Blog by Paresh Deshpande
I had picked up a job lot of six pipes from a Curio Store on eBay. This lot contained brands like Barling’s, Parker and Orlik and other English make pipes. These are some of my favorite brands and I couldn’t pass them over even though they were in a hopelessly beat up condition. Here are pictures of the pipe lot that the seller had posted. This lot contained a variety of nicely shaped and grained pipes which I had been looking forward to work on. The first pipe from this pipe lot that I had worked on was a classic Billiards indicated in red arrow. The second pipe that I have selected to work on is shown with an indigo arrow.The second pipe that I decided to work on from this lot is an hour glass shaped pipe with beautiful tightly packed bird’s eye grain to the sides of the stummel and cross grains to the front, back and over the shank surfaces. This pipe is stamped on the left shank surface as “Barling” in running hand over “LONDON ENGLAND” in block capital letters over the grade “GARNET GRAIN”. The right side of the shank is stamped with the shape code “5059”. The stampings are all crisp and deep. The trademark Barling styled vulcanite saddle stem bears the trademark Barling stamped in cross. The size, shape and feel of the pipe are solid in hand. Barling’s pipe brand has been well researched and chronicled on pipedia.org and by Steve when he worked on many of Barling’s pipes over decades and thus, shall not waste time in repeating the information that is available. I too have carefully read and researched this brand as I do have many pipes that I have inherited. However, to refresh my memory, I read the entire article once again and tentatively date this pipe as being an Early Corporate Era pipe, that is made between 1962/3 to prior to 1970. I have based my conclusions based on the following facts that I have read on pipedia.org (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barling)
(a) Barling logo on the shank is stamped in script without an apostrophe and without ‘S’, as against BARLING’S MAKE that was in use during the Family Era.
(b) The revamped Early Corporate Era grade includes the GARNET GRAIN that replaced the Ye Olde Wood finish (having dark or Plum stain) from the Family Era.
(3) The presence of London England in block lettering underneath the Barling stamp in script.
(4) The absence of the T.V.F stamping since the Ye Olde Wood and TVF both were discontinued at the beginning of the Corporate Era. These were reintroduced in the mid 1960s.
I have dated this pipe tentatively as being from the Early Corporate Era when the facts are conclusive enough, is because of the stummel shape. In my reading and knowledge, early Barlings pipes have always been in classic shapes and this one is anything but a classic shape. Any insight in to this aspect is most appreciated.
Initial Visual Inspection
This pipe has a decent medium bowl size with chamber depth of about 1 7/8 inches. The stummel boasts of some beautiful cross grains to the front and back of the bowl and all around the shank and tight Bird’s Eye to the left side of the stummel. The stummel is covered in dirt and grime of the overflowed lava and dirt accumulated over the years of heavy smoking and uncared attention to cleaning. The stummel has a nice deep and dark color to it, reminiscent of the Ye Olde Wood finish. There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber and some damage is likely to the back of the rim top surface. The stem is heavily oxidized with a few deep bite marks to the button edge in the bite zone. The pipe’s appearance, as it sits on my work table, does not present an encouraging picture. Detailed Inspection Of The Pipe And Observations
The bowl has a wide rim that slightly tapers down towards the heel and has a chamber depth of about 1 7/8 inches. The draught hole is in the center and at the bottom of the chamber. The chamber has an even layer of thick hard cake with remnants of un-burnt tobacco seen at the heel of the chamber. The rim top surface is covered with thick lava overflow and has max accumulation in the 6 ‘O’ clock direction. Through this layer of lava, a few dings can be seen over the rim top surface. The inner rim edge in the 6 ‘O’ clock direction appears dark and worn out. The outer rim edge is sans any damage. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. There is a strong ghost smell in the chamber which is all pervading. The chamber is out of round in the 10 ‘O’ clock direction (encircled in red) due to the charred inner rim edge. There are a number of dents and chipped areas over the outer rim edge (indicated with green arrows). There are a number of dents/ dings and scratches that are visible over the rim top surface. The stummel appears solid to the touch all around and hence I do not foresee any serious damage to the walls in the form of burnout/ deep heat fissures/ lines or pits. The dark inner rim edge, in the 10 ‘O’ clock direction, may be charred further than anticipated and the same will be confirmed after the surface has been thoroughly cleaned. I need to resort to topping the rim top in order to address the damage to the surface. The ghost smells should reduce once the cake from the chamber is removed and the shank has been cleaned. The smooth stummel has an hour glass shape (or should I call it a fancy Dublin?) that is broad at the rim, narrow in the mid region and is slightly flared at the bottom/ foot. The surface is covered in dust, lava overflow and grime through which one can make out the beautiful cross grains to the front and back of the bowl and shank. The stummel surface has two small fills, one to the right side of the stummel and the other at the front of the bowl. These fills are difficult to spot against the dark finish of the stummel and can be seen only in a bright white light. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry. For a pipe that has been so heavily smoked, there are surprisingly no dents and ding over the stummel surface. Once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned, these fills will be more apparent. I intend to refresh only that fill which has loosened out with a fresh fill of briar dust and superglue. Thorough cleaning and rising of the stummel under warm water will highlight the grain patterns. Micromesh polishing will help in blending these fills while imparting a nice shine to the briar. The mortise shows accumulation of oils, tars and gunk and the air flow is not full and smooth. The shank end face is not a perfect round but slightly flattened at the top. The seating of the stem is not flush with the shank face if not aligned perfectly and precisely. The out of round shank end face is another pointer that this pipe is not from the Family Era!! The ghost smells should further reduce after the mortise and shank walls are thoroughly cleaned. The high quality vulcanite tapered stem is typical Barling with a narrow saddle at the end of a proportionately broad stem. The stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brownish green in color! Deep calcification is seen in the bite zone probably from prolonged use of rubber bit. Some heavy tooth chatter and deep bite marks in the bite zone are seen on both the upper and lower surfaces of the stem. The button edges on either surface have been completely flattened with the lip edges seen as mere straight thin edges with no shape and sharpness at all. The tenon air opening is completely blocked with accumulated ash and oils/ tars that have dried out on the inside as well as on the outside. The horizontal slot end is completely deformed and the slot itself is chock-a-block with gunk. The other fact that is noticed, if observed closely, is that the trademark stem logo of BARLING CROSS is upside down!! The bite marks will be raised to the surface by heating to the extent possible and further will be filled using charcoal and CA superglue mix. The button end, including the button itself on either surface will have to be completely rebuilt and reshaped. The tooth chatter and the calcified deposits will be removed by sanding with a piece of 220 grit sand paper. I am convinced that all the pipes in this lot is from one estate as the damage to the rim, damage to the stem and general condition of each is exactly the same.
Abha, my wife, first cleaned the internals of the stem with stem brush, bristled/ regular pipe cleaners and 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. She scraped out the dried oils and tars from the tenon end with my fabricated knife and also removed the dried oils and tars from the slot end. She followed it up by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the surface oxidation. The amount of gunk that has been scraped out of the stem surface just to get to the black vulcanite shows that the oxidation was very deep and heavy over the stem surface. It has been our experience that sanding a stem before dunking it in to the deoxidizer solution helps in bringing the deep seated oxidation to the surface which in turn makes further cleaning a breeze with fantastic results. She, thereafter, dropped the stem into “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface, making its further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. The initial sanding helps to draw out the complete oxidation as the sanding opens up the stem surface that has been initially covered with oxidation. We usually dunk stems of 4-5 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked in green arrow. We generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight to do its work.While the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I worked on the stummel by first reaming the chamber with size 1 followed by size 2 Castleford reamer head. I further scraped the chamber walls with my fabricated knife to remove the remaining carbon deposits where the reamer head could not reach. I scraped out the lava overflow from the rim top surface, especially from the area in the 6 o’clock direction. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. The inner rim edge was charred in 10 o’clock and 3 o’clock direction which have been encircled in red. I scraped off the charred briar from these areas and now the chamber is out of round. The chamber walls are pristine without any damage. I shall give the inner rim edge a slight bevel to get the bowl back to a perfect round and mask the damage. The ghost smells are still very strong and may reduce after the shank/ mortise are thoroughly cleaned. The rim top surface is still considerably darkened and would need to be thoroughly cleaned to know the exact damage to the surface. I followed up the reaming with cleaning the mortise using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scraped the walls of the mortise with my fabricated knife to remove the dried oils and tars. The ghost smells are still very strong and would require a salt and alcohol treatment. With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Briar Cleaner, a product that has been developed by Mark Hoover, to scrub the stummel and rim top. I set the stummel aside for 10 minutes for the product to draw out all the grime from the briar surface. After 10 minutes, I washed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. I had anticipated that this thorough cleaning of the shank would help eliminate the strong ghost smells, but that was not to be. The stummel surface has cleaned up nicely and the beautiful grain patterns are now on full display. The fills, even the smallest ones, are now clearly discernible. I probed each of the two fills on the stummel surface with a sharp dental tool to check for solidity and thankfully, each fill was nice and solid without any give. I decided not to refresh these fills as my horrific experience while using the thin superglue that was available to me for the purpose, on my last project Bewlay “GENERAL”, still being fresh in my mind. The charring over the rim top surface in 3 o’ clock (encircled in red) is significantly deeper than anticipated. I shall have to resort to topping to address this damage and also the issue of chipped outer rim edge. The chamber and shank needs to be subjected to a salt and alcohol treatment to remove the deeply embedded ghost smells from the stummel. I continued the cleaning of the chamber and shank internals with a salt and alcohol bath. I use cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the years. I draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in to the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the inner rim edge and soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise, fulfilling its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk and further cleaned it with alcohol and q-tips. The chamber now smells clean and fresh. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally.While the stummel was drying, the next morning, Abha removed the stem that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. She cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using a Scotch Brite pad and cleaned the airway with a thin shank brush. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little EVO to rehydrate the stem. This now gives a clearer picture of the extent of depth of the bite marks as can be seen in the pictures below. These will definitely require a fill even after I have heated and raised the vulcanite. The buttons on either surface will have to be reconstructed and reshaped. I need to further sand the stem to completely remove the oxidation. Further stem repairs would have to be kept on hold till I got back to my work place where I have a couple of superglue tubes for the purpose.With further stem repairs being on hold, I turned back to the stummel repairs. I topped the rim top over a piece of 220 grit sand paper till I had a smooth even surface and the charred surface in the 3 o’clock direction was completely eliminated. With a folded piece of worn out 180 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I carefully gave a bevel to the inner and outer rim edge and addressed the issues of out of round chamber and chipped outer rim edge. The rim top surface and the edges look very neat at this stage with the bowl in a nice round shape. I followed it by wet sanding the stummel with 1500 to 2000 wet & dry sand paper and further with 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads, wiping frequently with a moist cloth to check the progress. It was at this stage of restoration when I was taking pictures that I saw the numerous tiny fills at the bottom of the bowl and shank junction. I heaved a sigh of relief when I checked and found these fills to be solid and not requiring any work. I really like the looks of the stummel at this point in restoration. The grains and the clean lines of this piece of briar are worthy of appreciation. The topping has resulted in the rim top surface being lighter than the rest of the stummel surface. I shall darken the rim top surface with a dark brown stain pen once I reach back to my place of work. Next, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips 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 displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush and gave a vigorous buff with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The dark browns of the bird’s eye and cross grains spread across the stummel makes for a visual treat. It really is a nice piece of briar. The dark YOW like stain elevates the beauty of this pipe to a new level. Now, having rejoined my place of work after a hiatus of four months I need to work real fast to complete my backlogs of write ups and complete the repairs on pipes that were worked on during the lockdown period while at home. I have completed a few and now this pipe has inched forward on to my work table. While packing these pipes for its journey with me, I had noted all the issues that had to be addressed on each pipe. This one needed stem repairs to include filling of deeper tooth indentations, rebuilding/ reshaping of the buttons, stem and stummel polishing with a carnauba wax.
With the stummel rejuvenation almost complete, save for the final wax polish, I worked the stem. Here is how the damage to the stem looks as it sits on my work table. The damage to the buttons and the deep tooth indentations are also clearly visible. Once I have repaired these damages, the entire stem needs to be polished and the stem logo needs to be refreshed. That I have to use the CA Wood Superglue gives me shudders as I still am reeling under the frustrations of using this glue while I repaired the stem of the Bewlay “GENERAL” pipe, my last project!!I carefully inserted a triangle shape index card covered in transparent tape in to the slot so as not to break the bite zone. The tape prevents the mix of superglue and charcoal from sticking to the index card. I mixed superglue and activated charcoal powder and generously applied it over the bite zone, including over the buttons, on either surfaces of the stem and set it aside to cure. Once the fill has hardened, I shall file and sand the fills to match the surface of the stem and sharpen the button edges on either surface. This glue hardens immediately and allowed me only a few seconds of application whereas the all purpose CA superglue allowed me enough time to get an even spread over the damaged surface.The fill had hardened and with a flat head needle file, I worked on the filling till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding surface and had sufficiently sharpened the button edges. As with the stem repair of my previous project, Bewlay “GENERAL”, this too had many air pockets. I filled these air pockets with clear CA superglue and set the stem aside for the superglue to harden.
While the stem repairs were curing, I stained the rim top surface with a Dark Brown stain pen and set the stummel aside for the stain to set. The rim top now blends in nicely with the rest of the dark stained stummel surface. Once polished it should match perfectly with the rest of the stummel surface.Once the fill had cured sufficiently, I sand the fills with a flat head needle file and reshaped the button, roughly blending the fills with the surrounding stem surface. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 600, 800 and 1000 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the scratch marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I polished the stem by wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wiped the stem with moist cloth after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite. The finished stem is shown below. The sanding with 400 to 1000 grit sand papers followed by wet sanding with micromesh pads had miraculously eliminated most of the many air pockets that were observed earlier. A few air pockets do remain but they are few and not significant at all. I am pretty pleased with this appearance of the stem. I polished the rim top surface with a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted on my hand held rotary tool and Red compound. I wiped the rim top with cotton swab and alcohol to increase the transparency of the stain. I am quite pleased with the match of the rim top with the rest of the stummel surface. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks that remain from the sanding. This pipe is starting to look really beautiful with the glossy dark plum like stain through which the beautiful grains pop out over the stummel surface. The only cosmetic, yet important aspect that remained was to refresh the stem logo. I applied a coat of white correction ink over the logo and once dried, I gently wiped it with a cloth. The logo is now clearly visible. I mount another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. 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 coupled with the size, heft and the hand feel, makes it quite a desirable pipe. If you feel that this pipe calls out your name, please let Steve know and we shall make arrangements for it to reach you. I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up and each one is my prayers. Stay home…stay safe!!