Tag Archives: Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog

Dropped in at the Dunhill Deep End


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

This is the first and introductory blog by Kenneth. We have been working through his Grandfather’s pipes and others that he has purchased to help him learn the processes that I use to restore and refurbish pipes. He is a quick study and able student. Give his first blog a read and enjoy it. Thanks Kenneth and welcome to rebornpipes.

I must admit that I never thought that the first pipe I ever restored would be a Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog. Talk about nerve-wracking! I figured I would start out on an old clunker of a pipe so that if I made a mess of it, there was no great loss. But Steve Laug insisted that this was the one I had work on first because it was, in fact, a microcosm of pipe restoration all in one little pipe. I want to express my gratitude to Steve for not only permitting me to post the story of this pipe’s restoration, but most especially for guiding me every step of the way through the process. The vagaries of life (thanks to Covid) necessitated several FaceTime and Zoom chats, but he was always generous, friendly, and helpful. Any compliments on this restoration are for him – any criticisms are for me.

This charming Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog pipe belonged to my paternal grandfather and was one of seventeen pipes left to my father, and which he has now given to me. A little detective work over at http://www.pipephil.eu revealed that this Dunhill dates from 1937 – which would have made my grandfather 29 years old when it was made.He died in 1975, so this pipe has not been smoked for at least 45 years (and probably more). As a side note, while this restoration was ongoing, I also restored his Dunhill Rollagas lighter (dated to the mid-1950s), so that I could use it to light the pipe one day. In that pipe will be some very old tobacco that is also from my grandfather. I am not sure what the tobacco is, but it smells lovely. I have another two Dunhill pipes I inherited from my grandfather, but I will save those restorations for future posts! As you can see from these initial photos, this poor pipe had some serious issues! The front of the bowl had a large crack, reaching all the way from the rim to the heel. There was also another crack (albeit considerably smaller) on the opposite side of the bowl. Smaller it may have been, but no less daunting to me. There was some cleaning that needed to be done inside the shank and stem, but less than might have been expected from an 85-year-old pipe. The usual routine of isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners, Q-tips, etc. made short work of that. Unfortunately, I do not have a handy brother like Jeff Laug to help clean my pipes, so I did it myself. I learn by doing, so this was just as well.

After using both the Pipnet Reamer and the KleenReem, the bowl was stripped down to the bare briar. This afforded me a good look at the condition of the bowl and just how far the two cracks had penetrated the wood. The smaller crack was not any worse than it initially appeared, but the large crack went all the way to the underside of the bowl. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and that made a world of difference to the overall appearance of the wood, but not to the cracks, obviously. I prepared some J.B. Weld epoxy and filled the breach from the inside, ensuring that the epoxy did not ooze out to the front. I filled in the crack from the outside with a mixture of briar dust and cyanoacrylate adhesive. This was a tricky business, as the crack varied from ‘gaping’ at the rim to essentially ‘imperceptible’ at the heel. After putting down some layers of briar dust and glue, I noticed that there were still some small gaps that only iPhone magnification could reveal, as seen here. These were soon mended and left to cure.Following this, some rustication was needed, and a brass-bristle brush was the tool I used. In fact, the brush was used several times – including after I applied some stain to the briar-glue repair. The stain was used in conjunction with the Before & After Restoration Balm, to help meld everything together. I must admit that I wish I could have done this step better – all I could see were flaws, but everyone else told me how much better it looked, especially when compared with how it began. These photographs show you that it wasn’t complete, but I guess it really was better. Once this had fully cured, I coated the entire inside of the bowl with a mixture of activated charcoal and my wife’s homemade yogurt. Once hardened, this provided a good, slightly rough surface for a new cake to build. Then it was time for the stem. It was in pretty good condition, considering its age. There were a couple of relatively minor tooth marks and the button needed some work. However, without doubt, restoring the stem was the most frustrating part of the restoration. It began easily enough, with the stem taking a swim in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. In order to address the chatter, I waved the flame of a BIC lighter over the mouthpiece. I also took some of the cyanoacrylate adhesive and filled in the deeper tooth marks. But then the tough stuff came: sanding, more sanding, then even more sanding. Did I mention the sanding? As you know from Steve’s similar work, I used 220, 400, and 600 sandpapers to wet-sand the stem. Then followed that with all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) – using Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad. The pictures only tell a fraction of the story. Quite frankly, my lack of experience was my undoing, as I had to do this entire sanding sequence twice over. It just did not look right the first time. In fact, I was not even convinced that it looked right the second time, but Steve reassured me (with his typical kindness) that I was merely suffering from the same sort of pipe perfectionism that he does – not to mention the fact that this pipe is 85 years old: it is not meant to look brand new! At some point, one has to stop or else one will simply sand the pipe away into oblivion!

At long last, I was at the point where I could throw down some more Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil, Before & After Restoration Balm, and Paragon II Wax. Microfibre cloths, horsehair shoe brushes, and buffing pads followed – all to provide a final product (hopefully) worthy of my beloved grandfather’s memory. This was certainly a labour of love and I look forward to firing up his 85-year-old Dunhill pipe, with his 65+ year-old Dunhill lighter, filled to the rim with his 50+ year-old tobacco. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 4⅝ inches; height 1⅝ inches; bowl diameter 1½ inches; chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is ⅞ of an ounce (or 27 grams).

Thank you very much for reading and I welcome and encourage your comments. Kenneth sent me this message and photo on Facebook.

This is my grandfather, Alfred Lieblich,  in Vienna in 1938. Look what’s in his mouth! Amazing!

Restoring a Tired and Cobbled Dunhill Shell Patent Era Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from one of Jeff’s hunts. It is a Bent Bulldog with a copper/brown variegated acrylic stem and a rugged sandblast around the bowl. It has an oxblood/brown/black finish that highlights the grain in the sandblast. When I first took the pipe out of the box to work on it this morning I thought that the blast reminded me of early Dunhill pipes but the band and the acrylic stem made me not connect it to Dunhill. Later when I turned the pipe over to try to decipher the stamping with a light and lens I was surprised that it was indeed a Dunhill. It is stamped on the flat underside of the shank and reads P12 followed by Dunhill Shell [over] Pat. No. with the numbers and the rest of the stamping blurred out with what looks like the previous owner’s initials DAV or DAN carved by hand.  So it is a Patent Shell with no way of dating it and having an aftermarket band and acrylic stem. The acrylic stem and silver band were well fitted to the shank and matched the angles. From my experience it is unusual to see this kind of workmanship in an aftermarket stem and band. It is always a shame to me when a very old and well-made pipe is changed this much! Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup.He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake and the heavy lava overflow on the top. It is an incredibly dirty pipe. He also captured the tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button.    He took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the deep blast around the bowl and the amount of grime ground into the surface of the briar. He took photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank and the carved initials near the stem/shank junction. He also took a photo of the stamping on the silver band on the shank. I turned Pipephil’s helpful Dunhill section to see if I could at least establish parameters for the age of the pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/index.html).

From there I knew that the Dunhill Shell was introduced in 1917 and the Patent stamped lasted from 1920 until 1954.

From the shape lettering chart I learned that the P stamp was correct for a ½ Bent Bulldog (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shapes-l.html_).

I turned to Pipedia and looked up the specifics of the Shell line. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Shell)

Shell – 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 knew that the Dunhill Shell pipe I was working was made between 1920-1954. I probably would not get much closer than that for a date on the pipe. I also knew that the previous owner had not only personalized the pipe with his initials but had also added a Sterling Silver band for decoration (no cracks or damage to the shank visible) and a variegated acrylic stem that looked very 1970s. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

Jeff had done his usual thorough cleanup on the pipe. He 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 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. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I took a photo of the rim top and stem to show the condition. They cleaned up really well and the burn damage on the top of the rim at the front and left side are visible. The rest of the rim top is worn with the sandblast smoothed out. The inner edge of the bowl had some low spots and damage that would need to be addressed. The acrylic replacement stem was well crafted and fit very well with the shank and angles of the shank. The stem surface looked very good with light tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button.  I took a photo of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. It read as noted above.  You can see the wear on the stamping and the DAV initials just ahead of the tarnish silver band.I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a well shaped bent Bulldog shape that looks craggy and inviting.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. I cleaned up the inner edge of the bowl and gave it a slight bevel to minimize the damage. It also brought the bowl back into round.   Since it was clean and looked good I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the sandblast bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. It helped to give depth to the stain around the bowl.  The final buffing would bring the pipe alive. I polished the Sterling Silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the remaining oxidation that was on the silver.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth chatter and marks and blend them into the stem surface. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This beautifully sandblasted Dunhill Shell Bent Bulldog with a variegated copper and brown acrylic replacement saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I was able to minimize damages on the edge of the bowl and rim. I gave a bevel to the inside edge of the bowl to remove the burn damage and out of round bowl. The rich Shell coloured finish came alive with the polishing and waxing. The dimensions of the sandblast really popped. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Shell Bulldog is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Even though the stem and band are aftermarket it still looks good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Just when I had given up on finding a great pipe this happens – but not to me


Blog by Steve Laug

It has been a long time since I found a pipe of this caliber in a thrift shop of antique mall. It seems that the finds of earlier times are fewer and farther apart. Then something like what I am about to tell you happens – in this case happens to someone else. It creates in me a renewed passion for the hunt.

It is not too often that the pipes that others find set loose a twinge of jealousy in me but this one certainly did. It was one of my favourite shapes and he virtually stole it in terms of price. It was found by a pipeman on Vancouver Island. He found it in a local thrift/antique shop and paid $15 Canadian for it. For the Americans reading this our Canadian dollar is worth about 65 cents US. That is why I said that he stole the pipe, paying a whopping $9.75 US. He sent me a message on Facebook Messenger and asked if I would clean up the pipe for him and restore it. He sent me a photo that did not begin to tell the story of this beautiful little dog. We talked via Messenger and discussed the pipe. He sent it to me and I received it earlier this week.

It is a beautiful Shell Briar Bulldog. The bowl had a thick cake and was dirty on the outside. The finish looked undamaged by scratches and dents and merely bore a thick coat of dust and grime. The rim was in excellent shape – both inner and outer edges were undamaged. The stem was the worst part of the pipe – it was extremely oxidized and had a deep oxidation and also a very gritty feel in the hand. It almost felt like sand was stuck to the surface of the rubber. There were tooth marks on the top side of the stem and on the underside. There was a sticky spot on the top of the stem where there must have been a price tag at one point. The button and the slot were both undamaged and would clean up easily. There was an inner tube in the stem and shank of the pipe. It ran from the end of the tenon to the bottom of the bowl. These were made originally to facilitate keeping the airway clean. This one had a few oxidized spots on the surface of the aluminum and also was stained with tars and oils on the inside.

It was stamped on the flat underside of the bowl and shank as follows: On the bottom of the bowl it was stamped 148F/T which told me the shape number and the style of the stem – a fish tail. After that almost mid-shank it was stamped Dunhill Shell Briar. Next to that it was stamped Made in England7 0. From my read of the stamping the underlined 7 is added to the date 1960 which would make this pipe a 1967 pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shellbriar1.html). I am not sure of the meaning of the 0 that sits between the underlined 7 and the Circle 3 S. I do know that the circle three tells me that this pipe is a Group 3 sized pipe and the S gives the finish which in this case is a Shell.

The next set of five photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived at my work table.Dunhill1

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Dunhill5 I studied the pipe for a while before proceeding with my usual clean up. I shook of the remnants of pipe envy and congratulated the finder. I began by reaming the pipe with a PipNet Reamer. The bowl, being a Group 3 size would only take the smallest cutting head of the reamer. I took the cake back as close as possible to bare wood with the reamer. I had to finish the reaming with a small pen knife and removed the ridges and remnants of cake that are visible in the second photo below.Dunhill6

Dunhill7 After I finished the reaming with the pen knife I used a brass bristle tire brush to clean up the finish on the top of the rim. I find that the soft brass bristles clean out the stubborn lava without doing damage to the blast/rustication finish on the rim. They also do not damage either the inner or outer edge of the rim.Dunhill8 I scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the detritus that had collected in the crevices of the finish. I rinsed the bowl with running water and dried it off with a towel.Dunhill9 I cleaned out the airway in the slot and stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cleaned out the inner tube the same way. I scrubbed the exterior of the inner tube with 0000 steel wool. The oxidation on the stem was deep and concentrated. It really was a mess.Dunhill10 To try to soften the oxidation and bring it to the surface I mixed a batch of OxyClean and dropped the stem in the mixture to soak overnight and worked on the bowl. I rubbed the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil and then buffed it with a shoe brush. I gave it several coats of Halcyon II wax and rebuffed with the shoe brush.Dunhill11

Dunhill12

Dunhill13

Dunhill14 I cleaned out the shank and the mortise with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Thanks to the inner tube it was not nearly as black and grimy as many of the older pipes that I clean up.Dunhill15 In the morning I took the stem out of the Oxyclean bath and dried it off with a coarse cotton towel. The oxidation had softened considerably and I was able to scrape a little away with a fingernail (that is a “secret” test I use to see if it ready to come out of the soak).Dunhill16

Dunhill17

Dunhill18 I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. The oxidation was stubborn on this stem. It took a lot of work to get it out of the edges and curve of the saddle. Once I cut through the oxidation on the rough spots I moved on to sanding the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished by sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I let the oil dry.Dunhill19

Dunhill20

Dunhill21 I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I buffed the bowl with a light touch to make sure that I did not get the buffing compound in the crevices of the blast. I buffed the stem with a little heavier touch and then gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several coats of Halcyon II wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. I rubbed the bowl and stem down with a microfibre cloth for the final shine. It is now packed and on its way home to the lucky gent who found it. I have a renewed passion to take up the hunt for more pipes. Perhaps it will be my turn to find a treasure like this. Thanks for looking.Dunhill22

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12647990_10156469550400557_62413239_nI received this photo last night of the pipeman who found this Dunhill. The mail delivered the pipe to him yesterday and he loaded it up and enjoyed a smoke. I don’t often get to see this end of the story! Thanks Ryan.