Tag Archives: Dunhill Root Briar Pipes

Restoring Pipe #15 from Bob Kerr’s Estate – A Dunhill Root Briar 51021 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

With this Dunhill Root Briar my ongoing work on Bob Kerr’s is taking a turn to the smooth finished pipes in the collection. This is the first of the smooth pipes in his Dunhill Collection. I am cleaning them for the family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection along with the Dunhills are a good bevy of Petersons, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting.

I sorted the pipes into groups of the various brands and had a box of 25 different Dunhill pipes in different shapes, styles and sizes. I decided to work on the Dunhills first. It was a great chance to see the shape variety up close and personal. The photo below shows the box of Dunhill pipes.With the completion of the restoration on this one there are only 11 more Dunhills of the original 25 left to work on – all smooth finished pipes in a variety of shapes. I went through the box of the remaining smooth Dunhills shown above and chose the 15th and first smooth finish pipe to work on – a smooth Root Briar Bent Billiard. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the shape number 51021 followed by Dunhill over Root Briar. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Made in England 21 which tells me it is made in 1982. The 5 digit stamping gives a lot of pertinent information about the pipe. The first digit, 5 says that the size of the pipe is a Group 5. The second digit 1 identifies the pipe as having a tapered stem. The 02 identifies it as a bent pipe and the final 1 says it is a billiard. The bent round shank flows into a tapered stem that is oxidized and has tooth marks and chatter near the button. There is some calcification on the first inch of the stem ahead of the button and there is some light damage to the top of the button. The smooth Root Briar finish is dirty but like the other pipes in Bob’s collection there is something quite beautiful about the cross grain on the pipe. The bowl had a thick cake and thick lava overflow on the rim top. The bowl appears to be a little out of round with slight damage on the front inner edge of the rim. After cleaning I will know more. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Root Briar Bent Billiard had some damage on the inner edge of the bowl toward the front as can be seen in the photo. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and the lava on the rim top was also thick. You can see the cake and tobacco in the bowl. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank. Part of the stamping was very sharp and readable and other parts were fainter and needed bright light.Since this is the 15th pipe from Bob’s estate I am sure you have read at least some of the other restoration work that has been done on the 14 previous pipes. You have also read what I have included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them. Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words. Once again I thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!

I have included one of Bob’s wood carvings to give you an idea of what he daughter wrote about above. You can see his artistry in the carving that is patterned after British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations people. To me this is a sea otter but perhaps a reader may enlighten us.

Having already worked on 15 other pipes from Bob’s estate I think I understood how he used and viewed his pipes. I am just starting my work on the smooth finished pipes with this Root Briar. I had learned to tell which pipes were his favoured ones and which were his work horses. He really loved his billiards. I could get a sense of the ones that accompanied him into his carving shop. I think this would have been one of his resting pipes – not a shop pipe. In many ways it was as if he was standing over my shoulder while I cleaned up his pipes.

With that in mind I turned to work on the 15th pipe. I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris of tobacco shards that still remained. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps bring the inner edges back to round. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat in the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and some worn 220 grit sandpaper and a 1500 grit micromesh pad to work on the rim top and remove the buildup there. I worked over the damaged inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper to bring the bowl back to round and remove the damage. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Each successive pad brought more shine to the rim top. I wiped the rim down with a damp cotton pad after each sanding pad. I used an Oak coloured stain pen to blend the polished rim top into the rest of the briar. The oak colour was a perfect match for the colour of the bowl.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to break away the tarry buildup on the walls of the shank. (Sometimes I use a pen knife and sometimes a dental spatula depending on the diameter of the mortise.) I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. It was very dirty in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I cleaned off the stem with a light sanding to remove the oxidation near the tooth marks. I filled in the deep tooth marks on the topside next to the button and the one on the underside as well with black super glue and set the stem aside so the glue could cure.When the repair had cured I used a needle file to redefine the sharp edge of the button and flatten out the patches. I sanded the repaired areas to blend them into the surface of the stem. I also sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation and calcification. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end.  I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The cross grain and birdseye grain that show up in the polished bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Dunhill Root Briar 51021 Bent Billiard will soon heading off to India to join Paresh’s rotation. It really has that classic Dunhill Bent Billiard look that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 15th Dunhill Briar from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the estate. With this one I have begun my work on the smooth Dunhill Pipes. What will follow is 10 more smooth finished Dunhills – Root Briar, Bruyere etc. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.

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Restoring a Dunhill Root Briar EK Square Shank Panel Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is a Dunhill Panel Billiard. It is a smooth briar pipe that is very dirty. It has four panels around the bowl and the corners are rounded. The shank is square as well and ends with a square tapered stem. The briar is worn and tired with oils in the briar. The rim top had a build of tars and lave that flowed over it from a thick cake in the bowl. The shank is stamped on the left side EK followed by Dunhill over Root Briar. On the right side it is stamped Made in England with an underlined superscript 0 followed by a 4 circled followed by an R. The stem has the standard white spot on the top side. It was oxidized and had some calcification build up on the first inch of the stem that appeared to have come from a rubber pipe Softee bit. The stamping is easily interpreted. The left side EK is the shape stamp for a panel billiard. The ROOT BRIAR stamping is the line of Dunhill pipes. The right side stamp superscript O tells me that the pipe is dated to 1960. The circled 4 is the size of the pipe (group four) and the R is the stamping for a Root Briar. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff took photos of the top, sides and the bottom of the bowl to show the condition of the briar. The topside showed a thick lava build up flowing out of a thick cake in the bowl. It was hard to know if there was damage on the outer or inner edges of the rim. The sides of the bowl show dents and wear but also some stunning birdseye and cross grain. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the pipe shank. It is faint but readable. It is as I wrote about above.Jeff took a photo of the stem to show the fit against the shank and the white spot. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter and marks as well as the calcification on the surface of the stem.I wanted to certify the date for myself so I had a look at the PipePhil site and looked the dating and stamping information (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). Using the charts there I was able to confirm that pipe was made in 1960.

I also looked on the Pipedia site and read as much information as I could find regarding the Root Briar line (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). Here is what it said: The line was… Introduced in 1931 and highly prized because the grain is more pronounced in this finish. The Root Briar finish required a perfectly clean bowl with excellent graining. Therefore, it is the most expensive of the Dunhill pipes. Corsican briar was most often used for the Root finish, since it was generally more finely grained. This is a rare finish, due to the scarcity of briar suitable to achieve it. These pipes are normally only available at Company stores, or Principle Pipe Dealers…

Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils, lava and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The rim was thoroughly cleaned and without the grime the finish had some rim darkening that hid the grain. The vulcanite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the profile it cast. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.  I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. Jeff was able to remove all of the tar and oils but you can now see the damage and darkening around the inner edge. The vulcanite stem had tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem both on the surface of the button and just ahead it. There was one deeper tooth mark on the topside near the button.I started my refurbing work by addressing the darkening on the rim top and inner edge. I first sanded the inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I then lightly sanded the rim top with a worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I find that using a bit more tired piece of sandpaper works wonders on the dark edge without scratching the rim surface like a new piece. I followed that by wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh. I sanded the rest of the pipe with the micromesh at the same time. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped down the bowl after each pad with a damp cloth. The grain on the rim top began to shine through and the finish was in good condition under the darkened grain. I rubbed down the smooth briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar on the rim, sides and the bottom of the bowl with my fingertips. I wanted to make sure that the balm got deep into the briar to do its work. The balm works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let it sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim looks much better than when I started but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. I sanded out the tooth chatter and tooth marks on the stem surfaces. I sanded the rest of the stem with the sandpaper to remove the oxidation on the stem surface.I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I the polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax then buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. I left the some of the dents in place as I did not want to sand and ruin the patina. I think they are marks of the journey the pipe has taken. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. This is a nice looking Dunhill Panel Billiard pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked this beautiful Dunhill Root Briar Panel. Thanks for looking.

Farida’s Dad’s Pipes #5 – Restoring a Dunhill Root Briar 56 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I am back working on a of pipes that comes from the estate of an elderly gentleman here in Vancouver. I met with his daughter Farida last summer and we looked at his pipes and talked about them then. Over the Christmas holiday she brought them by for me to work on, restore and then sell for her. There are 10 pipes in all – 7 Dunhills (one of them, a Shell Bulldog, has a burned out bowl), 2 Charatans, and a Savinelli Autograph. His pipes are worn and dirty and for some folks they have a lot of damage and wear that reduce their value. To me each one tells a story. I only wish they could speak and talk about the travels they have had with Farida’s Dad.

When I wrote the blog on the Classic Series Dunhill and thinking about its travels, Farida sent me an email with a short write up on her Dad. She remembered that I had asked her for it so that I could have a sense of the stories of her Dad’s pipes. Here is what she wrote: My dad, John Barber, loved his pipes. He was a huge fan of Dunhill and his favourite smoke was St. Bruno. No one ever complained of the smell of St. Bruno, we all loved it. I see the bowls and they’re large because he had big hands. When he was finished with his couple of puffs, he would grasp the bowl in the palm of his hand, holding the warmth as the embers faded. The rough bowled pipes were for daytime and especially if he was fixing something. The smooth bowled pipes were for an evening with a glass of brandy and a good movie. In his 20s, he was an adventurer travelling the world on ships as their radio operator. He spent a year in the Antarctic, a year in the Arctic and stopped in most ports in all the other continents. He immigrated to Canada in the mid-fifties, working on the BC Ferries earning money to pay for his education. He graduated from UBC as an engineer and spent the rest of his working life as a consultant, mostly to the mining companies. Whatever he was doing though, his pipe was always close by. 

She sent along this photo of him with his sled dogs in the Antarctic sometime in 1953-1954. It is a fascinating photo showing him with a pipe in his mouth. He is happily rough housing with his dogs. As a true pipeman the cold does not seem to bother him at all.Thank you Farida for sending the photo and the background story on your Dad for me to use on the blog. I find that it really explains a lot about their condition and gives me a sense of who Dad was. If your Dad was rarely without a pipe I can certainly tell which pipes were his favourites. As I looked over the pipes I noted that each of them had extensive rim damage and some had deeply burned gouges in the rim tops. The bowls seemed to have been reamed not too long ago because they did not show the amount of cake I would have expected. The stems were all covered with deep tooth marks and chatter and were oxidized and dirty. The internals of the mortise, the airway in the shank and stem were filled with tars and oils. These were nice looking pipes when her Dad bought them and they would be nice looking one more when I finished.

I finished two of the pipes and have written a blog on each of them. The first one was the Dunhill Shell with the oval shank pot (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/04/restoring-a-1983-dunhill-shell-41009-oval-shank-pot/) and the second was the Dunhill Classic Series Shell Billiard (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/08/faridas-dads-pipes-2-restoring-a-1990-lbs-classic-series-dunhill-shell-billiard/). The third pipe I restored from the estate was a Savinelli Autograph (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/15/faridas-dads-pipes-3-restoring-a-savinelli-autograph-4/). The fourth pipe of his that I worked on was a Dunhill Red Bark Pot that was in rough shape (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/03/10/faridas-dads-pipes-4-restoring-a-dunhill-red-bark-pot-43061/).

I went back to the remaining two Dunhills in the collection today and chose to work on a Dunhill Root Briar 56 Bent Billiard. It was so dirty it was hard to read the stamping on the sides. I could see that it was worn but I could not tell much else looking through the thick grime. The smooth finish sticky with oils and thick grime and the bowl felt oily to touch. I wiped off the oils and grime on the shank sides to see the stamping. It was worn but readable. On the left side of the shank it reads Dunhill over Root Briar. To the left of the stamping is the shape number 56. On the right side of the shank there is a faint stamp R with 4 in a circle. The rest of the stamping is very faint.

I turned to a blog I have on rebornpipes by Eric Boehme on Dunhill Shapes and looked for the shape number stamped on this pipe. Here is the link. https://rebornpipes.com/2012/11/01/dunhill-pipe-shapes-collated-by-eric-w-boehm/. I did a screen capture of the section on Bent Billiards and circled the pipe I have in hand in red. The shape number 56 is noted as a bent billiard size 4. It is noted as 5 ½ inches long just as the one I have is. It is listed as coming out in 1928, 1950, 1960 and 1969. The spread of dating was pretty large and the stamping so unreadable that I could not determine the date with that normal help. It was time to move on and look for other helpful information to see if I could narrow things down a bit.

I turned to another site that I use often – the pipephil website on Logos and Stampings because there is some really helpful information on when each of the lines of Dunhill pipes entered the market. Here is the link to the section of the site that I turned to, http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/root-bru-guide.html. I did a screen capture of a portion of the chart that gave me the time frame for this particular pipe. I circled the date and brand in red in the photo below. It looks like the Root Briar came out between 1960 and 1970. Now I knew that one I was working on a pipe that came from that era – which incidentally matched the other pipes in Farida’s Dad’s estate collection.The bowl was thickly caked and the cake had flowed over onto the smooth Root Briar finish on the rim top forming hard lava that made the top uneven. The inner and outer edges of the rim were both damaged. On the right front of the bowl the rim had been scraped and damaged and then burned. On the back edge there was the same kind of damage that was on the other Dunhill pipes in this estate. This one however was not quite as deep so it would need to be dealt with a bit differently when I got to that point. The stem was lightly oxidized but otherwise in good condition. There were light tooth marks and chatter on both sides in front of the button. The Dunhill white spot was intact on the top of the stem. I took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before I started the cleanup work. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The outer edge has damage on the front right – burn damage and wear that comes from lighting a pipe repeatedly in the same spot. The back left side also shows damage on the inner edge. There was damage from what looked like a poor rim job. The stem has tooth chatter and some bite marks on the top and the underside of the stem just ahead of the button.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and used two of the four cutting heads to clean out the cake. The bowl thickly caked so I started with the smaller of the two and worked my way up to the second one which was about the same size as the bowl diameter. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the remnants of cake. I finished by sanding the inside of the bowl with a dowel wrapped in sandpaper. I scrubbed the surface of the briar with alcohol and cotton pads. I scrubbed until I had removed the sticky tars and oils on the finish. I worked on the top of the rim with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scraped the heavy buildup that was there. I scrubbed the scraped rim top with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the debris. I dried off the bowl with a soft rag. The cleaned and scrubbed pipe really made the rim top damage very clear. It looked to me that I would need to top the bowl. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the top surface of the rim and clean up the damage to the edges. I did not have to remove a lot and repeatedly checked it to make sure that I had removed enough but not too much. I wanted to take the top down until it was smooth up to the burn damaged area on the rim top.I wiped down the rim top with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the sanding dust. I built up the damaged area on the rim with clear super glue and briar dust. I layered it until the height of the damaged area was roughly equal to the rim top. The third photo below shows the top at this point in the process. I took photos of the repaired bowl from a variety of angles to show what the repair looked like before I sanded and cleaned it up. I would need to top the bowl again to smooth things out and work on the edges. I topped the bowl again to remove the excess repair material. I worked it over the sandpaper on the board until the surface was smooth. I used a folded piece of 150 and 220 grit sandpaper to bevel the inside edge of the bowl. With the externals clean it was time to clean out the mortise and shank and airway into the bowl and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula to loosen the tars before cleaning. I worked on the bowl and stem until the insides were clean.I used a Cherry stain pen to touch up the rim and match the colour of the rest of the pipe.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect the new finish. It also evened out the stain coat and gave the stain a dimensional feel. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. There was some darkening on the bowl front but the briar was solid. Overall the bowl looked really good. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter on both sides with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to further protect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it a final rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry.  With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a more aggressive buff of Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the fifth of Farida’s Dad’s pipes that I am restoring from his collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Farida thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. This one is already sold to a fellow in India. It will soon be on its way to him to carry on the trust from Farida’s father. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another of the Dunhills. More of his pipes will follow including some one more Dunhill and two Charatans. The last photo of the front of the bowl shows the darkening to the briar that remains. It is solid and the burn mark does not compromise the briar. It looks worse in this photo than it does in reality. It is a dark spot that is solid.

Restoring Barry’s Dad’s Pipes #6 – a Dunhill Root Briar 34 F/T Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been including some of the back story in each of the restorations of these pipes because to me the story gives colour to the pipe as I work on it. I am including it once again. Skip over it if you want to. Late in the summer of 2017 I received an email on rebornpipes blog from Barry in Portland, Oregon. He wanted to know if I would be interested in purchasing his Dad’s pipes. I have finished four of them so far, a 1939 Dunhill Patent Shell Bulldog, a Comoy’s Grand Slam Zulu, a Comoy’s London Pride Liverpool and a 1959 Dunhill Root Briar Billiard. After I finished the second pipe Barry wrote me an email that gave me a little more information on his Dad and incidentally on himself as this pipe was one of his own. Here is what he wrote me.

Steve, — Another great restoration and writing to go with it. I appreciate these pipes more watching the work it takes to get them in good condition.

Your (mine?) floral words about my father are perhaps a little deceptive. Inside that man was a lifelong Bolshevik. Who yearned for the revolution and settled for the party of Roosevelt. His parents were born in the Russian Empire (Ukraine), his father having escaped after brief detention during the 1905 failed uprising and to avoid conscription. His father was gruff, a bit crude and all politics. Given those origins he made the best of himself, had tons of friends and would have been a great social worker.

I misled you on the origin of his pipe conversion. It seems clear based on the 1939 pipe that he smoked a pipe in college, returning to them after the 1964 Surgeon General ‘s report on the danger of cigarettes. After that he only reverted to cigarettes at moments of great stress, a death, business setback or a fight with his wife.

He gave me two pipes in college – the GBD bulldog and a “Parker”. The latter I used to smoke a few times but found I was allergic to it, fortunately. The GBD was to get girls with an MGB, a Harris Tweed sport coat with leather elbow patches and jug wine. Didn’t work. Stanford women were in revolt and saw through the pretense. I put both pipes away for nearly fifty years and now they are in your good hands. — Barry

Barry and I corresponded back and forth and concluded our deal. I became the proud owner of his Dad’s pipes. The inventory of the pipes he would be sending included some real beauties – Comoy’s, Parkers, Dunhills and some no name brands. They were beautiful and I could not wait to see them. I had him send them to Jeff where he would clean them up before I received them. Jeff took some photos of the lot as he opened the box. Each pipe was individually wrapped with bubble wrap and taped to protect them. There were 25 bubble wrapped packages and a lot of pipe accessories included – pipe racks, reamers, scrapers and Comoy’s filters and washers. There were pipe pouches and a wooden cigar box that held all of the accessories and reamers. There was a boxed KleenReem pipe reamer that was virtually unused. Jeff unwrapped the pipes and took pictures of the estate showing both the pipes and the accessories. Barry had labeled each pipe with a sticky note. It was an amazing addition to my pipe and tool collection. The next pipe I chose to work on from the collection was the Dunhill Root Briar billiard that is the third pipe down in the photo above. It was in decent condition with dents and wear of the years on briar but the stem was un-oxidized. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank with the shape number 34 followed by F/T which is the style of stem (fish tail). I looked up the shape number on a previous blog on rebornpipes (https://rebornpipes.com/2012/11/01/dunhill-pipe-shapes-collated-by-eric-w-boehm/). The shape number 34 is a Billiard. Next to that it reads Dunhill over Root Briar. On the right side of the shank it reads Made in over England with a superscript 9 and a c. Next to that is the familiar 2 in a circle for the size of the pipe followed by a capital R for the Root Briar finish.

This petite billiard was interesting to me in that it was a unique little Root Briar with a mystery stamping next to the Made in England stamp. The superscript underlined 9 gives a potential date of 1959 but the mystery to me is the superscript underlined c next to that. I had not seen that before on any of the Dunhill pipes that I have worked on. The finish was dirty but in decent condition and the stamping was very readable. The bowl was caked and had an overflow of lava on the rim top as well as some darkening. The outer edges of the rim had some rough spots from knocking the pipe against something hard. There was a burn mark on the front right side of the bowl and the rim top. Even through the grime and grit the amazing birdseye on the sides and cross grain on the front and back of the bowl. The stem was in excellent condition with no oxidation and some tooth chatter both sides of the stem at the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up. As usual the photos tell the story better than my words can. Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake and the overall condition of the bow and rim top. Both the outer edges and inner edges of the rim show damage. The top of the rim had some lava build up and had scratches and nicks in the surface. He also took a photo of the underside of the bowl to show the grain and the small dents. It is a really nice piece of briar and should clean up well. The stem was made of hard rubber and was barely oxidized as mentioned above and had tooth chatter on both sides near the button. Jeff took photos of both sides of the stem to capture their condition before he cleaned the pipe. The small white spot on the top of the stem was in good condition and slightly indented. Jeff once again did his usual great job on cleaning this pipe, leaving it pristine and without damage to the finish. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the remnants with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime of the smooth finish on the bowl and shank. He was able to remove the tars and oil on the rim but the darkening and damage to the surfaced would need to be addressed. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. Once the dust and debris were removed the finish looked very good. He soaked the stem in Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to remove the light oxidation, rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.   I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and damaged areas around the outer edge of the bowl. The front outer edge has a burn mark. The bowl was very clean and the rim top had some nicks on both the inner and outer, some scorching and general darkening. Jeff had been able to remove the lava from the finish. The inner edge had some damage and nicks and the roughness of the rim top and outer edge was visible. The stem was barely oxidized as can be seen in the photos and has tooth chatter near the button on both sides.Before I did and restoration work on the bowl or stem I decided to pin down the date a bit more. I knew that the pipe was made after the patent era pipes as there was no patent number on the shank but I wanted to narrow that down more. One of the beauties of Dunhill pipes is that the stamping can give you a precise date of manufacture. In this case I wanted to work on the stamping Dunhill Root Briar on the left side of the shank and the Made in England9 c  on the right side of the shank. I looked up the brand on the Pipephil website as he has very helpful photos and information in dating and interpreting the stamping on Dunhill pipes. On one of the supplemental pages associated with Dunhill pipes he has a page on the Patent era pipes. I find that this page is particularly helpful when I am trying to properly identify a pipe. Here is the link to the page: http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/root-briar1.html.

The stamping on this one is similar to the one I am working on. Though the one I have in hand is not a DR A.  The one I have is stamped 34 F/T. The Made in England marking on the pipe in the photo on the right side of the shank is similar as well. The 9 on mine is more of a superscript than this one but the underscore is the same. There is also a 1969 version that is similar but it does not have the underscore on the 9. So the pipe I have is either a 1959 or a 1969 Root Briar. What is also unique on the one I have is the superscript underlined c next to the 9. I cannot find any information on what that means.Jeff photographed the stamping on the right side the shank to show what it read and the condition of the stamping. You can see the underscored superscript 9 matches the one above. The formula is simple – the base number is either1950 or 1960 and you add the underscored superscript 9 to that number. It is either 1969 or 1959. The parallels to the photo above leads me to think it is probably a 1959 pipe. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.To remove the damage on the rim I decided to top the bowl. I used 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board to remove the damage. I worked on it until the top was smooth and the damage on the outer edge of the bowl was minimized. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damages along the outer rim. I used it to also work on the inner edge of the bowl. I gave the inner edge a slight bevel like it original had before I started.  I polished the rim with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad to check on the progress. I used a maple stain pen to touch up the rim top to match the colour on the rest of the bowl. With the touch ups the rim matches the rest of the bowl colour.I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar on the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect it. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed. I started working on the stem next. I sanded out the tooth chatter next to the button on both sides with 220 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem surface clean with a damp cloth. I sanded it with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper to blend the scratches left behind by the sandpaper and blended the scratches into the surface of the vulcanite.  I polished stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish, both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This small Dunhill Root Briar is a real beauty with straight grain on the back and front and beautiful birdseye on both sides of the bowl and shank. The grain really is quite stunning. The rim top looks much better. The Dunhill vulcanite stem is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The rich brown stain allows the grain to really stand out on this little pipe and it works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 1/8 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 5/8 inches. This little Dunhill will fit really nicely into the collection of a friend of mine, Henry who has been looking for a pipe this size. I will sending it to him soon and I know that he is looking forward to enjoying his first bowl in it. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.