Tag Archives: Cumberland stem

Pipe Gods Smiled And I Got Not One But Three Les Wood Pipes… Restoring a Les Wood Poker

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Les Wood pipes are on every collector’s either wish list or in personal collection and I am no exception, though I was in the former category up until now. These pipes are as rare as hen’s teeth and very rarely make an appearance on the estate pipe market and whenever they do, the stratospheric prices made them beyond my reach. After waiting for years on end, I came across a gentleman desirous of parting with his Les Wood pipes collection. We discussed the price and I discussed with Abha, my wife, discussed some more with the gentleman, again discussed a lot more with my wife and thereafter again discussed some with the gentleman and after all these discussions, three Les Wood pipes made their way from the European Union to India.

The first of the three Les Wood pipes that I decided to work on is a rusticated large, stout classic poker with a beautiful Cumberland stem. The large rusticated chunky stummel feels great in the hand and given its size, it is definitely not a light weight. The pipe is stamped on the smooth surface of the foot of the stummel as “FERNDOWN” in a slight arc over “BARK” over “HAND MADE IN” over “ENGLAND” over “LES WOOD”. Running oblique to the FERNDOWN BARK on the left side are three stars one below the other. The Sterling silver band bears the stamp “L & JS” in a rectangular cartouche over “.925”. The Cumberland stem is stamped on the left side as “L J S”I had read about Leslie John Wood sometime back when I read an article on English pipes and pipe carvers. I remembered that he worked for Dunhill’s as a silversmith. Just to refresh my memory, I visited Reborn Pipes and sure enough, Steve had indeed worked on and researched Les Wood. It’s very comprehensive and is recommended as a read. Here is the link to the write up.


From the article, I know I am working on a ‘BARK’ grade pipe (ca. 90%, rusticated, dark brown and black) in size 3 from Les Wood.

Initial Visual Inspection
The pipe is actually in quite a good condition. The chamber has a very thin layer of cake that is even all around and is rock hard. The stummel surface feels solid to the touch and thus, I don’t anticipate any serious issues with the chamber walls. The rim top surface is smooth and devoid of any cake build up or darkening over the surface. The rim edges are in pretty good condition too. The stummel finish has faded more towards the foot of the stummel and has a lot of dirt and grime ground into the rusticated finish. This makes the stummel appear dull, lifeless and lackluster. The silver band at the shank end is deeply oxidized and appears blackened. The Cumberland stem is deeply oxidized with a couple of minor tooth indentations in the bite zone. Here are a few pictures of the pipe as it sits on my worktable. It’s a nice solid pipe with a robust construction yet elegant in its huge size and shape. This one will take your breath away once it is restored, I think.

Detailed Inspection
There is a thin layer of cake in the chamber that is even all around. The cake is hard and compact and this makes me believe that it has been regularly reamed to maintain the correct cake thickness in the chamber. The condition of the chamber walls can be ascertained only once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar; however, I do not foresee any major issues with the chamber walls. The smooth rim top has no dents and dings and overflowing lava. The condition of the inner rim edge will be known once the complete cake has been removed and the surface thoroughly cleaned. The chamber does have smells of old tobaccos and would need to be addressed.The rustication on the stummel surface are very fine and shallow. It is a very uniquely rusticated stummel for sure. The stain has faded from the lower half of the bowl and lower surface of the shank. The surface looks tired and lifeless and would benefit from a nice thorough TLC routine. The shank is quite clean and has no signs of accumulated old oils and gunk. The draw is nice and smooth. The Cumberland stem is deeply oxidized with minor tooth chatter in the bite zone on either surface. The horizontal slot opening is clean and the tenon shows accumulation of old dried oils and gunk. The airflow through the stem is smooth and easy. That my detailed appreciation of the condition of this pipe was completely off the mark became amply evident as I went through the process of refurbishing this pipe.

The Process
I started the process of refurbishing this pipe with internal cleaning of the stem and this is where my initial appreciation of the stem condition faulted. Using thin shank brushes and anti-oil dish washing soap, I cleaned the stem airway. I have modified this process of cleaning the stem airway by doing away with pipe cleaners and alcohol as it saves me a ton of pipe cleaners, which is a precious commodity for me here in India. To say that the airway was filthy, would be an understatement as is evidenced by the following pictures. The dark smelly and sticky goo that was being dislodged with each passing of the shank brush was never-ending. However, I persevered with my efforts till only white clean foam came out of the stem airway, indicating that the airway was nice and clean. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the airway to dry it out and make sure that there are no traces of soap and gunk hidden in the airway.With the stem internals now clean, I moved to external cleaning of the stem surface by dunking the stem into “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface making it’s further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. I usually dunk stems of 5-7 pipes that are in-line for restoration and the FERNDOWN BARK is marked in red arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight for the solution to do its work.While the stem was set aside to soak in the deoxidizer solution, I moved on to removing the thin (????) layer of cake from the chamber walls. Boy was I wrong in my assessment of thin layer and how! I started the reaming process with head size 2 of the PipNet reamer blade and progressed through head sizes 3 and 4. The blades kept cutting through the layers of cake and there seemed no end to it. Finally, I resorted to using my Kleen Reem pipe tool extended to its max width to divest the chamber walls of its entire carbon layer. The chamber is huge ! I used my fabricated knife to remove cake from areas inaccessible to the reamer blades and completed the process of removing the cake by sanding the walls smooth with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper. I wiped the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with alcohol to clean the residual carbon dust. The chamber walls are solid and the minor thin veins that are visible over the walls are not heat fissures but an ultra thin layer of carbon which will be addressed once the cake is loosened up after a salt and alcohol bath, or at least that is what I hope for. Next, I cleaned the mortise by scraping out all the dried oils and tars from the walls. My assessment of the mortise being clean was proved wrong by the amount of crud that was scraped out. The icing on the cake was when I tried to clean the airway with a folded pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol and it just wouldn’t pass through. I realized that the airway was clogged to some extent. Using the drill bit attachment from the Kleen Reem pipe tool, I cleaned out the accumulated oils and tars from the airway and ran a folded bristled pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol through the airway. I checked the draw and if earlier I felt the draw was smooth and open, after the cleaning, it was surreal! The draw was something I had not experienced earlier. The air literally gushed through the airway. This one is a sure fire excellent smoker.Continuing with the internal cleaning of the chamber and shank, I subjected it to a salt and alcohol bath. I used cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the years. I drew out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; inserted it into the mortise and through the draught hole and further into the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the rim inner edge and soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils/ tars from the chamber and mortise and loosened out any residual cake and tar build up, fulfilling its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. Using my fabricated tool, I scraped out the entire loosed gunk from the mortise and further cleaned it with alcohol and q-tips. I also scraped the moist cake from the chamber using my knife and sanding it smooth with 180 grit sandpaper. The chamber now smelled clean and fresh and the tiny veins observed in the chamber were eliminated. I set the stummel to dry out naturally. I cleaned the external surface of the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a hard bristled toothbrush. I cleaned the smooth rim top surface with the soap and Scotch Brite pad. I thoroughly cleaned the mortise with shank brush and anti-oil dish washing soap. I polished the smooth rim top surface by dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads.  Next, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” into the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works it’s magic and the briar now had a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful rustication patterns on full display. I have been using this balm ever since I embarked on this journey and it is this part of restoration that I always look forward to. I further buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush. This pipe really oozes of a very high quality, in fact one of the best that I have come across. Now that the stummel refurbishing was nearly done and also the stem had now been soaking for more than 24 hours, I removed the stem from the solution. I first scrubbed the stem surface with a Scotch Brite pad, always being mindful of the stem logo on the left side. I followed this scrubbing with a nice cleaning of the surface using a 0000 grade steel wool. I rinsed the stem under running water to rid the stem of the thick solution. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners to remove the deoxidizer solution from the airway. The beauty of a Cumberland stem with swirls of red and black can now be appreciated once the heavy oxidation has been eliminated.The above cleaning also gave a clearer picture of the tooth chatter on either surface in the bite zone. This tooth chatter was very minor and would be easily addressed during the sanding process using various grit sandpapers followed by micromesh pads. I dry sanded the entire stem with 320, 400, 600 and 800 grit sand papers followed by wet sanding using 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit sand papers. This progressive use of higher grit sandpapers helps to, firstly,  reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive ones, secondly, completely eliminate the oxidation and imparting a clean shine to the stem surface. Thirdly, this also helped to even out the minor tooth chatter from the bite zone. I applied a little EVO and set the stem aside for a few minutes. This stem, as the rest of the pipe, is a real beauty.I went through the 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads to dry sand the stem. The stem now has a nice deep shine with the swirls coming to life as they dance around the entire stem surface. I rubbed a small quantity of EVO and set the stem aside for the oil to hydrate the stem surface. This is a beautiful stem and I cannot refrain from constant admiration of it. Have a look for yourself….I painted the stem logo L J S using a Gold paint glitter pen and wiped off the excess paint. The stem logo is now nice and prominently visible. I completed this project by hand polishing the stummel with Halcyon II wax. I rubbed this polish deep into the rustication and after a couple of minutes, vigorously hand buffed the stummel with a microfiber cloth to a deep shine. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond compound and subsequently with carnauba wax using my hand held rotary tool. This is a gorgeous looking pipe and will be an integral part of my collection of contemporary Pipe Carvers. I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up and praying for the health and safety of you and your loved ones.

New Life for a 1999 Dunhill Chestnut 5134 Group 5 Brandy

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us in a group of pipes that we purchased from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. It is a Dunhill Chestnut Straight Brandy that was very dirty. It is stamped both sides of the shank. On the left side it is stamped with the shape number 5134 followed by Dunhill in an oval. On the right side it is stamped Chestnut [over] Made in England followed by the number 39. Interpreting that stamp it is as follows: The 5134 is the shape for a straight Brandy with a triangular shaped shank. The Dunhill Chestnut is the finish noted on the shank. The 39 following the D of England gives the date the pipe was made and identifies it as 1999. The stamping is clear and readable. The age of the pipe and the oils in the finish has given the pipe a rich reddish brown finish. There is also some amazing grain that the shape follows well. The finish was dirty with dust ground into the surface of the bowl and shank. There also appeared to a repair on top outer edge at the back of the bowl. There was a thick cake in the bowl and tobacco debris stuck to the walls of the bowl. The rim top showed darkening and some lava in on the surface and inner edge of the bowl. The Cumberland taper stem was oxidized and calcified. It had damage to the button surface on the top side where it was missing a chunk. There were also some repair marks ahead of the button on both sides where the repair person had used black CA to patch the tooth marks.  Jeff took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before he started working on it.He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the thickness of the cake and the darkening and lava overflow on the rim top. The photos of the stem show the oxidation, calcification and the repairs to both sides of the stem. You can also see the large chunk missing from the topside of the button edge. The stem had been previously repaired rather poorly using large rough black super glue patches.  The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the great grain on the pipe. It is a beauty under the grime and dust.   The stamping on the sides of the shank is shown in the photos below. It looks very good and readable. It reads as noted and explained above. The third photo shows the white spot on the stem.     I turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Root Briar Pipes to get a bit of background on the Dunhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:

Chestnut – A rich, deep walnut colour complemented by the Cumberland mouthpiece – it was introduced in 1983 to commemorate the closing of the Cumberland Road warehouse. The same stain and stem material as used on the Cumberland, but on a smooth bowl. Like the Bruyere, the finish is smooth to the feel and will lighten in time to show off the grain, which is usually cross-grain top and bottom with birds-eye on the sides of the bowl. Irrespective of shape, size or finish, all Dunhill pipes are of one quality only – the finest.

Note: Always had the Cumberland mouthpieces fitted. Sometimes, a black mouthpiece it is possible, however, that this was a special request or that it was a replacement mouthpiece…

The shape chart below delineates the finish and the date that it was introduced on the market and how long it was made. The Chestnut came out in 1982 and continues to be made until the present.I turned to Pipephil’s dating guide to show how I arrived at the date of manufacture for this pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). I am including the chart that is provided there for the dating a pipe. I have drawn a red box around the section. Since the pipe I am working on has a 2 it points to the 1960+ suffix line on the chart below.I turned to Pipedia where there was a shape chart that could be used to interpret the 4 digit shape numbers like the one on this particular pipe. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Shape_Chart#:~:text=The%20White%20Spot%20Chart%20%20%20Digit%201%3A,%2012%3A%20Chimney%20%208%20more%20rows%20). I have included the chart below.I now knew that I was working on a Chestnut that came out in 1999. The shape number is 5134. The first number (5) was the size of the pipe which in this case is a Group 5. The second digit (1) is the mouthpiece shape which in this case was a Standard or taper shaped stem. The third (3) and fourth (4) number identify the shape of the pipe. This is 34 which is the number for a Brandy shaped pipe.

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. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the darkening on the rim top on the back of the bowl. It is roughened and chipped on the front and back side of the rim. The taper stem came out looking quite good other than the damage on the button and the black CA repairs on the top and underside of the stem.   I took photos of the sides of the shank to show the stamping. It is clear and readable as noted above.    I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe.I decided to start the restoration on this one by working on the damage on the inner edge of the bowl. It had darkening and some damage to the edge. There were burn and knife marks on the edge from a previous pipeman. I worked it over with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the edge a light bevel and remove and minimize the damage on the edge. When I finished with it, the bowl and the rim top looked much better.   I polished the rim top and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I sanded and smoothed out the repair that had been done to the top outer edge of the rim on the back of the bowl at the same time. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The briar began to take on a shine.  I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. 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.   With the bowl finished and cleaned up it was time to tackle the stem mess. I want to see if I could minimize the repair marks from the previous repair and also rebuild the button. Since it was Cumberland this was going to be a bit tricky.  I took photos of the stem before I started and marked the issues on it with blue arrows. The #1 is the chip out of the top edge of the button. The #2 and #3 are the tooth marks fills that were done with a large amount of black super glue. I would have used a clear CA glue to repair these and let the underlying Cumberland colours show through. However now I had to figure out a way to minimize them.  I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and inserted it in the airway. I rebuilt the button area with black Loctite 380. It is black but it is a small spot so I am hoping to be able to blend it in well with the rest of the Cumberland.  I removed the pipe cleaner once the repair had set and took a photo of the stem at this point. I used a rasp and small file to shape the button and cut the inner edge. I also flattened out the area of the previous repair to reduce it. There was also a dip in the mouthpiece on that side near that button that was a shallow trough so I cleaned up the taper to smooth out the transition with the files. I smoothed out the file marks and repairs and reshaped the button edge with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. Still lots of work to do but the shape is correct and the repair is not too bad. I still need to rework the tooth mark repairs on the top and underside some more.   I cleaned up the repair areas and used a black and a red Sharpie Pen to match the striations of the Cumberland. I let that cure and then put a light coat of clean CA glue on top of the areas to keep the blend in place. Once that cured I lightly sanded it with a 1500 grit micromesh pad. The result can be seen in the photos below.   Now it was time to polish the repairs. I polished the Cumberland 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 Dunhill Chestnut 5134 Brandy from 1999 is a beautiful looking piece of briar that has a shape that follows grain. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking even better after the cleanup. The Chestnut is a Dunhill that utilized a Walnut stain and a Cumberland taper stem. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition following the restoration. The brown stain on the bowl works well to highlight the grain. The polished Cumberland taper stem adds to the mix. With the dust gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the repaired stem back 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 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 finished Chestnut 5134 Brandy 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: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 47grams/1.66oz. 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.

Reparing a Cumberland Stem on a Kaywoodie Regent Bulldog 98B

Blog by Greg Wolford

I’ve been hoping to add a Kaywoodie Regent to my collection for some time now. A month or so ago we were out-of-town on vacation when I happened upon one in an antique store. There were actually several pipes in this vendor’s case, most of which I wasn’t interested in. Other than the Regent, there were also two other Kaywoodies I was interested in: a Relief Grain and an extra long Canadian. They all looked to have pretty good bones in the dark little store so I made them mine.

When  I got them back to where we were staying I eagerly opened them up to see what I had. I found that they were a lot dirtier and caked up than I thought. I also now got a really good look at the damage to the Regent’s stem; this was going to take some trail and error I knew.

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When I got home I took some better photos, showing the damage to the stem. There were deep teeth marks on the top and bottom of the stem and the edge of the side where the clover logo is was almost gone completely. This was going to take a lot of time and some research to get it even close to decent again I now realized.

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My first step was to try some experiments on a Medico VFQ. Although I ended up with a good looking and smoking pipe, the experiments were somewhat in vain: the stems on the VFQ turned out to be nylon. So I now turned to some fellow restorers on the PSU Forum for hints. tips and ideas – and they really came through with many ideas and several new articles posted by Joyal. Some of the best advice for this project come from JoeMan: the idea of using activated charcoal powder with Gorilla brand super glue.

This project took days to complete do to all the patching a rebuilding of the stem. So, I didn’t do a great job documenting it all with photos and because of the extended time frame of the project I may miss a step or two in this article; I apologize in advance for these things.

The fist thing I did (after thoroughly cleaning the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol) was try to  raise the dents as much as I could with heat from a candle; there was little success here.

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Now I began the filling and shaping process. This took many forms and layers: I used clear super glue, both “regular” and gel, mixing in some of the StewMac black glue at times, and also Gorilla brand super glue both with and without charcoal powder mixed into it. one of the challenges was to add strength and black-color in some places while not covering up too much of the red in the Cumberland stem. Another challenge was to build up that chewed up side so the end of the stem would have the proper shape again.

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The StewMac glue was too thin and took so long to dry that it wasn’t much help to me on this project. The Gorilla glue, both “plain” and with the charcoal powder mixed in, was a big help; it is thicker and dries quite fast, especially when the powder is mixed in.

Another thing that added time was the way I went about this repair. There were multiple layers needed, as well as different thicknesses, so I would apply a patch, let it cure, and then shape it as I needed, and then start the whole process over again. I did this many times to get an acceptable result. This photo is after almost all of the layering and shaping was done:

IMG_9730I used needle files and a vulcrylic file for most of the shaping. I also used 220 grit sandpaper. After I had the final shape I was happy with I wet sanded with 320/400/600 and then micro mesh through 12000 grit; after 600 and every few grits thereafter I also polished the stem with Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0,which helps me see if I’ve missed anything along the way. The next four images are before micro mesh and after:



As you can see, this stem came out pretty nicely and is more than useable now. Then lines came out well, to my eye, and the rebuilding and patching blended rather nicely.

I didn’t do a lot to the stummel; the nomenclature is readable but very weak. There are some small “pocket” marks but I think they give the pipe an air of character so I basically left the stummel as I found it, sans, the thick cake, mess of tars and oils in the shank, and the buildup on the rim. The rim did require a very light topping and a round or two with the medium touch up marker to give it a head start on matching the patina on this rest of the wood. I only very lightly buffed the pipe with white diamond and carnauba wax and ending with a soft clean buff and hand polish with a micro fabric cloth.

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I just noticed there is a bit of wax residue that I missed in the photos. Oh well, that’s easy enough to take care of after while ….

I’m very happy with how this project came out. It will soon find its way, I think, onto my rack where I can hopefully enjoy it for many years – unless my wife learns of its collectors appeal and potential value, then I might be in trouble!