Breathing New Life into a WDC Wellington Jumbo French Briar


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from a group of pipes that we purchased from an antique mall in 2018 in Newport, Oregon, USA. It is a large WDC Wellington Jumbo Pipe with a fancy hard rubber stem. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Wellington [over] French Briar separated by the WDC Triangle. The right side is stamped Made in U.S.A. There is a stamp on the metal shank cap/ferrule that reads Nickel Plated. This is a nice piece of briar with interesting grain all the way around the bowl. The finish had a lot of grime ground into it. There is also a large area of road rash on the front of the bowl where it has obviously been dropped on a hard surface. The bowl was moderately caked and there was a lava coat on the top and the inner edge of the rim. The rim top has deep scratches in the surface and the bowl appears to be out of round under the lava coat. The stem was oxidized, calcified and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. The bent stem had straightened over time and would need to be re-bent. The stem bore the WDC Triangle logo stamped on the top ahead of the saddle. It was also stamped Wellington in an arch under the triangle logo. The pipe showed promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work.    He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the condition of the rim top and beveled inner edges. You can see the cake in the bowl, the lava on the rim top and the damage to both the top and inner edge. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation, calcification and chatter and tooth marks.  There are also flecks of metal in the hard rubber stem that I have seen in pipes of this time period in the past.   Jeff took a photo of the right side and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar looked like.He took photos of the stamping on the shank and the stem. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable. I turned to Pipedia’s article on WDC (William Demuth) pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/William_Demuth_Company). I have included one of the advertising flyers on the Wellington Jumbo below. Look at the price of this pipe when it was sold.Now it was time to work on the pipe. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe and bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.   The rim top and edges of the rim were in rough condition. The rim top was chipped, scratched and had gouges in the surface. The inner edge of the bowl was out of round and had burn and reaming damage. The outer edge also showed nicks and damage as well. The stem surface looked very good with some tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping on the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is a fancy saddle version. I decided to start my work on the pipe by addressing the damage on the rim top and the edges of the bowl. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage on the flat surface and clean up the edges at the same time. I worked over the out of round inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper until I had brought it back to round. I gave it a slight bevel to take care of the burn damage and chipping. I decided to address the road rash on the bowl front next. There were deep gouges and nicks in the surface of the briar. Interestingly when Jeff cleaned the pipe some of them were raised. What was left behind would not be lifted any further. I filled in the remaining marks in the briar with clear super glue. Once the glue cured I sanded it smooth and blended it into the surrounding briar. I would polish it with micromesh when I worked on the rest of the bowl surface.   I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad.  The pipe was in such good condition that started by rubbing it down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips. The product works 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.     I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I decided to deal with bending it to the proper angle first. I inserted a long pipe cleaner in the stem heated the stem with my heat gun until the rubber was flexible. I carefully bent it so that it matched the flow of the stem. I cooled it with running cool water to set the bend.  Once it cooled I inserted it in the stem and took photos. Now it was time to work on the tooth marks on the stem. I sanded them out with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the stem surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. Note the white specks on the black rubber ahead of the button and on the button edge in the photo below. Those are actually bit of metal in the rubber. This was typical of pipes made during the war when recycled tires were used to make rubber stems.I polished the vulcanite 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. I touched up the gold stamping in the logo on the top of the saddle stem with Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. It is a great product and easy to apply. I rubbed it into the stem with a tooth pick and once it was well worked in I wiped the stem down with a soft cloth to remove the excess. The resulting stamp looked very good!   This WDC Wellington Jumbo French Made Bent Billiard with a the polished briar, polished nickel ferrule and fancy saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The parts all come together to form a great looking piece. The beautiful grain that shines through the polished finish is stunning. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad which really brings the shine out with the wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Wellington Jumbo fits nicely in the hand and feels great and will truly be a pipe to be smoked while sitting and reading or listening to music. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 10 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 93gr/3.25oz. I will be adding it to the American Pipe Maker section of the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. 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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