.  After applying it thoroughly, I set it aside to allow the Balm to absorb and do its thing – the picture below captures this. I let it set for 20 minutes or so and then wipe the excess Balm off with a cloth and then buff up the stummel with a micromesh cloth.After reuniting the stem and stummel, I apply Blue Diamond to the pipe.  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set the speed to 40% full power and apply the compound.After finishing with the compound, I wipe the pipe with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust in preparation for applying the wax.  I change to another cotton cloth buffing wheel and keeping the speed the same, I apply Carnauba wax to the GBD Constitution Calabash.  After applying the wax, I hand buff the pipe with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.My, oh my!  This GBD Constitution Made in London England was eye catching before I began the restoration, now its simply amazing.  I can’t get over the grain on this stummel.  The flame of the grain is beautiful as it rises vertically toward the rim.  The gentle sweep of the Calabash as it transitions from bowl, to shank, to stem, and to button, is very nice and cradles well in the hand.  The only imperfection in this pipe are the small specks in the acrylic stem next to the rondell.  Notwithstanding, a very nice pipe to add to the collection!  Lowell commissioned the GBD Constitution Calabash benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  As the ‘commissioner’, Lowell will have the first opportunity to acquire the pipe from ThePipeSteward Store.  Thanks for joining me!

Replacing a Broken Tenon in a L’Anatra Square Shank Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

I received a phone call referral from another customer of City Cigar. I was at work so I gave him a quick call and once again after playing some phone tag we connected. I had Friday off so he stopped by with his pipe. It was a beautiful L’Anatra Smooth Pot shaped pipe with amazing grain all around the bowl. The pipe was in parts – he held the stem in one hand and the bowl in the other. He had dropped it and it had flown across the floor in his parking garage. There was a bit of road rash on the left side of the bowl and the tenon had snapped off in the shank. He had smoked maybe one or two bowls in the pipe before it broke so he was pretty heartbroken. I could see why he was shaken as it was a very beautiful pipe. There was still unsmoked tobacco in the bowl. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank with an egg at the bowl shank junction. That was followed by “L’Anatra (over) dalle Uova d’Oro”. On the underside of the shank it was stamped Hand Made in Italy. There was some darkening on the back top side of the rim. The Lucite stem was in excellent condition with just a little tooth chatter on both sides near the button. There was a golden duck head on the top of the stem that would make things interesting. I needed to pull the broken tenon from the shank and drill out the stem and add a new tenon. It was a small pipe so the tenon would take work to get the right diameter. I took a few photos of the pipe in pieces to show what I was dealing with. I tried to pull out the tenon in my usual way – a screw in the airway and wiggling it but it was stuck and would not come out. I put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes and when I took it out I screwed the screw into the airway in the broken tenon and wiggled it free of the shank (a side benefit of the freezer was that as the bowl warmed up I was able to wipe the blackening away from the rim top and it looked new).I took a photo of the bowl side to show the “road rash” on the left side down low. I have circled the damaged area in red to make it easily identifiable. I decided to steam it out. I heated a butter knife over the gas stove and put a wet cloth on the marks and applied the hot knife to the cloth. The steam that was generated helped to raise the dents in the briar. I was not able to take all of them out of the briar but a few were left behind. I really have come to appreciate Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm for its restorative properties with dry briar. I use it on virtually every pipe that I work on. I worked it into finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it as I usually do at this point in the process. 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. I went through my box of tenons and found one that would fit once I had reduced the diameter. The photo below shows the original tenon while the upper one shows it after I have shaped and reduced it. I used the PIMO tenon cutting tool to reduce the tenon as far as I could with the adjustments available. I finished the reduction with a Dremel and sanding drum. It took work to get it the right diameter. I also cut the length to match the depth of the mortise and to make sure I had enough length to glue into the drilled stem. (I of course was on a roll and forgot to take photos of the process of shaping the tenon.)I drilled out the end of stem as well. This was a touchier job as there was the Duck head on the topside of the stem. I would need to be careful of the diameter of the drill bit so that I would not damage the pin that held the duck in place. I started with a drill bit a little larger than the air way. I went through 5 other bit until the diameter was big enough for the newly shaped tenon end.I took a photo of the drilled airway and the tenon before I glued it in place. I put super glue on the tenon and swabbed it around the entire end. I pressed it in place in the stem. I took photos of the newly installed tenon. There was quite a bit of tooth chatter on the top and underside ahead of the button. Though in talking to the client I did not mention cleaning up the stem to me it is just part of the process. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad and gave it a final coat and the 12000 grit pad and set it aside to dry. I put the newly repaired stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the stem until there was a rich shine. This Italian Hand Made “L’Anatra (over) dalle Uova d’Oro” has a classic Italian shape and a rich finish that highlights the amazing grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the grain just popped. The black Lucite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is actually quite stunning. It is a beautifully grained pipe that fits well in the hand and sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be giving the owner a call to let him know it is ready for pickup. Thanks for walking through the repair on the stem with me as it was a pleasure to work on.