Blog by Steve Laug
This is the second pipe that was sent to me by a fellow Canadian for a cleanup and restoration from the lot he had picked up in a local auction for a great price. This one is an older Yello-Bole sandblast billiard with the KBB cloverleaf on the underside of the shank. It has a great looking rugged sandblast on the bowl that highlights the grain. The overall finish appeared to be in good shape though the crevices in the blast were dirty. The bowl had been cleaned before the auction and there was some scratching on the bowl walls. There was still an overflow of tars in the finish that remained on to the rim in the parts that were not damaged. The outer edge of the rim had the look of a pipe that had been smoked hard and knocked out on anything close at hand no matter what it did to the pipe. There were nicks and dings all the way around the rim top and edges. The first five photos that I have included are ones that I received from the pipe’s owner when he emailed and asked me about repairing his find. The first is an overall view of the pipe. The second and third photos are close up shots to clearly show the extent of the damage to the rim top and outer edges. As far as I could see from the photos the inner edge of the rim appeared to be in great shape. The outer edge was another story.The last two photos he sent show the fit of the stem against the shank and the stamping on the underside of the shank. From the first photo it did not appear that the stem was properly seated in the shank. My experience has been that the stems on these older Yello-Bole pipes had an excellent fit but when tars collected around the walls of the shank surrounding the spade stinger the stem would not properly seat. I was hopeful this would be the case with this one. The second photo shows the clear stamping on the underside. It is stamped with the four digit shape number 2705 which is a billiard number and after the 5 is the letter u. The KBB cloverleaf is followed by the classic Yello-Bole stamp and under that it reads Algerian Bruyere.When the pipe arrived I snapped some photos of the condition of the pipe before I started the cleanup. The stem had light oxidation and the yellow O logo was perfect. The inside of the shank was quite dirty so my assumption regarding the reason that the stem did not seat properly was correct. Unfortunately before I took the photos I had done some cleaning on the rim top and edges. I used a sanding block on the edges to knock off loose debris and a dental pick on the rim. I touched up the raw briar with a black Sharpie pen because I have learned that when it is mixed with a dark brown stain I can get a match to the colour of the stain on the bowl. At this point in the process I used a brass bristle tire brush to scrub out the crevices and sandblast on the top surface. I did this to prepare the rim for restaining, to clean out the blast crevices and to smooth out some of the roughness I have found that this brush does a great job in lifting the dust and tar while not damaging the briar. The brass bristles are soft and do not scratch the briar but make easy work of the tars and build up on the rim of a blast. I scrubbed the inner beveled edge with the brush and it came out looking undamaged. The sandblast reappeared on the rim top as well.I used the black Sharpie pen again to add a dark colour in the chips and nicks in the finish around the edges and the top of the bowl. When that was finished I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 50/50 with isopropyl alcohol. I fired the stain with a lighter and repeated the process until I was satisfied with the coverage on the bowl. You can see that the nicks along the edges of the rim look very good. The rim top needs to be polished and it will look the same after I have waxed and buffed it. I probably should have cleaned up the inside of the bowl earlier but as I worked on the rim first it almost escaped my notice. In the last photo above I could see the cake in the bowl and what appeared to be some damage to the inside wall of the left side. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Reaming knife to take the cake out of the bowl. I was able to ream back the walls and the apparent damage disappeared. I used a pen knife to scrape the hard tars that had collected in the shank and mortise. I was amazed at the amount of powder that came out of the shank. It was thick and black and proved my point made earlier about it keeping the stem from seating properly against the shank.I scrubbed the mortise and the airways in the stem and the shank with 99% isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until I removed all of the grit and grime from those areas. I cleaned the spade stinger with alcohol and pipe cleaners and polished it with 0000 steel wool until it shone.The pipe smelled of old aromatics and even with the bowl and shank clean the smell was present. I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls and used an eye dropper to fill it with isopropyl alcohol. I have found that cotton balls work as well as Kosher salt does and it is not as messy. I put a cotton swab in the shank up to the entrance of the airway into the bowl as it wicks alcohol into the shank and draws out the oils in that area. I put the pipe bowl upright in an ice-cube tray and let it sit over night to let it do its magic. The second photo shows the cotton balls, discoloured with the oils after sitting 8-9 hours. Once I removed the cotton balls I scrubbed out the shank and airway to remove any remnants of alcohol left behind and set the bowl aside to dry.
I have written about this alternative to the salt and alcohol treatment in an earlier blog that can be read here. https://rebornpipes.com/2013/02/10/sweetening-a-pipe-an-alternative-to-the-salt-and-alcohol-treatment/I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the light oxidation and the light tooth chatter at the button. It did not take too much sanding to remove those from the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. This is my normal routine and if you have been following the blog for any length of time you know that I always follow this procedure with the stems. Between the 4000 grit pad and the 6000 grit pad I buffed the stem with White Diamond and then went on to use the final three grits of micromesh pads. I gave the stem a rubdown with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the last set put it aside to let the oil dry. I hand waxed the bowl with Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. I find that the wax does not clump in the crevices of a sandblast finish like carnauba does so I always hand wax this kind of finish. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is ready to go back across Canada to its owner. It is a beauty and I think he will enjoy it. Thanks for looking.