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!

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