Tag Archives: Brigham Voyageur Pipes

Converting a Brigham Voyageur 109 into a Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last pipe I am working on from the fellow here in Vancouver that he dropped off. There were 8 pipes in the lot – I have all eight of them now. This one is a Brigham bowl without the stem or other parts. The pipe is an apple shaped bowl that is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Brigham over Voyageur over 109 Italy in a smooth panel on the rusticated bowl. The shank end had nicks and chips but was in fair condition. There was no stem with the bowl. The stem would have had the lighter weight nylon system tenon since the pipe is one of the Italian made Brighams. It was another one of his pipe finds on a recent pipe hunt in Vancouver. The rusticated finish had almost a scale like rustication pattern with flecks of paint in the finish. The rim top was damaged and was darkened toward the back of the bowl. The finish was very dirty and there was a thick cake in the bowl.  When we had first spoken about this pipe we had talked about replacing the stem with a Brigham stem. I talked with Charles Lemon and he sent me a stem blank and an aluminum system shank for the Brigham. When it arrived I talked with the Vancouver fellow about that and together we came to the conclusion that a churchwarden stem might look good on it. I ordered some from JH Lowe and found that they only have one diameter size stem. I ordered it and when it arrived it was significantly smaller in diameter than the shank. I had an interesting copper ferrule that I thought might work to provide a different look to the pipe and provide a way of using the smaller diameter churchwarden stem. I slipped the ferrule on the shank and put the stem partially in place in the mortise and took the following photos to send to the fellow to see what he thought. He liked it so I moved forward.I slipped the ferrule off the shank and took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is very clear and readable. I sanded the outside of the shank to provide a smooth seat for the ferrule. I cleaned out the inside of the shank with a dental spatula to remove the heavy tar buildup on the shank walls. I heated the metal ferrule with a heat gun and pressed it onto the shank against a solid board.I heated the copper ferrule over a heat gun and pressed the ferrule onto the shank end. I repeated the process until it was set on the shank as far as I wanted it to be. To remove the paint flecks on the rusticated finish on the bowl I scrubbed it with a brass bristle wire brush and used a dental pick to remove the flecks. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust and debris from the finish. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Piper Reamer using the first two cutting heads to remove the majority of the cake. I cleaned up the remnants on the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I used a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand down the walls on the bowl. I cleaned out the airway in both the bowl and stem with alcohol (99% isopropyl), pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they were clean on the inside. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the finish on the small bowl. The briar was coming alive so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I also polished the smooth portions of the rustication with the micromesh pads at the same time. I wiped the rim top down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and took the photos that follow. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I turned the tenon down on the churchwarden stem with a PIMO tenon turning tool. I took it down to about the diameter it needed to be for the shank. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to round down the edges of the stem above the tenon and also the casting marks on the stem. I wanted to make the stem more like a military mount stem.  I heated the vulcanite with a votive candle until it was flexible and put a slight bend in it that fit the look I was going for with the pipe.  I sanded the Dremel marks out of the tapered end of the stem and shaped the tenon some more with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on the casting marks on the stem sides and around the button. I worked over the end of the stem to smooth out the area around the slot.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch to keep the polishing compound from filling in the grooves in the rustication. I carefully avoided the stamping on the left side of the shank. I gave both the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the 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. This is the last of his pipes that I have to work on. This has been a fun bunch of pipes to work on. Thanks for looking. 

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.