Restoring an Unique Boswell Twisted Long Shank Freehand Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe that I have chosen to work on is a Freehand pipe with a long twisted shank and plateau on the rim top and the shank end. We purchased it from a seller in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, USA on 06/16/22. It is a Freehand shaped smooth briar with a flat bottom that makes it a sitter. I has a fancy golden amber coloured acrylic twisted stem that carries on the twist of the shank. The pipe was dusty and dull looking but had great grain around the bowl and shank. The plateau rim top had a thick lava overflow from the thickly caked bowl. The inner edge of the rim was so thickly caked that it was hard to assess the condition at this point. This must have been a phenomenal smoker or at least someone’s favourite pipe. The pipe was signed on the left side of the shank with JM Boswell’s signature [over] U.S.A. There was not a date stamp on any other stampings on the pipe. The fancy amber coloured twisted acrylic stem was in good condition with some tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took the following photos before he started his cleanup work on the pipe. He took close-up photos of the bowl and rim top from various angles to capture the condition of the bowl, rim top and edges of the bowl. The cake was very thick and the bowl overflowed in thick lava on to the rim top filling in much of the plateau. He also captured the condition of the top and underside of the stem. You can see the tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. It was a well used, dirty pipe. He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish and the grain around the bowl. You can see the small minor sandpits on the left side of the bowl but otherwise it a nice piece of briar under the grime and debris of time ground into the finish. Jeff took a photo of the J.M. Boswell signature and U.S.A. on the left side of the twisted shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable. It has been a while since I worked on a Boswell pipe so I did some reading to reacquaint myself with them.. I read the Boswell website as well as the entry on Pipedia to refresh my memory (https://pipedia.org/wiki/J.M._Boswell). I find that reading the information on a pipe brand before I work on it gives me a sense of the passion and art of the craftsmen who made the pipe. That was true of this pipe as well. I quote from that entry on Pipedia first to give you a sense of the information that I found on the Boswells and their craftsmanship.

J.M. Boswell is considered to be one of the finest Master pipemakers in the world. His reputation is exemplary, and his craftsmanship is legendary. Working from sun up till the midnight hours, 7 days a week for most of the past 40 years, J.M. has produced thousands of handmade pipes for folks to enjoy. His dream, back in the 70s, was to make the best smoking pipes with the highest quality briar wood at an affordable price. J.M. Boswell has succeeded in doing so.

The Chambersburg store is located on the historic Lincoln Highway (Rt 30), about 20 miles west of Gettysburg.

J.M. became a U.S. importer for Briar wood so that he could supply briar to other pipemakers. By doing this, he was able sell his own pipes at an affordable price. With the finest quality Briar available in the world, years of skill and his pipe master’s hands working to form the most beauty from a block of prime briar, a Boswell pipe is born…

J.M. and his son, Dan take great pride in making high quality handcrafted, American made smoking pipes. Admired for their craftsmanship, their handmade pipes are created for the rigors of everyday use and truly made to last.

Boswell’s is a family – owned business with a family environment. Every family member has a role within the business. J.M.’s wife Gail takes all of the photos – for the website, Instagram, and Pinterest; she also maintains the museum and store. Daughter Rachel manages estate pipes online, while Dan’s wife Julie takes the phone orders, and runs the shipping department.

J.M. and Dan, who work full time, side by side together, have created pipes that range from the smallest to the largest smoking pipes made in the world. Dan has known he wanted to follow in his fathers’ footsteps since he was a young boy, helping J.M. after school and during summer vacation. He has been working for the family business full time since he graduated high school, and plans on continuing the proud family tradition for many years to come.

Gail’s family background has involved pipes since long ago- her Father, Uncles, and Aunt made pipes in the late 1930s for the Weber Pipe factory in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her father’s family lived on Cator Avenue, the same as the factory, and they would walk to work each day. Their family history brings an incredible depth and passion for pipemaking!

“Over 70 years of pipe history in our family, and still continuing.”

Photo courtesy of the Boswell’s Pipes Website

I then turned to the Boswell Pipe and Tobacco Shop site (https://boswellpipes.com/product-category/boswell-pipes/). The description of the pipes in that section of the site parallels what I found above. I quote:

In the creation of these exquisite smoking pipes, we use the finest quality briar – “cream of the crop” is what the proprietor of the mill calls it. Boswell Pipes have their own special bowl coating for easy break-in. J.M. has used his special coating for Boswell Pipes since 1982.  100% natural coating,which will force the briar wood to absorb the moisture and heat.  For the finishing touch, J.M. hand inscribes his signature into the briar.  J.M. dates the year and proudly declares made in the USA  “J.M. Boswell 2018 U.S.A.”

I turned also to the description of the other twisted or as he called them Swirls from the website. I have included that below for your reading as I found it quite interesting (https://boswellpipes.com/product/boswell-pipe-jumbo-freehand-swirls-2020/). I quote:

J.M.’s Signature Swirls, gorgeously grained. Incredible smoking properties of a Boswell pipe, are the thick bowl walls to give you that cool enjoyable smoke. Uniquely sculptured deep Swirls. Old craftsmanship style with thick walls and shank for a cooler smoke. Natural finish with eye-catching dark bold highlights to show off its grain. Incredible cool smoke with an extremely easy draw for some serious smoking.

J.M. Boswell is known worldwide for crafting theses incredible, massive looking, King Size briars for well over 39 years.  Addition to being amazing smokers as well, they are capable of holding a generous supply of your favorite tobacco.

As with each and every Boswell pipe made, the airway is hand bored (not using a lathe).  This is why the air passage way will always provide the smoker with a full draw and allows for a fuller smoother smoke. J.M. finds the old fashion way of doing so completes his pipes.

Wide plateau is displayed along the rim and shank. Accent etching along the shank. Using a high power magnifier there may be a few specks of natural imperfections. Large hand-cut acrylic spiraling mouthpiece with pearlized raspberry red tones. Your new Boswell pipe will come nestled in a protective Jumbo handmade pipe sleeve and placed in a Boswell gift box.  We also include all the essentials for your first smoke. Smoking becomes a Relaxing time with a Boswell.

I also found some photos of the shop online that I am including here as well. I am also including the address of the shop and the phone number.

J.M. Boswell’s Pipes and Tobacco

6481 William Penn Hwy, Alexandria, PA 16611, United States

+1 814-667-7164

It looks like it would be a great place to visit and spend time enjoying. One day I may get to do that. We shall see!Jeff had reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank and stem 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 much better but there is still some darkening on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grim in the acrylic stem surface. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos this morning before I started my part of the work. That is one of the benefits of being an early bird. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. I wanted to show the cleaned bowl and rim top. The rim top and the inner and outer edges of the bowl were in good condition. The top of the bowl had some darkening in the grooves of the carved surface of the rim top and the inner edge of the bowl. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks on the stem surface. I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank and it is readable 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. The Signature Swirl carving is unique.I started my work on the pipe by addressing the darkening on the rim top. I scrubbed it with some dish soap and a brass bristle wire brush. It definitely took of more of the darkening on the rim top.I polished the briar with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the dust and debris.I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingertips into finish on the bowl and shank. I used a shoe brush to get it into the plateau on the rim top and shank end. I let it sit for 10 minutes to let it do its magic. I buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration.   The bowl was finished so I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and was able to smooth out the marks and chatter. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I put the Boswell Spiral/Twisted Long Shank Freehand Sitter back together again and buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I carefully buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I finished buffing with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe looks very good. The grain is a flame and straight around the sides, with birdseye on the heel and shank top and bottom. Add to that the plateau on the rim top and shank and the pipe is quite beautiful. The pipe feels great in the hand. It is comfortable and light weight for its size. The finished JM Boswell Long Shank Freehand Sitter is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.94 ounces/ 55 grams. This great looking Boswell Freehand turned out very well. It should be a great pipe. It will be going on the rebornpipes store in the American Pipemakers Section shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

1 thought on “Restoring an Unique Boswell Twisted Long Shank Freehand Sitter

  1. BH

    Wow this one is so BEAUTIFUL, Steve. I’m so glad I got to see it even if owning it isn’t in the cards for me right now. Thanks for doing what you do!

    Reply

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