Tag Archives: bowl topping

Refreshing a Leather Clad Classic Billiard

Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this Leather Wrapped Classic Billiard as part of what I call the French Lot of 50.  I landed 50 pipes which included some long-forgotten treasures dating back to before WWII as well as a plethora of pipes mounted with horn stems.  In this French Lot of 50 I discovered French pipe manufacturers that were all but forgotten within the pipe world.  My restoration of the petite EPC Majestic Bent Horn Stem Billiard which earned me my first contribution to the repository of pipe information on Pipedia with the research on the A. Pandevant & Roy Co. of Paris.

The next pipe to catch the eye of someone searching through the ‘Help Me!’ baskets in my For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection is a nice looking Leather Wrapped Classic Billiard shape which I’ve targeted with an arrow in the picture of the French Lot of 50.  Tina chose this pipe along with 2 others from the ‘Help Me!’ baskets to commission for special men in her life and to benefit our effort here in Bulgaria, Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited not only here in Bulgaria but throughout Europe.  Tina was visiting us from Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with a group of other ladies.  This Leather Wrapped Billiard was chosen with her son, Matthew, in mind who’ll be graduating from college in May and has plans to utilize his degree in Landscape Design and Turf Management by moving to Big Sky, Montana working at the Moonlight Basin Resort. Tina said that he will be over a team that keeps the golf course in tip-top shape! I’m thinking that this Leather Wrapped Billiard will be a perfect partner for Mathew on the golf course!  A special gift from a proud mother for a special son soon to graduate.  I love it!  Here are pictures of the Leather Wrapped Billiard now on my work table. There is no nomenclature stamped on the pipe or identifying marks on the stem.  As with the most the other pipes that came with the French Lot of 50, there is a very good chance that this Leather Wrap also is French.  The practice of wrapping briar bowls with leather started in France as a creative and economically savvy way to sell sub-par bowls that were part and parcel of France’s austerity measures during WWII.  Pipedia’s article uncovers this bit of pipe history in the article devoted to Longchamp:

In 1948 Jean Cassegrain inherited a small shop near the French Theater on the Boulevard Poissonnière in Paris, called “Au Sultan”. Articles for smokers and fountain pens were offered there. Now, the absolute bulk of the pipes Cassegrain found in the inventory was from war-time production and due to the sharp restrictions on pipe production the French government had enforced in 1940, these pipes were of very poor quality and showed large fills. Strictly speaking, they were not marketable now that the French pipe industry produced pipes of pre-war standards again. In this situation Cassegrain had the probably most enlightened moment in his life: he took some of these pipes to a leather worker who clad bowls and shanks in leather. Only the rims of the bowls and the shanks’ faces remained blank.

E voila – the pipes looked pretty good now and were eye-catching enough to become an instant success in sale. Above all among the thousands of Allied soldiers who populated Paris in those days. The thing worked well, and even unexperieceid pipesters liked the covered pipes very much for they did not transmit the heat to the hand. Very soon Cassegrain had sold the old stock of pipes, and the leather-clad pipes became his only product. He began to place orders with renowned firms like Ropp or Butz-Choquin.

I love stories of innovation like the story of Jean Cassegrain and the creation of the Longchamp name which came from the name of a horse racing park near Paris.  Pipedia concludes the article with this comment:

After 1970 the interest in leather-clad pipes slowly diminished. The Longchamp pipes were offered for the last time in the 1978 catalog though previously placed orders were delivered until 1980.

The splendid success inspired many other renowned producers to offer their own lines RoppButz-ChoquinGubbelsGBD… Maybe Savinelli was the very last producing them for the label of the famous designer Etienne Aigner.

Without identifying markings, it’s not easily determined the origins of the Leather Wrapped Billiard on my worktable.  Yet, the origins of this type of pipe are French and it seems likely that this pipe shares this origin, but a manufacturer remains a mystery.  The pipe itself is in good shape and for this reason I’m calling it a refresher. The chamber barely has any cake build up, but the rim shows some discoloration and is need of a cleaning.  The condition of the leather wrapping the bowl looks great.  The stem has minor oxidation and negligible tooth chatter on the stem.  I do notice that the stem is a bit tight in the mortise.  We’ll see how this snugness progresses during the cleaning.  To begin refreshing the Leather Wrapped Classic Billiard, I use pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the stem’s airway.  I then add the stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes in the queue.After several hours I fish out the Leather Wrap’s stem and I push another pipe cleaner through the airway wetted with isopropyl 95% to clear the Deoxidizer from the airway.  I then wipe off the oxidation that has surfaced through the soak using cotton pads wet with isopropyl 95%.  The Deoxidizer does a good job and much oxidation is removed.To begin the stem rejuvenation, I apply paraffin oil with a cotton pad and set the stem aside to dry and to absorb the mineral oil.Now, turning to the stummel, I first clean the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming kit I jump to the second smallest and work up to the largest blade head as I ream the chamber followed by using the Savinelli Fitsall tool.  After scraping the chamber walls with the Fitsall tool, I sand the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to give leverage and reach as I sand.  Finally, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the carbon dust.  I inspect the chamber and it looks great – no cracks or heat fissures. Next, I clean the rim using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad.  To work more directly on the lava flow I employ a brass wire brush and scrape the area carefully with a Buck pocket knife. I’m careful to keep the soap and work with the brush on the rim.  I don’t want to damage the leather wrap. I then rinse the rim with cool tap water. The general results of the cleaning are good, but there remains discoloration which I will address later.Now to the internals. Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%, I scrub the internal mortise and airway.  It doesn’t take long, and the buds are emerging lighter.  I’m thankful for a small skirmish!I start cleaning the stem by wet sanding using grade 600 paper and follow using 000 grade steel wool.I move directly to the micromesh regimen by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and pads 6000 to 12000. After each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to condition the vulcanite.  The pop on this stem is nice. With the stem now waiting in the wings, I turn back to the stummel.  To address the residual dark area on the rim, I will give the stummel a very light topping.  I’m hopeful that this will erase the lion’s share of the scorching and refresh the rim.  I take out the chopping board and put 240 grade paper on it.  Keeping the inverted stummel firm and steady, I rotate the rim a few times on the paper. When it seems enough is taken off, I switch the paper to 600 grade paper and smooth out the 240 sanding.  There is just a bit of the darkening remaining after the topping.To dispatch the remainder of the scorched rim briar, I introduce a very mild bevel on the internal rim.  I first use a tightly rolled piece of 120 paper to cut the initial bevel.  I then follow with 240 then 600 grade papers in succession.  In each case, I pinch the tightly rolled piece of sanding paper between my thumb and the internal rim and rotate evenly around the circumference.  The result is exactly what I wanted – the rim is now clean.Next, to bring out the grain on the rim, I wet sand with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I’m anxious to see how the grain is teased out. As you can see in the picture immediately above, the lip of the upper leather encasing is packed with dust after the micromesh sanding.  I take a narrow dental spatula and clean the dust out by gently sliding the spatula under the leather lip.The next step is to reunite the stem and stummel to apply Blue Diamond compound.  As I noticed before, the tenon/mortise fit is too tight – taking too much pressure to seat the tenon.To address this, I sand down the tenon by wrapping it with a piece of 240 sanding paper and rotate the paper evenly around the tenon.  I sand and then test a few times to make sure I’m not taking off too much.  When the fit is appropriately snug and the tenon seats, I then switch to 600 grade paper to smooth the tenon.  Now it fits perfectly with a good snug fit, but not too tight.I now mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set at 40% of full power and I apply Blue Diamond compound to the rim and the stem.Next, I’ve been thinking about how to clean and condition the leather wrap encasing the stummel.  I use Weiman Leather Wipes to do the job.  I follow the directions by using the wipe that cleans and applies the preservative and then I buff the leather with a microfiber cloth.  Wow!  It’s looks great.  The leather darkened to a newer looking richness – very nice.  The pictures show before and after. Since my day is closing, I want to further the internal mortise cleaning by giving the bowl a kosher salt and alcohol bath.  I use the highest grade isopropyl 95% available here in Bulgaria.  I first create a ‘wick’ from twisting and stretching a cotton ball.  The wick serves to draw out the remnant of tars and oils.  I use a stiff wire to help push the end of the cotton wick down the mortise.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt, set it in an egg carton and fill it with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  In a few minutes I top off the alcohol that has absorbed and set it aside and turn out the lights! The next morning, the salt and wick are soiled – the wick not as much which is good if it shows that the mortise is already clean.  I clean the chamber of the salt, wiping it out with paper towel and blowing through the mortise.  To make sure all is clean, I use one cotton bud wetted with alcohol and it demonstrates that the mortise is clean.  Moving on. I rejoin stem and stummel and mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, maintain 40% speed and apply carnauba wax to the rim and stem.  To further condition the leather wrapping one more time, I apply a very light coat of paraffin oil and then rub it in well.  I follow by buffing the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to bring out the shine of stem, leather stummel and the briar rim.

Perhaps, I should have done this before waxing the rim, but to add a starter for a new protective cake and for aesthetic reasons, I coat the chamber walls with a mixture of natural yogurt and activated charcoal.  When cured, the mixture provides a very durable surface providing a buffer for the fresh briar until a natural cake develops.  The new steward just needs to be careful not to scrape the chamber with a metal tool, but simply to rub the chamber with a folded pipe cleaner will be sufficient to clean after use.  I mix the activated charcoal and the natural yogurt until it thickens enough to not run – being too liquid. I then use the pipe nail to spread it on the chamber wall.  I then set the stummel aside for a few hours for the mix to cure. This Leather Wrapped Classic Billiard cleaned up well.  The leather is dark and rich looking and the butterscotch colored rim pops in contrast to the leather.  The fine, delicate grain of the rim is pleasing to the eye as the leather is to the touch.  This is Tina’s third commissioned pipe which she chose for her son who is soon to graduate from college.  She will have the first opportunity to acquire the pipe from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!


Tina’s first choice: Renewing a Lindbergh 324 Poker

Blog by Dal Stanton
Burgas, Bulgaria, is a coastal city on the Black Sea where my wife and I as often as we can, go to find some rest and relaxation on the beach, especially during the summer months.  When we’re not enjoying the surf and sand, one of my favorite activities is to go pipe picking, of course!  I found the Lindbergh 324 Poker on one of these expeditions in 2017 on the main walking streets in Burgas – an antique shop I’ve visited before did not let me down on this visit!

I found the treasure trove in a copper pot waiting for me on a stack of books.  I carefully and methodically sifted through the pipes in the brass pot and culled 5 nice candidates who were calling my name!  They were a Butz Choquin Supermate 1596 Paneled Billiard – St Claude-France, a Rusticated Harvey Meerschaum Lined Dublin (LONDON/PARIS/NEW YORK), a Lincoln London Made Real Sandblasted Billiard, and an Old Bruyere Billiard with an interesting P-Lip saddle stem and the Lindbergh Select 324 Poker.

I was drawn to both the Lincoln and the Harvey because they had the “RESEARCH ME!” aura about them in addition to being cool looking pipes.  The BC Panel had gain that said, “Let me loose!”  Yes, I believe pipes speak if we have ears to hear and my ears were fine-tuned having spent time on the beach clearing the senses!  After negotiations were completed, the Burgas 5 were wrapped and bagged and came home with me to Sofia.

As with most of my acquisitions that benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, they are pictured, recorded, catalogued and put into the online For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection waiting for a steward to hear them calling from the virtual ‘Help Me!’ baskets.

Tina was visiting us in Bulgaria with a group of other ladies from Birmingham, Alabama, USA, and with most of our visitors, they heard of my ‘interesting’ hobby of collecting and restoring vintage pipes.  Tina was intrigued and asked to see my work table and some pipes – she had the growing idea of commissioning some pipes FOR THE DAUGHTERS to gift special men in her life – husband, sons, colleagues…. This was my kind of visit!  She started going through the troves of pipes that I have in the inventory for the Daughters and it was fun watching her settle on certain pipes that ‘matched’ the man she had in mind and in the end, she commissioned 4 pipes to be restored and one Churchwarden project which I will fashion from a repurposed bowl.  I gave her estimates for the pipes she had chosen, and she solemnly agreed to a vow of PATIENCE.  I’m thankful for her patience which is finally bearing fruit on my work table!  I chose the Lindbergh Select Poker with a shape number of 324 to work on first.  I love the iconic Poker shape and the story associated with the utilitarian purpose of the Poker’s flat bottom, that easily finds a casual place on the card table next to the adult beverage while its hopeful steward looks expectantly at the cards dealt.  This Poker has a large swatch of briar real estate and an attractive canted volcano-like descent that results in a larger card table base or heel.  The 3/4 bent shank/stem gives the entire pipe a casual, reach for me feel.  Here are pictures of the Lindbergh Select 324 now on my work table: The stamping on the left flank of the shank is ‘LINDBERGH’ [over] ‘SELECT’.  The right flank is stamped with what I’m assuming is the Poker’s shape number, 324.  There are no other identifying marks that I can see.To learn more about Lindbergh Select, I look to Pipedia with no nibbles.  My copy of Herb Wilczak and Tom Colwell’s, ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ also came up empty.  Turning next to Pipephil.eu I found more.  The examples of Lindbergh I found there were of various markings without a strong sense of a positive hit.  The note that was included in this name that gave a COM of France was that they were most likely crafted by more than one maker, which makes sense looking at the different markings and especially the stem stampings and different stem lettering.  Seemingly no continuity in the markings.This was a helpful bit of information which pushes my thinking a bit broader than a single manufacturer of the Lindbergh name.  Next I do a Google search and found another Lindbergh SELECT that was for sale on an auction block (LINK) and found an interesting similarity – the sharply beveled internal rim. Unfortunately, the pictures they provided did not show the nomenclature but did show a shape number – 601 for the oval shank Billiard.  My search took me next to a discussion thread about a Lindbergh pipe on PipesMagazine.com that brought me as close to understanding the origins of this pipe as I’m going to get for now.  The thread started with sablebrush52 who purchased a Meerlined Panel with the markings Lindbergh with the addition of ‘New York – Paris’ in the nomenclature.  The thread described the historical attachment the French have with the famous and controversial aviator Charles Lindbergh, whose historic jaunt across the Atlantic in the prop plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, captured the imaginations and hearts of the French at that time.  This national embrace of Charles Lindbergh would explain how pipes were produced from different French sources with the Lindbergh name – more of a historical commemoration of this event.  The nomenclature of the pipe under discussion in the thread is pictured here:I’m including one well-known contributor’s statement as a summary of this history and fascination with Charles Lindbergh.  From mso489:

Lindberg was one of the early American mega-celebrities, which both immortalized his life and damaged it in various ways, the later kidnapping of his child and his relationship with the rise of the Nazi regime with their interest in aeronautics. So this pipe reflects that tender moment in history where his mere name sent out sparks of admiration. It’s appropriately a handsome example of industrial design. Lindberg was a farsighted designer of aircraft which is why he succeeded first with his flight. His plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, was a masterpiece of prioritization, economy, and spareness; he gave up a front windshield substituted with a periscope to make room for yet another fuel tank — but that’s an easy example. The whole plane was conceptualized that way. Then there was the whole problem of staying awake to fly the plane, which he managed to do.

Looking more closely at the Lindbergh Select on my work table, the chamber has light cake and some lava flow on the rim and shows some scorching on the right forward quadrant.  The large Poker stummel has several fills that will need to be cleaned out and refilled on the stummel side and the heel.  The upper right side of the bowl has a dent which might be able to be drawn out through heating.  The saddle stem has oxidation.  The bit has very little tooth chatter at all. I discover that scotch tape was wrapped around the tenon in order to tighten the fit.  When I remove the tape, the result is a very loose fitting tenon – rattling around in the mortise! It’s very possible that this stem is a replacement, but it should fit nicely. The balance of the Poker is perfect – it sits quite nicely. I start the restoration of this Lindbergh Select Poker by first cleaning the internal airway of the stem with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% and then placing it in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue – most commissioned by Tina! After some hours, I fish out the Lindbergh bent Saddle Stem and allow the B&A Deoxidizer to drain off.  I also run another pipe cleaner through the airway to force the Deoxidizer out and then wipe the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%.  Much oxidation is removed.After finishing the removal of oxidation, I begin to revitalize the vulcanite stem by applying a coat of paraffin oil (a mineral oil) and I put the stem aside to soak in the oil and dry.Turning now to the Poker stummel, using 3 of the 4 blade heads available in the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I ream the chamber.  I follow by employing the Savinelli Fitsall tool to fine tune by scraping the chamber walls further.  Finally, I use a Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 grade paper and sand the chamber removing the residue carbon and revealing fresher briar.  I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to remove the remaining carbon dust.  After inspection of the chamber, all looks great!  There are no evidences of heating problems. Next, I clean the external real estate of the Poker’s briar using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad.  I keep my eye on the old fills to see how they react.  I also utilize a brass bristled brush to work on the darkened scorched area on the rim.  I also carefully scrape the rim with the sharp edge of a Buck pocket knife.The results of the cleaning are good, but the rim still shows the burn trail of the lighting practice of the former steward – pulling the flame over the rim instead of over the tobacco and pulling the flame downwardly.As I suspected would be the case, the old fill material softened, and I easily remove it from the side and heel of the stummel using a sharp dental probe.Before moving further with the external repairs, I clean the internals of the stummel by using pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%. The internals turn out to be nasty and I do much excavating using a dental spatula – scraping the mortise walls of tars, old oils and much gunk. I also use a shank brush to clean the airway. Finally, the crud starts giving away and cotton buds start emerging a much lighter hue. I call the job done for now, to return later for a kosher salt and alcohol soak to draw more tars and oils from the internal cavity as well as to freshen the stummel.To continue the work on the stummel surface, I start from the top down.  First, to address the deep scorching on the rim, I use the topping board with 240 grade paper on it to top the stummel.  Thankfully, this stummel as a good bit of real estate but I still am very stingy in giving up the briar.  I take a picture to mark the start and then a few pictures showing the progression as I rotate the inverted stummel over the 240 grade paper. I come to a place that is the tension between complete removal of the dark area and having given up enough top briar in the effort.  I stop and switch out the paper to 600 grade paper and give the stummel a few more rotations to smooth out the scratches of the 240 paper.  The rim lines are refreshed, but a darkened area remains at this point.To now sharpen the bevel and clean the rim further, I use 240 grade paper tightly rolled and sand the internal bevel. I follow this with 600 grade paper (which I forgot to picture!) and then, one final rotation on the topping board with 600 grade paper to sharpen the rim lines once more.  I like it.  The rim looks great.With the rim repair advanced to this point, I now work on refilling the pits on the side and the heel of the stummel that were left after removing the old fill.I mix briar dust and thick CA glue to form a putty that I use to fill the pits.  After putting a small amount of briar dust on an index card, I then place some CA glue next to it.  Using a toothpick, I gradually mix briar dust into the CA glue until it thickens to the consistency of molasses.  I then apply the putty to the pits using a tooth pick.  When filled, I put the stummel aside for the putty to cure.After the briar dust patches have set up sufficiently, I now work on the two dents on the upper part of the Poker.  I take a couple pictures to capture the larger and the smaller dents from different angles.The heating method can work very well to expand the compressed wood by using heat to hydrate the wood and causing it to expand.  I’m thankful that my wife allows use of her iron to do the job.  I go to the ironing board for this activity.  I wet a cotton cloth handkerchief and place the wet cloth over the dents then I apply the hot iron over the dented area. It steams a lot as the moisture in the cloth rapidly evaporates and steam is forced toward the wood surface.After doing this steaming procedure a few times, I take another picture.  You can still see the outline of the injury, but compared to where it was, by touch it is much less pronounced and should easily sand out.With the briar putty patches now fully cured after several hours, I use a flat needle file to begin working the patch mounds down to the briar surface. From the needle file I transition to 240 grade paper and remove the remainder of the excess briar patch material bringing the fill flush with the briar surface.Next, I again bring out the topping board with 240 grade paper.  This time, though, I’m topping the heel of the stummel which has taken the brunt of the wear and tear.  It is interesting to see the progression of the ‘topping’ of the heel which is not flat.  The first picture marks the starting point followed by a progression of rotations on the topping board. I switch the topping paper to 600 grade paper and take the heel a few more rotations to smooth the heel surface after the 240 grade paper.  The grain on the heel looks good.Now moving to the stummel proper, I return to the dents that I used the steaming method to expand and minimize the dents.  To fully remove these injuries, I lightly sand the area with 240 grade paper and follow with 600 grade paper to smooth further.  The steaming method helped and now the dents have been erased.With all the patches and blemishes addressed, I use a progression of sanding sponges from coarse, medium to light to sand the entire stummel removing the nicks and scratches.  I lightly address the surface around the Lindbergh Select nomenclature and shape number. I’m at a junction point for the stummel – moving on to the micromesh pad regimen.  I also have a stem that is waiting in the wings for attention.  I reunite the stem and Lindbergh Select Poker to get a look at the progress.  I love the shape of this Poker as its heel expands outwardly to form a stable platform to sit. With the reunification of the stem and stummel, I’m reminded again of the very loose-fitting junction of the tenon’s seating in the mortise.  During the cleaning of the stem, I discovered that the stem fitting had been tightened by wrapping scotch tape around the tenon.  The picture below shows the extent of the looseness. To rectify this by expanding the tenon, I use a drill bit one size larger than what will fit comfortably into the airway. To introduce the larger drill bit end into the tenon’s airway to begin expanding it, I first heat the end of the tenon with a Bic lighter to soften the vulcanite.  When the heated vulcanite becomes supple, I begin to gently insert the drill bit into the airway.  The larger bit expands the airway which pushes the tenon’s diameter outwardly.  As the bit begins to enter less supple, cooler vulcanite while I’m inserting it, the bit is straightened by this, so I don’t have to worry about the tenon during the supple stage to be angled improperly.After the first try, I refit the stem into the shank and it is tighter, but it needs a little more tightening for a snugger fit. I repeat the process and heat more of the tenon and then insert more of the bit into the expanding airway.  Before taking the bit out of the airway, I set the vulcanite with cool water from the tap so that the expansion holds. The second procedure works like a charm with a good snug junction.  I’m pleased.I decide to move forward with the finishing of the stummel’s briar surface with the micromesh regimen.  I plan to apply a dye to the Poker, but we’ll see how things develop.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I love this part of teasing out the grain of this large Poker stummel.  I’m amazed at how the grain darkened and deepened during the micromesh process.  Before this, I was thinking that I would need to stain the stummel to mask the patches on the briar surface.  After looking at the natural grain, the patches look like natural knots in the briar.  I decide at this point to go with the natural briar hue. Before applying Before & After Restoration to the briar surface, I eyeball once more the junction between stem and stummel.  I’m not satisfied with the seating of the stem in the shank.  I can see a gap on the lower side of the shank/stem junction.  The top of the junction is riding high preventing a clean meeting on the lower side.  To address this, I fold a piece of 240 grade paper in half and insert it between the upper shank/stem junction and sand between the two.  This eventually lowers the top side helping the lower junction to seat better.  I’m not totally pleased with the junction at the end, but I’ve learned when to stop striving for perfection! With the stem and shank junction fitting much better, I put the stem aside again and apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the Poker surface.  I place some of the Balm on my finger and work it in to the briar surface.  After about 10 minutes I wipe off the excess and buff up the surface with a microfiber cloth.  The grain hues deepen and the natural briar finish is very nice.Turning now to the stem, the tooth marks on the bit are very minor.Using 240 grit paper, I sand out the minor issues on the bit very quickly.I then wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper and then follow by applying 0000 grade steel wool.  In addition, I scrub the surface with Magic Eraser to finish the cleaning. With my day ending, I have two projects that I’ll leave to work through the night.  I apply paraffin oil to the stem to further rejuvenate it.I also give the stummel internals a further cleaning and freshening with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I create a mortise ‘wick’ by pulling and twisting a cotton ball and then insert it down the mortise with the help of a stiff straight wire.  I then sit the Poker in its natural state on the table and fill the bowl with salt.  I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol has been absorbed and I top the bowl with more alcohol and turn out the lights. The next morning, the soak had furthered the cleaning – there was minor discoloration in the salt and wick.  I tossed the salt in the waste and cleaned out the stummel with a paper towel and blowing through the mortise to be sure to remove all the expended salt.  To be on the safe side, I expend a few more pipe cleaners and cotton buds to clean up residue after the soak.  All was clean!  Moving on. Now back to the stem.  I now apply the full regimen of micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 to the stem.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After the wet sanding I move out to the satellite work desk on my 10th floor ‘Man Cave’ balcony where spring is trying to show itself.  A shot of me enjoying the change of weather and the view that I have of Sofia’s Vitosha Mountain nursing a bowl of Land BCA with my smooth Meer and teasing out more patina!

Next, I reunite stem and stummel and after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, I adjust the speed to about 40% of full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire Lindbergh Select Poker.  Following the compound, I wipe/buff using a felt cloth to clean the pipe of compound dust.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to applying carnauba wax.  Leaving the Dremel and 40% power, I apply several coats of wax and finish by hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.

The Lindbergh Select 324 Poker fits and exceeds the expectations of this classic shape.  The grain is displayed over the large briar landscape and the broad heel is an added benefit.  The vertical flame grain terminates in the rim revealing distinctive bird’s eye grain – very nice.  The 3/4 bent saddle stem also adds to the overall balanced feel of the iconic Poker.  The Lindbergh Select’s specific manufacturer will remain a mystery, but the French origin seems secure.  Tina commissioned this pipe along with 4 others from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection to give as gifts to special men in her life.  She will have the first opportunity to acquire the Lindbergh Select in The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Breathing Life into a Paneled Royal Esquire 730 Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on my worktable is yet another pipe from a local pipe shop. It is another of the pipes that came from the estate of an older gentleman whose wife returned his pipes to the shop for restoration and resale. This one is a smooth finished Paneled Dublin. It is stamped on a left side of the shank Royal Esquire over Made in France with the shape number 730 next to the shank/stem junction on the underside of the shank. On the left side of the saddle stem is the is a stamped top hat logo. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the rim top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like because of the lava and cake. There were some nicks on the left side of the bowl and the cap that would need to be dealt with. The stem was lightly oxidized and had come calcification where a pipe Softee bit had been. There was some tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button. I included this pipe in the batch that I sent off to my brother for cleaning. I know I have said this before but I will have to say it again. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate his willingness to clean and ream the pipes for me. It allows me to move through the repairs much more quickly. When he received the pipe he took a series of photos of it to show its condition.He took a photo of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava on the rim top.He took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl to give a clear picture of the beauty of the grain on this smooth finished old pipe. Under the grime there is some great grain peeking through. Jeff took photos of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The brand and the shape number are very readable. He also included a photo of the Top Hat logo on the stem. The stem looked dirty and oxidized with the calcification left behind by a pipe Softee bit. The edges of the button had bite marks and there was some tooth damage to the surface of the stem next to the button on both sides.I have worked on one other Royal Esquire pipe previously from this same collection. It was a poker with a lot of fills in the shank and bowl. It was a mess and once finished turned out very well. Here is the link to that blog: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/03/25/breathing-new-life-into-a-royal-esquire-french-made-poker/. On the previous pipe I had done a lot of searching and hunting to find out about the maker and found nothing on Pipedia or on PipePhil’s site. It remains a mystery to me. Are any of you familiar with the brand? Let us know.

Jeff cleaned up the pipe for me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime in the sandblast finish and the heavy overflow of lava on the smooth rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. When it came back to Vancouver it a cleaner and better looking pipe. I took photos of it before I started the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition. Jeff was able to clean up the grime and darkening on the rim top. The inner edge of the bowl had some damage on the front left and right. There was some general rim darkening and the rim top was damaged from tapping it out on hard surfaces. The stem had light tooth chatter and some deeper tooth marks on both sides near the button.I was able to get a very clear picture of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank and the Top Hat logo on the saddle stem.I decided to address the issues with the bowl and rim top first. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the shiny spots of the lacquer coat that remained on the shank. The acetone also cleaned off any remaining debris on the briar. You can see the deep nicks and gouges on the left side of the bowl in the photos below. I  topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the rim top damage and to minimize the burn damage on the edge of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge and give it a slight bevel to remove more of the burn marks and damage. I repaired the gouges and nicks in the left side of the bowl and cap with clear super glue and briar dust. Once the repairs cured I sanded them smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the rim top and the bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The photos tell the story. I used a Maple coloured stain pen to blend the newly sanded areas on the side of the bowl and the rim top into the rest of the bowl.I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingers to get it into the finish. After it sat for a little while I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a horsehair shoe brush to polish it. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to even out the look of the stain on the bowl sides and rim top. The pipe is looking really good at this point. It is even better in person than the photos show. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I repaired the tooth marks with clear super glue. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. Once the glue cured I cleaned up the edge of the button and flattened out the repaired areas with a needle file. I sanded the repaired areas with folded pieces of 220 to remove the scratches and file marks on the stem surface. I sanded them with 400 grit sandpaper until the repairs were blended into surface of the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the vulcanite. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and worked it the pipe over with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up really well with the repairs disappearing into the new finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. There is something about the pipe that reminds me of some of the Edwards pipes that I have repaired and restored over the years. The paneled Dublin and cap polished really well. The polished black vulcanite looks really good with the browns of the briar. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is another pipe that I will be putting it on the rebornpipes online store shortly, if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting smooth finished paneled Dublin with a square shank. It was a fun one to work on.


Repairing a Broken Shank on a Sandblast Kriswill Golden Clipper 1803 Apple

Blog by Lee Neville

Over the past few months I have been in correspondence with Lee via email. He picked up a couple of pipes for me at a local antique shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and sent them to me. We have fired emails back and forth on restoration questions and issues. He also included Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes in the conversations and we had a great time. Earlier this week he sent Charles and me an email about a restoration of a pipe that he did using the internal tube to repair a broken shank. He did a great job on the restoration and the description of the work so I asked him if I could post it on rebornpipes. He was glad to have me do so. Thanks Lee for your work and write up welcome to rebornpipes as a contributor! – Steve

Thought I would share my latest pipe rehabilitation effort of a Kriswill Golden Clipper – Model 1803.  This is the sandblast variant of the 03 shape. It showed up in the Winnipeg EBay lot I purchased and was in two pieces – stem (still attached to its snapped off shank) and the bowl itself.  I tried to remove the stem from the snapped off shank – without luck –  stuck tight. The bowl and shank had broken crookedly transversely across the shank – the break measured between 4mm and 8mm from the bowl body. I’m thinking it occurred when someone tried to pry and twist the stem out of the shank while holding on to the bowl.  The tars holding the stem fast held while the shank and bowl parted ways. In all, a stark example why one cannot use the bowl for leverage when trying to removing a reluctant stem from a shank.  Cue Yosemite Sam screaming “Whoa Mule! Whoooooahhh!!!”.There is also a crusty / gummy residue on the broken bowl and shank surfaces indicating a previous failed glue repair. I’m excited and eager to try my hand at a hidden brass tubing reinforcement glued up inside the shank & bowl as part of this repair.

Bowl Rehab
The bowl was packed full of foul smelling crust. The bowl edge is quite ragged – burned and charred in one area, a bit of a gouge just below the rim in another, damage/wear from dottle banging etc. around the periphery. As I could get to the bottom of the bowl from the exterior of the bowl,  I gently used a dental pick to pry manky tars, oils and burgey from the smoke channel. No doubt this build-up led to the welded-on stem and the situation at hand.

I scraped the carbon out of the bowl with a flexible knife blade, then removed the rest of the crust with some twists with a dowel covered with 220 grit sandpaper to work back to briar. I then used 320 / 400 grits over the dowel to finish the bowl interior to smooth. Luckily, there are no cracks, burnouts in this bowl.

I filled the gouge below rim edge at the 11 o’clock position with CA glue and briar dust to build this rim area up – this minimized the following topping effort. I didn’t want to significantly alter the geometry of the bowl.  Minimal is the key word here. Re-topping was followed by polishing the rim up to 4000 grit with micro mesh pads. I re-stained the rim with a stain marker to bring it back into line with the existing stain value.

I finished up the bowl exterior by scrubbing it gently with cotton pads moistened with water, then repeated with pads wetted with alcohol. Looking good.

Re-attaching the shank to the bowl
I soaked the stuck-together shank and stem in isopropyl alcohol overnight.  They easily pulled apart between the jaws of two pairs of padded pliers. Solvents 1 – Evil 0! The shank remnant stunk with old badness. I hit it with brushes and q-tips and was able to clean it out in 15 minutes of vigorous action.  I’ve cleaned dirty shotguns stem to stern quicker than this 25mm length of broken briar shank!

I used a dental pick to remove most of the remnants of dried glue from the shank and the bowl so they’d fit as closely possible when re-glued.  I then used the CA + spray accelerator product from Inoteca to glue the bowl to the shank. Applying a very thin layer of medium viscosity CA glue to both surfaces, I pressed them together, then hit the assembly with the spray accelerator.  Instant activation and hold. I left this overnight to cure, then the following evening removed the squeeze out from the joint with needle files.  This was followed with filling gaps in the glue line with briar dust and CA glue, needle filing and light sanding.

I applied random dabs of stain marker pen (dark oak and mahogany) to colour match the briar dust/CA fills around the glue line, then I blended these re-stained areas into the stummel with a q-tip moistened with alcohol.

Now for the hidden brass tubing reinforcement.  I bought a length of 5/32″ OD brass tube from a local hobby shop as its ID would be close to the stock diameter of the draught hole post repair. I measured approximately 14mm of briar body between the opening of the draught hole in the bowl bottom to the edge of the broken shank still attached to the bowl.  This meant I could use 20mm of tubing to span the break between the bowl body through the shank to the bottom of the stem mortise. The tube reinforcement will span the break area 10mm each way.

I cut a 20mm length of tubing and roughed up its external surface with needle files to provide additional physical bonding for the epoxy.  Inserting the bowl into my small Dremel bench vise with shank pointing to the sky, I drilled out the shank using a 11/64” bit to the desired depth. This 11/64” hole will allow room for the epoxy to fix the reinforcing length of tubing to the shank wall.

I gently flared one end of the brass tubing using a center punch. This flared end will drop and seat against the stem end of the 11/64” hole drilled in the shank.  I then mixed up a bit of JBWeld, generously smeared the exterior of the tubing with it, then threaded a vaselined pipe cleaner through the tube/glue mess.  The pipe cleaner functions as a guide for the tube to slide into the shank and will prevent epoxy from sealing the draught hole at the end of the tubing through to its opening at the bottom of the bowl.

I pressed everything home with a length of Q-tip stick and was gratified to feel the tubing seat its flared end at the top of the 11/64” hole drilled through the shank mortise.  I pulled the pipe cleaner through the tubing from the bowl end – ensuring any epoxy squeeze-out was cleared from the bottom of the bowl. I used Q-tips to remove any epoxy squeeze-out in the stem tenon area of the shank and left the epoxy to set overnight.

The picture below shows the flared end of the hidden tubing snugly glued below the bottom of the shank mortise in the stummel.Cleaning up the stem
The stem was horribly packed full – poking and prodding with brushes, pipe cleaners and picks, I worked both ends of the stem until it was clear. Then it went into an oxyclean bath to lift the oxidation.  Luckily, the Kriswill stamp was in good shape.  The next day, I removed the lifted oxidation with soft toothbrushes, 400 grit wet n’ dry and then moved quickly through the micro mesh pads through to 12000 grit, it came up bright and shiny.

Finishing the pipe
I slathered on a thick coating of Howards Feed and Wax (beeswax, carnauba and citrus oils) and rubbed it into the stummel to feed the thirsty briar. Gently buffed with a microfibre cloth.  I also treated the bowl to a coating of maple syrup + activated charcoal. I dabbed a bit of Testors white enamel into the stamping on the stem, then wiped the excess away – the Kriswill stamp is now very noticeable.

The stem married up to the stummel with little fuss – It looks good.  It’s a lovely pipe – a small rusticated apple with a delicate shank and stem. It’s a feather-light lovely example of Danish pipe making from the late 1960’s – early 1970s. I’m really looking forward to sparking it up.Again, thank you both (Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes Blog and Steve Laug of rebornpipes blog) for your exhaustive documentation around this procedure – I would have been in quite the pickle without your guidance. (I wish you both the very best in your adventures.)

Photos of the finished restoration are shown below. I am happy with the finished pipe and enjoying the fruit of my work.

The pipe dimensions are as follows:
Kriswill Golden Clipper – Model 1803
Bowl Height: 40mm
Bowl opening: 22mm
Max depth of bowl: 35mm
Max Bowl diameter: 38mm
Length of stummel: 65.28 mm
Diameter of shank: 11mm
Length of stem: 89 mm
Over all length of pipe: 155mm

Top View – showing the topping and stain blend.  I did radius the inside of bowl ever so slightly to bring it back into round.Right side of bowl – Detail. Bottom of bowl – showing rustication.Pipe in profile (the near side or right side) – love the proportions of this pipe – gee whiz they made them graceful back in the day!Pipe in profile (the far side or left side).

Reconstructing a Broken Stem on Dunhill Bruyere # 51671

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished the first of the 30 pipes from my Mumbai Bonanza find, a Stefano “EXCLUSIVE”; here is the link to the write up; https://rebornpipes.com/2019/03/11/mumbai-bonanza-stefano-exclusive-restorationa-month-long-project/

How did I land up with this lot makes for an interesting read and one which I have written about in the above restoration. Here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brand pipes and some mediocre pipe brands. Overall, with seven Dunhills, a Preben Holm #1, a couple of Made in England Pete System pipes, Charatan’s and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had hit a huge jack pot!!! Hence, I like to call this find as “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The pipe that I decided to work on is from this find and is marked in a red circle in the picture below. The stummel surface boasts of some beautiful bird’s eye grain on either side of the stummel while densely packed cross grain adorns the front and back of the stummel and also the shank top and bottom surface. It is stamped with “# 51671” towards the bowl and followed by “DUNHILL” over “BRUYERE” on the left side of the shank while the right side bears the COM stamp “MADE IN” over “ENGLAND” followed by underlined numeral “19”. Dunhill White Dot adorns the top of the vulcanite stem. The stampings on either side is deep, crisp and clear. The dating of this pipe is very straight forward and dates to 1979 (1960+19). However, deciphering the shape code, 51671, proved to be a challenge. The first digit 5 identifies this pipe as being Group size 5, second numeral, 1, identifies the style of mouthpiece as being tapered and this is where the ease ends and led to a lot of confusion with the next two digits. Though the shape appears as Zulu, it is not so since the shank is rounded. The profile of the pipe points towards it being a Horn shaped, but the shape code supports neither a Zulu nor a Horn!!! Well, another mystery which is likely to remain unresolved!!

With this information, I proceed ahead with the restoration of this handsome pipe, my first ever DUNHILL!

The chamber is clean with a thin layer of cake which indicates that the pipe has been kept clean by its previous Steward. From what I can see, the chamber walls appear to be without any damage. The chamber is odorless. The inner rim edge show minor unevenness which should be easy to address. It is the outer rim edge that shows significant damage on the left side in 7 o’clock and 11 o’clock directions. This must have been caused due to hammering of the edge against a hard surface to remove dottle!! The rim top surface has a number of dents due to the same reason. The mortise is clean and so is the shank airway. The stummel surface is peppered with numerous dents and dings and scratches. Being a Dunhill, any issue of fills is never to be expected and hold true for this pipe too. These dents and ding are probably caused due to uncared for storage by the previous Steward and further contributed to by the trash collector who had sold the pipes to me. The stummel is covered in dirt and grime and is surprisingly slightly stick to the touch. The briar looks lifeless and dull which is nothing serious to address. The vulcanite stem shows significant damage to the button end, in fact, there is no button at all!! The stem end is missing, well, about half an inch of vulcanite. Heavy and slightly deep scratches can be seen extending upwards from the broken button side. The stem surface is very thin at the place where it has been chewed off by the previous owner. I intend to reconstruct/ rebuild this portion of the stem, including the slot, while maintaining the stem and general profile of the pipe. This will require major repairs. The quality of vulcanite is good. In this project, repairs to the damaged outer edge and stem rebuild will be a major challenge, the stem more so, as maintaining the tapered profile of the stem will need to be adhered to for overall appeal of this piece of briar. Having just finished the tedious restoration of the Stefano, I am aware of the challenges this restoration will be presenting enroute.

Since the stem has significant damage, and from my experience of stem repairs (Stefano nightmare!) this will be the most time consuming and laborious part of this restoration, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I was faced with two options in my approach to this stem repair; first was to recreate a new button around the broken part and maintain the existing stem profile with a straight slot and the second option was to cut away the damaged button and reconstruct an entirely new button with a straight horizontal slot, sacrificing the overall length of the pipe. I decided to take the former approach. This decision was partly dictated by the fact that I do not have a rotary cutting blade to cut the damaged button end and partly to my innate desire to maintain the originality of the pipe. It’s a Dunhill after all!!

Now that I was clear about the path to be followed, I sand the stem end with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to erase the scratches and provide a smooth surface for the intended fill. I cleaned out the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. To begin the stem repairs, I smeared a folded pipe cleaner with petroleum jelly and inserted it in to the stem airway. I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and generously applied it over and extending beyond the broken surface and set it aside for curing over night. To be honest, I have not researched and measured the exact length that I had to reconstruct, but eyeballed the length using the longer left side of the stem (where a very tiny raised portion of the button is still visible) as a guiding length. Before moving ahead, I would like to mention here that I had applied this mix in layers, over the week, to achieve sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding while shaping the button and achieving the correct stem profile. Once I was satisfied that the fill had cured nicely, I moved ahead and began the process of filing and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. And then this happened… As you can see in the following pictures, not everything was lost. There remained a portion of the fill which was intact. Not one to give up and having the experience of the Stefano behind me, I persisted with the reconstruction. I made a fresh mix of activated charcoal and CA superglue, this time around increasing the amount of superglue, and reapplied it over the broken button end after inserting a petroleum jelly smeared a folded pipe cleaner. I continued with the layering technique of building up the fill.The next set of pictures show the progress of the stem rebuild using the layering technique. Slowly but surely, I am getting there!Once I had achieved the desired thickness and having let the fill cure for a few days, I proceed with shaping the button using flat head needle files. I am quite pleased with the way things are progressing at this point in restoration. However, fingers remain crossed and mentally remained prepared for disaster to strike anytime. At this stage, I am pretty satisfied with the profile of the stem, the thickness of the button and, in general, the overall progress on the stem rebuild. Also glad that there have been no further setbacks!!!! With this I proceed to shape the horizontal slot for the button. It is a long drawn process and a tedious one at that!! The inside of the slot needed to be smoothed out while maintaining the thickness of the button edge on either side. I build up the insides of the slot by layering it with superglue, letting it cure, sanding and then applying a fresh layer. I must have repeated this process for good about a week plus!!!! The external surface of the slot was also developed the same way and this helped in maintaining the thickness of the button edge.While the stem repair was progressing at its own pace, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel repairs. Given the size of the chamber, I reamed the chamber with size 4 head of a PipNet reamer. The cake was thicker at the bottom and used the size 2 head to remove the cake. I used my fabricated knife and scraped out all the remaining cake. The amount of cake reamed out of the chamber really surprised me as I was expecting minimum cake. I further used one folded piece of 180 grit sand paper to sand out the last traces of remaining cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. The walls of the chamber were solid with no damage. This was followed by cleaning the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This eliminated all traces of old smells from previous usage. Continuing with the cleaning regime, using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the surface of the stummel and the rim top. The original reddish dye was also washed away to some extent. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The damages to the outer rim edge, uneven inner rim edge and stummel dents and dings are now clearly visible in the above pictures after the cleaning.

Next, I decided to address the dents and dings on the stummel surface and the damage on the rim outer edge by steaming them out. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the damaged areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still observed, these were greatly reduced when compared to before steaming. The steaming method had raised to the surface all the major dents and dings. However, the outer edge of the rim still remained unaffected. The steaming method having failed to address the issue of the damaged outer rim edge, I decided to use a more aggressive method of topping the rim top. Personally, I prefer to avoid topping as I do not appreciate loosing even one mm of briar estate, but in this instance, I was left with no recourse but to top the rim. I topped the rim on a 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently the progress being made. The damage to the outer rim was so extensive that the even after what felt like ages of topping, the damage was still apparent. Finally, I just did not feel like topping any further and hence decided on another course of action. I would rebuild the outer edge with briar dust and superglue. Having decided on this course of action, I lightly top it on 600 grit sand paper to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the 220. The only benefit derived from this topping was that the inner rim is now perfect and I collected some briar dust!

I tried mixing briar dust with superglue, but to no avail. The moment the two came in contact with each other, the mix hardened. So I resorted to the layering method again, first I layered superglue over the damaged surface followed by sprinkling of briar dust and one final layer of superglue. I set the stummel aside to cure. The only problem with this method is the high probability of presence of air pockets.The next evening, the repairs to the edge had completely cured and I move ahead by filing and rough shaping with a flat head needle file. I further fine tune the blending by sanding it down with 220, 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Here is how the repaired area appears at this stage. I am very pleased with the way this repair progressed.Steaming out the dents and dings from the stummel surface had necessitated that the surface of the stummel be evened out by sanding. I sand the entire stummel using 220, 400, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. The little dents and dings that remained on the stummel and outer rim edge were also evened out under this sanding process. This was followed by polishing with micromesh pads. I wet sand the stummel with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and follow it up by dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the surface with a moist cotton cloth after every wet pad to check the progress. The repaired rim edge now appears shiny and glossy. This has got me a bit worried as it stands out from the rest of the stummel surface. I fervently pray that this is masked after I have stained it. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. I had hoped that the balm would work its magic on the filled area and help in blending it a bit, but that did not happen. I had simultaneously been working on the stem reconstruction by building up the slot and button using the layering technique. Though tedious, I have reached a satisfactory stage from where I can fine tune the slot and button edges. What followed were hours of tedious, back breaking and nerve wracking process of sanding and shaping of the slot and the button. Though the slot is not a perfect horizontal straight opening, rather a slight oval, I have managed to match the profile and dimensions of the original stem and the pipe is definitely smokable. Here are pictures of the progress.For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 600 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rehydrate the vulcanite. The repairs have blended in very well and the stem now looks a shiny black and beautiful. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. I kept the stem aside to let the stem absorb the oil and turn my attention towards the stummel. I decided to stain the stummel in cherry red stain which was the original stain true to the Bruyere line of Dunhill pipes. I use the powder variety of stain and mix it with 99% isopropyl alcohol. I heated the stummel surface with a heat gun and applied the stain with a folded pipe cleaner. As I paint the stummel with stain over sections at a time, I burn the dye using a Bic lighter that combusts the alcohol in the aniline dye and sets the dye pigmentation in the wood.  After fully saturating the stummel and covering the whole surface, including the rim top, I set the stummel aside to rest for several hours. By next evening, the stain had set nicely. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel (because I do not have felt cloth buffing wheels!!) on the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% of full RPM and apply red compound to the stummel. This does help in revealing the grains gradually; however, my fears had come true. The repairs to the outer edge of the rim did not absorb the stain and is encircled in yellow. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs in this case, do not do justice to the appearance of this beautiful pipe, my first Dunhill. I cannot thank enough my friends Mr. Dal Stanton, Mr. Sam Vior, Mr. Victor Naddeo and Mr. Steve for helping me to research and complete this mysteriously stamped Dunhill pipe. PS: The readers would have observed the fact that the rim repair could not blend completely in spite of my best of efforts and still I have highlighted the flaw while the general tendency is to hide it. True, there are reasons for me highlighting the flaws; firstly, if I cannot hide it from myself, than why attempt to pretend it’s not there and secondly, the highlighting will encourage you to have a closer look at the flaw and maybe you could have an explanation for it in the first place and share it with me. This will help me in avoiding these mistakes in my future restorations. Third and most important reason is that a newbie somewhere who is not so fortunate like me to have friends and mentor that I have will also benefit from my mistakes.


Restoring a Surprising Silver Treasure: a Robinson 8494 Quarter Bent Paneled Tomato

Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this interestingly shaped pipe in an eBay Lot acquisition from France which has contained several very collectible pipes.  The challenge with this French Lot has been that several names stamped on the pipes are unfamiliar to me and require more research to uncover the origins.  This pipe continues that trend as its origins aren’t clear. My good friend and former colleague working in Ukraine, a pipe man and restorer himself (see: https://www.thepipery.com), saw this Robinson Paneled Tomato in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and reached out to me about commissioning it which I was more than happy to do!

I’m categorizing this Paneled Tomato (though a case could be made that this is a Prince shape, but the shank is a bit too broad I think) pipe as a petite as its dimensions are: Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 inch, Tomato bowl width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 5/8 inches, and Chamber depth: 7/8 inches. It has a very attractive and sleek shape with the 1/4 bent stem, but what I haven’t seen before are the painted panel boarders setting off the upper dome of the Tomato along with sculpted rim notches.  Here are pictures of the pipe now on my worktable: What I thought at first was a stinger that had been cut off, might be a slotted insert of some sort.  I’ll work on removing it later.The left side of the shank bears the ornate, oval with ‘ROBINSON’ stamped.  The right side of the shank bears what I believe is a shape number ‘8494’.  I looked in my autographed copy of Herb Wilczak & Tom Colwell 3/3/97 – ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ and found only one entry for ‘Robinson’ belonging to a ‘John J. Robinson’ with the COM listed as USA.  I found no reference to a ‘John J. Robinson’ in Pipedia’s listings or Pipephil.eu, my regular first stops for information.  I’m dubious of the COM of USA because, and I know this is subjective, the pipe has a European feel.  Its diminutive size reflects more the English and French values of the last century and the pipe has a sense of some age to it in spite of the painted panel edges and rim notches that may have been added later.  Also, the shape number of ‘8494’ doesn’t lend itself to a COM of USA.  I decide to do a quick survey of English/French pipe shape charts to find this shape number that corresponds to the Paneled Tomato I’m looking at.  Often established pipe manufacturers will put out lines of pipes for a 3rd party company with the party’s name stamped on it but the shape will emulate the shapes that the mother manufacturer already produces.  I investigate BBB and GBD specifically as the most likely possibilities but found no match that might make this Robinson 8494 a positive second or sub-brand of these well-known English/French sources.   Next, I go back to Pipephil.eu and instead of searching John J. Robinson, the Wilczak & Colwell clue, I simply search more broadly, ‘Robinson’ and find an interesting listing.Robinson & Co. Ltd, is a retail company in Singapore and Malaysia with obvious historic English connections.  Wishing to know more about this company, I found this lengthy article in Wikipedia, Robinsons & Co. that gave much information.

Robinsons & Co. Pte Ltd is a retail company which has department stores in Singapore and Malaysia. The company owns the Robinsons department store, John Little in Singapore and has franchise outlets of Marks and Spencer in both countries. The company has grown into one of the country’s most renowned department stores. Robinsons celebrates their 160th anniversary in 2018.

Robinsons & Co. Limited is currently part of the UAE-based Al-Futtaim Group.

The article outlines the formation of the company in 1858 by Phillip Robinson of England when the British Empire had a colonial presence in Singapore.  With partnership changes the exclusive, high end department store became known as Robinson and Co., in 1859.  Through the remainder of the 1800s and into the 1900s it became a landmark in the downtown Singapore store and catered mainly to expatriates and higher end customers among the local population – royalty, business, and political spheres.  During WWII, the store was bombed by the Japanese and was finally closed during Japanese occupation.  After WWII it reopened when the British returned to Singapore in 1946 and the business flourished. During the 1970s, the business was less profitable due to international and local conditions and finally, the publicly traded Robinson & Co. Limited was acquired by Dubai based Al Futtaim Group in 2008.

From Pipephil.eu information, I’m able to establish two facts – the Robinson Department Store in Singapore DID market pipes with ‘Robinson Co. LTS’ which, secondly, have a COM of ‘Made in England’.

The theory takes shape in my mind, with the absence of any other corroborating information, that it is possible that the ‘Robinson’ on my table is indeed connected to the ‘Robinson & Co.’ of Singapore.  The Robinson on my table lacks stampings that confirm this as with the pipes shown on Pipephil.eu. But it is conceivable, yet I cannot substantiate this, that the Robinson I have is an older version before what appears to be the newer and more developed marketing applied to the later Robinson store pipe.  This is obviously a guess, which I could not substantiate even after searching for older catalogues and any other ‘Robinson’ pipes out there on the internet!  So, armed with a theory which I will continue to mull over, I move on!I begin the restoration of this possibly English made for Singapore, Robinson Quarter Bent Paneled Tomato, by addressing the moderate oxidation in the stem. After cleaning the airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%, I then include the stem in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems of pipes that have already been restored and sent on to join new stewards.  The Robinson is the last stem in this Before & After Deoxidizer batch.Several hours later I fish out the Robinson stem and wipe it down with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the raised oxidation.  The texture of the vulcanite stem is rougher than usual it seems.  After cleaning the stem surface, I run a few more pipe cleaners through the airway to assure that the Before & After Deoxidizer is gone.  The stem looks good after the treatment.To start the revitalization of the vulcanite, I then apply paraffin oil – a mineral oil, to the stem and then put it aside to absorb the oil and dry.Now, turning to the waiting stummel, I first address the moderate carbon cake by using the smallest blade head of the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  This blade head fits the chamber perfectly.  I follow by using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber wall further revealing fresher briar.  Finally, I sand the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and then wipe the chamber clear of carbon dust with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%. After clearing the carbon cake, I inspect the chamber and it looks good.I then move directly to the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway.  I start using cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% and…. The text describing the cleaning process is much shorter than the cleaning process.  I had noticed earlier that this stummel was a bit of a stinker, so I was anxious to begin addressing this olfactory offense to my nose and adjoining rooms in our 10th floor apartment in a formerly Communist Bloc apartment building.  In addition to pipe cleaners and cotton buds, I use a dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls, as well as a drill bit inserted into the airway and hand turned to excavate the tars and oils.  I also use a long wire shank brush to scrub the internals. The picture shows the weapons brought to bear….I’m still not seeing cleaner cotton buds and pipe cleaners that would reveal progress, so I decide to move on to giving the stummel a kosher salt and alcohol soak with hopes that this will loosen the grunge and clean the internals.  After stretching and twisting a cotton ball to serve as a wick to help draw out the tars and oils, I insert it into the mortise and the airway with the help of a straight stiff wire. I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place it in the egg crate to keep it steady.  Using a large eye dropper, I add isopropyl 95% to fill the bowl until is surfaces over the salt.  After it absorbs in a few minutes, I refill the bowl with alcohol and put it aside to soak. The next day, the salt and wick are heavily soiled and hopefully the condition of the internals is improved.  Using a pipe cleaner and cotton buds, I soon find out that the condition is much the same.  I put on surgical gloves a long time ago during this cleanup process!  I continue to dig and excavate using all the tools listed above.With a glimmer of hope beginning to dawn with cotton buds and pipe cleaners starting to lighten, I again provide a kosher salt and alcohol soak with the hope that the tide is turning.  What I discover as I became intimately familiar with the internal layout of the mortise as I inserted spatulas and dental probes to clean, was that the drilling of this stummel was in two phases.  A larger drill bit was used to open the mortise.  Then a smaller drill bit was used to drill the short airway and exiting into the chamber forming the draft hole.  The slight up-tick in the angle of the second drilling created a small trap of sorts that collected much tar and oils over the years.  It would be difficult to clean with normal pipe cleaners as they would go over to the top of the trap on their cleaning mission.  To intentionally clean this small angled trap, it needs to be intentionally and regularly scraped with a probe – something stiff enough to dislodge anything collecting. With the kosher salt and alcohol soak cooking a second time, I pick up the stem and take another look at the slotted insert in the tenon.  It doesn’t appear to be a snipped stinger, but perhaps an air restrictor insert of sorts with a slotted opening – I’m not sure if its threaded but I doubt it. I don’t have much sympathy for stingers and restrictors as they simply create more angles for the airflow – this creates condensation and more moisture….  I heat the metal insert and tenon with a Bic lighter to loosen the grip and using a pair of needle nose pliers I do not pull the insert out but accomplish snapping the top of the insert off!  I hand screw a drill bit into the shaft of the metal insert remaining in the tenon and after reheating the tenon and drill bit, and a few retries, I succeed in extracting the remainder of the inserted air restrictor.  It will be much easier to clean now as well. Looking now at the stem, the bit area on the upper and lower has some bite compressions, but not significant.  The lower button lip has also been chewed a little.  I’m thinking that sanding and a little filing should rectify the situation.I use a flat needle file to freshen the button and 240 grit paper to sand out the compressions.  This works well.I also sand the entire stem with 240 grit paper to remove the rough, goose skin surface of the vulcanite. I employ a disc I fashioned to guard again shouldering the shank face of the stem.I then wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper followed by 0000 steel wool.Without pause I move to the micromesh regimen using pads 1500 to 12000.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite – and it is coming to life!  The rough surface smoothed and polished up well. The next morning (again), with something akin to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in the backdrop of my mind joyfully reverberating and echoing, I see that the second kosher/alcohol soak has furthered the cleanup effort significantly.  After dumping the soiled salt and cleaning the stummel of salt crystals, I run a few more buds and pipe cleaners through the internals and the cleaning is now complete!  The bowl is also freshened from the stink odor that dominated its presence before.  This cleaning was a bear – and it’s not finished!Turning now to the external briar surface, I wonder what the cleaning will do to the paint job this stummel has received.  If it’s acrylic paint, the cleaning should remove it.  If not, well, it’s something else, probably oil based.  I have a very difficult time conceiving of any scenario where paint was part of the original motif of this Paneled Tomato – I believe the rim notches were a later addition as well, but perhaps not!  I’ll clean and see what happens.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with cotton pads to clean the stummel.  There’s lava overflow covering the rim which I also deal with using a brass bristle brush.The cleaning removes the grime and I discover the panel boarder painted strips firmly intact, hmm.  On the left flank of the stummel is the loan fill that I detect after seeing more of the stummel.  After the cleaning, the old fill material is soft, and I remove it easily with a dental probe to be replaced later with CA and briar dust putty.The stummel cleans up well and has lightened considerably revealing some nice grain patterns on the diminutive bowl, but it also shows the nicks, wear and tear of normal usage.  After the cleaning and scrubbing, the rim is still showing some burn areas.Not much consideration was needed to bring out the chopping board that serves as my topping board.  I use 240 grade paper to refresh the paneled rim.  I would like the six sides and corners to be sharper and more distinct.  The shank extends beyond or above the rim plane, so I hang the shank over the edge and begin the topping like that.  I also utilize a small sanding block that is very useful for fine-tuning a topping project by allowing me to focus on an area.  The pictures show the progression using 240 grade paper. When satisfied with the progress, I change the board to 600 grade paper to smooth the rim from the 240 grit scratches.Next, before working on the stummel proper, I repair the small pit on the left side of the stummel by refilling it with a putty created from mixing briar dust and CA glue.  It doesn’t take much to fill.  I use an accelerator after mixing and applying the putty with a tooth pick.  This quickens the curing process so that I can quickly file and sand it and continue the project. Thankfully, Bulgaria is beginning to experience some intermittent spring-like weather.  I take advantage of the mild weather and move out to the Man Cave, my 10th floor balcony, where I file and sand the patch mound and enjoy Red’s Cherry blend in my Gasparini MGM Rock 1912.  A wonderful time filing and sanding! To erase as much of the inner rim scorching damage that darkens the briar, I introduce a bevel.  I first tightly roll a piece of coarser 120 grit paper to do the initial clearing.  I then follow with 240 grit paper also tightly rolled. After applying the bevel, I return to the topping board and turn a few rotations to refresh the rim.Oh my!  At this point in the restoration, I discover that I’m not restoring a mangled pipe that was painted and rim notched for fun!  After re-topping the rim, I see that what I thought was paint framing the panels is not paint at all.  It’s metal – a metal inlay of some sort.  An inlay?!  That takes time and skill!  I examine the rim where the top of the ‘paint’ met the rim and I see that it has depth.  I take a few more close ups to show the dimensions from differing angles. Not sure what I’m looking at, I show my discovery to my wife, and she asks me if I have a magnet?  I didn’t, but she took a magnet off the freezer holding up a photograph and she says to test the magnetic pull of the metal.  It has no magnetic pull at all.  Her conclusion is, “It’s probably silver.”  After a quick search on Google for, ‘Silver inlay in wood’, I found these pictures on Pinterest. I am suddenly more firmly convinced of my theory about the origin of this ‘Robinson’ – from a high-end store in Singapore.  Who would pay for such a pipe as this?  Who would be drawn to a pipe with silver inlay? Now that I know what it is, the pipe itself is transformed from a discarded pipe that someone painted and notched trying to be cleaver to a pipe that was the recipient of a fine jeweler’s careful process of silver inlay in wood – and not just wood but situated perfectly and uniformly framing the panels of this pipe.  Looking at some videos and pictures I see online, the process was probably done using a silver wire that was tapped into place as the first picture above.  The next urgent question coming to mind was not how to remove it but how to protect it!?  The inlay has stayed intact this long, I don’t want to change the status quo!  I decide to use sanding sponges to work on the scratches and nicks that are prevalent on the stummel. The sponges shouldn’t be too invasive if inadvertently moving over the silver.  Before starting with the sponges, I see that the left side of the stummel, just under the panel, has significant pitting.  I apply a small amount of CA glue here to fill the pits and apply an accelerator to quicken the curing time.I use 240 grit paper, then 600, to sand out the patches until flush with the briar surface and smooth.I then use sanding sponges, starting with coarse, medium, then light, to work out the blemishes throughout the stummel.  I avoid as much as possible direct movement over the silver inlay but work around it on each panel.I then utilize the full regimen of micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  As with the sanding sponges, I do not intentionally focus the pads over the silver inlay but work around it. With the assumption now that the twin rim notches on the forward panels are part of the original motif, I freshen two of them using a carpenter’s blade.During the initial cleaning of the stummel, the shank cap had popped off and I put it aside for safe keeping.  Now that I’ve discovered the silver inlay, I’m wondering if this cap is more than the nickel plating that I originally suspected.  To clean, I take it to the sink and wash it with warm water and mild soap, using my fingernail as well as a brass brush to help in the cleaning.  After cleaned I rinse it and dry it thoroughly.I then apply Tarn-X to the ring with a cotton pad and wipe thoroughly then take it to the sink and again rinse and dry.This time with a magnifying glass, I check the band and my original assumption seems to be correct that it is nickel.  I find no stamping on the metal to indicate that it is silver.  Next, I apply the magnet to the ring, and it is not magnetic at all.  After a quick search in Google to check the magnetic composition of nickel, I discover that it is indeed magnetic.  The band, shank cap before me is not.  It is becoming clearer now that I am not working on a maligned basket pipe.  If this band is indeed silver, it is rawer and unmarked.  Again, my theory of an English, Singapore, connection is encouraged. Before reattaching the cap to the shank, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel dedicated to applying White Diamond compound on silver.  I have wheels dedicated for several different compounds and metals.  I carefully hold the band and buff it with White Diamond compound and then buff it with a microfiber cloth.To bring out the depth of the grain that has emerged, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to my fingers then work it into the surface of the briar.  The Balm begins with a thinner oil consistency then thickens as I work it into the surface.  At the end it’s like a wax.  I allow it to sit for several minutes then I wipe it off with a clean cloth and buff it up until the stummel is clear of excess Balm.  The Balm does a great job bringing out the nuanced tones of the briar. After applying the Restoration Balm and without remounting the silver shank cap, I reunite the stem and stummel setting the speed at 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  I don’t remount the silver shank cap so that I can apply the compound without worry of impacting the band.  As well, during the buffing, I stay clear of the silver inlay to avoid the chemical reaction that can stain the wood with black.  After the application of Blue Diamond compound is finished, I apply two small dots of CA glue to the inner side of the silver shank cap and remount it on the end of the shank.  It looks great! Now in the homestretch, I remount the stem to the stummel and apply coats of carnauba wax to the entire pipe, still avoiding the silver inlay and band.  After completing the application of wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing to raise the shine of the briar and the luster of the silver.

My final theory for the origins of this silver laden Robinson Quarter Bent Paneled Tomato is that it was produced in England in the years immediately following the close of WWII after the British returned in 1946 after Japanese occupation and the Robinson department stores in Singapore and Malaya soared in sales – reaching 1 million US for the first time in its history (LINK) and saw expansion well into the 1950s with the acquisition of the John Little Co., the largest and older competitor to the Robinson presence in Singapore.  This is only a guess as to the period, but with what appears to be an older Robinson stamping from the examples I found online, I’m thinking that this guess is pretty good but still a guess!  How I viewed the pipe morphed from being a marginal basket pipe that had been maligned to a very nice pipe with a touch of opulent class.  The briar grain itself is beautifully presented on the heel of the stummel and is showcased in each of the six silver-framed panels. The diminutive size puts this pipe squarely in English tradition and the gently bent stem is elegant with the striking silver band providing the bowl/stem transition.  The absence of formal markings on the silver band is still a question, but it might be explained in that it was destined as a store pipe.  My friend, Dave, commissioned this Robinson Paneled Tomato and he will have the first opportunity to claim it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe, as with others, benefits our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for looking!


Restoring a Unique “House of Lords” Sitter

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I am pretty angry and frustrated at myself!!!!! That’s a very strong and confusing sentiment against oneself, I admit. But that’s the truth. Let me explain.

I spent nearly two weeks working on three pipes; a Dunhill Bruyere, a Tim West Freehand and a Stefano Exclusive. These three had their lip end of the stem either chewed off for about an inch and a half or a through and through hole!!! It could be considered as a major stem repair project. I successfully rebuild the stem end, including the button, lip edges and the slot. Though, I was unable to shape the slot as perfectly as I would have liked on the Dunhill, the repair was perfect on the Tim West and the Stefano. I felt elated and supremely confident about my capabilities. The blending of the repairs appeared spot on and I blazed through the remaining restoration, clicking pictures of the progress without giving them a second look. When, at the end, I went through the pictures while doing the write up, to my horror, the repaired stem and stummel stared back at me with all their imperfections on display in form of scratches, brownish spots of oxidation and fillings showing through the stain!! This was embarrassing for me and I shared these images with Mr. Steve. In his characteristic method of pointing out my short comings, I shall quote his reply to me, “Takes lots of work… I am having a little trouble with that lately…. Trying to rush it. Pipe looks good”, unquote!! Readers of rebornpipes and those who know him would be smiling while reading this part. Well, to cut the banter short, I shall rework all these short comings later as I want to start on a fresh pipe!!

The pipe on my work table, from my inherited collection, is one large barrel shaped full bent (this aspect needs to be confirmed and will be cleared as we progress further) sitter with beautiful and very tightly packed birds’ eye grain on either side of the bowl and shank, extending over to more than half of the front of the stummel. Equally tightly packed cross grain are seen on the front left and back of the bowl and also on the upper and bottom surface of the shank. It is stamped on the left side of the shank as “HOUSE OF LORDS” over “MADE IN ENGLAND” in block capital letters. The right side of the shank bears the numeral “275”, probably the shape code, towards the bowl shank junction. The vulcanite saddle stem bears the Crown logo stamped on the left of the round stem. The stem logo and the shape code are slightly worn off. I have included a picture of the stem logo from pipephil.eu to show how it appears on this stem.To know more about the brand, the lines offered by the maker and attempt to date this pipe, I visited pipedia.org, which has wealth of information on almost all pipes. The only information available here was that this brand was by Samuel Gordon in the early 20th century and thereafter became a Sasieni second. My next go to site is pipephil.eu where the stampings and stem logos on a pipe are used for brand information and to date a pipe. Here is the link for information on the pipe currently on my work table:-


This site also pointed to the same information gleaned from pipedia.org. Here is what was found on pipephil.eu.

Brand from Samuel Gordon. Maybe a Sasieni second (J.M. Lopes, op. cit.)

I further followed the link to “Gordon” and learned that Samuel Gordon had founded the brand “GORDON” in 1910-20 eras. This is the link for Gordon brand of pipes; www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-g4.html#gordon

From the above information, it is assumed that this piece is from the early 20th century period. Wow!!!! This is really an old pipe. The pipe brands and its vintage, those that are in my grandfather’s collection, never cease to amaze me and there are some really collectible pipes that I have inherited.


The chamber shows a nice even build up of a cake which makes it difficult to comment on the condition of the inner walls of the chamber. However, the general appearance of the stummel makes me believe that there will not be any major issues with the chamber walls. The rim top is clean with no overflow of lava and this is a big surprise coming from my inherited collection!! The chamber is out of round with the inner rim edges showing charring at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock direction. It appears that this charred area of the inner edge was tried to get rid off in an amateurish way. The outer rim is also damaged and has a few chips and dents to the front, probably caused due to hitting the bowl against a hard surface to remove the dottle!! All in all, I would say that this was one of the few well cared for pipes from his collection!!The surface of the stummel is covered in dirt and grime accumulated over a period of time. The stummel surface is peppered with numerous dents and dings, more so towards the front of the bowl, probably caused due to careless and uncared for storage for the last 40-45 years and equal number of years of previous usage!!!! It will be a big decision whether to address these dents and dings by abrasive sanding method and loose the patina which has developed on the surface, or let them be. Well, I shall cross the bridge when I reach it. The mortise appears to be either clogged or has some obstruction as air flow through it is hard and laborious. The vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized. Some light tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both sides is crisp but lightly damaged. The quality of vulcanite is good.The thing that struck me odd was the bend on the stem. It was bent way too much than the normal. When I shared the pictures of this pipe with Mr. Steve, he too found the angle of the bend too rakish and very odd, to the extent that he felt it might not even be correct for the pipe. However, the stem logo confirmed otherwise. So, I am confronted with the controversial prospect between “PRESERVATION” and “RESTORATION”!! While I do not have as clear a mandate as Mr. Steve had, managing this conflict, for me, is more challenging. To me, this inheritance is a family heirloom and in this particular instance, I would rather maintain this profile instead of straightening it. Mr. Steve gave me a second perspective that the stem was bent during storage due to intense heat which is prevalent in India and may not be original as my grandfather had smoked!! Well, this could be true. The inner conflict continued while I proceed to clean and spruce up the pipe to its pristine condition (or at least make a sincere attempt at it)

I reamed the chamber with my fabricated knife and scraped out all the cake. With a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper, I further sand out the last traces of remaining cake and expose the walls of the chamber. There are some very minor and insignificant webs of line on the chamber walls that can be seen to the front and above the drought hole. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. I gently scraped the rim top surface with a sharp knife to remove the lava overflow. Using the same knife, I gently scrapped out the charred briar from the inner rim edge till I reached solid wood. The following pictures show the inner rim edge after the removal of the charred wood from the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock direction. Also seen is the earlier amateurish attempt at addressing the issue of out of round bowl. I shall address this issue by creating a bevel to inner edge. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. With my fabricated spatula shaped knife, I scrapped out the dried oils and tars from the mortise. My, there were chunks of gunk in there and can be seen in the following pictures!! Finally after some diligent cleaning, the mortise is clean and this further completely eliminated traces of old smells from previous usage.The internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the surface of the stummel. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I am not very happy the way the rim top appears at this stage with all the charring and uneven inner and outer rim edges. This needs to be addressed. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. After cleaning the rim top with Murphy’s oil soap, the inner edge damage was even more evident, and begged to be addressed before I proceed any further. I topped the rim on a 220 followed by 320 and 600 grit sand paper, checking frequently till I was satisfied that the charred surface was greatly reduced. The inner edge is still uneven, though much better than before topping. With a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and fore finger, I created a bevel on the inner edge. This addressed the issue of uneven and out of round inner edge. A couple of dents and chips are also seen to the outer rim edge and one (circled in red) in the newly created inner edge bevel. There were a few slightly deeper chips on the stummel surface. I gouged out the old and dried wood from these dents from the front of the stummel, inner rim edge and the heel and spot filled it with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust (believe you me gentlemen, making and thereafter applying this mix to fill the pits is not as easy as it appears!!!!!! The moment superglue comes into contact with the briar dust; it hardens even before you can blink. Maybe there is an issue with the glue that is available to me here, coupled with the prevailing climatic conditions or maybe one Mr. Dal Stanton could help!!). I always over fill the holes so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I set the stummel aside to cure overnight. I had applied this mix of superglue and briar dust to the inner rim edge as it would not be coming in direct contact with heat from the burning tobacco leading to health issues. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. I covered the stampings on the stem with whitener using a whitener pen. I flamed the stem surface of the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentations and scratches on the stem. The heat from the flame of Bic lighter causes the vulcanite to expand and regain its natural shape, reducing the marks. Using a needle file, I sharpened the lip edges. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 600, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. By the time I had worked on the stem, the fills on the stummel surface had completely cured. I sanded the fills using a flat head needle file and checked to see if I had missed any spots. I wanted the entire surface smooth to the touch. I sanded the spots down and blended them into the bowl surface using a folded 220 grit sand paper. I followed this step by sanding the entire stummel with a 220 grit sand paper followed by 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Once that was done I wiped the bowl down with a cotton cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining dust. I wet sand the stummel with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and follow it up by dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. Once I was through with the micromesh pad sanding, the fills showed in complete contrast with the rest of the stummel, as can be seen in the pictures below. I hope they will blend in better once I apply the balm and buff the stummel. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. The stummel, at this point in restoration, looks beautiful save for the fills which can still be seen in all their awfulness. To address this, I have the option to stain the stummel with a dark brown stain or I let it be as a being part of its journey thus far!! Thus, another conflict has been added to the existing one regarding the stem. I shall think about it once I reach that point in restoration. Before I proceed to final stage of polishing and applying carnauba wax coats, I want to address the superficial and insignificantly thin lines in the chamber as a precautionary measure. I mix activated charcoal and yogurt to the consistency of a thick porridge, not runny while being pliable. Inserting a folded pipe cleaner into the mortise till it peeps out of the draught hole, I apply an even coat of this mixture to the inner walls of the chamber with a modified bamboo frond and set it aside to dry out overnight. The next evening, the coat has completely dried out and is hard. Using a piece of folded 220 grit sand paper, I lightly run it over the coating to a smooth finish. I had a long look at the dark fills against the rest of the stummel and did not like it. I made a decision to stain the stummel in dark walnut stain. I use the powder variety of stain and mix it with 99% isopropyl alcohol. I heated the stummel surface with a heat gun and applied the stain with a folded pipe cleaner. As I paint the stummel with stain over sections at a time, I burn the dye using a Bic lighter that combusts the alcohol in the aniline dye and sets the dye pigmentation in the wood.  After fully saturating the stummel and covering the whole surface, I set the stummel aside to rest for several hours. Once the stain had set, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% full strength and apply red compound to the stummel. This does help in revealing the grains gradually while masking the darker fills. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to a locally manufactured machine which is similar Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further.

The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs in this case, do not do justice to the appearance of this beautiful large barrel-shaped pipe. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up. And as usual, I request all those readers to please leave a comment as it will help me to improve further and hone my skills. PS: After the pipe restoration was completed, nearly 15 days later my guide and mentor, Mr. Steve casually asked me if I had decided to straighten the stem. This set me thinking that here is a gentleman who is still thinking about the bent stem and that he is still doing so as he is convinced that a straight stem would look nicer on the pipe and would be original to the pipe. This convinced me to re-straighten the stem to its original. I place a fluffy pipe cleaner through the airway to prevent it from collapsing due to heating and with a heat gun; I heat the stem till it is pliable and straighten out the stem just by eyeballing the shape till satisfied. Here are a few pictures after the stem was straightened. Yes, there are a few minor issues which is a direct result of the process like the alignment of the shank end with the tenon end and slight dullness in the shiny stem etc, but they will be addressed subsequently. The overall appearance of the pipe is much better and the shank flow into the stem is more fluid and even. Thanks Mr. Steve!!