Tag Archives: BBB pipes

Restoring a 2 Star BBB “Special” # 395


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

A few weeks ago, Steve had worked on a BBB Own Make 693 Canadian with some really gorgeous grains to boast about. As I was reading the blog, I remembered the BBBs that Abha had cleaned and sent across for further restoration along with 40 other pipes. However, since I was working on a Thorburn Clark pipe from my inheritance, I had postponed work on this BBB. With the Thorburn Clark completed, I rummaged through the pile and separated all the BBBs that she had sent. This is the one that caught my attention. The note in the package, along with the issues observed by Abha while cleaning the pipe, said that it was from my grandfather’s collection!! I had to work on this BBB.

This BBB in bent Apple shape with a saddle stem has stunning grains and it appears that the grain on the block of briar dictated the shape to the carver. The stummel boasts of beautiful tightly packed straight grains to the front, sides, back and along the sides of the shank. The foot of the stummel, bottom and top of the shank has the most beautiful and distinct bird’s eye that you would ever see. The transition from bird’s eye at the foot of the stummel to the straight grain all around is very well defined and seamless. The stummel is stamped on the left shank surface, close to the shank end, in trademark rhombus as “BBB” over two Stars (**) on either side of the lower part of the rhombus over “SPECIAL”. On the left shank surface, it is stamped as “LONDON ENGLAND” over the shape code “395”. The bottom of the shank bears the numeral “0” very close to the shank end. Inlaid BBB brass diamond logo on the saddle adorns the vulcanite stem. If you are interested to know anything about BBB pipes, look no further than rebornpipes.com!! This is Steve’s favorite brand and he has been researching and collecting BBB pipes for decades. I visited rebornpipes and sure enough there was a write up on “History of BBB Pipes”! Here is the link to the blog: https://rebornpipes.com/2012/08/05/history-of-bbb-pipes/

I was more interested in background information of the brand and later in the dating of this pipe. Here is what I found interesting;

Adolph Frankau arrived in London in 1847 and quickly grasped the opportunities which the enlarging tobacco market introduced. He started “Adolph Frankau and Co.” and began importing meerschaum pipes and tobacco supplies. The Company took a young 14 year-old boy, Louis Blumfeld under its wing. The Company quickly thrived and did so until the untimely death of Adolph Frankau in 1856. His widow decided to sell the company.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), author of “Hero and worship of the heroes” came on the scene at this point. He recommended that the widow Frankau not sell, but rather that she should entrust the future of the company into the hands of young Louis Blumfeld, then 18 years old. Carlyle had to have had a very high opinion of the young Louis to make this recommendation, and his trust proved to be justified as Blumfield took care of the company with enthusiasm and bottomless energy. Louis quickly realized, as others had before him, the potential of the newly acknowledged pipes made of briar.

Louis Blumfeld developed important international trade relations from the beginning, and had particular success in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Europe, as well as Switzerland and Denmark. The USA had never been an extraordinary market for the company, but nonetheless a subsidiary was opened in New York. His commercial strategy focused on the countries of British Empire.        

In the 1930s, the top pipe of the line was “BBB Best Make” with variants such as “Great Dam” and “Ultonia Thule”. The BBB Carlton, sold retail in 1938, was endowed with a complicated stinger system; the same system was also used on the BBB London Dry. The Blue Peter was not stamped BBB but BBB Ultonia, and BBB Two Star (**) was the stamping on lesser quality pipes.

Shapes of BBB pipe were typical of other companies pipes made in this era: half were billiards, some princes and bullcaps, bulldogs and some bents. It is also in this period that the inlaid metal BBB was put on more upscale pipes, while series of lesser quality had only the stamped BBB on the stem.

During the middle of 1950s and 1960s, BBB lines were comparatively stable. The top pipes of the line were stamped Own Make “Rare Grain”, followed by Own Make “Virgin”, Own Make “Walnut” and finally Own Make “Thorneycroft”.

From the above, it is evident that the BBB on my work table is from the period 1930 to 1950.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The chamber had a thick layer of cake, but not as thick as seen in some of his pipes. As expected, the rim top surface is covered with overflow of lava. The beveled inner edge of the rim in 11 ‘O’ clock direction is badly damaged which could probably be caused as a result of hitting against a hard surface to remove the dottle. The outer rim edge too has dents and dings around. The condition of the walls can be commented upon only once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. This chamber has some pretty strong ghost smells.   The stummel surface is pebbled with numerous dents, dings and scratches. However, there is not a single fill in the stummel surface!! Significant damage was seen to the front of the stummel and around the rim. This damage, in all probability, has been caused due to uncared for storage and it having rubbed against some hard object. The briar had taken on a nice aged patina and I shall try to preserve it. However, the kind of damage to the stummel would necessitate a few invasive methods to address these issues which are detrimental to preservation of aged patina. Let’s see how the restoration pans out!! The mortise showed dried accumulated gunk with a blocked draught hole. Air flow was very laborious to say the least.The stem is heavily oxidized with a deep gouge on either side of the saddle of the stem. This and other stummel damage could have been due to uncared for storage for the last 40 odd years. There is no significant damage to the button or in the bite zone, save for a few very minor tooth marks to button edges and tooth chatter in the bite zone. This was surprising as I have observed that the stem was the most damaged part in most of my inherited collection. Maybe my grandfather did not like the smoking character of this pipe or the shape or the hand feel or the clench or could be that he did not like the size of this pipe (most probable cause since he preferred large sized ones!!) The tenon is covered in dried gunk. INITIAL CLEANING BY ABHA…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and these have now reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothed out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. In the note that she had packed with pipe, she mentioned that getting a pipe cleaner out through the draught hole was not easy. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.

Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way. She covered the inlaid brass stem logo with petroleum jelly (helps protect the metal from corrosion due the solution) and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.

ONCE THE PIPE IS ON MY WORK TABLE…
The initial cleaning by Abha, my wife, is thorough and while saving me time, it also provides a clear picture of all the issues that needs to be addressed during the restoration process. She also makes a note of all the issues that she observed during initial cleaning for me to address and includes this note with each pipe that she packs. It’s a big saving on the time factor and I am really thankful to her for indulging me.

This is how the pipe came to me after Abha had worked her magic. This is definitely a beautiful pipe and would be a challenge for me to do justice and bring the beauty of this pipe to the fore!!

The chamber walls are solid without any signs of damage. The smooth and thin rim top surface is where all the action is on this pipe with an added bonus of an equally damaged beveled inner rim edge. At this point, the damage to the outer rim edge does not appear to be a major issue and should be easy to address. The ghost smells are greatly reduced, but still offending to the olfactory nerves. One major cause of concern is in the heel of the stummel. There is a dip at the bottom that forms a channel from the draught hole to the heel with raised shoulders along the sides (marked in yellow arrows). If this issue is not addressed now, prolonged further use may subsequently lead to a burnout at the foot of the stummel. However, as things stand now, the external surface at the foot appears solid. As observed earlier, there is not a single fill in the entire stummel. The reasoning for giving it a 2 Star, denoting lesser grade, fails me completely!! Abha had nicely cleaned the stummel surface. The surface is solid to the touch but has a number of dents and dings over the stummel, notably to the front, sides and a couple at the foot of the stummel (marked in yellow circles and arrows). Is it a figment of my imagination or a reality, I am not sure, but I think I saw a very slightly darkened spot at the bottom of the foot (circled in green), which was strongly refuted by anyone and everyone I happened to show it to. Just to be sure, I gently tapped it with the back of a screw driver for a shallow sound, but nothing!! I checked the entire stummel for sound and it all sounded the same. The stummel is solid throughout. In the note that Abha had enclosed in the packet containing this pipe, she had mentioned that she could not get a pipe cleaner through the mortise and the draught hole and as such she had left it alone. I would need to check it and further clean the mortise. The stem is free of any major tooth indentations/ bite marks. Minor light tooth chatter, however, is seen on both the stem surfaces in the bite zone. The lip edges needs to be sharpened and evened out. The stem still has signs of deep oxidation. The otherwise good condition of the stem is marred by deep gouges on either sides of the saddle of the stem. THE PROCESS
The first issue that I decided to address was that of the blocked air way in the mortise. With the bent flat dental tool, I scraped the walls of the mortise and removed as much of the dried gunk as I could. Using a round needle file, I tried to pry at the blockage, but to no avail. What I found unusual was that an upward movement of the needle file had a little give, however, when I tried to push it in straight, I hit a hard and solid block. Using shank brush and dish washing soap, I scrubbed the shank internals clean. This helped in getting a better idea of what lurked within the mortise that was preventing the pipe cleaner from coming out of the draught hole.I checked the mortise internals under a torch light and what I saw surprised me no end!! Straight away, I could not see the draught hole straight ahead and all that I saw was a reservoir like the one seen on a Pete System pipe. Closer observation around the mortise revealed the opening for the draught hole that was aligned towards the top side and that too was at a weird angle to the rest of the mortise. Here is how the internal of the mortise looked and will present a clearer picture of what I have been trying to explain.Well, this could very well be a flaw in the drilling of the mortise or could be a design element for a better smoke (HIGHLY IMPROBABLE!!), I really cannot tell. Continuing with the internal cleaning of the bowl, I subject the chamber to salt and alcohol treatment to get rid of the strong ghost smells. I insert a folded pipe cleaner through the mortise and out of the draught hole in to the chamber. Thereafter, I tightly pack cotton balls in the mortise, pushing it deep with a dental tool. Next I tightly pack cotton balls in to the chamber, slightly below the rim edge. Once this set up is ready, I pour 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol in to the chamber and mortise, using a syringe. I let the alcohol settle down and top it again after about an hour. I set the stummel aside for the night to let the alcohol loosen up the grime, draw out all the entrenched oils and be trapped in the cotton. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out the old oils and tars from the chamber and mortise. I removed the cotton from the chamber and the mortise. I scraped out the loosened crud from the mortise with my dental tools and further cleaned the mortise using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners. However, on close scrutiny of the mortise under a torch light, I realized that the mortise was still not clean. While removing the loosened cake from the chamber, I gently scraped the shoulders that had formed at the heel near the draught hole. Lucky me, the shoulder that was formed was nothing but hardened cake and was easily removed due to the softening during the salt and alcohol bath. Using my dental tools, I scraped out all the crud that I could and followed it up with a cleaning using q-tips and alcohol. Though the mortise cleaned up pretty nicely, the smells were still strong. I decided to subject the chamber and the mortise to a second salt and alcohol bath. I followed the procedure for the bath explained above and set the stummel aside for the bath to work its magic. The next day, all the remaining oils and tars were drawn out and trapped in the pipe cleaner and cotton. I cleaned the mortise again using pipe cleaners and dental tools. I am happy with the way the mortise cleaned up this time. The pipe smells clean and fresh. Next, I decided to address the dents and dings on the stummel surface and on the rim outer edge. Using a whitener pen, I marked all the major areas with dents and dings and decided to leave the minor ones as they were. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still observed, these were greatly reduced when compared to before the steaming. Steaming out the dents and dings from the stummel surface had necessitated that the surface of the stummel be evened out by sanding. Using a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I sand the entire stummel surface taking care to preserve the stampings on this pipe. To address the damaged inner beveled edge of the rim as well as the dents and dings and darkening of the thin rim top surface, I topped the rim top on 180 grit sand paper. I took a piece of used and worn 180 grit sand paper, folded it and pinching it between my thumb and forefinger, freshened the inner bevel on the inner edge of the rim. Both the rim top and inner edge look much better than before. Staying with the stummel restoration, I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I polished the freshly topped rim surface and the newly created inner rim bevel. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface. I am surprised that the rim top surface has the same deep brown coloration as the rest of the stummel surface and use of stain pen was not required. Also the supposed dark spot at the foot of the stummel was indeed a figment of my imagination and was nothing but the eye in the bird’s eye grain, whew!! The next step is the application of the “Before and After Restoration Balm”, developed by Mark Hoover and a must have for restorations. This product not only protects and enlivens the briar but also highlights the grains on the surface. I rubbed a small quantity of the balm into the briar surface with my fingers and set it aside for about 20 minutes. The transformation is almost immediate and I polished the surface with a microfiber cloth to bring out a deep shine on the stummel. The bird’s eye and straight grains look awesome. The following pictures speak for themselves. Now with the stummel refurbished, I turned my attention to the stem. I start with addressing the issue of deep gouges to the either sides of the saddle by heating the damaged surface with the flame of a lighter. The heat from the flame expands the vulcanite and raises it to the surface. The results are pretty satisfactory.Next I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of worn out 180 grit sand paper followed by a 220 grit sand paper. This addresses two issues; firstly the minor tooth chatter in the bite zone and the raised gouges are evened out and secondly, the residual oxidation is sanded out. I follow it up with sharpening of the lip edges with a flat head needle file. To finish the stem repairs, I wiped out the raised oxidation and dust from the surface with Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton swab.To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a moist cloth after each pad. Another Mark Hoover product which I had recently ordered is the “Before and After Extra Fine” stem polish. I applied a small quantity of this polish and rubbed it deep in to the vulcanite stem. This polish, purportedly, is supposed to remove the finer sanding marks left behind by the abrasive grit papers. The pictures of the process and final results are shown below.Only the brass BBB stem logo remains to be polished. Abha, my wife, had suggested that I should try using Colgate toothpowder to bring back the shine on the metal logo. She had tried this on her jewelry with amazing results. I rubbed the brass logo with Colgate toothpowder and the results are truly amazing.To apply the finishing touches, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. This is a truly beautiful pipe with a classic bent Apple shape boasting of stunning straight grains all round the stummel and shank and bird’s eye grains at the bottom of the entire stummel. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to protect the chamber walls and the heel of the stummel by giving it a bowl coating of activated charcoal and yogurt. This not only protects the walls from direct contact with the burning tobacco but also helps in speeding up the formation of cake. Now the pipe is completed aesthetically as well as functionally.P.S. The only aspect that was bothering me with this pipe is the alignment of the opening of the draught hole in to the mortise. I shared my concerns and pictures of the skewed alignment with my Guru and mentor, Steve. He suggested that this issue, to be addressed, may necessitate funneling the tenon end. He also suggested that I should first smoke this pipe and if the draw is smooth, even and full, funneling the tenon may not be necessary.

I dry tested the draw and found it to be smooth even and full without any whistling sounds. Thus, I can safely expect that the pipe should be a good smoker. I shall eventually get around to enjoying my first smoke in this beauty, but for now, the confidence that this one will be good smoke has me satisfied.

Truth be told, this project was completed by 16 October 2019, however, thereafter I proceeded on leave for my home and got around to complete the write up only after rejoining from leave.

I earnestly thank all the readers for sparing their valuable time in following this write up and hope to learn from your comments on this post.

Redemption of a BBB Own Make 693 Canadian with a Saddle Stem


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.

A Simple Restoration of a BBB “Natural Grain” # 11


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

My pipe cleaning factory back home is churning out pipes galore and these cleaned pipes once they reach me are being liked by people who see them and sales are also improving, though restricted only to local customer, yes, you read it right, without an ‘s’, as only one colleague has been motivated to take up enjoying a pipe!! I am sure more will follow. Those readers who have been following my work on rebornpipes.com are well aware that here in India, pipe smoking culture died its natural death in 1970’s when old pipe shops and tobacconists were pushed out of business by cigarette manufacturers and people got used to the convenience of a ready-to-smoke cigarette. And to add to our woes, there is a ban on importing tobacco!! Well, wish me luck that I am able to revive this culture back here again…

Well, the fourth pipe selected by my colleague from the heap of cleaned up pipes that Abha had sent me, is a well-made British pipe. It’s a classic straight Billiards with tapered stem BBB pipe in a smooth finish. It has nice Bird’s eye grain on either sides of the stummel with tightly packed cross grains to the front, back and on the shank. The pipe is stamped on the left of the shank as “BBB” in a diamond box, in block letters over “NATURAL GRAIN” split on either side of the diamond box. On the right of the shank, close to the bowl end it is stamped with the numeral “11” probably a shape code. The tapered vulcanite stem with an aluminum stinger has the trademark stamp of BBB in a diamond box. However, the stem logo is not a brass logo, pointing to the later/ newer era pipe. The COM stamp is conspicuous by its absence. The stampings are all crisp and prominent. Having a few BBB pipes in my personal collection that once belonged to my grandfather and having a few friends like Steve and Victor Naddeo who collect BBB pipes, the information readily available was sufficient to date this pipe. From discussions with these stalwarts and comparing it with BBBs from my inheritance, it is evident that this pipe is definitely from a newer era, probably 1980s, the dead giveaway being the lack of brass diamond roundel for the stem logo, presence of an aluminum stinger and the grading of Natural Grain!!

With this information, I move ahead with my initial visual inspection.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The pipe came to us in a very decent state, to say the least. It was only smoked a couple of times and a thin even layer of cake build up is observed in the chamber. The rim top is covered in places with specs of overflow of lava. Otherwise, the rim top surface and both inner and outer rim edges are in pristine condition.The smooth stummel surface has beautiful Bird’s eye grain patterns on either sides of the stummel with beautiful densely packed cross grains on the front, back and the shank. The bottom surface of the stummel is flattened, making it a sitter. The stummel surface has a natural finish of the briar and the grains should pop out after a nice polish. The mortise with shank internals is relatively clean and the chamber is odorless. The draught hole is at the bottom center and should be a great smoker!! Reclaiming this piece of briar should be an easy chore. The tapered vulcanite stem is clean with very little signs of oxidation seen in the bite zone on either surfaces of the stem. The tenon end along with the detachable aluminum stinger is also clean. The slot does not show any signs of accumulated dried gunk. Air flow through the stem air way is full and free. A couple of pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol should freshen up the stem internals.INITIAL CLEANING BY ABHA…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and these have now reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothed out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.

Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.

ONCE THE PIPE IS ON MY WORK TABLE……
The cleaned up pipes presents a very clear picture of what needs to be done to restore this pipe to a pristine and smokable condition. I really cannot thank Abha, my wife, enough for all the help and support that she extends me in my pursuance of this hobby. A clean pipe also helps in clearly identifying the work that would be required to restore a pipe. The pictures shows the condition of the pipe when it reached me after being cleaned. The chamber is odorless and the walls are solid without any signs of damage. The smooth rim top surface and the inner and outer rim edge are in perfect condition. The mortise and shank internals are also nice and clean now. The seating of the stem tenon into the mortise is snug and sits flush with the shank end. I had noticed a darkened spot on the right side of the shank near and below the stamped numeral 11 (marked in yellow arrow). On close scrutiny, I feel that this spot is not a fill but a minor flaw in the briar since a gentle probing with a sharp dental tool revealed a solid surface. I have decided to let it be. The rest of the stummel surface is sans any fills or flaws. A nice polish and the beautiful grains will pop out and will be on display in all their glory. As the stamping suggests, this is a pipe with natural finish to the briar and I have no intentions to change this!!! I think as the pipe is smoked, over a period of time, the briar will take on some nice dark coloration and patina. I am really looking forward to see the stummel after polish. The oxidation on the vulcanite stem has been removed, thanks to all the efforts put in by Abha. The slot and stem internals are all clean and fresh. The aluminum stinger too is nice and clean. A bit of sanding to remove the deeper oxidation followed by micromesh polishing cycle should add a nice shine to the stem. THE PROCESS
I start this restoration by sanding the entire stummel surface, including the rim top, with a piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in addressing all the minor dents, if any, from the surface while providing a smooth surface for the next stage which is polishing cycle using complete set of micromesh pads. To remove the sanding marks and bring a deeper shine, I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface. I showed the stummel to the new owner and discussed if he wanted me to stain the stummel or preferred it the way it appeared at this stage. I took this opportunity to explain to him that the stummel would darken as he smoked taking on a beautiful dark patina with time and usage. He liked the pipe without stain and thankfully, that’s how it shall remain. Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful darkened grain patterns on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Now that the stummel was nearly complete, I turned my attention to the stem. Since there was no damage to the stem and Abha had done a wonderful job of removing the oxidation from the stem surface, I straight up proceed with sanding the stem surface using 400, 600, 800, 1000 grit sand papers and finally with a piece of 0000 grade steel wool and also sharpened the button edges while sanding. This serves to remove the deep seated oxidation and also reduces the sanding marks of the more abrasive sand papers. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove all the oxidation and sanding dust from the surface. I applied a little Extra Virgin Olive oil over the stem and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite.I followed up the sanding regime with micromesh polishing to bring a shine on the stem surface. I wet sand the stem with 1500 to 2400 girt micromesh pads. Continuing with my experimentations that I had spelled out in my previous posts, I mount a cotton buffing wheel on my hand held rotary tool and polish the stem with Red Rouge polish as I had read that this polish has grit between 2400 to 3200 grit pads of the micromesh pads. Further, I mount a fresh buffing wheel on the rotary tool and polish the stem with White Diamond polish as it has grit equivalent to 3800- 4000 of micromesh pads. I finish the stem polish by wet sanding with 6000 to 12000 grit pads of the micromesh. I rub a small quantity of olive oil in to the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside. The stem looks nice and shinning black. I am really happy with this process of stem polishing as the results are excellent while saving me huge amounts of time and effort. To apply the finishing touches, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks beautiful and is ready to be handed over to the new piper. Hope he enjoys his leisure time with this beautiful and gorgeous looking pipe, smoking his favorite tobacco!! P.S. This is the last of the four pipes that was selected by this gentleman to carry forward the trust posed in the pipe by the previous piper and I am sure that this pipe will provide the new piper many years of happy smokes and will remind him of our association. This was also the most difficult of all the four pipes to let go!! Such is the beauty of this pipe.

Thanks to all readers of Reborn pipes who have spared a moment of their invaluable time in reading through this write up and as is always, your suggestions and advice are always welcome as this would not only help me but also help the new pursuers of this art.

Breathing New Life into a BBB Gourd Calabash with an Ambroid Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received an email from a lady named Pat on Vancouver Island about some pipes that she had that had belonged to her late husband as well as an old Gourd Calabash with a Meerschaum bowl that had belonged to her Great Grandfather. She sent me photos of the pipes and they were definitely interesting to me. There were some John Calich pipes and three other lower end pipes from her late husband and the cased Gourd Calabash. I was hooked and ready to be reeled in! After a few email exchanges we made a deal that was acceptable to us both. The payment was e-transferred to Pat and the pipes were shipped to me in Vancouver. Pat sent me two photos of the pipe before she shipped them to me.

The first photo shows the cased pipe. The Gourd Calabash was a BBB as can be seen by the triangle stamped in gold on the cover of the case and the silver band in the photos below. The Gourd had some beautiful patina and had turned a rich reddish brown colour. There was a silver band on the shank with what looked like hallmarks. There was also a silver band around the top of the gourd under the meerschaum bowl insert. The bowl had a lot of colour and it had a ring around the meerschaum bowl. There were a couple of chipped areas on the lower ring of the bowl. The amber coloured stem looks intact and does not show any obvious damage. The colour of the stem and the cloudiness of the material makes me wonder if it truly amber or some form of ambroid. I will know soon enough.

The second photo is a close up that shows the silver band on the shank of the pipe. It is in good condition and lightly tarnished. The stamping is very readable and it clearly showed the following marks: L-B and BBB in a triangle. There were also three hallmarks on the band. The first was an Anchor (which is the symbol for the Birmingham Assay Office). The second was a rampant lion (which is the symbol for .925 silver). The third one was the lower case letter “m” (which is the date letter that I would use to date the pipe as I worked on it). I did some searching through the British Silver Hallmark Charts that are online. I went through them comparing them to the “m” stamp on the band. I found two possible dates for the stamp. On the shape charts that I use most of the time when I am looking for information on the date stamps there was a lack of clarity as to whether the “m” stamp pointed to 1853 or to 1911. I wanted to see if I could get any clarity from others who were familiar with silver bands on BBB pipes.

I sent a quick message to a Facebook Messenger Group that I am part of that includes others who collect BBB pipes. I posted a picture of the band with the hallmarks that I included above on the group. Both Paresh Deshpande and Victor Nadeo immediately answered that the pipe was from 1911 from the charts that they use. I responded with my question as to the shape of the cartouche (the frame) around the “m”. Pretty quickly after that Victor sent me the link to the chart that he uses and included a screen capture of the list from 1900-1917 shown to the left (http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilverhallmarksBIR.html).

I quote Victor’s response: I think the frame (cartouche) is only slightly erased. But I’m pretty sure it’s really 1911. They’d hardly miss anything like that, as they passed an Assay Office, such a serious government agency. And in view of the frame around the other hallmarks, I think they leave no doubt that it’s a 1911.

That set the date for me. It also worked well with the L-B stamp which stood for Louis Blumfeld. That L-B stamp fits that time frame perfectly. Now I knew that the pipe was hallmarked to 1911 and that it was an old timer. I could not wait to see it once it arrived in Vancouver.

While I waited for Canada Post to deliver it I did a bit of reviewing on the history of the brand from Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/BBB). I quote some of the pertinent parts of the article below:

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 trade mark. “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 imbedded in the stem top, and later post-Cadogan went to a stamped on logo, similar to the GBD pipes…

…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.

Enter in scene Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), author of “Hero and worship of the heroes”. This last advises with Mrs. Frankau not to sell, but to entrust the future of the company to the hands of the young person Louis Blumfeld, then 18 years old. Carlyle was to have a very high opinion of the Louis young person, and this confidence was justified by its assumption of responsibility of the business, its enthusiasm and its inexhaustible energy. Louis realizes quickly, like others, great potential of briar, from which the interest comes to be recognized.

Louis Blumfeld develops from the very start of important international trade, with a particular success in Canada, in Australia, in Zealand News, India and in the extrème Is Europe, in Switzerland and, with a special mention, in Denmark…

I took out my Briar Books Press reproduction of the Adolph Frankau & Co. BBB Catalogue XX from 1912 and did a bit of reading to see what I could find out from the source. Sure enough I found the pipe in the catalogue. It is marked as a Style X Genuine South African Calabash Pipe. Underneath the print of the pipe it reads First Quality, Picked Bowls, Push Cups, Best Ambroid Mouthpieces, Hall-Marked Silver Mounts in best Leather Case. You can see the two rings around the bowl insert, the silver band around top of the gourd and the silver band on the shank. It is also clear that the stem is marked as an Ambroid mouthpiece. The leather case is the same one as the one I am working on with the BBB logo on the top side of the case and the same latch setup as the case I have.I now had a verification that the L-B stamp stood for Louis Blumfeld as I expected. He took over the company at the death of Adolph Frankau in 1856. He took the brand to its zenith as BBB (Blumfeld’s Best Briars and later Britain’s Best Briars). That time table fit the dating of this pipe very well. The 1912 Pipe Catalogue has the same pipe for sale. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

I brought the worn leather clad case to my work table and took some photos of it before I opened it and took out the pipe. It was worn but well made. Some of the leather was peeling but the brass hinges on the back edge and the flip clasp on the front were all in good order. I took photo of the unopened case to give you a sense of my own expectancy. I opened the case and took a photo of the pipe in the case. You can see the gold embossed stamp on the inside of the case – a triangle with BBB against the cream coloured lining.I took the pipe out of the case and did a quick assessment of the condition of the pipe. The gourd calabash was in excellent condition and showed a patina of solid use for the 100+ years that it has been in Pat’s family. The silver band around the top of the gourd and the band on the shank are clean but oxidized. The one around the rim top is more oxidized than the shank band. I think the shank band was polished for the photo that Pat sent me. The edges of the meerschaum cup looked very good except for two chipped areas on the bottom ring of the bowl. The upper edges of the bowl appeared to be in very good condition. The stem is in good condition other than tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button. The rest of the stem is in excellent condition. As I examine the stem I am becoming convinced that it may not be amber.    I took photos of the top of the bowl. There was a thick cake in the bowl that overflowed onto the rim top. It appears to me that the bowl was never cleaned during life of the pipeman who held in trust. The buildup of lava on the rim top was very thick and extended to the downward curve of meer cup on the edges. You can also see the tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem.I took some close up photos of the bowl and rim to show the thickness of the cake and the lava on the rim top. The lava top was thick and you can see the layers and flakes on the top photo below. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks and chatter in the surface of the stem. There is also some serious wear on the button edge. The look of the damage on the stem surface made me more uncertain that it was amber. I unscrewed the stem from the shank and took a photo. The threaded bone tenon was anchored in the stem and screwed into the shank. The threads tenon was in excellent condition even though they were darkened from the tars of the tobacco.Once I had the date figured out and had a chance to look the pipe over I wrote a quick note to Pat and asked her if she would be willing to write a brief piece on her Great Grandfather. She was quick with her answer and sent me brief sketch, a photo and an article about her Great Grandfather. I include those now.

Hi Steve,

My great grandfather’s pipe was always a mystery. No one ever smoked it after he died, yet it got passed down through the generations. I always imagined it had magical powers like Sherlock Holmes’s pipe. When I was young, it sat beside my bed as I read The Hound of the Baskervilles. It has journeyed with me until your received it.

My great grandfather, John Milne Senior, immigrated to Canada from Scotland around 1875. He had a good sized farm on the edge of Toronto, Ontario in Weston (now a suburb), where he farmed and raised prize winning livestock, and raised 6 children. He was generous with extended family and neighbours supplying food during hard times in depression, and fresh garden produce for the local hospital during Second World War.

Attached is the only photo I have of him on top of his hay wagon on the farm. Also attaching an article written during the Second World War with details about the air show beside his farm, and his and my grandmother’s first flights in their 80’s. From all accounts he was a good hearted man that didn’t shy away from adventure.

Cheers,

Pat Now that I had a pretty clear picture of John Milne Senior I was ready to start working on his pipe. As noted above in Pat’s email the pipe had been sitting unsmoked since his death. It was time to bring it back to life. I carefully reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scraped the cake back to the bare walls. I sanded the walls with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the interior of the bowl.I carefully scraped the rim top with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and a sharp pen knife. It took a while to scrape back the cake until I got to the meerschaum cap. I followed that up with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to remove the remaining bits that were left on the top of the rim.  I scrubbed the cap of the bowl with Before & After Briar Cleaner. I have used it in the past on meerschaum and found that it does a great job removing the grime but leaving the patina in good condition. I polished the cap and edges of the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. Each successive grit pad gave the meerschaum finish more of a shine. There were some nicks and scratches in the meer that I decided to leave as they are fitting of a pipe of this age. I rubbed the Gourd Calabash bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the gourd 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. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate on a variety of bowls – briar, meer and gourd. I polished the silver on the rim of the gourd and the silver band on the shank with a jeweler’s polishing cloth until it removed the black tarnish that had built up around the silver. There are small silver brads holding the band around the top of the gourd.   With the externals cleaned it was time to work on the internals. I was not able to remove the meerschaum bowl so I left it in place and cleaned the gourd through the hole in the bottom of the bowl and up the shank. I used alcohol and pipe cleaners to remove the grime that was built up and worked on it until the cleaners came out clean and the gourd smelled fresh.The more I handled and worked on the stem the more I was certain that I was dealing with something other than amber. From the BBB Catalogue from 1912 I knew that I was dealing with Ambroid which is in essence manmade amber. My first thought was that the Ambroid was Redmanol so I turned Pipephil to have a look at that product to see if they made material for BBB (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-r3.html). I found in a note below the photos said that BBB used Redmanol stems. I have included a screen capture of the section on pipephil’s site.I also noted there that L&H Stern used Redmanol as well. I turned to an article on Pipedia about about LHS pipes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/LHS). I found a picture of the exact stem colour as the BBB that I was working on. I quote:

LH Stern is known to every important wholesaler and jobber in the country. LHS manufactures a complete line of briar pipes. Ginmetto wood pipes are also made, as well as Redmanol goods, the man-made amber. The first substitute for amber. Everything, even down to the sterling silver and other metal trimmings are made under one roof.

Example with Redmanol Stem (man-made amber)

I checked the dates on Redmanol and it was developed and was linked to an article on Bakelite on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakelite).

Bakelite (/ˈbeɪkəlaɪt/ BAY-kəl-eyet; sometimes spelled Baekelite) or polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride was the first plastic made from synthetic components. It is a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin, formed from a condensation reaction of phenol with formaldehyde. It was developed by the Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland in Yonkers, New York, in 1907.

Bakelite was patented on December 7, 1909. The creation of a synthetic plastic was revolutionary for its electrical nonconductivity and heat-resistant properties in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings and such diverse products as kitchenware, jewelry, pipe stems, children’s toys, and firearms.

It seems that the inventor of Bakelite ended up merging his company with Redmanol who developed a similar product. I now knew that the stem I was working on was Redmanol/Bakelite. The more I worked on it the more apparent it became that I was dealing with a manmade product rather than natural amber.

Armed with that information I turned my attention to the stem. I wiped the stem surface down with soap and water to remove any oils on the stem surface. I filled in the tooth marks with clear super glue and set the stem aside until the repairs had cured.When the repairs had cured I sanded them smooth to blend them into the surface with 220 grit sandpaper and polished it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.     You can see the discolouration of the stem material from the sanding. It is pretty typical of Redmanol and Bakelite stem… I went on to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil after the last sanding pad.  BBB pipes have always been a favourite of mine. I love firing up a bowl in one and I love feel and craftsmanship that went into each of them. This 1911 Gourd Calabash is a beautiful example of the craftsmanship that went into each of the pipes that came out of Louis Blumfeld’s BBB factory. These calabash pipes put together the gourd from South Africa with a meerschaum cup from Turkey and a stem supplied by Redmanol. It is truly an international pipe that ended up in Canada on the farm of a Scottish immigrant and lived far beyond his life time in the hands of his granddaughter who cherished it and cared for it. I am honoured to carry on the trust of this noble calabash. I put the bowl and stem back together.

I carefully polished the bowl, the meer cap and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the gourd and 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 rich reddish brown patina of the gourd, the shine of the aging meer, the silver band and ring and the Redmanol stem really popped with buffing showing the contrast colours of the pipe. The polished Redmanol stem went really well with the colours of the bowl. The rim top, though slightly damaged looked very good. This old BBB Gourd Calabash was another fun pipe to work on. It is an old timer that will hold a place in my BBB collection. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks to John Milne Senior for his care of his pipe. Thanks to Pat for her care of it through the years and for passing it on to me to hold in trust as the next pipeman to own it. 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. 

New Life for a BBB Tortoise Canted Square Shank Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

It was time to work on one of the pipes that Jeff and I purchased from a guy in Pennsylvania. The next pipe on my worktable comes from that collection. This one is a canted Dublin with a long square shank and a saddle stem. The rim topped is worn and dirty but it appears that the shape follows the grain of the block of briar very well. It is stamped on the left side of the shank BBB in a diamond over Tortoise and on the right side it is stamped London, England and the shape number 719. The stem has a BBB Diamond medallion on the topside of the saddle. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the rim top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like because of the lava and cake. From the photos there seemed to be some damage to the inner edge at the front of the bowl but I could not be sure. Other than being dirty the finish appeared to be in good condition. The stem was pearlized white. There was some light tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button. I have included 3 photos that the seller sent to me to give an idea of what Jeff and I saw when we were deciding to purchase the pipe. We had the pipe lot shipped to Jeff in the US so he could do the cleanup on them for me. He took photos of the pipe before he started working on it so I could see what he was dealing with. I am including those now. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava. The cake is thick and hard and the lava overflow is a thick band around the bowl. The bowl is a real mess. This must have been a great smoking pipe. There appears to be a damaged spot on the front bevel of the inner edge.The next photo shows the side and bottom of the bowl to give a clear picture of the beauty of the mixed grain around the bowl of the pipe. Under the grime some great grain peeks through.Jeff took photos of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The brand and the shape number are very readable. He also took a photo of the BBB Diamond Medallion on the stem top. The pearlized, tortoise stem looked dirty and there were some light bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem.The BBB Tortoise was a line of BBB pipes that came with a pearlized stem that almost looked like it was made of abalone. It was acrylic of some sort but has the softness of vulcanite. It is remarkable material.

I turned to address the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe for me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime off the finish and the heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and was able to remove much of the oxidation. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a clean pipe and I knew what I had to work with. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition. Jeff was able to clean up the incredibly thick cake and lava overflow that was shown in the rim and bowl photos above. He was also able to get rid of the grime and grit in the surface of the briar. There was a deep burn gouge on the front edge of the rim. There was some darkening around the inner bevel of the bowl. The outer edge and the rim top looked very good. The stem was much cleaner than before. There was some staining just ahead of the button. The tenon was a replacement – a black Delrin tenon. The clear white pearlized stem shows the black of the tenon through the back edge of the saddle on both the top and bottom side.I took a close up of the dark spot in the back end of the saddle. It is not a hole or a drill through. It is really the black of the Delrin replacement tenon reflecting through the translucent pearlized stem material. I have to say it is ugly but it not damaging and in no way effects the smoke.I decided to address the bowl first. I worked on both the rim damage and try to minimise the burn damage on the front inner bevel of the rim. I worked on the inner edge of the rim first using a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper smooth out the damage, bevel the inner edge and bring the bowl back as close as possible to round.Once I beveled the inner edge of the rim to bring it back to round, I decided to continue my ongoing experiment with a new product from Mark Hoover of Before & After Products. This one is a product he labels briar cleaner and it has the capacity of absorbing grime and dirt from the surface of briar. I rubbed the bowl down with some of his Briar Cleaner to see how it would work in this setting. In speaking to Mark he noted that the product is completely safe to use. The main product is even FDA approved edible. I rubbed it onto the bowl and rim top with my finger tips and worked it into the grime and grit on the bowl. I let it sit on the pipe for about 5 minutes before I rubbed it off with a microfibre cloth. I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the residue. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the surface on the bowl looked when I was finished. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. It also helps to blend the newly stained areas in to the surrounding briar. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingers to get it into the briar. After it sat for a little while I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. It is a beautiful bowl. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem at this point in the process. I sanded the light tooth chatter on the stem with folded pieces of 220. The marks came off very easily. I rolled a piece and sanded the back edge of the saddle on both sides where the dark mark was. I took photos of the stem from various angles to give a clear picture. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to enliven and protect the stem material. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the pearlized, white stem even after the micromesh regimen. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry.  I put the stem back on the pipe and took the pipe to the buffer. I worked it over with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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 really well and even the newly beveled rim top looked good. I was happy with the results of the reworking of the rim. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The unique canted Dublin shape is a beauty and unlike any of the BBB Tortoise pipes that I have restored. It is a very stunning looking pipe with the mixed grain and the pearlized, white stem. The polished stem looks really good with the browns of the briar. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is another pipe that I will be putting it on the rebornpipes online store shortly, if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this beauty!

Recommissioning a Sharp BBB Classic London England 106S Chimney


Blog by Dal Stanton

This very classy looking BBB I acquired with the French Lot of 50 that I won on the French eBay auction block along with several other treasures that I’ve enjoyed restoring for new stewards benefiting our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Along with a few other pipes commissioned by my friend in India, Paresh saw this BBB in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and was interested in adding it to his BBB collection.  I’ve marked the BBB in the pile of pipes that I acquired.  I love looking at ‘pipe piles’ 😊.With the pipe now on my worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, I take more pictures to show what got Paresh’s attention.  In prototypical English style, the pipe is on diminutive side measuring, Length: 5 3/8 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Rim width: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber width: 3/4 inches, and Chamber depth: 1 3/4 inches. The left side of the shank is stamped with the classic ‘BBB’ ensconced in the rhombus [over] ‘CLASSIC’.  The right side of the shank is stamped, ‘LONDON, ENGLAND’ [over] 106S – what I’m assuming is the BBB shape number designation.  The shape of the stummel I would label as a Chimney sporting a saddle stem.  In my research I could unearth no BBB Shapes Chart that corroborates my designation matching the 106S.I love the look and feel of this pipe and its distinctive brass rondel embedded on the topside of the stem placing this ‘Best British Briar’ Classic in the 1950s and 1960s.  Below is pictured the evolution of the BBB stem markings which is included in an extensive article on the History of BBB Pipes by Fiona Adler that Steve reposted in rebornpipes after translating from the original French.Pipephil provides a very brief description of ‘BBB’:

BBB: ” Best British Briar” is now a brand of the Cadogan Company (Oppenheimer group). American rights to use the brand name were sold to Wally Frank in 1980.
Founder of the brand in 1847: Louis Blumfeld. The oldest pipe brand name in the UK has been registered in 1876 (Blumfeld Best Briar)
Grading (ascendant): Own Make, Bold Grain, Best Make, Rare Grain

With the dating of this pipe giving it a 50s/60s vintage, I was hopeful to find the ‘Classic’ line in some of the catalogs that Steve acquired from Victor C. Naddeo who is the administrator of the FB Group, Pipe Club of Brasil. I enjoy it when catalogs are posted but unfortunately, I found neither the ‘Classic’ line mentioned or the shape number 106S in the 60s catalog (See: Best British Briar Catalog to see the whole posting).The Chimney stummel is in very good condition – the grain pattern shows great promise after the stummel is cleaned of normal dirt and grime buildup.  The chamber has a thick cake and the lava overflow matches the fact that this pipe was well smoked and served his steward well.  I will remove the cake to give the briar a fresh start and to inspect the chamber walls for heating problems.  The saddle stem has heavy oxidation but very little tooth chatter on the bit.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the very nice-looking BBB Classic Chimney cleans up.

I start by trying something that I haven’t tried before.  The oxidation in the stem is a lot and very deep.  My experience with Before & After Deoxidizer is that it is not able to remove very strong oxidation fully.  It can address some of the issue, but not thoroughly – in my experience.  I try to break up the oxidation by using a small felt buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel set to the lowest speed.  I start first with simply the felt wheel, but I’m concerned that it is too hot on the vulcanite.  I add paraffin oil to the mix.  I wet the felt wheel with the mineral oil and buff the stem trying to break up the oxidation in anticipation of putting the stem in the B&A Deoxidizer soak.After buffing, I wipe the stem down with a cloth and put it aside and allow it to dry.  After drying, the next two pictures show that the buffing did help, but there is still oxidation.I continue by cleaning the airway of the stem with a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95%.  Once clean, I add it to a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes in the queue.  I’m hopeful that the Deoxidizer will now be more efficient after the aggressive buffing I did. After some hours in the Deoxidizer soak, I fish out the BBB saddle stem and after draining off the excess Deoxidizer, I use cotton pads wetted with isopropyl to wipe off the raised oxidation.  I also run a pipe cleaner wetted with alcohol to clean the airway of the fluid.  The pictures show improvement, but I’m not satisfied.Next, I employ Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to address the oxidation further.  I’m satisfied with the results – the vulcanite appears to be free of the oxidation.To rejuvenate the stem, I apply paraffin oil to the vulcanite with a cotton pad and put the stem aside to absorb and dry.  I’m pleased with the results.Turning now to the BBB stummel, I take a few pictures to show the heavy build up both in the chamber and the rim.  I use only the smallest of the Pipnet Reaming Kit’s blade heads to ream the carbon cake out of the chamber. This will give the briar a fresh start.  I transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to do the fine tuning by scraping the chamber walls more, and then wrap 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber to clean it further of carbon cake residue.  Finally, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to rid the chamber of carbon dust.  I take a final picture of the cleaned chamber and after inspection, I see know problems in the chamber with heating cracks or fissures. Turning now to the external briar cleaning, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad to scrub the surface.  I also work on the rim using my thumbnail to scrape the rim to remove the buildup and then with a brass wire brush.  I then take the stummel to the sink and using a bristled toothbrush I brush and further clean the surface under the warm water.  Using shank brushes and anti-oil dish liquid soap as well I clean the internals of the stummel rinsing with warm water.Next, using pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%, I continue the internal cleaning.  I also scrape the mortise walls with a small dental spoon.  This does a great job removing the thicker tars and oils that are hanging on.  After a time, the cotton buds begin to emerge cleaner.To continue the internal cleaning process, I use the kosher salt and alcohol soak.  To form a ‘wick’ to draw out the tars and oils, I twist and pull a cotton ball to form the wick.  A stiff wire helps to insert and push the wick into the mortise.  Then the bowl is filled with kosher salt, which leaves no aftertaste and freshens the bowl, and I set the stummel in an egg crate to keep it steady.  A large eyedropper is used to fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, I top the alcohol off after it has absorbed into the internals. I set the stummel aside for it to soak through the night.  It’s late, I also turn out the lights! The next morning, the kosher salt and isopropyl 95% soak has done the job.  The wick and salt are soiled having drawn more tar and oils from the internal cavity.  I thump the expended salt into the waste and wipe the chamber with a paper towel as well as blow through the shank to remove expended salt crystals.  To make sure the internals are clean, I use a few more cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  As hoped and expected, they come out clean and I move on.With the cleaning complete, I turn my attention to the rim’s condition.  The cleaning did a great job removing the grime and lava over the rim, but the discoloration and skins and nicks on the edge of the rim remain.  I take a couple close-ups picturing both sides of the rim and nicking is evident.To address the rim condition, I bring out the chopping board and put 240 grade paper on it to serve as a topping board.  I top the stummel very lightly – just enough to clean the rim and allow me to erase the rim edge nicks with a simple, inconsequential beveling.After a few rotations on the board I take a picture.After a few more rotations, I’m satisfied with the 240 topping.  On the lower right of the rim you can see the remaining rim edge issues that I’ll rectify with a gentle beveling or sanding.To smooth the rim further, I exchange the 240 paper for 600 grade paper and go a few more rotations.Next, I introduce outer and inner edge bevels to erase the remaining damage and to give the Chimney’s top a smoother softer appearance.  I use 240 grade then 600 grade papers rolled to do the beveling.  I think it looks great.With the rim repair completed, I take the stummel through the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I take a picture between each set of 3 pads to mark the change in the briar.  It amazes me how the grain emerges.  This BBB Classic’s grain is striking.  As I track the grain around the bowls, the horizontal grain gradually transitions to bird’s eye grain as the stummel position pivots.  There are no fills in the stummel that I can see – a beautifully crafted block of briar! Before returning to the stem to catch it up with the stummel, I’m anxious to apply Before & After Restoration Balm to this BBB Classic Chimney stummel.  I place some Balm on my fingers, and I work it into the briar thoroughly.  The Balm starts with a cream-like consistency but then thickens into more of a wax-like consistency.  I like the Balm because it seems to draw out the deeper tones of the briar – nothing earth shattering, but the subtle enhancement of the natural briar grain is what I like most.  After applying the Balm, I put the stummel aside for about 20 minutes before wiping off the excess and then buffing it up with a micromesh cloth.  The picture shows the Balm at work.Next, I turn back to the BBB saddle stem.  The tooth chatter is minimal, but the button has some compressions.  The skin of the stem is rough as well.I begin by refreshing the button lips using a flat needle file.  I also work on the bit with 240 grade paper sanding out the imperfections. The slot is also a bit out of shape.  I use a sharp needle file to file the edges to balance the slot.While sanding, I see a pit on the edge of the stem that I didn’t see before.  I try sanding it out, but soon realize is too deep.  I remedy the situation quickly using a spot-drop of regular CA glue on the pit after cleaning it with a cotton pad and alcohol.  I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process and then sand it with 240 grade paper. I then wet sand the entire stem with 600 grade paper and follow by applying 000 steel wool to the whole stem.  The next step is applying the regimen of micromesh pads to the stem starting by wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads a coat of Obsidian Oil is applied to further enrich and condition the vulcanite.  The freshly sanded pop of the vulcanite contrasted with the embedded BBB Rondel is great!  While trying to reunite the stem and the stummel before applying Blue Diamond compound, it becomes evident that the cleaning of the stummel has expanded the briar making the fit of the tenon in the mortise a bit too tight and forcing the issue could easily result in a cracked shank!  Nothing desired at this point.  To remedy this, utilizing a combination of filing the mortise with a half-circle needle file and sanding the tenon down by wrapping a piece of 240 grade paper around the tenon and rotating the paper does the trick.  The combination approach now allows the tenon fit to be snug but not too tight.With the BBB Classic stem and stummel reunited, after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel, and setting the speed at about 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stem and stummel.After the application of Blue Diamond compound, I wipe the pipe with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust in preparation of applying the wax.  Then, after mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, and maintaining the speed at 40%, carnauba wax is applied to the stem and stummel.  The restoration is finished with a hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

I’m very pleased with results.  This BBB Classic London, England Chimney is a beautiful pipe.  The block of briar is exquisite, with no fills and a landscape of grain transformation as you track it around the bowl.  There is a striking tight patch of bird’s eye grain on the right flank of the bowl that holds the eyes.  As a 1950s/60s vintage BBB, even though the ‘Classic’ line could not be fully identified, there is little doubt as to the quality of this BBB Classic Chimney.  Paresh commissioned this pipe which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited and he will have the first opportunity to adopt this BBB from ThePipeSteward Store and bring it home.  Thanks for joining me!

A Tiny 2 Star BBB 8881 Apple/Globe Provided An Interesting Challenge


Blog by Steve Laug

When I spoke with a fellow here in Vancouver who had a pipe that he wanted me to fix it sounded like a simple repair. He said that it had a very loosely fitting stem. He asked if he could drop by to show it to me and see if I could fix it. From past experience I have learned to never jump to conclusions about what sounded like an easy repair. When he arrived he showed me his GBD Faux Spigot. It turned out to need far more work than just tightening a loose stem. I wrote about that restoration in a previous blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/03/redoing-a-poorly-restored-ebay-gbd-super-q-9436/). We talked about his GBD for a bit and he made the decision to have me do a restoration on it. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag with a little BBB 2 Star apple of globe shaped pipe. It was stamped BBB in a diamond on the left side of the shank with two ** – one on either side of the diamond. ON the right side it was stamped Made in England over the shape number 8881. He said that he had found it at his parents’ house and really no one there knew where it came from.

Here is what I saw. Starting with externals. The pipe was small – kind of a pocket pipe. The grain on the bowl was quite stunning – a mix of flame and birdseye all around the bowl and shank. The rim top was coated with a thick lava coat and it went into the bowl. The inner edge of the bowl was in rough shape having been hacked clean with a knife. There was a crack on the right side of the shank curving to the underside. It looked to me it was made by the poorly made stem being shoved into the shank. The stem was larger in diameter than the shank and had been rounded over with a file. There were deep bite marks on the surface ahead of the button on both sides. Moving to the internals. The end of the tenon was carved with a knife to make it fit the mortise in the small shank. The inside of the shank was dirty but less so than I expected. The inside of the bowl had a light cake but most of that was gone from the knife job that had left a wounded inner edge on the rim. Looking at the pipe I explained what I would have to do to bring it back to life and restore it to use. It would need, cleaning, reshaping on the rim, a band on the cracked shank that would leave the stamping readable, and a reworking of the stem to make it a fitting addition to the lovely briar of the bowl. The pipe was going to be a fun challenge. I took these photos to give you an idea of what I saw. The previous pipeman who had fit a new stem to an old favourite pipe had done a functional job but it looked rough. It was pretty clean on the inside so it was cared for. It must have been a great smoking pipe for him to fit a new stem and not give up on it when the previous one broke or was lost. It was smokable. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition. It is hard to see but the rim top was not smooth. The lava build up was pretty thick and there were some deep nicks and chips in the flat top. The close up photos of the stem reveal the scratches in the vulcanite, the tooth marks and the worn and ill-defined button.  The oversized diameter – prettified to look nice is clear in the photos. I took photos from the side of the pipe to show the stamping on the shank and the prettified stem. In the second photo you can see the crack in the shank curving downward to the underside.I decided to address the cracked shank first. With the crack as large as it was and movable I did not want to further damage it when I worked on the stem and fit of the tenon. I knew that it needed to be banded but that would cover the stamping on the shank so adjustments would have to be made. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the size of the shank to fit the band I had chosen. I did not take of too much briar and I only damaged the M in Made In England as part of it would end up being covered by the band.I repaired the crack in the shank with super glue and pressure fit the band onto the shank to the point of the end of the sanded portion. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to cut back the band to the width that I wanted. Compare the photos above with the one below to see how much I took off of the band. I topped the band on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and smooth out the sharp edge with 1500 grit micromesh. I decided that since I was already working with the Dremel and sanding drum that I would take down the excess diameter on the stem as well. I reduced it to sit snugly against the band giving the pipe a classy look.I cleaned up around the inside edge of the band and edge on the shank with a folded piece of 2220 grit sandpaper to smooth things out and make the fit and transition smooth. I lightly sanded the blade portion of the stem and the area of the tooth marks next to the button with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and clean it up. I fit the stem in the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. It was beginning to look like a classic BBB to my eye. With the stem roughly fit to the shank it was time to address the bowl top. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. At that point I called it a night. I had to catch a train down to the southern part of Washington from Vancouver in the morning so I thought I would bag up a couple of pipes I was working on and take them with me.I caught the train south from Vancouver, BC at 6:30am. Once we had our seats we were in for an 8 hour train ride. I figure it would be a good opportunity to work on these two pipes. You can see my work table in the photo below. I used the fold down table. It had a lip around it so I spread out a couple of napkins for the dust and went to work on the pipes.I started working on the BBB by addressing the damage to the inner edge of the rim. It was significant with cuts and burns. My topping worked had helped with the top damage and smoothed that out but I need to work on the rim edge. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the sharp edges and bring the bowl back to round. Once I had the rim as round as I could get it and smoothed out the damaged edge I polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I polished the bowl and the rim at the same time. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp napkin after each pad. I touched up the stain around the front of the band and stained the rim top and inner edge with Maple and Cherry stain pens. Together the two stains matched the rest of the bowl.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim matches well but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the button and also to smooth out the marks left by the Dremel when reducing the diameter of the stem. I sanded the tooth marks near the button on each side of the stem to smooth them out.I polished the stem, tenon and metal work with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I was able to remove the damage on the tenon and polish out the dripping varnish on the metal adornment. The stem looked much better at this point in the process. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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. This turned out to be a beautiful little pocket pipe in terms of shape and finish. The new nickel band adds a touch of class in my opinion and gives the pipe a new elegance. I look forward to hearing what the fellow who dropped it off for repair thinks of it once he has it in hand and is smoking it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 3/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.