I received an email from Kevin in Australia asking if he could share some of his work with us on rebornpipes. This Dr. Grabow restoration and photos not only tell the story of the pipe but also give some information on Kevin. Thanks Kevin and welcome to rebornpipes!
Story and photos by Kevin Pallett — Australia.
I have a few favourite pipe shapes, one of them being the Prince. There are a few variations on that theme but for me the standard shape will always take the prize. A friend of mine who is also a pipe maker was selling a bunch of estate pipes that he purchased from Ebay (The American Ebay. We live in Australia) and was looking to sell some of them. He sent me a few pics of what he had and one of them was a Dr Grabow Prince. A Grand Duke in particular. It was in bad shape with the ubiquitous bite marks and chocked up bowl. The end of the stem was horrible and how anyone would put it in their mouth was beyond me. After deciding how I was going to start on this Grand Duke, I put Vaseline on the little blue spade on the stem and put the stem into a diluted bleach bath and let it do its thing. While that was going on, I turned my attention to the stummel. It was in a bad way. Not the worst I have seen but pretty funky and in need of some de caking. Believe it or not I soaked the whole stummel in alcohol for almost 6 hours. The cake was like glass when I tried to ream it and the harder I tried the harder it got. After being soaked the cake practically fell out as I used a small picking tool to remove it. I then sanded the inside of the bowl back with a few different grades of sandpaper and then sanded the outside of the stummel to the bare briar. I was happy with the way it looked and there were no major divots to replace and it looked even better when I sanded the top of the bowl flat. A lot of the grime on top of the rim came off in the alcohol and made it easier to sand it back to the way it should look. Whoever owned it would, by the look of it bang the rim on something hard to remove old tobacco but never cleaned it out thoroughly. No cracks either, always a good sign.This was followed with a salt and alcohol treatment. Then onto the stem again. It had what look like saliva stains on the end of it. Like it had sat in someone’s mouth for hours, hence the chew marks I would guess. After it came out of the bleach Bath, I started to clean and reshape the air hole. Although it was more of a small rectangle, and once I started to file it out, I found that it was still full of all the original swarf (or filings). It took a bit of mucking around but eventually a small bundle of vulcanite filing came out. I now knew why I couldn’t get a pipe cleaner through it, so I don’t know how the owner ever smoked it properly, or if they cleaned it out at all. It’s always nice to work with vulcanite. I know that acrylic is durable and harder to mark with teeth, but vulcanite is so easy to file, sand, buff and generally work with.
The inside of the stem was quite gross and took a lot of pipe cleaners to eventually come out clean. Perhaps these were the first pipe cleaners to go through it. As a youngster and teenager, back in the 1960’s and early to mid-1970’s, I can clearly remember the older men (Grandfather, uncles and my Dad’s friends) smoking pipes that looked like they’d been used to build a house. And if they weren’t constantly dropping out of their shirt pocket when not being used, they were hooked into the belt loop of their trousers. Thinking back now pipes didn’t have quite the collectable want or care factor back then. They were just a replaceable method of enjoying tobacco. So why would you bother going to the extreme of cleaning them on a regular basis. I first began enjoying pipe smoking as a late teen and I have to say I had the one pipe for years (a Dr Plumb full bent billiard) although I was pretty meticulous when it came to keeping it functional.
Anyway, I continued making the air hole more to my liking. You can see in the accompanying photo what I mean. I find this shape opening makes it easier to keep clean, get a pipe cleaner through and I think it just looks and feels better. After that I put some drops of CA glue into the chew marks and filed them down. Wet and dry paper got the surface back to smooth and I buffed the surface with micro mesh pads. I love using these little pads. The tenon on these Grabow stems is a metal arrangement to house the Grabow filters which I’ve not used as they are not readily available if at all in Australia and not worth the effort of ordering. Just a little information on tobacco in Australia. For pipe smokers down here, it is not an easy hobby to pursue. 50 grams of any tobacco is $100 and higher and there is no such thing as tobacconists anymore. We have tobacco shops, but they are more like a bank of lockable cupboards. It’s illegal to display anything that might imply that the contents contain a tobacco product and the packaging itself is covered in pictures of photo shopped diseased body parts. All very charming. It’s illegal to order any tobacco product from overseas. If it’s intercepted by boarder control, it is confiscated and apparently destroyed. It’s illegal to grow your own tobacco. So, I guess you’d have to think that the authorities are trying to tell us something.
So, back to the point. I didn’t have anything left to do to the stem until I used the buffing wheels. Back to the stummel.
As I mentioned above, the stummel was in good order on the outside so I started on it with the micro mesh pads. By the time I got through all the grits it had a nice lustre to it. I did discover a few small fills, but I wasn’t going to worry about them. And by the time I’d buffed it you couldn’t really see them. I was really pleased with the way it came together and it is now one of my favourite pipes to smoke. It’s light to use and the bowl isn’t so big that you can’t fill it to the top. Which I do. It’s not a fussy pipe, it’s happy with any tobacco. I find it’s great for Burley flakes in particular. I hope you enjoyed my small account of this particular pipe. Thanks for reading if you did. Ciao, Kevin.