Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe I chose to work on is one that has been here in my box to work on since around 2016. It is a well made, interesting looking Custom-Bilt chunky Pot. The more I looked at it the more I thought that it had not gone through Jeff’s cleaning before it came here. I actually have no idea where it was from and when it came us. The bowl had moderate cake and the inner edge had damage and the rim top was darkened. The pipe is a classic Custom-Bilt piece – a rusticated Chubby shank Pot shaped pipe with some deep carving around the bowl. The pipe is stamped on the heel of the bowl and reads Imported Briar [over] Custom-Bilt. On the right side of the shank it bears a carved circle near the stem/shank junction. Looking at the pipe you can see signs that the bowl had been heavily caked with an overflow of lava on the rim top and the inner edge. The bowl and shank smelled dirty and seemed to be oily. The stem looked good and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were no markings or a logo on the taper stem. It looked pretty good when I brought it to the worktable. I took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the appearance of the rim top and edges of the bowl. There was some darkening on the rustication on the top and some lava in the grooves. There was also some damage to the inner edge of the bowl. I took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. The stamping on the heel of the bowl is faint but still readable and read as noted above. I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a stubby pipe.I turned to Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html) to get a quick view of the brand once again. I knew that I was working with one of the older pipes and probably made by Tracy Mincer himself. He stopped making the Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The screen capture I included below shows a brief history of the brand. It also has a comment on the symbols stamped on the shank near the stem including the square that is stamped on this one.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:CustomBilt_Stamp1.jpg) for a quick read. The majority of the information there included two book reviews of the “Custom-Bilt Story” by Bill Unger.
The one line I culled was the following: “Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934”.
I did a screen capture of the stamping that matched the stamping on the pipe that I am working on. What I learned from that is that the stamp was used by Tracy Mincer in Indianapolis in the US from 1938-1946 and possibly in Chicago before 1938 as well. So now I had a possible date for this pipe. It was an old timer and it was well worth working on.Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. I started my work on the pipe by cleaning up the reaming in the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the remainder and then sanded the bowl walls with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The bowl walls looked very good. I scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I worked over the rim top and the rest of the bowl and rinsed it off with warm water. I dried off the briar with a cotton towel. I turned next to the remaining darkening on the rim top and used a brass bristle brush and worked it over to remove the grime and debris that was still present there. It looked better when I finished. I cleaned up the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the edge. The finished rim top and edge looks better. I wiped the rim top down with alcohol to remove the sanding dust. Once I had dried it off I rubbed it down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about 10-15 minutes and buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. While I was buffing it I found that I had forgotten to clean the insides of the shank and stem. I cleaned it with isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. It smelled much better. I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I “painted” the stem with the flames of a lighter to lift them as much as possible. I filled in the remaining tooth marks with black super glue. Once the repair cured I flattened the repair on the topside and shaped the button edge on both sides with a small flat file. I sanded the button edges and the repairs on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite. I started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It is starting to look very good. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This Custom-Bilt Pot is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The style of rustication that is used around the bowl is highlighted by the stain application and works well with both the shape and the polished vulcanite stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Custom-Bilt is another pipe that fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 42 grams/1.48 ounces. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store in the American Pipemakers Section shortly. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!