Tag Archives: article by Troy Wilburn

Restoring a Westbrook 36 – A Long & Detailed Explanation for New Refurbishers

Blog by Troy Wilburn

Troy originally wrote this simple step by step methodology for refurbishing pipes for the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. Troy’s method is straight forward and he gives great photos to help along the way. I thought it might be helpful for those who are just starting in this hobby of ours. It also may give pause for thought to us who have been doing this for a long time. I firmly believe that there is always something new to be learned from each other as we work to restore old pipes and give them new life. Thanks Troy for this great how to piece. – Steve

I’ve had a few PMs by the newer member asking questions on refurbishing pipes. So I decided to make a more detailed way of what I do on refurbing pipes. Now this is what I prefer and what works for ME. Everyone has their own twist and preferred methods.

The first thing is to pick the right pipe. This to me is very important especially when doing your first pipes. You want one that’s inexpensive and an easy clean up. So ones with holes in stems and rims that look like they were used to hammer walnuts with might be ones to pass until you get a few under your belt. Not having to sand it a lot and restain is a plus.

Now we are not making a show pipe or restoring a rare pipe that you want to keep original. We are going to bang out a good clean pipe for smoking pleasure. I can do a pipe like this in good condition in 2 hours or less start to finish. This pipe will be smoked and smoked a lot so it doesn’t need to be so glossy you need to put sunglasses on to pick it up. Just a good dependable pipe for low cost. The lower the cost the more pipes you can get .

Ok so the pipe I picked is a good old trusty Westbrook Billiard, still a plentiful pipe, easy to refurbish and can be found cheap. They are good quality, tough as nails and extremely fine smokers.

I got this one for 5 dollars and with shipping; I got right under 10 dollars in this pipe. The seller wanted 9.99 but after watching it for a while I took advantage of the best offer and got it for the 5 bucks. It was in good shape from pictures with no stem damage and bowl not banged up. Once cleaned it will smoke just as good as any new pipe you can get today from 20-100+ dollars. I do like to drill out my pipe shanks a little larger diameter so that will help the smoking of it some.

OK now on to the pipe. This is a #36 Westbrook Double Carved coupon pipe.

Before…. The pipe is dirty and has plenty of cake in bowl.Grabow1



Grabow4 The refurbish
Not getting too detailed about how to clean out bowl. All you need if you don’t have a reamer is a dull pocket knife and some coarse sandpaper. I used to use salt baths and or soak them overnight with cotton balls soaked in alcohol (91%), but is not necessary if you do the way I’m going to show you. Be careful not to get over zealous in this as you don’t want to dig gouges in the inner walls of pipe. Just light scrapes to get out biggest part of cake. Most of the time the heavy build up pops right out. After this just roll up your coarse sandpaper in a tight funnel shape and work it up and down and around in bowl. Check progress often as to not take out too much of inner bowl.

Bowl cleaned to right amount and cake removed. Leave a thin coat still in bowl.Grabow5


Grabow7 Cleaning out shank and stem. My advice is to buy a few of those shank brushes as they will save you a small fortune in pipe cleaners.Grabow8 Soak stem and bowl in some 91 % ISO (if it’s a smooth and you want to save finish then don’t soak bowl just clean it with a Scotch Brite pad with 91% very lightly). With these Westbrook double carved you don’t have to worry about as you can just buff them with no staining and they will look fine. Plus I like to soak the bowls on these deep carving to get rid of years of handling with someone else hands. It’s hard to tell what has accumulated in the recess of them carving over the years. Run the shank brush through the shank and stem until (soaked in 91%) until it stops coming out black and gunky.Grabow9 Rinse out the bowl while it is soaking and a good brushing with an old tooth brush over everything including inside bowl. Also rub the bowl with a Scotch Brite pad as it will take off old wax and grime but not so rough you have to sand behind it. After this is done just keep running pipe cleaners in shank and stem with clean ISO until they are coming out clean. I use a combination of the coarse cleaners and regular pipe cleaners. After a good brushing with shank brushes it shouldn’t take too many.

After this I usually place stem in oxy clean and warm water (about half to full scoop that provided in container) and let soak for about 30-40 minutes. It can soak while I work on cleaning the stinger and Adjustomatic female shank.Grabow10 I put the old stinger in an old stem I have to help hold it after it soaked in ISO with bowl and stem. Take some 000 steel wool and just rub it briskly getting into every little part. Take a small screwdriver to use it to push it through the small air trench.Grabow11 Take some steel wool and make it into a long skinny shape.Grabow12 Run it up in shank a little way then take a small screwdriver and run it up alongside. Then twirl the bowl as it will screw the 000 into the threads. Then unscrew it, most of times it will come out but sometimes it will break apart and you will have to push it out with a cleaner or a stiff piece of wire. A small long screwdriver will work also.Grabow13

Grabow14 You might have to do this a couple of times to get it good and clean. Be sure to blow out all the fine pieces of steel wool afterwards.Grabow15 Now we can take the stem out of Oxy Clean bath.Grabow16 Take a Scotch Brite pad and dip into the oxy water and rub the stem. I know people say use Magic Erasers but to me this is much easier and cheaper. It’s a lot less rubbing and faster. Work smarter not harder is what I was taught :). Here it is half done, took maybe 5 seconds.Grabow17

Grabow18 All oxidation that oxy clean bought to the surface is scrubbed off now. Took like a minute.Grabow19 After the oxy bath I take clean water and wipe off bowl and stem with clean water and tooth brush or ISO 91%, your choice, to remove any residue left from the alcohol and oxy clean. I use water because it’s cheaper.Grabow20 Go ahead and run a few pipe cleaners through stem with ISO to remove any debris and residue left behind from oxy bath. The stem is ready for wet sanding. As this stem is in such good shape it won’t take long to wet sand. If it had tooth marks and or heavy scratches you need to sand it more of course. I’m going to use 400, 600, 800 and 1200 grit sandpaper. Any finer grit to me is overkill for this pipe as I said it’s a daily working pipe and not a show pipe. Sand it lightly with each grit of sandpaper, being careful not to over sand it and make it not register with the shank properly. Being ultra careful where the stem goes into the shank as not to take off too much material. As most all the oxidation has been removed it doesn’t need to be sanded too much as we are just trying to make it smooth. Just a few light strokes with the coarse paper is all you need then using the finer grit a little more will do the trick. I have a piece of an old shank that broke off a bowl to use as a holder for Adjustomatic stems. It makes holding them during sanding a lot easier.Grabow21 Ok the pipe bowl is cleaned and scrubbed and the stem sanded.Grabow22 At this point I like to rub the pipe down with Mineral Oil. Some like to use olive oil but Mineral oil is odorless and tasteless. It doesn’t have the danger of turning sour like a type of vegetable oil can. Plus it helps to bring out grain in wood.

Any defects and or oxidation (brown spots in stem) will show up and allow you the luxury of fixing it before you apply wax. I apply the oil with a cotton ball and take a tooth brush and get into all the recesses. It will also show you pretty much what the color of the pipe will look like after buff and wax.Grabow23


Grabow25 The photo below shows the pipe after the Mineral Oil has been wiped and dry, ready for buffing.Grabow26 I use a buffing wheel and compounds but I know some who read this do not have this. I will not get into this as it will take too long and I’m still learning myself. I used to do all hand buffing. At this point you can just apply hand coats of various waxes you can buy that come in paste form and it will look fine.

Well I hope this can be a help to anyone that wants to start refurbing their own pipes. It’s a lot of fun and can save you a lot of money. Dave Whitney also sells a book that I would suggest getting it is called “OLD BRIAR” and it is a book on restoring and trading estate pipes. It is available via Amazon for Kindle.

Here is after pics.Grabow27








Grabow35 After about a 24 hour rest to let the alcohol evaporate out it will be ready for smoking. This is my favorite combination for breaking in a refurbed pipe: 50% Carter Hall and 50% 5 Brothers. It will be build cake fast and burn out any reminisces of a ghost left behind. It is a strong burley combination and has a good nicotine hit so be warned.Grabow36 Now you don’t have to pick a Westbrook as this is just a guide to help you get started. But I would suggest starting on rusticated pipes as they seem to be an easier pipe to refurbish to me. You can always add your own twist to the pipes you do. Now on occasion a problem does pop up like a frozen Adjustomatic or a stuck stem etc…. That’s pretty rare occurrence from the pipes I’ve done. But if it happens, just post your questions here on the Dr. Grabow Collectors forum (or even here on rebornpipes for that matter). Help and advice is something our forum is not lacking in . Or you can just send me an email and I’ll help you best I can or send you in the right direction to someone who can.

A Dr. Grabow Sportsman #72

Blog by Troy Wilburn

This is a pipe I got from Joe’s lot. From looking at Grabow charts I believe this is a shape # 72 Sportsman. Joe mudded and coated inside bowl for me before he mailed it off ……Thanks Joe :).

Here is what it looked like when I received it.G1



G4 I had to top the bowl and I found a nick or inclusion that was pretty deep I took it down as far as I thought I should go. You can still see it in rim but I got it pretty small and will let it be. Unfortunately the rim lacked much if any grain at all. I canted bowl slightly to give it a “Devil Anse” type of look. Then just basically sanitized, sanded, oiled, waxed and buffed.

Rough sanding done on topping of bowl.G5 Sanded, cleaned ready for oil wax and buff.G6 Very cloudy here today so pics not the greatest, but a lovely little pipe I think and will be in my collection a very long time.

Here are some photos of the finished pipe.G7








A New Old Stock (NOS) WDC Durobit Poker

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I recently picked up this NOS WDC Durobit poker online to add to my American poker collection as I did not have a WDC example. I think it’s an interesting pipe so I thought I would share it on rebornpipes.Durobit1 The pipe as noted is unsmoked and all original. It had some slight tarnish on the nickel band and a few slight dings from its long life in storage. All I did was buff the nickel band and pipe slightly and carefully to preserve its originality. In fact the stem has a slight molding mark on one side and I left that as is as well.

I did some digging and could not find much on the Durobit model. In fact nothing as far as when the models were introduced and production stopped. It has an interesting stem design (hence the name Durobit) as I will touch on later.

Here is some brief history on WDC (William Demuth Company).

The gist of the company history is as follows, they begin making production pipes around 1897. In about 1937 SM Frank purchased the company and made pipes under the WDC name up until the 1970’s. They made a wide range of high end handmade pipes to inexpensive drug store models.

I found this 1916 WDC ad and it shows a poker model .Although this is not a Durobit its same style and shape as mine.Durobit2 Here is the how the Durobit is stamped on the pipe.Durobit3

Durobit4 Here are the more pictures of the pipe after a rub down with mineral oil and a thin coat of wax.Durobit5






Durobit11 Ok now on to the stem and why this pipe is called the Durobit. The pipe has a metal sleeve that runs through the stem from button to tenon as seen in both ends of the stem in these photos.Durobit12

Durobit13 It does not seem this type of stem caught on and I’m hoping someone else might have some additional information on this model of pipe. I’ve been wondering if this type of stem may have had a design flaw. Maybe when the stem gets hot the metal expands making the stem badly stuck in the pipe. Or maybe worst case scenario it cracks a shank? Some reason this design did not become popular and it actually seems like a good idea to me if the above mentioned speculations did not happen with this pipe model. Maybe it was simply too costly to produce. It’s my usual policy to smoke a pipe NOS or not but this one I’m up in the air about. Not being a 100 year old NOS pipe but if there is a design flaw I don’t want to ruin the pipe by smoking it. I’ll wait until I can find some more information on this pipe model before I decide to smoke it or not.

I have found reference’s to the Kaywoodie Durobit pipes but they are a twin bore type stem with no metal sleeves.

Again if anyone has any information on this model pipe I would certainly like your input in the comments.

My Dr. Grabow Continental Shape # 25 Collection

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I just picked up this Dr. Grabow Viscount Continental shape #25 a short while ago from a friend over at Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. It was in excellent lightly smoked condition and only required some very slight cleaning and buffing.Grabow1


Grabow3 This pipe completed my Continental 25 Collection. The Continental shapes were offered by Dr. Grabow from the early 60s to no later than 67-68.Grabow4 The Shape #25 seems to be the rarest of the Continental shapes as they were not offered in the RJ coupon pipes such as Westbrook, Sculptura, Emperor, Commodore etc. (There is an Emperor 25 owned by a former employee of Dr. Grabow. It was most likely made at factory by a worker and a one-off.) Although the other Continental shapes were offered in RJ Coupon pipes. Some models lines did not use the Continental shapes at all (example Belvedere)

So it boils down to the fact that the Continental 25 was only offered in two lines – the Viscount and Starfire. Take that with a grain of salt though as with pipes there are always some odd balls out there that might have been made and is an exception to the rule.

The Viscounts line was not stained and only came as natural wood color. The Viscount Continental 25 was offered in both smooth and wire carved versions. Grabow5 The Starfires were lightly stained in the smooth pipes but the wire carved pipes were always stained black in the Starfire line.Grabow6 Here is my Continental 25 collection all together.Grabow7

Grabow8 These are fine little flake pipes and it was a lot of fun collecting and searching for them. I hope you enjoy looking at them as well.

Bringing New Life to a Weber Blackthorne 370 Poker

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I acquired this Weber Poker off Ebay with a “Best Offer” bid. Although I got other pokers made by Weber (Webco, Jobey, Wally Frank) I did not have one stamped Weber, so I added this to my American Poker Collection.Frank1


Frank3 It had a crack on the bottom which in my “Best Offer” bid I noted my concern over it and got the pipe for much less than the amount they wanted.Frank4

Frank5 The pipe was pretty dirty and the cake was set like concrete.Frank6 After getting cake out and shank cleaned I stripped off the old wax and grime.Frank7 I dug out all the trash from the crack with a sewing needle. I was thinking this damage was from abuse from a smoker. I dug out old filler so I think it may have come from factory with it.Frank8 After cleaning out crack I taped it up with some packing tape.Frank9 I then filled it with glue and briar dust and hit it with a file when dried.Frank10

Frank11 I mixed up a thin color match to the factory color and applied a couple of coats.Frank12 After a soak in Oxy Clean I worked on stem. The owner had teeth like a house cat. All were small round and deep. What a pain they were. I haven’t done a Cherrywood Poker in a while and I had forgotten what a chore it was doing these thin little saddle bits.Frank13 I colored in the Weber emblem with black sharpie to be taken off when I buffed it.Frank14 After the dye dried I scuffed it with a Scotch Brite pad and mineral oil to highlight the blast.Frank15 Here is the finished pipe, buffed and waxed.Frank16







Frank23 I had a hard time getting a picture of stamping and repair on bottom of bowl with the glare. This was best out of several attempts.Frank24 Now it’s time to try this ol gal out with some Dark Strong Kentucky:). Frank25

A Bertram Grade # 50 Cutty

Blog by Troy Wilburn

This is the other Bertam I have in my collection that I refurbished last fall. It was my first refurbish of a higher end type pipe. I figured I would show it off since I got such a nice positive response on my latest Bertram poker I posted recently. When I acquired this pipe I had been looking and wanting a nice Bertram but most out of my price range, but luckily I found this one with just enough work to get it cheaper than most. I had also wanted a Cutty shaped pipe and this one really caught my eye.

The pipe was in wonderful shape and didn’t need much work. By the scorching on rim you think it would have been smoked more but wasn’t. There was barely any cake built up at all under inspection. I didn’t even have to clean out shank and stem but did so very lightly with 91% alcohol and a couple of pipe cleaners.

Pipe as it arrived from Ebay seller.Bertram1



Bertram4 There were some scratches in bowl.Bertram5 I sanded out scratches with nothing more than 2500 grit paper and mineral oil.Bertram6 The drilling was perfect.Bertram7 After soaking the stem in Oxy Clean I gave it a very light wet sanding with 800 grit sandpaper and then worked my way up to 2500 grit.

Stem and bowl back together for some time on the buffer.Bertram8 After buffing and waxing I took the pipe outside for some pics to really show off the grain and color.Bertram9








Bertram17 It’s an excellent smoker and really shines with VA/Per blends. I don’t smoke it often but when I do it brings great pleasure.Bertram18

Cleaned up a Small KBB Yello Bole Sandblast Billiard

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I know what you all of you are thinking ….another Yello Bole? lol

I was just telling a friend of mine that I most likely would not be going to go after anymore Yello Bole’s for a while unless I saw another sandblast I liked. Sure enough just after that this one popped up EBay. Here is the way it looked on EBay. I thought nice pipe but it has some stem chatter that won’t be too hard to get rid of. Yello1 Well when I got it in, come to find out it wasn’t stem chatter but just some glue residue. You can see in the picture where I wiped some off with my finger.Yello2 The pipe has not been smoked much at all.Yello3 There were a few nicks and spots around the rim.Yello4 All in all, I lucked out again and got a really nice excellent condition original Yello Bole. I wiped off glue with 91% alcohol and cleaned inside stem and stinger. I sanded the stem lightly with 2500 grit.Yello5 I touched up nicks with some black acrylic. Gave the inside a quick swab with a cleaner and 91% alcohol.Yello6 I gave the pipe a good scrubbing with mineral oil and toothbrush. I wiped it dry with cotton cloth.Yello7 Quick buff and wax ….Voila finished.Yello8







Yello15 Looking up the pipe on my Kaywoodie charts I believe this to be a shape #67 Small Billiard Long Shank.Yello16 Due to its small size this will be used mostly for flakes. I have smoked a bowl of Bold Kentucky in it already and it’s a great little smoker.Yello17 I have been thinking about doing a write up on why I like KBB Yello Boles so much and add some pictures of my Yello Bole collection. Steve has also mentioned this to me. So maybe in the near future I will post the article.

An Easy Restoration of a Bertram Grade 60 217 Poker

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I have been looking for a nice upper grade (Grade 50 or above) Bertram Poker for a while. I had almost purchased a couple of lower grades and one 50 grade but they were all either to expensive or pretty beat up, so I kept holding out for the right one. When this nice example of a 60 grade came across my path for a modest price I knew my patience had paid off.

This makes my 2nd Bertram pipe. The other being a straight Cutty and it is an excellent smoker. They are some of my highest end estate pipes. I very much like the quality of them and the long interesting history they have.

If you don’t know much about them I recommend doing a little research on them. Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. They graded their pipes by 10s, the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I’ve never heard of or seen a 100 grade. Here is a link with some brief history of Bertram pipes on Pipedia.

I found this image of from a page of a Bertram pipe booklet that shows the poker shape number of 217.
http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram Bertram1 This is what the pipe looked like when I received it. Other than being dirty it’s in excellent shape. It’s hard to put a date on it but it’s at least from the 70s and maybe as far back as 40s or more. Bertram started in 1927.Bertram2



Bertram5 I started by cleaning out the bowl and shank. The cake came out very easily and the cleaning was not that difficult.Bertram6 I then cleaned and stripped off old wax and rim residue with Oxy Clean, warm water, cotton balls and a Scotch Brite pad on the rim.Bertram7 I then wet sanded the bowl with mineral oil and 1200 to 2500 grit sandpaper.Bertram8 After soaking the stem for a couple of hours in Oxy Clean and warm water I scrubbed off all the surface oxidation with a Scotch Brite pad.Bertram9 I had a couple of small tooth marks to file out.Bertram10 Then I wet sanded the stem with 400-2500 grit paper.Bertram11 The stem was fitting rather tight so I applied some bee’s wax to the tenon.Bertram12 The bowl and stem back together with a mineral oil applied and wiped off for a quick inspection before buffing.Bertram13 I gave it a quick buff with some brown Tripoli before applying some white Tripoli then many coats of carnauba wax.Bertram14 After applying wax and finished pipe.Bertram15






Bertram21 There was one small flaw in the briar. I decided to leave it as is.Bertram22 Very nice stampings on pipe.Bertram23



Bertram26 All in all it was a very simple refurbish due to its condition. I’m very happy with the way it turned out and have intentions of adding at least one more Bertram to my collection. Hopefully a large straight billiard.

Restoring an odd Trom-bone Pipe

Blog by Troy Wilburn

I got this off eBay because it was an American made pipe and it was a poker. It came unsmoked. It gets its name from the unique way you slide the pipe apart to clean it. I thought it would be an interesting addition to my poker collection.

I don’t know much about the pipe other than that they were made in California. This seems to be one of those “let’s build a better mousetrap” ideas when there is nothing wrong with the old mousetrap. Like I always say, some things are rare for a reason.

The pipe is a Bakelite type of plastic with a briar insert. I don’t know if I will smoke it or not as I am not sure how the plastic can take the heat coming from the bottom of the bowl.

So here is the pipe in all of her weird glory after I did a little buffing. Trombone1











Trombone12 I really didn’t think that this pipe would be that air tight and that it would have a lot of leaks. It doesn’t though. I can cap the bowl with my hand and blow and not hear or feel any air leaks.

A Hand Made Marvic & Purdy Billiard 15

Blog by Troy Wilburn

A short time back I was doing one of my favorite past times and that’s scanning for pipes on eBay. I spotted this Charatan and was just infatuated with it. The shape, style and blast just really drew my attention but I knew that it was beyond my budget.Blast1 So I got the idea to contact a friend of mine on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum, Gary Balestrieri Jr. Gary is a truck driver and a pipe carver who owns Marvic Pipes. I asked him if he could carve me a pipe based on that Charatan but unfinished. I suggested a narrow yellow acrylic band instead of a metal band as the only major change. To my happiness he agreed.

I then contacted another friend of mine from the forum, Carl Purdy, who does some fine sand blast work on pipes. I have posted some of his work before on here on the Jobey Lumberman I restored and he sandblasted.

With both on board to do the work for me, it was agreed that the pipe would be mailed to Carl after Gary carved it and then mailed to me and I would put the finish on it.

Well I got it in the mail last Saturday and I must say that I was giddy at such nice work they both did on this pipe for me. Gary nailed the shape and Carl did a masterful job on the blast. I’m very proud of both of them and honored to own this pipe now. I now have a pipe that to me is a 100 times better than that Charatan and it cost me half the price that pipe sold for. It was made with care by two friends and I consider that the most important aspect of his pipe.

This is what the pipe looked like when it arrived in the mail.Blast2



Blast5 I was expecting just a plain yellow band on the stem but Gary used some kind of acrylic that changes from black to yellow. It was an unexpected and nice touch.

I was just going to stain the pipe a plain jet black, but after seeing the blast I decided to see if I could do a kind of Dunhill Shell look to make it more interesting and high end looking. The first thing I did was carve a holder out of a corn dog stick – nothing but the best high end equipment on my kitchen table you know. Then I wiped it down with 91% alcohol to make sure that there were no contaminants on the briar. I also rubbed the bowl with a Scotch Brite pad to soften the sharp edges on the blast.Blast6 I then did some contrast staining on the stamping using a black sharpie as I wanted the stampings to stand out. I was also glad to see both Gary and Carl’s name stamped on the pipe. That was another very nice touch.Blast7 Then I wet sanded the smooth area with very lightly using 91% alcohol.Blast8 Then to make sure that the dye would not penetrate too deeply and turn the whole smooth area black I took mineral oil and painted it on with a Q tip.Blast9 I mixed up some black RIT dye and applied several coats to the bowl until it suited me.Blast10 I set the pipe to dry in my high tech drying rack disguised as a cardboard box.Blast11 I wiped down the bowl with mineral oil and checked over the colour. It looked good. Now it was ready for some wax.Blast12 I buffed it kind of heavy on the first coat to take some color off and to get that shell look to the briar. On a sandblasted pipe after several initial coats of wax I heat it over my stove to melt the wax into all the crevices. Then I buff it with a few more coats and repeat the process until it builds up to my liking.Blast13 Here is the pipe after a couple of hours of buffing and waxing.Blast14








Blast22 The pipe is a fantastic smoker and already after only a couple of ounces or so of tobacco smoked through it is beginning to break in. The draw is very easy and butter smooth. The pipe almost seems to smoke itself. I can only imagine how it will smoke after several more ounces are smoked through it.

Gary did perfection on the mechanics of the pipe and Carl put a world class looking blast on it. I couldn’t have asked for a better pipe. It turned out beyond my expectations. This will always be a cherished pipe to me. I have to add that the pictures just do not do it justice.