Cleaning up a Fascinating KBB Yello-Bole Premier Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff purchased this pipe off eBay on 05/27/2016 from a seller in Strasburg, Ohio, USA. Once again he showed that he has an eye for old and unique pipes. This one is a straight Billiard with a classic almost British look to it. The grain around the bowl and shank was quite nice and shone through the grime ground into the finish. The bowl was coated with peeling varnish or some shine coat that was worn off around parts of the bowl and shank. The rim top had a lot of dents and damage but that will become evident in the following photos. The bowl had a thick cake and a lava overflow on the inner edge of the bowl. It was stamped on the left side of the shank and has the KBB in a cloverleaf and next to that it reads Yello-Bole over Cured with Real Honey. Next to that is the symbol for a registered trademark ® (R in a circle). Underneath it reads Premier over Imported Briar. On the right side of the shank the stamping very worn but illegible. It may be a shape number but I am not sure. On the stem is the propeller inset logo that appeared on older Yello-Bole pipes. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff took some photos of the rim top and the heel of the bowl to show the condition of the bowl, rim top and finish around the bowl. The bowl interestingly, still had some of the Yello-Bole Honey Cured coating on the top edge and the bottom of the bowl. The rim had been knocked hard on surfaces to empty the bowl. There was some lava and dirt on the rim top and there was a moderate cake in the bowl. There appeared to be issues with the inner edge of the bowl but the outer edge looked to be in good condition. The stem was in decent condition. It was oxidized on both sides of the stem. There were some nicks and tooth marks on both sides near the button and on the top and underside of the button itself. I went back to a previous blog about the various Yello-Bole logos in my collection of these pipes. I reread that blog to try to narrow down a date for the pipe. Here is the link to the post and the comments on the blog: There was a comment on that blog that came from Troy who I consider my “go to guy” for Yello-Bole information (he has written on rebornpipes and also has a blog of his own). Troy wrote as follows on dating Yello-Bole pipes by the stamping and logos.

“I have a large KBB Yello-Bole collection. They are some of my most favorite pipes and the best smokers for the money (briar wise) you can find in my opinion. I have restored and researched them quite a bit. I have several listed on my blog that I have cleaned or restored. I own about 30-40 KBB Yello-Boles now.”

“Here is a little guide to dating KBB Yello-Boles. If it has the KBB stamped in the clover leaf it was made 1955 or earlier as they stopped the stamping after being acquired by S.M. Frank. From 1933-1936 they were stamped Honey Cured Briar. Pipes stems stamped with the propeller logo they were made in the 30s or 40s no propellers were used after the 40s. Yello-Bole also used a 4 digit code stamped on the pipe in the 30s. If the pipe had the Yello-Bole circle stamped on the shank it was made in the 30s this stopped after 1939. If the pipe was stamped BRUYERE rather than briar it was made in the 30s.” (NB. The portions above in bold and underlined were highlighted as they pertain to the present pipe.)

From that information I ascertained the following. The nicely grained Premier Billiard I had was stamped with KBB in the cloverleaf on the left underside of the shank which told me that the pipe was made before 1955. It had a propeller logo on the stem which further placed it in the period of the 30s and 40s. With all of that collected I knew the pipe was made between 1930 and 1949 which means that this old Billiard has seen a lot of life. I wish it could tell its story.

Ah well… I don’t know for sure where it came from or what previous pipeman carried the trust of this pipe before it came to me. I still needed to do my part of the restoration. I turned my attention to the restoration of the Billiard.

Jeff had worked his magic in cleaning up this pipe. It is nice to work on pipes that he has cleaned up instead of cleaning them myself. He reamed it with a PipNet reamer and smoothed the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to the oils and tars on the bowl, rim and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove much of the crackling varnish and the briar beneath was in good condition. The cleaning of the stem left a light oxidation in the vulcanite. The tooth marks were clean but visible. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.  I took some photos of the rim top and cap to show what it looked like after Jeff had cleaned off the grime and tars. The briar was in good condition but there were some scratches in the flat top and darkening around the inner edge. The bowl was slightly out of round. The stem showed light tooth chatter and wear but it was otherwise in good condition. There were no deep tooth marks. I took photos of the shank sides. The stamping on the left side of the shank is faint but readable. The stamping on the right side is very faint and I am not able to make it out clearly.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the overall look of the pipe. You can see the shovel stinger apparatus in the tenon.I started my work on this pipe by wiping the bowl down with acetone on a paper towel to remove the varnish that remained. Once I was finished the finish was clean and the grain looked really good on the bowl and the rim top. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the damage and darkening there. I also smoothed out the damage on the rim top. It worked amazingly well and the finished edge and top looked much better.  I polished the bowl and the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth.    I rubbed some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar to enliven, clean and preserve it. I rubbed it in with my fingertips working it into the briar. I set it aside for 15 minutes to let the balm do its work. I buffed it off with a cotton cloth and then buffed it with a microfiber cloth. The photos below show the pipe at this point in the restoration process.  I set aside the bowl and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the aluminum shovel stinger apparatus with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad. It took on a rich shine.I polished the stem using micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to further polish it. After each pad I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil to protect and enliven the stem. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. When I finished with the polish I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This older rusticated KBB Cured With Real Honey ® Yello-Bole Premier Billiard is an interesting and unusual piece. It has a classic English looking Billiard shape. The smooth finish around the bowl and shank has some nice straight and flame grain around the sides. The rim top and heel have some nice looking birdseye grain. The reddish brown of the bowl and the black of taper vulcanite stem contrast well together. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I lightly buffed the rim top and shank end as well. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside Diameter: 1 ¼ inches, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.62 ounces/46 grams. It is an interesting old pipe and should make a great collectible piece for lovers of old Americana Pipe Making Companies. I will be adding it to the American Pipemakers Section on the rebornpipes store very soon if you would like to add it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

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