Tag Archives: Pat Russell Articles

You Got To Know When To Hold ‘Em – Pap’s Pipes

Blog by Patrick Russell

“On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a gambler; we were both too tired to sleep…” – All italicized quotes are from the Gambler by Kenny Rogers (used without permission).

Last summer I was presented with a wonderful challenge by my good friend Dave. Dave, like me, is a younger pipe man. Okay, he’s almost ten years younger than me… but who’s counting. Dave pulled me aside during a pipe club meeting and said, “Pat, can you do something with these?” Dave put four pipes into my hands, “These are my grand-dad’s pipes. He always had one of them in his mouth. Pap loved these pipes.” Like lots of you folks who clean up estate pipes, I often do resto work for free for friends. More often than not, the friend will dash me a tin of ‘baccy or will send me a tip on an estate lot. But that’s not why I do it. I do free resto work for friends for the same reason you do, because you like the person, and they asked for help. My only rule with this kind of work is that the friend has to be on no timeline. When your wife is pregnant, or you have a seven month old, this is an important rule.

Dave put those pipes into my hand last July, before we had our beautiful baby girl, and before I fell out of the pipe cave and into the blue eyes of my daughter. But I digress. The pipes…

Pap loved those pipes. He really, really, loved those pipes. Dave said that Pap was a stuff ’em and puff ’em guy and a cursory look at the pipes backed up the story. All four airways blocked. Cake thick enough to require the smallest reamer head. There was enough oil on the outside of the pipes that grain was impossible to find, and I’m pretty sure that most of the pipes started with a button. “I’ll do it,” I said.Pat1




Pat5 Dave loved his Pap, and really wanted these pipes in good working order. I really wanted to be the guy to make that happen for Dave.

“He said, ‘Son I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces, knowin’ what the cards were by the way they held their eyes…”

Estate pipes tell you a lot about what can, and can’t, be done to them if you know where and how to look. The first thing I do when I’m cleaning up a pipe is to soak the stems in an Oxyclean bath while I ream the tobacco chamber and then do a surface clean of the rim and stummel. This, generally, lets me investigate the pipe well enough to know what kind of work the resto of it is going to need to get the pipe back into a smoking rotation. I have limits to my skill, some of which I’ll press so I can learn new skills, but never will I do this with pipes that aren’t mine. I sure as hell wasn’t going to go beyond my skill level with Pap’s pipes.Pat6







Pat13“And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression. He said, ‘If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right…”

Did you see what I saw when I was cleaning those pipes? Let me give you a closer look…

Reamed out of round, with a nasty gouge. That wasn’t me… that looks to me like a pocket knife. Rim badly gouged from knocking out on… life. And the coup de grace… a bad split on the top of the shank.Pat14

Pat15 Rim charring doesn’t cover it, this is rim charred. Any more smokes without the cake that I’d just removed and this prince was going to be a cinder.Pat16 Fills the size of Manhattan… I know, they are cosmetic only, but look closely at what lies in the fill on the second pic.Pat17

Pat18 Um… Yep. That’s a burnout, with the Grand Canyon in the middle of it.Pat19

“Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away, and knowin’ what to keep…”

I had to stop. I had cleaned the tars off the surface of the pipes. I had cleared the airways and sanitized the stems. I had reamed the tobacco chambers and done three salt and alcohol treatments… and I still hadn’t broken through the collected dottle and juice which had petrified in the draught holes of the stummels. But if I did any more work on these pipes there was every likelihood that Dave wouldn’t have Pap’s pipes anymore.

“And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even, but in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.”

I returned Pap’s pipes to Dave last month at our pipe club night. Was he disappointed? He would have loved to have smoked them, but I think he’s happiest to still have them.

Restored – Kaywoodie Flame Grain 13B (Author) Drinkless – Pat Russell

It is a pleasure to present Pat’s second contribution to the blog. In it he describes his work on an old Kaywoodie in one of my favourite shapes – the 13B. Thanks for the contribution Pat. Keep ’em coming. You are doing some great work.

Greetings friends.

It’s been one heckuva week, one of those weeks where life just seems to take over. As a reward for making it through, I’ve taken a holiday today to restore a beautiful old pipe that has been sitting on my bench for a month or so. This was another $14.00 eBay win, and one I was thrilled about. I started looking for early Kaywoodies about a year ago when I fell in love with the quality of the briar. This lovely little author was in pretty good shape. The drinkless stinger, with 4 holes, and a two digit shape code with one letter dates it to between 1940 and the early 1950s. There was a sizable tooth mark in the top of the stem, a couple smaller bites out of the bottom of the bit, and a few small dings and dents in the bowl. Other than that, the pipe was in pretty good shape.
KW1KW2KW3KW4KW5 So I threw the stem in a OxyClean bath, and then took the new PipNet reamer to the cake.
KW6KW7KW8 I then wet a tea towel and set the bowl rim down on the towel for two minutes or so, before using the damp towel to wipe off the rim char and tars.
KW9 Once that was done, I wet sanded the stem with 600 and 800 grit sandpaper.
KW10 Then took the heat gun to the stem to work on those dents.
KW11KW12 It took a couple attempts, but they both lifted somewhat.
KW13KW14 Then I took 0000 steel wool to the stinger to clean it up.
KW15 Following the stinger, I elected to do a surface clean of the stummel with acetone and a cotton pad.
KW17KW18KW19KW20 At this point, it was time to make some judgement calls. There was still some rim darkening, there were a couple very minor dents in the bowl, and that tooth mark was still there even after the heat treatment and there was a little bleaching around the top of the bowl. This pipe is for me. I’m a clencher. I elected to leave the tooth mark. I also elected to leave the dents, and do a light tint of the bowl to bring back the colour.

The next step was a date with about fifty pipe cleaners and the same number of bristle cleaners liberally dosed with isopropyl alcohol. After a thorough scrub out, I elected to finish the stem, shank and stummel clean with a retort.
KW21KW22KW23 Testament to the fact that isopropyl alcohol and pipe cleaners don’t clean out everything, here are the cotton balls from the bowl post retort.
KW24 Post retort, I added two drops of Fiebing’s Light Brown to about half an eye dropper of 99% isopropyl alcohol. I do this to create tints. I don’t always want to restain a pipe, the tint allows me to blend the stain and bring colour back to the bleached areas of the stummel.
KW25KW26KW27KW28KW29 After adding the tint, I used a cotton ball with isopropyl alcohol to wipe down the stummel and even out the tint.
KW30KW31 Then the pipe went to the buffer. First with white diamond…
KW32KW33 Then with Carnauba…
KW34KW35KW36KW37 Then after a wipe down with a Dunhill Pipe Wipe…
KW38KW39KW40KW41KW42KW43 I love this pipe. I’m thrilled to have it, and can’t wait to smoke it.

Right now I’m having one of these to celebrate.
KW44 As always, thanks for looking, and feel free to toss any tips my way.

Castleford & PipNet Reamer – Side by Side Comparison – Pat Russell

Blog by Pat Russell

It is a pleasure to have Pat Russell posting on rebornpipes. I have been reading about and observing Pat’s refurbs on Pipe Smokers Unlimited (PSU) for a while now and thoroughly enjoyed his attention to detail. I enjoy seeing what challenges he takes on and how he creatively deals with them. Pat posted this comparison of the Castleford and PipNet reamers on PSU and I wrote him a quick email to see if he could post it here on the blog as well. He graciously consented to have it here. Have a look at the Thanks to Contributors page here on rebornpipes to read more about Pat and the other contributors to the blog. Without further introduction here is Pat’s first contribution to the blog.

I was gifted a PipNet Reamer by a good friend who also restores pipes. A lovely gesture which provides me with the chance to share a side by side comparison.
Pruss1I’ve only ever used the Castleford Reamer. When I started doing restoration work I read as much as I could on reamers and which offered the most control. The PipNet Reamer was well reviewed by many, including here by Steve Laug https://rebornpipes.com/2012/05/31/my…rs-a-review-6/ and it came out on top. My problem was access, when I was building up my kit I couldn’t find one. So I opted for a Castleford Reamer set. I liked that it had four fixed blade heads, that it was unlikely to slip and seemed to afford some control.
Pruss2I’ve used my Castleford Reamer for over 70 pipe restorations, and it was coming to the end of its life. So not only was this spontaneous gift a surprise, it was a fortuitous one. The problem with my Castleford set was that the plastic which is used to make both the reamer and the handle is soft and it wears down. Two of my four reamer heads for the Castleford are so stripped now, that they won’t stay in the handle. The PipNet does indeed seem to be made of a stronger/sturdier acrylic than the softer plastic of the Castleford.
Pruss3Here is a closeup of one of the reamer blades from my Castleford. You can see the wear in the centre and on the edges of the toothless side of the blade which is inserted into the handle.
Pruss4Aside from the material difference, the blades of the PipNet are thicker, and one-sided. There is definitely more material in the blades of the PipNet, and the mass of the blade seems to make for a smoother cut through cake. The thinner steel blades of the Castleford blades seem to catch on cake more easily.
Pruss5Pruss6Pruss7Pruss8The other piece that I like about the PipNet Reamer is the extra length in the handle. It affords just a little more purchase and mechanical advantage.
Pruss9Pruss10I look forward to the next 70 pipes with the PipNet, and will report back on how it performs. But if the first seven are any indication it and I are going to be long friends.