When I saw this one on EBay it grabbed my attention. I have always loved BBB pipes and found that they are great smokers and often fly under the radar. This one is stamped BBB Own Make on the left side of the shank and Made in London England 622 on the right side of the shank. The stem was an obvious replacement stem from the pictures. The band is a factory original stamped BBB and Sterling Silver. The grain showed promise and the bowl looked to be in good shape under the grime. I would know more once it arrived.
Once it arrived I took time to look it over. The bowl indeed had some great looking grain under the grime. The rim was covered with a thick coat of tar and carbon. The bowl looked to be unmarked by reaming and was still round. The cake on the inside was crumbly and sticky. The entire shank was caked with the sticky grime as was the stem. Definitely a goopy aromatic had been smoked in this old timer. The sterling silver BBB band had dents in it but was unbroken and uncracked. It was definitely an original band as when the stem was removed the shank was not cracked or damaged. The stem was indeed a replacement. It was a standard blank that still had some of the edge marks from the casting on it. It also short in terms of the length of the original pipe as I have found it on pictures on the web and in the catalogues. I was unable to find the 622 with a saddle stem like this one. It did not have the BBB diamond logo or a stamping of BBB on the stem either.
One of the reasons I bid on the pipe was that I had a BBB taper stem in my can of stems that looked like it would be a perfect fit for the pipe. Once I had it out of the box and on my work table I took out the old stem and sanded the tenon a little to make it fit correctly and slid it into place. The diameter of the stem was a perfect match to the shank and the tapered stem fit well with the pot shape. The two looked like they belonged together. Once the fit was smooth and well seated I put the replacement saddle stem into my can of stems to be used one day on a pipe that needed to be restemmed.
I put the bowl into the alcohol bath for about a half hour while I worked on removing the oxidation from the stem. I placed the stem in a bath of Oxyclean and hot water to soak when I took the bowl out of the alcohol bath. The Oxyclean softens the oxidation and makes it easier to work with than the hard unsoftened oxidation. The bowl was a real mess and I wanted to get the grime and remnants of the old finish removed so I could start fresh with the bowl and restain it. When I took the bowl out of the bath it looked like is shown in next three pictures. The finish was gone but for a few grey spots at the bowl shank junction and around the rim. The top of the bowl was seriously covered with goopy tars and black sludge that would take some work to remove. You notice in the first picture that on the right side of the bowl near the front were two fills that needed to be addressed as the putty had shrunken and they were divots.
I reamed the bowl to remove the internal grime and get back to the wood. I find that a soak in the alcohol bath softens the cake making removal much easier. It does not chip or break around the rim. I also cleaned the shank with pipe cleaners, a shank brush and alcohol to clear out the tars. I also used a drill bit that I had turned into the shank to clean out the hardened tars. Once I had it clean I used some emery cloth and turned the bowl top into the cloth to remove the chunks of tar and carbon build up. The next series of three pictures show the pipe during and after using the emery cloth. The last picture shows clearly the extent of the grime and tar build up even after sanding the top of the bowl.
Once the bowl was at the point in the photo above I then reamed the bowl a second time to clean up the remaining build up and then wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads. The next series of five pictures show the pipe after the repeated wipe down with acetone. The briar is clean and ready for some work on the fills and some work to remove some of the damage to the inner side of the rim – you will notice in the last photo in the series.
I picked out the putty fills and wiped the bowl down one last time with acetone before dripping super glue and briar dust into the sandpits. The briar dust and superglue makes a far nicer looking fill in my opinion than the pink putty ever will. Once the glue had dried I sanded it with 240 grit sandpaper to see if there were any dents or dimples in the patch and refilled until the surface was smooth. I sanded repeatedly with the 240 grit until the patch blended into the surface and the glue was off of the surround clean briar.
I then used a piece of sandpaper to bevel the inner edge of the rim into the bowl to lessen the effect of the burned area. I aim for an even bevel all the way around the bowl rim and thus the effect of the burn will disappear with the stain coat. I took the stem out of the Oxyclean bath and wiped it down with a cotton cloth to remove the softened oxidation. I then reinserted it into the pipe to check for a good fit. You can see in the first picture below the beveled rim and the fit of the stem. The stem is almost back to a clean black finish. The oxidation is virtually gone and only needs to be polished and sanded with micromesh pads to bring back the shine. This particular stem also had two deep tooth marks on the top and bottom of the stem near the button. I decided to deal with them after I had finished cleaning and polishing the stem and staining and polishing the bowl.
I gave the pipe a first coat of oxblood stain, flamed it and buffed it off with Tripoli. You can see that it gave a fairly good coverage but was a bit too opaque to my liking. I wanted the grain to be more visible so I washed the pipe down with acetone to remove some of the depth of colour and highlight the grain. In the photos below you can see the pipe after I wiped it down with the acetone and buffed it with White Diamond. It still was not the finish I was looking for so I sanded the bowl with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh to smooth the surface and then heated the bowl with my heat gun to open the grain of the wood before giving it a second coat of oxblood stain.
The next series of four pictures show the finish that I was looking for. The grain shows through clearly and the bevel and stain on the rim minimize the effect of the burn marks. The stem is also cleaned and polished but the bite marks still remain in the pictures below. After staining and flaming the pipe I buffed it with White Diamond and then waxed it with several coats of carnauba before buffing with a soft clean flannel buff.
At that point last evening I set the pipe aside to be finished today. When I came home from work this evening I used the heat gun to raise the dents in the stem on the top and underside. The first two photos show the effect of the heat gun in raising the dents. Once I have the dents raised as far as I can lift them I used 240 grit sandpaper to level the surface of the stem and I have found that the combination of the heat and the sanding takes care of most dents in the surface of the stem as long as they are just dents and not cut marks. I finished sanding those areas of the stem with micromesh pads from 1500-12,000 grit until the stem had its own inner shine. When I was finished I coated the stem with Obsidian Oil and once dry, buffed it with carnauba wax and a soft flannel buff. To finish off the pipe I gave it several more coats of wax and buffed it by hand with a soft cotton cloth.