A few years back there was a thread on Pipes Magazine’s repair and restoration forum about three lots of pipes a member was giving away. The first lot was a very easy “beginner” lot, the second was slightly more challenging, and the last was called The Resurrection Special and had the most challenges. No information was given about the pipes or (as far as I recall) their issues.
The first two lots were spoken for fairly quickly but the third sat there, unloved, for a little while. After looking at the post for as long as I could stand I sent a PM to the original poster and said “I’ll bite; send them my way and I’ll see what I can do”.
When the long, medium sized box arrived on my doorstep I was excited to see what I had gotten myself into. I took them straight to the kitchen table (my wife wasn’t home so I could do that lol) and cut open the box. The contents were carefully packed in newspaper which held three bubble wrapped pipes. I was like a kid on Christmas morning getting ready to open each one!
The first pipe I opened was a lovely old Tracey Mincer Bulldog -type shape. I had seen photos of and read about Mincer’s different pipes but had never held or owned one yet.
The second pipe turned out to be a Peterson System pipe, my first both of this historic marquee and type. It was hallmarked 1973 and looked every day of it. I was a little intimidated by the work this one would take.
As I unwrapped the third pipe my mind was still on the Peterson and what a great pipe I hoped it would be after a lot of work went into it. The last pipe was just over medium in size I noted as the bubble wrap was peeled away. A silver band was the first thing to catch my attention, looking at the pipe upside down when it was finally out of its protective shroud.
I rolled the pipe over to look for it’s stamping. That’s when I saw it: A White Dot in the stem! “Surely not”, I thought to myself, “this can’t be a Dunhill, can it?” The nomenclature was very worn but readable enough to see it was a Dunhill. I immediately went to get my loupe to see what year the pipe was made, if possible. Looking it over under magnification I found two things I’d not yet seen: enough stamping to date the pipe and that the silver band was a repair for a cracked shank.
The discovery of the crack slowed me down a bit. I went to get a flashlight to inspect the pipe closer. The crack seemed to be well repaired with the band; that was a good find. But looking at the bowl I realized there was a pretty big crack in it, too. So much for my bit of relief … I decided to check the year of the pipe’s manufacture and leave the repair thoughts aside for now.
After a quick internet search I came up with a link to a Dunhill dating chart on Pipephil’s site. It took only a moment or so to find the results but it took a bit longer for the results to sink in. If I was reading everything right, this pipe dated to 1968, which is my birth year! I was giddy as a schoolgirl at this moment… and nervous as a cat at the same time.
At this point I had not worked on any pipe as (potentially) valuable as these. I also hadn’t tried to undertake any repairs as extensive as these looked to be. After a lot of debate, I finally decided to put the lot away until I’d tackled a few more repairs and had more experience under my belt and tools in my arsenal. Over time as I repaired and restored more pipes I began to raise my confidence levels. Each project I completed had as the goal getting me ready for the Resurrection Special lot.
About when I felt it was time to take on these challenges life threw a few curveballs at me, personal issues that put most of my hobby time on hold. Fast-forward a few years, it’s time to get to the Resurrection Special lot.
Looking more closely at the pipe when I unpacked it again I saw that much of my past inspection was correct: the shank repair and band were tight and holding well with no “feel” when I rubbed a fingernail over it, the pipe did date to 1968 as I thought, and the bowl would need work, though not as much as I thought. The pipe was very dirty, the rim being covered in a thick layer of lava. The stem had a little oxidation and some tooth dents. The silver band was tarnished.
I began with the rim; I had no idea of it’s condition under the lava and I wanted to see what I was dealing with. I used alcohol dipped cotton swabs to begin breaking down the thick layer. Once it was softened up some I used a knife-blade wax carving tool to scrape away the gunk. The rim was damaged under the lava, as I expected it to be; it would need to be topped. I decided here that I would take off as little wood as possible when I topped the bowl since I wanted to keep the shape as true as possible. I also decided that this wouldn’t be an attempt to make the pipe perfect; it (like me) had battle the scars of it’s life and I wanted to retain that character, too.
The bowl had been reamed before I received the pipe, most likely when the issue was discovered. What I had thought was a crack actually was heat fissures; they didn’t go all the way through the bowl. The outside of the bowl did have what appeared to be burns though; more on these in a bit.
I had read how Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes had done several successful bowl repairs with JBWeld and his own bowl coating. I messaged Charles and also looked up his article on bowl coating to try it myself. The recipe is simple: coat the bowl with maple syrup, fill it with activated charcoal powder, and wait for it to dry. (Actually there are a couple more steps, like putting a pipe cleaner in the stem, so make sure you read Charles’ article if you’re interested in trying this method.)
I mixed up some JBWeld and coated the area where the fissures were, using a toothpick to push the epoxy back into the cracks, after inserting a pipe cleaner in the shank through the air hole to keep it open. I used a pipe cleaner and my finger to smooth the repair out as well as I could. Then I sprinkled some activated charcoal powder on the wet repair and set the bowl aside for the epoxy to cure until the next day.
After the repair was dry I sanded it a little smoother with 220-grit paper. Unfortunately this took out most of the carbon I had applied so the full bowl coating would have to be done. But I waited until after all the work was completed to do that. I also topped the bowl to remove most of the rim damage using 220-grit paper.
While the bowl repair was curing I worked on the stem. I started with painting the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the dents as much as possible. You can see in the photos that there were still significant dents after flaming the stem. A crack in the underside of the button also appeared after the flaming. I began filling the dents and repairing the crack/button with black CA glue at this point. The climate has been very humid here so the CA glue cured extremely slowly.
I worked on the stem in multiple sessions over a period of days to complete it due to the slow curing time. Multiple patch layers were applied and shaped with needle files, a vulcrylic file, and sandpaper until I had an acceptable repair.
The next step was to wet sand the stem with the full range of micro mesh pads. Then I used both the fine and extra-fine Before and After Stem Polish. I buffed the stem with blue compound using a 1″ cotton wheel on my Dremel at about 13k RMP. While the stem wasn’t “perfect” it was very improved, definitely something I could live with and what I thought would go well with my goal for this restoration. It was time to get back to the stummel now.
I cleaned the surface of the briar with cotton pads and alcohol, removing the grime covering its surface. I decided to see what the pipe would look like with a gentle sanding. With 400-grit wet/dry paper I began with the rim, sanding out the scratches from topping the bowl. I began to work around the bowl with the 400- grit paper and noticed the burn mark on the side of the heat fissures seemed to be lightening so I started working at that spot. In short order the burn was all but gone. Apparently it wasn’t a burn at all but some kind of stain on the briar. As I sanded the stummel I avoided the nomenclature, and effectively the entire shank. The stamping was already terribly weak and I was not going to make it worse.
Avoiding the stamping presented another challenge: Now the shank was a different color than the bowl. I didn’t want to re-stain the pipe so I applied Before and After Restoration Balm to the wood and set it aside to work its magic for a bit.
I was surprised how well the wood blended in color after I hand buffed the balm off. It was now uniformly darkened, even the topped rim.
I had an idea that had been in the back of my head for a little while that I wanted to try on this pipe. The nomenclature being so weak, I wanted to try to enhance it if I could. But I didn’t want to try to deepen the stamping or anything of that sort. What I decided to try was applying some Rub’N Buff ebony wax. This was a brand new idea (to me) and I really didn’t know if it would work or not.
I put a small amount of the ebony wax on the shank and spread it thinly over the entire shank, continuing to buff it with my thumb until the color went from opaque to translucent. I then applied a couple of coats to the rest of the pipe until I had even coverage.
I was really happy with the results. The color was even and highlighted the grain a bit. The stamping was also strengthened I think, much better than it had started out. While still not “strong” (I don’t think that can ever be restored) it was more readable.
I buffed the stummel with Tripoli and then white diamond, both using the Dremel and 1″ cotton wheels at about 13k RMP. I then put the stem back on the pipe and gave the entire pipe several coats of Carnuaba Wax, again with the Dremel and a 1″ cotton wheel at about 15k RPM. (I find the slightly faster speed does a far better job for the Carnuaba Wax.)
I’m still waiting for the bowl coating to cure so I’ve yet to christen the pipe. But I’m very happy with the results of this project. While it may not be a perfect specimen nor hold a lot of monetary value, to me it is a prize possession; my first Dunhill, and a birth-year Dunny to boot!