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A New Solution to an Old Problem


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Welcome to my first meerschaum restoration! In fact, it is not just a meerschaum pipe, but it is also a Peterson pipe. This came out of lot of pipes from eBay some months ago, but it took me a while to get to it – I was a bit daunted. Even though it looked rough to start, it ended up as a very handsome pipe. Please read on… This is a rusticated, African block meerschaum, made on the Isle of Man. The stem has a push-style tenon. Like many of the meerschaum pipes of this era, this one has a factory-stained rim – to give it that sort of ‘broken in’ look. How do I know it is a Peterson? Because it has the distinctive, stylized ‘P’ on the left side of the stem, near the shank. Similar to other pipes that Steve has restored, this one seems likely to have been produced by Laxey Pipes Ltd. on the Isle of Man for Peterson Pipes. Here is the Pipedia article about them (I hasten to add that the various errors below are in the original text and are not mine):

Laxey Pipes Ltd. resided in a historical 19th century four-storey Man stone building at The Quay, Old Laxey, Isle of Man, which thankfully has been preserved.

The company specialised in the production of meerschaum pipes using the Meerschaum mined by the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation in the Amboseli basin in Tanganyika (since 1964 part of the United Republic of Tanzania). 

Please note: you may often find names like “Manx Pipes Ltd.”, “Man Pipe Co.” and others more, but there is no indication of another Isle of Man pipe producer other than Laxey Pipe Ltd. at any time! 

Laxey Pipes Ltd. marketed own brands like “Manxpipe”, “Manxman”, “Manxland” e.c. Names like “John Bull”, “White Knight” (unwaxed), “Domino” (black, or lined) indicated some shapes / colours of Laxey’s own series. The stems either showed the astronomical sign for “male” or “man” (circle + arrow), or the crest of the Isle of Man, the 3-legged X in a circle. Manxpipes and Laxey’s other brands were available through pipe retailers in general, but also were sold (mainly) to tourists through their own shop in Laxey. 

Furthermore Laxey Pipes Ltd. manufactured the meer bowls for Peterson, Barling, Nørding and others from the later 1960’s until 2001. Man Pipe e.g. was a brand distibuted by Comoy’s. The bowls usually showed no nomenclature indicating the orderer. “Genuine Block Meerschaum” was engraved frequently. Often, just the stems were different, while bowls were the same.

Supply of meerschaum from East Africa run out (Kenya / Tanzania exhausted, Somalia inaccessible), and thus the last Laxey meers were supplied to trade in May, 2001. Laxey Pipes Ltd. tried to survive continuing with briar pipes – mainly in the Danish style -, but to no success. It closed down business in July, 2002.

Anyway, on to the pipe – and what a mess it was. The stummel had the following problems: a nasty ghost, filth embedded in the rustication, a creepy and unnatural yellow tinge to the meerschaum, lots of lava on the rim, lots of cake in the bowl, and – worst of all – chunks missing from the rim. Meanwhile, the stem had its own set of problems: the ‘P’ logo was nearly obliterated, heavy oxidation and calcification, and tooth marks and dents. In fact, even my wife commented that this pipe might be the proverbial ‘bridge too far’ – but, like the stereotypical, stubborn husband, I was not to be deterred! I decided to start on them stem, as I still was not sure how to resolve the chunks missing from the rim. I broke out the isopropyl alcohol and pipe cleaners, and got to work on the inside of the stem. Predictably, it was pretty dirty and I went through a good number of pipe cleaners in order to clean it up. Then I had to tackle the overwhelming oxidation and calcification – yuck. I took a blade (an old butter knife, actually) and began gently scraping at all that build-up. Obviously, I took it easy, as I did not want to damage the stem’s vulcanite any further. The butter knife worked quite well and I got a good amount loose. I followed that up with some lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol on some cotton rounds to try and scrub the rest away. This worked quite well and I noted some improvement. There were quite a few dents in the stem. Some were obviously tooth marks, but other dents looked like blunt force trauma! Time to break out the BIC lighter to see if it could raise some of these dents. Quite frankly, it did not do much – this repair was going to require some considerable sanding etc. Before that, however, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. The following day, I cleaned all of the de-oxidizing sludge off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly straightforward to remove. I scrubbed vigorously with SoftScrub to remove the leftover oxidation.Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I built up the dent damage on the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let it fully cure. It turned out that this was not as straightforward as I had hoped. It took more than one application of adhesive to sort this problem out. I then sanded it down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to make the stem look normal. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing.

The stummel was next, and the usual cleaning procedures were in order for this pipe. I used both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem to remove the built-up cake and followed that with 220-grit sandpaper to remove as much as I could. The meerschaum cannot take the usual de-ghosting process of soaking cotton balls in isopropyl alcohol, so sanding was a way to reduce the old ghost in the pipe. I also wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the interior walls of the meerschaum. Fortunately, there were none. Truth be told, I actually also tried to use a bit of ground coffee in the bowl to remove the ghost, but that was not very successful.I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. There was quite a bit of nastiness inside this stummel – it took a lot of pipe cleaners etc. to sort that out. I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and some cotton pads. That worked very well at removing any latent dirt and that weird yellow tinge that I mentioned earlier. I followed that up by quickly cleaning the insides with some dish soap and tube brushes. The meerschaum cannot be left wet for long – it will turn to mush otherwise. Before & After Restoration Balm does not make the same kind of difference on meerschaum as it does on briar, but it still works – so light coating was applied, followed by my horsehair shoe-brush. On to the inevitable repairs: this is where the nightmares begin. Honestly, it was not immediately clear to me how I was going to make the stummel look decent. Sure, I had cleaned it, etc., but what about the obvious chunks missing from the side? I considered sanding it all down, but I feared this would alter the shape of the pipe beyond reason and repair. I figured that, at very least, this pipe needed to be topped. That is to say, the rim had to be inverted and sanded down on a piece of 220-grit sandpaper. By doing this, it would remove some of the lighter damage altogether and would improve the state of the heavier damage. But the old problem remained: how was I going to repair the chunks of missing meerschaum on this pipe?I then realized that the solution was as obvious as the nose on my face: I would take a piece of meerschaum from another pipe and fashion a repair. I grabbed one of my sacrificial meerschaum pipes (a dreadfully ugly horse’s head) and used a pair of end-cutting nippers to break off a couple of pieces. Having done that, I used cyanoacrylate adhesive to fix them in place on the stummel. I was feeling pretty good about this solution, but knew that there was still a long row to hoe. Obviously, I needed to sand down and shape the new pieces of meerschaum, but I also needed to make the rim as rusticated as the rest of the stummel. Enter the Dremel (with accompanying angelic voices). Yes, I first used a sanding drum on the Dremel to remove excess material from the repair (but not too much), then I used a high-speed engraving cutter to rough up the surface of both the rim and the repair. So far, so good. The engraving cutter had worked – to a point – but it had not really resulted in the sort of rustication I was looking for. My solution came from the Dremel again, but only indirectly. Steve reminded me of his trick of using an old Philips-head screwdriver as a rustication device (you can read about that here). Whereas Steve used Dremel grinding stones to make his rustication device, I used a metal cutting disc on the Dremel. As you can see, my screwdriver came out looking quite good and the stummel came out looking even better. I was definitely pleased with the roughened surface of the stummel, but I next needed to address the lack of colour. This, of course, was a direct result of my topping of the rim – it removed the patina. The solution must have come to me in the mid-afternoon: tea. Yes, I used black tea to provide a beautiful stain to the meerschaum that gave it a really good look. I went and added some more Before & After Restoration Balm and, once again, used my horsehair shoe-brush to work it in.Meerschaum does not really do well on a high-speed buffer, so I used a microfibre cloth to achieve the same effect. I did, however, take the stem to the buffer, where I applied White Diamond and some wax to give it that lovely shine.

In the end, what a beauty this pipe is! It is back to its old glory and ready to be enjoyed again by the next owner. I am pleased to announce that this pipe is for sale! If you are interested in acquiring it for your collection, please have a look in the ‘Irish’ pipe section of the store here on Steve’s website. You can also email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. The approximate dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 154 mm; height 47 mm; bowl diameter 34 mm; chamber diameter 20 mm. The mass of the pipe is 40 grams. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

How about a Danish for Breakfast?


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

This spectacular pipe came in a lot of freehand pipes that I bought recently. It seemed to me that I needed to restore a Danish freehand pipe in order to earn my pipe-restoring stripes, so-to-speak. The pipe is absolutely beautiful and a superb example of Danish pipe-making craftsmanship. But right at the start, I want to apologize for the dearth of photographs in this post. I guess I was so delighted at the prospect of working on this pipe that I occasionally forgot to capture the moment on camera.The pipe is a Danish freehand pipe by the esteemed pipemaker, Bjørn Thurmann. The gorgeous briar wood transitions seamlessly into the horn ferrule. It really makes an impression. I am not able to date the pipe, as the photo shows all of the markings to be seen. Thurmann passed away a few years ago, but his company, Thurmann Piber, is still well known in Copenhagen for the fine quality of his work. The reference book, Scandinavian Pipemakers by Jan Andersson, provides us with a nice overview of his background and work. I will quote a bit of it here:

Bjørn Thurmann was born in 1946 – some would say, born into the tobacco trade. In 1953, his parents opened a pipe shop in central Copenhagen and Bjørn helped them there from the beginning, mainly by sorting pipes. Initially, the pipes were bought from a firm called Larsen & Stigart, but eventually they decided to start their own production.

Bjørn’s parents thought that their son ought to widen his views and get some international experience, so, in 1968, he was sent to London to work in different tobacconists shops, a period of learning that ended at Dunhill’s famous shop on Duke Street. After returning home, he almost immediately received an offer to work for Iwan Ries & Co. in Chicago, an offer that was hard to resist, so off he went.

In 1976, Bjørn established himself as an independent pipemaker, and since then he has had shops in several places in Copenhagen. Bjørn has also written a book called Pibemagerens Handbog (The Pipemakers Handbook), which tells how to make pipes using simple tools most people have at home.Clearly, Thurmann was a vastly experienced and talented pipe man. I am delighted to be able to work on a pipe like this. One can not only see, but also feel, the quality of the briar. First of all, I am pleased to report that the stummel of this pipe was in good condition. There was some burning around the rim and there was a small nick along one edge of the rim and another small nick on the top of the rim. Otherwise, the wood just needed to be made a bit more spiffy. Meanwhile, the stem needed some attention. It showed signs of oxidation and had been well chewed. The stem was first on my list. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to lift the tooth marks. This was only slightly successful in raising the dents. Then, I cleaned out the insides of the stem with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Once this process was done, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. The following day, I cleaned all of the de-oxidizing sludge off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly straightforward to remove. I scrubbed vigorously with SoftScrub to remove the leftover oxidation. Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I built up both dents and the squashed button on the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let them fully cure. I used my miniature files to do a proper cutting of the new button – this ensures that it keeps its shape and looks like it should. I then sanded it down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to meld seamlessly into the stem. I did the same to the remaining tooth marks. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing.On to the stummel, and the usual cleaning procedures were in order for this pipe. I used both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem to remove the built-up cake and take the bowl down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. There was some nastiness inside this stummel, but fortunately not too much – it only took a handful of pipe cleaners etc. to sort that out. I followed that up by cleaning the insides with some dish soap and tube brushes. I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and some cotton pads. That removed any latent dirt. As I mentioned earlier, there were some small burn marks on the rim of the stummel that also needed to be addressed. A lot of this was removed by the Murphy’s. For the burns that remained, I took some oxalic acid on a Q-tip and rubbed and rubbed. As you will see, the treatment worked very well and the rim is much improved. I completed this part by gently sanding the rim edge to remove the roughness that remained.Then I addressed the two nicks on the rim – both were relatively straightforward. The first one required a touch of light sanding with the Micromesh pads and then the merest bit of stain with one of my furniture pens. Looks fantastic now. The other nick was solved by filling it with cyanoacrylate adhesive and letting it fully cure. After this, the entire stummel was treated to a rub-down with all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit). A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain. There is some beautiful wood on this Danish pipe! Now it was off for a trip to the buffer. A dose of White Diamond and a few coats of carnauba wax were just what this pipe needed. I had to be especially careful with the bench polisher, since the sharp edges had a tendency to catch on the buffing wheels. I have to admit, this did put my heart in my throat a few times!

This pipe was a delight from the start and its beauty only increased through the restoration process. Finally, I am pleased to announce that this pipe is for sale! If you are interested in acquiring it for your collection, please have a look in the ‘Danish’ pipe section of the store here on Steve’s website. You can also email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. The approximate dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 180 mm; height 55 mm; bowl diameter 55 × 39 mm; chamber diameter 25 × 21 mm. The mass of the pipe is 77 grams. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

The Italian Swan


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

I have seen a great many pipes now, but this Brebbia is among the most filthy that I have ever worked on. This pipe came from Sudbury, Ontario – in the same lot of dirty pipes as the one that Steve and I dubbed ‘The Sudbury’. You may recall that I wrote about that pipe last time and you can read about it here. It was obvious from the start that this was a great pipe that just needed some attention and TLC – an ugly duckling, if you will. And just like the Hans Christian Andersen story, this pipe clearly spent a long time in misery and disdain before its true beauty was revealed. This pipe is a Golden Brebbia Natural 8006. It is a slightly bent billiard with an oval shank and stem. The Brebbia pipe company is named after the locality of Bosco Grosso di Brebbia in Lombardy, Italy. The company was founded by Enea Buzzi and Achille Savinelli in 1947, but they parted ways in 1953. Mr Savinelli went on to form his eponymous company, while Mr Buzzi kept the factory and created Maniffatura Pipe Brebbia. His family still run it today.

The stem of this pipe was badly oxidized and thoroughly chewed. In fact, the button had been chewed to the point that there was hardly any left – it would have to be rebuilt. The stummel was covered in grime. Perhaps hand oils or other stuff mixed with dirt over the years to leave the muck you can see in the photos. Furthermore, there were scratches in the wood, gouges in the rim, and an ugly putty fill that needed to be addressed. Well, the usual cleaning procedures were in order for this pipe. I used both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem to take it down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. There was a lot of nastiness inside this stummel and – boy-oh-boy – it took a lot of cotton to get this thing clean! I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and some cotton pads. What a difference that made! A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain. There is some beautiful wood under the grime! A de-ghosting session seemed in order to rid this pipe of the foul smells of the past. This de-ghosting consisted of thrusting cotton balls in the bowl and the shank, and saturating them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. I let the stummel sit for 24 hours. This caused the oils, tars and smells to leech out into the cotton. Finally, a relatively clean and fresh-smelling bowl emerged.

While the de-ghosting was going on, I moved on to the stem. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to remove the tooth marks. This was moderately successful in raising the dents. Then, I cleaned out the insides of the stem with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Once this process was done, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. The following day, I cleaned all of the de-oxidizing sludge off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly straightforward to remove. Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I built up the squashed button on the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let it fully cure. I used my miniature files to do a proper cutting of the new button –this ensures that it keeps its shape and looks like it should. I then sanded it down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to meld seamlessly into the stem. I did the same to the remaining tooth marks. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing. Back to the stummel – the banged up rim needed some serious attention. In order to minimize the impact of the damaged, I “topped” the pipe – that is to say, I gently and evenly sanded down the rim on a piece of 220-grit sandpaper. This successfully eliminated the damage, without altering the look of the pipe. Then I took a solid wooden sphere, wrapped sandpaper around it, and sanded thoroughly. This was to achieve on the inner part of the rim the same thing that I achieved by “topping” on sandpaper. Furthermore, there was an ugly blotch of pink putty in a fill on the shank. What made this more complicated was that part of the fill went into the markings. Naturally, I intended to remove the pink putty, but if I removed it all, I would also remove part of the word “natural” on the shank. I had to decide which was worse (or better): a bit of putty with the marking intact or no putty with a wrecked marking. I opted for the former. I left a bit of putty, added some colour from my furniture markers, and filled in the remaining hole with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Neither option was perfect, but I think I made the right choice. After this, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to remove the frustrating scratches in the wood and make everything smooth. All of the work I had done to this point had taken its toll on the colour of the wood. In order to bring back some life to this pipe, I opted for aniline dye. I applied some of Fiebing’s Medium Brown Leather Dye and then applied flame in order to set the colour. Worked like a charm! Since it is an alcohol-based dye, I was able to adjust the colour to my liking by applying my own isopropyl alcohol to the colour. I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm, then took it to the buffer. A dose of White Diamond and a few coats of carnauba wax were just what this pipe needed. This Brebbia was in need of a reminder of its Italian beauty. The pipe began its journey looking though it had been dropped down the mines. Now, it can show its true self – a real beauty from Italy. Not an Ugly Duckling, but an Italian Swan. In fact, it turned out so well that this pipe has already sold! I know that the new owner will enjoy smoking it for many years to come. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Beauty or the Beast?


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

This is the story of a pipe – possibly damaged beyond reasonable limits – which I really liked and decided (against my better judgement) to revivify. I need to make clear from the outset that this is not a pipe like many you see from Steve, Dal, Paresh, Charles, et al, which begin their restoration as the proverbial sow’s ear and naturally end up as the silk purse. No, this is a pipe that came to me as a damaged ‘beast’ and ended up much improved – but a ‘beast’ it remains. There is damage to the pipe which is, despite my best efforts, a permanent attribute. I leave it to your collective judgement on whether it will ever attain the rank of ‘beauty’.

This pipe came from a lot from Sudbury, Ontario. There were literally no marks of any kind on the stummel, stem, or ferrule. In the absence of a name, Steve and I dubbed it ‘The Sudbury’ and that is the name that stuck. Steve thinks that the Sudbury could be of Italian origin, and I have no reason to question that assessment. So let us pretend that it is an Italian ‘scoop’ pipe that arrived from Northern Ontario. If you have any insight into the pipe’s origin, I would love to hear from you. The photos do not quite convey just how bad this pipe looked when it arrived. The stummel was filthy, scratched, dented, cracked, and burned. The bowl was out-of-round, had lots of lava, cake and burns. The stem was oxidized, calcified, and badly pitted (more about the pitting later). The ferrule was dirty, torn, dented, and cheap-looking – it had obviously been put there to address the cracks in the shank. Where to even begin with this mess?

Well, the start came with removing the sorry-looking ferrule, which, quite frankly, inspired more pathos than confidence. This allowed me to have a good look at the cracks (plural) in the shank. As you can plainly see, the cracks were a mess. I removed what I could of lose debris and glue from these fissures, with the intention of refilling them later.Next was reaming out the bowl. This pipe has quite a wide and curved bowl and it required both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem. I took it down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. This is a pipe that really could have used the services of a retort system, but – alas – I do not have one. If anyone has a spare, please let me know. The fellow on eBay who sells them is out of commission for a while. A quick wipe of the outside revealed that there is really some beautiful wood grain in this pipe.A de-ghosting session seemed in order to rid this pipe of the foul smells of the past. This de-ghosting consisted of thrusting cotton balls in the bowl and the shank, and saturating them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. This caused the oils, tars and smells to leech out into the cotton. Finally, a relatively clean and fresh-smelling bowl emerged.While all of that was going on, I cleaned out the insides of the stem with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Then the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. I knew the stem was going to require a lot of work, but even I did not know what I was getting myself into. The following day, I cleaned all of the de-oxidizing goop (technical term) off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly straightforward to remove.Back to the stummel – and this required addressing two key issues: the badly out-of-round bowl opening and the cracks in the shank that needed to be re-mended. In order to address the out-of-round issue, I took a solid wooden sphere, wrapped sandpaper around it, and sanded thoroughly – until such time as the bowl was returned to round. This process was not difficult, but it was time consuming. I had to ensure that I was sanding down the correct parts that needed it and that I was not removing too much. In the end, I think I got the balance just right.Meanwhile, I had to figure out what could be done with the very noticeable cracks in the shank. The previous ferrule had done a passable job of hiding them, but that ferrule was a non-starter. It was ugly and trashed. Anyway, an application of briar dust and cyanoacrylate adhesive seemed to be the way to go in addressing the cracks. I also had to concede that, no matter what, the cracks were always going to be a visible part of this pipe from now on. There was just no way around it. I sanded down the repairs and left them for a bit later.There was a small burn on the underside of the stummel that also needed to be addressed. I took some oxalic acid on a Q-tip and rubbed and rubbed. The burn did improve but never fully disappeared. I took solace from the fact that the burn was very superficial and did not affect the integrity of the wood at all.After this, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to sand everything smooth. A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain.Steve was kind enough to find me a new ferrule that we could bend to correctly fit the oval shank. This was not as easy as it sounds because the shank’s width tapered away from the end. I used a combination of heat, glue and elbow grease to fit it. I then used metal sandpaper to even out the edge. A quick polish with my cloth made it look pretty good.Now on too the stem. Oh boy – this was a struggle. All the usual things were fine. As I mentioned, the deoxidizing went well; the cleaning of the internals went well; the sanding of the stem with the Micromesh pads went well; the buffing and polishing went well; BUT the pitting was very difficult. In the first place, the pits were all filled with filth and/or oxidation and/or debris from the many years of neglect. In order to dislodge this, I soaked the pitted part of the stem overnight in a lemon-infused, isopropyl alcohol solution. This worked surprisingly well. The debris either dissolved or was easy to scrub out.Now, how to fill these properly so as to create a smooth and (hopefully) invisible repair? Steve assured me that he had successfully filled pits in the past with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Perfect – I set about carefully smearing the adhesive all over the pitting. I left it to set and came back later to sand it down. So far, so good, but some of the pits did not fill (no idea how that happened) and others just looked terrible after sanding. I obviously did something wrong. Steve suggested that we used some black cyanoacrylate adhesive. He very kindly did his own smearing of the black adhesive on my stem. We let it set, did all the right things, and it still looked lousy. I even tried using a black Sharpie to see if that would help – it didn’t. Suffice it to say that I went through this process a total of FOUR times before I had to admit defeat. I will say that the stem looks so much better than when I started, but those pits were *ahem* the pits.I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm, then some wax. I polished it by hand with a microfibre cloth and I was pleased with the results! This pipe was clearly a great beauty on the day it was made. Over the years, abuse, neglect, and the ravages of time turned this charming pipe into a beast. I worked harder on this pipe than I have on any other, but I am proud of it and I am adding it to my collection. I look forward to smoking it for many years to come.

The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 164 mm; height 42 mm; bowl diameter 149 × 44 mm; chamber diameter 23 mm. The mass of the pipe is 46 grams. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Nelson Got Gouged


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Sometimes, the most satisfying restorations are the ones that have the most dramatic difference between start and finish. This is the story of one of those. A friend, knowing of my new pipe-restoration hobby, contacted me recently to see if I could ‘clean up’ a family pipe for him. I told him that I would be happy to. He explained that perhaps the pipe once belonged to his grandfather, perhaps to an uncle – he was not really sure. Imagine my shock when he dropped off this little paneled Nelson apple.Oof! My immediate thought was ‘Nelson got gouged’! You want me to clean up this pipe? How about raise this pipe from the dead? Actually, my first order of business was ascertaining the actual brand name. At first, I thought it was ‘Delson’ (or something similar), but, after rubbing chalk on the shank, I could see that it was, in fact, ‘Nelson’.So, I set about disassembling the pipe to see what needed to be done – beyond dealing with the obvious gouges. The insides of the bowl and stem were actually quite clean, but I set about giving them a thorough cleaning nonetheless. Using isopropyl alcohol in combination with Q-tips and pipe cleaners, I then proceeded to clean out the insides of both the shank and stem. I also added some Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the external grime, just for good measure.

I removed the metal band around the shank to discover that, not only had the band corroded, but it had also leached into the wood at the end of the shank.Using oxalic acid, I carefully scrubbed the shank end to remove as much of the staining as possible – and I think it worked quite well.I feared the prospect of having to deal with the scratches, holes, gouges, etc. on the bowl, so I thought I would move on to the stem first. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to remove the light tooth marks. This was quite successful in raising the dents. Once this process was done, the stem went for a soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. This soak caused the oxidation to migrate to the surface. I used 220, 400, and 600 grit wet/dry sandpapers to remove the oxidation from the stem. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing. Now, on to the biggest problem of all: the bowl. What were we going to do? No matter what, the wood needed to be stripped and sanded down, and so I set myself to the task. I had a long discussion with Steve about what to do and he suggested that this pipe was a perfect candidate for rustication. I agreed and thought it would be a good experiment for me to try out the process of rusticating a stummel. I approached my friend with the idea and, although he was open to it, I sensed that he would prefer to keep the pipe as close to its original form as possible. So, going back to Steve for advice, he proposed using an iron and a damp cloth to try and raise the scratches. I expected some limited success, but I was stunned at how well it worked. The vast majority of the gouges were lifted. The small number that were not, were easily filled with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Just like the stem, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to sand everything smooth. A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain.

A new metal band was also needed for this pipe. Although I considered the idea of trying to remove the corrosion from the existing band, ultimately this was an exercise in futility. I went to my jar of bands and found one that was less wide than the original, but actually looked better than the original. I sanded and polished the band until it shone like the sun.

Now I had to do something about the distinct lack of rich colour in this pipe. The solution, as always, came from Steve: aniline dye. I cautiously applied a wee bit of Fiebing’s Medium Brown Leather Dye and then applied flame in order to set the colour. Since it is an alcohol-based dye, I as able to lighten the colour by applying my own isopropyl alcohol to the colour.I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm and some Paragon Wax. I polished it by hand with a microfibre cloth and I could not believe how good it looked! This modest pipe had started its time with me as a candidate for the fireplace and ended up as a lovely pipe whose owner will be able to enjoy it for many years to come. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 5¾ inches (14.6 cm); height 1⅜ inches (3.5 cm); bowl diameter 1¼ inches (3.2 cm); chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch (1.9 cm). The weight of the pipe is ¾ of an ounce (or 24 grams of mass).

Thank you very much for reading and, once again, I welcome and encourage your comments.

The Volkswagen Beetle of Pipes


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

I was very flattered by all the attention that the first restoration of my grandfather’s Dunhill received on this blog. Your kind words gave me the encouragement to carry on publishing the stories of my pipe restorations. Indeed, I will be posting restorations of my grandfather’s other pipes in the weeks ahead. Today’s pipe is not from my grandfather, but from eBay. This Brigham Two-Dot Algonquin (254) is a straight-stemmed pot billiard. It is much more modest than my grandfather’s Dunhill, but it is a charming pipe with its own story to tell. As usual, Steve’s advice was invaluable and – also as usual – any compliments on this restoration are for him; any criticisms are for me. I gave this story the title that I did because this pipe reminds me of the old Volkswagen Beetle: solid, hard-working, reliable, practical – but not very pretty. The very first lot of pipes that I purchased on eBay came from Sudbury, Ontario – the nickel capital of the world. This group of pipes had a little bit of everything in it (you will see some others in the coming weeks), but the one thing these pipes had in common was their filth. Perhaps they all sat at the bottom of a nickel mine and accumulated this filth over the years. Who knows? I started with this pipe because it was the least dirty and least blemished of the bunch. I figured this might be a relatively straightforward restoration – and so it was. The pictures you see here do not do justice to the filth. I may have wiped this pipe down a bit before starting, so you will just have to take my word for it. Fortunately, there were no major structural problems with this pipe. There were scratches on the stummel, some lava on the rim, plenty of cake in the bowl, lots of tooth marks on the stem, and an overall sense of fatigue. The pipe just felt lethargic somehow. By the way, I apologize for the lack of variety of photographs on this pipe. It was being restored while my mind was on other things and I did not snap the pictures quite as often as I should have.

Anyway, to work! Naturally, the first steps involved reaming out the pipe. This pipe has quite a wide bowl and it required both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem. I took it down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of both the shank and stem with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and a lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol. Now, I know that sounds more like something you would find in a ladies’ beauty salon, but, in fact, it is a pretty impressive cleaner (more about that perhaps in a future post). I took a BIC lighter and (to quote Steve) ‘painted’ the stem with its flame. This was fairly successful in raising some of the dents. One dent remained, but I dealt with that later. Once this process was done, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and an old toothbrush. My father is a dentist, so I know I have a good place from which to source my dental supplies! Actually, that cleaning with the brush tipped the balance of this pipe from a sorry, Sudbury sojourner to a pipe with character and purpose. I followed that up with a smear of Before & After Restoration Balm. That always makes everything look better – even a Volkswagen Beetle pipe. Perhaps applying some on my ugly mug would help, but I digress… The time had come to deal with this pipe’s biggest problem – a problem that pictures will not convey: the stench. The previous owner had clearly enjoyed a very floral, perfumy aromatic tobacco. How shall I put this delicately? It was not to my taste. It took four (or maybe even five) de-ghosting sessions to rid this pipe of the aromatic fetor. This de-ghosting consisted of thrusting cotton balls in the bowl and the shank, and saturating them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. This causes the tars and dreadful smells to leech out into the cotton. Finally, a relatively clean and fresh-smelling bowl emerged. I went back to the stem and cleaned all of the de-oxidizing goop (technical term) off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly easy to remove. Following in the footsteps of Steve the Master, I used 220, 400, and 600 grit sandpapers to address this issue. Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I filled the remaining tooth dent in the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive, let it fully cure, and then sanded it down to meld seamlessly into the stem. Once complete, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely lustre on the stem. Naturally, I used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad. I was particularly pleased with how nicely the two Brigham dots gleamed after the Micromesh pads. Back to the stummel. The three patches of rustication (on the rim and the outside) needed a little attention. They did not look quite like Brigham rustication would have looked. I took some stain and applied it to the crevasses of the rustication, carefully avoiding the high spots wherever possible. I also applied some Before & After Restoration Balm to help blend everything together. This looked a lot better and restored a real ‘Brigham’ look to the stummel. The Before & After Restoration Balm had really brought out the best of the wood, but the little nicks and scratches that occur over time had removed some of the charm from this pipe. Lazy Me was hoping that I could get away with just buffing the thing and leaving it at that, but Perfectionist Me knew that that was not going to happen. So, I pulled out all nine Micromesh pads again and went from proverbial stem to stern over the stummel to try and coax some beauty out of this Volkswagen Beetle. It worked! Some beauty was found! I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm and Paragon II Wax. I polished it by hand with a microfibre cloth (deliberately avoiding an electric buffer) and voilà! I now have a Brigham pipe of my very own. This Algonquin Two-Dot pot billiard is never going to win a swimsuit competition, but that does not matter. It is a good, solid pipe that does what it is supposed to do. What more can you ask for? The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 6 inches (15.5 cm); height 1¾ inches (4.2 cm); bowl diameter 1½ inches (4 cm); chamber diameter: ⅞ of an inch (2.3 cm). The weight of the pipe is 1⅝ ounces (or 48 grams of mass).

Thank you very much for reading and, once again, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Dropped in at the Dunhill Deep End


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

This is the first and introductory blog by Kenneth. We have been working through his Grandfather’s pipes and others that he has purchased to help him learn the processes that I use to restore and refurbish pipes. He is a quick study and able student. Give his first blog a read and enjoy it. Thanks Kenneth and welcome to rebornpipes.

I must admit that I never thought that the first pipe I ever restored would be a Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog. Talk about nerve-wracking! I figured I would start out on an old clunker of a pipe so that if I made a mess of it, there was no great loss. But Steve Laug insisted that this was the one I had work on first because it was, in fact, a microcosm of pipe restoration all in one little pipe. I want to express my gratitude to Steve for not only permitting me to post the story of this pipe’s restoration, but most especially for guiding me every step of the way through the process. The vagaries of life (thanks to Covid) necessitated several FaceTime and Zoom chats, but he was always generous, friendly, and helpful. Any compliments on this restoration are for him – any criticisms are for me.

This charming Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog pipe belonged to my paternal grandfather and was one of seventeen pipes left to my father, and which he has now given to me. A little detective work over at http://www.pipephil.eu revealed that this Dunhill dates from 1937 – which would have made my grandfather 29 years old when it was made.He died in 1975, so this pipe has not been smoked for at least 45 years (and probably more). As a side note, while this restoration was ongoing, I also restored his Dunhill Rollagas lighter (dated to the mid-1950s), so that I could use it to light the pipe one day. In that pipe will be some very old tobacco that is also from my grandfather. I am not sure what the tobacco is, but it smells lovely. I have another two Dunhill pipes I inherited from my grandfather, but I will save those restorations for future posts! As you can see from these initial photos, this poor pipe had some serious issues! The front of the bowl had a large crack, reaching all the way from the rim to the heel. There was also another crack (albeit considerably smaller) on the opposite side of the bowl. Smaller it may have been, but no less daunting to me. There was some cleaning that needed to be done inside the shank and stem, but less than might have been expected from an 85-year-old pipe. The usual routine of isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners, Q-tips, etc. made short work of that. Unfortunately, I do not have a handy brother like Jeff Laug to help clean my pipes, so I did it myself. I learn by doing, so this was just as well.

After using both the Pipnet Reamer and the KleenReem, the bowl was stripped down to the bare briar. This afforded me a good look at the condition of the bowl and just how far the two cracks had penetrated the wood. The smaller crack was not any worse than it initially appeared, but the large crack went all the way to the underside of the bowl. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and that made a world of difference to the overall appearance of the wood, but not to the cracks, obviously. I prepared some J.B. Weld epoxy and filled the breach from the inside, ensuring that the epoxy did not ooze out to the front. I filled in the crack from the outside with a mixture of briar dust and cyanoacrylate adhesive. This was a tricky business, as the crack varied from ‘gaping’ at the rim to essentially ‘imperceptible’ at the heel. After putting down some layers of briar dust and glue, I noticed that there were still some small gaps that only iPhone magnification could reveal, as seen here. These were soon mended and left to cure.Following this, some rustication was needed, and a brass-bristle brush was the tool I used. In fact, the brush was used several times – including after I applied some stain to the briar-glue repair. The stain was used in conjunction with the Before & After Restoration Balm, to help meld everything together. I must admit that I wish I could have done this step better – all I could see were flaws, but everyone else told me how much better it looked, especially when compared with how it began. These photographs show you that it wasn’t complete, but I guess it really was better. Once this had fully cured, I coated the entire inside of the bowl with a mixture of activated charcoal and my wife’s homemade yogurt. Once hardened, this provided a good, slightly rough surface for a new cake to build. Then it was time for the stem. It was in pretty good condition, considering its age. There were a couple of relatively minor tooth marks and the button needed some work. However, without doubt, restoring the stem was the most frustrating part of the restoration. It began easily enough, with the stem taking a swim in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. In order to address the chatter, I waved the flame of a BIC lighter over the mouthpiece. I also took some of the cyanoacrylate adhesive and filled in the deeper tooth marks. But then the tough stuff came: sanding, more sanding, then even more sanding. Did I mention the sanding? As you know from Steve’s similar work, I used 220, 400, and 600 sandpapers to wet-sand the stem. Then followed that with all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) – using Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad. The pictures only tell a fraction of the story. Quite frankly, my lack of experience was my undoing, as I had to do this entire sanding sequence twice over. It just did not look right the first time. In fact, I was not even convinced that it looked right the second time, but Steve reassured me (with his typical kindness) that I was merely suffering from the same sort of pipe perfectionism that he does – not to mention the fact that this pipe is 85 years old: it is not meant to look brand new! At some point, one has to stop or else one will simply sand the pipe away into oblivion!

At long last, I was at the point where I could throw down some more Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil, Before & After Restoration Balm, and Paragon II Wax. Microfibre cloths, horsehair shoe brushes, and buffing pads followed – all to provide a final product (hopefully) worthy of my beloved grandfather’s memory. This was certainly a labour of love and I look forward to firing up his 85-year-old Dunhill pipe, with his 65+ year-old Dunhill lighter, filled to the rim with his 50+ year-old tobacco. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 4⅝ inches; height 1⅝ inches; bowl diameter 1½ inches; chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is ⅞ of an ounce (or 27 grams).

Thank you very much for reading and I welcome and encourage your comments. Kenneth sent me this message and photo on Facebook.

This is my grandfather, Alfred Lieblich,  in Vienna in 1938. Look what’s in his mouth! Amazing!