Tag Archives: Big Ben Pipes

Restoring a Big Ben Maestro Mariner Excellent 490 Lumberman


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table was one that we picked up off eBay on April, 2016 from Highland, Indiana, USA. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Big Ben [over] Maestro [over] Mariner [over] Excellent. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with the shape number 490. The saddle stem had an inlaid emblem that was several squiggly lines in a brass circle. It was dirty and hard to read. This is a pipe that came from the time period where Jeff had not started cleaning up pipes for me at this point so the pipe was dirty. The bowl had a moderate cake and there was a light lava overflow on the rim top. The finish was coated with a varnish coat that would need to go once I cleaned off the lava on the rim top. The pipe had some nice looking grain under the varnish but it was hidden under grime and varnish coat. The stem was heavily oxidized and had tooth chatter on both sides near the button. There was a spacer band on the stem itself. It had two brass rings with a center ring of orange acrylic. I took photos of the pipe before I cleaned it up.  I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the condition. Though the picture is out of focus it shows the damage on the inner edge of the bowl and the lava coat on the rim top and cake in the bowl. The photos of the stem show the oxidation and the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank and the top of the stem. It is quite a nice looking pipe. The stamping is clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo to give a sense of the parts of this pipe. I think it will clean up to be a real beauty.For historical background for those unfamiliar with the brand I turned to Pipephil’s site (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-bigben.html). There were not any pictures of the series but the introductory information was helpful so I am including that.

Big-Ben is a brand of the Elbert Gubbels & Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. The company has gone bankrupt on March 2012. Production (2009): 250000 pipes/year See also: Amphora, Humbry, IRC, Roermond, Royal Dutch, Thompson and Porsche Design

I then turned to Pipedia for more information (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben). I quote below:

The brand name Big Ben was originally owned by a small trade company in Amsterdam which was already well established in several countries selling pipes among other goods. The firm was bought by Elbert Gubbels & Zonen B.V. – see Gubbels – who were in search for a suitable brand name to further expansion on international markets. Big Ben became Gubbels’ mainstay brand with it’s own website

There was a further link to the Gubbels listing on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Gubbels).

With the help of his family the father of Elbert Gubbels Sr. started a retail shop for tobacco pipes and other smoker’s equipment in 1870.

In 1924 Elbert Gubbels Sr., now father/grandfather of the present owners, transformed it into a wholesale trade business. The company grew steadily and imported pipes from various countries as there were no factories producing briar pipes in the Netherlands. The most important suppliers came from France and England.

When German troops occupied the Netherlands in May of 1940, a period of almost five years began in which the Gubbels family could hardly operate their business at all. During this years of forced rest Elbert Gubbels had a notion to become independent of foreign suppliers and he drew up plans to start his own production of tobacco pipes after World War II.

Immediately succeeding the war it was very difficult to obtain good pipes for the import of foreign pipes was limited and so the time was right to go for something new. In 1946 he launched pipe production at Godsweerdersingel No. 20 in Roermond with a couple of new machines and some workers, a couple of them being foreign specialists and considered himself to commence. Yet the cramped accomodations and the needy equipment of the workshop showed the limits all too soon. It was obvious that the workshop was inadequate and Mr. Gubbels invested in another building covering an area of 900m² that also offered a sufficient warehouse. Now the production could be increased going hand in hand with developing new models and improving the quality of the pipes being produced.

The production grew steadily but it showed now that an “international” brand name was required for further expansion on international markets – obviously no one cared too much for pipes made in the Netherlands. Feeling that the time involved to get a new brand established was too lengthy, Mr. Gubbels bought a small trade company in Amsterdam which owned all the rights to the brand Big Ben and was already well established in other countries selling pipes among other goods. A real happenstance – Gubbels products could be marketed now in all European countries, the USA, Canada and many other countries, and nowadays they can be found in almost every country world-wide.

In December 1972 the company opened new and very modern factory in Roermond at Keulsebaan 505. With the official opening by the Governor of the Province of Limburg, the Gubbels company was, on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, granted the title “Royal” so that the official name became: Elbert Gubbels & Zonen – Koninklijke Fabriek van Tabakspijpen (Elbert Gubbels & Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory).

Armed with that history and having a sense of the brand it was now time to do a bit of spiffing with the pipe itself. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and took the cake back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the bowl walls with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The walls looked to be in good condition and there was not damage. I cleaned out the inside of the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol. It was a dirty pipe.I wiped the exterior of the bowl down with acetone to remove the varnish coat on the bowl. I was able to remove the shiny coat on the bowl sides and some of the tars and lava on the rim top at the same time. It was definitely looking better. I used a Cherry and a Black stain pen to touch up the rim top to match the rest of the pipe. The combination of colours worked perfect.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked over the inner and outer edge of the rim as well. After each pad I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. It really took on a shine by the last three sanding pads. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips where it works to clean, restore and preserve the briar. I let it do its magic for 15 minutes then buffed it off with a cotton cloth. The pipe looks incredibly good at this point in the process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I scrubbed the oxidation with paper towels and Soft Scrub cleanser and was able to remove the majority of the oxidization. The stem was beginning to look good.I sanded out the remaining oxidation and the tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The stem was beginning to look good.I continued to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it further with Before & After Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I am excited to finish this Big Ben Maestro Mariner Excellence 490 Lumberman. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with beautiful straight grain all around it and the birdseye on the rim top. The polished grain on the pipe looks great with the black vulcanite stem. This smooth Big Ben Lumberman is great looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 41 grams/1.41 ounces. It turned out to be a beautiful pipe. I will soon be putting it on the rebornpipes store in the Pipe From Various Makers section. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Remember we are the next in a long line of pipe men and women who will carry on the trust of our pipes until we pass them on to the next trustee. Thanks for your time reading this blog.

An Easy Restore – Big Ben Presidential Imperial 188 Canadian


Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago my wife and I had dinner with some good friends here in Vancouver – first time since COVID-19 so it was good to see them. At the beginning of the meal he handed me a box that he said was for me. In it were some pipes that he was giving to me and a bunch of cigars. The pipes included a very nice, lightly smoked Big Ben Canadian that I have included photos of below. It came in a black vinyl bag with the Big-Ben logo and name embossed on it. I took the pipe out and it was a well carved hefty Canadian with a smooth finish. It is stamped on the underside and reads Big-Ben [over] Presidential [over] Imperial. On the end of the underside of shank next to the stem it read 188 [over] Made in Holland. There was an inlaid cursive “B” on the top of the acrylic stem and there was light chatter on both sides near the button. The stem was quite shiny and included a silver spacer. It was going to be a beauty once cleaned up. I took photos of the pipe when I took it to the work table. There was a light cake in the bowl and the rim top had some dirty spots. The edges of the bowl – internal and external were in excellent condition. The shank and airways were lightly dirty with tars and oils. The finish was clean with a light dust on the surface. The stem was shiny with some light tooth chatter on the top and the underside near the button. The button itself was undamaged. Overall the pipe looked good even in its lightly used condition. It really was a stocky looking pipe with its thick oval Canadian shank and taper acrylic stem. I took photos of the rim top and the bowl to show the condition. The rim top was smooth and other than some grime and debris it was in great shape. It is hard to see the light cake in the bowl but it is present (some is visible on the back side of the bowl in the photo below). I also took photos of both sides of the stem to show the light tooth chatter. Over all the pipe was in great condition. I took photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is clear and it reads as noted above.I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to give an overall picture of the pipe. It really is quite beautiful.For historical background for those unfamiliar with the brand I turned to Pipephil’s site (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-bigben.html). There were not any pictures of the series but the introductory information was helpful so I am including that.

Big-Ben is a brand of the Elbert Gubbels & Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. The company has gone bankrupt on March 2012. Production (2009): 250000 pipes/year See also: Amphora, Humbry, IRC, Roermond, Royal Dutch, Thompson and Porsche Design

I then turned to Pipedia for more information (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben). I quote below:

The brand name Big Ben was originally owned by a small trade company in Amsterdam which was already well established in several countries selling pipes among other goods. The firm was bought by Elbert Gubbels & Zonen B.V. – see Gubbels – who were in search for a suitable brand name to further expansion on international markets. Big Ben became Gubbels’ mainstay brand with it’s own website

There was a further link to the Gubbels listing on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Gubbels).

With the help of his family the father of Elbert Gubbels Sr. started a retail shop for tobacco pipes and other smoker’s equipment in 1870.

In 1924 Elbert Gubbels Sr., now father/grandfather of the present owners, transformed it into a wholesale trade business. The company grew steadily and imported pipes from various countries as there were no factories producing briar pipes in the Netherlands. The most important suppliers came from France and England.

When German troops occupied the Netherlands in May of 1940, a period of almost five years began in which the Gubbels family could hardly operate their business at all. During this years of forced rest Elbert Gubbels had a notion to become independent of foreign suppliers and he drew up plans to start his own production of tobacco pipes after World War II.

Immediately succeeding the war it was very difficult to obtain good pipes for the import of foreign pipes was limited and so the time was right to go for something new. In 1946 he launched pipe production at Godsweerdersingel No. 20 in Roermond with a couple of new machines and some workers, a couple of them being foreign specialists and considered himself to commence. Yet the cramped accomodations and the needy equipment of the workshop showed the limits all too soon. It was obvious that the workshop was inadequate and Mr. Gubbels invested in another building covering an area of 900m² that also offered a sufficient warehouse. Now the production could be increased going hand in hand with developing new models and improving the quality of the pipes being produced.

The production grew steadily but it showed now that an “international” brand name was required for further expansion on international markets – obviously no one cared too much for pipes made in the Netherlands. Feeling that the time involved to get a new brand established was too lengthy, Mr. Gubbels bought a small trade company in Amsterdam which owned all the rights to the brand Big Ben and was already well established in other countries selling pipes among other goods. A real happenstance – Gubbels products could be marketed now in all European countries, the USA, Canada and many other countries, and nowadays they can be found in almost every country world-wide.

In December 1972 the company opened new and very modern factory in Roermond at Keulsebaan 505. With the official opening by the Governor of the Province of Limburg, the Gubbels company was, on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, granted the title “Royal” so that the official name became: Elbert Gubbels & Zonen – Koninklijke Fabriek van Tabakspijpen (Elbert Gubbels & Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory).

Armed with that history and having a sense of the brand it was now time to do a bit of spiffing with the pipe itself.

I reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer to remove the light cake from the bowl walls. It was uneven and needed to be removed so I took it back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and then sanded the bowl with a dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls. I cleaned out the internals with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and the oils from the shank and tenon as well as the airway into the stem and bowl.I scrubbed the rim top with a damp cotton pad to remove the debris and lava. It worked very well. With the top cleaned off I rubbed the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush. The product works to clean, renew and protect briar. I let it do its work for 15 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The pipe is really quite a beauty. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the surface of the acrylic stem on both sides using micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded the stem with the 1500-12000 grit pads, then wiped it down with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After stem polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I am excited to finish this Big-Ben Presidential Imperial 188 Canadian. I put the pipe back together and buffed it lightly with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the polished black acrylic stem with the silver spacer. It really was a beautiful pipe. The grain shining through the rich red stain on this Big-Ben Canadian is nice looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.83 ounces/52 grams. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Pipes From Various Makers Section soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the cleanup with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. 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 those who follow us.

A Quick Cleanup of a Big Ben Crosley Sandblast Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is another one from our recent trip to Alberta. In the lot of pipes that we picked up there were a lot of interesting pieces that were new to me. Some of them were brands we were familiar with and some were pipes that were unknown and unidentifiable. But if you are a pipe hunter you know the feeling when you are holding a particular pipe, no matter what the brand and it just speaks to you. That is what happened with this next pipe. It was in a display case at an antique mall in Edmonton. The shape of the pipe, the rugged sandblast and the contrasting brown stains that highlighted some unique grain called my name. The stamping on a smooth panel on the left side of the shank read Big Ben over Crosley over Made in Holland and on the underside at the stem shank union it was stamped with the shape number 534CR. It had a craggy sandblast that was quite stunning. I have drawn a red box around the pipe at the top of the column on the right.The grain under the dirty sandblast finish was a combination of swirls and birdseye. The rim top was very clean and there was no cake in the bowl. The inner and outer rim edges looked very good. The finish was dirty but still in good condition under the grime. The high grade vulcanite stem was clean and there was a TV logo in gold on the stem. It had some tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. I took photos of the rim top and bowl to show the condition of the pipe when I started. It looked amazingly good. I also took photos of the stem showing the light oxidation and tooth chatter on both sides near the button.I took some photos of the stamping on the shank. The first photo shows the Big-Ben Crosley Made in Holland stamp and the white TV stamp on the left side of the  saddle stem. The second photo shows the shape number 534CR on the underside of the shank at the stem/shank junction.I took the stem off the shank and there was a 9mm filter in the shank. The photo shows the 9MM tenon and the dirty Big Ben Filter that was still in the pipe. You can also see the tooth chatter on the underside of the stem and the grime in the grooves of the deep sandblast on the side of the bowl. Before doing cleanup work on the pipe I decided to do some research on the pipe. I looked first on the Pipephil website and found some information on the TV stamp on the left side of the saddle stem. I did a screen capture to show the same logo on a Big Ben Challenger pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-bigben.html#challenger). There was no listing for the Big-Ben Crosley line.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben) and read the section on the brand prior to the buyout by Gubbels & Zonen B.V. I quote:

The brand name Big Ben was originally owned by a small trade company in Amsterdam which was already well established in several countries selling pipes among other goods. The firm was bought by Elbert Gubbels & Zonen B.V. – see Gubbels – who were in search for a suitable brand name to further expansion on international markets. Big Ben became Gubbels’ mainstay brand with its own website.

I turned to the section on Pipedia on Gubbels (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Gubbels) to draw some background. I quote a pertinent section of the article that describes the acquisition of the brand from Big Ben in Holland.

…The production grew steadily but it showed now that an “international” brand name was required for further expansion on international markets – obviously no one cared too much for pipes made in the Netherlands. Feeling that the time involved to get a new brand established was too lengthy, Mr. Gubbels bought a small trade company in Amsterdam which owned all the rights to the brand Big Ben and was already well established in other countries selling pipes among other goods. A real happenstance – Gubbels products could be marketed now in all European countries, the USA, Canada and many other countries, and nowadays they can be found in almost every country world-wide.

In December 1972 the company opened new and very modern factory in Roermond at Keulsebaan 505. With the official opening by the Governor of the Province of Limburg, the Gubbels company was, on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, granted the title “Royal” so that the official name became: Elbert Gubbels & Zonen – Koninklijke Fabriek van Tabakspijpen (Elbert Gubbels & Sons – Royal Dutch Pipe Factory). In honour of this title, a new brand was designed and named Royal Dutch. This brand was also created, to negate the belief that Big Ben was of English origin.

At the end of the 1970’s, there were only two briar pipe factories in the Benelux countries: Gubbels in the Netherlands and Hillen in Bree, Belgium. When the latter encountered major financial difficulties in 1980, Gubbels bought the company together with its brand Hilson – a well established brand, which was selling better on the most important German market than Gubbels’ mainstay Big Ben. The factory in Bree was closed soon, so Gubbels is presently the only briar pipe producer in the Benelux countries. (Exept less than a handful of pipemakers!)

I now knew a lot about the company and what it stood for but I still did not clearly know if it was a pre-Gubbels pipe or after the purchase. Ah well, it is an interesting brand nonetheless. I turned now to work on the pipe. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Before & After Briar Cleaner. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my finger tips and a tooth brush to get it into the nooks and crannies of the blast. I let it sit for a short time to absorb the grime. I rinsed it down under warm water to remove the grime debris that was collected in the cleaner. At the same time I used a tooth brush to scrub out the inside of the bowl and rinsed it. I dried the bowl off with a soft cotton cloth and lightly polished it. I worked some Before and After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar. I rubbed it into the briar with a horse hair shoe brush to restore, preserve and polish the briar. I let it sit on the bowl for about 10 minutes and buffed it off with cotton cloth. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It was quite dirty in the shank with oils and also in the wide opening of the 9MM tenon. It did not take too long to clean it however.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation, tooth marks and tooth chatter. I started polishing it with 400 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches.I replaced the Big Ben filter with a 9MM filter from Vauen. It is the same size and is probably made by the same manufacturer.I polished out the remaining scratches in the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped down the stem after each pad with some Obsidian Oil. Once I used the last pad – 12000 grit – I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish, both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and polished both pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch on the briar to avoid filling in the crevices with the polishing compound. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of Carnauba Wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a soft cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The original contrasting brown stains look really good and the polishing brought the contrasts back to life. The contrasting rich brown finish highlight the grain and contrasts well with the black vulcanite stem. The Big-Ben Crosley is a beautiful pipe that really has the flaired saddle of a typical Dutch made Big-Ben pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This craggy sandblasted Big-Ben Crosley is a great looking pipe and different from other Big-Ben pipes I have restored. It will be a great smoking pipe for someone to carry on the legacy of the pipeman who first purchased it and smoked it! Thanks for reading the blog.

Back for a New Stem – Big Ben Nautic 252 Take Two


Blog by Steve Laug

It was not too long ago that I repaired a stem for a fellow here in Vancouver. It was a Big Ben Nautic apple and it came to me looking like it had never been cleaned. I repaired the stem and suggested that the pipeman use a Softee bit to protect his stem from his incessant chomping. I even went so far as to put the rubber protector on the bit for him. It lasted may be a month and it is back for a restem. Here is the previous blog on the stem repair on this pipe. It was a lot of work to get it back to workable. https://rebornpipes.com/2017/12/22/restoring-repairing-a-damaged-stem-on-a-big-ben-nautic-252/. I have included before and after pictures from the previous blog to show what the pipe looked like when I started and when he picked it up. The pipeman and I were both very happy with the look of the pipe with the repaired stem and we were hoping that the warning and the rubber Softee bit would extend its life for a while. I had finished replacing the stem on his second pipe and I called him to come and pick it up and during the conversation he told me that he had chomped through the repair already – not even a month had passed and it was back to its original state. He dropped it off when he came to pick up his other pipe. It had not only broken but the bowl was already caking heavily. The shank and stem were filling up with tars once again and the rim top had darkened and was beginning to have a lava coat on it. We talked and decided it was time to make a new stem for this one. I reminded him that I could not do anything with the metal on the stem as it was unmovable at this point in its life. He was good with that and wanted his pipe workable. We were good to go. I went through my can of stems and found a likely candidate. It was acrylic and was a filter stem just like the one it would replace. It was a little longer but I think that it would work and look good. In the photo below you can see the two stems. Notice the chomped original stem.The tenon was slightly thicker in circumference than the original so I used a Dremel and sanding drum to take it down to the right size. The Dremel will not reach the end of the tenon as the stem so I used a rasp and needle file to clean it up. It did not take too much work to bring it down to size. I cleaned it up with 220 grit sandpaper and polished it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I put it in the shank to check the fit and I was pleased with how it fit. I took photos of the stem in place on the pipe. It still needed to be bent but it would work nicely. The stem was not new – it was one of my scavenged stems so it had some tooth chatter on the surface on both sides near the button. It also had slight remnants of a logo on the top side that needed to be smoothed out. I sanded out the chatter and the remnants of the logo with 220 grit sandpaper.It is a rainy night in Vancouver so I did not want to do the stem bending out on the porch so I set up my heat gun on the top of the dryer. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway of the stem to protect the airway when I bent it. I did not want any kinks or collapsed areas in the stem. I heated it until the acrylic was pliable and bent it to the angle that I thought would look good on the stem. I set the bend with running water. I put the stem in the shank and took photos of the new look. I wanted to check out the bend and make sure it was sufficient. I smoothed out more of the areas around the button and the shank/stem junction with 220 grit sandpaper and then polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiped it down with a damp cotton pad and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down after each pad with the damp cotton pad. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and buffed the entire pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. The new stem looked good to me and the bend was just right. The bowl polished up pretty nicely. I left the rim top pretty much as it was when it came to me this time. I wiped it down a bit with a cotton pad to clean off the tars but the darkening was left behind. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I will be calling the pipeman to pick it up this weekend. Thanks for looking.

Restoring & Repairing a Damaged Stem on a Big Ben Nautic 252


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a phone call from an interesting woman who had been given my phone number by a local pipe and cigar shop. She had a couple of pipes that needed some stem repair. In our conversation it turned out that they belonged to her husband and he had a total of two pipes. Both of them needed work and she was determined to get them repaired for him. In our talking we spoke of the options – either repairing the stem or making a new stem. She spoke with him and they decided to repair them. A few days later her husband stopped by the house to show me the two pipes. We talked and he decided to work on one pipe at a time so that he would have one to smoke while I repaired the other one. The first of these was a Big Ben Nautic shape 252. It is a bent apple kind of quasi brandy shaped pipe with some really nice grain on the sides of the bowl. I took some photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in before I started my clean up.From the side view photos above the pipe looked pretty good. The finish was dirty but the pipe appeared to be in decent condition. The next photos show what the bowl and stem looked like from the top and underside views. The bowl had never been reamed and there was a thick cake that was composed of aromatic tobacco. It was soft and sticky. The lava overflow on the rim top was also sticky to touch. The smell of the pipe was a sickly sweet and sour smell of a pipe that had never seen a pipe cleaner and never had been cleaned. The stem had suffered gnawing that had broken the top edge and a bit of the stem in front of the button. It was a mess. The underside had deep bite marks and was also damaged. The poor pipe was a mess but it was obviously his favourite pipe to smoke.I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the thickness and composition of the cake and the thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The good news was that since it had never been reamed or scraped the edges of the rim looked to be in very good condition.I also took some photos of the stem damage so that you could see what I was up against. The sad thing to me was that his second pipe had exactly the same damage to the stem and the bowl looked identical as well.When I removed the stem I was not surprised to find that the mortise and the airways in the shank and stem had also never been cleaned. But even more surprising was the fact that the stem and shank were made for a 9mm filter and the pipe had been smoked sans filter to the point that the airway in both were almost closed off with the gunk (technical term for the black, oily, tarry stuff that filled the stem and shank). The next series of three photos show the clogged condition of the airways and mortise. I am amazed that the pipe man was able to load any tobacco in the bowl and draw any smoke through the pipe. I decided to rid the pipe of the smell that permeated my work space when I had the pipe on the worktable. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean out the interior of both. I used a dental spatula to scrape the walls of the shank and the filter tenon. It took a lot of pipe cleaners to remove all of the buildup but once it was clean the pipe smell better and would be easier to work on. I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer. I started reaming it with the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to the cutting head that fit the diameter of the bowl. I touched up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife.I scraped off the thick lava coat on the rim top using a pen knife. I was able to remove all of it. There was still some rim darkening but I figured that it would also come of the rim. I scrubbed the rim top with saliva and cotton pads.I polished the rim of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I started by wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads until all of the darkening and remnants of lava on the rim. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads until the rim was shining. I wiped it down with a damp cotton pad after each micromesh sanding pad to remove the grime that came free. The rim began to look almost new again. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a soft cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I sanded the top and underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the edges of the damaged area on the top side of the stem and button and on the underside where there was a deep tooth mark and lots of tooth damage. I roughened the surface of the stem to give the glue and charcoal powder something to bite into and hold.I filled in the deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem with black super glue. The damaged area was not too large so the black super glue alone would work on this part of the stem. Once the repair had dried I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and sanded out the repair to blend it into the surface of the underside of the stem.I greased a pipe fluffy pipe cleaner with Vaseline and flattened it to insert into the slot in the stem. I wanted to keep the airway open when I applied the repair material. I mixed some activated charcoal powder with black super glue to make a thick paste and applied it to the top of the stem with a dental spatula. I flattened it with the spatula and built it up heavier on the top of the button than on the flat portion of the stem. The repair dries fairly quickly to touch but I like to let it sit and cure for several days to make sure that the very centre of the patch is hardened.After the repair had cured I used a small flat bladed needle fill to recut the button and smooth out the repaired area on the stem. Once I had flattened out the repair there were some air bubbles in the patch that needed to be touched up. I filled in the air bubbles with clear super glue.When the repair had dried I used a knife blade and a round needle file to open and reshape the slot in the button.I sanded the repaired area with 200 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair and blend it into the rest of the stem. I reshaped the button with the sandpaper at the same time so that it was the same all the way across the stem and on the top and underside of it.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the repaired area in front of the button on both sides of the stem and the button surface itself with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding 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 sanding pad. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl with a soft cloth to polish away the remaining Restoration Balm. I worked the pipe bowl over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I hand buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the stem and polished the metal stem adornment with a silver polishing cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I gave the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The medium brown stains on the apple/brandy shaped bowl works well with the rich black of the Lucite stem. The polish and the reworking of the stem material left this a beautiful and well-made pipe. Thanks for looking. I am recommending that the pipe man smoke this pipe with a softee bit in place to protect the repair. Once he has seen the repair I will install the softee bit on the stem. It should give some protection from his incessant chomping on the stem. If not the stem will face repeated repairs.

New Life for a Big Ben Select Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted six pipes that were in need for refurbishment be a friend on Smokers Forums. The first one that caught my fancy was this nice sandblasted Big Ben Bent Billiard. It had a silver band and a nice looking blast. The finish was rough but shape is classic. The bowl was dirty and the shank and stem were filled with tars and grime. The bowl is stamped on the underside of the shank – Big Ben Select under a B in a circle. The outside of the stem was oxidized but the B logo was still deeply stamped. There was also a slight tooth mark on the underside of the stem near the button. The button was very tight and small – so much so that a thin pipe cleaner was work to get through the slot. The rim edges were worn and rough but as it was a blast this would not be a problem to clean up. Over the stain coat was also a shiny varnish or lacquer coat that I always find to be a pain to remove and deal with in a pipe that is worn like this one. It was just the challenge I wanted to have a go at this weekend. The next series of three photos show the pipe as it appeared when I opened the box and took it out for the first time.

ImageImageImage

I decided to begin by reaming the bowl so I removed the stem so that I could hold the bowl solidly and used my T handle Pipnet reamer. The next series of three photos show the reamer and the pipe bowl as I worked on it. Once I was finished I dropped it my alcohol bath to soak. The fourth photo below shows the bath after I had dropped the pipe bowl in the soak. The alcohol appears dirty but it is darkened from earlier stains that I have removed. I have filtered the alcohol several times over the past months to remove sediment and particulates that were in the mix. The alcohol works exceptionally well and I have found that the darkened stain in it adds a nice aged patina to the briar. The fifth photo shows the stem ready to go into the OxyClean bath. I dropped it in the bath and it immediately darkened the wash. I took it out and took a photo to show the before soaking look of the stem.

ImageImageImageImageImage

I left the bowl in the alcohol bath overnight and then this morning took it out and scrubbed it with a soft bristle tooth brush. I also picked out the paint that seemed to be in the grooves of the blast with my dental pick. I decided to also scrub the bowl with a brass bristle tire brush to get the paint flecks out of the briar. The next series of twelve photos shows the process I have described above. The first three photos show the bowl wet from the bath and the tooth brush off to the side that I use to scrub the sandblast. I rinsed the bowl off with alcohol from the bath and then dried it with a cotton cloth. The next two photos show the bowl with the brass tire brush. Once the surface had dried I scrubbed with the tire brush to remove the grime from the grooves in the briar. The final seven photos show the bowl as I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remaining finish and top coat of varnish or lacquer. I wanted the briar very clean before I restained it.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

After getting the outside of the bowl cleaned and ready to stain I worked on the inside of the bowl and the shank. The shank was interesting in that it had two stepped down portions. First there was the mortise area where the tenon rested. This was followed by an area that further stepped down to receive the inner tube style stinger in the end of the tenon. Finally there was the area of the airway into the bowl bottom. The step down drilling of the shank made this an interesting airway to clean out. I used isopropyl alcohol and some Everclear to scrub out each step down successively. I began with the mortise area that held the tenon. To clean this I used qtips or cotton swabs dipped in alcohol. I scrubbed that area until the swabs came out clean. I then proceeded to clean the next stepped down area where the inner tube sat. I used cotton swabs on this as well and pressed them against the opening and twisted them into that part of the airway. Again I used the alcohol and kept working on it until the swabs were clean. The final part of the airway I used a shank brush and alcohol followed by fluffy pipe cleaners until that area was also clean. The next series of three photos show the process and the dirty cotton swabs at the top of the photos.

ImageImage

After cleaning out the shank and wiping down the inside of the bowl I cleaned the stem. This was more of a pain than normal due to the constriction of the button and slot. A thin pipe cleaner would not fit into the stem from the button end. So I had to slowly move it into the stem from the inner tube end. I also was able to flatten the pipe clean and work it into the stem. It got most of the gunk out of the stem. The next two photos show the pipe after this cleaning. The stem button would need to be opened in order to give it a more thorough cleaning.

ImageImage

The next series of nine photos show the restaining of the pipe. I used a dark brown aniline stain that I have thinned down 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. It does a good job of coverage on the briar but also allows some depth the staining. I like the look and effect of it on sandblasted briar. I applied the stain with a dauber and then flamed it with a lit match. I reapplied and reflamed the pipe several times to get a good solid coverage of stain.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Once the stain was flamed and dry I took it to my buffer and buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to remove some of the high spots and give it a shine. The first three photos below show the polished and buffed pipe. It was still a bit dark to my liking so I took it back to my work table and wiped it down with some isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove some of the top stain and give me a bit brighter and lighter finish. The next three photos show the bowl after it had been wiped down with the alcohol. It was exactly the colour I was aiming for so I set it aside to work on the stem.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

I decided to open up the slot in the button to make it easier to clean the stem. The first photo below shows the slot before I started working on it. It was very tight and hard to get a pipe cleaner down the stem. I used several different needle files to open the slot. I took material off the top and bottom of the slot with the needle files and also cut the slot into more of a Y shape as I worked on it. The next four photos show the progress of the opening of the slot with the files. The final photo of the four shows the set of files that I use for the work. I took the photo with the stem on top of the package to give a bit of an idea of the size of the files. I finished the slot with a folded piece of sandpaper and worked it until it was smooth. I then recleaned the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol until they came out clean.

ImageImageImageImageImage

After reworking the slot in the button I worked on removing the oxidation from the stem. I sanded the stem with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks from the underside of the stem and also remove the softened oxidation. I also used a fine grit sanding sponge to remove scratches and marks to the stem. The two photos below show the stem after I had wet sanded the stem with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh pads. I then used some Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 polish and scrubbed the stem with a cotton pad. In the photos below the pad is in the lower part of the photos. I progressively sanded the stem with the remaining grits of micromesh – 2400-12,000 grit. I dry sanded with these until the stem shone. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it in and then reworked the logo on the stem. I used some liquid paper in a correcting pen. I applied it heavily to the stamped area and then rubbed it off and sanded it with 4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the excess. I repeated the process until I had good coverage on the stamping. The third and fourth pictures below show the refinished stamping on the stem. I finished working on the stem by giving it another coat of Obsidian Oil followed by multiple coats of carnauba wax.

ImageImageImageImage

I used a jeweler’s cloth to polish the silver band and then took the pipe to my buffer and gave the bowl a buff with White Diamond. I took it back to the work table and gave it a coat of Halcyon II wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush. The final series of four photos show the finished pipe.

ImageImageImageImage