Blog by Steve Laug
Not too long ago my wife and I had dinner with some good friends here in Vancouver – first time since COVID-19 so it was good to see them. At the beginning of the meal he handed me a box that he said was for me. In it were some pipes that he was giving to me and a bunch of cigars. The pipes included to Brigham rusticated pipes that I have included photos of below. The two pipes in the photo were clean but well smoked. The bowls had light cake and some lava and darkening on the rim top. The stems were lightly oxidized and had tooth chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I decided I would work on them next. I turned to the first of them, a Brigham 2 Dot Sportsman Dublin from Brigham’s unfinished line. It is well carved but the finish is partially unfinished and there is no stain or topping coat on it. It is stamped on the underside and reads Made in Canada followed by the Brigham logo. There were two dots on the stem side and tooth chatter and oxidation. It was going to be a beauty once cleaned up. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived. There was a light cake in the bowl in the bowl with lava overflowing into the rim top. The shank and airways seem to be dirty with tars and oil. The finish was dirty and would need scrubbing. I was hoping to bring it back to the natural finish. It had a clean Hard Rock Maple filter in the tenon and the pipe smelled surprisingly clean. The stem was lightly oxidized and there was some light tooth chatter to the top or underside of the stem. The button had no damage. Overall the pipe looked good even though it was a dirty one. I took photos of the rim top and the bowl to show the condition. The rim top was smooth and covered in lava at the back of the bowl. The inner and outer edges of the bowl looked very good. I also took photos of both sides of the stem to show the tooth marks and chatter. Over all the pipe was in okay condition.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is faint but it reads as noted above.I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to give an overall picture of the pipe. It really is quite beautiful.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…
I remembered that Charles had done a blog on a pair of Brigham Sportsman pipes for his Dadspipes Blog. I looked that up to get a bit of background on this series of pipes so I could understand it better (https://dadspipes.com/2017/05/04/a-bevy-of-brighams-part-iii-a-pair-of-unsmoked-3-dot-sportsman-pipes/). I quote a section of the blog below:
For those unfamiliar with this series, the Sportsman pipes were roughly shaped, semi-finished and sold each year at the Toronto Sportsman’s Show as rugged, rough-and-ready pipes suitable for bringing along to the cottage, hunt camp, fishing lodge or campground. The briar blocks were factory drilled, had the top half or so of the bowl machine-turned, and were fitted with a stem containing the Brigham filter system. The bottom half of the bowl and the shank were left roughly carved. Many of the Sportsman pipes were graded at a 3 Dot level, though I believe they were available in 3, 4 and 5 Dot grades.
Interestingly the pipe I have in hand is a 2 Dot grade but very well done. It is stamped Made in Canada followed by the Brigham logo.
Charles Lemon has also written a great article on the stampings 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.
The patent on the Brigham filter system expired in 1955, ushering in the Post-Patent Era (1956 – roughly 1969). The “CAN PAT” stamp was replaced by a “Made in Canada” stamp in block letters. The 1960s saw the introduction of new product lines, including the Norsemen and Valhalla series of rusticated and smooth (respectively) freehand-style pipes created to capitalize on the growing demand for Danish pipe shapes.
This solidly places the pipe I am working on in the period of Brigham production that Charles calls the Post-Patent Era (1956-1969). It is a great looking pipe with the Sportsman style of finish.
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:I knew that I was dealing with a pipe made between 1956-1969 from the Post-Patent Era. It sports 2 dot making it Brigham Select pipe but the fact that it is a Sportsman Series pipe I am not sure that the dot information applies. There is not a shape number on the pipe. Now to do a bit of spiffing with the pipe itself.
I reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer to remove the light cake from the bowl walls. It was uneven and needed to be removed so I took it back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and then sanded the bowl with a dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls. I scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with a tooth brush with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I scrubbed it to remove the build up on the rim top. I rinsed it with warm water and dried it off with a soft cloth.I cleaned out the internals with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and the oils from the shank and tenon as well as the airway into the stem and bowl. I rubbed the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, renew and protect briar. I let it do its work for 15 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The pipe is really quite a beauty. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on both sides with 220 and then started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished out the surface of the stem ahead of the button on both sides using micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded the stem with the 1500-12000 grit pads, then wiped it down with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After stem polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I fit the clean and polished stem with the Brigham Rock Maple Distillator and took photos to show what it looked like. This is in essence a hollow Maple wood tube that serves to filter out the moisture and deliver a clean and flavourful smoke. I am excited to finish this 1956-1969 Post-Patent Era Brigham Sportsman 2 Dot Dublin. I put the pipe 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 to raise the shine and hand buffed it with microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the rustic finish. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem with the shining brass pins was beautiful. This mixed grain on the rustic Brigham Sportsman 2 Dot Dublin 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: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.90 ounces/54 grams. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Canadian Pipe Makers Section soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the cleanup with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of those who follow us.