Tag Archives: bending a vulcanite stem

Restemming and Restoring a Sasieni Windsor London Made Oom Paul 80


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on was a Sasieni Windsor Sandblast |Bowl sans stem that was purchased from a shop in Oregon when Irene and I visited my brother on the coast there. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. I have been postponing restemming any of the pipes for a while now but after restemming that little gourd calabash a couple of days ago I was ready to do a few more. I pulled this one out of the box and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very deep sandblast that is quite stunning on the full bent pipe. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had thick cake in the bowl and there was a coat of lava in the grooves of the rim top. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the blast. The stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank was clear and readable. It was stamped Sasieni [over] Windsor [over] London Made. To the right of that it was stamped with the shape number 80. To the left of the Sasieni stamp on the heel of the bowl it is stamped Made in England in a rugby ball shaped stamp. Jeff took some photos of the bowl before he cleaned it up. The next three close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the lava coat on the inner edge of the bowl and the debris in the rustication of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is  faint and readable.I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a read on the Sasieni Windsor line to see if I could find out more about the stamping (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-sasieni2.html). The pipe was in the section on the site as a Sasieni seconds and sub-brands. The pipe in the second photo had very similar stamping to the bowl I was working on. I did a screen capture of the section on Pipephil. I have included it below.  There were also photos that were included on Pipephil of what the sandblast looked like on the Sasieni Windsor originally.The third photo of the underside of the shank shows a similar stamping to the pipe I am working on. The pipe originally had a saddle vulcanite stem. The stem was long gone when Jeff and I picked it up so I had some decisions to make about the stem I would use to restem it.I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. The rim top cleaned up really well as can be seen in the close up photos below. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It really is faint but readable. I went through my can of stems and found turned freehand style vulcanite stem that would work well with the bowl and shank. The bend in it was a little too high and would need to be heated and bent for the Oom Paul shape. There were tooth marks in surface of the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration.   I took a photo of the stem and bowl together to give a sense of the look of the pipe and the proportion of the stem. I put the stem in place on the shank and took photos of combination of the bowl and stem. It is going to look very good once it is cleaned up. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I put a pipe cleaner in the stem and then heated the stem with my heat gun until the vulcanite was supple. I bent it to the angle that matched the bowl. I filled in the tooth marks and rebuilt the button top with black super glue and set it aside to cure. Once it had cured I used files to reshape the edge of the button and flatten the repairs on the stem surface. I blended the repairs into the surface of the vulcanite with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The stem was looking much better. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This restemmed, sandblasted Sasieni Windsor 80 Oom Paul is a beautiful looking pipe. The brown stains on the bowl work well to highlight the finish. The polished black vulcanite saddle stem adds to the mix. I put the finished stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Sasieni Windsor 80 is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished Oom Paul a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 46grams/1.62oz. It will soon be added to the British Pipe Makers section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

 

Restoring & Restemming a Celtic Craft Block Meerschaum from Bob Kerr’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen from the four remaining pipes from Bob Kerr’s Estate is a Genuine Block Meerschaum with a damaged stem. This is the last of Bob’s Block Meerschaum pipes that I have to work on. (Bob’s photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in most of the restorations of the estate to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blogs (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/).

This Meerschaum is stamped Celtic [over] Craft on the left side of the shank. On the underside it is stamped Genuine Block Meerschaum. Over that on the shank end was stamp GT at the top and below the stamp read N14 which is probably the shape number. The fancy vulcanite stem is oxidized, calcified and has a large chunk missing from the underside of the button and stem. From the damage it looked to me like it needed to be replaced. The exterior of the bowl is grimy and dirty. The black flumed top was worn and tired looking on both the rim top and the shank end. There is a thick cake and lava overflow on the rim top. It is thick enough that it is hard to know if there is any damage on top and edges but it looked like there was some damage. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup.   The exterior of the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit ground in from years of use and sitting. This one was obviously one of Bob’s favourites. The rim top was covered with a coat of thick lava that overflowed the bowl. There was also some damage on the rim top and edges of the bowl. The bowl itself had a thick cake with flecks of tobacco stuck in the cake on the sides.  Jeff took photos of the sides and the heel of the bowl to give a better feel for the condition of the bowl. It is dirty but the rustication is interesting. The next photos show the stamping on the sides of the shank. The left side is clear and readable and reads as noted above. The stamping on the underside of the shank was also clear and readable as noted above. Jeff also took photos of the stem shank connection with the stem in place and the stem removed. The tenon was metal and inset in the end of the stem. The shank end was filthy and worn.  The stem was dirty and extremely oxidized, calcified and had tooth marks on both sides ahead of the button. It was missing a large chunk of vulcanite from the underside of the stem and button.   I have not heard of the Celtic Craft brand but the way it was made and the stamping style and placement on the pipe and the finish on the pipe was identical to the look and feel of the block meerschaum pipe that restored earlier – a BELT (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/06/11/restoring-a-heavily-smoked-belt-meerschaum-peterson-like-pipe/). I turned to that blog to check if it was possible that the CELTIC CRAFT pipe was made by the same company. While there was nothing definite I am convinced that it is made by the same company. I quote from that blog:

The BELT brand is not one that I am familiar with. I have never heard of the brand in my years of doing this work. I decided to pause before I started my part of the work on the pipe and see what I could learn on the web. I looked on Pipephil’s site and could find nothing listed. I did the same on Pipedia and initially found nothing either. I did a google search for the brand and low and behold the brand came up under Danish Pipe Making Companies under the heading London Meerschaum (https://pipedia.org/wiki/London_Meerschaum). I quote the brief article below as taken from Jose Manuel Lopes book.

“London Meerschaum made some pipes under the name of BELT or THE BELT, I had this confirmed by Bonds of Oxford St. who have 5 smooth bowl versions in stock at the time of writing, these look very similar to standard system full bent Peterson Meerschaums, the smooth versions have silverware stamped L&JS {Les & Dolly Wood, Ferndown} and has Belt and Genuine Block Meerschaum stamped on the bowl. I have seen 1 rusticated version with the same silverware and 2 of which I own 1, have gold plated ware with no hallmarks and are also stamped Belt and Genuine Block Meerschaum. Both smooth and rusticated have P-Lip type stems though the air hole is not on top but at the end as with most non Peterson P-Lips that I have come across. I do not know when London Meerschaum ceased trading but I can say from the one Belt that I own, it’s a very fine pipe and not cheap, well over the £100 mark when new.”

These pipes were evidently sold at least as early as the 1950’s. These may have been made by, or are affiliated with Pomeroy & Cooke Ltd., (Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes).

One of the readers of that blog responded with the following information. It cleared up the information above and called the information that it was a Danish Company called London Meerschaum into question.

Jambo/Belt was based in Nothhamptonshire, a small town north of London.

In my mind it was a Manx Made African Meer and now the information trail was twisted. It is now purported to have been made in Denmark, or in Nothhamptonshire near London or on the Isle of Man. Confusing and strange provenance for this old meer but I personally lean toward the Manx Pipes Connection. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

With over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate I took a batch of them to the states with me when I visited and left them with Jeff so he could help me out. Jeff cleaned the pipes with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. Once he finished he shipped them back to me. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the meerschaum and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with an interesting rustic finish around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos before I started my part of the work.  I took close up photos of the rim top and the stem surfaces. The rim top looked better but was rough. Some of the surface had been worn smooth. It was clean however and the flumed colour on the rim and shank end had faded with the cleanup work. The stem was another story all together. The metal tenon was good but the threads in the shank were worn so that it would not align. The issue for me was that the metal would continue to wear down the meer and make the fit looser over time. There were deep nicks on all the sharp edges of the diamond stem. The large chip out of the underside of the button and stem was bigger and rougher than I expected. Even though I could rebuild the damaged area I decided that the stem would need to be replaced on this one.    I took photos of the stamping on the shank of the pipe. It is readable and clear. The text reads as noted above.   I took the stem off the shank and took a photo to give a sense of the flow of the pipe. The stem is a bit of a turned freehand stem so I pretty much could use any other turned freehand stem as a replacement.I started my work on the pipe by dealing with the rim top. I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the rim top. I wanted to check out damage to the rim top so the brass bristle brush would remove any remaining grit in the rustication.I used a black stain pen to touch up the flumed top of the bowl, edges and the shank end. The rim top and shank end looked much better.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to replacing the stem. I went through my can of stems and found one that would look interesting with the shape of the pipe. It was a new cast stem. I would need to cut off the tenon and drill out the stem for a new tenon.I used the Dremel and sanding drum to cut off the tenon. I had a Delrin tenon that was made to screw into the stem. I found that reversing it and turning it into the shank was a perfect fit. I used a series of drill bits to drill out the end of the stem to receive the smooth end of the tenon. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove the excess vulcanite from the stem so that when the tenon was screwed into the shank the stem sat flush in the shank. I glued the tenon in place in the stem with clear super glue and set it aside to let the glue cure.Once the glue cured I turned the stem into the shank and took photos of the pipe as a whole. Still lots of sanding to do but I like the fit of the stem to the shank.   I cleaned up the stepped down stem area on the end of the stem with a needle file to fit in the inset shank end. I also used the file to reduce the thickness of the button. I then heated the stem with a lighter flame to soften the vulcanite. Once it was soft I bent the end of the stem to match the stem that I was replacing. I screwed the stem into the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. I am starting to like the looks of this pipe.   I removed the stem from the shank and sanded out the file marks and shaped the button with 220 grit sandpaper and followed that with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to start the polishing.   I used a potter cutting tool to open up the slot in the end of the button. I wanted to reshape it and open it enough that a pipe cleaner would easily move through the airway.   I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.    I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. This interestingly finished rusticated Celtic Craft Genuine Block Meerschaum Freehand/Poker from Bob Kerr’s estate looks very good. Even though it is not my personal favourite it must be a great smoking pipe. The finish cleaned up well on the pipe is in great condition and works well with the polished vulcanite taper replacement stem. I carefully buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Meerschaum fits nicely in the hand and I think the rustication will feel great when it heats up during smoking. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I have more to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

I am not sure I would call this AFG III Freehand pipe anything other than ODD


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked up this pipe sometime in 2016 and I have had it in a box of bowls since he sent it to me. I have looked at it several times but it never called my name. It is a strange pipe. The upwardly curved portion of the shank is joined to the bowl and straight shank about mid shank. The grain is quite nice though there is a large pit on the left side of the shank. The pipe is a sitter with a strange notched rim top. The notches have a faux plateau pattern in the groove on the front and back of the bowl. The top of the rim is almost calabash like with a wide flat top. The curve of the shank made the drilling of the bent portion a mystery until you turn the pipe over and see the screw that is inset in the back of the shank where it is parallel with the airway in the straight portion. It was lightly smoked and dirty. The shank is stamped AFG III on the left side of the upper portion. The stem was pirated from a WDC Wellington and made to fit in the shank. The shank end was out of round and the mortise was quite large. The end was not flat so fitting any stem would be a trick. Maybe that is why the Wellington stem was used. The stem had deep tooth marks in the surface and really did not work with the bowl to me. Jeff took the following photos before he did his clean up on the pipe. Jeff took photos of the bowl top to show the condition of the bowl and rim top and edges. The pipe has almost a floral look to it from this angle. It is a dirty pipe and the interior of the bowl has some roughness on the right side. He took a photo of the screw in the underside of the shank. It looks like a brass wood screw that has been inset in the shank.He took photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel to give a clear look at the grain on the briar. It is actually a nice looking piece of briar that some how the shape follows in a strange way all its own. The stamping on the left side of the shank reads AFG III which is not a brand I can find listed anywhere on the net so I have no information on the maker.The stem that had been made to fit is a WDC Wellington P-lip knockoff. It really did not fit in the shank and it was pretty chewed up. I would need to replace it.Today when I was sorting through my box of bowls without stems that I have and pitching out the worst of them I picked this bowl up and was drawn to seeing what I could do with it. I took it to my worktable and looked it over. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as I have come to expect after 4 years of working on pipes. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. Since the stem was not going to be used he did a quick clean up on it and sent it along. I had long since thrown it in the bottom of the box of bowls. The pipe was indeed an odd one. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took a photo of the wood screw in the shank and the flaw in the briar on the topside of the shank. You can also see the joint of the bowl and shank with the upward turned shank extension in the photos below. I drew a red box around then in the photos below. I went through my cans of stems to find one that would work with the diameter of the shank. I would need to turn the tenon to make it fit and also adjust the shank end and face it to make the taper stem fit.I took a photo of the shank end to show its condition. It was not flat and it was not round. The thickness of the shank around the mortise was also different on each side. The second photo below shows that angle of the shank end.I went through my brass bands to find one that would fit the end of the shank. I smoothed out rounded end on a topping board to smooth it. I also used my Dremel and sanding drum to bring the shank end back to round. I heated the band and pressed it onto the end of the shank. It looked good and it provided a straight flat edge on the shank end that would work well with the newly turned stem. I unscrewed the wood screw from the shank and found that it actually cut off the flow of air through the shank. When it was in place it extended into the airway. I used the Dremel and a grinding stone to take the screw down so that it would end at the wall of the airway. I used some all purpose glue to anchor the screw in the shank. It could be removed with a screw driver but it also was air tight.I filled in the flaw on the left side of the shank with briar dust and super glue. When the repair cured I sanded the repair smooth again with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit sandpaper. I used the PIMO tenon turning tool on my cordless drill to reduce the diameter of the tenon and face the stem surface for a good fit on the shank.Once I had the fit right to the shank I used a heat gun to give the end a bend that matched the flow of the bowl.  I may bend it a bit more but I like it at the moment. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. I worked over the repaired spot on the shank to blend it in more. I touched up the stain around the band edge and the repaired pit on the shank using a blend of Oak and Maple stain pens. The colour matched well and once it was buffed would be perfect.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the newly fit stem. I did some fine tuning of the diameter of the stem at the shank/stem junction with 220 grit sandpaper and began the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish – a red, gritty Tripoli like substance that is a paste. I rubbed it into the surface of the stem and polished it off with a cotton pad. I have found that is a great intermediary step before polishing with micromesh pads. I am not sure what I will use once the final tin I have is gone!I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  This oddly shaped handmade briar pipe is strange enough to actually be quite interesting. From the shape of the extended shank to the flair of the bowl sides to the different looking top with the smooth top on the sides and the “dips” in the front and rear that are rusticated to look a bit like plateau. The mix of brown stains that the maker used really highlights some great grain around the bowl sides and the heel. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well to highlight the grain on the pipe. The band and the newly shaped vulcanite stem seem to work well with the pipe. The pipe is a beauty and really eye-catching in its own way. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Freehand is quite nice and feels great in the hand and is a sitter as well. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. This is not a pipe for everyone but someone is bound to love it. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will be added to the American Pipe Makers section of the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

Restemming a GBD International London Made – 508 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Quite a while ago now my brother Jeff picked up a handful of pipes from an antique shop in Montana. There were quite a few GBD pipes in the lot. One of them was this GBD International bent billiard. It came with a gnawed off stem that was irreparable. The bowl was caked and dirty and the rusticated/plateau top was filled with grime to the point that it was almost smooth. The bowl looked good under the grime and the finish looked salvageable. The pipe was stamped GBD in an oval over International over London Made on the left side of the shank. On the right side it was stamped with London England over the shape number 508. I failed to take photos of the bowl before I cleaned it up as I was on a roll with about four bowls going at the same time. Here is what it looked like after I had wiped it down with alcohol. I scrubbed the plateau top with a brass bristle brush and some Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed it down with cool water and dried it off. It is in very good shape. I had reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned out the shank and the bowl. GBD1 GBD2 GBD3 GBD4I went through my stem can and had several potential stems there. I chose one that was slightly larger in diameter than the shank. I had to shorten the tenon as it was too long to sit correctly in the shank.GBD5 GBD6With the tenon shortened the stem fit nicely in the mortise. The diameter was close and I would adjust it to fit.GBD7The stem was a used one that I recycled and it had one deep bit mark on the top side near the button. I sanded it smooth and cleaned it before I filled it in with black super glue. Once the glue cured I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out.GBD8 GBD9I used the Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the diameter of the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper until the transition was smooth. I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to clean off the remaining grime before restaining the rim with a Black Sharpie.GBD10 GBD11 GBD12 GBD13I heated the stem over a heat gun until it was pliable and bent it to the proper angle. I set the bend with cold water. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches left behind by the Dremel and smooth out the flow of the stem.GBD14 GBD15I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it another coat of oil and then finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry.GBD16 GBD17 GBD18I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The grain on this pipe is spectacular – great birdseye on the sides and cross grain on the front, back and bottom. The plateau or rustication on the rim that I stained black gives it a unique look. I think it is a beauty! Thanks for looking.GBD19 GBD20 GBD21 GBD22 GBD23 GBD24 GBD25 GBD26 GBD27

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

Pete2

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

Pete5

Pete6

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

Pete9

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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Prom Night – Dressing up a Cheap Meerschaum Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

I was given a batch of pipes from a friend on one of the forums that he had lying around a long time. He was pretty certain that they were not worth much but he thought they might be fun for me to fiddle with. One of them was a meerschaum apple-shaped pipe with a plastic stem. The draw on it was awful, like sucking air through a coffee stirrer. The bowl had a few issues at first glance. There were some gouges in the meer on the sides of the bowl and the shank. There were some small cracks in the shank from the end forward near the top. There was a Delrin sleeve so these may or may not be a problem. The tenon itself was small and rough. The stem had some damage from what appeared to be melting at some point in its life. But it was barely smoked and there was something about it that caught my eye. I could see some promise in it so it would be worth the fiddle.band1

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band3 On the bottom of the exterior of the bowl there looked like there was a crack that ran for the length of the bowl. I examined it with a lens and it turned out to be a gouge in the surface of the meerschaum. It may be a crack but it did not go deep in the material so it was salvageable.band4

band5 I took a close-up photo of top and inside of the bowl. You can see that it is barely smoked and the crack does not appear to go into the bowl.band6 The plastic stem just bugged me. I could find nothing redeeming in the shape of it at all. The taper was wrong and it was pinched at the shank joint. The faux amber look of it was really fake looking. The material was very soft and I could scratch it with a fingernail.band7

band8 Everything about the way the pipe looked when it arrived made me think it would be one that I would clean up, polish and turn around and get rid of. I probably would not sell it but would pass it on to someone wanting a meerschaum pipe. I cleaned the inside of the bowl with a cotton swab and water. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I had finished the cleaning and had lightly sanded the bowl with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper to minimize the scratches and dings in it. I was done with the pipe and took it to the buffer to lightly polish the stem and bowl.

It has been a long time since a pipe got away from me when buffing but this one did. The Blue Diamond polishing wheel is a bit touchy and it grabbed the plastic stem and took the pipe out of my hand. It hit the tile floor right in front of the buffer and the stem snapped off at the shank. The tenon was stuck in the shank and the other end was glued in the stem. I was very fortunate as the pipe hit directly on the stem and not on the meer bowl or it might have been ruined. As it was it meant I had a good excuse to throw away the plastic stem and make a vulcanite one. I pulled the tenon out of the shank with a screw. It came out easily. I tried to pull the glued end out of the stem but putting in a screw and heating the screw but the glue held. I put the stem away and went on a hunt in my stem can for a suitable vulcanite stem for the pipe.band9

band10 I found just the right donor stem. It was a bent round stem that came from an old-timer somewhere along the way. It was thick and the diameter was close to that of the shank. I took the tenon down with the Dremel and sanding drum and finish it by hand with sandpaper to make a snug fit in the Delrin sleeve in the shank. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take off the excess diameter of the stem and then hand sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to make the shank and stem match. While I was working on it I examined the two small cracks in the shank. They bothered me. While they would not go anywhere as the Delrin sleeve was glued and held them together, they still bothered me. I used a small micro drill bit on the Dremel and put a hole in the end of both cracks on the shank. I put a drop of super glue in the holes to seal them. I then remembered that I had some brass plumbing pressure fittings that make interesting bands. I heated the brass with a lighter and pressed it onto the shank to cover the cracks and give the pipe a little more bling.

I finished shaping and fitting the stem and took the photos below to give an idea of what the pipe would look like when finished. The bend in the stem is a little too much at this point and I would need to take some of the bend out. The bowl looks good with the brass fitting and the stem length works with this bowl.band11

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band13 I was able to sand out the gouge on the bottom of the bowl and it looks smooth and fresh now. I will need to sand the entire bowl with micromesh to polish the meerschaum and give it a shine.band14 I heated the stem with a heat gun to take out some of the bend. When the stem was flexible I pressed it against table surface with a towel to take out some of the bend. I cooled it with water to set the new bend. The second photo below shows the newly bent stem.band15

band16 I sanded the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to take out the scratches and work on the oxidation that was deep in the edges of the button.band17

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band20 You can see in the photos above that the stem did not quite seat properly in the shank. I used a sharp knife to bevel the inner edge of the mortise so that the stem would sit properly against the shank.band21 I sanded the bowl and shank with 3200-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to minimize the scratches.band22

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band25 I wet sanded the stem and the tenon with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and then rubbed them down with Obsidian Oil. I continued by dry sanding the stem with 3200-4000 grit micromesh pads and the giving it another coat of oil. I finished by sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. When it dried it was ready to buff.band26

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band28 I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond Plastic polish on the wheel and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl two coats of white beeswax and the buffed it as well. I buffed both with a clean flannel buff and then by hand with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below.band29

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A Dodgy Rogers: Restoring and Modifying a Rogers Standard


Blog by Anthony Cook

I was recently engaged in a conversation with another member of an online pipe tobacco forum and I learned that he had been smoking a pipe for six months and had only one pipe. I’ve been there, man. From what I’ve seen, six months seems to be the sweet spot for new pipe smokers. They’re likely to stick with it if they’ve made it that far, but everything is still new enough that even simple things can be a challenge. I’m sure that most of you will agree that smoking a pipe isn’t rocket science, but the initial learning curve can be fairly steep all the same. So, I offered to send him a pipe to give his faithful companion a break, reward his perseverance, and encourage him to hang in there.

I sent him a photo of a few pipes that I had on hand. I told him to pick one and I’d send it along. I half expected him to balk after seeing the photos. None of the pipes had been restored at all. If you’re not used to dealing with estate pipes, it can be difficult to see one as anything other than what it is; grime, tar, fills, and all. So, to ease any concerns that he may have I sent him a few before/after photos of some of my work and promised that I would make sure that his pipe was clean and pretty. He responded quickly with his choice, and to my surprise, it was probably the grungiest in appearance of the lot. Here it is…An1 The pipe is a Rogers Standard. I think the unique shaping is what attracted him and I can understand why. The slightly longer shank paired with the short saddle on the stem give it a quirky look that’s still classy. Here are a few more photos to give you an idea of what I was working with.An2

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An4 The stem was stuck tight on this one, but a couple of hours in the freezer took care of that. Once the stem was removed, I found a grimy, spiral stinger in the tenon. It too was stuck. So, I dripped alcohol into and around the tenon to soften the tar that was gluing it in. After a few minutes, I wrapped it in several layers of soft cloth to protect it and pulled it out with a pair of pliers. I dropped it into a container of alcohol for about an hour, and then scrubbed it with a pipe cleaner until it was as good as new.An5 I gave the stummel an alcohol bath to remove the old, lacquer finish. Several hours later, I removed it and wiped it down. Only about the top two-thirds of the bowl was caked to any degree, but what was there was thick, uneven, and harder than chicken lips. In the end, it took a group effort to ream the bowl back to bare wood the way I like it, but a T-handle reamer, a pipe knife, 400-grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie pen, and a little elbow grease got the job done.

I’ve added a retort to my tool chest since I last posted here, but I still like to scrub out the solid debris and lumpy build-ups by hand before using it. The Rogers took a whole handful of pipe cleaners, cotton swabs, and a couple of shank brushes before I was satisfied enough to move on.An6 I set up the retort and flushed the stem and shank several times before setting it aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Then, I refilled with clean alcohol and flushed several more times. After the second retort, the alcohol was nearly clear. So, I considered the retort to have done its job and gave the stummel and stem one last quick scrub to remove any remaining tar.An7 While I had been retorting the stummel, the stem had been soaking in an Oxyclean bath. I removed it and scrubbed it down with a couple of 1” cubes cut from a Magic Eraser pad to remove the oxidation. There is one thing to note though. I noticed that the paint had come out of the stem stamping during the bath despite my attempt to protect it with a dab of petroleum jelly. I’ve never really trusted this method of protection and I think I’m going to explore some others ideas in the future.An8You may have noticed from the photos that this pipe had a few fills. Okay… It had a lot of fills and the ones that concerned me the most were a few that were right inside the stamping on the shank. I was considering what to do about them when the thought occurred to me that it might be best to leave it up to the guy that was going to smoke the pipe. I contacted the future owner and presented him with a few option: (1) I could patch the fills with briar dust and CA that would blend well into the final finish, but some of the stamping would be sacrificed, (2) I could leave the stamping intact, but there would be some obvious fills on the shank of the finished pipe, or (3) I could rusticate the pipe, which would completely obliterate the stamping but the pipe would be unique. He chose to go with rustication.

So, once I knew the direction in which I was heading, I set up my topping surface to remove the scratches and charring on the rim. I sanded with a progression of 220-grit, then 320-grit, then 400-grit paper until I was satisfied that all of the scratches were gone. I also softened the inside and outside edge of the rim by light sanding with 400 grit paper (not pictured).

My rustication plan called for a round, smooth button on the right side of the bowl where there were few fills and some fairly decent bird’s eye. There were also a few dents in the area. So, I clamped the stummel in a vice and tried to steam them out by pressing a heated screwdriver into a wet cloth placed over the dents. Most of them were removed successfully, but one large dent with sharp edges still remained. You win some. You lose some.An9 Nobody wants a pipe that looks like it has the measles and those pink putty fills will show through and ruin even a rusticated finish. So, I picked them all out. I also discovered that the wood inside the mortise directly beneath the shank crack was weak and spongy. I scraped it out easily with a pick, but left behind a disconcertingly large gouge in the mortise.An10 I had been experimenting with pre-staining briar dust for patches and fills, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to put it into practice until this pipe. I dripped a couple of drops each of Fiebing’s black and oxblood into a bit of briar dust, and then added a few drops of isopropyl alcohol to spread it evenly. After mixing it up and sitting it under a warm lamp for about 30 minutes, I had a batch of stained briar dust.An11 The stained dust and a bit of CA glue were used to patch the dent and a large fill on the right side of the bowl. I also used unstained dust and CA to fill in the area of missing wood in the mortise.An12 The bowl patches were sanded out with 220-grit, then 320-grit, sandpaper. In the mortise, I used 240 and 320-grit sanding needles. When I inserted the stem to test the fit, I heard a sharp “snap”. Uh-oh.
When I flipped the pipe over I saw that the shank had cracked again. This one began about 1mm below the patched crack and was also longer than that one. I used a 1/32” drill bit to make a small hole at the end of the crack to stop the run. I didn’t drill all the way through, only a hair’s width below the crack. Then, I inserted the stem (after smearing petroleum jelly on the tenon) to widen the crack and filled the crack and drill hole with stained dust and CA. Once the patch had set up, I removed the stem, wiped the petroleum jelly from the mortise, and added more briar dust and CA there to add the strength that it obviously needed.An13 The new patches were sanded out once dry and I used a strip of 400-grit paper to reduce the diameter of the tenon before trying to insert is again. The fit was snug but not overly tight, and best of all, there were no new cracks.An14 Since the shank crack had been opened up and then filled, the overall diameter of the shank had increased slightly. So, I used 220-grit, then 320-grit, sandpaper to bring it back into register with the stem.

Then it was time to strike up the band. I selected a band from my box that was large enough to fit over the end of the shank, but not so large that I could slide it all of the way up by hand. With the band partially in place over the shank, I heated it with a heat gun to expand the metal, and then pressed it into place on a hard, cushioned surface.An15 The mortise had been constricted by the placement of the band. So, again, I had to do a bit of sanding with 220-grit, 320-grit, and 400-grit paper to turn the tenon down enough to make a good, snug fit.

The heat gun was already set up. So, I used it to heat the stem to see if I could raise some of the tooth dents. It did a fair job, but a few still remained after the heat treatment. I also took the opportunity to add a few more degrees of bend in the stem to give it a more elegant flow (at least to my eyes).An16 The stem button had a couple of chunks bitten out of it that needed to be repaired. I borrowed Andrew Selking’s idea of wrapping the area below the button with tape to keep a crisp edge before applying black CA glue to the gouges. The middle picture in the image below shows the button just after removing the tape. There was a bit of overhang at the lip that would have to be taken off, but the area where the button meets the stem is crisp and clean. That would save a lot of work. Thanks, Andrew!

I sanded out the lighter dents on the stem with 220-grit paper. For the deeper dents, I patched them with a bit of black CA glue applied with a toothpick.An17 When the stem patches where dry I sanded them down with 220-grit paper, and used 320-grit and 400-grit to blend them into the rest of the surface and to shape the button. Then, I lightly sanded the entire stem with 600-grit paper to remove any scratches and pits in the vulcanite. I also used a grout pen to paint in the stamped logo. Some of the logo area had been worn smooth over time. So, the resulting logo didn’t look as good as the example over at PipePhil.eu, but I think it looks better than it did originally.An18 For comparison, here’s the logo example from PipePhil.eu (first image), the original logo (second image), and the repainted logo (third image):An19 The stem was polished with micro-mesh pads 1500-grit to 12000-grit. I applied a drop of Obsidian Oil to the stem, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then wiped off the excess to finish up the work on the stem.An20 I decided to go for three levels of texture in the partial rustication and hoped that would give the pipe a unique appearance. I used a felt pen to mark an oval-shaped guideline on each side of the bowl. I started carving with a Dremel and a 3/32” engraving burr. Basically, I just scribbled around the stummel avoided the areas that I wanted to leave smooth to create the base for the medium texture. Then, I used a variety of hand-cut bits and tools to really get in there and remove some wood to create the craggy texture around the ovals that I had marked. To finish up the rustication, I used a 1/32” engraving burr to touch up a few of the places where the rustication met the smooth areas.An21 It turned out to be a rather lengthy process to get the final color and finish the way that I wanted it. So, I won’t go into a lot of detail, but here’s the gist of it:
1) Applied black stain, sanded smooth areas and rustication high spots with 400-grit, and buffed with Tripoli
2) Applied mahogany stain, lightly sanded smooth areas and brushed the rustication high spots with 600-grit, and buffed with a clean wheel.
3) Applied ox blood stain to the rusticated areas only, hand buffed, sanded smooth areas with 1200-grit (Not pictured below. Oops).
4) Polished with micro-mesh 1500-grit to 2400-grit, applied red stain to smooth areas only, buffed with a clean wheel, continued polishing smooth areas with micro-mesh 3200-12000.An22 After the final micro-mesh polish, I reattached the stem and buffed the entire pipe with White Diamond. I then applied Halcyon II wax to the stummel and carnauba wax to the stem and buffed the pipe with a clean wheel. Lastly, I painted the walls of the chamber with a sour cream and activated charcoal bowl coating to add some temporary insulation until a good cake could form.

The finished pipe is very different from what it was when I started. It has lost its pedigree, but it has gained a unique, one-of-a-kind appearance. I’m quite pleased with the way that it turned out and I’m hoping that the new owner will be too. It’s in the mail, Dustin. Smoke it well, brother!An23

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A Peterson’s Donegal Rocky 05 Reborn


The third pipe in the Peterson trio of pipes shown in the photo below came to the worktable today. It is a Peterson’s Donegal Rocky 05 bent Dublin. It is the second pipe in the photo below. The bowl was badly caked – uneven and broken. The rim had a thick coat of tar and carbon buildup and was damaged on the right front side of the rim. The stem was missing and the nickel band was tarnished but undented. The finish was worn and the grooves of the rustication were filled with grit and grime from years of smoking. Like the other two pipes in this lot it must have been a favourite of the previous owner to be smoked to this degree. The inside of the shank was clogged with thick tars and oils and I was unable to blow air through it.
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I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer until the cake was gone and the bowl was bare wood. My goal was to take back all the cake and rebuild a new smooth one. I pushed a paper clip through the airway to open the clog. I used cotton swabs, shank brushes and a drill bit to remove all of the grime and buildup in the airway and the shank. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a soft bristle tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed it under warm water to remove the soap and patted it dry. Once it was clean I filled the bowl with cotton balls and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. I let the bowl sit over night in an ice cube tray to keep it upright. The first photo shows the set up when I first filled it. The second photo below shows the bowl after it had soaked over twelve hours.
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I took the dirty cotton balls out and washed out the bowl and shank with clean isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs. While it was drying I scrubbed the rim with a brass tire brush to clean off the build up on the rustication. In the photo below the damage to the rustication is very evident. It is burned and worn smooth on the right front and side.
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I used the Dremel with one of the burs that Joyal gave me to re-rusticate the rim. I followed the patter on the portions of the rim that were still visible and tried to duplicate them on the rest of the rim.
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After rusticating the rim I restained it with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied the stain, flamed it and repeated the process until the coverage was even across the rim. I stained the bowl with the dark brown stain as well and flamed it.
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The brown stain was too opaque and the contrast between the dark in the crevices and grooves of the briar and the lighter brown on the high spots was gone. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad until I had the contrast that I was aiming for.
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I ordered some stems that were the correct diameter and length for the 05 from Tim West at J.H. Lowe and Company. They arrived on Friday so I was able to fit one to the shank. I turned the tenon with a PIMO Tenon Turning Tool. The fitting of a tenon to the tapered shank of Peterson pipes takes a little getting used to. I worked to match the taper of the tenon to the taper of the mortise and was able to get a good fit on against the band.
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I used the sanding drum on the Dremel to remove the casting seams on the sides and the button of the stem.
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I sanded the stem with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper to match the diameter of the shank to the diameter of the band.
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I sanded the stem with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratching left behind by the sandpapers.
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I wanted to bend the stem to match the original stem that would have been on the pipe. I looked up photos on the web of the 05 and copied one of them. I decided to use a fishtail stem instead of the p-lip stem but I was able to use the photo as a template of the bend.
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I heated the stem with a heat gun until it was flexible and then bent it over a rolling pin with a cardboard sleeve over it. I have found that the cardboard prevents the hot vulcanite from marring when I bend it. The second photo below shows the first attempt at the bend and the third photo shows it after I reheated it and rebent it to match the template.
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I sanded the stem with the medium and fine grit sanding sponges again. At this point in the process the stem was ready for the fine sanding work with the micromesh sanding pads.
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I sanded the stem with the usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. In between each set of three pads (1500-2400, 3200-4000 and 6000-12000) I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I let it dry before moving on to the next grit of pads. Once it was finished I rubbed it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and when it had dried I buffed the stem with White Diamond. I gave the bowl a coating of Halcyon II wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax, buffing with a clean flannel buffing pad between applications. The finished pipe is shown below. It too is ready for its inaugural smoke – maybe a bowl of Louisiana Red will start this one off also… anyway, it is ready for the a long life ahead.
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A Restemming Job with Memories of the Past


The third pipe I worked on in the lot below is the second one down in the third column. It is a Dublin like shape but probably properly is a freehand. It has a shallow sandblast finish with a two-tone stain. The undercoat is black and the top coat is brown. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Racine & Laramie in an arch over OLD TOWN SAN DIEGO over Banza in a script and then a line stamped Made in Italy. The look and feel of it says to me it is made by Lorenzo but I am not sure. When I read the stamping is when the memory came back. I have been in the Racine & Laramie tobacco shop in Old Town San Diego, California. It is a museum like tobacco shop that has a wide range of tobaccos and pipes in an old California mission style village setting. You can almost imagine cowboys riding up and tying up their horse to go in and get a pouch of fixin’s. The picture below is what I remember of the shop. It is from the website http://www.racineandlaramie.com/

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The following excerpt on the history of the shop comes from the website as well. I find it incredibly interesting reading.

History of Racine & Laramie
In 1868 Racine & Laramie became San Diego’s first Cigar Store. Having come from eastern Canada in the prosperity following the War Between the States, Messrs. Racine and Laramée sold cigars, tobacco, stationery, pipes, cutlery and gentlemen’s furnishings. The adobe they rented had been built in the 1820’s as the retirement home for leather-jacket soldier, Juan Rodriguez of the Royal Presidio. It was one of the first six buildings in the small pueblo, 500 registered voters, thousands of Kumeyaay. The Rodriguez family held ownership through periods of depression and Gold Rush boom, and their son, Ramon, was on the City Council. The widow Rodriguez had the building remodeled in 1867 and rented to Racine & Laramie and the Bank Exchange saloon. All was lost in the fire of 1872.

Using archeology, historic research and photographs this building has been reconstructed with the interior furnished and stocked as it may have been in that remote, frontier Pacific port. This picture gives a panoramic view of the interior of the shop looking at the cigar humidor.

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It was this shop that I visited many times over the years. It is like stepping back in time to enter the old town and then to walk into the shop itself. I think the last time I was there was about six years ago now. I took the train from the downtown harbor area to the old town site. I walked through the reconstructed village. I must have spent 3 or 4 hours wandering around the site and ending up in the old tobacco shop. I looked at pipes and tobaccos before settling on a couple of tins. I think I picked up some Dunhill EMP and maybe a tin of McClelland Dark Star before catching the train back into town.

Needless to say when I found this pipe bowl among the lot pictured below I restemmed it and while working on it relived my visits to the pipe shop in Old Town San Diego.

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The finish on the pipe was in pretty good shape – slight wear on the shank area and on the rim left the stain spotty in those areas. The bowl was caked – but differently than most of the pipes I work on. Its cake was primarily in the bottom half of the bowl. The bottom half was thickly caked while the top was not as bad. The photo below shows the bowl as it was when I took it to the work table. The sandblast is either worn from use or it is a lightly blasted finish. The shank was in very good shape and there were no cracks of damage to the inside. The drilling is a bit funny on this as well. It is drilled with a relatively deep mortise and the airway is drilled at the top of the arc of the mortise. It then drops at a sharp angle into the bowl coming out just left of centre in the bottom of the bowl. Because of the high drilling the mortise acts as a sump similar to the Peterson sump in the shank of the system pipes. It was dirty but not with any aromatic residue. Rather the pipe smelled of Virginias and would take little to clean it up.

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This pipe that took me several tries to get a stem that would work. This was not due to the look or feel of the stem but due to unforeseen troubles. The first was a nice saddle stem. I turned the tenon and had a great fit on it. I heated it with my heat gun and tried to bend it over my rolling pin to aid in getting the right angles on it. The heat made it very flexible and as I bent it to the correct angle it just snapped in two parts. Those things happen and in this case it was a frustration to be sure – so back to the drawing board. This time I chose a tapered stem. I turned the tenon and fit it to the mortise. I then used the Dremel with the sanding drum to remove the excess material and fit it to the diameter of the shank. I then sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to finish the fit of the stem. The next three photos show the newly fit stem.

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I reamed the pipe with the PipNet reamer and cleaned out cake from the bottom of the bowl. I had to use two different cutting heads on the reamer to get it to remove the cake. The smallest head fit into the bottom half of the bowl and I was able to cut it back until the third head fit and removed cake from the top half and the remaining cake on the bottom half.

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I wiped down the bowl and shank with acetone on a cotton pad to remove some of the top coat of stain and even out the lighter areas and the darker areas where the stain was still present. My goal was not to remove all of the stain present but merely even out the top coat so that I could more easily blend in the new stain coat.

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Then with a bit of fear and trepidation, after breaking the first stem, I took the stem to the heat gun and heated it so that I could bend it into shape. I inserted a pipe cleaner in the airway as the bend would be quite significant and I did not want to risk having the airway collapse or kink. I heated it a high heat setting until the stem was flexible. I want the bend to be quite high up the stem toward the shank and not just on the thin portion of the stem so it took some time over the heat to make the stem bendable. I kept the stem moving over the heat as I did not want to burn the vulcanite. Once it was pliable I bend it over an old rolling pin that I have absconded with for that purpose. I have a heavy cardboard tube over the pin so that the surface is very smooth for the bend. Any cracks or rough spots on the rolling pin translate into wrinkles in the hot vulcanite.

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In the first photo below the bend in the stem can be seen after the first heating. I took it back to my worktable and took the photo below so that I could have a clear look at the bend in comparison with the curves in the bowl. It was not bent enough so I took it back to the heat gun, reheated it and bent it further. The second and third photos below show the final bend that I was aiming for. The bend in the stem reflects the curve of the bottom of the bowl and gives the pipe a pleasant flow. It is also bent perfectly for the pipe to sit well in the mouth.

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With the stem bent to the proper angle I worked on its finish with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500 grit until the major surface flaws were no longer present. The scratches left behind by the sandpaper were gone when I had finished wet sanding it.

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I restained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned to 2 parts stain to 1 part isopropyl alcohol to match the existing stain on the bowl. I applied the stain with a cotton swab, flamed it with a lighter, reapplied more stain and then flamed it again to get the match correct. When finished I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the pipe and the stem with White Diamond. The next three photos below show the pipe as it stood at this point in the process. The finished shape is very clear in these photos.

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I brought it back to the worktable and continued sanding with the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1800 and 2400 grit sanding pads. I wiped the stem down between sanding to see how it was progressing. Then I dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit sanding pads to finish polishing the stem. The next series of four photos show the progressive shine on the stem.

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Once the stem was polished I buffed it a second time with White Diamond and then coated the stem with a rub down of Obsidian Oil and let that soak in. After it was dry I rubbed down the stem with a clean cotton rag to bring out the shine even more.

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The final four photos show the finished pipe with its new stem. The old Racine & Laramie pipe was back in action and ready to smoke. The back story to this one is as interesting as the old pipe. I wonder the path it took from San Diego to Chicago area and then up to Vancouver, British Columbia. I wonder where it lost its stem along the path it travelled. I only wish it could tell the stories of its travels and the pipemen who smoked it along that journey. I will probably never know the story but at least my imagination can create a suitable tale for the pipe before I too send it on its way, for I am sure it will outlive me as it passes into the hands of future pipemen who come after me.

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Old Croydon-Reborn


I have spent a bit of time on this old Croydon Bent (Peterson Line of seconds I believe). In fact I probably spent more time than I should have done, judging by other refurbishers throw away buckets. Sometimes I just have to see what I can make of an old tired ugly looking pipe. It is a challenge more than it is a labour of restoration. In fact it could probably be argued that when I am done with this one it really no longer should be considered a Croydon at all. I suppose it is a matter of how far one goes in the process of restoration before it becomes a totally new work of briar. In my mind this one would probably qualify for the removal of the name – or at least a hyphenated name CROYDON-REBORN.

When I received this one it was in pretty rough shape. In the pictures below you can see the state of the finish on the bowl. There were places where pieces of the lacquer finish were peeling away and falling off. The stain on the bowl was spotted and variegated. Even the many fills all over the bowl had shrunken significantly and what remained were dips and divots in the surface. The rim was one part of the pipe that was in pretty good shape. It had some tar build up and a bit of blackening but no nicks and dents. That is actually remarkable given the condition of the rest of the pipe. The silver shank cap was split in half and torn from the stem being jammed in and out of the bowl. The P-lip stem was also marked with tooth chatter, was oxidized and dented.

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I did not have any end caps in my collection of pipe odds and ends so I decided to put a regular nickel band on the shank as it was thin and weakened from the broken shank cap. I cleaned the shank end with alcohol and dried it out. I heated a band and pressure fit it on the shank. There was a small gap at the edge that I filled with wood glue to give stability to the shank. I probably should have waited to apply the band but the shank seemed fragile and I wanted to stabilize it before further work on the bowl.

I have never liked the thin Peterson type stems so I decided to restem it with a saddle fish tail stem. I used my PIMO tenon turner and turned the tenon close and sanded it to a good tight fit. I used my Dremel to take down the excess diameter of the stem and worked on the ridges and seams with the Dremel. I sanded the roughness of the new stem until it was smooth with 240 grit sandpaper followed by 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and a bit of water. It was finished with the regular regimen of micromesh pads – 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 4000 and 6000 grit. The final polish was done on the buffer with White Diamond and carnauba wax.

The bowl was a major problem. I tried to strip the bowl using acetone and 99% Isopropyl alcohol and could not break through the finish – don’t what they coated it with but it would not let go. I resorted to sanding the bowl to try and remove the finish and sanded, sanded and re-treated it with acetone and alcohol. The finish was finally gone and I had a raw briar bowl with so many fills in it that it looked like it had freckles. I decided to try staining it with a dark brown stain to hide the fills and give it a good deep colour that was a bit opaque. Once it was dry I buffed it and polished it with wax. It looked really awful and I hated it!!! Soooo… I decided to rusticate it. I used my fist full of nails (pipe with nails inserted in it) to do the rustication that appears in the photos below. The previous coat of stain that I had applied helped with the process of rustication and I could clearly see where I needed to do a bit more work. This is when I wished that the band was not present as it would have been a bit easier to avoid contact with the band and the rusticator.

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Once the rustication was acceptable to me, and the pipe felt good in the hand I prepared it for staining. On this one that involved using the floral frog to knock off any loose chips of briar and to smooth out the surface before I wiped it down with a damp alcohol cloth. I also sanded the rim smooth and used the micromesh to get rid of any scratches. A smooth rim and a smooth spot around the Croydon stamping would look good on the finished pipe. I decided to go for an aged leather like finish on this pipe as it seemed to fit the shape and the look. I gave the pipe a coat of black stain as an undercoat and then buffed it off the high spots. I gave the entirety a coating of Fiebing’s Medium Brown for the top coat. I flamed it and after drying took it to the buffer for a light buff. I waxed it with Halcyon II and buffed it with a soft cloth to give it the final look. Below are pictures of the finished pipe. In my book it is a significant improvement over the original!

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