Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table is a Dunhill Group 4S Shell Briar Lovat that caught my eye. It has a two digit the shape number that I will define below. I purchased this pipe from a fellow on Facebook. He said that the shank had been snapped at the bowl and had been well repaired. There was a tube in the shank that joined the two parts. He sent me two photos of the pipe to show the overall look and also the repaired cracked shank. I was interested in adding this shape to my own collection so I was anxious to see it and work on it. This Dunhill Lovat is stamped on the heel of the bowl and underside of the shank. On the heel it reads 40 followed by Dunhill over Shell Briar. Next to that it is stamped Made in England6. A circle 4 followed by S is stamped on the right side next to the bowl/shank junction. The numbers and stamping tell me that the pipe is a Shell Briar (S) and the size is a Group 4. The 2 digit shape number makes it an older pipe. The date stamp 6 follows the “D” of England in the Made in England stamp. The finish was very shiny like it had a shellac coat on it and it seemed to be even over the lava on the rim top. The sandblast was deep and rugged looking. The bowl had a moderate cake in the bowl and lava overflowing onto the sandblast rim top. There was some shellac over the grime. The inner and outer edges of the bowl looked good and the bowl was in round. The shank repair is solid and fairly tight against the bowl. It looks good but with a lens there are gaps in the repair to the crack. The stem was quite clean but had tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. The button itself appeared to be in good condition. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the condition. You can see the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top and edges. The lava is thick and seems to have protected the edges and top. The stem was clean but has tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. You can also see the repaired crack near the heel of the bowl.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts to show the overall look of the pipe. The sandblast is very deep and rugged. Now it was time to begin to work on the stamping on the pipe. Because I had just finished working on a few Shell Briar in the past I used the information that I had dug up on that one. I quote below.
Pipedia had some great information on the Root Briar finish and dates and how the finish was made (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Bruyere). The first quote below give the short version of the finish. I quote from both below.
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.
- See more examples here: Dunhill Shell
- See more about this incredible pipe here: The History of Dunhill’s Shell
- See more about the patents applied here: Shellbriar & Tanshell, Patents 1917-1954
With that information clear for me I wanted to identify the shape number and try to pin that down (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Shape_Chart). I turned to the section on the older 2 digit Shape Numbers and read it. I quote it below.
Early Days – 2 digits/letters – The original skus/model numbers from the 1920’s until the early 1970’s stood for very specific shapes and bowls. For example, the codes 31, 34, 59, 111, 113, 117, 196, LB, LBS… were all different types of Billiard shaped pipes and there were about 50(!), such codes for the Billiard shape alone. On top of those are a large variety of other shapes.
With the information on the 2 digit stamp not making clear enough the meaning of the number I turned to another link on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Shapes_List) to a shape list that Eric Boehm put together for Dunhills.
I knew that the pipe shape number locked in a time period between 1920-1970 – a large time span that I needed to narrow down more clearly. I turned to another link on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Shapes_List) to a shape list that Eric Boehm put together for Dunhills. I copied the four 2 digit numbers on Lovats from the list. The shape 40 was in the list.
37 Lovat, short, thick, saddle 1928 11
38 Lovat, long shank, saddle bit 3 4¾” 1928, 50, 60, 69 11
40 Lovat, long shank, saddle bit 4 5″ 1928, 1950, 1969 11
481 Lovat, long shank, saddle bit 1 5″ 1950, 1969 11
I turned next to dating the pipe. There is a 6 following the D in ENGLAND on the underside of the shank. The 6 is the same size as the D in England. I turned to the dating chart on Pipephil to pin down the date on this pipe (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). I did a screen capture of Part 2 of the Dunhill Dating Key and included it below. I drew a red box around the section dating this pipe.Since the suffix is not raised but is the same size as the D in England I turned to the section with the information highlighted by the red box above. I knew then that the date of the pipe would be 1960 + 6 (suffix) = 1966.
Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. I started by working on the rim top of the bowl. I used a brass bristle wire brush to knock off the debris and clean out the crevices of the sandblast. It took a bit of work to loosen all the debris and remove the shellac that was covering it. I wanted to remove the shellac coat from the sandblast finish and thus also remove the debris that had been shellacked over on the rim top. I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish from the surface of the pipe. The bowl looked better and the rim top also was much better. With the externals cleaned up and the lava and the shellac removed it looked much better. I needed to clean out the inside as well. I reamed the pipe with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and scraped the cake back to bare briar. I sanded the walls smooth with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The inside of the bowl looked very good.I cleaned out the internals of the shank, mortise and airway in the stem with isopropyl alcohol (99%) and cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It was a dirty pipe. With a bit of work it smell sweeter and was noticeably cleaner.I filled in some of the hollow spots in the previous repair with clear super glue. I was aiming to have it more even and filled in with the glue. Once the touch ups to the repair had cured I restained it with a Walnut stain pen to match the surrounding briar.The bowl looked very good at this point so I rubbed it down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about 10-15 minutes and buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the vulcanite stem with the flame of the lighter. I was able to lift all of the tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to start the polishing. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 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 and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil to finish it. This Beautiful 1966 Rugged Sandblast Dunhill Shell Briar 40 Lovat is a great looking pipe with the little extra TLC I put in once I received it. The rich Shell Briar Sandblast finish that highlights the swirls of the grain and works well with the polished vulcanite stem. 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 and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Shell Briar 40 Lovat is a Group 4 size pipe that will be a great smoker. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 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 33 grams/1.16 ounces. I am going to enjoy smoking this one I added to my own collection. I take a moment to remind myself and each of us that we are trustees of pipes that will outlive us and the lives of many other pipe men and women who carry on the trust of their care and use. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.