Restoring a Tired Irwin’s London England 1 Billiard from Bob Kerr’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen from Bob Kerr’s Estate is the second Irwin billiard in Bob’s Collection. Bob was an artist from the Vancouver area and a real character (Bob’s photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in most of the restorations of the estate to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blogs (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/).

This is the second Irwin’s billiard from Bob’s Collection and this one is in far worse condition than the previous one. It is worn and tired looking. It has a thin, almost pencil shank and stem. The briar is dirty and the finish is worn off. There are some deep scratches in the left side of the bowl and the rim top looked like it had been used as a hammer. There is a thick cake and lava overflow on the rim top. It is stamped Irwin’s over London England the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped with the number 1. The thin tapered stem has a faint IR stamp on the top side.  It stem is oxidized, calcified and has light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup. He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the edges of the bowl. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim top and edges from damage. It was hard to know for sure from the photos. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. You can see some beautiful grain under the grime and grit ground into the finish.  You can also see the damaged areas on the briar in the photos. He took a photo of the left side to show the deep scratches in the briar. Next these there were also vertical scratches and a fill that had fallen out. It was going to take a bit of work but it must have been a fine smoking pipe if the condition is any indication.He took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. The stamping was readable as you can see from the photos and read as noted above. You can also see the Circle IR stamp on the topside of the taper stem. Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter, scratching and oxidation on the stem surface and wear on the edges of the button.The shape number 1 on the right side of the shank mystifies me a bit but I knew that Irwin’s was a second line for GBD. I am including what I found when I worked on the previous Irwin’s billiard in this collection.

I turned to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-i.html). The site had very little information but it linked the brand to GBD as I had remembered. Here is a screen capture of the section.I turned to Pipedia to see if I could find more information on Irwins and there was nothing listed in the article on GBD pipes. I did find a note on the Brands and Makers page connection the brand to GBD (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_Brands_/_Makers). On that page under Irwin’s I found the following information.

GBD sub-brand / second. Also known “Irwin`s Handmade in Denmark”

Other than that there was no other information.

With over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate I took a batch of them to the states with me when I visited and left them with Jeff so he could help me out. Jeff cleaned the pipes with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. Once he finished he shipped them back to me. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed it with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. The stem still had a lot of deep oxidation. I took photos before I started my part of the work.   I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what cleaned bowl and rim top looked like. The rim top good but there was some darkening on the beveled inner edge of the rim. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the light tooth marks and the remaining oxidation on the stem surface.  Now on to my part of the restoration of this Irwin’s London England 1 GBD made Billiard. I decided to start by dealing with the damage to the rim top and the inner edge of the rim. I started by topping the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to start removing the damage to the rim top.   I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the edge and clean up the edge to minimize the darkening.   I retopped the bowl on the topping board to further work on the outer and inner edge. Once I finished the topping I was happy with the look of the rim top and edges.  I sanded out the scratches in the left side of the bowl as shown above. I was able to remove them with the 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the briar down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it 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 pipe looks very good.    I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. The stem was in great condition with light tooth marks and oxidation. The circle IR stamp on the top of the stem is very faint. There was not enough depth to the stamp to put white paint into and restore. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  I left a little oxidation around the Circle IR stamp on the top of the stem to preserve what remained. This Irwin’s London England 1 Billiard made by GBD from Bob Kerr’s estate turned out to be a great looking pipe. The mix of brown stains highlights the 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 vulcanite saddle stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. 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 Irwin’s Billiard fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I have more to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. 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.

 

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