Tag Archives: bowl topping

A Medico VFQ Rhodesian with a Cumberland Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff and I visited an antique mall that was in an old grainery along a railroad track not too long ago. We went through the display cases and booths on two floors and found a few pipes. This was one of them – an old Medico VFQ Rhodesian. I have been told that VFQ means Very Fine Quality and underneath the grime it appeared that this one may have lived up to the stamping. The stem is a Cumberland like material with swirls and striations in a mahogany coloured stem. In classic Medico style the pipe was made for their paper filter and had a hollow, adjustable tenon. The tenon has a split on both sides that can be expanded should the stem become loose in the shank.The pipe was in rough shape. The bowl was thickly caked and had remnants of tobacco in it. The rim top was covered with overflow from the bowl and there were some large chips on the top and inner edge of the bowl on the right side. The finish was shot with the top varnish coat peeling all over the bowl. The ring around the bowl was dirty but was undamaged.The pipe was stamped Medico over V.F.Q. over Imported Briar on the left side of the shank. It also was stamped with the shape number 76 on the right side. The stem bore the V.F.Q. stamp on the left side as well.The stem was oxidized, dirty and had tooth chatter on both sides at the button. There was an old paper filter still in the tenon and the inside of the shank and stem were filthy.When we got back to my brother’s place we reamed the pipe and scrubbed it down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the damage finish. We scrubbed the mortise, airway into the bowl and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I took photos of the cleaned pipe when I finally brought it to my work table in Vancouver. (Notice the angle of the rim top on the bowl. It was not flat and the damage had left the front higher than the back.) The next two photos show the condition of the tenon and bowl when taken apart and the damaged rim once all the cake had been removed. The rim had damage all the way around but the biggest damage was on the rear right side where there was a large chip missing.The stem shows some wear in the next photos and the striations of colour are almost not visible due to oxidation.I decided to even out the height of the rim cap by carefully topping the bowl. Since the back side was higher than the front I was pretty sure I could remove most if not all of the chipped area on the rear right. I topped it on a board with 220 grit sandpaper and carefully leveled the bowl by applying more pressure to the rear of the bowl than the front and lifting the front edge off the paper as I remove the damaged and excess on the read of the bowl. It took some work to level the bowl properly and end up with an even top both from a vertical and horizontal view.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to bevel out the inner edge of the rim to remove the remaining rim damage and clean up the appearance of the rim.I sanded the rim with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge and with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remaining finish and stain on the bowl in preparation for matching the newly topped rim with the colour of the rest of the bowl. I did a more thorough cleanup of the mortise and airway into the bowl to remove all of the sanding dust and remaining debris that was there. I scrubbed it out with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I also ran pipe cleaners through the airway in the stem and cleaned the mortise with cotton swabs.The bowl had many nicks and scratches. I sanded it with micromesh pads to remove the majority of them but decided to leave some of the deeper ones as beauty marks of the old pipe. In the photos the bowl looks pretty richly coloured but in reality it was faded and apart from the flash the grain did not stand out. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the bowl. The look of the bowl in the next two photos is really odd. I think that it is a phenomenon of the flash because it did not look like this in person.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove some of the opacity of the stain and make it more transparent. In the photos below you can see that it is lighter but still to heavy to show the grain to my liking. I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli, sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge, then polished it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to remove some more of the dark stain and leave behind some nice contrasts in the grain of the bowl. The next photos show it after I had buffed it with Blue Diamond to polish it. I set the bowl aside for now and turned my attention to the stem. I have found that these Medico stems are not fully vulcanite and are a bit of a bear to polish. I have often been left to do the polishing by hand as the buffer can generate too much heat if I am not careful. The heat damages the material of the stem and forces you to start over. I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem and reshaped the button edges with 220 grit sandpaper.  The flow of the top of the shank to the top of the stem was interrupted in that the height of the stem at that point was higher than that of the shank so I sanded the top half of the stem to make that transition smoother.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 until I removed the scratches left behind by the sandpaper. I dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each sanding pad to give the pads more bite and allow them to really polish the stem. Between the 4000 and 6000 grit pads I buffed the stem very carefully (you have to have a light touch against the wheel). I gave it a final rub down of oil after the 12000 grit pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed bowl and stem with Blue Diamond a final time. It really polishes the briar and with a careful/light touch can polish these older Medico stems. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine.The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. To me the stain goes really well with the polished Cumberland like stem. They play off each other very well. The contrast on the bowl raises the highlights in the stem and vice versa. This pipe will soon be on the rebornpipes store if you wold like to add it to your rack. It is very lightweight and comfortable in the hand. I think, judging from the condition of the pipe when I got it, that it will be a great smoking pipe, with or without the Medico filter.

Rebirth: a Liverpool Stummel with Beautiful Grain and Miserable Drilling


Blog by Steve Laug

I found this long shank Liverpool pipe sans stem at an antique mall in Idaho when I was visiting my brother. I did not look at it too closely but noticed it was lightly smoked and had some really nice looking grain. I bought it as I figured it would not be too big a deal to make a stem for it. Besides the price was only $4. Looking at the next four photos you can see why the grain got my attention. It is a mix of birdseye, flame and cross grain. The stain that was used really highlights the grain. In the first photo you can see the chip out of the top of the bowl on the left side as well as the chip out of the shank top between the bowl junction and the stamping on the shank side. When I got back to my brother’s place he looked it over and just shook his head. He pointed out the issues with the bowl. The airway entered the bowl at the far right side. The bowl was hardly smoked and this may well have been a reason. Externally the bowl was not round it was entirely lopsided. It was wrong both inside and out in more ways than I had noticed in my quick decision to purchase it. This one was going to be a challenge in more ways than one to restem and make usable once more. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. The next two photos show the misdrilling and the misshapen out of round external bowl.There were some deep gouges on the left side of the pipe – one had the top of the bowl and one on the shank just ahead of the stamping. There were also some pits and gouges on the underside of the shank and on the end on both top and bottom. I have circled the large one in the first photo below. It is a bright spot circled in red. Then I looked closer at the overall bowl and shank. What a mess. It had been drilled at quite an angle. It appeared that the drill had gone through the right side of the shank just before the bowl. It had been repaired with a fill that was pitted. It is circled in red in the second photo below. The third photo shows the shank from the mortise end. It is obvious that the shank was not round and the mortise was off to the right. This was going to be an interesting pipe to restem. As I looked at the left side of the shank with a magnifying lens I could see that first line of stamping (faint on the top and better at the bottom side of the words read CONTINENTAL. The second line of stamping was clearer and read REAL BRIAR. In examining the rest of the shank, I could see that it was all that was stamped on the pipe. I did some searching for the brand name and found one on Pipedia. The Continental Briar Pipe Co. Inc. manufactured briar pipes in Brooklyn, New York. The address on York and Adams Streets was taken from a letter sent to a Henry T. Rice dated July 28, 1941.

I went through my stem can and found two prospects for stems. Because the shank was misdrilled and out of round and the mortise was also off to the side I needed to have a stem slightly larger in diameter than the shank.  One of the stems was a saddle stem and the other a taper stem. The saddle stem was not quite large enough so I opted for the taper. I used a pen knife to open the mortise and make it more round. I worked to remove briar from the left side of the mortise and make the shank end round. In the third photo below you can see the finished mortise.When I finished the work on the mortise I sanded it with a rolled piece of sandpaper to smooth things out.I pushed the taper stem into the mortise and the fit against the shank was a good fit. The right side where the shank was out of round needed to have some vulcanite removed to make the flow of the stem and shank correct but it would work. The taper stem makes the pipe a Liverpool. If I had used the saddle stem it would have been a lumberman. I like the promising look of the new pipe. There were many on the top and the bottom of the shank and along the right side of the top of the bowl. There was also a place on the right side of the shank at the bowl shank junction that had been filled to repair a drill through. It had been patched with putty but was pitted and rough. I wiped the shank and bowl edge down with alcohol. I filled all of the pits and the repaired area with briar dust and then put drops of super glue on top of the dust fills. The photos below show the patched and repaired areas.When the repairs dried I sanded the repairs smooth to match the briar around them. The photos below show the freshly sanded areas on the pipe. The repairs are dark spots in the middle of the sanded areas. They will be blended in once I stain the bowl and shank. I used a needle file to reshape the button edges on both sides of the stem. They were worn down and the sharp edge was indistinct. I redefined the edges and smoothed out the surface in front of the button.I wiped the bowl and shank down with alcohol to remove the remaining finish on the bowl and to clean off the dust in preparation for restaining the pipe. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and smooth out the file marks and tooth marks that remained. I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board to remove the damaged areas on the rim and created a smooth well defined edge on both the inner and outer parts of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean the inner edge and remove the darkening there.I wiped it down another time to clean off the rim and the edges of dust. I used a dark brown stain touch up pen to stain the sanded areas on the rim, bowl side, shank top and bottom and shank end. I was not too worried about coverage at this point rather providing a base coat before I stained the bowl in its entirety. My thinking was that the base coat would blend in with the existing stain and then the top coat would tie it all together. I stained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process of staining and flaming until the coverage was even around the bowl. I set the pipe aside to dry for a few hours and worked on the stem.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the dark crusty finish. I wanted the stain to be more transparent to let the grain show through. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads to polish the bowl and shank. The grain really shown through now and the flame grain, birdseye and cross grain were beautiful. The fills have blended in on most of the bowl while the repair on the right side of the shank at the bowl is dark but smooth. I scraped out the remnants of cake that remained inside of the bowl with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and sanded the walls with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth them out.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads. I took it and buffed it with Tripoli after the 2400 grit pad and followed that with Blue Diamond. Then I went on to continue polishing it with the higher grits of micromesh pads. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and carefully buffed around the stamping. I did not want to damage it any further than before. I gave the pipe and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a long pipe that is just under 7 inches long and the bowl is 1 ¾ inches tall. The bowl exterior is 1 1/8 inches in diameter and the bowl chamber is ¾ inch in diameter. What started out as a major mess came out looking like a fine pipe. Even though the airway enters the bowl on the far right the draw is still very good. I think it should smoke fairly well and provide a decent looking long pipe for someone who wants to add it to his collection. Thanks for walking through the challenge with me.

French Made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard from Burgas


Blog by Dal Stanton

I received Gary’s email when he and his wife were visiting the Bulgarian city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast. Ever since I started restoring pipes, Gary, my colleague living and working in Plovdiv, has kept his eyes open during his travels. He’s found some very nice pipes for me. The two he found at the antique shop on the main walking street in Burgas were possibilities so he landed them for me. The larger bent billiard in the pictures he sent is on my work table now. I chose it because I’m hoping for a project that doesn’t appear to be in too much need!The only marking on the pipe is stamped on the left shank and it says, “BRUYERE” over “GARANTIE” which I’ve understood as a rather generic marking used by several manufacturers from different continental countries in Europe.  On a hunch, I looked up the generic marking in Wilczak and Colwell’s manual, “Who Made That Pipe?” and was surprised to find a semi specific listing: UNK France.  With an ‘unknown’ maker, but because of the spelling, they identify the French origins.  Odds are, if from France, then most likely the place of origin is Saint-Claude.  After receiving the pipes from Gary, I put the French made, 3/4 Bent Billiard on my work table in Sofia, and take these pictures to fill in the gaps. The grain on this larger stummel is outstanding – much motion and flow.  Standing out is the bull’s eye wraparound knot grain perfectly situated to highlight the elbow where shank and stummel meet and blend (pictured above).  The stummel surface has several dents and some cuts from normal wear and grime collection.  The rim has some oil residues but like the stummel surface, has its share of normal wear dents.  The cake in the chamber is very light and the remnants of the last smoke are still evident – a blend of sorts (pictured below)!  The stem shows light oxidation and tooth chatter primarily on the lower bit.  The button and slot look good.  To start the restoration and cleanup of the Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard, after inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I put the stem in the Oxi-Clean solution to soak, working on the oxidation.  With stummel in hand, I clean out the old tobacco from the chamber with the pipe nail tool.With the Pipnet kit, I ream the cake to the briar for a fresh start.  I use the two smaller of the 4 blades available in the kit and follow this by using the Savinelli pipe knife to fine tune the ream by strategically scraping the chamber wall.  To clean the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber and then use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the carbon dust.  Looking at the cleaned chamber, it looks good. With the chamber finished, I turn to cleaning the internals of the stummel with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It does not take long and pipe cleaners and swabs are coming out clean. Now turning to the cleanup of the surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and a bristled toothbrush to clean the grime off the briar surface.  Murphy’s does a good job cleaning wood of grime and old finish.  I rinse the stummel with tap water careful not to flood the internals with water.  I inspect the rim and surface with things cleaned up and take some close-ups of dents and marks showing signs of wear – a well-smoked and liked pipe.  The pictures show the cleaning and surface inspection. To address the stummel rim and surface, I use a medium grade sanding sponge to remove as many of the imperfections as possible.  I use this sanding sponge to perform a gentle topping of the rim to remove the dents.  I follow with a light grade sanding sponge and I also freshen the internal rim bevel using first 240 grit paper followed by 600.  The clear majority of the nicks and dents have been removed.  Those that remain will be an ongoing testimony of the years this pipe has spent serving his steward! The pictures show the progress. I’m ready now to fine-tune the stummel by sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 1200.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  After completing the wet sanding, I detect some fills that have softened.  This probably resulted from the water on the stummel and the fill material was only water based.  Two were on the rim and a few more on the side of the stummel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I dig out the old fill that at this point has the texture of wet clay.  Pictured is the completion of the first 3 micromesh pads and the beginning of a small detour – such as life!  The detour requires that I mix briar dust and super glue to make a more durable fill than what I just removed.  After filling the holes, I’ll then need strategically to re-sand the patches and return to the micromesh pads.  While I’m at it, I detect a few more fills and clean them out.  These ‘factory fills’ are normal and reveal that one seldom finds a perfect block of briar without some imperfections.  The most challenging patch will be the rim.  I begin by wetting a cotton pad with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel – I want it clean and free of residue fill material.  I then use a pipe nail and scoop out an enough briar dust on an index card that serves as my mixing pallet.  I then add a small puddle of regular superglue next to the briar dust and use a toothpick to begin mixing the putty by drawing dust into the puddle of glue.  When the consistency of the putty is about like molasses, I use a flat dental spatula to apply the briar dust putty to the holes.  I leave excess putty over each patch in anticipation of sanding it down flush to the briar surface.  I use an accelerator spray to shorten the curing time for the patches.  It takes me two batches to fill the holes.  The pictures show the progress. I decide to let the stummel rest a bit as the patches cure and work on the stem.  I remove the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath that it’s been soaking in for several hours.  The oxidation has ‘surfaced’ on the vulcanite stem and I use 600 grit paper and wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation after remounting the stem and stummel with the plastic disc separator.  This helps avoid shouldering the stem.  After completing the sweep with 600 grit, I look at the lower bit where there was tooth chatter and some dents.  I use 240 grit paper to sand these out.  One dent was refusing so I dropped a bit of Black CA glue on it and applied some accelerator spray to cure it quickly.  After a bit, I returned to the patch with 240 grit paper to smooth it and blend it with the vulcanite.  I follow using 600 grit sanding paper and then finish this phase by buffing the entire stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress. With the stem in front of me, I decide to move it to the micromesh phase.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. When I complete this first cycle I realize that I forgot the clean the internals of the stem!  Call me anxious….  Holding the stem with paper towel, I gingerly use pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol 95% and then with cotton swabs I clean out the filter cavity.  Thankfully, the stem was in pretty good shape.  Back to the micromesh process.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle of 3 pads with an application of Obsidian Oil which deepens the color and revitalizes the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress – looking good! With the stem restoration complete, I turn to the stummel again.  I use a flat needle file to begin the process of bringing the excess briar dust putty down to the briar surface.  I start with the rim patches and move around the stummel.  After using the flat needle file, I use 240 grit paper on each patch to bring it down to the surface.  I finish the sanding and blending with 600 grit paper.  At this point, I notice some air pockets in some of the patches.  I spot drop a small bit of superglue in each and spray it with accelerator.  After a few minutes, I sand down the superglue fills very quickly with the flat needle file, then 240, then 600.  I take pictures along the way. With my day ending, I want to clean the stummel internals further using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I fill the stummel with kosher salt and I cover the bowl and give it a shake to displace the salt.  I use kosher salt and not iodized salt as it does not leave an iodine aftertaste.  I stretch/twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the oils during the soak.  I situate the stummel in an egg carton and using a large squeeze dropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until filled.  I wait a few minutes as the alcohol is quickly drawn down.  I top it off again with alcohol.  I turn out the lights – another day complete. The next morning, the kosher salt and alcohol soak did its job.  The salt and cotton wick are discolored indicating a not too dirty stummel giving up more gunk.  I thumped the stummel on my palm (not table!) and the expended salt goes into the waste.  I wipe the chamber with a paper towel and run bristle brushes of differing sizes in the chamber, through the mortise and draft hole to remove all the salt.  It’s looking good and the new steward of this Bent Billiard will enjoy a sweeter taste as a result.  To get a bird’s eye view of the project, I rejoin the finished stem with the now patched stummel.  The more I study the grain on this pipe, the more I like it – especially the lower horizontal grain encompassing the stummel’s heel then transitioning through the elbow of the shank merger.  A very pleasing visual as one cradles the ample Billiard bowl in his (or her!) palm. Imagination aside, time to get back to the stummel micromesh process.  Since I  had already completed the first 3 micromesh pads, I wet sand with these again, but focus on the rim and stummel patched areas.  After wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, I apply a stain stick to the patch on the stummel.  Because of the sanding, this area is lighter than the surrounding patch of briar.  I apply some stain, let it dry, and wipe it with a bit of alcohol on a cotton pad to blend.  Then, I continue with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then finishing with pads 6000 to 12000.  I am amazed at how a natural grain can achieve such a gloss through this process – wax is not needed!  To me, the difference between the character of this gloss and the ‘gloss’ of an acrylic finish is the difference between a high-end HD flat screen and a so, so TV – color, but not the same sharpness or reality.  When one looks at grain through an acrylic finish, you’re looking through a film creating the shine not the grain itself, as is with a natural grain gloss – the real deal.  The stains we apply then, do not create a film over the wood but colors it to help hide imperfections, etc., – a big difference.  The pictures show the source of my amazement and reflections. With the micromesh pad cycles completed, I confer with my wife about the finish.  Yes, I often ask my wife’s opinion at this point because of her eye for beauty and colors.  Originally, I had been thinking of keeping with the original color bent – toward more reddish tones.  After our conference, because of the beauty of this grain as is, I will stay with brown, leather tones consistent with the natural grain.  I had avoided the nomenclature during the sanding processes and there was still residue of the older color.  I use acetone (yes, the yellow label is acetone in Bulgarian!) with a cotton pad and work on removing the reddish finish.  I’m not totally successful, but I don’t think what is left will make a difference. To stay in the brown/leather tones, I decide to mix 3 parts Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1 part alcohol with a large bulb dropper.  I want the finish on the darker brown side to blend the briar dust putty patches, but light enough so that the grain is showcased.  To prepare the stummel, I first wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the surface.  After mounting a narrowed cork into the shank as a handle, I warm the stummel with a heat gun to expand and open the briar allowing it to absorb the dye more efficiently.  I then liberally apply the dye mixture to the stummel with a folded pipe cleaner seeking full coverage.  With a lit candle, I then ‘fire’ the stummel, igniting the alcohol in the dye which sets the stain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I then put the stummel aside to rest for several hours before continuing.  The pictures show the progress. After several hours, I’m ready to unwrap the crust encasing the stummel resulting from the fired dye.  I mount a felt buffing wheel on the Dremel, set the speed of the Dremel at the lowest, and use Tripoli compound’s abrasive characteristic to remove the crust.  I first purge the wheel with a tightening wrench, to remove old compound and to soften the felt wheel.  I rotate the felt buffing wheel over the surface without a lot of downward pressure.  The speed of the Dremel and the compound do the work.  To reach the difficult angle between the shank and bowl, I switch to a smaller felt wheel.  After finishing with the Tripoli compound, I wet a cotton cloth with alcohol and wipe down the stummel to both lighten the aniline stain and to blend it.  Following this, I switch to a cloth buffing wheel and turn the speed up from 1 to 2, approximately 40% of full speed, the fastest being 5, and apply Blue Diamond compound in the same manner as the Tripoli.  I notice a few bright spots on the surface as well as around the nomenclature where the stain did not set consistently.  I applied a bit of black Fine Point Sharpie Pen and darker stain sticks to blend the areas.  I go over these areas again with the Blue Diamond buffing wheel to blend the spot staining.  It looks good. I then buff the stummel with a flannel cloth to clean it of compound dust before applying the carnauba wax.  Switching to another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to carnauba wax, I reattach the stem to the stummel and apply the wax at the same 40% speed.  I apply 2 cycles of carnauba to the surface and stem, then I switch to a clean Dremel buffing wheel and buff the pipe yet again.  Finally, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing with a micromesh cloth.

This French, probably Saint-Claude, made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard is stunning – the grain is beautiful.  As I mentioned before, I am drawn to the heel of the stummel, at the elbow where stummel and stem meet – the knot grain perfectly situated there is amazing and says something about the eyes and judgment of the pipe maker who chose the briar block and could see what it would become.  I’m very pleased with the results of this pipe.  If you would like to adopt this classic Bent Billiard, look at my store front at The Pipe Steward.  The sale of pipes benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with helping women (and their children) who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!  

 

Refreshing a Family Heirloom – a Brunswick Imported Briar Saddle Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I had an email conversation with a pipe smoker over in Eastern Canada about a pipe that had been in his family for quite a while. He had inherited it and though he loved it, the pipe smoked wet. We talked about how to clean the mortise and the airway in the stem and shank. He did the cleanup but the pipe still smoked wet. He wrote back and asked if I would have a look at it for him and see what I could do with it. When it arrived I could see why he liked it. The pipe is extremely light weight and the saddle stem and flow of the bowl is perfect. The brand is one that I had not heard of before. The pipe is stamped Brunswick over Import Briar on the left side. There is a nice rusticated wedge on each side of the bowl otherwise the finish is smooth. The photos below show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Vancouver.The pipe was in decent shape. The finish was a little dirty and there were burn marks on the front outer edge and the left and rear inner edge of the rim top. The rim top also had some dents and nicks in it and some general darkening from being lit with a lighter in the same place each time.I took a close up photo of the rim and bowl to show the uneven cake and the rim top damage. The rim was slightly beveled and the inner edge was undamaged.I took some photos of the stem to try to capture the damage on the underside. It was hard to capture but there were four divots out of the vulcanite on the underside. I have circled their location in red in the photo below. The quality of the vulcanite was very good and the stem was not oxidized. There were a lot of small pits and scratches in the stem surface but it would polish up nicely and have a deep shine. The aluminum spacer was set on the tenon and acted as a thin ring around the shank and stem junction. It was lightly oxidized but also would polish up well.Before I started the clean up of the pipe I decided to do a bit of digging to see if I could learn anything about the brand. I looked on Pipedia and Pipephil’s Stampings and Logos site and neither one listed the brand. I also did a pretty thorough Google search of the brand using different combinations of words around the brand name. That turned up a pipe starter kit that included a new pipe, tobacco and tamper combination. The pipe bore the Brunswick name but it just did not look anything like the pipe or the stamping on the one I had in hand. It was available through the Pipeguys back in 2013 but the link no longer works. Looking at the pipe I do not think that the brand is related.

I turned to a copy of Who Made that Pipe that resides on my desk next to the computer. I looked through the listings and found two different possible makers of the brand – one in France and one in the USA. I have attached a screen capture of the listing from the book.

The American Company is listed as Adrien Brunschwig 1942. I think this is the maker of this particular pipe. The Imported Briar stamp under the Brunswick name leads me that conclusion as it was used in the US after WW2 when briar was once again available for import. I did some more searching for that brand and maker. The only thing I could find was an American wholesaler and manufacturer of household items called Brunschwig & Fils. I suspect that it is possible that like many other post war manufacturers the company had pipes made by an American Manufacturer (or maybe a European one) to sell or distribute to clients. Quite a few companies did that during this era.

The other company, Ruchon & Verguet 1933 is French and is a predecessor to the company that later was became GBD. I looked on Pipedia and found a link to the history of the company that later became Marechal Ruchon & Cie: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Marechal_Ruchon_%26_Cie. The link gave me the following info and certified the link to GBD. Marechal Ruchon & Cie. was a company owned by Auguste Marechal and Ferdinand Ruchon (“& Cie” is the french equivalent of “& Co”) which owned the GBD brand from the end of the 19th century until 1902 when they sold Marechal, Ruchon & Cie. to Oppenheimer Pipe, which in turn changed the name of the company to Marechal, Ruchon & Co., Ltd.. Upon the creation of Cadogan, however, the brand was no more, remembered only in the name of the GBD Marcee pipes made until just after the Second World War.

To me the connection to the French company is unlikely because of the Imported Briar stamp. The rustication on the pipe also would place it in the post WW2 years as that style was pretty prevalent in US made pipes.  I had a passing thought that can in no way be confirmed, perhaps the Brunschwig name has been bastardised into Brunswick. It has happened to a lot of Germanic names over time so I would not be surprised. That tie also makes the connection to the American maker very probably.

I think I can say with a good measure of confidence that the pipe is American made in the late 1940s by Brunschwig (Brunswick). I wrote to the owner and asked him if he could give me any information on where his father in law may have picked up the pipe. He wrote back as follows:

Hi Steve,

…As far as I know it was my wife’s father’s pipe, she grew up in Toronto and so as far as I can gather I believe it was made around that area. I am pretty certain that he bought it in Canada though he was in the army and may even picked it up somewhere along wherever he was stationed, but I do think he bought it here. She remembers him as a child smoking it (before he stopped smoking a pipe and switched to cigarettes) so the age is roughly 50+ years old, perhaps a bit older…I couldn’t find any information on it either on any sites I visited, so I don’t think that the Brunswick company is still in operation. I would love to know more about it myself so at the next family get-together I’ll ask around with the few of the old-timers that are still around and see if they can recall anything about it and I’ll pass on any info I come across. I haven’t heard of the brand either, they seem to be very obscure.

She did tell me when I inherited the pipe that she found it in his drawer after he had passed so I don’t think he even smoked it all that often.

He also included a photo of his father in law with this pipe in his mouth. It looks to me like he is wearing a Canadian Army uniform.Now I had the back story on the pipe and a good lead on the name and the maker of the pipe. Those details are things I love to have in hand when working on a pipe. It adds another dimension to the restoration and repair process. The pipe will soon go back to the family and the next generation will carry on the tradition of pipe smoking. It is a reminder to me that we truly do hold our pipes as a trust that can be passed on when we depart. They certainly are made to outlast the sturdiest of us.

I started the cleanup on this one by addressing the issues on the rim top. I decided not to top the bowl but rather just lightly sand out the scratches and nicks. Sanding the top would also minimize the darkening and burn marks on the rim top and edges. There were also some burn marks on the front of the bowl that extended from the rim top down about ¼ inch. I sanded those at the same time and was able to remove much of the damage. I lightly sanded out the tooth chatter on the stem surface and wiped the stem down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust. I filled in the three remaining divots with black super glue. Once the glue cured I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the surface of the stem.I reamed out the uneven cake with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the remains with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to bare briar.I rolled a cotton pad and inserted it in the shank to plug the mortise and wick the alcohol back into the shank. I pushed a cotton ball into the bowl and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol. I used an old ice-cube tray to hold the pipe upright and left it overnight to draw out the oils and tars in the briar.In the morning I woke to find the cotton ball darkened with tars. It was not the worst I have seen but it drew out a lot.I left the bowl sitting a little while longer and countersunk the end of the tenon to funnel it. I find that the funneled tenon draws the air into the stem and can work to reduce moisture by facilitating air movement. The photo below shows the tenon end after I had cut the funnel. I still needed to sand it but it was ready. I remove the cotton ball from the bowl and ran a pipe cleaner and cotton swabs through the shank.I let the bowl dry and turned my attention to sanding out the patches and repairs on the stem. I wanted to do a bit more blending and smoothing work. I was not ready for the micromesh pads yet as I wanted to use the retort on the pipe before polishing the stem.I finished the stem and put the pipe back together. I set up the retort. I pulled the rubber tube over the end of the mouth piece. I put a cotton ball in the bowl. I filled the test tube 1/3 full with alcohol and lit a candle to heat the alcohol. Once the alcohol gets hot it boils through the stem and the shank cleaning and loosening any remaining oils and tars.I boiled the alcohol through the pipe for quite a while and then stood the pipe up and let the alcohol cool and run back into the test tube. I was amazed at how little grime came out of the shank. I boiled it through a second time and repeated the cooling. This pipe was very clean now.I cleaned up the retort and put it away. I ran a pipe cleaner through the stem and also through the shank to dry out any remaining alcohol. It came out very clean.I touched up the rim and the front of the bowl with a medium brown stain pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl and hand waxed it with Conservator’s Wax. The rim is looking really good and the burn mark on the front edge is minimized though still showing. I look at those kind of marks as battle scars that tell a story.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final polishing with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the shank and took the pipe to the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond to remove any remaining scratches in the bowl, rim and stem. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax focusing on the smooth portions. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I took the pipe back to the work table and waxed the rusticated areas with Conservator’s Wax. I buffed those areas with a shoe brush. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe is finished and ready to go back to its owner to carry on the family connection. I am looking forward to hear how it smokes for him now. Thanks for looking.

 

 

 

Restemming and Restoring a Brigham Algonquin Dublin 247


Blog by Steve Laug

This pipe is the last of the nine that was dropped by my house for repairs. I was in rough shape for multiple reasons. The finish was dirty and spotty and the rim top was covered with overflow from the bowl. There was a thick cake in the bowl and there were some dark spots on the bowl sides toward the bottom of both sides at the bend. There were also some nicks in the heel of the bowl as well. The stem was missing a large chunk at the button on the right side. The Brigham hard rock maple filters come with an aluminum end and it had broken off deep in the shank near the entrance of the airway to the bowl. The mortise was very tarry and dirty. It would take some work to clean out enough to free the broken aluminum end piece. I took a close up photo of the rim and bowl to show the condition of the pipe when I started the cleanup. Underneath the grime on the bowl there was some nice cross grain and some birdseye on the front and back sides of the bowl.The stem was not salvageable as it stood. The missing chunk was large and the airway into the bowl was collapsed. I would need to fit a new stem on the shank. Fortunately for me the owner did not want a Brigham stem so I could use a regular push stem for the replacement.I went through my stem can, found a stem that was the same diameter, and close to the same length. I filed the diameter of the tenon with a file until it was close to fitting and finished with 220 grit sandpaper. I trimmed the edge of the tenon with my tenon turning tool by hand.When I finished smoothing out the tenon I inserted it in the mortise on the pipe bowl. The fit was snug. It looked good. I would need to do a few adjustments on the shank and stem as the shank was not perfectly round. I sanded the stem and the shank with 220 grit sandpaper to get a smooth transition between the two. I scrubbed the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the finish and the grime. I took photos of the cleaned exterior. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall Knife. I removed the cake completely. I sanded the interior walls with sandpaper wrapped around my finger to smooth out the walls.I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board to remove the rim damage and smooth out the nicks and scratches. I sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to polish the surface.I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain. I had found that once the finish was removed there were quite a few fills in the bowl sides and shank. I wanted to blend them into the surface of the briar and try to make them less visible. I flamed the stain and repeated the process until the coverage was even. I set the bowl aside for the day and went to work.When I returned from work that evening I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent. It was still too dark but I had plans to take care of that in a different way. In the photos below the fills are very visible against the dark brown stain. I cleaned up the face of the stem with the PIMO tenon turning tool at the tenon/stem angle so that the fit against the shank would be smooth. Sadly, my drill died so I had to turn the stem onto the tool by hand. It still worked well, just more slowly, and I was able to smooth out the surface.While the drill was out, I removed the tenon turning tool and put a drill bit in the chuck that was just slightly larger than the airway into the bowl. I wanted to be able to grab a hold of the broken aluminum filter tip with the drill bit and pull it out. Once again, I did it without the benefit of power. I just twisted the bowl onto the bit until the bit locked onto the aluminum end. I careful turned the bowl off the bit and the broken aluminum end came out stuck to the bit. Whew!I cleaned out the mortise and airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I finally was able to get all of the tars and oils out of the extended mortise.I heated the new stem with a heat gun and bent it to match the broken stem. I took a photo of the two of them together. I took photos of the pipe with the new stem in place. Still a lot of work to do to polish both the bowl and stem but it is looking good. I set the stem aside and worked on polishing the bowl. I started by wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. The photos below tell the story. I set the bowl aside and polished the stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and rubbed it down after each set of three pads. After the last 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry.I buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to polish out the last of the scratches on the stem. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect the surface of both. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and by hand with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I think the owner will be pleased with the finished stem and bowl. It looks like it was made to order. The contrasting stain on the bowl highlights the grain and hides the fills at the same time. Thanks for looking.

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GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash – An Unexpected Hole Repair


Blog by Dal Stanton

I’m calling this GBD Trafalgar a Calabash shape, and it’s been in my “Help me!” basket for some time.  I saw it on the US eBay auction block and I liked the shape and the way the grain was positioned in shaping of the flowing Calabash stummel.  From what I could make out from the few pictures the seller provided, the front and back of the bowl revealed horizontal straight grain.  These grain veins terminate on each flank with distinctive bird’s eye.  I liked it – I bid on it – and I was happy to bring it home to Sofia, Bulgaria, where it’s now on my work table.  Here are a few pictures from the seller. The markings on the Calabash on the left side of the shank show, “GBD” in the oval over “LondonMade” curved up.  The right side of the shank shows, “LONDON ENGLAND” over what I’m assuming is the shape number “K1978” only I couldn’t find this shape number listed for GBD pipes.  Under the shank is “TRAFALGAR”.  GBD (Pipedia’s article on GBD), was the handshake enterprise started by three French ‘Master Pipemakers’, Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger in Paris in 1850 to manufacture Meerschaum pipes, which was the primary material used in manufacturing pipes along with clay, until the discovery of briar in Saint Claude, France, a discovery that changed the pipe manufacturing world.  In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co. in London, which began the shift of GBD to being primarily a British enterprise, even though GBD pipes continued to be produced in Paris and Saint Claude, until 1981, with the closing of the French operation when the name, GBD, was merged with the Cadogan Group.  I enjoy rehearsing the historical developments of pipe names and companies because they add to the enjoyment and appreciation of restoring pipes.

The history of the ‘Trafalgar Campaign’ (see LINK) and what it would suggest I believe, is that this GBD pipe was manufactured and distributed across the channel in England, as the stampings indicate.  This is not always the case from my research on GBD.  Often, GBD pipes were manufactured in France, shipped to the UK, where they would be stamped “London Made” – or so my reading has indicated.  Yet, with the stamping of Trafalgar, my guess is that this GBD was manufactured in UK.  In 1805, ‘Trafalgar’ was the final battle engagement between the combined French and Spanish fleets and the Royal Navy to defeat Napoleon’s attempt to gain control of the English Channel, the first phase in his ultimate plan to invade England with his land forces.  To the British, Trafalgar will be commemorated as a victory thwarting the French invasion.  Fortunately, not too many years later, the economics of pipe manufacturing and the common love of pipe smoking, Brits would smoke French made pipes and the French, London made pipes.  Yet, I doubt if one will find this GBD Trafalgar London Made in the rotation of a Frenchman or Frenchwomen today!  I was anxious to integrate the Battle of Trafalgar into this restoration because of my love of tall ships.  Pictured is another of my hobbies in the same room as my pipe restoration work desk, a long-time project building the USS Constitution, now proudly anchored in Boston Harbor!

With a greater appreciation of this GBD’s history and name, I look more closely at the pipe itself and take more pictures on my work desk to look more closely and to fill in the gaps. Looking closer and assessing areas of need, the chamber has a light carbon cake, and the rim is nicked up significantly on the front outer lip and the lava flow of oils and grime need attention.  The finish on the stummel is dark and cloudy.  Oxidation on the stem is minimal but there are tooth dents on the bit, and the upper button lip has a clenching dent that will need attention.  Everything seemed straight-forward until my index finger detected a ridge where there shouldn’t be one.  I hadn’t seen it before (and I checked the eBay pictures and it wasn’t shown by the seller 😦 as sometimes is the case), but my index finger revealed what appears to be an impact fracture on the front heel of the stummel.  My first reaction is to insert my pinky finger into the chamber to see if I could feel any reciprocating activity on the internal side.  I feel nothing.  I take pictures to focus in on the fracture from different angles.  I use the sheen of the overhead lamp to see more clearly the little disaster now before me.  On the last picture below, I circled the only good news I can see at this point.  My forensic hypothesis assessing the scene of the crime: This piece of briar surface is what I assume is the impact point on a hard, unsuspecting surface.  The curvature of the stummel would have been abruptly flattened upon impact, and the expansion of this piece of impacted briar would have pushed out and then up, much like convergent tectonic plates in the earth’s surface.  The good news?  This small piece of briar is still attached to the stummel, though it appears the attachment may be tenuous.  The last two pictures below I placed arrows pointing to the terminus points of the trauma cracks which will most likely grow without intervention – what I thought would be a fairly slam dunk restore!  The pictures show the new challenge and opportunity to expand my skills! To recommission this GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash, after inserting a pipe cleaner in the stem, I plop the stem in the Oxi-Clean bath to address the minor oxidation mainly in the bit area.  Cleaning the stummel is the next order of business.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, after putting paper down on the work surface, I take out the smallest blade to use, but after eyeballing the angle of the chamber, the Calabash’s conical fire chamber is too tight to allow even the smallest blade to fit down to the lower area. Switching to the Savinelli Pipe Knife, I remove the light carbon build up down to the briar for a fresh start.  As often proves to be the case, as I proceeded with the reaming of the chamber, working the Savinelli Pipe Knife down into the foot of the chamber around the draft hole, the reality of the thinning of the briar was fully revealed.  The small piece of briar that was hanging on, on the external side, was dislodged, resulting in a hole through the stummel.  Technically, I think this is a burn through, as there is a hint of darkening of the briar indicating the heat.   As I’ve seen in other restorations, especially with the narrower drilled fire chambers, the briar at the floor of the chamber wears away with excessive reaming and digging and with time, the briar thins. After I salvage the dislodged piece of briar, not hopeful that it will be part of the solution, I take a couple pictures to record the break-through and continue cleaning the chamber.

When I finished reaming with the Savinelli knife, I use a coarser, 120 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to clean further the carbon, especially the floor of the chamber where repairs will be made.  I then follow with 240 grit paper and finally, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to deal with the residue dust.  The pictures show the progress. Continuing the cleaning process, I take pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and work on the internals of the stummel.  After some effort, the internals are coming clean. With the internal cleaning complete, I look to the external surface.  To address the grime on the rim and stummel I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with a cotton pad to scrub the surface.  I also use a brass bristled brush to clean the rim and a bristled tooth brush for general stummel cleaning.  On the back side of the rim, I also use my straight knife blade to scrape the carbon off the surface.  After completing the clean-up of the rim, it is apparent that I will still need to top the stummel a small amount to remove the damage to front ‘bumper’ of the rim.  Pictures show the progress. I’m thinking about the stummel hole repair before me while I methodically move through the normal phases of the restoration until I come to the point of focusing on the needed repair.  The plan forming is that I need to build up the floor of the chamber to the entry of the draft hole.  This will reinforce the entire base of the stummel for a long time.  I’ll use JB Weld to do this build-up, a product and method that I learned from Charles Lemon, at Dad’s Pipes.  Yet, before doing the floor buildup, I will do the repairs on the cracks and hole in the stummel.  My thinking is that this order of repair is better so that the hole fill, instead of being built on the chamber floor rebuild, will instead be reinforced by it.  Or, so my thinking goes!  I’ll let the plan cook a little longer and I put the stummel aside and fish the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath.  Using the plastic disc I fabricated to protect against shoulder rounding, I remount the stem and stummel with the disc in between.  Using 600 grit paper, I wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation – working on the bit – button area also to remove tooth chatter and dents.  Following this, I use 0000 steel wool to buff further the stem and to rid it of oxidation.  I move directly to cleaning the internal airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  I also use a sharp dental probe to scrape the slot area pulling out some gunk.  Without too much resistance, the stem internals are clean.  The pictures show the stem progress. Again I turn my attention to the stummel arriving at the moment of truth.  I need to address the crack repair by drilling small holes at the terminus points of the cracks to keep the cracks from creeping – like a controlled fire set in a forest fire to stop its progress.  I take another closeup of the area and with the help of a magnifying glass, I identify where the ends of the two major cracks are with arrows.  The second picture, shows where I made a mark – where I will place counter-holes.  I add one at the bottom-left because with the laterally grain movement, I can easily imagine a crack spidering out in that direction eventually.  I use a 1mm drill bit and drill each hole.  The pictures show the progress. Now, to patch the hole.  I first clean the surface with a cotton pad and alcohol and I make sure the hole is free of debris and dust.  I then spot drop thin Hot Stuff CA Glue on the cracks themselves to allow the thin glue to seep into the cracks.  Before I mix the briar dust and super glue putty to fill the hole and the control holes I drilled, I need to create a backing on the inside of the chamber so that the putty will not simply push through the hole when applied.  To do this I simply put a piece of masking tape inside over the hole as it comes through.  I then mix briar dust and superglue with a toothpick to form a putty about the consistency of molasses. Using the toothpick as a trowel, I apply the putty liberally knowing that later, after it cures, I’ll be sanding it down to the surface and blending it. I put the stummel aside to cure overnight and I call it a day.  The pictures show the patching process. The next day, I move directly to the chamber floor repair by building it up and reinforcing it with J-B Kwik Weld.  This is my second go with JB Weld.  The first was repairing a burn through with a petite horn shaped, Short Snorter.  As I think about this repair, the challenge in my mind is how to deliver the JB Weld mixture directly to the floor of the chamber without smearing it where it’s not needed.  This is where a couple of disposable popsicle sticks would come in handy, if I hand any.  The idea that begins to shape up in my mind is to mix the JB Weld on an index card, when I’m ready to ‘pour’, I’ll create a cone with the index card, insert it into the chamber to the floor, and press out the JB Weld with my finger – I’ll put on a latex surgical glove that a medical team visiting us here in Bulgaria left behind.  I’ll then shape the mixture evenly around the floor of the chamber.  That’s the plan.  I insert a pipe cleaner into the mortise and through the draft hole so that the JB Weld does not weld the airway shut.  JB Kwik Weld comes in two parts – the ‘Steel’ and the ‘Hardener’ mixtures.  The directions say to mix them equally and that one has about 4 minutes before the mixture sets.  I take a picture of the setup and of the chamber with patched hole and pipe cleaner visible.  I mix JB Weld at 50/50 (as close as I can tell) on an index card, roll it, insert it, and press it out – it was a bit messy, but mission accomplished.  I set the stummel in an egg crate with it tilted forward, and let it cure.  Pictures show the progress. Home from work, I’m ready to return to the stummel and continue working on the repairs.  The internal chamber floor build up using JB Weld looks good and feels good as I put the pinky in and feel the contours.  I look now to the external briar dust – superglue patch and I begin the process of removing the excess putty using a flat needle file.  When I near being flush with the briar surface, I switch to using 240 grit paper to bring it down to the surface.  At this point I gently bring the patch down to briar surface.  I allow the paper to do the job without applying much pressure – I want as much briar to remain as possible.  After I remove the excess putty, the patch is looking good and will not be difficult to blend with the native briar with a dark stain.   I take pictures to show the progress. I turn back to the internal chamber.  I use a coarse 120 grit sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to sand the chamber wall cleaning it up from JB Weld that adhered to the upper area of the chamber.  Following the 120, I use 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen as well.  With my finger, I feel the chamber and ridges are gone and it has smoothed nicely.  The pictures show the progress. Looking more closely at the draft hole (above) I see a pointed hanger left over from JB Weld at the 2 o’clock position.  To smooth this future pipe cleaner obstacle, I reach in with a rounded needle file and file off the pointed area and round off the entire draft hole area.  The pictures show the before and after.

Before moving to the topping board, I remove all the old finish.  I use a cotton cloth pad wetted with acetone and wipe down the stummel.  It removes the old finish quickly.  Pulling out the chopping board, my topping board, I place a sheet of 240 grit paper on it.  I need only to remove enough briar to remove the damage/dents at the nose of the rim.  I take a picture to mark the progress.  I rotate the stummel evenly in a circle over the board checking the progress often.  I take just enough briar off so that I can finish removing the damaged rim lip by introducing a gentle bevel.  I do this with a rolled piece of 240 grit paper.  This removes the damage and gives the rim a classier, softer look which I like.  I do the same with the internal rim edge – I use 240 grit paper and create a gentle bevel.  This, again, removes damaged rim and creates the contoured soft look.  I follow by doing a very light, brief topping of the stummel on 600 grit paper, then follow with a rolled piece of 600 grit going over the external and internal bevel.  It looks good – this briar Calabash is picking up momentum!  The pictures show the progress from acetone to bevel. I put the stummel aside and turn my attention to the stem to do repairs.  The button area has tooth dents that I will attempt to raise using a lit candle to heat the vulcanite allowing it to regain its original contour as the heat expands it.  The upper button lip has a compression dent needing attention.  I take pictures to mark the progress.  Using the lit candle, I pass the stem end over the candle back and forth heating the vulcanite.  I repeat this on upper and lower areas and the vulcanite expands as hoped.  The dents are still visible, but now, will be more easily dispatched using sand paper.  I sand the bit area with 240 grit paper and freshen the button lip with the flat edged needle file.  On the upper button lip, I apply Starbond Black Medium KE-150 CA glue at the dent point as well as on the bit on a remaining tooth impression.  I spray the glue with an accelerator that shortens the curing time.  I use a flat needle file to remove the excess glue on the button lip and then sand it as well as the small fill with 240 grit paper.   I follow with sanding with 600 grit paper then with 0000 steel wool.  Button and bit repairs are completed.  The pictures show the progress. Turning back to the stummel, I sand with a medium grade sanding sponge followed by a light grade sanding sponge.  From here I go directly into the micromesh cycles by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  The grain is looking great! The horizontal straight grain on the front and back of the bowl terminates on each side with bird’s eye perspective.  The pictures show the progress. This GBD Trafalgar Calabash’s stummel is looking good and I apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel to blend the crack and hole repair patch I did earlier.  After the sanding/micromesh pad cycles, the briar is its natural light color. I take a picture of the patch before the stain is applied to do a before and after – to see how well the patch blends.  I wipe the stummel with a cotton cloth wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean it.  Using a heat gun, I warm the stummel to expand the grain of the briar to more efficiently absorb the dye.  After the stummel is warmed, using a doubled over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye liberally to the stummel seeking full coverage.  When covered, I flame the aniline dye using a lit candle and the alcohol immediate combusts setting the hue of the dark brown leather dye in the briar.  In a few minutes, I repeat the process complete with flaming.  I set the stummel aside to rest. The pictures show the staining progress. With the staining process completed and the stummel resting I start the final phase of the stem polish.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. Following this, with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 go 12000 I dry sand the stem.  After each cycle of three I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite. The stem looks great – the button repairs are fully blended.  The pictures show the progress. The next morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, I’m anxious to ‘unwrap’ the stummel from its fire crusting.  I mount the Dremel with a felt wheel set at the slowest RPMs, and apply Tripoli compound to remove the crust revealing the surface below.  This is one of my favorite parts of restoring pipes.  One never knows quite how the briar receives and displays the new dyes.  I first purge the felt wheel of old compound by engaging it and applying the sharp edge of the Dremel’s small metal adjustment wrench to the wheel.  I then apply Tripoli to the stummel surface in circular motions, not applying too much downward pressure but allowing the RPMs and the compound to do the work for me.  After completing the Tripoli cycle, I take a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel.  With the dye being aniline, alcohol based, I use the alcohol to lighten the dye and to blend it more fully. I record the alcohol wipe with a picture.  After the wipe, the finish clouds up reacting to the alcohol.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set at the same slowest speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to the finish surface.  I take a set-up picture to show the Blue Diamond application. Boy, do I like what I’m seeing!!  I love briar grain – one of God’s gifts to broken people.  After completing the mild abrasion of the Blue Diamond compound, I hand buff the stummel with a flannel cloth not so much to shine it, but to remove compound dust residue from the surface before applying carnauba wax.  The pictures show the progress. There was one small light spot on the briar surface that I darkened using a fine-point black Sharpie Pen.  Before applying carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I decide to apply a mixture of sour cream and activated charcoal dust to coat the chamber walls.  I do this for two reasons.  First, cosmetically, it will cover the lighter J B Weld patching in the chamber by giving the chamber a uniform dark color.  Secondly, this layer will aid the creation of a new cake for this GBD Trafalgar Calabash’s new pipe steward.  After it sets up and cures, the coating is very hard and sturdy, yet for the initial times of use, no scraping the chamber is allowed!  A folded over pipe cleaner is sufficient to clean the chamber, which is in fact, my practice with all my pipes.  I empty two capsules of activated charcoal into a dish and add some sour cream (you can use yogurt as well), and mix it with the stick.  I insert a pipe cleaner to keep the draft hole free, and apply the mixture throughout the fire chamber.  After letting the stummel sit for several hours to cure the final picture in the set below shows the results.  After reuniting stummel and stem, I mount the cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, up the speed by one notch and apply carnauba wax in the same manner as with the compounds – not apply much downward pressure, rotating methodically over the surface, allowing the RPMs and wax to do the work.  After applying about 3 cycles of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buff with a micromesh cloth.

This GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash was a bit of a challenge, but I’m very pleased with the results.  The hole patch and crack repairs on the stummel are virtually invisible.  The floor of the fire chamber is repaired and the pipe is ready for recommissioning.  The grain is striking and the Calabash shape is just classy.  If you would like to bring this GBD Trafalgar London Made home to add to your collection, he is ready for adoption!  Go to my blog site, The Pipe Steward, and leave me a note.  As always, profits for the sale of The Pipe Steward restorations benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and their children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked here in Bulgaria and Europe.  Thanks for joining me!

 

Restemming and Reconditioning a Brigham Voyageur 165


Blog by Steve Laug

The eighth pipe from the lot of pipes that a pipesmoker dropped by for repair is a Brigham Voyageur. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the Brigham name over Voyageur which is the model. The shape number is 165. It was rusticated in the classic Brigham style with a smooth rim, ring around the rim and the shank end and a smooth spot on the shank for the stamping. The pipe was dirty with dust and grime in the crevices of the finish on the bowl. The rim had a tarry buildup which had flowed from the cake in the bowl. The internals were very dirty with a lot of tar and grime. The overall condition of the bowl was good under the grime. The following photos show the pipe’s condition before I began to clean and restore it. I took a close up photo of the rim top and the bowl to show the condition of the cake and the overflow on to the rim top. I also took a photo of the stamping on the smooth left side of the shank. The pipe was a two dot Brigham. In talking with the owner he was not interested in preserving the Brigham system. He was only interested in having a pipe that he could fire up and enjoy. I would need to decide how I was going to fix this one but it was going to be another challenge for me.The stem was in rough shape. It had a split on the top side that ran from the edge of the button almost an inch up the stem toward the bowl. On the underside it had deep tooth marks and two cracks that ran through the button into the airway in the slot. The slot was compressed from the bit marks. There was a lot of oxidation on the surface and some calcification. The Brigham nylon tenon told me that the pipe is a newer one rather than those with the aluminum tenon. It was designed to hold the Brigham Hard Maple Filter tube that is specially designed for them. This one was clogged with tars. The end of the nylon tube was splitting and flared. It was ruined. The photos below show the damaged areas on the stem.I put the stem aside for a while and started on the bowl. I reamed the cake with a PipNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to scrape the cake back to bare briar. I rolled a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and wrapped it around my index finger to sand the walls of the bowl. The cake was so sticky and crumbling that I wanted a hard, clean surface so that the owner could build a new cake to protect the bowl.I scraped out the shank with a dental spatula to scrape away the hardened tars that were on the walls of the mortise and airway to the bowl. I scrubbed the surface with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the shank and mortise was clean.To remove the hard buildup on the rim top and some of the damage to the front outer edge of the bowl I lightly topped it on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the burn marks and damage on the inner edge of the rim. I finished by sanding the rim with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the rim and remove the scratches.I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush to clean out the crevices and grooves of the rustication. Once it was clean I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust on the finish to prepare it for a new coat of stain. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.Once the stain dried I wiped it down with a cotton pad and alcohol to make it more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through on the smooth portions and the ridges of the rustication. I lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it a light coat of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfiber cloth. The buffed and restored bowl is shown in the photos that follow. The time between this picture and the next cannot be captured in photos as there were two days of work and time that went into trying various methods of repairing the original stem for the pipe. I cleaned out the split in the stem and roughened the surface with a file. I cleaned out the cracks on the button, the split on the top side and the tooth marks on the underside of the stem. It took a bunch of sanding and picking. I filled in the gaps with black super glue and charcoal powder to strengthen the repairs. I filed them smooth and sanded them to restore the finish. All was going well until I tried to slide a pipe cleaner into the airway. I pushed it through the airway and into the button only to have the repaired button fall off. The cracks gave way and the chunk fell free of the stem. No repairs would ever hold on this stem. It was finished. One day I may cut it off and use the shorter version for a different pipe but it is not worth a repair any longer.

That decision having been made for me I went through my stem can in search of a replacement. I knew the owner was fine with a non-Brigham stem so that was the way I was going to proceed. I found a stem that had the same dimensions as the original stem. It was a straight stem that I would need to clean up and bend the stem to match the original but it would look good on this old pipe.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the oxidation and remove the light tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem. I turned the tenon down with a Dremel and sanding drum and fine-tuned it with a file to reduce the tenon to fit the shank of the pipe. I heated the stem with a heat gun until I was able to bend it to match the original stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I still had to work on the tenon to remove the file marks but the stem was beginning to shine. I polished the tenon with micromesh sanding pads to remove the majority of the file marks on the vulcanite. I buffed the tenon and then the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to remove the final scratches on the stem. I gave the stem and the smooth portions of the briar several coats of carnauba wax on the wheel and then buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed the bowl and stem with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I think that the owner will really like the looks of his restored and restemmed Brigham. It looks really good to my eye. Thanks for looking.