Blog by Steve Laug
In the next box of pipes Jeff sent me there was an interesting Rhodesian that ticked all the boxes for me. He had picked it up on an auction from Louisiana. On top of that it was a New Old Stock (NOS) Unsmoked Bulldog with a black vulcanite stem. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Wally Frank Ltd. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Imported Briar over Made in Italy. It has some stunning grain around the sides of the bowl with birdseye on the top of the rim cap and the heel of the bowl. It really is a beautiful pipe. The bowl was clean and unsmoked with a little dust on the walls and the bottom of the bowl. The finish seemed to have a varnish or shellac coat and it was very clean. The twin rings around the bowl had some debris in them that would need to be removed. The vulcanite stem looked good and showed no tooth marks of chatter. It did have some nicks on the topside of the button and just ahead of the button on the left topside. The saddle stem had something on the topside near the stem shank junction. It was a great looking pipe and one that should be an easy refresh. I took photos of the bowl and rim top to show their unsmoked condition. You can see unblemished, unused bowl and the pristine rim top. I took photos of the stem at the same time to show how clean it was. You can see the mark of what appears to be either varnish or shellac on the top of the saddle stem at the junction with the shank.I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. They read as noted above.It was at this moment that I faced the first issue with the pipe. When I tried to remove the stem I found that it was absolutely stuck in the shank and would not turn. I put the pipe in the freezer this morning and left it there by accident for several hours. I got busy working on other pipes. Once I removed it from the freezer I was able to slowly and carefully turn the stem. It was still very tight in the shank but I could remove it. I took photos of it after I removed the stem. It had a small aluminum stinger in the tenon. It was pressure fit so I removed it from the tenon.Now that I had removed the stem I examined the mortise area and could see that it seemed that some of the shellac had gone inside the shank of the pipe. It had locked with the vulcanite tenon and formed a seal. The temperature change loosened it but ultimately it took some careful working of the stem back and forth to break the seal free. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to clean out the varnish coat on the inside of the mortise. It took a bit of work but I was able remove all of it from the surface of the briar.I wiped the tenon down with alcohol to try to soften the shellac coat. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand the shellac off the tenon. It took a fair bit of sanding to get the tenon back to raw vulcanite. Once it was clear it fit snugly in the mortise without sticking.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 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 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 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 smooth grained bowl with a saddle 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 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 7/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This Italian Made Wally Frank Ltd Rhodesian 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.