Tag Archives: Bowl – refinishing

Restoring Pipe #15 from Bob Kerr’s Estate – A Dunhill Root Briar 51021 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

With this Dunhill Root Briar my ongoing work on Bob Kerr’s is taking a turn to the smooth finished pipes in the collection. This is the first of the smooth pipes in his Dunhill Collection. I am cleaning them for the family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection along with the Dunhills are a good bevy of Petersons, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting.

I sorted the pipes into groups of the various brands and had a box of 25 different Dunhill pipes in different shapes, styles and sizes. I decided to work on the Dunhills first. It was a great chance to see the shape variety up close and personal. The photo below shows the box of Dunhill pipes.With the completion of the restoration on this one there are only 11 more Dunhills of the original 25 left to work on – all smooth finished pipes in a variety of shapes. I went through the box of the remaining smooth Dunhills shown above and chose the 15th and first smooth finish pipe to work on – a smooth Root Briar Bent Billiard. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the shape number 51021 followed by Dunhill over Root Briar. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Made in England 21 which tells me it is made in 1982. The 5 digit stamping gives a lot of pertinent information about the pipe. The first digit, 5 says that the size of the pipe is a Group 5. The second digit 1 identifies the pipe as having a tapered stem. The 02 identifies it as a bent pipe and the final 1 says it is a billiard. The bent round shank flows into a tapered stem that is oxidized and has tooth marks and chatter near the button. There is some calcification on the first inch of the stem ahead of the button and there is some light damage to the top of the button. The smooth Root Briar finish is dirty but like the other pipes in Bob’s collection there is something quite beautiful about the cross grain on the pipe. The bowl had a thick cake and thick lava overflow on the rim top. The bowl appears to be a little out of round with slight damage on the front inner edge of the rim. After cleaning I will know more. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Root Briar Bent Billiard had some damage on the inner edge of the bowl toward the front as can be seen in the photo. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and the lava on the rim top was also thick. You can see the cake and tobacco in the bowl. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank. Part of the stamping was very sharp and readable and other parts were fainter and needed bright light.Since this is the 15th pipe from Bob’s estate I am sure you have read at least some of the other restoration work that has been done on the 14 previous pipes. You have also read what I have included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them. Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words. Once again I thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!

I have included one of Bob’s wood carvings to give you an idea of what he daughter wrote about above. You can see his artistry in the carving that is patterned after British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations people. To me this is a sea otter but perhaps a reader may enlighten us.

Having already worked on 15 other pipes from Bob’s estate I think I understood how he used and viewed his pipes. I am just starting my work on the smooth finished pipes with this Root Briar. I had learned to tell which pipes were his favoured ones and which were his work horses. He really loved his billiards. I could get a sense of the ones that accompanied him into his carving shop. I think this would have been one of his resting pipes – not a shop pipe. In many ways it was as if he was standing over my shoulder while I cleaned up his pipes.

With that in mind I turned to work on the 15th pipe. I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris of tobacco shards that still remained. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps bring the inner edges back to round. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat in the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and some worn 220 grit sandpaper and a 1500 grit micromesh pad to work on the rim top and remove the buildup there. I worked over the damaged inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper to bring the bowl back to round and remove the damage. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Each successive pad brought more shine to the rim top. I wiped the rim down with a damp cotton pad after each sanding pad. I used an Oak coloured stain pen to blend the polished rim top into the rest of the briar. The oak colour was a perfect match for the colour of the bowl.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to break away the tarry buildup on the walls of the shank. (Sometimes I use a pen knife and sometimes a dental spatula depending on the diameter of the mortise.) I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. It was very dirty in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I cleaned off the stem with a light sanding to remove the oxidation near the tooth marks. I filled in the deep tooth marks on the topside next to the button and the one on the underside as well with black super glue and set the stem aside so the glue could cure.When the repair had cured I used a needle file to redefine the sharp edge of the button and flatten out the patches. I sanded the repaired areas to blend them into the surface of the stem. I also sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation and calcification. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end.  I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The cross grain and birdseye grain that show up in the polished bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Dunhill Root Briar 51021 Bent Billiard will soon heading off to India to join Paresh’s rotation. It really has that classic Dunhill Bent Billiard look that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 15th Dunhill Briar from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the estate. With this one I have begun my work on the smooth Dunhill Pipes. What will follow is 10 more smooth finished Dunhills – Root Briar, Bruyere etc. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.

Advertisements

Refurbishing my Inherited Large “Soren” Pickaxe Freehand


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

It’s been two months since I had worked on a free hand pipe that was made in Denmark, the last being a “Soren” sitter. The next pipe that I decided to work on from my grandfather’s collection is again a “SOREN”, but this pipe is a monster sized Pick Axe with a humongous bowl!!

The large pick axe stummel has a combination of smooth and rusticated surface covering the bowl. The cascading water flow like hand carved rustication extends from the front left side of the bowl to the back while the smooth surface covers most of the front and complete right side of the bowl. Beautiful swirls of grains can be seen on the smooth surface interspersed with flame grains extending upwards from half way of the front of the bowl. The plateau shank end is flared towards the shank end and boasts of lovely flame grains on the right side of the shank. The flared shank end bears the only stamping seen on this pipe. It is stamped as “Soren”, name of the carver in script hand over “HAND-CARVED” over “MADE IN DENMARK” in block capital letters. The fancy vulcanite stem is devoid of any stampings.

While working on my Soren sitter free hand, I had referred to pipedia.com for information on this famous pipe carver from Denmark. I reproduce the information available on pipedia.com for a quick read.

 “Søren Refbjerg Rasmussen founded a company in 1969, which employed an average of 8 – 12 craftsmen in the 1970’s. The semi-freehands they produced were traded under his prename Søren. Rasmussen himself finished only the very best pipes. So his way of pipemaking closely resembled the ways of Preben Holm, Karl Erik Ottendahl or Erik Nørding. Altogether more than 1,000,000 pipes were sold.

Today he works alone as Refbjerg and manufactures only a small number of pipes in his workshop in DK-2860 Søborg, which are considered to be tremendously precisely executed. The dimensions mostly range from small to medium sized, corresponding to his personal preferences. The shapes adhere to the classical models, but often he gives them a touch of Danish flair. Refbjerg accepts minor faults but never uses any fillings. “Straight Grain” is the only grading, used for his very best pieces. He likes stem decorations made of exotic woods or metal rings.

As Rainer Barbi once stated “Refbjerg uses only briar from Corsica and more than that, he’s the one and only to import it from there, at least in Europe. He’s supplier to the vast majority of the Danish makers”.

From the above, it can be safely assumed that this pipe was made in the 1970’s as it bears the stamp of the carver’s prename “Soren”!!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
There is a thick layer of cake in the bowl. The external surface of the stummel feels solid to the touch and I think there are no issues with the condition of the chamber. However, there are always surprises when you least expect them!!! I have learnt my lessons!!! Thus, condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained once the chamber has been reamed and the cake is taken back to the bare briar. There is a strong sweet smell of tobacco which may reduce once the cake has been reamed out and chamber has been cleaned with isopropyl alcohol.The plateau rim top and shank end is covered in the overflow of lava, dirt and grime. This will have to be cleaned. The condition of the inner edge will be determined only after removing the cake. The air way in the shank is clogged with oils and tars and will require a thorough cleaning. The stummel is covered in a thick layer of dust, dirt, oils and grime. The stummel looks dull and lackluster. The grains on the smooth surface and the sandblast rustications are all covered in tars, oils and grime. To be able to appreciate these grains and rustications, the stummel will have to be cleaned. However, there is not a single fill to be seen on this large briar estate. A few minor dents and dings are seen on the stummel surface, a result of uncared for storage over a prolonged period. This issue can be sorted out by sanding the stummel surface with a sand paper, followed by micromesh sanding and polishing. The fancy quarter bent vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and two deep bite marks can be seen on the lower surface of the stem. The lips on both upper and lower surface show significant damage due to bite marks and are out of shape. I hope to address these issues by simple heating of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter. The air way in the stem appears to be clogged and the air flow is laborious to say the least. This will be addressed by thorough internal stem cleaning with pipe cleaners and alcohol. There is calcification seen on either surface about an inch from the button end. The bottom of lip edge shows significant deposition of dirt and oxidation. This will have to be cleaned.THE PROCESS
I started this project by reaming the chamber with size 2 and followed it up to size 4 head of PipNet reamer. I used a 220 grit sand paper, pinched between my thumb and forefinger, to sand the inner walls of the chamber of the pipe. Once I had reached the bare briar, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This removed all the residual carbon dust but this time not the ghost smells. This cleaning revealed the first (and pray it to be the last!!) surprise. There are a few very thin webs of line seen along the front and left side of the chamber walls and one slightly larger gash on the left side. This gash is highlighted in a red circle. I shall address this issue at the end of the restoration by coating the walls with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. This coating will aid in quicker formation of a fresh cake.I followed up the reaming by cleaning the mortise and air way of the pipe using hard bristled, regular pipe cleaners and q-tips dipped in alcohol. The mortise and the draught hole was so chock-a- block with all the dried tars, oils and gunk that I had to use my fabricated spatula to scrape out all the muck from the mortise and the draught hole!!!! I gave a final clean with shank brushes dipped in alcohol and dried the mortise with a rolled paper napkin. The shank internals and the draught hole are now nice and clean with an open and full draw. The issue of sweet smells of old tobacco was also reduced to a very large extent.I cleaned out the internals of the stem using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. I scraped the dried oils and tars from the tenon with the sharp edge of my fabricated dental spatula. The deep bite marks on the stem and lip edges were flamed with the flame of a Bic lighter.  This helps to raise the bite marks to the surface. However, this did not work. From my experience, I have learnt that getting rid of the oxidation from and around the surface to be filled helps in subsequent better blending of the fill with the stem surface. With a folded piece of used 150 grit sand paper, I sand the area that is required to be filled. I cleaned the sanded portion of the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol and spot filled the damaged area with a mixture of activated charcoal and clear superglue. I set the stem aside for the fill to cure. Now, it was the turn of the stummel of the pipe to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. Special attention was paid to scrub out all the dirt and dust from the crevices in the rustication on the sides and front of the stummel as well as the plateau rim top and shank end. I was surprised to note that while rinsing the pipe under tap water, the water ran a bright orange color. Residual orange color can be seen on the stummel, probably due to a coating of shellac!!! I do not like it and will have to get rid of it, period. The stummel, plateau shank end and rim top were dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. The cleaning of the stummel revealed the second surprise!! There was a sticky and soft spot present in the rusticated portion on the stummel; this has been marked in a red circle below. When I scrubbed the stummel, it was revealed that this fill had gone soft. I dug out the old and soft fill with my fabricated sharp knife. The alignment of this fill roughly matched with that of the larger gash observed on the left side of the chamber wall. I discussed this issue with my guru, Mr. Steve, after he had seen the pictures of the damage. It was decided that the fill would be refreshed and the inner walls of the chamber should be coated with a layer of activated charcoal and yogurt. There were three other very minor fills; two on the shank end and one in the rusticated portion of the stummel at the back of the bowl. These have been circled in red. Before progressing ahead with any further restoration, I decided to address the issues of “fills” in the stummel!!!!! I completely removed the old fills using a sharp, pointed and thin fabricated knife. I press a little briar dust and realizing what a precious commodity it is, I was very careful not to waste even a microgram. I packed it in to the gouges on the stummel, pressing it tightly with the back of a toothpick and spot applied CA superglue over it with the pointed end of the toothpick. I spot filled the shank end fills with only CA superglue as they were not large and deep. With this, I set the stummel aside for the fresh fills to cure.After the fills had cured, I sand these fills using a flat head and a round needle file to achieve a rough match with the surrounding surface. With a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand the fills in the rusticated portion to match it with the worm trails in the rustication. I wiped the entire stummel with a cotton swab soaked in acetone to remove the coating of shellac, but without the expected results. The stummel still has that orange coloration. I further sand the entire smooth surface of the stummel with a piece of folded 150, 220, 440, 600 and 1000 grit sand paper to perfectly match the fills with the rest of the stummel surface and also to achieve my aim of completely removing the shellac coating, but the coloration still persists. Hopefully, remnants of the shellac coat will be addressed during the micromesh sanding and polishing process. This use of sand paper, however, addressed all issues of the dents and dings from the stummel surface!! I wanted to remove the coating of shellac while highlighting the grains seen on the smooth portion of the stummel. To achieve this aim, I sand down the stummel using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stummel with a moist cloth to clean the surface of all the dust after wet sanding. The orange coloration on the stummel can be gauged by the color of my hand. I was still not happy with the results of the micromesh sanding. Using a dark brown stain pen, I darkened the worm trails in an attempt highlight and add contrast against the raised portions in the rustication. I was not satisfied with the way the pipe looked at this stage. It was still “loud” and appeared gaudy. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar and let it rest for a few minutes. I took some extra efforts to work the balm in to the hand carved rustications on the bowl. I hand buffed it with a horse hair brush to a deep shine. I had assumed that this would help improve the look of the stummel. Alas!! That was not to be the result. The bowl still appeared ugly and definitely did not measure up to my standards. I was lost for ideas when I shared pictures of the stummel with my guru, Mr. Steve. This is what he saw. In his characteristic style, Mr. Steve suggested that “I would first get rid of the dark stain in the worm trails by wiping the entire stummel and then re-staining it”. This is exactly what I did. I wiped the stummel with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol and removed all the stain. Mr. Steve had sent me sachets of easy-to-use stain powder which just needed to be mixed in isopropyl alcohol and applied to the stummel surface. I chose the Walnut stain. Since this was the first time that I would be using a stain, I was a bit apprehensive. I mixed a little quantity of the stain powder and mixed it with a little quantity of 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol to a liquid consistency. I have purposely not mentioned any specific quantity of each as I had mixed the two just by relying on feel and visual confirmation. I was fortunate that I got the mix spot on in the first attempt. There is a lot of leeway in this process in that if the stain appears too dark after application, desired transparency could be achieved by wiping the stummel with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol!!!! I folded a pipe cleaner and evenly applied the stain over the complete stummel, plateau rim and shank end. This was followed by burning excess of alcohol with the flame of a Bic lighter. This also helps the stain to set on the stummel surface. Just a word of caution to all first timers like me, please wear either plastic or latex rubber gloves if you wish to avoid the struggle of removing the stains from your hands later!!! I wiped the stummel surface with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol as the stain was slightly darker and unevenly applied than I would have liked. This helped in bringing more transparency and evenness in the stain application. Once the stain had set, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my local machine which is similar to a Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to stummel of the pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with another clean cotton cloth buffing wheel to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax over the stummel. I finished by giving the stummel a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The grains on the stummel now look beautiful and peek through the stain. I shared the pictures of the stummel with Mr. Steve who appreciated the look of the stummel at this stage. With the stummel nice and clean and attractive, I worked the stem of the pipe. The fill on the stem had cured nicely and I sand it down with a flat head needle file. I sharpened the lip edges using a needle file and sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 800 and 1000 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper, while this process eliminated the deep oxidation seen on the vulcanite stem of the pipe. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The pictures of the process and final results are shown below. The only issue remaining to be addressed, before I could proceed with the final polish, was the deeper gash seen in the walls of the chamber. I mixed activated charcoal and yogurt to a consistency which would enable an even spread and applied it on the inner walls of the chamber and set it aside to cure it overnight.To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my local machine which is similar to a Dremel. I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to stummel of the pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax over the stummel and the stem. I finished the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe, with the dark brown hues of the stummel contrasting with the shiny black stem, looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. The beauty, size and shape of this pipe make it one of my favorite and will find a place of pride in my modest collection. If only the pipe could tell some of the stories and incidents that it has witnessed while my grand old man puffed away.…………… Cheers!!! PS: The oversized and shape of the stummel coupled with an equally proportionately long stem, posed a challenge while taking pictures of the complete finished pipe!!!! This is one of the many areas where I need to make a lot of progress. If I am unable to capture the beauty of the finished pipe and present it in an attractive manner, I feel my efforts are in vain.

 

A Fresh Lease on Life For a Tired Looking “Count”!


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

A few months back I had restored two Kriswill pipes from my grandfather’s collection; a “CHIEF” and a “GOLDEN CLIPPER”. Both these pipes were a big challenge to restore and took considerable time and effort. However, the end results on both these pipes were highly satisfying!! To those interested in reading the write up on both these pipes, here are the links; https://rebornpipes.com/2018/08/04/breathing-new-life-into-a-kriswill-chief-20/

https://rebornpipes.com/2018/08/11/restoring-a-kriswill-golden-clipper/

This is the third Kriswill from my grandfather’s collection, a sandblasted KRISWILL “COUNT” in an impressive Oom Paul shape. The sandblast follows the beautiful grain pattern on the stummel surface and on the steeply raking shank, save for the smooth portion on the left side of the shank which bears the only stamping visible on the pipe and is stamped as “KRISWILL” over “COUNT” over “HANDMADE IN DENMARK”. This smooth surface extends to the shank end and forms a smooth ring all around. When polished and revitalized, this ring will contrast beautifully against the glossy black of the vulcanite stem. The full bent vulcanite stem is devoid of any stamping.

While working on the Kriswill Chief and Golden Clipper, I had researched the brand and detailed information can be referred to on the links provided above.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
Age definitely shows on the stummel surface!!! The briar is dull and lifeless and has taken on a layer of aged patina, through which one can make out the beautiful sandblast patterns all around which follow the grains. There is a slight overflow of lava on to the stummel surface. A thorough cleaning of the stummel followed by polish will accentuate the sandblast pattern on the stummel. There is an uneven buildup of cake in the chamber with a thicker layer seen at the bottom half of the chamber. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained only after the cake has been removed completely and taken down to bare briar. The bowl feels robust and solid to the touch from the outside. This issue should be a breeze to address.The rim top has darkened on the due to a slight overflow of lava. This can be seen in pictures above. The condition of the inner and outer edge and rim top is pristine. The shank end of the pipe is clean. However, the mortise does show signs of accumulated dried oils, tars and remnants of ash, greatly restricting the air flow.The vulcanite stem has tooth indentations and minor tooth chatter on the upper and lower surface. It is heavily oxidized. The air flow through the stems is laborious to say the least. The fit of the stem in to the mortise is very loose, which will loosen further after the mortise and tenon have been cleaned. These issues will need to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I started this project by reaming the chamber with size 2 and followed it up with size 3 head of PipNet reamer. I used a 220 grit sand paper, pinched between my thumb and forefinger, to sand the inner walls of the chamber of the pipe. Once I had reached the bare briar, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This removed all the residual carbon dust and also rid the chamber of all ghost smells. The walls of the chamber are nice and solid with no signs of heat fissures or cracks. I followed up the reaming by cleaning the mortise and air way of the pipe using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips dipped in alcohol. The mortise and the draught hole were given a final clean with shank brushes dipped in alcohol. I dried the mortise with a rolled paper napkin. The shank internals and the draught hole are now nice and clean with an open and full draw.I cleaned out the internals of the stem using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. I scraped the dried oils and tars from the tenon with the sharp edge of my fabricated dental spatula. The deep bite marks on the stem were flamed using a Bic lighter. However, this did not work. From my experience, I have learnt that getting rid of the oxidation from and around the surface to be filled helps in subsequent better blending of the fill with the stem surface. With a folded piece of used 150 grit sand paper, I sand the area that is required to be filled. I cleaned the sanded portion of the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol and spot filled the damaged area with a mixture of activated charcoal and clear superglue. I set the stem aside for the fill to cure.Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. Special attention was paid to scrub out all the dirt and dust from the crevices in the sandblast on the stummel and shank. I cleaned the plateau rim and shank end too. The stummel, plateau shank end and rim top were dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. I took some extra efforts to work the balm in to the sandblast finish of the bowl. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. With the stummel nice and clean and attractive, I worked the stem of the “COUNT”. I sharpened the lip edges using a needle file and sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 800 and 1000 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. By mere sanding itself, the minor tooth marks seen on stem surfaces were completely addressed. This process also eliminated the deep oxidation seen on the vulcanite stem. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The pictures of the process and final results are shown below. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my local machine which is similar to a Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to each of the three pipes. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax over the stummel and the stem. I finished the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe, with the dark brown hues of the sandblast stummel contrasting with the shiny black stem, looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. If only the pipe could tell some of my grand Old man’s stories and recount incidents witnessed while being smoked.…………… Cheers!!

Restoring a Second Savinelli Autograph 3 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

It is the last day of my Christmas/New Year holidays. Tomorrow I go back to work so I am taking some time today to work on more pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am taking another break from the Bob Kerr estates since I have already finished 14 of them. They are piled in boxes around my basement shop and need to look at something different from the Dunhills of his estate. Though this picture is not from today the posture today remains the same, I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. He has seriously enjoyed having me at home with him the past two weeks. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have figured out from the title I am working on another pipe from Italy. This is the second Savinelli Autograph 3 (the second pipe down in the photo below). It reads Savinelli over Autograph on the left side of the shank. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Italy. The underside shank is sandblasted while the rest of the pipe is smooth. The vulcante stem is stamped with the autograph. The pipe came to me in a lot of five pipes that I bought from a pipeman in Florida. The other pipes in the lot were the two Mastro de Paja that I have worked on already, these two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the second Autograph next as it was different from the last run of straight billiards that I have been working on these past weeks. I had the fellow in Florida send the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho for the cleanup work. He does a great job and expedites my restoration process a lot. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. Like his other pipes this second Savinelli Autograph 3 pipe must also have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. The Florida pipeman had laid aside his pipe some 15-20 years earlier and it had been in storage. It was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the amazing grain shone through. Jeff included photos of the side and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like. The last photo shows the sandblast finish on the bottom of the bowl and shank. Jeff also included some photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The stamping on the left side of the shank was quite clear though the 3 stamp was fainter. The stamping on the right side – Italy was readable but quite faint.The vulcanite stem was in excellent condition. It was made for the Savinelli Balsa filter system or for their 9mm filter. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.The Autograph stamp on the left side of the taper stem was in pretty decent condition.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. There were just a few nicks and scratches to deal with. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that this stem is also a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter or for a Savinelli Balsa Filter system. I found photos of the system online and have included them here. If you choose not to use a filter there is an adapter that can be purchased to fill in the tenon in place of the filter. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top will take some work to take care of the damage. There is some rim darkening along the beveled inner edge and on the top of the bowl. There were also nicks and scratches on the smooth surface of the rim top. The stem was oxidized and there were tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I have included the information I included on the previous Autograph blog so that you can do a quick review on this line of Savinelli pipes.

I turned first to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-savinelli1.html) to get a brief overview of the Autograph line. There I found out that the Autographs were hand made and unique. The Autograph Grading system is ascending: 3, 4, … 8, 0, 00, 000.

I turned then to Pipedia to get a more background on the Autograph line. I had the outline I needed from pipephil for the pipe but wanted more (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Savinelli). I quote in part from the article on that site.

While Savinelli’s serially produced pipes account for around 98% of annual production, the marque also creates a number of artisanal, handmade pieces as well. The Autographs, the Creativity line, and the Mr. A. line are all the result of Savinelli’s unique handmade process, with the Autographs reflecting the larger Freehand aesthetic, the Creativity line delving into more complex hand carving, and the Mr. A. line sidestepping the standard shape chart for remarkable and unusual pipes.

All of the briar for Savinelli’s Autographs and other freehand pipes is sourced specifically for those pieces. While the majority of the marque’s serial production is made from extra grade ebauchon blocks, Savinelli keeps a separate supply of Extra Extra plateau blocks for Freehands. This variety of briar is much larger, and of a higher quality, which explains why so many Autographs and Savinelli handmades are naturally larger designs.

These handmade pieces are shaped much like traditional Danish Freehands: they are shaped first and drilled second. Using this method, Savinelli’s team of artisans is able to showcase their own creativity, as it maximizes flexibility and facilitates a more grain-centric approach to shaping. The resulting Freehand designs are at once both a departure from the marque’s classical standard shapes, yet very much still “Savinelli” in their nature—i.e. proportioned so that the bowl is the visual focus when viewed from the profile, juxtaposed by the comparatively trim lines of the shank and stem. To provide a little more insight into the differences between Savinelli’s standard production and freehand lines, Luisa Bozzetti comments:

“When we choose to make Freehand pipes we must stop production on the standard shapes. The process for Freehands is much more involved and takes much more time. Finding the best people from the production line and pulling them to make Freehands is challenging since it’s not an assembly line, but rather a one or two man operation.

 After the rough shaping of the stummel, we must get together and brainstorm which style of stem will be paired before the pipe can be finished since we do not use pre-shaped stems. All accents and stems for the Freehands are cut from rod here in the factory. A lot of care goes into the few pieces lucky enough to make the cut; to end up with a certain number of Autographs, for instance, means that many, many more will be made, and only the few will be selected.”

The quality control process for Savinelli handmades is even more rigorous than that employed in the standard lineup. Many blocks are started and later discarded because of pits or defects. While Savinelli’s briar sourcing is a constant process, working with some of Italy’s top cutters to ensure only the finest and most suitable blocks make their way to the factory, it’s impossible to source plateau briar that’s completely free from flaws. That’s just nature. Savinelli creates the standard for quality by working through the rough (a very high-quality rough, mind you) to find that shining diamond with the potential to become a Savinelli handmade.

It looks like the Autograph 3 I am working is pretty high in the hierarchy of the line. This Autograph is more typical of the ones that I have worked on in the past though it does not have the unique twist to the vulcanite stem. The pipe is a nice straight grain all around the bowl sides with birdseye on the top of the rim. The bottom of the shank is sandblasted and looks very good in that location.

Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the damage to the rim top and inner edge. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening and the damage to the rim surface. The rim really needed to have the damaged areas smoothed out and blended into the rest of the briar. I polished the freshly sanded rim top and the rest of the briar with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and to try to lighten the finish a bit – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad to remove the sanding dust and get a sense of the how the finish was developing. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I kept it clear of building up in the twin groove around the bowl below the bowl cap. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I used an Oak stain pen to blend the colour of the rim top to match the rest of the bowl. I rubbed it down with some of the Restoration Balm to even out the finish.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and worked on removing the oxidation on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I carefully avoided sanding the autograph stamp on the left side of the stem.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end and around the stamping on the left side of the shank.I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. I touched up the stamping on the stem side using a white out pen. I let it dry and buffed it off with a micromesh sanding pad. The photos tell the story. The stamping is still visible with some places that are quite weak. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the Lucite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful dark and medium browns of the briar with the polished black vulcanite Savinelli Balsa Filter system stem is quite stunning. The mix of straight grain and flame grain around the bowl and shank combined with the birdseye on the rim is quite remarkable. This is another beautiful pipe that is for sure. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. I have restored quite a few Autographs over the years and this estate is another rare beauty. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.  

Restoring the 13th Pipe from Bob Kerr’s Estate – A Dunhill Tanshell FE F/T Prince


Blog by Steve Laug

In my ongoing work on Bob Kerr’s Estate I feel like I am finally making a dent. I am working my way through the Dunhills in his collection – the Shell and Tanshell pipes. I am cleaning them for the family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection along with the Dunhills are a good bevy of Petersons, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting. I sorted the pipes into groups of the various brands and had a box of 25 different Dunhill pipes in different shapes, styles and sizes. I decided to work on the Dunhills first. It was a great chance to see the shape variety up close and personal. The photo below shows the box of Dunhill pipes.

I am making progress on the 25 Dunhills with only 12 more to go. I went through the box of Dunhills shown above and chose the 13th sandblast pipe to work on – it is another Group 4 but this time a Tanshell Prince. It is stamped on the underside of the bowl heel and the shank with the following information. The letters FE F/T which make this a Prince shape with a Fantail stem are followed by Dunhill over Tanshell. Next to that it is stamped Made in England 7 – which dates it as being made in 1968. That is followed by a Circle 4T – Group 4 size Tan Shell. The round shank flows into a tapered fishtail stem that is oxidized and has tooth marks and chatter near the button. There is some calcification on the first inch of the stem ahead of the button and there is some light damage to the top of the button. The Tanshell finish is dirty but nonetheless there is something quite beautiful about the pipe. There is grime and tars filling in much of the craggy finish. The bowl had a thick cake and some lava overflowed on the rim top. There appears to be a little damage on the front inner edge of the rim but after cleaning I will know more. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Tanshell Prince was in decent shape all things considered. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and the lava on the rim top was also very present. You can see the cake and tobacco in the bowl. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the bowl and shank. It was very weak but still readable under bright light with a lens.I removed the stem and was surprised to find that a repairman had replaced an obviously broken tenon with a white nylon/Teflon tenon. It fit perfectly but was a surprise nonetheless.I am sure if you have read the restoration work on the previous pipes you have already read what I included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them. Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words. Thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!

I have included one of Bob’s wood carvings to give you an idea of what he daughter wrote about above. You can see his artistry in the carving that is patterned after British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations people. To me this is a sea otter but perhaps a reader may enlighten us.Having already worked on 12 other pipes from Bob’s estate I had a pretty well knew how he used and viewed his pipes. I am coming to the end of the Shell and Tanshell pipes (1 more Shell Briar billiard to go). I had learned to tell which pipes were his favoured ones and which were his work horses. I could get a sense of the ones that accompanied him into his carving shop. In many ways it was as if he was standing over my shoulder while I cleaned up his pipes. This particular pipe was tired but the cake and lava on the rim should have been more. With the stem off and seeing that it was a repair pipe I could understand why. This one would have been an earlier repair than the billiard I just finished.With that in mind I turned to work on the 13th of his pipes. I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris of tobacco shards that still remained. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps bring the inner edges back to round. With the bowl reamed it was time to work on the rim top and remove the thick lava coat in the blast of the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and a brass bristle tire brush to work on the rim top and remove the buildup there. It also worked to minimize the rim damage a bit.With the bowl reamed and rim top cleaned I scrubbed the sandblast finish. This is pretty much my process in cleaning either sandblast or rusticated finishes. I scrubbed it with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the grooves and canyons of the blast. I worked over the tarry lava overflow on the rim with the tooth brush and a brass brush. I rinsed the pipe under running water to remove the grime. I dried it off with a soft towel. The pictures below show the finish after scrubbing and rinsing. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the sandblast finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a horsehair shoe brush. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to break away the tarry buildup on the walls of the shank. I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. It was very dirty in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.   I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush after each coat of wax to raise the shine. The bowl looks really good at this point. The sandblast grain just shines and is showing all of the different layers of colour that make up a Dunhill Tanshell finish. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the majority of the marks and tooth chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation and calcification. I cleaned up the Teflon/Delrin white tenon as much as possible without changing the diameter.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end.  I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar, the nickel band and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of colours that show up in the sandblast of the Tanshell briar bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Tanshell FE F/T Prince will soon be heading to India to be enjoyed by the next pipeman who has taken on the trust of Bob’s pipes. It really has that classic Dunhill Prince shape that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ¼ inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 13th Dunhill and the 2nd Tanshell from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the estate. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.

Restoring a Handmade Estate Mastro de Paja Media 3B Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

It is the second day of the New Year 2019 and I am continuing to work on pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am continuing my break from the Bob Kerr estates that I have piled in boxes around my basement shop to work on another different pipe. I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have read in the title I am switching things up to work on an Italian pipe. It is a Mastro de Paja Fatta A Mano Chubby Shank Billiard (the third pipe down in the photo below). It reads that on the left side of the diamond shank. On the underside of the shank it is stamped Media with 3B in a circle that I am assuming is the grade stamp, there is also a P near the shank/stem union. Under that is a Sun stamp that is common the MP pipes. In the Sun stamp there is a tiny fill – the only one on the pipe. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Pesario (the city in Italy where it was made). On the underside of the saddle portion of the stem it is stamped with a Sun. There is an inset briar ring on the Lucite stem. The Mastro de Paja gold inset is on the top of the saddle stem. The pipe came to me in a lot of five pipes that I bought from a pipeman in Florida. The other pipes in the lot were the first Mastro de Paja I worked on already, two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the Mastro Billiard/Brandy next.I had the fellow in Florida send the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho for the cleanup work. He does a great job and expedites my restoration process a lot. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. This second Mastro de Paja pipe must also have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. The Florida pipeman had laid aside his pipe some 15-20 years earlier and it had been in storage. It was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the amazing grain shone through. Jeff included some photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like.The next photos try to capture the stamping around the sides of the shank. They read as I have noted above. The acrylic/Lucite stem was in excellent condition. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. There were just a few nicks and scratches to deal with. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top will take some work to take care of the damage. The stem will take very little to polish out the tooth chatter on both sides and give it a deep shine. I was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that the stem is a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter.I am including the information that I included in the previous Mastro de Paja blog.

I turned first to Pipedia to get a feel for the pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastro_de_Paja). I quote in part from the article on that site.

In 1972 Giancarlo Guidi, after having spent some time as a hobbyist in producing pipes, decided to officially found a production workshop called “Mastro de Paja”. Mastro: obviously as a master craftsman, De Paja: it derives from the name with which he was affectionately called by friends “Pajetta” because of his curly hair and translated into a dialectal expression “de Paja”.

Spadoni Giannino joins him shortly after that, at the time he was a salesman and among the products he sold there were also pipes. A professional wedding that turned out to be perfect immediately, in no time the new company “MASTRO DE PAJA di Guidi e Spadoni” immediately became one of the most respected manufacturers of pipes in Italy for the quality of production and lines that for those times were innovative, fascinating and even if coarse they immediately met the consent of enthusiasts and collectors.

Unfortunately, the professional marriage between Guidi and Spadoni, due to disagreements and different views on strategies, stopped in 1981. Guidi left the company to found a personal one. In Mastro de Paja which in the meantime became a real company with a production staff remained with Spadoni. Unfortunately, after a very short time, due to economic and financial problems that put the possibility of continuing the business at risk, Spadoni is forced to ask for help and finds it with the intervention of the Pesaro-based entrepreneur Terenzio Cecchini who, despite being burdened by his multiple industrial activities, sees in Mastro de Paja a valid expression of high craftsmanship and takes over as majority shareholder and acquires the position of director.

Soon after even Spadoni decides to leave (and create his own new company), Cecchini then puts his eyes on a very smart young man which he considered capable of giving new glaze to the Mastro de Paja which, meanwhile, inevitably presented some productive and commercial problems. That young man is called Alberto Montini and he started in his thirties his beautiful adventure in the pipes world… He was contacted by the surveyor Terenzio Cecchini at the time the only owner of the Mastro, to take care of it in every aspect, first as an employee, then as an administrator and later as a partner of Mastro de Paja and afterwards with the passing of Mr. Cecchini he became the sole owner.

Currently the Mastro produces about 2 thousand pipes a year with strictly artisan procedure, at the Mastro currently reigns a warm harmony, is a group of friends who strives to get the best. This also stems from the fact that pipes for Mastro de Paja are not to be considered as any other object to be produced and sold following cold strategies common to everyone in the business world, it’s completely different, it is necessary to love it, it is a style of being, a philosophy of life that can only be appreciated by a noble soul and not noble by title but by principles.

I read further in the article and found the following information on the stamping and the circle 3A stamp. I quote:

Mastro de Paja “ELITE COLLECTION” It is the production of pipes made entirely by hand, even they are unique but of regular production On all “Mastro de Paja” pipes you can see fire stamped all the informations for tracing the value of each creation.

 0B: Rusticated

1B: Sandblasted

CA: Castanea

2D: Half rusticated

3A: Brown and orange stain

3B: Natural

3C: Perfect grain

It looks like the 3B is pretty high in the hierarchy of the Mastro pipes, with just the 3C Perfect Grain ahead of it. It is described as having a Natural Finish. That pretty well describes the pipe I have in my hands today – it has darkened with use but the train is quite nice.

I turned to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m3.html) and added the following summary of information on the brand.

Brand founded in 1972 by Giancarlo Guidi. He left it for Ser Jacopo in 1982. Alberto Montini became the owner of the brand in 1995. Production (2010): ~ 5000 pipes / year. Seconds: Calibano, Montini

Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the fill on the bottom of the shank. It was solid and in the middle of the stamping so it would take a few tricks to make it disappear. I used a black Sharpie pen to touch up the fill area and viola it was much less visible! I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and to try to lighten the finish a bit – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad to remove the sanding dust and get a sense of the how the finish was developing. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I kept it clear of building up in the twin groove around the bowl below the bowl cap. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I wet sanded the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful browns and orange of the briar with the polished black vulcanite 9mm filter stem is quite stunning. The Mix of straight grain, flame and birdseye around the bowl and shank is quite remarkable. This is truly a beautiful pipe that is for sure. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is the second Mastro de Paja estate that I have worked on recently and it will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.  

Breathing Life into a Carlo Scotti Castello Sea Rock Briar SC31 ¼ Bent Canadian


Blog by Steve Laug

It is the second day of the New Year 2019 and I am continuing to work on pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am continuing my break from the Bob Kerr estates that I have piled in boxes around my basement shop to work on another different pipe. I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have figured out from the title I am continuing to work on Italian pipes. This is another one that I may have a hard time letting go of when I am finished. It is a Castello Sea Rock Briar. It is stamped on the smooth heel of the bowl and the shank bottom and reads Castello Sea Rock Briar. Next to that is stamped SC31 which I assume is the shape number. It is followed by Reg. No. 66171 No. That is followed by Made in Cantu over Italy with an oval containing the name Carlo Scotti next to the stem shank union. The Castello “diamond” inset is on the left side of the tapered stem. My brother Jeff picked this pipe up at an auction in Nampa, Idaho. It was in pretty filthy looking condition when he got it but still showed promise. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. The pipe must have been another terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. It was from an estate that was liquidating the belonging of a fellow in the area. In its condition it was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the photos give an idea of what Jeff saw before his cleanup revealed the condition of the pipe. The next photos show the side and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like.The next photos try to capture the stamping around the sides of the shank. They read as I have noted above. The acrylic/Lucite stem was in excellent condition. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The Castello “Diamond” on the left side of the shank is quite nice and undamaged. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the rusticated Sea Rock finish. The rusticated rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. It was a bit dull and some lava still in the deep crevices that I would need to deal with but nothing in comparison to what it looked like when Jeff got it. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top will take some work to take care of the damage. The stem will take very little to polish out the tooth chatter on both sides and give it a deep shine.It has been awhile since I had cleaned up a Castello and the Reg. No. and the Carlo Scotti stamp left me with some questions that I need to answer before I began to work on the pipe. I turned first to the Pipephil site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-castello.html) because of the general quick summary of information I get there. I quote:

Castello PIPA CASTELLO di Carlo Scotti & C. was founded in 1947 by Carlo Scotti († 1988). Franco Coppo (AKA “Kino”) who married Carlo Scotti’s daughter Savina, manages (2012) the corporate since 1985.

The site also gave a good summary of the grading and sizes of the pipes. I quote that in full.

Sizes (ascending):

1K to 4K, G (Giant) and GG (Extra large)

Rusticated grading: SEA ROCK, OLD SEA ROCK, NATURAL VIRGIN,

Sandblasted grading: ANTIQUARI, OLD ANTIQUARI

Smooth grading (ascending): TRADEMARK, CASTELLO, COLLECTION

Other stampings: Great Line (Non-standard or freestyle) Fiammata (Straight grain)

Production (2012): ~4000 pipes / year

I also found a note on the page that the Rhinestone logo was originally on pipes for the US market. It is occasionally used now.

I turned then to Pipedia for more information on the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Castello). The majority of the information was what was already quoted above in abbreviated form. However there was a link to an article by Bob Hamlin that gave some interesting bits of information that I found helpful (http://www.pipes.org/BURST/FORMATTED/196.016.html). I quote in part from that article.

SEA ROCK [Carved Black or dark brown]:  This is the lowest grade of the Castello line and is the most common in the USA.  Sea Rocks are produced by taking a smooth bowl that has not been “final finished” and surface carving the finish with tools. This “carved” finish is then evened out using a steel wire brush, stained and then waxed. The Natural Vergin carved finish is left unstained and unwaxed as a rule, although we have seen waxed and partially waxed “Vergins”. 

All carved Castello pipes  are graded by the number of K’s that are stamped on each piece and are K-graded by SIZE.  1K is the smallest and fairly rare, 2K is small to medium, with  3K or 4K being the most common and ranges from medium to medium large. Large pieces are stamped “G” for giant and extra large pieces are stamped “GG” for double giant.  In addition to the number of K’s on a carved Sea Rock piece the shape number is almost always added.  As a rule a Sea Rock Castello is stained Black, although recently there have been quite a few coming in stained deep brown and still stamped “Sea Rock”.  American Logo’d Sea Rocks are all priced the same to the consumer, although most are 2 or 3 K’ed models.  G/GG models are charged at a higher price on American pieces and are basically the same as their European counterparts.

The Castello Sea Rock briar I was working on did not have the K stamping. It definitely was made for the American Market with the Rhinestone in the stem. It had the black finish. The shape number still needed to be determined.

Pipedia also gave a link to Mike’s Briar Blues site for help in dating and determining shapes (http://www.briarblues.com/castello.htm). I quote a piece on the Reg. No. that I found helpful.

1947 – Carlo Scotti begins the company.  In the beginning ( 1947 – 1949, maybe 1950 ) the pipes were stamped Mi Reserva ( my reserve ).  Later the Reg No was added.  This Reg No has nothing to do with shape numbers, but is merely the Castello company trademark…

Shape numbers. Shape numbers are all 2 digits. A 2 in front indicates a “fancy” interpretation, a 3 in front means that the carving is somehow unique. I don’t know when the change was made, but currently, a π symbol is used instead of the 3xx. I’ve only seen this on Sea Rocks, but that doesn’t mean anything…

Pre K grading.  Late 1950’s to mid 1960’s the pipe carried stamps which indicated sizes. These were as follows; SA, SB, SC, and SS.  SA being the smallest and SS the largest.

Now I had more information to work with. The Castello in my hands was pre K graded. That told me that it came out in the late 1950s to mid 1960s. The SC stamp makes it a mid-sized pipe from that time period. The number 31 makes it a Canadian with an oval shank and a ¼ bent stem.

Armed with that information and renewing my knowledge of the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the deep lava and grime that made the rim top dull looking. I used a brass bristle wire brush to work over the nooks and crannies of the finish and a lot of dust and debris came out of the grooves. I used a tooth brush and some Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean up the remaining dust and rinsed of the rim with some tap water. I dried it off and gave it a light polish with the cloth. It did not take too long for the rim to look clean and debris free.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the rusticated Sea Rock finish on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I used a horse hair shoe brush to work it into the crevices and keep from building up in the valleys and crevices of the finish. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and the shoe brush. I polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I gave the bowl and shank multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush to raise the shine. The wax is great protection and I love using it on rusticated and sandblast finishes because it does not build up in the grooves and valleys like carnauba wax does. I buffed it by hand with a microfiber cloth to finish the shine. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I wet sanded the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the Lucite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the blacks and dark browns of the briar with the polished black acrylic/Lucite is quite stunning. The dark and coral like rustication around the bowl and shank is quite remarkable and gives the pipe an incredible tactile presence. This is truly a beautiful pipe that is for sure and one that I think I will keep around for a while. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I have a few Castellos in the collection that have come to me in a variety of ways. They have all been beautiful pipes and the look of this Canadian Sea Rock in the hand makes me pause. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.