Tag Archives: Bending a stem

Time to work on another old timer – a Surbrug Best Make ¾ Bent Capped Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been cleaning up a lot of American made pipes between the Malaga’s for Alex and the Bertrams that Jeff and I picked up. I was in the mood for something a little different this time around. You know variety is the spice of life and all that… So today I went through my box and picked an interesting pipe that came from an auctioneer in Los Angeles, California with the older Barling’s Make S-M Take Apart Pipe. That was an old timer and this one is also an old one. From the silver band and the band around the rim top I will be able to date it. But I knew looking at it that was older. The pipe was very dirty but had a look of class to it. There was a sterling silver band on the shank and one around the rim top with a hinged wind cap. The briar is very dirty and the silver has a lot of dings and dents around the rim. The bowl had a thick cake and the wind cap was black. Looking down the shank it was filled with tars and oils. The left side of the shank was stamped Surbrug over Best Make and the right side was stamped England. The hallmarks on the band were an O, a rampant lion and a crownless lion’s head. On the cap around the rim top the hallmarks were P, a rampant lion and a crownless lion’s head. On both the makers’ marks were the same – AD over JD. The stem had some bite marks on the top side near the button. It was lightly oxidized and the bend on the stem had almost straightened out. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup.The next series of photos show the band around the rim top and the wind cap. The briar is quite beautiful and the silver, though oxidized is quite pretty. He also included some close up photos. The last photo in the series shows the thickness of the cake in the bowl. It was quite thick. He took a photo of the left side of the bowl and the underside. It shows the dirt and grime in the briar as well as the nicks and dents in the wood.He took photos of the stamping on the left and right side of the shank as well as the hallmarks on the silver band and rim top. The stamping and the hallmarks are as noted above The last two photos show the stem surface. It is both oxidized and has some tooth damage to the surface of the button on both sides.I had forgotten that Al Jones (Upshallfan) had restored a Surbrug pipe and done a blog on it for rebornpipes. When I googled the brand one of the first links that came up was the one to Al’s blog on rebornpipes (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/03/24/surbrugs-special-restoration/).There was a great section on the brand written by Jon Guss and linking it to a New York City Tobacco Shop that Al quoted. I quote from that in full now.

I only knew that Surbrug’s was a New York City tobacco shop and I’ve seen their shop pipes pop up occasionally.  Jon (Guss) sent me this about the shop:

John R Surbrug, born in Switzerland of a Swiss father and Ohio mother, had a small tobacco shop in New York City. After his death in the 1880s, his young son John Willard Surbrug (born in NYC in 1859) took over the store. Incorporating the business in 1895, John W. expanded into the cigarette market and prospered greatly. After buying a cigarette competitor name Khedivial, Surbrug’s business in turn was acquired by the Tobacco Products Company (TBC) in 1912. TBC was what we would now call a roll-up play, created by George and William Butler as a vehicle to compete with the American Tobacco Company. Surbrug’s business was acquired for stock, which meant John was left with an active role in the combined business. The later part of his career (and his son’s career), though interesting, is irrelevant here; what matters is that the Surbrug Company, while primarily engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, continued to be true to its roots offering well known tobacco blends and pipes. In regard to the former, the company was especially famous for its Golden Sceptre, Best Make, and Arcadia Mixture tobaccos. In regard to the latter, it appears that Surbrug was not a manufacturer, but rather a reseller of pipes that were stamped with their name by a variety of third party suppliers. Some at least of these were major players in the world famous London pipe industry. Surviving early hallmarked examples make it clear that BBB/Frankau, Barling, and Delacour Brothers were three of Surbrug’s vendors.

Al also included an old advertisement for one of Surbrug’s famed tobacco blends. I have included it below to give a feel for the Pipe Shop and also because it gives the address of the shop. I love these old adverts as they give a great view of the time period the brand came out.To help get closer to a maker and a date I worked on the hallmarks on the band and rim cap. The hallmarks on the band were an O, a rampant lion and a crownless lion’s head. Those marks told me that the silver band was made in 1909 (O) in London (crownless lion or leopard head) and the rampant lion told me it was .925 Sterling Silver. On the cap around the rim top the hallmarks Those marks told me that the silver cap was made in 1910 (P) in London (crownless lion or leopard head) and the rampant lion told me it was .925 Sterling Silver. On both the band and the cap the makers’ marks were the same – AD over JD. (I am including the picture of the hallmarks that I included above). I have also included a chart to help date the band and cap. I have put a red box around the two dates. Note that the cartouche (box surrounding the letter) is the same on the band and cap as the one shown in the chart (https://www.925-1000.com/dlc_london.html).Now that I had the date I needed to identify the Maker Marks on both pieces of silver. From Al’s quote above I was given another clue about the manufacture of the pipe. It seems that Surbrug was not a manufacturer, but rather a reseller of pipes. They also seemed to have these pipes stamped with their name by a variety of third party suppliers. I quote the section of the above blog as it gave me a starting spot.

Some at least of these were major players in the world famous London pipe industry. Surviving early hallmarked examples make it clear that BBB/Frankau, Barling, and Delacour Brothers were three of Surbrug’s vendors.

I wonder if perhaps the AD and JD marks could be Delacour Brothers as noted in the above quote. They are certainly the only D in the list of third party suppliers. I decided to check on the pipephil website to see if I could find any information on the Delacour brand to help narrow down the identification of the initials on the bands (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-d4.html). Sure enough the pipe was a Delacour the band in the photo on the site is the same as the one I am working on. It has the AD over JD stamp and identifies the makers as Delacour Brothers – Auguste and Joseph. The pipe was also a lidded pipe like mine. A further interesting link was found there that made the connection to a late 19th century Alix Delacour who owned a subsidiary company in London. I am including the screen capture below.I followed the links that were given on that site to further information on extra pages on the site (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/infos/delacourusine-en.html). The first is to a picture of the letterhead of the Delacour Company in Saint Claude, France. The letterhead shows a wood cut of the factory. There was also a photo of the factory itself that shows a similar view to the letterhead illustration. Now I knew I was working on a pipe made by Delacour for the Surbrug pipe shop in New York City and that it was made around 1909/10. I had a good sense of the Delacour Brothers and the London connection for this pipe. With the history and background of the brand in mind it was time to go to work on my part of the restoration but first a review of Jeff’s cleanup of the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. There was still some darkening to the rim top toward the back of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the silver rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava from the bowl and the silver. The cap and the rim top looked very good and had been polished. There was some scratching and dents in the silver. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The light tooth chatter is hard to see but I should be able to sand it out quite easily. There were some tooth marks on the top and underside of the button edge.I also took a photo of the stamping on the left side and the underside of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out. I also took photos of the hallmark on both the band on the shank end and the rim cap and top. I polished the bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish 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. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. I set the bowl aside and filled in the deep tooth marks on the topside of the button with clear super glue and set the stem aside to let the repair cure. Once it had cured I used a needle file to flatten it into the surface of the stem. I used a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to reshape the button surface on both sides of the stem. Once the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil. (I neglected to take photos of the process of sanding the file marks and smoothing out the repair. I apologize.)I 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 the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside. I stopped the polishing process at this point to put a proper bend in the stem. I put a pipe cleaner in the stem and heated it with a heat gun until the vulcanite was supple. Once it was supple and flexible I bent it over a round jar to get the bend to match the flow of the top of the bowl. I took some photos of the newly bent stem to show what it looked like now that it was finished. I put the stem back on the pipe and took photos of the new look. I like what I see. I need to finish polishing the stem and then do the final buffing. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry.  I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. I polished the silver with a jeweler’s cloth to protect it and give it a shine. This old 1909/1910 Surbrug made by Delacour Brothers has a classic bent billiard with a twist – a sterling silver band on the shank and a sterling silver rim and wind cap. It is a beautifully carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain – cross, swirled and birdseye – popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful grained bent billiard shaped pipe. This old pipe with a new bend in the stem fits well in the hand and sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This old timer is one that is staying in my own collection and fits the niche of my old pipe collection well. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

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New Life for a C.P.F. Wellington Style Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on my work table is another C.P.F. from the virtual pipe hunt Jeff and I did in Montana. It is an interesting piece in that it has some age on it but to my thinking it is “newer” than the other C.P.F. pipes I have been working on from that hunt. This one has no stamping on the bowl but has the C.P.F. in an oval logo stamped on the ferrule underneath a set of the expected faux hallmarks.

To me it is very much like later C.P.F./KB&B post-merger Chesterfield pipes. KB&B acquired or started the C.P.F. line sometime between 1884 and 1898” (http://kaywoodie.myfreeforum.org/archive/cpf__o_t__t_161.html). They operated the factory at 129 Grand Street, in New York City, New York. The ferrule and stem are not stamped with the dual stamp that later pipes had, so I think it is safe to assume that it is from pre-1900. I went back and read my blog post on the background of the brand and I think I was able to date this one a bit.

The C.P.F. brand was discontinued sometime between 1910-1920. I turned to a quote I found from Bill Feuerbach where he notes the following, which pins down the time frame of the discontinuation of the brand more specifically, “I have a C.P.F. Chesterfield in our office display that has a nametag from way before my time that says 1900 C.P.F. Chesterfield. It looks like most other Chesterfields you’ve seen, including the military type push stem, except this stem is horn and not vulcanite. As far as I have gathered the C.P.F. brand was phased out sometime around 1915” (http://kaywoodie.myfreeforum.org/archive/cpf__o_t__t_161.html). Interestingly, he noted that the Chesterfield name and style was later introduced in the KB&B, Kaywoodie and Yello-Bole lines. He says that the 1924 KB&B catalog shows KB&B Chesterfields. (Here is a link to the full blog on the brand: https://rebornpipes.com/2013/04/14/some-reflection-on-the-historical-background-on-cpf-pipes/).

My brother Jeff took the previous and the following photos of the pipe before he cleaned it and sent it to me. It was extremely dirty with grime settled deep in all of the grooves of the rustication on the bowl. The nickel ferrule was oxidized and had turned and the stamping in the metal was not visible on the left side. The stem was oxidized and spotty looking and to my eye it had appeared to have straightened over time and lost some of the natural curve it originally had. This old pipe was in really rough shape. The rim was heavily covered in a thick lava coat and the bowl was caked with a hard carbon. It was thick against the walls with the cake thicker on the back side of the bowl. The way the cake was it was hard to tell what kind of condition the inner and outer edge of the bowl would be in until it was all removed.The next photo not only shows more of the rim and bowl but also the damage and heavy oxidation of the ferrule. It was rough to touch and there was a large piece missing on the end.The next photos show the dirt that was caked in the grooves and carvings of the bowl and shank sides. The curved area between the bowl and the shank was really dirty. The third photo below shows the heel of the bowl and the small crack that went across the width. It was hard to tell if it was just a flaw in the briar or a true crack. Once it was cleaned up I would be better able to tell. The one thing going for it was that there was no darkening to the exterior of the heel. The ferrule had come loose at some point in its life and had been reglued upside down. The C.P.F. in an oval logo and the faux hallmarks were on the bottom of the shank. The damaged spot on the ferrule had turned to the top of the shank. I wondered if the damage had been engineered when the shank had been drilled. Once again, I would know once we had cleaned it up and looked at it up close. When the stem was removed the end was wrapped up the stem about an inch with cord. This was often done to tighten the fit in the shank. I have found that on pipes this dirty that the sump below the airway in the mortise is generally filled and the sides of the mortise are so dirty that the stem no longer fits correctly in the shank. Jeff took a photo of the shank end to show the damage to the ferrule close up. It almost looks like it is notched. I am wondering if the turned ferrule (the notch) on the top of the shank rather than the bottom was not one reason for the misfit of the stem.The next two photos show the wrap as he began to unwind it from the end of the stem.The stem was badly oxidized and it was going to be hard to get all of the oxidation off the old vulcanite. The button end had a slight notch that opened up the orific airway. I was not sure if this was original or if it was damage. The stem was stamped on the underside with the words SOLID RUBBER and on the topside near the saddle with C.P.F. in an oval. There was some definite wear and tear on the stem but surprisingly no tooth marks. Once again, Jeff did his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer, scraped the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clear off the lava build up. He cleaned out the internals – mortise, airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove all of the grime and grit in the finish and clean out the areas around the issue I had noted on the heel of the bowl. He rinsed the briar under running water and dried it with a soft cloth. He soaked the stem in OxyClean to bring the oxidation to the surface and remove the grime. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it certainly looked different than it did when we picked it up out of the sale display in Montana. I did not take photos of the pipe before I started working on it but instead got sucked into the restoration process.

I heated the ferrule with a Bic lighter to soften the glue that held the metal to the shank end. It took a bit of heating a cooling before I was able to pry the ferrule off the shank end. In the photo below you can see the glue on the shank end and the notch in the face of the ferrule. I wiped down the finish with acetone on a cotton pad paying special attention to the glue on the shank end. I wanted the shank end clean before I reglued the ferrule on it. I painted all-purpose glue around the shank, aligned the ferrule so that the notch was at the bottom of the shank and the C.P.F. logo and faux hallmarks were on the left side of the shank as they had originally been when the pipe left the factory. I pressed the ferrule in place. Once it set on the shank I tried the stem and it fit better than previously. I put the stem in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer for 24 hours to let the mixture do its magic on the badly oxidized stem.Once the bowl had been reamed clean it was clear that the cake had been reamed out before with a knife and the airway entered the bowl high. The bottom of the bowl was below the airway and because of that it made the bottom quite thin. While the bowl was not burned or damaged it was a candidate for that to happen. I mixed a batch of JB Weld and applied it to the bottom of the bowl and up the sides part way to raise the bottom of the bowl and protect it. The airway entrance was also to open so I built up the edges around it with some of the mix. I set the bowl aside to let the repair cure overnight, turned off the lights and called it a day. Work was so busy last week that I did not get to work on the pipe again until the weekend. The stem had soaked in the bath for 48 hours and I was hoping that the mixture had done its magic and remove the oxidation. I took it out of the bath and dried it off and ran pipe cleaners and alcohol through the airway in the stem.I put a pipe cleaners in the airway and heated the solid rubber stem with a candle to soften the stem enough to be able to bend it. I kept it high enough above the flame so that the rubber would not burn. Once it was soft and flexible I bent it to the point that when in the shank it sat properly in the mouth of the pipe man.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem in front of the button. I reshaped the end of the button to make it more round and remove some of the damage on the edges.I buffed the stem with red Tripoli to remove some of the deep remnants of oxidation. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbing it down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and once again rubbed it down after each pad. I gave it a last coat of oil after the 12000 grit pad and set it aside to dry. I examined the area on the heel of the bowl with a lens and could see that the bowl was not cracked but rather I was dealing with a flaw in the briar. I picked it clean and wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton swab to make sure that there was no debris in the crack. I pressed some briar dust into the flaw with a dental pick and spatula. I put clear super glue on top of the briar dust and let it seep into the flaw.I carefully sanded the repaired area with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair. Once it was smooth I touched up the stain with a medium grit stain pen and buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I rubbed the briar down with Conservator’s Wax and when it dried, I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. The next photos show the bowl at this point in the process.(An interesting note at this point. Looking down the bowl from the top you can see the JB Weld repair on the bowl bottom. Once this cures for about a week I will give the pipe a bowl coating of sour cream and charcoal powder.)I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several more coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine on the pipe. The finished pipe is shown below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Bowl diameter: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. Though the pipe is far from perfect, I think this old-timer has been given a new lease on life and should last the next pipe man for many years to come. The damages are repaired but in many ways still speak of the story of the old pipe. Hopefully the next pipe will keep the trust for this old pipe and pass it on to the next generation. Thanks for looking.

Breathing new life into a Republic Era Peterson’s Kildare 999


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother picked this pipe up for me when he was in Austin, Texas. It is actually one of my favourite Peterson shapes – the 999. This one is stamped Peterson’s over “Kildare” on the left side of the shank and Made in the Republic of Ireland 999 on the right side of the shank. It actually is in really decent shape. The bowl had grime on the finish but no real dings or gouges. The rim was tarred and dirty but otherwise in good condition. The outer and the inner edge of the rim were smooth and the bowl was round. The double ring under the cap of the bowl was also in great shape with no chips or missing parts. There were a few small fills on the underside of the bowl among the cross grain that covered that and the top and bottom of the shank. The birdseye grain on the bowl and shank sides is quite stunning. The stem had straightened out during the time the pipe had been sitting and would need to be rebent somewhere along the line. The stem was oxidized, but otherwise clean with no tooth dents or bite marks. The fit against the shank was not tight but that would probably change once the pipe had been cleaned. There was a stinger in the end of the tenon once I removed the stem from the shank. The next three photos are ones that my brother sent me when he found the pipe. The first is a side view of the pipe and the second and third show the stamping on the shank.Pete1

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Pete3 When I was visiting with my brother in Idaho Falls I decided to rebend the stem on this one. I used a cup of water that I boiled in the microwave and then put the stem in to heat and soften the rubber. Once it had softened I bent it to match the curve of the bowl. When I heated the stem in the water the oxidation rose to the surface of the stem and turned it an unsightly brown. That is what I expected and why at home I use a heat gun rather than water. But as the stem was oxidized already the water would bring the rest of it to the surface for an easier clean up.Pete4

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Pete7 I took the next three photos – close-up pictures of the rim and the stem – to show the state of those areas. Both the rim and the stem were in very good shape under the tars and the oxidation.Pete8

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Pete10 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer to take the cake back to bare briar. I used the first two cutting heads to clean out the cake.Pete11

Pete12 I scrubbed out the bowl and shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove the build up and oils. It did not take too long for the shank to be clean.Pete13 The next photo shows the small stinger that was in the tenon when I removed the stem. It has a slot on the top of apparatus behind the ball and collects the moisture from the smoke. The shank is drilled deeper than my other 999 pipes to accommodate the stinger. I removed the stinger and cleaned out the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I cleaned the stinger with the same and then polished it with 0000 steel wool.Pete14

Pete15 I scrubbed the top of the rim with alcohol and a cotton pad and then used a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to sand the surface of the rim. I used the pad like a topping board and worked the rim around the pad in a clockwise motion. Why clockwise? I honestly don’t know other than I am right handed.Pete16

Pete17 I wiped down the bowl with alcohol and a cotton pad to remove the wax and grime from the surface of the briar. The pipe was unstained or stained with a light stain so the alcohol did not remove any of the colour.Pete18 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation that sat on the surface of the stem. I worked hard on the angles of the button to remove the oxidation there. I then sanded the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.Pete19

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Pete23 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and rubbed it down with Oil once again. I finished by dry sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and giving it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I let the oil absorb into the rubber of the stem.Pete24

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Pete26 I buffed the stem and bowl with White Diamond and then Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a clean flannel buff on the wheel. I finished by hand buffing the pipe and stem with a microfibre cloth to give it a deep shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for looking.Pete27

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Overcoming Bit Bending Phobia for a Comoy’s 1983 Christmas Bulldog


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

Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

― From “The Matrix” (1999), starring Keanu Reeves, with Owan Witt as Spoon Boy

INTRODUCTION
Whatever some might think of me, I’m not so far off the deep end to space that when it comes to bending a pipe bit, there is, of course, the bit. The real truth behind this essay – how easy it is to accomplish the task, without tricks or special effects – bends the mind. I had dreaded and postponed the basic exercise in pipe restoration as something fearsome, once even passing the task to my mentor, Chuck Richards, when the rare opportunity to improve upon my first genuine renewal, of a Chinese Chicken Wing Wood churchwarden, presented itself a while back. Although I did the second makeover of the bowl and shank of that unusual specimen of wood and craftsmanship myself, using standard waxing techniques not available to me when I began learning this artful craft, and even polished the bit, I could just as well have bent the long piece of vulcanite had I known then that which I only just learned one morning this past weekend by perusing the web. More importantly, in so doing, I would have been done with the unpleasant feeling that comes with parting out work on a project.

However, the necessity of facing the dreaded deed finally presenting itself to me, and I at last concluding enough was enough with the shirking of responsibility, I resorted to browsing the Internet (“Read the instructions,” my dad would tell me) in search of a feasible method to achieve my goal without a high-powered torch. And where did I reach the end of my quest but here at Reborn Pipes, in a three-year-old blog by our host, which can be read at https://rebornpipes.com/2012/07/15/bending-vulcanite-stems/.

I should note that my surrender to the essential instruction in and practice of bending a pipe bit was not as easy as I make it seem above. Several weeks ago, at our Friday night pipe club get-together, a good friend and fellow restorer named Bob Kasenchak surprised me with the gift of a box of assorted pipes that needed various degrees of work, all leaning toward the critical side. There are 15 in all, including a Ropp Deluxe #809 natural cherry wood with a pronounced crack in the bottom of the bowl; an old Ehrlich Frankenstein billiard; a Kaywoodie Supergrain bulldog with a wicked Harry Potterish lightning crack in the bowl and the bit maybe incinerated; an interesting old Wellington Storm De Luxe sterling band pot with a bad gash on the rim, and a Trapwell Patented rusticated billiard. There is also something that appears to be a once fine, handsome Ehrlich sterling bulldog (at least judging from the style of the E on the bit) that will make a nice shop pipe someday, and which plays an important role in this narrative.

Most of these pipes have missing, broken or mangled stems, and only a few are free of fatal flaws, and Bob just doesn’t want to mess with them. Who can blame him? If I had Bob’s outrageously hectic schedule, I might not keep them, even for parts, either. But I don’t, and I’m a little touched when it comes to hording parts.

Then a funny thing happened on the way from the meeting to the shop, or my apartment. In fact, it occurred during the meeting, but it sounds better the other way. The clear jewel of the pipes Bob gave me, which I delayed mentioning, is a Comoy’s Christmas 1983 smooth bulldog.Comoy1

Comoy2 I already had my heart set on keeping the Comoy’s to add to my budding Christmas Pipe collection, but a fellow piper in my club, who has a keen eye for sharp pipes and has bought two meerschaums from me, took an immediate shine to the bulldog’s sleek contours and exceptional subtlety of the bit curve, and offered to buy it when I was finished. We still haven’t discussed a price. At a glance, the Christmas Pipe was a beauty right out of the “scrap” box. The reddish brown briar was very pleasant, the chamber appeared to be well-kept and Bob told me he had started to clean it, the rim was in perfect, shiny shape that I also attribute to Bob, and there was only one small scratch on a side of the triangular shank. Then there was the bit. How can I best describe it? The vulcanite below the lip, on the bottom, appeared to have been chomped by the steel-toothed “Jaws” character (Richard Kiel, 1939-2003) of the James Bond movie series fame.Comoy3 The reason I note a continued difficulty in regard to learning about bending a stem is my dual desire to become more proficient in repairing those that are damaged, of which this, no one would disagree, is a worthy challenge, and doing the job right. And so I set upon a course of action I will neither illustrate nor chronicle here except to say with all honesty the project was going, well – well – but it was just taking too frigging long. And yes, I admit, I somehow took a bad hole and made it worse. Due to the fact that I already had a buyer waiting, time was of the essence; I couldn’t afford to satisfy my own aesthetic sense of propriety in hoping to preserve the original bit when the buyer wasn’t concerned. Besides, I’m sure the right Comoy’s will happen along in good time.

RESTORATION Comoy4

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Comoy8 As I mentioned before, Bob started the process of reaming the chamber. To my initial touch it felt smoother than almost any pipe I had ever started restoring. Still, there was some cake in it, and a few bumps, all of which came clean with minimal additional turns of a reamer and sanding with 150- and 320- grit paper. Not having to touch the rim was a rare treat, although I have to add I always enjoy removing the burns.Comoy9 I used micromesh on the wood from 1500-4000 and cleaned up the shank opening with super fine steel wool.Comoy10

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Comoy15 By then I was ready for the retort. Six test tubes later, full of Everclear boiled up through a temporary saddle bit with the right sized push tenon – a personal record – I was finished.

I needed to find a replacement bit. Searching with a hot glow of intense zeal through the dozens of old pipes awaiting restorations, I began to think I would never find one that had a push-in tenon, was straight, the right length and with the appropriate bulldog triangle size (5/8″; the length was 2-7/8″). Suddenly, there it was: a Bertram Bulldog #50, with a double stamp, and no mark on the straight bit. I actually had imminent plans for that great pipe, but they could wait.Comoy16

Comoy17 The tenon was just a tad too big, so I took about a sixteenth of an inch off of it with 150-grit sandpaper and sanitized and cleared out the old grime in the air hole with bristly cleaners soaked in Everclear. I still need to invest in a tenon cutter, as will become apparent. Once the tenon fit and I thought it was “finished,” the bit pushed all the way into the shank, but was canted upward. I tried to adjust this by filing the flat edge of the bit around the tenon, and after considerable work, my efforts seemed to have paid off. I gave the bit an OxiClean wash, rinsed it and micro-meshed from 1500-4000.Comoy23

Comoy24 Following the instructions for the oven method of shaping in the blog mentioned earlier, I pre-heated gas stove to the low end of 200-220 degrees and assembled what I would need as suggested, except that all of it was improvised other than the oven: aluminum foil instead of a baking pan, a small jar of wood putty rather than a spice jar, two wash cloths in place of cooking mitts and of course the bit. As it turned out, I spaced that I had a few spices in my sparse cabinet, but the round putty glass did fine.Comoy20 Inserting a soft cleaner through the airway before heating to prevent collapse, I had the distinct sensation of butterflies in my stomach as I placed the foil and bit on the center rack of the hot even, closed the door and…waited. Five minutes. Not good enough. Another five. To my amazement, holding the bit carefully with the wash cloths at both ends over the rounded edge of the putty jar and pressing down with all the gentleness my rough hands could handle, I in fact saw the vulcanite bend! I’m here to tell you, I have never been so surprised and full of trepidation at the same time in my entire life!Comoy21 In a minute, the job was done, and I removed the cleaner and rinsed the bit with cold tap water.

And so, other than the facts that I had already blown it again by sanding the base of the tenon so far that the whole thing could snap at the least provocation, and upon closer inspection the bit did not, in fact, line up seamlessly with the shank, the entire exercise produced a wonderful looking bit (in and of itself) and was an excellent though time-intensive and frustrating lesson about the intricacies of replacing a bit – and one I’ll never forget.

As a good friend from junior high through high school used to say at such moments (or their school day equivalents), and often with a yawn, well, hell. Then again, he was always much less uptight than I. My true reaction was frustration verging on despair. But that’s where my mind like a steel trap always springs shut and saves me. And my skull is so thick it can take running headlong into a concrete utility post and being pistol-whipped. I’m not kidding. The first happened to me as a young boy fooling around during summer vacation, and the second seven years ago during an armed home invasion after I beat one of the three intruders unconscious with a club – and he had pretty well messed me up with my own baseball bat – and one of his buddies hit me from the side with the butt of his 9mm. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes through the stupid monster mask when I turned on him and he took a step back.

Once again, as is my habit, I digress. I was illustrating how my stubbornness and downright thick-headedness has often saved me. The way this process worked last Wednesday, while I sat and collected my wits at my tobacconist where Chuck gave me the bad news about the tenon, was by telling me to go online and order a replacement. I crossed the Internet from Albuquerque to Phoenix in an instant and found Pipe Makers Emporium. I have placed several orders there, but only once before for a vulcanite churchwarden stem that was $3.99 because I didn’t understand why smaller stems, such as the one I needed for the bulldog, were priced so much more – in this case, $17.50. Even when the package arrived swiftly yesterday and weighed a pound, according to my estimation and confirmation on the label, I still didn’t get it until I peeled open the envelope and found a pack of 20. Duh! The churchwardens are sold individually because they’re not needed as often. Sometimes the thickness of my head can get in the way.

Now, back to the Ehrlich sterling bulldog with the E on the bit that came with Bob’s generous gift. Remember that? I tried to make apparent how important it would become to this restoration, and it’s lucky I recalled it before the new bits came, both because I was eager to continue work on the Comoy’s and the uncut tenons on the 20 bits that came in the mail are about a half-inch wide. In this photo, I had already sanded the E off the bit and given it an OxiClean bath.Comoy22 By the way, when I showed Chuck my progress on the Christmas pipe with the re-worked Ehrlich stem as of yesterday, he said it was looking good. Then I let him have a gander at one of the new bits, and he gave me his best, widest grin.

“This is why you need to get yourself a cutter,” he said, turning serious and with emphasis on need.

“I know,” I replied. “My God! Look at that tenon! It would take me a month of sanding to get it down to fit this pipe!”

We both enjoyed a good laugh, and we needed one, for our separate reasons.

Here is the Ehrlich bit as it originally presented, minus the E, and after sanding and micro-meshing from 1500-4000.Comoy23

Comoy24 Thinking I was done with most of the restoration of the pipe – and at a glance it did look good – I buffed the stem on the wheels with red and white Tripoli, as usual. I had, after the first hour of this job, already buffed the wood with white Tripoli as well as White Diamond and carnauba.

But then I took the “final” photos and saw at once that the bit did not line up with the shank when the top lines of each were even, in particular gaps all around and misalignment of the bottom line of the triangle. Well, hell.Comoy25

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Comoy28 And so I got into the kind of detail work I had never done with any pipe. I filed the edge of the bit where the tenon connects. I started a lengthy process of gently sanding away and re-micro-meshing areas of wood around the shank opening. As shown in the last photo above, the only part of the problem that could only be solved with serious sanding of the shank was along the top left line leading into the bit (as shown in this view). Then I used micromesh on the one heavily sanded area of the shank and bit all the way from 1500 to 12000.Comoy29

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Comoy31 I stained the small area of the shank still a bit lighter than before with Lincoln Medium Brown and flamed it before micro-meshing with 4000 and 6000. At this point, after about three weeks of work on the pipe, the lines of the bit matched those of the shank, but there was still a gap between the two – and although it was in fact bigger, it was perfect in terms of uniformity. I broke out the file one more time and with the utmost care took a layer off the edge of the bit around the tenon.

At last, a nice, flush match. I touched up the waxing with another coat of carnauba.Comoy32

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Comoy39 CONCLUSION
Well…first of all, I can report, without doubt, that I have never been happier to be done with a restoration. This one was as full of a restore as I have ever had occasion to do, and I am full of it (not in the sense that I think I did it perfectly, because if anything, it taught me how much more I really do have to learn, and the equipment and supplies needed). But I do find nowadays that many times when I ask one of my trusted guides a question, it is to confirm that which I already more or less suspect, as in an email I sent late last night to Steve about a saddle bit with two holes in the lip that I wished I could somehow remove the space between them to make the draw hole a typical slit opening and therefore easier to clean for whomever buys the pipe I chose for it. I had already bent the tenon to fit the mortise using the oven method described in this blog, and so knew two cleaners were required to fill the airway before heating, and that something must be up with that, but Steve promptly replied that the design is meant to be a twin-bore “bite-proof” bit. Then I recalled Chuck once telling me something along the same lines. And when I showed Chuck the Comoy’s Christmas 1983 bulldog with the initial Bertram’s bit I wasted on it, I knew in my heart that the analysis he would have for me, though unpleasant, was necessary to confirm.

This essay, therefore, was not meant so much to be the usual restoration or refurbish piece as it was, rather, a horror story of the calamities that can befall anyone who engages in the art of taking a damaged pipe and making it better with the myriad processes that might present themselves toward that end. I am, perhaps somewhat wickedly, always pleased to hear the anecdotes of masters such as Steve and Chuck, and countless contributors to this forum, who have shared some of their own truly Gothic tales of the grotesque in their encounters with real Frankenstein pipes. By good fortune, my account herein was only one of a bowl and shank in excellent shape that merely needed a single appendage added, with a relative minimum of minor surgery to realize it.

Now I can hardly contain my excitement at being able to attack all the bodiless heads and headless bodies, to use a metaphor, that have waited patiently (I guess that’s personification) for my late but kind attention.

Restoring an Ed Burak Connoisseur Tall Stack


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe that came to my worktable was the shapely stack pictured below. It is stamped Connoisseur over N.Y.C. on the left side of the shank and then below that E. Burak in script. The majority of the stamping is very sharp. The N.Y.C. is a bit faint. There is no other stamping on the pipe or shank. The briar was natural and unstained. It had darkened slightly with age. The finish was dirty and there were a few dents and dings in the briar. The stem was badly oxidized and had several small tooth marks on the surface. It was over bent and the way it hung in the mouth would dump the ash in your lap. The rim had a tarry buildup on the back top surface. The inner and outer edges of the rim were in perfect shape. There were some small sandpits in the briar on the left side of the bowl and on the underside of the shank. The inside of the shank was dirty and black with tars and oils. The bowl inside was thickly caked with a crumbly soft cake that was flaking away in some parts of the bowl. The shank itself was interesting to me in that it looked perfectly round. Once the stem was removed the drilling of the mortise was centered but low on the shank. The drilling was perfectly aligned but the airway seemed constricted. My guess was that there were tars and oils clogging the airway in the shank and the over bent stem made the draught constricted.Con1

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Con4 Over the years I have had several Connoisseur pipes but none of them were stamped like this one. I wondered about the stamping. It was my guess that it somehow helped with dating the pipe to a particular time in Ed Burak’s pipe making career but I did not know for sure. I decided that before working on this particular pipe I would do a little research on the brand and the maker on Google. I always check Pipedia to see what they might have on a maker. In this case I was not disappointed. There as a great article on the site. The link to that is: http://pipedia.org/wiki/Burak.

On that site I found not only some history on Ed Burak and the brand but also a photo of a pipe that was the same shape as the one I was working on. I was fortunate to find it because it confirmed my earlier assessment that the stem was over bent. With the photo and a second one that I found on another site I would be able to correct the bend on the stem and open the airflow from the bowl to the button.

I also found some great information on the site regarding Ed Burak. I quote from that article below. If you should wish to read it in its entirety click on the link noted above. The article is entitled, The Art of Edward F. Burak, Dean of American Pipe Designers.
Con5“Ed Burak is the dean of American pipe designers whose work has had a worldwide influence on the thinking and the work of contemporary pipe makers.”

“…he met and subsequently began working with Meerschaum master Paul Fisher, with whom he stayed 5 years. During that time he produced a small number of Meerschaum pipes, a few of which are still extant in collections. He also worked for Wally Frank as a pipe designer. In 1968 he bought the Connoisseur Pipe Shop, where he was able to concentrate on his own designs. Burak’s pipes have been carved by a number of well-regarded pipe makers, among them Joe Corteggione and Tony Passante. Several of his freehands are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and have been part of a traveling exhibit of the American Craft Museum.”

“Burak’s work is best known as pipe design as fine art. He admires pays tribute to the classic English designs of the old Barlings and Comoy’s and offers a line of “Classics” which begin with these traditional values yet reflect his own interpretations.”

“Because these pipes are different, so carefully crafted, they not only please the eye, but educate it. Most pipe makers will start with an idea and work the wood toward that goal, but will change their original design to accommodate the briar. Burak does not allow the medium to modify the intent. Minor surface flaws are left on the pipes. No staining is permitted; all Connoisseurs have a natural finish, with only carnauba was added.”

“As a significant footnote, the reader should note that Ed Burak’s pipes are NOT made by Paul Perri, nor Weber, nor Jobey, as erroneously stated in Lopes’s book “Pipes: Artisans and Trademarks.” Burak prefers not to disclose the name of his current pipe carver.”

I also learned on Pipephil’s website, http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/about-en.html that the stamping did indeed give some information that helped in identifying the period that a particular pipe was made. There I found that one may generally separate Connoisseur pipes date of manufacture into three periods.

From late 1960’s until 1974: no stampings
From 1974 until 1981: CONNOISSEUR over N.Y.C.
From 1981 on: CONNOISSEUR over N.Y.C. and Ed Burak’s signature

The pipe I was working on was stamped like the photo below. It had the Connoisseur over N.Y.C. stamp and Ed Burak’s signature. That dated the pipe to the time period from 1981 to the time that the Connoisseur Pipe Shop in Manhattan closed in 2009 on Ed’s retirement. Included with the photo of the stamp was a picture of a tall stack pipe that looked identical to the one that I was working on. Using the photo above and this photo gave me a clear picture of what the bend of the stem was like originally.Con6 I took a photo below of the stamping on the left side of the pipe that I am working on for comparison with the one above. You can see that they have the same stamping.Con7 On the Puff.com Pipe Forums I found a thread on Connoisseur pipes that confirmed how the pipes were finished when they were originally made. http://www.puff.com/forums/vb/general-pipe-forum/299824-ed-burak-pipes-man.html. There in the latter part of a post by a member identified as Mr. Rogers was the information that I was seeking confirmation about.

“His premium pipes were like nothing I had seen before. He finished all of his pieces with only wax, no stain. He incorporated blemishes into his designs and made no attempt to hide these flaws with fillers. I frequented the CPS (Connoisseur Pipe Shop) as a high school, college, then grad school student, never really having the funds to purchase his premium pieces. As luck would have it, once I became established in my work/field, the CPS was long gone…”

Now that I had a pretty good idea of when the pipe was made and what the stamping meant, it was time to go to work cleaning up this beauty. I took a close-up photo of the bowl to show the state of the uneven broken cake that was formed on the walls of the bowl. The cake had a fuzzy appearance that bothered me. So before I cut into it with the reamer I examined it with my lens to see if it was mold. I was glad to see that it was merely dust particles. I was able to blow them out before with a blast of air before I reamed back the cake. You can also see the flaw on the back side of the rim centered between the inner and outer edge of the rim.Con8 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I started with the smallest cutting head and worked up to a cutting head the same diameter as the original bowl. The bowl was U-shaped but narrowed slightly half way down the bowl so I had to use the second cutting head to clean out the bottom half of the bowl and smoothed out the transition between the two cutting heads with a sharp pen knife. I took the cake completely back to the bare wood so that a good, clean, solid cake could be formed.Con9

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Con11 I scrubbed the exterior of the natural briar with alcohol on cotton pads. It removed the grime, oils and ground in dirt from the finish and left the briar clean.Con12 I dropped the stem in a bath of Oxyclean. Almost as soon as it hit the water and I shook it the mixture turned amber coloured as the Oxy worked on the oxidation. I set the bath aside to let the stem soak and turned my attention to cleaning up the bowl.Con13 Before I could repair the flaw on the rim I needed to clean it up. I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. Once I had topped it lightly I washed it down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and blew out the dust in the bowl.Con14 I picked out the dust and grime in the flaw and used a drop of clear super glue and some briar dust from the topping of the bowl to fill in the flaw. Once it was hardened I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding block to smooth out the scratches and polish the rim.Con15 The photo below shows the repair to the rim as well as the oils and tars on the cotton swabs and pipes cleaners that I used to clean out of the mortise and airway. I also wiped down the inside of the bowl with alcohol on cotton swabs to remove the dust and any remnants of the old cake.Con16 With the bowl cleaned and repaired I took the stem out of the Oxy bath. It had been soaking for about 2 hours and the oxidation was softened and brought to the surface enough that when I scrubbed stem to dry it off I was able to remove much of it.Con17

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Con19 I put the stem in the shank and used a heat gun to heat the vulcanite and reduce the angle of the bend in the stem.Con21 I took it back to the work table and took the next four photos of the new angle of the stem to see how it looked from the comfortable distance of the computer screen. I took it back and heated it again to bend it slightly more. The angle was close but I would need to adjustments to get to what I wanted for the bend in the stem.Con22

Con23 While this photo was taken to show the stem it also gives a good picture of the repair to the rim on the pipe. It blended in very well and looks far better than the original crevice.Con24

Con25 I sanded the stem lightly with 220 grit sandpaper paying special attention to the tooth marks and tooth chatter near the button on both the top and bottom of the stem. Once I had removed the marks and chatter I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches.Con26

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Con29 The next four close-up photos show what the stem looked like at this point in the process of removing the oxidation and scratches.Con30

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Con33 To highlight the beautiful mixed grain on this piece of briar I rubbed it down with a light coat of olive oil and let it soak into the briar.Con34

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Con37 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. Once I finished with the 2400 grit pad I buffed it with White Diamond and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil.Con38 I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit micromesh pads and again rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. Once it dried I lightly buffed it again with White Diamond to give it a deeper polish. Then I continued sanding it with 6000-12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads.Con39

Con40 I gave it a final coat of the oil and took the pipe to the buffer and buffed it with Blue Diamond Plastic Polish.Con41

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Con44 I buffed the whole pipe with Blue Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect the finish and the stem. I finished buffing it with a clean, soft flannel buff and no buffing compounds to raise the shine on the finish and the stem. The finished pipe is shown below. Thanks for looking.Con45

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Restoring a GFB Bent Billiard – Another Reclamation Project


Blog by Steve Laug

This project was another pipe bowl that was in the lot from EBay. It is a billiard stamped French Briar in script on the left side of the shank and it too was in very rough shape at first glance. It is an old timer. The band on this one was also as badly oxidized as the CPF billiard I wrote of before. It was to the point of being crusty with oxidation and a greenish hue. They were also rough to the touch which led me to believe that they were pitted underneath all of the oxidation. It came stemless but I found a stem of the proper age in my can of stems. The finish was rough, a reddish hue in terms of stain, but there were no deep dings or dents. There was one spot on the right side of the shank near the shank cap where there was a sandpit that had darkened from some bleed off the oxidized shank cap. This one did not have any darkening around the bowl or shank other than the one spot near the sandpit. The shank cap on this one was also loose and when I touched it, it came off (I am glad they stayed on the pipe long enough to arrive here. One of the lot is missing the end cap so that will prove a later challenge. Again after the initial examination I came to see that underneath the grime there was a pretty nice piece of briar. The first series of two photos shows the state of the pipe when I took it to my work bench to begin working on it early this morning.

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I cleaned the shank cap the same time I worked on the CPF billiard. I applied the Hagerty Tarnish Remover and scrubbed the cap with a cotton pad. I was able to remove some of the heavy oxidation and darkening but not a significant amount. The next two photos show the process of cleaning the shank cap with the Hagertys.

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I dropped the bowl in the alcohol bath with the CPF billiard and let it soak while I work on the CPF pipe. Once it had been sitting in the bath for about an hour I removed it and dried it off.

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The next series of four pictures show the pipe after it had been sitting overnight and dried from the alcohol bath. Most of the grime is gone from the outside of the bowl of the pipe and the oxidation on the stem was not fairly smooth – just black and needed to be cleaned. The shank cap also had quite a few dents that would make it a challenge to remove the oxidation.

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At this point in the process I decided to bend the stem. It was pretty clean and did not have any oxidation on it. It merely needed to be polished and shined. So I set up my heat gun and the old rolling pin to bend the stem over and went to work on it. The next three photos show the bending process and the finished bend in the stem.

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At this point in the process I took the pipe back to the work table and took two more pictures before taking the end cap off the shank and working on the pipe bowl and end cap.

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I scrubbed down the shank cap with the Hagertys Tarnish Remover while I had it off of the shank. I also sanded it with my fine grit sanding sponge to remove the heavy buildup of oxidation. It took a lot of elbow grease to clean it off and to avoid damage to the stamping that became apparent in the cleaning of the cap. Once I had it relatively clean I sanded the bowl with the sanding sponge, wiped it down with an acetone wet cotton pad and prepared to reglue the shank cap. I used white glue to reglue the cap. I applied the glue to the shank of the pipe quite heavily as I wanted to close the gap between the cap and the shank. I pushed the cap into place and wipe away the excess glue. The next three photos show that process.

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While the glue was drying I picked out the grit from the sandpit on the right side of the shank and repaired it with briar dust and superglue. The photo below shows the filled and repaired sandpit just next to the shank cap. The second photo below shows the newly place end cap and the work that still remained on the nickel/silver (?) shank cap.

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I worked on the shank cap once it was dry with micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500 – 2400 to wet sand the cap. It took much elbow grease to get it to the point is at in the four photos shown below.

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The GFB stamp on the cap shows up clearly in the photo above and the ones below. There were many small dents in the cap that I was not able to remove. However, I continued to polish the cap with some Neverdull Wool – a cotton product that is impregnated with a tarnish remover. It is soft enough to get into the dents on the cap. I then went on to sand the bowl with the fine grit sanding sponge to clean up the finish. The next six photos show the sanding progress. Once it was finished I wiped the bowl down with some Everclear on a cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and prepare the surface of the wood for restaining.

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I decided to restain the pipe bowl with an oxblood stain to maximize the stain that remained in the briar. I believe the original stain was oxblood coloured so the look would approximate the original finish of the pipe. I applied the stain, flamed it, reapplied it and flamed it a second time. The first two photos below show the pipe after the application of the stain. The next four photos show the pipe after it has been hand buffed with a soft cotton cloth to remove excess stain on the briar. The filled area near the shank cap on the right side is visible and the darkening of the area is also clear.

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At this point in the process I set the bowl aside and worked on polishing the stem. I quickly gave it a once over with the fine grit sanding sponge and then worked my way through the micromesh sanding pads from 1500 – 12,000 grit. The next series of eight photos shows the shine that comes to the surface of the vulcanite with each successive grit of micromesh.

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I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then hand waxed it with some carnauba paste wax that I have in the shop. It is the wax available from Walker Briar Works and I will often hand apply it to the stems at this point in the process and hand buff a shine. I then reassembled the pipe, polished the bowl with a little of the carnauba as well. I hand buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth I use for that purpose. The next four photos show the pipe after this process. I purposely did this on this pipe to see if the wax would cause the area on the right side of the shank that is darker to blend in a bit and be less visible. It seemed to work very well.

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Once I was finished with the hand buff and had checked out the dark spot I took the pipe to my buffer. I lightly buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and a final buff with a soft, clean flannel buffing pad. The next four photos show the finished pipe. It has been brought back to life and should well serve a new generation of pipe smokers. I do believe it will live longer than I do!

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As I finished this piece on the GFB pipe I thought I would take some photos of the CPF and the GFB old timers posed together. The next two photos show the pair in their newly found glory. I can’t help but think that this is how they looked when they were purchased by the original owner. I believe that both came from the same pipe smoker so now they are returned to the look that must have caught his eye when he purchased them. The pair look enough alike I wanted you to see them in this pose! A noble pair of old pipes, don’t you agree?

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New Stem and New Life for a Bewlay Olde 49 Bent Billiard


I have a pair of older Bewlay Billiards, a 160 and a 169, in my work box. Both have chewed and ruined stems so both need restemming. Tonight I took on the smaller of the two pipes. It is stamped Bewlay over Olde 49 over London, England on the left side of the shank. The right side is stamped 169. In pictures 1 -4 below you can see the state of the pipe. Picture 1 shows that the underside of the stem has deep dents and a large chip that has been chewed out of the button and stem. Picture 2 and 3 show the grime and deep dirt ground into the finish of the pipe. Underneath it is some beautiful birdseye. On the front and back of the bowl are great cross grain patterns. Picture 4 shows the top of the bowl. It has a thick coat of tars and oils built up on the edges and the bowl was badly caked. This one took me about 3 hours to rework. ImageImageImageImage

The next photo below shows a possible stem that I had in my box. I fit the tenon to the mortise by hand sanding it to fit. Once it was on the pipe it was a bit too small on one side of the shank. One of the challenges in restemming these older pipes is that the shanks are never truly round. This one was off by quite a bit and left a ridge between the shank and the stem. I had to dig through my stems to find one that gave me room to work with an out of round shank. To do that the stem needs to be a bit bigger than the shank and then must be sanded to fit properly. It is never simple but once it is finished the reward is great in my opinion. With the stem in place the shank and stem look round. Image

I fit the tenon on the new stem and fit the stem to the shank. I needed to sand it to make it fit properly on the right side of the shank. I also lightly sanded the top of the bowl and rim to clean it up. I washed down the whole pipe with acetone (finger nail polish remover) on cotton pads several times to remove the finish and clean up the grit and grime that was embedded in the finish. I bent the stem a little less than the one on the original as the bend made the pipe hang down when it was in the mouth. The new bend on the stem is essentially vertical with the top of the bowl and when it is in the mouth it is level. ImageImageImage

Once it was clean I restained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain that I thinned down with isopropyl alcohol until it was the colour I wanted to use on this one. I flamed it and put on a second coat of the stain. The pictures below show the newly stained pipe. Once it was dry I took it to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli to remove the surface coat of stain. I looked it over and brought it back to my work table. It was just too dark to show the birdseye and cross grain so I would need to wipe it down to get the effect I was looking for. ImageImageImage

The next four photos show the pipe after I wiped it down with acetone on the cotton pads. You can see the amount of the stain removed from the pipe by the stain on the pads. ImageImageImageImage

I sanded the stem with micromesh pads from 1500-12,000 grit before I took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond to polish and shine the surface of the bowl and the stem. You can see that after the wash and the buff the stain is more translucent and the grain shows through the finish. It actually matches the brown on the other Bewlay pipe that I have to restem. I gave the entirety several coats of carnauba wax and buffed with a soft flannel buff to bring up the sheen. The photos below show the finished pipe – it is ready to load up and smoke. The new stem fits well and it looks good on the pipe. ImageImageImageImage