Blog by Steve Laug
Changing things up a bit with Bob Kerr’s estate clean up I decided to work on a beautiful Brigham 3 Dot Canadian. Up until this pipe I have focused entirely upon Bob’s Dunhill collection and I will be going back to it eventually. I wanted a little change and was feeling very Canadian this morning. Bob had a few Brighams in his collection so I decided to work on the first of those – A Canadian. This Brigham Canadian is stamped on a flat portion on the heel and shank and reads 691 MADE IN CANADA Brigham. There are three dots on the left side of the oval tapered stem. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup on it. The next best thing to talking with Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes is to read the article he wrote on dating Brigham pipes on Pipedia. Charles has done a magnificent job of collating the material on the brand into this article and giving a historical flow of the eras of the Brigham pipe since its beginning in 1906. Thank you Charles for you work on this as it is a one of a kind resource. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Pipes_%E2%80%93_A_Closer_Look_at_Dots,_Dates_and_Markings).
I wanted to get a rough feel for when the pipe was made and the article help me pin down the era. I quote in part from Charles’ article:
…The patent on the Brigham filter system expired in 1955, ushering in the Post-Patent Era (1956 – roughly 1969). The “CAN PAT” stamp was replaced by a “Made in Canada” stamp in block letters. The 1960s saw the introduction of new product lines, including the Norsemen and Valhalla series of rusticated and smooth (respectively) freehand-style pipes created to capitalize on the growing demand for Danish pipe shapes.
From the article a pipe stamped MADE IN CANADA in block letters followed by Brigham was made in the Post-Patent Era (1956-1969). With that information I can place the pipe from Bob’s collection in this time frame. The long oval shank flows into a vulcanite tapered stem that is oxidized and has light tooth marks and chatter near the button. The finish on the smooth long shank Canadian is in excellent condition other than the overall dust and grime from time. I think that this particular Brigham is quite beautiful and the finish is really well done. The bowl had a thick cake some thick lava overflowed onto the rim top.
While I was writing this I heard back from Charles about the pipe. I had written him prior to reading his article and he was kind enough to send the following reply. Thanks Charles.
So this is interesting, Steve. Your Brigham is stamped “691” then “MADE IN CANADA” then “Brigham”. The shape # indicates a 600-series shape 91. The Linear “Made in Canada” stamp was used in what I’ve called the Post-Patent Era, approximately late 1950s through to late 1960’s, so the period just after the CAN PAT stamp was dropped.
The stem carries the vertical 3-Dot pattern of the Brigham Executive grade, which pairs with the 600-series shape number. This usually indicates an original stem, barring evidence of a replacement stem (rounded shoulders or other mismatch at the shank face, etc).
The interesting thing for me here is that Shape 91 is a Lumberman, not a Canadian (which is Shape 90). A 691 should be fitted with a saddle stem instead of the taper stem in the pic. The stem fit, however, looks very good; I don’t see any obvious sign of a replacement stem, at least in these pics. So either the shape # stamp is incorrect or the taper stem was either accidentally factory fit or is a very good replacement.
Based on my experiences with Brigham stamps, I’m leaning towards an incorrect shape # stamp, as the stem would have been fitted during final carving and the stamps done after the pipe was complete – call this a bit of human error on the production floor to give Brigham geeks like me something to talk about! 😁
Hope that helps!
With Charles response I knew I had a bit of an anomaly – a Canadian shaped pipe bearing the shape stamp for a Lumberman. But I also learned that the shape number put it in the 600 series and the three vertical dots make it a Brigham Executive grade. From my examination and experience working with restemmed pipes I agree with Charles in his conclusion regarding human error giving the pipe the incorrect shape number. This will be a fun one to work on and really a unique piece of Brigham history.
I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Brigham Canadian was in pretty good condition considering its age and use. The photo shows the cake in the bowl and the thick buildup of lava on the back side of the rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl in the first photo below. The stem was dirty and oxidized with very light tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button. I am also including the photo of the stamping that I sent to Charles so you can see what we are discussing in our correspondence. It is clear and readable.With the background information on the pipe itself I think it is also helpful to remind ourselves of the uniqueness of a particular brand. I am including a bit of information that I have used in a recent post on Brigham pipes because it gives a good summary of the “Distillator” system that Brigham patented and includes in all of their pipes to this day.
Brigham pipe used to be made in their entirety in Canada and sported an airplane grade aluminum shank extension that held their patented Rock Maple Distillator system (https://www.brighampipes.com/our-system/). I quote in part from their website about the Distillator.
The Brigham distillator system, developed in the 1930s, was created in response to a common complaint of pipe smokers – tongue bite. Eliminating this burning sensation created by the tars and acids of the burning tobacco (especially in wet and aromatic blends) became a consuming passion of ours. We found the perfect taste-neutral and effective material in natural, untreated Rock Maple…
By design, the Brigham system extends into the stem, providing an extra inch of wood through which the smoke passes. Consider that in most other pipes, smoke spends half of its time passing along a plastic or rubber channel which can add negative flavour to the smoke while providing no benefit of its own.
This combination of reduced exposure to plastic and rubber, drastic reduction in tongue bite, elimination of gurgle and flow-back as well as the ease of use has made Brigham Canada’s pipe of choice for generations.
With the identification of the pipe as a 50-60s era Brigham with an interesting mis-stamping of shape number and the background on the brand itself I thought it would be good to remind you of the pipeman who held this pipe in trust. This is another pipe from the estate of Bob Kerr. I asked his son in law, Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter wrote the following tribute to her Dad and it really goes well with the belief of rebornpipes that we carry on the trust of the pipe man who first bought the pipe we hold in our hands as we use it and when it is new we hold it in trust for the next person who will enjoy the beauty and functionality of the pipe.
Brian and his wife included the great photo of Bob with a pipe in his mouth. Thank you Bob for the great collection of pipes you provided for me to work on and get out to other pipemen and women who can enjoy them And thank you Brian and your wife for not only this fitting tribute but also for entrusting us with the pipes. Here is his daughter’s tribute to her Dad.
I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!
I took the stem off the shank and took photos of the aluminum Distillator system. The photo shows it without the Rock Maple filter tube in place. It appears that Bob either smoked the pipe without the Rock Maple tube (which many do by the way) or he removed the tube when he put the pipe in the rack for the final time.I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris that still remained in the bowl. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the U-shaped bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps deal with slight damage to the inner edges of the bowl. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat on the back top side of the rim. I used a pen knife blade the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava. I used a Scotch-Brite sponge pad to scrub off the remaining lava on the top of the bowl and wiped it down with a bit of saliva on a cotton pad. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Each successive pad brought more shine to the rim top. I wiped the rim down with a damp cotton pad after each sanding pad. The shine develops through the polishing. I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. The shank was initially dirty with the black residue that comes from aluminum and moisture. The shank cleaned up more easily than I expected. The stem was another matter altogether – my assumptions about it having been smoked without the Distillator tube were correct and the aluminum tube was full of tars and oils that needed to be removed. But amazingly I have cleaned up far worse Brigham pipes. Because of the length of the tube I had to strategically fold the pipe cleaners to scrub the tube. Shining a light through it now shows it just shines… whew.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and shank as well as the surface of the rim top. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth to polish the bowl. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the light tooth chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and worked on the spotted oxidation on the surface. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end. I polished out the scratches 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 sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I found my box of Brigham Rock Maple Distillators and took a clean one from the box to replace the one that came in the pipe when I received it from Alex. The beauty of these is that they can easily be rinsed out with alcohol or warm water to remove the tars and oils and reused.I put the bowl and stem back together. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The Brigham smooth finish on this Canadian is quite beautiful and it has some beautiful grain around the bowl – a mix of cross grain, birdseye and flame. The contrast of swirling grain looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Brigham Canadian 691 will soon be heading off to India to join Paresh’s rotation. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 16th pipe from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the Bob’s estate. There are a lot more pipes to work on from the Estate so keep an eye on the blog to see forthcoming restorations. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.