Cleaning up a Mystery Pipe – a London Special 184 Bent


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is an old timer, at least by appearance it is one to me. Jeff purchase the pipe on 07/10/19 from a shop in Salem, Oregon, USA. I love the shape of it as it is a shape that fits well in the hand. The pipe is stamped on the left side and reads London [over] Special. On the right side it is stamped with a shape number 184 next to the bowl/shank junction. Ahead of that it bears  the stamping Made in London in a circle over England. It is a typical COM stamp that points to Comoy’s being the maker of the pipe. The shape number also seems to me to be a Comoy’s shape but we will look into that. The finish is a rich reddish brown colour and it is dirty with grime ground into it. The bowl had a thick cake in it and a thick overflow of lava spills over the rim top. It is thick enough to make assessing the edges hard to do. The stem was oxidized, calcified and had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There were not any identifying marks or logos on the stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his work on the clean up. It really has the shape of a classic older pipe. The exterior of the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit ground in from years of use and sitting. The rim top was covered with a coat of thick lava that overflowed from the thick cake in the bowl. It was hard to know what the rim edges looked like because of the lava. The stem was dirty, calcified and oxidized with tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside of the stem at the button. Jeff took photos of the sides and the heel of the bowl to give a better feel for the condition of the briar around the bowl. It is a great looking piece of briar even with the flaws that show through. The next photos show the stamping on the sides of the shank and it is very readable. It reads on both sides as noted above.  I looked on both Pipedia and Pipephil’s sites for information on the London Special brand. Neither site had any information about that particular stamping. The name stamp obviously remains a bit of a mystery. The COM stamp on the shank was a Comoy’s style stamp as noted above. I would need to move ahead and do some work on the shape number to see if I could link it to Comoy’s.

I turned to Pipedia’s Comoy’s shape chart and sure enough the 184 shape was a Comoy’s shape. I have included the link (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Comoy%27s_Shape_Number_Chart). I did a screen capture of the section on the 184 shape. The shape is a Medium sized pipe that was called a GLOBE and has a ½ bent stem.I now knew that the pipe I was working on was made by Comoy’s (thanks to the shape number and the COM stamp on the shank). It was a beauty for sure and one that would only become more beautiful as it was restored.

I really enjoy working on older classic shaped pipes so I was glad to be working on this one. Jeff had reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks better but there is still some darkening on the rim top and edges of the bowl. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the vulcanite. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos before I started my part of the work.  I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. I wanted to show what cleaned bowl and rim top looked like. The rim top and the inner and outer edges of the bowl were in good condition. The top of the bowl had some darkening and nicks in the surface of the bowl. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks and the remaining oxidation on the stem surface. I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank and it is clear and readable. It is stamped as noted above.   I removed the stem for the shank and took a photo of the bowl and stem to give a picture of what it looked like. It really is a great looking pipe.I started my work on the pipe by addressing the damage on the rim top. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the darkening and damage on the rim top. I was able to remove it all and the rim top and edges looked very good. I polished down the briar with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris on the briar. The bowl took on more and more of a shine as I worked my way through the pads.  I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a Bic lighter to “paint” the surface of the stem with the flame to lift the tooth marks on both sides of the stem. The heat lifted many of the marks. I filled in what remained with clear CA glue and set it aside to harden.   Once the repairs cured on the top and underside of the stem I filed them flat and recut the button edge with a small file. I sanded them with a folded piece of 220 sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  I left a little oxidation around the stamp so as not to damage it more.    This London Special 184 Bent Globe cleaned up really well and looks very good. The Before & After Restoration Balm brought the colours and grain out in the rusticated finish on the pipe. It works well with the polished vulcanite taper 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 and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I 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 London Special Bent Globe fits nicely in the hand and I think it will feel great as it heats up with a good tobacco. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.41 ounces/40 grams. If you are interested in carrying the previous pipeman’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store in the British Pipe Makers Section. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

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