Tag Archives: Denicotea Pipes

Another Denicotea – a tough one from Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Blog by Dal Stanton

When southerners in the US invoke the phrase, “Bless his heart….”, I’ve learned that it usually means that there is some problem or abnormality associated with the person that usually isn’t something he can control, or can’t be explained, or perhaps, even better, should be left without too much comment.  When I received these emailed pictures from Gary, my colleague in Plovdiv, and set my gaze on the two pipes he had purchased at a local antique shop and was gifting me, my reaction was to invoke, “Bless their hearts….”  Here are Gary’s finds that summoned forth my southern invocations.denicotea1 denicotea2I would like to say how much I appreciate Gary – the stories we have shared and life we’ve experienced together – he with a choice cigar, I with a favorite blend and a named pipe – all my rotation pipes have names!  I also appreciate how he has kept his eyes alert to possible pipe reclamations and restorations for me on the Plovdiv front, about 2 hours away from Sofia.  After he sent me these pictures, I emailed back saying that I wasn’t sure how much I could do to help the little brother, but the big boy had potential.  How much?  I couldn’t say, but I was indeed attracted to what appeared to be a meerschaum lined, large volcano shaped stummel which seemed to be hopeful of again being nestled in someone’s palm! A week or so later, I found the gifted pipes waiting for me in my office in Sofia.  When they made it to my work desk at home, I added these pictures of the Denicotea volcano to fill in the gaps.denicotea3 denicotea4 denicotea5 denicotea6 denicotea7This is the second Denicotea I’ve worked on in as many weeks!  The Denicotea Curling turned out to be a beautifully detailed grained pipe but the filtration internals were interesting.  I’m wondering what filtering wonders this one holds!  The left side of the shank has what appears to be a newer script of Denicotea stamped over Trend.  The right side of the shank has a very worn stamp Bruyere Extra over shape number 1152.  Bless its heart…the bowl finish is in bad, bad shape.  It appears to have had a thick shellac varnish on it that has simply worn away and chipping presenting shiny spots of the haggard finish hanging on.  I’ll need to clean the surface thoroughly to see fills that might need attention. The rim is majorly scraped and dented yet, for what I can see of the meerlining, it looks like it might be intact, not having any cracks.  I’m hopeful!  The bowl itself is heavily caked and I’ll need to clean it carefully.  This will be my first meerschaum to work on so I’ll be reading up on other blogs’ meerlined clean-ups and restores.  The stem has some oxidation but only minor teeth chatter.  The button has some tooth bites/dents that need attention.  Most interesting about the stem is that it is comprised of two pieces.  When I disassemble the stem for the first time, I discover that the main slightly bent stem, has an interlocking twist mechanism connecting it to the stem’s filter extension.  The shorter vulcanite filter extension inserts normally into the mortise and has a normal looking air restricting tenon.  Nice – you  can use the pipe with or without filters.  My first impression of the interlocking twist action of the stem is that it is ingenious and seems to work quite well.  I took some pictures to show the stem assembly.denicotea8While playing with and admiring the stem interlocking mechanism, which I discovered would only engage at the correct alignment between stem and filter insert, I looked down the vacated mortise.  Denicotea did not disappoint – had I any doubt?  I could see a deeply implanted metal insert.  Again, as with the Denicotea Curling I had just finished, is this a rogue stinger of sorts that dropped out of the filter insert tenon or is this another filtration machination?  At first glance I’m guessing, rogue stinger, but….  By palm thumping the mortise and a little help from my handy dental probe and tweezers the stinger is extracted.  The end of the stinger appears to have broken off shortening the inserted portion that would grip the vulcanite tenon.  This stinger becomes history.denicotea9With this being my first meerlined project, I read different entries to make sure I was moving through the learning curve.  Unlike briar, I know that a cake is not needed with meerschaum which is a stone (German for ‘sea foam’).  I found Steve’s essay (Link) helpful as he dealt with the two major questions I have about this Denicotea: First, how to approach cleaning out the cake?  Secondly, how to approach the rim surface which combines/intermingles the repairs of both briar and meerschaum?  Can I top meer as I would a briar rim?  How do I approach applying stain later with the meerschaum in the mix – sharing the rim surface?  These are some of the questions as I approach the Denicotea Trend, ‘Bless his heart’, I don’t want to make things worse than they already are!  Attacking the cake, with the cake as thick as it is, I could employ my Pipnet blades to start the reaming and finish up with the Savinelli pipe knife for the fine tuning, but on the maiden voyage with ‘sea foam’ I resolve to take a slower voyage with the Savinelli knife.  Also, since it is a new tool in my chest, I’m anxious to hone in on the techniques of its use. I take another close-up of the bowl to mark the progress.  After taking the picture and taking a closer look, I decide first to clean the rim area with Murphy Oil Soap using the brass brush.  I want to see the meer more clearly to inform the reaming process of possible cracks.  I also decide to wash the entire stummel with Murphy while I was at it. Using cotton pads, I apply Murphy Soap undiluted and scrub the stummel surface and rim.  With a brass brush, I work at loosening and cleaning up the lava and cake build up to see the rim better.  The Murphy Soap doesn’t make much of a dent on the stummel – it is looking more like residue varnish left over on the surface.  But, progress is made on the rim and I can see the meerlining much better.  It seems to be in good shape, but the rim will need topping to restore clean, healthy briar to the rim. denicotea10 denicotea11Satisfied with my improved perspective, I take the stummel with Savinelli pipe knife in hand to the 10th floor ‘Man Cave’ balcony to ream the pipe.  The additional sunlight helps me see the internal bowl surface as I bring the knife into contact with the cake.  The technique that develops is that I start from the rim, where the actual meerschaum surface is more evident, and work down gradually into the bowl where the cake thickens.  As I work with the knife, I also can detect a difference in the sound and feel of the knife as it has contact with the cake or with the meerschaum surface.  Using the knife, it became more difficult to judge what was going on when I was at the floor of the fire chamber around the draft hole.  I take a picture at the completion of the knife reaming.  I then take 240 sanding paper rolled around my finger as well as around the thinner end of a plastic toothbrush handle and continue to clean the meer surface of cake residue.  Even though the meerschaum is dark colored, it is smooth to the touch and the cake is eliminated!  I wipe out the chamber with a damp cotton pad.  I’m pleased and relieved.  The pictures show the progress.denicotea12 denicotea13 denicotea14With the bowl reamed and cleaned, I take Q-tips and pipe cleaners and clean the internals of the stummel using isopropyl 95%.  As I work on the internals with the Q-tips and pipe cleaners I watch the growing pile of used Q-tips and pipe cleaners change from being a hopeful small pile to a frustrated virtual Mt. Everest of expended Q-tips and pipe cleaners with no ‘gunkless’ end in sight.  From what I can see with my iPhone light down the mortise and what I can detect from the touch of the many Q-tips that have made the plunge, there seems to be a cavity of sorts between where the meerschaum lining terminates with the draft hole (as it transitions into the shank) and a tightening or closing of the mortise about ¾ in from the tenon side formed when the shank was factory bored.  This cavity seems to be a natural gunk reservoir that Q-tips pass over.  denicotea15

My first thought is to pull out the retort, but after a quick email to Charles Lemon (Dad’spipes.com) my concerns that the meerlining might not stand up to the boiling alcohol were confirmed.  Instead Charles recommended:

Without using the retort, I would suggest using a flat-ended tool (the square end of a flat needle file?) or an appropriately sized drill bit turned by hand to scrape out as much of the old tars and gunk as possible and then going at it again with swabs and cleaners dipped in alcohol. 

I grab my flat spoon and pointed dental probes and reach in over the ‘hump’ in the mortise to scratch up the muck cavity and it does stir things up – following again with Q-tips which are saturated with fresh, loose muckness that had been scraped up by the dental probes.  As I scrape and Q-tip plunge repeatedly, the reality of what I believe is a design flaw with this Denicotea Trend forms in my mind.  It will be nigh impossible to keep this pipe clean with normal use and cleaning with the cavity existing deep within the mortise.  Therefore, a plan starts formulating, using the drill approach that Charles recommended above, I decide to take it one step further and attempt to re-engineer the internals of the mortise by removing the ‘hump’ in the mortise as much as I am able.  Since it is beyond (deeper) the reach of the tenon’s full insertion point within the mortise, widening the mortise by removing the hump (or some of it) should not impact the tenon’s fit.  My goal would be to create a straightened mortise that would expose a more uniform interior for cleaning.  I put down the dental probes and Q-tips and put the stummel aside to give more consideration to this plan.  The pictures below show the lack of progress with the cleaning job and a diagram I couldn’t resist creating to conceptualize the obstacle (yellow line) and solution (white dashed line)!denicotea16 denicotea17While reflecting on the emerging stummel game plan, I fish the multi-pieced stem out of the Oxi-clean bath and remove the oxidation that has emerged on the vulcanite surface with 320 sanding paper followed by 000 steel wool.  The stem surfaces look good so I turn to cleaning the internals of the two stem pieces.  I use Q-tips, cotton balls and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Not nearly as much resistance as the stummel is putting up.  The final picture shows more clearly tooth dents and button biting work that need to be tackled.denicotea18 denicotea19Back to the stummel, I decide to take a drill bit just at the size needed to match the narrow hole created by the tapered factory bore in the mortise – creating the ‘hump’ forming the cavity beyond it collecting the gunk.  I turn it by hand without impacting the mortise wall.  It’s not easy maintaining a straight approach with the bit by hand.  I turn the bit only at the hump not going deeper and potentially impacting the meer.  That seems to work as briar ‘saw dust’ drops out of the mortise.  I then take the next larger bit and do the same thing – not as easy as it bites into the briar hump more.  After doing this a few minutes I realize that this approach is not going to work to the degree I had hoped. To do this properly, I need a stationary drill press and a secure way to position the stummel and re-bore or deepen the mortise.  So, I take a semi-circular needle file and with nerves of steel, attack the hump without touching the mortise walls.  This was helpful in bringing the hump down a bit, but my hope for a straightened mortise was evaporating.  Putting away the file, I return to the scape and clean technique I began with and I make some progress!  The partial hump removal did help with the cleaning angles.  Finally, clean Q-tips start emerging and I take a final picture of ‘Cleaning Job Done!’  Then I recalled Charles’ suggestion of using a ‘flat’ edged file to scrape. Hmm.  So, I take my flat end needle file and scrape – unbelievable!  More muck!  Thankfully, not too many more Q-tips were expended and I can say, to the best of my ability and understanding: Clean!  When I put this pipe on eBay to find it a new home, I do not want to put forward a ‘hypocrite pipe’ – looking good on the outside but nasty on the inside!  Pipes often remind me of people and how God’s work starts on the ‘internals’ and then moves to the ‘externals’!denicotea20 denicotea21With ‘internals’ of both stummel and stem now in good shape, I move to the externals.  The next step is to work on the rim. When I look at the rim I discover a place in the meerschaum that has cracked (ugh!) at about 6:35 o’clock in the picture below and what might be a hairline crack running from in.  Even though I plan to top the rim, I apply some superglue to the chipped area hopefully to add a bit of strength.  It’s late, I’m tired from the longest muck cleaning contest in my record book, so I put the stummel down to allow the superglue to cure overnight.denicotea22 denicotea23The next day, I take a picture of the rim to show the spot on the rim where I applied superglue the night before and to show the progress as I top the rim.  I have not topped a meerlined pipe before, so I proceed cautiously and I want to see how it turns out before moving to the stummel external finishing (Thought: “O ye of little faith!”).  With 240 grit sanding paper on a chop block I go out on the 10th floor Man Cave balcony and begin the topping process.  I move the stummel around in a circular motion for a few rotations and stop to check to make sure I’m staying true – not dipping into soft spots and checking out the meerlining.  I take pictures along the way to show the progress. denicotea24 denicotea25 denicotea26As they say, all was going so well until it wasn’t!  The chipped area in the meerschaum that I reinforced with superglue crumbled under the stress of the topping.  In the last picture above you can see the fault line developing.  What to do?  After looking at the new damage, I decide to continue to top the rim a bit more to increase the solid meer bordering the briar and to reduce the area in need of repair (3rd picture below).  I’m thankful that the volcano cone stummel has some space to give up to the topping process!denicotea27 denicotea28 denicotea29Another email is sent with the pictures above to Steve for his input.  So far, a ‘Two Email’ restoration…another record.  I’m thankful for willing mentors!  With Steve’s response in hand describing plaster of Paris and superglue options, I elect to rebuild the chipped area using superglue.  I apply it to the area and balance the stummel to allow the superglue to settle in place and I go to bed.  The next morning, I look at the patch and realize another layer of superglue is needed to build up the surface further.  After lightly sanding the patched area to smooth the first layer of glue I carefully apply another coat to the needed patch area.  Again, I balance the stummel allowing the second application of superglue to cure is the desired place.  My goal is to rebuild the meerschaum rim chip enough to be able to sand the wall side of the patch smooth, hopefully blending the patch with the meerlining.  I will probably again lightly top the stummel with a finer grit sand paper to bring the rim surface in sync with the patched area.  Finally, I will carefully cut a bevel on the meerschaum lining to minimize the patched area.  From earlier pictures, it appears that the pipe had a light bevel texturing the meerschaum lining look – I like it. denicotea30 denicotea31After several hours, I return to the Denicotea Trend anxious to make some progress.  The superglue patch has hardened to touch but I want to give it more time to cure thoroughly.  I decide to start a thorough removal of the old finish to coax the hidden briar grain into the light – I like this part!  I take another look at the stummel surface.  The old finish looks very much like the ‘shellacy’ candy apple varnish sheen which often is a bear to remove.  With cotton pads and acetone, I scrub down the stummel to loosen up the old finish careful to avoid the ongoing rim repair.  After a lot of elbow grease and cotton pads as expected, the old finish is not giving up easily.  I decide to use 000 steel wool with acetone and lightly rub the surface with the wool and that does the trick.  Utilizing the spittle test to moisten the bare wood, I get a sneak peak of the briar’s potential.denicotea32 denicotea33Now to the complete the rim.  The picture directly above and below show the superglue patch for the chip in the meerschaum lining of the bowl.  With 240 grit sanding paper, I sand the patch down to the meer surface rounding it to blend with the curvature of the bowl.  I concentrate only on the wall area of the patch leaving the rim surface for later.  When the surface of the patch wall is smooth and blends with the curvature, I sand the patch on the rim surface to bring it down to blend.  I had intended to return to the topping board for a few revolutions, but decide that it would be better to work directly on the patch instead of removing more of the bowl on the topping board and stressing the patch more than needed.  It didn’t take long to sand the patch bump down to the rim surface.  At this point, also with 240 grit sanding paper, I cut a bevel on the inside of the meer rim to help blend the patch but also simply to soften the meer’s rim edge.  I’m satisfied with the patch even though the patch has a different hue from the surrounding meer.  It’s the best I can do and I’m thankful it seems strong and I’m hopeful it will hold up well for many bowlfuls of tobacco to come.denicotea34 denicotea35 denicotea36Turning back to the stem, I take close-up of the repair needed with a tooth dent and a bite on the button lip.  I decide to try the heating technique to address these problems.  Another first for me on the restore!  With a butane lighter, I gingerly place the flame over the areas – remembering Steve’s description when he did this – ‘painting the surface’ with the flame.  Well, I’m not sure if it was a success or not.  After the flame, I use 240 grit sanding paper and finish removing the tooth dent and smooth out the button lip.  I also refine the button lip above and below with the straight edge of a needle file.  Pictures show the progress. denicotea37denicotea38Satisfied with how the repairs look, I begin the micromesh sanding/polishing cycles on the stem.  Reattaching the reassembled stem to the stummel, using micromesh pads 1500-2400 I wet sand the stem follow with applying Obsidian Oil.  Following the wet sand, I dry sand using micromesh pads 3200-4000 and then 6000-12000, following each cycle with an application of Obsidian Oil.  I love the vulcanite pop after the micromesh polishing.  The pictures show the progress on the stem polishing.denicotea39 denicotea40 denicotea41With the stem work completed, I return to the stummel and take a medium sanding sponge and use it to lightly top the rim rotating it in a circular motion over the sponge.  I do this to finish the sanding of the rim preparing for the micromesh polishing.  With a light grade sanding sponge, I sand the rim as well as the stummel removing small nicks on the briar surface.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel and rim followed by dry sanding with pads 3200-4000.  After completing this cycle, I notice two small pits that looked like they had been fills on the front bottom of the volcano shape.  I didn’t notice them before and the question in my mind is, do I fill them and then spot sand the area and repeat the micromesh process?  My answer was, ‘Yes’.  I applied a couple drops of super glue to the pits and set the project aside and because its late, I go to bed!  Pictures show the stummel progress and stoppage of progress!denicotea42 denicotea43 denicotea44 denicotea45 denicotea46The next morning, I played patch catchup!  Folding a small piece of 240 grit sanding paper into a knife edge, I strategically sanded the patch bumps down to the briar surface (pictured).  Then, repeating use of the light weight sanding sponge, followed by repeating the micromesh cycles 1500-4000, I can then bring the patched area back in pace with the rest of the stummel.  I complete the micromesh polishing process using pads 6000 to 12000.  I notice a few other fill areas that simply need to be darkened with a stain stick.  The pictures show the catch up and completion!denicotea47 denicotea48 denicotea49Decision time.  Do I stain this Denicotea Trend or simply bring the briar up to full glow directly with the polishing process?  The question that I had since the beginning with the meerschaum lining was how to approach staining the briar that shared the rim surface with the meer?  With input from Steve (Oh my, a 3-email restoration!), patience, a steady hand and a Q-tip was the advice.  After this, still unsure of a direction, I pulled in the ultimate authority and did a ‘Wife Taste Test’.  I explained to her that if I did stain, I wanted to use Fiebing’s Dark Brown and cut it by half with alcohol to lighten it.  With options spelled out, her choice was to leave the Denicotea as is. Rationale: “Most all my pipes have a dark hue – you need a lighter one.”  Good enough for me!  After applying Dark Walnut to a fill on the shank with an Italian brand stain stick, I take my Dremel tool with a felt wheel and I apply Tripoli compound to the stummel surface.  I use the slowest speed available and keep the wheel moving across the surface.  I don’t apply much pressure on the wheel allowing the speed of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  Most blogs I’ve read that describe the use of polishing compounds warn against loading the wheel up on too much compound.  So, when I reload the wheel, I lightly touch the compound block.  After completing the Tripoli, I apply Blue Diamond compound with its own felt wheel, same speed and technique as with Tripoli.  Then, switching to a cotton cloth wheel and increasing the speed of the Dremel by one number, I apply several coats of carnauba wax on both stummel and stem, watching the wax as it liquefies and spread it evenly over the surface.  Following the carnauba application, I Dremel buff the entire pipe with a clean cloth wheel.  Completing the restoration, I hand buff the pipe vigorously with a microfiber cloth. denicotea50I started this restoration with, “Bless his heart….”  Now, this old boy stands on his own and though he has some scars of battle in the form of a meerschaum patch, he looks good.  My wife’s input to maintain the natural briar hue was spot on.  The beautiful caramel coloring blends well with the meerschaum lining and the depth of grain on this Denicotea has been liberated from being encased under the nasty shellac varnish.  I’m very pleased – especially with the last view below – the steward’s perspective.  The lateral fire grain will be a great view for the pipe man that adds this rescued Denicotea to his collection.  I couldn’t help starting off with pictures before (“Bless his heart….”) and after (“Dang!”).  If you would like to add this pipe to your collection, leave me a note in the comments.  Thanks for joining me!denicotea51 denicotea52 denicotea53 denicotea54 denicotea55 denicotea56 denicotea57 denicotea58


Nice find in Plovdiv, Bulgaria – Denicotea Deluxe Curling Bruyere Extra

Blog by Dal Stanton

In my last post restoring the Jeantet Fleuron (Link), I mentioned my recent pipe hunting expeditions during our R&R travels in Bulgaria with our daughter and son-in-law visiting from Denver, Colorado.  Jordan, my son-in-law, is a blooming pipe man and was my eager accomplice as we dipped in and out of antique shops we found.  One of those ‘dips’ unfolded in one of the longest inhabited cities in Europe and the world (since 5000BC!) – Plovdiv, Bulgaria, which enabled me to land the Denicotea Deluxe Curling before me now.  Since my field shape identification skills are still in development, when I first saw the pipe in the display case, I thought it was from the Canadian family – the longish shank and the long saddle stem got my attention.  Since the antique shop was situated in Old Towne, Plovdiv, in the shadow of the historic Thracian settlement (to the Romans, they were the ‘Barbarians’) the lady with whom I negotiated was pretty tough – I assume because her overhead expenses were more due to her classic location!  So the deal we struck was not as good as I was hoping, but with new pipe in hand, I took these initial pictures outside the antique shop with ancient cobblestone as a backdrop.de1 de2 de3 de4After just finishing the Jeantet Fleuron and my research zeroing in on French pipe making mecca, Saint Claude, I was anxious to start my work on this Denicotea Deluxe Curling, a name also ‘claimed’ by Saint Claude, according to one of my sources in that research. Here’s where the confusion began.  The source, a pipe shop of Saint Claude, La Pipe Rit, stated on their home page:

On our website, you will find pipes from Saint Claude made by the most famous brands, such as EoleChacomBayard, Butz-ChoquinDenicoteaJeantet and Ropp. The works of Saint Claude’s craftsmen are also present, for example, the unique handmade pipes created by Pierre Morel. You will also discover pipes from all over the world through VauenBig Ben, DunhillL’anatraPetersonPorscheSavinelliStanwellViprati and meerschaum pipes as well.  (La Pipe Rit)

This blurb led me to the assumption that the name Denicotea was claimed by Saint Claude, but when I started my digging on the Denicotea Curling on Pipedia I found, what many of you already know, Denicotea is a German enterprise.  Pipedia says of Denicotea,

Brand founded in 1932 in Cologne, Germany, by Willy Heineberg. Denicotea is actually the name of a silica gel filter, cigarette holders and care products for pipes and cigarette holders. They also introduced the brands Aldo Morelli, Adsorba, Wessex. (Link)

Pipephil confirms this information and adds that pipes were also manufactured by an English third party and marketed under the Denicotea brand. (Link).

So, at this point in my research I’m wondering what the French connection is – assuming that both sources were correct?  I dug a lot (learned a lot too!) looking at Pipedia and other sources seeking to confirm another ‘sighting’ of the name Denicotea in Saint Claude but found none.  The most plausible hypothesis that I was cultivating was that perhaps Willy Heineberg, who was born actually in Metz, France, had connections with Saint Claude before moving across the Rhine River into Germany (Metz and Cologne are relatively close) to establish the Denicotea operation.  I discovered that Willy Heineberg was born a Frenchman (though his surname appears to be of a German-Jewish lineage – see: Link) when I unearthed an interesting letter he wrote on July 31, 1951, to the director of the CIA, General Walter Bedell Smith, seeking help for the rebuilding of a French village raised by the Nazis during WWII – Saint-Die’.  Heineberg references in this letter that he was born in Metz, France, nearby Saint-Die’ and therefore wanted to help his compatriots.  At the time of writing, his letterhead placed him in NYC on 41 Park Avenue – the tobacco business must have been going well! (See the letter here: Link – in the letter he references at least one other tobacco mogul of RJ Reynolds along with other ‘who’s who’ of his day)

My research on Denicotea pipes was not terribly fruitful – one mostly finds information about their filter and accessory lines of production.  Notwithstanding, I’m looking at this Denicotea, not from Saint-Claude, yet very handsome and I’m attracted to the long saddle stem of this classic billiard – my revised shape identification.  On the left side of the shank is an arched Denicotea over De Luxe.  The right side is Curling over Bruyere Extra.  A shape number is pressed on the bottom of the shank which I believe is 118 or possibly 119 – not sure.  The saddle stem has a very faint, warn stamped D ensconced in a circle.  I hope to bring this fading stamp back from the edge of oblivion with some acrylic paint applied – we’ll see if there’s enough imprint to hold the paint.  The bowl is in good shape with some minor nicks and scrapes on the bottom.  There is some crusty cake build up in the fire chamber and the rim has some nicks and lava flow on it but it appears minor and in good shape.  The stem has significant oxidation but very little tooth chatter to worry about.  I take some additional pictures on my work table after returning home to Sofia.de5 de6 de7 de8de9I remove the stem and deliver it to the Oxi-clean bath to begin raising the oxidation from the vulcanite stem.  When I remove the stem and examine the mortise, I’m not sure what I see.  Has the tenon become dislodged from the stem and now unceremoniously implanted in the mortise or does this pipe by design have a vulcanite filter extension coming out of the mortise?  I also see what appears to be an old used filter jammed pretty snuggly in the mortise and I cannot remove it with my fingernails.  I also try to remove it with tweezers and after scraping at it a bit, I discover that what I thought was an old used filter is metal – I haven’t seen anything like this before.  It appears to have an airway slot on the lower portion of the metal ‘insert’. After trying unsuccessfully to pull the metal object out with my fingernails and gently trying to coax it out with my Buck knife, I decide to dip the mortise end in alcohol hopefully to loosen things up. After some careful prying so as to not damage the vulcanite ‘tenon’ in the mortise, what emerged was not anything I was expecting.  I have no idea what kind of internal stinger contraption I’m looking at.  After I clean it up the only thing I can think of is some clever internal stinger system that Denicotea came up with seeking that ever elusive cooler, dryer smoking experience.  I’m still not sure if the tenon has dislodged from the stem and is stuck in the mortise or if what I’m looking at is by design. de10 de11Taking my questions back to the internet, it didn’t take long to figure things out.  Pipephil’s entry for Denicotea (Link) has a picture showing a shape almost identical to the Curling and the mortise has the same vulcanite insert.  When I Googled for images, I saw other Curling styles with the same design.  With one particular entry from eBay, the metal insert I dislodged looks very familiar to the object in the Denicotea advertisement pictured below – it appears to be part of a filtration system which wedges up against an elongated filter of sorts that fits in the broad/long stem.  The very next thought that came to mind was that I hadn’t thought to look into the stem for a filter before dropping it into the Oxy-clean bath!  I’m not sure what I will do with the insert, but it does appear to serve as an air restrictor that would be helpful for use without a filter.  Any feedback on this would be appreciated! de12 de13With the object removed, I take my new Savinelli pipe knife to ream the bowl on my 10th floor balcony ‘Man Cave’.  This is where I’m able to smoke my pipes (door sealed) with my wife’s blessings.  With it being a beautiful fall day in Bulgaria, I’m happy to work there.  I can see why Steve enjoys using his Savinelli pipe knife – it takes the cake off very well and allows for a more delicate and selective approach when needed.  After reaming, I use 240 grit paper and clean and smooth the chamber walls further.  I like to work on clean pipes so I take pipe cleaners and Q-tips dipped in isopropyl 95% and go to work on the internals of the stummel.  After several Q-tips the mortise was not coming clean.  With Q-tips I detect an internal ridge inside the mortise created by the vulcanite inserted to the mortise.  I’m thinking that this design is a natural gunk collector which makes cleaning more of an on-going challenge.  I decide to hold off on more Q-tips and try the salt and alcohol technique I’ve read in other blogs (See at DadsPipes).  I use ‘all natural’ non-iodized Himalayan salt that I can find on the store shelves in Bulgaria. Why non-iodized?  I asked Charles Lemon at DadsPipes, why he used kosher salt?  His reply was that it was not ionized – that the ionization could leave an iodine taste when smoking the pipe.  I twist an unraveled cotton ball into the mortise to plug up that end.  I stabilize the stummel on the pipe stand and fill the bowl with salt.  Then I carefully add alcohol 95% to the bowl until I see it emerge at the top layer of salt.  It’s getting late so I let it soak overnight. de14 de15While the salt and alcohol does its thing, I fish the saddle stem out of the Oxy-clean bath.  My first instinct is to look down the throat of the stem to see if a long Denicotea stem filter is lying in wait.  To my chagrin, it is.  I take pictures to commemorate my discovery and then begin to wet sand the stem’s oxidation with 60 grit paper then with 000 steel wool.  I’m careful to avoid the stamped ‘D’ area of the stem, but when I look at the area of the D stamp my concern grows because it looks like the Oxi-clean bath itself caused some further deterioration.  I now realize that I should have covered the area with Vaseline to protect it…. learning one mistake at a time….  The oxidation on the stem has been minimized and I take pictures to show the progress.  Turning to the lodged stem filter, I use a dental probe to pull up on the filter while pushing from the button end with a pipe cleaner.  The surgery is successful and what looks like a charcoal filter emerges from the long saddle stem.  An economic theory starts forming in my mind about Denicotea pipes – could they be designed, produced and exist primarily for the filters Denicotea produces?  It makes economic sense.  A pipe is sold once and its profit is finite.  While filters made for that pipe are a continuous revenue stream.  Could my theory hold water? de16 de17With stem free of old filters, I clean the airway up with Q-tips and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After using a few Q-tips I simply rolled large cotton ball pieces to clean the inside of the large stem using tweezers.  It did not take long.de18 de19The next day I dump the salt out of the bowl and wipe out the bowl with a paper towel to remove any left-over salt residue.  I returned to the Q-tip therapy to find out if the salt/alcohol soak had an impact on the gunk in the shank.  I discover residue so I expend several more Q-tips but finally get to the bottom of the gunk build-up in the shank and turn to the external bowl clean up.  To clean up the lava flow on the rim and the bowl surface I use Murphy Oil Soap undiluted with a cotton pad.  After the Murphy Oil Soap scrub I rinse the stummel with cool tap water careful not to allow water into the mortise or bowl.  The rim and bowl cleaned up nicely allowing me to see more clearly the wood and problem areas.  The rim has a burn mark just over the shank junction.  It looks like the previous owner drew the flame over the back side of the rim when lighting the tobacco.  I used a brass brush, which will not scratch the briar, with alcohol on that spot to see if it would remove the burn but it did not.  As I work on the burn, I see that it has burned ‘into’ the rim as well and because of this the inner bowl rim is slightly out of round – I need to correct this.  The stummel is showing attractive fire grain and some birds eye – I like the potential.  With a close inspection of the finish, I detect some blotches and what I call ‘candy apple shine’ spots.  The finish is worn.  I decide to remove it to get down to the bare briar.  I use cotton pads with acetone to do the job.  After removing the finish, I cut a slight bevel on the inner rim to regain round and remove the burn damage.  I use 120 grit paper rolled up tightly for the initial bevel followed by 240 then 600 to smooth it. I take pictures to show the progress, and yes, the picture below is ‘Acetone’ in Cyrillic!de20 de21 de22 de23To remove the light nicks and cuts on the stummel I use a medium grade sanding sponge and follow with a fine grade sanding sponge.  I then take a cotton pad with alcohol and wipe down the stummel to clean it from the sponge sanding residue.  I do this to take a closer look at the surface for fills or blemishes that need attention before I move on to the micro-mesh sanding.  I do find some pitting on the surface that I address with sanding sponges directly. I rejoin stummel and stem to assess the progress.  After taking a close up look at the stem after purging the oxidation with an Oxi-clean bath and sanding, I see no teeth chatter that needs to be addressed.  I also take another look at the Denicotea circle-D stamp on the stem to see if it can be salvaged.  Unfortunately, only the right portion of the circle is barely viable along with a very faint D.  Applying acrylic paint would only highlight the fact that it’s not all there, so I decide to finish the stem trying to salvage the remnant stamp as is.de24 de25 de26Using micro-mesh pads 1500-2400, I wet sand the stem attached to the stummel and follow by applying Obsidian Oil. With pads 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000, I dry sand the stem and apply Obsidian Oil after each set of 3.  I never tire watching the shine make an appearance during the micromesh process!  I take pictures to show the progress and set the stem aside to dry.de27 de28 de29Turning to the bowl, I begin preparing the surface finish by wet sanding using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with micromesh pads 3200-4000 and 6000-12000.  I’m liking very much the briar’s grain movement on this bowl.  I document the progress at each step.de30 de31 de32I started this restoration with the idea of experimenting with a staining technique I read in one of Steve’s restores – I’m not sure which one as I’ve read so many!  He used a black dye followed by a rub down with alcohol.  The purpose was to set the dark hue in the veins of the grain and then lighten the backdrop briar – Steve didn’t describe it quite like this but this is what recorded in my memory!  He then followed with another die hue to cast the contrast. I would like to try the same by first setting the dark hue with a dark walnut Italian aniline stain I found here.  I will follow this with a new arrival with my daughter and son-in-law from the States, Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye.  I’m looking for the rich, deep reddish, burgundy hues in the briar that hopefully is subtle – I like this classic look even though it would be a total change in the color scheme of this Denicotea billiard, I hope it will dress it up nicely.  I give the stummel a quick wipe down with a cotton pad and alcohol to rid the surface of any possible residue leftover from the micromesh sanding.  I mount the inverted corked stummel on the candle stick holder and decide to try another technique I read recently from one of Steve’s postings of warming the briar first before applying the stain.  I do this with an air gun then, after putting on throw-away poly vinyl gloves, with a cotton dauber I apply the dark walnut dye generously to the inverted bottom and allow the die to saturate the stummel. I pick up the candle stick and rotate the stummel and make sure I daub die into the inverted rim.  After the surface is adequately covered I ‘flame’ the surface by lighting the wet dye with a butane lighter.  The alcohol in the die burns off very quickly to set the hue in the briar. I follow by wiping the stummel surface with alcohol and cotton pads to lighten and blend the initial dark walnut stain.  I repeat the process with Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye diluted about ¼ with alcohol.  I complete the second application by flaming the dye which sets the oxblood over the dark walnut hue in the briar.  After taking pictures to show progress, I put the stummel aside allowing the stain to rest overnight.  I look forward to seeing how my experiment turns out when I return to the project tomorrow!de33 de34 de35I really enjoy witnessing the initial revelation of the briar surface after the staining process.  This pipe was no exception.  I take my compact Dremel tool (a wonderful friend when workshop space in not available!) with a felt wheel and apply Tripoli to the final flamed Oxblood surface I completed the night before.  I use the lowest speed and do not apply a great deal of pressure to the felt wheel as I consistently move it over the stummel surface.  I allow the speed of the wheel and the compound to do the work.  The briar is emerging as I buff with the Tripoli.  I love the mosaic of grain design that emerges as I work over the stummel surface.  I follow the Tripoli compound with Blue Diamond, also using a felt wheel with the Dremel speed set to the lowest RPM.  After completing the Blue Diamond, I attach a cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel and increase the speed by one number and apply several applications of carnauba wax to both stummel and the rejoined saddle stem.  Through trial and error, I’ve been able to develop a technique for applying the compounds and carnauba wax that works well for me – in my compact 10th floor work station.  Under a bright light, with the sheen of the stummel surface my focus, I am able to see the application of the compound and how it disburses over the briar with the different wheels.  I am able to identify compound or wax that hasn’t integrated into the surface – it appears as a thick ripple, and I’m able to revisit it with the wheel rotation to work in more thoroughly what has been ‘left-behind’.  This works especially well with the carnauba wax which disburses with the heat of the wheel’s rotation.  I can see the wax liquefy and am able to spread it over a portion of the surface.  After applying several applications of carnauba wax, I Dremel buff the entire stem and stummel surface with a clean cotton wheel and complete the process with a rigorous hand-buff with a clean microfiber cloth to raise the shine more.

I am thoroughly pleased with the rich, deep hues the stains contributed to the beautiful briar grain of this Denicotea DeLuxe Curling Bruyere Extra.  I’m not sure the pictures below capture the depth of grain that I can appreciate with the naked eye.  The color and the shape bring to mind what could be a pleasing match for a classic smoking jacket one might see donned by the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley, as he retires to the smoking room at Downton Abbey.  ‘Classic’ is the one word that keeps coming to mind about this pipe!  One question that remains for me is what to do with the internals of the filtration system – any thoughts on that would be appreciated.  As I shared with my last post, my wife has lovingly put her foot down! This pipe will reluctantly head to eBay or, if you have an interest in adding this classic shape to your collection, let me know.  Thanks for joining me!de36 de37 de38 de39 de40 de41 de42 de43 de44