Blog by Steve Laug
Sometimes when I am working on pipes I wish that they could talk and tell their own story. The pieces that make up this interesting sandblast Billiard have much to tell us if they could talk. How they all came together in one pipe remains shrouded in mystery but I like the final product even in its dirty state. The pipe was in a group of pipes we purchased from the fellow in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is another Dunhill… one of a kind as far as I can tell. It is stamped with the shape number 31031 (a billiard) on the heel of the bowl followed by Dunhill Cumberland [over] Made in England with a Date number after the D. It is partly covered with the silver band. The first number uncovered is a superscript 2. The band is where the story takes an unexpected turn. The Sterling Silver band is stamped S. Bang [over] 925. Which makes me perk up with interest. The stem is definitely not the original Cumberland one that would have been on the pipe when it left England but it is a Dunhill stem. The story we got from the person who sold the lot was that the owner took in a bunch of his pipes to the S. Bang shop in Copenhagen, Denmark and had them put Silver Bands on each of them. He was enamored with the bling of the silver and with the opportunity to have specially fitted bands by S. Bang who can blame him. While there he obviously had the pipe restemmed at the same time. So in a real sense I am working on a Dunhill Cumberland with a Sterling Silver Band and a stem fitted by S. Bang. I like the sense of mystery that the back story adds to this pipe. Jeff took these photos of the pipe before he cleaned it. The pipe was dirty and there was a light cake in the bowl. There was some darkening on the rim top and crowned edges at the front of the bowl. The stem was spotted and dirty but had only light tooth chatter and marks on both sides. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show their condition and of the stem to show the condition of both sides of the stem. The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the deep sandblast grain and the unique Cumberland coloured finish on the pipe. Even under the grime it is a real beauty. The stamping on the underside of the shank is shown in the photo below. It looks very good and faint but readable. It reads as noted and explained above. Jeff captured the detail in the photos below. I wanted to unpack the first part of the mystery – the Dunhill stamping on the shank and work to understand each element of the stamp. I generally use the Pipephil site to gather as much initial information as possible (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cumber1.html). The stamping is interpreted as follows: The number 31031 is the shape number that unpacks as follows: the 3 is the bowl size, 1 is the identifier for a taper stem, 03 is the shape designation – a billiard. The additional 1 does not have any clear information though I wonder if it could be a designation for a Cumberland stem. The Cumberland stamp refers to the finish. The superscript 2 and a second number hidden under the Sterling band following the D of England would give the date the pipe.Pipephil also has some helpful dating keys on the site that are basically flow charts that you can walk through to date your pipe (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1.html). I turned to Part 1 of the Dating Key and followed the chart. This pipe has a superscript 2x (second number is covered by the silver band) following the D in England. There was no patent number so that took me to the section on the chart below (column one) which instructed me that the pipe could be dated as being made “posterior to 1954”.I followed the link under “Your pipe is posterior to 1954. Narrow down your dating”. That took me to Page 2 of the dating key (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). The second column (suffix 1…4) or (11…39) led me to the section with a 2x after the D in England. There was a directive for dating the pipe spelled out as follows: 1960 + suffix which gives the pipe a date of 198? (last digit hidden by the band). From that I knew that the pipe was made sometime in the 1980s but since the last digit was covered I could not identify the exact year.I then turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Cumberland to get a bit of background on the Dunhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:
Introduced in 1979. Cumberland is another sandblast with a brown stain and a brindle stem (the material is more commonly called ‘Cumberland’ these days, thanks to Dunhill’s influence and the success of the finish over the past quarter-century). Originally, the Cumberland always featured a smooth brown rim, but in the current production the rim is sometimes smooth, sometimes sandblasted. Occasionally, a straight grain blast is finished with a Cumberland stain and a “Shilling Grain,” similar to the “Ring Grain,” resulting in a new variation on the traditional sandblast. The Shilling series is named for the British coin: the sandblast looks like a stack of shillings. Named after the warehouse on Cumberland Road. The old pipes that inspired this finish were found there.
I have also included a chart from the site from Dunhill spelling out the Standard Pipe Finishes and giving short information and a timeline. You can see that the Cumberland Finish was introduced in 1980 so this is definitely from the early releases of that finish from the factory.I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had done an amazing cleanup of the pipe. He reamed the light cake with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Briarville’s Pipe stem Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very good when I received it. I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the clean bowl. I worked it over lightly with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper before I took the photo. Then stopped and took it! The stem came out looking quite good. There are some scratches, light tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping. The photo shows the stamping and is actually more readable in person.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe. I worked on the inside and top of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the darkening and burn damage. It would take some work but this was a good start.I polished the cleaned up rim top and edges with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the bowl down with a damp cloth to remove the dust. The rim top came out looking very good. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to work it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes then I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem issues. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This 1980s Era Dunhill Cumberland 31031 Billiard with an S. Bang Silver Band and vulcanite taper Stem has a beautiful, unique Dunhill Sandblast finish that is very deep and craggy. The Cumberland reddish brown finish highlights some great grain around the bowl and shank. It has a unique sandblast that Dunhill specialized in making. The polished black vulcanite taper stem adds to the mix. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Cumberland 31031 Billiard is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 4 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is .92 ounces/26 grams. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I am torn about this pipe. The story intrigues me enough that I am going to keep it here – at least for a while to enjoy. Thanks for your time.