Daily Archives: August 15, 2020

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS: What differentiates cleaning a pipe and restoring it?


Blog by Steve Laug

After cleaning, refurbishing and restoring pipes for more years than I care to remember I continue to receive emails with questions that readers have about the restoration process and other more philosophical questions.

The next two questions came from a reader prompted this blog. I received an email through the blog from Nathan with these questions. I thought that both the questions and my responses make for a good ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS BLOG. Enjoy the read.

Nathan wrote as follows: Hello! I have been refinishing old pipes for about 2 years now. I have sold a few on eBay, but I mostly do it because I enjoy the hobby, history, and giving them as gifts or selling them to friends. However, I really do want to be able to start selling pipes on eBay at a more regular pace. My big questions are:

  1. When do you feel like a pipe is not only “cleaned and ready to smoke”, but “restored”? I know my skill, and I’m confident in my ability to clean, sanitize, and polish a bowl as well as deoxidize, sand, and polish stems. I can fix minor breaks in stems to a point that it’s *almost* unnoticeable. What are your defining points that cross the barrier of “cleaned and ready to smoke” and “restored”?
  2. At what point do you consider the changes you’ve made to a pipe too drastic to consider “restored”? Maybe an example will help clarify the question: I very recently came upon a lot of pipes and half of them are perfectly within my skill set to fix, but the other half have damaged or broken stems past the point that I know how to restore personally. But these stems are broken in half, with one half of the stem missing. If I bought an entirely new stem and sold it, would you still consider it “restored”, or has the original integrity been altered too much? If so, how would I label such a pipe if I were to sell it?

I wrote the following in response to Nathan’s questions:

My opening comments were simply for my own information.

Where did you learn the art of restoration? Why are you doing it?

Then I responded to each question in turn.

  1. When do you feel like a pipe is not only “cleaned and ready to smoke”, but “restored”?

I want the pipe to be clean and ready to smoke and by and large for me this means free of ghosts of the previous smokers. I want it to smell clean and want the internals clean enough that once they are heated that they don’t bleed old tobacco juices. I want to be able to put a pipe cleaner in the shank and have it come out clean. I want the bowl to be free of previous debris and for me to be reamed clean so that I can check out the walls for heat fissures.  For me the two – clean and restored are the same line! Hope that helps.

  1. At what point do you consider the changes you’ve made to a pipe too drastic to consider “restored”?

This is a tough one and for some the definition is no definitive change has been made to the pipe – no topping, no restaining, no restemming and no repairs to tooth damage. Too me that is too stringent. I will gently top a bowl and aim to get it as close to the day it came out of the factory as i can without changing to the stain or the profile. I will restain but always aim to match the original stains as much as possible. I replace stems and just not when I sell them that the stem is a replacement. Of course if I can find a matching original stem that is always preferred. I haunt sales, flea markets etc to scavenge as many stems as I can. I only do minimal repairs to a stem. To me if half is missing it will never be as good as the original as the repairs are always less resilient that the original rubber. If the stamping has been damaged in my work I note that as well. If I rusticate the bowl then I do not consider it restored… it is now my piece that I have altered. I have a hard time justifying leaving the stamping when I change a pipe to this degree. I always note my changes to a pipe when I sell it. I note flaws and I note repairs.

Nathan responded with two more questions:

  1. So to be clear, unless you’re affecting the briar in a drastic way, you consider it to be restored to its original integrity?

For me if I make any changes to the original design of the pipe – the shape, size, style, finish etc. that deviate from the original makers design the pipe has lost it original integrity.

  1. Also, and this is more practical, how do you remove the smells? I have tried soaking in in 99% isopropyl alcohol and cotton balls, but I can never seem to fully remove that old tobacco smell.

There are different ways of removing the smells depending on what they are. I have written a blog in my Q&A series on that. Here is the link: (https://rebornpipes.com/2017/12/19/answers-to-questions-how-do-i-de-ghost-a-pipe/).

 

Breathing Life into a Mr. Mac Ultra Grain 140 Diplomat


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from an auction in Cedar Springs, Michigan, USA. It has been around for a while waiting to be worked on. Jeff did the original photographs of the pipe in December 2018. It is a beautifully grained Mr. Mac Diplomat that is really quite nice. The stamping is the clear and readable. It is stamped on the topside of the shank and reads the Mr. Mac [over] Ultra Grain. On the underside of the shank it is stamped with the shape number 140 [over] Made in London [over] England. The smooth finish had a lot of grime ground into the bowl and some darkening around the sides of the bowl. There was a burn mark on the front left and left back rim edge. The bowl was heavily caked and had an overflow of lava on the top of the rim. It was hard to know what the rim top and inner edge of the bowl looked like under the grime. The vulcanite saddle stem and was calcified, oxidized and had light tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside but the surface of the button was surprisingly free of damage. The stem had no identifying logo on the top of the saddle. The pipe had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos 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. You can see the damage on both the outer and the inner edge of the bowl. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation, calcification, light chatter and tooth marks.   Jeff took a photo of the heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There is some interesting grain under the grime.    Jeff took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank and the top of the stem. It reads as noted above.  I turned to the listing on Pipephil and Pipedia to gather information on the brand and did not find anything. I did more research on the Pipedia site to identify the shape of the pipe. It fits the description of  a Diplomat shaped pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:Diplomat.gif). From there I did some digging to find out who made the shape 140. I identified the shape as being made by both Hardcastle and Masta. I have included photos of both shapes for comparison sake.

First is the Hardcastle pipe with the same shape number 140 found on SmokingPipes.com (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/england/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=182204)The second pipe is a Masta made pipe that also had the 140 shape number. This one came from a pipe that I had previously restored (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/masta-pipes/).So, now I knew that the pipe I was working came from the same company that made both the Masta and the Hardcastles pipe. I did not find any inforamtion on the brand itself but there was definitely a connection. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

Since Jeff follows the same pattern of work in his cleanup we do not include photos but rather just a simple summary. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove the lava build up on the rim top and you could see the damages to the top and edges of the rim. I think this pipe may well been before we worked with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Deoxidizer so he cleaned the internals and externals. The stem was clean but lightly oxidized. I took photos of what the pipe looked like when I brought to my worktable.    The rim top cleaned up really well with the lava coat removed. The rim top, inner and out edges of the rim showed some damage. There were burn marks on the right front and left back of the bowl and rim top. I circled them in red in the photo below. The stem surface looked very good with heavy oxidation remaining and some light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button. I took photos of the stamping on the sides if the shank. It reads as noted above.     I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a well shaped apple with great grain.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. To remove the damage to the rim top and the edges of the bowl I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the  damage on the rim top but the damage on the inner edge would take more work.I built up the damage to the inner bevel of the rim top with clear super glue and briar dust. It looks ugly but once it is cleaned up it will look much better. I topped it once again to smooth out the rim top. The second photos shows the rim top after that topping. I worked over the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out repairs. The beveled rim edge was better but until it was stained it is hard to tell from the photos. I restained the rim edges and top with a blend of Cherry and Walnut stain pens. It matched colourwise and once it was polished the blend would be perfect.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 carefully avoided the stamping on the top and underside of the shank so as not to damage the stamping. I restained the rim top and set it aside to let the stain cure before I did the final buffing on the pipe.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.  It helped to blend the stain into the rest of the bowl.   While I was working on the bowl the stem was soaking in a new product I received from Briarville Pipe Repair – Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover. It is a liquid of about the same consistency as apple juice. The stem sat in the mixture for 2 ½ -3 hours. I removed the stem from the bath, scrubbed lightly with a tooth brush and dried if off with a paper towel. I was surprised that it was quite clean. Just some light oxidation on the top of the stem remained. The bath was dark with the removed oxidation of the seven stems. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners.  I filled in the tooth marks on the topside and the damage to the button edge on the underside of the stem with clear super glue.   Once the repair cured I used a needle file to flatten the repairs and recut the button. I used 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs further and blend them into the stem surface. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.    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 well made, classic Mr. Mac Ultra Grain 140 Diplomat with a vulcanite saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich brown finish came alive with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. 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 Mr. Mac Diplomat is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. 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 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!

New Life for another GBD London Made Lumberman 256


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of our estate purchases. We picked up a second GBD 256 Lumberman early in 2019.  I wrote about the previous one in an earlier blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/08/05/this-is-one-i-have-not-seen-before-a-gbd-london-made-lumberman-256-with-an-unusual-stamp-on-the-shank/). I had been stamped Ed’d Golden Era on the underside of the shank. The stamping on this one is more regular than that. It is stamped on the top side and reads GBD in an oval with London Made arched around the underside of the oval. On the underside it is stamped London England [over] shape number 256. Next to the stem/shank junction it is stamped with the number J. 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 grain however could not be hidden on this gem. The bowl was moderately caked and had an overflow of light lava on the top of the rim. The rim edges looked pretty good. The stem was calcified, oxidized and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside and on the surface of the button. There was a faint GBD stamp on the topside of the saddle stem. The pipe had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos 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. It appears that there is also some damage to the front inner edge of the bowl in the next two photos. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation, calcification, chatter and tooth marks. Jeff took photos of the sides 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 grime.     He took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. They are numerous and are faint but read as noted above. He also included a photo of the stamping on the top of the saddle stem.    I turned to Pipedia and followed a link to the GBD Model Information article to see if there was some help there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD_Model_Information). I wanted some information on the London Made line. I include what I found below.

London Made — Factory unknown: Some might not be marked with GBD logo and some with additional “house” stampings. Introduced in 1978(?) plain wax finished branded pipes” available in at least six stains. -catalog (1981).

That article gave me some helpful information. I knew that the pipe line was often marked with additional “house” stampings. This one did not have any! I also knew that the 256 shape number tied back to a Canadian. Since Lumberman pipes were in essence Canadians with a saddle stem I was in the right ballpark. Still I had no idea what the J stamp referred to. Now to work on the pipe.

Since Jeff follows the same pattern of work in his cleanup we do not include photos but rather just a simple summary. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove the lava build up on the rim top and you could see the damages to the top and edges of the rim. I think this pipe may well been before we worked with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Deoxidizer so he cleaned the internals and externals. The stem was clean but oxidized. I took photos of what the pipe looked like when I brought to my worktable. The rim top cleaned up really well with the lava coat removed. The inner edge of the rim showed some damage and burning on the front and back edges. There was also some damage on the rim top at the front.. The stem surface looked very good with some light oxidation remaining and a few tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button and on the button surface itself.    I took photos of the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. It read as noted above.I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a well shaped Canadian.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. 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 carefully avoided the stamping on the top and underside of the shank so as not to damage the already faint stamping. 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.   While I was working on the bowl the stem was soaking in a new product I received from Briarville Pipe Repair – Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover. It is a liquid of about the same consistency as apple juice. The stem sat in the mixture for 2 ½ -3 hours. I removed the stem from the bath, scrubbed lightly with a tooth brush and dried if off with a paper towel. There was some oxidation on the top of the saddle and on the edges of the stem remaining. The bath was dark with the removed oxidation of the previous 9 stems. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. The nice thing about this new product is that it significantly softens the oxidation that is left behind making it easier to remove. I scrubbed the stem surface of the stem with Soft Scrub All Purpose cleanser to remove the remaining oxidation.  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.     I touched up the remnants of the GBD oval stamped logo on the stem top with Rub’N Buff Antique Gold. I rubbed the product on the top of the stem and pressed it in the stamping with a tooth pick. This gorgeously grained GBD London Made 256 Lumberman with a vulcanite saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich browns of the contrasting stains came alive with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. 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 GBD Lumberman is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ 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!

Life for another American Made Pipe – A Bertram Washington DC 40 Canadian


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of our estate purchases. 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. We picked up over 120 Bertram pipes from an estate that a fellow on the east coast of the US was selling. This next one is from that estate – a beautifully grained Canadian Grade 40 Bertram with a tapered vulcanite stem. The pipe is stamped on the underside side near the stem with the Grade 40 number. On the top side it is stamped Bertrams [over] Washington D.C. centered on the shank. 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, heavier toward the back of the bowl. The edges looked to be in good condition. The stem was lightly oxidized, dirty and had light tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were not markings or a logo on the taper stem. Like the rest of the Bertrams in this lot the pipe had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the lava on the rim top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean. Jeff took photos of the sides 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 grime.    He took photos of the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable. The grade number is 40.   As I have worked on the Bertrams I have written on the brand and have included the following information. If you have read it in past blogs, you can skip over it. If you have not, I have included the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them take some time to read the background. I include a link to the write up on Pipedia (http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram). Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. Bertram graded their pipes by 10s and sometimes with a 5 added (15, 25, 55 etc.), the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I have worked on one 120 Grade billiard. I have several blogs that I have written on rebornpipes that give some history and background to Bertram pipes. (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/06/16/an-easy-restoration-of-a-bertram-grade-60-217-poker/).

I have included the following link to give a bit of historical information on the pipe company. It is a well written article that gives a glimpse of the heart of the company. http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2012/01/bertrams-pipe-shop-on-14th-street.html#

From this information I learned that all of these Bertrams were made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Canadian with stunning grain has no visible fills around the bowl. This pipe has a 40 Grade stamp on it which I am sure explains the quality of the briar. But like many of these Bertrams the Grading system is a mystery to me.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.  The rim top cleaned up really well with the lava coat removed. The inner and outer edge of the rim looked good.  The top of the rim at the back had some darkening. The stem surface looked very good with a few small tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. I took photos of the stamping on the shank. The Bertram Washington DC is on the topside mid shank. On the underside of the shank it is stamped with the Grade 40 number.   I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is tapered and narrow.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. 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 sanded out the tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.    I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. It was in very good condition so 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 Bertram Washington DC 40 Canadian with a vulcanite taper stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. 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 Bertram 40 Canadian 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 ¼ 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!