Restoring a long awaited Dunhill Shell Briar 483FT 4S Don

Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago Jeff sent me pictures of a pipe that someone had sent him an email about. They were selling it and the price was not too bad for what it was. Interestingly it was a shape that I have been looking for, for several years. It was Dunhill shape that they called a Don. It had a Shell finish with deep sandblasting around the bowl and a smooth crowned rim top and base. The shank was very short and capped with a vulcanite button. The stem was a thin military bit fishtail with a broad flare at the button. The pipe is stamped on the base as follows: 483F/T over DUNHILL SHELL. Under that it was stamped Made in England with the numbers 8 and 9 following he D in England. From my research that means the pipe was made in 1968 and sold in 1969. There is a Circle 4S stamped as well – 4 referring to the size of the pipe (Group 4) and S referring to the Shell finish on the bowl. The pipe is very dirty with grime and dust in the sandblast finish. There is a thick cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava and tars on the crowned rim top. The base is dirty and has some scratching around the stamping but it is readable. The vulcanite shank cap was oxidized as and dirty. Then thin stem was oxidized and there were light tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the stem on both sides ahead of the button. Otherwise it is a clean looking stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff took photos of the rim top from various angles to show the condition of the bowl and rim as I described above. The finish appears to be okay beneath the grime and the inner and outer edge of the rim look very good under the thick cake and lava overflow. There do not appear to be any nicks of dents in the smooth briar crown of the rim. He took photos of the sides of the bowl showing the deep and rugged sandblast that I like on these Dunhill Shell pipes. This one was exceptional. You can also see the vulcanite shank cap in the photos. I have included the last photo is this series even though it is a little blurry because it captured the blast on the lower part of the left side of the bowl. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the smooth heel of the bowl. It is a little double stamped but is still readable. There was a lot of grime and debris in the stamping and on the base.He took photos of the stem to show the oxidation as well as the wear on the button. You can also see the calcification, tooth marks and chatter on both sides.Using the information on pipephil’s site I was able to confirm my interpretation of the stamping spelled out above ( The 483F/T stamp tells me the pipe is a shape number 483 (a Don) while the F/T tells me that the stem is a fish tail stem. The Shell Briar stamp refers to the sandblast finish. The number 8/9 following the Made in England stamp identifies the date as 1968 and sold in 1969. The circled 4 is the Group bowl size. The S is the stamping for the Shell Briar finish.

With that in mind I turned to work on this pipe. When Irene and I met with Jeff and Sherry on the Oregon Coast he sent me back with a bag of cleaned pipes and this was one of them. Jeff had done a great job in cleaning up this Dunhill. He had reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He took back the thick cake to the walls of the bowl. He also scraped off the lava and grime on the rim. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime on the bowl and rim and rinsed it off with warm running water. He cleaned out the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean. The rim top looked much better when you compare it with where it started. He cleaned the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the exterior and cleaned out the airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked it in Before & After deoxidizer and rinsed it clean after wards I took some photos of the pipe as I saw it. It was a beautiful piece of sandblasted briar. To show how clean the rim top and stem really was I took a close-up photo of the rim and stem. The bowl was clean and cake free. The rim top is quite clean and the inner edge of the bowl has all of the lava removed. The crowned rim looks great. The vulcanite fishtail stem looks very good. The surface and the button edge appear to be in good condition. There were some small tooth marks and chatter on both sides but it looked good.I took a photo of the shank cap to show that it still had some oxidation but it was in good shape.I took the stem off the pipe and took photos of the bowl sides to show the rich and deep sandblast on the craggy sides of the bowl. I took a photo of the stamping and the heel of the bowl. It looks a lot better. You can see the double stamping on most of the stamp – readable but also has a ghost!I started my part of the restoration of the pipe by polishing the crowned rim top and the vulcanite shank cap with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped the surface of both down with a damp cloth between each sanding pad. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I also sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching.    I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I buffed the stem with a microfiber cloth.I polished out the scratches 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 wiped it down with Briarville’s No Oxy Oil and set it aside to dry. I am happily on the homestretch with this pipe and I really look forward to the final look when it is put back together and polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with a light touch of Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The rugged sandblasted bowl really looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This 1968 Dunhill Shell Briar 483F/T Group 4 Size Don was a fun pipe to work on. The Don really has a classic Dunhill look in a Shell Briar finish that catches the eye. The combination of red and black stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is a comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pipe is staying with me. I look forward to loading a bowl of a favourite Virginia and enjoying this pipe. 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.

1 thought on “Restoring a long awaited Dunhill Shell Briar 483FT 4S Don

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.