Restoring and Restemming an LHS Rusticated Sterncrest Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I am doing periodic repairs for a local pipe/cigar shop. They give my card to people who come in needing pipe repair. On Monday I received a call from a fellow who had an older LHS pipe that he had picked up in Europe on a trip. It turned out he lived around the corner from my house and he and his wife walked over with the pipe. It had an interesting rustication pattern around the bowl and shank that was unique. It sported a gold band on the shank that was original. The bowl exterior was very dirty. The rim top had lava overflow in the grooves and the bowl had a very thick cake inside it. The inner and outer edges of the rim looked very good. The stem had been jerry-rigged to function on the pipe before half of the button and back end of the stem had broken off. It looked like someone had used a knife and cut down the stem to make it a saddle stem. They had also carved a button on the stem. The saddle on the stem was in very rough condition and the carving marks in the stem surface were very rough. The young guy and his wife who dropped it off were hoping to get a new stem made and I was hooked and want to do that for them. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived so I had a benchmark to work with. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It was very readable and was stamped Sterncrest of LHS in a diamond and underneath Imported Briar. Next to it was stamped 14K. The gold band was also in good condition but scratched. I also include a photo of an LH Stern sign that was included on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/LHS). I have included the information below from the article on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/LHS). It gives a great brief history of the brand that is a quick overview of the Company.

Ludwig Stern, a successful pipe manufacturer since 1893 and closing around 1960, reorganized his company along with his brother Hugo Stern, opening a factory in 1911. They named the company L&H Stern Smoking Pipes & Holders. The newly formed company was moved into a six story building on the corner of Pearl and Waters street Brooklyn, NY.

Thoroughly organized in all departments, and housed in a well-lighted and ventilated modern office and manufacturing building, the firm of L&H Stern Inc. is located near the first arch of the Manhattan bridge, near the river and convenient to the Brooklyn bridge, which makes it accessible from all the hotels in the metropolis for visiting buyers. The structure is six stories with a seventeen-foot basement, with light on three sides through prismatic glass windows, the first floor being seven feet above the sidewalk. Light enters the upper floors from all four sides.

L&H Stern is known to every important wholesaler and jobber in the country. LHS manufactures a complete line of briar pipes. Ginmetto wood pipes are also made, as well as Redmanol goods, the man-made amber. The first substitute for amber. Everything, even down to the sterling silver and other metal trimmings are made under one roof.

To begin the process of the restoration on this pipe I decided to see what kind of stem I had to replace the one that came with the pipe that was dropped off for me. I went through my can of stems and found a thin tapered saddle stem. It was more delicate looking than the broken one and I felt like it would look very good with the lines of the rustication on the bowl and shank. It was in good condition other than some light oxidation. I set the new stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. I needed to clean out the bowl and shank before I fit the new stem on it. I reamed it with the third cutting head on the PipNet pipe reamer. I took the cake back to bare briar. I cleaned up what was left with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and finished with sanding the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls on the bowl.   With the cake cleaned out of the bowl, it was time to clean the shank and airways. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to scrub out the shank. I scraped the walls of the shank and mortise clean with a dental spatula to clean up the built tobacco lacquer on the walls. Once it was scrubbed clean the pipe smell much better.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime. I used a brass bristle brush to scrub the rim top with the soap. I rinsed the grime off the bowl with warm water and dried it off with a soft cotton cloth. Once the grime was gone I found flecks of white paint in the grooves of the rustication. I picked them out with a dental pick and used the wire brush to clean up the debris of the paint flecks. I rubbed the bowl and rim down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean and worked it into the rustication with a horsehair shoe brush. The balm work to enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I really like watching the Balm do its magic and bring the briar alive.  I sanded the scratches and tooth chatter out of the stem surface and the saddle with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. I worked it over to remove the oxidation that remained in the stem surface.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have a few tins of this laying around so I am trying to use them up. It does a pretty good job polishing the stem.The stem was looking much better. I polished it 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 a coat of a new product I am experimenting with from Briarville Pipe Repair. It is called “No Oxy Oil” and it is made to protect the stem from oxidizing. I set it aside to dry.   As usual at this point in the restoration process I am excited to be on the homestretch. 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 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 really pops with the wax and polish. The shiny black vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the textures and the various browns of the bowl and shank. This LH Stern (LHS) Sterncrest Billiard was another fun pipe to work on thanks the fact that I could in essence start over with it. The thin saddle stem looks really good with the rustication on the bowl and shank. The original 14K Gold band on the shank looks very good breaking up the shank and the stem. It is a real contrast and binds it all together. It really is a quite stunning piece of briar with an unusual rustication on the bowl. The pipe is 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: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This newly stemmed piece of  pipe history will soon be going back to my neighbour who I think is really going to enjoy it. It is a piece of he and his wife’s travels so now he can enjoy it with the memories of the find. 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.

4 thoughts on “Restoring and Restemming an LHS Rusticated Sterncrest Billiard

  1. Mickameyer

    Greetings Steve,
    Did the replacement stem you found in your collection fit perfectly in this pipe, or did you have to do something to tweak the fit? Are tenons and mortises standardized across the pipe craft world, or does each maker have their own dimensions? Thanks,
    Mick

    Reply
    1. rebornpipes Post author

      Hi Mick. On that pipe I had to sand the tenon a bit but not a whole lot. I was lucky! Typically tenons all need to be specifically fit to a pipe. Replacement stems are cast and need to have the tenon turned

      Reply
      1. Mickameyer

        Thanks Steve, always been curious about that. I acquired 6 mostly well-used stummels. I have to study on how to get stems for these.
        On another note, I think I understand you live in Canada? One Canadian musician I enjoy is Ian Tyson. Do you listen to his music ever?
        Hey, thanks again.

        Reply
        1. rebornpipes Post author

          Thanks Mick. Yup I am in Canada. I had heard of Ian Tyson but not listened to him much. Doing it now.

          Stems are available through Vermont Freehand on line as well as JH Lowe. You will need to fit the tenons but they have stems

          Reply

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