Tag Archives: Bowl – refinishing

Cleaning up an Unsmoked Gutta-percha Pistol Pipe with a Flawed Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

One of the great packages I brought back from my trip to Idaho was a small bag of C.P.F. pipes smoked and unsmoked. Some have horn stems; some have Gutta-percha bases and stems. I went through the bag and chose the next pipe I wanted to work on. It was an unsmoked Gutta-percha pistol pipe with a wooden bowl. I say wooden as it did not appear to be briar. There is no stamping on the barrel (shank) or on the body of the pistol. The maker is thus unknown. The shank had been snapped off and repaired – sloppily with what appears to be epoxy. There was a lot of residue left all over the barrel. The joint seemed solid and was pretty well aligned but would need to be sanded smooth and polished. The bowl was unsmoked but had a lot of dust and debris inside. It had a large flaw in the rim top extending down into the bowl from the rim to the bottom edge. There was a crack on the outside of the bowl at that point as well. A large flaw in the wood was in wood opposite the crack. The finish was a poorly varnished red over the flaws. The finished needed to go to make the repairs. I took photos of the pipe before I began my work. I took a close up photo of the rim top and bowl to show the condition of the unsmoked bowl as well as the flaw on the top. The flaw is very visible at the bottom of the photo and on the left side of the bowl. It was clean but dusty and grimy. The photos of the pistol shaped base show its general condition and the poor repair to the broken off barrel. There was a lot of dust and grime in the small casting features on the base. It still should clean up well.The next photo shows the details of the casting of the pistol. It is a well cast model that has great detail in the parts of the pistol. The grips and barrel as well as the cylinder in the middle are well cast (incidentally you can also see the repaired crack in the barrel).Because I was once again working with a Gutta-percha cast pipe I went back and read a previous blog that I had written to reacquaint myself with the material and the variety of cast products that were sold. I remembered that I had included a photo in the blog of a trio of pistols that this one reminded me of. Here is the link to the blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2017/12/08/59256/). I quote a pertinent part of the blog below:

That led me to do some research on the web to see what I could find out about the material. (Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without Google. I don’t know how I survived college and graduate school without it.) The first link I found and turned to was on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutta-percha). I quote large portions of that article below to set the base for understanding the material’s composition and origin.

Scientifically classified in 1843, it was found to be a useful natural thermoplastic. In 1851, 30,000 long cwt (1,500,000 kg) of Gutta-percha was imported into Britain. During the second half of the 19th century, Gutta-percha was used for myriad domestic and industrial purposes, and it became a household word. In particular, it was needed as insulation for underwater telegraph cables, which, according to author John Tully, led to unsustainable harvesting and a collapse of the supply.

According to Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd’s Endodontology: “Even long before Gutta-percha was introduced into the western world, it was used in a less processed form by the natives of the Malaysian archipelago for making knife handles, walking sticks and other purposes. The first European to discover this material was John Tradescant, who collected it in the Far East in 1656. He named this material “Mazer wood”. Dr. William Montgomerie, a medical officer in Indian service, introduced Gutta-percha into practical use in the West. He was the first to appreciate the potential of this material in medicine, and he was awarded the gold medal by the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1843.”

…In the mid-19th century, Gutta-percha was also used to make furniture, notably by the Gutta-Percha Company (established in 1847). Several of these ornate, revival-style pieces were shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. When hot it could be molded into furniture, decorations or utensils.

It was also used to make “mourning” jewelry, because it was dark in color and could be easily molded into beads or other shapes. Pistol hand grips and rifle shoulder pads were also made from Gutta-percha, since it was hard and durable, though it fell into disuse when plastics such as Bakelite became available. The material was adopted for other applications. The “guttie” golf ball (which had a solid Gutta-percha core) revolutionized the game. Gutta-percha remained an industrial staple well into the 20th Century, when it was gradually replaced with superior (generally synthetic) materials, though a similar and cheaper natural material called balatá is often used in Gutta-percha’s place. The two materials are almost identical, and balatá is often called Gutta-balatá.

When I reread the blog I found the photo that I had remembered with three pistol pipes with wooden bowls and Gutta-percha bases. I include copy of that photo below. The one that I have is very similar to these with the expected variations.From that information I can give a potential date for the pipe as having been made in the late 19th to early 20th century – the period when Gutta-percha was in vogue. During that period many items were cast of the material because it could easily be cast with detail and because of its durability. For me the interesting fact is the old pipe remained unsmoked for this long. That may well be the result of the flaw in the bowl and the desire to not make it worse. The story of its journey to Jeff and me this long after the date it was made is another mystery. This is one of those times that I wish an old pipe could speak and share the story of its journey. What a well-traveled pipe and one that I will never really know the story about the nature of the journey. Armed with that information it was now time to work on the pipe.

I decided to begin with the bowl. I took it off the base so that I could address the horrible finish and then work on the flaws in the wood. I took a photo of the crack on the outside of the bowl and the flaw on the top and inside. I also took a photo of the pipe taken apart before beginning my restoration. I started the clean up on bowl with working to remove the varnish or shellac coat. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to break down the shiny top coat and had very minimal success. I would need to resort to more intrusive measure to truly remove the finish. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sand paper to break through the thick shiny coat on the rim top. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the thick shiny coat and get down to the wood. I repeatedly washed the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad during the sanding process to see how it was progressing. It was clearly not a piece of briar that I was working on so I wanted to be sure to clean it off before restaining. I examined the crack on the outside of the bowl and it appeared to actually be a grain line. I examined it with a lens to double check. There was a small hairline crack for the first ¼ inch from the rim top. I ran a bead of clear super glue down the line and let it seep into the crack. I held it tight until the glue set. For the flaw on the inside of the bowl I filled it in with clear super glue and briar dust to rebuild the damaged area of the wall.Once the repair had cured I sanded the inside and outside of the bowl smooth again with 220 grit sandpaper and polished it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished it with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches. All of this was done in preparation for the first coat of stain. I had decided to stain it with a base coat of Fiebing’s Tan stain as it has a red tint to it. I applied the stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage. I generally put a cork in the bowl which allows me to manipulate the bowl and a candle stand to let the stain cure. I took pictures of the bowl after the stain had cured overnight. I noted that the inner edge of the rim needed a bit more work before the next stain coat that I had chosen. I filled it in with more super glue and briar dust until the edge was filled in. I sanded it and the spot on the rim top smooth. I decided to use a Mahogany stain pen for the next coat. Because the grain was vertical I stain the bowl vertically with the pen. The next photos show the bowl after the stain coat has been applied. I lightly, cautiously buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave it a coat of carnauba wax and buffed it with  a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I took the following photos after that. There is a bit more polishing to go but you can see where I am heading with the stain coat.I set the bowl aside at this point and went to work on the base and “barrel”. Because of all the nooks and crannies in the casting it was very dusty and dirty. I scrubbed the base with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to get the debris and dust out of the crevices and valleys. I rinsed it under warm water and ran a pipe cleaner through the airway. The pipe looked really god at this point and it was ready from the next step of sanding the “barrel”. Now that the grime was cleaned off it was time to address the sloppy repair on the cracked “barrel” and clean up the excess glue around the repair. I sanded the “barrel” with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess glue that was around the repaired area of the broken shank. I sanded the “barrel” and the mouthpiece end to remove not only the glue but also the casting marks that were left behind from when the pipe was made. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished the polishing with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Over the last few years I have come to appreciate the workmanship that went into creating the molds for these Gutta-percha pipe bases. The combination of design and skill that went into the molds is reflected in the cast Gutta-percha pipe bases. The creativity exceeds even the most ornately carved clay in terms of the minute detail that can be cast into the Gutta-percha material. I have yet to find as much care going into the pipe bowls as I have seen them made from a variety of woods and showing less craftsmanship in shaping or finishing them. Almost all of the ones I have worked on used a dark stain that hides the grain and a heavy varnish coat that covers a multitude of flaws. Nevertheless, these pipes have endured for over 125 years and look much like they did when they were made – at least underneath the grime and grit of use and time. This little revolver really captures the look and feel of a pistol in the details of the casting. Though this one was unsmoked (in part due to the flaws in the bowl) even the smoked ones that I have seen have lasted a long time.

I finished my restoration and put the base and bowl back together and gently polished with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast between the newly stained wooden bowl and the dark Gutta-percha base looks really good. The finished pipe has a rich look that is quite catching. Have a look at it with the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be joining my collection as it fits in the American Made Pipe niche group that I have been building. The shape and feel in the hand is perfect. Now I have to make a hard decision – do I leave it unsmoked or do I load it up with some aged Virginia and break it in. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I restored and reworked this old Gutta-percha Pistol Pipe from late 19th Century. It is always a treat for me to work on a piece of pipe history especially when I have learned a bit of the story behind it.

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A Meer-lining and Crack Repair to Rescue a Doomed Gargantuan Kilimanjaro Made in Tanganyika Bent Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

My good friend in India, Paresh, commissioned 3 pipes from the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection.  To have him commission pipes is a privilege after being with him and his family in India not long ago.  I will not forget the hospitality that Paresh and Abha provided to me, Steve and Jeff when we all converged in Pune.  Paresh has commissioned some pipes before and it’s no secret that he is drawn to large pipes.  One of the three he chose is perhaps the largest pipe that I’ve ever handled, and it also offers a good bit of weightiness as it rests in the hand – note, I didn’t say, “palm”.  This guy is for the hand!  I took a picture of the three he commissioned to show the comparison with normal sized pipes – with the Kilimanjaro is a French CPF Chesterfield and a BBB Classic Chimney which are next in the queue.The dimensions of the Kilimanjaro are an impressive, Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 5/8 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 1 inch, Chamber depth: 2 3/16 inches.  Here are more pictures of the Kilimanjaro now on the worktable. The nomenclature is on the lower shank panel with ‘KILIMANJARO’ to the immediate left of, ‘MADE IN TANGANYIKA’.  To the fore of these stampings, almost on the heel of the stummel is the shape number of 104.

Pipedia has a good amount of information about this pipe’s provenance in the article about the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation:

From Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes

Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation is a company that formed in 1955 by Kenyan businessmen from Nairobi after the discovery of a meerschaum mine relatively close to the surface on Kilimanjaro. The meerschaum is tougher, less porous, and cheaper than the Turkish variety. Another mine was soon discovered in Sinya, in the famous Amboseli Game Park.

The company, previously based in Arusha (Tanzania), became an associate of a Belgium firm, but closed some years after. It produced the CavemanCountrymanKikoKillimanjaroSportsmanTownsman, and Wiga brands. It maintained a link with GBD for the making of the GBD Block Meerschaum series, and after its closure, the English firms, London Meerschaum and Manx Pipes (Manx Meerschaum) continued producing with African meerschaum.

This additional information about the better-known subsidiary, Kiko, is from Pipedia’s ‘Kiko’ article:

Kiko, meaning “pipe” in Swahili-Kiswahili to English translation, is probably the best known of the various brands listed below . In East Africa Meerschaum is found in Tanganyika, once known as German East Africa, and since 1964 part of the United Republic of Tanzania. The main deposit comes from the Amboseli basin surrounding the Lake Amboseli. Tanganyika Meerschaum is normally stained in shades of brown, black and yellow, and is considered to be inferior to Meerschaum from Turkey. Even though, the raw material is mined by the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation and to a large extent used for pipe making.

The same Pipedia ‘Kiko’ article referenced the specific line of ‘Kilimanjaro’ as being an old brand from Amboseli Pipes that belonged to the parent Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation and provided a picture of a Kilimanjaro sporting the designator for that line, a rhinoceros, which the Kilimanjaro on my worktable unfortunately shows no evidence of having survived its journey.  The box that carried the Kilimanjaro in the picture is very cool!The description of the Kilimanjaro line also includes this interesting information: “East African pipewood Meerschaum lined and individually boxed. Available in black rough finish and natural smooth or rough finish.”  The finish looks like a blasted finish, but I’m not sure if it is not also rusticated – perhaps it is a ‘blasticated’ finish – a combination of both, but either way, it’s an attractive, tactile surface.  ‘Pipewood’ is the description above and I’m sure the wood is not briar. I find no ‘pipewood’ of African origin doing a quick search on the internet.  So, it’s East African ‘Pipewood’ whatever that is.

The issues facing this Kilimanjaro giant are significant.  When Paresh commissioned this pipe with a full awareness of the issues it faces, said to me that he was not only attracted to the size, but he was also looking forward to seeing what I did to rescue this giant pipe!  No pressure!  To be sure, I’m not sure that the remedies I employ will provide a long-term resolution, but I’m hopeful.  The first and fundamental issue is the vertical crack that runs for ‘miles’ along the left side of the pipewood bowl.  The first picture below shows ‘daylight’ coming through the crack at the rim level. The following pictures show the crack as it disappears into the ‘moon surface’ crags and crevasses of the pipewood finish.  To find the terminus point of the crack will require a magnifying glass.  The question that I ask myself is what caused the crack? The other major issue is the Meerschaum lining.  The trauma, whatever the source was, cracked and broke off the upper part of the Meer-lining.  The Meer breakage appears to correlate to the crack-side which would indicate that the crack and the Meer breakage go together.  The question that comes to my mind again is, what caused the crack and the breakage?  To ‘Sherlock’ the scene shows no trauma to the surrounding pipewood, which I would expect to see if the trauma were caused by a dropping of the pipe.  Inspection of the rim leaves me with the impression that it is thin for the size of the pipe.  This observation leads me to postulate that the crack was possibly caused by the expansion of the wood as the Meerschaum heated, but how much does Meerschaum expand as it heats?  If so, even microscopically, this would suggest that the expansion could have contributed to the pressure on the encasing pipewood contributing to the crack.  But what explains the breakage of the Meer?  The vertical crack is set almost center between the widest break points of the Meerschaum. This question prompted me to write Steve with the question regarding how a Meer-lining was installed.  Was the Meer-lining a result of compacted or pressed Meerschaum that was formed to the chamber or was it a cut piece of Meerschaum that was inserted as a separate piece?  Steve’s response was that Meer-linings generally were cut in a lathe and drilled and inserted to fit the chamber.  This information was helpful because it would indicate then that the Meer-lining remaining in this Kilimanjaro was essentially one piece, and barring any large hidden cracks in the surviving Meer, should be structurally intact.  I’ll need to clean the surviving Meerschaum lining to make sure that the rest is intact and then begin the repair from the outside working in.  With this initial assessment of the serious issues standing in the way, I begin the clean-up by running pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% through the stem and then into a soak with Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes in the queue. After several hours in the soak, I extract the Kilimanjaro’s stem and run pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clear the Deoxidizer from the airway.  I then wipe the stem down with cotton pads wetted with alcohol to remove the raised oxidation.  I missed taking pictures of this part, but the aftermath shows residual oxidation in the stem after the Before & After Deoxidizer soak.I follow by scrubbing the stem with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to see if it would deep clean the oxidation.  There is some additional improvement but, in the end, I’ll need to sand the stem to remove more oxidation.At this point, I apply paraffin oil to the stem to hydrate and condition it.  I open the aperture on the iPhone App and take another picture showing the deep oxidation that can still be detected.  I put the stem aside for the time to look again at the stummel.Before beginning on the stummel repair, I need to clean the Meerschaum lining to be able to get a closer look at its condition.  I see something obstructing the draft hole.  After unsuccessfully trying to push a pipe cleaner through the draft hole via the mortise, I take a dental probe and am able to pop it out.  It appears to be an old hunk of dottle that had hardened. I take additional pictures of the chamber walls moving up to the rim where the Meerschaum breakage is.  The floor of the chamber is clear of carbon buildup.  This is the moment of truth for this pipe – to remove the carbon to examine the condition of the Meerschaum.  If it has more substantial cracks underneath it could raise questions about the integrity of the remaining Meer and the wisdom of a repair, but we will see. Patience is the key as I gingerly scrape the carbon layer off the remaining Meer surface.  I use the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to do the scraping. I don’t work on it like I would a briar chamber.  This scraping is more akin to rubbing with the edge to dislodge the buildup.After the scraping, I use 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to reach down into the huge chamber to continue to clean.When I’ve sanded sufficiently, I give the chamber a wipe with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove left over carbon dust.With the carbon layer cleared and the Meer surface exposed, I find an almost perfectly uniform hairline crack, which almost looks like a seam, halfway down the chamber running in a full circle around the circumference of the chamber.  It is so uniform that it looks like the Meerschaum was constructed in halves – a lower half bowl and the upper half ring. I also detect another hairline originating at the uniform crack running downwardly and then curving as it nears the floor.  The good news, if there’s good news to be had, is that these are tight hairline cracks, there’s no crumbling. The Meerschaum below the rim seems to be solid.  To the touch, the hairlines are imperceptible.  With a sharp dental probe, I was able to detect a slight bump as I drew the point across the hairlines.  I’ve already decided what I will do.  I’ve been waiting some time for this Meer-lined repair to come to the top of the queue.  I want to give this Kilimanjaro a shot at continuing to serve.  I worked on a previous Meer-lining repair of a Zulu (see: An Italian Croc-skin Zulu and a Bear of a Meer-Lining Repair) where I discovered an old timers’ approach to addressing Meerschaum problems.  In the Zulu repair, Steve told me about Troy’s approach on Baccy Pipes.  Troy’s method of using chalk and egg whites to repair Meer surfaces worked with the Zulu and I had this in mind from the beginning looking at the Kilimanjaro’s issues.  Steve had reposted Troy’s blog on the methodology, and I had saved it as a keeper in my resource bucket.  Steve’s repost can be found here: Old Time Meer Lining Repair Method On a Kaywoodie Shellcraft #5651 | Baccy Pipes which will then take you over to Troy’s site.  Troy’s mixture of egg white and chalk is an amazing Meer-looking and feeling composite which holds up very well.  Troy’s approach of patient, layering of the mixture fills and reinforces the existing Meerschaum.  I’m looking forward to seeing what it will do again, but first, I must address the daunting ‘pipewood’ crack running down the side of the bowl.  This is critical to reestablish a solid ‘frame’ around the Meerschaum.  I take a few fresh pictures of this ‘Grand Crack Canyon’ which runs down and disappears in the lower craggy regions – everything about this pipe is BIG!  You can see ‘day-light’ at the upper, rim-part of the crack. I don’t know with certainty the reason for the crack and the Meer breakage, but my best guess is that it was heating expansion.  If this is correct, the good news is that the bowl has expanded causing the crack.  Theoretically, this should be good news for the repair of the crack, filling it at this expanded point will provide a better framework for the Meerschaum and overall stability of the pipe – theoretically.  Even though the crack and the Meerschaum repairs are large undertakings, the current condition of the Kilimanjaro Giant makes it unusable, and so there’s absolutely nothing to lose for this big guy.  He’s already in the ICU!  If after the repairs are completed, and if Paresh decides he doesn’t want him, he can convalesce in my racks for as long as he wishes 😊.

I decide to do this repair before cleaning the stummel in the normal order of things, but I didn’t want to dampen the pipewood in the crack or mess with the Meerschaum butting up to the crack. The first order of business is to identify and mark the lower termination point of the crack.  This is critical to keep the crack from growing through the southern pole of the bowl.  Taking a magnifying glass, I follow the crack until I find the endpoint and I use a sharp dental probe to mark that spot.  This helps me to find it again as well as to help guide the 1mm drill bit when I drill a counter-creep hole. I take a very close-up picture of the inverted stummel to show the difficulty of tracing the crack as it becomes less distinct and blends into the moon-scape cragginess.  I mark the crack and circle what appears to be the end of the crack.Again, I recheck with the magnifying glass and then mark the point with the sharp dental probe.  I then mount the 1mm drill bit onto the Dremel and with nerves of steel, drill a hole freehand!  It’s amazing how shaky the hand gets when you’re trying to do precision drilling.  I intentionally make the counter-creep hole a little bigger than usual to make sure the crack is arrested.  I have no worries about blending in the rough blasted surface. Before applying thin CA glue, I use a Sharpie Pen to darken the hole I just drilled.  This will help blending after I apply the clear CA glue.Next, I use the thinnest CA glue in my inventory with a precision nozzle on it. I use thin CA glue to maximize the seepage of glue deeply into the crack.  I don’t want the glue congealing on the surface but curing deeply in the pipewood crack to reinforce the strength.  After waiting a while, I apply another line of CA down the crack.  I also apply CA to the inside of the rim where the crack is exposed above the Meerschaum. While I apply additional coats of CA glue to the stummel crack repair and the CA glue cures, I switch focus to the stem.  Even after soaking in the Before & After Deoxidizer, the oxidation in the stem is significant as the pictures show.  On the first picture, the saddle has a round section where the vulcanite appears burnt or something – like a wart almost.  I move directly to sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper to remove the oxidation.To guard against shouldering the saddle stem’s shank facing I employ a disc that I fashioned to keep the sanding in check. After the first round of sanding with 240 grade paper I follow by wet sanding using 600 grade paper.  On the dark surface it’s easier to take pictures that show the oxidation holding on.  The second picture shows a close-up of the ‘wart’ after sanding.  It shows pitting and even after sanding, the area appears rough and clouded. I return to sanding with 240 grade paper on the areas that continue to show oxidation and then finally move on to wet sanding with 600 grade paper and then apply 000 steel wool.  I also use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean further.  The stem is much improved even though the ‘wart’ is still visible. I then apply Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish to further clean and condition the vulcanite stem.  In succession I apply the polishes with my fingers and rub them in.  Between each coat, I allow some time – about 10 minutes, for the polish to absorb.  I then wipe the stem clean using paper towels and then buff some with a microfiber cloth and put the stem aside.After applying several applications of thin CA glue to the stummel crack, the crack is filled, and the glue cured.  To blend the ‘glue line’ I take a cotton bud and dip it in acetone and rub it over the glue line.  This removes much of the excess CA glue on the surface running along the crack line while not bothering the glue in the crack itself.  Doing this helps blend the crack in the craggy stummel surface.  I’m pleased with this crack repair and where I used acetone to clean, the hue of the pipewood is somewhat lightened.  I’ll address this later. With the stummel crack now stabilized, and before working on the Meerschaum lining patch project, I continue with the normal cleaning regimen.  I would rather finish with a clean pipe and not have to clean it at the end!   The stummel surface is dirty and grimy.  Now that the crack is repaired, I’m looking at the stummel surface and I see hints of oxblood coloring. Using undiluted Murphy, I scrub the blasted surface with a bristled toothbrush.  I scrub well getting into the crags of the blasting. After cleaning the external surface, I go to work on the internals.  Using pipe cleaners – bristled and soft and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%, I work on the mortise.  I also employ shank brushes and a small dental scoop to help clean.  I’m not able to reach far into the mortise with the dental tool because the threaded mortise narrows.  I discover that the mortise threading is cut into the wood.  I thought at first that it would be metal like the threaded tenon, but the threads are hewn out of the mortise.  I’m careful not to wear them down through the cleaning.  After some time and effort, the pipe cleaners start emerging lighter and I move on.I’m getting ready to head to the Black Sea for a few days on the beach with my wife for some R&R from our work here in Sofia. Before putting the stummel aside, I apply paraffin oil to the pipewood to help rehydrate the blasted or perhaps, blasticated pipewood.  It looks good and gives me a sneak peak of what the bowl will look like in the later stages of the restoration – I like what I see!The time was wonderful, the beach was superb and I’m thankful for the time of R&R with my lovely bride.  We enjoy the Black Sea immensely and find the slower pace rejuvenating to the soul.  I took along with me the newest addition to my collection that I purchased in a trip to Istanbul a few weeks ago. I love this carved block Altinay Meerschaum sculpted Billiard with the burgundy acrylic silver banded stem.  I looked at 100s of carved Meerschaums at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but this was the pipe that called my name and chose me 😊.  I guess I’m a ‘classic shape’ pipe man at heart.While on the beach, I thought a lot about how to approach the next step in this gargantuan Meer-lined Kilimanjaro.  The method I will be using to repair the Meerschaum I discovered from Troy (of Baccy Pipes) who posted this methodology on his website: Old Time Meer Lining Repair Method on a 1930s Kaywoodie Shellcraft #5651  described in his blog how he came upon this strategy as he approached repairing his first Meer lining:

I had read and heard from other pipe restores that an old late 19th-early 20th century druggist recipe for fixing broken meerschaum was egg whites and finely ground chalk, so that was what I was going to try and fix the meerlined rim with. It is said to have about the same porous properties of meerschaum and imparts no taste to the tobacco. 

Troy also affirms in the comments section on his blog that the mixture of egg white and chalk is ‘neutral’ and presents no difference in aftertaste compared to native Meerschaum.  I used this methodology with great success in the restoration An Italian Croc Skin Zulu and a Bear of a Meer Lining Repair.  This Zulu came out well.  I want to state for the record: the Meerschaum is NOT being repaired but emulated.  The process reinforces and strengthens the faults of the Meerschaum as well as masking the problems.  When I did the Zulu repair, I was taken to task by a commenter that it wasn’t a Meer repair…. True indeed.  But the alternative in this case will be that the pipe is never used again.  The method is without doubt a patch to the existing native Meerschaum, but with no better alternative, I’m willing to go with it.

To begin, I take a picture looking at the rim-top and the upper condition of the Meer.  I use a piece of 240 grade paper and lightly sand the top side of the Meerschaum to clean it and to show better the imperfections.  I also do a quick sanding over the internal pipewood that is exposed. I follow Troy’s lead in masking the stummel to protect it from the chalk/egg white mixture because it sets up very hard – not something I want on the Kilimanjaro’s blasted surface! With the Zulu repair I found some chalk from a Kindergarten teacher (of course) who is a fellow team member here in Bulgaria.  I used the old-fashioned way of pulverizing the chalk as finely as I could with the mortar and pestle to do the job.  After putting a pipe cleaner in the airway and through the draft hole to keep it free of ‘Ole Timer’ mixture, I apply an initial thin coating of the mixture using my finger to fill in the cracks in the fire chamber and over the broken area at the rim – filling the gaps and cracks is important at the beginning.  Later after this first, thin coat sets, I will build up the lining toward the rim so that it will cover the cracks as well as provide a uniform surface as I build out the rim breakage. For the first application, I mix 1 egg white to about 3 tablespoons of chalk to create the initial mixture to get into and fill the cracks for the first two applications. I save the remaining mixture and put it in the fridge and put the stummel aside for several hours for the ‘Ole Timer’ mixture to set.  The key to Troy’s approach, I believe, is the patient layering of the mixture allowing it to set and build, layer by layer – not putting the mixture on too thick which I believe would be more prone to trapping air pockets and cracking.  The pictures show the process. After a few more hours, the first picture shows the state of the Ole Timer mix.  With my finger, I again add a coat of the mixture to the chamber and let it set for several hours for it to set up, dry and harden more. After several hours, the layering is taking hold.I add another tablespoon of chalk to the current thin mixture to thicken it some.  Again, using my finger, I add another coat to the chamber, rim and over the breakage area.  This time I let the application cure overnight. The next morning, I take another picture to show the progress. I add one additional coating of the Ole Timer mixture to the entire chamber at the current thickness.  Again, I let it set for a few hours for it to dry and harden.  With the stummel on the side again, I turn to the stem and apply the full regimen of nine micromesh pads.  I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to continue rejuvenating the vulcanite stem.  It looks good! Now it’s time to work directly on the main Meerschaum breakage on the rim.  I’ve built the layering over the exposed area with the previous coats of the Ole Timer mix of chalk and egg whites.  I separate a smaller portion of the remaining mixture in a container and again add more powdered chalk to thicken it a bit more.  When it seems about the right viscosity to stand more firmly in the break cavity, I apply the mixture to the rim.  I keep the stummel on its side, with the breakage on the bottom to use gravity to settle the mixture in the break cavity.   I first take a before picture then an after. I don’t want to ‘over’ fill but allow more time to apply an additional coat of the thicker mixture.  I again put the stummel aside for several hours for the thicker mixture to dry and harden.  Again, I put all the Ole Timer mix back into the fridge to use again. Suffice it to say, I did several more coatings using the Old Timer mixture to build up the rim – I’m passing on more pictures of this process!  My goal was to build out the chamber wall to the rim and to fill out the rim, including the breakage gap, so that the chamber is a uniform cylinder.  From this reestablished uniform platform, I will then sand back to the original Meerschaum wall and reshape the rim to hopefully mask the breakage and produce an attractive rim presentation of darker pipewood meeting the new reinforced and repaired lining.  That “meeting” to me is what makes Meer-lined pipes attractive – the contrasting themes of color and texture.  The picture is the final after curing through the night to fully dry and harden. I start sanding the top of the stummel by removing the excess Old Timer mix to bring it down to the masking tape level.  I do this patiently to have a gradual approach to the rim surface. At this point, I’m careful to guard the internal repair to make sure I leave room for shaping the repaired rim.  Fine tuning comes later.  To be sure, working with this material is not tidy!  The dried mixture is extremely strong and durable, but it makes for a very dusty work space especially in the sanding phase.The masking tape is now showing through letting me know I’m down to the ‘show me the money’ area of the rim.  It shows me how much depth exists in the repaired lining and it shows me if I’m possibly too thin.  I’m wondering this when I look at the exact bottom of the picture – which represents the right-most edge of the Meer breakage.  The edge of the fill dips in there.  I decide to move on and see how things shape up.I transition to sanding from the bottom of the chamber working up toward the rim.  I wrap a piece of 240 grade paper around a Sharpie pen for reach.  My aim is to clean out the floor of the chamber and sand a smooth transition from the Meer floor moving upward toward the Old Timer material surface.Well, it was going so well until it wasn’t.  One of the things that I learned when I first started restoring pipes is that learning from what doesn’t work is as valuable as what does.  As I sand, I see the cracks emerge in the Old Timer surface.  When I first see that a major problem was in progress, two things come to my mind – this Kilimanjaro has perhaps transitioned from a commission benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria (sorry Paresh!) to a personal project.  The second was to continue sanding to see what remained intact. When the cracked sections started forming, I also use a sharp dental probe to aid the controlled destruction.As the following pictures show, the surprising part is that the current problems with the Ole Timer surface isn’t with the area of the major Meer breakage gap, but along the rim where the Meer has deteriorated and there was little for the Ole Timer mixture to grip. When there isn’t anything to lose but time, I decide to proceed to see what can be done.  My wife actually proposed the present path when I showed her the meltdown and explained that it was the thin deteriorating Meer at the top of the rim that the Ole Timer mix was not able to adhere.  Her suggestion was to top the stummel to mine down to a healthier and more solid foundation for the rim.  This sounded like a good option to me and perhaps would have been the better path at the beginning to clean out the deteriorated area more.  Of course, there is no telling how the rest of the rim, Meer and Ole Timer surface will like this idea. To prepare for the topping adventure, I remove the masking tape from the top of the stummel.Using 240 grade paper on the chopping board, I very gently begin the topping process.  At first I’m not sure what will result. After a few rotations, I check the progress and the remaining Ole Timer mixture appears to be solid.  This emboldens me and I continue to rotate the stummel several more rotations.Very interestingly, I the grain of the pipewood emerges during the topping.  After several rotations, the emerging wood is not smooth like briar, but a naturally ‘rusticated looking’ presentation appears as the pictures below show very clearly.  I continue to top the stummel and the pictures following show the gradually change in the appearance of the rim as the sanding does its work. The mysterious ‘pipewood’ continues to dog me.  What is pipewood anyway?  I did a bit of snooping in my research bucket and remembered that Charles Lemon had worked on a Kilimanjaro (see: Resurrecting a Giant Kilimanjaro War Club Billiard) and he had raised the same question about the type of wood he was working on – definitely not briar.  In the comments section of that blog we went back and forth about the wood and Johan came up with the mysterious ‘Pipewood’ designation in Pipedia’s article which I referenced above.  Charles didn’t resolve what ‘pipewood’ actually was either.  I decided to ask my wife what she made of this ‘East African Pipewood’.  She’s pretty amazing with plants and is a horticulturalist hobbiest in her own right. She looked at the grain I had uncovered on the rim and with little thought observed that that it looked like bamboo.  With her curiosity piqued, she did a bit of online research and sent me a link with a picture (see LINK) labeled, ‘bamboo end grain flooring’.  The cheetah-like spotting is very much like the Kilimanjaro’s rim.  Then, a little later, as if to produce exhibit “2”, my wife handed me one of our throw-away bamboo chopsticks we get from our favorite Bulgarian Chinese home delivery restaurant.  I managed to take a closely focused picture again to show the uniformed ‘tubular’ grain structure of a bamboo specimen.  The case for East African Pipewood being some strain of bamboo is looking pretty strong.  As Charles remarked in his blog noted above, whatever the wood is, it would not be good to use in direct contact with fire, like with briar, but would of necessity need to be paired with a Meershaum lining to work.  Thanks to my gifted wife, I think I have a better handle on what pipewood actually is.  What I’m seeing on the rim is a cross-section cut of this wood.  The LONG crack down the side of the stummel makes more sense with the straightness of it – this wood it structured in long, straight grains.  It would not, therefore, have a lot of resistance to an expansion from heating… it would seem!  Curiosity satisfied, I move on.At this point I’ve come to a place where more topping will not help.  The deteriorated and crumbling part or the rim and Meerschaum has been removed and solid Meer has emerged.  I circle the one place that the Meer shows a residual chip.  To remove this area would require more ‘Pipewood’ to be sacrificed than I’m willing to give. This next pictures shows clearly the depth of the Meer chip and how much of the top would need to be removed to erase the chip – not an option.  As I look at the integrity of the remaining Old Timer faux Meer material, it appears to be strong but aesthetically, not very pretty!  At this point, strength wins over pretty!  With nothing to lose, I will again apply more coats of the Ole Timer mixture to fill this area and hopefully to solidify a stronger foundation.I give the area a quick cleaning with a cotton bud dipped in alcohol.Again, I apply the mixture of egg white and chalk – applying several coats over a few days gradually to build up the area arriving at the point to start sanding again.  I’m amazed that as often as I’ve gone back to my original mixture of egg white and chalk, it has only taken one egg white and it has done quite well being refrigerated after each application.I come to the point of sanding once more. The gradual building of the Ole Timer mix looks good.  I use 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to provide the firm backing to the sanding.  I want the chamber straight and I don’t want to inadvertently bevel off the internal edge at the rim. I then take the stummel back to the topping board using 240 grade paper.  This does a good job cleaning the rim surface again exposing the unique cheetah-like grain pattern of the pipewood. I follow the 240 grade paper by rotating the stummel a few more times on 600 grade paper.After the topping, I use pieces of 240 then 600 grade papers to further smooth the chamber walls – blending the edges of the differing layers of the Old Timer material.  Smoothing the rim more also seems to harden the material more – making both the native Meerschaum lining and the Ole Timer more durable.  I also give the inner rim edge a subtle rounding which protects the edge from chipping.  Looking closely at where the native Meer and Ole Timer Faux Meer meet, I see a few gaps that the Ole Timer mixture did not close.  These are marked with the arrows.One more time I bring out the chalk and egg white mixture and after mixing it, I apply more on the rim with my finger to close the gaps and then let it set for a few hours to harden.Again, I sand… …and declare that the Meerschaum chamber repair is complete!  I’m pleased with the what I’m seeing – as I said before, it ain’t pretty, but this pipe has a chance for another lifetime and that makes this long, methodical process worth the trouble.  Altogether, I’ve been working on this Meer-lining repair about a week or so.  The true test for both the stummel’s crack repair and the Meerschaum, and how well the Old Timer Faux Meer holds up, will come after the chamber is put into service.  The physics of the heat – expansion and contraction – will show no favorites and we’ll see what the result will be!Anxious to see the stem and stummel reunited, I peel away the masking tape and clean the exposed stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  Not bad!I look closely at the crack repair (formerly the Grand Crack Canyon) and it is solid, but I notice again that the crack line itself and the pipewood in the immediate area running along the crack has lightened a wee bit.  It’s not surprising after using acetone to clean away the excess CA glue from the crack repair.  The picture shows this well.To remedy this, I use an Italian made dye stick labeled, Noce Medio (Medium Night) that does a great job blending the area with the stummel.The surface looks great and I enhance this by applying a goodly portion of Before & After Restoration Balm to bring out the depth of the dark, burgundy speckled, blasted surface.  After rubbing the Balm into the craggy surface with my fingers, I set the stummel aside for about 20 minutes allowing the Balm to do its thing.And I like what it did!  After 20 minutes I use a cotton cloth to wipe the excess Balm and then I follow by hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.After reattaching the stem, I mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and set the speed at 40% full power.  I then apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem.  I also apply the compound to the rim surface as well as the smooth surface on the underside of the shank holding the nomenclature.After applying the compound, I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel maintaining the same speed and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and as well a light application to the stummel.  The craggy stummel surface will get gummed up if I apply too much wax, but a small amount spreads nicely with the Dremel action and brings out the luster of the dark hues of the pipewood.  I finish the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth.

This restoration was a labor of love – this gargantuan pipe wanted another opportunity to serve and I hope my repairs have given him a fighting chance!  As I said earlier, the proof of this pudding will be in the heating and cooling of the stummel.  The Old Timer Faux Meerschaum is a durable material after it sets up and hardens.  The key will be if the Ole Timer material bonds and moves with the native Meerschaum during the heating and cooling.  We’ll see!  My good friend in India, Paresh, commissioned this giant Kilimanjaro to benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I’m going to propose to Paresh that if he would like, I can send the Kilimanjaro to him to put it into service for a few months to see how the repairs fair then settle up 😊.  If not, I’ll keep the Kilimanjaro in my own collection and see how he does!  Thanks for joining me!  It’s not pretty!  ThePipeSteward

 

Restoring a Beautiful Bertram Billiard with a Dark Stain


Blog by Steve Laug

It you have not read the previous blogs I have posted on this brand give them a read to get some background on the pipes in this lot. If you have not been hit with a box I am sure you have a hard time understanding how overwhelming it feels to look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored. It is mind boggling for sure – but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. I could not do it without Jeff’s help doing the clean up on the lot. If I had to do it all by myself it would be more than I handle moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes I get to choose what I want to work on. Doing the work this way we have already cleaned about 70 pipes and I have restored around 38 of them. We are getting there slowly but surely.

This time I chose a darker coloured Bertram Billiard to work on. It has some amazing grain with a few visible fills on the sides of the bowl. There is no grade number stamped on the pipe but judging from the other ones I have worked on I would say it is probably a grade 30 pipe. The briar has a mix of grains – straight, flame and birdseye. The exterior of the bowl looked really good. There were some fills around the bowl, on both sides and the rim top. The bowl had cake in the chamber and the rim top had some darkening and lava overflow. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the bowl edge of the bowl looked like until the cake and lava were gone. The stem had some oxidation and tooth marks and chatter near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his cleanup work on it. Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. You can see from the photos why it was hard to tell the condition of the inner edge of the rim. The pictures of the bowl sides and the heel give a clear picture of the grain around the heel and the sides of the bowl. Other than the obvious fills the bowl looks very good. I am looking forward to seeing what is under all of the grime. The fills are visible in the photos below. The next photo captures the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see the Bertram Washington, D.C. stamp clearly readable.The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the calcification, oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. There are tooth marks on the stem near the button. There is some wear on the button edge.With each of the blogs that I have written on the Bertrams that I have worked on I have included the following information. If you have read it in past blogs, you can skip over it. If you have not, I have included the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them take some time to read the background. I include a link to the write up on Pipedia (http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram). Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. Bertram graded their pipes by 10s and sometimes with a 5 added (15, 25, 55 etc.), the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I have worked on one 120 Grade billiard. I have several blogs that I have written on rebornpipes that give some history and background to Bertram pipes. (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/06/16/an-easy-restoration-of-a-bertram-grade-60-217-poker/).

I have included the following link to give a bit of historical information on the pipe company. It is a well written article that gives a glimpse of the heart of the company. http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2012/01/bertrams-pipe-shop-on-14th-street.html#

From this information I learned that all of these Bertrams were made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Billiard with stunning grain – only marred by the fills around the bowl sides.This pipe has no Grade stamp on it which I am sure takes into account the fills.

Jeff is methodical in his cleaning regimen and rarely varies the process. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the rim top and edges of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. Without the lava the inward bevel on the rim looked very good with slight darkening at the rear. The inner edge was in great condition. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I decided to work on the repairs to the fills on the sides and heel of the bowl. I filled them in with clear super glue to smooth out the roughness. Once the repairs had cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It is fascinating to see that the fills follow the pattern of the grain perfectly and once sanded they blended in better with the grain around the bowl. I am still in the process of experimenting with some of Mark Hoover’s new products – this one a Briar Cleaner. I worked it into the surface of the briar to clean out the dirt and grit in the grain. I wiped it down with a clean paper towel to remove the cleaner. I heated the briar and stained it with a tan Fiebings stain. I lit the stain with a lighter to set it in the briar. I repeated the process until the colour was what I wanted. My aim was to blend the fills into the bowl better than they did previously. I set the bowl aside overnight to let the stain coat cure. In the morning I took photos of the bowl before I did further work on it. I wiped the newly stained bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to make it more transparent. The photos show the bowl at this point in the process. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. If you have not tried some why not give it a try. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the small tooth marks and chatter next to the button on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished out the sanding scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. I gave it one more coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry. Jeff and I are gradually working through this 200+ lot dealing with each of the challenges they present one at a time. This one is another Bertram’s take on a classic Billiard shape. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. For a non-graded Bertram this pipe is quite stunning. The finish really has some interesting grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is well shaped Billiard. This Bertram feels great in the hand sits right in the mouth. Have a look at the finished pipe 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 of an inch. Maybe this shape speaks to you and you want to add it to your collection. If you are interested let me know as I will be adding it to the store soon. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

New Life for a Broken Nording Danmark F Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

In one of the bags of parts Jeff purchased there was a bowl and there was a piece of shank with a stem in place. We took all the parts out of the bag and were able to see that these two parts actually went together. The shank piece is stamped on the underside as follows: F over NORDING over DANMARK near the horn extension/shank union. The bowl shape follows the grain of the block of briar very well. The break in the shank was not a clean one – it was a mess. The inside of the airway was plugged with lava and tar. Someone had tried to repair the two parts by gluing them together with epoxy. As expected the repair did not hold. Jeff took photos of the pieces to show the extent of the damage to the pipe – it really was a stunning pipe originally. The shank was thin but the briar was thick enough. The nice piece of striated horn that made a shank extension was in excellent condition. There was a steel tube in the end of the horn where the stem sat in place to protect it from splitting when the stem was repeatedly inserted. The turned fancy stem was in good condition with some tooth marks on both sides but otherwise it was undamaged. There was a thick cake in the bowl and a heavy overflow of lava on the rim top.The next series of photos shows the two parts of the shank and the thick buildup of tars and oils in the shank interior and the broken briar around the shank. The next photos show the rim top and the thick cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the plateau top. The valleys and high spots are almost filled smooth with lava.Jeff also took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the grain on the pipe. The finish is very dirty but the grain is quite beautiful. There are nicks and dents in the briar.The stamping on the shank portion of the broken pipe is readable but worn. The joint between the shank and the horn extension is very good – solid. The metal tube in the shank end provided the internal strength to hold this joint tight. It is interesting to note that the shank broke just ahead of the tube inside the shank. The stem appeared to be in good condition. The button was worn with tooth marks on the topside. There was some oxidation and wear on the surface near the button.Jeff reamed the bowl and cleaned up the plateau top with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. He scrubbed it until it was clean. He cleaned out the inside of the two parts of the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the airway was clear. He cleaned up the broken ends of the shank with a tooth brush and the soap. He rinsed off the bowl and shank and the airway with warm water. He dried it off and set it aside. He cleaned up the stem and let it soak in a bath of Before & After stem deoxidizer. He took it out of the bath and rinsed it off and cleaned out the airway with pipe cleaners and alcohol. When I arrived he showed me the parts. They were incredibly clean. I was excited to get started on the repair of the broken shank… so much so that I forgot to take pictures of the cleaned up parts of the pipe.

I picked up some tubing at Hobby Lobby and cut off a piece that was close to the length I needed to join the two parts of the shank together. I used a Sawsall blade and a hacksaw to cut a length from the tube. I used a metal rasp to flatten the end of the piece of tube and shorten it enough to fit into the two parts of the shank. I used the small blade on a pocket knife to open up the airway in the bowl end of the shank and to flare the end of the tube in the stem end of the shank.I used the hacksaw to rough up the surface of the tube so the glue would have a surface to bond to between the briar and the tube. I used some Testor’s Metal and Wood Glue to insert the tube into the bowl end of the shank. I used a tooth pick to press the glue into the area around the tube. I filled in the remainder of the gap with clear Gorilla glue.I used the tooth pick to put Gorilla Glue on the open ends of each piece of the shank. I coated the tube with some glue as well. I aligned the two parts and pressed the pieces together. I held them tightly in place until the glue set and the two parts were bound together. I filled in the repaired area with Gorilla Glue to smooth out the repair. I set the bowl aside to let the repair cure. Once the glue had cured and the shank was solid, I smoothed out the repair a medium and fine sanding block. I sanded the repaired area and glue with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the excess glue. I smoothed out the finish. I decided to use Mark Hoover’s Briar Cleaner at this point in the process to clean off the briar. It works to remove the dust and debris in the briar and leaving behind a clean piece of briar. I polished the bowl and horn shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. It is a nice looking pipe for sure. At this point in the process I brought the pipe back to Vancouver. I sanded the repaired area with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surrounding briar. I wanted to remove some of the darkened area around the repair so that I could polish it further and restain the shank to match the rest of the pipe.I polished the repaired area with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads to polish out the sanding scratches. I polished it further with 3200-12000 grit pads. Once it was smooth I stained it with a Cherry stain pen to blend it into the rest of the pipe. The photos tell the story of the repair. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar and set it aside to dry. Once the Balm had been doing its work for a while I buffed it down with a microfiber cloth. The Balm cleaned, protected and enlivened the briar. The repaired shank was looking very good at this point in the process. I cleaned the pipe stem with a new version of Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm that he had designed to work well on both the briar bowls and the vulcanite stems. I rubbed it into the surface of the stem with my fingertips and buffed it off with a microfibre cloth. I polished the stem with microfibre pads – wetsanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it off with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. After the 12000 grit pad I polished it with Before & After Fine Polish and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I put the stem back on the pipe and took the pipe to the buffer. I carefully buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish the briar and the vulcanite. I wanted to get a shine but not risk damaging the pipe by having it fly off the wheel. Blue Diamond does a great job on the smaller scratches that remain in both briar and vulcanite. 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 really nicely with a great contrasting stain look to the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is a beautiful Eric Nording F Freehand – the fancy turned stem and the horn shank extension give the pipe a great look. The polished black vulcanite stem looks really good with the rich browns standing out in the grain and the blacks of the plateau rim. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches wide and 2 inches long, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This pipe is truly a rebornpipe. The shank repair and inside tube that binds it together should last a long time. Thanks for walking with me through the repair and the restoration of this beauty!

Restoring Jennifer’s Dad’s Champ of Denmark 4 Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

I decided to change things up a bit and work on a few more of Jennifer’s Dad’s pipes. I just posted the finished Sasieni Four Dot Walnut “Appleby” M apple on the blog. For the next pipe from the estate of George Rex Leghorn I have chosen a nicely shaped Champ of Denmark Freehand. You may not have read about this estate before, so I will retell the story. I received an email from Jennifer who is a little older than my 64+ years about whether I would be interested in her Dad’s pipes. My brother Jeff and I have been picking up a few estates here and there, so I was interested. Here is the catch – she did not want to sell them to me but to give them to me to clean up, restore and resell. The only requirement she had was that we give a portion of the sales of the pipes to a charity serving women and children. We talked about the organization I work for that deals with trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and their children and she decided that would be a great way to carry on the charitable aspect of her Dad’s character. With some great conversation back and forth she sent the pipes to Jeff and he started the cleanup process on them. Once he had finished cleaning them all he sent them to me to do my work on them.

The Champ of Denmark pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank CHAMP over of Denmark and below that is the number 4. It came to us with a broken stem and the tenon stuck in the shank. The beautiful straight and flame grain around the bowl and up the shank is visible through the very thick coat of grime. It seemed like it had a dark stain but hard to tell. There were oil stains from George’s hands on both sides of the bowl obscuring the grain. It was so dirty that it was hard to see the colour well. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it had overflowed with lava into the plateau on the bowl top and shank end. It was a dirty and tired looking old pipe. The stem was badly oxidized with deep gouges and tooth marks both sides from the button up about 1 inch onto the stem surface. The button was cracked on the topside and tooth marks made it an unlikely candidate for a repair. It had been sitting in boxes for a lot of years and it was time to move ahead with the restoration. Jennifer took photos of the pipes she was sending. I have included two she included from this pipe.When the box arrived from Jennifer, Jeff opened it and took photos of each pipe before he started his cleanup work on them. There were two Champ of Denmark Freehands in the box – both were in bags and both had broken tenons and stems. There is something about classic Danish Freehands that is intriguing and I like working on them. The shapes seem to really capture the flow of the grain on the briar and this is no exception. The briar appeared to be in good condition underneath the grime. The finish looked intact under the grime. The bowl had a thick cake that had hardened with time. The lava overflow on the rim but it could very well have protected the rim from damage. We won’t know what is under it until Jeff had cleaned it off. The stem was irreparably damaged and would need to be replaced. The broken tenon was only one of the problems that led me to the decision that this stem would need to be replaced. (Jeff quickly pulled the broken tenon before he even cleaned the pipe.)Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the plateau rim top and on the shank end as well. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. The lava coat looks horrible but it points to a well-used, favourite smoking pipe. George must have enjoyed this old timer and when the tenon broke he must have been frustrated. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish – the grime and grit all over the sides and flat bottom of the bowl. It is a dirty pipe. Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the broken stem showing the scratching, oxidation and deep tooth damage to the stem surface. You can also see the broken tenon (totally fixable by with the other damage I don’t think it is worth it). I looked on the Pipephil site to get a quick overview of the brand. In the back of my mind I remembered a connection to Karl Erik. I could not remember the details of the connection (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c4.html). I did a screen capture of the section on the brand that was shown on the site. I have included it below.In summary it says that the brand was distributed by Larsen & Stigart a tobacconist in Copenhagen, Denmark. The warehouse had a workshop that had such famous carvers as Soren Eric Andersen, Karl Erik Ottendahl and others.

I turned then to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Champ_of_Denmark) to see if I could get a bit more information. I quote in full from that site:

“Champ of Denmark” were made for and distributed by Larsen & Stigart by Karl Erik Ottendahl. Larsen & Stigart had some indoor carvers at certain times, too (e.g. Søren Eric Andersen) and among other things they managed to supply Dunhill with wild Danish fancy pipes.

In an endnote under the article on Karl Erik (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Erik) I found someo more information. I quote the endnote in full.

¹ It is almost impossible to draw a sharp line between some of these brands… Larsen & Stigart – once a famous Copenhagen pipe shop, now almost forgotten – offered pipes produced by KE stamped “Larsen & Stigart” as well as pipes stamped “Larsen & Stigart” + “Champ of Denmark” or “Larsen & Stigart” + “Shelburne”. Almost needless to say, there are pipes stamped “Champ of Denmark” or “Shelburne” only. And the only reason is inconsistent stamping??? (BTW Larsen & Stigart employed own indoor carvers for approximately one decade – e.g. Søren Eric Andersen. They even managed to supply Dunhill with wild Danish fancy pipes.)

Now I had the verification of the link to Karl Erik Ottendahl. The pipe was most probably made by him for the pipe shop in Copenhagen. Before I get on to cleaning up the pipe I thought I would once again include the tribute that Jennifer wrote to her Dad for the blog. She also sent some photos and an article that her Dad wrote for Jeff and me to be able to get a feel for him. I have included those below. Note in each of them that he is holding a pipe in his left hand. I asked her to also send me an email with a brief tribute to her Dad. Here is her tribute from an email to me.

Steve, I want to thank you again for accepting my dad’s pipes.  They were so much a part of my dad’s life that I could not simply discard them. But as his daughter, I was not about to take up smoking them either. *laughing* I think my dad would like knowing that they will bring pleasure to others.  I know that I do.

I’m not sure what to say about his pipes. I always remember Daddy smoking pipes and cigars.

First a bit about my dad. Though my father, George Rex Leghorn, was American (growing up in Alaska), he managed to join the Canadian Army at the beginning of WWII, but in doing so lost his American citizenship.  He was fortunate to meet a Canadian recruiting officer who told him the alphabet began with “A” and ended with “Zed” not “Zee”, and also told him to say that he was born in a specific town that had all its records destroyed in a fire.  When the US joined the war my dad, and thousands of other Americans who had made the same choice*(see the link below for the article), were given the opportunity to transfer to the US military, and regain their citizenship.

After WWII, my dad, earned his degree at the University of California Berkeley and became a metallurgist. There is even a bit about him on the internet.

He loved taking the family out for a drive, and he smoked his cigars on those trips. (As a child, those were troubling times for my stomach.)

I most remember my father relaxing in his favorite chair with a science fiction book in one hand and a pipe in the other… Sir Walter Raleigh being his favorite tobacco… and the pipes themselves remind me of him in that contented way.  If I interrupted his repose, he’d look up, with a smile on his face, to answer me.

It seemed he smoked his Briarwood pipes the most, though he had others.  At the time, it was only the Briarwood I knew by name because of its distinctive rough shaped bowl.  And it was the Anderson Free Hand Burl Briar, made in Israel, which I chose for his birthday one year, because I thought he might like that particular texture in his hand.

At least two of his pipes, he inherited from his son-in-law, Joe Marino, a retired medical laboratory researcher (my sister Lesley’s late husband)… the long stemmed Jarl (made in Denmark), and the large, white-bowled, Sherlock Holmes style pipe.  I believe Joe had others that went to my dad, but Lesley was only sure about those two.

The Buescher, corncob pipe my older sister Lesley bought for Daddy while on one of her travels around the States.

A note on the spelling of my sister’s name…

My dad met my mother, Regina, during WWII and they married in Omagh, Ireland.  My mother was English and in the military herself.  The English spelling of Lesley is feminine, and Leslie masculine, in the UK… just the opposite of here in the United States.  I guess my mom won out when it came to the spelling of the name.

I’ll send you photos of my dad soon, along with his WWII experience story.

Jennifer

*https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/10/22/the_americans_who_died_for_canada_in_wwii.html

I am getting more and more used to Jeff cleaning up the pipes before I work on them. So much so that when I have to clean them it is a real chore! This pipe was a real mess just like the other ones in the collection. I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish was in rough condition with some darkening from oils on both sides of the bowl. The rim top and shank end plateau looked lifeless. Since I was going to replace the stem he cleaned the internals and scrubbed the exterior to keep the box from smelling. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos before I started my part of the work. It is still darkly stained on both sides. I started sanding the bowl before I took photos so the top view shows the sanding dust… I quickly did some photos. At this point I decided to see what I had in terms of a freehand stem that would work with this bowl. I went through my options here and chose one with the approximate shape. It is a little less ornate but I think it will work well when it is cleaned up.I put the stem in the shank and took some photos to get an idea of the look of the pipe with the new stem. I will likely bend it slightly more to match the bowl angles but at the moment it is the same bend as the broken on. I like it! I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what an amazing job Jeff did in the cleanup of the rim top. Even with the work there was still some hard lava in the plateau area I also took close up photos of the new stem to show condition it was in. It would not take a lot of work – just sanding out the scratches and polishing with micromesh sanding pads.I wiped the underside of the shank down with a cotton pad and alcohol so I could more easily see the stamping. It read as noted above.I started to sand out the inside of the bowl as noted above – a lesson learned from Paresh’s daughter Pavni while I was in India. It soon became apparent that there were some heat fissures in the briar. Fortunately they were not too deep but they were significant on the front and backside of the inner walls of the bowl. I mixed a small batch of JB Weld and used a folded pipe cleaner to fill in the fissures in those areas. I did not coat the entire bowl. Once it had cured I would sand the areas smooth leaving the fill only in the fissures themselves.Once the repair had hardened to touch it was time to continue my work on the bowl. I wanted to scrub the briar with alcohol and see if I could remove some of the oils in the briar on both sides. I also worked over the front and rear of the bowl and the shank. I was able to remove a lot of the darkening oils with the alcohol. I used a dental pick and a brass bristle wire brush to work over the rim top plateau. I was able to clean out the remaining lava and set the rest of the definition of the plateau free. It is a nice looking rim top. I wiped it down with alcohol and then touched up the valleys in the plateau with a black Sharpie pen.I polished the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh to see what the sides looked like. I was not happy with the finished look on the sides of the bowl as it seemed to highlight the darkening on both sides. I was going to have to stain the bowl to try to blend in the darkening on the sides.I decided to use a Tan stain to see what I could do with it. I applied it and flamed it to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the bowl. Once the stain had set and the alcohol evaporated I wiped it down with alcohol on cotton pads to make the colour more transparent. I wanted the grain to stand out but still hide the darkening on the sides of the bowl. I was happy with the results so far. Once I polished it with micromesh sanding pads and buffed it with Blue Diamond it would be even more transparent. I polished the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down between pads with a soft cotton cloth. You can see the progress in the shine as you go through the photos. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the plateau on the rim top and shank end with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process.  With the outside of the bowl finished and the repairs on the inside hardened and cured it was time to smooth out the interior of the bowl. I sanded it with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the material around the repairs by sanding. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to clean up the dust. I mixed up a batch of bowl coating – sour cream and charcoal powder blended together. The mixture dries hard and does not have any residual taste. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway to keep the coating out of it. I coated the bowl with the mixture by painting it on the briar with a folded pipe cleaner. Once the bowl was coated, I set it aside to dry. I will need to wipe off the rim top and externals before waxing the bowl but it is looking very good at this point. I set the bowl aside to allow the bowl coating to cure and turned my attention to the “new” stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation followed by 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish and a cotton pad to remove remnants of oxidation and to further blend in the sanding. The stem was showing some promise at this point in the process. I heated the stem over a candle to soften the vulcanite. When it was softened I bent it over a jar to match the angle that would match the top of the bowl.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad and set it aside to dry. Once the bowl coating had cured I wiped the bowl down with a microfiber cloth and hand wiped off any residual bowl coating on the outside with a damp cotton pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The new darker stain works well to mask the darkening and make the grain really pop. The pipe polished up really well. The polished black vulcanite bit seemed to truly come alive with the buffing. This Freehand  feels great in my hand and it is a sitter as well. It must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it from Jennifer. There should be a lot of life left in this Champ of Denmark by Karl Erik. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is one that will go on the rebornpipes online store shortly. If you want to carry on the pipe trust of George Leghorn let me know. Thank you Jennifer for trusting us with his pipes. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners, we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.

Restoring a Beautiful Bertram Apple 60 from the Bertram Lot


Blog by Steve Laug

Feel free to refer to the previous blog posts on the brand if you want some background on the pipes in this lot. I have a hard time expressing how overwhelming it is to look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored. It is mind boggling but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. I could not do it without Jeff’s help. He is doing the clean up on the lot as that would be more than I could handle by myself in moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes I get to choose what I want to work on. This time I chose another interesting Bertram Apple. It has grade 60 number on the underside of the shank. The grain was a mix of grains – straight, flame and birdseye. It is another round bottom pipe with a taper stem. The exterior of the bowl looked really good. The bowl had cake in the chamber that was no problem. The rim top had some darkening and lava overflow on the back side. There appeared to be a bit of damage to the back side of the inner edge of the bowl. The stem had some oxidation and tooth chatter near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his cleanup work on it. Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. It was hard to tell the condition of the inner edge of the rim due to the thick cake and lava coat.Jeff took pictures of the bowl sides and the heel to show the great looking grain around the sides of the bowl. Spots on the briar in the photo are actually dirt and not fills. I am looking forward to seeing what is under all of the grime.Jeff took photos to capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. It shows the stamping which read Bertram over Washington, D.C. The second photo shows the number 60 stamped on the underside of the shank. That is the quality number designation on this pipe. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the calcification, oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. There are several deeper tooth marks on the underside of the stem near the button. There is some wear on the button edge.I have included this information with each of the Bertram blogs I have posted. You can skip the next bit. But if you have not, then I include the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them do some research on them. I include a link to the write up on Pipedia (http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram). Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. They graded their pipes by 10s, the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I’ve never heard of or seen a 100 grade. I have several blogs that I have written on rebornpipes that give some history and background to Bertram pipes. (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/06/16/an-easy-restoration-of-a-bertram-grade-60-217-poker/).

I have included the following link to give a bit of historical information on the pipe company. It is a well written article that gives a glimpse of the heart of the company. http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2012/01/bertrams-pipe-shop-on-14th-street.html#

From this information I have learned that the shape and grade Bertram I have in front of me now was made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Zulu is yet another different shape from the other Bertram shapes I have restored. I have restored one other Zulu from this collection (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/06/01/a-zulu-shaped-bertram-30-from-the-bertram-collection/). Like the other one this also has a 30 grade stamp that gives some idea of how Bertram identified the quality of this pipe.

By now if you have been a reader for long you have Jeff’s cleaning regimen pretty well memorized. If you know it you can skip right to the pictures. If not I will include them once more. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. The rim and edges were in amazing condition. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. Without the lava there was some burn damage to the rear inner edge. I have circled the burn damage in red in the photo below. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with some light tooth marks on the underside near the button and light tooth chatter on both sides.I took photos of the stamping to show how it looked after the cleanup. The Bertram Washington DC is clear and readable. The second photo shows the grade 60 stamp on the underside of the shank.I cleaned up the burn damaged inner edge and outer edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. Next I worked on some  sand pits and gouges in the bowl. There was one on the lower left side of the bowl. There were several near the rim top on the back of the bowl. I filled them in with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. When the repairs had cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I touched up the sanded area with an oak stain pen to blend it into the rest of the bowl. I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. The grain began to stand out. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. If you have not tried some why not give it a try. I sanded out the small tooth marks and chatter next to the button on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I followed by polishing the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish with a cotton pad. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished out the sanding scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. Jeff and I are gradually working through this 200+ lot dealing with each of the different challenges they present. This one is Bertram’s take on a classic medium sized Apple shape. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. This is a Grade 60 pipe with some really nice grain around the bowl. It has a tapered vulcanite stem. The finish really has some interesting grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is well shaped Apple. This Bertram feels great in the hand sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Maybe this shape speaks to you and you want to add it to your collection. Rest easy, this one will soon be on the rebornpipes store. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

 

Recommissioning an Italian La Strada Scenario Canadian 130


Blog by Dal Stanton

Pipes come to me in many ways – pipe picking in bazaars, second-hand shops and antique shops.  The eBay auction block is another way I procure pipes to restore to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Another gratifying way pipes have come to me are from people who hear about the Daughters and want to help.  They donate pipes from their own collections or pipes that were passed on from loved ones.  In 2017, my wife and I were in Butler, PA, speaking at a church that has financially and prayerfully supported the work we do in Bulgaria for many years.  We were invited to visit the home of Dan and Jane Hartzler, who we’ve known for many years.  We had a great time visiting and Dan said he wanted to give me something.  He brought out 4 very well-used pipes in a rack and offered them to me to use to benefit our work with the Daughters.  The pipes came from his now deceased father, Rex, who was an Ohioan all his life from his birth in 1922 till his final day in July of 2011.  When I receive pipes in this way I always try to find out about their former steward – it adds depth of story and meaning when I restore pipes that are passed on.Dan shared with me about his father during that visit and in subsequent emails after we departed Butler. It’s not possible to capture an entire lifetime in the brevity of this write-up, but I found very interesting was that Rex had a yearning for adventure in his early years.  When he started college in 1940, he also took flying lessons and subsequently joined the Navy pilot program during WWII.  This choice in his life as a young man brought him into an interesting role during WWII.  He piloted blimps flying protective duty over the Panama Canal – a critical naval east/west artery to connect the Atlantic and Pacific naval operations.  This description from BlueJacket.com is interesting and adds insight to Rex’s duties as a ‘lighter than air’ pilot.  The primary role of the blimp was directed toward anti-submarine warfare.  The toll on merchant marine fleets were heavy during the beginning years of the Atlantic theater supporting the Allied war effort in Europe.  The ‘Lighter Than Air’ units played a key role in turning the tide of these major naval losses.  To guard shipping using the Panama Canal, blimps were stationed on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides to ward off submarine attacks on shipping.  Dan told me that is father never piloted again after the end of the war and settled into married life in 1946 and raised a family in Ohio.

Dan looked for a picture of his father smoking his pipe that I could add but couldn’t find one.  One reason for this was probably the fact that Dan’s mother didn’t like pipe smoke in the house, so Rex would normally load up the bowl with his favorite blend and go outside where he walked among the trees – and by looking at some of the pipes that Dan gave me, we concluded that he probably knocked on the trees or on other hard surfaces to clear the ashes!  I’m thankful for Dan’s contribution of his dad’s pipes to benefit the Daughters.  I brought them back to Bulgaria and placed them in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection online and this is where Jim found the Canadian he wanted to commission.  Jim came to my Dreamers inventory with Canadians on his mind.  After looking at different offerings he came down to Rex’s La Strada, which I was very pleased to commission and now, begin restoring this well-used La Strada Scenario from Rex to a new steward.

Jim added one more request for the La Strada Canadian when I began work on it.  He sent this short note with a link:

dal,
noticed this as an improvement for many pipes. would it do well for the pipe you’re working on for me?  https://pipedia.org/wiki/Airflow:_The_Key_to_Smoking_Pleasure

 jim

The title of the Pipedia article piqued my interest and it introduced me to debate regarding “opening” the airway in a pipe to improve the physics of airflow.  The author of the article, Ken Campbell, originally posted it to The Pipe Collector, the official newsletter of The National Association of Pipe Collectors (NASPC), I believe in 2011 where he makes a compelling argument.  Ken Campbell sited those who did not agree with his assessments, but what I found interesting was the science behind the proposition that increasing the diameter of the airway, if done correctly, according to the author. can enhance the enjoyment, reduce gurgles, difficulties in keeping the bowl lit, etc.  A step closer to pipe smoker’s nirvana!  The science is interesting, and whether it’s correct or not, I’m not sure, but it’s compelling.  I’m repeating this paragraph from Campbell’s, ‘The Key to Smoking Pleasure’ in toto including the pipe artisans he sites to make his case:

My first clue came from an article I read in Pipes & Tobacco in the Winter/1996/97 edition, early in 1997. The article was entitled “Nature’s Designs” by Dayton H. Matlick and was about Lars Ivarsson, his pipe making and some of his philosophy and knowledge about smoking. I quote Messrs. Matlick and Ivarsson from this article: “Unrestricted airflow through the entire channel is essential for an easy-smoking pipe….’Once you pick the shape and size of pipe you like, test the airflow,’ says Lars Ivarsson. ‘Draw in through the empty pipe at normal smoking force. There should be no sound or, at most, a deep, hollow sound. This means the airflow is not restricted, an essential element of a good-smoking pipe. If you have any whistling sounds,… meaning restricted airflow, you will probably have trouble keeping it lit and it will probably smoke wet. According to Lars, ‘You’re getting turbulence in the airstream when you exceed a certain speed. The sound of that turbulence indicates that the smoke will get separated. Smoke is actually microdrops of moisture containing hot air and aroma. When air passes quickly through a restricted passageway, turbulence moves the heavy particles, including the moisture, to the perimeter, like separating cream from milk. This can be caused by too small a diameter or sharp corners in the smoke passage [which is] an extremely important issue….[T]he physics of the boring of your pipe will definitely have an impact on the taste of the pipe and your smoking pleasure. For all of his pipes, Lars uses a four millimeter [Ed. about 5/32nd of an inch] channel from one end of the pipe to the other. This may vary with the pipe maker, but the sound test will still hold true.”

The article is interesting, and I’m always interested in trying new things to expand my restoration repertoire, so I responded to Jim saying that I would give it a try, but because I had not done this before, I would need to research it more to make sure I get it right.  So, opening the airway of this La Strada Scenario Canadian is what I need to investigate and look for longer drill bits to add to my collection.

These were the pictures of Rex’s Canadian posted in ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ that got Jim’s attention.

‘La Strada’ simply means, ‘The Street’ in Italian.  The information gleaned from Pipedia and Pipephil.eu (See LINK) point to the La Strada name being primarily an Italian pipe production made for export, especially to the US.  Pipedia also added this bit of information: La Strada was an Italian export brand. Its large formats had some success in the USA, and were included in the 1970 Tinder Box catalog.  Steve restored a very nice looking La Strada Staccato found on rebornpipes (See LINK) where he posted this page from Tinderbox showing La Strada Offerings.  The Scenario shown on this page is a Bent Stem Sitter.  Interestingly, the Staccato example is the Canadian shape that I have on the worktable. As I was looking at the Staccato line, I recalled that I have a nice quarter bent Billiard La Strada Staccato in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection available for commissioning!  The ‘strapped’ sculpting and matte finish is the Staccato hallmark which I like.Looking at the La Strada Scenario Canadian now on the worktable, it is evident that it was put in service a good bit and the thick, uneven cake in the chamber shows this.  The lava over the rim is also thick revealing the signs of Rex’s stummel thumping practice as he would flip the Canadian over in his hand and thump it on a nearby tree to dislodge the ashes.  I take a few pictures below focusing in this area.  The rim’s fore section is nicked and chipped from this.  The second picture is looking at the back side of the bowl and the darkened area over the rim which was most likely how Rex lit his pipe.  Both pictures reveal the grime covering the stummel in need of cleaning.  The short stem of the Canadian reveals deep oxidation in the vulcanite and bite compressions on the upper- and lower-bit areas.With the initial assessment of the pipe’s condition completed, I begin the restoration by adding the stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer to begin addressing the deep oxidation in the stem.  I don’t believe that the soak will fully remove the oxidation, but this is a start in the right direction.  The first picture below shows the La Strada on the far right after the communal activity of cleaning the airways before putting the stems into the soak.  Using pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I ream out the oils collected in the airways.  I not only am cleaning the airway but sparing the B & A Deoxidizer bath from undo contamination!  The stuff is expensive, and I want it to stretch as long as possible!  After cleaning the airway, I place the La Strada’s stem in the bath for several hours. After some hours, I fish the stem out of the bath and drain the excess Deoxidizer back into the bath.  I then use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to wipe the stem down removing the raised oxidation resulting from the soak.  I also clear out the airway of fluid and clean it again with pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%.  As expected, my naked eye still detects the dark green evidence of residual oxidation in the stem – the pictures do not pick it up.  For now, to start the stem revitalization, I coat the surface with paraffin oil (a mineral oil) and put the stem aside to absorb the oil and dry. Now, looking to the Canadian stummel, I take a close-up of the chamber area showing the thick carbon cake. To address this, I start by reaming the chamber with the Pipnet Reaming Kit starting with the smallest of the 4 blade heads available.  After putting down paper towel to help in cleaning, I go to work.  Reaming the chamber not only cleans and gives the chamber a fresh start, but it allows me to see the briar underneath the cake to identify any potential burning issues with the chamber. I use 3 blade heads to ream the chamber then I shift to using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to further scrape the chamber wall and to reach down to the floor of the chamber. After this, I sand the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to give me reach and leverage as I sand.  Sanding removes the final carbon cake hold outs and helps smooth the chamber surface.  The second picture shows the full arsenal of tools used to address the chamber reaming. After I wipe the carbon dust with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean, I give the chamber an inspection.  About 2/3s down into the chamber there are evidences of some heat cracking which I don’t believe are serious enough to address with more than providing a new protective layer on the chamber wall.  I’ll do this later with a coating of either pipe mud or using a mixture made from activated charcoal and yogurt (or sour cream).  I take two pictures, the first with an open aperture to see more clearly the cracking.  Below the cracking, a small reaming ‘shelf’ has developed from too much forced pressure from the reaming tool.  I’ll work on smoothing that out with sanding aiming for a uniformed chamber contour. Next, to address the grime and oils on the Canadian bowl and long shank and to work on the lava flow on the rim, I first take a few pictures going ‘around the horn’ showing the starting condition. Next, I start by using undiluted Murphy’s Soap with a cotton pad and scrub the surface.  I also use a Winchester pocketknife to carefully scrape caking on the rim.  A brass wire brush also helps in this effort on the rim which helps clean but does not add to the rim erosion.  I start with the scrubbing using the Murphy’s Soap and work through scrubbing the smooth surface and scraping and brushing with the brass wire brush the rim area.I do an initial rinsing of the soap in the sink, and then immediately dive into cleaning the internals using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in alcohol as well as the full range of long shank brushes reaching through the long Canadian airway.  I also excavate much oil grime and tars from the mortise and reaching into the airway using a dental spatula.  I then take the stummel to the sink, and using warm water, I rinse the stummel again and use dish soap and warm water with the shank brushes to continue cleaning the airway.  This picture shows the conclusion of the carnage!After completing the cleaning, I inspect the external surface and am glad to find no large fills or holes revealed after the cleaning.  I like the potential of this briar to come out well.  But I do detect one more problem to add to the list. Looking closely at the distinctive vertical grain pattern running upward from the heel just to the right of the shank, I detect a crack.  At first, I think that it may simply be a ‘gap’ between the grain lines, but the more I look at it, I believe it’s a crack that needs to be addressed or it will possibly grow along the grain line. I decide to address this problem straight away.  I first mark the terminus points on each side of the crack.  Using a sharp dental probe tool, I press an indentation at each of these points.  I need a magnifying glass to correctly identify the ends of the cracks.  I press these indentations at the end points for two reasons.  First, I can better see where I need to drill counter-creep holes with the Dremel, but also the probe holes create a guide hole or a starter to guide the Dremel’s drill bit which I’m applying freehand!  The first two pictures are of the lower guide hole and then the next two, the upper guide hole. Next, I mount a 1mm drill bit in the Dremel and with a steadier hand than usual, I drill both counter-creep holes freehand. The guide holes help a good bit.  The picture shows the holes drilled at each end.  Not bad!I use a thin CA glue to run along the crack to shore it up as well as in the counter-creep holes.  I use thin CA glue to encourage seepage into the crack to provide a better seizing of the crack.  I then sprinkle briar dust over the holes and the crack to encourage blending.Not long after, the crack patch has set up enough for me to continue my work on the stummel.  I turn my attention to the battered rim.  There is no question that it will be visiting the topping board.  I take another closeup of the fore section of the rim to show its raw, battered condition.  The second picture shows the deterioration of the front side progressed to the point it appears to be sloped forward.  The normal disposition of the plane of the rim on the Canadian will be close to parallel to the shank.  I’ll need to remove some of the rim to bring proper orientation back to the rim. I cover the chopping board with 240 grade paper, and I start rotating the inverted stummel over the paper.  I intentionally lean to the rear to help move the rim line toward level.  The next pictures show the progression of topping. At this point I’m satisfied with the progression.  The rim has evened out and even though there are residual chips on the front side of the rim, I believe the small ones can be dispatched with a slight beveling.  The larger ones remaining will need more attention.I switch to 600 grade paper on the chopping board and give the stummel a few more rotations to smooth the surface more.The smaller skinned-up area on the right should disappear with some gentle bevel sanding.  I’ll first apply some briar dust putty to the larger remaining chips on the left, and then sand these areas out.  One larger chip remains on the aft of the rim which will also receive a fill of briar dust putty.  It should work well.I use a plastic disc to serve as my mixing pallet and I also put down some strips of scotch tape to help with the cleanup.  I mix some briar dust with regular CA glue.  I first put a small mound of briar dust on the pallet and then add a small puddle of CA glue next to it.  I gradually draw the briar dust into the CA glue until it thickens enough to trowel to the chipped areas using a toothpick.  The pictures show the progress. With the patches on the rim curing, I turn to the La Strada Scenario’s short Canadian stem.  When the stem came out of the Before & After Deoxidizer soak, I noted that I could still detect deep oxidation.  I need to address this, but first I will work on the tooth compression on the bit.  They aren’t severe.  First, I use a Bic lighter and paint the bit with the flame to heat the vulcanite.  When heated, the physics of the rubber expands with the heating and hopefully will lessen the severity of the compressions.  This works well, but I still need to sand.  I sand using 240 grade paper to work on the remaining tooth compressions and the residual oxidation.  I use a plastic disk I fabricated to sand against to avoid shouldering the stem facing.  I also use a flat needle file to sharpen the button definition.I widen the aperture on this picture to show the continued residual oxidation near the disk – more sanding needed.After using the file and 240 grade paper, I wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper then follow using 0000 steel wool. I like the progress.I’m on a roll with the stem.  Next, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to further rejuvenate the vulcanite stem.  I love the newly polished vulcanite pop! The briar dust patches filling out the chips on the rim are fully cured.  Using a flat needle file, I first work to file the excess patch material on the topside of the rim.  I file the excess briar dust patch down until close to the rim surface. When each of the three main patches are filed down vertically, I switch to filing the sides of each patch down close to the briar surface. I then take the stummel back to the topping board and light turn a few revolutions on 240 grade paper and then 600 grade.  This brings the patches down flush with the rim.Using 240 grade paper again, I create a soft bevel on the external rim lip.  This both shapes the patches and cleans up the smaller nicks on the circumference of the rim’s edge. I also do the same on the internal edge of the rim.Finally, I go over both the external and internal bevels with 600 grade paper to smooth and blend.  I like what I see!  This phase of the rim repair is complete.Next, I address the crack repair patch.  Again, I use a flat needle file to file the excess material down to the briar surface then follow with 240 and 600 grade papers. While I have the sandpaper handy, the front of the bowl has some skins and pits.  I quickly dispatch these using 240 and 600 grade papers. I follow the rough sanding by utilizing sanding sponges before the micromesh regimen.  I use a coarse, medium, and then light grade sanding sponge and sand the entire surface.  I’m careful around the nomenclature on the shank.  I like using the sanding sponges to clean the surface of minor imperfections, but they are not invasive.Turning now to the micromesh pad regimen, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Wow!  I’m liking the way this grain is coming out. I’ve come to a juncture and decision point.  The grain has come out beautifully and I like the rich honey brown tone of the briar.  Yet, the patches on the rim and for the crack repair stand out and to me, distracting.  The pictures below show this and for this reason, I decide to apply a darker hue to mask the repair work. The patches will not disappear totally, but the contrast will be minimized.  I like using Fiebing’s Dark Brown for this purpose.  As an aniline – alcohol-based dye, I can lighten it by wiping the stained surface with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol. After I assemble all the components for staining on my worktable, I warm the stummel using a hot air gun to expand the briar which enhances the reception of the dye pigment.  After the stummel is warm, I use a folded over pipe cleaner to apply the dye.  I apply the dye in swatches and then flame the aniline dye with a lit candle.  The alcohol combusts and sets the pigment in the grain.  After I methodically apply dye and flame the entire stummel, I repeat the process again assuring thorough coverage.  I set the stummel aside to rest through the night to allow the new dye to settle in.  And for me, I turn out the lights and call it a day. The next morning, the flamed stummel has had enough time to rest the new dye.  To ‘unwrap’ the stummel removing the crust, I mount a felt buffing wheel on to the Dremel, set it at the slowest possible speed and begin the methodical process of both removing the crust as well as polishing the briar with Tripoli compound. I stop to take a picture during the process to show the emerging briar grain after the staining process.  It’s amazing as I uncover the briar.  I’m pleased with the hue that I’m seeing. Not pictured above is that I changed the felt wheel to a cotton cloth buffing wheel, increased the speed of the Dremel to about 40% full power and when over the entire surface again with Tripoli compound.  Unlike with the felt wheel, with the cotton wheel I can reach into the crook of the shank and bowl to apply compound removing the crust.  I also fine tune the polishing using the cloth wheel – it brings out and sharpens the grain a step more.

Below, after completing the use of Tripoli compound, I wet a cotton pad with alcohol and I very lightly wipe the stummel.  This helps to blend the newly applied stain as well as lighten the finish a bit.Next, I rejoin the stem and stummel (after I took this picture!) and mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintaining the same 40% power setting and I apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.  After completing this, I wipe the pipe down with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust before applying wax.Before applying wax, to provide the chamber with a starter layer to encourage the develop of a protective cake, I mix Bulgarian natural yogurt and activated charcoal to form a mixture which I apply to the chamber walls.  After I stick a pipe cleaner through the stem and the draft hole, to guard the airway from being blocked, I mix the yogurt and charcoal dust to a point where the mixture does not drip off the pipe nail tool as I hold a dollop of the mixture in the air.  I then apply and spread the mixture over the chamber evenly and fully.  Satisfied with the progress, I then put the mixture aside for it to set-up after a few hours. I then mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the Canadian.  To finish the restoration, after applying the wax I give the pipe a hearty hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine even more.

Before completing the restoration, I received an email back from Jim regarding his request that I ‘open’ the airway from the factory drilling to a .4mm width.  I did some reading and found a long enough .4mm drill bit to do the job.  Yet, while it would not be a difficult thing to open the straight Canadian airway, my concern was that I really could not change the airway construction of the small, Canadian stem.  I didn’t know whether this continued compression point of the air passage would defeat the physics advantage of opening the airway.  I left it to Jim to decide and what he decided to do was to first test the airway’s factory diameter and then open the airway himself to compare smoking experiences.  This sounded good to me and I hope to hear from Jim the results of this comparison.

What can I say?  Rex’s La Strada Scenario Canadian has been reborn and ready to begin a new lifetime!  The pipe required some attention, but I’m pleased with the masking of the patches on the rim and for the crack repair.  The grain is exceptional on this Italian La Strada.  The bowl showcases both flame and vertical grains with some bird’s eye on the heel.  The longer Canadian shank is also a great plus – a cooler smoking experience.  Jim saw the potential of this Canadian in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and since he commissioned it and waited patiently for me to restore it, he has the first opportunity to purchase the La Strada Canadian from The Pipe Steward Store which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I thank Dan Hartzler for donating this pipe for this purpose, and I thank you for joining me!