Blog by Dal Stanton
Leaving life in Sofia, Bulgaria, and setting up a new life in Golden, Colorado, has not been without its challenges. After living in Europe for over a quarter of a century, adjusting to life in the US has been every bit as difficult as when my wife and I left for Ukraine many years ago with 5 children in tow. All those children are now married and have added 6 grandchildren for us to dote on! When I packed up The Pipe Steward worktable in May and shipped it along with all our earthly belongings to Colorado USA, in an ocean-going and railroading 40’ container, I would not have guessed it would be November before I restored my next pipe. The container arrived the end of August and the unpacking and reestablishing of a new home-base began. I am thankful to God that through all our travels – airplanes and airports, we have remained well during uncertain times with pandemic on everyone’s minds. My first ‘for USA’ pipe purchase came from Steve’s rebornpipes worktable. A beautiful Butz Choquin Maitre-Pipier Deluxe that Steve had restored caught my eye and from Vancouver and it was waiting in Golden when we arrived from Bulgaria to begin our 14-day quarantine in June. I enjoyed good fellowship with this classy BC during those initial days in Golden – Thanks Steve! After our container arrived, it has taken some time to unpack and settle – we’re still unpacking and organizing! It was also a bit of a challenge to set up the worktable area. In Sofia, in our compact 10th floor flat, everything was arranged so the work process flowed. The challenge was to recapture the ‘magic’ of that workspace here in Golden. Even though I could theoretically have expanded my workspace adding larger, more powerful tools, I’m used to the Dremel being my main tool for polishing and buffing because of the former smaller workspace in Sofia. So, staying with the familiar compact space works for me! I decided to take a picture of my Golden workspace and include my first project, the GBD Meer Lined, that is on the same Bulgarian design work cloth which will continue to provide the background for The Pipe Steward restorations 😊.When pipe men and women commission pipes from my online For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection, I ask them to be patient in waiting for their chosen pipes to work through the queue to reach the worktable. Daniel has been more than patient! He had commissioned 7 pipes (!) when we were still in Bulgaria and they reached the top of the queue when it was time for me to pack up in May. Daniel shared with me that he’s from the Green Bay area of Wisconsin and follows rebornpipes.com and the Pipe Restorers Facebook group. After finally getting setup in Golden and ready to pull the trigger, I emailed Daniel to make sure he was still a “go” with the pipes he had commissioned. His response came quickly, and he was still good to go! Here are his 7 – a nice selection of pipes all benefitting the work we continue to support in Bulgaria, the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Looking more closely at the GBD, I took more pictures of the first of Daniel’s commissions: The nomenclature is stamped on the underside panel. On the left side is the GBD incased in an oval [over] MEERSCHAUM LINED. To the right of this is stamped, LONDON ENGLAND [over] 9437, the shape number which points to the designation of a Pot shape (Jerry Hanna’s GBD Shapes list on Pipedia). The straight stamping of the COM, LONDON ENGLAND points to a pre-Cadogan era GBD which would be pipes made up to 1981. This dating is also confirmed by the brass inlaid rondel which were discontinued after 1981 after the Comoy’s merger. GBD’s history is involved and I enjoy a refresher with Jerry Hanna’s, “A Brief History of GBD” reprinted on Pipedia:
The company was founded in Paris France in the 19th century by Ganeval, Boundier and Donninger who were no longer associated with the company by the turn of the century. By the time they left the GBD name was well established and thus retained. In 1903 an additional factory was built in England and ran by Oppenheimer. The Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude in 1952. Since 1981 the majority of GBD pipes come from the English factory. At about that same time GBD merged with Comoys, since then all production for both GBD and Comoy comes from a single factory. (I wasn’t kidding when I said it was brief! )
The GBD Meerschaum Lined Pot is an attractive pipe. The only real issues that I see are addressed in cleaning at this point. The blasted finish is in great shape and is set off very nicely with the Perspex – acrylic stem. GBD used an early patented acrylic called Perspex before the merger in 1982 which is attractive except for the stained airway. The sad reality of Perspex is that it is a bear and a half to clean the stain that builds up in the stem’s airway. I learned from Steve’s tutelage some time ago that if one uses alcohol to clean this early GBD acrylic, it can result in small cracking or crazing. I did a quick search on google to show an example of crazing.The alternative to cleaning Perspex and is a safer approach is to use lemon juice or a soft scrub product. This will be the approach. The other challenging part of this GBD restoration is to refresh the Meer lining which is totally covered with a thick cake which needs careful removal.
To begin this first restoration from my new worktable in Golden, Colorado, I focus on the Perspex stem which will take some patience to clean. To take a conservative approach, I pour lemon juice into a plastic container and put the entire stem in for a long soak. I’m hopeful that the natural acidic of lemon will begin the process of breaking down the staining in the airway without crazing. With the stem soaking, I turn to cleaning the stummel. I take a few pictures to show the Meer lined chamber. Using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool, I gently scrape the chamber removing the rough clusters of carbon buildup on the chamber surface. I also – again, gently, scrape the canted Meer rim. Using 240 grade sanding paper, I sand the Meer rim further to clear the blackened carbon buildup. Using a Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 paper, the chamber is also lightly sanded to remove the carbon. The aim of sanding the Meerschaum is not to remove the Meerschaum, but to cosmetically clean the surface. Next, using cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 99%, the internals of the stummel are cleaned. A dental spoon is also used to scrape the mortise walls. Switching now to the externals, using Murphy’s Oil Soap at full strength with a cotton pad, cleans up the blasted surface. After scrubbing well, the stummel is rinsed with tap water. I’m careful to keep the water out of the chamber and the mortise, keeping the Meerschaum dry.To condition the stummel, I apply Mark Hoover’s, Before & After Restoration Balm, to the blasted surface. I like this product which teases out the deeper tones of the briar. After squeezing a bit on my fingers, I rub the Balm into the surface thoroughly. It begins with a cream-like consistency then thickens into a waxy substance. After applying the Balm over the stummel, I put the stummel aside for 15 or so minutes for the Balm to do its thing. Then, using a microfiber cloth, the excess Balm is removed, and the surface is buffed up with the cloth.Turning again to the GBD clear Perspex stem, the process of cleaning the airway took a lot of effort. I began the process by soaking the stem in 100% lemon juice. To use alcohol on Perspex can result in crazing – fine spider web-like cracking running the length of the stem. Using lemon juice employs natural acids which helps in the cleaning. After soaking overnight, bristled pipe cleaners were employed. I wasn’t satisfied with the results. Next, I drop the stem in a soak of vinegar – another natural acidic which is not pictured. Again, overnight in the vinegar bath.The vinegar soak made some headway, but real progress waited for the next step. Using Soft Scrub with some bleach additive did the trick, but not without much scrubbing with bristled and smooth pipe cleaners. I believe the lemon and vinegar soaks helped breakdown the residue. The Soft Scrub finished the work.I’m pleased with the results of a giant labor-intensive cleaning process! Before and after pictures show the transformation. There is still some residual staining in the tenon’s airway, but overall, I’m pleased. The bit has no tooth chatter that I can see. I forego sanding with 240 sanding paper and jump to wet sanding the stem with 600 grade paper to smooth the acrylic and bring it back to a pristine state. Following the 600 grade sanding paper, 0000 grade steel wool continues the cleaning and smoothing. This also shines the brass rondel nicely.Next, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads are used: starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of three pads, Obsidian was applied to the Perspex to condition it. After reuniting the GBD stem and stummel, I take a picture to see the progress. My oh my! I’m liking what I see, and I think Daniel will as well. Now on the home stretch, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the Dremel and Blue Diamond compound is applied to stem and stummel at about 40% power. After applying the Blue Diamond compound using a felt cloth, I buff the pipe to remove the compound dust before the application of the wax.After mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel and increasing the Dremel speed to about 60% power, a light application of carnauba wax is applied to stem and stummel. I increase the speed on the Dremel to aid the carnauba wax to heat and to be absorbed into the blasted briar surface. Wax can collect on the rough blasted surface if this is not done.After application of the wax, a microfiber cloth is used to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.
I’m pleased to inaugurate my first restoration in Golden, Colorado, benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. The GBD blasted stummel is a rich burgundy and the clear, glass-like Perspex stem is a classy touch to this Meerschaum lined Pot. As the commissioner of the GBD Meerschaum Lined, Daniel has the first opportunity to claim the pipe from The Pipe Steward Store. Thanks for joining me!