Daily Archives: October 21, 2019

Redeeming a James Upshall P Grade Silver Banded Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past two weeks I was traveling in Alberta with my brother Jeff and his wife, Sherry. In between work appointments and presentations we took some time to visit local antique shops and malls. We found quite a few pipes. In a small Antique Shop in Lethbridge we found a few interesting pipes. The third of the pipes that I have chosen to work on from that find is a beautifully straight grained Dublin. The taper stem has a JU in an oval stamped logo on the left side. The pipe was dirty and caked when we picked it up. The rim top had a little lava and some small scratches in the edges of the bowl. The bowl had a thick cake in it that was hard and dense. The exterior of the bowl and shank are very dirty with grime and oils from prolonged use. It was also dull and lifeless. The stamping on the left side of the shank was readable and read James Upshall in an oval. To the left of that stamping there was an upper case “P” grade stamp. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Tilshead over England over Made by Hand. The vulcanite stem was had tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and the underside near the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started the cleanup. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. The rim top had some lava build up on the edge and there were some small nicks on the inner edge. There was a thick cake in the bowl. Other than being so dirty it appeared to be in great condition. The silver band on the shank is tarnished. The stem was dirty and there was tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button and on the button surface itself. The stem was lightly oxidized.I took a photo to capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. The photo shows the stamping “P” followed by James Upshall in an oval. The stamping on the right side says Tilshead over England over Made by Hand.  The third photo below shows the JU Oval stamp on the left side of the stem.I wanted to educate myself about the Upshall brand so I turned first to one of my go to sites – Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-j1.html). I have included a screen capture of the section on the site about Upshall pipes. The pipe I am working on it stamped exactly like the first one in the photo that follows.I turned then to Pipedia to garner some more details about the brand and Barry Jones I have included the link and various sections from that article (https://pipedia.org/wiki/James_Upshall). I quote:

…All our pipes are individually created by a team of highly skilled artisans, headed by Mr. Barry Jones, who is widely regarded as one of the best pipe carvers in the world, with more than 50 years experience in pipe making.

Mr. Jones learned his skill from the age of 15 in London and was personally guided by Mr. Charatan of Charatan Pipe Co., pipe makers to royalty since 1863. For years he was responsible for creating the majority of the famous Charatan shapes and the high standard of quality…

I quote from further down in the article:

…James Upshall gives a unique guarantee on each pipe leaving the workshop. No pipe bearing the name of James Upshall is marred by fillings and putty. Scarcity of good quality plateau briar and the time consumed turning by hand, limit our production, but we will always strive to fulfill the growing demand for James Upshall, quality and tradition at its best…

…As always the James Upshall pipe has been sold in the most prestigious outlets around the world and has been greatly appreciated by royalty, lords and celebrities alike. King Hussein of Jordan, Anwar Sadat, Bing Crosby, Yul Brynner and more recently Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Wagner and Tom Selleck to name but a few of the famous names who have helped to cement James Upshalls’ reputation as the Rolls Royce of Pipes.

Further down in the article there is a section on Grading and Sizing of James Upshall Pipes. I have quoted that entire section below. It helps to place the “P” grade stamp on the pipe that I am working. The information comes directly from the James Upshall website.

Grading & Sizing Information

James Upshall pipes are graded by various finishes, i.e. bark, sandblast, black dress and smooth etc. Then by cross grain, flame grain, straight grain and, last but not least, the perfect high grade, which consists of dense straight grain to the bowl and shank. The latter being extremely rare. In addition, the price varies according to group size, i.e. from 3-4-5-6 cm high approximately Extra Large. We also have the Empire Series which are basically the giant size, individually hand crafted pipes which come in all finishes and categories of grain. All our pipes are individually hand carved from the highest quality, naturally dried Greek briar. In order to simplify our grading system, let me divide our pipes into 4 basic categories.

  • It begins with the Tilshead pipe, which smokes every bit as good as the James Upshall but has a slight imperfection in the briar. In the same category price wise you will find the James Upshall Bark and Sandblast finish pipes, which fill and smoke as well as the high grades.
  • In this category we have the best “root quality” which means that the grain is either cross, flame or straight, which is very much apparent through the transparent differing color finishes. This group will qualify as the “S”- Mahogany Red, “A” – Chestnut Tan and “P” – Walnut. The latter having the straighter grain.
  • Here you have only straight grain, high grade pipes, which run from the “B”, “G”, “E”, “X” and “XX”. The latter will be the supreme high grade. Considering the straightness of the grain the latter category is also the rarest. Usually no more than 1% of the production will qualify.
  • Lastly, we have the Empire Series. These are basically Limited Edition gigantic individually hand crafted pieces, which again are extremely rare due to the scarcity of large, superior briar blocks.

We also offer a selection of finely engineered silver and gold banding for pipes. Bands are available in silver, 9ct and 18ct gold, the width can be 6mm or 10mm and they can be fitted flush or on the surface. Bands are finished in plain, engine turned with barley or line patterns and also in gold with large hallmarks.

I am also including a copy of an article from the Pipedia site about the brand and the maker provided by Doug Valitchka (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:James_Upshall.jpg).

Barry Jones in the photo, and an interesting article, courtesy Doug Valitchka

While we were traveling I decided to do a bit of work on some of the pipes that we had found. This was the third one that I worked on. I scraped the inside of the bowl with a sharp knife. I scraped the tars and lava off the top of the rim with the same knife. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with warm water and Dawn Dish Soap to remove the buildup of tars and grime around the bowl and on the rim top. I rinsed it well and wiped the bowl down with a clean paper towel to polish the finish on the bowl. The pictures that follow show the condition of the pipe after it had been scrubbed. When I got it home I would scrub the exterior and the interior some more. When I returned from my trip I cleaned the tarnished silver with silver polish and a jeweler’s cloth. I wanted to get it cleaned off to see if there were any stampings on the silver. It was stamped STERLING on top of the band which correlates to the not in the article from Pipedia where Upshall used Sterling Silver bands on some of their pipes.I followed up on my initial cleaning of the bowl and shank. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the remnants of the cake in the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel to smooth out the inside walls of the bowl.I scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank, the metal mortise and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding the bowl walls and rim top with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to wipe of the dust. I scrubbed the bowl down with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Briar Cleaner. I rubbed it into the surface of the briar, and as Mark wrote me it lifted the grime and dirt out of the briar. I rinsed the cleaner off the bowl with warm running water and dried it with a soft cloth. The photos below show the cleaned briar… Look at the grain on that pipe! I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface 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 photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter with 220 grit sand paper and started to polish it with a folded piece of 400 wet dry sandpaper. Once it was finished it began to shine. I used some Antique Gold Rub’n Buff to restore the stamping on the left side of the stem. I pressed it into the indentations on the stamp with a tooth pick. I set it aside to dry and let it sit for a few minutes. Once it had cured I rubbed it off with a cotton pad and polished it with micromesh sanding pads.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. This is a beautifully grained Upshall Dublin with a black tapered vulcanite stem. It has a great look and feel. The shape is very tactile and is a beauty. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl 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 grain on the bowl came alive with the buffing. The rich contrasting browns works well with the polished vulcanite stem. The finished pipe has a rich look that is quite catching. Have a look at it with the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over the next of the finds of Jeff and my Alberta pipe hunt. It is a beautiful straight grain Hand Made Dublin with a Sterling Silver band and vulcanite stem.

An Unexpected Button Rebuild Recommissioning a French Butz Choquin Festival of St Claude 1305


Blog by Dal Stanton

I remember well where I found this very nice looking Butz Choquin Festival.  Living in Bulgaria, I have had the opportunity to visit our neighbor to the south several time – Greece.  We were with a group of interns who were participating in our summer training program in Sofia which included a field trip to visit the ancient city of Athens.  It is an amazing city with the Parthenon towering over the city set atop the acropolis right next to Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul made his historic stand arguing with the Greek philosophers.  Since I had seen these sites several times before, while the group of interns went hiking in that direction, I went in another toward the Ministirski area to do some pipe picking – one of my favorite pastimes!

This area has many secondhand stores and antique shops with hidden treasures that lurk in the most unexpected places – I couldn’t pass up this opportunity!  There happened to be a Flea Market in session near the ancient meat market area and it was there that I found the BC Festival now on my worktable.  I spied a cluster of pipes amidst coins, bracelets and knock-off sunglasses.  The lady vendor had some very nice pipes but the asking prices started too close to the stratosphere and my pocketbook was a bit closer to earth!  I decided to focus my attention on the French BC Festival.  The shape number is 1305 which pointed to the very shapely Bent Billiard I was focused on.  What attracted me was the very full bowl/shank transition continuing to a full stem bending toward the zenith.  It also had a very solid feel in the palm – one of those pipe whisperer moments – “Take me home!” After some serious negotiating, I think I got a good deal and the BC Festival came home with me and has been waiting for a new steward in my online collection, ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’. This is where a few months later, Michael from Kansas, wrote asking about the BC Festival.  After we communicated a bit, he commissioned the BC and he wrote this:

Sounds good! I saw this post on Facebook in the Gentlemen’s Pipe Club and was interested. I was taken by your work and wanted to know more.  I’m from the states (Kansas to be exact). Smack dab in the middle. Currently it’s 17 degrees out and a nice pipe sounds pretty tasty.  I’m looking forward to seeing this beauty restored.

I appreciated Michael’s words and I also appreciate his patience!  The Butz Choquin Festival he commissioned benefits our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  The attractive BC is now on my worktable and I take more pictures for a closer look at this Athens find: The nomenclature is stamped on the left flank of the shank and reads in fancy cursive, ‘Butz Choquin’ [over] ‘Festival’.  The right shank side is stamped with a curved ST. CLAUDE [over] FRANCE [over] 1305.  A very thin, ghosted ‘BC’ is stamped on the left side of the stem.I’ve had the opportunity to restore several pipes from the center of French pipe making, St. Claude.  As a refresher, Pipedia provides this information about the origins of Butz Choquin:

Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz started out as a tobacconist. This enterprise was prosperous; he had several employees. Among those, there was a certain Gustave Butz who was its first workman and who became his son-in-law by marrying Choquin’s daughter Marie in 1858.  In 1858 Jean-Baptiste Choquin created, in collaboration with Gustave Butz, the Choquin pipe. This bent pipe with a flat-bottomed bowl was finished with an albatross-bone mouthpiece, fixed with silver rings.  In 1858, still in Metz, Gustave Butz built an establishment for the manufacture of the Choquin pipe which took the name of [Butz-Chochin]. In 1951, the Berrod-Regad company bought the trademark, continuing manufacture until 2002. Departing from Metz, the workshop was relocated to Saint-Claude, then also called ‘the world capital of the briar pipe,’ under the Berrod-Regad group. The Berrod-Regad group would go on to completely rebuild the network of representatives until finally entering the export market in 1960 and has since won several prizes, as well as the Gold Cup of French good taste.

In a few years, the brand’s collection increased from ten to seventy series. 135 years after it was founded, the pipe is still well-known not only in France but throughout the world. In 2002, the Berrod family, wishing to preserve manufacture of pipes in Saint-Claude, handed over the company to Fabien Guichon, a native of the area, who will continue to develop the brand during the 21st century.

The condition of the Festival on my worktable is generally good.  The chamber is clean, and I will soon find out whether the cleaning of the chamber is true also of the internals.  The external briar surface appears only to need a sprucing up, but with a closer look, I find several pockets and dents over the surface.  This will require some work to fill the pockets and to try raising the dents. I take a few pictures to show these challenges. The grain is very nice and expressive – this guy will clean up nicely.  The stem shows some oxidation and the bit has distinct biting compressions on the upper and lower bit.  This will be addressed. To begin the recommissioning this commissioned Butz-Choquin Festival, I address the oxidation issues of the stem using Before & After Deoxidizer.  I clean several stems of other pipes in the queue at the same time.  To preserve the Deoxidizer solution, I first run pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the stem’s airway to clean it.  Unfortunately, when I inserted a pipe cleaner into the BC’s airway, I discover it is blocked.  By measuring the pipe cleaners’ progress, the blockage is toward the button.  I try blowing through the airway and it is rock-solid blocked.  Since, I’m in the conveyer line of cleaning, I move forward with the deoxidation process first.After soaking in the B&A Deoxidizer for several hours, I fish out the BC’s stem and wipe it down to remove raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%. I apply paraffin oil to begin rejuvenating the vulcanite stem and I set it aside to absorb.Before moving on, I need to figure out how to clear the airway of the blockage.  From the button, the blockage begins about 1/2 inch from the end of the stem.  When reaching with a pipe cleaner from the tenon side and measuring, the blockage appears to be about a 1/4 inch of blockage. I use the straightest dental probes I have and reach into the stem airway to extract the blockage.  The dental probes both have spurs on the topside of the metal points which prove useful in hooking and pulling out debris. What I start pulling out with the probes appears to be paper, of course shredded at this point.  I have no idea how paper would be lodged in the stem.  This method has some success, but soon the probes’ effectiveness is nullified by the bend in the stem. After some time of using the probe and realizing diminishing returns, I decide to straighten the stem to reduce the pressure in the bend.  I heated the stem with the hot air gun to do this.  As the vulcanite heats, I’m able to unbend the stem.  What I forgot to picture was the use of a drill bit that fit into the airway from the mortise side.  As I heat the vulcanite and as it unbent, I wedged the drill bit further into the airway.  I did this to keep the airway straight and it works well.  The downside was that the drill bit was not long enough to do the full job.With the stem straightened, I’m able to continue with some success the use of the dental probes. I use a long stiff wire to push from the tenon side, and then dig more with the dental probes from the button side.  The progress is slow.Progress was slow but unfortunately, overzealousness reaching with the dental probe cracked the button.  Ugh!  What I failed to do is to take into consideration the gradually expanding shaft of the probe that pushed outwardly on the slot and the rest is history.  Doing repairs on a pipe one is restoring is one thing.  Creating more problems for a restoration is not what we aim for!  I take a few closeups of the cracks – not a pretty picture!  I decide to continue carefully digging out the blockage.  Eventually, the paper, or whatever, is extricated and I’m able to run a pipe cleaner through.  This took a lot of time and unfortunately, friendly fire damage to the button to open the airway must now be addressed.I proceed with the stem repairs.  Before addressing the button damage – cracks and bite compressions, I re-bend the stem to restore it to the original profile.  Again, after placing a pipe cleaner through the stem to protect the airway integrity, I heat the vulcanite stem with the hot air gun, but I first focus on heating and bending the thicker section of the stem.  If I heat the whole stem at once to make one bend, the thinner part of the stem, toward the button, will accept the bend much easier and this will create a more severe end bend appearance rather than a gentle curve throughout. When the thicker portion of the stem becomes supple and willing to be shaped, I place it over a miniature cue ball #15 and gently shape the fat part of the stem.   I hold it in position over the ball for a few minutes allowing the vulcanite to cool and firm its position.  Then, holding the bend in place I take it to the sink to cool the rubber further under cool tap water.   I forgot to picture the current state of the stem’s orientation, but in the picture below you can see that the end of the stem is still shooting out straight without any bend.With the fat part of the stem’s bend solidified, I then take the stem back to the hot air gun heating the thinner section which softens much more rapidly.  When supple, I again take it to #15 and finish the bend.  My aim is to have the end of the stem’s trajectory parallel with the plane of the rim.  The finished bend looks good.  I move on.Now, I take another close look at the cracks and button biting problems.  Normally, at this point I would attempt to raise and expand the compressed vulcanite using the flame method – painting the vulcanite with the flame of a Bic lighter.  With the cracks, and a desire to salvage the stem as it is without the whole button cracking off, I also want to apply CA glue to weld the cracks together.  The question in my mind is concerning the composition of the CA glue.  If I apply CA glue now, before applying the heating method, will the composition of the CA glue be a problem if I then heat it?  If I use the flame first and then glue it, will the ‘new’ contour of the bit hinder gluing cleanly…  Or, should I forgo using the flame method?  Questions….Using regular clear CA glue, I apply a line of glue over the cracks.  I stress flex the cracked button a small amount allowing the thinner glue to seep into the cracks more efficiently.  My hope is that this will form a solid weld.After the clear CA glue cures, I go to work on the upper button repair.  I use a flat needle file to redefine the button lip and follow by sanding with 240 grade paper.  The crack is still visible at this point, but the repair appears to be solid.Flipping over to the lower bit, it has serious bite compressions and the button lip has been chewed.  I take a starting picture before using the flame technique to raise the compressed vulcanite.  I use a Bic lighter to paint the area with flame and as the vulcanite heats it expands and reclaims the original position of the stem – or at least in theory.After painting with the flame, there isn’t a substantive change in the compressions.  Using a medium thick black CA glue, I apply glue to the bit filling the compressed areas.  I also apply the glue to the button lip edge and put the stem aside for the glue to cure.With so much attention drawn to the challenges of the stem – obstruction, cracked button to repair and compressions, it’s been awhile since the stummel was in view.  Returning now to the regular rhythm of the restoration, with the stem put to the side, I now turn to cleaning the stummel.  There is no cake build up in the chamber and to clean the briar I use a piece of 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber.Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, I scrub the stummel using cotton pads.  The gunk on the rim comes off easily.  Then, taking the stummel to the sink, I rinse it with warm tap water.  Continuing the cleaning in the mortise and airway, I use shank brushes with a bit of anti-oil dish soap and scrub the internals.  After a thorough rinsing, I bring the stummel back to the worktable.I continue the internal cleaning using pipe cleaners, cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  A dental spoon assists in scraping oils and tar build-up off the sides of the mortise.  After some effort, the pipe cleaners and buds start to lighten, and I call it clean for now.  I’ll continue later with a kosher salt and alcohol soak to clean further.Looking at the external briar surface, I identified earlier a couple pits that need filling.  I use a dental probe to clean out the pits before filling. After wiping the surface with alcohol to clean, I go to work mixing briar dust and BSI Extra Thick CA Glue.  I do the mixing on an index card after covering a patch with scotch tape.  I use the tape to keep the moisture of the glue from being absorbed into the card stock. After putting a small mound of briar dust on the tape, I add a small puddle of CA glue next to it.  Using the toothpick as my stirrer and trowel, I pull small amounts of the briar dust into the puddle and stir with the toothpick as I go.  After the putty begins to thicken – about the consistency of molasses, I trowel the putty with the toothpick to fill the pits. The end of the toothpick is used to knead the putty before it begins to harden which hopefully minimizes air bubbles from being trapped.   I put the stummel aside for some hours for the putty patches to cure. The black CA glue filling the lower bit tooth compressions has cured.Using a flat needle file, I file carefully and gently remove the excess patch material and to form the button lip.After the file brings the patch material down to the stem surface, I sand using 240 grade paper to remove more patch material and to smooth.  I like the results.There are ripple marks in the vulcanite on the lower side at the bend.  These ripples developed when I re-bent the stem after clearing the airway obstruction.  I expand the sanding to smooth this area as well as the upper side of the stem. First, 240 grade paper is employed then following with 470 grade over the entire stem. Finally, I wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper.  Throughout the sanding process, I’ve avoided sanding the ‘BC’ stamping on the stem, which is already ghosting.  I follow the 600 grade paper with 0000 steel wool over the entire stem.  The repairs on the upper and lower bit are looking good.  I’m hopeful!The slot is rough.  A pointed, rounded needle file does a good job smoothing the slot edges.  Following the file, 240 grade paper finishes the edges well.The briar putty filling the pits on the stummel have cured.  Before sanding these, earlier, along with the pits, one dent was detected on the fore of the stummel.  I take another look at it before powering my wife’s iron.  Wood is porous and has sponge-like characteristics when exposed to heat and moisture.  To draw out the dent, I use the heat of the iron while pressing it on a wetted cloth against the dent – I use a cotton handkerchief, to ‘steam’ the dent.  I have been amazed how this has helped with previous restorations.  I take a close-up to show the dent with the help of the arrows.  I’ll use this picture to compare with the ‘after’ steaming picture. The procedure worked. The dent is gone as hoped!  Moving on.Next, using a flat needle file and following with 240 grade sanding paper, I go to work removing the excess briar putty on the 3 patches.  For each, I first apply the file over the patches by filing them down very close to the briar surface without slipping off the patches and causing collateral damage to the surrounding briar.  I then use 240 paper to bring the patch flush with the briar surface.  The pictures show the progress with each patch. The rim cleaned up nicely before but a residual ring of darkened briar on the internal edge of the rim from mild charring.Using 240 sanding paper, I gently sand the rim and I go with the slight internal beveling to remove the darkened briar.  I follow the 240 sanding with a quick 600 grit sanding.  The results look good.  The sanding does not impact the patina.To clean the briar surface further of minor nicks and scratching, I employ 3 sanding sponges – coarse, medium and light grade sponges.  I like using sanding sponges as they are gentler and are not as invasive as regular sanding papers.  After using each in succession, the briar surface looks good and the grain is emerging with nice bird’s eye patterns.From the sanding sponges, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is used by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The pictures show the progression. Before proceeding further with the external briar surface conditioning, the internal cleaning is continued using the kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This not only cleans the internal briar more but freshens the pipe for the new steward.  Using a cotton ball, I pull and twist the cotton to form a wick to insert into the mortise and airway.  This ‘wick’ serves to draw the oils and tars out of the internal walls.I use a stiff piece of hanger wire to help guide the wick down through the airway. After the wick is in place, I fill the bowl with kosher salt which has no after taste and place the stummel in an egg carton for stability.  Next, using a large eye dropper, the bowl is filled with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes when the alcohol has been absorbed, the bowl is topped off once more.  I put the stummel aside for several hours allowing the soak to do its thing.With the stummel on the sidelines, attention is turned to the stem to apply the full regimen of micromesh pads.  Before starting, to guard against over-zealousness in sanding, a small piece of masking tape is cut and covers the ghosted ‘BC’ stem stamping.  The Butz Choquin stamp is on its last legs and I do not wish to add to its deteriorated condition!  Next, using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem.  Following this, using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000, I dry sand.  Between each set of three pads Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem which aids in rejuvenating the vulcanite. After several hours, the kosher salt and alcohol soak resulted in soiled salt and wick.  I toss the expended salt in the waste and wipe the chamber with a paper towel as well as blow through the mortise to remove salt crystals.  To make sure the internals are clean, I run a few more cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the mortise and airway and all looks good.  Moving on.Next, with the cleaning complete, Before & After Restoration Balm is applied to the stummel by putting some on my fingers and rubbing it in to the briar surface.  I like the Balm because it brings out the subtle hues of the natural briar.  The Balm begins with a cream-like consistency and gradually thickens as it is massaged into the briar.  After applying the Balm, the stummel is set aside for about 15 or 20 minutes while the Balm is absorbed.  I take a picture during this state.  Following this, using a cloth I wipe the excess Balm away and buff the stummel with a microfiber cloth.  With the B&A Restoration process completed, I reunite Butz Choquin Festival stem and stummel and after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, setting speed at 40% of full power, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the pipe.  When I finish, using a felt cloth I buff the pipe to remove the compound dust before applying the wax.  After applying the Blue Diamond, I take a closer look at the stem repair on the button and I’m not satisfied with what I’m seeing.  The button lip where the crack was repaired is not smooth.  I use a dental probe to test the seam of the repair and the piece of the button I tried to salvage pops off.  Well, the button repair was not successful and I’m glad that I discover this before shipping it off to a new steward!  I take a picture to show the break and new challenge.My second approach to repairing this button will be to mix activated charcoal and Extra Thick CA glue to form a patch material.  I first clean the area with alcohol then form an insert made from index card stock.  I form a cone with a pipe cleaner inserted through it.  The end of the cone is covered with scotch tape and I coat it with a small amount of petroleum jelly to prevent sticking with the CA glue.  The cone inserts into the open slot with the pipe cleaner in the airway.Next, I mix activated charcoal and Extra Thick CA glue.  I first cover a piece of index card with scotch tape so that the glue is not absorbed into the card stock.  After putting a small mound of charcoal on the card, I then put a small puddle of CA glue next to the charcoal.  Using a toothpick, I pull charcoal dust into the glue and mix as I go.  To thicken the patch material, I draw more charcoal into the mixture.  When it is about the thickness of molasses, I trowel the patch material with the toothpick and apply it to the bit. I fill the slot cavity and cover the entire button lip.  I do this to provide the foundation for filing and shaping a new button.  After applying the patch material, I set the stem aside, turn out the light and leave it to cure through the night.The next morning, with a little jiggling, the card stock wedge comes out of the slot.The view toward the ‘raw’ end of the stem.Using a flat needle file, the excess is first removed from the end of the stem and then the file is used to shape the rebuilt button.  The change in the work surface reveals that I’m enjoying a sunny day on our 10th floor balcony which I call my ‘Man Cave’.  First a picture of me enjoying a bowl while I work!  After filing to shape the button and slot, I use 240 grade paper to smooth further and remove excess patch material.After the 240 paper, I use in succession, 470, 600 and 000 steel wool to work on the surface. As I sand and smooth the area, the pits emerge which is irritating! I continue to try to figure out how to minimize the air pockets that always emerge after using the CA glue and activated charcoal patch pictured below. To remedy this, I use a regular, thin CA glue to fill the pits by painting the area with a thin film of glue using a toothpick.  After applying the CA glue, I put the stem aside to cure. To remove the excess CA glue, in succession I apply 470, 600 grade papers and 000 steel wool.Next, as before, I apply to the bit area the full 9 micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 by first wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 and dry sanding from 3200 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil between each set of three.I again apply Blue Diamond compound to the button and bit.  I shine up the stinger that came with the pipe with steel wool and replace it in the tenon.  After reuniting stem and stummel and changing the buffing wheel again to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, maintaining the same speed, I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to stem and stummel.  To complete the restoration, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

This BC Festival Bent Billiard is a beautiful pipe.  The full Bent Billiard shape has a nice balance and settles well in the hand.  The grain is appealing with a serious patch of bird’s eye covering much of the bowl.  The challenges with the stem obstruction, leading to a friendly fire cracked button was not in the plan!  Yet, the repair is completed, and this French Butz Choquin Festival is ready for a new steward.  Michael will have the first opportunity to secure the BC Festival from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting our work here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

Restoring my Inherited Huge KBB Yello-bole “Imperial” # 68c


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The next pipe on my work table had all the traits/ signs of it being used by my grand old man; it was huge, it was solid with a nice hand fill, it was heavily caked with severe signs of being knocked around the rim edges, blocked shank and stem airways and the likes!! From the number of pipes that I have inherited from him, it appears that regular pipe cleaning and maintenance was an alien concept to him and whence a pipe fouled up, he just chucked it and got a new one- a very simple concept, to say the least!

The pipe that I decided to work on is a large full bent billiards with a P-lip stem. It is stamped on the left side of the shank as “YELLO-BOLE” over “REG. U.S. PAT. OFF” (Registered U.S. Patent Office) in block capital letters over “Imperial” in cursive script over “CURED WITH REAL HONEY”. To the left of these stampings towards the bowl, KBB is stamped in the clover leaf. The right of the shank bears the stamp of “ALGERIAN BRUYERE” over shape code “68C”. The shank end is adorned with a ferrule that bears the stamping of K B & B in a clover leaf over “NICKLE PLATED”. The stem bears the Yello-Bole logo in bright yellow circle. All the stampings are crisp and clear and is definitely surprising that it has survived over all these years!! Researching a pipe is always an enriching learning and I look forward to the same on every pipe that I work. Having worked on a few Kaywoodies and also on Yello-Bole, I knew about the connection between the two. However, what intrigued me during the research is that both the brands also have shared the shape codes along the way, albeit at different points in time. Given below are extracts of the most relevant details from pipedia.com, specifically pertaining to this pipe on my work table, wherein I have highlighted information which merits attention:-

Tips for Dating Yello-Bole Pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Yello-Bole#Tips_for_Dating_Yello-Bole_Pipes)

  • KBB stamped in the clover leaf indicates it was made in 1955 or earlier as they stopped this stamping after being acquired by M. Frank.
  • Pipes from 1933-1936 they were stamped “Honey Cured Briar”
  • Post 1936 pipes were stamped “Cured with Real Honey”
  • Pipe stems stamped with the propeller logo were made in the 1930’s or 1940’s – no propellers were used after the 1940’s.
  • Yello-Bole used a 4 digit code stamped on the pipe in the 1930’s.
  • Pipes with the Yello-Bole circle stamped on the shank it were made in the 1930’s, this stopped after 1939.
  • Pipes stamped BRUYERE rather than BRIAR it was made in the 1930’s.

Thus, from the above tips it is evident that I am dealing with a pipe from the 1930s. However, when I visited the pipedia.com page on Collector’s Guide on Kaywoodie (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Collector%27s_Guide_to_Kaywoodie_Pipes#HINTS_ON_COLLECTING.2C_DATING_AND_PRICING_KAYWOODIES), under the heading 1947 Kaywoodie Shape Numbers and Descriptions”, I found the shape # 68C with the description as Extra Large Billiard, Full Bent which perfectly matched with the size and shape of the pipe on my work table.

Also on the same page, there is a picture of an advertisement flyer for CHESTERFIELD KAYWOODIE from 1947. The similarities between this Kaywoodie (read P-lip stem, large sump, massive size and shape) and the Yello-Bole that I am working on is striking.

Thus, the pipe that I am working on is from 1930s, specifically after 1936 as per the stampings seen on the pipe, however, the shape number and description matches with the Kaywoodie catalogue from 1947. Thus it is an interesting conflict as Yello- Bole was designed as an outlet for lower grade briars not used in Kaywoodie production, but the shape code and Chesterfield similarities were incorporated in Yello-Bole earlier than its introduction in Kaywoodie pipes!! I would be happy if anyone reader can clarify this conflict.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The chamber is heavily caked with lava overflow on the rim top surface. The inner edge of the rim is severely damaged. Nicks and dings are also seen along the outer rim edge and chamber appears out of round. Chamber has strong odors of sweet smelling tobaccos. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon once the cake has been reamed down to the bare briar, but going by the solid feel of the external surface, I do not foresee any serious issues/ surprises with the chamber walls. The stummel surface is covered in dust, dirt and grime of years of use and uncared for storage for the last 45 years when my grandfather quit smoking in the late 1970s. Oils and tars have overflowed over the stummel and have attracted dust giving a dull and lackluster appearance to the stummel. A number of minor dents and scratches are seen over the stummel, notably towards the front, foot and the bottom of the shank. Through all the dirt, some really stunning straight and bird’s eye grains are waiting to be exposed. The mortise is, well mildly put, clogged to hell and back!! That the sump is overflowing and overfilled with accumulated gunk is a fact that could be seen with the naked eyes. Believe you me readers, the pipe smells are too strong. The large bent vulcanite stem exudes high quality and is heavily oxidized. The tenon is covered in a very thick coat of dried gunk and blobs of accumulated dried tars are seen inside the wide tenon opening. This also indicates the extreme clogging that can be expected in the expanded portion of the stem and in the stem air way. The lower button edge has a deep tooth indentation and tooth chatter in the bite zone. The button edge on the upper surface has worn down and would need to be sharpened. The lower end of the stem at the tenon end which enters the mortise shows severe scratch marks and chipped surface, the result of rubbing against the sharp edges of the ferrule at the shank end. INITIAL CLEANING BY ABHA…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and these have now reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothed out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.

Unfortunately, this time around, she could not clean the stem as it was too large to fit in to the container of the stem deoxidizer solution.

ONCE THE PIPE IS ON MY WORK TABLE…
The chamber is massive, that is what I noticed first when I got the cleaned up pipe on my work table. The wall of the chamber shows insignificant beginnings of heat fissure on the left and back of the chamber walls. Though insignificant now, if not addressed at this stage, these heat fissures may further lead to burn outs. I need to address this issue. The rim top surface is uneven and pock marked with dents and dings. The inner edge is severely damaged with dents and dings, some of them quite large. The chamber is significantly out of round, most notably on the left side in 10 o’clock direction. The rim repairs required are extensive.The nicely cleaned stummel looks exciting with beautiful transverse flowing straight grains on the sides of the stummel and shank and bird’s eye on the front of the stummel and extending to the bottom of the shank. Patches of old lacquer coat can still be seen in the fold between the bowl and shank and also along the bottom of the stummel. The dents and scratches to the front and at the foot of the stummel are now clearly visible. I intend to let them be as they are part of the pipe’s past and also since I wish to preserve the patina. Abha has painstakingly cleaned out the mortise and the sump. However, I could still see remnants of the gunk in the sump and the still strong odor is a pointer to the requirement of further sanitizing the internals of the stummel. The ferrule at the end of the shank end came loose as I was inspecting the stummel. This gave me an opportunity to closely inspect the shank end for cracks or any damage. Lucky me, there are no such hidden gremlins here!! I did notice a fill at the base where the ferrule sat on the shank end (circled in yellow) that would need to be refreshed. The edges of the ferrule at the shank end have become very sharp (I did manage a nick during inspection) that had caused the damage observed on the tenon end of the stem. I need to address this issue. The unclean stem that came to me shows heavy scratches to the tenon end which seats in to the mortise and caused due to the sharp edges of the ferrule. I will address this issue by sanding the surface followed by a fill, if required. The upper surface and button edge of the P-lip shows damage and will have to sharpen the button while sanding and filling the surface. Similarly, the lower button edge has a deep tooth indentation and will need a fill to repair. The heavy oxidation will be a bear to get rid off given the size of the stem. The tenon is covered in a thick coat of dried gunk, not to mention the clogged the stem air way. THE PROCESS
As is my norm, I started the process with stem cleaning and repairs. I cleaned the accumulated dried gunk from the insides of the tenon by scrapping it out with my dental tools followed by q-tips, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I soon realized that no matter how many pipe cleaners and q-tips I used, the insides of the wide tenon will still keep throwing out dirty pipe cleaners. I would need to use a more invasive method. Using a shank brush and dish washing soap, I thoroughly cleaned out the gunk. I rinsed it under running warm water. Once satisfied with the internal cleaning, with my fabricated knife I scrapped off the dried oils and tars from the tenon surface. I wiped the tenon end with cotton swab and alcohol till clean. I also cleaned the stem air way and the slot end with pipe cleaners and alcohol.While I was working on the stem, a colleague had come visiting and was amazed at the patience and care being exhibited, traits which I am usually not associated with. He did crack a joke on this and clicked a couple of pictures which I have included here for posterity.I cleaned the stem surface with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab and followed it with a scrub using Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton swab. I also smooth the sharp edges of the ferrule with a folded piece of 150 grit sand paper. I mix clear superglue and activated charcoal and paint the damaged tenon end surface and also applied it over the both button edges, upper P-lip surface and lower surface of the P-lip. I set the stem aside for the fills to cure. I cleaned the stummel surface with acetone on a cotton swab to remove the patches of old lacquer. This cleaning further highlighted the beautiful grains on this pipe. This is sure going to be beautiful pipe in my collection. Next I decided to address the issue of strong odor in the chamber. To eliminate the ghost smells from the pipe, I decided to treat it with salt and alcohol. I do not use Kosher salt as it is not readily available here and if available, it’s very expensive. I use cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over a period of time. I pack the sump with cotton and draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in the chamber. I pack cotton balls in to the remaining portion of the mortise. Thereafter, I pack the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the rim inner edge. I soak the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol has gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I top it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol has drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber, sump and mortise and the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and the dirt can be gauged by the appearance and coloration of the cotton balls. With my fabricated knife and dental tools, I spent the next hour scrapping out the entire loosened gunk. I ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk that had lodged when I cleaned the sump and mortise. The chamber now smells clean, fresh and looks it too. I set the stummel to dry out naturally. By this time the stem fills had cured and with a flat head needle file, I sand these fills to achieve a rough match. I further fine tuned the match by sanding the filled area with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger. I followed it up by sanding the entire stem surface using 400, 600, 800 grit sand papers and finally with a piece of 0000 grade steel wool. This serves to remove the deep seated oxidation and also reduces the sanding marks of the more abrasive sand papers. I also sharpened the button edges while sanding. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove all the oxidation and sanding dust from the surface. I applied a little Extra Virgin Olive oil over the stem and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite.The next stummel issue to be addressed was that of the rim top surface damage. I topped the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently till I was satisfied that the charred surface was addressed to a great extent and the rim top surface is nice, smooth and even. The inner edge is still uneven, though much better than before topping, and shall be addressed next. With a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I created a slight bevel on the inner edge of the rim top surface. This helped to mask the out of round chamber and address the sever dents that had remained on the inner rim edge. It can never be perfect, it’s a repair after all, but the repairs sure looks great. I know I have scrapped the shank end while topping the rim, I should have been careful, but I noticed it early and will be under the ferrule, so no sweat!! The one fill which was seen and readied for a fresh fill was patched up with a mix of briar dust and superglue and set aside to cure. Once the fill had hardened, and it was very quick indeed, I matched the fill with the rest of the stummel surface by sanding the fill with a flat head needle file followed by sanding the fill with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper.To preserve the patina and bring a deeper shine, I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface. The massive size of the stummel helps accentuate these grains further. The result of all the topping and subsequent micromesh polishing was that the rim top surface had a lighter hue as compared to the rest of the stummel surface. I matched the rim top surface with the rest of the stummel by staining the surface with a dark brown stain pen. I set it aside for the stain to cure.Turning my attention back to the stem, I decided to polish and shine up the stem surface. I wet sand the stem with 1500 to 12000 girt micromesh pads. Next I rub a small quantity of extra fine stem polish that I had got from Mark and set it aside to let the balm work its magic. After about 10 minutes, I hand buffed the stem with a microfiber cloth to a nice shine. I rub a small quantity of olive oil in to the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside. After the rim top surface stain had cured for about 6 hours, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. I applied the balm over the rim top surface also. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful darkened grain patterns on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. I wiped it with a microfiber cloth. The rim top is now perfectly matched with the rest of the stummel dark coloration. I am very pleased with the blend. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches. It was at this point in the process of restoration that I realized that I am yet to attach the ferrule at the shank end. I rub a small quantity of ‘Colgate’ toothpowder over the ferrule surface. Those who have not tried out this trick, you must try it out at least once, it works like magic and imparts a nice shine to the nickel plated (it works even better on Sterling Silver) ferrule. I apply superglue over the shank end, align the ferrule stamp with that on the shank and attach the ferrule over it. I press it down firmly for a couple of minutes to let the glue set. After the glue had completely cured, I tried the seating of the stem in to the mortise and realized that the stem surface still brushed against the sharp ferrule edge. With a needle file I sand the edges, frequently feeling for the sharpness with my fingers and checking the seating of the stem in to the mortise. Once the edges and seating were smooth, I applied a little petroleum jelly on the walls of the mortise as this reduces friction and moisturizes the briar and moved on to the home stretch.With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. 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 beautiful. Having addressed the cosmetic aspect of this pipe, I move on to address the functionality aspect by addressing the ridges and re-entrant formed at the draught hole as well as the minor/ insignificant heat fissures. I insert a petroleum jelly coated pipe cleaner in to the draught hole. I mix a small quantity of the contents from the two tubes of J B Weld in equal proportions and apply it evenly only over the damaged area near the draught hole with my fingers. I had to work deftly and fast as the compound starts to harden within 4 minutes. I set the stummel aside for the JB Weld coat to completely harden.The next day, the compound had completely hardened. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I sanded the fill to as thin a layer as I thought would be just sufficient to protect the heel and ensure a smooth even surface for the pipe mud coating.Next I mixed activated charcoal and yogurt to a thick consistency and evenly applied it over the chamber walls and set it aside to dry out naturally. Once the coating had dried I buffed the pipe again with a microfiber cloth to a nice deep shine. P.S. This was a fun project and I absolutely loved and enjoyed working on it. It has some stunning grains and beats me that even though Yello-Bole was designed as an outlet for lower grade briars not used in Kaywoodie production, this beauty is anything but lower grade!! This would be joining my collection and I shall get to admire the beauty whenever I so desire.

Thank you all for sparing your valuable time in reading thus far and I would be happy to hear comments on the conflict that I find between Yello-Bole and Kaywoodie.