Blog by Steve Laug
In the next box of pipes Jeff sent me there was an interesting Bulldog with a blue acrylic stem that I wanted to restore. It is stamped on the left underside of the diamond shank Antique Shell and the shape number 623 over Italy. The shape number is definitely a Savinelli shape number so I am safe to assume that this is a Savinelli Product. I have not seen one with a blue acrylic stem before so I was looking forward to the restoration. It was a dirty pipe when we received it. There was a coat of lava and dust in the rusticated finish of the rim top. The inner edge and outer edges of the rim looked very good. There was a thick cake in the bowl that had remnants of tobacco stuck in it. The finish was dirty and there dust and debris in the rusticated finish around the bowl. There also appeared to be what looked like either a crack or a fissure in the right side of the bowl toward the bottom. The blue acrylic stem looked good but there were tooth marks on the top and underside ahead of the button. There was tooth chatter on both sides of the stem. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show their general condition. You can see the tars and debris in the rustication of the rim top. The cake in the bowl is quite thick and there is tobacco debris on the walls of the bowl. The finish on the bowl is dirty but looks good. Jeff took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give an idea of the finish on this particular piece of briar. It is different and tactile looking. I cannot wait to see what it looks like once it is polished and waxed.Jeff took a photo of the heel of the bowl. On the right side of the photo (also right side of the bowl) there is an area that looks like a crevice or possibly a crack in the bowl. I have circled it in red for easy identification. I will need to check that out once I am working on the pipe.He took a photo of the stamping on left underside of the diamond shank. There was a smooth panel with the stamping on it. It reads as it is stated above.This pipe has a very unique clear blue acrylic stem that goes really well with the contrasting browns of the bowl and shank. It is in very good condition with light tooth marks and chatter near the button. I have worked on Savinelli Antique Shell pipes in the past but this was the first one with the blue acrylic stem. There are no stampings on the stem so it may be a replacement but it fits the shank very well. I moved forward to work on the pipe itself and see what I had to do with it. It had come back looking amazingly clean. The bowl looked very good and the crevice on the bottom of bowl, though still visible was even more obviously a crevice rather than a crack. I would need to probe it more once I started to clean up the pipe. The stem looked like new, with most of the tooth chatter gone. I was impressed. Jeff had done his normal thorough clean up – reaming, scrubbing, soaking and the result was evident in the pipe when I unpacked it. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took some photos of the rim top and stem. The rim top and bowl looked very good. The cake and lava overflow were gone and the rim was very clean. Jeff had been able to get rid of the lava and tars. The close up photos of the stem shows that it is a much cleaner and better looking stem. The light tooth chatter was greatly reduced and the stem looked really good.I took a photo of the stamping on the left underside of the shank to show the condition after the cleanup. Often the stamping takes a hit with the cleaning and is lessened in it clarity. Jeff does a great job in leaving the stamping looking very good.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point. It really is quite a stunning pipe with the clear blue acrylic stem.I started my restoration work on this pipe by addressing the crevice or potential crack on the lover right side of the bowl. I probed it with a dental pick to see how deep it went and if it was a crack or just a natural flaw in the surface of the briar. It did not appear to go very deep into the briar but my examination with the probe using a lens were inconclusive. I used a light and lens to check out the inside of the bowl and it was flawless – whew! I was glad to see that. It added credence to my thinking that it was a crevice. However, I decided to address it as a cosmetic crack and do the repair accordingly.I used a microdrill bit on my Dremel to drill a small pilot hole at what I ascertained were the ends of the crevice/crack. These are tiny holes shown in the next two photos. I have circled them in red below. The first photo has two and the second has one hole.I filled in the holes and the crevice on the heel and side of the bowl with clear super glue. I pressed briar dust into the holes and the crevice with a dental spatula. I cleaned off the debris with a brass bristle wire brush. It removes the loose debris but leaves the repairs in the crevice and holes intact.I was happy with the coverage of the repair but as is often the case a super glue and briar dust repair leaves smooth shiny spots on the finish. I dislike these shiny tells! I used a small round burr on the Dremel to create the same kind of rustication that was on the rest of the bowl. Once it was stained I was pretty sure it would look great.I used a Walnut stain pen to restain the newly rusticated surface of the repair. I like the way it looks and it will look even better as the bowl is polished and waxed.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. The repair looks really good. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the blue acrylic stem. I sanded out the remaining tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and started to polish it with a folded piece of 400 wet dry sandpaper. Once it was finished it was smooth.I used some Denicare Mouthpiece Polish that I have in my kit to start polishing out some of the scratches and remaining oxidation on the stem. I rubbed it in with a cotton pad and my finger tip and buffed it off with a cotton pad.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I love the end of a restoration project like this one that needed more than first appeared. It is the moment when all of the parts come together and the pipe looks better than when we started the cleanup process. I put the stem back on the bowl and lightly buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank sides during the process. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is a really beautiful rusticated bowl with a stunning blue acrylic stem. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. 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 Savinelli Made Antique Shell Bulldog shape 623 is a great looking pipe. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be putting this pipe on the rebornpipes store shortly. If you want to add it to your collection let me know. Thanks for your time.