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A True Test – A Cracked Acrylic Ferrule and Shank Break to Restore a Rusticated Butz-Choquin Costaud 1597


Blog by Dal Stanton

This Butz-Choquin Costaud came to me from the auction block in January of 2017 as one in a Lot of 13 pipes from a seller in Nevada.  Several of these pipes have already found their way to new stewards who found them in online ‘Help Me!’ baskets in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection.  It was in the ‘Dreamers’ section that Craig spied the BC Costaud 1597 and reached out to me about commissioning the BC.  The BC Costaud is at the 12 o’clock position in the picture below.

I was interested to find out from Craig later that he lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I also met a young woman at Covenant College atop Lookout Mountain, who in time, became my wife – I married up!  Few in the US haven’t seen signs, bird houses and barn sides with the famous, ‘See Rock City’ or ‘Ruby Falls’ both of which are located on Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga.  I was interested to hear that Craig was also an automotive engineer at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and along with enjoying pipes he races cars on the weekends!  I appreciate Craig’s patience and the pipe he commissioned is now on the worktable.  Here are some pictures of the attractive Butz-Choquin Costaud:   The nomenclature is stamped on the underside shank panel.  The chiseled cursive, ‘Butz-Choquin’ is stamped over ‘Costaud’.  Below this is stamped a very ghosted, ‘ST. CLAUDE-FRANCE’.  A quick look in Google Translate renders ‘Costaud’ as ‘Strong’ in English.  I liked the other adjectival renderings offered: beefy, hefty, husky, and strapping.  The pipe’s deep, rustic, carved style fits this name.If one does a quick search of the BC Costaud line, one discovers quickly that this line was offered by the French pipe maker in many different shapes and each with the very distinctive carved rustication and the same acrylic shank cap.  Here are a few examples from the search results.  The shape number is listed in a picture of BC pipes in the Pipedia Butz-Choquin article.  The 1597 is an attractive, stout square shanked paneled Billiard with a saddle stem friction mounted.  The only difference in the general 1597 shape with the Costaud is that the Costaud’s stem is a friction mounted fishtail.Looking at the condition of the BC Costaud, the obvious elephant in the room is the cracked acrylic ferrule or shank cap.  The crack appears to be a trauma that opened on the left side of the cap and followed the bottom of the ‘BC’ stamping perfectly.  My guess is that the break was caused by the stem hanging on something and the force on the acrylic snapped it.  It is only on the left side and I want to keep it that way!Craig commissioned a striking pipe.  The cracked acrylic ferrule gets the attention quickly and overshadows other issues.  The chamber needs to be cleaned of the cake buildup and the rusticated rim has blackened lava overflow that needs cleaning.  The rusticated stummel is eye catching but needs cleaning in the deep crooks and crevasses of the briar surface.  The fishtail stem has light oxidation and tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit. To begin the restoration of this Butz-Choquin Costaud, I start with the fishtail stem.  The airway is cleaned using a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99%.To begin working on the light oxidation in the vulcanite stem, 0000 grade steel wool scrubs the surface with Soft Scrub.  I do this in preparation of putting the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer.Next, after rinsing the stem with water, the Fishtail is put in the Deoxidizer with other pipes in the queue.  The stem is left in the Deoxidizer for several hours.After the stem has soaked for some time, a stiff wire helps to fish out the Fishtail stem and drain the excess Deoxidizer.  I also squeegee the fluid off the stem using my fingers.A pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99% is run through the airway to push out the fluid and to clean.  I cotton pad wetted with alcohol is used to wipe off the raised oxidation from the stem surface.Finally, to help condition the vulcanite, paraffin oil, a mineral oil, is applied to the vulcanite rubber stem.  The stem is then put to the side to absorb the oil.Before going through the process of cleaning the stummel, I decide to move forward with repairing the acrylic ferrule.  I’m doing this first because what often is the case is that during the cleaning process, which uses water, the briar wood in the mortise expands.  I don’t know for certain if this would be the case with the shank during the cleaning process, but I would rather repair the shank cap now than risk a more difficult fix because of a changed environment.  The cap has separated or moved down the shank.  The result is that there is a large gap between the external shank edge and the acrylic shank cap. The first thing needed is to remove the shank cap from the shank.  I need to be careful because I don’t want to put too much pressure on the acrylic as I’m trying to remove it.  I don’t know if old glue used when the cap was originally seated may be hindering an easy removal.  My first attempts to pull and then hand-twist the cap off were unsuccessful.  It feels like it’s glued – no movement at all.  The next thing I try is to wedge first a flat dental spoon into the gap and gingerly try to pry loose the acrylic cap.  Next, the sharp edge of a pocketknife was wedged into the gap to apply gentle even pressure to break the cap loose.  This was not easy avoiding damage to the briar shank and further carnage to the shank cap!As I puzzle and pull and puzzle more, another mystery is birthed.  With the gap between the briar and acrylic, my assumption is that the cap has partially become unseated – perhaps someone was trying to remove it and that caused the acrylic to break?  I would guess that there would also be a gap internally – between the acrylic and the beginning of the briar mortise.  To test my assumption on a second gap, a sharp dental probe is inserted into the mortise and the internal surface is scraped with the point I am expecting to detect another gap indicating that the ferrule had shifted down.  I find no internal gap.  The surface between briar and acrylic is smooth.  This is important because I had been thinking, if I’m unable safely to remove the shank cap then I could try to reseat the shank cap by pressing it back into place on the shank and doing my best to close the gap from the acrylic break.  Yet, if there is no internal gap, there’s no room for any movement of the shank cap to be reseated flush with the shank.  It’s hard to believe a BC pipe left the Saint Claude workshop with a gap that large between the cap and the briar shank….  Three ideas begin to float in my mind  regarding removal of the ferrule.  First, to put the stummel in the freezer.  This is a general method of unsticking things that are stuck.  When the material cools, it contracts and often loosens stuck things.  The second idea, if the freezer method doesn’t help, is to drip some acetone in the gap and the crack.  If the shank cap is stuck because of being glued, acetone can help break down the glue.  This might help, but I’m doubtful.  The third idea is that the acrylic could be heated with a hot air gun and made more pliable – like vulcanite.  This might avoid another break.

First, into the freezer and we’ll see what happens.  Well, the next morning arrived and I was hopeful that the shank cap would break free after cooling and contracting.  To keep the cap stable, I wrap it in a felt cloth and put it in the vice with a gentle snugness.  With the stummel extended, I very gingerly apply a twisting pressure on the shank with hope that the acrylic cap will break free.  Much to my chagrin, the cap did not break free but instead the wood shank insert broke off.  Oh my….  I look at the following pictures of the carnage as one is often drawn to look at a car crash on the interstate…. What to do?  After recovering from the initial nauseated feeling, my first thoughts were to drill out the wood inside the now freed shank cap, to repair the acrylic crack and then figure out the next step.  It did not take long after these initial thoughts to realize I needed to reach out to Steve with pictures to get his feedback and direction – the Sage of rebornpipes!  I recall writing a few years ago in the ‘Helps for Newbies’ section of The Pipe Steward website, that mistakes often are the best way to learn and recording mistakes or mishaps in the writeups helps others and expands one’s abilities in the pipe restoration world.  I have not tackled anything like this before, so the opportunities are there to learn!  Recording the troubleshooting thought processes I believe, are helpful to learn as well.  Here is my initial email to Steve with the above pictures outlining the challenges as I saw it:

Hey Steve,

Ran into a bit of a snag and need your advice.  This pipe came to me with the cracked acrylic shank cap.  My attempts to remove it from the shank obviously failed with me breaking off the briar portion inserted into the cap.  Now I’m looking at cleaning out the wood glued in the cap and setting an insert into the shank that will form the new ‘post’ for the cap.  This is something I’ve not done before and reaching out to you and Charles was the first step.  Of course, I need to clean the wood out of the cap and close and repair the cap.  To connect –  I have the acrylic or Delrin(?) push/pull tenons on hand, but that doesn’t seem like the right configuration.  I know that you and Charles have used Delrin – but I’m not sure what this process is.  Another thought is to take an old stem and flatten the shank facing and counter sink holes in the briar to seat a new mount of sorts for the cap….  Any thoughts to steer me in the right direction – an old write up?  Thanks!

Dal

Steve’s response came quickly:

Not sure what Charles would do but my process is simple.

  1. DO NOT Clean out the wood from the shank extension.
  2. I would take one of your tenons and shape it with your dremel to provide a tube or you can use stainless.
  3. Once you have that glue it in the shank end and let it set.
  4. Give the extending end a coat of glue (epoxy probably is best.)
  5. Put glue on the cracked ends and clamp it together and let it cure
  6. Fill in the split in the extension with super glue. Once it is filled in smooth out the shank extension and reshape it

    Steve

My response and further questions to hone in on a path forward:

Thanks, Steve.  So, you would NOT remove the wood in the shank cap to try to close the acrylic crack gap?  Also, there’s a gap between the extension and the shank before I broke it.  You would leave that??  Essentially, you would not have tried removing the cap to do these repairs.  I’m not sure how the cap would have come off cleanly having been glued on.  Fill the acrylic crack and leave the gap?

Dal

I appreciate Steve’s experience which provides an important component in dealing with the myriad of problems and possibilities that are ‘part and parcel’ of pipe restoration: improvisation.  With more information and thought, Steve was able to help me bring into focus the options:

Dal…. one thought since you mentioned the gap is to flatten out the broken piece on the shank and extension to smooth out the fit to the shank.

If you want to try to bind the crack in the shank extension since it is already off you could drill out the wood and try gluing and clamping the cracked shank extension.

On the Danish ones with the joint is typically done with a threaded tenon in the shank and the piece can be wiggled free and unscrewed… This did not allow for that.

As something completely different you could take a nice piece of smooth hardwood (walnut) and make a similar piece drill and anchor it to the shank as noted before. That would look really good and be your own touch.

My thought processes continue – I had already contemplated flattening the shank facing to remove that gap as Steve suggests.  The last option that Steve put forward of fashioning a piece of walnut or another hardwood and seating it into the shank would probably be the classiest repair but I’m not sure my tools are precision enough to drill out the shank to create the counter sink space for the hardwood ‘plug’.  Steve also mentioned removing the wood from the cap and repairing the acrylic gap, which was my first inclination.  This approach would also necessitate then, fashioning a wood plug to then seat the friction mounted Fishtail stem.

The bottom line is that I cannot suffer leaving the acrylic break there and not try to repair it! – especially since this was the primary reason for trying to remove the cap in the first place.  With Steve’s input, the course that I will follow is to fashion a hardwood joint.  Whether I simply drill a counter-sink hole in the shank or attempt the Danish method of threading the joint, I will continue to consider.   I do have a tap & die set that I’ve never used, and this would be a great opportunity perhaps!  The question between these two approaches – counter-sink hole along or threaded – has to do with how much wiggle room there will be when cementing the joint in the shank making sure the cap seats flush against the shank facing and not again, leave gaps.  Whichever way I end up proceeding, the first step is to drill out the briar wood that remains in the cap.

To remove the briar remains from the shank cap, I begin the process with drill bits.  Using a bit just larger than will freely pass through the airway, I hand turn the bit to ream out the wood a little at a time.  I then graduate to two larger bits, hand turning and expanding the bite each time and removing a little more briar.I also used different burrs mounted on the rotary tool to fine tune the clearing.  The following picture is after quite a bit of time of gradually removing the briar without further damaging the shank cap.  You can see just a small amount of wood left against the acrylic lip marking the beginning of the mortise where the stem is seated.These next pictures show all the tools used for the mini-project and the finished job.  Success with the first phase. Next, the crack in the acrylic needs to be glued.  The acrylic shank cap is placed in a small desk vice cradled by two cotton pads to protect the acrylic. The vice will provide constant pressure to allow the CA glue to cure fully through the night.The cap is situated lower in the grips.  I do this so that the press of the vice will focus on the top of the cap to close the gap and not put pressure on the entire cap.I  use Loctite Precision Pen semi-gel CA glue to lay a line down the crack to avoid too much excess on the acrylic.  Then a toothpick is used to push down and spread the CA glue on the crack edge to get maximum coverage and hopefully, effect.The vice is then gently closed to close the gap.  I’m careful not to put too much pressure on the cap with the vice – I don’t want it to crack again!  The day has come to an end and the lights go out allowing the glue to fully cure through the night. The next morning, I am anxious to release the vice and hopefully, the acrylic cap won’t snap open!  As hoped, the cap repair is successful – yes! Next, 240 sanding paper is used to surgically remove the excess glue from the acrylic surface.  My caution is to do hopefully little damage to the ‘BC’ cap stamp removing the glue.  After beginning to remove the excess patch material sanding with 240 paper, I noticed a separation in the crack.  It seems that the extended time the acrylic cap was cracked, the acrylic was memorizing the expanded orientation.  The excess glue over the crack was serving as reinforcement for the patch and when removed, the patch faltered.I may need to transition from CA glue to using an epoxy.  While the patch is still half-way holding, the thought came to mind about possibly relieving the expanded memorized orientation by heating the acrylic.  The cap is positioned in the vice with the crack away from the hot air gun.  The opposite side of the crack needs to relax.  With the vice gently closed on the crack side, the opposite side is heated.  If the theory is correct, as the tight side of the cap heats, the acrylic becomes more supple and relax and hopefully will un-memorize the broken condition – like a splint.  After heating for some minutes, the cap cools.Amazingly, this works like a charm!  The gap has closed, and the expansion torque has been released.  I wish I had thought of this before applying the patch.  Now, I may need to redo the patch but the complication with that is cleaning away the old patch material.  I’ll continue sanding with 240 to remove the excess and see how it looks.I continue to remove the old patch material with 240 grade paper trying to salvage as much of the BC stamping as possible – though I know that it will not remain unscathed.  The good news now is that with the torque issue resolved, when the cap is mounted on a newly fashioned briar plug later, there should be no stress on the acrylic.  The cap will simply go over the plug like a glove and glued in place.  The mounting and the glue on the inside will again reinforce the patch.  So, the crack repair doesn’t necessarily need to be uber strong but becomes more of a cosmetic issue – in theory!The sanding with 240 paper is complete and I continue sanding over the patch with 600 grade paper and then 0000 grade steel wool.Next, the entire acrylic ferrule is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads – from 1500 to 12000.Putting the cap aside for now, I use a sanding drum mounted on the rotary tool to remove the excess briar protruding out of the shank after the break. Even though it’s a bit anti-climactic, before continuing with the shank repair, I want to clean the stummel first.  After the shank cap is remounted, the last thing I’ll want to do is backtrack and start cleaning!  The chamber has carbon cake build up and to give the briar a fresh start, the chamber is reamed with the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  After taking a fresh picture of the chamber, reaming starts with the smallest of the blade heads and then the next larger one.  After this, the chamber walls are scraped with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and then sanded with 240 sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for leverage. After wiping the bowl, and inspection of the chamber reveals healthy briar.Next, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used to scrub the rusticated stummel and rim surface.  The rim has some lava flow and the distinctively carved BC Costaud stummel will undoubtedly have grime and dirt in the cracks and crevasses. A bristled toothbrush is used to get in the nooks and crannies and a brass bristled brush also assists with cleaning the rim. The stummel then goes to the sink where shank brushes continue the cleaning in the mortise with warm to hot water using anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap.  After the stummel is thoroughly rinsed the results of the cleaning are examined.The rim cleaned to a degree.  There remains dark charring on the internal rim edge.The briar seems parched throughout the rusticated surface.  With this much carving, it’s difficult to tell if the finish has disappeared for the most part.  It does look a bit ragged.  The third picture below of the nomenclature on the underside of the stummel seems to indicate this is true with the splotchiness.  Before contemplating adding dye to the mix, I decide to apply Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel to see how the dry briar responds.  The Balm does amazing things to smooth briar and the rough surface on the Costaud bowl may perk up nicely.  To apply the Balm, I put Balm on my finger and work it into the crevasses.  I think this pipe has won the award for the most Balm needed to do the job!  After the Balm is thoroughly applied, I allow the stummel to sit for a time to allow the Balm to do its thing (pictured below).  When I have this ‘liquid gold’ (Mark’s price isn’t cheap 😊), none is wasted.  I grab a blasted billiard off my own pipe rack and work the excess Balm in.  There seems to be a smile on the Billiard’s face!After 15 minutes or so, the stummel is buffed with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm.  It takes a bit of work, but the bowl looks better; and for now, I will think about adding any additional coloring.  I move on. Earlier, the Fishtail stem went through a Before & After Deoxidizer soak.  The stem looks good with no apparent residual oxidation.  The upper and lower bit have tooth chatter, and the vulcanite surface is rough.  To address the chatter, I use a Bic lighter and paint the bit with the flame to heat and expand the rubber compound.  As the vulcanite heats, it also expands reclaiming its original disposition or at least in part.   The before and after pictures show the results.  This stem responded well which means that sanding will now be less. Next, the entire stem is sanded with 240 grade paper with a special focus on removing any residual roughness on the bit from tooth chatter.The 240 sanding is followed by wet sanding with 600 grade sanding paper and then 0000 grade steel wool is applied.Next, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is used starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following the wet sanding is dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil between each set of 3 pads to further condition the stem and to guard the vulcanite from developing oxidation. While restoring the stem, I’ve had more time to consider the next steps in the shank cap repair.  Since this is my maiden voyage doing this kind of repair, the brain has been ticking through the process one step at a time weighing the logical sequential steps. To get a frame of reference, I measure the width of the former joint or ‘plug’ and the corresponding internal width of the shank cap with the result of 7/16 inches or 11mm.  The standard airway is 3/16 inches, and this airway corresponds.The depth of the internal cavity of the shank cap where the joint plug would be seated is 9/16 inches or 15mm.  If this length were to be generally doubled to the depth of the countersink hole to be drilled into the shank, the total length of the joint would be about 1 1/8 inch or 30mm.In Steve’s earlier email, he suggested using walnut as the joint material or a hardwood of some sort.  I do not have walnut on hand, but I do have another hardwood – cherry.  The cherry wood is a flat piece serving as a shelf end on my worktable!  It used to be an extender of a cherry wood table that became my worktable!I cut a piece off the end of the piece which should give me enough ‘meat on the bone’ for a small margin of error in drilling the airway through the center.  I set the block of cherry in the table vice, and eyeball the drill hoping for the best!The exit hole is about 1/16 inch off center, but I think there’s enough margin to make this work.With the airway drilling ‘good enough’ for now, with enough excess cherry to make it work, the next step is to sand off the corners of the block to form the rough cylinder that will more easily mount on the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  To do this I use a sanding drum on the rotary tool.The following pictures show the corner-by-corner progression of rounding the block. This should do!  Progress! The closest thing in my tool chest to a lathe is the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool I acquired from Vermont Freehand.  I have only used the tool to fashion vulcanite tenons mainly for fashioning Churchwarden stems for repurposed bowls.  I’m hopeful that I can make the PIMO work for this application on cherry wood.  The challenge will be holding the wood firmly and having to do a flip-flop in order to cut both ends.  The reach of the carbide cutting arm is only 5/8 of an inch which means the joint for the Costaud will need to be reversed and cut from both sides to do the job.  The length of the joint now will mean that as I cut, a ‘donut’ of uncut wood will be left in the middle.  My thinking is that as I cut both sides to establish the drilled airway as the center axis point, then I can shorten the joint a bit to be able to remove the ‘donut’.  The key, as in most everything about pipe restoration, is patience in the shaping process.  The picture shows the flip-flop issue – the short reach of the cutting arm.The carbide cutter arm is adjusted to barely contact the cherry wood and tightened.  The target diameter is about 7/16 inches or 11mm – the diameter of the acrylic shank caps interior.After a few cuts and flip-flops, the anticipated donut is forming.I discovered that using a pair of pliers to hold the end of the joint work better than with my hand.After several more flip-flop cuts the donut is fully formed and the airway now is the center axis point. The ‘meat on the bone’ cherry wood, has equalized the slightly off centered airway drilling.  You can see in the picture below that the donut is almost flat/flush on the bottom side, but the top side is fat.  The cutting from the PIMO Tool stayed true to the center axis point and removed the uneven wood (or meat on the bones!) around it.As I mentioned above, at some point I would shorten the joint so that the donut could be removed.  That time is now.  30mm or 1 1/8 inches is about the target length of the needed joint (sorry for going back and forth between the metric and the standard systems! After living in Europe over 25 years the metric is more usable and precise to me!). With the mark made and after mounting the cutting blade onto the rotary tool, the excess is removed.  A few more cuts with the PIMO Tool and the donut is removed and now I am working with a uniform dimension.Flip-flop cuts continue until I’m down close to the width of 11mm.  I cut a test cut and measure.  The measurement is right at 11mm. I finish the cut after measuring and the fit is perfect in the shank cap.  It has a slight amount of wiggle room which is what I want to not put outward pressure on the repaired acrylic and to allow a little fudge factor when it is permanently attached later.The next step is to expand the joint airway to match the airway diameter of the Costaud.  That diameter measures 3/16 inches. I hand turn the drilling by gripping the drill bit end in the vice and turning the joint plug.  I start with a drill bit slightly larger than the current hole and turn.  It takes a bit of time to hand turn the drilling.  I carefully used pliers when the drill bit was advanced in the hole and became difficult to turn. It took 3 drill bits to arrive at the 3/16 inches.  Using metric drill bits too gave a half-step between sizes that made it a little easier between steps. The length of the joint is long now.  I’ll deal with that later after drilling the counter sink hole in the shank.  I’m nervous about this next step.  The diameter of the joint is a bit less than the diameter of the original looking at the shank, but I’m ok with this.  The picture below shows the narrowness of the outer shank structure.  I’ll stay a little bit more on the safe side as I drill a counter-sink hole.Starting with a drill bit that is a bit larger than the airway, the end of the bit is clamped in the vice and the stummel is rotated.  I hand turn the stummel allowing the bit to follow the airway’s path of least resistance.  The depth I’m aiming for is about 1/2 inch and I mark off drill bit with tape.  The most difficult part is starting the drill bit making sure it’s as straight as possible and avoiding wobbles.  Once the bit starts tracking down the airway it becomes easier.  Ten drill bits later, I reach a comfortable diameter as the counter-sink hole moves closer to the outer shank edge.  I haven’t cracked the shank yet and I want to keep it that way!  The hole is a bit small, but I transition to sanding the joint for custom fit. To sand down the shank side of the joint, a coarse 120 grade paper is used.  The paper is pinched around the joint and rotated.  This keeps the joint in round. In time the joint begins to make its way into the shank and finally about 1/2 inch is inserted.  Success!  The pipe cleaner confirms continuity through the airway. What a relief.The next step is to sand down the stem side of the joint so that the acrylic shank cap fits over the joint and is flush with the shank.  With the joint seated a half-inch in the shank, the picture shows the excess length – about 1/16 inch.A sanding drum is used to do this.  After mounting the sanding drum on the rotary tool, the end of the joint is gradually sanded down to a good length. The progress is checked along the way to make sure too much isn’t removed. The pictures show the alignment of the joint airway.  As I’m looking at the airway, I begin to think about how the military mount fishtail stem will fit into the shank cap.I size up the stem’s tenon with the now repaired shank cap opening and another puzzle unfolds but another puzzle is possibly solved.  The tenon simply does not fit.  Nor did it ever fit this shank cap.  The opening of the cap is 1/4 inch wide.  The tenon is 1/16 inch larger. I don’t believe the stem is the original BC Costaud stem but apparently a replacement stem that’s a good match, but had been previously used.  A quick look at the internet shows that this replacement stem looks BC authentic by comparing with other Costauds (LINK).  This is good news indeed.  The puzzle that is possibly solved now is the cause of the acrylic cap’s break – the original stem was lost, and the replacement stem was forced into the shank cap mortise without proper sizing and there just wasn’t enough room to accommodate the oversized tenon and the acrylic gave way.  After this possible scenario played out fully in my cerebral cinema the question that came to mind was, ‘Why didn’t I catch this earlier?’  The answer followed – when the acrylic crack was wide open, of course it fit!  After fixing the crack and closing the gap, my assumption of the stem fit was grandfathered in.   But looking back at earlier pictures, the stem was not fitting – the tenon was not fully engaged seated in the mortise.  This I HAD assumed, too.  This earlier picture shows that the tenon was simply hanging out on the entry lip of the acrylic cap, not seated in the briar mortise inside the cap.The pathway forward is to glue the joint in the shank making sure that it lines up with the acrylic cap.  After this the acrylic cap is permanently attached.  The mortise needs to be drilled out to be flush with the cap opening and deep enough to receive the tenon.  The tenon of the stem then needs to be custom resized to be able to friction mount the mortise so that the tenon facing is flush with the shank cap opening.

In seating the joint in the shank, it’s important that there’s a bit of play in the fitting so that the joint can be adjusted after the glue is applied.  To increase the hold of the CA glue, I use a burr to cut some channels in the joint. Thick CA glue is then applied around the base of the joint and then inserted into the shank counter-sink hole.  I use thick glue because thin CA glue is absorbed while thick spreads. I want the glue to spread fully around the joint.  While the glue is still pliable, the cap is mounted onto the joint to guide the orientation for the joint so that the airway is centered, and the shank cap is flush with the shank facing. I let the stummel sit for several hours to allow the joint’s position to become permanent as the CA glue fully cures. With the glue fully cured, seating the joint into the shank, the next step is to attach the acrylic cap.  Again, the joint is scored several times with the burr to increase the gripping of the CA glue.Thick CA glue is then applied around the joint and the shank cap is mounted onto the joint and while the glue is still pliable, I make sure the cap is lined up with the shank. Thankfully, the airway is centered in as well! To complete the structural issues, the replacement fishtail stem’s tenon needs to be properly sized to navigate safely the mortise.  To do this, the tenon diameter is decreased and the mortise is expanded to accommodate the resized tenon.  I use a coarse 120 grade sanding paper to sand down the tenon.  I do this by pinching the paper around the tenon and rotating the stem.The mortise is also expanded to match the diameter of the acrylic shank cap’s diameter.  A burr is carefully used to expand the mortise. To deepen the briar mortise – gradually, a drill bit is hand turned.The process was a dance between sanding the tenon to shape it and drill and smooth the mortise – testing a lot!  The goal is to seat the tenon so that the tenon facing is almost flush with the acrylic ferrule.  This picture shows a large gap between the tenon facing and the acrylic.After a lot of slow work, the tenon is seated without placing too much stress on the repaired acrylic shank cap.  The structural repair to the BC Costaud is done – I move on!What remains is now the cosmetic restoration – I am not finished yet!  The charred inner ring of the chamber needs to be cleaned. To do this, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the upper chamber edge. Looking again at the condition of the rusticated surface of the bowl, after applying the Before & After Restoration Balm earlier, I had hoped that that would be sufficient.  Looking now at the briar’s condition, it is apparent the finish is gone in places giving a light dried look.  The nomenclature panel on the underside shows an uneven splotched finish. The decision comes easily to apply a dye to refresh the stummel hue.  After wrapping the acrylic shank cap with painter’s tape, Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye is used.  To begin, the stummel is heated to help to absorb the dye.With the deep rusticated surface, I do not fire the aniline dye as I would with a smooth briar pipe because it would be difficult to remove the resulting crusted shell and the Red Tripoli compound used to remove the crust.  Instead, the stummel is simply painted with the dye using a pipe cleaner.  After the dye is thoroughly applied to the rough, crevassed surface, I let the stummel to rest through the night to set the dye.The next morning, a cotton pad wetted with alcohol and used to wipe down the newly dyed stummel to remove excess dye and to blend.   A microfiber cloth in then used to hand buff the stummel rigorously to remove additional excess dye.Next, with a clean felt wheel mounted on the rotary set at about 40% full power, the rustication is further buffed and cleaned of fresh dye.  The reason for all this buffing is to prevent dye from leaching after it’s put into service.  It’s difficult not to have some dye on the hand when the stummel is fired up the first time, but these steps help to minimize this leaching. Next, to create an attractive contrasting in the rusticated surface, the 1500 grade micromesh pad is employed to sand the peaks of the rusticated peaks.  This creates a reddish fleck contrasting that I like in a rusticated surface.Again, the surface is buffed up with the felt buffing wheel.One last effort to avoid dye leaching.  To emulate a bowl in service, the stummel is heated with the hot air gun and again buffed with the microfiber cloth to remove the leached dye.The home stretch – Using a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool set at 49% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stem, acrylic ferrule, and smooth briar shank underside.  Compound is not applied to the rusticated surface because it would clog the wood crevasses and be a bear to clean.  A felt cloth is used to wipe off the compound dust where applied.  Not pictured, after applying the Blue Diamond compound, another cotton cloth wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and carnauba wax is applied to the pipe.  The wax is very lightly applied to the rusticated surface with the speed of the rotary tool a bit faster – at about 60 full power.  I do this to create more heat which helps the wax to dissolve and not get stuck in the crevasses.  Using the rotary tool buffing wheel helps as well as the bowl is rotated around to allow the wheel to go with the valleys and contours. Wow!  This was perhaps the most involved restoration that I’ve done to date.  There were a lot of moving parts, processes and structural issues to resolve to put this pipe back into service.  I’m pleased with the results and the opportunity to learn some new techniques.  The rusticated surface of the Butz-Choquin Costaud is now the focus of this handsome, stout pipe – as it should be.  The rustic feel of the bowl looks great with the bright contrasting of the acrylic ferrule. The slightly bent stem adds a gentle class to the overall bold appearance of a gentlmen’s pipe. As the commissioner, Craig will have the first opportunity to acquire the Costaud from The Pipe Steward Store which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Nelson Got Gouged


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Sometimes, the most satisfying restorations are the ones that have the most dramatic difference between start and finish. This is the story of one of those. A friend, knowing of my new pipe-restoration hobby, contacted me recently to see if I could ‘clean up’ a family pipe for him. I told him that I would be happy to. He explained that perhaps the pipe once belonged to his grandfather, perhaps to an uncle – he was not really sure. Imagine my shock when he dropped off this little paneled Nelson apple.Oof! My immediate thought was ‘Nelson got gouged’! You want me to clean up this pipe? How about raise this pipe from the dead? Actually, my first order of business was ascertaining the actual brand name. At first, I thought it was ‘Delson’ (or something similar), but, after rubbing chalk on the shank, I could see that it was, in fact, ‘Nelson’.So, I set about disassembling the pipe to see what needed to be done – beyond dealing with the obvious gouges. The insides of the bowl and stem were actually quite clean, but I set about giving them a thorough cleaning nonetheless. Using isopropyl alcohol in combination with Q-tips and pipe cleaners, I then proceeded to clean out the insides of both the shank and stem. I also added some Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the external grime, just for good measure.

I removed the metal band around the shank to discover that, not only had the band corroded, but it had also leached into the wood at the end of the shank.Using oxalic acid, I carefully scrubbed the shank end to remove as much of the staining as possible – and I think it worked quite well.I feared the prospect of having to deal with the scratches, holes, gouges, etc. on the bowl, so I thought I would move on to the stem first. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to remove the light tooth marks. This was quite successful in raising the dents. Once this process was done, the stem went for a soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. This soak caused the oxidation to migrate to the surface. I used 220, 400, and 600 grit wet/dry sandpapers to remove the oxidation from the stem. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing. Now, on to the biggest problem of all: the bowl. What were we going to do? No matter what, the wood needed to be stripped and sanded down, and so I set myself to the task. I had a long discussion with Steve about what to do and he suggested that this pipe was a perfect candidate for rustication. I agreed and thought it would be a good experiment for me to try out the process of rusticating a stummel. I approached my friend with the idea and, although he was open to it, I sensed that he would prefer to keep the pipe as close to its original form as possible. So, going back to Steve for advice, he proposed using an iron and a damp cloth to try and raise the scratches. I expected some limited success, but I was stunned at how well it worked. The vast majority of the gouges were lifted. The small number that were not, were easily filled with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Just like the stem, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to sand everything smooth. A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain.

A new metal band was also needed for this pipe. Although I considered the idea of trying to remove the corrosion from the existing band, ultimately this was an exercise in futility. I went to my jar of bands and found one that was less wide than the original, but actually looked better than the original. I sanded and polished the band until it shone like the sun.

Now I had to do something about the distinct lack of rich colour in this pipe. The solution, as always, came from Steve: aniline dye. I cautiously applied a wee bit of Fiebing’s Medium Brown Leather Dye and then applied flame in order to set the colour. Since it is an alcohol-based dye, I as able to lighten the colour by applying my own isopropyl alcohol to the colour.I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm and some Paragon Wax. I polished it by hand with a microfibre cloth and I could not believe how good it looked! This modest pipe had started its time with me as a candidate for the fireplace and ended up as a lovely pipe whose owner will be able to enjoy it for many years to come. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 5¾ inches (14.6 cm); height 1⅜ inches (3.5 cm); bowl diameter 1¼ inches (3.2 cm); chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch (1.9 cm). The weight of the pipe is ¾ of an ounce (or 24 grams of mass).

Thank you very much for reading and, once again, I welcome and encourage your comments.

New Life for a Sasieni Berkley Club 755SR Lovat


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is a Sasieni Made Rusticated Lovat that we purchased in 2016 from an antique store on the Oregon Coast, USA. It is a rusticated pipe a shape that I would call a Lovat from the  flow of the stem and shank. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads 755SR [over] Berkley Club [over] London Made. Toward the heel it is stamped Made in England in a Rugby Ball shaped stamp. The bowl had a thick cake and lava overflow on the rim. It was hard to estimate the condition of the rim top with the cake and lava coat but I was hoping it had been protected from damage. It appeared that there was a lot of damage on the outer edge with the heaviest damage on the back and left side. The finish was a classic Sasieni rustication. The finish was dusty and tired but had some nice grain under the grime and the finish appeared to be in good condition. A lot would be revealed once Jeff had worked his magic on it. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had tooth chatter and tooth marks near the button on both sides. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff captured the condition of the bowl and rim top with the next series of photos. You can see the work that is ahead of us in the photos. The cake is very thick and heavy. The next two photos of the stem show the top and underside of the stem. It is oxidized and calcified an you can see the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of both sides. Jeff took a photo of the side of the bowl and heel showing the worn finish and what is underneath the grime and debris of time and use. It will be interesting to see what happens as the pipe is cleaned and restored. He captured the stamping on the underside of the shank. They are clear and readable. It reads as noted above.I have worked on Berkley Club pipes in the past. The most recent Berkley Club I worked on was a billiard. I turned to the blog on that pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/berkeley-club-pipes/) that was written in July 31, 2016. I quote the information on the brand from that blog below.

I went online to Pipephil’s site Logos and Stampings (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b4.html) and found the brand and the reminder that had niggled at the back of mind. The Berkeley Club with this stamping was made by Sasieni. The photo below came from that website and shows the same finish and the same stamping on both the shank and the stem.The pipe has been here for a few years now so it is about time I worked on it. I took it out of the box where I had stored it and looked it over. It was amazingly clean and looked like a different pipe. 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 bowl looked very good. The rim top showed a lot of darkening but the inner bevel was in good condition. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer. When he took it out of the soak it came out looking far better. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some photos of the rim top and stem. The rim top is clean but there is a lot of darkening around the top and edges. The bowl itself looks very clean. The close up photos of the stem show that is it very clean and the deep tooth marks are very visible.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the bowl and to give a sense of the proportion of the pipe. It is a nice looking Lovat.I decided to take care of the damage on the rim top and inner edge first. I topped the bowl to give it a smooth surface. I built up the damaged areas on the outer edge with super glue and briar dust to take care of the damage. I cleaned up the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. The second photo below show the inner edge of the rim after the work.I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to prepare the surface for the rustication I planned to do to bring it back to what it looked like originally.I then used my Dremel and a series of burrs and dental burrs to replicate the original rustication on the rim surface from photos I found online of a similar rim top. I worked through each burr carving a patter in the smooth rim surface and blending in the damaged areas on the front left and the repaired back of the bowl. I was very happy with the rustication once I finished.I stained the rim top with a combination of Walnut, Maple and Cherry stain pens to match the colour around the sides of the bowl and shank.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the smooth briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for fifteen minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned to deal with the stem. The stem had an inner tube that was bound in the shank and when I heated and carefully pulled on it to remove it the tube snapped. I flattened on the tenon end with sandpaper to make the break smooth. I sanded out the oxidation and tooth marks on the stem surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Once I had smoothed them out and broken up the remaining oxidation I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave the stem a final coat of Obsidian Oil to preserve and protect it. This Sasieni Made Berkley Club 755SR London Made Lovat was another fun pipe to work on and I really was looking forward to seeing it come back together again. With the grime and debris gone from the finish and the rim top cleaned up and rusticated it was a beauty and the colours in the rustication are beautiful. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank during the process. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rich natural finish on the bowl looks really good with the polished black vulcanite stem. It is very well done. Give the finished Lovat a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 49grams/1.73oz. This is truly a great looking Sasieni Made Berkley Club London Lovat. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be adding it to the Italian 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.

Help for what looked like a hopeless 1956 Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Long Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

A friend of mine, Scott picked up this deeply sandblasted Dunhill LBS in a shape I would call a Liverpool but Dunhill called a long billiard. He bought it off eBay and when it arrived it had a lot of surprises for him under the thick build up of cake and grime. He has purchased enough estate pipes know what he was getting into but this one had even more issues than he reckoned it would have. He sent me the eBay sellers photos and I have included them below. This is what he saw and honestly if I had seen the pipe I would have sprung for it immediately. The sandblast though dirty, is quite rugged and stunning. The seller dated the pipe as a 1956 based on the following stamping. On the heel of the bowl it was stamped with the shape designation – LBS followed by DUNHILL [over] SHELL BRIAR (Sandblast finish) on the shank. That was followed by MADE IN ENGLAND6 . Next to the shank/stem junction it was stamped with a Circle 4S – the group 4 size designation and the S for Shell Briar.  I turned to PipePhil’s Site and looked up the shape letters that Dunhill used on the helpful chart that is included there (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shapes-l.html). I did a screen capture of the pertinent part of the chart to show the shape letters noted above.   I have included that below.The bowl had a very thick cake and the rim top had a heavy lava  buildup. The bowl had a crack running down the back side of the bowl. It was hard to know how bad it was because of the filth of the dirty pipe. It was a good bet that it would be messy inside the bowl under the cake! The stem was oxidized, calcified and had deep tooth dents on both sides at the button as well as wear on the button surface itself. It would be a challenge.When the pipe arrived at Scott’s place it was in rougher condition than he had expected. Nonetheless he went to work on it. He knew that he needed to ream the cake back to bare briar and clean up the exterior of the bowl to know for sure how bad the damage was on the inside and outside of the bowl. He did a great job cleaning up the exterior and reaming and cleaning out the bowl so the damage on the inside and out were incredibly visible. This pipe was in serious trouble. Scott and I share and affinity for these older craggy Dunhills so he sent me an email. I have included that below.

Hi Steve, Great job on that 1936 Dunhill.  Are you going to be putting it up for sale?  If so, I’m interested.  Also, I have a large 1956 shell briar Dunhill billiard that has a great blast and good stem, but has a crack in the front and a bad interior.  It’s out of my comfort zone – will you do such work for pay?

Thanks,  Scott

We sent several emails back and forth regarding the pipe discussing what needed to be done. I asked him to send me some pics of the pipe after his clean up. He did so along with the email below.

Hi  Steve, Here are pics of the Dunhill.  The crack is on the shank side, straight above the shank – it’s splits to form two cracks (hard to see).  I cleaned the bowl (inside and out) then put a clamp around the bowl to see if it would push together, and it moved a lot, but not all the way, so the next step would have been to use compressed air to get any slivers/dust out  of the crack.  That’s where I stopped, figuring it had waited for 30 or so years, so it would be okay.

There also seems to be some rot on the rim of the bowl and there is a small chunk out at the top of the crack.  My plan had been to sand down the top after the repair was done.

Thanks, Scott When I saw the pipe in his pictures I fell in love with the shape and the rich, rugged looking blast. I could see at once why Scott had been drawn to it. We chatted back and forth and the long and short of it is that it is now on my work desk to see what I can do with it. I will give it a shot and then send it back to Scott once it is finished. I took photos of when I received it. The rim top looked rough. It was beat up and missing a chunk over the crack on the back of the bowl. The finish was pretty much removed. The bowl was clean and the damage on the inside was extensive. The stem had cleaned up well. The tooth marks are visible in the photos of the stem that I have included below.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is faint in spots but is still very readable.I removed the stem from the shank to prepare to work on the bowl. I put the stem aside and took pictures of the bowl to just savor the rugged sandblast. Even the rim top, as damaged as it was still has a bit of the sandblast finish that I thought would be redeemable. I cleaned out the cracks on the exterior with alcohol to remove the remaining debris. I checked the entire bowl with a bright light and lens to make sure I could see all the cracks and not be surprised with ones I had missed. Sure enough they were all around the back side of the bowl. They ran from the rim down and then turned to the left and then down once again. I layered briar dust and clear CA glue in the cracks. I repaired the chip out of the back side of the rim top at the same time in the same manner. Before it completely dried I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the repairs and blend them into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish. I find that if you do not do this you end up with flat spots where the repair occurredOnce the repair cured I wiped the areas down with alcohol on a cotton pad and stained the areas with a walnut stain pen. I would use a combination of stains later to further blend them in. I just wanted to see what the repair looked like and be able to send photos to Scott.With the exterior finished it was time to work on the inside of the bowl and deal with all of the spidering cracks and large cracks around the interior walls. They were not just confined to the back of the bowl but covered the majority of the bowl and heel surface. I mixed a batch of JB Weld with a dental spatula and applied it to the walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner to act like a paint brush. I pushed the JB Weld into the cracks in the bowl walls and gave the entire interior a coat of the product. I have checked out the research on the product and find that it dries inert and does not gas off when heated. I have used it on my own pipes and smoked them for over 10 or more years with no issues. With that finished I called it a night and set the bowl aside for the repairs on the interior to cure overnight. In the morning I sanded inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out that area. I wrapped a dowel with 220 grit sandpaper extending it just below the dowel so that it would form a cone on the end and allow me to sand the bottom of the bowl. I worked on it to smooth the repairs and remove as much of the JB Weld as possible while leaving it in the cracks and fissures of the walls. With the bowl repair finished I stained the bowl and rim with Mahogany, Walnut and Black stain pens to match the combination of stains used on the bowl that was not repaired. I was happy with the overall look of the pipe. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to get into the nooks and crannies of the blast. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth  and shoe brush to raise the shine.      I cleaned the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to remove my sanding debris and residual tars and oils in the mortise and airway. I cleaned the internals of the stem the same way. Once finished the pipe was clean and repaired inside and out.Now it was time to mix a bowl coating. Different folks used different things for this. I use a mix of sour cream and charcoal powder. I learned this from a pipe maker friend. I use it on a bowl that I have repaired with JB Weld because when I sand the bowl it is very smooth and I want to facilitate the building of a carbon cake. The bowl coating does that. Surprisingly it cures neutral in taste and imparts no flavour to the tobacco when smoked. Within a few bowls it is basically covered with the developing cake. It works for me!I applied the mixture to the bottom and walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner. I paint it on and smooth it out with the pipe cleaner. I am not looking for a thick coating of the product but merely a top coat. Too thick a coat will just peel off when the pipe is smoked. I want it to stay put for a few bowls anyway! I set the bowl aside for the bowl coating to cure and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth marks. The method worked extremely well and I was able to lift the majority of them. There were two marks – one on each side that lifted but needed to be filled. I filled them in with clear CA glue. Once it cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the button edges. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem 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 really is a beautiful Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Long Billiard.  The relatively short vulcanite taper stem just adds to an already great looking pipe. If you did not know where the cracks were you would never be able to find them now. The rich combination of Mahogany, Black and Walnut stains on the bowl give depth and dimension to the sandblast. It came alive with the polishing and waxing. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax as I did not want to fill in the valleys. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Group 4 pipe is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. . The weight of the pipe is 40grams/1.41oz. Once the bowl coating completely cures I will be packing it up and sending it back to Scott. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of it when he has it in hand. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

Upgrading a ‘Lowly Drugstore Pipe’: A Dr. Grabow Omega Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

Ryan described his Dr. Grabow Omega as a lowly drugstore pipe – not me! 😊 He emailed me several months ago about his Dr. Grabow Omega and which set the table for what followed:

Dear Mr. Stanton, I recently came across one of your blog posts from 2017 detailing a restoration you performed on a Dr. Grabow Omega billiard. The final product was stunning and made me wonder whether you allow customers to send pipes in for restoration or whether commissions are limited to the pipes listed on your website. I ask because I also own a Dr. Grabow Omega and have always been bothered by the heavy red finish that completely obscures the grain. I wanted to ask (if outside commissions are accepted) whether you could perform the same sort of restoration on my pipe and about how much it might cost.  Thanks for any information you can provide!

Part of my response to Ryan shortly followed:

Ryan, Great to hear from you!  Thanks for your kind words regarding the restoration of the Omega I did. I think the Omega is a nice-looking pipe.  Dr. Grabow’s ‘Peterson’ and you share my problem with Dr. Grabow’s production of Omegas with the ‘candy apple’ finish.  It’s a quicker way to finish a factory pipe and it’s always a question about what lurks beneath the artificial gloss.  The Omega I did surprised me with a nice patch of briar beneath and left me with the question, why would anyone cover this grain with a finish like that?  I’m sure economics is a partial answer.  So, for your Omega, I would examine it closely to see if you can see some huge fills in the briar beneath the finish.  Even if it has fills, natural briar just beats candy apple even with sub-par blocks of briar, in my opinion. 

In our emailing back and forth, I discovered that Ryan too, was living in Europe at the time.  He had finished up his graduate work in Scotland and was teaching in the Black Forest region of Germany for the past 10 years and was also in the process of transitioning back to the US.  When he said he was in the Black Forest region of Germany, I perked up.  Several years ago two of our five children attended Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany – a very beautiful part of Europe which we enjoyed visiting several times.  Ryan sent me some pictures of his Omega from Germany, which he had used only a few times.  Here are the pictures Ryan sent: My impression of his pictures was that the Omega was practically new and not beat up at all.  Since we both were in the process of transitioning to the US, he from Germany and we from Bulgaria, the decision was made to wait till we both were settled on the other side of the pond and he would send the Omega to me.   Which brings us to the present – Ryan’s Dr. Grabow Omega is now on my worktable.  I am in Golden, Colorado, and Ryan is in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We both are adjusting to our new realities!

The primary desire Ryan expressed was to allow the natural briar to emerge by removing the candy apple, thick factory finish.  He referenced seeing a restoration for another Omega I had done for Jenny, a former intern we had with us in Bulgaria.  She had commissioned several pipes from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection to give as gifts to the special men in her family and she kept one for herself too! (See: Jen’s Trove No. 8 – Restore & Upgrade of a Dr. Grabow Omega Smooth Billiard)  The Dr. Grabow Omega she chose for one fortunate person turned out well – before and after results were striking!This was the result that Ryan compared to his Dr. Grabow factory fresh Omega finish which shrouded the natural grain.  Ryan’s Omega appears to me to be a newer pipe off the production line and differs in the nomenclature from the former older Omega I restored.  In common is that both are stamped on the left shank flank: OMEGA [over] DR. GRABOW.  The right was stamped on Jen’s Omega, IMPORTED BRIAR, which is not present on Ryan’s Omega.

In the former Omega restoration, the biggest problem that I expressed was the finish.  I did not like it!  In my research for that Omega, I found these two comments from bloggers on a Pipes Magazine Forum discussion about Dr. Grabow Omegas’ cost, quality, and appeal, which resonated with my own thoughts regarding the positives and negative:

Positives: An Omega was the first briar pipe that I ever owned. It still gets regular use and like Brewshooter, I have no complaints with it. Bowl size is a little bit smaller than I like, but it makes for a nice quick smoke, and the military mount makes it really easy to clean. I have Savinellis that I have easily paid four times more for, and sure, they smoke a little bit better, but in terms of a good smoking instrument, the Omega will do you well as long as it is smoked properly and maintained properly.

Negative: One thing I noticed about my Omega is that it had a heavy varnish or clear coat. I sanded it and gave it a nice wax. It seems to breathe a little better now and I like seeing more of the grain. I also gave the band a bit of a brushed look with some fine grain sandpaper. It’s a nice little pipe for that quick smoke.

Ryan’s desire for his Omega is to remove the ‘candy apple’ or heavy varnish finish.  He is also hopeful that there is a nice patch of briar beneath it.  I am hopeful, too!  The second issue that Ryan expressed about his Omega was that the factory stem was made of a plastic material and not rubber or vulcanite.  I could not recall that the former Omega’s stem I had restored was plastic – I believe it was indeed vulcanite because of the way it spruced up.  Ryan shared with me that his research uncovered that Dr. Grabow started using plastic stems along the way.  Ryan said he could live with the factory plastic stem but did not like it.

When Ryan’s Omega arrived, I was curious to check out the stem as well.  The seam is different from a normal precast rubber stem – the factory seam is vertically dissecting the stem rather than a horizontal seam – the norm for rubber precast stems.  The picture below shows the vertical seam that splits the P-Lip and runs up the stem.  I would say that I agree with Ryan’s assessment.  The stem is plastic.I decided to investigate whether I could find a rubber stem that would match the Omega’s Military Mount, fancy P-Lip stem.  I sent a note to Tim West at J. H. Lowe (www.jhlowe.com) where I acquire pipe supplies and included pictures for Tim to see if I could find a non-factory match for the Omega.  Ryan had indicated to me that a factory stem with the Dr. Grabow ‘Spade’ logo was not critically important to him.  Tim’s email came saying that he had a Greek rubber stem that had similar style and shape to the Dr. Grabow Wellington stems for a few dollars. He said that they were rough and needed bending and polishing – plain with no logo on the stem. I asked Tim to send it along with 5 additional Churchwarden stems.  When the stems arrived a few days ago from Tim, I was pleased with the match he provided with the Wellington stem.  The pictures below show the comparison.  The Wellington stem is precast with rough horizontal seams running down the sides of the stem rather than vertically in comparison to the factory stem.Before beginning on the upgrade of Ryan’s Omega, I take a few fresh pictures of the stummel on my worktable.  The finish is not as ‘candy apple’ acrylic as was the first Omega I restored but the finish is thick and obstructive.  In addition to the finish, the stummel has some minor dents from normal wear.  There appears to be a round fill on the right shank side.  When the stummel is cleaned, I will need to see if this apparent fill needs attention. Because I like working on clean pipes, I first use the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber.  Ryan had said that he had used the pipe only a few times – the lack of carbon cake buildup confirms this.A quick spin with one pipe cleaner and one cotton bud confirms that the internals are clean.My general approach will be to emulate what I did with the first Omega I restored that Ryan noticed.  The goal is to provide a briar canvas that will produce more natural grain pop.  To do this I start the upgrade of this Dr. Grabow Omega by using acetone on a cotton pad to see if this will be sufficient to remove the finish.  The acetone cuts through the finish efficiently.  The cotton pad shows a purple-ish or dark burgundy/Oxblood hue of the factory finish.  As I did before, I decide to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to remove the old finish more fully.With the stummel soaking in acetone, I turn to the precast Wellington stem.  Even though the stem is new, it is in a rough state.  The seam is rough from the excess rubber during the fashioning process.   Around the P-Lip button the edge is also rough as is the rubber surface itself.To begin, a small sanding drum is mounted onto the rotary tool and with care the seam edges are smoothed off.  I’m careful because the rotary tool can easily dig a wedge into the rubber if I’m too impatient!After the sanding drum, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the entire stem.  Special attention is given to the seam lines to make sure there are no factory divots remaining in the vulcanite.  The precast factory surface is not even and has ribs and small gaps.  Sanding with 240 takes some time but helps to smooth out the surface.   After 240, the entire stem is first wet sanded with 600 grade paper then 0000 grade steel wool is applied to smooth the surface further.Next, the full regimen of micromesh pads is applied starting with wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400.  Next, the stem is dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 micromesh pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to help guard against oxidation. Wow!  The Greek rubber Wellington stem shined up with that pop I like. After several hours of soaking in the acetone, the stummel is fished out and I take a closer look at the results.  The briar is a salmon color.  Interesting!  An inspection of the briar surface shows the minor dents I saw previously.  The round fill on the right shank is solid – second picture. To clean the surface of minor dents and scratches, sanding sponges are used.  The sanding sponges are good for not being invasive but sanding enough to clean the surface.  I start with a coarser sponge and then transition to a medium, then light grade sanding sponge.  I avoid the nomenclature on the shank during the first two sponges. Before moving on with the application of micromesh pads, I dress up the bland rim a bit.  To do this, a small internal bevel is cut in the rim to give it some additional contour.  To me, this adds a touch of class to the Omega and that’s what ‘upgrading’ is all about. Using 240 paper, a hard surface is pressed behind the sanding paper to create the fresh lines of the bevel.  This is followed again using 600 grade paper.  I like the results.Next, the stummel is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads to coax out the tight, compact grain.  Starting the process by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, this is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I stay clear of the nomenclature on the shank during the wet sanding phase.  The grain emerges through the micromesh process of sanding.  The pictures show the progression.The grain is subtle on this Omega which is different from the Omega I worked on before.  That Omega had more expressive and turbulent grain patterns.  My reading about briar grains suggests that Ryan’s Omega was fashioned from a briar block that was more toward the center of the briar bole and not the edge.  The ‘edge’ blocks tend to be more twirly, expressive, and distinct but also contain more imperfections which require patching.  Whereas, blocks cut closer toward the center of the bole, have more subtle grain patterns but fewer imperfections – the wood seems to be tighter or compressed.  The grain is there but lacks distinction at this point.At this juncture, I can’t resist uniting the stummel with the unbent Wellington stem to get a sense of the progress.  I also take a picture of the factory Grabow stem.  Not bad!  Ryan will have his pick whether he’s in the mood for the factory Dr. Grabow stem or the Greek rubber Wellington stem – as far as I can see, a perfect match. As I think about the next step in coloring the stummel, I decide to bend the Wellington replacement stem.  To do this the stem is threaded with a pipe cleaner to guard the integrity of the airway during the bend.  Using the hot air gun, the vulcanite is gently warmed at the mid-stem where the bend is to happen.  To heat gradually, I rotate the stem to balance the heating and not scorch the stem.I use a small shot glass which is about 1 1/2 inches across to serve as the bending template.  As I’m heating the stem, I gently bend the stem a bit with my hands as it become supple.  When it has heated enough and the rubber has softened, the stem is placed over the glass and bent over it to form the shape.I hold the stem in place while it is taken to the sink where cool water is run over the stem, thus solidifying the bend in place. When the stem is taken back to the work table to compare with the factory stem, it looks like a match to me the first time around!  The great thing about bending rubber stems is that if you do not get it right the first time, the process is easily repeated until the bend is on target.I have given some thought to the finish to apply to the Dr. Grabow Omega bowl.  With my last Omega I applied a mixture of 2/3s-part Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1/3-part Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye with the lightening option available by wiping down the bowl with alcohol later.  With this Omega, I will do the same for the dark brown/black undercoat.  However, following this, an additional step will be tried.  A wash dye with red I believe will deepen the tones and bend the finish toward a reddish palette and not toward the purplish/burgundy of the original Omega motif.  I believe this will give the pipe more eye-catching pop in the end – or this is my hope!  Applying dyes often feels like a roll of the dice – different woods absorb dyes differently and one never knows for sure what the exact results will be!  My goal is to bring out the grain distinctiveness with the undercoat and then to get in the ballpark of the right color template with the overcoat washing.  To begin, after assembling all the components on the worktable, Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye and Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye are mixed at a 2 to 1 ratio to use as the undercoat. After wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, the stummel is heated with the hot gun.  This heating expands the briar and makes the wood grain more receptive to the dye.When the stummel is heated sufficiently, the aniline dye mixture is applied to the stummel in sections with a folded pipe cleaner and then ‘flamed’ using a lighted candle.  The alcohol in the aniline dye combusts setting the dye pigment in the briar grain.  This flaming process continues as dye is applied in sections until the entire stummel is covered.The stummel is then put aside to rest for several hours.  This helps the dye to ‘settle’ and be absorbed into the wood. After several hours, the time to ‘unwrap’ the stummel has arrived – one of my favorite parts of a restoration when new dye has been applied to a stummel.  I call this phase unwrapping because the fired dye is crusted around the stummel like a shell.  The shell is unwrapped using more abrasive Tripoli compound and a felt buffing wheel mounted onto the rotary tool.  The speed of the rotary tool is set to about 25 to 30% full power – slower than usual guarding against too much heat buildup from friction generated by the more abrasive combination of compound and felt wheel.  This combination is like a bulldozer!As the crusted dye is removed, I purge the felt wheel repeatedly with the edge of the metal rotary tool wrench.  This keeps the felt wheel softer and cleaner.  As hoped, as the Tripoli compound is applied to the crusted surface, an eye-catching landscape of grain is now more distinctive.  The pictures below show the unwrapping in process.  I love to watch this unveiling! The dye process darkens and accents the grain patterns. After the crusted dye is removed, the bowl is gently wiped with a cotton pad and alcohol.  This is done not to lighten the stummel but to blend the dye.  Little dye is removed on the cotton pad which seems to indicate that the undercoat of dye is well established.The next step, to deepen the hue and bend it more to a rich red tone, the stummel is dye washed with red dye.  The stummel is again heated, but this time the dye is washed on with a pipe cleaner without firing because the alcohol content in the red dye is not as great.  After the red dye is applied thoroughly, the lesser abrasive, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stummel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool set at about 40% full power. This removes the excess dye.  Not pictured is that I wiped the stummel a number time with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to blend the red dye with the dark brown/black under coat.  Afterwards, Blue Diamond was again applied until the hue looked good.  Also not shown is that the Wellington stem was also polished with Blue Diamond compound with a cotton cloth buffing wheel.To refresh the Omega’s nickel shank cap, another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to applying compound on metal is mounted on the rotary tool.  Blue Diamond is applied, and the bling factor of the shank cap went up a few notches! The final step is to apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe.  After mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel, with the speed set at about 40% full power, the wax is applied to the stummel and Wellington stem – not to the nickel shank cap.  After application of the wax, the Omega is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine and to remove any excess wax that may have collected on the surface.Wow, what a change!  And then the next thought, ‘Wow, maybe too much change!’  At this point I was ready to send the write up to Steve to publish on rebornpipes, but my concern continued to grow, and that small voice was gnawing inside – the finish may have gone a little too far from the original Dr. Grabow Omega motif which was bent more to the burgundy pallet than what I did, going more toward the red.  I decided to send a pre-published PDF of the write up with final presentation pictures to receive his assessment.  I expressed to Ryan that I could take the Omega back to the worktable and bend the hue back to more of a burgundy palette – that working with dyes is like a dance.  After sending that email and PDF, I waited to find out if the Dr. Grabow Omega was finished or whether I was headed back to the worktable.  Ryan’s response did not take long:

Hi Dal, I think we can definitely call it finished (and then some)! I couldn’t stop smiling as I read through your write-up because every time I thought the pipe must be nearly finalized (I was already amazed at how much better it looked after unwrapping the initial coat of dye), there would be another step in the process that made it look even better. I’m genuinely awestruck at how well it turned out. That a lowly drugstore pipe can be transformed to such a degree is a testament to the tremendous skill and care you put into your work. As far as the color is concerned, I think you chose the ideal shade: not too dark, not too light, and a perfect showcase for the more subtle grain patterns of this pipe. I wouldn’t change it one bit. The stem came out looking like a million bucks, as well, which is quite a feat considering how (literally) rough around the edges it was at the beginning. Just extraordinary work all around. I can’t thank you enough!…. Once again, thanks very much for doing such a wonderful job and taking the trouble to document each individual step. I really enjoyed reading about the restoration process and I can’t wait to see the pipe in person!

Best regards,

Ryan

The upgrade of Ryan’s Dr. Grabow Omega ‘drugstore pipe’ is an amazing transformation and a grain popping display.  The transition from the finish that clouded the grain has been replaced with a sharp, distinctive cornucopia of grain patterns.  The Wellington stem is a perfect replacement for the Dr. Grabow factory stem.  This Omega upgrade, as with all my restorations, benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks, Ryan!  Thank you for joining me!

Restemming and Restoring a Gepetto 303 Rusticated Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on came to us from an antique shop in Houston, Texas, USA that Jeff visited in 2018. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. I have been postponing restemming any of the pipes for a while now but after restemming that little gourd calabash a couple of days ago I was ready to do a few more. I pulled this one out of the box first and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very craggy rustication that is quite stunning and it has a smooth rim cap and ring  that make me call it a Rhodesian. It also has a smooth band on the shank end. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had been reamed before Jeff purchased it and was pretty clean. The rim top had a coat of lava that covered the majority of the cap. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the rustication. The stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank was clear and readable. It had a J in circle [over] the shape number 303. That is followed by Gepetto [arched over] Italy [over] Hand Made. The J stamp made me immediately think of a connection to Ser Jacopo but I would look into that later in the blog. The next two close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the thick lava coat on the top and you can see the reamed bowl sides on the left rear. It would need to be cleaned up but it was surprisingly clean for the condition of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is clear and readable.I decided to confirm my thinking that the pipe was connected with Ser Jacopo. I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a read on the brand (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-g2.html). Sure enough the Gepetto line is called a second of Ser Jacopo. I did a screen capture of the section on Pipephil on both the Gepetto line and the informative side bar from the Ser Jacopo section that also states that the line is a second. I have included them below.  There were also photos that were included on Pipephil of what this particular pipe looked like when it had left Italy. The rustication around the bowl and shank is very similar though the stain on this one is darker and the grain on the smooth rim cap much more prominent. The pipe originally had an acrylic saddle stem with a silver inlaid Pinnochio on the top of the stem. The stem was long gone when Jeff picked it up so I had some decisions to make about the stem I would use to restem it. I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. The rim top looked better but still needed a lot of work. I went through my can of stems and found an acrylic one that had the right colour combination of browns and golds to work with the finish on the bowl. It was a little too bent but that would not be an issue. There were also tooth marks in the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration. I fit the stem in the shank and took a picture of the pipe. The stem is a little larger in diameter than the shank. I will need to sand it down to match the shank. I will also need to straighten the stem. I took a close up photo of the rim top. You can see the cleanness of the bowl and rim. There is darkening around inner edge of the rim and crown top. You can also see the stem is a little larger in diameter than the shank in the photos below. You can also see the tooth marks in the second and third photos below.I straightened the stem over my heat gun. I put a pipe cleaner in the shank and heated it until the stem was flexible and I was able to straighten it to match the bend in the stem. I took photos of the pipe and stem after the straightening.I set the stem aside and worked on the rim edges and top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the damage to the rim edges and top.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. The crown took on a rich shine. I stained the rim top with a Maple and Cherry stain pen to match the finish on the smooth portions on the bowl.With the repair completed I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   In the process of rubbing the bowl down with Before & After Balm I noticed a hairline crack in the underside of shank that needed to be addressed. I don’t know if it was present or if it cracked when I fitted the new stem. Either way it needed to be repaired. I sanded the smooth area on the shank end down with 220 grit sandpaper in  preparation for the band I wanted to put on it. I found a nice brass band that was grooved to look like a double band. I heated the band and pressed it in place. The band looked very good on the shank. I filled in the tooth marks on the stem with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once it had cured I sanded it down with 220 grit sandpaper. I also sanded the diameter of the stem to match the diameter of the shank. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the acrylic stem 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 restemmed, rusticated Gepetto 303 Rhodesian is a beautiful looking pipe that combines a smooth rim cap and rusticated bowl and shank. The brown stains on the bowl work well to highlight the grain. The polished variegated brown/gold half saddle acrylic stem adds to the mix. I put the finished stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the 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 rusticated pipe is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 57grams/2.05oz. It will soon be added to the Italian Pipe Makers section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

 

 

The Volkswagen Beetle of Pipes


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

I was very flattered by all the attention that the first restoration of my grandfather’s Dunhill received on this blog. Your kind words gave me the encouragement to carry on publishing the stories of my pipe restorations. Indeed, I will be posting restorations of my grandfather’s other pipes in the weeks ahead. Today’s pipe is not from my grandfather, but from eBay. This Brigham Two-Dot Algonquin (254) is a straight-stemmed pot billiard. It is much more modest than my grandfather’s Dunhill, but it is a charming pipe with its own story to tell. As usual, Steve’s advice was invaluable and – also as usual – any compliments on this restoration are for him; any criticisms are for me. I gave this story the title that I did because this pipe reminds me of the old Volkswagen Beetle: solid, hard-working, reliable, practical – but not very pretty. The very first lot of pipes that I purchased on eBay came from Sudbury, Ontario – the nickel capital of the world. This group of pipes had a little bit of everything in it (you will see some others in the coming weeks), but the one thing these pipes had in common was their filth. Perhaps they all sat at the bottom of a nickel mine and accumulated this filth over the years. Who knows? I started with this pipe because it was the least dirty and least blemished of the bunch. I figured this might be a relatively straightforward restoration – and so it was. The pictures you see here do not do justice to the filth. I may have wiped this pipe down a bit before starting, so you will just have to take my word for it. Fortunately, there were no major structural problems with this pipe. There were scratches on the stummel, some lava on the rim, plenty of cake in the bowl, lots of tooth marks on the stem, and an overall sense of fatigue. The pipe just felt lethargic somehow. By the way, I apologize for the lack of variety of photographs on this pipe. It was being restored while my mind was on other things and I did not snap the pictures quite as often as I should have.

Anyway, to work! Naturally, the first steps involved reaming out the pipe. This pipe has quite a wide bowl and it required both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem. I took it down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of both the shank and stem with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and a lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol. Now, I know that sounds more like something you would find in a ladies’ beauty salon, but, in fact, it is a pretty impressive cleaner (more about that perhaps in a future post). I took a BIC lighter and (to quote Steve) ‘painted’ the stem with its flame. This was fairly successful in raising some of the dents. One dent remained, but I dealt with that later. Once this process was done, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and an old toothbrush. My father is a dentist, so I know I have a good place from which to source my dental supplies! Actually, that cleaning with the brush tipped the balance of this pipe from a sorry, Sudbury sojourner to a pipe with character and purpose. I followed that up with a smear of Before & After Restoration Balm. That always makes everything look better – even a Volkswagen Beetle pipe. Perhaps applying some on my ugly mug would help, but I digress… The time had come to deal with this pipe’s biggest problem – a problem that pictures will not convey: the stench. The previous owner had clearly enjoyed a very floral, perfumy aromatic tobacco. How shall I put this delicately? It was not to my taste. It took four (or maybe even five) de-ghosting sessions to rid this pipe of the aromatic fetor. This de-ghosting consisted of thrusting cotton balls in the bowl and the shank, and saturating them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. This causes the tars and dreadful smells to leech out into the cotton. Finally, a relatively clean and fresh-smelling bowl emerged. I went back to the stem and cleaned all of the de-oxidizing goop (technical term) off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly easy to remove. Following in the footsteps of Steve the Master, I used 220, 400, and 600 grit sandpapers to address this issue. Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I filled the remaining tooth dent in the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive, let it fully cure, and then sanded it down to meld seamlessly into the stem. Once complete, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely lustre on the stem. Naturally, I used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad. I was particularly pleased with how nicely the two Brigham dots gleamed after the Micromesh pads. Back to the stummel. The three patches of rustication (on the rim and the outside) needed a little attention. They did not look quite like Brigham rustication would have looked. I took some stain and applied it to the crevasses of the rustication, carefully avoiding the high spots wherever possible. I also applied some Before & After Restoration Balm to help blend everything together. This looked a lot better and restored a real ‘Brigham’ look to the stummel. The Before & After Restoration Balm had really brought out the best of the wood, but the little nicks and scratches that occur over time had removed some of the charm from this pipe. Lazy Me was hoping that I could get away with just buffing the thing and leaving it at that, but Perfectionist Me knew that that was not going to happen. So, I pulled out all nine Micromesh pads again and went from proverbial stem to stern over the stummel to try and coax some beauty out of this Volkswagen Beetle. It worked! Some beauty was found! I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm and Paragon II Wax. I polished it by hand with a microfibre cloth (deliberately avoiding an electric buffer) and voilà! I now have a Brigham pipe of my very own. This Algonquin Two-Dot pot billiard is never going to win a swimsuit competition, but that does not matter. It is a good, solid pipe that does what it is supposed to do. What more can you ask for? The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 6 inches (15.5 cm); height 1¾ inches (4.2 cm); bowl diameter 1½ inches (4 cm); chamber diameter: ⅞ of an inch (2.3 cm). The weight of the pipe is 1⅝ ounces (or 48 grams of mass).

Thank you very much for reading and, once again, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Previous Repairs Can Wreak Havoc in a Restoration – Dunhill Shell Briar R F/T 1962 Pot


Blog by Steve Laug

This Dunhill came to us in the same lot of pipes as the 1922 Dunhill Bruyere Reading Pipe and the BBB Calabash Reading Pipe that I have already restored and written blogs on. It was a great looking blast on this pipe that caught our attention. The silver band on the shank was definitely an aftermarket addition to repair a cracked shank. It was made out of Sterling Silver so that was not a big deal to us when we purchased the lot. It was a filthy pipe with a thick cake in the bowl and a heavy lava overflow on the rim top. The stem was oxidized, calcified and had deep tooth marks on both sides next to the button. It is hard to see until the close up photos but the shank was seriously crack about 1/8 of an inch ahead of the band on the underside of the shank and from the shank end you could see two large crack at 3 and 9 o’clock. Jeff took photos of the pipe as it stood when we received it.  He took photos of the bowl and rim to give a picture of the depth of the cake and lava on the rim top. You can also see the nicks around the outer edge of the rim. Even the stem was pretty normal fare – tooth marks with a small hole in the underside and heavy wear and tear on the rest of the stem. Everything was pretty common in terms of the restorations that we work on at least we thought so at this point! He took some photos of the sides of the bowl to show the beautiful (and filthy), rugged sandblast around the bowl. It really was a magnificent looking bowl. It took a few photos to try to capture the stamping on the underside of the shank. There are deep scratches in the smooth portion of the shank and heel of the bowl. On the heel it is stamped R F/T. That is followed by Dunhill [over] Shell Briar followed by Made In [over] England with a 2 following the D in England. You can also see the repaired cracked shank in the photos below. The silver band is stamped Sterling Silver on the underside. If we had stopped here a lot of pain could have been avoided! If we just left is dirty and did a cursory clean up and just smoked it we could have avoided a multitude of issues. But that is not the way we work. Jeff attacked the cleanup by trying to take the pipe apart. The stem was stuck in the shank. He tried heat, cold and even pouring alcohol down the shank to try and loosen what we assumed was the grime and grit that held the stem firmly in the shank. Nothing worked. He even heated the band area to try to loosen the stem from the shank but nothing work. Finally after a combination of all of the above he felt what he thought was a bit of give in the stem and gave it a very careful twist…. Here is where all went horribly wrong. Remember that crack in the shank shown in the above photos? That is what gave and the shank came off in his hand! Now what to do. We talked and he was sick with what had happened but there was nothing to be done. And do you know what the worst part was? The stem was still stuck! He went back through all of the methods we all use to loosen a stem and finally it came free! BUT the band had been epoxied on the shank and it was not removable!

It was in this state that the pipe came to me in a bag. Now it was my turn to try to see if I could loosen the band. I took the broken shank and band and filled up a small jar with enough acetone to cover the band and let the piece soak for two days in the bath. I replenished the acetone as it evaporated. The incredible thing for me was that this had absolutely no effect on the band and briar. It was permanently bonded! Time to come up with a new plan of attack.I let the broken shank sit on my desk in pieces for several days – probably about a week while I worked on other pipes. Finally after recently repairing the broken shank on the Butz-Choquin for Randy (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/01/16/a-badly-broken-butz-choquin-pipe-makes-its-way-back-to-me-for-repair-and-restoration/) I had an idea for fixing this one. Give that blog a read if you want to know the difference.

In this case there was already a band and the break was further down the shank making it a bit more problematic to address. I cut a short piece of Delrin that would extend far enough into the bowl side of the broken shank to provide some stability and into the shank end to tie it together. I decided to leave the mortise the depth it was to add stability to the shank rather than drill it out and extend the tube in further. I would need to drill out the Delrin a bit and reduce the diameter of the tenon to fit inside the tube I the shank. It just might work and was certainly worth a try. I roughened up the Delrin with a sanding drum on the Dremel to provide a rough surface of the glue to bind to in the shank.I fit the Delrin piece in the bowl end of the broken shank to make sure it fit. I then painted the surface of the Delrin with super glue and pressed into the banded shank end. I coated the briar ends with an all purpose glue and joined the pieces together. I clamped them until the glue set. Once it had I filled in the gaps in the crack with clear CA glue and set it aside to cure. I used a corner of 220 sandpaper to carefully smooth out the glue on the crack repair. I was able to make it smooth and not ruin the sandblast! That alone was an accomplishment. The repair obscured the 2 on the date stamp. It is still present but now blurred.

I used a brass bristle wire brush to clean up a bit more of the sandblast on the rim top and then used a combination of Cherry and Mahogany stain pens to restain the rim edges and the repaired area of the shank and blend it into the rest of the bowl. With the repair completed and the briar restained I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.     Now it was time to deal with the fit of the stem in the newly lined shank! I had a couple of options here. I could either drill out the tube and open the shank up a bit more or I could reduce the diameter of the tenon and make it fit that way. Since the shank was already fragile and twice repaired I opted for reducing the diameter of the tenon. I took it down with a Dremel and sanding drum until it was a close fit in the shank. I worked on it with 220 grit sandpaper to get it even closer. Once I had the tenon end in I could see that things were slightly off. So instead of continuing to reduce the diameter of the tenon I used a needle file to even out the inside of the shank and get as close to an equal fit on all sides of the tube. That was more of a job that I make it sound and actually took a fair bit of time.Once I had a good fit to the shank I put the stem and bowl together and took some photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I still needed to work on the fit of the stem to the shank and alignment and gaps but the tenon fit well. I also need to work on repairing the tooth marks. You will see in the last photo of the underside of the stem that I had already started the process.   With the fit of the stem taken care of I worked on the repairs necessary to make it fully functional. I took a bit of excess stem material off the flattened bottom of the stem at the shank to make the fit seamless. I also filled in the tooth marks and pin prick with black super glue and set the stem aside to cure.  Once the repairs cured I smoothed them out with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad until they blended in well with the surrounding vulcanite. I used a small flat needle file to clean up the sharp edge of the button but forgot to take photos of that! Once the repair was smoothed out I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I finished by polishing the stem with Before & After Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine and gave the stem a final wipe down with Obsidian Oil.    I am really happy to be finished with the rescue of this beautifully grained sandblast 1962 Dunhill Shell Briar R Pot. The grain is quite stunning and the blast is rugged. The repair to the broken shank while not a total thing of beauty worked very well and makes the pipe usable once again. The permanently affixed Sterling Silver band is useful reinforcement externally for the tube in the shank. The refit stem came out looking very good. The pipe should be a good smoking pipe and outlast all of us as it moves through the hands of the pipe men and women who take on the trust. The dimensions of this pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.48 ounces/41 grams. Because of the repairs to the pipe I will soon be adding it to the rebornpipes store in the British Pipe Makers section at a price that is significantly lower than it would have been had it not been repaired.   It might be a chance for one of you to add it to your collection for a good price. Thanks for following the work on this pipe in the blog.

 

A Badly Broken Butz-Choquin Pipe makes its way back to me for Repair and Restoration


Blog by Steve Laug

Back in August of 2018 I worked through the pipes in the estate of George Koch and one of them was an interesting Butz-Choquin Simour Pot that had a piece of copper inlaid into the back of the bowl on the left side. The stamping on the left side of the shank read Butz-Choquin and underneath it is a bit more faint but looks to read Simour. On the right side it was stamped St. Claude over France and a shape number 1507 beneath that. I was a great looking pipe when I finished. Here is the link to the blog on the pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/08/16/bringing-a-butz-choquin-simour-1507-back-to-life/). I have included a photo of the pipe when I finished it and when it was sold to a fellow named Randy in North Carolina.Randy loved the pipe and thoroughly enjoyed smoking it. Here is where the story shifts to the journey of the pipe back to Canada.

I received an email from Randy early in December about the pipe he had purchased. It was in need of a repair. I include his email below.

Steve, I bought a pipe from you about a year ago. I think l paid around $60 for it. I dropped it off my deck and broke the shank. Is that something that can normally be fixed and would it be worth it when comparing the original cost vs whatever your repair is. generally speaking? I know you haven’t seen the it, just trying to get a general idea if you think it might be worth the expense.

I had Randy send me some photos of the pipe which due to computer issues on my old computer I know longer have but it was broken at the shank with a nasty break. We talked a bit back and forth by email and after the holidays he put it in the mail to me. I received it on Thursday late in the day and opened the package to see it up close and personal. The pipe was obviously a favourite of Randy’s and had been well smoked. The bowl had a thick cake and I needed to be able to see what was happening where the airway entered the bowl. I reamed it back with a PipNet pipe reamed so I could see it clearly. The shank had a thick build up of tars in the airway that made it hard to know what was happening with the airway from the break to bowl. I cleaned out the airway with a pick, knife and a lot of pipe cleaners and alcohol until was clean.I scrubbed down the externals of the bowl and the cracked shank area with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the grime so that  I could work on the fit of the shank pieces together. The next photos show the cleaned bowl and shank pieces. It was a large chunk of briar that had broken off. I studied it for a while trying to figure out how I was going to repair it for him. Finally I figured out a plan. I would cut a piece of Delrin tubing and use it on the inside of the shank to provide a base to fuse the two parts together. The next photo shows the piece of Delrin. I needed to shorten the piece but it fit nicely in the shank and the broken piece.I roughed up the surface of the Delrin tube and glued it in the bowl half of the broken shank with black CA glue. I let it cure for a short period until the tube was solidly anchored in the bowl end.Once the tube was solidly in place. I gave the other end of the tube a coat of the black super glue and also coated the ends of the crack with clear super glue. The clear dries faster and that is what I wanted when I pressed the two halves together. I held them together until the glue cured and when it was finished I took the following photos. The depth of the crack for the shank end and the feather like rustications on the shank complicated the work a bit for me. I filled them in with clear CA glue so that the fit of the band would be solid. I filled in the crack with briar dust and clear CA glue until the surface of the crack was even with the surrounding briar on the shank.I sanded the shank repairs smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to prepare it for fitting the nickel band on the shank. My thinking was that the internal Delrin tube would stabilize the shank and the band on the outside would bind it together. Once it was cleaned off I knew I would need to do a bit more filling with briar dust but it was definitely getting there.   I fit the band on the end of the shank. It was snug so I heated the band with a lighter flame and pressed it onto the shank by pushing the shank end down on a piece of padding on my desk top. I pressed into place so that the edge of the band was at the edge of the shank. It was a tight fit and held the pieces of the repair in place from the outside. I sanded the repaired area above the band with a folded piece of sandpaper and then with micromesh sanding pads until it was smooth. I cleaned off the rim top with a pen knife to scrape away the lava build up. I polished it with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I cleaned up the beveled edge and the top until it was smooth. I restained the rim top and the shank repair with a Cherry and Walnut stain pen to match the rest of the pipe.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips to clean, enrich and enliven the briar. I let it sit on the briar for 15 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I used a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to take some of the vulcanite off of the tenon to refit it to the shank of the pipe. Once a shank has been banded it compresses the diameter of the shank enough that the original tenon was too large to fit in the mortise. I slightly reduced it and the fit was perfect. I put it in place in the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. With the stem done it was time to put the pipe back together. From where it was when it arrived to where it is now is a long hard push and it is definitely a different looking pipe. While it is not flawless it should now give Randy a good smoking pipe that looks very good. The finish and even the band looks really quite good with the rest of the pipe. The finish hides the repair quite a bit and it is solid. I will send it back to Randy later this week. I am looking forward to what he thinks of the restoration. Thanks for walking through this with me.

Working on a Trypis Bent Billiard with a Saddle Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

I finished the Brigham pipes and have one more Canadian Made pipe to work on. This one is a partially rusticated bent Billiard, stamped on a smooth panel on the left side of the shank with that reads Made in Canada next to the bowl and that is followed by Trypis. There is no shape number stamped on the pipe. There was a thick cake in the bowl with remnants of tobacco stuck on the walls. There was a lava overflow on the rim. The smooth rim top and edges appear to have some damage on the right side. It looks like the pipe had been dropped and the outer edge of the bowl was out of round. The smooth finish looks great but is dull with grime ground into the surface. The rustication is rugged and unique to Trypis pipes and while similar to Brigham Pipes it is uniquely his design. There was a beautiful pipe underneath all of the buildup of years of use. The thin saddle stem was oxidized and calcified toward the end with some tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work on it. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl. The smooth rim top showed some darkening and damage as did the inner and outer edges of the bowl. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter, scratching and oxidation on the stem surface and wear on the edges of the button.   Jeff took a photo of the side and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. You can see the well done and rugged rustication that I have seen on other Trypis pipes. Even under the dirt and debris of the years it looked very good. You can see the damage on the outer edge of the rim on the right side in the first photo below. The stamping is clear and readable as noted above. The flow of the stem is well done but there is no identifying marks on the stem side.I turned to Pipephil and looked up the brand for a quick summary of the detail on the brand (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-t8.html). I have included a photo of Phillip Trypis and a short summary of what was written in the side bar of the section. I quote in full below.

Phillip Trypis first worked for Brigham as production manager. He continued to supply the Canadian brand when he was established on his own with his own Trypis label. Phillip Trypis had a pipe shop in Toronto.

I then turned to Pipedia for more information (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Trypis_Pipes). There was a great quote from Stefan Seles. I have included that in full below.

“Phillip Trypis has been a pipe maker in Canada for well over 40 years. Originally from Greece, his experience ranges from cutting burls in a briar mill to making literally thousands of pipes out of his home in the hamlet of Oakwood, Ontario. Brigham pipes benefited from Phillip’s skills where he worked for a number of years. There he directed the pipe production of the company when it was producing over 50,000 a year. Even though he left to start his own pipe shop, he still imported briar and turned tens of thousands of bowls for Brigham not to mention produce a large number of his own branded pipes.

Just over a year ago, Phillip had a serious fall and although he is back making pipes, he is unable to travel around to sell them as he once did. He has asked me to help him in that effort.

The pipes listed below are some of his best work made from decades old MF and R ebuchauns as well as some recently purchased Italian plateau. The prices are excellent, especially given the age and quality of the briar used. In fact, I would venture to say that these pipes have no peers, especially below the $100.00 price. You must be the judge.

Many of the styles are traditional in form although Phillip has a number of freehand styles that are both familiar and off the beaten path. The vast majority of the higher priced pipes are very large pieces to be sure.”

With the information from the two sites I had the background on the pipe maker that I really enjoy to know when working on the pipe. This was a beauty and though I did not have any idea of when it was made it was a beauty. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

I am really happy to have Jeff’s help on cleaning up the pipes that we pick up along the way. He cleaned this filthy pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. 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 much better and the great rustication on the bowl and shank had greatly improved. The rim top still was a mess. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. He scrubbed it with Soft Scrub All Purpose Cleaner to remove the majority of the oxidation. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour I was amazed it looked so good. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The rim top had a large chip out of the right outer edge that affected the look of the bowl. I would need to work on that edge of the bowl to bring it back to round. I took close up photos of the stem to show the condition of the surface and button. I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see that it is stamped as noted above. It is faint but readable.  I took the pipe apart and took a photo of the pipe. It is a good looking pipe and has some great looking rustication on the bowl and shank. I decided to start my restoration work on this one by dealing with the damaged rim top and edges. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening and damage. I filled in the damaged right outer edge of the rim with briar dust and clear super glue to bring it back to round. I topped the bowl once again to smooth out the repair and blend it into the rim top of the bowl. It looked a lot better than when I started.    I polished the smooth rim top and sides of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth.   I stained the rim top with a combination of Cherry and Walnut stain pens. With that combination I was able to match the colour on the rest of the bowl.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush on the rustication to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process.    With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the vulcanite with the flame of a lighter to lift the tooth marks. While some of them came out nicely there were several against the edge of the button that would not life. I filled them in with clear super glue. Once the repairs cured I used a file to flatten them out and then sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.       I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I am excited to finish this Trypis Bent Billiard as it is the last of Canadian Made pipes that I had in my to do box. It turned out to be a nice looking Bent Billiard. It has a combined finish with a smooth rim top and sides with a deep rustication on the front and back of the bowl and around the shank. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through on the rim top, smooth panels and the rustication on the rest of the bowl and shank. Added to that the polished black vulcanite saddle stem was beautiful. This semi-rusticated Bent Billiard is nice looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 37grams/1.31ounces. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.