Blog by Steve Laug
Jeff and I found the next pipe on our Oregon Coast Pipe Hunt. I saw it in a display cabinet and there was something about it spoke to me even through the thick coat of what looked like some kind of moldy dust. It did not smell like mold it really was more like old dust. It made me wonder if the seller had found it in the wall of a house that was being renovated. It is a well-shaped Bent Billiard that had some nice grain poking through the grime. Under the outdoor light and using a lens I could see that it was stamped on the left side of the shank and read IMPERIAL over what appeared to read London Made. The stamping on the right side of the shank reads Italian Bruyere and the number is 15 is at bowl shank junction. The briar that showed has a combination of brown stains that highlights the grain. The finish was very dirty with a heavy coat of grime ground into the bowl and rim top as can be seen in the photos. The bowl had a thick cake with a heavy lava overflow on the inner edge of the top around the bowl. There was too much dust and debris to know what the rim edges looked like but more would be revealed once it was cleaned. The stem was oxidized and there were deep tooth marks and chatter on both sides and on the top and bottom edges of the button. The underside of the stem was badly dented and worn. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up so you could see what we saw. It was a disastrous mess! Jeff took photos of the rim top to show dusty build up around the rim and bowl. It almost obscures the thick cake in the bowl and the lava overflow on the rim top and the inner edge of the rim. Jeff took some photos of the bowl sides and heel to show debris on the bowl but also the grain that showed beneath that. I think that this will be a beautiful pipe once we are finished. The stamping on each side of the shank is shown in the photos below. They faint but still readable. It reads as noted above. The Imperial stamping is not in the expected script but it is clear and the London Made beneath is readable under a light. The Italian Briar makes me wonder a bit concerning the provenance of the pipe. The stem was a very good fit to the shank. It was oxidized, calcified and had debris stuck to the surface of the vulcanite. It also shows the deep tooth marks on the stem and on the button surface. The button is in very bad condition on both the top and underside. I turned to Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-i.html) to read about the Imperial Pipes. The screen capture also helps to clarify the stamping on the left side of the shank. There was also a difference in the IMPERIAL Stamp. This one is script and the one I have is more Germanic script upper case letters.I turned to Pipedia to check out the brand (https://pipedia.org/images/5/52/Imperial_Page.png). There was an interesting catalogue page that shows the shape of the pipe that I am working on. I have drawn a box around it in the photo below. The bend in the stem, the stem style and the shape of the shank and bend look to be the same.Armed with that information and a clearer picture of the original pipe I turned to work on the pipe on my work table. I was really looking forward to what the pipe would look like once Jeff had worked his magic. Would it live up to my expectations? Would there be new issues that I had not expected? I had no idea. When I took it out of the box I was struck great job cleaning up the pipe Jeff had done. It was impressive! He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He worked on the rim top lava and darkening with the soap and tooth brush. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and then soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer. He washed it off with warm water to remove the deoxidizer. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem to show how clean they were. You can see the heavy damage to the rim top and edges of the bowl. The rim top is rough to touch with chips and gouges. The inner edge is also rough and the outer edge is also damaged. It almost looks like the bowl was used as a hammer! The stem is clean and the tooth damage on both sides is very clear in the photos. Lots of work to do on this pipe.I took a photo of the stamping on the sides of the shank. The stamping is faint but readable as noted above. I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of stem, tenon and profile of the pipe. It really is a beautifully shaped pipe.I decided to start my work on the pipe by addressing the damage on the rim top. I topped it lightly with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I was able to remove the damage to the top while at the same time removing the damage on the inner edge and minimizing the outer edge damage. I would polish the rim top with micromesh when I polished the bowl.In handling the bowl it appeared that there was a crack in the front side. I examined with a bright light and lens and was not sure. It almost looked like a scratch in the finish. Polishing the bowl would make it clear one way or another exactly what I was dealing with.I polished the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked over the rim top and edge of the bowl with the pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. I touched up the stain on the rim top using a Cherry and Maple stain pen to blend in the rim top with the rest of the bowl colour.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips to get it into the crevices. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on the top and underside to lift the vulcanite. It actually worked quite well. I filled in the remaining dents and built up the edges and top of the button on both sides as well using clear super glue. Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to shape the button surface and recut the edge of the button on both sides of the stem. I flatted out the repairs to the stem surface at the same time. Once I had done the rough shaping work I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to finish the shaping and to remove the remaining oxidation. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil before further polishing it. (Please forgive the fuzziness of the photo of the underside of the stem.) I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This older Imperial London Made 15 Bent Billiard turned out far better than I expected when we found it. I really had no idea what would happen when we cleaned it up. I think Jeff probably thought I was crazy paying for this worn out looking piece of “debris” but I saw something that caught my eye and after the restoration you can see what I saw! It is a great looking pipe. The mix of brown stains highlights the beautiful mixed grain around the bowl sides, top and bottom. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well with the polished black vulcanite saddle stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Bent Billiard is very nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. It is a petite pipe whose dimensions are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will stay with me for a while but who knows it could end up on the store one day! Thanks for your time.