A Difficult To Identify But Simple Restoration Of “Ornsby” Pipe

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had recently completed a challenging restoration of an ORLIK MEERSCHAUM LINED pipe that had broken meerschaum lining. I considered it to be a challenging project because I had never undertaken repairs of a meerschaum as a material and trespassing in to uncharted territories is always challenging. However, thanks to all the detailed and informative write ups on the subject that is available on rebornpipes.com, I was successful in restoring the pipe and making it smoke worthy!!

For my next project, I wanted something simple to work on and after rummaging through the huge pile of pipes awaiting restoration; I selected this interesting but different looking pipe that was in my grandfather’s collection. I say it is different since this pipe does not have a shank but the stem directly fits in to the bowl beneath the vertically placed draught hole on the heel. In addition to the vintage classic pipes, there are quite a few such different looking and unique pipes that I have been fortunate to inherit.

Beneath all the dust and grime, beautiful Bird’s eye grains to the sides and bold cross grains to front and back that extends to nearly half the width of the bowl on the left side can be seen over the stummel. Once the stummel has been cleaned and polished these grains will pop out and look more beautiful. The stummel is sans any stampings while the vulcanite stem with a conical aluminum tenon end has a symbol that is hard to describe. It’s an interlocked OP with a straight line from the base of the letter P. The lack of any Maker’s stamp and COM stamp makes the identification of this pipe very difficult.Lack of Maker’s stampings and COM stamp made research of this pipe very difficult. There was no point visiting rebornpipes.com as I did not have any name to search for. Similarly, visiting pipedia.org would not help as I did not have COM stamp to follow. Finally I turned to pipephil.eu and searched the Logos with a geometrical pattern and Logos with miscellaneous symbols sections. Again I came up with nothing matching the stem logo on the pipe in front of me. As a last resort, I just typed “pictures of unusual tobacco pipes” in to the Google search bar and there before me were a plethora of pictures. As I was scrolling through these images, after a couple of hours, I finally found a picture that was an exact replica of the pipe on my work table. A click on to this image took me to the site smokingmetals.co.uk. Here is the link to the web page; http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=106

From the read I understood that this design was a part of the piper’s eternal quest for a cool and dry smoke. I reproduce a part of the information that should provide the readers with an insight in to the designer of the pipe and the Company that manufactured these pipes.

Invented by Chief Marine Officer, William Edward Ornsby in an attempt to create a cooler smoke and a dry bowl. Marketed by the Ornsby Pipe Company Ltd, Pennywell, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, England, predominately in the North of England, this pipe is virtually a stem direct to bowl.
The push fit stem/bit can be rotated to clear any shreds of tobacco that may be blocking the airway. A half turn of the stem will cut any trapped leaf in the airway and a quick blow will eject the offending particle. As the centre photo shows, the metal part of the stem goes right through the bowl. The packaging was also unusual in that it was a tube.
The pipe came with two choices of stem, straight or curved and there was a choice of six bowls: Natural, Brown Sandblast, Black Sandblast, Smooth Mahogany Finish, Deep Cut Horizontal Carved or the Deep Cut Vertical Carved.
Overall length 5 3/4 inches (146 m/m)

My thanks to Richard Adamek for the following:
“ORNSBY PIPE COMPANY LIMITED At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Members of the above-named Company, duly convened, and held at 7 Benton Terrace, Sandyford Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on 27th October 1980, the following Extraordinary Resolution was duly passed:
“That it has been proved to the satisfaction of this Meeting that the Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue its business, and that it is advisable to wind up the same, and accordingly that the Company be wound up voluntarily and that Brian Leslie Wilson, of Wilson Johnson, 7 Benton Terrace, Sandyford Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, be and he is hereby nominated Liquidator for the purposes of the winding-up.”
(803) Brian Dobinson, Director”
Richard also found the patent number… US patent 242261 of 1976

Thus from the above, it is now established that the pipe that I am dealing with is an ORNSBY with a Natural smooth finish and a straight vulcanite stem. The pipe was awarded a US Patent in 1976 and the company was liquidated in 1980. This places the pipe in between the period from 1970s to 1980 making it 40 plus years old!!

Initial Visual Inspection
The pipe has beautiful Bird’s eye and cross grain across the stummel that can be seen through all the dirt and grime from years of use and uncared for storage. The chamber has a thick layer of cake with lava overflow over the rim top surface. The vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and the aluminum tenon contraption appears to be dull and lackluster. The bite zone is peppered with minor tooth chatter. I think this should be an easy refurbishing project. Here is how the pipe appears as it sits on my work table. The smooth stummel has some beautiful Bird’s eye grain on the sides with cross grains on the front and back of the stummel. At the bottom on either side of the stummel, is a sharply contoured cut that merges and forms a gap between the either sides of the stummel that houses the aluminum tenon end of the stem. The stummel surface is covered in dirt and grime giving the stummel a dull and lackluster appearance. There is not a single fill in the briar and the stummel just oozes out high quality. There are a few dents and dings on either side of the stummel. The gap at the foot of the stummel that houses the aluminum tenon is covered in oils, tars and grime from years of usage and storage. The housing for the tenon needs to be cleaned. The minor dents and dings will be addressed once the stummel is sanded down with a sand paper. A nice cleaning and polishing should highlight the beautiful grain on the briar. A thick layer of cake is seen in the chamber. The rim top surface has a few dings and is covered in thick overflow of lava, dirt, dust and grime. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The inner rim condition appears to be good with no burn/ charred surfaces. However, the outer rim edge is damaged most probably due to striking against a hard surface. In spite of the thick cake, the chamber odor is surprisingly not strong and should be addressed once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar and the shank internals have been thoroughly cleaned. The draught hole is in the dead center of the heel of the chamber and is constricted due to accumulation of the thick cake. Only once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned that I can be sure of my initial appreciation. The dings over the rim surface will be addressed by topping while the damage to the outer rim edge will be taken care of by sanding or, if need be, by creating a bevel. The draught hole needs to be thoroughly cleaned for a full and smooth draw. The tapered vulcanite stem is unique and nothing like I had seen before. The tenon end is a conical aluminum extension and has a horizontal slot that is closed at the bottom, cut across the mid section which opens in to the stem airway. This slot is aligned with the draught hole. For a better understanding of the construction and functioning, shown below are a few pictures which shows the complete set up. The stem is heavily oxidized with minor tooth chatter in the bite zone. The aluminum tenon is stained with dried oils and tars and has a lackluster appearance. Deposits/ accumulation of gunk is seen in the horizontal slot in the conical tenon, clogging the air way. Apart from slight calcium deposition at the edge of the both the buttons, there is no damage to the button per se on either surface and no deep bite marks in the bite zone. I shall clean the stem internals and get rid of the surface oxidation. This internal cleaning will improve the air flow and external cleaning will help in aesthetics of the stem. The minor tooth chatter in the bite zone will be addressed by sanding the area. The Process
I decided to address the stem first for this restoration. There is no fixed routine that I follow during any restoration and I prefer to address first that part which requires maximum repairs or that what requires maximum time. I cleaned the internals of the stem with thin shank brush dipped in liquid dish washing soap and further cleaned it with regular and bristled pipe cleaners and 99.9% isopropyl alcohol. It has been my experience that initial cleaning with shank brush greatly reduces the subsequent requirement of pipe cleaners.Next, I reamed the chamber with size 2 followed by size 3 head of the Castleford reamer. I further sand the walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper and took the cake down to the bare briar. I wiped the chamber with a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol. It was a great relief to find a solid chamber with no heat fissures/ lines/ pits. The lava overflow from the rim top surface was gently scrapped off with my fabricated knife. I cleared the draught hole of all the obstructing cake and gunk with hard bristled pipe cleaners and alcohol. The gap at the foot of the stummel that houses the tenon was cleaned using shank brush, pipe cleaners and alcohol. The rim top surface needs to be scrubbed clean. This cleaning has revealed an uneven inner rim with chips to the edge, especially one in 12 o’clock direction. The damaged areas of the inner rim edge are marked in yellow circles. Further external cleaning of the stummel will present a clearer picture of the extent of damage. The chamber now smells fresh and clean.    The time that I was working on cleaning up of the stummel, Abha my wife worked on the stem. Since there was no requirement of any repairs to the stem, she volunteered to clean it up. With a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper she rid the stem of the deep seated oxidation. She followed the 180 grit sandpaper with sanding the stem with progressively finer grit sandpapers of 220, 400, 600 and 1000 grit. The use of progressively finer grit sandpapers helps in removing complete oxidation from the stem surface while eliminating the sanding marks left behind by the coarser grit sandpapers. She cleaned up to the aluminum tenon end and the stem with 0000 grit steel wool and Murphy’s Oil soap and rubbed a little EVO deep in to the vulcanite. What fantastic results she has produced! The stem already looks polished and yet micromesh cycle is yet to be completed. Here is how the stem appears at this stage.With the internals of the stummel now clean, I cleaned the external surface of the stummel. I applied “Briar Cleaner”, a product that has been developed by my friend Mark Hoover, to the external surface of the bowl. It works similar to Murphy’s oil soap and needs to be applied to the stummel surface and set aside for 5- 10 minutes. The product pulls out all the dirt and grime to the surface making further cleaning easy. I am quite happy with this product. I used a hard bristled tooth brush to scrub the stummel with the gel like product, wiped it clean with a moist cloth and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I deliberately cleaned the rim and the shank end by inverting the stummel and rotating it on a piece of Scotch Brite. I cleaned the gap that houses the conical aluminum tenon with a shank brush and dish washing soap to remove what little crud remained in the gap. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The stummel is now nice and clean with the grains showing a lot of promise. The rim top surface has many dents and dings while the outer rim edge has many small divots carved, probably as a result of knocking against a hard surface to remove the dottle. The inner rim too has few dings and chipped edge. I shall resort to topping and creating a bevel over the edges to address these issues. Now that the stummel was clean, I could make out the exact extent of damage to the rim top surface and also to both inner and outer rim edges. I topped the bowl on a piece of 220 grit sand paper, checking ever so frequently the progress being made. One of the things that I prefer to avoid is topping a bowl as it compromises the shape of the bowl while also loosing briar estate. In case it is unavoidable, I prefer to keep it to the minimum. In this case, a few rotations later, I am at that point where the rim top surface damage has been addressed while the inner and outer rim edge damage has been addressed to a great extent. I need to create a slight bevel over both the edges to fully address the damage to the rim edges. To address the remaining dents and chips to the inner and outer rim edges, with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my forefinger and thumb, I created a slight bevel over both these edges. I am quite pleased with the way the rim top and the edges appear at this stage in restoration.    I subjected the stummel to a complete cycle of micromesh polish, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads, the only variation being that since 1500 and 2400 grit micromesh pads have completely worn out and due to lockdown couldn’t order on line, I wet sand using 1500 and 2000 grit sand papers. I wiped the stummel with a moist cloth after every three grit pads to remove the sanding dust left behind by the pads. This also helps in monitoring the progress being made and ensures early corrective action. I am happy with the progress being made till now.    Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar and the rim top surface with my finger tips and worked it deep in to the surface and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful grain patterns on full display. The contrast of the dark browns of the grain with the light hues of the rest of the stummel adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush to further deepen the shine. Simultaneously as I was carrying out repairs and polishing of the stummel, Abha was busy silently polishing the stem. She wet sanded the stem with 1500 and 2000 grit sand papers and followed it up with wet sanding using remaining micromesh grit pads 2400 to 12000. She even polished the conical aluminum tenon to a pristine smooth shining finish. Readers who have been following my write ups for some time now are aware of Abha’s penchant for not taking any pictures……and she has stayed true to this habit of hers. Sincere apologies as there are no pictures for this stage!!

To complete the restoration, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and is now ready for its long second innings with me. I only wish it could share with me its life story of the past years while I enjoy smoking my favorite Virginia blend in it or maybe an English blend!! P.S. This pipe was an interesting project, the most difficult part being the research on the maker and brand of this pipe. This task was made difficult due to lack of any stampings on the stummel. However, once the provenance of this pipe was established, it was a simple straight forward restoration project.

This pipe too shall be joining the few pipes in my collection that are a milestone in pipe smoker’s eternal quest for a cool and dry smoke.

A big thank you to all the readers who have thus far walked with me on this journey…

Praying for safety and well being of all readers of rebornpipes.com. Stay home, stay safe.

1 thought on “A Difficult To Identify But Simple Restoration Of “Ornsby” Pipe

  1. Pingback: New Life for an Ornsby System Pipe – the Ongoing Hunt for a Cooler Smoke. | rebornpipes

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.