Tag Archives: article by Dal Stanton

French Made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard from Burgas


Blog by Dal Stanton

I received Gary’s email when he and his wife were visiting the Bulgarian city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast. Ever since I started restoring pipes, Gary, my colleague living and working in Plovdiv, has kept his eyes open during his travels. He’s found some very nice pipes for me. The two he found at the antique shop on the main walking street in Burgas were possibilities so he landed them for me. The larger bent billiard in the pictures he sent is on my work table now. I chose it because I’m hoping for a project that doesn’t appear to be in too much need!The only marking on the pipe is stamped on the left shank and it says, “BRUYERE” over “GARANTIE” which I’ve understood as a rather generic marking used by several manufacturers from different continental countries in Europe.  On a hunch, I looked up the generic marking in Wilczak and Colwell’s manual, “Who Made That Pipe?” and was surprised to find a semi specific listing: UNK France.  With an ‘unknown’ maker, but because of the spelling, they identify the French origins.  Odds are, if from France, then most likely the place of origin is Saint-Claude.  After receiving the pipes from Gary, I put the French made, 3/4 Bent Billiard on my work table in Sofia, and take these pictures to fill in the gaps. The grain on this larger stummel is outstanding – much motion and flow.  Standing out is the bull’s eye wraparound knot grain perfectly situated to highlight the elbow where shank and stummel meet and blend (pictured above).  The stummel surface has several dents and some cuts from normal wear and grime collection.  The rim has some oil residues but like the stummel surface, has its share of normal wear dents.  The cake in the chamber is very light and the remnants of the last smoke are still evident – a blend of sorts (pictured below)!  The stem shows light oxidation and tooth chatter primarily on the lower bit.  The button and slot look good.  To start the restoration and cleanup of the Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard, after inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I put the stem in the Oxi-Clean solution to soak, working on the oxidation.  With stummel in hand, I clean out the old tobacco from the chamber with the pipe nail tool.With the Pipnet kit, I ream the cake to the briar for a fresh start.  I use the two smaller of the 4 blades available in the kit and follow this by using the Savinelli pipe knife to fine tune the ream by strategically scraping the chamber wall.  To clean the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber and then use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the carbon dust.  Looking at the cleaned chamber, it looks good. With the chamber finished, I turn to cleaning the internals of the stummel with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It does not take long and pipe cleaners and swabs are coming out clean. Now turning to the cleanup of the surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and a bristled toothbrush to clean the grime off the briar surface.  Murphy’s does a good job cleaning wood of grime and old finish.  I rinse the stummel with tap water careful not to flood the internals with water.  I inspect the rim and surface with things cleaned up and take some close-ups of dents and marks showing signs of wear – a well-smoked and liked pipe.  The pictures show the cleaning and surface inspection. To address the stummel rim and surface, I use a medium grade sanding sponge to remove as many of the imperfections as possible.  I use this sanding sponge to perform a gentle topping of the rim to remove the dents.  I follow with a light grade sanding sponge and I also freshen the internal rim bevel using first 240 grit paper followed by 600.  The clear majority of the nicks and dents have been removed.  Those that remain will be an ongoing testimony of the years this pipe has spent serving his steward! The pictures show the progress. I’m ready now to fine-tune the stummel by sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 1200.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  After completing the wet sanding, I detect some fills that have softened.  This probably resulted from the water on the stummel and the fill material was only water based.  Two were on the rim and a few more on the side of the stummel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I dig out the old fill that at this point has the texture of wet clay.  Pictured is the completion of the first 3 micromesh pads and the beginning of a small detour – such as life!  The detour requires that I mix briar dust and super glue to make a more durable fill than what I just removed.  After filling the holes, I’ll then need strategically to re-sand the patches and return to the micromesh pads.  While I’m at it, I detect a few more fills and clean them out.  These ‘factory fills’ are normal and reveal that one seldom finds a perfect block of briar without some imperfections.  The most challenging patch will be the rim.  I begin by wetting a cotton pad with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel – I want it clean and free of residue fill material.  I then use a pipe nail and scoop out an enough briar dust on an index card that serves as my mixing pallet.  I then add a small puddle of regular superglue next to the briar dust and use a toothpick to begin mixing the putty by drawing dust into the puddle of glue.  When the consistency of the putty is about like molasses, I use a flat dental spatula to apply the briar dust putty to the holes.  I leave excess putty over each patch in anticipation of sanding it down flush to the briar surface.  I use an accelerator spray to shorten the curing time for the patches.  It takes me two batches to fill the holes.  The pictures show the progress. I decide to let the stummel rest a bit as the patches cure and work on the stem.  I remove the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath that it’s been soaking in for several hours.  The oxidation has ‘surfaced’ on the vulcanite stem and I use 600 grit paper and wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation after remounting the stem and stummel with the plastic disc separator.  This helps avoid shouldering the stem.  After completing the sweep with 600 grit, I look at the lower bit where there was tooth chatter and some dents.  I use 240 grit paper to sand these out.  One dent was refusing so I dropped a bit of Black CA glue on it and applied some accelerator spray to cure it quickly.  After a bit, I returned to the patch with 240 grit paper to smooth it and blend it with the vulcanite.  I follow using 600 grit sanding paper and then finish this phase by buffing the entire stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress. With the stem in front of me, I decide to move it to the micromesh phase.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. When I complete this first cycle I realize that I forgot the clean the internals of the stem!  Call me anxious….  Holding the stem with paper towel, I gingerly use pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol 95% and then with cotton swabs I clean out the filter cavity.  Thankfully, the stem was in pretty good shape.  Back to the micromesh process.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle of 3 pads with an application of Obsidian Oil which deepens the color and revitalizes the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress – looking good! With the stem restoration complete, I turn to the stummel again.  I use a flat needle file to begin the process of bringing the excess briar dust putty down to the briar surface.  I start with the rim patches and move around the stummel.  After using the flat needle file, I use 240 grit paper on each patch to bring it down to the surface.  I finish the sanding and blending with 600 grit paper.  At this point, I notice some air pockets in some of the patches.  I spot drop a small bit of superglue in each and spray it with accelerator.  After a few minutes, I sand down the superglue fills very quickly with the flat needle file, then 240, then 600.  I take pictures along the way. With my day ending, I want to clean the stummel internals further using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I fill the stummel with kosher salt and I cover the bowl and give it a shake to displace the salt.  I use kosher salt and not iodized salt as it does not leave an iodine aftertaste.  I stretch/twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the oils during the soak.  I situate the stummel in an egg carton and using a large squeeze dropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until filled.  I wait a few minutes as the alcohol is quickly drawn down.  I top it off again with alcohol.  I turn out the lights – another day complete. The next morning, the kosher salt and alcohol soak did its job.  The salt and cotton wick are discolored indicating a not too dirty stummel giving up more gunk.  I thumped the stummel on my palm (not table!) and the expended salt goes into the waste.  I wipe the chamber with a paper towel and run bristle brushes of differing sizes in the chamber, through the mortise and draft hole to remove all the salt.  It’s looking good and the new steward of this Bent Billiard will enjoy a sweeter taste as a result.  To get a bird’s eye view of the project, I rejoin the finished stem with the now patched stummel.  The more I study the grain on this pipe, the more I like it – especially the lower horizontal grain encompassing the stummel’s heel then transitioning through the elbow of the shank merger.  A very pleasing visual as one cradles the ample Billiard bowl in his (or her!) palm. Imagination aside, time to get back to the stummel micromesh process.  Since I  had already completed the first 3 micromesh pads, I wet sand with these again, but focus on the rim and stummel patched areas.  After wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, I apply a stain stick to the patch on the stummel.  Because of the sanding, this area is lighter than the surrounding patch of briar.  I apply some stain, let it dry, and wipe it with a bit of alcohol on a cotton pad to blend.  Then, I continue with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then finishing with pads 6000 to 12000.  I am amazed at how a natural grain can achieve such a gloss through this process – wax is not needed!  To me, the difference between the character of this gloss and the ‘gloss’ of an acrylic finish is the difference between a high-end HD flat screen and a so, so TV – color, but not the same sharpness or reality.  When one looks at grain through an acrylic finish, you’re looking through a film creating the shine not the grain itself, as is with a natural grain gloss – the real deal.  The stains we apply then, do not create a film over the wood but colors it to help hide imperfections, etc., – a big difference.  The pictures show the source of my amazement and reflections. With the micromesh pad cycles completed, I confer with my wife about the finish.  Yes, I often ask my wife’s opinion at this point because of her eye for beauty and colors.  Originally, I had been thinking of keeping with the original color bent – toward more reddish tones.  After our conference, because of the beauty of this grain as is, I will stay with brown, leather tones consistent with the natural grain.  I had avoided the nomenclature during the sanding processes and there was still residue of the older color.  I use acetone (yes, the yellow label is acetone in Bulgarian!) with a cotton pad and work on removing the reddish finish.  I’m not totally successful, but I don’t think what is left will make a difference. To stay in the brown/leather tones, I decide to mix 3 parts Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1 part alcohol with a large bulb dropper.  I want the finish on the darker brown side to blend the briar dust putty patches, but light enough so that the grain is showcased.  To prepare the stummel, I first wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the surface.  After mounting a narrowed cork into the shank as a handle, I warm the stummel with a heat gun to expand and open the briar allowing it to absorb the dye more efficiently.  I then liberally apply the dye mixture to the stummel with a folded pipe cleaner seeking full coverage.  With a lit candle, I then ‘fire’ the stummel, igniting the alcohol in the dye which sets the stain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I then put the stummel aside to rest for several hours before continuing.  The pictures show the progress. After several hours, I’m ready to unwrap the crust encasing the stummel resulting from the fired dye.  I mount a felt buffing wheel on the Dremel, set the speed of the Dremel at the lowest, and use Tripoli compound’s abrasive characteristic to remove the crust.  I first purge the wheel with a tightening wrench, to remove old compound and to soften the felt wheel.  I rotate the felt buffing wheel over the surface without a lot of downward pressure.  The speed of the Dremel and the compound do the work.  To reach the difficult angle between the shank and bowl, I switch to a smaller felt wheel.  After finishing with the Tripoli compound, I wet a cotton cloth with alcohol and wipe down the stummel to both lighten the aniline stain and to blend it.  Following this, I switch to a cloth buffing wheel and turn the speed up from 1 to 2, approximately 40% of full speed, the fastest being 5, and apply Blue Diamond compound in the same manner as the Tripoli.  I notice a few bright spots on the surface as well as around the nomenclature where the stain did not set consistently.  I applied a bit of black Fine Point Sharpie Pen and darker stain sticks to blend the areas.  I go over these areas again with the Blue Diamond buffing wheel to blend the spot staining.  It looks good. I then buff the stummel with a flannel cloth to clean it of compound dust before applying the carnauba wax.  Switching to another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to carnauba wax, I reattach the stem to the stummel and apply the wax at the same 40% speed.  I apply 2 cycles of carnauba to the surface and stem, then I switch to a clean Dremel buffing wheel and buff the pipe yet again.  Finally, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing with a micromesh cloth.

This French, probably Saint-Claude, made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard is stunning – the grain is beautiful.  As I mentioned before, I am drawn to the heel of the stummel, at the elbow where stummel and stem meet – the knot grain perfectly situated there is amazing and says something about the eyes and judgment of the pipe maker who chose the briar block and could see what it would become.  I’m very pleased with the results of this pipe.  If you would like to adopt this classic Bent Billiard, look at my store front at The Pipe Steward.  The sale of pipes benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with helping women (and their children) who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!  

 

GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash – An Unexpected Hole Repair


Blog by Dal Stanton

I’m calling this GBD Trafalgar a Calabash shape, and it’s been in my “Help me!” basket for some time.  I saw it on the US eBay auction block and I liked the shape and the way the grain was positioned in shaping of the flowing Calabash stummel.  From what I could make out from the few pictures the seller provided, the front and back of the bowl revealed horizontal straight grain.  These grain veins terminate on each flank with distinctive bird’s eye.  I liked it – I bid on it – and I was happy to bring it home to Sofia, Bulgaria, where it’s now on my work table.  Here are a few pictures from the seller. The markings on the Calabash on the left side of the shank show, “GBD” in the oval over “LondonMade” curved up.  The right side of the shank shows, “LONDON ENGLAND” over what I’m assuming is the shape number “K1978” only I couldn’t find this shape number listed for GBD pipes.  Under the shank is “TRAFALGAR”.  GBD (Pipedia’s article on GBD), was the handshake enterprise started by three French ‘Master Pipemakers’, Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger in Paris in 1850 to manufacture Meerschaum pipes, which was the primary material used in manufacturing pipes along with clay, until the discovery of briar in Saint Claude, France, a discovery that changed the pipe manufacturing world.  In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co. in London, which began the shift of GBD to being primarily a British enterprise, even though GBD pipes continued to be produced in Paris and Saint Claude, until 1981, with the closing of the French operation when the name, GBD, was merged with the Cadogan Group.  I enjoy rehearsing the historical developments of pipe names and companies because they add to the enjoyment and appreciation of restoring pipes.

The history of the ‘Trafalgar Campaign’ (see LINK) and what it would suggest I believe, is that this GBD pipe was manufactured and distributed across the channel in England, as the stampings indicate.  This is not always the case from my research on GBD.  Often, GBD pipes were manufactured in France, shipped to the UK, where they would be stamped “London Made” – or so my reading has indicated.  Yet, with the stamping of Trafalgar, my guess is that this GBD was manufactured in UK.  In 1805, ‘Trafalgar’ was the final battle engagement between the combined French and Spanish fleets and the Royal Navy to defeat Napoleon’s attempt to gain control of the English Channel, the first phase in his ultimate plan to invade England with his land forces.  To the British, Trafalgar will be commemorated as a victory thwarting the French invasion.  Fortunately, not too many years later, the economics of pipe manufacturing and the common love of pipe smoking, Brits would smoke French made pipes and the French, London made pipes.  Yet, I doubt if one will find this GBD Trafalgar London Made in the rotation of a Frenchman or Frenchwomen today!  I was anxious to integrate the Battle of Trafalgar into this restoration because of my love of tall ships.  Pictured is another of my hobbies in the same room as my pipe restoration work desk, a long-time project building the USS Constitution, now proudly anchored in Boston Harbor!

With a greater appreciation of this GBD’s history and name, I look more closely at the pipe itself and take more pictures on my work desk to look more closely and to fill in the gaps. Looking closer and assessing areas of need, the chamber has a light carbon cake, and the rim is nicked up significantly on the front outer lip and the lava flow of oils and grime need attention.  The finish on the stummel is dark and cloudy.  Oxidation on the stem is minimal but there are tooth dents on the bit, and the upper button lip has a clenching dent that will need attention.  Everything seemed straight-forward until my index finger detected a ridge where there shouldn’t be one.  I hadn’t seen it before (and I checked the eBay pictures and it wasn’t shown by the seller 😦 as sometimes is the case), but my index finger revealed what appears to be an impact fracture on the front heel of the stummel.  My first reaction is to insert my pinky finger into the chamber to see if I could feel any reciprocating activity on the internal side.  I feel nothing.  I take pictures to focus in on the fracture from different angles.  I use the sheen of the overhead lamp to see more clearly the little disaster now before me.  On the last picture below, I circled the only good news I can see at this point.  My forensic hypothesis assessing the scene of the crime: This piece of briar surface is what I assume is the impact point on a hard, unsuspecting surface.  The curvature of the stummel would have been abruptly flattened upon impact, and the expansion of this piece of impacted briar would have pushed out and then up, much like convergent tectonic plates in the earth’s surface.  The good news?  This small piece of briar is still attached to the stummel, though it appears the attachment may be tenuous.  The last two pictures below I placed arrows pointing to the terminus points of the trauma cracks which will most likely grow without intervention – what I thought would be a fairly slam dunk restore!  The pictures show the new challenge and opportunity to expand my skills! To recommission this GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash, after inserting a pipe cleaner in the stem, I plop the stem in the Oxi-Clean bath to address the minor oxidation mainly in the bit area.  Cleaning the stummel is the next order of business.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, after putting paper down on the work surface, I take out the smallest blade to use, but after eyeballing the angle of the chamber, the Calabash’s conical fire chamber is too tight to allow even the smallest blade to fit down to the lower area. Switching to the Savinelli Pipe Knife, I remove the light carbon build up down to the briar for a fresh start.  As often proves to be the case, as I proceeded with the reaming of the chamber, working the Savinelli Pipe Knife down into the foot of the chamber around the draft hole, the reality of the thinning of the briar was fully revealed.  The small piece of briar that was hanging on, on the external side, was dislodged, resulting in a hole through the stummel.  Technically, I think this is a burn through, as there is a hint of darkening of the briar indicating the heat.   As I’ve seen in other restorations, especially with the narrower drilled fire chambers, the briar at the floor of the chamber wears away with excessive reaming and digging and with time, the briar thins. After I salvage the dislodged piece of briar, not hopeful that it will be part of the solution, I take a couple pictures to record the break-through and continue cleaning the chamber.

When I finished reaming with the Savinelli knife, I use a coarser, 120 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to clean further the carbon, especially the floor of the chamber where repairs will be made.  I then follow with 240 grit paper and finally, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to deal with the residue dust.  The pictures show the progress. Continuing the cleaning process, I take pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and work on the internals of the stummel.  After some effort, the internals are coming clean. With the internal cleaning complete, I look to the external surface.  To address the grime on the rim and stummel I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with a cotton pad to scrub the surface.  I also use a brass bristled brush to clean the rim and a bristled tooth brush for general stummel cleaning.  On the back side of the rim, I also use my straight knife blade to scrape the carbon off the surface.  After completing the clean-up of the rim, it is apparent that I will still need to top the stummel a small amount to remove the damage to front ‘bumper’ of the rim.  Pictures show the progress. I’m thinking about the stummel hole repair before me while I methodically move through the normal phases of the restoration until I come to the point of focusing on the needed repair.  The plan forming is that I need to build up the floor of the chamber to the entry of the draft hole.  This will reinforce the entire base of the stummel for a long time.  I’ll use JB Weld to do this build-up, a product and method that I learned from Charles Lemon, at Dad’s Pipes.  Yet, before doing the floor buildup, I will do the repairs on the cracks and hole in the stummel.  My thinking is that this order of repair is better so that the hole fill, instead of being built on the chamber floor rebuild, will instead be reinforced by it.  Or, so my thinking goes!  I’ll let the plan cook a little longer and I put the stummel aside and fish the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath.  Using the plastic disc I fabricated to protect against shoulder rounding, I remount the stem and stummel with the disc in between.  Using 600 grit paper, I wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation – working on the bit – button area also to remove tooth chatter and dents.  Following this, I use 0000 steel wool to buff further the stem and to rid it of oxidation.  I move directly to cleaning the internal airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  I also use a sharp dental probe to scrape the slot area pulling out some gunk.  Without too much resistance, the stem internals are clean.  The pictures show the stem progress. Again I turn my attention to the stummel arriving at the moment of truth.  I need to address the crack repair by drilling small holes at the terminus points of the cracks to keep the cracks from creeping – like a controlled fire set in a forest fire to stop its progress.  I take another closeup of the area and with the help of a magnifying glass, I identify where the ends of the two major cracks are with arrows.  The second picture, shows where I made a mark – where I will place counter-holes.  I add one at the bottom-left because with the laterally grain movement, I can easily imagine a crack spidering out in that direction eventually.  I use a 1mm drill bit and drill each hole.  The pictures show the progress. Now, to patch the hole.  I first clean the surface with a cotton pad and alcohol and I make sure the hole is free of debris and dust.  I then spot drop thin Hot Stuff CA Glue on the cracks themselves to allow the thin glue to seep into the cracks.  Before I mix the briar dust and super glue putty to fill the hole and the control holes I drilled, I need to create a backing on the inside of the chamber so that the putty will not simply push through the hole when applied.  To do this I simply put a piece of masking tape inside over the hole as it comes through.  I then mix briar dust and superglue with a toothpick to form a putty about the consistency of molasses. Using the toothpick as a trowel, I apply the putty liberally knowing that later, after it cures, I’ll be sanding it down to the surface and blending it. I put the stummel aside to cure overnight and I call it a day.  The pictures show the patching process. The next day, I move directly to the chamber floor repair by building it up and reinforcing it with J-B Kwik Weld.  This is my second go with JB Weld.  The first was repairing a burn through with a petite horn shaped, Short Snorter.  As I think about this repair, the challenge in my mind is how to deliver the JB Weld mixture directly to the floor of the chamber without smearing it where it’s not needed.  This is where a couple of disposable popsicle sticks would come in handy, if I hand any.  The idea that begins to shape up in my mind is to mix the JB Weld on an index card, when I’m ready to ‘pour’, I’ll create a cone with the index card, insert it into the chamber to the floor, and press out the JB Weld with my finger – I’ll put on a latex surgical glove that a medical team visiting us here in Bulgaria left behind.  I’ll then shape the mixture evenly around the floor of the chamber.  That’s the plan.  I insert a pipe cleaner into the mortise and through the draft hole so that the JB Weld does not weld the airway shut.  JB Kwik Weld comes in two parts – the ‘Steel’ and the ‘Hardener’ mixtures.  The directions say to mix them equally and that one has about 4 minutes before the mixture sets.  I take a picture of the setup and of the chamber with patched hole and pipe cleaner visible.  I mix JB Weld at 50/50 (as close as I can tell) on an index card, roll it, insert it, and press it out – it was a bit messy, but mission accomplished.  I set the stummel in an egg crate with it tilted forward, and let it cure.  Pictures show the progress. Home from work, I’m ready to return to the stummel and continue working on the repairs.  The internal chamber floor build up using JB Weld looks good and feels good as I put the pinky in and feel the contours.  I look now to the external briar dust – superglue patch and I begin the process of removing the excess putty using a flat needle file.  When I near being flush with the briar surface, I switch to using 240 grit paper to bring it down to the surface.  At this point I gently bring the patch down to briar surface.  I allow the paper to do the job without applying much pressure – I want as much briar to remain as possible.  After I remove the excess putty, the patch is looking good and will not be difficult to blend with the native briar with a dark stain.   I take pictures to show the progress. I turn back to the internal chamber.  I use a coarse 120 grit sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to sand the chamber wall cleaning it up from JB Weld that adhered to the upper area of the chamber.  Following the 120, I use 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen as well.  With my finger, I feel the chamber and ridges are gone and it has smoothed nicely.  The pictures show the progress. Looking more closely at the draft hole (above) I see a pointed hanger left over from JB Weld at the 2 o’clock position.  To smooth this future pipe cleaner obstacle, I reach in with a rounded needle file and file off the pointed area and round off the entire draft hole area.  The pictures show the before and after.

Before moving to the topping board, I remove all the old finish.  I use a cotton cloth pad wetted with acetone and wipe down the stummel.  It removes the old finish quickly.  Pulling out the chopping board, my topping board, I place a sheet of 240 grit paper on it.  I need only to remove enough briar to remove the damage/dents at the nose of the rim.  I take a picture to mark the progress.  I rotate the stummel evenly in a circle over the board checking the progress often.  I take just enough briar off so that I can finish removing the damaged rim lip by introducing a gentle bevel.  I do this with a rolled piece of 240 grit paper.  This removes the damage and gives the rim a classier, softer look which I like.  I do the same with the internal rim edge – I use 240 grit paper and create a gentle bevel.  This, again, removes damaged rim and creates the contoured soft look.  I follow by doing a very light, brief topping of the stummel on 600 grit paper, then follow with a rolled piece of 600 grit going over the external and internal bevel.  It looks good – this briar Calabash is picking up momentum!  The pictures show the progress from acetone to bevel. I put the stummel aside and turn my attention to the stem to do repairs.  The button area has tooth dents that I will attempt to raise using a lit candle to heat the vulcanite allowing it to regain its original contour as the heat expands it.  The upper button lip has a compression dent needing attention.  I take pictures to mark the progress.  Using the lit candle, I pass the stem end over the candle back and forth heating the vulcanite.  I repeat this on upper and lower areas and the vulcanite expands as hoped.  The dents are still visible, but now, will be more easily dispatched using sand paper.  I sand the bit area with 240 grit paper and freshen the button lip with the flat edged needle file.  On the upper button lip, I apply Starbond Black Medium KE-150 CA glue at the dent point as well as on the bit on a remaining tooth impression.  I spray the glue with an accelerator that shortens the curing time.  I use a flat needle file to remove the excess glue on the button lip and then sand it as well as the small fill with 240 grit paper.   I follow with sanding with 600 grit paper then with 0000 steel wool.  Button and bit repairs are completed.  The pictures show the progress. Turning back to the stummel, I sand with a medium grade sanding sponge followed by a light grade sanding sponge.  From here I go directly into the micromesh cycles by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  The grain is looking great! The horizontal straight grain on the front and back of the bowl terminates on each side with bird’s eye perspective.  The pictures show the progress. This GBD Trafalgar Calabash’s stummel is looking good and I apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel to blend the crack and hole repair patch I did earlier.  After the sanding/micromesh pad cycles, the briar is its natural light color. I take a picture of the patch before the stain is applied to do a before and after – to see how well the patch blends.  I wipe the stummel with a cotton cloth wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean it.  Using a heat gun, I warm the stummel to expand the grain of the briar to more efficiently absorb the dye.  After the stummel is warmed, using a doubled over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye liberally to the stummel seeking full coverage.  When covered, I flame the aniline dye using a lit candle and the alcohol immediate combusts setting the hue of the dark brown leather dye in the briar.  In a few minutes, I repeat the process complete with flaming.  I set the stummel aside to rest. The pictures show the staining progress. With the staining process completed and the stummel resting I start the final phase of the stem polish.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. Following this, with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 go 12000 I dry sand the stem.  After each cycle of three I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite. The stem looks great – the button repairs are fully blended.  The pictures show the progress. The next morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, I’m anxious to ‘unwrap’ the stummel from its fire crusting.  I mount the Dremel with a felt wheel set at the slowest RPMs, and apply Tripoli compound to remove the crust revealing the surface below.  This is one of my favorite parts of restoring pipes.  One never knows quite how the briar receives and displays the new dyes.  I first purge the felt wheel of old compound by engaging it and applying the sharp edge of the Dremel’s small metal adjustment wrench to the wheel.  I then apply Tripoli to the stummel surface in circular motions, not applying too much downward pressure but allowing the RPMs and the compound to do the work for me.  After completing the Tripoli cycle, I take a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel.  With the dye being aniline, alcohol based, I use the alcohol to lighten the dye and to blend it more fully. I record the alcohol wipe with a picture.  After the wipe, the finish clouds up reacting to the alcohol.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set at the same slowest speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to the finish surface.  I take a set-up picture to show the Blue Diamond application. Boy, do I like what I’m seeing!!  I love briar grain – one of God’s gifts to broken people.  After completing the mild abrasion of the Blue Diamond compound, I hand buff the stummel with a flannel cloth not so much to shine it, but to remove compound dust residue from the surface before applying carnauba wax.  The pictures show the progress. There was one small light spot on the briar surface that I darkened using a fine-point black Sharpie Pen.  Before applying carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I decide to apply a mixture of sour cream and activated charcoal dust to coat the chamber walls.  I do this for two reasons.  First, cosmetically, it will cover the lighter J B Weld patching in the chamber by giving the chamber a uniform dark color.  Secondly, this layer will aid the creation of a new cake for this GBD Trafalgar Calabash’s new pipe steward.  After it sets up and cures, the coating is very hard and sturdy, yet for the initial times of use, no scraping the chamber is allowed!  A folded over pipe cleaner is sufficient to clean the chamber, which is in fact, my practice with all my pipes.  I empty two capsules of activated charcoal into a dish and add some sour cream (you can use yogurt as well), and mix it with the stick.  I insert a pipe cleaner to keep the draft hole free, and apply the mixture throughout the fire chamber.  After letting the stummel sit for several hours to cure the final picture in the set below shows the results.  After reuniting stummel and stem, I mount the cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, up the speed by one notch and apply carnauba wax in the same manner as with the compounds – not apply much downward pressure, rotating methodically over the surface, allowing the RPMs and wax to do the work.  After applying about 3 cycles of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buff with a micromesh cloth.

This GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash was a bit of a challenge, but I’m very pleased with the results.  The hole patch and crack repairs on the stummel are virtually invisible.  The floor of the fire chamber is repaired and the pipe is ready for recommissioning.  The grain is striking and the Calabash shape is just classy.  If you would like to bring this GBD Trafalgar London Made home to add to your collection, he is ready for adoption!  Go to my blog site, The Pipe Steward, and leave me a note.  As always, profits for the sale of The Pipe Steward restorations benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and their children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked here in Bulgaria and Europe.  Thanks for joining me!

 

Another L. J. Peretti of Boston – Square Shanked Rhodesian


Blog by Dal Stanton

When Jon put the L. J. Peretti out on the table I was excited.  I was in Oslo, Norway, where I met up with two colleagues who work in Ukraine – we were there watching a world class biathlon event and we had a great time.  Jon knew that I was restoring pipes for the Daughters of Bulgaria and had a couple pipes that he was no longer smoking.  He picked the Peretti up off eBay some time ago and he passed it on to me to restore for a new steward – a task I was more than willing to take on!  I grew a bit attached to the Boston-based Tobacconist L. J. Peretti Co., when I restored my first Peretti which my son had gifted me for Christmas.  It was a challenge as I salvaged the original Peretti stamp on the surviving squared saddle stem half and added the other half by cannibalizing another stem and accomplishing a stem splice.  For a look at this project look here:  Peretti Square Shanked Billiard.  I brought the ‘new’ L. J. Peretti home to Bulgaria and the first picture below shows the two Perettis – a remarkable resemblance in the sharp squared shanked style.In the interest of full disclosure, when I first saw the ‘new’ Peretti in Oslo, I really wasn’t sure what the shape classification would be.  The first indicator I cued on was the double groove – Bulldog?  Then, the classic Bulldog usually has a diamond shank/stem.  Rhodesian?  The squared shank didn’t fit.  Ok, a Billiard or Apple with a cool grooved ring going with the squared shank, which I think is very attractive.  My questions gave way to an email to Steve for his input and his response came very quickly.  His call is a squared shank Rhodesian.  My response, “Sweet!”  That works for me.  When I did my original research on the Peretti name I discovered the genesis of a significant story of Americana pipe history with the establishment of the L. J. Peretti Company of Boston in 1870, the second oldest tobacco shop in the US, second only to Iwan Ries & Co. of Chicago established in 1857 (See: Link).  It started in 1870, Libero Joseph Peretti arrived in Boston from Lugano, Switzerland, putting in motion the historical axis that exists today in an iconic tobacconist shop that continues to serve patrons by hand-blending tobaccos from around the world to taste.  One can take his empty bowl to the shop in Boston at 2 1/2 Park Square and test different blends under the watchful assistance of L. J. Peretti staff – total ‘old school’ and I like it! With an appreciation for the L. J. Perretti Squared Shank Rhodesian on my work table, I take more pictures to fill in the gaps. The left side of the shank is stamped “STRAIGHT GRAIN” and, interestingly, the right side is “L.J. Peretti”.  As is true of my other Peretti, usually the name is stamped on the left side.  This Peretti’s pedigree is on the right side of the shank.  The squared, tapered stem has the classic “P” stamped and in good shape. The chamber shows significant cake and will need to be cleaned down to the briar.  The rim has some significant damage on the right side and significant lava flow.  I will need to clean bowl and rim to see what might be lurking beneath.  The Rhodesian upper dome has cuts – one noticeably dissects the twin grooves.  There’s a good bit of grime in the grooves and at least one lightened fill on the heel – with the flat heel this Rhodesian is also a sitter – a nice feature for the table!  I also detect some dents on the squared shank corners – this old boy has taken a bit of bruising along the way.  The stem shows no oxidation but the button shows some biting and tooth dents – both upper and lower button lips have clench marks.  ‘Straight Grain’ is stamped on the shank and the grain has some striking features that will be visible once the grime is cleaned and things shined up a bit.

I work on the stummel first.  Taking the Pipnet Reaming Kit I use the two smallest of the four blades available to me and ream the chamber, removing the carbon cake build up to the briar. I then fine tune the ream by using the Savinelli pipe knife which enables me to remove residual cake in more difficult angles.  To clean the chamber further, I take a piece of 240 grit sanding paper and wrap it around a Sharpie Pen and sand the surface of the chamber then clean the left-over carbon dust with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber walls appear to be in good condition.  The pictures show the progress. I now use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads, a bristled tooth brush and a brass wired brush to clean the stummel surface, scrub the rim and clean the grime out of the twin grooves.  As I’m cleaning, it becomes evident that the left front of the upper dome is scorched from what appears to be the aftermath of using a lighter flame over the side of the rim to light the tobacco.  I do not use a lighter for this reason – it is difficult to angle the flame without bringing damage to the surface briar.  I use matches and bring the flame directly over the chamber and draw the flame directly to the tobacco.  I’ll need to send Jon a note about this!!!  After scrubbing with all available tools, I rinse the stummel with tap water without introducing water into the internals.  With the rim now clean, the extent of the damage is revealed.  The final picture in the set below, on the lower part of the picture shows this damage. Since my day is ending, I decide to hydrate the stummel surface with a light application of olive oil.  I also decide to use a kosher salt and alcohol soak to work on the internals overnight.  I twist a cotton ball and stuff it down the mortise to act as a wick to draw the oils and tars out.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt and hold my palm over the top and give it a shake to displace the salt.  Using an eyedropper, I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% and leave the stummel in an egg crate for stability and turn off the lights.  The pictures show the progress.The next morning the salt, as expected had discolored somewhat and the cotton served as a wick drawing oils and gunk out of the stummel internals.  I follow with a barrage of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to finish the cleaning job.  The pictures show the progress.I now face the most daunting part of the restoration of this L. J. Peretti Squared Shank Rhodesian.  I take more pictures for a closer look at the problems.  The burn and scorching damage on the rim and upper dome of the stummel are significant.  The rim at the 11:30 position is cratered severely and it appears that the rim burned and the charred part chipped off after becoming brittle.  From this area, down on the left side to the 7:00 position there is damage but not as severe.  My concern is whether there is healthy briar beneath what I’m seeing or has the wood charred more deeply?  If so, a lot of briar will need to be removed to repair the rim via topping, but this could impact the Rhodesian proportional balance between the upper and lower parts of the bowl – divided by the twin grooves.  This repair reminds me of a rim rebuild I did with a ‘Throw-Away Pipe’ that had little rim left.  With a desire to salvage as much of the rim as possible, I will very lightly top the pipe but only to gain the ‘high ground’ of the rim and then fill the craters and divots in the rim with a briar dust and superglue putty.  I want to ‘build-up’ the rim instead of losing it on the topping board and creating a squat-top, disproportionate Rhodesian.  The pictures show the damage and the challenges. It will be difficult to top the rim evenly with the soft spots created by the charred briar.  With the chopping block covered with 240 grit sanding paper, I very lightly begin to rotate the inverted stummel.  I take pictures to mark the gradual process.  When I arrive at the maximum topping progress, most of the rim has found it’s ‘high ground’ leaving the remainder of the damaged areas more visible.  This allows me to strategically apply patches on the rim.  I notice that there is additional carbon on the inside lip of the chamber so I take out the Peretti Pipe Knife once more and scrape the additional carbon exposed by the topping.  The pictures show the progress of the rim repair. The focus for the briar dust – superglue patch will be the 11:00 area (see above).  The remainder of the damage on the inner rim will be addressed by creating an inner rim bevel.  To prepare the area for the patch I clean it with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Using Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA Instant Glue, I mix it with the briar dust until it reaches a viscosity like molasses.  Using a toothpick as a trowel, I apply the putty excessively over the area with the plan of sanding it down.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure.  I’ll give it a full 12 hours. The next day, the patch has cured well.  I begin sanding down the excess briar dust patch by using a half-rounded needle file to contour the inner chamber part of the patch.  My goal is to reestablish a round rim by blending the patch with the curvature of the inner rim.  After this I smooth and blend the area further with 240 grit paper.  When satisfied, I turn to the top of the rim using a flat needle file to bring the bump of the patch gently down to the briar rim surface.  The surrounding wood is softer and I avoid collateral filing as much as possible.  I follow to further smooth and blend the whole patch with 240 grit paper.  The pictures show the shaping progress. With the primary patch shaping complete, I want to introduce a bevel to the inner rim lip to remove damage as well as blend the entire rim contour – seeking a round rim.  I believe a bevel always ‘up-classes’ a pipe, too!  I use a coarser 120 grit paper to cut the bevel –  careful to remember the patch area is harder and it is easy to dig in to the surrounding softer briar.  After the 120 grit paper, I smooth and blend further with 240 paper. I complete the rim repair by returning to the topping board with a light topping first with 240 paper followed by 600 grit paper.  This ties things together.  The first picture shows the completed patch shaping to mark the progress of the bevel.  I think things are looking good at this point with the rim repair. Unfortunately, upon closer scrutiny, I discover that my topping inadvertently leaned toward the front of the stummel. This is very evident when comparing the twin grooves to the rim pitch (first picture below).  We do not have a parallel alignment which should be the case.  When I looked back at the pictures above showing the incremental topping process, this is confirmed when the front stummel part of the rim was sanding and the shank side less so.  The result I see is the Rhodesian’s dome lop-sided and that just won’t do.  Even though I’ll give up briar real estate, I take the topping board and hang the stummel over the edge of the 240 paper.  I work only the shank-side of the rim which needs to be lowered and leveled with the front side.  Gradually, I find greater alignment with rim and grooves, though there is still a bit of pitch but not as pronounced. It will work.  I reinstate the bevel and I’m satisfied with the progress.  The pictures show the progress. I put the stummel aside and turn to the stem.  I use 240 grit paper to smooth out the tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit and sand the upper and lower button lips.  By removing the superficial indentations in the vulcanite, I am then able to identify what needs to be filled.  After wiping clean the area, I use Starbond Black Medium KE-150 CA glue to drop fill tooth dents in both the upper and lower button lip as well as the upper bit area.  After application of glue, I spray an accelerator on the cosmetic fills.  I do not use accelerator when the strength of the glue is the issue as the use of an accelerator tends to weaken bonds – from my reading.  I follow with a flat needle file to freshen the button lines and then sanding with 240 grit paper to smooth out the file marks and fills and to blend. I then move to sanding the whole stem.  With some great input from Al Jones in a recent restoration regarding safe-guarding the crisp lines and edges of stems, I mount the stem to the stummel with a plastic disk I fabricated between the two.  This keeps the sanding from creating shoulders over the edge of the vulcanite.  I also wrap the 240, then 600 grit paper around a clothespin half to create a flat sanding surface to guard the sharp edges of the squared shank square and not rounding them.  After completing the sanding, careful to guard the Peretti ‘P’ stem stamp, I buff the stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.Turning to the internals of the stem, I use pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the airway.  I notice that the pipe cleaners have difficulty passing through the slot so I widen it a bit using a rounded needle file against the upper and lower slot opening.  That did the trick.  Pipe cleaners move freely and now, cleanly.  Pictures show the progress.With the stem repairs completed and the internals cleaned, I’m ready to commence the micromesh pad cycle on the LJ Peretti’s squared shank.  Using pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  With each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem which revitalizes the vulcanite.  The pictures show the amazing vulcanite ‘pop’ emerging. I put the stem aside to dry.With the stummel showing scorching damage on the upper dome extending downwardly over the grooves, I take another picture for a closer look.  I use a medium grade sanding sponge to address the damaged area.  I need to remove the charcoaled wood and get down to healthy briar beneath the surface.  To aim for uniformity throughout the stummel, I use the sanding sponge on the entire surface, careful to guard the nomenclature on both sides of the shank.  I follow the medium grade sponge with the light grade sanding sponge to finish addressing the charred wood and minor cuts and pits on the stummel surface.  It looks good.  The shank stamping, STRAIGHTGRAIN, is starting to show itself as the grain shows through the once scorched dome area.Taking micromesh pads, I now wet sand the stummel using pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000.  Wow.  I cannot believe the grain making an appearance on this L. J. Peretti Rhodesian.  The pictures show what I watch emerge through each micromesh pad cycle. To get a big picture look at the Peretti, I reunite the stummel and stem.  As with my last Peretti restored, I like the squared shank’s flow from stummel as it tapers out through the stem.  This Rhodesian’s stem tapers whereas my other Peretti Billiard has a squared saddle stem.  Both, very nice variations of the same concept – a classy shank style. Because of the beauty of the grain I’m seeing, I’m tempted to stop at this point, and finish up with carnauba – I like the natural briar that much.  The only issue is that I would like to apply a darker brown shade of dye to better blend the patch and repair of the rim which stands out as is.  The pictures show the story.In preparation for the staining phase, I use a sharp dental probe and run it through the grooves to dislodge any briar dust from the sanding process.  There is a good bit of compressed residue coming loose.  I follow by wiping down the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the surface.  On the stummel heel, I detect one lightened fill.  I darken it with a stain stick to encourage blending.  I also touch up the patch fill on the rim to help blending and masking the patch after dye is applied.  Pictures show the preparation steps. To stain, I use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye mixed with isopropyl 95% at 50/50.  I use a large dropper to do the mixing in a shot glass.  With the mixture ready, I heat the stummel using the air gun expanding the briar making a better receptor for the dye.  When heated, I use a doubled-over pipe cleaner to apply the dye to the stummel surface.  I apply the dye liberally seeking to achieve 100% coverage.  When completed, I fire the wet dye which immediately ignites the alcohol in the dye, setting the hue in the grain.  I repeat the above application of dye and flaming after a few minutes.  I put the stummel aside to rest for several hours before removing the fired dye crust.  The pictures show the set-up and the progress.  With the stummel resting, I restore the Peretti’s classic stem ‘P’ with white acrylic paint.  Restoring the stem stamping for me is special, along with guarding the nomenclature – and is why I went through a stem-splice with my first Peretti restore – to save the surviving saddle stem piece with the old, warn ‘P’ stamp.   I apply white acrylic paint to the ‘P’ in a large gob over the area to allow the paint to fully saturate the ‘P’ imprint.  I allow it to dry fully.  Later, when dried (it doesn’t take long), I use the edge of a toothpick and gently scrape the area removing the excess but leaving the paint in the stamp imprint.  Using the side of the toothpick has worked for me as it is a harder surface, yet soft as it’s wood.  The flat area of the toothpick passes over the stamp and does not disturb the paint.  I’m pleased with the results.The next morning, the stummel is waiting to be unwrapped of the flamed crust.  Using the Dremel high speed rotary tool, my tool of choice given the tight quarters of my work table on the 10th floor of a former Communist block apartment building, I mount a felt buffing wheel set at the slowest speed, and use Tripoli compound to apply the gentle abrasion to begin the final buffing stages.  I first purge the wheel of old compound running it against the metal adjustment wrench, then with new compound on the wheel, I apply it to the surface.  I do not use much downward pressure but allow the speed of the wheel’s RPMs and the compound to do the work.  I methodically move over the stummel surface in areas with the sheen of the overhead lamp providing the ‘headlights’ letting me know to spread the compound or apply more to the wheel.  I take a picture to show the felt wheel application of Tripoli compound – I had to stage it because I don’t have enough hands to take a picture and hold stummel and Dremel!  After completing the Tripoli cycle, I lightly wiped the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%, not wanting to lighten the hue but to blend certain areas on the heel and shank.  I avoid wiping down the bowl area – it looks good.  Dark enough to mask repairs but on the lighter side to show the striking straight grain definitions.Following the Tripoli compound, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to Blue Diamond compound.  With the Dremel remaining at its slowest speed I apply the lesser abrasion of Blue Diamond compound to buff the surface preparing it for the carnauba wax application.  I reunite the squared tapered stem to the stummel and apply Blue Diamond compound to both.  I know this borders on eccentricity, but as I was finishing the Blue Diamond cycle, I notice that the rim patch done earlier was showing a ridge around the patch, and not flush with the rim.  A bit late in the game to notice this, but it won’t do.  Very strategically, I roll a piece of 600 sanding paper and address the ridging.  I follow with the full set of 12 micromesh pads folded and strategically addressing the area.  Finally, I apply a dark brown stain stick and lightly wipe a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to blend the area.  Finally, I run the Blue Diamond wheel over the rim and I’m back to where I started.  The patch is visible, but now without the ridges that draw attention to the repair.  Now, the rim is smooth to the touch.  Much better.  Before and after pictures follow this small detour! With detours behind, I hand buff the stem and stummel with a flannel cloth to remove compound dust from the surface before applying carnauba wax.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and increase the speed of the RPMs to 2, a bit faster than the slowest speed, and I apply carnauba wax to both the stummel surface as well as to the mounted stem.  After 3 cycles of applying carnauba wax, I hand buff the pipe with a micromesh cloth to bring out the depth of the grain further.

I appreciate Jon giving me this L. J. Perretti while we were in Oslo.  I’m happy to recommission this very attractive Square Shanked Rhodesian – the grain is exceptional and I like the square shank style of both Peretti’s I’ve restored.  The squared shank, not a common Rhodesian configuration, allows this Rhodesian to function like a ‘table sitter’ as well while one plays their card or board games.  If you are interested in adopting the L. J. Peretti Square Shanked Rhodesian, take a look at my blogsite, The Pipe Steward.  As always, all the profits of the sales from my restorations go to help the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

 

Challenges of a Bakelite Stem Rebuild – A Meerschaum Carved Vineyard


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I first saw the Meer before me on the eBay auction block, I was first attracted by the patina showing on the combination smooth and sculpted surfaces.  The base of the billiard bowl showcases two opposing sculpted frescoes, one with the vineyard in expectation of fruit, and the other with the fulfillment – a rack of grapes appearing from behind the grapevine leaves.  Hope and fulfillment are always pleasing themes for reflection as one smokes a bowl of his (or her!) favorite blend.  The patina of the aging meerschaum is concentrated at the base of the stummel, encompassing the frescoes and then gradually thinning and lightening toward the rim and toward the shank.  The other characteristic that drew my attention was the color and taper of the Bakelite stem completing the bent billiard flow.  It just looked good to me.  I have no idea of a carver as there are no markings on the Meer, and the only information from the seller was that its origins were in Europe – it was a gift to the original owner by his sister who lived in Belgium in the 1970s.  Taking it from the ‘Help Me!’ basket, I place it on my work table here in Sofia, Bulgaria, and record the Meer’s condition when it came to me. The characteristics and make-up of meerschaum are not widely understood – I know because I was among those who looked at the white coral-like material and wondered what exactly it was!  The word ‘meerschaum’ has German origins, literally meaning ‘sea foam’.  This brief description from Meerschaum.com is helpful:

Meerschaum is a very rare mineral, a kind of hard white clay. Light and porous structure of the pipe keeps the smoke cool and soft. The pipe itself is a natural filter which absorbs the nicotine. Because of this peculiarity, meerschaum pipes slowly change their colors to different tones of gold and dark brown. This adds an esthetic enjoyment to its great smoking pleasure. The longer a pipe is smoked the more valuable it becomes due to the color change. Today many old and rare meerschaums have found a permanent place in museums and private collections.

Meers are popular because they require no breaking in, no cake, and no resting between smokes. Many consider Meers to be a cooler and dryer smoking experience.  The one main issue with Meers is that they don’t like to be dropped on hard floors – that is never a good thing!  Most Meerschaum is mined in Turkey and for the curious who want to know what exactly the material is, one last excerpt from Altinok Meerschaum’s facts page:

The geologist knows the light, porous Meerschaum as hydrous magnesium silicate. The pipe smoker knows it as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke. The mineral itself is the fossilized shells of tiny sea creatures that fell to the ocean floor over 50 million years ago, there to be covered and compressed over the ages by layer upon layer of silt. Profound movements in the earth’s crust raised the creamy white stone of Meerschaum above sea level. There men eventually discovered it and created an incomparable pipe from it. The first record of Meerschaum as a pipe dates from around 1723.

The stummel on the Meer before me has a lot of grime and dirt with nicks showing his age and that he has been well used.  The challenge with Meer is always how to clean and restore but not to remove the patina, which for a Meerschaum, is the honorific equivalent of the respect owed to those blessed with gray hair and long life in the Bible.  The rim has thick lava and the bowl has moderate cake which will need to be removed with care – cake is not needed on a Meer!  The more daunting questions focus on the stem.  The obvious challenge is the large chip on the end of the stem which also has removed almost half of the button.  I could prepare for this repair by ordering and having someone bring from the US to Bulgaria Behlen’s Medium Yellow Furniture Powders to form a putty patch.  I will attempt to repair the stem with the help of others – we’ll see!  The other challenge that I was not able to discern from the eBay pictures, was the push tenon.  The mortise was threaded for a screw in tenon but the tenon I see connected to the stem has no threads and only engages the mortise as the mortise narrows after the threads.  You can see how much of the tenon is engaged by the coloration (last picture above) – only about half.  When I test the engaged tenon, there is a bit of a wiggle to the stem and it isn’t solidly seated as one would expect.  While the stem, when connected to the shank is usable, it isn’t ideal.  I’ll give some thought to this challenge and perhaps seek counsel.

Leaving the question about the approach for the tenon, I decide to start on the clean-up of the stummel.  I first clean the rim by using cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% – I just want to see how much of the lava and stain will come off.  Not much did.  I then decide to use a medium grade sanding sponge and lightly top the rim – not aiming to take off the meerschaum but to break through the crusty stuff and remove the burnt areas.  That did the trick.  Pictures show the progress. I can now see the inner edge of the chamber wall and using both a pin knife and the Savinelli Pipe Knife carefully I ream the bowl and remove the cake.  I follow this by using 240 grit paper and sand the walls to remove more of the carbon. I wasn’t satisfied with the 240 grit so I rolled up some coarser 120 grit wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and that did the trick. Much nicer.  I complete the reaming with cleaning the bowl with a cotton wipe wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The fire chamber looks good.  To remove the blackening on the inner ring of the rim, I give it a very gentle bevel with 240 grit sanding paper rolled.  The pictures show the progress. With the bowl reamed I clean the mortise internals.  Using pipe cleaners and Q-tips, dipped in isopropyl 95%, I discover quickly that I’m not able to get a pipe cleaner through the mortise through the draught hole.  I twist, turn and angle – it feels like there’s an obstruction.  I blow through the mortise and find that air is moving through without pressure build up.  Finally, the pipe cleaner moved through.  Looking more closely in the mortise with a directed light I see in the throat of the mortise just beyond the end of the threading appears to be a plastic tubing.  I manage to take a picture of it.  I’m not sure if this is part of the internal system or something broken off and lodged. Yet, this plastic tube is what the tenon is engaging.  With great difficulty, I can probe the area what appears to be beyond the tubing and find the airway which seems to be a sharp turn up from the angle of the mortise’s drilling as the pipe cleaner emerges from the plastic tubing.  This doesn’t seem right.  I’ll research more to see what the tubing is.  The mortise is clean, so I move to the cleaning the externals of the bowl.To clean the external surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad as well as scrubbing the sculpted lines of the vineyard frescoes.  The amount of grime on the surface becomes apparent as from the before and after pictures.  The pictures show the progress. I then sanded the bowl with micromesh pads not to remove every scratch, which is a sign of character and age, but to restore the shine of a vital meerschaum surface.  I wet sanded the surface using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanded using micromesh pads 3200 to 4000.  I was not aggressive but careful not to damage the patina.  I like the result.Regarding the stem and tenon questions I referenced above, I sent a note off to Steve and about the push-pull tenon system and what to do with this Meer.  In the end, I decide to order a new replacement system.  I sent a note and measurements off to Tim at http://www.jhlowe.com/ and am waiting for his recommendations.  Since I live in Bulgaria, ordering parts from the States is no small thing as I have it sent to someone coming and they carry it for me.  Saves a bit on postage. With the tenon situation on hold and on order, I turn to the technical part of this restoration that I’ve been anticipating for some time.  Repairing the Bakelite stem or per Steve, possibly a similar material called Amberoid, has been a subject of my research.  The stems most often associated with Meerschaums are the attractive, rich honey yellow color.  The challenge in a repair is matching the yellow color and glass-like texture of the Bakelite or Amberoid.   When I researched this question, I came across Reborn Pipes contributor, Joyal Taylor’s (aka holymolar) 3-part series on patching amber colored stems in 2014.  Starting at the first essay, Stem Patch Using Amber Super Glue, Part 1, I benefited from Joyal demonstrating not only what did work well, but what didn’t.  Also of benefit were the comments many others contributed at the end of the blogs.  So, thanks to Joyal’s trial and error approach, I’m able to jump to a solution in Essay 3 that worked best for him.  I hope I can emulate his success!  Before beginning on the repair, I want the stem internals to be clean.  Taking pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl, I go to work on the stem.  The resistance was a bit more than I expected.  The cavity behind the screw-in tenon was gummed up good and I expended several Q-tips and a sharp and spade dental tools helped scrape the cavity walls to break up the gunk.  There is some dark staining on the internal airway but the pipe cleaners are now coming out clean.In essay 3, Joyal employed the use of Medium Yellow Behlen Furniture Powder (pictured below) which I found on eBay at this LINK.  Previously, he had employed amber colored superglue which came out too clear – lacking the opaque quality needed for a good match.  In the second essay, he tried to employ a mixture of Fiebing’s yellow and orange leather dyes and thick superglue.  He found that the chemistry of the dyes caused the superglue to setup instantly.  Also in essay 2 he mixed StewMac 2-part clear epoxy with Fiebing’s yellow and orange dyes, which mixed well, but the results were less than satisfactory – for both the hue and the texture.  The final essay he tried the powder approach using Behlen Medium Yellow with extra thick superglue and the results were the best.  Below I picture the match-up between the colors of the powder and the stem.  Not bad.  Joyal’s final assessment was helpful for the stem I’m looking at now:

This time I tried Behlen’s yellow powder w/ StewMac’s thick clear superglue.  This is the best so far. Good color and opaque. Some of the powder didn’t mix in but it all polished smoothly. I had to leave the patch thick at the edge because every time I tried to sand it – smooth it [next] to the acrylic, I would remove more of the original color from the acrylic and have to add more patch material. Oh well, this may be as good as I can do, for now.

The last observation is helpful because it lets me know that the basic solidity of the patch could be ‘softer’ relatively speaking, than the stem material so that he was removing more collateral stem material than he wanted.  So, off we go!  I begin the patch on the Meer’s Bakelite stem by taking another close-up focusing on the patch areas.  The patch has two parts.  First, the side of the stem chipped off parallel with the right-side stem edge until it enters the button area.  At this point the break encompasses the entire corner – stem and button.  It appears to me the break was caused by dropping the Meer on a hard surface and the impact point was the end of the stem.  The second part of the patch is to rebuild the button.  To do this, I’ll apply a ‘surplus’ amount of the patch putty not only to the damaged, missing part, but over the entire button.  This will allow me to shape a new button with adequate edges.  To mix with the Behlen powder I have a newly acquired bottle of BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA glue.  I’ll start the mixture aiming at a 50/50 ratio and eyeball things.  I want to mix it well so that the powder is fully dissolved.  I’m also not sure how much time I have before the new CA glue starts setting.  I first take 240 grit sanding paper and rough up the entire patch area to increase the bonding potential between the Bakelite and patch putty.  Now, I construct a ‘slot mold’ for the button.  The slot area is shaped like a concave canoe that the button edges encompass.  I need to keep putty out of this area and form a mold of sorts for the putty.  The results of this mold would remind one of the Wolverine in X-Men.  As menacing as it appears, the center toothpick anchors the mold in the airhole and the ‘wing-picks’ are wedging the edges. The folded index card forming the mold I cover with smooth tape so it won’t adhere to the putty.  Prep done, I pour some Behlen powder in a plastic egg crate to double as a mixing trough.  With tools and toothpicks at hand to serve as putty trowels, I add BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA to the powder and begin mixing.  Well, if this were a science experiment it would remind me of my first chemistry set in 5th grade.  Every 10-year-old with a new chemistry set sees the formula included for a ‘skunk bomb’ and tries it as his first experiment.  I was no exception.  After adding the glue to the powder and mixing, the mixture began to smoke and harden very quickly.  After running the smoking egg crate to the bathroom and adding water to the mix, the smoke stopped and I return to the work table and record my science experiment with a picture capturing the toothpick forever encased in the hardened yellow putty.  The pictures show the progression. Now fully in step with Jowal’s methodology of ‘Trial and Error’ progress, I ask the question, what happened?   I’m not sure, but my guess is that I started with too much powder and adding the glue to it was not sufficient to keep it in liquid form.  My guess is that the rapid hardening created the reactions (chemical energy!), which created the smoke, leading to my emergency procedures.  This time I will approach the process like I do with a charcoal and super glue mix – put both powder and glue on an index card together and mix more gradually and see what happens.  Well, I’ve proven that the methodology is not the culprit.  Again, smoke was produced from the mixture on the index card while I started applying the putty to the stem.  At this point, I’m thinking that the new glue I’m using might be the problem.  I’ll try again with a glue I’ve used in the past.  Thankfully, I could remove the hardened putty that did make it to the stem, by carefully scraping with my thumb nail.  The bright side of this is that the color match with the stem looks great!  Lesson 2 learned – what not to do.  Pictures show the progression of lesson 2. While contemplating the next step, an email came in from Tim at J. H. Lowe in Ohio, and as expected, his note is very helpful:

The regular push-pull set is what you need. Are there threads inside the mortise? There are two sizes of these sets but the larger one is only used when the threads are very worn out and the oversize mortise part has to be fitted in the shank to fix this kind of worn out repair sleeve. I sell these by the each for $3 and by the dz. for a discounted price. You’ll need to change out the stem peg and the sleeve in the Meers pipe repair.

I responded by ordering 3 of each size so I’ll have some on hand for future projects.  So, in a couple weeks, the new push-pull system order will arrive with a friend coming to visit Bulgaria.  By that time, the rest of the Meerschaum Carved Vineyard should be ready and waiting with a quick finish to the restoration.

For the third go – I repeat roughing the patch area with 240 grit sanding paper to remove putty residue from Lesson 2.  Then, after replacing Wolverine, I change glues using Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA glue and mix the same way that I did in Lesson 2, placing a puddle of glue alongside the Behlen Medium Yellow powder and gradually mix by drawing the powder into the glue until (hopefully) the mixture reaches a molasses like consistency.  If it doesn’t ‘smoke’ this time, we’ll know the problem of Lessons 1 & 2. Unfortunately, the ‘smoking’ is repeated and the putty hardened very quickly.  My conclusion to the problem, and the pictures below show the progression of my solution.  The problem is that I’m adding too much Behlen powder to the mix or not enough glue.  I’m estimating that instead of a 50/50 mixture, I need an 80/20 ratio of glue to powder.  I’m not sure of the chemistry involved, but the smoke produced happens when the mixture hardens.  I had more time gradually to build up the patch with the greater glue ratio.  Of course, the question remains, will the lesser powder content change the color match or texture?  We’ll see.  The pictures show the several cycles of building the patch around the button area.  I had only so much time before the hardening would happen and I would make another small batch.  The last picture shows the successfully removed Wolverine mold and the success of guarding the slot area from the putty.  The proof of this yellow pudding will be in the filing, sanding and shaping of the Behlen powder and superglue putty patch.  I use needle files and 240 sanding paper to do the initial shaping.  Starting from the slot side – the end of the stem, I like to create a baseline by re-establishing end by removing the excess.  After removing excess putty on the end, I find the original button.  Since the left side of the button needs to be totally rebuilt, as it was broken off, I use the remaining right side of the button and slot shape to help me form the left side of the slot so it will match. With the baseline established, using the flat edge needle file, I begin to contour the general proportions of the button – lower then upper.  The pictures show the gradual progress. With the general contours of the button established, I then score a line with the flat needle file to mark the upper button lip edge.  With this edge established, I then file down the score line to establish the lip.  I turn the file vertically and use the short edge as a saw and set the edge deeper.  I like to have that edge established so that I can then begin to remove methodically the excess patch putty more accurately to the left of the lip on the second picture below.  After removing as much of the excess putty as possible with the flat needle file, to avoid collateral filing into the Bakelite, I then use 240 grit paper to smooth the surface and remove the putty.  The upper bit looks good so far!  The pictures show the progress. I flip the stem over and repeat same process starting with defining the bit and creating a lip to guide the excess putty removal.  While I work, I’m keeping an eye on the right side (lower in the picture below) of the stem where the major stem rebuild was.  I recall Joyal’s observations of having to keep the patch high because during the smoothing and blending process sanding on the edge of the patch was taking too much of the stem material in the process.  He then described having to refill with more patch the ‘border’ between patch and stem.  The pictures show the progress on the lower bit area. The next two pictures show the completion of the filing and use of 240 grit sanding paper.  I then use 600 grit paper to smooth and blend more and finish with briskly rubbing with 0000 steel wool.  At this stage of the stem repair, I look at the patch areas (3rd picture) and the use of Behlen Furniture Powder Medium Yellow and Special ‘T’ CA glue is strong.  Building up the chip area and missing button portion wasn’t easy but it looks good.  The color is good though it has a speckled quality to it created by small air pockets in the patch which were exposed during the sanding. This I have found is normal.  To fill the pockets, I apply a dab of Hot Stuff CA glue on the stem patch and then ‘paint’ it over the patch using a toothpick.  I do the same with the button lips – upper and lower.  I repeat sanding with 600 grit and then steel wool (I forgot to take pictures of filling the air pockets!).  The pictures show the progress. With the repairs to the stem completed, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  Following this, I dry sand the stem using pads 3200 to 4000 and then, 6000 to 12000.  The Bakelite (or Amberoid, I’ll have to figure out how to tell the difference) stem gradually shines up nicely with each successive micromesh cycle.  The pictures show the progress.I follow the micromesh cycles with applying Blue Diamond compound to the stem with the cotton cloth Dremel wheel set to the slowest speed.  I then mount the carnauba cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and give the stem 3 coats of carnauba wax.  I follow the carnauba with a hand-buff using a microfiber cloth. Wow!  I like it. The Bakelite or Amberoid has the appearance of glass – the patch has no textural differences with the original stem.  The last two pictures are flipped to show what I’m seeing after the buff. Stem completed for now – the new push-pull tenon system should be in transit. With the stem completed and on hold for the tenon, I look to complete the stummel of this Meer Carved Vineyard.  With of the unique characteristics of Meerschaum pipes, they’re like wine – they get better with age!  For Meerschaums, their value increases with use as the oils in the tobacco interact with the unique composition of the Meerschaum the bowl will change color gradually, darkening to the golden, honey brown which is its patina.  The Carved Vineyard displays this growing patina and to enhance this natural coloring process, treating the stummel with bees’ wax is the long-used practice of choice.  This is my first application of bee’s wax to a Meer and Charles Lemon’s, of Dad’s Pipes, descriptive posts have been helpful as I’ve done my research (See: Quick Clean-up of a Tulip Meerschaum Sitter).  One thing very much available in Bulgaria is bees’ wax, which I found in a local outdoor market at the honey kiosk.  My price was 3BGN for 100gr (Translation: $1.63 for 1/5 pounds).  I don’t know if it’s a deal or a steal.   After I unwrap the package, I break off some chunks of the bee’s wax and put them in a small mason jar, which I’ll be able to keep unused wax for the next Meer treatment.  Using my hot air gun, I melt the wax in the mason jar.  After melting the wax, I hold the Meer over the hot gun to warm up to better absorb the wax.  Blame it on Bulgarian winters, but when I finish warming the Meer, the wax has already cooled down and congealing!  So, a more rapid wax melting follows, and a re-warming of the Meer stummel.  I used a Q-tip cotton swab to paint the bowl with the melted bee’s wax.  I was careful to paint the sculpted vineyard lines – getting the wax in the nooks and crannies.  I put the stummel aside to cool.  Since this was my first time to apply the bee’s wax treatment to a Meer, I was a little surprised how thick the congealed wax was on the stummel after it cooled.  It could be that the Meer wasn’t hot enough and the wax was cooling too quickly.  Either way, the Meer received a treatment!  After cooled, I try buffing with a towel to remove the thicker waxy residue, and I discover that it’s not too easy.  I’m thinking that the wax is too thick and it congealed to fast (3rd picture below). I improvise and I think the improvisation benefited this Meer.  Using a Q-tip as a brush, I start passing the thick-layered bees’ wax stummel over the air gun – like passing over a lit candle, it liquefies the wax on the portion impacted by the heat.  As the wax liquefies, I paint it into the surface – working it in well and removing the excess with the Q-tip. This time applying wax around the Meerschaum seems to absorb the wax instead of being smothered by it. It didn’t take long and the application of bees’ wax is complete (4th picture below)!  Then, before the stummel cooled down, while yet warm, I buff the stummel with a towel and then with a microfiber cloth and WOW.  I’m a believer.  The shine and deepening of the patina is evident!  The pictures tell the story. With the Meerschaum’s stem and stummel complete – almost – I set both aside waiting for the arrival of the push-pull tenon from the US.  I’m beginning to wonder whether this Meer Carved Vineyard should go to The Pipe Steward store, or remain in my collection – often I have that problem 🙂 !

A few weeks later the push-pull tenons arrive via a friend who was willing to carry them to Bulgaria.  I open the package sent by Tim West at J.H. Lowe in Columbus, Ohio, and have my first look at what a new push-pull system looks like.  I unscrew the old tenon and easily screw the new one in place.  The mortise sleeve’s threads worked perfectly as well.  The problem though, is that it will not screw all the way in.  Previously, I identified a tubing of sorts deeper in the mortise which was the only thing the old tenon was locking into – though poorly.  My first inclination was to cut the new mortise tenon sleeve so that being shortened it would fit in the limited space.  It was then that I started questioning whether what I was looking at was part of the design or that it was in fact, the left-over remains of the bottom end of the old mortise sleeve which had broken off.  After looking closely at the inner tubing, I can see fragments of the old break.  Ok!  Now I understand that I need to exorcise this vagabond mortise sleeve. I first try wedging a small flat head screw driver in the tubing to ‘unscrew’ it by turning it counter-clockwise.  I was hoping that it might be loose, but will not budge.  So, using appropriately size drill bits and wood screws, gradually I clear out the obstructing portion by shaving off the material of the old sleeve which I think might be acrylic. I am careful to keep the bits and screws straight so they do not nick the Meer threads.  This was not an easy or fast process, but eventually I was satisfied to remove most of the old sleeve – leaving only a very thin ‘skin’ over the threaded area deeper in the mortise, which may indeed help in keeping the mortise cleaner.  After this, I screw the new insert into the mortise and trim and sand the protruding ‘head’ of the sleeve to improve the fit and alignment of the mortise and stem.  I also sand down the tenon diameter to improve its fit into the sleeve.  I’m pleased with the results.  The pictures show the replacement of the push-pull tenon system.  I’m pleased with the stem rebuild that has blended very well with the Bakelite stem and has put this Meerschaum back in service for a new steward. The patina of the Meerschaum Carved Vineyard has a very healthy start and will only season more with good, aromatic tobaccos.  I also like the blending of smooth and carved Meerschaum – a very stylish pipe.  If you would like to adopt this Meerschaum Carved Vineyard, look at the Pipe Store in my new blog site at ThePipeSteward.com.  The profits of my pipe sales go to help women and children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked through the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with here in Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

The Striking Grain of a GBD Americana – Made in London England Bent Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I saw this pipe on the eBay auction block, I was drawn to it first by the grain.  The dark veins of grain were an anomaly and immediately the questions that came to my mind were, “Is that natural or were the darker veins introduced through the manufacturing processes of GBD?  Or, are they discolorations that came afterwards through aging?  The questions raised my curiosity enough to stand back and look at the pipe itself – a GBD Americana half Bent Billiard.  The grain beyond the dark veins were interesting – one side of the stummel was almost exclusively a pattern of peacock feather eyes – bird’s eye grain, but larger and flowing.  The other side appeared as a tree flowing up from the heal of the stummel and fanning out midway to the rim, with more bird’s eye grain taking the form of the foliage of the tree.  Unapologetically, I’m a briar grain addict!  Well, with the winning bid cast, the GBD made its way from the United States to my “Help Me!” basket here in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Here are the pictures that first got my attention on eBay – the black vein grain and the flowering tree: This attractive Bent Billiard has markings on the left side of the shank of, “GBD” (oval encircled) over “Americana”.  The right side of the shank bears, “Made in London” (circular lettering) over “England” with the shape number “508” immediately to the right.  The bottom of the shank has “M” imprinted standing alone.  The traditional brass GBD rondel garnishes the stem. The story of GBD pipes is an interesting one starting in France in 1850 with an unexpected partnership, not coming from businessmen, but fellow pipe makers who felt they could make a go of it.  This excellent article, Finding Out Who Created GBD – Story of a Pipe Brand – Jacques Cole was reposted on Reborn Pipes and is an excellent read for framing a historical appreciation for a pipe name and its development – GBD.

Who were these creators? Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger were three ‘Master Pipemakers’ who got together in Paris in 1850 to manufacture meerschaum pipes. It was a bold decision as these were troubled times in France. Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte has returned after the 1848 revolution and become President of the Republic. Following a coup d’etat in 1851, he made himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852. He was incidentally a keen pipesmoker and may well have owned one or more early GBDs.

 The pipe of Emperor Napoléon!  Does it get much better than this?  The picture to the left bottom is not Napoleon depicted, but with pipe in hand, the ‘charge’ gives one an image to imagine!  The focus of the ‘GBD’ enterprise in the late 1800s was primarily the production of meerschaum pipes but in the 1850s, with Saint-Claude’s discovery of briar and its special qualities for making lasting, heat-resistant pipes, GBD adapted and added briar to its list of materials.  GBD boasted in the end of the 19th Century as having 1500 models that customers could choose from – though Pipedia’s article on GBD clarifies this unbelievable number as counting each shape three times due to three different stem materials used.  GBD straddled its French identity and its adopted English identity through various acquisitions and changes in ownership, yet, keeping the initials of the founders firmly in place.  Pipedia’s history is helpful to understand these historical iterations:

There is a very simple explanation for GBD’s program to turn more “British”: GBD became a British company soon after the turn of the century! In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co. in London. Charles Oppenheimer had founded this successful trade business in 1860 as an import-/export house. His brothers David and Adolphe and brother-in-law Louis Adler soon joined him. Adolphe took over when Charles went to Germany as British ambassador. Briar pipes were among the first products traded. The business relation to GBD in Paris began as early as 1870. Being the most important customer in the English-speaking world, Oppenheimer & Co. were designated as sole distributor for Great Britain, the USA and Canada in 1897.

Though English owned, pipe production continued in Paris and soon Oppenheimer acquired two factories in Saint-Claude in 1906, increasing its production.  Also during this period, Oppenheimer continuing to expand, built a pipe factory in London, but this operation failed to live up to expectations until the genesis of WW I when demand for pipes increased for the front line and production fell in the French factories as men were called to the front lines.  The shift of GBD being identified more distinctly as a British pipe emerged after the close of the war even though production continued in London and France through the 1920s.  I find the next Pipedia excerpt interesting because it marks well how GBD had fully transitioned from its origins, the handshake of 3 French pipe makers, to a macro-business continuing through the 1900s.

In 1920 Oppenheimer had purchased BBB (Blumfeld’s Best Briar, formerly A. Frankau) and little later Loewe & Co. and large shares of Comoy’s of London. The economic crisis in the early 1920s induced the foundation of Cadogan Investments Ltd., named for its seat at Cadogan Square in London. The Cadogan group was a superordinated holding company, in order to tune all activities of Oppenheimer’s brands in the pipe industry. Whereby an extensive independence of the single brands was preserved. Remember, the Oppenheimers and Adlers weren’t pipe specialists, but rather sales people who depended on their experts in the British and French plants.

This link is to a 50 page catalog featuring Oppenheimer’s product line – it is fascinating.  The index page is pictured below.  In 1952 the Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude and since the 1980s most GBD pipes come from London.  The higher-end GBD pipe lines are of good quality and many feel they stack up well against the array of Dunhill offerings yet more affordable.  The Pipe Phil history of GBD says that the Saint-Claude pipe factory closed in 1981 leaving only London as the producer of GBD pipes.This list comprises the better grades of GBD pipes in descending order: Pedigree, Pedigree I, Pedigree II, Straight Grain, Prodigy, Bronze Velvet, Virgin, Varichrome, Prestige, Jubilee, New Era, Prehistoric, International, Universe, Speciale Standard, Ebony, Tapestry, New Standard, Granitan, Sauvage, Sierra, Penthouse, Legacy, Concorde.

According to the José Manuel Lopes, the Americana before me now is a GBD second associated with L&H Stern, Pioneer, and Appleby.  The closest indicator of dating of this GBD Americana comes from Pipe Phil that GBD’s metal stem rondels were discontinued after 1981 when GBD merged with Comoy.  After seeing Reborn Pipes’ contributor, Al Jones’ comments in several GBD discussion threads, I sent him a note with some questions and pictures about this Americana.  His response was helpful and his description of ‘Odd Duck’ helps me place this pipe in context:

Dal:

You’ve got an odd duck! 

Typically, the stamping used on pre-Cadogan pipes is the straight line COM, “London, England” stamp (see attached) combine with the brass rondell stem logo.  Cadogan era pipes (made after 1981) have the round “Made in London” (with England under) COM, as shown on your pipe.  But, they typically have stamped stem logos. I see these pipes occasionally, and my assumption is they were made after the merger, until the brass rondell inventory was exhausted. One common denominator on these pipes is a single letter.  I have no idea as to what it may mean, but M is frequently used. These pipes also had many more finish names, like your Americana, that were not seen before.  Comoy’s started doing the same thing, adding lines and letters just after the merger. I’ll look forward to seeing the restored pipe, it looks like a good candidate.

Thanks,

Al With Al’s ‘Odd Duck’ description in place, my best summation of this GBD Americana, is that it is placed after 1981, but in the early 80s, after the Cadogan merger, but before the brass rondel bucket emptied which more than likely indicates a cost-saving measure that may indicate a lowering of GBD quality – perhaps, only my guess.  I took a quick look in the early 80’s GBD catalog listings on Chris’s Pipe Pages, perchance to find a listing for an Americana, but came up empty.

With a greater appreciation for the name and history of the GBD Americana pipe before me, and the other GBDs waiting in my “Help Me!” basket, I take additional pictures on my work table to fill in the story and take a closer look. I like the appearance of this GBD Americana bent Billiard.  The cake build up in the chamber is thick and will need to be removed to the briar for a fresh start.  The rim is covered with lava flow and will need cleaning before I can see what lies beneath.  I’m interested to see what happens with the dark briar veins on the stummel surface when I clean it up with Murphy’s Soap.  I detect some pits and dents on the stummel surface – normal wear and tear.  The stem shows significant oxidation coupled with moderate teeth chatter and some dents on the bits.  The first thing I do to begin the restoration and recommissioning of this GBD Americana is to plop the stem into an Oxi-Clean solution for a good soak to raise the oxidation. After soaking several hours, I pluck the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath and the solution did the job of raising the oxidation.  After I take a picture, I wet sand the stem using 600 grit sandpaper that takes the mother-load of oxidation off.  I continue using 0000 steel wool to remove more oxidation and work the grooves around the button.  I also work around the GBD rondel with the steel wool, working on the oxidation and shining the brass as well.  The pictures show the progress.I then take pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl and clean the internals of the stem.  There was not too much resistance and the pipe cleaners returned clean very quickly.

Time to work on the stummel.  I begin by removing the moderate cake build up in the chamber.  I first put a paper towel down on the work space to collect the carbon dust and then take the Pipnet Reaming Kit and I use two smaller of the 4 blades available.  Starting with the smaller blade, I turn it until the crunchy resistance of the carbon cake is absent, then I move up to the next larger blade removing the cake.  Following the reaming blades, I use the Savinelli Pipe Knife and fine tune the reaming by scraping the chamber walls removing even more carbon.  Then, I roll 240 grit sanding paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber walls.  Finally, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the residue carbon dust and clean the chamber.  Inspecting the wall of the chamber, all looks good – no problems detected.  The pictures show the progress. I like working on a clean pipe so I turn now to the internals of the stummel.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95% I attack the mortise and the airway. The tar and oils are not putting up too much resistance and the pipe cleaners and swabs start coming through clean.  Later, I will give the internals a salt/alcohol soak to clean the stummel further and freshen the pipe. With the internals clean, I now turn to the external surface.  I’m anxious to see what the Murphy’s Soap does regarding the dark veins on the surface – I’m not sure if it’s actual dark grain color or something else.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and bristled tooth brush to scrub the surface and remove the grime.  To clean the rim, I also employ use of a brass bristle brush which will clean but not damage the wood.  Without a doubt, I am looking at an amazing piece of briar with dark, blackish veins in the grain – unique and striking.  The surface itself is in good shape.  I detect very small fills but they are solid and will easily blend.  The rim shows damage on the front-left edge – possibly scorching from lighting the pipe over the rim.  There is also a bevel on the inner rim. To remove the damage to the rim and to reestablish crisp lines, I will lightly top the GBD – only taking off as much as needed.  I use a chopping board on my work table with a sheet of 240 grit paper over it.  I invert the stummel and rotate the stummel in a circular motion – careful not to lean to the softer damaged area of the rim. I take a picture mid-way to show progress.  After removing enough of the top, I then switch to a 600 grit paper and give the rim a few more rotations on the topping board, primarily to smooth the rim.  Burning and discoloration remain on the inner rim after the topping.  I take 120 grit paper, tightly rolled, and cut a new inner rim bevel.  I follow with 240 grit paper rolled, then a 600 grit rolled paper to complete the bevel.  The pictures show the rim’s progress. With the stummel before me, I decide to proceed with sanding the externals.  I first use a light grade sanding sponge, followed by the micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000.  In sets of three, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, and then concluding also dry sanding with pads 6000 to 12000.  The grain in this GBD Americana is unique and the way the grain emerged through the micromesh cycles was striking.  The pictures show the sanding process. I now clean and freshen the internals of the stummel more and I use kosher salt and alcohol to soak the stummel.  The kosher salt will leave no residual taste as will regular iodized salt. I first stretch and twist a cotton ball to stuff down the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the tars and oils.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt and set it in an egg carton where it will have the right angle and be stable.  Then using a dropper, I fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it rises above the level of the salt.  I top it off after a few minutes because the alcohol is drawn down initially into the mortise and the cotton wick.  I then set the stummel aside for several hours to soak.  The pictures show the progress.With the stummel soaking, I start the stem polishing process.  I first work around the GBD rondel using a small piece of Mr. Clean Miracle Eraser.  I detect left over oxidation ringing the rondel in the vulcanite.  I do not want to bear down on the rondel with an abrasive so I’m hoping that Mr. Clean will do the job and the result confirms this.  Previously, when I removed the oxidation with 600 grit paper, it cleaned the button area of teeth chatter very well.  I detect on both the upper and lower lip edges residue oxidation that was shielded by the lip overhang.  I fold a piece of 240 grit paper to create a sharp blade/edge and sand the lip edge.  This removes the oxidation as well as sharpening the button definition.  I follow doing the same with 600 grit paper and then buff the bit, upper and lower with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the fine-tuning stem work. I’m ready to begin the micromesh pads polishing process.  First, using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem, followed by pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000, I dry sand the stem.  After each cycle of 3, I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite and take a picture to mark the progress.  The GBD stem rondel has a pop with the black backdrop of the newly revitalized vulcanite stem.  The pictures show the progress. Back home after a day at work, I’m looking forward to finishing and recommissioning this GBD Americana for service to a new steward.  The salt and alcohol soak has had all day and there isn’t that much discoloration of the salt – hopefully this means there wasn’t that much left to clean!  I thump the bowl on my palm to dislodge the used salt and dump it.  I then take a dry paper towel and wipe out the excess salt from the chamber and after removing the cotton wick, I use multi-sized round bristle brushes to remove excess salt from the airway and mortise.  Then I complete the job by wetting a cotton swab and a pipe cleaner with isopropyl 95% and plunge them, only to discover that the internals were indeed cleaned and ready to go. With the stummel cleaned and stem waiting in the wings, I reassemble the pipe to get a bird’s eye view of things.  It does not take long to decide not to apply a stain, but to leave the natural finish on this striking and graceful Bent Billiard.  The color combinations of the black veins and black stem, the golden briar and the brass stem rondel are eye-catching.  This is one nice looking pipe! I use white diamond compound with a felt wheel mounted on the Dremel at the lowest speed.  Before I apply the compound, I purge the wheel of old compound using the edge of the Dremel’s adjustment wrench.  I apply the compound to both stem and stummel. I rotate the wheel over the surface, not applying much downward pressure on the surface but allowing the RPMs of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  After the White Diamond, I mount a cotton cloth wheel at the same lowest speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stummel and stem.  With the compounds completed, I buff the pipe with a flannel cloth not so much to shine it but to remove the excess compound dust before I apply wax.  With the carnauba wax I mount the cotton cloth wheel, increase the speed one notch faster, 2 with the fastest being 5.  I apply several coats of wax to stem and stummel.  I finish the polishing process with a hand buff using a micromesh cloth to deepen and bring out the shine.

This GBD Americana Bent Billiard has perhaps the most striking briar grain I have yet to see.  The black veined grain gives a marbling effect that draws the eyes to look closer.  When one looks closer the grain is a myriad of shapes and bird’s eye swirls that make me ponder again one of God’s little creations.  Then, the black grain on the left side of the stummel, dips underneath the heel, and emerges on the right side as straight vertical grain resembling a mature tree, beginning with the roots, then trunk, replete with foliage fanning out above as it reaches toward the rim – a virtual canvas.  If I decide to sell this pipe (I’m conflicted, this one may indeed be a keeper!), you will see it in the store at my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  All the profits of pipes that I sell go to help the Daughters of Bulgaria – the organization we work with here in Bulgaria helping women and children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

 

Brandy Bent Unmarked – another ‘Hole in the Wall’ Find


Blog by Dal Stanton

The Brandy before me now was a very nicely bundled pipe when I recently purchased the Stanwell Silver Mount which I’ve already restored (See HERE).  I landed these pipes at the treasure trove I call the ‘Hole in the Wall,’ an antique shop in the center-city of Sofia, Bulgaria.  My sites were on the Stanwell which was the prize, with its silver and class, but when I saw the Brandy, I plucked it out of the basket to bundle with the Stanwell – hopefully to land a more favorable purchase price for the pair.  The Stanwell and Brandy came home with me that day, and the picture I took below commemorated that day’s finds.  The next picture shows the results of the Stanwell Silver Mount’s restoration – a beautiful, dressy pipe.brandy1 brandy2The Brandy drew my attention as well because the bowl is a significant presence in the palm as I cradled the expansive bowl.  When I first saw it, I thought it might be a Volcano shape because of the hefty, expansive base of the stummel and the tightly restrained cone moving upwardly culminating in the rim. Yet, looking at Pipedia’s Pipe’s Chart by Bill Burney (see below), my later thoughts were confirmed that this indeed is a Brandy – actually, the first in my collection.  The stummel measures 1 3/4 inches in diameter at the broadest point of the ‘brandy glass’ bulge and the stummel tightens to the rim which measures 1 1/4 inches.  The height of the stummel is 1 7/8 inches.  This bowl is nicely shaped and proportioned – I like it!brandy3I take more pictures when I take the Brandy out of the ‘Help Me!’ basket and place him on my work table.brandy4 brandy5 brandy6 brandy7 brandy8With the stem in the Oxi-Clean, I continue with the clean-up of the stummel internals using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After moderate resistance, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs started coming out cleaner.  Later, I will give the bowl a kosher salt/alcohol soak to further clean and freshen the internals and readying it for a new steward.brandy12With the internals cleaned with the frontal approach, I now look at the external surface.  I first scrub the rim and entire stummel with undiluted Murphy’s Oil to see if it makes much of a dent on the cloudy finish.  I have my doubts.  Well, after scrubbing the surface with Murphy’s Soap and I can see my reflection on the surface, I know that I’m dealing with an acrylic finish – the candy wrapper finish.  For manufacturers of pipes that put this kind of finish on a pipe, I can only think of two reasons to do so – it is a more cost-effective mass application of shininess – a chemically produced sheen that takes minimal time and man-hours, and to hide imperfections in the briar.  Switching to acetone to remove the finish, first, I use cotton pads, then the more persuasive help of 0000 steel wool.  The finish comes off with little effort and I begin to see why the finish is dark – there are several fills that the dark stain was masking.   I have no problems with darker hues to mask fills and imperfections, but I do not like the acrylic shine finish.  Pictures show the progress and the surface revealed.brandy13 brandy14 brandy15Before dealing with the fills, I sand the outer surface of the stummel and rim with a course grade sanding sponge to remove the superficial nicks and damage.  This works well.  I follow with a medium grade then a light grade sanding sponge to smooth and clean the surface of imperfections.brandy16I take a close look at the fills on the surface of the stummel and scrape them with a sharp dental probe to find out whether they are solid or if they are in danger of pitting.  Generally, they seem to be in good condition.  I do detect one pit and I drop-spot some super glue and apply an accelerator to cure the glue rapidly.  When the superglue is fully cured, I use a flat needle file to file it down near to the briar surface, then I use a rolled piece of 240 grit paper to sand it down to the surface, removing all the excess glue.  Then I use 600 grit paper just to smooth the surface of the patch.brandy17 brandy18Sanding with the sanding sponges removed most of the dents I detected earlier on the rim.  I want to freshen the inwardly sloped bevel to improve the lines of the rim.  I first cut an inner bevel with a rolled piece of coarser 120 grit paper.  Then I follow this by using 240 and 600 grit paper over the entire surface of the rim from the lower inner lip to the higher rim edge.  The result is a more tapered and sloped bevel and a crisper rim edge as the lower bevel blends into the upper slope.  The pictures show the progress.brandy19Next, I wet sand the stummel with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and when I complete this cycle, what I see I am not expecting.  Every fill on the stummel had softened and some had come out.  Apparently, the fill was not glue based, but simply a colored wood putty that would sit underneath the acrylic finish.  I haven’t seen anything like this up to this point.  Oh well….  I take the sharp dental probe and continue to dig out all the old filler putty and clean the holes left behind.  This restoration is taking an unexpected turn and it will take a bit of time to fill and sand down each of these 16 fill spots.  With briar dust and superglue, I mix a batch of putty and apply putty to each hole.  I leave excess over each fill area to be able later to sand each fill down flush to the briar surface.  I put the stummel aside for the patches to cure for about 12 hours.  The pictures show the digression.brandy20 brandy21With the putty patches curing, I take the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath and take a picture of the oxidation raised on the stem.  I then wet sand the stem with 600 grit paper followed by 0000 steel wool to remove the raised oxidation from the stem.  The stem is looking good.brandy22Before I proceed with the micromesh pad sanding, I clean the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Using a sharp dental probe, I also dig out gunk from the slot.  The stem internals were dirty but pipe cleaners eventually prevailed.brandy23I then begin the micromesh cycle by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3, I applied Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress, and a slight interruption when my daughter FaceTime’s me from Nashville between cycles – the pictures also show this wonderful interruption!   With the stem looking good, I put it aside and return to the stummel.brandy24 brandy25After the briar dust patches cure on the stummel surface, I begin the long process of filing and sanding the excess putty off the patches to bring the putty flush with the briar surface.  I first use a flat needle file to bring the excess almost to the surface and then I use 240 grit paper to smooth further, blending the patch with the surface.  With as many fills that I had, it provided ample practice to perfect my approach!  After smoothing all the briar dust putty patches, I find that some patches have small air-pockets revealed as I sand.  With these, I spot-drop some superglue, apply an accelerator to rapidly cure the glue, then re-sand those areas until the patches blend with the surface.  The pictures slow the slow progress.brandy27 brandy28 brandy29 brandy30With my day ending, I decide to clean the stummel internals further with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This cleans further as well as freshen the stummel for a new steward.  I stretch and twist a cotton ball to create a ‘wick’ to insert down the mortise.  This helps draw out the oils and grime.  Then I place the stummel in an egg carton for stability and fill the chamber with kosher salt.  The kosher salt is without iodine which can leave a taste.  I shake the stummel a bit with my palm over the chamber to displace the salt in the mortise a bit.  I then fill the fire chamber with isopropyl 95% until it rises a bit over the salt.  I then put the stummel aside for the night allowing the salt and alcohol to do the work.brandy31The next morning, the salt and cotton ‘wick’ had darkened signifying the job of drawing out tars and oils was achieved.  I dump out the expended salt by thumping the stummel on the palm and tossing the wick. I wipe the chamber with paper towel, and then use multi-sized round bristled brushes in the chamber and mortise to rid the stummel of residue salt.  I complete the cleaning job by plunging a few more cotton swabs and pipe cleaners into the mortise and draft hole and find that all the tars and oils have been removed.  I determine the Brandy’s cleaning, ‘Completed’!  The pictures show the progress.brandy32 brandy33 brandy34I turn again to the briar surface of the stummel.  With all the patch work done, I make a quick inspection of the surface looking for little shiny spots which would indicate that some residue excess of superglue was remaining on the briar surface.  I quickly address these with a rapid sanding with 240 grit paper.  From there, I return to a light grade sanding sponge and re-sand the entire surface aiming to help the blending with the plethora of patches and the briar surface.  brandy35I then proceed through the cycles of micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  The volatile nature of the grain in this block of briar becomes evident – it is evident that the block was taken from the upper or outer regions of the briar bush’s ‘burl’.  Its grain is more turbulent than you would find deeper inside the burl, where grains are a spectrum of non-existent to orderly currents of grain.  This excerpt from an article from Pipes & Tobaccos (1999) about briar grains from R. D. Field, I found very helpful in understanding briar grains:

Any burl, whether it be 30 years old or 130, does not possess what we call grain in its totality. When a burl is split in half a variety of patterns are able to be discerned in that: The center of the burl has no grain. The center, or heart, contains all the liquid held in the burl which is red in color and is known as blood. The wood surrounding this blood is also of a reddish tint and is devoid of capillaries as the water has got to where it was meant to be for storage.  Capillaries surround the center and, depending on the growing pattern of the burl and how it was split, can take the shape of straight grain, cross grain, flame grain, mixed grain, etc.

As we approach the upper part of the burl from where the branches emerge a pattern known as “branch wood” can be seen. Because the branches of the shrub actually start their growth within the burl the wood in these portions takes on some of the characteristics of the emerging branch. To look upon a swirling piece of briar devoid of other grain character (whether in a finished pipe or as part of the burl) is to look upon branch wood.

The many fills in this piece of briar I believe is due to it being an example of a block taken at a ‘branch wood’ formation seen in the pictures below.  The pictures show the progression through the micromesh pad cycles.brandy36 brandy37

The next step in the project is to stain the stummel.  I will aim for a darker hue but I want to contextualize this Brandy by bending the hue toward the reds using Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye mixed with Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye including a hint of black, non-aniline dye.  I found a picture on the internet (below) that envisions the perfect ambiance for this Brandy after he’s restored and recommissioned! I’m aiming for the darker hue of the brandy that is displayed.  Dreamstime is doing a good job promoting the brandy glass, but truth be known, the Brandy shaped pipe I have would have been a better choice for display!  Acknowledging a totally unscientific approach to the mixture, if I find the results too red, I will probably follow by a straight application of Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye as an overcoat.brandy38After the dyes are mixed in a shot glass, I heat the stummel with an air gun to expand the grains to absorb the dye more efficiently.  Then, using a bent-over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye mixture liberally over the surface, utilizing a cork inserted into the mortise as a handle.  When applied, I fire the stummel with a lit candle, and the alcohol in the dye immediately burns off and sets the dye in the grain.  To make sure I’ve achieved total coverage, I repeat the process again, finishing by firing the dye, and putting the stummel aside to rest for several hours.  The pictures show the staining process.brandy39 brandy40A little anxious to unwrap the flamed dye crust, my impatience wins out and I mount the felt wheel on the Dremel high speed rotary tool.  I set the speed to the slowest available and using Tripoli compound I begin removing the crust to reveal the briar underneath.  Then, using a cotton cloth wheel, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stummel, also using the slowest speed available.  After the Blue Diamond, I’m seeing two things – the hue is a bit redder than I wanted and I am seeing light spots that need darkening.  I use a mahogany dye stick and darken the light areas to blend.  Then, I take out the Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye, and set up for another application of dye to the stummel. With a folded pipe cleaner I apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye two times, as before, flaming after each application, then setting the stummel aside to rest.  Pictures tell the story.brandy41 brandy42After a few hours, I repeat the process of applying both Tripoli and Blue Diamond compounds to the stummel surface.  Following the compound application I hand buff the stummel with a flannel towel to remove the residue compound dust on the stummel.  I do this before applying the carnauba wax.  Changing to the cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I increase the speed to 2, the second slowest speed of 5 – being the fastest.  I reattach the stem and stummel and apply to both several coats of carnauba wax and then give the pipe a rigorous hand buff with a micromesh cloth to bring out the shine.brandy43This Brandy Bent Unmarked had a lot going against it after I discovered the multitude of fills necessary to restore and recommission this pipe.  Considering the odds against it, I think it looks very good.  The grain is very expressive.  I like the dark brown finish as the overcoat of the oxblood – it fits well the Brandy shape.  I sell my restorations with the profits helping the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – those sexually exploited and trafficked.  This Brandy is ready to serve a new steward.  If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, check out The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!brandy44 brandy45 brandy46 brandy47 brandy48 brandy49 brandy50

Hole in the Wall Gold Mine: Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major Rhodesian


Blog by Dal Stanton

Even though it was a snow trudging kind of day, making it to the ‘Hole in the Wall’ paid off again.  I mentioned this visit before when I was writing up the restoration of the Stanwell Silver Mount.  On this visit, I saw the Stanwell for the first time, but didn’t bite.  The next time I would!  On this visit, I found another very nice example of St. Claude, France’s claim to fame as an historic center of pipe production – rivaling the UK for market share in Europe.  When I saw the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major in the pipe basket on the cluttered Hole in the Wall shelf, my initial reaction was its size – a hefty guy.  My first assessment was that it was a Bulldog shape, then I noted the large rounded shank – a Rhodesian or a Bullmoose?  This one is going home with me regardless!  I looked in the basket for a good pipe to bundle and I saw an attractive, diminutive, Bent Billiard Sitter with a swan neck stem – unmarked, but a very nice looking pipe.  When I got home I took a quick picture of the bundled pair and put them in the ‘Help Me!’ basket for later attention.butz1 butz2When I take the BC Cocarde Major out of the basket, I am anxious to recommission this nice-looking Rhodesian, I decide.  The first thing I do is pull up Google Translator and insert Cocarde Major in the French to English machine.  I did not study French in school so help is appreciated.  I want to know if special meaning is attached to this St. Claude BC.  Cocarde translated into English as the word, ‘Cockade’ which was defined as, a rosette, roundel or knot of ribbons worn in a hat as a badge of office or party, or as part of a livery. With a little looking on the internet, I found these interesting French examples of Cocardes.butz3With this meaning for ‘Cocarde’ it put doubt in my mind regarding my original thought that ‘Major’ referred to large or big.  Attaching Major to the idea of the French symbol of national pride, it is most likely pointing to a level of rank, or when ‘Major’ is attached to another rank (e.g., sergeant-major) it denotes the ranking of one superior among those of the same rank.  I emailed a colleague living and working in Toulouse, France, whose command of the language could help.  His comments confirmed what I was thinking:

The word cockade refers to a national symbole for the French, like “cocarde tricolore’ refers to the French flag which is, of course, one of the most important symbols of the French people and national pride.  It has many meanings, but for example official cars or planes have this symbol on it.  You are right about the word Major, refering to a military grade. Used as an adjectif, “majeur” it means big.   I would conclude that this is simply the name of the pipe.  You can’t translate it literally.  The pipe’s name implies in my opinion that it is a symbol of French pride, like the French insignia for a general in the military.

With the symbols of French pride stamped on this BC Rhodesian, I have a greater appreciation for the pipe when I take more pictures now on my worktable.butz4 butz5 butz6 butz7 butz8The stampings on the left side of the shank are “Butz-Choquin” in an arched script over “Concarde” over “Major”.  On the right side is, “St Claude” arched over “France” over “1028”, the BC shape number.  Per Pipedia’s history of the name, when Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz, started out as a tobacconist and the business prospered.  In 1858, one of his employees, one Gustave Butz, fell for his boss’ daughter and they were married.  That same year, Butz and Choquin came together to form the enterprise that is now known as Butz-Choquin, and eventually moved the operation from Metz to St. Claude, known as “the world capital of the briar pipe”.  Looking on the internet, I found another BC shape ‘1028’ but was called a ‘Bourbon Major’.  The shape was that of a Bulldog, with the diamond shank.  I know there is debate regarding the difference between Bulldog and a Rhodesian classification, but I am happy with Bill Burney’s descriptive difference in the Pipedia shapes Chart, that the difference between the two is, the Rhodesian has a round shank and the Bulldog, a diamond.

So, looking more closely at the BC Rhodesian in front of me, I see that the surface is generally in good shape – striking grain patterns.  There are two noticeable fills that need addressing.  There is also a chip over the shank, where the double grooves meet – the grooves forming the border between the upper and lower cones of the Rhodesian stummel.  The chamber has thick carbon cake buildup and needs removal down to the briar for a fresh start.  The stem has very little oxidation and a couple distinct clincher tooth marks on the top bit and chatter above and below.  The stamped ‘BC’ stem marking is in good shape but the white color needs touching up.  The following pictures show the question areas on the stummel – mainly fills and the chip.butz9 butz10Even though the oxidation is minor, I put the stem in an Oxi-Clean bath for a few hours to raise the oxidation to the surface.  I first cover the stem ‘BC’ stamp with petroleum oil.  Turning to the stummel, I take the Pipnet Pipe Reamer kit and use the two smaller blades of the four available and remove the cake using first the smallest, then graduating to the next larger when the blade stops meeting resistance.  This cake is hard and crusty but vacates in short order.  I fine tune the reaming with my Savinelli Pipe Knife.  I’ve grown to like this handy tool.  What The Pipe Smoker blog says about it is spot on:

Basically, a three-sided scraper, it can be placed in the chamber exactly where it needs to be placed and then cake is scraped off with a simple movement of the wrist. It allows full control over where the cake is being reduced. It has a rounded tip, which means that it will not damage the bottom of the bowl. It makes no difference, whether the chamber is straight or conical, I can use the same tool on either. It requires no adjustment. 

After the Savinelli pipe knife scrapes the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie pen and sand the chamber removing the last vestiges of carbon.  I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber looks great.  I fold up the paper towel and my work station is clean again.  Pictures show the progress.butz11 butz12 butz13 butz14I then switch to the internals of the stummel and clean the mortise and airhole with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After some extended effort, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs are coming out clean.  Later, I’ll add another measure of cleaning by giving the stummel a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I like to go the extra mile when I’m preparing a pipe for a new steward.  The picture shows the progress.butz15Turning to the stummel externals, I remove the grime on the surface and clean the rim.  I use undiluted Murphy Oil Soap with cotton pads.  I use a bristle tooth brush as well to clean the double grooves circling the cone.  I also employ a brass brush to clean the lava and grime off the rim.  The pictures show the progress.butz16Time to fish the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath.  It’s amazing that even when the stem looks to have little oxidation, the Oxi-Clean bath raises the oxidation to the surface.  I wet sand with 600 grit paper to remove the bulk of the oxidation from the vulcanite and then follow-up using 0000 steel wool. Throughout this process, I give care to work around the ‘BC’ stem stamping.  Pictures show the progress.butz17With the tooth dents on the upper bit, I attempt to remove by using a lit candle’s heat to raise the indentations by expanding the vulcanite but it wasn’t working well.  So, I apply a small drop of super glue to the spots and then apply an accelerator to cure the glue.  After a few minutes, I use the flat edge needle file to file down the superglue patches to the vulcanite surface.  While I have the file out, I file the button lip, upper and lower, to give them more definition.  I follow with applying 240 grit paper to remove the file marks and to fine tune and blend the superglue patches.  I follow with 600 grit paper and then 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.butz18 butz19 butz20 butz21I clean and freshen the internals of the stummel further with a Kosher Salt/alcohol soak for several hours.  I set the stummel in a sturdy egg carton and twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise, pushing it in with a straight wire.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt which is not iodized – which can leave a taste.  Then, I fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces above the salt.  The pictures show the process.butz22The next morning, the salt/alcohol soak had run its course and from the darkening of the salt and the cotton wick, the process effectively cleaned and freshened the stummel internals even after the plethora of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs.  I dump the old expended salt and thump the stummel on my palm, then use a paper towel and wipe the bowl.  I use bristle brushes to clean the mortise and again, pipe cleaners through the airway to finish the cleanup.  As billed, the soak works.  Pictures show the soak results.butz23With the internals of the stummel clean, I clean the internals of the stem.  Using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% I work on the stem.  After I begin, even though the ¼ bent saddle stem is not an extreme bend, I’m surprised that I am not able to move a pipe cleaner through the stem without difficulty.  Finally, I pass a bristled pipe cleaner through and move it back and forth, hoping that it loosens up the passageway. It doesn’t.  I decide to use the technique that Charles Lemon used on Dad’s Pipes (See here: Link) of expanding the airway by heating the stem and moving a pipe cleaner through.  Just to be on the safe side, I draw an outline of the stem’s bend to use as a template for a comparison after I re-bend the pipe back to the original.  I first straighten the stem by warming it with a heat gun until the vulcanite becomes pliable.  After inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I then reheat the stem and return the stem to the ¼ bend.  Now, back to the original curve comparing to the template, without difficulty I complete the cleaning of the stem using isopropyl dipped pipe cleaners moving freely through the airway.  I also clean the crud out of the slot with a dental probe.  Pictures show the process.butz24 butz25Before starting the micromesh phase to raise the luster of the BC bent stem, I use Miracle Eraser on the ‘BC’ stem stamp to remove the oxidation without applying an abrasive to the stamp.  It does seem to help.  Then, I wet sand the stem using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  I complete each set by applying Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  To watch the stem gradually pop, is an amazing process.  This Butz-Choquin is cleaning up nicely.  I set the stem aside to dry.butz26 butz27Now I return to the stummel and take a close look.  After cleaning with Murphy’s Soap, I detect about 4 or 5 fills on the surface that need addressing. The fills are solid but with some, I’m able to scrape of the upper layer of the fill.  There is also a chip in the double grove going around the stummel.  With the smaller fills, that are not pitted, I use dye sticks, starting with a lighter hue and graduating to a darker hue, until the blend is best.  I then use a lightly dampened cotton pad with isopropyl 95% to dab the areas to blend further with the surrounding briar.  The pictures show the progress.butz28 butz29With those more pitted, I mix a bit of superglue and briar dust to form a putty and apply on the pitted fills.  Carefully, I also paint the groove chip and before the putty start hardening, I clear overflow putty from the grooves with a sharp dental probe.  I use an accelerator to cure the briar dust putty patches more rapidly.   After a short time, I sand each putty fill to bring it to the briar surface.  I first carefully use a flat needle file to work the putty hills down to almost surface level then I use 240 grit paper to sand to the surface level.butz30 butz31 butz32Decision time.  I want to restore this Butz-Choquin as close to the original shade as I can.  I discovered on TobaccoPipes.com a BC in the same shape group as the Cocarde Major – 1028.  In the picture below, the shade of the stummel is light and I think I can achieve this by simply sanding the stummel and restoring the briar to its original natural luster – MINUS what appears to be an acrylic finish below. I can still decide to apply a stain at the end of the sanding process after I have a better idea of the briar as it emerges.  The shape below is a BC Cocarde 1025 – the only difference I detect is the tapered stem versus the saddle stem.butz33First, I want to freshen the rim lines and re-cut an inner bevel which will look better and remove discoloration on the inner rim edge.  The rim has a subtle slant toward the chamber.  I cut the initial bevel using a coarse 120 grip paper rolled tightly.  When I reestablish the bevel, I follow by sanding with 240 grit sanding paper.  I then sand the stummel using a medium grade sanding sponge, followed by a light grade sanding sponge.  I am careful to work around the stampings on the sides of the shank.  Before I move on to the micromesh sanding, I use dye sticks to help blend the fill patch areas that are not yet blending.  After applying the dye stick, I then lightly dab the area with a cotton pad slightly wetted with alcohol.  This helps blend with the surrounding briar.  The pictures show the progress.butz34 butz35 butz36 butz37I follow by using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel.  After this, I dry sand using 3200 to 4000 then finish with pads 6000 to 12000.  I then run a toothpick through both grooves connecting the upper and lower domes of the Rhodesian to remove residue remaining from the sanding process.butz38 butz39To step back and take in the big picture, I reunite stem and stummel and take a picture.  I see two distinct briar dust putty fills that are looking like I should have used a clear superglue fill instead.  They are darker than the surrounding grain environment – not an ideal situation.butz40I decide I can live with the fill on the upper cone, next to the rim.  It is smaller and I hope that it will blend after applying a light brown stain which is looking like will be needed.  With the larger lower fill, I will delicately try reaming the fill with the point of a Dremel tool to remove the putty.  Depending on how that goes, the next step will be to shape the fill somewhat so that the shape is less circular and flows more with the surrounding grain pattern.  Then, I will fill the new hole with clear superglue, sand and again be back to where I am now – hopefully with better blending.  Phase one seems to go well – very carefully.  With the Dremel tool I clean the putty fill and shape the pit circle to flow with the grain.  I then spot-glue and use accelerator to cure the new clear patch.  Looking good so far.   I use a flat needle file to remove the superglue fill mound almost to the briar surface, then I use 240 grit paper rolled, to strategically stay on top of the glue to bring it down to surface.  I follow with 600 grit, then steel wool, then the full array of 9 micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I touch up a bit with a light dye stick and blend with a cotton pad with a bit of alcohol.  I am now back to where I was at the beginning of the detour. The fill is still visible, but doesn’t jump out proclaiming, “Here I am, Boys!”  The pictures show the detoured progress.butz41 butz42 butz43 butz44Now, to promote blending throughout the entire stummel, I use Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye.  I warm the stummel to open the grains to receive the dye.  Using a doubled-over pipe cleaner I liberally apply the dye over the stummel careful to achieve full coverage, rim and grooves.  I then flame the aniline dye with a lit candle and the alcohol immediately burns off, setting the dye in the grain.  To achieve total coverage, I repeat the process above after a few minutes, complete with flaming.  I put the stummel aside to rest and I’ll return to it after work this evening.butz45One last task to do before heading to work.  I want to freshen the ‘BC’ stem marking with white acrylic paint.  I put a small dab of paint over the ‘BC’ and then use a toothpick to spread the paint, making sure the marks are fully covered.  Tonight, after the paint is fully cured, I’ll scrape off the excess leaving a fresh Butz-Choquin stem.butz46Back home and ready to go.  The white acrylic paint has fully cured on the stem marking.  I take a toothpick and gently scrape the excess paint away using the side of the toothpick.  Doing this, the toothpick passes over the top of the stamping leaving the indentations fully renewed.butz47Time to ‘unwrap’ the fire crusted stummel after applying Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye.  Using the felt wheel, I set the speed of the Dremel to the slowest possible and using Tripoli compound, after purging the wheel of old compound with the sharp edge of the Dremel’s adjustment wrench, I remove the crust from the stummel.  I take a picture to show this process.  After the crust is removed, I use cotton pads wet with isopropyl 95% to wipe down the stummel.  I lighten the stummel’s hue a good bit aiming for the original as closely as possible and to blend the dye across the grain.  When I reach the hue that looks good, I switch to a cotton cloth wheel mounted on the Dremel, and after reuniting stem and stummel, I apply Blue Diamond compound both.  I’m loving watching the grain on this BC Cocarde Major Rhodesian start popping – it is truly an amazing process and the components of such fine abrasion produce such a result in the briar. When completed with Blue Diamond I give the pipe a buff with a felt towel, not so much for shining but to remove residue compound before I apply the wax.  After mounting the cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I increase the speed to the second slowest speed and apply several coats of carnauba wax to stem and stubble.  When finished, I rigorously hand buff the pipe with a micromesh cloth.butz48 butz49The grain on this Rhodesian is placed perfectly to enhance the proud, chin forward carriage of the stummel.  The horizontal flame grain crosses the heel of the stummel and flows to the sides terminating in bird’s eye – a beautiful showpiece of briar that is well-suited to bear the name of French pride – Cocarde Major.  This Butz-Choquin Rhodesian, another traveler from St. Claude, is looking for a new steward.  I sell the pipes I restore and give the profits to benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – rescuing women and children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  If you are interested in adding this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major Rhodesian to your collection, you can find it at the store at my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  Thanks for joining me!butz50 butz51 butz52 butz53 butz54 butz55