Blog by Steve Laug
Once again I want 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 12/27/2021 from a seller in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 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 a pipe that has either been well loved and smoked often or a pipe that has been neglected and abused. I have learned to see them as well loved and obviously someone’s favourite pipe.
- The finish is very dirty and there are hand oils on the panel sides of the bowl and there is grime and grit ground into the finish and the worm trail rustication on the sides of the bowl and shank. It is dusty and dull looking but under the grime the pipe looks good.
- The rim top has a very thick coat of lava and debris on both the top and the edges. There appeared to be damage on the front top and edge of the bowl. It is so dirty but is hard to know if there is damage to the edges or rim top. The bowl is quite large and deep.
- The bowl has a thick cake and debris on the walls that hides the walls and the inner and outer edge of the bowl but once it is clean we will know what the bowl and edges really 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 stem is in rough condition – dirty, oxidized and has tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of button. There are also scratches in the vulcanite under the debris and calcification on the stem surface.
Overall my impressions of this pipe is that it is a unique pipe that once cleaned up will be another pretty Boswell Hand Made. Boswell’s shapes and carving are readily identifiable when you see them so I knew what the pipe was even before looking at it. 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 very thick with tobacco debris stuck on the walls. The rim top has thick lava, grime and debris covering it. It is so thick you cannot see the inner or outer edges to assess damage. Even so there appears to be some damage on the front outer edge. This is what I look for when assessing a pipe. It is unclear if there is any burn damage at this point. I look forward to viewing it in person after the clean up work. The photos of the vulcanite stem surface from various angles confirm my assessment of its condition. You can see the dirty/sticky substance on the stem in the first photo below. There are scratches in the stem surface, tooth chatter, and deep marks. The stem is quite dirty and a bit of a mess. The fit of the stem to the shank is good and is a typical Boswell style Freehand. Instead of telling you what I see in the next photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel I want to hear from you. Tell me what you see? What does the finish look like to you? Are there any visible problems or issues that stand out to you? Are the cracks or scratches in the valleys of the rustication or the high spots? Are there visible flaws or fissures in the briar? How random does the deep rustication look? Is there a pattern to it? Any visible issues on the heel of the bowl? These questions should help you to see what I am looking for when I see these photos. He took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is signed with an engraving tool and reads Boswell [over] 003 U.S.A. What stands out for you in the photos of the stamping? What do you look for in the stamping? It is dirty but what do you see underneath the grime on the surface of the briar? If you have been following the blog for any length of time you have come to know that when I am working on interesting old pipes (even sometimes those not so interesting) I like to know a bit about the background of the brand. I like to “meet” the carver to get a feel for their work and style.
In July, 2017 I restored a Boswell Twist pipe, a 2003 and had done some research into the brand (https://rebornpipes.com/2017/07/19/refurbishing-a-boswell-2003-spiral-twist-bent-billiard/). I turned to that blog and reread the information that I had included there. I took the liberty to include the information that I included from the box that came with that pipe that below.
The backside of the box reads: Dear Pipe Smoker: J.M. Boswell crafts each of his pipes exclusively by hand! From the bare briar block to the final stain and polish, each step is a hands on procedure in old world tradition. Boswell pipes feature individual craftsmanship and style.
Additionally, J.M. Boswell has developed an exclusive bowl coating that greatly shortens the “break-in” time of a Boswell pipe and gives a sweet smoke from the very first bowl full. This coating is applied to each new pipe that Boswell makes.
One more compelling feature of Boswell pipes: “Their cost”! Boswell pipes can be had at a fraction of what most import pipes are. This is a feature pipe smokers find gratifying.
Our second feature is repairs by Boswell. J.M. Boswell has no peers in the quality and speed in which he gives “Turn-around” on pipe repairs, from stem replacement to banding, to reaming and cleaning.
I will be glad to answer any questions that you have regarding all the features of Boswell’s pipes, my repair work, plus the crafting process which can be witnessed first hand at our store and pipe making shop at 586 Lincoln Way East in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Cordially J.M. Boswell, Owner.
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 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
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!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 first thing I see is a pipe that has either been well loved and smoked often or a pipe that has been neglected and abused. I have learned to see them as well loved and obviously someone’s favourite pipe. Even clean that is visible.
- The finish is clean and the grime and grit have been removed from the finish on the bowl. The worm trail rustication looks good as well.
- The lava, grime and dust on the rim top has been removed and it has revealed a lot of burn damage on the top and the inner and out walls. There is also significant darkening around the rim top.
- The walls of the bowl are clean and I do see some checking or burn damage on the right side toward the top. It looked like it needed to be reamed closer and sanded. The inner edge of the bowl shows some damage toward the front. The outer edges look good and there does not appear to be any obvious burn damage there.
- The vulcanite stem is clean and has scratches, tooth chatter and marks on both sides. The button also shows some damage. The fit to the shank is well done with no damage.
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 rim top and edges were cleaned, the burn damage became very apparent. There were burn marks on the top and a deep one on the front right inner edge and top. The inner edges are also damaged by the burn damage. The outer edge is damaged on the front side. I also go over the stem carefully. The stem had some issues as noted. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the stem and the button. 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 love just looking at the lay of the pipe 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. The photo shows its beauty in flow and shape. Now it was time to start working on the pipe. There appeared to be some checking on the right side toward the top of the bowl. When I examined it, it did not seem to be too deep in the briar. It was left behind by the reaming. I cleaned up that area with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape it back to solid walls. I sanded the walls of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. It cleaned it up quite well. Once I had cleaned up the rim top and edges the bowl and rim top would look much better. To address the darkening on the rim to pa and edges I started by topping the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I need to remove the darkening to be able to see the damage. I further topped it with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge. The damage is very evident on the top of the bowl and the inner edge on the right front. To deal with the rim damage on the top and the inner edge I used a wooden ball and a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the inner edge a slight bevel and remove the damage. Now I was getting somewhere. Once I had finished wit the ball I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to fine tune the shape. I am happy with the end result. 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 wipe 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. I paused in the polishing and used and oak stain pen to stain the rim top and edges to match the rest of the bowl. It looked very good to me. Once I polished it with the final three micromesh sanding pads it blended very well. I polished it with the last three pads. After polishing it with the micromesh pads I rubbed it down with 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 into the worm trail rustications with a horse hair shoe brush. I let it sit for 10 minutes then 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 shone through. The photos I took of the bowl at this point mark the progress in the restoration. It is a gorgeous pipe. The right wall still showed signs of checking as shown in the photos above. I made a mix of pipe mud (fine cigar ash and water) and coated the wall with that to protect it until a new cake was formed. I mix it in a small shot glass and apply it to the walls with a dental spatula. I use and ear syringe to add the water so I can control the thickness of the mud. I set it aside to cure. I set the bowl aside and turn to work on the stem. I decided to work on the unique stem. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to do the work. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter on the stem and reshaped the button edge with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. I continued polishing the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and water to wet sand the stem. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil on a cotton rag after each sanding pads. But I find it does two things – first it gives some protection to the stem from oxidation 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. The final steps in my process involve using the buffer. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the light scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I have found that I can get a deeper shine if I follow up the wax buff with a buff with a clean buffing pad. It works to raise the shine and then I 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 stem. It really is a nice pipe. The mix or smooth and rusticated worm trail finishes around the bowl sides and shank looks great with the rich black and brown stains. The Boswell U.S.A. Panel 003 Bent Billiard feels great in my hand. It is a well balanced pipe. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 2.54 ounces/72 grams. It is a beautiful pocket sized pipe that I will soon be adding to the rebornpipes store in the American (US) Pipemakers section. If you would like to add it to your collection let me know. It should be a great smoking pipe.
Hopefully the style of writing of 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 pipe men and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of those who follow us.