Tag Archives: articles by Paresh Deshpande

A Pipe That Called Out To A Fine Gentleman…Restoring A James Upshall “Tilshead”

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

At the beginning of this month I had posted a write up on a briar calabash pipe with a bone stem (Resurrecting A Dreary No Name Briar Calabash Shaped Pipe | rebornpipes) that called out to Lance Dahl (remember the three beautiful cased D.P. Ehrlich Co, Boston Made Meerschaum that Steve had restored last month?). While exchanging emails, I shared a couple of pictures about the pipes that were seeking new ownership and Lance selected one. From what I have seen of Lance, he is one person with an exquisite taste for unique and quality pipes.

The pipe that Lance has selected and currently on my work table is stamped on the left of the shank as “TILSHEAD” over “ENGLAND”, all in block capital letters. The right side of the shank surface bears the stamp “MADE BY HAND” The high quality vulcanite tapered stem is without any stamp/ logo.I knew TILSHEAD to be the entry level pipe from James Upshall, but that was all I knew about the pipe company!! To get a better understanding of the brand and this grade in particular, I first visited James Upshall – Pipedia.

The entire article makes for an interesting read; however, I have reproduced only the relevant information on the grade of the pipe from the pipe company and particularly the grade of the pipe on my work table:

Grading & Sizing Information

James Upshall pipes are graded by various finishes, i.e. bark, sandblast, black dress and smooth etc. Then by cross grain, flame grain, straight grain and, last but not least, the perfect high grade, which consists of dense straight grain to the bowl and shank. The latter being extremely rare. In addition, the price varies according to group size, i.e. from 3-4-5-6 cm high approximately Extra Large. We also have the Empire Series which are basically the giant size, individually hand crafted pipes which come in all finishes and categories of grain. All our pipes are individually hand carved from the highest quality, naturally dried Greek briar. In order to simplify our grading system, let me divide our pipes into 4 basic categories.

  1. It begins with the Tilshead pipe, which smokes every bit as good as the James Upshall but has a slight imperfection in the briar. In the same category price wise you will find the James Upshall Bark and Sandblast finish pipes, which fill and smoke as well as the high grades.
  2. In this category we have the best “root quality” which means that the grain is either cross, flame or straight, which is very much apparent through the transparent differing color finishes. This group will qualify as the “S”- Mahogany Red, “A” – Chestnut Tan and “P” – Walnut. The latter having the straighter grain.
  3. Here you have only straight grain, high grade pipes, which run from the “B”, “G”, “E”, “X” and “XX”. The latter will be the supreme high grade. Considering the straightness of the grain the latter category is also the rarest. Usually no more than 1% of the production will qualify.
  4. Lastly, we have the Empire Series. These are basically Limited Edition gigantic individually hand crafted pieces, which again are extremely rare due to the scarcity of large, superior briar blocks.

Believe you me Readers, the slight imperfections which destined this pipe to be categorized as TILSHEAD has me in awe of the very high quality standards set by the pipe company. There is not a single fill in the entire stummel surface and the grain is beautiful all around. All in all, this is a beautiful pipe with a quality that would equal or surpass any of the highest grades of line production pipe!

Initial Visual Inspection
The pipe that is currently on my work table has a Dublin shape (though not a classic Dublin but more of a freehand, the carver’s take on the classic shape while following the grain of the briar block) with thick walls. The stummel has a natural stain and is covered in dirt and grime through which beautiful angel hair grain can be seen all around with loosely packed Bird’s eye grain over the rim top surface. There is a thin layer of cake in the chamber and the outward sloping rim top surface is clean. The rim’s inner and outer edge surfaces is pristine. The vulcanite tapered stem is oxidized with severe damage to the bite zone on either surface. The buttons on both surfaces show bite marks with the upper half button missing. The following pictures will give the Readers an idea of the overall condition of the pipe as it sits on my work table. Overall, the thin layer of cake and excellent condition of the stummel are pointers to the fact that the pipe seems to be well looked after, though the stem damages are a proof of the previous owner’s cavalier chomping of the stem. It should be an easy restoration project, unless some gremlins pop up during the process. Detailed Visual Inspection
A thin and even layer of cake is seen in the chamber; however, the cake is very hard. The rim top surface is sans any overflow of lava, dirt, dust and grime, though a number of dents and dings (indicated with pastel blue circles and arrows) can be seen on the outward sloping rim surface. The exact condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar. The chamber odor is strong and should be addressed to some extent once the cake has been taken down and the shank internals have been thoroughly cleaned. The stummel feels solid to the touch and I do not foresee any major issues with the condition of the chamber walls. To be honest with you, this pipe being at the start of the ascending order of grading for James Upshall pipes, I had expected to find a few fills and some non-descript graining on the stummel briar. However, I was surprised to note that there are absolutely no fills on the stummel surface and it boasts of some beautiful angel hair flame grains around the sides, front and aft of the stummel surface while loosely packed Bird’s eye adorns the outward sloping rim top. The stummel surface is covered in dirt and grime giving the stummel a dull and dirty appearance. The stummel surface shows a few dents and dings (indicated by yellow arrows). It does have a quality which is seen on some very high end pipes. The mortise shows accumulation of old oils and tars which would need to be cleaned. The dents and dings to the rim surface and over the stummel surface would be addressed by steaming and sanding the surface. A nice polish with micromesh grit pads will bring a nice shine to the stummel and highlight the grains. The vulcanite stem is oxidized and severely damaged. The bite zone on either surface shows some severe tooth indentations with deformed button on either surface. The upper stem surface has a portion of the button lip missing (encircled in green) and would need to be built up again. The lower surface has a very deep bite mark, the causative pressure of which has resulted in a crack (indicated with yellow arrows) that extends over the lower button edge and up to the horizontal slot. The tenon and slot end are clean. All in all, the stem presents the most major damage on this pipe.The Process
Since the stem on this pipe was most severely damaged and would demand most efforts, I started the restoration process with the stem repairs. I ran a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol through the stem airway and was pleasantly surprised to find a nice clean pipe cleaner emerge from the other end. There is no doubt that the pipe was kept nice and clean by the previous owner. I flamed the bite zone of either surface over a lit candle to heat and expand the tooth indentation to the surface. It was well worth the try and the surface evenness is much improved than earlier.This step was followed by sanding the entire stem surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the oxidation from the surface. I wiped the stem with a cotton pad and isopropyl alcohol to clean the surface in preparation for reconstruction of the button edge. I placed a triangulated index card, which has been wrapped in cello tape, into the slot. The tape prevents the superglue from sticking and makes for easy extraction after the glue has cured. I mixed CA superglue with activated charcoal and applied it over the area to be rebuilt / repaired. I set the stem aside for the mix to harden before I could further work on the fill. Little did I know at this stage that this stem was to be such a pain to restore and would lead to a delay of many a day…and yet the end result is not what I usually achieve with my stem rebuilds. While I was working on the stem, Abha cleaned out the chamber of the stummel.  With a fabricated knife, she scraped the chamber walls to remove the thin, hard carbon deposits and also scraped out the lava overflow from the rim inner edge, though there was not much! Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, she used a 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, she wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. Next, I cleaned out the internals of the shank and mortise. Using my dental tool, I scraped out all the dried oils, tars and gunk that had accumulated in the draught hole and on the walls of the mortise. I finished the cleaning by running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol through the mortise. I shall continue with further cleaning of the shank internals when I clean the internals with cotton and alcohol bath and further during external cleaning of the stummel surface.I continued the cleaning of the chamber and shank internals with a salt and alcohol bath. I used cotton balls which are an at par substitute as I have realized over the years. I drew out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; inserted it into the mortise and through the draught hole into the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the inner rim edge and soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next morning, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise, fulfilling it’s intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk and further cleaned it with alcohol and q-tips. The chamber now smelled clean and fresh. I set aside the stummel to dry out naturally. With the bowl internals clean, I moved to clean the exterior of the stummel. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil soap to scrub the stummel and rim top. I rinsed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. Now that the stummel surface was nicely cleaned up and the beautiful angel hair grains exposed, the flip side was that the damages too are exposed! The dents and dings to the rim top surface were now plainly visible and I marked the areas with black sharpie pen as it helps in identifying and placing of the towel while steaming. I steamed out all the minor dents and dings by heating my fabricated knife on a candle and placing it on a wet towel covering the dents. The generated steam pulls the dents to the surface. Most of the dents have been raised to the surface, however, a couple of ones that remain, will be addressed by sanding with a folded piece of 320 grit sand paper. With this, I handed over the stummel to Abha for further polishing and turned my attention to the stem repairs. The stem repairs had hardened considerably over the past 18 odd hours. I used a flat head needle file to achieve a rough match of the patch with the rest of the stem surface. I further evened out the patch with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. And it was at this stage in the restoration that my nightmares began! The sanding had revealed what every pipe restorer fears during stem repairs and that is air pockets in the repaired patch. Also I could clearly make out the crack over the button edge on the lower surface of the stem. I had to mix CA superglue and activated charcoal again and apply over the repaired area with a hope and prayer that the air pockets are filled. In all, I had to repeat the process five times and even changed the glue as well as charcoal powder. I even went through the entire process of sanding with sandpapers and polishing with micromesh pads. However, the repairs were not up to my acceptable standards. The following pictures will give the readers an idea of the entire process. After I had been through the entire process of sanding and polishing, the issues of air pockets and visibility of the crack on the lower surface were still apparent and I went to town filing away the repair work with needle file till I reached the bottom of the patch. I reapplied the mix of CA superglue and charcoal powder for the sixth time. On sixth attempt I decided to accept the minor flaws in the aesthetics of the repairs as long as the repairs are solid and lasting. The stem after sixth attempt at repairs is shown in the last two pictures after it was sanded and polished. During the course of my battle with the stem repairs, Abha had been unobtrusively working on the stummel. She sanded the entire stummel with a piece of 320 grit sand paper to remove the minor dings and scratches from the rim top and rest of the stummel surface. She followed it up by wet sanding the stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads to a nice even shine. She wiped the stummel with a moist cloth after every grit pad to remove the sanding dust left behind by the pads. This also helps in monitoring the progress being made and provides an opportunity to take early corrective action, if required. Next, she rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” into the briar with her finger tips and worked it deep in to the surface and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful angel hair flame grains and Bird’s eye grain patterns over the rim top, on full display. The contrast of the dark browns of the grain with the light natural hues of the rest of the stummel adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. She further buffed it with a horse hair brush to further deepen the shine. To put the finishing touches, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks that remain from the sanding.Next, I mounted another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I mounted a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and gave the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and is now on its way to Lance, all ready for its long second innings with him. P.S.- I had tried my level best in addressing and blending in the repairs to the stem with the surrounding surface but to no avail. It would be immensely helpful if our esteemed readers could share a trick or two that I could learn and adopt.

However, I feel the repairs are solid and Lance, if you are reading this, should the stem give you any troubles, just send the pipe back and I shall replace the complete stem at no cost, including shipping! I hope you enjoy the pipes that have traveled across the seas…

Praying for the health and safety of all the readers and their loved ones in these troubled times…

Restoring a Wally Frank Era Custombilt Sitter #633

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

After having worked on my grandfather’s old 1938-1946 era Custom-Bilt large billiard pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/06/02/restoring-my-grandfathers-custom-bilt-pipe/), I was keen to work on a second Custombilt in the collection. This particular pipe was a sitter with ¾ bend to the stem. It has a very interesting shape. Being at the bottom of the learning curve on identification of pipe shapes and restoration, any help in accurate description of the shape of this pipe would be highly appreciated!!!!

The pipe has thin (as compared to the thick rustication on the 1938-46 Custom-Bilt that I had previously worked on) wavy and haphazard rustication starting from the bottom of the bowl and extending upwards to the rim. These wavy, haphazard upward sweeping rustications give the impressions of flickering flames of fire. These flaming rustications at the back of the bowl reach nearly the outer edge of the rim from either side of the bowl and progressively lower down towards the front of the bowl.  The shank has four prominent rustications extending from the bowl towards the end of the shank forming four distinct plain panels, one each on the top, bottom, left and right side of the shank. The left and right panels house the stampings on the pipe while the top and bottom panels are blank highlighting the beautiful cross grains.

Under all the dust, dirt, oils, tars and gunk of all the years, stamping on the pipe can be read as   “Custombilt” in cursive hand over “ORIGINAL” in block letters on the left side panel of the shank. The letter ‘C’ meets the ‘U’ nearly half way up from the bottom of the ‘U’. The right side panel of the shank bears the stamp # “633”. The stem is bereft of any stamping. While restoring the first Custom-Bilt from my grandfather’s collection, I had visited Pipedia for collecting information and dating of Custombilt pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt). There is an interesting review given by Richard Esserman  on a book written by   William E. Unger, Jr., PhD, which deals with the study of Custom-Bilt pipes. I have reproduced some interesting excerpts from the webpage:

The book opens up with an intriguing statement that unfortunately is never fully followed up: Before beginning this history, I need to emphasize an important fact and to ask the reader to keep it firmly. Spelling-Custom-Bilt, Custombilt, and other variations-is extremely important to the various aspects of the following discussions. It was not, however, important to many people in the company’s early days.

Perhaps the reason for this is that briar pipes were simply viewed solely as smoking instruments-even as a “longer term” disposable item (perhaps like a good pair of shoes). I would suggest that Tracy Mincer would be shocked that these pipes are being collected today.

Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated:

I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars.

In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975.

Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

The Pipes

Most Custom-Bilt pipes that you see at a pipe show have somewhat big, chunky bowls with rough carving or gouges. It is very rare to see a completely smooth piece. In today’s market, the pipes are still considered to be on the large side but are not true giants. It should be noted that in the early days when the Custom-Bilt pipes were first being produced, these bowl sizes were considered very large and massive. The size of the average pipe was a group 3 or 4 sized Dunhill.

The first thing that Bill addresses in his chapter on pipes is the quality of the bowls in the early years. Rick Hacker, in his Rare Pipes book, suggests that Mincer bought blemished bowls from other companies and used the wood-working router to get rid of the blemishes. According to an important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, “Tracy used a very choice Algerian briar, and they were bigger blocks than what the other companies were using.”

William E. Unger, Jr., Ph.D. (“Bill”) has studied the stampings on a large number of Custombilt pipes and based on this extensive study conclusively dates Custombilt pipes. There is a picture of a stamp which resembles the stamping seen on my pipe, and is reproduced from Pipedia in the picture below.From the above details gleaned from Pipedia and the above stamp, it can be safely inferred that this pipe dates to the 1970s era. This also coincided roughly with the time when my grandfather quit smoking and I was waiting in the wings to make my debut into this wide and beautiful world in a few years time!!!!!! From the look on the pipe, it appears that my grandfather never believed in cleaning his pipes and believed in just keep using the pipe and once it fouled up, simply keep it aside and buy new one!! Thus, the reason for the large collection of pipes that I have inherited from him.

I had loved the first Custom-Bilt that I had worked on for its size, feel in the hand, its rustic looks and wide rustications and I love this Custombilt for its size, shape, the heft and the gorgeous beautiful flaming rustications!!! Well, have I fallen in love with Custombilts???? Maybe!!!!!!

Having admired the beautiful rustication, the shape/ size and safe in the knowledge that I will get to smoke it in the years to come; I proceeded to carry out a detailed examination of the condition of the pipe and the work that will be required during the process of restoration. Any follower of Mr. Steve’s blog will recollect the 10 steps elucidated by him for beginners in pipe restoration and I sincerely follow it. It helps a person to assess the condition of the pipe, what are the issues that needs to be addressed, what processes will be involved and while appreciating these facts, formulate a broad action plan for the entire restoration.

The bowl has a relatively thin layer of cake (…which subsequently proved incorrect!!!) which will have to be reamed out. The condition of the insides of the bowl needs to be appreciated thereafter. The pipe was used to smoke an aromatic tobacco since the smell was not offensive, but rather somewhat sweet. I believe that once the bowl is reamed to its bare briar, the smell will be taken care of!!As seen in the above picture, the outer edge of the rim is perfectly rounded with no damage whatsoever. However, there appears to be a small chip to the inner edge of the rim on the left side in the 9 ‘O’ clock direction. The exact extent of the damage or otherwise, can be appreciated only after the bowl has been reamed. It could be addressed/ minimized, if need be, by creating a slight bevel on the inner edge.

The airflow is restricted and required considerable effort to blow through the pipe. The airway in either the stem or shank could be blocked or the mortise could be clogged. Blowing separately through both, stem as well as the shank, I realized that both are blocked/ clogged.The draught hole is right at the bottom of the bowl and there is no reservoir/ sump as in the Pete system pipes. A pipe cleaner could not pass through the draught hole as expected. This needs to be addressed.

The bowl and shank are covered in dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime. The stamping, though readable, is covered in the tars, oils and grime.The rustications on the bowl and shank have turned black due to accumulation of dirt, oils and tars of more than 48 years of its existence. The rim, however, is clean and free of any overflowing lava.The stem is free of any serious damage, tooth chatter or bite marks. The oxidation was light and just a firm rub with a moist Mr. Magic clean sponge, removed a great deal of oxidation from the stem. Overall, this pipe and stem was not very heavily abused.THE PROCESS
This time around Abha, my wife, was not around to help me with the bowl and this, I definitely missed!!! Using a Kleen Reem pipe tool, I completely removed the cake from the bowl. The quantity of carbon cake that was removed from the bowl belied my initial appreciation about thin layer of cake. The bowl now looks huge!!!Another observation I had was that the cake was very dry and tightly packed. Using an improvised and fabricated knife, I scraped all the remains of the carbon from the stummel down to its briar and finished with sanding the interiors of the stummel using a 220 grit sand paper. I wiped the interiors of the stummel with cotton swabs dipped in Isopropyl alcohol (99.9%). The interiors are now looking clean, smooth, solid and fresh.Once the cake was completely removed, the small chip on the left of the inner edge of the rim in 9 ‘O’ clock direction, though visible, was not alarmingly large or prominent. The rim top slopes inwards and a bevel would not really look good. I was not sure how much sanding would be adequate and also since it does not look bad, I decided to lightly sand it using micromesh pads, wet sanding using 1500 to 3200 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3400-12000 pads. Any advice or suggestions pertaining to the issue of this chip is most welcome and will definitely teach me a thing or two.

The next issue that required to be addressed was that of the restricted airflow!!! I started with the cleaning of the interiors of the shank and what a mess it was! Using hard bristled pipe cleaners, shank brush and alcohol, I cleaned out the mortise. With a dental spatula, I scraped out most of the gunk and tars which had moistened due to alcohol. I used the drill tool in the Kleen Reem pipe tool with a pipe cleaner embedded in the slot in the head of the drill tool, dipped in alcohol to clean the airway in the shank and also the draught hole.With the help of q-tips and pipe cleaners dipped in Isopropyl alcohol, I cleaned the internals of the shank and scrubbed the inner walls of the mortise to remove the last remnants of the oils, tars and gunk. At this stage, the airway in the shank was clean, the draught hole was clean and opened out and the mortise was free of all the accumulated tars and oils and gunk of the past!!

With the internals of the stummel and shank cleaned and freshened up, I turned my attention to the exterior of the bowl. Using Murphy’s oil soap and a toothbrush, I cleaned the exterior of the bowl while paying more attention to the cleaning of the flaming rustications, which I had so come to love! I gave a very deliberate scrub to the bowl and into the rustications to remove all the dust, dirt and grime that accumulated over the years. I purposefully avoided brass brush/ steel wool while cleaning so as not to damage the thin horizontal rustications within the flaming vertical rustications. Once the cleaning with the oil soap was done, I rinsed it under running tap water and wiped it dry with a soft cotton cloth. I took care that the water does not enter into the chamber and the shank. The bowl now has a nice, beautiful, clean and robust look to it. I set the bowl aside to dry out and turned my attention to the stem.

Thankfully, this stem does not have any deep tooth/ bite marks or tooth chatter nor does it show any deep and stubborn oxidation. The wet Mr. Magic Cleaner had almost completely removed the oxidation. Using a 220 grit sand paper, I gently removed the minor tooth chatter that was visible. I folded a fresh piece of the grit paper into a sharp edge and sanded the button to give it shape. I wiped the stem down with a moist cloth to remove the sanding dust and applied a thin coat of Extra Virgin Olive oil and rubbed it into vulcanite with my fingers. I let it rest for a few minutes and wiped it off with a soft cloth.Once I was satisfied that the excess oil has been removed, I went through with the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 3200 grit pads and dry sanding with 3400 through to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed extra virgin olive oil into the stem after sanding by each micromesh pad. In my exuberance to finish the pipe, I completely missed out on taking pictures at this stage. However, in the subsequent pictures of the completed pipe, you shall be able to appreciate the shining stem!!!!

I cleaned the internals of the stem using hard bristled pipe cleaners and alcohol. After considerable attempts at cleaning, the pipe cleaners finally came out of the other end. The air now passed through the stem freely. I further cleaned the internals of the stem till the pipe cleaners came out clean through the other end. Thereafter, I rubbed Extra Virgin Olive oil deeply into the stem and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite.

Turning my attention the bowl the next morning, I liked the clean, fresh look of the bowl. Once again I gave it a good clean up with a dry soft cloth to remove any dust/dirt that might have settled on the bowl overnight. Thereafter, I rubbed a small quantity of “ Before and After Restoration Balm” into the bowl ensuring that it reaches the rustication also. I am truly amazed at the spread of this balm!  Just a small quantity quickly spreads and is sufficient to coat the entire bowl when rubbed with the fingers. The product was further rubbed into the rustication when buffed, using a horsehair shoe brush. I let it rest for a few minutes to let the balm work its magic on the briar. The transformation is amazing!! Once this was done, it was back to using muscle power to enhance the shine and beauty of the rustication by prolonged rubbing with a soft cloth followed by a microfiber cloth. These rustications give an impression of shimmering flames leaping upwards!!! I was very pleased with my efforts……I know it is akin to blowing my own trumpet, but I do believe that if the notes are correct and melodious, please blow it. The finished bowl is shown below. Finally when I fixed the stem into the shank, I realized with a cringe that due to the cleaning of the mortise, the fit was not snug, it was way too loose! I had read somewhere that holding the tenon to a Bic lighter flame, increases the girth of the tenon which in turn ensures a snug fit into the mortise. Sounds easy enough but doing it for the first time and that too with a pipe you have come to love and admire….. is not easy. However, I took the plunge knowing very well that even in the case I mess it up, Mr. Steve of rebornpipes would bail me out. I have realized that one needs to have that kind of back up so that the journey is smooth, insightful and free from fears of failure, and that in essence is what Mr. Steve is to me as my Guru. Thank you Sir once again!!

Well, to cut the long story short, I heated the tenon over the flame of a Bic lighter continuously turning it around. I stopped when the tenon felt slightly soft and pliable to the touch and set it aside to cool down with a pipe cleaner inside, praying for it to set perfectly into the mortise and not break/ crack. After the tenon had completely cooled down, I again attached the stem to the shank and, what a relief, the fit was nice and snug with just the right kind of noises!!! The finished pipe is shown below. This project was fun filled and a great learning experience. Thank you for sharing your valuable time with me while reading this post. And lest I forget, thank you Mr. Steve for providing me with invaluable guidance and a canvas for essaying my journeys.