Daily Archives: November 11, 2020

Breathing Life into a 1962 Dunhill Root Briar 59 Group 4 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us in a group of pipes that we purchased from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. It is a Dunhill Root Briar Straight Billiard that is in good condition. It is stamped both sides of the shank. On the left side it is stamped with the shape number 59 followed by Dunhill [over] Root Briar. On the right side it is stamped with 4 in a circle followed by R for Root Briar next to the bowl. That is followed by Made in [over] England2. Interpreting that stamp it is as follows: The 59 is the shape for a straight billiard. The Dunhill Root Briar is the finish which is corroborated the R at the end of the stamping. The 2 following the D of England gives the date the pipe was made and identifies it as 1962. The stamping is clear and readable. The age of the pipe and the oils in the finish has given the pipe a rich reddish brown finish. There is also some amazing grain that the shape follows well. The finish was dirty with dust ground into the surface of the bowl and shank. There was a moderate cake in the bowl and tobacco debris stuck to the walls of the bowl. The rim top showed darkening and some lava in on the surface. The vulcanite taper stem was oxidized, calcified and had light tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button on both sides.  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 darkening and lava overflow on the rim top. The photos of the stem show the oxidation, calcification and tooth marks and chatter on the surface on both sides.  The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the great 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 photos below. It looks very good and readable. It reads as noted and explained above. The fourth photo shows the white spot on the stem.   I turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Root Briar Pipes to get a bit of background on the Dunhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:

Root Briar

Introduced in 1931 and highly prized because the grain is more pronounced in this finish (usually made using Corsican briar – was made exclusively from that briar into the 60s). The Root Briar finish requires a perfectly clean bowl with excellent graining. Therefore, it is the most expensive of the Dunhill pipes. Corsican briar was most often used for the Root finish since it was generally more finely grained. This is a rare finish, due to the scarcity of briar suitable to achieve it. These pipes are normally only available at Company stores, or at Principle Pipe Dealers. Straight grained pipes were formerly graded A through H, but are now only “DR’s” and graded with one to six stars, with the letters G and H still used for the very finest pieces.

Dunhill introduced its third major finish, the Root finish, in 1931. Corsican mountain briar is characteristically beautifully grained and the Root was made exclusively from that briar into the 1960s. The pipe was finished with a light natural stain to allow the beauty of the graining to show through. Although always available with a traditional black vulcanite bit, the Root was introduced in either 1930 or more likely 1931 and fitted with a marble brown dark and light grained vulcanite bit that has since become known as the ‘bowling ball’ bit because of the similarity in appearance between the bit’s finish and that of some bowling balls of the time. With the war, however, the bowling ball bit was dropped from production. Through 1954 (and after) the Root pipe nomenclature (including shape numbers) was identical to that of the Bruyere except that instead of the “A” of the Bruyere, the Root was stamped with an “R”. In 1952 when the finish rather than LONDON was placed under DUNHILL, ROOT BRIAR rather then BRUYERE was used for the Root. Loring, J. C., The Dunhill Briar Pipe, The Patent Years and After (self-published, Chicago, 1998).

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 2 it points to the 1960+ suffix line on the chart below.I looked at the Dunhill Shape chart on Pipedia to isolate the shape number on this pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Shape_Chart#:~:text=The%20White%20Spot%20Chart%20%20%20Digit%201%3A,%2012%3A%20Chimney%20%208%20more%20rows%20). I quote from the site:

Early Days – 2 digits \ Letters — The original skus/model numbers from the 1920’s until the early 1970’s stood for very specific shapes and bowls. For example, the codes 31, 34, 59, 111, 113, 117, 196, LB, LBS… were all different types of Billiard shaped pipes and there were about 50(!), such codes for the Billiard shape alone.

I now knew that I was working on a Root Briar that came out in 1962. The shape of the pipe was one of many Billiards that Dunhill put out and that the #59 fit the date of the pipe perfectly with the 2 digit shape numbers ending in the early 1970s.

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 darkening on the rim top on the back right. 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 as well as some remaining oxidation.   I took photos of the sides of the shank to show the stamping. It is clear and readable as noted above.  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 on the inner edge of the bowl. It had darkening and some damage to the edge. There were burn and knife marks on the edge from a previous pipeman. I worked it over with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the edge a light bevel and remove and minimize the damage on the edge. When I finished with it, the bowl and the rim top looked much better.   I polished the rim top and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The briar began to take on a shine.   With the repair completed I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. 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 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 Root Briar 59 Group 4 Billiard from 1962 is a beautiful looking piece of briar that has a shape that follows grain. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking even better after the cleanup. The Root Briar is an early finish that Dunhill specialized in making. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition. The oils off the smoker’s hands and the brown stain on the bowl works well to highlight the grain. The polished black vulcanite taper 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 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 59 Root Briar Billiard 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 41grams/1.45oz. 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.

Restoring a newer Italian Made Brigham Voyageur 184 One Dot


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen is one that neither Jeff nor I remember picking up. It could have come to us through a trade for work on a pipe or it could have come from one of my earlier pipe hunts. It is a Brigham in a shape I would call a bent volcano. It had an unusual pattern of rustication on the bowl with a smooth rim top and panel on the shank as well as a smooth ring around the shank end. I like the older style Brigham rustication pattern far better than this one. The mix of brown stains gave depth to the texture of the pipe under the grime on the finish. It was stamped on the left side of the shank. The stamping was readable. It read Brigham [over] Voyageur [over] the shape number 184 Italy. It also had a single brass dot on the left side of the taper stem. The Italy stamp told me it was a newer Brigham made after the manufacture of the pipes left Canada and moved to Italy. It was in decent condition when I brought it to the table. The finish was dirty with grime ground into the briar sides and rim. There was a thick cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava on the inwardly beveled rim top and the inner edge of the bowl. The stem was dirty but otherwise in good condition. There were light tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside on and near the button. The Maple Distillator was missing and the extended tenon which was aluminum on the Canadian made pipe had been replaced with nylon or Delrin. I took photos of the pipe before my cleanup work. They tell the story and give a glimpse of the promise that we see in this pipe. I took a photo of the rim top to show the interior the bowl and the rim top and inner edge. It is heavily caked with a thick lava overflow on the back part of the top. I am also unsure of the condition of the inner edge as it appears to have some darkening. I will know more once I remove the lava coat. The stem is in decent condition with light tooth marks on the top and underside near the button.   I took a photo of the left side of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is readable in the photos below and is as noted above. The stem has a single brass dot on the left side. I took the stem off the bowl and took a picture of the nylon/Delrin thin tube tenon with the Maple Distillator missing.  I will need to provide a Maple Distillator for the pipe when I have finished the cleanup.I turned to Pipedia and read through the article there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Pipes). It gives a good overview on the beginnings of the Canadian Brand and the different time periods. I have included the chart below from the site as it shows the Standard (1 Dot) pipes and includes the Voyageur. The shape number 84 is the shape of the pipe on the table now.The site referred me to an article by Charles Lemon (Dad’s Pipes) on the marking and dating of the pipes so that I could identify the time period when the brand moved its manufacture to Italy (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Pipes_%E2%80%93_A_Closer_Look_at_Dots,_Dates_and_Markings). From there I was able to identify the move as happening in 2001. I quote the section of Charles’ article on that era that he calls the Transition Era.

The Transition Era (2001 – 2006). The biggest change to hit Brigham since the advent of the Rock Maple filter occurred in 2001 when Brigham moved production from Toronto to Italy. The product lineup was, not surprisingly, heavily impacted, with the most obvious change a sharp decrease in the number of pipe shapes available.

Daniel More, President of Brigham Enterprises Inc. explains the move to the EU: Admittedly the hardest decision we ever needed to make. With an aging skilled work force we were losing the skills required at an alarming rate. We made attempts to bring in new people but we were not effective in staving off the atrophy. We were fortunate though to be able to move by increments allowing us control and comfort throughout the process. For example, instead of turning our own bowls we began to purchase turned bowls; then we had stems added with sanding at 100-grit ; then sanding to finer degrees; then staining and so on. The last bit of control was grading.

I still visit the manufacturing facility in the EU at least once a year to discuss QC and pick shapes and designs. The shift [to the EU] resulted in fewer shapes. However, one of the biggest benefits was access to a wider variety of finishes. We had never been able to offer a sandblasted pipe and the access to accessories like rings and different colours, I think, allowed us to make the line more interesting

Another interesting point in the article was the section on the shift from the aluminum tenon/holder to the nylon/Delrin material used since the move. I have always wondered about this shift and the rationale behind it.

Coincidental with shifting production to the EU was the move from the original aluminum tenon/filter holder to one made of a composite material. Daniel More provides insight into the switch:

Principally there were two catalysts for the change. We were using a very specific OD for our Aluminum Tenons. In fact, we were one of only two companies in North America using this OD, the other being an aircraft manufacturer in California. When this aircraft company shifted to an alternative, it left us and us alone purchasing this specific size. To stay with Aluminum, our only alternative was to purchase an oversized OD and tool this down to our requirements results in significant expense due to the wasted material costs.

We had, for many years, experimented with a number of composite materials for both the tenons and Distillator Tips. The issue was always heat resistance. Technology having advanced as it did by the 1990’s presented us with a selection of alternatives. We tested 10 different compositions before landing on the formula we still use today.

Cost saving aside, the Composite Tenon virtually eliminated the breaking of shanks. That is, when a pipe shank would break due to leverage (think, in the pocket and sitting down), we could not repair this. The Composite Tenon would now break away rather than the shank allowing for an inexpensive repair versus having to throw out “an old friend”. Without a doubt, there were many cries about the inferior Composite Tenon breaking but with our offer to provide no cost tenon repairs we assuaged this concern. We still offer to this day no charge repairs for broken Composite Tenons – no questions asked.

During the Transition Era, the 100 – 300 series pipes looked very similar to Canadian-made pipes and continued to be recognized by their traditional brass pin patterns. These lower series pipes were offered in 9 shapes. The 400 series disappeared temporarily, while the 500 to 700 series pipes, available in only 8 shapes, lost their brass pins and were identified only by their 3-digit shape numbers.

Later in the article Charles gave some excellent information on the 2007 series of pipes. The one dot pipes identify the pipe as part of the 100 series. Thus the pipe I am working on is a 100 series shape #84 = the shape number stamping of 184.

Modern Brigham Pipes

Except for the lowest three grades, pipes in the current (2007) Brigham series cannot be identified by brass pins or shape availability. All grades are available in 12 standard shapes, but are distinguished by their unique finishes and markings. As noted above, the Voyageur, Algonquin and Mountaineer pipes are made in Italy, while the remaining pipes in this series (Chinook, Heritage, Klondike and Acadian) are produced in France.Before I get into the restoration part of this pipe I decided to include a poster I picked up that shows the filtration system of the patented Brigham Distillator. Give the poster a read. It also helps to understand the internals of these older Canadian made pipes as well as the newer Italian and French made pipes.I reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. The interior walls of the pipe looked free of burn or heat damage. To me that is always a relief.  I decided to address the damage to the rim top next in my restoration of this pipe. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the rim top and the inner edge of the bevel. It took some time but I was able to bring it back to a pretty clean condition.  I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth. This served a dual purpose of both removing the sanding debris and the dust that had accumulated in the rustication patterns around the bowl and shank.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. It looks quite nice at this point. At this point it dawned on me that I had not cleaned the internals of the pipe. I am so used to having Jeff do the cleaning that I just skipped over it. Fortunately I remembered at this point! I cleaned out the shank and airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I was surprised that I also was removing some brown stain from the end of the shank.With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. The stem was in great condition and I was certain I could remove the chatter and marks with micromesh pads. Before polishing stem I decided to fit it with the Rock Maple Distillator.   I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine.   I am excited to finish this Brigham Voyageur Series 1 shape 84. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through on the bowls sides and rim top. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem with the shining brass pins was beautiful. This rusticated Brigham 1 Dot Voyageur 184 turned out to be a nice looking pipe that feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 53grams/2.08oz. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Canadian Pipe Makers section soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. 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 pipeman or woman.