Tag Archives: Dal Stanton article

A Desirable REJECT London Made


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I came across this classic half bent billiard while I was trolling through 100s of offerings on eBay’s auction block, I paused. The first thing that claimed my attention was its size. If there was ever a ‘meat lovers sized’ pipe, to use the American burger sound bite, this would be it. The UK seller simply described it as a ‘superb large bowl’. When the pipe arrived, I measured it and it is: length 6 5/16 inches, height 2 3/8 inches, chamber diameter 7/8 inches, chamber depth 1 13/16 inches, and the full stummel width is 1 3/4 inches – 68 grams for those who weigh pipes. A fist-full of stummel! Here is the eBay picture of the Billiard.The other interesting thing about the eBay offering was its marking.  The left shank side reads “REJECT” over “LONDONMADE”.  The only lead I found for this “REJECT” stamping was in ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ by Herb Wilzak and Tom Colwell, which provided only one reference to “Reject” as belonging to the W. H. Carrington Co. started in 1891 by William Henry Carrington in Manchester, England.  This came from the brief Pipedia article which also states that after a century of operation it went out of business.  I found more information in a Pipes Magazine Forum thread  but the source of the information was not cited.

WH Carrington as an entity dates back at least to the late 1880s. It continued to exist for about a century, with liquidation notices appearing in the London Gazette in 1987. Whether or not the business remained in the family that whole time is another matter; I doubt it, but have no evidence one way or the other.

Most threads I read commenting on WHC pipes were about earlier turn of the century pipes with hallmarks – a much earlier vintage.  I came up empty finding information that would confirm that the Reject before me is indeed a WHC pipe except for Wilczak and Colwell’s reference.  With a very nice looking Reject on my work table now, I take additional pictures to fill in the gaps. The question that begs asking is what is ‘Reject’ about this pipe?  Overall, it’s in good shape.  The chamber has very mild cake build up, and the stummel surface shows some small fills and usual dents of wear.  The stem has been cleaned, it seems, very little chatter or oxidation.  I only detect two issues as I look at the Reject London Made.  First, the finish on the stummel is shiny and acrylic-like, which, to me, hides the natural briar.  It is cloudy and I’ll remove it and work on the broad landscape of this stummel real estate to bring out the briar.  I like this challenge!  The other issue is the stem – it is under-clocked and a bit catawampus.  I will heat the vulcanite and restore a good bend in alignment with the pipe.  The reason this pipe was stamped ‘Reject’ coming out of the factory is a mystery to me unless it was destined to be a higher end pipe and the briar had too many imperfections…. Only conjecture and I would appreciate anyone’s input on this.

I begin by plopping the stem in an Oxy-Clean bath even though the oxidation seems very light.  While the stem is in the bath, I use the Savinelli pipe knife to clean up the chamber walls which takes little time.  I follow by sanding the chamber wall with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To clean the carbon dust residue, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The pictures show the progress. I like working on a clean pipe so I work on the internals using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  With very little effort the mortise and draft are clean.Moving to the external stummel surface, I use Murphy’s Soap undiluted with cotton pads and a bristled tooth brush to clean the grime off.  The Murphy’s Soap does a good job removing the old shiny finish.Looking closely at the surface, the dent I saw earlier I want to remove using the iron approach, that I have yet to try, but this dent looks like a good candidate.  I’ve read several other restorations where this method was used.  Using a heated clothes iron, I use a wet wash cloth and lay it over the dent area and then I apply the iron to that point.  The concept is based upon the water content of wood being heated and absorbing the water and expanding the dented area – wood is a sponge-like material when wet.  I apply the iron several times and gradually I see the severity of the dent lessening with each heat application.  I can still see the dent but it should be more easily removed using a sanding sponge. Using a medium and light grade sanding sponge I work on the stummel to remove the minor wear nicks and dents on the surface. I like a softer edge on the inner rim lip so I introduce a gentle bevel both to give it a softer look and to remove some scorched areas. I think an inner bevel adds a bit of class as well.  I first use a coarser 120 grit paper to cut the bevel then I follow with 240 grit and 600 grit paper to smooth and blend the bevel.  The pictures show the progress. I now turn to the micromesh pad cycles.  Using pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  Throughout the sanding, I’m careful to avoid the Reject markings. The grain is looking good.  The pictures show the progress. I put the stummel aside and fish the stem out of the Oxy-Clean bath.  Very little oxidation has surfaced.  I use 600 grit paper and wet sand the stem followed by sand buffing the stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.Before I proceed further with the internal cleaning of the stem and the external polishing, I want to correct the bend of the stem.  With great difficulty, I am able finally to pass a smooth pipe cleaner through the stem.  The pipe cleaner helps to maintain the airway integrity while I heat and re-bend the stem. Using the heat gun to heat the stem, I turn the stem to apply the heat evenly over the stem to soften the vulcanite making it pliable.  I then straighten both the stem clock-wise to correct the under-clocking.  While still pliable I re-establish the bend over a block of wood and set the new shape under cool tap water.  The first time around, the button was still not ‘clocked’ to my satisfaction.  I reheated and made the additional adjustment and again, set the shape under cool tap water.  I reattach stem and stummel to eyeball things and the newly aligned stem bend and clocked button look good.  I take pictures to chronicle the progress with the stem. I now clean the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The stem is clean but I find that even though I’ve re-bent the stem the pipe cleaners will not move through the bend of the stem.  I decide to open the slot area with a round pointed needle file moving it back and forth in the slot.  After this, I take a drill bit, smaller than the slot opening, and insert it into the airway rotating it against the edges of the airway hoping to expand the internal airway area as it enters the slot.  This seems to help yet the bend is still tight on the pipe cleaners, but they are passing through.  The stem is clean.  The pictures show the progress. Time to bring out the micromesh pads to finish the stem.  With pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  With each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite, and I love to see the pop of the vulcanite as it moves through the micromesh cycles!  I put the stem aside to dry.  The pictures show the progress. Turning back to the stummel, I decide to apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the Reject London Made to emulate the darker hues of the original finish.  Since it is an aniline dye, I can lighten the finish to taste by wiping the stained stummel with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl.  The large stummel has a lot of briar real estate to show off with a smattering of different grains – pleasing to the eye and a handful of stummel to boot!  I just acquired Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye and I decide to experiment.  I will add a touch of it to the dark brown to create the blend.  The first snag I run into is that this is the largest stummel I’ve worked on and my usual corks that I use to prop the stummel on the candle stick during the staining process were too small.  I rummaged through our cork supply and found only one large enough.  I warm the stummel to expand the briar enabling the dye to absorb better into the grain.  I apply the dye liberally over the surface with a pipe cleaner folded over.  Then I fire the wet dye and the alcohol content burns off setting the stain.  I repeat the process again to assure total coverage and set the stummel aside to rest.   After several hours, I ‘unwrap’ the fired stummel using the Dremel mounted with a felt buffing wheel.  With the Dremel at its slowest speed, I move methodically over the stummel applying Tripoli compound to remove the crusted fired surface.  I don’t apply too much downward pressure on the briar but I allow the RPMs and the compound to do the work for me.  After completed, I use cotton pads wetted with alcohol to wipe down the stummel to lighten the stained finish and to blend the dye.  After this, I mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and apply Blue Diamond compound and methodically work the wheel over the entire surface.  After completed, I again wipe the stummel with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I follow this by doing another quick tour over the stummel with the Blue Diamond.  The use of black dye with the dark brown has the effect of darkening the grain which I’m liking as I see the grain surfacing through the compound cycles.   The pictures show the progress.To remove the compound dust, I hand buff the stummel with a flannel cloth.  After mounting the Dremel with a cotton cloth wheel and increasing the speed to 2, one notch over the slowest, I apply several coats of carnauba wax to the stummel and reattached stem.  I follow this with a rigorous hand buffing with a micromesh cloth.  When I experimented by adding black dye to the dark brown I didn’t anticipate the unique hue that would result.  The briar grain veins seem to have latched on to the black and the lighter grains came out with a golden/copper kettle blend that is striking – very interesting and attractive.  If this REJECT – LONDON MADE is a product of the W. H. Carrington Co., I cannot say why it received this factory stamp.  For those who like huge pipes that fill the hand, this big boy, bent billiard fits the bill and needs a new steward!  All the profits of pipes I sell help the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with that helps women and children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  If you’re interested in this REJECT, hop over to my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

Challenges of a Bakelite Stem Rebuild – A Meerschaum Carved Vineyard


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I first saw the Meer before me on the eBay auction block, I was first attracted by the patina showing on the combination smooth and sculpted surfaces.  The base of the billiard bowl showcases two opposing sculpted frescoes, one with the vineyard in expectation of fruit, and the other with the fulfillment – a rack of grapes appearing from behind the grapevine leaves.  Hope and fulfillment are always pleasing themes for reflection as one smokes a bowl of his (or her!) favorite blend.  The patina of the aging meerschaum is concentrated at the base of the stummel, encompassing the frescoes and then gradually thinning and lightening toward the rim and toward the shank.  The other characteristic that drew my attention was the color and taper of the Bakelite stem completing the bent billiard flow.  It just looked good to me.  I have no idea of a carver as there are no markings on the Meer, and the only information from the seller was that its origins were in Europe – it was a gift to the original owner by his sister who lived in Belgium in the 1970s.  Taking it from the ‘Help Me!’ basket, I place it on my work table here in Sofia, Bulgaria, and record the Meer’s condition when it came to me. The characteristics and make-up of meerschaum are not widely understood – I know because I was among those who looked at the white coral-like material and wondered what exactly it was!  The word ‘meerschaum’ has German origins, literally meaning ‘sea foam’.  This brief description from Meerschaum.com is helpful:

Meerschaum is a very rare mineral, a kind of hard white clay. Light and porous structure of the pipe keeps the smoke cool and soft. The pipe itself is a natural filter which absorbs the nicotine. Because of this peculiarity, meerschaum pipes slowly change their colors to different tones of gold and dark brown. This adds an esthetic enjoyment to its great smoking pleasure. The longer a pipe is smoked the more valuable it becomes due to the color change. Today many old and rare meerschaums have found a permanent place in museums and private collections.

Meers are popular because they require no breaking in, no cake, and no resting between smokes. Many consider Meers to be a cooler and dryer smoking experience.  The one main issue with Meers is that they don’t like to be dropped on hard floors – that is never a good thing!  Most Meerschaum is mined in Turkey and for the curious who want to know what exactly the material is, one last excerpt from Altinok Meerschaum’s facts page:

The geologist knows the light, porous Meerschaum as hydrous magnesium silicate. The pipe smoker knows it as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke. The mineral itself is the fossilized shells of tiny sea creatures that fell to the ocean floor over 50 million years ago, there to be covered and compressed over the ages by layer upon layer of silt. Profound movements in the earth’s crust raised the creamy white stone of Meerschaum above sea level. There men eventually discovered it and created an incomparable pipe from it. The first record of Meerschaum as a pipe dates from around 1723.

The stummel on the Meer before me has a lot of grime and dirt with nicks showing his age and that he has been well used.  The challenge with Meer is always how to clean and restore but not to remove the patina, which for a Meerschaum, is the honorific equivalent of the respect owed to those blessed with gray hair and long life in the Bible.  The rim has thick lava and the bowl has moderate cake which will need to be removed with care – cake is not needed on a Meer!  The more daunting questions focus on the stem.  The obvious challenge is the large chip on the end of the stem which also has removed almost half of the button.  I could prepare for this repair by ordering and having someone bring from the US to Bulgaria Behlen’s Medium Yellow Furniture Powders to form a putty patch.  I will attempt to repair the stem with the help of others – we’ll see!  The other challenge that I was not able to discern from the eBay pictures, was the push tenon.  The mortise was threaded for a screw in tenon but the tenon I see connected to the stem has no threads and only engages the mortise as the mortise narrows after the threads.  You can see how much of the tenon is engaged by the coloration (last picture above) – only about half.  When I test the engaged tenon, there is a bit of a wiggle to the stem and it isn’t solidly seated as one would expect.  While the stem, when connected to the shank is usable, it isn’t ideal.  I’ll give some thought to this challenge and perhaps seek counsel.

Leaving the question about the approach for the tenon, I decide to start on the clean-up of the stummel.  I first clean the rim by using cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% – I just want to see how much of the lava and stain will come off.  Not much did.  I then decide to use a medium grade sanding sponge and lightly top the rim – not aiming to take off the meerschaum but to break through the crusty stuff and remove the burnt areas.  That did the trick.  Pictures show the progress. I can now see the inner edge of the chamber wall and using both a pin knife and the Savinelli Pipe Knife carefully I ream the bowl and remove the cake.  I follow this by using 240 grit paper and sand the walls to remove more of the carbon. I wasn’t satisfied with the 240 grit so I rolled up some coarser 120 grit wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and that did the trick. Much nicer.  I complete the reaming with cleaning the bowl with a cotton wipe wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The fire chamber looks good.  To remove the blackening on the inner ring of the rim, I give it a very gentle bevel with 240 grit sanding paper rolled.  The pictures show the progress. With the bowl reamed I clean the mortise internals.  Using pipe cleaners and Q-tips, dipped in isopropyl 95%, I discover quickly that I’m not able to get a pipe cleaner through the mortise through the draught hole.  I twist, turn and angle – it feels like there’s an obstruction.  I blow through the mortise and find that air is moving through without pressure build up.  Finally, the pipe cleaner moved through.  Looking more closely in the mortise with a directed light I see in the throat of the mortise just beyond the end of the threading appears to be a plastic tubing.  I manage to take a picture of it.  I’m not sure if this is part of the internal system or something broken off and lodged. Yet, this plastic tube is what the tenon is engaging.  With great difficulty, I can probe the area what appears to be beyond the tubing and find the airway which seems to be a sharp turn up from the angle of the mortise’s drilling as the pipe cleaner emerges from the plastic tubing.  This doesn’t seem right.  I’ll research more to see what the tubing is.  The mortise is clean, so I move to the cleaning the externals of the bowl.To clean the external surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad as well as scrubbing the sculpted lines of the vineyard frescoes.  The amount of grime on the surface becomes apparent as from the before and after pictures.  The pictures show the progress. I then sanded the bowl with micromesh pads not to remove every scratch, which is a sign of character and age, but to restore the shine of a vital meerschaum surface.  I wet sanded the surface using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanded using micromesh pads 3200 to 4000.  I was not aggressive but careful not to damage the patina.  I like the result.Regarding the stem and tenon questions I referenced above, I sent a note off to Steve and about the push-pull tenon system and what to do with this Meer.  In the end, I decide to order a new replacement system.  I sent a note and measurements off to Tim at http://www.jhlowe.com/ and am waiting for his recommendations.  Since I live in Bulgaria, ordering parts from the States is no small thing as I have it sent to someone coming and they carry it for me.  Saves a bit on postage. With the tenon situation on hold and on order, I turn to the technical part of this restoration that I’ve been anticipating for some time.  Repairing the Bakelite stem or per Steve, possibly a similar material called Amberoid, has been a subject of my research.  The stems most often associated with Meerschaums are the attractive, rich honey yellow color.  The challenge in a repair is matching the yellow color and glass-like texture of the Bakelite or Amberoid.   When I researched this question, I came across Reborn Pipes contributor, Joyal Taylor’s (aka holymolar) 3-part series on patching amber colored stems in 2014.  Starting at the first essay, Stem Patch Using Amber Super Glue, Part 1, I benefited from Joyal demonstrating not only what did work well, but what didn’t.  Also of benefit were the comments many others contributed at the end of the blogs.  So, thanks to Joyal’s trial and error approach, I’m able to jump to a solution in Essay 3 that worked best for him.  I hope I can emulate his success!  Before beginning on the repair, I want the stem internals to be clean.  Taking pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl, I go to work on the stem.  The resistance was a bit more than I expected.  The cavity behind the screw-in tenon was gummed up good and I expended several Q-tips and a sharp and spade dental tools helped scrape the cavity walls to break up the gunk.  There is some dark staining on the internal airway but the pipe cleaners are now coming out clean.In essay 3, Joyal employed the use of Medium Yellow Behlen Furniture Powder (pictured below) which I found on eBay at this LINK.  Previously, he had employed amber colored superglue which came out too clear – lacking the opaque quality needed for a good match.  In the second essay, he tried to employ a mixture of Fiebing’s yellow and orange leather dyes and thick superglue.  He found that the chemistry of the dyes caused the superglue to setup instantly.  Also in essay 2 he mixed StewMac 2-part clear epoxy with Fiebing’s yellow and orange dyes, which mixed well, but the results were less than satisfactory – for both the hue and the texture.  The final essay he tried the powder approach using Behlen Medium Yellow with extra thick superglue and the results were the best.  Below I picture the match-up between the colors of the powder and the stem.  Not bad.  Joyal’s final assessment was helpful for the stem I’m looking at now:

This time I tried Behlen’s yellow powder w/ StewMac’s thick clear superglue.  This is the best so far. Good color and opaque. Some of the powder didn’t mix in but it all polished smoothly. I had to leave the patch thick at the edge because every time I tried to sand it – smooth it [next] to the acrylic, I would remove more of the original color from the acrylic and have to add more patch material. Oh well, this may be as good as I can do, for now.

The last observation is helpful because it lets me know that the basic solidity of the patch could be ‘softer’ relatively speaking, than the stem material so that he was removing more collateral stem material than he wanted.  So, off we go!  I begin the patch on the Meer’s Bakelite stem by taking another close-up focusing on the patch areas.  The patch has two parts.  First, the side of the stem chipped off parallel with the right-side stem edge until it enters the button area.  At this point the break encompasses the entire corner – stem and button.  It appears to me the break was caused by dropping the Meer on a hard surface and the impact point was the end of the stem.  The second part of the patch is to rebuild the button.  To do this, I’ll apply a ‘surplus’ amount of the patch putty not only to the damaged, missing part, but over the entire button.  This will allow me to shape a new button with adequate edges.  To mix with the Behlen powder I have a newly acquired bottle of BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA glue.  I’ll start the mixture aiming at a 50/50 ratio and eyeball things.  I want to mix it well so that the powder is fully dissolved.  I’m also not sure how much time I have before the new CA glue starts setting.  I first take 240 grit sanding paper and rough up the entire patch area to increase the bonding potential between the Bakelite and patch putty.  Now, I construct a ‘slot mold’ for the button.  The slot area is shaped like a concave canoe that the button edges encompass.  I need to keep putty out of this area and form a mold of sorts for the putty.  The results of this mold would remind one of the Wolverine in X-Men.  As menacing as it appears, the center toothpick anchors the mold in the airhole and the ‘wing-picks’ are wedging the edges. The folded index card forming the mold I cover with smooth tape so it won’t adhere to the putty.  Prep done, I pour some Behlen powder in a plastic egg crate to double as a mixing trough.  With tools and toothpicks at hand to serve as putty trowels, I add BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA to the powder and begin mixing.  Well, if this were a science experiment it would remind me of my first chemistry set in 5th grade.  Every 10-year-old with a new chemistry set sees the formula included for a ‘skunk bomb’ and tries it as his first experiment.  I was no exception.  After adding the glue to the powder and mixing, the mixture began to smoke and harden very quickly.  After running the smoking egg crate to the bathroom and adding water to the mix, the smoke stopped and I return to the work table and record my science experiment with a picture capturing the toothpick forever encased in the hardened yellow putty.  The pictures show the progression. Now fully in step with Jowal’s methodology of ‘Trial and Error’ progress, I ask the question, what happened?   I’m not sure, but my guess is that I started with too much powder and adding the glue to it was not sufficient to keep it in liquid form.  My guess is that the rapid hardening created the reactions (chemical energy!), which created the smoke, leading to my emergency procedures.  This time I will approach the process like I do with a charcoal and super glue mix – put both powder and glue on an index card together and mix more gradually and see what happens.  Well, I’ve proven that the methodology is not the culprit.  Again, smoke was produced from the mixture on the index card while I started applying the putty to the stem.  At this point, I’m thinking that the new glue I’m using might be the problem.  I’ll try again with a glue I’ve used in the past.  Thankfully, I could remove the hardened putty that did make it to the stem, by carefully scraping with my thumb nail.  The bright side of this is that the color match with the stem looks great!  Lesson 2 learned – what not to do.  Pictures show the progression of lesson 2. While contemplating the next step, an email came in from Tim at J. H. Lowe in Ohio, and as expected, his note is very helpful:

The regular push-pull set is what you need. Are there threads inside the mortise? There are two sizes of these sets but the larger one is only used when the threads are very worn out and the oversize mortise part has to be fitted in the shank to fix this kind of worn out repair sleeve. I sell these by the each for $3 and by the dz. for a discounted price. You’ll need to change out the stem peg and the sleeve in the Meers pipe repair.

I responded by ordering 3 of each size so I’ll have some on hand for future projects.  So, in a couple weeks, the new push-pull system order will arrive with a friend coming to visit Bulgaria.  By that time, the rest of the Meerschaum Carved Vineyard should be ready and waiting with a quick finish to the restoration.

For the third go – I repeat roughing the patch area with 240 grit sanding paper to remove putty residue from Lesson 2.  Then, after replacing Wolverine, I change glues using Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA glue and mix the same way that I did in Lesson 2, placing a puddle of glue alongside the Behlen Medium Yellow powder and gradually mix by drawing the powder into the glue until (hopefully) the mixture reaches a molasses like consistency.  If it doesn’t ‘smoke’ this time, we’ll know the problem of Lessons 1 & 2. Unfortunately, the ‘smoking’ is repeated and the putty hardened very quickly.  My conclusion to the problem, and the pictures below show the progression of my solution.  The problem is that I’m adding too much Behlen powder to the mix or not enough glue.  I’m estimating that instead of a 50/50 mixture, I need an 80/20 ratio of glue to powder.  I’m not sure of the chemistry involved, but the smoke produced happens when the mixture hardens.  I had more time gradually to build up the patch with the greater glue ratio.  Of course, the question remains, will the lesser powder content change the color match or texture?  We’ll see.  The pictures show the several cycles of building the patch around the button area.  I had only so much time before the hardening would happen and I would make another small batch.  The last picture shows the successfully removed Wolverine mold and the success of guarding the slot area from the putty.  The proof of this yellow pudding will be in the filing, sanding and shaping of the Behlen powder and superglue putty patch.  I use needle files and 240 sanding paper to do the initial shaping.  Starting from the slot side – the end of the stem, I like to create a baseline by re-establishing end by removing the excess.  After removing excess putty on the end, I find the original button.  Since the left side of the button needs to be totally rebuilt, as it was broken off, I use the remaining right side of the button and slot shape to help me form the left side of the slot so it will match. With the baseline established, using the flat edge needle file, I begin to contour the general proportions of the button – lower then upper.  The pictures show the gradual progress. With the general contours of the button established, I then score a line with the flat needle file to mark the upper button lip edge.  With this edge established, I then file down the score line to establish the lip.  I turn the file vertically and use the short edge as a saw and set the edge deeper.  I like to have that edge established so that I can then begin to remove methodically the excess patch putty more accurately to the left of the lip on the second picture below.  After removing as much of the excess putty as possible with the flat needle file, to avoid collateral filing into the Bakelite, I then use 240 grit paper to smooth the surface and remove the putty.  The upper bit looks good so far!  The pictures show the progress. I flip the stem over and repeat same process starting with defining the bit and creating a lip to guide the excess putty removal.  While I work, I’m keeping an eye on the right side (lower in the picture below) of the stem where the major stem rebuild was.  I recall Joyal’s observations of having to keep the patch high because during the smoothing and blending process sanding on the edge of the patch was taking too much of the stem material in the process.  He then described having to refill with more patch the ‘border’ between patch and stem.  The pictures show the progress on the lower bit area. The next two pictures show the completion of the filing and use of 240 grit sanding paper.  I then use 600 grit paper to smooth and blend more and finish with briskly rubbing with 0000 steel wool.  At this stage of the stem repair, I look at the patch areas (3rd picture) and the use of Behlen Furniture Powder Medium Yellow and Special ‘T’ CA glue is strong.  Building up the chip area and missing button portion wasn’t easy but it looks good.  The color is good though it has a speckled quality to it created by small air pockets in the patch which were exposed during the sanding. This I have found is normal.  To fill the pockets, I apply a dab of Hot Stuff CA glue on the stem patch and then ‘paint’ it over the patch using a toothpick.  I do the same with the button lips – upper and lower.  I repeat sanding with 600 grit and then steel wool (I forgot to take pictures of filling the air pockets!).  The pictures show the progress. With the repairs to the stem completed, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  Following this, I dry sand the stem using pads 3200 to 4000 and then, 6000 to 12000.  The Bakelite (or Amberoid, I’ll have to figure out how to tell the difference) stem gradually shines up nicely with each successive micromesh cycle.  The pictures show the progress.I follow the micromesh cycles with applying Blue Diamond compound to the stem with the cotton cloth Dremel wheel set to the slowest speed.  I then mount the carnauba cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel and give the stem 3 coats of carnauba wax.  I follow the carnauba with a hand-buff using a microfiber cloth. Wow!  I like it. The Bakelite or Amberoid has the appearance of glass – the patch has no textural differences with the original stem.  The last two pictures are flipped to show what I’m seeing after the buff. Stem completed for now – the new push-pull tenon system should be in transit. With the stem completed and on hold for the tenon, I look to complete the stummel of this Meer Carved Vineyard.  With of the unique characteristics of Meerschaum pipes, they’re like wine – they get better with age!  For Meerschaums, their value increases with use as the oils in the tobacco interact with the unique composition of the Meerschaum the bowl will change color gradually, darkening to the golden, honey brown which is its patina.  The Carved Vineyard displays this growing patina and to enhance this natural coloring process, treating the stummel with bees’ wax is the long-used practice of choice.  This is my first application of bee’s wax to a Meer and Charles Lemon’s, of Dad’s Pipes, descriptive posts have been helpful as I’ve done my research (See: Quick Clean-up of a Tulip Meerschaum Sitter).  One thing very much available in Bulgaria is bees’ wax, which I found in a local outdoor market at the honey kiosk.  My price was 3BGN for 100gr (Translation: $1.63 for 1/5 pounds).  I don’t know if it’s a deal or a steal.   After I unwrap the package, I break off some chunks of the bee’s wax and put them in a small mason jar, which I’ll be able to keep unused wax for the next Meer treatment.  Using my hot air gun, I melt the wax in the mason jar.  After melting the wax, I hold the Meer over the hot gun to warm up to better absorb the wax.  Blame it on Bulgarian winters, but when I finish warming the Meer, the wax has already cooled down and congealing!  So, a more rapid wax melting follows, and a re-warming of the Meer stummel.  I used a Q-tip cotton swab to paint the bowl with the melted bee’s wax.  I was careful to paint the sculpted vineyard lines – getting the wax in the nooks and crannies.  I put the stummel aside to cool.  Since this was my first time to apply the bee’s wax treatment to a Meer, I was a little surprised how thick the congealed wax was on the stummel after it cooled.  It could be that the Meer wasn’t hot enough and the wax was cooling too quickly.  Either way, the Meer received a treatment!  After cooled, I try buffing with a towel to remove the thicker waxy residue, and I discover that it’s not too easy.  I’m thinking that the wax is too thick and it congealed to fast (3rd picture below). I improvise and I think the improvisation benefited this Meer.  Using a Q-tip as a brush, I start passing the thick-layered bees’ wax stummel over the air gun – like passing over a lit candle, it liquefies the wax on the portion impacted by the heat.  As the wax liquefies, I paint it into the surface – working it in well and removing the excess with the Q-tip. This time applying wax around the Meerschaum seems to absorb the wax instead of being smothered by it. It didn’t take long and the application of bees’ wax is complete (4th picture below)!  Then, before the stummel cooled down, while yet warm, I buff the stummel with a towel and then with a microfiber cloth and WOW.  I’m a believer.  The shine and deepening of the patina is evident!  The pictures tell the story. With the Meerschaum’s stem and stummel complete – almost – I set both aside waiting for the arrival of the push-pull tenon from the US.  I’m beginning to wonder whether this Meer Carved Vineyard should go to The Pipe Steward store, or remain in my collection – often I have that problem 🙂 !

A few weeks later the push-pull tenons arrive via a friend who was willing to carry them to Bulgaria.  I open the package sent by Tim West at J.H. Lowe in Columbus, Ohio, and have my first look at what a new push-pull system looks like.  I unscrew the old tenon and easily screw the new one in place.  The mortise sleeve’s threads worked perfectly as well.  The problem though, is that it will not screw all the way in.  Previously, I identified a tubing of sorts deeper in the mortise which was the only thing the old tenon was locking into – though poorly.  My first inclination was to cut the new mortise tenon sleeve so that being shortened it would fit in the limited space.  It was then that I started questioning whether what I was looking at was part of the design or that it was in fact, the left-over remains of the bottom end of the old mortise sleeve which had broken off.  After looking closely at the inner tubing, I can see fragments of the old break.  Ok!  Now I understand that I need to exorcise this vagabond mortise sleeve. I first try wedging a small flat head screw driver in the tubing to ‘unscrew’ it by turning it counter-clockwise.  I was hoping that it might be loose, but will not budge.  So, using appropriately size drill bits and wood screws, gradually I clear out the obstructing portion by shaving off the material of the old sleeve which I think might be acrylic. I am careful to keep the bits and screws straight so they do not nick the Meer threads.  This was not an easy or fast process, but eventually I was satisfied to remove most of the old sleeve – leaving only a very thin ‘skin’ over the threaded area deeper in the mortise, which may indeed help in keeping the mortise cleaner.  After this, I screw the new insert into the mortise and trim and sand the protruding ‘head’ of the sleeve to improve the fit and alignment of the mortise and stem.  I also sand down the tenon diameter to improve its fit into the sleeve.  I’m pleased with the results.  The pictures show the replacement of the push-pull tenon system.  I’m pleased with the stem rebuild that has blended very well with the Bakelite stem and has put this Meerschaum back in service for a new steward. The patina of the Meerschaum Carved Vineyard has a very healthy start and will only season more with good, aromatic tobaccos.  I also like the blending of smooth and carved Meerschaum – a very stylish pipe.  If you would like to adopt this Meerschaum Carved Vineyard, look at the Pipe Store in my new blog site at ThePipeSteward.com.  The profits of my pipe sales go to help women and children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked through the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with here in Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

The Striking Grain of a GBD Americana – Made in London England Bent Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I saw this pipe on the eBay auction block, I was drawn to it first by the grain.  The dark veins of grain were an anomaly and immediately the questions that came to my mind were, “Is that natural or were the darker veins introduced through the manufacturing processes of GBD?  Or, are they discolorations that came afterwards through aging?  The questions raised my curiosity enough to stand back and look at the pipe itself – a GBD Americana half Bent Billiard.  The grain beyond the dark veins were interesting – one side of the stummel was almost exclusively a pattern of peacock feather eyes – bird’s eye grain, but larger and flowing.  The other side appeared as a tree flowing up from the heal of the stummel and fanning out midway to the rim, with more bird’s eye grain taking the form of the foliage of the tree.  Unapologetically, I’m a briar grain addict!  Well, with the winning bid cast, the GBD made its way from the United States to my “Help Me!” basket here in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Here are the pictures that first got my attention on eBay – the black vein grain and the flowering tree: This attractive Bent Billiard has markings on the left side of the shank of, “GBD” (oval encircled) over “Americana”.  The right side of the shank bears, “Made in London” (circular lettering) over “England” with the shape number “508” immediately to the right.  The bottom of the shank has “M” imprinted standing alone.  The traditional brass GBD rondel garnishes the stem. The story of GBD pipes is an interesting one starting in France in 1850 with an unexpected partnership, not coming from businessmen, but fellow pipe makers who felt they could make a go of it.  This excellent article, Finding Out Who Created GBD – Story of a Pipe Brand – Jacques Cole was reposted on Reborn Pipes and is an excellent read for framing a historical appreciation for a pipe name and its development – GBD.

Who were these creators? Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger were three ‘Master Pipemakers’ who got together in Paris in 1850 to manufacture meerschaum pipes. It was a bold decision as these were troubled times in France. Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte has returned after the 1848 revolution and become President of the Republic. Following a coup d’etat in 1851, he made himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852. He was incidentally a keen pipesmoker and may well have owned one or more early GBDs.

 The pipe of Emperor Napoléon!  Does it get much better than this?  The picture to the left bottom is not Napoleon depicted, but with pipe in hand, the ‘charge’ gives one an image to imagine!  The focus of the ‘GBD’ enterprise in the late 1800s was primarily the production of meerschaum pipes but in the 1850s, with Saint-Claude’s discovery of briar and its special qualities for making lasting, heat-resistant pipes, GBD adapted and added briar to its list of materials.  GBD boasted in the end of the 19th Century as having 1500 models that customers could choose from – though Pipedia’s article on GBD clarifies this unbelievable number as counting each shape three times due to three different stem materials used.  GBD straddled its French identity and its adopted English identity through various acquisitions and changes in ownership, yet, keeping the initials of the founders firmly in place.  Pipedia’s history is helpful to understand these historical iterations:

There is a very simple explanation for GBD’s program to turn more “British”: GBD became a British company soon after the turn of the century! In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co. in London. Charles Oppenheimer had founded this successful trade business in 1860 as an import-/export house. His brothers David and Adolphe and brother-in-law Louis Adler soon joined him. Adolphe took over when Charles went to Germany as British ambassador. Briar pipes were among the first products traded. The business relation to GBD in Paris began as early as 1870. Being the most important customer in the English-speaking world, Oppenheimer & Co. were designated as sole distributor for Great Britain, the USA and Canada in 1897.

Though English owned, pipe production continued in Paris and soon Oppenheimer acquired two factories in Saint-Claude in 1906, increasing its production.  Also during this period, Oppenheimer continuing to expand, built a pipe factory in London, but this operation failed to live up to expectations until the genesis of WW I when demand for pipes increased for the front line and production fell in the French factories as men were called to the front lines.  The shift of GBD being identified more distinctly as a British pipe emerged after the close of the war even though production continued in London and France through the 1920s.  I find the next Pipedia excerpt interesting because it marks well how GBD had fully transitioned from its origins, the handshake of 3 French pipe makers, to a macro-business continuing through the 1900s.

In 1920 Oppenheimer had purchased BBB (Blumfeld’s Best Briar, formerly A. Frankau) and little later Loewe & Co. and large shares of Comoy’s of London. The economic crisis in the early 1920s induced the foundation of Cadogan Investments Ltd., named for its seat at Cadogan Square in London. The Cadogan group was a superordinated holding company, in order to tune all activities of Oppenheimer’s brands in the pipe industry. Whereby an extensive independence of the single brands was preserved. Remember, the Oppenheimers and Adlers weren’t pipe specialists, but rather sales people who depended on their experts in the British and French plants.

This link is to a 50 page catalog featuring Oppenheimer’s product line – it is fascinating.  The index page is pictured below.  In 1952 the Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude and since the 1980s most GBD pipes come from London.  The higher-end GBD pipe lines are of good quality and many feel they stack up well against the array of Dunhill offerings yet more affordable.  The Pipe Phil history of GBD says that the Saint-Claude pipe factory closed in 1981 leaving only London as the producer of GBD pipes.This list comprises the better grades of GBD pipes in descending order: Pedigree, Pedigree I, Pedigree II, Straight Grain, Prodigy, Bronze Velvet, Virgin, Varichrome, Prestige, Jubilee, New Era, Prehistoric, International, Universe, Speciale Standard, Ebony, Tapestry, New Standard, Granitan, Sauvage, Sierra, Penthouse, Legacy, Concorde.

According to the José Manuel Lopes, the Americana before me now is a GBD second associated with L&H Stern, Pioneer, and Appleby.  The closest indicator of dating of this GBD Americana comes from Pipe Phil that GBD’s metal stem rondels were discontinued after 1981 when GBD merged with Comoy.  After seeing Reborn Pipes’ contributor, Al Jones’ comments in several GBD discussion threads, I sent him a note with some questions and pictures about this Americana.  His response was helpful and his description of ‘Odd Duck’ helps me place this pipe in context:

Dal:

You’ve got an odd duck! 

Typically, the stamping used on pre-Cadogan pipes is the straight line COM, “London, England” stamp (see attached) combine with the brass rondell stem logo.  Cadogan era pipes (made after 1981) have the round “Made in London” (with England under) COM, as shown on your pipe.  But, they typically have stamped stem logos. I see these pipes occasionally, and my assumption is they were made after the merger, until the brass rondell inventory was exhausted. One common denominator on these pipes is a single letter.  I have no idea as to what it may mean, but M is frequently used. These pipes also had many more finish names, like your Americana, that were not seen before.  Comoy’s started doing the same thing, adding lines and letters just after the merger. I’ll look forward to seeing the restored pipe, it looks like a good candidate.

Thanks,

Al With Al’s ‘Odd Duck’ description in place, my best summation of this GBD Americana, is that it is placed after 1981, but in the early 80s, after the Cadogan merger, but before the brass rondel bucket emptied which more than likely indicates a cost-saving measure that may indicate a lowering of GBD quality – perhaps, only my guess.  I took a quick look in the early 80’s GBD catalog listings on Chris’s Pipe Pages, perchance to find a listing for an Americana, but came up empty.

With a greater appreciation for the name and history of the GBD Americana pipe before me, and the other GBDs waiting in my “Help Me!” basket, I take additional pictures on my work table to fill in the story and take a closer look. I like the appearance of this GBD Americana bent Billiard.  The cake build up in the chamber is thick and will need to be removed to the briar for a fresh start.  The rim is covered with lava flow and will need cleaning before I can see what lies beneath.  I’m interested to see what happens with the dark briar veins on the stummel surface when I clean it up with Murphy’s Soap.  I detect some pits and dents on the stummel surface – normal wear and tear.  The stem shows significant oxidation coupled with moderate teeth chatter and some dents on the bits.  The first thing I do to begin the restoration and recommissioning of this GBD Americana is to plop the stem into an Oxi-Clean solution for a good soak to raise the oxidation. After soaking several hours, I pluck the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath and the solution did the job of raising the oxidation.  After I take a picture, I wet sand the stem using 600 grit sandpaper that takes the mother-load of oxidation off.  I continue using 0000 steel wool to remove more oxidation and work the grooves around the button.  I also work around the GBD rondel with the steel wool, working on the oxidation and shining the brass as well.  The pictures show the progress.I then take pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl and clean the internals of the stem.  There was not too much resistance and the pipe cleaners returned clean very quickly.

Time to work on the stummel.  I begin by removing the moderate cake build up in the chamber.  I first put a paper towel down on the work space to collect the carbon dust and then take the Pipnet Reaming Kit and I use two smaller of the 4 blades available.  Starting with the smaller blade, I turn it until the crunchy resistance of the carbon cake is absent, then I move up to the next larger blade removing the cake.  Following the reaming blades, I use the Savinelli Pipe Knife and fine tune the reaming by scraping the chamber walls removing even more carbon.  Then, I roll 240 grit sanding paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber walls.  Finally, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the residue carbon dust and clean the chamber.  Inspecting the wall of the chamber, all looks good – no problems detected.  The pictures show the progress. I like working on a clean pipe so I turn now to the internals of the stummel.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95% I attack the mortise and the airway. The tar and oils are not putting up too much resistance and the pipe cleaners and swabs start coming through clean.  Later, I will give the internals a salt/alcohol soak to clean the stummel further and freshen the pipe. With the internals clean, I now turn to the external surface.  I’m anxious to see what the Murphy’s Soap does regarding the dark veins on the surface – I’m not sure if it’s actual dark grain color or something else.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and bristled tooth brush to scrub the surface and remove the grime.  To clean the rim, I also employ use of a brass bristle brush which will clean but not damage the wood.  Without a doubt, I am looking at an amazing piece of briar with dark, blackish veins in the grain – unique and striking.  The surface itself is in good shape.  I detect very small fills but they are solid and will easily blend.  The rim shows damage on the front-left edge – possibly scorching from lighting the pipe over the rim.  There is also a bevel on the inner rim. To remove the damage to the rim and to reestablish crisp lines, I will lightly top the GBD – only taking off as much as needed.  I use a chopping board on my work table with a sheet of 240 grit paper over it.  I invert the stummel and rotate the stummel in a circular motion – careful not to lean to the softer damaged area of the rim. I take a picture mid-way to show progress.  After removing enough of the top, I then switch to a 600 grit paper and give the rim a few more rotations on the topping board, primarily to smooth the rim.  Burning and discoloration remain on the inner rim after the topping.  I take 120 grit paper, tightly rolled, and cut a new inner rim bevel.  I follow with 240 grit paper rolled, then a 600 grit rolled paper to complete the bevel.  The pictures show the rim’s progress. With the stummel before me, I decide to proceed with sanding the externals.  I first use a light grade sanding sponge, followed by the micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000.  In sets of three, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, and then concluding also dry sanding with pads 6000 to 12000.  The grain in this GBD Americana is unique and the way the grain emerged through the micromesh cycles was striking.  The pictures show the sanding process. I now clean and freshen the internals of the stummel more and I use kosher salt and alcohol to soak the stummel.  The kosher salt will leave no residual taste as will regular iodized salt. I first stretch and twist a cotton ball to stuff down the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the tars and oils.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt and set it in an egg carton where it will have the right angle and be stable.  Then using a dropper, I fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it rises above the level of the salt.  I top it off after a few minutes because the alcohol is drawn down initially into the mortise and the cotton wick.  I then set the stummel aside for several hours to soak.  The pictures show the progress.With the stummel soaking, I start the stem polishing process.  I first work around the GBD rondel using a small piece of Mr. Clean Miracle Eraser.  I detect left over oxidation ringing the rondel in the vulcanite.  I do not want to bear down on the rondel with an abrasive so I’m hoping that Mr. Clean will do the job and the result confirms this.  Previously, when I removed the oxidation with 600 grit paper, it cleaned the button area of teeth chatter very well.  I detect on both the upper and lower lip edges residue oxidation that was shielded by the lip overhang.  I fold a piece of 240 grit paper to create a sharp blade/edge and sand the lip edge.  This removes the oxidation as well as sharpening the button definition.  I follow doing the same with 600 grit paper and then buff the bit, upper and lower with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the fine-tuning stem work. I’m ready to begin the micromesh pads polishing process.  First, using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem, followed by pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000, I dry sand the stem.  After each cycle of 3, I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite and take a picture to mark the progress.  The GBD stem rondel has a pop with the black backdrop of the newly revitalized vulcanite stem.  The pictures show the progress. Back home after a day at work, I’m looking forward to finishing and recommissioning this GBD Americana for service to a new steward.  The salt and alcohol soak has had all day and there isn’t that much discoloration of the salt – hopefully this means there wasn’t that much left to clean!  I thump the bowl on my palm to dislodge the used salt and dump it.  I then take a dry paper towel and wipe out the excess salt from the chamber and after removing the cotton wick, I use multi-sized round bristle brushes to remove excess salt from the airway and mortise.  Then I complete the job by wetting a cotton swab and a pipe cleaner with isopropyl 95% and plunge them, only to discover that the internals were indeed cleaned and ready to go. With the stummel cleaned and stem waiting in the wings, I reassemble the pipe to get a bird’s eye view of things.  It does not take long to decide not to apply a stain, but to leave the natural finish on this striking and graceful Bent Billiard.  The color combinations of the black veins and black stem, the golden briar and the brass stem rondel are eye-catching.  This is one nice looking pipe! I use white diamond compound with a felt wheel mounted on the Dremel at the lowest speed.  Before I apply the compound, I purge the wheel of old compound using the edge of the Dremel’s adjustment wrench.  I apply the compound to both stem and stummel. I rotate the wheel over the surface, not applying much downward pressure on the surface but allowing the RPMs of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  After the White Diamond, I mount a cotton cloth wheel at the same lowest speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stummel and stem.  With the compounds completed, I buff the pipe with a flannel cloth not so much to shine it but to remove the excess compound dust before I apply wax.  With the carnauba wax I mount the cotton cloth wheel, increase the speed one notch faster, 2 with the fastest being 5.  I apply several coats of wax to stem and stummel.  I finish the polishing process with a hand buff using a micromesh cloth to deepen and bring out the shine.

This GBD Americana Bent Billiard has perhaps the most striking briar grain I have yet to see.  The black veined grain gives a marbling effect that draws the eyes to look closer.  When one looks closer the grain is a myriad of shapes and bird’s eye swirls that make me ponder again one of God’s little creations.  Then, the black grain on the left side of the stummel, dips underneath the heel, and emerges on the right side as straight vertical grain resembling a mature tree, beginning with the roots, then trunk, replete with foliage fanning out above as it reaches toward the rim – a virtual canvas.  If I decide to sell this pipe (I’m conflicted, this one may indeed be a keeper!), you will see it in the store at my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  All the profits of pipes that I sell go to help the Daughters of Bulgaria – the organization we work with here in Bulgaria helping women and children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

 

Brandy Bent Unmarked – another ‘Hole in the Wall’ Find


Blog by Dal Stanton

The Brandy before me now was a very nicely bundled pipe when I recently purchased the Stanwell Silver Mount which I’ve already restored (See HERE).  I landed these pipes at the treasure trove I call the ‘Hole in the Wall,’ an antique shop in the center-city of Sofia, Bulgaria.  My sites were on the Stanwell which was the prize, with its silver and class, but when I saw the Brandy, I plucked it out of the basket to bundle with the Stanwell – hopefully to land a more favorable purchase price for the pair.  The Stanwell and Brandy came home with me that day, and the picture I took below commemorated that day’s finds.  The next picture shows the results of the Stanwell Silver Mount’s restoration – a beautiful, dressy pipe.brandy1 brandy2The Brandy drew my attention as well because the bowl is a significant presence in the palm as I cradled the expansive bowl.  When I first saw it, I thought it might be a Volcano shape because of the hefty, expansive base of the stummel and the tightly restrained cone moving upwardly culminating in the rim. Yet, looking at Pipedia’s Pipe’s Chart by Bill Burney (see below), my later thoughts were confirmed that this indeed is a Brandy – actually, the first in my collection.  The stummel measures 1 3/4 inches in diameter at the broadest point of the ‘brandy glass’ bulge and the stummel tightens to the rim which measures 1 1/4 inches.  The height of the stummel is 1 7/8 inches.  This bowl is nicely shaped and proportioned – I like it!brandy3I take more pictures when I take the Brandy out of the ‘Help Me!’ basket and place him on my work table.brandy4 brandy5 brandy6 brandy7 brandy8With the stem in the Oxi-Clean, I continue with the clean-up of the stummel internals using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After moderate resistance, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs started coming out cleaner.  Later, I will give the bowl a kosher salt/alcohol soak to further clean and freshen the internals and readying it for a new steward.brandy12With the internals cleaned with the frontal approach, I now look at the external surface.  I first scrub the rim and entire stummel with undiluted Murphy’s Oil to see if it makes much of a dent on the cloudy finish.  I have my doubts.  Well, after scrubbing the surface with Murphy’s Soap and I can see my reflection on the surface, I know that I’m dealing with an acrylic finish – the candy wrapper finish.  For manufacturers of pipes that put this kind of finish on a pipe, I can only think of two reasons to do so – it is a more cost-effective mass application of shininess – a chemically produced sheen that takes minimal time and man-hours, and to hide imperfections in the briar.  Switching to acetone to remove the finish, first, I use cotton pads, then the more persuasive help of 0000 steel wool.  The finish comes off with little effort and I begin to see why the finish is dark – there are several fills that the dark stain was masking.   I have no problems with darker hues to mask fills and imperfections, but I do not like the acrylic shine finish.  Pictures show the progress and the surface revealed.brandy13 brandy14 brandy15Before dealing with the fills, I sand the outer surface of the stummel and rim with a course grade sanding sponge to remove the superficial nicks and damage.  This works well.  I follow with a medium grade then a light grade sanding sponge to smooth and clean the surface of imperfections.brandy16I take a close look at the fills on the surface of the stummel and scrape them with a sharp dental probe to find out whether they are solid or if they are in danger of pitting.  Generally, they seem to be in good condition.  I do detect one pit and I drop-spot some super glue and apply an accelerator to cure the glue rapidly.  When the superglue is fully cured, I use a flat needle file to file it down near to the briar surface, then I use a rolled piece of 240 grit paper to sand it down to the surface, removing all the excess glue.  Then I use 600 grit paper just to smooth the surface of the patch.brandy17 brandy18Sanding with the sanding sponges removed most of the dents I detected earlier on the rim.  I want to freshen the inwardly sloped bevel to improve the lines of the rim.  I first cut an inner bevel with a rolled piece of coarser 120 grit paper.  Then I follow this by using 240 and 600 grit paper over the entire surface of the rim from the lower inner lip to the higher rim edge.  The result is a more tapered and sloped bevel and a crisper rim edge as the lower bevel blends into the upper slope.  The pictures show the progress.brandy19Next, I wet sand the stummel with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and when I complete this cycle, what I see I am not expecting.  Every fill on the stummel had softened and some had come out.  Apparently, the fill was not glue based, but simply a colored wood putty that would sit underneath the acrylic finish.  I haven’t seen anything like this up to this point.  Oh well….  I take the sharp dental probe and continue to dig out all the old filler putty and clean the holes left behind.  This restoration is taking an unexpected turn and it will take a bit of time to fill and sand down each of these 16 fill spots.  With briar dust and superglue, I mix a batch of putty and apply putty to each hole.  I leave excess over each fill area to be able later to sand each fill down flush to the briar surface.  I put the stummel aside for the patches to cure for about 12 hours.  The pictures show the digression.brandy20 brandy21With the putty patches curing, I take the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath and take a picture of the oxidation raised on the stem.  I then wet sand the stem with 600 grit paper followed by 0000 steel wool to remove the raised oxidation from the stem.  The stem is looking good.brandy22Before I proceed with the micromesh pad sanding, I clean the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Using a sharp dental probe, I also dig out gunk from the slot.  The stem internals were dirty but pipe cleaners eventually prevailed.brandy23I then begin the micromesh cycle by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3, I applied Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress, and a slight interruption when my daughter FaceTime’s me from Nashville between cycles – the pictures also show this wonderful interruption!   With the stem looking good, I put it aside and return to the stummel.brandy24 brandy25After the briar dust patches cure on the stummel surface, I begin the long process of filing and sanding the excess putty off the patches to bring the putty flush with the briar surface.  I first use a flat needle file to bring the excess almost to the surface and then I use 240 grit paper to smooth further, blending the patch with the surface.  With as many fills that I had, it provided ample practice to perfect my approach!  After smoothing all the briar dust putty patches, I find that some patches have small air-pockets revealed as I sand.  With these, I spot-drop some superglue, apply an accelerator to rapidly cure the glue, then re-sand those areas until the patches blend with the surface.  The pictures slow the slow progress.brandy27 brandy28 brandy29 brandy30With my day ending, I decide to clean the stummel internals further with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This cleans further as well as freshen the stummel for a new steward.  I stretch and twist a cotton ball to create a ‘wick’ to insert down the mortise.  This helps draw out the oils and grime.  Then I place the stummel in an egg carton for stability and fill the chamber with kosher salt.  The kosher salt is without iodine which can leave a taste.  I shake the stummel a bit with my palm over the chamber to displace the salt in the mortise a bit.  I then fill the fire chamber with isopropyl 95% until it rises a bit over the salt.  I then put the stummel aside for the night allowing the salt and alcohol to do the work.brandy31The next morning, the salt and cotton ‘wick’ had darkened signifying the job of drawing out tars and oils was achieved.  I dump out the expended salt by thumping the stummel on the palm and tossing the wick. I wipe the chamber with paper towel, and then use multi-sized round bristled brushes in the chamber and mortise to rid the stummel of residue salt.  I complete the cleaning job by plunging a few more cotton swabs and pipe cleaners into the mortise and draft hole and find that all the tars and oils have been removed.  I determine the Brandy’s cleaning, ‘Completed’!  The pictures show the progress.brandy32 brandy33 brandy34I turn again to the briar surface of the stummel.  With all the patch work done, I make a quick inspection of the surface looking for little shiny spots which would indicate that some residue excess of superglue was remaining on the briar surface.  I quickly address these with a rapid sanding with 240 grit paper.  From there, I return to a light grade sanding sponge and re-sand the entire surface aiming to help the blending with the plethora of patches and the briar surface.  brandy35I then proceed through the cycles of micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  The volatile nature of the grain in this block of briar becomes evident – it is evident that the block was taken from the upper or outer regions of the briar bush’s ‘burl’.  Its grain is more turbulent than you would find deeper inside the burl, where grains are a spectrum of non-existent to orderly currents of grain.  This excerpt from an article from Pipes & Tobaccos (1999) about briar grains from R. D. Field, I found very helpful in understanding briar grains:

Any burl, whether it be 30 years old or 130, does not possess what we call grain in its totality. When a burl is split in half a variety of patterns are able to be discerned in that: The center of the burl has no grain. The center, or heart, contains all the liquid held in the burl which is red in color and is known as blood. The wood surrounding this blood is also of a reddish tint and is devoid of capillaries as the water has got to where it was meant to be for storage.  Capillaries surround the center and, depending on the growing pattern of the burl and how it was split, can take the shape of straight grain, cross grain, flame grain, mixed grain, etc.

As we approach the upper part of the burl from where the branches emerge a pattern known as “branch wood” can be seen. Because the branches of the shrub actually start their growth within the burl the wood in these portions takes on some of the characteristics of the emerging branch. To look upon a swirling piece of briar devoid of other grain character (whether in a finished pipe or as part of the burl) is to look upon branch wood.

The many fills in this piece of briar I believe is due to it being an example of a block taken at a ‘branch wood’ formation seen in the pictures below.  The pictures show the progression through the micromesh pad cycles.brandy36 brandy37

The next step in the project is to stain the stummel.  I will aim for a darker hue but I want to contextualize this Brandy by bending the hue toward the reds using Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye mixed with Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye including a hint of black, non-aniline dye.  I found a picture on the internet (below) that envisions the perfect ambiance for this Brandy after he’s restored and recommissioned! I’m aiming for the darker hue of the brandy that is displayed.  Dreamstime is doing a good job promoting the brandy glass, but truth be known, the Brandy shaped pipe I have would have been a better choice for display!  Acknowledging a totally unscientific approach to the mixture, if I find the results too red, I will probably follow by a straight application of Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye as an overcoat.brandy38After the dyes are mixed in a shot glass, I heat the stummel with an air gun to expand the grains to absorb the dye more efficiently.  Then, using a bent-over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye mixture liberally over the surface, utilizing a cork inserted into the mortise as a handle.  When applied, I fire the stummel with a lit candle, and the alcohol in the dye immediately burns off and sets the dye in the grain.  To make sure I’ve achieved total coverage, I repeat the process again, finishing by firing the dye, and putting the stummel aside to rest for several hours.  The pictures show the staining process.brandy39 brandy40A little anxious to unwrap the flamed dye crust, my impatience wins out and I mount the felt wheel on the Dremel high speed rotary tool.  I set the speed to the slowest available and using Tripoli compound I begin removing the crust to reveal the briar underneath.  Then, using a cotton cloth wheel, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stummel, also using the slowest speed available.  After the Blue Diamond, I’m seeing two things – the hue is a bit redder than I wanted and I am seeing light spots that need darkening.  I use a mahogany dye stick and darken the light areas to blend.  Then, I take out the Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye, and set up for another application of dye to the stummel. With a folded pipe cleaner I apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye two times, as before, flaming after each application, then setting the stummel aside to rest.  Pictures tell the story.brandy41 brandy42After a few hours, I repeat the process of applying both Tripoli and Blue Diamond compounds to the stummel surface.  Following the compound application I hand buff the stummel with a flannel towel to remove the residue compound dust on the stummel.  I do this before applying the carnauba wax.  Changing to the cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I increase the speed to 2, the second slowest speed of 5 – being the fastest.  I reattach the stem and stummel and apply to both several coats of carnauba wax and then give the pipe a rigorous hand buff with a micromesh cloth to bring out the shine.brandy43This Brandy Bent Unmarked had a lot going against it after I discovered the multitude of fills necessary to restore and recommission this pipe.  Considering the odds against it, I think it looks very good.  The grain is very expressive.  I like the dark brown finish as the overcoat of the oxblood – it fits well the Brandy shape.  I sell my restorations with the profits helping the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – those sexually exploited and trafficked.  This Brandy is ready to serve a new steward.  If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, check out The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!brandy44 brandy45 brandy46 brandy47 brandy48 brandy49 brandy50

Hole in the Wall Gold Mine: Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major Rhodesian


Blog by Dal Stanton

Even though it was a snow trudging kind of day, making it to the ‘Hole in the Wall’ paid off again.  I mentioned this visit before when I was writing up the restoration of the Stanwell Silver Mount.  On this visit, I saw the Stanwell for the first time, but didn’t bite.  The next time I would!  On this visit, I found another very nice example of St. Claude, France’s claim to fame as an historic center of pipe production – rivaling the UK for market share in Europe.  When I saw the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major in the pipe basket on the cluttered Hole in the Wall shelf, my initial reaction was its size – a hefty guy.  My first assessment was that it was a Bulldog shape, then I noted the large rounded shank – a Rhodesian or a Bullmoose?  This one is going home with me regardless!  I looked in the basket for a good pipe to bundle and I saw an attractive, diminutive, Bent Billiard Sitter with a swan neck stem – unmarked, but a very nice looking pipe.  When I got home I took a quick picture of the bundled pair and put them in the ‘Help Me!’ basket for later attention.butz1 butz2When I take the BC Cocarde Major out of the basket, I am anxious to recommission this nice-looking Rhodesian, I decide.  The first thing I do is pull up Google Translator and insert Cocarde Major in the French to English machine.  I did not study French in school so help is appreciated.  I want to know if special meaning is attached to this St. Claude BC.  Cocarde translated into English as the word, ‘Cockade’ which was defined as, a rosette, roundel or knot of ribbons worn in a hat as a badge of office or party, or as part of a livery. With a little looking on the internet, I found these interesting French examples of Cocardes.butz3With this meaning for ‘Cocarde’ it put doubt in my mind regarding my original thought that ‘Major’ referred to large or big.  Attaching Major to the idea of the French symbol of national pride, it is most likely pointing to a level of rank, or when ‘Major’ is attached to another rank (e.g., sergeant-major) it denotes the ranking of one superior among those of the same rank.  I emailed a colleague living and working in Toulouse, France, whose command of the language could help.  His comments confirmed what I was thinking:

The word cockade refers to a national symbole for the French, like “cocarde tricolore’ refers to the French flag which is, of course, one of the most important symbols of the French people and national pride.  It has many meanings, but for example official cars or planes have this symbol on it.  You are right about the word Major, refering to a military grade. Used as an adjectif, “majeur” it means big.   I would conclude that this is simply the name of the pipe.  You can’t translate it literally.  The pipe’s name implies in my opinion that it is a symbol of French pride, like the French insignia for a general in the military.

With the symbols of French pride stamped on this BC Rhodesian, I have a greater appreciation for the pipe when I take more pictures now on my worktable.butz4 butz5 butz6 butz7 butz8The stampings on the left side of the shank are “Butz-Choquin” in an arched script over “Concarde” over “Major”.  On the right side is, “St Claude” arched over “France” over “1028”, the BC shape number.  Per Pipedia’s history of the name, when Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz, started out as a tobacconist and the business prospered.  In 1858, one of his employees, one Gustave Butz, fell for his boss’ daughter and they were married.  That same year, Butz and Choquin came together to form the enterprise that is now known as Butz-Choquin, and eventually moved the operation from Metz to St. Claude, known as “the world capital of the briar pipe”.  Looking on the internet, I found another BC shape ‘1028’ but was called a ‘Bourbon Major’.  The shape was that of a Bulldog, with the diamond shank.  I know there is debate regarding the difference between Bulldog and a Rhodesian classification, but I am happy with Bill Burney’s descriptive difference in the Pipedia shapes Chart, that the difference between the two is, the Rhodesian has a round shank and the Bulldog, a diamond.

So, looking more closely at the BC Rhodesian in front of me, I see that the surface is generally in good shape – striking grain patterns.  There are two noticeable fills that need addressing.  There is also a chip over the shank, where the double grooves meet – the grooves forming the border between the upper and lower cones of the Rhodesian stummel.  The chamber has thick carbon cake buildup and needs removal down to the briar for a fresh start.  The stem has very little oxidation and a couple distinct clincher tooth marks on the top bit and chatter above and below.  The stamped ‘BC’ stem marking is in good shape but the white color needs touching up.  The following pictures show the question areas on the stummel – mainly fills and the chip.butz9 butz10Even though the oxidation is minor, I put the stem in an Oxi-Clean bath for a few hours to raise the oxidation to the surface.  I first cover the stem ‘BC’ stamp with petroleum oil.  Turning to the stummel, I take the Pipnet Pipe Reamer kit and use the two smaller blades of the four available and remove the cake using first the smallest, then graduating to the next larger when the blade stops meeting resistance.  This cake is hard and crusty but vacates in short order.  I fine tune the reaming with my Savinelli Pipe Knife.  I’ve grown to like this handy tool.  What The Pipe Smoker blog says about it is spot on:

Basically, a three-sided scraper, it can be placed in the chamber exactly where it needs to be placed and then cake is scraped off with a simple movement of the wrist. It allows full control over where the cake is being reduced. It has a rounded tip, which means that it will not damage the bottom of the bowl. It makes no difference, whether the chamber is straight or conical, I can use the same tool on either. It requires no adjustment. 

After the Savinelli pipe knife scrapes the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie pen and sand the chamber removing the last vestiges of carbon.  I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber looks great.  I fold up the paper towel and my work station is clean again.  Pictures show the progress.butz11 butz12 butz13 butz14I then switch to the internals of the stummel and clean the mortise and airhole with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After some extended effort, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs are coming out clean.  Later, I’ll add another measure of cleaning by giving the stummel a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I like to go the extra mile when I’m preparing a pipe for a new steward.  The picture shows the progress.butz15Turning to the stummel externals, I remove the grime on the surface and clean the rim.  I use undiluted Murphy Oil Soap with cotton pads.  I use a bristle tooth brush as well to clean the double grooves circling the cone.  I also employ a brass brush to clean the lava and grime off the rim.  The pictures show the progress.butz16Time to fish the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath.  It’s amazing that even when the stem looks to have little oxidation, the Oxi-Clean bath raises the oxidation to the surface.  I wet sand with 600 grit paper to remove the bulk of the oxidation from the vulcanite and then follow-up using 0000 steel wool. Throughout this process, I give care to work around the ‘BC’ stem stamping.  Pictures show the progress.butz17With the tooth dents on the upper bit, I attempt to remove by using a lit candle’s heat to raise the indentations by expanding the vulcanite but it wasn’t working well.  So, I apply a small drop of super glue to the spots and then apply an accelerator to cure the glue.  After a few minutes, I use the flat edge needle file to file down the superglue patches to the vulcanite surface.  While I have the file out, I file the button lip, upper and lower, to give them more definition.  I follow with applying 240 grit paper to remove the file marks and to fine tune and blend the superglue patches.  I follow with 600 grit paper and then 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.butz18 butz19 butz20 butz21I clean and freshen the internals of the stummel further with a Kosher Salt/alcohol soak for several hours.  I set the stummel in a sturdy egg carton and twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise, pushing it in with a straight wire.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt which is not iodized – which can leave a taste.  Then, I fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces above the salt.  The pictures show the process.butz22The next morning, the salt/alcohol soak had run its course and from the darkening of the salt and the cotton wick, the process effectively cleaned and freshened the stummel internals even after the plethora of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs.  I dump the old expended salt and thump the stummel on my palm, then use a paper towel and wipe the bowl.  I use bristle brushes to clean the mortise and again, pipe cleaners through the airway to finish the cleanup.  As billed, the soak works.  Pictures show the soak results.butz23With the internals of the stummel clean, I clean the internals of the stem.  Using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% I work on the stem.  After I begin, even though the ¼ bent saddle stem is not an extreme bend, I’m surprised that I am not able to move a pipe cleaner through the stem without difficulty.  Finally, I pass a bristled pipe cleaner through and move it back and forth, hoping that it loosens up the passageway. It doesn’t.  I decide to use the technique that Charles Lemon used on Dad’s Pipes (See here: Link) of expanding the airway by heating the stem and moving a pipe cleaner through.  Just to be on the safe side, I draw an outline of the stem’s bend to use as a template for a comparison after I re-bend the pipe back to the original.  I first straighten the stem by warming it with a heat gun until the vulcanite becomes pliable.  After inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I then reheat the stem and return the stem to the ¼ bend.  Now, back to the original curve comparing to the template, without difficulty I complete the cleaning of the stem using isopropyl dipped pipe cleaners moving freely through the airway.  I also clean the crud out of the slot with a dental probe.  Pictures show the process.butz24 butz25Before starting the micromesh phase to raise the luster of the BC bent stem, I use Miracle Eraser on the ‘BC’ stem stamp to remove the oxidation without applying an abrasive to the stamp.  It does seem to help.  Then, I wet sand the stem using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  I complete each set by applying Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  To watch the stem gradually pop, is an amazing process.  This Butz-Choquin is cleaning up nicely.  I set the stem aside to dry.butz26 butz27Now I return to the stummel and take a close look.  After cleaning with Murphy’s Soap, I detect about 4 or 5 fills on the surface that need addressing. The fills are solid but with some, I’m able to scrape of the upper layer of the fill.  There is also a chip in the double grove going around the stummel.  With the smaller fills, that are not pitted, I use dye sticks, starting with a lighter hue and graduating to a darker hue, until the blend is best.  I then use a lightly dampened cotton pad with isopropyl 95% to dab the areas to blend further with the surrounding briar.  The pictures show the progress.butz28 butz29With those more pitted, I mix a bit of superglue and briar dust to form a putty and apply on the pitted fills.  Carefully, I also paint the groove chip and before the putty start hardening, I clear overflow putty from the grooves with a sharp dental probe.  I use an accelerator to cure the briar dust putty patches more rapidly.   After a short time, I sand each putty fill to bring it to the briar surface.  I first carefully use a flat needle file to work the putty hills down to almost surface level then I use 240 grit paper to sand to the surface level.butz30 butz31 butz32Decision time.  I want to restore this Butz-Choquin as close to the original shade as I can.  I discovered on TobaccoPipes.com a BC in the same shape group as the Cocarde Major – 1028.  In the picture below, the shade of the stummel is light and I think I can achieve this by simply sanding the stummel and restoring the briar to its original natural luster – MINUS what appears to be an acrylic finish below. I can still decide to apply a stain at the end of the sanding process after I have a better idea of the briar as it emerges.  The shape below is a BC Cocarde 1025 – the only difference I detect is the tapered stem versus the saddle stem.butz33First, I want to freshen the rim lines and re-cut an inner bevel which will look better and remove discoloration on the inner rim edge.  The rim has a subtle slant toward the chamber.  I cut the initial bevel using a coarse 120 grip paper rolled tightly.  When I reestablish the bevel, I follow by sanding with 240 grit sanding paper.  I then sand the stummel using a medium grade sanding sponge, followed by a light grade sanding sponge.  I am careful to work around the stampings on the sides of the shank.  Before I move on to the micromesh sanding, I use dye sticks to help blend the fill patch areas that are not yet blending.  After applying the dye stick, I then lightly dab the area with a cotton pad slightly wetted with alcohol.  This helps blend with the surrounding briar.  The pictures show the progress.butz34 butz35 butz36 butz37I follow by using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel.  After this, I dry sand using 3200 to 4000 then finish with pads 6000 to 12000.  I then run a toothpick through both grooves connecting the upper and lower domes of the Rhodesian to remove residue remaining from the sanding process.butz38 butz39To step back and take in the big picture, I reunite stem and stummel and take a picture.  I see two distinct briar dust putty fills that are looking like I should have used a clear superglue fill instead.  They are darker than the surrounding grain environment – not an ideal situation.butz40I decide I can live with the fill on the upper cone, next to the rim.  It is smaller and I hope that it will blend after applying a light brown stain which is looking like will be needed.  With the larger lower fill, I will delicately try reaming the fill with the point of a Dremel tool to remove the putty.  Depending on how that goes, the next step will be to shape the fill somewhat so that the shape is less circular and flows more with the surrounding grain pattern.  Then, I will fill the new hole with clear superglue, sand and again be back to where I am now – hopefully with better blending.  Phase one seems to go well – very carefully.  With the Dremel tool I clean the putty fill and shape the pit circle to flow with the grain.  I then spot-glue and use accelerator to cure the new clear patch.  Looking good so far.   I use a flat needle file to remove the superglue fill mound almost to the briar surface, then I use 240 grit paper rolled, to strategically stay on top of the glue to bring it down to surface.  I follow with 600 grit, then steel wool, then the full array of 9 micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I touch up a bit with a light dye stick and blend with a cotton pad with a bit of alcohol.  I am now back to where I was at the beginning of the detour. The fill is still visible, but doesn’t jump out proclaiming, “Here I am, Boys!”  The pictures show the detoured progress.butz41 butz42 butz43 butz44Now, to promote blending throughout the entire stummel, I use Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye.  I warm the stummel to open the grains to receive the dye.  Using a doubled-over pipe cleaner I liberally apply the dye over the stummel careful to achieve full coverage, rim and grooves.  I then flame the aniline dye with a lit candle and the alcohol immediately burns off, setting the dye in the grain.  To achieve total coverage, I repeat the process above after a few minutes, complete with flaming.  I put the stummel aside to rest and I’ll return to it after work this evening.butz45One last task to do before heading to work.  I want to freshen the ‘BC’ stem marking with white acrylic paint.  I put a small dab of paint over the ‘BC’ and then use a toothpick to spread the paint, making sure the marks are fully covered.  Tonight, after the paint is fully cured, I’ll scrape off the excess leaving a fresh Butz-Choquin stem.butz46Back home and ready to go.  The white acrylic paint has fully cured on the stem marking.  I take a toothpick and gently scrape the excess paint away using the side of the toothpick.  Doing this, the toothpick passes over the top of the stamping leaving the indentations fully renewed.butz47Time to ‘unwrap’ the fire crusted stummel after applying Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye.  Using the felt wheel, I set the speed of the Dremel to the slowest possible and using Tripoli compound, after purging the wheel of old compound with the sharp edge of the Dremel’s adjustment wrench, I remove the crust from the stummel.  I take a picture to show this process.  After the crust is removed, I use cotton pads wet with isopropyl 95% to wipe down the stummel.  I lighten the stummel’s hue a good bit aiming for the original as closely as possible and to blend the dye across the grain.  When I reach the hue that looks good, I switch to a cotton cloth wheel mounted on the Dremel, and after reuniting stem and stummel, I apply Blue Diamond compound both.  I’m loving watching the grain on this BC Cocarde Major Rhodesian start popping – it is truly an amazing process and the components of such fine abrasion produce such a result in the briar. When completed with Blue Diamond I give the pipe a buff with a felt towel, not so much for shining but to remove residue compound before I apply the wax.  After mounting the cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I increase the speed to the second slowest speed and apply several coats of carnauba wax to stem and stubble.  When finished, I rigorously hand buff the pipe with a micromesh cloth.butz48 butz49The grain on this Rhodesian is placed perfectly to enhance the proud, chin forward carriage of the stummel.  The horizontal flame grain crosses the heel of the stummel and flows to the sides terminating in bird’s eye – a beautiful showpiece of briar that is well-suited to bear the name of French pride – Cocarde Major.  This Butz-Choquin Rhodesian, another traveler from St. Claude, is looking for a new steward.  I sell the pipes I restore and give the profits to benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – rescuing women and children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  If you are interested in adding this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major Rhodesian to your collection, you can find it at the store at my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  Thanks for joining me!butz50 butz51 butz52 butz53 butz54 butz55

Another Wedding Trip Pick: A 1961 DUNHILL EK Shell Briar Made in England 1 4S


Blog by Dal Stanton

Unbelievably, I found this classic Dunhill EK Shell Briar at Madeline’s Antiques & Uniques during the trip for our daughter’s wedding in the US last November. Madeline’s was one of those picker paradises waiting on the I 24 Exit near Manchester, TN, that thankfully, we did not drive past! I had pleasure restoring and gifting our youngest son on Christmas in Denver, the Aged Imported Briar Poker (Red Dot) pictured below on the bottom (See: Link) and the restored Poker’s picture following. Now, shift two pipes above the Poker in the picture below, and you’ll see the Dunhill EK Shell Briar that now has my attention after rescuing him from my ‘Help Me!’ basket here in Sofia, Bulgaria.dal1 dal2At 5 3/4 inches in length, it is a nicely sized square shanked paneled billiard – a very nicely blasted Dunhill Shell pipe.  The stampings are worn but legible on the lower panel of the squared shank.  On the left quadrant, it reads, “Dunhill” over “EK Shell Briar”.  The right reads, “Made In” over “England 1”. Then, to the extreme right on the shank’s edge is 4 ensconced in a circle followed by S.  On the top panel of the squared, tapered stem is embedded the well-known Dunhill white dot – a mark of excellence since 1915.

In 1915, the famous white spot was introduced for very practical concerns. With straight pipes, customers had trouble knowing which way to insert the handmade vulcanite mouthpieces. So, Alfred Dunhill ordered white spots to be placed on the upper side of the stem. This very practical solution would become a definitive trademark of Dunhill pipes. The “white spot” soon became known as a symbol of quality. (Link to Pipedia’s history for Dunhill)

This is my first opportunity to research Dunhill to understand better the heritage of the pipe on my work table.  There is much information about Dunhill on the internet, which is nidal3ce change.  My impressions of the founder, Alfred Dunhill, are that he was a talented and creative businessman, who understood well that a quality product would create a financial boon along with understanding the ‘needs’ of a market.  Per Pipedia, in 1893, he inherited a harness business at only age 21, but was savvy enough to see the approaching reality of the automobile and he leveraged his company to prepare for it. He started, “Dunhill Motorities” to capitalize on this new industry. His first experiment in pipe making was to accessorize for the ‘new’ and sophisticated needs of those now driving cars which were faster than horse and carriage.  To me, this epitomizes Alfred Dunhill’s approach to business and perhaps, to life as well. With wind in the faces of potential customers, he birthed the idea of marketing a pipe with a windshield! We laugh, but this says something about the man who guided his company through the Great Depression when many pipe manufacturers were closing their door.  Dunhill expanded.  The Pipedia synopsis describes the world-wide growth of Dunhill Pipes and their association with quality – the preferred pipe of the rich and famous and the aristocracy.  This ‘market share’ was due in part to Alfred Dunhill’s practice of giving pipes to the English military officers during WW1.  Altruism or good marketing?  During that time the aristocracy of England was awarded military commissions by birth-right.  Dunhill was a smart businessman, there’s little doubt of this.  I also read that it was Alfred Dunhill who kept Winston Churchill well-supplied in cigars.  Another interesting thing I saw as I did my research was threads and discussions arguing why Dunhill pipes are more expensive than most?  Quality or overrating based upon a name?  This Pipe Magazine thread is one example.

The largest part of my curiosity regarding Dunhill is to understand better the creation of the ‘Sand Blast’ finish, or as it’s called in Dunhill Land, Shell.  In my diminutive time rescuing and restoring pipes, I’ve never had clarity in my mind about the differences between blasted and rustified surfaces – and variations therein.  These distinctions are clear to most enthusiasts in pipe collecting and restoration but I’ve been a bit slow on the uptake!  I’m looking at the Dunhill Shell Briar – my first thought had been that it must have something to do with shells on a sea shore….  This small article was especially helpful from the same Pipedia page:

Shell

A deep craggy sandblast with a black stain finish. Dunhill patented the sandblast finish in England in 1917 (Patent No. 1484/17) and the U.S. in 1920 (Patent No. 1,341,418). See The Art of Sandblasting, by R.D. Field, for in depth look at Dunhill’s revolutionary new finish. The deepest and craggiest finishes were from Algerian briar, which is softer and yields more to the blasting. These are found in circa 1920’s, 1940’s, and 1960’s Shells. The pipes were double blasted until the 1960’s, and then the double blast technique resumed in the 1980’s calling it the “Deep Shell” finish. During the 1960’s and 70’s Dunhill could not acquire the Algerian briar. Consequently, the company’s sandblast pipes were much shallower and less distinct. Once again Dunhill showed itself to be innovative, inventing the “double blast” technique to bring about a deeper blast even with harder briar. The black shell sandblast finish uses a stain the was developed for the color, not the taste. They have a more bitter taste, even when well smoked.

Now I have it.  The knowledge that blasting highlights briar grain by removing softer wood through the process has changed how I now look at the surface of a blasted pipe or with Dunhill, a Shell pipe.  ‘Shell’ reportedly came from observations of the earliest experiments with sand blasting briar shapes – they were shriveled and looked like a ‘shell’ – that is, a shadow of their former states.  Even with the limited number of restorations I’ve done to date, it is obvious that I thoroughly love and enjoy working on smooth briars, simply for the challenge and delight of witnessing the beauty of briar grain appear.  Now, I study the Dunhill EK Shell Briar with a new appreciation for a different perspective on the same beautiful grains but revealed via blasting.  So much for my reflections!  Here are pictures of the Dunhill I’ve been reflecting upon!dal4 dal5 dal6 dal7 dal8 dal9Before I begin the restoration work, one last tick on the research list – the nomenclature.  The two pictures above show the markings on the lower shank panel.  I admit, when I first started trying to make sense of the plethora of information on Dunhill dating, it was daunting and a bit confusing, but as I looked at R.D. Fields’ A Dunhill Pipe Dating Guide published in Pipedia, Pipephil’s unbelievable charts, and tooling through all the examples of Dunhill nomenclature exemplified year-by-year, and also Pipephil’s, Dunhill Dating Key – pieces started coming together.  Reborn Pipe’s reposting of Eric Boehm’s Dunhill Shapes Collated was helpful as well.  When I first looked at the pictures above, I had missed the ‘E’ of the EK Shell Briar which is barely legible due to the wear next to the heel of the stummel.  Boehm’s information about ‘EK’ shape was: “Quaint Shape” Hexagonal panel billiard, square shank, angled tapered bit “Stand-up” 1928.  The EK Hexagonal panel is interesting in that a hexagon has 6 sides.  Over the years, this shape may have added more angled variety.  This EK is either squared if you only count the 4 major panels, but it is possible when including the tapered, smaller panels creating the corners, 8 panels are encircling this stummel.  The Pipephil Dunhill Shape Code chart calls the EK a square panel and provides an example of an EK 1958.  The markings are:

EK = Square Panel (shape letters)

4 (in circle) = Bowl Size

S – material: Shell or sand blasted

The dating of this pipe is 1961, based upon the suffix number ‘1’ following ‘England 1’.  Clear? Starting in 1955, Dunhill stopped including the full patent number in the nomenclature.  So, for Dunhills without the patent number, if the number following the ‘England’ is 5-0 (underlined or a subscript) then it would be the year 1950 + X = Year.  So, a Dunhill having ‘England 5’ is from 1955.  With the 1960s the system changed to 1960 being the base starting point with suffix numbers added to ‘England’ that were not underlined or subscripted, but the same size as the D in England.  Are you confused – I was, but it finally became clear.  The dating suffix in the picture above is ‘England 1’ which indicates a dating of 1960 +1 = a 1961 dating!  If I had an ‘England 24’ it would be dated 1984.  I found another EK Shell Briar on this finished eBay listing which was “London 8” – 1968.dal10

Pipe Pages had this example of an Owl Catalogue of 1962 with a picture of the same EK shape in the center but its dating would look like this: “England 2”.  I don’t know if this makes it clearer, but I am thankful for Dunhill dating his pipes!

With a new appreciation for Dunhill, and the EK Shell Briar, Made in England 1, 4S, before me, I hope that I can recommission this pipe for another lifetime and to serve another steward!  The stummel generally looks good – it needs to be cleaned thoroughly – the internals and the blasting.  The cake in the chamber needs to be removed to the briar to allow a fresh start and to examine the chamber wall.  The rim is seriously caked with oils and lava flow and the rim has a small chip on the shank-side panel which will need coloring and blending.  The lower shank panel with the Dunhill nomenclature is already worn – I will clean the area but stay clear of any abrasives.  I thought I detected a crack in at the 4 o’clock mark looking at the shank, but with a closer look, thankfully it is grain and not a crack!  The stem is the challenge.  The oxidation is heavy and needs to be removed.  The button has a bite-through on the lower side that breaches the lip.  The button will need rebuilding and the hole patched.  I remove the stem from the shank and put a pipe cleaner through the airway and plop it in an Oxi-Clean bath to start addressing the heavy oxidation.dal11With the stummel, I take the Pipnet Reaming Kit to address the cake build-up in the chamber. I take another picture of the cake to mark the progress.  For easier clean-up, I always put down a double layer of paper towel to catch the exorcised carbon.  I use the two smallest blades of the 4 available to me to ream the chamber.  Starting with the smallest, then the next larger size.  After this, to fine tune the reaming, I use the Savinelli Pipe Knife by scraping the walls further.  Then, wrapping 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the walls to remove the smallest traces of carbon and to bring the chamber again to briar.  I finish by using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and wipe the chamber to remove the carbon dust. After inspection, the chamber walls show no sign of burning through though I do detect heat fissures that are not serious, but need attention in the last stages of the restoration.  The pictures show the reaming process and inspection questions.dal12 dal13 dal14 dal15Before moving to the external cleaning, I tackle the internals – using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% I clean the inside airway.  The resistance is significant so I take a drill bit, the size of the airway, and ream and scrape it – trying to dislodge the gunk and bring it out.  I continue with cotton swabs and pipe for some time – also utilizing sharp and spaded dental probes to reach and scrape into the mortise.  After some time, the pipe cleaners started returning less soiled.  I’m calling the frontal siege completed, but at the close of the day, I will commence the Trojan Horse attack to further clean the internals with a Salt and Alcohol soak.   The pictures show the progress.dal16Now to the externals.  Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, I scrub the rim and blast surface using cotton pads and a bristled tooth brush to get into the crags and crevices.  I also use a brass wire brush on the rim to loosen the crusting.  The brass wire will not harm the briar. dal17Ridding the rim of the lava crust reveals several nicks and bare briar around the rim panels.  I also note that there are several places along the shank/stem junction that have lightened because of wear.  I use furniture repair markers starting with the lightest hue (Maple) and methodically start touching the rim spots as well as around the shank.  When the ‘scarring’ or lightened areas are still evident, I graduate to the next darker brown hue, then a third stick darker still.  Looking for the blending to occur.  As I go, I have a cotton pad lightly dampened with alcohol to wipe the areas gently to create more blending of the dyed areas along the rim and shank.  The first 3 pictures show the problems (forgot to picture the shank!) and the last 3 after using the dye sticks.dal18 dal19 dal20 dal21With the stummel repairs completed, I give the internals more cleaning and freshening.  I put the stummel in the egg carton and fill the bowl with Kosher Salt and twist a cotton ball and stuff it down the mortise, to help draw out the left-over gunk.  I then fill the bowl slowly with isopropyl 95% until it reaches the level of the salt.  I put it stummel aside and let the salt/alcohol soak to do its thing.dal22With the stummel soaking, I fish the stem out of the Oxi-clean bath.  The bath did a good job causing the olive greenish oxidation to rise to the surface.  Using 600 grit paper, I wet sand the stem taking off the raised oxidation.  I follow this with using 0000 steel wool – removing more oxidation and shining and smoothing the vulcanite stem.  I’m careful to avoid sanding over the shoulders of the stem to round off the squared shank.  The pictures show the progress.dal23I turn now to the internal stem airway using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  As hoped, the resistance was little and the pipe cleaners were coming through the airway and emerging clean. dal24With clean internals, what remains is to rebuild the button and patch the bite-through hole from the former stewards clinching.  I create a slot insert using an index card cut to fit and then covered with slick scotch tape – the plastic looking kind.  This will keep the charcoal-superglue putty from sticking to the insert.  The insert serves two purposes.  First, it protects the airway from putty dripping down and plugging things which would add significantly to the work load!  It also provides the form underneath the hole to shape the fill.  I open a capsule of activated charcoal on an index card and I mix it with Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA glue – after I place a puddle of it next to the charcoal.  Gradually, I pull charcoal into the puddle of CA glue using a toothpick until I reach a viscosity of molasses and then strategically I dollop the putty in to the tooth hole and around the button – more than needed so that during the sanding phase there’s enough material to shape the button adequately.  Just as an experiment, I’m putting the putty on a bit wetter than usual and use an accelerator to cure it more rapidly.  I want to see if the result might be fewer air pockets in the patch material.  The pictures show the progress with the button patch and rebuild.dal25 dal26 dal27After a fruitful day at work, I’m anxious to return to the worktable.  The Kosher Salt and alcohol bath has run the course and as expected, the salt has darkened and the cotton stuffed into the mortise has acted as a ‘wick’ drawing out the oils and tars – thank you Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes for the suggestion of using cotton rather than a cork.  It worked well.  After dumping the salt, I wipe the chamber with a paper towel to remove all the residue salt.  I also employ bristle brushes to clean out the mortise to remove all the old used salt.  Then I return to using some cotton swabs and pipe cleaners down the mortise and they came out clean. Job done.  The pictures show the progress.dal28Many of the pipes I’ve been restoring have had significant stem issues – splicing the L J Peretti, and several button rebuilds have come my way.  I like to think I’m getting more practice resulting in better results!  So is the hope.  I take fresh pictures, top and bottom, of the patched area using activated charcoal dust and Special ‘T’ CA glue to mark the progress.  Beginning from the slot-side, I use a sanding drum with the Dremel to remove quickly the large hunk of runover.   Then, using a flat needle file, I work toward bringing the new edge of the button to where the original slot is.  After this is accomplished, I carefully file inside the slot to shape it. Care is given because the lower slot lip in the center, is 100% patch fill from the tooth hole breaching the slot.  The patch material tends to be softer than the vulcanite so the center – lower area of the slot may be soft and give up too much territory as I file.  I gently (and patiently!) use the small circular part of a pointed needle file to shape the inner part of the slot.  It looks good.  Pictures show the progress to establishing the new rough slot.dal29 dal30 dal31Now I establish the upper edge of the shank-side of the button lip.  I do this by eyeballing a logical place to have the lip – maybe giving me a little more lip than needed now – I can always file it down, but can’t file it up! I place a score in the patch bulge with the corner edge of the flat needle then gradually file the score across the button and moving downward toward the original stem surface.  As I file with the flat needle file, I keep the left edge of the file off the stem and lean into the patch area. I don’t want to scar up the stem for no reason!  Pictures show the gradual, patient shaping process with the file.dal32 dal33With the top shape-out completed with the file, I flip the stem and repeat the process on the bottom side.  I follow the button line from the top to the bottom by continuing to score the line around the excess on the stem edges, filing and rounding the button on the left and right.  I use the stem’s lines on the left and right sides, coming from the shank-side to create the line through the left and right side of the button.  At the end, it’s a smooth transition on the sides from the stem’s sides to/though the button’s sides. I picture what I’m attempting to explain in the last picture in this set below.  I’m also careful to uncover gradually the tooth hole patched area in the center bottom.  I expect the patch area to be softer than the vulcanite and I want the patch to blend.  The pictures show the progress on the lower side of the button.dal34 dal35The last two pictures show the completion of the button shaping upper then lower, using 240 grit paper followed by 600 grit paper and 0000 grade steel wool to catch the button repair area with the rest of the stem.  The button rebuild looks great and the hole patch is blending well.dal36 dal37At this point I take a close look at the patch area and I see some air pockets – not many, but some.  That cannot stand for the recommissioning of this 1961 Dunhill.  What comes to your mind when you reflect on 1961?  This is what I see, a ’61 Chevy with this Dunhill along for the ride!  Perhaps I need to acquire one of Alfred Dunhill’s Patent Shield Pipe too!dal38This Dunhill might be a good Birth Year Pipe for someone if I can give it up.  I take regular superglue and make a small puddle and use a toothpick to hole drop glue and paint some areas to fill the air pockets and I follow by spraying the fills with accelerator.  Following this, I sand the fill areas with 600 grit paper and then 0000 grade steel wool.  I declare button repair consummatum est! dal39 dal40 dal41I take the Dremel and finally fabricate a plastic washer to guard against sanding down the shoulders of the stem.  Using the washer with the stummel providing the resistance, I wet sand with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand using the next set of 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each set of three with an application of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  My, this stem and Dunhill White dot are ready for the ’61 Chevy convertible!dal42 dal43I may have created a problem showing the ’61 Chevy paired with a British-born pipe.  So, I suppose this British made ’61 MGA Roadster would do OK in a pinch 🙂dal44With the micromesh phase completed, I turn again to the stummel.  Previously, I applied dye sticks to lightened wear areas to give a fresher look.  I look at the rim a little closer and it still appears crusty and black – lacking the light reddish speckling present in the rest of the stummel.  I lightly sand the rim with the 1500 micromesh pad and then use my pen knife and gently scrape the top.  I only remove the crust on the sand blasted surface.  After scraping, I return to Murphy’s Oil Soap and with a brass brush, scrub the rim again and rinse with tap water.  I’m seeing a better contrast of hues now in the blast textured surface. I then take the darker hue stain stick and randomly paint portions of the rim to add more contrast and interplay and then lightly dab and wipe with a slightly wetted cotton pad with isopropyl 95% to blend.  I want to keep the original color of the EK Shell Briar and the look of a classic 1961 Dunhill.  The pictures show the progress.dal45 dal46Using a cotton cloth wheel, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stummel.  I set the Dremel speed to 1, the slowest possible.  With the Dremel’s wheel, as small and concise as it is, I can rotate the stummel and guide the wheel so it’s going with grains – maneuvering in the peaks and valley of the Shell moonscape surface.  I don’t overload the wheel with compound and press with too much force downward, but allow the RPMs of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  After completing the compound application, I hand-buff the stummel with a flannel cloth to remove the loose compound residue before applying the wax.   With the stem and stummel reunited, I give both several coats of carnauba wax.  I use a separate cotton cloth Dremel wheel dedicated to carnauba, I set the speed at 2, with 5 being the fastest setting.  As I did with the Blue Diamond, I utilize the strategic smallness of the Dremel’s wheel as I maneuver to distribute the carnauba wax without gunking up in the Shell textured surface.  Following the wax, I give the Dunhill a brisk hand-buff with a micromesh cloth.

One last need on the check-list before recommissioning this 56-year-old Dunhill.  After this many years of active service, heat fissures had developed in the chamber. I want to coat the chamber with a mixture that helps protect the briar while at the same time provides a temporary foundation for the cake to develop which will provide the long-term protection of the chamber briar.  I have heard, and repeat here, proper cake depth to be maintained is about the thickness of a US dime.  It would have been easier to do this before polishing the stummel, but I forgot until now.  No problem. dal47In the past, I’ve used a coating mixture of activated charcoal dust and sour cream (here on Reborn Pipes) – which works wonderfully and leaves no taste or smell – it is inert.  Since I don’t see any sour cream in the refrigerator, I decide to use the method that Charles Lemon uses which he described here on Dad’s Pipes using maple syrup and activated charcoal as the main ingredients.  Since we do not have maple syrup in Bulgaria (bummer!), Charles assured me after an emailed question, that honey, plentiful in Bulgaria, would serve well as a substitute.  Charles’ directions are straight forward, which I follow:

  1. Insert a pipe cleaner in the stem of the pipe to keep the airway open.
  2. Wipe maple syrup around the inside surfaces of the bowl. Try for a nice even layer.
  3. Pour activated charcoal powder into the bowl right up to the rim.
  4. Allow the pipe to sit for an hour or more. This gives time for a layer of charcoal powder to be absorbed by the syrup.
  5. Dump out the excess charcoal powder, remove the pipe cleaner from the stem.
  6. Now the hard part. LET THE PIPE SIT FOR 5-7 DAYS. The bowl coating will cure smooth and hard.
  7. After curing, your pipe is ready to go!

These pictures show the progress with the final picture a few hours after clearing the excess charcoal.  I will need to let the pipe sit now for 5 to 7 days for the bowl coating to fully cure, which will not be a problem! dal48 dal49 dal50I’m very pleased with the outcome of the stem/button repair.  There is no perceptible indication that there was a hole that breached the lower button lip.  The Shell Briar cleaned up well and shines with a rich, deep, brown/burgandyish textured shade.  When restoration began, I did not realize how I would grow to appreciate the name, “Dunhill” and the pipes bearing this respected name.  The debate will remain regarding Dunhill’s higher pricing – whether one is paying for only a name or for advanced excellence in a pipe.  I suspect that both are true.  After seeing the beauty of this 1961 Dunhill EK Shell Briar emerge, especially as he responded to the carnauba treatment, coupled with the solid feel of the 4-paneled, square billiard bowl, and the strong bearing of the squared shank transitioning into a squared stem that gracefully tapers to the button –  and, all is crowned with Alfred Dunhill’s happenstance white dot mark of excellence – and I agree, I am looking at a quality pipe.  I’m conflicted whether to keep this Dunhill, my first, or to put him up for adoption???  Oh well…. I sell my restorations with a special purpose.  The profits help the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and children sexually exploited and trafficked.  This vintage 1961, Dunhill EK Shell Briar, Made in England 1, is ready to serve a new steward.  If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, go to my blog site at The Pipe Steward Store and check it out.  Thanks for joining me!dal51 dal52 dal53 dal54 dal55 dal56

 

‘Gramps’ – A Redonian Deluxe London Made 26 Rescued


Blog by Dal Stanton

I know exactly where I was when Charles Lemon, of Dad’s Pipes, posted his blog Family Heirloom Comes in from the Cold on December 22.  I was dutifully, pushing the shopping cart at the Target in Golden, Colorado, while my wife and I were engaged in last-minute Christmas shopping.  Well, my wife was shopping and I was catching up on pipe blog reading with my iPhone 6s.  The story Charles told was of a pipe (without a stem) discovered on a stroll in a pasture, how it arrived there was a mystery, which, after some research looking at old photos, was determined to belong to a great-great uncle.  The restoration was to be a Christmas gift for the great-great nephew, the pipe finder’s step-father….  It was an excellent restoration on Charles’ part, but the story itself, the condition of the pipe, the fact that it was found after how many years – contributed to one of the core reasons I love restoring pipes.  As I read Charles’ heart-warming story, I found myself rooting for the pipe to make it and to again be restored to the lineage of the steward.  While I continued faithfully to keep pace with the shopping cart, dodging frantic shoppers and kids on too much sugar and reading Charles’s post, ‘Gramps’ came to mind.  The first time I saw the pictures of ‘Gramps’ and read the eBay seller’s comments, I determined to place my bid to rescue the old, worn out, tossed aside, pipe.  Why did I immediately name him ‘Gramps’?  Here is what the eBay seller said:

Vary rare REDONIAN Pipe.  Found at the Estate Auction of a 98-year-old man.  (Who said smoking will kill ya?…no way). So the pipe has some ware marks up by the mouth piece, see pictures.  Pipe is marked bowl piece is marked 26 on one side and SARDINIAN de Luxe Made in London on the other.  It is a used pipe.  Ready to be Enjoyed, Gifted or Resold…ENJOY!  

With a smile on my face while looking at Gramps’ pictures, notwithstanding the ‘mild’ exaggeration of the seller’s sales bravado, “Ready to be Enjoyed, Gifted or Resold…ENJOY!”, this is what I saw:red1 red2 red3I have no idea if I can bring Gramps to drink of the Fountain of Youth or not, but I’m now looking at him on my worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria.  The markings on the left shank are Redonian Deluxe over London Made.  The right side of the shank bears the mark, 26, which I assume is the shape number.  Surprisingly, the stem stamping is legible – a red ‘R’ ensconced in a circle.  A look at Pipedia and I discover that the Redonian was made by the John Redman Ltd./British Empire Pipe Co. in London, the same company that was a possible manufacturer of the L. J. Perretti I restored not long ago – the Perretti Co. is based in Boston and the second oldest Tobacconist in the United States.  According to the Pipedia article, John Redman Co. pipe lines, along with Redonian, include Aristocrat, Buckingham, Buckingham Palace, Canberra, Captain Fortune, Dr John, Golden Square, Richmond (not Sasieni),  and Twin Bore.   I take some additional pictures of ‘Gramps’ for a fresh look.red4 red5 red6 red7 red8 red9Like Charles’ patient, this pipe looks to have been left outside or exposed in a barn or something, as half of it seems to be colored differently – laying on its side for some time.  The stem has the heaviest oxidation I’ve seen to date – perhaps something else is going on – it appears to be leprous!  The surface is so soiled and the cake so thick – there appears to be a spider web in the fire chamber – I really can’t determine the condition of either the stummel or stem, so after taking some pictures from my work table, I plop the stem in Oxi-Clean to start dealing with the stem leprosy and I plop the stummel along with spider web, in an alcohol bath – isopropyl 95% to soften the ages of crud clinging to the stummel – inside and out.red10About 24 hours later, I retrieve the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath and the oxidation was raised to the vulcanite surface as hoped and expected.  I first attack the oxidation by wet standing the stem with 600 grit sanding paper.  I’m very careful to stay clear of the Redonian ‘R’ stamping and work around it.  I sand for quite some time.  After making some progress, I switch to using 0000 steel wool to take off more oxidation and smooth in the process.  Again, I’m steering clear of the ‘R’ stamping.  I wish I would have taken a picture at this point.  The stem is looking much improved except for the circle ‘R’ stamping – still encased in thick oxidation.  I know that taking anything abrasive to the stamping will erode it and for me, this is anathema.  I try another tack – I think I remember reading somewhere about using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  I brought it to Bulgaria from the US and hadn’t used it yet.  The sponge that emerges from the box would not be abrasive – I hope.  So, I wet the sponge and start working on the area of the stamping. I start very cautiously and gingerly apply pressure with the sponge Magic Eraser.  When I discover that it is not eating away at the stamping I apply more pressure.  Before long I was working on the area aggressively.  Very gradually, and without perceptible damage to the ‘R’, the oxidation disappeared – or at least, in very large measure.  The last picture in the set below shows the magic brought by the Magic Eraser! I’m pleased with the progress cleaning up a once, leprous stem!red11 red12Satisfied with the progress on the stem, I fish the stummel out of the alcohol bath.  I use several pipe cleaners attempting to open the airway between the mortise and draft hole – unsuccessfully.  I then use about a 6-inch length of hanger wire as a probe and to ream the airway gently.  After a while, I finally push through the ancient muck and reconnect the mortise and bowl.  After this, I put the stummel back in the alcohol bath to soak further after stirring up and opening the internals.red13 red14 red15Out of the bath again, I take Q-tip cotton swabs and pipe cleaners and clean the gunk out of the mortise and draft airway while it is still loosened.  It’s cleaning up well, but I need to ream the bowl to remove the softened cake and the old residues.  I want Gramps to have a new start down to the fresh briar.  I use the Pipnet reaming kit using the two smaller blades of the four available.  The cake comes easily.  I fine tune the reaming more using the Savinelli pipe knife.  I then take 240 grit sanding paper, wrapped around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber walls to remove the remaining carbon.  I finish by cleaning the bowl using cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The fire chamber looks good – no problems, no burn throughs detected visually. The pictures mark the progress.red16 red17 red18With the bowl reamed and cleaned, I now turn to the stummel externals.  I take another critical look at the stummel surface and lava flow on the rim and take a few pictures to show the condition of the briar before I use Murphy’s Oil Soap.  I want to mark the progress moving from the desperate condition in which the Redonian Deluxe started.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap and scrub the rim and stummel surface with cotton pads. I also use a bristled tooth brush to scrub the surface.  After cleaning, I rinse the stummel with warm tap water careful not to allow water into the stummel internals.  The rim cleans nicely and it looks good.  Looking at the briar surface, not surprising I detect several pits which need to be either sanded or filled.  What is emerging from underneath the gunk, grime and grunge is a piece of briar holding much potential to shine with the gradual appearance of some nice-looking grain.  With my work day ending, I decide to apply olive oil to the stummel to hydrate the very dry wood – letting it absorb the oil through the night. The pictures show the progress.red19 red20 red22 red23The next morning, I decide to further clean and purify the stummel using the salt/alcohol soak.  I fill the bowl with Kosher Salt and cover the opening with my palm and shake the stummel to distribute the salt.  I then place the stummel in an egg carton to give stability, and fill the stummel with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  I then cork the mortise and let it sit and do its thing – letting the salt absorb the crud.  I then turn to the stem.  I clean the stem internals using pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol.  Using a sharp dental probe, I dig gunk out of the slot to clean it.  It takes a while to work a pipe cleaner all the way through the stem.  Once I do accomplish this, I use a bristled pipe cleaner with alcohol to run it back and forth several times to clear and clean the airway – hopefully allowing a pipe cleaner easier passage.red24 red25After cleaning the internals of the stem, I now look at the condition of the button area.  The 98-year-old grandpa that owned the Redonian did not leave teeth marks (is that a clue to his dental condition??) but the upper and lower bits are almost flush with the stem surface. This is not good – the button edges are necessary to hang the pipe properly on the teeth so that one does not bite the stem leaving the teeth chatter and dents one must remove when restoring a pipe!  I will use charcoal/superglue putty to build up the button area.  I form a wedge made of index card and fit it into the slot of the stem to keep putty from covering the opening.  I open a capsule of activated charcoal and pour the powder on an index card.  I then put a small puddle of Hot Stuff Special ‘T’ CA glue (extra thick glue) next to the charcoal powder.  With a toothpick, I draw charcoal into the glue, mixing it as I go.  I continue to add charcoal powder until I reach a thickness like molasses.  When I reach this viscosity, I then dollop the putty around the button area – more than is needed to provide excess to sand down to the proper button proportions.  I use an accelerator to set the putty.  I then remove the wedge from the slot and put the stem aside to cure.  The pictures show the process.red26 red27 red28Several hours have passed since the stummel began its salt/alcohol soak.  The salt has darkened some, so I assume it’s done its work!  I dump the used salt from the stummel and thump it on my palm to remove lodged salt crystals.  I take a paper towel and wipe out the bowl.  Using a bristle brush, I clean the mortise to remove any salt lodged in the internals. I want to be sure all the salt is purged.  I then return to using Q-tip cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl 95% to complete cleaning the internals.  With 2 Q-tips, the verdict is in – the Kosher Salt and alcohol soak did a great job drawing out the muck and freshening the mortise.  I complete the job by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad with isopropyl 95%.  Done.  The pictures show the result!red29With the stummel now clean, I take a close look at the stummel surface to be reminded of the question areas.  I take a few pictures to show these. The stummel is in surprisingly good condition for what it looked like when I started.  I find some pitting on the surface that I will fill with superglue.  I also detect a rim ‘skin’ on the front end of the stummel.  There are also other nicks around the rim from normal wear and tear. I start preparing the stummel surface by sanding with a medium grade sanding sponge to remove a layer off the finish – to determine where fills are needed.  After using the medium grade sanding sponge, I apply super glue to the 3 places on the stummel I detected earlier to fill the larger pits and a small crevasse and put the stummel aside for the superglue fills to cure.  The pictures show the progress.red30 red31 red32Now to return to the stem’s button rebuild.  The charcoal superglue putty has fully cured and ready for shaping.  I take pictures of the upper and lower bit to mark the progress.red33The technique I’ve developed for button shaping is to start at the end of the stem, using a flat needle file I file to establish the vertical – perpendicular slot area – that it’s flat.  This establishes a base-line for the end of the button and shaping the rest (I forgot to document this in a picture!).  I then start with the upper button area with the flat needle and begin filing from the stummel-side toward the end to establish the straight edge of the button’s ‘lip’.  I gradually file this toward the stem’s end until it appears a good depth for the upper button. I then file top of the bit’s lip to shape in further.  When I’m satisfied with the upper button shaping, I then flip the stem over doing the same with the lower button seeking to match the upper. When the basic filing is completed, I use a pointed needle file to enlarge the slot.  The pictures show the button rebuild process.red34 red35 red36To remove the roughness of the files, I then use 240 then 600 and finally 0000 steel wool to further perfect the shape and to cover the treads left by the files. Which often is the case, air pockets encased in the charcoal/superglue are exposed during the shaping and sanding process. I apply some CA glue to the button surface and paint it with a toothpick to cover the pin-sized air pocket holes and then spray an accelerator on the glue to cure it more rapidly.  After a while, I return with 240, 6000 paper and then 0000 steel wool to remove the excess CA glue on the button and complete the button rebuild.  The pictures show the completion of the button rebuild.red37 red38 red39With stem internals cleaned, and new button completed, I transition to the externals.  Using micromesh sanding pads 1500 to 2400, careful to guard the Redonian ‘R’ stamping, I wet sand the stem and follow the set by applying Obsidian Oil.  I then use micromesh pads 3200 to 4000 and after, pads 6000 to 12000 following each set with an application of Obsidian Oil.  I set Gramps aside to soak in the Obsidian Oil.   All I can do is to say, ‘Oh, my!’  Gramps is responding well to the TLC. The pictures tell the story – I can’t but help to throw in a reminder of how far we’ve come! red40 red41With a reborn stem waiting, I turn to the stummel.  The 3 pit-holes that were filled with superglue are cured.  Using 240 grit paper I sand the excess glue to the surface and blend the patches. red42 red43I take a close-up picture of the rim and inspect the rim more closely.  Along with nicks, I can see that rim lines are not sharp.  There is evidence of a bevel on the inside ring of the rim which is scorched.  I decide to mildly top the stummel and reestablish a crisp bevel. The bevel will also remove the scorching I see.  I use 240 grit paper on a chopping board and rotate the inverted stummel in an even, circular motion to remove old briar.  I stop and check things after every couple of revolutions to make sure I’m staying level.  I only take off enough to leave the former bevel more distinct.  To recut the inner bevel, I use 120 grit paper rolled very tightly to create a hard-sanding surface.  I want the bevel to be straight and uniform.  I follow the 120 using 240 grit also tightly rolled to remove the coarser lines.  The topping and bevel look good.  The bowl is in-round.red43 red44 red45After completing the rim and bevel, I take a medium grade sanding sponge and then a light grade sanding sponge and sand the stummel to blend the superglue fills – careful to work around the Redonian Deluxe London Made markings on the stummel.  Then, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel, followed by dry sanding using micromesh pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I never tire seeing the grain emerge during this process.  After I complete the micromesh cycles, I unite stummel and stem to get a look at where we are.  Gramps is looking good. The pictures show the progress – woops, I forgot to take a picture after the first micromesh cycle!red46 red47 red48I’m liking very much the progress of the Redonian Deluxe London Made – aka, Gramps.  I decide to use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with Gramps.  I think the rich depth of the leather dye will create the subtle expression of the straight grain hugging the bottom of the stummel as it expands into horizontal patterns and scattered bird’s eye on top.  I give the surface a quick wipe with a cotton pad to clean and remove any leftover briar dust.  I use my wife’s hair dryer to warm the stummel to expand the wood to help the grain to be more receptive to the dye.  I use a cork in the shank as a handle and I then take a folded over pipe cleaner and apply the dark brown dye over the entire surface.  After this, I fire the wet dye which immediately burns the alcohol and sets the dye in the grain.  In a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the wet dye.  I put the crusted stummel aside to rest.  I decide to do the same and call it a day.  The pictures show the progress.red49The next day, after a full day’s work, I’m anxious to look at Gramps, and with the Dremel I begin unwrapping the fired dye crust.  After mounting a dedicated felt wheel for applying Tripoli, I set the Dremel’s speed for 1, the slowest possible, and first purge the wheel with the sharp edge of the Dremel’s tightening wrench – to rid it of old compound and to soften the felt wheel.  I apply very little pressure on the briar surface, allowing the RPMs and compound to do the work for me.  To reach the inside of the bent shank elbow with the Tripoli compound, I switch to a smaller, pointed felt wheel to get in the tight angles.  With the Tripoli finished, I rejoin the stem to the stummel and I mount a Blue Diamond dedicated felt wheel and again buff stem and stummel.  When completed, I hand buff the pipe with a cotton cloth to remove the compound dust left over.  The pictures show the progress.red50 red52With the abrasive application of the compounds finished, before I apply carnauba wax to the stummel and stem, I want to dress up Gramps’ stem stamping.  The original appears to have been red so I take red acrylic paint and apply a dab over the Redonian ‘R’ and circle and let it dry thoroughly – overnight.  When dry, I gently rub/scrape off the excess with the flat side of a toothpick which protects the paint in the indentations.  After this, I rub it well with a cotton pad to clean the remainder of the excess – gently leaving a rebranded stem – very nice, a refreshed stem stamping.  The pictures show the results.red53 red54With the Redonian stem stamp completed, I reunite stem and stummel and mount the cotton cloth Dremel wheel and apply several coats of carnauba wax to the pipe. I increase the speed of the Dremel to 2.  I follow the carnauba wax with a vigorous hand-buff using a micromesh cloth to dissipate wax that was not spread evenly and to deepen the gloss of the shine.

When I think about the 98-year-old steward from whose estate this Redonian Deluxe London Made came, I cannot believe he would have dreamt his pipe would one day start a new lifetime serving another steward.  I gave this old, worn pipe the nickname, ‘Gramps.’  Bear with me one more time to put a picture of ‘Gramps’ in front of the younger man he has now become.  I’m amazed at the transformation and it is why I love this hobby – the pictures speak for themselves.  I sell my restorations with the profits helping the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – those sexually exploited and trafficked.  This Redonian Deluxe London Made is ready to serve a new steward.  If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, check out ‘Gramps’ at The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!red55 red56 red57 red58 red59 red60