Tag Archives: GBD pipes

Freshening up a GBD Topaz 559 Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

This is another of the pipes that came from that estate sale that my brother picked up recently. It is a classic GBD shape. It is stamped GBD in an oval over TOPAZ on the left side of the shank and London, England over 559 on the right side of the shank. On the left underside of the shank next to the stem/shank junction it is stamped with a P. The Topaz line was introduced in about 1980. From a Pipedia link with a list of GBD lines I quote: “Probably the most perfect harmony of combining the soft beige tones of the Hand Cut Acrylic mouthpiece with complimentary shades of brown in the Briar.” This GBD is probably made after the merger by Cadogan, who also makes Comoys, Dr. Plumb’s Perfect Pipes, BBB, and Orlik Pipes. Since the merger in 1981 GBD pipes are not considered to be of the same quality that they were originally. Though the brass rondels were discontinued after the merger they once again reappeared on new production GBD’s. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD_Model_Information, https://pipedia.org/wiki/GBD_Model_Information#List_of_GBD_Models.)

My brother sent me the following photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up to send to me. (I have to say by the way that I really like working on clean pipes. It makes the job so much easier for me. Thanks Jeff.) He took some close up photos of the sides of the bowl and the rim to give an idea of the condition when he brought it back from the estate sale. The bowl had a thick cake that had overflowed onto the beveled rim and top leaving a nice coat of lava. I was hoping that once he removed it that we would find that the lava protected the bowl rim from damage. He took some photos of the stamping that I noted above. The stamping was sharp and readable. The P stamp on the underside of the stem on the left was readable as well. I am not clear what the stamp means however. Do any of you know what the meaning of it is? The brass roundel is not worn and is very clean. It is a little hard to see from the photos of the stem shown below but this pipe had the same kind of tooth chatter and marks that the rest of the pipes in this estate had. They were worse on the underside of the stem but they were present on the top as well.My brother did a very thorough job reaming and cleaning this pipe. The internals and externals were very clean. The bowl looked well reamed and showed that the pipe had never been smoked to the bottom of the bowl – there was still fresh briar at the bottom ¼ of the bowl. The next four photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Vancouver and I brought it to the work table. I took a close up photo of the rim to show the change from the caked and dirty pipe that Jeff started with. It is amazing how well the lava protected the bevel and the rim top.I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway in the stem and the shank and they were very clean. I used a cotton swab to clean around the step down on the tenon and in the mortise. These too were clean.The right side of the bowl had a lightened area where the stain had worn away from the original owner’s hand. I touched it up with a dark brown stain pen. It blended very well. When it dried I hand buffed it and gave the bowl a coat of Conservator’s Wax to protect it.I took some photos of the stem to try to capture the tooth damage and chatter on both sides. It is hard to see with the copper Lucite but it is very present. You can see a bit of it showing up toward the bottom of the second photo.I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter with 320 grit sandpaper. It did not take much sanding to remove all of the marks and chatter as they were not too deep in the acrylic. I polished the acrylic with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad between each sanding pad to remove the dust and check the progress. The photos below tell the story. I put the stem back in place on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished out the minute scratches in the briar and Lucite with that buffing. I gave the pipe and stem 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 the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. It is a beautiful pipe with a lot of character. The dark stain and the copper coloured variegated Lucite stem work really well together. The contrast is really stunning. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. The pipe is ready to pass on to its next pipe man. It should serve the next owner for a long time. If you are interested in adding it to your rack email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a private message on FaceBook. I will be putting this one on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for looking.

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.

GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash – An Unexpected Hole Repair


Blog by Dal Stanton

I’m calling this GBD Trafalgar a Calabash shape, and it’s been in my “Help me!” basket for some time.  I saw it on the US eBay auction block and I liked the shape and the way the grain was positioned in shaping of the flowing Calabash stummel.  From what I could make out from the few pictures the seller provided, the front and back of the bowl revealed horizontal straight grain.  These grain veins terminate on each flank with distinctive bird’s eye.  I liked it – I bid on it – and I was happy to bring it home to Sofia, Bulgaria, where it’s now on my work table.  Here are a few pictures from the seller. The markings on the Calabash on the left side of the shank show, “GBD” in the oval over “LondonMade” curved up.  The right side of the shank shows, “LONDON ENGLAND” over what I’m assuming is the shape number “K1978” only I couldn’t find this shape number listed for GBD pipes.  Under the shank is “TRAFALGAR”.  GBD (Pipedia’s article on GBD), was the handshake enterprise started by three French ‘Master Pipemakers’, Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger in Paris in 1850 to manufacture Meerschaum pipes, which was the primary material used in manufacturing pipes along with clay, until the discovery of briar in Saint Claude, France, a discovery that changed the pipe manufacturing world.  In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co. in London, which began the shift of GBD to being primarily a British enterprise, even though GBD pipes continued to be produced in Paris and Saint Claude, until 1981, with the closing of the French operation when the name, GBD, was merged with the Cadogan Group.  I enjoy rehearsing the historical developments of pipe names and companies because they add to the enjoyment and appreciation of restoring pipes.

The history of the ‘Trafalgar Campaign’ (see LINK) and what it would suggest I believe, is that this GBD pipe was manufactured and distributed across the channel in England, as the stampings indicate.  This is not always the case from my research on GBD.  Often, GBD pipes were manufactured in France, shipped to the UK, where they would be stamped “London Made” – or so my reading has indicated.  Yet, with the stamping of Trafalgar, my guess is that this GBD was manufactured in UK.  In 1805, ‘Trafalgar’ was the final battle engagement between the combined French and Spanish fleets and the Royal Navy to defeat Napoleon’s attempt to gain control of the English Channel, the first phase in his ultimate plan to invade England with his land forces.  To the British, Trafalgar will be commemorated as a victory thwarting the French invasion.  Fortunately, not too many years later, the economics of pipe manufacturing and the common love of pipe smoking, Brits would smoke French made pipes and the French, London made pipes.  Yet, I doubt if one will find this GBD Trafalgar London Made in the rotation of a Frenchman or Frenchwomen today!  I was anxious to integrate the Battle of Trafalgar into this restoration because of my love of tall ships.  Pictured is another of my hobbies in the same room as my pipe restoration work desk, a long-time project building the USS Constitution, now proudly anchored in Boston Harbor!

With a greater appreciation of this GBD’s history and name, I look more closely at the pipe itself and take more pictures on my work desk to look more closely and to fill in the gaps. Looking closer and assessing areas of need, the chamber has a light carbon cake, and the rim is nicked up significantly on the front outer lip and the lava flow of oils and grime need attention.  The finish on the stummel is dark and cloudy.  Oxidation on the stem is minimal but there are tooth dents on the bit, and the upper button lip has a clenching dent that will need attention.  Everything seemed straight-forward until my index finger detected a ridge where there shouldn’t be one.  I hadn’t seen it before (and I checked the eBay pictures and it wasn’t shown by the seller 😦 as sometimes is the case), but my index finger revealed what appears to be an impact fracture on the front heel of the stummel.  My first reaction is to insert my pinky finger into the chamber to see if I could feel any reciprocating activity on the internal side.  I feel nothing.  I take pictures to focus in on the fracture from different angles.  I use the sheen of the overhead lamp to see more clearly the little disaster now before me.  On the last picture below, I circled the only good news I can see at this point.  My forensic hypothesis assessing the scene of the crime: This piece of briar surface is what I assume is the impact point on a hard, unsuspecting surface.  The curvature of the stummel would have been abruptly flattened upon impact, and the expansion of this piece of impacted briar would have pushed out and then up, much like convergent tectonic plates in the earth’s surface.  The good news?  This small piece of briar is still attached to the stummel, though it appears the attachment may be tenuous.  The last two pictures below I placed arrows pointing to the terminus points of the trauma cracks which will most likely grow without intervention – what I thought would be a fairly slam dunk restore!  The pictures show the new challenge and opportunity to expand my skills! To recommission this GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash, after inserting a pipe cleaner in the stem, I plop the stem in the Oxi-Clean bath to address the minor oxidation mainly in the bit area.  Cleaning the stummel is the next order of business.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, after putting paper down on the work surface, I take out the smallest blade to use, but after eyeballing the angle of the chamber, the Calabash’s conical fire chamber is too tight to allow even the smallest blade to fit down to the lower area. Switching to the Savinelli Pipe Knife, I remove the light carbon build up down to the briar for a fresh start.  As often proves to be the case, as I proceeded with the reaming of the chamber, working the Savinelli Pipe Knife down into the foot of the chamber around the draft hole, the reality of the thinning of the briar was fully revealed.  The small piece of briar that was hanging on, on the external side, was dislodged, resulting in a hole through the stummel.  Technically, I think this is a burn through, as there is a hint of darkening of the briar indicating the heat.   As I’ve seen in other restorations, especially with the narrower drilled fire chambers, the briar at the floor of the chamber wears away with excessive reaming and digging and with time, the briar thins. After I salvage the dislodged piece of briar, not hopeful that it will be part of the solution, I take a couple pictures to record the break-through and continue cleaning the chamber.

When I finished reaming with the Savinelli knife, I use a coarser, 120 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to clean further the carbon, especially the floor of the chamber where repairs will be made.  I then follow with 240 grit paper and finally, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to deal with the residue dust.  The pictures show the progress. Continuing the cleaning process, I take pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and work on the internals of the stummel.  After some effort, the internals are coming clean. With the internal cleaning complete, I look to the external surface.  To address the grime on the rim and stummel I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with a cotton pad to scrub the surface.  I also use a brass bristled brush to clean the rim and a bristled tooth brush for general stummel cleaning.  On the back side of the rim, I also use my straight knife blade to scrape the carbon off the surface.  After completing the clean-up of the rim, it is apparent that I will still need to top the stummel a small amount to remove the damage to front ‘bumper’ of the rim.  Pictures show the progress. I’m thinking about the stummel hole repair before me while I methodically move through the normal phases of the restoration until I come to the point of focusing on the needed repair.  The plan forming is that I need to build up the floor of the chamber to the entry of the draft hole.  This will reinforce the entire base of the stummel for a long time.  I’ll use JB Weld to do this build-up, a product and method that I learned from Charles Lemon, at Dad’s Pipes.  Yet, before doing the floor buildup, I will do the repairs on the cracks and hole in the stummel.  My thinking is that this order of repair is better so that the hole fill, instead of being built on the chamber floor rebuild, will instead be reinforced by it.  Or, so my thinking goes!  I’ll let the plan cook a little longer and I put the stummel aside and fish the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath.  Using the plastic disc I fabricated to protect against shoulder rounding, I remount the stem and stummel with the disc in between.  Using 600 grit paper, I wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation – working on the bit – button area also to remove tooth chatter and dents.  Following this, I use 0000 steel wool to buff further the stem and to rid it of oxidation.  I move directly to cleaning the internal airway with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  I also use a sharp dental probe to scrape the slot area pulling out some gunk.  Without too much resistance, the stem internals are clean.  The pictures show the stem progress. Again I turn my attention to the stummel arriving at the moment of truth.  I need to address the crack repair by drilling small holes at the terminus points of the cracks to keep the cracks from creeping – like a controlled fire set in a forest fire to stop its progress.  I take another closeup of the area and with the help of a magnifying glass, I identify where the ends of the two major cracks are with arrows.  The second picture, shows where I made a mark – where I will place counter-holes.  I add one at the bottom-left because with the laterally grain movement, I can easily imagine a crack spidering out in that direction eventually.  I use a 1mm drill bit and drill each hole.  The pictures show the progress. Now, to patch the hole.  I first clean the surface with a cotton pad and alcohol and I make sure the hole is free of debris and dust.  I then spot drop thin Hot Stuff CA Glue on the cracks themselves to allow the thin glue to seep into the cracks.  Before I mix the briar dust and super glue putty to fill the hole and the control holes I drilled, I need to create a backing on the inside of the chamber so that the putty will not simply push through the hole when applied.  To do this I simply put a piece of masking tape inside over the hole as it comes through.  I then mix briar dust and superglue with a toothpick to form a putty about the consistency of molasses. Using the toothpick as a trowel, I apply the putty liberally knowing that later, after it cures, I’ll be sanding it down to the surface and blending it. I put the stummel aside to cure overnight and I call it a day.  The pictures show the patching process. The next day, I move directly to the chamber floor repair by building it up and reinforcing it with J-B Kwik Weld.  This is my second go with JB Weld.  The first was repairing a burn through with a petite horn shaped, Short Snorter.  As I think about this repair, the challenge in my mind is how to deliver the JB Weld mixture directly to the floor of the chamber without smearing it where it’s not needed.  This is where a couple of disposable popsicle sticks would come in handy, if I hand any.  The idea that begins to shape up in my mind is to mix the JB Weld on an index card, when I’m ready to ‘pour’, I’ll create a cone with the index card, insert it into the chamber to the floor, and press out the JB Weld with my finger – I’ll put on a latex surgical glove that a medical team visiting us here in Bulgaria left behind.  I’ll then shape the mixture evenly around the floor of the chamber.  That’s the plan.  I insert a pipe cleaner into the mortise and through the draft hole so that the JB Weld does not weld the airway shut.  JB Kwik Weld comes in two parts – the ‘Steel’ and the ‘Hardener’ mixtures.  The directions say to mix them equally and that one has about 4 minutes before the mixture sets.  I take a picture of the setup and of the chamber with patched hole and pipe cleaner visible.  I mix JB Weld at 50/50 (as close as I can tell) on an index card, roll it, insert it, and press it out – it was a bit messy, but mission accomplished.  I set the stummel in an egg crate with it tilted forward, and let it cure.  Pictures show the progress. Home from work, I’m ready to return to the stummel and continue working on the repairs.  The internal chamber floor build up using JB Weld looks good and feels good as I put the pinky in and feel the contours.  I look now to the external briar dust – superglue patch and I begin the process of removing the excess putty using a flat needle file.  When I near being flush with the briar surface, I switch to using 240 grit paper to bring it down to the surface.  At this point I gently bring the patch down to briar surface.  I allow the paper to do the job without applying much pressure – I want as much briar to remain as possible.  After I remove the excess putty, the patch is looking good and will not be difficult to blend with the native briar with a dark stain.   I take pictures to show the progress. I turn back to the internal chamber.  I use a coarse 120 grit sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to sand the chamber wall cleaning it up from JB Weld that adhered to the upper area of the chamber.  Following the 120, I use 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen as well.  With my finger, I feel the chamber and ridges are gone and it has smoothed nicely.  The pictures show the progress. Looking more closely at the draft hole (above) I see a pointed hanger left over from JB Weld at the 2 o’clock position.  To smooth this future pipe cleaner obstacle, I reach in with a rounded needle file and file off the pointed area and round off the entire draft hole area.  The pictures show the before and after.

Before moving to the topping board, I remove all the old finish.  I use a cotton cloth pad wetted with acetone and wipe down the stummel.  It removes the old finish quickly.  Pulling out the chopping board, my topping board, I place a sheet of 240 grit paper on it.  I need only to remove enough briar to remove the damage/dents at the nose of the rim.  I take a picture to mark the progress.  I rotate the stummel evenly in a circle over the board checking the progress often.  I take just enough briar off so that I can finish removing the damaged rim lip by introducing a gentle bevel.  I do this with a rolled piece of 240 grit paper.  This removes the damage and gives the rim a classier, softer look which I like.  I do the same with the internal rim edge – I use 240 grit paper and create a gentle bevel.  This, again, removes damaged rim and creates the contoured soft look.  I follow by doing a very light, brief topping of the stummel on 600 grit paper, then follow with a rolled piece of 600 grit going over the external and internal bevel.  It looks good – this briar Calabash is picking up momentum!  The pictures show the progress from acetone to bevel. I put the stummel aside and turn my attention to the stem to do repairs.  The button area has tooth dents that I will attempt to raise using a lit candle to heat the vulcanite allowing it to regain its original contour as the heat expands it.  The upper button lip has a compression dent needing attention.  I take pictures to mark the progress.  Using the lit candle, I pass the stem end over the candle back and forth heating the vulcanite.  I repeat this on upper and lower areas and the vulcanite expands as hoped.  The dents are still visible, but now, will be more easily dispatched using sand paper.  I sand the bit area with 240 grit paper and freshen the button lip with the flat edged needle file.  On the upper button lip, I apply Starbond Black Medium KE-150 CA glue at the dent point as well as on the bit on a remaining tooth impression.  I spray the glue with an accelerator that shortens the curing time.  I use a flat needle file to remove the excess glue on the button lip and then sand it as well as the small fill with 240 grit paper.   I follow with sanding with 600 grit paper then with 0000 steel wool.  Button and bit repairs are completed.  The pictures show the progress. Turning back to the stummel, I sand with a medium grade sanding sponge followed by a light grade sanding sponge.  From here I go directly into the micromesh cycles by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  The grain is looking great! The horizontal straight grain on the front and back of the bowl terminates on each side with bird’s eye perspective.  The pictures show the progress. This GBD Trafalgar Calabash’s stummel is looking good and I apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel to blend the crack and hole repair patch I did earlier.  After the sanding/micromesh pad cycles, the briar is its natural light color. I take a picture of the patch before the stain is applied to do a before and after – to see how well the patch blends.  I wipe the stummel with a cotton cloth wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean it.  Using a heat gun, I warm the stummel to expand the grain of the briar to more efficiently absorb the dye.  After the stummel is warmed, using a doubled over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye liberally to the stummel seeking full coverage.  When covered, I flame the aniline dye using a lit candle and the alcohol immediate combusts setting the hue of the dark brown leather dye in the briar.  In a few minutes, I repeat the process complete with flaming.  I set the stummel aside to rest. The pictures show the staining progress. With the staining process completed and the stummel resting I start the final phase of the stem polish.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. Following this, with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 go 12000 I dry sand the stem.  After each cycle of three I apply Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite. The stem looks great – the button repairs are fully blended.  The pictures show the progress. The next morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, I’m anxious to ‘unwrap’ the stummel from its fire crusting.  I mount the Dremel with a felt wheel set at the slowest RPMs, and apply Tripoli compound to remove the crust revealing the surface below.  This is one of my favorite parts of restoring pipes.  One never knows quite how the briar receives and displays the new dyes.  I first purge the felt wheel of old compound by engaging it and applying the sharp edge of the Dremel’s small metal adjustment wrench to the wheel.  I then apply Tripoli to the stummel surface in circular motions, not applying too much downward pressure but allowing the RPMs and the compound to do the work for me.  After completing the Tripoli cycle, I take a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel.  With the dye being aniline, alcohol based, I use the alcohol to lighten the dye and to blend it more fully. I record the alcohol wipe with a picture.  After the wipe, the finish clouds up reacting to the alcohol.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set at the same slowest speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to the finish surface.  I take a set-up picture to show the Blue Diamond application. Boy, do I like what I’m seeing!!  I love briar grain – one of God’s gifts to broken people.  After completing the mild abrasion of the Blue Diamond compound, I hand buff the stummel with a flannel cloth not so much to shine it, but to remove compound dust residue from the surface before applying carnauba wax.  The pictures show the progress. There was one small light spot on the briar surface that I darkened using a fine-point black Sharpie Pen.  Before applying carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I decide to apply a mixture of sour cream and activated charcoal dust to coat the chamber walls.  I do this for two reasons.  First, cosmetically, it will cover the lighter J B Weld patching in the chamber by giving the chamber a uniform dark color.  Secondly, this layer will aid the creation of a new cake for this GBD Trafalgar Calabash’s new pipe steward.  After it sets up and cures, the coating is very hard and sturdy, yet for the initial times of use, no scraping the chamber is allowed!  A folded over pipe cleaner is sufficient to clean the chamber, which is in fact, my practice with all my pipes.  I empty two capsules of activated charcoal into a dish and add some sour cream (you can use yogurt as well), and mix it with the stick.  I insert a pipe cleaner to keep the draft hole free, and apply the mixture throughout the fire chamber.  After letting the stummel sit for several hours to cure the final picture in the set below shows the results.  After reuniting stummel and stem, I mount the cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, up the speed by one notch and apply carnauba wax in the same manner as with the compounds – not apply much downward pressure, rotating methodically over the surface, allowing the RPMs and wax to do the work.  After applying about 3 cycles of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buff with a micromesh cloth.

This GBD Trafalgar London Made Calabash was a bit of a challenge, but I’m very pleased with the results.  The hole patch and crack repairs on the stummel are virtually invisible.  The floor of the fire chamber is repaired and the pipe is ready for recommissioning.  The grain is striking and the Calabash shape is just classy.  If you would like to bring this GBD Trafalgar London Made home to add to your collection, he is ready for adoption!  Go to my blog site, The Pipe Steward, and leave me a note.  As always, profits for the sale of The Pipe Steward restorations benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and their children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked here in Bulgaria and Europe.  Thanks for joining me!

 

The Striking Grain of a GBD Americana – Made in London England Bent Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I saw this pipe on the eBay auction block, I was drawn to it first by the grain.  The dark veins of grain were an anomaly and immediately the questions that came to my mind were, “Is that natural or were the darker veins introduced through the manufacturing processes of GBD?  Or, are they discolorations that came afterwards through aging?  The questions raised my curiosity enough to stand back and look at the pipe itself – a GBD Americana half Bent Billiard.  The grain beyond the dark veins were interesting – one side of the stummel was almost exclusively a pattern of peacock feather eyes – bird’s eye grain, but larger and flowing.  The other side appeared as a tree flowing up from the heal of the stummel and fanning out midway to the rim, with more bird’s eye grain taking the form of the foliage of the tree.  Unapologetically, I’m a briar grain addict!  Well, with the winning bid cast, the GBD made its way from the United States to my “Help Me!” basket here in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Here are the pictures that first got my attention on eBay – the black vein grain and the flowering tree: This attractive Bent Billiard has markings on the left side of the shank of, “GBD” (oval encircled) over “Americana”.  The right side of the shank bears, “Made in London” (circular lettering) over “England” with the shape number “508” immediately to the right.  The bottom of the shank has “M” imprinted standing alone.  The traditional brass GBD rondel garnishes the stem. The story of GBD pipes is an interesting one starting in France in 1850 with an unexpected partnership, not coming from businessmen, but fellow pipe makers who felt they could make a go of it.  This excellent article, Finding Out Who Created GBD – Story of a Pipe Brand – Jacques Cole was reposted on Reborn Pipes and is an excellent read for framing a historical appreciation for a pipe name and its development – GBD.

Who were these creators? Ganneval, Bondier and Donninger were three ‘Master Pipemakers’ who got together in Paris in 1850 to manufacture meerschaum pipes. It was a bold decision as these were troubled times in France. Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte has returned after the 1848 revolution and become President of the Republic. Following a coup d’etat in 1851, he made himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852. He was incidentally a keen pipesmoker and may well have owned one or more early GBDs.

 The pipe of Emperor Napoléon!  Does it get much better than this?  The picture to the left bottom is not Napoleon depicted, but with pipe in hand, the ‘charge’ gives one an image to imagine!  The focus of the ‘GBD’ enterprise in the late 1800s was primarily the production of meerschaum pipes but in the 1850s, with Saint-Claude’s discovery of briar and its special qualities for making lasting, heat-resistant pipes, GBD adapted and added briar to its list of materials.  GBD boasted in the end of the 19th Century as having 1500 models that customers could choose from – though Pipedia’s article on GBD clarifies this unbelievable number as counting each shape three times due to three different stem materials used.  GBD straddled its French identity and its adopted English identity through various acquisitions and changes in ownership, yet, keeping the initials of the founders firmly in place.  Pipedia’s history is helpful to understand these historical iterations:

There is a very simple explanation for GBD’s program to turn more “British”: GBD became a British company soon after the turn of the century! In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co. in London. Charles Oppenheimer had founded this successful trade business in 1860 as an import-/export house. His brothers David and Adolphe and brother-in-law Louis Adler soon joined him. Adolphe took over when Charles went to Germany as British ambassador. Briar pipes were among the first products traded. The business relation to GBD in Paris began as early as 1870. Being the most important customer in the English-speaking world, Oppenheimer & Co. were designated as sole distributor for Great Britain, the USA and Canada in 1897.

Though English owned, pipe production continued in Paris and soon Oppenheimer acquired two factories in Saint-Claude in 1906, increasing its production.  Also during this period, Oppenheimer continuing to expand, built a pipe factory in London, but this operation failed to live up to expectations until the genesis of WW I when demand for pipes increased for the front line and production fell in the French factories as men were called to the front lines.  The shift of GBD being identified more distinctly as a British pipe emerged after the close of the war even though production continued in London and France through the 1920s.  I find the next Pipedia excerpt interesting because it marks well how GBD had fully transitioned from its origins, the handshake of 3 French pipe makers, to a macro-business continuing through the 1900s.

In 1920 Oppenheimer had purchased BBB (Blumfeld’s Best Briar, formerly A. Frankau) and little later Loewe & Co. and large shares of Comoy’s of London. The economic crisis in the early 1920s induced the foundation of Cadogan Investments Ltd., named for its seat at Cadogan Square in London. The Cadogan group was a superordinated holding company, in order to tune all activities of Oppenheimer’s brands in the pipe industry. Whereby an extensive independence of the single brands was preserved. Remember, the Oppenheimers and Adlers weren’t pipe specialists, but rather sales people who depended on their experts in the British and French plants.

This link is to a 50 page catalog featuring Oppenheimer’s product line – it is fascinating.  The index page is pictured below.  In 1952 the Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude and since the 1980s most GBD pipes come from London.  The higher-end GBD pipe lines are of good quality and many feel they stack up well against the array of Dunhill offerings yet more affordable.  The Pipe Phil history of GBD says that the Saint-Claude pipe factory closed in 1981 leaving only London as the producer of GBD pipes.This list comprises the better grades of GBD pipes in descending order: Pedigree, Pedigree I, Pedigree II, Straight Grain, Prodigy, Bronze Velvet, Virgin, Varichrome, Prestige, Jubilee, New Era, Prehistoric, International, Universe, Speciale Standard, Ebony, Tapestry, New Standard, Granitan, Sauvage, Sierra, Penthouse, Legacy, Concorde.

According to the José Manuel Lopes, the Americana before me now is a GBD second associated with L&H Stern, Pioneer, and Appleby.  The closest indicator of dating of this GBD Americana comes from Pipe Phil that GBD’s metal stem rondels were discontinued after 1981 when GBD merged with Comoy.  After seeing Reborn Pipes’ contributor, Al Jones’ comments in several GBD discussion threads, I sent him a note with some questions and pictures about this Americana.  His response was helpful and his description of ‘Odd Duck’ helps me place this pipe in context:

Dal:

You’ve got an odd duck! 

Typically, the stamping used on pre-Cadogan pipes is the straight line COM, “London, England” stamp (see attached) combine with the brass rondell stem logo.  Cadogan era pipes (made after 1981) have the round “Made in London” (with England under) COM, as shown on your pipe.  But, they typically have stamped stem logos. I see these pipes occasionally, and my assumption is they were made after the merger, until the brass rondell inventory was exhausted. One common denominator on these pipes is a single letter.  I have no idea as to what it may mean, but M is frequently used. These pipes also had many more finish names, like your Americana, that were not seen before.  Comoy’s started doing the same thing, adding lines and letters just after the merger. I’ll look forward to seeing the restored pipe, it looks like a good candidate.

Thanks,

Al With Al’s ‘Odd Duck’ description in place, my best summation of this GBD Americana, is that it is placed after 1981, but in the early 80s, after the Cadogan merger, but before the brass rondel bucket emptied which more than likely indicates a cost-saving measure that may indicate a lowering of GBD quality – perhaps, only my guess.  I took a quick look in the early 80’s GBD catalog listings on Chris’s Pipe Pages, perchance to find a listing for an Americana, but came up empty.

With a greater appreciation for the name and history of the GBD Americana pipe before me, and the other GBDs waiting in my “Help Me!” basket, I take additional pictures on my work table to fill in the story and take a closer look. I like the appearance of this GBD Americana bent Billiard.  The cake build up in the chamber is thick and will need to be removed to the briar for a fresh start.  The rim is covered with lava flow and will need cleaning before I can see what lies beneath.  I’m interested to see what happens with the dark briar veins on the stummel surface when I clean it up with Murphy’s Soap.  I detect some pits and dents on the stummel surface – normal wear and tear.  The stem shows significant oxidation coupled with moderate teeth chatter and some dents on the bits.  The first thing I do to begin the restoration and recommissioning of this GBD Americana is to plop the stem into an Oxi-Clean solution for a good soak to raise the oxidation. After soaking several hours, I pluck the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath and the solution did the job of raising the oxidation.  After I take a picture, I wet sand the stem using 600 grit sandpaper that takes the mother-load of oxidation off.  I continue using 0000 steel wool to remove more oxidation and work the grooves around the button.  I also work around the GBD rondel with the steel wool, working on the oxidation and shining the brass as well.  The pictures show the progress.I then take pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl and clean the internals of the stem.  There was not too much resistance and the pipe cleaners returned clean very quickly.

Time to work on the stummel.  I begin by removing the moderate cake build up in the chamber.  I first put a paper towel down on the work space to collect the carbon dust and then take the Pipnet Reaming Kit and I use two smaller of the 4 blades available.  Starting with the smaller blade, I turn it until the crunchy resistance of the carbon cake is absent, then I move up to the next larger blade removing the cake.  Following the reaming blades, I use the Savinelli Pipe Knife and fine tune the reaming by scraping the chamber walls removing even more carbon.  Then, I roll 240 grit sanding paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber walls.  Finally, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the residue carbon dust and clean the chamber.  Inspecting the wall of the chamber, all looks good – no problems detected.  The pictures show the progress. I like working on a clean pipe so I turn now to the internals of the stummel.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95% I attack the mortise and the airway. The tar and oils are not putting up too much resistance and the pipe cleaners and swabs start coming through clean.  Later, I will give the internals a salt/alcohol soak to clean the stummel further and freshen the pipe. With the internals clean, I now turn to the external surface.  I’m anxious to see what the Murphy’s Soap does regarding the dark veins on the surface – I’m not sure if it’s actual dark grain color or something else.  I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and bristled tooth brush to scrub the surface and remove the grime.  To clean the rim, I also employ use of a brass bristle brush which will clean but not damage the wood.  Without a doubt, I am looking at an amazing piece of briar with dark, blackish veins in the grain – unique and striking.  The surface itself is in good shape.  I detect very small fills but they are solid and will easily blend.  The rim shows damage on the front-left edge – possibly scorching from lighting the pipe over the rim.  There is also a bevel on the inner rim. To remove the damage to the rim and to reestablish crisp lines, I will lightly top the GBD – only taking off as much as needed.  I use a chopping board on my work table with a sheet of 240 grit paper over it.  I invert the stummel and rotate the stummel in a circular motion – careful not to lean to the softer damaged area of the rim. I take a picture mid-way to show progress.  After removing enough of the top, I then switch to a 600 grit paper and give the rim a few more rotations on the topping board, primarily to smooth the rim.  Burning and discoloration remain on the inner rim after the topping.  I take 120 grit paper, tightly rolled, and cut a new inner rim bevel.  I follow with 240 grit paper rolled, then a 600 grit rolled paper to complete the bevel.  The pictures show the rim’s progress. With the stummel before me, I decide to proceed with sanding the externals.  I first use a light grade sanding sponge, followed by the micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000.  In sets of three, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, and then concluding also dry sanding with pads 6000 to 12000.  The grain in this GBD Americana is unique and the way the grain emerged through the micromesh cycles was striking.  The pictures show the sanding process. I now clean and freshen the internals of the stummel more and I use kosher salt and alcohol to soak the stummel.  The kosher salt will leave no residual taste as will regular iodized salt. I first stretch and twist a cotton ball to stuff down the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the tars and oils.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt and set it in an egg carton where it will have the right angle and be stable.  Then using a dropper, I fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it rises above the level of the salt.  I top it off after a few minutes because the alcohol is drawn down initially into the mortise and the cotton wick.  I then set the stummel aside for several hours to soak.  The pictures show the progress.With the stummel soaking, I start the stem polishing process.  I first work around the GBD rondel using a small piece of Mr. Clean Miracle Eraser.  I detect left over oxidation ringing the rondel in the vulcanite.  I do not want to bear down on the rondel with an abrasive so I’m hoping that Mr. Clean will do the job and the result confirms this.  Previously, when I removed the oxidation with 600 grit paper, it cleaned the button area of teeth chatter very well.  I detect on both the upper and lower lip edges residue oxidation that was shielded by the lip overhang.  I fold a piece of 240 grit paper to create a sharp blade/edge and sand the lip edge.  This removes the oxidation as well as sharpening the button definition.  I follow doing the same with 600 grit paper and then buff the bit, upper and lower with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the fine-tuning stem work. I’m ready to begin the micromesh pads polishing process.  First, using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem, followed by pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000, I dry sand the stem.  After each cycle of 3, I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite and take a picture to mark the progress.  The GBD stem rondel has a pop with the black backdrop of the newly revitalized vulcanite stem.  The pictures show the progress. Back home after a day at work, I’m looking forward to finishing and recommissioning this GBD Americana for service to a new steward.  The salt and alcohol soak has had all day and there isn’t that much discoloration of the salt – hopefully this means there wasn’t that much left to clean!  I thump the bowl on my palm to dislodge the used salt and dump it.  I then take a dry paper towel and wipe out the excess salt from the chamber and after removing the cotton wick, I use multi-sized round bristle brushes to remove excess salt from the airway and mortise.  Then I complete the job by wetting a cotton swab and a pipe cleaner with isopropyl 95% and plunge them, only to discover that the internals were indeed cleaned and ready to go. With the stummel cleaned and stem waiting in the wings, I reassemble the pipe to get a bird’s eye view of things.  It does not take long to decide not to apply a stain, but to leave the natural finish on this striking and graceful Bent Billiard.  The color combinations of the black veins and black stem, the golden briar and the brass stem rondel are eye-catching.  This is one nice looking pipe! I use white diamond compound with a felt wheel mounted on the Dremel at the lowest speed.  Before I apply the compound, I purge the wheel of old compound using the edge of the Dremel’s adjustment wrench.  I apply the compound to both stem and stummel. I rotate the wheel over the surface, not applying much downward pressure on the surface but allowing the RPMs of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  After the White Diamond, I mount a cotton cloth wheel at the same lowest speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stummel and stem.  With the compounds completed, I buff the pipe with a flannel cloth not so much to shine it but to remove the excess compound dust before I apply wax.  With the carnauba wax I mount the cotton cloth wheel, increase the speed one notch faster, 2 with the fastest being 5.  I apply several coats of wax to stem and stummel.  I finish the polishing process with a hand buff using a micromesh cloth to deepen and bring out the shine.

This GBD Americana Bent Billiard has perhaps the most striking briar grain I have yet to see.  The black veined grain gives a marbling effect that draws the eyes to look closer.  When one looks closer the grain is a myriad of shapes and bird’s eye swirls that make me ponder again one of God’s little creations.  Then, the black grain on the left side of the stummel, dips underneath the heel, and emerges on the right side as straight vertical grain resembling a mature tree, beginning with the roots, then trunk, replete with foliage fanning out above as it reaches toward the rim – a virtual canvas.  If I decide to sell this pipe (I’m conflicted, this one may indeed be a keeper!), you will see it in the store at my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  All the profits of pipes that I sell go to help the Daughters of Bulgaria – the organization we work with here in Bulgaria helping women and children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

 

Who would have guessed that there was a Beauty in this Beast


Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes you have to look past the state of a pipe to really see what could be present underneath all of the layers of dirt and grime. You have to have the right perspective as well. You need to be able to see these pipes as well loved rather than abused; as a favourite pipe rather than a neglected one. This the context in which the next pipe that crossed my worktable is to be viewed. Here is the back-story. Not too long ago I received an email from a friend of mine named Jim, whose pipes I have worked on in the past. He had an interesting story to tell me and a request. I thought rather than tell the story for him I would let him tell it himself. Here is his email in full:

Hey Steve,

I have been hunting about 1200 acres of Farm and Woodland Property owned by an area farmer and old friend of mine named Stephen Lehner. Steve knows I am a pipe aficionado, and approached me the other day with a pipe that had belonged to his father. I was able to get a little history of how this pipe came to be in this abysmal condition. Steve’s father was rather hard on his pipes. As the original owner of this pipe, Steve said his dad, in the latter years of his life, was not given to cleaning his pipes. His cleaning routine, if you could call it that, consisted of digging any ash and unburnt tobacco from the bowl with a pocket knife, then grasping the pipe by the stem, toward the mouthpiece/lip area, and banging it violently against any nearby hard object – trees, brick walls, car mirrors. It was hard enough that Steve’s son, Shawn, remarked that the old man actually damaged the mirrors on his trucks! Mr. Lehner’s pipes were so abused, that he routinely broke stems, necessitating that he acquire new stems – some of which were not well fitted.

In any case, Steve handed me this pipe, stating that it is one of a very few connections he has to his late father, and asked if I could do a cursory cleaning so he could display it as a keepsake (He is not a pipe smoker). I thought the pipe was interesting, if in bad condition. I cannot clearly make out any markings. On one side, there is a partially legible stamping, “…vage” with some cursive writing below it which I cannot make out. On the other side, I can read the number “75.”  I think it is a bulldog style. The tenon will not enter all the way into the mortise, and I am not sure if that is because there is so much crud inside or because it is not the correct bit.  The bowl is heavily caked and cracked. It also looks as though there was some ad hoc rustication on the bowl, as well. The bowl shows a distinct area of impact where it was banged during cleaning as well.

I attached some pix so you could behold this wonder:Once I saw the pictures I was quite taken back by the sheer beastly look of this old pipe. It had quite literally been beaten to death. The bowl was cracked on the outside of the bowl that started at the front of the bowl and extended to almost the back side. There was a second crack below that on the front of the bowl extending from the bottom of the first crack and extending toward the other side of the bowl. The bowl was so badly caked that I could not even get my pinky finger in the bowl. I tried to blow through the end of the shank and I was unable to get any air through the bowl. The finish was dirty and sticky to touch. The worm trail rustication ran over the bowl surface but was filled in with dirt and grit. From the photos it appeared that the shank inside was incredibly dirty. I think that it is fair to say this pipe was a stranger to pipe cleaners. The stem that was in the shank was not a fit. It was of smaller diameter than the shank. The slot in the stem was almost clogged.

After reading his email and looking over the photos I wrote back to my friend. I was pretty certain from the look of the rustication and the shape number he gave me that the pipe was a GBD. The three letters that he could read on the left side of the shank were age. That led me to look in the GBD list I have and concluded that the pipe was a GBD Sauvage. I looked up some information on a chart I have of GBD lines and knew that the pipe was originally sold with a light brown stain, smooth bowl with deep carved lines to hide flaws. It was similar to a Savinelli Sherwood, but much deeper carved lines. The GBD shape number 75 was a Rhodesian with a1/4 Bent Saddle stem. While this old pipe was a mess it was awfully hard to tell if it ever was a Rhodesian. I sent him this information in my reply.

He wrote back and said he wondered if I would be willing to tackle the restoration on this one. If so he would send it to me. I wrote back and said I would do the work. I guess I will find out if my guesses on the brand of this pipe were correct. I would know more once it arrived.

The pipe arrived and it was indeed a mess. On top of the beat up old pipe, the reek of Middleton’s Cherry pipe tobacco filled the room when I opened the box. My daughters immediately commented on how strong the smell was. I examined the pipe with a lens to see if I could identify the pipe. It was stamped on the left side of the shank with the GBD logo in an oval over Sauvage over Collector in script. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Made in England over 75 which is the shape number. The next photos show what the pipe looked like when I received it. I took a close up photo of the rim to show the absolute dreadful condition this pipe was in when it arrived. The bowl had a thick cake that still reeked of the aroma of burnt Middleton’s Cherry pipe tobacco. The rim had been hammered to what looked like the point of no return – though I would not know for sure until I had removed the cake and the buildup on the rim top. The stem was a replacement one and it was obviously a poor fitting one. The diameter of the stem and the shank were not a match and the tenon could not be pushed into the shank because of the grit and tar built up inside. The button had been flattened by biting and there were tooth dents on it and also on the top and bottom sides. I would definitely need to make a new stem for the pipe. I decided to start by reaming the bowl back to bare wood. I wanted to see if the cracks on the outside continued into the bowl. I fully expected the bowl to fall apart once the carbon was removed and ceased to hold everything together. I started reaming with the smallest cutting blade on the PipNet pipe reamer and worked up to the largest cutting head. I finished reaming the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.I rolled a piece of 80 grit sandpaper on my index finger and sanded the inside of the bowl. I wanted to be able to clearly see if the cracks on the outside continued into the bowl. The second photo below shows the inside of the bowl. The crack on the left side of the bowl did not seem to show through inside. The one on the front of the bowl still needed some more work to be certain but it also looked like it did not show through. Notice the buildup on the rim it probably protected the top of the bowl to a large degree.I scraped the rim with a pen knife to peel off the cake that overflowed on the top. I carefully held the blade against the surface of the rim and scraped it slowly until all of the buildup was gone. Underneath all of the buildup the rim was in rough shape. It had been beaten pretty hard and the damage was quite extensive. The rim top showed signs of being knocked about hard against that truck mirror mentioned above. If this pipe could have talked I would love to hear the stories it could tell.I topped the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I decided that I would sand it until the top of the rim was smooth and the damage on the outer edge of the rim was minimized.With the rim topped and smooth I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and clean up the surface so I could assess the next steps in dealing with the external cracks on the left side and bowl front. I used a microdrill bit on my Dremel to drill pin holes at each end of the cracks in the bowl. The length of the bit ensures that I will not be able to drill too far and go into the bowl itself. There were five distinct ends to the series of cracks in the briar.I used a dental pick to clean out the cracks with surprisingly had closed tighter once the cake was removed from the bowl releasing the pressure. Once they were clean I pressed briar dust into the crack surfaces and the drill holes in the bowl. I dripped clear super glue on the cracks and into the plugs in the drill holes. I gave the repair several more coats of briar dust and super glue until the surface was filled. The pictures tell the story. I sanded the dried repair and the rest of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess briar dust and glue. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad. I used a Black Sharpie pen to colour in the worm trail rustication around the bowl sides. I had done some research and found that the rustication on the Sauvage line had been darker than the stain on the bowl.I used the drill bit from the KleenReem Pipe reamer to drill out the buildup in the airway from the mortise to the bowl. It was thick and hard so the drill bit took several passes through the airway to clean it out. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the thick, hard tars that lined the walls of the mortise. I scrubbed out the mortise and airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until the internals were clean.I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls until they were just below the edge of the rim. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway to wick the alcohol into the shank. I used an ear syringe to fill the bowl and shank with alcohol. I set the bowl upright in an ice cube tray and let it sit over night to draw the oils out of the briar. In the morning I took a photo of the darkened cotton balls. I used a dental pick to pull them out of the bowl. I cleaned out the shank and the bowl with cotton swabs to remove all the excess alcohol. I let the bowl dry.I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 50/50 with alcohol to make it more transparent. I flamed the stain and restained it. I repeated the process of staining and flaming the surface until the briar had even coverage. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then took the following photos to send to Jim to show him the state of the bowl at this point in the process. There were still scratches in the finish that would need to be polished out but the bowl was showing promise and beauty was emerging from the beast. I left the pipe on my work table while I traveled to Idaho for my mom’s 90th birthday. I stay with my brother Jeff when I am there and as usual he had a batch of pipes for me. There were some amazing pipes there but what caught my eye this time was the stem I needed for this Sauvage. It was slightly bigger in diameter than the shank but it would not take much to fit it to the pipe. When I got home I lightly sanded the tenon with a Dremel and sanding drum until it fit snugly into the mortise. I took the photo below to show the new stem and the one that was with the pipe when it arrived. I took photos of the stem to show the difference in diameters of the shank and the stem. You can also see the deep tooth marks in the top and bottom sides of the stem near the button.I sanded the diameter with a sanding drum on the Dremel. I do this with the stem inserted in the mortise so that I can remove as much of the excess vulcanite as possible without damaging the briar on the shank. I nicked the edged of the briar but fortunately the nick was not deep. I also lightly sanded the top and underside of the stem with the Dremel and minimized the tooth marks. I sanded the areas on the stem where the tooth marks had damaged the vulcanite with 180 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the surface damage. What remained were the deeper tooth marks. I wiped down the surface of the stem with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the debris and dust from the tooth marks. I filled the remaining tooth marks with black super glue and set the stem aside to dry.When the repairs had cured I sanded them with 180 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. I sanded the saddle portion of the stem to remove the marks left behind by the sanding drum.I put the stem in the shank and sanded the stem and shank with 220 grit sandpaper to make the transition really smooth. I could have done this differently but there was enough damage to the shank that the sanding would smooth out the briar as well. I wet sanded the stem and shank with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the scratches on the briar and the vulcanite. I was able to remove most of the scratches. The rest would come out with more elbow grease. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol until they came out clean. I used a sharp knife to bevel the airway into the stem. I have found that doing this directs the airflow from the bowl to the button. I put the stem in the shank and took the following photos. There is still a lot of polishing to do but the pipe is beginning to look pretty decent. I continued sanding with the 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to polish the stem. After each set of three pads I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and sanded some more. After the last pad I gave it a final coat of the oil and let it sit to dry.I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave both the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing wheel to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microffibre cloth to deepen it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am repairing and refitting the original stem to send back with the pipe as well. Once it finished I will buff the two stems and finish removing any scratches that can still be seen in the pipe and then send it back for the surprise that Jim has in mind for it. Thanks for looking.

One of my favourite GBD Shapes and Finishes – a Prehistoric 269 Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

After refurbishing a lot of pipes over the years I have come to opinions about pipe brands and shaped. To my eye certain brands really get a certain shape and really nail it perfectly. To me the GBD Bulldog, shape 269 is one of those shapes. To me it is the quintessential straight shank bulldog. Others do it well but GBD absolutely gets the shape. Add to that fact that certain finishes have also grown on me over the years and one of those is the GBD Prehistoric sandblast. You combine the finish and the shape components on this pipe and I have a real beauty on the restoration table today. My brother is also becoming a die-hard GBD fan so when he saw this one he decided it was one to go after. Needless to say he got it. He took some photos of the pipe before he cleaned it up to send up to me in Vancouver. I have included those below.gbd1The finish on the pipe looks to be in excellent condition. Later close-up photos will show the grime and dust in the grooves and crevices of the sandblast but there are no chips or nicks in the briar. The bowl had remnants of tobacco in the bottom and the cake had overflowed on to the rim top. The curved bevel of the Prehistoric smooth rim was thickly tarred and caked. It was hard to tell from the photos if there were any nicks or deep scratches in the rim. I have found that the thicker the cake and tars on the rim the more likely it is that I will find the rim to be pretty pristine underneath. The stem was deeply oxidized and the GBD logo insert on the stem had been buffed to death but the fit of the stem to the shank was perfect. There was only light tooth chatter and a few scratches on the top and underside of the flat portion of the stem. The photo below gives a clear picture of the condition of the rim and the cake in the bowl.gbd2The sand blast on the heel of the bowl was deep and craggy and the contrast of browns in the stain really highlighted the layered look of the blast.gbd3The stamping on the left underside of the shank in a smooth panel is very readable and sharp. It reads GBD in the oval over Prehistoric in Germanic script. Next to that it reads London England over the shape number 269. The second photo below shows the over buffed roundel in the stem. It is still readable but is quite flattened and broadened. I will have to see if I can clean that up a bit in the process of the restoration – or at least not damage it any further.gbd4The next two photos show the top and underside of the stem. The oxidation is quite heavy and deep in the vulcanite. There is some light tooth chatter and scratches on the stem near the button and on top of the button on both sides but no deep tooth marks.gbd5My brother is getting really good at cleaning up these old timers and I have to say I am getting spoiled at getting pipes that I don’t have to ream and scrape to clean before I can start the restoration process. In this case he scrubbed the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and got rid of the grime and dust in the crevices and removed most of the buildup on the rim top. He reamed the bowl and scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. When I received it the pipe was clean and ready to restore. The briar was dry from the scrubbing and the removal of all of the oils. It appears to have lost some of the rich colour but I have learned that once I begin to work on it the life begins to come back to the briar so I was not too concerned. The oxidation had also really risen to the surface of the stem and looked ugly. I took the next four photos to show what the pipe looked like when it arrived.gbd6 gbd7I took a closeup photo of the rim top to show what it looked like when I received it. He had been able to remove the buildup and caking on the rim but there was still some darkening that needed to be dealt with. I also took closeup photos of the stem to show how the pitted and oxidized surface looked before I started. This was going to be a tough stem to clean up.gbd8 gbd9I decided to start with the rim top. I started polishing it by wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it off with a damp cotton pad and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. The rim began to take on its original sheen and the darkening and rim damage was removed.gbd10I gave the bowl a light rub down with olive oil and it absorbed it quickly into the dry and lifeless feeling briar. I buffed it by hand with a soft microfiber cloth and took the next set of photos to show what a little oil will do to a dry and thirsty finish.gbd11 gbd12I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper being very careful around the GBD roundel on the stem. I was able to remove much of the surface oxidation on the stem and I started to see the black stem peeking through.gbd13I decided to try several of the stem polishes I have around here to try to break through the oxidation. I started with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish which is a very gritty and cuts through the oxidation and helps polish the stem. I followed that with the Before & After Polishes which are also gritty but each of them the Fine and the Extra Fine are less so than the Denicare polish. While they worked well overall and cut through a lot of oxidation it took much scrubbing with cotton pads to polish it to the place the stem is in the photo below.gbd14I still needed to polish the stem further with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down after each set of three pads with Obsidian Oil. After the last set of pads I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. gbd15 gbd16 gbd17I buffed the bowl rim and the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to shine it further. I gave the stem and the bowl rim multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel and hand applied Conservator’s Wax to the sandblast bowl sides and shank. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad, carefully buffing around the stamping and the brass roundel on the stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. The overall appearance of the pipe is very good. In some of the close up photos the light shows me some spots along the crease of the button where the stubborn oxidation did not all come clean. Ah well. It is one of those that I think I will revisit repeatedly over the course of its life with me. Thanks for journeying with me on this troublesome oxidation removal process. Thanks for reading. gbd18 gbd19 gbd20 gbd21 gbd22 gbd23 gbd24 gbd25