Blog by Kenneth Lieblich
The title sounds like a Hardy Boys story, does it not? Well, it is not that exciting. Next on the chopping block is a peculiar pipe: it is both superbly made and unattractively painted. In addition, its true origin is unknown. I actually acquired the pipe from Steve. I bought a grab bag of pipes from him a long time ago and this was among them. Fortunately for me, Steve’s legendary pipe-cleaning brother, Jeff, had already done his work on this. Although I do not care for the paint scheme, this is a beautiful pipe: excellent proportions, handsome manufacture, and undoubtedly a good smoker.There is one other peculiarity about this pipe: no information about its history and origins! The has a clear marking of “Blue Hill” on the shank of the stummel and the word “France” on the stem. Yes, we can obviously assume that the pipe was made in France, but there is nothing to be found on the name “Blue Hill”. My uneducated guess is that it was made for an English or American company – perhaps even a tobacco shop. As an aside, there is a different pipe maker who uses the name “Blue Hill Crafts”, but he has no connection to this pipe. All the usual sources (Pipedia, Pipephil, et cetera) have no listing for “Blue Hill”. Even rebornpipes had nothing. Alas, we do not know who made this pipe, but whoever it was – they did a good job. If you have any information about Blue Hill, please do let me know.Thanks to Jeff’s stellar clean-up work, there were not too many issues that needed to be addressed. The stem had a few nicks and dents, but nothing catastrophic. Similarly, the stummel had a bump or two, here and there, but the only major problem was the two-tone colour pattern. I think two-tones can and do work well on some pipes, but I felt that this pipe needed a deep, rich brown to make it look its best. The photos of the original colour do not show the reddish tinge very well. Trust me, the pipe looked much more red than it does here. The stem was first on my list. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to lift the tooth marks. This was reasonably successful in raising the dents. I did not need to clean the insides of the stem (thanks again, Jeff), so the stem went straight 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 small dents on the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let them fully cure. I then sanded it down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to meld the repair seamlessly into the stem. This ensures that it keeps its shape and looks like it should. 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. On to the stummel, and I figured that it would be fairly straightforward to remove the old, ugly stain. Boy, was I mistaken! My first plan was to dunk the stummel in an alcohol bath overnight. This will often loosen, thin, or remove stains from pipes. Twenty-four hours later, nothing happened! The stain looked just as it did when it went into the bath. That was not in the plans. So, time to escalate the situation: I used acetone and rubbed it vigorously into the stain. After many minutes of scrubbing, nothing happened (again)! I then realized that I was going to have to use the nuclear option: soaking overnight in acetone. The next day dawned and there was, at long last, some evidence of progress on the stain. Not a lot had been shed, but enough to show me that I was on the right track. I then went to the sink with the stummel, some acetone, a wire brush, and some gloves. I set about scrubbing the dickens out of that pipe and finally succeeded in getting that silly stain off. Most of the black remained in the lower recesses of the rustication, but I actually liked that – it added some character. Having completed that, I was able to address a couple of small nicks on the side of the stummel, just below the rim. I dug out my iron and a damp cloth to try and raise the nicks. The hot and moist steam created can often cause the wood to swell slightly and return to shape. There was some movement – not a lot, but it was better than doing nothing. I filled the remaining divots with cyanoacrylate adhesive.
Now, with the nicks filled, it was time to sand down the stummel. Just like the stem, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to sand everything smooth – although, as the photos show, I masked the rusticated parts so as not to disturb them. A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain. Whoops! I then noticed that the opening of tobacco chamber was not in perfect shape. It required some “rounding”. I took a solid wooden sphere, wrapped sandpaper around it, and gently sanded the opening of the tobacco chamber. This both corrected the problem and added a beautiful beveled edge to the pipe. I went back over it with the Micromesh pads and made everything lovely again. Naturally, one of the main purposes of this pipe restoration was to correct the colour problem. In order to create some external beauty to this pipe, I opted for aniline dye. I applied some of Fiebing’s Medium Brown Leather Dye and then applied flame in order to set the colour. In fact, I added a second helping of the dye, just to make sure the colour was nice and rich. Worked like a charm! This lovely, warm brown is just what I was hoping for. Then it was off for a trip to the buffer. A dose of White Diamond and a few coats of Halcyon II wax were just what this pipe needed. The lovely shine made the wood look quite spiffy. This is a wonderfully crafted pipe and somehow has a very masculine feel to it. Although I never did find out who made it, clearly the pipe was superbly completed. The draught hole has been bored perfectly; the heel of the bowl is exacting; the wood is thick and solid (but not heavy). In short, this is a pipe worth owning, so 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 American (US) pipe section of the store here on Steve’s website. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. The approximate dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 142 mm/5 1/2 inches; height 52 mm/2 inches; bowl diameter 35 mm/ 1 1/3 inches; chamber diameter 21 mm/3/4 of an inch. The mass/weight of the pipe is 53 grams/1.86 ounces. I hope you enjoyed reading the story of this pipe’s restoration as much I as I did restoring it. If you are interested in more of my work, please follow me here on Steve’s website or send me an email. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.