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Restoring an Unbranded Italian Bent Billiard # 908


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring the sixth Dunhill from my Mumbai Bonanza find, a 1965 DUNHILL SHELL #56 F/T and now this is a no name smooth ¼ bent Billiard from the same lot. This may be a ‘no name’ pipe, but something about the pipe, like the feel in hand, quality of grain and the finish screams of quality and added to that the design elements, are all pointers to a pipe made by a reputed pipe maker.

I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a trash collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!!!!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot.        This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, Charatan’s, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had hit a huge jack pot!!! Hence, I like to call this find as “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The pipe that I decided to work on from this find is an unbranded slightly bent billiard, and is indicated in magenta colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the underside of the shank with the shape number 908 at the end of the shank and stem junction. On the right side of the shank it is stamped as IMPORTED BRIAR in a semi circle over ITALY in the center. There is no other stamping anywhere on the stummel. Even the stem is devoid of any stamping. My attempts to identify, with pinpoint accuracy, the maker of this pipe have come to a naught due to lack of any tell tale stampings hinting at the carver. However, the IMPORTED BRIAR stampings are generally associated with pipes designated for American markets and the COM stamp ITALY, is self explanatory. My appreciation is that this pipe was made by an Italian firm as a Basket pipe for an American pipe shop. If any of the readers has any viable input on this pipe, you are most welcome to share it with the community in form of comments on rebornpipes.com.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber which has been reamed and maintained at a thickness of a dime!!! This indicates that this pipe has seen heavy usage but has also been well cared for. In order to comment on the condition of the walls of the chamber, I need to ream the cake down to the bare briar. The rim top surface is covered with overflowing lava through which the inner rim edge appears to be intact. Also through the overflow of lava, a few dents and dings are visible towards the right and back of the rim. Similarly, the outer edge of the rim is slightly damaged on the right side in 4 ‘O’ clock direction. There is a sweet odor to the chamber.The stummel boasts of some beautiful mixed pattern of bird’s eye and cross grain all around. It is dirty with grime, oils and tars covering the stummel surface and added to this are a few dents and dings to the sides and front of the stummel. Surprisingly (because being an unbranded pipe, I expected more!), I could see only one fill (circled in yellow) on the left side of the stummel, another indicator to the fact that this is a quality pipe made by a quality conscious Italian carver. The stummel has an orange hued stain and appears to be coated with lacquer, both of which are not my favorite finish. These will have to go, period! I have the experience of working on a Dr. Grabow, OMEGA and it was not easy to get rid of the lacquer coating. The mortise shows heavy accumulation of dried tars mixed with ash and remnants of tobacco, making the flow of air through the mortise laborious. This will have to be cleaned and refreshed. The vulcanite stem shows major damage to the button end on both upper and lower surface. The upper surface has a through hole in the bite zone, including bite marks to the button while deep tooth marks are visible in the bite zone and button. The button on either surface will have to be sharpened and made crisp. The tenon end is crusted with dried out tars and grime. The horizontal slot shows accumulation of remnants of dried out oils and tars, blocking the air flow through the stem airway. The fit of the stem in to the mortise is loose and will need to be tightened for a nice snug fit. The stem is heavily oxidized; however, the quality of vulcanite is good. The bend on the stem does not match with the plane of the stummel and profile of the pipe. This will have to be addressed. The stem repair, then, will be a major issue to address and I shall begin this project by addressing the stem repairs first. THE PROCESS
As decided during my initial appreciation of the condition of the pipe, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface and follow it up with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of the oxidation while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I cleaned out the tenon and the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The grunge had hardened to such an extent that I had to use the dental spatula to dig out the dried out oils and tars. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I wiped the stem with a little Extra virgin olive oil to hydrate the stem surface. Firstly, I inserted a pipe cleaner smeared in Vaseline in to the stem air way. This prevents the mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal from permeating in to the air way and blocking it subsequently. I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and lip and set it aside for curing over night. Before moving ahead, I would like to mention here that I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel cleaning. With size 1 and 2 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. It is always a big relief to find the walls of the chamber to be solid with no damage. This was followed by gently scraping away the lava overflow from the rim top surface with my fabricated knife. I cleaned the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Even though the internals were nice and clean, the sweet smell in the chamber was all pervading. I shall address this issue with an alcohol bath before cleaning the external surface of the stummel. Once the cake was removed and the chamber walls cleaned, I noticed that the draught hole was not aligned to the center of the chamber, but skewed towards the right as you hold the pipe while smoking. I was in two minds; should I correct this alignment by re-drilling the air way through the mortise or let it be. The thick cake indicates that this was a fantastic smoker and a favorite of the previous steward, so should I tamper with its smoking characteristics? Well, once I am through with refurbishing, I shall load a bowl and test it for myself before deciding further course of action. Here are pictures of what I have been discussing above. It was now time for me to address the issue of the sweet smell in the pipe. I stuffed the chamber with a cotton ball. I made a wick out of one cotton ball, wound it around a folded pipe cleaner and inserted it tightly in to the mortise. Using a syringe, I topped the chamber with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and set it aside on a pipe stand for the alcohol to draw out all the residual oils and tars from the mortise and the chamber. About half an hour later, I refilled the chamber with alcohol and set it over night. By next evening, the alcohol had drawn all the stubborn oils and tars from the mortise and chamber and these were trapped in the cotton ball and wick. I gave a final cleaning to the mortise using pipe cleaners and q-tips dipped in alcohol. The old smells are history and the pipe now is fresh and clean.I followed up the internal cleaning with external refreshing of the stummel surface. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel and the rim top to remove the overflow of lava from these surfaces. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks clean, but the orange stain now stands out prominently and so does the single fill which I had observed earlier has now increased to four!!!!!!! I checked the fills and realized that it had gone soft and would have to be filled afresh. But before that, I need to remove the orange stain and lacquer coating to let the natural briar shine through and breathe freely. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper, I sand the entire stummel surface to first remove the lacquer coating and thence the orange stain. It took a considerable time to remove the lacquer coat. At the end, I still observed a few patches on the stummel surface where the old stain was still visible. I cleaned up all these patches by wiping the entire stummel with a cotton swab dipped in pure acetone. The stummel is now completely rid of the lacquer coating and the obnoxious orange stain and beautiful swirls of bird’s eye and cross grains now peek through the rough surface. This clean up made the dents and dings to the rim top surface and the outer edge all the more prominent and these are the issues which I tackle next. On a piece of 220 grit piece of sand paper, I top the rim surface, checking frequently the progress that was being made. Once I was satisfied that the dings and dents to the rim surface has been addressed, I worked the outer rim edge to address the dents and dings visible. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger, I created a light bevel on the outer rim edge which masked the dents nicely. I am very pleased with the progress made so far; the stummel has been rid of the orange stain and lacquer, the internals of the stummel are clean and fresh, the dents and dings to the rim top and outer edge has been taken care of and the stem fill has hardened solid. The next issue that I tackled was the issue of newly discovered fills which hitherto fore were hidden under all the stain and lacquer coating. Using the sharp point of my fabricated knife, I gouge out the old fill and replace it with a fresh fill of CA super glue and briar dust. I always over fill the holes so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I set the stummel aside to cure. Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way), I resorted to sanding the entire stummel surface using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper and follow it up by further sanding with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. This step addressed three issues; firstly matching and blending the fill with the rest of the surface, secondly, the dents and dings on the stummel were evened out and lastly, the annoying orange stain and lacquer coating was completely eliminated. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 girt pads. The stummel looks great with the grains showing themselves in great splendor. I really like this natural finish to the briar!!!! This is how the stummel appears at this stage. Next, I rub a small quantity of ‘Before and After Restoration Balm’ in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful bird’s eye and cross grains on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. I was contemplating if at all I should stain this stummel or let the fills be seen as part of its past life; a friend of mine who has taken up to enjoying a pipe, dropped in and saw this pipe. He loved the grains, the shape and heft of this beauty and immediately requested it to be passed on to him. I discussed with him about the stain and he was keen to keep with the natural finish! Since this pipe was being passed on to him, his desire prevailed. This look to the stummel attracted him the most. I am sure that after the final polish and waxing, the grains will be further accentuated. I set the stummel aside and turned my attention to the stem repair. The fill had cured nicely and I moved ahead and began the process of filing and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 600 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rehydrate the vulcanite. The repairs have blended in very well and the stem now looks shiny black and beautiful. The internals of the stem was once again cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners to clear the airway of all the debris resulting due to the sanding. The finished stem is shown below. The next stem issue that I addressed was the loose fit of the tenon in to the mortise. To address this issue, I heated the tenon with the flame of a Bic lighter; moving the flame constantly, till the tenon was pliable. I had pre-selected a drill bit which was a tad larger than the tenon hole and gradually inserted it in to the tenon and set it aside to cool down. Once the tenon had cooled down, I removed the drill bit and tried the seating of the tenon in to the mortise. The fit was perfect.Before moving on to the final polishing and wax coating, I had to address the issue of the bend to the stem. Somehow, the existing bend does not suit the profile of the stummel. I exchanged pictures of the stem and pipe with Mr. Steve and he suggested that the stem needs to bend more. I inserted a pipe cleaner through the stem’s air way and heated the stem with a hot air gun till pliable. Using the slot end of the pipe cleaner, I bend the stem eyeballing it in to desired shape. The two precautionary measures which are required to be ensured; firstly, inserting a pipe cleaner in to the stem’s airway prevents the surface from collapsing inwards. Secondly, while bending the stem, heat only up to the place from where the bending is intended. I did try two different bend angles, but that did not seem correct. Third try was successful and the stem now has a nice bend to it and the pipe feels very comfortable in the mouth. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this handsome pipe could share the secret of its birth and its past life with all of us…if only!! Cheers.

PS: The freshly refurbished pipe was handed over to the new Steward (to use the term coined by my friend, Mr. Dal Stanton) who immediately loaded his favorite tobacco, LANE 1Q, and smoked it with me. He was very happy with the way it smoked and appreciated the easy and smooth draw. This reconfirmed my appreciation that I should not tamper with the alignment of the shank air way.

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Restoring a French Made Butz Choquin Camargue 1310 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table Jeff picked up at an antique shop near his home in Idaho. It is a Butz Choquin Made in France pipe. On one side is written Butz Choquin over Camargue. On the other side St. Claude is arched over France with the shape number 1310 under that. On the horn coloured Lucite shank extension are the initials BC in a clear acrylic insert. The military bit stem is vulcanite and has a slight bend in it. It is lightly oxidized and there are deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button and wear on the button on the underside. There are also some dents on the top and underside near the bend. The smooth finish is very dirty and dusty. The rim top has a thin coat of lava near the back side. The bowl has a thick cake that flows onto the back of the bowl rim. It is hard to know if the inner edge of the rim is in good condition because of the lava and cake. The outer edge looks very good. Jeff took the following photos before he started his clean up. Jeff took a photo of the rim top and bowl. You can see the lava on the back side of the rim that obscures the condition of the rim edge. You can see the condition of the bowl as well in the photo.He took photos of the heel and the sides of the bowl to give a clear picture of the remarkable grain on this beautiful pipe.The next photo is a bit of a mystery to me… there is clearly a crack shown in the photo of the somewhere on the bowl. The problem is that it is not clear where it is on the bowl in the photo. Is it the heel or a side or…? I will have to go over the bowl with a light and a lens to hunt for it as I restore the pipe. It should be easy to repair once I find it!The next two photos capture the stamping on the left and right side of the shank. The third photo shows the BC logo on the horn coloured Lucite shank extension. The stamping on the left side reads Butz Choquin at an angle up the shank toward the shank end and underneath it is stamped Camargue. The other side is stamped with the St. Claude, France stamp and the shape number 1310. The last two before photos show the condition of the stem. You can see the tooth marks on both sides of the stem along the length of the stem. You can also see the calcification and oxidation on the stem. It is dirty but very repairable.When the pipe arrived it was my turn to do my part of the restoration work. Jeff had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. There was still some darkening to the rim top toward the back of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. Both the inner edge of the rim look good. There was some damage on the front outer edge. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The light tooth chatter is hard to see but I should be able to sand it out quite easily. The tooth marks on the top and underside and the scratching and gouges will take a little more work to remove. The damage to the button top on the underside is also going to take some work.I also took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out. The Camargue stamp is quite faint. To clean up the rim top damage and minimize the roughness on the front outer edge I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I did not have to do too much topping as the damage was not too extreme.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. It was during this process that I found the crack. It is on the right side of the bowl toward the back. I have circled it in red to highlight it. Now that I had found the crack and checked that it was not deep and not on the inside of the bowl it was time to address it. I drilled the ends of the crack with a microdrill bit to stop the crack from spreading. I filled in the pin holes and the crack surface with clear super glue. I spread some briar dust on the top of the repaired areas and pressed it into the drill holes with a dental spatula. I set it aside to cure. Once the repair cured I sanded it smooth with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I started the polishing process with 400 grit sandpaper. I polished the area with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and wiped the area down with alcohol.I restained the pipe with a Tan aniline stain to blend the repaired areas into the rest of the finish. Sometimes it pays to stain the entirety of a bowl rather than fuss with trying to match an area this large into the rest of the surrounding briar. I flamed and stained and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage. I set the bowl aside to dry.I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to remove thick overcoat of stain. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the stain coat coverage. I followed that by wet sanding it with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to even out the coverage of stain across the bowl sides and over the repaired crack. I have really come to appreciate many of Mark Hoover’s Before & After Products. One of my favourites is his Restoration Balm. I worked some of the Balm into the finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let it sit for a short time and buffed it off with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the pipe take on a rich glow. I set the finished bowl aside and turned to address the issues with the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks and nicks in the stem surface and button with clear super glue. I set it aside to cure. Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to smooth out the repairs and then a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. After the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry.  I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem with multiple coats of Carnauba Wax. I buffed the bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad until there was a rich shine then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This Butz Choquin Camargue Bent Billiard with a faux horn acrylic shank extension is a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out while hiding the repaired cracks. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful bent billiard that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be putting this beauty on the rebornpipes online store soon. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

Reclaiming a Mastercraft “Hand Made” Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

To date, I have completed the restoration of nine pipes from my “Mumbai Bonanza” lot. In this lot, I found one pipe that was pretty battered up and in a very sorry state. It reminded me of an “Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor” from my grandfather’s collection that I had restored some time back. Here is the link to the write up that was posted on rebornpipes.com; https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/12/reclaiming-a-yello-bole-imperial-carburator-vest-pipe/

If at that point in time I felt that the Imperial was in a bad shape, holding and looking at this Mastercraft pipe in my hand was gut wrenching to say the least!!!! Believe you me readers, every time I selected a pipe from the Mumbai lot to work on, the first pipe that I would always pick was this pipe!!!!! I was in love with the shape of the pipe, the feel in my hand (which are quite large by Asian standards), the grains peeking out at me from under all that grime, the heft …I could go on singing praises about this pipe. But in spite of all these eulogizing, I always ended up returning it to the box as a future project. Why? Well, the answer lay in the condition of the pipe and the colossal investment of time required restoring it. I knew that this project would test all that I had learned till date and then some more, without the certainties of the end result!! But now I decided to complete this project, however long it may take and whatever the end results.

For those readers who have missed out on my previous work, I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of  Charatan’s Belvedere, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The tenth pipe that I decided to work on from this find is a straight pot and is indicated in yellow colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the left side of the shank in a shield as Mastercraft in sentence form over HAND MADE in block capital letter. The right side of the shank is stamped in a straight line as AGED IMPORTED BRIAR in block capital letter. If at all there was any other stamping on the right side, it has been consigned to history due to severe damage further down the shank. The stem is apparently devoid of any logo stamp as I see it now. If at all there ever was a logo, it has completely worn out/ obliterated. Now coming to the research of this brand, which is my first, I referred to rebornpipes.com and as expected, Mr. Steve has extensively researched this pipe and has even posted some interesting old catalogs and hierarchy of the pipe lines from this brand. Here is the link;

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/23/a-mastercraft-pipe-lines-hierarchy/

I surfed further and found an interesting post on restoration of a Mastercraft Executive Choice by the master restorer himself, which amongst other details, included two photos from the 1969 RTDA Almanac which show a list of various MC pipe lines. The pipe currently on my work table is the very first one in the list and was the top most in MC hierarchy of pipe lines and also the most expensive of all MC pipes retailing for $ 10!!!!! Here is the link for the essay and I urge all readers to give it a read.

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/

Thus, I can now safely conclude that this pipe is from the late 1960s, had been a top-of-the-line product for MC and retailed as the most expensive pipe in its inventory!!!! Well, after this search, I feel the additional pressure in doing complete justice to this pipe to the best of my abilities and that I will have to up my game a notch higher.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
I really do not understand where I should start from, which damaged inch of the pipe I should describe first, let alone tackle and about which I am not even thinking at this point in time!!!!! But to finish, I have to make a beginning and let me just start with the chamber and the rim.

A thick layer of cake can be seen in the chamber. The rim top surface is covered in thick overflow of lava, okay; consider that as VERY thick, which has bubbled on to the rim top and further oozed over on to the stummel surface. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely (thankfully readers cannot see or hear me muttering silent prayers!). The less I speak about the edges of the rim, the better it will be for my morale. Every millimeter of the outer edge has been damaged by striking against table end by the previous steward, however I must thank the previous steward for ensuring an even all round damage…lol. The inner rim condition does not look too promising either! I suspect a charred rim in 7 o’clock direction (when held from the stem end) and is marked in red circle. However, once the cake has been removed, I shall be certain about the extent of this charring and any other damage (praying again, in fact I haven’t stopped praying since I began and unlikely to stop till I finish!). Another issue which I have noticed is that the briar in the heel around the draught hole has formed a valley of sort (marked by yellow arrows), probably caused due to repeated and rigorous thrusting of a pipe cleaner through and beyond the draught hole over the years. Why would you clean the mortise and airway in this fashion??The most significant damage is seen to the stummel. It appears that this pipe has seen active duty and has been extensively and actively used against Viet Cong by the previous steward with great success…..LOL!! Every inch of the stummel surface is peppered with a large number of deep scratches, dents and dings. The entire left side of the stummel has prominent nicks extending from the rim top right down to the foot of the bowl. There are deep road rash marks on the right side of the shank just below the stamping, extends over to the underside and towards the shank end and further extends over to the stem for about an inch from the tenon end towards the button end (marked in pastel blue circle). The damage to the shank end and stem is so perfectly aligned that it appears that the damage was sustained while the stem was attached to the shank. In short, the stummel has sustained massive damage over the years due to both, rough usage and subsequent careless storage. It is covered in oils, dirt and grime of all these years of smoking and subsequent uncared for storage. The stummel surface is sticky to the touch, giving the stummel a dull, lifeless and lackluster appearance. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely densely packed straight grains can be seen on the sides and shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The mortise is blocked with dried gunk, adversely affecting both the airflow and the seating of the tenon in to the mortise. The stem is also an equal disaster like the stummel with road rash marks on the right towards the tenon end. There is a round patch nearer to the button which appears to be a result of melting of the vulcanite. In all probability it had come in close contact with either a burning cigarette or some sort of a flame. It seems that the previous Steward used softie bit on his pipes as heavy oxidation can be seen where the bit was used. The bite zone, including the button edges shows dental compressions on both upper and lower surfaces. The button edges will have to be reconstructed and sharpened. The stem does not sit flush with the shank end and also the stem diameter around the road rash area has scrapped off resulting in a mismatch. This stem diameter will have to be rebuilt and I expect that once the mortise has been cleaned up, seating of the stem in the mortise would improve. The horizontal slot with a round center shows accumulated oils and tars. The stem surface shows signs of heavy oxidation. THE PROCESS
As decided during my initial appreciation of the condition of the pipe, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface and follow it up with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of the oxidation while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I cleaned out the tenon and the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, to revitalize the vulcanite and to have a fair idea of the progress made, I wiped the stem with a little Extra Virgin Olive oil. When I looked at the tenon end of the stem, I realized the right portion of the stem, as seen from above, was not as round as the left and would need a fill so as to bring it flush with the shank end. However, I would have to fine tune the sanding of the fills on both shank end as well as the stem simultaneously in order to achieve a perfect flush fit. The portion that would require a fill is marked in yellow.I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces, the side and lip and set it aside for curing over night. The mix was applied along the circumference of the tenon end stem which had been scrapped. I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel cleaning. With size 3 and 4 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. The walls of the chamber show a few heat lines, nothing serious, but they are present. These heat lines and the ridges on the bottom surface of the heel will be addressed later. This was followed by gently scraping away the lava overflow from the rim top surface with my fabricated knife. I cleaned the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The suspected charring that I had appreciated early on is now confirmed. The rim has thinned out considerably above the draught hole. The inner rim edge is also uneven. I shall be addressing these issues too subsequently.

I followed the cleaning of the chamber with the cleaning up of the shank, mortise and the air way. Using hard bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, I ran a few through the mortise. This moistened the hardened grungy depositions of all the oils and tars in the mortise. Thereafter, using my fabricated dental spatula, I scraped out all the accumulated oils and tars from the shank. The following picture hints at the degree of the grunge deposition that I was dealing with. I continued the mortise cleaning regime with shank brushes dipped in alcohol. However, the pipe cleaners continued to come out dirty and soiled unabated. This would need application of some serious cleaning process using salt and alcohol treatment.I rolled some cotton in to a wick and wound it around a pipe cleaner and inserted it inside the mortise up to and through the draught hole. Next, I packed some cotton in to the chamber and topped it with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and set it aside for the time being. About twenty minutes later, I topped it again with alcohol and set it aside overnight for the alcohol to draw out all the tars and oils from the chamber walls and the cotton to trap the drawn out gunk. I must clarify here that even though it is recommended to use ‘Kosher Salt’, plain cotton and alcohol works with exactly the same effectiveness, but at nearly ¼ the cost of Kosher Salt!! So, in case someone else is paying, go ahead with using Kosher salt, otherwise cotton and alcohol works just fine! By next day evening, the alcohol and cotton had fulfilled its intended task. I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise for a final clean and it came out……well, soiled black and dirty! The gunk and grime in this pipe was stubborn, indeed. I again went through the entire regime followed earlier to clean the mortise and was surprised to find the amount of grunge that was scraped out again. The crud that was extracted and the number of pipe cleaners used after the alcohol bath, as can be seen in the photographs, bears testimony to the extent of apathy the pipe was subjected to by the previous steward. I followed up the internal cleaning with external refreshing of the stummel surface. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel and the rim top to remove the overflow of lava from these surfaces. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks clean, but the road rash, dents and dings to the stummel and rim edges/ top now stands out prominently. I followed it up with sanding the entire stummel with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This serves three purposes; firstly, it removes all the stubborn dust and grime from the surface, secondly, it evens out, to a great extent, any minor dents and dings from the surface and thirdly, it provides a smooth and clean surface for intended fills. With the road rash evened out to the extent possible, I repaired the road rash with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue. I always over fill the holes/ surfaces so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I also build up the shank end, which was damaged due to the road rash, with this mix. I set the stummel aside to cure.Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way), I attached the stem to the shank end carefully aligning the stem fill with that of the shank end fill. I sand the entire stummel surface and the stem using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper and matched the shank end with the stem fill. Once I had achieved a match, I detach the stem from the shank end. On close observation, I found that the shank end repairs had several tiny air pockets. I again filled up these air pockets with clear superglue and set it aside for curing, while I worked the stem. Using a flat head needle file, I reshaped the button and follow it up by further sanding the stem with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 girt pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface. With the stem repairs completed, I turn my attention back to the stummel repairs. The second fill to the road rash portion had cured and I sand it with a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper. However, I realized that the air pockets were still visible. I discussed this with my mentor, Mr. Steve, who suggested that I should first go through the micromesh polishing cycle and then decide if a refill is required or otherwise. With this advise, I move ahead to complete the stummel repairs. I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents and dings and also to reduce the charred rim surface. I addressed the out of round inner edge and the dents and dings to the outer rim edge by creating a bevel on both these edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. The numerous scratches, dents and dings to the stummel surface was beginning to concern me as it was a conflict between my innate desire not to lose briar through sanding and the necessity to do just that if I desired to completely rid the stummel of all these evidences of its past and thin out the walls in the process. Readers, believe you me, these damages were deeper than you normally expect. I shall take a fresh call on this issue after I am through with the micromesh polish cycle.

However, no sooner than I was through with wet sanding using 1500 to 2400 grit micromesh pads, the air pockets in the fill to the road rash stood out like sore thumb. I repeated the process of freshly filling it with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust. I set the stummel aside for the fill to cure.After the fill had cured sufficiently, I sand and match the fill with rest of the surface using a 220 grit sand paper. This was followed by polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wipe the surface with a moist cloth to remove the resulting dust. The stummel, at this stage, looks absolutely stunning with beautiful straight grain popping out from every inch. The dents, dings and scratches, though visible, are no longer an eye sore. In fact, it lends the pipe an aura of being a survivor and invincible. I decide to let the marks be! Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful straight grains on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. The only stummel issue that needs to be addressed is that of the ridges at the heel near the draught hole. The first thing I do is insert Vaseline smeared folded pipe cleaner in to the mortise right up to the draught hole and slightly beyond. This prevents the draught hole from getting clogged. I begin by wiping the heel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it. I make a mix of the two components of JB weld; hardener and steel in equal measures. The mix remains pliable for 6 minutes, which is adequate to spread it evenly and fill the worn out heel surface. I also covered the indentation formed on the front wall. Once I had achieved a satisfactory spread, I set the stummel aside for 4-6 hours for the weld to cure. The weld has hardened and I sand the fill to a nice smooth and even surface with a 180 grit sand paper. It was not an easy task as I had to do it manually with the sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. But I managed with satisfactory results. I shall be coating the inner walls of the chamber with a mix of activated charcoal and yogurt. This will not only help in faster build up of the cake but also isolates the weld from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this handsome pipe could share the secret of its past life with all of us… if only!! Cheers.

PS: After I was done with all the polishing and buffing, I gave the walls of the chamber, a nice and even coat of activated charcoal and yogurt. I am very happy that this pipe has gone to a war veteran Officer who loved the scars and the grains on this pipe, not to mention my figment of imagination that this pipe appears to have seen action against the Viet Cong and survived!! It was at his request that I did not stain this pipe to mask the fills. This fighter has indeed come a long way as can be seen from the pictures below.

 

A Simple Refurbishing of a Bari “Matador”


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

During one of the many crib sessions with my mentor, Mr. Steve, I lamented on a couple of failed deals when he suggested me a couple of sellers on eBay with whom he has been dealing without any problems. I tried them out and they have delivered every time spot on!!!! From one of the sellers I had purchased this beautiful and nicely shaped Free Hand pipe. Now, to be honest, I am always fascinated by “Free Hand” pipes. I feel these freehand shapes let the creativity and imaginations of a carver run riot without the bindings of the exacting demands of a classical shape and finish and he has the freedom to allow the grain to dictate the shape of the pipe.

This beautiful free hand pipe has a very interesting shape and I think the following pictures will do more justice rather than my SORRY attempt at its description. The plateau rim top and shank end add a unique dimension to the overall appearance of this pipe. The left side of the stummel is sandblasted with beautiful wavy pattern of straight and cross grains and is the mirror image of the smooth surface on the right side of the stummel. The short shank is smooth surfaced and bears the stamping on the left side. It is stamped as “BARI” over “MATADOR” like a football over “HANDMADE” over “IN DENMARK”. The fancy vulcanite stem is devoid of any logo. I searched the net for information about this brand and its creator. I first turned to pipedia.org and learned that “Bari Piber was founded by Viggo Nielsen in Kolding around the turn of 1950/51. Viggo’s sons Kai Nielsen and Jørgen Nielsen both grew into their father’s business from a very young age and worked there till 1975. Bari had very successfully adapted the new Danish design that had been started mainly by Stanwell for its own models. When Viggo Nielsen sold Bari in 1978 to Van Eicken Tobaccos in Hamburg Bari counted 33 employees”, detailed read is available at this link; https://pipedia.org/wiki/Bari

I further searched other sites, including my go to site, rebornpipes.com, to know about this particular “MATADOR” series, including dating of this model. However, there is no mention of this particular line of BARI pipes. I hope some of the learned and experienced readers would be kind to share their knowledge with me and other readers.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel is covered in dust, oils and grime giving a dull and lackluster appearance to the bowl. The sandblast rustications on the left of the stummel are, likewise, filled with dust, dirt and grime. This will need to be thoroughly cleaned. The plateau rim top and shank end too, are covered in dust, grime and lava overflow. The chamber tapers down towards the draught hole. This will pose a challenge cleaning the heel of the chamber due to the difficult reach. The cake appears to be evenly thick. The plateau rim top is covered with overflow of lava. The inner rim edge is crisp, even and intact. The chamber has a nice smell to it and is dry to the touch. The inner wall condition of the chamber will be ascertained once the chamber has been completely reamed. However, I foresee no issues at all as the bowl feels solid to the touch.The fancy stem is oxidized and came with a rubber bit. With some trepidation, I removed the rubber bit and was pleasantly surprised to find a pristine bite zone and crisp, sharp and well defined lip edges. Since there are no logo stamped on the stem surface, cleaning it should be a breeze.The shank, mortise and the airway is clogged and will only need to be cleaned and sanitized.THE PROCESS
The first step that I usually follow is the reaming of the bowl. I worked on the stummel, reaming out the cake with a Kleen Reem reamer, followed by a pipe reaming knife that I had fabricated. I brought the cake down to the bare briar. To further remove any traces of old cake and smooth the inner walls of the chamber, I sanded the inner wall surface with a 220 grit sand paper. The large mound of cake that was reamed out from the bowl far exceeded my appreciation regarding the quantity of cake in the chamber. The walls of the chamber were solid as expected; however, the old smells were still strong. I followed the reaming of the chamber with cleaning of the mortise. Using hard and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, I cleaned out the mortise and shank air way. With my fabricated spatula, I scrubbed out all the dried crud and gunk from the mortise. The amount of gunk that was scraped out from the mortise really surprised me. A number of pipe cleaners later and after a lot of scraping, the mortise is finally clean.The pipe smelled of old aromatics and even with the bowl and shank clean the smell was present. I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls and used a syringe to fill it with isopropyl alcohol. I have found that cotton balls work as well as Kosher salt does and it is not as messy. I put a cotton swab wound around a bent pipe cleaner in the shank up to the entrance of the airway into the bowl as it wicks alcohol into the shank and draws out the oils in that area. I put the pipe bowl upright in a “katori” filled with rice grains and let it sit over night to let it do its magic. The second photo shows the cotton balls, discolored with the oils after sitting overnight. Once I removed the cotton balls I scrubbed out the shank and airway with pipe cleaners and paper napkins to remove any remnants of alcohol left behind.While the stummel was air drying, I worked the stem. I started with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. This was followed by sanding with 400 and 800 grit sand papers. This reduces the scratches left behind by the coarser 220 grit paper. I sharpened and refreshed the button with a folded 220 grit paper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rub a small quantity of EVO oil and set the stem aside. Next, I cleaned the external surface of the stummel with a hard bristled toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil soap. Very diligently, I scrubbed the plateau rim top and shank end to remove the entire dust and lava overflow embedded in the crevices of the plateau. Once the stummel was dried with paper napkins, I was not satisfied with the cleaning of the rim top and shank end plateau surface. Using a brass wired brush, I thoroughly scrubbed the plateau rim top and shank end. I was pleased with the way these surfaces appeared after this clean up. To bring a rich luster and highlight the beautiful straight grains on the smooth bowl and shank surfaces, I subjected these surfaces to a polish with micromesh pads. I wet sanded the surface with 1500 to 3200 grit pads and dry sanded with the remaining micromesh pads. The stummel looks really beautiful at this stage of refurbishing the pipe. I rubbed some “Before and After Restoration” balm deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. This balm helps in rejuvenating and protecting the briar wood. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!!! The straight grains can now be clearly appreciated. I let the balm be absorbed by the briar for about 15-20 minutes and then buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush. The bowl now looks fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. This one shall be added to my modest collection of free hand pipes. Thank you for your valuable time spent in reading this chronicle of my journey.

Recommissioning an Interesting Trent Lev-O-Lator Bent Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

This interesting Trent Lev-O-Lator came to me in a lot from Craig’s list.  One of the great things about friends and family knowing that I restore pipes for the Daughters of Bulgaria is that I have eyes all over the world watching for pipes!  Jon, a colleague working in the same organization, was in the US for a time of furlough after working in Ukraine and was in the Philadelphia area.  This lot of several pipes came up on Craig’s List in his locality and he sent me an email concerning them.  He went to look at them and gave me some descriptions, and many of the pipes were beyond a state of being restored, but for the price being asked, the remaining pipes would make it worthwhile.  Here is picture of the Craig’s List Lot that Jon acquired for me.  As a bonus, the pipe racks would be nice to have here in Bulgaria!They finally made it to Bulgaria where I sorted them and posted many of them online in my For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection where pipe men and women can commission a pipe to be restored that ‘speaks’ to them.  Andy has commissioned pipes before and is a return patron of The Pipe Steward.  Before my wife and I moved to Europe with our family over 25 years ago, Andy and his wife, were part of a church in Maryland that I helped start.  Previously, I restored a very nice Monarch Pat. 1989069 – 1074H Bent Ball for Andy as well as create a Churchwarden from a repurposed bowl and had fun with the write-up calling it, Fashioning a Churchwarden from a Forlorn, Throw away Billiard – a story of the Phoenix.  Andy returned to the ‘Dreamers!’ collection and another pipe spoke to him, a Trent Lev-O-Lator, part of the Craig’s List Lot from Jon.  Here are pictures of the pipe that got Andy’s attention. The nomenclature stamped on the left flank of the shank is ‘TRENT’ [over] ‘LEV-O-LATOR’.  The right side of the shank is stamped ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’ [over] ‘SERIAL 49W-5’.I had never seen this name on a pipe, and I had no idea was a ‘Lev-O-Lator’ was.  My first queries to Pipedia and Pipephil.eu, my regular first stops for information and research, came up empty.  A quick look in my copy of ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ by Wilczak & Colwell, also came up empty.  When I searched more broadly in Google, I came up with two helpful threads.  The first was from Pipes Magazine Forums where another person was asking the same question in 2015 – had anyone any information about a pipe marked ‘Trent Lev-O-Lator’?  He had acquired a Zulu with this nomenclature and was hoping to understand better its provenance.  One helpful response in the thread from ‘eJames’ started to build a road map:

Bruce Peters pipes (and a couple of others) were made by HLT for the Penn Tobacco Co. If this is a Bruce Peters it was most likely made before HLT bought Grabow, probably in the 1940’s.

Taking this information, I returned to Pipedia and found ‘Bruce Peters’ listed among American pipe makers:To understand more about the Henry Leonard & Thomas Inc., I look at the Pipedia article about HLT:

Henry Leonard & Thomas, Inc. (HLT) was founded in Ozone Park, Queens, New York by Henry J. Lavietes and two partners on May 31, 1938. The company patented a stem design for pipes and cigarette holders designed by Henry on March 9, 1943. Henry was the son of David Lavietes, who moved to Sparta, North Carolina in the early 1940s to purchase laurel and rhododendron burl to ship back to his son and HLT. Lavietes decided to stay in Sparta and founded the D&P Pipe Works with his other son Paul, originally as a 15-person operation. David Lavietes was the inventor of the Ajustomatic feature incorporated into Dr. Grabow pipes even today.

There is no mention of “Trent” or “Lev-O-Lator” but there is mention above of David Lavietes’ invention called the ‘Ajustomatic’ which later became a feature of Dr. Grabow pipes when in 1953 (same article) HLT acquired Dr. Grabow.  In the same article, the Popular Mechanics advertisement (LEFT – Courtesy of Doug Valitchka) describes the ‘Ajustomatic’ technology which looks much like the Lev-O-Later.  Here is the text enlarged:I continue to search for more leads and I find one additional thread that shed more light on the path.  This time the thread was from Tapatalk.com, in the “Dr. Grabow Pipes” Thread.  The thread started in 2017 when ‘SpadeFan’ asked:

Found this nice 86 from HL&T stamped BRUCE PETERS and LEV-O-LATOR.  Anyone know what the term LEV-O-LATOR means? Sound like I should plug it in and make coffee or something.Responses in this thread speculated that the ‘Ajustomatic’ and ‘Lev-O-Lator’ were one and the same:

JoeMan: That fitment sure looks a lot like an ajusto…and the cleaner may be identical to that of a Van Roy…and that logo looks a LOT like the Van Roy logo too.  I wonder if it’s a Van Roy production pipe which was then branded as a Bruce Peters.  If so…and if it is Ajusto…then I bet Lev-o-lator is their fancy name for the ajusto function.  

Pipesbywhitney:  I sold one a while back and here are my notes on it; This is a Trent Lev-O-Lator “Serial 49W-5” longer stem pear also stamped “Imported Briar.”  I can find no provenance for Trent pipes but the Import Briar stamping tells us it was most likely American made. The Lev-O-Lator system seems to be a metal drinkless mechanism attached to the tenon similar to many used in various American pipes during the mid-20th Century. I can find a Trend pipe similar to this one made around the same time by the Wm. Demuth Co. in New York so there could be a connect.I could find no additional information specifically placing the ‘Trent’ name in a time-line, but what I can deduce is that the ‘Trent Lev-O-Lator’ is the same ‘Ajustomatic’ internal technology that is traced back to before Dr. Grabow was acquired by HLT in 1953.  Without any specific reference to ‘Trent’, it’s difficult to say much more with certainty.  The Trent Lev-O-Lator on my worktable has the feel of being dated from the 40s to the 60s but this is only speculation.  I would need to find the Trent in a catalog to place it more specifically.Looking at the pipe itself, it’s a very nice half-bent Billiard.  The chamber has some thick cake build-up with the rim showing thick lava flow.  The rim also has two dents on the forward and rear internal edge. The stummel is darkened from grime and age.  I can see a few fills and dents on the briar surface which will require some work.  The stem has oxidation, which is moderate, but the good news is that the bit has little tooth chatter.

True confession is good for the soul: The research that I have just completed examining the ‘Ajustomatic’ technology was done AFTER I started working on the restoration!  With my practice of putting a batch of stems in the Before & After Deoxidizer soak to remove oxidation, I started on this before doing the research.  Unfortunately, I did not realize that the tip of the ‘Lev-O-Lator’ would come off.  This fitment serves as an air regulator which is cool.  Without realizing that it would come off making my attempt to clean the airway with a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% much easier, I decided to remove it.  The shank ring was already loose, and I felt I could remount the metal ‘stinger’ the same way I took it off.I heated the entire metal tenon with a Bic lighter.  After it heated up, I wrapped a cotton pad around the tenon and gently applied a little torque with a pair of plyers and voila!  The vulcanite loosened its grip and the Lev-O-Lator came out.  I still didn’t realize the end regulator could be removed.Along with other pipes in queue, I clean the Trent’s stem with pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% before placing the stems in the soak with Before & After Deoxidizer. After some hours, I fish the Trent’s stem out of the Deoxidizer and let it drain. I then use a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to wipe off the oxidation that had surfaced.  I also work on the cavity of the vacated metal Lev-O-Lator with cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95% as well with pipe cleaners clearing the airway of the Deoxidizer.I then apply paraffin oil, a mineral oil, to the stem to begin the revitalization of the vulcanite.Now, with an understanding of the research I did previously, I remove the air adjustor of the Lev-O-Lator after I reheat the tenon, insert it into the cavity and then screw the stem to the right to tighten it in the mortise.  When it tightens, I’m able to continue rotating the stem to the right because the metal is still hot.  I rotate the stem clockwise until aligned and then let it cool. The ajusto air regulator is totally clogged with what looks like mud.  I use a dental probe to clean it and wipe it down with a cotton pad and alcohol.I apply a few drops of CA glue to the inside facing of the shank ring and attach it to the stem.  This should hold it in place.Next, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit and starting with the smallest blade I go to work on the thick cake.  This was the hardest cake build up I think I’ve experienced in any of my previous restorations!  Oh my, it took a good bit of time for the smallest blade head to work through the brick hard cake.  I was careful not to force the blade too aggressively for fear of breaking the blade head.  The blade head finally broke through to the floor of the chamber and I switch to the next larger blade.  I use only 2 blade heads of the 4 available in the Kit and then transition to scraping the chamber using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool which fine tunes reaching to the areas that the blades would not.  Finally, I sand the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and then clean the chamber using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  After completing the chamber inspection, I detect some small heating cracks running on the chamber wall.  To remedy this, later I’ll coat the chamber wall with pipe mud to provide a layer that will help restart a healthy protective cake.Next, to clean the external surface and work on the lava flow over the rim, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap on a cotton pad.  I also use a brass wire brush to work on the thick lava flow on the rim.  The grime is thick, and the rim does a good job coming clean, but it’s in pretty rough shape.  I take some pictures to inventory the issues I see on the bowl and rim.  The rim is beat up.  There are divots out of the briar on opposite sides of the rim.  The outer edge of the rim is also dinged and skinned.There are several old fills that are soft and drawn up.  Often this happens after the cleaning and the stummel is wet. I move methodically to each of the fills and excavate the old fill material using a sharp dental probe. To fill these holes, I use briar dust mixed with a thick CA glue.  I put a small mound of briar dust on an index card and I put some CA glue next to the mound.  Using a toothpick, I gradually pull briar dust into the CA glue mixing as I do.  I continue to create the putty until it reaches the thickness of molasses and then I apply small amounts of the briar dust putty to each of the holes including on the rim.  After doing this, I set the stummel aside allowing the patches to cure. Now, turning to the stem, I take some additional pictures to get a closer look.  The upper and lower bit has very little tooth chatter and the button is in relatively good shape.  What stands out about the stem is the very rough surface that remains over the entire stem after the soaking in the Before & After Deoxidizer. To remove any remaining oxidation and to address the rough surface texture, I sand using 240 grade paper.  I also focus on the sharpening and freshening the button area.I then transition to the sink with 600 grade paper and wet sand the entire surface.  Well, during this process, the shank ring that I had attached with CA glue popped off and went down the drain.  Fortunately, after immediately turning off the water, I was able to unattach the trap underneath the sink and retrieve the ring!  I follow wet sanding using 000 grade steel wool.  The stem looks great.On a roll with the stem, I apply the full regimen of micromesh pads to the stem.  First, I wet sand with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, I apply Obsidian Oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite and record that phase with a picture to show that newly polished vulcanite pop!  I then put the stem aside allowing it to dry. With the stem on the sidelines, I look back to the stummel.  The briar dust putty filling the several holes on the rim and stummel surface has cured.  I begin to file each fill mound down with a flat needle file – bringing the mounds down almost to flush with the briar surface.After the filing is complete, I transition to sanding each fill site with 240 grade paper to bring the patches flush with the briar surface and removing all the excess fill material. My normal process order is a little out of order but the grime on the inside of the mortise and airway is patiently waiting.  Using many cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%, I attack the internals.  I also employ the full arsenal of dental probes, spoons and shank brushes.  At the end of the carnage pictured below, I have yet to come to a place of declaring the internals clean enough to satisfy me. With the frontal assault paused, I use the slower, more passive approach to continue the cleaning through the night.  Using kosher salt and isopropyl 95% I let it soak and work on the internals.  I first pull and twist a cotton ball to form a wick that I stuff down the mortise and airway with the help of a stiff wire.  The cotton wick serves to draw out the tars and oils.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and set the stummel in an egg crate to stabilize it.  I then fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  I wait a few minutes as the alcohol recedes and then top it off once more.  I set the stummel aside to soak.The next morning, the salt is not soiled in a great way, but the wick is what is what I want to see.I follow again with a renewed frontal attack using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with alcohol as well as additional scraping the mortise walls with a dental spoon.  Eventually, the buds start surfacing lighter and I call it, ‘Cleaned!’ and move on.With the internals clean, I now focus on the external surface restoration.  I start from the top with the rim by topping the rim using 240 grade sanding paper on the chopping board.  With the damage on the rim, and the briar dust fills on the rim, the topping will give the rim a fresh start with new lines and surface.The half-bent shank reach extends beyond the parallel plane of the rim, so I need to hang the shank over the edge of the board while I top.  With the stummel inverted on the 240 grade paper, I do a tight rotation of the stummel on the corner of the topping board.  I check after a few rotations until it looks clean.I then switch the 240 grade paper with 600 grade paper and rotate the stummel several more times.  I like what I see. Even after the topping, there remains some roughness on the external edge of the rim.  The former divots in the internal rim edge are all but gone, but there are still some slight indents where the briar dust patches are. To remedy this, I create an internal rim bevel.  I start on the internal rim edge using a coarse rolled piece of 120 paper to cut the initial bevel.  I follow this by using 240 and 600 grade papers tightly rolled.  My method of creating the bevel is to pinch the paper against the internal rim edge with my thumb pressing the paper while my index finger puts consistent counter pressure on the external side of the rim and then rotate consistently around the circumference of the rim.  This usually provides a consistent result. I do the same with the external rim edge, but not with the same intent of creating a bevel.  My goal is simply to clean the rim as much as needed.  The result is not only to clean the rim, but to soften the rim presentation. With the rim repair and initial sanding complete, I use sanding sponges for the next phase.  I use coarse, then medium and light grade sponges in that order.  I’m careful to guard the nomenclature during the sanding phases. After completing the sponge sanding, I go directly to sanding with the full regimen of micromesh pads.  I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 then follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I love the way the grain emerges during the micromesh process. I now reach a decision point which is not in limbo too long.  I decide to apply a darker brown dye to the Trent stummel primarily to aid in masking the fills which are dark on the briar landscape.  I will use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with the flexibility to lighten the aniline dye if I choose. I assemble my desktop staining tools with the Dark Brown Leather Dye in a shot glass to apply with a bent over pipe cleaner.  I begin by wiping the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean.  I then warm the stummel using a hot air gun.  This heats the briar and expands the grain allowing the dye pigment to have a better reception.When heated, I use the pipe cleaner applicator to paint the stummel with the Dark Brown Leather Dye in sections and then with each painted section I flame the wet aniline dye with the lit candle.  This immediately combusts the alcohol in the dye which flames off with a ‘poof’ and the dye pigment sets in the grain.  I do this methodically around the stummel until the entire stummel is thoroughly covered with the fire crusted dye.  When it’s completed, I set the stummel aside for at least 6 hours to allow the new dye to settle.  This ‘rest’ helps guard against the dye later coming off on the steward’s hands after the first few uses of the pipe when the stummel is heated.  I put the stummel aside and wait.After several hours, I’m ready to unwrap the fired stummel.I mount the felt cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed at the lowest RPMs.  This is to reduce the heat generated by the coarser felt wheel as I apply the coarser Tripoli compound.With my wife’s assistance, she takes a few pictures as I ‘unwrap’ the stummel revealing the results of applying Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel.  After completing the first round applying Tripoli compound with the felt buffing wheel, I change to a cotton cloth buffing wheel and increase the speed to about 40% full power.  I again apply Tripoli using the cotton cloth wheel which can reach into the crook of the bowl and shank which is not possible with the felt wheel.  After doing this, I go over the entire stummel once more with the cotton cloth wheel using Tripoli compound. This pass using the cotton cloth wheel sharpens the grain lines – making them very distinctive and almost seeming to be luminescent. After completing the application of Tripoli compound, I wipe the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol not so much to lighten it, because I like the dark shade of the briar, but to blend the new dye and to dissipate possible dye clumps that collected on the surface.After reuniting the Trent stummel and stem once more, I mount the Dremel with another cotton cloth pad, maintaining 40% full power, and apply the finer Blue Diamond compound to the pipe – stem and stummel.  When finished, I buff the pipe with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust from the surface.  Before applying the wax, I have one project left to accomplish.  Earlier I noted that there were some heating cracks in the chamber which were not severe enough to warrant the use of J-B Weld but could be addressed though applying a pipe mud. Pipe mud is the mixture of cigar ash and water to form a ‘mud’ that provides a hard, protective coating over the chamber walls and serves as a starter layer to develop a healthy dime width protective cake.  With gratitude to my colleague, Gary, living in the nearby city of Plovdiv, I have cigar ash that he provides me periodically from his passion of smoking Romeo cigars.  I clean the ash through a sifter and it works very well.I mix small amounts of ash and water until I get a mud-like texture.  After putting a pipe cleaner in the airway to block the draft hole from closing, I use a small dental spoon to scoop the mud and deposit it on the chamber wall.  I also use the spoon to spread the mud so that it disperses evenly. After applying the pipe mud, I set the stummel in an egg carton and let the mud dry and harden through the night. The next morning, the mud transformed into the hardened protective layer as hoped.  If Andy is the next steward of this Trent, he should know not to use a metal tool to clean the chamber during the initial stages of use.  After using the pipe, stir the resulting ash carefully and after dumping it, take a folded over pipe cleaner and rub the chamber wall to loosen the debris.  This avoids scraping the new protective layer which will help encourage a new protective cake to develop.Now the homestretch.  I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, maintain about 40% full power speed, and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the Trent Lev-O-Lator Bent Billiard – stem and stummel.  After application of the wax, I give the pipe a hearty hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to disperse any collected wax and to raise the shine.

When I started this restoration, I had never heard of the ‘Lev-O-Lator’ adjustment fitment.  It would be interesting to play with the movable adjuster valve to see what the difference in the experience would be.  The grain on the Trent half-bent Billiard came out very well with the thick, dark grains masking well the fill repairs.  I did not re-glue the shank ring in place – I will leave that to the new steward to determine according to his preferences.  Andy commissioned this Trent Lev-O-Lator Half Bent Billiard from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and will have the first opportunity to acquire it at The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria among women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you for joining me!

 

 

The Final Restoration while in Pune, India – a no name Cavalier


Blog by Steve Laug, Jeff Laug, Paresh, Abha and Pavni Deshpande

The final restoration project with Paresh and his family was this tired and worn Cavalier pipe. When we looked at it together we were all pretty certain that it was never going to amount to much no matter how much we worked on it. We purposely saved this pipe to the end of the visit to use it to pull together all that we had learned over the week together. The only sad part of the restoration was that Dal Stanton had already left to go back to Bulgaria. It was yet another East and West adventure in pipe restoration. As I mentioned in the previous blog on the Preben Holm, my brother Jeff and I had traveled to Pune, India where we met Dal Stanton of Pipe Steward and had an incredible visit with Paresh Deshpande, his wife Abha and his daughters Mudra and Pavni. With that cast of players – from the US, Canada, Bulgaria and India it was a special and memorable week of fellowship and pipe restoration. Each of us (minus Dal) played a role in this restoration. I will try to include the contribution of each in the story as it unfolds.

Lest you might think that all we did was work on pipes, I must remind you you that while staying in Pune we enjoyed the sights of the city, fellowship and great food along with working on pipes together even after Dal left. Paresh and his family did a magnificent job of hosting the event and making us all feel like we were part of his family. The hospitality, the amazing food provided by Abha and the joy and laughter of Mudra and Pavni were all part of making this an unforgettable visit. In the next weeks there will be several blogs written about the pipes that we worked on. Dal is working on a blog about the restoration of a BBB bent billiard that had belonged to Paresh’s grandfather that was a real group effort. Both Paresh and I will also be posting blogs on some of the other pipes that we worked on together including meerschaums and briars. We thoroughly enjoyed the time together while smoking our pipes and sharing beer and scotch to celebrate each restoration and to close each day. We exchanged tips and processes that we used. It was a time of sharing and learning for all of us.

The blog I am writing now was on the restoration of a worn and tired Cavalier that came from Paresh’s Grandfather’s collection. Like the rest of the pipes in his Grandfather’s collection the pipe was very dirty but to me it showed some promise. I had never seen a pipe like this with detachable briar parts, a metal shank and a horn stem. It was an interesting piece that showed an interesting grain under the grime. The stain colour was a contrast of browns and the brass band on the top of the shank was a nice addition. The rim top was almost destroyed. There were cracks and a portion of the top was burned away. The bowl was out of round and had a thick cake. The inner and outer edge of the bowl showed the damage of burning and poor reaming. The exterior of the bowl and shank showed a lot of wear and dirt. There was a metal tube pinched on between the bowl and the upright shank. It was hard to know what the tube was and if it matched the brass band. There was also a bone ball cap on the end of the shank in front of the bowl that was worn but still whole. The horn stem had some tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside and some wear on the button edge but otherwise it should clean up nicely. Paresh, Abha, Pavni and Jeff and I all turned the pipe over in our hands wondering what we were going to do with it. It needed a lot of work and would never be flawless. But we decided to go ahead with the restoration anyway and see what we would get. We took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show the parts and the condition. I took a photo of the top of the bowl to capture the damage to the rim top and the cracks in the bowl radiating down the sides. I took photos of the shank extension and the horn stem on the end to show its condition as well. The shank extension and stem were in decent condition so that was a blessing to be thankful for at this point in the process. I took photos of the sides of the bowl to show the cracks that surrounded the pipe – both width and depth. We took the pipe apart and took photos of all of the parts. It later became clear that the cap on the bottom of the shank also was removable but at this point it was solidly in place and could not be removed.I started the cleanup process by topping the bowl on this old timer before Paresh and his family arrived at the apartment for the day. I topped it on topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I scrubbed the exterior of bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad to remove the grime. I rinsed it off with warm water to remove the soap and grime. About that time Paresh and his family arrived for the day’s work. He and Abha looked the bowl over and Pavni agreed to sand it out on the inside. But before any of that could happen we needed to drill small holes at the end of each crack. Paresh used his magnifying glass and a black permanent marker to put spots on the end of each of the holes. These would guide us as we drilled each of them. It turned out that each crack had several branches radiating from them and would require a lot of drilling. After marking each crack Paresh drilled a small hole in the end of each one. I wiped the holes down with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove the debris. We filled in each of the holes and the cracks with clear super glue and briar dust. We packed the glue into the holes, repeated the glue and added more dust as necessary to build up the repairs. When the repaired areas had dried I used a needle file to smooth out the repair and blend it into the surface of the briar. I sanded the repaired areas with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to further blend them into the surface of the surrounding briar. Overall the patches and repairs were looking pretty good. I was surprised by how good the pipe looked.

While I was working on the bowl Paresh addressed the issues with the stem. He cleaned the interior with pipe cleaners and alcohol and scraped the buildup on the stem surface with the blade of an exacto knife. He cleaned up the straight edges of the button with a needle file and reshaped the surface of the button at the same time. He followed that by sanding it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the file marks. He filled in the deep tooth marks on the stem surface and on the button top with clear super glue. When the repair had dried he sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out. While Paresh was working on the stem, I finished the repairs and sanding on the bowl. Then I turned my attention to the shank piece. I cleaned it out with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I wiped down the outside of the shank with Murphy’s on cotton pads. I finished this section about the same time that he finished the stem work.I worked on that and simultaneously to Paresh and my work, Jeff was working on the shank portion. He scrubbed the briar and the metal with oil soap. He worked over the metal shank piece with 0000 steel wool and we were all surprised with the copper that was under the oxidation. The shank band was also loose so he cleaned that as well. It was brass. Abha and Jeff went to work on cleaning the inside of the parts of the shank. Many pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol later the interior was pretty clean. They tried to remove the knob at the end of the shank but it did not come loose at all. No matter how much they worked on it the knob was still tightly in place.Paresh decided to give the knob a try. He painted the edges around the know with alcohol and scraped the crud that was built up around the joint between the two parts. He kept at it and then low and behold the knob turned and came off in his hands. What was revealed was a lot more of the crud that Jeff and Abha had been removing. Abha cleaned out the inside of the cap and the threads with cotton swabs and alcohol. Once the inside was cleaned and the threads were cleaned they were able to finish cleaning out the inside of the shank.I put the shank pieces together and glued the clean brass band on the top of the shank. The pipe shank and parts were looking pretty good at this point. There was still a lot of polishing to go but the  Cavalier was going to look very good. We took the pipe apart and began the process of polishing the briar and stem. I worked on the shank and stem. For ease of sanding I put the stem on the shank and  polished the stem and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down with a cloth after each pad. Paresh carefully reamed the bowl with a Castleford Reamer. We worried as he turned the cutting heads that the bowl would split but all remained intact as he cleaned it out. Pavni polished the inside of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls and give them a shine. Paresh polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. He wiped it down with a cloth after each set of pads. The photos show the growing shine of  the bowl. I polished the cleaned knob with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. Paresh polished the shank  parts with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with  1500-12000 grit pads. The briar began to come alive again. With all the parts polished it was time to take the next step. We rubbed down all of the parts with Before & After Restoration Balm. We buffed it by hand with a microfibre cloth. We put all the polished and “balmed” pieces together on a background and showed what the pipe looked like now.We put the pieces back together and took photos of the pipe at this point. We called it a day and Paresh took the pipe home with him. He wanted to polish it and wax it with his Dremel. He buffed it with White Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. When he brought it back the next morning it was a beauty. We took pictures of the finished pipe to show its beauty. The pipe really looked more alive, with the grain popping through. We decided not to stain it but left it as it stood after using the balm. The polished wax made the grain stand out. What started out as a possibility now became a reality. Paresh could now smoke and enjoy both the history of the pipe and carry on its legacy. The photos below tell the story. Thanks for looking.

Rebuilding a Button to Recommission an Aristocrat London Made – Made in England 1077


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this very stately looking Aristocrat trolling through offerings on eBay.  I liked it immediately because of its large rusticated bowl and the nice half bent Billiard presence.  It needed some work which was good for me – a broken off button and deep oxidation – factors that would discourage many from taking a second look.  When the auction ended, the price was a good one and I had the highest bid.  Another great pipe to restore to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I was in the US when I landed this hefty rusticated Billiard and it was in the suitcase in the Lufthansa cargo hold on its way back to Bulgaria with me.As with all the pipes available in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection, I take additional pictures for stewards looking to commission a pipe.  When Andrew reached out to me, he indicated interest in the Aristocrat but also in the Bearded Sailor Carved pipe I had then.  He had served in the Navy for 17 years and the old sailor caught his attention.  Unfortunately, the Carved Bearded Sailor was already commissioned for another pipe man.  I appreciate the service that Andrew has given in serving his country, and I mentioned to him that my son had also served as a submariner in the Navy, on the USS Boise. I appreciated his reply when I asked him for patience waiting for the Aristocrat to reach the work table.  Here’s what he wrote:

Dal, 

As the Grandson of a hobbyist wildlife painter I fully understand the time required to do something like this.  I would love this pipe and would like to commission too this pipe.  Thank you for keeping me in mind about the bearded sailor and thank your son for his service.

Andrew 

Here are some of the pictures Andrew saw of the Aristocrat London Made that I used from the original seller: The pipe has a large presence and I take out my ruler and take the measurements: Length: 5 15/16 inches, Height: 2 inches, Rim width: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber width: 3/4 inches, Chamber depth: 1 13/16 inches.  The nomenclature stamped on the lower shank smooth panel is thin. I take additional pictures of this from my worktable.  What is stamped is cursive ‘Aristocrat’ [over] LONDON MADE [over] MADE IN ENGLAND.  To the left of the nomenclature is a shape number: 1077 which undoubtedly points to the half-bent Billiard designation.The stem stamping is an ‘A’ set in a diamond frame.In search of the origins of the Aristocrat, I first look in my autographed copy of Herb Wilczak & Tom Colwell’s, “Who Made That Pipe?” dated 3/3/97.  Tom Colwell’s gifting of this book to “Bruce” is in April of 2001, concluding with his signature.  There were several listings for ‘Aristocrat’ but only two fell within the correct UK parameters:

John Redman/Kapp & Peterson – ENGL
Comoy’s / Harmon Bros. LTD – ENGL

Pipedia’s information narrowed the field by isolating the plain ‘A’ logo:

Pipedia’s entry for the John Redman Co. does not include much information.  I researched this company before as being the probable English manufacturer of pipes stamped with Boston’s Tobacconist Shop, L.J. Peretti name (see: A Christmas Gift in need of a stem splice – L J Peretti Squared Shank Billiard).  This restoration started a fun hobby of collecting L.J. Peretti pipes and selling many too!  Here is the information.

John Redman Ltd. and British Empire Pipe Co.

Other lines include Aristocrat, Buckingham, Buckingham Palace, Canberra, Captain Fortune, Dr John, Golden Square, Redonian, Richmond (not Sasieni), Twin Bore.

Former factory located at 3-11 Westland Place, Hackney, London N1 7LP

Pipephil’s entry solidified the John Redman Ltd. And British Empire Pipe Co., with the Aristocrat and the ‘A’ stem stamping.The dating of the Aristocrat on my table is difficult to determine, but it has an older feel to it and is set in a very traditional dark English style hue.  Looking at the pipe itself, there is a moderate amount of carbon cake buildup in the chamber which I will remove to examine the condition of the chamber walls.  The rusticated stummel is very attractive – the deep, distinct etching is nice, but there is grime and build up on the rim as well as in the stummel’s nooks and crannies.  The smooth briar panel holding the nomenclature on the shank’s underside is worn and the nomenclature is thin. There is a large scratch scarring the panel.  The panel’s scratches and nicks will be a challenge to clean without further eroding the stampings.  The stem has deep oxidation and the lower button has cracked off.  This will need to be rebuilt.  These pictures show some of these specific issues.I begin the restoration of this John Redman Aristocrat London Made, half-bent Billiard by cleaning the airway of the stem with a pipe cleaner wetting with isopropyl 95%.  I add the deeply oxidized stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems and pipes in the queue. After soaking for several hours, I fish out the Aristocrat’s stem and again clean the airway with a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the excess Deoxidizer. I use a cotton pad to wipe off the raised oxidation and the Deoxidizer has done a good job, but I still detect oxidation in the vulcanite.To begin revitalizing the stem, I apply paraffin oil, a mineral oil, and put it aside to dry.Next, I begin the process of cleaning the stummel. I start with reaming the chamber using the smallest blade head of the Pipnet Reaming Kit and moving to the larger blades. I put paper towel down to expedite the cleanup.  I use 2 of the 4 blades available then transition to scraping the chamber further using the Savinelli Fitsall tool and follow with sanding the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for reach and leverage.  After cleaning the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, I examine the chamber and it looks great.  I see no evidences of burning damage with fissures or cracking. Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap on a cotton pad I start the cleaning of the external rusticated surface.  I also employ a bristled tooth brush to work into the ridges of the rustication.  A brass wire brush which is gentle on the briar, also helps with the rim cleaning.  Finally, I take the stummel to the sink and rinse it with cool tap water.  The cleaning did a good job.  I take some pictures to show the surface and the question begins in my mind regarding the base color of the stummel.  Bare briar is peeking through, but the base looks black to me. Wanting to get a head start on my thinking for later stages, I pull out 3 very dark or black dyes to compare.  I have two Italian brands that are labeled ‘Dark Night’ and ‘Wenghe’ – both of which are so dark brown that they appear black to me.  The third dye is Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye – it is black.  I test each of these to see what they do and which may be the dye I use later to freshen the stummel if I indeed do decide to stain it. Thinking….Moving to the internal stummel cleaning, I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%. I quickly transition to scraping the mortise walls with a narrow dental spatula to excavate what tars and oils would come out manually.  I also use different sizes of shank brushes wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean.  As the picture below shows, this was not a short-lived encounter.  I also use a drill bit to hand turn down the airway to draw out more tar build-up.  After some time, the buds begin to lighten but not enough to declare the job done. To continue cleaning the internals passively, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I do this to further clean as well as to freshen the internal briar for the new steward.  I first pull and twist a cotton ball to form a wick which I stuff down the mortise and airway with the aid of a stiff wire.  This will act to draw out the tars and oils as the isopropyl 95% does its thing. After putting the stummel in an egg crate to stabilize things, I fill the bowl with kosher salt.  Unlike iodized salt, kosher salt doesn’t leave an aftertaste.  Next, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  As the alcohol absorbs into the chamber and mortise, the level of alcohol goes down.  After a few minutes I top off the isopropyl 95% and put the stummel aside to soak. Turning now to the stem, I take some pictures and take a closer look.  The Before & After Oxidizer did well, but there are still build up places on the surface showing where the oxidation was.  The button on the topside is worn down and underneath the button has broken off. Before starting on the rebuild of the button, I use 240 grade sanding paper and sand the stem.  I want to first address the overall condition of the stem surface then the button. While sanding, I’m careful to protect the diamond A stamp of the Aristocrat as well as to avoid shouldering the shank facing. To rebuild the button, I begin by cutting a folded over triangle from index card stock which is a bit stiffer.  I leave the end of the triangle open and create a sleeve.  I put smooth scotch tape over the end of the triangle sleeve to hold the sleeve together and to keep the wedge from sticking to the CA glue and activated charcoal mixture.  After the triangle wedge is fashioned, I insert it into the slot airway as far as it will go to fill the gap and then I push other triangle pieces of index card into the sleeve to fill it out and to hold it in place firmer.I then mix the charcoal putty.  I use extra thick CA glue and mix it with activated charcoal by gradually pulling charcoal into a small puddle of CA glue and mixing with a toothpick.  I add charcoal until it reaches the viscosity of molasses and then apply it to the button.The first application is a little too runny, so I add a bit more charcoal to the mixture and apply more.I have a good coverage over the entire area which will allow me to file and shape the new button.  After the charcoal putty sets, I work the wedge loose and it comes out easily.  I put the stem aside to allow the putty to cure thoroughly.Well, after a few days longer than planned because of dealing with an unforeseen flu bug hitting many here in Sofia, the kosher salt and alcohol soak has done some major work.  The salt and wick are soiled in a big way indicating that the tars and oils were drawn more from the internals. I toss the salt in the waste and clean the chamber with paper towel as well as blowing through the mortise to rid the stummel of salt crystals.I follow again with more cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean up the left-over residue.  The salt soak made a dent.  After some more effort, I declare the internals clean and move on.The stem button rebuild is next.  The charcoal putty is fully cured after the days of the flu bug and I start working on it using a flat needle file. I start working on the end filing toward the slot to form the end of the stem. After the button face is flush, I then file downwardly to form the depth of the button lip.When I arrive at about the right depth for the button lip, I then file from the stem side to sharpen and shape the new button.I also use the round pointed needle file to smooth the slot – forgot to picture that file!I also freshen the topside button lip with the flat needle file.The filing process is complete.  The bottom rebuild looks great – it shaped up well.  The next pictures show the completion of the filing on the upper bit and button face. As is often the case, air pockets are trapped in the charcoal putty and are revealed during the sanding process. To remedy this, using a toothpick, I run a small drop of regular CA glue on the toothpick and use it to paint the entire lip with the glue.  I also run a line to seal the edges of the button – both the stem side and on the button face.  Taking a picture of black with a light background doesn’t show a lot of detail often!I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process and follow by lightly sanding the button with 240 grade paper.  The CA glue filled the pits well.I take the stem to the sink and wet sand the entire stem with 600 grade paper.  I’m careful to avoid sanding the Aristocrat ‘A’ stem stamp.  After using 600 paper, I then apply 0000 grade steel wool to the entire stem.I move directly to applying the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads to the Aristocrat stem.  I start by wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to condition the stem.  I like that newly polished pop that comes from the vulcanite after the micromesh process! With the stem waiting in the wings, I take a close look at the stummel.  The rustication is deep and expressive and the stummel itself is large.  The briar block this stummel is hewn from must have been dense, because the stummel itself has some weight to it.  I like the dark hue of the rustication and my head debate is whether to freshen the entire bowl by staining it or to keep what is present and touch it up, primarily on the rim?  I’m drawn to the flecked bare briar that is present in the current condition – it gives the stummel and classic rustic look – not too polished, but a pipe that has seen some life.  The rim has raw briar showing and needs touching up. The other question has to do with the smooth briar underplate holding the nomenclature.  The stamping is already ghosting and thin – I don’t want to contribute to this loss of his history!  There is a scratch to the right of the lettering that I can sand without trouble.  But as I look at the smooth briar plate, the dark stain that is now covering the smooth briar does not look good.With the decision made to go with the current hue and touch up, I start on the smooth briar nomenclature plate first on the underside of the shank.  I want to create a more distinct and classy looking nomenclature plate by removing the finish from the smooth briar.  This will create a classy looking contrast between the dark rusticated surface and the smooth briar.  I first use a cotton pad wetted with alcohol which had little effect.  I then switch to using acetone.  I wetted several cotton pads and scrubbed the smooth briar.  This had some effect, but still nothing spectacular showing a loosening of the dark finish on this area.The breakthrough came when I thought of trying Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. To my great surprise, it works.  The finish was removed in large measure leaving behind and interesting patch of smooth briar.  Yet, as I look closely at the nomenclature, I’m afraid it appears as though the Magic Eraser sponge exerted more abrasiveness than I thought would be the case.  The lettering has deteriorated further – the profanity that flashed through my mind did not surface!  Ugh – we make plans, but often they are not what happens.  I allow the briar to dry before doing more on the underside panel.Next, to touch up the rim, I use a Dark Walnut dye stick, which I chose after testing several colors on a cotton pad.  I apply the dye stick over the rim and in the crevices.  It looks great, blending well with the rest of the stummel. To roughen the rim up a bit, to blend it more with the weathered, rustic stummel, I use a 1500 grade micromesh pad and lightly sand the ridges of the rusticated rim.  This lightens the tips and helps blending.To get a bird’s eye view of the project, I rejoin the Aristocrat London Made stem and stummel.  It’s looking good.With a closer look at the junction there is a gap between the shank and the stem facings.  I examine the mortise and there is no ridge that would be creating the obstruction.  With no obvious obstruction, I use 240 grade sanding paper simply to taper the end of the tenon more guessing that the mortise narrows, and this will afford a little more room for the tenon.  After sanding, I try again, and it seats well now. I now mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel.  With my wife’s help, she takes a picture of the process in motion.  When completed, I give the pipe a good wipe down with a felt cloth to clean it of compound dust. Before applying wax to the stem and stummel, two mini-projects are first needed.  I could have done this earlier, but now is ok too!  Using Before & After Restoration Balm, I apply some to my fingers and then rub it into the smooth briar area on the underside of the shank.  I also apply the Balm to the shank alone.  Later, after it absorbs for a few minutes, I wipe off the excess and buff up the smooth briar and the shank.  I like the results so well, even on the rusticated shank surface, I decide to then apply B&A Restoration Balm to the entire stummel.  After about 15 minutes, I again wipe off the excess then buff the surface up, making sure all the Balm has been absorbed into the briar surface. While the Balm is absorbing, I refresh the diamond encased ‘A’ Aristocrat stem stamp.  Using white acrylic paint, I apply some paint over the stamp and then blot it with a cotton pad to draw off the excess paint.  After it dries, I gently scrape the excess paint leaving the paint filling the stamping lines.  I like it! I reunite the stem and stummel and mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel.  Because I’m applying wax to a rougher rusticated surface, I increase the speed of the Dremel to about 60% full power to increase the RPMs and therefore the heat helping to dissolve the wax.  I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stummel. Moving to the stem, I decrease the speed to 40% of full power and apply carnauba.   After finishing with the wax, I use and microfiber cloth and give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.

I am very pleased how this hefty pipe turned out.  The deep, distinct rusticated surface looks great on this nice looking, classic half bent Billiard.  The half bend works very well with the overall feel of the bowl resting in the palm.  My only disappointment is the further eroding of the nomenclature in order to reveal the grain of the smooth briar panel.  Even so, the pipe is a keeper.  The major technical hurdle of rebuilding the button came out beautifully and reveals no evidence of its former state.  Andrew could see how nice this Aristocrat London Made could be and he commissioned him from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  The restoration of this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!