Blog by Steve Laug
I recently rebuilt a stem for a friend, Stephen who has a similar love for BBB pipes as I do. It was a beautiful little Liverpool pipe and the stem had a large chunk out of the underside of the button. I am still working on my experiment of rebuilding chipped stems with black super glue and charcoal powder. I say experiment because I have found that though I can get the match to work well and the shape also easy to achieve, I am not sure of the durability of the repair. The flexibility of the repair vs. that of the reset of the vulcanite is very different so the jury is still out on the long term viability of the repair. Because of that we made a deal and Stephen joined the experimental pool with me. Here is the blog post on the restoration and repair of his BBB pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/09/09/restoring-repairing-a-chipped-stem-on-a-bbb-own-make-607-liverpool/). He received the repaired pipe and was thrilled with it. He wanted to gift me a BBB Own Make pipe that he had that was just too big for his style of pipe smoking. It was missing the BBB brass diamond logo on the stem top but I was looking forward to restoring it and seeing if I could find a replacement for the brass emblem.
When I returned from my recent trip to Alberta the pipe was waiting for me. It had some beautiful grain around the bowl and shank. There were two fills on the right side of the bowl that were solid. The rim top had a bit of lava on the flat surface but the edges were in great condition. The bowl had a thin cake on the walls and the pipe was very dirty. The finish was dirty and dull. There was a thin silver band on the shank end that bore the BBB logo on the top with the words Sterling Silver engraved on the band so it was original and not a repair band. The stem was a vulcanite saddle stem with an inset area on the top side which had originally held brass logo that had been lost. The stem had some tooth marks and chatter on both sides just ahead of the button. The edges of the button were worn. I took a close up photo of the rim top and the stem to give a better picture of the issues that I needed to deal with in the restoration. You can see the darkening on the rear of the rim top and some damage on the inner edges of the back of the bowl. The cake on the sides of the bowl was not thick but it was hard and uneven. The stem was another story. The topside had a lot of scratches and marks around where the BBB brass diamond had been. The button was very thin on the top side both in terms of width and height. Both of the sides showed tooth marks and chatter quite prominently and would need work.I took photos of the stamping on the shank. I took a photo of the topside and you can see the BBB Diamond with Own Make flanking it on each side. The stamping on the underside read London, England over the shape number 693. You can see the nice grain on the bowl and shank sides. It is going to be a beautiful pipe once it is cleaned and restored.I reamed the thin cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the buildup on the bowl walls. I sanded the inside of the bowl with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. Once the inside of the bowl was clean I was ready to clean out the airway in the stem, shank and mortise. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners, and cotton swabs. It did not take too long to clean out the debris in the airways and mortise.I decided to start my clean up on the bowl. I scrubbed the bowl down with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Briar Cleaner. I rubbed it into the surface of the briar, and as Mark wrote me it lifted the grime and dirt out of the briar. I rinsed the cleaner off the bowl with warm running water and dried it with a soft cloth. The photos below show the cleaned briar… Look at the grain on that pipe! I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I continue to use Mark Hoover’s Balm on every pipe I have been working on. The grain on the Own Make is quite stunning and it just pops now with the cleanup! It is a beauty. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish that had built up on the surface. It polished up really well. The polished and cleaned pipe are beginning to look really good.With the cleaning and restoration of the bowl finished for now I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. The photos below show the replacement of the Brass BBB Diamond on the top of the saddle stem. I had a broken BBB Canadian stem that had a Brass Diamond that would work well to replace the missing one on this stem. I used a dental pick to lift the brass piece off of the old stem.I used the dental pick to place some black super glue on the inset of the stem. I wiped it off the pick and then used it to place and align the brass diamond. I pressed it into the inset area with the flat edge of the pick. I set the stem aside to let the glue cure.I used a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the high spots of vulcanite that were there from the original pressing of the hot brass into the top of the saddle stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter at the same time. I reshaped the button edges. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. Thanks to Stephen I have a beautiful BBB Own Make Canadian in my collection of BBB pipes today. I was able to replace the missing brass logo on the stem surface. I smoothed out the surface of the vulcanite around the insert logo and polished the stem. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the minute scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain on and around the bowl looked really good with the polished black vulcanite. This BBB Own Make 693 Canadian was another fun pipe to work on. It really has a look that I have come to expect from BBB pipes. It is really eye catching. The combination of various brown stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is a comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I look forward to loading up a bowl in this one and enjoying it. I am also looking forward to what Stephen thinks of the finished pipe. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.