I came across this little billiard in an antique shop last weekend and when I saw the blue dot on the stem and saw the classic English shape of the bowl I truly thought I had found an elusive Sasieni one dot pipe. Lots of things about it seemed to signal that is what I had. The stamping was hard to see under the grime but there were i’s and an e. I was hopeful and I guess also wishful in my thinking. The pipe was dirty as can be seen below. The stem had obviously been damaged and cut off by the previous owner and a new button filed into the stem. The bowl was badly caked and the rim was damaged with dents and chips. I took the picture below while I was relaxing in a pub near the shop and looking over the finds of the afternoon.
When I got home I took it to the basement and wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove some of the grime. Once the outside was wiped down I tried to read the stamping with a magnifying lens. I could not make out the stamping – it was too faint. There was no stamping on the right side of the shank. On the underside it appeared that there had been stamping but it was no longer visible. The next three photos give a good idea of what the pipe looked like before I did a cleanup on the bowl and stem.
I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took it back to bare wood. I picked at the inside of the bowl to check out the solidity of the walls and to check for potential burns. Everything looked and felt like it was solid so I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak over night.
The next day I took it out of the bath and dried it off. The bath had removed the old finish for the most part. I finished by once again wiping it down with acetone on a cotton pad. After soaking part of the stamping had become visible. I was disappointed that it appeared that the pipe was not a Sasieni. The stamping that showed up after it was dry read Genuine Briar, which seemed to point to an American made pipe post WW2. I believe it is post war as that is when it became necessary to identify genuine imported briar in contrast to the Manzanita and other alternatives used by American manufacturers during the war years due to a shortage in briar. The briar was a nice piece – birdseye on one side, nice grain on other parts of the pipe and a clean shape to the bowl. I knew it would clean up nicely.
I topped the bowl using my normal method of anchoring a piece of sandpaper on a flat board and twisting the top of the bowl into the sandpaper until the top is smooth. I started with 220 grit sandpaper and then used a medium and fine grit sanding block to smooth out the rim.
The stem had a poorly cut button on the end and the button as well as the taper on the stem needed to be reworked. I used a rasp and file to shape the taper on the stem and to take out the pinched look of the angle to the 90 degree cut on the button. The button was also not straight and not squarely cut so I also straightened out the flat edge of the button while I worked with the rasp and files. The next three photos show only the initial work on the stem and not the finished work. I removed quite a bit of the material and smooth out the slope of the taper so that it flowed evenly into the button on both the top and the bottom of the stem.
I sanded the newly shaped stem with 220 grit sandpaper and a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left by the rasp and files. Once I had the basic shape in place I decided to restain the bowl. I warmed the briar and then gave it several coats of a dark brown aniline stain thinned 1:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I flamed it between each coats to set the stain. The rim took extra coats to match the colour of the rest of the bowl.
I buffed the newly stained bowl lightly with White Diamond and then gave it a coat of a light cherry coloured Danish Oil. Once dry I buffed it by hand and then also gave it a light buff with White Diamond to polish it.
I then removed the stem and worked on the slot in the button. When the end of the stem had been cut off some of the flair of the original airway remained leaving the end of the button with a small rectangular opening. I used needle files to open the flair and widen the slot into more of an oval that extended the width and height of the button end.
Once I had the slot opened the way I like it I sanded the inner edges with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth it out. I also did some more shaping with files to the taper of the stems. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper until I had the slope well-defined from the tenon back to the button. I also shaped the externals of the button to clean up the angle at the point the button and stem taper met. I also sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind and to also remove the oxidation at the stem shank junction.
When I had the scratches removed as far as possible with the sanding sponge I went on to sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit sanding pads and the dry sanded with the remaining grits.
I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it into the surface of the vulcanite. I took it to the buffer and buffed the stem with White Diamond. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and polished the pipe with a clean flannel buff to bring up the shine. The finished pipe is pictured below. I still wish I knew what the stamping says in full. That blue dot certainly is a symbol of some unknown to me brand of pipe. The mystery remains but in the mean time I have a great little billiard to enjoy.