Blog by Steve Laug
I have been working on Peterson’s pipes from my friend’s estate for the last little while and I needed a break from them for a while. I chose to work another Canadian Made Brigham for a change of pace. The pipe was never sanded out and the finish was very rustic with file marks and carving marks in the briar around bowl and shank. It was very roughly carved and shaped. The semi-finished briar is a Brigham Sportsman circa 1980s. It is stamped only with “Brigham”. There is a number 5 stamped on the underside of the shank and five brass pins on the stem side.. There was a moderate cake in the bowl and some light lava overflow on the inner edge of the rim. The top and edges of the rim have some rustication to cover what appears to be flaws in the briar. The grain on the smooth portions of the bowl was very nice straight and flame grain. There was a rusticated patch on the front of the bowl that wrapped around to the right side near the top. I think that there was a beautiful pipe underneath all of the buildup of years of use. The stem was lightly oxidized and had some tooth chatter near the button. There was a pattern of five brass dots on the left side of the taper stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work on it. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the bowl with the light cake in the bow and on the rim edges. The rim top had some interesting rusticated patterns on the top and on the right outer edge of the bowl. The rest of the outer edge was rough matching the carving, or lack of it on the sides below. The second photo below shows the side rustication and the flaw in the briar at that point on the block. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth marks, chatter and oxidation on the stem surface. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the rustic condition of the finish. You can see the beautiful grain around the smooth portions on the top half of the bowl. The rustication is well done and rugged in the spots on the bowl and rim. Even under the dirt and debris of the years it looked very good. The stamping is double and triple stamped and hard to capture well even with a flash. What you can see reads as noted above. He included a pic of the 5 brass dots on the stem. For the needed background I am including the information from Pipedia on Brigham pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Pipes). Charles Lemon (Dadspipes) is currently working on a book on the history of the brand. Until that is complete this article is a good summary. I have included it below.
Roy Brigham, after serving an apprenticeship under an Austrian pipesmith, started his own pipe repair shop in Toronto, in 1906. By 1918 the business had grown to include five other craftsmen and had developed a reputation across Canada for the high quality of workmanship. After repairing many different brands of pipes over the years, Roy noted certain recurring complaints by pipe smokers, the most common referred to as “tongue bite”. Tongue bite is a burning sensation on the smoker’s tongue, previously thought to be due to the heat of the smoke (i.e. a “hot smoking pipe”).
He soon began manufacturing his own pipes, which were lightweight, yet featured a more rugged construction, strengthening the weak points observed in other pipes. The problem of tongue bite intrigued him, and he decided to make overcoming it a future goal.
About 1938, Roy’s son Herb joined him to assist in the business. The business barely survived the great depression because pipes were considered to be a luxury, not a necessity, and selling pipes was difficult indeed. In approximately 1937 , after some experimentation, Roy and Herb discovered that tongue bite was in fact a form of mild chemical burn to the tongue, caused by tars and acids in the smoke. They found that by filtering the smoke, it was possible to retain the flavour of the tobacco and yet remove these impurities and thereby stop the tongue bite.
Just as Thomas Edison had searched far and wide for the perfect material from which to make the first electric light bulb filaments, Roy & Herb began experimenting with many materials, both common and exotic, in the quest for the perfect pipe filter. Results varied wildly. Most of the materials didn’t work at all and some actually imparted their own flavour into the smoke. They eventually found just two materials that were satisfactory in pipes: bamboo and rock maple. As bamboo was obviously not as readily available, rock maple then became the logical choice.
They were able to manufacture a replaceable hollow wooden tube made from rock maple dowelling, which when inserted into a specially made pipe, caused absolutely no restriction to the draw of the pipe, yet extracted many of the impurities which had caused tongue bite. The result was indeed a truly better smoking pipe…
I turned to Dadspipes, Charles Lemon’s blog, to see what he had on the Sportsman pipe line from Brigham and was not disappointed (https://dadspipes.com/2016/10/24/re-stemming-an-unsmoked-1980s-brigham-sportsman-author/). I quote the section below that Charles picked up on the Brighampipes.com website.
Brigham describes the Sportsman series on their website as follows:
“Regular Brigham (filtered) pipes were taken from production prior to the final sanding, staining and finishing processes to create what we called “Semi-finished” or “Sportsman” pipes. They were originally created for the Ontario Sportsman show in Toronto where we used to sell a significant number of pipes. Times have changed, and the show is no longer a viable marketing tool for a pipe company, but the “Sportsman” designation remains….
The Brigham “Sportsman” pipe is ideal for situations where getting a little “knocked-around” is anticipated because you won’t need to worry about scratching the finish….there isn’t one!”
I sent Charles a quick email asking him about this pipe and sent along a photo of the pipe. I have included his response below.
Rough Cut 5-Dot is a Sportsman model, probably Shape 47 (Calabriar). The Sportsman series was made specifically for sale at the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show, starting in the early 1950s and continuing to the late 1990s when domestic pipe production wound down. In the beginning, you could only buy one at the show, but by the late 70s or early 80s (I’m still trying to track down a date), a small number of Sportsman pipes were distributed each Spring to retail stores. Your 5-Dot (a rare grade for this series) is from the 1990s, based on the stamping. The series was reintroduced in 2011 using European-made pipes.
With the information from Charles’ I knew what I was dealing with in terms of the stamping and the age of this pipe. I learned that Sportsman pipe was originally carved for the Ontario Sportsman Show. It was made in the 1990s because of the stamping on the shank. It is interesting to not that the 5-Dot is a rare grade for this series. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
I am really happy to have Jeff’s help on cleaning up the pipes that we pick up along the way. He cleaned this filthy pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with great looking grain around the top half of the bowl and great rustication on the rest of the bowl and shank. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. He scrubbed it with Soft Scrub All Purpose Cleaner to remove the majority of the oxidation. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver it looked very good. I took some close up photos of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration. I took photos of the bowl and rim top as well as both sides of the stem to show its condition. The rim top and edges show a darkening and the damage on the inner edge of the rim at the front of the bowl. I took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks on the surface and on the button. I took a photo of the stamping on the side and underside of the shank. You can see that it is stamped as noted above. It is messy but still readable.I took the pipe apart and took a photo of the pipe. It is an interesting pipe that you can see the rustic finish on in the photo below.I decided to start my restoration work on this one by dealing with the damage to the inner edges. I worked over the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. When I had finished it looked much better.I touched up the dark stain on the rustication around the front of the bowl and the rim top with a back Sharpie pen. I polished the smooth portions of the bowl and the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on the stem surface with the flame of a lighter to raise them. It worked very well and only the tooth mark on the underside that was close to the button and a small mark on the right topside near the button remained. I filled it in with CA and set it aside to cure. Once the repairs cured I used a file to smooth them out and recut the edge of the button. I sanded them with 220 grit sand paper to blend them into the rest of the stem surface. I started to polish it with a folded piece of 400 wet dry sandpaper. Before I finished the polishing stem I fit the clean stem with a new Rock Maple Distillator. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I am excited to finish this Brigham 5-Dot Sportsman – an interesting looking pipe that was on the market . It has a unique Brigham “partially finished” look that is different from any other pipe making company. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen it. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through on the bowl and shank. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem with five shining brass pins was beautiful. This Brigham 5-Dot Sportsman is nice looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 41grams/1.45ounces. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.