Blog by Steve Laug
Not too long ago I received an email from a fellow in California who I have repaired a few pipes for over the years. He said he was sending me a couple of pipes to work on. The box arrived a few weeks ago and when I opened it I found this message in the box.
Hi Steve — Here are the two pipes as promised. The Dunhill Shell should be an easy resto, but the Barling’s Fossil is another story…. Would like to keep the original finish on the stummels and shanks of both if possible… thanks — Scott
I decided to take a break from Bob Kerr’s Estate for a bit and work on Scott’s pipes. I took the Dunhill out first. I looked it over to check out its condition and what needed to be done with it. The finish was dirty but in decent condition. The edges of the rim top were in good condition though the top itself was caked in lava overflow from the bowl. The bowl had a thick cake inside and remnants of tobacco stuck to the walls. The stem looked good – not a tooth mark of note and only a bit of tooth chatter. There was some calcification on the first inch of the stem on both sides. The stem was also oxidized and dirty. The slot in the button was almost clogged up with tars and debris. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show the condition of the bowl and rim before I started working on it. The rim top looks pretty good. There is some thick lava filling in the sandblast of the rim but the edges look very good. The cake in the bowl is quite thick and hard so the bowl walls should be in good condition. I also took close up photos of the stem surface before I did the cleanup. The stamping on the underside of the shank is in great shape. It reads 250F/T on the heel of the bowl. That is followed by DUNHILL over SHELL BRIAR. That is followed by Made in England with the superscript 4 and a Circle 2S.Using the information on pipephil’s site I was able to interpret the stamping on the underside of the pipe (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shell-briar1.html). The 250 F/T stamp tells me the pipe is a shape number 250 while the F/T tells me that the stem is a fish tail stem. The Shell Briar stamp refers to the sandblast finish. The number 4 following the Made in England stamp identifies the date as 1964. The circled 2 is the Group bowl size. The S is the stamping for the Shell Briar finish. http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shell-briar1.html
With that in mind I turned to work on this 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 with the first two cutting heads to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the bottom portion of the bowl and near the entry of the airway into the chamber. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also cleans up any light damage to the inner edge of the bowl. The bowl surface was dirty so I decided to clean the briar with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Briar Cleaner to remove the debris in the finish and the lava in the grooves of the blast on the rim top. I rubbed it into the surface of the briar and let it sit for 10 minutes. I rinsed the bowl off with warm running water to remove the product and the grime. The grain really began to stand out clearly. It was a beautiful piece of briar. I used a brass bristle wire brush to clean off the debris that was still in the grain on the rim top. Once I had it clean I wiped it off with alcohol on a cotton pad. I used a Walnut stain pen to touch up the stain on the worn outer edges of the bowl and the rim top. I mixed in some black Sharpie pen to blend it to match the bowl colour.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 and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 10 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 am happy with the blend of the stain on the right side and the overall look of the bowl at this point. Now the bowl was finished except for the final polishing. Once the externals of the stem were cleaned I turned my attention to the internals. I cleaned out the mortise and airway to the bowl and in the stem with 99% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I cleaned both until the cleaners came out white. It was a dirty pipe. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention back to the stem. I also sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite and removed the rest of the oxidation on 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. 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 buffed the stem with a microfiber cloth.I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 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 final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. Scott was correct in his note that this was a straight forward restoration. Even so, I am finally on the homestretch with this pipe and I really look forward to the final look when it is put back together and polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish to begin the shine. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 sandblasted bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This 1964 Dunhill Shell Briar 250F/T Straight Group 2 Size Billiard was a fun pipe to work on. It really has that classic Dunhill Billiard look in a Shell Briar finish that catches the eye. The combination of red and black stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is a comfortable pipe to hold in the hand and I think that as it heats with smoking that over time the finish will darken and look even better. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 5/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I look forward to hearing what Scott thinks of it once he receives it. I have one more of his pipes to finish before I mail them to him. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.