Daily Archives: December 14, 2021

A Labour of Love

Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Next on the chopping block is the very first GBD I have had the pleasure of restoring. I titled this story A Labour of Love because the work involved was far more than I could have imagined for such a beautiful pipe. The pipe is a GBD Colossus and I acquired it in a group of pipes I purchased from a fellow in the Eastern US. It was definitely a mixed bag of very good and very bad. Some pipes were destroyed beyond repair, some pipes were filthy but repairable, some stems were missing their stummels, and some stummels were missing their stems. This was one of those – a stummel without a stem. Makes it a bit tricky to smoke, methinks. This pipe is a calabash-shaped GBD Colossus. As the photos show, it is stamped on the left side of the shank with GBD [over] International [over] London Made [over] Colossus. On the right side it is stamped Made in London [over] England [next to] 9552 – this, of course, is the shape number. There is quite a bit of information on GBD on the Internet – they have a long and storied history in pipemaking. In this case, I was curious about International and Colossus. The main Pipepedia article on GBD tells us about their origins:

In 1850 three gentlemen got together in Paris to establish a firm dedicated to the fabrication of Meerschaum pipes – a courageous step in politically restless times. Ganneval probably came from the area of Saint-Claude where he had learned making wooden pipes. Bondier’s family obviously came from Paris and had emigrated in 1789 to Geneva. He himself had worked as a wood turner in the clay and china pipe industry in and around Saint-Claude making stem extensions etc. Donninger was an Austrian or Swiss and had worked in Vienna, the world’s center of the Meerschaum pipe. They agreed on the acronym GBD selecting the initials of their surnames.

The Pipedia article provides a lot more information on their interesting history. I would encourage you to read on here. The shape number 9552 corresponds correctly with GBD’s identification of this pipe as a calabash. The page on GBD models states the following concerning the International line and the Colossus size:

International – France and England made: medium brown smooth, carved top rim, rim stained black. In addition to the pipe line and shape information stamped on the pipe, GBD also had codes for plus sized pipes. These codes in ascending order of size were Conquest, Collector, Colossus.

I also took this screenshot from Pipephil:Anyway, on to the pipe – and what a gorgeous pipe it was (and such a big bowl)! However, it was absolutely filthy and had a few issues. The stummel had the following problems: tons of lava on the rim, notable greasy/sticky stains to the bowl and shank, plenty of cake in the bowl, a few scratches here-and-there, and a few small burns on the rim. Meanwhile, the stem had a few problems of its own. Oh wait. No stem. Umm, yeah, that is going to be an issue. This pipe was going to require some considerable work, but I was really looking forward to restoring this one. Well, suffice it to say that first on my list of tasks was to find a stem for this beauty. However, GBD stems are not just lying around, sad to say. In this case, Superman Steve came to my rescue. He had a spare GBD stem that suited my pipe very well. I was (and still am) deeply grateful to him for getting that stem for me. I will come back to the story of how I fit the stem a bit later. By the way, here is a photo of Superman Steve:This stummel was quite a mess. I first decided to ream out the bowl. I used both the PipNet Reamer (which I broke in the process) and the KleenReem to remove the built-up cake and followed that with 220-grit sandpaper to eliminate as much as I could. I took it down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners, and lemon isopropyl alcohol. There was a lot of nastiness inside this stummel and – boy-oh-boy – it took a lot of cotton to get this thing clean! As I mentioned earlier, the rim of the stummel was pretty ugly and also needed to be addressed. A combination of techniques was used to sort this out. In order to remove the lingering bits of lava and fix the nicks, I “topped” the pipe – that is to say, I gently and evenly sanded down the rim on a piece of 220-grit sandpaper. This effectively removed the lava and the damage, without altering the look of the pipe. I then took a solid wooden sphere, wrapped sandpaper around it, and sanded the inner bevel thoroughly. This was to achieve on the inner part of the rim the same thing that I achieved by “topping” the rim on sandpaper. A de-ghosting session seemed in order, so I thrust cotton balls in the bowl and the shank, and saturated them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. I let the stummel sit for 24 hours. This caused the oils, tars and smells to leech out into the cotton. Finally, a relatively clean and fresh-smelling bowl emerged. I followed that up by cleaning the insides with some dish soap and tube brushes. I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and some cotton pads. Some stains were pretty stubborn and I had to scrub hard, but this did eventually remove the remaining dirt. After that, a light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain. Having completed that, I was able to address a small nick on the shank. 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 divot with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let it cure. Now, with the nick filled, it was time to sand down the stummel. I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to wet/dry sand everything smooth. Then I added a bit more Before & After Restoration Balm. On to the stem, and what a trial it was. As mentioned, Superman Steve got me a GBD stem and that was terrific: the stem was clean and in nice shape. So what is the problem? Well, its width did not quite match the width of the shank. The stem was slightly wider. So, with 200-grit sandpaper in hand, I began removing the excess vulcanite. As silly as it sounds, this took a couple of hours of work to get this right. The photos below detail the lengthy process to both remove the excess and ensure evenness all around the stem face. At long last, I managed to get the size and shape just right, but the faces of both the shank and stem were not matching in the way that one would want. I took the decision that this pipe would benefit from a thin – emphasis on thin – band around the end of the shank. My jar of bands proffered a lovely, thin band that perfectly suited this pipe. With a quick application of glue, the band was on and things were looking much improved. I used some of my Micromesh pads to give that extra shine. In order to finish up the stem, I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ it with its flame in order to lift the slight tooth marks. This was reasonably successful in raising the dents. 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. Of course, since the stem was straight, it did not suit the pipe and needed to be bent. The end of the stem needed to be parallel with the rim of the bowl. I did not have a heat gun at the time, so I brought out a hair drier and heated the vulcanite stem in order to make it malleable. After heating it for 90 minutes (yes, you read that correctly), it became obvious that the hair drier just did not generate enough heat to bend the stem. I then realized that I was going to have to use the nuclear option: dipping the stem in boiling hot water. This is a nuclear option because the water added an horrific oxidation to the stem – the worst I have ever seen. When it was finally soft, I gently curved the stem over a wooden dowel. The dowel provided a firm surface and a proper curve. Once I had the bend I wanted, I left the stem to cool and set itself in place. I then had to go back and use all nine Micromesh pads (and the Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil) again to restore the black lustre. A few four-letter words might have been silently uttered in the process, but I digress… Then it was off for a trip to the buffer. A dose of White Diamond and a few coats of carnauba wax were just what this pipe needed. The lovely shine made the wood look absolutely beautiful.

This is a wonderfully crafted pipe and has a very elegant feel to it. Steve told me from the beginning that this was a pipe I should keep for myself. So, this one is being added to my collection – and I am pleased to say that it smokes beautifully. I am sure that I will be enjoying this one for many years to come. I hope you enjoyed reading the story of these pipes as much I as I did restoring them. If you are interested in more of my work, please follow me here on Steve’s website or email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Restoring a Mysterious Bent Egg with some stunning grain

Blog by Steve Laug

Neither Jeff nor I remember where we picked up this egg shaped pipe. We have no idea where it came from – whether the US or Canada. We have no idea when we purchased it or who we purchased it from. We have no idea what we paid for it. To top off all the unknowns about this pipe it is also not stamped with any identifying marks on the briar or on the stem surface. So the pipe is a mystery – no known maker, no location where it was found and no sense of time when we picked it up. But all of that does not deal with the fact that it is a stunning piece of briar underneath all of the nicks, scratches and ground in grime that covered it. Jeff took these photos of the pipe back in 2019 before he started his clean up work on it. Have a look at the photos he took and you will hopefully see through the debris and grime on the briar and gouges in the vulcanite stem. There is something remarkably graceful about the pipe. The next photo gives a glimpse of the overall condition of the pipe. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and tobacco shards in the cake. You can see the thick lava build up on the rim top and even some grain poking through. The stem is calcified, oxidized and had a lot of bite marks and tooth chatter on both sides that made the stem surfaces pitted and awful looking. But…He took close up photos of the bowl, rim top and the sides of the stem to help us see the mess even more clearly. Look at the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the fuzz and tobacco debris in the bowl sides. The rim top is buried under a thick lava coat and it is impossible to know what the inner or outer edges looked like. One can only hope they were protected but the armor coat. The stem was in brutal shape. You can see the deep tooth marks – gouges really in the surface on both sides almost halfway up the stem from the button. You can see the thick calcification and oxidation as well. Either you can say that the pipe was well loved or it was abused. The choice is yours. But I think we can all agree that it is a mess.Jeff captured the filth that was ground into the briar around the bowl sides and heel well but do not miss the grain that pokes through or you will miss something spectacular.  The next photos show the pipe after Jeff worked a miracle in getting all of the cake, lava and grime of the exterior of the pipe. You can only imagine what it looked like on the inside once he opened it up. It really was a disgusting pipe and one that truly only a pipe restorer could love. He reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned that up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scraped the lava with a knife and then scrubbed the exterior with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the debris. He scoured out the internals with isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and then rinsed it with warm water. He left the pipe looking surprisingly good. Here is what I saw when I received it. I took a photo of the rim top and bowl to show the condition more closely. Amazingly, considering its condition on arrival, it looked very good. The walls of the bowl were smooth and the edges looked good. There was some darkening on the rim top but otherwise it was in good condition. The photos of the stem show that it was very clean but the tooth marks and grooves/gouges in the stem surface were deep on both sides quite a way up the stem. It was a mess on both sides. I took some photos of the shank to show their unstamped condition. It is truly a nameless pipe by an unknown maker.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts. I wanted to give a idea of the delicate feel of the stem and the shank to the size of the bowl. It really does remind me of some of the Nachwalter pipes that I have worked on in the past.I decided to start my work on the pipe by addressing the gouges in the briar on the left and right sides of the bowl. I tried steaming them and it was a useless effort as the nicks and gouges had sharp edges and did not lift at all. I filled them in with clear CA glue. Once the repairs cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to begin to blend them into the surrounding surface area. To clean up the rim top I lightly topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. My goal was not to take off much of the top but merely to reduce the darkening on the top and edges.I sanded the entire bowl and shank (with the stem in place for the shank portion) with  a medium and fine grit sanding sponge. I wanted to remove as much of the scratching on the surface of the pipe as possible and further blend in the repaired areas. Keeping the stem on during the sanding of the shank guaranteed that the transition would remain smooth. The grain began to really stand out as I sanded it. I continued to polish the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. The bowl and shank really began to take on shine and the grain is stellar. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm and worked it into the briar with my finger tips. I let it sit and work its magic for 10 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The grain really came alive with the Balm. This is a really beautiful looking pipe. I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem issues. I “painted” it with the flame of a lighter and was able to lift the tooth marks and grooves some. I filled in the remaining marks and gouges with clear CA glue and set them aside to cure.Once the repairs had cured I flattened them out with a small file. I sanded them and the rest of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to further smooth them out and remove damage on the stem and button. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and then wiped the stem down a final time with the cloth and Obsidian Oil. I set it aside to dry. This Mystery Maker Bent Egg is a really nice looking pipe. The finish is smooth and the flow of the cut of the briar follows the grain. 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 stunning grain looked like with the polished black vulcanite stem. The pipe really is beautiful. This egg shaped No Name Pipe 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 65 grams/ 2.29 ounces. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will soon be on the rebornpipes store in the American Pipe Makers section (though I am not sure where it was made). 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.