Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table came to us from a group of pipes that Jeff and I purchased from a fellow in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 3, 2022. It is a Dunhill Shell Billiard that is in good condition. It is stamped on a smooth panel on the underside of the shank with the shape number 252 F/T followed by Dunhill [over] Shell Briar. Next to that it is stamped Made in [over] England by the date number 9. After that it is stamped with a 4 in a circle [followed by] S for shell. The stamping is clear and readable as noted above. The pipe has a mix of black, cordovan and brown stains on a sandblast finish and some amazing grain that the shape follows well. The finish was dusty around the nooks and crannies of the sandblast but otherwise fairly clean. The bowl had a thick cake and there was some lava on the sandblasted rim top or edges. The taper stem was oxidized, calcified, dirty and had tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before he started working on it.He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show their condition and of the stem to show the condition of both sides of the stem. The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the deep sandblast grain on the pipe. It is a beauty. The stamping on the underside of the shank is shown in the photo below. It looks very good and faint but readable. It reads as noted and explained above. Jeff captured the detail in the photos below. One of the first things I like to do is to unpack the stamping and understand each element in it. I turned to Pipephil helpful site (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shell-briar1.html). The stamping is interpreted as follows: The number 252 is the shape number for a Billiard. The F/T is the designation for a Fishtail stem. The Dunhill Shell Briar is the finish which is corroborated the S at the end of the stamping. The size of the pipe is a Group 4. The 9 following the D of England gives the date the pipe.Pipephil also has some helpful dating keys on the site that are basically flow charts that you can walk through to date your pipe (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1.html). I turned to Part 1 of the Dating Key and followed the chart. This pipe has a suffix of 9 following the D in England. It is the same size as the D so that took me to the section on the chart below (column one) which instructed me that the pipe could be dated as being made posterior to 1954. The date stamp 9 which made the pipe a 1969 Shell Briar.I followed the link following the “Your pipe is posterior to 1954. Narrow down your dating”. That took me to Page 2 of the dating key (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). The third column (suffix 5…9) led me to the section with no raised suffix. There was a directive for dating the pipe spelled out as follows: 1960 + suffix which gives the pipe a date of 1969.I then turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Root Briar to get a bit of background on the Duhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:
A deep craggy sandblast with a black stain finish (usually made using Algerian briar) – the color of the stain used has varied over the years. Although there is some doubt as to them being the first to sandblast pipes, Dunhill’s Shell pipes, and the sandblasting techniques developed to create them are considered one of Dunhill’s greatest and most lasting contributions to the art of pipe making.
The documented history of Dunhill’s inception of the Shell is largely limited to patent applications — there are no catalog pages or advertisements promoting blasted pipes at the time. The preliminary work on the English patent (No. 1484/17) was submitted on October 13, 1917. The patent submission was completed half a year later, on April 12, 1918, followed by the granting of the English patent on October 14, 1918. This was less than a month before the end of The Great War on November 11th.
In 1986 Dunhill released a line of premium Shell finish pipes – “RING GRAIN”. These are high-quality straight grain pipes which are sandblasted. Initially only Ring Grain, but now in two different finishes. In 1995 the “Shilling” was introduced with Cumberland finish – it is an extremely rare series. These pipes exhibit a deeper blast characteristic of that of the 1930’s – mid-1960’s (and the limited ‘deep blast’ pipes of the early 1980s) and show a fine graining pattern. These are considered the best new Dunhills by many enthusiasts today and are very rare. The finish is sometimes described as tasting like vanilla at first, with the taste becoming more normal or good as the pipe breaks in.
I have also included a chart from the site from Dunhill spelling out the Standard Pipe Finishes and giving short information and a timeline. I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had done an amazing cleanup of the pipe. He reamed the light cake with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Briarville’s Pipe stem Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very good when I received it. I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the clean bowl. It almost looks as if it was never smoked to the bottom of the bowl. The stem came out looking quite good. There are some tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping. The photo clearly shows the stamping and is actually more readable in the photo than in person. I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe.The bowl was in such good condition that I had to do some minimal work with it. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to work it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes then I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I “painted” the stem surface on both sides to lift the dents. The heat lifted the ones on the top completely and the ones on the underside for the most part. I filled in the two small remaining marks on the underside of the stem with clear CA glue. Once it cured I sanded repairs out with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This 1969 Dunhill Shell Briar 252 F/T Taper Stem Billiard has a beautiful, unique Dunhill Sandblast finish that is very deep and craggy. The dark mixed black/brown/red finish highlights some great grain around the bowl and shank. It has some great rugged sandblast that Dunhill specialized in making. The polished black vulcanite taper stem adds to the mix. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Shell Briar 252 F/T Billiard is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.23 ounces/35 grams. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. If you are interested in adding it to your collection I will be adding it to the British Pipe Makers Section of the rebornpipes store. Thanks for your time.