Tag Archives: Custombilt Look alikes

Custom Made Billiard Back into Service


The next pipe in the lot that I refurbished was the top pipe in the centre column in the photo below. It was a Custom Bilt like billiard. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Custom Made and on the right side of the shank Imported Briar. That stamping tells me that it is an American Made Pipe. I cannot find any information on the stamping on the internet but will continue to look and see what I can find.

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Custombilt The pipe was dirty. The bowl was badly caked – meaning that the cake was very crumbly and uneven. The bowl was out of round as can be seen in the photo below. I would need to ream it out completely to reshape the bowl. The finish was dirty in all of the worm trail carving that is found in these old rustic pipes. It looks a lot like a Mincer Custombilt but I am not sure. The rim surface is tarry with build up and the front inner edge of the bowl is burned. The shank looks good in these photos but there is a divot out of the briar on the left side where it will meet the stem. It did not have a stem when I picked it up on Ebay. I will need to make some decisions about what to do with the new stem and the match at the shank.

I went through my box of stems to find one that would fit the shank with little adjustment. I had just the stem there. The fit would be great as it was the same diameter as the shank. The stem was oxidized and dirty inside but there were no tooth marks. There was also a calcification on the stem near the button that would have to be dealt with when I got the stem fit to the shank. The next five photos show the “new” stem. I had to hand sand the tenon to get it to fit snugly in the mortise. The third photo below shows the sanded tenon. I used emery paper to sand the tenon back until it fit in the shank. The fourth and fifth pictures show the fit of the stem to the shank. The divot is visible in the fourth photo. It is mid shank on the left side of the pipe. No amount of fitting the stem would make that disappear. I could sand down the shank at that point to make a cleaner fit but I was not sure that is what I wanted to do. To do the sanding would change the chunky appearance of the pipe. So I decided not to sand the shank. I went on and cleaned the inside of the pipe before I made the final decision on the shank.

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While I was prepping to ream the bowl I took out a nickel band to see what it would look like on the shank. I liked the overall look. I left it on the shank while I reamed the bowl. I used a PipNet reamer – a T handle with various cutting heads to ream the bowl. I started with the one that fit the easiest and then worked up to the third head which was the same diameter as the bowl. I reamed it back to bare wood (Photos 1 and 2). I then heated the band with the heat gun and pressed on the shank to give me a smooth transition between the stem and the shank (Photos 3 and 4).

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I worked on the inner rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the top of the bowl with the same sandpaper and the fine grit sanding sponge to remove the build up on the rim (Photos 1 and 2). The third photo below shows the inner edge of the rim after the sanding with the 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to get the bowl close to round. I also used the sanding drum on the Dremel to even things out so the third photo shows the finished repair to the inner rim edge.

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I wiped the exterior of the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads. I wanted to clean out the buildup in the crevices of the trails on the bowl. The dirt and finish that came off is visible in the two photos below. Two obvious fills also showed up in the bowl. These would need to be taken care of to hide them under the new stain once I was finished.

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With the finish removed it was time to clean out the shank and airway of the pipe. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and also the drill bit from the KleenReem Pipe reamer to remove the tars and oils that had built up in the shank. I probably could have used a retort but the shank did not smell sour or rank. It smelled like Virginia tobaccos had been smoked in this so I just used a lot of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in Everclear until they came out spotless. I wiped down the tenon on the “new” stem as well with the Everclear.

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Once the insides were clean I inserted the stem in the shank to see if I still had a snug fit. Sometimes when the grime is removed the fit is not as good as it was before cleaning. I have learned the hard way to leave the stem tight and when it is cleaned the fit will be perfect. I sanded the stem with fine grit emery paper to remove the calcified buildup and the oxidation on the stem. The next three photos show the stem after the sanding with the emery paper.

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I then sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove more of the oxidation and also the scratches left behind by the emery paper. The next series of three photos show the stem after sanding with the sandpaper.

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I went back and cleaned the stem with pipe cleaners and Everclear. I should have done that when I was cleaning the shank but honestly I forgot to do so. Never too late however so I did it next. The next four photos show the pile of pipe cleaners that it took to clean the stem. I also wiped the bowl and shank down with Everclear on a cotton pad to prepare it for staining.

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I restained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain. I thinned the stain with 1 part alcohol to 2 parts stain to get the brown I wanted for a colour. I wanted it dark enough that the fills would blend into the finish but also transparent enough to show the grain through the stain. I used a black permanent marker, called a Sharpie here in Canada to give the fills a dark top coat before applying the stain. I have learned that this method makes the fills blend into the bowl better on these rusticated bowls. I applied the stain with a cotton swab, flamed it with my lighter and reapplied it and flamed it again. It took three applications of the stain to give good coverage to the bowl. The next three photos show the unstained pipe (Photo 1) and the newly stained pipe (Photos 2 and 3).

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Once the stain was dry I hand buffed it with a shoe brush to see if I needed to add any more stain to some of the spots on the bowl and rim (Photo 1). The next three photos show the buffed bowl and the finished colour. The coverage was good so I buffed it by hand and then went back to work on the stem.

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The next series of six photos show the progressive polishing of the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit.

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I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the stem with White Diamond and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil to preserve it. I gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax to prevent oxidation. I buffed the entire pipe lightly with a soft flannel buff. The finished pipe is pictured in the last four photos.

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Restemming a Custombilt Look Alike


This morning I decided to restem an old Custombilt look alike pot that I had in my box of pipes for repair. I am getting down to only twenty or so pipes left so it is the pipes I have left until the end. Some of these I left because they had no charm to me and others because I just was not ready to work on them. This old no name pot was one of the ones that held no charm for me. The rim was pretty covered with grit and grime. The finish was not in too bad a shape. There was a small crack in the shank which would need to be banded and then the matter of matching a stem to the pipe hung in the air. This morning I went through my can of pipe stems and found an old cast off taper stem that was the right diameter to match the shank. The tenon would need to be sanded to fit the mortise. I set it aside and reamed the pipe and cleaned the shank before fitting the stem. I opened the crack in the shank a bit with some pressure from a dental pick and dripped some super glue into the crack and held it tight until it set. I then heated a nickel band and pressure fit it to the shank. I sanded the tenon by hand with 240 grit sandpaper until the fit was snug.

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Once the stem was a good snug fit I went to work on the bowl. I cleaned the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush. I wanted to remove as much of the grim from the rim as possible and clean up the rustication on the rim surface without damaging the finish. I repeated the process by applying the soap, scrubbing and wiping it off with a cloth.

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When the rim was clean I wiped down the outside of the bowl with the Oil soap as well and removed the grime that remained on the surface. I then wiped the entire bowl down with some acetone on a cotton pad to even out the stain colouring. Once it was dry I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the pipe and stem with Tripoli and White Diamond.

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I sanded the stem with a sponge backed medium grit sandpaper. I find that this allows me to get into the crevices on the button and to follow the shape and taper of the stem well. At this point the two photos below show the stem after the buffing and sanding. I spent a bit of time working on some tooth marks along the edge of the button on both the top and the bottom of the stem. You can see the work that has been done near the button in the photos below.

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I worked on the stem with the micromesh sanding pads using the 1500, 1800 and the 2400 grit with water to sand out the scratches and the remaining oxidation. At the conclusion of this process the stem was a nice matte black and the oxidation was basically history as can be seen in the photos below.

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At this point in my stem rejuvenating process I rub the stem down with Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0 a fine scratch and blemish remover intended for cleaning and polishing plastic headlight lenses. I rub it on by hand and then scrub it off with a cotton pad until the stem is clean. When I finish with the polish I move on to the next grits of micromesh 3200-12,000 grit and sand until the finish is a polished black with a depth to it. I dry sand with these grits of micromesh. Between the 4000 and 6000 grit pads I took it to the buffer and gave it a buff with White Diamond. I found that the oxidation at the shank end of the stem was still present after the buffing and would require some more work with the earlier grits of micromesh. I buffed that end with some Tripoli and then decided to try the Bic Lighter method to address the remaining oxidation. Once that was finished I sanded the stem with the higher grits of micromesh 4000-12,000 and then coated the stem with Obsidian Oil. I buffed the stem with White Diamond and then reinserted it in the pipe and gave the entire pipe a final buffing with multiple coats of carnauba wax. Here is the finished pipe.

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