Daily Archives: July 23, 2020

Restoring a Odd LH Stern System Pipe with a Sump and a Cleanout


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is an odd one that I have looked at several times over the years and then put back in the box or pipes to be restored. We picked it up on EBay in 2016 and it has been sitting here since then. To me it is a pipe that characterizes the perpetual hunt for the perfect flavourful and cool smoke. Today I decided to bring it to the table and work on it. This one is an oddity made by LHS. It has a smooth rim, shank band and panel on the underside of the shank. The rest of the pipe is very nice tight rustication that almost looks like a sandblast. The top of the shank has opening with a threaded vulcanite cap that forms an entry into the airway. It is just ahead of the bowl shank junction. There was a crack in the shank on the right side that had spread enough that the stem no longer fit in the shank. It was stamped on the smooth underside of the shank. It reads Italian Briar [over] LHS in a Diamond (the LHS logo). There is no other information on the shank in terms of a line of pipes or a shape number. The pipe was dirty with grime ground into the finish. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lava overflow on the rim top. The inner edge of the rim was covered so thickly in lava it was hard to know what was underneath. The vulcanite stem was oxidized and had a burn mark on the right underside and deep tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button on both sides. Jeff took photos of the pipe as it was when he received it from the EBay seller. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to give an idea of the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the lava overflow on the rim top. The pipe was a mess and it would take a lot of work. He also took photos of the condition of the stem surface. You can see the oxidation and tooth marks in the stem on both sides as well as the burn mark in the third photo of the stem. He took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.Jeff took photos of the sides of the bowl and the condition of the exterior of the bowl and the vulcanite cap that was on top of the shank. It really is an odd looking pipe. I am anxious to see what the drilling is like once I receive it in Vancouver. The edges on the cap are worn and damaged and I was wondering if it would be stuck in the shank and unmovable. But it seems that with a little work Jeff was able to unscrew it and took some photos of the shank with the cap removed to show me what it looked like.    You can see the threads in the opening and on the cap itself. They are in great condition. What is not visible in the photos to me is critical. What did the airway do with the opening? Did it go straight through or how did enter or leave the opening? I would learn. There was a lot of debris on the cap and in the opening. It was a mess.Before I started working on it I did a bit of research on the brand to see if I could find anything mentioned in the two sites I regularly check for background information. I turned first to Pipephil’s site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-lhs.html). There was a great summary of the history of the brand but nothing on this particular unique pipe. I include that summary below:

The L&H Stern Inc. was established by Ludwig Stern (1877-1942) in 1911. His brother Hugo (1872-?) acted as vice-president & secretary. The firm moved to 56 Pearl St. Brooklyn in 1920. It closed down in the 1960s. LHS was one of the main pipe suppliers for US soldiers during WWII.

I did a quick look at Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/LHS) and there was a longer version of the same information as well as lot of photos of the wide range of LHS produced pipes. It is well worth a visit however there was no information on this particular odd pipe.

Now it was time to work on the pipe. Given the horrible condition of the pipe shown above I was wondering what it would look like after the cleanup. Jeff did an amazing job on this one. With odd airway and capped sump it was a lot of detail work to get it clean. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet Reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He cleaned out the internals of the shank and airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before and After Deoxidizer and rinsed off the remnants of the product and cleaned out the airway once more. The pipe looked a lot better than when he started. Internally it was spotless and smelled clean. I took some photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. I wanted to show the condition of the rim top and edges of the bowl. The outer edges were in okay condition. The inner edges had burn marks on the back half of the bowl and nicks and chipping on the front half. There were nicks and gouges in the top of the rim and it was slightly crowned. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the deep tooth marks, burn mark on the underside as well as the calcification, and oxidation on the stem surface. I took a photo of the stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank is faint but readable. It is stamped as noted above.   I took a photo of the right side of the shank to show the crack in the shank at the stem shank joint. It is ragged and goes into the rustication for about ½ inch.I decided to start my restoration on this old timer by addressing the cracked shank. I went through my thin brass bands and found one that would work well and not interfere with the stamping. I wanted it to be tight enough that it would pull together the cracked surface. I ran a line of clear super glue in the crack and squeezed it together and lined up the band. I pressed the band in place on the shank and the crack disappeared.     I moved on to deal with the damage to the inner edge and the rim top. I sanded the edge with a folded piece of 220 sandpaper to bring it back into round. I gave it a light bevel to take care of the burn damage. Because the rim top had a slight crown I could not top it on the topping board to I sanded the rim top carefully with the same piece of folded sandpaper to remove the damage to the surface.  I polished the rim top and edges with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped the rim top off after each pad with a damp cloth. The shine began to look very good.     I wanted to get a sense of the airflow from the bowl to the shank so I unscrewed the cap from the top of the shank. It turns out that the shank has a sump under the cap for capturing tars and liquid much like a Peterson System pipe. The airway enters the top of the sump at the bottom of the threads toward the bowl and leaves at the top just below the threads on the shank end. It is ½ inch deep from the top of the opening to the bottom of the shank. With the cap on the shank is a little over an inch thick at that point from the top of the cap to underside of the shank. I inserted a pipe cleaner into the airway on each side of the sump to show the flow. If you can picture it the shape is like a U. The system is in essence a sump and a clean out. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the rusticated briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine.         I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the stem to lift the tooth marks on both sides of the stem. I filled in the remaining tooth marks and the burn mark on the underside of the stem with black super glue.    Once the repairs cured I used a needle file to flatten the repaired areas and to recut and shape the edge of the button on both sides.    I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the surrounding vulcanite. I started polishing process with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.      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.      This restored LHS (LH Stern) Italian Briar System Pipe is a good looking pipe (I think I can call this oddity good looking). The unique sump and clean out system makes it interesting to me. The contrasting brown stains on the pipe worked really well with the polished vulcanite stem. The brass band I put on the cracked shank was a great contrast with the briar and the black vulcanite. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel keeping a light touch on the buffing wheel for the bowl. I 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 LHS Italian Briar sits well in the hand and should be an interesting smoke. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This unique piece of American pipe history will be joining my collection of oddities that all were a part of the search for the perfect smoke. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.