Blog by Steve Laug
You will probably get tired of this introduction if you are following the blog but I will keep it here at least for a while for those who have not read the previous blogs on the pipes in this collection… As I mentioned before, once in a while I get emails through the blog about pipes that someone wants to sell. These can be estates or they can be a collection that an older pipeman has decided to get rid of by passing it on to someone who can work on them and see that they get into the hands of another pipe smoker. In this case I received an email from a fellow who wanted to sell me a collection of Bertram pipes. We met over FaceTime and he showed the pipe collection to both Jeff and me. We discussed their condition and arrived at a price for the pipes. The majority of the pipes in the collection were Bertrams but there were also some other brands that were known to me. We struck a deal on the lot and he shipped them to Jeff. Jeff took some photos of the collection when it arrived in Idaho. He unwrapped each of the 200+ pipes and filled the three boxes that they were mailed in, and then took a photo to show the size of the collection we had purchased. To be honest it was a bit overwhelming to see all of the collection in boxes. We were looking at a lot of work to bring these back to life.I am glad that Jeff is working through the clean up on this lot as there are many! I am leaving it to choose which pipes to work on. So far he is choosing the higher grade pipes and the more interesting shaped ones. As he finishes a batch of them he boxes them up and sends them to me. From that box, I chose another one of the Bertrams from the lot to be the sixth pipe that I would work on. As with the rest of the collection this one was dirty! The smooth finish was grimy and dusty but the grain shone through showing me that this was a beautiful pipe. It was an Acorn shaped pipe with a straight tapered stem. There was a cake in the bowl and light lava overflowing on to the rim top. The rim top also had dents and dings and a slight darkening on the rear inner edge. The stem showed some light oxidation and some chatter on the top and underside. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of this interesting pipe. Jeff took 2 close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had some light lava and some darkening on the front and the back rim top. The bowl had a cake that was quite thick but also a lot of tobacco debris stuck to the walls.He also took a photo of the right and left side of the bowl and shank to show the interesting straight grain on the bowl and heel. The finish is very dirty but this is another interesting pipe.Jeff took a photo to capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. The first photo shows stamping which read Bertram over Washington, D.C. The stamping on this pipe is clear and readable. The second photo shows the grade number stamping lower on the left side at the shank bowl junction. It read number 70S which shows the quality of the pipe. I believe the S is the designation for a straight grain pipe but I cannot find verification of that yet.The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. This stem showed the least number of tooth marks on any of the Bertram lot that I have worked on so far.If you have read the previous five blogs I have posted on the Bertram pipes that I have cleaned up so far you can skip the next bit. But if you have not, then I include the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them do some research on them. 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. They graded their pipes by 10s, the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I’ve never heard of or seen a 100 grade. 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 have learned that the shape and grade Bertram I have in front of me now was made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Acorn is a grade 70S pipe so it is above the mid-range mark and one of the rarer Bertrams.
Jeff 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 the lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. 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 darkening at the front and rear of the rim. It looked really good though there was still some darkening at the rear of the rim. Both the inner edge and the outer edge of the rim look really good. The stem photos show that the oxidation is gone. The light tooth chatter is hard to see but I should be able to sand it out quite easily.I also took a photo of the stamping on the top of the left side and the underside of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out.I started my part of the restoration by sanding out the dark spots on the front and back of the rim top with 220 grit sandpaper and then polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It did not too much work to remove the damage to the rim top.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to address the tooth chatter and oxidation on the surface of the stem. Once the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and took the following photos.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. This Bertram has a bit of a Danish flair to it. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain – straight, flame and birdseye popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful grained Acorn shaped pipe. Like the other Bertrams I have worked on this one fits well in the hand and sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Since I am traveling for a bit for the next three weeks this one will go on the store once I return. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.