Daily Archives: July 14, 2021

A New Solution to an Old Problem

Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Welcome to my first meerschaum restoration! In fact, it is not just a meerschaum pipe, but it is also a Peterson pipe. This came out of lot of pipes from eBay some months ago, but it took me a while to get to it – I was a bit daunted. Even though it looked rough to start, it ended up as a very handsome pipe. Please read on… This is a rusticated, African block meerschaum, made on the Isle of Man. The stem has a push-style tenon. Like many of the meerschaum pipes of this era, this one has a factory-stained rim – to give it that sort of ‘broken in’ look. How do I know it is a Peterson? Because it has the distinctive, stylized ‘P’ on the left side of the stem, near the shank. Similar to other pipes that Steve has restored, this one seems likely to have been produced by Laxey Pipes Ltd. on the Isle of Man for Peterson Pipes. Here is the Pipedia article about them (I hasten to add that the various errors below are in the original text and are not mine):

Laxey Pipes Ltd. resided in a historical 19th century four-storey Man stone building at The Quay, Old Laxey, Isle of Man, which thankfully has been preserved.

The company specialised in the production of meerschaum pipes using the Meerschaum mined by the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation in the Amboseli basin in Tanganyika (since 1964 part of the United Republic of Tanzania). 

Please note: you may often find names like “Manx Pipes Ltd.”, “Man Pipe Co.” and others more, but there is no indication of another Isle of Man pipe producer other than Laxey Pipe Ltd. at any time! 

Laxey Pipes Ltd. marketed own brands like “Manxpipe”, “Manxman”, “Manxland” e.c. Names like “John Bull”, “White Knight” (unwaxed), “Domino” (black, or lined) indicated some shapes / colours of Laxey’s own series. The stems either showed the astronomical sign for “male” or “man” (circle + arrow), or the crest of the Isle of Man, the 3-legged X in a circle. Manxpipes and Laxey’s other brands were available through pipe retailers in general, but also were sold (mainly) to tourists through their own shop in Laxey. 

Furthermore Laxey Pipes Ltd. manufactured the meer bowls for Peterson, Barling, Nørding and others from the later 1960’s until 2001. Man Pipe e.g. was a brand distibuted by Comoy’s. The bowls usually showed no nomenclature indicating the orderer. “Genuine Block Meerschaum” was engraved frequently. Often, just the stems were different, while bowls were the same.

Supply of meerschaum from East Africa run out (Kenya / Tanzania exhausted, Somalia inaccessible), and thus the last Laxey meers were supplied to trade in May, 2001. Laxey Pipes Ltd. tried to survive continuing with briar pipes – mainly in the Danish style -, but to no success. It closed down business in July, 2002.

Anyway, on to the pipe – and what a mess it was. The stummel had the following problems: a nasty ghost, filth embedded in the rustication, a creepy and unnatural yellow tinge to the meerschaum, lots of lava on the rim, lots of cake in the bowl, and – worst of all – chunks missing from the rim. Meanwhile, the stem had its own set of problems: the ‘P’ logo was nearly obliterated, heavy oxidation and calcification, and tooth marks and dents. In fact, even my wife commented that this pipe might be the proverbial ‘bridge too far’ – but, like the stereotypical, stubborn husband, I was not to be deterred! I decided to start on them stem, as I still was not sure how to resolve the chunks missing from the rim. I broke out the isopropyl alcohol and pipe cleaners, and got to work on the inside of the stem. Predictably, it was pretty dirty and I went through a good number of pipe cleaners in order to clean it up. Then I had to tackle the overwhelming oxidation and calcification – yuck. I took a blade (an old butter knife, actually) and began gently scraping at all that build-up. Obviously, I took it easy, as I did not want to damage the stem’s vulcanite any further. The butter knife worked quite well and I got a good amount loose. I followed that up with some lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol on some cotton rounds to try and scrub the rest away. This worked quite well and I noted some improvement. There were quite a few dents in the stem. Some were obviously tooth marks, but other dents looked like blunt force trauma! Time to break out the BIC lighter to see if it could raise some of these dents. Quite frankly, it did not do much – this repair was going to require some considerable sanding etc. Before that, however, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. The following day, I cleaned all of the de-oxidizing sludge off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly straightforward to remove. I scrubbed vigorously with SoftScrub to remove the leftover oxidation.Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I built up the dent damage on the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let it fully cure. It turned out that this was not as straightforward as I had hoped. It took more than one application of adhesive to sort this problem out. I then sanded it down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to make the stem look normal. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing.

The stummel was next, and the usual cleaning procedures were in order for this pipe. I used both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem to remove the built-up cake and followed that with 220-grit sandpaper to remove as much as I could. The meerschaum cannot take the usual de-ghosting process of soaking cotton balls in isopropyl alcohol, so sanding was a way to reduce the old ghost in the pipe. I also wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the interior walls of the meerschaum. Fortunately, there were none. Truth be told, I actually also tried to use a bit of ground coffee in the bowl to remove the ghost, but that was not very successful.I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. There was quite a bit of nastiness inside this stummel – it took a lot of pipe cleaners etc. to sort that out. I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and some cotton pads. That worked very well at removing any latent dirt and that weird yellow tinge that I mentioned earlier. I followed that up by quickly cleaning the insides with some dish soap and tube brushes. The meerschaum cannot be left wet for long – it will turn to mush otherwise. Before & After Restoration Balm does not make the same kind of difference on meerschaum as it does on briar, but it still works – so light coating was applied, followed by my horsehair shoe-brush. On to the inevitable repairs: this is where the nightmares begin. Honestly, it was not immediately clear to me how I was going to make the stummel look decent. Sure, I had cleaned it, etc., but what about the obvious chunks missing from the side? I considered sanding it all down, but I feared this would alter the shape of the pipe beyond reason and repair. I figured that, at very least, this pipe needed to be topped. That is to say, the rim had to be inverted and sanded down on a piece of 220-grit sandpaper. By doing this, it would remove some of the lighter damage altogether and would improve the state of the heavier damage. But the old problem remained: how was I going to repair the chunks of missing meerschaum on this pipe?I then realized that the solution was as obvious as the nose on my face: I would take a piece of meerschaum from another pipe and fashion a repair. I grabbed one of my sacrificial meerschaum pipes (a dreadfully ugly horse’s head) and used a pair of end-cutting nippers to break off a couple of pieces. Having done that, I used cyanoacrylate adhesive to fix them in place on the stummel. I was feeling pretty good about this solution, but knew that there was still a long row to hoe. Obviously, I needed to sand down and shape the new pieces of meerschaum, but I also needed to make the rim as rusticated as the rest of the stummel. Enter the Dremel (with accompanying angelic voices). Yes, I first used a sanding drum on the Dremel to remove excess material from the repair (but not too much), then I used a high-speed engraving cutter to rough up the surface of both the rim and the repair. So far, so good. The engraving cutter had worked – to a point – but it had not really resulted in the sort of rustication I was looking for. My solution came from the Dremel again, but only indirectly. Steve reminded me of his trick of using an old Philips-head screwdriver as a rustication device (you can read about that here). Whereas Steve used Dremel grinding stones to make his rustication device, I used a metal cutting disc on the Dremel. As you can see, my screwdriver came out looking quite good and the stummel came out looking even better. I was definitely pleased with the roughened surface of the stummel, but I next needed to address the lack of colour. This, of course, was a direct result of my topping of the rim – it removed the patina. The solution must have come to me in the mid-afternoon: tea. Yes, I used black tea to provide a beautiful stain to the meerschaum that gave it a really good look. I went and added some more Before & After Restoration Balm and, once again, used my horsehair shoe-brush to work it in.Meerschaum does not really do well on a high-speed buffer, so I used a microfibre cloth to achieve the same effect. I did, however, take the stem to the buffer, where I applied White Diamond and some wax to give it that lovely shine.

In the end, what a beauty this pipe is! It is back to its old glory and ready to be enjoyed again by the next owner. I am pleased to announce that this pipe is for sale! If you are interested in acquiring it for your collection, please have a look in the ‘Irish’ pipe section of the store here on Steve’s website. You can also email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. The approximate dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 154 mm; height 47 mm; bowl diameter 34 mm; chamber diameter 20 mm. The mass of the pipe is 40 grams. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Reworking a Damaged French Made GBD Speciale Standard 9465 Liverpool

Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff and I purchased the lovely long shank GBD Liverpool from a fellow in Brazil, Indiana, USA. The grain on the pipe is a nice mix of flame, swirled and birdseye that works well with the brown stains of the briar and the black of the saddle stem. The rim top is crowned with a bevel inward and has some significant damage on the front right outer edge and top. The repeated burning of that area with a lighter flame has left behind a deep dip and burn that will need to be dealt with. It was hard to see with the thick cake in the bowl and the veritable eruption of lava over the top of the rim but it was very present. The finish was quite dirty with grit, grime and oils ground into the surface of the bowl and shank. The shank is stamped on both sides and on the left it reads GBD in an oval [over] Speciale [over] Standard. On the right side it reads France [over] the shape number 9465. The vulcanite stem was lightly oxidized and well dented with tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The button area was worn as well. There is a GBD brass oval roundel on the left side of the saddle stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe to capture its condition when it arrived at his place. It was going to take some work to bring this one back to life. But both of us thought that it would be worth it. Jeff took photos of the rim top and bowl that show the cake and overflowing lava on the top and edges of the bowl. It is really hard to know what it looks like under all of that. We have learned that it with either be badly damaged or it will have been well protected. Only cleaning it off would reveal which result was on this pipe. You can also see the burn damage on the right front outer edge. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter and marks that are clear in the photos that follow. There is some oxidation and the calcification on the stem surface. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show condition of the briar. You can see the dust and debris ground into the bowl. The burn damage on the outer rim edge of the right front is more apparent from the side view in the first photo. The grain is still quite nice. He took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It was faint but was still was clear and readable as noted above. The brass GBD roundel looked good as well. I always like to be able to set the pipe I am working on in its historical setting so I turn to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD) and read through the brand history. Toward the middle of the article I found what I was looking for. I quote below:

The Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude in 1952. Since 1981 the majority of GBD pipes come from the English factory.

The premium lines of GBD offered very good values, and are considered amongst the most affordable high end pipe of the 1960’s and earlier and a rival in quality, design, and price to Dunhill. Smokers’ Haven was the main retail supplier for GBD’s in the US until the early 1980’s.

GBD produced consistently well made pipes, almost entirely of Algerian or Grecian briar. In the late 1960’s to late 1970’s, they introduced the “Collector” and “Unique” lines, made primarily by Horry Jamieson, who had carved for Barling for many years, and was skilled in freehand design. Older GBD pieces are excellent smokers and unique in design. They did an excellent executions of classic pipe shapes, as well as some beautiful freehands in the “Unique” line. [2]

The following list comprises the better grades in descending order:

Pedigree, Pedigree I, Pedigree II, Straight Grain, Prodigy, Bronze Velvet, Virgin, Varichrome, Prestige, Jubilee, New Era, Prehistoric, International, Universe, Speciale Standard, Ebony, Tapestry, New Standard, Granitan, Sauvage, Sierra, Penthouse, Legacy, Concorde.

Since the pipe I was working on was made in France I knew that it was made either in Paris before 1952 or in St. Claude after that date and before 1981 when production moved to England. I also new that I was dealing with one of the better grade pipes with the Speciale Standard stamp.

I then followed the links included to a listing of the shapes and numbers on the GBD pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD_Shapes/Numbers). The pipe I was working on was labeled by GBD as a 9465 which is a Liverpool with a round shank. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual focus on detail. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of the cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush and was able to remove the thick lava build up on the rim top. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Briarville’s Stem Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it. The rim top cleaned up really well. The rim top, inner and outer edges of the bowl other than the burn damage on the front right were in good condition. The crowned inner edge also has some rim darkening and burn damage on the front right as well. The stem surface looked good with some large and deep tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.  He took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It was faint but readable as noted above.I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole.  Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. I decided to begin by dealing with the damage on the front of the rim top and bowl. I sanded it slightly to give a clear picture of the damage in the photo below. I have marked it in red to help identify the damaged area.Now I had a decision to make on this repair. I could top the bowl and shorten the height of the entire bowl to accommodate the damage on the front of the rim. To me this would look awkward as the dip is quite deep. The other option to me was to build up the dip in the rim top and edge with briar dust and clear CA glue (super glue) to the same height as the rest of the bowl. I decided to build up the bowl top. To begin the process I topped the bowl to give me a flat surface and to remove the other damage to the rim top.I wiped off the burned area with alcohol on a cotton pad to clean off any debris. I layered on the first batch of CA glue and then used a dental spatula to put briar dust on top of the glue. I repeated the process until I had the rim top level. Once the repair cured I topped it once again to make sure that the repaired area matched the rest of the rim top. I used a topping board and 220 grit sandpaper.I took photos of the rim top and bowl front to show the repair. It is dark and still needs a lot of work but it is at least the right height and is smooth. You can also see the slight bevel that was on the inner edge of the rim on the rest of the bowl. I would need to continue that on the repaired area to match.I worked on the inner beveled edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give it a deep bevel. I also sanded the rim top repair to further smooth it out. The repair is starting to look good at this point.  I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris and dust.   I restained the rim edge and top with a combination of Maple and Walnut stain pens to blend the colour to the rest of the bowl. The rim top looked darker but it looked much better than when I started the repair.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 to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.    I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame of a lighter to lift the tooth marks. It worked very well and many of the marks lifted. I filled in the remaining marks with clear CA glue and let the repairs cure. I used a small file to flatten out the repairs. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the stem surface. I started the polishing with 400 grit 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 French Made GBD Speciale Standard 9465 Liverpool is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich contrasting brown stained finish around the bowl is quite beautiful and highlights the a finish that works well with the polished vulcanite stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished GBD Speciale Standard Liverpool sits nicely on the desk top and in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ of an inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 35 grams/1.23 ounces. I will be putting it on the French Pipe Maker section of the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!