Daily Archives: January 3, 2020

Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – the first of two “Hopeless” Looking Gourd Calabash Pipes


Blog by Steve Laug

After brief foray into restoring a couple of other pipes I am back to Bob Kerr’s estate (his photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in over 60 restorations to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Be sure to check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/)

This is one of two Gourd Calabash pipes that he had that were rough looking. The pictures below show what they looked like when I shipped them to Jeff to do his cleanup magic with them. This was a rough looking pipe. The stem was oxidized and in the second picture what looks like a hole in the stem near the turned portion was a thick bead of “goop”. The black plastic/acrylic ferrule was probably the cleanest part of the pipe. The meer cup was absolutely gross. There was a coat of dust, maybe even mold on the thick cake in the bowl. The pipe smelled horrid. The rim edges of the bowl looked bad; the inner one had potential damage to the beveled edge under the grime. With the cup removed the calabash gourd interior was black with scum and tars and looked horrible. It reeked of old tobacco tars akin to the smell of an ashtray overflowing on a pub table… some of you remember those! The gourd exterior was dirty but surprisingly undamaged. The stem was oxidized and covered with tooth chatter but none of the deep tooth marks I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took the following photos to document the mess!Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl cup to show the condition. The photos capture the visual well but actually the other senses are not even brought into the equation. It was really nasty. The thick cake was growing things! A redeeming photo had to be included after those to give a bit of encouragement and hope. This is a shot of the gourd calabash from the underside. The striations in the gourd and the shine on the bottom are quite stunning.The stem actually was surprisingly good for this estate. There were not any deep tooth marks in the vulcanite. We only had to deal with the oxidation and calcification. There no deep pits in the surface of the rubber. The third photo shows it in comparison to the ferrule so you can see how far from black it gone.I can’t begin tell you how great it feels to have Jeff’s help on cleaning up the pipes from Bob’s estate as the 125+ pipes were taking me a long time to do alone. In fact I doubt if I would have as many finished as I do now. Together we have cleaned all of the pipes and have restored over 60. He does cleaning job and leaves the rest to me. This one was no different. He cleaned this filthy pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. This one was a real mess and I was looking forward to seeing what he had done with this one when I took it out of his box. It looked amazing and CLEAN. He carefully reamed the meerschaum cup with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the gourd and the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the gourd with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit. The gourd and meer cup look really good. The stem looked a lot better. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. The pipe was ready for me to carry on the next part of the process. I took some close up photos of the meerschaum cup and also of the stem surface. I will tell you what; I am absolutely amazed at how good this pipe looks. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up and what needed to be done. The cup was in remarkable condition. The surface was in decent condition. The inner edges of the cup were darkened and there was some debris on the edges of the bevel. Otherwise it was beautiful. The stem actually looks very good in the photos. There was no chatter or toot marks on the stem surface.  There was a little bit of oxidation that I needed to work on in the curves of the stem and turned area. But it too was amazing… the whole pipe is a surprise to me. Looks good, smells good and should smoke well!I popped the meerschaum cup out of the gourd to check out the interior. It was stunningly clean. The cork gasket was dry but whole. The underside of the cup was stained but it too was very clean.I worked on the rim and top of the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the edges and surface with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped the surface down after each pad. The meerschaum really became smooth and took on a deep shine. The inner edge of the bowl kept a bit of colour but was also very smooth. I set the cup aside and rubbed down the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. While it was designed for enlivening and protecting briar it works wonders with a piece of dried gourd calabash. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. With the gourd cleaned and polished and the meerschaum cup cleaned and polished it was time to put that part of the pipe back together. I like to rub the cork gasket down with some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to put some life and elasticity back in the cork. I rub it down with my finger tip and let it sit for about five minute so that the cork absorbs the jelly. Once that is done I can easily insert the cup without fear of damaging the cork. With the bowl done it was time to address the stem. It was in pretty decent condition other than a little residual oxidation in the curves of the turned area and on the tenon area. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining oxidation in the stem surface and the remaining oxidation in the vulcanite. I polished it with 400 grit wet dry sand paper.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the 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 pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am continuing to experiment with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it.

I am so glad to be finished with the first of these Gourd Calabash pipes. When I received them I was not sure we could get any life out of them at all. This one proved me wrong. It came out really nicely and looks really good. What came out is a beautiful golden Gourd Calabash. The look of it makes me think is a Pioneer but no way to be sure of that. It would fit the 1960s and 70s. Like each of the pipes in Bob’s estate I really look forward to this point in the process when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I carefully 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 gourd has character and a deep shine that really came alive with the wax and polish. The meerschaum cup looks good on it and the black of the fancy vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the golden gourd and white meerschaum. This turned out to be a lot of fun to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. 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: 7 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This beautifully shaped Calabash is a beauty should last for many more years. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. I have a lot more of Bob’s estate to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

A Facelift and Stem Repair for a Republic Era Peterson’s 311 System Standard


Blog by Steve Laug

The second pipe I have chosen to work on in 2020 is a Republic Era Peterson’s System Standard 311. It was in rough condition when it came to me but it was clear that it was stamped Peterson’s System Standard vertically on the left side of the shank next to the band. The right side of the shank was stamped Made in the Republic of Ireland over the shape number 311. It has some stunning grain around the bowl and shank that can be seen under the thick grime. The bowl had been reamed recently so there were just remnants of cake on the walls that were uneven giving the bowl a pitted appearance. The rim top was cleaned and appeared to have been sanded. There were sanding marks in the briar. The inner and outer edges of the rim had damage. The bowl was out of round and there was some burn damage on the front inner and outer edge. The exterior of the bowl is dirty and has some pits and marks that are a part of its story. The nickel ferrule on the shank end was oxidized and was rough at the opening to the mortise. It is stamped on the left side K&P over three hallmarks. That is followed by Petersons. It is not dented or damaged. The stem was the biggest issue with this pipe. Someone had carved a groove in the top side of the stem in front of the p-lip almost trying to make it a dental bit. The underside of the stem had a tooth mark that had punctured the surface leaving a hole in a tooth crater. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work on it.   I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the inside of the bowl and the damages on the rim top and edges of the bowl. You can see where someone had taken sand paper to the top and removed the lava and left sanding marks. You can also see the burned areas on the inner and outer front edges of the bowl.  The photos of the stem also clearly show the issues that need to be addressed.   I took photos of the stamping on the left side of the bowl and shank. The vertical stamping on the left side was readable as you can see from the photos. It read Peterson’s System Standard. The stamp on the right side of the shank read Made in the Republic of Ireland with the shape number 311 underneath. The nickel ferrule on the shank end is stamped on the left side K&P over three hallmarks – a Shamrock, a shape that looks like a reclining lion and a tower. Typically these hallmarks are not like those in silver that help to date a pipe but are rather marks that make it clear that the pipe was made in Ireland.  Following the hallmarks it is stamped Petersons.   I am including some information from Pipedia’s article on Peterson pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson). I have included a bit of the pertinent history on the Republic Era below.

1950 – 1989 The Republic Era  – From 1950 to the present time, the stamp for this era is “Made in the Republic of Ireland” in a block format generally in three lines but two lines have been used with or without Republic being abbreviated.

Pipedia also included a section of information on the System pipes including a cutaway diagram of the interior of the system pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson#Republic_Era_Pipes). I quote a section of the article in part and include a link to another article on Pipedia on the System pipe.

The Peterson System pipes are the standard bearers of the Peterson pipe family, famous for the excellent smoking pleasure they provide. Often imitated but never equaled, the Peterson System smokes dry, cool and sweet, thanks to the scientific effectiveness of the original design. The heart of the System is the unique graduated bore in the mouthpiece. This makes the suction applied by the smoker 15 times weaker by the time it reaches the tobacco chamber. The result is that all the moisture flows into the reservoir and, thus cannot reach the smoker’s mouth. The Peterson Lip further enhances the effectiveness of the graduated bore by directing the flow of smoke upwards and away from the tongue. This achieves a uniquely even distribution of smoke and virtually eliminates any chance of tongue bite or bitterness. Furthermore, the shape is contoured so that the tongue rests comfortably in the depression under the opening. Each “PLip” mouthpiece is made from Vulcanite. For the Peterson System pipes to work properly, the stem/tenon has to have an extension, the tip of which will pass by the draft hole from the bowl and into the sump. Upon the smoker drawing in smoke, this extension then directs the smoke down and around the sump to dispense a lot of the moisture before the smoke enters the extension and stem. On the System Standards and other less expensive systems, this extension with be made of Vulcanite turned integrally with the stem. On the more expensive System pipes this extension will be made of metal which screws into the Vulcanite stem. This extension on the earlier pipes will be of brass and the newer pipes will be of aluminium. Most smokers not knowing this function of the metal extension, assumes that it is a condenser/stinger and will remove it as they do with the metal condensers of Kaywoodie, etc. Should you have a System pipe with this metal extension, do not remove it for it will make the System function properly and give you a dryer smoke (https://pipedia.org/wiki/A_closer_look_at_the_famous_Peterson_Standard_System_Pipe).

With that information in hand I knew what I was dealing with in terms of the stamping and the age of this pipe. I knew from the information that the pipe was made during the Republic Era between 1950 and 1989. It was an antique mall find so I was happy with the age and condition. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

This is one that I have to do the cleanup work on and not have Jeff’s help. Doing the work I am really glad that Jeff is willing to take on cleaning the pipes that we purchase as estates of hunting finds – but enough of that. I have to clean this one! The pipe appeared to have been reamed somewhat recently in its life. However there was some pitting in the cake on the walls of the pipe so I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I decided to start the process by dealing with the damage to the inner edge and top of the rim. I wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton pad and filled in the damaged edge and rim top with clear Krazy Glue. Once the repair cured I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the repair on the rim top and to give the inner edge a very light bevel. Between the repair and the bevel it took care of the damage on the inner edge. The third photo shows the rim top after the shaping. I polished the entire bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. The bowl began to take on a finished shine. (I carefully avoided the stamping in the process of polishing the bowl and shank.) 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, enliven and protect it. 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 set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. The stem was a mess of issues. The first ones that I decided to address were the deep groove on the top side and the bite through on the underside. In preparation for the repair I cleaned out the airway in the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and slid it in the airway from the button end. I had bent it before putting it in the stem so that it would fit tightly against the bite through. I gathered the components of the repair together. I put a piece of packing tape on a cardboard square that I use for mixing a putty mixture of charcoal powder and black super glue. The tape buys me more time to mix up the putty without it reacting to the cardboard. I took out two charcoal capsules, the super glue and a dental spatula. Now I was ready to do the patching.I mixed the putty with the dental spatula and when I had a thick mixture I applied it to the stem surface with the spatula. I pressed it into the trough on the top side and the bite through on the underside. I don’t worry to much about a clean patch at this point I really want to make sure it is covered. Once it cures I can reshape it with a file and sandpaper.I sprayed the repair with an accelerator that hardens the surface of the repair and allows me to pull the pipe cleaner from the airway. I took photos of the repair at this point in the process. It is truly ugly but it has accomplished what I wanted. The groove and bite through were gone. Now all that was left was a lot of shaping and sanding. Oh, by the way I always blow air through the stem to make sure that I have not sealed it with the repair!!  I set the stem aside for the evening and enjoyed some time with the family.In the morning I tackled shaping the stem. I use a needle file and a rasp to take down the excess and to shape the button edge on the stem. It is tedious work that requires patience that Paresh in India has far more of than me but I finished the rough shape with the files.  Once I had the rough shape done I continued to use a combination of the needle file and 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess material of the repair and shape the stem surface. The photos show the progress in the process. The shape is beginning to show clearly! The trough on the top side is gone and the bit mark on the underside it also repaired.I continued to shape the stem with the 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. I had to fill in some air pockets in the repair with clear Krazy Glue and I built up the curve of the button on the top and the ledge on the backside.    When I got the stem to the point I was happy with the repair and shape it was time to begin polishing it. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. It does a pretty good job polishing the stem.   I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it 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. I am excited to be on the homestretch with this old Republic Era Peterson System Standard. 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 is quite stunning and really pops with the wax and polish. The repaired black vulcanite stem actually looks quite nice and is a great contrast to the browns of the bowl and thick shank. This Peterson’s System Standard 311 Bent Billiard was another fun pipe to work on even though I did the entire process here. The polished nickel Ferrule works as a contrast between the stem and the briar and binds it all together. It really is a nice piece of briar whose nicks and marks testify to the travels of this old pipe. 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: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This old pipe will be going back to a fellow referred to me by City Cigar in Vancouver. Even though I am not adding new work at the moment I have a commitment with them that I will repair pipes for their customers. 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.