Daily Archives: July 6, 2022

Breathing New Life into a BBB Ultonia Sandblast Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is another one that has been here for over five years. It is nice looking short, old style BBB Ultonia Billiard. We picked it up off eBay on 01/29/17 from a seller in Poughkeepsie, New York, USA. The shank is quite short but it is not cut off or damaged. It was designed that way. The sandblast is quite rugged and there is a lot of dust and grit in the crevices. The bowl has a moderate cake and tobacco debris in the bowl. The edges and rim top look quite good. Other than being dirty the finish is in good condition. The stem has a BBB diamond stamp on the left side. It has an older style straight taper cut to it. It is oxidized and has tooth chatter on both sides ahead of the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up work. He took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the pipe. You can see the cake in the bowl and the light lava on the rim top. The stem photos also show the oxidation and tooth chatter on the top and underside ahead of the button. He took a photo of the sandblast and the smooth heel on the bowl. It really is a nice looking blast and shape.He took photos of the stamping on the heel of the bowl and shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. There does not appear to be a shape number stamped on the pipe. The BBB Diamond stamp is visible on the left side of the shank. I turned to Pipephil’s site to see if it listed the Ultonia line (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-bbb.html). It did not but it gave a short summary of the brand. I quote:

BBB: ” Best British Briar” is now a brand of the Cadogan Company (Oppenheimer group). American rights to use the brand name were sold to Wally Frank in 1980. Founder of the brand in 1847: Louis Blumfeld. The oldest pipe brand name in the UK has been registered in 1876 (Blumfeld Best Briar) Grading (ascendant): Own Make, Bold Grain, Best Make, Rare Grain.

I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/BBB) to see if I could get some specific information on the Ultonia. I read through the history on the site and I quote the pertinent section of article below.

Louis Blumfeld develops from the very start of important international trade, with a particular success in Canada, in Australia, in Zealand News, India and in the extrème Is Europe, in Switzerland and, with a special mention, in Denmark. If the USA were never an extraordinary market, a branch is opened all the same in New York. In fact, the marketing strategy was focused especially on the countries of the Britanique Empire. Little before 1914, A Frankau & Co was also a sole agent for the pipes Cherry Wood of the Ropp house to cover the United Kingdom and its colonies.

If the BBB are its the most known pipes, A Frankau & Co had several marks of pipes: Capt. Kidd, Fairway (“F” in white; FAIRWAY/LONDON MADE/ENGLAND), Frankau’ S (London Made/Made in England), Glokar, Major Daff, the Snap-FIT. It also seems that Ultonia and Last word must be regarded as marks with whole share, in spite of the fact that they are presented as being product lines under label BBB. That would explain their absence of catalogues BBB…

In the Thirties, the top-of-the-range one becomes “BBB Best Make” with alternatives like “Super Stopping” and “Ultonia Thule”. The BBB Carlton, sold with the detail with 8/6 in 1938, is equipped with a system complicated out of metal, system which equipped the BBB London Dry too. Blue Peter was not estampillées BBB but BBB Ultonia, and the BBB Two Star (* *) become the bottom-of-the-range one. The calabash leave the catalogues, but some pipes with case and some scums are still produced. The forms also are typical of this time: half are billiards, some princes and bullcaps, a limited number of bulldogs and curved. It is as at that time as the top-of-the-range series receive an incrustation of initials BBB out of metal, whereas the bottom-of-the-range series have only the engraved pipe.

With that information, I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had thoroughly cleaned up the pipe. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. There was some darkening on the inner edge of the rim and top that would need to be dealt with. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the stem with Soft Scrub to remove as much of the oxidation as possible. He soaked it in Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and rinsed it with warm water. The acrylic stem was clean but had tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. There was an BBB Diamond logo on the left side of the stem. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. It was an amazing looking pipe. I took photos of the rim top and bowl as well as the stem to give a sense of the condition of both. The rim top and edges looked very good. The stem cleaned up well and the tooth marks on the top and underside ahead of the button were very light.I took photos of the stamping on the heel and underside of the shank. They are readable as noted above. I took the stem out of the shank and took a photo of the overall look of the pipe.The bowl was in excellent condition. The rim top and edges looked really good. I started my work by working some Before and After Restoration Balm into the surface of the sandblast bowl. It works to preserve, clean and renew the briar. I worked it into the crevices with a shoe brush. I let it sit for 10 minutes and then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The bowl really looked good at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I touched up the BBB Diamond on the left side with some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I applied it to the stamp and worked it in with a tooth pick. I buffed it off and the stamping looks good. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiping it down after each pad with some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. This older BBB Ultonia Made in England Sandblast Billiard with a vulcanite taper stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The beautiful grain on the briar shines through the polished finish is stunning. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl 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 BBB Ultonia Billiard 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 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 27 grams/.95 ounces. I will soon be adding it to the rebornpipes store in the British Pipe Makers Section. If you are interested in this pipe 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!