Tag Archives: fitting a stem

Half ’n Half: An Amazing Transformation Of A St. Claude Bent Billiard


Blog by Paresh

On one of my online hunts for pipes on http://www.Etsy.com/fr (French) site, I came across this beautiful full bent chubby billiard that I really liked. In fact, this pipe called out to my heart. However, the condition of the pipe was such that spending even the paltry sum the pipe commanded, did not make for a sound purchase decision and I moved ahead. A few weeks later, this same pipe again popped on my notification alert and the Seller had further offered a discount. This time around, I made the purchase and within 20 days (that’s a record speed of shipping!!), it was received by Abha and she loved the shape and its chubbiness (??). Here are a few pictures of the pipe that Abha sent me after she had received the pipe… The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank as “ST. CLAUDE” in cursive over “BRUYERE” in capital letters. The tapered bent high quality stem is stamped as “RW” which is faintly discernible through the thick layer of oxidation that is seen on this stem.At the back of my mind I knew that St Claude is a region in France that is well known for making briar pipes. To get a more accurate and detailed knowledge of the region and the society of all pipe makers in the region, I visited pipedia.org and here is what I learned (Saint-Claude – Pipedia)

Saint-Claude is a commune in the Jura department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in eastern France and was the world capital of wooden smoking pipes crafted by hand from the mid 19th century all the way to the mid 20th century.[1]

As early as the Middle Ages an established place of pilgrimage in Eastern France was the monastery of abbot Saint Claudius. In medieval iconography Saint Claudius was the patron saint of toymakers. The town that grew servicing the pilgrims was Saint-Claude. The pilgrims arrived from all over the Christian world, and the towns people made mementos for sale and lived off business from the pilgrims. The town also produced snuff and pipe stems made of boxwood, bone, horn and amber which they sold to Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In time Saint-Claude became a thriving centre of wooden souvenirs, gem-setting, and luxuriously-carved pipe stems. According to local legend a Saint-Claude turner named David is credited with the making the first briar pipe. The souvenir industry of Saint-Claude supplied all the manufacturing preconditions for the making of the briar pipe. The firm of Jeantet, as early as 1807, was making and selling German type porcelain pipes, Ulm-type wood pipes and meerschaums from local wood and horn. The contemporary technology determined the shape of the pipes, and they were typically composed of wood-turned parts. Local records indicate that in 1841 there were three pipe-making firms employing twenty workers. 1854 is the year ascribed to the beginning of pipes made from briar.

Further down, the article gives out the changes in the name of the organization and it’s functioning up to 2007!!! The article has a single line on the stamp “Saint- Claude”……..

Stamp “Saint-Claude”
Pipe likely made by Butz-Choquin with JP on stem.

But on my pipe, the stamping on the stem is “R.W.” and so no headway in establishing the provenance of this beauty with piece of information!!

Towards the end, however, there was some information along with a couple of pictures that really caught my attention. Here is what it says…

Saint-Claude Briar Pipe, c. 1855
The pipe illustrated here is one of those early briar pipes made from wood turnings with the same construction as the contemporary pipe stems. It appears that this pipe was marketed to the pilgrim trade. We conclude this because of its lack of finish: the horn mouthpiece is not polished and shows file marks, the grade of the briar is low with large pits whose fillings have since fallen out, the wood is enameled not polished and all the connectors are wooden or horn screws. Of interest is the lip on the horn bit, it is a button lip.Though completely unrelated to the pipe currently on my work table, it is definitely closely related to a pipe that Steve, Jeff and my family had restored during their visit to India a couple of years back. Here is a link to that particular write-up on rebornpipes.com. The similarity is there for you to see. The Final Restoration while in Pune, India – a no name Cavalier | rebornpipes

I would really appreciate if I could be helped with establishing the provenance of this pipe.

Initial Visual Inspection
Abha, my wife, had sent me a lot of 40-45 pipes that she had cleaned up and all ready for my part of restoration process and since she had liked this pipe, it naturally found its way up in to this lot. From the images that Abha had sent, the pipe appeared to be reamed and with no serious damage to the stem, save for heavy oxidation. It was the stummel that is peppered with fills and would need a ton of work.

There are no pictures that were taken to clearly show the condition of each part of the pipe, however, as I had said earlier and the pictures that I have included above, the pipe had been reamed, the mortise had been cleaned, the stem was deeply oxidized but with no serious damage. The stummel had far too many fills on right side for my liking while the left side had a couple.

Initial Cleaning By Abha…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife. She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothened out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.

Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution (pipe is marked in yellow arrow) along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.Once The Pipe Is On My Work Table…
The cleaned up pipe presents a very clear picture of what needs to be done to restore this pipe to a decent and smoke worthy condition. I really cannot thank Abha, my wife, enough for all the help and support that she extends in my pursuance of this hobby. I proceed to carry out my appreciation of the work that needs to be done on this pipe to restore it. The cleaned up pipe, as I received it, is shown below. The chamber walls are without any heat fissures or pits and that’s a big relief. The rim top surface is peppered with dents and dings. The inner rim edge shows charring at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock direction (encircled in yellow) and should be addressed, to an extent, by topping on a piece of 220 grit sand paper. There are some minute chipped spots on the outer edge and fills over the rim top surface (encircled in blue). The condition of the chamber is good and will not require much repair work. There are no ghost smells in the chamber.The stummel surface is nice and clean and this cleaned up surface makes shiver my timbers… The right side of the stummel has the semblance of aftermath of a trench warfare battle during WW1! The surface has a large number of fills, many of which have fallen away when the stummel was cleaned. However, the right side has only a couple minor fills with some decent Bird’s eye grains seen over the surface. This clear division of surface, poor on half the left, front and heel and a decent one to the half right has me in a bit of a quandary. Should I rusticate the entire stummel surface or refresh all the fills, stain it dark, polish it and that’s it? Well, I shall cross the bridge once I reach it. The mortise is clean and air flow is smooth. Abha had cleaned the sump in the shank thoroughly and there are no traces of residual oils or tars/ gunk. The tapered vulcanite stem had cleaned up nicely. The surface still has some deep seated oxidation that will have to be removed. The upper stem surface has a couple of deep bite marks at the base of the button and also in the bite zone. The lower surface has some minor tooth indentations in the bite zone. The button edges on both the surfaces need to be sharpened. The aluminum stinger is clean on the exterior but has traces of residual oils and gunk on the inside. The seating of the stem in to the mortise is loose. The Process
The first issue that I addressed in this project was that of the stem repairs. I painted both surfaces of the stem with the flame of a lighter to raise the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface. This also helps in loosening minor oxidation from the stem surface. I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper to remove the loosened oxidation. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and Murphy’s oil soap to further clean the surface. Even though most of the tooth indentations have been eliminated by heating the damaged stem portion, one deep indention is still seen on upper and lower surfaces in the bite zone of the stem surface. I filled the tooth indentation in the button edge on both the lower and upper stem surfaces with a mix of activated charcoal and CA superglue and set it aside for the fill to cure. With the stem fills set aside for curing, I decided to work the stummel. The other day during a Face Time video call with Steve, we discussed the best way to transform this stummel. The long and short of the discussion was that it was decided to rusticate the stummel. This would help to mask the fills and provide a very tactile feel while smoking. However, when I held the stummel and saw the beautiful Bird’s eye grains on the left, I waivered from the plan of rusticating the entire stummel. I wanted to preserve and highlight these beautiful grains while the right side was a complete mess. A thought struck me, “why not rusticate the right half while leaving the left side smooth surfaced?” I had worked on a Bari Matador Freehand that had left side sandblasted while the right was smooth and the pipe looked awesome. Here is the link to the write up for the Readers to appreciate the beauty of this pipe. A Simple Refurbishing of a Bari “Matador” | rebornpipes

Though sandblasting is not feasible given that I do not have the necessary wherewithal to do so, I thought of doing something that was within my resources and capabilities…I would rusticate the right side while leaving the left side smooth. In case the end result is not to my liking, I could always rusticate the entire stummel. With this decision finalized, I proceed with rusticating the right half of the stummel.

I drew a mental map on the look/ pattern of rustications over the stummel surface that I desired. I decided to maintain a smooth ring atop the rustication below the outer edge of the rim and also at the shank end. I used a white paper and transparent tape to mask the entire left half of the stummel, the rim top about quarter of an inch below the rim outer edge and a thin band at the shank end that I wanted to keep smooth. Covering the entire left half also covered the faint stampings seen on this pipe. From my experience, I knew that this is a very essential step as I have realized that during rusticating it is very easy to lose track and transgress over the areas and stampings which you wish to preserve. To rusticate, I firmly held the stummel in my left hand and with my right hand and began gouging out the briar. The technique is to firmly press the pointed four prongs of the modified Philips screwdriver in to the surface, rotate and gouge out the removed chunk of briar. I worked diligently till I was satisfied with the rustication and the appearance of the stummel. I cleaned the stummel surface with a brass wired brush to clear all the debris from the rustication. I decided to take a break from further rusticating the surface as the process is tiring and painful. This makes me want a better and efficient rusticating tool. I removed the demarcating tape and took stock of the progress made. I felt that the symmetry between the rusticated and the smooth surface is biased towards the smooth and also the pits and fills on the right side of the stummel are still aplenty. With a marker pen, I marked the area that would need to be rusticated further to address both the issues.  So, I got back to rusticating the remaining stummel surface along the marked line with my tool. I was extra careful not to cross the drawn line.Continuing with the stummel repairs, I removed the few old fills from the left smooth surface using a sharp dental tool and refreshed these with CA superglue and briar dust. Once satisfied that all the fills have been refreshed, I set the stummel aside for these fills to cure. While giving my right hand a rest from this task of rustication, I decided to work on the stem. The fill has cured nicely and with a flat head needle file, I sand the fill to achieve a rough match with the surrounding surface. To achieve a perfect match, I sand the filled stem surface with a 220 grit paper. Once this was achieved, I progressively moved to polishing the stem through 320, 400, 600, and 800 and finished with a 1000 grit sand paper. As expected, a clean and neat looking stem stared back at me. I rub a little Extra Virgin Olive oil into the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside to be absorbed in to the vulcanite. Turning my attention back to the stummel, I sand down the jagged high points in the rustication to a smooth and even surface without compromising on the tactile feel to the hand. The fills too had cured and set solid. With a flat head needle file, I sand the filled spots and roughly match it with the rest of the surface. I followed it by sanding the entire left smooth surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to blend in the fills with the rest of the stummel surface.Next I decided to work on the damage to the rim top and edges. I topped the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently till I was satisfied that the darkened surface is addressed to a great extent and the rim top surface is nice, smooth and even. The inner and outer edges are still uneven, though much better than before topping, and shall be addressed subsequently.With a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I created a delicate bevel on the inner and outer edges of the rim top surface. This helps to mask and address the minor dents and dings that had remained on the rim edges after topping. I was careful so as not to alter the profile of the stummel by excessive topping or creation of the bevels. I am pretty pleased with the appearance of the rim top and edges at this stage.To further define and demarcate the rusticated surface from the smooth, I picked up a trick which Steve had used few months back when he had rusticated a bald spot in the briar and cut smart grooves around the rusticated portion. The results were fantastic. Here is the link. Rusticating a Bald Spot on the Briar on a Bjarne Bent Apple | rebornpipes

Just as I had read, I mounted a thick burr on to my rotary tool to create a broad groove between the two surfaces. However, it was easier said than done! The burr just bounced off the stummel surface and no matter how firmly I pressed down on the burr, it wouldn’t cut a groove. Another Face Time video call with Steve and the issue was resolved. The trick is to hold the burr at an angle to the surface and start at slower speeds of the tool. I followed the advice and it worked. I cut a sharp groove at the shank end, along the center of the stummel and under the outer rim edge. Looks pretty cool now! Next I polished the rim top and the smooth surfaces of the stummel using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I also polished the high spots in the rustication with the micromesh pads. I wiped the bowl with a moist cloth after each pad to clean the surface. I am happy with the appearance of the stummel at this point in the restoration. The stummel is now ready for a fresh coat of stain. I wanted to highlight the difference between the rusticated and the smooth stummel surface. I decided to stain the rusticated surface with a black dye which would contrast beautifully with the browns of the rim top, shank band and the rest of the smooth surface. I heated the rusticated portion of the stummel surface with my heat gun to open up the pores on the stummel so that the stain is well absorbed. I mixed black stain powder with isopropyl alcohol and liberally apply it over the heated surface, flaming it with the flame of a lighter as I went ahead to different self designated zones of the surface. This helps in the setting of the stain in the grain of the briar. I ensured that every inch of the rusticated surface is coated with the dye while the smooth surfaces are not stained. I set the stummel aside for a day to set the dye in to the briar surface. Once the stain has set in well, I again warm the stummel with my heat gun. This helps the stain to be absorbed and set further into the briar. I mounted a felt cloth buffing wheel on my rotary tool and gently buff the entire stummel surface using Red Tripoli to remove the stain crust. I wiped the stummel with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove any excess stain and followed it up by sanding the raised rustication with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This is followed up by careful dry sanding of the entire stummel, especially the raised rustications with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. This lightens and highlights the high spots in the rustications.Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips, work it deep in to the sandblasts and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance over the smooth surface with the beautiful rusticated patterns on full display on the other half. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush.With the stummel set aside, I turned my attention to the stem polishing. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I polish the stem with a little Extra Fine stem polish compound that has been developed by Mark Hoover to remove the last minor scratches. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite. The only issue that remains unaddressed at this stage is the issue of loose seating of the stem in to the mortise. With the flame of a lighter, I heated the tenon with the flame of a lighter till it was pliable and inserted a drill bit that was a bit larger in diameter than the tenon opening. This helps in expanding the pliable vulcanite for a snug fit. I held the tenon under cold tap water for the tenon to cool down and set the increased diameter. I also refreshed the stem stamping with a white correction pen.  To complete the restoration, I first mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel that is dedicated for use with Blue Diamond, on to my hand held rotary tool.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and polished the entire pipe after the stem and stummel were united. The Blue Diamond compound helps to erase the minor scratches that are left behind even after micromesh polishing cycle. I followed the Blue Diamond polishing by applying several coats of carnauba wax with a cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to Carnauba Wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine further. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and has undergone quite a transformation. With its perfectly balanced weight, a nice full bent shape and light weight, this is a perfect pipe for clenching while I am working in my office. This is one pipe that will make its way in to my rotation. I wish to thank our esteemed readers for sparing their valuable time to read through and any input or advice is always welcome.

Working on the First of Two Ropp Pipes – A Ropp Make S Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was contacted by an older gentleman about purchasing his pipe collection. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. He had Dunhill pipes, BBB pipes, a Barling’s Make “Ye Olde Wood” Fossil, Orlik pipes, Barclay Rex Pipes, a couple of Meerschaums and a whole lot of other pipes. All I could say as I looked at the pipes was what a collection it was. We negotiated a deal and I think we both walked away quite happy with the exchange.

You have seen the work we have done on the Dunhills, Hardcastles, H. Simmons all briar billiard and BBB pipes from the lot but there are still more. The above photo shows the two Ropp pipes. I am working the smaller one first – the bent billiard.

I have worked on several Ropp pipes in the past but this one was unique in many ways that will become evident in the photos below. This pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads ROPP in an oval [over] MAKE and above the oval is an upper case ‘S. The stamping is clear and readable and there is no shape number evident. There is a silver plated band on the shank that is stamped the same was as the shank. It also has an EP in a Diamond (electroplated) and an E and an R each in a circle over three hallmarks. I spent time looking up hallmarks on French sites and was not able to clearly identify them as they were blurry.

Jeff took some photos of the Ropp Make S Bent Billiard before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an interesting pipe with a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years. Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the rim top. There were also large chips or nicks on the front of the bowl on the outer edge. He took photos of the top and underside of the vulcanite stem showing the oxidation, tooth marks,chatter and wear on the stem and button. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the briar. You can see the beautiful shape and the grain on the bowl even through the dirt and debris of many years. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see that it is clear and readable as noted above.I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what I could learn about the Ropp brand and particularly the Ropp Make S line that I was working on (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-ropp.html). I quote from the introduction to the brand on the site and include a screen capture of a poster that was on the site.

Brand created by Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) and continued throughout 3 generations. “GBA Synergie” run by Bernard Amiel (†2008) bought back Ropp in 1988 and owned it until 1991. The company was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Chacom, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix…) in 1994.

I quote from the sidebar on the site below as it gives a good summary of information.

Brand created in 1910. The shop was situated on Maiden Lane. Three addresses now (2010): 75 Broad Street, 70 East 42nd Street, 570 Lexington Avenue. See also: André
I turned to Pipedia to try and place this pipe in the timeline of the brand and was able find some helpful information which I have included below (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ropp). I quote the information below. Ropp is well known for its Cherrywood pipes which were patented in1869. Besides that Eugene Ropp also made beautiful briar pipes.

Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) had acquired a patent for a cherrywood pipe (wild cherry, lat.: Prunus avium) in 1869. In 1870 he established a workshop to manufacture such pipes in Büssingen (Bussang, Vosges mountains). Around 1893 the business moved into the former mill of Sicard (part of the community of Baume-les-Dames – Département Doubs, Upper Burgundy – from 1895 on).

The pipes were a big success in the export as well. Shortly before 1914 Ropp designated A. Frankau & Co. (BBB) in to be the exclusive distributor in the UK and it’s colonies.

Probably in 1917 a workshop in Saint-Claude in the Rue du Plan du Moulin 8 was acquired to start the fabrication of briar pipes. In 1923 a small building in the environment of Saint-Claude, serving as a workshop for polishing, was added.

Even though cherrywood pipes were the mainstay of Ropp until the company finally closed down in September 1991. The company was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Chacom, Jeantet, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix…) in 1994.

I have included three photos from the site of a pipe that was stamped exactly like the one that I am working on. It is stamped with Ropp in an oval with Make stamped below that. Like the one that I am working it also has an S above and to the right of the oval logo. The silver band is stamped the same way. The stepped down tenon on the stem is the same. With the information from Pipedia I knew that I was working on an older pipe from the Eugene Ropp Workshop. It is a great piece of briar with chunky nicely made shape. The fellow we bought them from said that he had had this pipe for a very long time. I could not set a date for certain but my guess was early 30s or 40s like some of the earlier pipes. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights grain of the briar. The rim top looked good with some darkening on the top and light damage to the inner edge of the bowl. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed it looked so good. Here are some photos of what I saw.   I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The inner edge of the rim was in rough condition, the outer edge was damaged on the front and the right side and the rim top had a lot of damage all around. I took close up photos of the stem to show the condition of the surface and button. I took a picture of the stamping on the side of the shank and it was clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts of the pipe. I started my work on the pipe by addressing the darkening on the rim top and the damage on the inner and outer edges of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work over the inner and outer edge to smooth out the damage and to remove the darkening on the rim top as well.Jeff sent a photo of a crack in the shank on the underside under the band. After he had cleaned it up it was hard to see clearly but it was still present. I decided to drill a small pin hole at the end of the crack. This was one of those cases where I was certain I had it pinned down and drilled a hole with a microdrill bit. Once would have been horrible but it took 4 tries to finally hit the hidden hairline crack! The two to the right of the photo hit the crack. The first was too low and the second nailed the end of it. The two on the left totally missed. Arggh…I finally got it. I filled in the small holes with CA glue and briar dust. Once the repairs cured I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and wiped it off with a damp cloth. Other than the new freckles the shank is fixed! Sheesh I feel like a real amateur! I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. It really began to take on a shine. I stained the repairs on the bottom of the shank with an oak stain pen to blend them into the finish.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” it with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth dents in the surface of the vulcanite. I was able to lift the majority of them. I filled in the remaining marks with clear CA glue. Once the repairs cured I used a file to flatten out the repairs and recut the sharp edge of the button. I sanded them smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend them in the rest of the stem surface. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I used some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to touch up the Ropp logo on the left side of the stem. The stamp was worn so though it is better it is not perfect.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful Eugene Ropp Make Bent Billiard back together and buffed it on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It really is a great looking pipe. 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 this large pipe is 1.66 ounces /47 grams. This older Ropp Bent Billiard is another great find in this collection. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store soon. If you would like to add it to your collection let me know. This is another pipe that has the possibility of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

 

Restoring a Made in Ireland Shamrock 120 Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen is another smooth finished Peterson’s Bulldog Dublin. This one is a smooth straight Bulldog that has a rich coloured finish around the bowl sides and shank. It came to us from an auction in Norway, Maine, USA. The finish is dark and dirty but there is some great grain around the bowl sides and shank. There are fills on the right side of the bowl and nicks around the other sides. It was stamped on the  left side of the shank and read SHAMROCK. It was stamped to the right of the shank and read “A PETERSON” [over] “PRODUCT” [over] MADE IN IRELAND (three lines) with the shape number 120 next to the bowl. It was filthy when Jeff brought it to the table. There was a thick cake in the bowl and a thick overflow of lava on the rim top and the inner edge of the bowl. It was hard to know what the condition of the rim top and bowl were under that thick lava coat. The nickel band is tarnished. The unstamped stem was lightly oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside on and near the button. The stem does not fit in the shank and will need work to cause it to sit correctly into the shank. Jeff took photos of the pipe before his cleanup work. Jeff took photos of the rim top and stem to show the general condition of the pipe. The bowl is heavily caked and the rim top and edges have some lava overflow. The stem is lightly oxidized and has tooth marks on the top and underside near the button.   Jeff took photos of the bowl sides and heel to show the grain that was around this bowl. It is a nice looking pipe. The fills on the right side are shrunken and obvious.   Jeff took a the heel and underside of the shank to capture the deep scratching and gouging in the briar. He took photos of the sides of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is readable in the photos below and is as noted above.     I am including the link to the Pipedia’s article on Peterson pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson).

I turned to “The Peterson Pipe” by Mark Irwin and Gary Malmberg to get some background on the Peterson’s Shamrock Pipe. On page 312 it had the following information.

Shamrock (c1941-2009) Originally stamped SHAMROCK with no brand name, an inexpensive line first described in George Yale (New York) mail order booklet in 1941, imported by Rogers Import. The line was actively promoted beginning in ’45, aggressively promoted in US by Rogers from early ‘50s when they registered the Shamrock logo with US Patent Office, claiming propriety since ’38. Over the years offered with P-lip or fishtail mouthpiece, with or without nickel band, with or without shamrock logo on the band, with or without S stamped in white or later in gold on mouthpiece. Appearing in 2008 as unstained smooth and rustic, fishtail mouthpiece with gold impressed P on the stem. COMS of MADE IN over IRELAND (C1945-1965), MADE IN IRELAND forming a circle (c1945-1965), “A PETERSON’S PRODUCT” over MADE IN IRELAND (c1945-1965), MADE IN THE over REPUBLIC over OF IRELAND9c1948-1998). Model is always difficult or impossible to date.

 Judging from the description above, the pipe I am working on is stamped with the stamp noted in red above. It reads “A PETERSON’S PRODUCT” over MADE IN IRELAND which narrows the date to between approximately 1945-1965. It is just stamped SHAMROCK with no brand name. It has an unmarked/unstamped P-Lip stem. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He worked on the rim top lava and darkening with the soap and tooth brush. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and then soaked it in Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer. He washed it off with warm water to remove the deoxidizer. The pipe looked far better when it arrived. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up. The rim top showed some darkening on the top and inner edges around the bowl. There was also a significant burn mark on the back right outer edge of the bowl. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the tooth marks on the surface near the button. The stem also did not fit easily into the shank.  I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It reads as noted above.    I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to have a look at the parts and overall look.I decided to address the poorly fitting stem first. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to reduce the diameter of the tenon – particularly to the front. It seemed that the front of the tenon was actually larger than the middle and centre. I needed to work at evening up the diameter of the tenon from the front to the back. It took work but I was able to make it work. I decided to work on the damage to the top of the bowl first. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the rim top. I wanted to flatten out the rim top and try to remove some of the burn damage on the back outer edge. I then used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the inner edge of the bowl.   Next I turned to address the shrunken fills on the right side of the shank. I also worked on the deep nicks on the left side and the front of the bowl. I filled them in with clear super glue. I steamed out the dents on the heel of the bowl with a hot knife and a damp cloth. Once the glue cured I sanded the repairs smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surrounding briar. I sanded the burn mark on the outer edge of the rim top and top with the sandpaper and was able to minimize it to some degree.     I sanded the bowl with a medium and fine grit sanding sponges to smooth out the sanded bowl. I forgot to take photos of it. Once it was smooth I stained the bowl with a Light Brown aniline stain. I applied it, flamed it and repeated the process until the coverage was even. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent. I was able to blend the stain coat around the bowl and the coverage looked much better.    I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads to further make the stain more transparent and make the grain stand out. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad.   I used a black Sharpie pen to mark the fills that stood out. Once the stain dried I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I filled in the deep tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem next to the button edge with clear CA glue. Once the repairs cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It was starting to look good. I set the bowl aside and polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine.  I am excited to finish this Older Peterson’s Shamrock 120 Straight Dublin. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with beautiful straight and flame grain all around it. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem was beautiful. This smooth Classic Shamrock 120 Dublin is great looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 33grams/1.23oz. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will soon be on the rebornpipes store in the Irish Pipe Makers Section of the store. If you want to add it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.

A Challenging Old BBK Marte-Rosa Reporter with a Cherrywood Shank and Horn Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

We picked up the next pipe from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. This BBK pipe is a lot like a pipe I have worked on before called a Ropp  La Montagnarde Deposee Reporter (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/08/08/a-ropp-la-montagnarde-deposee-298-horn-cherrywood-briar/). The bowl is an interesting piece of briar with a mix of grain around the bowl and shank. The end of the briar shank has a brass shank cap/ferrule that is dented and dirty. The shank extension is cherry wood and is pressure fit into the mortise with a cherry wood tenon. The top of the cherry wood extension has another brass ring on the end of the extension and a threaded cherry wood tenon that the stem screws onto. The stem is horn and is rough condition. There is a large area on the left side of the stem and half of the underside that has been decimated by worms. The top side has a lot of chewing damage. The pipe is stamped on the left side with the words Marte–Rosa (it is hard to read as there is a flaw through the first word). Underneath that is an oval with the letter B.B.K. stamped in it. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Racine de Bruyere at an angle. The pipe is a real mess. There is a thick cake in the bowl and a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The inner edge of the rim appears to have some damage but we won’t know for sure until it is cleaned. Jeff took photos of the pipe at this point to capture the condition of the briar and parts. Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top. This pipe was obviously a great smoking pipe and a favourite. I am hoping that the thick lava coat protected things underneath it from damage to the edges and top. Cleaning it would make that clear! The cherry wood insert was damaged as well with scratches in the bark. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the damage and worm holes in the horn stem material on the left side of the button. The horn stem was a mess. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the briar. You can see the beautiful shape and the grain on the bowl even through the dirt and debris of many years. The brass bands on the shank end and the cherry extension end. At this point in the process it certainly looks its age.   Jeff took photos of the bands and the damaged cherry wood extension. It is a bark covered piece of cherry. The end that fits in the shank of the briar is made of cherry just like the extension. The tenon end that the stem fits on is threaded to receive the threaded stem. The stamping on the left side of the shank read Marte-Rosa and underneath that it is stamped with an oval with the letters B.B. [over] K. On the right side it was stamped The stamping is hard to read on the left side as it has a fill in the middle of the brand name and is faint underneath. The right side is stamped Racine de Bruyere diagonally on the shank which translates as Root Briar or Briar Root.Through the years I have cleaned up several BBK pipes. One of them was a reporter/hunter pipe like this one (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/08/26/an-old-timer-horn-stem-cherrywood-shank-and-briar-bowl-bbk-bosshardt-luzern/). It had a windcap that is a difference from the current pipe I am working on. I quote from that blog below:

When I worked on the BBK Hunter I researched the brand. The BBK was a Swiss made brand as the shanks of all the pipes I had cleaned up and restored were stamped that way. Pipedia was my primary reference in that blog. Here is the link: http://pipedia.org/index.php?title=Bru-Bu. I have included the material from the previous blog below.

“Josef Brunner, oldest son of the farmer Konstantin Brunner from the hamlet Nieder-Huggerwald, belonging to the community of Kleinlützel (Canton Solothurn), was sent in 1871 to a pipe turner in Winkel/Alsace for his apprenticeship. As was usual at that time, Brunner wandered as a journeyman after ending the apprenticeship. Eventually, he went to Saint-Claude, France which was then the world’s stronghold of briar pipe manufacturing. There, Brunner was able to increase and deepen his knowledge in the field of industrial pipe making. When he returned home in 1878, he installed a small turner’s workshop in the house of his father. With the energetic support of his two younger brothers, he began to produce tobacco pipes of his own calculation, taking them to the markets in the surrounding area. In 1893, Bernhard Brunner’s wife inherited the mill in Kleinlützel. At this point, the pipe fabrication was transferred to an annex belonging to the mill. Now it was possible to drive the machines by water power – an important relief to the workers and a considerable innovation compared to the previous pedal-driven system.”

“The business developed so well after the turn of the century even when a lack of workers in Kleinlützel occurred. The problem was solved by founding a subsidiary company in the small nearby town Laufen an der Birs in the Canton of Bern. This plant didn’t exist too long. The disastrous economic crisis in the 1920’s and early 1930’s forced the Brunner family to restrict the fabrication of pipes dramatically. In addition the big French pipe factories in Saint-Claude – although suffering from the same circumstances – flooded the Swiss market with pipes at prices that couldn’t be matched by Swiss producers. By 1931 approximately 150 of 180 Brunner employees had been sacked – the rest remained in Kleinlützel, where the cheap electric energy ensured a meager survival.”

“In 1932, Mr. Buhofer joined the Brunner family. The company was named Brunner-Buhofer-Kompagnie, and, shortly thereafter, Bru-Bu. Buhofer had made his fortune in the United States but, homesick, returned to Switzerland to search for a new challenge. Bru-Bu’s fabrication program was expanded with many handcrafted wooden art articles: carved family coats of arms, bread plates, fruit scarves, and – more and more – souvenir articles for the expanding Swiss tourism industry. Pipes remained in the program continuously, but the offerings changed from traditional Swiss pipes to the more standard European shaped pipes. Bru Bu is widely known as BBK.”

The last paragraph of the Pipedia article linked BBK pipes to Former Nielsen. I have two of Former’s pipes so this stood out to me. “At some point in the late 1970’s, Bru-Bu went out of business. Some of the Brunners, as far as known, continued as timber traders. But in 1986 new life filled the old Bru-Bu pipe workshop, when Dr. Horst Wiethüchter and “Former” Nielsen started to produce the high-grade Bentley pipes there.”

Jeff cleaned up the pipe and reamed the bowl with a Pipnet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned out the shank and the airways in the stem, shank extension and the mortise with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He scrubbed the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and the build up on the rim top. He carefully scrubbed the cherry wood the same way. He cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove the grime and tars. The horn stem was clean but had on the topside and had a huge worm hole on the left side and left underside of the stem. The brass bands on the shank and the cherry wood were dented and worn but still looked very good. The glue that held them in place on the shank and cherry had given way and they were loose. I took some photos of the pipe when it arrived in Vancouver to show its condition after Jeff had cleaned it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the rim top. It had a few nicks in it and the inner edge of the rim had damage and darkening. I took photos of the stem to show the damage to surface on both sides.I took the pipe apart to show the various components of the pipe. The cherry wood extension in the centre of the photo has a tapered end that fits into the shank and a threaded end that the stem screws onto. The cherry extension has some damage on the sides. There is also a fill that is shrunken on the left side of the shank and in the middle of the stamping. I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank. You can see it is readable but damaged.  I cleaned up the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I brought the bowl back to round. I did not take a photo of the rim top but it is visible in the polishing  photos that follow.I glued the band on the shank but the glue did not hold so I removed it. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad to remove the dust. I spread white all-purpose glue on the shank end and pressed the band on the shank. This time I used more than the first time and set it aside to cure. Once it cured I took photos of the pipe with the band on the shank. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the cherry wood shank extension. I filled in the splits in the bark with clear CA glue. Once the repairs had cured I sanded them smooth with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads.I used a dental spatula to spread the white all-purpose glue on the end of the extension and pressed the brass band onto the extension. I set it aside to allow the glue to cure. I took a photo of the band on the shank end and on the cherry wood shank extension. The bands look very good. I rubbed the cherry wood down with some Before & After Restoration Balm to protect, clean and enliven the wood. It worked very well. I let it sit for 15 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cloth. I greased the end of the wooden tenon on the cherry wood shank extension with Vaseline. It made the fit in the shank smooth and snug.I put the extension back in the shank and rubbed the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm to protect, clean and enliven the wood. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips. I set the bowl aside and let it sit for 15 minutes. After it had been sitting I buffed it off with a soft cloth. I set the bowl and shank extension aside and turned my attention to the stem. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and inserted it in the shank. I wanted to protect the airway when I filled in the damaged area with super glue. I filled in the worm damage with clear super glue. I layered it in with several fills. While it was curing I read Dal Stanton’s blog on mixing in a sprinkling of charcoal powder with the glue to help blend the repair into the horn. I mixed some in and layered more and more glue on top of it. The black of the charcoal did not really blend in well. It migrated together and left a black spot on the top of the stem and a black ring on the underside. In the past I did not use the charcoal and certainly will not do so again. I sprayed the repairs with accelerator to speed the hardening process of the repair. I used a pair of files to flatten out the repairs and to reshape the button on both sides of the stem. Once I had reshaped the button I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads. I polished it with Before & After Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it  a final rubdown with Obsidian Oil to protect it. I gave the threads on the shank end tenon a coat of Vaseline to make it easier to turn the threaded stem onto the end of the shank.With everything finished I put the BBK Marte–Rosa Racine de Bruyere Reporter Pipe back together and buffed it by hand with a microfibre cloth and polished the metal with a jeweler’s cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I love the way the grain just pops on this old pipe. The cherry wood shank extension adds not only length but also a touch of rustic to the pipe, though this particular piece of cherry wood has bark that is quite smooth. The dark striations of the horn stem also go well with the wood. The brass bands at the stem and the shank give this old timer a real look of class. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. The repair to the button while not invisible is smooth and solid and should last a long time. It is a beautiful pipe to my eyes. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼  inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 70grams/2.47oz. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.

Restemming and Transforming a “Hialeah” Pipe From My Inherited Lot


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

After I had completed the Butz- Choquin A Metz No. 2 pipe (Restoring An Early Butz Choquin “A Metz” No. 2 | rebornpipes), I rummaged through the fast dwindling pile of 40 odd pipes that Abha, my wife, had cleaned up for me to complete my part of further repairs and restoration work.

The pipe that I have selected is one from the huge lot of my grandfather’s pipes that I had inherited. This pipe had always caught my fancy on account of the wonderfully thin, tightly packed straight grains that are seen all around the stummel and shank and also due to its peculiar shape, a rather tall bowl (but not a stack!) with a longish shank and an equally long saddle stem. Overall, it definitely looked quirky to say the least, it’s a LOVAT shape on account of the round shank and a saddle bit but not a classic LOVAT since the stem is as long as the shank!! It’s the carver’s take on a classic shape, I guess. However, there was something about the stem that seemed wrong at the first glance. It was for this reason that the pipe always fell out of favor in the lineup of pipes for restoration. Here are a couple of pictures of the pipe that shows the pipe before Abha, my wife, had done the initial cleaning. From the pictures below, it is amply evident that the stem is not aligned straight in reference to the shank, but is skewed more towards the left (evidenced in the second picture).This pipe has some beautiful densely packed thin straight, also referred to as “Angel hair” grains all around the tall bowl and over the long shank surface. The only stampings seen on this pipe are over the left shank surface and is stamped as “HIALEAH” over “ALGERIAN BRIAR”. These stampings are crisp and clear. The long saddle vulcanite stem is devoid of any stampings.I looked for information on this brand on rebornpipes.com. Unfortunately the search yielded no results (a surprise for sure!!). Next I turned to pipedia.org to understand and establish the provenance of the pipe brand. There is not much information that was noted in the article, but was sufficient to give me an idea of the brand and period of operations. Here is the link to the webpage:-

Hialeah – Pipedia  I quote from the article; “From what I’ve found on the web HIALEAH pipes were sold by Whitehall Products Co. (a division of Helme Products) prior to 1975. Whitehall was in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Helme somewhere in New Jersey. All I’ve seen have been made of Algerian Briar and are reported to be great smokers”.

Thus, this pipe definitely dates to pre-1975

Initial Visual Inspection
Abha, in a deviation from her thumb rule of not taking any “BEFORE” pictures, had taken a few pictures of the pipe to highlight the condition of the pipe before she commenced her initial clean up for me.

The chamber had a thick layer of cake with heavy overflow of lava over the rim top surface. The inner rim edge appears to be uneven while the outer rim edge appears sans any damage. The exact condition of the edges will be ascertained once the lava overflow from the rim top surface is removed and the surface is cleaned up. The draught hole is in the dead center and at the bottom of the chamber and this construction should make it a great smoke.The stummel surface was covered in dust and grime of years of usage and subsequent storage. The stummel has developed dark hues of browns and has scratches and dings over the surface, most notably to the heel and front of the stummel. However under all the dust and grime, beautiful tight Angel hair grains are awaiting to be brought to the fore. There are a couple of fills, one to the front of the stummel and another to the shank very close to the stampings. The mortise has traces of old oils and tars, restricting the air flow through the mortise. Whether to refresh the fills or let them be will be decided once the stummel is cleaned and the fills are checked for softness thereafter.  The long vulcanite saddle stem is heavily oxidized with minor tooth chatter in the bite zone. The stem is skewed to the left immediately after the saddle portion of the stem. This flaw makes me believe it to be a shaping issue more than anything and further points to the likelihood of the stem to be handmade. Steve also concurred with my assumptions when we discussed the restoration during one of our video calls. He also pointed out that there was no way to right this wrong other than replacing the stem.Initial Cleaning By Abha…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and these have now reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothed out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.

Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.

Once The Pipe Is On My Work Table…
The cleaned up pipes presents a very clear picture of what needs to be done to restore this pipe to a decent and smokable condition. I really cannot thank Abha enough for all the help and support that she extends me in my pursuance of this hobby. I proceed to carry out my appreciation of the work that needs to be done on this pipe to restore it.

As with all the cleaned pipes that Abha packs, there was a note in the zip lock pouch with issues that she had observed in the pipe. The first point was that the chamber has developed heat fissures. The second point was that she was not happy with the shape of the stem and it appeared odd. Also the seating of the stem in to the mortise was very loose. Here are the pictures of the pipe as I had received. The chamber does appear to have developed heat fissures (indicated with red arrows). The rim top surface is darkened all around, more so at the back of the rim surface. The inner rim edge is uneven while the outer edge is slightly charred in 1 o’clock direction and is encircled in yellow. Close scrutiny of the chamber walls made me realize that there is still a very thin layer of cake in the chamber and it is my experience that this gives an appearance of heat fissures! Only after the cake has been completely removed will I be able to confirm presence of heat fissures or otherwise.The stummel is nice and clean but would benefit from polishing to rejuvenate and bring a nice shine over the briar surface. There is a large fill over the left shank surface and very close to the stampings (encircled in yellow). The fill is solid and I wouldn’t take the risk of refreshing it due to its proximity to the stampings. There are a few dings to the front of the bowl (encircled in red) that would need to be addressed. The mortise has no chips or cracks to the shank face/ shank. There are a few minor pockets of old oils and tars that are seen on the walls of the mortise and would require some invasive measures to eliminate completely.Since the stem would be replaced, I shall not dwell in detail about the stem condition, but am including a few pictures of the stem to show its condition as well as give the readers a perspective about the incorrect shape imparted to the stem at the time it was crafted.The Process
The first issue to be addressed in this project was to replace the original poorly crafted stem. Steve and I went through my small stash of spare stems and selected a small bent saddle stem that was stamped on the left as “ROPP” on a steel roundel. This stem would impart a classic Lovat shape to the pipe and vastly improve the aesthetics of the pipe, or so we thought. Here is how the pipe looks with this bent saddle stem. The tenon would need to be sanded down for it to seat in to the mortise and this would be the trickiest part of this stem replacement. I would have to be very careful to sand the tenon evenly and equally from all around, frequently checking for a snug fit in to the mortise. The replacement vulcanite saddle stem is in perfect condition with no damage to the button or in the bite zone, save for some minor oxidation and very light tooth chatter. I would need to first straighten out the stem followed by sanding the tenon for a snug fit in to the mortise. Only once these issues are addressed would I be progressing to removing the “ROPP” stamped steel plate and filling the area left behind by the removal of the steel plate.

I began the restoration of this pipe by first addressing the suspected heat fissures in the chamber walls. I worked on the stummel by reaming the chamber with a PipNet pipe reamer using the size 3 head. With my fabricated knife, I removed the remaining carbon deposit. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. I was very pleased to note that the chamber walls are sans any damage.With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel, specially the rim top surface. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil soap to scrub the stummel and rim top. After the scrub with oil soap, I washed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The smooth stummel surface has cleaned up nicely with the beautiful Angel hair grain patterns on full display. There are two major fills that are now plainly visible (encircled in green), but they are solid and I shall avoid refreshing them. The darkening and unevenness of the inner rim edge is evident and over reamed in the 1 o’clock direction (encircled in yellow). The ghost smells are completely eliminated and the pipe now smells fresh, odorless and clean. The shank air way is nice and open. I am sure that the pipe will turn out to be a fantastic smoker with a full wide and open draw. Now that I had a fair idea of the extent of topping required to the rim surface, I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to address the rim surface darkening, dents and dings. I addressed the uneven inner edge by creating a light bevel to inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. To further smooth out the scratches left behind by the abrasive 220 girt sand paper, I top the rim surface on a piece of 400 grit sand paper. I am very happy at the way the chamber and rim top surface appears at this point in restoration. Next, I decided to address the dents and dings on the stummel surface, notably to the front of the bowl (encircled in pastel blue). Using a whitener pen, I marked all the major areas with dents and dings as I had decided to leave the minor ones as they were. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. The steam generated by placing a hot knife on the wet towel helps the briar to expand within these dents and dings, making for a smooth and even surface. To further even out the remaining dings, I lightly sand the entire stummel with a folded piece of worn out 180 grit sand paper. The stummel appears much better and smooth at this juncture. With the stummel repairs completed, I turned my attention to the replacement stem. The first thing that needed to be done was to straighten the stem. I cleaned the stem internals first and inserted a regular pipe cleaner through the stem airway. This prevents the airway from collapsing when the stem is heated to straighten it. With a heat gun, I heated the stem at the point where the stem was bent, rotating the stem frequently to ensure even heating. Once the stem was pliable, I straightened the stem with my hands by placing it on the flat table. After the stem had cooled down sufficiently, I held it under cold running water to set the straightened shape. Now that the stem was straightened, the next step was to ensure a snug fit of the tenon in to the mortise. Since the tenon was not too large as compared to the mortise, I got down to the arduous and time consuming task of manually sanding down the tenon with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper till I had achieved a perfect seating of the tenon in to the mortise. My previous experience had taught me an invaluable lesson; “SAND ONCE AND CHECK TWICE”!! Here I was extra careful and vigilant while sanding the sides of the tenon and frequently checked the alignment of the stem airway, the shank airway and finally, the draught hole. Excess sanding of any one side of the tenon disturbs this alignment even though the seating may appear to be snug and seamless. I gave a final check to the progress being made and the seating was perfectly snug with all the airways perfectly aligned. I am very happy with the progress up to this point!!Close scrutiny of the seating of the tenon in to the mortise under camera magnification revealed a slight gap at the stem and shank face junction. With a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper, I sand the base of the tenon until I had achieved a seamless and flushed seating of the stem. Discerning Readers must have noticed a dark line starting from the shank end and extending for about an inch and a half towards the bowl (indicated with green arrows). I too thought (with a cringe) that the shank had cracked in the process, but let me assure you that the shank is not cracked and is in fact a dark strand of straight grain…that was really a big relief!!Once I had achieved a snug fit of the tenon in to the mortise, I checked for the flush seating of the stem face with that of the shank and realized that the stem diameter is larger than that of the shank and the extent of sanding that would be required. This would need to be addressed.   But before I could address this issue, it was necessary that the metal plate bearing the ROPP stamping be removed and the cavity created, be filled out. Once this was done, matching the entire saddle portion with the shank face would be accurate and time saving. Using dental pick and a sharp, thin paper cutter, I removed the steel plate and cleaned the gouged out surface with a cotton pad and isopropyl alcohol. I evened out the surrounding area with a worn out piece of 180 grit sand paper and filled the cavity with a mix of CA superglue and black charcoal powder. I set the fill to cure overnight.The next day, I sand the filled cavity with a piece of 180 grit sand paper till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding saddle surface of the stem. The filled area would be perfectly matched when I sand the entire saddle portion to match the shank face.Now, to match the stem face with the shank face, I unite the stem and the shank. With a sanding drum mounted on to my hand held rotary tool, I sand the saddle portion of the stem till I had achieved a near perfect matching of the stem face with that of the shank face. I further fine tune the match perfectly by sanding it with a 220 followed by 400 grit sand paper. The match is perfect and the pipe as a whole is now looking very nice with the new stem. It still looks very plain and would need a dash of a little bling to complete the transformation!! Also, there is a need to refill the cavity left behind by the steel plate as I noticed a few ugly air pockets. I refilled it with CA superglue and charcoal powder and set it aside for the fill to cure. To add a little bling to the appearance of the pipe, I decided to attach a brass band at the shank end. I selected a band that was a perfect fit and glued it over the shank end with CA superglue and set it aside to cure.I subjected the stummel to a complete cycle of micromesh polish, dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I paid greater attention to polish the rim top surface and the bevel created on the inner rim edge. I wiped the stummel with a moist cloth after every grit pad to remove the sanding dust left behind by the pads. I am happy with the progress being made till now. Just look at the beautiful grain on this piece of briar!! The briar has taken on a nice deep shine with brown of the stummel and the darker brown stains to the grain contrasting beautifully. I really like the patina that is seen over the stummel surface. However, the rim top surface appears lighter than the rest of the stummel due to the topping. I stained the lighter hued rim top surface with a combination of Dark Brown over Chestnut stain pens. I set the stummel aside for the stain to set. The stain combination has helped in perfect blending of the rim top with the rest of the stummel.Next, I turned my attention back to the stem. I began the process of final fine tuning of matching the stem face with the shank face, shaping the saddle for a sharper match with the shank flow, sanding the refill in the saddle and bringing a nice shine to the stem surface by sanding with 320, 400, 600, 800 and 1000 grit sandpapers. I had attached the stem to the shank during the entire sanding job so that I do not end up shouldering the stem face. The closer I came to the perfect match, the higher grit sand paper I used. A lot of patient and diligent work, I reached the point where I felt “no more sanding… this is the perfect seating and perfect Lovat profile!!”. My mantra “LESS IS MORE” was also playing at the back of my mind. I was very pleased with my efforts of transforming the stem as I had achieved a perfect snug seating of the stem in to the mortise and a perfectly matching shank and stem face!!

To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of sand papers and micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wiped the stem with moist cloth after each pad. At the end of micromesh cycle, I polished the stem with “Before and After Fine & Extra Fine” paste. The finished stem is shown below.Turning back to the stummel, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the Angel hair grain patterns displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The contrast of the natural lighter brown patina of the stummel with the dark browns of the grain adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. To check and verify the correctness of the alignment of the stem airway, the tenon opening, shank/mortise airway and finally through the draught hole, I did the PIPE CLEANER TEST.  The pipe cleaner passed through cleanly and without any obstruction from the slot end right through the draught hole. I checked the draw and though it was smooth, it felt a tad bit constricted. I further opened the draw by funneling the tenon end with a thin sanding drum mounted on the hand held rotary tool. The draw is now silky smooth and effortless!! Unfortunately, I missed out on taking pictures of the process, but I am sure the readers have a general idea of what had been done.I have now reached the homestretch in this restoration project. To complete the restoration, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks from the stem surface that remain from the sanding. I mounted another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe with a new brass band looks amazingly beautiful and is ready for its new innings with me and be enjoyed for a long time.

A True Test – A Cracked Acrylic Ferrule and Shank Break to Restore a Rusticated Butz-Choquin Costaud 1597


Blog by Dal Stanton

This Butz-Choquin Costaud came to me from the auction block in January of 2017 as one in a Lot of 13 pipes from a seller in Nevada.  Several of these pipes have already found their way to new stewards who found them in online ‘Help Me!’ baskets in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection.  It was in the ‘Dreamers’ section that Craig spied the BC Costaud 1597 and reached out to me about commissioning the BC.  The BC Costaud is at the 12 o’clock position in the picture below.

I was interested to find out from Craig later that he lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I also met a young woman at Covenant College atop Lookout Mountain, who in time, became my wife – I married up!  Few in the US haven’t seen signs, bird houses and barn sides with the famous, ‘See Rock City’ or ‘Ruby Falls’ both of which are located on Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga.  I was interested to hear that Craig was also an automotive engineer at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and along with enjoying pipes he races cars on the weekends!  I appreciate Craig’s patience and the pipe he commissioned is now on the worktable.  Here are some pictures of the attractive Butz-Choquin Costaud:   The nomenclature is stamped on the underside shank panel.  The chiseled cursive, ‘Butz-Choquin’ is stamped over ‘Costaud’.  Below this is stamped a very ghosted, ‘ST. CLAUDE-FRANCE’.  A quick look in Google Translate renders ‘Costaud’ as ‘Strong’ in English.  I liked the other adjectival renderings offered: beefy, hefty, husky, and strapping.  The pipe’s deep, rustic, carved style fits this name.If one does a quick search of the BC Costaud line, one discovers quickly that this line was offered by the French pipe maker in many different shapes and each with the very distinctive carved rustication and the same acrylic shank cap.  Here are a few examples from the search results.  The shape number is listed in a picture of BC pipes in the Pipedia Butz-Choquin article.  The 1597 is an attractive, stout square shanked paneled Billiard with a saddle stem friction mounted.  The only difference in the general 1597 shape with the Costaud is that the Costaud’s stem is a friction mounted fishtail.Looking at the condition of the BC Costaud, the obvious elephant in the room is the cracked acrylic ferrule or shank cap.  The crack appears to be a trauma that opened on the left side of the cap and followed the bottom of the ‘BC’ stamping perfectly.  My guess is that the break was caused by the stem hanging on something and the force on the acrylic snapped it.  It is only on the left side and I want to keep it that way!Craig commissioned a striking pipe.  The cracked acrylic ferrule gets the attention quickly and overshadows other issues.  The chamber needs to be cleaned of the cake buildup and the rusticated rim has blackened lava overflow that needs cleaning.  The rusticated stummel is eye catching but needs cleaning in the deep crooks and crevasses of the briar surface.  The fishtail stem has light oxidation and tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit. To begin the restoration of this Butz-Choquin Costaud, I start with the fishtail stem.  The airway is cleaned using a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99%.To begin working on the light oxidation in the vulcanite stem, 0000 grade steel wool scrubs the surface with Soft Scrub.  I do this in preparation of putting the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer.Next, after rinsing the stem with water, the Fishtail is put in the Deoxidizer with other pipes in the queue.  The stem is left in the Deoxidizer for several hours.After the stem has soaked for some time, a stiff wire helps to fish out the Fishtail stem and drain the excess Deoxidizer.  I also squeegee the fluid off the stem using my fingers.A pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 99% is run through the airway to push out the fluid and to clean.  I cotton pad wetted with alcohol is used to wipe off the raised oxidation from the stem surface.Finally, to help condition the vulcanite, paraffin oil, a mineral oil, is applied to the vulcanite rubber stem.  The stem is then put to the side to absorb the oil.Before going through the process of cleaning the stummel, I decide to move forward with repairing the acrylic ferrule.  I’m doing this first because what often is the case is that during the cleaning process, which uses water, the briar wood in the mortise expands.  I don’t know for certain if this would be the case with the shank during the cleaning process, but I would rather repair the shank cap now than risk a more difficult fix because of a changed environment.  The cap has separated or moved down the shank.  The result is that there is a large gap between the external shank edge and the acrylic shank cap. The first thing needed is to remove the shank cap from the shank.  I need to be careful because I don’t want to put too much pressure on the acrylic as I’m trying to remove it.  I don’t know if old glue used when the cap was originally seated may be hindering an easy removal.  My first attempts to pull and then hand-twist the cap off were unsuccessful.  It feels like it’s glued – no movement at all.  The next thing I try is to wedge first a flat dental spoon into the gap and gingerly try to pry loose the acrylic cap.  Next, the sharp edge of a pocketknife was wedged into the gap to apply gentle even pressure to break the cap loose.  This was not easy avoiding damage to the briar shank and further carnage to the shank cap!As I puzzle and pull and puzzle more, another mystery is birthed.  With the gap between the briar and acrylic, my assumption is that the cap has partially become unseated – perhaps someone was trying to remove it and that caused the acrylic to break?  I would guess that there would also be a gap internally – between the acrylic and the beginning of the briar mortise.  To test my assumption on a second gap, a sharp dental probe is inserted into the mortise and the internal surface is scraped with the point I am expecting to detect another gap indicating that the ferrule had shifted down.  I find no internal gap.  The surface between briar and acrylic is smooth.  This is important because I had been thinking, if I’m unable safely to remove the shank cap then I could try to reseat the shank cap by pressing it back into place on the shank and doing my best to close the gap from the acrylic break.  Yet, if there is no internal gap, there’s no room for any movement of the shank cap to be reseated flush with the shank.  It’s hard to believe a BC pipe left the Saint Claude workshop with a gap that large between the cap and the briar shank….  Three ideas begin to float in my mind  regarding removal of the ferrule.  First, to put the stummel in the freezer.  This is a general method of unsticking things that are stuck.  When the material cools, it contracts and often loosens stuck things.  The second idea, if the freezer method doesn’t help, is to drip some acetone in the gap and the crack.  If the shank cap is stuck because of being glued, acetone can help break down the glue.  This might help, but I’m doubtful.  The third idea is that the acrylic could be heated with a hot air gun and made more pliable – like vulcanite.  This might avoid another break.

First, into the freezer and we’ll see what happens.  Well, the next morning arrived and I was hopeful that the shank cap would break free after cooling and contracting.  To keep the cap stable, I wrap it in a felt cloth and put it in the vice with a gentle snugness.  With the stummel extended, I very gingerly apply a twisting pressure on the shank with hope that the acrylic cap will break free.  Much to my chagrin, the cap did not break free but instead the wood shank insert broke off.  Oh my….  I look at the following pictures of the carnage as one is often drawn to look at a car crash on the interstate…. What to do?  After recovering from the initial nauseated feeling, my first thoughts were to drill out the wood inside the now freed shank cap, to repair the acrylic crack and then figure out the next step.  It did not take long after these initial thoughts to realize I needed to reach out to Steve with pictures to get his feedback and direction – the Sage of rebornpipes!  I recall writing a few years ago in the ‘Helps for Newbies’ section of The Pipe Steward website, that mistakes often are the best way to learn and recording mistakes or mishaps in the writeups helps others and expands one’s abilities in the pipe restoration world.  I have not tackled anything like this before, so the opportunities are there to learn!  Recording the troubleshooting thought processes I believe, are helpful to learn as well.  Here is my initial email to Steve with the above pictures outlining the challenges as I saw it:

Hey Steve,

Ran into a bit of a snag and need your advice.  This pipe came to me with the cracked acrylic shank cap.  My attempts to remove it from the shank obviously failed with me breaking off the briar portion inserted into the cap.  Now I’m looking at cleaning out the wood glued in the cap and setting an insert into the shank that will form the new ‘post’ for the cap.  This is something I’ve not done before and reaching out to you and Charles was the first step.  Of course, I need to clean the wood out of the cap and close and repair the cap.  To connect –  I have the acrylic or Delrin(?) push/pull tenons on hand, but that doesn’t seem like the right configuration.  I know that you and Charles have used Delrin – but I’m not sure what this process is.  Another thought is to take an old stem and flatten the shank facing and counter sink holes in the briar to seat a new mount of sorts for the cap….  Any thoughts to steer me in the right direction – an old write up?  Thanks!

Dal

Steve’s response came quickly:

Not sure what Charles would do but my process is simple.

  1. DO NOT Clean out the wood from the shank extension.
  2. I would take one of your tenons and shape it with your dremel to provide a tube or you can use stainless.
  3. Once you have that glue it in the shank end and let it set.
  4. Give the extending end a coat of glue (epoxy probably is best.)
  5. Put glue on the cracked ends and clamp it together and let it cure
  6. Fill in the split in the extension with super glue. Once it is filled in smooth out the shank extension and reshape it

    Steve

My response and further questions to hone in on a path forward:

Thanks, Steve.  So, you would NOT remove the wood in the shank cap to try to close the acrylic crack gap?  Also, there’s a gap between the extension and the shank before I broke it.  You would leave that??  Essentially, you would not have tried removing the cap to do these repairs.  I’m not sure how the cap would have come off cleanly having been glued on.  Fill the acrylic crack and leave the gap?

Dal

I appreciate Steve’s experience which provides an important component in dealing with the myriad of problems and possibilities that are ‘part and parcel’ of pipe restoration: improvisation.  With more information and thought, Steve was able to help me bring into focus the options:

Dal…. one thought since you mentioned the gap is to flatten out the broken piece on the shank and extension to smooth out the fit to the shank.

If you want to try to bind the crack in the shank extension since it is already off you could drill out the wood and try gluing and clamping the cracked shank extension.

On the Danish ones with the joint is typically done with a threaded tenon in the shank and the piece can be wiggled free and unscrewed… This did not allow for that.

As something completely different you could take a nice piece of smooth hardwood (walnut) and make a similar piece drill and anchor it to the shank as noted before. That would look really good and be your own touch.

My thought processes continue – I had already contemplated flattening the shank facing to remove that gap as Steve suggests.  The last option that Steve put forward of fashioning a piece of walnut or another hardwood and seating it into the shank would probably be the classiest repair but I’m not sure my tools are precision enough to drill out the shank to create the counter sink space for the hardwood ‘plug’.  Steve also mentioned removing the wood from the cap and repairing the acrylic gap, which was my first inclination.  This approach would also necessitate then, fashioning a wood plug to then seat the friction mounted Fishtail stem.

The bottom line is that I cannot suffer leaving the acrylic break there and not try to repair it! – especially since this was the primary reason for trying to remove the cap in the first place.  With Steve’s input, the course that I will follow is to fashion a hardwood joint.  Whether I simply drill a counter-sink hole in the shank or attempt the Danish method of threading the joint, I will continue to consider.   I do have a tap & die set that I’ve never used, and this would be a great opportunity perhaps!  The question between these two approaches – counter-sink hole along or threaded – has to do with how much wiggle room there will be when cementing the joint in the shank making sure the cap seats flush against the shank facing and not again, leave gaps.  Whichever way I end up proceeding, the first step is to drill out the briar wood that remains in the cap.

To remove the briar remains from the shank cap, I begin the process with drill bits.  Using a bit just larger than will freely pass through the airway, I hand turn the bit to ream out the wood a little at a time.  I then graduate to two larger bits, hand turning and expanding the bite each time and removing a little more briar.I also used different burrs mounted on the rotary tool to fine tune the clearing.  The following picture is after quite a bit of time of gradually removing the briar without further damaging the shank cap.  You can see just a small amount of wood left against the acrylic lip marking the beginning of the mortise where the stem is seated.These next pictures show all the tools used for the mini-project and the finished job.  Success with the first phase. Next, the crack in the acrylic needs to be glued.  The acrylic shank cap is placed in a small desk vice cradled by two cotton pads to protect the acrylic. The vice will provide constant pressure to allow the CA glue to cure fully through the night.The cap is situated lower in the grips.  I do this so that the press of the vice will focus on the top of the cap to close the gap and not put pressure on the entire cap.I  use Loctite Precision Pen semi-gel CA glue to lay a line down the crack to avoid too much excess on the acrylic.  Then a toothpick is used to push down and spread the CA glue on the crack edge to get maximum coverage and hopefully, effect.The vice is then gently closed to close the gap.  I’m careful not to put too much pressure on the cap with the vice – I don’t want it to crack again!  The day has come to an end and the lights go out allowing the glue to fully cure through the night. The next morning, I am anxious to release the vice and hopefully, the acrylic cap won’t snap open!  As hoped, the cap repair is successful – yes! Next, 240 sanding paper is used to surgically remove the excess glue from the acrylic surface.  My caution is to do hopefully little damage to the ‘BC’ cap stamp removing the glue.  After beginning to remove the excess patch material sanding with 240 paper, I noticed a separation in the crack.  It seems that the extended time the acrylic cap was cracked, the acrylic was memorizing the expanded orientation.  The excess glue over the crack was serving as reinforcement for the patch and when removed, the patch faltered.I may need to transition from CA glue to using an epoxy.  While the patch is still half-way holding, the thought came to mind about possibly relieving the expanded memorized orientation by heating the acrylic.  The cap is positioned in the vice with the crack away from the hot air gun.  The opposite side of the crack needs to relax.  With the vice gently closed on the crack side, the opposite side is heated.  If the theory is correct, as the tight side of the cap heats, the acrylic becomes more supple and relax and hopefully will un-memorize the broken condition – like a splint.  After heating for some minutes, the cap cools.Amazingly, this works like a charm!  The gap has closed, and the expansion torque has been released.  I wish I had thought of this before applying the patch.  Now, I may need to redo the patch but the complication with that is cleaning away the old patch material.  I’ll continue sanding with 240 to remove the excess and see how it looks.I continue to remove the old patch material with 240 grade paper trying to salvage as much of the BC stamping as possible – though I know that it will not remain unscathed.  The good news now is that with the torque issue resolved, when the cap is mounted on a newly fashioned briar plug later, there should be no stress on the acrylic.  The cap will simply go over the plug like a glove and glued in place.  The mounting and the glue on the inside will again reinforce the patch.  So, the crack repair doesn’t necessarily need to be uber strong but becomes more of a cosmetic issue – in theory!The sanding with 240 paper is complete and I continue sanding over the patch with 600 grade paper and then 0000 grade steel wool.Next, the entire acrylic ferrule is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads – from 1500 to 12000.Putting the cap aside for now, I use a sanding drum mounted on the rotary tool to remove the excess briar protruding out of the shank after the break. Even though it’s a bit anti-climactic, before continuing with the shank repair, I want to clean the stummel first.  After the shank cap is remounted, the last thing I’ll want to do is backtrack and start cleaning!  The chamber has carbon cake build up and to give the briar a fresh start, the chamber is reamed with the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  After taking a fresh picture of the chamber, reaming starts with the smallest of the blade heads and then the next larger one.  After this, the chamber walls are scraped with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and then sanded with 240 sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for leverage. After wiping the bowl, and inspection of the chamber reveals healthy briar.Next, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used to scrub the rusticated stummel and rim surface.  The rim has some lava flow and the distinctively carved BC Costaud stummel will undoubtedly have grime and dirt in the cracks and crevasses. A bristled toothbrush is used to get in the nooks and crannies and a brass bristled brush also assists with cleaning the rim. The stummel then goes to the sink where shank brushes continue the cleaning in the mortise with warm to hot water using anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap.  After the stummel is thoroughly rinsed the results of the cleaning are examined.The rim cleaned to a degree.  There remains dark charring on the internal rim edge.The briar seems parched throughout the rusticated surface.  With this much carving, it’s difficult to tell if the finish has disappeared for the most part.  It does look a bit ragged.  The third picture below of the nomenclature on the underside of the stummel seems to indicate this is true with the splotchiness.  Before contemplating adding dye to the mix, I decide to apply Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel to see how the dry briar responds.  The Balm does amazing things to smooth briar and the rough surface on the Costaud bowl may perk up nicely.  To apply the Balm, I put Balm on my finger and work it into the crevasses.  I think this pipe has won the award for the most Balm needed to do the job!  After the Balm is thoroughly applied, I allow the stummel to sit for a time to allow the Balm to do its thing (pictured below).  When I have this ‘liquid gold’ (Mark’s price isn’t cheap 😊), none is wasted.  I grab a blasted billiard off my own pipe rack and work the excess Balm in.  There seems to be a smile on the Billiard’s face!After 15 minutes or so, the stummel is buffed with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm.  It takes a bit of work, but the bowl looks better; and for now, I will think about adding any additional coloring.  I move on. Earlier, the Fishtail stem went through a Before & After Deoxidizer soak.  The stem looks good with no apparent residual oxidation.  The upper and lower bit have tooth chatter, and the vulcanite surface is rough.  To address the chatter, I use a Bic lighter and paint the bit with the flame to heat and expand the rubber compound.  As the vulcanite heats, it also expands reclaiming its original disposition or at least in part.   The before and after pictures show the results.  This stem responded well which means that sanding will now be less. Next, the entire stem is sanded with 240 grade paper with a special focus on removing any residual roughness on the bit from tooth chatter.The 240 sanding is followed by wet sanding with 600 grade sanding paper and then 0000 grade steel wool is applied.Next, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is used starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following the wet sanding is dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil between each set of 3 pads to further condition the stem and to guard the vulcanite from developing oxidation. While restoring the stem, I’ve had more time to consider the next steps in the shank cap repair.  Since this is my maiden voyage doing this kind of repair, the brain has been ticking through the process one step at a time weighing the logical sequential steps. To get a frame of reference, I measure the width of the former joint or ‘plug’ and the corresponding internal width of the shank cap with the result of 7/16 inches or 11mm.  The standard airway is 3/16 inches, and this airway corresponds.The depth of the internal cavity of the shank cap where the joint plug would be seated is 9/16 inches or 15mm.  If this length were to be generally doubled to the depth of the countersink hole to be drilled into the shank, the total length of the joint would be about 1 1/8 inch or 30mm.In Steve’s earlier email, he suggested using walnut as the joint material or a hardwood of some sort.  I do not have walnut on hand, but I do have another hardwood – cherry.  The cherry wood is a flat piece serving as a shelf end on my worktable!  It used to be an extender of a cherry wood table that became my worktable!I cut a piece off the end of the piece which should give me enough ‘meat on the bone’ for a small margin of error in drilling the airway through the center.  I set the block of cherry in the table vice, and eyeball the drill hoping for the best!The exit hole is about 1/16 inch off center, but I think there’s enough margin to make this work.With the airway drilling ‘good enough’ for now, with enough excess cherry to make it work, the next step is to sand off the corners of the block to form the rough cylinder that will more easily mount on the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  To do this I use a sanding drum on the rotary tool.The following pictures show the corner-by-corner progression of rounding the block. This should do!  Progress! The closest thing in my tool chest to a lathe is the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool I acquired from Vermont Freehand.  I have only used the tool to fashion vulcanite tenons mainly for fashioning Churchwarden stems for repurposed bowls.  I’m hopeful that I can make the PIMO work for this application on cherry wood.  The challenge will be holding the wood firmly and having to do a flip-flop in order to cut both ends.  The reach of the carbide cutting arm is only 5/8 of an inch which means the joint for the Costaud will need to be reversed and cut from both sides to do the job.  The length of the joint now will mean that as I cut, a ‘donut’ of uncut wood will be left in the middle.  My thinking is that as I cut both sides to establish the drilled airway as the center axis point, then I can shorten the joint a bit to be able to remove the ‘donut’.  The key, as in most everything about pipe restoration, is patience in the shaping process.  The picture shows the flip-flop issue – the short reach of the cutting arm.The carbide cutter arm is adjusted to barely contact the cherry wood and tightened.  The target diameter is about 7/16 inches or 11mm – the diameter of the acrylic shank caps interior.After a few cuts and flip-flops, the anticipated donut is forming.I discovered that using a pair of pliers to hold the end of the joint work better than with my hand.After several more flip-flop cuts the donut is fully formed and the airway now is the center axis point. The ‘meat on the bone’ cherry wood, has equalized the slightly off centered airway drilling.  You can see in the picture below that the donut is almost flat/flush on the bottom side, but the top side is fat.  The cutting from the PIMO Tool stayed true to the center axis point and removed the uneven wood (or meat on the bones!) around it.As I mentioned above, at some point I would shorten the joint so that the donut could be removed.  That time is now.  30mm or 1 1/8 inches is about the target length of the needed joint (sorry for going back and forth between the metric and the standard systems! After living in Europe over 25 years the metric is more usable and precise to me!). With the mark made and after mounting the cutting blade onto the rotary tool, the excess is removed.  A few more cuts with the PIMO Tool and the donut is removed and now I am working with a uniform dimension.Flip-flop cuts continue until I’m down close to the width of 11mm.  I cut a test cut and measure.  The measurement is right at 11mm. I finish the cut after measuring and the fit is perfect in the shank cap.  It has a slight amount of wiggle room which is what I want to not put outward pressure on the repaired acrylic and to allow a little fudge factor when it is permanently attached later.The next step is to expand the joint airway to match the airway diameter of the Costaud.  That diameter measures 3/16 inches. I hand turn the drilling by gripping the drill bit end in the vice and turning the joint plug.  I start with a drill bit slightly larger than the current hole and turn.  It takes a bit of time to hand turn the drilling.  I carefully used pliers when the drill bit was advanced in the hole and became difficult to turn. It took 3 drill bits to arrive at the 3/16 inches.  Using metric drill bits too gave a half-step between sizes that made it a little easier between steps. The length of the joint is long now.  I’ll deal with that later after drilling the counter sink hole in the shank.  I’m nervous about this next step.  The diameter of the joint is a bit less than the diameter of the original looking at the shank, but I’m ok with this.  The picture below shows the narrowness of the outer shank structure.  I’ll stay a little bit more on the safe side as I drill a counter-sink hole.Starting with a drill bit that is a bit larger than the airway, the end of the bit is clamped in the vice and the stummel is rotated.  I hand turn the stummel allowing the bit to follow the airway’s path of least resistance.  The depth I’m aiming for is about 1/2 inch and I mark off drill bit with tape.  The most difficult part is starting the drill bit making sure it’s as straight as possible and avoiding wobbles.  Once the bit starts tracking down the airway it becomes easier.  Ten drill bits later, I reach a comfortable diameter as the counter-sink hole moves closer to the outer shank edge.  I haven’t cracked the shank yet and I want to keep it that way!  The hole is a bit small, but I transition to sanding the joint for custom fit. To sand down the shank side of the joint, a coarse 120 grade paper is used.  The paper is pinched around the joint and rotated.  This keeps the joint in round. In time the joint begins to make its way into the shank and finally about 1/2 inch is inserted.  Success!  The pipe cleaner confirms continuity through the airway. What a relief.The next step is to sand down the stem side of the joint so that the acrylic shank cap fits over the joint and is flush with the shank.  With the joint seated a half-inch in the shank, the picture shows the excess length – about 1/16 inch.A sanding drum is used to do this.  After mounting the sanding drum on the rotary tool, the end of the joint is gradually sanded down to a good length. The progress is checked along the way to make sure too much isn’t removed. The pictures show the alignment of the joint airway.  As I’m looking at the airway, I begin to think about how the military mount fishtail stem will fit into the shank cap.I size up the stem’s tenon with the now repaired shank cap opening and another puzzle unfolds but another puzzle is possibly solved.  The tenon simply does not fit.  Nor did it ever fit this shank cap.  The opening of the cap is 1/4 inch wide.  The tenon is 1/16 inch larger. I don’t believe the stem is the original BC Costaud stem but apparently a replacement stem that’s a good match, but had been previously used.  A quick look at the internet shows that this replacement stem looks BC authentic by comparing with other Costauds (LINK).  This is good news indeed.  The puzzle that is possibly solved now is the cause of the acrylic cap’s break – the original stem was lost, and the replacement stem was forced into the shank cap mortise without proper sizing and there just wasn’t enough room to accommodate the oversized tenon and the acrylic gave way.  After this possible scenario played out fully in my cerebral cinema the question that came to mind was, ‘Why didn’t I catch this earlier?’  The answer followed – when the acrylic crack was wide open, of course it fit!  After fixing the crack and closing the gap, my assumption of the stem fit was grandfathered in.   But looking back at earlier pictures, the stem was not fitting – the tenon was not fully engaged seated in the mortise.  This I HAD assumed, too.  This earlier picture shows that the tenon was simply hanging out on the entry lip of the acrylic cap, not seated in the briar mortise inside the cap.The pathway forward is to glue the joint in the shank making sure that it lines up with the acrylic cap.  After this the acrylic cap is permanently attached.  The mortise needs to be drilled out to be flush with the cap opening and deep enough to receive the tenon.  The tenon of the stem then needs to be custom resized to be able to friction mount the mortise so that the tenon facing is flush with the shank cap opening.

In seating the joint in the shank, it’s important that there’s a bit of play in the fitting so that the joint can be adjusted after the glue is applied.  To increase the hold of the CA glue, I use a burr to cut some channels in the joint. Thick CA glue is then applied around the base of the joint and then inserted into the shank counter-sink hole.  I use thick glue because thin CA glue is absorbed while thick spreads. I want the glue to spread fully around the joint.  While the glue is still pliable, the cap is mounted onto the joint to guide the orientation for the joint so that the airway is centered, and the shank cap is flush with the shank facing. I let the stummel sit for several hours to allow the joint’s position to become permanent as the CA glue fully cures. With the glue fully cured, seating the joint into the shank, the next step is to attach the acrylic cap.  Again, the joint is scored several times with the burr to increase the gripping of the CA glue.Thick CA glue is then applied around the joint and the shank cap is mounted onto the joint and while the glue is still pliable, I make sure the cap is lined up with the shank. Thankfully, the airway is centered in as well! To complete the structural issues, the replacement fishtail stem’s tenon needs to be properly sized to navigate safely the mortise.  To do this, the tenon diameter is decreased and the mortise is expanded to accommodate the resized tenon.  I use a coarse 120 grade sanding paper to sand down the tenon.  I do this by pinching the paper around the tenon and rotating the stem.The mortise is also expanded to match the diameter of the acrylic shank cap’s diameter.  A burr is carefully used to expand the mortise. To deepen the briar mortise – gradually, a drill bit is hand turned.The process was a dance between sanding the tenon to shape it and drill and smooth the mortise – testing a lot!  The goal is to seat the tenon so that the tenon facing is almost flush with the acrylic ferrule.  This picture shows a large gap between the tenon facing and the acrylic.After a lot of slow work, the tenon is seated without placing too much stress on the repaired acrylic shank cap.  The structural repair to the BC Costaud is done – I move on!What remains is now the cosmetic restoration – I am not finished yet!  The charred inner ring of the chamber needs to be cleaned. To do this, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the upper chamber edge. Looking again at the condition of the rusticated surface of the bowl, after applying the Before & After Restoration Balm earlier, I had hoped that that would be sufficient.  Looking now at the briar’s condition, it is apparent the finish is gone in places giving a light dried look.  The nomenclature panel on the underside shows an uneven splotched finish. The decision comes easily to apply a dye to refresh the stummel hue.  After wrapping the acrylic shank cap with painter’s tape, Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye is used.  To begin, the stummel is heated to help to absorb the dye.With the deep rusticated surface, I do not fire the aniline dye as I would with a smooth briar pipe because it would be difficult to remove the resulting crusted shell and the Red Tripoli compound used to remove the crust.  Instead, the stummel is simply painted with the dye using a pipe cleaner.  After the dye is thoroughly applied to the rough, crevassed surface, I let the stummel to rest through the night to set the dye.The next morning, a cotton pad wetted with alcohol and used to wipe down the newly dyed stummel to remove excess dye and to blend.   A microfiber cloth in then used to hand buff the stummel rigorously to remove additional excess dye.Next, with a clean felt wheel mounted on the rotary set at about 40% full power, the rustication is further buffed and cleaned of fresh dye.  The reason for all this buffing is to prevent dye from leaching after it’s put into service.  It’s difficult not to have some dye on the hand when the stummel is fired up the first time, but these steps help to minimize this leaching. Next, to create an attractive contrasting in the rusticated surface, the 1500 grade micromesh pad is employed to sand the peaks of the rusticated peaks.  This creates a reddish fleck contrasting that I like in a rusticated surface.Again, the surface is buffed up with the felt buffing wheel.One last effort to avoid dye leaching.  To emulate a bowl in service, the stummel is heated with the hot air gun and again buffed with the microfiber cloth to remove the leached dye.The home stretch – Using a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool set at 49% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stem, acrylic ferrule, and smooth briar shank underside.  Compound is not applied to the rusticated surface because it would clog the wood crevasses and be a bear to clean.  A felt cloth is used to wipe off the compound dust where applied.  Not pictured, after applying the Blue Diamond compound, another cotton cloth wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and carnauba wax is applied to the pipe.  The wax is very lightly applied to the rusticated surface with the speed of the rotary tool a bit faster – at about 60 full power.  I do this to create more heat which helps the wax to dissolve and not get stuck in the crevasses.  Using the rotary tool buffing wheel helps as well as the bowl is rotated around to allow the wheel to go with the valleys and contours. Wow!  This was perhaps the most involved restoration that I’ve done to date.  There were a lot of moving parts, processes and structural issues to resolve to put this pipe back into service.  I’m pleased with the results and the opportunity to learn some new techniques.  The rusticated surface of the Butz-Choquin Costaud is now the focus of this handsome, stout pipe – as it should be.  The rustic feel of the bowl looks great with the bright contrasting of the acrylic ferrule. The slightly bent stem adds a gentle class to the overall bold appearance of a gentlmen’s pipe. As the commissioner, Craig will have the first opportunity to acquire the Costaud from The Pipe Steward Store which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Upgrading a ‘Lowly Drugstore Pipe’: A Dr. Grabow Omega Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

Ryan described his Dr. Grabow Omega as a lowly drugstore pipe – not me! 😊 He emailed me several months ago about his Dr. Grabow Omega and which set the table for what followed:

Dear Mr. Stanton, I recently came across one of your blog posts from 2017 detailing a restoration you performed on a Dr. Grabow Omega billiard. The final product was stunning and made me wonder whether you allow customers to send pipes in for restoration or whether commissions are limited to the pipes listed on your website. I ask because I also own a Dr. Grabow Omega and have always been bothered by the heavy red finish that completely obscures the grain. I wanted to ask (if outside commissions are accepted) whether you could perform the same sort of restoration on my pipe and about how much it might cost.  Thanks for any information you can provide!

Part of my response to Ryan shortly followed:

Ryan, Great to hear from you!  Thanks for your kind words regarding the restoration of the Omega I did. I think the Omega is a nice-looking pipe.  Dr. Grabow’s ‘Peterson’ and you share my problem with Dr. Grabow’s production of Omegas with the ‘candy apple’ finish.  It’s a quicker way to finish a factory pipe and it’s always a question about what lurks beneath the artificial gloss.  The Omega I did surprised me with a nice patch of briar beneath and left me with the question, why would anyone cover this grain with a finish like that?  I’m sure economics is a partial answer.  So, for your Omega, I would examine it closely to see if you can see some huge fills in the briar beneath the finish.  Even if it has fills, natural briar just beats candy apple even with sub-par blocks of briar, in my opinion. 

In our emailing back and forth, I discovered that Ryan too, was living in Europe at the time.  He had finished up his graduate work in Scotland and was teaching in the Black Forest region of Germany for the past 10 years and was also in the process of transitioning back to the US.  When he said he was in the Black Forest region of Germany, I perked up.  Several years ago two of our five children attended Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany – a very beautiful part of Europe which we enjoyed visiting several times.  Ryan sent me some pictures of his Omega from Germany, which he had used only a few times.  Here are the pictures Ryan sent: My impression of his pictures was that the Omega was practically new and not beat up at all.  Since we both were in the process of transitioning to the US, he from Germany and we from Bulgaria, the decision was made to wait till we both were settled on the other side of the pond and he would send the Omega to me.   Which brings us to the present – Ryan’s Dr. Grabow Omega is now on my worktable.  I am in Golden, Colorado, and Ryan is in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We both are adjusting to our new realities!

The primary desire Ryan expressed was to allow the natural briar to emerge by removing the candy apple, thick factory finish.  He referenced seeing a restoration for another Omega I had done for Jenny, a former intern we had with us in Bulgaria.  She had commissioned several pipes from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection to give as gifts to the special men in her family and she kept one for herself too! (See: Jen’s Trove No. 8 – Restore & Upgrade of a Dr. Grabow Omega Smooth Billiard)  The Dr. Grabow Omega she chose for one fortunate person turned out well – before and after results were striking!This was the result that Ryan compared to his Dr. Grabow factory fresh Omega finish which shrouded the natural grain.  Ryan’s Omega appears to me to be a newer pipe off the production line and differs in the nomenclature from the former older Omega I restored.  In common is that both are stamped on the left shank flank: OMEGA [over] DR. GRABOW.  The right was stamped on Jen’s Omega, IMPORTED BRIAR, which is not present on Ryan’s Omega.

In the former Omega restoration, the biggest problem that I expressed was the finish.  I did not like it!  In my research for that Omega, I found these two comments from bloggers on a Pipes Magazine Forum discussion about Dr. Grabow Omegas’ cost, quality, and appeal, which resonated with my own thoughts regarding the positives and negative:

Positives: An Omega was the first briar pipe that I ever owned. It still gets regular use and like Brewshooter, I have no complaints with it. Bowl size is a little bit smaller than I like, but it makes for a nice quick smoke, and the military mount makes it really easy to clean. I have Savinellis that I have easily paid four times more for, and sure, they smoke a little bit better, but in terms of a good smoking instrument, the Omega will do you well as long as it is smoked properly and maintained properly.

Negative: One thing I noticed about my Omega is that it had a heavy varnish or clear coat. I sanded it and gave it a nice wax. It seems to breathe a little better now and I like seeing more of the grain. I also gave the band a bit of a brushed look with some fine grain sandpaper. It’s a nice little pipe for that quick smoke.

Ryan’s desire for his Omega is to remove the ‘candy apple’ or heavy varnish finish.  He is also hopeful that there is a nice patch of briar beneath it.  I am hopeful, too!  The second issue that Ryan expressed about his Omega was that the factory stem was made of a plastic material and not rubber or vulcanite.  I could not recall that the former Omega’s stem I had restored was plastic – I believe it was indeed vulcanite because of the way it spruced up.  Ryan shared with me that his research uncovered that Dr. Grabow started using plastic stems along the way.  Ryan said he could live with the factory plastic stem but did not like it.

When Ryan’s Omega arrived, I was curious to check out the stem as well.  The seam is different from a normal precast rubber stem – the factory seam is vertically dissecting the stem rather than a horizontal seam – the norm for rubber precast stems.  The picture below shows the vertical seam that splits the P-Lip and runs up the stem.  I would say that I agree with Ryan’s assessment.  The stem is plastic.I decided to investigate whether I could find a rubber stem that would match the Omega’s Military Mount, fancy P-Lip stem.  I sent a note to Tim West at J. H. Lowe (www.jhlowe.com) where I acquire pipe supplies and included pictures for Tim to see if I could find a non-factory match for the Omega.  Ryan had indicated to me that a factory stem with the Dr. Grabow ‘Spade’ logo was not critically important to him.  Tim’s email came saying that he had a Greek rubber stem that had similar style and shape to the Dr. Grabow Wellington stems for a few dollars. He said that they were rough and needed bending and polishing – plain with no logo on the stem. I asked Tim to send it along with 5 additional Churchwarden stems.  When the stems arrived a few days ago from Tim, I was pleased with the match he provided with the Wellington stem.  The pictures below show the comparison.  The Wellington stem is precast with rough horizontal seams running down the sides of the stem rather than vertically in comparison to the factory stem.Before beginning on the upgrade of Ryan’s Omega, I take a few fresh pictures of the stummel on my worktable.  The finish is not as ‘candy apple’ acrylic as was the first Omega I restored but the finish is thick and obstructive.  In addition to the finish, the stummel has some minor dents from normal wear.  There appears to be a round fill on the right shank side.  When the stummel is cleaned, I will need to see if this apparent fill needs attention. Because I like working on clean pipes, I first use the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber.  Ryan had said that he had used the pipe only a few times – the lack of carbon cake buildup confirms this.A quick spin with one pipe cleaner and one cotton bud confirms that the internals are clean.My general approach will be to emulate what I did with the first Omega I restored that Ryan noticed.  The goal is to provide a briar canvas that will produce more natural grain pop.  To do this I start the upgrade of this Dr. Grabow Omega by using acetone on a cotton pad to see if this will be sufficient to remove the finish.  The acetone cuts through the finish efficiently.  The cotton pad shows a purple-ish or dark burgundy/Oxblood hue of the factory finish.  As I did before, I decide to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to remove the old finish more fully.With the stummel soaking in acetone, I turn to the precast Wellington stem.  Even though the stem is new, it is in a rough state.  The seam is rough from the excess rubber during the fashioning process.   Around the P-Lip button the edge is also rough as is the rubber surface itself.To begin, a small sanding drum is mounted onto the rotary tool and with care the seam edges are smoothed off.  I’m careful because the rotary tool can easily dig a wedge into the rubber if I’m too impatient!After the sanding drum, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the entire stem.  Special attention is given to the seam lines to make sure there are no factory divots remaining in the vulcanite.  The precast factory surface is not even and has ribs and small gaps.  Sanding with 240 takes some time but helps to smooth out the surface.   After 240, the entire stem is first wet sanded with 600 grade paper then 0000 grade steel wool is applied to smooth the surface further.Next, the full regimen of micromesh pads is applied starting with wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400.  Next, the stem is dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 micromesh pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to help guard against oxidation. Wow!  The Greek rubber Wellington stem shined up with that pop I like. After several hours of soaking in the acetone, the stummel is fished out and I take a closer look at the results.  The briar is a salmon color.  Interesting!  An inspection of the briar surface shows the minor dents I saw previously.  The round fill on the right shank is solid – second picture. To clean the surface of minor dents and scratches, sanding sponges are used.  The sanding sponges are good for not being invasive but sanding enough to clean the surface.  I start with a coarser sponge and then transition to a medium, then light grade sanding sponge.  I avoid the nomenclature on the shank during the first two sponges. Before moving on with the application of micromesh pads, I dress up the bland rim a bit.  To do this, a small internal bevel is cut in the rim to give it some additional contour.  To me, this adds a touch of class to the Omega and that’s what ‘upgrading’ is all about. Using 240 paper, a hard surface is pressed behind the sanding paper to create the fresh lines of the bevel.  This is followed again using 600 grade paper.  I like the results.Next, the stummel is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads to coax out the tight, compact grain.  Starting the process by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, this is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I stay clear of the nomenclature on the shank during the wet sanding phase.  The grain emerges through the micromesh process of sanding.  The pictures show the progression.The grain is subtle on this Omega which is different from the Omega I worked on before.  That Omega had more expressive and turbulent grain patterns.  My reading about briar grains suggests that Ryan’s Omega was fashioned from a briar block that was more toward the center of the briar bole and not the edge.  The ‘edge’ blocks tend to be more twirly, expressive, and distinct but also contain more imperfections which require patching.  Whereas, blocks cut closer toward the center of the bole, have more subtle grain patterns but fewer imperfections – the wood seems to be tighter or compressed.  The grain is there but lacks distinction at this point.At this juncture, I can’t resist uniting the stummel with the unbent Wellington stem to get a sense of the progress.  I also take a picture of the factory Grabow stem.  Not bad!  Ryan will have his pick whether he’s in the mood for the factory Dr. Grabow stem or the Greek rubber Wellington stem – as far as I can see, a perfect match. As I think about the next step in coloring the stummel, I decide to bend the Wellington replacement stem.  To do this the stem is threaded with a pipe cleaner to guard the integrity of the airway during the bend.  Using the hot air gun, the vulcanite is gently warmed at the mid-stem where the bend is to happen.  To heat gradually, I rotate the stem to balance the heating and not scorch the stem.I use a small shot glass which is about 1 1/2 inches across to serve as the bending template.  As I’m heating the stem, I gently bend the stem a bit with my hands as it become supple.  When it has heated enough and the rubber has softened, the stem is placed over the glass and bent over it to form the shape.I hold the stem in place while it is taken to the sink where cool water is run over the stem, thus solidifying the bend in place. When the stem is taken back to the work table to compare with the factory stem, it looks like a match to me the first time around!  The great thing about bending rubber stems is that if you do not get it right the first time, the process is easily repeated until the bend is on target.I have given some thought to the finish to apply to the Dr. Grabow Omega bowl.  With my last Omega I applied a mixture of 2/3s-part Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1/3-part Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye with the lightening option available by wiping down the bowl with alcohol later.  With this Omega, I will do the same for the dark brown/black undercoat.  However, following this, an additional step will be tried.  A wash dye with red I believe will deepen the tones and bend the finish toward a reddish palette and not toward the purplish/burgundy of the original Omega motif.  I believe this will give the pipe more eye-catching pop in the end – or this is my hope!  Applying dyes often feels like a roll of the dice – different woods absorb dyes differently and one never knows for sure what the exact results will be!  My goal is to bring out the grain distinctiveness with the undercoat and then to get in the ballpark of the right color template with the overcoat washing.  To begin, after assembling all the components on the worktable, Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye and Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye are mixed at a 2 to 1 ratio to use as the undercoat. After wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, the stummel is heated with the hot gun.  This heating expands the briar and makes the wood grain more receptive to the dye.When the stummel is heated sufficiently, the aniline dye mixture is applied to the stummel in sections with a folded pipe cleaner and then ‘flamed’ using a lighted candle.  The alcohol in the aniline dye combusts setting the dye pigment in the briar grain.  This flaming process continues as dye is applied in sections until the entire stummel is covered.The stummel is then put aside to rest for several hours.  This helps the dye to ‘settle’ and be absorbed into the wood. After several hours, the time to ‘unwrap’ the stummel has arrived – one of my favorite parts of a restoration when new dye has been applied to a stummel.  I call this phase unwrapping because the fired dye is crusted around the stummel like a shell.  The shell is unwrapped using more abrasive Tripoli compound and a felt buffing wheel mounted onto the rotary tool.  The speed of the rotary tool is set to about 25 to 30% full power – slower than usual guarding against too much heat buildup from friction generated by the more abrasive combination of compound and felt wheel.  This combination is like a bulldozer!As the crusted dye is removed, I purge the felt wheel repeatedly with the edge of the metal rotary tool wrench.  This keeps the felt wheel softer and cleaner.  As hoped, as the Tripoli compound is applied to the crusted surface, an eye-catching landscape of grain is now more distinctive.  The pictures below show the unwrapping in process.  I love to watch this unveiling! The dye process darkens and accents the grain patterns. After the crusted dye is removed, the bowl is gently wiped with a cotton pad and alcohol.  This is done not to lighten the stummel but to blend the dye.  Little dye is removed on the cotton pad which seems to indicate that the undercoat of dye is well established.The next step, to deepen the hue and bend it more to a rich red tone, the stummel is dye washed with red dye.  The stummel is again heated, but this time the dye is washed on with a pipe cleaner without firing because the alcohol content in the red dye is not as great.  After the red dye is applied thoroughly, the lesser abrasive, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stummel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool set at about 40% full power. This removes the excess dye.  Not pictured is that I wiped the stummel a number time with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to blend the red dye with the dark brown/black under coat.  Afterwards, Blue Diamond was again applied until the hue looked good.  Also not shown is that the Wellington stem was also polished with Blue Diamond compound with a cotton cloth buffing wheel.To refresh the Omega’s nickel shank cap, another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to applying compound on metal is mounted on the rotary tool.  Blue Diamond is applied, and the bling factor of the shank cap went up a few notches! The final step is to apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe.  After mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel, with the speed set at about 40% full power, the wax is applied to the stummel and Wellington stem – not to the nickel shank cap.  After application of the wax, the Omega is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine and to remove any excess wax that may have collected on the surface.Wow, what a change!  And then the next thought, ‘Wow, maybe too much change!’  At this point I was ready to send the write up to Steve to publish on rebornpipes, but my concern continued to grow, and that small voice was gnawing inside – the finish may have gone a little too far from the original Dr. Grabow Omega motif which was bent more to the burgundy pallet than what I did, going more toward the red.  I decided to send a pre-published PDF of the write up with final presentation pictures to receive his assessment.  I expressed to Ryan that I could take the Omega back to the worktable and bend the hue back to more of a burgundy palette – that working with dyes is like a dance.  After sending that email and PDF, I waited to find out if the Dr. Grabow Omega was finished or whether I was headed back to the worktable.  Ryan’s response did not take long:

Hi Dal, I think we can definitely call it finished (and then some)! I couldn’t stop smiling as I read through your write-up because every time I thought the pipe must be nearly finalized (I was already amazed at how much better it looked after unwrapping the initial coat of dye), there would be another step in the process that made it look even better. I’m genuinely awestruck at how well it turned out. That a lowly drugstore pipe can be transformed to such a degree is a testament to the tremendous skill and care you put into your work. As far as the color is concerned, I think you chose the ideal shade: not too dark, not too light, and a perfect showcase for the more subtle grain patterns of this pipe. I wouldn’t change it one bit. The stem came out looking like a million bucks, as well, which is quite a feat considering how (literally) rough around the edges it was at the beginning. Just extraordinary work all around. I can’t thank you enough!…. Once again, thanks very much for doing such a wonderful job and taking the trouble to document each individual step. I really enjoyed reading about the restoration process and I can’t wait to see the pipe in person!

Best regards,

Ryan

The upgrade of Ryan’s Dr. Grabow Omega ‘drugstore pipe’ is an amazing transformation and a grain popping display.  The transition from the finish that clouded the grain has been replaced with a sharp, distinctive cornucopia of grain patterns.  The Wellington stem is a perfect replacement for the Dr. Grabow factory stem.  This Omega upgrade, as with all my restorations, benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks, Ryan!  Thank you for joining me!

Replacing a Broken Tenon on a Karl Eric Wenhall Langelinie Danish Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

Just before Christmas I received an email from Trevor who caught my attention with the back story of a pipe that he wanted to know if he could buy a replacement stem or have me custom fit one for him. He sent me the following email about the pipe that was a bit of a family heirloom from his late grandfather.

I inherited my grandfather’s pipe and the tip of the stem broke off. I don’t know much about tobacco pipe maintenance (so please be forgiving if this is stupid), but I can’t figure out where to buy a replacement stem online or if I have to send it to you to have a custom one made. The markings on the back say “Wenhall Langelinie // Freehand Made In Denmark”.

I have pictures that I can send you if that helps.

My grandfather passed about 8 years ago, so this is a very special heirloom for me as it carries many memories with it. Many thanks in advance.

We exchanged emails and he sent photos of the pipe which I lost in a recent computer break down. The end of the story is that I had him send me the pipe and it arrived here in Canada this week. I opened the nicely packed  box and took out the bowl, the stem and the broken tenon and took some photos of it. Everything about the pipe said Danish Freehand and from the shape and stain I was guessing that it was carved by Karl Erik Ottendahl of Karl Erik pipes. I took photos of the plateau on the rim top and the shank end. It really is a beautiful looking pipe.The stamping on the underside of the shank is clear in the picture below. It reads Wenhall [over] Langelinie [over] Freehand [over] Made In Denmark.I turned to Pipedia to confirm my suspicions about the pipe being made by Karl Erik Ottendahl (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Wenhall). I quote the article below. Note the section highlighted in red at the end of the article about Karl Erik. Also interesting is the connection to Micahel Kabik and Glen Hedelson who we have seen before with other pipes (Sven-Lar Freehands).

Wenhall Pipes Ltd. was a distribution company out of New York City.

By the end of the 1970’s Wenhall approached Michael Kabik and Glen Hedelson, at that time operating from a farm house in Glen Rock, Maryland to create a line of freehands called Wenhall. The situation was favorable, because Kabik & Hedelson had ended their cooperation with Mel Baker of Tobak Ltd. to produce the famed Sven-Lar freehands shortly before.

Upon Wenhall’s offer the partners got a bank loan and set up a studio of 2000 square feet in a fairly new industrial park in Bel Air, Maryland and took on the name Vajra Briar Works. Wenhall initially wanted 500 pipes a week! But Kabik & Hedelson doubted that they could move that much product and told them they would produce 250 pipes per week. Happily, some of the old crew from Sven-Lar joined them at Vajra Briar Works, and thus they rather quickly met the production demands.

Furthermore during this time, Wenhall requested to create a line of pipes consisting of 12 different shapes. The line was called The Presidential and, while they repeated the same 12 shapes for this series, each one was freehand cut. Although they came up with interesting designs, mainly developed by Hedelson, especially Kabik was never really happy with the line or the concept, but, by this time, they had nine people on full-time payroll.

The stint with Wenhall lasted a couple of years, at which time they asked them to join Wenhall in a move to Miami, Florida. But by this time Kabik and Hedelson felt very uncomfortable with the owners of Wenhall and decided that they’d rather close the shop than make the move. Time proved that decision very wise, as Wenhall folded shortly after the move. All the same they had to close Vajra, but scaled down to the two of them and moved the operation to the farm house Glen was currently living in.

Presumptively for a shorter period only Wenhall had pipes made in Denmark by Karl Erik. (BTW K.E. Ottendahl ceased all sales to the USA in 1987.)

Wenhall also distributed pipes from Italy. By unconfirmed information Gigi and Cesare Barontini were mentioned as suppliers.

Now it was time to work on the pipe itself and replace the broken tenon with a new one and give the pipe a new life. In this case I will not do anything intrusive to remove tooth marks or even the potential tobacco smells as they are a part of the memory of Trevor’s Grandfather.

I started the work on the new tenon by flattening out the end of the stem which still had sharp fragments for the previous tenon. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to flatten out the end of the stem. I always do this to prepare for drilling out the stem to receive the end of the new tenon. The second photo below shows the replacement tenon that I have chosen for the stem. It is a threaded Delrin tenon and will need to be modified to get a proper fit. I will also need to reduce the diameter of the tenon for a snug fit in the shank.I drilled the end of the stem with my cordless drill. I started with a bit slightly larger than the current airway in the end of the stem. I worked my way up to one that would allow me to insert the threaded portion of the tenon in the stem. I would need to remove a lot of the threads on the tenon end leaving just grooves for the glue to bite. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the diameter of the portion of the tenon that fit in the mortise and for removing the diameter of the portion that would be inserted in the newly drilled stem. I checked it throughout the process of sanding to make sure it would fit in both places. Once the fit was right I coated the end of the tenon that would be inserted in the stem with a coat of the Locktite 390 CA glue and pressed it in place in the stem. I turned it to make the alignment with the mortise correct. I would need to do some adjustments to the tenon diameter once the glue cured. Once it was glued I set it aside to let the repair cure.I smoothed out the slight ridge at the junction of the new tenon and the stem with sand paper and filled in the dip with black Locktite 380 rubberized CA glue. Once it cured I used an oval file and sandpaper to reshape that area and give the transition more flow. I scrubbed the oxidation on the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the oxidation on the stem. It took a lot of elbow grease to remove it but it definitely looked better at this point.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I sanded with all 9 of the pads from 1500-12000 grit to further remove the oxidation and polish the vulcanite. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil to protect the surface. I finished polishing with Before & After Stem polish – both fine and extra fine. I gave the stem a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the smooth briar with my fingertips and into the plateau with a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about twenty minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. This beautiful hand carved Karl Erik Wenhall Langelinie Danish Freehand was a fun pipe to work on and I really was looking forward to seeing it come back together again. With the new tenon on the stem and the stem refreshed and the briar treated with Restoration Balm. I put the stem back on the bowl and gave the pipe a quick and careful buff with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the shank and stem during the process. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rich natural finish on the bowl looks really good with the polished black vulcanite stem. It is very well done. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 64grams/2.26oz. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be sending it back to Trevor by the end of the week. I look forward to hearing what he thinks when he has his grandfather’s pipe in hand. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

Restemming and Restoring a Stone Age K11 609 Italian Freehand Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on was a bowl sans stem that is interestingly rusticated and reads Stone Age K11 [over] shape number 609 followed by Italy on a smooth panel on the underside of the shank. The shape number reminded me of a Savinelli number but I was not certain. It was purchased in November, 2018 from a fellow in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. It is another pipe that I have been postponing restemming for a while. This morning while going through my collection of stem I found one that fit the pipe. At least it works for me! When I found the stem I pulled the bowl out of the box and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very unique rustication that is quite different – both rugged and spun that reminds me of a honey swizzle stick. The flared shank and rim top both look like rusticated plateau – faux or real, I am unsure. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had thick cake in the bowl and the rim top had a coat of lava on the inner edge of the bowl and in the grooves of the rim top. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the rustication. I have no idea who made it but it is definitely interesting. Jeff took some photos of the bowl before he cleaned it up. The next two close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the thick lava coat on the inner edge of the bowl and in the rustication of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is  clear and readable.I decided to see if could confirm my thinking that the pipe was connected with Savinelli. I turned to Pipephil’s site and found nothing connecting the Stone Age K11 609 to the brand. However I was not convinced as I am sure the shape number 609 is a Savinelli number.

I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/images/4/41/Sav_Shape_Chart_2017.jpg) and found a shape chart and indeed for the 609 listed as a shape for a bent billiard. I am pretty sure that with a bit of imagination this freehand that I am working on could possibly be construed as a Freehand in a Bent Billiard shape. But I am uncertain. I have included the chart below.I found pipes with a similar rustication on several sites on the internet. Worthpoint, an online auction site (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/stone-age-italy-k11-603-tobacco-428555927) listed a 603 with the same rustication style and stamping on the underside of the shank. Smokingpipes.com also listed a Stone Age K11 613 Volcano sitter with the same rustication and stamping on the shank that they had sold in the past (possibly as early as 2010 from the photo (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/italy/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=73396).

With those photos and the shape numbers that at least appear to be made by Savinelli it leaves me wondering. The shapes really do not match the shape chart above but the numbers are present. Ah well another mystery!

I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up 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. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. I went through my can of stems and found turned freehand style vulcanite stem that I thought would work well with the bowl and shank. I took a photo of the combination below. The stem fit the mortise perfectly though the bend to much to work well with the pipe. There were tooth marks in surface of the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration. I put the stem in the shank and took some photos of the pipe. The rim top and shank end cleaned up really well as can be seen in the close up photos below. There appeared to be some debris in the grooves of the plateau top of the rim that would need to be dealt with but without the lava coat it was impressively cleaned. The stem looked like it belonged. I already noted the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It really is clear and readable. I decided to start my work on restoring the pipe by addressing the debris and darkening on the rim top. I used a brass bristle brush and scrubbed the surface of the rim top and shank end working on removing debris and darkening from the grooves of the plateau and rustication. It looked much better than when I started.