Tag Archives: bowl topping

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

 

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!

Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – a Dunhill Bruyere 48FT Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

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

I sorted the pipes into groups of the various brands and had a box of 25 different Dunhill pipes in different shapes, styles and sizes. I decided to work on the Dunhills first. It was a great chance to see the shape variety up close and personal. The photo below shows the box of Dunhill pipes.With the completion of the restoration on this one there are only 9 more Dunhills of the original 25 left to work on – all smooth finished pipes in a variety of shapes. I went through the box of the remaining smooth Dunhills shown above and chose a beautiful little straight Bulldog. It is stamped 48 over F/T followed by Dunhill over Bruyere on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped Made in England followed by 0 and a subscript1 Circle 4A – Group four size Bruyere made in 1960 and sold in 1961. The rich Bruyere finish is very dirty and there is a thick coat of lava on the out of round rim top. The inner edge of the rim is damaged on the front side of the pipe. The smooth Bruyere finish is dirty but like the other pipes in Bob’s collection there is something quite beautiful about the birdseye and cross grain on the pipe. The bowl had a thick cake and as mentioned above, thick lava overflows from the bowl onto the rim top. After cleaning I will know more. The diamond shank flows into a Fish Tail (FT) saddle stem that is oxidized and has tooth marks and chatter near the button. There is some calcification on the first inch of the stem ahead of the button and there is some light damage to the top of the button. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Bruyere Bulldog had some damage on the inner edge of the bowl toward the front as can be seen in the photo. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and the lava on the rim top was also thick. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank. The stamping was very sharp and readable and confirms the information above. There is a little sloppiness to the second number stamp following the D in England. Under the lens it looks clearly like a 0 followed by a 1 that is dropped down below. In the photo there is some sloppiness to the stamp. The one has a slant and some nicks before and after so it looks almost like a 7 but I think it is a 1.Since this is another pipe Bob’s estate I am sure that some of you have read at least some of the other restoration work that has been done on the previous pipes. You have also read what I have included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them. Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words. Once again I thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

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

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

Having already worked on other pipes from Bob’s estate I think I understood how he used and viewed his pipes. I had learned to tell which pipes were his favoured ones and which were his work horses. He really loved his billiards. I could get a sense of the ones that accompanied him into his carving shop. I think this Bulldog also was one that went into the shop and I can almost imagine him reaming it out with a carving knife. In many ways it was as if he was standing over my shoulder while I cleaned up his pipes.

With that in mind I turned to work on this pipe. I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris of tobacco shards that still remained. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also gives a good start to the process of bringing the inner edges back to round. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat in the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and a scrubbing pad to continue work on the rim top and remove the buildup there. The rim was quite damaged with the out of round section on the front of the inner edge and the burn mark that was there as well. It was going to take some careful work giving the edge a bit of a bevel to bring it back to round. The damage to the rim was very bothersome to me and in my opinion made an otherwise beautifully finished little Bulldog an eyesore. This is where I am sure some may differ with my decision but I decided to address the damage. I topped the rim on the topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the damage to the rim edge on the front. I topped it on a medium and a fine sanding sponge to remove the scratches and smooth out the rim top. Once I had flattened the rim top and removed some of the damage, I worked over the front inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed that by sanding the edge with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad. Through the process I was able to remove much of the damage. The rim top definitely looks better.Now comes the hardest part of the process in my opinion. It will either make the pipe look refreshed and beautiful or it will make it look very tacky and poorly done. I mixed three different stain pens and a black Sharpie pen to match to colour of the Bruyere stain. I used a Cherry, Maple and Mahogany stain pen – blending them together rather than letting each one dry. The colour is very close. I set the bowl aside to let the stain dry and put the stem in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer to soak. That done I turned off the lights and called it a night.In the morning I took the stem out of the bath and rinsed it with warm water to remove the solution. I blew through the stem to clean out the insides and rinsed them with water as well. I rubbed the stem dry with a microfiber cloth to remove the remnants of oxidation. I took the following photos to show the condition of the stem at this point.I then picked up the bowl to examine the stain and get a feel for what it looked like in the morning light. It would need some polishing and touch up but the colour was looking very good to my eye. The inner edge of the rim also looked a lot better than it did when I began. Now to polish and blend the colours a bit!I decided to let the polishing wait and turned my attention to the internals of the pipe. I cleaned out the shank and airway to the bowl and in the stem with 99% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I cleaned both until the cleaners came out white. It was a dirty pipe.I polished the rim top with a microfiber cloth to work the stains together to blend it and touched up the light areas with a stain pen. I repeat the polishing with the cloth. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 10 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I am happy with the blend of the stain on the rim top and the overall look of the bowl at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I also sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined do a great job removing the tooth chatter and remaining oxidation left behind after the stem soak. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I buffed the stem with a microfiber cloth. I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The cross grain and birdseye grain that show up in the polished bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This 1960 Dunhill Bruyere 48 F/T Straight Bulldog presented some challenges in the restoration process but it was a fun pipe to work on. It really has that classic Dunhill Bulldog look in a Bruyere finish that catches the eye. The combination of red and black stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is a comfortable pipe to hold in the hand and I think that as it heats with smoking that over time the finish will darken and look even better. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. If you would like to carry on Bob’s legacy let me know by email or message on Facebook. I still have 9 more Dunhill pipes with smooth finishes – Root Briar, Bruyere etc. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Restoring my Grandfather’s “Brakner” with Steve and Jeff Laug


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

How often does it happen in one’s life that the person/ persons you are very keen to meet do finally meet up for a week or so? This, especially with the background when each of these friends is from across the world, has to cross the seven seas, numerous hurdles of visas and fine tuned itineraries of all the stake holders!! Well, believe you me readers, these remain as the most treasured days.

I recently had this great experience when Mr. Dal Stanton (The Pipe Steward) from Sofia, Bulgaria, Mr. Steve Laug (rebornpipes.com) from Vancouver, Canada and his brother Jeff from Idaho, USA, visited my family. The following week was a flurry of activities, which also included learning the finer nuances of pipe refurbishing while restoring some nice pipes from my grand old man’s collection, it was something like OJT (on the job training). One such pipe that was selected by Steve was this Brakner. This pipe was nowhere in the “To Restore” list of pipes that I had drawn out as I thought it to be some run-of-the-mill pipe, but was cherry picked by Steve with a smile while sifting through the pile of pipes.

This uniquely rusticated billiard shaped pipe is stamped on the smooth surface on the left side of the shank as “BRAKNER ANTIQUE” over “DENMARK”. The smooth surface on the right side of the shank is stamped as “HAND-CUT” followed by # 108, most likely the shape number. The vulcanite stem is adorned with a green dot (larger than a Dunhill stem logo), which has now faded to a light brown color. There is a smooth band around the end of the shank.I researched this maker and it was then that I realized the uniqueness of this brand and why Mr. Steve had selected it to work on. I visited rebornpipes.com and sure enough, Mr. Steve has worked on a Brakner before and researched the maker/ brand in detail. Here is the link to the write up that he has posted on his web page: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/08/26/breathing-new-life-into-a-brakner-antique-hand-cut-807/

From this write up, I have picked this picture which shows the Brakner design # 108 (ticked in red) that we were working on. The only variation is that my inherited pipe has a smooth band on the stummel below the rim.Having read the detailed account, I now know that I am holding a piece of pipe history and cannot thank my lucky stars for the inheritance and having being introduced to Mr. Steve.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
As is generally observed with most of my grandfather’s pipe, the chamber of this pipe too is filled with a thick cake with overflowing lava covering the rim top surface. The thick cake hides the condition of the inner walls of the chamber and will be ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to bare briar. Similarly, the condition of the rim top surface will be commented once the overflowing lava has been scraped off. However, with the inner rim edge, Steve and I suspect charring in the 4 o’clock direction and is highlighted in pastel blue circle. The outer rim edge too shows damage in the 6 o’clock direction and is circled in yellow. There is a thin smooth briar band extending down from the outer rim edge, which too, is covered in overflow of oils, tars and grime. The contrast of dark and medium brown stains on the rim top and the band should highlight the beautiful grain on the briar and will go well with the rusticated finish on the bowl and shank once cleaned up. The mortise and the shank air way are clogged as expected making the air flow restricted and laborious. However, with the draught hole being right at the bottom of the chamber and the perfect alignment of the stem airway, tenon and the shank airway should make this one a fantastic smoker. The excitement of restoration and fun filled involvement of Steve, Jeff, Abha and me, all resulted in none of us taking any pictures of before and detailed pictures of the process. Each one thought that other was taking the pictures and the end result was that none of us took any!! Lol…

The unique rustications on the stummel surface are covered in oils, tars, grime and dust of all these years of use and storage. However, once cleaned up, the dark of the stummel should contrast beautifully with the smooth brown shank end band, the rim top and the band below the rim outer edge. The vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and showed heavy tooth chatter and deep tooth marks on the upper stem surface. The button on the upper surface has bite marks and will have to be rebuilt and reshaped. The same holds true for the lower stem surface, albeit with less severity. As brought out earlier, the trademark green dot on Brakner pipe stem has turned a shade of brown. The tenon does not seat flush inside the mortise. This issue, in all probability, should get addressed once the mortise is cleaned off the entire accumulated gunk. Sorry again, I did not take sufficient pictures of the stem either!!All in all, judging from the initial examination, we do not envisage any major/ serious issues to present themselves in the course of restoring this beauty, with the exception of charred inner rim edge and damaged outer rim edge.

THE PROCESS
Even before Steve and Jeff had arrived, it was decided that Abha, my wife who helps me in the initial clean up, and Jeff who does it for Steve, would work together on the initial clean up and Steve and I would do the repairs and final finish on these pipes. This would help us understand and learn the techniques and processes involved in restorations. This exactly what we did while working on this pipe, but with a twist, which I shall bring out later.

Abha and Jeff reamed the chamber with Castleford pipe reamer set (one of the many gifts for Abha from Steve and Jeff) followed by cleaning the mortise and shank airway using dental pick, cotton buds/ hard and soft bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once the shank internals were cleaned, we called it a day.

And this is where the twist occurs!!

When we met again over breakfast the next day, the Brakner was completed!! In short, what really started as a combined project was eventually completed by Steve and Jeff alone. What follows is the narrated sequence and pictures that Steve and Jeff shared with me over a pot of coffee (perfect brew was demonstrated by these two gentlemen as we are predominantly tea drinkers).

Once the chamber and shank were cleaned, Jeff cleaned the external surface of the stummel and the smooth rim top surface with Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton swabs followed by scrubbing the rusticated surface with a toothbrush and dish washing soap. This rid the stummel rustications of all the accumulated dust, dirt and grime and both the smooth brown bands around the rim and shank now contrasts beautifully with the dark stummel surface. However, the inner and outer rim damage revealed itself in all its ugliness and this is what Steve decided to tackle at this stage in restoration. No pictures available to show the condition of the stummel at this point…sincere apologies!!

Steve began the process of addressing the inner rim damage by creating a bevel to the inner rim edge to mask the blackened rim and address the out-of-round chamber with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Once satisfied with the repairs, he polished the entire rim top surface with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The rim top surface now appears amazing and the repairs appear to be almost non-existent. To enliven the briar wood and further enhance the contrast of the bands with the rest of the dark stummel surface, he rubbed a little quantity of “Before and After” balm in to stummel surface and set it aside for 20 minutes for the balm to be absorbed in to the briar. Thereafter he hand buffed it with a microfiber to deepen the shine. The stummel looks nice and vibrant. All this while, Jeff was busy working the stem. He cleaned the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once the stem internals were clean, he cleaned the stem surface with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This step also helps to remove surface oxidation to some extent. With this, he handed the stem back to Steve to address the tooth chatter and deep bite marks.To address the issue of bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem surfaces, Steve flamed the surface with the flame of a Bic lighter. Vulcanite has the property to return to its original shape when heated and this is exactly what was being done. The tooth chatter and deeper bite marks were raised to the surface to a great extent. The remaining minor tooth indentations were filled with clear super glue and set aside to cure. Once the fill had hardened (and it was pretty quick, thanks to the 43 degrees temperature that was prevalent at that point in time!!), he sanded the fill and the entire stem surfaces with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. This not only ensured a nice blend of the filled areas with the rest of the stem surface, but also removed the oxidation from the surface. He rubbed the stem surface with some Extra Virgin Olive Oile and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem surface. It was at this stage that self, Abha and my kids joined them for breakfast. After a hearty breakfast, I launched a determined assault on the stem, subjecting it to the complete cycle of micromesh polish. The end result is a gorgeous, smooth and shiny looking black of the vulcanite stem. This was followed by the routine regime of polish with carnauba wax using my hand held rotary tool. The Brakner looks unique and oozes quality. Here are a few pictures that should give you a fair idea about the end results… Thank you all for being a part of this journey and all the encouragement and support extended. P.S. – As I mentioned above, the excitement of working and learning from Steve and Jeff coupled with the ambiguity of who is taking pictures and not to mention the chilled Beer and humorous banter, all resulted in a limited number of pictures.

Secondly, those of you who have been following rebornpipes.com regularly, would surely have read the detailed write up on the restoration of an 1846 BBB Amber stem by the master story teller, Dal Stanton (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/30/west-meets-east-in-india-to-restore-a-grandsons-treasure-an-1846-bbb/) !! While in one corner of the world, on the 10th floor apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria one of the longest write ups on rebornpipes.com was being shaped, here I was trying to piece all the processes involved in restoration of this unique piece of pipe history from memory and ending up with what could be the shortest write up on rebornpipes.com.

West Meets East in India to Restore a Grandson’s Treasure – an 1846 BBB


Blog by Dal Stanton

This story is about the restoration of perhaps, one of the oldest BBBs in the world today – but it’s much, much more.  Every pipe man and woman has discovered this and within that even smaller subgroup of the pipe community, vintage pipe restorers, the experience is perhaps even more heightened.  The love of pipes – their former stewards, provenances, shapes, grains, stems and especially their restorations, creates a unique bond and fellowship among those who have experienced the joy of seeing one’s hands bring about a pipe’s restoration.  Whether a high-end Dunhill or a common ‘No-Namer’, to bring a crippled pipe back to life brings a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction to those whose skill, hands and purposeful patience have wrought.

So much in our world today divides people of race, religion, politics, and station of life, but my amazement is kindled by how often these barriers are overcome within this community of pipe lovers and restorers.  With the internet in full bloom, people in this world-wide community have come together in amazing ways.  This happened when Steve Laug (aka: rebornpipes, Vancouver, Canada), Jeff Laug (Steve’s brother – pipe procurer and cleaner, Idaho, USA) and I, (aka: ThePipeSteward, Sofia, Bulgaria) converged in Pune, India, at the invitation of Paresh Deshpande (aka: rebornpipes contributor and the grandson who has become the steward of a treasure trove of pipes left to him by his grandfather).

I began this write-up with a full and thankful heart on the flight from Pune (Poo’-ne) to New Delhi on my return trip to Sofia.  Steve and Jeff were able to stay a few extra days and so I said goodbye to them at the flat where our fellowship took shape several days earlier.  I also said goodbye to Paresh’s daughters, Mudra (17) and Pavni (11), whose equally opposite personalities and dispositions were a wonderful composite reflection of their parents’ care and love.  Mudra impressed us with her elegant sophistication and Pavni, well, she earned the nickname of ‘Bollywood’ – she entertained us and brought much laughter.

Paresh and Abha took me to the airport and I found myself surprisingly reflective and quiet as Paresh navigated the choked Pune streets heading to the airport – cars, scooters and Tuk Tuks (motorized rickshaw taxis) dodged here and there like swallows on wheels in a chaotic purposeful swarm.  Only the day before I was helmeted on the back of Paresh’s classic 1980 ROYAL ENFIELD 535 CC motorcycle and videoed with my iPhone while Paresh became one with the swarm!  Oh my….  As I sat in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport, Paresh asked me why I wasn’t smiling – that I was serious.  It was true that navigating through the Pune Airport’s security was on my mind and wondering if they would remove my prized Savinelli pipe lighter, an unbelievable gift from my landlady, Rozie, in Sofia, left behind by her now departed husband.  My concerns about the lighter fortunately, were proven to be unfounded, but I found myself reflecting on the past week under the watchful care and rich hospitality of Paresh and Abha.  How do I describe it?  How do I tell this story to capture not only the unbelievable pipe our special cohort restored together, but the bond that we discovered along the way?  I think I can safely speak for Steve and Jeff in saying that the hospitality we experienced from our Indian hosts was none like we had experienced before.  For the most part, we started as acquaintances but through the week experienced a deeper bond that is more reminiscent of a family.  Steve and I have known each other for some time because of our work with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited (Servants Anonymous Foundation and Daughters of Bulgaria), but through the internet was how our pipe lore fellowship was formed and based upon this, Paresh invited us to come to Pune coinciding with Steve’s trip to nearby Nepal in concert with his work.  When I heard of this ‘Fellowship of the Pipe’ developing, I couldn’t bear to be left out, especially after hearing that Steve’s brother, Jeff, whom I had never met, was also coming.  Steve had traveled to this part of the world several times.  I had traveled to Cambodia previously, but never to India.  Jeff, also, was experiencing his first trip to this area of the world.  So, from Vancouver (via Nepal), from Sofia and from Idaho Falls, the ‘West’ converged in the ‘East’ in India, for the first convocation of this Pipe Fellowship.

This ‘Fellowship’ also included others that were unable to respond to Paresh’s invitations to come.  Several months ago, Paresh formed a FaceBook Messenger group of pipe restorers that included the four of us but also Mark Domingues (aka: LoneStarBriarWorks Texas, USA) and Victor Naddeo (aka: Naddeo Pipes, Belo Horizonte, Brazil). This group, as you might guess, was the online ‘Pipe Man Cave’ where pipes, nomenclatures, techniques were discussed, and questions entertained – of course, Steve is recognized as the undisputed pipe sage and guru of this diverse and eclectic group of pipe men.  The weeks before the convocation in Pune, this group was actively involved in shaping the convocation.  It was in the FaceBook group that Paresh proposed what became the anchor activity of our time in Pune – the restoration of one of the oldest and most precious of Paresh’s trove of pipes he inherited from his grandfather, whose collection could possibly rival any personal collection in the world.  Steve and Paresh told the story of Paresh’s grandfather in Steve’s earlier restorations of some of these pipes on rebornpipes (see: Paresh’s Grandfather’s Pipe #7 – Charatan’s Make De Luxe 140 Billiard).  Paresh had so many of his grandfather’s pipes, that Steve (as he has done with many of us!) began to encourage (coerce 😊) Paresh to start dabbling in restoration.  Paresh didn’t dabble long and has become an excellent restorer and contributor to rebornpipes.  As Jeff does for Steve, Abha cleans many of the pipes that Paresh restores.

One of the highlights of our time in Pune was going through Paresh’s entire collection of pipes – from his grandfather as well as his own additions.  During the hot(!) part of the Indian day, Paresh unwrapped each pipe to show and to pass around.  To hold and examine these pipes was a treat.  If this were not enough, we (Dal, Steve and Paresh – Jeff’s not a smoker just a collector and journeyman cleaner!) also smoked 3 very special pipes from Paresh’s grandfather that Paresh had restored – classic pipes with albatross bone shank extensions and horn stems.  At the beginning of the convocation, we decided we would smoke these pipes together in celebration of the completion of our communal restoration project.  On the Fellowship Facebook group, Paresh proposed restoring one of his grandfather’s pipes together.  His idea was that we would do the restoration as a group, but that we would each share that part of the restoration that focused on strengths of each: Jeff and Abha, (cleaning), Pavni (sanding the chamber), Steve (main restoration work), Dal (final buffing and polishing with the Dremel), and Paresh would be the project manager!  Paresh also appointed me as the scribe – the one who would do the write-up and take pictures of the restoration because of my ability to spin a good tale!  After the 1846 BBB was chosen to be our restoration project, this was the discussion on the Fellowship FB Group that revealed Paresh’s deeper hope of what would result from the group restoration:

Paresh: Steve Sir, what say about working this pipe…

Mark: You can handle it Paresh!  It’s no different than a Dr. Grabow!

Paresh: More than the value of the pipe, it’s worth its weight in gold working together with Steve Sir and Dal Sir on this oldest heirloom piece that I desire.  And not to mention Jeff Sir and Abha doing the initial cleaning…lol

Steve: Sounds like an interesting proposal Paresh… I am game.  But I also know that you can handle it

Paresh: Thank you Sir. I appreciate your confidence in my abilities. But just think, you shall be meeting up with Mudra and Pavni, my daughters. They would see all of us working together on this very very old pipe. We shall be handing over these memories to them. Kids will always associate this pipe as THE ONE which belonged to their Great Grandfather and was worked on by their father and his friends from across the oceans…. wow wouldn’t that be great.

Paresh:  So that’s decided. 1846 made BBB project postponed to 03 May 19 and now back to square one! Which pipe should I work next? Fresh suggestions requested please.

When I discovered I was to be the writer of this grand project before coming to Pune, Paresh sent pictures of the 1846 BBB.  Here are the pictures of the BBB Bent Billiard with its classic amber stem. The nomenclature is stamped on the left flank of the shank with the classic stacked BBB ensconced in the diamond.  The diamond is centered above ‘OWN MAKE’.  The silver ferule repeats the BBB diamond stamp over hallmarks providing information on the provenance which will be unpacked below.With a pipe dated so early, it qualifies as one of the first pipes produced by BBB.  I look to Pipedia’s article on BBB to set the stage for understanding the origins:

BBB

The initials once stood for Blumfeld’s Best Briars after Louis Blumfeld, who took over the management of the Adolph Frankau Company in 1856. After his death, the BBB gradually became known as Britain’s Best Briars. Soon to be the oldest English trademark in current use and the first pipe ever to have a registered trademark. “Britain’s Best Briars”, often called BBB, is one of the oldest brands still in production and has always been the most popular foreign brand in Denmark. Earlier pipes included a metal rondel with a diamond shape including BBB embedded in the stem top, and later post-Cadogan went to a stamped-on logo, similar to the GBD pipes.

Dating and History:

I have been doing some digging into BBB pipes for some we have for VPC auctions and I found an article online in French. Here is a Babelfish translation of a history of BBB from http://www.fumeursdepipe.net/artbbb.htm

Genesis and history of the company. Adolph Frankau & Co Ltd In 1847, Adolph Frankau arrived in London and quickly understood opportunities that the market of tobacco presented, in full expansion. He created the company “Adolph Frankau & Co” and became an importer of meerschaum pipes and supplies in connection with the tobacco. It takes under its wing young a 14 year old boy, Louis Blumfeld. The business thrives quickly until the death of Adolph Frankau in 1856. His widow prepares to sell the company.

The dating we’ve placed on the BBB is 1846.  The formation of the Adolph Fankau & Co. Ltd is said to be 1847 in London from the article above.  The seemingly contradictory information creates part of the mystery uncovered in the research – the origins of BBB and a pipe apparently dated before it began!  Fortunately for me, the Pipe Man Facebook Group tackled the research for me.  With only slight editing, here is the ‘research wing’ dialog in toto.  I repeat the dialog because it captures the thrill of discovery of a treasure and the process leading to it:

Paresh: From my grandfather’s collection…. unable to decide my next project. Please suggest…… It’s nice to be spoilt for choice.

 

 

Jeff

 

Steve: Here’s my vote… marked with the check .

 

 

Paresh: BBB it is then….. thank you.

 Paresh:  The BBC….. just for the record you all have chosen the dirtiest one for me to work on. Other three pipes….. Abha, my wife, had done the initial cleaning……Lol. It’s BBB and not BBC….. you have chosen wisely as in Indiana Jones and the Last crusade!!!!

Victor:  Oh man! I love BBB’s, it’s my favorite brand ever!

 

Paresh: Where have you been my friend?

Victor:  This pipe looks to me like Pamela Anderson ….[edited by scribe 😊]…. with a suitcase full of dollars and a bottle of champagne.  I’ve been working hard this days my friend, and my head was a little bit away from the pipes

Paresh:  And me….. [edited by scribe]…. it happens….

Victor:  Hahahaha I’ve 12 BBB’s in my collection

Paresh:  On this selection, there was a unanimous vote from all parts of the world…….and the bigwigs wonder how to bring the world together……………….. It’s this simple.

Victor:  i just LOVE all of them.

Paresh:  All vintage?

Victor:  yeah!

Paresh:  I need to check how many I have. Never bought one BBB, except for one commissioned from ThePipeSteward…..  All my BBB are my grandfather’s.

MAR 15, 2019, 2:02 AM

Steve: Victor and I share a love of BBB pipes…one of my favourite brands

Paresh:  I haven’t been able to identify my favourite brand!! My present rotation includes Farida’ s dad’s Dunhill, GBD International, BIJOU, Hilson Viva and two Somersets.

MAR 15, 2019, 5:53 PM

Paresh:  Found this stamp on 1858 BBB Meer….. exact same stamp on my BBB but letter D. This makes it from 1852. Did they make Briar pipes then?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need help in dating this pipe based on hallmarks….

MAR 15, 2019, 7:08 PM

Victor:  I need a close picture of the hallmarks and I could say precisely the year

Paresh:  I shall try. But as I said earlier, the only difference between the meer stampings above and mine is letter capital D…

Victor:  Oh, I thought you said the meer had the letter D – ok! But i must say the frame around the letter influences too

Paresh:  Hallmark stampings are slightly worn out.  Understood. I wish I had an iPhone…..

Steve:  Anchor is Birmingham, lion is the mark for 925 silver,

Victor:  Yes, exactly. And L&B the silversmith.  If your pipe has the exactly same square frame around the D as this meerschaum, You have a 1852 pipe in your hands.  And i must say this is probably the oldest briar pipe i ever seen.

 Paresh:  Does this help?

Victor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could L-B stand for Louis Blumfield?

Victor: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or this 

Paresh:  More like the upper one but more decorative but less than the second…..

Victor:  Maybe like the third one?This is the oldest briar pipe i ever had Its 1873 Samuel McLardy

Paresh:  Neither the third. Look for the J letter in 1858 and in same chart look for D. More or less same. 80% match….

Victor:  I must admit I’m little envious about you BBB hahaha.  What a lucky guy you are!  Hahahaha

Paresh:  Mclardy letter not clear…..

Victor:  The first one is the D from the same chart of this J

Paresh:  The different is “moustache” like shape at the junction……..on my pipe.   Where the vertical line of D meets the horizontal line towards the right….

Victor:  Looking close to your picture. I don’t think it’s a D

Paresh:  Could you please enlarge the last pic that I sent you, Victor?

Victor: 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s an “r”

Paresh:  Wow…..that’s….. Let me check again.

Victor:  And if is this one it’s a 1846 pipe

Paresh:  You may be right Victor, it could be an ‘r’What do you think? Enlarge the picture please.

 Steve:  I think it is an r as well

Paresh:  Steve Sir, what does the letter appear to you?

 

Mark:  Lower case R

 

 

Steve:  Lower case r

Victor:  Now I’m sure.  It’s an 1846 pipe.  Congratulation

Mark:  So what year is that?

Victor: !!

Mark:  No way!

Victor:  Yes it is sir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark:  When did they start?!?

Victor:  Actually its a lower case x – Hahahhaa

Mark:   BBB?

Paresh:  Okay. That settles it. So let me check again if it’s a repair band…… hearts thumping like nuts…

Victor:  BBB it’s one of the oldest factories in England – Wait, Pipedia says it was founded in 1847 But they could be wrong.  I’ve seen this kind of mistake before in pipedia

Steve:  Remember silver hallmarks date the silver…

Mark:  Amber stem?

Paresh:  NO REPAIR BAND…… summary of all discussions?

Agreed, hallmarks date silver. But the other stampings on the silver, like BBB and L- B?

Mark:  Louis Blumfield? Amber stem, it must be old!

Paresh:  As asked before, could LB stand for Louis Blumfield?

Mark:  Maybe that’s one of the first after Frankau’s death in 1846?  Sorry, 1856

Paresh:  So am I holding a BBB which dates back to 1846? Remember, Louis Blumfeld joined him much earlier than 1856 before his demise.

Victor:  Man

Steve:  Man…

Victor:  This is probably one of the first Frankau era pipes ever made!

Paresh:  Concrete summary requested please, before I hit the Bar!!!

Victor:  Maybe the silver was made in the end of the ear of 1846, few months before the factory made the pipe.

Year* Concrete summary?

Steve:  That was my thinking Victor

Victor:  You’re a [edited by scribe 😊] lucky bastard! Vavavavava Hahahahaha*

Paresh:  Yes!!! Drinks are on me gentlemen….

Victor:  Congratulations.  Probably the oldest BBB in the whole world.

Steve:  Congrats

Paresh:  Good that I sought your advice on selection of the pipe to work on. My what a thrilling experience this was. Thanks again gents. Dal Stanton has missed this frenzy…

Paresh:  Victor, you started this……

Steve Sir, would you like to work this pipe with me when you reach? This will be an epic project together or you want me to proceed ahead? It will be a significant project.

Victor:  W8, Steve is going to India? (You live in India, right?)

Paresh:  Yes Sir. Even Dal Stanton will be with us.

Victor:  I wanna go too! Hahahaha

Paresh:  Really?

Victor:  I’m just kidding, I can’t afford a trip like this

Paresh:  Okay. U will not be spending a dime here.

Steve Sir, what say about working this pipe…?

Mark:  You can handle it Paresh!

It’s no different than a Dr. Grabow!

Paresh:  More than the value of the pipe, it’s worth its weight in gold working together with Steve Sir and Dal Sir on this oldest heirloom piece that I desire.  And not to mention Jeff Sir and Abha doing the initial cleaning…lol

Steve:  Sounds like an interesting proposal Paresh… I am game.  But I also know that you can handle it

I did miss the frenzy of the discovery of the dating of this BBB treasure Paresh inherited from his grandfather, but I experienced the thrill of having a part in its restoration – and what a restoration it was!  One of the fun parts and challenges was to use only the tools available to Paresh in India.  Each restorer is used to his own tools and techniques.  The restoration of the 1846 also became a time of sharing and seeing how each of us approached the different phases of the restoration.

The day we determined would be THE day for THE restoration arrived.  We three are in the flat that Paresh had provided for us during our stay.  On this day set for THE restoration, we were up early before Paresh arrived from his home.  After our tea and coffee, we were ready to go and decided to start on the cleaning phase to get a jump on things. Here we go!  Jeff and Steve set up camp to begin the cleaning phase laying out the tools of the trade – no Savinelli Fitsall Tool this time around! The BBB had very thick cake and lava flow over the rim – very characteristic of Paresh’s grandfather’s other pipes where the practice seemed to be smoke, never clean and toss in the box when they were unsmokable and buy another! Steve started with reaming the chamber.  Starting with the reaming blade heads he reams with the smallest blade and then works to the next larger. He uses two of the four blades available and then switches to the long pen knives available in Paresh’s arsenal and continues clearing the thick cake. After scraping the chamber walls with the pen knives, he follows by using ‘230’ grade paper (I can’t remember what the grading was in India – it could have been 220 to 240, mid-range) to clean the walls of the carbon further and wipes the chamber with paper towel. After wiping, Steve evaluates the condition of the chamber and the 173-year-old chamber is in good shape from what we can see at this point.Switching now to the rim, Steve carefully employs the sanding paper over the rim to begin removing the thick lava flow. Continuing on the rim, next he uses a flat blade and pen knife and continues carefully scraping the rim. Using a spatula tool, he switches attention to the mortise and scrapes out the old oils and grime buildup. With the lava excavated from the rim, Steve identifies what looks like a hairline crack running over the rim.The crack isn’t easy to see.  It runs across the rim and over and down the stummel a bit.Steve continues smoothing the rim using 230 grade paper in order to get a better look at the rim’s condition.The crack is now more clearly seen. We paused when Paresh and Pavni arrived and I got more practice perfecting my selfie technique.  Pavni enjoys helping her father in his restoration adventures.  Her specialty in the restoration process, which has become a unique trademark in Paresh’s restorations, is sanding the chambers to a smooth perfection.As the project manager, Paresh receives an update on the progress on the 1846 BBB which includes the news about discovering of the crack after the rim cleaning.After conferring with the master restorer, the decision is made to take the 1846 to the topping board.  In this case, a piece of 230 paper on the flat, glass table serves well as Paresh begins the topping process.  The debate using the topping board is always weighing the loss of briar verses the needed corrections in the restoration process.  The rim needs refreshing and redefinition, and the hope is that some topping will improve the situation with the crack. The first revolutions show the progress and revealing more distinctly the rim crack. After another few revolutions on the topping board, it is time for a conference and Steve again takes the stummel to the topping board. Paresh harvests the briar dust off the sanding paper, which appears to be a 150 grade from this view.  Under Pavni’s watchful eye, Steve takes the stummel a few more rotations and we arrive at a satisfactory point. From the picture above, the inner rim edge is rough and uneven.  There is also a dark scorched ring remaining around the inner perimeter. Paresh goes to work cleaning the inner rim edge with a roll of sanding paper.  We’re hoping that the sanding will take care of the minor hairline crack. Across the table, Jeff takes a close look at the amber stem with the Henry Hughs Son LTD London magnifying glass.  The night before we were all squinting looking at the nomenclatures of many pipes and this morning Paresh remembered to bring this classic lens!  Looking at the 1846 BBB through this antique lens seemed only right! Jeff goes to work on cleaning the delicate bone tenon but waits on the airway of the amber stem.  We don’t want to use alcohol on the amber which could potentially damage it causing it to shatter or craze – making spider web-like cracking.  During the week, Paresh had a young man on call to respond to all our needs.  We needed a natural acidic cleaner for the amber stem and lemon juice is a good choice for the job.  Paresh made a call to the young man to bring us lemons.…  Waiting for the lemons, Jeff gave Murphy’s a try on the bone tenon and airway with some results. On the other side of the table, Steve isn’t satisfied with the rim and adds a few more turns on the topping board and follows with a light sanding touch on the external rim edge to soften the rim edge and clean remaining nicks. The threads of the bone tenon have years of debris compacted and Jeff starts with a bristled brush to help clean and then passes the stem across the table and Paresh continues the delicate thread cleaning probing and scraping with the flat blade. With Paresh working on the tenon, Steve passes the stummel to Jeff who starts his cleaning regimen using Murphy’s Soap and a paper towel.  The towel shows the first layer of grime coming off.  He also gently scrapes the shank shaft with a blade where the band was mounted removing grime softened by the Murphy’s Soap. Paresh hands the stem off to Steve who continues working on the bone tenon threads using a stationary inverted wire brush.  This does the job and the stem goes back to Jeff for his inspection. Jeff continues cleaning the BBB stummel with more Murphy’s Soap and gently scrapes the lava buildup on the stummel surface just over the rim. Next, Jeff furthers the cleaning by taking the stummel in the kitchen and giving the stummel a cleaning using warm water and liquid dish soap, which in India came in a paste form, and scrubbing with a bristled toothbrush.  I was very interested in seeing Jeff’s cleaning process.  He has developed an interesting system of which even Steve was not fully aware! With Jeff’s cleaning, he’s not concerned to allow water in the internals but washes the internals as well using a shank brush to clean – rinsing with warm water – external surface and internals. With the stummel clean, Steve takes the stummel to work on the primary restoration issues.  Using a 1500 grade micromesh pad, Steve dry sands the upper part of the stummel around the rim and the rim surface to work on some rough areas and to clean the area of the crack identified earlier.  The challenge is to preserve the 1800s patina while applying some abrasives to the surface.  Steve employs the micromesh for this reason. While Steve is working on the stummel, our young helper man arrives with the lemons needed for Jeff to continue his internal cleaning of the amber stem!Steve’s fine sanding with the micromesh pad on the rim brings into focus two cracks, the original and a lesser one – in the picture below at the 4 o’clock and 6:30 o’clock positions. To address these issues, Steve decides to drill a counter-creep hole with the Dremel on the original lone crack which creeps down the stummel and then apply CA glue shoring it up.  To begin, to create a hole to guide the drilling, using the magnifying glass, Steve presses the corner of the flat blade into the briar where the crack terminates creating the guide hole for the Dremel drill bit. With the area cleaned, the crack is clearly seen now on the external side as well as internally looking in the chamber. After a very short discussion with Paresh, it’s decided that Steve will do the honors of drilling the counter-creep hole.  Mounting a 1 or 2mm (not sure which now!) drill bit in the Dremel, with nerves of steel preparing to drill on the 1846 BBB, Steve does the job.  This part of the restoration is critical – drilling the hole keeps the crack from advancing as the bowl heats and cools – expands and retracts.  During the drilling, one does not want to drill too far punching through into the chamber! Next, after Steve applies CA glue over the crack and count-creep hole, Paresh is ready to apply briar dust over the wet repair area to enhance the blending on the vintage briar surface. With the main crack glued and briar dust applied, the secondary crack receives a spot drop of the thin CA glue as well to create a strengthened reinforcement. After the CA glue cures, Steve strategically files and sands the repair areas removing the excess glue and bringing the patches flush with the briar surface. To again freshen the rim after the crack repairs, Steve lightly tops the stummel and the results look good. Following the topping, again using the 1500 micromesh pad, Steve sands both repair areas on the stummel surface as well as topping the stummel with the micromesh pad. This smooths and blends the repair area well with little impact on the ancient briar’s patina. Now armed with a natural cleanser, lemon juice, Jeff continues the cleaning of the amber stem’s airway. You get a better idea now why this write up seems a bit like watching a ping pong tourny!  Paresh now continues the application of micromesh to the rim of the 1846. The results are great for Jeff’s stem cleaning utilizing the lemon juice.  The pipe cleaner reveals the buildup in the airway. Steve continues to work on the rim and repair areas with micromesh pads 1800 and 2400. With a sense of having worked the areas enough with the micromesh pads, Steve applies Before & After Restoration Balm to the rim and the crack area where he had been applying the micromesh pads to see how the briar will snap to.  The result is phenomenal as the following pictures show. This marks the completion of micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 on parts of the stummel and rim.  The cracks are still visible but have blended well in the darkening briar hues. Paresh follows by dry sanding with 3200 grade micromesh on the stummel. Jeff declares that the stem internals are now clean.  After thinning a thick pipe cleaner with the pen knife, Paresh runs the pipe cleaner through the stem and bone tenon for one final pass. The amber stem bit has experienced chipping and this is next up for repair.  Steve begins the repair by spot dropping clear CA glue to fill the divot.  After applying, he puts the stem aside for the CA glue to cure. The BBB silver band is next.  The band shows the normal coloring as the silver oxidizes over time.  Paresh tackles this project by using a dry powdered silver cleaner that he has available in India.  I had never seen anything like it before and watched with interest as Paresh pinched the powder and applied it to the band and rubbed the powder in the metal. The results were stellar as the pictures show. While Paresh worked on cleaning the band, Steve pressed forward applying the next set of micromesh pads to the stummel and rim of the 1846 BBB.  Using pads 3600 to 4000 he dry sanded. The emergence of the beauty of this aged patina was amazing to watch as Steve teased it out by dry sanding with pads 6000 to 12000. With the micromesh phase completed, Steve attaches the newly shined BBB silver band with its identifying hallmarks, using a bit of CA glue.  After applying a small line about midway up the shank underneath where the band will rest, Steve positions and slides the band over the shank until it tightened. All I could say was, ‘Wow!’.  The vintage band adds that touch of class that the 1846 BBB already had in spades!Next, we’re all anticipating the results of applying Before & After Restoration Balm to the entire bowl.  The Balm does a great job coaxing out the deeper hues of the briar.  Often, the changes are subtle, but distinctive.  This picture shows the stummel before application.Steve applies the Balm by putting some on his finger and thoroughly working it into the briar surface.  I have often described the texture as thinner, or cream-like when first applied, then thickens into a wax-like texture as it is rubbed in.  After allowing the Balm to set a while, Steve buffs it off with a cloth to reveal the great results!  The vertical grain on this stummel is beautiful with a smattering of bird’s eye grain on the heal. It’s true, we may have done this a bit out of order, but Jeff and Paresh team tag working on cleaning the internals of the mortise.  Cotton buds and pipe cleaners are used, after dipping in alcohol.  Paresh excavates some gunk with a small scoop tool which was part of his arsenal. Meanwhile, after the first round of CA glue cures (it didn’t take long), Steve continues to work on the bit of the amber stem.  He uses a file on the button and also files out a chip on the side of the stem, next to the button. He applies another round of CA glue to chipped area on the side as well as to the previous divot to continue building up the surface.  The pictures show the progress. Jeff declares, ‘Clean!’ after a plethora of cotton buds and pipe cleaners bear witness to the tars and oil he removed from the stummel internals.The 1846 BBB was the main show of the day’s restorations, but several other projects were going on as well.  Here, Steve and Paresh confer and Pavni works on doing what she does best – patiently sanding and smoothing another stummel – this one a Meerschaum! Steve completes filing the stem repairs and sands down the patches so that they are invisible.With the stummel cleaned, I finally get the nod from the project manager to put down my iPhone (actually, Paresh takes over the picture taking) and pull out the Dremel and to begin the fine polishing phase.  I use White Diamond compound with a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted with the speed set at about 40% of full power and apply the compound.While I disappear into the ‘zone’, Paresh takes a picture. While I’m in the zone, Paresh captures the progress Steve is making on the amber stem.  The CA glue patches have been fully sanded out and are invisible.  Steve did a great job smoothing, blending and filling the chipped area on the side of the stem.  He had to apply several coats of CA to build out the surface so that it again blended naturally.Zone….The amber stem is then treated to the full regimen of micromesh pads, dry sanding from 1500 to 12000. Zone…. After completing application of the compound, I mount another cotton cloth wheel maintaining the same speed and apply carnauba wax to the stummel.  I’m please the way the grain is popping!Then, to add the finishing touches, I apply White Diamond compound to the amber stem – appreciating the work that Steve did. After the White Diamond, I decided not to apply carnauba to the stem – it was already glistening and the pure, raw amber was more than ample to present this classic pipe.After I completed applying the compound to the stem, I rejoined stem and stummel and passed the 1846 to Paresh who had the privilege of doing the final handbuffing to raise the shine and complete the restoration of the 1846 BBB.  Woohoo! As we had planned, in celebration of the completion of the restoration together we smoked 3 unbelievable vintage pipes with albatross shank extensions and horn stems – all from the 1800s.  Oh my…. We each thoughtfully packed our bowls with our choice of blends and lit up and, well….  What a treat for Paresh to share the treasure trove of pipes left to him by his grandfather.  Jeff did the honor of commemorating this event with pictures. To further commemorate this amazing experience, we took a portrait of everyone who had taken part in the restoration of the 1846 BBB – notice Abha will have the first use of this grand old BBB! Mudra did the honor of taking the picture.There are not enough words to describe all that we experienced together while in India with Paresh’s family.  Steve, Jeff and I were treated literally like royalty!  We were taken to many different places to see the sites and to enjoy different cuisines, even pizza!  We all stored up memories which we’ll value all our days.Before heading to the airport, I took one more picture of Paresh and his family, Abha, Mudra and Pavni.  We arrived in India as acquaintances and we parted as family. And now the story has been told. West met the East in India for the restoration of the star of this story, the beyond classic 1846 BBB Own Make – a treasure from a grandfather to his grandson.  Thanks for joining us!