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.