Blog by Steve Laug
Probably one of the most irritating parts of the art of pipe restoration is when a pipe comes to me from an EBay seller who sold it as fully restored and ready to smoke and it was not. The story of this pipe started with that description. On the weekend I received a call from a fellow here in Vancouver who had a pipe that had a very loosely fitting stem. He asked if he could drop by to show it to me and see if I could fix it. From past experience I never jump to conclusions about what sounded like an easy repair. When he arrived he showed me this GBD Faux Spigot. It had a nickel ferrule and a nickel adornment just above the Delrin tenon. The tenon was drilled out for a 6mm filter. The stamping on the bowl reads on the left side GBD in an oval over Super ‘Q’. On the right side it had a Made in London over England COM stamp with the shape number 9436 next to that. On the underside of the shank it has an M stamped next to the ferrule. I asked him where he had picked up the pipe and he said that he had picked it up on EBay. Knowing that, I began to look more carefully at the pipe.
Here is what I saw. Starting with externals. The rim and exterior of the pipe had been coated with a shiny varnish coat with some significant grime on the rim top under the varnish. The nickel had also been coated with the varnish and had run on the stem adornment. The stem also had some deep bite marks on the surface ahead of a very worn and ill-defined button on both sides. Moving to the internals. The end of the tenon had a lot of tarry buildup in it from smoking the filter pipe without a filter. Not much effort seems to have been made to remove it. The inside of the shank was also covered with a tobacco juice lacquer that was also gumming up the airway. When I blew through it, the draught was constricted. The inside of the bowl was another story. The bowl had been lightly reamed leaving behind a fairly thick cake that was checked and cracked giving the bowl interior a very fractured look. The bottom half of the bowl had not seen the blade of the reamer and was dirty. There was debris in the airway as it entered the bowl. I have to say that the pipe was a mess and the work that had been done would make my job harder.
To say that it was restored and ready to smoke was an outright lie. If it had been cleaned and the only issue was the cake I would have been good with that. If the rim top had been cleaned before the shiny coat I would have been good with that. But to cover it up and make it shiny to hide a poor job is deceptive at worst and shoddy craftsmanship at best. I pointed out the issues with the pipe to the fellow who had stopped by and suggested that he have me clean it up for him the way I think that it should have been cleaned. He was game so the pipe stayed with me when he left. I took some photos of the pipe before I started my work to show the general condition. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition. It is hard to see but the rim top is not smooth. There are chunks of grime/lava under the shiny top coat. The close up photos of the stem reveal the scratches in the vulcanite, the tooth marks and the worn and ill-defined button. There is also some sagging shiny coat on the nickel stem adornment that is visible.I cleaned the internals of the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. The debris that came out was astonishing for a “restored” pipe. I scraped the walls of the mortise with a sharp pen knife to remove the lacquer build up there. When I finished the pipe smelled cleaner.I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer. I cleaned up the debris with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and sanded the walls with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to see behind all the cake what the walls looked like. Sadly they were as I expected – very checked with spidery cracks. I took a few photos of the damage to the inside of the bowl to give an idea of the extent of the checking and fissures on interior walls. This is typically caused by smoking too hot.To protect the bowl wall I mixed up a batch of charcoal powder and sour cream to make a paste. I pressed the mixture into the crevices and fissures on the walls of the bowl and painted a top coat of the mixture with a folded pipe cleaner. I set the bowl aside to cure and turned my attention to the damaged stem.I used a needle file to redefine the button on both sides of the stem and sanded the tooth marks out the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I filled in the remaining deeper tooth mark with super glue and when it cured sanded it smooth to match the surface of the stem.I polished the stem, tenon and metal work with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I was able to remove the damage on the tenon and polish out the dripping varnish on the metal adornment. The stem looked much better at this point in the process. Once the bowl coating cured I worked on the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – 3200-12000 to remove the tarry deposits around the surface. I scrubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm and after it sat for a short time I buffed it off with a cotton cloth. Here is what it looked like at that point. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. I am looking forward to hearing what the fellow who dropped it off for repair thinks of it once he has it in hand and is smoking it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. Thanks for tolerating my rant at the beginning about redoing EBay “restored” pipes. Also if any of you have ever heard of the GDB Super ‘Q’ line let me know. Thanks for looking and thanks for any help you might give.