Tag Archives: article by Dal Stanton

Giving New Life to a Stanwell Royal Guard 582 Pickaxe Made in Denmark

Blog by Dal Stanton

After returning to Golden, Colorado, after nearly 5000 miles of travel over Christmas and New Year, it was good to return to my stationary Pipe Steward work desk!  I experimented with a mobile Pipe Steward worktable through the travels and it worked exceptionally well.  I am looking forward to traveling again in our R-pod travel trailer and taking my hobby with me.  Seeing family in Florida, Nashville, and St. Louis during our travels was wonderful, whipped frosting on the cake!  One highlight of our journeys was sharing a bowl with my son-in-law, Niko, in Nashville.  I was able to complete the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus (see picture below) that Niko had commissioned that was huge enough not to be dwarfed by his larger than normal hands 😊.  The BC turned out beautifully and was the first to be restored from a Lot of 16 that was donated anonymously to The Pipe Steward from a pipe man in the Kansas City, Missouri, area who wanted his pipes to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.

Niko commissioned the BC Cocarde Geante, but he also found another pipe from the Pipe Steward inventory that he wanted to add to his blossoming collection of pipes.  What caught his eye was a stylish Danish Royal Guard 582 Pickaxe with an eye-catching blasted surface to compliment the unique shape.  I acquired the Royal Guard Pickaxe in the ‘Lot of 68’ I found on the eBay auction block from a seller in West Hartford, Connecticut.  I will be uploading more of the ‘Lot of 68’ to the virtual ‘Help Me Baskets’ in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! online collection where pipe men and women can choose and commission a pipe that catches their eye – all benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  This picture shows the plethora of quality pipes soon to be added to the online Dreamers collection.With the blasted Royal Guard Pickaxe now on the worktable here in Golden, I take a few pictures to take a closer look. The nomenclature is crisp and distinct and is in the smooth briar panel on the underside of the shank.  Stamped to the far right is the shape number ‘582’.  To the right of this is ROYAL GUARD [over] MADE IN DENMARK.  The shank cap is stamped with a diagonally over-lapping ‘RG’.I have grown in my appreciation of Danish pipes and have enjoyed adding some genuinely nice Danish pipes to my own collection – classic shapes and Freehands.  I am not familiar with the ‘Royal Guard’ name and my first effort at discovering more in Pipedia comes up empty.  Next, I pull out my prized copy of ‘Who Made that Pipe?’ by Herb Wilczak and Tom Colwell and discover that Royal Guard is a product of the well-known Danish pipe maker, Stanwell. My next stop to find information is Pipephil.eu where the Danish Stanwell provenance is confirmed.   The panel I clipped below provides some Royal Guard examples and confirmation with the same ‘RG’ stamping.

The concise summary of Stanwell provided by Pipephil is helpful (See: Link):

Brand & factory were established in 1942 by Poul Nielsen. The company has been owned since 2000 by Nordisk Tobaks Kompagni A/S. The factory in Borup crafted all Stanwell pipes from 1965 until 2009. From 2010 on the pipes are crafted by Barontini (Italy) exept for the limited editions. Production (2007): 115 000 Pipes/year.

According to this addition of information, with the COM being Denmark, the Royal Guard on my worktable would have been made at the Stanwell Borup factory dating between 1965 and 2009. The feel and look of the pipe lend toward the earlier or mid-date range – early 70s?  I return to Pipedia to the Stanwell article looking for additional information about the Royal Guard line.  I find nothing helpful.  Pipedia has a good article on ‘Stanwell Shape Numbers and Designers’ which I looked at hopeful of finding some correlation.  I compared the Stanwell shape number information (See: LINK) and found no correlation with the shape number, 582 and Stanwell shape numbering.

What I found of interest was that Stanwell did mark some of the ‘Royal Guard’ seconds with the ‘Stanwell’ name.  Steve restored an attractive Stanwell Royal Guard Made in Denmark  which also enjoyed the classic Stanwell ‘crowned S’ stem stamping.  These two pictures come from Steve’s rebornpipes writeup:

One other anecdotal piece of information I found while doing broad trolling while searching for Royal Guard information on the internet.  Several Royal Guard pipes come up in various sites selling pipes.  One ad, already sold, on the site Worthpoint (see: LINK), showed a Danish Freehand style like the RG on my worktable with the shape number 564 – 500s like the Pickaxe. It seems that all Royal Guard pipes have shape numbers in the 500s.  The RG pipe in the ad also has a very nice, blasted surface and a shank cap – military style fancy stem, and the RG stamping on the shank cap – the same DNA.   The seller provided a lot of information about the Stanwell linkage but also provided some information that helps hone in on the dating with a reference to the previous steward of the pipe: “It is from the personal collection of a physician who quit smoking in the early 1970’s. It would make an excellent addition to anyone’s collection.”  If the doctor quit in the early 70s, he would have acquired the pipe before this, and it would have been produced earlier yet.  It is very probably that the Royal Guard line could date back into the 60s which gives it an earlier Stanwell provenance.With a better understanding and appreciation for the Stanwell Royal Guard 582 Pickaxe on my worktable, I take a closer look at the issues.  The narrow conical chamber has some cake that will be removed to give the briar a fresh start.  The dark blasted surface shows the grime of some years, but generally in good condition and should clean up well.  The stem has minor oxidation, and the bit has tooth chatter or roughness, but not serious.  The shank cap, which appears to be a black acrylic, needs cleaning as well. Its appearance is like vulcanite and it appears to have oxidation or dulling on the upper side – the sun-side.  I take a picture of this, but showing different phases of black isn’t easy with the iPhone Xs camera!I start the cleaning by addressing the oxidation in the fancy RG stem, but first the airway is cleaned with a couple pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 99%.  After this, the Royal Guard fancy stem joins other pipes in the queue for a soak in Mark Hoover’s (www.Lbepen.com) Before & After Deoxidizer. After several hours in the soak, the stem is fished out and the Deoxidizer fluid is squeegeed off with my fingers and a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99% is used to clean the airway of the fluid.  A cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99% is then used to wipe off much of the raised oxidation.To encourage the conditioning of the stem, paraffin oil, a mineral oil, is applied to the vulcanite stem and set aside to absorb.Turning next to the blasted Pickaxe stummel, I take another close up of the chamber to show its condition.  The last bit of baccy the former steward used is an exhibit on the floor of the chamber.  The carbon cake buildup is moderate. The widest measurement of the chamber at the rim is only 11/16 inches.  Neither the Pipnet Reaming Kit nor the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool, which I pull out for tighter chambers, are small enough to reach far into the chamber to ream.  I therefore go directly to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to do the job.  It scrapes the chamber walls and can reach down to the floor of the chamber where the cone tightens to the smallest radius.When the Fitsall tool has done its work, a piece of 240 sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen completes the cleaning of the chamber as the walls are sanded.After an inspection of the chamber, the briar looks good.  There are no heating problems detected.  I move on.Next, the external blasted surface is cleaned using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad to scrub.  A bristled toothbrush is also used to scrub the rough blasted surface. Next, the stummel is transferred to the sink where the cleaning continues using warm water, shank brushes with anti-oil dish washing liquid on the internals.  The dishwashing liquid helps break down the oils built up in the mortise.  While at the sink, I also use Magic Eraser on the acrylic shank cap – careful not to scrub over the ‘RG’ stamping.  After a thorough rinsing, the stummel is brought back to the worktable and pictures are taken showing raw spots on the fore and aft rim edge.The point of the Pickaxe is also worn, and bare spots are coming through.The scrubbing of the shank cap with Magic Eraser did a good job.  The cap now is a unified dull after the cleaning which should shine back up through the polishing phase.To complete the cleaning, I return to the internals using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99%. A small dental spoon also is used to scrape the mortise walls to remove residual gunk.  After some effort, the buds and pipe cleaners lighten indicating cleaner internals.  Later, I will continue the cleaning of the internals by using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Turning now to the blasted briar surface of the stummel, there were raw or ‘bald’ spots on the rim and heel after the cleaning.  The most pronounced place on the front of the rim.To remedy these bald spots, I use a mahogany dye stick to refresh the rim edges and the blasted rim surface.  The same is done with the heel and a few small spots on the shank.  The results look good.  The blending between the dye stick and the native stummel hue is good. Next, I treat the blasted stummel with Before & After Restoration Balm. I apply the Balm by placing some on my fingers and working it into the rough blasted landscape. As I’ve described many times before, I notice the colors and textures of materials I use on pipes.  The Balm applies initially with a cream-like consistency and then thickens to a waxier texture as it’s worked in.  Some Balm is applied also to the acrylic shank cap as well – it will work on it too!  After thoroughly covering the stummel landscape, the stummel is put aside for the Balm to be absorbed.After about 20 minutes, excess Balm is removed with a microfiber cloth and then buffed up. I have two microfiber cloths of the same color dedicated to, first, wiping off the excess, and then, secondly, to buffing the stummel after cloth number 1 has wiped off the excess.  This dedication is helpful when I use cloth #1 on other pipes simply to give them a quick ‘spruce-up’ with Restoration Balm.  The next pictures do not do justice to the deepening of the hues of the dark blasted surface I can see with the eye.  The blasting on this Stanwell Royal Guard is attractive with deep burgundy flecking and the Restoration Balm brings this fact out more. With the stummel now waiting in the wings, the Royal Guard fancy stem is back on the table.  The Before & After Deoxidizer did a good job earlier.  Some pictures of the upper and lower bit show almost no tooth chatter but roughness from normal wear. To remove the roughness in the bit area and to address any remaining oxidation, the stem is sanded with 240 grade paper below the flare.Following the 240 sanding, the entire stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper and then 0000 grade steel wool is applied.Next, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is applied starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this is dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to condition the stem as well as to protect against future oxidation when the pipe is put back into service. The gloss comes out nicely through the micromesh sanding. To get a look at the progress, the Pickaxe stummel and fancy stem are reunited.  The progress looks good, but I see a few cosmetic issues that will improve the overall presentation.First, I decide to apply micromesh pads to the shank cap to create a bit more pop in the acrylic.  I only use the final 6 micromesh pads, 3200 to 12000 to do the sanding/polishing.  I avoid the initial coarser pads because the surface is sufficiently smooth but simply needs some pop that the finer pads will deliver.  As hoped, the picture below shows the renewed ‘pop’ after using the pads.The second cosmetic application is to sharpen and smooth the inner chamber wall below the rim.  I like a smooth briar contrast with the dark blasted surface as a general preference.  The smooth briar panel on the underside, holding the nomenclature, looks good contrasted to the rough, dark blasted surface. I would like to emulate this contrast on the inner rim chamber wall. This inner upper chamber wall finishing enhances the looks of Danish Freehand pipes with their longer, taller stummel designs. The next two pictures show the forward quadrant and then the rear quadrant of the chamber as it is now.  There is some space here that should work well.   I apply a quick sanding on the upper chamber wall with 240 then 600 to clean it and smooth it further.  This is then followed with the full set of micromesh pads 1500 to 12000 to finish the inner chamber wall.  I like the way this finishes the rim providing a bit of bump in the classy category!  The last cosmetic upgrade is the RG stamping on the shank cap.  The stamping needs refreshing, and white acrylic paint is used to do the job.The first step is to place a drop of paint over the stamping and then spread it out with a toothpick. A cotton pad then daubs the wet paint to thin it out more over the lettering and this also quickly dries the paint.Using a toothpick, the excess paint is removed as the toothpick is scraped over the lettering.  The point of the toothpick is also helpful to edge off excess paint close to the stamping.  The final ‘RG’ looks good.On the home stretch – with stem and stummel reunited, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is applied primarily to the smooth surfaces – the underside of the stummel, inner rim chamber wall, shank cap and fancy stem.  I do apply the compound to the blasted stummel but very, very lightly.  I do not want to load the rough blasted briar surface with compound making it difficult to remove and clean.  The results are good overall.  Following the application of the compound, the entire pipe is wiped down with a felt cloth to remove remnant compound residue.After the compound, another cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted, and carnauba wax is applied to stem and stummel.  Following the wax, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine and to remove excess wax from the surface.I am pleased with the way this Danish Stanwell Royal Guard perked up through the restorative process.  The dark blasted briar surface draws the eye to the 3-D presentation of grain, and this is augmented by the smooth briar contrast of the inner chamber wall.  The Pickaxe shape is sharp and provides a unique tactile hold with the blasted surface.  The black acrylic shank cap provides a nice flow transitioning from the conical bowl to the fancy stem.   I think Niko will be pleased with this additional pipe of Denmark he commissioned, and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A Christmas Vacation Pipe from Nashville: A Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus St. Claude France 1397 Tabac St Michel Paris

Blog by Dal Stanton

Continuing our Christmas Vacation trip in our 20’ R-pod travel trailer, we are now in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting my daughter, son-in-law and 6 1/2-month-old grandson!  The New Year has come and the first pipe on my ‘mobile worktable’ here in Nashville is special.  It is special not only because it’s a gargantuan Billiard which my rather large, 6-foot, 3 inch, son-in-law commissioned to fit his gargantuan hand, but It is also special because it was donated, along with 15 other very nice pipes, to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.

The benefactor of the 16 pipes, who asked to remain anonymous, is a retired educator in the KC area who wrote to me with an offer to give the pipes to benefit the work in Bulgaria that my wife and I helped to found over a decade ago – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  This was the letter that I received:

Greetings, Dal, from the middle of the USA where it is cold, foggy, and wintery. 

By way of introduction, I am XXX XXX. We have communicated a handful of times via one of the pipe groups on Facebook. Your posts have allowed me to read about your restoration work in support of the Daughters of Bulgaria. I find your pipe restoration work fascinating and your true mission inspiring. 

If you are interested, I have approximately 15 briar pipes, from different makers, I would like to anonymously donate to your work. Most are in good condition but would likely need a clean and polish. Since most would fall short of needing a full restoration, I don’t know for sure whether you would be interested. If you are, I would be happy to send them to you. If pictures would help you decide, I would be glad to take said pictures and send them your way. 

 Warm regards

We exchanged emails and he sent pictures of the pipes.  Several weeks later after the 16 pipes arrived in Bulgaria, I wrote an email with the subject line, “Christmas in August!” and sent this picture of the 16 pipes unwrapped and displayed.   Nice pipes – not a throw-away in the lot!  I decided not to place these pipes in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! online collection for a time.  The ‘Dreamers’ collection is for pipe men and women to commission pipes to be restored.   I am thankful to this generous pipe man for his gift and support of the Daughters of Bulgaria.  With the New Year here, I’ll be adding these pipes to ‘Dreamers’ section soon!

Last September, after our transition from Bulgaria to living in Golden, Colorado, my daughter and son-in-law, Niko, were visiting us in Golden from their home in Nashville.  Niko is a pipe man and has commissioned pipes from the ‘old man’ before and he was in the hunt again for a new pipe looking through boxes of The Pipe Steward inventory.  This time he had a specific aim – a larger pipe that he could cradle in his larger than normal hands!  Niko is 6 foot, 3 inches, and during college was a pitcher on the baseball team.  He aspired toward playing in the Majors but when an injury came his way, these dreams were put aside.  Niko and I have shared bowls together many times and what I’ve noticed was that Niko’s hands were so large that he would ‘pinch’ the bowl on the end of his fingers rather than cradle the bowl.  With Niko’s request for a larger pipe, the ’16 Pipes for the Daughters’ came to mind recalling the HUGE Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus (in picture above, top row center).  I pulled out the box and it didn’t take long for Niko to decide to commission the BC.    He also commissioned a Danish Royal Guard Pickaxe, next on the worktable.  With the BC now on the table, some pictures give a closer look. The nomenclature on this pipe is interesting.  On the left shank flank is stamped the traditional mark, ‘Butz-Choquin’ [in cursive offset slightly to the left and slightly at a diagonal, over] Cocarde [over, slightly to the left] GEANTE [over] PLUS. The stem stamping is Butz-Choquin’s recognizable chiseled, ‘BC’.  On the right side of the shank is stamped ST. CLAUDE [ARCHED over] FRANCE [over] 1397 the shape number.  In the second photo below, seen more clearly, is the interesting addition of a pipe shop in Paris. Stamped below the shape number is, TABAC ST. MICHEL [over] PARIS. The history of the Butz-Choquin name is concisely put on Pipephil.eu and its helpful to me for the refresher.

The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin  is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).

Jean Paul Berrod managed the company from 1969 to 2002 when he retired and sold the corporate to Mr Fabien Gichon. Denis Blanc, already owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.

I could not find anything specific in Pipedia about the ‘Cocarde’ line, but a simple search on the internet will show many different shapes available in the Cocarde line from Butz-Choquin.  I did find a shapes chart pictured in the Butz-Choquin Pipedia article that included the 1397 Geante Plus.  Unfortunately, there is no reference to the date of the catalogue.  A quick look at Google Translate gave a translation of the Geante Plus as ‘Giant More’ – which is no surprise.  The photo below sets the Geante Plus apart with the 1397 shape number as unique to this designation.  The Giant Billiard seems to be the unique bearer of this designation.

What’s of interest as well is that this pipe is uniquely stamped with the name, Tabac St. Michel in Paris.  I do a quick search on the internet to discover that it is a tobacco shop still in operation in Paris at 22 Rue Saint-André des Arts.  The picture below is taken from this LINK giving the address and operational hours.  There is no link to a website but looking closely at the front display window, there appears to be pipe related products available.  I can find no more information about this establishment.  Apparently, Butz-Choquin produced some pipes for the Tabac Saint Michel with the shop name stamped on the pipe.  With my curiosity piqued, I send a note to the benefactor pipe man regarding the origin of this pipe – if he had acquired this pipe at the Tabac Saint Michel on a trip to Paris.  We’ll see if he can add some information of interest.

Looking now more closely at the BC Cocarde Geante Plus Billiard on my table, the dimensions of this Giant are, Length: 6 1/8 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 7/8 inches, Chamber depth: 1 3/4 inches with a weight of 2.9 ounces – almost a hefty 3 ounces! The chamber looks well maintained with a very thin cake.  The rim has minor darkening on the aft quadrant from lighting practices.  Besides general cleaning of the ample briar real estate of the stummel, I detect pitting of some fills which need attention.  I take a few pictures to show these. The stem shows no oxidation but tooth chatter and some button biting.  This will be addressed as well.  To begin the refreshing of this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus, the chamber is cleaned.  With another picture showing the starting place of the chamber, it appears to be a well maintained with a dime’s width thickness. I use all 4 blade heads of the Pipnet Reaming Kit to begin the cleaning of the mild carbon cake.  Following the reaming, the wall is scraped using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and then sanded with 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad, the chamber is inspected revealing healthy briar – no heating problems. Transitioning from the chamber to the external briar surface, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad, the stummel is scrubbed.  A brass wired brush is used to concentrate more on the backside of the rim where it was darkened from lighting from that side. Brass brushes are friendlier to the briar and not as abrasive but helps with the cleaning.The stummel is then transitioned to the sink using warm water and anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap, the internals of the mortise are scrubbed using shank brushes.  The brass wired brush is used again on the rim area.After the cleaning, I look at the stummel.  The finish has generally disappeared over the stummel.  The rim has cleaned up well but as expected, the finish on the aft rim quadrant where most of the scrubbing was needed is lighter.To finalize the internal cleaning, cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% are used.  It only takes a couple buds and pipe cleaners to do the job.  I move on!With the cleaning supplies on the table, the airway cleaning of the stem is quickly dispatched with a couple pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99%.With the general cleaning done, I turn now to the stummel.  Another survey of the bowl and shank show the deterioration of the patches that are now pitted. In the third picture you can also see a few patches of the old finish that have not surrendered during the cleaning process. To prepare to refill and patch the pits, I use a sharp dental probe to dig out the old fill material in each pit.  Next, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99% to clean the patch areas.  The cleaning with the alcohol is expanded to scrub the whole stummel to remove the last vestiges of the old finish.  This works well.I mix briar dust and thick CA glue to create a briar putty to fill the pits.  After covering the plastic disk with scotch tape to help with clean up, I place some briar dust and CA on the mixing palette.  Using a toothpick, I gradually draw briar dust into the glue and mix it as I go.  When the putty reaches a thickness of molasses, I use the toothpick to trowel a bit of briar putty onto the pits.  To keep the patches in place, I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process of the CA. Starting with the patch on the heel, the flat needle file is used first to file the patch mound down to the briar surface.  A tightly rolled piece of 240 paper follows the file to smooth and blend further.  Then, to conclude this phase, 600 grade paper is used to blend further. The same process is used on the patch on the side of the bowl – file, sanding with 240 and 600. Again, the same process with the patch on the shank. The rim has charred briar around the lower rim lip on the chamber side.  This is primarily on the back of the rim.  To refresh the rim, I sand the inner bevel with 240 paper following this with 600 paper.  This removes the darkened stain on the briar.  It looks much better.To encourage blending of the patches as well as to further clean the rim and bowl surface of small nicks and scratches, I employ sanding sponges.  Sanding sponges are not as invasive as sanding papers and I use them to prepare for micromesh pad sanding.  Starting first with a coarser grade, the rim is ‘topped’ along with sanding the entire stummel – careful to avoid the BC nomenclature on the shank.  Following the coarser grade, medium and then a light grade sponges are used and complete this sanding phase.   Switching now to micromesh pads, I start by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The grain starts emerging very nicely during the micromesh cycles.  It’s looking great. Next, to tease out more of the natural hues of the briar, Mark Hoover’s product, ‘Before & After Restoration Balm’ (www.Lbepen.com) is applied to the briar surface.  To do this, a bit of the Balm is applied to my finger and I work the Balm thoroughly into the surface.  The Balm starts off with a cream-like texture and gradually thickens as it’s applied.  I then put the stummel aside for about 20 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.When the 20 minutes are completed, I wipe the excess Balm with a microfiber cloth and then buff up the surface.  I like Mark Hoover’s Balm.  It does a great job with the subtleties of the briar hues.Before turning to the stem, I continue the internal cleaning and refreshing of the internals of the stummel by doing a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This process draws the oils and tars out of the internal briar and freshens the pipe for the new steward.  Kosher salt is used as it doesn’t have an aftertaste like iodized salt.  A wick is formed by pulling and twisting a cotton ball.  The cotton wick helps to draw the oils out. The wick is guided down the mortise into the airway using a stiff piece of hanger wire.Isopropyl 99% is then put in the bowl using a large eye dropper until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, the alcohol is absorbed and then is topped off once more. I then put the pipe aside and allow the soak to do its thing through the night. Turning now to the stem, I take a few pictures to show the bit tooth chatter and button damage.  The heating method is used initially to address the tooth chatter.  Using a Bic lighter, the bit – upper and lower – is painted with flames to heat the vulcanite and to cause the rubber compound to expand.  As it expands, it reclaims to a degree its original condition.  I place the before and after pictures together for comparison.  The procedure did help to minimize the chatter as the pictures show. Next, I begin the stem restoration by refreshing the button with a flat needle file.  After I started filing, I decided to stop filing and to apply a patch to the button lip.  As I was filing the edge of the lip to redefine it, I decided that the tooth compressions on the lip were too severe and needed to be addressed and the lip built up some before filing.I use black CA glue to spot drop on the lip of the button to build it up.  I do this on the upper and lower button.  An accelerator is also used on the CA not only to quicken the curing time but also to hold the CA glue in place. After the button patches are thoroughly cured, the flat needle file is again used to define and shape the upper and lower button lip.  I’m careful to establish the lip edge on both upper and lower so that the lip is not worn down through sanding.With the button again well defined, 240 paper is used to sand the bit – upper and lower to remove filing scratches and the residual tooth chatter.  The paper is also applied to the button lips to even out and shape after application of the black CA glue.Next, the entire stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper and this is followed with 0000 grade steel wool.Following the steel wool, the stem is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads beginning by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Then, this is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to condition and guard against oxidation.  The finished stem has a nice pop to it and the tooth chatter and button repairs look good. The stummel has gone through the night allowing a kosher salt and alcohol soak to continue the cleaning of the internals.  This morning the salt and wick show a bit of soiling, but not much.  After clearing the expended salt in the waste, the chamber is wiped with a paper towel and I blow through the mortise to make sure all the salt crystals are removed. The follow up cleaning with a pipe cleaner and cotton bud confirm that the internals are clean and refreshed.To get a look at the progress, the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus stem and stummel are reunited.  What I discover when I try to insert the tenon into the mortise is that it will not fit.  What often happens through the cleaning process is that the mortise will expand minutely, and the fit is too tight for comfort.  I never force stems into shanks.  I’ve learned the hard way that this is the way to add a cracked shank repair to the list.To remedy this is not difficult.  A piece of 240 grade paper is wrapped around the tenon and while pinching it against the tenon with my fingers, the stem is rotated to create the necessary abrasion to decrease the tenon diameter by a bit.  I pinch and rotate the tenon with 240 paper a few times trying the fit after each session.  When it finally starts to insert more easily, I graduate the paper to 600 to smooth the tenon.This worked well.  The stummel and stem are reunited, and the fit is snug but not tight. The BC is looking good.Before starting with the compound process, the BC stem stamp needs refreshing.  The stamping indent is strong and distinct and touching it up with white acrylic paint should not be a problem.After shaking the paint bottle, a bit of paint is applied over the stamping and spread with a toothpick.I then use a cotton pad to daub the wet paint.  This does two things.  The daubing spreads the paint over the lettering and thins the paint.  The daubing also dries the paint quickly.I then use the side of a toothpick to rub over the stamping removing excess dried paint.To finish the job, a pointed cotton bud enables me to clean the lettering more closely.  Finally, I briskly rub a cotton pad over the stamping to shine up the vulcanite and sharpen the stamping.  It looks great!Now on the home stretch.  The rotary tool is mounted with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is then applied to the entire pipe. This finely abrasive compound helps to remove very fine blemishes on the briar surface.  After methodically covering the pipe, I use a felt cloth to wipe the pipe removing leftover compound dust in preparation for application of the wax.After changing the cotton cloth buffing wheel, speed remaining the same, carnauba wax is applied to stem and stummel. To complete the recommissioning of the BC, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine more and to remove any excess wax remaining on the surface.When I began working on this pipe, it already was an attractive pipe not with any major issues.  Repairing the stummel pits with new patches and erasing the tooth chatter damage from the bit and button were the main issues.  The briar on this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus covers a lot of real estate with horizontal grain moving along the length of the stummel.  The bird’s eye grain populates the front and aft of the bowl showing the cross-cut perspective of the lateral grain.  This BC giant will cradle nicely in Niko’s hand and filled with his favorite blend will provide years of service and fellowship.  Niko has already claimed the BC from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Unlike most of the pipes I restore that are sent to their new stewards by post, this one is hand delivered from my mobile worktable in Nashville and I’m able to share an inaugural bowl with the new steward!  With L. J. Peretti Black Virginia in our bowls and 14 year Glenfiddich in our glasses, the fellowship is good.  Thanks for joining me!


Another Christmas Vacation Restoration – A GBD London Made in London England C789 Pot

Blog by Dal Stanton

With Christmas behind us and with New Years before us, I’m thankful to be with family during these holidays.  This was the first Christmas with my mother in Florida in many years – it has been great!  It has also been great on her second floor screened-in balcony which has served as The Pipe Steward worktable.  My wife caught me in action!

I remember acquiring this GBD Pot a few years back from an eBay seller from Cave City, Arkansas.  She had a few different pipes on the auction block and in the end, we were able to work out a bundled agreement which was mutually beneficial.  The bundle included GBD London Made, Selection Italy, GBD Americana, Dr. Grabow Omega and  No Name Algerian Briar.  I was attracted to the GBD Americana included in the bundle which joined my personal collection.  The unique grain is amazing (See: The Striking Grain of a GBD Americana – Made in London England Bent Billiard).  The other GBD in the bundled deal caught Chris’ attention in the online For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection where he also found the Fratelli Rossi ‘Century Old Briar’ (See: A Mobile Christmas Vacation Restoration of an Exquisite Fratelli Rossi Century Old Briar Billiard) which was last on the work table and soon to join Chris in Alabama.  The GBD London Made Pot now on the table also shows great potential.  Here are a few of the pictures of this GBD. The nomenclature is Cadogan era markings.  On the left shank flank is stamped the GBD set in an oval.  Beneath the oval, the arched text LONDON MADE is stamped.  The Cadogan era stem stamp is the GBD in and an oval repeated.  The right side of the stem is stamped in circular fashion, MADE IN LONDON – with the ‘IN’ occupying the center of the oval.  Beneath the circular text is stamped the COM, ENGLAND.  Beneath the COM is the shape number, C789, the designation for a Pot shape.  However, after some searching and finding nothing to explain it, I was flummoxed by the ‘C’ affixed to the shape number.  I decided to send a quick note to rebornpipes contributor, Al Jones, to see if he can shed some light.  Al’s response confirmed the ‘C’ as being a ‘rogue’ letter.  After the merger in the early 80s, differing letters would appear on GBD pipes with no clear understanding what they referenced.

The dating of the GBD on my table I’ve described as a ‘Cadogan Era’ pipe.   Pipephil records that GBD’s metal stem rondels were discontinued after 1981 when GBD merged with Comoys.  The absence of this brass rondel on the stem places this pipe post ’81 and later.  The rounded COM designation rather than a straight lettering (London England), also points to a post-merger GBD.  The GBD also has a random letter, ‘J’ on the underside of the shank.  I’ve seen these letters before on Cadogan era pipes and it seems that Comoy’s used several letters for what are perhaps part numbers, but this isn’t confirmed.I have researched other GBD pipes that have been on my worktable and I always enjoy a refresher from the fruit of that research.  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 – Jaques Cole was reposted on rebornpipes 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 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.

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 Pipephil.eu history of GBD says that the Saint-Claude pipe factory closed in 1981 leaving only London as the producer of GBD pipes.

Now looking more closely at the GBD Pot on my worktable, the bowl has thick cake buildup in the chamber.  This will need removing to inspect the chamber walls for heating problems.  The stummel finish is dark and bears the grime of years of service. The stem has heavy oxidation and a good amount of tooth chatter.  To begin, I clean the airway of the stem with pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99%.This is followed by then adding the GBD stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer to address the oxidation issues.After several hours soaking in the solution, I fish the stem out and squeegee the excess liquid from the stem with my fingers and run pipe cleaners wetted with alcohol through the airway to clear away the Deoxidizer.  Cotton pads are also used to wipe off the raised oxidation.The stem is then treated with paraffin oil to help condition and rejuvenate the vulcanite.Turning now to the stummel, I take another look at the chamber. The cake is thick, and the lava flow is substantive over the rim.  There is little doubt that the former steward enjoyed his GBD and that this indicates a good smoker on the table. After putting down paper towel to minimize cleanup, I go to work on removing the carbon buildup to allow the briar beneath to have a new start and to inspect for problems.  I use all 4 of the Pipnet Reaming Kit blades heads and this is indicative of the large chamber of this GBD Pot.  I follow the reaming with the Savinelli Fitsall tool to further scrape the walls and finish by sanding with 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  A pocketknife is also employed to scrap the lava crust off the rim.  This reveals a smart internal rim bevel which is nice. With the cake cleared out, working on the balcony of my mother’s condominium where my Christmas Vacation mobile work desk is located, I use the natural sunlight to inspect the chamber.  Not surprising, I can see some heating veins on the chamber wall.  The thick cake on the GBD contributed to this heating problem.  A carbon cake needs only to be the width of a US dime.  When the cake is too thick, its expansion and contraction during the service of the pipe causes undo stress and heating on the briar.  The worst-case scenario is an eventual burn-through or a severely cracked bowl.  These veins are minor, thankfully, and will be addressed by applying pipe mud later. Pipe mud helps the formation of a protective cake. The scraping of the rim reveals some dings on the edge from normal wear. Continuing the cleaning process, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean the darkened, grimy briar surface. I take a few pictures to mark the start. A cotton pad did the scrubbing with Murphy’s and a brass bristled brush helps with the rim.  Using brass brushes is less intrusive and a softer approach to cleaning.After this, the stummel is taken to the sink and using anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap and warm water, the mortise is scrubbed with shank brushes.  After the stummel is rinsed thoroughly, I bring it back to the table.Doing a quick survey of the stummel, the chips on the rim are evident along with scratching on the briar surface on the aft quadrant of the bowl.Next, focusing more on the internals, cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% are used to do the job.  I also use the small dental spoon to scrape the mortise walls.  The previous cleaning in the sink did a good job.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort and the buds and cleaners are coming out lighter.  I’ll continue the internal refreshing later using a kosher salt and alcohol soak. Continuing with the stummel, the rim is not in good condition and coupled with the scratching and fill on the stummel surface, sanding will be necessary.  I start from the top and work my way down. I begin by topping the stummel to refresh the rim.  I use 240 grade paper to begin on a chopping board.  After inverting the stummel, I give it several rotations.I stop to check the progress not wanting to remove more rim briar real estate than is necessary. While I’m at it, I also refresh the rim with 240 paper using a hard surface to press the paper.  I do the same with 600 grade paper and after changing the topping paper to 600, I give the rim several more rotations to further smooth the rim and remove the imperfections.  The picture below shows a much-improved rim.  A knot can be seen on the shank-side of the rim.  It doesn’t appear to be a fill.The spot on the rim has an indentation and is not smooth to the touch.  I decide to fill it so that the rim surface is smooth.Using a sharp dental probe, I dig out any loose material.After cleaning off the area with alcohol, I then apply a drop of clear CA glue to the pit and put the stummel aside for the patch to cure.It doesn’t take long for the patch to cure.  I use a flat needle file and a tightly rolled piece of 240 paper to do some precision filing and sanding to remove the excess patch mound. The rim patch is completed after again returning the stummel to the topping board with 600 grade paper.  After a few more revolutions to blend the patch, the patch looks good and is smooth to the touch.To address the dents on the shank-side of the rim lip and the multitude of scratches over the stummel, I use sanding sponges.  Starting with the rough grade, I sand over the entire stummel, carefully maneuvering around the nomenclature on both sides of the shank.  I follow the roughest grade with a medium grade then a fine grade.  The results are good.  Sanding sponges help to cleanup the blemishes on the briar surface less invasive than sanding paper. On a roll, I continue the stummel sanding with the full set of micromesh pads.  Using pads 1500 to 2400 grade, the stummel is wet sanded.  Following this, dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 complete the job. Wow!  The grain on this GBD is active and expressive.  This is looking good.  Before continuing with the stummel, I decide to continue the internal cleaning using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This process continues the cleaning of the internal briar as the salt and alcohol draw out the tars and oils.  I start by stretching and twisting a cotton ball to form a ‘wick’ that helps draw out the oils.  Using a stiff hanger wire, I guide the wick down the mortise and through the airway to the draft hole.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place the stummel in an egg carton to provide the stability and necessary angle for the stummel.  Kosher salt is used rather than regular iodized salt because unlike the latter, kosher salt leaves no undesirable aftertaste. Then, using a large eye dropper, isopropyl 99% is put in the chamber slowly until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After waiting a few minutes, the alcohol is absorbed into the salt and cotton and is then topped off with a little more alcohol.  I put the stummel aside for several hours to allow the soak to do its thing.  With the stummel soaking, I return to the stem.  The earlier Before & After Deoxidizer soak did a good job.  A few pictures are taken of the upper and lower bit to look at the damage.  The bit has been chewed and mauled.  The button, upper and lower, shows bite compressions. The process of heating the vulcanite, a rubber compound, causes expansion of the material helping it to regain its original condition.  After several Bic lighter painting sessions, I take two more pictures to compare.  The heating method does not seem to have helped too much this time around.  Perhaps, but only marginally. To address the residual tooth chatter and compression, I apply black CA glue to both sides of the bit filling the compressions and building the button.  To hold the CA glue in place, I use an accelerator that cures the glue more rapidly holding the glue in place.    After the CA patch thoroughly cures, I go to work with a flat needle file bringing the patch mound down to the stem surface level – upper and lower. The button lip is also refreshed during the filing process.Following the filing, 240 sanding paper erases of the rough scratches of the filing and further shapes the button.  To remove the roughness, the sanding is expanded to the entire stem – upper and lower. Following the 240 sanding, I transition to wet sanding with 600 grade steel wool.  It was going so well until it wasn’t.  Oh my.  Restoration of pipes has as a goal returning a pipe to its new, and often, better than new state.  Yet, with all the efforts to do this, mistakes happen that diminish this goal.  While wet sanding with 600 grade paper, the paper inadvertently swept over part of the GBD stem stamping and it disintegrated.  One of the sad realities of the merger was the loss of the brass stem rondel.  Replacing it was more of a press of paint on the stem surface which has little compression or indentation into the vulcanite.  It is this indentation that protects the paint and gives it purchase or hold power.  After I did the carnage, the sick feeling in my gut continued as I vainly tried to repair the damage with the application of white acrylic paint.  I launched an email with the picture to Steve to see if he had any ideas how to salvage the situation.  His reply came quickly:

Hey Dal

I have that happen as well… it is not reparable. I just left mine half missing to give an idea of what it looked like originally. It happens and nothing can change that


Such is life….  I move on.I complete the wet sanding with 600 grade paper and finish this phase by applying 0000 grade steel wool.  Other than the stamping carnage, the stem looks great – repairs to the bit turned out very well – upper and lower.Next, the stem receives sanding from the full regimen of micromesh pads starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following the wet sanding, dry sanding is used with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to protect the stem from oxidation and to rejuvenate it.     The kosher salt and alcohol soak worked through the night.  It continued the cleaning and refreshes the stummel.  The salt is soiled as well as the wick indicating that oils were drawn out during the process.  After removing the expended salt and wiping the chamber with paper towel, I also blow through the mortise to make sure salt crystals are dislodged. To make sure that all is clean, one cotton bud and one pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 99% were the proof of a clean and fresh pipe.Next, I attempted to reunite the stem and stummel to apply Blue Diamond compound, but discovered that through the cleaning process, the fit of the tenon into the mortise had tightened and was a bit too tight for comfort.  To remedy this, I use 470 grade paper to sand the tenon down.  To do this I wrap a piece of the sanding paper around the tenon and while pinching the paper tightly around the tenon, the stem is rotated to create the abrasion.  I did this a few times and tested after each.  When the fit was good, I finish by applying 0000 steel wool to the tenon to smooth it after the sanding paper.Next, after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the rotary tool, with the speed set about 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stem and stummel.  It takes some time for the process to methodically apply the compound around the pipe.  After completion, a felt towel is used to wipe/buff the pipe to remove excess compound dust. Before applying wax, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel. I like how this product enhances and brings out the subtle natural hues of the briar.  After applying some to my finger, I work the Balm into the surface of the briar.  It thickens and it’s applied and once all is covered, the stummel is put aside for 20 minutes or so for the Balm to do what it does.After the time is complete, the stummel is wiped with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm and then it buffs up with the cloth.  Nice.I have two steps left.  First, to apply the wax and then to apply pipe mud to the chamber.  Another cotton buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool with the speed remaining at about 40%, and carnauba wax is applied to the pipe – stem and stummel.  After several rotations over the briar with the buffing wheel, I then give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine and to remove excess wax.As noted, because of some heating veins in the chamber, I decided to apply a layer of pipe mud over the chamber wall to help start a protective layer of carbon.  Pipe mud consists of cigar ash and water.  I have already filtered and sifted the ash to clean out chunks of stuff not wanted.  Using a pipe nail tool, I scoop some ash into a shot glass where I will do the mixing.A pipe cleaner is inserted through the draft hole to guard it from being blocked during the process.I use a large eye dropper to introduce small amounts of water and then mix with pipe nail.  It’s easy to get too much water in the mix and it becomes too runny.  If this happens, more ash is added to dry and firm up the mixture.  This I had to do a few times until the mud was the consistency of mud – yep.  Firm enough to hold shape and not drip off the nail.With the consistency good, I scoop some mud with the pipe nail and deposit it at the floor of the chamber and then spread it out like putting peanut butter on bread.  Starting from the floor and working up to the rim, adding mud as I go.  I use my thumb fingernail to run along the inner lip of the rim to create a straight edge of mud around the circumference. I let the mud cure through the night.  When it cures, it will lighten a good bit.  The next morning, the pipe mud was cured and the pipe was given another hearty hand buffing to raise the shine.

Other than the stem marking carnage I inflicted, this GBD came out exceptionally well.  The grain is lively and expressive with large swirls of bird’s eye on both sides of the bowl and horizontal straight grain on both the fore and aft sections of the bowl.  The grain also sweeps across the heel laterally.  Without doubt, the grain of this GBD Pot will hold one’s attention.  The bowl is ample for a good, long time of reflection packed with one’s favorite blend.  This is the second of 2 pipes that Chris commissioned, and he will have the first opportunity to claim this GBD in The Pipe Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me from my Christmas Vacation in sunny Florida!  Have a great New Year!





A Mobile Christmas Vacation Restoration of an Exquisite Fratelli Rossi Century Old Briar Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

This Rossi of Italy, along with several other pipes, were donated to The Pipe Steward from a good friend and pipe man, Dave Shain, who I worked with in Ukraine several years ago.   Dave also restores pipes and has a great website, http://www.ThePipery.com and regularly produces live podcasts opining the latest tobaccos, pipes and also critiques on cigars he’s tried out.  In 2017, Dave won the Master of Pipes award from the Chicago Pipe Collectors Club for his restoration work and charitable activities through The Free Pipe Project where Dave spearheads a program to send quality restored pipes to servicemen serving their country.  A few years ago, I visited Dave where he lives near Atlanta, Georgia, and we had a great time renewing our relationship.  He showed me his workshop, pipes and tobacco collection, and of course, we settled down in the ‘Barn’ flanked by a vintage Ford pickup – his Man Cave, to share a bowl or two.  It was a great reunion!  I left with a tin of his aged Escudo which continues to age today and several pipes he wanted me to restore for the Daughters of Bulgaria, which I was more than happy to do.  Thanks again, Dave!

The pipe now on my Christmas Vacation mobile worktable in Port St. Lucie, Florida, is a Fratelli Rossi.  Chris, a pipe man from Argo, Alabama, saw some of my other restorations posted on a popular FB Group,  Pipe Lifestyle, and decided to take a look at the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection.  He reached out to me with 4 contenders that he desired to commission.  In the end, he commissioned the Rossi now on the table and a Cadogan era GBD London Made – Made in London England C789 Pot.  Without a doubt, Chris has learned the meaning of patience that I ask of all commissioners when they commission pipes!  He commissioned them before my wife and I moved from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Golden, Colorado, and so he’s been waiting a while for his pipes to work up the queue to the worktable.  Thanks, Chris!

When I first received this lot of pipes from Dave during that visit to the Atlanta, Georgia, area, I took pictures of each.  Here are the pictures of an attractive Fratelli Rossi Billiard now on the table with a make-shift rustic cardboard backing!   The nomenclature is crisp and clear on the shank.  On the left is stamped FRATELLI [over] *ROSSI*.  The text is old world print and stars flank both sides of Rossi.  The inlaid ‘Rossi’ brass stem rondel is reminiscent of GBD’s pre-Cadogan era rondels.   The right flank of the shank is stamped, CENTURY OLD BRIAR [over] ITALY.  The pipe itself is an attractive pipe with distinctive briar grain.  It is a medium sized classic Billiard shape with the dimensions: Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 11/16 inches, Rim width: 1 3/16 inches, Chamber width: 3/4 inches, and a Chamber depth: 1 1/2 inches.   When I read this part of the nomenclature after the pipe finally made it to the worktable, I did a double-take.  It reminded me of another pipe that made a similar claim on the nomenclature and my first response was to write it off as hype.  That pipe turned out to be a diamond in the rough – a Gasparini M.G.M. Rock Italy Briar 1912 – 25 FreehandThe claim was that the briar on this Gasparini was harvested in 1912 which turned out not to be hype, but the reality.  The Rossi claim is similar, the briar being used to fashion this pipe, at whatever point it was manufactured by Rossi, was from briar that was in the curing process for at least 100 years.  That is not only a great claim that points to a nice piece of briar but increases the collectibility value of this Billiard. 

With the question of the “claim” of Century Old Briar, I turn my focus to finding out more about the Rossi name and hope that I can find out more about the claim.  This is the first Rossi that I’ve worked on so doing some research on the origins of the name deepens my appreciation for the pipe on my worktable.  It doesn’t take much effort to uncover a plethora of information about the Rossi name.  I am fascinated by the story and I decide to repeat the somewhat lengthy but interesting and thorough historical focused Pipedia Rossi article here:

In the years around 1870 and still later the bulk of Italian pipes was made by time taking and laboriously manual work. Mainly based on families who sold their pipes to travelling purchasers handing them on to some wholesaler. Most pipes were still made of box or olive wood.

 Ferdinando Rossi from Milan was one of the most important wholesalers for tobacco related goods of northern Italy. When he attended one of his pipe suppliers in Saint-Claude in 1880 he got hooked on the idea to establish this manner of industrialized briar pipe production in Italy as well. Rossi went abroad several times to buy the hardware here and there because the special features of machines for pipe making were secrets – well kept by the French in those days. Many machines and tools had to be modified on Rossi’s defaults.

He acquired a large area of land in Barasso in the province of Varese and founded the Fabbrica di Pipe di Radica Rossi in 1886. For sure there was no lack of skilled workers and Rossi personally recruited 30 craftsmen of different occupations from the environment to get started. After a few years the enterprise had developed well and entered into export trades. In 1892 e.g. the ledgers registered the first pipes shipped to Brazil.

One reason of success was the ultramodern conception of the factory and its equipment at the given time. To give an example: a system of canals invented by Rossi drove water to turbines propelling downstream generators, which supplied the entire machinery with electricity. Also lighting and heating were already electrically operated.

In the first years after 1900 Rossi grew steadily and became one of the ten biggest pipe manufacturers of the world. Rossi’s rapid ascent produced further foundations of pipemaking firms in the area around the Lake of Varese.

  • 1897 Gerolamo Ceresa (starting as subcontractor for Rossi) in Cassano Magnano
  • 1900 Fratelli Lana in Gallarate (bought by Tagliabue in 1922)
  • 1910 Stefano Santambrogio (working with Lana and with Rossi before) in Groppello di Gavirate
  • 1911 Federico, Carlo, Cornelio and Francesco Rovera (all working for Rossi before) even there.

 So, the province of Varese became the most important center of Italy’s pipemaking industry after the turn of the century. Still going strong today along with the brands in the provinces of Como and of Pesaro.

From 1918 on Leonida Rossi supported his father in the management of the company. Later he was designated as chairman and joined by his brothers. Rossi now firmed as Fratelli Rossi Barasso shortly FRB.

Between the world wars Rossi finally promoted to be the biggest pipe factory in the entire world. Next to the domestic market in Italy the United States were the most important client.

The factory was systematically and consequently modernized and extended. The briar was stored in 18 sheds, which were arranged six by six in three rows. There was a power plant, a sawing mill, a department for ebonite mouthpieces as well as a department for horn mouthpieces, a department for filter tubes and one for fittings made of metal etc. Taken for its size practically any of these individual departments outmatched any other complete pipe factory in Italy! At the end of the production line stood a warehouse for the finished pipes featuring the dimensions of a big a department store.

The absolute peak of production was reached in 1936, the year of Rossi’s 50th anniversary. Rossi employed 860 persons – 95% of them were women – who turned out more than 50,000 pipes per day. Per day!

(Remember, those were the days when good restaurants offered a free pipe to the gentleman to end a fine meal with a fine smoke!) These numbers were never reached by any other manufacturer. Even not approximately.

Rossi is also credited with exemplary social features. The company maintained a well equipped hospital ward, the employees enjoyed large dining rooms and showers after work. There were shops where they could buy the products of some Rossi owned farms from the environment at subsidized prices. For the youngest children there was a kindergarten and the elder ones could spend their school vacations in a holiday camp named after the founder’s wife Marisa.

From appr. 1946 up to the end Ferdinando Rossi II, a grandchild of the founder, headed the company. But after World War II the world of the pipe changed dramatically. Especially in Italy, where those big pipe factories mainly turned out pipes for the lower priced segments of the international mass markets. The demand for these pipes shrunk considerably as more and more smokers turned to cigarettes. Rossi got into this vortex as well. Little by little the number of pipes produced sank. This evolution was accelerated by the upcoming fame of pipes from Denmark. As well, new Italian brands established after the war like Castello, Brebbia or little later Savinelli operated cleverer and thus were more successful.

So, the decline went on through the 1960’s and 1970’s, even though Rossi offered more than 800 possible shapes in dozens of lines and uncounted finishes. Besides the completely machine-made pipes there were also some lines of semi-freehands and even quite considerable freehands were made. But all these efforts could not stop the fall anyway. Due to increasing financial difficulties Rossi closed down in 1985, just one year before the 100th anniversary.

“Ferdinando Rossi was one of the pioneers in bringing the production of briar pipes to Italy, a contemporary of Achille Savinelli. And though the two were competitors in business, in their private lives they enjoyed a close friendship. So it came to be that, just shy of a century after its founding, the Rossi family’s marque came into the caretaking of Savinelli, after the former found itself unable to adapt to the changes in the post-WWII tobacciana market. This same old friendship is also one of the reasons why Savinelli has been keen to give the Rossi name new life, as Rossi by Savinelli, focusing on quality, affordable Italian pipes.” Courtesy, smokingpipes.com

The heights to which the Italian pipe manufacturing enterprise of Rossi reached in 1936, of a workforce of 860 and a production pace of 50,000 pipes per day is astounding.  The decline of the company, especially in the 60s and 70s, is in stark contrast to the earlier entrepreneurial vision of Ferdinando Rossi who built the company into an empire.  The last paragraph above is important.  It references from Smokingpipes.com, what seems like the epitaph of the Rossi Company that closed its doors in 1985 – “unable to adapt to the changes in the post-WWII tobacciana market”.  The Rossi name was taken over by Savinelli because of the friendship of the founders of these two competing Italian enterprises and Savinelli’s respect for Rossi motivated the continued production of pipes with the Rossi name.   I find this factoid not only to be interesting but quite remarkable.

The same Pipedia article concludes with a section on the dating of Rossi pipes which draws my attention with the focus on the Fratelli Rossi ‘Century Old Briar’ on my table.  I include what is described in Pipedia only the later periods of the Rossi evolution:

From, approximately, Seventies, until 1985, Rossi pipes were marked with “ROSSI”, into an oval (sometimes there was also “ITALY” on the shank); on the stem, there was “ROSSI”. In these years, appeared the signature “Nino Rossi” (in cursive font): he was the last heir of the factory.

When Savinelli took back the production, it is said that first pipes had a twinbore mouthpiece, with “ROSSI” on the stem, and they were marked with “ROSSI” on the shank. Today most of them had 6 mm or 9 mm adapter (also, for the most part, the stem was made by methacrylate, always with “Rossi” on the side).

The lack of a twinbore mouthpiece and what appears to be an older tenon/stinger setup would suggest that the pipe on my table is pre-Savinelli – pre-1985.  There is no mention of a period when ‘Fratelli Rossi’ was used as the nomenclature marking by either Rossi or Savinelli.  In the history above, ‘Fratelli Rossi’ was a son of the founder, Ferdinando Rossi, who in 1918 joined the company with his brother, ‘Leonida’, at which time the new labeling became ‘Fratelli Rossi Barasso’ or abbreviated as, FRB.

Looking to Pipephil.eu’s information about Rossi, it is added that ‘Ferdinando Rossi Junior’ (Nino), was also among the brothers of 1918 and headed the company from 1946 until its closing in 1985.  Pipephil.eu’s panel below shows the evolution or uses of several differing stamping styles and stem displays over the years and 1000s of different lines that were offered by Rossi.  Of interest is the very first example.  The pipe is very similar to the Rossi on the worktable, but the nomenclature is different.  Yet, what is exact is the brass rondel on the stem with ‘Rossi’ in a cursive-like text.  The comment beneath says, “Rossi’s first logo: an inlaid metallic oval disc.”

It’s difficult without more direct information to place a date on the Fratelli Rossi Century Old Briar.  My efforts to find more than anecdotal information about the ‘Century Old Briar’ were unsuccessful.  I found a few Rossi pipes marked ‘Century Old Briar’ for sale on different platforms such as Etsy and eBay.  Much of the ‘info’ given about the pipe on the block was incorrect and someone guessing.  One seller placed the pipe in the 1960s and described the ‘Century Old Briar’ as coming from the warehouse of the famous Savinelli company… Savinelli didn’t come into the Rossi picture until the mid-1980s.

I looked through old catalog listings and searched but found very little information about this specific Rossi nomenclature.  With no more than an informed guess, I would say that the pipe comes from the 60s or 70s based upon the stem’s nickel screw in tenon/stinger.  It predates Savinelli’s involvement it would seem to me.  The information that the brass rondel was the ‘first’ model, doesn’t provide a definite dating, but would confirm a pre-Savinelli dating. Yet, the overall ‘feel’ of the pipe is that it wasn’t manufactured during or before WW2.  The claim to have been produced with ‘Century Old Briar’, I’m inclined to believe based upon the integrity and history of the Rossi name.  So, my sense is that this pipe was produced during the declining years of the Rossi name – 60s, 70s, and perhaps the early 80s before Rossi closed its factory, but was perhaps a special line of high quality briar that included the ‘Fratelli’ name with Rossi and the claim of ‘Century Old Briar’.

With a deeper appreciation for the history of the Rossi name and the heritage that this Fratelli Rossi brings to my table, I take a closer look at what is needed to recommission this pipe for Chris.  The pipe is in good condition.  The stummel shows no fills or major issues.  The only issue I see is what looks like an acrylic-candy apple finish that needs to be removed.  The chamber has moderate cake buildup, and the stem is rough and with moderate oxidation.  I start with the stem. I take a couple additional pictures of the upper and lower stem to show the fuzzy haze of oxidation and wear and tear.  The bit has minor tooth chatter and some marks on the button.    I start by cleaning the airway using pipe cleaners and the smaller diameter shank brushes to clean the airway.  Using isopropyl 99% the airway is cleaned as well as the tight quarters of the nickel screw in stinger.  After a bit of effort, the airway is cleaned up.Next, to address the oxidation in the stem, the Rossi stem joins other pipes in the queue for a soak in Mark Hoover’s Before & After Deoxidizer (www.lbepen.com).  I leave the stem in the soak for several hours to achieve the full benefit of the Deoxidizer.With the stem in the soak, I now address the cake buildup in the chamber.  I take a starting picture showing the moderate cake buildup.The chamber is cleared of the carbon buildup first using 2 of the 4 blade heads of the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  This is followed first by scraping the chamber walls with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool which does a great job cleaning the angles of the chamber floor.  Next, the chamber is sanded with 220 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  This gives more leverage and pressure as I sand away the remaining vestiges of carbon.After wiping the bowl with a cotton pad, an inspection of the chamber reveals no problems – all looks great.With the chamber cleared, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean the external briar.  I’m hopeful that the cleaning will possibly make a dent in the sheen of the candy apple finish.  Murphy’s does a good job cleaning the grunge off the surface, but the sheen remains.  I transition the stummel to the sink and continue the cleaning with shank brushes to work on the internal mortise.  With liquid anti-oil dishwashing soap on the brushes, warm water is used to scrub.After thoroughly rinsing the stummel, I go back to the worktable and take these additional pictures to get a closer look.The glossy sheen is now clean, but the sheen continues unabated.  The cleaning does show some thinning in the finish where the raw briar is peeking through.  The first picture shows a gap in the finish on the heel of the bowl and the next pictures show the finish wearing away on the shank.     The rim lip also shows a bit of roughness that should be rectified through minor sanding.My next step is to address the ‘cotton candy’ finish.  It needs to be stripped so that the finish is even and revealing the natural briar underneath the shell.  My personal preference regarding finishes on pipes that create the high glossy shell is that the gloss is fake.  It is not the natural briar showing off but a shell of sorts which does protect the briar, but the sacrifice is an artificial gloss.  My goal is to remove the gloss and hopefully retain the patina of the ‘Century Old Briar’ which can stand on its own.  It is a beautiful block of wood!   I first attempt, which I’m not hopeful of from the outset, is simply to wipe the bowl surface with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%.  This does not phase the finish.The next step is to place the stummel in a soak of isopropyl 99%.  My experience is that this will also not do the job, but I do not have on hand acetone in the supplies of my mobile Christmas worktable in Port St. Lucie.  Acetone will probably be the only thing that will break down the finish.  I decide to soak the stummel overnight in isopropyl 99% to see if it does the job, but I plan to go to the store tomorrow morning to pick up acetone.The stem has been soaking in Before & After Deoxidizer now for several hours. After fishing out the stem and letting it drain off – using my fingers to squeegee the remaining Deoxidizer, I use pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% to clear the airway of Deoxidizer.  While the stem was draining, I noticed for the first time that the nickel stinger was in fact inserted into the metal barrel and not one piece!  After wrapping the stinger with paper towel, I gently gripped the stinger with needle nosed pliers and coaxed the stinger out!  What a wonder and thankfulness for small things.  With the airway now clear of the stinger, the cleaning of the airway is more productive and easier!  I also wipe off the stem with cotton pads and alcohol to clear away the raised oxidation.I wasn’t satisfied with the results of the deoxidation process after a closer look.  There remains deep oxidation that I can see with the eye and only visible with the aperture open on the camera.After just perusing Steve’s latest posting of a very nice blasted No Name Danish, (See: The Sandblast on this No Name Hand Made in Denmark Freehand is Incredible) I noticed that Steve used Soft Scrub with cotton pads to address the oxidation with the fancy stem he was working on.  Taking his cue, I did the same and I like the results.  It took some intensive scrubbing, but the results are better.I finish the stem clean up by applying paraffin oil to the vulcanite to rejuvenate and condition it.The next morning, the brownish hue floating in the alcohol indicates that some progress has happened through the night soak.After fishing out the stummel and inspecting, with the sheen still shining and with patches of bare briar still silhouetted against old finish, I grab the keys and head to the store to purchase acetone.Having the right tools and supplies is key to any job – not just pipe restoration!  When arriving home, I open the acetone and place a small amount on 0000 grade steel wool.  I then gently apply the acetone-wetted steel wool over the stummel with the hope that the shiny shell will break down allowing the unadorned briar patina to be exposed.I was able to observe immediately the removal of the finish as the wood dulled.  I apply the steel wool over the entire stem removing the shell as I go.  I complete the project by wiping the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with acetone.  I’m pleased with the results.  The basic hue of the briar’s patina remains intact.  Sometimes, after using acetone, the briar seems bleached which probably indicates that the stummel was colored with a dye.  This stummel looks like it received a hot oil treatment and was then covered with the shellac-like shell to protect it.   A quick picture of my Christmas Vacation worktable on the balcony of my mother’s condo in Florida, with a bit of Plum Cake in the bowl is very enjoyable!Continuing with the Fratelli Rossi stummel.  It’s time to let the grain make an appearance.  Using the full regimen of micromesh pads, I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this, dry sanding is done with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  With each 3-set picture, the briar is teased out and without doubt, this is an exquisite piece of briar.  It appears to be a very high-grade briar with absolutely no fills and displaying beautiful vertical flame grain and bird’s eye on the heel of the stummel as one would expect.   The next step, before again turning to the stem, is to apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel.  Mark Hoover’s product (www.lbepen.com) does a great job bringing out the natural hues of the briar.  After putting a small amount on my finger, the Balm is worked into the briar surface. The initial viscosity of the Balm is cream-like, and it gradually thickens as the Balm is worked.  After applied, I place it aside for about 20 minutes.After 20 minutes, a microfiber cloth is used to wipe off the excess Balm and to buff the surface.  I’m loving the quality of this Rossi stummel.With the stummel on the sideline, the stem is ready to catch up.  I take a few pictures looking closely at the bit.  There is little in the way of tooth chatter, but the vulcanite is rough.     I begin by doing a quick sanding using 240 sanding paper and refreshing the button with the flat needle file. The button lips over time have rounded.  I like a crisp lip to allow the free hang function of the button to work.  A plastic disc I fabricated is used to guard against shouldering the edge of the stem facing during the 240 sanding.  The 240 sanding is followed by first wet sanding with 600 grade paper and then applying 0000 grade steel wool to the entire stem.   With the heavier duty sanding completed, the stem is sanded with micromesh pads.  From pads 1500 to 2400 the stem is wet sanded and then dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 120000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to guard against future oxidation and to rejuvenate the stem.  I love the newly micromeshed ‘pop’ that emerges with this Rossi stem.  Now, in the home stretch.  The Fratelli Rossi stem and stummel are reunited to see how things are going.  I find that through the cleaning that the stem is now somewhat overclocked.  I take a picture to show the few degrees out of alignment it is. To remedy this, I use a Bic lighter to heat the nickel screw in tenon which in turn, heats the vulcanite in which it is seated.  As the metal heats, gradually the vulcanite loosens its grip on the tenon.  When this happens, the stem is rejoined with the stummel and as it screws in, I continue to rotate the stem after the tenon tightens with its threads.  I continue to rotate the now loosened stem around the fixed tenon almost 360 degrees until it is aligned properly with the stummel.  The heat and rotate method works like a charm!   Next, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the entire pipe (minus nickel shank facing) with a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted on the rotary tool at about 40% full power.After the compound is applied, a felt cloth is used to buff the pipe removing vestiges of compound residue left behind.  I do this to prepare for the next step, application of the wax.Another cotton cloth wheel dedicated to application of carnauba wax is mounted onto the rotary tool maintaining 40% full power.  The wax application I treat as frosting on the cake after the primary shining process results from the sanding processes – papers, steel wool, micromesh pads and compound.After application of the wax over the entire pipe, the pipe receives a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth not only to raise the shine, but to remove excess wax that was not absorbed.

The grain on this Fratelli Rossi is, as I described before, exquisite.  The classic lines of this medium sized Billiard are timeless and will serve his next steward well.  The exact dating of the pipe remains obscure and the claim of ‘Century Old Briar’ is not to be doubted as I look at the pipe’s overall presentation.  Chris had the vision to commission this Rossi and will have the first opportunity to claim him from The Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A ‘Mobile’ Colorado to Florida Quick Clean Up of a ‘Dragon Skin’ Fabric/Resin Applique Bent Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

With Christmas vacation before me I decide to take The Pipe Steward work desk on the road!  I’ve never done this before, but the holidays give the opportunity to think through what packing up would look like.  In the end, with the rotary tool as the workhorse of my pipe restoration operation, I was able to consolidate the essentials.To see this great country and more safely visit loved ones amid COVID concerns, we acquired a small travel trailer called an R-pod to pull with the car.  We make a 5-day trek camping from Golden, Colorado, to Port St. Lucie, Florida, to spend a WARMER Christmas with my mother on the ‘Gold Coast’ of Florida.  The Pod is pictured below at our wintry first night’s stop near Pueblo, Colorado, with snow-covered mountains in the background! An interesting pipe occupies the mobile worktable now.  It is the final pipe that Daniel chose from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! Collection to form his trove of 7 pipes all benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  I shared with Daniel that I was going mobile and that all the pipes he commissioned would be coming with me.  Hopefully, I’ll finish this last pipe and get them in the mail to him by Christmas!  I acquired this final pipe in 2018 from the French eBay auction block in a lot of 50 pipes.  It is difficult to make out without the help of the arrow in the picture below.  This French Lot of 50 has provided some great treasures and unique pipes.  There were a few pipes in the Lot of the genre of the pipe on the worktable now.  What makes these pipes unique is that the surface texture isn’t briar, but a fabric wrap-around the briar stummel.  It is a technique that emulates carbon fiber – a fabric/resin that is wrapped around the briar.  This technique started as a fad, but these pipes have increased in value and are more of a niche collectible.  This pipe is on the ‘bling’ side of things with a ‘spigot’ or military mount and the carbon fiber wrap adheres nicely to the contouring of the Bent Billiard stummel now on the worktable.  Here are the pictures of the Dragon Skin Applique Bent Billiard.   There are no markings on the pipe.  The spotted fabric design reminds me of ‘Dragon Skin’ and adding the metal of the nickel shank band and stem extender/spacer of the spigot or military mount fancy stem – well, I call this bling. I believe this could also be described as a spigot mount.  The tenon is also different – it’s made of clear acrylic.  The chamber also is interesting.  It appears to be a metal lining or cup with the draft hole at the center of the chamber floor.  I have never smoked a pipe of this genre and I’ve only worked on one before this – a Paronelli Cobalt Rhodesian of Italy which also came to me with the French Lot of 50.  The Paronelli only needed a cleaning so I didn’t do a write-up but did take some pictures of the process to show them to Michael from Pennsylvania, who commissioned this beautiful and unique pipe.The fabric wrapping the stummel is fascinating.  When I worked on the Paronelli, it was my first exposure to this wrapped genre.  I wrote to Steve with the question of what this material was and how to work with it?  His response was helpful which included a link discussing this genre.  Steve wrote:

To me it looks similar to one that Chacom made that was a fabric/resin applique put over briar. Seemed to be a fad for a while..

Steve also provided a link on Reddit where there was a discussion about this pipe genre titled, Can Someone Give Me An Info About This Pipe? Brand Paronelli, Model 62. It Feels So Weird In My Hands That I Don’t Even Know If It’s Made Of Wood.  The discussion centered around the makeup of the carbon fiber pipes and whether or not one has a carbon fiber pipe:

Nastyboots: Mostly the way it stretches around the bottom. Real cf typically comes in a roll and feels almost like canvas – it’s a tough fabric that has a little stretch or give, but not a lot. If that were real carbon fiber that checkered pattern would remain more consistent around the curves and not look so warped. Look at the front wing on a formula 1 car to see carbon fiber over some really crazy geometries and notice how consistent the pattern is.

The kicker is that real carbon fiber is impregnated with a resin. that’s what makes it a composite – a fabric and a resin come together to make a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. This resin is usually polished to a high gloss, giving it a deep, sexy, shine that, with the carbon fiber weave underneath, has an almost holographic look in the light. Vinyl wraps and hydro paint dips (which I’m sure yours is) look great but never really gets that wet glossy shimmery look.

Lorezo_InsigneWow, thanks for the info. I heard that Chacom was also making carbon fiber pipes, but by your answer I assume isn’t actually made with carbon fiber. Guess mine it’s just finished with a material that resembles cf then. Once again, many thanks!

Whether the Dragon Skin Bent Billiard on the worktable is a carbon fiber pipe, I cannot say for certain.  Yet, there is no doubt that the more general words of Steve, that it’s a ‘fabric/resin applique’ pipe, are spot on.

After disassembling the pipe, I take a picture to show the parts.  The acrylic tenon seems to function as an air restrictor.  With the removal of the tenon, a 9mm filter will fit the stem if one chooses. I’m calling this a simple ‘Clean Up’ because there is little to do to enhance the bling factor of the pipe. Cleaning the external surface of the pipe and shining the nickel shank cover and band will spruce things up.  The stem appears to have lost its shine as well, even though the pipe appears never to have been smoked.  I begin by cleaning the stem airway.  Using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 99% I go to work.  It doesn’t take long into what I thought would be a simple clean-up, to discover that I cannot run a pipe cleaner through the airway.  After several failed attempts from both ends of the stem, I switch from pipe cleaners to a small diameter shank brush which has a wire stem.  This also was unsuccessful. I take some pictures to see if I can locate the airway.  I can blow through the stem, so I know there’s some opening somewhere.  Nothing jumps out looking at the picture of the inverted stem.  The bend of the stem appears to have crimped down on the airway.  It is not an option, I like to certify a pipe as restored and not be able to do the basic functions of cleaning the pipe.  To try to remedy the problem – to open the airway so that a pipe cleaner can navigate it, I heat the stem with a hairdryer to unbend the stem.  I’m hopeful this will do the trick.With permission to use my wife’s travel hair dryer as the ‘hot gun’, I heat the stem to soften the vulcanite so that it will unbend.I heat the stem for some time and apply pressure to encourage the vulcanite stem to unbend as the material becomes supple.  To my surprise, the material did not become supple in the time and with the temperature that should start seeing results.  In the end, I discover that the stem is not vulcanite but some sort of a plastic composite.  I confirm my suspicions of this by finding a seam on the side.  Warming the stem did not bend as a vulcanite stem.  I’m not sure, but it would probably melt if the stem got hot enough instead of becoming pliable.  Unfortunately, the cleaning of the stem will be more of a challenge having to come in from both ends as best as one can.I turn now to polishing the nickel shank cover and the stem band or extender.  Using Tarn-X Tarnish Remover on a cotton pad, I wipe on the Tarn-X and after rubbing it in, it is rinsed off with a cotton pad and water.  The Remover does a great job.To clean the fabric/resin applique Dragon Skin, I simply wipe it with a cotton pad wetted with water.  Next, after using the Tarn-X Tarnish Remover on the nickel shank cap and band, I apply Blue Diamond compound as well to increase the shine on the nickel.  A cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to Blue Diamond and nickel metal is mounted onto the rotary tool.  The rule of thumb is that each different kind of application has its own dedicated buffing wheel.  When the nickel is buffed with Blue Diamond, it produces a black residue that will stain the surrounding material.  I’ve learned the hard way that the black stuff will stain briar.  With the rotary tool set at about 40% full power, I’m careful to apply the Blue Diamond onto the metal with no runoff on the fabric/resin applique Dragon Skin.  After applying Blue Diamond, the metal is cleaned/buffed with a cotton cloth.  Wow!  This truly shined up the cap and band very nicely.  Next, after loading another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the rotary tool, with the speed set at about 40% full power, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the composite plastic stem.  I begin gingerly on the hidden, inserted part of the stem to make sure that the high-speed buffing/abrasion of the compound wasn’t going to melt or ripple the material.  It received the buffing nicely, so I continue with the rest of the stem.  Without doubt, this stem looks better now than new with the TLC provided. After applying the compound, the stem is wiped with a felt cloth to remove the residual compound dust before application of the wax.After attaching another cotton cloth buffing wheel, since it was new, I purge the wheel before using to remove the loose cotton strands.  I do this by inserting the rotary tool extension arm end into a plastic bag and turn on the rotary tool.  As the tool does its RPMs, I press a metal adjustment wrench into the cotton cloth of the wheel.  Much of the loose cotton fibers spin off and are captured in the bag.  After turning the power off, I then manually pluck the remaining lose fibers from the wheel.  I do this each time I put a new wheel into service.  It doesn’t remove all the ‘fly off’ but it reduces it by 90+ percent!    After the new wheel is purged, the speed maintained at about 40% full power, and carnauba wax is applied to the stem and the fabric/resin applique Dragon Skin stummel.  At first, I proceed very slowly to observe how the Dragon Skin applique receives the wax.  After seeing that it receives it quite nicely, I continue by applying a light coat of wax to the stummel.  When the carnauba wax is applied, the entire pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.For an easy clean-up, this pipe threw in a few curve balls with the stem.  Even so, the results are good.  The unique Dragon Skin fabric/resin applique looks great and the nickel shank cap and stem extender add a nice touch of bling.  This system pipe is different with the metal bowl and draft hole in the center. The acrylic tenon or air restrictor fits well with this genre of pipe.  This is the last of the pipes that Daniel commissioned, and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  We made it safely to Port St. Lucy and I complete my first ‘mobile restoration’ with more to come.  I commemorate this by enjoying a bowl at the beach!  Thanks for joining me!

Recommissioning Another Barontini Aldo Velani Trio of Italy – A Classic Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

The Aldo Velani Trio Classic Billiard now on the worktable represents the 6th of 7 pipes Daniel commissioned from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection.  It also represents the second Aldo Velani Trio Daniel included in his trove of 7.  I acquired 4 Aldo Velani Trios in 2018 in what I have called the St. Louis Lot of 26 that my son, Josiah, found in an antique shop. The original 4 Velanis are pictured below.The  Bent Apple and Rusticated Volcano have already found homes with new stewards. The Pot on the bottom is waiting for the Billiard to be completed to join Daniel’s commissioned pipes all which benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.   This is a classy line up of pipes!  Looking at their current restored states:   With the Classic Billiard next, some pictures provide a closer look.  The nomenclature on the left shank side is cursive script, ‘Aldo Velani’ [over] ‘TRIO’.  On the shank underside, the COM, ‘ITALY’ is followed by the shape number ‘52’.  As I noted with the Pot, when I first looked at the logo it was difficult to figure out but found in Pipedia’s Aldo Velani article, an example and details of the stamping on an original Aldo Velani box (courtesy of Doug Valitchka).  The stamp depicts a pipe as the front leg of the ‘A’ for Aldo and the back leg of the ‘A’ forms the front riser of the ‘V’ of Velani.  Again, I repeat the previous research here:  The article cited from Pipedia provides helpful information understanding the provenance of the Aldo Velani Trio line:

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

Another Barontini 2nd is named “Cesare”.

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

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

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

Additional information is found in Pipephil’s site.  Aldo Velani line was produced primarily for export.  The stem stamping on the Aldo Velani line had different variations provided by Pipephil:Looking now to the condition of the Aldo Velani Trio Billiard, much like his Apple and Pot brothers, the chamber has a thick cake which needs cleaning.  The lava crusted on the rim too, is thick.  This will need cleaning.  The stummel with the ruby/burgundy is soiled and generally in good shape.  I’m hopeful of keeping the hues consistent between the Pot and Billiard now on the table.  The clear acrylic stem, like the Aldo Velani Trio Apple, is soiled and has some tooth chatter.  There is one tooth compression on the lower bit which was the same on the other Aldo Velani Trio pipes – forensics pointing to a sole steward passing these pipes on.  The clear acrylic always gives a pause to ask the question about whether it is the earlier acrylic known as Perspex, on older GBD pipes.  This stem is not Perspex and therefore alcohol may be used to clean without concerns of the material crazing.  The airway does have a burgundy coloring, so after cleaning, it should still be burgundy but more translucent. I take a picture of the starting point of the clear acrylic stem. To start the airway’s cleaning process, I put the entire stem into a soak of lemon juice to help soften the oils in the airway.  As a natural acidic cleaning agent, I use lemon juice when working on Perspex stems.  I decide to experiment to see how it works on the Aldo Velani stem.  I assure you; the stem is in the lemon juice!While the stem is soaking in the juice, I begin the cleaning process of the chamber and rim.  I’m hopeful that there will be no heating issues with this Aldo Velani Billiard as was the case with his brother, the Pot.  The rim is capped with a thick lava flow crust.  The cake in the chamber is thick and I take a picture to show the starting point.To begin the reaming of the chamber, starting with the smallest of 4 blade heads provided by the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I use 2 blade heads.  Next, I transition to scraping the chamber wall using the Savinelli Fitsall tool and finish by sanding the chamber with 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.   After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad to remove carbon dust residue, an inspection of the chamber reveals healthy briar ready to go again. Looking to the rim, using the edge of my Winchester pocketknife, I carefully scrape the crusted carbon.  I avoid gouging the briar by pulling the edge over the surface rather than pushing the blade.  Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and starting with a cotton pad, the ruby/burgundy external surface is scrubbed.  I also employ a brass wire brush to work on the rim.  After scrubbing the bowl and rim, I take the stummel to the sink and continue the cleaning using warm water to rinse the Murphy’s Soap.  Using shank brushes, I then work on the internal mortise chamber with anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap.  This helps to break down the tars and oils which have built up through use.  After a thorough rinsing, the stummel is transitioned back to the worktable.  After the cleaning, the rim shows some bald spots where raw briar is exposed.  I’ll need to address these, but the challenge will be to match and blend the stummel ruby/burgundy and the rim contour so that it doesn’t draw attention.I also find a small fill needing attention in the crook of the bowl and shank.  It is not too noticeable.The cleaning continues with the internals using cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 99%.  After some effort, the cleaners and buds emerge lighter.  The job is done, and I move on.I continue with the stummel and take another look at the rim.  I had to do some work on rim of the Aldo Velani Trio Pot that I just completed.  I saved the dye mixture I used to color the rim and I’ll use that dye mixture on the Billiard’s rim.  The hue will be consistent between the two restorations of the same colored pipes.  I take another picture of the Billiard’s rim, which is not in bad of shape as was the Pot’s, but the finish on the rim is thin at places and uneven. First, I apply the 1500 grade micromesh pad to clean the rim.This is followed by applying the full battery of micromesh pads to smooth the rim surface.As I mentioned above, I saved the dye mixture that I used to restore the Aldo Velani Pot, in my last restoration project.  After testing and some experimentation, I used a mixture with the base of Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye with a few drops of Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye to deepen the hue.  It worked well on the Pot so I’m hopeful the Billiard will be just as happy! I apply several applications of the dye mixture with a cotton bud until the rim seems to be fully colored.I take another look at the fill I found earlier at the crook of the shank/bowl union.  While I have the dye on the worktable, I apply some of the mixture on the fill to see if it would help camouflage the area. Unfortunately, it didn’t.  Next, a red Sharpie Pen is used to attempt to blend the fill in.  After touching up the fill, the Sharpie has helped somewhat but the fill is still somewhat visible.  The reality of the challenge of this seemingly small repair is that to remove fully it would require refinishing the entire stummel.  Yet, desiring to preserve the original ruby/burgundy finish so that it matches the Aldo Velani Pot also in Daniel’s Trove of 7 commissioned pipes, creates the necessity of leaving small imperfections in the original finish.  If I attempt a spot repair by sanding and then refinishing, I’m afraid the result would be to draw even more attention to it!  I’ll be satisfied at this point with the Sharpie repair.Putting the stummel aside and turning now to the clear acrylic stem, the stem has been waiting in a lemon juice soak.  Using lemon juice allowed the natural acidic hopefully to help clean the airway of staining.  The original stem airway has a burgundy coloring.  I fish the stem out of the lemon juice.  The airway continues to be darkened.  We’ll see if the lemon soak had any benefit.Using bristled and smooth pipe cleaners, I use isopropyl 99% to clean the airway.  Using smaller diameter shank brushes also helped to clear the staining from the airway.  As I work, I can see the cloudiness dissipate and more of a translucent airway emerges.  It looks much better now, and I move on!Looking now more closely at the upper and lower bit, there is tooth chatter on both and the lower also has a small tooth compression.  Using 240 sanding paper, the tooth chatter and tooth compression are easily sanded and dispatched.    After inspecting the entire stem, I can find no scratching in the acrylic stem other than the bit sanding to repair the tooth chatter. With most of the stem in pristine condition, there is no need to sand the entire stem.  I will focus the sanding with 600 grade paper on the bit and then apply 0000 grade steel wool to the entire stem.  Therefore, using 600 grade paper the bit area is wet sanded.  Following this I apply 0000 steel wool to entire stem.Transitioning now to micromesh pads, the stem is wet sanded with pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Even though it really doesn’t protect the acrylic stem from oxidation, I like applying Obsidian Oil to condition it.  The stem looks great. To shine the gold nickel shank ring, I use Tarn-X Tarnish Remover which gives the metal a new spark of life. I apply some of the Tarn-X to a cotton pad and rub it into the ring, making sure I get it into the crevasse between the two ring risers.  I also am careful to keep the cleaner off the briar which would probably leech the dye.  After applying the Tarnish Remover, I wipe/rinse the fluid off with a cotton pad wet with water.  I then buff up the ring with a cotton cloth.  It looks great – the bling factor is increased with the ring!Next, after reuniting stem and stummel, a cotton buffing wheel is mounted on the Dremel and the speed is set to about 40% full power.  I then apply Blue Diamond to the pipe avoiding the ring – this would create a black gunk that could stain the briar surface.  After applying the Blue Diamond over the entire pipe, the pipe is given a buffing with a felt cloth to remove the residual compound dust before applying the wax.The unique Aldo Velani stem stamping needs refreshing to augment the classy look of this Billiard.Using European Gold Rub ‘n Buff metallic paint, I use a pointed cotton bud to paint over the stem stamping. Once thoroughly covered, I wait only a few moments because the paint sets up very quickly.  I then use the side of the pointed cotton bud to scrape excess paint.  I then flip the bud to the clean end and wipe/buff up the remaining excess to sharpen the stamping.  The results are nice – it looks great!Next, another cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the Dremel.  Remaining at the same speed, carnauba wax is applied to the stem and stummel.  After applying the carnauba, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.I’m pleased with the results of this second of the Aldo Velani Trio pipes that Daniel commissioned.  The ruby-burgundy finish initially draws one’s attention and then the clear, glass-like acrylic stem.  Finishing the ensemble is the golden double-bumped shank ring joining stem and stummel to present this classic Billiard after-dinner pipe.  Both Aldo Velani brothers that Daniel commissioned, this Billiard and the Pot, will provide great fellowship with one’s favorite blend and adult beverage.  Daniel has the first opportunity to claim the Aldo Velani Trio Billiard in The Pipe Steward Store which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thank you for joining me!

Unleashing the Bling of an Aldo Velani Trio 51 Pot of Italy

Blog by Dal Stanton

With 4 of 7 of Daniel’s commissioned pipes completed, the pipes remaining are the last 2 Aldo Velani Trios that remained in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and what I have called a, ‘Spotted Bent Billiard’ or perhaps, dragon skin!  This pipe is a ‘specialty pipe’ where the stummel was wrapped with a carbon resin material.  The ‘skin’ almost looks like dragon hide to me. The 2 Aldo Velani Trios remaining were acquired in 2018 in what I have called the St. Louis Lot of 26 that my son, Josiah, found in an antique shop. He was impressed by the quality of pipes in the Lot and emailed me in Bulgaria with a proposition of going in together for the Lot of 26.  His part in the purchase would be his Christmas present to me – that I would choose a pipe for my own from the Lot.  My part of the purchase would be to restore the pipes to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.  It was a proposal hard to refuse and some weeks later I unwrapped the St. Louis Lot of 26 in Denver where our family had gathered for Christmas.  The original 4 Aldo Velani ‘brothers’ stand out among the St. Louis Lot of 26 below.  The upper Bent Apple and the lower Rusticated Volcano have already found homes with new stewards. The Pot and Billiard are next on the worktable.All the Aldo Velani pipes have in common the bling of nickel gold-plated shank rings and acrylic stems.  The Billiard’s stem is a clear acrylic, but the Pot shows off an eye-catching ruby/burgundy stem complementing the characteristic red burgundy Aldo Velani stummel.  With the Pot first in line, some pictures provide a closer look.  The nomenclature on the left shank side is cursive script, ‘Aldo Velani’ [over] ‘TRIO’.  On the shank underside, the COM, ‘ITALY’ is followed by the shape number ‘51’.   The Aldo Velani stem stamp is interesting and in the previous research discovered what it was.  I found in Pipedia’s Aldo Velani article, an example and details of the stamping on an original Aldo Velani box (courtesy of Doug Valitchka).  The stamp depicts a pipe as the front leg of the ‘A’ for Aldo and the back leg of the ‘A’ forms the front riser of the ‘V’ of Velani. As a good refresher, I repeat the previous research here:  The article cited from Pipedia provides helpful information understanding the provenance of the Aldo Velani name:

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

Another Barontini 2nd is named “Cesare”.

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

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

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

 Pipephil’s site has several examples of the Aldo Velani line depicted which tend to be very stylish and nice-looking pipes which confirms the Pipedia assertion that Casare Brontini produced the Aldo Velani lines primarily for export.  It is evident that there was not a consistency in the stem stamping or name style for Aldo Velani as different examples are given.  Here are the stem stamping variations provided by Pipephil:Looking now to the condition of the Aldo Velani Trio Pot, the chamber has some cake build up as well as a crusted layer of lava flow over the broad Pot rim.  Taking a close look, I can see fissures on the back side of the chamber wall.  This could be an indication of burning problems with the Pot.  He’s been well used and when I ream the chamber, I’ll be able to see if the fissures are only the cake or if it goes deeper into the chamber wall briar – not something I’m hoping for!The ruby/burgundy stummel is sharp but covered with grunge.  The challenge in restoring these two Aldo Velani Trio brothers together, first the Pot then the Billiard, is to maintain the consistency of hue.  The ruby/burgundy is a unique, eye catching hue that sets the entire line apart in a classy way.  They strike me as ‘after dinner pipes’ when the pipe is packed with one’s favorite blend and the glass is poured with one’s favorite adult beverage!  It is possible that during cleaning and possible repairs to the stummel that the hue can change a bit or a lot.  With the previous Aldo Velani Apple, all the stummel needed was a cleaning.  I’m hopeful of the same for the most part with the Pot and Billiard.  A few pictures show some closer looks at the surface’s need of cleaning. The ruby red acrylic stem has amazing ‘fire’ and presents a spectrum of colors which will be beautiful when the stem is cleaned.  The chatter on the bit is more severe on the lower side with a characteristic, singular tooth compression which is consistent with all the Aldo Velani pipes I’ve worked on.  This indicates a common steward of all. To begin with the cleanup of this Aldo Velani Trio Pot, the Pipnet Reaming Kit is employed to begin the process of clearing the chamber of the cake build up which hopefully reveals a healthy chamber. I take a few more pictures to mark the starting point. Working on a piece of paper towel to help cleanup, starting first with the smallest blade head and moving toward the larger from the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I use 3 of the 4 blade heads available.  Next, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool is employed to scrape the walls.  This is followed by sanding the chamber with 240 sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, a cotton pad wetted with alcohol is used to wipe the chamber to clean the carbon dust residue.   An inspection of the chamber shows some chamber damage from heating where fissures have developed.  The thickness of the carbon cake buildup was deeper toward the backside of the chamber where the damage is located.  It’s important to remove all the charred wood and in doing this, the contour of the chamber is wider or ‘bowed out’ where more char was removed toward the shank-side.Another result of this damage is shown in the next picture.  The shank-side of the rim is thinner just a bit and this has created a flatness on the back of the rim lip.  The result is that the chamber mouth is out of round.  This can be seen in the next picture with a downward perspective.  As I continue to clean the rim and stummel, it will give me time to consider how to approach the chamber repair.Next, I work on scraping the lava caked on the rim.  Both a Winchester pocketknife and the Savinelli Fitsall tool are used to gently scrape the buildup off the rim. I don’t scrape too much to risk scratching or gouging the briar.  Next, I transition to cleaning the rim and stummel using undiluted Murphy’s Oil.  A cotton pad is used to scrub the stummel and a brass wire brush is used to help break up the remaining lava clinging to the rim.Transitioning from the worktable, the next stop is to the sink to continue the cleaning.  Using shank brushes and anti-oil dish washing soap, the mortise is scrubbed with warm water.  The stummel is then rinsed thoroughly with warm tap water.  Back on the worktable, I take another picture.The stummel cleaned up well.  The rim reveals places where the finish has thinned and is absent.  This picture also continues to show the issue of the ‘out-of-round’ chamber.  The challenge in restoring the rim will be to continue to clean the rim and to match the burgundy color of the rim after the repairs are done.While I think about this approach, I continue to fine tune the internal cleaning by using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 99%.  After several buds and pipe cleaners they start emerging lighter.  I move on!With the stummel cleaned, I decide to address the rim issues before going on to the stem work.  I take a fresh picture of the rim to shape out the issues.  First, the reaming of the chamber revealed some heating problems resulting in some smaller fissures on the shank-side of the chamber.  The picture below is facing toward the back or shank-side of the chamber.  You can see the heating cracks.  They are not serious enough to take extraordinary measures to repair – using a product like J-B Weld, a heat resistant epoxy which I’ve used with success with past projects.  To address these heating veins, later I will apply ‘pipe mud’ to the chamber which is made of water and cigar ash.  This mixture will provide a protective layer to help enhance the natural development of a protective carbon cake of about a dime’s width.   The following picture also shows, though not easy to see, the chamber bowing toward the shank because of the charred briar removed.  The rim is also out of shape above this – flattened, throwing the entire rim out of round.  The second picture shows this as well.My plan is to sand the upper chamber on the shank-side (right side below) and transition the sanding up toward the rim.  My goal is to ease the chamber bowing and ‘re-round’ the chamber mouth.  I’m considering after the sanding, creating a sharp, internal rim bevel which should help the rounding and appearance.The next issue is the rim itself – the finish is shot and needs help.  I’ll start by lightly sanding the rim with micromesh pads to see if this cleans things while retaining a measure of the hue. I’ll seek to match the hue with bottle dyes or dye sticks.Starting on the chamber sanding, I use 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  This not only gives me some leverage but helps with the rounded shaping needed on the flattened portion of the rim. After sanding with the 240 Sharpie, trying to regain as much rounding as possible, I use a round hard backing behind 240 paper to cut a bevel.  I hope to gain more rounding doing this.  The picture below shows the result of this approach.  There is a sacrifice of the narrowing of the shank-side rim surface as the sanding and rounding is achieved to some degree.  There is no perfection, but I like the progress made.Next, I sand the rim top, or almost a plateau, to clean and smooth the surface instead of a full topping of the stummel.I follow by applying the full regimen of micromesh pads to smooth the rim – pads 1500 to 12000.The next challenge is to color the rim to match, as closely as possible, the ruby/burgundy stummel finish. The closest color that I have to matching the stummel, after testing several candidates on a cotton pad, is Oxblood.  Yet, I’m concerned that Oxblood hue by itself might not be dark or deep enough.  I decide to use Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye as the base, but I add a drop of Black Leather Dye to deepen the hue a few degrees.  I use a shot glass to mix the dyes.  I use a large eye dropper to draw out a small portion of the Oxblood and place it in the shot glass.  After cleaning the dropper with alcohol, I then draw some Black Dye and allow one drop to join the Oxblood. I use a cotton bud to place some of the mixture on a cotton pad and compare.  Well, this isn’t rocket science and it looks good to me.I then use a cotton bud to apply the dye mixture carefully to the rim.  The next picture shows the result.  It looks good, but I decide to add another drop of Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye to the mixture and give the rim another application.This mixture was hitting the bull’s eye a bit more it seemed to me.  As I apply the dye with the cotton bud, I’m careful to apply dye to the small inner rim lip bevel but not to drift into the chamber.  After applying a few coats of dye, I put the stummel aside to allow the dye to settle.  I also save the mixture in case it’s needed for the next pipe on my table, the Aldo Velani Trio Billiard.  In this way I’ll have consistency of color between the brothers!With the stummel now in the wings, I turn to the acrylic stem and use pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 99% to clean the airway.  It does not take a lot of effort and I move on.The stem is dirty, but the main issues are the tooth chatter and a singular tooth depression that has been consistent with all the Aldo Velani Pipes that came from the St. Louis Lot.  The steward who had these pipes was consistent in his clenching habits!    The button has also experienced some clenching and will need to be addressed. I begin with the lower bit looking at the lone tooth compression, most likely from the steward’s eyetooth.  Before sanding, I use regular clear CA glue to fill the compression. I first clean the bit with alcohol and then, using a toothpick, I spot-drop CA glue in the compression.  I also apply some CA on a compression on the button lip.  I set the stem aside for the CA patches to cure.After a time, the patches are cured and using a flat needle file, the patches are filed down to the acrylic surface.  I also refresh the button lips with the file. Next, I continue to sand with 240 paper on first, the lower side then the upper bit.  The patch looks good.On the upper side, along with sanding out the tooth chatter with 240, the button lip is refreshed with the flat needle file.Next, using 600 grade paper, the entire stem is wet sanded.  This is followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool. Moving next to applying the full regimen of micromesh pads, the stem first is wet sanded with pads 1500 to 2400.  After this, the stem is dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of thee pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the acrylic stem.  The stem’s swirls emerged nicely during the process.  Before rejoining the stem and Pot stummel, I refresh the nickel gold shank ring.  This ring is one of the aspects of the Aldo Velani Trio line that augments the ‘bling factor’.  I use a product called Tarn-X Tarnish Remover that works well with several metals to remove the tarnish and increase the shine.I take a closeup to provide a comparison of before and after application.  Using a cotton pad, I carefully apply some of the Tarn-X to the ring and rub in it in well avoiding the briar.  Per the directions, I then immediately use another cotton pad wetted with water to rinse off the remover.I buff up the ring with a cotton cloth and the bling factor has increased!After reuniting the acrylic stem and Pot stummel, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the extender arm of the rotary tool.  With speed set at about 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stem and stummel.  In the picture below you can see that the rim is still dull from the dye that was applied earlier after having plenty of time to settle.  I start with the rim and remove the excess and continue with the rest of the stummel and stem with the mildly abrasive Blue Diamond.After applying the Blue Diamond, I use a felt cloth to wipe and buff the stummel and stem to remove compound dust.  I do this before applying wax.  The compound is an abrasive and is the final sanding phase in a restoration to sand out fine blemishes and scratches.  It leaves abrasive particles behind which would not be good to mix with a carnauba wax application – which is not an abrasive.

There is still one more cosmetic project before applying wax.  I use European Gold Run ‘n Buff to refresh the Aldo Velani stem stamp.  The gold of the metallic paint will match nicely the gold shank ring.I place a small amount of the Rub ‘n Buff on the end of a toothpick and rub it over the stamp imprint.  After making sure that the paint has found all the crevasses of the lettering, I first lightly scrape the excess paint over the stamping with the flat edge of the toothpick then rub the area with a cotton pad.  The results are great!Next, after mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel, set at 40% full power, I apply carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  Little wax is needed on the highly glossed surface of both the bowl and the acrylic stem.  After applying the wax over the entire pipe, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.  This not only raises the shine but removes excess wax from the surface.After completing the application of wax, one mini project remains.  Earlier during the chamber repair of the heating issues, I decided I would apply ‘pipe mud’ to the chamber walls to provide a starter for a protective cake.  In the picture below, not only am I giving a close up of the now beautiful rim, but also visible are remnants of cracks in the chamber wall.  Earlier sanding almost erased the cracking.  I decide to do a mini tutorial on making pipe mud to conclude the restoration of this Aldo Velani Trio Pot.Pipe mud consists of cigar ash and water.  If you have cigar smoking friends, ask them to save the ash of the cigars they enjoy!  Often, cigars will come in heavy duty plastic tubes or flutes, with caps.  They can use these tubes to store the ash.  When I collect cigar ash, seldom is it ‘clean’.  Often it as chunks of debris left that isn’t great for making pipe mud.  I have my ash in a ‘throw-away’ salt grinder that you can buy at the supermarket with salt in it.  When the salt is used, the grinder works well with grinding up cigar ash!I also have a strainer that I use to catch big stuff that comes through the grinder.  Placing the grinder on a paper plate I grind the ash into the strainer.  When I have enough ash ground, I then sift the ash onto the paper plate.  The picture below shows the ‘big stuff’ caught in the strainer and the finer ‘gold’ on the paper plate.The paper plate is helpful because it then becomes a funnel by bending the plate.  Then with the plate folded and functioning as a funnel or a chute, I transfer the ash to the mixing glass.Using a large eye dropper, I then add a small amount of water into the ash and stir it with a pipe nail tool.  CAUTION!  Go slowly on the water.  If too much water is added, then the resulting concoction will be more like an ash slurry rather than a mud that will hold its shape and adhere to the chamber wall.  If too much water is added, then more ash must be added to again thicken the consistency.The mud below is looking good.  It’s holding its shape as I press it against the glass.I place a pipe cleaner through the draft hole to guard against blockage.  Then, using the pipe nail, mud is troweled into the chamber and spread over the wall.  I start at the floor of the chamber and work my way up to the rim.  The flat side of the nail is good to use as a trowel and the round side is good to spread.  The picture below shows the finished job. When the mud dries, it hardens.  During the curing time, I place the pipe with the bowl down so that leaching water won’t settle in the bottom of the chamber but spread out toward the mouth of the chamber.  It seems to dry better this way.  The hour is late, so I’ll let the pipe mud cure through the night.  The next morning in Golden, Colorado, I’m up with coffee in hand.  The pipe mud has cured, the protective layer is in place and this pipe is ready to go.  I give it one more hand buffing with a microfiber cloth for good measure.This is the 5th of the pipes that Daniel has commissioned – the first of the Aldo Velani Trio brothers.  This Aldo Velani Trio Pot had some chamber and rim issues that had to be addressed and I think the results are great.  The style of this Pot stummel brings attention to the broad Pot rim – could almost be described as a plateau.  The characteristic that predominates on the Trio line though, is the ruby red/burgundy finish.  It catches the eye very quickly.  The gold shank ring dials up the bling factor as it transitions from the bowl to the kaleidoscopic acrylic stem alive with all shades of reds, ruby, burgundy and colors that I don’t have a name for!  This pipe, packed with one’s favorite blend, is an after-dinner player which looks good next to a glass of one’s favorite adult beverage – for me, a single malt.  Daniel will have the first opportunity to claim this pipe in The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!


Recommissioning an Interesting Belgian Hilson Fantasia Block Meerschaum Lined Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

Thanksgiving travels are now completed with us visiting kids and grandchildren in St. Louis and Nashville and I’m now back at the worktable in Golden, looking at an interesting pipe.  Daniel was bold to commission 7 pipes from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and with 3 completed, the fourth is now on the table, a Meer lined Hilson Fantasia.  I acquired it along with another commission of Daniel, the Paul Viou Plume (See: Discovering the Vintage of a Paul Viou ‘Feather’ with the Help of Sebastien Beaud of Genod Pipes of St. Claude) from a Lot I acquired from an eBay seller in Paris.  The pictures show the French Lot of 50 and the Hilson marked by the arrow in the picture below.The Hilson is next on the worktable and I take some pictures to get a closer look. The Hilson name is not found on the shank, but the stem.  On the right shank flank is imbedded, BLOCK [over] MEERSCHAUMLINED.  To the right is the shape number, ‘7’. The stem’s left side is stamped a half ghosted, HILSON [over] FANTASIA.  This is my first opportunity to work on a pipe with the Hilson mark and my first impression of it drew mixed reviews – what is the material this is made of?  I discover in a quick look to Pipedia’s article that this name finds its origins in Belgium but after financial difficulties was acquired in the early 1980s by the Dutch consortium, Elbert Gubbels & Zonen B.V., which later acquired the Big Ben name from England and started the Royal Dutch Pipe brand.  I think the best short description of the Hilson name I initially found in Pipephil.eu but later discovered it originally came from Estervals Pipe House website:

 In 1846 a German named Jean Knödgen started the production of clay pipes in Belgium. At the end of the 19th century Jean Hillen (married into the Knödgen family) took over the company and developed the idea of also producing briar wooden tobacco pipes in his factory. He had some suppliers from the French Jura district turn some bowls which he then finished himself. Some time later he took up the complete production process of briar wooden tobacco pipes so he did not have to depend on others.

Jean Hillen had 2 sons: Jos Hillen who was responsible for sales and Albert Hillen who was responsible for the production of pipes. Albert was also an interpreter in the English army during WWII and he succeeded in establishing many international contacts. Thus they were soon able to export the first pipes manufactured in Belgium to countries all over the world with the brand name HILSON (Hillen and sons).

In 1980 the Hillen Pipe factory from the Belgium-Limburg town of Bree was purchased by the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory where the production of Hilson pipes was continued, carefully observing the traditional craftsmanship.

The link to the Estervals Pipe House website I found in a rebornpipes posting in which Steve’s research and summary of the Hilson name provides a great overview of the Fantasia.  The title of this rebornpipes.com writeup resonates with my first impressions and sets the table for a great summary:  Is it really a plastic smoking pipe? What is a Hilson Fantasia?

From my research on the web I found that the Hilson Fantasia, made in Belgium originally came out as a meerschaum lined pipe with an outer bowl made of a new material that they called pipenite. In 1962 it came out in what they called ivory white and in a colour they called tortoise. In 1963 they seemed to have added the option of a black pipenite bowl. From what I can find out about the material they call pipenite, it was a specially designed polyester resin. It was light weight and fairly indestructible. The block meerschaum insert was something that Hilson turned into a specialty. (I have restored some beautiful briar pipe with the Double Ecume or meerschaum liners as well.) These colourful resin pipes look like a product of the 60’s and in my research on Chris’ Pipe pages, http://pipepages.com/hilson.htm I found them in catalogues from that era. The swirled materials of the bowl gave the pipe a 60’s psychedelic look. I have included a catalogue page from a 1962 Wally Frank Catalogue that was on the pipepages site. The write up on the Hilson Fantasia is entertaining to read in terms of the sales pitch that is delivered.

Unfortunately, Chris’ Pipe Pages that Steve references above is now defunct, but the Pipedia Hilson article has the early 60’s Fantasia add Steve references which follows containing the great pipe pitch as the ‘Most Beautiful Pipe in the World’!  Who could resist having a Fantasia in one’s collection!When I first took a close look at the Hilson Fantasia chosen by Daniel, I wondered what the butterscotch colored material was – plastic?  Steve’s research revealed that the ‘pipenite’ described in the Wally Frank add is a specially designed polyester resin which is practically indestructible.  The other noteworthy characteristic Steve referenced from the add is the quality Meerschaum block used in the Fantasia line.  The add also makes a point regarding the long, smoking condenser which was Hilson’s contribution to the pipe world’s ‘holy grail’ – the dryer, cooler smoking experience. The lower inset box in the add above shows the #7 as among a large offering of shapes by Hilson equipped with the condenser.

With a better understanding of the history of the Hilson Fantasia on my worktable, I look closer at its condition.  The Block Meerschaum chamber and rim are covered with a thick cake buildup with the lava over the rim.  This needs cleaning to give the Meerschaum a fresh start.   I’ve lightened the picture to enable the black surface to be visible.The stem has deep oxidation, and the bit has heavy tooth chatter on both upper and lower bit.  The ‘Pipnite’ surface is dirty and should clean up well without problem.  The only question I have is what first appeared as a crack in the polyster acrylic resin bowl but is most likely a scratch.  The question is, how best to address this, if at all?  The glassy surface probably does not respond well to sanding or if I did sand the surface or buff with a compound to erase the scratch, will the scratching of the abrasives (papers, pads or compound) be able to be removed?  Or will sanding inevitably leave the highly glossed surface dulled? If this is the case, then any attempt to sand out the scratch will leave the repair area standing out from the rest of the Pipenite surface.  My guess now is that it is an ‘all or nothing’ proposition – either sand/buff the whole stummel or not at all.  With the question of the approach to the stummel a question, I decide to send a note to Steve to get his feedback on the behavior of Pipenite if sanded?  While waiting for Steve’s response, I press on.

The cleaning of this Hilson stem began while I was still in Bulgaria and these pictures record the cleaning of the stem.  Starting with 0000 grade steel wool, I rub and buff the long, heralded Hilson condenser. It spruces up the nickel condenser nicely.Following this, only a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% clean the internal stem airway.Next, a ‘Soft Scrub’ product gets a head start breaking up the oxidation imbedded in the stem surface before continuing the cleaning by giving the stem a Before & After Deoxidizer soak.  While protecting the Hilson stem stamp, using 0000 grade steel wool wetted with the CIF, the oxidation is mitigated. To further the cleaning of the stem, it joins other stems in the queue in a Before & After Deoxidizer soak.  The stem soaks for several hours.After the soak is completed, the stem is fished out of the Deoxidizer allowing the fluid to drain off.  A cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% is then used to wipe away the excess Deoxidizer from the stem surface.  This is followed by using a few pipe cleaners, also wetted with isopropyl 95% to clear the Deoxidizer from the internal airway.The stem’s rejuvenation is commenced using paraffin oil and a cotton pad.  The stem looks good.Earlier I sent a note to Steve to get his input on how best to approach the Pipenite surface scratch and the kind of material Pipenite is?  His response was helpful in describing the universal lack of consensus on what ‘Pipenite’ is!  Here’s Steve’s first response:

Hey Dal

The material on the Fantasia is described as everything from Bakelite to epoxy resin in a multitude of places. Others have called it plastic resin. some even fiber glass. To me nothing fits better than the resin concept… not sure about epoxy but everything about it is resin. It is not bakelite for sure…

Sanding the pipenite or resin leaves scratches that are nearly impossible to remove. I polished out a lot of scratches with my buffer and blue diamond polish and succeeded in not losing the lustre. Personally, I would buff it out best you can and leave it alone… war wounds from its travels.


To refresh my understanding of the unique composition of resin, I turn to a helpful Wikipedia article:

In polymer chemistry and materials science, resin is a solid or highly viscous  substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers.[1] Resins are usually mixtures of organic compounds. This article focuses on naturally occurring resins.

Plants secrete resins for their protective benefits in response to injury. The resin protects the plant from insects and pathogens.[2] Resins confound a wide range of herbivores, insects, and pathogens, the volatile phenolic compounds may attract benefactors such as parasitoids or predators of the herbivores that attack the plant.[3]

Steve followed with another email with links from sites like Pinterest, Etsy, and Worthpoint, which are sales platforms with examples of different Hilson Fantasia offerings and the varied descriptions of the pipes running the gambit as Steve described above. I enjoyed looking at the Hilson Fantasias for sale on these sites which were of the ‘tortoise shell’ variety – nice.  The collage below shows these examples.These examples reminded me of another Hilson Fantasia in my Pipe Steward inventory that also is a tortoise shell but has a significant crack in the stummel, so it never made it to the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!  online offerings – I just didn’t know what it was – or whether it was worth the effort being a ‘plastic’ pipe?  I might give this Hilson another look!The tortoise shell is attractive, but the description by Steve that Pipenite is ‘practically indestructible’ found an example expanding ‘practically’!  I still believe that Daniel’s Hilson Fantasia is marred by a scratch in the polyester resin shell, even if it is a trauma crack, perhaps from being dropped (?), it doesn’t appear to be such to question the pipe’s integrity with the Pipenet resin material.  Turning now to the Hilson Block Meerschaum stummel, I start with clearing the Block Meerschaum chamber of the accumulation of carbon cake.  As a reminder, Meerschaum does not need a protective layer as with briar pipes.  It is best to keep the Meerschaum totally clean of buildup.  In my own Meerschaums, after each use my practice is to gently scrape the chamber with a folded bristled pipe cleaner.  This cleans the surface nicely keeping the Meerschaum in good shape.  To allow a cake buildup can cause the Meerschaum to crack in time.  Carbon cake expands differently from Meerschaum when heated and this can cause stressing on the Meerschaum.  I take a couple pictures to mark the start of the cleaning process.The aft section of the rim reveals the lighting practices of the former steward – drawing the flame over the back.  The crusted lava cake has totally covered the Meer rim lining and the Pipenet portion, too.  Cleaning is needed to show what’s beneath.With Meerschaum, using my usual Pipnet Reaming Kit with the blade heads is not good.  The torque created by this reaming approach can crack the Meer.  Instead, using the slow, patient, less intrusive approach, the chamber wall is gently scraped using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool.The Fitsall Tool also does well to begin clearing the rim of lava flow.  The approach is gentle!  I then transfer to the sharper edge of the Winchester pocketknife.  With the knife, the approach is more to ‘pull’ the blade carefully over the surface rather than to push the blade.  I’m careful not to gouge the softer Meerschaum.    With the rim scraping looking good, I transition to sanding the chamber by wrapping 240 grade sanding paper around a Sharpie Pen.  I then continue the sanding on the rim using a small piece of 240 paper.  I sand the rim gently and remove the lava and clean the rim nicely.     To complete the main cleaning of the Meerschaum lining and finish, I wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%.  In Bulgaria, I was able to find isopropyl at 95% purity.  Now in the US, I was able to find 99% which is about a pure as one can get.  Switching now to the external ‘Pipenite’ surface, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used to scrub with a cotton pad.  The surface, as expected, cleans up very nicely.  To guard the Meerschaum lining, instead of rinsing under a tap, I wet a cotton cloth and wipe the bowl to rinse off the soap. Next, the internal mortise is cleaned using several cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 99% and one pipe cleaner.  After a time, the buds emerge lighter and it’s’ time to move on.  Cleaning completed.The stem now awaits attention.  The stem cleaned up nicely from the thick oxidation.  Even though the HILSON FANTASIA stem stamping was protected during the process, it appears even more ghosted now.  I’ll continue to protect this remnant by covering the stamping with painters’ tape during the next stages of sanding.Both the upper and lower bit have minor tooth chatter remaining along with a bite compression.  I’ll begin to minimize the damage by the heating method.  Vulcanite, a rubber compound, is an amazing material.  Using a Bic lighter to paint flames on the bit, the heating causes the expanding of the vulcanite allowing it to regain much of its original composition.  After several ‘flaming’ cycles, a few more on the lower bit, the comparison of before and after shows a distinct improvement with upper and lower.  Using a piece of 240 sanding paper, I sand the residual tooth chatter which is dispatched without difficulty.  I also refresh the button with a flat needle file and sand it with 240.  From the 240 paper and file working on the bit and after placing tape over the stem stamping, the sanding is furthered first by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper.  The 600 paper is followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool.  Next, the full regimen of micromesh pads is applied to the stem.  Starting with pads 1500 to 2400 the stem is wet sanded.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied which rejuvenates the stem and helps to prevent future oxidation. The pop in a freshly micromeshed stem is nice!   After the micromesh cycles are completed, the Hilson Fantasia stem and stummel are reunited to get a look at the progress. I discover that the union of tenon and mortise reveal a bit too much tightness.  I know that the Pipenite is tough, but I don’t want to test it and inadvertently crack the shake trying to force the tenon in the mortise.  To reduce the mortise pressure, 0000 steel wool is first used to see if this will clean the tenon allowing a seating.  While pinching the tenon with the steel wool, I then rotate the stem to create the abrasion.  After using the steel wool, the fit is tried again, and it remains too tight.Next, 240 is employed in the same way to reduce the pressure by sanding the tenon.  This does the trick.  The mortise now receives the tenon snugly.   I finish the tenon smoothing with 600 paper and 0000 steel wool and reunite the Hilson stem and stummel.Next, after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool, the speed is set to about 40% full power and Blue Diamond compound is applied to stem and stummel.  I start with the Pipenite stummel with a bit of fear and trembling.  Steve had used the compound on his Fantasia projects but the anxiety stewing in my mind was, will the Blue Diamond buff up the glossy surface or will it apply fine scratchings that become impossible to remove?  I gingerly start applying the compound with the Dremel’s cotton cloth buffing wheel and to my joy, the surface is responding very nicely to the fine tune buffing of the Blue Diamond.  I continue with the stummel then the stem.  I like the results. The gloss of the Pipenite is enhanced with additional glow and the removal of fine marks and scratches on the resin surface.Before applying wax to the pipe, I spruce up the BLOCK MEERSCHAUMLINED stamping on the right shank side with Rub ‘n Buff European Gold metallic paint.  The gold and the butterscotch hue of the stummel will go well.As the name implies, after rubbing some of the metallic paint with a toothpick over the lettering and number, I simply rub it off with the flat edge of a toothpick then a cotton pad.  The result is good.  The ghosting of the stem stamping leaves me with no hope of freshening it with white acrylic paint, so it remains as it is – bearing the wear of its service.After wiping the entire pipe with a felt cloth to remove residue compound dust, another cotton cloth wheel is mounted with the speed remaining the same.  Carnauba wax is applied to the entire pipe followed by a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further.

This Hilson Fantasia Block Meerschaum Lined has transformed amazingly from being an interesting gimmick pipe to becoming an extremely attractive alternative pipe to briar.  The butterscotch hue of the bowl pops in relationship to quality Block Meerschaum lining. The added benefit is the ability of the Meerschaum to be used repeatedly without rest, unlike briars.  This makes for much fellowship!  The timeless classic lines of a Billiard make this Hilson Fantasia a great addition to a collection and possibly to add to one’s regular rotation.  Daniel commissioned this pipe and will have the first opportunity to claim it from The Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!