Tag Archives: BBB pipes

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.


Resurrecting a Badly Damaged BBB ** Billiard

Blog by Victor C. Naddeo

I have been following the Pipe Club of Brasil Group on Facebook for quite a while now and have enjoyed the posted that Victor Naddeo has made about his restoration work. He is the administrator of the Facebook Group and we have chatted back and forth. When he posted this restoration I was intrigued by his solution to the crack in the bowl. He sent me photos on Messenger and we talked about the repair and BBB pipes in general. Seems we are both devotees to BBB pipes. I asked him to write up this repair on an old BBB ** that was in very rough shape before he started. He gladly did so. I am hoping this is just the first of many blogs on rebornpipes by Victor. Welcome to rebornpipes! Now in Victor’s own words.

A few years ago i had my first experience with restorations. As a young man just into adulthood, I had little money to invest in good pipes, and on one fateful day I met an old Bent Apple BBB ** for sale at an antique dealer. The pipe had a very rusty stem, there were beat marks all over the edge of the bowl, and a cake that looked more like the shell of a turtle. Already for some time I followed the blog rebornpipes and the work of Steve, and inspired by him I decided to get involved in this project. Two months later (and after many mistakes made) I finally managed to bring the old warrior back into action. On that day I gained two new passions: Restoration and old BBB’s. This restoration I will show you below began months ago when in an auction I bought this BBB billiard from a not very honest auctioneer who had not reported that the bowl was cracked. After some time waiting in a drawer, I finally decided to do something to bring another warrior to this army of BBBs, I hope you like it!

As you can see, looking from the side he was just an old billiard that needed a bit of polishing and cleaning. Good shapes, harmonious proportions, these are typical features of an old BBB and the main reasons that made me fall in love with the brand. What I did not expect was that his former owner somehow managed to create a large crack in the front of the bowl with about 3cm.The interior of the ducts was also completely clogged with a mass of tar residues derived from years of non-cleaning use. The cake was also quite thick, which led me to believe that the pipe had never been reamed, and if it was, that was many decades ago. To remove the cake, I had to use some chisels first, because as the passage was very narrow, it was impossible to insert my Senior Reamer into the chamber. It took me some time (and I also got some blisters on my hand). In the picture you can see the amount of carbonized material being removed from inside the bowl. After using the chisels and also the senior reamer, I also use a series of sandpaper inside the bowl, starting from grit 220 through 400, 600 and ending with 800, so that the inside of the bowl has a uniform surface.After a 30 minute bath in a solution of Oxyclean and water, I washed the inside of the stem using bristle pipe cleaners and running water. With a Dremel and felt disks, used blue polishing compound to polish the inner tube. I finished cleaning the inside of the stem using cotton pipe cleaner soaked in grain alcohol, removing what was left of residues and possible bacteria. The Oxyclean bath brings the oxidation back to the surface of the stem, which facilitates the polishing and removal of the oxidized material. Returning to the subject of the dreaded crack in the bowl. I decided to use a briar insert to cover it. To prevent cracking from increasing over time and to facilitate insertion of the insert, I used a cutting blade attached to the Dremel to cut the broken part and make a V shape instead of the crack. I used this same disk to also cut out a briar block, an insert of a similar size and I used sanding paper to leave it the perfect size to fit into space. To glue the insert, I used a mixture of briar dust, pigments and super glue. I settled the insert and held it for a few minutes until the glue dried. I waited a few hours to make sure that all the glue was dry and insert was firmly in place. I cut the burrs and used sandpaper to level the insert with the rest of the bowl. I also used brown and black dye to match the colors. I used 220, 400, 600, 800, 1000 and 1200 grit sanding sticks to remake the shapes of the bowl edge that were completely destroyed by the beat marks. As you can see, after reshaping the top of the bowl, you can already see the ancient times of glory of this pipe that once was the faithful companion of some gentlemen.

After dying, it was time for the first polish. I used two different compounds, red and brown, on denim disks and jeans disks, such as a high spin, to remove sediments and dirt that were stuck to the outside of the bowl and excess dyeing of the insert and the new bowl top . I used the same process on the stem to remove the oxidized material, but finalizing with flannel discs using the blue compound and white diamond to give a mirrored sheen.


Restoring a Square Shank BBB Two Star Apple Shaped Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is another pipe from the estate of a Vancouver pipe smoker whose widow left them with a local Pipe Shop. I was asked to clean them and sell them for the shop. The photos show the pipe when I brought it to my work table. It is a nice BBB Square Shank Apple with a smooth finish. The bowl was heavily caked with a lava coat on the top of the rim. It was hard to tell how the inner and outer edge of the rim actually looked until the bowl was reamed. The exterior of the bowl was dirty and covered with grime dust in the deep grooves of the finish. The stem had the same tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button as the rest of the pipes in this estate. There was calcification on the first inch from what looked like a Softee bit. The stem has the BBB Diamond S logo on the top. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank with the words BBB in a Diamond with a * on either side. On the right side of the shank it is stamped London England over the shape number 696. It is has a square saddle stem with a flat blade. When I went back to the States after Christmas to visit my parents and brothers I took a box of these pipes with me so that I could have Jeff clean them for me. When they came back to Canada they looked like different pipes. He had 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 on 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. When it came back to Vancouver it was a quite different pipe. I took pictures of it to show the condition at this point – the bowl looked great and the stem was lightly oxidized. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition. Jeff was able to clean out the bowl completely and the rim top. He removed the tars and lava and left behind a clean top that showed all of the original rustication and looked very good. The stem was lightly oxidized and there was tooth chatter and marks on both sides near the button and on the surface edges of the button itself.I worked on five of the pipes from that estate at the same time. I put all of the stems in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to soak. I submerged them all of the stems in the bath and let them soak overnight to break down the oxidation.I took the stem out of the deoxidizer and rinsed it under warm water to rinse off the mixture. I blew air through the stem and ran water through it as well to rinse out the mixture there as well. The stem still had some oxidation spots but it was all on the surface as seen in the first two photos below. I painted the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth marks. One of the benefits of the lighter is that it burned off the sulfur on the surface of the stem. It did not take too much work for the vulcanite to return to its smooth condition. I sanded out the lighter tooth marks and chatter with 220 grit sandpaper until there were two deep tooth marks on the underside of the stem that remained. I filled those in with clear super glue and laid the stem aside to let the repairs cure.I sanded the top of the rounded rim and the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the finish and remove some of the rim darkening. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit.While the repairs on the stem were curing I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the rusticated briar to clean, enliven and protect the finish. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl now. Once the repairs had dried/cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the bowl. The two large tooth marks on the underside of the stem took a bit of sanding to smooth them out but the tooth chatter disappeared quite quickly.I polished out the scratches in the vulcanite with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper and with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. After sanding with the 12000 grit pad I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. With each sanding pad and the polish I worked around the BBB medallion on the top of the stem so as not to smooth us the embossing on the brass. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a more aggressive buff of Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl multiple coats 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. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I will be posting it on the rebornpipes store very soon. It should make a nice addition to your pipe rack if you have been looking for a reasonably priced older BBB pipe with a smooth finish and interesting grain. It should be a great smoking pipe with a good hand feel. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked this pipe over.

A difficult trust: Gift of a Grandfather – A BBB Double Star Made in England

Blog by Dal Stanton

When I study the venerable pipe on my work table, it is not a glamorous display of briar and silver bands.  Some might call it a basket pipe.  The two stars imprinted on the shank were an indication of a working man’s pipe – not high quality, but among those pipes accessible to normal, if not common, people who work, live, love and as is the case with us all, die.  This unremarkable Apple shaped, BBB [diamond over] Double Star, MADE IN ENGLAND [over] 152, is remarkable because of the story it represents.   I enjoy restoring ‘estate’ pipes because they were left to others and these pipes carry with them stories and memories of loved ones who once befriended and valued them.  Greg heard from my son, Josiah, who are college buddies, that Josiah’s old man (my words not theirs!) restored ‘old’ pipes.   This ‘old’ pipe came to Greg from his grandfather through his mother.  Josiah’s email came to me asking what I could do with these pictures from Greg. My understanding is that Greg was a bit reluctant at first to send his pipe off to Bulgaria to be restored, but after Josiah directed him to some of the restorations I’ve done, he felt he could trust me with the heirloom that had come to him.  Knowing that this pipe was from his grandfather I asked that Greg send me information about his grandfather so that I not only could place the pipe better in history, but Greg’s grandfather as well.  This is the letter he sent me:

Hi Mr. Stanton,

Thank you so much for agreeing to restore my grandfather’s pipe. I am sorry for the delay in getting you the below information, but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

My mother inherited the pipe from my grandfather when he passed away in 1998. I saw it in the china cabinet one day and asked her if I could have it, since I had taken up pipe smoking. She kindly agreed. She doesn’t really know when my grandfather got the pipe, but she said he must have bought it in Hong Kong.

My grandfather was from Hong Kong, and only emigrated to the United States in the 1980s. He was a malaria inspector for the Hong Kong government for his entire working career. He must have gotten the pipe at the latest in the late 1940s or early 1950s, as my mother remembers him having it when she was a child. He never smoked the pipe when I knew him, but from its condition, I assume it was well used at an earlier period in his life.

Having graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in Athens, Georgia, passed his bars and currently serves as a law clerk to a federal magistrate judge in Augusta, Georgia, AND as a young married man, I can understand why Greg “took up” smoking pipes!  Pipes are wonderful companions for blooming attorneys!  His letter concluded with an agreement to the cost of the restoration would benefit our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria!  Thank you, Greg!

The information Greg received from his mother was invaluable for placing this BBB in time and space.  Pipedia’s article about BBB is helpful.  BBB in the mid-1800s originally stood for “Blumfeld’s Best Briars”, but after the death of Blumfeld, the Adolph Frankau Company took over the company and BBB gradually became “Britain’s Best Briars”.

The “BBB Two Star” rating also is referenced in the same article in a discussion of quality descriptors for BBB pipes:

In the Thirties, the top-of-the-range one becomes “BBB Best Make” with alternatives like “Super Stopping” and “Ultonia Thule”. The BBB Carlton, sold with the detail with 8/6 in 1938, is equipped with a system complicated out of metal, system which equipped the BBB London Dry too. Blue Peter was not estampillées BBB but BBB Ultonia, and the BBB Two Star (* *) become the bottom-of-the-range one. 

When Greg’s pipe arrived in Bulgaria, thanks to a visitor’s willingness to carry it across the Atlantic and European continent, I unwrapped it and put it on my work desk and took these pictures to fill in the gaps. At PipePhil.eu an example of the BBB Two Star marking is pictured along with the stinger/tube style extending into the chamber as Greg’s grandfather’s BBB does ( as seen above).In Pipes Magazine, I found a thread discussing the dating of the BBB Two Star.  One threader’s opinion, ‘jguss’ corroborates Greg’s mother’s recollections:

My guess is that the Two Star line started at the end of WWII; the first mention I’ve found so far is dated 1945, which at least gives a tpq (that is, an approximate dating). I know the line lasted at least into the early sixties.

It is not too difficult to speculate about the provenance of Greg’s pipe.  During WW2, briar became a scarce commodity throughout Europe and pipe manufacturing companies made do with what they could acquire.  Two Star BBBs would be lower end but more than likely during this time, a very close second when rations were short.  Added to this backdrop is the origin of our story in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong, a British holding since 1841 (see LINK), lost control of Hong Kong during WW2 to Japan in 1941 during the Battle of Hong Kong.  Undoubtedly, Greg’s grandfather would have experienced this first hand.  When Japan unconditionally surrendered in 1945, the British regained control of Hong Kong, but to counter Chinese pressures to control Hong Kong, reforms were introduced that broadened and increased the stake of local inhabitants of Hong Kong:

Sir Mark Young, upon his return as Governor in early May 1946, pursued political reform known as the “Young Plan“, believing that, to counter the Chinese government’s determination to recover Hong Kong, it was necessary to give local inhabitants a greater stake in the territory by widening the political franchise to include them.[19] (Link)

During the years following the Second World War, the same article describes unprecedented economic development which resulted in the economic powerhouse that Hong Kong became.  This period would have been while Greg’s grandfather was working as a malaria inspector for the government of Hong Kong and during which he acquired this BBB Two Star.  The smaller Apple shape would have served him well as he performed his inspection duties but given the ‘stem forensics’ pictured above, he probably chewed on it a bit as well while he worked!

With a greater sense of the story that this BBB Two Star tells, from England, to Hong Kong, to America, and now to Bulgaria, I’m anxious to restore this precious family gift from Greg’s grandfather.  At Greg’s request, he’s hoping for a pipe that is as good as new and ready for a new lifetime of service.  Yet, with all restorations, undoubtedly there will be some marks and blemishes remaining – these an ongoing testament to the memory of those who those who went before.

The first order of approach is with the stinger.  When the pipe arrived, the stinger was already separated from the stem.  The stinger extends from the stem through the mortise into the chamber itself through a metal tube air draft hole.  Using a pair of plyers, I wrap a piece of cloth around the end to pull gently to dislodge the stinger from the mortise.  I can see in the mortise that there appears to be a metal sheath that the stinger is lodged in – at least, that is what it appears to be.  The stinger is not budging and I do not want to break the stinger off.  To try to loosen things up, I pour some isopropyl 95% in the chamber to allow it to soak into the draft hole.  Hopefully, in time, this will loosen the stinger. The alcohol soak did not work.  In fact, a few weeks have transpired since writing the words above.  This stinger has given me quite the challenge.  In the back of my mind constantly, is the concern that I not leverage too much pressure pulling on the stinger.  I’m concerned about damaging the shank.  After soaking the internals for some time with alcohol, I pulled with plyers hoping to break the grip.  I also attempt heating the stummel with a heat gun in hope of dislodging the stinger.  I also heat the protruding part of the stinger with a candle, hoping that this would break the bond.  It did not.   I also was concerned about the candle flame close to the briar while trying to heat the stinger.  I craft a tinfoil shield, but this was not successful.  Unfortunately, I singed the end of the shank and had to remove the damage by ‘topping’ the shank end, which leads to a bit of work lining up the stem and shank later.  As you might expect, the protruding end of the stinger did not hold up under the pressure and eventually broke off. After the stinger protrusion broke off, and after a second email to Steve for input, I’m at the point of using a drill bit in another attempt to remove the bonded stinger.  Starting with a very small bit, I hand turn the bit to allow the drill to find the center of the stinger and gradually, remove the stinger introducing the next larger drill bit.  The end of the broken stinger begins at about 1/4-inch-deep into the mortise.  Unfortunately, this method is not working either because the drill bit will not bite into the metal and remain straight.  At the end of the stinger slot that I’m boring into with the drill bit, my efforts are flummoxed by the stinger’s design.  It has a slanted metal airflow deflector that causes the drill bit to veer off mark.  After breaking the end of the drill bit in the slot (ugh!), and digging it out with needle nose pliers, I sit and begin to think I was facing failure.  Nothing was working.  I’m introducing more problems to the restoration as I try unsuccessfully to solve the stuck stinger problem.  I can’t move forward and I’m stuck and begin to compose an apology letter to Greg in my mind.  UNTIL, on a fancy, I insert a small flat head screw driver into the slot at the end of the broken stinger 1/4-inch-deep in the mortise and I twist it gently counter-clockwise, and it snaps.  Suddenly, it was loose and I easily extract the ‘middle’ of Grandpa’s old stinger – I’m sure he was the last one to see this artifact!  I see daylight through the mortise and I’m hoping that it might also be a metaphoric ‘light at the end of the tunnel’!  I’ve not forgotten that the other end of the stinger remains lodged in the draft hole tube at the foot of the chamber.  Thankfully, a larger drill bit was the perfect size and it reaches into the mortise and hand turning the bit, it clears the rest of the stinger shrapnel.  Finally!  Oh my….  I’ll be saving the stinger debris for Greg.  This BBB will continue without difficulty stingerless.  The pictures show the results. In the interest of full disclosure, these words are coming weeks after.  Why the hiatus?  Life’s normal twists and turns, work, some wonderful travel to Crete for an organizational conference, to Athens (not in Georgia) for a consultation on the Eastern Orthodox Church, AND my growing frustration with Greg’s grandfather’s pipe’s restoration as more complications arrived!  I’ll try to catch you up to the present:

With the stinger removed, I was anxious to continue the restoration with a ‘normal’ pattern – the stem goes into the Oxi-Clean bath to deal with the oxidation in the stem.  After some hours, the stem is removed from the bath and I wet sand with 600 grade sanding paper removing the raised oxidation followed by 0000 steel wool. To clean and protect the BBB stamping on the stem, I use a non-abrasive Mr. Clean ‘Magic Eraser’ sponge.  The pictures show the progress.The next step is to re-seat the tenon into the mortise.  After the arduous process of removing the stinger, and after singing the shank end with a candle flame, and after ‘topping’ the shank to remove the damaged briar, the tenon and mortise needed to be re-wedded with the new realities.  The tenon was too large for full insertion into the shank.  Using a combination of reducing the tenon size with sanding paper and steel wool, sanding and filing the throat of the mortise, and using a rounded needle file to cut a new internal mortise openning bevel to accommodate the broader tenon base, I patiently, slowly, methodically worked to re-seat the tenon in the mortise which included working and then testing the new fit – GENTLY!  I suppose the fact that I said to myself, ‘Dal, careful, don’t crack the shank’, at least a 1000 times only made the sinking feeling more intense when I heard the sickening sound during what proved to be my last, ‘gentle testing’ of the tenon inserted into the mortise.  The hairline crack is pictured below that I took only a day ago – I couldn’t bear to take it then, when it happened.  I was sickened and put Greg’s pipe aside.  I needed some time to work through my own sense of failure of the trust given me to restore this family heirloom.  Now, after several weeks, I’ve regrouped and have taken up Greg’s pipe again.  The travels that I described above during this time in some ways felt more like Jonah running from Nineveh not wanting to face the scene of his calling and his sense of failure!  Though, my trip did prove beneficial – I sold some of my finished pipes to colleagues to benefit and raise the awareness of the Daughters of Bulgaria that The Pipe Steward supports.  I’ve included my Nineveh travels below for you who may not be familiar with ‘my world’, the Balkans – Sofia to Crete to Athens and back. Before moving forward, I needed to repair the cracked shank.  With the help of a magnifying glass, I locate the terminus of the crack and mark it by creating an indentation with a sharp dental probe.  The arrow to the left below marks this.  Using the Dremel tool, I mount a 1mm sized bit and drill a hole at that point – but not going through!  This hole acts like a controlled back-fire to stop the progress of a forest fire.  This will not allow the crack to continue creeping.  With the use of a toothpick, I spot-drop Hot Stuff CA Instant Glue in the hole and along the line of the crack which I expanded microscopically by partially inserting the tenon into the mortise.  This allows the CA glue better penetration to seal the crack.  I remove the stem immediately after the application of CA.  With the CA glue still wet, I apply briar dust to/in the hole and along the crack to encourage better blending.  The pictures show the progress. After some hours allowing the CA glue to cure on the shank repair, using a round grinding stone bit mounted on the Dremel, I reestablish an adequate and uniform internal bevel on the end of the shank to accommodate the base of the tenon when it is fully inserted into the mortise.  My theory is this is what caused the crack – lack of a sufficient internal bevel giving room for the slightly enlarged tenon as it merges with the stem proper.  With the Dremel engaged at the slowest setting, I’m careful to apply minimal pressure as I rotate the ball a bit to make sure it’s centered.  It looks good – the pictures show the progress.Due to a lapse of sorts and the intensity of my focus on re-seating the stem again without re-cracking the shank, I failed (or perhaps, had little desire) to take any pictures.  The short of it is, the stem and stummel have been reunited after some difficult times.  Also, not pictured are some of the basic steps: reaming the fire chamber of carbon cake buildup, cleaning the internals of the stummel and stem with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, and cleaning the externals of the stummel with Murphy’s Soap.  Again, picking up the trail, pictured below is the micromesh pad process with the stem.  Using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle with an application of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  The stummel surface shows quite a bit of pitting in the first picture shown again below.  The rim also shows nicks. On the larger pits shown below on the heel of the stummel, I spot-fill with a toothpick using CA glue and shorten the curing time by using an accelerator spray on the fills.  After filing and sanding the fills to the briar surface, using a progression of 3 sanding sponges from coarse, medium to light, I work out most the remaining pitting over the stummel surface.  Using 600 grit paper on the chopping block, I also give a light topping to the rim to remove nicks and create fresh lines for the rim.  Following the topping, I introduce an internal bevel to the rim, first using a coarse 120 paper rolled tightly, then with 240 and 600.  The internal rim bevel to me, always adds a touch of class but also helps create softer lines which enhances this Apples shape.  The pictures show the unhindered progress! I now take micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel followed by dry sanding with micromesh pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000 taking a picture after each set to mark the progress.  I am careful to guard the BBB nomenclature on the shank sides.  As I move through these cycles, I realize that I have been so wrapped up in the technical aspects of this restoration for Greg, that I failed to see the beauty of this diminutive Apple shape.  The grain that emerges from Grandpa’s old timer is truly beautiful. Flame grain and swirls, with a few bird’s eyes accenting the whole – totally eye-catching for a Two Star sub-mark BBB I would say! To see the big picture to help determine the next steps, I reunite stem and stummel and stand back and take a good look.  This BBB Made in England is looking real good – in spite of everything!  I can see by the way the BBB Apple naturally sits on the surface, leaning slightly like a listing ship, but remaining upright, provides some clues regarding the significant pitting on the heel of the stummel – just off center. Greg’s grandfather undoubtedly and conveniently placed his pipe on a table or counter surface, or perhaps on a nearby crate, as he made his rounds as a malaria inspector for the province of Hong Kong.  The original BBB coloring leaned toward the favored darker hues of English pipe makers and client proclivities. I decide not to go that dark, but to stain the stummel using a light brown base with a touch of dark brown to tint it down that track a bit.  This will make for better blending, especially for the darker briar around the nomenclature on the shank.  Using Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye as the base, I add a touch of Fiebing’s Dark Brown.  Using a folded pipe cleaner in the shank as a handle, I begin by warming the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar making it more receptive to the dye.  After heated, I apply the dye mixture to the stummel generously aiming for total coverage.  I then fire the wet stummel with a lit candle igniting the aniline dye, burning off the alcohol and setting the pigment in the grain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I put the stummel aside to rest for several hours.  The pictures show the staining process – yes, you can see my blue fingers – I’ve started wearing latex gloves when I’m staining. After some hours, I’m looking forward to ‘unwrapping’ the fired stummel to reveal the stained briar beneath.  Using a felt buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel, set at the slowest speed, I use Tripoli compound to remove the initial layer.  Moving in a methodical, rotating pattern, I work my way around the stummel not apply a great deal of down-pressure on the wheel, but allowing the RPMs of the felt wheel and the compound to do the work. After removing the crusted layer with Tripoli, I wipe the surface with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I do this not so much to lighten the finish, but to blend and even out the stain over the surface.  Following this, I mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, increase the speed slightly, and apply Blue Diamond – a slightly less abrasive compound.  After both compounds, I use a clean towel to hand buff the stummel to remove excess compound dust before applying the wax.  Pictures show the progress. Reattaching the stem and stummel, I apply several coats of carnauba wax to both.  Using a cotton cloth wheel, I set the speed of the Dremel to 2 with 5 being the fastest, I apply the carnauba and I like what I see.  With the carnauba wax applied, I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and again buff the stummel and stem.  Finally, I apply a rigorous hand buff using a micromesh cloth to raise the shine more.

This BBB Double Star Apple has come a long way from England to Hong Kong to the US to Bulgaria, and now it’s ready to return to its new steward.  This restoration was a bit bumpy, but then, so is life.  I’m glad to help give this pipe a new lifetime and I hope Greg not only enjoys it, but that it provides a special connection with his past.  I’m sure Grandpa would be proud.  Thanks for joining me!

This BBB Tiger Grain Bulldog was in rough shape

Blog by Steve Laug

I have always liked older BBB pipes. I used to buy them on eBay when no one was hunting for them for almost nothing. The prices they are today they are generally untouchable for me. Once in a while though one slips under the radar. This Tiger Grain with a Lucite stem was one my brother caught in his ongoing prowl of eBay. He got it for a decent price. It is either a newer BBB or it has a replacement stem on it. My thinking tends toward the previous – a newer pipe from when Cadogan took over the line. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank with BBB in a Diamond and underneath it reads Tiger Grain. The right side of the shank reads London England and the number 4. The next two photos show the condition of the pipe when it arrived in Idaho. The bowl finish on the bowl was dirty and there were rough spots. The rim had burn marks on the outer and inner edges on the front side. The beveled rim was thickly caked with the overflow from the cake in the bowl. The Lucite stem had tooth marks and was covered with sticky debris. The airway in the stem was darkened with tars and oils. The mix of bright yellows, white and greys looked good underneath the grime. The dark black/brown airway stood out like a sore. With the exterior that dirty I could only guess that the inside was also very dirty.bbb1My brother once again did the major clean up on this pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove all of the grime and grit. He was able to scrub away much of the rim build up and the surface of the stem. He scrubbed the internals with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it was pretty clean. I took the following photos of the pipe before I began to work on it.bbb2 bbb3I took a close up photo of the rim to show the small amount of cake on the rim and the burn marks on the front of the pipe on both the inner and outer edge of the rim. I circled the burned spot with a red circle in the photo below.bbb4There was a red tone to the briar. I rubbed it down with a light coat of olive oil and brought out the red. I wanted to see what the bowl and rim looked like when it had been oiled.bbb5I sanded the rim and bevel with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining cake and clean up the bevel on the rim. When I finished the rim was clean but it still showed the burn marks and the inner bevel on the rim was also darkened.bbb6I decided to top the bowl on the topping board to remove the damaged rim top and the burn marks. I sanded it until the rim top was smooth and the outer edge was clean.bbb7I polished the topped bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. When I finished the rim was smooth and polished.bbb8I worked on the mortise and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the mortise. Once I was finished cleaning it the shank and airway was clean. I also scrubbed out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I used bristle pipe cleaners- both thin and thicker to scrub out the tars and dark stains.bbb9 bbb10I sanded out the tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem to remove them and blend them into the surface of the Lucite.bbb11aI polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth between each grit of micromesh pads.bbb12 bbb13 bbb14I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish the pipe. I carefully avoided the stamping. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photo below. It is a nice looking pipe. The bowl and rings are in perfect shape. The new rim top looks like it has always been there. Thanks for looking.bbb15 bbb16 bbb17 bbb18 bbb19 bbb20 bbb21 bbb22

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



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


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



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


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



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



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



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


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






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




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.


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.



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.



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.


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.




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.


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.




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.




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.





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.




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.