Tag Archives: Bertram the Nations Pipe Maker

Refurbishing a Bertram Lovat # 25 Pipe From a Lot of 13 Bertrams

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Last year while on a Face Time chat with my Guru, Mentor and friend, Steve Laug, we got talking about the Bertram lot that he had been working on at that point in time. He spoke about how overwhelming it was just to look at the large lot of about 200 plus pipes that he and Jeff had acquired. Never to miss an opportunity to add to my meager pipe lot that was available for me to work on, I suggested that if it was okay with him I would be more than willing to take a few of them off his hands. We worked out the details and soon a job lot of 12 pipes traveled all the way from US to Canada and then on to India!!! That was one long journey undertaken by this lot of Bertram pipes. Here is the lot of Bertram pipes that I received. This lot contained a variety of nicely shaped and grained pipes which I had been looking forward to work on. Here is the picture of the Bertram lot as it came to me.The first pipe that I decided to work on from this lot is a classic Lovat, marked in yellow arrow, with beautiful loosely packed bird’s eyes to the sides of the stummel and cross grains to the front, back and over the shank surfaces. This pipe is stamped on the left shank surface as “Bertram” in running hand over “WASHINGTON D.C” in block capital letters, font size reducing from left to right. The grade code “25” is stamped below the letter W. The stampings are all crisp and deep. The short vulcanite saddle stem is sans any stampings. The size and feel of the pipe is solid in hand. This pipe has been well researched and chronicled by Steve when he worked on many of the Bertram pipes in his possession and thus, shall not waste time in proverbial “reinventing the wheel”. Interested readers may like to follow the link given below to get to know the brand better (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/04/10/the-4th-of-a-collection-of-bertrams-a-bertram-dublin-70s/).

Initial Visual Inspection
This pipe has a decent medium bowl size with a longish round shank and short saddle stem rendering it a classic Lovat shape. The stummel boasts of some beautiful cross grains to the front and back of the bowl and all around the shank. The stummel is covered in dirt and grime of the overflowed lava. The entire stummel is peppered with a number of fills, both large and small. There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber and some damage is likely to the back of the rim top surface. The stem is lightly oxidized with no bite marks to the button edge or tooth chatter in the bite zone. The pipe appears as it sits on my work table presents an encouraging picture. Detailed Inspection Of The Pipe And Observations
The bowl appears round with a wide rim and a depth of about 2 ¼ inches. The draught hole is in the center and at the bottom of the chamber. The chamber has an even layer of thick hard cake with remnants of un-burnt tobacco seen at the heel of the chamber. A fill (?) can be seen to the left in the 8 o’clock direction (indicated with a yellow arrow) over the smooth rim top surface. The rim surface is covered with lava overflow and has max accumulation in the 6 o’clock direction. Through this layer of lava, a few dings can be seen over the rim top surface. The inner rim edge in the 6 o’clock direction appears dark and worn out. The outer rim edge is sans any damage. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. There is a sweet smell in the chamber which is not very strong.  The suspected fill over the rim top surface appears just that…. A fill! However, once the lava overflow from the rim top is removed that can I say, with any certainty, if it is a crack or otherwise. The stummel appears solid to the touch all around and hence I do not foresee any serious damage to the walls in the form of burnout/ deep heat fissures/ lines or pits. The dark inner rim edge, in the 6 o’clock direction, may be charred further than anticipated and the same will be confirmed after the surface has been thoroughly cleaned. I need to resort to topping the rim top in order to address the damage to the surface. The ghost smells should reduce once the cake from the chamber is removed and the shank has been cleaned. The smooth stummel surface is covered in dust and grime through which one can make out the beautiful cross grains to the front and back of the bowl and shank. The stummel surface is peppered with numerous small fills. These fills stand out like flesh wounds against the briar surface. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry. Once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned, these fills will be more apparent. I intend to refresh only those fills which have loosened out with a fresh fill of briar dust and superglue. Thorough cleaning and rising of the stummel under warm water should loosen old fills while also serving to highlight the grain patterns. Micromesh polishing will help in blending these fills while imparting a nice shine to the briar.   The mortise shows accumulation of oils, tars and gunk and the air flow is not full and smooth. The shank end rim surface has a chipped edge which is encircled in red. Along with the rim top fill/ chipped surface, I shall fill this gouge with briar dust and superglue mix. The high quality vulcanite saddle stem is lightly oxidized. Some minor tooth chatter and calcified deposit is seen on both the upper and lower stem surfaces in the bite zone and at the bottom of the button edge respectively. The tenon has accumulated ash and oils/ tars that have dried out on the inside as well as on the outside. The horizontal slot has scratch marks which will have to be addressed. The tooth chatter and the calcified deposits will be removed by sanding with a piece of 220 grit sand paper.     The Process
I started the restoration of this pipe by first cleaning the internals of the stem with bristled pipe cleaners and 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. I scraped out the dried oils and tars from the tenon end with my fabricated knife and also removed the dried oils and tars from the slot end. I followed it up by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the surface oxidation. It has been our (Abha, my wife and self) experience that sanding a stem before dunking it in to the deoxidizer solution helps in bringing the deep seated oxidation to the surface which in turn make further cleaning a breeze with fantastic result.I dropped the stem in to “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface, making its further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. The initial sanding helps to draw out the complete oxidation as the sanding opens up the stem surface that has been initially covered with oxidation. I usually dunk stems of 4-5 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked in green arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight to do its work.While the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I worked on the stummel by first reaming the chamber with size 2 followed by size 3 Castleford reamer head. I further scraped the chamber walls with my fabricated knife to remove the remaining carbon deposits where the reamer head could not reach. I scraped out the lava overflow from the rim top surface, especially from the area in the 6 ‘O’ clock direction. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. The chamber walls are pristine without any damage. Thankfully the inner rim was not charred under the lava overflow. The ghost smells are negligible and should further reduce after the shank/ mortise are thoroughly cleaned. The scraping of lava from the rim top has confirmed that the damage on the left side is indeed a fill and it would need to be refreshed. I followed up the reaming with cleaning the mortise using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scraped the walls of the mortise with my fabricated knife to remove the dried oils and tars. The ghost smells are history and the chamber now smells clean.   With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Briar Cleaner, a product that has been developed by Mark Hoover, to scrub the stummel and rim top. I set the stummel aside for 10 minutes for the product to draw out all the grime from the briar surface. After 10 minutes, I washed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The stummel surface has cleaned up nicely and the beautiful grain patterns are now on full display. The fills, even the smallest ones, are now clearly discernible. I probed each fill with a sharp dental tool to check for solidity and thankfully, each fill was nice and solid without any give. While the stummel was drying, the next morning, Abha removed the stem that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. She cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using a scotch brite pad and cleaned the airway with a thin shank brush. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little EVO to rehydrate the stem. I need to further sand the stem to completely remove the oxidation.    My significant half, Abha, used a 220 grit sand paper to sand the stem and remove all the oxidation that was raised to the surface. This step further reduced the tooth chatter and bite marks present on the stem. She wiped the stem with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab. This helps in cleaning the stem surface while removing the loosened oxidation. As is the norm, whenever she works on a pipe, taking pictures NEVER EVER crosses her otherwise sharp mind!! No exceptions here…

While Abha was working on the stem, I worked on the stummel. It was time to address the fill over the rim top and the gouge over the shank end surface. I filled both these gouges with a mix of briar dust and superglue. I always use the layering method for such repairs (layer of glue is first applied over the target area and briar dust is pressed over the layer of glue). I repeated the process till the desired coverage and thickness was achieved. I set the stummel aside for the fills to cure. I shall have to be extremely careful while sanding the shank end surface as any uneveness will cause an uneven seating of the stem in to the mortise.Once the fills had cured, I topped the rim top over a piece of 220 grit sand paper till I had a smooth and even surface. With a folded piece of worn out 180 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I carefully sand the shank end fill. With the same grit sand paper, I cleaned the bevel to the inner edge of the shank end of all the dripped mix of briar dust and glue. The reason I did not top the shank end was that any loss of briar from the shank end would result in shortening of the shank and a gap would be seen between the stem and shank end. The rim top surface and the edges look very neat at this stage. I followed it by wet sanding the stummel with 1500 to 2000 wet & dry sand paper and further with 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads, wiping frequently with a moist cloth to check the progress. I really like the looks of the stummel at this point in restoration. The grains and the clean lines of this piece of briar are worthy of appreciation.   Next, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful grain patterns displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The dark browns of the bird’s eye and cross grains spread across the stummel makes for a visual treat. It really is a nice piece of briar.  With the stummel rejuvenation almost complete, save for the final wax polish, I worked the stem. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I polished the stem, wet sanding with 1500 to 2000 grit sandpapers followed by further wet sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with moist cloth after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite. The finished stem is shown below.  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks that remain from the sanding. I mount another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and coupled with the size, heft and the hand feel, makes it quite a desirable pipe. If you feel that this pipe calls out your name, please let Steve know and we shall make arrangements for it to reach you. P.S. In one of my previous write up, a question “Why do I enjoy bringing these old battered and discarded pipes back to life?” had popped up in my mind. I had given one reason in my last write up and in all my subsequent write ups I intend to share with the readers my reasons as to why I really love this hobby.

The second reason is that this pipe that is now discarded by the piper as being SPENT and has fallen out of favor, actually still has (mostly do!) potential to provide many more years of smoking pleasures to any piper. Just because it has fouled up or does not smoke as good as when it was new or has been damaged, does not mean that the piece of briar is at fault. It is just that it was not well looked after by the piper and it is he and he alone who is responsible. It provides me with immense pleasure and joy to work on such out of favor and discarded pipes and bringing them back to their real beauty and full functional potential for years ahead. I consider it my honor to work on such pipes that find their way on to my work table.

I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up and each one is my prayers. Stay home…stay safe!!


Restoring a Beautiful Bertram Lumberman 50/25 from the Bertram Lot

Blog by Steve Laug

It you have not read the previous blogs I have posted on this brand give them a read to get some background on the pipes in this lot. If you have not been hit with a box I am sure you have a hard time understanding how overwhelming it feels to look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored. It is mind boggling for sure – but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. I could not do it without Jeff’s help doing the clean up on the lot. If I had to do it all by myself it would be more than I handle moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes I get to choose what I want to work on. Doing the work this way we have already cleaned about 70 pipes and I have restored around 38 of them. We are getting there slowly but surely.

This time I chose a Bertram Lumberman to work on. It has a short, round shank and a tapered vulcanite stem. It has grade 50 number stamped on the left side of the shank and crossed out with a 25 stamped over the top. That too has been crossed out and there is a Grade 25 stamped below it on the underside of the shank. The briar has a mix of grains – straight, flame and birdseye. The exterior of the bowl looked really good. The bowl had cake in the chamber and the rim top had some darkening and lava overflow. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the bowl edge of the bowl looked like until the cake and lava were gone. The stem had some oxidation and tooth marks and chatter near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his cleanup work on it. Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. You can see from the photos why it was hard to tell the condition of the inner edge of the rim.The pictures of the bowl sides and the heel give a clear picture of the grain around the heel and the sides of the bowl. It was hard to see any fills in the briar. I am not sure why it is restamped with a 25. I am looking forward to seeing what is under all of the grime.The next photos capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see the overstamped grade 50 and 25 over the top on the left side of the shank. You can see that is also crossed out. The second photo shows another 25 stamped below it on the underside of the shank. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the calcification, oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. There are light tooth marks on the stem near the button. There is some wear on the button edge.With each of the blogs that I have written on the Bertrams that I have worked on I have included the following information. If you have read it in past blogs, you can skip over it. If you have not, I have included the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them take some time to read the background. I include a link to the write up on Pipedia (http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram). Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. Bertram graded their pipes by 10s and sometimes with a 5 added (15, 25, 55 etc.), the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I have since worked on a 120 Grade billiard. I have several blogs that I have written on rebornpipes that give some history and background to Bertram pipes. (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/06/16/an-easy-restoration-of-a-bertram-grade-60-217-poker/).

I have included the following link to give a bit of historical information on the pipe company. It is a well written article that gives a glimpse of the heart of the company. http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2012/01/bertrams-pipe-shop-on-14th-street.html#

From this information I learned that all of these Bertrams were made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Lumberman is another one of the several that I have worked on from the collection. Here is a link to the blog on another Lumberman I restored. It has a longer shank but is also the same shape (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/06/14/a-bertram-50s-lumberman-pipe-from-the-bertram-lot/). This pipe has a crossed out grade 50 and is marked with a 25 grade stamp. Looking at the grain, I am not sure how Bertram arrived at the quality stamp on this pipe.

Jeff is methodical in his cleaning regimen and rarely varies the process. 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 beveled rim top and edges 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 rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. Without the lava the inward bevel on the rim looked very good with slight darkening at the rear. The inner edge was in great condition. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping to show how it looked after the cleanup. The Bertram Washington DC is clear and readable as is the overstamped 50/25. The second photo shows the grade 25 stamp on the underside of the shank.I cleaned up the darkening on the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. The grain began to stand out. 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 the 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. If you have not tried some why not give it a try. I sanded out the small tooth marks and chatter next to the button on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished out the sanding scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. Jeff and I are gradually working through this 200+ lot dealing with each of the challenges they present one at a time. This one is Bertram’s take on a classic Lumberman shape. 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. For a Bertram Grade 25 this pipe is quite stunning. I cannot find any sign of visible fills. The grain is sporadic but pretty. It has a tapered stem on a thick shank. The finish really has some interesting grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is well shaped short shank Lumberman. This Bertram feels great in the hand sits right in the mouth. Have a look at the finished pipe in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Maybe this shape speaks to you and you want to add it to your collection. If you are interested let me know as I will be adding it to the store soon. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.