Blog by Paresh Deshpande
The next pipe that I have selected as my new project is a very special pipe for the following reasons:-
(a) Firstly, this pipe was in the trust of an adventurer who has been on expeditions to Antarctica, the Arctic and loved Dunhill pipes (and I happen to carry forward that trust with one of his Dunhill pipes).
(b) Secondly, is the reason why and how this pipe came to me. During one of the many Face Time chats with Steve more than a year ago, I remarked that in spite of the huge collection of British, American and Danish pipes that I had inherited, there was not a single Dunhill pipe in it and that how expensive it was to own one. Steve had then only recently acquired an estate lot that contained, amongst other pipes, seven Dunhills. We discussed each of the Dunhill and I zeroed in on one. A few days later, I received a parcel from Steve that contained the Dunhill pipe that I had selected and along with it came another Dunhill in classic Billiard shape. A call to Steve confirmed that the second pipe was not an error, but a surprise for me. He conveyed that should I decide to and thereafter be able to restore it; I could keep it!!
(c) Thirdly and most importantly, I treat this restoration as a tribute to the daughter who loves her father and desired to share that love and those memories with other pipers who wished to carry forward her father’s trust.
Well, with this as a background, the pipe on my work table once belonged to Late Mr. John Barber. His daughter, Farida had requested Steve to restore her Dad’s pipe and pass them on to others for her. Here is the link to the pipe that I had selected for carrying forward the trust of John Barber:-
The above blog makes for a very interesting read to know the personality of Late Mr. John Barber and his adventures as conveyed by his daughter, Farida. The below picture has been picked from the above blog which Steve had done and the pipe that I had selected from Farida’s Dad collection (indicated with a yellow arrow) and the one now on my work table has been marked in blue circle.As with few other pipes from John Barber’s collection, this pipe too has very worn out and faint stampings. Under magnifying glass and bright light one is able to make out the very faint stamping on the left of the shank as “# 197” followed by “DUNHILL” over “BRUYERE”. On the right side the very faint stamping that is visible is “ENGLAND” and a circled “4” followed by the letter “A”. The high quality vulcanite stem bears the trademark Dunhill white dot.To be very honest, I am not very keen to ascertain the vintage of this pipe and lack of stampings don’t help either, since I know that all the pipes that belonged to Farida’s father are from 1950s to 1970s. Having worked on eight Dunhill pipes from my Mumbai Bonanza and researched each one, I roughly know that a Dunhill Billiard with long tapered bit with shape code # 197, similar to what I have on my work table, is from the period 1950 and 1969. This corresponds with other pipes that Steve had worked on from this collection.
I now move ahead with my initial visual inspection as it helps me chalk out a rough path or sequence that I would follow during restoration and also the processes that I would have to employ at each stage of restoration.
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
This is indeed one pipe which I would have not have selected and worked on in the first place, even though it is a Dunhill, but for the provenance of this pipe and for the reasons mentioned above. The stummel is covered in dirt and grime of decades of uncared for use and storage. The stummel is very sticky to the touch and appears to be smothered in some kind of lard, could it be whale fat or fish oils from the Arctic or Antarctic expeditions that it had accompanied the previous owner? I would not know, but it is all prevalent over the stummel surface. Underneath all this lard, dirt and grime, the highest quality of the briar and solid feel in hand for which Dunhill pipes are renowned, can be seen and be felt. Beautiful cross grains along the shank bottom, front and back of the stummel await to be revealed in all their glory. Similarly, lovely bird’s eye grains on both the sides of the stummel should show up nicely when the surface is cleaned. A distinct patch on the left and right side of the stummel is prominently seen which could have been caused due melting of the lard (?) from the warmth and holding of the stummel while smoking. There is a prominent crack on either sides of the stummel extending downwards from the rim outer edge towards the heel for a few millimeters and is marked in red circle. The front and foot of the stummel is peppered with dents and dings. These should be addressed to a great extent when I sand the stummel surface to get rid of all the sticky substance and grime. Coming on to the assessment of the rim top surface and the chamber, it is immediately apparent that this is where the maximum damage lies!!!! There is an even layer of thick cake and appears to have been partially reamed before being stowed away. The rim top surface also appears to have been topped to address the severe charring to the inner edge of the rim at 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock direction (marked in red circle) and at the outer edge towards the front and back end of the stummel (marked in green semi circle). The inner edge is completely out of round and is at its thinnest in the 6 o’clock direction and along the left side of the chamber. A crack (marked with yellow arrow) is clearly visible on the left side atop the rim top surface in 9 o’clock direction which extend in to the chamber as well as to the outside as described in stummel condition above. The topped rim surface is considerably darkened and appears to have absorbed copious amounts of oils and tars. I plan to extract these oils through a salt and alcohol soaking of the chamber. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. However, I envisage heat lines and fissures all over the inner walls what with the pipe being subjected to some serious use! And the smell of St. Bruno tobacco, Farida’s Dad’s favorite tobacco, is all pervading and super strong. The shank and mortise is completely clogged with accumulated oils, tars and grime and air flow is laborious to say the least. The edges of the shank end are out of round resulting in shouldering effect once the stem is seated in to the shank. The seating of the stem also appears to be a bit skewed towards the right side by a minuscule margin though not easily noticeable.The vulcanite stem has calcium depositions on either sides about an inch and a half from the button edge towards the tenon end. There are deeper bite marks on the upper and lower stem surface near the buttons in the bite zone. However, the buttons on either surface is undamaged. The tenon and horizontal slot show heavy deposition of dirt, oils and tars, adversely affecting the air flow.THE PROCESS
The restoration process started with sanding the bite zone of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the calcium deposition and followed by internal cleaning of the tenon, stem air way and the slot with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. This was followed by cleaning the stem surface of all the oxidation by immersing the stem in “Before and After Stem Deoxidizer” bath overnight. This solution developed by Mark, pulls all the oxidation to the surface and makes the subsequent cleaning a breeze.The next morning, Abha my wife, took the stem out and cleaned all the thick sticky solution from the surface under running warm water. She blew out the solution that had clogged the airway and scrubbed out the raised oxidation with cotton pads and a piece of 0000 grade steel wool. She applied a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem to hydrate the vulcanite and set it aside. The initial sanding with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper had evened out the minor tooth chatter and now that the stem is free of the heavy oxidation, I have a clear understanding of the damage that needs to be addressed, which by the way, is very minimal. I am pleased with the stem appearance at this stage.To raise the deeper bite marks from the upper and lower surface of the stem, I flamed the surface with a lighter flame. I went ahead and sand the raised bite mark with a 220 grit sand paper and sharpened the button edges. With a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol, I wiped the stem surface to clean it of all the dust. I mixed superglue and activated charcoal powder and filled the bite marks and set it aside to cure. While the stem fill was set aside to cure, I worked the stummel and reamed the chamber with size 3 blade head of PipNet pipe reamer. Using my smaller sized fabricated knife, I removed all the cake from the areas which could not be reached by the reamer head. Very carefully, I removed all the charred briar from the outer and inner edges till I reached solid briar wood. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I sand the chamber walls to remove the last remaining traces of cake and wiped it with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I am not very enthusiastic about the way the chamber appears at this stage. The inner edge at the rear has been pushed back significantly thinning the rim top surface. Also, the walls are peppered with numerous minor heat fissures/ lines making a web pattern. The crack, it is now clear, extends in to the chamber over the rim surface and on to the outer stummel surface. Another crack is now evident on the right side of the rim surface, but it’s superficial and not deep. Here is how the chamber appears at this stage, though not very encouraging, I say. Continuing with internal cleaning, I cleaned out the mortise, first by scrapping out the entire dried accumulated gunk with a dental tool. I further cleaned the shank internals with hard and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. Even after removing the cake from the chamber and cleaning the shank internals, the smells in the chamber are still very strong; in fact, my entire room smells of it!!Before I moved to the next stage in the process, I wanted to access the extent of charring over the outer rim edge. I gently scraped the charred briar from the outer rim edge with a sharp knife. Again not a very encouraging sight as the gaping saddle that was formed at the front and back of the stummel was anything that could be addressed by simply creating a bevel over the outer rim edge. Sad!! I have the option of addressing this issue either by topping the rim top surface or by the way of rebuilding the outer rim edge. I shall decide on the best course of action when I reach that stage.Next I decided to address the copious amounts of oils and tars that have been absorbed by the stummel giving it a considerably darkened appearance and a sticky feel in the hand. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, wound it around a folded pipe cleaner and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it till it came out of the draught hole and packed the chamber, just below the rim, with Kosher salt. I topped the bowl with isopropyl alcohol using a syringe. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the salt and alcohol to do its intended job. The next morning, the salt had turned a dirty and smelly brown and so was the wick and pipe cleaner in the shank. The ghost smells, the rim top dark coloration and the stickiness in the surface were still strong and hence I decided to give it a second salt and alcohol bath. This time around I used cotton balls in place of Kosher salt what with Kosher salt being more expensive and not readily available. I repeated the entire process described above and set the bowl aside overnight. By the next afternoon, the alcohol had drawn out maximum of the remaining oils and tars from the stummel surface and trapped it in the cotton balls. I am satisfied with the condition of the bowl internals with this cleaning.With the internals of the pipe cleaned and sorted, it was time to move to the external cleaning of the stummel. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. I was very deliberate on the surface areas which were covered in fat-like sticky substance over which dirt and grime had accumulated over the years. I also cleaned the mortise with a shank brush and dish washing soap. I scrubbed the surface with a pad of Scotch-Brite to rid the surface of the slime. I was surprised to observe the stummel turning greasy white. This would need resorting to some heavy duty and abrasive methods to get rid of this grease from the stummel surface. Here is how the stummel appeared at this stage. I am happy that the salt and alcohol treatment had drawn out all the oils from the pores of the briar as can be seen from the cleaned up rim top surface. Next, I decided to stabilize the cracks that were observed prominently on either sides of the stummel extending downwards from the rim outer edge for a few millimeters. Under a magnifying glass, I marked the end point of the cracks and using a 1 mm drill bit, I drilled a counter hole at the base of the crack taking care that I did not drill a through hole. This ensures that the crack is stabilized and does not spread any further. With a heat gun, I warm the stummel and this expands the crack minutely. I fill this crack with clear CA superglue and firmly press the sides together. Once the superglue had sufficiently hardened, I apply a little superglue along the entire crack (rim top and side of the stummel) and press briar dust over it. This further stabilizes, strengthens and masks the fill in the cracks. I had reached that point in restoration where I had to decide on the way ahead for rim repairs. I could either top the bowl till I had a perfectly even round rim top, compromising on the shape and size or I could go for a complete rebuild. I decided on the latter as topping would significantly reduce the bowl size. Using a worn out piece of 150 grit sand paper, I completely remove the charred briar from the outer and inner rim edges in preparation for rebuilding the rim top. Using the layering technique (layer of glue followed by briar dust pressed on to this layer and repeating till the fill is over and above the intact rim surface), I completely rebuild the rim top and set the stummel aside for the fills to harden. While the rim top rebuild was curing, I decided to address the stem repairs. The stem fills had cured nicely and using a flat head needle file, I sand the fill to achieve a rough match with the surrounding stem surface. I further sand the stem surface with a folded piece of 220 and 320 grit sand papers to further blend in the repairs. However, a minor air pocket was revealed on the lower surface of the stem and I spot filled it with clear superglue and set it aside to cure and turned my attention to the stummel repairs again.The rim rebuilt surface had cured nicely. I could now proceed with reshaping the rim top and the inner rim edge to an even round. I mount a coarse 150 grit sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool and setting a speed at half, I carefully sand off the excess fill from the rim top surface and the rim inner edge till I had achieved a rough match with the intact portion of the rim top and inner edge. I further top the rim on a 220 grit sand paper to achieve a seamless rim top surface. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I worked the inner rim to a crisp and perfectly rounded edge. I am very pleased with the rim surface rebuild at this stage in restoration. Staying with the stummel, I next decide to address the greasy white coating of whale fat or blubber or whatever fats that covered the stummel surface (remember all the Arctic and Antarctic expeditions on which this pipe must have accompanied Late Mr. John Barber!!). I sand the entire stummel surface with a piece of 180 grit sand paper. I frequently wiped the stummel with a cloth wetted in hot water to get rid of the loosened fat coating. A lot of elbow grease and few grueling hours later, beautiful bird’s eye grains and swirls began to make an appearance over the stummel surface. With renewed vigor, I completely remove the greasy white coat of fat from the stummel. I was careful not to sand the sides of the shank, but only wiping with hot water in an attempt to preserve the worn out stampings on this pipe. Though the surface has been cleaned up nicely, it appears dry and lackluster. I rub a small quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to stummel to hydrate the briar and set it aside for the oil to be absorbed by the briar. The grains in the stummel now pop out and appear resplendent in their beauty. All the hard work up to this stage was well worth the effort and much more. The following pictures speak for themselves! To further smooth out the rim top, I topped the rim surface over piece of 320 grit followed by 420, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Even though the cracks have now been exposed as a result of this topping, I am not overly worried as I am confident that the cracks have been solidly filled and stabilized.At this point I decided to work on the inner walls of the chamber. There are heat lines seen on the walls of the chamber and add to that the rebuilt inner edge using superglue and briar dust. To protect the walls and prevent the superglue and briar dust from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco, I plan to first coat the rebuilt part and the heat lined surface of the chamber walls with J B Weld followed by a second coat of activated charcoal and yogurt to the entire chamber which would assist in faster cake formation. J B Weld is a two-part epoxy Cold Weld that consists of two parts; hardener and steel which are mixed in two equal parts (ratio of 1:1) with hardening time of 5-6 minutes and complete curing time of 6-8 hours. I poured the contents of the two tubes and mixed it well. With a flat bamboo frond, I applied this mix, as evenly as possible, over the intended areas. I worked fast to ensure an even coat over the chamber walls before the weld could harden. I set the stummel aside for the application to harden and cure overnight. By next afternoon when I got back to working on this pipe, the J B Weld coat had completely cured and hardened considerably. With a folded piece of 150 grit sandpaper, I sand the weld coating to a smooth surface and continued till I had as thin a coat as was essential to protect and insulate the walls from the direct heat of the burning tobacco. Here are pictures of the process and the progress at this stage. Wanting a change, I decided to now tackle the stem fill which had been left curing for the last couple of days. Little did I know at this point that I was still some days away from completing the stem repairs!! I followed the golden rule of pipe restoration; “Less is more” and move ahead with sanding the fill with a piece of 220 grit sand paper without first using a flat head needle file. I followed it up with sanding the entire stem surface with 400, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. I finished the sanding regime with a 0000 grade steel wool. It was at this stage that I noticed the same dreaded air pocket and the fill was peeling out. With a dental pick, I completely removed the old fill and refilled it with a fresh mix of activated charcoal and superglue. I set the stem aside to cure overnight, third fill for the same spot!! With time still on my side before I hit the bed for the night, I decided to work on the stummel which had been set aside to absorb the olive oil. I thoroughly wiped the bowl with an absorbent paper towel to remove all the excess oils from the bowl surface. I polished the stummel, including the newly rebuilt rim top surface, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wiped the surface with a moist cloth to remove all the sanding dust left behind by the pads. I was very careful with the stamping as I desired to preserve as much of the worn out stampings as was possible. Though the rebuilt rim surface and outer rim edges stand out as sore thumb at this stage, I intend to mask the same with a dark stain. The stummel surface appears promising and I am absolutely in love the bird’s eye grains on this pipe. Next, 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. 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. While the stummel was set aside for the balm to be absorbed, I worked the stem fill which had cured over 24 hours. I sand the fill with a used and worn piece of 180 grits sandpaper and followed it with wet sanding the entire stem with 1500 to 12000 grade micromesh pads. I wiped the stem with a moist cloth to remove the dust and monitor the progress being made after every three grit pads. The stem polished up nicely and has a rich deep black shine to it. I applied a little Extra Virgin Olive oil to rehydrate the vulcanite and set the stem aside.Though the stummel had cleaned up nicely with a deep color to the briar, it was nowhere near the deep reddish brown coloration associated with the Bruyere line of Dunhill pipes; in fact it was much lighter. While restoring a Dunhill Bruyere from my Mumbai Bonanza (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/03/13/reconstructing-a-broken-stem-on-dunhill-bruyere-51671/), I had stained the stummel in cherry red stain and though the end results were great, it was not the original color associated with a Bruyere. The comments and suggestions received from esteemed readers of the write up pointed me in the direction of achieving this color!!! I decided to first apply a coat of DB followed by a final coat of red stain. However, when I went through my stains, I realized that I did not have Dark brown stain; the Feibing’s stain bottle had mysteriously dried out!!!!! The next best option available was the Cordovan. I consulted Steve and though he was not sure about the color, he encouraged me to go ahead and that is exactly what I did. I heated the stummel surface with my heat gun to open up the pores on the stummel so that the stain is well set while being careful that I do not overheat the fill, a lesson learned while restoring Steve’s Alexander Zavvos pipe. I dipped a folded pipe cleaner in Feibing’s Cordovan leather dye and liberally applied it over the heated surface of the stummel, flaming it with a lighter as I progressed. This helps in the setting of the stain in the grain of the briar. I set the stummel aside overnight for the stain to set. The next afternoon, I mounted a felt cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and proceed, as my dear friend Dal Stanton likes to say “unwrap the coat of stain to reveal the grains” on the stummel surface. Alas, there was no revelation of any sorts!! All that I saw was a dark stummel. You must understand my disappointment at this stage. I realized that the stain coat was too thick. I needed to lighten it up a bit and hence, with a cotton swab wetted in isopropyl alcohol, I wiped the entire stummel surface. Though the stain has lightened a bit, it was not the result that I desired. Here is how the stummel appeared at this stage. To further lighten the stain and “reveal” the stummel grains, I dry sand the entire stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. The grains are now clearly visible. However, the trademark color of Bruyere line is still an illusion……it was browner than the reddish brown stain that I was looking for. I decided on giving the stummel a stain wash with a Cherry Red stain as suggested by Steve. I diluted the Cherry Red stain powder in 99.9% isopropyl alcohol in approx ratio of 1:4. With a cotton swab, I dabbed the diluted stain over the stummel surface, letting it set for a few moments and thereafter wiping it off with a dry clean cotton swab. I repeated the process till I had achieved the desired coloration. I am pleased with the color of the stummel which is as close as I could achieve, to the original Bruyere color. This time around, even the fills had absorbed the stain and blended in nicely with the rest of the stummel. To complete the restoration, I reattach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool 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. This dude has definitely come a long way from the condition it was in at the start.Now that the cosmetic aspects of this pipe have dealt with, all that remained was the functional aspect that needs to be taken care of. The minor heat lines and the J B Weld coated surface needs to be protected from the direct heat of the burning tobacco and for this; I coat the complete chamber walls with a mix of activated charcoal and yogurt and set it aside to harden naturally.I shared a few pictures of the pipe with my mentor, Steve, expecting some hearty praises on this restoration!! However, his keen eyes noticed an issue which had missed mine. He very gently pointed that a sterling silver band at the shank end would mask the shouldering that was inadvertently created!! This remark of his left me shocked!! Not at the remark as such, but at the fact that I had shouldered the shank end during the restoration process. Still smarting at being chided by my teacher, I revisited all the pictures and true enough, this issue already existed and I had missed out mentioning it in my initial inspection in the write up and hence missed it out during the entire process. I made necessary amendments to the post and had to keep the pipe aside till I reached back home during my leave where my local silversmith would fabricate one such ring for me.
I revisited the small, dingy and unsophisticated shop with rudimentary tools where the craftsman had built me a Sterling Silver ring for an Alfred Massin Meerschaum cutty that I had restored two months ago (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/10/09/complicating-a-simple-restoration-of-a-cutty-meerschaum/). The craftsman at the shop made me a perfect ring for the Dunhill shank end. This ring not only masks the shouldering, it also adds a touch of class while breaking the monotony of the pipe. I refreshed the bowl coating with activated charcoal yogurt mix and completed this project with a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth. How I wish I had carried my hand held rotary tool and some carnauba wax for a final polish while on leave!!! Nevertheless, the finished pipe has received a fresh lease on life and is now all set to stay with me for the rest of my time on this earth as part of my Dunhill rotation. The repairs are solid and blended in well with the surrounding surfaces. All that now remains is to load a nice English blend and enjoy a quite peaceful smoke… P.S. This perhaps would be the longest write up that I ever have posted on rebornpipes.com!! Apart from the Alfred Massin Meerschaum pipe that I have mentioned above, this project extended over a period of two months, just for the want of sterling silver band. Nonetheless, it was one project that I enjoyed working on and hope that my Guru and mentor Steve gives me passing marks on this test project (remember that it was a sort of test put forth by Steve for me!).
The most important aspect of this restoration was being able to live up to the belief and faith that Farida had entrusted in Steve and through him, in me, to carry forth the trust of her Father. It is while working on this project that I fully comprehend and understand what and why Dal Stanton calls himself Pipe Steward!! A perfect term coined by this well read gentleman, I say.
Farida, if at all you read this write up, I wish to let you know that it has been a privilege to have been afforded an opportunity to carry forward the trust of your father. As I puffed on this Dunhill, I could conjure up images of your father and his dogs amidst all the snow and loneliness…. A MAN, HIS FAITHFUL PIPE AND HIS BELOVED DOGS!! Thank you Steve and Farida…… and the pipe has a new friend!!