Tag Archives: Bowl – refinishing

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a second pipe that they wanted me to finish for them. This one was a Custom-Bilt billiard that had come to him from the estate of his Grandfather. It had a threaded tenon stem and a shank that had no threads. I have never seen a Custom-Bilt with a threaded mortise and tenon so it was a fair assumption that the stem was not original. It had been wrapped with glue and tape to make it fit in the shank and the fit was awful. Paresh wanted me to fit a new stem on the pipe for him. Abha had done a magnificent job cleaning the pipe so it was really a simple restoration for me – just fit a stem and finish the bowl. The briar was clean and lifeless so it would need some attention to breathe life into it again. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Custom-Bilt and on the underside it was stamped Imported Briar. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. You can see the remnants of wrapping and glue on the metal threaded tenon. There were tooth marks in the surface of the vulcanite stem on both the top and underside near the button. The first photo below shows the rim top and the inside of the bowl. Both were very clean and the rustication was in great condition as were the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The second photo shows the end of the shank with the glue on the inside of the mortise and the lack of threads that would be present if the tenon that was on the stem would work with this pipe.I took some photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The left side reads Custom-Bilt and the underside reads Imported Briar.I took close up photos of the stem. You can see the metal tenon on the end of the stem. There is some oxidation and there are the tooth marks on the stem top and underside.I wanted to refresh my memory on the history of the brand. I knew that his one was one of Tracy Mincer’s pipes because of the hyphenated name stamp. I looked on Pipedia and read Richard Esserman’s write up on Bill Unger’s Book. He gives a great summary of the history there. I quote a section of it below. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt(Rich Esserman))Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated: I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

Custom-Bilt pipes retailed between $5.00 and $15.00 in the 1940s. According to an ad, standard Dunhill pipes were selling for $12.00 and $13.50, Parker pipes $7.50, GBD for $6.00 and Comoy’s $7.50. Not mentioned was that special Dunhills could retail up to $100 and certain Comoy’s up to $25.

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

I set the bowl aside and decided to work on the stem. The diameter of the stem was perfect for the pipe so I needed to remove the metal threaded tenon and replace it with a Delrin tenon. I heated and scraped away all of the glue and tape on the threads of the tenon and those that bound it to the stem. I held it tight with vise grip pliers and turned the stem. It would not come out no matter how I turned or pulled on it. I decided I would have to use more drastic measures. Using the vise grip pliers as a vise I set up my cordless drill to drill out the tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and drilled it. I was hoping it would catch and pull the tenon out. First bit was a failure. I worked my way up to a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the tenon and worked on it. The extended portion of the tenon broke off and I was left with the piece in the stem. I drilled it out with a bit and the bit grabbed the piece and it all came out.Once the metal was removed from the stem I cleaned out the hole in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris. I smoothed out the threads to leave grooves in the tenon insert. Once I had it smoothed out enough I tried it in the stem. The fit was perfect. I cut deeper grooves in the tenon with a file and coated it with black super glue. I pressed it into the stem and lined it up so the fit was straight.  I set it aside to let the glue cure. While the glue cured I worked on the bowl. I scraped the glue out of the inside of the mortise using a pen knife. The glue had hardened so it took repeated scraping to get rid of it and bring the mortise back to bare wood.When the glue cured I tried the fit of the stem in the mortise. The stem fit well on the shank. I put it in place on the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips and into the rustication patterns with a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished the stem 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 pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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 natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain and worm trail rustication in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be sending the pipe back with the others that belong to Paresh. I have one pipe left to finish for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt. 

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Finishing up a Stanwell de Luxe Regd No. 969-48 Shape 482 for Paresh


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a Stanwell de Luxe 482 that they had been working on. It was cleaned and ready for restoration. Paresh had filled in the multitude of nicks and dents in the briar with super glue and briar dust. He was not happy with the freckled appearance of the briar once he had finished his repairs. The super glue was very runny and had gone all over the bowl leaving darkened patches where ever it ran all around the bowl. Kind of a mess. There were also some fine pin hole nicks in the shank that were around the stamping. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Stanwell over Regd. No. 969-48 over de Luxe. ON the right side it was stamped Fine Briar over the shape number 482. Working on this pipe was truly not a bad deal for me as it was completely cleaned up by Abha and the stem was cleaned and partially finished as well. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the bowl from various angles to show the freckled appearance that Paresh was speaking about. I carefully wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the excess glue that had run and also the stain that remains in the briar without damaging the repairs. The repair spots begin to show clearly. There are still spots on the shank that need to be dealt with. I sanded the surface of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and remove the marks from the runny glue. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I also used the tip of a dental pick to fill in the many tiny sandpits in the sides of the shank. Once the glue cured I sanded them smooth with the tip of a sanding stick and folded sandpaper. Once the fills were blended into the surface of the shank I polish the shank portion again with the micromesh sanding pads. I stained the bowl with Fiebing’s Tan Aniline stain. The stain is a brownish red colour and should help to hide the many repairs to the bowl.Once the stain had dried to touch I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad and alcohol. I wanted the stain to be transparent and allow the grain to shine through but still be opaque enough to hide the repairs that both Paresh and I had done. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. There were still some grooves near the button that needed to be dealt with before I would be happy with the stem. I sanded the grooves out with 220 grit sandpaper until they were smooth.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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 rich reds of the tan stain work well to blend in the majority of the fills in the briar. The pin hole nicks in the finish have almost all been repaired and blended in with the stain coat. The grain really stands on the finished bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I have finished a few more projects for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this beautiful little Stanwell.  There were two larger factory fills in the bowl that were rock hard and not workable. I could not pick them out or get the stain to permeate the putty. They are visible in the next two photos. Ah well they will remain in the finished pipe.

The Vintage Notoriety of Tom Howard and his Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato


Blog by Dal Stanton

I’ve never restored a pipe where the person who made it had more notoriety than the pipe name itself.  The Tom Howard Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato came to me along with several others from a good friend I worked with in Ukraine several years ago.  Dave Shain is also a fellow pipe man and restores pipes and has a great website, www.ThePipery.com.  In 2017, Dave won the Master of Pipes award from the Chicago Pipe Collectors Club for his work and charitable activities through The Free Pipe Project where Dave spearheads a program to send quality restored pipes to servicemen serving their country.  I visited Dave where he lives near Atlanta, Georgia, and we had a great time renewing our relationship.  He showed me his workshop, pipe and tobacco collections, and of course, we settled down in the ‘Barn’ flanked by a vintage Ford pickup – his Man Cave, to share a bowl or two.  It was a fun reunion!  I left with a tin of his aged Escudo and several pipes he wanted me to restore for the Daughters of Bulgaria, which I was more than happy to do.  Thanks Dave!The Tom Howard is now on my worktable because another pipe man, Paresh, saw it on The Pipe Steward site in my section, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!  This is where I post pipes that are in my electronic ‘Help Me!’ basket that others can commission to add to their collections.  Like me, through rebornpipes’ Steve Laug’s encouragement and tutelage, Paresh started restoring some of his own pipes in India, where he lives, and publishing his write ups on rebornpipes.  This LINK will take you to his restorations published on rebornpipes – he does a great job!   After seeing some of my restorations online, Paresh visited The Pipe Steward and saw some pipes that chose him – like Harry Potter and the wizard’s wands!  One thing I’ve learned in my growing relationship with Paresh as we’ve communicated back and forth between Bulgaria and India, is that he doesn’t like large pipes – he LOVES large pipes!  And this Tom Howard Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato got his attention – here are the pictures he saw in For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!The pipe is marked on the left shank with ‘Tom Howard’ in cursive script and ‘Imported Briar’ on the right shank side in the same script.  For a Squat Tomato, I’ve labeled it a ‘Jumbo’ because it has a definite stout presence in the palm.  The dimensions of the bowl give you an understanding of Tom Howard’s presence: Length: 5 5/16 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Bowl width: 2 1/8 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 7/8 inches, Chamber depth: 1 1/4 inches.I had never heard of a Tom Howard stamp on a pipe and after I put the name in search tool on Pipedia I was surprised to find what I found.  Tom Howard was a vintage celebrity in America during the 1940s and 50s.  Here’s the Pipedia said about Tom Howard the man:

Tom Howard was a popular comedian and personality in the 1940s/50s, known for vaudeville stage and radio work. But he also was a skilled pipe maker. In a Popular Mechanic article from 1947 he is written up as the “Hobbyist of the Month, Tom Howard.” He made pipes in his workshop outside his home in Red Bank, NJ. starting about 1939 and looks like into the late 1940’s or later. He purchased briar blocks by the bag as well as stem blanks, and in his well-equipped shop he handcrafted his pipes, in about three hours on average. He was a true craftsman, also specializing is intricate model boats, trains and brass canons, all built to scale.

I was intrigued – this vaudeville and stage comedian made pipes and this pipe came from his workshop made by his hands.  How cool is that?  Desiring to find out more about Tom Howard the man, I searched Wikipedia and found a fun and informative article about his professional life and how he hosted a I was intrigued – this vaudeville and stage comedian made pipes and this pipe came from his workshop made by his hands.  How cool is that?  Desiring to find out more about Tom Howard the man, I searched Wikipedia and found a fun and informative article about his professional life and how he hosted a zany Q&A game show that was spoofing the ‘serious’ Q&A game shows.  It was called “It Pays to Be Ignorant”.   Here is what the Wikipedia article said:

It Pays to Be Ignorant was a radio comedy show which maintained its popularity during a nine-year run on three networks for such sponsors as Philip MorrisChrysler, and  DeSoto. The series was a spoof on the authoritative, academic discourse evident on such authoritative panel series as Quiz Kids and Information Please, while the beginning of the program parodied the popular quiz show, Doctor I.Q. With announcers Ken Roberts and Dick Stark, the program was broadcast on Mutual from June 25, 1942 to February 28, 1944, on CBS from February 25, 1944 to September 27, 1950 and finally on NBC from July 4, 1951 to September 26, 1951. The series typically aired as a summer replacement.

Snooping a bit more, I found an online site that had the July 5, 1951 episode of ‘It pays to Be Ignorant’ available for viewing.  I watched it and it was like I was in a time machine!  The video also included period advertising for cars and tobacco and Tom Howard in form, dawning a professorial gown and a gravelly 1950s vaudeville tin can voice.  It’s great! I clipped a picture of the episode.  If you want to see it yourself, here’s the link:  The Internet Archive.

The Pipedia article I included above, referenced one more source to learn a bit more about Tom Howard.  In a 1947 Popular Mechanics edition he was named ‘Hobbyist of the Month’ – but it didn’t say which month!  With a little bit of help from Google, I found Archive.org that housed old editions of many periodicals including Popular Mechanics.  I started in January and started searching – thankfully they had a search tool I utilized for each month.  Finally, I found the article in the Popular Mechanic 1947 June’s edition.   For the absolute nostalgia of it, and for the interesting information it adds about Tom Howard and especially his pipe production, I’m including the pages here for you to read – including the cover page!  I couldn’t pass it up!   With a greater appreciation for the pipe man, Tom Howard, I take another look at the Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato before me and based upon the articles above the dating of this pipe could range from the late 1930s to the early 50s as Tom Howard died in 1955 at the age of 70 according to Wikipedia.  The chamber has very little cake buildup.  The rim is worn and the rustification on the rim is filled or simply worn down – I’ll need to clean this to see.  The inner lip of the rim is darkened by scorching.  The rustified stummel is attractive – it has scratches and blemishes from use.  The smooth briar around the rustification is nice looking – I think it will look very nice after cleaned and spruced up some.  The stem has some oxidation and the bit shows minor tooth chatter.  I notice too, that Tom Howard but a subtle bend on the saddle stem to give the stem a definite orientation – nice touch and it looks good too.I begin the restoration by cleaning the internal airway of the stem using a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% and then adding it to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems of pipes in queue to be restored.  After a few hours I remove the stem from the bath and wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with light paraffin oil (mineral oil) removing the light oxidation that was raised from the vulcanite.Turning now to the stummel, to remove the light cake in the chamber I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  Even though the cake is light, I want to give the chamber a fresh start.  I jump right to the 3rd largest blade head and finish using the largest.  I follow the reaming blades by using the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to scrape the chamber wall further, then finish by sanding the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To clean the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I inspect the chamber wall and it looks good – no cracks or heat fissures.  The pictures show the process. To clean the external surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and cotton pads.  I also utilize a bristled tooth brush to clean the rustification as well as a brass bristled brush to work on the rim and the dark scorching on the inner lip. Turning to the internals, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners with isopropyl 95% to clean. I also employ dental spatulas to scrape the mortise walls as well as a drill bit to clean the airway.  I sized a bit just large enough to fit the airway and hand-turn the bit to clean the tars off the walls.  After some time, the cotton buds and pipe cleaners start coming out cleaner.  Later, I will continue the internal cleaning by giving the internals a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Turning to the stem, I use 240 grit paper to sand out the roughness and tooth dent in the bit area – upper and lower.  I follow this by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grit paper.  I then use 0000 grade steel wool to sand/buff the stem.  The pictures show the progress. While I was sanding, I notice that the draft hole in the button is not shaped well – a bite compression or something.  I use a sharp needle file to even the opening and I repeat the sanding process for the button end – 240, 600 and 0000 steel wool.With my day ending, I continue the cleaning of the stummel internals by utilizing a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I create a ‘wick’ by pulling and twisting a cotton ball.  I then insert it and stuff it down the mortise into the airway as much as it will allow.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt – why kosher?  It will not leave a residue taste as iodized salt.  I place the stummel in an egg cart to keep it steady and fill the bowl with alcohol using a large eye dropper until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes I top it off once more – and turn off the lights. The next morning, the kosher salt/alcohol soak had done its job.  The salt and wick are soiled by drawing out more tars and oils.  I throw the used salt in the waste and wipe the bowl with paper towel and blow through the mortise to dislodge any remaining salt.  I then use a few more cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to make sure.  All is good – clean – and I move on! Looking at the stummel, I see several scratches on the smooth briar surrounding the rustification.  The rim isn’t even and it is worn.  I decide to freshen the rim by topping the stummel but only lightly – I don’t want to erase the rustification that Tom Howard placed there many years ago!  Using 240 grade paper on a chopping board, I invert the stummel and give it a few rotations and look.  I do this a few times and decide I’ve taken off enough.  It looks good and the rustification remains intact.  I then switch to 600 grade paper on the topping board and give the stummel a few more rotations.  This erases the rougher 240 scratches and smooths the rim surface.  The pictures show the topping process from the start to finish. Darkened briar remains on the inner ring of the rim from scorching (picture above).  To address this, I introduce a gentle internal bevel using 120 grade paper, followed by 240, then 600.  With each paper grade, I roll the piece of sanding paper into a tight roll and rotate it around the circumference of the internal lip by pinching the paper with my thumb.  This allows a uniform beveling to emerge.  The pictures show the progression. Now to the briar surface.  The smooth briar has a lot of small scratches and rough places throughout.  The first picture below also shows an example of Tom Howard’s rustification processes not contained to the rustification areas. I will spot sand these areas. First, I sand out the overrun rustification marks with 240 and 600 paper.  And then, to address the smooth briar of the entire stummel, I use a rough grade sanding sponge to remove the scratches and blemishes.  I then follow with a medium grade sponge then a light grade sponge.  Taking the stummel to the next step, I wet sand it with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  All I can say is, ‘Wow!’  I love watching the grain emerge through the micromesh pad regimen.  Each pad teases out the grain a bit more.  The pictures show the progression. I put the stummel aside and pick up the Tom Howard stem and using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand.  Then I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads, I apply a generous coating of Obsidian Oil that revitalizes the vulcanite stem.  The result is the glossy pop we all expect! Looking again at the stummel, there are some pinhead fills on the left shank side that need to be addressed as well as the worn rustification cuts that have fill material visible and generally, is lighter than desired.  I take some pictures of the different things I see.In the Pipedia article of Tom Howard, there were several pictures of his pipes that were provided courtesy of Doug Valitchka, which give an idea of the original motif used when Tom Howard rustified his pipes.  The picture below shows a dark shaded rustification, though it appears that Mr. Howard put a dye on this stummel to give it a more reddish hue.  Using this picture as a guide, I use a walnut dye stick to color and blend the pinhead fills and to redefine the rustification, yet I prefer the natural briar hue of this Tom Howard Squat Tomato and will not stain the stummel. Now, to ‘rough up’ the rustification, I mount the Dremel with a more abrasive felt buffing wheel set at 40% full power and apply Tripoli compound to the rustification.  The effect is that this softens the hue – blends it more so that it doesn’t look painted.  I think it does the job and I like the blending!I buff the stummel with a felt cloth to remove leftover compound and I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel.  This Balm works well to bring out the deep hues of the natural briar.  I squeeze some Balm on my finger and I work it into the stummel and rustification.  The Balm begins as a light oil texture then thickens as it’s works into the briar.  I let is set for several minutes then I wipe/buff the Balm residue off with a microfiber cloth. I then reunite stem and stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the stummel, maintain a 40% full power speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.  As before, using a felt cloth, I buff the pipe to remove compound dust left behind before waxing.  I then mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel, maintain the same speed, and apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe.  I finish by giving the pipe a good hand-buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine of the briar even more.

I’m pleased with the results of the Tom Howard Jumbo Rustified Squat Tomato.  I’m pleased with the textured blending of the rustification with the backdrop of beautiful smooth briar.  The contrast between the two is attractive.  I’m thankful to Dave Shain for giving me this Tom Howard to restore for the Daughters.  I’m also thankful for having discovered through the research the story of an interesting man.  Tom Howard was an accomplished comedian and stage person during his time.  But most interesting to me was his pursuits at home – in his workshop making quality pipes – not on a factory production line, but one pipe at a time with his own hands.  His love of pipes and placing them in other’s hands reminds me somewhat of my own worktable – the love of restoration and passing pipes on to others.  Paresh commissioned this Tom Howard and he will have the first opportunity to acquire him in The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe will also benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Whatever it takes to make a pipe usable – A Creative WWII Trench Repair


Blog by Steve Laug

I was on Facetime recently with Paresh and Abha in India, talking about pipe restoration and what they were currently working on together. Paresh showed me some of the pipes that they were working on as well as several that he wanted to send to me to work on. One of them was a pipe that had come to him from a family friend who told him it came from WW2 and had belonged to a German soldier. He was not sure what to do with this one and almost felt that it was not worth working on. A piece with that kind of story attached is always interesting to me and I wanted to see it and also work on restoring it. Paresh brought the metal box that the pipe came to him in and the assortment of pieces that made up the pipe to the table to show me what was there. It had what looked like two stem options with it. The one that looked right was a Perspex stem. He was able to remove the brass shank extension from the bowl while were talking and thought he had broken it. I did not think so but underneath the brass there was a broken shank. The brass had been slipped over the broken shank as an extension. The pieces could all be combined to make a functional pipe. I was excited to get this pipe and work on it. Here are some photos of the pipe box. It bears the initials CK and a raise pipe on the cover. When the box was opened the pipe parts were scattered in the larger compartment. There was a bent wire in the box as well. I have a theory how that was used and will talk about it shortly. It is obvious that the box was made to fit a pipe in the upper compartment and tobacco and lighting material in the lower portion. There is a fabric piece fixed to the lid that keeps the pipe from moving around the box.Paresh kept the box in India and mailed the pipe parts to me to see what I could do with them. It took a long time for the pipe to arrive in Vancouver from India. I would have forgotten about it if Paresh had not sent me WhatsApp messages to see if it had made it here. Finally there was a parcel notice hanging on my door when I came home from work. The postie had written that a package was at the post office and I could pick it up the next day after 1pm. I picked it up the next day after work and brought it home. I carefully unwrapped the plastic sleeve that enclosed the box. I cut the tape that held the box closed. Inside were the pipes that Paresh wanted me to work on. The “War” pipe was in a plastic bag and wrapped in bubble wrap. I carefully took it out of the wrappings and put it on the desk. I took the following photos to show the condition of all the parts before I started the cleanup and restoration.I examined the pieces carefully to see if I could come to any conclusions about the provenance of the pipe as it now stood. The bowl was in rough condition but I thought it could be cleaned up to at least carry on the trust of a pipeman from the past. The brass was very interesting and had been cut off on one end. Each end had a different diameter. One end was the size to fit on the broken shank and the other fit the wooden extension. The wooden extension appeared to be oak or a like hard wood. The inside appeared to have been burned and was darkened on each end. It had a copper ring around the end where the stem went. The ring had been hammered smooth and worked onto the shank end to keep it from splitting when the stem was inserted. The two stems were interesting. The white one looked like a cigarillo holder to me and probably was the first stem to be used on the pipe. It could possibly fit over the wooden extension prior to the addition of the copper ring. That leaves me to assume that the clear stem was a later addition and the ring was added to make sure that it did not split the wood when inserted. All parts were very dirty but I could see how they went together to make a smokeable pipe. We talked about the background of the pipe on Facetime and also on WhatsApp several other times and he told me the story that had been passed on to him by the friend of his family. I wrote to Paresh and asked if he could give me a summary about the pipe – write down some of what he had told me in our conversations. This is what he wrote to me.

This WWII pipe was handed over to me by one of my best buddies who has a family tradition of serving in the Army. This pipe once belonged to his eldest maternal Uncle who had participated in WW II as a Sepoy (an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders) and later during the war rose to become a Junior Commissioned Officer. He had participated in the Operations in North Africa as part of a British Indian Division. It was during one of the battles at El Agheila during November – December 1941 that he had picked this up this pipe with its case from one of the overrun German trenches as a souvenir and had been with him since…. – Regards, Paresh

That was the information that I was looking for about this pipe. It is one thing to assume that the pipe was a War Memorabilia but another thing to get the history behind it. Thanks Paresh. Now I knew that I was dealing with a German soldier’s pipe and pipe case that had been left behind either when he was killed or when he abandoned German trenches in haste fleeing the British Indian Division. His friend’s uncle had picked up the case from the trench as a souvenir. It had remained in the family in the case in parts since that time.

This is where my imagination took over and tried to figure out how the pipe had come to its current state. I wonder what was in the mind of the pipeman who put the pieces together. So I took what I could see and imagined the following scenario from the parts.

Somewhere along the journey of the soldier CK and his pipe he had broken the shank on what must have been his only pipe. It was broken and either could be thrown away as garbage along the way or perhaps he could rebuild it. The broken shank was the impetus for repairing the pipe and the way it was done was highly creative.

The remnant of the shank was carefully modified with a knife judging from the way the broken shank end was carved. The pipe man had used his knife to create a ledge around the broken part where it connected to the bowl. A brass shell casing was cut and modified to fit on the shelf that had been carved thus repairing and lengthening the shank. The shell casing was pressed onto the carved shank until it was almost flush with the back side of the bowl. A piece of wood – branch or an oak stick was “drilled out” by heating the bent wire in the box until it was red hot and then inserting it repeatedly down the middle of the wood branch until there was an airway burned into the center. You can still see the burn marks on the inside.

The one end of the shank was drilled out and inserted into the small diameter end of the shell casing. The other end, the shank end of the piece of was carved out with a knife to receive a stem. There was a hammered copper ring that had been crafted and pressed onto the stem end of the shank. The box contained two different stems with the pipe. The first was a cigarette or cigarillo holder that could have been fit over the top of the dowel. Not very pretty and not very functional as it did not fit well. The second stem was a Perspex stem that was quite long. It obviously was the one used with the pipe as the airway was very dirty. There was also some internal burning in the stem itself that is odd. I wonder if the soldier who fashioned the pipe did not put a burning wire up the stem to open it as well and damage the internals of the stem.

I probably will never know the story behind the pipe for sure but what I have imagined is certainly a very real possibility. Whatever the story is the pipe is a fascinating piece of WWII memorabilia.

With the imagination satisfied and combined with the story that came with the pipe I examined the pipe parts to see what I was dealing with. It was obvious that the pipe was smoked a lot. It was probably the soldier’s only pipe and it rarely sat unlit by the looks of it. The bowl was thickly caked and damaged the externals were worn. It appeared that the pipe had been dropped a few times as there were deep gouges in the briar on the heel of the pipe. The finish on the briar was worn out and dark but underneath there were remnants of what looked like nice grain. The rim top was damaged and the inner edge of the bowl was rough. The bowl appeared to have been repeatedly reamed with a knife. The airway entering the bottom of the bowl was also worn from the piece of wire in the pipe case. I would clean up the pipe and leave the character intact. Many would have left the pipe as it was but to me the work that the original pipeman did to keep the pipe useable made me want to carry on his legacy and give Paresh a chance to at least smoke it.

I decided to clean up all of the parts individually. I scraped out the brass shell casing with a small pen knife and then scrubbed the inside with cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol until the inside was as clean as the shiny brass exterior. The first photo shows the cut edge that the wooden extension inserted into. The second photo shows smooth edge that sat on the carved ledge against the bowl and the other edge was the cut edge. I cleaned the wooden extension next, scraping the grit and tars that had built up on the inside. The end that fit toward the bowl had an airway drilled through from the other end. It looked to me that the airway had been burned through with a hot wire. It was darkened from being inserted into the brass and as it had oxidized it had coloured the wood. The end that held the stem was carved to receive the tenon. It had been banded with a copper ring to stabilize the wood. I used a pen knife to scrape the grime out of the extension and then cleaned it with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I used the topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the insert end and remove some of the damage to the wood.With the brass and wooden shank extensions cleaned it was time to clean the bowl. I took a photo of the bowl to show the thickness of the cake on the walls and the trough that had been carved in the bottom of the bowl to the airway leaving the bowl. It looks to me that the trough has been gouged out over time by cleaning the pipe with the wire that was in the box. The cake on bowl walls was thick and uneven all the way around. It was also quite crumbly and soft. The pipe smelled musty from the years that it had been sitting since the war. Once it was removed there would be work to be done to smooth out the walls of the bowl. There are spots that appear quite thin and there will need to be at least a bowl coating done to protect the bowl.I carefully removed the cake from the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping it from the walls. You can see from the photos how crumbly and soft the carbon chunks were. I wrapped some 220 grit sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the walls to remove the remaining cake.I used a dental spatula to rebuild the inside back edge of the bowl rim with clear super glue and briar dust. This was just the first step in the process that would take a lot more work to bring it back to a useable condition.I lightly topped the bowl on a topping board with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I did not want to remove much of the briar, just smooth out the damage. The first photo shows the topping and the second the rim after topping.I filled in the divots in the bottom of the bowl and carefully repaired what looked like a crack in the briar with clear super glue and briar dust. Once the repair had cured I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I carefully sanded the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I set the bowl aside and worked on putting the parts of the shank extension back together. I heated the brass shell casing with a Bic lighter to expand it enough to be pressed on to the wooden shank tube. I scrubbed the tube with Before & After Pipe Balm and lightly sanded the extension with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the brass and copper band with micromesh sanding pads.I cleaned out the inside of the newly reassembled shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I cleaned out both ends of the new shank.I cleaned out the broken shank on the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol in preparation for gluing on the shank extension. I dried it out and coated the shelf with white all-purpose glue. Once the glue was in place I pressed the shank extension onto the bowl. I wiped away the excess glue. Once the glue had set I took pictures of the pipe at this point in the process. To match the stain remaining on the bowl I used the mislabeled tan aniline stain. It is a reddish-brown almost cordovan coloured. I figured it would match the existing colour very well. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to even out the coverage and make the stain more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through the finish. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and the inside of the bowl.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem at this point in the process. It was truly a mess. There were tars and oils lining the airway making it almost black and there was damage to the interior of the stem material around the airway. I started the cleaning process using liquid cleanser and pipe cleaners to remove some of the tars. I was able to get a lot of the stuff out of the airway.I used a small round needle file to further clean out the airway. I sanded the interior of the airway to smooth out the surface of the drilled area. I ran alcohol dampened pipe cleaners through after the files to clean out the dust. The stem was finally getting clean. I took some close up photos of the stem to show the airway after filing. The photos also show the internal damage to the stem from what looks like fire. I polished the stem 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 pad with Obsidian Oil. I rubbed down the briar and the oak shank extension with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar and oak with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I carefully 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 newly stained finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains and mask the damage around the bowl and shank. The polished Perspex stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar and the brass and oak shank extension to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem demonstrate the creativity of the German soldier CK who left it in the trenches of North Africa. The dimensions are Length: 7 inches, Height: 1 inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I finish the other ones he sent to me. This pipe has really travelled – from Germany to North Africa to India to Canada and back to India. I wish it could tell its own story. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting piece of memorabilia. 

New Life for a Jeantet Neuilly ¾ Bent Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is a pipe I picked up recently at St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. I caught the bus to meet my daughter for lunch and while I waited for her to get off work I walked over to the nearby shop. I went through the display cupboards and found an interesting looking pipe. It was a ¾ bent pipe with a rounded edge rectangular shank pipe. It was priced pretty high for a used pipe but I struck a deal with the clerk and got it for a reasonable price. I took the pipe over to the coffee shop where my daughter works and took some photos. I took the pipe home and finally got around to working on it today. I took some photos of the pipe before I started to clean it up. It is stamped on the underside of the shank Jeantet over Neuilly and next to the shank/stem junction it is stamped France. It is also stamped on the right side of the shank with the numbers 81-3 It is a three-quarter bent apple-shaped pipe with a natural finish. The finish was dirty and stained from the grime of long handling without cleaning. The rim top had an overflow of lava from the thick cake in the bowl. It was dirty and hard to tell if the finish was nicked or damaged under the grime. The outer edge of the bowl is rounded over to the sides of the bowl. The stem was black vulcanite and had tooth chatter and some calcification on the top and underside near the button. It was stamped JEANTET on the top of the saddle stem. I took a closeup photo of the rim top to show the lava overflow from the thick cake in the bowl. The rounded outer edge of the rim carried down into the bowl. The inner and outer edges of the bowl look very good underneath the lava overflow. There is a thick cake in the bowl. The stem was in good condition. There was some tooth chatter and scratches on the top and underside near the button. There was some light oxidation on the top and underside of the stem. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer to remove the majority of the cake in the bowl. I cleaned up the remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. To finish the cleanup of the bowl I wrapped 220 grit sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the walls of the bowl. I used a dental spatula to scrape the buildup of tars on oils on the walls of the mortise. I scrubbed the mortise and the airway in the shank with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I took some photos of the pipe to show the condition at this point in the process.Before I could clean out the airway in the stem I needed to remove the caked and dirty stinger apparatus in the tenon. I used a pair of needle nose pliers to twist the stinger out of the tenon. I took a chance that it was threaded and it was not long before I had it free of the tenon.I cleaned up the aluminum tenon with 000 steel wool. I cleaned out the inside of the stinger and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.I scrubbed the top of the rim and the exterior of the bowl with isopropyl alcohol and cotton pads to remove the buildup of lava and grime on the bowl. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished the briar bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim off after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The pipe really shone once it was polished. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read Jeantet over Neuilly. Along the shank/stem junction it was stamped France. On the right side of the shank it read 81-3.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem just ahead of the button. They were not deep so it did not take too much to remove them.The Jeantet stamp on the top of the stem is quite worn. There is not enough to recolour with white paint but enough that in the right light it is readable. I polished the stem 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 pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. When I finished with that I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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 natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. It has birdseye on the sides of the bowl and cross grain on the front (toward the right) and back of the bowl and on the shank both top and bottom. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The pipe is ready for a new home. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be listing this one on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this beautiful little Jeantet Neuilly. 

Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes – Restoring a Barontini De Luxe Brandy


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is also from George Koch’s estate. It is a Barontini De Luxe Brandy shaped pipe with a quarter bend. The pipe was one of many that came to my brother and me in several shipments of pipes from George’s daughter Kathy. When Jeff got each box the pipes were well wrapped and packed. Jeff unwrapped them and took the following photo to give an idea of the volume of the pipes that we purchased. The Barontini came in mixed in a box of pipes much like the one below.In each of the previous blogs that I have written on the restoration of George’s pipes I have told his story. To me it is important to keep the story attached to the pipes that came from his collection. Each pipe I work on I remind myself of the man and in the work give a remembrance to the pipeman who owned these pipes. Having held a large number of his pipes in my hand and having a pretty good feel for the shapes, colour and stems that he liked, I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. I am including Kathy’s brief bio of her father and a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”. Here is George’s bio written by his daughter.

Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others.

He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan.

We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all. 

He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace.  Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter

Each blog I have posted I thank Kathy for providing this beautiful tribute to her Dad. Jeff and I appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. We are also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.

The next the pipe is a nicely shaped Barontini Brandy with an acrylic stem. It has beautiful grain all around the bowl – straight, flame and birdseye that is highlighted by the rich reddish brown stain. The top of the bowl is had some burn marks and some damage. The stamping on the top side of the shank read Barontini over De Luxe. On the underside it has the shape number 702 and Italy at the shank/stem junction. The gold and brown, swirled, pearlized Lucite stem had light tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. The interior of the pipe was caked and had cobwebs. Jeff took these photos before he started the cleanup work on the pipe. Jeff took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The rim top had some light lava overflow and some darkening. There appeared to be some rim damage on the inner edge toward the front of the bowl. You can see the wear on the rim top, the cake and remnants of tobacco in the bowl. It also looks like there are some cobwebs in the bowl. The pipe is dirty but in good condition.  He also took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl and shank from the side to show the grain on this pipe. The finish is very dirty but this is a beautiful pipe. Jeff took some photos to capture the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. The first photo shows the top side of the shank with the stamping Barontini De Luxe and the second shows the shape number 702 on the underside. The third photo shows the ITALY stamping on the underside near the stem. There is also a B stamped on the acrylic stem.The next two photos show the stem surface. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There is also some wear on the sharp edge of the button.I looked up some information on the brand on the Pipephil website to get a quick overview of the history (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b2.html). I did a screen capture of the listing for the brand. The fascinating thing that I learned in this quick overview was the connection to the entire Barontini family and to other companies like Aldo Velani. It is interesting to see the breadth of the brand in the following screen capture. The  pipe I am working on it stamped like the third photo down – the Classica and the B on the stem is identical to that pipe’s stamping.Pipedia gives further history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barontini,_Ilio) under the listing for Ilio Barontini. I quote that article in full as it has the connection to the De Luxe pipe that I am working on.

Cesare Barontini, who was in charge of the Barontini company since 1955, helped his cousin Ilio Barontini to establish a pipe production of his own.

Ilio started to produce machine-made series pipes of the lower to the middle price categories. Fatly 80% of the pipes went to foreign countries, the bulk being produced for various private label brands. Some of the own lines like “de Luxe”, “Etna” or “Vesuvio” gained a certain popularity. Citation: “Next to excellent craftsmanship Ilio Barontini pipes offer a wood quality, that is almost unrivalled in this price category!”.

The pipes being around still there were some unconfirmed utterances that Ilio Barontini brand has been absorbed by Cesare Barontini or even Savinelli. Who knows?

Now I had some idea of the maker of this Barontini. It appears to be one of the machine made Barontinis in the De Luxe line. Fueled by that information it was time to get working on the pipe itself and see what I had to do with it.

Jeff had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The rim was thoroughly cleaned and the damaged areas were obvious. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The Lucite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the profile it cast. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.   I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. Jeff was able to remove all of the tar and oils but you can now see the damaged areas on the surface clearly. There are damaged spots on the front inner edge and the back inner edge. There are also some deep dents and nicks in the flat surface of the rim. The acrylic/Lucite stem had tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem just ahead of the button. There was one deeper tooth mark on the underside near the button.I decided to address the damage to the rim top first. I topped the bowl on a topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I removed the damaged surface of the rim and made it smooth once again.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim. The rim top is looking far better at this point.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim off after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The rim really shone once it was polished. Once it was polished the rim was ready to be stained. I started by using stain pens. I used a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the bowl. It was the closest I could get to matching the bowl. Once it cured it was streaked and not quite a match. The first photo below shows the rim after the stain pen.I carefully wiped the rim down with some isopropyl alcohol to smooth out the stain. Once it was smooth I restained it with some Fiebing’s aniline stain. I used a tan coloured stain and flamed it once I had stained the rim. I repeated staining and flaming until the coverage on the rim matched the bowl sides. The second photo below shows the look of the rim after this staining. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim matches well but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the top and more chatter and a deeper tooth mark on the underside of the acrylic stem at the button. I cleaned off the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the deep tooth mark with clear super glue. Once it cured, I sanded both sides smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth chatter and the repair into the surface of the stem. It did not take too much sanding to remove the marks and smooth out the stem surface. When it was sanded it was smooth and the marks were gone. I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. This is the thirteenth pipe that I am restoring from Kathy’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward once again to hearing what Kathy thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Barontini Brandy from George’s estate. More will follow in a variety of brands, shapes and sizes. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust from her father send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

Refreshing an Italian Gasparini M.G.M. Rock Briar 1912 with an Unexpected Encounter


Blog by Dal Stanton

Idian lives in Indonesia and sent me an email after trolling through The Pipe Steward electronic “Help me!” basket which I call, “For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!” He inquired about commissioning two pipes, a Peterson and the Italian, Gasparini M.G.M. Rock Briar 1912.  He settled on the Gasparini and assured me that he was a patient man as I put his commissioned pipe in the queue behind quite a few other commissioned pipes.  I found this pipe along with 65 others in a Lot of 66 which has provided several pipes for my work table which have benefited our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria, helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  This M.G.M. Rock Briar stood out to Idian and it also stood out to me not only because it’s a unique Freehand shape but also because the shank is chocked full of nomenclature information that I’ve looked forward to researching.  Here are the pictures that Idian saw. The heel of the shank is stamped with ITALY [over] BRIAR 1912 [over] M.G.M. [over] Rock in cursive script.  Below this is a stamp – a pipe partially ensconced in a circle with M.G.M. repeated under the circle. To the right of this, hugging the briar’s edge transitioning to the vulcanite ferrule is the number 25, which I’m assuming is a shape number.  The pictures above show the rondel with the pressed M for Mario, the patriarch of the Gasparini family. Much of Pipedia’s article about the Gasparini name came from the current Gasparini website, http://www.mgasparini.it/en/.  When reading the information, one gets the impression of the enterprise having deep family roots which continue today.  From the Pipedia article:

In 1938 Mario Gasparini, with his wife Ida, took his first steps into the world of the pipe. Today his daughter, Marisa Gasparini, sits at his desk; since 1977 Marisa and her husband, and now her daughter, carry on the tradition of her family. At the beginning of 1950’s, the building, that still today hosts the production department, was enlarged. In 1971 the offices and the warehouse were moved from Milan (where they were situated for marketing purposes) to Luvinate.

During those years the skilled workers and our direct partners have always followed the history of the Gasparini factory, becoming very fond of it and devoting themselves, with care and love, to the making of each pipe, with the personal fantasy and skills of the artist. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those artisans who, with their creativity, gave, and continue to give, life to the Gasparini Pipe factory.

The article also describes the Gasparini series, M.G.M. coming on-line in 1965 as a classical line with the initials standing for the founder’s name – Mario Gasparini Milano.  Pressing the research, the Pipephil.eu site offered more information.Of interest in the Pipephil information was the reference connecting the M.G.M. “Collectionist” series (marked by the circle/pipe stamp) with a comparison to ‘wax-drip pipes’.  I looked at that link and got a clue of what might be the considered shape of the M.G.M. Rock on my work desk: stummels fashioned to look like the ends of used candles.  Here is a clipping of three ‘high-end’ examples of this interesting shape:With these examples before me, I take another look at the M.G.M. Rock Collector on the table and it I believe that its possible it was fashioned in the ‘wax-drip’ manner with the ripples of melted wax shaped on the rim flowing down.Pipedia’s article included an older Gasparini brochure (courtesy of Doug Valitchka) – unfortunately no dating was given for the brochure, showing three pipes in the ‘Collector’ series.  The middle example is obviously the same shape style and stem as the pipe on my work table but with a squatter bowl – very much reminiscent of a ‘wax drip’ shape.  My guess is that the brochure is from the 60’s because it’s black and white and I would imagine that the stated pricing at that time would not be for a corner drug store pipe!  Unfortunately, this was the only page shown – I would love to have read the description for the ‘b.’ pipe!One more question dogged me in my research of the M.G.M. Rock – ‘Briar 1912’.  Briar 1912 was stamped on several examples I saw of Gasparini pipes on Pipedia and Pipephil.eu.  What did it refer to?  As I’ve done before with much success, I decide to go to the front door of the Gasparini house and knock and introduce myself.  On the ‘Contact’ page of the Gasparini website I find contact information and send an email with the 1912 question as well as a few other questions to confirm the shape number and dating.  We’ll see if they respond!  The description in the brochure gives a clue that I didn’t recognize until later – it states that the briar had been aged over 50 years!  If one does the math, if 1912 is when the aging process began – plus 50 years, lands us in the year 1962 – the decade the M.G.M. series was introduced and perhaps the ‘Collector’ series as well. It was only after discovering an August 2013 thread in Pipes Magazine Forum (LINK) concerning Gasparini pipes that I tied the 1912 with the aging of the briar – I know, I’m slow!  This clip from Doc Watson speaks very positively of the Gasparini named pipes:

I have a few Gasparini pipes. They are real sleepers IMO and are seldom talked about by collectors but believe me there are some magnificent Gasparini pipes out there. Here’s a photo of one that came from the late Jack Ehrmantrout (owner of Pipe Collectors International PCI) collection. It was one of his favorites that he never smoked. Some are stamped 1912 briar, which is indeed some old root. As most pipe companies/makers they make different lines, some higher grades than others but IMO if you find one you like, go for it. (Note from me: IMO = in my opinion)I love ‘Sherlocking’ the provenance of pipes not only to learn about the names of historic lines, but to more fully appreciate the value of what I’m handling and seeking to restore.  The picture above, along with several examples in the Pipedia article courtesy of Doug Valitchka, give me a good idea of the natural briar hue Gasparini used and I will shoot for this with the M.G.M. Rock on my table.
Well, my cup runs over!  I received a reply from M. Gasparini Pipes in Luvinate, Italy, but not from a desk employee.  Marissa Gasparini (picture from previously cited Pipedia article) responded to my questions, the daughter of Mario Gasparini, the founder of the Gasparini Pipe house in 1948.  She assumed control of the Gasparini Pipe interests in 1977 and I assume she continues in that role today.  I was honored that she wrote to me.  Here is her letter, switching to my native tongue and responding to my questions:

Dear Dal,
1) the 1912 is the year in which was born the briar that we used for making that serie of pipes so particular.
2) The circle with pipe in it was used only for some special  fancy serie like the Rock.
3) We begin to produce thise serie in the 1960 and finish in the 1965, and now we have left only few pieces, and you are lucky to have one.
4) The number 25 is the number of the shape and the pipe was waxed.
We hope  that our informations are o.k. for you and we thank you  and remain at your complete disposal,
with best regards,
Marisa Gasparini

Wow!  I love restoring pipes!  With Marisa’s letter as confirmation, the briar root aging process used for this M.G.M. Rock began in 1912, 106 years ago.  The Collector stamp was only used for special, fancy lines, which applies to this Rock.  This M.G.M. Rock was produced between 1960 and 1965 – which gives it an age ranging from 58 to 53 years.  The shape number perhaps points to the wax candle shape that I was guessing might be the case or the shape may simply be a freehand Rock.  She also said that I was ‘lucky’ to have one of these special collector series in my possession – I would call it blessed.  I responded to her gracious letter and ventured another question – to ask about the significance of the third letter, ‘M’ in M.G.M. moniker?  The first two letters are clear – the initials of her father.  The third letter, ‘M’ stands for Milano.  I asked her the significance of ‘Milano’?

A few hours later her reply arrived.  The M.G.M. – Milano was where the Gasparini family lived and produced their pipes 45 years ago – a special place in their memories.

This is a nice-looking pipe and I’m happy to call this a “Refresh” on the title of the blog. With a very quick cursory look at the chamber, stummel and stem I see no challenging issues.  There is a light cake in the chamber, the rim has minor discoloration from grime and oils, and the stummel surface appears to be in good shape.  The surface of the stummel has darkened and has become tired and needs some cleaning and spiffing up a bit.  The Military stem shows no perceptible oxidation and only minor scratches – no tooth chatter.  Maybe an easy restoration!

I begin the restoration by placing the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems of pipes in queue for restoration.  Even though I see no oxidation, I’ll give it a soak to make sure.  Before putting the stem in the soak, I run a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% through the airway to clean it first.  After soaking for several hours, I fish the stem out, drain it and wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with mineral oil (light paraffin oil here in Bulgaria).  As I thought, very little oxidation was raised during the soak.Looking now to the M.G.M. Rock stummel, I begin by reaming the chamber to remove the moderate collection of carbon cake to provide a fresh start for the 106 year aged briar.  After putting down paper towel for easier clean-up, from smaller to larger, I use 3 of the 4 blade heads available to me in the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  After this, I employ the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to fine tune the reaming by reaching the more difficult angles at the floor of the chamber and by scraping the walls.  Finally, I wrap a piece of 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber walls.  I then wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the carbon dust left behind.  An inspection reveals a healthy chamber with no cracks or heat fissures.   The pictures show the process. Now, turning to the external surface cleaning, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with cotton pads and a bristled tooth brush to reach into the rolls of the briar shaping.  I also use a brass wire brush on the small plateau to loosen the scorching around parts of the internal lip.  Following this, I gently scrape the scorching with a Winchester pocket knife edge to remove more of the damaged briar.  The cleaning and brushing made good progress. Preferring to work on a cleaned pipe, I now switch to the internals of the stummel by cleaning the mortise and airway with pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%. I also utilize different sized dental spatulas and scoops to excavate tars and oils by scraping the mortise walls and digging around the draft hole drilling deeper in the mortise.  I have learned over time that it shortens the clean up by excavating what you can and following with the cotton buds.  Last time I was in the US, I went to the US 1 Flea Market in Stuart, Florida, looking for pipes, of course.  I found a shop in the Flea Market that had absolutely everything and found an assortment pack of about 8 different dental tool accessories – sharp, flat and scooped.  These tools are very helpful in different phases of the pipe restoration process.  A good investment!  After excavating and swabbing, the internals are clean.  I move on!Back to the Military stem – it is in good shape with respect to the oxidation, but it has scratches and roughness around the bit that one expects to find through normal use.  The button also has compression marks to address. I first wet sand using 600 grade paper to find out if a mid-range grit is invasive enough to address the issues I see.  It does well, but it uncovers small tooth dents that I didn’t see before as well as the button being a bit compressed. I backtrack and use a flat needle file to give the button refreshed definition.  I then use 240 grit paper only in the bit area to remove the tooth dent and work on the button.To erase the 240 grit scratches, I again sand using 600 grit paper followed by sand/buffing the entire stem with 0000 grade steel wool.  I think the Military stem is looking pretty good.Pressing forward with the stem sanding, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pad 3200 to 4000 then pads 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3 pads, I apply a rich coat of Obsidian Oil which rejuvenates the vulcanite.  The stem’s looking great – I love the pop! I’ve been thinking as I’ve been working how I should approach the sanding/finishing of the ‘Wax Drip’ Rock shape?  As the tired finish is now, the pipe to me is one dimensional.  The darkened finish is uniformly non-expressive.  I look at it and I see the beautiful, unique shape, but I don’t see the beauty of 106-year-old briar grain standing on center stage of this presentation.  The great thing about micromesh pads is that they are flexible and hug the surface which I believe will aid me in adding some depth and contrast of shades in the briar’s presentation.  While sanding with the micromesh pads, there will be natural and unavoidable changes in the pressure and impact of the pads because of the contouring of the Wax Drip Rock shaped briar.  High points will naturally be lighter and lower points will be darker, providing (at least theoretically at this point!) contrast and shading through the briar landscape.  Ok, that’s the theory and the plan.  Time to march!  Using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stummel and vulcanite ferrule.  Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000.  The pictures show the progress and I like what I see – theory becoming reality. Next, I mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel set at 40% full power and I apply Tripoli compound to the briar surface.  I’m able to reach more directly into the carved areas of the briar with this more abrasive compound.  After the Tripoli compound, I change to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, maintain the same speed and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stummel and military stem.  To remove compound dust from the pipe, I buff the pipe with a felt cloth. Before applying carnauba wax to the stummel, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm. I like using the Restoration Balm because it deepens and enriches the natural briar hues.  After squeezing some Balm on my finger, I apply it to the briar with my fingers working the Balm into the surface – making sure I work it into the carved areas.  As I work the Balm into the briar, it begins with a light oil consistency but thickens during the application to a wax-like ointment – the picture below shows this stage.  After letting the Balm settle for about 10 minutes, I wipe/buff off the Balm with a clean cloth. The final stage is to apply carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  I mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintain the same 40% of full power, and apply a few coats of carnauba wax.  When I complete the waxing cycles, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine even more.

Restoring this Gasparini M.G.M. Rock exceeded my expectations in important ways. The pipe was beautiful before I started.  Now, it’s a show stopper as the 106-year aged briar has retaken center stage and the Freehand shape with the dips, curves and swirls are a stellar supporting cast.  I can easily see the Wax Drip shape, but it could also be petals on a flower.  The Military style stem looks classy but unassuming as it joins the vulcanite ferrule with a contrasting ring of briar between ferrule and stem.  Another exceeded expectation was to understand better the Gasparini name and the value of family. My appreciation brimmed for Marisa Gasparini as she took the time to answer my questions – this was an honor.  This simple act revealed her pride in the Mario Gasparini heritage and her willingness to answer questions shows her concern for each pipe bearing the Gasparini name.

Idian commissioned this pipe with the understanding that the final valuing of the pipe would be after I researched and restored the pipe and published the write-up.  Then, as is the understanding for all the pipes that are commissioned, the commissioner of the pipe has the first opportunity to acquire the pipe in The Pipe Steward Store with the value determined.  If the price is not agreeable, he may pass, and I leave the pipe in the store for another steward to eventually add to his collection.  However, for this restoration, for this Gasparini M.G.M. Rock, the value for me is ‘priceless’.  I’ve invited him to join my collection and start pulling his own weight in the rotation – my first Gasparini, we’re happy.  I’m thankful to Idian for his understanding after letting him know – he was a bit disappointed but happy that the M.G.M. Rock was restored and continued in good hands.  Thanks for joining me!