Blog by Dal Stanton
For those in the metric world, I am 3,293 meters above sea level here in skiing heaven, Keystone, Colorado. One of the wonderful things about being based in Golden, Colorado, is that the Rocky Mountains are literally in our back yard! With two of my children and their families along with us (that would total 5 grandchildren to dote on!), we’ve enjoyed God’s creation looking at mountain peaks, hiking through pristine countryside and enjoying family – the frosting on the cake. I packed my mobile work desk, and The Pipe Steward is on the road again!
What does a ‘mobile’ restoration unit look like? I have a smaller DeWalt TSTAK tool chest that opens on the top with an organizer section and a larger open compartment below. I’ve ordered a deeper DeWalt TSTAK that will stack with the one I have and hold the taller bottles and baskets that are now in a plastic tub. I take a few pictures to show my DeWalt mobile system.This Butz-Choquin now on the worktable is the last of 3 pipes that Skeet commissioned from The “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection. His first two commissions were truly in the spirit of the Pipe Dreamers mandate – to see in a pipe its potential even when it is in its unrestored rough state. Here are pictures of the first 2 pipes, a French Jeantet Superior Chimney and an a venerable Kaywoodie Flame Grain Pear – both turned out exceedingly well.
The final pipe is another product of St. Claude, France. I acquired this Butz Choquin Régate from the ‘Lot of 66’ – the very first larger lot of pipes added to my online collection a few years ago benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria. Here are a few pictures to get a closer look.The nomenclature on the left of the shank is stamped in the chiseled diagonal cursive ‘Butz-Choquin’ [over] Régate. The right side of the shank is stamped, but very thin, ST. CLAUDE-FRANCE [over] 1275, the shape number pointing to a BC Billiard. The stylish slightly bent stem has no ‘BC’ stamping that I can see. The stem doesn’t appear to be a replacement stem so the expected ‘BC’ stamping on the side of the stem appears to have disappeared into historical oblivion.To provide a brief overview of the Butz-Choquin name, Pipephil.eu’s information is helpful.
The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France). Jean Paul Berrod managed the company from 1969 to 2002 when he retired and sold the corporate to Mr Fabien Gichon. Denis Blanc, already owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.
Pipedia’s Butz-Choquin article includes some BC catalog pages which unfortunately, have no dating included. The BC Régate line is described in the catalog page below. A quick trip to Google Translate confirms that the English word is, ‘regatta’ which is essentially a boat race, usually including yachts. The text description of the Régate below is: “The veining of the Briar is shown to particular advantage (BC Silver)”. With the sales pitch emphasizing the beauty of the grain, I’m hopeful that the Régate on the worktable will live up to this expectation!Looking now at the BC Régate slightly bent Billiard on the table, the chamber is thick with carbon buildup. This will be removed to allow fresh briar to emerge. The internally beveled rim has some lava flow and nicks and scratches around the rim edge. Taking a survey of the bowl, it’s been through a bit of wear and tear with nicks, dents, and scratches. The bowl is darkened with dirt and grime built up for some time. There is nice looking grain beneath it all which will look nice. The rim pictured above shows a patch of dents and scratches. A large dent is nestled amid several scratches on the lower left side of the bowl. There are 2 large pits that have been filled on the back side of the bowl. The lateral grain on the aft of the bowl looks good. The heel shows scratches and scrapes but nice-looking bird’s-eye grain providing a promising backdrop. The stem has heavy oxidation and calcium buildup especially on the upper side. The bit has significant tooth chatter on the upper and lower sides. To begin the restoration of the Butz-Choquin Régate Billiard, the slightly bent tapered stem’s airway is cleaned with pipe cleaners wetted with 99% isopropyl.To get a jump on the deep oxidation in vulcanite stem and to work on the tooth chatter, 0000 steel wool is used with Soft Scrub cleanser. Before starting with the steel wool, I take one more look at the side of the stem to confirm that there is no BC stem stamping. Again, I see nothing even with a magnifying glass. The stem scrubbing commences. After scrubbing with Soft Scrub and steel wool, the stem is rinsed with water. The stem is then added to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with the other pipes commissioned by Skeet which have been completed.After soaking in the Deoxidizer overnight, the stem is hooked using a stiff wire and the Deoxidizer fluid is drained. I assist the draining by squeegeeing the fluid with my fingers.The airway is cleaned of the Deoxidizer using pipe cleaners and alcohol. A cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99% is also used to scrub the stem removing raised oxidation. To help condition the stem, paraffin oil is applied to the vulcanite and set aside.With the stem on the sideline, I turn to the stummel. To begin its restoration, the chamber is cleared of the thick carbon cake using the Pipnet Reaming Kit. I take a fresh picture to mark the starting point. The cake is thicker on the upper part of the chamber and opens as you go down.I use two smaller blade heads of the Pipnet Reaming Kit and transition after this to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber walls. The clearing of carbon is completed with sanding the chamber wall using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to provide some pressure. After wiping the chamber with a cotton cloth to remove carbon dust, the chamber wall is inspected revealing healthy briar.With the carbon cake cleared from the chamber, the next step is to clean the externals of the stummel starting with the rim. I take a few pictures of the stummel surface before beginning the cleaning to compare.Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad, the stummel is scrubbed. With the lava flow on the rim, I also employ a brass wired brush to scrub the rim. Brass brushes generally do not hurt the briar surface but help in the cleaning. The stummel is then taken to the sink to clean further. Unfortunately, I discover that I had forgotten shank brushes which are usually used to scrub the internal mortise and airway. Instead, with warmish to hot water using liquid anti-oil dishwashing soap, cotton buds are employed to clean the internal mortise and airway. After scrubbing and rinsing the stummel thoroughly, it is brought back to the worktable.Continuing with the internal cleaning, only one cotton bud and pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99%, were needed to finish cleaning this phase. I move on!With the internals clean, I take some pictures to survey the condition of the stummel surface after the external cleaning. The rim cleaned up nicely, though the wear and tear is still evident.The finish on the BC Régate was removed with the cleaning. The raw briar surface shows a lot of very minuscule scratching on the front and heel of the stummel. On the aft of the stummel are two fills that I noticed earlier. The fills have shrunk revealing gaps between the briar and filler material. The patches will need to be restored using briar putty – a mixture using briar dust and CA glue. The old filler material is removed using a sharp dental probe.Since the two pits are small, I decide not to make the putty, but something much like it. After cleaning the area with alcohol, CA glue is spot dropped into the pits and then sprinkled with briar dust. A toothpick is used to mix the CA glue and briar dust so that the patch is blended. After the patches are cured, a flat needle file is used to file the excess patch material down to the briar surface. The file stays on top of the patch so as to not impact the surrounding briar.After filing, 240 sanding paper and then 600 paper are used to further clean the excess patch material. The patches will blend well as the sanding and polishing process continues.With the pits on the stummel refilled with fresh patch material, I turn next to the rim. The rim has seen better days. The inner rim bevel remains darkened from charring. The edge of the rim is skinned and worn down.Overall, the rim needs refreshing. To do this the chopping board is used as a topping board. I take a final ‘before’ picture to track the topping progress.The general rule of thumb is to take off only as much briar as needed to freshen the rim. With 240 grade paper on the topping board, the stummel is inverted and rotated several times over the paper.The first look after the initial rotation shows the progress. The rotation continues several more times and a second look. Almost there.Finally, the rim is good to go. I’ve reached the stopping point with the more abrasive 240 grade paper.Next, 600 paper replaces the 240 grade paper and the stummel is rotated several more times. I’m satisfied with the progress of this phase of the rim refreshing.Next, the internal rim bevel needs refreshing as well. This will sharpen the rim definition as well as remove the darkened, stained briar. A few pictures show the old bevel. In these pictures, I can still see some roughness on the outer rim edge. I’m not concerned about this because additional sanding to clean the entire stummel will remove the rough briar on the edge of the rim. Using a hard surface against the back of the sandpaper to provide a firm cut and not a rounding effect, 240 paper is used followed by 600 grade. This removes the darkened briar as well as provide the rim with fresh, distinct lines.Moving next to sanding the entire stummel to remove the plethora of small cuts, scratches, and dents, I first use a coarse sanding sponge on rough spots on the heel and near the rim, on the upper bowl. I follow this with medium grade and light grade sanding sponges. I’m careful to avoid the Butz-Choquin nomenclature during the sanding.Next, continuing with sanding, the full regimen of micromesh pads is used. This transitions from sanding to polishing starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. The grain emerges nicely during the micromesh polishing phase. One more step with the stummel before transitioning to finishing the stem. I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel by placing some on my finger and then working it in to the briar surface. This product by Mark Hoover does a great job coaxing out the subtle hues in the briar. After working the Balm in thoroughly, I put the stummel aside for about 20 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.After the time is complete, a microfiber cloth is used to wipe off the excess Balm. Then, another microfiber cloth is used to buff up the stummel and fully removing the excess Restoration Balm. As usual, the Balm does a good job bringing out the hues of the briar. I like it.Turning now to the stem, fresh pictures are taken looking at the upper- and lower-bit area. There is tooth chatter and some small tooth compressions. The initial application of steel wool to break up oxidation was also helpful in removing some of the roughness on the bit. To address the remaining tooth chatter, the heating method is used initially to reduce further the chatter to enable sanding to address the remaining roughness. Using a Bic lighter, the flame paints the upper and lower bit. The heat expands the vulcanite enabling it to reclaim its original condition, or closer to it. The before and after pictures show the comparison. The method did help, especially on the lower bit. Next, the entire stem is sanded with 240 grade paper. I first reunite the BC stem and stummel with a sanding disk between them to guard against sanding the end of the stem creating a shouldering effect.Next, the stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool. Continuing the sanding/polishing process, next the full regimen of micromesh pads is applied. Starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of three pads Obsidian Oil is applied. Obsidian Oil is used to further condition the vulcanite stem and to guard against oxidation. After trying to reunite the stem and stummel, as often happens, after the cleaning the briar in the mortise has expanded somewhat and the tenon/mortise fit it too tight. It’s dangerous to force the tenon into the mortise because a cracked shank can be the result. To remedy the tightness, a piece of 240 paper is wrapped around the tenon and pinched to tighten it around the tenon. I then, while holding the pinched paper stationary around the tenon, rotate the stem to create the abrasiveness to sand down the tenon. I rotate several times and try the fit in the shank. Eventually, the fit is snug, but not too tight.Now the home stretch. With the stem and stummel reunited, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and set at about 40% full power. Blue Diamond compound is then applied to the entire pipe. Blue Diamond compound is the last stage in using an abrasive for the sanding/polishing of the pipe. After completing application of the Blue Diamond, a felt cloth is used to buff the pipe to remove the excess compound that collects on the surface. I want to make sure compound dust is removed before applying wax.After mounting another cotton cloth wheel to the rotary tool maintaining the same speed, carnauba wax is applied to the pipe. After completing the application of wax, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine and to disperse excess wax from the surface.This Butz-Choquin Régate of Saint Claude, France, turned out very well. The grain is expressive and reminds one of tiger fur on the front and back of the bowl. Bird’s eye outcroppings also can be seen. The Billiard shape is a workhorse among pipes and this Billiard cradles nicely in the palm and will serve a new steward well. The slightly bent stem adds a touch of class. This is the final of 3 pipes that Skeet commissioned benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. As the commissioner, Skeet will have the first opportunity to claim the BC from The Pipe Steward Store. Thanks for joining me! ono