Blog by Steve Laug
I am continuing to work through Bob Kerr’s estate. The next pipe on the table is a GBD Popular 233 sand blast bulldog. I am cleaning up Bob’s estate for his family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection there were 19 Peterson’s pipes along with a bevy of Dunhills, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting.
I have been collecting and restoring GBD pipes for as long as I have worked on pipes. This one also has some beautiful mixed grain underneath the sandblast finish. It is quite beautiful! The pipe is stamped GBD over Popular on the left underside of the shank. It is stamped with GBD in an oval over Popular. Underneath that it is stamped Made in England followed by the shape number 233. It had a rich oxblood stain that does not look too bad. There was a thick cake in the bowl with remnants of tobacco stuck on the walls. There was a light lava overflow on the rim. The inner beveled edge of the rim and top are dirty and had a thick lava coat. The edges look pretty pristine under the grime. It was a beautiful pipe that was dirty and tired looking. The stem was oxidized and calcified toward the end. Again, surprisingly did not have the tooth marks that I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work on it. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the edges of the bowl. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. The edges look pretty good. Jeff took a photo of the side and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. You can see the beautiful grain. The finish was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank. The stamping was readable as you can see from the photos. On the left underside it read GBD in an oval over Popular. Under that it read Made In England over the shape number 233. On the left side of the saddle stem was an inlaid GBD roundel. Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter, scratching and oxidation on the stem surface and wear on the edges of the button. I turned to Pipedia’s article on GBD to see if I could find any information on the Popular. It was a line of GBD pipes that was new to me. The article gives a lot in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD).
I also turned to the reference page on the site for GBD shapes and numbers and found the one for the straight bulldog that I was working on (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD_Shapes/Numbers). I did a screen capture of the section.I had also worked on a similar pipe (2331) that was a smooth bulldog. I went back and reread the blog I had written on that restoration (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/gbd-popular-pipes/). I read about the pipe there but I had not found any information in that blog that helped to date the line.
I had exhausted the information available to me on the Popular line and was no closer to a date or time period for this pipe. I am guessing that it fits in with the late 50s to late 60s of Bob’s other pipes but I cannot know for sure. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
With over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate I took a batch of them to the states with me on a recent visit and left them with Jeff so he could help me out. Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what an amazing job Jeff did in the cleanup of the rim top. The rim top looks very good. The sandblast finish is very nice. The bowl looked very good. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the scratches and lack of tooth marks on the stem. You can also see the remaining oxidation on the stem surface.Since this is another pipe Bob’s estate I am sure that some of you have read at least some of the other restoration work that has been done on the previous pipes. You have also read what I have included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them (see photo to the left). Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words including one of Bob’s carvings. Once again I thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.
I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!
Now on to the rest of the restoration on this GBD Popular Straight Bulldog. Since Jeff had done such an amazing clean up job on the bowl it was very easy for me. There was some darkening on the inner beveled edge of the rim that needed to be addressed. I sanded it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove and minimize the damage to the bevel. I continued by starting to polish it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I wiped the rim edge down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust on the briar. The finished rim top looked much better than when I started.I decided to clean the briar with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Briar Cleaner to clean up the sanded surface of the briar and blend sanded rim edge. I rubbed it into the surface of the briar and let it sit for 10 minutes. I rinsed the bowl off with warm running water to remove the product and the grime. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good. I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up). I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I am excited to be on the homestretch of another one of Bob Kerr’s Estate pipes and I look forward to the final look when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and 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 sand blast finish really popped with buffing showing the contrast colours of reds and black stain on the finish. The polished black vulcanite stem went really well with the multi-faceted colours of the sand blast on the bowl. This old GBD Popular straight Bulldog was another fun pipe to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. It really has a shape that catches the eye. The combination of various stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is a comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I have a lot more to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.