Tag Archives: Bringing a rim edge back to round

Refurbishing a James Upshall Bent Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

This past May, 2019 I received an email from John in Iowa City, Iowa inquiring whether I would be interested in purchasing four Upshall pipes that he was selling. He sent photos and we chatted back and forth via email and a deal was struck. I had him ship the pipes to Jeff’s place in Idaho. They were generally well cared for pipes but they were dirty. This is another pipe from that foursome that I have chosen to work on. The shape and design caught my eye as I was going through the pipes in the queue. The shape is what I would call a Bent Bulldog. There is not a Grade stamp that I can see but it is a smooth, Mahogany Red finished pipe. The finish is very dirty with dust and grime. The bowl has a thick cake but the rim top is quite clean. The rim top has some darkening and perhaps some damage around the inner edge. The inner edge appears to be slightly out of round toward the front. The stem is oxidized, calcified and has light tooth chatter and marks on both sides near the button. The surface of the button looks very good on both sides. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The conditions noted above are evident in the photos. Jeff took close up photos of the rim top from various angles to show the general condition of the bowl and rim. The first photo shows the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the back inner edge. The edges look like they have been protected by the thick cake so they will probably be fine once the bowl is reamed. There appears to be a little damage on the front inner edge. The photos give a clear picture of the bowl sides and rim edges. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give an idea of the beauty of the grain and the condition of the bowl. The left side of the shank is stamped James Upshall in an oval logo stamp. The stamping on the right side of the shank reads Tilshead over England over Made by Hand. It is very readable. The JU stamp on the left side of the stem is clear as well.  I looked up the Upshall listing in Pipedia to remind myself of the background on the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/James_Upshall). I read through the article and found the section on Grading & Sizing Information really helpful. I have included that below. I have highlighted the pertinent text in red below.

James Upshall pipes are graded by various finishes, i.e. bark, sandblast, black dress and smooth etc. Then by cross grain, flame grain, straight grain and, last but not least, the perfect high grade, which consists of dense straight grain to the bowl and shank. The latter being extremely rare. In addition, the price varies according to group size, i.e. from 3-4-5-6 cm high approximately Extra Large. We also have the Empire Series which are basically the giant size, individually hand crafted pipes which come in all finishes and categories of grain. All our pipes are individually hand carved from the highest quality, naturally dried Greek briar. In order to simplify our grading system, let me divide our pipes into 4 basic categories.

  1. It begins with the Tilshead pipe, which smokes every bit as good as the James Upshall but has a slight imperfection in the briar. In the same category price wise you will find the James Upshall Bark and Sandblast finish pipes, which fill and smoke as well as the high grades.
  2. In this category we have the best “root quality” which means that the grain is either cross, flame or straight, which is very much apparent through the transparent differing color finishes. This group will qualify as the “S”- Mahogany Red, “A” – Chestnut Tan and “P” – Walnut. The latter having the straighter grain.
  3. Here you have only straight grain, high grade pipes, which run from the “B”, “G”, “E”, “X” and “XX”. The latter will be the supreme high grade. Considering the straightness of the grain the latter category is also the rarest. Usually no more than 1% of the production will qualify.
  4. Lastly, we have the Empire Series. These are basically Limited Edition gigantic individually hand crafted pieces, which again are extremely rare due to the scarcity of large, superior briar blocks.

I have marked #2 above noting that the pipe I am working on probably a S Grade Mahogany Red. At the bottom of the Pipedia article there was a copy of a catalogue. Pages 5 and 6 have this information on the S Grade pipe. I believe that I am working on a S Grade Bulldog.

Appears to be mostly S Grade pipes, including one silver spigot and one silver band. I’ve only seen S grade pipes with red stain, that must have come later.I turned to the James Upshall of England website and looked up the guarantee on their pipes. I have included it below because of the commitment to quality that is spoken of in the description (http://www.upshallusa.com/products.htm). Armed with that information I turned my attention to the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness that I really appreciate. 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 good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. The bowl and the rim top look good. The inner edge of the rim was slightly out of round on the front side. There were some nicks in the edge. I also took close up photos of the stem to show how clean the stem was. Once it was cleaned up there were no tooth marks or chatter on either side of the stem. I took photos of the stamping on the shank. On the left side of the shank it reads James Upshall in an oval. There is a JU logo on the left side of the stem. The stamping was very clear. The right side of the shank was stamped Tilshead over England over Made by Hand. The grain on this pipe was highlighted by the shaping of the pipe.I took the stem off the shank and took a photo of the look of the pipe. It is really a great looking pipe that really follows the briar. I decided to clean up the inner edge of the bowl and straighten out the damage to the rim edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished it with 400 grit sandpaper. It did not take too much to give the edge a light bevel and remove the damage.I dry sanded the briar with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl surface down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I finished the exterior of the briar was clean and the grain really stood out. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I worked it into the twin rings on the cap with a horsehair shoe brush. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes and then buffed the pipe 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 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. I touched up the JU stamp on the stem with a white acrylic finger nail polish. I painted it on the stem and worked it into the stamp with a tooth pick. Once it had cured I used a 1500 grit micromesh pad to remove the excess material. I am excited to be on the homestretch with beautiful James Upshall Grade S Bulldog. This is the part I look forward to when it all 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 beautifully grained finish looks really good with the interesting grain patterns standing out on the shape. The grain and the polished black vulcanite went really well together. This James Upshall Bulldog was another fun pipe to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. It really has that classic English look that catches the eye. The Red Mahogany stain really makes the pipe look attractive. 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 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 49 grams/1.73 ounces. This is an Upshall that catches my eye. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

New Life for a Peterson’s Republic Era System Standard 317


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us from one of Jeff’s pipe hunts or auctions. It is a smaller nicely grained and I would say classic Peterson’s System Standard. The finish is quite nice with an instantly recognizable Peterson’s look. The pipe was dirty, with grime and dust ground into the finish. The bowl had a thick cake in the bowl and a lava overflow on the inner edge of the rim and spilling onto the rim top in some spots. The pipe is stamped on both sides of the shank and reads Peterson’s System Standard on the left side of the shank. It is stamped Made in the Republic of Ireland followed by the shape number 317 on the right side of the shank. The metal ferrule is stamped K&P Peterson’s. The stamping is clear and readable on the pipe and ferrule. The stem was dirty and oxidized. There were light tooth marks and chatter on the stem near the button on both sides and some on the surface of the button as well. There was a faint partial Peterson’s “P” on the left side of the taper stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up. Jeff took photos of the rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava onto the rim top and filling in the beveled edge. The photos show the rim top and bowl from various angles.He took some photos of the bowl sides and heel to show the interesting grain that was on this bowl. It is a dirty but quite beautifully crafted pipe. The stamping on the underside of the shank read as noted above. The photo shows that they are very clear and readable. The P on the left side of the stem faint and part of it not stamped into the surface of the stem. The stem was a very good fit to the shank. It was oxidized, calcified and had debris stuck to the surface of the vulcanite. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem.  I am including the information from Pipedia’s article on Peterson pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson). I have included a bit of the pertinent history here.

1950 – 1989 The Republic Era  – From 1950 to the present time, the stamp for this era is “Made in the Republic of Ireland” in a block format generally in three lines but two lines have been used with or without Republic being abbreviated.

During the 1950’s and 60’s the Kapp & Peterson company was still in the ownership of the Kapp family. However 1964 saw the retiral of the company Managing Director Frederick Henry(Harry) Kapp.

With that information in hand I knew what I was dealing with in terms of the stamping and the age of this pipe. I knew from the information that the pipe was made during the Republic Era between 1950 and 1989. Pipedia then qualifies the dating as follows: From 1950 to the present time, the stamp for this era is “Made in the Republic of Ireland”. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He cleaned the oxidized silver with Soft Scrub and buffed it off with a soft pad. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and then soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer. He washed it off with warm water to remove the Deoxidizer. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took photos of the bowl and rim top to show how clean it was. There is some darkening around the inner edge and the rim top is roughened. The stem looks clean of oxidation and there are some tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem.The stamping on both sides of the shank was very clear and readable as noted above.I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of stem, tenon and profile of the pipe. It is a great looking pipe.I started my part of the restoration by working on the damage to the inner edges of the rim and the rim top. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them both out. There was a fill that was chipped on the bottom of the shank so I repaired it with clear super glue. Once it cured I sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the briar down with a damp cloth after each pad.  The micromesh worked to blend in the cleaned rim top and the repaired fill on the shank. I would not need to stain either area. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips to get it into the deep briar. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The grain came alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I touched up the P stamp on the left side of the stem with Paper Mate Liquid Paper and once it dried I scraped off the excess. The P stamp is far from perfect but it definitely looks better.This stem was in great condition so I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This Republic Era Peterson’s System Standard 317 Smooth Bent Billiard is a nice looking pipe. The combination of brown stains really highlights the grain around the bowl sides and shank. They begin to really stand out with the polishing. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well to give some contrast to the pipe. The polished black vulcanite P-lip taper stem adds to the mix. With the grime and debris gone from the finish and the bowl it is really is eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel, carefully avoiding the stamping on the shank. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Peterson’s 317 System Bent Billiard is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another interesting pipe. This Peterson’s System Bent Billiard 317 will be added to the Irish Pipe Makers section of the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.