Tag Archives: Irwin Pipes

Irwin’s (GBD Second) 9448 Refurbished

Blog by Greg Wolford

I picked this Irwin’s 9448 up not too long ago expecting it to be an easy clean up, which was partly right and partly wrong, and knowing it was a GBD second it should be a great pipe for the money. From the seller’s photos I figured a little heat to lift the tooth dents, some light sanding and then micro meshing and the stem would be good to go. The stummel I figured would need to be cleaned, soaked in an alcohol bath and retained. Here are the photos from the seller:

Seller's Photo

Seller’s Photo

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I forgot to take my own photos when the pipe arrived and during the process so only the seller’s before and my after photos will be shown. The process went as follows though:

The stummel was in better shape than I anticipated: it was dirty and did have a few dents to raise but was in really good condition overall. The stem was another story: the tooth dents were much deeper than the photos showed or than I had expected. I knew that this stem was going to require filling the dents and thought over a few options, which I have more to say on later here. So, I decided to start with the stummel.

After reaming the bowl and cleaning the shank, I began by wiping the pipe down with acetone on disposable cotton pads, and went through many of them. After get most of the dirt and wax off, I took some cotton swabs dipped in 91% isopropyl alcohol and began to work off the heavy build up on the rim. It was a slow process but as the layers came off I could see the rim was in very nice shape and didn’t need topped. Once all the gunk was off, I took a few more passes over the entire stummel with a couple more cotton pads wet with alcohol to make sure all the finish and dirt was removed. I then turned my attention to the dents: one on the front of the bowl, two on the bottom near where the curve of the bowl met the flat “sitter” area, and a couple on the rim.

I used my heat gun to heat up the end of an old kitchen “butter knife” and a wet scrap rag to produce the steam to raise the dents. All of them came out fairly easily except for one on the “sitter” portion and it took several applications of steam to get it out. But it did finally raise.

At this point I went to the buffer to see what the stummel looked like. I buffed it with some Tripoli and then again my hand with an old t-shirt. I saw then that the pipe had good color under all the dirt, it had just been hidden. And the steam had done its job very nicely, too, giving me a pretty well smoothed out stummel. There was one fill on the left side of the bowl but not a large one and it didn’t really stand out to my eye so I decided to leave it alone. I wiped it down with one more alcohol pad to remove any trace left from the Tripoli and then decided to not sand or re-stain it; the color was really nice and the grain showed in a nice contrast. So I set the stummel aside to work on the stem.

I began by heating the stem, with a pipe cleaner inserted to make holding, moving and not damaging the airway easier. The dents lifted some but, as I expected, were too deep to come anywhere near level. So now it was time to try some patching or filling of the dents.

A while back Al, another contributor here on the blog, had mentioned he had used cigar ash to fill in a few dents but that they were still visible repairs. I have been experimenting with a couple of ideas that so far have not made any great improvements over just using super glue alone. I thought that on this one I would try to make a patch with carbon reamed from the pipe. The carbon is much darker, a real black, than ash so I thought this might make a better repair. I worked in layers, packing in the carbon, applying a drip of super glue, allowing it to dry, sanding it back down with an emery board and repeating; I think I did three rounds on each side of the stem, trying raise the dents slowly and make them stronger in the long run. After the last application on the underside, I began to work with my needle files, then emery boards, 320 grit wet sand and finally onto micro mesh, wet sanding 1500-2400. I then applied the Novus 2 plastic polish, rubbing it on and off with cotton pads. The remaining grits of micro mesh I used dry through 12,000. Finally I used the Novus 2 again, applied the Mother’s Back to Black with my fingers and let it dry before buffing it off with another cotton pad. The final step was to polish it with the Novus 1 plastic polish. Now it was time to reassemble the pipe and take it back to the buffer. At this point I knew the patch wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be: it was better, I think, but it was also still noticeable.

I buffed the stummel with Tripoli again before I reassembled the pipe and buffed the entire pipe with white diamond. I then applied several coats of carnauba wax to the pipe and buffed it out with a new soft cloth wheel. This is what the pipe looks like now, cleaned up (except for the fact I smoked it before I took the photos) but without any new staining done to it.



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The bit area does look a lot better and it is smooth, almost; apparently the layering technique wasn’t my best idea as a small piece of the top patch came off at some point, probably on the buffer. Next time I will not work in layers but more like a briar-dust fill and do it all at once, which be faster, too. I do wish it were less noticeable on the whole,though.

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Before and After

Before and After

I have a few other ideas about trying to get a less visible patch that I may pursue. However, now that I know I can get black super glue, already made, that may be my future course. But the “can I do it myself ” part of me wants to keep experimenting so we shall see. If any of you readers have any ideas on making these repairs less visible I’d be most appreciative if you would share them in the comments section.

Refurbishing and Restemming an Irwin’s Canadian

One of the six pipes I picked up in Washington was a Canadian bowl sans stem that is stamped IRWIN’S over London Made on the top of the shank and London England over 1451 on the underside of the shank. It had a tenon still stuck in the shank and the bowl top was rough from beating it out on an ashtray or something. Irwin’s is a GBD line (seconds??? Though this one has no fills or flaws to suggest that). The grain is quite nice and the contrast staining was also well done. It always makes me wonder what makes a pipe move from the first line to a second line. You can see from the series of photos below that the bowl was dirty on the sides and the top was damaged quite severely. There were no cracks in the shank or the bowl so that was a bonus. The bowl was unevenly caked and pretty dirty as well.


I reamed and cleaned the bowl and then used a screw to pull the broken tenon from the shank. Once I had that removed I cleaned out the shank with pipe cleaners and Everclear. Once the shank was clean I took a stem blank from my jar of stems and turned the tenon with the Pimo Tenon Turner until it was a close fit. Then I hand sanded the tenon until it was a good snug fit. I used the Dremel to take off the excess vulcanite and make a smooth transition between the stem and the shank. I then sanded the stem with medium grit Emery cloth to smooth out the surface of the scratches left behind by the Dremel sanding drum. From there I proceeded to use 220 grit sandpaper and also 340 grit sandpaper to further sand out the scratches. I wiped down the bowl with acetone to remove the dirt and grime and remnants of the top coat of stain. I wanted to prepare the surface for a new stain of diluted dark brown aniline. I also topped the bowl to remove the damage to the surface and clean up the edges of the bowl. The next two photos show the pipe with the stem fitting and the bowl cleaned and topped. It was ready for the staining once I sanded the rim top smooth with the micromesh sanding pads.


I diluted some dark brown aniline stain 3-1 with isopropyl alcohol and stained the bowl and rim. I flamed the stain and then restained it and flamed it again. I stained the rim two more times to darken the surface to match the bowl. I took it to the buffer and buffed the entirety with Tripoli and White Diamond. The four photos that follow show the pipe after staining. It was still too dark in my opinion to highlight the contrast of grains in the pipe so I took it back to my work table to deal with that.


I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove some of the stain and lighten the overall look of the pipe. It had to be wiped down several times to get the look I was after. The next series of photos show the bowl after repeated washings. I used a cotton pad soaked with acetone and scrubbed the surface to get the desired look. Once it was done I again took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond.


The stem still needed a lot of work to get it to the place of shiny newness. I continued to work on the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12,000 grit. The first three pads 1500-2400 I wet sanded the stem. The other 6 pads I dry sanded. After sanding with the pads through 4000 I used the Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0 a second time and finished with the 6000, 8000 and 12000 grit sanding pads. I finished the polishing with a coat of Obsidian Oil and then buffed it with White Diamond a final time. I gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a soft flannel buff. The next four photos show the finished pipe.



Irwin 943810 by GBD – A Makeover.

I have had this older Irwin 943810 made by GBD for some time now. It is described on the GBD Models website http://www.perardua.net/pipes/GBDlines.html as follows: “The warm dual-tone brown finish deepens with repeated smoking. Finest rum is used in the special process of maturing these fine pipes. Its smooth flavour compliments the natural taste fine tobacco. Catalogue (1976)” With that description my old pipe looked pretty faded and worn.  The warm dual-tone brown finish was pretty much washed out and no longer “warm”. The dark undercoat on the pipe was clearly visible, highlighting the grain but it seemed that previous owners had buffed the pipe hard and the top stain of brown was gone. The bowl was dirty. The stamping is really light and I can just make out the Irwin stamp and the numbers on the side. The stem had some tooth damage in terms of scratching and tooth chatter but at least there were no deep dents. The edge of the button on the top had some minor denting to it. Tonight I decided it was time to give it a makeover.

As an aside, I have never seen the 6 digit stamping on the GBD lines so this one was interesting to me. I have sent out several emails to search out the stamping details but so far no luck. Anyone have any clue as to the meaning of the stamping? Thanks.

I started the makeover by wiping down the bowl with acetone and cleaning off the remnants of the stain and the finish that was pretty well gone. I also wanted to see if wetting the stamping would make it a bit more visible to my eye. It did and afterwards I was able to read the stamping. You can see the scratches and marks on the stem in the last two photos below. Right next to the button and on top of it there are some white spots that show the marks and scratches.

I decided to work on the stem with a medium grit sanding pad to remove the tooth marks and scratches. It also brought up the oxidation that was present but not visible in the photos above. Once I had the rough sanding done I stained the pipe with some oxblood stain. I daubed it on with the cotton/wool dauber that comes with the stain and then flamed it to dry it. In the photos below you can see the stain just after I applied it. I put it on good and heavy as I was wanting a rich coat to this old timer.

I hand buffed the bowl with a soft cotton cloth to remove the excess stain and to give it a quick polish. I decided not to use my buffer as I did not want to further damage the stamping that is already faint on this one. My goal was to enhance the pipe and try to raise the stamping a bit to make it more legible. I was able to do it enough to read it but it is still very faint. The hand buffing takes more work but I find that it does not harm the stamping at all.

The next series of four photos show both the new stain and the work that I was doing on the stem. You can see in the first and the third photos how the whole stem looked at this point in the process. The major scratches have been removed but there are still small scratches and oxidation that needed to be dealt with. In the second and the fourth photos you can see close up shots of the stem and button area. I continued to sand the stem at this point moving on to a fine grit sanding block to remove more of the scratches and the marks in the stem and the button.

I sanded the stem with micromesh pads from 1500 to 12,000 grit and the stem began to take on a shine. I gave it a coating of Obsidian Oil, rubbed it in and let it dry. I finished by giving the pipe several coats of carnauba wax.


Refurb on a Irwin (GBD Second) Saddle stem Billiard

The 1976 GBD Catalogue says this about the Irwin pipes: “The warm dual-tone brown finish deepens with repeated smoking. Finest Rum is used in the special process of maturing these fine pipes. Its smooth flavour complements the natural taste of fine tobacco.” Knowing that when I came across this old timer I put in the pile to recondition while I was off this week. It is stamped Irwin over London England on the left shank. On the right side is the shape number 1207. It was caked a bit so I reamed the bowl and wiped it down with alcohol. The shank was dusty and dirty so it was cleaned as well. The bowl then went into the alcohol bath and sat for a half hour while I worked on the stem. It was in pretty good shape with a minimum of teeth chatter. I sanded out the tooth marks and sanded the residual oxidation on the stem. I then buffed the stem and polished it.

Once I was finished I took the bowl out of the bath and wiped it down. It was clean and once it dried was ready for sanding in preparation for a new coat of stain. I wiped it down with clean alcohol to remove any dust and then stained it with a cherry stain to bring out the brown highlights in the finish. I then buffed the entirety and waxed it with carnauba. I am very happy with the results. Thanks for looking. Here are the before shots:



Here are the pictures after refurbishing