Tag Archives: fitting a stem

Rebirth: a Liverpool Stummel with Beautiful Grain and Miserable Drilling


Blog by Steve Laug

I found this long shank Liverpool pipe sans stem at an antique mall in Idaho when I was visiting my brother. I did not look at it too closely but noticed it was lightly smoked and had some really nice looking grain. I bought it as I figured it would not be too big a deal to make a stem for it. Besides the price was only $4. Looking at the next four photos you can see why the grain got my attention. It is a mix of birdseye, flame and cross grain. The stain that was used really highlights the grain. In the first photo you can see the chip out of the top of the bowl on the left side as well as the chip out of the shank top between the bowl junction and the stamping on the shank side. When I got back to my brother’s place he looked it over and just shook his head. He pointed out the issues with the bowl. The airway entered the bowl at the far right side. The bowl was hardly smoked and this may well have been a reason. Externally the bowl was not round it was entirely lopsided. It was wrong both inside and out in more ways than I had noticed in my quick decision to purchase it. This one was going to be a challenge in more ways than one to restem and make usable once more. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. The next two photos show the misdrilling and the misshapen out of round external bowl.There were some deep gouges on the left side of the pipe – one had the top of the bowl and one on the shank just ahead of the stamping. There were also some pits and gouges on the underside of the shank and on the end on both top and bottom. I have circled the large one in the first photo below. It is a bright spot circled in red. Then I looked closer at the overall bowl and shank. What a mess. It had been drilled at quite an angle. It appeared that the drill had gone through the right side of the shank just before the bowl. It had been repaired with a fill that was pitted. It is circled in red in the second photo below. The third photo shows the shank from the mortise end. It is obvious that the shank was not round and the mortise was off to the right. This was going to be an interesting pipe to restem. As I looked at the left side of the shank with a magnifying lens I could see that first line of stamping (faint on the top and better at the bottom side of the words read CONTINENTAL. The second line of stamping was clearer and read REAL BRIAR. In examining the rest of the shank, I could see that it was all that was stamped on the pipe. I did some searching for the brand name and found one on Pipedia. The Continental Briar Pipe Co. Inc. manufactured briar pipes in Brooklyn, New York. The address on York and Adams Streets was taken from a letter sent to a Henry T. Rice dated July 28, 1941.

I went through my stem can and found two prospects for stems. Because the shank was misdrilled and out of round and the mortise was also off to the side I needed to have a stem slightly larger in diameter than the shank.  One of the stems was a saddle stem and the other a taper stem. The saddle stem was not quite large enough so I opted for the taper. I used a pen knife to open the mortise and make it more round. I worked to remove briar from the left side of the mortise and make the shank end round. In the third photo below you can see the finished mortise.When I finished the work on the mortise I sanded it with a rolled piece of sandpaper to smooth things out.I pushed the taper stem into the mortise and the fit against the shank was a good fit. The right side where the shank was out of round needed to have some vulcanite removed to make the flow of the stem and shank correct but it would work. The taper stem makes the pipe a Liverpool. If I had used the saddle stem it would have been a lumberman. I like the promising look of the new pipe. There were many on the top and the bottom of the shank and along the right side of the top of the bowl. There was also a place on the right side of the shank at the bowl shank junction that had been filled to repair a drill through. It had been patched with putty but was pitted and rough. I wiped the shank and bowl edge down with alcohol. I filled all of the pits and the repaired area with briar dust and then put drops of super glue on top of the dust fills. The photos below show the patched and repaired areas.When the repairs dried I sanded the repairs smooth to match the briar around them. The photos below show the freshly sanded areas on the pipe. The repairs are dark spots in the middle of the sanded areas. They will be blended in once I stain the bowl and shank. I used a needle file to reshape the button edges on both sides of the stem. They were worn down and the sharp edge was indistinct. I redefined the edges and smoothed out the surface in front of the button.I wiped the bowl and shank down with alcohol to remove the remaining finish on the bowl and to clean off the dust in preparation for restaining the pipe. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and smooth out the file marks and tooth marks that remained. I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board to remove the damaged areas on the rim and created a smooth well defined edge on both the inner and outer parts of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean the inner edge and remove the darkening there.I wiped it down another time to clean off the rim and the edges of dust. I used a dark brown stain touch up pen to stain the sanded areas on the rim, bowl side, shank top and bottom and shank end. I was not too worried about coverage at this point rather providing a base coat before I stained the bowl in its entirety. My thinking was that the base coat would blend in with the existing stain and then the top coat would tie it all together. I stained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process of staining and flaming until the coverage was even around the bowl. I set the pipe aside to dry for a few hours and worked on the stem.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the dark crusty finish. I wanted the stain to be more transparent to let the grain show through. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads to polish the bowl and shank. The grain really shown through now and the flame grain, birdseye and cross grain were beautiful. The fills have blended in on most of the bowl while the repair on the right side of the shank at the bowl is dark but smooth. I scraped out the remnants of cake that remained inside of the bowl with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and sanded the walls with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth them out.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads. I took it and buffed it with Tripoli after the 2400 grit pad and followed that with Blue Diamond. Then I went on to continue polishing it with the higher grits of micromesh pads. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and carefully buffed around the stamping. I did not want to damage it any further than before. I gave the pipe and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a long pipe that is just under 7 inches long and the bowl is 1 ¾ inches tall. The bowl exterior is 1 1/8 inches in diameter and the bowl chamber is ¾ inch in diameter. What started out as a major mess came out looking like a fine pipe. Even though the airway enters the bowl on the far right the draw is still very good. I think it should smoke fairly well and provide a decent looking long pipe for someone who wants to add it to his collection. Thanks for walking through the challenge with me.

Making Work for myself – Restoring a GDB Rainbow 347


Blog by Steve Laug

I have worked on and collected many GBD pipes over the past 20 years. I have some great resources that I use to identify the nomenclature, shape and date of the various lines that GBD issued. However, all of my sources and resources regarding GBD are from the time prior to the merger (Cadogan) or shortly thereafter. The Rainbow Line is not mentioned in any of them. I also looked on the pipephil Logos and Stampings site and Pipedia and again there is no mention of the line. In my online research, I found several people who think that it is probable that the pipe was made during the 70’s through 90’s. Several things point to this – the chunky Lucite stem, the name of the line itself and the brightly coloured stems used. One fellow on Pipes Magazine’s online forum had a great quote that caught my attention. He said, “If you’re old enough you might remember that Rainbow was a popular theme in the late 70’s to early 90’s due to Sesame Street, “The Rainbow Connection,” The Rainbow Reading Room, etc.” http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/help-with-info-on-a-gbd-pipe I think this is as close as I am going to get to a time period when the pipe was made.

The pipe I picked up on a recent trip to Idaho is a nicely shape apple that was in pretty decent shape. I figured it would be an easy clean up. But things happened along the way and I made more work for myself. It is stamped GBD in an oval over Rainbow on the left side of the shank. On the right side stamped London, England in a straight line over 347 (shape number). On the underside of the shank near the stem/shank junction it is stamped D. The faint painted GBD in an Oval on the left side of the stem also suggests a later GBD. The nomenclature is consistent with usual smooth GBD markings (GBD over Grade (left side) and London England over style number on the right side.) The photos below came from the person I purchased the pipe from and show the general condition.He provided some close up photos of the bowl and rim. He said that the pipe had been reamed and clean. However, it was not reamed and clean to my liking. The bowl had a thick cake that I will need to remove, some rim darkening and some dents in the rim. My guess was that like the bowl, the shank and mortise would need some attention. The stamping on the shank was very clear. The first photo below shows that. Next to the shank/stem junction in the first photo, there is also the remnant of the GBD oval logo that had been originally painted on the stem. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter and some shallow tooth marks in the Lucite.While I was staying with my brother, I cleaned and reamed the pipe. I used the PipeNet reamer and took it back to the walls. I would need to clean it up more once I got home but it was better than when I started. Last evening I took the pipe out of the box to finish the clean up and restoration. I took some photos of it before I started to have a benchmark. I took a close up of the bowl and rim. It was better than when I started but still needed to be cleaned up some more. The rim had some darkening that I could reduce some more as well.I used the Savinelli Fitsall Reamer to scrape the remaining thin cake from the walls of the bowl. I personally like to remove all of the cake when cleaning up a bowl. I will sand a bowl interior a bit later to smooth things out. Little did I know at this point that the decision to sand the bowl would send me on a repair detour.I scrubbed out the mortise, airway in the bowl and in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I used the dental spatula to scrape the walls of the shank and remove the hard tars that had built up there. The airway in the stem was also dirty and had some darkening at the button and in the first few inches of the stem. I cleaned it with bristle pipe cleaners and picked the debris out of the button and from around the stem down tenon with a dental pick.The stem not only had tooth chatter but also some stickiness from a price tag on the top surface. The edge of the button also had some chatter. I sanded the tooth marks out with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the button at the same time. The stem was smooth when I finished. It was dull and needed a good polishing.I polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust after each pad. I was finished with the stem at this point so I set it aside to work on the bowl. I had decided to use a dark brown aniline stain thinned by 50% with alcohol to darken the grain on the pipe and hide a couple of small fills. I applied the stain, flamed it and repeated the process until the  bowl was covered evenly. I wiped the bowl down with cotton pads and alcohol to make it more transparent. I hand buffed it and took the following photos. It was still too dark to my liking. I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to make it more transparent and to see if I could make the grain pop. I sanded it with 1500-2400 and took these photos. It was getting there. I continued to sand it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it and give it a shine. The next photos tell the story. The bowl was looking better and better. It is at this point that I made a decision that would inevitably cost me. That results of that decision turned out to be a mistake that made a lot more work for me! I put the stem on and decided to work on sanding out the inside of the bowl to remove the polishing compound and remnants of cake. Stupidly, I put the stem on the pipe to enjoy the look of the combination while I worked. Wrong thing to do! Understand, I was sitting at my work table, the top of which is a meter above the floor. I was carefully sanding the bowl interior so as not to damage the nice stain on the rim. Somehow, the pipe wiggled free from my hands and fell to the floor. If you could have watched it and my face at the same time you would have seen the look of horror on my face as it dropped to the floor. That horror changed to a moment of dread as I watched it bounce and heard a snap and watched as the bowl and stem went in opposite directions. I quietly picked up the bowl and stem. The tenon had snapped off in the mortise. It was a clean break. I don’t know about you but I find Lucite is much less forgiving than vulcanite. I have had pipes with vulcanite stem hit the floor with not breakage but not so with Lucite. It seems that the tenon inevitably snaps. Well this one certainly did.I sat and looked at it for a long time just sick at the thought that a pipe I was basically finished with was in pieces on my table. I know how to replace a tenon; that is not a problem. I just did not want to have to do that on this pipe. However, my own stupidity and carelessness had successfully sent me back to work on this pipe. Ahh well… just as well call it a night. Perhaps a good night’s sleep would give me better perspective on this new problem!

I woke up early this morning and dragged my feet about going back to work on the pipe. I think I was hoping at some level that it had not actually happened. I sipped my coffee as long as possible postponing the inevitable. I talked with my eldest daughter who is in Kathmandu for work. I took the dog for a walk around the yard… but finally I made to the basement and the work table. It was not a dream the tenonless stem and the bowl was sitting waiting for me.

I used the Dremel to remove the remnants of the old tenon that were on the face of the stem. I flattened it against the topping board. I went through my assortment of threaded Delrin tenons until I found one that was slightly larger than the broken one. I needed to reduce the diameter slightly to make it work but it would do!I set up my cordless drill and put in a bit slightly larger than the airway and turned the stem onto it by hand. The first photo below shows the bits I used as I repeated the process until the hole was large enough for me to use a tap to thread it to match the tenon. The second photo below shows the last drill bit I used the piece of tape on the bit is to show me how deep I needed to go with the bit to accommodate the new tenon threads.I roughened the tenon surface so I could grip it enough to turn it into the newly drilled stem end. It was a good fit. I painted the end with some epoxy and turned it back in place and set it aside to cure and harden.Once the tenon was set firmly in place I used the Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the diameter to a close fit. I finished the fitting with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the new tenon with micromesh sanding pads. Now came the telling moment. Would the stem match up with the shank? Would the fit be tight against the shank end? Even though I have done this many times I always have the same questions. I placed the new tenon in the mortise and carefully pushed the stem against the shank end. It was a very close fit and all I would need to do was sand the left side and top a little bit to make the fit even better. I was relieved and happy. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and cleaned up the fit. I was almost back to where I was last night before the pipe dropped and the tenon broke. I have to polish the stem once again but the stem fits well. I took photos of the pipe at this point to check it out. The newly fit stem and the stain on the pipe worked well together. Now to polish it all and get it finished. I polished the bowl and stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to raise the shine.I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen that shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am pretty happy with the way it turned out – even with the detour. The stain accomplished what I hope it would in making the grain pop. The grain stands out like it never did in the pipe when I received it. Now it is visible. It is a nice looking pipe that feels good in the hand. Thanks for looking.

 

Sandblast Reveals Stunning Grain on a GBD Concorde 9438


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I brought to the table had two major attributes that piqued my interest. The first was that it has an amazing sandblast (or is it a combination blast and rustication?). The second thing was that it was a pipe in my favourite GBD shape that I think nobody does as well as they do – the 9438 Rhodesian.  The pipe is stamped on the smooth underside of the shank GBD in an oval and next to that Concorde. Running along the shank stem junction it reads 9438 and Made in France. The logo is stamped into the left side of the saddle portion of the stem. The next photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Idaho before my brother started cleaning it for me.Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and stamping to show the condition and the brand of the pipe. Those of you who love the 9438 did not need to see the stamping to confirm the shape but here it is. The finish was dirty with lots of debris in the grooves and crevices on the bowl and shank. The rim had a tarry build up on the back half where the cake was overflowing the bowl. The mortise was so dirty that the stem no longer seated against the shank. The GBD oval was stamped on the side of the stem and did not have a brass roundel as some of the earlier ones did.The stem was oxidized and there was tooth chatter on both the top and bottom sides near the button.The finish was a new one to me. I have not worked on a Concorde before so I wanted to learn a bit about it. I was not sure if it was a sandblast or a rustication or both. I did some searching online and found some things about it however. The GBD Concorde was made in France and was a lower priced GBD. It sported what GBD called a “take-off” brown/black stained sandblast. The top three pipes (ABC) in the photo below are from a 1976 Tinderbox Catalog I located on Chris’ Pipepages. The weblink for the pages is shown in the link that follows: http://pipepages.com/2tinderbox3.htm

The pipe I was working on was “B” in the photo below. The finish on mine was very similar but mine did not have the brass roundel on the stem as the one in the photo does. On the second page of the catalogue there is a description of the pipe. It is a little hard to read but here is the text: “GBD Breaks with Tradition and Forges Bold New Designs. A.B.C. Concorde – This latest innovation from GBD’s French factory, the Concorde, offers exceptional value in the popular price range and features a most novel “take-off” process.” The catalogue lists the retail price in 1976 at $12.50. I have a sense of what they mean by the take of process in looking at the finish. It appears that the pipe has a dark brown stain applied to the bowl. It is buffed off the high spots on the pipe giving it a contrasting appearance. At least that is what I think is meant by the take-off process. When I received the pipe it was clean inside and out. My brother had done a great job cleaning out the grime and debris. The stem fit in the mortise perfectly and all looked good. The finish was clean and faded and the oxidation on the stem had come to the surface so it was ready for me to move ahead with the restoration. I took a few photos of the pipe so you could see what it looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. The rim looked much better but still had a bit of debris on the back side. It was nothing that a little sanding with micromesh could not cure. There is some stunning grain on the rounded rim top and on the smooth parts of the bowl. There is also some peeking through the sandblast. This is a beautiful pipe and one I may well hold onto.The oxidation on the stem had been brought to the surface by the cleanup. It definitely appears worse than it did in the earlier pictures but the difference is that the oxidation is on top now and easier to deal with. The tooth marks and chatter on the stem are visible in both photos.I polished the rim and the high surfaces of the bowl with a fine grit sanding block and with 1500-4000 grit micromesh pads to raise a shine. I gave it a coat of Conservator’s Wax and  hand buffed it with a shoe brush and cloth. The photos below show the bowl after that simple treatment. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper, carefully avoiding the area around the GBD Oval stamping. I did not want to damage that. I polished the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh to begin bringing the shine to the stem.I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and did something I probably should have waited to do. I cleaned around the area of the stamp with a damp cotton pad. I applied some Rub’n Buff European Gold to the stamping and rubbed it off the surface with a cotton pad. The second photo below shows the stamp when I had finished the first application. I can justify this step by saying it is actually easier to see the stamp with a little gold in place so that I can carefully polish around it. I repeated sanding the stem with 1800-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads.I polished it with 3200-12000 grit pads and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. The shine was beginning to come through. I gave it a final coat of oil after the 12000 grit pad and set it aside to dry. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond to polish the stem and remove the scratches that still remained on the stem. I lightly buffed the bowl to raise a shine. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. The pipe began to truly shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen that shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is really a beauty and one I am thinking seriously of adding to my own collection… ahh well… we shall see. Thanks for looking.

Restemming and Restoring a Brigham Algonquin Dublin 247


Blog by Steve Laug

This pipe is the last of the nine that was dropped by my house for repairs. I was in rough shape for multiple reasons. The finish was dirty and spotty and the rim top was covered with overflow from the bowl. There was a thick cake in the bowl and there were some dark spots on the bowl sides toward the bottom of both sides at the bend. There were also some nicks in the heel of the bowl as well. The stem was missing a large chunk at the button on the right side. The Brigham hard rock maple filters come with an aluminum end and it had broken off deep in the shank near the entrance of the airway to the bowl. The mortise was very tarry and dirty. It would take some work to clean out enough to free the broken aluminum end piece. I took a close up photo of the rim and bowl to show the condition of the pipe when I started the cleanup. Underneath the grime on the bowl there was some nice cross grain and some birdseye on the front and back sides of the bowl.The stem was not salvageable as it stood. The missing chunk was large and the airway into the bowl was collapsed. I would need to fit a new stem on the shank. Fortunately for me the owner did not want a Brigham stem so I could use a regular push stem for the replacement.I went through my stem can, found a stem that was the same diameter, and close to the same length. I filed the diameter of the tenon with a file until it was close to fitting and finished with 220 grit sandpaper. I trimmed the edge of the tenon with my tenon turning tool by hand.When I finished smoothing out the tenon I inserted it in the mortise on the pipe bowl. The fit was snug. It looked good. I would need to do a few adjustments on the shank and stem as the shank was not perfectly round. I sanded the stem and the shank with 220 grit sandpaper to get a smooth transition between the two. I scrubbed the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the finish and the grime. I took photos of the cleaned exterior. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall Knife. I removed the cake completely. I sanded the interior walls with sandpaper wrapped around my finger to smooth out the walls.I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board to remove the rim damage and smooth out the nicks and scratches. I sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to polish the surface.I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain. I had found that once the finish was removed there were quite a few fills in the bowl sides and shank. I wanted to blend them into the surface of the briar and try to make them less visible. I flamed the stain and repeated the process until the coverage was even. I set the bowl aside for the day and went to work.When I returned from work that evening I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent. It was still too dark but I had plans to take care of that in a different way. In the photos below the fills are very visible against the dark brown stain. I cleaned up the face of the stem with the PIMO tenon turning tool at the tenon/stem angle so that the fit against the shank would be smooth. Sadly, my drill died so I had to turn the stem onto the tool by hand. It still worked well, just more slowly, and I was able to smooth out the surface.While the drill was out, I removed the tenon turning tool and put a drill bit in the chuck that was just slightly larger than the airway into the bowl. I wanted to be able to grab a hold of the broken aluminum filter tip with the drill bit and pull it out. Once again, I did it without the benefit of power. I just twisted the bowl onto the bit until the bit locked onto the aluminum end. I careful turned the bowl off the bit and the broken aluminum end came out stuck to the bit. Whew!I cleaned out the mortise and airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I finally was able to get all of the tars and oils out of the extended mortise.I heated the new stem with a heat gun and bent it to match the broken stem. I took a photo of the two of them together. I took photos of the pipe with the new stem in place. Still a lot of work to do to polish both the bowl and stem but it is looking good. I set the stem aside and worked on polishing the bowl. I started by wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. The photos below tell the story. I set the bowl aside and polished the stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and rubbed it down after each set of three pads. After the last 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry.I buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to polish out the last of the scratches on the stem. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect the surface of both. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and by hand with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I think the owner will be pleased with the finished stem and bowl. It looks like it was made to order. The contrasting stain on the bowl highlights the grain and hides the fills at the same time. Thanks for looking.

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Restemming and Reconditioning a Brigham Voyageur 165


Blog by Steve Laug

The eighth pipe from the lot of pipes that a pipesmoker dropped by for repair is a Brigham Voyageur. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the Brigham name over Voyageur which is the model. The shape number is 165. It was rusticated in the classic Brigham style with a smooth rim, ring around the rim and the shank end and a smooth spot on the shank for the stamping. The pipe was dirty with dust and grime in the crevices of the finish on the bowl. The rim had a tarry buildup which had flowed from the cake in the bowl. The internals were very dirty with a lot of tar and grime. The overall condition of the bowl was good under the grime. The following photos show the pipe’s condition before I began to clean and restore it. I took a close up photo of the rim top and the bowl to show the condition of the cake and the overflow on to the rim top. I also took a photo of the stamping on the smooth left side of the shank. The pipe was a two dot Brigham. In talking with the owner he was not interested in preserving the Brigham system. He was only interested in having a pipe that he could fire up and enjoy. I would need to decide how I was going to fix this one but it was going to be another challenge for me.The stem was in rough shape. It had a split on the top side that ran from the edge of the button almost an inch up the stem toward the bowl. On the underside it had deep tooth marks and two cracks that ran through the button into the airway in the slot. The slot was compressed from the bit marks. There was a lot of oxidation on the surface and some calcification. The Brigham nylon tenon told me that the pipe is a newer one rather than those with the aluminum tenon. It was designed to hold the Brigham Hard Maple Filter tube that is specially designed for them. This one was clogged with tars. The end of the nylon tube was splitting and flared. It was ruined. The photos below show the damaged areas on the stem.I put the stem aside for a while and started on the bowl. I reamed the cake with a PipNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to scrape the cake back to bare briar. I rolled a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and wrapped it around my index finger to sand the walls of the bowl. The cake was so sticky and crumbling that I wanted a hard, clean surface so that the owner could build a new cake to protect the bowl.I scraped out the shank with a dental spatula to scrape away the hardened tars that were on the walls of the mortise and airway to the bowl. I scrubbed the surface with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the shank and mortise was clean.To remove the hard buildup on the rim top and some of the damage to the front outer edge of the bowl I lightly topped it on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the burn marks and damage on the inner edge of the rim. I finished by sanding the rim with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the rim and remove the scratches.I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush to clean out the crevices and grooves of the rustication. Once it was clean I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust on the finish to prepare it for a new coat of stain. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.Once the stain dried I wiped it down with a cotton pad and alcohol to make it more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through on the smooth portions and the ridges of the rustication. I lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it a light coat of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush and a microfiber cloth. The buffed and restored bowl is shown in the photos that follow. The time between this picture and the next cannot be captured in photos as there were two days of work and time that went into trying various methods of repairing the original stem for the pipe. I cleaned out the split in the stem and roughened the surface with a file. I cleaned out the cracks on the button, the split on the top side and the tooth marks on the underside of the stem. It took a bunch of sanding and picking. I filled in the gaps with black super glue and charcoal powder to strengthen the repairs. I filed them smooth and sanded them to restore the finish. All was going well until I tried to slide a pipe cleaner into the airway. I pushed it through the airway and into the button only to have the repaired button fall off. The cracks gave way and the chunk fell free of the stem. No repairs would ever hold on this stem. It was finished. One day I may cut it off and use the shorter version for a different pipe but it is not worth a repair any longer.

That decision having been made for me I went through my stem can in search of a replacement. I knew the owner was fine with a non-Brigham stem so that was the way I was going to proceed. I found a stem that had the same dimensions as the original stem. It was a straight stem that I would need to clean up and bend the stem to match the original but it would look good on this old pipe.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the oxidation and remove the light tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem. I turned the tenon down with a Dremel and sanding drum and fine-tuned it with a file to reduce the tenon to fit the shank of the pipe. I heated the stem with a heat gun until I was able to bend it to match the original stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I still had to work on the tenon to remove the file marks but the stem was beginning to shine. I polished the tenon with micromesh sanding pads to remove the majority of the file marks on the vulcanite. I buffed the tenon and then the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to remove the final scratches on the stem. I gave the stem and the smooth portions of the briar several coats of carnauba wax on the wheel and then buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed the bowl and stem with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I think that the owner will really like the looks of his restored and restemmed Brigham. It looks really good to my eye. Thanks for looking.

Repairing and Restoring a Walnut Folk Art Russian Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

I started cleaning up and repairing this Russian Folk Art Walnut pipe before taking photos of it. It was truly a mess. The shank had been cracked off at an angle behind the copper band and had been repaired by gluing the two pieces together without a lot of care to align the parts. As it was the crack was quite wide open all the way around the shank and had been sealed together with epoxy. I heated it to see if I could take it apart and align the parts and the glue definitely softened. I could rebreak it without further damaging the shank parts so I settled for heating it enough to realign the two parts. I realigned the parts and cooled the shank so the glue hardened. I filled in the deep crevices in the shank with briar dust and clear super glue putty. It hardened and bound the parts together. There was no movement in the shank at all at this point in the process. The photos below show the pipe with the stem in place. The repairs to the shank with the putty mix looked pretty decent in the photos. The rest of the pipe was a mess. The rim was thickly caked with over flow from the thick bowl cake. The finish on the bowl was dirty and sticky. The copper band on the shank was covered with a thick buildup of hardened “gunk” that would not come off with a simple wash. The airway in the shank was dirty and almost closed off. The mortise was also clogged. The tenon on the stem had a rubberized cement buildup around the angles at the stem. The stem itself was horn and had tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. The rounded button had an orific entrance into the stem. It was so plugged that I could not push a pipe cleaner through it. I took some close up photos of the repaired shank to show the flow of the two parts and how the realignment had worked. They also show the super glue/briar dust putty filling the crack that went all the way around the shank. There was some glue from the previous glue job that ran up the shank toward the bowl and actually ran around the copper band edge. The third photo shows the rim and the cake in the bowl. There was damage to the front edge of the bowl from someone knocking it out against a hard surface. I took photos of the stem to show the damage at the button end on both sides. The horn surface was worn and the shine was gone.I sanded the roughness of the repaired area on the shank with 180 grit sandpaper. I wanted to smooth out the surface of the repair so that it matched the shank. I continued to sand it further with 220 grit sandpaper. I smoothed out the repair and the shank began to look like it would have originally. You can see the coating on the copper band. It is like someone painted the surface with a glue coat or with varnish. That coat would need to be removed so that the patina of copper would shine through. The front of the bowl had a brass and copper insert in the wood. It was a mix of thorns and vines that was nailed to the front of the bowl. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife until the walls were bare and all of the cake was gone.I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the hard cake and the damage to the front of the bowl. It was a light topping that did not remove much of the rim top but it left it clean, smooth and even.I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the finish and the grime that was built up on it. Once it was clean the grain of the walnut shone through the stain on the wood. The next photos show the clean bowl and shank with the repaired area shown clearly in the photos. I used a sharp knife to flare the aluminum insert in the shank. I topped the shank end with the topping board to smooth out the face of the shank. I sanded the bowl, shank and copper band with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. The pads removed the material that was built up on the copper band and gave it a shine. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and the mortise with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until the airway was clean.I stained the bowl and shank with a dark brown aniline stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage.I took the following photos of the bowl once it had dried. The dark brown was a little dark to my liking so I would have to wipe it down to make it a little more transparent. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad and then buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. The photos below show the colour of the bowl once I had finished with the buffing. I was really happy with the colour and the coverage of the stain on the repaired area. The stem was fairly clogged with tars and oils. It took a lot of work to clean out the gunk in the stem. Pipe cleaners were really hard to push through the buildup so I picked at it with a piece of wire bent to the angle of the stem. I finally was able to break through so the pipe cleaners and alcohol finally did their job on the stem. I also cleaned off the rubber buildup on the tenon next to the stem with a sharp knife and used the alcohol to scrub that area as well.I polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set of pads I gave it a last coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl and stem a final time with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is looking far better than it did when it arrived. I think the owner will be happy about this piece of his own pipe history being brought back to life. It joins the others that are finished of the nine he sent me. Only two more pipes to go and I will be down with this lot. Thanks for looking.

 

 

One more hard to clean up – a no name Meerlined Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

The fifth pipe from the lot left to me for cleanup by the fellow on holiday was this little no name Bulldog. When he showed it to me, it was later in the evening and in the twilight of my dim living room, I did not notice that it was a meerlined pipe and he neglected to tell me. Once I had the pipe on my worktable and examined it under the light I could see that it was meerlined and that the meerschaum lining extended all the way to the bottom and was thus a cup insert into the briar and not a lining that ended above the airway. Knowing that changed my cleanup routine in that I do not like reaming meerschaum lined bowls because it is too easy to damage the walls and the bottom of the bowl if they are soft or cracked. I use a Savinelli Pipe Knife to carefully scrape the walls clean and wipe it down with a wet paper towel.

The pipe really was a mess in more ways than even the photos show. The finish was a thick varnish/urethane coat that had bubble and cracked on the heel of the bowl. The rim had a thick dark cake of tar that almost hid the proverbial line that separates the meerlining from the briar that holds it. The rings around the bowl were almost filled in with grime and grit. Looking at the bowl in the light I saw more pink/red fills than I have ever seen on a pipe. It seemed like there were fills between every darkened line of grain on the front and left side of the bowl and there were spot fills on the right and backside of the bowl. The inside of the bowl was caked with a thick, sticky tar that made me think that it had never been cleaned. The stem was hard to remove from the shank the goop (technical term here) was so thick and sticky. The metal spacer was attached to the stem not to the shank and it was oxidized and dirty. The surface of the stem was as sticky as the bowl surface and the button end had been chewed to the point that button was almost non-existent and the slot was virtually pinched closed. I have no idea how the owner was able draw smoke from the bowl to his mouth with this pinched and clogged mouthpiece. The pipe was truly a mess and one that would take some time to clean up and restore. Sometimes when I work on a pipe like this one I seriously question whether it is worth restoring. The only thing that keeps me at it is not the worth or condition the pipe is in when I get it, but obviously, it was a favoured pipe and quite possibly a great smoker to the one who wanted it restored. That is what makes it worth it to me – perhaps I can bring it back to some of its former glory and make it smokeable once more.

I took some close up photos of the state of the pipe before I started the restoration process. The first one shows the telltale inner ring on the bowl that signaled a meerlined bowl to me. The build up cake that flowed out of the bowl and over the rim is visible. The only thing you cannot experience is touching the stickiness and smelling the stink of a very dirty pipe. The second photo shows the heel of the pipe with the bubbled finish, missing fills and partial fills that will need attention. The last two photos show the condition of the stem – note the tooth marks and collapsed button visible in both photos. What is amazing is that the stem did not have any bite marks going through into the airway. On the one hand this pipe is a mess, but on the other it provides me with a challenge.The urethane/plastic coat on the bowl was impervious to acetone and alcohol. All it did was remove the dirt and grime but it did not faze the finish – even in the bubbled area on the heel. So much for the easy route of stripping the finish. I would have to resort to a more intrusive approach and sand the bowl. Fortunately, there were no stampings on the shank so I could sand the entire pipe. I sanded the urethane finish off the pipe and used a dental pick and sharp penknife to scrape out the grime in the twin rings around the bowl cap (fortunately the plastic coat did not go into the rings). Once I had broken through the finish I scrubbed the surface of the briar with acetone on cotton pads to remove the stain that was underneath the plastic coat. The red/pink putty fills are evident now that the finish is removed. I scraped the cake out of the bowl with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to the meerschaum lining. The meerschaum was darkened from the tobacco stains and fire but it was solid and undamaged! I am thankful for that little bit of reprieve. I scraped some of the build up from the rim at the same time to see if there was damage underneath.I decided to lightly top the bowl to remove the damage to the briar on the front outer edge of the rim cap and some of the deeper gouges in the rim top. I topped it on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to have a smooth transition between the briar and the meerschaum insert. The topping achieved that goal.I sanded the exterior of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the rest of the finish in preparation for repairing the damaged fills on the bottom of the bowl and to assess the other fills to see what needed to be done with them. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad before I took the following photos. With the externals cleaned up it was time to turn my attention to the internals. I blew air through the end of the shank and found that pipe was clogged with just a trickle of air slipping through the shank. I pushed a metal rod through the airway to the bowl and worked it around to remove the build up that constricted the airway. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the walls of the mortise and the end of the mortise and remove the hardened, sticky mess that had formed along the walls making the stem fit very tight. I scoured out the airway in the shank and the mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the shank and mortise were clean. At this point the pipe was smelling far better.The stem needed the same treatment. I could not push a pipe cleaner through because of the build up of debris and the pinched button and slot. I used a dental pick to scrape out the metal tenon that had been made for a paper filter. It was so full of thick black tars and oils that it took a while to get that part clean. I worked the pick around in the slot until I was able to open the slot and airway enough to be able to push a pipe cleaner through it. I scrubbed out the tenon and the airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until it was clean.I used a file to smooth out the top of the existing button and the area one inch in front of the button on both sides of the stem. Once I had cleaned up with the file I sanded it with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth it further. I wiped it down with an alcohol dampened pad to remove the dust. I filled in the tooth marks in the stem and button with black super glue and set the stem aside to cure.I filled in the damaged fills in the heel of the bowl with clear super glue and set it aside to dry. Once glue had dried on the fills on the heel and cap I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper and blended them into the surrounding briar surface. I wrapped a piece of 220 grit sandpaper around a dowel and then my finger and sanded out the rough spots on the interior walls of the bowl. I wanted the surface of the bowl to be smooth meerschaum so that I could encourage the owner to not allow the cake to build up in this one but to wipe it down with a paper towel after each smoke.I sanded the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. Once it had a shine I stained it with a new bottle of dark brown aniline stain undiluted. I was hoping to get some coverage or blend in on the dark red fills on the bowl. I flamed the stain to set it and repeated the process until the coverage was even.I let the stain dry overnight and once it was dry I took some photos of what Dal calls the crust of the fired stain covering the bowl. You can really see the fills stand out through the stain in these photos. I wiped off the crust coat with alcohol on a cotton pad to get it back to the stain coat so I could examine what I was going to work on. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper and remove the dark coat. To me the dark really made the red fill material stand out on the bowl and the fact that there were so many of them it looked like freckles. I sanded it back with the sandpaper which left behind some sanding marks and scratches that would need to be worked on. I polished the sanding marks out by buffing it with red Tripoli and then sanding it with micromesh pads. I wet sanded the bowl with 1500-2400 grit pads (I opened a package of new pads to sand with). I dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. The photos below show the progress. While the fills stand out to me the polishing tends to hide them a bit. The pictures below tell the story. The stem repairs had cured so I sanded the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and blend them with the surface of the stem. I shaped the button with a needle file to make the edges cleaner and sharper. I touched up the repaired areas with a clear super glue and filled in the airholes in the cured super glue. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil to enliven the stem surface. I hand buffed it with  a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. I filled in the stamping on the stem with White Acrylic Paint and when it had dried I sanded it off. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond polish to raise a shine. I buffed until the scratches were blended in to the surface. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect the surface of the briar and stem. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. I polished the metal decorative band on the stem with a silver polishing cloth.The photos below show the finished pipe. It looks far different from the pipe that I started with. The stain and wax blend the fills into the briar, and though still visible, they look far better than they did before. This is the seventh pipe I have restored and repaired for the gentleman who asked me to refurbish them for him. I look forward to seeing what he thinks when he sees this one.