Blog by Steve Laug
I thought it might be helpful to take you through my process of working on each pipe that we purchase. Jeff has set up a spread sheet to track where the pipe came from, the date of purchase and what we paid for it so that we know what we have invested in the pipe before we even work on it. This takes a lot of the guess work out of the process. This particular pipe was purchased on 04/09/2022 from seller in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. I also want you to understand why we take the photos we do. If you have followed for a while then you will see the familiar pattern of the photos we include both in the before and midstream process of working on a pipe. It is not accidental or chance as the photos have been taken to help me make an assessment of the pipe Jeff sees before he starts his clean up work. We do this to record the condition that the pipe was in when received it and to assess what kind of work will need to be done on. When I look at these photos this is what I see.
- The first thing I see is the small/petite Pot shaped pipe with a generous bowl. It is well proportioned and well made with a classic English shape.
- The finish is dirty and there are oils from the smoker’s hands on both side of the bowl. There is grime ground into the finish as well but even so there is also some great grain peeking through.
- The rim top had a thick lava overflow from the cake in the bowl, particularly thick on the back side of the top. There is some burn damage on the front inner edge and top but it is hard to know if there is darkening or damage under the lava. Sometimes the lava protects the rim top and edges and sometime it hides issues. Its is very dirty looking.
- The bowl has a thick cake in it that hides the walls and the inner edge of the bowl but once it is clean we will know what is going on in those spots. There are a some possible nicks in the inner edge of the bowl at the back but that too will become clearer when the pipe is cleaned. The outer edges look good and there does not appear to be any obvious burn damage to the top or bowl edges.
- The vulcanite saddle stem is in good condition – dirty, oxidized, calcified and has tooth chatter and marks on both sides. There 4 Dots of the Sasieni Logo are visible on the left side of the saddle.
Overall my impressions of this pipe is that it is a beauty that once cleaned up will look pretty amazing. The exterior of the bowl does not show any hot spots or darkening. The pipe is very English looking and is a classic short Pot shape that I have seen on other Sasieni pipes. The photos below confirm the assessment above. Jeff took close up photos so that I could have a clearer picture of the condition of the bowl, rim edges and top. The rim top photos confirm my assessment above. The cake in the bowl is quite thick and the rim top has lava and debris on it. You can also see the condition of the outer edge but the inner edge is a bit of a mystery at this point. There appears to be some burn damage at front inner edge and rim top. The bowl is still fairly round. This is what I look for when assessing a pipe. The photos of the stem surface from various angles confirmed my assessment of its condition. You can see the oxidation and the fit against the shank end. The stem surface though dirty does not appear to have tooth marks on the bit surface – chatter yes, but no deep marks. There is some damage to the button surface on the top right side and lesser damage on the underside. The stem is quite dirty but otherwise undamaged. The next photos show the amazing grain around the heel and the sides of the bowl. Tell me what you see? Are there any visible problems that stand out to you? Are the cracks or scratches? Are there visible flaws or fissures in the briar? What kind of grain stands out around the bowl and heel? Any visible issues on the heel of the bowl? Even the questions should help you to see what I am looking for when I see these photos. You have read it a few times now in the previous blogs. What am I looking for when I look at the shank stamp? In this case it is stamped on the left side and reads Sasieni[over] Four Dot Natural [over] London Made in three lines. To the left next to the bowl is the classic Sasien Made in England stamp. On the right side it is stamped Wingate. How does the stamping look to you? Is it clear and readable? Is it faint in spots or is it uniform? I know you are looking at photos but so do I at this point in the process. There is also a FRANCE stamp on the underside of the stem. The same questions apply here as well. I decided to do some work on the stamping of this pipe to get an idea of the time period it was carved. I turned first to Pipephil’s site to see what I could learn (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-sasieni.html). I found a pipe that was stamped the same way as the one I am working on. I is stamped on the left side of the shank like the one in the screen capture photo below. Mine is stamped the same way Sasieni in script without the fish tail. Underneath it is stamped FOUR DOT NATURAL [over] London Made. Next to the shank is also the Made In England Stamp like the one below. On the right side mine does not have the “Danzey” stamp but rather the Wingate stamp in the same place. It also does not have the XS stamp. I included the side bar notes below the picture. From that I knew that the pipe was made during Pre-transition Period 1946-1979.Pre-transition, 1946 – 1979. Four dot. Natural: Name for a smooth finish
I then turned to Pipedia for more detailed information (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Sasieni). I quote a section of that article below. It refers to the Patent Number that is on the pipe I have on the table. The underlined portion below is particular pertinent to this pipe.
To begin with, there are three main elements to dating the Sasieni pipe, the patent number, the style of the name “Sasieni” as it appears on the shank, and the Dots themselves. Naturally, there are exceptions to these rules (this hobby would be boring without them), but for the most part these guidelines apply better than 95% of the time. All Sasieni One, Four, and Eight Dot pipes made before W.W.II and destined for the U. S. market carried a patent number on the shank which usually started with the numbers “15″, with 150221/20 and 1513428 being representative of the group. Also, the name “Sasieni” was stamped on the shank in a very florid manner, with the tail of the last “i” sweeping underneath the name forming a shape which has been compared to a fish by more than one collector. This script was discontinued by Alfred almost immediately after he took over the company, so this alone tells you your pipe is pre W.W.II. Underneath in block lettering are the words “London Made”, with the patent number making the third line.
The dots will help you narrow this down further. As we mentioned, the short lived U. S. market One Dot was introduced around 1920, and was replaced by the early to mid 1920’s by the Four Dot. The 1920’s Four Dot is distinguishable by the florid Sasieni script, a patent number, and four blue dots, which are quite small compared to the pipes of post war years. Furthermore, by 1935 Sasieni began stamping pipes, based on the shape, with their own names, which were usually, but not always, English towns. For example, apples were stamped “Hurlingham”, bulldogs were “Grosvenor” or “Danzey”, and panels were “Lincoln”. One rare and interesting variation of this was the large bent, dubbed “Viscount Lascelles”. Even in this soft Sasieni market, these pipes regularly sell for $150 in their rare appearances in mailers.
The pipe I have is one does not have a patent number so it was not made for the US market. The flourished “i” was discontinued by Alfred so that confirms that the pipe was made Pre-transition, 1946 – 1979. The third line stamped is London Made in block lettering. With all that information I knew that my pipe was from the period before the transition (Pre Transition) so it was an older one.
I am sure many of you will shake your head and ask maybe even out loud, “Why is he including this again?” However, please remember that the point of these blogs is not to wow your with the work or make you shake your heads but I want you to know the details of the work we do so you can do your own. Back in 2020 Jeff wrote a blog about his cleaning process. I am including a link to that now so you can see what I mean about his process. Do not skip it! Give it a read (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/20/got-a-filthy-estate-pipe-that-you-need-to-clean/). Here is the introduction to that blog and it is very true even to this day.
Several have asked about Jeff’s cleaning regimen as I generally summarize it in the blogs that I post rather than give a detailed procedure. I have had the question asked enough that I asked Jeff to put together this blog so that you can get a clear picture of the process he uses. Like everything else in our hobby, people have different methods they swear by. Some may question the method and that is fine. But it works very well for us and has for many years. Some of his steps may surprise you but I know that when I get the pipes from him for my part of the restoration they are impeccably clean and sanitized. I have come to appreciate the thoroughness of the process he has developed because I really like working on clean pipe!
For the benefit of some of you who may be unfamiliar with some of the products he uses I have included photos of three of the items that Jeff mentions in his list. This will make it easier for recognition. These three are definitely North American Products so you will need to find suitable replacements or order these directly on Amazon. The makeup pads are fairly universal as we were able to pick some up in India when we were with Paresh and his family.
In the blog itself he breaks his process down into two parts – cleaning the stem and cleaning the bowl. Each one has a large number of steps that he methodically does every time. I know because I have watched him do the work and I have seen the pipes after his work on them. He followed this process step by step and when the pipe got to me it was spotlessly clean and ready for my work. The inside of the stem, shank and bowl were clean and to me that is an amazing gift as it means that my work on this end is with a clean pipe! I cannot tell you how much difference that makes for my work.
When the pipe arrives here in Vancouver I have a clean pipe and I go over it keeping in mind my assessment shared in the opening paragraph above. Now that I have it in hand I am looking for confirmation of what I saw in the photos as well as any significant structural changes in the bowl and finish as I go over it.
- This small Petite Pot has a generous bowl and the pipe is well proportioned. It has a classic English Sasieni shape.
- The finish is clean and the oils have been removed from both sides of the bowl. The grime ground into the finish is gone and there is some great grain around the bowl sides.
- The thick lava coat on the rim top has been removed and there is some nicks and burn damage on the top and inner edges of the bowl (particularly toward the front). There is some darkening and damage on the back side of the inner edge and top as well but not as extensive.
- The cake had been totally removed and the walls of the bowl are clean. There is not any checking or burn damage on the interior walls of the bowl.
- The vulcanite saddle stem is clean and has light tooth chatter and marks on both sides. The four dots (Sasieni logo) on the left side of the saddle look very good. There is also an aluminum stinger in the tenon that is very clean.
Hopefully the steps above show you both what I look for when I go over the pipe when I bring it to the work table and also what I see when I look at the pipe in my hands. They also clearly spell out a restoration plan in short form. My work is clear and addressing it will be the next steps. I took photos of the whole pipe to give you a picture of what I see when I have it on the table. This is important to me in that it also shows that there was no damage done during the clean up work or the transit of the pipe from Idaho to here in Vancouver. I carefully went over the bowl and rim top to get a sense of what is happening there. In this case once the lava was removed damage to the edge and top was revealed. It is burn damage to the front inner beveled edge and rim top. There is also some damage on the back inner edge and darkening on the rim top. It is clean but will need to be worked on to bring it back to normal. I also go over the stem carefully. There were no tooth marks or dents other than on the button edges on both sides of the stem. I took photos of the rim top and stem sides to show as best as I can what I see when I look at them.I always check to make sure that the clean up work did not damage the stamping on the shank in any way. It looks good but is faint in some parts – particularly the edges of the stamp. I always appreciate the handiwork of the carvers at Sasieni who turn a piece raw briar into a beautiful pipe. I love just looking at the beauty of the lay of the pipe with the grain and the proportion of the pipes. I like to remove the stem from the shank to get a sense of what was in the mind of the pipe maker when he crafted the pipe. It is a beauty in flow and shape. By this time you should know that I almost always start with the bowl in my restoration because I truly do not like the tedious work of stem repairs and polishing. I always leave that until last even though I know that it needs to be done. For me the encouragement of seeing a rejuvenated bowl is the impetus I need to attack the stem work.
Today I started working on this pipe by turning to the bowl. I chose to deal with the darkening and burn damage on the rim edges and top. I used a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and a wooden sphere to reshape and remove the damage on the top and the inner edge. It took a little work but I was able to remove most of the damage. I used a folded piece of 220 grit paper to work on it some more. There is a little left at the back side of the inner edge. The front edge looks much better. It is a beautiful piece of briar with some great grain. I forgot to take a photo of the rim top after the clean up but it looked much better. You can see it in the stained rim top photo below. I stained it with an Oak stain pen to match the surrounding briar. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I choose to dry sand the briar rather than wet sand it. Again it is a matter of personal preference. I prefer to use the pads dry and find they work very well on the briar. I sand with each pad (9 in total) and group them by threes for ease of reference. I also work over the sanded rim top and edges with the pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris and check the briar. I love seeing the developing shine on the briar as I move through the pads which is why I include so many photos of this step. For the past few years now I have been using a product developed by Mark Hoover called Before & After Restoration Balm. It is a paste/balm that is rubbed into the surface of the briar. The product works to deep clean the finish, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the briar with my finger tips and let it sit for 10 minutes to do its work. I wiped it off with a soft cloth then buffed it with a cotton cloth. The briar really began to shine and the grain shone through. The photos I took of the bowl at this point mark the progress in the restoration. It is a gorgeous pipe. Now it was time to address the part of the restoration I leave until last. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I heated the stinger and removed it from the shank. I would put it back in after clean up. I fit the stem in the shank to take get measurements of the pipe. When I finished I removed the stem from the shank the tenon shattered in the shank and was stuck. This is great – just what I needed. Now I would need to replace the tenon and refit it. I pulled the broken tenon from the shank with a knife blade. I went through my tenons and chose one that was close to the diameter of the broken tenon. I flattened the broken portion on the stem surface with a Dremel and sanding drum. I chose not to drill it out for the stinger as it made the walls of the tenon very thin. I sanded the diameter of the new tenon with a Dremel and sanding drum to reduce it for a snug fit in the shank.I drilled out the stem to receive the new tenon. I used a series of drill bits from one the size of the airway in the stem and up to the point it fit in the stem. I glued it in place in the stem with super glue and set aside to cure. I gave the tenon a light coat of clear CA glue to smooth it out. Once I sanded it would be smooth. I examined the shank end and saw that when the tenon broke it left a nick in the surface of the shank end. I decided to use a thin brass band to flatten the shank end and clean up the fit against the shank. I glued the band on the shank end and it looked very good. The bonus was that the stem fit very well. I stated with the tooth marks. I “painted” the surface dents with a Bic light flame and was able to lift them significantly I paused at this point and put the stem in the shank. It was at this point the tenon broke. With the new tenon in place I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to further blend them into the vulcanite. I started the polishing of the stem with 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. I use micromesh sanding pads and water to wet sand the stem and tenon with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil on a cotton rag after each sanding pad as I find it does two things – first it protects the vulcanite and second it give the sanding pads bite in the polishing process. After finishing with the micromesh pads I rubbed the stem down with Before & After Fine and Extra Fine stem polish as it seems to really remove the fine scratches in the vulcanite. I rub the Fine Polish on the stem and wipe it off with a paper towel and then repeat the process with the Extra Fine polish. I finish the polishing of the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set the stem aside to let the oil absorb. This process gives the stem a shine and also a bit of protection from oxidizing quickly.The final steps in my process involve using the buffer. I buff the stem and the briar with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. It is a plastic polish but I find that it works very well to polish out the light scratches in the vulcanite and the briar. I work the pipe over on the wheel with my finger or thumb in the bowl to keep the pipe from becoming airborne. I buffed the pipe with multiple coats of carnauba wax. I have found that I can get a deeper shine if I follow up the wax buff with a clean buffing pad. It works to raise the shine and then I follow that up with a hand buff with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is always fun for me to see what the polished bowl looks like with the polished vulcanite stem. It really is a beautiful pipe. The smooth finish around the bowl sides and shank show the grain shining through the rich brown stains of this Pre-Transition Sasieni Four Dot London Made Wingate Pot. The thin brass band on the shank fits well and looks classy. The finished pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is .99 ounces/28 grams. It is a beautiful pipe and one that I will be putting on the rebornpipes store in the British Pipe Maker section.
Hopefully the shape writing this blog is helpful to you in some way. In it I wanted to show both what I am looking for and how I move forward in addressing what I see when work on a pipe. Let me know if it is helpful to you. It is probably the most straightforward detailed description of my work process that I have done. As always I encourage your questions and comments as you read the blog. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of those who follow us.