Tag Archives: fitting a stem

Restoring & Restemming an 1851 Ben Wade Silver Clad Cutty


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past months in preparation for our trip to visit Paresh and his family in Pune, India we talked about what pipes we would work on while visiting. We had the notion that it would be the first ‘International’ gathering of Pipe Restorers. After all Dal Stanton was coming from Bulgaria, Jeff from US, Paresh and Abha and family from India and I was coming from Canada. It was going to be a grand time of restoring and sharing our tips and processes. I brought along a potential stem for either a meerschaum that Paresh had inherited from his Grandfather or from an early Ben Wade Fancy cutty. In the course of our time there Paresh and I looked over the stem I brought with me and tried it on the meerschaum and the Ben Wade. We chose not to use the stem on the meerschaum and it was too large in diameter for the Ben Wade. We decided that I would bring it home and see what I had in my can of stems.

I took photos of the bowl prior to my cleanup and restemming. The pipe came to me with a bone tenon in the mortise. In the process of cleaning the pipe and working to remove the tenon it cracked off in the shank leaving a broken tenon stuck in the shank. Since it was a threaded tenon removing it would be a matter of drilling out the broken portion of the tenon. Other than that the briar was dirty and the varnish finish was spotty. The silver leaves around the rim top and shank end were also tarnished and dirty. There were some dents in the rim top. The shank would have to wait for checking until I removed the broken tenon. The silver shank cap had a series of hallmarks on the top left of the cap. There were three running from the left of the photo to the end of the shank on the right. The first hallmark is a passant lion in a cartouche which signifies that the band is silver and that it was crafted by a British silversmith. The second hallmark was a shield shaped cartouche with three towers in it – two on the wider part of the shield and one below toward the point. This hallmark identifies the city in England where the silver was crafted – in this case Newcastle. The third hallmark was a square cartouche with the capital letter “M” in the box. The “M” is a date letter that will give me the year of the making of the pipe.I turned to a website that I use for dating English silver hallmarks. It is a British Hallmark site that gives the information necessary to interpret the hallmarks on silver items made in Britain (https://www.925-1000.com/dlNewcastle.html). On a chart from silver made in Newcastle from 1702-1884 I found what I was looking for. I have included the chart below with the date letter circled in red.Armed with that information, it was time to start working on the pipe itself. I started by reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the first two cutting heads to take the cake back bare briar. I followed that by cleaning up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the walls of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of worn 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the silver edge of the cap folded into the bowl. I wanted the walls bare of cake so that I could check the walls for heat fissures or cracking. I cleaned out the inside of the shank and mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the swabs came out clean. I was quite surprised that the pipe was as clean as it was given its age and the condition of the cake in the bowl.I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to clean off the varnish on the outside of the bowl. I scrubbed it until the finish was natural briar and the grain began to come to the surface of the bowl. I cleaned the tarnish on the silver rim top cap and the shank end cap with a tarnish remover and silver polish. I removed darkening in the carved leaves and flowers on the silver. I scrubbed the silver with a cotton pad to remove the tarnish. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully.  I buffed the bowl with a microfiber cloth to raise a shine on the bowl and the silver. I took photos of the pipe bowl as it stood at this point in the restoration process. It is a beautiful pipe with an elegance that speaks of the years in which it was manufactured.  I set the stem aside and worked on the stem that I had chosen for a replacement. The amber colour and the flow of the colour in the stem make it a great candidate for an amber look alike replacement stem. Once the airway was drilled the diameter of the replacement tenon I used a tap to cut new threads in the airway of the stem to receive new tenon. I threaded the new tenon into the tapped airway in the stem and took photos at this point in the process. I glued the tenon in the stem with clear super glue and let the glue set. Once it had cured I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the new stem. I followed that by sanding the stem with 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches in the surface of the stem. I turned the stem onto the shank to get a feel for what the pipe would look like when it was completed. The following photos show the look of the finished pipe. I still need to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads and buff it to raise the shine. But I like the way the pipe is beginning to look.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry.  I carefully buffed the pipe bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I lightly buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to raise a shine. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing wheel to raise the shine. I polished the silver rim top cap and the band with a jeweler’s cloth once more, then hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This 168+ year old restemmed and restored Ben Wade Cutty is really a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out against the silver adornments. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black acrylic stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful straight Cutty that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pipe will be going back to Paresh in Pune, India very soon. I am excited to hear what he thinks of this beauty. Thanks for walking through the restoration and restemming with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

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Restoring a Cased 1906 JW Straight Shank, Amber Stemmed Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

It seemed to have been a time for taking a look at unique pipes. Before I left for my work trip to Nepal and India I received another email from a reader of the blog in Australia regarding an old 1906 pipe that had purchased. I am including a series of emails here at the beginning of this blog for the information that he included.

Steve, I saw (only photos) of an antique pipe – briar bulldog from 1906, with sterling silver mount and amber stem. It looked in good condition – bowl needed reaming and cleaning. I have asked for more photos of the amber stem. Would you be able to restore the pipe for me if I do go ahead with the purchase.

Best Regards, Ray

I wrote him back and in the course of our conversation via email I decided to take on this unique restoration if indeed he purchased it. He immediately sent several more emails about the pipe giving me more information and convincing me even more of the need to take on this project.

Hi Steve, Thanks for offering to make an exception and to help out with the restoration. I will send photos of the pipe if I decide to go ahead with the purchase. I have really enjoyed reading your (and the other guests’) articles on pipe restoration.

There is a sense of wonderment seeing these black/darkened objects with caked bowls reveal their lovely grain and colour – like old paintings restored to their original colours… 

If we do go ahead, please understand I am in NO HURRY for this job to get done – you will be doing me a HUGE favour. I’ll keep you posted.

Best Regards, Ray

After that email a few weeks went by and I received another email from Ray letting me know that he purchased the pipe and had received it. He included some photos of the pipe.

Hi Steve, I received the pipe today – Here are some photos. It seems in pretty decent shape – bowl needs reaming and rim needs cleaning. There are a few minor issues with the bowl and shank. The amber stem has some chatter and a rather small area next to the silver mount needing a “fill”. The case is in better shape than I thought from the photos I saw, and my contacts should be able to advise me on how to restore it.

I don’t want a “new” look – it is over 100 years old, and I’m happy for it to reflect its age. I will be posting the pipe to you in the next few days. Please ask if you have any queries or need more photos… My thanks, in advance,

Ray

The pipe arrived in Vancouver just a few days before I left for my trip. I looked it over and wrote to Ray about what I thought I needed to do. He responded that he was looking forward to seeing what I could do with it.

I have included the pictures Ray sent me below. For me they only added to the temptation to do the restoration on this old timer. Even though I have a huge backlog of pipes this one was very intriguing to me. There was something interesting and even compelling about this old pipe. The age and condition interested me as did the brand. I am unfamiliar with the maker of the pipe but it spoke to me. The case was leather and though in somewhat rough condition it had protected the pipe well. The inside lining on the top of the case read “Sterling Silver” over “Vienna Make”. There was no other makers name or markings on the case to help with the identification. Ray included close up photos of the bowl and rim top. It showed clearly that the bowl had a thick cake with a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The amber stem was in decent condition though there were some deep tooth marks in the surface ahead of the button on both the top and underside.Ray also included the following photos of the bowl from various angles. The first shows the front of the bowl with a deep nick in briar. The second photo shows a small nick in the briar just ahead of the silver shank cap. The third photo shows a deep nick on the left side of the heel of the bowl. The fourth photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank and band. The week I returned from Nepal and India I decided to start working on this old pipe. I figure it is a good week to start on this 1906 and also the 1919 AGE pipe. The bowl had some deep nicks and dings in the finish that Roy had photographed clearly. The exterior of the pipe was dirty with grime and grit rubbed into the surface of the finish as well as in the twin rings around the bowl cap. The silver band was tarnished and dirty but the stamping and hallmarks were quite readable. The rim top was thickly lava coated. The inner edge of the bowl looked very good. The stamping on the left side of the shank was readable. It read J.W. in a Diamond. The silver band was also stamped and read AJC. There were also hallmarks under the AJC stamp as shown in the photo above. The stem sat well in the shank. The stem had some tooth marks in front of the button on both sides as Roy had shown in the photos. The silver cap on the end of the stem was tarnished by otherwise clean. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim as well as the stem to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and the lava on top and inner edge. The oxidation on the silver band and the tooth damage to the stem and button edges on both sides of the stem. I also took a photo of the shank and the band to show the stampings in the silver. I took a photo of the stem removed from the shank to show the condition of the metal tenon. The pipe has a very unique metal mortise lining and tenon that are part of the silver shank and stem cap. The mortise and tenon were both very dirty but the alignment was fine.I received another email from Ray in Australia – seems that we were both doing research on the brand to try and figure out the purveyance. Here is his email and the information that he included regarding the brand.

Steve, I’ve been trying to research the origin of the pipe. The case has “Vienna Made”  – does this refer to the case or the pipe? There are 2 marks on the shank. “AJC” on the silver mount very likely is the mark of Alfred Walter Cheshire of Birmingham. He registered his mark in 1893/4, so the date ties in. “JW” on the shank – I can’t find a pipemaker with those initials either in Vienna, Austria, Birmingham or the UK.

However, there is a pipe mounter JF Walter of Birmingham working from 1890’s – could “JW” refer to him, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

I marvel (all the time) at the historical information you manage to uncover on the pipes/pipemakers/pipe merchants you restore. Perhaps you may have access to further archival information on the possible maker of this pipe.

Cheers, Ray

With Ray’s work behind me, I checked my usual sources on I found absolutely no information on the AGE brand. There was no info on the Pipedia website or on the Pipephil site on the brand. I also checked on Who Made That Pipe by Wilczak and Colwell. There was no information there on the brand either. So my usual sources came up with nothing. Now I needed to confirm the information that Ray had found.

I turned first to a website on English silver marks. I was specifically looking for information on the A.J.C. stamp on the silver to help identify the silversmith. I did a screen capture of the section on the A.J.C. stamp matching the one on the silver band on the pipe in question. Here is the link to the website: http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilvermarksXA2.html. It identifies the AJC as Alfred James Chesire rather than Alfred Walter Chesire as noted by Ray. There is also an address for the silversmith in Birmingham, England.As Ray noted above, there was no pipe maker in Birmingham with the JW in a diamond as a mark. The shank mark did not tell me much. However, his find on JF Walter a Birmingham pipemounter is certainly a good possibility.

Now it was time to try to figure out the date of the pipe from the hallmarks on the band. I examined them with a lens and found the following information. The first hallmark was an Anchor in a shield signifying that the silversmithing was in Birmingham, England. The second hallmark was a lion passant in a shield. The emblem connects the pipe to London as well as other British assay offices. It also identifies the band as being silver. The third hallmark was the leter”g” in a shield that would give the date of the pipe.

I knew now that the pipe was London Made with a silver hallmark identifying a London silversmith identified by the A.J.C. stamp noted above as Alfred James Cheshire. The only thing left to fully learn about the pipe from the stamp was the date to be determined from the “g” stamp.

I turned to a website that I regularly use to identify the dates on English made hallmarks. The link is: http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilverhallmarksBIR.html.The screen capture of the chart below shows the dates and letter marks from 1900-1917.

Ray had correctly identified the date of the pipe as being made in 1906 confirmed by the chart on the left. I always love when the pieces all come together and I can arrive at both a manufacturer and a date for the pipe.

Armed with this information I turned to work on the pipe. I started by cleaning up the silver with silver polish to remove the tarnish from the shank end. I rubbed the material on the shank ferrule/band and polished it with a cotton pad to remove both the tarnish and polish the silver. I reamed out the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the first two cutting heads to remove the cake. I wanted to see the inside of the bowl to check on damage to the internals of the chamber. I cleaned up the remnants of cake and scraped the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall knife and then sanded the bowl insides with sandpaper on a dowel. Afterwards I examined the bowl and could see that the walls were solid and that inner edge of the bowl was in excellent condition. I cleaned the internals of the pipe and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the debris inside the metal mortise insert. I scraped the mortise walls with a dental spatula to remove the tars that had hardened on the walls. To deal with the darkened and damaged rim top I polished it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper and polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with 1500-12000 grit pads as suggested by Paresh on my recent trip to Pune, India. I have to say that is working very well. I wanted to polish out the scratches so that I could work on matching the stain on the rest of the pipe and finish that portion of the restoration. I cleaned out the damaged areas on the front of the bowl cap and on the left underside of the shank. I filled in the areas with a drop of clear superglue. When the repairs had cured I used a needle file to smooth out the repaired areas. I worked on them until they were smoothed out and close to the surface of the surrounding briar. I followed that by sanding the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and blend them into the briar. I used a reddish, brown (Cherry) and black stain pen to blend a stain to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. I rubbed it into the surface of the repaired areas on the front of the bowl cap and on the left underside of the shank. I blended the stains with an alcohol dampened cotton pad. I was able to get a perfect match to the bowl colour.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm, working it into the grain of the briar. The balm enlivens, refreshes and protects the briar. In this case it brought life back into the old piece of briar. While some of the dents and scratches were gone others remained. I left the remaining dents in the briar as ongoing testimony to the journey of this pipe. I only wish that it could tell its story. I let the balm sit on the briar and then buffed it out with a soft cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I started the clean up work on the stem by polishing the silver end cap on the amber stem with a silver polish and tarnish remover. It did not take too much scrubbing to remove the tarnish and give the cap a shine. The stem had deep tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. I filled them in with clear superglue and set the stem aside to cure. Once the repairs cured I used a needle file to redefine the button edge and also smooth out the repairs to the dent. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sand paper and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the sanding marks in the amber. I polished the amber stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I have been trying wet sanding with all of the pads after discussions with Paresh while we were in Pune, India. It does seem to give the stem a good shine and reduce the scratching. I finished the polishing with Before & After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine polishes. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing wheel to raise the shine. I polished the band with a jeweler’s cloth once more, then hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This 113 year old JW Amber Stemmed Bulldog is a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out while hiding the repaired areas-+. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful straight Bulldog that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pipe will be going back to Ray in Australia next week. I am excited to hear what he thinks of this beauty. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

Restoring a 1919 AGE EXTRA Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

Before I left for my work trip to Nepal and India I received an email from a reader of the blog regarding an old 1919 pipe that had come into his possession. I include the first email here for the information that he included.

I realize that you must get hundreds of requests to work on peoples pipes, and that your back log is most likely prohibitive in my case, but I do have a request for your work.

I’ve been following your site for some time now and have become a fan of your work. Many of your tips and photos have helped me on my path of repairing pipes. This pipe that I’ve recently purchased is too precious and too well made for my skill level.

My pipe is a 1919 AGE Extra Bulldog, hallmarked London. Naturally there is the added significance that this year is its 100th birthday. I would like to request a full restore (as much as could be done) to ensure it makes it to see its 200th birthday, although I won’t be around to see it. The idea of this humble pipe, in my care, making it well past my time here on the planet is breathtaking in its scope.

I appreciate the time you’ve given to my request and I hope to hear back from you.

Kind Regards, Kerry

He included the pictures that follow as part of the temptation to do the restoration on this old timer. It is a good thing he did because I am not currently taking on any more work. I have a backlog of pipes to work on that will take me at least the rest of the next year of more to complete. However, there was something interesting and even compelling about this old pipe. The age and condition interested me as did the brand. I am unfamiliar with the AGE brand but the brand spoke to me. A few emails went back and forth and I decided to have him send it to me to have a look at the pipe and decide what I wanted to do. It arrived shortly before I left for Nepal. I looked it over and made a decision to take it on as a project and see what I could do with it. It was an intriguing looking pipe that is for sure. The bowl had a lot of nicks and dings in the finish. The exterior of the pipe was dirty with grime and grit rubbed into the surface of the finish. The silver band was tarnished and dirty but the stamping and hallmarks were quite readable. The rim top was badly damaged. The inner edge of the bowl was damaged and the bowl was slightly out of round. The exterior was also damaged. The stamping on the left side of the shank was readable. It read AGE in an oval over EXTRA. The silver band also read AGE in an oval over EXTRA. There were also hallmarks as shown above. There was also a diamond with a banner and a R.J. stamp on it. The stem would not sit correctly in the shank. The stem had some tooth marks in front of the button on both sides of the stem and some tooth chatter on both surfaces. There was an inlaid silver O on the left side of the saddle stem. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim as well as the stem to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived. You can see the damage to the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The oxidation on the silver band and the tooth chatter and damage to the stem and button edges on both sides of the stem. I also took a photo of the shank and the band to show the stamping in the silver. I took a photo of the stem removed from the shank to show the inner tube and the condition of the tenon and tube. The build up on the tenon was part of the reason for the stem not seating in the shank.The maker of the brand was a bit of a mystery to me. Checking my usual sources I found absolutely no information on the AGE brand. There was no info on the Pipedia website or on the Pipephil site on the brand. I also checked on Who Made That Pipe by Wilczak and Colwell. There I found two possible makers fro the brand. They are shown in the screen capture below.The two options were La Bruyere 1918 a French made briar and also Salmon & Gluckstein an English made briar. The hallmarks on the band seemed to point to an English connection so I did some more looking online to identify the company who made the pipe.

I turned first to a website on English silver marks. I was specifically looking for information on the R.J. stamp on the silver to help identify the silversmith. I did a screen capture of the section on the R.J. stamp matching the one on the silver band on the pipe in question. Here is the link to the website: http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilvermarksXRDUE.html. It identifies the R.J. in a rectangle and a lozenge as the mark of Reuben Jordan. They were active in London. The page also gave a link to a Makers, Pipe Mounters Marks page.I followed the link on that page to the section on Tobacconists, etc. On that page I could see that the Reuben Jordan – London silversmith did bands for Imperial Tobacco Co. in London. That brought this part of the investigation to a close in terms of the pipe maker in question taken from the silver hallmarks. http://www.silvercollection.it/DICTIONARYTOBACCONISTR.html Now I turned to do some work on the information given by Who Made That Pipe. Their identification of the brand as having made by Salmon & Gluckstein brand name was what I wanted to work on at this point. It was clearly an English made pipe as determined from the above information I had found thus far with the hallmarks and silver makers marks. I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what he had on the brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s2.html). I did a screen capture of the listing on the brand and have included it below.From the information found about the brand on that page I learned that it was a long time brand in London and that it had been bought out by Imperial Tobacco Co. in 1902. Since that was prior to the purported date of this pipe it made sense that it was made by Imperil Tobacco Co. The brand continued under their manufacture until 1955 when the brand was dropped. The pipe fit within the time frame of the stamping on the silver band.

I then turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Salmon_%26_Gluckstein) to further read about the brand. The article on Pipeia quote from Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes. It read in full as follows:

Salmon & Gluckstein was an early 20th century English distribution chain, with its own pipe catalog, probably made by La Bruyère. It had over 100 shops in England, which after being purchased by Imperial Tobacco Co., changed their name to Bewlay.

The Pipedia link actually put the two brands from Who Made That Pipe both the Salmon & Gluckstein connection and the La Bruyere come together with the purchase of the company by Imperial Tobacco Co. Interestingly it also ties the brands to a brand I am very familiar with- Bewlay. Given that information it appears that the pipe was a brand of the Imperial Tobacco Co. and linked to the Salmon & Gluckstein brand.

Now it was time to try to figure out the date of the pipe from the hallmarks on the band. I examined them with a lens and found the following information. The first hallmark was a lower case “d”  in a shield. This was the date letter on the pipe. The second hallmark was a lion passant in a shield. The emblem connects the pipe to London assay offices. It also identifies the band as being silver. The third hallmark was a leopard’s head uncrowned which identifies the pipe as English made between 1821 and the present.

I knew now that the pipe was London Made with a silver hallmark identifying a London silversmith identified by the R.J. stamp noted above as Reuben Jordan. The only thing left to fully learn about the pipe from the stamp was the date to be determined from the “d” stamp.

I turned to a website that I regularly use to identify the dates on English made hallmarks. The link is: http://www.silvercollection.it/englishsilverhallmarks.html. The screen capture of the chart on the left shows the dates and letter marks from 1916-1935.

Kerry had correctly identified the date of the pipe as being made in 1919. I always love when the pieces all come together and I can arrive at both a manufacturer and a date for the pipe.

Armed with this information I turned to work on the pipe. I started by cleaning up the silver with silver polish to remove the tarnish from the band. I rubbed the material on the band and polished it with a cotton pad to remove both the tarnish and polish the pipe.

I reamed out the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the first three cutting heads to remove the cake. The bowl needed some work at the rim as it was out of round and I needed to see what I was dealing with so I took it back to bare briar. I cleaned up the remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall knife and then sanded the bowl insides with sandpaper on a dowel. Afterwards I examined the bowl and could see that the walls were solid and that with a little work I could bring the bowl close to round. I cleaned the internals of the pipe with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the debris inside the mortise and the airway into the bowl and the stem. I scraped the mortise walls with a dental spatula to remove the tars that had hardened on the walls. To deal with the damaged rim top I topped it lightly on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage and remove the roughness of the rim. It did not take too much work to remove the damage and give me a flat surface to work with in the restoration.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with 1500-12000 grit pads as suggested by Paresh on my recent trip to Pune, India. I have to say that is working very well. I wanted to polish out the scratches so that I could work on matching the stain on the rest of the pipe and finish that portion of the restoration. I steamed out the dents around the bowl sides and cap with a wet cloth and a hot butter knife. I was able to reduce many of them. As is usual when steaming out the dents with a knife and stem there was some discolouration on the bowl sides that would generally disappear with polishing. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I rinsed the bowl off with warm water under the tap and dried it with soft cloth. I used a dark brown (Walnut) and black stain pen to blend a stain to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. I rubbed it into the surface of the polished rim top and blended it with an alcohol dampened cotton pad. I was able to get a perfect match to the bowl colour.I polished the silver on the band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth. I worked it over the surface trying to get the tarnish from the stamping. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm, working it into the grain of the briar. The balm enlivens, refreshes and protects the briar. In this case it brought life back into the old piece of briar. While some of the dents and scratches were gone others remained. I left the remaining dents in the briar as ongoing testimony to the journey of this pipe. I only wish that it could tell its story. I let the balm sit on the briar and then buffed it out with a soft cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. It had deep tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. I painted the stem surface with the flame of a lighter to lift the dents in the vulcanite. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth chatter in the surface and cleanup around the dents in preparation for the repairs. I cleaned out the dents with a cotton swab and alcohol. I filled them in with clear superglue and set the stem aside to cure. Once the repairs cured I used a needle file to redefine the button edge and also smooth out the repairs to the dent. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sand paper and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the sanding marks in the vulcanite. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I have been trying wet sanding with all of the pads after discussions with Paresh while we were in Pune, India. It does seem to give the stem a good shine and reduce the scratching. I finished the polishing with Before & After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine polishes. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing wheel to raise the shine. I polished the band with a jeweler’s cloth once more, then hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This 100 year old AGE EXTRA Bulldog is a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown and black stains makes the grain stand out while hiding the dents that remain. I left the remaining dents in the briar to leave the story of the pipe’s travels intact. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful straight Bulldog that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pipe will be going back to Kerry next week. I am excited to hear what he thinks of this beauty. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

 

Restoring an Unbranded Italian Bent Billiard # 908


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring the sixth Dunhill from my Mumbai Bonanza find, a 1965 DUNHILL SHELL #56 F/T and now this is a no name smooth ¼ bent Billiard from the same lot. This may be a ‘no name’ pipe, but something about the pipe, like the feel in hand, quality of grain and the finish screams of quality and added to that the design elements, are all pointers to a pipe made by a reputed pipe maker.

I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a trash collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!!!!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot.        This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, Charatan’s, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had hit a huge jack pot!!! Hence, I like to call this find as “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The pipe that I decided to work on from this find is an unbranded slightly bent billiard, and is indicated in magenta colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the underside of the shank with the shape number 908 at the end of the shank and stem junction. On the right side of the shank it is stamped as IMPORTED BRIAR in a semi circle over ITALY in the center. There is no other stamping anywhere on the stummel. Even the stem is devoid of any stamping. My attempts to identify, with pinpoint accuracy, the maker of this pipe have come to a naught due to lack of any tell tale stampings hinting at the carver. However, the IMPORTED BRIAR stampings are generally associated with pipes designated for American markets and the COM stamp ITALY, is self explanatory. My appreciation is that this pipe was made by an Italian firm as a Basket pipe for an American pipe shop. If any of the readers has any viable input on this pipe, you are most welcome to share it with the community in form of comments on rebornpipes.com.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber which has been reamed and maintained at a thickness of a dime!!! This indicates that this pipe has seen heavy usage but has also been well cared for. In order to comment on the condition of the walls of the chamber, I need to ream the cake down to the bare briar. The rim top surface is covered with overflowing lava through which the inner rim edge appears to be intact. Also through the overflow of lava, a few dents and dings are visible towards the right and back of the rim. Similarly, the outer edge of the rim is slightly damaged on the right side in 4 ‘O’ clock direction. There is a sweet odor to the chamber.The stummel boasts of some beautiful mixed pattern of bird’s eye and cross grain all around. It is dirty with grime, oils and tars covering the stummel surface and added to this are a few dents and dings to the sides and front of the stummel. Surprisingly (because being an unbranded pipe, I expected more!), I could see only one fill (circled in yellow) on the left side of the stummel, another indicator to the fact that this is a quality pipe made by a quality conscious Italian carver. The stummel has an orange hued stain and appears to be coated with lacquer, both of which are not my favorite finish. These will have to go, period! I have the experience of working on a Dr. Grabow, OMEGA and it was not easy to get rid of the lacquer coating. The mortise shows heavy accumulation of dried tars mixed with ash and remnants of tobacco, making the flow of air through the mortise laborious. This will have to be cleaned and refreshed. The vulcanite stem shows major damage to the button end on both upper and lower surface. The upper surface has a through hole in the bite zone, including bite marks to the button while deep tooth marks are visible in the bite zone and button. The button on either surface will have to be sharpened and made crisp. The tenon end is crusted with dried out tars and grime. The horizontal slot shows accumulation of remnants of dried out oils and tars, blocking the air flow through the stem airway. The fit of the stem in to the mortise is loose and will need to be tightened for a nice snug fit. The stem is heavily oxidized; however, the quality of vulcanite is good. The bend on the stem does not match with the plane of the stummel and profile of the pipe. This will have to be addressed. The stem repair, then, will be a major issue to address and I shall begin this project by addressing the stem repairs first. THE PROCESS
As decided during my initial appreciation of the condition of the pipe, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface and follow it up with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of the oxidation while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I cleaned out the tenon and the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The grunge had hardened to such an extent that I had to use the dental spatula to dig out the dried out oils and tars. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I wiped the stem with a little Extra virgin olive oil to hydrate the stem surface. Firstly, I inserted a pipe cleaner smeared in Vaseline in to the stem air way. This prevents the mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal from permeating in to the air way and blocking it subsequently. I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and lip and set it aside for curing over night. Before moving ahead, I would like to mention here that I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel cleaning. With size 1 and 2 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. It is always a big relief to find the walls of the chamber to be solid with no damage. This was followed by gently scraping away the lava overflow from the rim top surface with my fabricated knife. I cleaned the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Even though the internals were nice and clean, the sweet smell in the chamber was all pervading. I shall address this issue with an alcohol bath before cleaning the external surface of the stummel. Once the cake was removed and the chamber walls cleaned, I noticed that the draught hole was not aligned to the center of the chamber, but skewed towards the right as you hold the pipe while smoking. I was in two minds; should I correct this alignment by re-drilling the air way through the mortise or let it be. The thick cake indicates that this was a fantastic smoker and a favorite of the previous steward, so should I tamper with its smoking characteristics? Well, once I am through with refurbishing, I shall load a bowl and test it for myself before deciding further course of action. Here are pictures of what I have been discussing above. It was now time for me to address the issue of the sweet smell in the pipe. I stuffed the chamber with a cotton ball. I made a wick out of one cotton ball, wound it around a folded pipe cleaner and inserted it tightly in to the mortise. Using a syringe, I topped the chamber with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and set it aside on a pipe stand for the alcohol to draw out all the residual oils and tars from the mortise and the chamber. About half an hour later, I refilled the chamber with alcohol and set it over night. By next evening, the alcohol had drawn all the stubborn oils and tars from the mortise and chamber and these were trapped in the cotton ball and wick. I gave a final cleaning to the mortise using pipe cleaners and q-tips dipped in alcohol. The old smells are history and the pipe now is fresh and clean.I followed up the internal cleaning with external refreshing of the stummel surface. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel and the rim top to remove the overflow of lava from these surfaces. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks clean, but the orange stain now stands out prominently and so does the single fill which I had observed earlier has now increased to four!!!!!!! I checked the fills and realized that it had gone soft and would have to be filled afresh. But before that, I need to remove the orange stain and lacquer coating to let the natural briar shine through and breathe freely. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper, I sand the entire stummel surface to first remove the lacquer coating and thence the orange stain. It took a considerable time to remove the lacquer coat. At the end, I still observed a few patches on the stummel surface where the old stain was still visible. I cleaned up all these patches by wiping the entire stummel with a cotton swab dipped in pure acetone. The stummel is now completely rid of the lacquer coating and the obnoxious orange stain and beautiful swirls of bird’s eye and cross grains now peek through the rough surface. This clean up made the dents and dings to the rim top surface and the outer edge all the more prominent and these are the issues which I tackle next. On a piece of 220 grit piece of sand paper, I top the rim surface, checking frequently the progress that was being made. Once I was satisfied that the dings and dents to the rim surface has been addressed, I worked the outer rim edge to address the dents and dings visible. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger, I created a light bevel on the outer rim edge which masked the dents nicely. I am very pleased with the progress made so far; the stummel has been rid of the orange stain and lacquer, the internals of the stummel are clean and fresh, the dents and dings to the rim top and outer edge has been taken care of and the stem fill has hardened solid. The next issue that I tackled was the issue of newly discovered fills which hitherto fore were hidden under all the stain and lacquer coating. Using the sharp point of my fabricated knife, I gouge out the old fill and replace it with a fresh fill of CA super glue and briar dust. I always over fill the holes so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I set the stummel aside to cure. Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way), I resorted to sanding the entire stummel surface using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper and follow it up by further sanding with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. This step addressed three issues; firstly matching and blending the fill with the rest of the surface, secondly, the dents and dings on the stummel were evened out and lastly, the annoying orange stain and lacquer coating was completely eliminated. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 girt pads. The stummel looks great with the grains showing themselves in great splendor. I really like this natural finish to the briar!!!! This is how the stummel appears at this stage. Next, I rub a small quantity of ‘Before and After Restoration Balm’ 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 beautiful bird’s eye and cross grains on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. I was contemplating if at all I should stain this stummel or let the fills be seen as part of its past life; a friend of mine who has taken up to enjoying a pipe, dropped in and saw this pipe. He loved the grains, the shape and heft of this beauty and immediately requested it to be passed on to him. I discussed with him about the stain and he was keen to keep with the natural finish! Since this pipe was being passed on to him, his desire prevailed. This look to the stummel attracted him the most. I am sure that after the final polish and waxing, the grains will be further accentuated. I set the stummel aside and turned my attention to the stem repair. The fill had cured nicely and I moved ahead and began the process of filing and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400, 600 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rehydrate the vulcanite. The repairs have blended in very well and the stem now looks shiny black and beautiful. The internals of the stem was once again cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners to clear the airway of all the debris resulting due to the sanding. The finished stem is shown below. The next stem issue that I addressed was the loose fit of the tenon in to the mortise. To address this issue, I heated the tenon with the flame of a Bic lighter; moving the flame constantly, till the tenon was pliable. I had pre-selected a drill bit which was a tad larger than the tenon hole and gradually inserted it in to the tenon and set it aside to cool down. Once the tenon had cooled down, I removed the drill bit and tried the seating of the tenon in to the mortise. The fit was perfect.Before moving on to the final polishing and wax coating, I had to address the issue of the bend to the stem. Somehow, the existing bend does not suit the profile of the stummel. I exchanged pictures of the stem and pipe with Mr. Steve and he suggested that the stem needs to bend more. I inserted a pipe cleaner through the stem’s air way and heated the stem with a hot air gun till pliable. Using the slot end of the pipe cleaner, I bend the stem eyeballing it in to desired shape. The two precautionary measures which are required to be ensured; firstly, inserting a pipe cleaner in to the stem’s airway prevents the surface from collapsing inwards. Secondly, while bending the stem, heat only up to the place from where the bending is intended. I did try two different bend angles, but that did not seem correct. Third try was successful and the stem now has a nice bend to it and the pipe feels very comfortable in the mouth. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this handsome pipe could share the secret of its birth and its past life with all of us…if only!! Cheers.

PS: The freshly refurbished pipe was handed over to the new Steward (to use the term coined by my friend, Mr. Dal Stanton) who immediately loaded his favorite tobacco, LANE 1Q, and smoked it with me. He was very happy with the way it smoked and appreciated the easy and smooth draw. This reconfirmed my appreciation that I should not tamper with the alignment of the shank air way.

Reclaiming a Mastercraft “Hand Made” Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

To date, I have completed the restoration of nine pipes from my “Mumbai Bonanza” lot. In this lot, I found one pipe that was pretty battered up and in a very sorry state. It reminded me of an “Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor” from my grandfather’s collection that I had restored some time back. Here is the link to the write up that was posted on rebornpipes.com; https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/12/reclaiming-a-yello-bole-imperial-carburator-vest-pipe/

If at that point in time I felt that the Imperial was in a bad shape, holding and looking at this Mastercraft pipe in my hand was gut wrenching to say the least!!!! Believe you me readers, every time I selected a pipe from the Mumbai lot to work on, the first pipe that I would always pick was this pipe!!!!! I was in love with the shape of the pipe, the feel in my hand (which are quite large by Asian standards), the grains peeking out at me from under all that grime, the heft …I could go on singing praises about this pipe. But in spite of all these eulogizing, I always ended up returning it to the box as a future project. Why? Well, the answer lay in the condition of the pipe and the colossal investment of time required restoring it. I knew that this project would test all that I had learned till date and then some more, without the certainties of the end result!! But now I decided to complete this project, however long it may take and whatever the end results.

For those readers who have missed out on my previous work, I was fortunate enough to have heeded to the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of  Charatan’s Belvedere, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.

The tenth pipe that I decided to work on from this find is a straight pot and is indicated in yellow colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the left side of the shank in a shield as Mastercraft in sentence form over HAND MADE in block capital letter. The right side of the shank is stamped in a straight line as AGED IMPORTED BRIAR in block capital letter. If at all there was any other stamping on the right side, it has been consigned to history due to severe damage further down the shank. The stem is apparently devoid of any logo stamp as I see it now. If at all there ever was a logo, it has completely worn out/ obliterated. Now coming to the research of this brand, which is my first, I referred to rebornpipes.com and as expected, Mr. Steve has extensively researched this pipe and has even posted some interesting old catalogs and hierarchy of the pipe lines from this brand. Here is the link;

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/23/a-mastercraft-pipe-lines-hierarchy/

I surfed further and found an interesting post on restoration of a Mastercraft Executive Choice by the master restorer himself, which amongst other details, included two photos from the 1969 RTDA Almanac which show a list of various MC pipe lines. The pipe currently on my work table is the very first one in the list and was the top most in MC hierarchy of pipe lines and also the most expensive of all MC pipes retailing for $ 10!!!!! Here is the link for the essay and I urge all readers to give it a read.

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/22/learned-a-bit-of-american-pipe-history-mastercraft-executive-choice-pot-restored/

Thus, I can now safely conclude that this pipe is from the late 1960s, had been a top-of-the-line product for MC and retailed as the most expensive pipe in its inventory!!!! Well, after this search, I feel the additional pressure in doing complete justice to this pipe to the best of my abilities and that I will have to up my game a notch higher.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
I really do not understand where I should start from, which damaged inch of the pipe I should describe first, let alone tackle and about which I am not even thinking at this point in time!!!!! But to finish, I have to make a beginning and let me just start with the chamber and the rim.

A thick layer of cake can be seen in the chamber. The rim top surface is covered in thick overflow of lava, okay; consider that as VERY thick, which has bubbled on to the rim top and further oozed over on to the stummel surface. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely (thankfully readers cannot see or hear me muttering silent prayers!). The less I speak about the edges of the rim, the better it will be for my morale. Every millimeter of the outer edge has been damaged by striking against table end by the previous steward, however I must thank the previous steward for ensuring an even all round damage…lol. The inner rim condition does not look too promising either! I suspect a charred rim in 7 o’clock direction (when held from the stem end) and is marked in red circle. However, once the cake has been removed, I shall be certain about the extent of this charring and any other damage (praying again, in fact I haven’t stopped praying since I began and unlikely to stop till I finish!). Another issue which I have noticed is that the briar in the heel around the draught hole has formed a valley of sort (marked by yellow arrows), probably caused due to repeated and rigorous thrusting of a pipe cleaner through and beyond the draught hole over the years. Why would you clean the mortise and airway in this fashion??The most significant damage is seen to the stummel. It appears that this pipe has seen active duty and has been extensively and actively used against Viet Cong by the previous steward with great success…..LOL!! Every inch of the stummel surface is peppered with a large number of deep scratches, dents and dings. The entire left side of the stummel has prominent nicks extending from the rim top right down to the foot of the bowl. There are deep road rash marks on the right side of the shank just below the stamping, extends over to the underside and towards the shank end and further extends over to the stem for about an inch from the tenon end towards the button end (marked in pastel blue circle). The damage to the shank end and stem is so perfectly aligned that it appears that the damage was sustained while the stem was attached to the shank. In short, the stummel has sustained massive damage over the years due to both, rough usage and subsequent careless storage. It is covered in oils, dirt and grime of all these years of smoking and subsequent uncared for storage. The stummel surface is sticky to the touch, giving the stummel a dull, lifeless and lackluster appearance. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely densely packed straight grains can be seen on the sides and shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The mortise is blocked with dried gunk, adversely affecting both the airflow and the seating of the tenon in to the mortise. The stem is also an equal disaster like the stummel with road rash marks on the right towards the tenon end. There is a round patch nearer to the button which appears to be a result of melting of the vulcanite. In all probability it had come in close contact with either a burning cigarette or some sort of a flame. It seems that the previous Steward used softie bit on his pipes as heavy oxidation can be seen where the bit was used. The bite zone, including the button edges shows dental compressions on both upper and lower surfaces. The button edges will have to be reconstructed and sharpened. The stem does not sit flush with the shank end and also the stem diameter around the road rash area has scrapped off resulting in a mismatch. This stem diameter will have to be rebuilt and I expect that once the mortise has been cleaned up, seating of the stem in the mortise would improve. The horizontal slot with a round center shows accumulated oils and tars. The stem surface shows signs of heavy oxidation. THE PROCESS
As decided during my initial appreciation of the condition of the pipe, I start this project by tackling the stem first. I flame the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentation to the surface and follow it up with sanding the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This helps in getting rid of the oxidation while providing a smooth surface for the intended fills to reconstruct the damaged bite zone on both surfaces and also the button edges. I wiped the stem surface, particularly the damaged button end, with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove any traces of dirt and grime. I cleaned out the tenon and the internals of the stem with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once I was satisfied with the internal cleaning, to revitalize the vulcanite and to have a fair idea of the progress made, I wiped the stem with a little Extra Virgin Olive oil. When I looked at the tenon end of the stem, I realized the right portion of the stem, as seen from above, was not as round as the left and would need a fill so as to bring it flush with the shank end. However, I would have to fine tune the sanding of the fills on both shank end as well as the stem simultaneously in order to achieve a perfect flush fit. The portion that would require a fill is marked in yellow.I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and carefully applied it over the damaged bite zone on both surfaces, the side and lip and set it aside for curing over night. The mix was applied along the circumference of the tenon end stem which had been scrapped. I had applied this mix in sufficient thickness which would help during the filing and sanding to match the fills with the stem surface and shaping the button.While the stem repair was set aside to cure, I moved ahead to deal with the stummel cleaning. With size 3 and 4 head of a PipNet reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. The walls of the chamber show a few heat lines, nothing serious, but they are present. These heat lines and the ridges on the bottom surface of the heel will be addressed later. This was followed by gently scraping away the lava overflow from the rim top surface with my fabricated knife. I cleaned the mortise by scraping away at the dried gunk with my fabricated spatula and followed it up with further cleaning using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The suspected charring that I had appreciated early on is now confirmed. The rim has thinned out considerably above the draught hole. The inner rim edge is also uneven. I shall be addressing these issues too subsequently.

I followed the cleaning of the chamber with the cleaning up of the shank, mortise and the air way. Using hard bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, I ran a few through the mortise. This moistened the hardened grungy depositions of all the oils and tars in the mortise. Thereafter, using my fabricated dental spatula, I scraped out all the accumulated oils and tars from the shank. The following picture hints at the degree of the grunge deposition that I was dealing with. I continued the mortise cleaning regime with shank brushes dipped in alcohol. However, the pipe cleaners continued to come out dirty and soiled unabated. This would need application of some serious cleaning process using salt and alcohol treatment.I rolled some cotton in to a wick and wound it around a pipe cleaner and inserted it inside the mortise up to and through the draught hole. Next, I packed some cotton in to the chamber and topped it with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and set it aside for the time being. About twenty minutes later, I topped it again with alcohol and set it aside overnight for the alcohol to draw out all the tars and oils from the chamber walls and the cotton to trap the drawn out gunk. I must clarify here that even though it is recommended to use ‘Kosher Salt’, plain cotton and alcohol works with exactly the same effectiveness, but at nearly ¼ the cost of Kosher Salt!! So, in case someone else is paying, go ahead with using Kosher salt, otherwise cotton and alcohol works just fine! By next day evening, the alcohol and cotton had fulfilled its intended task. I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise for a final clean and it came out……well, soiled black and dirty! The gunk and grime in this pipe was stubborn, indeed. I again went through the entire regime followed earlier to clean the mortise and was surprised to find the amount of grunge that was scraped out again. The crud that was extracted and the number of pipe cleaners used after the alcohol bath, as can be seen in the photographs, bears testimony to the extent of apathy the pipe was subjected to by the previous steward. I followed up the internal cleaning with external refreshing of the stummel surface. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel and the rim top to remove the overflow of lava from these surfaces. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The stummel looks clean, but the road rash, dents and dings to the stummel and rim edges/ top now stands out prominently. I followed it up with sanding the entire stummel with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. This serves three purposes; firstly, it removes all the stubborn dust and grime from the surface, secondly, it evens out, to a great extent, any minor dents and dings from the surface and thirdly, it provides a smooth and clean surface for intended fills. With the road rash evened out to the extent possible, I repaired the road rash with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue. I always over fill the holes/ surfaces so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I also build up the shank end, which was damaged due to the road rash, with this mix. I set the stummel aside to cure.Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way), I attached the stem to the shank end carefully aligning the stem fill with that of the shank end fill. I sand the entire stummel surface and the stem using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper and matched the shank end with the stem fill. Once I had achieved a match, I detach the stem from the shank end. On close observation, I found that the shank end repairs had several tiny air pockets. I again filled up these air pockets with clear superglue and set it aside for curing, while I worked the stem. Using a flat head needle file, I reshaped the button and follow it up by further sanding the stem with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. Using the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 girt pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface. With the stem repairs completed, I turn my attention back to the stummel repairs. The second fill to the road rash portion had cured and I sand it with a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper. However, I realized that the air pockets were still visible. I discussed this with my mentor, Mr. Steve, who suggested that I should first go through the micromesh polishing cycle and then decide if a refill is required or otherwise. With this advise, I move ahead to complete the stummel repairs. I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents and dings and also to reduce the charred rim surface. I addressed the out of round inner edge and the dents and dings to the outer rim edge by creating a bevel on both these edges with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. The numerous scratches, dents and dings to the stummel surface was beginning to concern me as it was a conflict between my innate desire not to lose briar through sanding and the necessity to do just that if I desired to completely rid the stummel of all these evidences of its past and thin out the walls in the process. Readers, believe you me, these damages were deeper than you normally expect. I shall take a fresh call on this issue after I am through with the micromesh polish cycle.

However, no sooner than I was through with wet sanding using 1500 to 2400 grit micromesh pads, the air pockets in the fill to the road rash stood out like sore thumb. I repeated the process of freshly filling it with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust. I set the stummel aside for the fill to cure.After the fill had cured sufficiently, I sand and match the fill with rest of the surface using a 220 grit sand paper. This was followed by polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wipe the surface with a moist cloth to remove the resulting dust. The stummel, at this stage, looks absolutely stunning with beautiful straight grain popping out from every inch. The dents, dings and scratches, though visible, are no longer an eye sore. In fact, it lends the pipe an aura of being a survivor and invincible. I decide to let the marks be! Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” 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 beautiful straight grains on full display. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. The only stummel issue that needs to be addressed is that of the ridges at the heel near the draught hole. The first thing I do is insert Vaseline smeared folded pipe cleaner in to the mortise right up to the draught hole and slightly beyond. This prevents the draught hole from getting clogged. I begin by wiping the heel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it. I make a mix of the two components of JB weld; hardener and steel in equal measures. The mix remains pliable for 6 minutes, which is adequate to spread it evenly and fill the worn out heel surface. I also covered the indentation formed on the front wall. Once I had achieved a satisfactory spread, I set the stummel aside for 4-6 hours for the weld to cure. The weld has hardened and I sand the fill to a nice smooth and even surface with a 180 grit sand paper. It was not an easy task as I had to do it manually with the sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. But I managed with satisfactory results. I shall be coating the inner walls of the chamber with a mix of activated charcoal and yogurt. This will not only help in faster build up of the cake but also isolates the weld from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco. To complete the restoration, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my local machine which is similar to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for Red Tripoli, which has a finer grit than White compound, I buffed the stem to a fine glossy finish. I then re-attach the stem to the stummel, mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed working on this pipe and hope that readers too enjoyed walking with me through this restoration. If only this handsome pipe could share the secret of its past life with all of us… if only!! Cheers.

PS: After I was done with all the polishing and buffing, I gave the walls of the chamber, a nice and even coat of activated charcoal and yogurt. I am very happy that this pipe has gone to a war veteran Officer who loved the scars and the grains on this pipe, not to mention my figment of imagination that this pipe appears to have seen action against the Viet Cong and survived!! It was at his request that I did not stain this pipe to mask the fills. This fighter has indeed come a long way as can be seen from the pictures below.

 

Rebuilding a Button to Recommission an Aristocrat London Made – Made in England 1077


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired this very stately looking Aristocrat trolling through offerings on eBay.  I liked it immediately because of its large rusticated bowl and the nice half bent Billiard presence.  It needed some work which was good for me – a broken off button and deep oxidation – factors that would discourage many from taking a second look.  When the auction ended, the price was a good one and I had the highest bid.  Another great pipe to restore to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I was in the US when I landed this hefty rusticated Billiard and it was in the suitcase in the Lufthansa cargo hold on its way back to Bulgaria with me.As with all the pipes available in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection, I take additional pictures for stewards looking to commission a pipe.  When Andrew reached out to me, he indicated interest in the Aristocrat but also in the Bearded Sailor Carved pipe I had then.  He had served in the Navy for 17 years and the old sailor caught his attention.  Unfortunately, the Carved Bearded Sailor was already commissioned for another pipe man.  I appreciate the service that Andrew has given in serving his country, and I mentioned to him that my son had also served as a submariner in the Navy, on the USS Boise. I appreciated his reply when I asked him for patience waiting for the Aristocrat to reach the work table.  Here’s what he wrote:

Dal, 

As the Grandson of a hobbyist wildlife painter I fully understand the time required to do something like this.  I would love this pipe and would like to commission too this pipe.  Thank you for keeping me in mind about the bearded sailor and thank your son for his service.

Andrew 

Here are some of the pictures Andrew saw of the Aristocrat London Made that I used from the original seller: The pipe has a large presence and I take out my ruler and take the measurements: Length: 5 15/16 inches, Height: 2 inches, Rim width: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber width: 3/4 inches, Chamber depth: 1 13/16 inches.  The nomenclature stamped on the lower shank smooth panel is thin. I take additional pictures of this from my worktable.  What is stamped is cursive ‘Aristocrat’ [over] LONDON MADE [over] MADE IN ENGLAND.  To the left of the nomenclature is a shape number: 1077 which undoubtedly points to the half-bent Billiard designation.The stem stamping is an ‘A’ set in a diamond frame.In search of the origins of the Aristocrat, I first look in my autographed copy of Herb Wilczak & Tom Colwell’s, “Who Made That Pipe?” dated 3/3/97.  Tom Colwell’s gifting of this book to “Bruce” is in April of 2001, concluding with his signature.  There were several listings for ‘Aristocrat’ but only two fell within the correct UK parameters:

John Redman/Kapp & Peterson – ENGL
Comoy’s / Harmon Bros. LTD – ENGL

Pipedia’s information narrowed the field by isolating the plain ‘A’ logo:

Pipedia’s entry for the John Redman Co. does not include much information.  I researched this company before as being the probable English manufacturer of pipes stamped with Boston’s Tobacconist Shop, L.J. Peretti name (see: A Christmas Gift in need of a stem splice – L J Peretti Squared Shank Billiard).  This restoration started a fun hobby of collecting L.J. Peretti pipes and selling many too!  Here is the information.

John Redman Ltd. and British Empire Pipe Co.

Other lines include Aristocrat, Buckingham, Buckingham Palace, Canberra, Captain Fortune, Dr John, Golden Square, Redonian, Richmond (not Sasieni), Twin Bore.

Former factory located at 3-11 Westland Place, Hackney, London N1 7LP

Pipephil’s entry solidified the John Redman Ltd. And British Empire Pipe Co., with the Aristocrat and the ‘A’ stem stamping.The dating of the Aristocrat on my table is difficult to determine, but it has an older feel to it and is set in a very traditional dark English style hue.  Looking at the pipe itself, there is a moderate amount of carbon cake buildup in the chamber which I will remove to examine the condition of the chamber walls.  The rusticated stummel is very attractive – the deep, distinct etching is nice, but there is grime and build up on the rim as well as in the stummel’s nooks and crannies.  The smooth briar panel holding the nomenclature on the shank’s underside is worn and the nomenclature is thin. There is a large scratch scarring the panel.  The panel’s scratches and nicks will be a challenge to clean without further eroding the stampings.  The stem has deep oxidation and the lower button has cracked off.  This will need to be rebuilt.  These pictures show some of these specific issues.I begin the restoration of this John Redman Aristocrat London Made, half-bent Billiard by cleaning the airway of the stem with a pipe cleaner wetting with isopropyl 95%.  I add the deeply oxidized stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems and pipes in the queue. After soaking for several hours, I fish out the Aristocrat’s stem and again clean the airway with a pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the excess Deoxidizer. I use a cotton pad to wipe off the raised oxidation and the Deoxidizer has done a good job, but I still detect oxidation in the vulcanite.To begin revitalizing the stem, I apply paraffin oil, a mineral oil, and put it aside to dry.Next, I begin the process of cleaning the stummel. I start with reaming the chamber using the smallest blade head of the Pipnet Reaming Kit and moving to the larger blades. I put paper towel down to expedite the cleanup.  I use 2 of the 4 blades available then transition to scraping the chamber further using the Savinelli Fitsall tool and follow with sanding the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen for reach and leverage.  After cleaning the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, I examine the chamber and it looks great.  I see no evidences of burning damage with fissures or cracking. Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap on a cotton pad I start the cleaning of the external rusticated surface.  I also employ a bristled tooth brush to work into the ridges of the rustication.  A brass wire brush which is gentle on the briar, also helps with the rim cleaning.  Finally, I take the stummel to the sink and rinse it with cool tap water.  The cleaning did a good job.  I take some pictures to show the surface and the question begins in my mind regarding the base color of the stummel.  Bare briar is peeking through, but the base looks black to me. Wanting to get a head start on my thinking for later stages, I pull out 3 very dark or black dyes to compare.  I have two Italian brands that are labeled ‘Dark Night’ and ‘Wenghe’ – both of which are so dark brown that they appear black to me.  The third dye is Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye – it is black.  I test each of these to see what they do and which may be the dye I use later to freshen the stummel if I indeed do decide to stain it. Thinking….Moving to the internal stummel cleaning, I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%. I quickly transition to scraping the mortise walls with a narrow dental spatula to excavate what tars and oils would come out manually.  I also use different sizes of shank brushes wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean.  As the picture below shows, this was not a short-lived encounter.  I also use a drill bit to hand turn down the airway to draw out more tar build-up.  After some time, the buds begin to lighten but not enough to declare the job done. To continue cleaning the internals passively, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I do this to further clean as well as to freshen the internal briar for the new steward.  I first pull and twist a cotton ball to form a wick which I stuff down the mortise and airway with the aid of a stiff wire.  This will act to draw out the tars and oils as the isopropyl 95% does its thing. After putting the stummel in an egg crate to stabilize things, I fill the bowl with kosher salt.  Unlike iodized salt, kosher salt doesn’t leave an aftertaste.  Next, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  As the alcohol absorbs into the chamber and mortise, the level of alcohol goes down.  After a few minutes I top off the isopropyl 95% and put the stummel aside to soak. Turning now to the stem, I take some pictures and take a closer look.  The Before & After Oxidizer did well, but there are still build up places on the surface showing where the oxidation was.  The button on the topside is worn down and underneath the button has broken off. Before starting on the rebuild of the button, I use 240 grade sanding paper and sand the stem.  I want to first address the overall condition of the stem surface then the button. While sanding, I’m careful to protect the diamond A stamp of the Aristocrat as well as to avoid shouldering the shank facing. To rebuild the button, I begin by cutting a folded over triangle from index card stock which is a bit stiffer.  I leave the end of the triangle open and create a sleeve.  I put smooth scotch tape over the end of the triangle sleeve to hold the sleeve together and to keep the wedge from sticking to the CA glue and activated charcoal mixture.  After the triangle wedge is fashioned, I insert it into the slot airway as far as it will go to fill the gap and then I push other triangle pieces of index card into the sleeve to fill it out and to hold it in place firmer.I then mix the charcoal putty.  I use extra thick CA glue and mix it with activated charcoal by gradually pulling charcoal into a small puddle of CA glue and mixing with a toothpick.  I add charcoal until it reaches the viscosity of molasses and then apply it to the button.The first application is a little too runny, so I add a bit more charcoal to the mixture and apply more.I have a good coverage over the entire area which will allow me to file and shape the new button.  After the charcoal putty sets, I work the wedge loose and it comes out easily.  I put the stem aside to allow the putty to cure thoroughly.Well, after a few days longer than planned because of dealing with an unforeseen flu bug hitting many here in Sofia, the kosher salt and alcohol soak has done some major work.  The salt and wick are soiled in a big way indicating that the tars and oils were drawn more from the internals. I toss the salt in the waste and clean the chamber with paper towel as well as blowing through the mortise to rid the stummel of salt crystals.I follow again with more cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean up the left-over residue.  The salt soak made a dent.  After some more effort, I declare the internals clean and move on.The stem button rebuild is next.  The charcoal putty is fully cured after the days of the flu bug and I start working on it using a flat needle file. I start working on the end filing toward the slot to form the end of the stem. After the button face is flush, I then file downwardly to form the depth of the button lip.When I arrive at about the right depth for the button lip, I then file from the stem side to sharpen and shape the new button.I also use the round pointed needle file to smooth the slot – forgot to picture that file!I also freshen the topside button lip with the flat needle file.The filing process is complete.  The bottom rebuild looks great – it shaped up well.  The next pictures show the completion of the filing on the upper bit and button face. As is often the case, air pockets are trapped in the charcoal putty and are revealed during the sanding process. To remedy this, using a toothpick, I run a small drop of regular CA glue on the toothpick and use it to paint the entire lip with the glue.  I also run a line to seal the edges of the button – both the stem side and on the button face.  Taking a picture of black with a light background doesn’t show a lot of detail often!I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process and follow by lightly sanding the button with 240 grade paper.  The CA glue filled the pits well.I take the stem to the sink and wet sand the entire stem with 600 grade paper.  I’m careful to avoid sanding the Aristocrat ‘A’ stem stamp.  After using 600 paper, I then apply 0000 grade steel wool to the entire stem.I move directly to applying the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads to the Aristocrat stem.  I start by wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to condition the stem.  I like that newly polished pop that comes from the vulcanite after the micromesh process! With the stem waiting in the wings, I take a close look at the stummel.  The rustication is deep and expressive and the stummel itself is large.  The briar block this stummel is hewn from must have been dense, because the stummel itself has some weight to it.  I like the dark hue of the rustication and my head debate is whether to freshen the entire bowl by staining it or to keep what is present and touch it up, primarily on the rim?  I’m drawn to the flecked bare briar that is present in the current condition – it gives the stummel and classic rustic look – not too polished, but a pipe that has seen some life.  The rim has raw briar showing and needs touching up. The other question has to do with the smooth briar underplate holding the nomenclature.  The stamping is already ghosting and thin – I don’t want to contribute to this loss of his history!  There is a scratch to the right of the lettering that I can sand without trouble.  But as I look at the smooth briar plate, the dark stain that is now covering the smooth briar does not look good.With the decision made to go with the current hue and touch up, I start on the smooth briar nomenclature plate first on the underside of the shank.  I want to create a more distinct and classy looking nomenclature plate by removing the finish from the smooth briar.  This will create a classy looking contrast between the dark rusticated surface and the smooth briar.  I first use a cotton pad wetted with alcohol which had little effect.  I then switch to using acetone.  I wetted several cotton pads and scrubbed the smooth briar.  This had some effect, but still nothing spectacular showing a loosening of the dark finish on this area.The breakthrough came when I thought of trying Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. To my great surprise, it works.  The finish was removed in large measure leaving behind and interesting patch of smooth briar.  Yet, as I look closely at the nomenclature, I’m afraid it appears as though the Magic Eraser sponge exerted more abrasiveness than I thought would be the case.  The lettering has deteriorated further – the profanity that flashed through my mind did not surface!  Ugh – we make plans, but often they are not what happens.  I allow the briar to dry before doing more on the underside panel.Next, to touch up the rim, I use a Dark Walnut dye stick, which I chose after testing several colors on a cotton pad.  I apply the dye stick over the rim and in the crevices.  It looks great, blending well with the rest of the stummel. To roughen the rim up a bit, to blend it more with the weathered, rustic stummel, I use a 1500 grade micromesh pad and lightly sand the ridges of the rusticated rim.  This lightens the tips and helps blending.To get a bird’s eye view of the project, I rejoin the Aristocrat London Made stem and stummel.  It’s looking good.With a closer look at the junction there is a gap between the shank and the stem facings.  I examine the mortise and there is no ridge that would be creating the obstruction.  With no obvious obstruction, I use 240 grade sanding paper simply to taper the end of the tenon more guessing that the mortise narrows, and this will afford a little more room for the tenon.  After sanding, I try again, and it seats well now. I now mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel.  With my wife’s help, she takes a picture of the process in motion.  When completed, I give the pipe a good wipe down with a felt cloth to clean it of compound dust. Before applying wax to the stem and stummel, two mini-projects are first needed.  I could have done this earlier, but now is ok too!  Using Before & After Restoration Balm, I apply some to my fingers and then rub it into the smooth briar area on the underside of the shank.  I also apply the Balm to the shank alone.  Later, after it absorbs for a few minutes, I wipe off the excess and buff up the smooth briar and the shank.  I like the results so well, even on the rusticated shank surface, I decide to then apply B&A Restoration Balm to the entire stummel.  After about 15 minutes, I again wipe off the excess then buff the surface up, making sure all the Balm has been absorbed into the briar surface. While the Balm is absorbing, I refresh the diamond encased ‘A’ Aristocrat stem stamp.  Using white acrylic paint, I apply some paint over the stamp and then blot it with a cotton pad to draw off the excess paint.  After it dries, I gently scrape the excess paint leaving the paint filling the stamping lines.  I like it! I reunite the stem and stummel and mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel.  Because I’m applying wax to a rougher rusticated surface, I increase the speed of the Dremel to about 60% full power to increase the RPMs and therefore the heat helping to dissolve the wax.  I apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stummel. Moving to the stem, I decrease the speed to 40% of full power and apply carnauba.   After finishing with the wax, I use and microfiber cloth and give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.

I am very pleased how this hefty pipe turned out.  The deep, distinct rusticated surface looks great on this nice looking, classic half bent Billiard.  The half bend works very well with the overall feel of the bowl resting in the palm.  My only disappointment is the further eroding of the nomenclature in order to reveal the grain of the smooth briar panel.  Even so, the pipe is a keeper.  The major technical hurdle of rebuilding the button came out beautifully and reveals no evidence of its former state.  Andrew could see how nice this Aristocrat London Made could be and he commissioned him from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  The restoration of this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Restoring and Restemming a Savinelli Capri 915


Blog by Lee Neville

Over the past few months I have been continuing my correspondence with Lee via email. He picked up a couple of pipes for me at a local antique shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and sent them to me. We have fired emails back and forth on restoration questions and issues. He also included Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes in the conversations and we had a great time. Earlier this week he sent Charles and me an email about a restoration of another pipe that he restemmed. Charles and I spoke with him of the style and size of stem to use. He did a great job on the restemming and the description of the work so I asked him if I could post it on rebornpipes. He was glad to have me do so. Thanks Lee for your work and this second write up. It is great to have you on rebornpipes as a contributor once again! – Steve

Thought I would share my pipe rehabilitation effort of a Savinelli Capri 915.  It showed up in the Winnipeg Ebay lot as a dirty stummel with a snapped-off stem tenon wedged into its shank. Alas, the original stem was not included in the lot.

This is a “Birks” pipe – Henry Birks & Sons, or what it’s now known by these days – “Maison Birks”, is a Montreal-based jewellery/glassware/fine leather goods/timepieces/ silver & gold flatware / object d’art firm in business here in Canada since the late 1800s.  It appears Birks would commission pipes from manufacturers and stamp them with their house name and offer them for sale during special promotions – Christmas, Father’s Day etc.  This Savinelli is the first of two “Birks” pipes I’ve got on my bench to restore.The plan is to clean this stummel up to the natural briar,  treat it to a wax protective finish and fit a replacement stem.  This will be fun as I just received the PIMO stem tenon cutter tool which will make short work of fitting a properly sized tenon on a replacement stem blank.

Stummel clean up
The bowl was in good shape. The rim showed minor discolouration from lighting.  The rim was not obscured by any lava. The previous owner was not a dottle-knocker – luckily no dents or chips on the bowl rim.  I reamed the bowl out with my newly arrived Pipnet set – I started with the smallest head, applying light twisting force and allowing the tool to make its way into the bowl.  This was repeated by the following two larger reaming heads to remove existing cake close to briar.  This was followed by twists with a dowel covered with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining cake, then more twists with 320 / 400 grits to finish the bowl interior smooth. There are no cracks or burnouts in the bowl. The shank cleaned up with a few runs of alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners and q-tips.

I attacked the stummel with a soft toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the rim discolouration and surface dirt/grease. The accumulated grunge lifted right off after two scrubbing sessions.  I was delighted to see the proprietary sandblasting/rustication is scarcely worn – the deep relief is quite attractive.

The stummel was then covered with masking tape. I clamped the padded stummel in my dremel vise and using a drill bit sized just over the ID of the snapped off stem tenon, ran it in a smidge gently, then reversed the drill and the tenon remnant came out with the drill bit.  This revealed a very fine crack in the mortise end of the stummel.  Using thin CA glue, I lightly dabbed the crack, watching it wick into the crack, then sprayed accelerant to instantly set the glue.  I lightly sanded the mortise face and mortise with 1000 grit paper to ensure any glue squeeze-out was removed before attempting to fit replacement stem

Fitting a new stem
I viewed the Savinelli web site to glean pipe proportions (stummel to stem) as well as canvassing yourselves for your thoughts on replacement stem length. I also found a high-definition image of a Capri 915 online.  Applying some ‘Edmonton Windage’, I ordered an oval tapered stem blank in a 2.25″ length from Vermont Freehand Pipes.

The stem blank on arrival was a bit wider than the stummel shank, so there was some filing and final sanding required to match the stem to the shank profile.

I mounted the replacement stem into the vise and drilled the stem draught hole to accept the guide rod of the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool.  I then mounted the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool and gently took a succession of cuts to arrive with a couple of thou of tenon final size.  I used a strip of 320 grit sandpaper to work the circumference of the tenon to a snug fit into the stummel mortise.  I used a variety of tools to flatten the stem tenon face so it would meet up with stummel mortise surface properly – needle files, sandpaper, a few licks with a very small chisel – all under a magnifier lens working the stem mating surface – testing fit/working it/test fit/working it until I got the proper fit.

Rough file work was then required to narrow the stem.  This took about an hour.  I then worked in the round with a file to shape the circumference of the stem to match the stummel profile. Last steps were using 220 sandpaper to work the circumference down as close to the final dimension. I followed that with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper.  I was now a scant hairs-width proud on the stem.  I then replaced the masking tape covering the stummel shank with clear scotch tape and brought the stem into line with the shank profile with 1500 and 1800 micro mesh pads.I filed the stem button into shape and from that point on, it was just applying a succession of micro mesh pads to 12000 to polish the replacement stem. Here is the clean stummel and new stem before finishing.Finishing the Pipe 
I treated the stummel to a coat of Howards Feed and Wax (beeswax, carnauba and citrus oils), let it sit for 30 minutes, then wiped off the excess, followed with a thin coating of carnauba wax over the whole pipe and a rub in with a polishing brush.  Using a cotton buff on my Dremel at 4000 rpm, I ran the buff over the entire pipe to bring out the shine. This pipe cleaned up very nicely and is a joy to hold.  I had fun fitting a new stem that is in proportion to the stummel and I think it’s a close resemblance to the stem originally fitted to the pipe.

Thank you Charles and Steve for your help on stem selection.

Onward and upwards!

Lee