Reviving another Old Timer – a KB&B Sicilia Italian Briar Zulu


Blog by Steve Laug

I finished the restoration of four of the older horn stem pipes that I have posted the blogs about on rebornpipes, the first was a beautiful early 1900s KB&B Horn Stemmed Italian Billiard (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/08/29/reviving-another-older-horn-stemmed-pipe-my-next-choice/) then an early French made JSN Racine Bruyere Dublin with a horn stem (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/08/29/reviving-another-older-horn-stemmed-pipe-from-the-bag-of-old-timers/), then a lightly smoked GVG Liverpool made by the founder of Genod (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/08/31/reviving-a-lightly-smoked-horn-stem-gvg-extra-9745-liverpool/), fourth a Belle D’ Or Vielle Bruyere “Double Or” French Made Bent Dublin (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/09/01/restoring-a-la-belle-dor-vielle-bruyere-double-or-horn-stem-bent-dublin/), and fifth a Diamond Black Squat Bulldog with an unusual cut glass style rustication (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/09/03/restoring-a-diamond-black-extra-squat-bulldog/). I decided to keep working on the bag of older NOS/unsmoked and lightly smoked pipes. I chose another old timer from the lot and this time picked a bit of a mystery pipe. It is buried in the pile in the photo below but it is clear in the second photo.In the photo of the poured out bag on my desk top I have circled the pipe that is next on the table. This was an unsmoked Zulu shaped pipe with a smooth finish that was very worn and dirty. The rim top was unmarked and looked good. This little Zulu really intrigued me so it was next. The Zulu pipe was stamped on the top of the shank and read Sicilia [arched over] KB&B in a cloverleaf [over] Italian Briar. The shank band was oxidized to a point it was almost not readable. Underneath the oxidation it was clearly stamped KB&B in a cloverleaf [over] Nickel Plated. The bowl was unsmoked but the finish was shot and very worn. There was a large chip of briar missing on the top inside of the mortise even though the shank itself was clean. The band had been glued in place and held it together. The missing chunk explained why the fit of the stem to the shank was not correct. The pipe had vulcanite/hard rubber stem that was in good condition with no tooth marks or chatter on the stem. The button was orific – a round hole in the button end. The button was in excellent condition. Here are a few photos of the pipe before I did anything to it. I took photos of the bowl and stem. You can see the unused condition of the bowl and the clean, though peeling rim top and edges. The drilling is just a little off centered to the right in the bottom of the bowl. It is a good sized bowl. The interior walls of the pipe are smooth and do not have drilling marks or checks or chips. The vulcanite stem is in excellent condition and has a push tenon and an orific button. I took a photo of the stamping on the topside of the shank. It reads as noted above. You can see the stamping on the top of the band – the KB&B cloverleaf is clear and readable with the Nickel Plated stamp below.I removed the stem from the shank. You can see the brand new threaded bone tenon in the photo below. The proportions of this pipe are well done. The grain around the bowl is very nice.I quote from the blog on a recent KB&B Billiard that I just restored (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/08/29/reviving-another-older-horn-stemmed-pipe-my-next-choice/).

I turned to Pipedia for a review of the history of the brand and to try and pin down a date for this pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kaufmann_Bros._%26_Bondy). There is a great historical article there that is worth the read. I quote portions of that below.

Early History
Kaufmann Bros. & Bondy (KB&B), Kaywoodie has been making pipes since well before the Civil War – around 1851. They peaked in the late 1950’s along with most American Briar works. In the early 20th century, their pipes were the standard others were measured by, along with Sasieni, Charatan and Comoy’s. There were few other world-class American pipe-crafters (William Demuth Company, early L & H Stern). Their pipes were as good as any of the renowned British firms. Kaywoodie just did not merely produce quantity, they provided quality: in the 1920’s they bought the exclusive rights to some of the choicest briar fields in history, hauling out 250 year-old roots the size of 27″ TVs and fashioning masterpieces out of this spectacular-grained ancient briar…

Early KB&B (non Kaywoodie)
Kaywoodie was the name a pipe offered by Kaufmann Bros. & Bondy Company (KB&B), first appearing in February of 1919. The Dinwoodie pipe, also by KB&B, appeared in November of 1919. Other KB&B brandings included Ambassador, Heatherby, Kingston, Langley, Melrose, Hollywood, Paragon, Borlum, Sicilia, Cadillac, Capitol Extra, Times Square and Kamello. Sometime before 1924, the Dinwoodie had been discontinued and the Kaywoodie name was beginning to be used on an extensive line of pipes that ultimately would be the name of the company. The origin of the name Kaywoodie is a combination of the K from Kaufmann and wood, as in briar. Not much is known of the original KB&B company other than it was started in 1851 by the German born Kaufmann brothers when they opened a small pipe shop in the Bowery section of New York City. In the back room of this shop, they made their first pipes. From this meager beginning, the Kaywoodie name and organization was to emerge…

…Hacker concludes his history of Kaywoodie Pipes by noting that: “The KB&B briar pipe brand existed from 1900 until just after World War I (with some overlapping with the Kaywoodie from 1915 — 1917), and collectors refer to the KB&B as a Kaywoodie transition pipe. During the early years of the 20th century a number of filter systems were designed by the KB&B firm and incorporated into their Kaywoodie Pipes under the names of Synchro-Stem and Kaywoodie Drinkless filters. During the late 1920’s and throughout the 30’s the Kaywoodie became a highly respected pipe in spite of its filter system (which was popular among many smokers of the era) primarily due to the fine quality of the straight grain and the flame grain models. Unfortunately, the hard-to-get-briar years of World War II marked the decline of the Kaywoodie Pipe, a plummet from which it has never recovered as far as collectors are concerned….”

The pre-Kaywoodie KB&B pipes were marked on the shank with a cloverleaf around KB&B. Some early Kaywoodies had this same marking on the shank, but the practice was dropped sometime prior to 1936. Yello-Boles also had KB&B in the leaf on the shanks, but did not have the ampersand found on Kaywoodies.

From that I knew that the pipe I was working on was a Sicilia Italian Briar that had been made between 1900 and 1917 because of the KBB Clowerleaf. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

I started my work on the pipe by addressing the large chip in the top of the shank. I filled it in with a mixture of super glue and briar dust. I layered it in place in the shank with a dental spatula. I was able to rebuild it and strengthen it.I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the peeling varnish coat and grime on the finish of the bowl sides. Wiping it down revealed some great grain around the bowl and shank sides. I polished the briar and the nickel plated band with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The briar began to really come alive. I polished the nickel band with a jewelers cloth to remove the oxidation and protect the finish on it. It looks much better.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect briar finished. I let it sit for 10 minutes then buffed it off with a cotton cloth. The grain on the bowl really came alive with the buffing. It is really a beautiful pipe. I set the bowl aside and polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to protect and enliven the vulcanite. It came out looking very good. This interesting 1900-1917 KB&B Sicilia Italian Briar with a Vulcanite Stem Zulu turned out really well and it is a great looking pipe with a great shape to it. The fact that it is New Old Stock (NOS)/ unsmoked is an additional bonus. The grain on the briar and the sheen on the stem really popped when the pipe was buffed with blue diamond on the buffing wheel. The nickel band also took on a sheen. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished KB&B Sicilia Italian Briar Zulu is comfortable to hold and is quite distinguished looking. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¼  inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 29 grams/1.02 ounces. With the internal shank repair this is probably one I should hold on it. It is also a really beautiful pipe that will fit nicely into my older American pipe collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. Keep an eye out on the blog as I have several other older pipes that I will be working on.

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