Tag Archives: banding

A Sad Lesson from a Botched GBD Repair (by Someone Else) I Tried to Mend


Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
http://www.naspc.org
http://www.roadrunnerpipesnm.biz
http://about.me/boughtonrobert
Photos © the Author

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
― Thomas Bertram “Bert” Lance (1931-2013), U.S. bank teller to president and Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter, in the May 1977 issue of “Nation’s Business” magazine

INTRODUCTION
This is a sad tale for all involved: the eBay seller from whom I purchased the GBD straight apple sitter this blog concerns, for $39.99 in April of last year, which the good lady in England refunded five days later; me, as the buyer who requested the refund after receiving the pipe and finding that the photos posted by the seller did not reveal the hidden nomenclature from a previous silver banding to fix an apparent crack in the shank, and at last, in a very real way, the person or persons unknown responsible for the banding itself that, nine months later, I have only just discovered was unnecessary. At least the last of the concerned parties is/are blithely unaware.

That’s right, you read correctly. Although I was justified in asking for the refund, and intended to pay the high postage required to return it to the seller beforehand, she responded, to my gentle but detailed account of the reasoning, with a message that can only be described as hysterical from an obvious sense of unjustified guilt for having “falsely advertised” the GBD. I never used that phrase in my request.

As I recall – though I can’t locate the exchange of emails between the Englishwoman and me that followed my awaiting the arrival of the GBD, with great expectations that were dashed by its clear flaws upon receipt – she wrote back that I should not bother returning it at all, but instead that she would promptly refund my money and I should “keep it, sell it for whatever you can, or throw it away, I don’t care.”

At that point, I was filled with remorse over the anguish in the tone and content of her message that literally rang in my ears, even without an exclamation point. I nevertheless attempted, in a final, unanswered message, to express my intent merely to let her know, in order to sell this pipe or any other (they are not her specialty), that she only needed to add a brief note of the band work and its effect on the nomenclature, as these are important details to collectors and sellers, and perhaps lower her asking price.

After showing the pipe to Chuck Richards, my good friend and mentor, before the emails described above and allowing him to discover on his own the same flaws I detected, he concluded that if I paid more than $10 for it, I should immediately ask for a refund, as I had bought it for my own estate pipe business with the prospect of a quick clean-up for resale. When I told Chuck the actual amount I had shelled out, he was speechless for a moment before all but insisting I seek the refund.

I have been unable to get the shame-riddled emailed words of the kind seller, who as far as I’m concerned made an honest mistake and acted, throughout the transaction, in absolute good faith, out of my mind ever since. I have entertained various options concerning the ultimate disposition of the pipe’s rightful ownership. Of course, I could (A) keep the still beautiful pipe and restore it as best I could to put in my own collection or sell with appropriate disclaimers; (B) clean it up and return it, like a good gentleman, to the grief-stricken lady, with the emphatic suggestion that she give it to a friend who enjoys pipes and would likely treasure this one, if she still didn’t wish to sell it on eBay with a lower price and notices, or (C) complete the work that could be done to fix the damages wrought on the hapless GBD, keep it or sell it but under no circumstances toss it in the trash as the seller advocated, and write the blog now presented as a full and sincere apology to the lady, with the intent of depositing the refunded money back into her PayPal account and forwarding her the link to the blog.

With great effort, I at last located the transaction numbers and dates of the original purchase and refund, and with them was able to obtain the lady’s name and email address.

I will save my final decision for later in this account of the restoration of the GBD Prestige straight apple sitter, which research has disclosed was made prior to the acquisition of GBD (an abbreviation of the three founders of the brand in 1850 in Paris – Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger) by Cadogan of the Oppenheimer group in the 1970s. The imprint “London England” in a straight line on the right side of the shank, almost half of which was obliterated by the band, narrowed the pipe to the pre-Cadogan era and also signified that it might have been made in France despite the nomenclature. GBD was last taken over in 1981 by Comoy’s.

The other nomenclature on the Prestige was critically faint, before I started work on it, and included on the left shank the small letters GBD in an oval, barely visible beside the band, and the model name in cursive that took hours to decipher enough to make out the first uncovered letters, “Prest,” which led the excellent Englishwoman to suspect Presto, but I Googled and found the full correct name. On the right shank, equally as light as the left and below “on England,” were three numbers for the shape, 448, which I understood was 9448. Here is what another version of the pipe looked like.GBD1 The apple of my eyes in this blog is remarkably similar, discounting the nomenclature.

RESTORATION
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GBD6 [Note the unusual, perfect, pale half oval indentation in the top of the shank in the sixth photo above: I have.no rational explanation for the presence of this mark other than the appearance that it is neither a natural aspect of the wood nor any type of damage, such as a crack. I believe the previous restorer attempted to use a self-made metal band, with the idea of reinforcing the top of the shank without covering any of the nomenclature. If this admittedly crazy-sounding guess is correct, the restorer likely intended to do the same on the bottom of the shank but aborted the idea altogether after failing with the top piece. Call me nuts, but this mark is not an accident.]

Already considering re-banding the apple with a shorter sterling variety, I tugged at the one used in the first place, without much hope that it might be loose, and was surprised when it flew off of the shank and onto my lap.GBD7 Now that was fortunate indeed, for, upon closer inspection, I was able to see that the tiny line in the shank’s opening, which ignited some daft restorer’s passion to fix something that wasn’t broken, was a mere blemish that led nowhere and, in fact, disappeared with a few seconds of sanding. I have to add an acknowledgement of my simultaneous relief that the shank was not cracked and disgust with the previous restorer who desecrated the otherwise weathered but fine pipe by ruining so much of the invaluable nomenclature. The only remaining imprints were the indentations left from the hallmarks and sterling silver designation on the once tight band. I scoffed out loud after my brain digested this enormous error in judgment that more or less ended any real value – and prestige, so to say – this GBD might have had.

Not yet wanting to deal with the majority of the stummel’s outer area, I decided to start by removing the years of accumulated dirt and whatnot from the wood with small soft white pieces of cotton gun cleaner cloths and much of the rim char with wet micromesh pads and a light touch of superfine steel wool. I followed those tasks by clearing the small amount of excess carbon in the chamber with a 19mm reamer and 200- and 500-grit paper, swabbing with Everclear-soaked cotton cloth pieces, and a retort of the pipe.

The retort turned out to be the hardest part of these preliminary steps, as neither of the two rubber tubes that span the few inches from the boiling Everclear to the lip of the bit would fit the extra wide mouthpiece that was part of the GBD. And so, ad-libbing somewhat, I sought out another bit from my collection with a tenon that fit the GBD and a lip that matched the rubber tube. Of course, the last possible pipe I checked was a match – or closely enough. It was from a favorite Ropp. I had no trouble cleaning the metal inlaid GBD bit with a couple of alcohol-soaked bristly cleaners.GBD8

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GBD10 The photos above show the surprising cleanliness of the well-worn sitter, and by inference, the degree of care its fortunate owner once accorded the bijou. The later of two test tubes full of Everclear used in the retort was almost clear, with only a few small, solid pieces of flotsam at the bottom.

Here, alas, is where I erred, and will have to accept the consequences, until the day I die, for the heartbreaking lesson they provided. In hindsight, I suppose I might, at this critical stage, have sought the guidance of Chuck or Steve (my second if unofficial mentor in this ever-evolving process of learning). But, as Jesse Eisenberg’s character in “Zombieland,” Columbus (for the city in Ohio where he was born), repeated slowly as a sort of mantra: “Shoulda-coulda-woulda.” Much as Columbus had come up with rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse, so have I adopted a set of guidelines, from my own experiences and those of others, for pipe restoring.

Sometimes I ignore one of these, for the most part with success, and sometimes I have to learn the hard way, on my own. Still, as I type this, I find myself experiencing emotions I prefer to avoid. Recognizing my harshness with the previous restorer, and my own share of fault for the apple’s present condition, I nevertheless tell myself I did my best, alone, to return the splendid pipe to its potential glory. My mistake, although unintentionally made in the pursuit of correcting one more egregious that I believed necessitated my next step, is on me.

To the point, and in spite of a note in my previous blog that I try my best to avoid full stripping of a pipe’s original stain and waxes with an Everclear bath, that is what I did.GBD11

GBD12

GBD13 These photos show two things: the wonderful success in removing the remaining rim char and reducing the wood to its natural smoothness, and, as an unexpected result of the latter, also eliminating almost every vestige of the remaining nomenclature. Anyone who loves pipes with all of his heart, as I do, will comprehend the complete hollowness, in the pit of my stomach and consuming my mind, I experienced upon seeing with my own eyes the gaff I had committed. I sat there on my couch awhile, stunned, until I forced myself to snap out of the melancholy reverie and get on with it.

Flashing on memories of a few pipes restored by Chuck, and which I bought despite the blemishes I detected and wondered why he let them remain, I knew the full answer he omitted, in his enigmatic way, when I asked him. Some flaws, as battles, are better left unfought. Before I reached this conclusion – as my mind was still rampaging with thoughts of how I should have approached the same notion of stripping the original stain and waxes from just the bowl and chamber, or could have accomplished the goal better, or would have saved the fragile markings that could now be visible – I had to suffer the unavoidable fact of my misdeed. Shoulda-coulda-woulda.

Thus I embarked on the only course of action I had left – to re-smooth and finish cleaning the chamber with 150-, 200- and 500-grit papers followed by small cotton cloths soaked with alcohol, and returning the sheen of the wood using superfine steel wool and then 3600-12000 micromesh pads. I then re-stained the briar, first trying Lincoln Medium Brown leather dye and flaming it before buffing with 6000 and 8000 micromesh.GBD14

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GBD18 I saw that the clear, pale half-oval shape, from the suspected attempt by the previous restorer to use an adornment band to fix the misperceived shank crack, remained stubbornly. And so, having nothing to lose, I sanded the open end of the shank with 150-, 200-, 320- and 500-grit papers before micro-meshing and staining again. I’ll tell you straight out, this was not the end of the struggle to fix the single blemish.GBD19 Of course, I buffed off the char from flaming the end of the shank with 6000 and 8000 micromesh, and reattached the bit to the shank with the band removed, to check the fit. The bit was still a match with the shank!GBD20 Grateful to have something go right, I turned in that direction and went after the bit. The photos below show before, as it arrived in the mail, and after I worked on it with the tools displayed.GBD21

GBD22 This blog is nothing if not a cautionary tale about the horrors of reversing someone else’s mistakes – of which mine, unfortunately, cannot be undone. I return to the battle of the pernicious, aborted oval pipe band, at the very moment I concluded that maybe a darker staining, adding Lincoln’s version of burgundy red to the medium brown I applied earlier, would help me be out, out with the foul spot. I was wrong, but here’s what it looked like after flaming the alcohol out of the stain.GBD23 However, this was, at least, a step in the right direction. I concluded that, despite my deepest desire not to be forced to re-shackle the apple sitter with the excellent but unnecessary sterling band that caused this ruckus in the first place, I had no choice. I Super Glued the band firmly back onto the shank, with the hallmarks on the left side, and it did serve to obscure most of the oval shape. Before I snapped the next photos, I added another spot stain using more of the medium brown, flamed it and buffed with 8000 micromesh. That was pretty much the end of the oval spot!GBD24

GBD25 At long last, I was ready for the final buffing on my electric wheels, which as always involved the clean buffer after each of the waxes. For the bit, I used the regular red and white Tripoli and White Diamond. Having let every other convention fly in the wind, the thought occurred to me to wax the stummel with the red Tripoli as well as white, followed by White Diamond and a slow double-coat of carnauba.GBD26

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CONCLUSION
The foul spot still remains enough for a good eye to catch, if not the camera for once. I’m going to sum this up with the note that I sincerely hope I succeeded in creating a final result that, despite its one glaring disaster, reveals a more beautiful grain than the original darker version. And one more thing: I have decided to return the money the Englishwoman who gave me this fine GBD refunded to me last April, and then forward the link to this explanation. At this point in the whole experience with the cursed and enchanted apple sitter, I am happy to take a loss for once, and will try to sell the pipe for $25. I have no doubt the lady in England is lovely. How could she not be, given her obvious love of pipes that equals mine?

SOURCES
http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-gbd.html
http://yeoldebriars.com/gbd013.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPIuIfAywvY Zombieland Rules (AC, AL, GL, V)

UPCOMING RESTORES
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NEPAL PROJECT PIPE SALE 14 – Reworking Someone’s Repair on an Ehrlich Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the fourteenth pipe from the box of pipes that I was gifted by a good friend of mine with the instructed purpose of cleaning them up and selling them with all of the proceeds going to the aid of earthquake victims in Nepal. Once again all funds raised will all go to the SA Foundation, and organization that has worked in Nepal for over 15 years helping provide recovery, housing and job training for women who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The ongoing earthquakes (over 300) that continue to shake Nepal have left much in ruins. The SA Foundation Project there was able to find new housing for the women and help with staff as well. Every dollar raised from the sale of these pipes will go to the work in Nepal.

This one is an Ehrlich billiard stamped Enrlich over Imported Briar on the left side of the shank. The stem still bears the E in a circle stamping and on the underside reads ITALY. There is no shape number on the sides or underside of the shank. It may well have had one prior to the previous repair that had been done but I could see no sign of it.

Over the years I have had to rework many of the first pipes that I repaired and restored. Some of them were simple fixes that came with time and experience. Some of them were unfixable without some major reshaping. This time around the pipe that I am working on came with lots of issues that were not my own making. They were the issues that someone else made in fixing this pipe. It had a cracked shank and a restoration band. The previous repairer had glued the shank and then proceeded to sand down the shank to fit the band rather than using a band to fit the shank. The band was slightly small in diameter and did not match the shank above it. It had the characteristic “bulge over the belt” look that came to me in middle age. The sanding down of the shank also went too far in that with the band in place there was a large gap between the shank and the band all the way around the pipe. The edge against the part of the shank that remained was crooked and rough. It showed above the band when it was in place and also held the band at an angle. The band would not stay in place and was being held there by the stem.

The rim had been topped but not enough and there were still gouges on the outer edges of the bowl. The bowl was reamed but not all the way to the bottom of the bowl and the airway was very constricted where it entered the bowl. The finish was spotty at best and had a coat of varnish over the stain. There were some obvious fills in the bowl that really showed up through the spotty stain. Overall the bowl looked worn and uninviting. It certainly would not be a pipe that called to me from my rack. The stem was oxidized and dirty as well as been covered with deep scratches over the length from the band to the button. The tenon had also been taken down slightly so its fit in the shank was loose.Ehrlich1

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Ehrlich4 When I removed the stem the band fell free and I was able to examine the repair to the cracked shank that had made banding necessary to the previous repairer. You can see the angles of the cut against the shank that had been done by sanding that kept the band from seating on the shank straight.Ehrlich6

Ehrlich7 I cleaned up the edge of the cut on the shank to make the band sit straight and then heated the band with a lighter to expand it to sit straight on the shank. When it was heated I pressed it against a hard surface and felt it slip into place. There was no need to glue it at this point as the gap between the shank and band was too big to connect the too.Ehrlich8

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Ehrlich10 I removed the stem and filled the gap between the band and the shank with briar dust. I packed the dust in with a dental pick and then put super glue on top of the dust to form a bond and fill the gap. I used a knife to bevel the inside edge of the mortise to accommodate the fit of the stem. I sanded the inner edge and the repair to the shank. The photo below shows the fill and the repair. It still needed to be sanded but the stem fit very well.Ehrlich11 The next photo shows the topping job that had been done on the rim top. You can see the scratches and the rough spots on the outer edge of the rim.Ehrlich12 I re-topped the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper to clean it up.Ehrlich13 The next photo shows the re-topped bowl. The edges are all clean and smooth. The spot that looks rough on the back side is a fill that was along the edge.Ehrlich14 I sanded the bottom of the shank to take out some of the bulge against the band. I started with 220 grit sandpaper and then used medium and fine grit sanding sponges to smooth out the scratches.Ehrlich15 With the cleanup on the shank and rim finished I moved on to clean up the interior. I scraped out the bowl with a sharp knife to remove the remaining cake and clean up the bottom of the bowl. I used the drill bit from the KleenReem reamer to open the airway and remove all of the tars that had clogged the airway into the bowl.Ehrlich16 I scrubbed the mortise, airway and inside of the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean.Ehrlich17 In the photo of the stem shown below you can see the scratches that were left in the stem from the previous cleanup.Ehrlich18 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratches and some of the surface oxidation.Ehrlich19 With the scratches minimized I put the stem in a jar of Oxyclean solution to soak. I let it soak for about an hour and a half and then rinsed it off and dried it with a cloth. I rubbed the stem down with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and was able to remove the majority of the oxidation.Ehrlich20 I gave the stem a light sanding with the fine grit sanding sponge and then moved on to the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil.Ehrlich21 I put the stem back in place and restained the bowl with a medium brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain and set the bowl aside to dry on the cork and candle stand and called it a night. The pipe was beginning to look better.Ehrlich22 I worked some more on polishing the stem. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I continued to dry sand with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and then buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel.Ehrlich23

Ehrlich24 I used Dave Gossett’s additional step in buffing the final pipe. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and then a clean buff on a soft flannel wheel. I gave it a final hand buff with a microfibre cloth before I took the photos below. The pipe is finished and ready for the pipeman who will make it his/her own.Ehrlich25

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Ehrlich29 This Ehrlich billiard is a medium sized pipe, basically a Group 4 in Dunhill terms. The grain is quite nice and with the stain the fills blend into the finish quite well. The stain is a medium brown that allows the grain to show through to its advantage. It should make someone a great addition. If you are interested in this pipe email me with an offer at slaug@uniserve.com and we can discuss it. The entirety of the sale price will go to the Nepal project. I will pay the postage so that does not get taken off the proceeds. If you are interested in reading about the SA Foundation you can look at their website at http://www.safoundation.com.

Thanks for looking.

Giving new life to a Savinelli Product – a David’s Choice Canadian


Blog by Steve Laug

I have written about the restoration and restemming of the first pipe bowl I picked up while on a recent trip. It was found in an antique shop in Nanton, Alberta. It was an old AF Billiard from 1923. The second pipe bowl I found at the same shop is the focus of this refurbishing article. It is stamped on top of the shank with the words David’s Choice and stamped on the underside Italy and barely visible under the repair band Savinelli Product. The repair band was loose and when it was removed the shank had a crack on the bottom side. At the bowl shank junction there is also a small crack that extends back along the shank for almost an inch. It does not appear to go through the shank to the airway but it is visible. The rim of the pipe was clean but the outer edge was damaged and the top edge was badly dented. The finish on the bowl was gone and the briar, though it had stunning grain, was lifeless looking. The bowl was clean in the top ½ inch – looking to have been reamed. The rest of the bowl was badly caked to the point that a pencil would stand in the bottom half unaided. There was no room for additional tobacco. Surprisingly the shank was clean. The stem was long since gone but I found a stem blank in my stem can that would work very well with the pipe.Sav1 Sav2 Sav3 Sav4 Sav5 Sav6 The cake was like concrete in the bottom half of the bowl. I could not cut through it with either the PipNet or the KleenReem pipe reaming tools. I filled the bowl with cotton balls and then used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. I let it sit for several hours while I worked on fitting the stem.Sav7 Sav8 I used the Pimo Pipe Turning tool to reduce the diameter of the tenon and cut a clean edge against the stem. I sanded it by hand to get it to the proper diameter to fit the shank. I still needed to fit the stem to the angles of the shank and make the lines straight and clean from shank to button. I fit it on the pipe and took some photos to get an idea of what I needed to sand.Sav9 Sav10 I took the cotton balls out of the bowl and then reamed the bowl. The alcohol softened the hard cake and it came out more easily. I finished scraping the bowl with a sharp knife to take out the remnant of cake. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to reduce the stem to fit the shank. I glued the band in place on the shank with an all-purpose wood glue.Sav11 Sav12 Sav13 Sav14 Sav15 I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the remaining finish from the briar. I would eventually stain the briar – not sure at this point what colour I would use but I wanted to have a clean surface for the stain. I also lightly topped the bowl with a topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged top and edges of the rim.Sav16 Sav17 Sav18 I heated the briar with a heat gun to open the pores in the briar to receive the stain and then used a dark brown aniline stain. I applied it and flamed and repeated the process until I had an even coverage over the surface of the bowl. In the past I have thinned the stain to lighten it but have lately just applied it and then wiped it down with alcohol and cotton pads to lighten it after staining.Sav19 Sav20 Sav21 I sanded the bowl and shank with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to further lighten the finish and then wiped it down a further time with the alcohol wet pads.Sav22 Sav23 Sav24 Sav25 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. Once I had finished sanding I buffed the stem with White Diamond. I polished the band with silver polish and gave it a light buff with White Diamond as well.Sav26 Sav27 Sav28 I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed it all again with White Diamond and gave it a several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a soft flannel buff to raise the shine. Though this old warhorse of a pipe has seen much use, the new finish and restored, rebanded and restemmed pipe should give many more years of service. It is cleaned and ready to load with its inaugural bowl. Though the pictures do not show it the pipe is a large one – it is 6 inches long with a bowl that is 2 inches tall. The diameter of the bore is 7/8 inches. It will certainly be a long smoke – and if the build of cake left behind by the previous owner tells any tales it will be a good smoking pipe.Sav29 Sav30 Sav31 Sav32

A Sentimental Journey – the Restemming and Restoration of a Medico Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

For years now I have had a special spot in my heart for Medico pipes. I don’t like the paper filter system, or the cheap stems with the split aluminum tenon, or the heavy varnish on the briar, or the fills that are hidden below the thick varnish, or any endless number of complaints that come to the surface with these old US made briar pipes. But I can’t get past the fact that the first pipe I ever owned was a Medico – paper filter and all, and that the first pipe I picked up when my first daughter was born years later was a Medico as well. Because of that whenever I am given an old Medico bowl I restem it and restore it. I strip away the varnish and rework the fills, make a new stem and bring it back to life in even better condition that it was when it was first sent out.

The Medico that I worked on in this restoration was a straight shank Rhodesian that came to me in a gift box of bowls. It was stemless and I had two potential stems that would work for it. There truly was nothing particularly redeemable that I saw in the bowl so the reason was as stated above solely sentimental. The bowl was dirty and worn with a thick cake. The rim had been battered and had deep nicks on the outer edge. There was a thick dark red varnish on the briar. It was stamped MEDICO on the left side of the shank and Imported Briar Italy on the right side. On the left side of the bowl was a large brown putty fill that stood out like a sore thumb. The first stem I tried was a split metal tenon Medico style stem. It was worn but usable.Med1 Med2 Med3 Med4 It fit the shank perfectly and looked good on the pipe. I thought for sure this would be a simple and quick restoration. I should have learned by now that whenever I think that problems would pop up on the way to the finish. I cleaned the shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol.Med5The top of the bowl was badly damaged with large dents and missing chunks on the outer edge of the rim so I decided to top the bowl. I used the topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and worked on the rim until it was smooth and clean. There were still several places on the outer front edge that would need to be worked on but the finished look of the topped bowl was far better than when I had started.Med6 Med7I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the thick varnish coat and clean up the finish on the bowl. I wanted to remove it back to the briar. In the process the dark red stain coat also was removed from the bowl.Med8Once the stain coat and varnish were removed I could see several problems that I would need to address. The front edge of the bowl needed to be sanded and the slope on the cap would need to be modified by hand sanding to remove the damage on the front edge and face of the cap. There was also a fine crack that had seeped tobacco oils on the top right edge of the shank. It had been hidden by the dark stain. When I move the stem it was not visible and did not open or spread but it was definitely present. I would need to clean up the shank, band it and with the band a different stem would need to be fit to the shank. The stem I had previously chosen had a metal face that would not work against the band. I scrubbed the bowl and shank until all the red stain that I could remove was gone.Med9 Med10 Med11I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to sand back the shank so that I could fit a band on the shank. I also wanted to smooth out the surface of the rustication pattern and clean up the crack so that I could glue and clamp it before banding.Med12I put the band around the end of the shank and then heated the metal band with a Bic lighter until I could press it into place on the shank. It took several reheats with the lighter before I had a flush fit on the band. At that point I took the second stem I had chosen and lightly sanded the tenon to get a good tight fit in the shank and pushed it in place.Med13 Med14 Med15 Med16I reamed the bowl with my PipNet reamer and the smallest cutting head until I had taken the cake back to bare wood. I wanted the bowl to be clean so that I could see if there was any damage to the interior of the bowl.Med17Once I had reamed the bowl I reshaped the angle on the cap with 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges. Once I had the angle correct around the entire rim and had removed the damage on the front of the cap I sanded the entire bowl with the sanding sponges. I also sanded the stem with the same sandpaper and sanding sponge combination to remove the oxidation and tooth chatter near the button. The newly shaped bowl and freshly sanded stem is shown in the next series of four photos below.Med18 Med19 Med20 Med21I stained the bowl with some oxblood aniline stain and flamed it. I wanted the red colour of the stain but I did not want it to be as opaque as the original stain had been. The aniline stain seems to be more transparent. It did however, do a great job in hiding the big fill on the left side of the bowl.Med22 Med23 Med24I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper, then a medium and fine grit 3M sanding sponge. I followed that with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down between each set of three pads with Obsidian Oil before moving on to the next three pads. I finished by giving it a final rubdown with the oil before taking it to the buffer.Med25 Med26 Med27I buffed the entire pipe with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and polish both bowl and stem. With that completed my sentimental journey with this old Medico was complete and it was ready to go back into service. I am sure I will gift this pipe to some new pipeman somewhere along the way as it should smoke very well and give many years of service. It is not a thing of beauty and never will be but it is a good serviceable pipe that will deliver a good smoke. The finished pipe is pictured in the photos below.Med28 Med29 Med30 Med31

Yet Another Frankenpipe – A pipe made from assorted pieces


Frankenpipes are born out of having no more pipes in the refurb box to work on. I have many in transit at the moment but none with which to sit and unwind. That always is a recipe for me to dig in the boxes of parts and see what I can come up with to keep the hands busy. The pipe that follows was born of fiddling with parts in my parts box. The part I started with was an old bowl that I received in a gift box recently that did not have a pipe to go with it. It was a pressure fit bowl that obviously sat on a base of some kind of system pipe. I searched the Metal Pipes website to see if I could find out any information but did not find any likely candidates for this mystery bowl. It had some nice grain on it so it seemed like a shame to just let it sit in the box and wait for a potential pipe for it. I also I had a cut off shank piece that I had made for another purpose, a stem that fit the shank nicely and a block of briar that was too tiny for a pipe. The small block is one that I have been scavenging pieces off of to make plugs for burnout repairs. As I looked at the pieces I had an idea for putting them together into an interesting pipe that had kind of art deco feel to it. Now it was time to bring the pipe together and actualize my vision. IMG_8072 I measured out the drilling areas for the block. I needed to drill the airway large enough to insert the briar shank. I would use the Missouri Meerschaum concept of inserting the shank into the briar block. I started by drilling the first hole in the end of the block. I drilled the mortise area first. I did this in stages as it needed to be big enough for the shank piece to be pressure fit into place. Afterward I drilled the rest of the airway in the block. I decided to drill it all the way through to the other side of the block so that I could put in a funky plug on the front end. I looked around for what I would use and had several ideas. Time would tell which I would choose in the end. IMG_8069 I moved through several drill bits until the bit that was the size of the shank piece. I drilled it deep enough to inset the shank quite deep in the hole. IMG_8070 I marked the airway exit on the top of the block with a permanent marker and drew a line to show the track of the airway. I marked my drill bit to the depth of the top of the airway and drilled the hole in the top of the block. I wanted the hole to be the size of the nipple on the bottom of the bowl so that it would pressure fit into the hole. I wanted the hole to go through to the top of the airway so that the nipple on the bowl would sit on top and create good airflow from bowl to stem. IMG_8071 I pressure fit the bowl in the top of the block and the shank in the end of the block for the next two photos. I wanted to see if the parts all fit together well. I gave the shank a slight angle upward and would later bend the stem if the look was correct. Everything worked well at this point. For the plug on the end of the block I decided to do something simple. I wanted a plug that would be like a coloured dot on the end of the base. I cut off a piece of knitting needle and inserted it in the airway at the end of the block that is not showing at this point. I glued it in place and used the Dremel to take the overage back flush with the block. IMG_8073 IMG_8074 The height of the block was too much so I wanted to cut it in half. I do not have power tools to do that kind of thing so a bit of sweat equity and a small hack saw did the job. I sliced off the bottom half of the block to be used in making bowl plugs at a later date and now the height was more suitable to this little sitter. IMG_8078 I glued the shank into place in the block with epoxy and angled it the way I wanted it to be when I finished the work on the base. IMG_8079 IMG_8080 IMG_8081 IMG_8082 I used the Dremel and a sanding drum to begin to shape the block into a base for the pipe. I wanted a slope upward to the bowl – the sides would also slope upward. My idea was to have the bowl sitting on top of a volcano like base. IMG_8088 IMG_8089 It took a lot of sanding to get the shape even close to what I had envisioned and in the process I ran into my first problem. The joint of the block and the shank could not be sanded smooth or the walls would be too thin and the shank would break too easily. I probably should have used a Delrin tenon to connect the two parts but as usual looking back is not overly helpful. So I had to improvise with this one. I had a small brass pressure fitting that would look kind of interesting on this little Frankenpipe so I worked the joint area to accommodate the brass fitting. The photos below show the pipe taking shape with the brass band high on the shank. (At the time of these photos I had not yet glued the band on the shank.) IMG_8090 IMG_8091 IMG_8092 IMG_8093 I filled in the openings around the edges of the fitting where the shank joined the block with briar dust and wood glue packed into place with a dental pick. I sanded the ridges on the fitting with 150 grit sandpaper to remove them. I would have to do more work on the look of the band as I worked out the details later. I took the following photos after I had done more shaping of the base and glued the band in place. While the band is not beautiful it certainly strengthens the joint on the shank of the pipe and makes up for my lack of planning! IMG_8094 IMG_8098 The photo below shows the base with the bowl removed. You can get a clear picture of the base without the bowl and how the bowl looks from the bottom. The hole in the base is the same size as the nipple on the bowl. IMG_8099 I sanded it for another hour before calling it a night and then wiped it down with some light olive oil to get an idea where the scratches were that I needed to do more work on and also to see the grain. The next four photos show the pipe at this point in the process. There is still more sanding to do on the base and shank as well as some minor shaping. The idea though is clear – and the pipe is smokeable. The draw is very good and there are no leaks around the joint where the bowl presses into the base. So far so good. IMG_8100 IMG_8103 IMG_8104 IMG_8106 I set up a heat gun and bent the stem over the rounded handle of the heat gun to get a slight bend in it. I set the bend with cool water. With the bend the pipe is a sitter. The bend pulls the weight backward and the pip sits nicely on the button and the flat bottom of the base. IMG_8108 IMG_8110 IMG_8111 I did quite a bit more sanding and shaping of the base with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper. Once I had the shape to where I wanted it I sanded it with medium and fine grit sanding sponges. I gave the bowl and shank a wipe down with a cloth that was dampened with olive oil. Other than that the bowl and shank are not stained. IMG_8118 IMG_8119 IMG_8120 IMG_8126 While the shaping was finished there was still a lot of sanding to do to remove the scratches that remain in the briar. I also want to do some sanding on the band to remove scratches and polish it as well. The vulcanite stem also needs sanding and polishing. I took the pipe apart and sanded all the pieces with micromesh sanding pads. I sanded all of them with 1500-2400 grit pads and then finished sanding them with a 6000 grit pad. I buffed the parts with red Tripoli and then White Diamond and gave each part of the bowl and base multiple coats of carnauba wax. IMG_8127 I sanded the stem with a fine grit sanding sponge and then with the various grits of micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I buffed the stem with White Diamond, rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and finished by giving it a buff with carnauba wax. IMG_8128 IMG_8129 IMG_8130 I sanded the brass band with the micromesh pads to polish it as well. When I had finished I gave the pipe a final buff with White Diamond and then applied carnauba wax to each part. I buffed them with a soft flannel buff to finish the shine. IMG_8132 IMG_8133 IMG_8134 IMG_8135 The final photo is of the front of the pipe. The knitting needle plug that I used is a bright reddish orange circle that sits at the base of the pipe on the front. The colour of the pipe is the red of the previous four finished photos. The last photo was taken with my cell phone and is a bit washed out. photo 2

My latest “Frankenpipe” Project


Blog by Steve Laug

In the grab bag I got from the antique mall on my recent trip was a cutoff bulldog bowl. Whoever had owned the pipe in the past cut off the majority of the shank and had epoxied a metal tenon in place in the short shank. They had then added a churchwarden stem – a delicate round stem that really did not fit at all. In the photo below it is the bulldog just above the cob bowl. The stem was repurposed for the cob stack I wrote about in a previous blog post. The bowl just sat in the box while I figured out what I would do with it. I had thought of turning it back into a bulldog but just was not sure of that being the right direction to go with the pipe.
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Then this evening I decided to do another “Frankenpipe” project. I pulled together the parts that might come into play and spread them out on the worktable. I had a chunk of briar from Dogtalker that could work for a shank extension, the cut off bowl from the bulldog and a selection of different stems that could be fit to the new shank once it got to that point. I examined the end of the short shank for a long time trying to decide the way to go with the new shank extension – diamond shank or round shank. The edges of the remaining diamond shank were well-rounded and the diamond had virtually disappeared. It looked like it would probably evolve into a Rhodesian by the time I was done but time would tell. Sooooo…. in the spirit of the tall cob, I decided to put together the parts and see what I could do with them.
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I started the process of joining the briar block and the short shank bowl. I drilled an airway in the briar going straight through. It was slightly larger than the metal tenon so that it the metal tenon and some epoxy would fit. This would give a straight airway from the bowl to the block. Once that was finished I drilled enlarged the airway on other side of the briar block with a larger bit to create a mortise. I put the pieces together to make sure that everything would fit together. For the purpose of having some kind of stem I grabbed an old diamond shank stem from my can of stems to fit the mortise.
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I used my topping board and sandpaper to try to face the short shank and the piece of briar to facilitate a flush fit when the two pieces were joined. The shank on the pipe had been cut at an angle so I took that into consideration when I was working on the briar extension. I mixed up a two-part epoxy and glued the block and the bowl. The photos show the epoxied joint before I cleaned it up. I clamped the pieces together overnight to let it cure.
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In the morning once the glue had cured I took the clamp off and looked it over more carefully to see if I could redeem the diamond shank. The more I looked at it the more I knew that the diamond shank was gone and I would best work to make a round shank Rhodesian. I turned the tenon on a very chubby round taper stem with the PIMO Tenon Turner to fit in the new mortise. Once the stem fit well in the shank I got a better idea of what the finished pipe would look like. There was still a lot of shaping and fine tuning to do with the stem to shank junction but the “Frankenpipe” had potential.
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I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to begin shaping the shank extension. I had to remove a lot of the briar on the extension and round it to make the transition smoother. I did the work in stages, constantly checking the look and flow of the shank extension to make sure I did not take off too much briar.
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I put the stem in place in the shank to keep the target in sight as I sanded the shank. At this point in the process I was not worrying about the fit of the stem to the shank I was more concerned with the overall flow from the bowl to the button. When I am shaping a pipe I am constantly putting the pieces back together to see if the flow is beginning to work well.
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I continued to sand with the Dremel until I had the majority of excess briar removed. I then took it to the worktable and worked on the bowl and shank with 220 grit sandpaper. I continued to remove the briar and shape the new shank. The Rhodesian shape is beginning to become clear in this “Frankenpipe”. There was still a lot of sanding to do but the finished pipe shape was beginning to emerge from the briar.
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I continued to hand sand the shank to reduce the diameter and shape the flow toward the bowl. The shank and bowl are starting to look like they belong together. I worked on the stem to make the fit of the stem to the shank smoother. I removed the excess vulcanite with the Dremel and shaped the stem by hand to remove the sanding marks and scratches left behind by the Dremel and sanding drum. When I finished sanding for the evening I slid a band on the shank just for kicks. If I leave the band on the shank I will need to work some more on the stem to get a good snug fit. Even so the pipe is starting to appear from the diverse parts – “Frankenpipe” was beginning to come alive.
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I sanded some more on the shank and bowl junction. I decided to give the shank a cigar-like flow – tapered at the bowl and taper from the stem to the button but with a gradual rise in the middle. The flow would be a gentle bulge that came to its highest point at the band.
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I decided to take the pipe to work with me and continue to sand it during breaks. I had a day working in our warehouse scheduled and would need to have a diversion from the work I had on the agenda for the day. I sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge. I took these photos at the end of the day before I headed home for the day. The pipe was really taking shape now.
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I really liked the flow of the shank from the back of the bowl to the tip of the stem. It formed a nice elongated oval. It would not be possible to sand further on the joint of the bowl and extension so I decided to rusticate the shank. I used some electrical tape to mark off the area that I would rusticate and to protect the places that I did not want to rusticate.
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I rusticated the shank, leaving a smooth section of briar next to the nickel band. I formed a point at the bottom of the bowl where the rustication would end. I decided to leave the bowl smooth as it had some nice grain. I rusticated it with the modified Philips screw driver, wire brushed off the loose briar chips and then sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to smooth out the high edges. I wanted a patterned rustication but not one that was rough to the touch. My idea was to provide an interesting pattern on the briar of the shank extension that would hide the joint but also add interest to the finished look of the pipe.
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I stained the rustication with a black aniline stain, flamed it and then wire brushed it a second time. I restained and reflamed it and then sanded the high spots on the rustication with a fine grit sanding sponge. Once the rustication was the style I wanted I gave the bowl a top coat of oxblood stain. I wanted a contrast between the deep grooves of the rustication and the rest of the pipe. I always have liked that look on a pipe. This particular “Frankenpipe” was made for this kind of rustication pattern. At this point the major work on the bowl and shank is done other than polishing and waxing. I still had work to do on the stem and band but the pipe was taking definite shape. It had come a long way from the pieces that came together at the beginning.
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I still had a lot of work to do on the stem. I needed to clean up the angles and taper of the stem, sand out some of the scratches left behind, reshape the button and open up the airway on the stem. Each of these little steps adds to the finished comfortableness of the stem and the flow of the smoke from the bowl to the mouth. I began by reshaping the slot in the airway. I have three needle files that I have come to depend on for this process. Two of them are oval files – one flatter than the other and the third is a round file. The three files work together to give the slot the open shape that makes slipping a pipe cleaner down the stem and shank during a smoke effortless.
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Once the slot was opened I sanded the inside of it with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the inner surface of the slot. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to shape and taper the flow from the band and shank toward the button. I wanted a smooth curve that paralleled the curve in the shank on the other side of the band. I used medium and fine grit sanding sponges and then my usual batch of micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil.
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I put the polished stem back in the shank and took the pipe to the buffer. I buffed it with White Diamond to give a shine to the bowl and shank and lightly buffed the stem again with White Diamond. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax – using a light touch on the rusticated part of the shank. I buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. I noticed in the photos that there are still some fine scratches on the stem and band so I will go back to the micromesh and take care of those. But before I do that it is time to load up a bowl of some aged Balkan Sobranie Virginian No. 10 and give the pipe a smoke. My Cocker Spaniel, Spencer is anxious to go out so it is a good time to load a pipe and give him some attention in the yard.
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Refurbishing another Old Pal – this time a Long Oval Shank Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I just finished cleaning up another of the old pipes I picked up in my antique mall grab bag. It is a dainty pipe with an oval shank. When it came out of the grab bag it had a cracked shank and did not have a stem in the shank so I assumed it was a Canadian. When I went over the stems in the bag I found that one of them was stamped Old Pal. It fit the shank well and the look was quite unique. The stem was broken at the button with a large chunk on one side missing. The overall length is 5 ¾ inches and the weight is negligible. It is stamped on top of the shank in arc – Old Pal, over an Eagle with spread wings and then underneath Made in France.

opOn the underside of the shank it is stamped 396 which I assume is the shape number. The shape number appears to be a GBD number but it is not included in the list on the Perdua shape number website. The stamping is faint but still readable. I wrote about the history of the brand in a previous post (https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/restemming-and-refurbishing-a-planter-opera-pipe/) But will summarize it again here for those who may not go back and read it.

“Who Made That Pipe” states that there were two French makers for Old Pal. The first of those is Marechal Ruchon and Cie. (Incidentally it is the company that owned the GBD brand). The second maker listed is Rubinovich & Haskell Ltd. The bird emblem is probably the key, but I can find no reference to it. My own thinking is that the brand was made by Marechal Ruchon & Cie. I was able to dig up this brief summary of the MR&C brand. Ganeval, Bondier and Donninger began making pipes in 1850 and rapidly gained prominence in briar pipe making. Of the three, Bondier survived the others by 30 years, but new partners took their places. The name of the company changed to Bondier Ulrich & Cie, then Bine Marechal & Cie and finally to A Marechal, Ruchon & Cie. August Marechal and Ferdinand Ruchon saw the firm into the 20th century, their names being used for the company for well over 50 years.

Prior to 1899, Marechal, Ruchon & Co. became A. Oppenhiemer’s sole agent for cigarette papers but still remained in the pipe making business. Then in 1902, Marechal, Ruchon & Co., owners of GBD and referred to as French pipe makers, merged with A. Oppenhiemer. In the 1915 London Directory of briar pipe makers one will find: “”Marechal, Ruchon & Co. – 38 Finsbury Sq. E.C.; London works, 15 & 16 Featherstone St. E.C. and Oppenhiemer, A. & Co. – 38 Finsbury Sq. E.C. listed separately.

As before with that background information remembered I worked on this old pipe to clean it up and restore it. When I picked it up the bowl was badly caked. The rim was dirty and the outer edge had been knocked about pretty hard to remove the dottle of the past. The inner bevel was tarred but still in pretty good shape. The right side of the pipe had no fills or real damage. It was a nice birdseye under the grime. The left side had two fills of pink putty in the midst of some very nice grain. The grain on the rest of the bowl was a mix of cross grain and swirling grain. The finish was worn with some paint marks on the top of the shank. The stem was oxidized and had been broken with a large chunk missing at the button on the right side. The shank was cracked but the joint with the stem was smooth and tight. The tenon fit snug in the mortise with no gap in the junction. The shank and airway were dirty and tarry.
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I have included the photo below as it clearly shows the crack in the shank, the broken stem and the stamping on the shank of the pipe.
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I debated whether to cut off the stem or to just restem the pipe with a Canadian stem. I looked at it with a small stem and then with this stem and decided to cut off the stem. I used a Dremel and a sanding drum to remove the broken part of the stem and even out the line of the end of the stem.
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I took it back to the work table and reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I reamed the cake back to bare briar so that I could work on the damage to the inner edge of the rim.
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I took out my box of assorted nickel bands and found one that was the correct diameter and squeezed it until it was an oval. I dripped super glue into the open crack and pressed it together to dry. Then I heated the band with a heat gun and pressed it on to the cracked shank.
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I used a folded piece of sandpaper to sand the tenon slightly so that it fit snugly in the shank. The fit of the stem to the band and shank looked good so that part of the job was finished.
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I set up the topping board and the 220 grit sandpaper and topped the bowl to remove the damaged rim. I used a folded piece of sandpaper to bevel the inner edge of the rim inward like it had been originally.
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I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove the finish and the spots of white paint that were on the top of the shank. I repeated the wash until the finish was clean and then wiped it down again with isopropyl alcohol.
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With work on the bowl at a good stopping point I decided to do some work on the stem. I had to cut a new button and taper the stem toward the new button. There would have to be shaping done as well opening the slot on the end of the stem. I used a rasp to cut the edge on the lip of the button and to sand down the taper of the stem. I used a series of needle files to further shape the button and the taper.
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I cleaned up the taper and the button with a sanding board that I picked up at a beauty supply house. It makes the edge clean and works well to even the taper on the stem.
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The hole in the end of the new button was elongated and oval but needed to be opened more and made into a “Y” shaped slot whose inner edges tapered toward the airway and the slot shaped like an eye – open enough to take a pipe cleaner without any difficulty. I used three different needle files to open the slot. The first was a round file, followed by an oval file and ending with a flat oval that worked well to cut the edges of the slot.
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I sanded the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the surface on the stem and also to bevel the edge of the button toward the slot.
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With the interesting grain pattern and the fills on the side of the bowl I decided to use a dark brown aniline stain. I applied it with a dauber and then flamed it. I applied it and flamed it a second time to make sure the coverage was even.
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When the stain was dry I wiped down the bowl and shank with isopropyl alcohol on cotton pads to remove the top coats of the stain and make it more transparent.
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I sanded the bowl with a fine grit sanding sponge and then wiped it again with the alcohol to clean off the dust. I gave it a second coat of a medium walnut stain as a top coat.
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I buffed the top coat of stain with White Diamond and then brought it back to the work table and took the following pictures. The angles on the stem are looking good. The shape of the button and the taper of the stem worked well with the pipe.
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I sanded the stem with medium and fine grit sanding pads and then applied some liquid white out to the stamping on the stem to try to make it stand out more clearly. I sanded the stem with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads.
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I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it was dry buffed the stem and bowl with White Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and preserve it. I finished by buffing it with a soft, flannel buff. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The newly shaped stem came out fairly well. I like the overall look of the finish and the band on the pipe. It is ready to join the other Old Pal in the rack.
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