Breathing Fresh Life into a Stanwell Royal Briar 301 Pick Axe

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of my pickups. Jeff and I pick up many together but this was one I traded for. Between us we pick up quite a few pipes for restoration. I try to work them into the restoration queue so that I can keep them moving. This next one a Stanwell 301 shape that came in a red Stanwell pipe bag. The pipe is stamped on the left side with the shape number 301. On the underside it is stamped Stanwell Regd. No. 969-48 [over] Royal Briar [over] Made in Denmark. The finish had a lot of grime ground into the smooth finish on the bowl and some darkening around the sides of the bowl. The bowl was thickly caked with an overflowing lava coat on the top of the rim. The edges looked to be in good condition. The shank is lined with a Delrin insert. The stem was oxidized, dirty and had light tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. The stem bore the Stanwell Crown “S” on the top of the fancy saddle stem. It had promise but it was very dirty. I took some photos of the pipe before I started the cleanup work. This was one of those that I picked up and did the cleanup and restoration work.    I took photo of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the overflow of lava on the rim top. There were also nicks on the front outer edge of the bowl. I took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation, light chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean.     I took a photo of the left side and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There is some stunning grain under the thick ground in grime.   I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable.  Later photos will give a clearer picture of the stamping.I turned to Pipephil to see if there was any information on the line that gives me the background info that I enjoy as I work on a pipe ( I am including a screen capture of the line that I found there. The crown stamp on the stem is the normal Stanwell shaped crown that differs from the one in the photo below.From this information I knew that I was working on an older Danish model that still had the Regd. No 969-48 on the shank that means it was made post 1948. It is an interesting shape that I could not find on Pipedia’s great history article.

Jeff and I follow the same process in our cleanup of pipes. I started my work on the pipe by reaming it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and followed up sanding the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper.  I scraped the rim top with the sharp edge of the knife to clean off the lava build up.I scrubbed the externals bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. I rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime.   I cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.      I took some photos of the stamping to show the clarity of it after the clean up. It reads as noted above.   I polished the bowl and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth.    I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.    I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I redefined the button edges with a needle file. Once I had it finished it looked clean and well defined.  I scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the oxidation on the surface of the vulcanite. It took a lot of scrubbing and you can see from the pile of pads below in the photos the amount of oxidation that came off during the scrubbing.    I touched up the gold stamp on the stem surface with Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I rubbed it onto the stamping and buffed it off with a cotton pad.I polished the vulcanite stem 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.    This Stanwell Royal Briar 301 Pick Axe with a fancy vulcanite saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the 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 Stanwell Pickaxe 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 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

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