Blog by Paresh Deshpande
I had picked up a job lot of six pipes from a Curio Store on eBay. This lot contained brands like Barling’s, Parker and Orlik and other English make pipes. These are some of my favorite brands and I couldn’t pass them over even though they were in a hopelessly beat up condition. Here are pictures of the pipe lot that the seller had posted. The first pipe from this pipe lot that I decided to work on is a classic Billiards and is indicated in red arrow. This classic Billiard shaped pipe is stamped on the left shank surface as “BEWLAY” in artistic running hand over “GENERAL” in block letters and on the right shank surface as “MADE IN ENGLAND” in capital letters. The bottom of the shank bears the numeral (or is it letter) “0” towards the shank end. The stampings are mostly all worn out and can be roughly made out under bright light and under magnification. The vulcanite tapered saddle stem bears the logo of letter “B”. This would be the first BEWLAY pipe that I have worked on and thus my curiosity was piqued. I first searched rebornpipes and came across a catalogue uploaded by Jacek A. Rochacki. However, the pipe on my work table finds no mention of it in the brochure. The article has an interesting snippet of information that is reproduced below.
Here is the link to the article – https://rebornpipes.com/2014/03/07/house-of-bewlay-pipes-tobacco-leaflets/
“Bewlay House was a chain of English pipe stores whose pipes were made by Barling, Charatan, and Loewe, so the English considered the Bewlay pipes a quality pipe in its own right. The English brand of Bewlay & Co. Ltd. (formerly Salmon & Gluckstein Ltd.), was in business from the early 20th century until the 1950’s. The brand ended up being sold and taken over by Imperial Tobacco Co. The shop chain closed in the 1980’s but there seems to be one shop still in business on Carr Lane in the city of Hull”.
Unfortunately, the catalogue has no mention of shape “0” and there are no apparent signs of other numerals being worn out. Having hit a wall here, I would like to request readers of Reborn pipes if they could fill in the void by sharing their knowledge with other readers.
Initial Visual Inspection
This pipe has a nice large bowl size equivalent to a Dunhill group size 4. The stummel is covered in dirt and grime of the overflowed lava and dirt accumulated over the years of heavy smoking and uncared attention to cleaning. The stummel boasts of some beautiful mix of swirls, cross and bird’s eye grain over the stummel surface that can be made out under the grime. There is a very thick layer of cake in the chamber and some damage is seen to the rim top surface and the rim edges. The stem is heavily oxidized with a few deep bite marks to the button edge in the bite zone. Here is how the pipe appears as it sits on my work table. Detailed Inspection Of The Pipe And Observations
The bowl has a decently wide rim and a chamber depth of about 1 7/8 inches. The draught hole is in the center and at the bottom of the chamber. The chamber has an extremely thick layer of hard cake with remnants of tobacco flakes embedded in it. The rim top surface appears to be damaged with dents/ dings and is covered in lava overflow, dirt and grime. The inner front rim edge appears to be charred (enclosed in a yellow circle) in the 11 o’clock direction. The outer rim edge has suffered a few blows on a hard surface resulting in a dented and chipped edge surfaces in 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock direction and the same in enclosed in a blue circle. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and the inner rim edge can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The chamber has very strong and sharp ghost smell to it. 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 darkened inner rim edge 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 lava overflow, dust and grime through which one can make out the beautiful swirls, cross and Bird’s eye grains over the bowl and shank. The stummel surface has a few scratches, dents and dings on the either sides of the stummel, probably due to likely falls during its time with the previous piper. I could make out two fills, one at the back and one to the right side of the stummel (circled in blue). The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry. Once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned, these damages will be more apparent. Thorough cleaning and rising under warm water of the stummel surface will confirm if these fills are required to be refreshed or otherwise and should also highlight the grain patterns. I shall need to sand the stummel surface with sand papers to remove and minimize the scratches, dents and dings. Micromesh polishing will further help minimize these dents and scratches to some extent. The mortise shows heavy accumulation of oils, tars and gunk and the air flow is not full and smooth. Cleaning of the mortise/ shank will further improve the seating of the stem and also further reduce the strong odors from the pipe.The high quality vulcanite tapered stem has a nice broad flare to the button end and looks good with the stout large stummel. The stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brownish green in color! Deep calcification is seen in the bite zone from prolonged use of rubber bit. Some heavy tooth chatter and deep bite marks in the bite zone are seen on both the upper and lower surfaces of the stem. The button edges on either surface have been completely flattened with the lip edges seen as mere straight thin edges with no shape and sharpness at all. The tenon air opening is completely blocked with accumulated ash and oils/ tars that have dried out on the inside as well as on the outside. The horizontal slot has a crack to the upper lip and the slot itself is chock-a-block with gunk. The bite marks will be raised to the surface by heating to the extent possible and further will be filled using charcoal and CA superglue mix. The button end, including the button itself on either surface will have to be completely rebuilt and reshaped. I suspect that the upper lip, or whatever remains of it, is cracked in the center. Overall, this pipe is in a filthy condition and will be a bear to clean up. There is likelihood that this pipe may spring a few unforeseen surprises during the restoration process. It was surely one of the most beloved pipes of the previous owner as it has been heavily smoked.
Abha, my wife, first cleaned the internals of the stem with stem brush, bristled/ regular pipe cleaners and 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. She 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. She followed it up by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the surface oxidation. The amount of gunk that has been scraped out of the stem surface just to get to the black vulcanite shows that the oxidation was very deep and heavy over the stem surface. It has been our 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. She, thereafter, 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. We usually dunk stems of 4-5 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked in pastel blue arrow. We generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight to do its work.While Abha was working on the stem, simultaneously, I worked on the stummel by first reaming the chamber with size 2 and 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 inner rim edge and the rim top surface, especially from the area in 11 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. Lastly, 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 sans any damage. The inner rim edge has a nice thick bevel which was revealed after the lava overflow was removed from the rim top and rim edge. Thankfully the inner rim was not charred under the lava overflow. There is a fill on the rim top surface in 11 o’clock direction (encircled in red) that has come to the notice after the lava overflow was scraped off. The rim top is still considerably darkened and will need deep cleaning. The outer rim and rim top damage will necessitate topping and creating a slight bevel to the outer rim edge. 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 still very strong and would need a salt and alcohol treatment. I continued the cleaning of the chamber and shank internals with a salt and alcohol bath. I use cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the years. I draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in to the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the inner rim edge and soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise, fulfilling its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk and further cleaned it with alcohol and q-tips. The chamber now smells clean and fresh. 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 with the beautiful grain patterns on full display. However, this cleaning has also revealed the fills (encircled in blue) that have gone soft. The spot of fill in the rim top (encircled in red) is now clearly seen. This too would need to be refreshed. Darkening around the outer edge (encircled in yellow) is suggestive of charred briar and would need to be addressed. With a sharp thin edged blade, I gouged out the fill to the right side and one at back of the stummel. However, I decided not to address the fill at the rim top at this juncture since I was, anyway, going to top it and there is always a possibility that the fill is not very deep and is eliminated completely. I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents/ dings and also to reduce the charred outer rim edge surface that was noticed after the stummel was thoroughly cleaned. The rim top looks perfect with a flawless inner rim edge. However the fill, though reduced in size, is very much visible as a dot. The damages to the outer rim edge (marked in red) in the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock direction, though minimized, will need to be addressed by creating a bevel. I removed the old fill from the rim top surface with a sharp dental tool till I reached solid briar underneath the fill. While I continued with the stummel repairs the next morning, Abha removed the stems that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. She cleaned the stem and the stem airway under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using a Scotch Brite pad and 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. This now gives a clearer picture of the extent of depth of the bite marks as can be seen in the pictures below. These will definitely require a fill even after I have heated and raised the vulcanite. It is now confirmed that the lip edge on the upper surface is cracked. This crack will be repaired when I rebuild the entire button on both the upper surface of the stem. With the stem cleaning in progress in some of the finest hands, I decided to refresh the fills that I had gouged out yesterday. Using the layering method, I filled these gouges with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue till the mound of the mix was slightly above the rest of the stummel surface. This helps in a better blending of the fill with the rest of the stummel surface while sanding and reduces the scratches caused by the use of a needle file as you have a correct perspective of the sanding that is required. I set the stummel aside for the fills to cure. I realized with a cringe that I had run out of medium CA superglue that was at my home and since the entire country being in a lockdown, I could not order for some. All that was available to me was very thin CA superglue that was almost of the viscosity of water. Not wanting to waste time, I had decided to continue my repairs using what was available only to realize at the very end how wrong that decision was…. Abha, in the meanwhile, had cleaned the stem and handed it over to me to deal with the damages that I had described during my initial inspection. To raise the deep bite marks in the bite zone, I heated the damaged potion with the flame of a candle. The heat from the candle flame helps to raise these bite marks to the surface as vulcanite has the property to raise and attain its original shape when heated. Though addressed to some extent, these bite marks would need to be filled with a mix of activated charcoal and superglue. The buttons would need to be entirely rebuilt and reshaped. The stem is cracked (indicated in yellow arrows) on the stem upper surface over the lip. Further stem repairs would have to be kept on hold till I got back to my work place where I have a couple of superglue tubes for the purpose. With further stem repairs being on hold, I turned back to the stummel repairs. Using a flat head needle file, I sand the fill till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding stummel surface. I sand the entire stummel with a piece of 220 grit sand paper to address the dents and dings to the stummel surface and also to further match the fill with the rest of the stummel surface. Though 95% of the scratches and dings have been eliminated, there still remains few very minor dings that are remnants of the deeper ones. I accept these dings as part of this pipe’s journey till date. I addressed the inner rim darkening to the bevel in the 11 o’clock direction by sanding the inner bevel with the same piece of 220 grit sand paper. To address the dents to the outer rim, I created a slight bevel with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. The rim top surface definitely looks a lot better at this stage in restoration. I followed it by wet sanding the stummel with 1500 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 is really appreciable. 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 contrast of the dark browns of the flame and cross grains with the natural finish of the rest of the stummel adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel which may be insufficiently described in words and be rather seen in person. It is the two fills, one to the right and one at the back of the stummel surface that is an eye sore. I shall stain the stummel with a dark brown stain to mask these fills. Now, having rejoined my place of work after a hiatus of four months I need to work real fast to complete my backlogs of write ups and complete the repairs on pipes that were worked on during the lockdown period while at home. I have completed a few and now this pipe has inched forward on to my work table. While packing these pipes for its journey with me, I had noted all the issues that had to be addressed on each pipe. This one needed stem repairs; stem polishing and stummel staining to mask the ugly fills.
I start with stem repairs since these take the longest. Here is how the damage to the stem looks as it sits on my work table. The crack is indicated by yellow arrows and would need to be repaired. The damage to the buttons and the deep tooth indentations that remain after the heating is also clearly visible. Once I have repaired these damages, the entire stem needs to be polished and the stem logo needs to be refreshed. And here I noticed that the super glue tubes that I had stashed before proceeding on leave, had completely dried out on me…. Can’t describe the agony!! So another delay of couple of days and I get delivered CA Wood Glue and not ALL PURPOSE that I always use. This too has contributed to the end results of this restoration. Continuing with the stem repair, I inserted a triangulated index card covered in transparent tape in to the slot. The tape prevents the mix of superglue and charcoal from sticking to the index card. The moment I inserted the index card, a big chunk of the bite zone, including the button edge just broke off completely. My pain in restoring this pipe is increasing by leaps and bounds… Undaunted by this setback, I persisted with the stem repairs. I mixed superglue and activated charcoal powder and generously applied it over the bite zone, including over the buttons, on either surfaces of the stem and set it aside to cure. Once the fill has hardened, I shall file and sand the fills to match the surface of the stem and sharpen the button edges on either surface. This glue hardens immediately and allowed me only a few seconds of application whereas the all purpose CA superglue allowed me enough time to get an even spread over the damaged surface. The fill had hardened and with a flat head needle file, I worked on the filling till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding surface and had sufficiently sharpened the button edges. It was at this stage that I noticed something that no pipe restorer is desirous of observing…air pockets in the freshly sanded fills! These air pockets are circled in yellow. No option here but to redo the entire fill with a mix of charcoal and superglue but with the variation that this time around I mixed very little charcoal. I applied this mix and set the stem aside for the fill to cure. I sand the stem fills a second time and again these dreaded air pockets surfaced in these same areas. To cut the whole story short, I had to repeat the fill five times with the same results. Finally I got frustrated and continued with the filing and polishing.
I sand the fills with a flat head needle file and reshaped the button, roughly blending the fills with the surrounding stem surface. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 320 followed by 600, 800 and 1000 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the scratch marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I polished the stem, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh 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. Though the air pockets are now not so glaringly visible (if that’s any consolation….), I very well know that they are there and that troubles me no end. Maybe at a later date when someone decides to make this pipe his/ her own, I may rework the stem to make it flawless. Till then, I shall pretend that they don’t exist. Now that I had made peace with the stem air pockets, I turn my attention to the stummel. As I had commented earlier, the fills are an eye sore against the beautiful grains and coloration of the rest of the stummel and hence to mask it, I decided to stain the bowl using Feibing’s Dark Brown leather dye. I heated the stummel surface with my heat gun to open up the pores on the stummel so that the stain is well set while being careful that I do not overheat the fill, a lesson learned while restoring Steve’s Alexander Zavvos pipe. I dipped a folded pipe cleaner in Feibing’s Dark Brown leather dye and liberally applied it over the heated surface, flaming it with the flame of a lighter as I went ahead to different self designated zones of the surface. This helps in the setting of the stain in the grain of the briar. The next evening, approximately 18 hours later, as Dal describes, I began to unwrap the stain in the hope to see beautiful grains. I mount a felt cloth buffing wheel on my hand held rotary tool and setting the tool at its slowest speed, again my recent experience while working on Steve’s pipe came in handy and the damage that can be caused due to heating while using the felt buffing wheel still fresh in my memory; I began to peel off the stain from the stummel surface first using Red compound. The stain was peeled out gradually. This is where the problem of using very thin superglue for the fill came in to focus. The thin glue had spread and was not noticed until I had stained the stummel and these areas presented themselves as light spots which did not take on the stain. I had reached the end of my tethers and I decided to move ahead with the restoration. This was followed with wiping the stummel with a cotton swab and alcohol to lighten the stain a little as it was too dark for my liking. This also helps in cleaning the surface of all the residual stain and highlighting the grains. The grains really pop out from under the stain and the fills are hardly discernible. Save for the light spots where the thin glue had spread, I am quite pleased with the appearance of the stummel at this stage. Next, I mount a fresh cotton cloth buffing wheel and polish the stummel with White Diamond compound. HUGE MISTAKE… the stummel had now taken on darker hues and the grains are now less prominently visible. Is it because of the White Diamond or some other reason, I do not know. The following pictures will help in comparing the stummel after wiping down with alcohol (above pictures) and after applying the White compound. I have now reached the homestretch in this restoration project. To complete the restoration, 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. This too was a mistake, I feel since the stummel appears too dark with no grains visible at all!! However, the stummel and stem has taken on a nice shine. The only cosmetic, yet important aspect that remained was to refresh the stem logo. I applied a coat of white correction ink over the logo and once dried, I gently wiped it with a cloth. The logo is now clearly visible. 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….dark!! The finished pipe is as shown below. P.S. This then is one project which has not given me the satisfaction that I usually experience after I have completed a restoration. So, if that is the case, then why am I taking the pain to even do the write up and posting it for others to read about my failures?
Well, the reasons are two fold…
Firstly, I am not too concerned with successes or failures. What matters to me is the journey. This project has been a journey of experimenting and learning. This was the first time that I used White Compound after staining and alcohol wipe as I had read that this compound brings in a further transparency to the stain. Well, apparently, this did not work for me. I would definitely like to learn the views of other more experienced professional restorers on the best method of staining and the process thereafter to increase the transparency of the stain.
Secondly, if through my mistakes somebody else is able to derive benefits, then the entire effort was worthwhile. This platform that was made available to me by Steve to learn pipe restoration has helped me immensely to learn the art and this write up is my contribution for a newbie to learn what needs to be avoided.
Thank you for your patience and valuable time in reading this far. Hope all the readers and their loved ones are in the best of health and spirits. Be safe and stay safe in these troubled times.