Tag Archives: BBB Own Make Pipes

Restoring & Repairing a Chipped Stem on a BBB Own Make 607 Liverpool


Blog by Steve Laug

Those who have been following the blog know that I really like old BBB pipes and have a pretty nice collection of different shapes. I love working on them as the briar is very good and the vulcanite is quite nice as well. You also know that I am not currently adding any work to the queue that is not local so that I can catch up on the large estate from Bob Kerr that I have been working on. But sometimes it is hard to say no. When the brand I like and a pipe I like come along together it is a hard one to decline. So long story short, not too long ago I received the following email with photos of the damaged stem attached:

Dear Steve,

Greetings from Wisconsin! Thank you for the good work you do, and for bringing new life to so many fallen pipes.

I bought a BBB Own Make Liverpool (shape # 607) despite its severely damaged stem. I love the shape and weight of it, and if its stem were restored this would probably be my favorite pipe.

The damage to the stem (please see attached photographs) is bad enough that the pipe is unsmokable: a piece of the vulcanite about one-fifth the size of a dime is missing altogether. In addition, the stem has been very roughly sanded, which left it marked with a kind of rude crosshatching.

I’m writing to ask whether you yourself would be open to doing a repair job, or could recommend someone who could.

Many thanks and congratulations again on the good work you do.

Stephen Looking at the photos he sent I had to take his word for it that it was a Liverpool shaped pipe. The round shank and the short tapered stem pointed to that. The metal BBB logo on the stem top, the fact that it was a BBB Own Make and the challenge of restoring a BBB all made it impossible for me to decline! After I said yes and the deal was struck for the repair and restoration I thought I should have had him send it to Paresh who loves working on this kind of stem rebuild. But I just shook my head and waited for it to arrive.

When it arrived I took time to assess the damage. The stem was just as Stephen described it so I quote his description here: The damage to the stem (please see attached photographs) is bad enough that the pipe is unsmokable: a piece of the vulcanite about one-fifth the size of a dime is missing altogether. In addition, the stem has been very roughly sanded, which left it marked with a kind of rude crosshatching. On top of that it was dirty and smelled bad. The bowl was another story. There were some dark stains on the heel of the bowl and on the right side of the shank that at first glance looked like burn marks but on examination seemed to be a dark, sticky substance on the surface of the briar. The rim top was darkened and there was some lava overflow on the top. There was a burn mark on the front of the bowl on the bevel but it did not appear too deep. There was also a burn mark on the out edge of the rim at the front. The bowl had a thin cake in it and the pipe smelled old and musty. My first thoughts on the band were that it was a repair band, but when I removed the stem there were no cracks in the shank. I examined the band with a lens and bright light and on the underside it bears the BBB Diamond and the stamping “Sterling Silver”. It is original! The pipe was a mess but it showed some promise and bespoke of a lot of work! I took photos of the pipe when I received it. 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 damage on the front beveled edge and top of the rim as well as the darkening and nicks in the surface toward the back of the bowl. There was definitely damage that would need to be addressed (possibly a light topping). What was interesting to me is that the cake did not go all the way to the bottom of the bowl. The bowl bottom was still raw unsmoked briar… that too was promising. The stem was another story. The topside had a lot of sanding scratches and hash marks all around the brass BBB Diamond. The button was very thin on the top side both in terms of width and height. The chip out of the underside of the button went quite a ways into the stem material so that the rebuilt button would need to be a little thicker than the original but it was fixable in my estimation.  I took photos of the stamping on the shank. I took a photo of the left side and you can see the BBB Diamond with Own Make flanking it on each side. I cleaned off the black grime on the right side before I took the photo of the stamping there. It read Made In London over England followed by the shape number – 607. You can see the nice birdseye grain on the shank sides. It is going to be a beautiful pipe once it is cleaned and restored.I took the stem off the pipe and was a bit surprised by the aluminum inner tube in the tenon. It extended the length of the shank and the pointed end extended into the bottom of the bowl. I just could not see it due to the cake and grime in the pipe.I decided to start my clean up on the bowl to see if I could remove the black marks on the heel and the shank side. 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. It removed the majority of the dark spots on the shank and heel. I would need to do a little more work on those areas but it looked very good. 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! With the externals clean it was time to clean the internals. I cleaned out the thin cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and promptly forgot to take the photos. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners, and cotton swabs. For the way the pipe smelled the shank was amazingly clean. I am not used to that when an inner tube is used as usually the tars build up around the outside… This time the tube actually worked very well.While the rim top definitely looked better there was still some burn damage to the outer edge of the front rim and nicks in the back edge. I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I was able to remove the damage for the most part without removing too much of the rim top.I did the initial polishing of the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad with a damp cloth. I worked on the dark spots that had been on the heel and on the right side of the shank while being careful to not damage the stamping that was underneath the marks. I also polished the rim top and the inner bevel in preparation for staining. I smoothed out the bevel on the inner edge of the rim and was happy with the look. I used an Oak stain pen to stain the rim to match the rest of the pipe. The match is very good and it did a great job of blending in the damage to the bevel. Once I had finished the stain I continued to polish the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. 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 Sterling Silver Band with Hagerty’s Silver Polish to remove the tarnish and bring the shine back. It is a beautiful band. The BBB Diamond logo and Sterling Silver is on the underside of the shank.With the cleaning and restoration of the bowl finished for now I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. The stem was the real challenge on this old timer. I was hoping to be able to rebuild the button and stem on the underside and widen the button on the topside to help protect the repair. I mixed up a batch of black super glue and activated charcoal powder to make putty. I inserted a folded card covered with packing tape to keep the glue from filling in the airway in the slot. I used a dental spatula to fill in the chipped area. I also filled in the area on the topside to build up the button. This kind of repair is really ugly at this point in the process. There is nothing pretty or redeeming about the way it looks.I let the stem repair cure overnight and in the morning used a needle file and a rasp to smooth out the repair and shape the edge of the button on both sides of the stem. The first photo shows the repaired and rebuilt button on the underside. The second one is the widened and beefed up topside of the button. Lots of work to go still but it is starting to show some promise. I sanded the repairs and the reshaped button with 220 grit sand paper and 400 grit wet dry sand paper to smooth out the ridges and high spots and give definition to the shape. I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).   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.    When this pipe arrived I truly dreaded rebuilding the stem. I know how to do the process. That is never the problem but it is very labour intensive and time consuming. However, yesterday afternoon I felt like doing something a bit different in the restoration process. I pulled this pipe out of the box and finished the repair yesterday. Today I shaped and polished it. With every pipe I work on, I look forward to when it all comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 sandblast finish looked really good with the polished black vulcanite. This BBB Own Make 607 Liverpool 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 another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I look forward to mailing it back to Stephen and seeing what he thinks of the finished pipe. I have sent him progress reports but that is not the same as holding it in your hand. 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.

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West Meets East in India to Restore a Grandson’s Treasure – an 1846 BBB


Blog by Dal Stanton

This story is about the restoration of perhaps, one of the oldest BBBs in the world today – but it’s much, much more.  Every pipe man and woman has discovered this and within that even smaller subgroup of the pipe community, vintage pipe restorers, the experience is perhaps even more heightened.  The love of pipes – their former stewards, provenances, shapes, grains, stems and especially their restorations, creates a unique bond and fellowship among those who have experienced the joy of seeing one’s hands bring about a pipe’s restoration.  Whether a high-end Dunhill or a common ‘No-Namer’, to bring a crippled pipe back to life brings a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction to those whose skill, hands and purposeful patience have wrought.

So much in our world today divides people of race, religion, politics, and station of life, but my amazement is kindled by how often these barriers are overcome within this community of pipe lovers and restorers.  With the internet in full bloom, people in this world-wide community have come together in amazing ways.  This happened when Steve Laug (aka: rebornpipes, Vancouver, Canada), Jeff Laug (Steve’s brother – pipe procurer and cleaner, Idaho, USA) and I, (aka: ThePipeSteward, Sofia, Bulgaria) converged in Pune, India, at the invitation of Paresh Deshpande (aka: rebornpipes contributor and the grandson who has become the steward of a treasure trove of pipes left to him by his grandfather).

I began this write-up with a full and thankful heart on the flight from Pune (Poo’-ne) to New Delhi on my return trip to Sofia.  Steve and Jeff were able to stay a few extra days and so I said goodbye to them at the flat where our fellowship took shape several days earlier.  I also said goodbye to Paresh’s daughters, Mudra (17) and Pavni (11), whose equally opposite personalities and dispositions were a wonderful composite reflection of their parents’ care and love.  Mudra impressed us with her elegant sophistication and Pavni, well, she earned the nickname of ‘Bollywood’ – she entertained us and brought much laughter.

Paresh and Abha took me to the airport and I found myself surprisingly reflective and quiet as Paresh navigated the choked Pune streets heading to the airport – cars, scooters and Tuk Tuks (motorized rickshaw taxis) dodged here and there like swallows on wheels in a chaotic purposeful swarm.  Only the day before I was helmeted on the back of Paresh’s classic 1980 ROYAL ENFIELD 535 CC motorcycle and videoed with my iPhone while Paresh became one with the swarm!  Oh my….  As I sat in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport, Paresh asked me why I wasn’t smiling – that I was serious.  It was true that navigating through the Pune Airport’s security was on my mind and wondering if they would remove my prized Savinelli pipe lighter, an unbelievable gift from my landlady, Rozie, in Sofia, left behind by her now departed husband.  My concerns about the lighter fortunately, were proven to be unfounded, but I found myself reflecting on the past week under the watchful care and rich hospitality of Paresh and Abha.  How do I describe it?  How do I tell this story to capture not only the unbelievable pipe our special cohort restored together, but the bond that we discovered along the way?  I think I can safely speak for Steve and Jeff in saying that the hospitality we experienced from our Indian hosts was none like we had experienced before.  For the most part, we started as acquaintances but through the week experienced a deeper bond that is more reminiscent of a family.  Steve and I have known each other for some time because of our work with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited (Servants Anonymous Foundation and Daughters of Bulgaria), but through the internet was how our pipe lore fellowship was formed and based upon this, Paresh invited us to come to Pune coinciding with Steve’s trip to nearby Nepal in concert with his work.  When I heard of this ‘Fellowship of the Pipe’ developing, I couldn’t bear to be left out, especially after hearing that Steve’s brother, Jeff, whom I had never met, was also coming.  Steve had traveled to this part of the world several times.  I had traveled to Cambodia previously, but never to India.  Jeff, also, was experiencing his first trip to this area of the world.  So, from Vancouver (via Nepal), from Sofia and from Idaho Falls, the ‘West’ converged in the ‘East’ in India, for the first convocation of this Pipe Fellowship.

This ‘Fellowship’ also included others that were unable to respond to Paresh’s invitations to come.  Several months ago, Paresh formed a FaceBook Messenger group of pipe restorers that included the four of us but also Mark Domingues (aka: LoneStarBriarWorks Texas, USA) and Victor Naddeo (aka: Naddeo Pipes, Belo Horizonte, Brazil). This group, as you might guess, was the online ‘Pipe Man Cave’ where pipes, nomenclatures, techniques were discussed, and questions entertained – of course, Steve is recognized as the undisputed pipe sage and guru of this diverse and eclectic group of pipe men.  The weeks before the convocation in Pune, this group was actively involved in shaping the convocation.  It was in the FaceBook group that Paresh proposed what became the anchor activity of our time in Pune – the restoration of one of the oldest and most precious of Paresh’s trove of pipes he inherited from his grandfather, whose collection could possibly rival any personal collection in the world.  Steve and Paresh told the story of Paresh’s grandfather in Steve’s earlier restorations of some of these pipes on rebornpipes (see: Paresh’s Grandfather’s Pipe #7 – Charatan’s Make De Luxe 140 Billiard).  Paresh had so many of his grandfather’s pipes, that Steve (as he has done with many of us!) began to encourage (coerce 😊) Paresh to start dabbling in restoration.  Paresh didn’t dabble long and has become an excellent restorer and contributor to rebornpipes.  As Jeff does for Steve, Abha cleans many of the pipes that Paresh restores.

One of the highlights of our time in Pune was going through Paresh’s entire collection of pipes – from his grandfather as well as his own additions.  During the hot(!) part of the Indian day, Paresh unwrapped each pipe to show and to pass around.  To hold and examine these pipes was a treat.  If this were not enough, we (Dal, Steve and Paresh – Jeff’s not a smoker just a collector and journeyman cleaner!) also smoked 3 very special pipes from Paresh’s grandfather that Paresh had restored – classic pipes with albatross bone shank extensions and horn stems.  At the beginning of the convocation, we decided we would smoke these pipes together in celebration of the completion of our communal restoration project.  On the Fellowship Facebook group, Paresh proposed restoring one of his grandfather’s pipes together.  His idea was that we would do the restoration as a group, but that we would each share that part of the restoration that focused on strengths of each: Jeff and Abha, (cleaning), Pavni (sanding the chamber), Steve (main restoration work), Dal (final buffing and polishing with the Dremel), and Paresh would be the project manager!  Paresh also appointed me as the scribe – the one who would do the write-up and take pictures of the restoration because of my ability to spin a good tale!  After the 1846 BBB was chosen to be our restoration project, this was the discussion on the Fellowship FB Group that revealed Paresh’s deeper hope of what would result from the group restoration:

Paresh: Steve Sir, what say about working this pipe…

Mark: You can handle it Paresh!  It’s no different than a Dr. Grabow!

Paresh: More than the value of the pipe, it’s worth its weight in gold working together with Steve Sir and Dal Sir on this oldest heirloom piece that I desire.  And not to mention Jeff Sir and Abha doing the initial cleaning…lol

Steve: Sounds like an interesting proposal Paresh… I am game.  But I also know that you can handle it

Paresh: Thank you Sir. I appreciate your confidence in my abilities. But just think, you shall be meeting up with Mudra and Pavni, my daughters. They would see all of us working together on this very very old pipe. We shall be handing over these memories to them. Kids will always associate this pipe as THE ONE which belonged to their Great Grandfather and was worked on by their father and his friends from across the oceans…. wow wouldn’t that be great.

Paresh:  So that’s decided. 1846 made BBB project postponed to 03 May 19 and now back to square one! Which pipe should I work next? Fresh suggestions requested please.

When I discovered I was to be the writer of this grand project before coming to Pune, Paresh sent pictures of the 1846 BBB.  Here are the pictures of the BBB Bent Billiard with its classic amber stem. The nomenclature is stamped on the left flank of the shank with the classic stacked BBB ensconced in the diamond.  The diamond is centered above ‘OWN MAKE’.  The silver ferule repeats the BBB diamond stamp over hallmarks providing information on the provenance which will be unpacked below.With a pipe dated so early, it qualifies as one of the first pipes produced by BBB.  I look to Pipedia’s article on BBB to set the stage for understanding the origins:

BBB

The initials once stood for Blumfeld’s Best Briars after Louis Blumfeld, who took over the management of the Adolph Frankau Company in 1856. After his death, the BBB gradually became known as Britain’s Best Briars. Soon to be the oldest English trademark in current use and the first pipe ever to have a registered trademark. “Britain’s Best Briars”, often called BBB, is one of the oldest brands still in production and has always been the most popular foreign brand in Denmark. Earlier pipes included a metal rondel with a diamond shape including BBB embedded in the stem top, and later post-Cadogan went to a stamped-on logo, similar to the GBD pipes.

Dating and History:

I have been doing some digging into BBB pipes for some we have for VPC auctions and I found an article online in French. Here is a Babelfish translation of a history of BBB from http://www.fumeursdepipe.net/artbbb.htm

Genesis and history of the company. Adolph Frankau & Co Ltd In 1847, Adolph Frankau arrived in London and quickly understood opportunities that the market of tobacco presented, in full expansion. He created the company “Adolph Frankau & Co” and became an importer of meerschaum pipes and supplies in connection with the tobacco. It takes under its wing young a 14 year old boy, Louis Blumfeld. The business thrives quickly until the death of Adolph Frankau in 1856. His widow prepares to sell the company.

The dating we’ve placed on the BBB is 1846.  The formation of the Adolph Fankau & Co. Ltd is said to be 1847 in London from the article above.  The seemingly contradictory information creates part of the mystery uncovered in the research – the origins of BBB and a pipe apparently dated before it began!  Fortunately for me, the Pipe Man Facebook Group tackled the research for me.  With only slight editing, here is the ‘research wing’ dialog in toto.  I repeat the dialog because it captures the thrill of discovery of a treasure and the process leading to it:

Paresh: From my grandfather’s collection…. unable to decide my next project. Please suggest…… It’s nice to be spoilt for choice.

 

 

Jeff

 

Steve: Here’s my vote… marked with the check .

 

 

Paresh: BBB it is then….. thank you.

 Paresh:  The BBC….. just for the record you all have chosen the dirtiest one for me to work on. Other three pipes….. Abha, my wife, had done the initial cleaning……Lol. It’s BBB and not BBC….. you have chosen wisely as in Indiana Jones and the Last crusade!!!!

Victor:  Oh man! I love BBB’s, it’s my favorite brand ever!

 

Paresh: Where have you been my friend?

Victor:  This pipe looks to me like Pamela Anderson ….[edited by scribe 😊]…. with a suitcase full of dollars and a bottle of champagne.  I’ve been working hard this days my friend, and my head was a little bit away from the pipes

Paresh:  And me….. [edited by scribe]…. it happens….

Victor:  Hahahaha I’ve 12 BBB’s in my collection

Paresh:  On this selection, there was a unanimous vote from all parts of the world…….and the bigwigs wonder how to bring the world together……………….. It’s this simple.

Victor:  i just LOVE all of them.

Paresh:  All vintage?

Victor:  yeah!

Paresh:  I need to check how many I have. Never bought one BBB, except for one commissioned from ThePipeSteward…..  All my BBB are my grandfather’s.

MAR 15, 2019, 2:02 AM

Steve: Victor and I share a love of BBB pipes…one of my favourite brands

Paresh:  I haven’t been able to identify my favourite brand!! My present rotation includes Farida’ s dad’s Dunhill, GBD International, BIJOU, Hilson Viva and two Somersets.

MAR 15, 2019, 5:53 PM

Paresh:  Found this stamp on 1858 BBB Meer….. exact same stamp on my BBB but letter D. This makes it from 1852. Did they make Briar pipes then?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need help in dating this pipe based on hallmarks….

MAR 15, 2019, 7:08 PM

Victor:  I need a close picture of the hallmarks and I could say precisely the year

Paresh:  I shall try. But as I said earlier, the only difference between the meer stampings above and mine is letter capital D…

Victor:  Oh, I thought you said the meer had the letter D – ok! But i must say the frame around the letter influences too

Paresh:  Hallmark stampings are slightly worn out.  Understood. I wish I had an iPhone…..

Steve:  Anchor is Birmingham, lion is the mark for 925 silver,

Victor:  Yes, exactly. And L&B the silversmith.  If your pipe has the exactly same square frame around the D as this meerschaum, You have a 1852 pipe in your hands.  And i must say this is probably the oldest briar pipe i ever seen.

 Paresh:  Does this help?

Victor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could L-B stand for Louis Blumfield?

Victor: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or this 

Paresh:  More like the upper one but more decorative but less than the second…..

Victor:  Maybe like the third one?This is the oldest briar pipe i ever had Its 1873 Samuel McLardy

Paresh:  Neither the third. Look for the J letter in 1858 and in same chart look for D. More or less same. 80% match….

Victor:  I must admit I’m little envious about you BBB hahaha.  What a lucky guy you are!  Hahahaha

Paresh:  Mclardy letter not clear…..

Victor:  The first one is the D from the same chart of this J

Paresh:  The different is “moustache” like shape at the junction……..on my pipe.   Where the vertical line of D meets the horizontal line towards the right….

Victor:  Looking close to your picture. I don’t think it’s a D

Paresh:  Could you please enlarge the last pic that I sent you, Victor?

Victor: 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s an “r”

Paresh:  Wow…..that’s….. Let me check again.

Victor:  And if is this one it’s a 1846 pipe

Paresh:  You may be right Victor, it could be an ‘r’What do you think? Enlarge the picture please.

 Steve:  I think it is an r as well

Paresh:  Steve Sir, what does the letter appear to you?

 

Mark:  Lower case R

 

 

Steve:  Lower case r

Victor:  Now I’m sure.  It’s an 1846 pipe.  Congratulation

Mark:  So what year is that?

Victor: !!

Mark:  No way!

Victor:  Yes it is sir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark:  When did they start?!?

Victor:  Actually its a lower case x – Hahahhaa

Mark:   BBB?

Paresh:  Okay. That settles it. So let me check again if it’s a repair band…… hearts thumping like nuts…

Victor:  BBB it’s one of the oldest factories in England – Wait, Pipedia says it was founded in 1847 But they could be wrong.  I’ve seen this kind of mistake before in pipedia

Steve:  Remember silver hallmarks date the silver…

Mark:  Amber stem?

Paresh:  NO REPAIR BAND…… summary of all discussions?

Agreed, hallmarks date silver. But the other stampings on the silver, like BBB and L- B?

Mark:  Louis Blumfield? Amber stem, it must be old!

Paresh:  As asked before, could LB stand for Louis Blumfield?

Mark:  Maybe that’s one of the first after Frankau’s death in 1846?  Sorry, 1856

Paresh:  So am I holding a BBB which dates back to 1846? Remember, Louis Blumfeld joined him much earlier than 1856 before his demise.

Victor:  Man

Steve:  Man…

Victor:  This is probably one of the first Frankau era pipes ever made!

Paresh:  Concrete summary requested please, before I hit the Bar!!!

Victor:  Maybe the silver was made in the end of the ear of 1846, few months before the factory made the pipe.

Year* Concrete summary?

Steve:  That was my thinking Victor

Victor:  You’re a [edited by scribe 😊] lucky bastard! Vavavavava Hahahahaha*

Paresh:  Yes!!! Drinks are on me gentlemen….

Victor:  Congratulations.  Probably the oldest BBB in the whole world.

Steve:  Congrats

Paresh:  Good that I sought your advice on selection of the pipe to work on. My what a thrilling experience this was. Thanks again gents. Dal Stanton has missed this frenzy…

Paresh:  Victor, you started this……

Steve Sir, would you like to work this pipe with me when you reach? This will be an epic project together or you want me to proceed ahead? It will be a significant project.

Victor:  W8, Steve is going to India? (You live in India, right?)

Paresh:  Yes Sir. Even Dal Stanton will be with us.

Victor:  I wanna go too! Hahahaha

Paresh:  Really?

Victor:  I’m just kidding, I can’t afford a trip like this

Paresh:  Okay. U will not be spending a dime here.

Steve Sir, what say about working this pipe…?

Mark:  You can handle it Paresh!

It’s no different than a Dr. Grabow!

Paresh:  More than the value of the pipe, it’s worth its weight in gold working together with Steve Sir and Dal Sir on this oldest heirloom piece that I desire.  And not to mention Jeff Sir and Abha doing the initial cleaning…lol

Steve:  Sounds like an interesting proposal Paresh… I am game.  But I also know that you can handle it

I did miss the frenzy of the discovery of the dating of this BBB treasure Paresh inherited from his grandfather, but I experienced the thrill of having a part in its restoration – and what a restoration it was!  One of the fun parts and challenges was to use only the tools available to Paresh in India.  Each restorer is used to his own tools and techniques.  The restoration of the 1846 also became a time of sharing and seeing how each of us approached the different phases of the restoration.

The day we determined would be THE day for THE restoration arrived.  We three are in the flat that Paresh had provided for us during our stay.  On this day set for THE restoration, we were up early before Paresh arrived from his home.  After our tea and coffee, we were ready to go and decided to start on the cleaning phase to get a jump on things. Here we go!  Jeff and Steve set up camp to begin the cleaning phase laying out the tools of the trade – no Savinelli Fitsall Tool this time around! The BBB had very thick cake and lava flow over the rim – very characteristic of Paresh’s grandfather’s other pipes where the practice seemed to be smoke, never clean and toss in the box when they were unsmokable and buy another! Steve started with reaming the chamber.  Starting with the reaming blade heads he reams with the smallest blade and then works to the next larger. He uses two of the four blades available and then switches to the long pen knives available in Paresh’s arsenal and continues clearing the thick cake. After scraping the chamber walls with the pen knives, he follows by using ‘230’ grade paper (I can’t remember what the grading was in India – it could have been 220 to 240, mid-range) to clean the walls of the carbon further and wipes the chamber with paper towel. After wiping, Steve evaluates the condition of the chamber and the 173-year-old chamber is in good shape from what we can see at this point.Switching now to the rim, Steve carefully employs the sanding paper over the rim to begin removing the thick lava flow. Continuing on the rim, next he uses a flat blade and pen knife and continues carefully scraping the rim. Using a spatula tool, he switches attention to the mortise and scrapes out the old oils and grime buildup. With the lava excavated from the rim, Steve identifies what looks like a hairline crack running over the rim.The crack isn’t easy to see.  It runs across the rim and over and down the stummel a bit.Steve continues smoothing the rim using 230 grade paper in order to get a better look at the rim’s condition.The crack is now more clearly seen. We paused when Paresh and Pavni arrived and I got more practice perfecting my selfie technique.  Pavni enjoys helping her father in his restoration adventures.  Her specialty in the restoration process, which has become a unique trademark in Paresh’s restorations, is sanding the chambers to a smooth perfection.As the project manager, Paresh receives an update on the progress on the 1846 BBB which includes the news about discovering of the crack after the rim cleaning.After conferring with the master restorer, the decision is made to take the 1846 to the topping board.  In this case, a piece of 230 paper on the flat, glass table serves well as Paresh begins the topping process.  The debate using the topping board is always weighing the loss of briar verses the needed corrections in the restoration process.  The rim needs refreshing and redefinition, and the hope is that some topping will improve the situation with the crack. The first revolutions show the progress and revealing more distinctly the rim crack. After another few revolutions on the topping board, it is time for a conference and Steve again takes the stummel to the topping board. Paresh harvests the briar dust off the sanding paper, which appears to be a 150 grade from this view.  Under Pavni’s watchful eye, Steve takes the stummel a few more rotations and we arrive at a satisfactory point. From the picture above, the inner rim edge is rough and uneven.  There is also a dark scorched ring remaining around the inner perimeter. Paresh goes to work cleaning the inner rim edge with a roll of sanding paper.  We’re hoping that the sanding will take care of the minor hairline crack. Across the table, Jeff takes a close look at the amber stem with the Henry Hughs Son LTD London magnifying glass.  The night before we were all squinting looking at the nomenclatures of many pipes and this morning Paresh remembered to bring this classic lens!  Looking at the 1846 BBB through this antique lens seemed only right! Jeff goes to work on cleaning the delicate bone tenon but waits on the airway of the amber stem.  We don’t want to use alcohol on the amber which could potentially damage it causing it to shatter or craze – making spider web-like cracking.  During the week, Paresh had a young man on call to respond to all our needs.  We needed a natural acidic cleaner for the amber stem and lemon juice is a good choice for the job.  Paresh made a call to the young man to bring us lemons.…  Waiting for the lemons, Jeff gave Murphy’s a try on the bone tenon and airway with some results. On the other side of the table, Steve isn’t satisfied with the rim and adds a few more turns on the topping board and follows with a light sanding touch on the external rim edge to soften the rim edge and clean remaining nicks. The threads of the bone tenon have years of debris compacted and Jeff starts with a bristled brush to help clean and then passes the stem across the table and Paresh continues the delicate thread cleaning probing and scraping with the flat blade. With Paresh working on the tenon, Steve passes the stummel to Jeff who starts his cleaning regimen using Murphy’s Soap and a paper towel.  The towel shows the first layer of grime coming off.  He also gently scrapes the shank shaft with a blade where the band was mounted removing grime softened by the Murphy’s Soap. Paresh hands the stem off to Steve who continues working on the bone tenon threads using a stationary inverted wire brush.  This does the job and the stem goes back to Jeff for his inspection. Jeff continues cleaning the BBB stummel with more Murphy’s Soap and gently scrapes the lava buildup on the stummel surface just over the rim. Next, Jeff furthers the cleaning by taking the stummel in the kitchen and giving the stummel a cleaning using warm water and liquid dish soap, which in India came in a paste form, and scrubbing with a bristled toothbrush.  I was very interested in seeing Jeff’s cleaning process.  He has developed an interesting system of which even Steve was not fully aware! With Jeff’s cleaning, he’s not concerned to allow water in the internals but washes the internals as well using a shank brush to clean – rinsing with warm water – external surface and internals. With the stummel clean, Steve takes the stummel to work on the primary restoration issues.  Using a 1500 grade micromesh pad, Steve dry sands the upper part of the stummel around the rim and the rim surface to work on some rough areas and to clean the area of the crack identified earlier.  The challenge is to preserve the 1800s patina while applying some abrasives to the surface.  Steve employs the micromesh for this reason. While Steve is working on the stummel, our young helper man arrives with the lemons needed for Jeff to continue his internal cleaning of the amber stem!Steve’s fine sanding with the micromesh pad on the rim brings into focus two cracks, the original and a lesser one – in the picture below at the 4 o’clock and 6:30 o’clock positions. To address these issues, Steve decides to drill a counter-creep hole with the Dremel on the original lone crack which creeps down the stummel and then apply CA glue shoring it up.  To begin, to create a hole to guide the drilling, using the magnifying glass, Steve presses the corner of the flat blade into the briar where the crack terminates creating the guide hole for the Dremel drill bit. With the area cleaned, the crack is clearly seen now on the external side as well as internally looking in the chamber. After a very short discussion with Paresh, it’s decided that Steve will do the honors of drilling the counter-creep hole.  Mounting a 1 or 2mm (not sure which now!) drill bit in the Dremel, with nerves of steel preparing to drill on the 1846 BBB, Steve does the job.  This part of the restoration is critical – drilling the hole keeps the crack from advancing as the bowl heats and cools – expands and retracts.  During the drilling, one does not want to drill too far punching through into the chamber! Next, after Steve applies CA glue over the crack and count-creep hole, Paresh is ready to apply briar dust over the wet repair area to enhance the blending on the vintage briar surface. With the main crack glued and briar dust applied, the secondary crack receives a spot drop of the thin CA glue as well to create a strengthened reinforcement. After the CA glue cures, Steve strategically files and sands the repair areas removing the excess glue and bringing the patches flush with the briar surface. To again freshen the rim after the crack repairs, Steve lightly tops the stummel and the results look good. Following the topping, again using the 1500 micromesh pad, Steve sands both repair areas on the stummel surface as well as topping the stummel with the micromesh pad. This smooths and blends the repair area well with little impact on the ancient briar’s patina. Now armed with a natural cleanser, lemon juice, Jeff continues the cleaning of the amber stem’s airway. You get a better idea now why this write up seems a bit like watching a ping pong tourny!  Paresh now continues the application of micromesh to the rim of the 1846. The results are great for Jeff’s stem cleaning utilizing the lemon juice.  The pipe cleaner reveals the buildup in the airway. Steve continues to work on the rim and repair areas with micromesh pads 1800 and 2400. With a sense of having worked the areas enough with the micromesh pads, Steve applies Before & After Restoration Balm to the rim and the crack area where he had been applying the micromesh pads to see how the briar will snap to.  The result is phenomenal as the following pictures show. This marks the completion of micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 on parts of the stummel and rim.  The cracks are still visible but have blended well in the darkening briar hues. Paresh follows by dry sanding with 3200 grade micromesh on the stummel. Jeff declares that the stem internals are now clean.  After thinning a thick pipe cleaner with the pen knife, Paresh runs the pipe cleaner through the stem and bone tenon for one final pass. The amber stem bit has experienced chipping and this is next up for repair.  Steve begins the repair by spot dropping clear CA glue to fill the divot.  After applying, he puts the stem aside for the CA glue to cure. The BBB silver band is next.  The band shows the normal coloring as the silver oxidizes over time.  Paresh tackles this project by using a dry powdered silver cleaner that he has available in India.  I had never seen anything like it before and watched with interest as Paresh pinched the powder and applied it to the band and rubbed the powder in the metal. The results were stellar as the pictures show. While Paresh worked on cleaning the band, Steve pressed forward applying the next set of micromesh pads to the stummel and rim of the 1846 BBB.  Using pads 3600 to 4000 he dry sanded. The emergence of the beauty of this aged patina was amazing to watch as Steve teased it out by dry sanding with pads 6000 to 12000. With the micromesh phase completed, Steve attaches the newly shined BBB silver band with its identifying hallmarks, using a bit of CA glue.  After applying a small line about midway up the shank underneath where the band will rest, Steve positions and slides the band over the shank until it tightened. All I could say was, ‘Wow!’.  The vintage band adds that touch of class that the 1846 BBB already had in spades!Next, we’re all anticipating the results of applying Before & After Restoration Balm to the entire bowl.  The Balm does a great job coaxing out the deeper hues of the briar.  Often, the changes are subtle, but distinctive.  This picture shows the stummel before application.Steve applies the Balm by putting some on his finger and thoroughly working it into the briar surface.  I have often described the texture as thinner, or cream-like when first applied, then thickens into a wax-like texture as it is rubbed in.  After allowing the Balm to set a while, Steve buffs it off with a cloth to reveal the great results!  The vertical grain on this stummel is beautiful with a smattering of bird’s eye grain on the heal. It’s true, we may have done this a bit out of order, but Jeff and Paresh team tag working on cleaning the internals of the mortise.  Cotton buds and pipe cleaners are used, after dipping in alcohol.  Paresh excavates some gunk with a small scoop tool which was part of his arsenal. Meanwhile, after the first round of CA glue cures (it didn’t take long), Steve continues to work on the bit of the amber stem.  He uses a file on the button and also files out a chip on the side of the stem, next to the button. He applies another round of CA glue to chipped area on the side as well as to the previous divot to continue building up the surface.  The pictures show the progress. Jeff declares, ‘Clean!’ after a plethora of cotton buds and pipe cleaners bear witness to the tars and oil he removed from the stummel internals.The 1846 BBB was the main show of the day’s restorations, but several other projects were going on as well.  Here, Steve and Paresh confer and Pavni works on doing what she does best – patiently sanding and smoothing another stummel – this one a Meerschaum! Steve completes filing the stem repairs and sands down the patches so that they are invisible.With the stummel cleaned, I finally get the nod from the project manager to put down my iPhone (actually, Paresh takes over the picture taking) and pull out the Dremel and to begin the fine polishing phase.  I use White Diamond compound with a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted with the speed set at about 40% of full power and apply the compound.While I disappear into the ‘zone’, Paresh takes a picture. While I’m in the zone, Paresh captures the progress Steve is making on the amber stem.  The CA glue patches have been fully sanded out and are invisible.  Steve did a great job smoothing, blending and filling the chipped area on the side of the stem.  He had to apply several coats of CA to build out the surface so that it again blended naturally.Zone….The amber stem is then treated to the full regimen of micromesh pads, dry sanding from 1500 to 12000. Zone…. After completing application of the compound, I mount another cotton cloth wheel maintaining the same speed and apply carnauba wax to the stummel.  I’m please the way the grain is popping!Then, to add the finishing touches, I apply White Diamond compound to the amber stem – appreciating the work that Steve did. After the White Diamond, I decided not to apply carnauba to the stem – it was already glistening and the pure, raw amber was more than ample to present this classic pipe.After I completed applying the compound to the stem, I rejoined stem and stummel and passed the 1846 to Paresh who had the privilege of doing the final handbuffing to raise the shine and complete the restoration of the 1846 BBB.  Woohoo! As we had planned, in celebration of the completion of the restoration together we smoked 3 unbelievable vintage pipes with albatross shank extensions and horn stems – all from the 1800s.  Oh my…. We each thoughtfully packed our bowls with our choice of blends and lit up and, well….  What a treat for Paresh to share the treasure trove of pipes left to him by his grandfather.  Jeff did the honor of commemorating this event with pictures. To further commemorate this amazing experience, we took a portrait of everyone who had taken part in the restoration of the 1846 BBB – notice Abha will have the first use of this grand old BBB! Mudra did the honor of taking the picture.There are not enough words to describe all that we experienced together while in India with Paresh’s family.  Steve, Jeff and I were treated literally like royalty!  We were taken to many different places to see the sites and to enjoy different cuisines, even pizza!  We all stored up memories which we’ll value all our days.Before heading to the airport, I took one more picture of Paresh and his family, Abha, Mudra and Pavni.  We arrived in India as acquaintances and we parted as family. And now the story has been told. West met the East in India for the restoration of the star of this story, the beyond classic 1846 BBB Own Make – a treasure from a grandfather to his grandson.  Thanks for joining us!

BBB Own Make #166 Reconditioning


Blog by Dave Gossett

I’ve owned a few BBB’s for years but lately I’ve taken a real liking to the Own Make. I picked this up from eBay on the cheap. Even with the blurry pictures it looked rough, but it was even worse upon arrival.

The one time this pipe was actually reamed, I think it was with a knife. The inner rim was hacked up and the top was charred. Dave1 Dave2 Dave3 Dave4 Dave5I like a challenge so I got to work. I used a Dremel drill with a barrel sander to make way for a reamer.

Here is it after the initial cleaning. Lots of rim char and missing briar. Dave6I started with a slight topping to give it a crisp symmetrical outer rim ring and then beveled the inner rim to smooth out the damage. Next I sanded the outside of the bowl to remove the scratches. Once the rim and stummel repairs were finished, I sanded the bowl chamber smooth and added a fresh carbon coating.

Next up: the stem. Once the stem was cleaned and sanitized I removed the tooth chatter with needle files and began wet sanding. I use craft sticks and glue various grits of sand paper to them for wet sanding the sharp edges and angles. Wet sanding the entire stem by hand can soften the crisp edges of the original design. Using these small sticks, can remove all the oxidation without compromising the original shape.

Here is an example from another project pipe. The stem in this picture also has a button patch repair. Dave7To finish up, I gave it few coats of carnauba wax and polished the silver band. Dave8 Dave9 Dave10 Dave11

New Life for an Old and Tired BBB Own Make 701 Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

I saw a foursome on Ebay and the one pipe in the lot that caught my eye was of course this older Rhodesian. At first glance I figured it was a GBD 9348. Then I looked more closely at the photos and could see that it was not a GBD at all. It was clearly a BBB with the brass inset on the top of the stem. I bid and won the lot. While the other three pipes are probably fine in terms of additions to the pipes for sale this one was the one I wanted for my collection. It had two things going for it that caught me – it was Rhodesian and it was a BBB. Both fit the one of the focuses of my collection.Foursome2 Needless to say but the one in the roughest shape was the BBB. In the photo below you can see the hole in the stem and the roughening around the inner edge of the rim on the left side of the bowl. It was going to take a bit of work to bring this one back from the brink and keep the original stem.Foursome7

Foursome8 When the package arrived I took out the BBB and unwrapped it from the bubble wrap. The stem was stuck in the shank and the damage to the bowl was quite extensive. The stamping on the left side of the shank read BBB in a Diamond and under that was Own Make. On the right side it read London England in a straight line over the shape number 701. On the right side of the bowl and on several spots on the shank it had dark stains from sitting in water or juice. It had discoloured the briar and damaged the finish. There were also some dents and dings under the dark discolouration from the bowl having been dropped on concrete or something that left the side of the bowl dimpled with dents and marks. The stem was quite gnawed on – the hole on the top was solid around the edges and the button was chewed and worn on the top side. The underside of the stem had bite marks and was worn from clenching.BBB1

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BBB4 I put the pipe in the freezer for 30 minutes and when I took it out I was able to easily remove the stem. I cleaned the edges around the hole in the top of the stem with alcohol and a dental pick to remove the buildup and the detritus that was caught in the edges. The good thing was the edges were solid and not crumbling.BBB5 I put Vaseline on a nail file that I have here and use for more wide repairs on the stem and inserted it into the slot. It provided a solid base for me to drip superglue onto the hole. I built up the edges and worked my way to the centre of the stem bite. You will note that I grossly over filled the hole with the superglue. I have been having trouble with the accelerant that I am using. It tends to dry out the surface of the patch and the centre never sets correctly. I decided to set the stem aside overnight and let the patch cure overnight.BBB6 I dropped the badly stained bowl into my alcohol bath and called it a night. The bowl soaked for over 12 hours and the stem cured while I slept soundly.BBB7 In the morning I took a look at the stem and saw that it was pretty hard. I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and dried it off. You can see the dark stains on the right side of the bowl and on other spots on the bowl. It was almost black in colour and the alcohol had not lightened it at all.BBB8

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BBB10 The top view of the bowl below shows the extent of the damage to the bowl. It was out of round and the gouge out of the left inner edge was rough.BBB11 I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish and see if it would lighten the stains on the bowl. While it indeed lightened them it did not remove them. It was encouraging to see the grain through the stains however, so I knew that sanding the damaged areas would remove much of the darkening.BBB12

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BBB15 I lightly topped the bowl on my topping board to remove some of the damage to the rim surface.BBB16

BBB17 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare wood. I wanted to remove as much as possible and see if I could also clean up the inner edge of the rim.BBB18 I used a retort as has become a habit lately and boiled alcohol through the stem and shank to remove the tars and build up. After the retort I cleaned out the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol.

I worked on the stem using needle files to recut the button and clean up the sharp edge. I sanded with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair to the topside and underside of the stem. I followed that by sanding with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out some of the scratches left behind by the lower grit paper.BBB19

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BBB21 While I had the 220 grit sandpaper out I sanded the bowl as well to remove the stains on the sides of the bowl and the cap. I also used a folded piece of sandpaper to work on the inner edge of the rim and give it a slight bevel to minimize the damage there.BBB22 I wiped the bowl down with alcohol and then sanded it with a medium grit and a fine grit sanding sponge followed by 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. In the photos below you can see how it worked to remove the majority of the stain on the bowl. I very carefully sanded around the stamping on the right shank as I did not want to damage the stamping.BBB23

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BBB26 I used a hot knife and wet cloth to steam out the dents on the bowl sides, cap and rim. When I had lifted them as much as possible I sanded the bowl further with the 400 grit wet dry paper and also with the fine grit sanding sponge. I wanted to clean up the damaged areas on the sides and top as well as the stem repairs.BBB27

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BBB30 After the steaming and sanding I spent some more time on the inner edge of the rim. I wanted the bevel to smooth out the damaged side of the rim and also wanted to bring the bowl back into round. It took quite a bit of time to handwork the rim damage but I am happy with the end result. When finished I rubbed the bowl down with a soft paper towel and olive oil. I rubbed the oil into the bowl, paying special attention to the areas that were previously damaged with the stain and the dents. Again, I set the bowl aside for the night to let the oil soak in and be absorbed into the briar.BBB31

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BBB34 The next morning I worked on the stem with fine grit sanding sponges and then with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. The higher grit pads allowed me to blend in the repair as much as possible and though still visible it looks very good. The patch is hard and solid with no give when pressed on.BBB35

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BBB37 I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it had dried I buffed it on the wheel with White Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and then finished by buffing it with a soft flannel buffing pad to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. It is ready for loading up and enjoying a good smoke. It should serve me well for a long time.BBB38

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A Surprise in this Lot of Pipe Bowls – a BBB Virgin Own Make Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This package of pipe bowls to restem arrived this week. There were several surprises in the lot but one that the seller had listed as London Made turned out to be a BBB Virgin Own Make. The stamping had been buffed and was fairly faint but it indeed read BBB under the loupe. The left side of the shank is stamped London Made and the shape number 638. In the photo below it is in the center column the third pipe in the column. It came with a heavy cake and tar buildup on the rim. The bowl had been reamed in the past with a knife but was still fairly round. The chamfer/bevel on the inner rim is what had suffered the damage. The finish was dirty but would clean up fairly easily. Under the grime it appeared to be a beautiful cross grain – birdseye on the front and back of the bowl, on the top and bottom of the shank and cross grain on the sides of the bowl and the shank. It was going to be a beauty once it was cleaned up. The edges on the shank end were clean and undamaged and there were no cracks in the shank. The inside of the shank was also very tarry and caked.

Figure 1 Assorted pipe bowls for restemming

Figure 1 Assorted pipe bowls for restemming

I used a PipNet reamer to ream the bowl and remove the heavy cake build up. I reamed it with a smaller cutting head first and then used the correct size to finish. I wanted to ream it back to bare briar so I patiently worked with the cutting heads until the bowl was clean. The next series of three photos show the reamer in place and the result of the reaming. Look closely at the top of the bowl in the third photo and you will see the damage to the chamfer/bevel on the inner edge of the rim. Also in the photos is the stem I picked out of my can of stems for this pipe. The great thing is that I had a BBB stem in the can that fit well with minimal work on the tenon.

BBB Virgin bowl

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The next photo shows a side view of the pipe. I took this photo because of the great cross grain that is visible on the bowl.

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I sanded the tenon with 220 grit sandpaper to remove a thin layer of the vulcanite and make a good fit on the stem. The next two photos show the fit of the stem. I was unable to push it into the shank due to the tar buildup in the shank. Once I cleaned out the shank I would be able to tell if I needed to do a bit more sanding on the tenon.

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I cleaned out the shank with cotton swabs and Everclear. While I worked on that I also swabbed out the inside of the bowl and the rim with Everclear as well. It took many cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to get the shank clean and ready for the new stem.

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When the shank was clean I tried to fit the stem again. It was still a little tight so I set it aside to work on when it was thoroughly dry. I have learned that if I fit it when the shank is wet the fit will be too loose once it dries out. The photo below shows how the stem fit after the cleaning of the shank.

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When I returned from work the stem fit perfectly. I did not need to do any more sanding on the tenon. I wiped down the exterior of the bowl and shank with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish and grime from the top of the bowl. I also did some minor adjustments to the shank/stem union as the shank was slightly out of round and needed to have briar removed on the top and left edges to smooth out the union. I used 220 grit sandpaper and a medium grit sanding sponge to even out the fit of the stem. The next three photos show the fit of the stem and shank after the work.

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I sanded the chamfer/bevel on the inner rim of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to repair and minimize the damage to the rim from the reaming that had been done with a knife. I have found that I can set the folded sandpaper at a set angle and work my way around the inner rim of the bowl repairing the bevel. It takes careful work to get the angles to even out and give a finished look to the repair. The photo below shows the finished chamfer/bevel.

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Once the bevel was completed and the shank/stem fit fine-tuned I needed to remove the rest of the finish from the pipe so that I could easily restain it and have a good match on the sanded areas. I sanded the rim and the shank with a fine grit sanding sponge and also with 1500-2400 micromesh. I then wiped the bowl down with acetone wetted cotton pads to remove the finish. The next three photos show the pipe after the wash with acetone. The finish stained acetone cotton pads are in the background.

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I sanded the stem and the bowl with a fine grit sanding sponge after the wash to even out the look of the finish and to prepare it for staining. The next three photos show how the sanded portions now blend in with the finish of the bowl and shank. The scratches have been removed and the bowl and shank are ready to be stained.

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I decided to begin working on the stem before I stained the bowl. I wet sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-1800 grit. Once I had it started as pictured in the first photo below I changed my mind about sanding the stem further at this point. I restained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied the stain with a cotton swab and then flamed it with my lighter, reapplied the stain and reflamed it until I had the colour and coverage I wanted. Photos 2-4 below show the pipe after staining. I am happy with the blend of the stain on the rim and the sanded area of the shank. The coverage is heavy enough to give a good colour and yet it is not too heavy so that the grain really shines through. I had not buffed the pipe at this point merely stained it and let it sit while I went back to working on the stem.

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I went back to sanding the stem with the micromesh sanding pads. I worked through the remaining grits of pad from 2400-12,000. Each successive grit of pad deepened the shine on the stem and progressed to a deep black look. I also sanded the bowl with the micromesh pads. The hardest area to remove the oxidation was around the brass BBB diamond insert. To clean that up I used a Bic lighter and passed the flame over the stem surface quickly and the oxidation burned. I also wet sanded the area with the edge of the sanding pads. To finish that area I also used the Scratch X2.0 plastic polish and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry. The next three photos show the stem after sanding with the pads.

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The final four photos show the finished pipe. There are some dents remaining in the side of the bowl that I steamed to lift but they still show. I tend to leave these on older pipes as signs of their age and character. I love the way the grain stands out on this pipe. The sides show the cross grain. I did not take photos of the ends of the bowl to show the birdseye grain that is situated on them but you can imagine the look from the straight lines of the cross grain. The rim and sanded areas on the shank look well blended in and the bowl smells fresh and ready to use. I am well pleased with how this old beauty turned out and know that it is ready for a life of service.

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One of my favourite refurbs – 1919 BBB Bent Calabash


I was going through some old pictures on my hard drive the other day and found this one that I bought on EBay for a very reasonable price early in 2008. I finished refurbishing it in March of 2008. It was and is one of my favourites. You can see from the picture below what kind of shape it was in when I got it. In the pictures on EBay it looked worse than it does in the picture below. I opened the box when it arrive expecting far worse. I bid on it because I liked the shape of the pipe and I figured it would be a challenge.

The stem was oxidized to the brown white coloration that appears below. It almost appeared to be a horn stem – but it was not. When I removed it from the shank – which took a bit as it was stuck by the goop in the shank and the oxidation that portion was black. I put it in the freezer for a short period of time to cause some expansion and contraction in the stem that would loosen it from the shank. When I took it out of the freezer it was easily removed. I went to work on the inside of the stem with shank brushes and pipe cleaners, both bristle and fluffy dipped in alcohol. I worked on the stem until the cleaners came out white and clean.

I then mixed a batch Oxyclean and soaked it in the solution overnight to soften the oxidation. I find that the Oxyclean solution (warm water and a half scoop of Oxy in a pint jar) works wonders in softening the oxidation. It does not remove it but it made it easier to remove. Once I took it out of the solution the next morning to work on it I used 240 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation. It worked well to take off the brownish white coating on the stem. Once that was finished it was a dull brown and I continued to work on it with the 400 grit wet dry sandpaper until it was a dull black. I then progressed to 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to further remove the grime. I used both of these sandpapers with water as I find it gives the grit more bite on the stem. I had not discovered micromesh at this time so I used 800 and 1000 grit sand paper and continued to sand the stem clean. By the time I used the 1200 grit wet dry sandpaper the stem was looking like new. I took it to my buffer and used the Tripoli and White Diamond to finish the job.

While the stem was soaking in the oxy I reamed and cleaned the pipe bowl and shank. I worked on it until the pipe cleaners came out clean. It took many bristle cleaners and many fluffy one to get it clean. I also used cotton swabs in the shank to remove the tars and build up there. I scrubbed the outside of the bowl and rim with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and deep seated dirt on the bowl. After I finished the scrub and clean I put the bowl in a bath of Isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining dirt and grime and the badly damaged finish on the bowl. That was the first night of my working on the pipe. I went to bed that evening with both the bowl and the stem soaking in their separate baths.

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The next morning I finished up the stem and set it aside as I described above. I turned my attention to the pipe bowl. I removed it from the alcohol bath and dried it off. I used a wet cloth and a butter knife heated over a flame to raise the dents in the outer rim of the pipe and the sides of the bowl. The process is quite simple. You wet a cloth, wring it out so it is not dripping wet yet still wet. Then fold it and put it over a dent. Heat the knife (I use our gas stove to do it but have also used an alcohol lamp). I then lay the flat blade of the knife on the dent. You will hear a hiss as the heat causes steam to rise from around the blade. The steam causes the dent to rise. I applied the blade repeatedly until the dents were minimized. Then I took it to my work table and used a flat board and a piece of sandpaper to top the pipe just enough to remove the remaining dents and damage. I do that on a flat surface to maintain the flatness of the rim without changing the angle. When that was finished I wiped down both the bowl and rim with an alcohol damp cloth to remove any residual sanding dust.

I then used an aniline stain, in this case medium brown as I had researched and found that the colour matched the colour of the pipe when it was new. I used the dauber that came with the stain and applied it to the rim and the body of the pipe. I started at the bottom of the bowl and worked my way up to the rim. The rim always the last part I do. Once it was completely covered with stain I ignited it with my lighter to set the stain. The process is called flaming the stain (at least that is what I call it.) I let it dry while I put a coat of wax on the stem.

When the stain was dry I took the bowl to my buffer and gave it a buff with Tripoli and White Diamond to remove the top coat of the stain and the opacity of the stain. The result can be seen in the picture below. I also used some silver polishing compound applied with a soft cloth to remove the tarnish on the end cap. I finished that process with a silver polishing cloth to give it a good shine. When that was completed I gave the bowl and cap a good buff with carnauba wax then reinserted the stem and gave the entire pipe an extra coat of wax for a finish.

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I still smoke it today and it delivers proudly! The last two pictures below show what the pipe looks like today after 4 years of use. It has developed a deep patina to the bowl and the warmth of the medium brown stain has mellowed into a richness that is really nice. Repeated waxings over the years have helped mellow the finish and also deepen the black of the vulcanite stem. This is one of my favourite old pipes. It truly is a reborn pipe. In 7 years it will be 100 years old. Some days I wish it could talk because I can’t even begin to imagine the stories it could tell.

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