Daily Archives: February 9, 2020

Refreshing a Smelly Mehaffey 9 Canadian for Alex


Blog by Steve Laug

Alex has been an ongoing source of restoration projects for me for a few years now. I actually have a box of pipes that Alex drops by periodically and adds new pipes for work. It has been fun to see him pick up the restoration hobby himself lately. He leaves the harder ones to me to work on – whether harder in terms of issues or harder in terms of cleaning. This particular pipe is a nicely grained natural finished Canadian that is stamped 9 Mehaffey on the underside of the shank. It has been in the box in isolation in a sealed plastic bag because of the smell of the bowl. It really does reek.  I took it to the work table this quiet Sunday afternoon. The finish is natural with a slight patina from age. The rim top had an inward bevel that had some darkening and burn damage to the inner edge on the front right and back of the bowl. The top of the rim was also damaged and there were some nicks around the outer edge of the bowl as well. The pipe had been reamed before Alex received it but it smells musty and a bit dank. The smell of English tobacco is permeated with a different smell that gives the pipe a stench. The stem was in good condition other than a few small tooth marks on both sides just ahead of the button. Overall the pipe was in good condition. I took some photos of the pipe as I received it. I took a close up photo of the rim top. It shows some nicks in the surface of the inward beveled top. The outer edges show nicks and damage. The inner edge has some burn marks near the right front of the bowl and on the back side. The top also has what appear to be wrinkles in the briar finish. The photos of the stem looked pretty good. There were small tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. Otherwise the stem was in very good condition.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. You can see that it is faint but reads as noted above.Though I had not worked on this brand before, Dal Stanton who has written blogs for rebornpipes had worked on one Mehaffey pipe so I turned to that blog to see what he had found previously (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/e-a-mehaffey-pipe-tobacco-shop-in-wheaton-maryland/). I followed the link on the blog and turned to Pipedia to see if there was any additional information added since Dal had been there previously (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mehaffey). There was not much information available but I quote what was there in full.

E.A. Mehaffey operated a pipe & tobacco shop in Wheaton, Maryland. He used to make pipes for many years but as legend has it, his house tobacco mixtures were much more prestigious than his pipes. Mehaffey was in business up to the 1980’s.

While this statement does not engender enthusiasm for E. A. Mehaffey’s pipe production, the Canadian with a Natural finish is a very nice piece of briar. Both sides of the bowl show a mix of grains. On the front of the bowl there is some nice birdseye and on the back some swirls of grain. This is a beautifully styled and positioned Canadian shape has a tapered vulcanite stem that fits proportionally well. Now it was time to work on Alex’s pipe. I started the work by addressing the issues with the rim top first. I figured I would be generating some sanding dust so I decided to deal with that before cleaning the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to further bevel the inner edge of the rim to remove the burn damage. I sanded the rim top and outer edge of the bowl with the same sandpaper to get rid of the damage. Once I was finished the rim and edges were smooth.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl and rim down with a damp cloth after each pad. I paused in the polishing of the externals to address the smell of the pipe. I cleaned the airway into the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the surface debris. It was pretty clean. I knew that I would need to do more to get rid of the deep smell.I decided to deep clean the bowl with a cotton ball and alcohol soak. I stuff the bowl with cotton and use an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol. I put a folded pipe cleaner in the shank to wick the oils and tars from the airway and mortise. The alcohol and cotton draws the oils and tars out of the briar. It works in the same manner as salt and alcohol but I like it better as it leaves less mess and the salt does not permeate the briar when cotton is used. I set the bowl aside for several hours while the mixture did its work.I removed the cotton balls and ran a few pipe cleaners and cotton swabs through the shank and mortise to clean up residual debris left behind by the soak. You can see what was absorbed into the cotton in the photos below. The pipe smelled fresh and clean. The mustiness and stench was gone.I picked up the polishing of the bowl again with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The polishing gave the bowl a rich shine. I rubbed it down with Before and After Restoration Balm. It is a product developed by Mark Hoover to clean, enliven and protect briar. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. You can see the results below. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the light tooth marks and chatter on the stem surface. The stem was in excellent condition other than that so it did not take a lot of work. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust. I polished it with Before and After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping the stem down with some No Oxy Oil that  received from Briarville Pipe Repair to try out and get a sense of its value to me and others. Once I finished I put the stem back on the shank and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish briar and vulcanite. I gave the stem a vigorous polish being careful around the white spot. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great piece of pipe history and looks better than when I began the process. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outer Bowl Diameter: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber Diameter: ¾ of an inch. The pipe will soon be heading back to Alex so he can continue to enjoy it. I have told him that if he ever wants to part with it I get the right of first refusal. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration.

A Blasticated Capri Bent Billiard that came with a story


Blog by Steve Laug

A few days ago I received a call at work from a fellow who was just leaving the local pipe shop in Vancouver that refers people to me for repairs. I have to tell you this guy had a story that I had not heard before. He was driving and chatting at the same time. He said that he had picked up a pipe that fast becoming a favourite of his. He was driving and smoking it when he accidentally dropped it out of the window. It seems like the car was moving – at least slowly in his story. The bowl went one way and the stem took off. He stopped and picked up the bowl and could not find the stem. What was not clear to me was what happened to the stem. He said that there was no broken tenon in the shank. He only had the bowl. He stopped by my house and left the bowl in his Autoplan Car Insurance plastic bag in my mail box. He had his phone number and name on the bag. This morning I called to see what kind of stem he wanted on the pipe and it turns out he is a tugboat captain. He said the stem was tapered and rubber. He would be back to Vancouver in two weeks and would get a hold of me then. So that is the story of this pipe.

I actually had no idea what to expect when I returned to my house. My wife had brought the bag inside when she came home. I asked about the pipe and she handed me the Autoplan bag. I took the pipe out of the bag and took photos. The pipe appeared to have what I call a blasticated finish. It is typically done when someone rusticates a bowl and then sandblasts it afterwards. It gives it a very interesting look. The finish was almost new other than several rough spots of road rash around the rim top, heel and sides. The beauty of this type of finish is that it is very forgiving when it has this kind of damage. I took some photos of the pipe before I did any work on it. You can see it is a bent billiard, it is made by Capri and it is sans stem. I went through my cans of stem options and found only one thick tapered stem that would actually work on this pipe. The tenon was not turned and it was an unused blank that still had some casting marks on the sides and button. I quickly sanded the tenon to see what I was working with. I could see that with a bit of work it would be a good fit for this pipe.I used a wire brush to knock off the loose bits from the road rash and then used a walnut stain pen to touch up the damaged areas on the finish.Now it was time to work on the stem. I set up my cordless drill and put the PIMO tenon turning tool in the chuck. I set the cutting head for the first pass on the tenon and spun the stem on the drill to remove excess rubber.I measured the diameter of the mortise again and reset the cutting head on the PIMO. I spun the stem once more and took it down to a close fit. I filed and sanded it the rest of the way.The shoulders on the cast stem were slightly rounded and the diameter of the stem was a little bigger than the diameter of the shank. I used a rasp to remove the excess material and reduced the stem to a very close fit on the shank.I sanded the file marks out of the stem sides with 220 grit sandpaper. There still needs to be some fine tuning but the stem is beginning to look like a fit. I took photos of the pipe with the new stem at this point to have a look. I worked on the sides of the stem diameter to fine tune it. It was definitely looking better. It was time to bend the stem to fit the flow of the bowl. I set up my heat gun. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway of the stem to keep the airway from crimping. I moved the stem over the heat until the vulcanite softened. I used round handle of a chisel for the shape of the bend and bent the stem until it looked right on the bowl. I always try to bend the stem to get the same angle on the bend as the flat top of the bowl.I put the stem back on the bowl and took photos of the look of the pipe now. I like the look of the stem and the flow of the pipe. I still want to shape the shank stem fit some more so the flow is uninterrupted. I removed the stem and turned my attention to finishing the restoration of the bowl. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the rustication shimmer and show depth. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the remaining marks on the stem. I had coated the tenon with a light coat of clear fingernail polish to protect the fit during all of the fiddling and sanding I was doing.  I have experienced damaging a tenon because I was careless so I will often do this when restemming a pipe now. I still needed to smooth out the tenon a bit but it was starting to look really good.I polished the stem surface with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I hand buffed it with a cloth. I gave it a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil even though it does not work as well on acrylic as it does on the vulcanite it was designed for. It works to give a top coat to protect and preserve the newly cleaned and polished stem.  This was a change of pace to the normal day to day restoration I have been doing. Fitting a stem to a bowl is interesting and it is time consuming. Once I was finished I put the new vulcanite stem back on the bowl and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservators Wax 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 Capri Bent Billiard with the new stem polished up really well. The polished stem looked very good after the buffing. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions of this pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. For a low cost pipe this little billiard is eye catching. I will be calling the fellow who dropped it off and let him know the pipe is finished. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.