Tag Archives: Bertrams Pipes

Life for an American Made Pipe – A Bertram Washington DC 85 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of our estate purchases. Between us we pick up quite a few pipes for restoration. I try to work them into the restoration queue so that I can keep them moving. We picked up over 120 Bertram pipes from an estate that a fellow on the east coast of the US was selling. This next one is from that estate – a beautifully grained Billiard 85 Grade Bertram with a tapered vulcanite stem. The pipe is stamped on the left side near the bow with the Grade 85 number followed by Bertram [over] Washington D.C. centered on the shank. The finish had a lot of grime ground into the smooth finish on the bowl and some darkening around the sides of the bowl. The bowl was thickly caked with an overflowing lava coat on the top of the rim toward the back of the bowl. The edges looked to be in good condition. The stem was oxidized, calcified, dirty and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were not markings or a logo on the taper stem. Like the rest of the Bertrams in this lot the pipes had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work.   He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the overflow of lava on the rim top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean.      Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There is some stunning grain under the grime.     He took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable. The grade number looks like a 25 that has been made into an 85.      As I have worked on Bertrams I have written on the brand and 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 worked on one 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 Billiard with stunning grain has one fill on the shank. This pipe has a 85 Grade stamp on it which I am sure explains the quality of the briar.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamaer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.  The rim top cleaned up really well with the lava coat removed. The inner and outer edge of the rim looked good.  The stem surface looked very good with a few small tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.  There was also some residual oxidation to be addressed.     I took photos of the stamping on the shank. The Bertram Washington DC is on the left side of the shank toward the top. Lower on the shank it is stamped with the Grade 85 number.   I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is tapered and narrow. Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. I polished the bowl and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.     I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the pitted, oxidized surface and to remove the tooth marks and chatter. I started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the vulcanite stem 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.       This Bertram Washington DC 85 Billiard with a vulcanite stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl 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 Bertram 85 Billiard fits nicely in the hand and feels great. 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 adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Pipe #2 from a collection of Bertrams – a Bertram 1/4 Bent Author 60


Blog by Steve Laug

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 pipe 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.Jeff chose a group of pipes from the collection and began his work on them He sent me a box with some of the pipes he had cleaned up. I chose another one of the Bertrams from the lot to be the second pipe I would work on. The smooth finish was dirty but the grain shone through showing me that this was a beautiful pipe. It had a thick shank and a ¼ bent tapered stem. There was a cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the rim top. The rim top also had dents and dings and a slight burn mark on the front inner edge. The stem showed some wear on the button edge and tooth marks and chatter in 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 before he started his cleanup work. The rim top had some thick lava overflow and made it hard to know what the inner edge looked like under the grime and lava.He also took a photo of the right and underside of the bowl and shank to show the interesting grain on the bowl and the 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 photo shows stamping which read Bertram over Strate Grain. The stamping on this pipe is clear and readable. The second photo shows the double stamped number 60 showing the quality of the pipe. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There are also some nicks on the outer edge of the button. The stem is lightly oxidized and scratched.If you don’t know much about them I recommend doing a little 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#

I am also including this photo of the shop in Washington D.C. and a post card of the shop.

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 70s. I also learned that it was a grade 60 thus it was on the higher end of the spectrum just above mid-grade. 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 nicks and dents in the top as well as the burned area toward the front of the bowl on the inner rim. Other than those issues it was in great condition. Otherwise both the inner edge and the outer edge of the rim look really good. The stem photos show the light tooth marks and the damage to the button surface on both sides. The surface of the stem is also pitted. The tooth marks are the same as those on the first Bertram I worked on.I also took a photo of the stamping on the right side of the shank showing how the stamping was laid out.I cleaned up the rim top and the inner edge of the rim to address the nicks and the burn damage to the front inner edge. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage on the rim top and to deal with the burn damage.I polished the rim top and the rest of the briar 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 pipe really looks good at this point and the grain stands out beautifully. I am very happy with the results. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth marks and chatter into the surface of the stem. I sanded out the scratch marks and started polishing 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 of Obsidian Oil 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 vulcanite stem until there was a rich shine. The polished briar came alive with buffing and the straight, swirled and birdseye grain just popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem developed a rich glow. The finished pipe is a thick shanked ¼ bent author shaped pipe that really is a comfortable handful of briar. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be putting this one on the rebornpipes store sometime in the days ahead. If you are looking for a Bertram of a unique shape then this ¼ bent author might be what you are looking for. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks for walking through the restoration of this with me it was a pleasure to work on.