Tag Archives: Dr. Grabow Adjustomatic pipes

A Dr. Grabow Color Duke Billiard Renewed


Blog by Steve Laug

Most of the Dr. Grabow Color Duke pipes that have come across my worktable have been in rough shape. The paint has been chipped and the finish ruined. This is the second one lately that I have worked on. The first was the Cherry Apple Red Dr. Grabow Viscount that my brother found for me. This second one is a White Billiard with a saddle stem. It is one that was made for a paper filter rather than a stinger/spoon apparatus. The pipe is stamped Color Duke over Dr. Grabow on the left side of the shank and Imported Briar over Adjustomatic over Pat. 2461905. The Patent Number is for the Adjustomatic tenon.

The pipe came to me from a friend quite awhile ago and I just got around to working on it. It was in pretty decent shape other than being dirty. The finish has some dents in the bottom of the bowl on the right side. There was some staining on the right side of the shank at the stem/shank junction. The rim was dirty and had some darkening and a few spots where the finish was worn off. The bowl had a cake that would need to be removed. The screw in tenon was dirty but the stem aligned with the shank perfectly. The stem itself was dirty inside and out. There was tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. On the underside was a deep tooth mark in the center about ½ inches from the button. The next photos show the pipe when I brought it to the work table.Duke1

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Duke4 I took some close-up pictures of the rim and the dents on the bottom of the bowl to give a clear picture of the issues with this pipe.Duke5

Duke6 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to the bare briar. I used a pen knife to clean up remaining cake that the reamer left behind.Duke7

Duke8 I scrubbed the finish with cotton pads and Murphy’s Oil Soap as I did not want to use anything that potentially would damage the painted finish on the bowl. My intent was to get the grime off the finish and to remove as much of the rim darkening as possible without compromising the paint on the rim or edges.Duke9

Duke10 I rinsed the bowl with warm water and dried it off with a towel. Here are some photos of the cleaned bowl.Duke11

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Duke14 I cleaned the inside of the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean.Duke15 With the bowl cleaned inside and out it was time to address the stem. I sanded the surface of the stem to clean off the dirt and tooth chatter. I wiped it down with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove the dust and to examine the dent on the underside.Duke16 After the deep dent was cleaned I filled it with a few drops of clear super glue.Duke17 Once the glue dried I sanded the repair to make it flush with the stem surface using 220 grit sandpaper.Duke18 I sanded the entire stem with medium and fine grit sanding sponges. The repair spot is beginning to blend in very well.Duke19

Duke20 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbing it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished by dry sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.Duke21

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Duke23 In the past buffing the painted bowls and the Grabow stems has caused me a lot of grief. I have found that these stems can take very little heat that the buffing pads generate so I hand buff them with Paragon Wax and a shoe buffer. I buff the bowls the same way using the shoe buffing brush and a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. If you are interested in this pipe email or message me and make an offer. It could easily join your rack. Thanks for looking.Duke24

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Restoring a Dr. Grabow Viscount 39 Continental


Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted this beautifully grained Grabow Viscount Shape 39 in a box of pipes that needed to be reconditioned and repaired. It was a shape that I had seen pictures of but I had never seen one in person. Holding it in hand led me to have a few questions regarding it. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Viscount over Dr. Grabow and on the right side 39 near the shank and then Imported Briar over Adjustomatic over Pat.2461905. I posted the questions and some photos of the pipe on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum as I have found the folks there to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable about all things Grabow.

Here are the questions:
1. Any idea on the dates of this one.
2. The rim top has ridges but I am not sure if they are scratches or original. They are in no particular pattern and the rest of the bowl is smooth. Did this shape have a rusticated rim?
3. Did it have the Grabow scoop stinger as it is missing in this one?
4. The Grabow spade on the stem is raised above the surface. Was this normal? I have not seen it before.

I concluded my questions with a short comment on the pipe. The briar is amazing – birdseye on the sides and cross grain on the front and back of the bowl.

The pipe needed some work as can be seen from the above questions. The stem was rough. It was oxidized and had been scraped clean with a knife or other tool and left ridges and scratches all over the stem. It gave it a striped look. The rim had a hatched rustic pattern on it and had probably fallen prey to the same knife wielding owner. The finish was actually quite good underneath the dirt and sticky spots that may have come from price tags on the bowl or labels. I was surprised that it did not have any lacquer or varnish coat over the briar. It was just stained briar and would be quite easy to clean up.Cont1

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Cont4 It was not long before I got a reply from Ted over on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. He answered all of the questions that I had regarding this particular pipe and did them in reverse order. Here is his reply.

Yes, The grain is great. A fine example.

4) Spade on the stem has raised over time. It was flush when it left the factory. Even if it comes out (unlikely) it is a relatively easy fix. Joe and Ed have bunches of spades that they picked up off the factory floor.

3) It had the scoop (72B) cleaner. Unfortunately I don’t have any left. Someone will get you one.

2) Rim scratches weren’t there when it left the factory. Someone cleaned the top a little too vigorously.

1) This is fun…… The Continentals started in 1959/60 and their heyday was 1964-1966. Almost none were produced after 1967 because the sales just weren’t there. Shape stamped with a vulcanite stem makes me believe it was made in 66/67. I can’t speculate as to when it was sold… just made.

Here are some close up photos of the rim and the grain on this beautiful little pipe.Cont5

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Cont7 Troy Wilburn sent me some catalogue photos of the Continental Line. There are some unique and interesting shapes. I thought you might enjoy seeing the photos.Cont8

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Cont11 I did a light reaming of the bowl with a sharp pen knife being careful to keep it vertical and not damage the inner edge of the rim.Cont12 I scrubbed the bowl, shank and stem airway with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. These metal mortise inserts collect a lot of “gunk” behind them and it takes some work to remove all of the debris and oils from the shank.Cont13 I scrubbed down the exterior of the briar with isopropyl alcohol to remove the sticky areas and also the general grime that was built up on the bowl and shank.Cont14

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Cont16 I lightly sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and also a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to loosen the oxidation. Then I dropped it in a bath of warm Oxy Clean to soften and bring the oxidation to the surface.Cont17

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Cont19 While the stem soaked I worked on the scratches and hatch work on the rim surface. It was not only dirty but it looked like someone had scraped off the tars with a knife and left a rough hatch pattern all over the surface of the rim. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches and smooth it out once again. I then sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to reduce the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.Cont20

Cont21 I sanded the rim down with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol once more to remove the dust and sanding grit.Cont22

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Cont25 Troy mentioned that these older Continentals were not stained but general just had a light oil coat on the natural briar. It appeared that this was true on this old pipe but the patina that had developed over the years since 1966-67 had darkened the briar. I used a medium brown stain pen to touch up the rim as it matched the patina exactly.Cont26 I took the stem out of the bath and dried it off with a coarse cotton cloth. The oxidation was greatly reduced and the stem was ready to work on.Cont27

Cont28 I put a plastic washer between the stem and the shank and sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and the sanding sponges to remove the hard to get oxidation at that point.Cont29 I took the stem off again and finished sanding with the sandpaper and sanding sponges.Cont30 Then it was time to work on the polish of the stem. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and repeated the oil. I finished with 6000-12000 grit pads, gave the stem a final coat of oil and when it dried buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel.Cont31

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Cont33 I gave the entire pipe a light buff with Blue Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff to raise the shine. I took it back to the work table and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to bring out a deeper shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It turned out to be a beautiful piece of briar and a unique looking pipe. The old briar is rich with colour and warmth.

I want to thank the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum and Ted of that Forum for their help on this pipe. I also want to thank Troy for the catalogue pages and for sending me the spoon stinger to insert to completely finish the restoration of the Continental. Thanks for looking.Cont34

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Rebuilding a Dr. Grabow Regal Adjustomatic Patent Billiard


One of the few pipes with a stem included in my gift box of bowls was a nice little Dr. Grabow Billiard. It had a long stem that clearly fit the shank of the pipe and gave it an elegant look and feel. At first glance I figured this one would clean up quite easily. The varnish finish on the bowl was worn and spotty with pieces of the varnish coat peeling off the surface of the briar. The rim was coated with a thick layer of tars and oils but looked sound. The bowl had a thick cake particularly from mid bowl to the bottom of the bowl. It was very hard and was not crumbling at all. It had however, closed the bowl to a large degree. The mortise was part of the aluminum band on the shank. It was a threaded cast piece that was fitted against the briar and was oxidized. The internals were quite clean. The bowl was stamped on the left side: REGAL over Dr. Grabow. On the right side it was stamped Imported Briar over Adjustomatic over PAT. 2461905. I have written about the patent on the Adjustomatic tenon/stem in an earlier post on rebornpipes: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/dr-grabow-adjustomatic/ I included patent information and diagrams on that page so I will not repeat that material in this post. The stem had thick calcification on the top and bottom sides of the stem and looked like it had one time sported a softie bit. When I turned the stem over there was a large hole in the underside from the button forward. IMG_1924 IMG_1925 IMG_1926 IMG_1927 I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the damaged varnish and prepare the bowl for possible restaining once the rim had been cleaned off. It took some scrubbing but I was able to get rid of the varnish from the surface and out of the grooves in the carved leaves on both sides of the bowl. It turned out that underneath the peeling varnish there was some very nice grain on the pipe. The top and bottom of the shank and the front and back of the bowl were really nice cross grain. There was a small nick in the back of the bowl near the top of the rim that had a small fill otherwise the briar was flawless. The sides were very nice birdseye grain. This was going to be a stunning pipe once it was finished. IMG_1928 IMG_1929 IMG_1930 I wiped down the buildup on the rim and was unable to even dent the hard tar. I lightly topped the bowl on a topping board to take of the buildup and not affect the rim itself. I carefully removed the tars, checking every move across the sandpaper to make sure that I was not damaging the surface of the rim. IMG_1931 IMG_1932 Once I had cut through the buildup the briar was in very good shape. I used a PipNet reamer with the smallest cutting head to remove the carbon cake in the bowl. Even the smallest head was hard to turn against the rock hard cake of this bowl. I carefully worked it back and forth, being careful not to tip the cutting head to either side and lose the roundness of the bowl. Once I had gotten the head in as far as possible I used a pen knife to work on the bottom portion of the bowl and then reworked the reamer in that area. IMG_1933 I decided to try to patch the hole in the stem. I cleaned hole and put Vaseline on a pipe cleaner. I inserted it in the airway then sprayed accelerator on the stem, put black superglue on the hole and let it sit. The hole was quite large and I was not sure that the repair would hold. I applied the glue in several layers building up the patch until it was quite thick. I sprayed it with the accelerator each time to speed the drying time. IMG_1934 IMG_1935 IMG_1936 I sanded the patched area with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the patch and then reapplied more black super glue and accelerator. IMG_1937 I set the stem aside and let it cure. In the morning I sanded the stem patch until it was smooth in the process my fingernail went through the stem above the patch. I explored the thickness of the stem up the stem and found that I could push through the airway quite a distance up the stem (Photo 1 below). After that fiasco I noticed that the patch was also quite unstable. I was able to push out the patch with my fingernail. The stem after patching and pushing through the repair is shown in Photo 2. IMG_1943 IMG_1944 At this point it was clear that a stem patch would not work on this stem. With the thinness of the vulcanite extending up the stem about an inch it was not clear how far that would go. I was going to need to do something different. I cut off the stem with a Dremel and sanding drum. IMG_1945 IMG_1946 After cutting it off I could see the problem – airway was drilled very high in the stem. There was no room for cutting a new button on the stem and opening up the slot. The top of the stem was thin for another inch toward the tenon. I had to come up with something very different to address this issue. IMG_1947 I had an old Kaywoodie stem in my can of stems that was about the same diameter as the damaged one. It was missing the club logo in the side of the stem but had a club shaped hole. I heated the stinger on the KW stem with a lighter and then was able to remove it with a pair of needle nose pliers. IMG_1948 I also heated the Grabow stem with the lighter and worked on it with the pliers. It came out slowly. I finally screwed it into the bowl and turned it until the stem came off. I then unscrewed the tenon from the bowl. I tried it in the KW stem and it was just a little bit bigger than the hole in the stem. I would need to drill it one size larger to get a fit. IMG_1949 I used my cordless drill to drill it out. It had to be slightly larger and slightly deeper than the KW stinger apparatus. To make room for the lip on the aluminum piece I used a sharp knife to bevel the inner edge of the hole to accommodate the lip. IMG_1950 IMG_1951 The Grabow tenon/adjustomatic apparatus fit in the shank and I pressed it into place to see if the fit was correct. I then removed it and used a white all purpose glue to hold it in place. There was a removable stinger end for the tenon so I reinserted that in place and the new insert was ready. IMG_1952 IMG_1953 The fit of the stem against the shank was perfect. The diameter of the stem was slightly larger than the diameter of the shank so I would need to sand it to make them match. I tried to remove the Grabow insert from the old stem so that I could use it on the new stem. I tried to pick it out with a dental pick but was not able to remove it. IMG_1954 IMG_1955 I filled the club hole with black superglue and then sanded it smooth. I used 220 grit sandpaper to work on the diameter of the stem. I also sanded the end of the stem around the button to remove the tooth marks and chatter. IMG_1956 The next series of four photos show the stem after all of the sanding and shaping. The new stem looked quite good with the bowl. The fit was perfect and the lines and flow of the angles was exactly what I was looking for when I started. IMG_1957 IMG_1958 IMG_1959 IMG_1960 I sanded the stem with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge and then refilled the small holes around the patched club logo with more superglue. I sanded the patch down with 220 grit sandpaper and resanded it with the sanding sponges until it was smooth. The photo below shows the two stem side by side. IMG_1965 I sanded the stems with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three grits of micromesh. I buffed the stem with White Diamond and then gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to work on the bowl. IMG_1966 IMG_1967 IMG_1968 I buffed the bowl with White Diamond and carefully buffed around the stamping on the sides. I polished the aluminum shank band with the higher grades of micromesh pads and then a polishing cloth to remove the scratches and bring up the shine. The next series of four photos show the polished bowl before I worked on it with some 8000-12,000 grit micromesh pads. IMG_1938 IMG_1939 IMG_1940 IMG_1941 IMG_1942 I gave the bowl a wiped down coat of Danish Oil and walnut stain. I wanted to give the briar a shine coat but not add much colour to the finish. It really made the grain pop on this one. IMG_1961 IMG_1962 IMG_1963 IMG_1964 Once the oil had dried I buffed the bowl with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a soft flannel buff. I put the stem back in place and gave the bowl and stem several more coats of wax and buffed to a shine. The finished pipe is shown below. The look and feel of the pipe is like new. It is cleaned, restemmed, refinished and ready to fire up with its inaugural bowl of tobacco. It should last a long time and serve its owner well – whether I keep it or pass it on to another pipeman. (I decided to take these final photos on a piece of marble counter top to see if I could get a good contrast on the photos.) IMG_1970 IMG_1971 IMG_1972 IMG_1973