Blog by Steve Laug
A friend of mine, Scott picked up this deeply sandblasted Dunhill LBS in a shape I would call a Liverpool but Dunhill called a long billiard. He bought it off eBay and when it arrived it had a lot of surprises for him under the thick build up of cake and grime. He has purchased enough estate pipes know what he was getting into but this one had even more issues than he reckoned it would have. He sent me the eBay sellers photos and I have included them below. This is what he saw and honestly if I had seen the pipe I would have sprung for it immediately. The sandblast though dirty, is quite rugged and stunning. The seller dated the pipe as a 1956 based on the following stamping. On the heel of the bowl it was stamped with the shape designation – LBS followed by DUNHILL [over] SHELL BRIAR (Sandblast finish) on the shank. That was followed by MADE IN ENGLAND6 . Next to the shank/stem junction it was stamped with a Circle 4S – the group 4 size designation and the S for Shell Briar. I turned to PipePhil’s Site and looked up the shape letters that Dunhill used on the helpful chart that is included there (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shapes-l.html). I did a screen capture of the pertinent part of the chart to show the shape letters noted above. I have included that below.The bowl had a very thick cake and the rim top had a heavy lava buildup. The bowl had a crack running down the back side of the bowl. It was hard to know how bad it was because of the filth of the dirty pipe. It was a good bet that it would be messy inside the bowl under the cake! The stem was oxidized, calcified and had deep tooth dents on both sides at the button as well as wear on the button surface itself. It would be a challenge.When the pipe arrived at Scott’s place it was in rougher condition than he had expected. Nonetheless he went to work on it. He knew that he needed to ream the cake back to bare briar and clean up the exterior of the bowl to know for sure how bad the damage was on the inside and outside of the bowl. He did a great job cleaning up the exterior and reaming and cleaning out the bowl so the damage on the inside and out were incredibly visible. This pipe was in serious trouble. Scott and I share and affinity for these older craggy Dunhills so he sent me an email. I have included that below.
Hi Steve, Great job on that 1936 Dunhill. Are you going to be putting it up for sale? If so, I’m interested. Also, I have a large 1956 shell briar Dunhill billiard that has a great blast and good stem, but has a crack in the front and a bad interior. It’s out of my comfort zone – will you do such work for pay?
We sent several emails back and forth regarding the pipe discussing what needed to be done. I asked him to send me some pics of the pipe after his clean up. He did so along with the email below.
Hi Steve, Here are pics of the Dunhill. The crack is on the shank side, straight above the shank – it’s splits to form two cracks (hard to see). I cleaned the bowl (inside and out) then put a clamp around the bowl to see if it would push together, and it moved a lot, but not all the way, so the next step would have been to use compressed air to get any slivers/dust out of the crack. That’s where I stopped, figuring it had waited for 30 or so years, so it would be okay.
There also seems to be some rot on the rim of the bowl and there is a small chunk out at the top of the crack. My plan had been to sand down the top after the repair was done.
Thanks, Scott When I saw the pipe in his pictures I fell in love with the shape and the rich, rugged looking blast. I could see at once why Scott had been drawn to it. We chatted back and forth and the long and short of it is that it is now on my work desk to see what I can do with it. I will give it a shot and then send it back to Scott once it is finished. I took photos of when I received it. The rim top looked rough. It was beat up and missing a chunk over the crack on the back of the bowl. The finish was pretty much removed. The bowl was clean and the damage on the inside was extensive. The stem had cleaned up well. The tooth marks are visible in the photos of the stem that I have included below.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is faint in spots but is still very readable.I removed the stem from the shank to prepare to work on the bowl. I put the stem aside and took pictures of the bowl to just savor the rugged sandblast. Even the rim top, as damaged as it was still has a bit of the sandblast finish that I thought would be redeemable. I cleaned out the cracks on the exterior with alcohol to remove the remaining debris. I checked the entire bowl with a bright light and lens to make sure I could see all the cracks and not be surprised with ones I had missed. Sure enough they were all around the back side of the bowl. They ran from the rim down and then turned to the left and then down once again. I layered briar dust and clear CA glue in the cracks. I repaired the chip out of the back side of the rim top at the same time in the same manner. Before it completely dried I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the repairs and blend them into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish. I find that if you do not do this you end up with flat spots where the repair occurredOnce the repair cured I wiped the areas down with alcohol on a cotton pad and stained the areas with a walnut stain pen. I would use a combination of stains later to further blend them in. I just wanted to see what the repair looked like and be able to send photos to Scott.With the exterior finished it was time to work on the inside of the bowl and deal with all of the spidering cracks and large cracks around the interior walls. They were not just confined to the back of the bowl but covered the majority of the bowl and heel surface. I mixed a batch of JB Weld with a dental spatula and applied it to the walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner to act like a paint brush. I pushed the JB Weld into the cracks in the bowl walls and gave the entire interior a coat of the product. I have checked out the research on the product and find that it dries inert and does not gas off when heated. I have used it on my own pipes and smoked them for over 10 or more years with no issues. With that finished I called it a night and set the bowl aside for the repairs on the interior to cure overnight. In the morning I sanded inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out that area. I wrapped a dowel with 220 grit sandpaper extending it just below the dowel so that it would form a cone on the end and allow me to sand the bottom of the bowl. I worked on it to smooth the repairs and remove as much of the JB Weld as possible while leaving it in the cracks and fissures of the walls. With the bowl repair finished I stained the bowl and rim with Mahogany, Walnut and Black stain pens to match the combination of stains used on the bowl that was not repaired. I was happy with the overall look of the pipe. 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 and a horsehair shoe brush to get into the nooks and crannies of the blast. 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 and shoe brush to raise the shine. I cleaned the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to remove my sanding debris and residual tars and oils in the mortise and airway. I cleaned the internals of the stem the same way. Once finished the pipe was clean and repaired inside and out.Now it was time to mix a bowl coating. Different folks used different things for this. I use a mix of sour cream and charcoal powder. I learned this from a pipe maker friend. I use it on a bowl that I have repaired with JB Weld because when I sand the bowl it is very smooth and I want to facilitate the building of a carbon cake. The bowl coating does that. Surprisingly it cures neutral in taste and imparts no flavour to the tobacco when smoked. Within a few bowls it is basically covered with the developing cake. It works for me!I applied the mixture to the bottom and walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner. I paint it on and smooth it out with the pipe cleaner. I am not looking for a thick coating of the product but merely a top coat. Too thick a coat will just peel off when the pipe is smoked. I want it to stay put for a few bowls anyway! I set the bowl aside for the bowl coating to cure and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth marks. The method worked extremely well and I was able to lift the majority of them. There were two marks – one on each side that lifted but needed to be filled. I filled them in with clear CA glue. Once it cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the button edges. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This really is a beautiful Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Long Billiard. The relatively short vulcanite taper stem just adds to an already great looking pipe. If you did not know where the cracks were you would never be able to find them now. The rich combination of Mahogany, Black and Walnut stains on the bowl give depth and dimension to the sandblast. It came alive with the polishing and waxing. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax as I did not want to fill in the valleys. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Group 4 pipe is a beauty and fits nicely 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 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. . The weight of the pipe is 40grams/1.41oz. Once the bowl coating completely cures I will be packing it up and sending it back to Scott. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of it when he has it in hand. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.