Category Archives: Pipe Refurbishing Essays

Essays and pictorial essays on the art of refurbishing

The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 1/4


Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited
https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/
https://www.facebook.com/roadrunnerpipes/

“I bet ya three-to-one I beat this.”
— John Joseph “The Teflon Don” Gotti, Jr. (1940-2002), Mafia boss, to law enforcement officers the night he was arrested for five murders, racketeering, loan sharking, tax evasion and related charges leading to his conviction

“The Teflon is gone. The don is covered with Velcro….”
— James Fox, FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the New York field office, upon Gotti’s conviction on all counts and sentence to life without parole

INTRODUCTION
While the denouement of the golden age of pipe restoration I anticipate here is only of importance to those who undertake the artful practice and the collectors they serve, and represents nothing as dramatic as the life of John Gotti or his vicious crimes from the age of 12 until he was convicted at 51, the problems I will describe are real and present  The dangers relate to pipes made of wood, meerschaum, synthetic plastic and even metal, in particular antiques and many that are pushing the limits of vintage.  The simple facts are that certain parts used in the construction of some old pipes are no longer manufactured nor can they be, and still more materials needed to restore them and others to original condition are not being pre-fashioned.

This dearth of components that once were ready-made or easier to come by restricts their availability to a rarefied number of true artists in the repair business possessing the essential skills to create vital pieces to the specifications of given projects.  Such craftsmen, already very difficult to track down, are in fact dying out.  The ability of most common and even some great restorers to complete their work as most would prefer – to the pipe’s authentic state – is therefore in grave peril.  This is the sad reality

The supplies I have identified so far with careful thought, but by no means having reached a comprehensive list, are Bakelite, including Redmanol;:amber and amberoid; ivory, notwithstanding its illegality in the U.S. and most other countries, or in the alternative imitation ivory; bone and horn tenon screws; replacement bowls and other components of metal and other pipes;  real corncob Aristocob inserts, made just for that infamous aluminum pipe, and the most surprising member on the endangered species list, the push-pull Teflon stem fittings used with most meerschaum pipes, especially newer ones.

AN ILLUMINATING CONVERSATION
I spoke on the telephone to Floyd Norwood, the patriarch of a two-generation family pipe repair business.  He is retired but continues taking a hand in the operation as his son now runs the shop.  Prepared for the immediate negative response, I wanted to know if I could buy an assortment of bone screw tenons from them, but his next words shook me and started the cogitation that led to this blog.  I had left his name out of this because the conversation wasn’t a formal interview, but it will become obvious later in the series.

“Nobody makes these things anymore,” the old gentleman began.  “These things” encompassed the various parts we had discussed, not only bone tenons but real amber and the Bakelite family of stem materials.  Mr. Norwood’s voice was tired, sad and a bit disgusted.

“Tell me about it!” I replied in the heat of commiseration I immediately understood could not begin to match his own sorrow after a lifetime career seeing the dissipation of the tools he employed in his labor of love.  “It took me two years to track you down, and then only in a recent, second, desperate plea for help did one friend on the Smokers Forums UK think to recommend you.”  I dropped the name of the friend, who will remain anonymous.

A few others on SF responded with vague attempts to help that I appreciated, but none could recall the name of the person who did such specialty work for them in the distant past.  Only when I posted in the thread that the problem was solved by the link provided in the first response did several other members chime in that they had also used Norwoods Pipe Repair at times and gave the man with whom I had the honor of chatting, or in more recent experiences his son, Kenneth, their highest recommendation for quality of service, speed and price.  I amended my previous comment to include the total of four glowing referrals, but it did little to cheer up the aging expert whose specialized skills I have now enjoyed for three pipes.

“The kids these days doing the repairs, and even the older restorers, just aren’t interested or able to do the work involved,” the worn out and still somewhat irked master continued, “and I mean for a single job much less volume production for sale to people like you.”

I took no offense from the last phrase.  He was correct, after all.

BAKELITE, REDMANOL AND CONDENSITE
Leo H. Baekeland (1863-1944), a Belgian-American chemist, invented Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, in 1907.  He named it after himself.  I will save most of the ruthless and covetous tactics Baekeland undertook, in order to seize control of many much smaller companies that made similar but superior synthetic plastics, for another blog that is in the works.  Here’s all you need to know for now.

Bakelite was patented for its revolutionary innovation that employed thermosetting, a process of controlling intense heating and pressure, of phenol and formaldehyde resins sometimes combined with lesser amounts of wood or asbestos fibers that resulted in soft or liquid material. In that form, Bakelite could be molded into any shape before final curing rendered it irreversible.  Baekeland called his machine that performed the entire operation – what else? – the “Bakelizer.”  Bakelite was particularly useful because of its electrical nonconductivity and heat resistant qualities that made it ideal for diverse products including electrical casings, firearms and tobacco pipes and stems, to name only a few.

The two particular small, independent chemical research and production laboratories to which I alluded a moment ago – the Redmanol Chemical Products Co. of America in Chicago formed in 1913 by Lawrence V. Redman, after whom his creation was self-styled; and the Condensite Co., started in 1910 and headed by A.J. Aylsworth, over which Redmanol had acquired a controlling interest – developed synthetic plastics that were stronger and capable of being colored in more varieties than Bakelite.  Original Bakelite, whatever the color, still looked like plastic, while deep red, translucent Redmanol was so close to amber of the same color that it often requires an expert to differentiate the two.

Bakelite cigar holder, left; real amber compared to Redmanol, right

The greater strength and coloring qualities of Redmanol and Condensite were the results of different chemical catalysts used employing the same basic heat and pressure process innovated by Baekeland.  But Redmanol employed the action of formin on carbolic acid, while Condensite utilized the effect of chlorine on naphthalene.  Furthermore, Baekeland’s machine, the Bakelizer, was only one means of achieving the intense heat and pressure necessary for the reactions of the two ingredients he chose.  Aylsworth devised a means of heating the chlorine and naphthalene without pressure, a process Redman adopted.  The three processes, therefore, rendered each substantially different.  In 1922, however, a U.S. Federal Court judge in New York interpreted the tortuous patent laws in favor of Bakelite – which, by the way, not wanting to force its two greatest competitors to defend themselves sued not the manufacturers but their distributors – destroyed and  merged the prized competitors into its growing family in the newly and litigiously formed Bakelite Corporation.  Since then, Redmanol and Condensite products have been lumped together under the single name Bakelite.

The Bakelite patent can be read below.

The Problems
The most obvious difficulty is that Bakelite, at least for tobacco pipe products, has not been manufactured since 1939, when Bakelite Corp. was acquired by Union Carbide and Carbon Corp. (Union Carbide Corp. since 1957).  As was already noted, the curing process for Bakelite rendered it “irreversible.”  Bakelite products were custom made for whatever use was needed.  In other words, for purposes of restoring old stems made of Bakelite, which, again, includes Redmanol, any necessary replacement can be reworked in only one way: fitting an over-sized stem of an otherwise suitable candidate to a shank by serious sanding or other such methods.  Any other alteration, such as bending or threading, is strictly impossible compared to Vulcanite, acrylic and even amber.  By way of illustrations, imagine trying to find substitute parts for these beauties.

Socket pipe with meerschaum bowl, Redmanol shank and stem and bone tenon screw

KB&B gold band socket pipe with irreplaceable threaded Redmanol stem and bottom and custom-made screw-in briar bowl

AMBER AND AMBEROID
Amber is an organic material (neither gem nor stone despite common descriptions) formed by the polymerization of prehistoric pine tree resin into hard, fossilized pieces that often have inclusions, meaning trapped insects or plants.  More than half of the known inclusions found have been flies.  Its colors include yellow and orange, the most common, as well as red, green, blue and brown, and these colors range in translucence to almost opaque.  Found in the greatest quantities throughout Europe, amber is more common in the northern Baltic countries and Russia, but is also present in other places all over the planet.  Amberoid refers to pieces of amber and sometimes other resins compressed by intense heat and pressure. Most of it is used for jewelry, primarily in small bits and pieces.

Polished Baltic amber courtesy Minerals.net

The Problems
Amber is on the soft and fragile side (2-3 on the Mohs scale of 1-10, with talc being 1 and diamond 10), and it begins to decay the instant it is exposed to sunlight.  By human reckoning the process is very slow, but amber’s natural brittleness increases considerably within a human lifetime.  That means that its use as a material for pipe stems in the late 19th and early 20th centuries leaves examples that are now more prone to chipping and breaking, neither of which damage can be repaired with a purist method if at all.

Also, even for anyone alive today who is capable of fashioning an amber stem, the cost is prohibitive, and the process very difficult   Because amber does not actually melt, as in the sense of turning to liquid, but rather reaches the temperature where it would at about 570° F. and beyond that decomposes, there may be nobody around now inclined to try anyway, as Floyd Norwood suggested..

As a result, we are left with a more and more limited supply of random styles and lengths that can be found only at places such as eBay, where the sellers don’t know or care enough about pipe restoration to publish the measurements and, in my experience, are clueless when asked to provide such information.  In other words, they can be found in random lots the measurements of which can only be guessed.  The increasingly absurd prices of these lots make buying them a serious gamble with poor odds of winning.

Amberoid is a still bigger problem.  For those willing to destroy various jewelry and other ornaments made of amberoid, the bits and pieces acquired would be useless.  The only amberoid stems I can find available to buy are already on pipes, such as this Andreas Bauer meerschaum billiard courtesy of SmokingPipes.com.IVORY, REAL AND IMITATION
Ivory in its purest form is the dense material forming the teeth and tusks of large mammals including elephants that are still present in our world, their distant relatives mastodons that have been extinct since the end of the Pleistocene epoch 10,000-11,000 years ago and woolly mammoths (another ancestor of elephants that were alive during the earliest time of humans but died off completely 4,000 years ago).

Other, less valued forms of ivory are found in walruses, narwhals, hippopotami, rhinoceroses, warthogs and sperm whales, but also in a variety of smaller species such as elks.  For most of human history, ivory has been prized for its artistic uses, from classical statues to piano keys.  The fact that ivory, in particular its oldest and finest variety, can be carved into any form made it valuable for beautiful works of art, including ornate tobacco pipes.

Japanese carved ivory tusk courtesy invaluable.com

1890 Tiffany ivory-silver pipe courtesy tobaccopipehistory.blogspot.com

Tsuge ivory billiard courtesy Brothers of Briar

There are several alternatives to ivory.  Celluloid; believe it or not; invented in France in 1865, is the oldest.  Best known for its later use as an early, highly flammable film for motion pictures; celluloid – not Bakelite – is touted on some sites as the first “successful” synthetic plastic and was used for products that were not limited to the following.

Celluloid chip and dice courtesy antiquegamblingchips.com

Billiard balls courtesy sciencehistory.org

Celluloid ivory sample sheets courtesy Rothko & Price

A second, more workable imitation ivory is vegetable ivory, found in the nuts of varieties of tropical South American palms.  The white cores of these nuts are fashionable into all kinds of shapes that harden and can be polished like real ivory, and best of all, they can be drilled for stem making purposes.  The nut below looks tiny but is in fact about the size of a large honeydew melon.  It even has a fine grain pattern that can be differentiated from that of real ivory.

Vegetable ivory nut from Micronesia courtesy palomar.edu

There is a third, still better, resin-based variety of imitation ivory for pipe makers and restorers capable of tooling a stem from scratch.  Although hesitant to promote a single business when there may be others using the same brand, I can’t find any, and the brand factor is vital because of the similarity of others that nevertheless possess serious basic differences.  These characteristics include the use of polyester in those that are inferior for pipe use, leaving them weaker, less glossy when buffed and all-in-all not so close to the real thing that there might be a problem trying to transport an object made of this stuff through airport customs.  To get around to the reluctant business plug, whatever the brand name is, it’s available at Vermont Freehand

The rods sold at that online business are offered in different diameters, the same as those used for traditional materials such as Ebonite.  Vermont Freehand describes it as the finest available.  It varies in price according to two grades, 1 and 2 where 1 is the better, and the diameter desired, from $3.60-$100.  For example, the minimum 12mm diameter rod of Grade 2 is $3.60 compared to a 14mm rod of Grade 1, which is $7.20.  The largest diameter of Grade 2 is 1.4” square at $28.80, and a 1.6” x 2.6” rectangle of Grade 1 is $100.  Again, note the grains.

Imitation ivory stem rods courtesy Vermont Freehand

The Problems
In this case, the “problems” for the most part are really solutions to a greater crisis.  Evolving international laws aimed at saving African and Asian elephant populations, devastated to the verge of extinction by poaching and unregulated exportation of tusks that are harvested for their great value, at the expense of elephant lives, have had unexpected and negative effects on the animals they are intended to protect.  Uncooperative countries that I will not name here in the interest of avoiding geo-political argument and controversy have allowed poachers to capitalize on the increased value of ivory that resulted from the various embargo attempts.

Tougher and more restrictive bans are already being enforced to degrees that seem to have stabilized at least some elephant herds in Africa and Asia, and still more effective laws are being considered, notably in the United States and the European Union.  The present laws, targeting buyers and sellers of ivory as well as art dealers and collectors, are expected to curb poaching still more.

Certain aspects of the laws have been met with resistance from art and personal rights advocates.  The issues have to do with the age of the artworks, the years they were acquired and the sources, all of which create complexities for enforcement, to put it in the simplest terms that are anything but simple.

In 2016, the Obama Administration initiated a blanket ban on the importation of elephant ivory and almost all sales of ivory throughout the country.  The very few exceptions include antiques that can be proven through a professional appraisal or a bill of sale to be at least 100 years old.  Many ivory pipes fit that category.  However, President Trump, undermining the Obama ban, directed the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider importation permits for sport-hunted elephant trophies from select African countries “on a case by case basis.”  In other words, Trump has cleared the way for his rich cronies to bring elephant heads with their tusks intact home from safaris.  This kind of favoritism, which was never announced publicly by the Trump Administration but rather via a Fish and Wildlife Service memo issued March 1, 2018, can’t possibly surprise anyone given Trump’s record since he assumed office.

Concerning imitation ivory of any kind, it is of more use to master artisans who can create a stem by hand or machine, again, rather than average or even skilled restorers.  However, this resin-based imitation ivory sold by Vermont Freehand might be fashionable into small pieces suitable for filling chips and other damages to real ivory pipes – but only with serious practice based on what I’ve learned of its physical makeup.

BONE AND HORN SCREW TENONS
The good news is that bone and horn screw tenons, which can be made from the calcified skeletal remains of animals such as cows and deer, are not in short supply.  To be sure, there are other sources, but J.H. Lowe, for example, offers “a multitude of styles and sizes” in assorted 12-packs for $28.90 – and you know what you’re getting compared to online auction sites that tend to be clueless as to the importance of the various elements of importance in measuring the correct size.  Another plus when ordering screw tenons from an actual pipe supply store is that they are new.  Here is a motley collection of bone screw tenons said to be antiques courtesy of Worthpoint.
Without impugning the integrity of the seller of those screw tenons, if they are antiques, they represent a pristine collection of unused specimens.  I’ll take this opportunity to emphasize that, although I am committed to using only the original materials for antique and extreme vintage pipe restorations, that devotion does not require any replacement parts to be as old as the pipe I’m refurbishing.  A brand new screw tenon or anything else, so long as it’s the same substance as the one with which the pipe came, is fine with me, and I’m planning on stocking up on assorted sizes, styles and shapes of everything I can find in new condition.  Still, I have a small collection of antique and vintage tenons, stems, bands, an endcap and one shank extension, upon which I look forward to expanding.  No doubt the day will come for each to find its wizened old pipe mate, and I anticipate the matches, at the risk of sounding daft, with somewhat of a sense of excitement.  Call me old-fashioned or sentimental or a codger or what you will, but there it is.

The two on the left are Redmanol.

The Problems
I realize I’ve overstepped the subject of bone tenon screws a bit in this section, for reasons of expansion on the greater subject, but now to address the problems with those parts.  Again, I stated that the bone tenons are in no immediate danger of extinction.  I should have qualified that assertion by noting in most cases.  Consider the photo of my antique bone screws above.  I have no doubt that various suppliers of newly made old-style supplies such as these screws indeed have considerable varieties on hand, but the fact remains, many were custom made as long as a century or more in the past.  As the venerable Mr. Norwood pointed out, nobody is stepping up to produce such oddities as bone screws to order.  Of course, artisans able to do so can and will be found – but the task won’t be easy, as Part 2 of my series will show.

Then there are several other problems, I’ll call them: one, fitting a bone screw requires matching it to the stem and shank.  In most cases, the measurements for each are different, not to mention the style of the tenon screw.  Just whipping out the calipers and determining the approximate diameters of the two ends and the optimum length of the whole may not be enough.  Two, bone is inherently soft and brittle, and therefore breaks with the least provocation.  If you’re lucky, the original broken tenon will be available, but if so, it’s likely to be in bits and pieces, some powdered.  It follows that matching can be problematic.  Three – and this isn’t being persnickety – adding to all of the above obstacles is the likelihood, not possibility, that re-threading the stem and/or shank into which each end of the bone tenon screws will be necessary.  To be blunt, not everyone is up to any or all of these tasks.

To sum up, the more than potential need for someone specializing in bone tenon repair will become mandatory.

METAL SYSTEM PIPES
Arguably the most fascinating coincidence in the history of pipe making was the introduction in a single year of two brands of an altogether new kind of system pipe.  The year was 1936, and the inventors were Frederick K. Kirsten, a German-born emigrant to the U.S., and Kenly C. Bugg, a native of Indiana.  Both of them were engineers and prolific inventors with great numbers of diverse patents, and each chose aluminum for the frame, because of its light weight and rapid heat dispersion, as well as screw-on briar bowls.  Otherwise, their designs were quite different   Kirsten’s pipes are more box-like while Bugg’s are sleeker and more cylindrical.

1930s Kirsten courtesy Pinterest and “very old” Falcon courtesy Smoking Metal

The basic systems – the details of which I will omit – differ, also, but suffice it to say, Kirsten’s was more complex while Bugg’s was simpler, using a moisture trap beneath the bowl.

Which man committed his plans to paper and created a prototype is moot.  Kirsten had the presence of mind to begin manufacture and sale of his pipes the same year, applied for the patent in 1937 and received his grant with US Patent No. D112, 701 on December 27, 1938.  Bugg, on the other hand, sat on his invention, not selling his first pipes until 1940 and receiving US Patent No. 142,280 on August 21, 1945.  Kirsten, therefore, is generally credited with the invention of the metal system pipe despite the uncertainty of the exact date of the metal system pipe’s conception and in whose mind it occurred,

I have included the Patents for both for your enjoyment should you wish to read them (the Kirsten first followed by the Bugg).
The transition of production of the great American original Falcon pipes to Great Britain began in 1961, when production started there.  In 1968, U.S. production of Falcon pipes was transferred altogether to Falcon Pipes Ltd. (also known as Falcon House Group) in Great Britain, which still later became the Merton and Falcon Co.  The Falcon Pipe Group now runs the operation, as far as I can tell.  Despite the convoluted name changes, Falcon pipes have maintained their quality since Kenly Bugg made the first one.  By the way, to clarify a variation that began to annoy me, there is no second e in Kenly, despite frequent errors.  See patent signature of inventor.

Everything so far in the category of metal pipes has been to explain the genesis of an explosion in brands and systems of metal pipes with bowls made of wood, meerschaum and the sundry Bakelite materials, to name some.  The exact number of Falcon pipes sold worldwide to date is difficult to pin down, but two numbers stand out: by 1954, six million of them had been sold in the U.S. alone, and starting seven years later, from between 1961 and 1974, 16 million more were sold by the oft-switching producers in England to pipers around the world, excluding the U.S.   This leads us on a nice, ordered path to…

The Problems
Rest easily, Kirstens and Falcons are in no danger of running out of replacement bowls and even other parts as both companies remain in business and don’t appear to have plans to stop.  Replacements or new screw-in bowls are available directly from Kirsten Pipes or the Falcon Pipe Group’s distributors, such as the Arango Cigar Co. in the U.S.  This is not to mention the numerous artisans who make bowls that fit either or both, including Don Warren Pipes for Kirsten bowls and DGE Handmade Pipes and Manly Things (I didn’t make up the name, so don’t shoot the messenger) for Falcon and/or Dr. Grabow Viking bowls, which are interchangeable.

That reassurance made, the rest will be brief and simple in its awfulness.  I’m not about to go through the entire A-Z Index at Smoking Metal’s UK website to locate, count and determine all of the brands – known and unidentified – of metal system pipes identified and catalogued so far by Tony Pringle.  Like a French gentleman whose first name is Richard but is known to countless pipe smokers as Pipephil (who retired a few years ago), Tony works alone and in his spare time, making his accomplishment a monumental feat even with the sparse contributions of readers.

All I need to point out is that many – no, more likely the vast majority – of the metal pipes listed and shown at Smoking Metal were manufactured without even a moment’s thought about compatibility with others of their kind.  In blatant terms, this means they can’t be replaced without making one from scratch.  And who is going to do that?

I’d say that works as the one and only necessary dilemma with this category of scarcity.

CORNCOB INSERTS FOR BELOVED OLD ARISTOCOBS
The Aristocob was invented by Joseph W. Zarikta and assigned to the Al-Cobb Corporation (later Aristocob, Inc.) of Grand Haven, Michigan with U.S. Patent No. 3,292,639, granted just in time for Christmas 1966. Here is what the new-in-plastic case product looked like, complete with the aluminum frame, plastic stem and two cob inserts, courtesy Smoking Metal.  (Filter possibly not included.)

The Problems
Missouri Meerschaum took over manufacturing the Aristocob and its inserts in the mid-1970s.  The best known maker of cob pipes discontinued the Aristocob at some point but continued manufacturing the inserts until 1983, when the endeavor became unprofitable.

While it is true that original Aristocob corncob inserts can still be found online, at one of the last sources in the astounding list at the end, for example, when they’re all gone, that will be the end of the real thing.  The substitution of a custom-carved briar insert at the expense of the original cob is perhaps better for its durability in the lone case of the Aristocob.  As far as I know, they are fashioned only by Steven LaVoice Jr. of Owl Pipes.  I happen to know Steven’s work to be excellent after being compelled to use one of his traditional wood substitutes when I restored an Aristocob three years ago, about a year after Steven started business in Western Massachusetts.

Briar insert from Owl Pipes, with a nice keychain included

Some cold-hearted pipers, hearing of the rising shortage of original corncob inserts for the Aristocob, may bid them good riddance or scoff, “So what!”  I’ll answer that hypothetical question   Those who continue to enjoy durable cob pipes know and appreciate the difference in taste afforded by the intended Aristocob insert.  Any purists are left with one of these singular “art deco” smoking metal creations that’s rendered useless for them.  Others can still buy a briar insert directly from Steven if the owner wishes to be rid of the short-lasting cob originals that I’m told become quite nasty the closer to their expiration they get, and thus avoid the intermediary restorer altogether.  Steven makes different styles of inserts, one of which has the rough exterior reminiscent of real cob.  (Being a bit obsessive-compulsive, I polished the one shown above, which sold to a happy old-timer.)  And the cost of a briar insert, which is five times greater than the $5 I paid at a garage sale for the worn old Aristocob I restored, can be a one-time expense.

The critical fact remains, though, that nobody seems to be stepping up to make quality (non-flammable) cob inserts with a coating to harden them, and therefore, when Steven is no longer around “to do the work” with briar, remaining Aristocobs will be tossed in the trash or placed with nostalgia as heartless shells on shelves.

MEERSCHAUM PUSH-PULL FITTINGS
Now, here’s the most bizarre item on the list, and I hope it sparks English Parliamentary style chaos of furious, frenzied, fibrillating debate – but no fighting, please.  I know that may be shameful of me, and I don’t care, because of the single and singular fact I will assert when I get to the proper Problems section.  For now, a push-pull fitting is formed of two small pieces of polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) or a generic variation.  Teflon is a polymer, or chemical compound of high molecular weight, discovered in 1938 by a new-hire at DuPont with a chemistry doctorate.  Teflon, the specific combination of gases and other substances that formed by chance when the lucky chemist heated a canister a certain way by mishap, happens to be extremely resistant to solvents, acids, bases and heat, and hence corrosion and melting, and is therefore perfect for the most part to join a meerschaum pipe shank to its stem.  Of course, it has other uses and fascinating properties anyone so inclined can read about near the end of my sources.  At its simplest, Teflon is a very fancy synthetic plastic.

The two parts are paired with one piece that screws into the shank opening and another into the stem.  A push-pull fitting, in other words, acts as a special tenon on one side that screws or pushes into the other.  Most of the time by far, the tenon part is installed in the opening of the stem and fits the shank part, but I’ve seen the process done in reverse, probably because that’s the way some restorer could make the two match up without drilling either the stem or shank opening.  The use of push-pull fittings was a great innovation to protect the fragile meerschaum and also do away with bone and horn tenons that are just as easy to break

Here are two shots, one of a trio of “standard” push-pull fittings of slight difference in size, courtesy Royal Meerschaum, that costs $3.99 for the three-pack.  The other is a screw-in stem for one of my pipes.  Standard just means they can be pushed or twisted together rather than screwed and are also the general sizes for newer meerschaum pipes.Note my Paktas billiard above with only the stem fitting that screws into the bare meerschaum shank.  I’m always very careful unscrewing it!

The Problems
The single problem with these push-pull fittings is that they’re not hard to find in all of the typical sizes that are pretty much standardized today, but that means bupkis.  The artisans who crafted meerschaum pipes in the old days – before push-pull fittings became popular in the 1970s – did everything themselves, including drilling the shank and stem however they pleased at the moment and depending on the size of the pipe.  Ay, there’s the rub.

In this day and age where everything from furniture to motor vehicles is composed entirely or at the least more than half with cheap and readily available plastic, “real” or synthetic (think imitation Naugahyde), there’s no excuse for a lack of push-pull sets designed in enough sizes to accommodate older pipes.  But there it is.  Oh, they’re no doubt out there some place, but where?  Norwoods Pipes and Walker Pipe Repair, again by way of examples, offer push-pull fittings, but (and no offense is intended to either of these fine pipe repair providers) if they have different sizes, they’re limited.

I sent the following very large lattice meerschaum stummel with no stem and a hole in the shank to Norwoods, which can provide almost any original replacement part, only to learn that the new Lucite stem was no problem, but a push-pull set that big was unavailable.  A bone tenon screw was used instead for the same price, and that pipe with its new tenon and stem arrived in the mail soon after.  In this case, I am quite pleased with the result, since I kept it for my own use and didn’t have to worry about any prospective buyer breaking the bone tenon and blaming me.  That restoration will be the subject of the final part of this series.

CONCLUSION
For now, I can continue to cobble together limited replacements of the various parts integral to the proper restoration of old pipes, and for those tasks requiring the dwindling repair services that exist, I can turn to them.  I also know of a few artisans with the know-how to tool these small yet vital implements of restoration.  Still, I have no doubt that within my lifetime the need “to do the work” myself will come.  I can only hope practice will be enough…and I had better get to it.

SOURCES

http://norwoodspiperepair.com/index.html
https://patents.google.com/patent/US942699A/en?oq=942699
https://books.google.com/books?id=oYZGAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=redmanol+chemical+products+founder&source=bl&ots=juthNFh-rW&sig=b9qO8plogjv6fj_u2TBjkdpIfCM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-gNj4h9nNAhUM9YMKHXKjBwMQ6AEINDAE#v=onepage&q=redmanol%20chemical%20products%20founder&f=false, Phenolic Resins Technology Handbook, by NPCS Board of Consultants and Engineers, 2017, excerpted by permission
https://books.google.com/books?id=nTs8AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA144&lpg=PA144&dq=redmanol+bakelite+infringement+judgment&source=bl&ots=TCel6fmccJ&sig=ehZijKCRrQSs- RnL6xiDbVA5aKM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi39veundvNAhUT32MKHbeiCJwQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=redmanol%20bakelite%20infringement%20judgment&f=false Factory and Industrial Management, Vol. LXIV, No. 3, August 1922, excerpted by permission (p.144)
https://books.google.com/books?id=11FHAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA816&dq=in+search+of+the+man+made+amber+redmanol&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwis5OvgmNvNAhVk0oMKHYveA6sQ6AEIIzAB#v=onepage&q=in%20search%20of%20the%20man%20made%20amber%20redmanol&f=false Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, excerpted by permission (p. 818)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakelite
https://rebornpipes.com/2016/07/05/the-scintillating-antique-kbb-redmanol-pipe/
http://www.jhlowe.com/bits-bakelite.htm
https://rebornpipes.com/2013/10/14/louis-blumfeld-1901-bbb-bent-billiard-by-james-gilliam-of-jsecpipes-com/comment-page-1/#comment-23486
https://www.minerals.net/gemstone/amber_gemstone.aspx
http://mentalfloss.com/article/73608/15-clear-facts-about-amber
https://www.amazon.com/REPLACEMENT-TOBACCO-STEMS-AMBER-STRAIGHT/dp/B01HZU8NBU
https://www.amazon.com/REPLACEMENT-TOBACCO-STEMS-STRAIGHT-AMBER/dp/B01HZU7M94
https://leta.st/blog/2016/07/history-of-russian-amber-1/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_amber
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/amberoid
https://www.shutterstock.com/search/amberoid
http://www.uniclectica.com/conserva/ivory1.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/06/02/its-final-selling-just-about-any-item-containing-elephant-ivory-is-a-crime-in-the-u-s/?utm_term=.fe4c2ac312fb
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/06/591209422/trump-administration-quietly-decides-again-to-allow-elephant-trophy-imports
https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/celluloid-the-eternal-substitute
http://vermontfreehand.com/product/imitation-ivory/
https://www.amazon.com/ARVORIN-PLUS-Imitation-Substitute-Material/dp/B0755RG32T
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2002-09-22-0209220243-story.html
https://www.dictionary.com/browse/casein
https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/pljan99.htm https://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-BONE-tenons-88-PIECES-Lot-of-Assorted-Sizes-Victorian-Vintage-pipe-/202297224337
http://www.jhlowe.com/misc-items.htm
http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=56
http://www.kirstenpipe.com/pipes.html
https://www.etsy.com/shop/DonWarrenPipes?section_id=22062561
http://www.musiccitymarketing.com/cart_catalog_search.cfm
https://www.dgehandmadepipes.com/catalog/replacement-falconviking-bowls
https://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-NOS-ARISTOCOB-REFILL-COB-BOWLS-3-PER-BOX-ESTATE-PIPE-ALUMINUM-METAL-NOS/323553620046?hash=item4b554c704e:g:HGYAAOSwlHJbOmP0:rk:2:pf:0
https://www.owlpipes.com/product-page/briar-aristocob-inserts
http://www.jhlowe.com/misc-items.htm https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kirsten_Pipe_Company
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Falcon
http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=366
https://www.markwaterpumps.limited/falcon-pipes-aluminium-die-casting-specialist-keeps-traditional-product-alive/
https://www.paykocimports.com/plastic-tenon-screw-set-3-pack/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoropolymer
http://www.royalmeerschaumpipes.com/Regular-Stem-Push-Pull-Fittings-p/sft-3.htm
http://www.walkerpiperepair.com/html/pipe_repairs.html

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New Life for an Italian Made Folding Pocket Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the second pipe from on the estate pipes from the pipe shop that had closed here in Vancouver. The entire lot came to me from the estate of an older pipeman whose wife dropped them off at a pipe shop to be cleaned and sold. When the shop closed they came to me. The pipe on the table now was another Italian made rusticated folding pocket pipe. It is stamped ITALY on the end just below the spot where the stem is inserted. There is no other stamping on the bowl. The briar has an interesting rustication pattern to it that flows vertically around the bowl. The bowl had hardly been smoked but the briar was dull and dirty looking. The folding stem is vulcanite and is oxidized. Other than the oxidation it was a clean stem. I took photos of the pipe when I received it. I sent about twenty of the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho to work over and clean up. He cleaned up the pipes with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl and scrubbing the internals with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. When he sent it the pipe was ready to restore. I took photos of the pipe when I unpacked it. The briar was clean and the finish dull. The oxidation on the stem had come to the surface. The first four pictures show the pipe with the stem open and ready to smoke. The next set of photos show the pipe with the stem folded over the top of the bowl for easy stowage in a pocket or a vest pocket. I took a close up photo of the rim top after Jeff had cleaned it up. The look of the rim top and edges is very good. The carved finish on the plateau top is clean and undamaged. He had been able to remove the cake and the lava very well. The bowl looked very good. The plateau on the shank end is also very clean. The stem is also shown and was very clean. The tooth marks on both sides near the button are visible in the photos.The pipe is similar to the Brebbia Version of the Rolex pocket pipe that Paresh posted recently on the blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/12/12/sprucing-up-a-sparingly-used-rolex-vest-pipe/). This one is stamped solely Italy so it is not clear who made it.

I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar and the plateau on the rim top and the shank end. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I sanded the tooth marks and the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the tooth damage and to remove the oxidation. I was able to remove the majority of the tooth damage other than a few small spots along the button on the top side and the underside. I began the polishing of the stem with with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding them with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. When I finished I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry. The following photos show the stem at this point. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and rubber. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The original patina on the bowl came alive with the buffing and worked well with the polished vulcanite stem. The pipe has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem work give the pipe a very classic pocketpipe look. The dimensions of the pipe when folded are Length: 2 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, oval bowl that is 1 inch wide x 2 ½ long, Chamber width: 1/2 of an inch, Chamber Length: 1 inch. With the stem unfolded the pipe is Length: 3 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches. The bowl dimensions are the same. Thanks for reading this while I worked on it. It was interesting and unusual piece to restore and I really enjoyed the work.

 

Restoring a Beat up “Mini Woodart” Pipe #856


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The fourth and the last pipe that I worked on simultaneously was another pipe that I had purchased on eBay along with the Rolex vest pipe. I was attracted to its vase like shape and through all the dirt and grime some beautiful bird’s eye grains peeked and beckoned me for help. The shank end flares out and the chunky, short and broad, 1/4 bent saddle stem with a conical tenon end makes for a very interesting appearance to the overall pipe. The appearance of this beauty was beat, the rim appeared to be damaged and there were a few prominent fills which appeared like blistered wounds. But, nevertheless, it is one handsome, more like cute, looking pipe!!!!

The stummel surface boasted of beautiful swirls of grains interspersed with bird’s eye along the sides of the stummel and shank, while contrasting cross grains adorn the top and bottom of the shank extending to the back and bottom of the stummel. The left hand of the shank is stamped as “MINI” over “WOODART” over “FRANCE”. The bottom of the flared out shank end bears the model number “# 856”. The saddle top of the stem bears the logo of “W” in an oval. This stem logo was revealed later after the stem had been soaked in hydrogen peroxide solution.I could not find any information about this brand on Pipedia.com or rebornpipes or anywhere on the internet. However Pipephil.eu does make a mention of this brand and even has a picture of a pipe with similar stampings (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-w3.html#woodart), but no further information was available!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
As I had noted earlier, this little pipe was in a sorry and battered state. There is not a single surface on the stummel which does not have either a dent or a fill or a chipped surface. The stummel is covered in oils, tars, sticky grime and dust, through which one can make out the beautiful grains all round. The overflow of lava has not only covered the area between the narrow top portion and rest of the bowl, but has spilled over to the back of the bowl and accumulated in the area where the shank meets the bowl. There are a large number of dents, dings and scratches prominently seen on the edge below the neck of the vase like stummel shape. There are a few major fills in the stummel, the most prominent ones being to the right side on the shank. These will need to be addressed. The bowl is narrow and tapers down towards the draught hole. The chamber has a thin layer of cake, but the appearance indicates that there may be issues with the walls of the chamber. The mortise is full of oils, tars and gunk and restricts air flow. The rim top is where maximum damage is seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim is peppered with dings, dents and chips, a result of striking the rim edge against a hard surface while cleaning after a smoke. The bowl is completely out of round with undefined rim edges. This will have to be taken care of without losing too much of briar estate and will be a challenge to achieve desired results. The vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!!!! The upper surface of the stem has very light tooth chatter towards the button end while the lower surface has a few deep bite marks with damage to the lip edge. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The tenon is filled with oils and tars, restricting flow of air through the airway.THE PROCESS
I started this project by flaming both the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface. I followed it by immersing the stem in to the solution of hydrogen peroxide and hot water. Within 20 minutes the stem color changed to greenish brown, a sign indicating that the oxidation has been pulled to the surface. This also revealed the stem logo of “W” encircled in an oval, on the top surface.After the oxidation was raised to the surface, I removed the stem and wiped it with paper napkins. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners through the airway to clean it. Once I was satisfied that the internals of the stem are clean, with a 180 grit paper, I sand the stem surface to get rid of the raised oxidation. I followed it by filling the deeper bite marks and lip damage with a mixture of activated charcoal and CA superglue and set it aside to cure. While the stem was curing, I worked on the stummel. The small size of the chamber dictated that I could only use my smaller sized fabricated knife to remove as much cake as possible. I further sand the chamber walls with a piece of 150 grit sand paper wound on a thin but dry bamboo twig (which are abundant in the jungles in this part of my country) attached with a rubber band. This was followed by 220 and 400 grit sand paper and now we have a smooth and even surface on the walls of the chamber. This process exposed the walls of the chamber and confirmed my initial apprehensions. The chamber walls show a number of heat fissures on both the front wall as well as above the draught hole. I shall address this issue at the end by coating the chamber wall with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. I wiped the insides of the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned the mortise using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, dental spatula and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I continued with the cleaning of the chamber by giving it a salt and alcohol treatment. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could using a straightened paper clip. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job. The next day, the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. The internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. I set the stummel aside to dry out. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. I covered the stamping on the stem with whitener using a whitener pen. The filling of charcoal and CA superglue had cured and using a needle file, I sand the filling to match the surface of the stem. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 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. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. With a sharp, thin knife I removed the entire old and loosened fills and cleaned the surface with alcohol. These are now ready to take on a fresh fill. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. However, the grime, oils and tars covering the stummel and rim surface was so stubborn that I could not get rid of it completely.  The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I mixed briar dust and CA superglue and filled all the major gashes while the minor ones were filled with clear CA superglue. I set the stummel aside to dry the filling.After the filling had dried out overnight, I sand the filling with a flat head needle file to match the surface of the stummel.Before sanding the entire stummel to match the fills and clean the stubborn grime, I decided to address the out of round and charred rim top by topping the rim top on a 220 grit sand paper. I was careful not to sand too much to maintain the original profile of the stummel. Topping also helped in reducing the dents and chipping to the outer edge of the rim. The rim top, after topping, looks much better.However, the inner edge profile was still uneven giving the bowl an out of round appearance. Also the outer rim edge had a few dents, chips and scratches. I addressed these issues by creating a bevel on the inner and outer edge of the rim. The results are pleasing to the eye.The issue of damaged rim was addressed to a great extent at this stage. However, the issue of addressing the large number of dent, dings and scratches prominently seen on the edge below the neck of the vase-like stummel shape still remains. I decided to reduce/ eliminate, if possible, these dents and dings by steaming them out. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still visible, these were greatly reduced when compared to before steaming.Thereafter began the arduous, painstaking and time consuming process of matching the repairs by sanding the entire stummel with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand papers. I was able to match all the repairs and dents and dings on the lower edge of the stummel by upward sanding motion while moving up from heal and downward motions while moving down from the rim top. I was satisfied with the appearance of the stummel after this sanding. I wanted to highlight the grains seen and further blend all the repairs carried out to the stummel. To achieve this aim, I sand down the stummel and rim top using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The stummel now has a deep shine with grains popping out with magnificent contrast. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  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. I then 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 photographs speak for themselves. The beauty, size and shape of this pipe compel me to wonder if this pipe could once have been nestled in the hands of a lovely lady in Paris. If only the pipe could tell the story of its journey till date…Cheers!! PS: – Once I had finished with all the buffing and polishing, only one issue remained to be addressed; heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. I coated the walls of the chamber with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. Once dried, this will speed up the formation of cake and protect the chamber from a burn out.

Sprucing up a Sparingly Used “Rolex” Vest Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The third pipe that I worked on simultaneously is a small folding “Rolex” vest or pocket pipe which I had purchased on eBay. I generally avoid making purchases on eBay as I am not sure as to what I shall land up with. I know there are all kinds of checks and balances on the site to prevent fraudulent transactions and various guarantees protecting the buyer, but still the fear of unknown prevents me from making purchases. However, in this case, I found the pipe interesting with the asking price to my liking and the seller had advertised it as rarely used and from the pictures, it appeared so. I decided to add it to my collection and made the purchase.

A long wait of 43 days followed and finally the pipe was received by my wife as I was away at my duty station. She immediately gave me a call to confirm receipt and sent me pictures of the pipe. She confirmed that the received pipe was indeed in excellent condition and would not require much work. This coming from her allayed all my fears about the overall transaction. A few months later, I went on some well earned leave and on return bought it with me to restore.

This round and flattened pipe has vertical thinly wired rustications running from the heel of pipe to the rim. The right side of the surface has a smooth surface in the center which bears the only stamping seen on this pipe. It is stamped as “ROLEX” over “BRUYERE” over “ITALY”. The bottom of the smooth surface has a stamp picturing a gnome. There is no other stamp on the stummel or the stem.I searched the internet for some information on this pipe and also on dating this pipe. I visited Pipedia and learnt that Rolex vest pipes were made by Brebbia of Italy. However, I hit a jackpot when I visited rebornpipes which really has a wealth of information on nearly every pipe ever made and served on a platter!!! It is here that I became aware that it is the picture of a gnome that adorns this pipe and that the gnome was the logo Brebbia used to put on its pipes from 1953 to 1956 (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/08/24/an-interesting-brebbia-silver-as1-square-shank-brandy/). Thus, is it possible to assume that this Rolex vest pipe was made between the years 1953 to 1956?????

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
As is commonly seen on rusticated or sandblasted pipes, the crevices in these will be filled with dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and storage. This Rolex vest pipe is no exception to this observation. The tight vertical rustications are filled with dust. The fact that the vertical rustications are dirty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to a very dark reddish brown stain on the smooth patch on the stummel which bears all the stampings seen on this pipe. The briar is looking nice and a little TLC will further enhance its appeal.The bowl is oval and pinched at either end along the length of the pipe. The chamber is filled with a thin layer of cake which should make for an easy clean. However, the shape of the bowl and chamber will prevent the use of a regular pipe reamer. I would not be able to even sand it with a sand paper pinched between my fingers. Improvisations will have to be made to remove the cake build up. The short mortise is relatively clean and air flow is open and free. The rim top has the same thin wired rustications and is filled with dirt and dust. The inner and outer edge of the rim is in pristine condition with no dings or dents. The full bent vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears greenish brown in color!!!! There are two major bite marks on the lower surface of the stem. The upper surface has a little debris stuck near the bottom of the lip. These issues should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both side is crisp and without any damage. The quality of vulcanite is good.THE PROCESS
As I had written in my write-up on John Bessai, I had learnt the use of Hydrogen Peroxide and hot water solution to raise the stem oxidation to the surface. Since I had decided to use this method, I had immersed stem of this pipe along with the stems of the John Bessai and Mini WoodArt pipes to make maximum use of the solution. Before I immersed this stem in the solution, I flamed both the surfaces of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter. This helped in raising the deep bite marks on the lower side of the stem to the surface. The result of this flaming was so fantastic, that there were little or no traces of any tooth indentation on the lower and upper surface. This was followed by immersing the stem in to hydrogen peroxide solution. Within 20 minutes the stem color changed to greenish brown, a sign indicating that the oxidation has been pulled to the surface.I used a 180 grit sand paper to sand out the raised oxidation and rubbed a little Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface. I wiped the stem again and worked on it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Between each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with extra Virgin Olive Oil and also gave it a final rubdown after the 12000 grit pad. I set the stem aside to dry while I worked on the bowl. I cleaned the stem airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I removed the cake from the chamber by scraping it with my smaller sized fabricated knife. I found the chamber to be solid and without any heat fissures or cracks. To finish the chamber, I wound a piece of 150 grit sand on a thin but dry bamboo twig (which are abundant in the jungles in this part of my country) attached with a rubber band, and used it to sand the inner walls. This was followed by 220 and 400 grit sand paper and now we have a smooth and even surface on the walls of the chamber, ready for taking on a fresh layering of carbon cake!! This was followed by cleaning the short mortise with qtips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated all the traces of old smells from previous usage.

Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed through all the vertical rustications, cleaning them thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. I started work on the stummel which has dried by now. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar). 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. I then 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 photographs speak for themselves. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up.

Rejuvenating a Captivating Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare 510ks Rusticated Bulldog


Blog by Dal Stanton

This exquisite line of Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare came to me in a single Lot of 66 that I acquired off the eBay auction block.  As I’ve referenced several times before, the Lot of 66 has been very good to me and this pipe confirms this again.  I included a picture of the Lot of 66 below with an arrow marking the Savinelli.  Looking at this picture reminds me of many pipes that have found new stewards and some that have made it to my own personal collection!  Only one regret – the two clay pipes immediately below the Savinelli Punto Oro Bulldog did not make it in the transit from the seller.  Overall, I am very pleased!This Savinelli Punto Oro got the attention of a Texan named Charles in my online collection called For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!.  He contacted me about commissioning the pipe and was hoping to get it by his 50th birthday on December 2.  My first thought was, what a great present for yourself!  Sweet!  Secondly, I thought about the other commissioned pipes in the queue for which other pipe men and women were patiently waiting.  Regretfully, I explained this to Charles and he insisted that I not bump anyone out of the line – I appreciated that!  As I’ve worked the queue down, I have communicated to Charles letting him know the progress and I told him that I knew I wouldn’t have it to him by his birthday, December 2, but I felt very confident that he could celebrate the New Year with this Savinelli.  Well, tomorrow is December 2, and the Savinelli is now on my worktable.  Here are pictures that drew Charles’ interest and why he was willing to wait – by the way, Happy Birthday Charles! The nomenclature is stamped on a smooth briar panel on the lower left of the diamond shank.  It reads, ‘SAVINELLI’ [over] PUNTO ORO [over] 510ks [over] ITALY.  To the left of the COM is the Savinelli stamp.  The stem has a single dot on the upper left panel of the diamond saddle stem. Ever since I started restoring pipes and came into contact with my first Savinelli restoration, a Tortuga, I have appreciated this Italian pipe name.  Before and after WW II, when Italian pipe production was known more for volume than for quality, and not considered by many in the same league with other European pipe makers, Achille Savinelli Jr.’s gravitas took shape to make Savinelli one of the premier names in pipe making today.  This clip from the Pipedia Savinelli article summarizes this well:

Savinelli Pipes began production in 1948 and, although the pipes were of a superior quality and unique in their aesthetic, the brand wasn’t an immediate success. Few new brands are. It takes time for the public to catch on. Retailers were skeptical of placing Italian pipes alongside their best sellers from England or France, and customers, in turn, were hesitant to purchase a Savinelli over pipes by already established, foreign brands. Achille Jr. stood by his product, however; he knew it was only a matter of time before the world realized that these pipes were of a far superior quality, capable of competing with even the most well-established pipe manufacturers in the world. As it turns out, he was right. In less than a year, Savinelli pipes gained prestige in markets all across the world—heralded for their delicate balance of innovation and tradition, of form and function. Savinelli pipes were placed alongside the likes of Dunhill and Comoy’s in tobacconists from the United States to Europe, and, in time, this exposure modified Italy’s reputation; it was not only the premier exporter of briar, but now a premium source of fine briar pipes. (Picture courtesy of Doug Vliatchka)

The shape number listed as a 510ks is an interesting version of the well-known and loved Bulldog shape.  I’ve taken a clip of the 2017 Savinelli Shape chart from the middle of the chart.  This section conveniently shows the 510ks in the center, 3rd pipe down.  Comparing this style of Bulldog to the other two Savinelli Bulldog styles (623 & 624ks) pictured below, the right lower two pipes, the differences are interesting.  The 623 and 624ks are more what I would call traditional or classic Bulldog shapes.  Whereas the 510ks, is taller with a more distinct volcano shaped cone.  It’s an interesting variation and I like it.

The Punto Oro (Gold Point) name is a higher quality line produced by Savinelli.  From the same Pipedia article above, the discussion was the quality of briar used in the manufacturing of Savinelli pipes.  This helpful anecdotal information about the Punto Oro line was made in the article:

This focus on quality begins with sorting, which is conducted in two distinct steps. In the first stage, an artisan sorts through a massive pile of briar blocks, the quality of which can range from complete scrap to pristine gems destined to become Punto Oros or Giubileos.

Perhaps the most interesting information I found on Pipedia was the special Punto Oro edition that Lot of 66 had provided me – the Corallo di mare, or ‘Coral of the Sea’ line.  Of course, the most striking and unique characteristic of this pipe is the amazingly pronounced and expressive rusticated light hued briar.  Pipedia provided an undated page of a catalog of the Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare line.  I include the entire page here:The information block on the bottom is a gold mine of information about the characteristics of this unique briar.   It is described as porous like Block Meerschaum – which is interesting because when I first saw this pipe, I mistook it for Meerschaum until I got a closer look. As with Meerschaum, the claim is that this briar does not need to be broken in.  Yet, most interesting to me was the description of the pigmentation also being like Meerschaum – the more one smokes it the more the pipe will darken into the honey yellow patina.  Fascinating!  This bit of information gave me a new perspective and appreciation for the vintage of the Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare that Charles had commissioned.  The patina on the pipe was a sign of its aging and vintage, as with a Meerschaum pipe.  I take another picture of the briar to show this patina. Wow!The pipe is generally in good condition but needs extensive cleaning.  The chamber has very light cake buildup, but the rim is darkened some by what I believe to be from the lighting practices of the former steward.  The backside of the rim has some scorching.  There is additional darkening from oils and grime.  The stummel is darkened from the patina development from the information related above, but it should lighten some when cleaned in the extreme ridges and peaks of the rusticated briar surface. The stem doesn’t appear to have much oxidation and the bit has very little tooth chatter.  I’m hopeful that this restoration will be more of a refresher!

With a much better understanding of the quality and characteristics of the Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare Bulldog before me, I begin the restoration by adding the stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and their stems, that have already completed the restoration process.  I let the Savinelli’s stem soak for several hours. After several hours, I remove the Savinelli stem from the soak allowing the Deoxidizer to drain and again pushing a pipe cleaner through the airway to remove the fluid.  I then wipe of the raised oxidation with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I follow this by wiping the stem with light paraffin oil which cleans it further and revitalizes the vulcanite.Now turning to the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a bristled tooth brush to clean the rusticated surface with its myriads of nooks and crannies!  I also use cotton pads on the smooth panel and rim.  For the rim, a brass wire brush helps to remove the lava flow.  I find that the tight crevices on the shank are the most uncooperative and I use a sharp dental probe to break up the compacted dirt.  The first picture below shows the compacted crud – the whitesh hue on the shank in the grain is dirt. After a lot of scraping and brushing, finally, I rinse the stummel with cool tap water and it looks great.  The first 4 pictures are before, and then after. Now, after cleaning. Well, I don’t normally do what I just did.  I was so taken with the rusticated finish that I forgot my usual practice of reaming the chamber before cleaning the externals.  Well, back tracking, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to clean up the very light cake in the chamber. I quickly discover that there is no cake really to ream with the blade heads, so I graduate quickly to scraping the walls and reaching down to the floor of the chamber with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool.  I follow by sanding the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and finish by wiping the carbon dust from the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  That was a quick chamber clean up and the pictures show the progress.  After clean, I inspect the chamber walls and it looks great – no heating problems are evident. Next, I turn to the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway.  I discover again, that this pipe has been cleaned well.  I expend one pipe cleaner and cotton bud and I’m convinced that the internals are clean – this doesn’t happen often, but thank you!Before turning to the stem, I decide to push forward with the one noticeable challenge on this stummel – the charred rim.  The conundrum is, if I sand it off by introducing a gentle internal rim bevel, I sacrifice a bit of that valuable rusticated rim real estate which I hate to do.  I scrubbed it well earlier with a brass wire brush which cleaned the rest of the rim nicely, but the inner rim is charred and there isn’t a remedy for that.  The charring is on the front right and the back left – diagonally.  I take another close-up picture from the steward perspective to show what I’m seeing.  Taking the conservative route, I decide to use the brass wire brush again.  I dip the brush in Murphy’s Soap, concentrating on the scorching, I scrub.  Amazingly, after some time, the scorched, damage briar starts giving away and I see more healthy briar.  You can still see where the most damage was (third pictures – lower right), but it will not draw as much attention to itself after the stummel is completed.  I may still need to sand a bit on the inner rim lip, but not a lot.  The pictures show the progress.  I’m amazed. I turn to the stem and use the heating method to deal with the very light bite dents on the bit.  I take a close-up of both the upper and lower bit to show what I see.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the areas with the flame to heat and then expand the vulcanite which hopefully reclaims its lost space or at least, minimizes the compressions.  Painting the bit with the open flame of the Bic works like a charm as the compression are greatly minimized allowing me easily to sand out the dents using 240 grit paper.  While sanding, I also use a flat needle file to freshen the button lips.  In order to erase the scratches of the filing and 240 sanding, I wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper and follow this by sanding/buffing with 0000 steel wool. Pressing forward with the stem restoration, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand and follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  I love the gloss pop of the vulcanite after the micromesh cycles! With the stem drying, I look again at the stummel.  There is a light dark ring on the inner lip of the rim persisting.  It’s not a lot and I address it simply using 240 grade paper tightly rolled.  I do not really introduce a bevel but clean the residue scorching and it cleaned up quickly. There is only minor briar erosion on the inner rim where it was scorched – see second picture below on the left. I’ve been looking forward to this phase of the restoration, refreshing of this Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare – Sea Coral.  This unique rusticated finish needs a bit more consideration regarding the approach toward finishing it.  The surface does remind me of coral (and maybe a bit of elephant skin!) and the light hue of this Corallo di mare line evident in the Savinelli advertisement I included above confirms this.  I take some additional close-ups focusing on the hue and texture. Here’s the question which reveals a concern.  The honey brown hue shows the patina of this briar as the information above described.  At this point in the restoration, with other pipes, I might apply Before & After Restoration Balm to enrich the briar.  My concern is that this might overly darken the light complexion of this Savinelli’s briar and I don’t want to do this.  If the briar is more porous than regular briar, as the Savinelli information indicates, it might ‘drink up’ the Balm and a darkened briar might result.  Ok, I’m curious.  I decide to test a spot to see what happens.  I isolate applying a small amount over the smooth nomenclature panel to the shank edge – the edge has some rustication, but not as pronounced as the forward part of the bowl.  Here is the result.It does darken the briar but wow!  The result is a deep honey hue which to me, enhances the appearance. I decide to apply the Balm to the entire surface, but very sparingly.  I put a very small amount on my thumb and rub the Balm into the rusticated surface very briskly and aggressively spreading it across the briar surface.  I also use a bristled tooth brush to brush the area thus helping to deliver the Balm into the crevices.  After completing the application, I again rub the surface aggressively with my thumb to make sure the Balm was spreading evenly over the surface.  I then use a 100% horsehair Kiwi shoe brush to brush the surface to lift the excess Balm and to buff it up.  The result to me looks good – I think.  It’s time to turn out the light and I let the stummel dry through the night.The next morning, I reunite stem and stummel and take a good look – liking what I’m seeing!  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, setting the speed at about 40% full power and I apply the abrasive, Blue Diamond compound.  As I do this, I know I’ll have to pay the piper later – the compound will gunk up in the rustication and it will take a good bit of effort to remove it.  Even though I know this to be the case, I apply the compound because I like the textured highlights and nuanced shading that will result from the fine abrasion.  It will also light the hue which I like as well.  One additional benefit is that it teases out the grain of the briar in the rustication.  The application of Blue Diamond compound on the gnarly surface eventually obliterates the cotton buffing wheel and I switch to a new one.In this picture below, you can see the leftover compound residue which I’ll need to remove, but also look closely at the rusticated mountains – the grain is peaking out.  Doing this kind of detail work even on a rusticated surface transforms presentation subtly – like moving from a regular TV screen to a high definition display.Using a toothpick, sharp dental probe and a bristled brush I painstakingly AND patiently work on cleaning the briar surface of the leftover compound dust.  It’s a bear of a job, but to me, the results are worth it, at least in this case! Before waxing, again I use the horsehair brush on the rusticated surface and I give the bowl and stem a buffing with a felt cloth to remove the residual compound dust.

In the interest of full disclosure, as I finished the Blue Diamond process, I became increasingly dissatisfied with how dark the stummel had become after my application of Before & After Restoration Balm.  The rusticated surface lost the light hue that I believe characterized the Corallo di mare line.  What to do?  I failed to take pictures, but what I ended up doing was plopping the entire stummel in a soak of isopropyl 95% for a few hours to remove the applications on the surface.  I wasn’t sure that the alcohol soak would do the job and I wasn’t sure if it might damage the patina.  After a few hours I removed the stummel and after drying, I simply buffed the surface with a clean cotton buffing wheel on the Dremel.  Amazingly, the surface buffed up to a lighter hue that resembled the original.  I was thankful and relieved.

After the grand detour and experiment, I next mount another cotton cloth wheel, increase the speed of the Dremel to about 50% full power and strategically apply carnauba wax to the Savinelli Punto Oro. I increase the speed to provide more RPM and therefore more friction to heat and dissolve the wax, so it is received by the surface more evenly.  I avoid wax buildup as I slowly work the wax into the surface, rotating the Dremel’s buffing wheel to agree with the flow of the rusticated pattern I’m working on.  This takes a good bit of time methodically to work through and cover the surface.  I apply a few coats of wax to both stem and stummel and then buff up the surface using a horsehair brush and then a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.

My, oh my.  When I complete a project like this, I marvel at what comes from the many processes the restoration brings to bear.  The rusticated surface on this Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare emulates a coral landscape.  I the intricate design of the rustication process holds my attention as I study the contours.  The light hued briar is also eye catching and unique and my decision to soak the stummel in alcohol to clean it I believe was spot on.  Charles, from Texas, commissioned this pipe from the collection, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! and he will have the first opportunity in ThePipeSteward Store to bring this Savinelli home to Texas.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – an effort here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

Decking out my Grandfather’s Battered Pre-transition Barling # 1354.


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

In one of a first, I had decided to work on four pipes simultaneously. Well, honestly, it was a decision which was forced on me due to extraneous circumstances that I had created for me. It so happened that after having discussed with my mentor, Mr. Steve, I decided to work on a John Bessai creation from my Grandfather’s collection. As I was turning the John Bessai in my hands, I felt that there were not very many major issues involved in its restoration and the small Barling’s, also from my old man’s collection, appeared to be a straight slam dunk of a restoration. Thus, I decided to work on both simultaneously, which appeared doable. However, things turned in to a challenge when I was just surfing YouTube on pipe restoration topics. In one of the videos, Hydrogen Peroxide and water solution was used to raise the oxidation to the surface and subsequent cleaning of the same was a breeze. I decided to try out this method and in order to make max use of the solution; I dunked stems of two more pipes in to it. Now I have four pipes in line to restore. I can still manage the restorations; it is the write ups that are a huge challenge for me as Mr. Steve will vouch for the delayed submissions.

The Barling’s Make pipe on my work table is a quaint little billiards with beautiful and very tightly packed birdseye grains on either side of the bowl and shank, extending over to more than half of the front of the stummel. Equally tightly packed cross grains are seen on the front left and back of the bowl and also on the upper and bottom surface of the shank. It is stamped on the left side of the shank as “BARLING’S” in an arch with block capital letters over “MAKE” in a straight line over the numeral “1354”. The right side of the shank bears the spaced out stamp “S M” towards the bowl shank junction. The vulcanite saddle stem bears the trademark Barling stamped in cross on the upper surface of the saddle and “Barling” over “Design” in a cursive hand on the lower surface of the saddle.  Even though there are quite a few Barling’s in grandfather’s collection, this beauty is the first of the Barling’s that I am trying to restore. To know more about the brand, the lines offered by the maker and attempt to date this pipe, I visited Pipedia which has a wealth of neatly cataloged heading-wise information on Barling’s pipes. Here is the link and the snippets of relevant information that I picked up https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barling#Model_Numbers:

Model Numbers:

Also according to Tad Gage, the only four-digit number that denotes a Pre-Transition piece begins with “1,” which was used for pipes sold in England. Any other four-digit Barling pipe is a Transitional piece– (Tad Gage in P & T magazine).

Model numbers were occasionally stamped below the logo as early as the late 1920’s.

Other Nomenclature:

The “MADE IN ENGLAND.” stamp was in use in the 1930’s thru 1962. As with all things related to Barling nomenclature there are variations. Sometimes there is no “MADE IN ENGLAND.” stamp. Examples exist with a “MADE IN LONDON” over “ENGLAND” stamp. And, there are examples with “MADE IN ENGLAND” with no period after the word “ENGLAND”.

Size Stampings:

Up to 1926 and possibly beyond, Barling used specific, completely unrelated, model numbers to designate the various sizes of a specific shape. They produced pipes in three sizes, small, medium, and large.  

Barling’s published price lists show that they continued to offer pipes in only three sizes, small, medium, and large until 1941. That’s it, small, medium, and large. So when someone claims that they have a 1930’s EL, EXEL, or other size, they are mistaken.
In 1941 the published range of sizes expanded. Going from the smallest to the largest, they are SS, S, S-M, L, EL, EXEL, and EXEXEL. There is no “G” for giant. Giant pipes, or magnums, which are oversized standard billiards, were not stamped “G” but are commonly identified by collectors as such because they are obviously large relative to even EXEXEL pipes, and carried no size stampings (Gage).

Size stamps were rare before WW2, but we do an example from 1925 that we will discuss later as it is part of a forgotten class of Barling pipes.

Patent Stamps:

In addition to the stampings on the briar, Barling stems had stampings that relate to specific periods. In 1935 Barling received a patent for a stem design that radically improved airflow as well as cooling of the smoke.

Pipes made in 1934-5 may have the words “Reg’d Design” on the underside.

Following the granting of the patent in 1935, Barling stems featured the following patent numbers:

REG’D 98 046 – US patent number – 1936 – 1949 • REG’D 42/8968 – WW2 production – 1942 – 1950 • REG’D 754 068 – WW2 production • Barling Design – 1950 – 1962

 Not all pipes have this stamping on the underside of the stem, but its presence is a good indicator for the period of manufacture, assuming that the stem is original.

Throughout their history Barling continued to innovate in the area of stem and bit design.

From the above information, it is conclusively assumed that this piece is from the Family era/ Pre- transition period and was made somewhere during 1950s to 1960s. The minimalist stampings indicate that this pipe was intended to be sold in the local markets.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The chamber shows a nice even build up of a thick cake which makes it difficult to comment on the condition of the inner walls of the chamber. There is a thick overflow of lava and completely covers the rim top and further spills over on to the stummel surface. The condition of the inner edge of the rim and rim surface will be ascertained only after chamber has been reamed down to its bare briar. The outer rim, however, is damaged and has a number of chips and dents, probably caused due to hitting the bowl against a hard surface to remove the dottle! Criminal, to say the least! The surface of the stummel is covered by the overflowing lava, which in turn has attracted a lot of dirt and grime over a period of time. The stummel surface is peppered with numerous dents and dings, more so towards the heel of the bowl, probably caused due to careless and uncared for storage for the last 40-45 years!!!! It will be a big decision whether to address these dents and dings by abrasive sanding method and loose the patina which has developed on the surface, or let them be. Well, I shall cross the bridge when I reach it. The mortise is surprisingly clean and air flow through it is open and full. The vulcanite stem is heavily scratched, but not oxidized. Some light tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip with one deep bite mark on the upper surface. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both sides is crisp but lightly damage. The quality of vulcanite is good.THE PROCESS
I did not soak the stem of this pipe in the Hydrogen Peroxide solution as I was not sure how it would affect the stamping and so decided to play it safe. I flamed the stem surface of the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentations and scratches on the stem. The heat from the flame of Bic lighter causes the vulcanite to expand and regain its natural shape, reducing the marks. The tooth bite marks which were visible after the flaming were filled with a mix of activated charcoal and clear CA superglue and I set it aside to cure overnight. I reamed the chamber with size 1 head of a PipNet reamer and followed it with a size 2 reamer head. To reach the areas where the PipNet reamer could not reach to remove the carbon cake, I used my smaller fabricated knife and scraped out all the remaining cake. I further use a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper to sand out the last traces of remaining 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 were solid with no damage. I gently scraped the rim top surface with a sharp knife to remove the lava overflow. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated traces of old smells from previous usage. The old smell was still prevalent, though greatly reduced. To completely eliminate the smell, I decided to resort to alcohol bath. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could using a straightened paper clip. I topped the bowl with isopropyl alcohol using a syringe. I know that it is generally a practice to use Kosher salt for this procedure, but since Kosher salt is not easily available here, and when available, it’s very expensive, I use cotton balls. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job.The next day, the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. The internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the surface of the stummel. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I am not very happy the way the rim top appears at this stage with all the charring and uneven inner and outer rim edges. This needs to be addressed. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. I covered the stampings on the stem with whitener using a whitener pen. The filling of charcoal and CA superglue had cured and using a needle file, I sand the filling to match the surface of the stem. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 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. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. After cleaning the rim top with Murphy’s oil soap, I had observed that the rim top surface was charred and the inner edge was uneven, presenting a very sorry appearance. I topped the rim on a 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently till I was satisfied that the charred surface was greatly reduced. The inner edge is still uneven, though much better than before topping, it will need to be addressed.Next, I decided to address the dents and dings on the stummel surface and on the rim outer edge. Using a whitener pen, I marked all the major areas with dents and dings as I had decided to leave the minor ones as they were. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still observed, these were greatly reduced when compared to before steaming.The steaming method had raised to the surface all the major dents and dings. However, the outer and inner edges of the rim were still uneven. I took a piece of used and worn 180 grit sand paper, folded it and pinching it between my thumb and forefinger, created a slight inner bevel on the inner edge of the rim. Using the same technique, I created a light bevel on the outer edge. Now the rim surface and both its edges appear clean, even and well rounded.Steaming out the dents and dings from the stummel surface had necessitated that the surface of the stummel be evened out by sanding. I had an option of using more abrasive 220 grit sand paper followed by micromesh pad cycle and loose the patina or straight away go to the micromesh cycle. Using the more abrasive sand paper, minor dents and dings would be further addressed but I would lose the old sheen which the briar has taken over the years.  I decided on keeping the old sheen and went straight for the micromesh cycle. The old patina and the minor dents and dings would add to the vintage look of the pipe, which it was. I wet sand the stummel with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and follow it up by dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  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. I then 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 photographs in this case, do not do justice to the appearance of this beautiful little pipe. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up.

A Fresh Breath of Life for a Unique Creation by “John Bessai”


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The next pipe that I decided to work on, and duly approved by Mr. Steve, is a pipe that was carved by an iconic pipe carver from USA who had carved pipes in the back room of his tobacco shop by hand. This pipe carver was lost to history, being marginalized and lost to the world, since his creations were in very small numbers and restricted to local sales only. This pipe carver is an integral part of American pipe making history and is now being revisited and revived by some experienced and knowledgeable pipe restorers and pipe collectors, notably Mr. Andrew Hross, who has carried out a detailed mapping of the pipe maker, his creations, dating his pipes based on stamping and pipe models. Mr. Steve has himself worked on a couple of these rare pipes and has included them in his personal collection!!!! Well, I think I have been able to rouse enough curiosity regarding this pipe carver in the minds of the reader and now to reveal the name……… The carver that I have been rambling about is John Bessai!!

Since having completed the restoration of an antique 1902-20’s era GBD with Albatross wing bone extension and horn stem from my Grandfather’s collection, I reverted back to Mr. Steve for selection of my next project. I have realized that he always suggests the most unique pipe, from the ones presented to him, for my next project and this time around he selected this John Bessai Rhodesian pipe with a suggestion that I should first read the blog on a couple of pipes from the same maker that he had previously worked on. I did exactly that and I realized that I have in my possession a rare and collectible pipe to work on.

This pipe has the classical Rhodesian shape with a cap which is differentiated from the rest of the stummel by a double ring. It has beautiful sandblast pattern all over the stummel and over the round shank, save for a small smooth portion on the right side of the shank which bears all the identification marks of this pipe, and on the rim top which looks amazing. It is stamped on the right side of the shank as “…BESSAI”, the initial part of the stamping is unclear, over bull’s eye symbol. The shank end is adorned by ½ inch hand rusticated Sterling silver band, which has developed a patina with age. It is stamped as “STERLING” in block capital letters, on the right side, in-line with the shank stampings. It would look classic once cleaned up. The stem is devoid of the trademark “JB” logo. Mr. Steve has researched this pipe maker and would make an interesting read for anyone, even remotely, interested in pipe history. Here is the link to his write ups: https://rebornpipes.com/2014/07/14/restemming-and-restoring-a-john-bessai-special-diamond-shank-bent-brandy/

This is the link to his second John Bessai project: https://rebornpipes.com/2012/08/21/reworking-a-john-bessai-pipe/

These write ups not only helped me in gaining knowledge about the pipe maker that John Bessai was, but also helped me know about dating the pipes that he had created. I have produced relevant extracts, though there is a wealth of information, from Mr. Steve’s write ups which include facts about dating as researched by Mr. Andrew Hross.

John Bessai was a long time pipemaker, repairman and tobacco shop owner who operated his pipe shop at the “Old Arcade” in Cleveland, Ohio. The shop was opened in approximately 1898. It was a small 2-room shop where he hand-crafted his own pipes in the back room and could work when customers were not there. Like so many other shop made brand, John Bessai’s limited production was quickly acquired by regular customers and thus his craftsmanship remained little known outside of Ohio and the Midwest. While his name is known by pipe collectors in the Midwest, his work is seldom seen elsewhere! He died before 1969. Nevertheless, John Bessai left behind a small number of classic shaped pipes; all were made on-site. They are praised worthy of collecting and reflecting skills well beyond most American pipe makers. John Bessai’s logo “JB” appeared as one letter as the “back” of the “J” and the “back” of the “B” share a single line. The logo was stamped on the stem and on the left side of the shank. His son Herb Bessai took over the business and also continued making pipes. He closed the shop in about 1978.

Pipes offered by John Bessai Pipe Clinic:
Most of the pipes that were offered by the John Bessai Pipe Clinic were fairly standard in shape… I would say most of the pipes Bessai offered were smooth pipes. My assessment would be 90% smooth and 10% rusticated / sandblasted…

Stampings and rough dating of John Bessai Pipe Clinic Pipes:
Which pipes did John make and which ones did Herb make/finish? All Bessai pipes carry his standard large JB stamp either on the stem or shank or both. Typically the JB on the stem is within a circle.

All pipes created by John Bessai’s hands reportedly contain the miniscule ‘jb’ stamp on the shank or body of the pipe. I have older pipes in my possession that do not contain this stamp (condenser, old stamps, etc) that were clearly shop made pipes. I feel he started using the tiny ‘jb’ stamp in the 50s to early 60s.

Dating / Circa era Bessai Pipes:
If the pipe carries a stamp stating Cleveland, O U.S.A. it’s considered an older production pipe (pre1960s). I’ve not seen any newer pipes with that stamp.

Bullseye stamping usually indicates an earlier pipe as that stamp seems to have been abandoned pre1960 as well.

Thus, from the above information, it is safe to suggest that the pipe presently on my work table is fairly rare as only 10% of the pipes made by John Bessai were rusticated or sandblasted and was made prior to 1950s as this one too does not have the famed “JB” stamp and bears the “Bull’s-eye” stamp on the shank.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The bowl is nicely rounded and wide at the rim with a depth of about 1 1/5 inches. The chamber is so filled with cake that I am unable to reach the bottom of the bowl with my little finger. The build-up of the cake is more heavy on the bottom half of the bowl. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar.The mortise is full of oils, tars and gunk and air flow is restricted. The rim top is also rusticated which can be seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim appears to be in pristine condition with no dings or dents. However, exact condition can be ascertained only after further cleaning. As is commonly seen on rusticated or sandblasted pipes with some serious age on them, the crevices in these are always filled with dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and storage. This one is no exception to this observation. The grooves of the sandblast are filled with dust while the small smooth right side of the shank which bears the stamping is covered in dust and grime. The fact that the grooved patterns are dusty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to a very dark reddish brown stain on the stummel and the shank. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry and has taken on black hues. The twin bore, ¾ bent vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!! Some heavy tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip with one deeper bite mark on the upper surface. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both sides is badly chewed off with heavy bite marks and would need to be reconstructed and reshaped. However, the quality of vulcanite is superior to other vulcanite stems that I have handled before.The hand rusticated sterling silver band has developed a patina due to oxidation. This will have to be addressed.

THE PROCESS
During one of my YouTube surfing sessions on pipe restoration techniques, I came across a video which showed the use of Hydrogen Peroxide and hot water solution as an alternate method to tackle oxidation on a vulcanite stem. I decided to adopt this method to tackle heavy oxidation seen on this stem. Before proceeding with this method to get rid of the oxidation, I wanted to raise the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface. Using a Bic lighter, I flamed the surface of the stem. This helped in raising some of the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface as vulcanite has a property to regain its original shape on heating. The remaining tooth chatter and bite marks would be addressed subsequently.I mixed Hydrogen Peroxide and hot water in the ratio of 1:2 in a plastic bowl and immersed the stem of this pipe along with two other stems of the pipes which are in line for restoration. Within two minutes, the color of the stem changed to a dirty greenish brown color indicating that the oxidation is being pulled to the surface. I removed the stems from this bath and scrubbed it clean with “MagiClean” sponge. I followed it up by cleaning the internals of the stem. I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand the stem and removed all the oxidation that was raised to the surface. This step further reduced the tooth chatter and bite marks present on the stem. I addressed the deeper tooth chatter and bite marks by filling them up with a mix of activated charcoal and CA superglue. I applied a slightly thick layer over the lip which I will later sand down to create a defined edge. Once I had applied the mix, I set it aside to cure overnight. While the stem filling was left aside for curing, I worked on the stummel by first reaming the chamber with size 2 of PipNet reamer head, followed by size 3 head. I further scraped the chamber walls with my fabricated knife to remove the remaining carbon deposits. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated traces of old smells from previous usage. However, I must admit that I was still not very happy with the internal cleaning of the stummel and shank. The old smell was still prevalent, though greatly reduced. To completely eliminate the smell, I decided to resort to alcohol bath. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could, using a straightened paper clip. I topped the bowl with isopropyl alcohol using a syringe. I know that it is generally a practice to use Kosher salt for this procedure, but since Kosher salt is not easily available here, and when available, it’s very expensive, I use cotton balls. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job.The next day, the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. The internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. Now, it was the turn of the externals of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed through all the grooves of the sandblast, cleaning them thoroughly. I cleaned the groove in between the cap ring with a sharp knife tip. The stummel was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. The fill had cured and with a flat head needle file, I worked on the filling till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding surface. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 600 and 1000 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the scratch 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. The finished stem is shown below. Once I was satisfied with the stem restoration, I started work on the stummel which had dried by now. When I had another look at the stummel after it had dried, I was not very pleased and satisfied with the way the rim top had cleaned up. I again cleaned it with Murphy’s oil soap and scotchbrite pad till the rim top was nice and clean. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. The only surface on the stummel that remained to be spruced up was the Sterling silver band at the shank end. Abha, my wife, had suggested that I should try using Colgate toothpowder to bring back the shine on the Sterling silver band. She had tried this on her jewelry with amazing results. I rubbed the silver band with Colgate toothpowder and the results are truly amazing.I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  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. I then 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 finished pipe is shown below. This is indeed a beautiful pipe which feels great to hold in your hand and the classy looks add to its overall appeal. I was wondering how my grandfather, who had never traveled to US, let alone to Ohio, ended up with one of John Bessai’s creations????? If only this pipe could recount and narrate its story from Ohio to India…Thank you for your read and as usual, any suggestions/ comments are always welcome. They help me progress on my journey into the pipe world.