Daily Archives: November 19, 2020

Fresh Life for a Savinelli Oscar Lucite 111KS Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us 2018 from a fellow in Pocatello, Idaho, USA. It is a nice looking Billiard with cross grain and birdseye grain and has a Fancy Lucite half saddle stem. The Lucite stem fits the name on the left side Oscar Lucite. The bowl has a rich reddish brown colour combination that highlights grain. The pipe has some grime ground into the surface of the briar. The finish had a few small fills around the sides but they blended in fairly well. This pipe is stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left it reads Oscar [over] Lucite. On the right it has a Savinelli “S” Shield and next to that was the shape number 111KS [over] Italy. There is a thick cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava on the top beveled inner edge of the bowl. The rim top looks good but it is hard to be certain with the lava coat. There were some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the Lucite stem near the button. The pipe looks to be in good condition under the grime. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake and the thick lava coat. It is hard to know what the condition of the rim top and edges is like under that thick lava. It is an incredibly dirty pipe but obviously one that was a great smoker. The acrylic half saddle stem had light tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button.   He took a photo of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the beautiful grain around the bowl and the condition of the pipe. You can see the grime ground into the surface of the briar. He took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. On the underside of the shank it is stamped Savinelli Product. I turned first to Pipephil’s site to look at the Savinelli write up there and see if I could learn anything about the Oscar Lucite line (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-savinelli3.html). There was a listing for the Oscar Lucite and I did a screen capture of the pertinent section.I looked up the Savinelli brand on Pipedia to see if I could find the Oscar Lucite line and the 111KS Shape (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Savinelli). There was nothing that tied directly to the line I am working on. There is a detailed history of the brand there that is a good read. I also captured the shape chart and boxed in the 111KS shape in red. The shape is identical to the one that I am working on. The stem on this one is the original shape that was on the Lucite Line but there was no shooting star logo on the left side.It was time to work on the pipe. As usual Jeff had done a thorough cleanup on the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. One of the benefits of this scrub is that it also tends to lift some of the scratches and nicks in the surface of the briar. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub all-purpose cleanser and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. Other than the damaged rim top the pipe looked good.   I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The rim top was in very rough condition. The rim top and the edges of the bowl had darkening, burn marks and some nicking. The Lucite half saddle stem had light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button and on the button edges.  The stamping on the sides of the shank is clear and readable as noted above.     I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a nice looking billiard that should clean up very well. I started working on the pipe by dealing with the damaged rim top and edges. I topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I worked over the rim top and inner bevel of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper. I smooth out the damage and gave the  rim top and edge a clean look that would polish out nicely. I wiped the rim top down with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris.   I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped down the bowl after each sanding pad.     I stained the rim top with an Oak stain pen to match the rest of the bowl. Once I buffed and polished the bowl it would be a perfect match. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out.  I polished the Lucite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. The photo below shows the polished stem. This nicely grained Savinelli Made Oscar Lucite 11KS Billiard with Lucite half saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The briar is clean and really came alive. The rich reddish, brown stains gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the vulcanite stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Oscar Lucite Billiard is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 46grams/1.62oz.Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Fresh Life for a James Upshall B Grade Large Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This past May, 2019 I received an email from John in Iowa City, Iowa inquiring whether I would be interested in purchasing three Upshall pipes that he was selling. He sent photos and we chatted back and forth via email and a deal was struck. I had him ship the pipes to Jeff’s place in Idaho. They were generally well cared for pipes but they were dirty. This is the third and final pipe from that lot that I have chosen to work on. The shape and design caught my eye as I was going through the pipes in the queue. The shape is what I would call a Large Billiard. It is a B Grade smooth, walnut finished pipe. The B grade is the “entry” level for the Upshall Straight Grains and retail new at about $1500. The finish is very dirty with dust and grime. The bowl has a thick cake and the rim top has some darkening, lava and perhaps some damage around the inner edge. The stem is oxidized and has tooth chatter and light tooth marks on both sides near the button. The surface of the button looks very good on both sides. I am including the photos that John sent of the pipe to give and idea of the general condition of the pipe before Jeff started his cleanup work on it.  (Normally Jeff has quite a few before photos but about the time this pipe came we lost a large number of photos).Before I started my work on the pipe I looked up the Upshall listing in Pipedia to remind myself of the background on the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/James_Upshall). I read through the article and found the section on Grading & Sizing Information really helpful. I have included that below. I have highlighted the pertinent text in red below.

James Upshall pipes are graded by various finishes, i.e. bark, sandblast, black dress and smooth etc. Then by cross grain, flame grain, straight grain and, last but not least, the perfect high grade, which consists of dense straight grain to the bowl and shank. The latter being extremely rare. In addition, the price varies according to group size, i.e. from 3-4-5-6 cm high approximately Extra Large. We also have the Empire Series which are basically the giant size, individually hand crafted pipes which come in all finishes and categories of grain. All our pipes are individually hand carved from the highest quality, naturally dried Greek briar. In order to simplify our grading system, let me divide our pipes into 4 basic categories.

  1. It begins with the Tilshead pipe, which smokes every bit as good as the James Upshall but has a slight imperfection in the briar. In the same category price wise you will find the James Upshall Bark and Sandblast finish pipes, which fill and smoke as well as the high grades.
  2. In this category we have the best “root quality” which means that the grain is either cross, flame or straight, which is very much apparent through the transparent differing color finishes. This group will qualify as the “S”- Mahogany Red, “A” – Chestnut Tan and “P” – Walnut. The latter having the straighter grain.
  3. Here you have only straight grain, high grade pipes, which run from the “B”, “G”, “E”, “X” and “XX”. The latter will be the supreme high grade. Considering the straightness of the grain the latter category is also the rarest. Usually no more than 1% of the production will qualify.
  4. Lastly, we have the Empire Series. These are basically Limited Edition gigantic individually hand crafted pieces, which again are extremely rare due to the scarcity of large, superior briar blocks.

There was a link at the bottom of the article that led to a 1984 Catalogue. I have included a page from that catalogue below (https://pipedia.org/images/a/a6/James_Upshall_1984Catalog.pdf).    The pipe at the top of the photo marked Medium Billiard is similar in shape to the one I am working on but the one I have I would classify as a Large Billiard.I turned to the James Upshall of England website and looked up the guarantee on their pipes. I have included it below because of the commitment to quality that is spoken of in the description (http://www.upshallusa.com/products.htm).I also copied the section from the website on the B-Grade pipe and the description about the nature of the briar used in that pipe (http://www.upshallusa.com/html/JUB-Grade.htm).Armed with that information I turned my attention to the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos before I started my part of the work.   I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. The bowl and the rim top look good. The inner edge of the rim had some nicks in the edge. There was some wear in the finish on the rim top.  I also took close up photos of the stem to show how clean the stem was. There were very light tooth marks or chatter on both sides of the stem.  I took photos of the stamping on the shank. On the left side of the shank it reads B (Grade stamp) at the shank/bowl junction. That is followed by the James Upshall stamp in an oval. There is a JU logo on the left side of the stem. The stamping was very clear. The right side of the shank was stamped Tilshead over England over Made by Hand. The grain on this pipe was highlighted by the shaping of the pipe.I took the stem off the bowl and took a picture of the parts of the pipe to give a sense of the parts of the pipe. It really is a beautiful straight grain pipe.I decided to clean up the inner edge of the bowl and straighten out the damage to the rim edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished it with 400 grit sandpaper. It did not take too much to give the edge a light bevel and remove the damage.  I sanded the briar with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl surface down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I finished the exterior of the briar was clean and the grain really stood out.      I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips 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.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I scrubbed the remaining oxidation on the stem with Soft Scrub all-purpose cleanser. It works well to remove oxidation in the surface of the vulcanite. The pads show the oxidation that came off.     I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.   I am excited to be on the homestretch with beautiful James Upshall B-Grade pipe. I look forward to the moment when it all comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The beautifully grained finish looks really good with the interesting grain patterns standing out on the shape. The grain and the polished black vulcanite went really well together. This James Upshall Large Billiard was another fun pipe to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. It really has that classic English look that catches the eye. The combination of various brown stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 51grams/1.76oz.  This is an Upshall that catches my eye. This is the last of the three Upshalls that I have here and I am probably going to hand on to this one. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This was an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Restoring a No Name Tortoise Shell Billiard


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 this is another pipe that we have no idea how it came into our hands. It is an attractive no name billiard with a tortoise shell stem with a fancy trio of acrylic and wood decoration on the shank end of the stem. It had a smooth finish on the bowl and a inwardly beveled rim top. 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 a few small sand pit fills around the bowl on the left back and the top and right side of the shank. The pipe had no stamping on the shank or underside. There was also no identifying stamp on the 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 light cake in the bowl and light lava on the rim top and some damage on rear 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. 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 moderately caked with some damage to the rim top and edges and some lava coat on the right and back top of the rim. The Tortoise Shell stem is in decent condition with light tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. The two black acrylic bands were slightly smaller in diameter than the stem and the wooden insert so it gave those areas a slight bulge. I would need to smooth out the transition on both sides of the black acrylic on the stem.I took photos of the sides of the shank to show the lack of stamping. There was no stamping on the shank so it was a bit of a mystery pipe. I took the stem off the bowl and took a picture of the parts of the pipe to give a sense of the parts of the pipe.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.  There is a large fill on the rim top on the back right side.The pipe had been reamed recently so all I had to do with it was clean 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.    The diameter of the shank and the diameter of the black Lucite bands on the stem did not match. I decided to sand down the shank and stem to try and smooth out the transition between them. I sanded the shank as well as the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet 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.  Once I was finished the flow between the stem and shank was much smoother.  I touched up the light areas on the sanded shank and the rim top with a Maple stain pen that matched the finish on the rest of the bowl very well.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips 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 had sanded the stem earlier to deal with the flow of the bands on the stem end. I also sanded it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I used the pads to remove the tooth marks on the stem on both sides near the button. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I am excited to finish this No Name Tortoise Shell Stem Billiard. 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 Tortoise Shell acrylic stem was beautiful. This smooth finished Billiard 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 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 49grams/1.73oz. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Metal and Pipes from Various 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.