Tag Archives: Freehand Pipes

Rejuvenating a No Name Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is yet another interesting pipe from the Michigan lot – a well-made Freehand with plateau on the rim top and shank end. The entire pipe had some beautiful straight and flame grain around the bowl and shank with birdseye on the bottom of the bowl and shank. It is one of the unique freehand pipes that were in the collection. It is not a large pipe – but the bowl is large enough that I can put my entire thumb inside. The rim top is tapered and thin on the front half of the bowl and thicker at the backside. The entire rim is plateau. The shank end is flared and is also plateau briar. The pipe has a contrasting black stain on the plateau areas and medium brown stain coat on the rest of the bowl. The combination really accentuates the grain. There is no identifying brand or maker stamp on the shank sides or underside. The freehand style stem is vulcanite and has no marking or stamping on it. This is another nice looking piece much like the rest of those in this 21 pipe Michigan pipe lot. The Freehand I am working on is shown on the bottom shelf of the rack pictured below. It is the fourth pipe from the right and I put a red box around it to make it easy to identify.Jeff took some photos of the pipe when he received them to show the general condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Like the rest of the pipes from the Michigan collection this pipe was very dirty and well used. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lava overflowing onto the plateau rim top. It was hard to know if the edges of the bowl were damaged or not because of the cake and lava. The exterior of the briar was dirty with grease and oils from being held. The vulcanite stem is lightly oxidized and has some calcification at the button. There are scratches in the surface of the vulcanite from what looked like an attempt to scrape off oxidation. There were deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button edge and some wear on the button edge itself. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of the beautiful no name Freehand. Jeff took two photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The second photo is a close up of the lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. It shows the mess this pipe was in when we received it. There was a thick hard cake in the bowl from lots of use. The rim top had some thick lava overflow and some darkening. The thick lava on the rim top made it hard to know what the inner and outer edges of the bowl looked like. There is also a general accumulation of dust in the finish on the rest of the bowl and shank.He also took photos of the right and underside of the bowl and shank to show the interesting grain around the bowl and shank. The finish is very dirty but the grain is visible in each of the photos. This is another beautiful pipe. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There are also some marks on the sharp edge of the button. The stem is dirty, oxidized and is covered in scratches. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove the lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the plateau on the surface of the rim. Jeff had done an amazing job cleaning off the lava buildup. The front part of the rim top is thinner and the bowl angles back toward the rear of the pipe. The outer edge of the rim looks really good. The plateau on the shank end is also visible in the photos of the stem. The stem photos show the tooth marks and the wear on the button surface on both sides. The bowl and shank of the pipe were in great condition so I started by polishing it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl and rim down with a damp cloth after each pad. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I used a horsehair shoe brush to work it into the nooks and crannies of the plateau rim top and shank end. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good. The finish looks very good with the rich finish on the bowl and rim. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I cleaned out the tooth marks on both sides of the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol. I filled in the tooth marks with clear super glue. Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to flatten out the repaired areas. I filed it until the patches were smooth with the surface of the stem. I used a folded piece of 240 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the surface of the stem. Once the surface was smooth I sanded out the scratch marks and started the polishing of the stem with a folded piece of 400 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and took the following photos.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 wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and polished them both with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The dark stained plateau on the rim top and shank end was a great contrast with the black and brown stain on the rest of the bowl and shank. Once again the pipe came alive with the buffing. I have no idea who carved the pipe but it is well laid out and proportioned and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This beauty will soon be on the rebornpipes store. It would make a great Freehand addition to somebody’s pipe rack. Thanks for walking through the restoration of this interesting Freehand with me it was a pleasure to work on.

Refreshing a Mastersen Burl Briar Made in France Freehand


Blog by Dal Stanton

My first restoration project of the new year is on my work table!  After visiting family in the US for the holidays, and putting in some overdue ‘Grandpa time’, I’m glad to be back to Sofia, Bulgaria, in our 10th floor flat of a formerly Communist Block apartment building.  I acquired the Mastersen Freehand before me in the Lot of 66 some time ago – an acquisition off eBay that has produced many newly commissioned pipes for stewards around the globe.  And what’s great about this is not only that these pipes were placed in the hands of stewards but that each pipe has benefited the work we do here in Bulgaria with the foundation, Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I’m thankful for those pipe men and women who have commissioned the restoration of these pipes from the For ‘’Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection on the ThePipeSteward website.  This is where Paul debated over 4 pipes and in the end commissioned two pipes, this Mastersen Freehand and a very nice Kaywoodie Prime Grain Imported Briar ‘Fancy’ Bulldog, which will be next in the queue.  Now on my worktable, this is what got Paul’s attention. The nomenclature situated on the underside of the shank is worn and thin.  The stamp is MASTERSEN [over] BURL BRIAR [over] MADE IN FRANCE.  Pipedia’s information about Mastersen shows that it was a name originally belonging to the Shalom Pipe Co. of Israel.  The Pipedia article goes on to say, “Shalom was taken over by Robert L. Marx of New York City, later Sparta, NC, then of Mastercraft.”  Mastersen is mentioned also in the Pipedia description of Mastercraft, which was cited from a very interesting 2008 thread devoted to Dr. Grabow pipes from Tapatalk.com – the specific thread was named, Mastercraft Pipes, Grabow Parallel Universe.  The main contributor was Ted, who from 1974 till 1984 had several positions with Mastercraft including Executive Vice President.  Ted’s reminiscences were fun to read, but my main interest was to understand better what happened with the name Mastersen.  Mastersen’s original stamping with the Shalom Pipe Co., would be marked with Israel as the Country of Manufacturing (COM).  Yet, the Mastersen on my table shows a French COM.  Ted’s reflections on those years with the relationship of Mastercraft, the subsequent owner of the Mastersen name, gave some clues.  This short statement was helpful describing Mastercraft’s acquisition of pipes for sale:

It doesn’t appear it was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English…. Freehand, For M/C Andersen and (a few Mastersen) ….

My guess based upon this scant information is that the original Shalom Mastersen Freehand style was later manufactured in France under Mastercraft ownership (1970s to 1980s?).  The style of the pipe before me is consistent with Pipephil’s example of the Mastersen Freehand produced in Israel.An interesting characteristic of this Freehand is it size.  For a Freehand it could be described as diminutive.  The length is 5 inches, height: 2 inches at the crest, plateau width: 1 1/2 inches, chamber width: 1 inch and chamber depth: 1 1/2 inches (at the middle of the slanted plateau).  I found this description of a similar Mastersen with an Israel COM described for sale on SmokingPipes.com.  Christophor Huff’s description nailed the Mastersen on my worktable as well regarding it size yet plenty of room for tobacco:The condition of the Mastersen on my worktable is good but needs the normal cleaning.  The plateau has minor darkening and the chamber has a very light cake.  I detect one small divot on the right side of the shank that needs attention.  Minor tooth chatter is evident on the bit and some oxidation in the stem.  Perhaps the most noticeable issue is the fancy stem fit – it is quite loose.  The tenon will need to be expanded to make the army style pressure fit snugger.

To begin the restoration of the Mastersen, I run some pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the fancy bent stem to clean the airway and then place it in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer.  It joins a few other pipes and their stems that are in queue for restoration.  After several hours soaking, I fish out the Mastersen’s stem and drain the Deoxidizer fluid.  I then wipe off the stem removing much oxidation using a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  I also run pipe cleaners through the airway to remove Deoxidizer from the internals.  After wiping with alcohol, I then apply paraffin oil (a mineral oil) to condition the vulcanite and set the stem aside.  The Before & After did a good job with the oxidation. The pictures show the progress. Turning now to the Freehand bowl, I begin the cleaning process my reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I use the two smaller blade heads of four and then quickly remove the remaining carbon using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool.  I sand the chamber wrapping 240 grit paper around a Sharpie pen and then wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clear out the remaining carbon dust.  The chamber looks good except that I detect a pit near the top of the chamber – just below the plateau.  I take a couple pictures to get a close look.  My thoughts are that this blemish in the briar is too high to be impacted in a large way by the fire in the chamber.  Just to be on the safe side of things, I will fill it, but will CA do the job, or do I need to apply a touch of the heat resistant J-B Weld putty since it is in the chamber?  I’ll give some thought to this and I decide to send a note to Steve with all his rebornpipes experience to get his input.  The pictures show the progress. From the chamber, I now clean the externals using undiluted Murphy’s Soap.  I scrub with cotton pads on the smooth briar and utilize a bristled tooth brush to clean the plateau – getting into the crevices. The cleaning reveals a very nice piece of briar.  The dimple on the bowl’s left side is attractive as it is in relief to the smooth briar.  Three pictures before and two after the cleaning showing the lightening of the surface. Now to the internals using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It did not take too much, and buds and pipe cleaners were coming out clean.Turning now to the stem, the Before & After Deoxidation soak did a good job.  The upper bit has some bite compressions and chatter on both upper and lower.  The button lip has some biting as well.  I start passively by using the heating method to expand the vulcanite compressions.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the upper- and lower-bit areas.  As the vulcanite heats, physics takes over – it expands and naturally reclaims its original shaping – or at least partially.  This method works well, and I follow easily with sanding out the remaining tooth damage using 240 and then 470 grit papers.  I took before and after pictures and I’ll let you be the judge how effective the heating method often is.

Upper, before and after: I follow the bit sanding by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grit paper followed by 0000 steel wool.Giving the stem a respite, I look again to the pits that need repair on the stummel.  A very small pit on the right side of the stummel and the larger pit on the upper area of the chamber – just under the edge of the plateau.  After getting a note back from Steve with his input, I will use briar dust and CA glue putty to fill the pits in both places.  With the upper chamber fill, I will follow this later by applying a coat of activated charcoal and sour cream mix to the entire chamber.  This will protect the fill as well as encourage the growth of a new protective cake.  I take a few pictures to get a close-up of each pit and then I mix a batch of briar dust and CA glue.  I mix it gradually until the mixture reaches a thickness or viscosity like molasses.  I then use a tooth pick as a trowel and apply the filler to the pits.  For the upper chamber pit, I give the area an extra tamping to assure that the cavity is filled.  I put the stummel aside for the night, allowing the briar dust putty to fully cure.  The pictures show the process. The next morning, before the demands of the day come, I return to the stummel with the briar dust patches fully cured.  I use a flat needle file and begin removing the excess filler on the smaller patch.  I use the file until nearly to the briar surface then I switch to sanding with a piece of 240 grit paper bringing the patch down flush with the briar surface.  I do the same with the larger fill in the upper chamber, except using a half-rounded needle file I’m able to sand with the contour of the chamber.  I then finish the upper chamber sanding by using 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie pen.  I like the results. With the stummel repair completed, I turn to the revitalization of the fancy stem by wet sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem between each set of three pads to enrich the vulcanite.  I love the pop of that freshly sanded vulcanite – it looks great! Now we’re close to the homestretch.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel.  Following this I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I enjoy watching the grain surfacing through the micromesh process. I had written Steve before to get his input regarding the chamber pit repair.  The other question I asked was regarding darkening the plateau or leaving it natural and allowing the natural forces of burning tobacco and lava to color the rim surface? His advice was good and something I try to do when restoring pipes that have nomenclature and historical markers.  It is good to restore pipes according to the original intent when the pipe was manufactured.  Most of the examples of Mastersen pipes I have seen online predate the acquisition of the Shalom Pipe Co., by Mastercraft which were manufactured in Israel.  I’ve seen both natural and darkened plateaus – here are a few examples I found.It is difficult to tell by looking at the original picture I took of the plateau before starting the restoration to know what the original was – yet, if I had to guess, originally the inner part of the plateau was darkened some, but not fully.  That is, much natural briar was exposed.  The second picture is the current status of the plateau during this restoration process. Well, decision time has come and gone.  Using a black Sharpie Pen I introduce highlights to the plateau by coloring the crevices.  I start conservatively to get a feel for how it’s looking.  I begin with a fine point Sharpie to draw down the narrow crevices then I use a larger one to stroke the larger areas. After applying what looks like an adequate amount of black, I then fan wipe the rim surface with a cotton pad with only a hint of alcohol.  This has the effect of blending and soften the black hues over the contours of the landscape.Finally, I start with about a mid-range grit micromesh pad, 3600, and I proceed to sand the plateau.  I move from 3600 to the finest grit pad, 12000.  This serves to further blend and to uncover the ridges of the briar.  This gives the look more contrast which I like – the black and the brown briar.  Overall, I think it looks good.Before moving on, I need to take care of the stem fit that I noticed earlier was too loose.  I retry the fit and it remains too loose for comfort.  To remedy this, I find a drill bit that is just the next size larger than what will fit in the airway.  Using a Bic lighter, I fan a flame around the end of the tenon to heat the vulcanite to make it pliable.  My first attempt to push the smooth end of the bit into the hole was not successful – it was still too tight.  I then use a pointed Dremel sculpting bit to help open the hole a bit so that the larger drill bit could be inserted into the airway.  I heated the tenon again and press the pointed Dremel tool into the hole to expand it slightly – which is enough.  I heat the tenon again and when it becomes supple I gradually and gently insert the bit in the airway as far as it will go without great effort.  Leaving the bit in the tenon, I again reheat the tenon as well as the metal of the bit to help the internal movement.  Again, when the vulcanite softens, I push the bit in a little further into the airway.  With this movement of the bit, the tenon is gradually expanding to close the gap making the fit with the shank snugger.  With the last heating and movement of the tenon, without withdrawing the bit, I run the tenon under cool tap water to set the vulcanite to assure that it will remain expanded.  I then heat only the metal of the bit to loosen the vulcanite’s grip on it and withdraw it with the help of pliers.  I try the stem fit again and success!  A very nice, comfortable, snug fit with the tenon inserted into the shank.Next, before moving to the Dremel polishing and waxing phases, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the Freehand stummel that is looking very nice.  I like this Restoration Balm because it subtly brings out deeper, richer tones of the natural briar presentation.  I squirt a little of the Balm on my finger and then simply work it into the briar grain.  It starts as a thinner texture and then thickens as the Balm works into the surface.  I apply the Balm on the rim as well.  After letting it set for several minutes to absorb the Balm, I wipe/buff the excess Balm with a microfiber cloth.  I like it. The pictures I take, I’m not sure are able to pick up on the subtle deepening that I perceive with the naked eye.  The pictures are before, during Balm absorbing and then after buffed off. Next, I reunite stem and stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed to about 40%.  I then apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe. To remove compound dust from the surface, I buff the pipe with a flannel rag.  I then mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, remaining at the same speed, and apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe – stummel and stem.  Completing this, I give the pipe a good hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.  Yet, one more task and this Mastersen Burl Briar Freehand will be completed.  To protect the upper chamber patch and to introduce a starter for the development of a cake to protect the briar surface, I mix a batch of sour cream, or in this case, natural yogurt, and activated charcoal to spread on the chamber walls.  I don’t mix too much sour cream, so the mixture isn’t too liquid and runny.  I insert a pipe cleaner through the draft hole to keep the airway open.  After spreading the mixture over the chamber with a flat dental spatula, I set it aside allowing the charcoal/yogurt mixture to cure and harden.  With this chamber surface, the new steward should not scrape the chamber after use, but use a doubled over pipe cleaner to ‘rub’ the chamber walls to remove ash and remains until a cake develops.   The pictures show this final task.Wow!  This Mastersen Burl Briar Freehand – Made in France is a keeper!  I’m pleased with the presentation of the plateau and the blending of the natural and darkened briar hues.  The flame grain is beautiful as it encompasses the conical Freehand stummel.  As a smaller Freehand, it is light enough to function easily as a ‘hands free’ pipe which is nice – but please use a rubber bite guard! This Mastersen caught Paul’s eye and since he commissioned it, he has the first opportunity to acquire the Mastersen Freehand from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!