Breathing Life into a 1955 Dunhill Tanshell 48 F/T Group 4 Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us from a group of pipes that Jeff picked up on one of his pipe hunts along the Oregon Coast, USA. It is a Dunhill TanShell Briar Bulldog that is in great condition. It is stamped on a smooth panel on the underside of the shank. On the heel of the bowl it is stamped with the shape number 48F/T followed by Dunhill [over] Tanshell Briar followed by Made in England 5. That is followed by 4 in a circle followed by T for Tanshell. Interpreting that stamp it is as follows: The 48 is the shape for a straight saddle stem Bulldog and the F/T is the designation for the button shape – a Fish Tail stem. The Dunhill Tanshell is the finish which is corroborated the T at the end of the stamping. The 5 following the D of England gives the date the pipe was made and identifies it as 1955. The stamping is clear and readable. The age of the pipe and the oils in the sandblast finish has given the pipe a rich medium brown finish. There is also some amazing grain that the shape follows well. The finish was dirty with dust around the nooks and crannies of the sandblast. There was a thick cake in the bowl and a heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. The vulcanite saddle stem was oxidized and had light tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button.  Jeff took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before he started working on it. He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the thickness of the cake and the lava overflow. The photos of the stem show the light oxidation and tooth marks and chatter on the surface on both sides.  The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the deep sandblast grain on the pipe. It is a beauty under the grime and dust.    The stamping on the underside of the shank is shown in the photo below. It looks very good and readable. It reads as noted and explained above. The third photo shows the white spot on the stem.   I turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Tanshell Pipes to get a bit of background on the Duhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:

Tanshell

The first lot was distributed in 1952 (usually made using Sardinian briar). The prototype was called “Root Shell “, produced in 1951. The Tanshell is a light tan sandblast. Sardinian briar was used for this sandblast. There is a distinct contrast in the sandblasts using Sardinian as opposed to Algerian briar. The Sardinian is much denser and much harder. The resulting pattern, when blasted, is far more even and regular both in terms of the surface texture and the finish.

The TanShell was Dunhill’s fourth finish and its first major post-war line addition. Introduced in 1951/1952 the TanShell was a naturally stained sandblasted pipe made exclusively from Sardinian briar through the 1960s. The TanShell apparently was not simply a light stained Shell but rather was also the product of “certain processes [unrevealed] not previously employed.” Initially, it appears that the pipe was to be named the Root Shell and a stamp to that effect was ordered and received by Dunhill in May 1951. Ultimately, however, the name TanShell was settled upon but the stamp for the TanShell name was not received by Dunhill until the beginning of December. Thus while the Tanshell was in production in 1951 it appears that most if not all TanShells made in that year did not enter into retail distribution until 1952 and were given a 1952 date code. Loring, J. C., The Dunhill Briar Pipe, The Patent Years and After (self-published, Chicago, 1998).

I have also included a chart from the site from Dunhill spelling out the Standard Pipe Finishes and giving short information and a timeline.I turned to Pipephil’s dating guide to show how I arrived at the date of manufacture for this pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). I am including the chart that is provided there for the dating a pipe. I have drawn a red box around the section. Since the pipe I am working on has a smaller raise 5 it points to the 1950+ suffix line on the chart below.I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very clean when I received it.  I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the damage on the inner edge on the left front. It is roughened and chipped and out of round. The saddle stem came out looking quite good. There are light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.   I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping. It is clear and readable with some faint spots. I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe.I decided to start the restoration on this one by working on the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the inner edge of the rim a slight bevel to bring it back into round.  While the finished rim edge is not perfect it is far better. I used a brass bristle tire brush to clean up the darkening on the rim top and clean up the sandblast portion.    With the repair completed I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to work it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on the stem to lift them up. I was able to lift them to the point that I would be able to polish out those that remained with micromesh pads.    I polished the vulcanite 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 Dunhill 48F/T Tanshell Bulldog is a beautiful sandblast with the unique Sandblast finish made in 1955. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking very good. The Tanshell finish has a great rugged sandblast that Dunhill specialized in making. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition. The oils off the smoker’s hands and the tan stain on the bowl works well to highlight the grain. The polished black vulcanite saddle stem adds to the mix. With the dust gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished 48 F/T Tanshell Briar Bulldog is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 29grams/1.02oz. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

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