Blog by Paresh
I had randomly selected four pipes to work on, three inherited pipes and one that I had purchased a few years back, since I prefer to put a few pipe stems together in the “Before And After” Deoxidizer solution that has been developed by Mark Hoover. I have completed the restoration of three of these pipes, a Wally Frank “BLACKTHORNE”, a Wally Frank “NATURAL UNVARNISHED” TWO DOT Bulldog and a GEORG JENSEN EXTRA. This is the last of these four pipes, a cased AGE Bent Billiard shaped pipe from my grandfather’s collection.
The pipe is a classic Bent Billiards with a military mount vulcanite stem. It is a medium sized pipe with a nice hand feel and a light weight that makes it comfortable for clenching. It is stamped on the left surface of the shank as “AGE” inside an oval. The silver ferrule at the shank end is also stamped as “AGE” in an oval over three sterling silver hallmarks. From left to right the first cartouche stamping is completely buffed out followed by a cartouche with a LION PASSANT certifying silver quality and the last cartouche with date code letter “m”. There was also a diamond with a banner and a “R.J.” stamp on it towards the bowl end. The vulcanite stem is stamped over the top surface as “AGE” inside an oval over “LONDON” in block capital letters. The stampings on the stem are faded and visible only under bright light and magnification. I had not come across this brand earlier and to know more about this brand I visited rebornpipes.com. As expected, Steve had worked and researched this brand in great detail. The link below will lead those interested to the write up posted on rebornpipes.com(https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/18/restoring-a-1919-age-extra-bulldog/).
I earnestly request all the readers to read through the well researched write up on the brand as Steve’s efforts are worth their weight in gold. From the write up, I have deduced the following with respect to the pipe currently on my work table.
(a) AGE brand of pipes has both French and English connection. The hallmarked silver ferrule on my pipe points to the English connection. “Who Made That Pipe” by Wilczak and Colwell had pointed towards Salmon & Gluckstein brand as English makers of this pipe.
(b) Salmon & Gluckstein brand was bought out by Imperial Tobacco Co. in 1902. Since that was prior to the purported date of this pipe it made sense that it was made by Imperial Tobacco Co. The brand continued under their manufacture until 1955 when the brand was dropped.
(c) The R.J stamp on the silver ferrule stands for Reuben Jordon, a London silversmith who did bands for Imperial Tobacco Co. in London. Reuben Jordon had entered his mark at both the London Assay office in 1906 (by Imperial Tobacco Co.) and at the Chester Assay Office in 1910. The LONDON stamping on the stem of the pipe that I am working on is indicative that the silver hallmarks were assayed by the London office.
(d) Thus, it appears that the pipe was a brand of the Imperial Tobacco Co. and linked to the Salmon & Gluckstein brand.
To date this pipe based on the sterling silver hallmarks, I visited www.silvercollection.it. I have reproduced the downloaded picture of the relevant portion (enclosed in red circle) which points to the year in which this pipe was made.
Thus from the above information, it is concluded that the pipe that I am working on is a brand name made by Salmon and Gluckstein after it was brought over by Imperial Tobacco Co. and the silver ferrule was assayed in London Office by Reuben Jordon for Imperial Tobacco in 1907.
With the provenance of the pipe established to my satisfaction, I move ahead with my initial visual inspection.
Initial Visual Inspection
This pipe has the classic Bent Billiard shape with a medium sized bowl. The stummel boasts of some beautiful Bird’s eye to the right side and cross grains all over the remaining bowl and shank. The stummel surface is covered in dirt and grime of the overflowed lava and grime. There is not a single fill in the briar which speaks of high quality selection of the briar. There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber. The stem has been cut short and is heavily oxidized with a through hole on the lower stem surface and few deep bite marks in the bite zone. Here is how the pipe appears as it sits on my work table. The pipe was in its original leather covered case with a green velvet internal lining. The leather surface is dirty with pieces of leather cover missing along the seams of the case. The locking mechanism is in working condition and clasps firmly shut. Detailed Inspection Of The Pipe And Observations
The chamber has an even layer of thick cake. The smooth rim top surface shows few dents/ dings and is covered in lava overflow, dirt and grime from previous usage. Both the inner and the outer rim have suffered a few blows on a hard surface resulting in a few minor chipped edge surfaces and with the inner edge being out of round. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The chamber exudes a very strong odor of old tobacco. The draught hole is dead center and at the bottom of the chamber and that makes me believe that it should great smoke and the thick cake in the chamber lends credence to this observation. 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. To address the damage to the inner and outer rim edges, I shall create a slight bevel to both the rim edges. The reaming and subsequent cleaning of the chamber and mortise should reduce the ghost smells from the chamber. The smooth stummel surface is finished in a natural virgin finish and has taken on a layer of aged patina, through which one can make out the beautiful Bird’s eye grains to the right side of the stummel and over the lower shank surface. Tightly packed cross grains adorn the rest of the stummel surface. There are a few scratches over the stummel surface, probably due to likely falls. However, there is not a single fill in the entire stummel, signifying very high quality of briar used in carving this pipe. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry and has taken on dull grey hues. Thorough cleaning of the stummel surface and rinsing it under warm water should highlight the grain patterns while preserving the patina. In all probability, I shall let these minor dents and dings to the stummel surface remain and avoid the process of sanding the stummel with sand paper in order to preserve the beautiful patina. Maybe, micromesh polishing will address a few of these scratches to some extent. The mortise shows heavy accumulation of oils, tars and gunk and the air flow is not full and smooth. The high quality vulcanite military mount stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brownish green in color. The stampings on the stem are also covered under the heavy oxidation. The tenon end of the military mount is black while the rest of the stem surface that was exposed to the elements is heavily oxidized. The upper and lower surface of the stem is peppered with tooth chatter and deep bite marks in the bite zone. The buttons on either surface have been chewed off and nonexistent with just a faint outline for lip edges. The upper surface has a superficial hairline crack extending from the lip edge in to the bite zone for about ½ an inch. The lower surface has a big chunk missing from the bite zone, including a part of the lip edge. The stem at one point in time of its 117 years of existence has had the stem cut off about an inch from the orifice end, probably due to extensive damage to the bite zone. The removal of the deep seated oxidation from the stem surface while preserving the stamping will be a long drawn and tedious process. I would need to rebuild and reshape the entire button on either surface while also repairing the through hole on the lower surface. Maybe sometime later, I may even consider a stem splice repair to bring the stem to its original length, but for now, I intend to restrict myself to the repairs only. The sterling silver ferrule is heavily oxidized and developed a patina commensurate with the vintage. There are, thankfully, no dents or dings on the ferrule surface. The stamping on the ferrule for most parts is crisp and clear. The stamping in the last cartouche of the three hallmarks has been all but buffed out with only the outline of the cartouche still visible. I would need to be very diligent while polishing the silver ferrule, lest I end up buffing away rest of the stampings on the ferrule. Once the ferrule has been cleaned up, the shining piece of silver will add an elegant touch to the pipe.The fitted original leather covered case that has protected the pipe thus far, has the leather covering worn out on the sides. The seam has lost its leather cover at places exposing the wooden case beneath. The leather is covered in dirt and grime of over 117 years due to lack of care and appears dull and without any luster/ shine. The inner velvet green lining is devoid of any stampings and has accumulated oils and tars from the rim top of the pipe. The mechanical clasp is still functional and the case closes securely. The Process
Abha started the restoration of this pipe by first cleaning the internals of the stem with bristled pipe cleaners and 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. She further cleaned out the stem internals with a shank brush and dish washing liquid soap. She scraped out the dried oils and tars from the tenon end with a fabricated knife.She dropped the stem in to “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by 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 blue 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 and 2 Castleford reamer heads. With my fabricated knife, I further scraped the chamber walls to remove the remaining carbon deposits and also scraped out the lava overflow from the rim top surface. 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 chamber walls are sans any damage. The outer and inner rim edge is chipped in a few places along the rim top and will be addressed by topping the rim top. The rim top surface itself is peppered with dents/ dings and scratches which too will be addressed during the sanding. Thankfully the inner rim was not charred under the lava overflow. The ghost smells are still strong and may further reduce after the shank/ mortise are thoroughly cleaned. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with 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 mortise was a bear to clean and the heap of pipe cleaners and q-tips that were used is an indication of the gunk and tars that were removed. The old smells of the tobacco are still strong and would need more invasive methods to get rid of these odors. With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil soap to scrub the stummel and rim top. For this stummel cleaning, l I used Murphy’s Oil soap as I wanted to preserve the old patina that had developed on the stummel and was not sure how the Briar cleaner product would affect it. After the scrub with oil soap, 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.The stummel surface has cleaned up nicely with the beautiful grain patterns on full display. I shall subject the chamber to salt and alcohol treatment to eliminate the ghost smells completely. 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 morning, 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 stems (stem indicated with pastel pink arrow is the one being worked on) that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. She cleaned the stem and the stem airway under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using a Scotch Brite pad and 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 damage as can be seen in the pictures below. The oxidation is deep and stubborn and can be seen over the stem surface around the stem stamping and in the bite zone, as dirty greenish brown coloration. I need to further sand the stem to completely remove the oxidation. The lower bite zone including the button edges on either surface will need to be reconstructed. The round orific opening will need to be reshaped after the lip edges have been rebuilt. I used a 220 grit sand paper to sand the stem and remove all the oxidation that was raised to the surface. This step further reduced the tooth chatter and bite marks present on the stem. I wiped the stem with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab. This helps in cleaning the stem surface while removing the loosened oxidation. With a white correction pen, I masked the entire stamping on the stem top surface. This masking helps in easy identification of the extent of the stamping and can be avoided as well as refreshing it when the ink has dried and carefully wiped out. To begin repairs to the stem, I first inserted a pipe cleaner that had been tightly wound with a transparent sticking scotch tape through the stem air way. This helps prevent the CA superglue and charcoal mix from sticking to the pipe cleaner which in turn prevents the mix from running down in to the air way and clogging it. I generously applied a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal over the stem areas to be repaired. I apply a thick layer of the mix as this aid in subsequent filing and shaping to match the repairs with the stem surface. Once I had applied the mix, I set it aside to cure overnight. Once the fill has hardened, I shall file and sand the fills to reconstruct the lower bite zone and the buttons on either surface and subsequently match it with the surface of the stem.With the fills in the stem set aside to cure, I turned my attention back to the stummel. I decided to address the rim top surface dents/ dings and the out of round inner edge. I topped the rim top surface on a piece of 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently for the progress being made as I hate to loose briar estate any more than absolutely necessary. The inner and outer edges are still uneven, though much better than before topping. With a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I create a slight bevel on the inner and outer edges of the rim top surface. This helps to mask and address the minor dents and dings that had remained on the rim edges after topping. I am careful so as not to alter the profile of the stummel by excessive topping or creation of the bevels. I am pretty pleased with the appearance of the rim top and edges at this stage. The following pictures show the progress being made and improvements to the inner and outer rim edges. I followed it by wet sanding the entire stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads, wiping frequently with a moist cloth to check the progress. I really like the looks of the stummel at this point in restoration. The grains and the clean lines of this piece of briar is really appreciable. The few scratches that were noticed over the stummel surface too have been addressed at this stage. 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. The contrast of the dark browns of the Bird’s eye and cross grains with the natural patina of the rest of the stummel adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel which may be insufficiently described in words and be rather seen in person. I cleaned the sterling silver ferrule at the shank end with Colgate Tooth powder. Even Abha uses it to polish her silver and gold jewelry and cutlery. This compound is a very fine powder and is least abrasive with fantastic results. The results were appreciated by Steve during his visit to India. The band is now a nice shining piece of sterling silver and will provide a nice contrast to the shining black stem and the dark brown stummel. With the stummel rejuvenation almost complete, save for the final wax polish, I worked the stem. The fill had cured 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. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 600 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the scratch marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. I am pretty happy with the way the stem repairs have shaped up and also the buttons have a nice delicate shape to them. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2000 grit sandpapers followed by further wet sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit 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. Stummel done, stem done!! All that remained was the original case that housed this pipe. Firstly, I reattached all the dark brown linings that had come loose, with superglue. I wiped the brown leather cover with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab. The color on the swabs should give the readers an idea of how dirty the surface was!! I wanted to further scrub the leather surface, but unsure that I was as to how the leather would hold up to all the scrubbing, I left it at that (remember my mantra… Less is more!!). I cleaned the inner velvet linings of the lid and bottom respectively, with a mild soap in warm water and a soft bristled tooth brush. I was very gentle with this as I had no intention of either tearing the lining or messing up the velvet surface. I completely dried the lining using paper towels. It now does look nice and rich. With the externals and internals of the case all cleaned up, all that remained was to rejuvenate the leather. I applied a generous coat of Brown color shoe polish (it also has a very high wax content!) on either surfaces and kept it aside to be absorbed by the leather. Prevalent heat in my part of the country also kept the polish in a semi-liquid state which further helped in absorption. I polished it with a horse hair shoe brush to a nice shine and gave a final buffing with a microfiber cloth. I have now reached the homestretch in this restoration project. To complete the restoration, 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. I mounted 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 is ready to join my collection. 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 or maybe just keep admiring it!! Big thank you to all the readers who have joined me on this path by reading this write up as I restored and completed this project.