Daily Archives: January 5, 2021

Dropped in at the Dunhill Deep End

Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

This is the first and introductory blog by Kenneth. We have been working through his Grandfather’s pipes and others that he has purchased to help him learn the processes that I use to restore and refurbish pipes. He is a quick study and able student. Give his first blog a read and enjoy it. Thanks Kenneth and welcome to rebornpipes.

I must admit that I never thought that the first pipe I ever restored would be a Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog. Talk about nerve-wracking! I figured I would start out on an old clunker of a pipe so that if I made a mess of it, there was no great loss. But Steve Laug insisted that this was the one I had work on first because it was, in fact, a microcosm of pipe restoration all in one little pipe. I want to express my gratitude to Steve for not only permitting me to post the story of this pipe’s restoration, but most especially for guiding me every step of the way through the process. The vagaries of life (thanks to Covid) necessitated several FaceTime and Zoom chats, but he was always generous, friendly, and helpful. Any compliments on this restoration are for him – any criticisms are for me.

This charming Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog pipe belonged to my paternal grandfather and was one of seventeen pipes left to my father, and which he has now given to me. A little detective work over at http://www.pipephil.eu revealed that this Dunhill dates from 1937 – which would have made my grandfather 29 years old when it was made.He died in 1975, so this pipe has not been smoked for at least 45 years (and probably more). As a side note, while this restoration was ongoing, I also restored his Dunhill Rollagas lighter (dated to the mid-1950s), so that I could use it to light the pipe one day. In that pipe will be some very old tobacco that is also from my grandfather. I am not sure what the tobacco is, but it smells lovely. I have another two Dunhill pipes I inherited from my grandfather, but I will save those restorations for future posts! As you can see from these initial photos, this poor pipe had some serious issues! The front of the bowl had a large crack, reaching all the way from the rim to the heel. There was also another crack (albeit considerably smaller) on the opposite side of the bowl. Smaller it may have been, but no less daunting to me. There was some cleaning that needed to be done inside the shank and stem, but less than might have been expected from an 85-year-old pipe. The usual routine of isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners, Q-tips, etc. made short work of that. Unfortunately, I do not have a handy brother like Jeff Laug to help clean my pipes, so I did it myself. I learn by doing, so this was just as well.

After using both the Pipnet Reamer and the KleenReem, the bowl was stripped down to the bare briar. This afforded me a good look at the condition of the bowl and just how far the two cracks had penetrated the wood. The smaller crack was not any worse than it initially appeared, but the large crack went all the way to the underside of the bowl. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and that made a world of difference to the overall appearance of the wood, but not to the cracks, obviously. I prepared some J.B. Weld epoxy and filled the breach from the inside, ensuring that the epoxy did not ooze out to the front. I filled in the crack from the outside with a mixture of briar dust and cyanoacrylate adhesive. This was a tricky business, as the crack varied from ‘gaping’ at the rim to essentially ‘imperceptible’ at the heel. After putting down some layers of briar dust and glue, I noticed that there were still some small gaps that only iPhone magnification could reveal, as seen here. These were soon mended and left to cure.Following this, some rustication was needed, and a brass-bristle brush was the tool I used. In fact, the brush was used several times – including after I applied some stain to the briar-glue repair. The stain was used in conjunction with the Before & After Restoration Balm, to help meld everything together. I must admit that I wish I could have done this step better – all I could see were flaws, but everyone else told me how much better it looked, especially when compared with how it began. These photographs show you that it wasn’t complete, but I guess it really was better. Once this had fully cured, I coated the entire inside of the bowl with a mixture of activated charcoal and my wife’s homemade yogurt. Once hardened, this provided a good, slightly rough surface for a new cake to build. Then it was time for the stem. It was in pretty good condition, considering its age. There were a couple of relatively minor tooth marks and the button needed some work. However, without doubt, restoring the stem was the most frustrating part of the restoration. It began easily enough, with the stem taking a swim in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. In order to address the chatter, I waved the flame of a BIC lighter over the mouthpiece. I also took some of the cyanoacrylate adhesive and filled in the deeper tooth marks. But then the tough stuff came: sanding, more sanding, then even more sanding. Did I mention the sanding? As you know from Steve’s similar work, I used 220, 400, and 600 sandpapers to wet-sand the stem. Then followed that with all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) – using Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad. The pictures only tell a fraction of the story. Quite frankly, my lack of experience was my undoing, as I had to do this entire sanding sequence twice over. It just did not look right the first time. In fact, I was not even convinced that it looked right the second time, but Steve reassured me (with his typical kindness) that I was merely suffering from the same sort of pipe perfectionism that he does – not to mention the fact that this pipe is 85 years old: it is not meant to look brand new! At some point, one has to stop or else one will simply sand the pipe away into oblivion!

At long last, I was at the point where I could throw down some more Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil, Before & After Restoration Balm, and Paragon II Wax. Microfibre cloths, horsehair shoe brushes, and buffing pads followed – all to provide a final product (hopefully) worthy of my beloved grandfather’s memory. This was certainly a labour of love and I look forward to firing up his 85-year-old Dunhill pipe, with his 65+ year-old Dunhill lighter, filled to the rim with his 50+ year-old tobacco. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 4⅝ inches; height 1⅝ inches; bowl diameter 1½ inches; chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is ⅞ of an ounce (or 27 grams).

Thank you very much for reading and I welcome and encourage your comments. Kenneth sent me this message and photo on Facebook.

This is my grandfather, Alfred Lieblich,  in Vienna in 1938. Look what’s in his mouth! Amazing!

Repairing a Cracked Shank on a Salstrom & Skinner Handmade Acorn

Blog by Steve Laug

Early in December I received and email from a reader of the blog about one of his first pipes. Here is what he wrote to me:

I have got a custom made briar tobacco pipe that split at the shank when I removed the pipe stem. It’s a hair line crack. Was looking to get an estimate of a repair. Was reading one of your repair articles of putting a brass ring to reinforce shank and stem connection. This is something I would like possibly have done. And what is the lead time for such a repair?… Thanks,  Jake

The story behind this being his first pipe caught my attention. I forgot to ask him what the brand was. He sent me some photos of the crack in the shank but I changed out my computer and do not have access to those photos any longer. I figured that it would be a straightforward repair so I answered him and he shipped the pipe to me. This afternoon while I was working the package arrived from Jake. I opened it after work and took some photos of the pipe. I wrote Jake an email to let him know that the pipe had arrived and asked him about the maker and the brand. He wrote me back and I am including that below.

Hi Steve! I was actually going to contact you today to see if it did, but that’s good. Glad it finally made it to you. I bought that pipe back in 2015 from an Etsy retailer that went by the name of Salstrom & Skinner. I believe they are out of Oregon. They aren’t in business anymore from what I can tell, their online Etsy shop is no longer up. And yes, that is the stem that came with the pipe. –Jake

I thanked Jake and sent him my assessment of the pipe and what needed to be done to make a repair work on the pipe. I broke my assessment down to cover the bowl and shank issues and then the stem issues. Both contributed to the crack on the underside of the shank. I include a summary of the email that I sent to him below.

The damaged shank…

  1. I cleaned out the shank to check the crack and it goes all the way through.. Fortunately it is not too long maybe 1/4-1/2 inch into the shank.
  2. The shank was quite thin walled so I decided to glue it and then band it. I would open the crack and fill it with clear CA glue and clamp it shut until the glue dried.
  3. I would fit a thin brass band on the shank end and customize the fit. Once the fit was correct I would need to press it on the shank glue it in place. That would take care of the shank damage.

The stem issues…

  1. The stem is really a mess. The tenon was quite large and poorly cut. It still had the castings on it and the Made in Italy castings. These made the fit in the shank very tight and also I believe caused the crack originally as the shank is quite thin.
  2. I would need to smooth out damage on the tenon and remove the castings.
  3. I also would funnel the entry of the airway in the end of the tenon to make the draw better.
  4. The saddle portion of the stem was very rough and not round. There were file marks and cuts all around it and it did not fit against the shank well. The diameter of the stem and the shank did not match. I would need to round the saddle and removed the cuts and the file marks.

I took photos of the rim top and stem to show the general condition of the pipe. The bowl looked to be in good condition. There was some darkening and lava build up on the top back of the rim. I also took photos of the stem to show the cut marks and fill marks on the surface of the saddle.    I took some photos of the rough looking finish on the stem, its fit to the shank and the crack in underside of the shank.I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to have a look at the parts and overall look. I am still amazed by the thickness of the tenon. I took a photo of the castings on the tenon and on the airway entering the tenon end. It made the castings very clear.    I started my work on the pipe by addressing the crack in the shank. I put the stem on the shank and opened it up. I filled in the crack with clear super glue (CA). I removed the stem and clamped the repaired shank together until the glue cured.  Once the glue had cured and the crack was bound together I fit a brass band on the shank end. After I had fit the band to the shank I removed it and coated the shank end and inside of the band with all-purpose glue. I pressed it onto the end of the shank. I set it aside and let the glue cure.   I took photos of the band on the shank from the various angles to show what it looked like. It is a pretty addition. I set aside the repaired bowl and turned my attention to the stem. I used the blade of pen knife to funnel the airway in the tenon.I smoothed out the castings on the tenon with 220 grit sandpaper. I also smoothed out the file marks on the saddle portion of the stem and worked to make it round again.I put the repaired and newly shaped stem on the shank of the bowl and took photos of the look of the pipe. I still needed to polish it but the stem looked much better. It was time to polish the stem now. I polished it with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I finished polishing it with Before & After Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil to protect the stem surface from oxidizing. 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.    I am excited to finish this Salstrom & Skinner Handmade Acorn. It was a rustic pipe with a lot of flaws in craftsmanship of the briar and the stem but it is looking much better. The band on the shank and the reworked stem give the pipe a sense of newly formed class and character. 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 polished brass band and the black vulcanite stem was beautiful. This smooth Handmade Acorn is good looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 48grams/1.69oz. It is a nice looking pipe and one that I will be sending back to Jake in the next few days. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of his “resurrected first pipe”. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.