Blog by Dal Stanton
I love restoring pipes. It reminds me of how life can be harsh resulting in broken people that need help and a second chance. This sentiment is at the core of the collection of ‘broken and needy’ pipes in virtual ‘Help Me!’ baskets where what is required of would-be commissioners is the challenge to see the potential hidden under the grime and brokenness. This is why the collection is called, ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ benefiting the truly broken and needy – the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Darren saw the potential, not just for one pipe but for 7. In November he wrote:
Greetings from Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, (and welcome back to the US)! Thank you for your labor and love of pipes! It is with no small joy that I’ve tracked your blog posts on your various projects. Recently, I was able to fully appreciate your handiwork in a pipe you restored for a close friend of mine in our local Cigar and Pipe club, Daniel XXXXXX. Towards that end is the purpose of this mail. From your many posts, I have a marginal appreciation for the time involved, and more significantly, the fact that there is a queue well-ahead of my inquiry. Admittedly unaware of your work queue, these pipes would be targeted for Christmas gifts – either 2021 or 2022. At least three would be gifts for close friends, and others would be for my children to give to me. 😊
As Darren wrote above, Daniel, a fellow member of his Cigar and Pipe Club (See: FB Chester County Cigar Club – Holy Smokes), had commissioned a pipe (See: Refreshing a Beldor Studio Mini Churchwarden Paneled Apple of Saint Claude) and through Daniel, Darren became aware of The Pipe Steward. Here are the pipes Darren commissioned in the end:
A pretty impressive line-up of pipes! The thing that stood out most to me about Darren’s selections was that they all were intended as gifts except for one. I laughed when he revealed his true motives with fellow Club members. He confided: The crowd I’m working to convert are mostly cigar guys, so a broader and deeper chamber helps them “feel” like they’re enjoying a long-smoke cigar 😊. I found out later that the other recipient was to be his youngest daughter as an 18th birthday gift (continuing a tradition from her elder siblings). This information about Darren warmed my ‘father’s’ heart. I decided that the first of the 7 pipes that Darren commissioned would be the one destined for him – the Bruyere Extra Paneled Billiard, an attractive pipe. Here are the pictures of the pipe that whispered to Darren: The nomenclature on the Paneled Billiard is stamped on the left side of the shank in old English script which is slightly curved, BRUYERE [over] EXTRA.I have little doubt about the country of origin of this pipe – France. It was part of what I have called the French Lot of 50 which I acquired in August of 2018 from a seller in Paris when my wife and I were still living in Bulgaria. This lot has been a gold mine of treasures. The Beldor Studio Mini Churchwarden also came to me in this French lot. The arrow marks the Paneled Billiard in the twisted embrace of so many orphaned pipes calling out to new stewards! 😊
Honestly, I am surprised this Paneled Billiard remained unclaimed as long as it did. It is a beauty. I’m hopeful that the restoration will be an easier one. The chamber has almost no cake build up and the rim with only minor darkness from lighting practices. The bowl has the normal grime needing to be cleaned but I see no fills in a nicely proportioned octagon which promises to showcase nicely the briar grain. The stem shows some oxidation but almost no tooth chatter. To begin the restoration of the Paneled Billiard, I start with cleaning the airway of the stem. Using pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% the cleaning does not take long.Next, the Panel’s stem joins the other pipes that Darren commissioned in a soak of www.Briarville.com‘s ‘Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover. This is a deoxidation product that I became aware of and am giving it a test run. The stems in this batch will be a be a good test for the Oxidation Remover. The directions describe the soak time from 2 to 24 hours as needed. I’ll give the full 24-hour exposure. With the stem soaking I turn to the Paneled bowl’s chamber. The light carbon cake is dispatched easily with 2 blade heads from the Pipnet Reaming Kit and then the chamber walls are scraped with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool. The job of clearing the chamber is completed with sanding using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.An inspection of the chamber after wiping with a cotton pad to remove the carbon dust shows healthy briar. I move on.The next step is to clean the external briar surface. Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, the smooth briar surface is scrubbed with a cotton pad.From the worktable, the stummel is taken to the sink where shank brushes are used with hottish water and anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap to clean the internal mortise and airway. After scrubbing and rinsing thoroughly, the stummel comes back to the worktable.To make sure the internals are clean, a few pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 99% confirm that the internals are clean. As is my usual practice, to clean further and to freshen the bowl for a new steward, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak to draw latent oils and tars out of the internal briar walls. A cotton ball is stretched and twisted and then guided down the mortise to the draft hole. It serves the purpose of a ‘wick’ that draws out the tars and oils during the soaking process.The bowl is next filled with kosher salt and placed in the egg carton to keep it stable and to line up the top of the bowl with the top of the shank keeping them roughly level. Kosher salt is used because it leaves no after taste.The bowl is then filled with isopropyl 99% with a large eye dropper until it surfaces over the salt. After a few minutes, the alcohol is absorbed, and more alcohol is needed to top it off. I then put the stummel aside for several hours as my wife and I head to Jensen Beach to enjoy a beautiful Florida day!Just to prove I was where I said I was – enjoying one of my favorites, a Savinelli Goliath with a beautiful Cumberland stem and shank ferrule. This was the first pipe I restored for myself that had the specific purpose of going with me to the beach – then, on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria (See: A Goliath Among Giants – Releasing a Savinelli Goliath 619EX Italy). Today, the Goliath was packed with my favorite aromatic, Lane BCA.
Several hours later, back from the beach, the salt and cotton wick show some soiling indicating the oils drawn out, but not a lot. After the salt is tossed in the waste, the bowl is wiped with paper towel and I blow through the mortise to make sure all the salt crystals have been removed.Just to make sure all is clean and there is no residue left behind, one cotton bud and one pipe cleaner evidence the fact that this stummel is cleaner than a whistle. I whiff of the chamber reveals no hint of ghosting and a refreshed bowl for a new steward.The stem has been soaking for 24 hours in the product, ‘Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover’ by www.Briarville.com and is time to see the results. After fishing the Paneled Billiard’s stem out of the bottle, a cotton pad wetted with alcohol is used to wipe off the oxidation that was raised during the soaking process. The cotton pad is soiled a good bit which is good news. I run another pipe cleaner through the airway wetted with isopropyl 99% to clear away any of the Oxidation Remover liquid residue.The stem is then further conditioned using paraffin oil, a mineral oil. I put the stem aside to absorb the oil.Another close look at the Paneled briar surface reveals beautiful, tightly woven grain patterns. An inspection of the surface does not reveal any fills needing attention. The condition of the surface is so good that I bypass using sanding sponges which is my normal next step if the surface had significant cuts, dents, and areas needing to be cleaned up. Instead, I go directly to the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads to fine sand the striking briar surface. Starting first with wet sanding, pads 1500 to 2400 are used. Following the wet sanding, dry sanding continues with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I’m pleased with the way the briar grain emerges through the process. The unique characteristic of Paneled shapes is that each panel gives a different ‘canvas’ view of the briar landscape. The octagonal shape on this Billiard provides a lot to enjoy! I have had such good results from the process that I have developed to bring out briar grain so that it absolutely pops that I decide to apply to the Paneled Billiard. I decide to apply a light brown dye to provide the contrasting. The purpose of the dying is not to darken the bowl or to hide imperfections – which often is the need in a restoration project. This pipe could continue as is to the final stages of polishing if I chose. To apply dye at this point is to create more contrasting to bring out more strikingly the grain already present. After all the components for dyeing have been assembled on the worktable, the first step after wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to make sure it’s clean, is to warm the stummel over the hot air gun. I believe this is an important step as the heat opens the briar as the stummel heats. This helps the briar to be more receptive to the dye that is applied.After the bowl is warmed, a folded pipe cleaner applies or paints Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye to the stummel surface. As an aniline dye, the base of the dye is alcohol. The next step after a swath of the briar surface has been painted with dye, is to ‘flame’ the wet dye with the lit candle. The result of this is that the alcohol in the dye immediately combusts when the wet dye meets the flame. The combustion burns off the alcohol leaving the dye pigment behind for the briar to absorb. Generally, what I have discovered is that the veins or the grain of the briar is softer wood and tends to absorb the dye more readily. The harder wood between the veins is harder wood which does the opposite – does not absorb the dye pigment as readily. This creates the dynamic that has resulted with striking briar grain. After the entire bowl has been painted and flamed thoroughly, the stummel is set aside for several hours to rest.Turning back to the stem, I take a few customized pictures of the stem which usually enables one to see the residual oxidation left behind. The pictures below don’t show much at all, though my eyes can see faint oxidation remaining in the bit area and the shank facing area. The Briarville Stem Oxidation Remover has performed well it seems. Even with the good performance of the removal of oxidation, the whole stem is sanded anyway to smooth the vulcanite and to remove miniscule tooth chatter. To guard against ‘shouldering’ the shank facing, a plastic disk is used when the sanding is near the end of the stem.After sanding with 240 paper, next is wet sanding with 600 grade paper and then 0000 grade steel wool is applied. Next is applying the finer sanding of micromesh pads. Starting with wet sanding, pads 1500 to 2400 are used. Following the wet sanding, dry sanding is next using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. The vulcanite pops nicely after the full process is completed. The newly dyed stummel has been ‘resting’ overnight allowing the dye to ‘settle’. This time seems to help the new dye to become more firmly absorbed into the briar and also helps guard against the new dye leeching onto the fingers after the pipe is put into service and heated for the first time.The next step is to ‘unwrap’ the newly dyed stummel which has a crust of ‘flamed’ light brown dye. A felt buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and set at a slightly slower speed to guard against too much heat buildup. Red Tripoli compound is then applied to the stummel and the unwrapping commences.I enjoy this part of the restoration process the most. As the crust is removed by the felt wheel and compound, the grain is revealed showing how the dye was received by the grain. The felt wheel collects a lot of the dye debris and is purged often during the process. I rub it against the edge of the wooden chopping board that is used as a lap board during the use of the rotary tool. Purging cleans the felt wheel and softens it. I pause during the unwrapping to take a progress picture showing the crusted side compared to the unwrapped side. The abrasion of the felt and coarse Tripoli compound helps to remove the globs of excess dye revealing the veins of the grain in crisp contrast. This is my goal in applying a dye.Following the felt wheel, a cotton cloth wheel is mounted and the speed set to about 40% full power – faster than with the felt wheel. Using the softer cotton cloth at a higher speed, Tripoli compound is used again to fine tune the contrast between the grains and to remove more excess crusted dye. The cloth wheel also can reach into the more constrained area of the crook where the shank and bowl merge. Next, the entire bowl is wiped with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to remove more excess dye and to blend the newly dyed surface. Following this, the stem and stummel are rejoined. Another cotton cloth wheel is mounted to the rotary tool and the less abrasive Blue Diamond compound is applied to the entire pipe.After application of the compound, a microfiber cloth is used to wipe/buff the pipe to remove the compound dust left behind. I do this in preparation for applying the wax.One extra step is included to help prevent new dye from leeching onto the fingers of the new steward when the pipe is first put into service. When the pipe is first put into service, and the bowl is heated, it can result in new dye leeching. To prevent this, the bowl is heated with the hot air gun to emulate the inaugural heating up of the stummel. After the stummel is heated, it is then wiped briskly with a cotton pad to remove the dye released by the heating.The coloring of the cotton pad shows little leeching continuing. This is good.The home stretch – next, another cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted to the rotary tool with the speed remaining the same at about 40% of full power. Carnauba wax is then applied to the stem and stummel. My general rule is ‘less is more’. I’m careful not to load the surface with too much wax which will not dissolve and just be pushed around the stummel surface by the buffing wheel. Using a rotary tool, one applications of wax is sufficient and then a few cycles over the stummel follow to make sure the wax is dissolved and absorbed into the briar surface. After completing the wax application, the pipe is then given a hearty hand buffing with a microfiber towel to remove wax that hasn’t dissolved and to raise the shine.The transformation of this probable French Bruyere Paneled Billiard is amazing. The application of fresh dye had the desired effect – to create a more vivid contrast with the briar grains. Each of the 8 panels acts as a distinct part of the canvas showcasing bird’s eye, lateral flame grain and mesmerizing flourishes that hold the gaze. The straight Billiard shape is the classic pipe with the octagonal Paneled bowl providing a touch of class. This is the first of 7 pipes that Darren commissioned, and this Paneled Billiard Darren thought he would add to his collection. He has the first opportunity to claim it from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. I love starting off with the ‘before’ picture to show the transformation. Thanks for joining me!