Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table is a rusticated Bent Apple/Prince that I took in on a trade or else found on one of my long ago pipe hunts. I cannot remember to be honest with you all. Sometimes I just put the pipes in a box to work on at a later date and forget about them. Strange I know but it is the truth. The pipe is stamped on a smooth panel on the underside of the shank and reads 129 [shape number] followed by Brigham in script. Underneath it is stamped Made in Canada. There was a thick cake in the bowl with remnants of tobacco stuck on the walls. There was a light lava overflow on the rusticated rim top. The edges of the bowl were in good condition. The rusticated finish is dirty and dusty. The stem was lightly oxidized and had part of a price sticker on the top side. The stem did not have tooth marks or chatter. There was a single brass dot on the left side of the taper stem. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work on it. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl. The rusticated rim top showed some lava in the grooves of the rustication but the inner and outer edges of the bowl looked good. I took photos of the top and underside of the stem surface and button to show its general condition. It looked very good under the light oxidation. The stamping is clear and readable as noted above. I removed the stem from the shank and was not surprised to see the Brigham Hard Maple filter stuck in the metal tenon. You can see the single brass dot on the left side of the stem in the photo below.For historical background for those unfamiliar with the brand I am including the information from Pipedia on Brigham pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history and background on the pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Pipes). Charles Lemon (Dadspipes) is currently working on a book on the history of the brand. Until that is complete this article is a good summary. I have included it below.
Roy Brigham, after serving an apprenticeship under an Austrian pipesmith, started his own pipe repair shop in Toronto, in 1906. By 1918 the business had grown to include five other craftsmen and had developed a reputation across Canada for the high quality of workmanship. After repairing many different brands of pipes over the years, Roy noted certain recurring complaints by pipe smokers, the most common referred to as “tongue bite”. Tongue bite is a burning sensation on the smoker’s tongue, previously thought to be due to the heat of the smoke (i.e. a “hot smoking pipe”).
He soon began manufacturing his own pipes, which were lightweight, yet featured a more rugged construction, strengthening the weak points observed in other pipes. The problem of tongue bite intrigued him, and he decided to make overcoming it a future goal.
About 1938, Roy’s son Herb joined him to assist in the business. The business barely survived the great depression because pipes were considered to be a luxury, not a necessity, and selling pipes was difficult indeed. In approximately 1937 , after some experimentation, Roy and Herb discovered that tongue bite was in fact a form of mild chemical burn to the tongue, caused by tars and acids in the smoke. They found that by filtering the smoke, it was possible to retain the flavour of the tobacco and yet remove these impurities and thereby stop the tongue bite.
Just as Thomas Edison had searched far and wide for the perfect material from which to make the first electric light bulb filaments, Roy & Herb began experimenting with many materials, both common and exotic, in the quest for the perfect pipe filter. Results varied wildly. Most of the materials didn’t work at all and some actually imparted their own flavour into the smoke. They eventually found just two materials that were satisfactory in pipes: bamboo and rock maple. As bamboo was obviously not as readily available, rock maple then became the logical choice.
They were able to manufacture a replaceable hollow wooden tube made from rock maple dowelling, which when inserted into a specially made pipe, caused absolutely no restriction to the draw of the pipe, yet extracted many of the impurities which had caused tongue bite. The result was indeed a truly better smoking pipe…
Charles Lemon has also written a great article on the stamping and marking on the Brigham pipes that fit into a time line that he has drafted. It is well worth a read and is fascinating. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Pipes_%E2%80%93_A_Closer_Look_at_Dots,_Dates_and_Markings). I quote from the pertinent section on the time frame for this pipe.
Around the late 1960s or early 1970s, at the beginning of what I’ve called the Canadian Era (roughly 1970 – 1980), the stampings changed again as Brigham moved to modernize its logo. Pipes are stamped with the 3-digit shape number and “Brigham” over “Made in Canada”.
This solidly places the pipe I am working on in the period of Brigham production that Charles calls the Canadian Era (1970-80). It is a great looking pipe with a slightly different rustication pattern than some of the early Brighams I have worked on.
Charles also put together a chart that helps the restorer to understand the Brigham dot system. I quote from the same link on Pipedia as noted above.
The Original Brigham Dot System 1938 – 1980
Brigham pipes are reknown in the pipe world for their famous “Brigham Dots”, a system of brass pins inset in the stem to denote the grade of each pipe. The original 8-grade pinning system, used for 42 years between 1938 and 1978 (spanning the Patent, Post-Patent and Canadian Eras) looked like this: With the information from Charles’ article and the chart above I knew what I was dealing with in terms of the stamping and the age of this pipe. The pipe was made between in 1978 because of the style of the stamping noted above. The 1 dot on the pipe told me that it was a Brigham Standard. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
I began my work by dealing with the Hard Rock Maple filter that was stuck in the tenon. The gunk (technical term) had hardened and I could not even remove it with pliers. I painted the joint with some acetone on a pipe cleaner and tried once again with no success. I then let the tenon sit in a cap of acetone for a few moments to see if the filter would loosen. After a few minutes I locked a pair of vise grips on the filter and it turned quite easily and I was able to remove the filthy filter. The maple was absolutely black inside and out. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. I reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer using the third cutting head to take the cake back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scrubbed out the internals with 99% isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the shank and the airway into the bowl and the stem were clean. You will notice that there was some red stain that came out of the inside of the shank with the cleaning.I used a brass bristle brush to scrub off the rim top rustication. It loosened the grit. I wiped the rim top down with some undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap on a cotton pad and used the brush again. The rim top looked very good at this point.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I scrubbed the surface of the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the oxidation on the surface of the vulcanite. It came out looking much better. Before polishing the stem further I decided to fit the clean stem with a new Rock Maple Distillator. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. This Brigham Standard Rusticated 129 Bent Apple is a really nice looking pipe. The classic Brigham rustication gives a lot of dimensionality to the pipe. I put it back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad on the wheel to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished rusticated bowl looks like with the polished black vulcanite stem with a shining brass pin. The pipe really is beautiful. This rusticated Brigham Standard (1 Dot) Bent Apple is nice looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 33 grams/1.16 ounces. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will soon be on the rebornpipes store in the Canadian Pipemakers section. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Please we are not pipe owners; we hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next in line.