Fresh Life for a Small Imported Briar Kettle Mini Churchwarden

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is a mini churchwarden that we picked up somewhere in our travels. Neither of us remembers where we found it but it is an interesting pipe. Looking at it brought back all kinds of memories. Do you remember when the Salvation Army used have the big kettle sitting on the side walk or hanging from a tripod in front of shops during the Christmas season? There would be folks ringing bells there and taking donations for their work with the poor. When I look at this pipe that is what I see in the bowl. It is shaped like a kettle with feet on the bottom of the bowl. The feet make it a sitter. It is a nice looking briar bowl with rusticated triangles on both side of the bowl and the rest of the bowl is a mix of various grains. The long vulcanite stem is tweaked to the left from sitting in the heat somewhere and will need to be straightened out and re-bent. The bowl has a rich reddish brown colour combination that highlights grain. The pipe has some grime ground into the surface of the rustication and the smooth finish. This pipe is stamped on the sides of the shank. On the left it reads Imported Briar. On the underside it reads Made in Italy. There is a thick cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava on the top and inner edge of the bowl. The rim top looks good but it is hard to be certain with the lava coat. The stem was oxidized, calcified and there were some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides 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 vulcanite taper 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 mixture of 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 and underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. 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 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 soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water and cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol. Other than the damaged rim top and twisted stem the pipe looked good.   I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. The inner edge of the bowl was in very rough condition. The rim top and the edges of the bowl had darkening, burn marks and some nicking. The vulcanite stem had light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button and on the button edges.  It also was slightly twisted to the left side.  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 interesting looking pipe that should clean up very well. I started working on the pipe by wiping the bowl down with acetone to remove the spotty varnish coat from the bowl and shank. I wiped it down with a cotton pad until the varnish coat was gone and the grain began to stand out.  I liked the way the rusticated panels looked at this point as well. I reworked the damaged rim top and edges. 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 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 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out.  I set the bowl aside and turned to the stem. I heated it with a heat gun and worked the twist out of the vulcanite. I also gave it a more subtle bend that allowed the feet on the kettle bowl to sit flat on the desk top.    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 Imported Briar Kettle Mini Churchwarden with a long taper 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 Kettle Mini Churchwarden 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: 7 inches, Height: 1 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: ½ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 19grams/.67oz.Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

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