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 an earlier pipe hunts that either Jeff or I did. Either way, the long and short of it is that we have no idea how this one came into our hands. It is a Sabatini in a shape I would call a ¼ bent Dublin. It had a smooth finish on the bowl and a slightly scooped rim top with a variegated Lucite stem. Under grime on the finish it appears that pipe may have had a light brown or tan stain to highlight the grain around the bowl. There were small sand pit fills around the bowl on the front, back and underside. It was stamped on the left side of the shank. The stamping was readable. It read Sabatini [over] Extra. Next to the shank/stem junction on the underside it was stamped Italy. There was also a stylized upper case S on the left side of the saddle stem. 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 moderate cake in the bowl and light damage to the rim top and the inner edge of the bowl. The stem was dirty but otherwise in good condition. There were tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside on and near the button and on the button surface itself. I took photos of the pipe before my cleanup work. They tell the story and give a glimpse of the promise that I 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 moderately caked with some damage to the rim top and edges and some darkening on the back top of the rim. The Lucite stem is in decent condition with 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 stylize upper case S on the left side. I took the stem off the bowl and took a picture of the parts of the pipe to give a sense of size.I turned to Pipephil’s site to see if I could find out any information on the brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s2.html). There was little there to go on however it appears that the Italian crafted pipes were distributed by the US distributor Wenhall Pipes LTD. I did a screen capture of the information that was there.I checked on Pipedia and came up empty handed on the Sabatini brand but then turned to the article on Wenhall Pipes Ltd (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Wenhall). I found that Wenhall Pipes Ltd. was a distribution company out of New York City and distributed some well-known pipes. I quote the article below
By the end of the 1970’s Wenhall approached Michael Kabik and Glen Hedelson, at that time operating from a farm house in Glen Rock, Maryland to create a line of freehands called Wenhall. The situation was favorable, because Kabik & Hedelson had ended their cooperation with Mel Baker of Tobak Ltd. to produce the famed Sven-Lar freehands shortly before.
Upon Wenhall’s offer the partners got a bank loan and set up a studio of 2000 square feet in a fairly new industrial park in Bel Air, Maryland and took on the name Vajra Briar Works. Wenhall initially wanted 500 pipes a week! But Kabik & Hedelson doubted that they could move that much product and told them they would produce 250 pipes per week. Happily, some of the old crew from Sven-Lar joined them at Vajra Briar Works, and thus they rather quickly met the production demands.
Furthermore during this time, Wenhall requested to create a line of pipes consisting of 12 different shapes. The line was called The Presidential and, while they repeated the same 12 shapes for this series, each one was freehand cut. Although they came up with interesting designs, mainly developed by Hedelson, especially Kabik was never really happy with the line or the concept, but, by this time, they had nine people on full-time payroll.
The stint with Wenhall lasted a couple of years, at which time they asked them to join Wenhall in a move to Miami, Florida. But by this time Kabik and Hedelson felt very uncomfortable with the owners of Wenhall and decided that they’d rather close the shop than make the move. Time proved that decision very wise, as Wenhall folded shortly after the move. All the same they had to close Vajra, but scaled down to the two of them and moved the operation to the farm house Glen was currently living in…
The next lines of the article are the ones that got my attention. When I first saw the pipe in the repair box I immediately thought it reminded me of a Barontini and sure enough there is a possible link noted below.
Wenhall also distributed pipes from Italy. By unconfirmed information Gigi and Cesare Barontini were mentioned as suppliers.
Armed with that information I decided to begin my work on the pipe by addressing the damage to the rim top and edges. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the rim top and the inner edge of bowl. It took some time but I was able to bring it back to a pretty clean condition. 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. I sanded the walls as a final touch with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. The interior walls of the pipe looked free of burn or heat damage. To me that is always a relief. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I find that the soap cuts the grime and grease on the briar and leaves the surface clean and easier to work with. I rinsed it off with warm water and dried it with a cotton towel. I filled in all of the putty filled flaws around the bowl with briar dust and clear super glue. Once it cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. 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.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. With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the tooth marks and rebuilt the button with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once the repairs cured I used a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean them up and blend them into the surface of the acrylic. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I used some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to touch up the S logo on the stem. I rubbed it on and pressed the product into the stamp. I rubbed it off with a cotton pad.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 Sabatini Extra Bent Dublin. 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 variegated orange Lucite stem was beautiful. This smooth finished Dublin 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 67grams/2.36oz. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Italian 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.