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 08/06/2022 from a seller in Manorville, New York, 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 flattened bottom front of the bowl that made it function as a standing sitter. It is well proportioned and well made with a classic English shaped Billiard.
- The finish is dirty and there is grime and grit ground into the sides of the bowl. There is grime ground into the finish that fills in much of the sandblast grooves in the finish.
- The rim top had a thick lava overflow from the cake in the bowl. The beveled edge and top have a lot of lava in the finish. Sometimes the lava protects the rim top and edges and sometime it hides issues. Its is very dirty looking but cleaning will reveal that.
- 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 the edges look like. The outer edges look good and there does not appear to be any obvious burn damage to the top or bowl edges.
- The vulcanite taper stem is in good condition – dirty, oxidized, calcified and has light tooth chatter and marks on both sides. There is a blue Four Dot logo on the left side of the stem.
Overall my impressions of this pipe is that it is a beauty that once cleaned up will look pretty amazing. The flattened sitter bottom front of the bowl is something I have not seen before but it is quite interesting. The exterior of the bowl does not show any hot spots or darkening. The pipe is very English looking and is a classic short Bent Billiard shape that I have seen on other Sasieni pipes (without the flattened bowl front). 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. This is what I look for when assessing a pipe. While there is lava and darkening there is no visible burn damage at this point. The bowl is still fairly round. The photos of the stem surface from various angles confirmed my assessment of its condition. You can see the oxidation and calcification on the stem surface toward the button. The surface though dirty does not appear to have deep tooth marks – chatter yes, but no deep marks. 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 a smooth panel on the underside and reads Sasieni 4 Dot [over] Ruff Root Dark [over] 1 in three lines. The underside of the stem is stamped and reads FRANCE. 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. 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 similarly to the one I am working on. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads like the first two lines on the one in the screen capture photo below. Mine is stamped the same way Sasieni in script without the fish tail. It is followed by 4 DOT [over] Ruff Root Dark [over] 1. I included the side bar notes below the picture. From that I knew that the pipe was made during Post-transition Period 1986-today.Post transition, 1986 – today, “4 dot”. Ruff Root Dark: Name for a sandblasted finish. Notice the 4DOT stamping replacing the FOUR DOT from 1986.
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 nomenclature changed again in 1986, with the sale of the company to the Post-Transition firm. The three line nomenclature was changed to two lines, with the first reading “Sasieni 4 Dot” and the second identifying the finish, e.g. Natural, Walnut, or Ruff Root. Note how 4 Dot is spelled, using an Arabic numeral 4, as opposed to spelling out the word “four”. This is the easiest way to spot a Post-Transition Sasieni, as the new company has used both script and block lettering to spell the word “Sasieni” on the shank.
The pipe I have is one that does not have a flourished “i” as that was discontinued by Alfred so that confirms that the pipe was made Post-transition, 1986 forward. The stamping shows the Sasieni name and the 4 Dot stamp on one line. Underneath is bears the finish Ruff Root Dark stamp. With all that information I knew that my pipe was from the period after the transition (Post Transition) so it was a newer 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.
- The flattened front of the bowl toward the bottom of the bowl. It does stand like a sitter as I expected. It looks very good and is well proportioned and have a classic English Bent Billiard shape.
- The finish is clean and the grime and grit have been removed from the finish on the bowl. There is some great grain showing through in the sandblast.
- The lava coat on the rim top has been removed and it looks to be in good condition on the top and edges of the bowl.
- The walls of the bowl are clean and I do not see any checking or burn damage. The beveled inner edge of the bowl looks good. The outer edges look good and there does not appear to be any obvious burn damage there.
- The vulcanite taper stem is clean and has light tooth chatter and marks on both sides. There is a 4 Blue Dots logo on the left side of the stem are in great condition.
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 the rim top and edges looked very good. There was no damage on the edges or the sandblast top of the rim. It is clean should come back to its original beauty quite easily. I also go over the stem carefully. There were no tooth marks or dents in 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 is in excellent condition and is very clear and readable. 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 hand made 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. I took a photo of the flattened bowl front to show how it is in relation to the rest of the bowl. 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. It was in good shape and the edges were in excellent condition. The finish was in excellent condition so I started by using Before & After Restoration Balm. It is a paste/balm that is rubbed into the surface of the briar and the plateau. The product works to deep clean the nooks and crannies of finish, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the briar with my finger tips and a horsehair shoe brush. I 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 have a deep shine in the briar and the grain through the blast. 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 sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and chatter. I started the polishing of the stem with 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. It looks good!I use micromesh sanding pads and water to wet sand the stem 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 rub 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 first buff the stem and the briar with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. Blue Diamond 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 it from becoming airborne. I keep a light touch on the briar so as not to to build up the polish in the blast. It works well and I am able to carefully move forward with the buffing. The briar and stem just shone!
I finished with the Blue Diamond and moved on to buffing with carnauba wax. Once I have a good shine in the briar and vulcanite I always give the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I have found that I can get a deeper shine if I following 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 Sasieni Post Transition 4 Dot Ruff Root Dark Bent Billiard Sitter. 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: 6 inches, Height: 2 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. 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.