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A difficult trust: Gift of a Grandfather – A BBB Double Star Made in England

Blog by Dal Stanton

When I study the venerable pipe on my work table, it is not a glamorous display of briar and silver bands.  Some might call it a basket pipe.  The two stars imprinted on the shank were an indication of a working man’s pipe – not high quality, but among those pipes accessible to normal, if not common, people who work, live, love and as is the case with us all, die.  This unremarkable Apple shaped, BBB [diamond over] Double Star, MADE IN ENGLAND [over] 152, is remarkable because of the story it represents.   I enjoy restoring ‘estate’ pipes because they were left to others and these pipes carry with them stories and memories of loved ones who once befriended and valued them.  Greg heard from my son, Josiah, who are college buddies, that Josiah’s old man (my words not theirs!) restored ‘old’ pipes.   This ‘old’ pipe came to Greg from his grandfather through his mother.  Josiah’s email came to me asking what I could do with these pictures from Greg. My understanding is that Greg was a bit reluctant at first to send his pipe off to Bulgaria to be restored, but after Josiah directed him to some of the restorations I’ve done, he felt he could trust me with the heirloom that had come to him.  Knowing that this pipe was from his grandfather I asked that Greg send me information about his grandfather so that I not only could place the pipe better in history, but Greg’s grandfather as well.  This is the letter he sent me:

Hi Mr. Stanton,

Thank you so much for agreeing to restore my grandfather’s pipe. I am sorry for the delay in getting you the below information, but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

My mother inherited the pipe from my grandfather when he passed away in 1998. I saw it in the china cabinet one day and asked her if I could have it, since I had taken up pipe smoking. She kindly agreed. She doesn’t really know when my grandfather got the pipe, but she said he must have bought it in Hong Kong.

My grandfather was from Hong Kong, and only emigrated to the United States in the 1980s. He was a malaria inspector for the Hong Kong government for his entire working career. He must have gotten the pipe at the latest in the late 1940s or early 1950s, as my mother remembers him having it when she was a child. He never smoked the pipe when I knew him, but from its condition, I assume it was well used at an earlier period in his life.

Having graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in Athens, Georgia, passed his bars and currently serves as a law clerk to a federal magistrate judge in Augusta, Georgia, AND as a young married man, I can understand why Greg “took up” smoking pipes!  Pipes are wonderful companions for blooming attorneys!  His letter concluded with an agreement to the cost of the restoration would benefit our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria!  Thank you, Greg!

The information Greg received from his mother was invaluable for placing this BBB in time and space.  Pipedia’s article about BBB is helpful.  BBB in the mid-1800s originally stood for “Blumfeld’s Best Briars”, but after the death of Blumfeld, the Adolph Frankau Company took over the company and BBB gradually became “Britain’s Best Briars”.

The “BBB Two Star” rating also is referenced in the same article in a discussion of quality descriptors for BBB pipes:

In the Thirties, the top-of-the-range one becomes “BBB Best Make” with alternatives like “Super Stopping” and “Ultonia Thule”. The BBB Carlton, sold with the detail with 8/6 in 1938, is equipped with a system complicated out of metal, system which equipped the BBB London Dry too. Blue Peter was not estampillées BBB but BBB Ultonia, and the BBB Two Star (* *) become the bottom-of-the-range one. 

When Greg’s pipe arrived in Bulgaria, thanks to a visitor’s willingness to carry it across the Atlantic and European continent, I unwrapped it and put it on my work desk and took these pictures to fill in the gaps. At PipePhil.eu an example of the BBB Two Star marking is pictured along with the stinger/tube style extending into the chamber as Greg’s grandfather’s BBB does ( as seen above).In Pipes Magazine, I found a thread discussing the dating of the BBB Two Star.  One threader’s opinion, ‘jguss’ corroborates Greg’s mother’s recollections:

My guess is that the Two Star line started at the end of WWII; the first mention I’ve found so far is dated 1945, which at least gives a tpq (that is, an approximate dating). I know the line lasted at least into the early sixties.

It is not too difficult to speculate about the provenance of Greg’s pipe.  During WW2, briar became a scarce commodity throughout Europe and pipe manufacturing companies made do with what they could acquire.  Two Star BBBs would be lower end but more than likely during this time, a very close second when rations were short.  Added to this backdrop is the origin of our story in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong, a British holding since 1841 (see LINK), lost control of Hong Kong during WW2 to Japan in 1941 during the Battle of Hong Kong.  Undoubtedly, Greg’s grandfather would have experienced this first hand.  When Japan unconditionally surrendered in 1945, the British regained control of Hong Kong, but to counter Chinese pressures to control Hong Kong, reforms were introduced that broadened and increased the stake of local inhabitants of Hong Kong:

Sir Mark Young, upon his return as Governor in early May 1946, pursued political reform known as the “Young Plan“, believing that, to counter the Chinese government’s determination to recover Hong Kong, it was necessary to give local inhabitants a greater stake in the territory by widening the political franchise to include them.[19] (Link)

During the years following the Second World War, the same article describes unprecedented economic development which resulted in the economic powerhouse that Hong Kong became.  This period would have been while Greg’s grandfather was working as a malaria inspector for the government of Hong Kong and during which he acquired this BBB Two Star.  The smaller Apple shape would have served him well as he performed his inspection duties but given the ‘stem forensics’ pictured above, he probably chewed on it a bit as well while he worked!

With a greater sense of the story that this BBB Two Star tells, from England, to Hong Kong, to America, and now to Bulgaria, I’m anxious to restore this precious family gift from Greg’s grandfather.  At Greg’s request, he’s hoping for a pipe that is as good as new and ready for a new lifetime of service.  Yet, with all restorations, undoubtedly there will be some marks and blemishes remaining – these an ongoing testament to the memory of those who those who went before.

The first order of approach is with the stinger.  When the pipe arrived, the stinger was already separated from the stem.  The stinger extends from the stem through the mortise into the chamber itself through a metal tube air draft hole.  Using a pair of plyers, I wrap a piece of cloth around the end to pull gently to dislodge the stinger from the mortise.  I can see in the mortise that there appears to be a metal sheath that the stinger is lodged in – at least, that is what it appears to be.  The stinger is not budging and I do not want to break the stinger off.  To try to loosen things up, I pour some isopropyl 95% in the chamber to allow it to soak into the draft hole.  Hopefully, in time, this will loosen the stinger. The alcohol soak did not work.  In fact, a few weeks have transpired since writing the words above.  This stinger has given me quite the challenge.  In the back of my mind constantly, is the concern that I not leverage too much pressure pulling on the stinger.  I’m concerned about damaging the shank.  After soaking the internals for some time with alcohol, I pulled with plyers hoping to break the grip.  I also attempt heating the stummel with a heat gun in hope of dislodging the stinger.  I also heat the protruding part of the stinger with a candle, hoping that this would break the bond.  It did not.   I also was concerned about the candle flame close to the briar while trying to heat the stinger.  I craft a tinfoil shield, but this was not successful.  Unfortunately, I singed the end of the shank and had to remove the damage by ‘topping’ the shank end, which leads to a bit of work lining up the stem and shank later.  As you might expect, the protruding end of the stinger did not hold up under the pressure and eventually broke off. After the stinger protrusion broke off, and after a second email to Steve for input, I’m at the point of using a drill bit in another attempt to remove the bonded stinger.  Starting with a very small bit, I hand turn the bit to allow the drill to find the center of the stinger and gradually, remove the stinger introducing the next larger drill bit.  The end of the broken stinger begins at about 1/4-inch-deep into the mortise.  Unfortunately, this method is not working either because the drill bit will not bite into the metal and remain straight.  At the end of the stinger slot that I’m boring into with the drill bit, my efforts are flummoxed by the stinger’s design.  It has a slanted metal airflow deflector that causes the drill bit to veer off mark.  After breaking the end of the drill bit in the slot (ugh!), and digging it out with needle nose pliers, I sit and begin to think I was facing failure.  Nothing was working.  I’m introducing more problems to the restoration as I try unsuccessfully to solve the stuck stinger problem.  I can’t move forward and I’m stuck and begin to compose an apology letter to Greg in my mind.  UNTIL, on a fancy, I insert a small flat head screw driver into the slot at the end of the broken stinger 1/4-inch-deep in the mortise and I twist it gently counter-clockwise, and it snaps.  Suddenly, it was loose and I easily extract the ‘middle’ of Grandpa’s old stinger – I’m sure he was the last one to see this artifact!  I see daylight through the mortise and I’m hoping that it might also be a metaphoric ‘light at the end of the tunnel’!  I’ve not forgotten that the other end of the stinger remains lodged in the draft hole tube at the foot of the chamber.  Thankfully, a larger drill bit was the perfect size and it reaches into the mortise and hand turning the bit, it clears the rest of the stinger shrapnel.  Finally!  Oh my….  I’ll be saving the stinger debris for Greg.  This BBB will continue without difficulty stingerless.  The pictures show the results. In the interest of full disclosure, these words are coming weeks after.  Why the hiatus?  Life’s normal twists and turns, work, some wonderful travel to Crete for an organizational conference, to Athens (not in Georgia) for a consultation on the Eastern Orthodox Church, AND my growing frustration with Greg’s grandfather’s pipe’s restoration as more complications arrived!  I’ll try to catch you up to the present:

With the stinger removed, I was anxious to continue the restoration with a ‘normal’ pattern – the stem goes into the Oxi-Clean bath to deal with the oxidation in the stem.  After some hours, the stem is removed from the bath and I wet sand with 600 grade sanding paper removing the raised oxidation followed by 0000 steel wool. To clean and protect the BBB stamping on the stem, I use a non-abrasive Mr. Clean ‘Magic Eraser’ sponge.  The pictures show the progress.The next step is to re-seat the tenon into the mortise.  After the arduous process of removing the stinger, and after singing the shank end with a candle flame, and after ‘topping’ the shank to remove the damaged briar, the tenon and mortise needed to be re-wedded with the new realities.  The tenon was too large for full insertion into the shank.  Using a combination of reducing the tenon size with sanding paper and steel wool, sanding and filing the throat of the mortise, and using a rounded needle file to cut a new internal mortise openning bevel to accommodate the broader tenon base, I patiently, slowly, methodically worked to re-seat the tenon in the mortise which included working and then testing the new fit – GENTLY!  I suppose the fact that I said to myself, ‘Dal, careful, don’t crack the shank’, at least a 1000 times only made the sinking feeling more intense when I heard the sickening sound during what proved to be my last, ‘gentle testing’ of the tenon inserted into the mortise.  The hairline crack is pictured below that I took only a day ago – I couldn’t bear to take it then, when it happened.  I was sickened and put Greg’s pipe aside.  I needed some time to work through my own sense of failure of the trust given me to restore this family heirloom.  Now, after several weeks, I’ve regrouped and have taken up Greg’s pipe again.  The travels that I described above during this time in some ways felt more like Jonah running from Nineveh not wanting to face the scene of his calling and his sense of failure!  Though, my trip did prove beneficial – I sold some of my finished pipes to colleagues to benefit and raise the awareness of the Daughters of Bulgaria that The Pipe Steward supports.  I’ve included my Nineveh travels below for you who may not be familiar with ‘my world’, the Balkans – Sofia to Crete to Athens and back. Before moving forward, I needed to repair the cracked shank.  With the help of a magnifying glass, I locate the terminus of the crack and mark it by creating an indentation with a sharp dental probe.  The arrow to the left below marks this.  Using the Dremel tool, I mount a 1mm sized bit and drill a hole at that point – but not going through!  This hole acts like a controlled back-fire to stop the progress of a forest fire.  This will not allow the crack to continue creeping.  With the use of a toothpick, I spot-drop Hot Stuff CA Instant Glue in the hole and along the line of the crack which I expanded microscopically by partially inserting the tenon into the mortise.  This allows the CA glue better penetration to seal the crack.  I remove the stem immediately after the application of CA.  With the CA glue still wet, I apply briar dust to/in the hole and along the crack to encourage better blending.  The pictures show the progress. After some hours allowing the CA glue to cure on the shank repair, using a round grinding stone bit mounted on the Dremel, I reestablish an adequate and uniform internal bevel on the end of the shank to accommodate the base of the tenon when it is fully inserted into the mortise.  My theory is this is what caused the crack – lack of a sufficient internal bevel giving room for the slightly enlarged tenon as it merges with the stem proper.  With the Dremel engaged at the slowest setting, I’m careful to apply minimal pressure as I rotate the ball a bit to make sure it’s centered.  It looks good – the pictures show the progress.Due to a lapse of sorts and the intensity of my focus on re-seating the stem again without re-cracking the shank, I failed (or perhaps, had little desire) to take any pictures.  The short of it is, the stem and stummel have been reunited after some difficult times.  Also, not pictured are some of the basic steps: reaming the fire chamber of carbon cake buildup, cleaning the internals of the stummel and stem with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, and cleaning the externals of the stummel with Murphy’s Soap.  Again, picking up the trail, pictured below is the micromesh pad process with the stem.  Using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle with an application of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  The stummel surface shows quite a bit of pitting in the first picture shown again below.  The rim also shows nicks. On the larger pits shown below on the heel of the stummel, I spot-fill with a toothpick using CA glue and shorten the curing time by using an accelerator spray on the fills.  After filing and sanding the fills to the briar surface, using a progression of 3 sanding sponges from coarse, medium to light, I work out most the remaining pitting over the stummel surface.  Using 600 grit paper on the chopping block, I also give a light topping to the rim to remove nicks and create fresh lines for the rim.  Following the topping, I introduce an internal bevel to the rim, first using a coarse 120 paper rolled tightly, then with 240 and 600.  The internal rim bevel to me, always adds a touch of class but also helps create softer lines which enhances this Apples shape.  The pictures show the unhindered progress! I now take micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel followed by dry sanding with micromesh pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000 taking a picture after each set to mark the progress.  I am careful to guard the BBB nomenclature on the shank sides.  As I move through these cycles, I realize that I have been so wrapped up in the technical aspects of this restoration for Greg, that I failed to see the beauty of this diminutive Apple shape.  The grain that emerges from Grandpa’s old timer is truly beautiful. Flame grain and swirls, with a few bird’s eyes accenting the whole – totally eye-catching for a Two Star sub-mark BBB I would say! To see the big picture to help determine the next steps, I reunite stem and stummel and stand back and take a good look.  This BBB Made in England is looking real good – in spite of everything!  I can see by the way the BBB Apple naturally sits on the surface, leaning slightly like a listing ship, but remaining upright, provides some clues regarding the significant pitting on the heel of the stummel – just off center. Greg’s grandfather undoubtedly and conveniently placed his pipe on a table or counter surface, or perhaps on a nearby crate, as he made his rounds as a malaria inspector for the province of Hong Kong.  The original BBB coloring leaned toward the favored darker hues of English pipe makers and client proclivities. I decide not to go that dark, but to stain the stummel using a light brown base with a touch of dark brown to tint it down that track a bit.  This will make for better blending, especially for the darker briar around the nomenclature on the shank.  Using Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye as the base, I add a touch of Fiebing’s Dark Brown.  Using a folded pipe cleaner in the shank as a handle, I begin by warming the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar making it more receptive to the dye.  After heated, I apply the dye mixture to the stummel generously aiming for total coverage.  I then fire the wet stummel with a lit candle igniting the aniline dye, burning off the alcohol and setting the pigment in the grain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I put the stummel aside to rest for several hours.  The pictures show the staining process – yes, you can see my blue fingers – I’ve started wearing latex gloves when I’m staining. After some hours, I’m looking forward to ‘unwrapping’ the fired stummel to reveal the stained briar beneath.  Using a felt buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel, set at the slowest speed, I use Tripoli compound to remove the initial layer.  Moving in a methodical, rotating pattern, I work my way around the stummel not apply a great deal of down-pressure on the wheel, but allowing the RPMs of the felt wheel and the compound to do the work. After removing the crusted layer with Tripoli, I wipe the surface with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I do this not so much to lighten the finish, but to blend and even out the stain over the surface.  Following this, I mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, increase the speed slightly, and apply Blue Diamond – a slightly less abrasive compound.  After both compounds, I use a clean towel to hand buff the stummel to remove excess compound dust before applying the wax.  Pictures show the progress. Reattaching the stem and stummel, I apply several coats of carnauba wax to both.  Using a cotton cloth wheel, I set the speed of the Dremel to 2 with 5 being the fastest, I apply the carnauba and I like what I see.  With the carnauba wax applied, I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and again buff the stummel and stem.  Finally, I apply a rigorous hand buff using a micromesh cloth to raise the shine more.

This BBB Double Star Apple has come a long way from England to Hong Kong to the US to Bulgaria, and now it’s ready to return to its new steward.  This restoration was a bit bumpy, but then, so is life.  I’m glad to help give this pipe a new lifetime and I hope Greg not only enjoys it, but that it provides a special connection with his past.  I’m sure Grandpa would be proud.  Thanks for joining me!

Refreshing a Nording Hand Made Freehand Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

One of the most unusual pipes in the estate pipes that my brother Jeff purchased and sent to me recently was a freehand that is stamped on the underside of the shank with the words NORDING over MADE IN DENMARK. The plateau on the top of the bowl and the end of the shank is black in colour and is rough to the touch. It is a nice contrast to the cherry and brown stain of the rest of the bowl and shank. The smooth portions are stained with a contrast of a dark stain and a red cherry stain. The contrast is very beautiful and makes the grain pop. The stem is a nicely turned freehand style stem. There is a barrel at the end of the tenon that has several turns that make it look barrel like. There is then a pinched area above the barrel and then a tapered stem.The plateau on the rim and the shank end were dirty with dust and grime. The smooth portion of the bowl and shank was grimy but undamaged. There was also no damage to the plateau portions of the bowl. There was a light cake in the bowl. My brother took the photo above and the rest of the photos that follow to show the condition of the pipe when he brought it home.He took some photos from a variety of angles around the bowl to show the grain that covered the bowl sides, bottom and the shank sides, top and bottom. The last photo shows the Nording over Made in Denmark stamping on the underside of the shank. He took some close up photos of the rim top to show the condition of the plateau. It was undamaged but dirty. You can see the condition of the cake in the bowl in these photos.The stem was oxidized and had the now familiar tooth chatter and tooth marks in the vulcanite on both sides near the button. They were also on the top and bottom sides of the button.My brother did his usual good job cleaning the inside and the outside of the pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem. He scrubbed the finish with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean out the dust from the plateau on the rim and the shank end. He scrubbed the stem as well. The pipe was impeccably clean when it arrived in Vancouver. I took the following four photos to show the condition before I finished the restoration. I took a close up photo of the rim top. There were some spots on the rim that needed to be touched up with black stain. The bowl was very clean.The next two photos show the stem on both sides. The oxidation is more evident on the top than the bottom. The tooth chatter and tooth marks are on both the top and the bottom of the stem near the button.I touched up the spots on the rim top with a black Sharpie pen and then waxed the plateau on the rim and the shank end with Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush to raise the shine.I lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and hand polished it. I took photos of what the bowl looked like at this point in the process. I laid the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the stem with 320 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation on the surface. I worked the sandpaper into the grooves in the tenon end of the stem. The oxidation still remained but it was much softer and closer to the surface.I wiped the stem down with some Obsidian Oil and then cleaned out the airway in the stem and cleaned the airway in the shank and the mortise at the same time. The interior was very clean so it took no effort to clean it out.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and starting the process of polishing it. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and then took it to the buffer and buffed it with red Tripoli. I worked on all the rings and surfaces of the stem with the Tripoli and the wheel to remove more of the oxidation. I polished it more by dry sanding it with 3200-1200 grit pads to further remove the oxidation and bring the shine to the surface. I gave it several more coats of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to let the oil be absorbed in to the vulcanite. I buffed the finished pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the wheel carefully avoiding the plateau areas. I polished the minute scratches out of the sides of the bowl and from the surface of the stem. I gave the smooth portions of the bowl and shank and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the entire pipe with a soft microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. It is a beautiful piece of briar and the stains on the plateau portions and the smooth provide a good contrast. The plateau portions and the black of the vulcanite stem highlight the dark striations of the grain on the bowl sides. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 inches, Diameter of the outer bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. This pipe is available to any of you who want to add it to their collection. It is just a bit large for my liking or I would keep it myself. I will post it on the rebornpipes store shortly. Send me an email to slaug@uniserve.com or a private message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

A Beautiful Italian Hand Made DiMonte Classica 991

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the lot that my brother picked up at the latest estate sale is stamped DiMonte on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped Classica and next to that Hand Made in Italy. The pipe is a beauty. It is a natural or light tan coloured briar with a Lucite stem. There is a mottled yellow acrylic insert on the stem that separates the black of the Lucite from the natural colour of the briar. The shape is an acorn with an under-slung stem. My brother took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it and sent them to me. He sent some close up photos of the bowl rim and top along with photos of the bowl sides to give a clear picture of both the condition of the pipe and also the beautiful grain that flowed with the shape of the bowl. The rim top had some overflow from the cake in the bowl. It covered most of the inner edge of the bowl and extended on to the rim top. There is a great combination of birdseye on the sides of the bowl and cross grain on the front and back. There are a few very minute sandpits in the briar that in no way detract from the beauty of the pipe. The next photo shows the stamping on the right side of the bowl and gives a clear picture of the look of the stamp.The next two photos show a bit of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the underside with the shape number 991. The mottled yellow acrylic stem insert is also shown in the photos.Like the other pipes in the lot from the estate sale the stem had a lot of tooth chatter on the stem near the button on both sides and also some wear on the edge of the button itself. The slot in the end of the stem was in really good shape and was well formed.I knew nothing about the DiMonte brand. My first thought was it was an Italian Hand Made pipe somewhere between Savinelli and Castello. The quality of the craftsmanship and the hand made stem and briar work made me think that it was more toward the Castello side of the scale. This is a beautiful pipe. I did some searching on the web and found a link to a post on alt.smokers.pipes. It was a response to a fellow who posted a question about the brand. I have included the link to the thread as well as the informative response regarding the history of the brand and its place of origin. Here is the link: https://pipesmokersforum.com/community/threads/info-on-this-pipe-brand.20964/

Hello Pappy, here’s a bit of information that I found from an alt.smokers.pipes post in 02/10/2003 that reads:

DiMonte was originally Arlington Briar Works, a pipe factory in New York. It went out of the pipe-making business, and sold off its machinery, I think in the 1970s. Maybe later. Mark Tinsky could probably give you an accurate date on when, if that is of concern.

Recently (2003), the family has decided to get back into pipes, and has been having them made under contract in Italy and importing them. The few I have seen so far seem to be good value for the money, but nothing to rave about. I have one. Wood is good, combustion chamber and shank both properly drilled, good quality mouthpiece. Some of the digits in the nomenclature look as if stamped by a dyslexic (and perhaps were — upside down 8, other minor things), and the finishing touch in fine details was not apparent in all instances.

If you find one and like it, I would expect it to be a good smoker. But if you worry about nit-picks, examine the pipe carefully before buying. You might find some…

One more comment: The old pipes from Arlington Briar Works that I have picked up at estate sales have been of lesser quality wood and a touch on the small side, but craftsmanship and attention to detail was great. The new pipes from Italy have better wood, size is generally larger (better, for me), but attention to detail is not always what it might be. As smokers, I rate the newer ones higher, because wood is so important, but in fit and finish things ain’t what they used to be…”

It appears when Arlington attempted to re-enter the pipe market, they contracted with an unknown Italian outfit, who manufactured these pipes under the DiMonte label. However, Arlington once again soon went out of business.

However, I’m sure there must be some knowledgeable pipers here that may have more information for you. Hope this helps you a smidge more…

When I brought the pipe to my work table I took the next four photos to show the condition of the pipe when I received it. My brother had done a great job cleaning up the bowl cake and the overflow on the rim. The rim surface was clean and smooth. He did a thorough cleaning of the internals of the pipe. The next close up photo shows the inside of the bowl and the cleaned and restored rim top.The stem was clean but it had a lot of tooth chatter on both sides of the stem that would need to be sanded out.I sanded out the tooth marks and reshaped the button edges with 320 grit sanding pads and was able to remove all of the chatter and the marks. Fortunately they were not too deep in the Lucite so sanding them out was quite simple. I sanded them without damaging the profile of the stem.I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem. The airway was very clean.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads to remove the scratches and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad after each grit to remove the sanding dust. Each successive grit of pad brought more of a shine to the surface of the Lucite. I put the stem back in place in the shank and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. It is a beautiful pipe and that fits well in the hand and the mouth. The draught on the stem is open and flowing. The briar is lovely and a rich patina will develop as it is smoked. The dimensions of the pipe are: length 6 inches, height 2 inches, outer diameter 1 5/8 inches, chamber diameter 3/4 inches. It should provide a great smoke for whoever adds it to his/her collection. I will be posting the pipe on the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in purchasing it email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a private message on FaceBook. Thanks for looking.




New Life or an Oval Shank Whitehall Saratoga Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received and email from Dave, a reader of the blog, asking about a couple of pipes that he had picked up. This is the second of the two pipes – the Whitehall Saratoga. I have included part of his email below. He gives his assessment regarding the pipes and what he wanted done.

Steve… I have recently been gifted 2 estate pipes that I would love to have reincarnated by your hands? I am not sure of the cost and wanted to speak with you first… The 2 pipes in question are not in bad shape, just have some age, cake and minimal wear; one is a Whitehall rusticated with saddle stem and the other a Pear shaped Dr. Grabow Westbrook… I have attached some images with this email so that you have some idea of how they look. If you need additional images please let me know. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards, Dave The pipe was in pretty decent shape over all. The rim was dirty but the inner and outer edges were in good shape. The finish was worn and dirty but the carved striations looked good. The smooth patches around the shank, the underside and the two panels on the bowl sides were scratched but otherwise clean. The stem was oxidized and had some deep tooth marks on both the top and underside near the button. The W stamp on the top of the saddle was faint and worn. I would need to be careful in cleaning the oxidation not to damage the logo stamp. The photos below show the condition of the pipe when I received it. I took a close up photo of the stamping on the shank. The stamp is clearly legible and reads Whitehall over Saratoga over Briar Italy. The second photo shows the rim and bowl condition. There was still a light cake that would need to be scraped out but it was really quite nice.I took photos of the stem. It is hard to see the tooth dents in the photos below but they are present. There was a W on the top of the saddle stem that was a decal and it was coming off. The button is worn from use. The oxidation is quite deep.When I took the stem out there was a small stinger in the tenon. It was dirty but was easily removed and would be polished and put back in place.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation on the stem and reshape the button. I sanded out the shallower tooth marks to remove them. I wiped down the stem and repaired the deeper marks with black super glue. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. I turned my attention to the bowl. I scrubbed it with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime from the grooves in the briar on the bowl and rim. I rinsed the bowl down with warm water and dried it off with a towel. The freshened pipe is shown in the photos below. I reamed out the bowl to remove the last of the cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. It did not take too long to smooth out the remnants of the cake in the bowl. I scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I went through a lot of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs before they came out clean.I restained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process until the coverage was even and I was happy with the results. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to lighten the stain and make the contrast between the rusticated part and the smooth ones more obvious. I gave the pipe a coat of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush to give it a shine and check out what the colour looked like. I took some photos of the polished bowl to show how it looked at this point in the process. The pipe is beginning to look really good. I sanded the top of the shank to remove the dark colour and make it more transparent at the stem shank junction. Note the nicks in the smooth portions of the bowl and shank. They are deep so I will not be able to sand them out. They actually act like marks of history of the journey of this pipe. It was not quite right. I wanted a little more red in the finished briar. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the wax so I could do a bit of a contrast stain. For the second coat I rubbed down the bowl with a coat of Cherry Danish Oil to highlight the red colour in the briar. The combination of stains gives a nice contrast look to the pipe. I polished it with a soft cloth and took photos of the finished bowl. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I talked with Dave regarding the W decal on the saddle and we decided to remove it as it was worn and kept me from removing the oxidaiton on the saddle while trying to protect it. I resanded the with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and the remnants of the decal. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each pad. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and repeated the oil treatments. I buffed the stem with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel and followed that with Blue Diamond polish. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and polished it by hand. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out some of the minute scratches in the surface. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax to protect and give it a shine. I hand waxed the bowl with Conservators Wax and buffed the bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I will be packing it up soon and sending it back to Dave so he can fire up a bowl and give this beauty a smoke. Thanks for looking.

Restoring an Unstamped Rhodesian Handmade

Blog by Steve Laug

When I saw this pipe that my brother picked up I was captivated by the grain. The unknown maker had done an amazing job of laying the shape out with the grain. The sides of the bowl and shank have stunning flame grain radiating from the point at the heel of the bowl. The heel and the cap on the bowl, as well as the top and the pointed bottom edge of the shank have beautiful birdseye grain. He sent me the following pictures to whet my appetite for this pipe. I like the Rhodesian shape and I like the combination of nice grain, a sterling silver band and a black vulcanite stem. This one had them all. The only oddities to me were the shape of the shank – it was an egg shape, pointed at the bottom and the freehand style panel stem. The bowl had a thick cake in it and it was scratched at about 11 o’clock in the photo below. It looked as if it could have been cracked but it was not once he had reamed it free of the cake. The finish was dirty and there was some darkening/burn marks on the back side of the cap. It appeared to me that it was originally a virgin finish but I would know more once I had it in Vancouver and had cleaned up the finish.The next two photos show the grain on the sides of the bowl and the bottom. There is birdseye toward the left side of the bottom of the bowl curving up to meet the grain on the sides.Underneath the oxidation and tarnish on the band it was stamped Sterling Silver in an arch. The stamping was centred on the top side of the shank.The stem was heavily oxidized and had tooth chatter on both sides near the button. On the underside of the button there were deep tooth marks and one of them was on the button. The chair leg style stem would be a challenge to clean up.My brother did his usual comprehensive clean up on the pipe. He was able to remove all of the cake in the bowl and on the rim. He cleaned up the dirty finish on the bowl and cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem. The stem was more oxidized from his cleanup but the oxidation was on the surface so it would be a bit simpler to work on. The next four photos show what the pipe looked like when I brought it to the work table. There was some rim damage on the back side of the bowl. You can see it in the photo below. There was some burn damage as well as some bad nicks in the burned area. The outer edge had been flattened at that point and would need to be reworked. I took close up photos of both sides of the stem to highlight the tooth marks and chatter on them. There were three sandpits on the bottom of the bowl. The first was on the right side and was the largest of the three. The second and third were on the opposite side and were mere pin prick flaws. I filled in the holes with clear super glue. When it dried I sanded it with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to blend it into the surrounding briar.I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damaged rim and ready the back side for a repair. I was pretty sure that if I topped it most of the damage would be remedied and the burn mark would disappear. Fortunately it was not deep in the briar so the sanding took care of it. Once I had it smooth I sanded it with the medium and fine grit sanding sponge.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove any remaining oils and dirt on the on surface of the briar. The next set of four photos show the cleaned surface of the briar. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. The photos below tell the story of the polishing and interestingly the ring grain in the briar begins to show through by the polishing with the three final pads. I rubbed the polished briar down with a light coat of olive oil to highlight the grain and make it stand out. A little olive oil brings new life to the dry briar. This pipe truly  has some stunning grain as is evident in the following photos. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the stem along with the oxidation with 220 grit sandpaper. The photo below shows the stem after the sanding. I rebuilt the dent in the button with black super glue. Once it was dry I sanded it to match the rest of the button.The stem had a very interesting tenon. It was short and it had what looked like threads on it. I decided to leave these in place rather than change the original shape of the tenon. I worked over the stem itself. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil repeatedly during the sanding. The photo below shows the stem after being sanded with the first three pads. There is still evidence of oxidation in the rubber so it will take a lot more sanding and polishing before it is black again. I buffed it after this with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel and was able to remove more of it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads (the second and third photos below) and again rubbed it down repeatedly with Obsidian Oil. Once it was finished I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond a final time and worked to remove any remaining oxidation on the stem. The Blue Diamond is a plastic polish and it really brings a shine to 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 finished buffing by hand to deepen the shine. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth and removed the remaining tarnish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I wish I knew who the unknown maker was. He or she did a great job making this pipe. The shape, the layout with the grain and the craftsmanship make this a pipe that will outlive me that is for certain. It is truly a beautiful pipe. Thanks for walking with me through the process of the restoration.

Restoring a Pipeman’s First Pipe

Sometimes I get requests to restore pipes that touch a sentimental chord for me. When that happens it brings back all kinds of memories and thoughts for me. A while ago I received an email from Phil regarding a pipe he had that he wanted some help with. He explained that it was not an expensive pipe but that was his very first when he started as a pipeman. We emailed back and forth for a bit and then he sent it up to me in Vancouver to assess and see if it was worth restoring. It came in the mail last week and I opened the package to have a good look at it. I went over it slowly and carefully and found some issues that needed to be addressed. To me the pipe was very restorable and I was willing to take it on.

Here is what I saw as I looked at the pipe. I put together a list for Phil and emailed it back to him. I would say it is well worth a cleanup, repairs, refinishing and polishing. I think that it has a pretty long life ahead of it.

  1. He was concerned with the overall condition of the pipe. It was a basic basket pipe and had a lot of fills in the bowl and shank. The bowl had never been smoked to the bottom so the briar is raw. It is a little smoky looking but is basically sound. The pipe can be smoked for a long time.
  1. The little lines in the bottom of the bowl are called checking. They happen to the inside of almost all pipes and are caused by heating and cooling. In this case it appears that the pipe had never been smoked to the bottom. I recommended a complete reaming and then some pipe mud (cigar ash and water) to fill in the little fissures and then a simple bowl coating to protect the bowl while he built a cake.
  1. He had mentioned a crack on the left side of the bowl. The noted crack was definitely there. It was on the left side toward the front. It is a hairline crack that starts at a putty fill toward the top of the bowl and ran down to another putty fill on the bottom of the bowl. This is one time where fills actually worked in my favour. I repair cracks all the time by drilling a small pin hole at each end to stop the crack from spreading. In this case the fills did just that for me. Go figure. I would need to simply pick out the old putty and repair the fills or top them up with super glue and briar dust.
  1. The rim looked like it had several fills on the top and the inner edge. It was hard to be certain as there was a thick coat tarry lava. It would need to be cleaned off and the fills check for stability and repaired if not.
  1. The stem was in good shape but was oxidized and had tooth chatter. It would need to be cleaned and polished to remove the oxidation and make the vulcanite shine.
  1. Looking in the shank the mortise and airway are also sound.

Here is what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. I took photos to set the base for what it looked like before I started. Note the fills on the shank sides, bottom and bowl sides and bottom. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and the rim. The front inner edge of the rim appears to be burned and it is out of round. It is hard to know if there was any other damage on the rim top.I took some close up photos of the fills and crack on the left side of the bowl running between the two large fills. It is circled in red in the photos below. The crack is hairline and is fairly tight. The fills show some shrinkage in the putty and will need to be removed and replaced.I took a close up photo of both sides of the stem to show the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape out the cake to the bare briar. I used the sharp edge to scrape off some of the heavy cake on the rim top.I scrubbed the top of the rim with alcohol and cotton pads. I was able to remove most of it. The inner edge of the bowl showed a lot of damage. The front edge had a fairly deep burn mark that covered the surface of the rim at that point but did not go too deep.I cleaned up the inner edge of the rim and the sides of the bowl with the PipNet reamer. I used it to remove some of the damaged edge.I topped the bowl to deal with the burn mark that is visible in the above photo. After I topped it  I repaired the damaged fills on the rim and bowl sides that way I could top the repaired portions at the same times. I picked out the fills with a dental pick and removed the putty. The two that joined the crack were quite large and deep. I repaired them by tamping briar dust into the pits and then pushing clear super glue into the dust. I repeated the process leave a thick bubble of glue and dust on the surface of the repair. I did the same on the rim top, inner edge and the shank sides and bottom to repair the fills there.I sanded the fills smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surrounding briar. I added a little more super glue to some pits in the repairs and sanded them once the glue had dried. I sanded the oxidation and tooth chatter off the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove all of the chatter and even the tooth marks as they were not too deep in the vulcanite.I sanded the bowl and stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to begin to smooth out the scratches and sanding marks. I sanded the bowl with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads in preparation for staining the bowl. I planned on giving the pipe a contrast stain so I started with a dark brown aniline based stain. I applied the stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was satisfied with the coverage.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the heavy dark finish and make it more transparent. I wanted the dark brown deep in the grain once I had removed it from the lighter portions of the briar. I sanded the bowl with 1500 grit micromesh pads. I continued to sand the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to get the transparency that I wanted on the bowl. The next photos show what it looked like once I had finished sanding it. I gave the bowl a top coat of Danish Oil with a Cherry Stain. I rub the oil onto the bowl and rub it off and buff it. The next two photos are a little blurred but you can clearly see the cherry colour that is coming to the surface of the bowl. It works really well to blend in the fills.I set the bowl aside to dry and turned to the internals. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-120000 grit pads. I buffed the stem with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel after the 4000 grit pad and then finish sanding it with the 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave the stem multiple rub downs with Obsidian Oil after each few pads to see if the oxidation at the shank end was getting better. By the time I was finished with the final pads the stem looked much better. I would give entire pipe a buff before I finished the restoration. I mixed a batch of pipe mud – cigar ash and water – to form a paste and applied it to the bowl bottom and sides with a folded pipe cleaner. I pressed the mud into the small checking that was around the bowl bottom with a dental spatula. The pipe mud will protect the bowl while a cake is formed.I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise the shine and highlight the grain on the bowl. The fills are still visible but they blend into the surface of the briar better than they did before. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I will be packing it up and mailing it back to Phil once I give it a bowl coating. I am hoping he enjoys this piece of his personal pipe history. It should provide many more years of enjoyment for him.

Sandblast Reveals Stunning Grain on a GBD Concorde 9438

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I brought to the table had two major attributes that piqued my interest. The first was that it has an amazing sandblast (or is it a combination blast and rustication?). The second thing was that it was a pipe in my favourite GBD shape that I think nobody does as well as they do – the 9438 Rhodesian.  The pipe is stamped on the smooth underside of the shank GBD in an oval and next to that Concorde. Running along the shank stem junction it reads 9438 and Made in France. The logo is stamped into the left side of the saddle portion of the stem. The next photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Idaho before my brother started cleaning it for me.Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and stamping to show the condition and the brand of the pipe. Those of you who love the 9438 did not need to see the stamping to confirm the shape but here it is. The finish was dirty with lots of debris in the grooves and crevices on the bowl and shank. The rim had a tarry build up on the back half where the cake was overflowing the bowl. The mortise was so dirty that the stem no longer seated against the shank. The GBD oval was stamped on the side of the stem and did not have a brass roundel as some of the earlier ones did.The stem was oxidized and there was tooth chatter on both the top and bottom sides near the button.The finish was a new one to me. I have not worked on a Concorde before so I wanted to learn a bit about it. I was not sure if it was a sandblast or a rustication or both. I did some searching online and found some things about it however. The GBD Concorde was made in France and was a lower priced GBD. It sported what GBD called a “take-off” brown/black stained sandblast. The top three pipes (ABC) in the photo below are from a 1976 Tinderbox Catalog I located on Chris’ Pipepages. The weblink for the pages is shown in the link that follows: http://pipepages.com/2tinderbox3.htm

The pipe I was working on was “B” in the photo below. The finish on mine was very similar but mine did not have the brass roundel on the stem as the one in the photo does. On the second page of the catalogue there is a description of the pipe. It is a little hard to read but here is the text: “GBD Breaks with Tradition and Forges Bold New Designs. A.B.C. Concorde – This latest innovation from GBD’s French factory, the Concorde, offers exceptional value in the popular price range and features a most novel “take-off” process.” The catalogue lists the retail price in 1976 at $12.50. I have a sense of what they mean by the take of process in looking at the finish. It appears that the pipe has a dark brown stain applied to the bowl. It is buffed off the high spots on the pipe giving it a contrasting appearance. At least that is what I think is meant by the take-off process. When I received the pipe it was clean inside and out. My brother had done a great job cleaning out the grime and debris. The stem fit in the mortise perfectly and all looked good. The finish was clean and faded and the oxidation on the stem had come to the surface so it was ready for me to move ahead with the restoration. I took a few photos of the pipe so you could see what it looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. The rim looked much better but still had a bit of debris on the back side. It was nothing that a little sanding with micromesh could not cure. There is some stunning grain on the rounded rim top and on the smooth parts of the bowl. There is also some peeking through the sandblast. This is a beautiful pipe and one I may well hold onto.The oxidation on the stem had been brought to the surface by the cleanup. It definitely appears worse than it did in the earlier pictures but the difference is that the oxidation is on top now and easier to deal with. The tooth marks and chatter on the stem are visible in both photos.I polished the rim and the high surfaces of the bowl with a fine grit sanding block and with 1500-4000 grit micromesh pads to raise a shine. I gave it a coat of Conservator’s Wax and  hand buffed it with a shoe brush and cloth. The photos below show the bowl after that simple treatment. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper, carefully avoiding the area around the GBD Oval stamping. I did not want to damage that. I polished the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh to begin bringing the shine to the stem.I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and did something I probably should have waited to do. I cleaned around the area of the stamp with a damp cotton pad. I applied some Rub’n Buff European Gold to the stamping and rubbed it off the surface with a cotton pad. The second photo below shows the stamp when I had finished the first application. I can justify this step by saying it is actually easier to see the stamp with a little gold in place so that I can carefully polish around it. I repeated sanding the stem with 1800-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads.I polished it with 3200-12000 grit pads and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. The shine was beginning to come through. I gave it a final coat of oil after the 12000 grit pad and set it aside to dry. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond to polish the stem and remove the scratches that still remained on the stem. I lightly buffed the bowl to raise a shine. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. The pipe began to truly shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen that shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is really a beauty and one I am thinking seriously of adding to my own collection… ahh well… we shall see. Thanks for looking.