Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table came to us from an online auction from Ancram, New York, USA. It is a bent Billiard that is stamped on the left side of the shank and read Mullins and Westley LTD. [arched over] Covent Garden [over] London. On the right side it is stamped Westleys [over] Covent Brand. On the underside of the shank the shape number 45 was stamped near the shank end. The finish was very shiny and the varnish was nicked and scratched on the sides and heel of the bowl. The varnish on the rim top was peeling on the inner edge of the bowl. The bowl was heavily caked and there was a light and spotty lava overflow on the rim top. The inner and outer edges of the rim appeared to have no damage. The taper stem had a W stamped on the left side. It had light tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. It had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took some 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 tobacco debris as well as the spotty lava coat on the top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation and the chatter and tooth marks on the topside and underside near the button. Jeff took a photo of the heel of the bowl to give a picture of the condition of the finish on the pipe. You can seep the nicks and spots where the varnish is damaged. There is some nice grain under the varnish coat.The stamping on the sides of the shank is clear and readable and read as noted above. Since I had never heard of the Mullins & Westley Brand or as the right side of the shank read the Westleys Covent Brand I turned to Pipephil’s site to see if I could garner any helpful information on the company and the maker. I found a listing for the brand and actually learned that it was a tobacco shop in Covent Garden, London (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m8.html). I have included a screen capture of the section the brand. I quote a note that appeared in the sidebar.
Brand of the Covent Garden tobacconist who also blends its own pipe tobacco. Address: 27A The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RDI turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/British_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_M_-_Q) and found the listing for the brand. There was not an article but it did confirm the information on PipePhil’s site. I quote:
Mullins & Westley Tobacconists; 27A The Piazza, Covent Garden, London. Today probably most famous for their snuff tobaccos. Private label pipes made by various European brands.
I googled the shop and found that it had a website that no longer worked. There were photos of the shop that others had collected. I saved one from Flicker that captured the essence of the small shop. It reminds me of some of the shops that I visited in York, Bath and Cambridge on a trip to England. Here is the link to the photo and the photo as well (https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6181/6056846779_698d27c9f9_b.jpg).Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of it 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. The rim top and edges of the bowl show the peeling varnish coat. It is hard to see in the photos above but the entire bowl has the same issue. The stem surface looked very good with very light tooth marks and chatter on the top and the underside near the button. The stamping on the left side of the shank is clear and readable. It reads as noted above. I would need to touch up the W stamp on the stem side. I removed the taper stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. There was an aluminum stinger in the tenon that I would need to remove.Now it was time to work on the pipe. When I have to deal with removing a peeling varnish coat I always move forward with a bit of fear and trepidation as I have learned the hard way that you never know what will be underneath the varnish. A shiny coat often hides a multitude of surprises. I went ahead and scrubbed the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish. It took some work but it came off pretty well. I was surprised that actually there were only a few small fills in the briar. I breathed a sigh of relief! Once I had the coat of varnish removed I wiped the bowl down with a clean pad and some more acetone to remove the debris of varnish that was left behind on the briar. I took photos of the briar to show that the pipe was actually quite nice under the varnish coat. I decided to stain the bowl with a Cordovan aniline stain. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it with a lighter to set the stain in the briar. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I wanted. I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure.I wiped the briar down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the excess and to begin the process of bringing the grain to the surface so it is more visible. I buffed the pipe with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel and removed some more of the top coat of stain on the bowl. The grain is starting to really come alive. I wanted the stain to be a bit more transparent and make the grain pop. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth. There is a fill on the lower left side and the upper right side that stood out a bit but that was the extent of the visible fills. 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 ten minutes and then buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The grain came alive and the finish looked rich. I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I touched up the W stamp on the left side of the stem with Liquid Paper. I scraped off the excess material with my fingernail and buffed around the stamp with cotton pad.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. This Mullins & Westley Ltd Covent Garden 45 Bent Billiard is a great looking pipe now that it has been stripped and refinished. The smooth finish around the bowl is quite beautiful and highlights the grain and works well with the polished vulcanite taper stem. The fills on the sides of the bowl are less visible after polishing. 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 Westley Covent Garden Bent Billiard 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe was 47g/1.66oz. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!