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A Hardcastle Bulldog Run Roughshod over: The Original Restoration


Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited
https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/
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Grace is neither gentleness nor fragility.  Grace is treating yourself, others and even inanimate objects with respect.
— Kamand Kojouri, Iranian-born novelist and poet

INTRODUCTION
A former roommate, one of Stephen King’s Constant Readers, once remarked with ridicule-tainted respect that I have always been attracted to needful things.  He was speaking of someone I met not long before then whose tragic life had left him wounded to the core, one of the results being his over-demanding, often verbally corrosive and manipulative treatment of me.  The roommate, who like almost everyone had plenty of his own flaws if less obvious and abusive, said my other acquaintance was no friend of mine.

“That may be true,” I replied, “but I’m his friend and the only one he seems to have, and I just can’t give up on him because that’s not what friends do.”

The physically and emotionally damaged person I undertook to help ended up becoming and remaining my genuine though stormy friend until he died at home 14 years later from an unusual and excruciating autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure.  He was 46.

My affinity for care-challenged pipes, therefore, should come as no surprise.  I try to avoid those with fatal flaws such as bad cracks or burnouts and for the most part reject any with serious holes in the stem, but as a restorer I prefer estate pipes that need some real attention to rehabilitate as opposed to the few I find ready to sell or to keep in my collection with minimal effort on my part.

I don’t even remember how the Hardcastle Special Selection #7 smooth bulldog came into my custody or why I chose to ignore the obvious void of vulcanite below the lip on the underside of the stem.  Other than that handicap, the pipe was nowhere near as mistreated as I’ve seen but was plagued enough by dings, scratches and other problems to keep me happy.

One final initial note: I repaired this bulldog to almost like-new condition more than a year ago but failed to blog it because of personal distractions that have left me with a large backlog.  I sold it for next to nothing to one of my present housemates who decided he wanted me to refinish it as a black dress pipe.  The same pipe is the subject of Part 2 of my series on that subject, and so I was going to include this original restoration in that blog.  But anyone who reads my harrowing account of the experience that could be called too much of a bad thing will understand why I broke the overall work into two blogs.

Intrigued by the atypical presence of a stinger in the Hardcastle, and an unusual one at that, I searched online for such phenomena with a faint hope of dating the bulldog.  Of course, at the top of the list was one of Steve’s blogs from 2014.  No other road I found led anywhere close to Rome, as it were.  Steve’s pipe is a Dental Briar brandy, bearing the Registered Design Number 857327, with a unique – or bizarre – dental stem, a system-type metal rod in the shank extending to the mortise hole, and a different short stubby little stinger of its own.  Here is the Dental Briar stinger before Steve’s restoration and the pipe after his usual fantastic work.Steve narrowed the date of manufacture to the Family Era and concluded his pipe was created from 1949-1967 using the National Registry link below.  However, looking at the same link, I see in Table 6.5 that designs numbered 548920-861679 were registered between 1909 and 1950 and suspect the 857327 might have been pre-1949 – no disrespect intended to the master!  Besides, he’s right to note that his Dental Briar could have been made at any time between its registration and 1967 when the family lost all control of the brand.  His pipe is also stamped MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND on the right shank.

I am not so fortunate.  The bulldog has no Registered Design Number or even the usual right shank nomenclature (London Made, British Made, Made in London England, Made in England).  This nomenclature is not faded, it’s just not there.  Only the left shank identifies it as a HARDCASTLE/SPECIAL SELECTION/7.  All I know for sure is that I tried it out after a basic sanitization, and it was quite good.

For a great synopsis of Hardcastle’s history, see Steve’s blog below.  Details are in the Pipedia link.

RESTORATION I would have removed the stinger anyway as useless, but it was also bent and more fragile than usual, and so I experienced even less than usual emotional distress heating the pointless thing with a Bic and twisting it out.Considering the appreciable grime, I started by swabbing the stummel first with purified water and then alcohol.  In hindsight, I should have skipped the water method that had little effect.  The blemishes stand out even more after the cleansing with alcohol.  The one shot below showing the minor rim damage, an unevenness being the only bad part, and decent chamber condition was taken with a flash and therefore looks pre-water and -alcohol cleaning.  I’m still having to do the best I can with a cell phone cam.  I used 150-, 220-, 320- and 400-grit papers to start shaping up those areas.After that I re-addressed the chamber and unevenness of the rim with a Senior Reamer and the blade from my Peterson’s Pipe Tool and made them a little better with 150-400-grit paper.I gave the shank a preliminary alcohol cleaning and retorted the pipe with a meerschaum stem that wasn’t crippled by a hole but somehow forgot to snap a pic of the latter.With 220- and 320-grit papers I was able to remove the dings and scratches as well as giving the chamber a semi-final what-fer.For some reason, the band popped off, and I still wasn’t happy with the color.  I decided to go at it once more with the 220.A full micro mesh buff made the old pipe begin to shine as it should.By now I should be somewhat known for fancying two-tones with bulldogs and Rhodesians where the top of the bowl above the two lines curves upward to the rim.  For the most part, at least, I’ve left this area lighter than the rest of the stummel, although on occasion I’ve dabbled in darkening it with, say, maroon stain.  This one screamed at me to lighten the top of the bowl as usual under these circumstances.  And so I stained the stummel below the lines with Lincoln brown leather dye, flamed it and after letting it cool took off the char and a little of the darker color with 8000 and 12000 micro mesh pads.  By the way, I was alarmed when I got a look at the first pic below and noticed what to every appearance seems to be a wicked and poorly repaired crack in the shank.  I assure everyone it’s a trick of the light or whatever, as the other pics prove. Gluing the band on again was a formality after buffing it on the electric wheel.Okeydokey, then.  There could be no more avoiding the chomped and degraded stem with its hole on the underside and other shortcomings. I had already given it an OxiClean soak, and it wanted repair.  Just to get an idea of what the stem would look like when finished, I gave it a quickie micro mesh rub.   I cut a little strip of card stock from the business leftover of someone with whom I didn’t care to do any more business and lubed it and a very small tweezers with a dab of petroleum jelly.  I inserted both into the mouth opening of the stem, with the cleaner behind the paper, until they were firmly in place inside the airway to a point just below the hole.  Finding my trusty old vulcanite stem that was long ago destroyed by another stem abuser, I shaved some fine flakes onto a small piece of paper with one side of a narrow, relatively smooth triangle rasp.

This was where I had to be prepared to act fast: I moved the flakes into a pile and added a few drops of black Super Glue, stirred the two into a gritty paste and scooped up a gob with the part of a three-piece pipe tool made for clearing tobacco from the chamber.  As fast as possible without making a mess, I slapped the goop liberally over the hole and set it aside to dry, removing the card stock and tweezers when the vulcanite mixture was dry on the inside but still a little wet on the outside.It’s a good thing I have an excellent recall of what I did in a particular restoration because the photographs I took of this project were more jumbled and duplicated than those from any other pipe on which I’ve worked.  I had so many of the same thing from alternate angles and differing clarity, for example, that I had to delete quite a few to make sense of it.  I concluded this was because of two things, trying different ways to get a good shot with my poor cell phone camera at the time and lack of sleep during the process.  It’s clear, excuse the pun, that some of the “best” are quite indistinct.  The following photos, as a result, are incomplete, but I always have the words to describe what I did.

For example, after the previous step, I started sanding with 150-grit paper and then smoothed it up with 220-, 320- and 400.  A common, less serious groove resulted, and I added more of the black Super Glue/vulcanite mix and let it dry again.  The mixture settled in well.That’s when I got serious with the sanding, using 150-, 220-, 320- and 400-grit paper and super fine “0000” steel wool.There’s still a small lump visible under the lip that I handled with as little abrasion as possible before the stem was done.  And that was it – for the bottom side.  I still had the top to do.  In every way other than the hole in the bottom, the top was worse, although it only needed a dab of black Super Glue/vulcanite solution to fill a small divot following the same initial OxiClean soak and a more vigorous sanding before filling a small divot with.  Considering again the top of the stem when I received it, close up, notice the wear below the square shank fitting before the rest of the work. The stem never quite fit the shank, which had been given a replacement band somewhere along the way, not to mention the band was damaged. After beginning to re-sand the bottom of the stem, the original hole caved in again.  Accepting defeat, I chose a new bulldog stem I had that needed serious filing at first and then sanding of the 9mm tenon to fit the shank. I bent the stem.  That required heating the stem – with a pipe cleaner inserted through the airhole – at 210° F. for about 15 minutes and bending the nice and pliant material over a complex tool.

Remembering the cell phone photos were atrocious and I had to edit them using every halfway adequate means of adjustment available with my so-called photo editor to show any similarity whatsoever to the actual result, here one last time is the stummel as it in fact looked when it was one step from completion before electric buffing.And these are the final photos of the pipe.  The most offensive discrepancies to me are the obscurity of the two-tone and the lack of shine the pipe had.  The bad twist on the stem in the fifth shot of the rear is all on me!

CONCLUSION
This blog being the occasion of my official announcement in this forum of my new webstore on  my own site, https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/, is unfortunate in that the depictive presentation almost convinced me to give up any idea of writing the blog.  The poor quality and lack of photographs, as well as other stated reasons, were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of even trying.  Then I thought of the work I put into the briar and the stem alone. In the end, I know how smooth, golden brown and at least hardly blemished the Hardcastle bulldog looked when I was done with it.  Whether anyone else does is of no importance to me.

SOURCES
https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/27/a-unique-piece-of-pipe-history-almost-lost-a-hardcastles-dental-briar-reg-design-no-857327/
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/registered-designs-1839-1991/
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Hardcastle

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Restoring a pair of Comoy’s Blue Riband Billiards


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a package in the mail from a reader of the blog, Scott in California, US containing two Comoy’s Blue Riband Billiards. There was a note in the box regarding what he wanted done with the pipes. He wrote:

…As you can see both stems do not seat all the way in the shank of the pipes. The pipe in two separate wrappings is in a little better shape than the other one. Both need the stems refinished, bowls reamed and cleaned, etc. Would like to keep the original patina on the outside wood if possible. Thanks again for your help and let me know if you have any questions.

After opening the wrappings in the well packed box I found the two pipes. I took pictures of both pipes to capture their condition when they arrived. The first set of photos show the one that he said was “in a little better shape”. The finish still had a shine on the bowl and shank. The rim top was in decent condition. There was a light cake in the bowl and some light lava on the rim. The stem did not seat in the shank completely and when I looked the shank was very dirty and caked with tars. The stem was oxidized and had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to give a clearer picture of the condition of the pipe.I took photos of both sides of the shank to show the stamping on the pipe. The left side read COMOY’S over BLUE RIBAND with the three part C in the left side of the stem. The right side had the circular COM stamp and read MADE IN LONDON over ENGLAND followed by the shape number 291. You can see the stunning Blue Riband grain on the photos above and below. It is a beautiful pipe.The next set of photos show the second Blue Riband which was far more worn and dirty. The finish dirty and did not have the glow of the other pipe. The rim top had darkening all around the inner edge and there were some dents and marks in the top surface. The cake in the bowl on this one was thick and rock hard, narrowing about midbowl. There was some light lava on the rim. The stem did not seat in the shank completely and when I looked the shank was very dirty and caked with tars. The stem was not as oxidized as the other pipe and had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There was some calcification on the surface around the button. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to give a clearer picture of the condition of the pipe.I took photos of both sides of the shank to show the stamping on the pipe. The left side read COMOY’S over BLUE RIBAND with the three part C in the left side of the stem. The right side is a bit harder to read as the stamping is worn but it also had the circular COM stamp and read MADE IN LONDON over ENGLAND followed by the shape number 97. It is a bit smaller sized than the previous pipe but also has stunning Blue Riband grain. It is also a beautiful pipe underneath all of the grime.I reamed both bowls with a PipNet pipe reamer working through the cutting heads to take the cake back to the bare briar so I could check for damage to the interior walls of the pipe. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and finished with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the walls. The first pipe was definitely cleaner than the second. The cake came out easily. The second pipe had a cake that was rock hard and I had to switch between the smallest cutting head on the PipNet and the Fitsall Knife to break through the cake. I worked my way alternating between the two until the bowl was reamed and then sanded it smooth. I scraped the mortise walls of both pipes with a pen knife to remove the buildup of hardened tars and oils. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway into the bowls as well as the airway in the stems of both pipes with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the second pipe at this point… Arghh this is why I generally do one pipe at a time…. But I can tell you that the second pipe was far dirtier than the first.I took a photo of both pipes together at this point to show the clean bowls and the condition of the rim tops.I removed the stems from both of the pipes and put them in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer. I let them sit while I turned my attention to the two bowls.I worked on the rim top of the second pipe (shape 97) with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to remove the damaged areas and leave the rim top clean. There was still darkening around the inner edge but I have chosen to leave that for now. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar of both bowls with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of both at this point in the process. The first set of four photos show the more damaged bowl (shape 97) and the second set of four photos show the bowl that was in better condition (shape 291) when I started. Both bowls are looking quite good at this point. The stems had been sitting in the Before & After Deoxidizer overnight by the time I removed them from the bath. I rinsed them under running water and ran pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the airway to remove the solution from the airway. I took photos of the stems at this point.I decided to polish the top stem in the photos. It was the stem for the newer (shape 291) pipe. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside. With that stem completed I turned to the second stem (shape 97), the older, dirtier pipe. I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button on both sides of the stem. I cleaned up the file marks with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the file marks and smooth out the edge.I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil between each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside. I polished the bowls and stems with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and rubber. I gave the bowls and the stems multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipes with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed them with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. Both pipes polished up pretty nicely. The original patina on both bowls came alive with the buffing and worked well with the polished black vulcanite stems. Both pipes have a rich look. The finished pipes are shown in the photos below. The first pipe is the one that was in “better condition” when it arrived. I think it is a bit newer than the second one. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem speak well of the Blue Riband brand. The dimensions of the first pipe, shape 291 are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. The dimensions of the second pipe, shape 97 (the older one) are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pair will soon head back to California so that Scott can enjoy them.  Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this beautiful pair of Comoy’s Blue Riband pipes… now I need to find some for myself!    

 

Restoring My Grandfather’s Kaywoodie “Super Grain” Bent Billiard


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring a Kaywoodie Handmade ¾ bent Apple pocket pipe that I had found in the pile of pipes inherited from my Grandfather. The next pipe that I have selected for restoration is again a Kaywoodie, but a Bent Billiard with a 4 holed stinger, also from my grandfather’s collection. To date, these are the only two Kaywoodies that I have come across in my large inherited pipe collection.

This Kaywoodie is in immaculate condition and appears to have been smoked maybe only 3 to 4 times. This pipe has a medium sized bowl and the stummel has some beautiful mixed grains that can be seen through the dull and lifeless finish on the stummel and the shank. It fills the hand nicely and is light weight, making it comfortable to hang from the lips.

This beauty is stamped on the left side of the shank as “Super Grain” in cursive hand over “KAYWOODIE” in block capital letters and the right side of the shank bears the shape number “14”. The stem bears the inlaid Clover leaf on left side in white. All the stampings are clear, crisp and easily readable.I searched the net for information on this brand in general and this pipe in particular. The first site I always visit is Pipedia. I gathered a lot of information about the brand and some important snippets of information are reproduced below:

Kaywoodie was the name a pipe offered by Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Company (KBB), first appearing in February of 1919. The Dinwoodie pipe, also by KBB, appeared in November of 1919. Sometime before 1924, the Dinwoodie had been discontinued and the Kaywoodie name was beginning to be used on an extensive line of pipes that ultimately would be the name of the company. The origin of the name Kaywoodie is a combination of the K from Kaufman and wood, as in briar. Not much is known of the original KBB company other than it was started in 1851 by the German born Kaufman brothers when they opened a small pipe shop in the Bowery section of New York City. In the back room of this shop, they made their first pipes. From this meager beginning, the Kaywoodie name and organization was to emerge.

When one of the men from the New York office got “gold fever”, he carried a large supply of pipes with him to California that he sold along the way. This early “national distribution” did much to build the reputation of KBB. By the late 1800’s, branches of KBB were opened in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis with family and friends acting as agents. The trademarks, for the inlaid cloverleaf and the cloverleaf with the KBB initials inside, were issued in 1881. KBB’s pipes became more popular and were in constant demand by the end of the century. Orders were streaming back east and KBB needed to move to larger manufacturing facilities. By 1915 the move was made to larger facilities in the old Union Hill section of Union City, New Jersey. The salesroom offices were located at 33 East 17th. Street, New York. When the Kaywoodie pipe was first introduced by KBB it came with a hand cut rubber mouthpiece fitted with an aluminum Inbore Tube. This device was to “assure a clean, cool smoke.” Other KBB pipes such as Ambassador, Heatherby and Melrose also had the Inbore tube. The early Drinkless Kaywoodies from 1924 through 1931 had push bit stems. In 1931, after three years of research, the new Drinkless Kaywoodies with the synchro-stem, (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece) were introduced. The drinkless attachment was advertised as cooling the smoke from 850 degrees in the bowl to 82 degrees when it entered the mouth. By the mid 1930’s, all Kaywoodie’s came with the screw mounted Drinkless attachment. (Export Kaywoodies, available briefly from 1950-1955, had push bit stems and were available in all the same shapes and finishes as the drinkless versions.)

Throughout much of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, the Kaywoodie family of pipes consisted of 11 basic grades of briar pipes; though new grades were frequently added to the line and some older grades were discontinued or downgraded. These 11 basic grades of pipes, listed in ascending order of quality, were:

  1. Drinkless
  2. Hand-made Super Grain
  3. Super Grain
  4. Relief Grain
  5. Flame Grain
  6. Silhouette
  7. Oversize Kaywoodies
  8. Meerschaum Inlaid Kaywoodies
  9. Connoisseur
  10. Ninety-fiver
  11. Centennial

Thus from the above, I can safely infer that this pipe was a higher grade Kaywoodie from the 1940s to 1960s.

Armed with this information, I carried out my detailed initial visual inspection of the entire pipe. This assessment helps me in identifying the issues that are seen as well as understand likely issues that may present themselves subsequently while making a mental map of the entire restoration process.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel is clean with a dull appearance due to all these years of storage. There are a few dings and dents seen all around due to careless storage and will have to be addressed. The bowl is clean with a very thin layer of cake. The rim top is clean with no dents or chips and no overflow of lava. Both the inner and outer rim edges are crisp, even and intact. The chamber is odorless and dry to the touch.The stem is lightly oxidized with no tooth chatter or bite marks on both surfaces. The lips on both sides is crisp, however, as seen on the earlier Kaywoodie, the surface of the lip is flattened. The inlaid clover leaf stamp is intact and prominently visible. The only issue with the stem is that it is off centre and not perfectly aligned with the shank and the stummel. This will have to be addressed. The biggest relief is that unlike the other Kaywoodie Apple pocket pipe, the aluminum spacer in this pipe is completely intact. As expected, the airway is clogged and a test draw revealed that the air does not pass through the airway in the stem. This will have to be cleaned.

THE PROCESS
The first step that I usually follow is the reaming of the bowl. Since I had appreciated the cake to be thin, I started the process of reaming the chamber with my fabricated knife. I was very careful during the reaming so as not to create deep gouges in the inner walls of the chamber. Contrary to my appreciation, the amount of cake that was reamed out from the chamber was quite substantial. To smooth out the inner surface of the chamber and completely remove the last traces of remaining cake, I sanded the inner surface with a 220 grit sand paper. Once the chamber was cleaned, I decided to address the dings and dents on the stummel by sanding the bowl with a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 and 340 grit sand papers. I wiped the stummel with a moist cotton cloth after each sanding. This helps in removing all the briar dust and shows the progress of the sanding. This was followed by micromesh polishing pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads. Again, I wiped the bowl with a moist cotton cloth after each pad. As I finished sanding with 2400 grit pad, I observed three fills in the stummel which were exposed after the last wet sanding pad. These were spot filled with CA superglue and set aside to dry overnight. I sanded the cured superglue fill with a flat head needle file and further matched it with the rest of the stummel surface by sanding these fills with a 220 grit sand paper. This was again followed by sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit micromesh pads.Once I was through with the wet sanding pads, I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. I rubbed some “Before and After Restoration” balm deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. This balm helps in rejuvenating and protecting the briar wood. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!!! The mixed grain can now be clearly appreciated. I let the balm be absorbed by the briar for about 15-20 minutes and then polished it with a soft cotton cloth. The bowl now looks fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar.

Turning my attention to the stem, there were three issues which needed to be addressed; one was the oxidation, second was the flattened lips and third was the off center stinger. I started by creating a crisp edge by careful sanding the area around the edges with a flat head needle file. Once I was satisfied with the created edge, I began with sanding the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I was especially careful around the edges and the stampings. Using the crisp edge of the folded sand paper, I reshaped the buttons and sanded it to even out the surface. Thereafter, I sanded the stem with 320 and 440 grit sand paper. To finish the stem I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol after each pad and rubbed olive oil into the stem after every three pads. The stem looks crisp, shiny and like new. I addressed the issue of the stinger being off center with the shank by carefully heating the stinger with the flame of a Bic lighter. The heating done should be just enough to loosen the glue around the stinger. I inserted the threaded stinger in to the mortise and turned the threads till the stem was perfectly aligned with the shank. Thereafter, I set it aside to let the stinger cool down and the glue to harden again.Having addressed the “appearance” aspects of this beauty, I turned my attention to the “performance” aspect to ensure that this beauty smokes as well as it looks. I thoroughly cleaned the shank internals using shank brush, pipe cleaners, cue tips and isopropyl alcohol. The stem airway was cleaned using regular pipe cleaners and also bristled ones dipped in alcohol. The airway is now clean and the draw is full and open.To complete the restoration, I rubbed a minute quantity of PARAGON WAX on the stummel and the stem. After a few seconds, using muscle power and a microfiber cloth, I polished the entire pipe to a lovely shine. The finished pipe is shown below. Thank you for your valuable time spent in reading this chronicle of my journey.

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a second pipe that they wanted me to finish for them. This one was a Custom-Bilt billiard that had come to him from the estate of his Grandfather. It had a threaded tenon stem and a shank that had no threads. I have never seen a Custom-Bilt with a threaded mortise and tenon so it was a fair assumption that the stem was not original. It had been wrapped with glue and tape to make it fit in the shank and the fit was awful. Paresh wanted me to fit a new stem on the pipe for him. Abha had done a magnificent job cleaning the pipe so it was really a simple restoration for me – just fit a stem and finish the bowl. The briar was clean and lifeless so it would need some attention to breathe life into it again. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Custom-Bilt and on the underside it was stamped Imported Briar. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. You can see the remnants of wrapping and glue on the metal threaded tenon. There were tooth marks in the surface of the vulcanite stem on both the top and underside near the button. The first photo below shows the rim top and the inside of the bowl. Both were very clean and the rustication was in great condition as were the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The second photo shows the end of the shank with the glue on the inside of the mortise and the lack of threads that would be present if the tenon that was on the stem would work with this pipe.I took some photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The left side reads Custom-Bilt and the underside reads Imported Briar.I took close up photos of the stem. You can see the metal tenon on the end of the stem. There is some oxidation and there are the tooth marks on the stem top and underside.I wanted to refresh my memory on the history of the brand. I knew that his one was one of Tracy Mincer’s pipes because of the hyphenated name stamp. I looked on Pipedia and read Richard Esserman’s write up on Bill Unger’s Book. He gives a great summary of the history there. I quote a section of it below. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt(Rich Esserman))Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated: I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

Custom-Bilt pipes retailed between $5.00 and $15.00 in the 1940s. According to an ad, standard Dunhill pipes were selling for $12.00 and $13.50, Parker pipes $7.50, GBD for $6.00 and Comoy’s $7.50. Not mentioned was that special Dunhills could retail up to $100 and certain Comoy’s up to $25.

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

I set the bowl aside and decided to work on the stem. The diameter of the stem was perfect for the pipe so I needed to remove the metal threaded tenon and replace it with a Delrin tenon. I heated and scraped away all of the glue and tape on the threads of the tenon and those that bound it to the stem. I held it tight with vise grip pliers and turned the stem. It would not come out no matter how I turned or pulled on it. I decided I would have to use more drastic measures. Using the vise grip pliers as a vise I set up my cordless drill to drill out the tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and drilled it. I was hoping it would catch and pull the tenon out. First bit was a failure. I worked my way up to a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the tenon and worked on it. The extended portion of the tenon broke off and I was left with the piece in the stem. I drilled it out with a bit and the bit grabbed the piece and it all came out.Once the metal was removed from the stem I cleaned out the hole in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris. I smoothed out the threads to leave grooves in the tenon insert. Once I had it smoothed out enough I tried it in the stem. The fit was perfect. I cut deeper grooves in the tenon with a file and coated it with black super glue. I pressed it into the stem and lined it up so the fit was straight.  I set it aside to let the glue cure. While the glue cured I worked on the bowl. I scraped the glue out of the inside of the mortise using a pen knife. The glue had hardened so it took repeated scraping to get rid of it and bring the mortise back to bare wood.When the glue cured I tried the fit of the stem in the mortise. The stem fit well on the shank. I put it in place on the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips and into the rustication patterns with a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain and worm trail rustication in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be sending the pipe back with the others that belong to Paresh. I have one pipe left to finish for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt. 

Tale of Two Somerset Brothers – Part 2


BENT RHODESIAN

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had finished the work on Somerset 8 Paneled Billiard and I was very pleased with the way it turned out. I have smoked this pipe and have to concede that it was one of the better smoking pipes in my current rotation, the draw is open and full and very smooth right up to the last morsel of tobacco. This is due to the perfect alignment of the draught hole, mortise and stem tenon. Very happy with this one, I must say!!!!!!

The sibling of the first Somerset Brother, now in my hand, is the Bent Rhodesian, and my favorite shape. The upper half of the bowl has beautiful wavy circular sandblast all round which extend to the round shank, while the bottom of the bowl has densely packed birdseye which is seen in the sandblast. Overall, this is one pipe with a beautiful sandblast patterns and as I have come to expect, the quality of the finish and vulcanite stem is par excellence. Like its paneled billiard sibling, this pipe too has a smooth and flat bottom surface and bears the only stampings seen on the pipe. It is stamped on the bottom as “SOMERSET” in a mild arch over “IMPORTED BRIAR” in straight line, all in capital letters. There is no other stamp on either shank or on the stem. The stummel and shank is stained with a very dark reddish/ maroon hue. The stem is high quality vulcanite without any stampings. As conceded in my write up on the Somerset Paneled Billiard, I have been unsuccessful in unearthing information about this brand and still remain a blind spot in my quest for knowledge on pipes. I sincerely request you to share any information you may have on this pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The sandblast on this pipe is covered in dirt, dust and grime and appears dull and lackluster. The bowl is heavily caked and there is overflow of lava on to the rim. This will have to be removed in order to ascertain the condition of the chamber walls. From my experience working on the paneled billiard, I won’t be surprised to find cracks and heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. There is a very strong sweet smell to the cake, which perhaps may vanish after the chamber has been cleaned.The mortise is filled with oils and tars and appears to be clogged. There is no free flow of air through the mortise. This will have to be cleaned. There is also a slight gap in the fitting between the stem and the shank. Maybe this will be resolved after a good cleaning of the mortise. The fitting of the stem in to the shank is very loose and just drops of when turned upside down.The stem is heavily oxidized and the edge of the lip on the top surface has been bitten out of shape. There is a bite mark close to the disfigured edge of the lip. These issues will have to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I reamed the bowl with a Kleen Reem pipe tool and with a knife; I further took the cake down to the briar. I have realized that the knife is best suited to remove the cake from the bottom of the chamber. As anticipated, the chamber walls did show the beginnings of a burn out!!!! With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, presenting a clear picture of the extent of the damage. This pipe too had cracks at exactly same location as its sibling, though not as alarming. Since the pipe ash was still being collected, I cleaned the internals of this pipe with bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Since the strong sweet smell did not diminish even after the cake had been removed, I decided to give it a salt and alcohol bath. I filled the bowl and shank with kosher salt up to just below the rim top and end of the shank respectively. I filled it up with isopropyl alcohol and set it aside over night to allow it to extract all the residual oils from the chamber and the shank. Next day, the salt and alcohol had done its job. I remove the darkened salts and clean the mortise with bristled pipe cleaners. I set it aside to dry. Once the internals were cleaned, I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I set it aside to dry. I cleaned the walls of the chamber with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol (since I was simultaneously working on the repair to the chamber of the Paneled Billiard, there is inescapable repetition of the process). Once cleaned, I inserted a folded pipe cleaner into the shank and up to the draught hole to prevent it from clogging. I made putty like paste of pipe ash and water. This paste was evenly applied to the entire inner surface of the chamber with a thin bamboo frond with shaved end to form a spatula, a bigger one at that, as compared to a regular one. I set it aside to dry out. The climate here being very wet and humid, it will take a long time to dry out.

The coating dried completely after about a week and I just gently scrapped the chamber with very light hands to check the layer. Alas, the complete coating just crumbled out leaving a very dry coat of ash through which all the cracks were easily discernible.

Fortunately, I had started collecting pipe ash and mixed it with yogurt. Using the same earlier method, I applied an even coat of pipe ash, yogurt and also added two capsules of activated charcoal. I set it aside to dry out, praying that the mixture bonds well and sticks to the walls of the chamber. A few days later, the mixture had completely cured and it did not crumble. The bonding appeared to be strong and durable. With a 400 grit sand paper, I sanded the inner walls very lightly to smooth the walls. Now the internal walls are looking solid and ready for duty again!!!! Once the issue of cracked chamber wall was addressed, I turned my attention back to the exterior of the stummel. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Working the stem, with a Bic lighter, I flamed the surfaces of the stem to raise the tooth chatter and minor bite marks. To address the bite mark and repair the edge of the lip, I spot apply a drop of CA superglue and leave it over night to cure. The next evening, I shape the fill using flat head needle file and carve a crisp edge. To further blend in the fill, I sand the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I sanded it down with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I cleaned the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. Here, I realized that the issue of loose stem was yet to be addressed. This issue was addressed by heating the tenon with a Bic lighter, constantly rotating the stem, till the tenon was slightly pliable. I gently pushed a rounded needle file in to the tenon to enlarge it and set it aside to cool down. Once cooled down, I wiped it clean with a cotton cloth soaked in cold water. I tried the fit, and the stem sat in the shank snugly, making all the right kind of noises. I was very pleased with the fit.To finish the pipe, I rubbed a small quantity of HALCYON II wax which is used for rusticated/ sandblasted surfaces and set it aside for a few moments. Thereafter I polished it with a horse hair shoe brush and a soft cotton cloth. These Somerset pipe are very well made and smoke fantastic. The quality of the vulcanite is high grade and feels good to clench. The finished pipe is shown below. Since the completion of this restoration, I have smoked this pipe and included it in my rotation. Believe you me, this pipe, like its sibling, smokes perfect with a nice, smooth draw right to the end. This leads me to think, is it only necessary to have Dunhill, Barling, Comoy’s etc, as fantastic smokers? Well, my personal experience with these two Somersets, is that while the above mentioned brands are excellent pipes, the lesser known ones do need to be looked at and not discarded outright!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about this brand and the write up. Cheers…………

 

Tale of Two Somerset Brothers – Part 1


PANELED BILLIARD

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

There are two SOMERSET pipes in my inherited pipe collection; one is a Paneled Billiards and other is a Rhodesian (which is my favorite shape). If there was a pipe/ pipes amongst the large number of inherited pipes that I am not attracted to, this Paneled Billiard ranks right there at the top. The reason for this lack of attraction is primarily two fold; firstly, this eight paneled billiard is a shape which I do not like. I prefer pipes with an even shape either smooth or rusticated or sandblasted, but panels, definitely not my taste. Secondly, the SOMERSET brand, which I had never heard of and neither had I bothered to know more about due to shape!!!!! However, once while discussing pipes on a video call with Mr. Steve, I showed him this pipe and suggested that I would like to discard it as I did not like the shape and also it’s an unknown brand. Mr. Steve, in his wisdom and experience suggested that I should reconsider as SOMERSET is quite possibly a brand of Comoy’s seconds!!!!!! With this suggestion, I decide to work on this pipe.

This square shank, eight paneled billiard has a smallish bowl size with a chamber depth of about 1.1 inches with somewhat thin walls. Beautiful sandblast is seen on the bowl, rim and on three sides of the shank. The bottom surface is smooth, flat without any sandblast and bears the only stampings seen on the pipe. It is stamped on the bottom as “SOMERSET” in a mild arch over “IMPORTED BRIAR” in straight line, all in capital letters. There is no other stamp on either stummel or on the stem. The stummel and shank is stained with a very dark reddish/ maroon hue. The stem is high quality vulcanite without any stampings.I have tried in vain to unearth information on this brand in general and this pipe in particular. Alas!!! I haven’t been able to garner any information from the internet, apart for the input provided by Mr. Steve!!!!! I would love to receive any information that may be available with you on this pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
This pipe has been well used (and subsequently, I realized ABUSED!!!!!!!) as is evident from the thick cake in the chamber and damage to the inner edge of the rim in 12 ‘O’ clock direction. The sandblast is deeply filled with dust, tars and grime of all the yesteryears of smoking and subsequent disuse for last 35-40 years. The rim top is also sandblasted and there is overflow of lava on to the rim top. As mentioned above, there appears some minor charring to the inner edge of the rim. This needs to be looked into after the bowl has been reamed of all the cake.

The mortise is clogged and air does not flow through it. This condition is consistent with that I have seen on my grand old man’s other pipes!!!! The mortise had clogged, adversely affecting the performance of the pipe and hence had been conveniently set aside and replaced by another one. Such was his habit, it appears.The stem is oxidized but more heavily towards the lips. There is minor tooth chatter with a couple of slightly deeper bite marks on both surfaces of the stem. The fitting of the tenon in to the mortise is very loose and will have to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I start the restoration process by reaming the chamber to get rid of all the cake, using a Kleen Reem pipe tool. I further scrapped the walls of the chamber with a fabricated knife and took the cake down to the bare briar. This is the time when I observed a damage which every restorer of pipes fears the most. With a cringe, I observed a distinct line emanating from a point about mid way of the chamber, above the draught hole extending upwards and downwards. To explore further and also to smooth and remove the last remnants of the cake, I sand the walls of the chamber with a folded piece of 150 followed by a 220 grit sand paper. To my horror, I observed that from the point where I had first observed the crack, there were other cracks which extended around the walls in a circular pattern along the middle of the bowl. I checked the exterior of the stummel and was relieved to find it was solid and that the crack did not extend to the outer surface. Here are the pictures of the process and the damage observed. I was wondering as to how I should address this issue as I did not have J B Weld, when I remembered that Mr. Steve had repaired my inherited Barling Ye Olde Wood by coating the chamber with a mixture of sour cream and activated charcoal. I searched my tool and material box and realized that I was only carrying a few capsules of activated charcoal. The jar of activated charcoal, along with bulk of my pipes, was left behind when I moved to my place of work. I shared the pictures of the damage and predicament with Mr. Steve. He confirmed that this appeared like the beginning of a “burn through” or a “crack”. He also suggested an easier and practical solution; a coating of pipe mud made using pipe ash and water!!! Only a person of his knowledge and experience can share such simple and easy-to-do solutions to complex problems. Thanks again, Sir. The next couple of days were spent in collecting pipe ash!!! Lol…… All readers and first time restorers are advised to collect and keep a jar of pipe ash handy!!!!! Or collect Cigar ash which works just fine.

While collecting ash over the last couple of days, I undertook the restoration of the Somerset Rhodesian and soon realized that this one too had cracks in the bowl. Thus I was now tackling this issue on two pipes simultaneously!!!!! More detailed write up on the Rhodesian will be posted separately. Meanwhile I addressed the stem of the Paneled Billiard. Using a Bic lighter, I flamed the surfaces of the stem to raise the tooth chatter and minor bite marks. I was surprised to find that this process had raised all the bite marks and tooth chatter to the surface. All I was left to do was sand the surfaces with sand paper followed by the micromesh pads. I sanded it with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I cleaned the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. The issue of a loose-fit between tenon and mortise was addressed by heating the tenon with a Bic lighter, constantly rotating the stem, till the tenon was slightly pliable. I gently pushed a rounded needle file in to the tenon to enlarge it and set it aside to cool down. Once cooled down, I wiped it clean with a cotton cloth soaked in cold water. I tried the fit, and the stem sat in the shank snugly, making all the right kind of noises. I was very pleased with the fit.I cleaned the internals of the mortise and the airway with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I scrubbed the mortise with shank brush dipped in alcohol. The internals of the shank are now clean and the pipe smells fresh and new. There are no traces of ghost smells from the stummel.Having addressed the internals, I turn to address the exteriors. I gently scrapped the charred rim down to the bare solid briar. Though this has resulted in a slight undulation to the rim surface, it is very minor and hence, I left it alone. Another reason to let it be was that if I had a Dremel machine, I would have topped the bowl and then carved out very small rustications to match the sandblasted stummel. But I do not have a Dremel machine!!!! That issue settled, I wash the dirty stummel with Murphy’s oil soap and a tooth brush. I thoroughly scrub the sandblast with the hard bristled toothbrush to remove the oils, tars, dirt and grime lodged in the surface. I rinse it under tap water, dried it with paper towels and set it aside to completely dry out. Having collected sufficient quantity of pipe ash, I decided to address the chamber cracks. I cleaned the interiors of the chamber with a cotton ball dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once cleaned, I inserted a folded pipe cleaner into the shank and up to the draught hole to prevent it from clogging. I made putty like paste of pipe ash and water. This paste was evenly applied to the entire inner surface of the chamber with a thin bamboo frond with shaved end to form a spatula, a bigger one at that, as compared to a regular one. I set it aside to dry out. The climate here being very wet and humid, it will take a long time to dry out.The coating dried completely after about a week and I just gently scrapped the chamber with very light hands to check the layer. Alas, the complete coating just crumbled out leaving a very dry coat of ash through which all the cracks were easily discernible.So, it’s back to square one and all the efforts and waiting has come to a naught!!!! I shared the above pictures with Mr. Steve with a suggestion of using HONEY as a bonding agent rather than water. When he replied that he had never used honey but, uses YOGURT if water mix fails, I dropped the idea and decided to go ahead with yogurt!!!!Fortunately, I had started collecting pipe ash and mixed it with yogurt. Using the same earlier method, I applied an even coat of pipe ash, yogurt and also added two capsules of activated charcoal. I set it aside to dry out, praying that the mixture bonds well and sticks to the walls of the chamber. A few days later, the mixture had completely cured and it did not crumble. The bonding appeared to be strong and durable. With a 400 grit sand paper, I sanded the inner walls very lightly to a smooth surface. Now the internal walls are looking solid and I can’t wait to load my King of England tobacco and enjoy my fruits of labor. Once the stummel had dried out completely, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish the pipe, I rubbed a small quantity of HALCYON II wax which is used for rusticated/ sandblasted surfaces and set it aside for a few moments. Thereafter I polish it with a horse hair shoe brush and a soft cotton cloth. Though, the pipe feels small in my hands, the chamber is decent sized. Notwithstanding the size, this is a beautiful looking pipe with some great sandblast patterns. The pipe is very well made and of high quality craftsmanship as evidenced by the perfectly aligned and matching edges of the stem and shank as well as the quality of the vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is shown below.

Ben Wade’s in the House, Part 2


Blog by Joe Gibson

Finished Pipes, ready for an afternoon smoke. The tobacco is last tin of out of production Viking Odin’s Wind.

Which Stem for Which Pipe?

When the Ben Wades arrived, the Martinique came with a beautiful, amber colored but transparent acrylic stem. There was a minor amount of tooth chatter near the bit, but nothing I felt the need to repair. The airway, on the other hand, was black from being smoked. The stem was tight in the mortise and didn’t readily pull out.

The Royal Grain, as I mentioned in the previous post, still had a vulcanite tenon stuck in the mortise. I decided to work on the Martinique stem first and deal with finding a stem for the Royal Grain later.

Cleaning the Perspex Stem

The Perspex stem before cleaning.

The first problem was separating the stem from bowl without breaking anything. Since I planned on soaking the bowl in alcohol, I dipped the pipe and stem in the jar and let it set for a minute or two. The stem then came off the pipe easily and I rinsed it off in clean water.

With oxidized vulcanite stems, I do an Oxyclean soak to bring the oxidation to the surface. I’ve never tried an Oxyclean bath on acrylic or Perspex stems. With those, I usually just wipe the outside down with alcohol and do the inside with pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. The one thing you never want to do is soak the stems in alcohol. It could possibly cause “crazing” or cracks in the airway. Some

people even report stems breaking after soaking in alcohol.

Tip #1: The shank brush tool is great for cleaning tobacco residue from the bit. I find it does the job faster than just pipe cleaners.

I was hoping dipping regular, tapered pipe cleaners in alcohol would remove the discoloration from the airway and sterilize it. And it did, to an extent. After 10 pipe cleaners the airway was a little cleaner, but I could still see the old tobacco stain. I probably would have gone to my bristle pipe cleaners, but I didn’t The solution for this situation? I switched to a shank brush pipe tool. It’s ideal for cleaning the shank and  the tenon and airway of a pipe stem. I dip it in alcohol and run it through the stem until it comes out fairly clean. I follow that with pipe cleaners dipped in water.

The Royal Grain Stem Replacement. Maybe?

Initially I planned to have a stem made for the Royal Grain. Then I remembered the Preben Holm stem I had sitting in my desk. It’s a mismatched stem from a Søren freehand I bought in early August. I easily removed the broken tenon by inserted a drill bit into the airway by hand and twisting and pulling it out.

Tip #2: When buying pipes in “junktique” shops and malls, check the stems for stamps or logos. It will help you identify the pipes and may also tell you if the stem is the correct one for the pipe. I use mismatch stems as a point in talking the seller into lowering the price.

Black Vulcanite Preben Holm stem and a Perspex Ben Wade

Stems are usually made to fit the pipe it’s going with and I have never found one stem to perfectly fit a pipe other than the one it’s made for.

The Preben Holm stem fitted the Royal Grain. Maybe a tighter fit than I like, but it a fit and I can always work on the mortise or tenon to make it better. On top of that, a friend from one of the pipe forums, had a Ben Wade stem he is sending me. One way or the other I have a stem for the Royal Grain. Or, did I?

 

But Which Stem for Which Pipe?

So, there I was. Sitting with two clean and polished pipe bowls and two stems. I picked up the Perspex stem and inserted it back into the Martinique. And, the bowl almost slipped off the stem. The logo on the Perspex is the Ben Wade logo. This should fit.

I’m guessing that the fit was so tight at the start because both the mortise and the tenon was so dirty. Once the cleaning removed the residue, it became loose.

Just on a lark, I decided to try the Perspex stem on the Royal Grain and it slid into place easily and looked like it was made for it. I also liked the way the amber color matches to the darker finish of the Royal Grain.

I then inserted the vulcanite Preben Holm stem into the Martinique. It is a snug fit but not a tight fit. May not be the original stem, but it is close enough.

Part 1: Ben Wades in the House

© J. Gibson Creative Services. September 5, 2018