Daily Archives: August 27, 2022

What a Mess – a BB&S Challenger 5279 Pot

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the worktable is a uniquely finished rusticated pot. It has a mixed finish – strange rustication with large spaces of smooth finish on the bowl and shank. There is something about the finish that is quite beautiful even through the grime. It was purchased on 05/25/22 from an antique mall in Portland, Oregon, USA. The shape of the pipe is a classic flat bottom Pot. It was stamped on the underside of the shank on a smooth panel. It reads Challenger [over] London England. That is followed by BB&S over the shape number 5279 next to the shank/stem junction. The finish was dirty with dust and grime ground into the nooks and crannies of the rustication. There was a thick cake in the bowl with tobacco debris on the bowl walls. There was a lava overflow on the inwardly beveled rim top. The inner edge of the rim was covered so thickly in lava it was hard to know what was underneath. The vulcanite saddle stem was calcified, oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started to work on cleaning it up for us. Jeff took photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when we received it. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and the heavy coat of lava on the inwardly beveled rim top. The stem is calcified and oxidized with light tooth chatter and marks on both sides near the button. He took photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel to give an idea of the shape and the condition of the briar around the bowl. It really is a great looking Pot with a very unique rustication finish on the bowl and shank. The next photo Jeff took shows the stamping on the underside of the  shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.  I remembered that Dal had written about a BB&S Challenger he had restored on the Pipesteward blog so I looked it up to see what he had learned about the  brand when he had worked on it and written his blog. Here is the link (https://thepipesteward.com/2022/07/13/renewing-a-barling-bbs-challenger-london-england-5589-billiard/). Here is a photo of the BB&S Challenger that he worked on finished and looking good. I am using his research on the brand and the stamping and have included it below. Thank you Dal for your work and the time it save me in redoing it! He wrote:

BB&S is noted in Pipedia with this brief entry (https://pipedia.org/wiki/BB%26S).

BB&S, which stood for Bill Barling & Sons, was a transition era Barling sub-brand. Among their lines were the Challenger, Rallye and Londoner. For more information see Barling.

He then turned to the section on Barling:

The history of the Barling name goes back to the 1700s when the Barling name was associated with silversmiths in England.  Benjamin Barling, according to the Pipedia Barling article, applied the silversmith trade to “outfitting meerschaum bowls with exquisite silver mountings.”  The founding of the B. Barling and Sons followed in 1812.  The Barling history is full as it developed and grew through the 1800s and into the 1900s.  The family-owned business continued until October 3, 1960, when the business was sold to the largest client of the Barlings, Finley.  The Pipedia article drills in more detail describing and defining the ‘eras’ of the Barling name.  Here is what is said about the eras, but the author makes the disclaimer that it’s not as straightforward as it appears:

Pre-Transition: 1812 (or 1815) thru October 3rd, 1960.
On that date, the Barling family sold their business to Finlay, their largest client.

Transition: Late 1960 thru February 1963.
Finlay was 40% owned by Imperial Tobacco. Imperial Tobacco had an option to purchase the remaining shares of Finlay, which it did in February of 1963. When Finlay was absorbed, Barling came under direct control of Imperial Tobacco.

Post-Transition Era: Early 1963 and later.
Imperial ran the business; some say into the ground. They closed the Barling factories in 1970 and outsourced the production of pipes, first to several English makers, and then later to Nording, etc. In 1980 Bucktrout purchases the rights to the Barling name and Barlings have shown up as relatively cheap pipes made by Peterson.

Though we now have Eras whose duration is linked to the *public record, it’s still not simple and here’s why.

The author of the Pipedia Barling article goes on to describe how when the Barlings sold the business to Finlay in 1960 ushering in the beginning of the ‘Transition Era’, the Barlings continued to operate the business for Finlay.  During this period of 20 months, pipes continued to be produced with no changes to the nomenclature.  The result of this was having no way of determining which pipes were produced under the Barling ownership before the transition period and those pipes produced during the transition, under new ownership.

For this reason, the Pipedia author proposes an alternative method of dating Barling pipes:

  • Family Era 1912 – 1962: Pipes made by the Barling family while it either owned or managed B. Barling & Sons.
  • Corporate Era 1962 – the Present: Pipes made after the family left off managing the company, beginning with the revised product grades and revised nomenclature that were introduced in the 1962 Dealers’ Catalog.

It is interesting also to note that the Pipephil.eu Barling entry identifies the transition period from the Barling family era to the later corporate era as dated from 1961 to 1967. There are differences in era dating from different sources, but with the B.B&S Challenger on the table now, which is not a Barling stamped pipe but a second brand line most likely put out by Barling during the early transition period dating this pipe somewhere from 1960 to 1962. In the Pipedia entry quoted above for BB&S, there are 3 lines put out during this time: Challenger, Rallye, and Londoner.

Pipephil has a helpful entry on BB&S with the panel.The ‘Challenger London England’ pictured on the top of the panel, matches the Challenger on the table.  The nomenclature on the panel is crisp showing what cannot be seen clearly on the Challenger on the table.

The author of the Pipedia Barling article makes one additional observation that helps to corroborate the sense that the BB&S Challenger on the table was indeed in the transition period, but more likely in the earlier part of the transition era – under the Finlay ownership commencing in 1960:

Initially, Finlay’s management used the remaining stock of bowls that were turned by the original family run company, and then proceeded to turn more bowls with old wood remaining in inventory, and at least initially, this work was performed by many of the same craftsman. Under Finlay’s management the factory continued to turn out a quality product. Production was expanded to produce a greater number of own name brands for Finlay and Bewlay, as well as the production of pipes for other pipe firms such as Colibri, Falcon, and Ronson. Also, several lines of “seconds” were developed, amongst them Portland, BB & S, Cragmoor, and London Brand.

Here, the ‘seconds’ are described during the Finlay ownership included ‘BB&S’. It would seem, therefore, that ‘Challenger’ is a line of the second, BB&S.

One last additional piece of information that is of interest. The Barling 4-digit numbering system was introduced in the June 1962, publication of the 150th Year Anniversary Catalogue which was still under Barling management, but owned by Finlay.

Here the number system is explained:

It is in the 150th Anniversary catalog that the new numbering system first appears. The new numbering system was introduced while the Barling family managed the business. The price list explains that the new number designates size.

The BB&S Challenger ‘shape number’ reflects this new Barling system. The first digit represents the size followed by a shape designation. The ‘Barling Pipe Reference Number Chart’ (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:1962_Barling_Retailers%27_Cat_size_chart.jpg) below was taken from the ‘Retailers Catalogue’ which was also published in 1962, but later in the year. Note in the chart below, going horizontally, the sizes are from 1 to 6 representing an increasing size designation (‘1’ was introduced in this later catalogue)…The BB&S pipe I am working on is a 5279 which is not listed in the chart above. It lists a 6279 which is a SIZE 6/KING SIZE pipe. The description “Pot Bevel” Flat stem works and the 5 preceding the 279 number tells me the pipe is a SIZE 5 Pot Bevel. Thanks Dal for the help on this! Now it was time to work on the pipe!

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe following his normal cleaning process. In short, he reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the smooth bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He worked over the lava and debris on the rim top and was able to remove it. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the debris and oils on the stem. He soaked it in a bath of Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. He rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe once I received it. It really looked good. I took close up photos of the stem and the rim top to show both how clean they were and what needed to be addressed with both. The rim top and bowl edges look better but the inner and outer edge was damaged on the front of the bowl. The stem looked better and the tooth marks and chatter was very light.  I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. You can see from the photo that it is clear and readable. I removed the stem from the bowl and took a photo of the parts to give a sense of the uniqueness of the finish on the pipe.I started my work on the pipe by addressing the darkening on the back inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on the inward bevel to clean up the top. It looked significantly better. I polished the smooth high spots on the bowl sides and the inner edge of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the debris. The rustication took on a rich glow.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my finger tips and into the rustication with a shoe brush. The product works to clean, revive and protect the briar. I let it sit on the pipe for 10 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift them. I was able to raise the majority of them with the heat. I sanded out those that remained with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished out the sanding marks on the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil each pad to remove the dust and polishing debris. I polished it with Before After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.  This is another pipe that I am really happy about the look of the finished restoration. This reborn BB&S Challenger 5279 Pot turned out really well. I think that it really is a great looking pipe with a great shape and grain. The unique wide rustication pattern and the vulcanite saddle stem goes well together. The polished black of the stem works well with the briar. The briar really came alive with the buffing. The rich brown stains of the finish make the grain really pop with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and 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. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished BB&S Rusticated Challenger Pot really feels great in the hand and it looks very good. 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 39 grams/1.38 oz. The pipe will be going on the rebornpipes store soon. It will be in the British Pipe Makers Section if you would like to add it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. It was a fun one to work on!

Transforming a Sad Looking Comoy’s Second “The Golden Arrow”

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

It’s been a while that I had worked on any of my inherited pipes and decided to fish out one from the last remaining large box that I had received a few years back. The pipe that I selected to work on is a very sad and tired looking Canadian with an oval shank that just shouted as being an English made pipe.

The entire stummel is covered in dull grey patches of water stain, dust and grime through which some great cross grains over the front, aft and shank surface, awaits exposure. The pipe is stamped upper flat surface of the oval shank as “The” over “GOLDEN ARROW” over “LONDON PIPE”. The underside of the shank is stamped, starting from bowl end to shank end, with shape code “296” followed by “MADE IN ENGLAND” over “BY” over “COMOY’S”. The COMOY’S stamp is in simple block letters without serif, letter C is the same size as the rest of the letters and with an apostrophe before letter S. The stem is without any stem logo.   I have a keen interest in studying and collecting English made pipes and in this quest, I have read up as much material as I could lay my hands on and still continue on this path till date. Pipedia.org has detailed information on the origins of Comoy’s brand; it’s dating guidelines and shape chart, all aspects well supported with pictures of pipes, stampings and old flyers/ catalogues. Here is the link to the article (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Comoy%27s)

After refreshing my knowledge and based on the stamping on the pipe, I know that I am working on a Comoy’s Seconds from the 1950-1960s. This is based on the way COMOY’S is stamped, firstly, the stamp is in simple block letters without any serifs, secondly, the letter C is the same size as the rest of the letters and lastly, presence of an apostrophe before the letter S.

Furthermore, G L Pease, in his research on Comoy’s states that “Sometime in the 60’s, it the serifs were returned to the “COMOY’S” lettering, though, as mentioned above, the typeface is not as fancy as the earlier one”. (http://www.glpease.com/Pipes/Comoy.html)

At the end of the article on Comoy’s on pipedia.org, is a link to Comoy’s shape number chart. The chart tells me that the shape # 296 as seen on this pipe corresponds to a large straight Canadian with oval shank/ stem.

With the provenance of the pipe now established, I moved ahead with my initial visual inspection.

Initial Visual Inspection
The stummel is covered in dirty grayish white water stains and the surface appears dull and lifeless. The first look would dissuade anyone from even considering it for restoration. However underneath all that grime and stains, lurked a solid beautiful 60/ 70 year old English pipe. The stummel surface has a couple of scratches and dings/ dents. The chamber has a decent layer of uneven carbon cake with the lava overflowing over the rim top surface. Under the coat of lava, the rim top surface appears uneven. The inner rim edge appears uneven and charred. The mortise is filthy and shows accumulation of ash and oils and gunk. The smells of old tobacco inside the chamber and mortise are strong and acrid. It seems that my grand old man was out to prove to the world that the tapered vulcanite bite proof stem was anything but bite proof. The stem has some seriously deep tooth indentations on either surface in the bite zone. The stem would require major efforts to reconstruct the bite zone, including the buttons. Following pictures will give you a general idea of the condition of the pipe before I start my work on resurrecting the pipe. Detailed Inspection
The chamber has a decent layer of cake that is even all around. The condition of the walls of the chamber will be ascertained once the cake has been evened out. Given the solid feel and even color of the stummel, the probability of serious damage like a burn out or deep heat fissures to the walls is a distant possibility. The rim top surface is uneven and signs of having been knocked against hard edges is evident at 12 o’clock and 4 o’clock directions where the surface is chipped (enclosed in green). The beveled inner rim edge appears charred in 12 o’clock to 9 o’clock and 4 o’clock to 6 o’clock direction (enclosed in red) and is uneven along the complete edge. The outer rim edge has a few minor dings and chipped surfaces and should be easily addressed by sanding. The smells of old tobacco are pretty strong and would need to be addressed.The entire stummel is covered in dirty grey white water stains and grime, a result of the pipe being stored in some damp place for years. The stummel appears to be dull and lifeless beneath all the grime and water stains. However, beautiful cross grains can be seen along the surface underneath the grime. There a number of small scratches and road rash marks on the surface can be seen, notably over the left side of the bowl (marked in yellow). The shank is dirty and clogged with old ash, oils and tars.   The twin bore tapered vulcanite stem is deeply oxidized and has significantly deep bite marks on both upper and lower surfaces of the stem. The buttons too are damaged and rendered out of shape due to the bite marks. The airflow through the stem is laborious and could be either due to the compression of the airway due to the bite marks or could be due to accumulation of old oils, tar and gunk in the airway. I have purchased GORILLA CA glue as I had read rave reviews about it and am excited to try it out.    The Process
The first repair that I decided to tackle was the damaged stem. Before I could proceed with actual repairs, I cleaned the stem internals first. Using a thin shank brush and anti-oil dish washing soap, I cleaned the stem airway. The airway was filthier than I had imagined as can be judged from the following pictures. I took me a considerably long time, but eventually the airway was clean. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners through the stem to confirm that the airway was clean and also to dry it out. With the stem internals now clean, I moved to external cleaning of the stem surface by dunking the stem into “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface making it’s further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. I usually dunk stems of 5-7 pipes that are in-line for restoration and the THE GOLDEN ARROW is marked in yellow arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight for the solution to do its work.With the stem soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I moved on to reaming the chamber with my PipNet pipe reamer. I started the reaming process with head size 2 of the PipNet reamer blade and progressed through to head size 3. I used my fabricated knife to remove cake from areas inaccessible to the reamer blades and completed the process of removing the cake by sanding the walls smooth with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper. I wiped the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with alcohol to clean the residual carbon dust. The chamber walls are solid and a few minor thin heat veins are visible on the aft and right side of the walls of the chamber. I shall give the chamber a bowl coating as a precautionary measure against future damage. Next, I cleaned the mortise by scraping out all the dried oils and tars from the walls with a dental tool. I further cleaned the mortise using bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol.Continuing with the internal cleaning of the chamber and mortise, I subjected it to a salt and alcohol bath. I used cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the years. I drew out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; inserted it into the mortise and through the draught hole and further into the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the rim inner edge and soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils/ tars from the chamber and mortise and loosened out any residual cake and tar build up, fulfilling it’s intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. Using my fabricated tool, I scraped out the entire loosed gunk from the mortise and further cleaned it with alcohol and q-tips. The large blobs of now moistened gunk that was removed from the mortise should give the readers an idea of how filthy the mortise was when I started the process of cleaning. The chamber now smells clean and fresh. I set the stummel to dry out naturally.    I cleaned the external surface of the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and a hard bristled toothbrush. I cleaned the smooth rim top surface with the soap and Scotch Brite pad. The prominent dip on outer rim edge in the 12 o’clock direction is now clearly visible (marked in red). I thoroughly cleaned the mortise with shank brush and anti-oil dish washing soap. The mortise is now thoroughly cleaned and fresh. With the internal and external surface of the stummel now nicely cleaned, I fished out the stem that had been soaking in the Before and After deoxidizing solution for nearly 24 hours. I first scrubbed the stem surface with a Scotch Brite pad. I followed this scrubbing with a nice cleaning of the surface using a 0000 grade steel wool. I rinsed the stem under running water to rid the stem of the thick solution. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners to remove the deoxidizer solution from the airway.Continuing with the stem refurbishing, I heated the bite zone with the flame of a lighter to raise the tooth indentations to the surface. Though the results were not what were expected, the vulcanite was raised a little. The button edges and deeper tooth indentations on either surface of the stem were filled with a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal powder and set aside for the fill to cure. I would like to bring out here that I had purchased a new tube of Gorilla Superglue gel after reading rave reviews and it was this glue that I had used to prepare the mix to fill in the tooth indentations. That this was a bad purchase for me personally became amply evident later during the restoration process. While the stem fills were set aside to cure, I addressed the damage to the rim top surface of the stummel by topping it on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I frequently checked the progress being made as I had no desire to lose any briar estate than was absolutely necessary. Once satisfied with the result, I wiped the rim top surface with a moist cloth. The uneven darkened rim top had been addressed completely, however, the beveled inner rim edge was still dark and the chamber was still slightly out of round (though greatly reduced) with slight charring visible in the 12 o’clock direction. I addressed this issue by simply running a piece of 220 grit sand paper along the inner rim edge bevel, till the darkening was eliminated.Next, I addressed all the dings over the stummel surface by steaming them out by heating my fabricated knife on a candle and placing it on a wet towel covering the dents. The generated steam pulls the dents to the surface leaving behind a slightly discolored and uneven patch. I evened out the discoloration and stummel surface by sanding the entire surface with a piece of 320 grit sandpaper. At this stage in restoration, I turned over the stummel to Abha, my wife, for her to work her magic in polishing the stummel while I turned my attention to the stem repairs.

The stem repair fills had cured nicely and I moved ahead with the process of filing and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220. At this stage, the fills appear as ugly grey patches that are very uneven. I hoped that further sanding with progressively higher grit sandpapers would help in blending of the repairs.I continued to dry sand the entire stem with a folded piece of 400 followed by 600 and 800 grit sandpaper and further progressed to wet sanding with 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit sand papers. However, the fills still appear dirty grey and a closer look showed the entire filled surface peppered with numerous tiny air pockets. I refilled the patches with a fresh mix of CA superglue gel and activated charcoal and set the stem aside.During the time that I was struggling with the stem repairs, Abha completed the polishing of the stummel by wet and dry sanding the surface with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. She massaged a small quantity of B & A Restoration balm and set it aside for 10 minutes for the briar to rehydrate. Thereafter, she gave a rigorous hand rub using a microfiber cloth. The appearance of the stummel at this point is truly satisfying. Once the stem refills had cured completely, I went through the complete process of sanding and shaping the fills using a needle file followed by sanding with sandpapers as described above. Though the finish is better this time around, the coloration of the patch still remains a light shade of grey and easily discernible against the rest of the stem surface. I would like to inform our esteemed readers that I had to go through the complete repairs six times before this attempt and for the sake of brevity, I deliberately kept it short. Yet, the results are not what I expected and have been achieving consistently with other brands of superglue. There was only one more issue that needed to be addressed and one that could not be ignored, being a functional issue. After I had reamed and sanded the chamber walls, I had observed very minor and superficial web of thin heat fissures/ pits all along the chamber walls. I addressed this by mixing activated charcoal and plain yogurt to a thicker consistency, just enough that it would spread easily and applied it evenly all along the chamber walls after inserting a folded pipe cleaner through the draught hole to keep it open. Once dry and set, this will not only protect the walls but also aid in faster buildup of cake.   To apply the finishing touches, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and applied a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I applied a coat of carnauba wax and continued to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mounted a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and gave the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks beautiful and is ready to be added to my collection of inherited pipes. Thanks to all readers of rebornpipes who have spared a moment of their invaluable time in reading through this write up and as is always, your suggestions and advice are always welcome. P.S. – The opinion that I have expressed about the Gorilla CA superglue Gel is my personal opinion based on my personal experience. There are definitely others who have had fantastic results using this product, but not me.