Tag Archives: article by Dal Stanton

A Gift for a US Coast Guard Man – A Carved Bearded Sailor, ‘Ole Crusty’


Blog by Dal Stanton

Tina commissioned the restoration of 3 pipes and one Churchwarden project by repurposing a bowl.  Her purpose was to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria while at the same time purchasing great vintage pipes that would be gifted to special men in her life.  The first of these pipes, the Lindbergh Select Poker, which came out beautifully, is for Tina’s brother who served as a naval aviator and flew on P3 airplanes flying over different bodies of water to do reconnaissance missions and who has many stories of his adventures.  I’m now looking at the Carved Bearded Sailor – my first try at restoring a sculpted face.  There are no identifying marks on the pipe, and I’ve searched closely with a magnifying glass.  I acquired the Carved Bearded Sailor from a Lot I snagged on French eBay, so my assumption is that this pipe has a French origin – it’s a good guess!  When Tina saw this pipe, she immediately took it in hand and said she knew who would receive this pipe – her older brother who started in the Army but later spent 25 years in the US Coast Guard as a helicopter pilot involved in such activities as law enforcement (boarding and inspecting ships) and search and rescue – aiding vessels in trouble on the high seas regardless of the flags they flew.  Here are the pictures I took of the Carved Bearded Sailor commissioned for the ‘Coastie’ on my work table: I love the old crusty look of the sailor’s face encased in this carving.  What I like most of all is that it is a nice carving, but the thick varnish makes it look like a tourist trinket pipe to me.  It is apparent that the steward who had this pipe smoked him well!  The moderate cake buildup in the chamber and the signs of lava and grime on the ‘cap’ – we don’t have a rim with this guy, we have a cap! – point to a pipe that was used and not put on a shelf to collect dust.  He’s got some history, but I can’t say how much and I’m guessing that his COM is France.  The only thing I’m not excited about with this crusty sailor pipe is the varnished finish – I’m not a fan of a heavy varnish, candy apple gloss finishes.  The challenge would be, if I were to remove the varnish as part of the restoration, and dive into polishing and buffing the nooks and crannies of the carving, it might prove to be a daunting task.  Another factor would be to maintain the roughness that gives it a rustic uniqueness.  The carving is not a porcelain doll smoothness – its crusty like the sailor depicted!  I want to clean up the carving but not lose the rustic, roughness that is to me, what makes it special.  The stem has some oxidation and tooth chatter but not much of an issue.

I begin the restoration of the Carved Bearded Sailor by wetting a pipe cleaner with isopropyl 95% and cleaning the airway of the stem.  I then place the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes in The Pipe Steward queue.After several hours, I take the Sailor’s stem out and let the Before & After Deoxidizer drain off the stem.  I then run another pipe cleaner wetted with alcohol through the stem’s airway to clean it of the Deoxidizer.  I also wipe off the raised oxidation with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The Deoxidizer does a good job.I then apply paraffin oil to the stem to begin revitalizing the vulcanite.I haven’t yet decided how exactly I will approach the restoration of the stummel, but I decide to simply clean it the normal way first and see how things look.  The chamber is small, only 5/8 inches wide, and this is too small for the Pipnet Reaming heads.  So, I employ the Savinelli Fitsall tool to scrape the chamber walls in close quarters. As I scrape the chamber walls I find that there’s a good bit of cake build-up in the chamber.  After a while, I notice that there appears to be no draft hole at the bottom of the chamber.  Hmmm, not sure about this!  I try to push a pipe cleaner through the airway via the mortise and it is a no go.  I take a sharp dental probe and dig a bit at the floor of the chamber and a bit of cake crumbles revealing a hole, not where I was looking for it, but more toward the bottom.  I keep digging and another hole appears – forward of the other.  With the help of a stiff wire, I’m able to punch through the blockage allowing me to insert a pipe cleaner.  I take a picture to show what I’m seeing.  At first, I thought that what I was seeing was a cavity underneath what appears now to be a bridge of carbon cake between the two holes.  I continue to dig with the dental probe, and it appears that what I’m looking at is metal.  It appears to be a metal insert with two holes allowing air to pass through.  Interesting – I’ve never seen this before.  I’m not able to see anything through the mortise that looks like metal.I continue the cleanup of the chamber by sanding the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  I then wipe the chamber with a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol to clean the carbon dust. It seems that it is a 2-holed metal insert – like an internal stinger, which pushes my thinking more toward a French invention, but still only guessing.  Other than the interesting two-holed insert, the chamber appears to be in good shape with no heating problems.Next, to clean the external surface of the carving, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and scrub with a cotton pad and bristled tooth brush to get into the curves, nooks and crannies of the carving, I use as well a bristled brass wire brush to work on the lava and discoloration on the cap. I then rinse the stummel with cool tap water.  The surface of the carving cleans up nicely as well as the rim/cap. Next, the internal cleaning.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%, I go to work. The design of the internal metal insert is interesting.  The airflow is pulled downwardly to the two holes that are on the floor of the chamber, not where the draft hole is normally located. I scrape the sides of the mortise with a dental spatula to excavate tars and oils.  I also employ a drill bit to reach into the chamber created by the metal insert below the chamber floor.  I hand turn the drill bit which pulls the crud out.  The internals are pretty nasty overall.  Eventually, buds begin to surface cleaner until I’m satisfied that the internals are clean.  I arrive at a decision point.  The question is, do I keep the thick varnish finish and work with it or do I remove it and figure out a different approach to the external surface – natural briar or dye?  In principle, I don’t like the shiny finish that varnish produces.  Why? You’re not looking at the shine of the briar, but the shine produced by the varnish.  I can understand, with a carving like this, it’s an easier and quicker way to produce a ‘finished’ shine, but to me it’s mediocre. The other problem is that when the finish is thicker, it can chip and leave portals to the raw wood which will obviously be a different hue and texture – mess.  I see evidence of this as I scan the carved surface.  In the end, my dislike of mediocrity when restoring pipes took over and I decide to renew finish on the Sailor so that hopefully, it doesn’t lose its quaint roughness but cleans and sharpens it so that the carving is enhanced not stifled!  So my plan is ratified taking some last pictures of the candy apple finish! To start over, I put the stummel in an acetone soak to remove all the old finish from the craggy and carved surface.  I leave it in the soak overnight.  Time to turn out the lights.The next day, I fish ‘Old Crusty’ out of the acetone soak.  The finish is partially removed but most is loosened.  I use 000 steel wool in combination with the brass wire brush to remove the residual varnish from the stummel surface. Parts of the old finish I scrape off with my thumb nail and it’s like congealed meat fat.  I use a dental probe as well to dig into the crevices to remove dirt and gummed up varnish.  Finally, most of the removal is completed – all that I can see of the old varnish is removed.  I take a picture to show the progress to this point.Next, I continue cleaning and clearing the surface by focusing the steel wool on areas of smooth briar to sand and buff up.  I aim for the flat surfaces to tease out the grain – which I find are many!  The obvious smooth surface is the cap and bill, but there are also the eyebrows, the nose and nose bridge, the cheek tops, the mustache, the top of the beard, the cheeks…  As I buff with the 000 steel wool on these surfaces, the carved face begins to emerge as a more distinct image.  I reach into all the major crevasses as well.  I’m please with the results of this stage.  I take pictures at the conclusion of the steel wool buffing sanding and shaping. After using the steel wool, I sand with the micromesh pads.  I start by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.   With each phase, I take a picture offering a different perspective of the face that emerges through the micromesh process.  I watch amazed! Before switching to the stem, I come to another decision point.  I had been thinking that I would apply a dye – probably a light Fiebing’s Saddle Tan hue to bring out more pop. After completing the micromesh pad process, the briar of this stummel needs no help with ‘pop’!  I decide to stay with the natural grain that has emerged and to deepen it, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the carved stummel.  I’m anxious to see how the Balm acts on the carved surface – how it will enhance the carved face.  I put some Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar.  It takes some effort and the help of a cotton bud and a toothpick to push the Balm into the crevasses of the sculpting.  After applying the Balm throughout and working it in thoroughly, after about 20 minutes, I use a cotton pad to start wiping off the excess Balm and again, reaching into the crevasses to remove Balm.  The Balm eventually dissolves and is absorbed.  I finish by buffing the stummel with a microfiber cloth.  Wow!  The Balm did a great job deepening the tone of the briar.  I’m already loving the profound difference between the buffed sheen and texture of natural briar and the candy apple varnish finish that I started with.Letting Ole Crusty rest awhile, I now turn to the stem.  The stem is generally in good shape – negligible tooth impact is found on the bit.  The button has one compression that will be easily addressed with sanding.  The only thing I notice that is not what I like is that the entire stem has a very rough texture to it.  The Before & After Deoxidizer did a great job removing the oxidation, but the resulting texture needs addressing.I use 240 grade paper to sand out the minor bit and button issues.  I also sand the entire stem to remove the roughness.  To avoid shouldering the stem shank facing, I use a plastic disk on the end to butt up against as I sand.I follow the 240 grade by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper and then using 0000 steel wool.I move straight away to sanding with micromesh pads by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After each set of three pads I apply Obsidian Oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite. Now, on the homestretch.  I reunite stem and stummel and mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and I apply Blue Diamond compound to stem and stummel.  In order not to load the crevasses with compound which would be a pure nightmare to clean out, I keep the buffing wheel on the high briar points where there is smoother briar.  What I discover though, after starting the Blue Diamond application, is that the troughs of the carving are wide enough that I leave behind no compound as I work the wheel in these areas.  I think that using a Dremel with it’s miniature buffing wheels, gives me an edge in situations like these.  After finishing application of the compound, I transition to applying carnauba wax in the same way.  I mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintain a speed of about 40% full power and apply the wax over stem and carved stummel. After application of the wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the intricate shine and to make sure there’s no wax caked up in the crevasses.

When I began this project, I had no idea what I would be able to do to improve the presentation of the carved sailor’s face.  I wanted to retain the rustic, rough feel but bring out more of the grain and contours of the face carving.  This is my first restoration of a carved figure and I’m very pleased with the huge difference in the quality of the carved presentation by uncovering it or freeing it from the thick candy apple glaze that entrapped it.  The minute appearances of briar grain have been teased out and now highlight the various facial components of the carving in a satisfying and attractive way.  In my view, the restoration took the Carved Bearded Sailor from a trinket-like feel to an expression of artistic beauty and creativity.  I started calling the bearded sailor, ‘Ole Crusty’, during the process of getting to know him better and helping him come out!  I think the name fits the image of the old bearded sailor who was weathered by life, that the carver was seeking to capture and bring to life in this pipe.  Tina commissioned this pipe for her brother, a Coast Guard man, and I trust that she and he will like ‘Ole Crusty’ as well I do!  Tina commissioned this pipe from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and will have the first opportunity to acquire ‘Ole Crusty’ from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!  I begin with a Before & After of Ole Crusty:

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Restoring a Surprising Silver Treasure: a Robinson 8494 Quarter Bent Paneled Tomato


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this interestingly shaped pipe in an eBay Lot acquisition from France which has contained several very collectible pipes.  The challenge with this French Lot has been that several names stamped on the pipes are unfamiliar to me and require more research to uncover the origins.  This pipe continues that trend as its origins aren’t clear. My good friend and former colleague working in Ukraine, a pipe man and restorer himself (see: https://www.thepipery.com), saw this Robinson Paneled Tomato in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and reached out to me about commissioning it which I was more than happy to do!

I’m categorizing this Paneled Tomato (though a case could be made that this is a Prince shape, but the shank is a bit too broad I think) pipe as a petite as its dimensions are: Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 inch, Tomato bowl width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 5/8 inches, and Chamber depth: 7/8 inches. It has a very attractive and sleek shape with the 1/4 bent stem, but what I haven’t seen before are the painted panel boarders setting off the upper dome of the Tomato along with sculpted rim notches.  Here are pictures of the pipe now on my worktable: What I thought at first was a stinger that had been cut off, might be a slotted insert of some sort.  I’ll work on removing it later.The left side of the shank bears the ornate, oval with ‘ROBINSON’ stamped.  The right side of the shank bears what I believe is a shape number ‘8494’.  I looked in my autographed copy of Herb Wilczak & Tom Colwell 3/3/97 – ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ and found only one entry for ‘Robinson’ belonging to a ‘John J. Robinson’ with the COM listed as USA.  I found no reference to a ‘John J. Robinson’ in Pipedia’s listings or Pipephil.eu, my regular first stops for information.  I’m dubious of the COM of USA because, and I know this is subjective, the pipe has a European feel.  Its diminutive size reflects more the English and French values of the last century and the pipe has a sense of some age to it in spite of the painted panel edges and rim notches that may have been added later.  Also, the shape number of ‘8494’ doesn’t lend itself to a COM of USA.  I decide to do a quick survey of English/French pipe shape charts to find this shape number that corresponds to the Paneled Tomato I’m looking at.  Often established pipe manufacturers will put out lines of pipes for a 3rd party company with the party’s name stamped on it but the shape will emulate the shapes that the mother manufacturer already produces.  I investigate BBB and GBD specifically as the most likely possibilities but found no match that might make this Robinson 8494 a positive second or sub-brand of these well-known English/French sources.   Next, I go back to Pipephil.eu and instead of searching John J. Robinson, the Wilczak & Colwell clue, I simply search more broadly, ‘Robinson’ and find an interesting listing.Robinson & Co. Ltd, is a retail company in Singapore and Malaysia with obvious historic English connections.  Wishing to know more about this company, I found this lengthy article in Wikipedia, Robinsons & Co. that gave much information.

Robinsons & Co. Pte Ltd is a retail company which has department stores in Singapore and Malaysia. The company owns the Robinsons department store, John Little in Singapore and has franchise outlets of Marks and Spencer in both countries. The company has grown into one of the country’s most renowned department stores. Robinsons celebrates their 160th anniversary in 2018.

Robinsons & Co. Limited is currently part of the UAE-based Al-Futtaim Group.

The article outlines the formation of the company in 1858 by Phillip Robinson of England when the British Empire had a colonial presence in Singapore.  With partnership changes the exclusive, high end department store became known as Robinson and Co., in 1859.  Through the remainder of the 1800s and into the 1900s it became a landmark in the downtown Singapore store and catered mainly to expatriates and higher end customers among the local population – royalty, business, and political spheres.  During WWII, the store was bombed by the Japanese and was finally closed during Japanese occupation.  After WWII it reopened when the British returned to Singapore in 1946 and the business flourished. During the 1970s, the business was less profitable due to international and local conditions and finally, the publicly traded Robinson & Co. Limited was acquired by Dubai based Al Futtaim Group in 2008.

From Pipephil.eu information, I’m able to establish two facts – the Robinson Department Store in Singapore DID market pipes with ‘Robinson Co. LTS’ which, secondly, have a COM of ‘Made in England’.

The theory takes shape in my mind, with the absence of any other corroborating information, that it is possible that the ‘Robinson’ on my table is indeed connected to the ‘Robinson & Co.’ of Singapore.  The Robinson on my table lacks stampings that confirm this as with the pipes shown on Pipephil.eu. But it is conceivable, yet I cannot substantiate this, that the Robinson I have is an older version before what appears to be the newer and more developed marketing applied to the later Robinson store pipe.  This is obviously a guess, which I could not substantiate even after searching for older catalogues and any other ‘Robinson’ pipes out there on the internet!  So, armed with a theory which I will continue to mull over, I move on!I begin the restoration of this possibly English made for Singapore, Robinson Quarter Bent Paneled Tomato, by addressing the moderate oxidation in the stem. After cleaning the airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%, I then include the stem in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems of pipes that have already been restored and sent on to join new stewards.  The Robinson is the last stem in this Before & After Deoxidizer batch.Several hours later I fish out the Robinson stem and wipe it down with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the raised oxidation.  The texture of the vulcanite stem is rougher than usual it seems.  After cleaning the stem surface, I run a few more pipe cleaners through the airway to assure that the Before & After Deoxidizer is gone.  The stem looks good after the treatment.To start the revitalization of the vulcanite, I then apply paraffin oil – a mineral oil, to the stem and then put it aside to absorb the oil and dry.Now, turning to the waiting stummel, I first address the moderate carbon cake by using the smallest blade head of the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  This blade head fits the chamber perfectly.  I follow by using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber wall further revealing fresher briar.  Finally, I sand the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and then wipe the chamber clear of carbon dust with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%. After clearing the carbon cake, I inspect the chamber and it looks good.I then move directly to the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway.  I start using cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% and…. The text describing the cleaning process is much shorter than the cleaning process.  I had noticed earlier that this stummel was a bit of a stinker, so I was anxious to begin addressing this olfactory offense to my nose and adjoining rooms in our 10th floor apartment in a formerly Communist Bloc apartment building.  In addition to pipe cleaners and cotton buds, I use a dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls, as well as a drill bit inserted into the airway and hand turned to excavate the tars and oils.  I also use a long wire shank brush to scrub the internals. The picture shows the weapons brought to bear….I’m still not seeing cleaner cotton buds and pipe cleaners that would reveal progress, so I decide to move on to giving the stummel a kosher salt and alcohol soak with hopes that this will loosen the grunge and clean the internals.  After stretching and twisting a cotton ball to serve as a wick to help draw out the tars and oils, I insert it into the mortise and the airway with the help of a straight stiff wire. I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place it in the egg crate to keep it steady.  Using a large eye dropper, I add isopropyl 95% to fill the bowl until is surfaces over the salt.  After it absorbs in a few minutes, I refill the bowl with alcohol and put it aside to soak. The next day, the salt and wick are heavily soiled and hopefully the condition of the internals is improved.  Using a pipe cleaner and cotton buds, I soon find out that the condition is much the same.  I put on surgical gloves a long time ago during this cleanup process!  I continue to dig and excavate using all the tools listed above.With a glimmer of hope beginning to dawn with cotton buds and pipe cleaners starting to lighten, I again provide a kosher salt and alcohol soak with the hope that the tide is turning.  What I discover as I became intimately familiar with the internal layout of the mortise as I inserted spatulas and dental probes to clean, was that the drilling of this stummel was in two phases.  A larger drill bit was used to open the mortise.  Then a smaller drill bit was used to drill the short airway and exiting into the chamber forming the draft hole.  The slight up-tick in the angle of the second drilling created a small trap of sorts that collected much tar and oils over the years.  It would be difficult to clean with normal pipe cleaners as they would go over to the top of the trap on their cleaning mission.  To intentionally clean this small angled trap, it needs to be intentionally and regularly scraped with a probe – something stiff enough to dislodge anything collecting. With the kosher salt and alcohol soak cooking a second time, I pick up the stem and take another look at the slotted insert in the tenon.  It doesn’t appear to be a snipped stinger, but perhaps an air restrictor insert of sorts with a slotted opening – I’m not sure if its threaded but I doubt it. I don’t have much sympathy for stingers and restrictors as they simply create more angles for the airflow – this creates condensation and more moisture….  I heat the metal insert and tenon with a Bic lighter to loosen the grip and using a pair of needle nose pliers I do not pull the insert out but accomplish snapping the top of the insert off!  I hand screw a drill bit into the shaft of the metal insert remaining in the tenon and after reheating the tenon and drill bit, and a few retries, I succeed in extracting the remainder of the inserted air restrictor.  It will be much easier to clean now as well. Looking now at the stem, the bit area on the upper and lower has some bite compressions, but not significant.  The lower button lip has also been chewed a little.  I’m thinking that sanding and a little filing should rectify the situation.I use a flat needle file to freshen the button and 240 grit paper to sand out the compressions.  This works well.I also sand the entire stem with 240 grit paper to remove the rough, goose skin surface of the vulcanite. I employ a disc I fashioned to guard again shouldering the shank face of the stem.I then wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper followed by 0000 steel wool.Without pause I move to the micromesh regimen using pads 1500 to 12000.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite – and it is coming to life!  The rough surface smoothed and polished up well. The next morning (again), with something akin to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in the backdrop of my mind joyfully reverberating and echoing, I see that the second kosher/alcohol soak has furthered the cleanup effort significantly.  After dumping the soiled salt and cleaning the stummel of salt crystals, I run a few more buds and pipe cleaners through the internals and the cleaning is now complete!  The bowl is also freshened from the stink odor that dominated its presence before.  This cleaning was a bear – and it’s not finished!Turning now to the external briar surface, I wonder what the cleaning will do to the paint job this stummel has received.  If it’s acrylic paint, the cleaning should remove it.  If not, well, it’s something else, probably oil based.  I have a very difficult time conceiving of any scenario where paint was part of the original motif of this Paneled Tomato – I believe the rim notches were a later addition as well, but perhaps not!  I’ll clean and see what happens.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with cotton pads to clean the stummel.  There’s lava overflow covering the rim which I also deal with using a brass bristle brush.The cleaning removes the grime and I discover the panel boarder painted strips firmly intact, hmm.  On the left flank of the stummel is the loan fill that I detect after seeing more of the stummel.  After the cleaning, the old fill material is soft, and I remove it easily with a dental probe to be replaced later with CA and briar dust putty.The stummel cleans up well and has lightened considerably revealing some nice grain patterns on the diminutive bowl, but it also shows the nicks, wear and tear of normal usage.  After the cleaning and scrubbing, the rim is still showing some burn areas.Not much consideration was needed to bring out the chopping board that serves as my topping board.  I use 240 grade paper to refresh the paneled rim.  I would like the six sides and corners to be sharper and more distinct.  The shank extends beyond or above the rim plane, so I hang the shank over the edge and begin the topping like that.  I also utilize a small sanding block that is very useful for fine-tuning a topping project by allowing me to focus on an area.  The pictures show the progression using 240 grade paper. When satisfied with the progress, I change the board to 600 grade paper to smooth the rim from the 240 grit scratches.Next, before working on the stummel proper, I repair the small pit on the left side of the stummel by refilling it with a putty created from mixing briar dust and CA glue.  It doesn’t take much to fill.  I use an accelerator after mixing and applying the putty with a tooth pick.  This quickens the curing process so that I can quickly file and sand it and continue the project. Thankfully, Bulgaria is beginning to experience some intermittent spring-like weather.  I take advantage of the mild weather and move out to the Man Cave, my 10th floor balcony, where I file and sand the patch mound and enjoy Red’s Cherry blend in my Gasparini MGM Rock 1912.  A wonderful time filing and sanding! To erase as much of the inner rim scorching damage that darkens the briar, I introduce a bevel.  I first tightly roll a piece of coarser 120 grit paper to do the initial clearing.  I then follow with 240 grit paper also tightly rolled. After applying the bevel, I return to the topping board and turn a few rotations to refresh the rim.Oh my!  At this point in the restoration, I discover that I’m not restoring a mangled pipe that was painted and rim notched for fun!  After re-topping the rim, I see that what I thought was paint framing the panels is not paint at all.  It’s metal – a metal inlay of some sort.  An inlay?!  That takes time and skill!  I examine the rim where the top of the ‘paint’ met the rim and I see that it has depth.  I take a few more close ups to show the dimensions from differing angles. Not sure what I’m looking at, I show my discovery to my wife, and she asks me if I have a magnet?  I didn’t, but she took a magnet off the freezer holding up a photograph and she says to test the magnetic pull of the metal.  It has no magnetic pull at all.  Her conclusion is, “It’s probably silver.”  After a quick search on Google for, ‘Silver inlay in wood’, I found these pictures on Pinterest. I am suddenly more firmly convinced of my theory about the origin of this ‘Robinson’ – from a high-end store in Singapore.  Who would pay for such a pipe as this?  Who would be drawn to a pipe with silver inlay? Now that I know what it is, the pipe itself is transformed from a discarded pipe that someone painted and notched trying to be cleaver to a pipe that was the recipient of a fine jeweler’s careful process of silver inlay in wood – and not just wood but situated perfectly and uniformly framing the panels of this pipe.  Looking at some videos and pictures I see online, the process was probably done using a silver wire that was tapped into place as the first picture above.  The next urgent question coming to mind was not how to remove it but how to protect it!?  The inlay has stayed intact this long, I don’t want to change the status quo!  I decide to use sanding sponges to work on the scratches and nicks that are prevalent on the stummel. The sponges shouldn’t be too invasive if inadvertently moving over the silver.  Before starting with the sponges, I see that the left side of the stummel, just under the panel, has significant pitting.  I apply a small amount of CA glue here to fill the pits and apply an accelerator to quicken the curing time.I use 240 grit paper, then 600, to sand out the patches until flush with the briar surface and smooth.I then use sanding sponges, starting with coarse, medium, then light, to work out the blemishes throughout the stummel.  I avoid as much as possible direct movement over the silver inlay but work around it on each panel.I then utilize the full regimen of micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  As with the sanding sponges, I do not intentionally focus the pads over the silver inlay but work around it. With the assumption now that the twin rim notches on the forward panels are part of the original motif, I freshen two of them using a carpenter’s blade.During the initial cleaning of the stummel, the shank cap had popped off and I put it aside for safe keeping.  Now that I’ve discovered the silver inlay, I’m wondering if this cap is more than the nickel plating that I originally suspected.  To clean, I take it to the sink and wash it with warm water and mild soap, using my fingernail as well as a brass brush to help in the cleaning.  After cleaned I rinse it and dry it thoroughly.I then apply Tarn-X to the ring with a cotton pad and wipe thoroughly then take it to the sink and again rinse and dry.This time with a magnifying glass, I check the band and my original assumption seems to be correct that it is nickel.  I find no stamping on the metal to indicate that it is silver.  Next, I apply the magnet to the ring, and it is not magnetic at all.  After a quick search in Google to check the magnetic composition of nickel, I discover that it is indeed magnetic.  The band, shank cap before me is not.  It is becoming clearer now that I am not working on a maligned basket pipe.  If this band is indeed silver, it is rawer and unmarked.  Again, my theory of an English, Singapore, connection is encouraged. Before reattaching the cap to the shank, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel dedicated to applying White Diamond compound on silver.  I have wheels dedicated for several different compounds and metals.  I carefully hold the band and buff it with White Diamond compound and then buff it with a microfiber cloth.To bring out the depth of the grain that has emerged, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to my fingers then work it into the surface of the briar.  The Balm begins with a thinner oil consistency then thickens as I work it into the surface.  At the end it’s like a wax.  I allow it to sit for several minutes then I wipe it off with a clean cloth and buff it up until the stummel is clear of excess Balm.  The Balm does a great job bringing out the nuanced tones of the briar. After applying the Restoration Balm and without remounting the silver shank cap, I reunite the stem and stummel setting the speed at 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  I don’t remount the silver shank cap so that I can apply the compound without worry of impacting the band.  As well, during the buffing, I stay clear of the silver inlay to avoid the chemical reaction that can stain the wood with black.  After the application of Blue Diamond compound is finished, I apply two small dots of CA glue to the inner side of the silver shank cap and remount it on the end of the shank.  It looks great! Now in the homestretch, I remount the stem to the stummel and apply coats of carnauba wax to the entire pipe, still avoiding the silver inlay and band.  After completing the application of wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing to raise the shine of the briar and the luster of the silver.

My final theory for the origins of this silver laden Robinson Quarter Bent Paneled Tomato is that it was produced in England in the years immediately following the close of WWII after the British returned in 1946 after Japanese occupation and the Robinson department stores in Singapore and Malaya soared in sales – reaching 1 million US for the first time in its history (LINK) and saw expansion well into the 1950s with the acquisition of the John Little Co., the largest and older competitor to the Robinson presence in Singapore.  This is only a guess as to the period, but with what appears to be an older Robinson stamping from the examples I found online, I’m thinking that this guess is pretty good but still a guess!  How I viewed the pipe morphed from being a marginal basket pipe that had been maligned to a very nice pipe with a touch of opulent class.  The briar grain itself is beautifully presented on the heel of the stummel and is showcased in each of the six silver-framed panels. The diminutive size puts this pipe squarely in English tradition and the gently bent stem is elegant with the striking silver band providing the bowl/stem transition.  The absence of formal markings on the silver band is still a question, but it might be explained in that it was destined as a store pipe.  My friend, Dave, commissioned this Robinson Paneled Tomato and he will have the first opportunity to claim it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe, as with others, benefits our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for looking!

 

Rebuilding a Rim and Chamber for an Aldo Velani Trio Rusticated Volcano


Blog by Dal Stanton

This Rusticated Volcano came to my worktable in what I call the St. Louis Lot of 26 that my son, Josiah, found in an antique shop before last Christmas. He was impressed by the quality of pipes in the Lot and emailed me in Bulgaria with a proposition of going in together for the Lot of 26.  His part in the purchase would be his Christmas present to me – that I would choose a pipe for my own from the Lot.  My part of the purchase would be to restore the pipes to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.  It was a proposal hard to refuse and some weeks later I unwrapped the St. Louis Lot of 26 in Denver where our family had gathered for Christmas.  I chose as my gift from Josiah an unbelievable find: a Churchwarden – EP Champion Made in France.  After my restoration of the EPC Majestic, I know that this pipe also has a very auspicious nomenclature dating back to pre-WW2 from the now defunct Paris based A Pandevant & Roy Co. which has now been included in Pipedia as a new entry based on my research during that restoration – Woohoo!  To see my first Pipedia entry, see this LINK!  This picture, after opening the Lot of 26, just happens to have both subjects on the top – the Aldo Velani Trio Rusticated Volcano and my historic EP Churchwarden.Now, back in Bulgaria, on the 10th floor of our formerly Communist apartment complex block, each pipe in the Lot of 26 has been sorted and populated on the website in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection.  Stephen saw the Aldo Velani when I posted a picture on Facebook of the Lot of 26 earlier.  The former steward of this estate liked the Aldo Velani Trio set.  In the Lot, in addition to the Rusticated Volcano came three others from the Aldo Velani Trio set.  The common characteristics of the set is the bright Oxblood hue, the double-ringed gold banding and an assortment of acrylic stems.  The set is obviously meant to appeal to an upscaled expectation.Stephen was drawn to the deeply Rusticated Volcano and after communicating back and forth, he decided to commission it.  Here are more pictures taking a closer look at the Aldo Velani Rusticated Volcano.The rusticated version of the set of Aldo Velani Trio is cast somewhat darker than the smooth briar brothers.  The chamber shows moderate build up of cake and some lava flow over the rim.  This guy was well used by his former steward.The darker ruby red – burgundy acrylic stem shows heavy tooth chatter and chewing on the bit and button.  The lower bit has a deeper bite compression that needs addressing.The amazing ‘fire’ of the acrylic stem presents in a spectrum of ruby red to burgundy and is eye catching and when the entire pipe is cleaned up, will probably steal the show.The gold band I’m assuming is nickel plated as there are no markings showing a gold metal content.  The double-bumped band is attractive and adds a touch of class as it joins the acrylic stem and rusticated stummel.  The band will shine up nicely.The nomenclature on the left shank side is cursive script, ‘Aldo Velani’ [over] ‘TRIO’ with the shape number ‘53’ set to the left side of the smooth shank panel.  Barely visible in the picture below is the stamping ‘Italy’ next to the band and the very bottom. The Aldo Velani stem stamp is interesting and takes a closer look to figure out.  I found in Pipedia’s Aldo Velani article, an example and details of the stamping on an original Aldo Velani box, courtesy of Doug Valitchka.  The stamp depicts a pipe as the front leg of the ‘A’ for Aldo and the back leg of the ‘A’ forms the front riser of the ‘V’ of Velani. The article cited from Pipedia provides helpful information understanding the provenance of the Aldo Velani name:

Most Aldo Velani pipes are made in Livorno, Italy, for the USA market by Cesare Barontini. They were previously imported by Lane Limited. Lane spokesman Frank Blews once described Velani’s stylish, intrinsically Italian designs as “Billiards with more ball, bulldogs with more jaw.” The name “Aldo Velani” is actually fictional.

Another Barontini 2nd is named “Cesare”.

I learn two interesting things from this information.  First, Aldo Velani is a faux name that does not describe an Italian pipe house but a specific pipe line.  Secondly, the Aldo Velani is made by the Casare Barontini name based in Livorno, Italy.   Further information is available cross referencing to Casare Barontini in Pipedia:

In 1890 Turildo Barontini opened a factory for the production of briar. In 1925 his son Bruno began to produce the first pipes. Cesare Barontini, son of Bruno, started direction of the factory in 1955, and still runs it together with his daughters Barbara and Silvia.

Sub-brands & Seconds: Aldo Velani. Cesare, L’artigiana, Stuart, Cortina

Pipephil’s site has several examples of the Aldo Velani line depicted which tend to be very stylish and nice-looking pipes which confirms the Pipedia assertion that Casare Brontini produced the Aldo Velani lines primarily for export.  It is evident that there was not a consistency in the stem stamping or name style for Aldo Velani as different examples are given.  Here are the stem stamping variations provided by Pipephil:With a better understanding of the Aldo Velani Trio Rusticated Volcano before me, I begin his recommissioning by cleaning him up!  I start by disassembling the parts – I find that the gold band easily is removed which will allow cleaning of each element to be easier.I then take the stummel and ream the chamber using the Pipnet reaming kit.  I use the 2 smaller blade heads then switch to the Savinelli Fitsall tool.  It doesn’t take long digging in the chamber and clearing away the cake that I realize there are problems.  I remove the carbon cake and then sand the chamber wall with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to further clean and allow me to see the chamber wall with more clarity.  I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to aid me in my assessment. The first thing I note was strange was what looks like a ‘stoop’ at the lower back side of the chamber that gives the appearance of the draft hole entering the chamber floor more ‘forward’ than usual.  What becomes more evident as I clear away the thick cake is that the back side of the chamber had fallen away revealing excessively burned briar.  I see carbon fissures reaching into the chamber wall which I continue to remove by scraping with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool knowing that I need to find solid, healthier briar underneath the carbon cake.  After sanding and cleaning, I take these pictures skewed toward an opened aperture to reveal the darker chamber confines with a pipe cleaner giving reference to the draft hole entry.  I was able to find solid briar and now a cleaned surface with only 2 heat fissures that I see but the burning toward the aft of the bowl has reduced the diameter of the briar thickness significantly compared to the forward chamber wall thickness.  The following pictures show what I’m seeing and it’s not good. This final assessment picture below shows evidence of the wall thinning only in reference to the rim’s condition.  The rim is dangerously thin.With much to think about now regarding how to proceed with the chamber damage, I proceed with the normal cleaning regimen which is needful and gives time to think!  Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton pad and with a bristled tooth brush, I clean the attractive rusticated surface.  I also use a brass wire brush and a little help from my thumb’s fingernail to clean the remaining lava off the labored, bemangled rim.  The cleaning does well and reveals the smooth briar rim motif of the original design of the Aldo Velani.  The smooth briar rim would have popped in contrast to the rustication.  I like it, but unfortunately, much of the original rim is now smoke history. To the internals – I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95% to do the job.  With the condition of the chamber lack of care and maintenance, it’s not surprising that the internals are grungy.  I also use a dental spatula to scrape the mortise wall as well as long shank brushes to clean the airway.  In time, the pipe cleaners and buds start surfacing less soiled and I move to the next phase of cleaning the internals.I continue the internal cleaning with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I stretch and twist a cotton ball to serve as a mortise wick and then insert it down the mortise into the airway with the help of a straight stiff wire.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt which, unlike iodized salt, does not leave a ghosted aftertaste.  After putting the stummel in an egg crate to provide some stability, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a while, the alcohol is absorbed into the salt and cotton wick and I add some more alcohol to top it off and put the stummel aside to soak for several hours. With the kosher salt doing its thing, I turn now to the stem.  The first thing to do is clean the internals using a pipe cleaner and isopropyl 95%.  The pipe cleaners discover not too much resistance.  I then wipe down the acrylic stem external surface to clean it from the grunge so I can examine the surface closely.The stem is in good shape with only expected scratches and scrapes from normal wear.  The bit is a different story with a compressed button and tooth chatter on the upper side and a deep compression on the lower bit with button damage and chatter.  Starting with the upper bit challenges, I sand using 240 grit paper on the bit and button.  I’m thinking that sanding alone might address the damage on this side.  I also use a flat needle file to help shape and freshen the button.  As I had hoped, sanding and filing alone erases the compressions and chatter.The lower bit is a different approach.  I realize from the outset that sanding alone will not address the damage – the compressions on the bit and button are too deep.  Because of this, I apply a patch of thick CA glue to the areas and then use an accelerator too quicken the curing time.  I start with CA glue because I want the footprints of the compressions to be larger so that the CA has more to attach to. I then address the cured CA patch first by filing with a flat needle file and then by sanding with 240 grade paper.  I reshape the button with the file as I work on filing the patch mounds down to the acrylic surface.  Then, switching to 240, I bring the patches down flush with the acrylic surface.  The ruby red and burgundy hues should shine through the transparent CA glue after sanded and polished.Sometimes an air pocket is uncovered in the sanding and filing like in the picture below.  To remedy this, I add another drop of CA glue to fill this. I finish this phase of the repair using the flat needle file and 240 grit paper. To erase the scratches of the 240 grit paper I follow by wet sanding with 600 grade paper and the I apply a 0000 grade of steel wool.Then, the micromesh process using 9 pads from 1500 to 12000.  First, I wet sand with pads 1500 to 2400 and then follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I’m not sure it revitalizes the acrylic material, but as I do with vulcanite stems, I apply obsidian oil to the stem after each set of 3 pads.  My – the fire in this acrylic stem is beautiful.  The problem is that it’s difficult to capture with my iPhone 6s camera! Next, I shine up the gold nickel plated double-ringed band – shank cap.  I first wash it with warm water and dish soap using a bristled tooth brush to get into the center crease.  After I dry the band, I then apply Tarn-X with a cotton pad and after scrubbing it well, rinse with cool tap water and dry it.  It looks great.  Later, I will buff it up more with the Dremel. It has been several hours since starting the kosher salt and alcohol soak.  The salt and cotton wick have soiled somewhat, not as much as I thought it would, but perhaps my initial cleaning had accomplished more than I thought!  After I toss the expended salt in the waste, clean the chamber with a paper towel, I also use broad bristled shank brushes to clean the residue salt left behind.  I blow through the mortise to loosen and remove salt crystal remaining in the airway.  Finally, to make sure the cleaning has done the job, I expend a few more pipe cleaners and cotton buds with alcohol and discover that the internals are clean.  Moving on!I’ve had some time to think about the issues with the burning damage to the chamber.  The good news is that there are no burn throughs, but the briar on the back side of the chamber is thin. The rim on the backside is also thinner in comparison to the front side of the rim which is evident in the first picture.  In the second picture I’ve tried to show how the inner chamber has bowed out because of the loss of briar through burning.  During the reaming and removal of all the charred wood, left behind is a bowed cavity where it should be relatively straight-vertical.  The third picture shows the remaining fissure that crawls up the left side of the chamber and impacts the rim. I’ve looked very closely and thankfully, the fissure crack is isolated where it is.  There are no skulking cracks over the rim into the rusticated surface. To give this pipe a longer life, I will employ two different approaches that hopefully will build the rim up and fill the bowl cavity out to increase the mass on the rear chamber wall.  To do this I’ll use JB Kwik Weld to build a new chamber lining and to fill the fissure on the left side of the bowl.  JB Weld will be the main strategy in the chamber itself because of its heat resistant capabilities.  This is the lower chamber strategy.  Before starting this, I will first build out the rim thickness using a mixture of thick CA glue and briar dust to form a putty that will cure and provide the upper scaffolding for a rear rim rebuild. I’ll form this first around the back side of the rim and as I form the rim mold with the putty, I’ll intentionally fashion an ‘under-ridge’ with the briar dust putty.  This ‘under-ridge’ will form the raised boarder that the JB Kwik Weld will butt against when it is applied afterwards.  I hope this plan will work!

The first thing I do is wipe the bowl and rim with alcohol and a cotton pad to clean the surface.  Then I mix a batch of briar dust and thick CA glue on an index card.  When it’s about the viscosity of molasses so it will hold together and not run, I trowel it to the rim with a curved dental spatula shaping the rim form.  As I’m working, I see that the putty isn’t firming up on the rim as I hoped and so I use an accelerator to help quickly set the putty in place and cure.  I apply three separate batches of putty to build up the rim which are shown in the pictures.  The first phase looks good.  The pictures show the progress. Next, I mix equal parts of the two components of JB Kwik Weld, the steel and hardener.  After the two elements meet, there is about 4 minutes of relative pliability to apply the Weld in place.  After four to five minutes the Weld begins to harden.  I use a spatula to trowel the Weld into the chamber – trying to avoid the rim, but that wasn’t easy to do.  As I apply the Weld into the chamber, I spread it on the back wall and fill the fissure.  As it hardens, I tamp it down and shape.  After applying and shaping, I set the stummel up so that the back of the bowl is down allowing gravity to help.  I turn out the lights and call it a day. The next day I’m anxious to start to work on shaping the rim after the JB Kwik Weld and briar dust putty have thoroughly cured.  My main work horse to begin with is the Dremel mounted with a round grinding stone and a half-rounded needle file.  The grinding stone is the perfect size at 5/8 inches in diameter to fit into the narrowed Volcano summit and yet, large enough to provide a larger and less abrupt grinding footprint.  As I begin to grind the internal lip of the rim patch, I remove the excess briar dust putty patch material.  I go slowly and patiently eyeballing the roundness of the rim.  I decide to employ a caliper to measure the original intact part of the rim to help me measure the removal process.  I would rather leave more and work down slowly sanding with paper than to be greedy with the Dremel grinder and take off too much.After a time, a take a picture to mark the progress removing and rounding. When I’m close to being satisfied with the removal and rounding with the Dremel grinding stone, I use both a flat and half rounded needle files to begin removal of the excess patch material on the rim top.  The entire rim bevels inwardly and slanting toward the chamber and I patiently and gently file in that direction. After filing, I transition to 240 grade paper to continue to shape and to blend the rim patch with the resident briar.  I do a dance back and forth between sanding and filing and eyeballing the angle of the rim slant – seeking as much uniformity as possible!I’m satisfied with where I am at this juncture.  The inner rim looks round and the rim rebuild is holding together very well.  The area is still rough, and I’ll continue to work on that later, but now I turn my attention from the rim rebuild and restoration to the chamber. I wet a cotton pad with alcohol and wipe out the chamber so that I can assess where the chamber repair is with the JB Kwik Weld.  With the shank oriented downwardly, I take a few pictures after replacing the pipe cleaner through the draft hole.  The pictures are difficult to see what I can feel with my finger as I examine the contours of the hardened JB Weld.  The cavity created by the burn damage has been filled partially and reinforced well.  I no longer have any concerns about the thinness of the briar on the back of the bowl.  I don’t believe I can fill the entire cavity with JB Weld and will not try.  But I still can feel an abrupt ridge underneath the rim repair.  This I need to fill to provide a smoother transition from the rim repair to the chamber repair. Orienting the picture now to the left side of the chamber, the JB Weld has filled the fissure very nicely.  I’ll sand the excess off later. After dealing with the fissure proper, I’ll address the upper part of the fissure crack that reaches to the rim.For the second strategic application of JB Kwik Weld, I cover the rim and upper bowl with masking tape to protect from accidental drips of the Weld.  After mixing the two parts of the JB Weld, again I use a dental spatula to apply the epoxy to specific areas underneath the rim rebuild to provide the foundation for a smooth, seamless transition between the two reconstruction areas.  As before, to be careful, I place a pipe cleaner through the draft hole even though there is no plan for Weld to be applied in that area.  After troweling enough JB Weld to the area targeted, I patiently and carefully continuously tamp the area to massage the epoxy into the best positioning.   As the 4-minute window passes, the epoxy is thickening allowing me the final opportunity to shape and smooth the epoxy before it sets.A few hours later, I begin the dance of sanding and utilizing the round grinding stone mounted onto the Dremel.  The sanding paper I use is a coarse 120 grit and I wrap it around the end of the flat needle file to give me some reach and leverage as I apply pressure during the sanding.  The goal is to remove all excess JB Kwik Weld only leaving that which provides necessary filling to the burned-out area and to the heat fissure.  These pictures show the dance, but the reality is this phase is a mess with dust flying all over!  Living and working in our 10th floor flat of a formerly Communist bloc apartment complex in the winter provides much opportunity for me to thank my wife for her patience and helping to take a few of the pictures below! After I’m satisfied with the heavy duty grinding and sanding, I switch to a sanding drum mounted to the Dremel.  It serves to fine tune the sanding and makes my job easier.I finish with the rim/chamber rebuild.  After cleaning the chamber blowing and wiping with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%, I’m pleased with the outcome.  The pictures show remaining epoxy in the areas of need.  The first picture shows well the fissure that is now secured with epoxy.  The lighter epoxy is visible but to the touch, there is nothing there.The next pictures show the transition between the two repair projects.  The briar dust rim rebuild transitions to the chamber burn repair.  The JB Weld contours to the chamber wall building out the large burned area that threatened the aft chamber wall, but thankfully never burned through.  The aesthetics are still nothing to get excited about but I’m hopeful through the sanding and polishing process the rim rebuild will blend well with the surrounding briar.  Later, I will apply a coating of pipe mud to the chamber to encourage the growth of a new, healthy protective cake. I move on now to fine tuning the rim.  I use 240 grit paper to clean up scratches left over from the restoration project and then I apply 600 grade paper to smooth. With all the sanding, filing and grinding of epoxy and briar, I do a quick clean up of the stummel by taking it to the sink and running tap water over it and scrub it with the bristled tooth brush.  I also wipe the chamber and the rim with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and run a pipe cleaner through the airway also wetted with alcohol to make sure all is clean.Next, before progressing further with the sanding of the rim, I color the rim to hide and blend the repairs.  I use straight Fiebing’s Oxblood with a cotton bud to apply several coats of the dye to the rim.  I also touch up the rusticated areas on the peak of the Volcano bowl that had lightened because of all the construction and cleaning going on. I’m hopeful that the dye will also be absorbed by the rim patch area which is speckled now after the sanding.  After applying the dye several times, I give the rim a light wipe of a cotton pad wetted with alcohol simply to blend and gather excess dye. Next, I move directly to applying micromesh pads to the rim and to the smooth briar panel on the left shank flank.  I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and I realize immediately that I had made a mistake in the order of things.  As soon as I began wet sanding the Oxblood dye that I had just applied was, for the most part, now running down the drain.  I realize that I should have completed the micromesh regimen and then applied dye to the rim.  Not able to change anything at this point, I continue after wet sanding with the first set of three, to dry sand using the remaining pads, 3200 to 12000.  The pictures show the results – the rim looks great regarding the sanding and polishing but the coloring of the rim is lost for the most part.  I also discover as I micromeshed the smooth panel that the color was coming off as well….  I’m encouraged by the fact that we learn as much from what not to do as doing something well.  The pictures show the results. Circumstances create the environment for decisions and decisions shaped by past successes and failures is the definition of wisdom.  What is the wise course of action!? Previously, I planned to keep the original finish as it was and move to the polishing phase.  Now, I decide to apply Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye to the entire stummel and not just as a touch up.  At this point there are too many ‘touch up’ points and it is better simply to refresh the entire bowl with dye.  I assemble all the components of my tabletop dying station and then wipe the stummel down with alcohol to clean the surface.  Using a hot air gun, I heat the stummel to open the briar to be more receptive to the dye pigmentation.After heated, I then apply the Oxblood dye to the stummel using a folded pipe cleaner holding on the cork which is inserted into the shank as a handle.  As I paint the stummel with dye over sections at a time, I ‘fire’ the dye using a lit candle that combusts the alcohol in the aniline dye and sets the dye pigmentation in the wood.  After fully saturating the stummel and covering the whole surface, I set the stummel aside to rest for several hours.Several hours later I’m ready to ‘unwrap’ the fired crust on the surface of the rusticated stummel.Since I’m working with a rusticated stummel, I don’t use a felt buffing wheel as is my approach with smooth briars.  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% full strength, I apply Tripoli compound to the stummel.I’m always fascinated by the way the grain emerges during the unwrapping process with the Tripoli.  The picture below shows the ‘front line’ of the buffing process and the richness of the rusticated surface being revealed.  Yes, surgical gloves!  In this way I keep stain of my hands which keeps my wife happier!With my wife’s help, the next few pictures show my customary ‘Dremel posture’ – my lap top station working on a chopping board.  I keep the overhead lamp close and I’m able to see the movement of the compounds and waxes I apply during the use of the Dremel.Working on rusticated and blasted surfaces are rough on the cotton cloth buffing wheels and I’ll be tossing this one when I’m finished!  I buy buffing wheels in bulk.  The smaller buffing wheel allows me to rotate the orientation of the stummel to follow the rusticated valleys and ridges – I keep moving and it takes a good bit of time to work through the rustication.  Patience reveals good results most of the time!After completing the Tripoli regimen, I wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  I do this not really to lighten the aniline stain but to blend the Oxblood dye and to wipe off excess dye.With a rusticated surface as distinct and deep as this Aldo Velani Trio, I use a 1500 grade micromesh pad and lightly ‘brush sand’ the surface of the stummel.  What this does is sand the tips of many of the rustication ridges and lightens them.  This creates more contrast in the rustication that I first saw many restoration ago, restoring a rusticated fully bent Billiard, Lorenzo Rialto.  The ‘speckled’ effect creates a mesmerizing rusticated surface – I like it.  The picture shows these results.Next, I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, maintaining the same speed and I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stummel surface.  I decide not to reunite the stem at this point to apply the Blue Diamond in order to use a different buffing wheel with the acrylic stem.One of the reasons for letting the newly dyed and fired stummel to ‘rest’ for several hours before working on it is that it helps the dye to set and less of it comes off later on the steward’s hands.  This does happen especially the first few times a pipe is put in service and the bowl heats up for the first time.  I’m concerned that the rusticated surface will hold more unseasoned dye surface and to mitigate against Oxblood dye coming off on the hands, I heat the stummel with the hot air gun and with the bowl heated, I wipe it heartily with a few cotton pads to capture the unseasoned dye.  I hope this helps!Before turning to the stem, I have two additional projects to complete before the final phase of applying wax.  I need to remount the gold band/shank cap and polish it.  Also, I need to apply a mixture of sour cream (or natural yogurt) and activated charcoal to the chamber to aid the formation of a cake to serve to buffer the newly repaired chamber wall from the fire.  Starting first with the band, I apply a small drop of thick CA glue inside the cap and then attach it to the end of the shank.  I use a thicker variety so that it doesn’t run and get on something that it shouldn’t!Next, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel that is dedicated to the application of White Diamond compound on nickel.  You don’t mix buffing wheels!  I label each wheel for what compound or wax is used and on what surface – metals and wood are different! I also am careful while buffing the band to stay on the metal and not bleed over onto the briar.  The black residue that comes off the metal can darken and stain briar – careful!  Wow!  I thought the cap was shiny before, but now it beams!Next, applying the natural yogurt and charcoal mixture to the chamber walls to provide a buffer between the briar and the burning tobacco helps as a ‘starter’ to develop a protective cake.  I’ve learned that I have used too much yogurt in the past and toss a lot in the waste.  This time, I use much less.I mix the charcoal in until it thickens.  I’ve learned to mix a little more charcoal than I think is necessary so that it is firmer.  The test I’ve used to know when I’ve mixed enough charcoal into the soup is when I can scoop some of the mixture on a flat dental spatula and it doesn’t run off.  That lets me know that it will stay where I put it on the chamber wall and not be overcome by gravity pulling it down to the floor of the chamber.When the mixture seems good, and after I put a pipe cleaner through the draft hole, so it stays clear, I dollop the black mixture using a dental spatula and paint the chamber walls up to the rim.  I got the mixture right.  After covering the chamber walls fully, I take a picture – it’s not easy to see, but it looks good and will serve the needed purpose.  A word to the new steward of the Aldo Velani Trio, when you put the pipe into service do not scrape the chamber to clean it!  Gently stirring the ash loosens it allowing it to dump easily.  Then, use a folded over pipe cleaner and ‘rub’ the chamber wall which cleans adequately.  You want to allow enough time for a cake to develop. With the stummel waiting for the yogurt/charcoal mixture to dry, I now turn to the stem.  I mount another cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, maintain speed at 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond to the beautiful fiery acrylic stem.  After this, I mount another cotton cloth wheel, maintain the same speed and apply White Diamond compound. After completed, I wipe and buff the stem with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust.Next, I want to spice up this classy stem by refreshing the Aldo Velani stamp on the side of the stem. It is unique with the A and V in cursive script, but to me the clincher is the pipe forming the left leg of the A.  It’s just cool.  With all the gold in the band, I think gold would be a good color to bring out this noteworthy stem stamping given that I don’t have a picture of the original intent but what I see looking closely at the stamp, it may have been gold but I’m not positive.  I use Rub’nBuff European Gold to apply the color.  As the name says, I apply it over the stamp with a cotton bud and then wipe it of with a cotton pad.  I need to rub it well to clean up the excess but what is in the stamping stays in the stamp.  It looks great! Now the home stretch.  The charcoal/yogurt mixture has set up and time to apply carnauba wax. I unite stem and stummel and mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, increase the speed to about 50% full power.  I increase the RPMs to increase the heat in applying the wax – more heat causes the wax to liquefy more as it’s working into the briar which makes application of the wax to the rougher rusticated surface more likely not gunk up. When applying wax to the stem, I back the speed off to 40% full power.  After completing the application of wax, I give the pipe a hearty hand buffing to raise the shine even more.

Oh my.  This Barontini Aldo Velani Trio Rusticated Volcano is a classy pipe – I would call it a ‘dinner pipe’.  It requires a more upscale dress code!  This pipe required a lot of work – a repaired stem bit and button, a rim rebuild and a restoration of the damaged chamber.  What a difference!  The rustication is distinctive, and the Volcano shape is enhanced by the craggy rise of the bowl tightening into the summit of the smooth briar rim contrast.  Transitioning to the stem the band adds to the class and the acrylic stem is simply on fire – it’s alive and the Oxblood hue of the briar is… did I say ‘classy’ already?  This Aldo Velani Trio was commissioned by Stephen and he has the first opportunity to claim him from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Thanks for joining me!

 

Fashioning a Churchwarden from a Dimpled Bent Billiard Bowl


Blog by Dal Stanton

The great thing about the Churchwarden shape is that it is the only pipe that is identified not strictly by the shape of the bowl but by the length of the stem.  Bill Burney’s Pipedia Pipe Chart explanation describes this unique characteristic of the Churchwarden shape.  When I received an email from Coleman, he was looking to add a Churchwarden to his collection.  He wrote:

Hey Dal, I was browsing your website love the pipes, wanted to see if you had any more churchwardens available for commission or sale. I’ve always wanted one, and I can’t think of a better place to buy one than from Daughters of Bulgaria. The longer the stem the better. I really liked the billiard churchwarden, and the French imperial one in the shop that’s already sold. Do you think you’ll get anymore?

Last time I was with Coleman was he was an intern serving with us here in Bulgaria about 5 or so years ago.  He was single then, but as life happens, he is now happily married to Rebecca for 4 years!  He had spoken to Rebecca about adding a Churchwarden to his collection from The Pipe Steward and was agreeable to Coleman’s acquisition because the sales benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you, Rebecca!

Coleman described wanting a Billiard stummel with a bent shank.  I rummaged through potential stummels that could be repurposed to fashion an acceptable Churchwarden for Coleman.  I found three good candidates and sent pictures to him.  In the end, he settled on the Dimpled Bent Billiard in the center which has great promise for a beautiful display of natural briar grain with interesting rusticated accents.  We discussed the terms and came to an accord and I placed Coleman’s Churchwarden project in the queue.

Taking the stummel out and placing it on the work table, when I first acquired the Dimpled Bent Billiard, it came in the Lot of 66 I got off the eBay auction block.  When I initially looked at it, I did not see anything that looked like markings.  With a closer look now, I can just make out on the lower side of the shank the COM being France – I can barely make out ‘ANCE’.  The markings are now so thin that they have nearly passed out of remembrance and undoubtedly will with this fabrication.  I take a closeup of the ghosted marking on the lower shank.What I was not looking for but what is obviously revealed in the closer look at the lower shank is a small stress fracture in the briar.  I take a few more pictures with different angles of light highlighting it.  The good news is that the crack is isolated – not going through to the shank end. I’m assured of this after inspecting closely looking at the shank end and mortise.  My guess is that the small, barely visible crack was formed from a fall where the stem was the first to hit and it pressed up and in opposite reaction, the tenon pressured downwardly on the lower mortise wall and the stress crack resulted on the lower shank. A guess.  I’ll think about what needs to be done about the crack and address it later.The accenting rusticated dimple effect is interesting giving the smooth briar contoured, rustic relief – I like it, and so did Coleman.  The grain shows nice potential in the pictures below. The chamber has some carbon cake build up – I’ll be removing it to give the briar a fresh start.Finally, I take a picture showing the stummel and the Warden stem together – what we’re aiming for!  The bend of the shank sets the stage for a nice, long sweeping Warden stem.I start the Warden fabrication by cleaning the stummel.  Starting with reaming the chamber, I use only the smallest blade head from the Pipnet Reaming kit and follow by scraping the chamber wall with the Savinelli Fitsall tool.  Finally, after wrapping 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber removing more of the carbon and getting down to the briar.  To remove the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  After an inspection of the chamber, it shows no signs of heat damage with cracks or fissures.To clean the external briar, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad to scrub.  I also get into the dimples to clean them.  On the rim, the internal lip of the rim is darkened from scorching.  I use a brass wire brush to clean the rim, but even after scrubbing the darkened briar is still evident. The internals of this stummel was no picnic!  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%, I clean the mortise and airway.  I also do a lot of excavating of tars and oils by scraping the mortise walls with a dental spatula which you can see wiped in plenty on the cotton pad in the picture below.  Using a long shank brush, I’m able to scrub the airway.  It took a good bit of time, but the buds started lightening until enough progress had been made.  Later, I will continue the cleaning by giving the bowl a kosher salt and alcohol soak.I decide to move forward with the stummel repair before beginning the shaping of the Churchwarden stem.  I have two issues to address before moving on.  The rim is scorched and even after cleaning a dark ring persists around the inner lip of the rim.  With the rim already rounded, I will simply go with that flow and bevel out the internal rim damage.  The other challenge is to address the small stress crack on the lower shank.

First, I address the rim.  After taking a close-up of the rim to mark the starting point.  In succession, I pinch rolled pieces of sanding papers between my thumb and the inner rim from coarser to less coarse grades: first 120, then, 240, 470 and 600 grade papers.  This removes the damaged briar and freshens the rim and it looks much better.  The rounded rim will look good as a Churchwarden.  Before and after pictures follow: Now, I decide to address the pressure crack on the lower shank.  I will drill two counter-holes at the ends of the crack to guard against the crack growing.  This stops the possibility of the crack creeping in the future.  Drilling these holes is not easy using a hand held Dremel extension with a 1mm drill bit.  Not only do I have the ‘shakes’ as an obstacle of accomplishing a good, true hole drilling, but the depth of the drilling is also of concern.  The shank is not a thick piece of briar!  I do not want to see sunlight coming into the mortise! The first picture is simply of the crack – difficult to see with a magnifying glass.  In order to help guide the drilling, I use a sharp dental probe, again with the aid of a magnifying glass, to mark the ends of the crack with an imprint where the counter-holes will be drilled.Next, I change out the Dremel clamping and mount a 1mm drill bit into the handheld extender.  This is where the jitters really start jittering.  Perhaps, one day I’ll secure a more stable drilling platform but today is not that day!  Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, the drilling goes well.  Not too much shaking nor too deep. Next, I use thin CA glue because the crack is very subtle, and I want the CA glue to fill and penetrate what it can.  I apply CA glue to the two holes and crack and apply briar dust to the patch.  Hopefully, this aids the holes to later blend.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure.Several hours later I make it back to the work table and the shank patch has cured and I begin filing the mound with a flat needle file until the patch mound is almost flush with the briar surface.  I then switch to sanding with 240 grade paper to bring the patch flush with the surface and finish at this point with 600 grade paper to smooth it out and blend it.  The patch looks good and I believe the repair was necessary.  It should blend well with the surrounding bird’s eye grain. Time to focus on fashioning the Warden stem with the use of the Pimo Tenon Turning tool which has been a very useful addition to my instruments in my restoration toolbox.  I keep the directions on the wall in front of me!  The visuals give an idea of how this tool works to quickly and accurately resize a tenon.The precast stem is 8 5/8 inches long.  I begin by measuring the inside diameter of the mortise using an electronic caliper.  The measurement is 8.50 mm.  This represents the critical target width of the tenon to fit the mortise.  The precast tenon is obviously fat and I use the Pimo Tool to take off a layer of the fat tenon simply to serve as a starting point.I first pre-drill the airway with the drill bit provided by the Pimo kit to allow the guide pin of the Turning Tool to fit into the airway.After the first ‘fat’ cut of the tenon, the tenon is 9.60mm.  My goal is not to cut the tenon exactly at 8.50mm for a ‘perfect’ fit, but to give myself about .40mm of extra width to then conservatively sand my way to a good tenon/mortise fit. Every mortise is different, and I have found it better to go at it slowly.  So, adding .40 to 8.50 gives me a tenon target width of about 8.90 to aim for using the Pimo tool. With the hex wrench provided I turn the set screw to the left to reduce or tighten the Carbide Cutter Arm of the Pimo tool.  Again for an initial measurement, I only cut small portion of the tenon and measure (picture below).  There’s always the chance of taking too much off!  The test measurement is 8.79mm.  This cut results in the tenon being underneath the 8.90 conservative target but still above the 8.50mm critical measurement.  I take the tenon down to that measurement and begin sanding. To smooth off and form the end of the rough tenon, I make quick work of it with a sanding drum mounted on the Dremel.Gradually sanding with 240 grit paper as well as using a flat needle file, eventually I achieve a good fit.  The tenon is snug but not too snug.You can see in the next picture the overhang of the shank which needs to be sanded down flush with the stem butting against the shank face.  What I also notice is that the face of the stem is shouldered – or down-turned.  This is from not taking off enough vulcanite to have a flat face surface for the stem face to seat against the shank face.  Not shown is remounting the Pimo tool onto the drill and shaving off a bit more of the stem face to improve the junction.  With the flattening of the stem face the tenon seats well.  I go to work sanding the shank to bring it flush with the stem.  I also taper the sanding up the shank to achieve more flow – not having the stuffed pants look.  After sanding the shank/stem junction looks great. Even though the Warden stem is a new precast stem, it must be shaped, filed and sanded to remove vulcanite ripples and manufacturing seams.  I work on the button area with the flat needle file and then 240 grade paper.  I also fully sand the entire stem with 240 grade paper.  You can see manufacturing ripples in the new stem which the sanding smooths out. After completing the sanding with the 240 grade paper, I wet sand the entire stem with 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 steel wool.  The Warden stem is looking great.  It’s difficult to take good pictures of the Warden stem because the view is always from orbit to get the full length!  So, I provide a few close-ups as well.To hydrate the vulcanite, I then wipe it down with paraffin oil, a mineral oil.I refit the stem with the Dimpled Billiard stem to get a look at the progress.  I’m liking what I’m seeing.Now I need to bend the stem.  I use a hot air gun to heat the vulcanite to make it supple and bendable.  I first put a pipe cleaner in the airway just to make sure the airway does not collapse during the bending.  The general aim is to give the Warden stem a gentle and flowing bend so that the end of the stem is generally in a parallel orientation with plane of the rim.In the end, I re-heat, re-bend, re-heat and re-bend a few times until I was satisfied. I think it looks good.  I go for the flowing look which is more ‘Gandalf-like’ – the subjective bar for all Churchwardens!  I think this will be agreeable to Coleman.With the Warden stem bent, I start the micromesh process by wet sanding the stem with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to continue to hydrate the vulcanite.  There is a pop to the freshly sanding/polished vulcanite!Turning now to the stummel, I use sanding sponges to clean the surface of the Dimpled Billiard removing minor cuts and nicks.  I first take some starting pictures then sand the stummel with a coarse sponge followed by medium and then, finish with a light grade sponge.  The sanding goes over the top of the rusticated dimples.  To get into and clean, sand and polish the dimples, later I will use the compounds and the Dremel to do this. I then go directly to sanding with micromesh pads starting with wet sanding pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I enjoy watching the grain emerge during the micromesh process. Before going any further with the stummel polishing, I continue the internal cleaning using kosher salt and isopropyl 95% as I indicated earlier. I begin by forming a wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball to insert into the mortise.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt, which unlike iodized salt, does not leave an after taste.  I then place the stummel in an egg crate for stability and add isopropyl 95% to the bowl until it surfaces over the salt.  I wait a few minutes while the alcohol is absorbed and top it off once again.  I then set the stummel aside to soak for several hours. The soak did the job.  The discoloration of the salt and wick show the absorbing action of the salt and alcohol.  I toss the expended salt in the trash can, wipe the bowl out with a paper towel and blow through the mortise as well to dislodge remnant salt crystals.  I finish off by expending a few more alcohol wetted pipe cleaners and cotton buds to make sure all is clean, and it is.  Moving on. With Coleman’s agreement, I’m staying with the natural grain color and because of this I utilize Before & After Restoration Balm to condition the briar surface.  The Balm deepens and enriches what is already present in the grain and I like the subtle improved results of using it.  I put some Balm on my finger and rub it into the surface.  The Balm’s texture begins as a thinner oil-like thickness and then gradually thickens into a wax-like texture.  I work the Balm into the rusticated dimples as well. After fully covering the surface, I wait about 30 minutes and then wipe/buff the excess Balm. I use a toothpick also to make sure the dimples are not holding collected Balm.  A few ‘After’ pictures to compare.  It looks great! With the Balm applied, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel at 40% speed.  I then apply Blue Diamond compound to the stummel surface taking special care to work the compound into the rusticated dimples. The sanding processes do not get into the crevasses but pass over.  Using the smaller buffing wheel, I’m able to direct the compound into the crevasses.  I also apply Blue Diamond to the Churchwarden stem.  Its easier to keep the stem and stummel separate because of the size of stem and the rotating motion I use with the Dremel.  After completing application of the Blue Diamond, I apply carnauba wax to the stem and stummel using another cotton cloth buffing wheel and leaving the speed the same.  After completing application of the wax, I unite stem and stummel and give the newly born Churchwarden a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.

The fabrication of this Dimpled Billiard Churchwarden came out great.  I’m pleased.  The rusticated Dimpled Billiard has beautiful grain with a splay of grain spreading to the rim and much bird’s eye populating the heel of the stummel.  Often, rustication is used to hide blemishes in a lesser quality bowl, but this is not the case with this stummel.  The rusticated dimples are interesting shapes on a beautiful canvas of briar grain.  I believe Coleman will be pleased.  He commissioned this Dimpled Billiard Churchwarden and has the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A Cutty Tavern Pipe – Recommissioning a Historical Classic as a Gift for a Steward of History


Blog by Dal Stanton

Tavern Pipe
By Suzie Baker

Summary and excerpts of the artist’s description:
Here the subject poses as an American Colonial man from 1776; he actually posed on Washington’s Birthday.  He has a ruddy complexion and piercing blue eyes. From my perspective, he is more interesting to paint than a golden-haired beauty.

He poses with a tavern pipe. This type of pipe was a communal pipe used in pubs in the 18th century. After each use, the pipe stem was cut away then replaced on the mantel for the next user. I chose a color scheme appropriate to the time period and drew inspiration from Rembrandt’s work in the direct gaze, dark background and loose handling of paint, especially in the clothing….

Let me first tell you the story about the commissioning of the Cutty Tavern Pipe now on my worktable and then I will tell you about the gifted artist I discovered in my research about tavern pipes, Suzie Baker, and her amazing offer to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria with her ‘Tavern Pipe’.Living in Bulgaria, the opportunities to talk with our grown children (and growing grandchildren!) residing in the US, is a special treat.  My son, Jonathon, reached out to me on FaceTime with a special, ‘historical’ request.  Jonathon desired to commission a special ‘historical’ pipe as a gift for Andrew, a friend who was leaving his job as the assistant curator of the Dearborn Historical Museum – an American city in the state of Michigan that takes its history seriously.   Jonathon, while serving on the mayoral appointed Dearborn Historical Commission, befriended Andrew as Andrew fulfilled his duties as a curator for the museum tasked with safeguarding Dearborn’s history.

Today, Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, is proud to be one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.  Yet, Dearborn’s history is predominantly shaped by the controversial industrialist and auto manufacturer, who called Dearborn his home, Henry Ford (1863-1947).

When Jonathan shared his desire to commission a pipe with some historicity as a gift for a CURATOR of a museum, and that museum was the Dearborn Historical Museum, I was anxious to rise to the challenge that that request presented.  I did a fast dictionary search on Google to see a working definition of ‘Curator’.  This is what I found:

Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, left, and his son, Edsel, in one of their car showrooms in January 1928. (AP) from Washington Post article (link)

Curator:
a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.
“the curator of drawings at the National Gallery”
synonyms: custodian, keeper, conservator, guardian, caretaker, steward

I took special interest in the last word listed as a synonym of curator – ‘steward’, which speaks to my ‘Pipe Steward’ sentiments.  Understanding that we are not the owners ultimately but protecting and caring for that which belongs to others to pass it on.  I understand this as I handle pipes which are laden with their own histories revealed in the nomenclature, but often the history and legacies of that pipe’s steward(s) joins the pipe’s legacy moving together to the future.  As a curator, Andy participated in guarding history.  History by its very nature comes with a blend of beauty and goodness coalescing with ugliness and pain – each side of the pendulum is history which we guard so that we do not forget it and continue to learn from past triumphs and failures – even when it’s not comfortable.

So, the gauntlet was thrown: A Steward of History (Andrew the Curator) is celebrated for his service by the current president of the Dearborn Historical Commission (my son), who reaches out to The Pipe Steward (that’s Dal in Bulgaria) to commission a special pipe, with historical gravitas to adequately serve as an appropriate gift.  Jonathon asked for my recommendations, but relying on the Harry Potter principle in wand selection approach, I turn Jonathon loose

Keens Steakhouse reported to be the oldest pub/restaurant in NYC and that celebrates their history of clay cutty taven pipes and have a serious collection of clay pipes on display (Link from PipesMagazine.com).

looking through my virtual ‘Help Me!’ baskets in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection to discover which pipe would choose Andrew and let Jonathon know 😊.  After whittling the list down, one pipe did the choosing – the Cutty Tavern Pipe which I acquired from the Lot of 66 off the eBay auction block.  After Jonathon confirmed the commissioning, the first question that came to my mind, since I don’t know Andrew personally, was whether he is the kind of curator that enjoys a trip to the pub after a long day curating at the museum?  This was an important question for my historical research – how do you talk about Tavern Pipes without an appreciation for the natural and historical habitats from which Tavern Pipes have their genesis?  Thankfully, with a confident confirmation, Jonathan assured me that yes, Andrew would enjoy a pub.  With that settled, I began my research.

I found a short description of the Cutty shape on ThePipeGuys site to be a good summary and historical description of the Cutty Tavern Pipe.

Cutty

Tavern scene with a man smoking a pipe next to a barrel with a jug on top of it, his left foot resting on a bench. 1694 From the British Museum (Link)

There is no denying the resemblance that the Cutty bears to the clay tavern pipes of a bygone age. Delicately shaped, Cuttys typically have not an ounce of excess briar left in place. This delicacy of shaping necessitates the use of a special drill bit for the tobacco chamber, which tapers even more drastically than a Danish conical bit, and comes to a sharp point at its tip. A special honor is paid to this pipe, in that this type of conical bit is now called the “cutty bit”.

Notice, the ladies are not left out!
From Pinterist Pipe Smoker Group (link)

Many Cuttys still include the “spur” at the foot of the bowl, once again hearkening back to their clay ancestors, but while the spur of a clay pipe was the remnant of the manufacturing process, the briar versions are purely nostalgic. The bowl of the Cutty is heavily canted forward, which helps differentiate it from other long-shanked pipes like the Canadian. The Cutty may sometimes display a very unique stem, which is slim, slender, and round (almost like a straw). However, the majority of modern Cuttys now sport a tapered stem and come in many finishes.

Try simply googling ‘Cutty Tavern Pipe’ and 100s of images begin sharing different shards of the story and one feels like he’s in a time machine.  Of course, the briar descendants of the classic clay workhorse Cuttys of the 1800s and the early 1900s, claim this heritage as their own.

Elizabethans called a pipe a “little Ladell.”

TobaccoPipes.com adds this information in their ‘Complete Guide to Tobacco Pipe Shapes’:

As far as we can tell, the Cutty is the oldest pipe shape that is still available today.  

As early as the 16th century, pipe smokers would settle in at their favorite tavern and–if they had a high enough social status–would pull out a long clay pipe, almost always a Cutty shape.  This shape was common because it was easy to craft in the molds used for clay pipes (William Goldring, The Pipe Book: A History and How to:1973).  

In my digging into the Cutty clay pipe history, I discovered one very interesting and surprising article (at least to me) that a curator would appreciate.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s (Virginia, USA) website, History.org, published an article by Ivor Noël Hume entitled, “Hunting for a Little Ladle – Tobacco Pipes” (link).  The author describes how archeologist can learn much about different periods of Colonial America in Williamsburg, Virginia’s, history through the recovery of thousands of clay pipe fragments!  As we’ve already mentioned, hygienic concern is the predominant theory.  An excerpt from the author is enlightening:

There are thousands of pipe fragments found in Williamsburg. An early explanation for their ubiquity had it that in colonial-era taverns’ pipes passed from mouth to mouth, but that in the interests of hygiene the previously lip-gripped section was broken off and thrown away. There is no documentary support for that notion, but it is known that used pipes were placed in iron cradles and heat cleansed in bake ovens before being issued to the next round of smokers.

And then I came across this picture that was among 100s of others on the google ‘Tavern Pipe’ image search page results – and I paused.  I see a pipe man in an age gone by and I immediately know what he’s doing as a fellow-pipe man.  Yes, he’s smoking his beautifully shaped long Cutty Tavern Pipe, but he’s doing something else much more important – that his Cutty clay is helping him to do – reflection.  He’s looking out the window, or at the hearth with his eyes, but his heart and soul are elsewhere, seeking understanding or perhaps a much-needed answer.  It is not lost to me as well, that his waiting quill – while ready to move and inscribe on the parchment the sought-out knowledge or answer that his reflection is cultivating, is at rest.  For that moment, the quill waits for the hand’s movement from the heart’s command.

Every pipe man and woman know that smoking a pipe is more than smoking.  It’s a ritual that brings us into calm or fellowship and a slowed time for reflection as we seek to negotiate life and care for loved ones and friends.  The name of the painting I was lost in was simply ‘Tavern Pipe’.  I knew at that moment I wanted to include this painting in the writeup of this special Cutty Tavern Pipe for a special friend of my son – a museum curator would appreciate what I see.

In the next moment I was composing my email to the artist, Suzie Baker, after I clicked on the link taking me to her website where I found her contact information.  This is what I wrote:

Dear Ms. Baker,

I’m writing to you asking for permission to use the picture of your beautiful painting, Tavern Pipe, in a write up I am doing on the restoration of a briar wood Cutty Tavern Pipe.  I came across your www.suziebaker.com site while doing research on tavern pipes.  I will give full credit to your work and website when I cite the information. 

I am an artist of another kind.  You can see my website at www.ThePipeSteward.com.  I collect old, used and often discarded vintage pipes and restore them.  I then sell them world-wide and give the proceeds to the Daughters of Bulgaria – a work in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  My wife and I live and work in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria.  The pipe restoration hobby is a personal way I try to make a difference by talking about this issue to primarily a men’s world – pipe smokers.  Each restoration has its own write-up which you can see at the website.  I will not use the picture of your painting without permission and if given, will, as I said, give you and your site full recognition.  As a pipe lover and one who enjoys a bowl now and then, your painting captures something of the spirit of those who enjoy, and yes, love not only the smoking of pipes, but the beauty of pipes as they showcase both beauty and design.  I call my work, The Pipe Steward, is because unlike cigarettes and cigars (which I do not like!) pipes are often heirlooms and are passed down from generation to generation.  They often carry with them the memories of those who had them before. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request. 

Best regards, 

Dal Stanton
The Pipe Steward

In the past I’ve written notes like this to individuals and pipe houses asking for information about pipes to aid research and I press the ‘send’ button with a very low expectation that this burst of electrons ever finding their way back to my inbox.  I was surprised when her reply arrived so quickly.  Here is what she said:

Hi Dal,

Thanks for the request and your service to those caught in trafficking, a daunting and worthy cause. 

Yes, I would be pleased for you to use my image in your write-up. In fact, this painting is still available so if the posting results in a sale, I will donate 25-30% of the sale back to your worthy cause. The price and details are listed on my sight in the info under the painting (as seen on a computer screen) or info tag on a Mobile device. 

I am on an airplane currently and about to take off. I can send you the image tomorrow. Please let me know what resolution you require. 

Blessings,

Suzie Baker OPA
Vice President, Oil Painters of America 

 

 

Well, as the president of the Daughters of Bulgaria Foundation, her generous offer was something I could not refuse as we work for the benefit of the Daughters.  I appreciated her response and offer.  After looking at her website, I was drawn to the “About Suzie Baker” tab – who is this person?  Not only is she an accomplished artist, wife and mother, but she recognizes that her talent is a gift and she uses this gift to give back to others – especially artists.  There’s much more on this page that describes the accomplishments of this artist who also desires to be a benefactress of women who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Her ‘calling’ is similar to my own, as I seek to ‘give back’ specially to pipe men and women, the gift of restoring pipes that I am stewarding for a time, and at the same time, seeking to benefit the Daughters.  About Suzie Baker:

Giving Back

This artist also believes in giving back to the community of artists, and she is proud to serve as a Board Member with the Oil Painters of America. “Serving on the board with OPA is and will be a highlight of my career, primarily because of the opportunity it gives me to serve my fellow artists,” she says. “Being on the path of a working artist is a calling. I find helping others on their path a very satisfying pursuit.” She has also earned Signature Member status in numerous other prestigious art organizations: the American Impressionist Society, the

Click the picture for the Daughters!

National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, the Outdoor Painters Society, the California Art Club, and American Women Artists.” – from Suzie Baker, Fine Artist at https://www.suziebaker.com/info/suzie

Pipe men and women, if you would like to add the ‘Tavern Pipe’ to your collection of pipes and artwork and help a good and needful cause at the same time, the Daughters of Bulgaria, click the image on the right which takes you to Suzie Baker’s site with a full description of the Tavern Pipe painting, and a higher resolution picture to view. Contact information for Suzie Baker is also included.  When you contact her, simply tell her that it’s for the Daughters.

This story has told you about the son, the curator and the artist.  Now, the story turns to the Cutty Tavern Pipe on my work table – the main character!  I was fascinated by the research I did that shed light on this unmarked Cutty.  All the before-mentioned descriptions are true of this 9-inch Cutty Tavern Pipe.  Here are pictures that show you what I’m seeing.     This pipe is the perfect gift for the curator!  One more bit of research that showcases the historical uniqueness of clay Cutty Tavern Pipes and its relations to its briar descendants.  The severely canted and uniquely shaped bowl comes to a point as it ties into the long, pencil thin shank and stem.  A very interesting diagram I discovered at CanadianArchaeology.com (link) of the National Historic Parks Branch of Canada, depicts the historical development of the clay pipe bowl and provides the corresponding dating for that particular style.  As I look at the diagram’s images and comparing them to our Cutty, it was fashioned after the clay Cuttys belonging to the period from 1820 to 1860.  The canting and the bowl width, along with the spur, now ornamental for the briar, all seem to align.  I have no way of dating the Cutty Tavern Pipe heading to Andrew, but its history and heritage wrap around it even in the absence of a verifiable nomenclature.

Armed now with a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the Cutty Tavern Pipe on my table, I take a closer look at his condition.  The briar, somewhat subdued underneath the dirt and grime, is beautiful.  The surface itself shows that it has been well loved and used by a previous steward.  There are nicks and dents over the bowl surface as well as the shank. The pipe shows signs of wear but has been well-cared for.  I say that because, with a shank of only 7/16 inches wide at the stem joint, the fact that the shank hasn’t cracked at this very thin juncture is amazing!  A caution to the future steward, be careful with the stem mounting and removal!  The shank IS pencil thin.  Looking at the rim, there are some dents on the external lip and some significant lava flow over the backside of the rim.  The conical chamber has moderate cake build up which I will remove to provide the briar a fresh start.  The long pencil stem shows some oxidation and tooth chatter on the bit.  The button and slot look to be in good shape.To begin the restoration, using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% and long shank brushes, I clean the internal airway of the pencil stem.  It was dirty.After soaking for several hours, I remove the stem and take a closeup shot to reveal the raised oxidation – the olive green layer is now to be removed.To remove the oxidation, I wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper.  Following the sanding, I apply a 0000-grade steel wool on the entire stem as well cleaning the surface further.  To begin the process of rejuvenating the vulcanite, I apply a mineral oil – paraffin oil, to the stem and put it aside to absorb.  It’s looking good!I begin the cleaning process of the stummel by reaming the chamber.  Because of the small, tapering chamber, I do not use my regular Pipnet Ream kit but instead go directly to using the Savinelli Fitsall tool and it does a stellar job.  It reaches very easily to the difficult areas at the floor of the chamber and negotiates well the angle of the conical bowl.  Using 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber to clean further the carbon cake.  Finally, I clean the carbon dust using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  After inspecting the chamber, I see no heating problems with cracks or fissures.  I move on. Next, to clean the external surface of the stummel I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad to scrub.  This does a great job.  I also utilize the straight edge of a pocket knife to gently scrape the lava crust from the rim and then use a brass wire brush to work on the burned area of the rim.  The cleaning well removes the finish on the stummel, but there remains a darkened area on the rim where there was scorching.  To complete the basic cleaning regimen, I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds to work on the internals of the mortise.  With the stem internal airway as dirty as it was, I am not surprised to find the mortise equally mucked up with tars and gunk.  After I put on surgical gloves, my first hurdle was to clear the entire airway.  The first pipe cleaners I plunged into the abyss would not push through the draft hole – something was blocking. After a few attempts, the pipe cleaner pushed old tobacco through, and it was finally cleared.  In addition to pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in alcohol, I use a long-wired shank brush wetted with alcohol to clean the airway.  A dental probe was also helpful reaching in and excavating the collected tars off the mortise walls.  To increase my cleaning leverage more, I use a drill bit almost the size of the airway, hand turning it as it moves up the airway, scraping the tars of the briar as it goes.  Finally, some headway is realized, and cotton buds begin to lighten.  I’m satisfied with the cleaning for now.With the workday ending, I continue the cleaning of the internals using a kosher salt and alcohol bath.  I first stretch and twist a cotton ball to form a ‘mortise wick’ that I insert into the long, narrow shank of the Cutty.  I use a slender painter’s brush to help force the cotton down the airway.  I then situate the stummel in an egg carton and fill the bowl with kosher salt.  Kosher salt doesn’t leave an aftertaste like iodized salt.  I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until is surfaces over the salt.  I wait a few minutes as the alcohol recedes and then top it off.  I turn out the light to let the salt and alcohol do it job through the night. The next morning the soak has done the expected job.  The kosher salt and cotton wick are soiled after drawing out oils and tars from the internal cavity.  I empty the bowl of salt, wipe the chamber with a paper towel, use a shank brush and blow through the mortise to remove any left-over salt crystals.  To make sure the cleaning is complete, I expend a few more cotton buds and pipe cleaners and find great results. A refreshed pipe for the curator! Moving on!I look now at the rim.  With the dents I see on the outer lip and the scorched darkened briar on the inside of the rim lip, I decide to top the stummel lightly to remove most of the damage to the rim and to freshen the rim lines.  After placing 240 grade paper on a chopping board, with the stummel inverted, I rotate the stummel over the paper several times to top the stummel.  I check to make sure I’m remaining true and finish with a few more rotations. I change the paper on the board to 600 grade and rotate the inverted stummel a few more times to smooth the rim surface further following the coarser 240 grit.  Not all the darkened briar is removed, but I’m not willing to give up more of the rim’s briar.  I focus now on the internal lip of the rim and introduce a bevel to remove more of the darkened briar.  I first cut the bevel using a coarse 120 grade paper followed by 240, then 600.  With each grade of paper, I fold it into a tight roll and then pinch it against the inner rim with my thumb.  I work the rolls around the rim so at the end it is an even, consistent bevel.  I like the subtle softening of the internal bevel and it accomplishes sufficient removal of damaged briar.I move on to the stummel preparation.  As I identified above, I find some significant cuts and dents in the stummel, and especially in the narrow shank.  My guess is that the pipe was stored in a can with the stem inserted first.  The cuts in the shank look like injuries sustained as the shank rubbed against the can edge – my theory.   I take a few pictures to show this.  I decide to fully clean the briar surface and I use 240 grade sanding paper over the entire stummel followed by 470 grade paper.  I then wet sand the stummel using 600 grade paper.  The pictures show the progress. Next, I use sanding sponges to sand and smooth the surface more.  I start with a coarse sponge, then medium then finally, a light grade sponge.  The grain starts emerging during the sponge sanding process.  It looks good. While inspecting the shank afterwards, I notice the crevasse that remains in the shank.  I use a magnifying glass to take a closer look.  It doesn’t appear to be a trauma resulting in a crack but a gouge or cut.  To be on the safe side and for cosmetic reasons, after wiping the area with alcohol to clean it, I apply CA glue to it to seal it. After applying a drop of CA glue on the crevasse, I put the stummel aside giving time for the CA glue patch to cure.With the stummel on the side, I turn back to the stem and look at it again.  The tooth chatter that was evident before was fully removed during the earlier wet sanding with 600 grade paper and 0000 steel wool.  I decide to move now to the micromesh phase by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pencil stem looks great! The CA glue patch applied to the crevasse on the shank has cured and is ready to be sanded down and blended.  Using 240 grit paper, I sand down the initial patch mound until it is flush with the briar surface.  Following this, I again use 600 grit paper to erase the 240 scratches and to smooth it out.  As before, I then apply each sanding sponge, starting with the coarse sponge, medium then light. I can still see the scar, but it is now sealed and smooth to the touch and blends in nicely.  A needed detour. With the repair finished, now I apply micromesh pads to the Cutty stummel.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  Following I dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The spur even gets its time in the sanding process! During the micromesh phase, I watch the grain emerge and it is beautiful, and see the Cutty bowl design more clearly.  The horizontal grain flanking both sides of the bowl run parallel with the shank.  The cant of the bowl is accented by the grain as the bowl seems to jut out with the grain.  The effect catches the eye.  Added to this is the bird’s eye grain that is on the fore and rear of the bowl.  Whoever turned this block of briar into the Cutty was insightful and could see what the lines would do with the canted Cutty angles.  The picture of the Comoy’s Blue Riband 347 Cutty below (link) has the same eye catching grain motif.  I found this picture of a Cutty as I was doing an online survey looking at the different hues that briar Cuttys come in generally.  Of course, you will find a spectrum of color from dark to light as you look at the googled image pages.  Yet, as I looked at 100s of pictures, what seemed to be resonating with me was the darker hues like the Comoy’s above depicts.  Of course, the clay Cutty is white, but the older ‘English’ classic feel was communicated more through the darker hues like this striking Comoy’s.  My decision was made, and after assembling my desktop staining tools, I mix together Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye 2 parts to 1 with Fiebing’s Saddle Tan Pro Dye in a shot glass.  After wiping the stummel with alcohol to clean it, I insert into the mortise two doubled pipe cleaners to serve as my handle.  I then heat the Cutty stummel with a hot air gun to open the briar helping it to be more receptive to the dyes.  Using a folded pipe cleaner as an applicator, I ‘wash’ parts of the stummel with the dye and then ‘flame’ it using a lit candle.  As an aniline dye, the alcohol combusts when it meets the flame and as the alcohol burns off in a ‘puff!’ it sets the dye pigment into the briar.  I methodically apply the dyes to the entire stummel flaming as I go. When thoroughly covered, I put the stummel inverted on a cork situated in a candle stick holder to rest through the night allowing the dye to settle.  I discovered that this period of resting is important as it helps guard against the newly applied stain to come off on the fingers later when the pipe is first put into service and the briar is heated for the first time.The next morning I’m ready to start ‘unwrapping’ the fired and dyed stummel.  The firing creates a crust on the surface which I initially remove with the use of a felt buffing wheel applying Tripoli compound.  I mount the felt buffing wheel onto the Dremel, set the speed at the lowest RPMs because I do not want to create too much friction and scorch the briar.I methodically work the felt wheel through the crust revealing the briar grain underneath the crust.  Throughout the process, I purge the felt wheel often as it collects the crusty fired dye.  I stage a picture (below) to show the contrast after the felt wheel applies Tripoli compound and has unwrapped a portion of the stummel revealing the stained grain beneath.  After I complete the initial unwrapping of the entire stummel, I change from a felt cloth buffing wheel to a cotton cloth wheel and increase the speed of the Dremel to 40% full power.  I then apply another round of Tripoli compound with the softer cotton wheel.  I discovered doing this after the felt wheel helps to angle in to the crook of the shank/bowl junction better, but it also removes more dye blotches revealing a sharper grain contrast.After completing the second round of Tripoli, I wipe the stummel with a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol.  This can lighten the finish if I choose to rub more aggressively but I don’t.  I’m satisfied with the color, but the wipe helps blend the finish further and remove excess dye.I follow the Tripoli compound by applying the finer Blue Diamond compound.  I mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, keep the speed at 40%, and apply the compound.  I apply it to both the stummel and the stem.  Since the stem is longer, it’s easier to keep them separated as I apply the compound.Following the Blue Diamond, another cotton cloth wheel is mounted, the speed remains the same and I apply Carnauba wax to both the stem and stummel.After completing the application of wax, I try to reunite the stem and stummel and discover that the tenon/mortise fit is too snug for comfort.  This often happens after internal cleaning and the briar is wet and that can expand it microscopically – enough that forcing the tenon into this pencil thin shank is a recipe for disaster – cracking a shank is not a fun thing to deal with! To remedy this, I wrap a piece of 600 grit paper around the tenon and sand it down until it fits more easily and snuggly.  This restoration has told an interesting story.  The Cutty Tavern Pipe looks great.  The dark brown finish and polishing regimen has resulted in a unique Cutty bowl drawing even more attention.  The Cutty Tavern Pipe’s lines are classic and harken back to a day gone by when these pipes were fashioned with clay and were held proudly by both those with means and the common man and woman who had gathered with friends to enjoy each other at the pub and a smoke.  A fitting gift for a curator of history and even more so, the commissioning of this pipe by my son, benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  The unexpected turn in this story is the painting, ‘Tavern Pipe’, depicting the pipe man and his pipe – an accurate and telling image captured on canvas by the brush of a gifted artist, Suzie Baker, whose generosity is making available a percentage of the sale of this painting to the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Is there a pipe man or woman out there to bring the Tavern Pipe home benefiting the Daughters?  I hope so!  Thank you for joining me!

 

Rejuvenating a Ben Wade Hand Model London Made Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

This Ben Wade came to me a couple of years back when I landed, from the eBay auction block, what I have called the Lot of 66. It continues to yield nice collectable pipes. The finish on this Ben Wade is a rustic looking blasted finish which is eye catching with the detail and bowl shaping. It caught Todd’s eye in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and is the last of 3 that he has commissioned. Here are pictures of the Ben Wade Hand Model now on my worktable: I’ve discovered through the reading I’ve done about the name ‘Ben Wade’ that it has an up and down history. The Pipedia article is helpful in simplifying the history in four helpful ‘eras’ which I’ve summarized from the Pipedia:

The Family era (1860 to 1962) – the heydays of the English name when the pipes were stamped Made in Leeds, England.

Charatan / Lane second (1962 to 1988) – When Herman G. Lane purchased the name, the transition from a higher quality pipe during the long Family Era transitioned exclusively to the fabrication of machine-made pipes. Lane moved the production from the Leeds factory (closed in 1965) to Charatan’s Prescott Street factory. Ben Wade became essentially lower quality series pipes produced in standard shapes. The pipes during this period were stamped, “Made in London, England” or dropping the “London” and stamped with “England” alone. After Lane died, in 1978 his heirs sold the Charatan and Ben Wade names to Dunhill, which left the production of Charatan/Ben wade at the Prescott Street factor. In 1988 production came to an end for Ben Wade when the Charatan’s Prescott Street factory closed.

Ben Wade turns Danish (1971-1989) – During this era Preben Holm, from Denmark, was in financial difficulties and Herman Lane and he went into partnership producing the Handmade and fancy pipes. These pipes were marked “Ben Wade Made in Denmark”. These pipes gained great popularity, especially as the were marketed in the US. After Lane’s death, Preben Holm, not the businessman, was in financial difficulties and reduced his workforce and production, but at his death in 1989, production of the Danish Preben Holm pipes came to an end.

Resurrection – (1998 to present) – Duncan Briars bought the Ben Wade name from Dunhill in 1998 and production of Ben Wade pipes restarted at the Walthamstow plant, sharing the same space where Dunhill pipes are produced and reportedly benefiting from the same quality of production. During this present era, the stamping on the pipes is: “Ben Wade, Made in London, England”The reason I went through this summary of Ben Wade’s morphing history is because in nothing I’ve read about Ben Wade (and I’m sure there’s more out there), I found no reference to a Ben Wade Hand Model with the COM, London Made. The stamping on the pipe before me is ‘Ben Wade’ [over] HAND MODEL [over] LONDON MADE. The saddle stem has the Ben Wade stamped on the upper side of the stem saddle. My first glance at the blasted finish made me wonder whether this Ben Wade came out during the ‘mystery’ Resurrection period in the Pipedia article. Here is the full text that made me wonder:

As said before Preben Holm’s death marked the third end of Ben Wade and for long years there were no Ben Wade pipes in the shops anymore. But then, all of a sudden they were back in the USA some years ago! Who made these pipes? A concrete manufacturer was not known at first.

The rumors spreading were considerable. Especially because these Ben Wades – originally all blasted and in deep black color – featured so perfect straight and / or ring-grain that they were almost suspicious in view of the prices. The supposition that “Mother Nature” had been given a leg up by means of rustication combined with subsequent blasting was evident as different sources confirmed.

Steve on rebornpipes refers to pipes as having a ‘blasticated’ finish. The process is blasting a rusticated pipe making it appear naturally blasted but the more perfect lines make it seem better than ‘mother nature’ as the Pipedia described. As I look at this Ben Wade, I wonder if it’s from that time period and the grain looks so good, is it blastication? I sent Steve the picture below and his verdict was not blastication, but a really nice looking blasted finish. Yet, I’m stumped by the COM marking. Here’s a close-up of the stummel, very nice natural 3-D blasted grain and not blastication. I sent out pictures of some pictures and the nomenclature to various pipe Facebook groups and the responses I did get, though they were anecdotal, pointed to an earlier period. Paul, from Pipe Smoker of America FB Group, said that he believed it was a Pre-78 and made in Charatan factory. He also said that these were some of his best smokers are London BWs. It sounds good to me!

As I look at the condition of this Ben Wade, the surface needs cleaning to see what the finish will do. The finish is dark and tired as I look at it. The chamber shows light cake buildup and the rim is darkened with some lava flow. The stem will need to be cleaned of the oxidation and the button is chewed some with bite compressions on both the upper and lower bit.

With a better knowledge of the Ben Wade Hand Model Billiard on my worktable, I begin by cleaning the stem airway with pipe cleaners wetted with alcohol and then add it to a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue. After several hours, I fish out the Ben Wade’s stem and wipe it down with cotton pads wet with alcohol to remove the raised oxidation. The Deoxidizer did a great job.To begin to rejuvenate the stem, I apply a coat of paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to the vulcanite and then put it aside.Next, I go to work on the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming Kit. After putting paper towel down, I ream using 3 of the 4 blade heads available. I follow by fine-tuning with the Savinelli Fitsall tool and finish by sanding the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen giving the briar a fresh start. I then wipe the chamber with a cotton pad and alcohol ridding it of leftover carbon dust. After inspecting the chamber, I see no heating or burning problems. I move on! The internals of the mortise and airway are next on the cleaning regimen. Using cotton buds and a few pipe cleaners, things clean up quickly. I also use a dental spatula and scrape the mortise wall and remove very little tars and oils. It’s nice when a stummel isn’t horrendously grungy! Moving on.Moving now to the external blasted finish, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad to scrub. I’m wondering how strong the finish is – it appears a bit thin and the cleaning will reveal the answer. I also use a bristled tooth brush as well as a brass wire brush on the rim. After scrubbing, I take it to the sink and rinse the stummel with cool tap water without allowing water in the internals! The verdict is that the finish is worn and the scrubbing on the rim has left bare briar. With the day closing, I want to give the internals a further cleaning using kosher salt and alcohol as a soak. I create a wick from a cotton ball by pulling and twisting it. The wick serves to draw the tars and oils out. I then insert the wick down the mortise and airway with the help of a stiff wire. I then fill the bowl with kosher salt (which leaves no aftertaste) and after placing the stummel in an egg carton to keep it stable; I put isopropyl 95% into the chamber until it fills. I wait a few minutes and top off the alcohol once more. I turn out the light allowing the stummel to soak through the night. The next morning, I discover that the soak has not unearthed too much additional tars and oils from the internals of the pipe. This was confirmed after I followed with a few cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. Cleaned!Turning my attention now to the Ben Wade stem, the Before & After Deoxidizer did a great job excising the oxidation from the vulcanite rubber compound. Now I focus on the bit and button repair which have some significant bite compressions. I take a closer look with a couple of pictures to mark the start of the repair. I start by painting the bit area with a Bic lighter to heat and expand the vulcanite. After doing this for some time I take comparison pictures to show the unsatisfactory progress. Comparing first:

Upper bit, before and after:Lower bit, before and after:The heating process made little progress. I now mix activated charcoal with CA glue to form a patch material and apply it to the tooth compressions and to the button lips – I’ll need to reshape the button. I first clean the stem area with isopropyl 95%. I then gradually mix thick CA glue with activated charcoal on an index card. I aim for a thickness of molasses so it’s thick enough to stay in place not run but will allow some manipulation once applied. On the first mixing, I mixed too much activated charcoal with the CA glue and got one of the chemical reactions where the mixture hardens instantly giving off an acrid smoke!! This has happened before. I need to apply the mixture before it thickens too much. The next mixtures work well. After applying patch material to both upper and lower I set the stem aside to allow the patch to cure. I turn my attention now to the Ben Wade Hand Model stummel. I like the rustic look of this stummel. What I also like about it is that there is a curving or narrowing in the shaping of the bowl about 2/3s up as it moves toward the rim. With the rough finish, rough is good and the surface reminds me of tree bark! With the stummel being dry and with a light blotchy look in the valleys of the blasted areas, I decide to add some paraffin oil to the briar to hydrate it. Doing this also allows me to get a sneak preview of what the briar will look like somewhat finished, I apply paraffin oil to the surface with a cotton pad. This moisturizes the briar and I like what I’m seeing. The only thing I’m not liking is that the scorched place on the back side of the rim is still evident even with the help of a darkened blend. The pictures show what I’m seeing. I decide to go back to an elbow grease methodology and focus cleaning on the rim with a brass wire brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. This time Murphy’s has its way. I did do a lot of scrubbing and the rim surface shows the skinned lighter area on the rim where the cleaning was, but the scorched area was removed.To darken the rim to blend with the rest of the bowl, I use a cherry dye stick which matches pretty well and I color the rim as well as the edge of the rim – external and internal. This looks good and will blend in more as I polish.Next, to clean up the lower shank panel, I very quickly and lightly, run the area through the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 – dry sanding with each. I wasn’t worried about the nomenclature because it is deep and solid, and I sanded very lightly with the pads. This gently cleaned the smooth briar of minor nicks and scratches.I like the look of the finish and decide that it looks good just as it is. In order to deepen and enrich the natural grain, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm. I like this product that can be found at http://www.lbepen.com. I apply some of the Balm to my fingers and thoroughly work it into the briar surface – into the nooks and crannies of the richly blasted briar. After applying, I let the stummel sit for a few minutes – 10 or so, and then I wipe the stummel with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm and to buff it up a bit. I take a picture during the ‘absorbing’ period.The patches on bit and button of the stem are now cured after several hours. I begin to remove the excess patch material on the upper bit using a flat needle file. I’m careful to establish the new inner lip of the button. As I filed to shape the new button lip, I discover a crevasse hidden below which is too severe simply to remove. There are other pockets on the button that don’t look too promising. It is normal in my experience, that its necessary to apply additional patch material to fill pockets and gaps that appear during filing and sanding.To address patching the button problems, this time I use a black CA glue to fill the crevasse and pockets and I apply an accelerator to quicken the curing process. Again, filing and shaping the upper button lip and this time better results are realized.I follow filing by sanding with 240 grit paper (which I forgot to add as a prop to this picture!) to erase the marks left by filing. As with the filing of the button, the finer 240 paper reveal a cluster of pockets in the center bit area in the patch. Again, I spot drop black CA glue to fill the pockets, apply an accelerator and file the excess then sand the bit area with 240 grit paper. The upper bit and button area look good. The same process is repeated on the lower bit and button. It too, looks good. With the bit repairs completed and with the repaired button shaped, I continue by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper. I’m careful to work around the BEN WADE stem stamp on the saddle. After wet sanding with 600 grit, I apply 0000 steel wool to stem. Finally, I wet scrub the stem with Magic Eraser. I’m satisfied with the progress. I move forward with the micromesh pad regimen wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I follow each set of 3 pads with an application of Obsidian Oil which further rejuvenates the vulcanite. I like that vulcanite pop! The stem looks great. I try to reunite the stem and the stummel and as is the case sometimes, after cleaning the mortise, the briar inside can expand causing the fit with the tenon to become too tight. I do not want to force the stem and risk a cracked shank, so I gently ream the mortise with a half-rounded needle file. Then I gently sand the tenon by wrapping 600 grit paper around the tenon.This works and I am able then to reunite the stem with the stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% full power.  I apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  I run the wheel along the grain of the blasting to bring out the contrasts of rough briar as well as to buff it up into a shine.  After completing the Blue Diamond, before applying wax, I freshen the Ben Wade white stem stamp.  I clean the area with alcohol and then I dab a bit of white acrylic paint over the stamping.  I then use a cotton pad to tamp the wet paint which draws off the excess paint and helps the paint to dry sooner. Then using a toothpick, I gently scrape off the excess paint leaving a refreshed BEN WADE stamp.  It looks nice and crisp.I then mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel and apply carnauba wax to the stummel.  I increase the speed of the Dremel from my usual 40% up to about 50 to 60% full power.  I do this to create more heat with the friction of the wheel to encourage the wax to dissolve in the craggy blasted briar surface.  Waxing a rough surface can cause the wax to collect and not to absorb into the surface.  The added heat encourages this and as I look at the waxing action, it looks like it’s having the desired effect.  Nice!  After finishing the waxing process, I then give the stem and stummel a rigorous and substantial hand buffing to remove any excess wax and to raise the shine.

The blasted grain on this Ben Wade Hand Model is distinctive.  It looked so good I thought that it might be the blastification process, but it is the real deal.  The shaping of the bowl also adds to the rustic effect with it tightening near the top and then flaring out.  The blasted briar displays many hues of grain – very eye pleasing.  This is the third of three pipes that Todd commissioned, and he will have the first opportunity to acquire this Ben Wade Hand Model from The Pipe Steward Store.  These pipes benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria working among women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you for joining me!

Todd’s Second Commission: A GBD New Era London England 9493 Pot with Distinction


Blog by Dal Stanton

This is the second of 3 pipes that Todd commissioned.  I saw this GBD New Era long shank Pot or possibly a wide bowled Lovat, on the eBay block and liked it immediately.  It has seen some serious wear and tear, but he is obviously well loved, and the grain….  Oh my, the vertical grain on the bowl of the Pot shape it distinctive and when cleaned up….  Dream!  Well, my bid was enough when the bell rang, and it didn’t remain in my collection, and Todd saw the potential in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and now this GBD New Era is on my worktable.  These pictures take a closer look at the GBD New Era: The nomenclature on both sides of the shank are thin but legible.  On the left flank of the shank is ‘GBD’ encircled in the oval [over] ‘NEW ERA’.  The right side of the shank is stamped ‘LONDON ENGLAND’ [over] 9493, the shape number.  The stem bears the classic brass GBD rondel.

I like this A Brief History of GBD from Pipedia to remind me of the origins.

The company was founded in Paris France in the 19th century by Ganeval, Boundier and Donninger who were no longer associated with the company by the turn of the century. By the time they left the GBD name was well established and thus retained. In 1903 an additional factory was built in England and ran by Oppenheimer. The Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude in 1952. Since 1981 the majority of GBD pipes come from the English factory. At about that same time GBD merged with Comoys, since then all production for both GBD and Comoy comes from a single factory.

The dating of this New Era can be determined with certainty to be before the 1980s. The brass rondel on the stem and straight line “LONDON, ENGLAND” stamping of the nomenclature identify it as being made prior to the merger with Comoy’s in 1982 (or 1981). 

The GBD line, New Era, can be found in catalogs going back to the 1950s.  The example I found on Pipedia’s article on GBD are pages from Circa 1950s Oppenheimer Pipes Catalog, courtesy Václav Blahovec, which I’ve included.

The add to the right is from Pipedia’s discussion on GBD Model Information is credited to the 1961 GBD Flyer, courtesy  Chris Keene’s Pipe Pages, unfortunately now a defunct website.  So, the spread of possible dating for the GBD New Era Pot on my table could span from the 50 through the 70s.

The quality of the New Era line is toward the upper third of GBD lines, from what I read in the Pipedia article.  This last quote from Pipedia’s reprint of Pieces From My GBD Collection, by G.L. Pease (re-published here by permission), sums up well GBD pipes and what I believe is true of the GBD New ERA before me:

Since then, many GBDs have come, many have gone. I’ve tried to select exquisite examples for my collection – pipes that are exemplary in every regard. Not all old GBDs smoke wonderfully, but when they do, they sing. The French made ones, for some reason, seem particularly suited to Virginias. GBDs are not exactly hip. They’re not trendy. They’re not the high-grade pipes du jour. But, they are solid, classic pipes with a long history, and they can be subtly and sublimely beautiful. They can also often be had without sacrificing too much coin.

As I look at the GBD New Era Pot on my worktable, what stands out immediately are the dark blotches on the briar surface, especially on the long shank.  If these were on the bowl or the heel, I would be concerned about heating damage.  But on the shank, the issue is on the briar surface and hopefully cleaning will address it. The chamber has moderate cake build up and the rim shows some lava flow and scorching on the forward part of the rim, yet there is darkening around the entire inner circumference.Oh my, the short saddle stem is oxidized and mauled!  Looking at the bit (upper and lower below) the forensics are not difficult to decipher. One can discern the eye or canine tooth imprinted followed by the first premolar – especially on the upper side.  The lower side is not as distinct, yet the practice is revealed.  The former steward’s ‘hands free’ approach was to insert the entire flat part of the stem on the right side in his (or her?) mouth and clamp down using the stem as a palate to hold the pipe in place.  Hmmmm, deep breath.  Moving on.With a good understanding of the pipe on my worktable, I begin the restoration by cleaning the internal airway of the stem with several pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% and then I add the GBD’s mangled short saddle stem to a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes in the queue. After the stem soaks for several hours, I fish the GBD stem out of the Deoxidizer and after draining the Deoxidizer, I wipe the stem with cotton pads wetted with alcohol.  A good amount of oxidation is removed, and the stem looks good after cleaning it.To begin the revitalization of the vulcanite, I then hydrate the stem by applying paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to the stem – it absorbs it well.  I put the stem aside for the time.To begin the cleaning regimen of the GBD Pot stummel, I ream the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming Kit. The dimensions of the chamber live up to a grand Pot image – the chamber is 1 inch wide and 1 3/8 inches deep, plenty of room for a bit of tobacco!  After putting down paper towel to minimize cleanup, the width of the chamber causes me to skip the smallest blade head and I use the remaining 3 larger blade heads.  I then transition to scraping the walls further with the Savinelli Fitsall tool and finish the reaming by sanding the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a sharpie pen to give leverage.  After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad and alcohol, I inspect the chamber, and everything looks great – no signs of heat damage.  Now a fresh start for the chamber. Now, turning to cleaning the external briar, I hope that the cleaning will address the large dark blotches on the surface.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad to do the job – and what a job it does! As I scrub with the cotton pad the grunge starts breaking up and eventually the black spots on the shank are removed!  I love Murphy’s Soap!  I work further on the inwardly sloped rim also using a brass wire brush.  This helps, but the rim still has some scorching darkness left.  The pictures show the great progress. Remaining on the cleaning regimen, I now address the internals of the stummel using cotton buds, pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I also use shank brushes which are perfect for the longer shank of this GBD.  To quicken the process, I also scrape the mortise with a dental spatula.  In time, cotton buds started emerging much cleaner.  Later, I plan to also clean the internal further with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.With some fear and trembling, I study again the mauled saddle stem.  The Before & After Deoxidizer did a good job removing the oxidation.  My first assault on the stem damage will be to expand the stem’s surface to regain the multitude of compressions on the upper and lower bit. I take pictures to mark the starting point for comparison.  Then, using a Bic lighter I paint the vulcanite surface.  As it heats, it expands and hopefully reducing the severity of the compressions.  After one round of heating upper and lower bit several times, I take a picture for comparison.

Upper, before and after:Lower, before and after:Next, using 240 grit sanding paper, I sand the upper and lower bit to get a better understanding of the contours of the remaining damage after using the heating method.  As you can see in the pictures I take after sanding some, the compression areas are revealed more clearly.  I have found from experience is that using charcoal/CA glue as a patch on the vulcanite stem, the patch material needs to have enough depth in the compression to get a good hold.  I have found that patching a compression that is too shallow will not hold, but sometimes these compressions are too deep to sand!  For instance, I debate whether it is better to sand the two lesser upper compressions on the lower bit (second picture) and risk sanding and taking too much of the stem?  And going partially and changing your mind with the view to applying patch material, and then it’s too shallow!  I decide to apply patch material at this point and then sand and see how it comes out.I first wipe the stem with alcohol to clean the area. To form the patch material, I mix CA glue with activated charcoal.  I start with the upper stem side.  I put a small pile of charcoal on an index card and put a blob of thick CA glue next to it.  Then, using a toothpick I pull charcoal into the CA glue mixing it as more is added.  When it thickens to that of molasses, I use the toothpick to trowel the mixture to the compressions needing filling.  I use an accelerator to speed the curing time.  I do the same for the lower bit compressions.  To now begin removing the excess patch material to the upper bit, I use a flat needle file.  The pictures show the progression.After bringing the patch mound down to the surface, I then switch to sanding with 240 grit paper to remove the excess patch material totally.  In the second picture you still see the patches, but the patch is now flush with the stem surface.Remaining on the upper bit, I refresh the button using the flat needle file and follow with 240 grit paper erasing the file marks and fine tuning the button restoration.  The upper bit repair looks great.Now, starting on the lower bit, I do the same using the flat needle file to bring the patch mounds down close to the briar surface.Then, taking over with the 240 paper I sand away the excess patch material totally bring the patch flush with the vulcanite surface.  The second picture looks closer showing pitting in the patch.  This happens when air bubbles are trapped in the patch material and when they are sanded, they are exposed as pits.  I’ll address this later.Moving again to freshen the button lip I use the flat needle file and transition to 240 grade paper to erase the filing scratches and to smooth the stem.  I like the progress!To address the air pockets in the lower patch I first wipe the areas with a cotton pad and alcohol to clean it.  I then paint a fine layer of thin CA glue over the patch area with the CA glue filling the pockets.  After the glue cures, I then sand it with 240 paper.  The patch is patched, and I move on! Now addressing the entire stem, I wet sand using 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 steel wool.To complete this phase of the stem restoration, I use Magic Eraser on the stem to cleanse it further and then I apply paraffin oil (a mineral oil) with a cotton pad to rejuvenate the vulcanite.  From where we started with this stem, its been through a lot! I put the stem aside.  This work day is ending and the last thing I do is to continue the cleaning of the stummel giving it a kosher salt and alcohol soak through the night.  I first fashion a ‘mortise wick’ by pulling and twisting a cotton ball.  I then stuff it into the mortise and airway with the aid of a stiff straight wire.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt.  I use kosher salt because it doesn’t leave an aftertaste and the whole process, with the salt and alcohol, freshens the briar and it is much more pleasant for the new steward!  After putting the stummel in an egg crate for stability, I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol recedes, and I follow by topping off the alcohol once more.  I then turn out the lights. The next morning, the kosher/alcohol soak had done the job.  Both salt and wick were discolored from the process of drawing out the residual tars and oils from the mortise and airway.  After tossing the expended salt I wipe the chamber with a paper towel, push shank brushes through the mortise and blow through the mortise.  To make sure all was cleaned, I utilized a few more cotton buds and a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% to finish the cleaning.  Moving on.With the cleaning completed, I study the bowl and the grade of this block of briar is pushing up the New Era reputation stamped on its shank.  Who ever the pipe crafter was in the GBD factory in London was, cut the block beautifully.  The main orientation of the distinct straight grain is astonishingly vertical around most of the bowl.  Predictably, the heel and the rim show the striking results of the horizontal cuts that formed them – bird’s eye grain, the end or cross-section views of the vertical straight grain.  This presentation of bird’s eye carries through the shank as well.   After the cleaning of the surface, the heel already displays beautifully its patch of bird’s eye grain.  The rim’s damaged state at this point, masks the bird’s eye that I see faintly.  The challenge of the rim, but what also makes it attractive, is the tapered cant toward the chamber, so topping is out of the question.  The taper is also gently rounded.  The other thing I see is the thin finish.  The cleaning around the rim created a discoloration so that the upper bowl is lighter – and there’s a water line circling.  The pictures show the things I’m describing. The first thing I do is to wipe the stummel with isopropyl 95% to clean the older finish off so that I’m starting with a clean slate – as much as possible!  The alcohol did a great job, just what I wanted.  Interestingly, what I thought were water lines running around the circumference of the bowl were not caused by cleaning.  I discover that it is also part of the grain structure – fascinating.  With curiosity, I looked back at pictures from the eBay seller and yes, the line pattern was there!  The pictures below look at it again after the cleaning with alcohol. Next, I start addressing the rim damage and sanding.  My goal overall, is to remove the damage and tease out the bird’s eye on the rim so that it is more distinct.  The picture below shows that the bird’s eye is hidden for the most part.  To start conservatively, I use a coarse sanding sponge that will hug the contours of the rim and gently sand.  Let’s see what this does.  The first picture below shows the cleaning of the rim in general and you can still see a scorch mark on the forward rim (at 9 o’clock in the pictures).  The second picture is focusing more into this area and you can better see that the lower area is still darkened from burning.  I’m not satisfied with the results.  Becoming less conservative out of need, I use 240 grit paper and sand the rim – approaching it more like a bevel with the paper rolled and I press the paper with my thumb, conforming to the contours of the rim.  I leverage the fact that the rim is already canted and I simply go with it.  I do the hard work with the 240 sanding the entire rim and focusing on the lower circumference more to remove the charged, discolored briar. I follow the 240 with the same approach but with 600 grit paper.  Now I’m seeing what I want to see!  The briar is cleaner and more responsive.  We’re on the right track.After examining the briar surface of the entire bowl again, I see no fills needing attention, but I detect very small scratches and pitting through normal wear and tear of the years on this GBD.  To address this, I use a medium grade sanding sponge and work on the small imperfections on the briar surface.  After this, I utilize a light grade sanding sponge on the entire surface.  I’m very careful to avoid the thin nomenclature stamping on the shank flanks. I like working with sanding sponges and the results look good.The micromesh regimen is next.  First, I wet sand with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Throughout, I’m uber cautious to avoid the thin nomenclature stampings on the shank flanks until the last couple of pads, which I run lightly over the stampings to clean it.  I love the pop of the grain after the micromesh regimen.  This GBD New Era is a very nice pipe. I put the stummel aside for the time and turn now to the waiting, short GBD saddle stem.  I run through the normal micromesh regiment wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000, applying Obsidian Oil after each set of 3, when it strikes me that this stem had looked like it was mauled by a dog…and now.  If one works hard enough putting the glare at the right angle, like I did in the pictures below, you can see the residual scaring on the vulcanite stem where the patches were applied, yet these for restored pipes are marks revealing that they’ve had rough spots, but this one will wear his scars proudly. While working on the stem, my mind considers the next steps of the restoration process.  The question is which direction to go with the finishing of the GBD New Era Pot stummel – or bowl – it truly can pack a lot of one’s favorite blend!   Leave the natural briar as it is now or apply a dye.  The guiding principle when restoring vintage pipes with distinctive nomenclature and age is to try as much as one can match the original color motif.  So, I looked for examples of New Era pipes.

While doing research on GBD New Era, I read the very interesting and helpful article reposted in Pipedia: Pieces From My GBD Collection, by G.L. Pease (re-published here by permission).  It’s a good read, I enjoyed it.  What was most helpful was the listing by GBD groups or lines of pipes that were part of G.L. Pease’s collection.  I eagerly looked and found his offerings for New Era.  Not only did he have New Era, but 4 beautiful long, round shank Pot shapes, shape number 9493 like the GBD that Todd has commissioned.  I cropped the picture below to focus on the patina of the 4 Pots and on mainly the smooth briars.  To me, all the pipes leverage toward a reddish hue even though in different shades.  The lower smooth Pot is redder, leaning toward Oxblood or burgundy.  The Pot on the top, is reddish but leaning more toward the browns.  After studying these New Era pipes, I remembered reading about the red leanings of the New Era line from Pipedia’s GBD Model Information. I clipped this description about New Era:This confirmed what I had observed.  The question remains, how to mix dyes and hit the right hue, or as close as one can manage?  As I’ve done before many times with Steve Laug (Rebornpipes) and Charles Lemon (DadsPipes) I reached out to Charles because I recently read one of his blogs, Stem Repairs and a General Freshening for a “Made by Millville” Full Bent, where he discussed his approach to staining.  It was helpful information, well worth reading.  My question to Charles was how he might approach the reddish hues and mixing dyes.  His answer was straightforward and helpful – trial and error!  Yep, I know how to do the latter part of that well.  He did say that he had had success mixing Fiebing’s Saddle Tan and Browns to achieve that general direction, and to mix and test to see how it looks. So, armed with Charles’ input, I went to work mixing the dyes. I ended up with what Charles calls a ‘wash’ – being more diluted (with alcohol with aniline dyes and water with water-based) it can be applied more times as needed to acquire an increasingly darker result.  This approach would necessitate that I improvise my usual approach to staining.  After mixing Saddle Tan and Light Brown, I diluted it with alcohol to lighten the wash.  I assemble my desktop dying components, and I am ready.  I first wipe the bowl down with alcohol to clean the surface.  Following this, I heat the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar resulting in it more effectively absorbing the dyes.  After heated, I apply the dye mixture to a portion of the stummel surface with a pipe cleaner that I had folded in half.  After applying the dye to a portion, I fired that portion by placing it quickly over the lit candle.  The flame immediately combusts the alcohol in dye and sets the dye pigment.  I do this several times to cover thoroughly the stummel surface.  After repeating the washing and firing process many times, the bowl has the right look, sufficiently dark that I think will hopefully point in the right direction! It’s time to turn out the lights letting the newly dyed stummel to rest and to set the dye.The new dye set through the night and has settled in.  Allowing this ‘rest’ time helps guard against new dye coming off on the hands during the first uses of the pipe when the bowl heats.  To unwrap the fired dye shell around the stummel I mount a felt cloth buffing wheel in the Dremel, setting the speed to the slowest to avoid scorching the wood.  Felt cloth is more abrasive than cotton.  Added to this, I apply Tripoli compound to ‘plow through’ the thick dye residue.  While applying the more abrasive compound, I purge the wheel often on the edge of the chopping block which is my work station.  Not pictured is that I follow the application of Tripoli with the felt buffing wheel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and go around the stummel one more time applying Tripoli compound at an increased Dremel speed of about 40%.  This is to fine tune and make sure no dye clumps are left behind. Next, after rejoining the stem and stummel, I apply Blue Diamond compound using a cotton cloth buffing wheel at a 40% speed.  I apply compound to the entire pipe.  When finished I buff the pipe with a felt cloth to remove the residue compound dust.The final step is applying carnauba wax by mounting another cotton cloth wheel onto the Dremel, maintaining the same 40% speed and I apply the wax.  Following this, I use a microfiber cloth and give the pipe a final hand buffing.

This GBD New Era Pot has come a long way.  The stem was mauled and now it looks great.  The patches can be seen in the glare but from where we started….  The grain on this New Era is striking.  I love studying the vertical grain that is distinct and certainly a feast for the eyes.  There is no disappointment with the bird’s eye grain that was teased out so well by the compounds on the rim.  The bird’s eye is small, tight and subtle.  The heel view is equally