An Amazing Transformation Of a “Capitol” Hand Made # 81 Pipe

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

This horn stemmed billiard had been around for so long a time that I do not even remember where it came from. It is really a beautifully shaped billiard with perfectly proportioned size and shape. I would call the bowl an average sized one. There are a few fills in the briar and remnants of what appear to a lacquer coat on the surface which has been worn out over time or could be that attempts were made to get rid of it. There is a brass band at the shank end and covers the shank end face. The stem is a tapered bone with some damage to the bite zone on either surface. The pipe as it sits on my work table is shown below: The pipe is stamped on the left shank as “CAPITOL” in capital letters in gold while the right side is stamped as “HAND MADE” also in capital gold letters followed by shape code “81” which I initial had thought to be 1 (indicated with red arrow) but during the course of my initial inspection the brass band came off revealing “8” (indicated with yellow arrow). It also provided me an opportunity to inspect the shank end face to check for any cracks or damage and was happy to note that there was none. Also, the letter “C” (again indicated with red arrow) in gold was embossed on the left side of the horn stem and revealed when I polished the stem with micromesh pads. When I had read about Savinelli pipes while working on the Savinelli Dry System pipe, I recollected having read that CAPITOL was a Savinelli second/ Sub brand. However, the lack of COM stamp and the trade mark Savinelli shield raised doubts in my mind and I decided to research further. I visited site and searched the index for stem logo with one letter. I found both the letter C as well as brand CAPITOL both of which matched the stampings on the pipe in front of me (Pipes : 1 letter on the stem ( Further exploration took me to the page that had the information about the pipe I desired (Can-Car — Pipes : Logos & Markings ( I have reproduced a screenshot of the page below.The stampings shown above perfectly match those of the pipe currently on my work table. Thus far, the only thing I have learned is that this pipe could be either from R M Littaur & Co, Great Britain, or KB & B.

Thus the provenance of this pipe is ambiguous and through informed guess work, I would place this pipe as being sold by R M Littaur & Co of Great Britain.

Initial Visual Inspection
The chamber has a thin layer of carbon cake and appears to have been reamed recently. There are a couple of scratches and dings over the smooth rim top surface (encircled in red). The draught hole is dead center and at the bottom of the bowl and this geometry should make it a good smoker. The chamber walls are solid to the touch and I do not foresee any major issues with the walls of the chamber. The stummel displays some beautiful cross grain on the front and aft of the bowl and also over the upper and lower shank surfaces. However, the beauty of the stummel is marred by a few fills (indicated with yellow arrows). There are scrub marks all over the stummel, noticeably more over the shank surfaces and at the foot of the stummel (encircled in green). The dark shiny clear coat of lacquer is blotchy over the stummel surface but completely removed from the shank surfaces and the foot of the stummel. Playing Sherlock Holmes, it is most likely that a start for restoring this pipe was undertaken, but for reasons best known to the person it was shelved. The mortise has a layer of something akin to a parchment paper that is beginning to turn in to white powder like substance. This was placed to ensure a snug fit of the tenon in to the mortise. Since this packing was crumbling, I would be removing it completely. The tapered horn stem is in a relatively good shape. There are a few bite marks at the base of the button edge in the bite zone on both upper and lower surfaces. This has exposed the tissue fibers and it has been my experiences that filling it with clear superglue always leaves behind a patchy white clump of tissue fiber peeking out from under the fill after the stem has been polished. The aluminum tenon is threaded and has a screw-in flat stinger. The horizontal slot is clean but has the airway opening skewed to the extreme right of the stem slot (indicated by a green arrow). Though this did not affect the usability of the pipe itself, but the draw was laborious and not smooth. This would need to be addressed. The stem airway is clean and so are the aluminum stinger and tenon. The contrasting dark and light tissue strands will be a visual treat once the stem has been polished. The Process
I first decided to tackle the stummel as the repairs to the fills would require additional time for filling, curing and shaping. As I had noted earlier, the chamber appeared to have been reamed and a thin layer of cake was left behind. With my fabricated knife, I removed all the cake and took it down to the bare briar. I further sand the chamber walls with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls and remove the last bit of stubborn carbon stuck to the walls. To finish the reaming process, I wiped the chamber walls with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to clean the last traces of residual carbon dust. I was happy to note a clean solid chamber with no signs of any heat lines or fissures. Next I cleaned out the shank internals. I scraped out all the dried and crumbly parchment paper like packing with my fabricated tool. I cleaned out the mortise and shank walls with q-tips and pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. I shall continue further cleaning of the shank and mortise while going through the other processes.Staying with the internal cleaning of the stummel, I subjected the chamber and shank internals to a cotton and alcohol bath and left it overnight to allow the alcohol to draw out the old oils and tars and the cotton to trap them. By next day evening, the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I ran a couple of hard bristled pipe cleaners to remove the moist and loosened out gunk and now the chamber and shank smells fresh and clean and looks it too. While the stummel was soaking in the cotton and alcohol bath, I used the time to address the stem issues. I separated the threaded stinger from the tenon and ran a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the stem airway. The pipe cleaners came out quite clean. With a sharp dental tool, I scraped out the little dried oils and gunk from the slot end.Next I addressed the tooth chatter and the issue of exposed tissue fiber in the bite zone. As brought out earlier, repairs using CA superglue leaves behind clumps of dirty grey fibers visible through the shine and thus I decided to sand the tooth indentations down till I reached the intact surface below. That the stem was adequately thick in the bite zone also helped in making this decision. With a flat head needle file, I went to town sanding the exposed fibers on either surface till they were eliminated. I followed it up by sanding the bite zone with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to evenly match the bite zone surface with the rest of the stem surface. I finished the stem refurbishing by wet sanding the entire stem surface with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. It helps to keep wiping the surface intermittently with a moist cloth to remove the sanding dust and gauge the progress being made. I applied a little EVO to the surface and set the stem aside for the oil to be absorbed. The finished stem is amazingly beautiful as can be seen in the pictures below.With the stem refurbishing completed and the stummel internals all cleaned up, it was time for the external cleaning of the stummel surface. I cleaned the external surface with a hard bristled toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil soap and rinsed it under running warm water. Using a shank brush and anti-oil dish washing soap, I cleaned the mortise and shank internals till all I had was white foam. I used a Scotch Brite pad with dish washing soap and diligently scrubbed the stummel surface. This helped in removing the residual lacquer coat from over the stummel surface to a great extent. I dried the stummel internals and externals with paper towels and soft absorbent cotton cloth and set it aside overnight to completely dry out before I worked on it any further. By next afternoon, the stummel had dried out and I decided to address the issue of fills over the surface. With a sharp dental tool, I extracted the old and loosened fills and cleaned the area with a cotton swab and alcohol. I masked the stampings on either side of the shank surface with a tape as one of the fills was frighteningly close to the stamping and it was best to take precautions now rather than repent later. Using a mix of CA superglue and briar dust, I filled up the pits over the stummel surface and set it aside to cure. While the stummel fills were set aside to harden, there was one issue that needed attention. The brass band at the shank end (for adornment purpose only) was masking the model/ shape code. I addressed this issue by sanding the band over a piece of 180 grit sandpaper to a width which did not cover the shape code. I checked and confirmed that the shape code is visible and set the band aside for fixing it subsequently.Once the fill had hardened, I first sand the fills with a needle file to roughly match the fill with the rest of the surface. I further sand the entire stummel surface with a 220 grit sandpaper and achieved three aims in the process; firstly, blend the fills with the rest of the surface, secondly, completely remove the lacquer coat and lastly, eliminate the minor scratches and dings from the surface. I was careful to remove the scratches and minor dings from the rim top surface. A couple of slightly deep scratches are still visible, but I shall let them be as is.I followed the sanding by the 220 grit sandpaper with further dry sanding using 400, 600, 800 and wet sanding with 1000 grit sand papers. I completed the polishing cycle by wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful grain patterns displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush and gave a vigorous buff with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The dark brown hues of the stummel with its nearly black grains across the stummel look striking and blend the fresh fills nicely. In fact, to the naked eye, the fills are not made out easily. Now it was time to fix the brass band and refresh the gold lettered stampings as seen before the start of the project. I applied Favicol wood adhesive along the shank end and press fitted the band in to place and held it for a few minutes till the adhesive had cured a bit. Using a metallic gold acrylic paint marker, I coated the stampings on either sides of the shank and after a few minutes, I removed the excess paint with a toothpick. I applied the same process to refresh the stem logo C. With this I come to the final polishing of the entire pipe that removes the very fine scratches that remain and enhance the shine and gloss to the stummel and stem. I first mount cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for Blue Diamond, on to my hand held rotary tool and polish the entire pipe. This compound is abrasive enough to remove the very fine minor scratches that remain over the stummel and stem surface while imparting a deep shine to the surface. Next, I mount the cotton buffing wheel that has been earmarked for Carnauba Wax and apply a coat over the stem and stummel surface and buff it till the entire wax has been used up to polish the surfaces. I give a once over buff to the entire pipe with a fresh plain cotton buffing wheel to remove any residual wax while imparting a fine glaze to the stem and stummel surface. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks amazing with a nice deep dark brown color to the stummel with the contrasting shining bone stem with its dark tissue fiber providing a contrast within the stem surface. This pipe is all set and ready for a long second inning and if the beauty of this pipe tugs at your heart, you may like to let me know in the comments section along with your email address. Here are a few pictures of the completed pipe. P.S.- This is one handsome pipe for sure. In the above pictures, the fills are visible, but in person, these fills are well blended in with the rest of the stummel surface. I did have, and still do, the option to stain the stummel with a dark brown stain but that would be over kill and so I have decided to leave it be. However, if you are interested to make it your own and want it stained, I shall be glad to accommodate your request.

Thank you for sparing your valuable time in reading through the write up thus far and being an integral companion through my journeys through the pipe world.

Praying for you and your loved ones always…

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