Tag Archives: Brigham Patent Pipes

Restoring a Patent Era Brigham 1 Dot Dublin Ken Bennett’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

Early in August I received an email from an interesting woman on Vancouver Island regarding some pipes that she had for sale. She was looking to sell the pipes from her late husband Ken and one from her Great Grandfather. Here is her email:

I have 5 John Calich pipes that date from 1979 to 1981. One is graded 11 and the other four are graded 12. I had bought them as Christmas and birthday gifts for my late husband. He was a very light smoker for a 3 year period.

I am a wood sculptor and always admired the grain and shapes of John’s best pipes. John was a friend as well. We exhibited at many exhibitions together for over 25 years.

I am wondering if you can provide any information on how I might be able to sell them.

Thanks you for any help you might be able to provide

I wrote her back and told I was very interested in the pipes that she had for sale and asked her to send me some photos of the lot. She quickly did just that and we struck a deal. I paid her through an e-transfer and the pipes were on their way to me. They arrived quite quickly and when they did I opened the box and found she had added three more pipes – a Brigham, a Dr. Plumb and a WDC Milano.

I finished the restoration of all the pipes in the box of Calich pipes and the BBB Calabash that Pat had sent. She had included a Brigham as noted above. This Brigham Dublin one dot pipe was a classic Brigham shape and rusticated finish. The rim top was dirty and pretty beat up. There were nicks out of the outer edge of the rim around the bowl. The front outer edge was rough from knocking the pipe out again hard surfaces. The rusticated finish was in decent condition. The bowl had a cake in it and there was a lava overflow onto the rim top and darkening the finish. The inner edge of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition under the lava. The stamping on the underside of the shank was very clear and read Shape 107 on the heel of the bowl followed by Can. Pat. 372982 on the smooth panel on the shank. That was followed by Brigham. There is a long tail coming from the “m” curving under the Brigham stamp. The stem was lightly oxidized as was the single metal dot on the side of the taper. There was oxidation and light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside. The tenon was the Brigham metal system that held the hard rock maple filter. It did not look like it had ever been changed. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the damage on the front left outer edge of the bowl, the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the rim top and inner edge of the rim top. It is quite thick and darkens the natural finish of the rim top. The cake was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides, damage to the button and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see the clear stamping reading as noted above.I wrote to Pat and asked her if she would be willing to write short remembrance of her late husband and her Great Grandfather. She wrote that she would be happy to write about them both. Here are Pat’s words:

I’d like you know that Ken was an incredibly talented and creative man with a smile and blue eyes that could light up a room. His laugh was pure magic. He could think outside the box and come up with an elegant solution to any problem…

Pat sent me this reflection on her husband Ken’s life. Thanks Pat for taking time to do this. I find that it gives another dimension to the pipes that I restore to know a bit about the previous pipeman. Pat and Ken were artists (Pat still is a Sculptural Weaver) and it was this that connected them to each other and to John Calich. Here are Pat’s words.

Here is the write up for Ken. We meet in University and it was love at first sight. I consider myself blessed to have shared a life together for 37 years.

Ken graduated from Ryerson University with Bachelor of Applied Arts in Design in 1975.

Ken lived his life with joy.  Each day was a leap of faith in the creative process. His smile would light up the room and the hearts of the people he loved.

He combined the skilled hands of a master craftsman, with the problem solving mind of an engineer, and the heart and soul of an artist. He used his talents to create unique and innovative wood sculptures. Using precious hardwoods, he incorporated the techniques of multiple lamination and three dimensional contouring to create sculptural pieces that captivate the eye and entice the hand to explore.

His career was highlighted by numerous corporate commissions, awards and public recognition in Canada and abroad.

A quote from Frank Lloyd Wright sums up Ken’s approach to design.  “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be joined as one in a spiritual union.” 

A friendship with John Calich developed over years of exhibiting their work at exhibitions. How could a wood sculptor resist some of John’s finest creations…

I wrote Charles Lemon to get some background information on the pipe. Charles knows Brigham pipes like no one else I know besides he is a great guy. Here is his response

Nice find! The stamps are really nice & clear on that one.

Date-wise, this pipe was made between 1938 and 1955 while the patent for the Brigham System was in force, thus the CAN PAT #. The underlined script logo is another indication of age – that logo was phased out sometime in the early 60s.

Shapes 05, 06 & 07 are classic Straight Dublin shapes from the earliest Brigham lineup, with Shape 05 being the smallest and 07 the largest. There are also Bent Dublin shapes but they are much higher shape numbers and presumably were added to the lineup perhaps decades later.

Hope that helps! Ironically, I was looking at the shape chart just today with an eye to doing an update, so most of this was top of mind! — Charles

I summarize the dating information from Charles now: The pipe is an older one with a Canadian Patent Number. That and the underlined script logo date it between 1938 and 1955. The shape 107 refers to the largest of the classic Straight Dublin pipes in the Brigham line up.

Armed with Pat’s stories of John and her husband Ken and the information from Charles on the background of the pipe it was time to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer using the third cutting head. I took the cake back to bare briar so that I could check out the inside walls. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the remaining cake. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.       I scraped the rim top lava with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I was able to remove much of the lava. It also helped me to see the damage to the front edge better. It really was a mess.I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the damaged areas are very clear.   Once the rim top was clean I could see the extent of the damage to the surface of the rim. The damage was quite extensive and gave the rim the appearance of being out of round. There was also a downward slant to the front edge of the bowl. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked to flatten out the profile of the rim. I polished the rim surface with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the top down with alcohol on a cotton pad. I restained it to match the rest of the bowl with three different stain pens – Walnut, Maple and Mahogany. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I rubbed the bowl and rim top down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.     I rubbed the bowl and rim down with Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the metal shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean.Before I cleaned the shank I removed the hard rock maple filter. I took a new filter out of the box and set it aside for use once I finished the clean up.I wiped down the surface of the vulcanite stem with alcohol. I filled in the deep tooth marks with clear super glue.Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to reshape and recut the edge of the button and flatten the repaired area.   I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.     This is the sixth and final pipe that I am restoring from Ken’s Estate. It is another a classic Brigham Patent era Large Dublin shaped 107. With the completion of this Brigham I am on the homestretch with Ken’s estate. This is the part I look forward to when each pipe comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The classic Brigham rustication and smooth rim top is very nice. The smooth, refinished the rim top, polished and waxed rustication on the bowl look really good with the black vulcanite. This Brigham Patent Era Dublin was a fun and challenging pipe to bring back to life because of the damaged rim top. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This entire estate was interesting to bring back to life.

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Repairing a cracked shank on an older Brigham 117 Patent Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a message on the blog from a pipeman in Alberta regarding an older Brigham pipe that he had that was in great shape and had a long hairline crack in the shank from the bottom of the left side up through the stamping into the middle of “i” in Brigham. It caused the stem to be loose and he was worried about it continuing to crack across the rest of the shank. I was pretty certain it could be fixed but would need to be banded. The pipe is stamped Brigham over Can. Pat. 372982 on the left side of the shank and shape number 117 on the flattened underside of the shank near the bowl/shank junction. He sent me the following three photos to show the position of the crack in the shank. He circled them in red to make them clear. He took photos of the side of the shank against a green and a black background to make the crack very visible. He also sent an end shot to show the crack from that vantage point. Almost incidentally he also did made the patent number also visible in his photos. I wrote Charles Lemon of Dadspipes as he is my go to source for all things Brigham and asked him about the pipe. He said that the patent stamp dates it between 1938-1955. Based on it being a one dot and a smooth finish, he said it was probably closer to 38 than 55. He also said that the shape 17 (or in this case 117) is what Brigham called a round Bulldog. I took photos of the pipe when I took it out of the box. It was well restored and very clean. The finish was in great shape. The stamping was very clear with a little wear at the middle of the Brigham stamp. The single brass dot on the stem side was clear. The vulcanite stem looked very clean and polished. There was a little rounding to the side of the stem at the stem/shank union but it was really pretty clean. There were some small tooth dents in the stem but the stem looked good. The rim top was clean and the entire pipe was clean and ready to smoke. I took photos of the bowl/rim top and the stem to show the condition it was in when it arrived. It really looks good. You can see the damaged areas on the inside edge of the rim and the marks on the stem but it still is very nice. I took two photos to show the crack as it appeared without a lens. The first shows the end of the shank. It is on the lower left side of the photo. The second shows it on the side of the shank. I circled them in red to highlight the location.Looking it over in a bright light with a lens I knew that I would need to drill a small hole at the end of the crack. The hard thing was that the end of the crack was in the letter “i” on Brigham. I would also need to band the shank to keep it from splitting and fortify the shank when the stem was inserted. I took a band that was the right diameter for the shank out of my box of bands.I used the end of a small screw, pressed into the end of the crack to mark the pilot hole for the drill. I inserted a tiny microdrill bit in the chuck of my Dremel and set the speed to 5. I started the drill and slowly drilled the hole in the middle of the letter to stop the crack from spreading further.I used the tip of a dental pick to place a small drop of Krazy Glue (CA) in the hole I had drilled in the shank. It was a tiny hole so it did not take too much glue to fill in the hole. I put a tiny drop of glue on the crack that was going to be covered by the band and pressed it together to bind the crack and seal it.I used a very small sanding stick to spot sand the repair on the shank. I was able to smooth out the repair without damaging the surrounding letters on the stamping. I put a little all-purpose glue on the surface of the shank that would be covered by the band and pressed the band in place. I pressed it far enough onto the shank to provide the strengthening of the shank but did not cover up any of the stamping on the side of the shank. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to sand the excess length of the band back until it extended just beyond the end of the shank. I topped the band edge with the topping board to smooth it out. I used micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the sharp edge of the band and to polish the band. I took a photo of the shank end and repair after the band had been pressed in place. The crack on the shank end is invisible now. The crack on the shank side and up into the Brigham stamp is pressed tightly together making it less visible.The repair was finished. The stem now fit snug in the shank. The new band on the shank looked really good and dressed up the pipe. I polished the pipe on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to remove scratches on the bowl, shank, band and stem. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It looks better than it did in the beginning. The pipe is finished and I will be sending it back to Alberta a little later this week. I am hoping the pipeman there enjoys it. Thanks for looking.

Mission Impossible: Operation Long Shot


Blog by Charles Lemon and Steve Laug

Charles posted this on his Dadspipes blog this morning and I reblogged it here on rebornpipes. I was thinking about it this evening and thought it was worth saving in total on both blogs so not only have I reblogged it but I also have put it here in the archives of this blog. That way it is easily accessible on both blogs. This was a fun project for both of us to do. We spoke this afternoon and already are working on another collaboration… Keep an eye out for it on both blogs.

The door opened and a man walked into the bar, pausing briefly in the doorway to allow his eyes to adapt to the dim light inside. The place was what optimists would euphemistically call a dive. The establishment was empty except for a few drunks and a large, bored-looking man behind the counter wiping glasses with a rag that was presumably once white but was now an indeterminate shade of grey.

The man walked through the room, turned in at a doorway marked “Gents” and scanned the room – two stalls, a urinal and a grimy sink – before spotting what he sought. Moving across the room, he fed a handful of coins into a coin-operated machine advertising cheap cologne. There was a rattle and then a small rectangular device dropped into a waiting hand. The man pushed his thumb against a small pad on the otherwise blank rectangle. A laser washed briefly up and down the pad and then a voice was heard.

“Good morning, Agent. You have been selected to join a small, two-man strike force for a delicate and potentially disastrous assignment. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…..”


A while back, Steve Laug of Reborn Pipes and I had a conversation about the limits of pipe restorations. Was a pipe ever truly beyond repair? We responded in the negative, and decided to put our theory to the test with this mission, code-named Operation Long Shot. We wanted a pipe that was so far gone that most people would immediately write it off as firewood or worse, the sort of thing barely recognizable as a pipe.

We selected as our test subject this Brigham 3-Dot Prince. As you can see in the photos below, it was in terrible condition when I came across it in a jumble of estate pipes I picked up about six months ago. I had been holding onto it with some vague notion of using it for spare parts.

The pipe was filthy, crusted with dirt and debris. The old finish was long gone, and the nomenclature was almost entirely worn away. Wiping the shank with a bit of water, however, revealed the thin, flowing script of the early Brigham logo stamped over “Can Pat 372982”. That stamp places the production date of this old warrior in the 1938-1955 range.

The pipe stem carried the three brass dots of Brigham’s mid-grade 300 series, but was deeply oxidized a gruesome yellow/green colour. It had been brutally chopped off at the bit and a crude button cut into the raw end. To add insult to injury, the bowl had suffered a burnout through the bottom, which had been “repaired” as delicately as the stem with a large clod of epoxy which spread over most of the bottom bowl surface. The interior of the bowl was in no better shape – the epoxy fill had been roughly wiped around the chamber floor, and the draft hole had been worn or burnt open to about double its original diameter. All in, this pipe was a train wreck, though evidently much prized by its previous owner who had refused to give up on it.

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Mission Log: Agent Lemon. Phase I – Cleanup and Salvage

This restoration would be a great challenge, but Steve and I were up for it. We agreed to tag-team the job: I would clean up the stummel and salvage what I could from the hacked up stem, and then mail the briar across the country to Steve in Vancouver, BC. He would plug the burnout and tidy up the stummel and then send the pipe home to me in Kitchener, ON for re-stemming and the final fit and finish.

Wanting to get the pipe off to Steve as quickly as possible, I got going on the reaming and cleaning work. I used my Castleford reamer to remove as much carbon from the bowl as I could. I reamed very carefully, expecting the bowl to crumble in my hands, but the old girl held together. I think most of what came out was actually more dirt than cake, but at least the chamber walls looked ok except for the enlarged draft hole. I scrubbed the exterior of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft toothbrush, and then dropped the briar into an isopropyl alcohol bath to soak overnight.

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While the stummel soaked, I had a good look at the stem. I have another Prince shape in my Brigham collection, and a quick comparison showed that the stem for this old pipe was missing about an inch of length. I decided that I would need to work up a new stem to replace the old one. A vulcanite stem would be relatively easy to get hold of, but an aluminum Brigham tenon was quite another matter. As the tenon on the junk stem was still in good shape (or would be after a good cleaning), I decided to salvage it to implant in the replacement stem. I heated the tenon and the end of the stem over a lighter flame until the vulcanite softened, then gently twisted the aluminum tenon out of the stem. One of the brass dots decided to come with it, demonstrating how Brigham used the first brass pin to help hold the tenon/filter holder in the stem.

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The next morning, I pulled the stummel out of the alcohol bath and scrubbed it down with an old towel. This is when I ran into the first bit of luck on this project – the alcohol soak had softened the wide but thin patch of epoxy spread across the bottom of the bowl. I quickly grabbed a dental pick and scraped as much of the old adhesive from the briar as I could. I managed to remove most of the softened epoxy, revealing a central core of harder fill about 5/8″ in diameter. This then, was the original burnout.

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I drilled out the core epoxy and used a tapered reamer to trip the opening to an even circle with fresh briar all around. This would be the hole Steve would need to plug.

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My first stage of the mission was complete, so I packed the stummel securely and entrusted it to Canada Post for shipment to Steve in Vancouver.

Mission Log: Agent Laug. Phase II – Bowl Repair & Refinish

Charles Lemon of DadsPipes and I decided to collaborate on a refurbish that captured some of the essence of our conversation that we shared on our blogs regarding restoration. This old Brigham had major issues with the stem and the bowl. Charles tackled the stem and did the cleanup work on the bowl and then sent the stummel to me to work on. When it arrived I took it out of the small box and had a look at what he had sent to me. He had cleaned out the bowl which had been plugged with JB Weld and opened up the burn out in the bottom of the bowl. He drilled out the plug and when I got it the bowl had pretty much most of the bottom missing. I cut the side out of an old briar bowl I cannibalized for parts and shaped it for the plug. It was thick enough and big enough for me to cut the plug. I cut it and shaped it with a Dremel and sanding drum. The next two photos below shows the plug after the initial shaping. It is still too large in diameter and also needs to be flattened on the inside.

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I continued to shape and fine tune the plug until it fit into the hole in the bottom of the bowl. I flattened the inside surface to match the angles of the bowl bottom. The next two photos show that the plug is just about ready to press into place. Just a little more material needs to be sanded off the edges before it is a fit.

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I sanded the edges with the Dremel and sanding drum until I had a good fit and then pressed it into the bottom of the bowl. I sanded the outer surface of the plug with the Dremel and sanding drum until it was flush with the surface of the bowl. I used a black sharpie to draw a cross on the bottom of the bowl so that I could align the plug once I put the glue on and pressed it into place. I then coated the edges of the plug with slow drying super glue and pressed it into the hole in the bowl. The next two photos show how the plug looked in place from the outside and the inside of the bowl.

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I used a dental pick to clean out the edges of the plug and bowl on the outside and then filled them with super glue and briar dust to take care of the chips and damage to the bowl bottom. Once it dried I sanded the bottom of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to blend in the plug.

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The next two photos show the state of the bowl repair at this point in the process. The plug has been set in the bowl and the crevices around the plug have been filled and repaired. The inside of the bowl is smooth and the plug sits nicely in place.

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At this point in the process others may use JB Weld or Pipe Mud to finish up the bottom but I have found that a thin coat of Plaster of Paris gives a little bit of added protection to the bowl and also levels out the bowl bottom. In this case the bowl had a low spot in front of the entrance to the airway. I mixed a batch of Plaster, put a pipe cleaner in the airway and put it in the bottom of the bowl to level it out.

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When the Plaster dried I applied a coat of pipe mud to the bowl bottom and sides, filling in some of the crevices in the bowl sides and smoothing out the surface. I used a dental spatula to press the pipe mud in place on the bowl sides and a pipe nail to press it into the bottom of the bowl.

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I set the bowl aside at this point to cure for two days and then worked on the rustication of the bowl. I used a dental burr to follow the pattern on the bowl sides and deepen them. I cut a similar pattern on the bottom of the bowl with the burr. I used the burr to clean up the rustication on the shank as well – carefully avoiding the area where the faint Brigham stamping remained.

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I used a black Sharpie permanent marker to stain the grooves in the bowl. I wanted a dark under tone to the bowl after I stained it. I like the way the stain looks with this underneath in the grooves.

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I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it.

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I wiped it down with alcohol on cotton pads to give it some more transparency and create the contrast with the black in the grooves of the rustication. I sanded the rim with a 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pad to smooth it out and to add to the contrast of the smooth rim.

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I hand rubbed in several coats of Conservators Wax and then buffed the bowl with a shoe brush.

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I mixed up a bowl coating of charcoal powder and sour cream and painted it on the inside walls of the bowl to give it further protection. When the bowl coating dried, it was time to pack the stummel back up for its return trip to Ontario.

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Mission Log: Agent Lemon. Phase III – Stem Work

Recreating a Patent Era Brigham stem requires only a few items – a vulcanite stem of appropriate length and sufficient diameter to hold a Brigham rock maple filter, an aluminum Brigham tenon/filter holder, a few drill bits and some epoxy.

I found a suitable stem in my box of stems, using a Brigham Prince pipe from my collection as a reference. I used a hacksaw to remove the vulcanite tenon, and then clamped the stem into a simple drilling jig in my drill press. The stem must be perfectly aligned in the press or you risk drilling through the side of the stem instead of down the airway. The goal is to enlarge the airway to make room for the filter, and then drill out a mortise in the face of the stem to accept the aluminum tenon/filter holder. A quick test fit verified my drilling, so I glued the original tenon into the new stem with a bit of JB Weld and let the assembly cure.

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When the repaired stummel arrived from Vancouver, I could fit the replacement stem. As I was working with the original tenon, it wasn’t a great surprise when the stem fit nicely into the shank. A little bit of filing and sanding to remove the stem’s molding marks and reduce the diameter to match the shank, and I was ready to install the Brigham dots.

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The dots are made by inserting 1/16″ brass rod into holes drilled in the side of the stem. The first pin is located approximately 5/16″ from the end of the stem at the centre line, and the other pins in the 2, 3, and 4-dot patterns are built off the first dot. As this was a 300-level pipe, I’d be installing three pins in a triangle pattern. The first pin is the bottom left dot of the triangle.

I marked out the pinning pattern with a Sharpie and then drilled the holes, being careful not to drill through into the stem’s airway. Short segments of brass rod were then glued into the holes with clear CA glue. When the glue had cured, I used a combination of files and sandpapers to bring the dots flush with the surface of the stem. A final polishing with micromesh pads to remove any remaining scratches prepped the stem for buffing. Just before doing so, I gave the stem a 1/8th bend by holding it over the heat gun until pliable and shaping it over a round form. A dip in cool water set the bend in place.

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Mission Log: Impossible Accomplished

The restored pipe sits on the desk in front of me. I hardly recognize it as being even remotely related to the broken-down shell of a pipe Steve and I started with only a few short weeks ago. Shipping the patient back and forth took a lot of time, but the results of this cross-country collaboration speak for themselves. This Patent Era Brigham 313 looks ready for another 60 years of smoking pleasure. Steve did a truly magnificent job on the stummel, and the new stem looks like it’s been there all along. I think we both learned something new during this restoration, and we proved our theory (in grand fashion) as we did it – every pipe, no matter the condition, can be restored to useful service with the right combination of skill and will.

I hope this project inspires other pipe refurbishers to take a second look at that written-off pipe you’ve held onto for some reason. I’m willing to bet there’s still a great smoke hiding in that old briar somewhere. It’s up to you to find it.

Here’s the finished pipe.

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Restoring a Gift Brigham 595S Zulu – A new stem and a new look


I wrote earlier in a blog post about helping a Bill Tonge with the stamping on a Brigham pipe that he had picked up. He had told me that the stamping was 5955 on the underside of the shank. He said he had called Brigham and that they had told him that number was not on their shape charts. He had hit a dead-end. We connect on Twitter so he contacted me and asked for help. I thought I would give it a try to see what I could find out about the pipe. I Googled and read various online pipe forums where information was given. I searched for Brigham shape and numbering charts and old catalogues. Nothing helped. Then I decided to go to the Brigham site itself and go through the layers of information there and see what I could dig up. I was certain the clue to the mystery had to be there. It was just a matter of spending the time reading through the layers of information there to see what could be found.

Using this information I took the number that was given to me – 5955 stamped on the bottom of the pipe’s shank – as my starting place. The first number in the stamp denoted the series (1 to 7). Thus the pipe was a 500 series pipe. The next 2 numbers indicated the shape number which in this case was 95. I am assuming that is the shape number for the Zulu or yachtsman shape of this pipe. Summarizing what I had learned so far – I now knew what the first three digits in the stamping meant. The “595” indicated a 500 series pipe in shape #95. Reading further I found that a letter could follow the numbers in the stamp – particularly on older pipes. The letter indicated the size of the bowl. Thus the letter S = small, M = medium, ML = medium/large, L = large. I wrote the questioner and asked him to magnify the stamping on his pipe. Sure enough, the pipe was a 595S – the final stamp was the letter S, making this pipe a 500 series Zulu with a Small bowl. Mystery solved on this one.

I sent him the information and shortly later received a tweet from him that he was sending the pipe to me. He thought I would enjoy working on it and seeing what I could do with it. It arrived here in Vancouver yesterday and I opened the box Bill had sent. Inside were quite a few samples of English tobaccos that he was passing on to me, a nylon Falcon style pipe that Bill had refinished and the old Brigham Zulu. The smells were divine and I am looking forward to enjoying Bill’s generosity. But last evening I had to get started on the old pipe. I had a Brigham 5 dot stem in my stem can that I had scavenged from a friend who had a Brigham that he converted to a church warden. He did not want the saddle style stem so he gave it to me. Being the scavenger that I am I have had it in the can for about 15 years. Last night it met the pipe that it would grace.

Before I worked on the fit of the new stem I took some pictures of the pipe when it arrived. The pipe was definitely a Brigham, stamping and finish said that clearly. The stem was not a Brigham stem. It was a poorly made replacement stem. It was larger in diameter than the shank and bulged as it moved away from the shank. The finish on the stem was rough and the fit was poor. The rubber had a different feel to it than most of the vulcanite stems I have worked with. It was very thick at the bit and was not a comfortable stem to hold in the mouth. The tenon was definitely not a Brigham tenon. At first it looked to have been cut off but upon closer examination it was clear that the back part of the tenon was like a Dr. Grabow or Medico filter tenon with the slits on the sides that allowed the tenon to be widened to fit tighter in the shank. Into that tenon someone had inserted a piece of aluminum tubing that had walls that were approximately twice as thick as the aluminum used in the Brigham tenon. When I tried to fit the Brigham filter in, which should have fit nicely in even a cut off tenon, it did not fit. All of that confirmed my suspicions that the tenon was a repair replacement. IMG_8038 IMG_8039 The finish on the bowl was dirty and the grooves were plugged with an oily build up almost to the point that the Brigham rustication was smoothed over. The bowl was slightly out of round with some burn damage on the inner rim at the back left and right sides of the bowl. The cake in the bowl was quite heavy and smelled of good heavy latakia tobacco. It was uneven and I wanted to do some work on the inner rim and try to bring it back as close to round as I could so I would need to ream the bowl back to the wood to do that work. IMG_8040 The stamping on the underside of the bowl is worn but legible. The Brigham stamp is identifiable as 595S and next to that is a patent number that is almost illegible but I think it reads Can. Pat. 372982 which is the same patent number as one of my older Brighams. The Brigham logo is stamped over Made in Canada and is next to the patent number. IMG_8041 I removed the stem from the bowl, reamed it and cleaned the outer surface with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I use the soap undiluted and scour until the surface is clean and then rinse it off with running water. I keep the water out of the inside of the bowl and shank. IMG_8022 IMG_8023 IMG_8024 IMG_8025 I cleaned out the inside of the bowl and shank with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Once I had the majority of the tarry buildup out of the shank I found that the metal end of the hard maple filter had broken off inside the shank and was stuck against the airway. I examined the airway from the inside of the bowl and poked at it with a dental pick. I soon found that the airway was clogged at the side of the bowl with a tarry, oily buildup. I picked it free and found the airway very open and quite large. I was able to carefully turn a drill bit by hand into the shank and catch the metal of the end cap and draw it out of the shank. I then scoured the shank with alcohol until all the cleaners came out white.

I then cleaned the inside of the 5 dot stem that I had and fit it into the shank of the pipe. It fit well and actually had an interestingly look (IMHO). It was oxidized and needed work but it fit. The shank was still very tight at the end so I was not able to get the maple filter to fit in the tenon and still fit tightly against the shank. I have to do a bit more work opening the far end of the mortise to accommodate that. The next series of four photos show the 5 dot stem and give a rough idea of the look of the pipe at this point. IMG_8029 IMG_8032 IMG_8034 IMG_8035 I took the next three photos of the two stems side by side to show see the difference in diameter of the stems and the difference in shape of the two tenons. In the first photo the top stem is the replacement one and the bottom is the original Brigham made stem. The second and third photos show an end view of the two different tenons side by side. The one on the left is the replacement tenon and the one on the right is the original Brigham. Note the difference in diameter of the inner circle of the opening and the thickness of the walls of the tube in both tenons. The maple filter tube fit tightly in the replacement stem with no allowance for air to flow around the tube. It was shorter as well so the filter would not have been used with the replacement stem. IMG_8042 IMG_8043 IMG_8044 To start the cleanup on the oxidized stem I decided to use the Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 scratch remover on the stem. It works quite well to remove some of the surface oxidation. I let it dry before buffing it off with a soft cloth. IMG_8045 The deeper oxidation still remained so I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges. I followed up with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads and a final rub down at the end. IMG_8047 IMG_8050 IMG_8051 Once the Obsidian Oil had dried I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and then gave the bowl a light coat of carnauba wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed in between with a soft flannel buff to polish each coat. The finished pipe is shown below. I am looking forward to firing it up with one of the good English tobaccos that Bill sent along. Thanks again Bill for the great addition to my collection. IMG_8059 IMG_8060 IMG_8061 IMG_8062

1937 Patent Era Brigham Lovat


Blog by Steve Laug

I picked this little Lovat up in a trio of pipes from EBay. I refurbished the first two – the no name Sandblasted Poker and the Dr. Plumb Statesman already. I have written about them earlier on the blog. Today I worked on the Brigham Lovat. It is stamped Brigham over Can. Pat. 372982. The shape stamp in on the flattened bowl bottom and is stamped 199. The finish was pretty well worn off but there was some nice looking grain on the bowl and shank. The briar actually is flawless with no fills or sandpits. The rim was black and covered with what appeared to be a thin coat of hard tar. The stem was badly oxidized and the brass one dot logo was obscured. Once the stem was removed the Brigham patented filter system was a little hard to remove. The hard rock maple filter was clean but there was a white cobweb like substance in the bowl and in the shank and filter.

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I did a patent search on the Canadian Patent site and found documentation filed with the number stamped on the pipe. I have copied that documentation in the following three pictures. The first picture is a drawing of the Brigham filter system signed by the designer Roy Brigham when it was filed. The next two pictures are the descriptive text of the patent. It is always fascinating to me to discover these pieces of history when I am working on a pipe. This old timer had a story to tell that is for sure. I am not sure when Brigham stopped stamping their pipes with the patent number but in the many that have crossed my desk I have not seen one with the numbers.

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I put the bowl to soak in the Isopropyl alcohol bath with the other bowls while the stem soaked in an Oxyclean bath. Once I took the bowls out I wiped them down and went to work on them. The Brigham is the bowl at the top of the photo below. You can see the grain on it is actually quite beautiful.

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The bowl when dried off is pictured below is quite clean. It has no fills or sand flaws in the briar. It is going to stain nicely and be a great looking pipe when finished.ImageImage

In the picture above you can see the tars on the rim of the pipe. I dried it off and sanded the rim with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to remove the tar build up on the rim. The next two photos below show the rim with the tars removed and the surface smooth. The beauty of this old pipe was that the rim was flawless. There were no dings or dents in it. The outer and inner rim edges were still quite sharp.

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After sanding the rim I sanded the entire bowl of the pipe and also the first sanding on the stem. The picture below shows the sanded bowl. I used 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads, carefully sanding around the Brigham Patent Stamping.

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When I finished sanding I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad. I use nail polish remover which is a solution of acetone and that is readily available at our local dollar store. It works well to lift any remaining stain in the briar and clean the surface of any leftover debris from the sanding process. The grain is really standing out nicely in the three photos below and will make a great looking finished pipe. I also continued to sand the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding pad to cut through the heavy oxidation.

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After sanding with the sanding pads I moved on to wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I have a cup of water at hand to dip the sanding pad into and then sand the stem to remove the oxidation. These first three grits of micromesh do a great job in removing the remaining oxidation on the stem. The water begins to turn a brownish yellow as I dip the sanding pad and squeeze out the grit from the sanding. The stem begins to come back to black by the 2400 grit pad.

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At this point in the process I have started to use Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 before going onto the higher grits of micromesh. I rub on the Mequiar’s with my finger and scrub it into the finish of the stem. Once it is applied I let it dry for a few moments and then scrub the stem with a cotton pad. The next three photos below show the stem after the rub down with the Mequiar’s and a hand buff with the cotton pad.

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After polishing the stem I rub it down with Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil. I find that it penetrates the vulcanite and the remaining oxidation seems to lift to the surface. Once it is dry I continue to sand the stem with the micromesh sanding pads from 3200-12,000 grit.

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After the stem really begins to shine I remove it from the shank and place a dental pick into the mortise to provide a handle for me when I am staining the pipe. This allows me control as I turn it over in my hands. I stained this pipe with Dark Brown aniline stain (Feibing’s Leather Dye). The first photo below shows the pipe ready to be stained and the second is with its first coat of stain. While it is still wet I flame it by lighting it with a match and setting the stain.The flame sets the alcohol in the stain on fire and burns it off.

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Once it is flamed I rub down the bowl with a piece of cotton terry cloth. It removes the surface stain and leaves the stain set in the softer grain. The next series of photos show the pipe after it has been wiped down but not buffed.

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Once I have wiped it down I take it to the buffer to remove any more of the stain and to give it a shine. With this particular pipe the stain obscured the grain a bit so I decided to wipe it down with the acetone to lighten the stain. I wiped it until I got the effect that I desired. I then buffed it repeatedly to get a shine.

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The stain was still a little dark to me and I wanted a bit more contrast in the stain. I wiped the bowl a final time with Isopropyl and then buffed it a final time. I also buffed the stem. I scrubbed the metal tenon with 0000 steel wool to polish the oxidation on the aluminum. It shined as well. I inserted a new Brigham Hard Rock Maple filter and put the pipe back together. I gave the stem a final coat of Obsidian Oil and then when it had dried I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on my buffing wheel. I finished with a quick buff with a soft flannel buffing wheel. The finished pipe can be seen in the pictures below.

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