Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table came to us from an online auction from Ottawa, Illinois, USA. It is a nice looking Zulu shaped pipe with a taper stem. The bowl has a rich reddish brown colour combination that highlights grain. The pipe has some paint spatters on the surface of the briar. This pipe is stamped on the top and underside of the shank. On the top it reads GBD in an oval [over] Century. On the underside it is stamped Champaign’s Finest [over] London England followed by the shape number 2871. There is a small upper M at the shank stem junction. The taper stem has a GBD Brass roundel on the top side. There is a moderate cake in the bowl and a a thin overflow of lava on the edges of the rim top. The rim top and the inner and the outer edges of the bowl are in good condition. There were some tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the vulcanite stem near the button. The pipe looks to be in good condition under the grime. This is a nice looking pipe and in a well-loved shape. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup. He took photos of the rim top to show the cake and the lava coat. The inner edge of the bowl looks good under the grime. The top and outer edge also look okay. It is an incredibly dirty pipe but obviously one that was a great smoker. He also captured the shape of the stem and the tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the grain around the bowl and the condition of the pipe. You can see the grime and paint flecks on the surface of the briar. There is also a noticeable fill on the front of the bowl. He took a photo of the stamping on the top and underside of the shank and stem. It is clear and readable as noted above. The stem has the typical GBD Brass roundel stamp. I looked up the Century Model on Pipedia and found a little information. There was not a lot of info there but I have included it below (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD_Model_Information).
Century — England, unknown if also made in France: Introduced 1950.
I was unable to figure out the stamping Champaign’s Finest. I think it is probably a pipe shop and since the pipe came to us from Illinois that would make sense. Potentially, it could have come from Champaign, Illinois.
It was time to work on the pipe. As usual Jeff had done a thorough cleanup on the pipe. He 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. One of the benefits of this scrub is that it also tends to lift some of the scratches and nicks in the surface of the briar. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. Other than the damaged rim top the pipe looked good. I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top looked very good. There was some darkening on the back top. The inner edge of the bowl showed also looked good. The vulcanite taper stem had light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button and on the button edges. The stamping on the top and underside of the shank is clear and readable as noted above. I removed the stem and the extension from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a Zulu that should be very nice once it is all cleaned up. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped down the bowl after each sanding pad. 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. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter and was able to lift them quite a bit. I filled in the remaining tooth marks with black super glue. When the repairs cured I recut the button and flattened the repairs with a needle file. I followed that by sanding out the tooth marks on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing process with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. The photo below shows the polished stem. This nicely grained GBD Century Champaign’s Finest 2871 Zulu with a vulcanite taper stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The briar around the bowl is clean and really came alive. The rich brown stains took on a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the vulcanite 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. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished GBD Century Zulu is a beauty and feels 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 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!