Blog by Steve Laug
Jeff picked up this interesting Cup and Ball or Claw and Ball pipe somewhere along his hunts or in an auction. It is quite unique. I have worked on a lot of KB&B pipes but never one like this. It is stamp on the inside of the case with the KB&B Cloverleaf and Bakelite in the centre. Underneath it appears to read Blueline. The gold band on the shank end is also stamped with the KB&B Cloverleaf as well as what looks like 12K Gold Plate. Both the base of the pipe and the stem are Bakelite. The stem has a bone tenon that screws into the Bakelite shank. It came in a black leather covered case lined with blue velvet fabric. The only marking on the case was what I mentioned above. The case has a brass clasp on the front and brass hinges on the back. It was obviously custom made for this pipe.Jeff opened the case and this was what the pipe that was inside looked like. It was a very unique looking pipe that is for sure but it was also very dirty. The base, shank and stem were rich red coloured Bakelite. The exterior of the bowl was very dirty and had tars and oils ground into the finish and sticky spots on the finish. Looking at the top of the bowl you can see the cake and how much lava had overflowed onto the rim top. I am sure once it was out of the case it would become clear how dirty it really was.Jeff took it out of the case to have a better look at the condition of the pipe. It was a very interesting looking rendition of a Ball and Cup pipe – at least that is what I would call it. It looked like it would cleanup really well and look great when finished. The hardwood bowl (cherry or maple) had some colour from either being filthy or from age. Cleaning would reveal the facts! He took some close-up photos of the bowl and rim top. There was a very thick cake in the bowl that was hard and uneven and had lots of flakes of tobacco debris stuck to the walls. The lava overflowed down the outside of the ball on several sides. The edges of the bowl looked to be in pretty good condition at this point. Jeff took photos of the sides of the bowl to show the grain and condition of the finish around the bowl. These photos also lead me to conclude that the bowl is not briar… perhaps Cherry or Maple.In terms of stamping the only identifying marks on the pipe were those on the case on the gold band on the shank. Jeff captured those marks in the next set of photos. The logo on the inside lid of the case was worn and dirty so he included two photos of that. I also found a similar lid logo online and have included it as well for comparison sake. Jeff took photos of the KB&B Cloverleaf and the 12K Gold Plate stamp on the band.He took photos of the ball and the stem off the shank/base. The ball and the stem both are threaded and are screwed into the base. It was filthy with oils and tars. The internals of the pipe were in as bad a condition as the inside of the bowl and airway.Jeff took photos of the stem to show the general condition of the stem shape. The curve is graceful and the curve great. The photo shows the profile of the stem. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the damage and bite and scratch marks on both sides up the stem from the button.I remembered that one of the contributors to rebornpipes, Troy Wilburn had done a lot of work on older KB&B pipes so I turned to one of his blogs on rebornpipes on a Blueline Billiard that he restored (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/kbb-blue-line-pipes-with-bakelite-stems/). As expected Troy had done a great job digging into the Blueline brand and potential dates. I quote from his blog the following sections.
I was thinking after some initial research that these pipes were from around 1910 – early 1920s. Seems it’s a little older than I thought. I got this info from a Kaywoodie and early KBB collector who has had several Blue Lines.
Your pipe is made by Kaufman Brothers and Bondy, or KB&B, which later (1915) created the Kaywoodie line we all know. But this pipe is Pre-Kaywoodie, as they were making pipes under the KB&B branding from about 1900 to 1914. Bakelite was invented in 1907, so this pipe was likely made from 1908 to 1914, as the Bakelite was quite the technological wonder of the time, and was used in many products (still in use today). These “Blue Line Bakelite” pipes are rare pieces, seldom seen.”
Having seen the before pictures on this pipe I was looking forward to what it would look like when I unpacked the most recent box Jeff sent to me. The pipe was present in the box and I took it out of the box to see what work awaited me when I removed it from the case. I put the case on my desk and opened it to see what was there. I opened the case and took a photo of the pipe inside.I was astonished to see how clean the pipe was. The bowl clean and the Bakelite base and stem looked very good. Even the gold band looked better. Now it was time to take it out of the case and have a look at it up close and personal. I took photos of the pipe as I saw it. Jeff had done an incredible job in cleaning up this pipe. He had reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer and cleaned up the remaining debris with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He also scraped the thick lava on the rim top. 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. He cleaned out the interior of the bowl base and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean. The rim top looked incredible when you compare it with where it started. There is some slight darkening on the inside edge of the bowl. He cleaned the base and stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the exterior and cleaned out the airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I included a photo of the KB&B Cloverleaf on the gold plated band.I unscrewed the bowl and the stem from the base and took photos of the parts. The bowl and stem both had threaded connectors. The bowl was metal and the stem was bone.I stripped the spotty finish off the bowl with acetone. I know for some this is a no-no for old pipes but honestly this finish was very rough. I would restain it as close to the original aniline as I could but there was damage that needed to remove the stain and finish to address. I followed that by sanding the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. The bowl was looking better and the dark spots turned out to be oils and not burn marks! Whew! I polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. Note the developing shine on the wood. I went through my various stains and chose a Tan aniline stain for the bowl. It is a nice coloured stain that is close to what was original and will give me some coverage over some of the dark spots on the sides of the bowl. I applied the stain and flamed it with a lighter. The flaming burns off the alcohol and sets the stain in the wood. I repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage.I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure and turned my attention to the base. The band was loose so I removed it for the first round of pads. I polished the Bakelite with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching and bring out a shine. I dry sanded with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with a cloth I use that has Obsidian Oil impregnated in the fibres. It works well to remove the dust. I paused the polishing to glue the gold band on the shank end. I put some white all-purpose glue on the Bakelite and pressed the band in place on the shank. I wiped the excess glue off with a damp cloth. I let the glue dry for a short time.When it had set I continued polishing with the micromesh pads. I set the base aside and went back to the bowl. I buffed out the newly stained bowl with Blue Diamond to bring out a shine. The colour is opaque enough to hide the dark spots and transparent enough to show some grain in the sunlight. I like it!I rubbed Before & After Restoration Balm into the wood with my fingertips to clean, enliven and preserve the newly stained bowl. I find that it adds a depth to the polish that I really have come to appreciate. All that remains at this point is to wax and polish the bowl. With the bowl and the base finished it was time to put them back together. I would still need to buff and wax both but the project was coming to an end. All that remained was to finish the stem work. I set the base and bowl aside and turned to address the issues with the stem. I used a clear CA glue to fill in the gouges across the stem from the button forward an inch on both sides. I also filled in the deep tooth marks on both at the same time.I smoothed out the repairs with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with a folded piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. It is a gritty, red paste with the consistency of red Tripoli. I find that it works well to polish out scratches and light marks in the surface of the stem. I polished it off with a cotton pad to raise the shine.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 gave it a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to preserve and protect it. I put the hardwood bowl and Bakelite Base stem back together again and carefully buffed it with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl, base and stem multiple coats of Carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I hand buffed the entirety of the pipe with a microfiber cloth. The pipe was alive now and looked great to me. It has a great feel in the hand that is very tactile and the colouring on the bowl should develop more deeply as the pipe is smoked. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This older KB&B Blueline Cup and Ball pipe is a beauty and the Bakelite looks great with the newly stained bowl. It is one of those old timers that will be staying in my KB&B collection. It will be a great addition to my collection of old pipes. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.