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Recommissioning a Stubborn Kaywoodie Prime Grain 205R ‘Fancy’ Bulldog


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this Kaywoodie as a solo in an eBay auction, December of 2017, while my wife and I were on a Christmas trip from Bulgaria to be with family in the United States.   True confession – while in the US I indulged in a few eBay auctions!  They’re exciting, what can I say.  But this Bulldog got my attention. Why?  True confession #2: I’m not a Kaywoodie connoisseur, but I was drawn to the profile of this stout Bulldog bowl proudly cresting with what looked like a crown and reminded me of one of my favorite chess pieces – the Rook or Castle.  The Rook is one of the strongest pieces on the board if properly moved – usually waiting patiently through much of the combat until, strike!  Yes, this is what drew me in to look at the details of the Kaywoodie Prime Grain. The slightly bent fancy stem added class to the Rook and the hue of the pipe leaned somewhat reddish – the complete warrior pipe!  So, I bid and now this guy is on the worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, after Paul saw him on The Pipe Steward site in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and commissioned him along with the last pipe I restored, a Mastersen Freestyle, which turned out great.  Here are a few of the pictures I saw on eBay of the Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog. With the Bulldog now on my worktable, I take more pictures to get a better look at the condition of the pipe. The nomenclature is stamped on the upper left shank side with KAYWOODIE [over] PRIME GRAIN [over] IMPORTED BRIAR.  The name is marked to the right with the encircled ‘R’ indicating a registered trademark.  The upper right shank side has the ghost of a shape number remaining.  After using a magnifying glass and after several pictures I was able to make it out as, ‘205R’.According to the extremely useful Kaywoodie thread entitled 3 Digit Shape numbers submitted by ‘kwguy’ (who I suspect is the major Pipedia Kaywoodie contributor Bill Feuerbach III, because many who responded to the thread with huge thanks, directed the comments to ‘Bill’), the general dating of this Kaywoodie is pretty straight forward.  Three-digit shape numbers were introduced to Kaywoodie pipes in 1972.  According to kwguy:

Maybe a little background is in order.  In 1972, we closed the West New York factory having completed construction of our new 197,000 square foot factory in Yapank on Long Island.  The plan was to move all pipe production there, but in the interim, the Medico factory in Richmond Hill Queens would handle the final sanding and finishing of all of the Kaywoodie, Yello-Bole and Medico pipes. The thought was eventually those operations would also shift to Yapank as skilled workers could be trained to handle those operations.  (A down turn in the pipe market in the seventies doomed the new plant, but that’s another story)

Having the three lines being finished in one building, would create confusion if there were two shape numbering systems.  So a new 3 digit system was adopted.  The Medico 3 digit system was also changed at this time.  This list will have three columns of numbers.  The first will be the “new” three digit number, used on all Kaywoodie and Medico pipes from 1972-1980.  (We stopped stamping shape numbers in 1980)  The second column is the Kaywoodie two-digit number and the third column is the original Medico 3 digit number, all of which refer to the same shape.

The 205R places this Kaywoodie between 1972 and 1980 according to this information.  Also, in the article, the addition of the ‘R’ indicated a ‘wavy or rusticated rim’.  I found the 205 shape number in the list referenced and I clipped all the Bulldog numbers for comparison and interest:So, the shape number tells me that I have before me a Kaywoodie medium Bulldog with a rusticated or wavy rim and was manufactured in the Medico factory in Richmond Hill Queens between 1972 and 1980.  One additional piece of information comes from the Kaywoodie – My Free Forum, called the “Kaywoodie Master List”.  This is a great resource compiling all the different Kaywoodie lines in alphabetic order.  Through this I found that the ‘Prime Grain’ line was produced between 1958 and 1976.  This information narrows the dating further by lowering the later date – therefore, this Kaywoodie was manufactured between 1972 and 1976 – Ha!, when I graduated from high school in South Florida and the cost of gas to fill my 1968 VW Bug was about .40 US cents/gallon! – of course, this was before the Euro was thought of.  This was also a period of time when huge decisions impacted my life and, like well-placed dominos falling, would bring me to Bulgaria some 45 years later working with the Daughters of Bulgaria and restoring pipes for them!

With a better understanding of this Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog, I take a closer look at the condition.  There is almost no cake build up in the chamber.  The surface of the bowl has chips here and there – a few on the shank.  The biggest issue I see at this point for the stummel restoration is what I unlovingly refer to as the ‘candy apple’ finish that encompasses the stummel.  When you start working on a pipe this shiny, the concern is that the finish is acrylic which is a bear to remove.  I much prefer natural grain showcased without the artificial candy apple sheen that this Kaywoodie has.  The grain underneath the surface looks good.  The fancy stem is attractive but has light tooth chatter and very minor oxidation.  I take a couple of pictures to highlight the chips and the finish.I begin the reclamation of this Kaywoodie Bulldog by cleaning the airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  I then add the fancy stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other stems of pipes in the queue.  After the stem soaks for several hours, I fish the Kaywoodie stem out and allow the Deoxidizer to drain off the stem.  With a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, I wipe the stem along with the raised oxidation and the stem looks good.  I then apply paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to the stem to begin its revitalization.  The pictures show the progress.With the stem taking a respite, I turn now to the internals of the Bulldog stummel by reaming the chamber. Even thought the cake is light, I still utilize the two smaller Pipnet Reaming blade heads to do the initial cleaning.  To fine tune the removal, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool does a great job of scraping the wall and reaching down to the floor removing carbon in the hard-reached areas.  Lastly, with a piece of 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for leverage, the final step to clean the chamber is accomplished with sanding followed by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to remove the remaining carbon dust.  After an examination of the cleaned chamber, all looks good.  No heat cracking or fissures are visible.  The pictures show the progress from start to completion. Moving to cleaning the external, even though I’m pretty sure that Murphy’s Oil Soap will not make a dent on the candy apple finish itself, I use a cotton pad and work on the surface as well as the rusticated rim using a bristled tooth brush.  As I suspected, the finish is clean on top but still very much intact, but the rusticated rim cleaned up quite nicely.Before addressing the finish issue further, I complete the cleaning regimen by now working on the internals of the stummel.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%, I go to work.  With the Kaywoodie Synchro-Stem shanking fitting in place, access to the mortise to clean is a bit frustrated.  I don’t use any pipe cleaners as the space is short.  To reach through the metal stinger insert hole I utilize some sharp dental probes to scrape the mortise walls to loosen the oils and tars that have collected.  After many cotton buds, progress is made and I’m satisfied with the cleaning and it’s time to move on.Now, back to the stummel surface and the removal of the acrylic finish.  First, I try the more conservative approach using alcohol with a cotton pad to see if the finish can be removed.  The picture shows that the answer is no with isopropyl 95%.Then, switching to acetone, I again use a cotton pad and focus only on one area to see if it would make a dent.  It did not after concentration for several minutes on a single shank panel.  The next step is simply to allow the stummel to soak for several hours in acetone.  Often, it takes this much time to allow the chemicals to break down the composition of the finish.  Into the acetone soak it goes and I turn my attention to the stem.With the stummel in the cooker, I work on the stem.  The tooth chatter is addressed first with heating the vulcanite by painting the upper- and lower-bit area with a flame.  The button lips are chewed as well.  I use a Bic lighter to do the job.  As the vulcanite heats it should expand recovering to a degree the original shape of the vulcanite.  After heating, the results are not great.  The texture of the vulcanite is harder, more plastic-like than normal.  So, I resort to first refreshing the button with a flat needle file and then sanding out the chatter using 240 grit paper followed by 470 grit. Continuing the process of erasing the scratches of the coarser grade papers with finer grade, I wet sand the entire stem with 600 grit paper then complete this phase using 0000 steel wool.With a closer look at the results, I’m not satisfied with the results on the lower bit area.  I can still see cross-scratches from filing and the coarser grade sanding papers.  I know that there are differing grades of vulcanite/rubber compounds used in fashioning stems, and I’ve not really studied it.  However, in restoring pipes, stems have differing responses to the work done on them.  As I said earlier, this material is harder than usual and begrudgingly gives up his imperfections!  For the lower bit, I back up and dry sand the area using 240, 600, 470 grade papers and 0000 steel wool.  I also try something that I believe I read about on Dad’s Pipes, where Charles Lemon uses the buffing wheel and Tripoli compound – a coarser compound, to work on the removal of oxidation from the stems.  I decide to give it a try – not to remove oxidation per se, but to clear up the scratches left over and also to reach into the forward curves/valleys of the fancy stem. These pictures show more favorable results. The stummel has been soaking in the acetone bath overnight hopefully to loosen the acrylic ‘candy apple’ finish.  I fish it out and am surprised by the fact that the finish looks to be still intact!  I use a cotton pad on the surface and, oh my, this is nasty stuff.  I quickly switch to using steel wool to work on the finish.  The soaking did accomplish one thing – it softened the acrylic surface that allowed the finish to be removed with more force.  The pictures show the different stages – and it wasn’t easy! The most difficult part was removing the acrylic finish from the upper shank panels that held the nomenclature and the ghost of a shape number.  I used steel wool around the edges, but the only abrasion used over the stampings themselves was a cotton pad – this made for a long bout!The candy apple acrylic finish is finally removed after hours of soaking and elbow grease, as they say.  To rehydrate the stummel after all the chemical activity, I wipe paraffin oil on the surface and let it absorb through the night.  The final two pictures in below show this. With the stubborn acrylic finish removed, I now investigate the stummel and identify areas that need addressing. I find 2 old fills on the nomenclature panel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I test and then dig out the old fill material.  I’m thankful that I invested in a legit set of dental tools that are a huge help!  Two more small fills are cleaned out on the right bowl side and small dent just above the ghosting shape number on the upper right shank panel. I take a picture of these areas to chronicle the progress.  Next, to address these areas, I mix a batch of briar dust putty to fill the pits.  To do this I mix some briar dust and thick CA glue.  I place some briar dust on an index card and add a small puddle of thick CA glue next to it.  I then draw briar dust into the CA glue with a tooth pick mixing it as I go. I continue to draw more briar dust into the CA until the mixture thickens to about the consistency of molasses.  I then apply the putty to fill the pits and tamp down, making sure the hole is filled with a bit of excess that will be sanded down when cured.  After filling the pits, I set the stummel aside for the patches to cure. Turning now to the stem, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 I dry sand.  Between each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to help revitalize the vulcanite. With several hours having passed, the briar dust putty patches are fully cured.  I first begin removing the excess putty using a flat needle file.  I file each patch mound to near the briar surface.  Then I switch to sanding with 240 grit paper bringing the patches flush with the surface.  I finish with 600 grit paper.  The pictures show the progress.Filing.240 grit paper. 600 grit paper.With the patches completed and sanded, I now switch to the entire bowl.  I’m anxious to see what the grain does after the micromesh process cleans, blends and buffs out the grain.  I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I like this process.  The pictures show the emerging complexion of the briar landscape. The grain is now able to be seen from underneath the acrylic candy apple finish with the micromesh process also teasing out the grain picture.  I like what I see.  The bird’s eye grain is distinct, but it’s joined with a lot of movement.  When I compare the reddish hue that I originally saw on eBay (picture below) to the natural grain presentation pictured above, hands down I choose the natural grain.  A decision is made – I decide not to color the stummel but to stay with the natural briar hue.With this decided, I will apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel.  Before doing this, I use a dental probe and do a quick clean up of the twin grooves circling the bowl.  I then squeeze a bit of the Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar surface.  I set it aside for about 20 or so minutes while the Balm does its thing.  I like the B&A Restoration Balm because it deepens the rich natural tones of the briar.  I take a picture of the ‘absorbing’ phase.  I then wipe off the Balm with a clean cloth, buffing as I go. Next, using Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish, I apply each in succession to the stem.  I work each in with my fingers to further condition and polish the stem.  I wipe both polishes off with a cotton pad and then with a microfiber cloth.I rejoin stummel and stem and I’m thankful that the stem is clocked perfectly.  Usually, with time, the stem can begin to over-clock and not be true.  This stem is ready to go.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and with it set at about 40% of full power, I apply Blue Diamond to both the stummel and the fancy stem.  After applying the compound, I wipe the pipe down with a felt cloth to remove leftover compound dust.  Then, after mounting another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  With both Blue Diamond and carnauba, I also work into the rusticated rim and curves of the fancy stem – both which are looking great.

I’m very pleased with the results of the Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog.  I went with the natural grain hue rather than coloring the briar and I like the results.  The grain is very active with large, distinct bird’s eye grain populating the landscape.  I also like the horizontal grain running along part of the dome.  The fancy stem with the Kaywoodie ‘shamrock’ looks good.  Paul commissioned this Kaywoodie Prime Grain Bulldog which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria and since he is the commissioner, he has the first opportunity to acquire the Bulldog from The Pipe Steward Store.  Thank you for joining me!

 

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Rejuvenating a Captivating Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare 510ks Rusticated Bulldog


Blog by Dal Stanton

This exquisite line of Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare came to me in a single Lot of 66 that I acquired off the eBay auction block.  As I’ve referenced several times before, the Lot of 66 has been very good to me and this pipe confirms this again.  I included a picture of the Lot of 66 below with an arrow marking the Savinelli.  Looking at this picture reminds me of many pipes that have found new stewards and some that have made it to my own personal collection!  Only one regret – the two clay pipes immediately below the Savinelli Punto Oro Bulldog did not make it in the transit from the seller.  Overall, I am very pleased!This Savinelli Punto Oro got the attention of a Texan named Charles in my online collection called For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!.  He contacted me about commissioning the pipe and was hoping to get it by his 50th birthday on December 2.  My first thought was, what a great present for yourself!  Sweet!  Secondly, I thought about the other commissioned pipes in the queue for which other pipe men and women were patiently waiting.  Regretfully, I explained this to Charles and he insisted that I not bump anyone out of the line – I appreciated that!  As I’ve worked the queue down, I have communicated to Charles letting him know the progress and I told him that I knew I wouldn’t have it to him by his birthday, December 2, but I felt very confident that he could celebrate the New Year with this Savinelli.  Well, tomorrow is December 2, and the Savinelli is now on my worktable.  Here are pictures that drew Charles’ interest and why he was willing to wait – by the way, Happy Birthday Charles! The nomenclature is stamped on a smooth briar panel on the lower left of the diamond shank.  It reads, ‘SAVINELLI’ [over] PUNTO ORO [over] 510ks [over] ITALY.  To the left of the COM is the Savinelli stamp.  The stem has a single dot on the upper left panel of the diamond saddle stem. Ever since I started restoring pipes and came into contact with my first Savinelli restoration, a Tortuga, I have appreciated this Italian pipe name.  Before and after WW II, when Italian pipe production was known more for volume than for quality, and not considered by many in the same league with other European pipe makers, Achille Savinelli Jr.’s gravitas took shape to make Savinelli one of the premier names in pipe making today.  This clip from the Pipedia Savinelli article summarizes this well:

Savinelli Pipes began production in 1948 and, although the pipes were of a superior quality and unique in their aesthetic, the brand wasn’t an immediate success. Few new brands are. It takes time for the public to catch on. Retailers were skeptical of placing Italian pipes alongside their best sellers from England or France, and customers, in turn, were hesitant to purchase a Savinelli over pipes by already established, foreign brands. Achille Jr. stood by his product, however; he knew it was only a matter of time before the world realized that these pipes were of a far superior quality, capable of competing with even the most well-established pipe manufacturers in the world. As it turns out, he was right. In less than a year, Savinelli pipes gained prestige in markets all across the world—heralded for their delicate balance of innovation and tradition, of form and function. Savinelli pipes were placed alongside the likes of Dunhill and Comoy’s in tobacconists from the United States to Europe, and, in time, this exposure modified Italy’s reputation; it was not only the premier exporter of briar, but now a premium source of fine briar pipes. (Picture courtesy of Doug Vliatchka)

The shape number listed as a 510ks is an interesting version of the well-known and loved Bulldog shape.  I’ve taken a clip of the 2017 Savinelli Shape chart from the middle of the chart.  This section conveniently shows the 510ks in the center, 3rd pipe down.  Comparing this style of Bulldog to the other two Savinelli Bulldog styles (623 & 624ks) pictured below, the right lower two pipes, the differences are interesting.  The 623 and 624ks are more what I would call traditional or classic Bulldog shapes.  Whereas the 510ks, is taller with a more distinct volcano shaped cone.  It’s an interesting variation and I like it.

The Punto Oro (Gold Point) name is a higher quality line produced by Savinelli.  From the same Pipedia article above, the discussion was the quality of briar used in the manufacturing of Savinelli pipes.  This helpful anecdotal information about the Punto Oro line was made in the article:

This focus on quality begins with sorting, which is conducted in two distinct steps. In the first stage, an artisan sorts through a massive pile of briar blocks, the quality of which can range from complete scrap to pristine gems destined to become Punto Oros or Giubileos.

Perhaps the most interesting information I found on Pipedia was the special Punto Oro edition that Lot of 66 had provided me – the Corallo di mare, or ‘Coral of the Sea’ line.  Of course, the most striking and unique characteristic of this pipe is the amazingly pronounced and expressive rusticated light hued briar.  Pipedia provided an undated page of a catalog of the Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare line.  I include the entire page here:The information block on the bottom is a gold mine of information about the characteristics of this unique briar.   It is described as porous like Block Meerschaum – which is interesting because when I first saw this pipe, I mistook it for Meerschaum until I got a closer look. As with Meerschaum, the claim is that this briar does not need to be broken in.  Yet, most interesting to me was the description of the pigmentation also being like Meerschaum – the more one smokes it the more the pipe will darken into the honey yellow patina.  Fascinating!  This bit of information gave me a new perspective and appreciation for the vintage of the Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare that Charles had commissioned.  The patina on the pipe was a sign of its aging and vintage, as with a Meerschaum pipe.  I take another picture of the briar to show this patina. Wow!The pipe is generally in good condition but needs extensive cleaning.  The chamber has very light cake buildup, but the rim is darkened some by what I believe to be from the lighting practices of the former steward.  The backside of the rim has some scorching.  There is additional darkening from oils and grime.  The stummel is darkened from the patina development from the information related above, but it should lighten some when cleaned in the extreme ridges and peaks of the rusticated briar surface. The stem doesn’t appear to have much oxidation and the bit has very little tooth chatter.  I’m hopeful that this restoration will be more of a refresher!

With a much better understanding of the quality and characteristics of the Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare Bulldog before me, I begin the restoration by adding the stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and their stems, that have already completed the restoration process.  I let the Savinelli’s stem soak for several hours. After several hours, I remove the Savinelli stem from the soak allowing the Deoxidizer to drain and again pushing a pipe cleaner through the airway to remove the fluid.  I then wipe of the raised oxidation with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I follow this by wiping the stem with light paraffin oil which cleans it further and revitalizes the vulcanite.Now turning to the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a bristled tooth brush to clean the rusticated surface with its myriads of nooks and crannies!  I also use cotton pads on the smooth panel and rim.  For the rim, a brass wire brush helps to remove the lava flow.  I find that the tight crevices on the shank are the most uncooperative and I use a sharp dental probe to break up the compacted dirt.  The first picture below shows the compacted crud – the whitesh hue on the shank in the grain is dirt. After a lot of scraping and brushing, finally, I rinse the stummel with cool tap water and it looks great.  The first 4 pictures are before, and then after. Now, after cleaning. Well, I don’t normally do what I just did.  I was so taken with the rusticated finish that I forgot my usual practice of reaming the chamber before cleaning the externals.  Well, back tracking, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to clean up the very light cake in the chamber. I quickly discover that there is no cake really to ream with the blade heads, so I graduate quickly to scraping the walls and reaching down to the floor of the chamber with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool.  I follow by sanding the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and finish by wiping the carbon dust from the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  That was a quick chamber clean up and the pictures show the progress.  After clean, I inspect the chamber walls and it looks great – no heating problems are evident. Next, I turn to the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway.  I discover again, that this pipe has been cleaned well.  I expend one pipe cleaner and cotton bud and I’m convinced that the internals are clean – this doesn’t happen often, but thank you!Before turning to the stem, I decide to push forward with the one noticeable challenge on this stummel – the charred rim.  The conundrum is, if I sand it off by introducing a gentle internal rim bevel, I sacrifice a bit of that valuable rusticated rim real estate which I hate to do.  I scrubbed it well earlier with a brass wire brush which cleaned the rest of the rim nicely, but the inner rim is charred and there isn’t a remedy for that.  The charring is on the front right and the back left – diagonally.  I take another close-up picture from the steward perspective to show what I’m seeing.  Taking the conservative route, I decide to use the brass wire brush again.  I dip the brush in Murphy’s Soap, concentrating on the scorching, I scrub.  Amazingly, after some time, the scorched, damage briar starts giving away and I see more healthy briar.  You can still see where the most damage was (third pictures – lower right), but it will not draw as much attention to itself after the stummel is completed.  I may still need to sand a bit on the inner rim lip, but not a lot.  The pictures show the progress.  I’m amazed. I turn to the stem and use the heating method to deal with the very light bite dents on the bit.  I take a close-up of both the upper and lower bit to show what I see.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the areas with the flame to heat and then expand the vulcanite which hopefully reclaims its lost space or at least, minimizes the compressions.  Painting the bit with the open flame of the Bic works like a charm as the compression are greatly minimized allowing me easily to sand out the dents using 240 grit paper.  While sanding, I also use a flat needle file to freshen the button lips.  In order to erase the scratches of the filing and 240 sanding, I wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper and follow this by sanding/buffing with 0000 steel wool. Pressing forward with the stem restoration, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand and follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  I love the gloss pop of the vulcanite after the micromesh cycles! With the stem drying, I look again at the stummel.  There is a light dark ring on the inner lip of the rim persisting.  It’s not a lot and I address it simply using 240 grade paper tightly rolled.  I do not really introduce a bevel but clean the residue scorching and it cleaned up quickly. There is only minor briar erosion on the inner rim where it was scorched – see second picture below on the left. I’ve been looking forward to this phase of the restoration, refreshing of this Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare – Sea Coral.  This unique rusticated finish needs a bit more consideration regarding the approach toward finishing it.  The surface does remind me of coral (and maybe a bit of elephant skin!) and the light hue of this Corallo di mare line evident in the Savinelli advertisement I included above confirms this.  I take some additional close-ups focusing on the hue and texture. Here’s the question which reveals a concern.  The honey brown hue shows the patina of this briar as the information above described.  At this point in the restoration, with other pipes, I might apply Before & After Restoration Balm to enrich the briar.  My concern is that this might overly darken the light complexion of this Savinelli’s briar and I don’t want to do this.  If the briar is more porous than regular briar, as the Savinelli information indicates, it might ‘drink up’ the Balm and a darkened briar might result.  Ok, I’m curious.  I decide to test a spot to see what happens.  I isolate applying a small amount over the smooth nomenclature panel to the shank edge – the edge has some rustication, but not as pronounced as the forward part of the bowl.  Here is the result.It does darken the briar but wow!  The result is a deep honey hue which to me, enhances the appearance. I decide to apply the Balm to the entire surface, but very sparingly.  I put a very small amount on my thumb and rub the Balm into the rusticated surface very briskly and aggressively spreading it across the briar surface.  I also use a bristled tooth brush to brush the area thus helping to deliver the Balm into the crevices.  After completing the application, I again rub the surface aggressively with my thumb to make sure the Balm was spreading evenly over the surface.  I then use a 100% horsehair Kiwi shoe brush to brush the surface to lift the excess Balm and to buff it up.  The result to me looks good – I think.  It’s time to turn out the light and I let the stummel dry through the night.The next morning, I reunite stem and stummel and take a good look – liking what I’m seeing!  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, setting the speed at about 40% full power and I apply the abrasive, Blue Diamond compound.  As I do this, I know I’ll have to pay the piper later – the compound will gunk up in the rustication and it will take a good bit of effort to remove it.  Even though I know this to be the case, I apply the compound because I like the textured highlights and nuanced shading that will result from the fine abrasion.  It will also light the hue which I like as well.  One additional benefit is that it teases out the grain of the briar in the rustication.  The application of Blue Diamond compound on the gnarly surface eventually obliterates the cotton buffing wheel and I switch to a new one.In this picture below, you can see the leftover compound residue which I’ll need to remove, but also look closely at the rusticated mountains – the grain is peaking out.  Doing this kind of detail work even on a rusticated surface transforms presentation subtly – like moving from a regular TV screen to a high definition display.Using a toothpick, sharp dental probe and a bristled brush I painstakingly AND patiently work on cleaning the briar surface of the leftover compound dust.  It’s a bear of a job, but to me, the results are worth it, at least in this case! Before waxing, again I use the horsehair brush on the rusticated surface and I give the bowl and stem a buffing with a felt cloth to remove the residual compound dust.

In the interest of full disclosure, as I finished the Blue Diamond process, I became increasingly dissatisfied with how dark the stummel had become after my application of Before & After Restoration Balm.  The rusticated surface lost the light hue that I believe characterized the Corallo di mare line.  What to do?  I failed to take pictures, but what I ended up doing was plopping the entire stummel in a soak of isopropyl 95% for a few hours to remove the applications on the surface.  I wasn’t sure that the alcohol soak would do the job and I wasn’t sure if it might damage the patina.  After a few hours I removed the stummel and after drying, I simply buffed the surface with a clean cotton buffing wheel on the Dremel.  Amazingly, the surface buffed up to a lighter hue that resembled the original.  I was thankful and relieved.

After the grand detour and experiment, I next mount another cotton cloth wheel, increase the speed of the Dremel to about 50% full power and strategically apply carnauba wax to the Savinelli Punto Oro. I increase the speed to provide more RPM and therefore more friction to heat and dissolve the wax, so it is received by the surface more evenly.  I avoid wax buildup as I slowly work the wax into the surface, rotating the Dremel’s buffing wheel to agree with the flow of the rusticated pattern I’m working on.  This takes a good bit of time methodically to work through and cover the surface.  I apply a few coats of wax to both stem and stummel and then buff up the surface using a horsehair brush and then a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.

My, oh my.  When I complete a project like this, I marvel at what comes from the many processes the restoration brings to bear.  The rusticated surface on this Savinelli Punto Oro Corallo di mare emulates a coral landscape.  I the intricate design of the rustication process holds my attention as I study the contours.  The light hued briar is also eye catching and unique and my decision to soak the stummel in alcohol to clean it I believe was spot on.  Charles, from Texas, commissioned this pipe from the collection, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! and he will have the first opportunity in ThePipeSteward Store to bring this Savinelli home to Texas.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – an effort here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

Refreshing a Comoy’s Made in London, England Bent Bulldog


Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog as a charity listing on eBay for the Akron Art Museum, in Akron, Ohio.  The seller, like me, was providing pipes for a good cause and I like that.  I also liked the Bulldog I saw in the pictures the seller provided and by the description, it seemed the seller was a pipe person.  The nuts and bolts description:

A classic bulldog! About 5 1/4” long, bowl is 1 1/2” tall, 1 5/8” wide tapering to 1 1/8” at rim. ID 13/16”, depth 1 5/16”. Marked on one side of shank COMOY’S, other side MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND in circular fashion 4097, beneath shank a capital H. A capital C stamped on side of bit. No other marks detected.

Diamond saddle bit is well-seated push fit, cleaned and polished, showing some bite wear but no holes through. Some oxidation as well. Stummel is well hand worn and smoothed, some dings and scratches, scorch on rim, light cake in bowl. Though the pipe is smokable as is, this one has the possibility of being a real beauty with some TLC!

I took the gambit dangled in the last sentence regarding this Bulldog’s possible condition with some TLC.  My bid on the auction block was sufficient, I supported the Akron Art Museum, and now this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog is on the worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, on track to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, my favorite cause.  This was the second pipe that Stephen commissioned along with a Custom-Bilt Rusticated Panel.  Here’s the picture I saw on eBay which got Stephen’s attention in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection:Now on my worktable, I take more pictures to get a closer look at the condition of this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog. The nomenclature on the Bulldog’s diamond shank is clear.  On the upper left shank is stamped ‘Comoy’s’.  The right upper shank has encircled, ‘MADE’ with ‘IN’ in the center and ‘LONDON’ on the bottom.  Underneath the circle is ‘ENGLAND’ in straight script.  To the right is shape number ‘409 7’.  Underneath this on the lower right shank panel is stamped ‘H’.  All indicators of the nomenclature point to a Cadogan era pipe which began in 1979 with the merger absorbing Comoy’s.  The simple ‘C’ stem stamp confirms this without the classic 3 piece inlaid ‘C’.  The shape number of 409 has historically indicated a Bulldog on earlier shape charts with a slight quarter bend.  The addition of the ‘7’ on this Bulldog I’m not clear on this, except that during the Cadogan era they added a 4th number to the shapes according to the Pipepedia article on shapes. I would say that this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog has been lovingly enjoyed over the years.  He’s got quite a few scrapes and bruises for the wear, mainly on his dome and circling the double grooves.  I took quite a few pictures of these above.  I’ll need to do some repairs especially on the back side of the dome where there are several small concentrated dents.  The front of the rim has been scorched from lighting practices it appears.  The dome grooves need to be cleaned and I detect a few chips of briar on the back-right side along the grooves.  Also, of interest are two huge fills on the right side of the bowl as it tapers down.  I’ll need to take a good long look at these.  The stem has oxidation and typical tooth chatter and compression dents on the button lip and just before the button.  The former steward was a clencher.

I begin the restoration of this Comoy’s Bulldog by placing the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue.  Whoops, I include the original seller’s pictures – I forgot to take pictures of the original stem’s condition before putting the stem into the soak. After some hours of soaking, I remove the Bulldog stem and using a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol, I wipe down the stem removing the raised oxidation.  I follow this by wetting a cotton pad with light paraffin oil (mineral oil) and continue to wipe off the oxidation and the oil helps rejuvenate the vulcanite.After the soak wiping and the stem dries, I can still detect oxidation on the stem which requires more attention.  Before I start sanding the stem, I use Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polishes to work on the oxidation.  It is advertised to continue the raising process of oxidation.  I start first with the Fine Polish by putting some on my finger and rubbing it in the vulcanite.  I also work it in well around the ‘C’ stamping to clean it more.  After applying, I allow it to stand for some time and then wipe off.  I do the same with the Extra Fine Polish.  After I’ve finished, I still see a deep greenish hue indicating the oxidation is still holding on.  The last picture below tries to capture what I see with the naked eye – it doesn’t do a very good job! One more noninvasive approach to the oxidation I’ll try.  I scrub the stem surface using Magic Eraser.  After working the white sponge over the entire surface, it did do a good job.  More oxidation was removed, but not enough to make me happy!  I still see oxidation especially on the ‘saddle’ of the saddle stem.  The pictures show the progression.Next, I sand the stem starting first with 240 grit paper.  I do not like going through the fine tune buffing with micromesh pads and start seeing oxidation!  So, I sand the entire stem, avoiding the Comoy’s ‘C’ stamping.  I also use at disc to sand against at the stank side of the stem.  The disc helps to guard against shouldering the stem so that the edges are not sharp as the stem joins the shank.  This sanding is primarily for dealing with the oxidation.  In the pictures below, you can see the bit area compressions that are left untouched by the sanding.Before proceeding further with the sanding of the stem, I use the heating method to raise the compressions in the vulcanite in the bit area.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the bit and button to heat the vulcanite which causes it to expand.  The hope is that this will cause the indentations perhaps to go away or lessen in their impact so that they will then sand out more easily. After painting the bit with the open flame, it helped to minimize some, but it did not erase the dents and compressions on the bit and on the button lips.  I follow with a flat needle file to file the button to refresh and shape the edges.  I follow again with 240 grit paper continuing to sand the dents on the bit.  Using the Bic lighter to raise the dents helps and I’m able to sand out all the dents and compressions from biting. Before proceeding further with the sanding of the stem, I use the heating method to raise the compressions in the vulcanite in the bit area.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the bit and button to heat the vulcanite which causes it to expand.  The hope is that this will cause the indentations perhaps to go away or lessen in their impact so that they will then sand out more easily. After painting the bit with the open flame, it helped to minimize some, but it did not erase the dents and compressions on the bit and on the button lips.  I follow with a flat needle file to file the button to refresh and shape the edges.  I follow again with 240 grit paper continuing to sand the dents on the bit.  Using the Bic lighter to raise the dents helps and I’m able to sand out all the dents and compressions from biting.  Next, I wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper and follow this by buffing with 0000 steel wool. One last thing at this point before turning to the stummel, I give the stem a coat of light paraffin oil to help revitalize it.  I put the stem aside to absorb the oil and dry. With the stummel in hand, I begin the internal cleaning by reaming the light cake build up in the chamber.  I use 3 of the 4 blade heads available from the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I then use the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to reach the hard to reach places in the chamber.  I then sand the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen followed by wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the carbon dust left behind.  Inspection of the chamber reveals some heat fissures on the floor of the chamber.  There also appears to be a small fissure creeping up just above the draft hole.  I take a few pictures that show what I’m seeing.  Are these fissures severe enough to warrant a durable patch or perhaps apply a pipe mud to enhance the growth of a protective cake?  That’s what I’ll be considering.  Continuing the cleaning, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on the external briar surface.  To work on the grit lodged in the grooves I use a bristled tooth brush.  I also use a brass wire brush to work around the dome and rim to clear away the old oils. Using a sharp dental probe, I painstakingly clean both dome groves, scraping packed dirt out.  I’m careful not to jump ‘track’ out of the grooves and scratching the briar surface.  The picture shows the cleaning progress. With the externals cleaned up, I turn now to the internal mortise and airway.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% I go to work. I quicken the work by scraping the mortise with a dental spatula.  In time, the cotton buds and pipe cleaners were coming out clean.  I’ll continue cleaning later using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Turning again to the stummel surface, the rim and dome cleaned up well but show the dents and pockets from knocks and drops.  There remains a scorched area at the front of the rim/dome area.  There are small chips in several places around the circumference of the dome grooves.  I believe they’re all too small to patch, but with sanding I’m hoping that most should disappear or be minimized.  The most daunting aspect of the briar landscape is a huge, double fill patch on the right lower side of the stummel.  I take two pictures of the fills to show the position and a super close-up to show the appearance of the fills.  I poked the fills with a dental probe and both fills are rock solid.  Yet, as the close-up picture reveals, there are small air pocket holes in the fills and gaping around the fills.  I’ll leave the fills in place but touch them up with thin, clear CA glue and then sand to blend.  These fills will pretty well drive the boat regarding the finished look of the Comoy’s Bulldog.  The finish needs to be darker in order to mask the fills as much as possible, though even a dark stain will not hide these giants.   Looking again around the dome grooves, on the back-right quadrant there may be at least 2 candidates for a patch before sanding.  I take a picture of this area.  To the top left of the groove chips, there are also a few small holes that I’ll fill with a spot-drop of CA glue.  In this picture there are also two other small fills that seem to be in good shape.Before I begin sanding and patching, I start from the top and work my way down!  Topping the stummel will re-define the rim and address the front quadrant of the rim/dome where the former burn damage has thinned the rim.  I take some pictures to show these issues and mark the start. I put 240 grade paper on the chopping board and rotate the inverted stummel several times, checking as I go to make sure I’m staying level and not leaning into soft spots in the briar. When enough of the top is removed, I then switch the paper to 600 grade paper and turn the stummel a few more rotations. I take pictures to show the progress.  Now to the patching party!  I first wipe the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the area. I start with the two large fills by spot dropping a small amount of thin CA glue over the fills and spreading the glue over the entire fill – filling the pockets and gaps.  To move the work along faster, since these are not ‘weight bearing’ patches, I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process.   For the groove patch, I insert a piece of an index card into the groove to create a flow barrier for the CA glue.  I then spot-drop a small amount of CA glue slightly above the chip and draw the glue over the chipped area with a toothpick.  Again, I use an accelerator to solidify the glue.  After a few minutes, I pull the index card away and use a sharp dental probe to make sure the groove is clear of CA glue seepage.  Next, I apply small drops to four other small pits near the grooves and above them – again, I use an accelerator.  I decide also to apply a small drop to the right of the primary groove repair.   The repairs look a mess now, but I’m hopeful that the sanding will prove to reveal a more pleasing surface!Next, I begin the filing and sanding of the two large fill patches down to the surface level.  I use a flat needle file to do this initially when the patch mound is more distinct, then follow with 240 grade paper as the sanding nears the briar surface.  The gaps and pits in the original patch filled nicely, blending better with the surrounding briar.To both clean and sharpen the grooves at the groove patch repair, I insert 240 grade paper into the groove itself.  The groove is only large enough to accommodate a single sheet, so I must flip the paper to sand both the upper and lower edges of the groove.  I use a sawing motion with the paper while in the groove and I flex the paper up to apply a little more sanding action to the groove edge.  This technique does a good job redefining and cleaning up groove edges, especially at the point of the CA glue repair.After filing, sanding the groove patch repairs, and ‘groove sanding’ the groove repair looks great!  The patch has blended, and the groove is cleaner and smarter.Next, I move on to filing and sanding the 4 patches to the left of the groove repair on the dome.  I file the patch mounds down until near the briar surface and then take over with 240 grit paper.  I sand the area of the patches to blend.  It looks good – not pristine, but much less ragged!  The battered stummel is showing some signs of life!I follow by ‘groove sanding’ this area.  I like the results of this technique, so I decide to continue the groove sanding around the entire circumference of the dome for both the upper and lower grooves.  Since I’m able only to do one directional sanding on the grooves, it requires four circuits around the dome to do the job!  I refined the technique as I work – by flexing the paper somewhat I can sand more directly chips encountered on the groove edge as I slowly work around the dome.  The pictures show the groove sanding progress and results – much cleaner and crisper for this Comoy’s Bulldog! I continue preparing the external briar surface by sponge sanding starting first with the coarse sanding sponge.  I then use a medium grade sponge then finish with a light grade sanding sponge.  I avoid totally the upper shank panels with the nomenclature.  Sanding sponges help to clean the surface of the minor nicks and cuts and soften the look without an overly intrusive sanding effect.  The pictures show the results of the 3 sponges. As I sponge sand the dome of the Bulldog, I notice a chip in the inner lip of the rim that became more distinct during the sanding process.  To erase this small divot, I introduce a very gentle inner bevel to the rim using 240 grade paper rolled.  This dispatched the divot quickly. Earlier, I avoided using the sanding sponges on the nomenclature panels in order not to diminish the Comoy’s stampings.   I do want to clean the panels more to rid the old residue finish before applying a fresh stained finish.  To remove the old finish and to clean the panel I apply acetone to a cotton pad and wipe the panels.  This does the job. With the time of my departure for the work day rapidly approaching, I continue the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  After forming a wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball, I insert it down the mortise and airway using a stiff wire.  The wick acts to draw out the tars and oils.  I then add kosher salt (no aftertaste) to the chamber and place the stummel in an egg crate for stability.  With a large eyedropper, I add isopropyl 95% to the chamber until is surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, after the alcohol has absorbed into the chamber, I top off the alcohol and set the stummel aside to soak for the day.Arriving home several hours later, the soak did the job of finishing the internal cleaning.  I clean the expended salt from the chamber with paper towel and shank brushes as well as blowing through the mortise.  I run an additional pipe cleaner and cotton bud wetted with alcohol to assure the internals were clean.  They are, now moving on!Before proceeding further with the external stummel preparation, I’ve come to a decision point regarding the chamber issues that I saw earlier.  The floor of the chamber has heat fissures which the first picture shows.  The second picture shows the fissure immediately above the draft hole.  The upper chamber shows some heating issues with small, more normal chamber wear.  Earlier, my question had been, do the fissures on the floor of the chamber need a more durable response than simply applying a pipe mud mixture to enhance the growth of a protective cake?  The floor of the chamber has experience overheating issues and I believe at this point would benefit from applying J-B Weld to prevent further damage and to reinforce the resistance of the chamber floor.J-B Weld comes with two components that are mixed together and once mixed harden to form a heat resistant bond.  I’ll mix a small amount and apply it to the floor of the chamber then spread it over the area, including above the draft hole, filling the fissures with the Weld.  After it hardens and cures, I’ll sand the excess. I first wipe the chamber with alcohol and put a pipe cleaner through the airway to block seepage into the draft hole.  After I mix J-B Weld components in equal parts, I apply a small amount on the floor of the chamber and spread it with a dental spatula and my finger. I rotate the pipe cleaner so that it is not stuck but I leave it in place – I don’t want to pull it out while the J-B Weld is wet leaving the mixture in the mortise.  I put the stummel aside for the J-B Weld to cure.  After the repair cured overnight, I take a picture of the sanding process using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  I concentrate on removing the excess J-B Weld so that all that is left of the weld is what has filled the fissures and cracks. The next pictures show a much healthier chamber.  At the floor of the chamber in the first pictures and concentrating on the area immediately above the draft hole in the second picture, you still see what appears to be rough spots, but it is now smooth to the touch in large measure.  The Weld filled the cracks and reinforced the area.  The application of J-B Weld and the additional sanding on the floor and the walls of the chamber cleaned it up nicely.  Putting the stummel aside, I take the stem and wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite. With the stem waiting in the wings, I continue with the stummel by wet sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I take pictures of both sides of the stummel to show the huge fills on the right side.  If it weren’t for these unavoidable fills, the fantastic recovery the stummel has made would encourage me to leave the original, natural grain finish in place.  The briar surface had many issues, but the results of the micromesh sanding reveal a very attractive grain presentation.  The next step is to apply a dark stain to the Comoy’s Bulldog that will serve to help mask the issues prevalent on the surface.  Without question, my plan is to apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel surface.  I assemble all the needed components on the table to apply the stain.  First, using a sharp dental probe I carefully dig out and scrape the dome grooves to make sure the debris is gone.  After wiping the stummel with alcohol to clean and prepare the surface, I fit the stummel with a cork I’ve fashioned as a handle inserted into the mortise.  Next, I heat the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar grain.  This aids the briar in absorbing the dye pigment.  Using a folded over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye to the stummel.  After a thorough application, I flame the stummel with a lit candle and the alcohol-based aniline dye combusts and sets the dye in the grain.  After a few minutes, I apply the dye again and flame again to make sure there is an even coverage.  I then set the stummel aside for the dyed stummel to rest. After resting for several hours through the night, it’s time to unwrap the fire-crusted Comoy’s stummel.  Over time, I have developed my own techniques for use with the Dremel since this is my main and only work horse tool on the 10th floor flat of a formerly Communist block apartment building!  My usual method for ‘unwrapping’ has been with the use of a felt buffing wheel, which is more abrasive than cotton, applying Tripoli compound.  I love this technique because the result reveals a more brilliant grain pattern as it lightens the grain veins leaving them in contrast to the softer briar wood which absorbs more of the dye.  However, I have found that using the felt buffing wheel lightens the entire stummel.  With the large dark fills on this stummel in need of remaining masked for better blending, I use a cotton cloth buffing wheel with Tripoli compound to unwrap the flamed crust.  The softer cotton wheel isn’t as abrasive and leaves a darker dyed hue on the briar surface.  After mounting a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed at the lowest RPM and I apply Tripoli to the stummel. I take a couple staged pictures to show the contrast between the flamed crust and the surface that has been ‘unwrapped’ and buffed with compound.  After completing with the Tripoli, I wet a cotton pad with alcohol to wipe the stummel not so much to lighten but to blend the new stained finish. Next, I rejoin the stem and stummel to apply Blue Diamond compound.  I discover that the junction between the tenon and mortise has loosened through the cleaning process – a common thing in my experience.  To remedy this, I take a drill bit the next size larger than will fit through the tenon airway.  I use a Bic lighter and heat the tenon and after a bit, the vulcanite tenon becomes supple and allows me gradually to insert the drill bit end into the airway.  This expands the tenon and tightens the connection.  This works like a charm!  With the stem now fitting snuggly, I continue to apply Blue Diamond to the stummel and stem.  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and increase the speed to about 40% full power.  I apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.Before moving on to applying carnauba wax to the pipe, I have two more projects to do.  The first is to apply white acrylic paint to refresh the Comoy’s ‘C’ stamping on the stem.  The second is to apply pipe mud to the chamber.  I decide to do the latter first.  After the repair done to the chamber, to enhance the healthy development of a protective cake (which should be maintained at about the width of a US dime coin) I use a mixture called pipe mud – a combination of cigar ash and water.  This mixture, once applied to the chamber and dries, hardens to create a starter surface for the cake to develop.  My colleague, Gary, who lives in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is the cigar man who saves his ash for my use. Thanks, Gary!  I mix some water with ash in a plastic dish and mix it with my pipe nail until it starts to thicken. At this point, I apply it in the chamber with the nail and my finger.  It doesn’t dry quickly so there’s time to spread it evenly over the chamber.  After spread, I insert a pipe cleaner through the draft hole to keep it clear of the mud.  I then put the stummel aside in the egg cart for the mud to cure. Turning now to the Comoy’s ‘C’ stem stamp, I put a drop of white acrylic paint over the ‘C’ and absorb the excess with a cotton pad and ‘dob’ it out so that the paint thins and dries.  I then use a toothpick’s flat edge to gently scrape the excess paint off after it dries.  I have to reapply paint a few times to get it right.  The pictures show the process. After allowing the pipe mud to cure, I rejoin stem and stummel and once more, run the sharp dental probe in the grooves around the circumference of the dome then buff the pipe with a felt cloth clearing away the compound dust before applying wax.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, keep the speed at about 40% full power and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the pipe.  I finish the restoration by using a microfiber cloth to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.

I’m pleased with the results of this Comoy’s Made in London, England, Bent Bulldog.  The restoration was fought in the trenches!  The many repairs done to the stummel surface came out well, though the two large fills are still evident, but not as overt. The dark brown dye came out beautifully and the groove patches and repairs have all but disappeared.  I’m glad I also addressed the heat fissure issues in the chamber.  This Comoy’s Bent Bulldog will provide many more years of service to a new steward.  Stephen commissioned this Comoy’s and will have first opportunity to acquire it in the Pipe Steward Store and this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually abused.  Thanks for joining me!

 

Reviving a Custom-Bilt Rusticated Panel


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this Custom-Bilt Panel in the Lot of 66 which I won on the eBay auction block some time ago.  The Lot of 66 has been good to me as it has produced many good, collectible pipes.  Stephen,from Bowling Green, Kentucky, saw the Custom-Bilt in my For ‘Pipe Dreamers’Only! collection on the website and sent me an email asking to commission the Custom-Bilt as well as a very nice Comoy’s Made in London, England Bent Bulldog. In the email Stephen wrote,

I actually have a Tinderbox pipe (by Comoys) on that shape, although at some point it has had a new stem put on. It’s a terrific smoker. And I have several Custom-Bilts from various eras, and love the pipes. Looking forward to seeing the finished pipes down the road!  I enjoy getting to know the pipe men and women who love pipes and I’m happy that this Custom-Bilt Panel, that snagged Stephen’s attention, will also benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Here are a few of the pictures that got Stephen’s attention in Pipe Dreamers. The nomenclature is on the lower smooth panel.  On the underside of the shank is cursive ‘Custom-Bilt’ with the hyphen separation.  On the underside of the bowl is stamped ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’.  After looking at the pipe on the work table, I also found a ‘O’ stamped on the upper right side of the shank, bordering the stem.  I’m not sure what this is if anything – an anomaly or the rustication tool gone awry!  On a hunch, I look back at Pipephil.eu and I see what I missed the first time I looked.  The circle in the picture above is a marking listed as having appeared on some Custom-Bilt pipes.  It does not indicate which period or production lines each marking indicates. The information from Pipephil.eu about the multiple transitions in ownership of the American pipe name, Custom-Bilt was to the point:

Chunky bowls with rough carving or gouges.

Tracy Mincer stopped making Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The trademark was successively bought by Leonard Rodgers (1953), Consolidated Cigars (1968) and Wally Frank Co. (early 1970s). The later began to produce again his version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975 at Weber pipe factory (NJ). In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently (2010), the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain which is part of Altadis.

It is generally admitted (but not proved) pipes stamped “Custom – Bilt” (with the hyphen) are from the Mincer era. The name might have changed from Custom-Bilt to Custombilt (without the hyphen) in 1946.

If this information is accurate regarding the inclusion or exclusion of a hyphen indicating the period of manufacturing, the Custom-Bilt in front of me could be from the Mincer period and if so, could be dated from 1946 or earlier.  This is helpful information regarding the dating.

The pipe itself seems to be in solid condition.  The characteristic rustified, roughed-up surface of this Custom-Bilt pipe is darkened from grime and needs a thorough cleaning.  The chamber looks good with a thin cake build up.  The rim is in good shape but is darkened from scorching over the years.  The stem has mild oxidation and light tooth chatter and a compression on the lower bit, next to the button. I notice too, that the stem fitting may be a bit loose.  We’ll see how that shapes up after cleaning.  Overall, no major challenges are detected. 

I begin what should be a straight forward restoration of this Custom-Bilt Panel by cleaning the stem’s airway using a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I then add the stem to a Before & After Deoxidizer soak, along with other pipes and stems in queue.  After several hours soaking, I remove the stem and allow the Deoxidizer to drain and then wipe off the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with alcohol.  I follow this with a cotton pad wetted with light paraffin oil that helps condition the vulcanite.I then turn to the stummel and use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to clean the light cake in the chamber.  The chamber is not deep but wide and I use 3 of the 4 blades heads available.  I then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool and scrape the chamber walls further. Finally, I sand the chamber by wrapping a Sharpie Pen with 240 grit paper.  To clean the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  After inspection, the chamber shows now signs of heat damage.  The pictures show the progress. Now turning to the external surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to scrub the rustified surface.  To get into all the nooks and crevices I also use a bristled tooth brush.  I also use the brass wire brush to work on the rim scorching.  The pictures show the progress. With the externals clean, I turn to the internals of the stummel using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Long shank brushes also prove to be helpful.  I scrape the mortise wall with a dental spatula to remove old oil and tar buildup.  Using a drill bit about the same size as the airway, I hand turn the bit and this also removes more buildup on the airway wall.  The pictures show the tools of cleaning. With my day ending, I continue cleaning the Custom-Bilt by giving it a kosher salt and alcohol soak through the night to work on the tars and oils absorbed into the briar.  I first stretch and twist a cotton ball to act as a ‘wick’ inserted down the mortise and airway.  This ‘wick’ draws the tars and oils from the mortise.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt, which doesn’t leave an aftertaste, and I give the bowl a shake to disperse the salt.  After placing the stummel in an egg cart to stabilize, using a large eyedropper I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After few minutes I top off the alcohol which has absorbed into the pipe.  I put the pipe aside and turn off the lights. Rising with the sun, I go to the worktable and the salt and alcohol soak has done the work as hoped.  Both the salt and the wick are discolored with the extraction of the tars and oils.  I dump the expended salt in the waste can and wipe the chamber with paper towel to remove the salt.  I also run a shank brush through the mortise and airway followed by blowing through to clear salt crystals.  To make sure the cleaning is thorough, I dip a cotton bud and pipe cleaner in isopropyl 95% and run them through the mortise again and I’m satisfied all is clean.Looking again at the stummel, I’m not satisfied with rim – still darkened and scorched looking.  To protect and maintain the Custom-Bilt rim’s rustication I don’t want to sand.  I decide to return again to the brass wire brush, without any cleaner solvent and leaving the surface dry, I brush the rim rotating the brush around the rim so that my movement is parallel with the rustication cuts.  This dislodges more carbon stuck in the ridges.  I think it did do the trick.  Pictures show the before and after. Before putting the stummel aside to work on the stem, I apply a coat of light paraffin oil to the rustified stummel surface to hydrate the wood. The oil is thin enough to seep into the crannies of the classic Custom-Bilt rustication using a cotton pad. After thoroughly applied, I put the stummel aside to absorb and dry.I now look at the stem again.  It has minor issues on the lower bit (second picture) with a bite compression on the button and on the bit.  There is also a small bite compression on the edge (third picture). To address these, I first use the heating technique using a Bic lighter and painting the compression areas.  The flame heats the vulcanite, a rubber compound, expanding it and causing the compression to lessen or minimize.  The heating method helps in this case leaving the compressions to be easily sanded out. Using a flat needle file, I file the button area refining the button upper and lower lips.  I follow by erasing the file scratches by using 240 grade paper on upper and lower bit.Following the 240, I erase the 240 scratches by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper followed by buffing the stem with 0000 steel wool.I move directly to the micromesh process by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three, I apply Obsidian oil which the vulcanite drinks in, revitalizing the stem. With the stem waiting in the wings, I turn again to the Custom-Bilt stummel and take another look.  What’s bothering me I realize is the black ring on the inner lip of the rim.  It continues to carry the charred look to the rim.  Without bothering or diminishing the rustication on the rim, I decide to create an internal bevel to remove the darkened wood thus helping to lighten the rim and make it look sharper.  I first use 240 grade paper tightly rolled to remove the heavy charring then follow with 600 grade paper to sharpen the bevel.  I like the rim presentation much better now.  The pictures show the adjustment. I’ve been learning through my research that the hallmark of the Custom-Bilt ‘look’ is rough and big.  This Custom-Bilt isn’t a large pipe, but he is rough with the classic Custom-Bilt rustication that is a consistent technique used in the C-B manufacturing.  I found it interesting that ‘smooths’ are the rarer and more collectible Custom-Bilts according to the Pipedia article.  Yet, the C-B rough look has a certain appeal.  To me, what causes a rustication motif to look classier is when the patches of smooth briar across its landscape are shined and buffed up in nice contrast.  To me also, every peak of a rustication ridge or ‘mountain top’ is smooth briar, not just the underside nomenclature panel and the shank panels.  To shine the peaks and panels, I take the top two thirds of the micromesh pads (3200 to 12000) and dry sand the entire stummel.  The first 3 pictures mark the stummel before using micromesh pads.  I pad sanding ‘lights up’ the rustication patterns and nuances a bit more softness to the rough look. Next, I use Before & After Restoration Balm to condition the rusticated bowl.  The challenge will be to work the Balm into the nooks and crannies and make sure it is absorbed.  I put Balm on my fingers and work the Balm in the rough briar.  After its covered well, I let it sit for a few minutes then begin wiping and buffing using a microfiber cloth.  Wow!  The Balm does a great job enriching the briar.  It looks great. Next, I reunite stem and stummel and mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and set the speed at about 40% full power and I apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  With the 1-inch buffing wheel on the Dremel, I’m able to navigate through the cuts, crannies and gullies of the rustication flow pretty well.  This minimizes the concern for the compound to ‘gunk up’ in the rustication.  After completing the application of Blue Diamond compound and buffing the stummel with a felt cloth to remove compound dust, I do detect some ‘gunking’ in some of the crannies.  Using a stiff plastic brush, I brush the stummel to dislodge the compound.  To make sure the stummel is clean and ready for wax, I use a small felt buffing wheel to work into the nooks and crannies of the rustication – this does a great job and further buffs up the briar.  Nice.Again, I mount the Dremel with another cloth buffing wheel, increase the speed to about 50% full power. This is a little more RPM than normal for waxing.  I want to generate a little more heat than normal with the additional RPM to be sure the wax liquifies well into the briar.  This will assure an even application and avoid (I hope!) the wax from gunking up in the crannies.  I apply carnauba wax to the stummel with a light touch.  To avoid wax getting lodged in the rustication, I apply wax sparingly and rotate the Dremel buffing wheel to navigate through the crevices.  I apply several coats of carnauba to stem and stummel and follow by giving the stummel both a good buffing with a microfiber cloth and a brushing with a horse hair shoe brush on the stummel.

This probable 1940s/50s Custom-Bilt Panel came out much nicer than I was expecting. I’m drawn to the mountain-like landscape of the stummel. Cleaning and hydrating the briar along with bringing the rustication through a polishing regimen resulted in transforming an interesting pipe with rustication into an eye catching classy piece of sculpted briar – that just happens to be a Custom-Bilt, thank you.  One additional small change that made a big difference in the final look was the internal rim bevel.  The residual darkened rim from former scorching was helped immensely not only by the rigorous cleaning, but also cutting a simple internal bevel.  In the finished pipe (as shown in the first picture below), that bevel’s high polish now sets off well the rusticated rim – to me, a very classy addition for this Custom-Bilt Panel.  Stephen commissioned the Custom-Bilt Panel to add to his collection of C-Bs and will have the first opportunity to acquire it in the Pipe Steward Store.  The best part is what follows – that this C-B benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

 

Rescue of a Stately Stanwell Henley Special, Made in Denmark, Oval Shank Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

I have been looking forward to this project ever since I landed three Stanwell Henley Special pipes on the eBay block from a seller in Maryland.  The seller provided helpful information that only helped urged me to place a bid:

This auction is for three vintage Stanwell, Henley Line estate pipes from the 1950’s-60’s era. All are in good pre-owned condition. The stems are primarily free from teeth marks. The stems do have some fading. All of the stems fit snug and the wooden bowls are free from outstanding blemishes. As seen from top to bottom, the first pipe reads Henley Special #57, the second and third read Henley Special without any numbers seen. All of the pipes read Made in Denmark.

Since I started collecting and restoring pipes, I’ve grown in my appreciation for Danish made pipes.  They tend to be stout, well made pipes.  The stems are also interesting – the ‘pinched saddle’ fish tail is unique.  When I saw the 3 Henley Specials, I was attracted to the line-up but had never heard of ‘Henley’.  When I read the sellers description I was sold – I was especially drawn to the ‘Chimney’ on the top of the group below, sporting a pinched saddle fishtail stem.  The Stanwell Henley on my workbench now is the classic Oval Shank Billiard in the center.  Along with a Comoy’s Moorgate, Jim saw the Henley Special in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection and commissioned him.  He saw what I also see in these classic Danish pipes.  As with frosting on the cake, this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  The pictures show what I saw on eBay. Unfortunately, I cannot find much online regarding the Henley line.  Pipedia’s article on Stanwell pipes simply places the Henley Special line in the list of Stanwell second brands.  Pipephil.eu provided more information with a Henley much like the slightly bent, Chimney above with the characteristic bulging midsection, but with a blasted finish.  It also show a ‘H’ stem stamp.  If the Henley on my worktable had one, it is now long gone.The only information I found that gave any reference to dating is spurious at best. I found the following picture on Google images but the link to pipesmokersforum.com is now a dead end.  “Who made this pipe?”  I would have loved to read the thread that discussed the dating of the discontinued Stanwell second, Henley Special.  The picture puts a question mark in the late 50s.  Looking at all the 3 Henley Specials I acquired, the look and feel of them lends toward this dating, but…. This picture and the eBay seller’s description placing the pipes in the 50s or 60s are anecdotal, but seem to me to be accurate.  Oh, for the return of the now defunct, Chris’ Pages website, to look through the old catalogs! One very interesting find was a Stanwell Henley Special for sale in the listings of SmokingPipes.com in restored state – very nice.  It gives me an idea of what might be under the older, tired finish of all three Henleys in my collection.Taking a closer look at the Henley Special Oval Shank Billiard on my worktable, I take these pictures for a closer look. The nomenclature is found on the upper side of the oval shank.  A very thin, worn ‘Henley’ (in cursive script) [over] offset ‘SPECIAL’.  On the underside is the COM, ‘MADE IN DENMARK’. As with the other two Stanwell Henley pipes I acquired at the same time, the finish is extremely dark from years of grime and oil build up.  The uniformity of the darkened state of the pipes lends to a common period of manufacturing, which I’m guessing to be in the 1950s or 60s.  Even though I know it’s not an exact science, the feel of the pipes seems older.  I need first to clean the briar surface before I can see what is going on with the briar – the condition or even the look of the grain.  The oval saddle stem has oxidation, tooth chatter and dents which need attention.  The cake in the chamber is thick and will be removed to give the briar a fresh start.  The rim has significant lava flow and I detect a divot on the internal lip of the rim which needs attention.

To begin the restoration of this vintage Stanwell Henley Special Oval Shank Billiard, I run a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% through the airway to clean it up.  I then add the oval saddle stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes and stems in the queue.  I leave it in the soak for several hours and fish it out, letting the Deoxidizer drain off the stem.  I then wipe the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with alcohol.  I follow the alcohol by wiping the stem with a pad wetted with light paraffin oil. Turning now to the bowl, I begin by reaming the chamber.  There is heavy cake in the chamber tightens as it descends in the chamber.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I start with the smallest of the 4 available blade heads.  After putting some paper towel on the table, I go to work.  I use 3 blade heads of the 4 and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool. With the Fitsall tool I continue scraping the chamber wall and fine-tuning the reaming and reaching to the difficult angles.  Then, wrapping 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber removing more carbon and revealing fresh briar.  To complete the chamber cleanup, I wipe it with a cotton pad and alcohol to clear the carbon dust.  With the carbon cake cleared, an inspection of the chamber reveals no problems with cracks or heat fissures. The pictures show the progress. Turning now to the external surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on cotton pads.  I’m anxious to see what the Murphy’s Soap does on this very dark, aged briar surface. As I use the cotton pad, I very quickly begin to see what beauty was waiting underneath.  I called my wife to take some pictures as I scrubbed the ancient layer of oils and tars that have cocooned the briar underneath.  I also use a bristled tooth brush and a brass wire brush on the rim.  My, oh my!  I’ve never seen a pipe clean up to such a pristine condition.  I rinse the bowl with tap water and literally marvel at what is in my hand.  The rim is still darkened a bit from lava flow, but the flame grain that dominates the bowl’s external surface is striking.  I take two pictures after the cleaning to mark the progress.  As I look at the stummel, I decide to hydrate the briar using light paraffin oil (mineral oil) which also gives me a sneak peek at a finished stummel.  The before and after pictures tell the story. Turning now to the internals of the stummel, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the mortise and airway. I also utilize long shank brushes to save on pipe cleaners.  To loosen up the tars and oils, I employ a dental spatula to scrape the mortise wall and reach into the airway.  A drill bit effectively excavates crud out of the airway. To do this, I use a bit the size of the airway and hand turn the bit so that it proceeds down the airway.  The bit grabs the buildup and removes it.  After some time excavating and scraping, pipe cleaners and cotton buds start coming out clean.  The pictures show the tools and the progress.I continue the internal cleaning with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  After twisting and stretching a cotton ball to form a wick, I stuff it down the mortise/airway to draw the oils and tars.  Following this, I fill the bowl with kosher salt (kosher salt has no residual after-taste as does iodized salt) and set it in an egg crate.  Using a large eye dropper, the bowl fills with isopropyl 95% until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, and I top off the alcohol and set the stummel aside for the night. The next morning, the soak did the work.  I toss the expended salt in the waste and wipe the bowl with paper towel to remove the salt.  I also use a shank brush in the chamber and down the mortise to remove any remaining salt.  Finally, I blow through the mortise.  To make sure all is clean, I finish by wetting a pipe cleaner and cotton bud with isopropyl 95% and running them through the mortise.  I declare the stummel to be cleaned. With the pipe cleaned, I look again at the stummel surface which almost appears to have been protected by the layer cocooning it.  My task will be to preserve the patina of the briar’s finish by not introducing sanding that will be too invasive and remove the aged surface.  I sent a note off to Steve of rebornpipes, just to make sure my plan received his concurrence before moving further with the Henley.  My plan is to first repair the divot on the inside of the rim lip, shown at the 2 o’clock position on the first picture below.  I could introduce an internal bevel to mask the divot, but I would rather salvage the rim real estate with this vintage pipe.  I make a patch of briar dust and thick CA glue and mix a small amount of putty with it.  After wiping the area with alcohol to clean it, I mix the CA glue and briar dust until it reaches the viscosity of molasses and apply the putty to the divot using a toothpick.  It takes very little.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure. With the patch curing, I look at the stem and take some close ups of the bit area.  The chatter is light with some bites.  I begin by using the flame method to raise the indentations in the vulcanite.  With a Bic lighter, I paint the button area.  The physics of vulcanite – a compound rubber, expands when heated.  The heating causes the bites and chatter to lessen in the intensity.  As I heat, it does lessen but is not fully removed.  I next use 240 grit paper and sand out the chatter and dents remaining.  I also use the flat needle file to redefine the button lips – upper and lower.  The pictures show the progress. Following the 240 paper and filing, I use 600 grade paper and wet sand the entire stem.  I follow this using 0000 steel wool to sand/buff the stem.  The pictures show the progress.Next, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress of restoring that glossy pop.  I like it! With the stem drying, I look again to the stummel.  The briar dust patch is cured, and time to be file and sand the patch mound.  I use both a flat and a half-rounded needle file to gently and patiently file the patch mound on the top of the rim and on the inside lip.  I’m careful not to impact the surrounding rim briar.  After some time filing, I use a piece of 240 tightly rolled to finish the sanding, bringing the patch flush with the briar on the top and inside.  I chronicle the progress. Next, I gently clean the whole rim surface by lightly sanding it starting with micromesh pad 1500 and completing with pad 3600.  The rim looks good.To preserve the patina in the old finish, I’m willing to allow some scratches and dents to pass as badges of this Stanwell Henley’s past walk in life.  I did want to try raising some in an area where I identified a concentration of these.  I take a picture to show a closeup of the area.  I then take my wife’s iron (she always raises her eyebrows when I ask for permission and my response to her question regarding what use HER iron will be to the art of pipe restoration! 😊) and wet a rag with tap water and place the rag over the briar area to be addressed.  After the iron is heated, I place the iron over the rag which heats both water and wood creating a steaming effect on the dents and scratches.  The effect of the heating and moisture causes the briar to absorb the moisture and expand, helping to close the wounds.  This technique helped, but there remain some badges of the past for the Henley Special! Following this heating technique, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the entire briar surface working it in well.  I apply some to my fingers and massage the Balm into the briar.  The Balm begins with the texture of a light oil but thickens into a heavy wax as it is worked into the briar.  After the Balm absorbs for a few minutes I wipe it off the stummel surface with a microfiber cloth.  As I wipe, the Balm-treated surface loosens, and it becomes more of a buffing.  I like what the Before & After Restoration Balm does to bring out and enrich the briar. The water spot (above) disappeared as the Balm did its job.At this point, I rejoin the stummel and stem and often I find that the cleaning process has loosened the connection.  To remedy this, I choose a drill bit that is the next size larger than the bit easily fitting down the airway of the mortise. I heat the vulcanite of the tenon by painting it with a lit Bic lighter.  As the vulcanite heats, it becomes supple allowing me to work the drill bit into the tenon thus expanding the tenon’s diameter microscopically and securing a tighter fit for the tenon in the mortise.  The expansion worked so well, that I needed to loosen the tenon a bit using 470 and 600 grade papers and then 0000 steel wool.  The fit now is good. With the tenon now fitting the mortise snugly, I mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel, set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond to the entire pipe.  With this compound being the only abrasive, I’m applying to the bowl, I spend extra time working the compound over the briar.  The compound doesn’t remove the ‘badges’ I’ve left behind, but it buffs out the very fine lines in the briar surface creating that natural briar shine.   When I add wax to this natural shine, it’s like frosting on a cake!  After applying the Blue Diamond is complete, I hand buff the entire pipe with a felt cloth to remove the excess compound dust left behind before applying carnauba.I now mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, maintaining the same speed, and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  I finish the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a micromesh cloth which raises the gloss even more.

Oh my!  When Jim commissioned this Stanwell Henley from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection, could he have possibly seen what was hidden in this stately Oval Shank Billiard, Made in Denmark?  The grain and patina are beautiful.  I called the pipe, ‘stately’.  It’s remarkable, how so much beauty is hidden underneath the surface appearance and neglect of years.  Yet, as the vertical, flame grain cascades upwardly to the rim, if one looks closely at the rim, revealed there are the small bird’s eye grains formed by the cut cross-sections of the vertical grain.  I’m pleased with the small, seemingly insignificant internal lip patch to the rim – it blends well and joins the ensemble without notice.  With the bowl’s striking grain revealed, the oval shank now compliments well as it flows to the saddle stem.  I fear I’m waxing too much at this point!  Jim has the first opportunity to acquire this 1950s or 60’s Stanwell Henley Special from The Pipe Steward Store and this benefits the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Lest we forget, I begin with a ‘before’ picture for the striking contrast. Thanks for joining me!

 

Recommissioning a Comoy’s Moorgate 102 of Italy


Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this attractive Comoy’s Moorgate on the eBay auction block last year and fortunately provided enough of a bid to bring it home to Bulgaria.  What attracted me to this Comoy’s was the interesting finish which is a darkened, orange hue with nice feathered grain.  This Comoy’s Moorgate also got Jim’s attention after he saw it posted on my website in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection I list online for pipe men and women to commission.  I enjoyed communicating with Jim via email very much.  Jim not only commissioned the Comoy’s, but he also commissioned a very interesting, older Stanwell Henley Special which I acquired along with 2 brother Stanwell Henleys – 3 pipes I’ve been looking forward to restoring and learning more about.  Along with these 2 pipes that Jim commissioned, were his encouraging words of appreciation for the work we’re doing with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Jim was glad that the pipes he was commissioning benefited these efforts.  Thanks, Jim!  Here are a few pictures of the pipes – the Comoy’s and the Stanwell Henley Special – Jim’s is the Saddle Stem Billiard in the middle.  When Jim commissioned these pipes, I’m grateful that he also agreed to be patient as the pipes gradually made it to the top of the queue.  I take some additional pictures to take a closer look at the Comoy’s Moorgate on my worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, on the 10th floor of a formerly Communist block apartment building. The nomenclature identifies this Comoy’s as a post-Cadogan era pipe which dates it no older than the early 1980’s when the Cadogan merger took place.  On the left side of the shank is ‘COMOY’S’ [over] ‘MOORGATE’.  The right side of the shank is stamped with the shape number, ‘102’.   The upper side of the stem has the well-known ‘C’ Comoy’s stamp and the underside is stamped, ‘ITALY’. All the stampings point to a post-merger Comoy’s pipe.  The COM being Italy and not ‘Made in London England’ confirms this as Cadogan farmed out the manufacturing.  Interesting also is the shape number, ‘102’.  Pipedia provides a Comoy’s Shape Number Chart that identifies the 102 as being an army mounted, large, straight Pot which does not correspond to the Half Bent Billiard on my table.  The chart most likely pointing to earlier shape numbers.Pipephil.eu provides a Comoy’s Moorgate that matches up with what I’m seeing before me – nomenclature and stampings.  It references a Comoy’s second brand with the name ‘Moorgate’.  I look up the reference and it is a different line altogether – nomenclature and stem stamps and COM as ‘Made in England’.Looking at the condition of the Comoy’s Moorgate on my worktable, it is generally in good condition.  I take a few more pictures to look at some trouble areas.  The chamber has moderate cake build up and some significant lava flow caked on the rim.  The bowl surface has some dents which I’ll try to lift with the hot iron method to preserve the finish.  The stem has moderate oxidation and tooth chatter – no huge problems detected there. To begin, I run a pipe cleaner wetted with alcohol through the draft way and then put the stem in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with several other pipes in the queue.  After several hours soaking, I fish out the Comoy’s stem and allow the Deoxidizer fluid to drain off.  I then take a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol and wipe off the raised oxidation. I continue wiping off oxidation and conditioning the stem by wetting the cotton pad with light paraffin oil.  The Deoxidizer seems to have done a good job. Next, I address the chamber cleaning by reaming it with the Pipnet Reaming Kit. To help with the cleanup, I put down some paper towel to catch the dislodged carbon.  Beginning with the smallest of four blade heads, I ream the chamber. I only use 2 of the 4 blades available.  I follow this by using the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to fine tune the reaming.  I also use the Fitsall Tool to scrape gently an internal rim bevel that emerges from underneath the carbon cake.  I also use my thumbnail to scratch the carbon off the rim.  Following this, I wrap a piece of 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber.  Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  With the chamber cleaned, I inspect the chamber walls and I find no issues with heat fissures or cracking. Turning now to the external briar surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on a cotton pad and clean.  I take my time on the rim to remove the lava.  After cleaning the surface, I use cool tap water to rinse the bowl.Turning now to the internals of the bowl, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners with alcohol to clean. I also use a dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls more quickly removing the built-up tars and oils.  In time the buds and pipe cleaners start coming out cleaner.  Good for now.  I move on!To achieve a deeper cleaning and refreshing of the internals, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  Using a cotton ball to create a wick, I stretch and twist it and then insert it through the mortise and into the airway.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place it in an egg carton to provide stability.  With a large eye dropper, I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  I top the alcohol in a few minutes after it’s absorbed into the salt.  I put the stummel aside for several hours to soak.  After some time, the salt and the wick were soiled.  I tossed the expended salt, wipe the bowl with paper towel, and blow through the mortise to remove salt crystals.  To make sure all was clean, I use a cotton bud and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% and they are clean.Putting the cleaned bowl aside, I take the flat needle file and work on the button.  I file the button lips, upper and lower to redefine them.  To erase the scratches of the file, I follow by sanding the bit area, upper and lower with 240 grade sanding paper.  I also sand the entire stem to remove further residual oxidation.  I’m careful to avoid the stem stampings while sanding.  To remove the scratches left by the 240 grade paper, I wet sand using 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 steel wool buffing to the entire stem.In order to further enrich the vulcanite, I use Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish in that order.  I put some Fine polish on my fingers and work the polish in.  After some minutes, I wipe it off.  I follow with the same process with the Extra Fine Polish, giving it some minutes and wiping it off and buffing up the stem.  The stem is cleaning up very nicely.Turning again to the stummel, there are 2 significant dents that I want to see if I can minimize using the heating method with an iron.  I take pictures of the two places I have in mind.  I heat the iron and dampen a cotton handkerchief with water.  I place the cloth over the dent and press the hot iron against the cloth over the dent in the briar.  The heat and moisture are supposed to expand the dent and in this case it does. Interestingly, taking a picture of the two dents afterwards, what emerged is a roughness caused by the heat. Hmmm, not sure why that happened.  The pictures show what I see before and after heating. To remove the roughness caused by the heating and to remove the normal wear nicks, I wet sand the stummel using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The grain on this Comoy’s Moorgate is unique as it emerges through the micromesh process.  It looks great! To enrich the natural grain of the bowl, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm.  I apply some Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar surface.  The Balm starts with a thinner oil-like viscosity then gradually thickens to a waxy consistency.  After I apply the Balm thoroughly, I let the bowl stand for several minutes while the Balm absorbs.  I then wipe off the Balm using a microfiber cloth and gradually, as the Balm is removed, I transition to buffing with the cloth. I take a picture while the Balm is doing its thing and after. I’m liking it a lot!Returning to the stem, I now continue with the micromesh sanding phase.  I begin by wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 micromesh pads, I apply Obsidian Oil to continue revitalizing the vulcanite.  The rubber has that glossy pop!  I put the stem aside to dry. Next, I want to refresh the stem stamping, ‘ITALY’.  To do this I place a drop of white acrylic paint over the lettering.  I then use a cotton pad to blotter the excess paint, thinning it so that it dries rapidly. With the flat edge of a toothpick, I then gently scrape the excess paint off the stem.  The pictures show the progress. I now reunite the stem and the bowl and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  Afterwards, I wipe/buff the pipe with a felt cloth to clear it of leftover compound dust.  While I was buffing with the felt cloth, I note that the stem fitting is a little loose for my liking.  This sometimes happens after cleaning the pipe well and scraping the mortise.  To remedy this, I fit a drill bit just larger than the airway diameter and heat the tenon with a Bic lighter.  As the vulcanite tenon heats, it becomes supple allowing me to insert the bit into the airway and it expands the tenon slightly.  I test the fit and it works perfectly, and I am satisfied.  After rejoining stem and stummel, I then mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintaining 40% speed and apply several coats of carnauba wax.  I finish the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further.I’m pleased with the results of this Comoy’s Moorgate.  The briar is spectacular with its diversion of colors and swirls of grain.  Patches of orange settle in the grain knots and from there the colors are an eye catching kaleidoscopes. It is a unique piece of briar and the half-bent Billiard nicely rests in the palm.  Jim commissioned this Comoy’s from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Refreshing a Jarl 1545 Made in Denmark Dublin


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired two Jarl of Denmark pipes in the Lot of 66 pipes I landed on the eBay auction block a couple of years ago.  When I first saw them, I liked the style of the blending of the blasting or is it rustification? – and the twin smooth panels on the sides of the bowl.  Both are marked on the underside of the smoothed shank portion.  The Billiard is marked ‘Jarl Chieftain’ 1511 with a ‘J’ stem mark and the Dublin is marked simply, ‘Jarl’ 1545.  Under each Jarl designation is the COM, Made in Denmark.  I will be adding nothing new to the scant information available on the internet for the Jarl name.  Pipedia’s only entry is brief:

In December of 2010 Ellen Jarl wrote that Jarl pipes were made by her grandfather, Niels Mogens Jørgensen in a little factory in the town of Bramdrupdam, just outside Kolding, Denmark. We have no reason to doubt that Niels Mogens Jørgensen is the maker of these pipes.

Cyrus, a friend who formerly was a Peace Corp worker here in Bulgaria, saw the Jarl Dublin in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! section on ThePipeSteward website and commissioned him.  After doing research on these Jarls, I’m wondering if I might not regret pulling the Jarl Chieftain out of the Pipe Dreamers offerings to keep for myself!!  Here are the two Jarls in the Pipe Steward collection and more pictures showing the Jarl Dublin as Cyrus saw in Pipe Dreamers.I read through several blog threads containing anecdotal information about Jarl pipes and discovered a universal appreciation and love for this Danish line.  More than once, regret was expressed in not buying the Jarl one saw several years ago.  I enjoyed by far, a Jarl thread on Pipesmagazine.com by donjgiles, who had taken to collecting Jarls and had several pictures showing the collection.  The blending of rough/smooth briar seems to be a trademark of the Jarl motif.  If indeed, Niels Mogens Jorgensen made these pipes in a smaller operation, and he no longer does, the Jarl name will only become more difficult to find as it becomes more collectable.  Following are a few samples of the collection of Jarl pipes from Pipesmagazine.com: It is an interesting question.  Is the surface blasted or a result of rustification?  When talking to Steve Laug of rebornpipes, Steve described how it may be both.  ‘Blastification’ is a technique that may have been used that combined both blasting and rustification.  The Jarl surfaces shows both characteristics – but done so well that it looks natural.  Steve also mentioned that with Jarl pipes a special process was developed called ‘Oil Hardened’ that removed the sap and impurities from the briar that made the briar lighter and more resilient.  Some Jarl pipes are marked ‘Oil Hardened’ but Steve thought that all Jarl pipes were treated in this way.

Looking at the Jarl Dublin now on my table, I don’t see any major issues and I’m hoping this Jarl cleans up quickly.  The chamber has cake that needs clearing and the ‘blastified’ stummel needs a good cleaning.  The smooth panels on both sides of the stummel have minor nicks and the entire stummel seems dull and dark.  The stem shows some tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit.  I begin the clean up by running a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% through the stem and the adding the stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes in the queue.  After several hours, I fish out the stem and let the Deoxidizer drain off the stem.  I run another pipe cleaner through the stem to clear the Deoxidizer.  I then wipe off the raised oxidation using a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  I follow by additionally wiping with a cotton pad wetted with light paraffin oil.  The Deoxidizer did a good job.  The pictures show the progress. Putting the stem aside, I next address the carbon cake in the chamber by reaming with the Pipnet Reaming kit.  To save on cleanup, I put paper towel on the work table. I use two of the four blade heads available starting with the smaller and working my way to the next larger.  I follow the reaming blades by scraping the chamber wall with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe tool.  Finally, I wrap 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber and finish the chamber cleaning by wiping it with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  After an inspection of the chamber, the wall shows no problems with heat fissures or cracks.  The pictures show the progress. To clean the external briar surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap and cotton pads and a bristled tooth brush.  I scrub the blasted rustification to clean all the nooks and crannies.  Using a brass wire brush, I work on the rim as well, which is a little darkened from oils.Turning to the internals, I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I also use a long shank brush to work on the mortise and airway as well.  Using a dental spatula, I also excavate tars and oils by scraping the mortise.  The cleaning is looking good.  Later I’ll continue the internal cleaning process with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.The stem has light chatter on the upper- and lower-bit area and some small bite compressions.  First, to lessen the chatter and dents, I use heat to expand the vulcanite.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the vulcanite surfaces and the heating causes expansion, encouraging the rubber to find its original state.  The pictures are upper, before and after heating and lower, before and after, to show the changes through this method.  I follow by sanding with 240 grade paper and refreshing the button using a flat needle file.  The pictures show the process.

Upper, before and after and 240 grade paper: Lower, before and after, and 240 grade: I continue working on the stem by wet sanding with 600 grade paper followed by using 0000 grade steel wool over the entire stem. I put the stem aside and look at the stummel.  It’s difficult for me to tell if the rustified/blasted part of the stummel is simply in need of conditioning and wax or if it needs a fresh finish.  To sneak a preview of what the finish might look like pretty much as is, I wipe some light paraffin oil over the stummel.  I take a before (first 2 pics) and after (second 2 pics) the oil picture for comparison.  The rim briar (not showing in the pictures) is on the thin side, but overall the ‘blastified’ briar looks good.  The smooth briar panels on both sides have scratches from normal usage.  After looking at the ‘sneak peek’ using the light paraffin oil, the plan is formulated.  I’ll touch up the rim with a dye stick to darken the thin, bald patches.  I’ll sand the smooth panels to clear the scratching and to create more of a comparative ‘pop’ between the smooth and rough briar. Using a Mahogany dye stick, I color the rim and edge.  I then feather wipe it with a cotton pad wetted slightly with alcohol to blend the dye giving it more texture. Now, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand both side panels.  I then follow by dry sanding the side panel with the remainder of the micromesh pads 3200 to 12000.  I also lightly sand the underside nomenclature panel and the ring at the end of the shank – only with the latter pads.  I do not want to cause further deterioration of the nomenclature.  I love the smooth briar panel pop!  The first two pictures show the starting point and then following the micromesh application. At this point I put the brakes on a bit with the stummel.  I continue the internal cleaning using kosher salt and alcohol.  I first create a wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball and inserting it in the mortise and airway.  The wick acts to draw the tars and oils out of the mortise as the alcohol soaks.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place it in an egg carton to keep it stable during the soak.  I then fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes I top off the alcohol again.  I put the stummel aside and let it soak for several hours. With the stummel on the sidelines for the time, I turn again to the stem.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem.  Falling this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to enrich and revitalize the vulcanite stem.  It’s looking great. The kosher salt/alcohol soak is next to address.  The salt has darkened, and the wick is very soiled demonstrating that the cleaning process had happened.  I clear the expended salt in the waste and wipe the chamber with paper towel to remove the left-over salt.  I also use a bristled shank brush in the chamber and a narrower one through the mortise to remove old salt.  I blow through the mortise as well.  To make sure all is clean, I run a pipe cleaner through the airway and a cotton bud in the mortise – both dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Each came out clean.  I like this final internal cleaning process to fully freshen the internals for the new steward. With the stummel cleaned and a stem waiting in the wings, I continue working on the external surface of the stummel.  I thought about how to approach the stummel earlier and decided that the blastification of the Jarl was in good shape but needed some conditioning.  After sanding the smooth briar panels, I treat the entire surface by applying Before & After Restoration Balm. I’m have been looking forward to using it and seeing how it turns out.  I take a picture of the stummel before starting for comparison.  I place some of the Balm on my fingers and work the Balm into the briar surface.  I’m careful to work the Balm well into the rough landscape of the blasting/rustification.  After working it in well, I wait for a few minutes for the Balm to absorb and do its thing.  I take another picture at this stage.  Then, taking a microfiber cloth, I wipe off the excess Balm and eventually begin to buff up the surface with the cloth.  I like what I see!  The Balm provides a deep, rich rendition of the natural color already there.  The pictures show the progress. Next, I reunite the stem with the stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed at 40% full power. I then apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  I work the cotton cloth wheel well into the blasted/rustified surface as I rotate the wheel methodically over the surface. I make sure I’m applying the compound into all the nooks and crannies.  After finishing with the compound, I rigorously buff the surface with a felt cloth primarily to remove the compound dust from the stummel in preparation for the waxing phase. After mounting the Dremel with another cotton cloth wheel, increasing the speed slightly to about 45 to 50% of full power, I apply carnauba wax to both the stem and the stummel.  I apply a few coats of carnauba then I follow by going over the entire surface again with a clean cotton cloth wheel.  I do this to be sure that the wax is spreading uniformly through the rustification and not gunked up in the nooks and crannies.  Finally, I finish the restoration by giving the Jarl Dublin a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.  This not only raises the shine beautifully but gives one more pass over the surface to make sure of an even wax coverage.

This pipe is beautiful and gives credence to the Jarl lovers I read in the threads.  The tapestry of briar texture and presentation draws the gaze to look more closely the grain of smooth briar contrasted with the brown, reddish blastification.  The classic Dublin shape simply adds attitude to the overall look.  I like this pipe a lot and I’m sure Cyrus will too.  Since he first commissioned the Danish Jarl 1545 Dublin from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection, he will have the first opportunity to acquire the Jarl in The Pipe Steward Store.  The best part is that this pipe also benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, our effort here in Bulgaria to help women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!