Blog by Paresh Deshpande
About a year back, I had practiced tenon replacement on a freehand CONNISSEUR, NYC and though the project veered off towards stem replacement, it was an enjoyable and a challenging project. Here is the link to the write up: Continuing My Practice on Tenon Replacement… Working on a Connoisseur, NYC Pipe | rebornpipes
While working on the Connoisseur pipe, I so came to appreciate the very high quality of the briar used and the perfect balance and geometry that Ed Burak, the carver, brings to his pipes that when I came across another Connoisseur I had to get it, if the price was right (I have seen pipes from Ed Burak and Tim West go for big monies). We struck a deal and the pipe made its way across the oceans to India!
It is this pipe that is currently on my work table. It’s a well proportioned bent egg with a beautiful mix of cross and bird’s eye grains over the smooth stummel surface. It is stamped on the left of the shank as “CONNOISSEUR” over “N.Y.C”. The right side is stamped with “Ed Burak” in cursive hand. These stampings have faded in places, but are easily readable save for the letter E in Ed Burak which appears to have worn out. There is no other stamping seen on either the stummel or the stem. I had some recollection of the information I had researched about Ed Burak pipes, but to refresh my memory, I re-visited the write up as well as rebornpipes where, over the years, Steve has chronicled almost all the pipes that were and are in existence. Steve has restored and researched a pipe from this maker. Here is the link for a detailed information on this pipe; https://rebornpipes.com/2015/05/23/restoring-an-ed-burak-connoisseur-tall-stack/
Further down the write up, he also gives out the dating methodology adopted by Ed Burak and the same is reproduced for immediate reference;
I also learned on Pipephil’s website, http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/about-en.html that the stamping did indeed give some information that helped in identifying the period that a particular pipe was made. There I found that one may generally separate Connoisseur pipes’ date of manufacture into three periods.
From late 1960’s until 1974: no stampings
From 1974 until 1981: CONNOISSEUR over N.Y.C.
From 1981 on: CONNOISSEUR over N.Y.C. and Ed Burak’s signature.
Thus from the above information, it’s evident that this beautiful Connoisseur pipe in my hand is from the period post 1981!
Initial Visual Inspection
This is a well proportioned pipe with a nice hand feel and heft to it in a bent egg shape. The bend in the stem is more straightened than what it should be. The stummel has a beautiful bird’s eye and cross grains over the surface. The front of the bowl has a dark spot of charred wood on the outer rim edge. The pipe has been well smoked as evidenced by the thick layer of cake but has been well cared for. The rim top surface is clean with minimal lava overflow. The high quality vulcanite stem is oxidized and has tooth indentations and chatter in the bite zone. This was how the pipe looked when it reached me…this is a nice stout and beautiful looking pipe that should polish up nicely. Detailed Inspection…
The chamber has a thick even layer of dry and hard cake. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be checked and ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. However, I do not envisage any damage to the chamber walls. There is very light lava overflow over the rim top surface. The rim top surface is slightly inward sloping and the outer edge is flattened in 6 o’clock direction. The condition of the inner rim edge is pristine. There are very strong and all pervading smells of old tobacco emanating from the chamber. Hopefully this issue should be addressed once the cake has been removed and the mortise is thoroughly cleaned.The stummel boasts of beautiful bird’s eye grains to the sides with cross grains over the front, back and extending over the shank surface. The stummel briar is without a single fill and exudes a very high quality of briar and craftsmanship. The foot of the stummel shows beautiful cross grains and is sans any damage. The stummel has a dry and dull appearance. The front of the bowl has a lightly charred spot in 1 o’clock direction on the outer rim edge. I checked the extent of the damage and was relieved to find the wood is solid to the touch and the char is not very deep seated. My guess is that the stummel must have come in contact with a burning cigarette end in an ashtray. It is fortunate that the burn mark is not very deep but unfortunately it cannot be completely eliminated. The mortise walls are dirty and the sump has accumulation of old dried oils and gunk. The ghosting smells should reduce once the mortise and sump have been cleaned out. The high quality vulcanite saddle stem has deep seated oxidation over the stem surface. A couple of nicks/ chips can be seen over the upper stem surface. Tooth indentations can be seen on the lower surface while the upper surface has minor tooth chatter in the bite zone. The button on either surfaces has a few bite marks. The horizontal slot and the tenon end shows accumulation of oils and tars. The stem profile is more straight and does not match the bent profile of the shank, making it uncomfortable to clench. This would need to be sorted out.The Process
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe by cleaning the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners with isopropyl alcohol (99.9% pure). Once the stem internals were cleaned, with my fabricated knife, I scraped away all the gunk and tars from the slot and tenon end.I flamed the stem’s upper surface and the bite zone on either surfaces with the flame of a lighter to raise the nicks, tooth indentation and chatter from the stem surface. The heat did not completely raise the damage to the surface, but the damaged surface appeared much better than before. I sanded the entire stem surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the raised surfaces of the stem and also to remove the oxidation from the surface. I wiped the stem surface with Murphy’s Oil soap and a cotton swab to remove the loosened surface oxidation. I filled all the deep tooth chatter and indentations and also the button edges with a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and set the stem aside for the fills to cure. I intended to blend these fills and also sharpen the button edges once the fill had hardened considerably.While the stem fills were curing, I worked on the stummel, reaming the chamber with my PipNet reamer using head sizes 1 to 3. Using my fabricated knife, I further reamed out the cake from places where the PipNet reamer could not reach and followed it with sanding the chamber walls with a 220 grit sand paper. I wiped the chamber with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab to remove all the carbon dust. This final cleaning of the chamber revealed well-seasoned solid chamber walls. Next, I cleaned the mortise with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. With a dental tool, I scrapped away all the dried oils and gunk from the walls of the mortise. I cleaned the well of the mortise with q-tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I would continue the cleaning of the mortise during the external cleaning of the stummel surface.I scrubbed the external surface of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it using a paper towel and a soft cotton cloth. Thereafter, I cleaned the mortise and stummel surface with anti-oil dish washing soap on a shank brush and a tooth brush. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. Once the external stummel surface cleaning was done, I completed the stem repairs. The fills had cured nicely and I began the process of filing the fills and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. I matched the fills and smoothed out the button edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper.Next, I moved on to shaping the stem to match the profile of the stummel before polishing the stem. I inserted a pipe cleaner through the stem’s air way to prevent it from collapsing once the stem is heated. I first straightened the stem by heating it with a heat gun. To impart the requisite bend, I drew a diagram to mark the plane of the stummel rim top, the present profile of the stem, and thereafter, the exact place and shape of the bend that was needed in dotted lines. What we have to ensure is that the bend in the stem should be parallel to the rim top. I heated the stem with my heat gun till the vulcanite became pliable and gave it the necessary bend. I held it in place till the stem had cooled down a bit and thereafter, held the stem under cold water for the bend to set. I further dry sanded the stem with 400, 600, and 800 grit sand papers and finally wet sanded with 1000 grit sandpaper. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil into the stem and set it aside to be absorbed. The stem is now a shining piece of vulcanite.With the stem set aside, I decided to tackle the darkened rim top and the charring to the outer edge in 1 o’clock direction. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to sand the rim top surface by moving in from outer rim edge to the the inner. I sanded the charred spot to remove the charred briar and blended it with the rest of the stummel surface. Though not completely eliminated, the charred spot was greatly reduced and unfortunately will always remain as a testimony to the pipe’s journey.I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pad. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looked amazing with a deep shine, the beautiful bird’s eye and cross grains popping over the stummel surface. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar. I rubbed this balm deep into the stummel surface with my fingers and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately worked it’s magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the dark brown hues of the grain contrasting with the rest of the stummel surface. I further buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush. The appearance of the stummel at this stage motivated me further to complete this project at the earliest. I set the stummel aside and all that remained was to polish the stem! I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem at the end of the micromesh polishing cycle. I completed the polishing regime of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Extra Fine Stem polish developed by my friend Mark Hoover, and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem was now nice, smooth and shiny. To apply the finishing touch, I first mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and applied a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches.With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I applied a coat of carnauba wax to the stummel and stem and continued to work on it till the complete coat of wax was polished out. I mounted a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and gave the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine further. This CONNOISSEUR pipe with it’s beautiful grains, perfectly bent stem and great hand feel was now ready to join my modest collection of American pipes to be enjoyed for years to come. The finished pipe is shown below.